Aussie online retail predictions for 2012

Recently, I published a report about Australian online retail in 2012. The report contains data, examples and detail as you've come to expect for Forrester, but the top line is that in 2012:

  • Mobile commerce will strengthen its place as an important part of Australia's online retail mix
  • Marginal daily deal sites will fold, merge, or sell
  • Local lean startups will bring mass customization to more customers, placing pressure on the retail giants that lag in this area
  • A plucky few companies will find a way to combine the speed of online startups with the scale of the retail giants
  • Couriers, software developers and other partners to online retail will step up their efforts to provide the services that eBusiness professionals actually require
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The Globalization of eCommerce in 2012

As we look back on the year 2011, eCommerce organizations continued to expand their global reach. A growing number of US and European retailers started shipping internationally. Brands enabled eCommerce on their own websites in new markets and launched online stores on marketplaces in multiple countries. Other companies with an interest in global eCommerce used the year to gain insights into new markets, determining which ones to prioritize in the years ahead. Rumors swirled about Amazon preparing to enter India. Or Brazil.

For many companies, however, the globalization process is still just beginning. Aside from a handful of companies that operate eCommerce sites around the world, few companies have a truly global online footprint. The growing number of US- and European-based companies that ship internationally will see revenues increase from these markets, but will start to hit a language ceiling: Close to two-thirds of online consumers in both France and Germany, for example, agreed with the statement, “I only shop from websites in my native language.” In the UK, the percentage is close to three-quarters.

2012 will not be the year that eCommerce organizations blanket the globe with localized offerings – they will, however, continue stepping into international waters. Next year we expect to see :

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2012 Online Holiday Shopping Highlights

As the online holiday shopping season comes to a close, we’re in the process of pulling together our final thoughts on this season.  Last month, we predicted that the season would grow 15% over the previous year and by all accounts, that number should more or less be in the ballpark of what actually happened. 

I worked with the great team at Bizrate Insights again this holiday season to survey online holiday shoppers and their attitudes and here were some of the highlights from that research:

  • The web is cannibalizing Black Friday sales; 80% of online buyers we surveyed agreed with the statement “I prefer to shop online rather than go to crowded stores during the Thanksgiving weekend.”
  • Email is very much alive; shoppers said they find out about holiday deals through email more than any other marketing channel including search, social networks and mobile texts combined.
  • Approximately 12% of web buyers now say they belong to shipping clubs (e.g. Amazon Prime); that is up from 9% last year.
  • Sixteen percent of online buyers said they shopped with their mobile devices over the Thanksgiving weekend this year, up from 9% last year.

While mobile shopping is the most notable difference this year, retailers that mastered the basics of great values, extensive assortments and effective marketing campaigns should have fared best. We’ll be releasing a holiday post-mortem in January as well as our 2012-2017 online retail forecast in early Q1; stay tuned for final figures. 

Who Is That Crazy Lady In Macy's? (A Mobile Augmented Reality Story)

It's me. I was in Macy's last Saturday morning checking out the augmented reality (AR) app, "Believe Magic." I got a lot of stares. At one point, I had a small audience as I danced about and took photos with Macy holiday characters ("Yes, Virginia" characters) that only I could see on my phone. What I liked about this app is that Macy's and Metaio didn't push the technology too far - they created an experience well within the bounds of the technology. It worked without long delays or instructions.

There were TWO red mailboxes in the Macy's in downtown SF. When I asked for help ("Where's the red mailbox with the AR app?") from the nice Macy's executive in a black suit, her jaw dropped a bit with the realization she had no idea what I had just said or wanted. Another sales associate helped me out and took me over to a full-blown display that allows people to interact with the characters even if they don't have a phone. The app allows you to take pictures with the characters, share them with friends (usual FB and Twitter plus email), make cards, etc. It's fun. The small crowd of people pointing and staring . . . also fun. :)

This app is more about marketing, but it will give you a sense of the potential of AR for commerce purposes. We've just finished up research due out this week that speaks to the uses of AR in the purchase funnel or commerce track. AR will allow consumers to experience products pre-purchase. AR will simplify the discovery and consumption of content (e.g., pricing). AR will improve the owners' experience with "how to" guides.

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Optimizing the Affiliate Channel for Deal-Driven Customers

With consumers increasingly looking for discounts online and flocking to horizontal coupon sites (e.g. ShopatHome and RetailMeNot), vertical coupon sites (e.g. TechBargains), and cashback sites (e.g. Ebates), eBusiness professionals face a new “coupon-driven” shopping normal. As a result, eBusiness professionals are increasingly considering, and reconsidering, the affiliate deal space as a channel for both acquiring and retaining online shoppers.

As stated in my new report, “Optimizing the Affiliate Channel for Deal-Driven Customers,” while some historical questions persist around measuring incrementality, sales crediting, and brand association, affiliate deal sites today now help eBusiness professionals address a growing number of “deal-insistent” customers by offering:     

  • Advanced targeting capabilities. Today’s affiliate deal sites have modernized to accommodate eBusiness professionals’ higher targeting, tracking, and geographic coverage standards. They now offer sort and search functionality, rich editorial content, exclusive deals, and reach into international markets.  
  • New means to optimize offers and commission payments.  Advanced technology now enables eBusiness professionals to more accurately align commissions with affiliate deal site performance.  Affiliate deal sites operating within a broader affiliate network can tie commissions to the quality of the sale and the quantity of margin available.  
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Why Bank Transfer Day Only Netted 214,000 Accounts?

