Monday, March 29, 2010

Prison Scammers Asking For Return Reshipments

Scammers in prison with access to full credit card data, including CVV numbers, are placing orders online (including thru Amazon), having them sent to the card holder's address, and then when they are returned, calling the merchant to say they are travelling and requesting the item be resent to an address in Texas.

According to Internet Retailer, "The criminals are placing small orders, mostly $25 or less, to avoid setting off fraud alarms, and they're not ordering any particular product."

"They're preying on the customer service-friendliness of many online retailers who bend over backwards to get customers their packages any way they like."

So if you receive any calls about returned packages asking for a reshipment, beware!

Next Plans International eCommerce Expansion

As reported in Cross Atlantic Insight: Revenues at the direct division of British apparel and decor retailer Next rose 7 percent to £873.2 million ($1.30 billion) in the year ended January 2010. Profits for the division are also up, from £157.6 million ($234.6 million) last year, to £183.6 million ($273.3 million)—a rise of 16.5 percent. Overall pretax profit at the retailer was up 18 percent to £505 million ($751.5 million).

Next says one of its primary targets for 2010 is growing its international business. The retailer is moving away from overseas store openings to focus on its international website Having posted a profit of £800,000 ($1.2 million) via its international website last year, Next has set its sights on generating a profit of £1.4 million ($2.1 million) on sales of £7 million ($10.4 million) in 2010.

This year will also see Next embark on a fully fledged international marketing campaign; it has already started testing concepts in the US.

PayPal Changing the Payment Processing Game

According to, PayPal changes the credit card payment model in significant ways. If one compares the impact of interchange regulation in Australia on Visa/MasterCard issuers vs. American Express, it is clear that closed/semi-closed loop payment systems may have an inherent advantage. In partnering with Banks, and not sharing in the topline opportunities, PayPal could seriously affect the balance of the payments eco-system. In that light, rethinking the services offered to banks to assist them with new payment and commerce channels is a critical imperative for the rest of the industry.

Ultimately, innovation is a matter of culture: PayPal is grounded in the advent of eCommerce and Push Payments, both encouraing changes. This not only explains best why PayPal would try where other would shy away, it also exemplifies the challenge for leading providers. It would be reckless for a Visa or MasterCard to try become an Internet-style company. However, they would be well advised to aggressively partner with other new comers such as Obopay, or Bling Nation to capitalize on their "let's do it" outlook on business.

Use SocialShop to Sell Products on Facebook

eMerchants and organizations with Facebook fan pages can now use a new Facebook app, SocialShop from BigCommerce, to display and sell products via Facebook. See the video below for a quick overview.

BigCommerce itself offers the following features on its eCommerce platform:
- user-customizable look-and-feel
- flexible product display
- photo zoom feature
- size/color management
- inventory tracking
- returns management
- coupons, gift certificates
- Google Website Optimizer
- promotional banners

Chosing the Right Web Performance Monitoring Tool

Many of the features on a modern eCommerce site, like image management, Adobe Flash components, video streams, product reviews and "roll-over" details, are provided through Web-based connections to third-party providers, which means that the performance and reliability of your online business is not totally within your control.

To manage this composite Web experience you need to set up not only high-quality Web performance analysis and measurement of your site, but also to gather performance data for all of the add-in components being served up by other vendors. This requires specialized Web tools that analyze your site's performance in a real browser, in the same ways that your customers are going to your site and interacting with your rich Web features.

Be sure to choose a Web performance monitoring solution that tracks the various composite pieces of the pages separately, so you can manage them individually. You can then use that information to tighten your Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with your vendors to ensure that their contributions to your site's sales success are living up to your customers' expectations. If problems are found in the analyses of the site and its composite parts, you will at least have the critical information you need to work on getting improvements from those component providers.

Adapted from RIS News

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ribble Cycles Riding High With Sanderson eCommerce

Just one month after going live with a new eCommerce solution, sales at Ribble Cycles are up 25%, with more overseas sales in the last four weeks than in the previous three months.

Ribble Cycles, a family-owned company based in Preston, Lancashire, in the UK, has specialized in the supply of road and track cycles for over 30 years. The poor performance and lack of integration of their previous Website forced them to evaluate their business objectives and define their online sales and marketing requirements as an integral part of their strategy for the next decade. With a sales target of 25% growth year on year, the company made a strategic decision to invest in a more dynamic eCommerce system.

