2013 is going to be a fascinating year for retail in Europe.
When I look at what’s to come this year, I can paint a picture of what Forrester predicts by looking at a tale of two brands. Both are iconic, heritage British brands that have responded to their increasingly digitally enabled consumers in two very different ways. Naturally, this has resulted in two very different levels of success.
The opportunity China represents is undeniable, especially in light of the stalled economic recovery in both North America and Europe. However, as I write in my new report out today "Select The Right Interactive Agency In China," the consumer and technology landscape in China is changing faster than supermodels in between struts down the catwalk. And, the threat of failure looms large for brands with a shallow understanding of Chinese consumer behavior, cultural expectations, and digital platforms.
At Finovate Europe in London, the leading event on innovation in financial services, I met a strange banker. He claimed to be from the year 1993 and had been sent in a time machine to London to check out Finovate's 2013 latest innovations; he would then return to 1993 to implement them at his firm. Curious, I asked him about his key findings:
1. Inefficiencies in the value chain will be punished. A good example: Money-wiring services are faster and cheaper via peer-to-peer platforms, like those shown by TransferWise and Azimo, than via Western Union or MoneyGram.
2. The user experience on banking platforms is becoming more engaging. This starts with smooth and speedy onboarding solutions like the one from Five Degrees and moves on to the personalized and engaging dashboards with widgets from Backbase and the award winning Banktron solution form Etronika.
I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which has rapidly established itself as the leading European retail financial technology event of the year. This year’s event was bigger than last year’s, with 64 exhibitors spread over the two days.
Here are my impressions from the two days:
Innovation is hard and usually incremental. Our expectations are so high. It’s easy to sit in the audience and think ‘I’ve seen something like that before’. It’s a lot harder to develop truly new ideas, let alone build them and market them. Innovation is necessarily incremental, moving into the adjacent possible opportunity as my colleague James McQuivey puts it (see him explain it on video here). True invention is extremely rare. As James puts it in his new book, “The most powerful ideas consciously draw from and incorporate elements that were being developed by others along the way, ultimately generating the best outcome in the shortest time at the most efficient cost.” That’s what makes events like Finovate so useful.
...but I’ve spoken to a number of eBusiness executives in luxury retail companies over the last 12 months or so, and by and large they share a similar frustration. For the most part, their senior management remain resolutely defiant in the face of the opportunity that digital brings.
Which is arrogantly short-sighted, when you consider that luxury shoppers are:
Young. Shoppers who buy luxury products online in the US are almost ten years younger on average than regular online shoppers. Globally, online luxury shoppers are more likely to be tech-savvy thirty-somethings rather than brandy-swilling boardroom bumblers.
In a recent blog post of mine, I mentioned that Forrester had launched the Retail eCommerce Playbook. This playbook provides a structured framework to guide eBusiness professionals through their most strategic initiatives in eCommerce – from creating a vision to benchmarking results against peers.
It’s not a secret that consumers are constantly connected to the Web and it’s having a huge impact on how they research and buy products in every sector. As such, it is imperative that eBusiness executives have the appropriate tools and knowledge to execute a strong web presence that not only showcases their brand but also enables shoppers and store associates to research and buy. We crafted this playbook to address all the key elements of success. This playbook will help you:
Discover the importance of a best-in-class eCommerce business by providing eBusiness executives with insight into the opportunity for eCommerce, its growth trajectory, and the current landscape that retailers face as they continue to navigate this channel.
I’ve been called upon to present on agile commerce many times over the last year, and when I do I most commonly start with this quote:
"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
It’s from John F. Kennedy, a man that I admittedly don’t know that much about, but the sentiment in this message rings true for me. I am a passionate reader of history and taken too literally, JFK’s quote could seem to tell us not to look back for answers. But my take away from it is rather that you must learn how to build the future from lessons of the past. Don’t dwell only in tradition and “how it’s always been.” Far too many businesses have driven themselves to the wall over the last few years (Borders, Blockbuster, HMV, etc.) because they clung to the belief that what had made them successful in the past would remain their source of competitive advantage in the future.
One thing that history does tell us is that not only is change the law of life, but the pace of change is only getting faster. And that’s where the concept of agility comes in. I’ve written before about why agile commerce is more than just “multichannel done right.” Absolutely, the imperative of putting the customer at the heart of everything you do and serving them coherently and consistently across touchpoints is critical. But agile commerce builds on this by focusing on the need to achieve organizational agility.