Thursday, March 31, 2011

Google, MC, and Citigroup To Enable SmartPhone Retail Payments

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is teaming up with MasterCard and Citigroup to embed Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in Android mobile devices that would allow consumers to make purchases by waving their smartphones in front of a small reader at the checkout counter.

The planned payment system, which is still in the discussion and planning stage, would allow Google to offer retailers more data about their customers and help them target ads and discount offers to mobile device users near their store. Google isn't expected to get any percentage of the transaction fees.

The project would allow holders of Citigroup-issued debit and credit cards to pay for purchases by activating a mobile-payment application developed for Android phones that would turn the phones into an "electronic wallet." Phone users would also be able to get targeted ads or discount offers that Google hopes to sell to local merchants. Users could manage credit-card accounts and track spending through an application on their smartphone, as well.

The venture also involves VeriFone Systems, which makes credit-card readers for cash registers. VeriFone would roll out so-called contactless devices or readers that enable consumers to pay with a wave or tap of a credit or debit card using NFC. As with conventional credit card transactions, card companies would cover the cost of unauthorized purchases. NFC technology itself is not particularly vulnerable, and is actually more sophisticated than credit cards with a magnetic stripe.

The project could raise privacy concerns, however, because it would allow Google to track whether ads targeted at certain groups of people led directly to in-store sales, and by helping to facilitate redemptions of coupons and discounts could also yield insight into consumer spending behavior.

See also my posts on The SmartPhone Wallet and ISIS.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two Powerhouses Merge: Salesforce Buys Radian6

Social media monitoring giant Radian6 has been acquired by, a leader in cloud-based customer relationship management, customer service, and enterprise sales management.

Radian6′s technology for capturing brand mentions from data streams, including public user status, pages updates, and wall posts on Facebook, will be integrated into Salesforce as a result of the acquition. Radian6’s unique technology monitors hundreds of millions of conversations every day across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and online communities, delivering insights in real-time.

Radian6 will continue to operate independently and customers won’t experience any stoppage of service. The acquisition for $276 million in cash and $50 million in stock will help Salesforce upsell Radian6 clients, who include Microsoft, Comcast, and Pepsi, to packages where brand mentions can be efficiently linked to customer profiles.

Radian6 is used by more than half of the FORTUNE 100 and companies like AAA, Dell, GE, Kodak, Molson Coors, Pepsico, and UPS to monitor, analyze and engage in social media conversations. The acquisition will enhance all Salesforce products, extending the value of the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud (a Facebook monitoring tool), Chatter, and with enhanced social intelligence, and will add additional utility to the Salesforce Faceconnector app for pulling Facebook data into the platform.

Brands popular with Facebook-savvy users who’ve engaged the site’s privacy controls may be missing a lot of their mentions, but when public Facebook data is combined with monitoring of Twitter, YouTube, blogs and other social media content, it can produce a rough indication of a brand's exposure.

With the growing importance of social media, Salesforce saw the value in acessing Radian6′s data to help its clients identify potential sales targets or brewing customer service problems. Radian6′s Engagement Console, released last year, allows clients to tag specific mentions and assign employees to respond.

With the acquisition, brands looking for monitoring services to improve their marketing will have a one-stop-shop with Salesforce’s cloud hosting, sales, service, and communications products.

Notes Doug Henschen in Information Week, "Salesforce has the social-media-analysis beginnings of what could become a marketing suite. That's not just speculation. CEO Marc Benioff suggested it's a probable next direction for the company during a conference call on the acquisition. And it's a crucial step for a vendor that wants to be known as 'the enterprise cloud computing company,' not just another SaaS-based CRM vendor."

"Radian6 helped establish the social-media measurement category and has been one of the category's leading lights," says Seth Grimes, an analyst with Alta Plana. Notes Henschen, "Alterian, Attensity, Lithium, Sysomos, and Visible Technologies are among the most direct competitors to Radian6, according to Grimes, but he views broader heavyweights such as IBM, Nielsen and SAP -- vendors that offer both analytics and enterprise software capabilities -- as the competition for Radian6 as part of Salesforce." 

Concludes Henschon: "given recent forays by IT giants into the marketing arena -- with IBM buying Unica, Oracle buying Market2Lead assets, SAS buying AssetLink and Teradata buying Aprimo -- it's easy to imagine's next step might be to acquire a partner such as Marketo or Eloqua. Both offer the kind of campaign and lead management and automation capabilities that would strengthen's marketing portfolio." 