The new Website had to integrate fully with the Elucid multi-channel software solution which Ribble Cycles uses to run all elements of their business: mail order, warehouse and retail store. An extensive specification was produced for the new site which included expansion of product ranges, visibility across all search engines, functionality to attract and retain overseas customers, sophisticated discounting options and bike-building options to allow enthusiasts to "design the bike of their dreams." The creation of additional payment options with integration to finance companies to instantly approve credit applications completed the list.

After a comprehensive review, the apple didn't fall far from the tree, with Ribble chosing the Elucid eCommerce solution from Sanderson.

Ribble’s recently relaunched Website uses many of the functions of the Elucid eCommerce solution, with an immediate impact on the business. In just four weeks sales are up 25%, with more overseas sales in the last four weeks than in the previous three months.

In addition to the excellent sales figures, the management team and staff have seen significant improvements in managing the business through a single system: visibility across all sales channels, removal of duplicate activities, reduced time spent updating the Website and all key information held in one location.

The new Website has enabled Ribble to introduce new product ranges across three defined market segments. The site also contains dedicated pages to support magazine advertising, further integrating their marketing activities and helping to expand their customer base.

Jim Dove, General Manager at Ribble Cycles, comments: “Future discussions with Sanderson will focus on maximising the Elucid marketing functions, developing an affiliate marketing programme and increasing our online presence through SEO and online advertising programmes.”

Ian Newcombe, Managing Director of Sanderson Multi-Channel Solutions concludes: “We are delighted that the Elucid eCommerce solution is having such a positive and tangible impact on Ribble’s business performance. Both companies worked hard to ensure the specification would meet all of the project objectives and credit should be given to both the Sanderson and Ribble project teams.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

iCongo Offers M-Commerce Module

iCongo Inc., a Montreal-based provider of eCommerce, multichannel order management and marketing systems, announced today the release of M-Commerce as part of its eCommerce Platform. iCongo customers can immediately take advantage of their existing platform to explore the mobile channel.

“Our customers count on us to help grow their businesses through iCongo’s growing suite of solutions, services and consultative approach to maximizing online revenue," says Steven Kramer, President for iCongo. "M-Commerce is a growth channel and we want our customers to tap into the benefits early. Consumers expect to buy any product from anywhere and have it fulfilled from any store location, something mobile marketing and a mobile storefront powered by iCongo’s Cross-Channel systems provides. It brings our 'endless aisle' literally to the palms of the consumer.”

Retailers looking to launch mobile storefronts can protect their existing investment using iCongo’s mobile offering, which leverages an existing CMS (Content Management System) and marketing tools to push content to a mobile-optimized storefront. In addition, retailers can maintain their PCI compliance across all channels through iCongo’s PCI-compliant multi-channel eCommerce Platform.

Forrester Research named iCongo a “Strong Performer” in the January 2009 report “The Forrester Wave™: B2C E-Commerce Platforms, Q1 2009.” iCongo’s clients include many world-renowned retailers and brands.

Friday, March 19, 2010 Expands CPG Roster

Internet Retailer reports: Inc., which operates as an e-marketplace for consumer packaged goods like laundry detergent and toothpaste, is adding several clients per week to its community of more than 150 manufacturers who use to sell directly to consumers, says CEO and co-founder Brian Wiegand., which launched in January, currently carries about 10,000 items and expects to offer 25,000 to 30,000 SKUs by the end of this year, Wiegand says. "We already have something in almost every consumer packaged goods category," he says.

Its clients range from industry giants Procter & Gamble and General Mills Inc. to relatively small niche players like Citra Solv LLC, a manufacturer of cleaning products made with citric fruit extracts, and Vaska, a manufacturer of organic body lotions and shampoos. has also developed for its clients more than 30 branded retail Websites that link to to process online sales, and it expects there will be about 100 such retail sites for client manufacturers by the end of the year. Alice hosts and maintains the sites for no charge, though it may charge a fee if a client requests special design work, Wiegand says.

Alice does not buy inventory from its client manufacturers, but covers all the costs of warehousing and fulfilling orders. It also provides free shipping on all orders. It earns its revenue by charging clients 35% of the price charged to consumers, plus other fees it earns for marketing programs. For example, Alice charges manufacturers $1 or $2 for each coupon and free sample included in an order.

Wiegand and co-founder and president Mark McGuire also co-founded the former shopping search engine, which they sold to Microsoft Corp. in 2007. Microsoft now uses the Jellyfish platform as the basis for its Bing search engine cashback program.

IBM Introduces Smart Call Center Routing Engine

As reported by, IBM announced a new service today which uses advanced analytics to match a caller with the optimal customer service representative (CSR) in real-time.

