AmazonSupply . . . Amazon's Camel's Nose Under The B2B eCommerce Tent?

For years the cognoscenti have speculated that Amazon would make an official move into B2B eCommerce. Well . . . they’re finally right. Just a few days ago, Amazon launched their first purpose-built B2B eCommerce site called AmazonSupply.

And yes . . . the entrenched and established e-distributers in the B2B space should be worried.  Here’s why:

  • B2C core assets are very leveragable into B2B. Online merchandising is online merchandising. Logistical support is logistical support.  World-class customer service is world-class customer service. And don’t forget about economies of scale and low prices. It can all be extended into this new space. And Amazon’sB2C infrastructure is similar enough to the infrastructure required to sell B2B that Amazon can do it -- and with relative ease.
  • Integration with Amazon’s buying process is inherently powerful. By bringing their universal login and one-click checkout to the table, Amazon’s vaunted ease-of-use and frictionless eCommerce will now live fully within AmazonSupply’s B2B offering. Customer behavior will not have to change and the user experience will remain second-to-none. Both are powerful influences. 
  • Amazon Marketplace is a force multiplier. Now accounting for nearly 1/3 of Amazon’s unit shipment volume, Amazon Marketplace has clearly established itself as a force to be reckoned with.  AmazonSupply nicely complements the already compelling Amazon Marketplace value proposition for B2B companies and further expands Amazon's B2B eCommerce story.
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Marks And Spencer's "Plan A" Doesn't Specifically Mean "Agile." But It Could.

 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.

Marks and Spencer.

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.

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Introducing Forrester’s Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark

Technology is radically changing the way bank customers interact with their providers, and mobile touchpoints are at the forefront of this change. In the past five years, mobile banking adoption in the US has more than quadrupled, hitting 17% by the end of 2011. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 33%.

As such, eBusiness professionals and mobile strategists at banks are in a white-knuckle contest to out-do each other in the mobile space. To evaluate and gauge banks’ mobile offerings, we applied Forrester’s Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark to the four largest retail banks in the US.                                                                                                 

What we found:

  • Big US banks offer solid, not-yet-splendid, mobile services.  We employ 63 individual criteria in our Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark methodology. The combination of weightings and scores for the criteria generates an overall score based on a 100-point scale. In our inaugural ranking, the four largest US banks posted an average score of 63 out of 100 – above our minimum standards but far from perfect.
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Our View On What Matters In European Retail Banking eBusiness & Channel Strategy

The past five years have been awful for most European retail banks. The financial crisis, and the resulting recessions in most of Europe's economies, nearly destroyed some banks and crushed the profitability of many of the remainder. Worse than that, it was a problem that was partly or largely of (some) banks' own making. Banks are being forced to shrink their balance sheets, sell off non-core businesses and cut costs (i.e. fire employees) just to survive. And Europe's ongoing financial crises are far from over as banks' fortunes are closely entwined with those of their indebted governments.

There's one small silver lining among these dark clouds. Over the past 15 years, eBusiness has evolved from providing an electronic brochure to become a fundamental strategic function within retail banks. One of the effects of the financial crisis has been to force most European banks to focus on how to generate profits in their core retail banking operations by serving customers efficiently. Digital banking is a big part of the answer. So, despite the bleak economic outlook, most retail banking boards know that they must continue investing in digital channels. Digital strategy is an increasingly important component in overall strategy.

I'm still surprised when I find heads of eBusiness who remain marginalized within their firms, reporting into IT or marketing rather than a centralized distribution channels function alongside branches. The leading banks no longer make that mistake. That has greatly increased the power and influence of digital banking executives, but also their responsibility for the overall success of their businesses.

Here's our view of the top five priorities for eBusiness and channel strategy executives at European retail banks:

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Have Your Say About The State Of Australian Online Retail

It's that time of the year again — when we ask you to complete our survey of Australian online retail professionals.

What do we want? A few minutes of your time spent completing this survey. It asks a few simple questions about how you're approaching the challenges that face Australian online retail professionals. All information is kept confidential.

