Have Your Say About The State Of Australian Online Retail

It's that time of the year again — when we ask you to complete our survey of Australian online retail professionals.

What do we want? A few minutes of your time spent completing this survey. It asks a few simple questions about how you're approaching the challenges that face Australian online retail professionals. All information is kept confidential.

What do you get? The warm fuzzy feeling that comes from advancing the state of knowledge. Plus you go into the draw to win two free tickets to the Online Retail Expo & Exhibition. Plus you can have the final anonymous survey results at the end of the research process.

What happens next? I use the survey results to create research reports about the state of Australian online retailer. (You may have seen my earlier Australian survey-based reports covering everything from the business performance of online and multichannel businesses to their use of technology to their approach to marketing, merchandising and customer service.) Then I present the research at Online Retail Expo & Exhibition. And after we publish the research to our subscribers, we release the raw, anonymous survey results to anyone who helped make this all possible by partaking in the survey.

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Credit where credit's due

Taking verbal swipes at Gerry Harvey and his Harvey Norman retail chain has almost become a national sport among eBusiness professionals in Australia. And given Harvey's long history of talking down online retail and talking up his own business, this is far from surprising.

But something interesting has happened over the last six months or so. The sleeping giant has woken to the importance of online retail.

At first, one could have been forgiven for underestimating the scale of the transition occurring within this company, as its first public effort — a deals site called Harvey Norman Big Buys — was unremarkable to say the least.

But then Harvey Norman launched a transactional website for its national retail chain, and suddenly the company's online strategy merited a second look.

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Aussie online retail predictions for 2012

Recently, I published a report about Australian online retail in 2012. The report contains data, examples and detail as you've come to expect for Forrester, but the top line is that in 2012:

  • Mobile commerce will strengthen its place as an important part of Australia's online retail mix
  • Marginal daily deal sites will fold, merge, or sell
  • Local lean startups will bring mass customization to more customers, placing pressure on the retail giants that lag in this area
  • A plucky few companies will find a way to combine the speed of online startups with the scale of the retail giants
  • Couriers, software developers and other partners to online retail will step up their efforts to provide the services that eBusiness professionals actually require
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Australian Online Shoppers Are Ready For Mobile Commerce

For a moment, allow me to speak as an Australian consumer, rather than as an eBusiness analyst. As a consumer, let me say this: In Australia, in 2011, I am truly surprised when I visit a favorite shopping site using my iPhone, only to find I must zoom, pan, and squint to achieve anything useful. It's not a good experience, and it makes it harder for me to shop. The contrast with the great experience I have with the best mobile shopping apps and sites could not be greater.

It turns out I'm not the only Australian online shopper to use mobile apps and the mobile web, according to my new report, "Mobile Technographics: Australian Online Shoppers." In fact, it turns out that Australian online shoppers tend to be sophisticated mobile users — even more advanced than the wider community of Australian Internet users as a whole. And for Australians who regularly shop online in certain product categories, the average level of sophisticated mobile behavior is even higher. For example:

  • 84% of Australian online adults who have mobile phones use them for more than voice — uses that range from SMS to consuming mobile video.
  • 49% of Australian adult mobile phone owners who regularly shop online for apparel, footwear, or accessories are also in Forrester's Entertainers category, meaning they buy content, apps, or personalized services for entertainment on their mobile phones at least weekly.
  • 38% of Australian adult mobile phone owners who regularly shop online for computer hardware, software, or peripherals are also in Forrester's Connectors category, meaning they use mobile email at least once a month, or they use another efficiency or productivity application like mapping.
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Emotion: The Misunderstood 'Fifth Wheel' Of eBusiness Innovation

As part of my "The eBusiness Innovation eBusiness Imperative" report I identified the five megatrends transforming eBusiness: mobile, local, personal, social, and emotional. 

The five overlapping megatrends that are changing eBusiness

"What's that?" I hear you say. "What's emotional?" Well, don't worry — that was the megatrend that stumped most people. But it shouldn't, because everywhere we look, eBusiness professionals are striving to creating more emotionally engaging transactional experiences.

Consider online retail, which is still the most visible form of eBusiness. Creating an eBusiness experience that's less of a chore than traditional shopping is easy. But creating an experience that inspires some of the positive emotions associated with traditional shopping at its best — security, status, even fun — is much, much harder. However, it can be done. For example, the idea to write this blog post came from Mag Nation's "magdentifier," which asks some fun questions before showing you a range of magazines tailored to your interests. For me, playing with the magdentifier was fun. For the first time, it made me consider giving a magazine subscription as a gift.

