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.
I attended a briefing from Visa Europe yesterday, about its V.me digital wallet. Here’s what Visa said:
V.me is more than a mobile digital wallet. Customers will be able to use V.me to make online payments too. It lets users check out at online stores using a one-click solution that remembers card details from multiple providers (including MasterCard and American Express cards) as well as billing details and postal addresses.
V.me is not just about mobile contactless payments. V.me will support a variety of ways to initiate payments including bar codes and QR codes, as well as NFC.
Visa intends to distribute V.me through its member banks, much as Visa cards are distributed today. BBVA will be the first issuer in Spain.
V.me is already in extended pilots in the UK and Spain to test the system and will launch formally in both countries soon. France will be next. V.me will start rolling out into stores in the UK next spring. Officially V.me will be available in France, Spain and the UK by next summer. (Visa Inc has already launched V.me in the US).
I had the pleasure of presenting an evolution of our Agile Commerce research last week at the Internet Retailing conference in London. It was an interesting event on a number of fronts, but my key take-away from the event was a very positive one.
eBusiness executives in Europe have definitely woken up to the Agile Commerce message.
We can’t claim all the credit at Forrester, but I definitely got the feeling from listening to my fellow panelists on the Customer track present their stories that they were in the same place as we are now, at least in terms of strategic intent, if not yet in execution:
Simon Smith, Head of Multichannel Experience at O2 Telefonica described how he is bringing a service design ethos to delivering both consumer and employee experiences. Telefonica aims to design service experiences that are Individual, Relevant, Thoughtful, Reassuring and Amazing (SUPER, anyone?), and what was the most interesting piece about their story was that these experiences are designed from an outside in, customer first perspective before any of the individual touchpoints are designed. By basing these experiences on common personas and a wealth of analytical data, Telefonica then overlay touchpoints as appropriate, enabling them to step out of the discussion about “should we or shouldn’t we develop this or that functionality on this or that platform?” and into the more relevant discussion about “what touchpoints and experiences most make sense for our customers?”
The other day, Smile*, one of the banks I have an account with, sent me a new contactless card.
The striking thing about this otherwise ordinary event was that the bank didn’t mention that it was a contactless card. I know it’s a contactless card because it has the contactless symbol on it. But nothing in the letter the bank sent with the card so much as mentioned the new contactless functionality. Logically, one of the following must be true:
Uncharitably, it could just be that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and the product team forgot to tell the marketing team it was doing anything new.**
Possibly, some slip meant that my envelope didn’t contain any marketing. But there’s no mention of contactless cards on the bank’s website either.
Alternatively, the bank simply reckons that the benefits of promoting the contactless functionality are so marginal that it’s not even worth the effort of changing its standard letter (which promotes card protection insurance in extensive detail).
There are a few firms that I regularly point to as agile commerce exemplars, and one of them is Burberry.
This always makes me smile because being from the north of England and growing up in a culture dominated by shipbuilding and football (and Newcastle Brown Ale), Burberry has long been the iconic garb of the “chav.” Since many of the people who read this blog aren’t from the UK, a quick cultural diversion is probably needed here. But don’t worry - it's relevant to the Burberry story. Honest.
Over the last three months I’ve presented at 4 different European events on the subject of Mobile Commerce in retail, and in every other speech I’m called on to do, mobile is increasingly at the heart of what I talk about when I discuss the key trends impacting European eCommerce. Its unavoidable.
The growth assumptions are based on the existing Forrester Research Online Retail Forecast, 2011 To 2016 (Western Europe), with simplified category groupings to reflect mobile characteristics. Mobile purchasing behavior and mobile Technographics sophistication are overlaid onto the country-by-country eCommerce growth forecasts to reflect the way in which mobile commerce will grow differently from online commerce across Europe. What this gives us is a picture of how we believe that mobile commerce will evolve for some of the key European markets.
So what are we forecasting?
· Mobile Growth Will Be Rapid, But Adoption Will Be Niche For Some Time Yet. Mobile commerce will represent 6.8% of all online eCommerce sales across Europe by 2017 (mobile only – we exclude Tablets from this figure). This is a significant portion of online sales, with the most rapid growth in the south of Europe.
I spent last week in Tokyo, Japan. Given that an increasing number of our clients are eyeing Japan’s eCommerce market, I thought it would be interesting to share some observations from my trip. Local business perception is that the economy is struggling and will persist to struggle, but robust activity on the street and our most recent Asia Pacific Forecast belie that. There is clearly potential for growth in the market, but changes need to be made before that can happen. Based on my observations, the key inhibitors are:
Low adoption of English in the business world. Japanese is the primary language used to conduct business in Japan. Understandable in the world’s third-largest economy. Many understand English, few are comfortable using it in a professional setting. This issue makes it hard for broader penetration globally across eBusiness. A notable exception is maverick Rakuten where employees are required to have strong English language skills.
Retail is aggressive but mostly single channel in focus. Companies I talked to are trying to understand cross-touchpoint attribution, but there is little evidence of multichannel sales in those stores. BIC Camera, one of the largest consumer electronics chains in Tokyo, for example, offers an enormous selection without the option to purchase across different channels.