Friday, December 24, 2010

AdKeeper Introduces “Keep Metrics™”

AdKeeper™ has announced it will publish a new type of metric to evaluate online advertising performance and identify the most effective online publishing environments for future ad buys.

AdKeeper will give consumers the ability to "Keep" online ads for future use, without leaving their current page or interrupting their online experience. With one click of a button, consumers will be able to place ads of their choice into their personal “Keepers™,” where they can return to them at a more convenient time or place, and enjoy absolute control to save, sort, sift, share, rank, review, click, print and buy online from the ads they have specifically selected.

"Kept" ads will display the AdKeeper logo (see illustration).

In addition to impressions and clicks, AdKeeper will offer advertisers an additional analytics tool: Keeps™. Among other data points, the Keep metric will give advertisers critical information about the number of times an individual ad was Kept, the number of online users who Kept them and what websites those consumers were visiting when they Kept the ad.

AdKeeper emerged from stealth in October, and has since been operating in beta, preparing for its full roll out in Q-1 next year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Managing Systems Implementations

As you start turning the page from the holiday season for 2010 (and prepare for gift card redemptions, product exchanges, and the inevitable returns and refunds), you'll soon be reassessing your systems readiness for next year.

There are so many contingencies to account for, very little margin for error, and no time to step back and manage your options when you are "in the thick of it."

We can help. Marketing Systems Analysis can provide you with expert assistance in determining what you need to do next to stay competitive. And we can help you prepare for the next big surge in order volume, whether it's Valentine's Day, Mother's Day/Father's Day, the summer season (for casual apparel, outdoor furniture, fun&sun products, and so on), or the fourth quarter 2011 holiday rush.

The sooner you start getting your house in order and your team ready to spring into action, the better you will be able to get it right this time around.
  • a systems audit and evaluation of resources currently in place
  • strategic planning for improving your presence in each sales channel (including social commerce and shopping site feeds and integration)
  • streamlining order management
  • warehouse facilities and fulfillment assessment
  • optimizing inventory management practices
  • user training evaluation and refresher training
  • on-site and consultative optimization of all operations and systems for order management, inventory management, eCommerce, and mCommerce
Systems Implementation
Choosing the right systems is only half the battle; getting them in place and ready for prime time is just as important as the initial selection.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of systems are implemented haphazardly. In-house staff already have a full-time job, botched data conversions light the fuse on a time bomb of database disasters, project management challenges can be brutally intimidating, and vendor personnel typically do a superficial job of getting the system ready for use by each department.

And then there's training, which can be costly, superficial, and ineffective.

To get all this right, you need someone who's "been there, done that" to step in and make sure that every aspect of the implementation process is executed according to the highest possible standards. Let Marketing Systems Analysis be responsible for making this happen, so that you can actually benefit from your major investment in new solutions, rather than spending the next five years fighting an uphill battle to make the system "work" for you. Otherwise you'll blame the vendor(s) for your big mistake, and be calling us sooner than you'd like to for our primary service: Managing the Acquisition of Third-party Systems, to replace a system that never did pay off for you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Future of eCommerce

Brian Walker of Forrester Research notes in that "Today's consumers have more access points and technology at their disposal than ever before, demanding convenience, choice, and variety in their shopping experiences. Companies need to continue to shift spending to enable the online channels or risk losing out to their competitors.

"Yet, in the future, eCommerce will no longer be about the web browser. The web browser will be just one of many touchpoints that brands, retailers, manufacturers, and distributors will need to support to maximise transactions with customers. Already, an average of 3% of eCommerce revenue is coming from mobile web browsers and applications on smartphones such as the iPhone and Android powered devices.

"Today's internet is actually a splinternet." He then goes on at length to describe in detail his vision of a future for eCommerce as an environment where customers are increasingly in control. I urge you read his comments.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Competition to Find New Computer Security Standard

According to a report in New Scientist: A competition is underway to find a replacement for "the gold-standard" of computer security algorithms used in almost all secure, online transactions.

The list of possibilities for Secure Hash Algorithm-3, or SHA-3, has been narrowed down to five finalists. They now face the onslaught of an international community of "cryptanalysts" – who will analyse the algorithms for weaknesses – before just one is due to be selected as the winner in 2012.

"The competition, which is being run by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is a huge deal for cryptographers and cryptanalysts alike," says New Scientist. "'These are incredibly competitive people. They just love this,' says William Burr of NIST. 'It's almost too much fun. For us, it's a lot of work.'

"The need for the competition dates back to 2004 and 2005," says New Scientist, "when Chinese cryptanalyst Xiaoyun Wang shocked cryptographers by revealing flaws in the algorithm SHA-1, the current gold-standard 'hash algorithm,' which is relied upon for almost all online banking transactions, digital signatures, and the secure storage of some passwords, such as those used to grant access to email accounts."

