Rabobank’s iPhone App Lets Customers Pay Bills By Simply Taking Pictures Of Them

In my recent report "Next-Generation Digital Financial Services," I argued that eBusiness and channel strategy executives need to develop a new generation of digital financial services that are SUPER: simple, ubiquitous, personal, empowering, and reassuring. Rabobank’s iPhone app is a great example of how to make it simpler for customers. 

About 30% of Dutch consumers pay their bills by using acceptgiros — standard yellow payment forms that merchants sent to them together with their bills. These forms are prefilled with all relevant information that is required to make the payment. The customer can pay the bill by simply signing the acceptgiro and dropping it into the letterbox of his bank or by paying it directly via online banking (which requires typing in a 16-digit code).

To make this process simpler for its customers, Dutch Rabobank added a new functionality to its iPhone mobile banking app last month, which it calls "acceptgiroscan." Users of the app can pay bills by simply taking a picture of the acceptgiro with the phone’s built-in camera. Optical character recognition (OCR) software then reads and translates the scanned image and prefills all necessary form fields. The customer just needs to confirm to initiate the payment. A YouTube video (in Dutch only) shows how the app works in detail.

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Apple Is Tracking Us! Oh No! Who Cares, Really?

Apple has been storing our location. (See article) Sounds bad, but really, is it? My colleague Joe Stanhope forwarded the article to me with the line, “kinda scary.” Is it? Our credit cards track where we are and what we spend. The carriers know where we are all the time — they aren’t storing the information as far as we know, but they could be. Our cars can be tracked. We buy plane tickets and make flight reservations online. What’s a bit different is that many different entities have our information, but not necessarily one.

Your phone will know everything about you going forward. My phone already knows where I go (ok, and Apple is recording), who I call, what sports teams I follow, what games I play, where I bank, how often I visit Starbucks, where I shop, what books I’m reading (Kindle), what music I listen to . . . and the list goes on. What else is my phone going to know about me? It’s going to know:

  • What I eat because I want help tracking calories
  • How often I run because I track my workouts
  • What I watch on TV because my phone is my remote control
  • Who I fly . . . because I use mobile boarding passes
  • How healthy I am b/c it will track my cholesterol
  • Who my friends are from phone, texting, and Facebook
  • Where I’m eating b/c it tracks my Yelp searches and OpenTable bookings
  • Whether I’m traveling on foot or by car b/c it tracks my speed
  • How fast I drive . . .
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Is Anyone In The UK Actually Using QR Codes?

Intrigued by a lot of what I’ve been reading recently, I’ve started looking for evidence of QR codes transforming how shoppers are interacting with retailers. The thing is all the evidence I see with my own eyes doesn’t back up this proclaimed uptake. I’ve never noticed a single one in a shop. Now, that could be because I’ve not been looking and if I’m honest, I’ve only had a phone capable of reading them for a few months.

Time for a quick bit of ad-hoc analysis (Health Warning: NOT OFFICIAL FORRESTER RESEARCH !!!)

In order to give this mini research project some vague semblance of credibility, I have adopted the rigorous scientific approach that Mr. Featonby, my A-level physics teacher drilled into me many years ago . . . 


My hypothesis is that retailers aren’t using QR codes in the UK, and furthermore, the average shopper hasn’t a clue what one is.


  1. I went to the local Tesco Metro and browsed the aisles, looking at every product I could find.
  2. I’ve looked through every store magazine and free paper and at every poster I pass in London, on the Midlands Mainline train service, and in Nottingham (where I live) for two weeks.
  3. I posted a picture of a QR code on my Facebook page and asked my friends (average shoppers one and all!) if they knew what it was.
  4. I never said this was a robust survey.
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Agile Commerce: Three Questions For Craig Shields, Vice President Of eCommerce At Jewelry Television


I recently had the chance to catch up with Craig Shields, vice president of eCommerce at Jewelry Television, to understand what impact the transition to agile commerce is having on Jewelry Television, its business strategy, and its organizational structure.

Jewelry Television was founded in 1993 and is the only television home shopping network focused entirely on jewelry and gemstones. Today the Internet plays a large role in the company's growth strategy including JTV.com, auction site JTVauctions.com, and the newly launched DiamondDesignGallery.com.  

Forrester: Craig, 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. Your business is a little unique with your use of TV as a direct response marketer. How are you looking at agile commerce and in particular the potential impact of iTV and other consumer devices such as tablets?

