Who Is That Crazy Lady In Macy's? (A Mobile Augmented Reality Story)

Julie Ask

It's me. I was in Macy's last Saturday morning checking out the augmented reality (AR) app, "Believe Magic." I got a lot of stares. At one point, I had a small audience as I danced about and took photos with Macy holiday characters ("Yes, Virginia" characters) that only I could see on my phone. What I liked about this app is that Macy's and Metaio didn't push the technology too far - they created an experience well within the bounds of the technology. It worked without long delays or instructions.

There were TWO red mailboxes in the Macy's in downtown SF. When I asked for help ("Where's the red mailbox with the AR app?") from the nice Macy's executive in a black suit, her jaw dropped a bit with the realization she had no idea what I had just said or wanted. Another sales associate helped me out and took me over to a full-blown display that allows people to interact with the characters even if they don't have a phone. The app allows you to take pictures with the characters, share them with friends (usual FB and Twitter plus email), make cards, etc. It's fun. The small crowd of people pointing and staring . . . also fun. :)

This app is more about marketing, but it will give you a sense of the potential of AR for commerce purposes. We've just finished up research due out this week that speaks to the uses of AR in the purchase funnel or commerce track. AR will allow consumers to experience products pre-purchase. AR will simplify the discovery and consumption of content (e.g., pricing). AR will improve the owners' experience with "how to" guides.

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Optimizing the Affiliate Channel for Deal-Driven Customers

Andy Hoar

With consumers increasingly looking for discounts online and flocking to horizontal coupon sites (e.g. ShopatHome and RetailMeNot), vertical coupon sites (e.g. TechBargains), and cashback sites (e.g. Ebates), eBusiness professionals face a new “coupon-driven” shopping normal. As a result, eBusiness professionals are increasingly considering, and reconsidering, the affiliate deal space as a channel for both acquiring and retaining online shoppers.

As stated in my new report, “Optimizing the Affiliate Channel for Deal-Driven Customers,” while some historical questions persist around measuring incrementality, sales crediting, and brand association, affiliate deal sites today now help eBusiness professionals address a growing number of “deal-insistent” customers by offering:     

  • Advanced targeting capabilities. Today’s affiliate deal sites have modernized to accommodate eBusiness professionals’ higher targeting, tracking, and geographic coverage standards. They now offer sort and search functionality, rich editorial content, exclusive deals, and reach into international markets.  
  • New means to optimize offers and commission payments.  Advanced technology now enables eBusiness professionals to more accurately align commissions with affiliate deal site performance.  Affiliate deal sites operating within a broader affiliate network can tie commissions to the quality of the sale and the quantity of margin available.  
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Insurance eBusiness Initiatives And IT Priorities And Spending Closely Aligned For 2012

Ellen Carney

The insurance industry is in the midst of some big changes. Those changes introduce very new pressures, priorities, and uncertainties into an industry whose business depends on stability. In these dynamic times, carriers hang their hat on what they do for their customers, even if how it gets done and who does it might be changing. Our report, "Tech Opportunities In The North American Insurance Industry",  outlines the top business priorities and supporting technology investment plans of North American insurers.  In this year's study (our fourth) it turns out that:

Industry’s business outlook turns strongly positive with select IT spending following along. Even with a record number of disasters that have translated into record economic losses, more US and Canadian insurers have positive outlooks when compared with last year. What’s behind these buoyant outlooks? By all indications, it looks like insurers will be competing on something other than price, as the market condition changes to “firm” and even “hard” for some lines. This year’s top initiative remains growing the business, with ebusiness teams playing a starring role.

Technology’s value shifts to sales, service, and support, not simply cost-savings. Five years ago, the IT’s fundamental value proposition was as a means to take cost out of the insurance equation. While still important, virtually all the insurers we surveyed told us that technology was critical to how they serviced and supported their customers, and 80% told us that technology was essential in the insurance distribution and sales model.

