If I had a dime for every time I heard the question “Isn’t eCommerce taking over retail?”, it wouldn’t make me wealthy, but I’d certainly have a few hundred dollars more than I do now. Nonetheless, it’s a question that is unfortunately misguided and has permeated our zeitgeist. The truth is that yes, eCommerce is growing - but physical retail is far from doomed. Let me take the two parts of that last sentence and address them each separately.
First, the fact that eCommerce is growing. Forrester just released the latest five-year online retail forecast and to no one’s surprise, the numbers are big. We’re projecting $294B in eCommerce sales across 30 retail categories in 2014, expected to grow to $414B by 2018. The web keeps doing what it has always done well: it provides huge assortments of products, at comparable, often lower, prices than physical stores, with 24/7 access and often free shipping. For many categories like media products or electronics, we’ve already observed a heavy shift to the web channel away from physical stores. Add to that the ubiquity of mobile devices and that drives even more shopping in more instances and places. In fact, we’re projecting that $87B of that $294B will happen on phones and tablets in 2014, and that doesn’t even include another $28B in additional mobile transactions on sites and apps like Uber and Domino’s Pizza that aren’t even in that aforementioned mobile commerce number.
But all this growth certainly doesn’t mean that stores are dying. Here’s why:
The first email I received at work in 2014 was from a bank; along with a festive new year’s greeting, the email touted the bank’s new mobile app and a new feature that let customers set up travel notifications directly from the bank’s website. Later that day, I was in an airport reading a friend’s Facebook post about how she wished “more apps were like Uber.”
These are just a few small anecdotes about ongoing digital trends impacting businesses and banks both large and small. I recently spoke with a banking executive who put it simply: “Digital is what we do now.” (This quote is now the header of my Twitter feed.)
Forrester recently published our Trends 2014: North American Digital Banking report, in which we identify major forces impacting banks and lay out five actions that we recommend digital strategists take to prepare for the future of digital banking. Here’s a sample of some of our findings:
Banks will face a sustained – yet unclear – regulatory environment. In both the US and Canada, banks are confronting an uncertain regulatory future. The Dodd-Frank Act was signed into US law on July 21, 2010, but a large number of the rules and regulations remain unwritten. It's unclear when they'll be finalized, and the fact that 47% of deadlines have already been missed – according to the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell – doesn't bode well.
Have you ever stopped to think where your last online order came from and how it got to your house? We might assume that the package on our doorstep has probably just made a lengthy and complex journey across the country (courtesy of the belly of a UPS freighter, a handful of trucks, a few miles of conveyor belts and some good old human muscle) from a large, nondescript distribution center located in the suburbs of a city we've barely heard of. You may be surprised to learn then, that today it is increasingly likely that the package at your door came no further than a few miles down the road from a locally based store of the retailer you ordered online from. Of course, as consumers, we don’t really care where our purchases came from or how they found their way to our doorstep - as long the right merchandise arrives damage-free and on time.
Coffee-lovers just about anywhere around the world are intimately familiar with the sweet feeling of indulging in a Starbucks Frappuccino – but their blended beverages of choice might be starkly unique. Although the Starbucks brand is familiar to consumers worldwide, the taste of a Starbucks beverage varies regionally according to the diversity of palates. Chinese consumers may seek out a Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino while their Japanese counterparts prefer a Coffee Jelly; Argentinians may count on that Dulce de Leche Granizado Frappucino where Brits treat themselves to a classic Strawberries and Cream.
The Starbucks Frappuccino phenomenon is a metaphor for any global retailer’s optimal international approach. By catering to consumers’ varying tastes, global companies can hone a strategy that is sensitive to diversity — the “art of thinking independently together,” in the words of Malcolm Forbes.
When it comes to eCommerce specifically, consumer tastes differ not only in relation to products but also to purchase methods. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, more than half of metropolitan Chinese online adults regularly buy products through both traditional and mobile devices, but only one in four US online adults and even fewer European consumers do this.
In the age of the customer, firms that assume that what made them successful in the past will continue to drive competitive advantage in the future are doomed to failure. But as a counterpoint, those firms that embrace the opportunity digital technologies bring to get closer to their customers by creating contextually relevant, personalized customer experiences will thrive. That’s the theory, but what does it look like in practice?
This week, two major UK grocery firms paint opposite ends of the digital spectrum.
Consumers are embracing an increasing number of devices and touchpoints to shop – this we know and at Forrester we call this the mobile mind shift. But eBusiness professionals still need to figure out the relative influence each touchpoint has on their customers’ shopping behavior in order to determine where to focus their efforts. Should you follow the likes of House of Fraser with a mobile first web presence? How do your customers use your digital presence for research pre-purchase?
