Beacons have a great deal of disruptive potential as they bridge the digital and physical worlds. I quite like this quote from Steve Cheney, SVP at Estimote: “Beacons as a platform are really a wedge into ‘appifying’ the physical world. They give context to a physical space. They are a way of actually extending the network intelligence to the edge again, something that has been missing since the desktop era. Beacons are truly a way of giving your smartphone eyes—place dumb signs around you and let your phone discover and read them.”
Beacon technology offers new opportunities for marketers across a wide range of industries and verticals. In particular, they enable marketers to:
Engage consumers in their mobile moments via in-app interactions.
Improve the customer experience.
Understand customer behaviors by leveraging analytics.
Cross-channel sales -- also known as web-influenced sales or transactions that touch a digital medium, but are not completed on the Internet -- are now more than four times larger than online sales alone and will reach $1.8 trillion by 2018. This is according to Forrester's just released five-year US cross-channel retail sales forecast. Offline sales -- primarily web-influenced offline sales -- will comprise nearly 75% of the $475 billion in US retail growth anticipated between 2014 and 2018. This growth in cross-channel sales can be attributed to US online consumers increasingly using their phones in retail stores to research products online. Retailers would be wise to see this growing trend as the new normal; if this is the first you’ve heard about your customers’ in-store mobile behavior, you’re already late to the game.
Despite frequent in-store research on the mobile device, the number of actual mobile transactions remains low. Consumers are more interested in using their phone in the “pre-shop” phase, be it searching for a product’s location, comparing prices, or checking online inventory. Many retailers, such as Target, have found it worthwhile to invest more in mobile services that meet customers’ needs in their pre-shop context rather than at the point of sale. Target has helped customers find specific items in its stores via its mobile app: A customer can create a shopping list within the app, which then maps that list onto the floor map of the customer’s Target store location, guiding them through the aisles from one item to the next.
One of my first jobs was as a sales associate at a clothing store, after which mall shopping lost any of the leisurely appeal it once held. I still find myself folding clothes I didn't unfurl and fixing hanger hooks to all face the same direction.Chalk it up to knowing how the sausage is made, or perhaps a logical side effect of working in eCommerce research, but I do most of my shopping online these days.
The store shopping experience hasn’t changed much since my time as a sales associate. But that’s all about to change. We’re at the beginning of a retail transformation: The growing percentage of retail revenues driven by eCommerce and the influence of digital technologies on consumer behavior and expectations alike means that retailers are being forced to reevaluate the value proposition of the store. The result? A digitally enhanced retail store.
Today, a mix of technologies are coming together to marry the online and offline experiences to revolutionize in-store shopping and the role of the physical store. However, we’re still in early stages. Many of these initiatives remain in experimental phases, and glaring success stories are few and far between. Despite the rarity of iron-clad business cases for these initiatives, eBusiness professionals and their colleagues in store operations are forging ahead.
Together with eCommerce technology analyst Adam Silverman, I recently published a report laying out the current state of digital store initiatives and the promising opportunities a digital store overhaul represents for retail. Some of the ways retailers are transforming retail stores include:
A long list of European pure player retailers were put through a rigorous Shop Experience Audit by GfK to identify a short list of five players that six jury members evaluated. The short list of candidates included Net-a-Porter, ASOS, Amazon, Zalando and Yoox.
It's been a tough choice because all candidates are very strong players. But, we the jury persevered and evaluated the candidates based on innovation, customer engagement and consistent multitouchpoint presence. Here are the winners:
Winner Gold: ASOS. Jury Assessment: ASOS goes beyond purely generating sales. They work to be present at their customers’ moment of need at every stage in the customer life-cycle, including engaging customers so they come back again. Their content and communication is consistent, as is their presence across devices. They have strong growth from international sales and a multi country presence. They've also launched innovative features like the 'fashion finder' function and a pilot program for changing rooms at pick up points.
If I had a dime for every time I heard the question “Isn’t eCommerce taking over retail?”, it wouldn’t make me wealthy, but I’d certainly have a few hundred dollars more than I do now. Nonetheless, it’s a question that is unfortunately misguided and has permeated our zeitgeist. The truth is that yes, eCommerce is growing - but physical retail is far from doomed. Let me take the two parts of that last sentence and address them each separately.
First, the fact that eCommerce is growing. Forrester just released the latest five-year online retail forecast and to no one’s surprise, the numbers are big. We’re projecting $294B in eCommerce sales across 30 retail categories in 2014, expected to grow to $414B by 2018. The web keeps doing what it has always done well: it provides huge assortments of products, at comparable, often lower, prices than physical stores, with 24/7 access and often free shipping. For many categories like media products or electronics, we’ve already observed a heavy shift to the web channel away from physical stores. Add to that the ubiquity of mobile devices and that drives even more shopping in more instances and places. In fact, we’re projecting that $87B of that $294B will happen on phones and tablets in 2014, and that doesn’t even include another $28B in additional mobile transactions on sites and apps like Uber and Domino’s Pizza that aren’t even in that aforementioned mobile commerce number.
