I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which must be one of the more thought-provoking ways anyone in digital financial services can spend two days.
Here’s my perspective on the lessons from the event for digital financial services executives:
More people are focusing on the small business opportunity. There were far more companies proposing to help small businesses manage their finances this year, in numerous ways from access to capital through to document storage and expense management. I was particularly impressed by the work that Efigence and Idea Bank have done to help Idea Bank’s small business customers manage their finances.
Automated financial advice for mainstream customers is edging closer. For years, Forrester has talked to its clients about the huge opportunity, and pressing need, for financial firms to use software to automate the production of financial advice. A growing number of firms are trying to solve this problem from one angle or another, including Money On Toast, Vaamo, Your Wealth and Yseop. Perhaps the best quotation of the event came from Elizabeth Farabee at Yseop: “A banker doesn’t sell the customer the best product, but the product he knows best.” Automating the manufacture of advice can fix that.
Ever since Forrester began conducting its Customer Experience Index study, retailers have topped all other industries. They not only have the highest average scores (as rated by their own customers), they comprise the majority of the companies in the “excellent” category. In fact, the only other industry that comes close to retailers is hotels.
That’s one reason why we’re delighted to have Jo Moran, head of customer service for iconic retailer Marks and Spencer, speak at our Customer Experience Forum EMEA in London on November 19th and 20th.
The other reason is that Jo has been on a journey to boost Marks and Spencer to a higher level of customer experience maturity — which is exactly what our forum is about.
In the run-up to the event, Jo graciously agreed to answer our questions about what she’s done so far and what she’d do differently if she had it to do over again. Her answers appear below.
I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I did, and I look forward to seeing many of you in London on November 19th and 20th!
Q. When Marks and Spencer (M&S) first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
I recently published a report on The European eCommerce Landscape; it shows that more than two-thirds of European online consumers are shopping online, but there are big differences among the different countries. The top categories bought online are travel, clothing and accessories, leisure and entertainment, and consumer electronics. Forrester’s European Technographics® data also reveals that European consumers increasingly prefer the Internet to high-street shops for purchases of music, computer software, event tickets, and videos:
In recent years, the Internet has become the leading channel for media products. In 2012, more European online consumers bought videos/DVDs, music, event tickets, and computer software online than offline. These online media purchases fall into two categories:
1. Digital (sold direct as a download).
2. Physical (a product that an Internet retailer delivers).
With almost 80% of homes in the EU-7 (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and UK) having online access in 2013, Internet connections are a standard household component today in Western Europe. And as users demand faster connections to consume rich media content across multiple devices, broadband connectivity is quickly becoming the norm. The Forrester Research Online Access Forecast — Broadband, 2012 To 2017 (EU-7) shows that 72% of all EU-7 households had a DSL, cable, or fiber broadband subscription in 2012, well above the global average. But not all European countries show the same level of adoption. Within this group of seven, we can split the countries into three distinct groups of relative broadband development and adoption:
Advanced adopters. The Netherlands and Sweden lead the pack in terms of both broadband penetration and the share of broadband users opting for high-speed connections. Early and robust deployment of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks and strong cable offerings will encourage most consumers to shift away from slower connections, giving cable and fiber more than a 60% share of the home broadband market by 2017. Sweden in particular has one of the world’s strongest high-speed Internet markets today, with more than a quarter of all households enjoying a fiber connection.
Recently, I received a visit at home from a religious organization, which handed me two of its publications. As I believe that every religion has some wisdom to share, I read both magazines. What really struck me was the cross-media approach of the magazines; many articles referred to a video or website, and QR codes were placed throughout. Reading this magazine, I thought back to my recent trip to the US, where I also saw many QR codes: on advertising in the subway, in stores, in magazines. However, I didn't see anyone reading those codes. Thinking about this a bit longer, I couldn’t think of any occasion when I had observed someone using a QR code.
With that in mind, I had a look at Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® 2012 surveys for both Europe and the US to understand the uptake of QR codes by the general online audience. I found that about 8% of US online adults with a mobile phone have used QR/2D bar codes in the past month — up from only 1% in 2010 and 5% in 2011. Uptake doesn't really show huge differences by age, interestingly enough, but in both the US and Europe, men are more likely to use them than women.
I am delighted to announce that for the first time, our annual US consumers and technology benchmark report now has a European counterpart: "The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2012, Europe." This report is a graphical analysis of a range of topics about consumers and technology and serves as a benchmark for understanding how consumers change their technology behaviors over time. The report, based on one of our European Technographics® surveys, covers a wide range of topics, such as online activities, device ownership — including penetration data and forecasts for smartphones and tablets — media consumption, retail, social media, and a deep dive on mobile. For Europe, we analyze our findings for five countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK.
Today the European Commission fined Microsoft €561 million ($732 million) for failing to live up to a previous legal agreement. As the New York Times reported it, “the penalty Wednesday stemmed from an antitrust settlement in 2009 that called on Microsoft to give Windows users in Europe a choice of Web browsers, instead of pushing them to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.” The original agreement stipulated that Microsoft would provide PC users a Browser Choice Screen (BCS) that would easily allow them to choose from a multitude of browsers.
Without commenting on the legalities involved (I’m not a lawyer), I think there are at least two interesting dimensions to this case. First, the transgression itself could have been avoided. Microsoft admitted this itself in a statement issued on July 17, 2012: “Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the BCS software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7.” The company’s statement went on to say that “while we believed when we filed our most recent compliance report in December 2011 that we were distributing the BCS software to all relevant PCs as required, we learned recently that we’ve missed serving the BCS software to the roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1.” Subsequently, today Microsoft took responsibility for the error. Clearly some execution issues around SP1 created a needless violation.
2013 is going to be a fascinating year for retail in Europe.
When I look at what’s to come this year, I can paint a picture of what Forrester predicts by looking at a tale of two brands. Both are iconic, heritage British brands that have responded to their increasingly digitally enabled consumers in two very different ways. Naturally, this has resulted in two very different levels of success.
Tablet ownership in Western Europe is set to quadruple in the next five years: The percentage of European online consumers who own a tablet will increase from 14% in 2012 to 55% in 2017, according to the Forrester Research World Tablet Adoption Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (Global). This dramatic growth follows what was a pivotal year for tablets: Ownership doubled in 2012, and one in seven online Europeans now owns a tablet. The recently published Forrester report “The European Tablet Landscape” draws on our Technographics® data and looks at the profile of European tablet owners and their usage patterns. We found that:
Unsurprisingly, tablet owners are tech-savvy. Today, tablets are most popular with 18- to 24-year-olds, with one in four online consumers in this age group now owning a tablet. Of all tablet owners, a high 45% state that they “like technology” and 36% agree that “technology is important for me.”
Income is a driver . . . for now. About 24% of high-income European online consumers have a tablet, compared with 15% of online low-income consumers. But the growing variety of tablets and form factors as well as more competitive pricing will make tablets affordable for a wider range of consumers.