Last week, my colleague Sucharita Mulpuru published Forrester’s annual US online holiday retail forecast. In her blog, she shared that Forrester expects this year’s holiday season to generate $78.7 billion in US online sales, a 15% increase on 2012's total. This optimism is largely due to ever-increasing numbers of consumers choosing the Web over physical stores as well as the rise in mobile commerce.
To better understand consumers’ attitudes and behaviors regarding shopping during the holiday season, my team conducted a qualitative research project last year with our ConsumerVoices market research online community, starting before Thanksgiving and ending the first week of January. We found that consumers are always on the hunt for holiday deals, not just during the holiday season. Most consumers have an idea of what they are willing to spend on holiday gifts, and while most stay within their budget, they will gladly spend the extra money if it comes down to staying on budget or giving the ideal gift.
This week, Apple confirmed the longstanding rumors that the company has agreed to acquire PrimeSense, the Israeli company that invented the technology behind the original Kinect for Xbox 360. All of Apple's moves are scrutinized closely, but this one is worth paying closer attention to than most.
The PrimeSense technology was astounding when it was first incorporated into the Kinect. This was not only because of what it could do — see you in 3D and model your skeletal structure as it observed you moving in physical space — but also because of how the company did it. Instead of imitating the $10,000 military-grade hardware of its predecessors, the company insisted on using off-the-shelf technology, whether hardware or software, so that the cost to deploy the solution would be laughably low, compared with prior imaging solutions. That's what made Microsoft so interested — Microsoft's own motion-sensing engineering group was years away from a homegrown Kinect experience and saw a chance to jump ahead of the market with PrimeSense. And jump it did, selling by our estimate more than 30 million cameras around the world, boosting sales of the Xbox 360 console even after it was already nearly five years old.
Now that Microsoft has moved beyond PrimeSense with the Xbox One and Apple has swooped in to buy the company, it will be tempting to think that Apple wants the technology so that it can finally make a successful play for the living room, something it has repeatedly failed to do with Apple TV. Certainly, the Primesense tech works great in the living room, and Apple would be foolish not to try it out there.
Anyone who’s heard me speak at a conference over the last couple of years stands a fair chance of having listened to me talk about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, considering I typically talk about agile commerce, digital transformation, and occasionally mobile retail strategies, that might sound odd, but I talk about the fall of the Wall as an icon for revolution and for change.
And change is exactly what’s happening east of the old Iron Curtain now.
We just published our new online retail forecast report for Asia Pacific (clients can read the report here). In our forecast, we look at top-line growth in five markets across Asia Pacific: China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Australia. China will be responsible for the lion’s share of growth in these markets, which, combined, will reach some $854 billion by 2018.
In the report, we note a number of trends across the region, including the following:
The heavy dominance of web-only retailers in many countries. In many markets in Asia Pacific, traditional retailers do not play as strong a role in eCommerce as they do in the US, UK, or even Latin America. Internet Retailer’s Asia 500 list, for example, includes just one traditional retailer among the top 10 retail websites in the region (China’s Suning). And while some markets like Australia see traditional retailers now playing a bigger role in eCommerce, in fast-growing eCommerce markets like India as well as China, web-only retailers are very much dominant today.
The increased focus on omnichannel functionality. The strong role that many traditional retailers play in eCommerce in the US and Europe often translates into robust omnichannel initiatives. By contrast, it’s taken a while for many retailers across Asia Pacific to launch offerings that link their online and offline channels. Increasingly, however, digitally savvy retailers in the region are focused on developing new offerings. In Australia, for example, where traditional domestic retailers were long notably lagging (or absent) when it came to eCommerce, there is renewed interest not just in the online channel but also in building out key omnichannel features.
With the release of the Xbox One around the world today, Microsoft is now in position to see if it will catch up with Sony's successful PS4 introduction, which reportedly sold more than a million units on day one. Many are asking which console will win. That's actually the easy part. The harder question is whether game consoles will still matter in two years at all.
It feels a little like we've been here before. Back in 2007, both Sony and Microsoft were working hard to push the next generation of a technology they were convinced everyone would want. I'm not talking about the PS3 versus Xbox battle, though, but the war over high-definition video.
Most will barely remember that while Sony backed Blu-ray, which eventually won, Microsoft was betting hard on HD-DVD. I was courted at the time by both companies, eagerly trying to persuade me that their version of HD would win. We called the war for Sony at the time but made it clear that it would be a Pyrrhic victory: There would be precious few spoils to earn from that success.
We were right, much to Sony's distress. That's because the battle was fought over a physical storage format that was rapidly losing relevance. Digital downloads had already begun, although they would never really catch on. More importantly, that was the year that Netflix added online movie viewing, foreshadowing and encouraging a future that would be streamable.
That's why the right comparison today is not between this and the last-generation game console launches. It's instead between game consoles as a whole and all the dozens of other ways people can play games, watch video, interact with friends, and otherwise pass their free time.