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North American Banks Continue To Improve Their Digital Services: Forrester’s 2011 Bank Secure Website Rankings

Peter Wannemacher

Forrester’s two recent reports — 2011 US Bank Secure Website Rankings and 2011 Canadian Bank Secure Website Rankings — highlight the incremental improvements banking providers have made over the past year. Overall, scores among US and Canadian banks rose by an average of five points. The biggest gains can be seen in the improved usability of the websites, with big advances in users’ ability to navigate banks’ secure websites. Canada’s six largest banks gained more ground than their counterparts south of the border, with firms such as Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank rolling out completely overhauled secure sites. In terms of individual banks, we found that:

·         Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Chase take the top three spots overall. Wells Fargo’s secure website is the only one we evaluated that scored above a 90 (out of 100) in the category of transactional content and functionality. In addition, it ranked first or second across all four categories of usability we evaluated. Bank of America earned an overall score of 81 by offering best-in-class alerts and self-service functionality. Chase, meanwhile, had a strong showing with convenient secure website functionality such as multiple bill payment options and solid mobile banking features.

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“Cyber Friday”

Andy Hoar

When we think about the Thanksgiving weekend and online sales, we’re conditioned to think "Cyber Monday."  But now there’s another online sales story to report -- Black Friday.

While Cyber Monday saw a record $1.25B in online sales this year, a somewhat underreported story was that Black Friday also set a record by bringing in $816MM– or nearly the same amount spent on Cyber Monday just two years ago.   

Increased Black Friday online sales are being driven by:

  • A behavioral shift among consumers. In 2010, 49% of consumers surveyed after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend said that they shopped less in stores on Thanksgiving weekend because they were shopping online instead. In addition, an increasing number of online shoppers report that they are now pre-shopping online for Black Friday deals.
  • High traffic throughout the weekend. This year, Thanksgiving Day took the top spot for holiday weekend online traffic, but Black Friday finished second -- edging out Cyber Monday by a nose.  Data from Experian Hitwise shows that traffic to the top 500 online retailers increased by 2% YOY on Black Friday to more than 170 million unique visits.
  • The consumer perception that better deals can be found online. 58% of US online adults say that they are more price-conscious today than they were a year ago. 48% maintained that they found better values and deals online.   
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What You Need To Know About The Online Sales Tax Debate

Sucharita  Mulpuru

As the debate around mandating an online sales tax rages on, Forrester remains convinced that 2012 will see no significant national change to the current tax structure.  As stated in my new report, “What You Need To Know About The Online Sales Tax” and a previous blog post around the issue, some are framing the debate in such a way that online-only companies like Amazon and eBay are tax-shirking delinquents; they’re not. Not only are they in compliance with current law, Amazon, who was at one point resolutely opposed to any new legislation, has made concessions to voluntarily start collecting tax and in fact, physical retailers may soon regret their staunch stances as the balancing act that Amazon avoided around nexus kept them squarely away from physical stores to date.  Now, that may change and create yet another headache for retailers as Amazon reportedly ponders stores.

So what does this all mean? There is likely to be a few more years of heated debate around the issue followed by a number of possible outcomes. eBusiness professionals should stay abreast of situation, but realize that this is not likely to be a game changer for the following reasons:

  • Tax has a negligible impact on online shopping behavior.  In a survey that was conducted in partnership with Bizrate Insights, we found only 8% of consumers said that tax was a priority consideration. Furthermore, only around one quarter of buyers said that the introduction of a sales tax would cause them to switch retailers.
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The Unemployment Rate Fell On Friday . . . But Don’t Brace For A Surge In Holiday Spending

Andy Hoar

The US unemployment rate fell on Friday to its lowest level since March 2009 (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm). And on paper...that’s a very good thing. 

But before we get too excited about what that could mean for 2011 holiday spending, consider this: The reason the unemployment rate dropped from 9.0% to 8.6% in the household survey was as much due to the fact that 315,000 people gave up looking for work as that 120,000 people actually found work. It’s a big flaw in the way the US unemployment rate is calculated that the rate can actually go down (so appear to improve) when people just stop looking for work. 

