Q&A With Fergal Coburn, Head of Channel Strategy and Development, Allied Irish Banks

It's happened. A critical mass of consumers have become "digital first." And the banking industry is no exception. In less than 20 years, Internet-based touchpoints have become the channel of choice for bank customers worldwide. 

Despite this massive shift in channel preferences, few banks have made a radical shift in spending. They still budget far more for their branch networks than for digital channels, and spend much more on traditional broadcast and print marketing than on digital tools like social media. This is why I’m particularly excited to have Fergal Coburn, Head of Channel Strategy and Development for Allied Irish Banks (AIB), speak at our Forum For eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in Chicago on November 5-6

Five years ago, AIB was nearly ruined in the global financial crash. To rebuild its business and restore trust, the bank had to do something radically different -- and decided to transform itself into a digital bank. Fergal has led the design, delivery, and operation of AIB's digital banking capability. Fundamental to his strategy is a widely shared understanding of the need for digital. “Without recognition of this you are doomed to fail,” he notes. 

In the run-up to the event, Fergal was kind enough to answer some questions that we posed to him on what he’s been doing, how his efforts have evolved, and what advice he’d give to others on the journey to digital business. I hope you enjoy his responses as much as I do, and I look forward to seeing many of you in Chicago!

Q. When did your company first start getting serious about digital business?

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Q&A With Paul Barker, Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, Hallmark Digital, Hallmark Cards

Digital will become the backbone of your entire business strategy. More than half of eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals we speak with agree, yet a mere 20% have mastered yesterday’s basics, such as a seamless handoff between channels.  And as Paul Barker, Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, Hallmark Digital, Hallmark Cards notes:  “Today, digital has to be a part of everything we do at Hallmark.  Digital is a part of product, retail, marketing, in store, and of course on the web and on devices.”

In the run-up to Forrester’s Forum For eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in Chicago on November 5-6, Paul was kind enough to answer some questions that we posed to him. I hope you enjoy his responses as much as I do, and I look forward to seeing many of you in Chicago!

Q. When did your company first start getting serious about digital business?

Hallmark launched its web site in 1997 as an ecommerce site and also free e cards.  We wanted to avoid retail trade conflict so we experimented with selling products and solutions that were not available in our stores.  That led to consumer confusion and an inability to scale.  We then migrated Hallmark.com to mostly a marketing site, with very little commerce and free e cards.  Later, we used Hallmark.com as a launching platform for new businesses such as fresh cut flowers, gifts, home décor and other new businesses.  Today we have embraced an omnichannel strategy, blending our digital solutions with retail solutions for both our stores and our mass-retail partners.  We also are pursuing more digital connecting business concepts as well as offering short- and long-form digital entertainment solutions.

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Global eCommerce In The Age Of The Customer

Last week, Forrester published an updated version of our report on The Age of the Customer (the author, David Cooperstein, blogs about it here). The report discusses the fact that competitive differentiation has been based upon the power of manufacturing, distribution and subsequently information. We’ve now entered an era in which “the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers.”

The report gives great examples of brands that have used both digital and traditional channels to become customer obsessed and the benefits they’ve realized as a result. Yet for a large number of brands, the journey is just beginning. This early stage is often reflected in brands’ eCommerce offerings around the globe, many of which still reflect a product-centric rather than a customer-centric approach. Today we find that:

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Mobile Shifts Into Real-Time Gear

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I remember going to the bank with my Mom. She’d say, “hey, let’s go. I need to make a quick trip to the bank to deposit a check.” It was a big deal that the bank had a drive thru. We’d pull up in the car. My mom would manually roll down the window. A teller would speak to us. My mom would reach out and take the plastic tube. She’d drop in a few checks, put the tube back into the machine and it would be sucked back into the building. A couple minutes later, the pneumatics would work their magic, and money and a lollipop would appear. We’d drive back home. All in, maybe this trip took 20 minutes.

It took 20 minutes to deposit a check. My mom was thrilled – besides that she didn’t have to get out of her car, the bank was even open on Saturdays. I only missed one episode of Sesame Street. She was satisfied with this experience for probably two decades.

Fast forward 40 years. If it takes me more than 20 seconds to deposit a check, (And, yes, my 93 year old grandmother still sends me paper checks), I’m twitching … I’m staring at the app on my phone and wondering how the bank could get it so wrong. Just two years ago, I was fine with walking over to the bank and using the ATM.

Two things are changing. One, consumers expect to do things quickly. Two, their expectations of you – their bank, their store, their hotel – are shifting very, very quickly as the result of mobile.

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Q&A With Dwayne Chambers, Chief Marketing Officer, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Even doughnuts have gone digital. Between offering mobile alerts for hot doughnuts and interacting with evangelists on Twitter, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts has set out to integrate digital programs into its customer interactions and relationships – while still staying true to the 76-year-old global company’s core brand DNA. In the run-up to Forrester’s Forum For eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in Chicago on November 5-6, Dwayne Chambers, Chief Marketing Officer at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, was kind enough to answer some questions that we posed to him.

I hope you enjoy his responses as much as I do, and I look forward to seeing many of you in Chicago!

Q. When did your company first start getting serious about digital business?

The Krispy Kreme brand was built on word-of-mouth marketing.  We are fortunate that digital/social/interactive is today’s “word-of-mouth.” Things have really taken off over the past three years.

