2015 is upon us: in Forrester’s just-released “Predictions 2015: US B2C And B2B eCommerce Players Will Struggle To Keep Up With Customers” report, we predict a number of key issues will challenge B2C eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals in the coming year, while a number of new and exciting—but not pressing—topics will circulate. B2C eBusiness & channel strategy professionals ought to know which key issues to watch and which over-hyped trends to ignore.
What Will Happen: Flexible Fulfillment is the new term for omnichannel
We just published our predictions report for global eCommerce in which we identify 10 trends and discuss the impact they’ll have on the industry in 2015. We look at key commerce topics such as mobile and omnichannel and also address what we expect to see from some of the global eCommerce giants in terms of their international efforts in 2015. In addition, we explore topics such as:
The B(R)IC markets will continue to attract attention, but smaller ones will also gain traction. Next year, we expect to see continued interest in Brazil, India and China (the political situation in Russia means it will be bumped down the list for many US and European brands). However, all of these markets will remain challenging for varying reasons and we expect that other emerging markets will gain traction with brands in 2015. Indeed, a look at the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index shows the BRIC markets falling well below other markets like Malaysia, Thailand, the UAE, Mexico and Colombia. Many eCommerce organizations won’t yet be able to justify the cost of launching direct-to-consumer sites in these smaller markets, but a handful of large global organizations will jump in to establish a brand for themselves before their counterparts do the same. Brands looking to sell cross-border will also turn their attention to smaller but fast-growing eCommerce markets.
In the Age of the Customer, consumers are increasingly empowered. They decide where, when, and how they engage with organizations as they shop. European consumers are using multiple devices along their path to purchase and almost a quarter are buying online from outside their home market. This is a growth opportunity for retailers in larger eCommerce markets where online retail sales growth is slowing. These cross border buyers are a valuable target group and more likely to use mobile devices as they shop.
Yet researching and buying across multiple devices and touchpoints is not restricted to those that are happy to buy online from other countries. Across the board, consumers are using smartphones and tablets more frequently and across multiple contexts. Forrester’s updated mobile and tablet commerce forecast predicts that mobile and tablet commerce combined will account for 20% of online sales in 2014 increasing to 49% of online sales by 2018.
Mobile phones, smartphones in particular, bridge the gap between digital and physical shopping experiences. In 2015, European consumers’ increasingly multitouchpoint shopping behavior will heighten eBusiness professionals’ attention on the influence of digital across the customer journey and into stores.
Forrester believes that, for Europe, 2015 will be a year of experimentation. We predict that:
Many clients have asked me this question, following it up by asking how to extend their web analytics capabilities to mobile in China. It’s not always an easy job. Marketers in China are becoming more familiar with web analytics tools to leverage internal customer data and external data from sources like social media to understand online customer behavior. Most use local web analytics tools like Baidu Statistics or Alibaba’s cnzz.com and are starting to engage with global vendors like IBM (ExperienceOne) and Adobe’s Omniture, but don’t know if effective mobile analytics solutions exist. Marketers in China face challenges in recognizing customers on mobile and analyzing, managing, and monetizing mobile data:
Marketers have difficulty identifying customers on mobile before they log in. Campaign management tools help marketers collect mobile device IDs or even sensitive information like mobile phone numbers. These tools are still web-like in that they can’t identify users until they log in. The marketing manager of one CPG company has made the reorganization of mobile users one of its mobile analytics priorities for 2015.
Mobile data rarely supports marketing decisions. Marketers in China can’t find integrated marketing campaign management solutions that include both web and mobile. The credit card department of a leading Chinese commercial bank found that customer response rates to its mobile campaigns were ineffective due to the gaps between its mobile and online marketing campaigns.
Brands have no idea how to monetize mobile data. Marketers know how to monetize data on mobile traffic and user profiles, but not how to add value from the mobile data itself. Exchanging mobile data with third parties will be a good idea if the data platform can solve data ownership, privacy, and regulatory issues.
Back in June, I published a blog post on the ongoing loyalty battle between taxi-hailing apps in China. Since launching their loyalty campaigns, Didi Dache and Kuaidi DaChe have expanded to more and more cities and are fiercely competing with each other with dueling rounds of promotions. Five months later, we have a winner — at least for now.
