In my post at this time last year I wrote of the changes we could expect in 2013 around the shift toward digital business. And indeed we did see a significant move toward digital business in 2013 - a transition that’s still very much just beginning.
But 2014 will be different. 2014 is when digital reality begins to sink in for CEOs around the world. And if your CEO doesn't figure out digital business this year, I predict 2015 will be a very challenging year for your organization, no matter what business you are in.
The Retail Conundrum
A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights the challenge of retailers very well. Store footfall is declining as consumers' lives become more digital. We are seeing a steady shift toward shopping online and shopping less often. So how can today’s retailers survive? The simple answer is that many will not. Retail will undergo a seismic shift in the next 10 years. And since retail is a major employer, it's a shift that will impact us all.
Time drives behavior. Digital tools extend the workplace into our private lives, allowing greater productivity while also creating fewer opportunities for large chunks of time to “go shopping.” We are increasingly using digital technologies to optimize how we fill our days for work and pleasure:
• Digital scheduling tools like Google Calendar help us plan our work and play time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
Today, we released our inaugural Forrester Wave evaluation of B2B commerce suites. In a sister blog post, my colleague Andy Hoar, with whom I coauthored this report, explains why client demand for this research has exploded over the past 12 months, with manufacturers and distributors grappling with how to better serve their sales channels through digital experiences. In writing this report, Andy and I have spent the past six months evaluating the B2B commerce capabilities of dozens of vendors. Despite casting the net wide, our research found that although it’s common for vendors to provide “B2B lite” functionality for their clients — such as supporting unique pricing for employees — only a subset of the broader commerce platform vendor community can truly cater for complex B2B business models with support for distributors, resellers, partner networks, employees, retail stores, and direct B2C all from a single platform. To differentiate the wannabes from the bona fide leaders, Forrester rejigged its established B2C commerce suite scoring criteria to emphasize:
B2B commerce features. We added all-new criteria to evaluate how these solutions solve unique B2B problems, such as quotes; complex pricing lists; eProcurement; product configuration and customization; guided selling; bulk order entry; dealer management; and account, contract, and budget management, to name a few.