Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Open Source R Language May Supercharge BI

Analyzing very large data sets, like those generate by major direct commerce merchants -- sometimes known as "Big Data" --  has traditionally posed significant programming challenges. This led to the development of the R programming language in the early 90s by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman (known as "R" and "R"), two academics at the Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, R has since become the language of choice for large-scale analystic statistical analysis among many students, scientists, programmers and data managers.

"R is a GNU project similar to the S statistical programming language and environment, which is often the vehicle of choice for analytic statistics," notes Herman Mehling in Open Source R Language Could Revolutionize Business Intelligence on the eCRMGuide.com. "R provides an open source route to S and adds some unique capabilities. One of R's greatest strengths is the ease with which it can create well-designed publication-quality plots with mathematical symbols and formulae."

R has been brought to the business world by vendors like SAS, Netezza, Revolution Analytics and IBM, which acquired SPSS, the most active of which has been Revolution Analytics, founded by Norman Nie, who co-invented the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), which marked the beginning of analytic and predictive statistical software.

Notes Mehling: "Earlier this month, Revolution Analytics introduced 'Big Data' analysis to its Revolution R Enterprise software, taking R to what it claims are unprecedented levels of capacity and performance for analyzing very large data sets. The company says R users will be able to process, visualize and model terabyte-class data sets in a fraction of the time of legacy products, without the need for expensive or specialized hardware.

"This Big Data scalability will help R transition from a research and prototyping tool to a production-ready platform for enterprise applications such as quantitative finance and risk management, social media, bioinformatics and telecommunications data analysis, said Nie."

A new version of Revolution R Enterprise introduces an add-on package called RevoScaleR that provides a new framework for fast and efficient multi-core processing of large data sets, a capability that Revolution Analytics claims sets it apart from other vendors.

Revolution R Enterprise works with Hadoop, NoSQL databases, relational databases and data warehouses.

Revolution Analytics also offers inside-R.org for the open source R statistics community

Netezza TwinFin DWH Appliance
Mehling reports that "Netezza, a maker of data warehouse, analytic and monitoring appliances, recently announced its TwinFin data warehousing appliance, which integrates with R. The new appliance includes Netezza's i-Class analytics capabilities and a new release of Netezza Performance Software.

"The vendor says its i-Class technology provides extensions for the development and execution of advanced analytics, including support for Java, C/C++, Fortran, Python, MapReduce, Hadoop, SAS and R. The i-Class technology eliminates the need to move data into specialized systems for advanced analytics, accelerating application performance and simplifying their deployment.

"Recently, Kelley Blue Book selected the Netezza warehouse appliance to gain deeper insights into advertising performance and site traffic, and to increase customer satisfaction and advertising revenue. kbb.com, with more than 18 million monthly visits, dramatically reduced the amount of time it took to process data for a variety of purposes, said Dan Ingle, vice president of analytic insights at Kelley Blue Book," reports Mehling.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vortx Buys AspDotNetStorefont

Vortx, Inc., an eCommerce company based in Ashland, OR, has completed the acquisition of AspDotNetStorefront, a division of Discovery Productions, Inc. and a leading eCommerce solution on the MS Dynamics/AX platform. AspDotNetStorefront is used by more than 10,000 online retailers and 6,000 eCommerce developers and partners.

"To say we are pleased with the acquisition would be a massive understatement," says Dana Greaves, Vortx founder and CEO. "Acquiring one of the leading .NET-based e-commerce platforms enables us to more quickly bring our current products, like our mobile commerce platform and dozens of other add-ons and service offerings, to online storeowners and the strategic partnerships we already serve. It's the perfect marriage of synergies, and a natural step in our rather dramatic growth in recent years."

Says Robert Anderson, President and CEO of Discovery Productions, "We have spent more than 10 years and millions of dollars building one of the most respected platforms in the business. Vortx has been one of our most successful partners and is very well revered within the e-commerce community. I couldn't be happier with this fit."

Plans for the next six months include multi-store enhancements, mobile, search traffic, and backoffice integration features. "This platform will quickly become known for its community-based approach to providing expertise, code, and a marketplace of plug-ins, all embraced by a blanket of high-quality service,"says Jo Benson, COO at Vortx.

Mixed Picture on Call Center Outsourcing

There are an estimated 60,000 people in the US doing call center work from home, NPR Reports. That number, points out Marty Lariviere in The Operations Room, is not up much from a few years ago, however, even though it is getting more expensive to operate in India ("US matches Indian outsourcing costs" - Financial Times). So the story here is that Americans are obviously willing to do call center work at home in this economy, as the cost of outsourcing to India moves upward and wages for American homeworkers are more competitive. But there is no overall gain in this sector, with US-based companies cutting expenses overall.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

eComm Platform Venda Bundles Fulfillment PRO Logistics

Venda, a major on-demand eCommerce provider, now offers Venda Fulfillment Precision Robotic Optimization (PRO) logistics™ powered by Quiet Logistics. By joining two leading providers at the technology, marketing and business service levels, this new solution will allow both companies to seek new growth opportunities that will help users reduce costs and complexity while improving speed and accuracy.

Venda Fulfillment PRO Logistics, the industry’s first robotic warehousing and fulfillment solution, leverages the same scalable onDemand model as does Venda to deliver end-to-end eCommerce and fulfillment. As the latest addition to the Venda eCommerce eCosystem, Fulfillment PRO takes much of the risk, guesswork, errors and costs out of this critical element of eCommerce success.

Powered by Quiet Logistics, Venda Fulfillment PRO delivers the speed and accuracy of robotic fulfillment technology from Kiva, previously available only to large firms, to any organization running the Venda Enterprise eCommerce platform. Fulfillment PRO also offers the F.A.S.T. ™ Guarantee (Flexible, Accurate, Speedy and Trustworthy), ensuring orders are delivered on time and error-free.

