Lessons Learned: What B2C eCommerce Can Teach B2B

In our new report, B2B eCommerce: Going from Surviving to Thriving By Adopting Proven B2C Principles, we assess the current state of B2B eCommerce, what impact B2C has had on customers’ expectations for B2B eCommerce, and how B2B eCommerce professionals are leveraging lessons learned from B2C to drive more business online. 

We conclude that B2B eCommerce enterprises have something to learn from their more experienced B2C brethren who have set a standard for customer expectations and established a series of eCommerce best practices. A few key findings:   

  • B2B eCommerce is still in its infancy but making impressive gains. In 2009, the latest year for which data was available, the US Census Bureau reported that US B2B eCommerce (net of EDI) totaled $352 billion. By comparison, that’s over twice the size of the $145B market for US B2C eCommerce. Further, a growing number of companies now report that B2B eCommerce will represent nearly 50% of their total sales within a few short years.    
  • Consumerization is driving the B2B eCommerce experience.  All B2B customers are also B2C consumers. And like it or not, they’re comparing their B2B eCommerce experiences with gold-standard B2C eCommerce experiences from Amazon and others. And like B2C consumers these days, B2B customers demand products faster, less expensively, and more conveniently than ever before.
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A Week Of eCommerce In Brazil

I was thrilled to be back in São Paulo last week visiting with different companies in the eCommerce space. I met with over a half dozen online retailers, as well as other players in the industry including payment providers and market entry specialists. It was also great to have the opportunity to speak at Rakuten’s event on April 24th announcing their official launch in the country.   

Below are a handful of takeaways from the trip:

Online momentum is building in categories such as apparel and beauty. In markets like the US and the UK, apparel represents a significant percentage of total online sales. In Brazil, by contrast, this category is just starting to take off, with online sales currently representing a very small percentage of the total market. As issues such as inconsistent sizing are increasingly addressed, however, and new entrants boost the market, the online apparel sector is set to grow substantially. Likewise, there’s much talk of growing beauty sales in Brazil (the country is set to surpass Japan to become the world’s second largest beauty market) – as with apparel, online beauty sales are a tiny fraction of the total today, suggesting substantial growth opportunities going forward.

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And Now For Something Completely Different . . .

Market insights professionals tend to work long hours, under a lot of pressure, with a need to produce ever more with ever less. Needless to say, this can make us a bit, well, stressed and serious. Sometimes too serious for our own good.

So, every once in a while, it’s good to connect with our inner child — or connect with our real children (who may be wondering why mommy and daddy are working so much). Last week, Forresterites in Cambridge got to actually do both with our annual Bring Your Kid To Work Day. It brought a whole new meaning to multitasking!

Morning was spent balancing serious emails with serious games. The juxtaposition really helped me understand that we don’t have to be so serious to do great work. In fact, being too serious might actually be an impediment to the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that market insights professionals so need to bring to the position nowadays!

The height of the day for me was when I brought my nine-year old son to my “office.” OK, it’s a cubicle. Nothing to write home about, but he thought it was the coolest thing in the world! Being still somewhat in a frame of mind to play games, I started to see my office in a whole new light!

So what is the deep analytical insight of this blog? Well, nothing. And sometimes that’s OK. It’s good for market insights professionals to take some time off, do nothing, be like a kid (or with a kid), let your mind wander, and do silly things. This is also, by the way, how creative ideas are formed, how innovations are born, and how, perhaps paradoxically, market insights professionals might find a way to do more with less!

Teradata's eCircle Acquisition: Portfolio Or Platform Play?

Today Teradata announced plans to acquire of Munich-based eCircle, a digital and email marketing provider. With the acquisition, Teradata continues two trends:

  1. Extending core offerings through marketing technology. eCircle joins Teradata’s two prior investments in marketing technology: Aprimo Marketing Studio (AMS) and Aprimo Relationship Manager (ARM), which were separately acquired in previous years. Teradata confirmed that it will position the eCircle product within its standalone Aprimo division.
  2. Complementing data warehousing with big data analytics. Through the acquisition of Aster Data, Teradata moved to beef up its presence in analytics for large-scale data sets, such as log files, clickstream, and sensor data. eCircle’s platform is built on a similar (Hadoop-based) platform, allowing marketers to co-mingle and analyze customer records, campaign data, online behavioral interactions, and more.
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Mobile Chat Will Widen The Gap Between Overlooked And Innovative Mobile Customer Support

Mobile remains a fragmented strategy in many companies. Ownership is not always clear. And customer service is commonly — woefully — overlooked.

