Mobile Commerce, There's An App For That

Peter Sheldon

Mobile apps are undoubtedly cool, and executives at leading online retailers have been mandating a presence of their brand in the Apple and Android app stores, but eBusiness professionals must focus on building a cohesive mobile strategy that clearly identifies the case and role for apps within their organizations. Apps are great ways to engage with your customers, but will they deliver incremental revenue above and beyond what the mobile Web is already doing? In her recent mobile commerce forecast, Sucharita Mulpuru explains that mobile commerce is set to transform retail, despite only accounting for 2% of online web sales today. In my new report The State Of Mobile Commerce Apps, I peel back the covers on the hype and take a serious look at why, when, and how eBusiness professionals should approach their mobile app strategy. Some of the issues I explore include:

  • The mobile web versus app debate. The debate is irrelevant, consumers are using both in equal measures; however, developing an app for apps' sake is missing the point and will only disappoint your customers. eBusiness professionals must develop unique app experiences that deliver multichannel innovations and raise the engagement of the consumer with your brand.
  • Keeping up with the explosion of consumer touchpoints. Having an iPhone app was the priority back in 2010, but in 2011 many eBusinesses are adding Android, iPad, and Windows Phone 7 apps. The opportunity for apps also extends beyond the consumer. Retailers are investing in apps for store associates empowered with mobile devices, in-store kiosks, and interactive TV.
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Mobile Insurance Seeding New (And Surprising) Business Alliances

Ellen Carney

In the interviews we just wrapped up with insurance thought leaders, one thing’s certain: Mobile is going to play a BIG role in the future of insurance. Alongside another topic (about which you’ll hear more later), mobile, and its role in enabling policyholders along with underwriters, agents, commercial underwriters, and the claim supply chain, animated virtually every conversation we had. One area in particular — mobile partnerships — spurred some great discussion on the outlook for new mobile products and collaborations that might be in the offing.

Alongside Tokio Marine’s intriguing mobile one-time insurance for sporting events and travel, we uncovered a unique life insurance purchasing model in South Africa. What was it that caught our attention? Econet Wireless and First Mutual Life in South Africa have teamed up to produce Ecolife, a life insurance product purchased by prepaid subscribers using mobile airtime. The customer only has to purchase US$3 to receive coverage, and the amount of coverage increases with every additional dollar (up to $10,000 coverage). First Mutual Life’s attempt to reach the sizable population of South Africans without a traditional bank account has seen rampant successthus far.

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Online Video Retail Success Stories

Martin Gill

Increase your conversion rates overnight!

Really?

That’s amazing. How can I get a piece of that pie? 

Call it what you will -- V-Tail, vCommerce, or just plain online video -- we are seeing some pretty bold claims around the use of video in eCommerce. Claims from platform vendors, press, and even some case studies and success stories from large retailers who are seeing some significant successes when they integrate video content into the online shopping experience.

But there’s the key. Integrate. Of course it isn’t as simple as sticking a few videos on your existing dot-com site and hey presto, conversion rates skyrocket. Video needs to support the sales process in a way that makes sense to your customers, that supports your brand values, and that enhances the shopping experience.

There are a growing number of ways to source video content, and an increasing number of players in the market who will all tell you that they have the answer. From user-generated content to automatically generated video. From content delivery networks to social media. There are a bewildering number of options out there.

Video absolutely can deliver firm benefits :

  • It can increase page views by driving traffic to your site.
  • It can enhance the time people spend lingering on your site, giving you more opportunity to market to them.
  • It can help to increase conversion.
  • It can reduce your returns.
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Magnificent Mile - Yes. Multichannel Mile…Still A Work in Progress

Andy Hoar

Recently two colleagues of mine, Patti Freeman Evans and Martin Gill, put their respective cities’ shopping meccas to the multichannel test.  The question: To what extent were bricks and mortar retailers on Fifth Ave in New York and Oxford Street in London using their physical stores to advertise and promote their digital channels?  

Eager not to be left out...and curious to see how my city of Chicago would fare…I paid a visit to our world famous “Magnificent Mile” to see if/how bricks and mortar retailers promoted a connection to their own digital channels.

