Commerce Server, Cactus Commerce & Ascentium - The Path Forward

Peter Sheldon

In the words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, everything flows and nothing stands still. This is certainly true of Ascentium, the Seattle based interactive agency that last year acquired Cactus Commerce and Microsoft’s Commerce Server. This week, the company firmed up its strategy following last year’s acquisition spree. The result: the company is splitting in two, creating two separate entities focusing on services and product respectively. 

They are:

  • SmithSmith is the result of merging together Ascentium and Cactus Commerce. The old brands are now gone for good, and the new brand with a headcount of over 300 staff aims to offer both digital agency and commerce technology services to its brand partners.
  • Commerce Server.net– After the takeover of Microsoft’s Commerce Server product last November, Ascentium quickly re-branded the product as Ascentium Commerce Server 2009. Yesterday, Smith (previously Ascentium) announced that the product division of the company (a combination of the product IP from Microsoft and the product development resources from Cactus) has been re-branded as a wholly owned, but independently managed subsidiary called Commerce Server.net
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The Mobile Imperative During The Holidays

Sucharita  Mulpuru

It’s no longer a question of whether or not consumers will adopt mobile as an interaction and transaction channel this holiday shopping season. Over the last year, mobile has proven itself to be a viable channel that will play an increasingly prevalent role this year and in future years.

Case in point: mobile retail set records this holiday shopping season with 16 percent of all online sales being conducted through a mobile device -- compared to 9.8 percent last year. In addition, 24 percent of consumers use a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 14.3 percent in 2011. Whether it’s a tablet, an iPhone, or an Android, consumers are researching more products and making more purchases than ever before through their mobile devices. A full overview of the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Cyber Monday data, which is a cloud-based web analytics platform that tracks more than a million e-commerce transactions a day, analyzing terabytes of raw data from 500 retailers nationwide, can be found here.

Why the mobile push? For consumers, it’s about convenience, efficiency, and accessibility, whether shopping online or in-store. Some traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, however, are still wary of mobile and hesitant to bridge ecommerce mobile initiatives with the in-store experience. That attitude has to change in order for these retailers to keep pace with the multiscreen, digital consumer. Today, four in 10 smartphone users search for an item and research prices while they’re right in the store.

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Are you spending enough on eBusiness?

Carrie Johnson

Ever wonder if you're spending enough on your eBusiness efforts compared with your peers? We've been benchmarking key metrics like team size, channel responsibilities, and spending for four years and this week we’ve launched our quarterly eBusiness and Channel Strategy Panel Survey to keep adding to that rich data.

We have designed the survey to help eBusiness and Channel Strategy Professionals determine the size of companies' eBusiness budgets, the size of their technology investments, and how these numbers compare with overall firm spending.  Additionally, it will shed light on the key roles and responsibilities eBusiness executives are playing, what channels firms focusing on, and where future investment priorities lie. 

Here are the details:

  • The survey takes less than 20 minutes to complete.
  • Responses will be kept strictly confidential and published only in an aggregated and anonymous manner.
  • Respondents will receive a free copy of the survey results and a free Forrester report.

Here's the link to the survey again. Thanks for participating!

Agile Commerce – that’s Forrester’s word for “Omnichannel,” right?

Martin Gill

You’ve all heard the term “Omnichannel.” And since you are reading this blog I’m going to assume you’ve also all heard the term “Agile Commerce.” If not, then stop reading now and check out Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce and Agile Commerce: Know it When You See It.

So either you are back, or you were with me all along. But now you are wondering “Ok, so what is the difference?” Let’s look at what the two terms really mean. Omnichannel doesn’t have a formal definition, though here’s what the oracle that is Wikipedia says…

Omni-Channel Retailing is very similar to, and an evolution of, multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, catalog, and so on.”

On the other hand, Forrester defines agile commerce as…

“An approach to commerce that enables businesses to optimize their people, processes, and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints.”

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Why Visa’s V.me Digital Wallet Matters To eBusiness

Benjamin Ensor

I attended a briefing from Visa Europe yesterday, about its V.me digital wallet. Here’s what Visa said:V.me by Visa

  • 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).
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Why eBusiness Needs To Rethink The Value Of Personalization

Sucharita  Mulpuru

In two recent instances in public forums, I’ve heard eBusiness executives talking about some rather disturbing uses of personal data. One was the CTO of a large big-box retailer who raised the possibility that health insurance companies could track our food purchases, sending dissuading texts to us whenever we chose to eat at greasy spoons or Burger King. Another was a software CEO who said it was inevitable that our cars would send real-time data on our speeds to our car insurance agencies. Laughter ensued from the audiences, but it should have been alarm and shock. I find it hard to believe that the good that could come from sharing this sort of data with companies (which, I would argue, don’t exactly have a reputation for benevolence) would outweigh the potential for abusing the data. Even in the retail world, there are a lot of companies trying to match users across different devices based on their IP addresses to create profiles of behavior. Call it lighter versions of the FBI “forensics” that took down David Petreaus. (Btw, Paula Broadwell has been a friend of mine for years and is one of the nicest, smartest, and most generous people I know. An issue that’s been overlooked is the violation of her privacy that kicked off this whole scandal. For the record, because people have asked me, I think she's been unfairly attacked at best and irreparably slandered at worst with digital information that should have never made its way to the light of day. I just hope she gets the last laugh when Angelina Jolie plays her in the movie.)

