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.
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