An article in today’s New York Times entitled “The Exaggerated Impact of Bank Transfer Day” states that 214,000 customer opened accounts with credit unions as a result of the much ballyhooed Bank Transfer Day event. With as much media blitz around the event as there was as well as the rash of articles around Bank of America’s debit card fee situation, you’d think millions would have moved their accounts. We’ll that did not happen and here is why:

  • Consumers choose banks based on location as well as fees. Fees are just one factor in a consumer’s decision to “bank” with a given provider. As much or more a factor is bank access – more specifically convenience of branches and ATMs. In general, credit unions have fewer branches and ATMs than banks and do a poor job marketing benefits like fee-free ATMs and co-op branches.
  • Banks (and especially big banks) have the products and services consumers want. Credit unions are getting better but in general their account services are inferior to banks. Case in point digital services. Banks like Chase go way beyond the basics of digital services to include services robust transfer capabilities, advanced mobile offerings, and multi-touch point self service. Credit Unions provide the basics but seldom advanced digital services consumers are interested in these days.
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Insurance eBusiness Initiatives And IT Priorities And Spending Closely Aligned For 2012

The insurance industry is in the midst of some big changes. Those changes introduce very new pressures, priorities, and uncertainties into an industry whose business depends on stability. In these dynamic times, carriers hang their hat on what they do for their customers, even if how it gets done and who does it might be changing. Our report, "Tech Opportunities In The North American Insurance Industry",  outlines the top business priorities and supporting technology investment plans of North American insurers.  In this year's study (our fourth) it turns out that:

Industry’s business outlook turns strongly positive with select IT spending following along. Even with a record number of disasters that have translated into record economic losses, more US and Canadian insurers have positive outlooks when compared with last year. What’s behind these buoyant outlooks? By all indications, it looks like insurers will be competing on something other than price, as the market condition changes to “firm” and even “hard” for some lines. This year’s top initiative remains growing the business, with ebusiness teams playing a starring role.

Technology’s value shifts to sales, service, and support, not simply cost-savings. Five years ago, the IT’s fundamental value proposition was as a means to take cost out of the insurance equation. While still important, virtually all the insurers we surveyed told us that technology was critical to how they serviced and supported their customers, and 80% told us that technology was essential in the insurance distribution and sales model.

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North American Banks Continue To Improve Their Digital Services: Forrester’s 2011 Bank Secure Website Rankings

Forrester’s two recent reports — 2011 US Bank Secure Website Rankings and 2011 Canadian Bank Secure Website Rankings — highlight the incremental improvements banking providers have made over the past year. Overall, scores among US and Canadian banks rose by an average of five points. The biggest gains can be seen in the improved usability of the websites, with big advances in users’ ability to navigate banks’ secure websites. Canada’s six largest banks gained more ground than their counterparts south of the border, with firms such as Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank rolling out completely overhauled secure sites. In terms of individual banks, we found that:

·         Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Chase take the top three spots overall. Wells Fargo’s secure website is the only one we evaluated that scored above a 90 (out of 100) in the category of transactional content and functionality. In addition, it ranked first or second across all four categories of usability we evaluated. Bank of America earned an overall score of 81 by offering best-in-class alerts and self-service functionality. Chase, meanwhile, had a strong showing with convenient secure website functionality such as multiple bill payment options and solid mobile banking features.

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“Cyber Friday”

When we think about the Thanksgiving weekend and online sales, we’re conditioned to think "Cyber Monday."  But now there’s another online sales story to report -- Black Friday.

While Cyber Monday saw a record $1.25B in online sales this year, a somewhat underreported story was that Black Friday also set a record by bringing in $816MM– or nearly the same amount spent on Cyber Monday just two years ago.   

Increased Black Friday online sales are being driven by:

  • A behavioral shift among consumers. In 2010, 49% of consumers surveyed after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend said that they shopped less in stores on Thanksgiving weekend because they were shopping online instead. In addition, an increasing number of online shoppers report that they are now pre-shopping online for Black Friday deals.
  • High traffic throughout the weekend. This year, Thanksgiving Day took the top spot for holiday weekend online traffic, but Black Friday finished second -- edging out Cyber Monday by a nose.  Data from Experian Hitwise shows that traffic to the top 500 online retailers increased by 2% YOY on Black Friday to more than 170 million unique visits.
  • The consumer perception that better deals can be found online. 58% of US online adults say that they are more price-conscious today than they were a year ago. 48% maintained that they found better values and deals online.   
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What You Need To Know About The Online Sales Tax Debate

As the debate around mandating an online sales tax rages on, Forrester remains convinced that 2012 will see no significant national change to the current tax structure.  As stated in my new report, “What You Need To Know About The Online Sales Tax” and a previous blog post around the issue, some are framing the debate in such a way that online-only companies like Amazon and eBay are tax-shirking delinquents; they’re not. Not only are they in compliance with current law, Amazon, who was at one point resolutely opposed to any new legislation, has made concessions to voluntarily start collecting tax and in fact, physical retailers may soon regret their staunch stances as the balancing act that Amazon avoided around nexus kept them squarely away from physical stores to date.  Now, that may change and create yet another headache for retailers as Amazon reportedly ponders stores.

So what does this all mean? There is likely to be a few more years of heated debate around the issue followed by a number of possible outcomes. eBusiness professionals should stay abreast of situation, but realize that this is not likely to be a game changer for the following reasons:

  • Tax has a negligible impact on online shopping behavior.  In a survey that was conducted in partnership with Bizrate Insights, we found only 8% of consumers said that tax was a priority consideration. Furthermore, only around one quarter of buyers said that the introduction of a sales tax would cause them to switch retailers.
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