Last year, when attending my tenth Congress in a row, I wrote that MWC 2013 would be more global and more disruptive than ever before. I believe the same will be true this year, with 2014 bringing a very important milestone in the shift to mobile: an install base of more than 2 billion smartphones globally. Mobile is transforming every industry by offering global reach and the ability to offer contextual services. That’s why we'll see many more marketers, agencies, business executives, and strategists attend the traditional telecom show.
Gone are the days when MWC was about operators' supremacy. As my colleague Dan Bieler summed it up in this blog post, telcos are increasingly being backed into a corner. I still remember this quote from Arun Sarin, the former CEO of Vodafone, in the Financial Times in November 2007: “Just the simple fact we have the customer and billing relationship is a hugely powerful thing that nobody can take away from us.” Really? Well, in the meantime, Apple and Google have created two powerful mobile platforms that have disrupted entire industries and enabled new entrants to connect directly to customers.
From a marketing and strategy perspective, I'd categorize the likely announcements in three main areas:
1) The Asian Device Spec Fashion Week: Getting Lost In Device Translation
Looking back at 2013, it’s easy to see all of the great innovation occurring within the digital store. Most retailers focused on omnichannel fulfillment, whether it was click-and-collect or ship-from-store. Some retailers like B&Q in the U.K. began to experiment with dynamic pricing in-store. If 2013 was about launching new services, 2014 will be about shedding light on the actual performance of these initiatives.
One example of new digital store technology is eBay’s digital storefronts. Last year in June, eBay made a splash by deploying a digital storefront for Kate Spade, allowing customers to browse and buy products from a giant digital screen strategically placed over a vacant physical storefront. This digital storefront replaces the static posters that mall operators use to cover up vacant stores. This past holiday season, eBay expanded the pilot and deployed a series of digital storefronts in a popular San Francisco mall. These new digital storefronts are a few blocks from the Forrester offices, and I capitalized on the close proximity to conduct some research on how the technology was being used and received. eBay launched three digital storefronts: a small format Rebecca Minkoff storefront, a small format TOMS storefront, and a large Sony storefront in front of an escalator exit.
In mid December, I spent two hours observing customer interactions with the digital storefronts (some might even call it lurking). After an informal assessment of almost 500 shoppers who passed by these digital storefronts, I came to the following conclusions:
It’s been more than two years since eBay’s $2.4B acquisition of GSI Commerce and behind the scenes a lot has been happening. Gone is GSI’s entrepreneurial founder Michael Rubin and in his place sits a new executive team that is now strategically aligned with eBay’s senior management and corporate strategy group. Historically, eBay has been a C2C company, but yesterday’s re-branding of GSI signifies that eBay is now deadly serious about providing a holistic suite of enterprise technology and services to leading retailers and brands beyond their core Marketplace and PayPal payment services.
On paper, the new eBay Enterprise is a "jack of all trades." For retailers and brands, eBay Enterprise represents a one-stop shop for enterprise commerce technology, commerce services, marketing services and outsourced fulfillment and customer care. Let’s take a closer look at these offerings and what they mean to eBusiness professionals:
Commerce technology. With eBay Enterprise, eBay is stepping up to compete with industry heavyweights in the enterprise commerce technology market. On offer are three core product lines:
Magento, the ever popular open source eCommerce platform purchased by eBay in 2010.
ECP (Enterprise Commerce Platform), GSI’s new platform (formally known as v11) which after almost four years of development is now finally operational and running live client sites.
A home-grown order management solution supporting omnichannel retailers managing order fulfillment and distribution across channels.
Today is, apparently, Cyber Monday in the UK. But there's a more interesting story in the UK's eCommerce market. It's about tax.
The debate is about the tax policies of a number of prominent multi-national businesses that operate in the UK, including Amazon, eBay, Google, Starbucks and Vodafone, most of which pay little or no Corporation Tax, which is levied as a percentage of profits. (It's relatively easy and perfectly legal for a subsidiary of a multi-national company to avoid taxes on profits in one country by buying services from a sister company in another country so that it makes no profit in the first country.)
Today, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons published a scathing report on tax avoidance by multi-national companies operating in the UK. As the report puts it about Starbucks, which has made no profits in the UK for 14 of the past 15 years: "We found it difficult to believe that a commercial company with a 31% market share by turnover, with a responsibility to its shareholders and investors to make a decent return, was trading with apparent losses for nearly every year of its operation in the UK." What the committee says about Amazon is, if anything, worse.
What's the relevance to eBusiness? While it's uncomfortable for Google and Starbucks to be in the limelight for the wrong reasons, demand for both information and coffee is (presumably) fairly constant through the year. But for retailers Amazon and eBay, the timing couldn't be worse, because this debate is taking place in the run-up to Christmas, the crucial sales period for all retailers in the UK.
Mobile digital wallets are emerging and going beyond payment. New technologies, mixing QR codes, apps, personal financial management software, NFC, and many more, are combining to convert mobile handsets into digital wallets that combine not just payments but also receipts, vouchers, and loyalty. Beyond the convenience of using the phone for payment, consumers will benefit from post-transaction elements such as location-based coupons or enhanced product information at the point of sale (POS).
We’ve not seen a single day without a new product launch, start-up creation, or acquisition — or a new strategic alliance between banks, payment networks, Internet firms, or mobile operators.
So what’s new today? Telefonica 02 just announced the launch of O2 Wallet in the UK.
We believe that the O2 Wallet is, for now, the most comprehensive mobile payment solution in the UK – available to a majority of smartphone owners, whether they are O2 customers or not. The new product combines the following functions:
Money Message — This gives customers the ability to easily transfer money to any UK mobile phone number.
Picture the scene in the HP boardroom when the board members decide the company needs (another) new CEO. They had trouble just last fall finding outside candidates and don’t seem satisfied with internal candidates. I can imagine a New Yorker cartoon–like scene, where they all agree to draw straws, and the board member drawing the short straw gets the CEO job!
But it was not like that. The board realized something that Forrester felt for some time — that HP needs better communications to customers, markets, and employees. Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, is a not an obvious choice, especially given her primarily consumer and web business experience. But she brings strong Silicon Valley roots, something lacking in HP’s recent CEOs, which should help a lot with injecting new energy into HP. And she starts with a strong business reputation for growing eBay, being a good leader, and communicating well. Plus she’s got a nine-month head start as board member on understanding HP over any outside candidate.
As the new HP CEO, Whitman faces a difficult situation. HP has a strong set of products and customer brand that are being damaged by the uncertain directions of the board and the repeated CEO turmoil. Meanwhile, the Wall Street traders and technology press are overreacting, as they often do — HP has solid product and service offerings that are just as good as they were last week, before the latest leadership turmoil. So what should she do?