How to be a Digital Commando

Martin Gill

These poor, cold fellows stand few miles from my parent’s house in the Highlands of Scotland.

They commemorate the founding of the Royal Marine Commandos in 1942, and these windswept, bronze statues (almost as cold as the poor trainees were at the time) overlook the glens and lochs where the original commandos trained.

So what’s significant about the commandos in the context of eBusiness? Well, it isn’t that they were uber-cool special forces dudes. It isn’t even that they were pioneers of irregular warfare (i.e. innovators). The concept of Commandos pre-dated World War 2. In fact, in commanding the foundation of the commando units, Sir Winston Churchill took inspiration from his experiences in the Boer War and looked to the raiding tactics of the Boers for a model. So it's not even like us Brits invented the term.

What’s important about the commandos is that they were cross-functional. They were expert at collaborating across organizational boundaries. And in this they were pioneers.

Traditionally, the Army, Royal Navy and RAF were silos. Massive, traditional, centuries old silos who went further than just having incompatible processes and disjointed command structures. In many cases there was outright rivalry between service arms of the kind that would be intolerable in business. Troops fighting in bars. Intelligence actively hoarded by officers. Functional rivalry like nothing you have to deal with in eBusiness (hopefully).

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Are US Health Plan Websites Ready For Affordable Care Prime Time?

Ellen Carney

Beginning on October 1st, US health insurance plans will be facing a big enrollment event when millions of Americans will be required to purchase health insurance. Where will many go to do research and shop? Health plan websites.

Forrester Research recently conducted an online wellness check  to see just how prepared plan websites are to meet the crush of insurance plan shoppers. Through the second quarter of 2013, Forrester assessed the sales and service prowess reflected the public websites of seven US health plans. What did we learn?

  • Research help is hard to find or missing entirely. Product information, research help, and site search are weaknesses that needed to be addressed by all the plans we evaluated. What did we have in mind? Content that answered questions about plan features, plan comparison tools, and especially guided plan advisors. Two that caught our attention were David, Aetna’s Virtual Benefit Advisor and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois’s plan helper. But while these were incredibly valuable aids, even these two stand-outs were hard to find on the websites.
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Trends In Early-Stage eCommerce Markets

Zia Daniell Wigder

As brands eye a growing number of eCommerce markets around the globe, it’s important to understand the trends that mark early-stage markets and how these trends often evolve with time. The following factors suggest that an eCommerce market is still in an early phase:

Purchase decisions are made largely based on price. It is common to hear about consumers in early-stage eCommerce markets using the Internet to seek the lowest prices available on products. In markets like China and Russia, conventional wisdom shows that consumers go online to bargain hunt. However, over time, this dynamic gives way to consumers electing to buy from trusted retailers and those that provide a superior customer experience.

Online purchases are dominated by consumers in tier one cities. As eCommerce starts to take off in new markets, it tends to be the consumers in the largest, wealthiest cities that comprise the bulk of eCommerce markets. Whether it’s São Paulo and Rio in Brazil, Beijing and Shanghai in China, or Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia, the top few cities tend to represent the lion’s share of early eCommerce revenues. Within the first few years, however,   revenue growth starts to shift to smaller cities where offline product selection is more limited and the online channel helps fill the void.

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SAP Closes Its Acquisition Of Hybris - A Quick Update

Peter Sheldon

Two months ago, SAP announced their intention to acquire Hybris and back then I blogged about the potential implications for Forrester’s clients. Today, SAP has formally completed the acquisition, which brings further clarity for the road ahead:

  • Hybris will operate as an independent business unit. Hybris will operate as an "SAP Company" rather than a "Product of SAP” and will retain its existing sales and development teams. This is a positive move for existing and future Hybris customers and ensures that the Hybris solution will continue to remain agnostic of other SAP products and technology. For now there will be no bundling of products, Hybris will not become part of the ERP or CRM suites or vice versa, however on the SAP side of the house there will be development in building lightweight ‘connector’ integrations for those customers that want to run Hybris alongside an existing SAP ERP or CRM infrastructure.   
     
  • Customers will be able to buy from SAP or Hybris. In the near future, the on-premise edition of Hybris will become available on the SAP price list. For existing SAP customers looking at Hybris, this will give them the flexibility to contract directly with SAP and leverage their existing master service agreement. Given that Hybris will be available through both the SAP and Hybris sales channel, customers should expect price parity - it is unlikely that SAP reps will have much leeway to apply deep corporate discounting when selling Hybris.
     
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Commerce Technology Continues Its Bull Run

Peter Sheldon

With growth comes investment, so given that eBusinesses across the globe continue to experience double-digit compound annual online sales growth, it should come as little surprise that 66% of these same firms are planning to increase their investment in commerce technology in 2014. In my latest research report “Commerce Technology Investment And Platform Trends — 2013”, Forrester polled 49 eBusiness leaders to understand their investment and technology implementation plans for the next 12 months. Here’s what the top of the investment priority list looks like:

  • Omnichannel Execution. Omnichannel initiatives have become a major focus for every retailer and brand with a physical brick-and-mortar presence. eBusiness teams (and their counterparts in store operations) are rushing to implement the following programs among others: pickup-in/ship-to store, store inventory visibility, ship from store, and associate enablement.
     
  • eCommerce Replatforming. eCommerce platforms are the backbone of any digital channel, and replacing legacy home-grown systems or outdated (and often unsupported) platforms remains a top priority. With these platforms now supporting omnichannel programs such as “buy-online, pick-up in-store”, having a scalable and flexible platform that can support future growth is an imperative.
     