Facebook Promotions/Shopping Cart Boost Avg. Order Value

Six months ago Kembrel, an online discount retailer serving college students, augmented its Facebook page with some promotional features and a shopping cart. Those changes now drive 20 percent of the company's sales, with a "lift" of up to 10 percent on order value compared to Kembrel's eCommerce Web site, according to an article in CIO magazine.

"Social promotion technology is becoming a very important customer acquisition and retention enabler," Kembrel founder Cherif Habib to CIO. "Shopping is often a social activity in the physical world, so it is only natural that it is becoming much more social online."

Click HERE to read how social commerce is creating the major revenue opportunities for online commerce.

In related news, JCPenney announced this week that customers will be able to purchase items directly from the company’s Facebook fan page, without having to click through to, according to Retail TouchPoints, which goes on to note that "In July 2009, became the first retailer to launch a Facebook storefront, enabling shoppers to purchase items directly from the retailer’s fan page. In February 2010, the florist announced the capability for Facebook fans to purchase items directly from its news feed (the community aspect of the page) without leaving the page."

Retail TouchPoints notes that "while small- to mid-sized retailers have leveraged technologies like Ecwid, Milyoni and Payvment to drive purchases within their Facebook pages, JCPenney is one of the first leading retailers to leverage a fully functional Facebook storefront.
"JCPenney’s new integration will support a full eCommerce experience within the retailer’s Facebook page, including add-to-cart and checkout, among other key functionalities. By utilizing the 'Shop' tab on JCPenney’s Facebook page, users can search all products currently included in JCPenney’s product pages. Shoppers also can 'Like' and share items and purchases with their friends within the community.

"Usablenet, the solution provider powering JCPenney’s Facebook eCommerce application, anticipates that 10% of its retailer clientele will be using the application by the end of 1Q 2011."

Apparel and fashion retailers have indicated an increased interest in the new capability, according to Jason Taylor, VP Product Strategy, Usablenet. "Our clients want to be where their customers are,” Taylor told Retail TouchPoints. “They want to have all different views of products and information optimized for not only on Facebook, but for various other channels.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Boden Adopts TagMan

Multichannel UK apparel retailer Boden has adopted TagMan to track the performance of its Web ads, says Oliver Elliot, the company’s online acquisition manager, according to Internet Retailer.

Tracking tags are snippets of code that monitor the performance of online advertising campaigns to indicate where shoppers come from, such as an e-mail marketing message or a paid search, so that the marketer can adjust offers accordingly.

Prior to adopting TagMan, Boden relied on up to 30 ad tags per page, with each tag sending its own stream of data, but the volume of data can obsccure what led a consumer to purchase and, worse, result in the company paying duplicate commissions to marketing partners such as affiliate Web sites.

The TagMan system allows a retailer to install a single TagMan tag on any Web page to cover all of the page’s ad-tracking tags. TagMan client retailers can add, edit or remove tracking tags via a Web browser.

Using a single set of tags to determine a shopper’s path lets Boden reduce the amount it pays online affiliates that display the retailer’s ads by 10% to 15%.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Prepare for the Mobile Commerce Surge

In the past year, mobile commerce has doubled in volume and by 2015 consumers could be spending nearly $24 billion per year from Internet-enabled mobile devices in the U.S. alone, according to Practical Ecommerce.

The mobile commerce market must be taken seriously, explained TRUSTe's director of mobile products Janet Jaiswal during a live webinar titled "Combining Mobile Computing, Social Media, and Trust to Increase Sales." Click HERE to read Jaiswal's comments and 6 More Mobile Trends to Watch on the Practical Ecommerce blog.

Global Mobile Bay Tech Joins DemandWare LINK

Global Bay Mobile Technologies, a provider of next-generation mobile retail software, has joined Demandware LINK, a best-of-breed technology partner community committed to removing the integration hurdles that retailers face when adopting ecommerce technologies.

As a member of Demandware LINK, Global Bay has integrated its Apple mobile point-of-sale solution with the Demandware Commerce platform to begin offering seamless mobile POS fully integrated with eCommerce for retailers. Retailers that utilize the Demandware Commerce platform as the infrastructure behind their ecommerce websites will now be able to easily implement Global Bay’s patented mobile POS, inventory management, or enterprise software solutions.

“Retailers have seen the phenomenal success of the mobile POS deployment in the Apple stores and want to figure out how to they can replicate the Apple experience in their stores,” said Global Bay CEO Sandeep Bhanote. “In the past, retailers deploying mPOS have been constrained because they had to integrate with their in-store POS technology, which is costly and technically challenging. As part of the Demandware LINK community we are now providing retailers the opportunity to deploy mobile POS in a simple and cost-effective way.”

Global Bay’s retail software improves store operations by providing retailers with mobile solutions that drive in-store traffic, streamline operations, increase sales, and enhance the customer experience. The GB Mobile Platform provides a singular technology that supports all of a retailer’s mobile solution needs while leveraging current back end technology investments.

