Friday, December 12, 2008

Sigma Micro Adds Blogs to Its Website

Sigma Micro, vendor of SigmaCommerce multi-channel enterprise management software, has introduced interactive blogs to its Website to share retail and eCommerce tips, advice, insight and expertise.

With 10 bloggers across the company writing on topics of interest to the eCommerce and direct retail industry, they will be creating at least four new blog posts every week.

PRAIM Systematises Project Management

Glyn Carvill, commercial director at PRIAM, a leading UK-based software vendor of multi-channel order management and fulfilment solutions, and Chris Lowe, PRIAM's web design manager, have qualified as PRINCE2 practitioners.

PRINCE2 is a project management method developed as a UK Government standard for IT project management. (It is now in general the de facto standard for project management in the UK.)

A structured approach, PRINCE2 provides a method for project management within a clearly defined framework. It describes procedures to coordinate people and activities, making sure they finish on budget and on time.

Glyn Carvill notes "It's real progress for PRIAM when I can say I am now one of four PRINCE2 practitioners here. This will definitely help us better control the timings and costs of our projects."

Said Lowe, "A year ago I wouldn't have dreamed I'd be so involved in formal project management. I now see it's the best way to deliver quality to our customers."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Manhattan Updates System for 3PLs

Manhattan Associates, Inc. has announced the updated release of Extended Enterprise Management (EEM), featuring instant visibility for Third-Party Logistics providers (3PLs) to manage orders, shipments and inventory. and to consolidate transport of inventory by managing partner-to-partner shipping and provide their hubs with the ability to complete direct fulfillment.

"EEM specifically supports our 3PL customers by providing cross-docking and flow-through support that allows 3PLs to play a key role in the 'pop-up' supply chain—-a philosophy that allows retailers and manufacturers to dynamically adjust their transportation and inventory networks to meet changing seasons or trends," said Eddie Capel, executive vice president for product management and customer support, Manhattan Associates. "This capability is seamless due to the visibility EEM provides, along with the capability to make quick decisions should an unexpected event occur anytime during the movement of goods."

Features and enhancements of Manhattan EEM include:

* A centralized, browser-based solution allowing 3PLs to manage order fulfillment and automate communications with customers;
* End-to-end visibility of orders, shipments and inventory from sourcing to cargo delivery;
* A single, consistent, real-time view of the entire global supply chain for greater inventory control and optimal fulfillment channels;
* Ability to track and monitor supply chain events in real time and respond immediately based on alerts to critical exception events, which may threaten the ability to meet customer commitments;
* Ability to reduce transportation costs by leveraging optimal equipment utilization.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chase Paymentech Cybershopping Index

Chase Paymentech, a leading payment processor of direct commerce transactions, has launched a 2008 Cyber Holiday Pulse Index. The Index, a measurement of online shopping activity during the holiday season, tracks eCommerce spending activity across a sample of leading e-tailers by showing the number of transactions and dollar value crossing Chase Paymentech's global processing platforms.

"This will be a very interesting year to watch the Pulse Index," said Mike Duffy, President of Chase Paymentech. "The conventional wisdom holds that holiday spending will be depressed for many reasons. The economy is weak, discretionary spending is down and the shopping season is a week shorter this year as Thanksgiving is late. However, recent analyst reports indicate that eCommerce may actually be trending ahead of last year. The Pulse Index will give some insight into whether the conventional wisdom is accurate or not."

A report by Forrester Research, "Outlook for US Online Holiday Sales, 2008," (October 21, 2008), forecasts "online holiday shopping spend will increase by a humble 12% over 2007 [as] consumers seek value and savings online more than ever." That prediction will be tested by this year's Pulse Index.

Chase Paymentech provides payment processing services to more than half of Internet Retailer's list of the 500 largest e-commerce companies. The Pulse Index tracks 25 of the top 150 e-commerce merchants, representing a large and diverse field of e-tailers for this holiday shopping season.

To view the Pulse Index, visit:

Friday, November 28, 2008

UPS, HP Partner for Greener Logistics

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MyBuys Helps Figi's Double Conversions

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

LaGarde Files Chapter 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Holiday eCommerce Crash Crunch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2008

DHL to End Deliveries Inside US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 07, 2008

Elucid Webshop at Inverawe Boosts Gift Orders

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

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

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

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

Catalog Mailers Association

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

Thursday, November 06, 2008

New Postal Barcode Confusing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High Res Bar Code Printer

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

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Using E-Mail to Salvage Abandoned Shopping Carts

From the Catalogue & eBusiness newsletter, Insight, 28 Oct. 2008:

According to online marketing provider Experian CheetahMail, 41 percent of web shoppers in the UK regularly abandon their online shopping carts. What’s more, 30 percent of shoppers said they’d go back and complete their purchase if offered some sort of incentive along the lines of a small discount or free postage and packing. It stands to reason, then, that you can salvage a sizeable amount of those abandoned purchases by getting back in touch with the shoppers, a tactic that CheetahMail has dubbed ReMarketing.

The process is a type of trigger email marketing. Your website analytics can tell you where and when a visitor abandoned your site. You can then use that information to send him a targeted email “triggered” by the type of abandonment.

For instance, if a registered customer has quit the site before even beginning the checkout process, you could email him a quick survey asking why he didn’t make a purchase or send him a special offer based on the types of products he’d been looking at. If a customer abandoned his cart partway through the checkout process, it could be that he was interrupted; a reminder email might be enough to close the sale. And if the shopper received a system error during checkout, “ask the customer to revisit to try again or offer an alternative process—download a form, call a freephone number,” advises CheetahMail in its white paper “The Case for ReMarketing”. “The person wants to buy… they just need another solution.”

Google AdWords To Display Product Lists, Photos

Google appears ready to launch a new Google AdWords format now being tested on its search engine results pages (SERPs), offering a plus box option for sponsored ads allowing users to expand the ad to view actual product listings (with pictures) by the advertiser.

The new format has only been available when searching for "diamonds" or "blue nile" in the US version of Google. With both searches the ad displays a little + symbol next to the listings which expands to display three actual products from the Blue Nile range.

The expanded product ads have been viewed in both the top sponsored ad positions and the right-hand side spots,

Apparently, advertisers will need to submit their products to Google via Google Base, with the listings somehow linked to their AdWords campaigns.

Monday, October 20, 2008

SaaS Webinar, Oct. 23

I will be presenting a one-hour Webinar on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 2 PM Eastern Time on: "Is On-Demand Software Right For You?" hosted by MultiChannel Merchant magazine.

We'll cover:

  • Assessing the cost.
  • Integrating hosted software with your in-house systems—like accounting.
  • Choosing the right provider, one with the right fail-over procedures.
  • Applying hosted software to all of your channels
To register, click HERE.

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Omniture News

Omniture has announced The Omniture Developer Connection, a community Website designed to help users build applications that make use of their Omniture data. See

The Developer Connection allows Omniture users to:
  • Use Omniture SiteCatalyst data across third-party applications, such as an intranet or a company-branded application
  • Access SiteCatalyst reporting data to create calculated metrics, or format the data to meet specific internal needs
  • Use the data collection API to facilitate the integration of SiteCatalyst with applications that cannot be easily tagged with JavaScript

In addition, Omniture Developer Connection contains:
  • Documentation of Omniture's application programming interfaces (APIs)
  • Sample code showing reference implementations to give developers a head-start in developing their own applications
  • Discussion boards and blogs to provide peer-to-peer support among those building Omniture-driven applications

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Omniture to Acquire Mercado

Web analytics provider Omniture reports it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the assets of privately held Mercado, a provider of online merchandising and site search technology. The acquisition includes technology and related intellectual property, customer and partner agreements, and certain operational assets.

