Provoking Tumultuous Uproar: How All Things Digital Are Disrupting the Business Of Insurance

Ellen Carney

There’s one word that sums up what’s going on in the business of insurance right now: disruption. Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with an innovation team at a Tier 1 carrier. When I asked the group if they were feeling that big changes were afoot in the industry, there was lots of head nodding. Consider just these few catalysts of change:

  • An improving economy driven by freshening winds in the US housing market.
  • Activist consumers willing to both join forces with their insurers and at the same time regulate them through the power of social media.
  • Converging physical and digital worlds that engage consumers through smart portable devices.
  • Two maturing regulatory reforms: one that reorders the molecules of the health insurance industry and the second that’s creating a new industry (and risks), namely access to medical marijuana.
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Walmart Takes Contextual, Pragmatic Approach To Mobile

Julie Ask

Walmart's Global Head of Mobile, Gibu Thomas, just got off stage here at CTIA in Las Vegas. He offered an overview of Walmart's approach to mobile which, based on our research, is dead on. It's solid. (I dropped in a partial/paraphrased transcript below; read the details if you'd like, but a summary/analysis is up top here). At times I felt like he was following our research stream because the language was so similar; he even quoted James McQuivey from 1999: "When consumers adopt new technologies, they do old things in new ways. When they internalize technology, they begin to do new things." 

(And I'll sound like a bit of a broken record here as I've said so much of this before. The difference now is that retailers like Walmart are implementing and talking about the results.) 

- Mobile opportunity ($) > eCommerce opportunity. The opportunity in mobile is not primarily mCommerce, a number that Sucharita Mulpuru and Forrester Research put at 8% of eCommerce sales in 2016. In 2016, eCommerce will be about 10% of retail sales. The mobile-influenced number at more than $700B (forecast) in the US makes mobile-influenced sales the bigger number. The opportunity in mobile is a combination of a) influencing sales ($$$) and b) giving consumers the ability to buy anywhere/anytime ($). You can't just shrink/squeeze an experience onto a small device; this is too mini-eCommerce-centric and misses the bigger opportunity. 

- Consumers who use mobile devices are more engaged and spend more. OK: there is a bit of a chicken or egg here. Do more loyal, frequent shoppers download your app? Or do consumers become more loyal once they download your app? The answer is both. At Walmart, mobile app users spend 40% more each month and make two more trips per month. Our highly engaged users spend 77% more each month and make four more trips per month than the non-mobile user.

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Google Glass -- What eBusiness Professionals Need To Know -- This Early

Julie Ask

Google Glass owners were in the minority last week at Google I/O 2013, but I still felt left out not having a pair. I was one of the “have-nots” this past week. It’s still very early days for Google Glass, but there is enough insight into the potential for eBusiness professionals to begin thinking about the possibilities. Some may argue that Google Glass is a fantasy product at $1,500 that will never take off, but a lot of people doubted the tablet and iPad as well. In any case, it's safe to assume that more and more devices will have interactive, connected displays. These displays may be flexible — they may be a wristwatch. The same thinking around highly contextual information delivered in small bits still applies. 

First session on Google Glass development was oversold, so to speak. There was standing room only with at least one overflow room. Intense. I was also fortunate to attend a women’s maker event the evening before with Jean Wang (see video of event and Jean story). She shared the history of the devices.


I’m sitting in the “Fireside Chat” session as I type this blog post. I can literally feel the temperature rising as the bodies crowd in. It’s 15 minutes before the start . . . and they are already turning people away. It’s intense, like trying to get into Iron Man 3 on the opening weekend. There can’t possibly be a product attracting more attention right now.

Vision for Google Glass: “Technology is there when you need it. It’s not when you don’t.”

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Context Is King In Mobile

Julie Ask


If you are at the deYoung museum in San Francisco and do a search on “painting,” you might be looking for a Van Gogh. If you are in Home Depot and do a search on “painting,” you likely need supplies for your weekend project.


I heard the term “invisible search terms” today at Google I/O in the Indoor Location session. While you may not type in “Impressionism” or “supplies” with paint, a smart application – or search function, in this case – can take a pretty good guess at what you want based on where you are.


In a report I wrote in 2011, I talked about layering intelligence on top of location – yes, you have my lat/long, but what does it mean? And how do you use that intelligence to make services and content relevant to me?


I’m at Google I/O, and the discussion continues around how to use context to make applications smarter. 

Mobile Context Moves To Forefront On Android (From Google I/O)

Julie Ask

Mobile services must be contextual. Screens are small. Interfaces are limited. Consumers are task-oriented. “I want to pay a bill” or “I need to make this shopping list before my son is finished with soccer practice." Total context – the sum of everything you know about a consumer, including what he/she is experiencing now – must be used to create the relevancy in the delivery of content and services.

Context can help shorten the number of steps on a phone to complete a task. We already see this with companies like Apple – the application switches to “store mode.” Starwood Hotels switches its app to 'travel mode' when a guest is within 48 hours of a stay. Services we only envisioned two years ago are real today.

Why don’t more companies use mobile context? Our research tells us it's lack of bandwidth; executing on the basics keeps us busy enough. It’s also hard to do – and most enterprises don’t have the right analytics or metrics in place to measure the impact.

