2015 is upon us: in Forrester’s just-released “Predictions 2015: US B2C And B2B eCommerce Players Will Struggle To Keep Up With Customers” report, we predict a number of key issues will challenge B2C eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals in the coming year, while a number of new and exciting—but not pressing—topics will circulate. B2C eBusiness & channel strategy professionals ought to know which key issues to watch and which over-hyped trends to ignore.
What Will Happen: Flexible Fulfillment is the new term for omnichannel
We just published our predictions report for global eCommerce in which we identify 10 trends and discuss the impact they’ll have on the industry in 2015. We look at key commerce topics such as mobile and omnichannel and also address what we expect to see from some of the global eCommerce giants in terms of their international efforts in 2015. In addition, we explore topics such as:
The B(R)IC markets will continue to attract attention, but smaller ones will also gain traction. Next year, we expect to see continued interest in Brazil, India and China (the political situation in Russia means it will be bumped down the list for many US and European brands). However, all of these markets will remain challenging for varying reasons and we expect that other emerging markets will gain traction with brands in 2015. Indeed, a look at the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index shows the BRIC markets falling well below other markets like Malaysia, Thailand, the UAE, Mexico and Colombia. Many eCommerce organizations won’t yet be able to justify the cost of launching direct-to-consumer sites in these smaller markets, but a handful of large global organizations will jump in to establish a brand for themselves before their counterparts do the same. Brands looking to sell cross-border will also turn their attention to smaller but fast-growing eCommerce markets.
In the Age of the Customer, consumers are increasingly empowered. They decide where, when, and how they engage with organizations as they shop. European consumers are using multiple devices along their path to purchase and almost a quarter are buying online from outside their home market. This is a growth opportunity for retailers in larger eCommerce markets where online retail sales growth is slowing. These cross border buyers are a valuable target group and more likely to use mobile devices as they shop.
Yet researching and buying across multiple devices and touchpoints is not restricted to those that are happy to buy online from other countries. Across the board, consumers are using smartphones and tablets more frequently and across multiple contexts. Forrester’s updated mobile and tablet commerce forecast predicts that mobile and tablet commerce combined will account for 20% of online sales in 2014 increasing to 49% of online sales by 2018.
Mobile phones, smartphones in particular, bridge the gap between digital and physical shopping experiences. In 2015, European consumers’ increasingly multitouchpoint shopping behavior will heighten eBusiness professionals’ attention on the influence of digital across the customer journey and into stores.
Forrester believes that, for Europe, 2015 will be a year of experimentation. We predict that:
Forrester predicts that US online retail sales will reach $89 billion during the 2014 holiday shopping season. Shoppers turn to the Web during the time-pressed period between November and December to avoid crowds, lines, and, in many cases, higher prices. This holiday season, eCommerce will experience a boom in the number of online buyers, as the holiday season is a strong opportunity for new customer acquisition, and online wallet share, as seasoned online consumers are growing more comfortable and reliant on the practice.
However, the expected growth is not as high as it could be due to a few unique constraints. A shorter than average holiday selling season, defined by the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, limits shoppers in the time during which they can take advantage of the deep discounts they expect. Further, the expected increase in volume of online sales will push the already constrained carrier networks. Forrester estimates that nearly seven times more eCommerce packages are shipped daily in the two weeks before Christmas than daily between the months of January and October. Last year, FedEx and more notably UPS had a high number of late deliveries due to unprecedented package volume and poor weather that caused buildups at critical times. With the expected 13% increase in eCommerce sales in 2014 for the months of November and December as compared to the same period in 2013, retailers and consumers must recognize the risk of shipping delays.
In August and September of this year, we fielded a survey of online retailers in Brazil together with partner e-Commerce Brasil, an established industry organization. The goal was to better understand key performance indicators (KPIs) in Brazil as well as retailers’ priorities, challenges and the size and composition of eCommerce teams.
We received over 300 responses to our survey and have just published the first in our three-report series based on the survey. Retail eCommerce In Brazil: Key Metrics provides a look at over a dozen KPIs such as conversion rates, average order values, return rates as well as sales driven by smartphones and tablets. Our report analyzes the data by retailer type (web-only, traditional retailer or manufacturer selling direct) as well as by retailers’ total online revenues and tenure.
A few findings from the report:
Conversion rates in Brazil average 1.9%. In Brazil, we found conversion rates that varied quite a bit by type of retailer, with web-only retailers reporting the highest conversion rates. These rates tend to increase as markets evolve: Our previous research on The State of Retailing Online 2014: Key Metrics & Initiatives conducted with Shop.org yielded an average conversion rate of 2.7% for the US.
