There are a number of firms that we watch closely at Forrester because they stand out for sustained innovation. Behind the technology giants like Google and Apple, there are a number of established firms that are using technology to adapt rapidly and successfully to changing customer behaviour and needs. One of them is Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Over the past four to five years CommBank has introduced a series of digital innovations to serve its customers better including:
Finest Online. In the course of its "Finest Online" project from 2007 to 2009, CommonwealthBank of Australia redesigned its NetBank Internet banking service with the objectives of building an excellent customer experience and driving online sales. The bank implemented new content and functionality to support the customer journey and integrated new secure site sales processes with in-person channels and the bank's multichannel customer relationship management (CRM) system. The two-year, cross-organizational project boosted online sales, increased customer satisfaction, and improved the bank's image. (Forrester clients can read our case study.)
After many months of analysis and hard work, we are very pleased to have published the Global Commerce Services Provider Wave report late last week. As I wrote about recently, selecting the right services firm can make or break your project, and therefore your business. As commerce programs that reach across customer touchpoints get more complex and risky, the process of selecting a services provider has become increasingly critical to businesses' success or failure. Yesterday's relatively simple eCommerce projects have become today's customer experience, business, and technology transformation programs. To help clients find a consulting and implementation partner my colleague Peter Sheldon and I looked at offerings from the top twelve services firms supporting clients in implementing commerce platforms, order management systems, and related commerce technologies.
What we evaluated in each firm:
Channel strategy. In the era of agile commerce, clients need support integrating the customer experience, evolving business processes, optimizing organizational design, and implementing technology across digitally enabled customer touchpoints.
eCommerce sales continue to grow rapidly, having topped $200 billion in 2011. As web shopping has been on an upward trajectory for over a decade now, these figures should shock few. We expect online sales will grow from 7% of overall retail sales to close to 9% by 2016. Key drivers of this growth include:
Aggressive deals, particularly during Q4. During key time periods in the last holiday season (e.g., Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday), more than 70% of online holiday buyers (in a joint survey with Bizrate Insights) say that they purchased online instead of in stores because deals online were better.
Innovative new business models. Among the most rapidly growing business models of the last decade were the flash sales sites, companies like Gilt Groupe and Woot. An earlier study that Forrester conducted with online shoppers showed that the majority of consumers said they spend less at traditional retailers after shopping at these daily deals sites.
More online loyalty programs. While over the years physical stores and brands have managed to capture greater shopper data with loyalty programs and private label credit card programs, online retailers such as Amazon.com have essentially created loyalty programs of their own with shipping clubs. In fact, during the holiday season in 2010, 9% of online buyers said they belonged to such a program, while in 2011 12% of online shoppers affirmed the same (again, a joint survey with Bizrate Insights).
Concerns over crumbling economies, the collapse of the euro, and enforced austerity measures can’t have escaped your attention if you live in Europe. It’s easy to believe that consumers aren’t spending, that business growth is almost impossible and as retail giants like Tesco post gloomy results, hard times are ahead.
But the news is considerably more positive for eBusiness professionals.
The European Commission has high hopes for online growth. Its “Single Digital Market” strategy aims to double online sales by 2015. While its initiative may have some positive impact, it’s simply too short a timescale for such a radical shift.
That said, online retail in Europe is on a firm growth trajectory. Online retail sales will continue to outperform overall retail sales figures in terms of percentage growth for many years to come in Europe. In times of austerity, more and more shoppers are turning to the web to find deals and offers and to save money. As the web becomes an increasingly mainstream part of the lives of many Europeans, eBusiness professionals must adapt their strategies to accommodate consumers who are finding information about products and services and increasingly transacting across multiple touchpoints.
Only a short couple of years ago, social media was squarely the domain of marketing and public relations. But consumers changed the rules. They didn’t want to use social media purely for engagement; they wanted to talk to someone behind the brand to get support and share their experiences.
eBusinesses have responded. According to a recent study from Booz & Company, 75% of marketers using social media identify customer service as a primary use of their social media platform.
Unfortunately, there is a gap between objective and performance. A large reason for this gap is the role of customer support in social media leadership. According to the same Booz & Company survey, only 26% of respondents describe customer service as a department responsible for contributing leadership to social media strategies. This doesn’t surprise me. I speak frequently with organizations that describe customer support’s role as more involved than a year or two ago – typically support provides manpower to assist in support-related social content – but they are not deeply involved in driving strategy.