PS - Radian6 held a User Conference April 7-8. Here's a report from an attendee.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

eBay to Acquire GSI Commerce

Now here is some rather big news...

eBay has agreed to acquire for about US$2.4 billion GSI Commerce, whose suite of eCommerce and digital marketing tools and services are expected to boost eBay's online marketplace and PayPal e-payment businesses.

King of Prussia, PA-based GSI Commerce processes online payments, fulfills orders, and manages customer service for direct commerce clients such as Timberland, Kate Spade and Ralph Lauren.

eBay has offered to pay $29.25 per share and expects the deal to close in this year's third quarter, after obtaining regulatory and GSI Commerce shareholder approval, the company said on Monday. The merger consideration represents a 51 percent premium over GSI’s March 25, 2011, closing price and a 47 percent premium over the average closing price of GSI Commerce common stock over the 30 trading days prior to March 28, 2011.

GSI Commerce's products and technology "will significantly strengthen our ability to connect buyers and sellers worldwide," eBay CEO and President John Donahoe said in a statement.

A new holding company led by GSI founder and CEO Michael Rubin will absorb parts of the company eBay isn't interested in and will divest, including 100 percent of GSI's licensed sports merchandise business and 70 percent of ShopRunner and Rue La La. The holding company will receive a $467 million loan from eBay, which will retain a 30 percent stake in Rue La La and ShopRunner.

Through May 6 GSI Commerce can entertain competing acquisition proposals, and, if any surface, those will only be made public if the GSI board of directors acts on what it considers a better offer. eBay would then have a right to match the competing offer.

Demandware XChange Conference Sold Out

Demandware, Inc., a global leader in on-demand ecommerce, today kicked off its inaugural Demandware XChange Conference on a wave of strong market momentum and client revenue growth.

The sold-out Conference, being held March 29-31, 2011 at the InterContinental Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, will host more than 300 members of the global Demandware community for a super-charged idea exchange on the present and future of digital commerce.

The event takes place on the heels of another record year for Demandware in 2010 with 113 new ecommerce sites launched on the Demandware Commerce platform. In addition, Demandware clients outperformed the industry in 2010 with 34 percent average year-over-year quarterly revenue growth, more than three times that of the industry quarterly averages reported by research group comScore.

The Demandware XChange Conference is an opportunity for Demandware clients to tap into the collective talent of the Demandware community and emerge with new information, ideas and actionable strategies for taking their businesses forward and further accelerating growth. The conference features keynote presentations by leading retailers, industry experts and Demandware executives and developers who will share market insights, innovative multi-channel commerce growth strategies and important developments regarding Demandware products and services.

Guest keynote presenters include John McCarvel, CEO and President of Crocs, Inc.; Kemper Seay, Director of eCommerce, Carter's, Inc.; Mike Willoughby, President of PFSweb; and Brian Walker, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research. Attendees can also choose from more than 20 breakout sessions on various business and technical topics ranging from social commerce to Web APIs to international expansion.

“We are delighted to host our clients and partners in Boston for our inaugural conference,” said Tom Ebling, CEO of Demandware. “Our business model, partner ecosystem, and close client relationships all contribute to our spirit of collaboration and innovation. We are excited and confident that this event will mark a point of acceleration for all of us, as we look beyond just eCommerce to enabling retailers to provide branded experiences across all consumer touch points, including social networks, mobile, call centers and stores.”

A summary of major developments and accomplishments for Demandware in 2010 include:
  • 113 new ecommerce sites launched on the Demandware Commerce platform, including 72 sites in North America and 41 in Europe and Asia
  • New client relationships encompassing more than 65 retail and consumer brands across apparel, consumer goods, health and beauty, and luxury industries
  • 34 percent year-over-year average quarterly revenue growth across Demandware clients
  • More than 40 new product features and enhancements delivered automatically to all clients
  • The launch of Demandware LINK, a partner community providing Demandware clients with pre-built integrations to leading third-party technologies. Since launching in April 2010, Demandware LINK integrations have been shown to reduce the cost and complexity of ecommerce integrations by 75% as compared to enterprise license applications.
  • 99.98 percent platform availability, not including scheduled maintenance
  • Expansion of U.S. headquarters to new offices with 31,000 square feet of space in Burlington, Massachusetts
  • Expansion of European sales operations with new offices in Paris, France and Utrecht, The Netherlands, in addition to existing offices in Jena, Germany
  • Recognition by industry analysts as the leading on-demand ecommerce platform

Sunday, March 20, 2011

States, Alliance Target Amazon on Sales Tax Law

Big box stores like Walmart and Target are backing a group called Alliance for Main Street Fairness, which is spearheading efforts to change sales-tax laws in over a dozen states, including Texas and California. Originally organized by mom-and-pop stores, the Alliance now has the backing of Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy Co., Home Depot Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp.

