We discovered some interesting information about how consumers are using tablets in recent research with Bizrate Insights: that shoppers who have tablets often prefer to browse and buy on those devices and that tablet ownership increases the amount of time that people spend online altogether. One company that caught onto that trend even before we fielded our data was Siva Kumar, CEO of the shopping aggregator TheFind. I ran into Siva several months ago at Channel Advisor's Catalyst summit where he showed me an impressive demo (on his iPad, natch) of Catalogue, a magazine-like compendium of all my favorite store catalogs (see below). Given his hands-on experience bringing a multiretailer tablet experience to life, I thought it would be interesting to get a t-commerce pioneer's POV:
Siva, do you think tablet commerce will be something retailers need to explicitly watch?
Absolutely yes. Online shopping today is very much a chore. It is search-driven, and while search is useful, expedient, and powerful, it is not particularly fun or exciting. More importantly, search leaves little room for retailers to do what they do best, which is to merchandise their wares to consumers. Conversely, tablet shopping, with its high-resolution graphics, touchscreens, and more tactile interactivity offer game changing potential that may create the means by which eCommerce could grow to be as much as 20% of retail commerce by 2020.
What are the most important things to watch in developing content for a tablet device?
Last week a lone blogger broke the news that not one but three fake Apple stores had sprung up in the city of Kunming in China, though it appears the problem is fast becoming a worldwide one for Apple to deal with.
It’s no secret that counterfeit goods are commonplace in China, and there are moves afoot to attempt to tackle this issue, at least online. However, this is a very different beast. There has been an explosion of commentary in the press about these fake stores, mostly focusing on the fact that they exist, and mostly failing to draw any comment for Apple.
Action has been taken. According to China Daily, “A local authority had previously said that two of the stores were suspended for not having business licenses. But the local industrial and commercial bureau confirmed to the Shanghai Morning Post on Tuesday that one of them had in fact obtained a license on June 22 and thus could stay open.”
The general tone of the various reports is that the stores are selling genuine Apple products bought wholesale through genuine channels, and that the only reason they would be closed down is because they didn’t follow local laws to obtain a retail license. Not because of any IPR infringement. This will be an interesting story to watch play out -- because if that turns out to be true, it sets a gloomy precedent for other retailers who may be suffering the same challenge.
While all eyes in the online retail space seem to be on social networks and smartphones these days, we’re seeing an emerging trend with tablets that could be the most interesting of all. Only 9% of web shoppers now have tablet devices, but here’s the big deal — most of those people already own smartphones (as well as PCs, of course), and they are saying that they actually prefer to use their tablets for shopping. Not only that, but the ownership of the tablet device itself actually increases the amount of time that people spend online. And we’re anticipating a hockey stick in tablet adoption in the next five years on top of all that. You can read more about these findings in the report my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps and I just wrote titled, “Why Tablet Commerce May Trump Mobile Commerce,” which is based on findings from our joint research on online shoppers with Bizrate Insights. Some of the most compelling aspects that are helping to drive the shopping experience on the device:
The larger screen. Not surprising, given the choice between a smartphone and a tablet, consumers find it a lot easier to use the latter to surf the net, click on links, and type in the critical biodata to purchase something online, especially since PayPal Express doesn’t seem to be integrated onto most mobile commerce sites yet.
The portability. Consumers love taking their tablets around the house and on the go. The living room is the most common room where the tablet is used, but out of the home is also popular, particularly at restaurants and in airports.
I have a great interest in history. I always have.
I grew up in the North of England very close to Hadrian’s Wall. In fact, the remains of the Vallum (the defensive ditch dug behind the wall to keep out marauding Pictish warbands) ran through the playing fields of my high school. I grew up wondering what far-flung Legionaries had stood on that wall on cold northern nights. Imperial citizens from Rome itself. Germanic mercenaries from the Rhine. Gaulish Auxiliaries from France. A constant reminder of the diversity of people, cultures, and beliefs that made up the Roman Empire.
So history has wound on, through war and peace, trade and intrigue, to bring us to 21st century Europe. We have a European Union. A single currency. We even have a flag. So Europe is well, Europe, right?
If history has taught us one thing, it is that a massive diversity of language, currency, habits, attitudes, and beliefs thrives in Europe, and this directly affects the way in which Europeans (or rather British, German, French, Italian people, etc. -- because we are all different) use the Internet to shop. What they buy online, how they pay for it, how it’s delivered, and what their service expectations are, are to some extent shaped by the eCommerce offerings of retailers within their respective countries, but in a large part are led by national culture and behavioral norms.