Mercado is currently integrated with Omniture SiteCatalyst through Omniture Genesis. The Mercado products and the recently announced Omniture SiteSearch are said to be very complementary, and the company intends to continue to support and develop both solutions.

Upon closing of the transaction, Omniture will acquire certain of Mercado's intellectual property and business assets for approximately $6.5 million cash and the assumption of certain related operating liabilities. The closing of the transaction is subject to governmental approvals in Israel and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Omniture does not expect the transaction to have a material impact on its 2008 operating results.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Customer Service Benchmark

Netflix reports that 375 customer service representatives are enough to handle calls from the company’s 8.4 million customers, answering most calls within a minute. In addition, it has received the top ratings in online retail customer satisfaction by both Nielsen Online and ForeSee Results.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Newgistics Offers Free Online Pickup by USPS for Parcel Returns

Newgistics, Inc. is now offering its clients free Carrier Pickup service by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for all parcel returns.

The company is an approved third-party reverse logistics provider for USPS's Parcel Return Service. Its clients can now offer consumers the option of going online and requesting Carrier Pickup service (also known as Free Package Pickup) at no charge. Previously, they have had to go to the post office to return packages. The Carrier Pickup service provides for custodial control of returned packages from the point of insertion to final receipt of the return.

Customers of the Parcel Return Service complete additional mail preparation, sorting and transportation to provide consumers with an easy way to return items using preprinted, prepaid return labels. Consumers then have the option of dropping packages in a collection box (provided that weight restrictions are observed), take them to a post office, or request free package pickup at their homes or offices.

Free Package Pickup is available for packages of up to 70 pounds being sent by Express Mail or Priority Mail, Parcel Return Service or Merchandise Return Service.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Inova Solutions Enhances Call Center Reporting

Inova Solutions has enhanced the capabilities of its Web-based dashboard application for call-center management with support for alerts based on threshold values. The alerts occur in real time, allowing managers instantly to compare actual performance against goals.

Dubbed Performance Tracker 2.0, the reporting tool consolidates call-center operational data from sources such as automatic call distribution (ACD) systems, workforce-management systems, and internal databases and displays the data graphically in the form of charts, gauges and grids. Users can set threshold levels for each key performance indicator, so that call-center management is instantly aware if conditions deviate from pre-set goals.

Accessible from any computer with an internet connection, Performance Tracker,
based on the Microsoft SharePoint platform, is compatible with most call-center data sources. It offers customizable dashboard views tailored for a variety of business roles using a wizard-driven tool. The views can be configured to display a call center's most important metrics, whether real-time or historical.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The PCI Challenge

If you don't subscribe to Evan Schuman's e-newsletter, StorefrontBacktalk, you should -- even if you don't have a retail sales channel. Evan not only serves as journalist "of record" for retail technology, but is ahead of the pack with his outspoken opinions, which are relevant to all multi-channel merchants.

Case in point -- see his "PCI’s Fatal Flaw: Protecting Only Payment-Related Systems,"and be sure to read the comment from "A Reader" (Sept. 4, 3:11 PM), who concludes that "due to numerous retailer complaints that the PCI DSS restrictions were too onerous, the PCI caved in and allowed retailers to get away with these slipshod solutions. As a result, we are now stuck in a 'patch, attack, revise PCI DSS, patch, attack, revise PCI DSS' loop. It would have been far cheaper for us all to have done it right once up front."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Google's New Browser

Welcome back from your holiday!

Google is about to announce Chrome, its new open source browser. The big story here (apart from Google's empire-building) is independent tabs -- if one gets hung-up on a Javascript load, none of the other tabs are effected.

You'll be reading about this all over the Internet, but as a public service, here is the link to Google's own comic book explaining the browser's functionality. Sept. 2 will be the de facto date that everyone learns about this new competitor in the browser space (full disclosure: I use Firefox, an open-source browser in which Google is a partner).

Friday, August 22, 2008


United Parcel Service, the world's largest package carrier, is reportedly planning a $15.2 billion bid for its Dutch rival TNT, according to British media reports.

According to London's Telegraph newspaper, UPS made an informal approach to buy TNT — Europe's second-biggest delivery service — and the two companies have held preliminary talks.

For UPS, buying TNT would mean gaining access to a full European air- and road-delivery network, including an air hub in Liege, Belgium, and a trucking center in the Dutch city of Arnhem.

According to the Telegraph, UPS competitor FedEx hasn't ruled out bidding for TNT, a company that serves more than 200 countries and employs 161,500 people.

Both UPS and TNT have declined to comment, saying they don't respond to market rumors or speculation.

Kim Caughey, an investment analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, interviewed by, said that although she hasn't looked at the details of the deal "it fits with the direction the company has discussed with investors."

But Dan Ortwerth, an analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis, also interviewed by ajc, said he doubts UPS will buy TNT.

"UPS already has significantly developed networks of its own in TNT's coverage map," he said. "UPS has its own highly disciplined and efficient system, and I just can't see them absorbing a system on the scale of TNT” and thereby having to bring it up to UPS standards "in a way that would benefit shareholders."

However, Ortwerth added that he does expect to see a gradual consolidation of the industry on a global scale, a movement that's already under way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Catalog Sales Channel Still Strong

The 16th Annual "State of the Catalog Industry," published by The Direct Marketing Association, finds that 62% of respondents use catalogs as their primary sales channel.

“Most of our respondents continue to use catalogs as their dominant or secondary channel of marketing and sales,” notes the DMA. “And our data suggests a consensus among successful marketers that there are consistent and integrated standards across all channels, as virtually all use some form of Internet marketing to supplement their catalog channel.”

The DMA’s report contains four chapters on the following topics: Profile of Respondents and Industry Overview; Multichannel Marketing Practices; Sales Results and Strategies; and Circulation Statistics. It is also broken down by three segmentations: expertise (survey participants rated their own level of expertise in multichannel practices — beginner, intermediate, or expert); revenue size of the company (three revenue subgroups were created — small companies up to $10 million; medium $11 to $250 million; large $251 million or more); and type of market (three primary market break outs — businesses, consumers, or both equally).

Additionally, the 2008 report revealed:

· The paper catalog is still the largest revenue generator among all channels with an average of nearly 50% of sales in both 2007 and 2008, although web sales continue to grow.

· Survey respondents experienced increase in sales in 2007 and expect increases in 2008.

· There was a large increase in circulation from 2003 to present, likely a result of more companies using catalogs to drive web business.

· With the catalog industry using more than one channel to sell their products, almost 90 percent of respondents track response rates for online buyers separately from offline buyers, compared to around 60 percent in 2005 and 2006.

· When asked which media respondents use to cross-sell offline buyers online, in addition email promotions and web offers, 32 percent of respondents also use search marketing.

· 50 percent of all respondents report they have fully integrated marketing functions, but between 60 and 70 percent of respondents report being fully integrated in operational, consumer facing functions.

The DMA conducted this survey in April and May of 2008 through an email invitation sent to multichannel companies, including catalog, retail, and internet merchants. When the survey was closed, 106 respondents were included for tabulation.

The report is available for download on DMA’s online bookstore. The cost is $245 for DMA members and $445 for non-members. To purchase, please click here.

NOTE: What the report appears not to address (I haven't seen it) is how many Web customers are driven by marketing efforts represented by the catalog. And even more important is how well Web-based customers are merged with catalog customers to get a true net names count. It is easy to assume that a multi-channel merchant is working from a unified customer database, but we all know that that is far from universally the case....

