Financial Services Are Hot – Who Would Have Thought?

Oliwia Berdak

Not a day passes without more millions pouring into start-ups bent on disrupting retail financial services. Yesterday it was the payments start-up Zooz with US$12 million, today it’s the peer-to-peer lending platform Funding Circle with US$65 million. Venture capitalists have obviously sniffed an opportunity in an industry characterized by high margins, underserved customers, and accumulated inefficiencies.

The economics of start-ups are ruthless, and you shouldn’t expect many of these upstarts to survive or expand beyond their narrow niche. Still, don’t miss the wood for the trees. As my colleague Bill Doyle and I write in our new report on digital disruption hitting retail financial services, conditions are now ripe for financial services to join the music and publishing industries in experiencing the power of the digital punch.

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Few Insurers Are Currently Proud Of Their Mobile Offerings, And Rightly So

Oliwia Berdak

Have you ever had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Maxwell the Pig? Maxwell is a likeable if slightly assuming animated pig. At times he can be a bit dismissive of those who aren’t as digitally savvy as he is.

Maxwell is also a celebrity, featuring in a number of videos promoting Geico’s mobile insurance offerings.  In one he bewilders a policeman with his digital insurance ID, in another he demonstrates how time and space have been obviated by the convenience and ubiquity of mobile insurance. Talk of the mobile moment!

Even if you don’t know Maxwell, perhaps you know other such celebrities? I thought not. That’s because there aren’t many companies that are willing to advertise their mobile insurance services as proudly as Geico is doing. For my new report, I surveyed the mobile offerings of more than 30 insurance companies in developed economies. The results clearly show that plenty remains to be done, both in terms of customer adoption and what’s on offer.

The big US insurers such as Geico and Progressive are leading the pack, offering a growing range of mobile functionality that lets customers get quotes, file and track claims, locate a repair shop, pay bills, and save documents simply by taking pictures with their smartphones. Offering functionality that makes it easy for customers to achieve their insurance-related aims seems like the basics, but a lot of companies still haven’t got it right.

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Mobile App Innovation Has Paused

Julie Ask

Why? eBusiness pros are pursuing too many one-off initiatives without tight collaboration with their Technology counterparts. And, they are doing too little to build infrastructure to support future mobile services - and mobile moments. Check out our full report "Developers Are The St. Bernard For Mobile Projects." 

I've Stopped Opening My Favorite Mobile Apps

Julie Ask

Mobile has transformed my expectations putting me on the bleeding edge of the mobile mind shift. I've had a smartphone in my hand since August 30th 2005 when a broken wrist forced me to be a one-handed typist - better done on a smartphone than a laptop. My Lark wearable wakes me each morning. My Nike Fuelband tracks my steps. I tweet and check Facebook on my phone. I deposit checks. Honestly, there are a handful of websites that I can no longer navigate because the complexity of the experience overwhelms me. It's simply easier to do stuff on my mobile phone. 

Today, I rolled into Starbucks a little after 7am to pick up an iced tea. I had to reload my stored value card within the app. (I don't use auto reload in case my phone is stolen. My bus card was autoload ... the last time it was stolen, the person must have handed off to six other people to travel before I could shut it down.) What was my reaction when I realized I would have to reload the card? "Sigh" ... well, really a "heavy sigh." The thought bubble over my head was: "Ugh, I now have to open this app, type in my password, etc." Usually I just open Passbook and do a quick scan. Please keep in mind that I think the Starbucks app rocks and reloading my card takes about 30 seconds. That said, I was annoyed that I had to go into the app. 

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Bits and "Bites" - Technology Enters The Restaurant

Adam Silverman

My dad came over today for a visit today. He’s an avid reader and consumes The New York Times from front to back. I guess you could say he’s part of my research team as he frequently cuts out articles for me related to digital business. This past weekend he brought over the front page of the business section, profiling the use of tablets in the quick serve restaurant category. Although many digital technologies in physical spaces have yet to transform shopping behavior, the restaurant industry has one of the stronger use-cases to employ digital, including:

  • Improving service by eliminating waiting in line. At Panera, customers go straight to their table and order via their smartphones. No more waiting in line to order, and standing around for your order to be ready.
  • Increasing average order size and margins with contextual meal recommendations. Chili’s employs tablets that drive up order size by providing meal recommendations that may have a higher price point, higher margin, or is highly rated.  In their tests they indicate a 20% lift in dessert sales! Yum.
  • Expediting service and improving accuracy.  Restaurant staff has a lot to gain by employing digital technology. They can reallocate cashiers to kitchen or service roles, and having customers order at the table improves order accuracy.
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How Digital Technologies Have Changed The Retail Store

Lily Varon

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:

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Mobile Banking Innovation In Europe

Benjamin Ensor

Aurélie L'HostisThis is a guest post from Aurélie L’Hostis, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals.