As global eCommerce players like Alibaba and Rocket Internet have made headlines in recent weeks, there has been much focus on how eCommerce is emerging around the globe. While a lot of the media coverage has looked at the specific operations of these two players, it’s important to note some of the trends that are powering growth in emerging eCommerce markets. Below are two themes we discuss in our research — and one more that keeps rearing its head in the media:
If traditional retail stores don’t meet rising consumer demand, eCommerce will fill the void. In some emerging markets, the nature of the traditional retail market left consumers particularly ripe for eCommerce. In markets like China and India — which have highly fragmented traditional retail landscapes and few retailers with nationwide footprints — consumers in smaller cities have traditionally had little access to global brands. This situation leaves an opportunity wide open as the growing number of middle-class consumers seek out access to a greater variety of products. Even as eCommerce revenues have soared across Asia, few traditional retailers have been quick to embrace the new medium. Today, eCommerce in many countries across the region is almost completely dominated by Web-only players.
Centres of excellence and shared service teams are nothing new. Its a concept that Technology Management teams have been wrestling with for years, if not decades in an effort to streamline underlying technical architecture and simplify application landscapes. In the digital world, its a less well established approach, but one that is gaining momentum as an emerging set of best practices forms around how to organize and manage a global digital strategy.
Pete Blackshaw has led the charge over the last couple of years at Nestle, establishing a widely publicised Digital Acceleration Team. The team focuses on “listening, engaging, inspiring and transforming” across Nestle’s disparate and diverse markets and brands. Its not just an operational centre of excellence, it walks a fine line between dictating to local teams and being a paper tiger with no real influence. And it does so very effectively.
But why “acceleration team” and not “centre of excellence”.
I believe that the language is important. For a local team, the idea that a global “centre of excellence” is going to roll up and tell them what to do can be a very negative experience. Do the global team understand the nuances of my market? Will migrating our lean, agile eCommerce platform onto the behemoth enterprise platform slow us down?
“Acceleration” helps create a more positive and collaborative approach.
It’s a boardroom topic, it’s changing the way that firms do business, and it’s unleashing innovation at an unprecedented pace. No, it’s not the new watch from Apple, it’s digital business, and getting it right is crucial to the survival of nearly every business. Mapping Your Path To Digital Mastery is also the theme of our annual eBusiness Forum, which will take place in Chicago on October 28th and 29th. Come join us!
At the event this year we’ll be tackling this fundamental tension: According to our survey with partner Russell Reynolds, 73% of firms think that they have a digital strategy but just 34% of executives that think their digital strategy is correct, and only 16% believe they can deliver their strategy.
Danger Will Robinson! Firms are in trouble: Digital innovation isn’t slowing down and customer expectations are rising. And when you think it couldn't get any more difficult to pull off a digital business transformation, digital business success requires a new, even thornier element: the creation of ecosystems of value.
This means re-envisioning your business not as a standalone entity but as part of an ecosystem of suppliers that customers assemble according to their needs and an ecosystem of collaborating businesses sharing data and services.
Do ecosystems sound complicated? Don’t panic, we’re focusing the majority of our event content on how to create internal and external ecosystems. On the main stage, Forrester keynoters Bill Doyle, Martin Gill, Julie Ask and David Johnson will outline what it takes to become a digital business leader and to create partner ecosystems. Speakers from Walgreens, 3M, Bank of America and others will share their firms’ digital business journey and transformation stories.
What lies ahead for the retail store? Yesterday, Forrester published a report that predicts the answers to key questions about the future of the retail store: Which digital technologies currently on the periphery of the store environment will make the leap to the sales floor? How will retailers know which technologies have potential and which will remain gimmicks?
In the report, we outline the utility and predicted chronology of several technologies, including:
Proximity technologies. Retailers will know when and where an associate is needed, by whom, and for what purpose.
Wearable technologies. Associates will access the relevant data to provide optimum customer service with minimum intrusion.
Facial scanning technologies. Retailers will know their in-store customers’ histories, preferences, intentions, and needs and will cater the store experience to them.
Smart countertops. Retailers will embrace consumers’ propensity to do product research while shopping in-store and enhance the utility and experience at the same time.
3D printing. Retailers will make the inventory they need on-site or once it’s been purchased.
For more on Forrester’s take on the usefulness of these and other technologies, and to see our predictions of when we’ll see them enter the retail store, see the report (client access required).
Which technologies do you think will realistically make it into retail stores of the future?
In his excellent book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande makes a compelling case for the power of simple checklists to avoid issues and mistakes during the decisioning process. Gawande's thesis is essentially this: A consistently applied, step-by-step checklist can be enormously valuable for a range of professionals from doctors to software designers to executives at major companies.
Add to this group the lowly mobile banking strategist.