Monday, August 18, 2008

ReCAPTCHA Helps Decipher OCR Text

From the "Nice to Know" department:

You may have heard of "reCAPTCHA," which is a variant of CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart), i.e. requests to enter the characters of a distorted word before permitting access to a Website or submission of an order, thus confirming that the data was entered by a person and not a bot or machine, and thereby stopping scammers and spammers exploiting the Websites to send out illegal e-mails or harvest addresses.

It is estimated that CAPTCHA schemes are used about 100 million times every day.

reCAPTCHA is often used to decipher words that were not correctly read by OCR programs. In fact, the BBC reports that reCAPTCHA, created by Luis von Ahn at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, farms out work to about 40,000 sites and now collects about four million responses every day. In the last year it has helped resolve more than 440 million words and has just helped to complete the conversion of the entire archive of the New York Times from 1908 into digital form.

So may not be participating in SETI, the global computer network in the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, or any other globally distributed computer efforts, but you almost surely have helped at some point complete the work of digitizing the New York Times!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cadre Upgrades WMS Solution

Cadre Technologies has released version 3.0 of its Cadence warehouse management system (WMS). The upgrade:
  • Supports catch weight operations in receiving, picking and inventory transactions.
  • Lets warehouse workers build user-defined product “density codes” that can be used for assisting pickers in building pallets for shipping.
  • Features bar-coded date information capture, allowing for application of date rules based on shipping destination.
  • Includes substantial Web Access enhancements including work-flow approvals, order file attachments and new ordering options for third-party logistics providers.
  • Includes enhancements to its Cadence Mobile Logistics (CML) tool with additional features supporting the picking process, including unit of measure conversion.
  • Includes integration to Pro Track, an advanced labor management system using the data captured via Cadence Mobile Logistics.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Truition Offers CMS Upgrade

Truition Inc., a leading provider of hosted eCommerce solutions, has announced Version 5.0 of CMS – its "Commerce Management System" for Retailers and Direct-to-Consumer Manufacturers.

New Store Management features give more control to merchants, enabling them to maintain the design and layout of their eCommerce sites while providing advanced preview and approval workflows. New Gift Certificate features and Store Credit functions will let Truition's online retailers tap into the growing popularity of Gift Cards and provide better tools for customer retention and loyalty.

Customers using Fluid Experience™ advanced rich media product display technologies will also have better integration between CMS inventory management and Fluid's display management tools.

Version 5.0 includes an object-based store content management system giving merchants more control of their site design and layout and to schedule when site changes occur. There are preview options that let them display their storefront as it would exist at some point in the future, or look at how it used to be in the past.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Elucid and PCI Compliance

Healthspan, the UK's leading home shopping supplier of vitamins, minerals and supplements, are the latest Sanderson customer to benefit from the Elucid Card Payment Module to securely process all electronic payments for multiple sales channels, including web, mail order, telesales and retail in accordance with the Data Security Standards of the Payment Card Industry (PCI DSS).

Sanderson has worked with partners Commidea and CyberSource to help ensure its Elucid users can become PCI-compliant. This ensures businesses are able to avoid the risk of penalties such as fines or trading restrictions, which can be applied by the major card providers where a breach of the standards occurs. Such punishments can clearly affect the ability of a company to do business, having a major impact on income, cash-flow and customer service - therefore making compliance imperative.

Guarding against fraud also helps protect the brand from the risks associated with a security breach. In an age of consumer choice, protecting a business from credit card fraud is also protecting the brand from the detrimental effects of bad publicity.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Introducing Amazon Payments

According to StorefrontBacktalk, customers who have already supplied Amazon with their payment and shipping information will now be able to use that information, without re-entering it, to make purchases on other sites.

This puts Amazon in the same boat with eBay's PayPal, BillMeLater (in which Amazon is a minority investor) and Google Checkout in offering an alternative payment system.

The basic service offered by Amazon is "Simple Pay," which uses Amazon information to make payments on other sites. In addition there is "Checkout By Amazon," which adds sales tax calculation, buyer feedback, and Amazon's 1-click feature.

There are no start-up or monthly fees; for all transactions under ten dollars, retailers will be charged five percent plus another 5 cents per transaction. For transactions greater than $10, merchants will be charged 2.9 percent plus 30 cents.

There are also monthly discounts based on volume. For monthly payment volume between $3,000-$10,000, the charge is 2.5 percent, plus 30 cents. For $10,000-$100,000, the charge is 2.2 percent plus 30 cents. For >$100K per month, it's 1.9 percent plus 30 cents.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

SiteCatalyst adds mobile tracking

According to Omniture, the new version of SiteCatalyst, its Web Analytics solution, incorporates mobile measurement to give marketers better identification of unique mobile visitors and clearer identification of device types, helping marketers better understand how to design their sites for mobile users. It also provides a view of visitors by country and carrier, helping marketers tailor Web advertising to specific audiences.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Hot Potato" Payment Processing

Here's another nugget from Doug Schwegman, Market Research Director at Cybersource: To reduce their security risks in payment processing, merchants are completely eliminating payment data contact with their systems by outsourcing acceptance.

You can use a PCI-compliant payment services supplier to host the payment data fields that appear on your checkout page. This can be implemented as an iFrame within your checkout page, or a fully hosted page. Using this approach your company neither handles nor stores payment data, thereby eliminating the burden and most of the costs of payment data security management.

(From the Insider's Guide to ePayment Management.)

I would love to hear from anyone who is doing this....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Challenge fraud-related chargebacks

According to Doug Schwegman, Market Research Director at Cybersource, if you're not challenging chargebacks, you're likely missing a quick and effective way of adding revenue and reducing costs. Research shows, on average, merchants win 40% of the fraud-related chargebacks they challenge, resulting in net recovery of 28% of all fraud-related chargebacks received. Of course, experience varies by merchant and by type of goods sold, e.g. digital merchants can find it more challenging to prove delivery/fulfillment. But the opportunity is well worth investigating, both in your internal process and in your work with solution partners.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

ePayment Management Guide from Cybersource

CyberSource has published "The Insider's Guide to ePayment Management: 30 Tactics Leading Merchants Use to Capture Hidden Profits." Discover proven tactics that can help you cut costs, increase sales conversion. and improve operating efficiency.

Based on CyberSource's field experience with leading online merchants, merchant surveys and analysis of industry data, this guide offers more than just statistics. The Insider's Guide conveniently compiles and discusses real-world payment management tactics you can implement to improve business results.

The Insider's Guide covers ePayment tactics the best merchants use to:

  • Control the cost of accepting and processing online payments
  • Increase sales conversion and revenue retention
  • Reduce fraud and fraud management expense
  • Cut the cost of PCI compliance and increase security

You can get your copy free from Cybersource.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Centris Gets PCI-Compliant

Centris Information Services, a provider of call center services, advanced automated call handling applications, on-demand interpreter services, and broadcast messaging, has received its Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance certificate. “Receiving this certificate ensures our customers, merchants, and cardholders our data is protected according to the industry’s highest standards”, says Dale Augustyn, Director of Information Technology for Centris.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mining Customer Feedback

Clarabridge has unveiled Version 3.0 of its Content Mining Platform (CMP). The company says the new release incorporates a number of new customer-driven capabilities, including an intuitive guided discovery interface for analysts and researchers, enterprise class deployment capabilities and application and packaging enhancements.

Designed for use by customer-oriented analysts across marketing, product and customer care organizations, CMP 3.0 includes a drag-and-drop Web interface, Clarabridge Navigator, which makes it easy for non-IT users to harvest customer feedback from surveys, user forums, online product reviews and other consumer-oriented sources.

