It's Here...The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q2 2015

Andy Hoar

I’m pleased to announce the release of "The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q2 2015." Peter Sheldon and I last took a deep dive into the space in 2013, and since then we've seen B2B grow both in size and importance.  

However, today's B2B environment is more complex, crowded, and competitive than it was in 2013. B2B buyers now insist on an "Amazon-like" customer experience with real-time interaction, extensive price and inventory transparency, and robust guided selling.  B2B companies are still plagued by both internal and external channel conflict, which in many cases is impeding their forward progress with digital. And not only are offline companies moving online, but omnichannel competitors in adjacent categories and pure-play online sites are entering select markets as well. 

It was against this backdrop that Peter and I evaluated several top B2B Commerce vendors. We found once again that hybris (an SAP company), IBM, Oracle Commerce, and Intershop led the pack. But this time around, Insite joined their ranks.  NetSuite returned as a strong contender and was joined in that category by eBay Enterprise (Magento).  New to both the B2B commerce space and our Wave evaluation is CloudCraze, a company offering eCommerce as a native application within the Salesforce environment.  

As Peter Sheldon outlines in detail in his blog post:

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Introducing the Forrester Wave for Content Marketing Platforms

Ryan Skinner

Once you scale beyond a couple contributors and teams, it gets messy.”
– Content marketing leader at Intel

That’s as succinct a summary as you’ll get for the pains of contemporary content marketing. Even as marketers flock to it, experienced practitioners know of content marketing’s side effect:  An unmitigated mess, with lots of people producing piles of content all at the same time, all over the world.

Cue the Content Marketing Platform, or CMP. CMPs emerged to bring order to this cross-channel, cross-organizational, cross-brand, cross-geography, cross-everything content mess, by putting all the people working on content in to a common and shared space.

It’s against this relatively nascent CMP category that we just published a Forrester Wave report.

[Editorial note: Forrester publishes approx. 50-60 wave reports per year, or about one per week on average. Of those, only about a dozen each year are entirely new. This is one of the latter.]

The CMPs assessed in this report – Contently, DivvyHQ, Kapost, NewsCred, Oracle, Percolate, PublishThis, RebelMouse, and Skyword – can cite content marketing giants as part of their client list like: GE, Pepsi, Marriott, BlackRock, IBM, Dell, Diageo, Unilever, MasterCard, and Colgate-Palmolive. And they are picking up new ones relentlessly; as a group, they’re doubling software revenue year after year.

To pin down exactly what CMPs do, here is Forrester’s definition:

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Amazon And The Rise Of eCommerce In Mexico

Zia Daniell Wigder

Today Amazon launched full force in Mexico with items ranging from baby products to electronics to sporting goods—for the past two years, the company has sold only eBooks on its localized site in the country. Why Mexico now? 

Mexico’s eCommerce market has risen on global brands’ priority lists. When it comes to eCommerce, Mexico is the India of Latin America: a small, early-stage market that has been overshadowed by rapid eCommerce growth in a much larger neighbor (Brazil in the case of Latin America, China in Asia). However, Mexico’s time has come. As Brazil’s economy has slowed to a halt, Mexico’s continues to grow—at the same time, the cost and complexity of operating in the Brazilian market has become apparent, leading many US and European brands to turn their attention north to the region’s second largest economy. In 2014 alone, Orange, Zara, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Williams-Sonoma all rolled out eCommerce offerings in Mexico.

Driven by a variety of different categories, the online retail market is growing rapidly. We often talk about eCommerce markets evolving in four phases (see graphic below). Mexico has very much followed this trajectory. Early-stage online purchases were largely in the travel sector—then as consumers started to make physical product purchases online, they gravitated to categories such as consumer electronics and computer hardware. Going forward, these categories will continue to grow but they will be augmented by later-stage categories like apparel, beauty and grocery. We expect Mexico’s total online retail market to grow by a CAGR of 19% between 2014-2019, reaching almost $7 billion by 2019.

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Customer Experience News: This Week In Congress

Rick Parrish

Each Congress considers over 10,000 bills, and virtually none of them ever explicitly focus on customer experience (CX). However, some bills do have implications for federal CX. And although just 3% of bills ever become law, federal CX advocates should stay informed of proposals from the start. That way, we can suggest improvements, help good ideas become law, and plan for what happens when they do.

That’s why I’m starting this new weekly blog series. Every week while Congress is in session, I’ll take a look at a few new bills that could affect federal CX and offer my initial thoughts on each. I hope my views start a weekly conversation about which bills seem most promising for federal CX and the overall role Congress should play in improving the federal customer experience.

Let’s begin by taking a look at two bills that House leadership recently assigned to committee:

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Announcing Forrester’s 2015 B2B Commerce Suites Wave

Peter Sheldon

Twenty months have passed since Forrester last published our Wave evaluation of the leading B2B commerce suite vendors. During that time much has changed. B2B eCommerce transactions in the US have grown 40% from $559b in 2013 to reach an estimated $780b by the end of 2015. Furthermore, 74% of B2B buyers now research and 30% now buy at least one-half of their work purchases online. Manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers alike are investing heavily in next generation enterprise B2B commerce technology to ensure they are delivering world-class online buying experiences that are able to scale for anticipated growth. As a result of this wave of investment, manufacturing and wholesale trade firms will spend more on commerce technology by the end of the decade than their peers in B2C retail.

As eBusiness teams look for solutions in the market, not only are they benchmarking their future state online buying experience against B2B peers like Grainger, but also against B2C leaders like Amazon and Wal-Mart. This means they need solutions with a best-in-class foundation of B2C features such as robust marketing, merchandising and experience management tools upon which unique B2B capabilities such as contract pricing, quotes pricing lists, eProcurement, product configuration and customization, guided selling, bulk order entry, dealer management, and account, contract, and budget management are then layered on top.

