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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Apple Is Tracking Us! Oh No! Who Cares, Really?

Julie Ask

Apple has been storing our location. (See article) Sounds bad, but really, is it? My colleague Joe Stanhope forwarded the article to me with the line, “kinda scary.” Is it? Our credit cards track where we are and what we spend. The carriers know where we are all the time — they aren’t storing the information as far as we know, but they could be. Our cars can be tracked. We buy plane tickets and make flight reservations online. What’s a bit different is that many different entities have our information, but not necessarily one.

Your phone will know everything about you going forward. My phone already knows where I go (ok, and Apple is recording), who I call, what sports teams I follow, what games I play, where I bank, how often I visit Starbucks, where I shop, what books I’m reading (Kindle), what music I listen to . . . and the list goes on. What else is my phone going to know about me? It’s going to know:

  • What I eat because I want help tracking calories
  • How often I run because I track my workouts
  • What I watch on TV because my phone is my remote control
  • Who I fly . . . because I use mobile boarding passes
  • How healthy I am b/c it will track my cholesterol
  • Who my friends are from phone, texting, and Facebook
  • Where I’m eating b/c it tracks my Yelp searches and OpenTable bookings
  • Whether I’m traveling on foot or by car b/c it tracks my speed
  • How fast I drive . . .
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Is Anyone In The UK Actually Using QR Codes?

Martin Gill

Intrigued by a lot of what I’ve been reading recently, I’ve started looking for evidence of QR codes transforming how shoppers are interacting with retailers. The thing is all the evidence I see with my own eyes doesn’t back up this proclaimed uptake. I’ve never noticed a single one in a shop. Now, that could be because I’ve not been looking and if I’m honest, I’ve only had a phone capable of reading them for a few months.

Time for a quick bit of ad-hoc analysis (Health Warning: NOT OFFICIAL FORRESTER RESEARCH !!!)

In order to give this mini research project some vague semblance of credibility, I have adopted the rigorous scientific approach that Mr. Featonby, my A-level physics teacher drilled into me many years ago . . . 

Hypothesis

My hypothesis is that retailers aren’t using QR codes in the UK, and furthermore, the average shopper hasn’t a clue what one is.

Methodology

  1. I went to the local Tesco Metro and browsed the aisles, looking at every product I could find.
  2. I’ve looked through every store magazine and free paper and at every poster I pass in London, on the Midlands Mainline train service, and in Nottingham (where I live) for two weeks.
  3. I posted a picture of a QR code on my Facebook page and asked my friends (average shoppers one and all!) if they knew what it was.
  4. I never said this was a robust survey.
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2D Bar Codes: Where Are We Today?

Julie Ask

Microsoft Tag had a big announcement this week.

It announced:

  • March had the greatest number of Tag scans since Tag launched in January 2009, with more than 50 percent more scans than any other month to date.
  • The number of scans per month has doubled over the past three months, and the number of users per month has increased 2.5 times in that same timeframe.
  • Three billion Tags were printed during the past six months alone, and 5 billion Tags have been printed since Microsoft Tag’s January 2009 launch.
  • Publishing continues to lead among top industries adopting Tag, with retail scenarios and entertainment holding the second and third positions, respectively.
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Forrester Publishes Its First Online Retail Forecast For Brazil And Mexico

Zia Daniell Wigder

Over the past year, we’ve worked together with the forecast team at Forrester to help eBusiness professionals understand the size of different online retail markets around the globe. Last year we published our first look at the online retail markets in some of the major markets in Asia-Pacific — this year, we’ve just published our first forecast for two of the largest online retail markets in Latin America, Brazil and Mexico. Some findings from the report include:

  • Brazil is — and will remain — the powerhouse in the region. With more than 40% of the online users in the region and a steadily growing economy, it’s not surprising that Brazil’s eCommerce market will outpace all others by a wide margin. Brazil’s projected 2011 sales of almost $10B put it behind other major online retail markets like France and South Korea but ahead of smaller ones such as the Netherlands and Italy.
  • Mexico’s online retail market is small today — but growing by a CAGR of almost 20%. With less than half of the online users of Brazil and limited online spending, Mexico’s online retail market remains a small fraction of the size of Brazil’s. Average online spending per buyer will not increase significantly over the next five years, but the sheer number of online buyers will.
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The Lost Art Of Serendipity

Martin Gill

ser·en·dip·i·ty  /ˌsɛr ənˈdɪp ɪ ti/ –noun

1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

Internet retailers have been struggling with a challenge since the first time a shopper clicked “Add to Cart,” and so far I don’t think anyone has really cracked it.

Recently we’ve had a number of discussions in our office (and more in the pub) about the difference between the online and offline shopping experiences, and the subject of online product discovery is one we can’t seem to get to the bottom of.  It appears that many retailers are in the same place, and despite their best efforts, online retailers just can’t duplicate what we’ve termed serendipity.

That feeling of walking into your favorite bookshop and picking something up in a section you don’t normally go into just because the cover leaps out at you.

The moment when you stumble across some unutterably stylish, drop dead gorgeous dress in the store you don’t normally go into, but your friend dragged you protesting into.

That magic moment where you discover something.

Amazon has had a good go at it, and I confess I’m a huge fan of its “people like you buy stuff like this” functionality, but it does suffer from a major flaw. Like many of my Forrester colleagues, I use Amazon to buy a lot of gifts that I don’t ask to have wrapped. So Amazon thinks I’m crazily into books on vintage fashion and Waybuloo toys. Well I’m not. But my wife and 2-year-old niece are. Go figure which one likes which. So I regularly receive invites to buy more books and toys I really don’t want.

Anyone spot the odd one out on here ?

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Making Money On QR Codes

Julie Ask

This is one of the more creative applications of QR codes - tattoos. $240 to date at $80/tattoo. Given how permanent the code is, I'm wondering if they shouldn't have considered MS Tags - more branding and flexibility. It's the 2011 version of a dog tag. Would be more interesting if these were links to pages with medical records, etc. - something useful in the case of an emergency. Kidding aside, 2D bar codes have a lifetime - whether they live in a print ad, on a book cover, or on one's skin. Those employing 2D bar codes - especially on product packaging - must take into consideration the lifetime of the code and be ready to support it whether it's a marketing campaign or a link to a video with a safety demonstration.

Our Mediocre Multichannel Mission

Martin Gill

In celebration of the fact that my Forrester Boss, Patti Freeman Evans, was over this week in London, we thought we’d go on a multichannel retail shopping tour of London to see just how well some major UK retailers are integrating their on- and offline channels and enticing their shoppers into engaging with them online.

The answer is sadly, not very well at all.

Hitting Oxford Street on a sunny Friday at lunch time, we performed an eyes-on tour of a rough cross-section of some of the better-known UK brands. We went looking for exciting new uses of technology disrupting the in-store environment. Examples of beautifully integrated online/offline/mobile channels placing the customer at the heart of the brand experience. Innovative applications of technology that seamlessly blended the digital and physical brands, enticing shoppers into engaging with these premier retailers both now, and later when they got home. Or even, how excitingly, via their mobile phones.

So while a hungry band of devotees of the fruit-flavored tech-god gathered outside the Apple Store, not realizing that just round the corner they could get their paws on a new iPad 2, sans queue, we started our shopping trip.

Flippancy aside, we were looking specifically for how well multichannel retailers are integrating physical and digital channels.

The results were (depressing) surprising :

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