Mao Zedong is quoted as having said that: “A revolution is not a dinner party . . . A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”
However, history also shows us that violence is not the only way to lead transformational change in a society that is locked into a traditional way of being. Some iconic campaigners for peaceful change, such as Gandhi or Leo Tolstoy, come from relatively privileged backgrounds and were well positioned to take a front seat in leading change. However, others have risen from very humble beginnings. Martin Luther King. Sophie Scholl. Emmeline Pankhurst. All people from ordinary backgrounds who rose to prominence through their single-minded vision of a better world, their ability to communicate their passion, and the courage of their convictions in the face of overwhelming opposition to their way of thinking.
So why is this relevant to a blog that’s normally about eBusiness?
I often tell audiences that if you want to see the future of B2B eCommerce, look to the present and recent past of B2C eCommerce. Be it personalization, robust search, or targeted pricing, B2B eBusiness and channel strategy professionals today are closely studying B2C eCommerce for proven opportunities to drive more business online.
On October 25 at the Forrester eBusiness and Channel Strategy Forum in Chicago, I’ll be highlighting how the best and most innovative B2B eCommerce organizations are incorporating B2C best practices into their plans, processes, and platforms. At the Forum, I’ll be discussing:
The impact consumerization is having on B2B eCommerce. Because all B2B customers are also B2C consumers, they’re comparing their B2B eCommerce experiences with gold-standard B2C eCommerce experiences from the likes of Amazon. And like B2C consumers these days, B2B customers demand that products and services be delivered faster, less expensively, and more conveniently than ever before. The bar has been raised . . . and B2B companies must deliver.
How successful B2B eCommerce organizations are leveraging classic B2C eCommerce principles. Early winners in the B2B eCommerce space have successfully incorporated B2C-like personalization, recommendations, interactivity, search, self-help, and ratings/reviews into their B2B eCommerce shopping experiences. Not everything from B2C will translate perfectly, or even at all, into B2B. But much will. And much already has.
JC Penney’s CEO Ron Johnson is hedging his bets that among other innovations, in-store iPads and iPods will help make his new concept stores a hip place for customers to hang out. Ron is not alone in his mission; Macy's, Staples, Urban Outfitters, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Sephora, Clinique (the list goes on and on) are all in the process of piloting new in-store digital technologies.
However, “hip” is not a business case. In-store technologies must not only digitize existing experiences but, in doing so, must improve upon or completely re-invent them. As I see retail technology concepts like magic mirrors, virtual shelves, augmented reality displays, and touchscreen kiosks, I worry that retailers are getting swept away in the hysteria of the technology and are failing to articulate the value proposition that these technologies offer to the consumer.
Don’t get me wrong; many of these in-store digital experiences resonate well with the tech-savvy Gen Y shopper, but do they make the shopping experience more convenient?
Picture the scene: Mom has 20 minutes to spare on the way to pick up the kids from school, so by the time she’s found a parking spot, she has 10 minutes (at best) left to walk into the store, find what she is looking for, pay for it, and get out again without risking being late. Does she have any chance of meeting her SLA? Probably not, unless she knows exactly what aisle the product(s) she needs is in, whether the product(s) is in stock, and whether the checkout lines are empty.
Today Forrester released its new book Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. At the crux of the book is a powerful message for all firms and in particular for eBusiness professionals: We are in the age of the customer. The only way to create sustainable competitive advantage is by being customer obsessed. In the book authors Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine outline how companies can save billions, gain loyalty, and profit from customer experience excellence.
The message and methodologies in the book are essential for eBusiness professionals, who orchestrate the digital experience across touchpoints for customers in many firms. We're seeing eBusiness professionals putting customers at the center of their businesses by shifting from outdated strategies to agile commerce principles. eBusiness professionals are turning agile commerce into a reality by:
I was sitting on a United Airlines flight from PDX to SFO last weekend. The usual "Jeff Smisek" video came on welcoming the passengers, providing us with information about how the transition is going and thanking us for choosing United. For the first time in more than a year, I lifted my head from my printed material (no electronics during taxi, takeoff, and landing) to watch the video and listen. He was talking about United's mobile services AND the feature set. Whoa.
Jeff Smisek has been welcoming passengers on to United flights since just after the acquisition - I think he talked for 6 to 8 months about getting the planes painted with their new logo. Then there was the full merger of the crews and upgrades to the plane interior, etc. I had long ago stopped paying attention . . . like most passengers flying 100x/year, I just want to get where I'm going on time safely, and I bring my own food and entertainment on board.
I just couldn't believe that the CEO of a Fortune 100 company was discussing their mobile services. I have photos from United's jetways that are less than two years old offering push notifications to pagers. Yeah, email and pagers.
