Spring is finally here, and with that, a time for wild animals to emerge from their winter sleep. We humans don’t really hibernate, but we can find it difficult to get out of bed to face a rather frosty environment. This applies to companies, too.
As we researched our new report about trends in European digital insurance, it became clear that no one is really disputing the value of direct insurance. European insurers have suffered seven lean years, as premiums in property, casualty, and life insurance largely stagnated. Direct sales have often been an area that continued to deliver growth. Because of this, we expect most European insurers to step up their investments and efforts in this area.
The move shouldn't surprise anyone. Remember Rakuten and Viber? Retailers need to expand their reach to acquire more customers. The more contextual the better. The investment is small relative to Snapchat's valuation and Alibaba's worth. I would view it more as an option to make a future, larger play than a clear indication of a new strategy.
Two things matter the most in mobile:
1) Audience. Snapchat offers a new audience to Alibaba - one in the US and one that is described as being younger. Consumers spend more time in communication and social media apps than in retailing apps - in aggregate. Accessing consumers - marketing to consumers, letting consumers engage with brands or letting them make purchases where they already spend their time is an important strategy for brands looking to engage consumers on mobile devices - we call this "borrowing mobile moments." Alibaba's recent moves including products, acquisitions and investments clearly signal that they intend to make a strong play in mobile. They acquired a mobile OS player a few weeks back. An investment in Snapchat is another strategic asset.
2) Data. Insights generated from mobile, social, sensor- etc. data will fuel the next generation of mobile experiences. This data will also give retailers insights into the needs and motivations of their consumers - especially in real time, on the go, what is trending. Consumers love flash sales, for example.
Neither the valuations nor the velocity of deals should surprise anyone. Mobile phones are more akin to islands with limited (valuable) real estate than ever-expanding universes. Smart players like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Alibaba know this. Expect the trend to continue.
eBusiness leaders are under tremendous pressure to deliver in the face of aggressive business growth plans, competitive threats and digitally-empowered consumer demands. When you add evolving sales and services channels and ever-more global markets on the road map to the mix, even eBusiness leaders with hefty budgets and a do-it-yourself attitude acknowledge they could use a little help.
Some retailers, CPGs and branded manufacturers are outsourcing all or parts of their eCommerce operations to full-service eCommerce solution providers. However, the days of 10-year contracts and one-size fits all solutions are long gone. Full-service commerce providers have undergone quite a few iterations as the eCommerce market has matured. Today, these solutions are:
Becoming more modular. They are unbundling their full stack offerings into modules so firms can pick and choose elements of their eCommerce operations to outsource or keep in house.
Being more transparent with pricing. They have evolved away from obfuscated revenue share models to à la carte, transparent pricing per service, with usage- or per-transaction-based pricing models commonly replacing or acting in tandem with revenue share.
Opening technologies up for flexible integrations. As these providers unbundle their offerings, they’re also making their technologies easier to integrate with through flexible APIs.
Focusing on omnichannel. These providers are developing their technologies to enable better data transfers, consistent user experiences, and enhanced fulfillment flexibility for their clients to keep up with the pace of change in the marketplace.
A growing number of digital business leaders are being tasked with global expansion. Their technology partners play a critical role: eBusiness professionals rely on partners not only to help build new digital offerings, but also to provide strategic advice on how to effectively penetrate new markets. Some of the key questions solution providers can anticipate from clients and prospects include:
How quickly can I get up and running? A common scenario looks like this: After years of discussing the need to go global, senior leaders within an organization finally decide to pull the trigger. A frenzy ensues. Digital business leaders are given just a few months to propose which markets to prioritize and how to enter those markets. Given how quickly the new international expansion must happen, business leaders seek out technology partners that promise rapid turnaround on new global initiatives. Solution providers that talk about launching new initiatives in years rather than months are often sidelined in favor of those that can execute more rapidly to fulfill the corporate mandate.