Key benefits:
  • Customers will have the ability to track changes in product types, product velocities, order prioritization and other operational realities that is not possible with traditional sorting equipment.
  • Every item at each physical process point (receiving, put away, replenishment, picking, shipping and inventory audit) is verified by bar code scanning. 
  • Simultaneous picking and replenishment can proceed at the same time with full productivity, allowing reduced days-on-hand of inventory.
  • High Reliability of SaaS eCommerce and SaaS Fulfillment with parallel equipment and no single point of failure for zero downtime in a 24/7 operation. 
The integrated service will be available in both the U.S. and in Europe, with local facilities and support.

“We are investing together in this new solution because the eCommerce industry is at an inflection point,” said Greg Cronin, Vice Chairman and EVP of Quiet Logistics. “Together, Venda and Quiet Logistics are collaborating at a fundamental level in both integration and product development, allowing us to rapidly deliver high quality, reliable solutions that will enable our customers to realize increased economic benefits from our combined solution.”

About Venda
Venda delivers on-demand eCommerce to some of the world's leading retailers and manufacturers, including Tesco, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Superdrug, JVC, Urban Outfitters, Conde Nast and Jimmy Choo.  Multi-lingual and multi-currency capable, Venda has both B2B and B2C solutions.. The company has offices in New York, London and Bangkok.

Three Reasons To Consider Outsourcing Fulfillment

Strategic marketers are always focusing on maintaining a competitive edge. One way they’re doing this is by considering outsourced fulfillment operations with third-party providers. Ronnie Johnson, COO at Fifth Gear, a leading provider of outsourced business and technology services for over 100 direct retailers, specialty retailers and manufacturers of consumer products, has written an article on 3 Reasons to Outsource Fulfillment, published by ROI. It's worth a look. If you've never given this option serious attention, you should, and even if you have, it's worth revisiting... (it may not be a good fit, but it should be re-evaluated every so often, just to be sure: your company keeps changing, the third-party environment keeps changing...heck, everything keeps changing!)

Fifth Gear Extends HCM Contract

Fifth Gear, Indianapolis, IN, has announced a three-year extension of its relationship with Hallmark Custom Marketing (HCM) supporting Hallmark’s UNICEF partnership through order fulfillment and customer contact center services (a portion of every order generates revenue for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF).

As a client of Fifth Gear, HCM provides customers with accurate, timely delivery and customer service for the UNICEF product line. Hallmark became the exclusive creator, manufacturer and distributor for all UNICEF greeting cards sold in the United States in 2006.

Fith Gear is a leading provider of outsourced business and technology services for over 100 direct retailers, specialty retailers and manufacturers of consumer products, serving as a single source partner to drive revenue growth and improve operational efficiencies. Through its online marketplace, LastandFinal.com, Fifth Gear is also building a multi-category online discount retailer of new, "closeout" and "excess stock" specialty merchandise.

Sanderson's StoreVision Unifies Stock Reporting

Toys N Tuck in the UK has upgraded its retail stock systems platform to StoreVision from Sanderson, a comprehensive point of sale and back office retail management solution, to give it the ability to review stock levels for all stores and the warehouse on a single EPoS platform, so stock queries can be resolved immediately, without the need to call around each site.

Real-time stock visibility not only improves efficiency for Toys N Tuck, but also enables faster response and better service for its customers. “We can pinpoint information to answer customer queries straight away: it’s easier for the staff and means they provide a better service,” says David Dadswell, founder and MD.

With visibility comes the confidence in stock accuracy and, in turn, sales data accuracy.

Dadswell has some sound advice for others: “Decide what you want from the system - that will determine what you put into it. Having planned this properly at the outset, I know that I can now drill down into data by supplier, by store, by department within that store, by a time period... whatever parameters I require. You must prepare properly if you really want to gain the maximum value from the extensive data the system can offer.”

The new-found confidence in this data is enabling Toys N Tuck to make better decisions more quickly, which is crucial in such a fast-moving sector. “The scope and range of reports is fantastic, and it is highly flexible. I can see exactly which areas of a store are producing the most profit. There is so much useful functionality that it goes beyond what we require now, but knowing we can tap into that in future is very important to us.”

Indeed, StoreVision enables Toys N Tuck to react quickly to demand, spot trends and ensure purchase ordering mirrors that demand. “We are able to maximise the use of cash flow and direct it to the right areas,” confirms Dadswell. “The toy industry is quite different to other retail sectors because you have to order so far in advance, but with StoreVision we know we have the control we need. We have all the critical data to hand.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Viralheat Offers Web-based Sentiment Analysis

MIT's Technology Review reports that "social-media analytics startup Viralheat, based in San Jose, CA, is now offering free, real-time access to the data it is collecting on attitudes toward particular topics or products.

"Viralheat uses natural-language processing and machine learning to sift through Twitter, Facebook fan pages, viral video sites, and Google Buzz posts to determine the Web's collective sentiment toward everything from popular browsers to Pepsi to Steve Jobs.

"The company sells its data and analytics service for a monthly fee, but CEO Raj Kadam says that Social Trends will provide a free way to people to access data the company is already collecting. When a paying customer asks Viralheat to track a particular term, they have the option to share that information publicly. Kadam says that about 70 percent of users agree to share this information. "

Viralheat also offers a free widget option that you can embed on your own Website and have updated periodically by Viralheat.

Kadam told Technology Review that he isn't worried that the company's free offerings will decrease the number of paying customers. "Social Trends widgets only offer a snapshot of the data that paying customers get access to (72 metrics instead of just five metrics), he point out."

Supercharging the Next Generation of eCommerce

Michael Piastro writes in E-Commerce Times that "As eCommerce continues to evolve at a record pace, Websites must keep up with the ever-changing demands of increasingly knowledgeable and sophisticated online shoppers. Companies need to enhance their online presence by applying modern techniques and technologies -- from dynamic personalization, social shopping, mobile sites and location-based tie-ins to experiential commerce, contextual visualization, liquid layouts and dynamic HTML. "

Click here to read his recommendations on each of those points.