Google rolled out a number of tools/features for developers today to make using context easier. It’s exactly what we need.

Here’s the list:

1)  Geofencing within apps: This allows developers to set up 100 geofenced areas. It will be excellent for local services and smaller brands (plus media companies). Too few for large national brands with hundreds or thousands of locations.

2)  Google Activity: It abstracts the context of walking, running, cycling, making it easier for developers to use motion context.

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Non-US Marketplaces For Brands

Zia Daniell Wigder

I’m currently finishing up my presentation for the Internet Retailer Conference & Expo in June: I’ll be presenting on the non-US marketplace options for brands as part of the global eCommerce track. In preparation for the session, I’ve had a chance to catch up with a number of established global online marketplaces for brands as well as agencies helping to develop some of the marketplace storefronts. 

While many North American and European brands are familiar with local marketplace players, it’s worthwhile highlighting just a few key marketplace options originating outside of these two regions:

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Time To Start Planning For The Next Generation of Digital Banking

Catherine Graeber

Rising digital customer expectations advances in technology, and continued digital disruption threats from outside the industry will change the game for banks and credit unions.  2013 will be a pivotal year for eBusiness and channel strategy executives to start planning for the next generation of digital banking to both stay relevant to digital customers and thwart disruptors determined to take over those customer relationships.

In my new report, titled "Trends 2013: Five Trends Shaping The Next Generation Of North American Digital Banking," I explore the trends that will power next generation of services that are simple, ubiquitous, empowering, and reassuring.  Here are the key takeaways:

  • Customers' digital financial expectations are high.  With the proliferation of digital devices, consumers are highly connected to their financial providers. And with adoption of each new device comes higher expectations of those providers, especially among the younger generations. Get it wrong and you risk losing their loyalty.
  • Our app-driven world will require flexible and extensible digital platforms. Creating a durable competitive advantage, one that can't easily be copied, includes a move to open platforms. An open platform strategy will allow financial firms to use third-party providers to create app solutions that will create differentiation through a personalized user experience and segment-specific capabilities.
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Forrester Welcomes Adam Silverman to the eBusiness & Channel Strategy Team

Peter Sheldon

After a long search, I am thrilled to announce that Adam Silverman has joined Forrester as a Principal Analyst to allow us to expand our coverage of commerce technology and services. Adam brings with him over 15 years of experience in marketing and eCommerce leadership having most recently been in the role of VP & GM for Alibris where he held P&L responsibility for the Alibris online marketplace. Prior to his role at Alibris, Adam has held senior eCommerce marketing and operations roles at Musician’s Friend, Target and Wet Seal and brings with him a great deal of experience of implementing eCommerce technologies at these retailers.

Adam and I are excited to be in a position to broaden Forrester’s coverage and research on commerce technology and services. Across verticals (retail, branded manufacturing, high-tech, distribution, telco, CPG, hospitality), we are seeing increased client demand for research and consulting on commerce technologies, strategy and associated implementation services. To ensure we are meeting the demands of our clients, we have an exciting research plan in the making that includes:

  • The role of order management solutions in omnichannel retail
  • Mobile POS and the changing in-store technology landscape
  • PCM / PIM solutions
  • Full service eCommerce solutions
  • B2C & B2B eCommerce solutions
  • The changing role of Commerce Service Providers
  • The future of omnichannel commerce technology
  • And much more….
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Why you shouldn’t rush out and hire a CDO

Martin Gill

Chief Digital Officer (or CDO) is the latest in a long line of snazzy C-level titles to emerge over the last few years. At Forrester we’ve been watching this trend for a while now and have made a few comments, but I think it’s time to put a firm stake in the ground.

Don’t hire a Chief Digital Officer!
There. I said it.
Now, why might I say this when a number of high profile firms are in fact hiring CDOs? Well, to put things in perspective I want to look at a tale of three brands, all of which I’ve spoken about in the past:
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The State Of Canadian Online Retail 2013

Peter Sheldon

Last week Forrester published a report on the state of online retail in Canada. We surveyed 1,103 adult online shoppers in Canada to understand what challenges the Canadian public face when shopping online. We found that Canadian online shoppers have many complaints; among them high shipping costs and lackluster product assortments. Furthermore, Canadian online shoppers are acutely aware of the gap between the online experiences of domestic sites versus those in the US. Canadian sites are missing key online capabilities like free shipping, flexible pickup options, a stress-free return policy, and omnichannel payment options in addition to the obvious price discrepancies.

Some of the reports highlights include the following facts:

  • Shipping costs are too still too high. Despite the eventual arrival of Amazon Prime in Canada and the increasing commonality of free shipping thresholds, sixty-eight percent of Canadian online shoppers we surveyed cited that delivery costs are their primary concern when shopping online.
  • Product assortment online in Canada is lackluster. Thirty-seven percent of Canadian online shoppers say they can't find the products they are looking for online in Canada. Consequently, 32% of these frustrated shoppers ultimately end up buying instead from US or International sites and incurring the cost of shipping, custom duties and Canadian taxes.
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