Further, Clarabridge says, CMP 3.0 includes significant enhancements to its sentiment extraction engine that provide clients with finer domain-specific tuning, allowing for more accurate and in-depth analysis of customer sentiment on a particular subject. Using a scalable software as a service (SaaS) model, CMP 3.0 also gives analysts from different departments the ability to collaborate on various customer experience management initiatives. It also improves the core technology that supports multi-terabyte data volumes, foreign language requirements, the processing of diverse data types, and the secure sharing of data with other applications.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Assume Your Network Will Be Breached, says Homa

Bill Homa, who just stepped down July 1 as the CIO for the 165-store Hannaford grocery chain, has two key observations about PCI, and his opinions come from hard-won experience: PCI-compliant Hannaford was the victim of an especially large data breach when data from 4.2 million payment cards was stolen.

According to an interview in Storefront Backtalk, Homa finds particular fault in one aspect of the current PCI standard: "All debit- and credit-card transactions should be encrypted from end to end. That should be the minimum. It's astonishing that isn't the standard of PCI," which only requires encryption when transmitting over a public network such as IP.

The PCI rationale is that private point-to-point networks—such as the one Hannaford uses—are sufficiently secure that they don't need encryption. Homa disagrees. "Nowadays, encryption is not that expensive. And there's no such thing as a secure network," he said. "If you think your network is secure, you're delusional."

Homa observes that most retailers handle security backwards. The put all of their attention on protecting the front door, instead of assuming theives will get through and having a plan to control them once they're inside.

Data Breaches At All-Time High

The number of reported data breaches has been soaring, with the figure from the first six months of 2008 some 69 percent higher than the number from the identical period last year, according to a report from the non-profit San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center.

Among those were little-known recent breaches of Facebook, H&R Block and BearingPoint.

The report lists 342 data breaches since Jan. 1, 2008. Of those 342 breaches, about 12 percent were cyber thieves, 16 percent were insider theft, 15.2 percent were accidental exposure and 13.5 percent were subcontractor issues. Also, about 20 percent of the data breaches involved data "on the move," referring to laptops, thumb drives or PDAs.

The Identity Theft Resource Center "data breach count has reached an all-time high," the report said. "The actual number of breaches is more than likely higher, due to underreporting, and the fact that some of the breaches reported, which affect multiple businesses, are listed as a single event."

PCI Knowledgebase

The PCI Knowledgebase is an independent online community of people who know PCI and how to achieve compliance with the PCI security standards from the ground up. The Knowledge Base includes merchants, assessors, banks, payment processors, consultants and vendors of payment systems and security technology.

The Knowledge in the Knowledge Base includes: Advice from other members of the Knowledge Base, as well as Best Practices, Spending Levels and Plans, Lessons Learned, etc.

Looks like an interesting source of information on the subject. Check it out!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

USPS Forms New Shipping Division

The US Postal Service (USPS) has announced a major realignment that creates two new strategic focuses, the first grouping all major shipping and mailing products in one division, and the other (representing the voice of the customer) giving priority to the interests of business and individual mailers.

The realignment also consolidates all Intelligent Mail Barcode activities under the chief operating officer to focus on execution in the year ahead.

"Today's decisions may be viewed as a sea change for some," said Postmaster General John E. Potter. "But these are challenging times and it's critical that we take advantage of recent changes in federal law which give us the tools to move into the competitive environment. We are now positioned to do that."

A law enacted in the closing days of 2006 (the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006) streamlined the way the Postal Service sets prices and added certain flexibilities in the pricing of its shipping (package) services enabling it to become more competitive with private shipping companies like UPS and FedEx. The first initiative under the Act was to implement a new rate structure based on both weight and shape (as opposed to just weight), which went into effect in May 2007.

Robert F. Bernstock, a corporate leader with more than 30 years of private sector experience, has been brought on to be president of the newly created Shipping and Mailing Services Division. Most recently he was chairman and chief executive officer at Securesheet Technologies. Bernstock also serves as a director on a number of public company boards, including Nutrisystem, the Pantry, and KBL Acquisition Corp.

Intelligent Barcode System
The reorganization is partly to prepare for the May 2009 rollout of the new USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode system, which will improve operations and enable customers to track letters and parcels as they move through the mail stream.

The 65-bar code will be required starting in May 2009 for companies looking to earn the maximum USPS automation discounts. It replaces the POSTNET and PLANET barcode systems which are already in place and promises to raise the level of service the USPS provides to its customers.

The new system was originally due to be rolled out in January but the USPS postponed implementation due to a lack of public awareness.

In an interview with Multichannel Merchant magazine, Potter noted that he expects the USPS to develop “a more effective game plan on how to reach out to the mid-market -- because while we do an effective job with very large customers, and we’re as good as any in dealing with consumers, it’s that mid- and small-sized business market that is a real opportunity."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

UPS Expands Paperless Invoicing

UPS has incorporated its paperless invoicing service into the UPS Shipping Tool, an application program interface (API) that allows for integration of the tool into customers' own websites and internal applications.

The UPS Paperless Invoice and international UPS Returns features were introduced by the company in January. Since that time, customers with shipments originating in more than 30 countries have processed hundreds of thousands of paperless shipments, UPS claimed.

The free service allows for the integration of order processing, shipment preparation and commercial invoice data. It then transmits that data to customs offices around the world electronically. As a result, UPS said, customers reduce the chance of making manual errors while filling out customs documentation. The paperless technology aids companies who manage shipments to 98 countries and territories via systems such as UPS WorldShip, CampusShip and Internet Shipping.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Customer Service Pet Peeve

Richard Hughes , Director of BroadVision, writes in the current issue of Insight, the eletter of Catalogue & eBusiness magazine, about one of my pet peeves:

Many websites send order confirmation emails from an address along the lines of But why shouldn’t I reply? Surely if I have a query about an order, the easiest thing for me to do is to reply to the order confirmation. What’s more, it will have all the information that the customer service agent will need to process the enquiry – my name, email address, order number, date of purchase and a list of items purchased. Instead, the customer is often sent to the website to log in, find the relevant order and hope that the type of enquiry he want to make fits one of the predefined templates the site knows how to handle.

Introducing SigmaCommerce 4.2

Sigma Micro has announced the upcoming availability of its direct commerce order management solution, SigmaCommerce 4.2, scheduled for a 2008 mid-summer release.

New benefits and features include:


In conjunction with Sigma Micro’s new integrated Web 2.0 partner Last Piece Software, Product Ratings and Reviews are available for clients to create an online customer loyalty experience. They also leverage feedback from customers to build long-term relationships.

Deep Link URL Creation Wizards allow direct retailers to integrate content with commerce for an internet e-mail or keyword marketing strategy. You can also use generated URLs and source codes in other campaign management tools such as Google Adwords, FireClick, or Yahoo! Paid Search.


The Featured Items Control provides for more automated dynamic merchandising rules. These allow you to dynamically generate Hot Sellers for the Home Page and Landing Pages relevant to the category page or group page a shopper is navigating.


With expanded configurability of User-Defined Holds, retailers can control fraud management by placing an order on hold for credit reasons, bogus addresses, specific countries, or just to monitor an operator.


SigmaCommerce 4.2 allows retailers to maintain and attach specifically branded documents and communication materials. The new Document Control allows retailers to build unique branding around each product in item detail pages. This creates a rich media “experience” while providing a quick and easy way to publish return policies, how-to videos, workshops, and instruction sheets. Using the CSS Import Utility, retailers can create and import unique site themes to enhance site ranking in search engines and give shoppers the experience they demand.

Voice Prints For Payment Authorization?

A UK company is enabling retailers to use voice-recognition to authenticate purchases over the phone and online, according to StoreFront Backtalk.

