The Lost Art Of Serendipity

Martin Gill

ser·en·dip·i·ty  /ˌsɛr ənˈdɪp ɪ ti/ –noun

1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

Internet retailers have been struggling with a challenge since the first time a shopper clicked “Add to Cart,” and so far I don’t think anyone has really cracked it.

Recently we’ve had a number of discussions in our office (and more in the pub) about the difference between the online and offline shopping experiences, and the subject of online product discovery is one we can’t seem to get to the bottom of.  It appears that many retailers are in the same place, and despite their best efforts, online retailers just can’t duplicate what we’ve termed serendipity.

That feeling of walking into your favorite bookshop and picking something up in a section you don’t normally go into just because the cover leaps out at you.

The moment when you stumble across some unutterably stylish, drop dead gorgeous dress in the store you don’t normally go into, but your friend dragged you protesting into.

That magic moment where you discover something.

Amazon has had a good go at it, and I confess I’m a huge fan of its “people like you buy stuff like this” functionality, but it does suffer from a major flaw. Like many of my Forrester colleagues, I use Amazon to buy a lot of gifts that I don’t ask to have wrapped. So Amazon thinks I’m crazily into books on vintage fashion and Waybuloo toys. Well I’m not. But my wife and 2-year-old niece are. Go figure which one likes which. So I regularly receive invites to buy more books and toys I really don’t want.

Anyone spot the odd one out on here ?

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Making Money On QR Codes

Julie Ask

This is one of the more creative applications of QR codes - tattoos. $240 to date at $80/tattoo. Given how permanent the code is, I'm wondering if they shouldn't have considered MS Tags - more branding and flexibility. It's the 2011 version of a dog tag. Would be more interesting if these were links to pages with medical records, etc. - something useful in the case of an emergency. Kidding aside, 2D bar codes have a lifetime - whether they live in a print ad, on a book cover, or on one's skin. Those employing 2D bar codes - especially on product packaging - must take into consideration the lifetime of the code and be ready to support it whether it's a marketing campaign or a link to a video with a safety demonstration.

Our Mediocre Multichannel Mission

Martin Gill

In celebration of the fact that my Forrester Boss, Patti Freeman Evans, was over this week in London, we thought we’d go on a multichannel retail shopping tour of London to see just how well some major UK retailers are integrating their on- and offline channels and enticing their shoppers into engaging with them online.

The answer is sadly, not very well at all.

Hitting Oxford Street on a sunny Friday at lunch time, we performed an eyes-on tour of a rough cross-section of some of the better-known UK brands. We went looking for exciting new uses of technology disrupting the in-store environment. Examples of beautifully integrated online/offline/mobile channels placing the customer at the heart of the brand experience. Innovative applications of technology that seamlessly blended the digital and physical brands, enticing shoppers into engaging with these premier retailers both now, and later when they got home. Or even, how excitingly, via their mobile phones.

So while a hungry band of devotees of the fruit-flavored tech-god gathered outside the Apple Store, not realizing that just round the corner they could get their paws on a new iPad 2, sans queue, we started our shopping trip.

Flippancy aside, we were looking specifically for how well multichannel retailers are integrating physical and digital channels.

The results were (depressing) surprising :

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Agile Commerce In 2011

Andrew Stockwell

With a big splash, we recently launched a significant idea and theme for eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals for 2011 and beyond called agile commerce. In the report "Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce," we highlight how customers no longer interact with companies from a "channel" perspective; instead, they interact through touchpoints. As a result, eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals have to leave their channel-oriented ways behind them and enter the era of agile commerce -- optimizing their people, processes, and technology to serve today's empowered, ever-connected customers across touchpoints.

Since its launch, we've received some excellent feedback from clients and thought-leaders, validating agile commerce. We've also interviewed three executives in our ongoing series about how agile commerce is affecting their clients and how they are positioning themselves to support the transition to agile commerce. Please continue to visit our community and our blog to share with us your perspective on how agile commerce is affecting your business. Do you see the signs of this disruption in your business? Is your organization evolving to sell and service customers seamlessly across touchpoints? What organizational models and technology decisions are you making to optimize your commerce efforts across touchpoints?