ILoveVelvet Offers POS Solution on iPad/iPhone

POS solutions are not strictly within the purview of this blog, but this is an interesting story nonetheless.... According to Payment Source: Mobile Banker (an American Banker blog), ILoveVelvet, a New York-based payment-technology company, is offering its "Velvet Suite" POS system to let merchants use Apple's iPhone and iPad devices as retail point-of-sale terminals.

The software can process transactions using a card reader attached to the devices, Patrick Bouaziz,  ILoveVelvet chief visionary officer, told PaymentsSource. Additionally, the card reader includes a bar code scanner to bring up a product's price or to check inventory.

ILoveVelvet makes the holsters, which are available to accommodate magnetic stripe and smart cards.

D-Holster is a complete cradle to :

    * Scan bar code (1D type or 2D type including QR code)
    * Provide magnetic swipe reader (for payment card or loyalty card)
    * Provide smart card reader (for payment card)
    * Provide contactless reader (option)
    * Support iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad usage for in-store mobility

Because ILoveVelvet customizes the direct-to-merchant software to match merchants' branding and inventory, it is not available in Apple's iTunes store, according to Patrick Bouaziz, ILoveVelvet's chief visionary officer. Velvet Suite software manages the data and the devices. Merchants pay a monthly fee of $126 to use the software.

ILoveVelvet's software complies with the Payment Application Data Security Standard, Bouaziz told PaymentSource, although their Website seems to imply that they are only in the process of assessing PA-DSS compliance. Quoting from the site verbatim: "we respect guidelines and principles published by PCI international counsel and EMV consortium. This is the reason why we start the certification process required (PCI PED) but also PA DSS for the payment application. Our components have been sourced considered a minima EMV Level 1 compliance." Huh?!?

ILoveVelvet also has sales offices in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bank of America, Visa To Test Mobile Payment System

American Banking and Market News reports that Bank of America Corp and Visa have announced they’ve teamed up to test a mobile payment system after rumors began circulating that a number of cell phone carriers would test a competing system by partnering with Discover Financial Services.

According to a report from Reuters, Bank of America Corp will begin testing its pilot program in the New York City area in September, which will allow users to make payments with their smartphones in lieu of their credit cards. The test is expected to run through the end of the year. Visa told Reuters that it will also test a similar program with U.S. Bancorp, which is slated to launch in October.

The program will initially be open only to select employees and customers whose phones will be outfitted with small RFID-chips, the report said.

Survey: Vast Majority Of Social Media Campaigns Fail

Eric Sass writes in MediaPost that a new report on social media from KingFishMedia, based on a survey of 457 marketing executives in the second quarter of 2010, found that 72% of respondents said their company had a social media strategy, and the majority of the rest said they would have one this year. Eight-five percent of respondents said they have a Twitter account and just over two thirds have a Facebook fan page for their company, but only 30% said they had executed a social media ad campaign, and only half of these had attempted to measure the ROI of those campaigns. About half said social media campaigns performed as expected or better than expected. Bottom line: "8% of marketers have executed social media campaigns, measured the results, and been satisfied with the outcome." Sass speculates that this poor showing may be due to half-hearted commitments: "90% of respondents said managing social media is just part of their responsibilities, suggesting they can't give it their full attention"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Google Acquires Like.com

Mashable reports that "Google has acquired visual search and price comparison engine Like.com, according to an open letter posted on Like.com’s website."

“Since 2006, Like.com has been moving the frontiers of eCommerce forward one step at a time,” Munjal Shah, the company’s CEO, told Mashable. “We were the first to bring visual search to shopping, the first to build an automated cross-matching system for clothing, and more. We didn’t stop there, and we don’t have plans to stop now. We see joining Google as a way to supersize our vision and supercharge our passion.”

Mashable continues: "Like.com launched in 2006 from the remains of Riya, a facial recognition search engine. While that company is now gone, Shah used the technology behind it to build Like.com’s visual shopping comparison engine.

Google has been experimenting with visual search and image recognition. In 2009, it launched Similar Images, a tool using image recognition technology to filter image results by similarity. Although it overhauled Image Search last month, the Like.com acquisition signals the company's intention to do more with image recognition.

Google paid around $100 million for the visual shopping engine, according to TechCrunch.

Friday, August 20, 2010

MasterCard to Buy DataCash

MasterCard has agreed to acquire DataCash Group in a cash deal worth about $517 million as part of an ongoing effort to beef up its global eCommerce offerings and meet growing competition from PayPal, according to Bloomberg.

"The acquisition of DataCash will expand our already significant eCommerce merchant gateway presence in Asia and Australia to European countries and other high-growth, emerging markets worldwide," said MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga. “The eCommerce business is in an early stage of development when you get outside of the U.S., and even in the U.S. it’s in a relatively early stage,” he said. “It’s really not about reacting, it’s the opportunity we see in the eCommerce space for the next decade. The story of e-commerce is only being written now."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Escalate Retail Ranks #1 for Multiple Categories In IR Top 500 Guide

Escalate Retail, a leading provider of multichannel commerce solutions, was recently cited as a top provider for numerous categories in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

Fifty-five Escalate Retail clients were included on this year’s Top 500 Guide, including leading brands such as Saks, The Buckle, Gymboree, Hot Topic, and Urban Outfitters. For these, Escalate was cited as a top provider for multiple categories, including:
#1 Provider of Order Management solutions
#1 Provider of Fulfillment solutions
#1 Provider of Customer Service software
#2 Provider of CRM solutions
Tied as #2 provider of Content Management solutions

Escalate Retail Offers Web Services Manager

Escalate Retail, a leading provider of multichannel commerce solutions, has announced that the latest release of its Blue Martini Commerce Suite includes a new Web Services Manager (WSM) layer to simplify and streamline integration across channels.

The Blue Martini Suite includes Commerce, Contact Center, Order Management and Clienteling functionality and gives Escalate customers the ability to quickly and easily expose all of the business logic contained within their Commerce platform to any device, using any technology, from kiosks, mobile, and POS to digital signage, social networks, or external sites.

