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.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Finovate, it’s a fast-paced format with seven-minute live demos and pitches from 35 financial technology vendors. It’s produced by Online Financial Innovations, the people behind the excellent NetBanker blog.
I was lucky enough to go along to the show in London today. Unlike last year, when four or five themes dominated the day, this year’s exhibitors were more diverse. Among them were:
Since the 1970’s, retail stores have slowly undergone a digital evolution. POS systems replaced cash registers, credit cards became the payment norm, and security tags reminded shoppers to pay. Despite these changes, the fundamentals of the customer shopping experience remained unchanged: We still pick up products, ponder a decision, and either leave empty-handed or wait in line to pay.
However, in the digitally connected store of 2012, big changes are underway. Fixed checkout aisles and cash registers are being replaced by smartphone-wielding store associates who now take the checkout to the customer. Furthermore, the smartphone generation performs self-assisted checkouts directly from their phones while sleek new in-store touch-screens allow them to experience products without opening the box or removing the coat hanger.
The technologies being adopted. Retailers such as Lowe’s, Gap, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Sears are rolling out smartphones and tablets to their store associates and investing in next-generation interactive displays and kiosks. Certain solutions are starting to prevail across retailers.
The empowerment of the sales associate. Armed with smartphones and tablets, empowered sales associates are helping customers on the shop floor as well as busting checkout queues with mobile POS.