Thanksgiving weekend has traditionally been highly lucrative for retailers, but this year saw another drop in spending specifically on Black Friday. In the meantime, online shopping continues to soar, and the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving weekend provided consumers with deep-discount sales. In short, the weekend itself is becoming less valuable to the average consumer. But how does consumer sentiment match up with this shift in behavior? How do perceptions of the 2014 holiday season differ from those of years past and consumers’ initial expectations?
As part of our recent research efforts, we leveraged Forrester’s Technographics® 360 multimethodology research approach to gain a better understanding of consumers’ shopping habits (using our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community) and to track online conversation and sentiment relative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday leading up to the holidays and afterwards (using NetBase aggregated social listening data).
Indian consumers are more likely to own a mobile phone and use it to access the Internet than own a PC or laptop and use a wired Internet connection. The stats speak for themselves: As of September 2014, India has more than 930 million wireless subscribers against just 27 million wireline subscribers. And while just 8% of these 957 million subscribers have a broadband connection (with download speeds of 512 kbps or better), fully 80% of them are mobile users.
This is leading to the mobile mind shift: the expectation that consumers can get what they want in their immediate context and moments of need. This trend is particularly evident in retail; today’s consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to accomplish a variety of shopping-related tasks online – from researching a product to buying it.
Forrester has developed a global retail segmentation framework to identify, assess, and compare the behaviors of shoppers in various countries. Five segments identify the most prevalent and regular shopper behaviors (see figure below). According to this framework, 6% of metro Indian online users fall into the Mobile Shoppers segment. In comparison, only 4% of online users in the US are Mobile Shoppers! Even the percentage of Super-Shoppers in India is more than twice that in the US.
The in-store shopping experience is increasingly being transformed into a digitally enhanced experience for both the customer and retailer. Technologies such as beacons, retail store analytics, and store fulfillment programs are rapidly changing the definition of how a retail store operates and engages with customers. While 68% of customers use a mobile device while in a store, retailers are just beginning to take an active role in that in-store digital experience.
Forrester believes that, in the future, retail stores that drive convenience, service, and relevant personalized experiences through the use of digital store technology will succeed. Why? Because today. customers show an affinity for digital store technology. In fact, 66% of luxury apparel customers are more likely to shop with a digitally-enabled associate. Those retailers who wait on the sidelines are at risk of maintaining the status quo and may only grow marginally.
As mobile becomes a critical component of your digital strategy and overall business, eBusiness professionals should have an answer when their executive teams ask, “Who does mobile commerce well?” Forrester has answered that question for you in our new report published today. Using a proprietary framework, we analyzed top retailers’ mobile experiences (sites and apps) and measured how well they addressed key challenges to mobile commerce sales and supported mobile-enabled commerce in other channels. We selected the best of the best for our review to highlight the strongest functionality and uncover cross-category best practices.
Our framework evaluates the strengths of these mobile phone websites and their corresponding apps across six elements:
Findability. The ease of finding a mobile site or app altogether.
Utility. How useful the site or app is for shoppers.
Searchability. How well search and search functionality like predictive text works on mobile phones.
Browsability. How easy it is to browse the retailer’s mobile site or app.
Buyability. How easy and frictionless the buying process is on the mobile site or app.
Overall design. The ease of navigating content on mobile sites and apps, as well as other mobile content that shoppers engage with including email and text messages.
As we enter the 2014 holiday season, retail news outlets are latching on to dramatic headlines highlighting the risk of showrooming - the act of checking prices on a mobile device in a store and then purchasing at another retailer. Yes it’s true; customers use their mobile phones to compare prices in-stores. However the behavior of shopping multiple stores to find the lowest price is nothing new. My grandmother often "showroomed" a bag of peanuts at the farmers market just to save a few cents. I suspect this behavior has been occurring as long as humans have been bartering goods.
While the behavior is not new, mobile phones have enabled customers to compare prices immediately across a vast set of digital retailers. As mobile phones afford customers greater choice in-aisle, showrooming has instilled fear in legacy retail organizations who quickly realized they no longer completely control the experience in their stores. At first, retailers responded with force by removing Wi-Fi, which in a world with rich cellular connectivity did little to curb showrooming behavior. Today retailers are reacting to showrooming by providing margin-eroding offers in-aisle. In the future, advanced retailers will begin to embrace showrooming, using the signals from price-checking on mobile phones (either by observing behavior or using retail store analytics) to offer greater convenience and rich experiences at the customer’s moment of need.
