Just Where Do My Online Orders Come From?

Have you ever stopped to think where your last online order came from and how it got to your house? We might assume that the package on our doorstep has probably just made a lengthy and complex journey across the country (courtesy of the belly of a UPS freighter, a handful of trucks, a few miles of conveyor belts and some good old human muscle) from a large, nondescript distribution center located in the suburbs of a city we've barely heard of. You may be surprised to learn then, that today it is increasingly likely that the package at your door came no further than a few miles down the road from a locally based store of the retailer you ordered online from. Of course, as consumers, we don’t really care where our purchases came from or how they found their way to our doorstep - as long the right merchandise arrives damage-free and on time.

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Welcome Brendan Witcher to the eBusiness & Channel Strategy Team

I’m delighted to announce that Forrester has hired a new Principal Analyst, Brendan Witcher, to bolster our coverage of commerce technology. Brendan joins Forrester from a retail background, having most recently held several leadership positions in eCommerce, CRM and strategic planning at Guitar Center. Prior to Guitar Center, Brendan also held senior eCommerce and direct marketing roles at Harry & David. Brendan will be based in Forrester’s headquarters in Cambridge, MA.

With the addition of Brendan to the team, Forrester is making an investment to grow our coverage of commerce technology across the four stages of the customer lifecycle (discover, explore, buy and engage). Vendors and clients alike have already been asking how we’ll be dividing research coverage across our ever growing team. The answer is that we will intentionally be collaborating on much of the research, so expect to see some or all of us on inquiries, briefings as well as authors of much of our respective research. Each of us on the team will also be specializing in certain areas in addition to collaborating on core commerce technology research. The 1000 ft view looks like this:

  • I will continue to lead Forrester’s research on commerce platform, mobile commerce, digital experience management (DXM) and order management technology.
  • Adam continues to research and write about the digital retail store and will lead our research on the commerce service provider landscape in addition to order management, site merchandising,  and omnichannel logistics and fulfillment.
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eCommerce Replatforming Is A Business Transformation Program

This is a guest post by Lily Varon, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals. 

The breakneck pace of technology innovation and changing consumer behavior is having a profound impact on business. To keep up with business growth plans, competitive threats, and consumer demands, online companies must support global markets, digitally empowered customers, and evolving sales and service channels, putting ever-more stress on the eCommerce engine.

eBusiness professionals are taking stock of their legacy or incumbent eCommerce technology and finding that the solutions aren’t tactically functional, aren’t omnichannel-ready, and/or aren’t leveraging sophisticated enough data insights to deliver on the demands in the age of the customer.

The technology powering eCommerce is becoming more complicated, too. There are more stakeholders than ever, more data, more integrations, and so on. In many cases, replatforming projects run over budget and are delivered late. Talk to any eBusiness leader who has been through the process, and you're bound to hear a war story or two. These projects are never easy, but as eCommerce technology — and the market that drives it — evolves, replatforming initiatives are inevitable.

Selecting the right commerce platform for your business is important. But a car needs more than an engine to both function and be used to its full potential. eBusiness professionals must understand the following before embarking on an eCommerce replatforming program:

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Plain And Not-So-Simple: eCommerce Fraud Management And The Solutions Available To Help

This is a guest post from Lily Varon, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals

Data breaches. Customer payment and identity information hacked. Executive apology emails. Frustrated customers. The many steps to regain customer trust. It’s an all too familiar story these days (check out this cool data graphic on the topic).

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Order Management – An Omni-Channel Imperative

With Omni-channel excellence fast becoming a customer imperative, retailers and brands alike are rushing to operationalize an increasingly complex set of cross-channel order processing and fulfillment scenarios that are often referred to in aggregate as “buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere”. In fact in recent survey, we found that 52% of eBusiness professionals ranked Omni-channel integration as a top technology investment priority.

The path to Omni-channel maturity is far from simple; in fact it requires execution across a set of tactics that span organization, process and technology. Front of mind for retailers is solving the basics such as store pickup, cross-channel inventory visibility, store based fulfillment and endless aisle (in-store) ordering. Today, retailers that have already enabled these capabilities have done so by developing custom applications that integrate their eCommerce, POS and ERP/supply chain systems. However as these capabilities rapidly become the ‘norm’ for the consumer, retailers seek packaged solutions that enable them to rapidly rollout, experiment with and scale these programs.