The Global Bay mPOS solution, built on the Apple iPod/iPhone platform and integrated to Demandware, enables retailers to:
  • Sell anywhere—in the store or out of the store—for goods on hand or in the distribution center
  • Empower store associates with hand-held access to all product and customer information
managed in the Demandware platform
  • Deploy online cross-sell and up-sell recommendations either based on customer information or
product information in store
  • Increase selling space in the store by reducing reliance on bulky legacy POS terminals
  • Deploy “line busting” devices during flash sales or holiday seasons

To view an example of the Global Bay Apple mobile POS implementation, please visit

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Do Not Track: A Golden Opportunity?

This is the longest blog entry I have done for a while, but I think the subject deserves it. I beg your indulge, and hope that if you bear with me it will be worth the effort.

The Federal Trade Commission, in response to complaints that "tracking" software can violate the privacy of those using the Web, has recently moved to curtail such monitoring, calling for Websites to implement a "Do Not Track" (DNT) mechanism that would enable consumers to opt out of having their activity monitored on the sites they visit.

Predictably, the proposed "Do Not Track" option has triggered howls of protest from many eMerchants, whose ability to tailor offers to visitors and returning customers relies on these tracking tools. The agency is accepting written comments until Jan. 31, after which the full commission will vote on whether to formally request a congressional mandate requiring ad networks and Websites to honor Do Not Track requests. In response, industry lobbyists are making a vociferous argument for the FTC to stick with the self-regulatory approach that has applied up until now. They also claim that DNT could put an undue burden on Websites to make sure it actually works as it is supposed to.

Notes Byron Acohido and Jon Swartz in USA TODAY, "’Smaller ad networks and tracking services, in particular, would suffer if Do Not Track is implemented broadly,’ says Kevin Lee, CEO of online advertising consultancy Didit. That's because ads aimed at high-end products, which account for a good portion of the smaller ad networks' profits, command higher premiums because they can be targeted at specific groups of Web users who are being tracked anonymously across the Internet. 'Failure to price this advertising inventory based on anonymous tracking information would probably drop its value in half,' Lee says."

Acohido and Swartz go on to suggest that DNT could spur innovation, and that "The more creative companies will find new ways to legally and ethically make profitable use of information that users openly volunteer," particularly if visitors to these Websites are properly incentivized to volunteer profile information.

Amy Africa, Chief Imagination Officer at eCommerce consultancy Eight by Eight Marketing, says in an article in Multichannel Merchant magazine on Internet Explorer’s tracking protection feature, that consumers don’t mind being tracked if they get something appropriate in return. "I think consumers are aware that everything is tracked, but they are willing to trade in a teensy bit of their information for savings or a discount," Amy says. "When you offer the choice to get a discount and be tracked or get nothing and not be tracked, there's no doubt in my mind that the majority of folks are going to take the tracking."

Amy also believes that DNT would have the same issues that cookie management does: good in theory, but mostly ignored in practice. Or like pop-up blocking: "Everyone says they hate them, everyone says they block them, and (pop-ups) are still incredibly successful."

In the same article, Tom Funk, vice president of eCommerce consultancy Timberline Interactive, points out that “a lot of new ad-driven tactics are giving merchants a bad reputation and could spur Congress to legislate an online version of Do Not Call,” Funk says.

"’Some sneaky sites are now using “Flash cookies,” which are much harder to delete than traditional cookies,’ notes Funk. ‘Big ad networks are fingerprinting computers and mobile devices based on unique combinations of settings and operating software, so they don’t even need to depend on cookies to know who you are. Stories like that scare and anger the average consumer.’"

Self-Regulation: A Deeper Look

My own take on this is wrapped up in what for me are two critical issues, both of which involve a comparison between today’s multichannel marketing environment and the direct commerce world of what is now “a generation” ago, in the 1975-1995 pre-Web era that qualifies as “the heyday” of direct marketing, when most of the fundamentals of database marketing were invented and brought to maturity.

The first fundamental issue has to do with how the concept of “self-regulation” is supposed to work. In the pioneering days of database marketing, the practicing community was almost literally just that: a community of individuals that was small enough that, if they didn’t all know each other, at least they all spoke the same language, often worked interchangeably for the same companies, and attended one or two trade shows, like the annual forum of the National Center for Database Marketing (now part of the Direct Marketing Association, about which see below), where their methods and issues received a very public airing.

Even more significant was the “larger” context of direct marketing as a profession, driven at its core by the list management and brokering business that dates back to Benjamin Franklin (and before), but became highly organized a hundred years ago, when the Direct Marketing Assoc. was formed to serve as a professional development resource center, a training ground for practitioners, and a lobbying enterprise.

Together, the direct marketing community and the database marketing community flourished in the 1975-95 era, expressed archetypally in the plethora of “niche” catalogs that replaced the “big books” of earlier eras, and could survive only because they were able to use the customer profiling and segmentation techniques that were available to smart marketers to grow their businesses, test and target effective offers, and manage both their customers and their merchandise profitably.

I should also point out that more than a few catalogs managed to just break even on selling their inventory, then made all of their considerable profit from list rentals alone. Even those who made money selling goods were certainly made healthy financially from list rental income.