Mr. Smisek - I commend you. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies have senior level buy-in for their mobile strategy. Seldom, however, does a CEO become such an advocate. I was thrilled to see the video and the associated support. Like all frequent travelers, I rely heavily on my mobile phone for updates and information. Your mobile team is outstanding and has a phenomenal vision for how mobile should serve your passengers and staff. I was happy to see the recognition.
Here at Forrester, we’ve been evangelizing the concept of agile commerce for a while now, and we are working on a stream of research building on the concept and digging into exactly how leading organizations are transforming themselves to embrace the era of agile commerce. One of the questions I personally get asked is what exactly does an agile business look like? How do you recognize one?
In speaking to a number of leading practitioners in this space, I have found that there are four things that agile businesses have in common. They:
Architect the experience. Agile organizations don’t allow touchpoints to emerge randomly or operate independently from one another. They design compelling cross-touchpoint experiences that are meaningful to their customers and add value to the brand, like “Click and Collect” for a retailer or mobile-driven online check-in for an airline.
Are customer-obsessed. Agile commerce means putting the customer at the heart of every decision, bringing quantitative and qualitative customer insight to every decision, and even reorganizing around the customer life cycle to focus teams on what the customer needs, not what the channel thinks.
Enable with technology. Agility demands some key underpinning enterprise technology components, such as a commerce platform that can serve the Web, mobile, and stores. But it also requires that touchpoints are unshackled from back-end systems by a common set of commerce APIs.
Together with our colleague Manish Bahl in Forrester’s New Delhi office, we just published our first report analyzing the eCommerce landscape in India. The report looks at the changing demands of the online shopper in India and the way in which companies in India are adapting to meet these demands.
In this report, we note that:
India’s eCommerce market is at an early stage. India’s eCommerce market today is small but growing rapidly. From a revenue perspective, India is on par with other early stage eCommerce markets such as Mexico, while substantially smaller than more mature online retail markets such as Brazil and China.
I recently wrote a post about "eBusiness professionals edging closer and closer to the C-Suite. It's happening across many organizations and has a lot of implications -- from eBusiness pros needing to understand stores and branches better to more critically eyeing partnerships and competitors that can help or inhibit growth. No conversation about partnerships or digital disruption would be complete without a discussion of the tech titans and the platforms driving key trends like social and mobile. Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple... every eBusiness professional we speak with has to have a strategy for working with at least one, if not all, of these firms. The language we hear from folks about these relationships is colorful, including "Deal with the devil," "frenemy," "necessary evil," and so on. Everyone has something to say about digital disruption and how to best harness it, so we decided to put those people on our stage at our upcoming eBusiness Forum and let them have at it!
As we roll towards 2013, the tide is turning; leading online brands, including Apple, Best Buy, Four Seasons Hotels, and Rue La La to name a few, are now putting the features of HTML5 to use on their desktop sites with the goal of enhancing the online experience for customers using modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and IE9. We are at an inflection point: With consumer adoption of HTML5-“capable” desktop browsers widespread and web developer understanding of the technology rapidly maturing, HTML5 is no longer an emerging toolset for mobile and tablet development. Instead, it is fast becoming the de facto standard for web experience innovation across touchpoints.
As eBusiness teams evaluate the business case for HTML5 on the desktop, it is important to remember that this not an all-new technology— it is a collection of individual features that extend the existing W3C HTML standards. The decision to start using HTML5 or CSS3 does not require any changes to or throwing away of existing code. Instead, eBusiness teams can simply enhance the user experience of existing sites by incrementally using the new features of HTML5. HTML5 puts more tools in the box, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals of how to build the website.
Last week, my colleague Brian Walker and I released a lengthy overview of Amazon, its role in retail, and what eBusiness executives need to do to compete with this growing retail force. The larger undercurrent of the report is that Amazon is affecting everyone’s business: its tentacles extend far into digital and physical goods, it is vertically integrated but also a distributor, it is unafraid to spend money to gain market share, and it can successfully compete on price with retailers far bigger than itself. And when disruptive forces arise, they dominate for years. So that begs an even bigger question of Amazon: if this is its decade, who will displace it? The company seems unstoppable now, and it will take a radical new business to displace it. Here are three possibilities:
Walmart with a monster marketplace. Walmart in its current form will only continue to lose share to Amazon. While Walmart continues to focus on aggressive pricing by pressuring suppliers, Amazon has an equally compelling value proposition for shoppers because it has a lucrative marketplace. And while Walmart has dipped its toe in a marketplace its own, it’s really been a mediocre effort. BUT if Walmart really had a bona fide marketplace, say, by acquiring eBay, it would give it an economic model more similar to Amazon’s: a high-margin business that can bolster the low-margin one. And deeper Walmart pockets mean that someone could finally out-Amazon Amazon.