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.
Three years ago, I wrote a report on a then-forthcoming SMB market phenomenon, characterized as the “SMB phoenix.” Gleaned from interviews with new (at the time) small business founders, our research indicated that these new businesses “rising from the ashes” of the 2008-09 recession were poised to mark a significant departure from the SMB market of yore. Headed by a new breed of entrepreneurs, these SMBs were characterized by their optimistic growth projections, their bigger investment in and broader utilization of technology, their marketing prowess, and their relative self-sufficiency. In many ways, they act more like an enterprise business than a classical SMB.
In addition to our extensive Forrsights data on customers’ technology adoption trends, issues, and opportunities, we are engaged on a regular basis by tech companies to research various aspects of the SMB market. One of these recent projects, commissioned by Symantec, involved a deep dive on the SMB phoenix market to determine if it had evolved according to our projections (N.B. Symantec refers to the SMB phoenix as “accidental entrepreneur”).
I expected the original SMB phoenix premises to be borne out, but not to the extent that the research concluded. The differences between SMB phoenixes and their predecessors are astounding! Faster growth? Almost four times as many phoenixes project that their employee headcount will double in the next two years. Technology? Phoenixes have a broader (by about 25%) software deployment footprint, which is characterized by much greater propensity to go cloud. Self-sufficiency? Phoenixes’ technology decision-informing skews heavily toward their founders’ prior enterprise experience, their employees’ input, and online resources; their predecessors’ toward VARs and traditional media like print and radio.
Almost a year from the day that ICANN announced the approval of the new gTLD program, it will be posting all the TLD character strings that have been applied for and who applied for them. Wednesday, June 13th, is the long-awaited "reveal day." They have already told us that there are a little more than 2,000 applications from about 1,000 entities.
Based on my conversations with people at more than 100 companies that evaluated applying for dot-brand TLDs, ICANN executives, and leading players in the domain industry, here are my predictions for what we'll learn when ICANN opens the kimono and in the days that follow:
A few CMOs will lose their jobs. Hard to believe, but not all companies took my advice and went through the due diligence of evaluating the gTLD opportunity and arriving at a consensus decision about whether their organization should apply for a dot-brand or dot-category TLD. When the reveal happens, we'll see the names of all organizations that have applied, the string they applied for, the intended use of the registry, and how it will benefit users of the Internet. There will be a few "ooohs" and "ahhhs" about what some big corporations are planning, and I predict that a few CMOs will be on the hot seat because they ignored the opportunity, while one or more of their fiercest competitors has jumped on it.
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.
Does your brand include Seniors (those ages 65+) in its digital marketing strategy? It should. Here’s why. Forrester recently published a demographic overview of Digital Seniors, and the findings are suggestive: 60% of US Seniors are online — that’s more than 20 million online Seniors in the US.
How are US Seniors using the Internet and technology? While they trail behind younger generations when it comes to device ownership and online usage, they integrate technology into their lives in ways that are relevant for them. For example, they use it as a way to connect with family and friends — 46% of US online Seniors send and receive photos by email, and just under half have a Facebook account.
Seniors aren’t as active on the Web and are less likely to own a smartphone or tablet as younger generations, so many campaign managers don't see them as an obvious target for digital campaigns. But they do have a number of advantages compared with younger consumers, including 1) their size — there are about 21 million online Seniors in the US; 2) their income — they have far more money to spend than 18- to 24-year-olds; and 3) their brand attitudes — they are more brand-loyal, with 63% of online Seniors agreeing that when they find a brand they like, they stick to it, compared with 53% of all US online adults.
As a prequel to some of what we'll hear from Laurie at our event, we sent her questions about the FedEx customer experience and why she sees it as a competitive advantage. Her answers appear below.
Q: How would you describe the experience that you want FedEx customers to have?
A: Relationships oftentimes start with a simple handshake. For example, when you meet someone for the first time and extend your hand in greeting, you’re offering to build a relationship. In the same way, we want to offer a hand to our customers to establish a personal and meaningful connection. After all, FedEx is more than just delivering packages. We’re an innovative company that thrives on delivering solutions and programs that meet our customers’ needs and expectations.
Savvy market insights professionals understand that the CFO is the ultimate budget decision-maker and, as such, merits outreach by the head of market insights to show the value-add market insights provides. But does your CFO get market insights? Or does he or she see your department as a discretionary cost center? Reach out and share with him or her how market insights contributes to the business:
Market insights influences top-line growth.By identifying client needs, competitive gaps, cross-sell correlations, and new market opportunities (among other deliverables), market insights helps the company identify and optimize revenue growth potential.
Market insights influences bottom-line growth. By identifying lower-cost (and acceptable) ways to meet customer needs (e.g., replacing phone support with IM chat support) and by identifying better competitive delivery methods (among other deliverables), market insights helps the company reduce the cost of key functions, which improves the company’s bottom line.
Market insights influences brand value and market cap growth.By fueling high customer satisfaction, loyalty, and willingness to recommend as well as identifying messages that help the company own high-value brand attributes (among other deliverables), market insights helps the company build its brand perception, which can fuel improvements in brand equity and market capitalization.