As I walked both sides of Michigan Ave (home to retailers such as Northface, Macys and Gap…as well as high-end retailers such as Tiffanys, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel)…I thought to myself, would Chicago be different from London and New York?  Would America’s heartland have a better feel for a large and growing number of shoppers today who may physically “be” in stores but whose shopping “attention” may reside elsewhere?

Some findings:

  • Traditional Brands Disappointed.  Count among this grouphigh-end/luxury brands and more established brands (e.g. Louis Vuitton, Macys).  Which is not to say that all youth-oriented brands excelled (e.g. Zara, Disney)…in fact, a surprising number of them failed to show their multichannel chops (e.g. no URLS in store, no discernable mobile presence). For example, The Disney Store was heavily promoting the “Cars 2” movie on monitors in its store, but I could not find any links anywhere to their content-rich website.
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Do We Still Need SMS?

Julie Ask

Apple's announcement today on the "Notification Center" triggered my comments. Other than the fact that I no longer need to tether all of my devices to a computer (finally!), I think this was my favorite announcement. My top "negative" re notifications to date has been the inability to save or file them. Do I want to save a FB update? No, not really. But I do want to save and file coupons, promotions, news alerts, etc. Will be interesting to watch the effectiveness of notifications now that they DON'T interrupt . . . in some ways, that's the point. Less intrusiveness may attract more uses of those afraid of annoying their customers. Re 100B notifications to date . . . wow.

"Do we need SMS?" I think the answer is "absolutely, yes." I've had more than one of my colleagues suggest to me that SMS no longer holds any relevance for commercial businesses hoping to reach their customer base. I disagree. Here's why:

  • For the forseeable future, a very small percentage of any company's customers will have downloaded its application. A few companies like eBay or Amazon.com may be the exception. Relying only on push-based notifications does not offer enough reach. Apple's announcement today, however, makes push-based notifications a lot more interesting.
  • Push-based notifications on smartphones are more of a US-centric phenom. If you are targeting customers in Asia, Africa, India, Latin America, etc., you need SMS -- SMS is the primary application/transport medium on most phones in many countries.
  • Tracking calls-to-action. When does a message drive an action? Clicking through to a URL? Using a coupon? Visiting a store? Calls-to-action can be digital, physical, or calls.
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Get Customer Obsessed Or Perish: Welcome To The Age Of The Customer

Carrie Johnson

Today Forrester released a piece of must-read research for every organization that markets and sells to customers. In Josh Bernoff's report "Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer," he illustrates how customer-led disruption forces firms to throw away old models of competitive differentiation. Competitive barriers like manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery won't save anyone. The report concludes that the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers. In the age of the customer, firms must become customer obsessed.

eBusiness and channel strategy professionals are no strangers to customer-led disruption. Many firms' web strategies are just now finally catching up to the sneak attack of Amazon.com and E-Trade, if they survived at all. What happened in the early '90s will continue to happen again and again. In a companion document that I also released today, I argue that to survive, eBusiness and channel strategy professionals must embrace the principles of agile commerce -- optimizing people, processes, and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints. Specifically, eBusiness and channel strategy professionals must shift from:

  • Customer acquisition to retention.
  • Siloed channels to touchpoints.
  • Reactive to actionable use of customer data.

I encourage you and everyone in your organzation to read this critical document about surviving and thriving in the age of the customer.

The Future Of Mobile Is Context

Julie Ask

Why do you use the remote to change the channel on your TV? An airplane to fly across the country? A microwave to heat up food? Why -- because it is convenient. Consumers will adopt and use convenient services and products. In mobile, this means services that offer immediacy and simplicity through a highly contextual experience. If my gate changes for my flight leaving in 40 minutes, I want to know now -- there is value in knowing now or immediately. If I want to donate money to the flood victims in Louisiana, it is simpler to send a quick text message rather than write a check and mail it. If I want to eat Thai food near my home, I want to find a restaurant in San Francisco -- near my location (context). Using my phone that leverages my location through GPS is simpler than typing in a neighborhood or address.

Mobile phones are convenient tools to do many things today -- refill a prescription, deposit a check, navigate, check Facebook, or get email. The list of convenient services on mobile phones is going to continue to grow. Why? Because contextual information is going to get a lot, lot richer. Today, context is primarily the location of an individual, their stated preferences, or past behavior (e.g., purchases). This information is gathered as consumers use their mobile phones for navigation, news, and shopping. The information collected will become much richer for two reasons. First, consumers will use their phones to do more things (e.g., change channels on the TV, monitor glucose levels, and open their car doors). Second, devices will have sensors such as barometers or microbolometers that collect more information passively about the consumer’s environment. The available information is becoming richer -- companies that want to deliver contextual experiences must evolve their expertise.

