Today’s technology-immersed customers have high expectations when it comes to the retailers they engage with. Not only do they expect their retailer of choice to offer an endless array of products that can be fulfilled from any location within the enterprise, they also expect a more fulfilling and connected experience both online and in the store. In order to meet these higher expectations, organizations that sell directly to customers must pivot to become digital businesses, and this transformation requires them to double-down on their investments in people, process, and technology. As the complexity and importance of commerce technology swells,
B2C organizations are increasingly seeking out the help of Global Commerce Service Providers to not only implement commerce technology, but to help their organization refine business processes and create innovative omnichannel experiences.
Black Friday has been a constant feature in the postmortem of the 2014 UK holiday sales season. It has gradually extended its influence across the Atlantic over the years; despite having no cultural significance outside of the US (Black Friday is a sales day that traditionally follows the US Thanksgiving holiday). Retailers in France, Germany and Spain tested the waters with Black Friday promotions in 2014. But it was in the UK where Black Friday sales surged to new heights.
UK retailers who embraced Black Friday reported massive sales uplift on the day. Department store House of Fraser recorded a 125% increase in year on year sales while Very.co.uk saw orders jump 134% compared to Black Friday 2013.Yet, for most, this uplift did not translate to an overall sales increase or the holiday season.
Black Friday Has Changes The Cadence Of Holiday Sales. Black Friday has arrived in the UK with a bang, but for most eBusiness executives it hasn’t driven a massive sales uplift. Instead, it’s pulled customer purchasing forward in the holiday season, leaving like-for-like sales reasonably static.
By here, I mean here in Europe. And it’s here to stay.
Amazon launched Europe’s first Black Friday sale in 2010, with a small fanfare and some success. Most European retailers did the polite thing, and looked bashfully away while their brash American cousins celebrated a day with zero cultural significance this side of the Atlantic. “We’ll wait for Boxing Day” was the overwhelming sentiment.
But consumers bit, and the following year a small handful of global brands like Apple and Walmart (in the form of its UK subsidiary Asda) followed suit. Black Friday grew somewhat organically.
But 2014 was different.
Previous Black Friday successes unleashed a literal tidal wave of copy-cats in the run up to Christmas last year. This was most publically a UK phenomenon, with well-known brands like John Lewis taking part, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it was just a quaintly British emulation of the American trend. French and German retailers like Darty and Saturn also indulged. Akamai saw triple the normal web traffic to retail websites across Europe on Black Friday. But it was the UK that bore the brunt of the impact as:
High profile websites buckled and crashed under unprecedented load, with many retailers reporting upwards of a 300% uplift in traffic on Black Friday.
Over the past four years, the commerce technology market has undergone significant consolidation. Commerce technology is now table stakes for any enterprise software vendor with a focus on systems of engagement. Consequently, Forrester has observed an unprecedented chain of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in this space over the past four years with eBay, IBM, Oracle and SAP alone, having spent in aggregate over $10 billion on commerce related acquisitions. Furthermore venture capital and private equity firms have been making big bets in this space. Between them, Shopify, Volusion and Big Commerce have accumulated $337 million in funding in the past few years, while Siris Capital Group are set to shortly complete their acquisition of Digital River for $840 million. Beyond these headline transactions, dozens of smaller deals have been done, with vendors including Demandware and NetSuite both having been on acquisition binges’ in the past 12 months.
Yesterday I had a chance to join the fantastic Global eCommerce Leaders Forum here in New York. Leaders from Puma, Borderfree and Alibaba delivered keynotes at the event, and in the afternoon, I did a quick presentation on five key themes in global eCommerce to tee up a panel on international expansion:
The Asia pivot. Arguably the biggest story in global eCommerce over the past five years has been the rise of China as an eCommerce force. No other eCommerce market has rivaled China’s ascent to power: Between 2009 and 2014, revenues increased by 16-fold, reaching over $440B in 2014. That shift fundamentally changed how brands view eCommerce in Asia. Instead of contemplating expansion into Asia only after years of operating in North America or Europe, a digital strategy for Asia—and China in particular—is now front and center for many brands.
Options for brands beyond direct sites. Today there are very few brands whose global expansion plans focus exclusively on localized, direct-to-consumer sites. Cross-border shipping and marketplaces —two relatively low-cost, low-risk approaches to international expansion—now factor into the consideration set of almost every brand evaluating new global markets. Indeed, today many solutions are available which enable brands to tap into online shoppers overseas without massive investments or years of preparation. While direct sites will remain a core part of brands’ global expansion efforts—and their value unrivaled in many ways—other approaches will increasingly supplement this tried and true method.