Because it is standards-based, WSM automates the creation of new services in a matter of minutes, significantly lowering development and maintenance costs. With tools readily available through WSM, services are 70 percent faster to build, and all services are held in one common place across any touch point or channel.

“With the addition of WSM in the latest release of our Commerce platform, the cost of integrating systems and achieving All-Channel Commerce is much lower for our customers,” said Mike Julson, CTO, Escalate. “Not only can retailers decrease their costs, but the ability to quickly open up new channels and touch points will help drive additional sales by giving their customers even more ways to shop with their brand.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BI for the Little Guy

Business Intelligence, says Don Jones, author of more than 45 technology books and an in-demand speaker at industry events worldwide, on Redmondmag.com, "is about empowering non-technical users to dig through the piles of data that the company has amassed, letting them make smarter decisions about how the company should proceed in the future. Often, BI starts off in a specific department, such as purchasing or manufacturing, and then slowly spreads throughout the organization."

He concludes his brief fly-by of the subject with a section on "BI for the Little Guy." There's not a lot of recommendations there (Microsoft and Cognos Express), but it's worth a quick read.

A CIO's Journey to Proactive IT

Al Kuebler was CIO for AT&T Universal Card, Los Angeles County, Alcatel and McGraw-Hill and director of process engineering at Citicorp. His "Journey to Proactive IT" on IT World Canada begins: "You've probably heard... that in order to best serve the business in the way it needs, the IT function must have a 'client relationship management culture,' not a technology culture. You might even accept the idea that IT's very existence may depend on it moving from being an isolated technology management function to being a powerful and respected ally to the business. Nonetheless, a good many of you at this moment could be thinking, 'Right. That all sounds good in theory, but it has zero application to my shop here in the real world.' ..."

His journey to achieve this goal and reach a stage of "continuous improvement"  is worth a quick read.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The New Marketing Trifecta

This is from Dan Martell on Flowtown:

 "In April 2010, eROI conducted a study of more than 500 marketers. The focus of the survey was two-fold: to determine the impact of mobile marketing in email and web marketing programs; and, identifying the importance and impact of social networks in relation to their email and web marketing efforts. The end result, according to eROI, was a better understanding of how marketers were using email, mobile and social, but also new ideas for better planning for and intergration of the available opportunities. We decided to illustrate the most interesting of these findings in the graphic below" (click on the image to enlarge it, or see the original and click on it there if you still can't read it...):

Friday, August 13, 2010

Online Retailers Look to Improve Site Search

Internet Retailer reports that online companies in the U.K. and other areas recognize the benefit of making it easy for visitors to search for content on their Websites, with 57% saying they plan to increase spending on site search technology this year, says a new report from digital marketing consulting firm Econsultancy and Funnelback, a search engine technology and services company.

“Companies are typically increasing their investment in site search because they recognize the range of benefits that effective technology can bring to their business,” the report says.

Eighty-three percent of respondents say effective site search leads to a better user experience, 65% said it generates more site usage and 64% said it increases sales.

“Companies are typically increasing their investment in site search because they recognize the range of benefits that effective technology can bring to their business,” the report says.

When asked to name the biggest obstacles to better site search performance, respondents give the most common reasons as: having more important development priorities, lack of spending budget, lack of clear objectives for site search and poor technology.

Nonetheless, 57% of respondents say they plan to increase spending on site search this year, while 3% plan to decrease it and 40% plan to maintain the same spending level.

Wet Seal's Social/Mobile Strategy

Here's an excerpt of an interesting article from Apparel magazine's Website:

Finding the right game plan to capitalize on today's Facebook, YouTube and iPhone-driven market has been a struggle for many apparel retailers.

But fashion- and technology-forward junior clothing retailer The Wet Seal Inc., has been "all over it" - as its trendy teen customers might say - since 2007. That's when the Foothill Ranch, CA-based company began building its online Fashion Community, a social media platform developed by Fry Inc. that allows users to build, tag, share, rate and purchase outfits through a personalized virtual boutique.

Since launching that application in May 2008, Wet Seal has been on a tear, cranking out a slew of social media and mobile commerce tools. The company's strategy is simple - but effective.

"The intersection of cross-channel, user-generated content, and mobility makes our approach very compelling," explains Jon Kubo, Wet Seal's CIO, who also heads up e-commerce and direct marketing efforts for the company, which includes contemporary women's fashion chain Arden B. "As a fast-fashion, merchandise-driven company, our strategies are always going to be about how to differentiate ourselves and make our merchandise stand out."

Creating a community of brand advocates that churn out user-generated content and can access online, in-store and mobile shopping channels has done just that for Wet Seal.

More than Buzz
In the two years since Fashion Community launched, users have combed through Wet Seal's hip merchandise, creating and posting nearly 400,000 outfits on its Website at an average now of roughly 20,000 new outfits each month. Wet Seal places this user-generated content directly into the online and mobile purchasing processes. Search for a pair of skinny jeans, for example, and the top-ranked user-generated outfits containing those jeans pop up. One skinny-jean-and-cowl-neck-tunic combo posted in February was viewed 665 times with 62 positive rankings.

This social media merchandising approach is creating buzz, but it needs to do more than that to satisfy CEO Ed Thomas. "The true measure of these tools' usefulness is whether sales increase. And they have," says Thomas. "Our conversion rates [from browsing to buying] are over 40 percent higher for customers who have viewed a user-generated outfit, and the average dollar sale is over 20 percent higher."

eCommerce Will Grow by Sites Optimized for Mobile Devices

Information Week reports that 80% of businesses across a wide range of vertical industries are planning to -- or already have -- developed mobile websites as their primary vehicle for conducting mobile commerce in the next year, according to a new survey by Adobe Systems.

A downloadable, application-only mobile commerce strategy was the preference of only 8% of respondents in the Adobe Scene7 Mobile Commerce Survey, released Thursday.

