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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The Battle For The Digital Wallet

Benjamin Ensor

Over the past couple of years I have been intrigued by the concept of a 'digital wallet' that will combine mobile payments with a variety of other benefits for customers. The more people I talk to, the more convinced I am that mobile digital wallets will mark a big shift in retail payments. A mobile digital wallet is more than just a mobile payment system because it combines:

  • Mobile payment. Digital wallets are likely combine several different payments systems into a single service, including mobile contactless payments, online (i.e. web) payments, and over-the-network mobile payments, making it easy for customers to make a variety of different types of payment from a mobile device.
  • Barcode scanning. Scanning barcodes or QR codes will let customers get more information about products, and let them pay for items on their phones before showing an on-screen receipt to leave the store.
  • Loyalty rewards. Instead of carrying (and sometimes forgetting) a separate loyalty card, digital wallets will track customers’ spending and offer merchant-funded rewards, either on the phone or at the point of sale.
  • Coupons and offers. Digital wallets are likely to offer customers coupons and location-based offers.
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The New Normal – Light Spending, Heavy Coupon Usage

Andy Hoar

A few days ago, online coupon site Retailmenot.com released results from its inaugural holiday edition Shoppers Trend Report. A combination of consumer trend data pulled from activity on Retailmenot.com and a survey by Ipsos regarding near-term consumer sentiments, the report corroborates much of what Forrester recently predicted for this year’s holiday shopping season:

  • Growth in overall retail spend will be positive but small. According to the Shoppers Trend Report, only 11% of consumers surveyed intend to increase their holiday spending.  Similarly, the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Forrester predict the U.S. will see only a marginal increase of 2.8% growth in overall retail spending this holiday season. 
  • Coupon use is on the rise. 58% of US online adults say that they are more price-conscious today than they were a year ago.  Not surprisingly, Experian Hitwise has seen downstream traffic from retailers to couponing sites grow 69% in the last three years. Similarly, Retailmenot.com has seen online coupon usage increase 23% in the months leading up to the holiday season.  Seems if there’s a deal lurking out there on the internet, price conscious consumers are out to find it.
  • Free shipping is preferred by online shoppers. 59%of US online adults say that they shop online more often with retailers that offer free shipping.  In fact, according to the Shoppers Trend Report, free shipping is the coupon promotional offer most favored by consumers – preferred by 26% of all shoppers.
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Mobile Banking: Just Another Channel Or Fundamental Strategic Shift?

Benjamin Ensor

In the past week I’ve have the privilege of talking to (or listening to) executives responsible for mobile banking at some of Europe’s biggest banks, including Bankinter, Barclays Bank, La Caixa, Lloyds TSB, Nordea and RBS, at Forrester’s Marketing & Strategy Forum and at a conference on Next Generation Mobile Banking hosted by The Banker. I’ve also spoken privately to many other executives over the past few months, including at Forrester’s eBusiness Council meeting this week.

Without naming names, I’m struck by the sharply different perspectives these executives have. Simplistically, their view of mobile banking falls into two camps:

                Mobile is just another channel. These executives see mobile banking as a way of letting customers do old things, like checking their account balance, in new ways.

                Mobile will revolutionize retail banking. These executives believe that mobility could turn the retail banking industry upside down, by enabling customers to do entirely new things like scanning bills to make payments, responding to location-based offers, and receiving rewards at the point of sale.

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Growing Momentum Around eCommerce In Brazil

Zia Daniell Wigder

Back in September, I wrote up a few of my findings from meetings with companies in the eCommerce space in Rio and São Paulo. We’re fielding an increasing number of questions about Brazil, and indeed, while eCommerce in Brazil today is still heavily dominated by local companies, the landscape is starting to include more international players:

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2D Bar Codes Are Everywhere, But Are They Having An Impact?

Julie Ask

2D bar codes  are on buses, in newspapers and magazines, storefronts, product packaging, store shelves, bus stops, mailings from political candidates, and subways. Retail stores like Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s have corporate programs for 2D codes. Honestly, it is hard to name a place that I haven’t seen a 2D bar code. Hard to say if there are more codes — or more consumers scanning the codes. I think it is the former. As with many things mobile, this is more of a supply-side-driven phenomenon than demand-side.

Why are there so many codes? They are one of many mobile technologies that facilitate the connection of consumers to relevant content when they need it. Scanning bar codes simplifies the experience of discovering content or initiating an action on a cell phone like sending a message or adding a contact to a phone. Brands are doing all they can to educate consumers about what codes are and how to use them. Budweiser, for example, has designed an entire TV commercial around tags from Spyderlink on its Bud Light cartons. See the video.

Plastering codes everywhere, however, is working —  adoption among US adults has increased from only 1% last year to 5% this year. Adoption among smartphone owners is three times that. While adoption is relatively low today, the strong growth in usage of the codes by brands and consumers alike indicates a bright future for brands looking to deepen their engagement with consumers. Bar codes don’t facilitate just marketing —  they will be used 360 degrees around a customer’s journey —  from branding or consideration through to purchase and replenishment.

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