Will Digital Customer Experience Software Platforms Rule in 2014?

David Aponovich

Two  or three years ago, software buyers in the market for new and improved tools for managing website content and cross-channel digital customer experiences had a typical request: “Help me replace my legacy web content management system with a new web content management system.” It was out with the old, legacy, hard to use system, and in with a new solution that perhaps had a few new capabilities, but which still looked and felt like… a web content management system.

As we approach 2014, that WCM buyer is asking for a whole lot more. Enter the digital experience platform – an emerging software category poised for takeoff as enterprises seek to differentiate through better digital customer experiences.

Forrester has defined the digital customer experience platform and 14 specific tools and capabilities in our TechRadar report for application development and delivery pros.

We took the research further in another recent report, a Market Overview report covering digital customer experience delivery platforms. This reports describes 17 representative software vendors and their offerings as they try to tackle this robust market with a diversity of capabilities; each has a different approach. Our research has identified players with heritage in four vendor categories: web content management (e.g. Acquia and Adobe), eCommerce (e.g. Demandware, Digital River), marketing solutions (e.g. Hubspot, Razorfish), and enterprise business software providers (IBM and Oracle).

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The Data Digest: Consumers’ Holiday Shopping Journey

Reineke Reitsma

Last week, my colleague Sucharita Mulpuru published Forrester’s annual US online holiday retail forecast. In her blog, she shared that Forrester expects this year’s holiday season to generate $78.7 billion in US online sales, a 15% increase on 2012's total. This optimism is largely due to ever-increasing numbers of consumers choosing the Web over physical stores as well as the rise in mobile commerce.

To better understand consumers’ attitudes and behaviors regarding shopping during the holiday season, my team conducted a qualitative research project last year with our ConsumerVoices market research online community, starting before Thanksgiving and ending the first week of January. We found that consumers are always on the hunt for holiday deals, not just during the holiday season. Most consumers have an idea of what they are willing to spend on holiday gifts, and while most stay within their budget, they will gladly spend the extra money if it comes down to staying on budget or giving the ideal gift.

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Which Vendor Will Deliver Your Digital Customer Experience Platform? Here Are 17 Candidates

David Aponovich

Choosing digital customer experience solutions isn’t easy for application development and delivery (AD&D) pros, or for their counterparts in the business. Tech pros used to respond to digital business needs by acquiring, say, a web content management or eCommerce system. They may have integrated other software tools to deliver extended capabilities. And it was good.

Fast forward to 2013, and the range of tools to support robust multichannel digital experience is wide and deep. Many different vendors are responding. A new Forrester report cites a number of their offerings as examples of emerging digital customer experience delivery platforms.

In our report, “Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms,” my colleague Mark Grannan and I offer Forrester’s view on this emerging market, the 14 tools and capabilities most needed for on-site experience delivery, and 17 example vendors who play in this space.

In our research, we discover some vendors provide more capabilities; some have fewer. Some build or buy most of their capabilities; others focus on integrating best of breed tools. All represent a range of companies attacking this market by answering a multitude of needs by IT and business customers all seeking to better address their customers through digital channels.

For this report, we identified four market segments plus representative vendors, including:

  • Web content management-centric platform vendors, such as Acquia, Adobe, Bridgeline Digital, Ektron, HP Autonomy, OpenText, SDL, Sitecore.
  • eCommerce-centric platforms, which expand upon their transactional foundations, such as Demandware, Digital River, and hybris (an SAP company).
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India And China Will Lead Asia Pacific Enterprise Mobile Software Spending In 2014

Katyayan Gupta

Consumer mobility in India and China is flowing into enterprises. Recent Forrester survey data shows that nearly three in five IT execs and technology decision-makers in these countries — 58% in India and 57% in China — plan to increase their spending on mobile software (including applications and middleware) in 2014.

India has leapfrogged Australia/New Zealand and now leads the Asia Pacific region in terms of expected mobile software spending growth. China has made the biggest move over the past year, jumping from eighth place to second.

We believe that the high growth in mobile software spending in India and China is primarily due to:

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The convergence of commerce and content platforms gathers momentum

Peter Sheldon

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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Content, Commerce, And The Sitecore News

Stephen Powers

In-line editing? Check. Personalization? Check. Testing and optimization? Check. As the web content management market matures, functional differentiators have become tougher to find. One of the remaining functional gaps in the market is a digital customer experience platform that supports complex but unified commerce-based and marketing-based experiences. Currently, these experiences tend to be disconnected due to technical (and organizational) silos.

But how best to do this? With a content platform only? A commerce platform? Some sort of integration? Or some new hybrid? Peter Sheldon and I explore the issue in a new report that we published this week, “Content And Commerce: The Odd Couple Or The Power Couple?

Count Sitecore among the vendors — such as Oracle and IBM — hoping that a hybrid commerce and content platform will make an impact on the marketplace. This week, Sitecore acquired commerceserver.net. This marks the first marriage of significant .NET content and commerce (the other commerce/content combinations available — Oracle and IBM — are built on Java).

Good move? It is significant that another vendor has taken the step towards building a digital customer experience platform that includes both commerce and content offerings. And that’s where the challenge will come in. Both IBM and Oracle have faced the challenge of integrating commerce and content products that weren’t designed and built on the same architecture. Sitecore’s challenge won’t be any different. Time will tell if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Data Digest: Black Friday - Old Traditions; New Routines

Reineke Reitsma

by Anjali Lai

On Tuesday at 8 a.m., I received a call from my mother. Instead of driving to her office, as she’s faithfully done at that time for more than a decade, my mother was caught between shelves of cashmere. Macy’s was having a pre-holiday one-day sale, and my mother was thrilled to be part of the early-bird crowd getting first dibs on cardigan colors at 50% off. I was struck — not by my mother’s rare excitement about the discount but by Macy’s success in changing her behavior. My mother traded her comfortable weekday rhythm for a detour to the mall, thanks to Macy’s timely, exclusive promotion.

This example is representative of a major potential shift in which consumers break traditional habits thanks to strategic sales and effective marketing. My mother’s impromptu spree is only a precursor to the behavior that could play out next week when Thanksgiving Thursday becomes the new Black Friday. For the first time in its history, Macy’s will open on Thanksgiving itself to compete with retailers like Target and Best Buy, which open their doors moments after the pie crumbs and coffee cups are cleared away. For Wal-Mart, Black Friday 2013 will start one full week early.  

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Selecting The Right Global Payment Service Provider For Your eBusiness Needs

Peter Sheldon

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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Avoiding Missteps When Expanding Internationally

Zia Daniell Wigder

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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The Data Digest: Happy Birthday, Groupon

Reineke Reitsma

by Anjali Lai

Earlier this week, Groupon celebrated its fifth birthday — and its party was certainly hard to miss. The countdown to the big day began last week, when my daily deal emails arrived with pomp and circumstance — images of crowns in the subject lines, extra exclamation points in the text, and heavy promotions based on the need to celebrate. On November 4, Groupon gave out $5 million in “Groupon Bucks” to thank its customers for fueling its five-year evolution from daily deal provider to searchable marketplace.

But the party isn't stopping there. The company continues to identify marketplace opportunities and engage its consumers in a seamless, meaningful way. Groupon’s recently redesigned mobile application and website aim to enhance user experience and allow the company to start optimizing its audience potential. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that Groupon's US online customers are a particularly valuable target, as they spent around $200 more shopping online in the past three months than the average US online consumer:

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