I was recently invited to speak at the three-day Distree Asia Pacific event on technology and business model disruptions and their impact on tech distribution, where I spoke with tech vendors, consumer electronics (CE) giants, tech distributors, retailers, and e-tailers from across Asia Pacific. We discussed various topics, including the channel scenario for the coming two to five years. Based on these inputs and my understanding, I believe that the traditional IT channel, including consumer-focused distributors, will soon disappear unless its current business model changes. Here’s why:
Direct market resellers (DMRs) and e-tailers are taking the flab out of the traditional channel. Although a large number of consumers still prefer to shop offline, increasing consumer confidence and further adoption of online payments in Asia Pacific mean that more and more DMRs will establish their presence on the Web, targeting consumers with low-cost products. eCommerce sites like Lazada are trying to build an Amazon-like model for Southeast Asia. The entry of nontraditional players such as government-owned Indian Railways,which recently launched its own eCommerce retail marketplace in India selling electronics and IT products, is also disrupting the traditional channel ecosystem.
Infrastructure professionals are now all too familiar with the dynamics of bring-your-own (BYO) technology and devices: Their workers walk into the office with consumer technology all the time. This post is one in a continuing series on how consumer retail stores act as de facto extensions of the IT department in today's BYO world.
The rumors have abounded for more than six months: unconfirmed whispers that Google will open up its own major chain of consumer retail stores. The company has dipped its toes into the retail waters with Chromebook-focused kiosks in the U.S. and the U.K. over the past few years, with installations inside larger retailers like Best Buy, Dixons, and Currys.
A Google Kiosk in the U.K.: Not Yet Reaching Revolutionary Heights
Yet while kiosks – particularly those staffed by Google employees – offer some value in promoting Google’s products and services, the company has a much greater opportunity for late 2013 into 2014. Kiosks aren't going to foment a retail revolution. To quote the popular Star Wars geek meme, "these aren't the droids you're looking for."
No, it's time for Google to think big – to go gangbusters. To do something nobody has done as well previously. Why is this imperative?
I recently received a direct mail piece from one of my favorite retailers with a massive ad in that proclaimed "We Beat Internet Prices." Now, I am a big fan of straightforward and robust value propositions, but these types of brand exclamations are antiquated and add little value to customers, mainly because they simply reward customers for being good bargain hunters. Instead of simply stating you beat your competitor’s prices, employing strategic pricing and customer engagement initiatives creates real distinct value to your customers by:
Showing them you can execute on your low price promise and not just talk about it. Employing a holistic pricing strategy meets your customer’s price expectations can indicate to your customers that you are truly ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to offering the lowest price.
Building your credibility. Understanding your customers’ needs and offering solutions that facilitate decisions and generate engagement builds credibility. Simply shouting that you match Internet prices does little to build credibility with your customers.
Helping them with real problems. Shoppers don’t need guidance on finding the lowest price -- they need to understand how your brand and solution help them compared to your competition.
We’ve seen significant investment from US retailers in this space. Lowes, Home Depot, Nordstrom, and others have all been spending heavily on developing the underlying infrastructures that they can then leverage to create in-store digital experiences. Store Wi-Fi, associate devices like tablets or smartphones, kiosk technology, and even more emerging technologies like ePaper signage and electronic shelf-edge labels are on some agendas. Even Amtrak is getting in on the act with its eTicketing initiative.
Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professionals, in the age of Bring-Your-Own (BYO) technology, are keeping closer tabs on the comings and goings of the consumer market. Most of the devices they find their companies’ employees using come from consumer retail, whether from physical retail locations like the Apple Store or Best Buy, or online venues like Amazon or Dell.com.
Samsung announced yesterday that it will be opening “Samsung Experience Shops” -- based on a store-within-a-store concept -- in 1,400+ Best Buy locations in the US in coming weeks and months. By the second half of the year, Samsung will possess a significant retail presence tailored to its own devices and staffed with sales associates with greater knowledge of its products. CNET reports: “The shops in large-format Best Buy stores will include blue-shirted consultants who are employed and trained by Samsung, as well as Best Buy staffers who receive special instruction.”
Apple, of course, has enjoyed incredible success with its Apple Stores since they opened in North America in 2001. The Apple Store has been a powerful pillar of Apple’s overall consumer strategy because of:
The quality and effectiveness of its sales associates. Apple has been able to attract, train, and retain high quality staff for its stores. In an era when cost-cutting affects retail experiences across all categories, Apple’s associates create a high-quality customer experience for Apple's customers and prospects.
