Consider this. The iPad is not yet four years old...and 69% of B2B companies expect to stop publishing print catalogs entirely within the next three to five years. In a world driven by such profound change, one cannot help but ask, “What will B2B eCommerce look like in the years to come?”
Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of a report that peers over the horizon and begins to address the important question of where B2B eCommerce is heading in the next few years. In “The New And Emerging World Of B2B Commerce,” Forrester finds that B2B companies are:
Calibrating for a shift in B2B buyer behavior. B2B companies are responding to B2B customers researching and buying online and on mobile devices by creating digital assets where they once only had print and human assets. Further, they are actively preparing for a reality where 50% or more of their total customer base will be buying online from them within three years.
Developing content-enabled commerce. B2B buyers are looking for detailed product specifications, how-to videos, deep and broad FAQs, etc. to satisfy their insatiable appetite for content. In response, B2B companies are increasingly producing and syndicating targeted content aimed at driving purchase interest across multiple channels and preventing B2B customers from abandoning shopping carts.
I have recently joined the eBusiness & Channel Strategy group as an Analyst, from a role as Senior Consultant within Forrester. I have spent the past few years working with Analysts, across the eBusiness & Channel Strategy and Marketing Leadership role teams in Europe, on custom consulting projects for a variety of clients. These projects focused on a wide range of topics and objectives, including vendor selection support for an Italian fashion brand, multi-market digital maturity assessments for a global CPG organization and an eCommerce strategy review for a global multi-brand corporation, to name a few. I very much look forward to continuing to work to provide guidance and insight, now as an Analyst, to help our eBusiness clients to succeed in the Age of the Customer.
I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which must be one of the more thought-provoking ways anyone in digital financial services can spend two days.
Here’s my perspective on the lessons from the event for digital financial services executives:
More people are focusing on the small business opportunity. There were far more companies proposing to help small businesses manage their finances this year, in numerous ways from access to capital through to document storage and expense management. I was particularly impressed by the work that Efigence and Idea Bank have done to help Idea Bank’s small business customers manage their finances.
Automated financial advice for mainstream customers is edging closer. For years, Forrester has talked to its clients about the huge opportunity, and pressing need, for financial firms to use software to automate the production of financial advice. A growing number of firms are trying to solve this problem from one angle or another, including Money On Toast, Vaamo, Your Wealth and Yseop. Perhaps the best quotation of the event came from Elizabeth Farabee at Yseop: “A banker doesn’t sell the customer the best product, but the product he knows best.” Automating the manufacture of advice can fix that.
Traditional marketing organisation structures are failing touchpoint innovation. With marketing teams largely organised by channels such as search, display, social, and customer care, there is little incentive to think laterally about problems and opportunities across the group.
Emerging touchpoints often redefine and cross channel boundaries, which can quite quickly cause problems for teams with restricted views, budgets, and personnel. Take the emerging touchpoint of interactive video, for example, which turns video content into a microsite and has implications on eCommerce, search engine tactics, social, and content marketing. Aside from process and budgeting issues, many brands find that staff members who have worked together for years find it difficult to break out of their habits when asked to embrace and drive the 'new'.
So what does this emerging touchpoint talent look like? Along with core qualities of entrepreneurial drive, creativity, and the ability to work flexibly across direct and virtual teams, there is also a skills profile that suits this multifarious role. Emerging touchpoint staff members have a wholly different profile from staff members in your ROI-driven, core marketing machine, who typically have a single specialism. In 1991, Tim Brown, the CEO of Ideo, described this flexibility as a T-shaped skill set. While he intended it to be used for collaboration across roles, it's also a useful way to think about a broadening of functional skills, resembling more of an "M" shape. See the figure below for an illustration of this new balance with greater emphasis on multiple skills.
Last year, when attending my tenth Congress in a row, I wrote that MWC 2013 would be more global and more disruptive than ever before. I believe the same will be true this year, with 2014 bringing a very important milestone in the shift to mobile: an install base of more than 2 billion smartphones globally. Mobile is transforming every industry by offering global reach and the ability to offer contextual services. That’s why we'll see many more marketers, agencies, business executives, and strategists attend the traditional telecom show.
Gone are the days when MWC was about operators' supremacy. As my colleague Dan Bieler summed it up in this blog post, telcos are increasingly being backed into a corner. I still remember this quote from Arun Sarin, the former CEO of Vodafone, in the Financial Times in November 2007: “Just the simple fact we have the customer and billing relationship is a hugely powerful thing that nobody can take away from us.” Really? Well, in the meantime, Apple and Google have created two powerful mobile platforms that have disrupted entire industries and enabled new entrants to connect directly to customers.