The gap between overlooked mobile customer service and innovative mobile customer support will widen. And those innovative eBusiness leaders will increasingly look to mobile chat.

Website chat has revolutionized how customers and eBusinesses engage with one another, and it has quickly grown into one of the most satisfying channels among online customer service options. In the last two years, consumer’s adoption of website chat has nearly doubled; at 62%, it has the highest satisfaction rating among all online customer support channels. In fact, Generations Z and X have higher satisfaction chatting with a live agent than speaking on the telephone with a live agent. (See my the January 23, 2012, "Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 eBusiness Strategy" report.)

Mobile chat can do the same for mobile offerings.

Today's innovative mobile features offer consumers wide-ranging functionality, such as making access to reviews and product specs as easy as scanning a QR code, turning passive catalogs into interactive style guides, and proactively sending mobile coupons. Mobile chat will increasingly enhance these mobile offerings, making them even more interactive and engaging while also supporting revenue goals.

Take Aveda’s mobile app, for example. Consumers can have a chat session to get product recommendations from an expert. This is a quick, engaging interaction — one that may never inspire a telephone call, but the convenience of a mobile chat could easily support a sale while also extending Aveda’s ability to engage customers.

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Customer Experience Programs Need To Move From Talk To Action

Last week, I released an update to a very popular report titled “The State Of Customer Experience, 2012.” The research is based on a survey of customer experience pros about their plans for this year. The data mirrored what we hear anecdotally when talking with clients every day and should help you answer the perennial question, "What's everyone else doing?" But beyond that, here are my big takeaways:

  • Everyone is talking about customer experience. Ninety-three percent of respondents said customer experience (CX) is on their company’s list of top strategic priorities. For 28%, it is the top priority. And when we asked CX pros how they plan to build customer-centric culture in 2012, about three-quarters said they expect to run training, education, and internal communication programs.
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Digital Intelligence: Innovation Is The Name Of The Game

Forrester has just published the second installment in our research series on digital intelligence, titled The Road To Digital Intelligence. This piece is the follow-up to Welcome To The Era Of Digital Intelligence, which introduced Forrester's vision for the next stage in the evolution of digital analytics.

I've been very busy recently speaking about and socializing the concept of digital intelligence. The response from Forrester clients and presentation attendees has been extremely enthusiastic. And while there is general agreement on the concept of digital intelligence, savvy practitioners recognize that it's not a quick fix. Digital intelligence involves tracking complex customer interactions across touchpoints, managing massive volumes of data, and delivering actionable analysis. Ultimately, digital intelligence is an analytics strategy rather than a singular project or technology implementation.

As organizations consider shifting to the digital intelligence paradigm, two very perceptive questions arise time and time again. "The Road To Digital Intelligence" aims to address these questions and provide a launching off point for the digital intelligence journey.

Question 1: How should I think about implementing digital intelligence in my organization? 

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When Will You Become An Internet Bank?

Last week I visited the Dutch SNS Bank because it has an interesting story to tell. It is one of the few banks that have radically changed their behavior toward digital channels. Instead of reasoning, like the majority of banks are doing, that the Internet is about adding another sales channel in addition to branches, SNS Bank has changed its way of thinking fundamentally: "We are an Internet bank with shops that are an outbound extension of our Internet value proposition." The bank understood two things: 1) The digital revolution is not only limited to the younger, tech-savvy generations, and 2) digital is affecting every aspect of the banking operation regarding product and processes. I haven't seen many retail banks that truly sense the pace of digital change. As always, financial services companies don't necessarily feel the sense of urgency to make radical changes in their distribution methods. A lot of times, we see an attitude like "OK, let's try digital and see what happens, and if it proves itself after one year we have plenty of time and our pockets are deep enough, to respond." This might not be true in the coming years. In a time where digital touch points are growing quickly, this attitude won't work and companies have to make the adjustments earlier and faster. It's good to see that some banks are appointing mobile directors of heads of digital channels; this illustrates that they take digital seriously. In our latest report, Trends 2012: European Retail Banking eBusiness And Channel

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