Marks And Spencer's "Plan A" Doesn't Specifically Mean "Agile." But It Could.

Martin Gill

 I’m constantly searching for great examples of agile commerce practitioners. These are hard to find, and it’s rare to come across any one organization that exemplifies everything that we believe an agile business needs to be.

Dynamic. Willing to take calculated risks. Organized for cross-touchpoint customer engagement. A clear vision for the future with the customer firmly at the center.

In the various interviews I do, I frequently find that I end up talking about a British retail icon.

Marks and Spencer.

So what’s so special about M&S, you may ask. Well, not only is M&S a digital innovator in the space of video and its use of social media, but under the leadership of its Chief Executive Mark Bolland it is transforming itself into a truly multichannel organization. With a clear ambition to be the “UK’s leading multichannel retailer,” M&S has set itself a stretching target.

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Introducing Forrester’s Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark

Peter Wannemacher

Technology is radically changing the way bank customers interact with their providers, and mobile touchpoints are at the forefront of this change. In the past five years, mobile banking adoption in the US has more than quadrupled, hitting 17% by the end of 2011. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 33%.

As such, eBusiness professionals and mobile strategists at banks are in a white-knuckle contest to out-do each other in the mobile space. To evaluate and gauge banks’ mobile offerings, we applied Forrester’s Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark to the four largest retail banks in the US.                                                                                                 

What we found:

  • Big US banks offer solid, not-yet-splendid, mobile services.  We employ 63 individual criteria in our Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark methodology. The combination of weightings and scores for the criteria generates an overall score based on a 100-point scale. In our inaugural ranking, the four largest US banks posted an average score of 63 out of 100 – above our minimum standards but far from perfect.
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Our View On What Matters In European Retail Banking eBusiness & Channel Strategy

Benjamin Ensor

The past five years have been awful for most European retail banks. The financial crisis, and the resulting recessions in most of Europe's economies, nearly destroyed some banks and crushed the profitability of many of the remainder. Worse than that, it was a problem that was partly or largely of (some) banks' own making. Banks are being forced to shrink their balance sheets, sell off non-core businesses and cut costs (i.e. fire employees) just to survive. And Europe's ongoing financial crises are far from over as banks' fortunes are closely entwined with those of their indebted governments.

There's one small silver lining among these dark clouds. Over the past 15 years, eBusiness has evolved from providing an electronic brochure to become a fundamental strategic function within retail banks. One of the effects of the financial crisis has been to force most European banks to focus on how to generate profits in their core retail banking operations by serving customers efficiently. Digital banking is a big part of the answer. So, despite the bleak economic outlook, most retail banking boards know that they must continue investing in digital channels. Digital strategy is an increasingly important component in overall strategy.

I'm still surprised when I find heads of eBusiness who remain marginalized within their firms, reporting into IT or marketing rather than a centralized distribution channels function alongside branches. The leading banks no longer make that mistake. That has greatly increased the power and influence of digital banking executives, but also their responsibility for the overall success of their businesses.

Here's our view of the top five priorities for eBusiness and channel strategy executives at European retail banks:

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Forrester Releases Its New Asia Pacific Online Retail Forecast

Zia Daniell Wigder

Today we published our Asia Pacific Online Retail Forecast, 2011-2016 highlighting online retail sales in five different markets in Asia Pacific: China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and India.

Along with providing overall online retail market sizes, we note that:

The combined size and growth of China's eCommerce market are unprecedented. China's online retail market surpassed $100B in 2011 and continues to grow at a breakneck pace — when the US online retail market was the same size as the market in China today, growth was considerably slower. We revised our forecast upward to reflect the fact that online sales continue to increase at a rapid pace, even as the market size swells.

Growth rates in Japan, South Korea, and Australia are more tempered. In contrast to China, online retail sales in Japan, South Korea, and Australia will grow at rates more in line with those of the US and developed eCommerce markets of Europe. However, all three markets are attracting increased investment as a growing number of both domestic and foreign players launch new online offerings in these countries. 

India will grow quickly off a small base. India's eCommerce market, by far the smallest of those covered in our forecast, is poised to grow by more than five-fold by 2016 as the number of online buyers and per capita online spending increase rapidly. This market is gaining more attention as global brands look to markets that are in the early stages of eCommerce adoption but offer significant long-term potential.

Forrester clients can read a summary of the report here.

How Quickly Can You Add A New Touchpoint?

Martin Gill

Here at Forrester we have been talking about the concept of "agile commerce" for some time now, but it's not always easy to point to live examples of “agile”businesses. What is agile commerce? How do I become agile? Both are very valid questions that we are in the process of building out a series of research documents and case studies in order to answer.

But there is a live example happening right now that encapsulates what agile is all about for me.

 Pinterest.

For those of you who are yet to become completely addicted to Pinterest (and you will), it's basically an image sharing site that allows you to group together images from around the web into categories and pin them to a virtual pin board. It creates highly visual mood boards, wish lists, galleries, and collections of images that link back through to the original source (which is where Pinterest makes its money). And since so many Pinterest boards are all about style — fashion and home in particular — it has the potential to be a bit of a retail gold mine.

 

Unlike Facebook, which is much more about social connections, it looks like Pinterest users are more in a discovery and pre-shopping mode when they are pinning and are pre-inclined to buy if they click through to a retail website. With an ever-expanding network of users, Pinterest has the potential to bring some much needed serendipity to web shopping.

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US Online Retailers Still Look First To Europe Despite Growing Interest In Emerging Markets

Zia Daniell Wigder

Online retailers are rapidly adding emerging markets to their list of new global opportunities to explore, as these markets are set to take a growing percentage of global eCommerce sales going forward.  However, it’s important to remember that Europe still ranks as at the most popular region outside of North America for US online retailers expanding internationally. The market is set to grow at a healthy pace over the next five years: Clients can read my colleague Martin Gill’s recently published forecast of online retail sales in key markets across Europe.

Some takeaways from recent conversations with online retailers expanding into and within Europe:

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The Age Of The Customer Drives Four Insurance eBusiness Mega-Trends In 2012

Ellen Carney

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:

  1. Become obsessed about their customers
  2. Get serious about how to collaborate better with their agents
  3. Focus on the infrastructure that supports the digital business
  4. Refine their thinking about what eBusiness means to the insurance ecosystem
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Some Thoughts On FiftyOne's Acquisition Of Borderfree

Zia Daniell Wigder

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.

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Learning From Digital Innovation At Commonwealth Bank Of Australia

Benjamin Ensor

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, Commonwealth Bank 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.)
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Online Retail Goes From Strength To Strength Across Europe

Martin Gill

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

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