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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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E-Commerce’s Tween Years

May 8th, 2005

Little E-Commerce turned 11 years old in 2005 and, like its human counterparts, it was an awkward part of its corporate adolescence. It was no longer the cute little tyke from '95 and '96, with those adorable Web sites selling dog food from around the world, which its corporate parents dutifully placed on their boardroom freezer door. Read more...


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When Retailers Can’t Afford to Be Strategic

May 7th, 2005

There are tons of practical definitions of how using technology in retail is strategic versus tactical.

One definition we're fond of is quite practical: Using technology to truly help your customer is strategic, in that it will make those customers more likely to repeatedly come back and spread favorable word-of-mouth endorsements. Using technology to address a short-term problem—or to help your bottom line but not the customer's—is tactical in that it is unlikely to improve revenue or profits for the long-term. Read more...


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Oracle Buys ProfitLogic

May 5th, 2005

Trying to strengthen its retail technology position, Oracle Corp. purchased ProfitLogic Inc., a small but well-positioned retail software company. The acquisition came only a few months after Oracle's takeover of Retek Inc. Both Retek and ProfitLogic counted some high-profile retail companies among their customers. ProfitLogic's 30 customers included Bloomingdale's, Macy's, JC Penney, Nordstrom, Toys R Us, Marshall Fields, The Gap and Ann Taylor. Read more...


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Overseas POS Sales, Linux Potential Growing

April 28th, 2005

Point-of-sale terminal shipments grew about 8 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2004 compared with a 5 percent annual increase in 2003, according to a market share study from the IHL Consulting Group. U.S. POS shipments increased almost twice as much (15 percent) during the same time period, said IHL President Greg Buzek. Read more...


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Companies Find Workarounds for RFID Roadblocks

April 27th, 2005

Retailers and consumer goods manufacturers experimenting with RFID are still seeing higher-than-expected error rates, but they are starting to work out low-tech workarounds, according to a major European RFID analyst company that has analyzed about 1,400 recent radio-frequency identification trials. Read more...


Don’t Mess Around with Good Acronyms

April 21st, 2005

A third definition for "POS" is two too many for this columnist. Beware the ides of DEC. The high-tech industry in general—and retail IT is certainly no exception—loves acronyms. The more obtuse, the better. Engineers, designers and programmers come up with them because it's fun. Marketing execs use them to simultaneously impress and baffle customers. And PR people use them because ... well ... the young ones don't know any better. Read more...


Retail Apps Drove the Retek Buyout

April 20th, 2005

When Oracle bought retail-software specialist Retek, it learned a $670-million lesson about the new importance of retail software and its own inadequacies on the POS front. According to SEC filings as well as interviews with executives, attorneys and consultants on both sides of the battle, the battle for control of Retek Inc. was inadvertently influenced more by PeopleSoft than anything else.Read more...


Winn-Dixie CIO: Bankruptcy Has Its Advantages

April 14th, 2005

When the $10 billion 1,000-store Winn-Dixie grocery chain went Chapter 11 (bankruptcy reorganization), the initial employee reaction was shock. But the chain's CIO said the secondary reaction was a remarkable focus on core business issues, including the strategic use of technology. Read more...


The Rebirth of a Dead E-Commerce Site

April 10th, 2005

Back in May 1999, near the height of the dot-com insanity, one of a host of media darlings was an underwear sales dot-com called Underneath.com. Sending boxer shorts to various reporters, this dot-com was written up in BusinessWeek and the New York Daily News, and it made Time Magazine's picks for the best e-commerce sites. Read more...


Service Lets Customers Buy with a Phone Number

April 7th, 2005

When customers step into a cab from the Hello Taxi company in Brookline, Mass., they don't have to worry about fumbling in their pockets for cash, or about swiping their credit card in a moving vehicle, or even about finding their wireless fob to wave in front of a reader. To pay and tip the driver, passengers just say the last four digits of their cell phones, and then they can run. Read more...


RFID Market In for Major Shakeup, Report Shows

April 7th, 2005

Although it said the RFID market is booming and predicts it will continue to soar for years—from less than $2 billion in 2005 to almost $27 billion by 2015—many of the radio-frequency identification assumptions in the U.S. retail space are flawed, according to a report from analysts at IDTechEx in Cambridge, U.K.Read more...


The Retail Perception Game

March 31st, 2005

Large retail chains have always had a healthy dose of a shell game in their heritage, exemplified by the highly marketed new larger bottle of shampoo and the much higher, entirely unmarketed price tag that goes with it. A price increase by any other name still delivers fewer hair washes per dollar. When it comes to retail technology, it seems those habits are hard to break. Read more...


