Five Key Online Retail Trends In Asia Pacific

We just published our new online retail forecast report for Asia Pacific (clients can read the report here). In our forecast, we look at top-line growth in five markets across Asia Pacific: China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Australia. China will be responsible for the lion’s share of growth in these markets, which, combined, will reach some $854 billion by 2018.

In the report, we note a number of trends across the region, including the following:

  • The heavy dominance of web-only retailers in many countries. In many markets in Asia Pacific, traditional retailers do not play as strong a role in eCommerce as they do in the US, UK, or even Latin America. Internet Retailer’s Asia 500 list, for example, includes just one traditional retailer among the top 10 retail websites in the region (China’s Suning). And while some markets like Australia see traditional retailers now playing a bigger role in eCommerce, in fast-growing eCommerce markets like India as well as China, web-only retailers are very much dominant today.  
  • The increased focus on omnichannel functionality. The strong role that many traditional retailers play in eCommerce in the US and Europe often translates into robust omnichannel initiatives. By contrast, it’s taken a while for many retailers across Asia Pacific to launch offerings that link their online and offline channels. Increasingly, however, digitally savvy retailers in the region are focused on developing new offerings. In Australia, for example, where traditional domestic retailers were long notably lagging (or absent) when it came to eCommerce, there is renewed interest not just in the online channel but also in building out key omnichannel features.
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The convergence of commerce and content platforms gathers momentum

Many brands and corporations today suffer from “two site” syndrome. The ‘.com’ site (often owned by brand/corporate marketing) serves to offer up a glossy magazine experience — designed to romance the customer with brand and product stories, while the ‘store.’ is owned by the eBusiness team and is designed around structured product content to optimize conversion and revenue goals. The result is often fragmented and poorly integrated digital experiences that confuse the customer, introduce unnecessary complexity, and ultimately fail to deliver on the broader digital strategy of the brand.

In the age of the customer, brands today seek a unified experience between the four stages of the customer life cycle (discover, explore, buy, and engage). For eBusiness professionals, this means tighter collaboration with their corporate marketing and brand counterparts to find ways to embed commerce (the buy phase) into the heart of the .com experience rather than building segregated eCommerce sites. However, this is easier said than done. The problem is that many brand and manufacturing organizations leverage web content management (WCM) platforms to create, manage, and measure targeted, personalized, and interactive brand experiences. However, these WCM platforms lack the robust commerce capabilities that organizations need to manage large, complex product catalogs and develop sophisticated merchandising strategies to sell online.

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US Online Holiday Sales Grow At A Double-Digit Pace For The Third Consecutive Year

Forrester’s "US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2013" launches today. In it, we predict that for the third consecutive year, online holiday sales (November and December) are expected to grow at a double-digit pace and pull in over $78 billion. This represents about one-third of the overall retail sales volume for the year. This optimism is largely due to ever-increasing numbers of consumers choosing the Web over physical stores and the rise in mobile commerce. Despite unknowns such as the effects of a truncated holiday season and lingering consumer uncertainty around the federal government shutdown, online retailers can expect that consumers will be out in droves. The most successful retailers this holiday season will cater to consumers who:

  • Expect free shipping in some form. Consumers have come to expect free shipping, especially during the holidays, and many will actually leave a site if it's not offered. It’s the second most common reason why US online buyers abandon purchases and go to another retailer, behind price.
  • Research via all channels to find the best deals. Forrester expects that, not unlike in holidays past, price and saving money will be key considerations this holiday season. As the Web channel has become synonymous with value, retailers should expect consumers to be avidly searching for deals through a variety of touchpoints, at home and in-store on mobile devices. Availability of web content across devices will be critical: Forrester estimates that cross-channel sales (transactions that are influenced by the Web in some way but are completed in stores) will account for $247 billion this holiday season.
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Selecting The Right Global Payment Service Provider For Your eBusiness Needs

This is a guest post from Lily Varon, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals

Globalizing your eCommerce business isn’t just an option anymore — in many cases, it’s an imperative. But accepting global online payments is VERY complicated. It includes the transmission of sensitive financial information, an array of diverse payment methods, a long list of players in the transaction stream and many regulatory considerations. Add to the equation the increasing importance of mobile and the seamless user experience the consumer is demanding, and it’s enough to make even the most seasoned eBusiness professional’s head spin. So what are we to do? eBusiness professionals are often looking to partner with payment service providers (PSPs) to help manage and streamline these complex payment processes. But the PSP vendor landscape is crowded and highly competitive, leaving eBusiness professionals unclear of which PSP will best serve their needs.

Together with payments analyst Denée Carrington and commerce technology analyst Peter Sheldon, we just published a report to help eBusiness professionals navigate the maze of solutions and vendors at hand to help them meet the global payments challenge. Here are a few key questions eBusiness professionals should consider before signing on with any PSP:

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RWD Is A Natural Evolution Of The Web — And It's Here To Stay

When I first looked at responsive web design (RWD) back in June 2012, only early adopters (mostly startups, agencies and media firms) had taken the plunge. Back then, developers and web designers alike were still getting to grips with the concepts required to build responsive sites. eBusiness leaders, although intrigued by the premise of a single site able to adapt across devices, were mostly playing a pragmatic wait-and-see game. Fast forward almost 18 months and much has changed. Although hype and confusion continue (not least due to a perplexing set of technology terms and marketing buzzwords), RWD has firmly cemented itself as a natural evolution of web, and it’s here to stay.

In our latest research on RWD, my colleague Mark Grannan and I spoke to over 20 digital agencies and end user clients that have adopted responsive design. We found that RWD sites are still far from ubiquitous; however, adoption is growing steadily. As web traffic on mobile phones and tablets is increasing to the point where firms must optimize for these touchpoints, RWD is taking center stage in many enterprise discussions.

