Shooting Arrows At Eagles

Mao Zedong is quoted as having said that: “A revolution is not a dinner party . . . A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

However, history also shows us that violence is not the only way to lead transformational change in a society that is locked into a traditional way of being. Some iconic campaigners for peaceful change, such as Gandhi or Leo Tolstoy, come from relatively privileged backgrounds and were well positioned to take a front seat in leading change. However, others have risen from very humble beginnings. Martin Luther King. Sophie Scholl. Emmeline Pankhurst. All people from ordinary backgrounds who rose to prominence through their single-minded vision of a better world, their ability to communicate their passion, and the courage of their convictions in the face of overwhelming opposition to their way of thinking.

So why is this relevant to a blog that’s normally about eBusiness?

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Agile Commerce: Know It When You See It

 

Here at Forrester, we’ve been evangelizing the concept of agile commerce for a while now, and we are working on a stream of research building on the concept and digging into exactly how leading organizations are transforming themselves to embrace the era of agile commerce. One of the questions I personally get asked is what exactly does an agile business look like? How do you recognize one?

In speaking to a number of leading practitioners in this space, I have found that there are four things that agile businesses have in common. They:

  • Architect the experience. Agile organizations don’t allow touchpoints to emerge randomly or operate independently from one another. They design compelling cross-touchpoint experiences that are meaningful to their customers and add value to the brand, like “Click and Collect” for a retailer or mobile-driven online check-in for an airline.
  • Are customer-obsessed. Agile commerce means putting the customer at the heart of every decision, bringing quantitative and qualitative customer insight to every decision, and even reorganizing around the customer life cycle to focus teams on what the customer needs, not what the channel thinks.
  • Enable with technology. Agility demands some key underpinning enterprise technology components, such as a commerce platform that can serve the Web, mobile, and stores. But it also requires that touchpoints are unshackled from back-end systems by a common set of commerce APIs.
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Forrester's first European Mobile Commerce Forecast

 

Mobile commerce is a HOT topic!

Over the last three months I’ve presented at 4 different European events on the subject of Mobile Commerce in retail, and in every other speech I’m called on to do, mobile is increasingly at the heart of what I talk about when I discuss the key trends impacting European eCommerce. Its unavoidable.

So I’m delighted to say that Forrester has launched its first European Mobile Commerce forecast.

The growth assumptions are based on the existing Forrester Research Online Retail Forecast, 2011 To 2016 (Western Europe), with simplified category groupings to reflect mobile characteristics. Mobile purchasing behavior and mobile Technographics sophistication are overlaid onto the country-by-country eCommerce growth forecasts to reflect the way in which mobile commerce will grow differently from online commerce across Europe. What this gives us is a picture of how we believe that mobile commerce will evolve for some of the key European markets.

So what are we forecasting?

·         Mobile Growth Will Be Rapid, But Adoption Will Be Niche For Some Time Yet. Mobile commerce will represent 6.8% of all online eCommerce sales across Europe by 2017 (mobile only – we exclude Tablets from this figure). This is a significant portion of online sales, with the most rapid growth in the south of Europe.

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European eCommerce Gets A Collective Voice. Can It Grow Teeth?

I've written about the European Union's grand plans for eCommerce in the past. Much of what the European Commission wants to achieve is laudable and would be fantastic to see. After all, who amongst us doesn't want to see eCommerce thrive? However, recent initiatives such as the much debated "Cookie Law" suggests that the good intent is often diluted by the time directives become in-country legislation. So there is a very real risk that further plans to tinker with national laws regarding things like tax, delivery charges, and returns could wind up making the world more, not less complex.

Each country in Europe has an eCommerce industry body. The IMRG in the UK, Fevad in France, BVH in Germany. The list goes on. But the challenge with these bodies is that they are all country-specific, and as such don't really think too deeply about cross-border issues and also lack the power to effectively lobby the EC when it comes to influencing legislation.

One of the things that Europe really needs to help drive a more effective cross-border e-economy is an effective cross-border "user group." A group that can operate in the way that shop.org does in the US.

We have EMOTA, which is essentially an umbrella organization for the various industry groups, but feels a little detached from the actual retailers.

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ePrivacy Legislation Gets (Marginally) Clearer

 

The  May 26th UK deadline for compliance to the EU ePrivacy Directive has come and gone.

The result? Confusion among eBusiness executives. Some action. Some sites are informing us of what they are doing. Many aren’t. And a last minute refresh of compliance guidance from the Information Commissioners Office.

The ICO has been steering UK organizations toward compliance for a while, though this steering has been frustratingly vague. But to give credit where credit is due, it released a last-minute guide, which is actually very helpful. Rather than reproduce the content here, I encourage you to read this blog post and download the PDF linked on the page.

The ICO has been taking an admirably pragmatic approach to compliance. The latest document sets out definitions of "implied consent," "session," and "persistent" cookies (among other things) as well as delivering some useful tips on how to inform consumers, even looking at the style of language needed.  It's a real shame for UK sites that this guidance was issued at literally the eleventh hour. But as many UK sites have still yet to take any action, this guidance will still be helpful.