Enter the OMS (order management system). In our May 2013 survey only 17% of eBusiness professionals identified the investment in an OMS platform as an investment priority, however this relative lack of interest is in fact easy to explain:

1)      Many retailers are still in the nascent phases of their Omni-channel journey and have yet to fully map out their requirements. Simply put, these retailers still need to make the connection between the capabilities of an OMS platform and the requirements of their Omni-channel strategy.

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Announcing The Forrester Wave™: Mobile Commerce Solution Providers, Q4 2013

I am pleased to announce that the inaugural Forrester Wave evaluation of mobile commerce solution providers is now live!

Mobile commerce is hot – In fact for Pizza Hut, it’s so hot that approximately 50% of all digital orders come from mobile and tablet devices. Beyond impulse purchases like pizza and cinema tickets, mobile commerce is now firmly established as a significant source of revenue growth for almost all online retailers. Last year Forrester forecasted that 5% of total online revenues would occur through mobile devices in 2013, but by the close of the year, many online retailers such as HSN are reporting that mobile revenues have in-fact broken the 10% threshold and, furthermore, some retail clients have told us that revenues via mobile devices have already reached 20% of total online sales during peak days. 

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The convergence of commerce and content platforms gathers momentum

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.

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Selecting The Right Global Payment Service Provider For Your eBusiness Needs

This is a guest post from Lily Varon, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals

Globalizing your eCommerce business isn’t just an option anymore — in many cases, it’s an imperative. But accepting global online payments is VERY complicated. It includes the transmission of sensitive financial information, an array of diverse payment methods, a long list of players in the transaction stream and many regulatory considerations. Add to the equation the increasing importance of mobile and the seamless user experience the consumer is demanding, and it’s enough to make even the most seasoned eBusiness professional’s head spin. So what are we to do? eBusiness professionals are often looking to partner with payment service providers (PSPs) to help manage and streamline these complex payment processes. But the PSP vendor landscape is crowded and highly competitive, leaving eBusiness professionals unclear of which PSP will best serve their needs.

Together with payments analyst Denée Carrington and commerce technology analyst Peter Sheldon, we just published a report to help eBusiness professionals navigate the maze of solutions and vendors at hand to help them meet the global payments challenge. Here are a few key questions eBusiness professionals should consider before signing on with any PSP:

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RWD Is A Natural Evolution Of The Web — And It's Here To Stay

When I first looked at responsive web design (RWD) back in June 2012, only early adopters (mostly startups, agencies and media firms) had taken the plunge. Back then, developers and web designers alike were still getting to grips with the concepts required to build responsive sites. eBusiness leaders, although intrigued by the premise of a single site able to adapt across devices, were mostly playing a pragmatic wait-and-see game. Fast forward almost 18 months and much has changed. Although hype and confusion continue (not least due to a perplexing set of technology terms and marketing buzzwords), RWD has firmly cemented itself as a natural evolution of web, and it’s here to stay.

In our latest research on RWD, my colleague Mark Grannan and I spoke to over 20 digital agencies and end user clients that have adopted responsive design. We found that RWD sites are still far from ubiquitous; however, adoption is growing steadily. As web traffic on mobile phones and tablets is increasing to the point where firms must optimize for these touchpoints, RWD is taking center stage in many enterprise discussions.

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Announcing The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q4 2013

Today, we released our inaugural Forrester Wave evaluation of B2B commerce suites.  In a sister blog post, my colleague Andy Hoar, with whom I coauthored this report, explains why client demand for this research has exploded over the past 12 months, with manufacturers and distributors grappling with how to better serve their sales channels through digital experiences. In writing this report, Andy and I have spent the past six months evaluating the B2B commerce capabilities of dozens of vendors. Despite casting the net wide, our research found that although it’s common for vendors to provide “B2B lite” functionality for their clients — such as supporting unique pricing for employees — only a subset of the broader commerce platform vendor community can truly cater for complex B2B business models with support for distributors, resellers, partner networks, employees, retail stores, and direct B2C all from a single platform. To differentiate the wannabes from the bona fide leaders, Forrester rejigged its established B2C commerce suite scoring criteria to emphasize:

  • B2B commerce features. We added all-new criteria to evaluate how these solutions solve unique B2B problems, such as quotes; complex pricing lists; eProcurement; product configuration and customization; guided selling; bulk order entry; dealer management; and account, contract, and budget management, to name a few.
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