Windows Phone 8 - What Does It Mean For eCommerce Professionals?

I attended the Windows Phone media event in San Francisco today. The filter I put on was, "What does this mean for the eBusiness professional?" VERY few of the executives we have surveyed are building experiences or applications for the Windows platform today (and yes, you could argue that in part that is because they knew Windows Phone 8 was coming and wouldn't be backwards-compatible, but, honestly, mostly it is because there are so few Windows phones in the US relative to Android and iOS). Only 21% of the executives we surveyed a year ago were using Windows with another 27% planning to do so (see this report). 

There is a lot of talk - mostly at a high level - about how you have to define different experiences for iOS and Android because expectations are different, consumers use the devices differently, etc. The most interesting aspect of the Windows Phone 8 event today was the "live" tiles. I have seen similar in the past with Nokia devices - streaming Facebook updates, news, etc. to "live" tiles on my home screen.

What I haven't seen yet is a good use case for "live tiles" for eBusiness professionals. Everyone is chatting about push-based notifications - they are contextual, they deep-link into the application, they drive usage of the application, etc. These "live" tiles with streaming content or media could be even more interesting. Microsoft today showed examples with Groupon and other discount/deal providers. As a bank, you don't want to display someone's balance. As an insurance provider, you don't want to post "a bill is due" or "we're not paying out your claim." You might want to post content around hurricanes and the potential danger. Retailers and travel companies can post deals. 

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On eCommerce In South Africa And Beyond

I recently had a chance to catch up with another global eCommerce enthusiast: Hendrik Laubscher works for PriceCheck, a price comparison site in South Africa owned by MIH Internet Africa. He and I sat down for a coffee to talk all things developing eCommerce markets. A few things that came out of our conversation:

In South Africa, payments and broadband connectivity remain hurdles to eCommerce adoption. South Africa, the continent’s largest eCommerce market, remains at a relatively early stage, with several inhibitors preventing the market from truly flourishing.  Although credit and debit card usage is growing, overall penetration remains low, even in comparison to other large emerging markets. PayPal offerings have been a challenge, as well — currency issues and restrictions that required users to be registered FNB online banking customers prevented many from taking advantage of this payment method.  Additionally, the country’s low overall Internet penetration — in particular, broadband penetration — also presents hurdles. The CEO of Woolworths in South Africa recently said that faster, cheaper broadband was essential for eCommerce to flourish, but estimated that this scenario remained “about four years off.”

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US B2B eCommerce Sales To Reach $559 Billion By The End Of 2013

Today Forrester is releasing a report entitled “Key Trends in B2B eCommerce for 2013” that, for the first time in over 10 years, sizes the US business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce market in the US.  Forrester estimates that by the end of 2013, customer-facing front-end B2B eCommerce will reach $559 billion.  This figure includes transactions placed online (independent of whether payment is taken online or not), but does exclude EDI-based commerce.

By comparison, US B2C eCommerce will be a $252B market--which would make B2B eCommerce fully twice the size of B2C eCommerce. In addition to sizing the US B2B eCommerce market, “Key Trends in B2B eCommerce for 2013” explores three important trends in B2B eCommerce for the coming year:

  • Ever-Growing Demand For B2C-like B2B eCommerce Experiences. With key B2C sites having set a high standard for what constitutes a compelling online customer experience, B2B eCommerce companies are now actively retooling their existing B2B sites or building whole new sites to deliver B2C-like eCommerce experiences.
  • Increasing Channel Conflict Between Direct Sales Organizations and eCommerce Operations. As the eCommerce option becomes a more viable alternative to a traditional direct sales model, companies are increasingly migrating their offline customers to more cost-effective, self-serve, online-only environments.  In addition, they’re now focusing their sales reps exclusively on acquiring and retaining higher-margin and higher-volume key account customers.
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Q&A with Mike Boush, VP, eBusiness, Discover Financial Services

Earlier this week I caught up with Discover’s Mike Boush to talk about his keynote at the upcoming eBusiness Forum, where he’ll explore innovations in eBusiness at Discover. Here’s a snippet of our conversation, and a sneak peak of Mike’s session at the event:

Q: What digital initiative have you undertaken in the last 12 months that you're most excited about?

A: I love what we're doing with partnerships online. It's creating a whole lot of value for customers and, frankly, getting us out of the "must be built at Discover" mentality. It started with an integration with PayPal in order to deliver peer-to-peer payment services. The program leverages PayPal’s huge delivery platform, and customers love it. Then we introduced an integration with Amazon that lets customers pay for their Amazon.com purchases with the cash they earned through our Cashback Bonus rewards program. This really highlights the difference between competitors' "points" programs and our straightforward cash, and the transparency shows just how great our program is. And recently, Google announced our integration of Discover card enrollment into the Google Wallet from our website, which is convenient for customers and helps position us in the mobile payments space. These integrations are just a sample of what we've done, but they become powerful illustration of what we can do when we team up and innovate with other great companies. 