The survey highlighted mobile strategies in four main areas: promotions, commerce, product information, and branding. The latter was deemed the core mobile strategy for 75% of respondents, reinforcing the importance of the mobile channel to drive traffic and support different types of commerce, Adobe said.

"Multi-channel shoppers tend to purchase more; therefore, companies must effectively engage customers by delivering consistent, rich experiences across all channels -- including mobile -- to maintain and fuel current double-digit e-commerce industry growth rates," said Sheila Dahlgren, senior director of product marketing at Adobe, in a statement. "The survey results demonstrate the opportunities that exist for companies to fully leverage rich visualization features to improve their emerging mobile presences and drive cross-channel sales."

Full-screen image zoom and videos are the most effective way for mobile users to browse or display products on their devices, Adobe said, citing 55% of respondents who called both "indispensable viewing features." In addition, the most effective visual merchandising features were catalogs and brochures, alternative images, and zoom and pan, according to 96% of respondents.

The survey also revealed that presently, rich visual merchandising features are used by 18% of respondents for mobile commerce, however, up to 81% said they plan to deploy these features, "thus implying richer mobile experiences will be created and offered over the next 12 months," the company said.

Ironically, the features garnering the lowest deployment rate in mobile ranked highest among planned mobile features.

The survey, conducted in July, drew 446 enterprise responses worldwide primarily from the retail, advertising/interactive, computer hardware-services-software, and media industries, Adobe said. The majority of respondents -- about 75% -- were from North America.

ProStores Offers Version 10 of its eCommerce App

ProStores, an eBay company offering eCommerce platforms and services for small and medium-sized businesses, has developed version 10 of its online store application.

Features of ProStore 10 include Page Builder, a new design tool which simplifies the customization of key store pages. Merchants can give their stores an updated look and feel, drag and drop panels to revamp page layouts, and create graphical barriers tied to scheduled promotions, all from one central location. Responding to user requests, they have also added a new store theme with horizontal category navigation.

ProStores 10 also includes enhancements that make it easier for merchants to manage their store. Merchants can adjust invoices more efficiently—for example, they can now apply a discount or adjust shipping charges while an order is in process or help a customer add an item after an order is placed.

New order-management capability makes it easier for merchants to locate and revise orders, and enter and process phone orders. Also included are enhanced searching, sorting and viewing options, along with the ability to select different batch amounts to view per page. 

To get optimal performance out of their promotions, merchants can now make their promotions stand out with the Advertising Banners tool. And searching, sorting and viewing orders and categories are much faster than before with enhanced order and catalog management features.

Merchants who list on eBay also enjoy greater integration between the two platforms, including improved inventory syncing, bulk product import and deletion of listings, and automatic adjustment of inventory on both platforms for items sold.

A catalog management feature makes it easier to handle large catalogs and assign products to categories. they can easily add a product to a given category. or advertise a product more effectively by assigning it to a featured category.

New Product Search options allow for search by Partial name match, Product number, No category assignment, Not listed to eBay, and by Supplier.

The ProStores application is certified PA DSS Certification by PSC, a certified Qualified Security Assessor Company (QSAC) for the PCI Security Standards Council.

For further information, see details at the ProStores site.

IBM Buying Unica

TechCrunch reports that IBM is acquiring marketing software giant Unica for approximately $480 million, or about $21 per share. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Unica, a publicly-held company that traded on the Nasdaq exchange, offers an enterprise marketing management solution that helps companies manage Web marketing efforts, including Web and customer analytics, search marketing, email marketing, and Website marketing/personalization.

Unica, which will be folded into IBM’s Software Solutions Group, has more than 1,500 customers, including Best Buy, eBay, ING, Monster, Starwood and US Cellular. IBM says that Unica’s technology will help their clients develop more targeted marketing campaigns.

IBM also said that recently acquired software companies Coremetrics and Sterling Commerce will also be bundled with Unica’s offering to customers.

Unica software will also complement the capabilities of IBM's Business Analytics and Optimization Consulting organization, a team of 5,000 consultants and a network of analytics solution centers, backed by an overall investment of more than $11 billion in acquisitions in the last five years.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

PCI Standards: Room for Improvement

Kelly Jackson Higgins reports on the Dark Reading Website that Joshua Corman, research director for the enterprise security practice at The 451 Group, believes that the forthcoming PCI version 2.0 going into effect this fall "needs more teeth."

"The standard in its current 1.2 and 2.0 forms is not sufficient to prevent attack from a determined adversary," in Corman's opinion.

Gary Palgon, lead chair for the PCI SSC Scoping Special Interest Group's tokenization working group, said in a blog post that the card brands themselves may be hindering PCI's success, as some continue to issue their own, independent standards for PCI compliance instead of conforming exclusively to PCI SSC-derived standards. "Having a universal, singular standards set is paramount for easing compliancy requirements and reducing complexity for merchants and service providers alike."

Palgon, who is also VP of product management at nuBridges, a tokenization vendor, says that while the new PCI changes clarify many of the PCI requirements, more specific guidance is needed for emerging technologies, such as encryption and tokenization -- both of which are due to arrive with the new spec this fall

"As the lead chair for the PCI SSC Scoping Special Interest Group’s Tokenization Working Group," notes Palgon in his blog post, "I am helping drive efforts to ensure that guidance on these important security technologies will be forthcoming. Just as the industry’s needs with regard to protecting enterprise data are evolving rapidly, such guiding standards need to be put into place more quickly, as well."

Bob Russo, general manager of the PCI Standards Council, suggests that PCI DSS now reinforces the need for a "scoping exercise" to identify bundled cardholder data. "We're not endorsing any discovery tools. But before you bring in a QSA, you really need to use some kind of methodology to find where cardholder data is on the network," he says. "Before, we hadn't really talked about using any of these methodologies. We just said you should know where your data is. We are now encouraging people to reach out using one of these discovery methods."

The PA-DSS is also now more closely aligned with the PCI DSS. The spec adds a requirement for payment applications to support centralized logging, which is part of PCI DSS. "Centralized logging is really important to us," Russo says.