Forrester’s new retail segmentation helps eBusiness executives answer these questions by providing a framework to map out the complex ecosystem of touchpoints and devices their customers use to shop. The segmentation identifies increasingly sophisticated multi-touchpoint shopping behaviors and helps eBusiness executives to identify critical touchpoints to create the most relevant shopping experiences for customers across markets.
eCommerce revenues are soaring around the globe. This year, the US, Western Europe, and China alone will generate over $800 billion in online retail sales. Growth rates, too, remain staggering in many countries: China’s massive online retail market will more than double between 2013 and 2018, as will Brazil’s. India’s much smaller market will grow by eight-fold during this timeframe.
However, a litany of businesses have failed as they attempted to tap into shoppers outside of their home markets, with many large US and European brands factoring prominently on the list of casualties. eCommerce is no exception: Numerous eCommerce businesses have taken the plunge into new markets, only to find their offerings didn’t resonate with local consumers or they were outsmarted by much savvier local rivals.
What separates successful global eCommerce businesses from their counterparts? Which tactics have proven particularly effective for brands aiming to extend their reach into new markets? What are some of the most common challenges businesses tend to encounter? Our newly published eCommerce globalization playbook helps brands through the thorny process of global expansion. Clients can read our playbook for insights on how to:
Discover and quantify international revenue opportunities. Our playbook includes reports outlining the global opportunity and identifying how eCommerce markets typically develop with time. Our online retail forecasts for the US and Canada, Western Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America provide a quantitative look at market sizes and eCommerce trends in these regions.
Yuebao is a hot topic in China, and has even gotten international attention. But what is it? Yuebao is a value-added service that customers of Alipay (China’s version of PayPal) can use to earn interest and to make payments and transfers. An individual can start a Yuebao account with as little as RMB 1 (US$0.17).
The Alibaba Group launched Yuebao in June 2013. By mid-February 2014, 61 million people had invested money in Yuebao, and total fund skyrocketed to RMB 400 billion (US$65 billion) – making it the largest fund in China.
People are drawn to Yuebao because of its:
High yield. The average annualized return is around 6% — much higher than similar funds and banks’ financial products.
Good liquidity. Yuebao offers great flexibility; investors can deposit and withdrawfunds anytime. Other financial institutions require lock-in periods and much higher initial investments.
Ease of use. Yuebao offers a much easier way to invest. People can see the value of their assets anytime, anywhere on their smartphones.
This is a guest post by Lily Varon, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals.
The breakneck pace of technology innovation and changing consumer behavior is having a profound impact on business. To keep up with business growth plans, competitive threats, and consumer demands, online companies must support global markets, digitally empowered customers, and evolving sales and service channels, putting ever-more stress on the eCommerce engine.
eBusiness professionals are taking stock of their legacy or incumbent eCommerce technology and finding that the solutions aren’t tactically functional, aren’t omnichannel-ready, and/or aren’t leveraging sophisticated enough data insights to deliver on the demands in the age of the customer.
The technology powering eCommerce is becoming more complicated, too. There are more stakeholders than ever, more data, more integrations, and so on. In many cases, replatforming projects run over budget and are delivered late. Talk to any eBusiness leader who has been through the process, and you're bound to hear a war story or two. These projects are never easy, but as eCommerce technology — and the market that drives it — evolves, replatforming initiatives are inevitable.
Selecting the right commerce platform for your business is important. But a car needs more than an engine to both function and be used to its full potential. eBusiness professionals must understand the following before embarking on an eCommerce replatforming program:
Back in July 2012, I authored a post about Pitney Bowes and the company’s focus on reinventing itself. At that time, the company had a great portfolio of software assets and a good overall market message — but its market approach was fragmented, its solutions were not integrated, and it was a difficult company to figure out from the perspective of a customer or prospect. About 15 months ago, Pitney Bowes appointed Marc Lautenbach as its new CEO to address these issues.
Fast forward to today. Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time with Marc while he was in Sydney. In his brief time with the company, he has sorted out a number of the challenges I was referring to — including giving the firm a laser-sharp focus on a few key areas, bringing traditional assets into the digital world, refining its sales model, and leveraging those areas in which it has competitive advantage.
Marc sees PB’s main opportunities in the following areas:
eCommerce. PB has the ability to classify assets for all types of commerce providers and ship them anywhere around the globe.
Location-based solutions. Not only does PB have great mapping information, but it can also integrate data from any domain and apply its own algorithms to make that data valuable.
Printers, sorters, meters, and inserters. This isn’t a fast-growing business, but it’s a big one — and one that’s still important to many companies. It’s also a segment in which PB has some unique capabilities.