A significant portion of transactions online already collect sales tax because people purchase from online stores like BestBuy.com or Walmart.com, so the real amount that is being “lost” is less than the numbers being bandied around would have you believe, and not enough to make up anyone’s deficit, maybe a small city somewhere but probably not much more.
Delivering highly contextual mobile services is an expectation. Mobile phones are personal devices. Consumers expect personal and relevant experiences.
What is context?
Forrester defines “context” as
“the sum total of what your customer has told you and is experiencing at his moment of engagement.”
Situation: the current location, altitude, and speed the customer is experiencing.
Preferences: the history or personal decisions the customer has shared with you.
Attitudes: the feelings or emotions implied by the customer’s actions or logistics.
eBusiness professionals make limited or very basic use of context today. Mostly, they use an individual’s location to tell her where the nearest store or hotel is. The use of location is a minimum requirement today to meet consumer expectations of “decent” mobile services. The bar is rising quickly though. eBusiness professionals need to layer intelligence on top of contextual information and plan how they will use new contextual information such as temperature or altitude.
Here are a few scenarios that simply leverage intelligence with location:
Banks. Should a user require the same depth of authentication at home, at work, or in a foreign country?
Hotels. How much should you quote a prospective customer for a room tonight if she is 5 miles or 500 miles away?
Airlines. What home page services should you show a passenger whose flight leaves in 2 hours? In 10 minutes?
A fundamental transformation of the way brands and consumers connect on the Internet is amid us. Icann, the authority responsible for Internet domains, has approved a plan to expand the 22 currently available domains (.com, .net, etc.) to allow trusted brands and organizations to apply to own and operate their own gTLDs (generic top-level domains). In just a few years, new brand gTLDs will impact the way consumers search for and find products online as recognized brands switch away from .com to their own .brand top-level domains. URL paths used today for categories, products, and marketing campaign landing pages (e.g., www.apple.com/iphone) will be replaced by new shorter, catchier URLs (e.g., iphone.apple).
eBusiness professionals must carefully evaluate this change and start the process of mapping out how owning their .brand domain will impact their eCommerce sites. I recommend that Forrester clients read our latest research report written by my colleague Jeff Ernst and myself, .Brand And The Impact For eBusiness, which outlines the reasons why eBusiness leaders and their marketing counterparts must carefully evaluate the significant opportunity that owning gTLDs for the their brand or brands presents.
In my ongoing-yet-fruitless quest to find the great social commerce success story, I’ll talk to anyone who will talk to me about the topic. I talked this week to a "venture capitalist" who shall remain nameless, and we had the following conversation:
VC: I’ve seen social commerce success. I have. I’ve seen commerce success on Facebook.
Me: Really? Are you referring to maybe one of the marketplaces on Facebook? Or ShopSocially?
VC: No, no one’s heard of this company. No one in the Valley has heard of this company. Only I know about this company.
Me: And this is a business that can scale?
VC: It’s sooooo scalable. I’ve seen it scale.
VC: They make millions and millions of dollars. I’ve seen it.
Me: Can you tell me who you’re talking about?
VC: I . . . I’m not at liberty to say the name. They want to stay under the radar. They don’t want anyone to know about their secret sauce.
Me: Really? They’ve discovered something that no one, not Silicon Valley, not Facebook’s army of developers, not any retailer in the world has yet to discover?
VC: Hey, I don’t need YOU to believe me! I’m happy to just make my money.
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.
After social commerce, mobile commerce is the most heavily debated topic-du-jour among retailers these days. One thing that both social and mobile commerce have in common is that they are both small. Teeny in fact. Forrester’s Mobile Commerce Forecast, 2011 To 2016, which launched today, shows that retailers can expect 2% of their online web sales (yes, I said web sales which means a minuscule percent of overall retail) to be transacted through mobile devices in 2011. While we also expect mobile commerce sales to grow 40% each year for the next five years, we’re still talking small numbers overall (7% of web sales penetration by 2016). Why so small you may ask. After all, aren’t smartphones changing the way we consume web content? Some things to consider:
Tablets. We don’t include tablet shopping in our definition of mobile shopping, but the creation (and subsequent explosion in sales) of this device is probably the single biggest inhibitor to the growth of “mobile commerce.” Data that we gathered with Bizrate Insights (to be released separately and soon) indicates that most tablet owners also own smartphones, and many of those people naturally prefer to shop on the device that has the larger screen when given the choice.
Shopping never leads web behavior. In any list of activities that people do on the Internet, shopping nearly always ranks below things like “reading news” or “using social networks.” Even those activities are not universal among the smartphone set, so it would be premature to expect that shopping would rank high on the list (which it, of course, doesn’t).