Ritz Camera Focuses on RFID-Accelerated Checkout

March 31st, 2005

The 1,200-store Ritz Camera chain wants to let customers drop off film without having to slow down and thinks RFID-enabled contactless payments are picture perfect. With competitors including Wal-Mart moving in, this specialty retailer is stressing expertise and getting people in and out quickly.

Vice President of Information Systems Bob O'Hern (Ritz doesn't have a CIO, but he acts in that capacity) said he likes the RFID capabilities within a contactless payment system, but doesn't yet see its value in his supply chain. Read more...


Report: ‘Follow the Leader’ Brings Trouble in Retail RFID

March 25th, 2005

As the young RFID retail market moves through its experimental stages to eventual full deployment, many retailers "are finding problems and frustrations" because they are trying to emulate cutting-edge market leader Wal-Mart. Read more...


Report: No Analysis for RFID Data

March 24th, 2005

RFID is designed to make supply chains more efficient and sophisticated, but the torrent of new product data created by radio-frequency identification systems is overwhelming without the right business intelligence software to analyze it. Read more...


Company Offers a High-Tech Way to Get Clothes to Fit

March 18th, 2005

One of the most frustrating parts of clothes shopping is that manufacturer size numbers are inconsistent, making the purchase of an outfit that fits a gamble, at best. A Philadelphia startup is trying to use technology to both get a more precise measure of consumers and to match it against a detailed database on what various apparel companies truly mean with their sizes. Read more...


Cingular Frustration Not a Singular Sensation

March 16th, 2005

When I reported some of the problems that Cingular was having selling and supporting data after its merger with AT&T Wireless, some Cingular officials said it was not the typical experience of its data-buying customers. Read more...


What’s Behind the Retek Battle?

March 13th, 2005

As Oracle and SAP engage in their half-billion battle for who will takeover retail software vendor Retek, the most obvious reasons for the fight are not the true ones.

The biggest news this month in retail has been the battle between $9 billion SAP and $3 billion Oracle to take over retail software vendor Retek, which had barely $174 million in revenue last year and less than $7.7 million of profit. But that's pretty good compared with the prior year, when it lost a little more than $20 million. Read more...


Customers Would Win with Oracle, Report Says

March 9th, 2005

As far as the retail customers of Retek are concerned, the current battle between Oracle and SAP for control of the Minneapolis retail technology firm would be better won by Oracle, according to an analyst report published Wednesday by the Aberdeen Group. Read more...


Prices Plummet for Point-of-Sale Systems

March 9th, 2005

With causes ranging from new, low-priced vendors to needing more lanes open simultaneously, IHL Consulting Group reported that prices for typical point-of-sale base units in North America plummeted, from about $2,200 in 2002 to $950 in 2004.Read more...


Should Cingular Put Data on Hold?

March 2nd, 2005

On paper, it certainly must have looked like a "can't lose" situation. Two major industry events happened and they both pointed to an obvious move: Cingular should be aggressively pushing data.

Just about one year ago, Cingular announced that it would be buying AT&T Wireless for $41 billion, creating the nation's largest cell phone operation. Last year also saw PalmOne faring well with its Treo line of cell phone/PDA hybrids. Read more...


Staples’ Web Site: That Wasn’t Easy

March 1st, 2005

Years ago, I was talking with the CEO of a major privately held consumer products company. He casually mentioned that he would never again work for a publicly held company.

Asked why, he said, "For the life of me, I can't think why I would want to publicly air all of our mistakes if I didn't have to." Read more...


E-Commerce Programming Is About to Get a Lot More Complicated

February 25th, 2005

Webmasters no longer know what their customers are seeing when they visit their sites, and they have anti-virus, ant-spyware, anti-popup and alternative browsers to thank. In the early Web days, all that an e-commerce site developer/programmer needed to worry about were operating system version and browser.Read more...


A Drive-Thru Supermarket

February 24th, 2005

In the middle of Albuquerque, N.M., sits a 170,000-square-foot chunk of land that is slated to be the site for a new kind of retail store: one where customers can buy a week's worth of groceries without ever having to set foot outside their car.

On paper—and, thus far, that's the only place this grocery store exists—this proposal seems to have plenty to offer both retailers and customers. Read more...


Regional Pricing Should Be Slashed Into Oblivion

February 20th, 2005

Under The Damned-If-You-Do category, Best Buy in-store Web displays seem to show different pricing. It's innocuous, but it shows why regional pricing may no longer be worth the effort.

Sometimes, pushing the technology envelope is simply not worth it. The thought leaders tend to get criticized for the flaws of the new approach and, if it does take hold, they rarely get the credit years later for having taken the chance. Read more...


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