In a recent blog post of mine, I mentioned that Forrester had launched the Retail eCommerce Playbook. This playbook provides a structured framework to guide eBusiness professionals through their most strategic initiatives in eCommerce – from creating a vision to benchmarking results against peers.
It’s not a secret that consumers are constantly connected to the Web and it’s having a huge impact on how they research and buy products in every sector. As such, it is imperative that eBusiness executives have the appropriate tools and knowledge to execute a strong web presence that not only showcases their brand but also enables shoppers and store associates to research and buy. We crafted this playbook to address all the key elements of success. This playbook will help you:
Discover the importance of a best-in-class eCommerce business by providing eBusiness executives with insight into the opportunity for eCommerce, its growth trajectory, and the current landscape that retailers face as they continue to navigate this channel.
As the annual retail pilgrimage to the Jacob Javits Center draws to a close, I started wondering if anything has changed since last year. As I met with Forrester’s retail clients during the show, it was clear that this is no longer just a brick-and-mortar show. The retailers I met with had all sent a delegation of cross-functional executives, including the CIO, COO, CMO, SVP of eCommerce, and head of store operations. These leaders are no longer working in organizational silos: they know that they need to find technology solutions that meet the needs of today’s digitally connected customer, not the needs of their legacy channel-centric business units. I was impressed at the way these retailers are embracing and executing on agile commerce.
On the expo floor, the same theme was abundantly clear. NRF has evolved to become a retail commerce show, not just a retail technology show. Joining the incumbent store systems and POS vendors were all the enterprise eCommerce solution providers, order management vendors, system integration firms, and digital agencies. Whereas last year was all about mobile, with hastily developed prototypes and lots of vaporware, this year the expo floor was a place more grounded in reality. Strategic relationships were abundant, with vendors realizing that customers are demanding integrated solution suites that go far beyond the scope of their own product portfolio. As I did my rounds of expo floor booth visits, executive briefings, and product demos, here’s what I found:
One of our recent surveys on business applications shows that more than 60% of business and business technology (BT) decision-makers consider consolidating, rationalizing, and transforming their business applications a high or critical priority — business applications drive three of the top four software initiative priorities (see the figure below). If we include closely related analytics, business intelligence (BI), and decision support tools, we cover all four top priorities.
At the same time, business and BT execs responsible for a variety of different business and IT domains across multiple industries typically explain that customer experience has moved to center stage; digital value has increasing importance in an information society and an information economy; and better use of things like real estate, intellectual property, available inventory, skilled personnel, and digital assets has become mandatory to manage costs and create new revenue streams. Managing and reducing costs in a continuously changing business and IT environment remains a key driver for functional departments in many firms.
We have just celebrated Christmas, but I’m increasingly looking forward to the Chinese New Year as this will be my first time spending the Chinese New Year in China in 12 years!
Reading the reports on how much US consumers spent this year during the holiday month made me reflect on what Chinese consumers do during their single most important holiday of the year — and how they spend their money. While the Chinese New Year is traditionally about celebrating the New Year with friends and family, in recent years an increasing number of people have chosen the unconventional route and used this time to visit other countries. According to Ctrip.com (quoted by Sina Finance), more than 50% of the packages to the US, Middle East and Africa, and Australia were booked two months before the Chinese New Year. And wherever Chinese travelers go, they shop: If you’ve ever seen a Chinese travel group’s itinerary, you will know that a couple of stops at a shopping mall or an outlet are usually incorporated into the plan.
Today is, apparently, Cyber Monday in the UK. But there's a more interesting story in the UK's eCommerce market. It's about tax.
The debate is about the tax policies of a number of prominent multi-national businesses that operate in the UK, including Amazon, eBay, Google, Starbucks and Vodafone, most of which pay little or no Corporation Tax, which is levied as a percentage of profits. (It's relatively easy and perfectly legal for a subsidiary of a multi-national company to avoid taxes on profits in one country by buying services from a sister company in another country so that it makes no profit in the first country.)
Today, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons published a scathing report on tax avoidance by multi-national companies operating in the UK. As the report puts it about Starbucks, which has made no profits in the UK for 14 of the past 15 years: "We found it difficult to believe that a commercial company with a 31% market share by turnover, with a responsibility to its shareholders and investors to make a decent return, was trading with apparent losses for nearly every year of its operation in the UK." What the committee says about Amazon is, if anything, worse.
What's the relevance to eBusiness? While it's uncomfortable for Google and Starbucks to be in the limelight for the wrong reasons, demand for both information and coffee is (presumably) fairly constant through the year. But for retailers Amazon and eBay, the timing couldn't be worse, because this debate is taking place in the run-up to Christmas, the crucial sales period for all retailers in the UK.