In a world that’s constantly on the move, more and more Europeans appreciate that the phone in their pocket can do more than just cruise the Internet, check the weather forecast, and shoot disgruntled birds into space. For mobile banking now offers a secure and convenient way for customers to do their banking ... all in the palm of their hand.

As mobile banking adoption maintains its steady growth in Europe, customer expectations for functionality within mobile banking apps continue to increase. Customers now want quick access to their accounts 24/7, the ability to perform a range of transactions with only a few clicks, and a way to manage their money directly on their smartphone. Over the past year, European banks have focused on trying to keep up with the demands of these increasingly sophisticated mobile banking users. The result has been a plethora of improved functionalities and exciting innovations in European mobile banking. We used our Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark methodology to evaluate the retail mobile banking offerings of eleven European retail banks from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, and Turkey. Here are some of the highlights:

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Wellness Wearables Battleground Shifts From Hardware To Mobile Moments Enabled By Ecosystems

Julie Ask

One of my first mobile moments this morning was a text from my husband on WeChat announcing that he had a Lark sleep quality rating of 9.4. We’ve become competitive sleepers.  The Lark is a wearable device worn on the wrist at night to track the quality (e.g., number of times awake) and length of sleep. Activating the device requires you to set an alarm (and lets me know how few hours I have to sleep). The device wakes you by vibrating on your wrist. Disarming it in the morning includes journaling information on how you feel and what occurred that may have helped you to sleep well or disrupted your sleep.

While I love this device, in April Lark announced it will discontinue making hardware, but support existing units. It’s retained hardware staff to continue to understand how to make the most of data collected from sensors on the phones. Similarly, Nike didn’t announce it was discontinuing the FuelBand, but there were rumors it had laid off its hardware team.

Why these shifts?

These devices and apps are creating mobile moments by sharing basic data, a concept outlined in our new book, The Mobile Mind Shift. But, the excitement of reaching milestones of 5,000 or 10,000 steps a day or shifting your sleep behavior quickly fades once consumers have a sense of what it takes to reach these goals. In fact, overtime data can even demotivate individuals.

In order to change consumer behavior in the long-term, these wearables must offer effective engagement mechanisms that create relevant mobile moments that change over time with consumer needs. To succeed requires:

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Amazon’s Firefly Generates Impulse Sales Moments

Julie Ask

With the launch of Firefly, Amazon has the opportunity to create millions of what Forrester calls impulse sales moments. These are the mobile moments when I pull out my phone and make an unplanned purchase – even if it is for something that I need. Impulse sales moments are one of the leading mCommerce opportunities, which we detail in our new book, The Mobile Mind Shift. They include flash sales, sales of diminishing/remnant inventory, or sale of goods that I would have otherwise forgotten to buy. WTSO, Backcountry.com, and Gilt all use this tactic.

How often have you seen something you wanted to buy only to later forget? Sometimes it is as simple as milk at the grocery. Other times it is the latest kitchen gadget at your friend’s home.

Yesterday, Amazon announced its new Firefly service (and hard button on the Amazon Fire Phone). As a consumer, you point your phone at an object or hold it to listen to music, and the Firefly service will identify the product, music, or video. Amazon uses a combination of optical or audio recognition.

Buying products on Amazon – especially for Prime members – is already low friction with 1-click purchase. Firefly takes even more friction out of the process.

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European eCommerce Pure Player Award Winner 2014 Announced!

Michelle Beeson

For the past few days, I have been soaking up the sun in Barcelona at the Global eCommerce Summit 2014.  In amongst attending some great presentations from the likes of Alibaba GroupTesco,Adolfo Dominguez and Philips, I was also part of the jury to select the Pure Player Award winner for 2014.

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.
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