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Developing Results-Driven Thought Leadership Marketing

Laura Ramos

 “Business buyers don’t buy your product; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.”

Most B2B marketers need to position their firms as thought leaders on the issues their buyers face. This is easier said than done, because marketing mindsets focused primarily on brands, products, and offerings makes it difficult for marketers to develop interesting content that captures their buyers’ attention.Forrester's Framework For Thought Leadership Marketing

A lack of skills and experience in developing customer-focused content make it difficult to produce engaging content. Our benchmark study showed 87% of marketers struggle to produce engaging content. (subscription required)  And most firms don’t have a process or framework for managing thought leadership marketing initiatives, so they push out product brochures and white papers thinly disguised as thought leadership content.

As a result, buyers don’t find B2B content engaging because the digital world gives them more power to form buying decisions alone. To intercept these buyers when they begin to discover issues and start to explore options; marketing and sales teams need to put your firm’s points of view out there for prospects and customers to see. Really provocative or forward-leaning points of view help to not only attract an audience, but build interactions.  Doing this is thought leadership marketing.

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How The Social Security Administration Hit A CX Trifecta With A Mobile App

Rick Parrish

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program had a problem: It was paying out way too much in unearned benefits to program participants. This was happening because participants weren’t reporting their income often enough. As participants’ incomes went up, their SSI eligibility went down — but they continued receiving SSI benefits based on the lower income they had previously reported.

SSA used fundamental customer experience (CX) techniques to solve this problem. As a result, it ended up fixing not one problem, but three.

First, SSA and its contractor performed basic quantitative and qualitative customer research to discover why people weren’t reporting their income. The reason wasn’t fraud — it was convenience. SSA had made it too difficult for beneficiaries to report their income, so they weren’t doing it as often as they should. But how to make it easier? Solid CX design methods presented the solution: a mobile app.

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Which Bank Has Emerged Top In Forrester’s 2015 Singapore Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark?

Zhi-Ying Ng

Consumers in Asia Pacific have made the mobile mind shift—the expectation that they can get what they want in their immediate context and moments of need. This rings particularly true for consumers in Singapore, where smartphone penetration will reach a staggering 85% by the end of 2015. From researching products prior to purchase to booking of taxi services, consumers in Singapore are increasingly reaching into their pockets for their smartphones to get information and services in their mobile moments of need. And they have come to expect similar—if not better—information, digital services and customer experience from their financial institutions. It comes as no surprise then that competition in mobile banking has started to heat up in Singapore, with many banks enhancing their mobile capabilities to serve increasingly empowered customers. 

In our inaugural 2015 Singapore Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark report, we have evaluated the retail mobile banking offerings of four banks in Singapore using 41 criteria. We found that:

  • Banks in Singapore offer accessibility and convenience, providing a wide range of mobile touchpoints where customers can quickly log into their accounts to carry out key tasks, either on the web or on the app.
  • Most banks offer services that matter most to customers including balance checking, transaction history, and basic money movements.
  • Leading banks (such as DBS Bank and OCBC Bank) differentiate by offering next-generation value-added features, either by using augmented reality technology to help home buyers with their purchase decisions or by using mobile image capability to pay bills.
  • Yet, there is room for improvement for banks when it comes to leveraging context and analytics to gain a deeper understanding of their customers, and they can do more to cross-sell additional banking products and services through mobile
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Run On Smartphones Before You Walk On Smartwatches

Thomas Husson

Apple will sell more than ten million Apple Watches and dominate the smartwatch category in 2015. Despite the hype, this will only represent 1% of the 2 billion smartphones’ installed base. Should B2C marketers even care? Yes, because the Apple Watch is a good way to learn how to deliver extremely contextual experiences to a niche of early adopters and influencers. Because Apple Watch will boost sales for the entire wearable market, it is also a good opportunity to anticipate and innovate on connected objects.

However, smartwatches are a double-edged sword for marketers. On one hand, they offer unique opportunities to develop brand proximity and hyper-contextualized alerts for consumers in their micromoments. On the other hand, they risk damaging the brand by oversaturating customers with irrelevant messages and raising privacy concerns.

Most branded apps I had the opportunity to test did not deliver value. I even ended up deleting some iPhone apps that did not offer relevant messages. I think marketers should not even consider Apple Watch if they haven’t implemented a mobile messaging and push notification strategy. To differentiate among other apps, you must mature your push notification approach to deliver truly personalized experiences in the context of your overall customer relationship management.

For marketers having a more advanced mobile strategy, now is a good time to start working with app developers or their agencies to plan for native Apple Watch Apps by taking advantage of all the sensors on the device, and to build their own “complications”, mashups of data that would be pertinent for a given user at a given time.

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Twitter product pages are a mediocre idea, but a fantastic sign of progress

Nate Elliott

Twitter's had a busy few days. Last Thursday, the company opened up about Project Lightning, a new feature that'll make it easier for users to follow live events like the NHL Stanely Cup Finals. And Friday, Twitter announced two more new features: product pages and place pages will collect people's tweets about, well, products and places; and product and place collections will allow people to curate lists of their favorite products and places. 

It's fantastic to see Twitter innovating. These announcements mean the company has now launched more new features in the past nine days than it had in the previous nine years — and that'll be important if they're going to get back on track. And Project Lightning looks like a great idea. Twitter created an event-specific experience for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and credited that experiment with a boost in usage. Offering similar experiences for other events makes a lot of sense, and should bring more people to the site more often. 

But product-focused pages are unlikely to be the company's savior. According to our Forrester Technograhpics survey data, US online adults are more than four times more likely to research products on a search engine than on a product's social media page. And they're more than three times more likely to do research on a brand or manufacturer web site than on a product's social page.

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