The Voice Commerce Group’s Voice Transact package has consumers call the service, quote a pre-arranged product code and then a series of digits dictated by the automated system. Verizon is involved in the rollout. VCG CEO Nick Ogden was quoted in E-Commerce Times saying that there are "current problems with the system, the biggest of which was interoperability between different banks’ systems and the standards used in the technology."

Monday, June 30, 2008

Decline of Call Center Service

I am reprinting the following from the Peppers & Rogers "1to1 Weekly," June 30, 2008 --

By Kevin Zimmerman, Senior Editor

The 10th annual "Call Center Benchmarking Report" from Dimension Data paints a somewhat negative picture of where that industry segment seems to be headed -- though not everyone agrees about what the survey's implications are.

Dimension Data surveyed 300 call centers in 36 countries across five continents. The research shows that from 1997 to 2007, key performance metrics indicate a significant deterioration of quality of service in contact centers. Call abandon rates, due to long hold times, increased during the 10-year period by nearly 127 percent, while the average time to answer a call rose by some 70 percent, from 23 to 39 seconds.

In addition, the percentage of calls that were answered in less than 10 seconds decreased by nearly 12 percent from 72 percent of all calls to 64 percent, while callers on average abandoned a call after waiting for 45 seconds in 2007, compared to 53 seconds in 1997.

Steve Loring, business development manager for customer interactive solutions at Dimension Data, attributes these performance drops to changes in the market and customer service dynamic over the past 10 years.

"The access of information is more of an open commodity now," Loring says, citing increased competition between businesses and the array of channels with which customers and businesses can interact (email, Web, phone) as factors that have made customer interaction much more complex.

"There has also obviously been a move toward more self-service," he adds. "A customer faced with being on hold may abandon the call and try to solve the problem on his own."

The report also states that contact centers are finding it increasingly difficult to retain employees. During the 10-year period, annual agent attrition rate rose by nearly 93 percent, increasing from 14 percent to 27 percent.

Loring maintains that the difficulty in retaining employees could be related to the increased outsourcing of agent seats. The survey found a 220 percent increase in outsourcing, with 16 percent of agent seats outsourced in 2007 compared to 5 percent in 1997.

"If you were to ask me to guess what the outsourcing rate was, I'd never guess a number as low as 16 percent," avers Peppers & Rogers Group cofounder Martha Rogers, Ph.D. "So while, yes, it's an increase of 220 percent from 10 years ago, it's kind of: so what? That's still a surprisingly tiny percentage."

Strategic issues behind the numbers

Nevertheless, Rogers says, the issue remains an important one. "At the heart of the problems we see at call centers is that they're hiring the wrong people or they're not doing the right things to keep them," she says. "They've created cultures that are basically sweat shops, where people who can do anything else, will. They view it as a temporary place to make money until they can get a 'real' job. So you're putting your customer relations in the hands of people who just want to get out."

Ian Jacobs, senior analyst at Frost & Sullivan, adds that the same situation is now being repeated in call center hubs like India and the Philippines. "Ten years ago being a call center rep was viewed as a career, but that's no longer the case," he says. "Countries with maturing outsourcing operations are seeing an explosion in turnover, and almost by definition that has a negative impact on the customer experience."

Corporations that view contact centers mainly as cost, rather than profit, centers are missing the boat. "The talk about improving the customer experience is still aspirational for the most part," Jacobs says. "When companies want to cut costs, they still look at the call center first."

Rogers agrees, but warns of the strategy. "Using the call center as a quick way to make your quarterly numbers is a stupid thing to do," she says. "Focusing on first-call resolution rather than on length of call increases customer satisfaction scores enormously. Proper training, and encouraging people to treat customers as they themselves would like to be treated, reduced turnover by 20 percent in the first year [it was implemented] at FedEx."

So why don't more companies do that? "You got me," she says. "Things trickle down from upper management, and sometimes upper management got there by doing it the quick, ruthlessly efficient way, and it's hard to break those habits. But done right, like at Costco, you see increases in customer loyalty, employee retention, and shareholder value."

Rogers adds that a new book co-authored by Amazon's former vice president of customer service has done "a great job of delineating many of the problems companies have with the proper use of their call centers." Peppers & Rogers cofounder Don Peppers wrote about it in a recent blog entry, Must-Read New Book: The Best Service is No Service.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Natural Order Vers. 9 Enhancements

Natural Solutions has announced the following enhancements to Natural Order, its flagship direct commerce order management and fulfillment application:

Third-party Interfaces:
* Commerce V3 – Shopping Cart import, product information export, product availability export
* Auric Systems International
* Trevance Interface for batch and on-line processing
* CN!Express Interface for batch and on-line processing

Version 9 Enhancements:
* Credit Card encryption using strong native Microsoft SQL encryption techniques (Triple DES, AES-128, AES-192, AES-256)
* Order Import - more formats: CSV, tab-delimited, fixed record
* Order Import can be called by other programs, with email of success or failure information
* Fact Sheet - easy Order Entry access to a Word Document, webpage, PDF file, etc. - used to describe a product
* Automated email templates for Order Confirmation, Order Shipped, Credit Card declined
* Expansion to Purchasing Information screen to include:
- Product Sales
- Returns
* Product Group Discount Schemes - BOGO, buy 3 on this group of items and get free shipping, and similar marketing techniques
* By security user group, allow/disallow specific payment methods, shippers, order comment types, order hold codes
* Ranking - user-defined ranking (A/B/C) technique for rating products by sales
* Allow or disallow display of substitute when the substitute is out of stock
* Gift Recipient Messages can be pre-defined for easy selection of common phrases (such as Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays)
* Pick Batch History
* Additional searches for products by SKU alternates, Catalog Aliases, Keywords, Product Types (and Ranking)
* New import for Gift Recipient Lists
* Assemblies can now be modified (different components), with history log
* Add-Ons can be associated with their "parent"; i.e., a chocolate sundae has an optional add-on of a cherry on top - so, if the destination and/or shipper of the parent is changed, the add-on will also change; if the parent is removed, the add-on can be automatically removed as well
* Enhanced bulk to pickable replenishment for case quantity movement
* Enhanced SKU order replacement

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chase Paymentech Issues PCI DSS Alerts

According to an announcement from Chase Paymentech, merchants need to know about significant changes to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) required network scans. Effective July 1, 2008, the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) is requiring Approved Scanning Vendors to change from version 1 to version 2 of the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). This change impacts all Approved Scanning Vendors (ASVs) and the scans they perform for their customers.

This change impacts the way certain vulnerabilities are scored. Some vulnerabilities that were deemed less significant under version 1 will receive heighten scoring in version 2. Such vulnerabilities may now result in a failing PCI network scan score. This will result in a merchant being non-compliant with the PCI DSS until the vulnerability can be addressed.

Merchants are strongly encouraged to contact their ASV and discuss the impact of these changes. Many ASVs are allowing merchants to perform “preview scans”. Preview scans allow the merchant to scan their environment using the new CVSS v2 scans before the July 1, 2008 effective date. This provides merchants with an opportunity to assess the impact of CVSS v2 prior to performing their next required scan.

Chase Paymentech urges merchants to immediately undertake preview scans of their environment. Trustwave is already offering preview scans to their customers and Chase Paymentech has arranged with Trustwave to provide preferred pricing to its merchants.

Penetration Testing

In addition, merchants will want to know that the PCI SSC recently provided clarification about penetration testing requirements under PCI DSS Requirement 11.3. The penetration testing required by Section 11.3 is different from the vulnerability assessments required in Section 11.2. Vulnerability assessment simply identifies and notes vulnerabilities. Penetration testing attempts to actively exploit them.