On November 5, Kuaidi announced that it had captured 60% of the taxi-hailing app market in China, overtaking former market leader Didi. Kuaidi hasn’t just won market share — it’s won the customer loyalty battle, which is more important. According to EnfoDesk, active Kuaidi users open the app 15.82 times on average, while active Didi users only do so 12.55 times.
How did Kuaidi manage to flip the game in just five months? Simply put, Kuaidi’s customer loyalty program works better. My previous post outlined the different approaches that Didi and Kuaidi took to engender customer loyalty: Kuaidi adopted a loyalty rewards program and provided points and coupons to loyal customers, whereas Didi leveraged the power of social to replicate the success of its Lucky Money campaign.
So why did Kuaidi’s points and coupons beat Didi’s lucky money in the race for customer loyalty?
Predictable rewards beat random rewards. Kuaidi users earn a certain number of points for each completed ride and can use these points to purchase coupons — so loyal Kuaidi users get rewards that are predictable and can be accumulated. In contrast, the amount of money that Didi users get from each lucky money reward package is completely random.
Last week, I published a new report called "The Marketing Technology Meet-Up," which examines the consolidation trend of ad technologies and marketing technologies and helps marketers understand how to use it to their advantage. Why is this happening now, you ask? Three reasons: customer expectations for brand interactions are (still) increasing; vendors want a bigger piece of the marketer's technology budgets; and the prevalence of investments in contextual experiences.
We see the convergence happening in four areas:
Data, because the single view of the customer is as tantalizing as it is elusive.
Media, which half of marketers say they struggle to buy correctly.
Measurement, as various methodologies provide vastly different performance results.
Operations, where siloed marketers find more and more reasons to work together on coordinated programs.
Forrester predicts that US online retail sales will reach $89 billion during the 2014 holiday shopping season. Shoppers turn to the Web during the time-pressed period between November and December to avoid crowds, lines, and, in many cases, higher prices. This holiday season, eCommerce will experience a boom in the number of online buyers, as the holiday season is a strong opportunity for new customer acquisition, and online wallet share, as seasoned online consumers are growing more comfortable and reliant on the practice.
However, the expected growth is not as high as it could be due to a few unique constraints. A shorter than average holiday selling season, defined by the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, limits shoppers in the time during which they can take advantage of the deep discounts they expect. Further, the expected increase in volume of online sales will push the already constrained carrier networks. Forrester estimates that nearly seven times more eCommerce packages are shipped daily in the two weeks before Christmas than daily between the months of January and October. Last year, FedEx and more notably UPS had a high number of late deliveries due to unprecedented package volume and poor weather that caused buildups at critical times. With the expected 13% increase in eCommerce sales in 2014 for the months of November and December as compared to the same period in 2013, retailers and consumers must recognize the risk of shipping delays.
To bring a recent piece of research on content co-marketing to life, I created a mini-podcast (8 minutes) that includes excerpts from my interviews with marketing leaders. Give it a listen (if the Soundcloud player below doesn't show up or doesn't work for you, you can go straight to the Soundcloud page where it lives, here). Below I've included notes to the podcast, and a full transcript.
As the hub of our offline and online experiences, mobile interactions are a powerful catalyst for contextual marketing. The untapped opportunity in mobile for marketers will be to get an extremely granular understanding of their customers, then anticipate their expectations, and develop unique insights to power better marketing across all channels, not just mobile.
Few Marketers Make The Most Of The New Customer Data Gold Mine
Because smartphones are the hub of our offline and online experiences, they generate valuable insights for contextual data-driven marketing. However, the majority of marketers are not yet ready to exploit the convergence between mobile and big data.
Short Term: Engage Your Customers In Real Time In Their Mobile Moments
Harnessing and extracting actionable insights from this unprecedented wealth of customer data will enable marketers to serve customers in their mobile moments on a channel where they will increasingly spend the majority of their digital time.
Long Term: Power Better Marketing Initiatives Beyond The Mobile Channel
Mobile is more than simply another digital channel. Marketing leaders should combine mobile data with other sources of customer intelligence to get a deeper understanding of customers, anticipate their expectations, and act on these insights to improve all marketing initiatives.