Magdentifier asks fun questions to help identify suitable mags for its users

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Nordstrom Innovation Lab: The Lean Start-Up Within The eBusiness Giant

In April, I published research about the importance of innovation in eBusiness, and how eBusiness professionals can prioritize the many opportunities that lay before them.

To harness these innovation opportunities more effectively, eBusiness leaders must learn how to prototype more quickly, so they can more quickly and cheaply learn what works, and what needs further rapid adaption.

No video showcases these concepts more effectively than this one, from Nordstam Innovation Labs, which I found on Eric Ries' Startup Lessons Learned blog. Enjoy.

Four glaring opportunities in Australian eBusiness

eBusiness in Australia is in a period of extraordinary development. On a near-daily basis, we see the launch of determined new retailers — from fashion eyewear vendor Sneaking Duck to subscription pet food provider Paws For Life — as well as new services to support the sector, like Want It Now's same-day delivery system. Yet ample "blue sky" remains for entrepreneurs who are willing to take a crack at this sector. Of these countless opportunities, four come to mind immediately:

  • A personal finance-management system. Mint still hasn't come to Australia. The Australian Taxation Office's e-Tax is still a painful way to submit tax returns. You still never meet someone who says "I use ANZ Money Manager".  Saasu and Xero still support businesses but not individuals. If anyone stepped up to offer in Australia what Mint offers in the US and Canada today, thousands of customers — incuding me — would rush to get onboard, and Australian's finance-sector eBusiness professionals would have a collective heart-attack.
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Aussies Love Social Media — But How Should eBusiness Respond?

"Online Australians Shift To Social Networks" is my new report that showcases Forrester's latest data about social media use in Australia.

The report is written for marketers, but these days, my main role at Forrester is to serve the eBusiness & Channel Strategy professional. So naturally, I find myself asking what these new numbers might mean for eBusiness in Australia.

The report's top-line message is continued growth. In particular, the report shows that the absolute number of Australians who regularly use social media has increased to an all-time high of 13.4 million people. However, I'd class that nugget as a "nice to know." It's a useful stat to use the next time you get in one of those tedious debates about why social media matters at all, but the Australian eBusiness leaders I speak with have largely passed that point. Their burning question is not whether to use social media at all. Instead, they want to know what tools and tactics to prioritize, so let's address three of the most common social commerce practices.

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It's Time To Bury The Marketing Funnel

A few months ago, I asked marketing leaders: Does the funnel still work for you? Or are you moving onto something else?

This led to some very interesting briefings and an enormous amount of thinking and debate. The upshot: It's time to bury the marketing funnel.

The marketing funnel, shown below on the left, is a simple and broad-ranging model, which is part of its appeal. However, it's from an earlier era and does a poor job of summarizing how we think about customers and marketing today. Luckily, the customer life cycle, shown below on the right, is as clear and usable as the funnel but provides a far better fit with marketing in the 21st century.

I could write an entire report about why the customer life cycle should replace the funnel — and in fact, I have — but here are just some of the reasons:

  • The role of marketing. At its worst, the funnel portrays marketing as a conveyer belt with the job of delivering a continuous supply of customers to the business. On the other hand, the customer life cycle portrays marketing as the function that is responsible for orchestrating the total brand experience. 
  • The value of the customer. In the funnel, a prospect is a prospect, and a sale is a sale. It's a volume-based model. On the other hand, every customer group has its own life cycle, including its own lifetime value, and its own journey.
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Tell Us How You Connect With Your Customers In Australia Using Social Media

An awful lot has happened since our last major review of how Australian consumers use social media and how marketers should respond. For example, we are seeing continued growth in the use of social networks worldwide, while the growth in some other social activities — such as writing blog posts — has stalled or even slightly declined. My report will explore how Australian consumers use social media, how this has changed in recent years, and the implications for marketing.

As part of our research for this report, we would like to ask a number of questions of the marketing leaders responsible for Australia's most significant brands:
  • How has your use of social media marketing changed in recent years?
  • How have your customers changed how they interact with you via social media in recent years?
  • What success stories and warnings would you offer based on your experience?
  • What is the cost of these programs in terms of people, time, and media costs?
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