The situation in the rest of Europe is also beginning to become clearer.

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Marks And Spencer's "Plan A" Doesn't Specifically Mean "Agile." But It Could.

 I’m constantly searching for great examples of agile commerce practitioners. These are hard to find, and it’s rare to come across any one organization that exemplifies everything that we believe an agile business needs to be.

Dynamic. Willing to take calculated risks. Organized for cross-touchpoint customer engagement. A clear vision for the future with the customer firmly at the center.

In the various interviews I do, I frequently find that I end up talking about a British retail icon.

Marks and Spencer.

So what’s so special about M&S, you may ask. Well, not only is M&S a digital innovator in the space of video and its use of social media, but under the leadership of its Chief Executive Mark Bolland it is transforming itself into a truly multichannel organization. With a clear ambition to be the “UK’s leading multichannel retailer,” M&S has set itself a stretching target.

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How Quickly Can You Add A New Touchpoint?

Here at Forrester we have been talking about the concept of "agile commerce" for some time now, but it's not always easy to point to live examples of “agile”businesses. What is agile commerce? How do I become agile? Both are very valid questions that we are in the process of building out a series of research documents and case studies in order to answer.

But there is a live example happening right now that encapsulates what agile is all about for me.

 Pinterest.

For those of you who are yet to become completely addicted to Pinterest (and you will), it's basically an image sharing site that allows you to group together images from around the web into categories and pin them to a virtual pin board. It creates highly visual mood boards, wish lists, galleries, and collections of images that link back through to the original source (which is where Pinterest makes its money). And since so many Pinterest boards are all about style — fashion and home in particular — it has the potential to be a bit of a retail gold mine.

 

Unlike Facebook, which is much more about social connections, it looks like Pinterest users are more in a discovery and pre-shopping mode when they are pinning and are pre-inclined to buy if they click through to a retail website. With an ever-expanding network of users, Pinterest has the potential to bring some much needed serendipity to web shopping.

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Online Retail Goes From Strength To Strength Across Europe

Concerns over crumbling economies, the collapse of the euro, and enforced austerity measures can’t have escaped your attention if you live in Europe. It’s easy to believe that consumers aren’t spending, that business growth is almost impossible and as retail giants like Tesco post gloomy results, hard times are ahead.

But the news is considerably more positive for eBusiness professionals.

The European Commission has high hopes for online growth. Its “Single Digital Market” strategy aims to double online sales by 2015. While its initiative may have some positive impact, it’s simply too short a timescale for such a radical shift.

That said, online retail in Europe is on a firm growth trajectory. Online retail sales will continue to outperform overall retail sales figures in terms of percentage growth for many years to come in Europe. In times of austerity, more and more shoppers are turning to the web to find deals and offers and to save money.  As the web becomes an increasingly mainstream part of the lives of many Europeans, eBusiness professionals must adapt their strategies to accommodate consumers who are finding information about products and services and increasingly transacting across multiple touchpoints

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Don't Believe The Hype: 5 Trends to Watch (and 5 to Ignore) for On-line Retail in 2012

 

Every year at Forrester we take a look ahead at the driving forces behind online retail and make some predictions about how we think things will evolve and we try and identify the key trends to watch or even act upon. This year we’ve done things a little differently.

Sucharita Mulpuru has taken a look at the “Key Trends in US Retail eBusiness” while I’ve concentrated on “European Retail: Key Trends to Watch in 2012”.

Broadly we find similar themes – multichannel, mobile and changing consumer behavior in light of the continually depressing economic condition. But there are some notable differences in Europe. I’ve said this before, but I will continue repeating it – the national, cultural, language and regulatory differences that persist across Europe make European eBusiness a complex beast. 2012 will bring us more in the way of EU strategy papers and directives as the European Commission begins to formulate what their “Single Digital Market” looks like in reality. While we are unlikely to see many changes immediately, the EC’s vision for the future will begin to crystallize. Add to that changes to the e-privacy and distance selling directives that must be acted upon, European eBusiness executives are going to have a busy time in 2012 just keeping abreast of legislation.

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Thinking of launching a daily deal? Just hold that thought and read this first...

In November 2011 Sucharita Mulpuru published a very well read Forrester research document entitled “The Myths and Truths About Daily Deals”. In this document she led with the line…

“While significant media and investor interest in daily deals has fueled the hype around this business model, data from consumers indicates that daily deals are significantly challenged models.”

The daily deals concept is receiving just as much press coverage in Europe as it is in the US, so with that in mind we have taken a similar look at the state of the market of deals, flash sales and coupons and found that while there is a great deal in common, there are some notable differences.

Much of the differences stem from a combination of the local players and the geographical complexity of operating across Europe.  Many of the big players like Grouponand Living Socialare present in Europe, with significant market presence in many countries, though a range of other national companies like DailyDeal.deand SecretSales.comoperate in only one country. So while at a national level the situation is reasonably easy to understand, eBusiness executives operating in a pan-European company have a maze of different options to navigate through.

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