What do you get? The warm fuzzy feeling that comes from advancing the state of knowledge. Plus you go into the draw to win two free tickets to the Online Retail Expo & Exhibition. Plus you can have the final anonymous survey results at the end of the research process.

What happens next? I use the survey results to create research reports about the state of Australian online retailer. (You may have seen my earlier Australian survey-based reports covering everything from the business performance of online and multichannel businesses to their use of technology to their approach to marketing, merchandising and customer service.) Then I present the research at Online Retail Expo & Exhibition. And after we publish the research to our subscribers, we release the raw, anonymous survey results to anyone who helped make this all possible by partaking in the survey.

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IBM Sells POS Business To Toshiba: What It Means

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 . . .
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Forrester Releases Its New Asia Pacific Online Retail Forecast

Today we published our Asia Pacific Online Retail Forecast, 2011-2016 highlighting online retail sales in five different markets in Asia Pacific: China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and India.

Along with providing overall online retail market sizes, we note that:

The combined size and growth of China's eCommerce market are unprecedented. China's online retail market surpassed $100B in 2011 and continues to grow at a breakneck pace — when the US online retail market was the same size as the market in China today, growth was considerably slower. We revised our forecast upward to reflect the fact that online sales continue to increase at a rapid pace, even as the market size swells.

Growth rates in Japan, South Korea, and Australia are more tempered. In contrast to China, online retail sales in Japan, South Korea, and Australia will grow at rates more in line with those of the US and developed eCommerce markets of Europe. However, all three markets are attracting increased investment as a growing number of both domestic and foreign players launch new online offerings in these countries. 

India will grow quickly off a small base. India's eCommerce market, by far the smallest of those covered in our forecast, is poised to grow by more than five-fold by 2016 as the number of online buyers and per capita online spending increase rapidly. This market is gaining more attention as global brands look to markets that are in the early stages of eCommerce adoption but offer significant long-term potential.

Forrester clients can read a summary of the report here.

Forrester's Asia Pacific efforts for Marketing & Strategy professionals

I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be moving to Beijing, China later this month to lead Forrester's efforts in the Asia Pacific region to specifically support marketing & strategy professionals.

Explosive population growth, the rapid adoption of digital technologies, and increasing levels of disposable income make Asia Pacific the most exciting and lucrative market for global firms today. By 2014, Asia will include almost half of the world's online population, and China specifically will represent 34% of the world’s total population and 42% of all online users. And these consumers are spending - - today, 37% of online users in metropolitan China are buying over the Internet, with Forrester's Asia Pacific Online Retail Forecast predicting online retail spend in China will reach $356.1 billion (USD) by 2016. 

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Why Insurance Companies Need To Work On Their Digital Agendas

Too many insurance companies today think digital channels and eBusiness are about adding yet another distribution channel to existing ones. Moreover, they think of digital channels as being about cutting costs, but this is only part of the story. Their true value lies in the fact that customers love digital touchpoints (including mobile phones and tablets) because they perceive them as the gateway to better priced products and to greater convenience. Insurance companies should be brave enough to face the issues of dual pricing and cannibalization or somebody else will disrupt their business. In the Dutch market, for example, companies like Brand New Day and Inshared are combining Internet-only business models with aggressive marketing to challenge the revenue models of the incumbents. eBusiness and channel strategy executives should drive digitization within their companies and:

  •  Get organized and agile. Agility is the driving factor for next-generation insurance companies. The rapid pace of technology change will make the digital agenda and the corresponding organization the top priority for insurance companies in the coming years
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Will Transparency Ultimately Drive Commercial Banking Relationships?

Banks have been the subject of many discussions in the past few months. Their restrictive behavior in giving out mortgages and commercial loans, influenced by the necessity to comply with Basel 3, isn’t making their clients feel enthusiastic about the relationship. Moreover, discussions about bankers’ bonuses have led to a lot of upheaval; restoring bonuses generates negative feelings and mistrust, especially in the many cases where banks were bailed out by their government and still need to repay their debts to the taxpayer. Banks form a crucial part of the economy and are important in overcoming the recession. They are still very powerful, and few companies out there will openly criticize their relationship with their bank right now, as they depend on it. But for how long will the commercial banking relationship remain that way? 
 
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