Does Your Company's Tax Policy Matter To eBusiness?

Benjamin Ensor

Today is, apparently, Cyber Monday in the UK. But there's a more interesting story in the UK's eCommerce market. It's about tax.

The debate is about the tax policies of a number of prominent multi-national businesses that operate in the UK, including Amazon, eBay, Google, Starbucks and Vodafone, most of which pay little or no Corporation Tax, which is levied as a percentage of profits. (It's relatively easy and perfectly legal for a subsidiary of a multi-national company to avoid taxes on profits in one country by buying services from a sister company in another country so that it makes no profit in the first country.)

Today, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons published a scathing report on tax avoidance by multi-national companies operating in the UK. As the report puts it about Starbucks, which has made no profits in the UK for 14 of the past 15 years: "We found it difficult to believe that a commercial company with a 31% market share by turnover, with a responsibility to its shareholders and investors to make a decent return, was trading with apparent losses for nearly every year of its operation in the UK." What the committee says about Amazon is, if anything, worse.

What's the relevance to eBusiness? While it's uncomfortable for Google and Starbucks to be in the limelight for the wrong reasons, demand for both information and coffee is (presumably) fairly constant through the year. But for retailers Amazon and eBay, the timing couldn't be worse, because this debate is taking place in the run-up to Christmas, the crucial sales period for all retailers in the UK.

This debate raises three questions:

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Commerce Server, Cactus Commerce & Ascentium - The Path Forward

Peter Sheldon

In the words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, everything flows and nothing stands still. This is certainly true of Ascentium, the Seattle based interactive agency that last year acquired Cactus Commerce and Microsoft’s Commerce Server. This week, the company firmed up its strategy following last year’s acquisition spree. The result: the company is splitting in two, creating two separate entities focusing on services and product respectively. 

They are:

  • SmithSmith is the result of merging together Ascentium and Cactus Commerce. The old brands are now gone for good, and the new brand with a headcount of over 300 staff aims to offer both digital agency and commerce technology services to its brand partners.
  • Commerce Server.net– After the takeover of Microsoft’s Commerce Server product last November, Ascentium quickly re-branded the product as Ascentium Commerce Server 2009. Yesterday, Smith (previously Ascentium) announced that the product division of the company (a combination of the product IP from Microsoft and the product development resources from Cactus) has been re-branded as a wholly owned, but independently managed subsidiary called Commerce Server.net
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Are you spending enough on eBusiness?

Carrie Johnson

Ever wonder if you're spending enough on your eBusiness efforts compared with your peers? We've been benchmarking key metrics like team size, channel responsibilities, and spending for four years and this week we’ve launched our quarterly eBusiness and Channel Strategy Panel Survey to keep adding to that rich data.

We have designed the survey to help eBusiness and Channel Strategy Professionals determine the size of companies' eBusiness budgets, the size of their technology investments, and how these numbers compare with overall firm spending.  Additionally, it will shed light on the key roles and responsibilities eBusiness executives are playing, what channels firms focusing on, and where future investment priorities lie. 

Here are the details:

  • The survey takes less than 20 minutes to complete.
  • Responses will be kept strictly confidential and published only in an aggregated and anonymous manner.
  • Respondents will receive a free copy of the survey results and a free Forrester report.

Here's the link to the survey again. Thanks for participating!

Agile Commerce – that’s Forrester’s word for “Omnichannel,” right?

Martin Gill

You’ve all heard the term “Omnichannel.” And since you are reading this blog I’m going to assume you’ve also all heard the term “Agile Commerce.” If not, then stop reading now and check out Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce and Agile Commerce: Know it When You See It.

So either you are back, or you were with me all along. But now you are wondering “Ok, so what is the difference?” Let’s look at what the two terms really mean. Omnichannel doesn’t have a formal definition, though here’s what the oracle that is Wikipedia says…

Omni-Channel Retailing is very similar to, and an evolution of, multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, catalog, and so on.”

On the other hand, Forrester defines agile commerce as…

“An approach to commerce that enables businesses to optimize their people, processes, and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints.”

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Why Visa’s V.me Digital Wallet Matters To eBusiness

Benjamin Ensor

I attended a briefing from Visa Europe yesterday, about its V.me digital wallet. Here’s what Visa said:V.me by Visa

  • V.me is more than a mobile digital wallet. Customers will be able to use V.me to make online payments too. It lets users check out at online stores using a one-click solution that remembers card details from multiple providers (including MasterCard and American Express cards) as well as billing details and postal addresses.
  • V.me is not just about mobile contactless payments. V.me will support a variety of ways to initiate payments including bar codes and QR codes, as well as NFC.
  • Visa intends to distribute V.me through its member banks, much as Visa cards are distributed today. BBVA will be the first issuer in Spain.
  • V.me is already in extended pilots in the UK and Spain to test the system and will launch formally in both countries soon. France will be next. V.me will start rolling out into stores in the UK next spring. Officially V.me will be available in France, Spain and the UK by next summer. (Visa Inc has already launched V.me in the US).
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Innovation Lessons From BBVA

Benjamin Ensor

BBVAI spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Forrester’s European Customer Experience Forum in London, which was based on the theme of Outside In, Forrester’s new book. One of the most interesting sessions I attended was ‘The Customer Centric Bank’ from Gustavo Vinacua, Innovation Center Director at BBVA’s Centro de Innovación in Madrid.

