I’m constantly searching for great examples of agile commerce practitioners. These are hard to find, and it’s rare to come across any one organization that exemplifies everything that we believe an agile business needs to be.
Dynamic. Willing to take calculated risks. Organized for cross-touchpoint customer engagement. A clear vision for the future with the customer firmly at the center.
In the various interviews I do, I frequently find that I end up talking about a British retail icon.
So what’s so special about M&S, you may ask. Well, not only is M&S a digital innovator in the space of video and its use of social media, but under the leadership of its Chief Executive Mark Bolland it is transforming itself into a truly multichannel organization. With a clear ambition to be the “UK’s leading multichannel retailer,” M&S has set itself a stretching target.
IBM announced today that it is selling its $1.15B Retail Store Solutions (RSS) business delivering and supporting retail point-of-service (POS) terminals to Toshiba for a reported $850 million. IBM will continue to have a nearly 20% stake in the new company formed by the deal, with plans of divesting that over the next three years. With retail being such a core vertical market for IBM, the deal begs some questions.
Why would IBM sell such a significant business in a core vertical market?
Channel-centric solutions are on the endangered species list. While I do not expect to see a bunch of stories out of Eugene, Oregon about protests over the environment for retail POS systems,* the market for POS systems has changed dramatically over the last few years. Retail store systems have become a maintenance business with little growth. Retailers are closing stores, distressed commercial retail real estate is everywhere but the top luxury malls and downtown cores, and there is very little incentive for retailers to upgrade or replace retail systems today, in part because . . .
Here at Forrester we have been talking about the concept of "agile commerce" for some time now, but it's not always easy to point to live examples of “agile”businesses. What is agile commerce? How do I become agile? Both are very valid questions that we are in the process of building out a series of research documents and case studies in order to answer.
But there is a live example happening right now that encapsulates what agile is all about for me.
For those of you who are yet to become completely addicted to Pinterest (and you will), it's basically an image sharing site that allows you to group together images from around the web into categories and pin them to a virtual pin board. It creates highly visual mood boards, wish lists, galleries, and collections of images that link back through to the original source (which is where Pinterest makes its money). And since so many Pinterest boards are all about style — fashion and home in particular — it has the potential to be a bit of a retail gold mine.
Online retailers are rapidly adding emerging markets to their list of new global opportunities to explore, as these markets are set to take a growing percentage of global eCommerce sales going forward. However, it’s important to remember that Europe still ranks as at the most popular region outside of North America for US online retailers expanding internationally. The market is set to grow at a healthy pace over the next five years: Clients can read my colleague Martin Gill’s recently published forecast of online retail sales in key markets across Europe.
Some takeaways from recent conversations with online retailers expanding into and within Europe: