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Will Warranty Enforcement Be Amazon Marketplace's Achilles' Heel?

When it comes to competing against Amazon, eBay or even Japan's Rakuten, one of the more challenging aspects is their third-party marketplaces, which give each a seemingly endless inventory at minimal risk. But the odds may be getting more even, as shoppers are starting to notice that some manufacturers are strictly enforcing their authorized reseller rules.

The immediate impact on shoppers is they may find that the expensive flat-screen TV, surround-sound speakers or refrigerator that looked like such a bargain on Amazon voids the warranty. The arguably-unrealistic expectation from consumer goods manufacturers—which sharply strengthens the hands of traditional e-tailers trying to fight against these third-party marketplaces—is that shoppers would not only notice the actual name of the merchant shipping the item, but would take the time to run that name on the manufacturer's site to see if they are truly an authorized reseller. Or they could just make the purchase from Target.com or Bestbuy.com and know for certain.

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Canadian Clothier Gets Personal

July 21st, 2005

The CIO of Reitmans needs sales associates to know a customer's history before the sale starts. Given that most customers use loyalty cards at the end of shopping, that's a tough sweater to pull on. In the retail world, selling clothing is mostly about convincing customers what looks good on them. And it certainly helps if the salesperson already knows what's in that customer's closet, what her favorite colors are, her price range and her size.Read more...


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Contradictory Charges Rattle Data-Loss Case

July 21st, 2005

During congressional testimony, executives from bank and credit card companies involved in the largest credit card data loss ever pointed fingers at a new culprit for gaps in security: the auditors who had certified the credit card processing systems as being up to snuff. But in an interview those auditors said one of the CEO witnesses was either lying or very mistaken. Read more...


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New Retail System Peeks Under Shopping Carts

July 13th, 2005

Retailers are using cameras and pattern recognition software to fight back against shoplifters who try to hide items in the compartments underneath grocery carts. Those spacious compartments underneath grocery carts may be convenient for shoppers, but retailers say they are also attractive to shoplifters as they usually can't be seen by a cashier nor by typical security cameras. Read more...


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Health Care CIO Sees All CIO Roles Changing

July 13th, 2005

As the CIO for a $4.1 billion health care products distribution company, Jim Harding knows only too well the changing face of medical technology today.

He sees senior physicians hand-writing prescriptions, penciling notes in patient folders and resisting electronics while the younger physicians embrace PDAs and digital transcription units.Read more...


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E-Commerce Performance Often Checks Out During Checkout

July 12th, 2005

In analyzing more than 6,500 data points from the top 19 e-commerce sites, a new Keynote Systems report found sites that were too slow, failed too often and often glitched during the crucial checkout period. In analyzing more than 6,500 data points from each of 22 top e-commerce sites, a new Keynote Systems report found that many sites were too slow, failed too often and often glitched during the crucial checkout period. Read more...


CIOs Navigate a Restless Sea of Mergers

July 11th, 2005

Jim Harding, CIO for the $4.1 billion health care company Henry Schein Inc., doesn't like taking risks with other people's money. Especially not the money of the people who control his salary.

It's certainly fair to say that Harding is risk-averse, but that doesn't prevent him from considering unproven, cutting-edge technologies such as voice over IP. That's why I was startled when he spoke so vehemently this week about his fear of buying products from Oracle. Read more...


Look, Ma, No Coins!

July 7th, 2005

A Pennsylvania payment vendor is preparing conversion equipment to create contactless vending machines, aimed as much at addressing the finite supply of coins and facilitating price increases as shortening lines.

The vendor, USA Technologies, said it has had contactless vending machine technology ready for some time, but waited to introduce it until the market seemed ready for widespread contactless deployment. Read more...


Consumers to E-Commerce Sites: Simplify or We Walk

June 29th, 2005

Corporate Web sites are becoming bloated bandwidth hogs, which should surprise absolutely no one in high tech. But a survey is proving that the reckless use of multimedia, animation, JavaScript and other impressive but non-informational offerings is starting to have a negative impact on site traffic. The site visitor's pain from overdesigned or overprogrammed sites—those being two different but equally sinful efforts—is more than mere time-wasting.Read more...


Cingular CIO: Consolidating 50 Million Users Is Not Fun

June 28th, 2005

When Cingular announced it was buying AT&T Wireless, top executives promised a seamless integration for users. Easy for them to say. The top execs of the $32 billion combined wireless phone company who were making those announcements didn't have to wrestle with 2.5 petabytes of data, more than 600 overlapping applications, and tons of redundant and incompatible systems. That task fell to CIO Thaddeus Arroyo and his team of more than 6,000 IT professionals. Read more...


eBay Pushes to Be Everything for Its Sellers

June 26th, 2005

Trying to make eBay as attractive and comprehensive as possible for small businesses that represent a huge portion of eBay's revenue, the auction company is offering to help customers create their own Web sites to complement their eBay presence. Read more...


CVS Shuts Down Site After Security Leak

June 25th, 2005

A major pharmacy chain's program designed to let customers view a history of their purchases in e-mail had weak enough security to make it vulnerable to identity thieves, forcing the chain to temporarily shut down its Web site while it reconsidered security. The chain was CVS Corp., which has more than 5,400 stores in the United States. Read more...


How Safe Are the New Contactless Payment Systems?

June 20th, 2005

As the retail industry starts to embrace contactless payment in a big way—led by $41 billion retailer 7-Eleven and Chase, the nation's largest issuer of credit cards—arguments are renewing about just how safe and fraud-proof these cards will be. Read more...


Stride Rite CIO Bucking Conventional VPN Wisdom

June 20th, 2005

The conventional wisdom in large-scale networking is that sitting a virtual private network atop the Internet is the most cost-effective way to build a wide area network. But the CIO of $558 million children's shoe chain Stride Rite isn't so sure.

Stride Rite is in the final stages of contracting for an $8 million upgrade to the point-of-sale systems and network for its 270-store national chain. CIO Yusef Akyuz is hoping the upgrade will yield major productivity improvements.Read more...


Retailers Faced Critical IT Security Deadline

June 16th, 2005

Hoping to at least slow down the wave of electronic fraud threatening retailers, a group of major credit card firms—led by Visa—asked all merchants to submit recognized security audits. The firms also wanted full compliance with 12 key elements of the PCI Data Security Standard, but those have already been required, although compliance has been spotty. Read more...


Auto-Parts Chain Goes Modern, Stays Frugal

June 14th, 2005

Larry Buresh, the CIO of the 1,138-store CSK auto-parts chain, said he knew that his current store technology was out-of-date and not especially competitive, but he also knew that the short-term productivity cost—not to mention the actual dollars and time investment—of a major, enterprisewide upgrade was not practical.

Buresh's answer? Replace all of the hardware, but somehow keep all of the software. That's easier said than done when the to-be-replaced POS (point-of-sale) systems are, "12 years going on 50 years old," Buresh said. Read more...


7-Eleven’s CIO: Contactless Payment Is Here

June 13th, 2005

Contactless payments—whether they're made using a fob dangling from a keychain at a gas station, an RFID chip embedded in a cell phone or a new contactless credit/debit card—have now moved from the experimental to the real-world stage. Read more...


The Dark Side of Web One-to-One Marketing

June 7th, 2005

It has been said that a university's role is not necessarily to preach the right answers, but to teach students how to ask the right questions. To the extent that's true, a recent University of Pennsylvania report seems to be properly performing its role. The report itself was hard to ignore; it reported that 64 percent of consumers "do not know that it is legal for an online store to charge different people different prices during the same time of day, a practice used by some companies that base their prices on what they know about a customer's buying habits." Read more...


Midmarket Retail Tech Investments Soar Worldwide

June 6th, 2005

Global retail IT spending among midmarket companies is expected to sharply increase in the next few years, from about $22 billion last year to almost $31 billion by 2009, an almost 41 percent increase, according to a new report from technology analysis firm AMI Partners. AMI defined the midmarket retailer as one with between 100 to 999 employees.Read more...


Surround-Sound Ads Make Their Way to Retailers’ Registers

May 26th, 2005

With American retailers preparing to replace their aging point-of-sale units at record rates, a retail POS vendor called VeriFone wants to flood checkout lanes with Linux-based full-motion video, 65,356-color displays and digital stereo sound. The new unit—dubbed the MX870—is designed to deliver animated ads and demos in a loud, attention-demanding manner, which is not hard when customers have no choice but to stand in line.Read more...


Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Chase?

May 26th, 2005

When JP Morgan Chase—the nation's largest issuer of credit cards—announced it was incorporating contactless payment capabilities in all upcoming credit cards, it was a huge legitimizing moment for contactless.

It generated lots of consumer buzz for the feature that Chase calls "Blink" and it is most likely the first RFID-enabled payment device that became a punchline on Saturday Night Live. (The JP Morgan folk loved that.)Read more...


SAP Continues Feud with Retek, Attempts to Steal Customers

May 25th, 2005

SAP AG opened a volley in what has become a series of charges and countercharges between it and its former Retek acquisition target by amending its Safe Passage program to provide incentives for Retek customers to jump ship. Among the lures: a partial credit of the user's original Retek software licensing (no floor mentioned, but a ceiling of 75 percent) to be used to pay for SAP for Retail packages; "an on-site business case benefits assessment of migrating from Retek to SAP, delivered by SAP or one of its retail industry partners"; and SAP training. Read more...


Wawa CIO: Upgrade Fear Dictated Multimillion-Dollar SAP Purchase

May 20th, 2005

The CIO of the $3 billion Wawa convenience food chain was frustrated that various business units saw business data in different formats—and, consequently, were basing decisions on different numbers. So, he sought bids to consolidate all retail software systems and present a more unified view for the 13,000-employee chain with stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Read more...


Microsoft Pursues the Smallest of Retailers

May 18th, 2005

Microsoft Corp. formally unveiled Microsoft Point of Sale on Wednesday, marking the Redmond, Wash., company's official entrance into the low-end POS market with a product designed for small retailers and especially those with only one store.

Although there are many niche products in the low-end POS market, Microsoft Corp. is competing with only two: Intuit Inc.'s QuickBooks POS line; and the low-cost, somewhat reliable ECR (electronic cash register), which is still popular among many small retailers. Read more...


Wireless POS Tech Trims Retailers’ Costs

May 17th, 2005

Barb Seitz's craft business is doing well, but the owner of Barb's Custom Sewing needs to sells many of her products on the road, often at trade shows.

Today's wireless POS (point-of-sale) technology allows her to process orders in the field, but she has received an unexpected bonus: lower transaction fees because she rarely if ever needs to pay a "card not present" charge. Read more...


Wal-Mart Tests Robots for Blind Shoppers

May 16th, 2005

Wal-Mart started quietly testing a university-created robot designed to help visually impaired consumers navigate store aisles and find their desired products. The robot—named RG, for Robotic Guide—is the creation of Vladimir Kulyukin, an assistant professor of computer science at Utah State University and the director of the university's Computer Science Assistive Technology Laboratory. Read more...


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