What's your in-store digital strategy?

At the start of the year, I published a piece of research looking at the major trends we predicted would hit Europe this year. One of the themes I called out was building on Peter Sheldon’s excellent research around The Digitization Of The In-Store Environment; as I put it in European Online Retail: Five Trends To Watch In 2013:“The web and the store will cuddle up.”

We’ve seen significant investment from US retailers in this space. Lowes, Home Depot, Nordstrom, and others have all been spending heavily on developing the underlying infrastructures that they can then leverage to create in-store digital experiences. Store Wi-Fi, associate devices like tablets or smartphones, kiosk technology, and even more emerging technologies like ePaper signage and electronic shelf-edge labels are on some agendas. Even Amtrak is getting in on the act with its eTicketing initiative.

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Why you shouldn’t rush out and hire a CDO

Chief Digital Officer (or CDO) is the latest in a long line of snazzy C-level titles to emerge over the last few years. At Forrester we’ve been watching this trend for a while now and have made a few comments, but I think it’s time to put a firm stake in the ground.

 
Don’t hire a Chief Digital Officer!
 
There. I said it.
 
Now, why might I say this when a number of high profile firms are in fact hiring CDOs? Well, to put things in perspective I want to look at a tale of three brands, all of which I’ve spoken about in the past:
        
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European Online Retail Forecast 2012 to 2017: Online growth will begin to polarize across Europe

European online retail sales will reach €191 billion by 2017, up from €112 billion in 2012 – reflecting a 11% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years.

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A tale of two brands: Are you ready to embrace the realities of digital business in 2013?

2013 is going to be a fascinating year for retail in Europe.

When I look at what’s to come this year, I can paint a picture of what Forrester predicts by looking at a tale of two brands. Both are iconic, heritage British brands that have responded to their increasingly digitally enabled consumers in two very different ways. Naturally, this has resulted in two very different levels of success.

1. HMV
One picture says it all . . .

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Luxury Retailers: Wake Up! The Internet is Here to Stay...

The following picture might be a little harsh...

...but I’ve spoken to a number of eBusiness executives in luxury retail companies over the last 12 months or so, and by and large they share a similar frustration. For the most part, their senior management remain resolutely defiant in the face of the opportunity that digital brings.

Which is arrogantly short-sighted, when you consider that luxury shoppers are:

  • Young. Shoppers who buy luxury products online in the US are almost ten years younger on average than regular online shoppers. Globally, online luxury shoppers are more likely to be tech-savvy thirty-somethings rather than brandy-swilling boardroom bumblers.
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What's in the Agile Commerce Playbook?

I’ve been called upon to present on agile commerce many times over the last year, and when I do I most commonly start with this quote:

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

It’s from John F. Kennedy, a man that I admittedly don’t know that much about, but the sentiment in this message rings true for me. I am a passionate reader of history and taken too literally, JFK’s quote could seem to tell us not to look back for answers. But my take away from it is rather that you must learn how to build the future from lessons of the past. Don’t dwell only in tradition and “how it’s always been.” Far too many businesses have driven themselves to the wall over the last few years (Borders, Blockbuster, HMV, etc.) because they clung to the belief that what had made them successful in the past would remain their source of competitive advantage in the future.

One thing that history does tell us is that not only is change the law of life, but the pace of change is only getting faster. And that’s where the concept of agility comes in. I’ve written before about why agile commerce is more than just “multichannel done right.”  Absolutely, the imperative of putting the customer at the heart of everything you do and serving them coherently and consistently across touchpoints is critical. But agile commerce builds on this by focusing on the need to achieve organizational agility.

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What does the arrival of the Chief Digital Officer mean to the eBusiness team?

I’ve been thinking, talking to clients, and reading a lot recently about the rise of the Chief Digital Officer.

Most of my recent research has been concerning the shift we are seeing in leading organizations in response to their increasingly digitally aware consumers. Much of this has been described in our agile commerce research, and it goes something like this...

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Managing the Cross-Touchpoint Customer Journey

It’s no great surprise that many retailers are reporting an increase in multi-touchpoint engagement from their shoppers this year in the run-up to Christmas. Our own Technographics® data has been showing an increase in the use of things like mobile, tablets, and click-and-collect services for some time. But as the number of touchpoints shoppers are using increases, so does the complexity faced by brands trying to manage coherent, consistent, and compelling experiences across these multiple touchpoints.

The reality we now face is that customer journeys cross touchpoints.

Forrester’s Marketing Leadership team has been championing an approach to thinking about the customer journey not as a marketing funnel but as a life cycle -- a dynamic, circular ecosystem of touchpoints that morphs over time, possibly with each customer and each journey. But even making the leap from a funel based paradigm to this approach is just the first step in working out how best to optimize each touchpoint.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to just assume that every touchpoint needs to replicate every other touchpoint. Customers don’t use each touchpoint in the same way. Their expectations about what they can achieve on mobile and how a mobile app might help them interact with their physical environment with, for example, a mobile store locator or a bar-code scanner is very different from what they expect to be able to achieve when they call your call centre.

Touchpoints need to be designed within the context of an overall customer journey. Not in isolation.

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Agile Commerce – that’s Forrester’s word for “Omnichannel,” right?

You’ve all heard the term “Omnichannel.” And since you are reading this blog I’m going to assume you’ve also all heard the term “Agile Commerce.” If not, then stop reading now and check out Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce and Agile Commerce: Know it When You See It.

So either you are back, or you were with me all along. But now you are wondering “Ok, so what is the difference?” Let’s look at what the two terms really mean. Omnichannel doesn’t have a formal definition, though here’s what the oracle that is Wikipedia says…

Omni-Channel Retailing is very similar to, and an evolution of, multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, catalog, and so on.”

On the other hand, Forrester defines agile commerce as…

“An approach to commerce that enables businesses to optimize their people, processes, and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints.”

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European Brands are Embracing the Cross-Touchpoint Reality

I had the pleasure of presenting an evolution of our Agile Commerce research last week at the Internet Retailing conference in London. It was an interesting event on a number of fronts, but my key take-away from the event was a very positive one.

eBusiness executives in Europe have definitely woken up to the Agile Commerce message.

We can’t claim all the credit at Forrester, but I definitely got the feeling from listening to my fellow panelists on the Customer track present their stories that they were in the same place as we are now, at least in terms of strategic intent, if not yet in execution:

  • Simon Smith, Head of Multichannel Experience at O2 Telefonica described how he is bringing a service design ethos to delivering both consumer and employee experiences. Telefonica aims to design service experiences that are Individual, Relevant, Thoughtful, Reassuring and Amazing (SUPER, anyone?), and what was the most interesting piece about their story was that these experiences are designed from an outside in, customer first perspective before any of the individual touchpoints are designed. By basing these experiences on common personas and a wealth of analytical data, Telefonica then overlay touchpoints as appropriate, enabling them to step out of the discussion about “should we or shouldn’t we develop this or that functionality on this or that platform?” and into the more relevant discussion about “what touchpoints and experiences most make sense for our customers?”
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