The penetration testing requirement was previously interpreted as an external test only. The PCI SSC has now defined the requirement to include both internal and external testing. It should include application and network layer testing as well as controls and processes around the networks and applications. The scope of the testing is the cardholder data environment and all systems and networks connected to it.

Penetration testing may be performed by a qualified internal or external party. Any resource used must be a trained and experienced penetration tester. Internal staff performing the test must be organizationally separate from the management of the environment being tested. Methodology and results of the test must be documented, and follow-up on identified issues is required. Both Black-box and White-box testing are permitted.

Penetration testing should be performed AT LEAST annually, and any time a significant upgrade or modification occurs (for example systems component upgrades, new network creation, or new server deployments). "Significant" is specific to a given environment, but can be defined as upgrades or modifications that could impact or allow access to cardholder data.

Ecometry Version 10

Escalate Retail has announced the following enhancements in Version 10.0 of Ecometry Commerce Suite, its flagship multichannel order management solution.

Enhanced Discounting Capabilities
Historically, Ecometry has managed all marketing promotions through Offers. This new enhancement is a change to that premise and will allow you to apply special marketing events for special shipping, discounts, and/or products to orders regardless of the Offer code. These marketing events can be qualified by company/division, ship method, pay method, and/or membership status.

Product Cost and Price Maintenance by Percent

This new Pricing/Costing module enables you to maintain vendor costs and offer product prices based on a specified percent of products price. Additionally, you can group products together by a brand, price group, or cost group enter and update the price and/or cost percents more efficiently.

Inventory Sharing
It will now be possible to pick and choose which companies and divisions have the option to sell items. This will eliminate the requirement of linking an item to either one company/division or having it shared.

Customization Filters

For those using customization within Ecometry, there has always been a need to build a response list (instead of just the blank fields) that would assist in the completion of a product’s customization input; therefore, Escalate Retail is providing a new response list functionality in the Customization set-up screens. This enhancement will allow for a faster as well as a more accurate order entry process.

One-Time-Only Offer
Ecometry now allows you to offer a “one time only” promotion, which, when used during Order Entry, is validated against a buyer’s source code to ensure it has not been used on previous orders.

Promotional Insert Program
Flexibility has also been added in the ability to insert promotional products and/or order comments during Order Processing based on a large range of qualifying criteria options (offers, prices, number of orders, pay type, order type, customer type, and more), based on tables created in the new Promotional Insert Program module.

Company and Division Sort for GL Report

The Product Sales and Product Returns Balance reports now include the option to sort and subtotal Company and Division that owns the inventory reported.

Multiple Credit Cards for Batch Entry
Batch Order now permits you to use the multiple credit card pay method (MX), with up to three credit cards per order.

Suppress Prices on Collates
You can now suppress prices on all collates (pick/pack slips), including reprinted collates and collate extracts.

Affiliate Marketing by Division and Membership Status
You can now offer Affiliate Marketing programs within a specific Company and Division combination or across Company and Division combinations. Additionally, you can now restrict Affiliate Marketing program offerings based on a customer’s membership status.

RBS Lynk- Royal Bank of Scotland
This enhancement enables the processing of credit cards through the vendor RBS Lynk for Classic View Order Management, ESM Order Management, Ecometry Online, and Batch Order, using the Ecometry Credit Card Portal (CC Portal). The interface with RBS Lynk is made through a secure HTTP URL for both batch file transmission and online authorization.

Optional Modules:

WMS Interface
A new WMS alternate product number enables Ecometry to store a custom product number for each product and pass this product number to the WMS Interface in lieu of the Ecometry product number. In addition, a new Exchange Flag & Return is now available that enables you to pass non-RA Exchange returns through the WMS XML interface.

Inline Shipping

New functionality within this module allows for a truck ID to be passed to Ecometry from the automated shipping station.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

MS Upgrades Dynamics/AX

With two Direct Commerce Order Management Systems now on the Dynamics/AX platform (Junction Solutions and Omnica), it is worth noting that Microsoft has begun shipping Microsoft Dynamics AX 9000, a new release of the vendor's ERP application suite with new globalization functionality and tools for tailoring the applications' interface for specific user roles.

Also offered in Dynamics AX 9000 is a new compliance center that provides a single view of internal controls, KPIs and other information needed to comply with company policies, local legislation in 36 countries, and such regulations as Sarbanes-Oxley. The software also provides more support for companies that operate multiple sites within a single country and across multiple countries.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cybersource Offers ePayment Handbook

Cybersource is offering an "Insider's Guide to ePayment Management: 30 Tactics Leading Merchants Use to Capture Hidden Profits" that can help you cut costs, increase sales conversion, and improve operating efficiency.

Download your copy at The Insider's Guide to ePayment Management

The Insider's Guide gives you "30 proven ePayment tactics the best merchants use" to:

* Control the cost of accepting and processing online payments
* Increase sales conversion and revenue retention
* Reduce fraud and fraud management expense
* Cut the cost of PCI compliance and increase security

Google Developer Conference Snafu

I got a kick out of the following -- hope you do, too!

Google I/O Overrun By Developers

Posted by Thomas Claburn, InformationWeek, May 28, 2008 06:42 PM

More than 2,900 developers descended on the Moscone Center West convention center in San Francisco on Wednesday and Google wasn't ready for them.

At 9:15 a.m., 15 minutes before the Google I/O keynote was scheduled to begin, hundreds of coders from all over remained stuck in line, waiting to be issued their pre-registered badges so that they could be admitted into the company's annual developer conference.

It was as if Google had become an airline, trying to deal with canceled flights at peak season. Steve Gillmor, a longtime Bay Area tech journalist and contributing editor to ZDNet, rather pointedly told a harried Google employee at the media registration desk, "This is not how it's supposed to be done."

The keynote began about 15 minutes late. Vic Gundotra, engineering VP at Google, arrived on stage and apologized. Rather than have those waiting in the lobby miss the keynote entirely, those in charge of the event opted to let the would-be attendees in without badges. At management-level events, where movers and shakers mingle, security concerns preclude that sort of decision; developers apparently can handle self-policing, or perhaps they're just expendable.

And to top it all off, there weren't enough chairs to accommodate those wishing to see the keynote presentation. Google apparently is still getting the hang of developer conferences....

Such snafus hardly matter much in the long run, but they do suggest that Google's engineering culture has some blind spots. Apple's recent developer events, as befits a company obsessed with image management, have run like clockwork.

Hopefully, next year's event will begin more smoothly. There will almost certainly be a larger crowd.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NY eCommerce Sales Tax Not So Bad?

After the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance issued a Technical Services Bulletin (TSB-M-08(3)S) on May 8 regarding a new law requiring online merchants to collect state sales taxes, the tax counsel for the Direct Marketing Association, George Isaacson, said the legislation is now viewed as “less aggressive than what have been our greeatest fears....The TSB is more focused and, therefore, more helpful for direct marketers," according to Multichannel Merchant magazine.

After the new legislation was signed by Gov. David Paterson on April 15, DMA officials deemed the law unconstitutional because it contradicted a 1992 Supreme Court Decision, Quill v. North Dakota, that said states are not allowed to require out-of-state companies to collect sales taxes unless that company has a physical presence, such as a store or warehouse in the state.

New York’s new law will require out-of-state online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes, though merchants collecting less than $10,000 per year from New York residents will be exempt. filed a lawsuit on May 2 against the state of New York, challenging the legislation.

