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.
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