Last year I wrote a blog post covering the deployment of digital storefronts, highlighting the challenges that these deployments have in driving customer engagement and commerce. In fact, my observations during the holiday season of 2013 led me to the insight that digital storefronts do not add a tremendous amount of value to shoppers.
Fast forward to early 2015 and a new evolution of digital store technology has emerged from eBay Enterprise. This new deployment feels less like a digital storefront and more like a well-integrated set of technologies that helps both customers and associates. Within the Rebecca Minkoff store in Soho where this technology is deployed, eBay Enterprise modified its digital storefront solution by:
Moving the technology inside the store. The eBay Enterprise giant 'connected wall' is deployed near the entrance of Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship store, poised to engage customers with interactive product imagery and information while they shop. The key here is that the 2015 technology serves to augment the store experience by adding value within the context of the customer’s shopping journey, while its 2013 cousin attempted to overhaul the store experience entirely. It’s worth noting that the display is visible from outside the store as well, moonlighting as a marketing tool to draw in curious passersby.
Over the past 3 days some 30,000 retail attendees from across the globe gathered in New York’s Javits Center for the annual National Retail Federation Big Show. This year there was a visible increase in both the number of commerce technology vendors exhibiting and the size of their respective booths. For the eBusiness, omni-channel, merchandising, digital and business technology teams in attendance, 2015 will represent another year of robust investment in commerce suite technology. However, retailers face a daunting task differentiating between the vendors in what is an increasingly mature solution space. As luck would have it, Forrester has just released our 2015 Commerce Suite Platforms Wave update to help you. We spent the last 4 months putting eleven of the leading commerce technology vendors through a grueling process of due diligence, product demos, capability assessments and customer reference checks. We looked beyond features to examine toolset usability, extensibility, integration of suite modules, and innovation strategy. Here’s what we found:
Demandware, hybris, IBM, and Oracle Commerce lead the pack. These four vendors represent the best of the best and reflect a solution space that has been maturing since its inception 15 years ago. These vendors go head-to-head in almost every midmarket and enterprise commerce deal and for the buyers of these solutions, the ultimate selection decision often comes down to price, vision, and alliances more than functionality and features. When it comes to the core capabilities (such as pricing, offers, site search, promotion, carts, and checkout), these vendors all pack a heavy punch, with extensive, mature capabilities that, frankly, go beyond the needs of many of their clients.
What lies ahead for the retail store? Yesterday, Forrester published a report that predicts the answers to key questions about the future of the retail store: Which digital technologies currently on the periphery of the store environment will make the leap to the sales floor? How will retailers know which technologies have potential and which will remain gimmicks?
In the report, we outline the utility and predicted chronology of several technologies, including:
Proximity technologies. Retailers will know when and where an associate is needed, by whom, and for what purpose.
Wearable technologies. Associates will access the relevant data to provide optimum customer service with minimum intrusion.
Facial scanning technologies. Retailers will know their in-store customers’ histories, preferences, intentions, and needs and will cater the store experience to them.
Smart countertops. Retailers will embrace consumers’ propensity to do product research while shopping in-store and enhance the utility and experience at the same time.
3D printing. Retailers will make the inventory they need on-site or once it’s been purchased.
For more on Forrester’s take on the usefulness of these and other technologies, and to see our predictions of when we’ll see them enter the retail store, see the report (client access required).
Which technologies do you think will realistically make it into retail stores of the future?
Order management systems (OMS’s) typically haven’t garnered the same attention as other commerce technology. Orchestrating online orders from the point of purchase through to the point of fulfillment was viewed (through the eyes of eBusiness professionals) as a back-office process. In fact, eBusiness professionals have historically paid little attention to these systems and were happy for them to be developed and minded by supply chain or enterprise architecture professionals. But like the awkward kid at school, Omnichannel OMS systems have blossomed and turned into the must-have technology for almost every eBusiness leader.
I’m delighted to announce that Forrester has hired a new Principal Analyst, Brendan Witcher, to bolster our coverage of commerce technology. Brendan joins Forrester from a retail background, having most recently held several leadership positions in eCommerce, CRM and strategic planning at Guitar Center. Prior to Guitar Center, Brendan also held senior eCommerce and direct marketing roles at Harry & David. Brendan will be based in Forrester’s headquarters in Cambridge, MA.
