Consider this. The iPad is not yet four years old...and 69% of B2B companies expect to stop publishing print catalogs entirely within the next three to five years. In a world driven by such profound change, one cannot help but ask, “What will B2B eCommerce look like in the years to come?”
Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of a report that peers over the horizon and begins to address the important question of where B2B eCommerce is heading in the next few years. In “The New And Emerging World Of B2B Commerce,” Forrester finds that B2B companies are:
Calibrating for a shift in B2B buyer behavior. B2B companies are responding to B2B customers researching and buying online and on mobile devices by creating digital assets where they once only had print and human assets. Further, they are actively preparing for a reality where 50% or more of their total customer base will be buying online from them within three years.
Developing content-enabled commerce. B2B buyers are looking for detailed product specifications, how-to videos, deep and broad FAQs, etc. to satisfy their insatiable appetite for content. In response, B2B companies are increasingly producing and syndicating targeted content aimed at driving purchase interest across multiple channels and preventing B2B customers from abandoning shopping carts.
I have recently joined the eBusiness & Channel Strategy group as an Analyst, from a role as Senior Consultant within Forrester. I have spent the past few years working with Analysts, across the eBusiness & Channel Strategy and Marketing Leadership role teams in Europe, on custom consulting projects for a variety of clients. These projects focused on a wide range of topics and objectives, including vendor selection support for an Italian fashion brand, multi-market digital maturity assessments for a global CPG organization and an eCommerce strategy review for a global multi-brand corporation, to name a few. I very much look forward to continuing to work to provide guidance and insight, now as an Analyst, to help our eBusiness clients to succeed in the Age of the Customer.
I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which must be one of the more thought-provoking ways anyone in digital financial services can spend two days.
Here’s my perspective on the lessons from the event for digital financial services executives:
More people are focusing on the small business opportunity. There were far more companies proposing to help small businesses manage their finances this year, in numerous ways from access to capital through to document storage and expense management. I was particularly impressed by the work that Efigence and Idea Bank have done to help Idea Bank’s small business customers manage their finances.
Automated financial advice for mainstream customers is edging closer. For years, Forrester has talked to its clients about the huge opportunity, and pressing need, for financial firms to use software to automate the production of financial advice. A growing number of firms are trying to solve this problem from one angle or another, including Money On Toast, Vaamo, Your Wealth and Yseop. Perhaps the best quotation of the event came from Elizabeth Farabee at Yseop: “A banker doesn’t sell the customer the best product, but the product he knows best.” Automating the manufacture of advice can fix that.
Looking back at 2013, it’s easy to see all of the great innovation occurring within the digital store. Most retailers focused on omnichannel fulfillment, whether it was click-and-collect or ship-from-store. Some retailers like B&Q in the U.K. began to experiment with dynamic pricing in-store. If 2013 was about launching new services, 2014 will be about shedding light on the actual performance of these initiatives.
One example of new digital store technology is eBay’s digital storefronts. Last year in June, eBay made a splash by deploying a digital storefront for Kate Spade, allowing customers to browse and buy products from a giant digital screen strategically placed over a vacant physical storefront. This digital storefront replaces the static posters that mall operators use to cover up vacant stores. This past holiday season, eBay expanded the pilot and deployed a series of digital storefronts in a popular San Francisco mall. These new digital storefronts are a few blocks from the Forrester offices, and I capitalized on the close proximity to conduct some research on how the technology was being used and received. eBay launched three digital storefronts: a small format Rebecca Minkoff storefront, a small format TOMS storefront, and a large Sony storefront in front of an escalator exit.
In mid December, I spent two hours observing customer interactions with the digital storefronts (some might even call it lurking). After an informal assessment of almost 500 shoppers who passed by these digital storefronts, I came to the following conclusions:
I had the opportunity to talk to nearly 50 companies working on mHealth and mWellness services and technologies in 2013. With the perspective of 13 years as a mobile analyst behind me and a career in telecom that started in the late 80's, I say with confidence that this category within mobile is more exciting and has the potential to be more game-changing, than anything since the introduction of the iPhone. Most of you reading this blog are not in healthcare - that's why the report offers a WIM (what it means) for industries outside of health and wellness.
I started this research journey with a simple mission: "what mobile engagement tactics can and do change consumer behavior?" Or, in other words, what gets people up off the couch? Is it competition, community, feedback, encouragement or coaching, a poke, or what?
How did MyFitnessPal facilitate more than 100M pounds of weight loss?
How did RunKeeper get their users to move 783 million miles?
