Friday, November 28, 2008

UPS, HP Partner for Greener Logistics

UPS has begun deploying a new combination scanner and paperless printing device from HP for printing of sorting labels directly on packages.

The two companies worked together for 18 months to develop a mobile unit known as the HP Handheld sp400 All-in-One. UPS then created a custom business application to support the device. Once the technology is fully deployed, the elimination of paper labels will save 1,338 tons of paper and millions of dollars in operating costs each year, UPS said.

The wearable, wireless device is being used in conjunction with UPS's Package Flow Technology (PFT) system for route planning. PFT designs delivery routes that minimize left-hand turns, and generates specific handling instructions for each package that tell loaders the precise position within a truck to place a package for delivery the next day.

UPS has already begun using the devices in 41 U.S. package centers, and plans to expand them to 850 imprinters in 55 centers by the end of this year. It expects to use the technology to process 1.5m packages per business day by mid-2009, and boost the number to 3.1m by 2010.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MyBuys Helps Figi's Double Conversions

Fifty-four percent of U.S. online shoppers notice product recommendations on eCommerce sites, according to a 2007 survey by Forrester Research Inc. Thirty-four percent of those shoppers say they have made purchases based on such recommendations.

To take advantage of this, direct merchant Figi's has implemented automatic product recommendations using technology from MyBuys. The conversion rate on recommended products clicked on has increased 119% this fall compared with last fall, the retailer reports.

MyBuys creates deep consumer profiles based on both explicit information it collects from shoppers when they sign up for alerts and implicit information collected as shoppers interact with a site (with anonymous cookies to track return visit behavior). Then it looks at your products and your approach to merchandising, using a patented portfolio of algorithms and real-time optimization to figure out what each shopper wants. It then follows up with recommendations to customers on the Website and in email and RSS alerts.

MyBuys tracks all aspects of visitor behavior: what they look at, what they abandon, what they check out with, their response to recommendations, whether they take action on abandoned items in their cart, how and where they navigate, and what they search, The algorithms derive attributes about the consumer such as what their price point sensitivity is, are they a sale buyer, are they a trend follower, for a unique approach to every consumer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

LaGarde Files Chapter 11

LaGarde Inc., which develops eCommerce software, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of a plan to sell the struggling Olathe, KS, company, which is negotiating with a "very well-qualified buyer," CEO Bob LaGarde said.

He wouldn’t release the name of the buyer, but characterized it as a reputable company that sells related software and is not based locally. An acquisition plan could be filed as soon as Nov. 18, he said.

He thinks the buyer can repay all, or at least most, of his company’s debts.

"The products and services they’ll be acquiring and operating here will be significant and important to their overall company," LaGarde told the Kansas City Business Journal. "I don’t think they’d be doing it if they didn’t feel there was a significant growth opportunity."

In conjunction with the bankruptcy filing, the company laid off about 20 employees. It now employs about 27 people, compared with 110 in early 2007.

The buyer plans to maintain operations in Olathe. Bob LaGarde’s involvement has yet to be determined, he said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Holiday eCommerce Crash Crunch?

As data for retail sales in October posted their biggest drop (2.8%) since 1992, when record-keeping for the Dept. of Commerce began (according to Bloomberg, although that seems like a very recent "starting point"), making this the fourth drop in a row (also a record), Evan Schuman of StorefrontBacktalk warns that a rush of bargain-hunting consumers could lead to increased Website crashes for eCommerce sites this holiday season.

Says Schuman, "many retailers have made the leap that lower revenue (or lower percentage increases in revenue) will translate to modest Web traffic. In all probability, the opposite will happen."

Budget cuts have also "set up potential crash-related disaster number two. Those cuts have given many E-Commerce departments fewer dollars and people at the same time as the demands for IT online magic has increased, with the goal of somehow boosting online sales conversions. The likely initial result: A lot more apps that will be rushed to go live before they're ready. The likely ultimate result: More site glitches resulting in more slowdowns and crashes.