Q: What gets in the way of delivering the right experience to your customers?

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European Brands are Embracing the Cross-Touchpoint Reality

I had the pleasure of presenting an evolution of our Agile Commerce research last week at the Internet Retailing conference in London. It was an interesting event on a number of fronts, but my key take-away from the event was a very positive one.

eBusiness executives in Europe have definitely woken up to the Agile Commerce message.

We can’t claim all the credit at Forrester, but I definitely got the feeling from listening to my fellow panelists on the Customer track present their stories that they were in the same place as we are now, at least in terms of strategic intent, if not yet in execution:

  • Simon Smith, Head of Multichannel Experience at O2 Telefonica described how he is bringing a service design ethos to delivering both consumer and employee experiences. Telefonica aims to design service experiences that are Individual, Relevant, Thoughtful, Reassuring and Amazing (SUPER, anyone?), and what was the most interesting piece about their story was that these experiences are designed from an outside in, customer first perspective before any of the individual touchpoints are designed. By basing these experiences on common personas and a wealth of analytical data, Telefonica then overlay touchpoints as appropriate, enabling them to step out of the discussion about “should we or shouldn’t we develop this or that functionality on this or that platform?” and into the more relevant discussion about “what touchpoints and experiences most make sense for our customers?”
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Is There A Future For Bank Branches ?

I was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion on the future of banking at the Economic Forum in Poland. The head of retail for a major retail bank predicted that within five years, his bank would not have any branches left. This was a remarkable statement, considering that in his country, 29% of banking customers still visit a branch once a month; in Warsaw, there’s a bank branch on every street corner. Across Europe, however, these numbers vary: Forrester’s recent research shows that only 7% of banking customers in the Netherlands visit a bank branch at least once a month, down from 9% in 2011, while in Spain, 49% of banking customers still visit a branch once a month.

Branches Will Not Disappear, But They Will Change.

What is going on here? Will bank branches disappear or will they transform themselves from transaction processing hubs to sales and advice centers? We think the latter because:

Branches are expensive.The elevated cost structure of branches — including their increasing staff expenses (i.e., hiring, training, and retaining them) and the security costs related to cash dispensing — is putting pressure on the cost/income ratio of many retail banks. This is the main reason why SNS Bank moved the cash-dispensing function out of its branches and replaced them with ATMs. But ther are more examples as stated by my colleague Benjamin Ensor in his blog about digital banking innovation in Turkey.

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Q&A with Bert DuMars, VP, Digital Marketing & Ecommerce, Newell Rubbermaid

I had the chance to catch up with Bert DuMars, VP of Digital Marketing & eCommerce at Newell Rubbermaid, in advance of his keynote later this month at the eBusiness Forum. I spoke with Bert about the impact of digital channels on the overall shopping experience, and how Newell Rubbermaid is charting a course for profitable eCommerce growth. Here are some of his thoughts.

Q: What digital initiative have you undertaken in the past 12 months that you're most excited about?

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Why Contactless Cards Aren’t Taking Off In The UK

The other day, Smile*, one of the banks I have an account with, sent me a new contactless card.

The contactless symbolThe striking thing about this otherwise ordinary event was that the bank didn’t mention that it was a contactless card. I know it’s a contactless card because it has the contactless symbol on it. But nothing in the letter the bank sent with the card so much as mentioned the new contactless functionality. Logically, one of the following must be true:

  • Uncharitably, it could just be that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and the product team forgot to tell the marketing team it was doing anything new.**
  • Possibly, some slip meant that my envelope didn’t contain any marketing. But there’s no mention of contactless cards on the bank’s website either.
  • Alternatively, the bank simply reckons that the benefits of promoting the contactless functionality are so marginal that it’s not even worth the effort of changing its standard letter (which promotes card protection insurance in extensive detail).
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Mobile Efforts Are Starved For Funding

Forrester just released a new report, “The State Of Mobile Technology Adoption.” The report will allow eBusiness professionals to benchmark their annual spending, mobile services, and approach to building mobile services among their peers in North America and Europe.

One of the biggest takeaways from the research is that eBusiness professionals lack the funding they need to build mobile services, integrate mobile services with their back-end infrastructure, and build out teams with the right skills in-house. Consider that:

·         56% of eBusiness professionals spend less than $500K annually on their mobile services.

·         Only 24% spend more than $1M – the base level for a good native application and mobile website.

From a technology standpoint:

·         40% are building applications in-house, with 12% licensing a platform to do so.

·         62% are building mobile websites in-house, with 46% relying on their IT team directly.

·         68% have native applications – far more than are using hybrid applications (most of the budgets would have to be here to fund these efforts).

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