What will going global cost? Few leaders have access to an endless stream of cash when it comes to launching new global eCommerce offerings. To the contrary: It’s more typical to see businesses pouring a small fraction of what they invested in the domestic business into their international initiatives. Cost is therefore front and center when it comes to evaluating new technologies. Solution providers that can help businesses launch across multiple countries in a cost-effective manner are well positioned to capture new business, even when the prospect may be only ready to enter one or two new markets at the time of vendor selection. The exception? When a market is large or strategic enough to merit selecting partners with solutions that cater specifically to that market (think China).
eCommerce growth continues unabated around the world, with eCommerce being cited as a driver of overall economic growth in markets from China to Nigeria. Indeed, online retail revenues continue to soar in every market that we forecast—China alone will generate more than $1 trillion in eCommerce sales by 2019.
As eCommerce markets in different parts of the globe flourish, a growing number of digital business leaders are being asked to take their brands into new markets. What opportunities exist for eCommerce leaders looking to expand internationally? How are they tapping into these opportunities? Our newly updated report (client access req’d) addresses these questions. We find that:
Mobile World Congress (MWC) is “the” event in mobile. It is the event where Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Sony, Microsoft, LG … well, really everyone (but Apple) will launch new mobile phones, tablets, and wearables. And, yes big-screened mobile phones are still “in.” I’m more likely to buy a leather jacket with bigger pockets or a larger purse than to buy a smaller phone.
Thousands flock to Barcelona annually to hold these devices in their hands. Words too often fall short in describing the feeling of holding the next Samsung device in your hand or the emotions of delight and bewilderment when you turn the device on.
The question then is: “So what? What does it mean for my company?”
Two things matter in mobile: audience and data. SnapChat has audience.
Audience matters because consumers are using fewer and fewer applications on their mobile devices. Brands can no longer pursue a “destination” strategy and expect consumers will come to them. They need to go engage consumers where they are. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $19B gave us a sense of just how valuable audience depth, reach and usage is.
Data matters because it helps us simplify or improve mobile experiences by anticipating the needs of customers or to improve the value of advertising - if you are monetizing your app that way. Under Armour just paid $475M for MyFitnessPal for the audience, food database and personal data.
Reviewing online functionality for a selection of key European online only retailers, I am struck by a shift. With the basics of purchasing and navigation nailed down, the devil is now in the detail of implementing online functionality for apparel retailers – particularly those that are online only. Now we are seeing both subtle and overt efforts to improve merchandising and remote clienteling online proactive live chat, 2D size guides, personal shopping style guides and ‘compete the outfit’ suggestions on product pages.
To get to the next level of best practice and differentiation online apparel retailers need to keep refining their website functionality in order to succeed in a competitive and increasingly crowded category. Empowered customers are using multiple devices to shop online helping to drive forecasted online retail sales growth of 12% in Europe (2013 to 2018). To secure their chunk of this growth, online apparel retailers need to constantly evaluate, test and implement new and improved functionality to support merchandising and drive consumers through the path to purchase.
Instacart’s recent $2 billion valuation suggests many believe same-day delivery to be the next standard for fulfilling online orders. Online and mobile food ordering service GrubHub recently showed its commitment to delivery by announcing the acquisition of two players in the food delivery space, DiningIn and Restaurants On The Run. Amazon, too, has been expanding its already robust same-day (and same-hour) delivery initiatives in an effort to compete with the immediacy of in-store shopping, and a number of large multichannel retailers have followed suit in the hopes of beating Amazon at its own game. But can same day delivery models be used efficiently in retail without having a negative impact on profitability? Despite the hype and flashy headlines, the business case for same-day delivery remains largely uncertain—and key questions such as, “Will customers use it?” remain unanswered.
I spent Tuesday and Wednesday of this week at Finovate Europe. As always, it is a great way to spend two days thinking about digital financial innovation and how firms can deliver better experiences for their customers. Here are a few of my impressions from the two days:
Biometrics is becoming mainstream.We barely raise an eyebrow when shown authentication processes by firms like eBankIT, ID Mission, Jumio, Nice Systems and Wipro that use facial recognition, fingerprints or voice recognition because these technologies now seem almost commonplace. Yet the technologies are hugely impressive and far advanced on what was available or even possible a decade ago.
Future generations will pay differently. The credit card is one of the greatest financial innovations of all time. Yet, despite the various card innovations on show, I cannot rid myself of the belief that plastic cards will one day soon start to seem as quaint and outdated as cheques (and, indeed, business cards). There are many big obstacles on the path to mainstream mobile payment adoption, and payment habits take decades to change, but I don’t think the future is bright for plastic cards.