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Forrester Research Takes Six US Mobile Auto Insurance Apps Out For A Test Drive

What We Did And Why

Insurance carriers are pulling out the stops when it comes to their mobile strategies. It’s now rarer to find an insurer that doesn’t offer at least one app plus a mobile site. But just how effective are all these mobile insurance apps and sites at meeting the needs of auto insurance customers? At the end of the summer, we decided to check out the mobile sales and service functionality that leading US auto insurers – Allstate, Farmers, Geico, Liberty Mutual, Progressive, and State Farm – were offering to their customers. We reported what we learned in our just-published 2013 US Mobile Auto Insurance Functionality Rankings report.

Our approach followed these steps:

  • Define a user scenario. We defined a target persona: Ryan and his wife Nicole live in Chicago and are in the market for a new car and will need to change the vehicle on their policy. Their mobile goals are to research and apply for insurance, pay their bill, see how easy it is to file and manage claims, get help on the road, and see what other help they can get through their insurer on a mobile phone.
  • Score mobile functionality based on user criteria. Forrester’s mobile functionality benchmark methodology examines 26 individual criteria that measure how well an auto insurance app helps customers achieve their goals. Each criterion has a potential score ranging from -2 to +2.
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Forrester’s 2013 US Bank Online Sales Rankings: B Of A Takes The Top Spot For The First Time!

Checking accounts are one of the top selling financial products in the US, and 18% of applicants apply online. To help digital banking teams benchmark their bank websites and plan future improvements, Forrester used its Website User Experience Review and Website Functionality Benchmark methodologies to evaluate the public websites of the seven largest US retail banks. Our 2013 US Bank Online Sales Rankings includes the rankings for Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Capital One, Chase, and PNC. 

Highlights of the 2013 US Bank Online Sales Rankings:

  • Bank of America takes the top spot for the first time. Bank of America topped this year's US bank ranking, scoring 72 out of 100. Bank of America stands out for the content and functionality it offers in both the research and the application phases. Just three points separated the top four sites: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and Citibank.
  • US banks have worked hard to build trust with prospects. All of the US bank sites we ranked demonstrated proficiency in guiding prospects through the research and buying process by providing feedback, contextual help, and an indication on how to correct errors.
  • Digital banking teams still struggle with efficiently merchandising products. Digital banking teams aren't merchandising accounts effectively by giving prospects reasons to do business with them. Many banking sales sites do not effectively promote services like digital banking capabilities, do not differentiate the bank from its competitors, and do not offer customer ratings and reviews.
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Avoiding Missteps When Expanding Internationally

We’ve been having a series of conversations with brands and retailers recently about how to effectively plan for global online expansion. While approaches vary, eBusiness leaders cite similar challenges. In particular, two hurdles to successful international expansion tend to come up repeatedly in conversations:

“Our ROI scenarios are unrealistic.” In a survey of eBusiness professionals in the B2C space, we asked how quickly they expected to see a return on their investments in new global online initiatives. Over three-quarters said either in less than one year or in one to two years. By contrast, leaders of successful global eBusinesses frequently highlight the fact that payback on new initiatives takes at least two years, with many citing three years and up. As a result of this disconnect, eBusiness professionals overseeing new global businesses often find themselves falling short of expectations and struggling to secure the funds needed to succeed. Today, the mismatch between ROI expectations and performance is one of the leading reasons why new global initiatives fail.

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Snapchat Rejects Facebook's $3B Bid

If you believe the idiom "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," then Snapchat believes it will be worth more than $6B to a future buyer — or the public through an IPO. The service is appealing not just for the UI but also for the limited time the content is stored. That appeals to me as a middle-aged adult, let alone to a teen with poor judgement who may be applying for college or a job in a few years. We've probably all felt awkward at some point about something someone posted. 

If you believe the movie "The Social Network," Mark Zuckerberg was also advised to turn down early offers. Remember the shockwaves that rippled down the West coast when Microsoft invested $240M in the fall of 2007 for what is now a 1.6% stake or $1.36B valuation? (See Source

I am not our social media expert. I am also not our primary mobile marketing expert, though I've covered it extensively at times. This POV is from a mobile analyst who has spent a lot of time looking at social networks on mobile devices. 

Here's what we do know:

- There are about 7 billion people on earth. 

- 6 billion of them have mobile phones.

- 1 billion (and growing) of them have smartphones, with nearly 400m of those in China.

- People communicate, consume media, and transact on mobile phones — in that order.

- Mobile phones sit at the core of our social graph. We create photos and we share good times with friends. I don't often post while I am sitting at home working. I post when I am out and about doing fun things that I want to share. 

What drives a $6B+ valuation beyond pure speculation, optimism, and wishful thinking?

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Banks: Add Search To Your Secure Sites

The majority of bank customers are now active online bankers, making the content and functionality offered on secure sites more important than ever. Forrester has just published research on which features are must-have on banks’ secure websites.

For my money, the most surprising high-value secure website feature is search (here we mean natural language keyword search that lets a user find what he or she is looking for on the site). In fact, our research revealed search to be one of the few bank website features that customers rate as above-average in importance, yet search is either nonexistent or poor on most banks’ secure sites. So we wrote an entire research report about it. Here are some highlights:

  • Online banking customers want search… We asked consumers who bank online to "rate how important it is to you that your bank's website has each of the following features" and asked them about 14 different features, including search. The majority of online bankers — 68% in the US and 63% in Canada — say search is important to have on their bank's secure website.
  • …but few banks offer search on their secure website…Just seven of the 25 largest banks in North America include search functionality on their secure websites.
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