Amazon China Powers Up With Cross-Border eCommerce

Vanessa Zeng

On August 20, the company’s 10th anniversary in China, Amazon announced a strategic cooperation with the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) and Shanghai Information Investment. The agreement ensures the direct delivery of millions of products from Amazon sites across the globe to Chinese customers and will allow small and medium-size Chinese enterprises to conveniently export their products to Amazon customers around the world.

With the already fierce competition in China’s eCommerce market ramping up, eCommerce players are scrambling to find ways to increase their competitiveness. After 10 years of operating in China, Amazon has found its new growth opportunity: cross-border eCommerce. The overabundance of middlemen in China’s traditional retail industry has driven up retail prices, especially for imports — so online retailing of imported goods via a large-scale eCommerce platform confers tremendous price advantages. Amazon aims to provide the best cross-border shopping experience for all of its customers — both in China and around the world. Amazon will invest and locate its cross-border eCommerce platform in the SFTZ and establish a logistics and warehouse center there; goods from Amazon’s overseas sites and vendors will enter China through the SFTZ. Amazon has a few key competitive advantages over other cross-border eCommerce vendors by offering:

  • A vast selection of products at competitive prices. Amazon will introduce more than 13,000 product items from 27 countries and focus on four major categories: international boutique, fashion, smart devices, and kitchenware. Consumers will have a vast selection of imported goods from Amazon’s platform. The scale of Amazon’s global operations gives it an unassailable price advantage over both online vendors and traditional retailers.
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Three Things We've Learned About Emerging eCommerce Markets

Zia Daniell Wigder

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.
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Accelerate Digital, Don't Try and Control It

Martin Gill

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.  

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Join Us At the eBusiness & Channel Strategy Forum in Chicago, October 28th and 29th!

Carrie Johnson

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.

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Merchants Will Decide The Fate of Apple's Mobile Wallet

Denée Carrington

The frenzy over Apple’s formal launch into the digital wallet space has reached a fever pitch. There is no shortage of speculation around the widely anticipated “iWallet” – and for good reason. Apple has a slew of compelling assets to leverage for its wallet, like an existing consumer base with roughly 800M cards on file, Passbook, iTouch, iBeacon, and more. It also has a unique track-record of entering existing categories with elegantly designed solutions that redefine, then dominate -at least for a time. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the mobile wallet graveyard is littered with elegantly designed solutions that failed to take off. Case in point: Square Wallet.. 

When it comes to digital wallets “…build it and they will come…” simply does not hold true. The challenges of Google Wallet and Visa’s V.me are two more familiar examples. To be clear - I do expect that over time Apple’s mobile wallet will have greater success than Square Wallet, Google Wallet, or V.me.  But an elegant user experience won’t be enough to do it. Merchants will determine whether Apple’s mobile wallet lives or dies.

Digital Wallets Require Scale, And Merchants Control The Levers At Checkout

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Forrester Predicts The Future Of Retail Store Technology

Lily Varon

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?

I look forward to your thoughts. 

Lily

Alibaba Beyond eCommerce: Understanding The World’s Biggest Digital Ecosystem

Vanessa Zeng

Following Alibaba’s announcement that it will list on the New York Stock Exchange, global eBusiness professionals are paying closer attention to the Chinese Internet giant, wondering what impact it will have on their business. For those who need to get up to speed on the company, here is a preview of Forrester’s upcoming report on Alibaba, which summarizes its development history, revenue streams, business expansion, and the impact it will have on digital services business value chain:

  • Alibaba draws its revenue streams from the ecosystem around its eCommerce platform. According to Alibaba Group’s F-1 filling, the main businesses for the Alibaba Group include B2B (168.com and alibaba.com), C2C (Taobao.com), B2C (Tmall.com, Juhuasuan.com and AliExpress.com), and digital services. Alibaba's revised filing from August 2014 indicates that it handled more than RMB 1.8 trillion (about $296 billion) of transactions for 279 million active users across its three Chinese online marketplaces in 2013. Over the past 15 years, Alibaba has built an ecosystem of buyers, sellers, third-party service providers, and strategic alliance partners around its platform. By leveraging buyer and seller data from this ecosystem, Alibaba has created a data analytics product that gives a complete view of a customer at any phase of their purchase journey, resulting in a very successful marketing and commerce business that generates significant revenues.
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Aetna's CarePass Saga Presents Valuable Lessons To The Healthcare Industry

Peter Mueller

Last week, Aetna decided to decommission CarePass, its consumer data aggregation platform. It was initially much heralded; however, this development highlights some of the fundamental problems with the health plan’s early forays into this space. I have outlined these issues in my new report, “The Unfulfilled Promise of Plan-Owned Digital Health and Wellness Platforms.” The report went to publication before the CarePass development was announced, but this decision is not at all surprising and validates many of the fundamental challenges with early platforms identified in the report.

The decision to unplug CarePass underscores the fact that there are lots of hurdles for enterprises when it comes to growing digital health as a business. What’s interesting about CarePass is it actually cycled through several different business models during the course of its evolution – ultimately repositioning the business model late last year to go directly after employers. With this pivot, CarePass essentially became a “bring your own” wellness tool servicing the traditional book of health plan business. This may have been the best approach for CarePass, but it came late in the game. Insurance, as a whole, is going to change dramatically over the next three years — with exchanges, defined contribution, etc. Given the competing priorities and the struggles to gain adoption, CarePass may have been doomed before the final pivot back to the employer. However, CarePass did a lot of things right and the CarePass team should be congratulated for their forward approach to the market.

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Starting A Mobile Banking Project? There's A Checklist For That

Peter Wannemacher

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.

So Forrester built a checklist for anyone leading a mobile banking project. I encourage you to download it today. (It also conveniently prints out as a two-page physical checklist for those who still love paper!) Our checklist provides 20 key questions you and your team should ask and answer. These checklist items are divided into five key areas (see image below).

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Where’s Your Next $Bn In Growth Coming From? Your Home Market? I Don’t Think So…

Martin Gill

Depending on the viewpoint of your favorite economist, the recession may be over. But retail growth is far from buoyant in many markets. The UK retail sector shows healthy signs of recovery, while US consumers seem be less confident. There are numerable success stories; John Lewis passed the £1bn online revenue mark this year, while Macys is in its fifth year of double-digit online growth, in spite of a slightly shaky offline performance. But as an eBusiness leader, no matter what your local market conditions, I’m willing to bet one thing.

Your growth targets haven’t gone down.

For many years, growing online revenues has been a core strategy for most B2C firms, and many B2B firms are also riding the eCommerce wave. But as markets become crowded and competition becomes tighter, globalization is an increasingly attractive option for eBusiness professionals. With southern European markets seeing online growth rates in the high teens and even bigger opportunities like Russia and China on the global horizon, it’s no surprise that an international strategy is high on the agenda for many eBusiness leaders.

But going global is complex.

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