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As The Holidays Approach, Stores Need To Worry About Being “Showroomed"

Sucharita  Mulpuru

As mobile Internet use has grown, so has the usage of smartphones in stores. Much of that in-store phone usage is innocuous — using store maps, for instance — but some of it is threatening to brick-and-mortar stores, particularly when shoppers use phones in stores to research prices.  While "showrooming" isn't a term that many consumers know (only 16% awareness according to com Score), it's nonetheless happening.   

The good news: Consumers with smartphones only “showroomed” prices in stores on average a few times in a 6-month period. Aprimo, an marketing service firm that surveyed about 2,000 consumers in October about their mobile price-checking behavior in stores for that datapoint.  I suspect that amounts to a very small percent (i.e., less than 5%) of shopping visits. The bad news: That survey (and comScore's) confirmed the worst of what many in the retail industry have expected -- that showrooming is here to stay. And it hurts stores. After all, most of the showrooming shoppers told us that they usually find cheaper prices online when they research them. Some highlights:

  • It’s not just consumer electronics and high-ticket items like appliances for which consumers research prices in stores. In fact, the second and third most showroomed categories: grocery (!) and apparel/accessories/footwear. Yes, I was surprised by that, too.
  • A whole lot of people say they’ll be showrooming more in the future. In fact, the segment that’s most likely to spend the most online in the future (18- to 34-year-old men) is the group most likely to do this type of mobile price research in the future.
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Innovation Lessons From BBVA

Benjamin Ensor

BBVAI spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Forrester’s European Customer Experience Forum in London, which was based on the theme of Outside In, Forrester’s new book. One of the most interesting sessions I attended was ‘The Customer Centric Bank’ from Gustavo Vinacua, Innovation Center Director at BBVA’s Centro de Innovación in Madrid.

Over the past decade, BBVA has worked hard to become more customer centric and match its offerings to its customers’ needs. Given the pace of technology change, customers’ rising expectations and the digital disruption those forces cause, innovation is a critical part of the role of eBusiness and channel strategy executives. I thought I would share a few of Gustavo’s insights here for those of you who couldn’t attend. BBVA has become systematically innovative, launching a continuous succession of innovations many of which were a first in Spain, in Europe or in the world, such as:

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US Online Holiday Sales Continue To Grow At A Double-Digit Pace

Sucharita  Mulpuru

Forrester’s “US Online Holiday Retail Sales Forecast, 2012” launches today; in it, we predict that this November and December alone are expected to pull in $68.4 billion in online revenue, a 15% increase over 2011. We believe web retailers are well-positioned to benefit from this shopper spend if they realize that consumers are:

  • On the hunt for deals. More than half of US online adults are more price conscious than they were a year ago. As the Web channel has become synonymous with value, retailers should expect consumers to be searching for deals through a variety of touchpoints, at home and in-store on mobile devices.  Retailers need to prepare for aggressive holiday showrooming and the possibility of being undersold or being asked for a price match. 
  • Looking for free shipping. Fifty-seven percent of US online adults shop more with retailers that offer free shipping, and 27% add unplanned items to their cart in order to meet free shipping thresholds. Last year, 76% of the top 50 online retailers highlighted holiday deals on their home pages and 50% called out holiday shipping promotions. As price continues to be a top consideration for consumers, retailers must offer and prominently display holiday shipping promotions or risk losing customers to competitors that will.
  • Shopping on key dates. During the 2011 holiday season, the top 500 retail websites saw holiday traffic peak during Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, each of which drove more than 170 million unique US shoppers to the Web, and they together accounted for more than $2.5 billion in total online sales. Forrester expects that this trend will continue through 2012.
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Join Our eBusiness Team! We’re Hiring A Principal/Senior Analyst Focused On eCommerce Technology

Zia Daniell Wigder

eCommerce technology is a fast-growing, rapidly evolving industry – we’re looking for a Principal/Senior Analyst to help build our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area. 

Here’s a quick snapshot from the job description:

The Principal/Senior Analyst will write for, present to, and advise eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in the retail, wholesale, and CPG industries to help guide their eCommerce and other multichannel commerce technology decisions. He/she will need a strong understanding of the business and technology issues facing eBusiness executives today and an appetite for conducting and writing research to stay abreast of the issues.

If this is you, we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out directly to me at zwigder at forrester dot com or submit via the job posting