1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.
Internet retailers have been struggling with a challenge since the first time a shopper clicked “Add to Cart,” and so far I don’t think anyone has really cracked it.
Recently we’ve had a number of discussions in our office (and more in the pub) about the difference between the online and offline shopping experiences, and the subject of online product discovery is one we can’t seem to get to the bottom of. It appears that many retailers are in the same place, and despite their best efforts, online retailers just can’t duplicate what we’ve termed serendipity.
That feeling of walking into your favorite bookshop and picking something up in a section you don’t normally go into just because the cover leaps out at you.
The moment when you stumble across some unutterably stylish, drop dead gorgeous dress in the store you don’t normally go into, but your friend dragged you protesting into.
That magic moment where you discover something.
Amazon has had a good go at it, and I confess I’m a huge fan of its “people like you buy stuff like this” functionality, but it does suffer from a major flaw. Like many of my Forrester colleagues, I use Amazon to buy a lot of gifts that I don’t ask to have wrapped. So Amazon thinks I’m crazily into books on vintage fashion and Waybuloo toys. Well I’m not. But my wife and 2-year-old niece are. Go figure which one likes which. So I regularly receive invites to buy more books and toys I really don’t want.
In celebration of the fact that my Forrester Boss, Patti Freeman Evans, was over this week in London, we thought we’d go on a multichannel retail shopping tour of London to see just how well some major UK retailers are integrating their on- and offline channels and enticing their shoppers into engaging with them online.
The answer is sadly, not very well at all.
Hitting Oxford Street on a sunny Friday at lunch time, we performed an eyes-on tour of a rough cross-section of some of the better-known UK brands. We went looking for exciting new uses of technology disrupting the in-store environment. Examples of beautifully integrated online/offline/mobile channels placing the customer at the heart of the brand experience. Innovative applications of technology that seamlessly blended the digital and physical brands, enticing shoppers into engaging with these premier retailers both now, and later when they got home. Or even, how excitingly, via their mobile phones.
So while a hungry band of devotees of the fruit-flavored tech-god gathered outside the Apple Store, not realizing that just round the corner they could get their paws on a new iPad 2, sans queue, we started our shopping trip.
Flippancy aside, we were looking specifically for how well multichannel retailers are integrating physical and digital channels.
For eBusiness leaders, software app stores represent a new and disruptive distribution channel for PC and Mac software.
Three weeks ago, Apple launched its App Store for Macs, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful app store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. With the new Mac app store, Apple is hoping to change the way Mac users discover, download and purchase software. At launch the store contained more than 1,000 apps, and Apple was keen to report an impressive 1 million downloads on the first day. For Mac users it’s a compelling story:
A convenient one-stop shop. Users can launch the app store right from the Mac dock, revealing a powerful set of discovery tools to browse and search the library of apps on offer. eCommerce best practices are employed throughout including search, faceted navigation, what’s hot, top sellers, favorites and customer reviews to create an intuitive discovery experience.
Frictionless purchase and install experience. Downloading and buying in the app store is a simple one-click process. By linking the checkout and payment process to users' iTunes accounts, Apple is able to streamline the buying process significantly versus a typical multipage checkout process common on software publishers' eCommerce sites. The apps in the Mac store have been packaged to comply with the Mac app install process, making the installation quick and seamless compared to the multistep install process common with most software.
With the increasing uptake of technology and online shopping, consumers are getting more comfortable using technology in the store, as well. Data from our North American Technographics® Retail Online Survey shows that consumers like to be informed while they are shopping — they want to be able to access product information instantaneously, and they want to be more independent shoppers (without the help of sales personnel).
The items at the top of the list are those that allow consumers to find product information quickly — with majority of respondents reporting that they found in-store price scanning and computer kiosks valuable (84% and 66%, respectively). The fact that self-checkouts were the second most valuable in-store technology exemplifies how consumers want to be more independent while shopping: It shows that they are willing to take on that responsibility themselves in order to get in and out of the stores quickly.
Recently, deal-of-the-day Web site Groupon got a lot of attention because of Google’s interest in its business. We understand that there are a few attractive pieces to the Groupon story — it’s theoretically a very lucrative business model. My colleague Sucharita Mulpuru commented on this at the end of November with a post highlighting the business opportunities of deal-of-the-day sites. What I was interested in was the customer side: Who is actually using these sites?
Our Technographics® data shows that the majority of US online consumers aren’t familiar with deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon or Living Social, and another 25% haven't used them yet.
Looking at these numbers, you could say that there's quite some opportunity for growth. However, the current users have quite a unique profile: The 3% of US consumers who frequently use deal-of-the-day sites have a lot of money to spend (about half of them report having an average household income of $100K or more), and they expect to spend more money online this year than last year. They are twice as likely to be influenced by what's hot and what's not, two-thirds are willing to try new things, and 62% agree that they often change their mind about which brand to buy after doing some research — making them the ideal target audience for deal-of-the-day sites.