But let’s not lose sight of the point here: this was in many ways a “club,” with a coherence of purpose and common goals and methodologies that every practitioner was committed to honoring. While lists were “seeded” to catch the odd double-dealer or outright crook who broke the rules (and there were certainly a few famous examples) and tried to make a fast buck, even these unethical characters were only hurting their competitors, not the consumers whose names and addresses were “stolen” for nefarious promotional purposes.

The situation today is completely different. There are many reasons why “the community” is no longer relevant: the number of players in the multi-channel world has grown significantly, many of them are primarily from the eCommerce “never-never land” and came out of a technical environment, or the “wild West” world of entrepreneurial madness that prevailed in the boom. Or even from retail, where the lack of knowledge about the customer during the blossoming of retail in the last 20 years meant that the retail community did not grow up with the same values about customer data that direct marketers and database marketers had developed. If your customers are anonymous to begin with, it’s so much easier to play fast and loose with whatever data you gather about them.

Unfortunately, as well, The Direct Marketing Association offers very little in the way of leadership anymore. It lost its way in the late 90s, and today has trouble finding a roadmap, let alone a way forward.

I don’t think I’m being too black-and-white here. I have spent over 25 years working primarily with the direct marketing community, and the last five working with more than a few of the “new age” marketers who don’t have the same background. There is truly a cultural difference that is palpable to me. I’m not slamming contemporary multichannel practitioners – let’s even go so far as to say that the ratio of ethical players to scoundrels in this new age is no different from what it was in the heyday I refer to, or certainly compared to today’s direct marketers. Apples and apples.

So what’s the point? Simply that the scope of the “damage” that the tiny minority of scoundrels can impose is so much greater than what applied in the earlier era. Moreover, the ability to “police” and identify what is being done by whom and to whom is practically non-existent. And most important of all (knowing how the world works…), in the old days the miscreants knew darn well that what they were doing was unethical, if not downright illegal. Today’s troublemakers are often completely unaware that what they are up to violates any ethical or professional standards. There is no community “voice” strong enough, focused enough, and loud enough to convey that message. And as time passes, this devil-take-the-hindmost approach is likely to become the norm.

This is even more likely given what is generally accepted as a shrinking awareness of “privacy” on the part of consumers themselves. I will spare you a major digression on that subject, but it certainly is relevant here (see Privacy Icons for state-of-the-art coverage and thinking on this topic). If consumers themselves are unlikely to object to practices that can be considered, by some, to be dangerous or downright abusive, then without that push back the cancer of database abuse is bound to spread.

Segment Vs. Dossier

Which leads me to the second fundamental issue. Database marketers in the golden age always stressed that what they were doing was not in any way creating “dossiers” about individual customers. “We don’t care about any single customer’s behavior,” they were fond of saying. “We are looking for ‘promotable market segments’ that contain enough people to make it worthwhile targeting.” If one customer was a divorced accountant with two children and an inferred income of $75,000 who liked to buy stylish suede boots and take two-week cruises, it meant nothing unless there were 20,000 others just like her to make a marketable segment.

Yes, when you rented her name along with the other 20,000, the data on the individuals was there for the picking. And there were certainly many reputable marketers who would use it on a one-by-one basis for upselling and cross-selling in a call center environment. But the idea that you would use data about an individual for anything other than your own competitive advantage was against all logic. You protected this data like the family jewels, because it made the difference between profit and loss. The value in the marketplace among practitioners was in the aggregate, not in the particular instance.

In today’s multichannel world, dossier building is much more the point of the entire exercise. You want to gather every possible scrap of information about how individual consumers behave, especially on your Website, but also in the call center and in stores, so that you can devise better and better ways to make the most effective offers to each one of them. And you will also use this data so that offers from affiliates and advertisers can be as profitable as possible, too.

OK. I know that in most cases these “dossiers” are not necessarily identified with the identity of the individual, especially if they don’t place an order. A Website will welcome “Mary Doe” back when in fact it could be her daughter, sister, mother, or someone else sitting at her computer browsing away.  But placing an order will be taken as confirmation of who the person is, and if it’s done on Mary’s behalf by someone else, it doesn’t matter. Mary gets the “credit” for the activity, even if it is not in her best interest.

Which takes us back to Tom Funks’ point: “Big ad networks are fingerprinting computers and mobile devices based on unique combinations of settings and operating software, so they don’t even need to depend on cookies to know who you are.”

I suspect that, based on everything I’ve said, Tom’s statement resonates a little differently now, doesn’t it?

Let me add one more dimension. One of the biggest ad server networks at the heart of this issue is Doubleclick, which is now owned by Google. In the 1990s Doubleclick helped itself grow by acquiring Abacus, a company in Denver, Colorado, started by Tony White, who had earlier founded “Lifestyle Selector," later acquired by Equifax. This was the company that received all those “warranty” postcards that were enclosed in appliances, cameras, and similar merchandise (did you ever wonder why they all had a Colorado address?), which requested information about your hobbies, interests, and “lifestyle” (hence the name).