There is also accommodation for risk tolerance factors in the new PCI Data Security Standard, and low risk issues "don't necessarily have to be addressed."

"Another clarification," notes Jackson, "addresses PCI DSS 3.3 and 3.4, which require that payment application passwords be made unreadable (encrypted) while being transmitted and stored. The clarification notes that this applies only to the primary account number (PAN)."

Jaikumar Vijayan of Computerworld reports that according to Gartner Analyst Avivah Litan many Gartner clients are trying to understand whether their adoption of new technologies such as chip cards, tokenization and end-to-end encryption will limit the scope of their compliance requirements. Most of the clarifications around such issues, however, have been left for Special Interest Groups (SIG) to figure out. "These SIGS are not being held to any particular deadlines and it's still unclear how their reports will fold into PCI requirements," said Litan.

"The PCI Security Council's guidance around virtualization technologies is going to be another area that is going to be closely watched," according to James Paul, Senior VP, Delivery at Trustwave, says Vijayan. Trustwave provides PCI assessment services for many of the largest retailers in the country. Many Trustwave customers want to know today if their use of virtualization technologies will increase the scope of their PCI requirements, said Paul. "It's an emerging technology. There are a lot of questions around it. There are a lot of people somewhat hesitant to dive into it until they see some guidance."

No New Requirements in PCI DSS Update

The new version of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) includes no new requirements, just clarifications and new guidance on existing components.

The PCI Security Standards Council has released a summary of the expected changes to PCI DSS and the Payment Application Data Security Standard.

Among the clarifications to PCI: the DSS now reinforces the need for merchants to use a "discovery methodology" to find cardholder data in their networks; the PA-DSS now includes centralized logging; and organizations will be able to consider specific risks that apply to them when assessing and prioritizing vulnerabilities. 

In addition, all three PCI Standards (PCI DSS, PA-DSS and PTS requirements) will operate on a three year lifecycle.

A more detailed summary of the proposed versions 2.0 of PCI DSS and PA DSS will be released in September, prior to the council's community meetings. The final version of the amended standards is expected to be released on Oct. 28, then go into effect on Jan. 11, 2011.

See companion post: PCI Standards: Room for Improvement

Cotton Traders (UK) Select Venda eCommerce eCosystem

Venda, the world’s largest on-demand eCommerce provider, announced that Cotton Traders has chosen the Venda eCommerce eCosystem to boost sales on its online retail channel.

The decision to invest in its online sales offering is part of the company’s strategic shift from being perceived as purely a catalogue business to one which better serves the multichannel consumer of today across store catalogue and web.

Recognising the potential of an eCommerce offering, Cotton Traders chose the Venda Enterprise eCommerce platform as it offered an easy-to-integrate and flexible solution with transparent, predictable pricing. It also has features that can be tailored specifically to the company’s catalogue-driven and promotion-led eCommerce needs. These include complex rules around promotional codes, stacked price discounts and catalogue-specific pricing.

Fran Cotton, founder of Cotton Traders and former England prop forward, said: “Venda offered a secure and scalable solution that fully supports our catalogue-driven and promotion-led ecommerce needs. Venda is Enterprise Wide PCI Tier 1 Compliant which was a key factor in our choice of partners, and will help to further build trust and confidence with our customers. Our recent sale period was significantly up on the previous year and we believe the Venda eCommerce eCosystem will enable us to create a more customer-friendly shopping experience, and certainly keep Cotton Traders at the forefront of online shopping."

Venda will handle all the maintenance, hosting, upgrades and system integration for the Cotton Traders site.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Algebraix Data Webinar

Can a new algebra simplify information management? Register for this episode of The Briefing Room to find out!

Renowned IT Analyst Robin Bloor will "brief" Chris Piedmonte, CTO and Glenn Hout, VP of Algebraix Data. Topics to be addressed include:
  • how this new algebra could revolutionize the traditional data warehousing model
  • how it can recast the query process
  • why ETL is not necessary
  • how the product's design can be data-model agnostic
  • how it self-tunes by creating new algebraic functions for each new query
  • why it's ideal for real-time analytics
Traditional database systems use 40-year-old telational technology of rows and columns. Others use techniques such as appliance-based or columnar approaches which do not address fundamental performance restrictions. Algebraix Data Advanced Analytic Database ("A2DB")  claims to remove this and other traditional relational technology limitations, which allows you to answer high-value business questions in realtime. This Webinar will explain how, and also how A2DB provides the lowest TCO in the industry: averaging one-tenth that of competing technologies.

Microsoft Launches Bing Shopping, Offers Free Ads

Following the demise of Bing Cashback, Microsoft is offering online retailers free clicks from the Bing Shopping page, reports Internet Retailer, as it positions Bing to better compete with the dominant shopping engine from Google, which already offers eTailers free clicks from its shopping section.

"Bing also will offer online merchants that feed data to Bing Shopping paid listings that will provide them greater exposure, again following Google’s lead, search marketing experts say.

“'I believe Microsoft will follow Google’s lead and have a free offering for merchants as well as an ever-expanding array of ad units and offerings that will get higher visibility than the free listings,' says Kevin Lee, CEO of search marketing firm Didit. 'The free advertising products get the relationship started and the paid ad products are the ones that will get the visibility over time.' When consumers click on products listed in Google’s shopping page there is no click fee paid by the merchant that supplied the product feed. Bing Shopping now offers the same deal to advertisers.

“'Bing’s immediate goal is to bring on as many merchants as possible,' says Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps connect retailers to shopping engines and portals."

A spokeswoman for Microsoft confirmed to Internet Retailer that Bing Shopping is offering a free product feed service for merchants which allows product listings and images to appear in search results as free placements. The Bing Shopping site, at Bing.com/Shopping, also provides space for sponsored ads across the top and right side of web pages, similar to the general search results pages on Bing.com, but on both sites all listings that show product images are free listings, she adds. The company has not commented on whether it plans to introduce paid versions of product image ads.