"Continuing with this cascading perfect storm scenario, those budget cutbacks and the need to push out new functionality no matter what will also sharply increase outsourcing. In general, outsourcing is not a problem, but when it's done in a panic and it's throwing a lot of new players into an established site with little time and a non-negotiable deadline (flying reindeer know not of upgrade delays), it's asking for trouble."

Finally, warns Schuman, hand-offs "for everything from site searches to watching videos to the backbone checkout issues such as connecting with shipping partners, credit card authorization and Zip Code tax lookups" will also cause site crashes. Accommodating Net 2.0 social networking and customer comments adds overhead, as does the oncoming tsunami of mobile phone interfaces.

Concludes Schuman, "these handoffs can be especially tricky in terms of brand damage. If a purchase being made through MySpace or an iPhone glitches halfway through —- perhaps right in the middle of checkout, so the consumer is not quite sure if the transaction happened or not —- who does the consumer blame?"

Monday, November 10, 2008

DHL to End Deliveries Inside US

NEW YORK ( -- Global delivery company DHL announced Monday that it was cutting 9,500 jobs as it discontinues air and ground operations within the United States.

DHL said its DHL Express unit will continue to operate between the United States and other nations. But the company said it was dropping "domestic-only" air and ground services within the United States by Jan. 30 "to minimize future uncertainties."

"We see [a] significant shortfall in the U.S. part of our express business due to the fact that the economy has weakened deeply," said Frank Appel, chief executive of DHL's parent company Deutsche Post World Net. "We have taken a massive action in the U.S."

"As you can imagine, this was not an easy decision," said Appel, speaking by webcast from corporate headquarters in Bonn, Germany. "It has a massive impact on jobs for our people."

Elias Sleiman, a quality control worker and one of 375 DHL employees at a shipping facility in Allentown, Pa., said the company has scheduled a 10:30 p.m. meeting to explain their fate.

DHL's 9,500 job cuts are on top of 5,400 job reductions announced earlier this year. After these layoffs, between 3,000 and 4,000 employees will remain at DHL's U.S. operations, the company said.

The company also said it was shutting down all ground hubs and reducing the number of its U.S. stations to 103 from 412.

Because DHL isn't U.S.-owned, the company isn't permitted to make deliveries between U.S. airports. Instead, these services are currently performed for DHL by U.S.-based carriers like ABX Air, Inc. and Air Cargo Carrier, which are both based in Wilmington, Ohio, DHL's main U.S. hub.

As DHL scales down its domestic operations, it's working on a deal to outsource these services to UPS Inc., based in Atlanta. If the deal goes through, then UPS could transport DHL packages between U.S. airports, instead of ABX and ASTAR.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Elucid Webshop at Inverawe Boosts Gift Orders

Sanderson, the publicly owned UK-based provider of software solutions to mail order and multi-channel retailers, has provided its new and improved Elucid Webshop, its ecommerce module, to Inverawe Smokehouses.

Inverawe’s newly launched site takes advantage of many of the new features within Elucid Webshop. A gift reminder service is designed to increase the volume of repeat purchases and develop brand loyalty. The service allows users to record dates, such as special occasions, birthdays and anniversaries in their account, and sends automated reminder e-mails at a specified time before the event.

Customer service is also key when it comes to the delivery options; users are asked to specify the date they wish to take delivery of the goods and have the option of sending to multiple delivery addresses. Additionally, greeting messages can be added to gifts and special instructions given to the carrier to ensure safe and timely delivery.

The site collates marketing information which can be used to deliver more targeted marketing campaigns. Lucy MacLean, Marketing Director at Inverawe Smokehouses, comments: "The Sanderson team have delivered enhancements not only to our website but to the business as a whole. The new Webshop is fully integrated with our other sales channels, providing complete visibility of sales, customer histories and stock across the business. This visibility will help us maintain customer service and increase our sales potential."