Lifestyle Selector, of course, created massive databases of very marketable segments based on the data that consumers “willingly” volunteered. Now obviously this was not a totally above-board business, since the “warranty” blather was a ruse to get you to submit the card. But give them this: coming from the bygone era, they did not, to the best of my knowledge, abuse their data at the individual level. Though they had the capacity to build “dossiers,” they were in the segmentation business, not the personal profiling business.

[For a related but quite different perspective on the Heydey of Database Marketing, see the thoughtful blog entry by Kevin Hillstrom, From Database Marketing to Web Analytics.]

Drum Roll, Please!
If you’ve come this far, you’re probably thinking that I am in favor of imposing the Do Not Track option, because it will help to bring some kind of order to the impending chaos.

But you would be wrong, for several reasons. One: I agree with Amy and others that consumers not only benefit from, but seek the advantages that tracking provides them when shopping online.

Two: it will be difficult to have a level playing field for Do Not Track. Apart from the obvious advantages that the larger marketers will have in setting this up and maintaining it (i.e., the burden will fall disproportionately on the smaller outfits), there will also be those who find ways to work around it, no matter how the DNT regulations turn out to be written.

Look at two other examples. The payment card industry (PCI) over the last few years has established a set of regulations for Data Security Standards that impose a combination of self-regulation and formal auditing. Without getting sidetracked in that black hole, suffice to say that the enforcement situation is a shambles. It’s working, but not extremely well. And the original intentions of the PCI Standards are failing to be realized with too much attention focused on the letter rather than the spirit of what they require.

The other example is the FTC's "Mail and Telephone Order Merchandise Rule, or so-called “30-day rule,” requiring that customers be notified if merchants cannot send items they have purchased within 30 days (to allow for back order processing). This, too, is a wobbly gray area of misunderstanding, poor execution, and honoring in the breach. Like PCI, there have been financial penalties imposed from time to time, but “shambles” applies equally well to this regulation.

Do we want to turn DNT into a shambles, as well?

Finally, and most important of all, while I think having the FTC impose a DNT mechanism is a mistake, I don’t think that doing nothing is a very good idea, either (and let's face facts -- "self regulation" is the equivalent of doing nothing, for all practical purposes). What I am in favor of instead is having the conscientious multichannel merchants use this issue as a rallying point to start creating a new professional culture that will carry the old torch forward in a new way that is appropriate for the marketing environment of today and for the foreseeable future. In fact, this should help to shape that future so that issues like transparency, manageability (in many dimensions), customer/shopper integrity, and data ownership/use/and abuse can be productively discussed, debated, and respected. After all, we may not all be marketers, but we are all consumers, and these issues affect us in that dimension as much as they do from the point of view of the practitioner.

Of course, the fact that it is truly a Worldwide Web makes this a rather daunting challenge. But that should only serve to fire up those who will lead this movement in such a way that it becomes an even more effective workshop in which the future of this business can be forged. That's what makes this such a "golden opportunity."

Anything less would be the easy way out, and a disservice to the business, its consumers, and to the public at large. Grandiose? Perhaps. But just as “desperate times call for desperate measures,” challenging times demand heroic efforts from those who wish to lead us effectively. And it’s a lack of leadership, I dare say, that has brought us to the current state of affairs.

POSTSCRIPT: December 18, 2010

It occurs to me since I wrote the above that I left one important element out of the equation of the companies in today's multichannel marketplace, having to do with company size.

While there were certainly some rather large direct marketing companies in "the heyday" I refer to (Readers Digest, Publisher's Clearinghouse, TV Guide, Sears, Lands' End, and LL Bean all come to mind), most of the players had revenues well south of a billion dollars a year, with the exception of some of the banks -- and American Express -- who were actually in the forefront of developing database marketing techniques in the 1970s and 80s, plus Time/Life, whose database marketing pioneer work dates back to the 1960s.

Today, we have quite a few global corporate players in the arena with multi-billion dollar revenue streams and valuations. What makes this worth a P.S. is that in my opinion such companies typically behave in ways that discourage the kind of consensual, collaborative efforts I suggested would help to resolve the privacy issue to everyone's benefit. Even when such corporations pay lip service to something like "corporate social responsibility," it is more often than not a PR effort and a cost center rather than an organic part of the business that actually has a positive impact on the company's behavior in the marketplace. That's just the nature of the beast.

That said, it simply raises the stakes and makes it all the more important that the challenge of addressing the privacy issue effectively be met by all elements in the multichannel marketplace in order to serve the best interests of everyone concerned.

[I am sure that The Web Analytics Association could play an important role in this effort.]

