Until a few months ago Bank of America won the “Best In Biting The Hand That Feeds You” Award when it initiated its $5 debit card fee increase. Citibank may have trumped that in January when it decided that frequent flier miles that it gave away as promotional bonuses in exchange for getting customers to sign up for a new bank account was taxable income that needed to be reported to the IRS. The absurdity of this move is so large it’s not even measurable. Because if they pull this off, they will solidify a position as an anti-customer bank at a time when banks could use some customer love, but worse they threaten to kill the single most effective tactic in the entire marketing industry: the promotion. By giving away a gift in return for a customer’s patronage, and then calling it taxable income, this is the ultimate string attached. Does this mean free ice cream at Ben & Jerry's on their customer appreciation day is taxable? What about upgrades airlines sometimes give for free on flights? Or the eyeglasses that Coastal.com is giving away for free? Most of the time your social security number isn’t captured, so there isn't an easy means to report any promotion or gift to the IRS, but let’s hope we never get to the day where we do have to give away such information in order to take advantage of a promotion. How anyone at Citi could have thought this was a good idea (and not making very clear the taxation consequences) is baffling. Marketing freebies are aimed at getting new customers or retaining existing
This year, North American insurers overall are pretty darn happy. For starters, there clear signs that the economy is finally starting to gain steam, premiums are on the rise, the market’s firming, and the political will may well shift enough to revisit past regulatory reforms, particularly those that impact health insurers. And these factors are coalescing into the new strategies for 2012. In our “Trends 2012: North American Insurance eBusiness And Channel Strategy”, we discuss what factors are driving insurance ebusiness teams to:
Become obsessed about their customers
Get serious about how to collaborate better with their agents
Focus on the infrastructure that supports the digital business
Refine their thinking about what eBusiness means to the insurance ecosystem
Springtime in London will bring the Forrester eBusiness and Channel Strategy Summit (May 23). The event will focus on how progressive organizations are actually executing effectively in serving their customers across a complex array of touchpoints. In particular, we'll spend a good deal of time talking about the impact mobile is having on how we all effectively serve customers. Julie Ask will lead us off on that topic from her vast knowledge in the mobile space. She and Thomas Husson recently published their much-read Mobile Trends assessment for this year — great read.
FiftyOne, the company that provides globalization and international logistics services to US-based online retailers such as Gap, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel, announced today that it is acquiring Canada Post’s Borderfree unit. Borderfree, one of the first organizations to play a role in driving cross-border eCommerce, carved out a niche for itself helping US online retailers target online shoppers in Canada.
A few observations:
The acquisition does not disrupt the landscape of solution providers. With this acquisition, FiftyOne boosts its Canadian offerings and takes a small competitor out of the market, but the acquisition does not counter any direct threat from another solution provider in the space. Other providers tend to focus on different market segments, for example, International Checkout counts hundreds of clients in the SMB space, while BorderJump focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean (For an outline of different vendors, clients can read our 2011 report on Using International Shipping To Reach Online Shoppers Around The Globe). Today FiftyOne does not face another rival with the same roster of large clients.
There are a number of firms that we watch closely at Forrester because they stand out for sustained innovation. Behind the technology giants like Google and Apple, there are a number of established firms that are using technology to adapt rapidly and successfully to changing customer behaviour and needs. One of them is Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Over the past four to five years CommBank has introduced a series of digital innovations to serve its customers better including:
Finest Online. In the course of its "Finest Online" project from 2007 to 2009, CommonwealthBank of Australia redesigned its NetBank Internet banking service with the objectives of building an excellent customer experience and driving online sales. The bank implemented new content and functionality to support the customer journey and integrated new secure site sales processes with in-person channels and the bank's multichannel customer relationship management (CRM) system. The two-year, cross-organizational project boosted online sales, increased customer satisfaction, and improved the bank's image. (Forrester clients can read our case study.)
eCommerce sales continue to grow rapidly, having topped $200 billion in 2011. As web shopping has been on an upward trajectory for over a decade now, these figures should shock few. We expect online sales will grow from 7% of overall retail sales to close to 9% by 2016. Key drivers of this growth include:
Aggressive deals, particularly during Q4. During key time periods in the last holiday season (e.g., Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday), more than 70% of online holiday buyers (in a joint survey with Bizrate Insights) say that they purchased online instead of in stores because deals online were better.