Internet Retailer goes on to say that "Microsoft’s new shopping engine is taking a page from rival Google Inc.’s shopping engine, Google Product Search, says George Michie, CEO of search engine marketing firm The Rimm-Kaufman Group.

“'Bing Shopping follows the model established by Google Base, which is smart,' he says. 'It gives Bing flexibility to do the kinds of things Google is doing with Product Extension ads and Product Listing ads.' Google’s Product Extension and Product Listing ads let advertisers show product images under cost-per-click and cost-per-action models, respectively. Under cost-per-action, advertisers pay Google a fee whenever a consumer clicks and completes a specified action, such as making a purchase or signing up for an online sweepstakes. Google Base, which has been renamed Google Merchant Center, is where advertisers load product information and images that appear in Google Product Search listings.

"With product data and images fed by retailers into Google Merchant Center, Google compiles data on how consumers are clicking on that content and uses that data to help determine relevancy in search results. Bing Shopping now will do the same with product information and images submitted by advertisers, who will have to properly submit their content to reap the maximum benefits through higher search rankings, experts say."

Bing will certainly use the same kind of search click data for its search algorithms. "Wingo says he expects Microsoft to expand the volume of product attributes it lets merchants feed to Bing," notes Internet Retailer, "a step that would enable it to better compete with Google Product Search and broaden the amount of product content that will appear in free as well as paid search results. 'Bing will look to monetize the traffic it can generate with all of the content that it will be able to collect from the shopping feeds,' he says."

See also Internet Retailer's article on Google’s quality score formula.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Time to Take Augmented Reality Seriously?

National Geographic mobile and National Geographic Traveler (the most read traveler magazine in the world) are early adopters of mobile tech using "Augmented Reality," as revealed in the following video:

The video is from Pat Allen of Rock the Boat Marketing on the Marketing Executives Network Group blog, who thinks Augmented Reality is going to get some good traction soon, but deserves a better name. Also from Pat's post are a fairly widely distributed video from Stella Artois showing AU in action. . .

... and the video below "to get an idea of how a tool called Hoppala! Augmentation can be used to add content that can then be linked to a physical location. Using Hoppala!, anyone, any brand can upload their logo or icon, a message, audio and video files that will then be accessed by users of the Layar augmented reality browser, available for iPhone and Androids."

She also offers a RayBan video as an example of an even more practical application.

Pat's conclusion, with which we agree: "Augmented reality technology is cool. But, as we all know by now, implementation and adoption is rarely about technology. It’s about all the other work required to leverage the technology. How does augmented reality advance a business objective or relate to a social media or marketing strategy? Are appropriate digital assets available? Who will identify, organize and manage them? How will this be evaluated? Are there copyright issues? Privacy concerns?"

Pat Allen is the founder of Rock The Boat Marketing, a Chicago-based digital marketing strategy consulting boutique specializing in financial services clients. She also runs AdvisorTweets.com, a site that aggregates the tweets of U.S. financial advisors. Pat’s Twitter accounts: @RockTheBoatMKTG and @AdvisorTweets.

For a further practical example, see this video on AU in eCommerce from AugmentedRealityAdvertising.com:

Finally, Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry of the MIT Media Lab demonstrate "SixthSense" at a TED presentation. This may have some direct commerce applications eventually (possibly like the RayBan example above) but for the moment, it is still in the development stage (thanks to Alex Torpey of Veracity Media for this reference).

See also Japanese mobile phone makers to roll out 'augmented reality.'  And the video below, from augmentedreality.co.uk, definitely has direct commerce potential:

The Folly of Software Patents

Software patents issued in the last 20 years have often struck me as ludicrous ring-fencing of blindingly obvious functions that are too trivial and commonplace to deserve proprietary protection, sponsored by "patent trolls" whose primary "business" function is to demand royalties from those deemed in violation of the troll's patent "rights." I've actually done "expert witness" work regarding one such patent (in support of those opposing it), but I'm glad to see some highly qualified professionals who agree with me on this.

See for instance Vivek Wadhwa of Tech Crunch: Why We Need To Abolish Software Patents, and Brad Feld, managing director at Foundry Group: "Abolish Software Patents", who spoke on "Re-examining the Patent System"some time ago at a conference at Silicon Flatirons, a center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado.

On the other hand, I am definitely NOT in the everything-open-source-all-the-time camp a la Richard Stallman of the Free Software movement and the GNU Project, which derives from the hacker culture. So I have somewhat mixed feelings about the UK High Court ru Steve ling against statistical giant SAS in its litigation of tiny UK upstart World Programming Ltd (WPL). The best resolution is that suggested by Steve Miller in KDNuggets, who says it's way past time to move beyond either of these options. "The base SAS language, be it either the SAS or WPS dialects, is dated, over 30 years old. After 20 years with SAS, I made the switch to R ten years ago and have never looked back. Object orientation trumps macros every time, just as powerful vector/matrix/array functions/operators trump 'do loops.' Even SAS diehards acknowledge there's no comparison between the graphics capabilities of R and SAS. I just completed a predictive modeling project where I experimented with Generalized Additive Models, MARS, Support Vector Machines, Random Forests, Boosted Linear Models and Boosted Trees - all of which were developed by the R community and are available for free."

This is often the case with software patent issues. By the time they reach the litigation stage, both sides have become outmoded in the ever-surging tide of technology.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

A Meeting of the Minds

Having assisted in a several systems implementations in the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to see how a variety of project tools can help keep the process organized. Without them, too much is left to chance and misunderstanding. Not good!

I have also participated in quite a few related business meetings of various types and sizes. Some of them have confirmed the insights of Reid Hastie, the Robert S. Hamada Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, who pointed out in "Meetings Are Matter of Precious Time" in the New York Times, that in poorly planned meetings "the leader has not set clear objectives or an agenda, and didn’t assign pre-meeting preparation tasks. Instead, the leader seems to hope that magic will occur, producing a serendipitous solution to some of the problems addressed. Of course, that doesn’t happen. As a general rule, meetings make individuals perform below their capacity and skill levels.