I believe consumer behavior will continue to push eBusinesses to re-evaluate their approach to social media and move to more strategic integration between marketing, branding, and customer service. Why? Consumer adoption of both direct social support and peer-to-peer support has exploded in the last two years. See “Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 eBusiness Strategy.” Further, the majority of consumers expect a reply to their positive and negative comments on Facebook and Twitter.
The online registration page has always been a necessary evil. Despite the obvious need to collect customer information online, 11% of US adults have previously abandoned an online purchase either because they didn't want to register online or the site they were visiting was asking for too much information. Many websites make it downright difficult to register, with seemingly endless input fields, complex password requirements and even annoying captchas all conspiring to make the process of buying online incredibly frustrating. To put this in context, a retailer with $200m of annual online revenues could be leaving a further $22m on the table simply due to the complexity of the registration step in their checkout process. But this is old news. For years eBusiness professionals have obsessed with optimizing the registration process, using A/B and multivariate testing to try and find the right balance between collecting enough customer information and exasperating their customers.
However, the days of optimizing the registration process may be fast coming to an end. In fact the playbook on customer registration tactics is being completely rewritten as a new and increasingly familiar button takes hold across the web:
At our Marketing & Strategy Forum last November, Sean Gilchrist, head of digital banking at Barclays Bank, talked passionately about the importance of customer experience to the work being done by his team at Barclays. It's good to see some of the results of that focus on customers in two innovations introduced by Barclays in the past few weeks:
Firstly, Barclays has started rolling out a new online banking interface. While I'm sure that not every customer will like the change, the point is that Barclays is taking a modular (or widget-like) approach to displaying content and functionality in anticipation of having to serve customers on a rapidly growing range of digital devices. We think that approach is going to become increasingly common as eBusiness teams adjust to the fragmentation brought by the Splinternet.
Taking verbal swipes at Gerry Harvey and his Harvey Norman retail chain has almost become a national sport among eBusiness professionals in Australia. And given Harvey's long history of talking down online retail and talking up his own business, this is far from surprising.
But something interesting has happened over the last six months or so. The sleeping giant has woken to the importance of online retail.
At first, one could have been forgiven for underestimating the scale of the transition occurring within this company, as its first public effort — a deals site called Harvey Norman Big Buys — was unremarkable to say the least.
When commerce platform initiatives kick-off the discussion naturally turns to commerce platforms, order management solutions, content management, search, and many, many other point solutions. Often the question of who will help integrate the solution is left for last. This is frequently a mistake.
In fact, selecting the right services firm can make or break your project, and therefore your business. As commerce programs that reach across customer touch-points get more complex and risky, the process of selecting a services provider has become increasingly critical to businesses' success or failure. Yesterday's relatively simple eCommerce projects have become today's customer experience, business, and technology transformation programs.
These programs are not simple, and require an investment in time, money, and resources. It is not a matter of just wiring up the commerce platform, but instead a whole set of business processes, systems, and strategies will also be impacted. And these skills and expertise are very difficult to keep on staff, requiring companies to supplement with external services providers. Companies now require a multi-disciplined vendor partner to guide decisions upon which rest millions of dollars of revenue, brand differentiation, customer satisfaction, and careers.
Let’s take a step back, first. You started as the “mobile person” two to three years ago. You siphoned a hundred thousand dollars or so from the eBusiness team budget and got a mobile optimized web site and maybe an application or two built. You measured your success by engagement – web traffic and application downloads. Maybe you measured direct revenue. Life was easy.
Two to three years later, as eBusiness professionals, you’ve got some experience with building, deploying and maintaining mobile services. You’ve added tablets to your portfolio. Hopefully you’ve convinced your organization that you need at least a 7-figure budget. Most industries have seen clear financial returns on these investments so that hasn’t been too hard. As eBusiness professionals working on mobile, you were feeling a lot of love.
In 2011, you benchmarked yourselves versus your competition. You looked at native applications by platform and key functionality on mobile web and applications. You took a deep breath and said, “ok, we’ve done it. We have mobile services. We’ve checked the box. Mobile web traffic and sales are growing. We’re good.” Perhaps others with fewer services are thinking, “I can see what we need to do. I think we can catch up if I can get some budget.”
The thing you are seeing though is – the finish line is out of sight. Mobile has only gotten more complicated – not less. No one feels comfortable. No one feels they can slow down, stop spending, or rest. Anxiety levels are high.