In just a few short days — six, to be precise — the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate will kick in to high gear as the doors swing wide into the public exchanges for open enrollment. And if Americans were only dimly aware that healthcare reform was indeed happening, a lot more are paying attention now, thanks to splashy efforts to hold the stop-gap spending bill hostage to language de-funding the ACA. Further fueling awareness is all the ongoing news about employers that will now no longer cover spouses eligible for insurance through their own employers, and large group employers like Walgreens that will push employees to a private exchange, essentially getting out of the business of health insurance.
So, if there’s one word that describes the emotion among health plans and group and voluntary benefits insurers, it’s “uncertainty.” That uncertainly extends to what the customer experience will be like on the public and private exchanges. And as I called out in a recent blog, if the website experience we recently scored is any indication, there will be some pretty unhappy shoppers, because the exchanges and health plan websites haven’t made the shopping and buying journey easy.
But while a consumer in 2013 might suck it up because they just gotta have health insurance this year, they won’t put up with it at renewal time. We expect a lot of churn, especially among the customers the plans most want to retain. Of course, we’re talking about the:
Good — healthy and wellness-minded, and very likely younger.
I spent several days in Buenos Aires last week which was fantastic – great fun and really helpful in terms of understanding what’s happening in the eCommerce market. Wednesday was the annual eCommerce Day event: It was packed with well over a thousand people in the audience. I presented on global eCommerce trends that are set to impact the market in Argentina, and also met with a number of online retailers.
A handful of takeaways from these conversations:
eCommerce in Argentina is still at an early stage. There is tremendous interest in driving eCommerce in Argentina, but the real growth is yet to come. Today’s roughly $2B online retail market is dominated by MercadoLibre, with traditional retailers like Falabella, Garbarino and Walmart increasingly making the online channel a priority. Newer entrants like Dafiti are also carving out a niche in categories such as apparel.
Intra-regional cross-border eCommerce is very limited today. There was much discussion about cross-border eCommerce with China, but today little cross-border eCommerce exists within Latin America itself. Online retailers are anxious to tap into consumers in other countries in the region, but few have made concerted efforts in this area.
Most mobile initiatives are relatively new and focused exclusively on smartphones. Most online retailers’ mobile initiatives are in their infancy in Argentina. Many larger retailers are just rolling out mobile offerings (both apps and websites), and virtually all are focused on smartphones rather than tablets.
Mobile is fundamentally changing how businesses need to think about customer and employee engagement. Why? Consumers and employees expect anywhere anytime access to information and services in their moment of need. They expect highly contextual or relevant experiences that allow them to complete tasks quickly.
Mobile strategies have moved well beyond shrinking desktop experiences down to small screens.
I get asked a lot, “Well, who is doing this well?” My answer: “Very few companies.” Sophistication in mobile services has become less obvious. Companies with a solid vision are working hard in the background to put infrastructure in place – to create a services layer and APIs – that allows access to their core. As Scott Wilson of United so eloquently said, “We needed a single source of truth.” I would add that you need one ready to deliver real-time information in a consumer's or employee’s context. Expect it to handle a lot of volume as well.
When it comes to benchmarking, too many business professionals are sitting in their inflatable kayaks on the surface of the Gulf of Alaska. They can’t see below the surface to see what their competitors are doing. They treat mobile as a project rather than a product.
Last week Forrester published a report highlighting the benefits and challenges of rolling out a mobile point of service (mPOS) solution. Increasingly, retail professionals are turning to mPOS technology to help bolster customer engagement, lower store expenses, and improve the efficiency of sales-related functions. It’s clear that retailers are eager to implement this capability, but realizing a solid return on investment is not guaranteed.
Ensure your mPOS solution meets core needs. Tailor your mPOS integration to the needs of your customers and associates while leveraging the strengths of your business model. One-size mPOS does not fit all, and strategically creating a solution that exceeds your customers’ needs while bolstering your existing business model will yield the best results.
Expose your data in a scalable way. mPOS will improve customer engagement by combining the benefits of a physical interaction with the robust data of the digital experience if data is exposed correctly.
Focus on simplifying tasks first. Deploy initiatives that create efficiencies in store operations first, and then focus on developing strategies and solutions that bolster the customer experience. Today, measurable ROI is easier to define through store efficiencies than through improvements in customer experience.
Back in July, I wrote about our upcoming report on tools and technology for eCommerce globalization. We’ve just posted the report (clients can view it here) – in it, we dive into the types of eCommerce solutions that brands are turning to as they expand globally and highlight some of the vendors that excel in these areas.
Overall, brands expanding internationally are looking for their technology partners to help them:
Launch international offerings quickly and efficiently. It’s common for companies to ponder global online expansion for years, then decide to build and launch new offerings in a matter of a few months. It’s generally up to the eBusiness leader to manage these rollouts, often with a limited budget. eBusiness leaders who know that global expansion is on the horizon must plan ahead and select technology partners that can help them meet these (often highly ambitious) goals.
