Wearable Devices: The Next Battleground For The Platform Wars

Wearable devices, or “wearables” for short, have enormous potential for uses in health and fitness, navigation, social networking, commerce, and media. Imagine video games that happen in real space. Or glasses that remind you of your colleague’s name that you really should know. Or paying for a coffee at Starbucks with your watch instead of your phone. Wearables will transform our lives in numerous ways, trivial and substantial, that we are just starting to imagine.

In a new Forrester report out today, we argue that wearables will move mainstream once they get serious investment from the “big five” platforms — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook — and their developer communities, and we give advice to product strategists who want to stay ahead of the wearables curve. Key takeaways:

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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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The Data Digest: Global Mobile Behaviors

Recently, I've been editing some reports on how consumers are using their mobile phones and how that has changed in the past couple of years. We only have to think back to the Nokia 6510 or Motorola flip phones that we were using a few years ago to see how the introduction of smartphones has changed our world. In many countries, people spend more time texting and doing other data-related activities on their phone than using it for actual voice calls.

And in many countries, the impact of mobile uptake and its evolution has been even bigger and more different than in the US and Europe. In the West, mobiles are often an addition to a PC or game console; in many developing countries, a mobile phone is the only device that most consumers own. This is reflected in the activities for which they use their mobile. For example, Forrester's Technographics® studies — involving 333,000 respondents in 18 countries — shows that Indian, Chinese, and Mexican mobile phone owners use their phones more to listen to music and play games than their European and US counterparts. [Note: this graphic shows selected activities from a list of possible activities]

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Drive Product Innovation To Mature Your Mobile Strategy

To gauge how far organizations have come with their mobile initiatives, Forrester conducted the Q4 2011 Global Mobile Maturity Online Survey among executives in charge of their companies’ mobile strategies. 

Since 2010, fewer companies report not having a mobile strategy in place. Between Q3 2010 and Q4 2011, the percentage of companies we interviewed that have no mobile strategy or are at the early stage of defining one has significantly decreased, from 57% to 31%. C-level executives are increasingly in the driver’s seat, and mobile is moving away from a test-and-learn approach to fueling companies’ corporate goals. Mobile is primarily viewed as a way to improve customer engagement and satisfaction.

 However, the majority of companies face organizational issues and struggle to allocate the right resources for mobile and to measure the success of their mobile consumer initiatives. The main obstacles they face are these:

 ■ Lack of measurable business goals clouds early success.

 ■ Limited investment, resources, and expertise slow progress.

 ■ Cross-functional and cross-geographical complexity cause inefficiency.

 There are plenty of new disruptive platforms emerging from tablets, from game consoles to connected TVs, but mobile will be the primary platform for global product innovation. Only mobile phones can offer such a global reach.

 To prepare for the accelerating pace of mobile disruption, product strategists should help other internal stakeholders rethink the life cycles of their mobile applications and services and drive innovation via smarter apps, richer data, and converging technologies.

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How Quickly Can You Add A New Touchpoint?

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.

 Pinterest.

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.

 

Unlike Facebook, which is much more about social connections, it looks like Pinterest users are more in a discovery and pre-shopping mode when they are pinning and are pre-inclined to buy if they click through to a retail website. With an ever-expanding network of users, Pinterest has the potential to bring some much needed serendipity to web shopping.

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ICANN Extends gTLD Application Window By A Week — Time For All Brands To Pay Attention

Bummer, we have to wait another week. Apparently ICANN is concerned about possible tampering with the TLD Application System (TAS), as they rightly should be, so they have closed it down for a few days, resulting in the application window for new gTLDs being extended from today to next Friday, April 20th. As it states on its site, "Recently, we received a report of unusual behavior with the operation of the TAS system. We then identified a technical issue with the TAS system software."

Not that this shouldn't make a difference to you, because if you haven't taken a stand on gTLDs for your company and don't have your application all ready to go by today, you're most likely gonna miss the boat anyway. But as a marketing leader, you need to make sure you have someone paying close attention to the program over the next few weeks.

We've been expecting that ICANN will post the public portions of all the applications on its site by April 30th (don't be surprised if this slips a week as well). By reviewing this posting, you'll see who is applying and what strings they are applying for. Whether or not you have applied for your own gTLD, make sure you go through the list to see if someone has applied for a string that may violate a trademark right for your company or one of your brands. It will be up to you to file a legal rights objection if this happens. It is most likely to happen if you've got a company or product name that is a commonly used word, like United.

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Mobile Banking Vendor Selection: Not A Straightforward Journey

As I started my Market Overview of mobile banking solutions, one thing was apparent: the vendor landscape is in flux. To further demonstrate this point, over the last few weeks, Montise announced acquisition of Clairmail and Clairmail announced Clairmail Plus, a solution targeting mid-tier regional banks, community banks, and credit unions. With the constant movement, it’s not easy to navigate through the vendor landscape. Whether you are a trailblazer looking to expand your mobile banking offering or looking to deploy your first mobile banking solution, eBusiness professionals must keep the following in mind as they evaluate mobile banking vendor solutions:

  • The mobile banking vendor landscape is changing. Vendors are either going out of business or being acquired. This shift has challenged eBusiness professionals to either select a new vendor or determine how acquisitions will impact mobile banking services and their strategic roadmaps.
  • A vendor relationship can hinder or enhance your mobile banking strategy. While past decisions may have been driven by speed to market or cost consideration, those decisions now may be preventing eBusiness executives from meeting strategic or functionality goals. As eBusiness executives look for next generation mobile banking solutions, partnering with a vendor that has an understanding of industry shifts, device evolution, and user trends will help clients extract the most value from mobile solutions.
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