Disrupt Or Be Disrupted: The Challenge For Insurers In 2015

Ellen Carney

American and Canadian insurers are facing some big challenges in 2015. Customer experience expectations, their willingness to consider a growing array of new options to buy insurance, and new competitors creeping into the business of insurance are pushing traditional insurers into new digital strategies.  It’s no longer a question of digital channels or “other” when it comes to the customer journey; they’re now intertwined. Digital-dependent customers are eyeing new and more digitally savvy market entrants, while demanding more control over the experience and how their personal information is used. This year, digital insurance teams are crafting agendas that satisfy their firm’s hunger for increase market share and revenue balanced with changing demographics, adaptations in response to extreme weather, and regulation that has lagged the changing realities of digital. One thing’s for sure: Insurance eBusiness teams can’t afford to wait around, but they also can’t afford to make the wrong digital decisions. 

Just what are the factors propelling North American insurer agendas this year? For starters, it’s about:

  • Uneven economic growth in North America. The 2008 financial crisis? It’s a distant memory in much of the US, but not for all. By most measures, the US economy is thriving, driven by rising consumer demand for homes, cars, and consumer goods, and, by extension, insurance.  And in oil-producing Canada the decline in gasoline prices isn’t good news: Canada is threatened with recession.
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When To Choose Responsive Web Design Over Mobile Apps In Asia

Katyayan Gupta

The increasing affordability of smartphones and wireless Internet is driving the exponential growth of smartphone adoption across most Asia Pacific countries. Brands must develop compelling digital marketing strategies in order to engage these technology-empowered customers, as many of them will have their first digital interactions with brands through a mobile device, not a desktop.

With this goal in mind, cosmetics retailer Maybelline chose responsive web design over mobile apps to connect with digitally savvy consumers in 10 Asian countries: Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The reason for this was two fold:

  • Increase its reach among the target audience. Maybelline’s target audience is females between the ages of 15 and 25. The company’s objective was to reach out to as many customers who know the brand as possible and raise awareness among those who don’t. Responsive design helps them to serve all segments — the growing number of smartphone and tablet users and the large existing installed base of feature phone users.
  • Ensure fast time-to-market without increasing the burden on local teams. Building native mobile apps for each country would have had two implications. First, it would have been complex, costly, and slow to develop, optimize, and regularly update apps for at least two OSes (iOS and Android) per country. Second, Maybelline would have needed to manage a separate content management system (CMS) for each country’s mobile app in addition to the existing CMS for the desktop website. This was a significant obstacle, as the company did not want to employ additional, dedicated resources in every country to manage the mobile CMS and its associated complexities.
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Insurers, It’s Time To Emerge From Your Long Winter Sleep

Oliwia Berdak

Spring is finally here, and with that, a time for wild animals to emerge from their winter sleep. We humans don’t really hibernate, but we can find it difficult to get out of bed to face a rather frosty environment. This applies to companies, too.

I wrote last year that European insurers were waking up to the threat of digital disruption. I should have qualified this sentence: Some European insurers are waking up to it. And even fewer are getting out of bed and doing something about it. In 2015, the gulf between digital insurance innovators and other firms is expanding.

As we researched our new report about trends in European digital insurance, it became clear that no one is really disputing the value of direct insurance. European insurers have suffered seven lean years, as premiums in property, casualty, and life insurance largely stagnated. Direct sales have often been an area that continued to deliver growth. Because of this, we expect most European insurers to step up their investments and efforts in this area.

But here is the key point: Digital technologies are much more than just a channel. They can drive a business transformation to deliver new customer value and greater operational agility. Digital technologies can help insurers in particular build more persistent bridges to their customers’ lives to address the industry’s low customer engagement and creeping commoditization.

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Why Would Alibaba Invest In Snapchat?

Julie Ask

The move shouldn't surprise anyone.  Remember Rakuten and Viber? Retailers need to expand their reach to acquire more customers. The more contextual the better. The investment is small relative to Snapchat's valuation and Alibaba's worth. I would view it more as an option to make a future, larger play than a clear indication of a new strategy. 

Two things matter the most in mobile:

1) Audience. Snapchat offers a new audience to Alibaba - one in the US and one that is described as being younger. Consumers spend more time in communication and social media apps than in retailing apps - in aggregate. Accessing consumers - marketing to consumers, letting consumers engage with brands or letting them make purchases where they already spend their time is an important strategy for brands looking to engage consumers on mobile devices - we call this "borrowing mobile moments." Alibaba's recent moves including products, acquisitions and investments clearly signal that they intend to make a strong play in mobile. They acquired a mobile OS player a few weeks back. An investment in Snapchat is another strategic asset. 

2) Data. Insights generated from mobile, social, sensor- etc. data will fuel the next generation of mobile experiences. This data will also give retailers insights into the needs and motivations of their consumers - especially in real time, on the go, what is trending. Consumers love flash sales, for example. 

Neither the valuations nor the velocity of deals should surprise anyone. Mobile phones are more akin to islands with limited (valuable) real estate than ever-expanding universes. Smart players like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Alibaba know this. Expect the trend to continue. 

Full-Service eCommerce Solutions Are No Longer An All-Or-Nothing Long-Term Commitment

Lily Varon

eBusiness leaders are under tremendous pressure to deliver in the face of aggressive business growth plans, competitive threats and digitally-empowered consumer demands. When you add evolving sales and services channels and ever-more global markets on the road map to the mix, even eBusiness leaders with hefty budgets and a do-it-yourself attitude acknowledge they could use a little help. 