IBM has collaborated with specialty insurance provider Assurant Solutions, part of Assurant, Inc., to develop the Real-Time Analytics Matching Platform (RAMP). The use of RAMP has enabled Assurant Solutions call centers to increase customer retention, increase sales yields and decrease agent attrition.

Most contact centers use a skills-based system when routing customer calls, which only takes into consideration the agent’s product focus and availability. For decades this model has proven frustrating to both customers and contact center agents as the assigned representative may not be the optimal candidate to address the customer’s request.

Using techniques invented and patented by Assurant, RAMP combines data about the individual customer with each contact center agent’s specific skills, expertise and past performance to optimize the routing of calls. IBM Global Business Services consultants designed a “matching-engine” which leverages this combination of customer insight, agent profiles and real-time analytics to provide “individual-level” decisioning and assignment of calls not available in most contact centers' applications.

RAMP is activated the moment a customer contacts the call center. Within seconds the platform uses data generated from previous call center interactions to identify acceptable wait times for individual customers. RAMP then factors in agent performance and qualifications to decide which agent would serve that customer best. At the same time, RAMP determines when the optimal agent will become available using prediction algorithms based on the length of the current call and historical call handle times. The analytics-based decision engine then assigns the caller to the optimal agent and routes the call in real-time to that agent. The engine tracks each call assignment and makes necessary adjustments if an agent's call ends before or after its predicted time.

RAMP is available today through IBM Global Business Services’ Business Analytics and Optimization (BAO) service line. The platform leverages IBM’s deep expertise in analytics and customer insight technologies and joins a growing portfolio of BAO assets focused on helping clients better make better decisions.

The system provides for flexible configuration options and is optimized to run on IBM Software and Hardware platforms. Assurant is deploying RAMP on an IBM POWER6-based system leveraging IBM DB2 and IBM WebSphere software technology to manage their information. IBM is also making RAMP available for other customer contact-centric industries, including: Financial Services, Telecommunications and Cable Television.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Accupointe Now Offering Direct 500

Accupointe, Inc., Monroe, NC, a leading Microsoft VAR, has purchased the Direct 500 program from Computer Solutions, Inc.

Direct 500, with its eStore module, was built on the MS Sage MAS 500 ERP platform to meet the needs of multichannel merchants, manufacturers, and distributors with a single integrated solution.

Among the advantages of an integrated platform are integrated source codes that allow the Call Center and the eStore to provide a unified response to an e-mail blast with integrated source codes and promotions to automatically take the customer to a special offer on the eStore, complete the shopping cart with the promotion, and place the order in MAS 500 with no interaction from the Call Center.

Other marketing features include:

- RFM Scoring
- Mail List Selection
- Catalog Requests
- Fulfillment cost reductions with address cleaning and shipping and handling calculations. Shipping methods have been expanded with features to allow shipments by address types, restrictions by postal codes and countries. Shipping charts can be defined by geographical region and level of service.

Direct 500 also offers an integration to StarShip, allowing customers to have a calculated freight and handling charge directly from the StarShip rate tables.

Other features include:
- Address Normalization by integrating the Call Center and eStore to Melissa Data software, Direct 500 provides address hygiene and verification along with ZIP+4 capabilities.

- Duplicate Name Checking using an algorithm that is unique to Direct 500. The Call Center operator is prompted with the possible duplicates prior to adding a customer that may already be in the database.

- Continuity shipments

- Holiday Calendars to set service levels and geographic regions to allow the Call Center and eStore to calculate delivery dates that can be met by the company around the busy holiday seasons.

Twitter Announces @anywhere

Twitter has announced development of a new set of frameworks, to be called "@anywhere," for adding the Twitter experience anywhere on the web, allowing any Website to recreate Twitter's open interactions and providing what it calls "a new layer of value for visitors without sending them to"

Not only is Twitter's open technology platform well known, but Twitter APIs are already widely implemented. With @anywhere, however, rather than implementing APIs, site owners need only drop in a few lines of javascript to add the Twitter-like functions to their site.

Initial participating sites will include Amazon, AdAge, Bing, Citysearch, Digg, eBay, The Huffington Post, Meebo,, The New York Times,, Yahoo!, and YouTube.

Says Twitterblog: "Imagine being able to follow a New York Times journalist directly from her byline, tweet about a video without leaving YouTube, and discover new Twitter accounts while visiting the Yahoo! home page—and that’s just the beginning..... With @anywhere, web site owners and operators will be able to offer visitors more value with less heavy lifting."

Continental Uses Silverlight for Call Center App with Web-Based Tech

When it came time to update its call center reservations system, Continental Airlines and its partner Infusion Development chose the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in to build the new reservations solution as a rich Internet application.