The two most noteworthy recent events in China are obviously the APEC Summit and the Singles’ Day shopping festival. Since its creation five years ago, Singles’ Day has become the online shopping feast that almost every Chinese consumer expects.
The shopping event was created by Alibaba in 2009 as a promotion to drive sales on Tmall and Taobao on the November 11 Singles’ Day holiday. Alibaba uses the event to reward consumers and reinforce its eCommerce influence in the Chinese market. Now the most influential eCommerce event in China, Singles’ Day is no longer Alibaba’s monopoly — almost all e-tailers and even offline retailers are getting involved.
Compared with past years, the Singles’ Day 2014 campaign has several new features:
Global reach. Top eCommerce players such as Alibaba, Amazon, Jingdong, and Suning have all announced “globalization” plans and activities around this year’s event; these plans include offering a broad selection of discounted products, preferential tax rates, free or low-cost international shipping, and speedy delivery.
Big data. According to Alizila, Alibaba will apply predictive analysis to Tmall transaction data to project order volume. The Cainiao smart logistics network and its delivery partners can use this information to allocate resources and respond to demand more precisely.
Interactions between online and offline. To expand the impact of online retail to offline businesses, Alibaba conducted offline-to-online promotional activities for home renovation and home decoration projects. It also rallied more than 300 department stores in 18 cities to join the event by offering special discounts to shoppers who buy store-value cards online and use them to redeem goods in physical stores.
Here in the US, all signs point to winter: Daylight savings has just begun; specialty holiday drinks have been added to cafe menus; and several cities have already witnessed the first snowfall. And with the arrival of the chilly season comes preparation for the mad rush of holiday shoppers.
Although the holiday retail season is shorter this year, given fewer days than average between Thanksgiving and Christmas, consumer expectations of retailers during this holiday season are greater than ever. When it comes to online retail specifically, consumers seek out – and have come to expect – great deals and free shipping throughout their holiday gift hunt. In fact, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that shipping cost is the most important factor in a consumer’s decision to purchase from a retail website (such as Amazon.com or Gap.com):
For the past 20 years, China’s retail industry has benefited from the country’s booming economy to fuel its high-speed development; local and global retail brands alike have grown tremendously in this golden age. However, the slowing macroeconomy and the impact of eCommerce have begun to put the brakes on traditional retail businesses. In contrast, China’s online retail market has continued to grow strongly over the past four years and is expected to top $440 billion by the end of 2014 (including both B2C and C2C). What accounts for this success? The fact that it’s largely driven by the following key elements:
Rapid adoption of online shopping due to a highly fragmented retail industry. The traditional retail market in China is underdeveloped and scattered; consumers in lower-tier cities and remote regions have a very limited access to variety of brands and products. Few retailers have a nationwide logistics network or array of physical stores; there’s no Chinese version of Wal-Mart or Macy’s that can be found across all of the country’s geographic regions or from top-tier cities all the way through to smaller towns. This makes online shopping a better way to meet ever-growing consumer demand.
A rapid increase in online penetration. The Chinese online population (users of both the traditional Internet and the mobile Internet) has been growing rapidly. According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the total online population reached 632 million by June 2014, and total number of mobile Internet users hit 527 million. Improved Internet infrastructure across the country provides an unprecedented opportunity for eCommerce development.
I love Europe. I especially love the fact that in a very real sense there is no “Europe” as such: The UK experience is not the German experience, which is not the French experience, which is not the Italian experience, and so on.
Yet all of these countries are so close together that once I’m over there, I can visit a variety of very different cultures and architectures more easily than I can travel from Boston to Denver. And in any given city, just walking between buildings from one business meeting to another can make me feel like I’m on vacation. Then there’s the food . . .
Although European variety is amazing, it can also create challenges. On a recent trip, I was in London, Rome, Milan, and Budapest within a two-week period. That often brought me into contact with people in service industries — like taxis, restaurants, and hotels — who had very different ideas of what “service” means than I do.
I began to wonder: Do the locals also find some of this service subpar, or am I just being a parochial American? As it turns out, our recent research shows that European customer experience as judged by local customers does vary wildly depending on country and industry, ranging from truly great to truly awful.
Which is one reason why I’m so excited by Forrester’s upcoming Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA on November 17th and 18th in London. We recruited speakers from companies with customers who say that they’re already doing a standout job as well as speakers from companies that are in the midst of tackling tough CX challenges.