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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 Drains Billions of Letters from Post Office

December 8th, 2004

The traditionally long lines in post offices during the holiday season are noticeably shorter this year, and figures show why.

About 1.1 billion fewer pieces of snail mail were sent in 2004, and that's on top of an almost 3.5 billion drop from 2003 and a 1.3 billion drop from 2002. All told, the government's figures show that Americans sent 103.7 billion pieces of first-class mail in 2001 and only 97.9 billion pieces in 2004, a loss of some 5.8 billion pieces of mail or about a 6 percent drop. Read more...


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Kids Buy The Darndest Things

December 6th, 2004

Running the technology operations for a billion-dollar retail clothing chain is difficult enough during the holidays, let alone if most of your customers are too young to get their own credit cards, or even drive. Just ask Ron Ehlers, vice president for Information Systems at Pacific Sunwear of California Inc., which runs 743 PacSun stores in 50 states and Puerto Rico. Read more...


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The Unexpected Security Threats

December 1st, 2004
IT managers are used to safeguarding against the standard security threats with firewalls and encryption and other protection tactics. But protecting against attacks from printers, faxes and copy machines? The unexpected threats are the most dangerous. Published in BusinessWeek. To read the full story, please click here.

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Holiday Retail Web Site Performances: Steady but Slow

December 1st, 2004

If the "Max" in Office Max is supposed to refer to the amount of time its e-commerce server takes to respond, it's aptly named. And Target's target is apparently not lightning-fast e-commerce experiences. Those conclusions are courtesy of the latest round of Web traffic analysis from the folks at Keynote Systems. Read more...


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The Secret IT Weapon: People

November 30th, 2004

For years, line-of-business managers have told IT executives that their goal is to improve efficiency. Their mission is to leverage hardware and software to do in a nanosecond what it takes human employees minutes, lunch breaks and vacations to do. Read more...


The Season of Taking

November 26th, 2004

With the rush of holiday shoppers heading to the malls and their keyboards, Black Friday marks the start of the holiday shoplifting period. Online merchants are not exempt.

Friday is the much-cited Black Friday, where merchants hope the rush of holiday shoppers will push their financials into the black. But retailers know that, among those online and offline crowds, there will be thieves, taking advantage of the anonymity of crowds and the less-trained eye of seasonal workers. Read more...


A Year-End Look at Retail

November 25th, 2004

In many ways, 2004 will be seen as a technological turning point for retail: the year that many technologies that have been hyped for years started to become real. Traditionally, retail has always been a mixed barcode for being technologically advanced. Read more...


Survey: Holiday Customers Value Customer Service Above All

November 24th, 2004

Consumers are looking for black coal to put into their brick-and-mortar retailers' stocking this holiday season, with complaints soaring about bad customer service experiences. But those same consumers are seemingly ecstatic with online customer service. Read more...


Tracking Service Aims to Ease Product Returns

November 22nd, 2004

One of the most logistically challenging situations for any large retailer is the return. Newgistics Inc., a Texas retail service firm, launched a tracking service intended to alleviate some of the uncertainty involved in the process. Read more...


Where America Shops Meets Where America Shoplifts

November 19th, 2004

There's no shortage of legitimate reasons why the Sears-Kmart merger will not cause anyone in Bentonville, Ark., to lose much sleep. But most of the arguments boil down to two points. One: Historically, big mergers rarely succeed. Two: Adding weak plus weak doesn't equal strong. Read more...


Convenience Chain CIO: Payment Systems Bleeding Stores Dry

November 19th, 2004

Wawa CIO Neil McCarthy's voice reveals his anger as he recounts a recent meeting he had with bank executives to complain about high credit card fees that are out of proportion with services. Wawa's 550 stores sell a huge amount of gasoline: about 110,000 gallons per week per store, which places it among the highest volume in the country. Typical volume for U.S. gas stations is about 40,000 gallons, McCarthy said. Read more...


Sears, Kmart Merger to Create Huge Retail IT Operation

November 17th, 2004

When Kmart and Sears announced their plans to merge and create the nation's third-largest retailer, it shook the retail technology world.

Although it will take months for the two retail leaders to merge their almost 3,500 stores with a projected $55 billion in annual revenue, the combined operation will have the ability to significantly influence retail technology trends. Read more...


Epiphany’s New CRM Apps Offer Instant Analysis

November 17th, 2004

An age-old CRM criticism is that it's an expensive package that often delivers the information too late (long after the customer has left) and to the wrong people (back-office managers instead of salespeople on the floor). One CRM firm introduced two packages that it claimed avoids those problems. Read more...


