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 or and know for certain.

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Can Amazon Cloud Be PCI Compliant? Not Likely

July 10th, 2012
Amazon's higher end Web cloud offering is often considered one of the more secure cloud options. But a careful read of Amazon's FAQ raises very serious compliance questions, pens GuestView Columnist Peter Spier. PCI's rules are quite explicit that a retailer must physically evaluate the servers where payment-card data resides. "The burden for providing proof of PCI DSS compliance for a cloud-based service falls heavily on the cloud provider, and such proof should be accepted only based on rigorous evidence of adequate controls," the Council said.

And what does Amazon say? "A merchant can obtain certification without a physical walkthrough of a service provider's data center if the service provider is a Level 1 validated service provider (such as AWS). A merchant's QSA can rely on the work performed by our QSA, which included an extensive review of the physical security of our data centers." Yeah, this isn't going to be pretty.Read more...


Home Depot Chops POS From New In-Store Mobile Devices

June 28th, 2012
Home Depot's new version of its in-store mobile device won't let associates do in-aisle checkout—a detail that underlines a shift in how the 2,200-store home-improvement chain views its handheld technology. For here on out, it's definitely not one-size-fits-all.

Although the original 34,000 First Phone devices (which will still be used in stores) can be hooked up to a portable printer to serve as mobile POS, the 25,000 new stripped-down First Phone Junior units will do price scans and inventory checks but not POS, under the theory that it's not a feature most associates need.Read more...


For The First Time, FTC Hits Hard Against Chain Breached Three Times

June 28th, 2012
For almost as many years as it has existed, the Federal Trade Commission has complained about being toothless when it comes to punishing retailers and other businesses. But the FTC on Tuesday (June 26) said it has found its breaking point, when one hotel chain was breached three times—all leveraging the same unpatched security holes, more than a year apart—to the tune of some 619,000 payment cards. This time—for the first time—the agency is going to trial.

The chain, Wyndham Hotels, is also accused of other supremely naughty security procedures, including storing full payment-card data in clear text, not having proper network segmentation and deploying classically bad password policies. "For example, to allow remote access to a hotel’s property management system, which was developed by software developer Micros Systems Inc., Defendants used 'micros' as both the user ID and the password," said the FTC's federal filing.Read more...


The Downfall Of Custom Pricing: Getting Your Shoppers To Shut Up

June 28th, 2012
How much is that doggie in the window? For Internet users, the answer may soon be, "It depends on who you are, and how much I know about you." And this trend may upset a host of laws concerning deceptive trade practices, fair pricing and even contract, trespass and computer crime laws.

Not only can online retailers charge different prices to different consumers, they may also be able to prevent one consumer from telling others how much they were charged. First off, is this approach likely? asks Legal Columnist Mark Rasch. Answer: Yes, because it's the next logical step.Read more...


Tesco Pushing Site Customization, Using Mobile and Social Site Individual Data

June 28th, 2012
Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer, is taking E-Commerce customization one huge step further than anyone else, displaying higher priced items only for customers it believes can afford them. Although what Tesco is doing is bold, bolder yet are its public statements that it's not relying solely on purchase history. Display decisions are also based on comments customers make on social sites, which payment cards they are using and, perhaps most controversially, various types of mobile phone data.

Drilling into the details of the plan raises questions about how different the site will truly feel, and that speaks to how the data is used and to how aggressive the customization is. For example, the more decisions are made—or, more precisely, perceived by customers to be made—about spend levels and then displaying higher-priced items, the more resistance might be encountered.Read more...

Microsoft Wallet: Retailers, Do It Yourself

June 27th, 2012
The mobile wallet that Microsoft unveiled on June 20 turns out to be a radically unbundled approach, at least compared to Google Wallet and ISIS. The wallet app itself just collects individual issuing-bank and loyalty-card apps, while Microsoft is handing off responsibility for securing payment-card numbers to mobile carriers. It looks like Microsoft isn't even touching transactions—which is good and bad news for retailers.

The good news: no Google-style POS changes required, at least not to meet Microsoft specs. The bad news: no help from Microsoft, either. Unless you build your own in-store shopping app, the Microsoft Wallet will basically do contactless card emulation—and not much more.Read more...

