Aussies Love Social Media — But How Should eBusiness Respond?

"Online Australians Shift To Social Networks" is my new report that showcases Forrester's latest data about social media use in Australia.

The report is written for marketers, but these days, my main role at Forrester is to serve the eBusiness & Channel Strategy professional. So naturally, I find myself asking what these new numbers might mean for eBusiness in Australia.

The report's top-line message is continued growth. In particular, the report shows that the absolute number of Australians who regularly use social media has increased to an all-time high of 13.4 million people. However, I'd class that nugget as a "nice to know." It's a useful stat to use the next time you get in one of those tedious debates about why social media matters at all, but the Australian eBusiness leaders I speak with have largely passed that point. Their burning question is not whether to use social media at all. Instead, they want to know what tools and tactics to prioritize, so let's address three of the most common social commerce practices.

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Agile Commerce In 2011

With a big splash, we recently launched a significant idea and theme for eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals for 2011 and beyond called agile commerce. In the report "Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce," we highlight how customers no longer interact with companies from a "channel" perspective; instead, they interact through touchpoints. As a result, eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals have to leave their channel-oriented ways behind them and enter the era of agile commerce -- optimizing their people, processes, and technology to serve today's empowered, ever-connected customers across touchpoints.

Since its launch, we've received some excellent feedback from clients and thought-leaders, validating agile commerce. We've also interviewed three executives in our ongoing series about how agile commerce is affecting their clients and how they are positioning themselves to support the transition to agile commerce. Please continue to visit our community and our blog to share with us your perspective on how agile commerce is affecting your business. Do you see the signs of this disruption in your business? Is your organization evolving to sell and service customers seamlessly across touchpoints? What organizational models and technology decisions are you making to optimize your commerce efforts across touchpoints?

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Agile Commerce: Three Questions For Carmen Sebe, CEO, Avangate

I recently had the chance to catch up with Carmen Sebe, CEO of Avangate, to talk about how agile commerce is effecting its clients and how it is positioning its solution to support the transition to agile commerce.

Avangate provides software companies with eCommerce, partner management solutions, and an affiliate network; assisting them to sell their products online as well as to manage a global distribution network. Founded in 2005, Avangate currently serves more than 1,500 software companies through its SaaS eCommerce solution and has a 22,000 member affiliate network. Carmen is a seasoned technology CEO who has worked with European and global clients for many years.

Forrester: Carmen, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about your business and agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from channels to touchpoints. You serve clients selling digital goods across a number of different models, such as B2C and B2B. How are you looking at agile commerce and what does it mean for your business?

Ms. Sebe: For our business this has a two-fold implication: on the one hand in the way we help our customers — software sellers — reach and deliver products digitally to their B2B and B2C users. And on the other hand, agile commerce will impact the way we reach our clients. With agile commerce, software vendors will expand their product offerings to allow access to their services via many if not all touchpoints — and we have to be prepared to accept and support such behavior. It’s our vision to facilitate this process for our clients and shoppers.

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Postbank Tops Our German Bank Content & Functionality Benchmark 2011

eBusiness executives at financial firms often ask Forrester: "What can I improve about my website to sell more products online?"

The short answer to this question is: "You need to help customers on your websites achieve their goals". But what exactly does that mean in terms of content and functionality? To give a profound answer, we have analyzed how customers use financial services websites to research and buy financial products and what content and functionality they expect – based on our Consumer Technographics® surveys.

With this knowledge, we have created Forrester’s Website Functionality Benchmark methodology that tests how well financial services websites support the phases of the customers journey and help drive online sales.

In Germany, the Internet is an important distribution channel for financial products. Some 23% of German Net users researched and 9% have bought a financial product online in the past 12 months. 

To help eBusiness executives at German banks drive online sales, I have reviewed how well the websites of eight German retail banking brands help customers to research and apply for a giro account – and published the results in the report: "Benchmarking German Banks’ Sales Sites 2011".

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Agile Commerce: Three Questions For Jodi Watson, VP Global eCommerce

I recently had the chance to catch up with Jodi Watson, VP, Global eCommerce & Consumer Insights at Wolverine World Wide to understand what impact the transition to agile commerce is having on her role, her organization, and Wolverine World Wide’s business.