POST POSTSCRIPT: December 21, 2010
One additional consideration. I somewhat cavalierly passed over data security issues above in referring to the PCI Data Security Standards as a "black hole" and a "shambles." Both true statements. But what I should have mentioned in addition is the serious threat posed by potential cyber attacks of all kinds, ranging from those perpetrated by recreational hackers and company insiders, on one end of the spectrum, to criminals, rogue government agencies worldwide, and other nefarious evil doers on the other. This is far from a trifling matter, and is indeed one of the biggest challenges multichannel merchants face by operating on the Web (see 2010 Data Breach Report From Verizon Business, U.S. Secret Service Offers New Cybercrime Insights). It's directly relevant in that customer data of all kinds can be vulnerable in many ways, and the PCI standards address only credit card data. Even in that regard, the Data Security Standards are -- and will most likely remain -- a moving target. Who's addressing the security of customer profile data in any systematic way?

It's tempting to suggest that some group of cyber vigilantes, based on the model of the "Guadian Angels," be established to serve as "the good guys" to fend off "the bad guys." (See "Volunteer Cyber Army Emerges in Estonia" as another possible model, plus this very intriguing suggestion by John Arquilla to "Go on the Cyberoffensive.") There are a lot of reasons why such a concept could never fly, of course, including the risk of having such a group infiltrated by the very bad guys they are trying to fend off. Besides, each eMerchant needs to be responsible for its own data protection and there is a large number of private enterprises with the skills and experience to help those who can't handle this on their own.

But it does even more dramatically underscore the nature of the challenges in the road ahead on the so-called "Privacy" issue.

See Browsers Attempt to Protect Online Privacy
See also the

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

OrderMotion Introduces Its Live Dashboard

OrderMotion, a SaaS-based direct commerce order management solution (and a Certified PCI Level One Service Provider), now has a  "Live View" Dashboard that consists of two graphical elements they call "Funnels" and "Gauges," devices to simplify the amount of data that passes through the Campaign Analytics and Order Management Platform.

The Live View Dashboard is a SaaS application designed for eCommerce and Direct Response TV marketers, gathering and processing real-time data feeds through integration with multiple vendors (shopping carts, call centers, payment processors, fulfillment warehouses, and customer service centers).  The shape of the funnel changes based on the flow of orders through the funnel. Both the funnel shape and gauges movement help their users quickly get a top-level view of the success of ad campaigns. As orders move through the funnel, a certain amount is lost to cancellations, returns, bad debt, then orders "grow" as more customers opt into continuity programs (auto-ship).

A healthy order funnel looks like the one depicted above, but a funnel shaped like a golf tee, for example, is bad. Customers can view the funnel's shape and identify quickly where they should drill deeper into the data to uncover why a problem exists.

The four gauges on the right side of the dashboard help answer the question "How are my sales, cancels, voids, returns trending relative to the past?" Indicators in the green zone are good; red one are bad. The larger gauges indicate the most recent data, while the smaller gauges to the right of each large guage indicates data further back, i.e., "Sales were in the red zone 2 months ago (small sales gauge) but are trending towards green last month (large sales gauge)."  You can filter by channel, offer, keycode, standing order configuration, or a time period.

Magento Launches Magento Store Mobile Previews

Magento, one of the leading "open source" eCommerce platforms, has launched Magento Store Mobile, which lets users preview their Magento Mobile Application in advance of purchasing a subscription. (Magento Mobile now provides a free iPhone previewer application, available in the Apple iTunes Store.)

The Magento Store Mobile app is a fully functional iPhone application that allows you to preview all aspects preview of the application including products and styling in preview mode. The only omission is checkout. Just install the Preview Application on an iPhone and point it to the installation of the Magento Mobile extension you want to preview.

Monday, December 13, 2010

IDC Projects Mobile Apps Market to Grow to $35 Billion by 2014

International Data Corporation predicts that the number of mobile application downloads worldwide will grow from 10.9 billion in 2010 to 76.9 billion in 2014. The market intelligence company also anticipates mobile app revenues will surpass $35 billion in 2014.

IDC’s findings are based on company financials, product announcements and its quarterly survey of the Appcelerator mobile developer base.

“Mobile app developers will ‘appify’ just about every interaction you can think of in your physical and digital worlds,” says Scott Ellison, IDC mobile and wireless research vice president in a Mashable/Mobile blog entry.

Jewelry TV Using DemandWare mCommerce

 Demandware, Inc., the global leader in on-demand ecommerce, today announced that Jewelry Television (JTV) unveiled its mCommerce site within one year of launching its successful eCommerce site leveraging the Demandware Commerce platform to create a seamless shopping experience for its customers.

Along with the launch of its mobile commerce site, JTV also unveiled a free mobile application available on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, plus smart phones on the Android operating system.

According to DemandWare, JTV's mobile launch represents "the home shopping industry’s most sophisticated, tightly integrated mobile shopping experience to-date." Designed to meet shoppers on the go, the mobile application delivers streaming live video from the television broadcast, a location-based GPS channel finder, numerous educational videos-on-demand, a virtual ring sizer and programming guide. An extensive Gemopedia™ featuring high quality images, gemstone facts, pronunciations, birthstone calendar and product features was created to educate and entertain.