Over the past decade, BBVA has worked hard to become more customer centric and match its offerings to its customers’ needs. Given the pace of technology change, customers’ rising expectations and the digital disruption those forces cause, innovation is a critical part of the role of eBusiness and channel strategy executives. I thought I would share a few of Gustavo’s insights here for those of you who couldn’t attend. BBVA has become systematically innovative, launching a continuous succession of innovations many of which were a first in Spain, in Europe or in the world, such as:

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Join Our eBusiness Team! We’re Hiring A Principal/Senior Analyst Focused On eCommerce Technology

Zia Daniell Wigder

eCommerce technology is a fast-growing, rapidly evolving industry – we’re looking for a Principal/Senior Analyst to help build our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area. 

Here’s a quick snapshot from the job description:

The Principal/Senior Analyst will write for, present to, and advise eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in the retail, wholesale, and CPG industries to help guide their eCommerce and other multichannel commerce technology decisions. He/she will need a strong understanding of the business and technology issues facing eBusiness executives today and an appetite for conducting and writing research to stay abreast of the issues.

If this is you, we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out directly to me at zwigder at forrester dot com or submit via the job posting

How Sophisticated Is Your Approach To Mobile?

Julie Ask

Today, Forrester published an updated study to help eBusiness professionals understand how their peers in other companies with more experience are taking on mobile. The report (which clients can find here) is titled "Mobile Maturity Equates To Mobile Competency."

In the study, Forrester put eBusiness professionals into one of three groups based on the maturity of their mobile strategy - how many years a strategy had been in place. From there, the report provides an in-depth comparison of the approach to developing mobile strategies, level of collaboration, staffing, use of technology, spend, key performance metrics used, and approach to development.

A few key takeaways:

- Senior leaderships is essential. Only 54% of companies just getting started with mobile feel their company sees mobile as a strategic initiative. In comparison, 87% of eBusiness professionals with a more established plan have this support.

- eBusiness professionals with more experience are more likely to build in-house. They understand that mobile services cannot be one-off projects. Mobile services are assets, touchpoints, channels, and more that require infrastructure and ongoing maintenance and improvements. They also use consultants or agencies but lean toward custom builds to get the most out of the medium.

- eBusiness professionals often lead with iOS applications, followed by Android. Less than 10% of experienced eBusiness professionals build for BlackBerry or Windows today.

- Experienced eBusiness professionals have a process in place to develop strategy that either is mobile POST or strongly resembles mobile POST.

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The End Of A Long Week In eBusiness In New York

Zia Daniell Wigder

My colleague Patti Freeman Evans put up a great blog post yesterday about eBusiness efforts post-Sandy. I wanted to finish off the week with a snapshot of the ATM screen I took about 10 minutes ago at my local Chase branch - amazing what a multi-touchpoint world we now live in (I count up to six in this one message alone!).

Wishing everyone a safe weekend.

Windows Phone 8 - What Does It Mean For eCommerce Professionals?

Julie Ask

I attended the Windows Phone media event in San Francisco today. The filter I put on was, "What does this mean for the eBusiness professional?" VERY few of the executives we have surveyed are building experiences or applications for the Windows platform today (and yes, you could argue that in part that is because they knew Windows Phone 8 was coming and wouldn't be backwards-compatible, but, honestly, mostly it is because there are so few Windows phones in the US relative to Android and iOS). Only 21% of the executives we surveyed a year ago were using Windows with another 27% planning to do so (see this report). 

There is a lot of talk - mostly at a high level - about how you have to define different experiences for iOS and Android because expectations are different, consumers use the devices differently, etc. The most interesting aspect of the Windows Phone 8 event today was the "live" tiles. I have seen similar in the past with Nokia devices - streaming Facebook updates, news, etc. to "live" tiles on my home screen.

What I haven't seen yet is a good use case for "live tiles" for eBusiness professionals. Everyone is chatting about push-based notifications - they are contextual, they deep-link into the application, they drive usage of the application, etc. These "live" tiles with streaming content or media could be even more interesting. Microsoft today showed examples with Groupon and other discount/deal providers. As a bank, you don't want to display someone's balance. As an insurance provider, you don't want to post "a bill is due" or "we're not paying out your claim." You might want to post content around hurricanes and the potential danger. Retailers and travel companies can post deals. 

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