Forrester has identified four phase of evolution:

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Allstate’s Acquisition Of esurance: The Start Of Something Bigger For Ebiz Teams?

Ellen Carney

I got jolt this morning, and it wasn’t from my coffee.  The headlines in my morning insurance news push were all about  last night's announcement that Allstate was acquiring esurance and an agency sibling, Answer Financial for $1 billion (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-18/allstate-to-buy-esurance-in-1-b...).  Along with the fact that esurance itself has gone to market with what every ebusiness executive has stated as the big strategy over the near-term—giving the customer the choice in how they want to engage with its new “Technology When You Want It, People When You Don’t”  tagline—this deal could well be the start of a more interesting trend:  a bigger wave of M&A among Tier 1 carriers.

This news was especially tantalizing because we just wrapped up a series of interviews with insurance thought leaders to get a perspective for how the insurance industry was going to look in 2020.   We wanted to understand how these changes were going to impact the jobs of ebiz executives in insurance.  This is what we heard: 

Enabled by “big data”, carriers are going to:

  • Shed and acquire business lines to be more specialized and obviously more profitable
  • Make some splashy acquisitions (like this one),
  • Launch new and innovative business models (like a “lights out” insurer that, in exchange for low premiums, policyholders would have to do more for themselves)
  • Challenged by new market entrants who “get” data

All of which have big implications for what insurance ebusiness teams will be challenged to do.  Look for our thoughts on what 2020 is going to mean later this quarter.

Mobile Services - Failure To Focus On Customer Needs Will Result In a "Miss"

Julie Ask

I saw a story this morning on Mobile Commerce Daily: "Fontainbleau targets upscale, on-the-go consumers via mobile presence." I've been a guest at the hotel for the past day so I can't resist joining this conversation. I also happened to download this application while waiting in line for a smoothie at a restaurant yesterday -- between meetings, of course. Here's a quote from the article:

“Fontainebleau chose to launch this app to enhance the overall customer experience while giving them insight on the resort as well as the surrounding Miami Beach area,” said Philip Goldfarb, president and chief operating officer of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Miami. “It is an extension of the brand’s commitment to providing its guests with the latest advances in the mobile marketplace.”

First, I'll offer -- I'm just a guest or customer here -- I haven't studied the business, but there are a few disconnects.  

Here's what is working well:

  • Fontainbleau does seem to have a tech-savvy customer base. As I walked through the pool area yesterday, I noticed quite a few iPads, Kindles, and smartphones -- guests definitely have their technology at the pool. And Wi-Fi works at the pool -- well done.
  • The application is promoted well. I noticed advertisements several places throughout the property. It uses a sweepstakes to promote the application with the prizes clearly listed.
  • Beautiful photographs -- this resort is amazing and is well represented by the media in the application.
  • There is a solid balance of content -- eat, shop, play, etc.
  • There was a lot of content re "what to do" nearby.
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DSGI Know How. Do you?

Martin Gill

I’m intrigued by the recent launch of KnowHow.com.

I’ve known it was coming for a while, but now that it’s here it’s not quite what I expected. However in a way it’s actually a lot better. 

KnowHow.com is, for want of a better description, the customer service portal for the DSGI chain of consumer electronics stores in the UK:  Dixons.co.uk, Currys, and PC World. These stores operate in a fiercely competitive but large and lucrative market in the UK and extend their reach into Europe through sister company Pixmania.  In recent years wallet share in the CE sector has been moving increasingly online, with brick-and-mortar stores facing the challenge of competing on price with their leaner, lower-cost online rivals. But despite this off-to-online swing, the group is reporting that Internet sales are down.

I was expecting KnowHow to be its revamped eCommerce operation, its response to lackluster digital sales. But interestingly it has done something different. It appears to be trying to step out of the race to the bottom from a price perspective and is positioning itself to begin to compete on a new axis. Service. An interesting play in what could be considered a commodity market.

However, when you learn that its multichannel sales are up 12%, this may not be such a strange move.

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