Isaacson said the law isn’t as “broad-based” as initially thought, due to the Tax Services Bulletin (TSB). “The burden switches to the direct marketer to demonstrate that it doesn’t have nexus in the state,” he said. He said a direct marketer could defeat the presumption of nexus in New York, “even if in fact a Web link with New York residents exists. A pure vanilla affiliate marketing Web link arrangement can be defeated by showing that that Web link party is not engaged in any additional solicitation. That’s the good news in this TSB.”

What’s more, Isaacson said: “Where there are not any individuals within the state mailing referrals, issuing e-mails, encouraging people to come to the Website to place orders, then the rebuttal will be successful. That’s really key.”

But it raises the question: How do you demonstrate there is no additional activity? “You can include in your contract with the affiliate marketing network that you do not want any New York Websites engaged in any activity other than providing a Web link to your Website,” Isaacson said. “A contract can prove rebuttal success. That goes a long way in carrying your burden of proof.”

At its extremes, the new law is “clearly unconstitutional,” Isaacson said. But the TSB narrowed the definition. “There has to be a physical presence in the state that brings this back within the orbit of existing Supreme Court precedent,” he said.

In a May 15 letter to Mark Micali, the DMA’s vice president of government affairs, Isaacson said: "This more conservative position taken by the Department of Taxation and Finance is of critical importance to direct marketers. It means that if retailers are vigilant in monitoring their affiliate marketing relatonships to be certain that, other than the New York Website link, no additional in-state solicitation activity occurs on the part of the New York affiliate, then the mere Website link relationship should not create nexus."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Junction Solutions Appoints New CEO

Junction Solutions announced today the appointment of Jeff Grell as its President and CEO. Grell, who was named COO and appointed to the board of directors last year, succeeds Brian Carpizo, a co-founder of Junction Solutions.

Jeff Grell is also a co-founder of Junction Solutions with over 20 years of experience in the consulting and software industries. Before Junction Solutions, Jeff was a Vice President with OpenLatitude, a supply chain application software company for retail distribution and high-tech manufacturing, where he was responsible for implementation services and software development. Prior to OpenLatitude, Jeff was a Vice President with FutureNext Consulting, a partner with Horizon Consulting, and a Senior Manager with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).

Junction Solutions offers order management and fulfillment solutions on the Microsoft Dynamics/AX platform in the Retail, Consumer Goods, and Food and Beverage industries.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Miles Kimball Selects JunctionRES

Junction Solutions has announced that Miles Kimball Company, a recognized leader in the consumer catalog industry, has gone live with 600 users on JunctionRES, a retail enterprise solution built on Microsoft Dynamics AX.

Established in 1935, MKC consists of numerous catalog titles each with its own niche. Owned by Blyth, Inc. a $1.5B provider of home decor and home fragrance products, MKC mails about 120 million catalogs annually.

Miles Kimball chose JunctionRES to better manage its warehouse management, order management, merchandising and marketing processes. JunctionRES is a comprehensive enterprise solution that offers catalog companies, direct marketers, retailers and eCommerce companies a way to manage the entire sales process on one fully integrated database.

“Within a week of going live on JunctionRES, we processed over 40,000 orders without any performance problems,” said Jeff Verhagen, CIO at Miles Kimball. “These orders were processed, picked and shipped with great results. We have seen immediate improvements in our business processes in many areas since going live with JunctionRES.”

“The implementation process at Miles Kimball has gone very well,” said Brian Homan, Director, JunctionRES. “We have run picking on over 16,000 orders at one time while all call center reps were on the phone with customers with no performance impact. The JunctionRES batch job architecture will blaze new trails in batch job processing.”

Amazon Challenges NY eCommerce Sales Tax

New York Gov. David Paterson signed into law on April 15 a provision that will require out-of-state online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes. The measure, expected to raise about $50 million for the state budget, contradicts a 1992 Supreme Court Decision, Quill Corp. vs. North Dakota, that said states are not allowed to require out-of-state companies to collect sales taxes unless that company has a physical presence, such as a store, warehouse, in the state. A provision states that companies collecting less than $10,000 per year from New York residents will be exempt.

The big question is, will the law survive the imminent litigation? And, if so, will the other 44 states that have a state sales tax jump on the bandwagon? Before the ink on the bill had even dried, filed a suit challenging the new law, which is based on a novel definition of what constitutes a presence in the state: it includes any Web site based in the state that earns a referral fee for sending customers to an online retailer. Amazon, of course, has hundreds of thousands of affiliates, ranging from big publishers to tiny blogs, that feature links to its products. Amazon says that its affiliates are not agents but simply sites on which it places advertising. The commissions it pays the sites are simply one method of paying for those ads, it argued.

Tom Bergin, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Taxation, said that department would not comment on the suit until it filed a formal reply with the court. The state’s defense will be coordinated by the New York attorney general’s office.

The new tax law requires that all online retailers "doing business in New York" register with the state to collect sales taxes by June 1, 2008. Those who do not register will face audits for quarters prior to the deadline.

A recent discussion on Webpronews featured a recurring theme: the seemingly daunting task of enforcing the law. How does the New York Dept. of Taxation expect to administer this new tax law? How will they ferret out the numerous small and large businesses that have affiliates residing in New York? None of this has been addressed by the state so far and it seems that the time and money needed to make sure the tax collection takes place could far outweigh the revenue benefit.

Ironically, NY had passed an Internet sales tax last year, which was rescinded by then-governor Elliot Spitzer in December, just before going into effect....

New President for Dydacomp

John V. Healy has joined Dydacomp, producer of the Mail Order Manager (MOM) system, as the new Chief Executive Officer.

Healy most recently served as President and CEO of PRIMIS Marketing Group, a data services and technology company focused on assisting small to medium sized direct marketers in growing their business through more efficient prospecting. Healy brings a wealth of experience to Dydacomp by way of major leadership assignments at companies like Equifax, DoubleClick/Abacus and ADVO.

Healy will join the Dydacomp Board as well, succeeding founder David Kopp, who is retiring as CEO. Kopp commented on the hiring of Healy, "With the growth in the number of e-commerce clients and the fact that nearly ten percent of our new business comes from outside the United States, we are especially pleased to add John's online and global market experience to direct and expand the company's reach and potential." Kopp will continue to be an active member of Dydacomp's Board.

Healy will be relocating to the company's headquarters in Totowa, NJ.

Can Spam Update

According to Ken Magill of Direct Magazine: The Federal Trade Commission yesterday issued four new rules under the Can Spam Act.

For the most part, they don’t have earth-shattering impact on permission-based marketers. And where they do affect marketers, it is mostly positive.

“Overall, the final rules are good news for marketers,” said Tom Bartell, vice president of Return Path’s Sender Score e-mail best-practices certification unit. “Can Spam has set a pretty low baseline in terms of best practices. This kind of rule and general guidance raises the bar and underscores some of what the market’s been doing on top of Can Spam anyway.”

For one, the FTC also said people cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps beyond sending a reply e-mail or visiting a single Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mails from a company.

The FTC also decided not to shorten the time marketers must honor opt-out requests from 10 days to three.

The FTC also modified the definition of “sender” when multiple parties are involved in an e-mail, so they can designate which company will be considered the sender and will have to comply with Can Spam’s requirements by putting its name in the “from” line and its postal address in the body copy.

The FTC also ruled that a post-office box can serve as a legitimate postal return address under the requirements of Can Spam.

Finally, the FTC decided not to give marketers “safe harbor” protecting them from Can Spam violations made by affiliates. The commission has long maintained that marketers are responsible for the actions of affiliates who send e-mail on their behalf.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sigma Micro Announces SigmaCommerce 4.2

Sigma Micro has announced the upcoming availability of SigmaCommerce 4.2 for a 2008 mid-summer release. New features, functions and benefits focusing mainly on the eStore module include:

Using Sigma Micro’s new integrated Web 2.0 partner, Last Piece Software, Product Ratings and Reviews will be available for clients to create the online customer loyalty experience that shoppers expect.