CVS’s Web Authentication Goes Way Beyond PIN

June 27th, 2012
Pharmacies today have to balance the need for more and faster data access for customers with the fact that the data being sought is not only highly sensitive but also much more strictly regulated. (Weary of infuriating PCI rules? Try working under HIPAA for a few months.) CVS has come up with an imaginative authentication method for its latest Web enhancements.

The chain last week announced enhancements such as deeper access to purchase history and promotions—which themselves telegraph specific types of drugs being prescribed. For authentication, the site is seeking the usual password and login for access. But it then requires a birthdate and—here's the good part—two pieces of information likely found only on an existing prescription bottle: a prescription number and the store number.Read more...

Queue Busting May Be More Effective Than Initially Thought, Thanks To Line Psychology

June 27th, 2012
The idea of using mobile POS devices to queue bust is not a new concept, but the belief has always—logically enough—been that the line will accelerate solely based on how many shoppers can be checked out with the mobile units. But, bizarrely enough, one MPOS vendor has discovered that the units are accelerating all of the lines, not merely the ones where the mobile units are being used. It's yet another delightful, unintended retail technology discovery.

Here's how that magic works: A couple of MPOS-armed associates approach some of the overflowing lines and announce that if anyone has a payment card and would like to be checked out with a mobile device to please say so.Read more...

Facebook’s Shopper-to-Shopper Locator, Up One Moment and Gone The Next, Clears The Way For Retail Testing

June 27th, 2012
The idea of retailers using mobile geolocation data to connect shoppers and products is almost irresistible, despite the challenges of being unable to fine-tune the location nearly enough and sometimes having databases that send customers away instead of helping them find what they want. But helping shoppers find one another—as Walmart has proposed—is a much more privacy-problematic concept.

When automated, do such tools facilitate good interactions and help customers encourage each other's purchases (such as saying whether an outfit looks sharp with those shoes or if that drillbit is the proper one for a particular fix-it job) or will it just freak shoppers out when it helps strangers approach them? In New Jersey, for example, a stranger approaching while smiling is legal justification for using deadly force.Read more...

Put To The Test, U.K. Retailers Suffer Merged-Channel Hiccups

June 27th, 2012
Buy-online-pick-up-in-store—along with its opposite cousin—is arguably the most popular merged-channel element. But it's also the most complex, with the greatest number of potential points of failure. How likely is some type of failure? Our media partner, Retail Week, decided to find out, at least as far as the most important chains in the U.K. go.

Most fared well, with a few exceptions. Coast's "service was a failure, and defied the objective of convenient click-and-collect." For Marks & Spencer, "a faster turnaround would be welcome." Homebase shoppers find that "the tight deadline for pick-up and limited availability is a drawback." These lessons learned, among others, certainly apply to the U.S., and this report offers an opportunity to avoid the hiccups suffered by our European counterparts.Read more...

Visa Joins MasterCard In Relegating PCI To An Afterthought

June 27th, 2012
Visa recently updated its Security Best Practices for Mobile Payments, and it is interesting to observe how it mirrors key elements of the guidance issued earlier by MasterCard. The good news is that it sends smaller retailers a consistent message on how best to take cards using their smartphones, tablets or personal digital assistants (PDAs), pens PCI Columnist Walter Conway.

The less good news—at least from a QSA's perspective—is that Visa seems to have joined MasterCard in relegating PCI compliance to an afterthought. Read more...

New Square CRM Features To Create Loyalty, But Mainly To Square

June 21st, 2012
When Square on Tuesday (June 19) added CRM features to its mobile payment system, it certainly provided a way to add more loyalty. But the system setup seems designed to guarantee the loyalty of retailers to Square just as much as it does the loyalty of retailers' customers to those retailers.

On the surface, the additions are innocuous, with new punch-card-like functionality integrated into the system. The effect of this, though, is for retailers to even more completely turn over crucial information to Square, which can use it for whatever purposes Square wants. If Square later wants to market to a retailer's customers directly—on behalf of itself or even possibly a rival—it theoretically can.Read more...

Smaller Is Faster? For E-Commerce, Don’t Count On It

June 21st, 2012
The simple rules for speeding up E-Commerce Web sites are toast. That's the clear conclusion to draw from a new Pingdom study, released on Tuesday (June 19), comparing performance of the top 100 E-Commerce sites—including dozens of big retail-chain sites. Some fat sites are fast anyway. Some lightweight sites are surprisingly slow. And what's really killing performance seems to be metrics.