When I started in the tech industry in the late 80’s, I used to think that we lived in dog years: The pace in “high-tech” (a term that sounds so quaint now, doesn’t it?) was that we packed seven years’ worth of work, development, business, play, pressure—you name it—into a single year.
Fast forward to today, and the pace of digital change—and pressure—has accelerated to pack even more change into smaller units of time. Technologies like QR codes, Near Field Communications (NFC), photo-image capture, and now voice control are maturing. What was a mobile novelty two years ago now feels dated.
And consider that we are addicted to mobile. As consumers, we have enthusiastically embraced mobile devices, thanks to a regular stream of flashy new interfaces and capabilities. For many people, a mobile device is the last thing they touch before going to sleep and the first thing they grab for when they wake up. The behavioral changes that these feature-dense devices have encouraged is transforming how customers engage with their insurance companies and with the extended insurance ecosystem—all while pressuring digital insurance and business technology teams, processes, and budgets. Consider just two of the impacts that the ubiquity and proximity of mobile devices has resulted in:
With B2B buyers rapidly shifting their behavior from researching and buying offline to researching and buying both offline and online, B2B companies are radically reshaping their channel sales strategies. Most notably, B2B sellers are shifting resources and capabilities online as well as fundamentally redefining the role of their salespeople.
Join us for the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum on March 2-3, 2015 in Phoenix to hear Forrester’s latest thinking about the future of B2B selling. At 11:30a on March 3, we’ll be revealing first-ever research in the space about the number of B2B salespeople who will be displaced in the next several years. In addition, we'll be talking about what B2B companies must do to prepare for a global, digitally-driven, real-time buying environment where software -- as opposed to salespeople -- will dynamically set prices, personalize products and services, and process and service orders 24/7/365.
Behind every online sale is a set of software tools to manage the shopping experience and order process: the commerce platform.
The technology itself is nothing new. Commercial software packages for digital commerce have been around for 15 years or so. However, we’ve seen commerce-related technology investments accelerate over the past couple of years. Companies are replacing legacy systems from the early 2000s with modern platforms ready to meet the demands of mobile commerce and international sales, and the buyer pool is extending from retail to virtually every industry.
The journey isn’t quite over. Forrester expects growth in commerce tech spending to continue unabated. According to our recent forecast, we expect the US market for commerce platform technology to nearly double over the next five years, growing from $1.2 billion in 2014 to nearly $2.1 billion by the end of the decade.
Peter Sheldon and I developed this forecast to help tech vendor clients identify and assess new market opportunities. For deeper insight into the target markets most ripe for growth, we segment spending projections by target industry (i.e., retail, wholesale, pharma) and quantify the shift from legacy (i.e., on-premises) to modern (i.e., SaaS/hosted) solutions. For more details, see the recent report we’ve published around the forecast results.
It’s no secret that digital skills are in short supply. In fact, while some three quarters of executives tell us their firm now has some form of digital strategy (however rudimentary), a paltry 16% say they have the skills and capabilities necessary to deliver it. Even though the average eBusiness team’s staffing budget is growing year on year, finding the skills and capabilities to execute on a digital strategy is becoming harder and harder.
eBusiness Teams Have An Average Of 95 Employees. The average eBusiness team has 95 team members. As would be expected, the larger the worldwide revenue, online revenue, or total employee count is, the larger the eBusiness team is.
Technology And Customer Experience Are Still The Hardest Roles To Fill. Technology, customer experience, and business analytics are the hardest jobs to hire for. Additionally, technology and customer experience are the most outsourced, and technology is the most understaffed.
The Digital Skills Gap Continues To Widen. Digital transformation brings an increased level of responsibility for eBusiness employees who are often leading the charge for company-wide transformation in addition to handling day-to-day operations. As all business becomes digital business, eBusiness teams will have an increasingly difficult time sourcing talent.
Latin America remains solidly on the radar of eCommerce leaders taking their brands global—at the same time, local players are rolling out sophisticated offerings of their own to compete with the growing number of international players in the region. Which trends will propel eCommerce forward and how big will these markets be in five years? Our newly published forecast addresses both topics for the three largest markets in Latin America: Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. We find that:
Young, increasingly digital shoppers are driving eCommerce across the region... The markets of Latin America boast not just a rising middle class, but also a young, digitally savvy population. Indeed, while the average age in the US is 38, in Brazil and Argentina it’s 31 and in Mexico just 27. These young consumers are accelerating the shift to online shopping and embracing mobile just like their counterparts around the globe. Still, business leaders that are eagerly eyeing the region must bear in mind that mobile commerce is still at an early stage—it does not yet represent the same high percentage of online sales as in some Asian markets.