Innovative new business models. Among the most rapidly growing business models of the last decade were the flash sales sites, companies like Gilt Groupe and Woot. An earlier study that Forrester conducted with online shoppers showed that the majority of consumers said they spend less at traditional retailers after shopping at these daily deals sites.
More online loyalty programs. While over the years physical stores and brands have managed to capture greater shopper data with loyalty programs and private label credit card programs, online retailers such as Amazon.com have essentially created loyalty programs of their own with shipping clubs. In fact, during the holiday season in 2010, 9% of online buyers said they belonged to such a program, while in 2011 12% of online shoppers affirmed the same (again, a joint survey with Bizrate Insights).
Concerns over crumbling economies, the collapse of the euro, and enforced austerity measures can’t have escaped your attention if you live in Europe. It’s easy to believe that consumers aren’t spending, that business growth is almost impossible and as retail giants like Tesco post gloomy results, hard times are ahead.
But the news is considerably more positive for eBusiness professionals.
The European Commission has high hopes for online growth. Its “Single Digital Market” strategy aims to double online sales by 2015. While its initiative may have some positive impact, it’s simply too short a timescale for such a radical shift.
That said, online retail in Europe is on a firm growth trajectory. Online retail sales will continue to outperform overall retail sales figures in terms of percentage growth for many years to come in Europe. In times of austerity, more and more shoppers are turning to the web to find deals and offers and to save money. As the web becomes an increasingly mainstream part of the lives of many Europeans, eBusiness professionals must adapt their strategies to accommodate consumers who are finding information about products and services and increasingly transacting across multiple touchpoints.
The online registration page has always been a necessary evil. Despite the obvious need to collect customer information online, 11% of US adults have previously abandoned an online purchase either because they didn't want to register online or the site they were visiting was asking for too much information. Many websites make it downright difficult to register, with seemingly endless input fields, complex password requirements and even annoying captchas all conspiring to make the process of buying online incredibly frustrating. To put this in context, a retailer with $200m of annual online revenues could be leaving a further $22m on the table simply due to the complexity of the registration step in their checkout process. But this is old news. For years eBusiness professionals have obsessed with optimizing the registration process, using A/B and multivariate testing to try and find the right balance between collecting enough customer information and exasperating their customers.
However, the days of optimizing the registration process may be fast coming to an end. In fact the playbook on customer registration tactics is being completely rewritten as a new and increasingly familiar button takes hold across the web:
At our Marketing & Strategy Forum last November, Sean Gilchrist, head of digital banking at Barclays Bank, talked passionately about the importance of customer experience to the work being done by his team at Barclays. It's good to see some of the results of that focus on customers in two innovations introduced by Barclays in the past few weeks:
Firstly, Barclays has started rolling out a new online banking interface. While I'm sure that not every customer will like the change, the point is that Barclays is taking a modular (or widget-like) approach to displaying content and functionality in anticipation of having to serve customers on a rapidly growing range of digital devices. We think that approach is going to become increasingly common as eBusiness teams adjust to the fragmentation brought by the Splinternet.
Let’s take a step back, first. You started as the “mobile person” two to three years ago. You siphoned a hundred thousand dollars or so from the eBusiness team budget and got a mobile optimized web site and maybe an application or two built. You measured your success by engagement – web traffic and application downloads. Maybe you measured direct revenue. Life was easy.
Two to three years later, as eBusiness professionals, you’ve got some experience with building, deploying and maintaining mobile services. You’ve added tablets to your portfolio. Hopefully you’ve convinced your organization that you need at least a 7-figure budget. Most industries have seen clear financial returns on these investments so that hasn’t been too hard. As eBusiness professionals working on mobile, you were feeling a lot of love.
In 2011, you benchmarked yourselves versus your competition. You looked at native applications by platform and key functionality on mobile web and applications. You took a deep breath and said, “ok, we’ve done it. We have mobile services. We’ve checked the box. Mobile web traffic and sales are growing. We’re good.” Perhaps others with fewer services are thinking, “I can see what we need to do. I think we can catch up if I can get some budget.”
The thing you are seeing though is – the finish line is out of sight. Mobile has only gotten more complicated – not less. No one feels comfortable. No one feels they can slow down, stop spending, or rest. Anxiety levels are high.