With the addition of Brendan to the team, Forrester is making an investment to grow our coverage of commerce technology across the four stages of the customer lifecycle (discover, explore, buy and engage). Vendors and clients alike have already been asking how we’ll be dividing research coverage across our ever growing team. The answer is that we will intentionally be collaborating on much of the research, so expect to see some or all of us on inquiries, briefings as well as authors of much of our respective research. Each of us on the team will also be specializing in certain areas in addition to collaborating on core commerce technology research. The 1000 ft view looks like this:
I will continue to lead Forrester’s research on commerce platform, mobile commerce, digital experience management (DXM) and order management technology.
Adam continues to research and write about the digital retail store and will lead our research on the commerce service provider landscape in addition to order management, site merchandising, and omnichannel logistics and fulfillment.
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:
Today marks the first 90 days for me as Principal Analyst within the eBusiness and Channel Strategy role at Forrester, and I could not be happier with my decision to join this great team and organization. Along with working with extremely smart industry analysts in both business and technology roles, I have the opportunity to help participate in the growth and evolution of eBusiness leaders throughout the world. The benefits of being a Forrester analyst typically don’t involve complimentary champagne and caviar, but they do involve realizing a tremendous amount of enjoyment from helping eBusiness leaders and their companies succeed. Here’s how I’m adding value:
Gaining and providing insight by perpetually studying the business landscape. The role of an Analyst at Forrester is akin to attending your favorite college class, minus the exams and tuition expense. I’m rewarded for being curious and for having a point of view. This aspect of my role is very satisfying as I'm able to apply this insight and help our clients solve real problems.
Helping businesses solve issues through Inquiry calls. These client engagements allow me to provide tactical guidance and help solve urgent challenges. I’m often pulling from my experience running eBusinesses as well as leveraging the knowledge I’ve learned from my peers. Our clients love our Inquiry process because they get answers fast. These meetings often lead to stronger working relationships, allowing me to become a trusted adviser with our clients.
Two months ago, SAP announced their intention to acquire Hybris and back then I blogged about the potential implications for Forrester’s clients. Today, SAP has formally completed the acquisition, which brings further clarity for the road ahead:
Hybris will operate as an independent business unit. Hybris will operate as an "SAP Company" rather than a "Product of SAP” and will retain its existing sales and development teams. This is a positive move for existing and future Hybris customers and ensures that the Hybris solution will continue to remain agnostic of other SAP products and technology. For now there will be no bundling of products, Hybris will not become part of the ERP or CRM suites or vice versa, however on the SAP side of the house there will be development in building lightweight ‘connector’ integrations for those customers that want to run Hybris alongside an existing SAP ERP or CRM infrastructure.
Customers will be able to buy from SAP or Hybris. In the near future, the on-premise edition of Hybris will become available on the SAP price list. For existing SAP customers looking at Hybris, this will give them the flexibility to contract directly with SAP and leverage their existing master service agreement. Given that Hybris will be available through both the SAP and Hybris sales channel, customers should expect price parity - it is unlikely that SAP reps will have much leeway to apply deep corporate discounting when selling Hybris.
With growth comes investment, so given that eBusinesses across the globe continue to experience double-digit compound annual online sales growth, it should come as little surprise that 66% of these same firms are planning to increase their investment in commerce technology in 2014. In my latest research report “Commerce Technology Investment And Platform Trends — 2013”, Forrester polled 49 eBusiness leaders to understand their investment and technology implementation plans for the next 12 months. Here’s what the top of the investment priority list looks like:
Omnichannel Execution. Omnichannel initiatives have become a major focus for every retailer and brand with a physical brick-and-mortar presence. eBusiness teams (and their counterparts in store operations) are rushing to implement the following programs among others: pickup-in/ship-to store, store inventory visibility, ship from store, and associate enablement.
eCommerce Replatforming. eCommerce platforms are the backbone of any digital channel, and replacing legacy home-grown systems or outdated (and often unsupported) platforms remains a top priority. With these platforms now supporting omnichannel programs such as “buy-online, pick-up in-store”, having a scalable and flexible platform that can support future growth is an imperative.
Our clients continue to realize sustained online revenue growth which means many eBusiness leaders have both the funds and backing to continue to invest heavily in commerce technology. Across the board, retailers, consumer brands, and industrial suppliers alike are significantly bolstering their capital investment programs to ensure they stay at the forefront of digital innovation while ensuring that their online, fulfillment, and back-office systems are ready to scale for anticipated growth over the next five years. Subsequently Forrester is hiring for a Principal/Senior Analyst to help us expand our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area.