The new system provides improved functionality and workflow for call center agents, which enables them to deliver better customer service and increase customer satisfaction. With the new solution, Continental saves money by consolidating servers and databases that currently sit in call centers around the world. By choosing Silverlight, the company also has reduced development and deployment time, simplified application management, and made it easy to integrate the new system with Continental’s existing Web services.

Click HERE for details.

Microsoft Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET-based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web and for mobile devices. Visual Studio and Expression Blend fully support Silverlight for application development.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Amazon Webstore Targets Midmarket Retailers

From Eric Engleman's Amazon Blog on TechFlash: Last April we reported on a secret project code-named Vitamin C, which was working on new ecommerce services for retailers. The idea was to take Amazon's WebStore business, which gives smaller retailers simple tools to set up online stores, and add more customizable features — along the lines of what Amazon does for large enterprise customers like Target and Marks & Spencer.

Now Amazon is unveiling the new toolset — introducing a revamped Amazon WebStore with "new capabilities and a self-service toolset that improve flexibility and control over site design, branding, and catalog offering." Amazon — which has lost some big enterprise customers in recent years, and is about to lose Target — may be shifting the focus of its ecommerce platform business to more modest-sized retailers.

The new Amazon WebStore, for now, is available in beta version by invitation only to retailers who request to be included. According to Amazon, the new features include:

- Enhanced setup wizard makes it quick and easy to launch your online business.
- New design tools and widgets provide increased flexibility and control of site design and merchandizing.
- Improved catalog and inventory control for easier merchandizing without IT support.
- Unified interface to easily track and manage offers, inventory, and orders across channels.
- New pricing that scales with your business.

Amazon faces some competition from other ecommerce platform companies that are targeting small and mid-sized retailers, including ProStores (owned by eBay), MarketLive, Volusion, and others.

But Amazon likely sees this segment as a growth opportunity, as its large enterprise business loses some steam. Target, which has used Amazon to run its ecommerce site since 2001, recently said it will take back the reins of ecommerce operations next year. In recent years, Amazon has also lost Toys "R" Us and the Borders book chain as enterprise customers.

Interesting side note: I'm told the retailer "BH" pictured on the bottom right of the new Amazon WebStore invitation page stands for "Beacon Hill," the Seattle neighborhood where Amazon's current headquarters is located. Apparently "BH" is a fake retailer that Amazon uses to demo new features

Friday, March 05, 2010

Cadre Technologies Issues Event-Management System for WMS

As reported in SupplyChain Brain, Cadre Technologies, a provider of supply-chain management software for the fulfillment, logistics and manufacturing industries, has developed the Cadre Event Management System (CEMS), an event-driven engine which permits users to make site-specific modifications as part of version 3.6 of the Cadence warehouse-management system (WMS).

CEMS was implemented as a standard Cadence user interface to create, manage, deploy and monitor configured events within the Cadence WMS. Users can extend standard functions within the application based on specific client or customer requirements, and can create standard Microsoft SQL Service database triggers to launch desired events, such as advance ship notices when trucks departs the dock. They can broadcast to customer-configured “listeners” to interpret system events and act upon them. And they can configure listeners using standard Microsoft SQL statements to one or multiple actions for each event, based on the complexity of the client or customer request.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

MNP Expands Web Services

MNP, Salisbury, England, has expanded their Web Services solution, "OMSConnect," used for sending and receiving data between a Website and the company's OrderActive Order Management System.

With "WebSync," data can automatically be pushed to a Website to provide regular updates on changes of data in the Order Management System. WebSync produces a product file every time a modification occurs to a product in OrderActive. These files are then submitted as a batched XML file to the Web Service, rather than being processed separately as each one is submitted.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

More New Merchants to Start Accepting PayPal

According to the Wall Street Journal, the pipeline of new merchants that will soon accept online payments through eBay Inc.'s PayPal unit is "strong," PayPal President Scott Thompson said.

Thompson declined to specify how many new merchants are about to support eBay's payment system, saying it could take up to two years in some cases for retailers to integrate PayPal into their Web sites.

Speaking during an appearance at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco, Thompson said the lag was largely due to the challenges posed by linking PayPal's system with "frail" merchant sites built with legacy software.

The company is "very pleased" with the world-wide merchant pipeline, he said, adding the size of the pipeline varies based the markets in which PayPal operates. He noted the service would be available in an unspecified number of new countries this year.

Non-eBay merchant services accounted for 57% of PayPal's $21.4 billion in total net payment volume in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from 50% in the year ago period, says the Wall Street Journal.
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