US Online Holiday Sales To Avoid a Double-Dip Recession

Forrester’s “US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2011” launches today, revealing strong growth despite a shaky economy.  November and December alone are expected to pull in nearly 60 billion dollars in online revenue, a 15% increase over 2010 and about one-third of overall online sales volume for the year.  Much of the growth comes as a result of web shoppers doing more of their holiday shopping online and is enhanced by:

  • Customers hunting down deals.  The web has always been the channel for finding value, but as shoppers are more likely to have their smartphones in hand, and as the US unemployment rates continues to approach a double-digit percent, expect even more browsing online for great values.  Deal-related keyword searches spike around the holidays and many opportunistic customers actually look to load up on products from their own personal wishlists given the ubiquitous availability of offers. 
  • Key dates getting bigger.   The trend for the last several years has been that Cybermonday is the biggest shopping day of the year for web retailers.  This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as retailers now provide rich sales and offers on those dates, further driving customers to expect fabulous values at the same time.
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Have Yourself A Multi-Touchpoint Christmas

 With 43 shopping days left until Christmas 2011, eCommerce operations across Europe are gearing up for what looks like being a strong growth year for online retail.

With the economic climate across Europe looking increasingly bleak as Italy considers austerity measures and Greece’s future in the Eurozone uncertain, it is no surprise that European shoppers are more price conscious than ever as they go about their Christmas shopping. Increasingly savvy shoppers will not only find and purchase Christmas bargains online but are turning to a growing range of retailer touchpoints to inform their offline purchases as they hunt for the perfect gift at the perfect price.

While the Internet continues to deliver healthy double-digit growth for most retailers, lackluster summer sales and autumn clearance efforts have led to a shaky start to some Christmas campaigns. But while some retailers lurch from sale to sale, leading eBusiness executives are driving increasingly sophisticated multi-touchpoint strategies that aim to offer shoppers flexibility in how, where, and when they shop.

Mobile will undoubtedly play a much more critical role in assisting shoppers to find the perfect gift this Christmas, with innovative retailers such as John Lewis pushing the envelope by offering free in-store WiFi to its shoppers. But a multi-touchpoint approach does bring more complexity than ever, and managing a consistent experience and message across multiple touchpoints such as Facebook, mobile, the Web and stores is a challenge that busy eBusiness executives must face into.

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Facebook Matters To Customer Service

A couple of years ago, most of my conversations with eBusiness leaders about the future role of Facebook and customer service concluded with cautious skepticism: “Why would customers go to our Facebook page for customer service when we have plenty of other channels for them?”   The most frequent verdict was that Facebook might become important to customer service but it wasn’t a priority.

The verdict is now coming in.

And Facebook is important.

The Facebook UK team ran a number of polls recently asking consumers about why they talk about brands and what they talk about.  They found that 23% of Facebook users want customer service and expert advice when they become a fan of a company’s page.

Savvy eBusiness leaders now understand: you need to go to where your customers are.

And if your customers are on Facebook, then Facebook needs to become a higher profile in your overall cusotmer service strategy.

Audio brand Shure recognized an opportunity to go to where its customers are: Facebook. With RightNow CX for Facebook, Shure extended  its customer service reach to Facebook. Customers can find answers directly from a customer support tab on the company’s Facebook page and pose questions privately to an agent via Facebook.

Live chat is beginning to appear Facebook. Nykredit,the largest provider of mortgage lending in Denmark, offers chat via their Facebook page through vendor Netop.

Earlier this year, virtual agent vendor NoHold launched a virtual agent on Facebook for consumer electronics company View Sonic.

 

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Join Our Global Mobile Survey And Get Free Aggregated Results

A year ago, Forrester fielded our Q3 2010 Global Mobile Maturity Online Survey. We interviewed more than 200 executives in charge of their companies’ mobile strategies around the globe (40% in the US, 40% in Europe, and 20% in the rest of the world). You can see the results from last year’s survey here.

To help consumer product strategists and executives benchmark and mature their mobile consumer strategies, we’re updating this survey.

Planning and organizing for the use of mobile technologies is a complex task. Some players are laggards and think they still need to get the basics of their online presence right, while others are clearly ahead of the curve. Yet two questions we consistently hear are: “Where is my organization compared with others in the use of mobile?” and “How can we mature our mobile consumer approach?”

Here’s how you can help:

If you’re in charge of your company's mobile consumer initiative or if you’re familiar with it, then please take this survey.

Click here to start the questionnaire. 

If you’re not familiar with your company’s mobile consumer approach, please forward this survey to the relevant colleagues who are in charge of defining or implementing your mobile consumer approach. 

  • The survey takes less than 20 minutes to complete.
  • The survey will be live until November 20.
  • Responses will be kept strictly confidential and published only in an aggregated and anonymous manner.
  • For your efforts, we will share a free copy of the survey results.
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Apple's Retail Self-Checkout Is No iPhone 4S, This Really Is An Upgrade

For the next 2 minutes as you read this blog post, please try to forget about Apple the product company and instead focus on Apple the retailer. Two years ago, Apple undertook a worldwide roll out of iPod Touches to its store associates. These devices came wrapped in a sled adding a 2D bar code scanner and credit card swipe capabilities to the hardware lineup and enabled store associates to perform mobile POS transactions anywhere in the store. Ever since the retail industry has been playing catch-up with retailers like Lowes, Gap, and Home Depot recently following suit with respective rollouts of mobile POS functionality to their store associates.