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Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks ?

Martin Gill

Hot off the press from last week’s Retail Week conference, “HMV will still have a portfolio of hundreds of stores on the high street in five years, HMV CEO Simon Fox told delegates”

And so they should.

But in my opinion, some careful thought is needed to position the store chain alongside HMV’s evolving digital persona.  HMVDigital, launched last July, is their take on iTunes. As a digital destination for downloading music it seems to stand on its own two feet. Product scope is a little limited in that it’s music only (no videos), but I can only assume that they have a roadmap to open up new product categories over time.

They are clearly set on taking on iTunes at their own game, a fact that is evident from the site’s logo when you link to it from HMV.com – the old familiar, faithful HMV hound listening to a gramophone, sat right in the middle of a now familiar iPod control wheel.  An interesting choice.

It would be a shame if all HMV did here was attempt to mimic iTunes, as they have one ace up their sleeve that iTunes can’t (yet) mimic; a nationwide chain of high street stores staffed with music loving store colleagues. Although the products may become digital, I believe that there is a place for human interaction that multichannel retailers such as HMV can capitalise on. And interestingly, from the tone of his Retail Week address, Fox believes this too.

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Time for a local focus. Well, local if you live in Europe, that is

Martin Gill

My first Blog post as a Forrester Analyst and I was going to go little further than saying “hey, hello!” but I figure why not take a few minutes to dig into a couple of subjects that I’m looking at.

Forrester have a large and growing body of research and a dedicated team of Analysts and Researchers serving eBusiness and Channel strategy professionals, and our research plan for the next year covers some bold topics like Agile Commerce, the future of Mobile as a channel and the growing power of Social Media.  While I’ll be looking at these topics and more, I’ve joined Forrester with a specific brief, and that is to bring some focus to the European Retail arena. 

I’ve come to Forrester from Boots, where I worked for the last 4 years in the Enterprise Architecture group leading the architecture strategy across both on-line and stores, and my move to Forrester is, in my opinion, a sign of Forrester’s commitment to do what we repeatedly tell you to do with your Retail efforts. 

Make them Relevant and Contextual.

So that’s my primary mission, at least to begin with.  Making what we do here at Forrester relevant and contextual to the challenges and opportunities of the European market.  That isn’t to say I won’t be looking at broader global eCommerce trends, and in fact one of the first pieces of work I’m doing is on the evolution of video in eCommerce (more on that soon).  But to support those of you who are either focusing on or are looking to move into the European market, I’m working on a broader piece looking into the state of Multichannel Retail in Europe.

If there is anything I can help you with, or if there are any burning topics you would like to see us focus on, then please reach out to me at mgill@forrester.com or get engaged in our community.

The Next Generation Of Digital Financial Services

Benjamin Ensor

[With apologies to all those of you who had already read this, I'm re-publishing this as the Forrester gremlins ate my previous post.]

For the past few years, many eBusiness and channel strategy executives in financial services have had a nagging sense that today's websites would be rendered obsolete as new technologies emerged or younger consumers developed radically different behaviour patterns. We think that time if fast coming upon us. 

For the past six months we've been working on our vision of the Next Generation of Digital Financial Services, led by my colleague Alexander Hesse and inspired by the work of leading eBusiness teams worldwide. Although our vision is not an exact description of how all digital financial services will evolve, given the wide variety of markets that eBusiness executives operate in and the different strategies of their firms, we think the next generation of digital financial services will be characterized by five things:

  • Simplicity. Making it easy for customers to achieve their goals.
  • Ubiquity. Interacting with customers wherever they want.
  • Personalization. Making the entire experience relevant to individual needs.
  • Empowerment. Enabling customers to take action by themselves.
  • Reassurance. Providing human help whenever it adds value.
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The Secret To Loyal Financial Services Customers