From a marketing and strategy perspective, I'd categorize the likely announcements in three main areas:
1) The Asian Device Spec Fashion Week: Getting Lost In Device Translation
Seventy-six percent of marketers think that marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the past 50 years!*
Mobile is a significant contributing factor to this rapid pace of change. For example, between 2011 and 2013, Google’s YouTube share of mobile traffic has increased from 6% to 40%! Facebook’s mobile monthly active users have more than doubled from 432 to 945 million!
My colleague Craig Le Clair recently explained why business agility is a key competitive advantage. I just revisited his framework analysis to explain how marketers must adopt the principles of business agility to survive in the mobile era.
For mobile marketing to succeed, you must deliver your brand as a service, implementing more-personalized and more-contextualized brand experiences on mobile phones — but you can’t do it alone. These differentiated experiences require revamped back-end systems, which requires marketers to take an interest in the software, architecture, and processes handled by business technology (BT) teams. You must work closely with your BT counterparts to innovate new capabilities and deploy them with modern process methodologies and tools. Marketers have a lot to learn from the values underlying the notion of agile IT development.
As mobile matures as a marketing outlet, and as consumers around the world continue to embrace it as their primary Internet touchpoint, mobile’s volatility and velocity of change will instill the need to constantly iterate your entire marketing approach. It will become increasingly imperative for marketing leaders to embrace agile marketing.
Between the tackles and touchdowns of Super Bowl XLVIII, about 35 brands went head to head in a competition for consumer attention by airing highly anticipated commercials at $130,000 per second. Which brands won? It’s hard to tell: Bets were in well before Sunday, play-by-plays have been highlighted, trends analyzed, and commentators are still discussing them.
The truth is that the games have just begun. For consumers, the Super Bowl ad spectacle is part of the “discovery” phase — the first of four stages constituting Forrester’s customer life cycle — as commercials educate markets about a new product or momentarily make an impression on individuals. The resulting waves of social chatter now rippling across the Web amplify each brand’s capacity to be noticed.
Looking back at 2013, it’s easy to see all of the great innovation occurring within the digital store. Most retailers focused on omnichannel fulfillment, whether it was click-and-collect or ship-from-store. Some retailers like B&Q in the U.K. began to experiment with dynamic pricing in-store. If 2013 was about launching new services, 2014 will be about shedding light on the actual performance of these initiatives.
One example of new digital store technology is eBay’s digital storefronts. Last year in June, eBay made a splash by deploying a digital storefront for Kate Spade, allowing customers to browse and buy products from a giant digital screen strategically placed over a vacant physical storefront. This digital storefront replaces the static posters that mall operators use to cover up vacant stores. This past holiday season, eBay expanded the pilot and deployed a series of digital storefronts in a popular San Francisco mall. These new digital storefronts are a few blocks from the Forrester offices, and I capitalized on the close proximity to conduct some research on how the technology was being used and received. eBay launched three digital storefronts: a small format Rebecca Minkoff storefront, a small format TOMS storefront, and a large Sony storefront in front of an escalator exit.
In mid December, I spent two hours observing customer interactions with the digital storefronts (some might even call it lurking). After an informal assessment of almost 500 shoppers who passed by these digital storefronts, I came to the following conclusions:
(See a more detailed and interactive version of this post on touchcast, by clicking
on "View Interactive Version" in the video above or visiting TouchCast.)
News out today confirms that Sony has indeed sold off its Vaio PC arm, ending 17 years in the personal computer business. And that CEO Kazuo Hirai has also decided to separate the TV division into a standalone unit in order to better heal it. Although he insists for now that Sony has no plans to sell that division, it would be foolish of the company not to consider any good offers. If there are any.
Because really, who would want that business? It has lost nearly $8 billion in the last 10 years and has been rapidly losing share to Samsung and LG and is about to get attacked by Chinese TV makers eager to have more influence in the US and other Western markets. I saw a very impressive offering from Hisense, TCL, and Haier at this year’s CES and expect them to make inroads against the more expensive panels from Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp, all of which have struggled to keep up.
This certainly doesn't mean most marketing is useless, but it's a telling statistic about the divide that separates marketing messages that operate at 30,000 feet from sales conversations that happen at 3 feet — the average distance between a salesperson and a prospect during a sit-down meeting.
In this digital age, it's increasingly important for marketing to play a bigger role in helping sales not just get "your" message in front of a customer, but to make it "their" message — something that the buyer cares enough about to talk to your rep and to do something that upsets the status quo as a result. It's about creating content that can play dual roles: attracting and educating buyers while giving sales a deeper understanding about what's attracting that attention in the first place. To achieve both, marketers have to understand their buyers. Better. Deeply. Obsessively.