Keeping Seasonal Help Away from Customers

November 17th, 2004

Reigning over 175 home entertainment stores in 21 states, Tweeter CIO Bill Morrison looks cautiously at the calendar as the year-end holidays approach. While many of his counterparts are trying to train oceans of seasonal employees and hoping that errors don't obliterate consumers service, goodwill and inventory accuracy, Morrison sits back, confident in the chain's decision to forgo any customer-facing seasonal help. Read more...


Abandoned Shopping Carts May Be Good News

November 13th, 2004

In the first year or two of e-commerce, one sign of sure trouble was seeing a high number of abandoned shopping carts.

I've always loved the term "abandoned shopping carts" because it's one of the rare examples in technology where the term quite accurately—and explicitly—describes what it means to describe. It refers to a customer who starts to shop, puts some items into a virtual shopping cart and then simply goes away before buying anything. Read more...


Staples Automates Refunds with Eye on Holiday Sales

November 10th, 2004

The time-honored tradition of retail rebates assumes that many customers won't bother. Staples Inc. hallenges that approach with an online campaign aimed at making rebates point-and-click easy. Read more...


Retail Group To Help Integrate Worker Attendance Programs

November 9th, 2004

In a move that is expected to slash one kind of retail installation project from nine months to three, a National Retail Federation division has unveiled the initial public release of its IXRetail Time Punch XML schema.

The division—The Association for Retail Technology Standards, or ARTS—also introduced Customer 2.0, which is intended to aid the exchange of customer data among applications in order to simplify integration of new applications such as loyalty programs into existing IT infrastructures. Read more...


Will Users Get Buried Under RFID Data?

November 9th, 2004

By late 2004, many large retailers were "ill-prepared" to handle the likely flood of data expected from RFID implementations, and many hadn't even mastered their current bar-code systems, according to a report from analyst firm VDC (Venture Development Corp.). "OK, we've now got most of our suppliers finally on board with automatic identification and data capture technologies via bar codes. Sure, let's throw RFID at them, too," said Mike Liard, RFID research program director at VDC. "You've got to address Problem A before you start addressing Problems B, C and D." Read more...


Microsoft Has Its Eye on Small Retailers

November 6th, 2004

In one corner of Microsoft Corp., the smaller the better is the order of the day for new customers. Microsoft's latest retail push is focusing on the smallest of retailers, those with perhaps a single checkout lane and no more than nine stores. Read more...


Study: Holiday Online Sales to Jump 20 Percent

October 28th, 2004

Forrester Research projected online holiday sales in 2004 would hit $13.2 billion, which represents a 20 percent increase compared with last year. That was great when compared with a projected brick-and-mortar sales percentage increase of 4.5 percent for the same period, but much less so when compared with 2003's online retail growth of 31 percent compared with 2002. Read more...


Great Technology Is Little Help If Employees Don’t Know

October 25th, 2004

Best Buy is a great example of a company that brilliantly deploys technology—but then drops the ball in communicating.

As the holiday season approached, we had good news and bad news on the major retail multichannel front. The good news was that some retailers were getting a lot better at handling the technology. The bad news was that their employees often didn't know about it, making the advantages moot. Read more...


Aberdeen Report: True Multichannel Sales Desirable but Rare

October 22nd, 2004

Although it is almost universally accepted that a truly integrated multichannel retail approach is the ideal, few retailers have been able to get anywhere close, reports a recent Aberdeen Group research report.
To read the full story,

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Bringing Storefront Perks to Web Sales Still Needs Work

October 22nd, 2004

While many retailers are struggling to make multichannel operations work at all, Best Buy is taking a leadership position in making the retailer a single brand with multiple points of access.

But Best Buy is an almost perfect example of the difficulties in making all channels appear as one to the customer, as it excels in certain areas while sending mixed messages in others.Read more...


Device Lets POS Units Handle Wireless Transactions

October 18th, 2004

With wireless uncertainty as its staunch ally, Vivotech will introduce a system to help retailers quickly convert existing POS units to accept wireless entries. Read more...


Will Wireless Rewrite the RFID Landscape?

October 13th, 2004

With dramatically greater range and faster deployment—and with item-level tagging possible by next year—one former Boeing engineer thinks wireless may solve retail RFID headaches. Claiming the wireless ability to read tags that are literally hundreds of meters away, a retired Boeing engineer thinks he can deliver item-level tagging years faster than can conventional RFID and with technology that is much more readily available. Read more...


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