Bill Doyle

Eight years ago, Forrester set out to find the corporate trait that does the most to create loyalty among financial services consumers. Loyalty, of course, is about more than simply retaining customers: Loyal customers are willing to buy more, borrow more, save more, and invest more with the firms they already use. We tested dozens of variables, including the length of the customer’s relationship with the firm, the quality of the firm’s customer service, and the firm’s money management skills. One trait emerged above all others: the perception on the part of customers that the firm does what’s best for them, not just what’s best for the firm’s own bottom line. We call it customer advocacy.

Our research continues to show that customers who rate their firm highest on customer advocacy are most likely to stay at and do more business with the firms they use. In the just-published “Customer Advocacy 2011: How Customers Rate US Banks, Investment Firms, and Insurers,” we show which firms are ranked highest by their customers – and which ones bring up the rear. 

The Big US banks dominate the bottom of our rankings of 47 firms. Thirteen of the bottom 14 firms are banks, including all of the nation’s 10 largest banks. Fewer than one-in-four customers of Citibank and Capital One Bank believe that the firm has their best interests at heart.  Small banking institutions, on the other hand, are among the customer advocacy leaders – and are winning market share in the process. Two-thirds of the customers of credit unions and well over half of the customers of regional and local banks rate their firms high on customer advocacy.

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We're Looking For Advisors To Manage The Rapid Growth Of Our eBusiness & Channel Strategy Executive Council

Andrew Stockwell

The barometer of success for today's eBusiness and channel strategy professionals is changing rapidly. The emergence of new connected devices, global and empowered customers, and the management of "traditional" channels all present difficult challenges. 

  • How will customer behavior determine your evolving commerce strategy?
  • How should you optimize your people, process, and technology to serve today's empowered customers across touchpoints?
  • How should you apply social and mobile to drive commerce?
  • What approach should you employ for your commerce globalization and international expansion efforts?
  • What technology should you apply to best support commerce and service, drive revenue, and reduce costs?

Our team works to help you address these questions every day. Specifically, within our growing council of eBusiness and channel strategy professionals, our advisors manage relationships with eBusiness executives at top-tier firms to help them address these and other challenges. And based on our growth, we're looking for help. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an advisor on our team, please consider the following open positions for which we are hiring:

  • Senior Advisor - Serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals (US)
  • Advisor - Serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals (US)

I hope we'll have the opportunity to work together!

Clamoring For Answers Around Your Insurance Claims Strategy? You’re Not Alone

Ellen Carney

Without a doubt, the hottest inquiry category for insurance ebusiness and channel execs (and insurance IT, for that matter) has been anything to do with claims.  And why not, since as one insurance ebiz executive we talked with pointed out, isn’t claim handling the real business of insurance?   We also saw the big interest in both customer experience and claims processing when we surveyed 75 or so US and Canadian insurers a little less than a year ago, with both appearing in the top three insurance business priorities into 2011.

The claim is the real moment of truth in the insurer-policyholder relationship, and that experience is a big factor in whether that policyholder decides to stick around when the claim gets settled.  Just what’s on the minds of insurance roles when it comes to claims this year?   For starters, here’s a sampling of claim-related inquiry topics I’ve fielded:

  • What’s the business value of claims concierge services?  (and check this out—three inquiries about claims concierge services in two days!)
  • Why do policyholders still want to file claims with their agents?
  • How is document scanning and imaging being used for claims?
  • What role is streaming video playing in claims?
  • What’s the state of mobile claims applications for field adjusters?
  • And many, many questions on the vendor landscape for claims applications, including an interesting one on  integrating legal matter management into the claims system for asbestos-related workers’ comp claims

I’m just wrapping up a report on how carriers can tame the claims beast, but in the meantime, if you’d like to learn our thinking and what else is simmering around the topic of claims, that’s just an inquiry away.