Today Apple raised the bar. Customers in the US can now use their own iPhone 4 or 4S in conjunction with the Apple Store app (one of my favorite mobile shopping experiences and complete with a fresh update) to scan the bar code of most in-store products and perform a self-checkout. The feature, called EasyPay uses the iPhone’s rear-facing camera to scan a product bar code with payment occurring via a simple authentication to iTunes, just like any other in-app purchase. The core difference is that Apple is now allowing in-app purchases of physical merchandise, albeit restricted to Apple at this time. Once payment is complete, the customer simply strolls out of the shop showing their digital EasyPay receipt to a member of staff as they exit. Time will tell if EasyPay results in any increase of in-store fraud for Apple, but for the consumer that knows what they want the convenience of EasyPay is crystal clear.  
 
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Do You Need Retail Stores? Best Buy Thinks Not.

 

Disappointing news for UK shoppers today – Best Buy has announced that it will close its UK stores by the end of the year.

Best Buy was a bit of a breath of fresh air in a multichannel consumer electronics market in the UK that is struggling to find its identity as sales shift rapidly to the web. In a Website Functionality Benchmark we conducted earlier this year, we found that Best Buy stood out in a number of areas against its European competition, and its approach to multichannel retailing was similarly refreshing. While UK traditionalists DSGI have been struggling to find a multichannel model that works for them, Best Buy seemed to embrace the concept of agile commerce quite neatly. It understood that shoppers want flexibility to research, transact, purchase, and return products across multiple touchpoints, be that the web, the store or mobile.

And mobile is definitely where Best Buy and many other retailers clearly see the future.

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For Groupon, The Really Hard Work Starts Now

After months of drama, Groupon finally had its IPO last week, concluding perhaps the most anticipated event in the daily deals space.  Now, however, is the even bigger challenge of actually proving out its valuation. The obstacles aren’t small and we lay them out in a report out today called Myths and Truths About Daily Deals. We define daily deals as both the purveyors of prepaid vouchers like Groupon and Living Social as well as the flash sale sites like Gilt Groupe and Woot. Two of the biggest challenges for prepaid voucher companies are the following:

  • Little incrementality especially for core Groupon businesses like restaurants or even national retailer deals. The majority of consumers who redeem prepaid vouchers (80% in the case of clothing or shoe stores, for instance) were already customers of the brand, and more than half say they would have purchased anyway without the voucher. 
  • Email won’t drive growth moving forward. While Groupon vaunts the size of its “subscriber base” (i.e., email addresses), all evidence points to the medium becoming less important. A significant portion of people who once subscribed to these emails no longer do, and many simply don’t want to because they have no need for more clutter in their inboxes. On the other hand, we’ve heard anecdotally that revenues for these sites are increasingly coming from organic traffic, which can be good so long as a daily deal company can continue to keep its brand top-of-mind for consumers. Marketing and sales, however, are two of the expenses that Groupon has loudly vowed to reduce.
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Looking Forward To Our Marketing & Strategy Forum 2011 On November 16th And 17th

One of the (many) things I have been working on for the past few months is this year’s  European Marketing & Strategy Forum, which is taking place on the 16th and 17th of November at the Grove, just outside London in Hertfordshire.

Our theme is about driving innovation for the next digital decade and what that means for leaders. We’re particularly focusing on some of what we see as the big disruptions of the coming digital decade: the growth of mobile Internet use; the growing demographic diversity brought by ageing populations; and the increasing economic weight of emerging economies, particularly the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries

I’m particularly pleased that we’ve got such a strong line up of eBusiness and channel strategy executives presenting this year, including:

·         Georges-Edouard Dias, Senior Vice President of eBusiness at L’Oréal.

·         Sean Gilchrist, Head of Digital Banking at Barclays Bank.

·         Jonathon Brown, Head of Online at John Lewis.

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Welcome To Our Newest eBusiness And Channel Strategy Analyst

We are very excited to announce the hiring of our newest analyst in the eBusiness and Channel Strategy team – Tiffani Montez.

Tiffani joins Forrester from Wells Fargo where she spent 20 years managing various aspects of digital strategy, implementation, operations and cross-channel integration across lending, investments and customer service.  Tiffani joins a quickly expanding team which includes Peter Wannemacher, Bill Doyle, Ellen Carney and myself in North America dedicated to eBusiness and channel strategy for retail banking, lending, investments and insurance.

Tiffani’s will focus on digital financial service technologies including areas like mobile banking, personal financial management, online banking, person-to-person payments, automated account opening, etc. Tiffani will explore the vendor landscapes for these and other areas to help clients understand about how to make strategic vendor choices, implement new technologies, and create a operational team to manage the solutions once installed.

Additionally, Tiffani will expand on Forrester expertise in the lending area as well as cross-channel integration to drive sales and service strategies.

Tiffani can be found on twitter at @tiffanimontez

Brad