Since 1883, Wolverine World Wide has been a global manufacturer and retailer of footwear and apparel brands, operating in more than 190 countries around the world to bring to life brands such as: Bates, CAT Footwear, Chaco, Cushe, Harley-Davidson Footwear, Hush Puppies, Merrell, Sebago, Patagonia Footwear, and Wolverine. Jodi is an experienced direct-to-consumer leader with more than 15 years in eCommerce, catalog, and retail at a wide range of firms prior to Wolverine World Wide.

Forrester: Jodi, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from channels to touchpoints that span mobile devices, social networks, advertising, marketing, traditional channels, and various places online. How are you looking at this and what does it mean for your business?

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Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce

Multichannel commerce no longer makes sense. As consumers are increasingly connected through a wide array of Internet-connected devices, the traditional multichannel commerce experience is becoming obsolete. Customers no longer interact with companies from a “channel” perspective; instead, they interact through touchpoints. These touchpoints include channels such as stores, branches, call centers, and websites, but also emerging interactions such as apps, social media, mobile sites, SMS messages, and interactive advertising -- across a wide range of devices such as smartphones, tablets, Internet TVs, cars, and even appliances. 

As a result, it is time for organizations to leave their channel-oriented ways behind and enter the era of agile commerce —optimizing their people, processes, and technology to serve today’s empowered, ever-connected customers across this rapidly evolving set of customer touchpoints. This is agile commerce.

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What Should A Virtual Agent Look Like?

Not all companies that offer a virtual agent elect to have an avatar. However, many companies choose to make cartoon, 2D or 3D renderings of a human to personalize the experience, support the brand, and reinforce the conversational nature of the interaction.

 But what should an avatar look like? Here are some considerations for eBusiness professionals who are designing a virtual agent avatar. Your avatar should:

  • Resonate with your audience. Pam Kosta, CMO at VirtuOz advises, “It’s key to make the user feel like this is someone they can get help from.” Marketing & Creative Services Manager at Next IT Jennifer Snell agrees, “When it gets right down to it, if your consumers don’t like it, they aren’t going to trust it or use it.” Here are two examples of avatars designed to appeal to their respective audiences: The Army’s “SGT STAR,” which reaches 18- to 22-year-old potential Army recruits, is a 3-D animation while AT&T’s “Charlie” looks warm and caring, with a vague ethnicity and age to appeal to a broader demographic base.
  • Have a look that reflects your brand. Sometimes a company has a prominent brand persona like the Michelin Man. Though less common, others may take elements from their logo. Most frequently, brand will influence what an avatar is wearing, hair style, etc. For example, a brand appealing to a younger segment should choose edgier clothing, while a conservative brand should dress its avatar in a more button-down fashion. eGain suggests companies model their avatars after their spokesperson in other media.
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The Hidden Genius Of Jeff Bezos

When Jeff Bezos announced to his Amazon staff his concept for the Amazon Marketplace in November 2000, many people — inside and outside Amazon — thought he was crazy. Amazon was inviting in other sellers — individuals and merchants — to compete against Amazon’s owned inventory on Amazon.com.  As full price merchants were added in categories such as consumer electronics, apparel, and baby products in the early 2000s, the head shaking continued. To paraphrase, Jeff Bezos claimed this was about “the world of perfect information.” Customers are going to find the lowest price online if they really want to, and they should be trained to find it on Amazon. Maybe Amazon could grab a piece of the pie along the way.

Of course, what was once seen as crazy is now viewed with envy, as the marketplace now represents approximately 35% of Amazon’s revenues and 30% of total units sold in Q4 2010.* Amazon charges anywhere from a 5% to a 25% revenue share on a sale through its marketplace, roughly determined by dividing the expected margins in a category in half — to be shared with the merchant. With only limited incremental technology and category management costs, the profitability of this for Amazon is easy to see. And as a result, it has also solidified Amazon’s role as the leading product search site. This success is already breeding imitators in Buy.com, Sears, Walmart, NewEgg, and soon a whole host of large UK retailers. And let’s not ignore Apple’s iTunes, clearly a very successful marketplace, though of a somewhat different flavor.

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