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Patent Issued For Online Shipping Calculation Process

January 17th, 2008
E-tailers trying to focus on distinctive value-add while using as much industry standard functionality as possible have another hurdle, courtesy of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

The USPTO has issued a patent—to be effective Jan. 29—for a method for "real-time calculations of shipping costs for items purchased online using a zip code as a destination location indicator." Read more...


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2-D Barcode To Hit America in April

January 11th, 2008
A favorite of marketers and retailers for years in smartphone-embracing parts of Europe and Asia, the 2-D is going to make its U.S. debut this April in some New York City consumer electronic and cosmetic retailers, according to the president of a Microsoft-backed company who says he has cut the first U.S. 2-D deal.

Although the initial retailer for this trial wasn't identified, the company has been talking with Best Buy, the Gap, Nordstrom and Target. And for a fee ranging from $250K to 450K, they can leverage the trial to compete against online alternatives. Read more...


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Our NRF Events: Don’t Just Comment. Come And Yell At Me In Person

January 10th, 2008
For those of you attending the NRF Big Show in NYC next week (The Big Show? With that name, I half-expect Ed Sullivan to do the keynote), I am guessing many of you will be bored with the same old fact-based intelligent panel discussions. Fear not. For a panel packed with emotional outbursts and insights disguised as innuendos, please ....

No, that won't work. As much I try, it's hard to pretty up a retail technology/E-Commerce panel as an exciting outing. But for a tech-biz discussion, we've got two decent offerings. On Wednesday morning (9:45-10:45 AM, at the Javits, Concurrent Hall A 1A21/22), StorefrontBacktalk will be moderating a look at The Road To Merged Channel. Read more...


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Survey: American Consumers Dissatisfaction With Customer Service Soaring

January 10th, 2008
About 40 percent of American consumers wanted to leave stores after not getting store associate this holiday season, according to survey results released this week from Motorola.

And among those who actually left the stores, 90 percent of them never returned, according to Scott Drobner, Motorola's director for market intelligence programs. Read more...


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Sears Shuts Down Part Of Site, Concedes It Was Revealing Purchases

January 5th, 2008
On the heels of admitting this week that it was using spyware on one of its E-Commerce sites, Sears on Friday said that it was temporarily shutting down part of another Sears E-Commerce site after admitting that it allowed consumers to see explicit details about the purchases of other consumers.

The Sears move came hours after Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Benjamin Edelman published details on how consumers using Sears' ManageMyHome site could find detailed purchase histories about other Sears shoppers merely by typing in their name, phone number and street address into the site. Read more...


Mattress Retailer Sends Online Chat Transcripts To The Stores

January 4th, 2008
Retailers aggressively support the idea of merged channel, but have a lot of difficulty in the implementation phase.

One $200 million retail chain—1800mattress.com—is taking a baby step toward merged channel, by sending copies of online chat transcripts to the local brick-and-mortar. "Having the complete transcript of what the customer is looking for onscreen in the store facilitates the sale," EVP Joe Vicens said. Read more...


Sears’ Christmas Spyware Surprise

January 3rd, 2008
Did Sears conclude that the only accurate way to see what consumers were truly doing online was to track customers who didn't know they were being tracked? The $53 billion retailer isn't disputing that it did distribute spyware, but merely that consumers knew that they were agreeing to spyware.

But the chain is also learning that the online world—with its thousands of bloggers armed with screen captures—is fairly unforgiving when it comes to marketing excesses. Read more...


Is The Next Web A Semantic Distinction?

December 28th, 2007

As small groups of Web thinkers sketch out what Web 3.0–the so-called Semantic Web–may look like, how much attention should E-Commerce execs be paying?

In an interesting RetailWire story and discussion, questions are raised about whether this will be a broad transition or merely a niche enhancement for those who bother. But if major e-tailers want to change, the sad reality is that they need to get involved early or surrender the ability to complain later. Given how much E-Commerce execs love to complain, that latter option seems unrealistic. ;-)…


Amazon’s Holiday Sales Numbers Rather Frightening

December 26th, 2007

When Amazon.com releases its holiday sales stats on Wednesday, there wasn’t anything truly newsworthy in it. Still, the volume of sales being churned out by the world’s largest E-Commerce outfit is worth a brief look.

For example, on one day (Dec. 10), Amazon sold more than 5.4 million items and shipped more 3.9 million units. An Amazon statement calculated that it sold 62.5 items every second on Dec. 10.…


Web Site Virtual Models Smiling With The Customer’s Own Face

December 21st, 2007

The latest developer fad spreading through the Web—allowing consumers to drag and drop their personal photos onto virtual models—is now moving into E-Commerce.