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Notes From The Bazaarvoice Social Summit, April 5-6, Austin, TX

After two days of very well done presentations from the Bazaarvoice team, observers of the social space and some business leaders, I come away from the Bazaarvoice Social Summit with a few thoughts:

  • Generally, the big theme was that use of ratings and reviews by eBusiness pros continues to deepen and add value to overall business success. We heard from Argos, Urban Outfitters, J&J, Xerox, Adobe, Best Buy, Rubbermaid, P&G, LL Bean, 3M and Estee Lauder. All of these businesses showed how they have fully embedded the use of ratings and reviews content throughout their businesses. For example, improved product data gained from ratings and reviews content is sent to all customer touchpoints such as the call center, POS, etc., at Argos; Rubbermaid realized from review content that people don’t read packaging and found that products didn’t perform well when consumers didn’t use the product as directed, so it changed the packaging and the product collateral and thus set expectations more in line with the intended use of the product and now have highly satisfied customers. And the examples like this continued throughout the conference. Look for our coming snapshot report showing some other examples of how eBusinesses continue to mine this valuable content to drive business results.
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The eCommerce Technology Selection Checklist

If you have not read it already, I encourage you to read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. In the book, Mr. Gawande explains the phenomenal results checklists can deliver in both routine processes and when processes go hay-wire.  Much of the book deals with Mr. Gawande’s experiences in delivering improved results when using checklists in performing surgeries — literally a matter of life and death. The book makes a compelling case for using checklists in any matter of activities to help even seasoned, highly trained individuals — such as surgeons and pilots — deliver positive results. 

While eCommerce technology selection is not a matter of life and death, still much goes wrong. And when things go wrong, there are many impacts, including cost and time over-runs, lost business opportunity, and the delivery of failed customer experiences. (And of course negative impacts on careers and reputations.) Many of those bad outcomes can be avoided. In our work with clients — and technology vendors who deliver products and services to those clients — we hear over and over again stories of what goes wrong. Many times these are problems that could have been avoided had simple best practices been followed. We have created this checklist to help eBusiness leaders and their teams to run technology selection processes consistently and routinely, following best practices.

The checklist illustrates these steps in a tool you can use as is or customize as needed:

Before you begin the selection process:

  • Business owner/project champion assigned
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2D Bar Codes: Where Are We Today?

Microsoft Tag had a big announcement this week.

It announced:

  • March had the greatest number of Tag scans since Tag launched in January 2009, with more than 50 percent more scans than any other month to date.
  • The number of scans per month has doubled over the past three months, and the number of users per month has increased 2.5 times in that same timeframe.
  • Three billion Tags were printed during the past six months alone, and 5 billion Tags have been printed since Microsoft Tag’s January 2009 launch.
  • Publishing continues to lead among top industries adopting Tag, with retail scenarios and entertainment holding the second and third positions, respectively.
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Will Facebook Ever Drive Commerce?

My bearishness on F-commerce is no secret, so I may have been a little biased when I dove into my most recent research, Will Facebook Ever Drive eCommerce? Fortunately, the findings were nuanced among different types of retailers, which gave a lot to write about. Some highlights:

  • There are retailers (albeit small ones) seeing a double-digit percent of their sales coming through their Facebook stores. These companies often have unique demographics or marketing models (e.g., flash sales) that drive this behavior.
  • Facebook’s “data layer” is probably one of the most underleveraged assets that exists with respect to F-commerce. There is myriad information about fans, what products consumers are liking, and competitive insights that can be gleaned from merchant and consumer activity on and off Facebook.
  • Facebook Credits is a non-starter for most retailers. This is the “currency” that consumers can use to buy, say, potatoes on Farmville. Facebook, however, has little to no credibility with respect to financial services among consumers, and the same retailers reluctant to implement PayPal (which so many large merchants are) will be 10 times more resistant to a less-tried, less-reliable, newer payment mark. 
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Agile Commerce: Three questions For Saurabh Kumar, Director Of eBusiness At Blue Shield Of California


I recently had the chance to catch up with Saurabh Kumar, director of eBusiness at Blue Shield of California and a member of our Forrester eBusiness & Channel Strategy Leadership Board, to understand what impact the transition to agile commerce is having on Blue Shield, its business strategy, and its organizational structure.

Blue Shield of California, an independent member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health plan with 3.3 million members and 4,800 employees and is one of the largest health provider networks in California.

Forrester: Saurabh, 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 a channel-centric focus to a customer-centric focus that centers on touchpoints as the new paradigm and one that spans the Web, mobile devices, social networks, advertising, marketing, traditional channels, and other emerging touchpoints. How are you looking at this, and what do you think it means for your business?

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Forrester Publishes Its First Online Retail Forecast For Brazil And Mexico

Over the past year, we’ve worked together with the forecast team at Forrester to help eBusiness professionals understand the size of different online retail markets around the globe. Last year we published our first look at the online retail markets in some of the major markets in Asia-Pacific — this year, we’ve just published our first forecast for two of the largest online retail markets in Latin America, Brazil and Mexico. Some findings from the report include:

  • Brazil is — and will remain — the powerhouse in the region. With more than 40% of the online users in the region and a steadily growing economy, it’s not surprising that Brazil’s eCommerce market will outpace all others by a wide margin. Brazil’s projected 2011 sales of almost $10B put it behind other major online retail markets like France and South Korea but ahead of smaller ones such as the Netherlands and Italy.
  • Mexico’s online retail market is small today — but growing by a CAGR of almost 20%. With less than half of the online users of Brazil and limited online spending, Mexico’s online retail market remains a small fraction of the size of Brazil’s. Average online spending per buyer will not increase significantly over the next five years, but the sheer number of online buyers will.
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