The explosion of mobile is making it a mission-critical channel for retailers. A recent survey of 3,600 U.S. consumers commissioned by Demandware showed that 15 percent of consumers have used a mobile device to make purchases. And Morgan Stanley predicts that by 2015, more consumers will shop with mobile devices than laptops or desktops.   

Seamlessly mirroring all the functionality of its existing ecommerce site, JTV was able to launch its mobile commerce site in a matter of months. The JTV mobile site displays the entire product catalog of more than 30,000 products, and offers the ability to browse and add an item to a shopping cart on the mobile browser and then complete the transaction on a desktop computer at home or in the office without needing to reselect the item.  

Demandware Commerce likes to point out that it "combines best practice customer experience applications for eCommerce and mobile commerce, a sophisticated cross-channel merchandising engine, an open development environment for full platform customization and extension and the efficiency and power of next-generation cloud computing."

Demandware’s Mobile Commerce application, as part of Demandware Commerce, includes a full-featured, customizable mobile storefront with the functionality retailers such as JTV need to create a compelling and complete shopping experience on a mobile device. With full integration into the Demandware Commerce platform, retailers can deploy, customize and manage the day-to-day operations of both their eCommerce websites and mobile storefronts simultaneously, through a single, unified environment.

The JTV application, available now, is compatible with many smart phones, for no charge through the iTunes or Android App Stores. The app is not currently available on Blackberry or Microsoft phones, but the mobile web site is compatible with most smart phones, and accessible at or by visiting from your mobile device.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Visa Adds Enhancements to Rightcliq

Visa Inc. has introduced a series of enhancements to "Rightcliq by Visa" that the credit card company believes add more convenience and security to the online shopping experience. The enhancements will nearly triple the number of discounts available to online shoppers, make it even easier to track shipments, and include support for the Google Chrome browser.

Rightcliq was launched by Visa earlier this year, addressing many of the frustration points consumers experience while shopping online and helping them make online buying decisions. Consumers can use Rightcliq with almost any shopping site on the Internet, instantly collect and organize potential purchases in a "Wishspace," and share the Wishspace on their social networks to seek advice. When it's time to buy, Rightcliq lets consumers automatically fill in online forms, select a payment card from a list held securely by Visa and complete their purchase. Rightcliq then helps track shipments so they can feel confident that their holiday gifts will arrive in time.

According to a recent Visa survey, nearly two-thirds of holiday shoppers will "make their list and check it twice," describing themselves as responsible and organized shoppers. The "virtual wishlist" Wishspace feature of Rightcliq may help them do just that. Rightcliq's coupons will also be welcomed by the 76 percent of survey respondents who say they will be motivated to shop online more if a site can instantly show discounts and promotions.

More Offers Save Shoppers Money
Visa has expanded its partnerships with leading merchants to deliver nearly three times as many offers for Rightcliq users. As consumers browse participating merchants' web pages, offers will drop down from the browser tool bar or appear in the Wishspace. Consumers can even share these discounts with their social networks via email or Facebook.

"Getting Rightcliq offers is as simple as surfing the websites consumers already love," says Gerry Sweeney, global head of ecommerce and authentication, Visa Inc.  "As they browse, offers will drop down from the browser tool bar ready for shoppers to redeem, exclusively from Visa."

Monday, December 06, 2010

Rockport Selects Demandware eCommerce

Demandware, Inc., a global leader in on-demand eCommerce, has announced that Rockport, a leading brand within the Adidas portfolio, has selected Demandware Commerce as its new eCommerce platform.

Rockport chose Demandware Commerce for its flexible on-demand model and the ability to gain more control over their overall merchandising and marketing initiatives. New features of the re-launched site will include enhanced customer profiles, trend-driven merchandising, ability to compare selected shoes, product ratings and reviews, and send selections to a friend for help in choosing from multiple styles.

To streamline and lower the integration hurdles and costs associated with adopting eCommerce technologies, Rockport tapped into the Demandware LINK community of technology partners to leverage pre-built integrations from Bazaarvoice (for social media) and ExactTarget (for e-mail management).

Rockport’s new online store is scheduled to officially launch in the US in January, with plans to add multiple international sites later in the year. It is currently a client of GSI Commerce.

Demandware Commerce combines best-practice customer experience applications for both eCommerce and mobile commerce, along with a cross-channel merchandising engine and an open development environment for full platform customization.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

MyBuys Survey Shows Black Friday Shopping At List Price Up 19%

MyBuys, the leading provider of personalization for multi-channel retailers, has released a special online retail report for Black Friday 2010 based on sales activity from its client base of more than 200 retailers.

Among those companies surveyed, online revenue increased 19% on Black Friday compared with the same day a year ago. There is additional room for optimism as retailer’s reduced their discounting by 10% per dollar spent from year ago levels. Order sales with promoted items present declined 33% this year, and at the same time, revenue and order sales from full-priced items rose 19% from Black Friday last year.

