3 Questions For TheFind's CEO On Tablet Shopping

We discovered some interesting information about how consumers are using tablets in recent research with Bizrate Insights: that shoppers who have tablets often prefer to browse and buy on those devices and that tablet ownership increases the amount of time that people spend online altogether.  One company that caught onto that trend even before we fielded our data was Siva Kumar, CEO of the shopping aggregator TheFind.  I ran into Siva several months ago at Channel Advisor's Catalyst summit where he showed me an impressive demo (on his iPad, natch) of Catalogue, a magazine-like compendium of all my favorite store catalogs (see below).  Given his hands-on experience bringing a multiretailer tablet experience to life, I thought it would be interesting to get a t-commerce pioneer's POV:

Siva, do you think tablet commerce will be something retailers need to explicitly watch?

Absolutely yes. Online shopping today is very much a chore. It is search-driven, and while search is useful, expedient, and powerful, it is not particularly fun or exciting. More importantly, search leaves little room for retailers to do what they do best, which is to merchandise their wares to consumers.  Conversely, tablet shopping, with its high-resolution graphics, touchscreens, and more tactile interactivity offer game changing potential that may create the means by which eCommerce could grow to be as much as 20% of retail commerce by 2020. 

What are the most important things to watch in developing content for a tablet device?

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Forrester’s New 2011-2016 US Online Travel Forecast: Restrained Growth Ahead

We just published Forrester’s 2011-2016 US online leisure and unmanaged business travel forecast report (if your firm is a Forrester ForecastView subscriber, you may download the complete detailed forecast here). The forecast covers spending for airline tickets, hotel/motel accommodations, rental cars, cruises, and tours, with year-by-year amounts for each in the report. The forecast doesn’t include travel spending on mobile sites or apps, nor does it include ancillary product sales (such as airline checked baggage fees or hotel Wi-Fi) and destination activities and services, like sightseeing tours.

We believe several macro factors will affect the travel industry, and thus the revenue figures in our forecast, during the next five years. These include the state of the US economy and consumer confidence, a permanently high-priced energy environment (critical to the airline and cruise sectors), industry consolidation and the resultant restraint on industry capacity growth, and pricing, which we expect to remain relatively high thanks to capacity discipline (especially in the airline, hotel, and rental car sectors) and of course those high energy costs. We developed the forecast far before the current US debt ceiling crisis had become, well, a crisis. In preparing the forecast, we anticipated that though the US economy may be uneven, it would continue to recover, albeit at an uneven pace through 2012 (we anticipated that the US economy would be more stable from 2013 onwards).

A few highlights from the forecast:

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Fake Apple Stores - Is This The Tip Of A Counterfeit Iceberg?

Last week a lone blogger broke the news that not one but three fake Apple stores had sprung up in the city of Kunming in China, though it appears the problem is fast becoming a worldwide one for Apple to deal with.

It’s no secret that counterfeit goods are commonplace in China, and there are moves afoot to attempt to tackle this issue, at least online. However, this is a very different beast. There has been an explosion of commentary in the press about these fake stores, mostly focusing on the fact that they exist, and mostly failing to draw any comment for Apple.

Action has been taken. According to China Daily, “A local authority had previously said that two of the stores were suspended for not having business licenses. But the local industrial and commercial bureau confirmed to the Shanghai Morning Post on Tuesday that one of them had in fact obtained a license on June 22 and thus could stay open.”

The general tone of the various reports is that the stores are selling genuine Apple products bought wholesale through genuine channels, and that the only reason they would be closed down is because they didn’t follow local laws to obtain a retail license. Not because of any IPR infringement. This will be an interesting story to watch play out -- because if that turns out to be true, it sets a gloomy precedent for other retailers who may be suffering the same challenge.

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Why Tablet Commerce May Trump Mobile Commerce

While all eyes in the online retail space seem to be on social networks and smartphones these days, we’re seeing an emerging trend with tablets that could be the most interesting of all. Only 9% of web shoppers now have tablet devices, but here’s the big deal — most of those people already own smartphones (as well as PCs, of course), and they are saying that they actually prefer to use their tablets for shopping. Not only that, but the ownership of the tablet device itself actually increases the amount of time that people spend online. And we’re anticipating a hockey stick in tablet adoption in the next five years on top of all that. You can read more about these findings in the report my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps and I just wrote titled, “Why Tablet Commerce May Trump Mobile Commerce,” which is based on findings from our joint research on online shoppers with Bizrate Insights. Some of the most compelling aspects that are helping to drive the shopping experience on the device:

  • The larger screen. Not surprising, given the choice between a smartphone and a tablet, consumers find it a lot easier to use the latter to surf the net, click on links, and type in the critical biodata to purchase something online, especially since PayPal Express doesn’t seem to be integrated onto most mobile commerce sites yet.
  • The portability. Consumers love taking their tablets around the house and on the go. The living room is the most common room where the tablet is used, but out of the home is also popular, particularly at restaurants and in airports.
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European Online Retail : Adopt A Local Approach

I have a great interest in history. I always have.

