These are worrying times for people across Europe as the euro lurches towards another crisis, with leaders talking openly about the possibility of Greece leaving the euro and reports of customers starting to withdraw deposits from banks in Greece and Bankia in Spain.
It's easy to feel powerless in the face of such powerful forces, but fundamentally the repeated euro crises are about two things: debt and confidence. Lots of individuals, small companies, banks and governments across Europe have a large amount of debt, and lenders -- depositors, investors and other banks -- aren't completely confident that all of them will be able to pay it back. It's critical to avoid a vicious spiral of declining confidence that will harm Europe's economic prospects and the livelihoods of its peoples.
What can bank eBusiness executives do about it? Remember that you control two of your bank's critical communication channels: the website and email. Use them to reassure customers. How?
Help customers understand what the crisis is about. Banks aren't just about products. Your purpose is to help customers manage their money. Help your customers understand the causes of the crisis and the reality of the hard choices facing Europe. Nobody likes realizing that they are poorer than they thought they were. Without getting political, help customers understand the situation and what it means to them.
Spell out why your firm is safe. My bank emailed me on Thursday to remind me that it's covered by the British government's Financial Services Compenstation Scheme, covering up to £85,000. Put a similar message on your home page and onto the secure site, where online banking customers are most likely to see it.
One of the key things that differentiates mobile phones from any other device is their ability to deliver a constant stream of real time data coupled with the processing capability to help consumers make a wealth of decisions based on this information. Tablets — we're going to leave home without them, and the majority of connections are over Wi-Fi. Wearable technology collects real-time information and may have applications/display, but we aren't yet seeing devices with the same flexibilty as the phone. The highly anticipated Pebble may yet be the device, but for today, it is the phone. (My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps writes a lot on these devices — see the rest of her research for more information).
With that fact established, my open question is, "Who is making my life better with this ability to process information near instantaneously to help me live a better, healthier life . . . or at least how I choose to define it?" I think the key to measuring mobile success must lie here — from the perspective of the consumer first before mobile will deliver huge returns in the form of revenue or lower operating costs.
Websites are the most widely used touchpoint for credit cardholders interacting with their providers. The quality of a credit card company's secure website impacts the relationship that firm has with its customers. To understand the state of card issuers' digital services, Forrester has just released our 2012 US Credit Card Secure Website Rankings. We found that:
Discover leads the pack with exceptional service features and valuable transactional functionality. With a score of 80 out of 100, Discover received the highest overall score among the six credit card issuers whose websites we evaluated. The firm earned a whopping 91 in our online servicing category, as well as an impressive 84 in our transactional content and functionality category.
eBusiness teams at card issuers have room to improve in cross-selling and usability. Although the websites we looked at revealed strong digital services among credit card issuers overall, our benchmark also uncovered opportunities for improvement, specifically in the areas of user experience design and secure website cross-selling. eBusiness teams need to enhance their websites’ navigation, task flow efficiency, and location cues while improving the contextual cross-selling & upselling on the secure site.
We conclude that B2B eCommerce enterprises have something to learn from their more experienced B2C brethren who have set a standard for customer expectations and established a series of eCommerce best practices. A few key findings:
B2B eCommerce is still in its infancy but making impressive gains. In 2009, the latest year for which data was available, the US Census Bureau reported that US B2B eCommerce (net of EDI) totaled $352 billion. By comparison, that’s over twice the size of the $145B market for US B2C eCommerce. Further, a growing number of companies now report that B2B eCommerce will represent nearly 50% of their total sales within a few short years.
Consumerization is driving the B2B eCommerce experience. All B2B customers are also B2C consumers. And like it or not, they’re comparing their B2B eCommerce experiences with gold-standard B2C eCommerce experiences from Amazon and others. And like B2C consumers these days, B2B customers demand products faster, less expensively, and more conveniently than ever before.
I was thrilled to be back in São Paulo last week visiting with different companies in the eCommerce space. I met with over a half dozen online retailers, as well as other players in the industry including payment providers and market entry specialists. It was also great to have the opportunity to speak at Rakuten’s event on April 24th announcing their official launch in the country.
Below are a handful of takeaways from the trip:
Online momentum is building in categories such as apparel and beauty. In markets like the US and the UK, apparel represents a significant percentage of total online sales. In Brazil, by contrast, this category is just starting to take off, with online sales currently representing a very small percentage of the total market. As issues such as inconsistent sizing are increasingly addressed, however, and new entrants boost the market, the online apparel sector is set to grow substantially. Likewise, there’s much talk of growing beauty sales in Brazil (the country is set to surpass Japan to become the world’s second largest beauty market) – as with apparel, online beauty sales are a tiny fraction of the total today, suggesting substantial growth opportunities going forward.
And yes . . . the entrenched and established e-distributers in the B2B space should be worried. Here’s why:
B2C core assets are very leveragable into B2B. Online merchandising is online merchandising. Logistical support is logistical support. World-class customer service is world-class customer service. And don’t forget about economies of scale and low prices. It can all be extended into this new space. And Amazon’sB2C infrastructure is similar enough to the infrastructure required to sell B2B that Amazon can do it -- and with relative ease.
Integration with Amazon’s buying process is inherently powerful. By bringing their universal login and one-click checkout to the table, Amazon’s vaunted ease-of-use and frictionless eCommerce will now live fully within AmazonSupply’s B2B offering. Customer behavior will not have to change and the user experience will remain second-to-none. Both are powerful influences.
Amazon Marketplace is a force multiplier. Now accounting for nearly 1/3 of Amazon’s unit shipment volume, Amazon Marketplace has clearly established itself as a force to be reckoned with. AmazonSupply nicely complements the already compelling Amazon Marketplace value proposition for B2B companies and further expands Amazon's B2B eCommerce story.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.