Deep Link URL Creation Wizards will allow direct retailers to integrate content with commerce for an internet e-mail or keyword marketing strategy. You can also use generated URLs and source codes in other campaign management tools such as Google Adwords, FireClick, or Yahoo! Paid Search.

The Featured Items Control provides for more automated dynamic merchandising rules to dynamically generate Hot Sellers for the Home Page and Landing Pages relevant to the category page or group page a shopper is navigating.

With expanded configurability of User-defined holds, retailers can control fraud management by placing an order on hold for credit reasons, bogus addresses, specific countries, or just to monitor an operator.

SigmaCommerce 4.2 allows retailers to maintain and attach specifically branded documents and communication materials. The new Document Control allows retailers to build unique branding around each product in item detail pages to create a rich media “experience” while providing a quick way to publish return policies, how-to videos, workshops, and instruction sheets. Using the CSS Import Utility, retailers can create and import unique site themes to enhance site ranking in search engines and support shoppers with the experience they expect.

Last Piece Software and other 3rd-party integrations support SigmaCommerce Web 2.0 technologies for Search Engine Optimization and Web analytic tools to help increase retailer conversion statistics.

For more information, see

USPS, Netflix and the Postage Increase

eKey Technologies has an article by Todd Butler, President of Butler Mailing Services, Inc., that points out an apparent conflict of interest within the Postal Service that I find so outrageous that I decided to mention it here, even though it has nothing to do with direct commerce technology (only by a huge stretch). Perhaps its because when I edited Target Marketing back in the early 80s we spent a lot of time covering the USPS.... In any case, if Todd's posting is true -- and I have no reason to believe it is not -- then the upcoming rate increase (detrimental to direct merchants with catalogs) is due largely to the Postal Service granting unfair and highly questionable favoritism to Netflix in providing manual handling for its non-machinable mailers.

Todd's posting is not that long. I urge you to read it. This issue has been raised publicly before, but not in quite the context of favoritism that Todd has suggested.

Text Mining Helps Gaylord Hotels

Intelligent Enterprise reports that Gaylord Hotels has completed a successful pilot project with the Clarbridge text mining platform.

They previously had a third-party firm reading and categorizing comments about problems and keeping track with tick sheets, but they focused only on which categories received the most comments. With text analytics, they were able to tie comments to structured one-to-five satisfaction rankings, and quickly discovered that their biggest problems were not necessarily related to the most common complaints.

This certainly has Web 2.0 implications, or even for Web 1.0 customer feedback for multi-channel merchants. For details, click HERE.

Monday, May 05, 2008

DMA Sponsoring Web 2.0 Webinar

Did you know that the most frequently used Web 2.0 tool is not the most effective for brand building? Or that the most underutilized Web 2.0 elements are blogs and user generated content?

These and other issues will be covered in a Direct Marketing Association Webinar, “Using New Media — The Link Between DM & Brand,” Wednesday, May 7, from 1 to 2 p.m. covering research on how marketers can use an integrated strategy to accomplish branding and direct marketing.

The session will cover:
- the most effective uses of each type of new media
- which metrics you should use to track and measure your results
- the marketing applications of each technology channel
- ahead-of-the-curve opportunities

Alas, it's not free. Cost is $295 for DMA members and $545 for non-members. Click here to register.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

BEA AquaLogic Commerce Services Introduces Vers. 6.0

BEA has released Version 6.0 of its AquaLogic Commerce Services solution, a product designed to help increase online sales, store efficiency and profitability, while providing the flexibility to accommodate growth and help businesses quickly adapt to market changes, the company reports. It adds that the new version simplifies commerce process management, enabling greater revenue opportunities and extends the commerce multiplatform SOA foundation providing increased flexibility.

New features and capabilities of BEA AquaLogic Commerce Services 6.0 include:

* multistore management is made easier with virtual catalogs to simplify store setup and management;
* store revenue enhancement is facilitated by additional support for gift certificates, pre-ordering of products before they are available and taking orders on back-ordered products;
* customer trust and satisfaction can be more easily achieved with additional secure payment integrations;
* simplified order management streamlines order activities and includes enhanced support for returns, exchanges, refunds and split shipments;
* a more responsive Commerce Manager application helps increase productivity and simplifies commerce management for business, call center and order management activities;
* more than 30 new web services have been added to simplify deploying and integrating commerce within a services-based environment;
* supported platforms now include BEA WebLogic Server 10 and BEA WebLogic Portal 10.2;
* enhanced integration with BEA WebLogic Portal includes commerce portlets and integration with the WebLogic Portal virtual content repository, enabling the commerce product catalog items to be used for portal personalization, campaigns and federated searches; and
* improved integration with BEA Workshop simplifies building unified commerce applications that include BEA WebLogic and BEA AquaLogic product family components.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Taylor Corp. to Buy Lillian Vernon

An auction to purchase bankrupt gift cataloger Lillian Vernon Corp. has been won by Taylor Corp., the Mankato, MN-based marketer that owns Current, G. Neil, Paper Direct, and Sa-So catalog titles (with total sales direct sales of about $700 million).

Virginia Beach, VA-based Lillian Vernon, which was purchased by Sun Capital Partners in May 2006, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Feb. 20. Michael D. Muoio, Lillian Vernon’s CEO, reports that the tentative sale must be approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, DE.

Friday, March 28, 2008

FTC Cannot Fine TJX for Data Breach

In the massive databreach at TJX -— the worst in credit card history —- the retail chain "created an unnecessary risk to personal information by storing it on, and transmitting it between and within, in-store and corporate networks in clear text," according to a complaint issued Thursday by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and reported in Storefront Backtalk.

That report also found that TJX "did not require network administrators and other users to use strong passwords or to use different passwords to access different programs, computers, and networks" and that it failed to "use readily available security measures to limit access" and cited one crucial example: not "using a firewall to isolate card authorization computers."

The FTC complaint also accused the chain of a failing to "employ sufficient measures to detect and prevent unauthorized access to computer networks or to conduct security investigations, such as by patching or updating anti-virus software or following up on security warnings and intrusion alerts."

Despite those conclusions -- coupled with the FTC's legal conclusion that these actions constituted "an unfair act or practice" against consumer interests -- FTC staffers said they had no legal authority to fine the chain, an authority they have repeatedly but unsuccessfully sought from Congress.

The only actions they could take was to instruct TJX to try and do better in the future and to insist that outside assessors check the chain once every two years for the next 20 years. PCI rules already require the chain to be assessed once a year.

The difference is that the ever-other-year reports will go to FTC offices while the PCI annual reports are kept within the industry. If government lawyers don't like the reports that TJX submits, "then action can be taken," said Alain Sheer, an attorney for the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

What kind of action? That gets into the specifics of what is found. Legally, the FTC is limited to issuing a per-violation fine of only $11,000, according to Laura DeMartino, the unit's assistant director for enforcement. But a "violation" can be interpreted as every day that the violation exists, DeMartino said, which could be a large number of days for a report covering a 24-month period.

The FTC's inability to get punitive with retailers it considers acting poorly is nothing new and neither is the FTC's internal frustration with their toothless threats.

But FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said the actions can at least get a message out to the public that someone is watching, even if there's not much they can do.

"By now, the message should be clear: companies that collect sensitive consumer information have a responsibility to keep it secure," Majoras said. "These cases bring to 20 the number of complaints in which the FTC has charged companies with security deficiencies in protecting sensitive consumer information. Information security is a priority for the FTC, as it should be for every business in America."
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