I grew up in the North of England very close to Hadrian’s Wall. In fact, the remains of the Vallum (the defensive ditch dug behind the wall to keep out marauding Pictish warbands) ran through the playing fields of my high school. I grew up wondering what far-flung Legionaries had stood on that wall on cold northern nights. Imperial citizens from Rome itself. Germanic mercenaries from the Rhine. Gaulish Auxiliaries from France. A constant reminder of the diversity of people, cultures, and beliefs that made up the Roman Empire.

So history has wound on, through war and peace, trade and intrigue, to bring us to 21st century Europe. We have a European Union. A single currency. We even have a flag. So Europe is well, Europe, right?

Erm…no.

If history has taught us one thing, it is that a massive diversity of language, currency, habits, attitudes, and beliefs thrives in Europe, and this directly affects the way in which Europeans (or rather British, German, French, Italian people, etc. -- because we are all different) use the Internet to shop. What they buy online, how they pay for it, how it’s delivered, and what their service expectations are, are to some extent shaped by the eCommerce offerings of retailers within their respective countries, but in a large part are led by national culture and behavioral norms.

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Meeting The eBusiness Challenge Of Online Customer Service Measurement

In a perfect world, there would be a single metric that would measure the success of online customer service. Instead, eBusiness leaders must sift through huge amounts of data to get the right information to the right people at the right time.

There are metrics that will provide insight into customer satisfaction, efficiency, effectiveness, and — in some industries — compliance. At the same time, managing cost is an important goal to eBusiness leaders: In Forrester’s November 2010 Global eBusiness And Channel Strategy Professional Online Survey, 54% say that a reduction in the cost to serve customers is an important or extremely important goal to the success of their web channel.

Kate Leggett recently published a document called “How To Implement Effective Customer Service Metrics” that defines nearly 30 operational metrics for tracking contact center and self-service customer service activities and describes how to link these metrics to business KPIs to focus on the ones that will move the needle.

Getting to the right customer service metric means identifying why it is needed and by whom, understanding the differences between efficiency and effectiveness metrics, and recognizing where metrics are connected. If this is a challenge in your eBusiness organization, I encourage you to read “Meeting The eBusiness Challenge Of Online Customer Service Measurement.”

What The Online Sales Tax Debate Misses

As the election year approaches, we can bet that the cries to impose tax on online retailers will get even more pronounced as politicians look for ways to close our budget deficit and make villains of small but seemingly rich segments that can afford to bear the burden (e.g., private jet owners, Amazon.com). While some journalists are framing companies like Amazon as enabling tax shirkers at the expense of impoverished local school districts, the reality is, the debate is really about big box retailers and physical stores fighting to stop the wallet share war that companies like Amazon are winning online. The NRF has been one of the biggest proponents of making web merchants collect taxes, and it's not surprising that its board is composed of many of the country's largest retailers. Some critical facts:

  • A significant portion of transactions online already collect sales tax because people purchase from online stores like BestBuy.com or Walmart.com, so the real amount that is being “lost” is less than the numbers being bandied around would have you believe, and not enough to make up anyone’s deficit, maybe a small city somewhere but probably not much more.
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The Future Of Mobile Is Context

Delivering highly contextual mobile services is an expectation. Mobile phones are personal devices. Consumers expect personal and relevant experiences. 

What is context?

Forrester defines “context” as

“the sum total of what your customer has told you and is experiencing at his moment of engagement.”

Context includes:

Situation: the current location, altitude, and speed the customer is experiencing.

Preferences: the history or personal decisions the customer has shared with you.

Attitudes: the feelings or emotions implied by the customer’s actions or logistics.

eBusiness professionals make limited or very basic use of context today. Mostly, they use an individual’s location to tell her where the nearest store or hotel is. The use of location is a minimum requirement today to meet consumer expectations of “decent” mobile services. The bar is rising quickly though. eBusiness professionals need to layer intelligence on top of contextual information and plan how they will use new contextual information such as temperature or altitude.

Here are a few scenarios that simply leverage intelligence with location:

  • Banks. Should a user require the same depth of authentication at home, at work, or in a foreign country?
  • Hotels. How much should you quote a prospective customer for a room tonight if she is 5 miles or 500 miles away?
  • Airlines. What home page services should you show a passenger whose flight leaves in 2 hours? In 10 minutes?
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What Is The Contact Center Cost Of Login Issues?

The cost of login issues can be staggering.

According to research released by Janrain, a vendor providing user management solutions for the social Web, 45% of US adults admit to leaving a website instead of resetting their passwords or answering security questions when they have forgotten their passwords.

Failed logins also can have a huge impact on contact center costs. I’ve spoken with eBusiness executives who have told me that login issues represent as much as 50% of their contact center volume.

I’m working on a project and trying to get some deeper knowledge into the impact customers or clients telephoning due to login difficulties (i.e., lost password, user name, etc.) have on contact center costs.

And I’m hoping you might be able to help me.

I’d be grateful for insight into:

  • The number of telephone calls your call center receives (weekly, monthly, annually, or whatever time frame you break it into).
  • The percentage of contacts to your call center that are due to log-in difficulties.
  • The cost per contact for login difficulties.
  • Alternatively, perhaps you could provide the annual cost -- or approximate cost -- of assisting clients or customers who are having trouble logging in.
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