After one of the biggest announcements in the marketing technology space of 2013 — Salesforce.com's purchase of ExactTarget — few were surprised to see the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud feature prominently at Dreamforce last week in San Francisco. But the real headline grabber was the introduction of Salesforce1, a cloud-based platform for what the company calls the "Internet of customers." We've got a deeper look into the implications of this for marketers for Forrester clients, but some of our key takeaways were that Salesforce:
Gets the age of the customer and what it means for their products. CEO Marc Benioff spoke at length about the "customers behind the devices" and the importance of engaging with those individuals, rather than the things they use to connect to the Web. We are in what Forrester calls the age of the customer, where "the most successful enterprises reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers." The Salesforce1 vision is to be the technology engine behind those firms — and the announcement takes a big step in that direction.
Many brands and corporations today suffer from “two site” syndrome. The ‘.com’ site (often owned by brand/corporate marketing) serves to offer up a glossy magazine experience — designed to romance the customer with brand and product stories, while the ‘store.’ is owned by the eBusiness team and is designed around structured product content to optimize conversion and revenue goals. The result is often fragmented and poorly integrated digital experiences that confuse the customer, introduce unnecessary complexity, and ultimately fail to deliver on the broader digital strategy of the brand.
In the age of the customer, brands today seek a unified experience between the four stages of the customer life cycle (discover, explore, buy, and engage). For eBusiness professionals, this means tighter collaboration with their corporate marketing and brand counterparts to find ways to embed commerce (the buy phase) into the heart of the .com experience rather than building segregated eCommerce sites. However, this is easier said than done. The problem is that many brand and manufacturing organizations leverage web content management (WCM) platforms to create, manage, and measure targeted, personalized, and interactive brand experiences. However, these WCM platforms lack the robust commerce capabilities that organizations need to manage large, complex product catalogs and develop sophisticated merchandising strategies to sell online.
Forrester’s "US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2013" launches today. In it, we predict that for the third consecutive year, online holiday sales (November and December) are expected to grow at a double-digit pace and pull in over $78 billion. This represents about one-third of the overall retail sales volume for the year. This optimism is largely due to ever-increasing numbers of consumers choosing the Web over physical stores and the rise in mobile commerce. Despite unknowns such as the effects of a truncated holiday season and lingering consumer uncertainty around the federal government shutdown, online retailers can expect that consumers will be out in droves. The most successful retailers this holiday season will cater to consumers who:
Expect free shipping in some form. Consumers have come to expect free shipping, especially during the holidays, and many will actually leave a site if it's not offered. It’s the second most common reason why US online buyers abandon purchases and go to another retailer, behind price.
Research via all channels to find the best deals. Forrester expects that, not unlike in holidays past, price and saving money will be key considerations this holiday season. As the Web channel has become synonymous with value, retailers should expect consumers to be avidly searching for deals through a variety of touchpoints, at home and in-store on mobile devices. Availability of web content across devices will be critical: Forrester estimates that cross-channel sales (transactions that are influenced by the Web in some way but are completed in stores) will account for $247 billion this holiday season.
In my new report, "How To Hire And Onboard Customer-Centric Employees," I describe how companies can transform their hiring processes to ensure new employees are customer-centric. CX professionals must partner with their HR department and hiring manager colleagues to change the way they screen, interview and onboard new employees. The report describes specific ways to make each step in the hiring process more customer-centric. For example:
Get customer-centric applicants into the hiring funnel. A customer-centric hiring process starts by attracting the right kind of applicants and filtering out the wrong kind. The careers section of a website provides an opportunity for companies to tell applicants what they value in employees. For example, The Container Store's website describes the company's commitment to putting employees first and draws a clear distinction from other companies that focus on shareholders first. Contrast that first impression with the careers landing page on Bed Bath & Beyond's site, where the opening sentence talks about stock performance and its expansion.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) financial services provider Ally Bank and business-to-business (B2B) professional services firm PwC Australia took home top honors in the design category of Forrester’s first annual Outside In Awards. In our recent report, Amelia Sizemore and I describe how — despite vastly different business models and target customers — Ally and PwC followed strikingly similar approaches: human-centered design processes that involved a collaborative kickoff stage, extensive research, contributions from customers and multiple parts of the business, and numerous iterations of prototyping and testing.
Ally evolved its mobile banking app quickly — without sacrificing customer input.
Ally gave itself just nine weeks to design and test its new mobile banking app. Incredibly, team members managed to involve customers during seven out of the project’s nine weeks.
After an initial round of customer interviews, the team asked 10 mobile banking customers to complete a two-week diary study. Participants noted the financial activities they needed to accomplish and sent in photos of places where they wanted — but weren’t able — to bank. Next, the team conducted informal tests of its initial sketches and paper prototypes with a new group of customers. Finally, the team brought yet another group of customers into its usability lab for formal prototype testing.