How did Strava motivate their users to move 1.4 billion kilometers?
Facebook will launch its new Paper product on February 3. The questions I have been asked are, "Why?" and "Should we be thinking about multiple apps rather than one large app?" Both good questions.
The first question -- I can only take a shot. Facebook, like many other media properties, depends heavily on advertising for revenue. To get advertising, you need eyeballs. More and more minutes per day are spent on mobile phones. Consumption of news, information, and media generally tops the list behind communication. Consumers also expect highly curated experiences on small screens that can be more challenging to navigate. At first glance, the Paper user interface and experience looks to be quite elegant.
It always makes me smile to see a product or app launched that takes a mobile first-approach. From the short video that was released, you can instantly tell that they didn't start with a web experience and think, "How can we strip this down and put it on a small screen?" They appeared to have done ethonographic research -- to watch and observe how people engage with their phones and consume information through the course of the day (e.g., the unfolding of the newspaper). This is one of the best practices in mobile design -- understand the needs of consumers on the go. Companies must ask, "What are those moments during the day when someone reaches for the phone to access information or a service?" Forrester calls them mobile moments. Companies must be ready to serve customers in those moments.
It's hardly a secret that consumers are rapidly adopting new touchpoints to help them shop.
But the killer question that every eBusiness executive must be able to answer is, how quickly are consumers adopting any given touchpoint and how influential are they in the overall shopping experience?
Touchpoint adoption varies significantly around the globe. For consumers, cost, availability, trust in new technology and convenience are primary drivers of how quickly they embrace new technologies into the shopping journey. But adoption isn't all about consumers. Retailer enablement is also a key factor in the adoption curve. If retailers provide touchpoint optimized, rich, convenient experiences that exploit the best features of each new touchpoint while still supporting the overall brand experience, they are more likely to drive consumer adoption.
There are some great examples around the world for firms embracing new technology to make the shopping experience as simple, easy and friction-free as possible for their shoppers, no matter which touchpoint they chose to use. For instance:
Blue Tomato gives shoppers freedom of choice. German action sports retailer Blue Tomato leverages responsive design to give multi-touchpoint shoppers freedom to pick whatever device they want. The upside - a seamless and consistent customer experience coupled with a lower cost of ownership for a single code base. The downside - more complex code and more testing when they make changes.
With Omni-channel excellence fast becoming a customer imperative, retailers and brands alike are rushing to operationalize an increasingly complex set of cross-channel order processing and fulfillment scenarios that are often referred to in aggregate as “buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere”. In fact in recent survey, we found that 52% of eBusiness professionals ranked Omni-channel integration as a top technology investment priority.
The path to Omni-channel maturity is far from simple; in fact it requires execution across a set of tactics that span organization, process and technology. Front of mind for retailers is solving the basics such as store pickup, cross-channel inventory visibility, store based fulfillment and endless aisle (in-store) ordering. Today, retailers that have already enabled these capabilities have done so by developing custom applications that integrate their eCommerce, POS and ERP/supply chain systems. However as these capabilities rapidly become the ‘norm’ for the consumer, retailers seek packaged solutions that enable them to rapidly rollout, experiment with and scale these programs.
Enter the OMS (order management system). In our May 2013 survey only 17% of eBusiness professionals identified the investment in an OMS platform as an investment priority, however this relative lack of interest is in fact easy to explain:
1) Many retailers are still in the nascent phases of their Omni-channel journey and have yet to fully map out their requirements. Simply put, these retailers still need to make the connection between the capabilities of an OMS platform and the requirements of their Omni-channel strategy.
My colleague Thomas Husson (Marketing Leadership) and I teamed up again to identify the most impactful and new mobile trends for 2014. (See the full report here.)
You might ask, "how does one decide what are going to be the big trends?" Good question. For me, there are several points of input. In 2013, I had the opportunity to interview close to 200 companies in the course of doing research for Forrester's next book, The Mobile Mind Shift, as well as for my own research. I spoke to some of the best and brightest enterprises (e.g., retailers, hotels), technology companies (e.g., sensors), and vendors in the United States, Europe, China, Australia, India, Japan, Korea, Canada, and beyond. I had the opportunity to do field research in China and Korea - to walk the streets, visit stores, observe consumers and interview executives about one of the most exciting mobile markets in the world. More than 40 of the interviews were in the exciting space of mobile health and wellness. Thomas and I surveyed several hundred mobile executives. I also collaborated with Thomas who has incredible breadth and depth of knowledge of Europe.