Reach consumers through more than just the website. Global eCommerce expansion used to mean launching a series of new websites in different countries, perhaps with a mobile offering following several months or even years after the initial rollout. Today, however, eBusiness leaders need to plan for nearly simultaneous offerings across a variety of devices and touchpoints. eBusiness leaders are also increasingly relying on their technology partners to assist with additional channels such as marketplaces.
[note: this was written live last week while I was attending Finovate]
Greetings from the Big Apple! I’m here attending the fancy schmancy Finovate Fall 2013 conference featuring tech solutions and innovations from – and for – the financial services industry. Here are some of the offerings and presentations that stood out for me, in the order they were presented at Finovate:
Kofax offers process automation software for lenders, but the big takeaway for me was their recent expansion of mobile, cross-channel, and multichannel analytics for financial providers. Focused on how customers shop for a loan, the dashboard and data are digestible and actionable. The jury’s still out, but strong analytics and easy-to-use tools can help banks improve sales in their lending lines of business.
MoneyDesktop offers digital money management tools – also known as personal financial management or PFM – and their demo at Finovate continued to show their strengths: Nifty tools, clean design, and intuitive UI and UX. The question mark for banks, however, continues to be how well integrated – or better yet, embedded – the experience can/will be for end users.
In August 2013, Uber – a service that connects passengers in need of a ride to drivers with a few taps within their mobile phone app – was valued at $3.4B despite only $125M in projected revenue for 2013. They have raised $360M. Why is their valuation so high? Because they have transformed a customer experience through mobile and disrupted an industry ecosystem. Companies in Silicon Valley talk about “uber-izing” their customer experience. Uber has become an English verb.
Uber isn’t simply a mobile app. Their goal wasn’t to do something in mobile. Uber is a business that harnesses mobile technology and phones to deliver a phenomenal service. They used mobile to achieve a much bigger goal.
eBusiness and marketing professionals need to shift their thinking as well. Too many focus on mobile as a goal unto itself. They treat mobile as a project rather than an enabler of new services or, more broadly, new engagement models with customers.
Business professionals fund mobile as a project rather than as a product or core element of their infrastructure required to compete today and in the future. Sadly, among eBusiness professionals surveyed by Forrester, 56% spend $1M or less annually on mobile – barely enough for a mobile website and an entry-level mobile app.
The shift in thinking required begins with understanding the full impact that mobile can have on your business. mCommerce, for example, is not the big opportunity for most retailers. The big opportunity lies in influencing brick-and-mortar commerce by driving customers into your stores and getting them to buy more stuff.
To the delight of many tired parents, it's back to school season. It's also the perfect time to plan out your fall calendar, and we're hoping that you will join us in Chicago in November for our eBusiness Forum.
The theme of our event is "Leading The Digital Business Revolution." We chose this theme because our clients tell us that they're looking to take their digital sales and selling strategies to the next level. As titles like Chief Digital Officer (CDO) emerge, eBusiness professionals and their other digital counterparts are eager to determine the right digital strategy for their firms and, more importantly, determine how to infuse digital skills throughout their organizations. They know that to engage with customers and thwart the competition, they must become powerhouses at digital business.
One of the most common questions I get is “Who does personalization really well?” And at its heart, great personalization is about effectively deciding which products (or offers) from a deep product catalog to showcase when and to whom. Ever since Gilt Groupe founder Alexis Maybank spoke at one of Forrester’s eBusiness Forums and talked about the scores of email iterations her company executes with every email drop, Gilt is usually at the top of my list of answers. It’s particularly impressive because anyone in luxury knows that scaling digital content and creating personalized experiences is incredibly difficult because of luxury’s especially cumbersome creative processes.
Well, now they’re taking it even further, going beyond the company’s implicit personalization (subtly varying content and layout on the Gilt homepage or emails, largely unbeknownst to shoppers) to the company’s first ever explicit personalization efforts. CIO Steve Jacobs walked me through the new feature last week: a new box titled “Your Personal Sale” (for most users that Gilt has data about), which links to a special page of curated items that varies for every customer.
Get ready for the barrage of bad speculation about Twitter and its imminent dominance of online retail. If you didn’t hear already, Twitter hired Nathan Hubbard, a former Ticketmaster exec, to figure out its commerce revenue stream. Interesting yes, but game-changing, no. Here’s why: startups tend to look for smart people first and figure out their jobs later. The mentality often goes like this: “We need to figure out what we’re going to do in X, this guy has a rock star background in it, let him build a team and see what happens.” And even if the person doesn't succeed, it's OK. They move on. These people have great resumes. That said, here are the biggest reasons for my question marks around Twitter’s success in commerce:
What works best in commerce is something Twitter already gives away for free, which is its tweets. For example, some of the most successful users of Twitter in a retail context are companies looking to liquidate inventory or send notes about limited supply of promotions, like the Dell Outlet or Groupon — all done effectively via a tweet. In many ways, a tweet is like an email title — it draws people into a click with a few sexy words. The challenge is that tweets have the same problem as emails: they don’t make their technology parents any money because everyone gets to use the tools for free.