Using 2009 figures to compare, sales on November 26, 2010 tells an interesting story around the estimated $648 million in online sales:

· Total number of online orders increased by 30%
· Total revenue from products sold at list price increased by 19%
· The average order value for personalized transactions increased 9%
· Average order value for non-personalized transactions dropped 1%

In an interview we conducted with Robert Cell, CEO of MyBuys, he noted that sales were up on Black Friday among MyBuys's roster of retailers without heavy discounting, because retailers have been using consumer activity analyzed by MyBuys to make much better product assortments available on a personalized basis to eCommerce shoppers. "They're getting the right products to the right people at the right time."

Significantly, mCommerce accounted for only 0.5% of online sales last year among MyBuys clients, but over ten percent of online sales this year.

He expects data from Cyber Monday (available December 2) to show a 50 percent increast over Black Friday, and 42 percent up from last year.

The Health and Wellness Index was started by MyBuys about 18 months ago to survey their more than 200 users to provide more comprehensive data, more quickly than government statistics could provide.

(See my blog post on the Direct Commerce Systems Forum for Black Friday/Cyber Monday results from iGoDigital's customers.)

UK Merchants Slow to Adopt mCommerce

Catalogue & eBusiness reports that "despite the meteoric rise of the mobile internet and the consumer propensity to engage in mCommerce, the majority of [UK] retailers still appear hesitant to invest in the development of a definitive mCommerce strategy. Earlier this year, BT Expedite [an eCommerce platform vendor] found that just 5 percent of UK retailers have an mCommerce presence, with only 24 percent planning to develop one." [Although we don't have statistics, I believe that US merchants are not much further along the mCommerce adoption curve, either].

A likely reason for this, the magazine suggests, is that mCommerce is difficult to define, since it "encompasses any digital content, goods and services purchased and delivered on the mobile device, as well as any tangible products purchased through the handset but physically delivered. Within this, there are a variety of different channels: apps and mobile storefronts are the ones most regularly cited, but premium SMS also plays a significant role with a host of others, notably mobile coupons, mobile-enabled loyalty programs, location-based offers and mobile gift cards, also requiring consideration."

The article concludes with guidelines taken from the MEF Guide to M-Commerce, which retailers should consider following to help them succeed in this channel:

1. Leverage existing consumer behaviour
(and how they are using their smartphones and SMS options)
2. Build the largest mobile install base by growing your SMS opt-in community, buying mobile advertising inventory, and using both to drive conversion
3.  Leverage existing promotions and CRM strategies by using mobile APIs (application programming interfaces) that you can tie into your existing communication services and databases. "Email, SMS, MMS should all be fluid two-way opt-in channels."
4. Keep It Short and Simple on your mCommerce platform
5. Make it an intimate, personal, one-to-one channel
6. Make it a “Trojan” channel by allowing consumers to reach you directly for product and service information and guiding the consumer to the sale. You also must allow the consumer to use this channel to post reviews, insights and tips to you. Use it for surveys to gauge just-in-time feedback.
7. Build a horizontal channel by making it part of your existing media touchpoints. Do not manage your mCommerce channel in isolation.  

A good example of putting this into practice is Tesco: "when launching its grocery app earlier this year, it prioritised developing the application for Nokia’s Ovi Store over Apple’s App Store, on the basis that its target demographic was more likely to have Nokia devices than iPhones. It is this type of joined-up, horizontal thinking that takes on board consumers’ existing behaviours and links it to the most appropriate mobile consumer engagement services that will help retailers to define a successful mCommerce strategy."

Our own PS: You will almost certainly need to consider an mCommerce platform vs. a smartphone app. There are strong reasons for doing one or the other, and sometimes both. The number of mCommerce solution vendors is currently small, but growing, and slow but surely the traditional multichannel order management/eCommerce solution vendors are offering mCommerce modules; we will do future posts to update you on these options.

PCI Compliance Does Not Equal Data Security

An article in Ecommerce Times points out that achieving PCI Compliance does not mean you have achieved real data security. "For example, in the vulnerability scanning area of PCI, companies are allowed to request waivers for things that don't meet the standard but also can't be fixed. It's tempting to just document areas of noncompliance to pass an audit, but this misses the bigger security picture."

The article suggests three Best Practices to reduce the chances of a serious security breach:
  1. Control/Minimize the Scope of Your PCI Network by minimizing the number of places where credit card data is stored or handled.
  2. Increase Your PCI Scan Frequency, making routine system scans standard operating procedure on a daily or weekly basis
  3. Track Your Risk Trend: if risks are increasing, track down the source and deal with it to reduce your risk profile.
"It's tempting to just document areas of noncompliance to pass an audit, but this misses the bigger security picture. Instituting regular reviews of all PCI waivers with an eye toward minimizing security risk is an excellent security practice," the article concludes. It also suggests that implementing these suggestions will probably require some automated security tools; you should make sure candidate solutions can alert you to critical security control changes and don't require installation on every system on your network.
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