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COOL JOB ALERT! FORRESTER RESEARCH IS HIRING A HEALTHCARE EBUSINESS AND CHANNEL STRATEGY ANALYST

Ellen Carney

In the face of the biggest industry disruption in memory, health plans are gearing up for big changes in their business models. From the implementation of healthcare reform teams, public and private exchange initiatives, dramatically different underwriting, and new user experiences modeled after Apple and Amazon, health care payers — and providers — are looking for answers and a view into the future of healthcare. So Forrester is looking for a Senior Analyst to help us expand our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area. 

Here’s the important stuff in the job description:

The successful candidate will write for, present to, and advise eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in the healthcare industry (including payers and providers) to help guide their direct-to-consumer strategies, through innovative research and advice delivered through written reports, consulting, client inquiries, and speeches.  The ideal candidate possesses a strong understanding of the business and technology issues facing both healthcare and online and mobile commerce markets, plus an appetite for conducting and writing research to help clients stay abreast of the issues.

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Three Rules When Exploring New Markets

Zia Daniell Wigder

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have the job I do: Every year, I get to explore new markets around the globe and meet people who are equally passionate about building eCommerce businesses.

It's sometimes challenging to try and balance the fact that at Forrester, we are often brought to new places specifically to share our expertise — at the same time, our goal is to learn as much as possible while we're there. Many professionals looking to launch new offerings or pursue new partnerships outside of their own country face similar issues: They aim to both provide insights based on their experiences as well as to absorb knowledge that will help inform corporate strategies.

Having had some great meetings over the years and others where I’ve regretted my approach, I now try to adhere to three rules whenever I start a conversation with executives in a new market:

1. Come with a hypothesis, but prepare for it to evolve. Conversations flow much more easily if you have a framework or hypothesis for what trends you're likely to see in a market — just be ready for holes to be poked in different parts of your theory. In a recent conversation with the CEO of an online retailer in Russia, for example, I indicated that online travel sales often paved the way for retail eCommerce to take off, and asked if the situation was similar there. The CEO explained that in Russia, consumers' reliance on package tours — which are not generally sold online — meant that online travel hadn't flourished to the same degree as it had elsewhere in the world. Finding these exceptions is essential to understanding the nuances of each market. 

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Forrester Needs You - We're Hiring For An eCommerce Technology Analyst

Peter Sheldon

Our clients continue to realize sustained online revenue growth which means many eBusiness leaders have both the funds and backing to continue to invest heavily in commerce technology. Across the board, retailers, consumer brands, and industrial suppliers alike are significantly bolstering their capital investment programs to ensure they stay at the forefront of digital innovation while ensuring that their online, fulfillment, and back-office systems are ready to scale for anticipated growth over the next five years. Subsequently Forrester is hiring for a Principal/Senior Analyst to help us expand our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area. 

Here’s a quick snapshot from the job description:
 

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Canadian Online Retail Shifts up a Gear, eh?

Peter Sheldon
This week Forrester published our inaugural online retail forecast for Canada. While still lagging behind the US market, online sales in Canada show encouraging signs of growth over the next 5 years. In fact, online sales in Canada have grown from C$15.3 billion in 2010 to C$20.6 billion in 2013 and are expected to reach C$33.8 billion by 2018. A few highlights of note from the forecast:
 
  • Online sales now account for 7% of total retail spend. Forrester forecasts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the next five years for online sales, however retail total growth (online & offline) in Canada will linger at only 2.8% over the same period. Consequently online sales will account for 10% of total retail spend by 2018, up from 7% today. 
  • Just five categories account for half of the dollars spent online in Canada. Apparel and accessories alone are a C$3.5b plus sector, followed closely by PC;s, consumer electronics, event tickets and groceries. Perhaps this should come as no surprise given these same categories that are also some of the most commonly researched online in Canada. 
  • Average online spend is set to increase 37% by 2018. Today the average Canadian spends C$1,130 a year online which is considerably less than our neighbors in the US (who spend US$1,481), but on the bright side, Forrester forecasts that Canadian online spending will hit $1,552 by 2018. The majority of this growth in online spend will be driven by broader access to products and services that today are only available directly at brick-and-mortar stores or via cross-border delivery from US domiciled retailers.
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E-Trade and Fidelity Are Leaders In Mobile Investing

Bill Doyle

It's still early in the mobile investing game, but with investor expectations rising and substantial business at stake, digital wealth management teams know they must improve their portfolios of mobile sites and apps. To help, Forrester developed the Mobile Wealth Management Functionality Benchmark. Early this year, we published our first scorecard of five global leaders. We found that: 

  • E-Trade and Fidelity lead with strong account information and transactional functionality. Both firms excel in the presentation of portfolio information. E-Trade enables clients to see their portfolios' historical performance charted against major US stock indexes. Fidelity's visual display of balances, holdings, and market summaries is best-in-class. Most firms miss the opportunity to use graphics to let investors visualize their portfolios.
  • Cortal Consors, TD Direct, and Merrill Lynch all exceed minimum standards. Cortal Consors in France and TD Direct support a wider range of products than US firms because European investors often invest beyond their home market. Merrill Lynch, the only full-service firm tested, makes it easy to reach a rep.
  • Opportunities to improve include mobile-optimized websites, research, and ease of use. We believe that most firms will arrive at a mobile strategy that includes websites optimized for delivery through mobile devices. But none of the five firms we reviewed offer mobile-optimized websites. None offer stock screeners or in-depth research reports through their smartphone apps. None offer ease-of-use features like contextual help.
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