A recent Forrester report "US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2010" forecasts online retail sales during the 2010 US holiday season to grow 16% year over year. Consumers are showing a willingness to spend this season, with affluent consumers driving the most growth. Respondents to our North American Technographics® Retail Online Survey, Q3 2010 (US) plan to complete 37% of their November/December holiday shopping through an online channel, up from 30% last year.
Let’s have a look at the post-mortem of the 2009 US holiday season to understand what is really important to customers: In spite of the economic slowdown last year, nearly three-quarters of US online holiday buyers maintained or increased their spending in the online channel compared with 2008. Online holiday buyers are buying more online for the same reasons that the online channel is a successful and growing component of retail in general: convenience, selection, and price.
Amazon today launched a localized site for Italy, its first new international offering since acquiring Joyo back in 2004 (Amazon’s UK and Germany sites were launched in 1998, France and Japan in 2000 -- the Canada site came in 2002. Full timeline available here). According to today's press release, the new offering has more categories than any new Amazon Web site has ever launched with -- not surprising given the six years that have elapsed since the last international launch.
As part of its new offering, Amazon is pushing its selection of “hard-to-find Italian language items” to cater to local consumer needs -- indeed, Amazon has tended to excel in its localized offerings, ranging from its varied payment methods by country to its semi-localized categories (note the “Auto and Motorcycle” category on the German Web site or the “DIY” link on the UK one).
Amazon’s choice of European markets mirrors many US online retailers’ expansion into Europe. Of the top 50 online retailers in the US, some 19 operate dedicated transactional Web sites for the UK, 14 operate sites for Germany, 12 for France and 14 in Italy. Less than 10 operate eCommerce sites localized for Spain. See the graphic from our recently published Establishing A Global Online Retail Footprint below.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of US-based companies entering or planning to enter into the Mexican market. For example, Best Buy has rolled out an aggressive plan to invest $400 million to open 20 stores in Mexico over a three-year period. Lowe’s announced earlier this year that it spent roughly $40 million to open two stores in Monterrey, Mexico. And Target is setting its sights on expanding into Mexico, with goals to enter into the market no later than 2013.
Without question, there are many challenges with entering into a new market, such as understanding the country and cultural norms that influence shopping habits, determining how to transfer and modify successful strategies of a winning brand in one country to another, and understanding what the current size of the new market is as well as its growth potential. However, despite these hurdles, my colleague Tamara Barber and I contend that US-based retailers can use the factors that influenced the growth of the US Hispanic eCommerce market as a guide for developing effective growth strategies in Mexico.
After years of looking at how the online markets of Asia Pacific are emerging from an online shopping perspective, we are thrilled to announce our first online retail forecast for China, Japan, South Korea, India and Australia.* Some findings from the forecast:
Japan still takes the top spot in the region. Japan retains its dominance in the region with some $45 billion in online retail sales this year. Indeed, while China’s combined B2C and C2C spending surpasses B2C spending in Japan, Japan is still the leader in traditional online retail sales. And despite the fact that online consumers in Japan are purchasing across a wide variety of categories, some category purchases like beauty have shifted online in Japan in a way they have not in the US or Europe.
China’s growth rates will propel it ahead of Japan in the very near future. China’s combined B2C and C2C sales — the two are nearly impossible to separate** — are poised to reach $49 billion in 2010. China’s CAGR will be double that of the US, Western Europe and Japan, and it’s clear that China will be the eCommerce market most likely to rival that of the US.
Australia’s robust growth will be driven by an increasingly vibrant online retail sector. The online marketplace in Australia is marked today by a large number of cross-border transactions, but there is growing momentum among local players. Though less than half the size of the online retail markets in Japan and China, Australia’s growth rates are slightly higher than those of Japan and its US and Western European counterparts.
To understand how consumers migrate across channels, we analyzed Forrester's European Technographics® Benchmark Survey to determine where they start their purchasing journey and where they end up buying the product. In general, shoppers tend to ultimately purchase in the channel in which they started their research. This inclination is stronger among shoppers who began their research offline: 91% of European shoppers who began their research offline also purchased offline. Meanwhile, 58% of those who started to look for information on the Internet eventually made the purchase online.
However, this purchasing journey differs by product. For example, when we look at leisure travel, about two-thirds of European consumers start researching online. And only one-fifth don’t involve the Internet at all in the researching phase. However, about one-third of consumers who start their research online purchase their travel offline.
Summarizing, European online adults use a mix of channels to research and buy products, and the Internet is a key channel in the purchasing path. Yet deals are still mostly closed in the store. A seamless customer experience in which consumers can achieve goals like returning products across channels is key to driving multichannel success.