My Virtual Model is working with Sears, Best Buy and Lands’ End to move products and catalogues into 2D and 3D. But the ability to personalize models so that the clothing choices can factor in the person’s face-shape and eye-color and those over-sized Dumbo ears is intriguing. The problem is that the photo choice is done by the consumer, which often leads to some humorously mismatched sizes, with the virtual model looking less like something out of Vogue and more like a cartoon in Mad Magazine. …


Google Given Green Light To Take Over DoubleClick

December 20th, 2007

In a move with significant potential impact for online marketing, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has cleared Google’s $3.1 billion takeover of DoubleClick.

Saying the deal is “unlikely to substantially lessen competition,” the commission voted 4-to-1 to approve. But the transaction still faces substantial antitrust scrutiny in Europe and Google has said that it won’t close the deal before it has clearance from European regulators,” said this Wall Street Journal story. The European Commission has set a deadline of April 2, 2008, to complete its review, the Journal said.…


Ask.com To Allow Searchers To Delete Their Breadcrumbs

December 12th, 2007

In a creative approach to address consumer search engine privacy concerns, Ask.com Tuesday unveiled a way for consumers to delete identifiable remnants from their searches.

The service—which the Web site has dubbed AskEraser—”deletes all future search queries and associated cookie information from Ask.com servers, including IP address, User ID, Session ID, and the complete text of their queries,” the company said. It’s an interesting move, but it’s unclear that it will much of an impact unless larger search engines such as Google and Yahoo adopt it.…


Are Younger Consumers Less Site Loyal?

December 5th, 2007

It’s certainly not unexpected that traffic is increasing to shopping comparison sites around the holiday season, according to the latest stats from Hitwise. But what is more intriguing is the Hitwise suggestion that younger consumers are abandoning the top comparison sites, to instead use much lesser-known sites.

“The composition of those visitors is changing markedly, becoming significantly older,” said an Internet Retailer story. “Hitwise finds that 51 percent of the visitors to those dozen sites were 45 and older, compared with 38 percent last year. Among web users 55 and older, the market share of the 12 top comparison shopping sites was up 56 percent, but it was down 27 percent among web users aged 25 to 34.” Does this suggest a change in consumer preference or merely that this segment is especially fickle? Or perhaps merely that they get bored much more quickly?


Black Friday Web Slowdown: Lowe’s, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret Hit

November 25th, 2007
With the surge of U.S. E-Commerce traffic on Thanksgiving night and all day Friday, the so-called Black Friday apparently caught several E-Commerce giants by surprise, with Lowe's, Macys and Victoria's Secret especially hard hit, according to statistics released this weekend from Keynote Competitive Research, a firm that tracks Web site performance.

But those three sites were far from alone, said Shawn White, Keynote's director of external operations. "Almost a third of the thirty leading retail sites we monitor for our holiday shopping index experienced significant slow-downs that impacted the product search and check-out processes — and presumably will impact online sales," White said.Read more...


Could Google’s Android Be The Cellphone Savior?

November 7th, 2007
Much has been written this week that's critical of Google's Smartphone Consortium effort. What those critics don't see is the sorry state of today's cellphone market.

For years, American technology leaders have gotten used to seeing the U.S. no longer globally technologically dominant. But nowhere is that lack-of-dominance more pronounced than with cellphone technology. That's why I saw this week's Google Android news as something that was exciting in its potential to shake the industry up. Trust me: this is one sector that truly needs a lot of shaking up. Read more...


The Strange World Of 3D E-Commerce

October 24th, 2007
Second Life experimentation aside, major retail chain Tweeter is wondering if 3D E-Commerce might prove to be practical and a major advance for shoppers.

A consumer shopping for a home entertainment system accesses a 3-D CADCAM representation of his home and drags it to an entertainment E-Commerce site. This large digital file, however, is much more than a mere architectural depiction of the consumer's home.

It includes window placement and the times of day—during different months—that the sun shines through various windows and at roughly what intensity and for how long. Someone has entered the style of thickness of the rug and wall-coverings and a database lookup has associated those with their likely sound-dampening characteristics. Read more...


EBay’s AdContext Is Still In Beta, 15 Months And Counting

October 12th, 2007

Waiting for EBay’s long-awaited AdContext program? Pull up a chair, as you may have a very long wait. Indeed, this is one of the lenghtiest public betas I’ve ever seen. In the early summer of 2006, EBay announced that its program to scan news stories for references to products that they have on auction, to be called AdContext.

It was supposed to ship by the end of the year. In November, that “end of year” became “January.” In December, “January” became “first quarter 2007.” In March, no timing was mentioned at all.