"This doesn’t mean we should always avoid face-to-face meetings — but it is certain that every organization has too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed ones.  The main reason we don’t make meetings more productive is that we don’t value our time properly. The people who call meetings and those who attend them are not thinking about time as their most valuable resource."

Paul Collins, a management consultant providing high-performance techniques and technologies that support collaborative problem-solving and decision-making, notes that a 2001 Wharton School of Business study on meeting productivity showed that businesses in the aggregate incur annual meeting expenses of $30M to $100M, yet these meetings result in annual business losses of $54 million to $3.7 billion! Managers spend 25%-80% of their time in meetings, yet report that only 33%-47% of that time is productive, and while meetings dominate employees' time, they are generally costly, unproductive, and unsatisfying.

To help managers get a better grip on managing meetings, Paul has developed a Decision Cost Analysis tool to provide a comprehensive and eye-opening picture of true meeting costs and a roadmap to opportunities for reducing intangible expenses by using external resource costs more effectively. This helps clarify how the structure and design of decision-focused meetings can increase the effectiveness of the meeting process and in turn, how changes in meeting processes impact favorably on individual, team, and organizational performance.

I suggest you take a look at the Decision Cost Analysis tool to see for yourself how you can benefit from it.

See also Five Secrets To Leading Meetings That Matter.

VISA Introduces Rightcliq to Facilitate Online Shopping

DM News reports that VISA has launched a web application called “Rightcliq” that makes the online shopping experience easier for consumers by allowing users to create a wish list -- called a “Wishspace” --  to organize and share images of products they're considering buying, browse merchant offers, solicit advice from friends, auto-fill payment information using a digital wallet, and track package deliveries.

According to a recent Visa survey, half of all online shoppers rely on inconvenient methods -- like bookmarking and written lists -- to track items they are interested in buying, but not yet ready to purchase. More than 90 percent said they would do more online shopping if they had an easy way to compare items and see available merchant discounts and promotions.  Rightcliq's features address these opportunities and will help make online shopping simpler, smarter, and more fun. 

After the application is downloaded, consumers can access it from any website using a tool that appears on the web browser. When consumers visit eCommerce sites, Rightcliq instantly notifies them of offers that apply to that site. The application works with all credit and debit cards, not just Visa.

According to CBS MarketWatch, the launch of Rightcliq followed several months of live market testing which enabled VISA to refine features based on user input. VISA plans to listen to what users say they like, dislike and want to see in the future and enhance the product based on that feedback.

According to VISA, "Rightcliq plays a role in every step of the online shopping process."
  • Browse: As consumers browse merchant sites, the downloadable Rightcliq plug-in lets them add products of interest to a "Wishspace" with a simple click to build a visual wish list of items that can be grouped into "bundles" and shared with their social network via e-mail or Facebook. In addition to this social shopping experience, consumers will also see relevant offers from merchants, and can even share those offers with the same social networks.
  • Buy: Consumers can purchase items from the Wishspace by clicking through to merchant websites. At checkout, the plug-in lets consumers auto-fill personal, payment and shipping information that has been stored in their Rightcliq account, eliminating the inconvenience of searching for their wallet and manual data entry. The digital wallet helps consumers make the best payment choice at point of sale, but also allows them to store sensitive information in one secure place and decide when to share it with merchants. When consumers choose to pay with a stored VISA account, they are guaranteed  protections they have come to expect from VISA - including Zero Liability for fraudulent transactions.
  • Delivery: After an online purchase has been made, Rightcliq makes package tracking easy by visually displaying the shipping status of all packages in one convenient location.
According to AdWeek, Rightcliq is aimed at two groups of customers: young trendsetters and shopping enthusiasts. VISA research found that these segments make up 20 percent of the online shopping population and account for 26 percent of spending, consummating on average 10 transactions per month.

VISA's move is similar to efforts by Nike and Fiat in the digital product extension realm, says AdWeek.

VISA created the concept and handled most of the development in-house, getting help in honing its vision from design consultancy Ideo, while digital shop AKQA crafted the online marketing strategy and Social Arc handled social media work.

VISA's campaign  to promote the app, notes AdWeek, will target trendsetter and shopper audiences on sites like Daily Candy, Gawker, Federated Media properties, Pitchfork and Yahoo Shine.

The push leans heavily on integrations that encourage trial. For instance, shopping blog WhoWhatWear.com co-founders Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr will integrate the app into their content. Gawker is holding a "Wish Big" contest for readers to win wish lists they create via that app. "We felt like that was core to all of this, to get them using the product and put it to work," Bob Pullum, group creative director at AKQA in San Francisco, told AdWeek.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Web Analyst Certification Exam

The Web Analytics Association (WAA) announced the global launch of approximately 230 testing centers across the United States and internationally where WAA members and interested Web analysts can take the organization's certification exam.

The WAA's Web Analyst Certification Program™, previously only available on site at industry events, is designed to provide a mechanism for individuals to obtain professional recognition after demonstrating their knowledge and analytical abilities. The computer-based, proctored testing centers are available in over 170 locations in the United States and approximately 60 centers internationally.

Launched in April 2010, the WAA Web Analyst Certification Program has delivered enhanced credibility and competitive advantage to Web analytics and marketing professionals who have successfully completed the program. The launch of the global test centers opens up certification to a much larger audience of professionals who are seeking an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise and gain public recognition of professional achievement.

For more information, see the WAA Web Site.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A Social Media Dragonfly

Dragonflies have a unique ability to maneuver in multiple directions during flight due to the fact that their four independent wings work in unison, says Mark Smiciklas on his Intersection Marketing Blog.

"The visual below was inspired by The Dragonfly Effect – Quick, Effective, Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Effect Social Change, written by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith. I love the dragonfly concept and thought it also represented the perfect metaphor for connecting the major elements of social media strategy:

   1. Social Environment
   2. Strategic Planning
   3. Tactical Implementation
   4. Ongoing Management"

Click here for Mark's blog entry.
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