The good news: Virtually all the large retailers got their response times down under the fabled three-second mark. The bad news: There's no longer a clear correlation between speed and site size and the number of files requested, the variables that Pingdom tracked in this study.Read more...

Domino’s Tablet Testing: Make The App Into A Game

June 21st, 2012
One of the challenges with a mobile app is figuring out if customers will actually use it. Domino's has tackled that challenge by launching its app first as a game. Not only does this approach give a strong indication of customer interest—pre-rollout—but it also is a practical way to debug. And if the initial version is buggy? Customers are much more tolerant of a buggy game than something with true E-Commerce functionality.

What the pizza chain came up with is a way for consumers to make their own pizzas, with the touch intensity and finger distance used dictating how the dough will come up, whether the slices are cut uniformly and how evenly distributed toppings are. It's a game—for now.Read more...

Pennsylvania Making Cloud Use Taxable, Maybe, Sometimes, Depending On Where The Server Is

June 21st, 2012
Just when you thought cloud computing couldn't get any more complicated and fraught with hidden gotchas, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has jumped in to sprinkle taxation magic on your cloud business cases. What the Keystone State did—and other states are likely to follow—doesn't make cloud any less profitable, but the specifics of the cloud deployment could now impact tax costs.

In a letter the state ruled that cloud operations are fully taxable, assuming the end user is in Pennsylvania. "The ruling represents a marked departure from the department's earlier treatment of cloud computing. Prior department guidance advised that access to software solely through the Internet was not a taxable transaction, as long as the server did not reside in Pennsylvania."Read more...

Will Charging IE7 Shoppers More Finally Kill This Dead Browser?

June 20th, 2012
Given a choice, most developers would rather avoid writing apps or a site for versions of Internet Explorer—especially older versions—mostly because of IE's tendency to go its own way. The same code that would be fine for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera often requires major changes for IE.

But what choice does a retailer have? Even though it's a hassle, a chain can't simply opt to not support the leading browser, can it? Maybe not, but one Australian E-tailer has opted to fight back against one version of Internet Explorer: It's now charging customers a 6.8 percent IE7 tax.Read more...

Microsoft’s Tablet Move: Not For Retail

June 20th, 2012
The tablet is quickly becoming the most interesting piece of retail hardware around, with the iPad getting as close as possible to having already cornered the in-store market. But it's not a done deal yet.

Microsoft on Monday (June 18) set out to prove that retailers have alternatives to Apple for tablets and that Microsoft still matters. Unfortunately, it ended up proving the opposite—for both.Read more...

The Vultures Swoop In To Make Walmart’s Pay With Cash Online A High-Interest Biz

June 20th, 2012

When Walmart started talking about its successes with its Pay With Cash Online program, consumers showed quite an interest in buying products online by making a promise to pay within 48 hours. And it didn’t take long for a company—completely unaffiliated with Walmart, as far as we can tell—to swoop in and offer to facilitate high-interest loans so underbanked shoppers can deliver the cash.

On Tuesday (June 19), put out a statement about Walmart’s Pay With Cash program and pitched itself as a loan finder. (Thanks, guys, but Walmart can suck blood from shoppers who aren’t good at math all on its own.) There’s an irony here. Many consumers avoid credit cards because they don’t want to be on the hook for large interest payments if they can’t pay for everything right away. To address this, Walmart offers people a way to shop online for cash. Then a loan-finder vulture swoops in to charge those cash customers high interest. Guess there’s a reason you don’t hear about banker humanitarians very often. …

Is U.K. E-Commerce Talent Shortage Because Chains Are Looking For The Wrong People?

June 20th, 2012
Just like the rest of the world, U.K. retailers suffer from a lack of technical talent, especially in E-Commerce. But Martin Newman, a columnist for Retail Week, the new U.K. content partner for StorefrontBacktalk, argues that the problem there is not because of a talent shortage as much as retailers seeking the wrong kind of talent.

"Too many (U.K.) retailers still don't fully understand what skills are required to run the online channel," Newman wrote. "There tends to be too much emphasis on technical skills and not enough on core retailing requirements such as good old-fashioned day-to-day trading." Some good thoughts there for retailers on any continent.Read more...

Cloud Vendor Hypocrites: Contracts May Not Help

June 20th, 2012
Cloud providers want customers and are willing to promise just about anything to get them, including the type of security envisioned in the guidelines of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). But most cloud providers are unwilling to enter into contracts binding them to actually meet the CSA guidelines, even when that cloud provider has issued enthusiastic endorsements of the CSA wording, pens Legal Columnist Mark Rasch.