On Thursday, an EBay senior manager said the product was still in beta and he couldn’t even guess at a new target for launch. Guess this kind of functionality is more difficult than it seemed. At least more difficult for EBay.…


Court Rules Against Target, Says Web Sites Accessibility Lawsuits Can Continue

October 3rd, 2007

When a federal court judge issued rulings on Tuesday that the $60 billion retailer needed to stand trial on charges that it's Web site is not sufficiently accessible to visually-impaired shoppers, it sent a strong signal to much of the E-Commerce space.

Target has long been the most prominent opponent of forcing E-Commerce site executives to adhere to accessibility rules designed for their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Read more...

Google Local Availability Shows U.S. Weakness

September 28th, 2007

When it comes to global downtime, Google doesn't seem to play favorites. Among 32 key countries Google plays in locally, its home country of the U.S. came in near the bottom, in position 26 of 32 with 31 minutes of downtime, according to Web performance survey results released Thursday by Pingdom.

"Google Search users in the United States are 10 times more likely to encounter a problem than users in Brazil," said the report.

Read more...

The New E-Commerce World, Seen Through A Google Lense

September 27th, 2007

Consider: In the early days of E-Commerce, a typical retailer and manufacturer might have between eight and 12 products that it is actually marketing, especially with search engine links. Today, that same company would typically be doing the same kind of Web marketing with some 12,000 products, said Tim Armstrong, who serves Google as its president of advertising and commerce for North America.

Armstrong argues that this is morphing ad budgets into operational budgets. Is a Google ad akin to a traditional piece of advertising—something that an ad budget should fund—or closer to the cost of a car dealer building a new showroom and dealership?

Read more...

Mobile: How Do I Buy With Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

September 16th, 2007

The good news is that major companies are now actively pushing mobile. The bad news is that they're pushing in different directions. The mobile phone e-commerce activities you're seeing today are going to fall victim to the same amnesia fog that envelopes all of those early Web searches done on text-based browsers.

Although the Web had been around for years, it was the graphical browser that got the industry to agree on one way to create Web pages that could fire the imagination of businesses and consumers. That defining moment has yet to hit mobile commerce. Forget design and programming issues. There hasn't yet even been broad agreement on how m-commerce is supposed to work. Let's start with simple payment.

Read more...

Google Buys A Coveted Plane Parking Space At NASA

September 12th, 2007

Sometimes, it’s good to be the king, even if it’s the king of online search. Google’s founders have landed a great new parking space for Boeing 767-200: an airport run by NASA that is typically closed to private aircraft, according to this New York Times piece.

The deal is certainly unusual, but it’s not especially one-sided. While Google brass gets their nearby mammoth parking, they are paying $1.3 million a year plus NASA officials have “signed a unique agreement last month that allows it to place scientific instruments and researchers on planes used by the Google founders. NASA gets to collect scientific data on some flights of those jets, which in addition to the Boeing 767-200 includes two Gulfstream Vs,” the Times story reported.


The Supply Chain Black Hole

August 23rd, 2007

For e-tailers that use their in-store inventory also as their online inventory, they are discovering a problem with the supply-chain blackhole: which products invisibly enter when they leave the shelf and don't re-emerge until they are paid for.

This is particularly an issue with retailers trying to make shop-online-pickup-instore work. Without item-level tracking, the concept of a realtime inventory is almost impossible to deliver. This problem is only going to get worse during the holiday onslaught, especially when online purchasers are trying to get the hottest and most popular gift.

Read more...

Consumer Reports: Percent Of Successful Phishing Scams Remaining Constant

August 7th, 2007

U.S. consumers lost more than $7 billion over the last two years to viruses, spyware, and phishing schemes, according to a report issued this week by Consumer Reports.

The magazine survey “showed that consumers face a 1 in 4 chance of succumbing to an online threat and becoming a cybervictim, a number that has slightly decreased since last year,” the story said. “The number of consumers responding to e-mail phishing scams has remained constant at eight percent. Consumer Reports projects that one million U.S. consumers lost billions of dollars over the past two years to such scams.”

The most interesting part is that the percent of consumers being scammed–at least via Phishing–has stayed roughly constant, suggesting that cyberthieves are ratcheting up their tactics at the exact same rate that consumers are becoming to their old ways. Not one of the more encouraging stats.


ComScore: Quarterly E-Commerce Sales Hit $47.5 Billion

August 3rd, 2007

The E-Commerce spend in the U.S. for this year's second quarter jumped 19 percent, to $47.5 billion, compared with last year's identical quarter, according to a statement released this week from ComScore.

In a different E-Commerce report this week, Keynote Systems found Amazon and BestBuy as the strongest in online customer experience while CircuitCity took the top slot for site reliability and Staples got kudos for site responsiveness.

Keynote traditionally doesn't release the names of the sites that fared the worst, but the sites that were examined but not mentioned in the top slots were Buy.com, Costco, Office Depot, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart.

Read more...

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