Catalog Mailers Association

Ralph Drybrough of Direct Media, noting that the DMA is ill-suited to represent the catalog industry on postal and regulatory issues, suggests that the Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA), with over seventy members, is a more focused organization to meet the needs of the catalog community. For more information on ACMA’s effective work on the cataloger’s behalf, go to

Thursday, November 06, 2008

New Postal Barcode Confusing

According to an article in MultiChannel Merchant, the new Intelligent Mail barcode that the US Postal Service will introduce next year is designed to upgrade the current customer barcode.

Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) will employ a 65-bar USPS barcode to sort and track letters and flats, allowing for unique identification of up to a billion mail pieces per mailing.

When IMB is implemented in May 2009, mailers will be able to choose from two options: basic and full service. The basic option requires the essential elements of an IMB—service code, mailer ID and the delivery point code.

Full service has all the elements of basic, plus a unique identity on each mail piece. What's more, full service combines this individual mail identity with aggregate information for primary containers such as trays, tubs and sacks. The data from the primary containers is attributed to secondary containers such as palle

However, “There are big issues with lots of confusion,” says Don Landis, vice president of postal affairs for catalog printer Arandell Corp. “Our customers have heard many different versions of what is an IMB and the effective date,” he notes. “Most do not understand the internal data structure they will need.”

And the dates for compliance are creeping up. The USPS will require all automation flats to bear barcodes (IMBs or Postnet barcodes) that include delivery point routing codes--as currently required for automation letters--starting May 11, 2009.

Catalogers will have until May 11, 2011 to abide by the IMB regulations, though the USPS will begin offering discounts for using the “full service” IMB next fall. And as of May 11, 2011, there will be penalties for not complying.

As a printer, Arandell is still concerned with being able to print the IMB, Landis says. “We printers have invested a lot of capital in the IMB and are concerned there will be no way of realizing any ROI.

And mailers want to know what discounts will be offered before they decide if full service is worth the investment, he adds. “All but one of our customers have stated that with the information available today, they will not use full service.”

Early in 2009, the USPS will announce an Intelligent Mail full service discount at the same time it announces the CPI (Consumer Price Index) increase for postal rates in May. “There will be no discount for basic service,” Landis says. “Rumor has it that it will be a very small discount considering the financial status of the USPS. It might be just another presort rate.”

There does not seem to be “a whole lot of benefit (to using Intelligent Mail) for catalogers,” says Anita Pursley, vice president of postal affairs for Montreal-based printer Quebecor World. She says IMB is makes more sense for periodicals, which receive ACS (Address Correction Service).

ACS involves receiving a notice from the USPS if a mail piece cannot be delivered and why; right now there is a cost for the service. Receiving free ACS with full service Intelligent Mail could mean a big savings for periodical mailers, Landis notes. “But [catalogers] only receive ACS when they request it--and that is not very frequent--so there really is not much of a savings” for them.

Intelligent Mail marks the first mandated barcode change since the USPS invented Postnet in 1980. In addition to new data and processing requirements, the graphics, fonts, coding and print specifications for the IMB are different from any existing barcode used today. Companies must create the new barcode, plus eliminate any current barcodes such as Postnet or Planet codes.

Pursley calls Intelligent Mail the “most aggressive and challenging initiative the industry has ever seen.” While the implementation date has been set, the requirements surrounding the use of the IMB are still evolving, she says. “The industry needs to constantly monitor the requirements

High Res Bar Code Printer

Primera Technology, Inc., a manufacturer of specialty printers, has developed the LX200, a high-resolution bar code label printer. With 1200 dpi print resolution, the unit has nearly six times as many dots per inch as most thermal transfer bar code printers, the company claims. It can print onto labels, tickets, tags and coupons for a wide range of applications, including those requiring high levels of security and durability.

The LX200 uses an inkjet print head instead of thermal transfer ribbons, which leave behind a record of everything that has been printed. It is being shipped with label-creation software called NiceLabel SE for Primera. All popular bar codes are supported, including linear and, optionally, 2D bar codes such as PDF417. Fonts as small as two points are highly legible and perfectly formed, the company claimed. Both pigmented and dye-based black inks are available for the monochrome printers.
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