After years of fighting for a voice in the organization, eBusiness leaders are finding themselves in the spotlight. Some all-stars command total compensation packages of more than $1 million and others -- like this example from retailer FinishLine -- step into new roles like Chief Digital Officer. We believe that in the next few years many eBusiness professionals will graduate to titles like VP of Digital Strategy and VP of Multichannel Strategy, reporting directly into CEOs or to VPs of Distribution/Channels.
What's driving the graduation of eBusiness out of the halls of IT and marketing and into the C-Suite? Two words -- mobile and multichannel. This is about so much more than apps and in-store inventory lookup. Mobile is finally enabling many of the multichannel programs that eBusiness professionals have evangelized for years. Some eBusiness teams were already serving as digital centers of excellence for business units and product lines and taking ownership of mobile strategies: In a survey of eBusiness professionals, the majority -- more than 70% -- reported that they have responsibility for the mobile channel. But suddenly, all eyes are on eBusiness teams to develop the firms' digital strategies for what were traditionally considered offline channels as well.
Core to Forrester's value proposition are the insights we derive from in-depth surveys to understand consumer preferences, attitudes, activities and desires. On the flip side, is understanding how businesses are responding to consumer needs and opportunities. Over the last few years, Forrester has been focusing on building up this business side intelligence, and I am happy to report we have further extended that in the retail banking industry.
Forrester in partnership with the Consumer Bankers Association did an in depth survey of digital banking executives in North America to understand the state of the digital channel. Our survey which included responses from 19 digital banking executives contains data from 13 of the top 50 retail banks in the US. The survey covered many aspects of the business including organizational structure, hiring, channel priorities, and business metrics across online servicing, mobile servicing, payments, social, and sales. The output of this survey work is two reports outlining "The State Of North American Digital Banking." The first of which is availabe on Forrester.com.
Here are some of the highlights of the report:
Digital channels are growing. "The State of North American Digital Banking 2012"s survey shows that investment in the digital channels continues to grow with budgets being split 70/30 online to mobile and budgets that range from from $250K to over $25M.
I spent last week in Tokyo, Japan. Given that an increasing number of our clients are eyeing Japan’s eCommerce market, I thought it would be interesting to share some observations from my trip. Local business perception is that the economy is struggling and will persist to struggle, but robust activity on the street and our most recent Asia Pacific Forecast belie that. There is clearly potential for growth in the market, but changes need to be made before that can happen. Based on my observations, the key inhibitors are:
Low adoption of English in the business world. Japanese is the primary language used to conduct business in Japan. Understandable in the world’s third-largest economy. Many understand English, few are comfortable using it in a professional setting. This issue makes it hard for broader penetration globally across eBusiness. A notable exception is maverick Rakuten where employees are required to have strong English language skills.
Retail is aggressive but mostly single channel in focus. Companies I talked to are trying to understand cross-touchpoint attribution, but there is little evidence of multichannel sales in those stores. BIC Camera, one of the largest consumer electronics chains in Tokyo, for example, offers an enormous selection without the option to purchase across different channels.
Consumers are now in control, especially when it comes time to buy. Ubiquitous connectivity allows consumers to easily check prices and buy on the go, which should worry (not terrify) traditional retailers in competitive categories. This “showrooming effect,” which has been encouraged by Amazon, would enable web retailers to snatch some sales from the hands of their brick-and-mortar competition. A majority of sales are still happening offline, so the fear of showrooming — that most people are finding screaming deals online — is largely exaggerated. In fact, the majority of transactions still happen in stores, even when shoppers research online (yes, even when they’ve got their mobile devices in hand in a store). Forrester’s US Cross-Channel Retail Forecast, 2011 To 2016, which launches today makes it clear just how influential and critical the web channel will be to eBusiness professionals in retail. By 2016 Forrester predicts that more than half of the dollars spent in US retail will be influenced by the Web. Already in 2011, $1.3 billion dollars in the US fall into this category.
It is imperative for eBusiness professionals in retail to adopt cross-channel best practices, including:
Pricing more consistently to reduce vulnerability to showrooming. The ability of shoppers to comparison-price shop and demand price matches requires retailers (and manufacturers) to reduce price discrepancies across all channels. With comparable pricing in place, this forecast suggests that many consumers may in fact nonetheless choose to purchase products in stores because of the immediate availability, service levels, or simply because products online do not have significant benefit over those in stores.
I've written about the European Union's grand plans for eCommerce in the past. Much of what the European Commission wants to achieve is laudable and would be fantastic to see. After all, who amongst us doesn't want to see eCommerce thrive? However, recent initiatives such as the much debated "Cookie Law" suggests that the good intent is often diluted by the time directives become in-country legislation. So there is a very real risk that further plans to tinker with national laws regarding things like tax, delivery charges, and returns could wind up making the world more, not less complex.
Each country in Europe has an eCommerce industry body. The IMRG in the UK, Fevad in France, BVH in Germany. The list goes on. But the challenge with these bodies is that they are all country-specific, and as such don't really think too deeply about cross-border issues and also lack the power to effectively lobby the EC when it comes to influencing legislation.
One of the things that Europe really needs to help drive a more effective cross-border e-economy is an effective cross-border "user group." A group that can operate in the way that shop.org does in the US.
We have EMOTA, which is essentially an umbrella organization for the various industry groups, but feels a little detached from the actual retailers.
I saw this article today on augmented reality. It doesn't use the phone — it uses Google Goggles, but you can imagine it as an application on a mobile phone.
The AR glasses makes the food products you see look bigger through the lenses so users eat less. [See article.] You can imagine more scenarios, though, with a mobile phone along with its processing power and contextual information about the user. If I walk in to a sandwich shop, for example, I can scan the options with my phone to find a sandwich that fits my calorie and nutritional requirements. (I spend a lot of time in airports so would love this). Certainly if I pick up a candy bar, I can read the nutritional information or calorie count.
I go back to trying to answer this question, "how does access to real-time information improve our lives — and not simply addict me to accessing information constantly like checking email or Facebook updates?" Health, wellness, and financial services among others are where I see some bigger opportunities.