(http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/12/02/why-did-the-unemployment-rate-drop-5/).

The reality is we won’t know the true unemployment rate until those who’ve given up looking for work re-engage in the job hunt and fill out that total workforce denominator (at which time the unemployment rate will actually go up temporarily before then finally coming down as we start seeing that recovery).  But we’re not there yet.

The co-reported payroll employment number is a better indicator of job growth because it comes from a much broader and deeper survey called the payroll survey. But for November that number (120K new jobs created) only matched expectations and is actually below the minimum number (approximately 150K) needed to keep pace with population growth in America. So, unfortunately, not much real gain there. And sadly, there’s probably not much to say about a jolt to the 2011 holiday shopping season either.  

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Coca-Cola Leverages Context To Create Engaging Mobile "Chok" Campaign In Hong Kong

Julie Ask

I've written a lot about the notion that the "Future Of Mobile Is Context" this year at Forrester. Since publishing this research this spring, I've been searching for examples and case studies of innovative uses of context. (See how marketers and eBusiness pros can leverage context.)

Coca-Cola is allowing consumers in Hong Kong to enter a sweepstakes by virtually collecting bottle caps from a 3rd screen (TV, movie theather). The audio signal from the commercial triggers the application/ syncs the user's motion with the video. The acclerometer is used to assess the quality of the motion of the user's mobile phone — the device that is used to catch the bottle tops virtually. See video.

Why is their use of context sophisticated?

In the research, I describe the four phases of evolution.

Phase 1: the basics — leveraging location, time of day, etc.

Phase 2: layering intelligence — so, not just time of day, but time of day relative to an event

Phase 3:  using new technology in phones (e.g., sensors, two cameras, etc.)

Phase 4: more sophisticated use of the sensors and technology to control the device

Coke's campaign is what I would call a v 2.0 use of mobile (they are enhancing another touchpoint - see research) with some Phase 3/4 context. They enhance the video/commercial experience by getting the consumer to be active. The act of collecting the bottle tops gets the consumer off the couch and to interact with the ad directly. I think it's very cool.

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Agile Commerce Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas

Martin Gill

 

EBay is now the latest entrant into the field of retail experimenters that are trialing the concept of a “virtual store.” 

EBay joins Occado and Tesco in embracing the increasing number of Multidevice Buyers in the UK who use their smartphones not only to inform their offline shopping journeys, but to buy products as well. EBay’s pop-up store in the heart of London promises to allow shoppers to browse products in person and purchase via a QR-code-driven mobile shopping experience. 

While eBay's store is very deliberately designed as a temporary pop-up, others are approaching the same challenge in a completely different way. House of Fraser recently launched a concept store in Aberdeen that carries no stock but offers shoppers the opportunity to sip a free cappuccino while they browse House of Fraser’s website on dedicated Internet stations.   

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Benchmark Your eBusiness Strategy And Results

Carrie Johnson

I'm so excited to announce that today we have launched Forrester's new free eBusiness benchmarking tool. With the tool you can compare your key performance metrics against your peers'. Plug in the answers to a few questions about your eBusiness budget and metrics and our tool will instantly compare your answers to similar size companies for five key benchmarks:

  1. The size of your annual eBusiness budget 
  2. The number of staff dedicated to your online division
  3. The percent of overall sales that occur online
  4. The size of your eBusiness team
  5. The percent of customer service interactions that occur online

The tool will not only show side-by-side results, it'll also produce a nifty PDF for you to print out and show to your colleagues. But wait there's more! We have a suite of research that helps our clients act on results, outlining how to improve those five key metrics to keep up with competitors and align with best practices. We've summarized all of our advice on how to use the benchmark tool and to improve results in an accompanying report called "Benchmark Your eBusiness Strategy And Results" (sound familiar?) and I encourage you to read it. 

We also have a whole body of research that we think help turbo charge your eBusiness results.

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