But all this growth certainly doesn’t mean that stores are dying. Here’s why:
Since joining Molton Brown, shortly after its purchase by the Kao Corporation, Amy has modernised the brand and business operations, particularly in the areas of eCommerce, eCRM, and other digital marketing programmes. She has also successfully leveraged resources across the Kao organisation to help accelerate Molton Brown’s growth outside of the UK home market, and more recently has been working with the other Kao brands to better leverage digital assets and talent within the Kao organisation in EMEA and the Americas.
In the run-up to the Forum, I caught up with Amy and asked her these questions to uncover some of her messages for the marketing leaders attending our London event. Do join us on May 13-14 to hear Amy's full story!
Europeans spend €5 in-store for every €1 spent online after researching products via digital touchpoints. Digital activities influence a significant proportion of physical store sales. Yet, many eBusiness professionals tend to evaluate their digital efforts in terms of online sales generated and struggle to measure the value of a website and digital activities in terms of the overall influence on the shopper journey.
The key for eBusiness professionals is to recognize the influence that digital has on purchase decisions across the customer lifecycle and keep consumers within their own ecosystem, no matter where the final transaction takes place (in the physical store, on their website or via their mobile app).
But how can you quantify the influence of your digital presence on physical store sales?
For several years we have published the cross channel retail sales forecasts in the US and for the first time Forrester has developed a European version focused on seven European markets: UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Sweden. The forecast projects the growth of cross channel sales - sales that are influenced by the digital touchpoints but where the purchase is completed in a physical store.
A few key takeaways from a European perspective include:
The Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) role is changing significantly: I&O pros are increasingly helping to drive business strategies with the technologies they choose and implement. Business leaders tell Forrester that technology is too important to leave to technology managers alone; they are pushing their I&O colleagues to explore the business value associated with the technologies they choose, implement, and manage. I&O pros, in turn, tell us that their jobs are changing. As one I&O pro put it, “I’ve been an infrastructure manager for 15 years, but only in the past 3 have I been asked to construct a business plan and be part of the business planning team.”
Figure: Burberry's Technology-Powered Flagship Store In London
For I&O pros in retail and related verticals like hospitality (or for anyone involved in creating in-person experiences), we’ve just released a report to help aid this transition. Along with my co-author Michele Pelino, we’ve just released the report “Infrastructure Will Drive The Retail Store Experiences Of The Future.” The report asserts that I&O pros have an important role to play in helping their companies engage shoppers in experiences that will drive loyalty and spending.
There is no hotter topic in retail today than beacons. These small objects which transmit location information to smartphones based on Bluetooth Low Energy have transformed our retail imagination, conjuring up visions of continuous offers being showered onto customers as they walk the aisles of their favorite grocery store. The reality is more subdued. We are still very early in the development of location strategies that leverage beacons and the iBeacon protocol, and retailers need to solve for a variety of challenges such as customer privacy, beacon maintenance, connectivity, and campaign management.
Beacons require the right combination of hardware and software. BLE is required as beacons leverage the Bluetooth hardware found on most new smartphones. A mobile app is also required to interface with the beacons, transmitting the location information provided by the beacon to a server, and then receiving the appropriate content back from the server to display on the customer’s mobile device.
Beacons enable rich experiences beyond offers. We all enjoy saving money, and pushing offers to us via beacons will be a popular use case. However it is possible to offer a deeper level of engagement. Based on location, retailers can allow the ability to unlock dressing rooms, authenticate a mobile payment, or provide enhanced service such as preparing your favorite latte as you enter your local coffee shop.
IBM recently kicked off its big data market planning for 2014 and released a white paper that discusses how analytics create new business value for end user organizations. The major differences compared with last year’s event:
Organizational change. IBM has assigned a new big data practice leader for China, similar to what it’s done for other new technologies including mobile, social, and cloud. IBM can integrate resources from infrastructure (IBM STG), software (IBM SWG), and services (IBM GBS/GTS) teams, although the team members do not report directly to them.
A new analytics platform powered by Watson technology. The Watson Foundation platform has three new functions. It can be deployed on SoftLayer; it extends IBM’s big data analysis capabilities to social, mobile, and cloud; and it offers enterprises the power and ease of use of Watson analysis.
Measurable benefits from customer insights analysis. Chinese organizations have started to buy into the value of analytics and would like to invest in technology tools to optimize customer insights. AmorePacific, a Hong Kong-based skin care and cosmetics company, is using IBM’s SPSS predictive analytics solution to craft tailored messages to its customers and has improved its response rate by more than 30%. It primarily analyzes point-of-sale data, demographic information from its loyalty program, and market data such as property values in the neighborhoods where customers live.