One reader who is now working with a major hosting company on a cloud contract specifically had this experience. He asked the vendor to accept contract wording identical to statements that hosting firm had publicly applauded. The vendor refused, saying "the CSA is a marketing and collateral document. It was not created to be a contractually binding document."Read more...

So Why Is M-Commerce Struggling So Much In The U.S.?

June 14th, 2012

Does traditional mobile commerce have a shot anymore in the U.S.? Or has the industry muddied it up to the point where we need to start over, as Apple and Burger King are trying? We tried to address that politically sensitive topic in the first of our new monthly columns with Retail Week, the U.K.’s largest retail publication.

The reasons why mobile is having trouble are plenty, but it’s fair to say that when MasterCard is the one arguing that mobile payment PCI regulations should perhaps be ignored, something has changed. When MasterCard starts to sound like the most rational and reasonable one in the room, Alice, you know you’ve gone through the looking glass. Please check out the column on Retail Week or, if you’re not a Retail Week subscriber, you can check out a picture of the column right here. …

Apple’s Wallet-Without-Payments: If This Works, Maybe We’ll Try The Hard Part

June 14th, 2012
Apple's announcement on Monday (June 11) of Passbook, the iPhone's mobile wallet that does everything except traditional payments, is a classic unthinkable move: Apple did the easy part first. If customers like using Passbook for tickets, coupons and loyalty cards, then maybe Apple will tackle the hard part: mobile payments.

There are several ways Apple could do that. But one thing seems clear: After the fruitless straining of Google Wallet, ISIS and PayPal to get customers and retailers on board, Apple's design philosophy of "it just works" means the impact on retailers of iPhone mobile payments should be nearly invisible—except that customers may actually use it.Read more...

Burger King Trial: No PCI, No Hardware Changes, A Lot Of Cloud

June 14th, 2012
Burger King has been doing its own mobile payment trial at about 50 stores near Salt Lake City in Utah. But the fast-food chain isn't working with Google Wallet, ISIS, PayPal or any of the other major mobile players. Its approach is trying to avoid the political—and technological and security-related—friction associated with the more well-known strategies by using a Starbucks-style stored-value card, and then adding a heck of a lot of cloud.

Burger King's method can work on any iPhone or Android, completely denies any payment-card data to the retailer (keeping the whole trial out of PCI scope), requires no hardware changes and is all based on a cheap printed QR code stuck on the back of the POS or on a drive-through window.Read more...

Domino’s Touts Billion Dollars In Digital Sales and Points To Mobile, But 93 Percent Is From The Web

June 13th, 2012

Domino’s Pizza released an eye-opening figure on Monday (June 11): It has sold more than $1 billion worth of pizza (from mid-April 2011 to mid-April 2012) solely through digital channels. With all of the talk about the chain’s two mobile apps and its dedicated mobile site, that billion seems to suggest the power of mobile. But what Domino’s did not say in its statement tells a very different story.

Although it’s quite true that mobile sales are soaring, it turns out that 93 percent of those billion dollars worth of digital sales were on the plain old Web site. And 70 percent of sales are still the phone into a brick-and-mortar type. There shouldn’t be much of a stunner in that 93 percent figure, but with all of the mobile hype going on, it’s important to remember that figure to keep things in context. (Note: Domino’s also said that it’s selling more through its iPhone app than through Android. Given that the iPhone app has been out for several months longer, according to Domino’s spokesman Chris Brandon, that may not mean much.)…

Some 40 Percent Of Walmart’s Pay With Cash Online Shoppers Don’t End Up Using Cash

June 13th, 2012
When Walmart last week released a handful of stats about its new Pay With Cash online program, one stat stood out. Namely, that 40 percent of everyone who used the cash-online program ended up paying with anything other than cash.

Why would almost half of the people who specifically are using a cash-only program end up using a payment card or check? Walmart theorized that those shoppers may be scared to use payment cards online. In mid-2012, could this be true? For Chief Executive Joel Anderson's argument to work, we have to believe that there exist a lot of consumers who are fearful enough of E-tailers that they won't give them their Visa card online, but who are not so fearful that they hesitate giving it to an associate at the store. Even though the payment data is stored in the exact same place.Read more...


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