Q. What steps has your company taken to infuse digital business and skills throughout your business? 

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A Bumpy Ride For Retailers At Shop.Org

Last week I was thrilled to attend and present at the annual Shop.org event in the great city of Chicago.  I attended many great presentations, talked at length with the vendor community, and broke bread with some of my old eComm friends.  One observation that was more apparent to me this year is the massive transformation happening in retail.  It feels more dynamic than it did at the peak of the dot com boom of the late 90’s. For me there were clear trends emerging:

  • There is a palpable divide between forward looking retailers and those stuck in second gear.   Going after incremental improvements such as checkout funnel analysis and improving page load speeds are still important functions, but these are now table stakes that most digital businesses employ. Forward looking retailers go beyond site optimization and look at advanced analytics, leverage social graph data to better understand their customers, and employ mobile strategies that add contextual relevance rather than simply emulate the website.
  • Omnichannel is the hottest topic, but it means different things to different people.  The reality is most retailers fail to understand the complexity around creating a seamless experience for customers, and often fall back on defining their omnichannel initiatives as simply creating a singular presentation across all touch points. For organizations to truly support the needs of the customer, they need to focus on aligning supply chain, fulfillment, customer service, and operations around the specific needs of the customer. For instance, enabling the store associate to engage digitally-savvy customers requires new training, new technologies that facilitate assisted selling,  and new compensation paradigms that reward the associate for driving sales in any touch point.
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Announcing The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q4 2013

Today, we released our inaugural Forrester Wave evaluation of B2B commerce suites.  In a sister blog post, my colleague Andy Hoar, with whom I coauthored this report, explains why client demand for this research has exploded over the past 12 months, with manufacturers and distributors grappling with how to better serve their sales channels through digital experiences. In writing this report, Andy and I have spent the past six months evaluating the B2B commerce capabilities of dozens of vendors. Despite casting the net wide, our research found that although it’s common for vendors to provide “B2B lite” functionality for their clients — such as supporting unique pricing for employees — only a subset of the broader commerce platform vendor community can truly cater for complex B2B business models with support for distributors, resellers, partner networks, employees, retail stores, and direct B2C all from a single platform. To differentiate the wannabes from the bona fide leaders, Forrester rejigged its established B2C commerce suite scoring criteria to emphasize:

  • B2B commerce features. We added all-new criteria to evaluate how these solutions solve unique B2B problems, such as quotes; complex pricing lists; eProcurement; product configuration and customization; guided selling; bulk order entry; dealer management; and account, contract, and budget management, to name a few.
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A First-Of-Its-Kind Piece Of Research: The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q4 2013

For years, customers have asked Forrester to publish a Forrester Wave evaluation specific to B2B commerce solutions. Well, that day has finally arrived! Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of our very first Forrester Wave dedicated exclusively to B2B commerce suites.

In “The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites, Q4 2013,” we found that IBM, hybris (an SAP company), Oracle Commerce, and Intershop lead the pack. Additionally, we found that Insite Software and NetSuite offer competitive options. In a separate blog post, coauthor Peter Sheldon explains in more detail how we ranked the vendors.

What’s at stake overall for B2B companies is no less than a piece of the $559 billion US B2B eCommerce market. To earn a share, B2B eBusiness and channel strategy professionals at all levels of maturity require a world-class B2B commerce suite that:

  • Offers a customer experience standard comparable to leading B2C sites. We frequently hear from our B2B clients that the technology should deliver an “Amazon-like experience.” Fortunately, several of the solutions we evaluated possess the functionality to deliver robust search and navigation, value-added recommendations and reviews, and 24x7x365 ordering and servicing — both online and on mobile devices. In addition, most come ready out of the box to integrate with back-office systems and complex order orchestration and fulfillment workflows.
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It's Time Digital Banking Teams Took Games Seriously

Rachel RoizenThis is a guest post from Rachel Roizen, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals.

Gamification, which Forrester defines as the insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior, has rightfully been a hot topic of debate in many roles and many industries. We’ve blogged about it here, and written reports on success stories ranging from Club Psych on the USA Network to the use of games in education

The banking industry has been using some features of gaming for years, such as by offering redeemable points based on credit card purchases, but some remain wary of combining games with finances. Forrester’s view is that game mechanics can be used to draw in new and existing digitally connected customers. Digital teams at financial firms that have begun experimenting with gamification are seeing positive results, including increases to online engagement, online banking use, product sales, and social influence. Here are four leading firms that are betting on gamification and implementing it in innovative ways:

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Reaching Jet-Setting Shoppers Online

Over the past few years, extensive media coverage has been dedicated to the billions of dollars that tourists spend while shopping in the US and what retailers are doing to cater to these foreign buyers. Coverage of this trend has often focused on Brazilian and Chinese shoppers in major US cities (with travelers from both Brazil and China having been dubbed “walking stimulus packages”), but tourist shopping is not just relegated to large urban centers. Retailers in a variety of areas are looking to tap into the rising middle class of consumers abroad, many of whom are taking advantage of relaxed visa restrictions or circumventing sky-high prices in their home countries.

Increasingly, retailers are looking at ways to engage these shoppers, with some turning to the online channel:

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