Some retailers, CPGs and branded manufacturers are outsourcing all or parts of their eCommerce operations to full-service eCommerce solution providers. However, the days of 10-year contracts and one-size fits all solutions are long gone. Full-service commerce providers have undergone quite a few iterations as the eCommerce market has matured. Today, these solutions are:

  • Becoming more modular. They are unbundling their full stack offerings into modules so firms can pick and choose elements of their eCommerce operations to outsource or keep in house. 
  • Being more transparent with pricing. They have evolved away from obfuscated revenue share models to à la carte, transparent pricing per service, with usage- or per-transaction-based pricing models commonly replacing or acting in tandem with revenue share.
  • Opening technologies up for flexible integrations. As these providers unbundle their offerings, they’re also making their technologies easier to integrate with through flexible APIs.
  • Focusing on omnichannel. These providers are developing their technologies to enable better data transfers, consistent user experiences, and enhanced fulfillment flexibility for their clients to keep up with the pace of change in the marketplace.
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Four Questions Aspiring Global eCommerce Brands Ask Of Technology Partners

Zia Daniell Wigder

A growing number of digital business leaders are being tasked with global expansion. Their technology partners play a critical role: eBusiness professionals rely on partners not only to help build new digital offerings, but also to provide strategic advice on how to effectively penetrate new markets. Some of the key questions solution providers can anticipate from clients and prospects include:

How quickly can I get up and running?  A common scenario looks like this: After years of discussing the need to go global, senior leaders within an organization finally decide to pull the trigger. A frenzy ensues. Digital business leaders are given just a few months to propose which markets to prioritize and how to enter those markets. Given how quickly the new international expansion must happen, business leaders seek out technology partners that promise rapid turnaround on new global initiatives. Solution providers that talk about launching new initiatives in years rather than months are often sidelined in favor of those that can execute more rapidly to fulfill the corporate mandate. 

What will going global cost? Few leaders have access to an endless stream of cash when it comes to launching new global eCommerce offerings. To the contrary: It’s more typical to see businesses pouring a small fraction of what they invested in the domestic business into their international initiatives. Cost is therefore front and center when it comes to evaluating new technologies. Solution providers that can help businesses launch across multiple countries in a cost-effective manner are well positioned to capture new business, even when the prospect may be only ready to enter one or two new markets at the time of vendor selection. The exception? When a market is large or strategic enough to merit selecting partners with solutions that cater specifically to that market (think China).

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Capture The Global eCommerce Opportunity

Zia Daniell Wigder

eCommerce growth continues unabated around the world, with eCommerce being cited as a driver of overall economic growth in markets from China to Nigeria. Indeed, online retail revenues continue to soar in every market that we forecast—China alone will generate more than $1 trillion in eCommerce sales by 2019.

As eCommerce markets in different parts of the globe flourish, a growing number of digital business leaders are being asked to take their brands into new markets. What opportunities exist for eCommerce leaders looking to expand internationally? How are they tapping into these opportunities? Our newly updated report (client access req’d) addresses these questions. We find that:

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Mobile World Congress 2015: Expect Even Shinier Objects

Julie Ask

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is “the” event in mobile. It is the event where Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Sony, Microsoft, LG … well, really everyone (but Apple) will launch new mobile phones, tablets, and wearables. And, yes big-screened mobile phones are still “in.” I’m more likely to buy a leather jacket with bigger pockets or a larger purse than to buy a smaller phone.

 

Thousands flock to Barcelona annually to hold these devices in their hands. Words too often fall short in describing the feeling of holding the next Samsung device in your hand or the emotions of delight and bewilderment when you turn the device on.

The question then is: “So what? What does it mean for my company?”

Here’s what you already know:

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SnapChat @ $19B? Property On Exclusive Islands Is Expensive

Julie Ask

Two things matter in mobile: audience and data. SnapChat has audience.

  1. Audience matters because consumers are using fewer and fewer applications on their mobile devices. Brands can no longer pursue a “destination” strategy and expect consumers will come to them. They need to go engage consumers where they are. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $19B gave us a sense of just how valuable audience depth, reach and usage is.

  2. Data matters because it helps us simplify or improve mobile experiences by anticipating the needs of customers or to improve the value of advertising - if you are monetizing your app that way. Under Armour just paid $475M for MyFitnessPal for the audience, food database and personal data.

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The Devil is in the Detail for Online Apparel Retailers

Michelle Beeson

Reviewing online functionality for a selection of key European online only retailers, I am struck by a shift. With the basics of purchasing and navigation nailed down, the devil is now in the detail of implementing online functionality for apparel retailers – particularly those that are online only. Now we are seeing both subtle and overt efforts to improve merchandising and remote clienteling online proactive live chat, 2D size guides, personal shopping style guides and ‘compete the outfit’ suggestions on product pages.

To get to the next level of best practice and differentiation online apparel retailers need to keep refining their website functionality in order to succeed in a competitive and increasingly crowded category. Empowered customers are using multiple devices to shop online helping to drive forecasted online retail sales growth of 12% in Europe (2013 to 2018). To secure their chunk of this growth, online apparel retailers need to constantly evaluate, test and implement new and improved functionality to support merchandising and drive consumers through the path to purchase.

To assess whether European online-only apparel retailers have the features and functionality to compete, Forrester conducted a Website Functionality Benchmark to evaluate selected sites: Asos.com, LaRedoute.fr, Netaporter.com, Very.co.uk, Wehkamp.nl, and Zalando.de.

Key takeaways from the report include:

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