Their biggest strawman enemy is Amazon, which they characterize as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the 1992 Supreme Court decision, Quill v. North Dakota, which ruled that retailers are exempt from collecting sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence, or "nexus," such as a store, office, or warehouse. This has been the law of the land for nearly two decades now, so it is really the Alliance that is causing the fuss, not Amazon. And of course states, heavily in the red, are desperate for any new source of revenue they can conjure. (We should note that consumers are technically required to file a "use tax" payment in lieu of sales taxes when they make purchases from eCommerce companies without a nexus in the state; don't hold your breath waiting for states to try to enforce that "flip side" of the Supreme Court decision...).

Last October, Texas sent a $269 million bill to Amazon for four years’ worth of taxes, citing Amazon’s Texas warehouse, which is owned by a subsidiary (presumably one that is independent of the parent company). In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley is reconsidering an arrangement by her predecessor to allow Amazon to set up a warehouse in the state but exempt it from collecting sales taxes. After all, the wage taxes paid by employees is a major incentive to the state to forego the sales tax revenue.

Last week, Illinois passed a law forcing online retailers to collect sales tax if they have local affiliates in the state. New York, Rhode Island and North Carolina have adopted similar laws, and New Mexico, Minnesota and Vermont are considering such legislation. After Amazon threatened to terminate its affiliate programs in California and Hawaii, governors in both states vetoed similar bills. The California Legislature is trying again.

Amazon is standing firm, saying it will terminate relationships with affiliates in states that pass laws that contradict Quill V. North Dakota. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Volusion Affiliate Program

Volusion, one of the more successful and feature-rich eCommerce platforms, currently has more than 20,000 online business owners using it for their online store (including the likes of Disney, 3M, Motorola, and National Geographic). To encourage even more users on their new Vers. 11, the company has set up an Affiliate referral program that offers commissions on referrals to this very affordable platform. For more information, contact Radhika Roy at 800-646-3517 ext 734 or Radhika_Roy(at)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Demandware Extends Product Content Management Capabilities for Multi-Channel Retailers

Demandware, Inc., a leader in on-demand eCommerce, has announced new enhanced product content management capabilities in the Demandware Commerce platform that will make it easier for merchants to prepare and deliver product information and branded consumer experiences across multiple channels, applications and devices. 

The new functionality, available in the Spring 11 release of Demandware Commerce, lets retailers centrally manage large product catalogs and dynamic images across multiple product catalogs, eCommerce sites and channels, including call center, mobile and store.

According to Demandware, this centralized control significantly increases the accuracy and efficiency of synchronizing product data across channels. In addition, all Demandware clients will receive new functionality in the summer 2011 timeframe that will further redefine how merchants manage product information through the use of personal dashboards, work queues, and a flexible collaboration framework for preparing and publishing information that meets each retailer's unique processes and requirements.

Delivering relevant, on-brand product content is critical to retaining today's Web-centric multi-channel consumer, according to a study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Demandware in February 2011, which found that 67 percent of consumers who are dissatisfied with a shopping experience online will have an overall negative perception of the retailer, and 72 percent of consumers will relay the bad online shopping experience to friends.

The new enhanced product content management functionality in Demandware Commerce supports Demandware's corporate initiative of expanding beyond eCommerce to "digital commerce management," a unified solution that enables retailers to manage all direct-to-consumer processes from a single web platform. For retailers and high-growth brands, digital commerce management eliminates the complexity of integrating multiple technologies and enables personalized, branded consumer experiences across all consumer touch points, including eCommerce, social networks, mobile commerce, call centers, and stores.

New and Enhanced Multi-Channel Product Content Management

Building on the extensive product content management capabilities already in Demandware Commerce, the Spring 11 release now includes:

Enhanced Product and Catalog Management: The new features provide greater efficiency and control over the development, management and syndication of critical product content, including bulk product editing for product pricing; advanced search behavior to find and edit products, catalog inheritance, site and channel-specific product attribution, and enhanced roles and responsibilities to better manage content.

New Dynamic Image Management: Demandware's new image service enables the dynamic resizing of images from a single high resolution master image for use across every channel and end-user device. This eliminates the need to maintain multiple sizes, types and qualities of single images, resulting in considerable efficiencies and cost savings for image management. This service supports scaling an image, cutting or cropping an area from a larger image, overlaying another image for promotional purposes and sharpening as an optional step before the final image is generated, along with multiple output formats and qualities.

New Merchant Collaboration Framework for Developing and Delivering Multi-Channel Product Content

In the summer 2011 timeframe, Demandware will automatically upgrade all clients to new collaborative content management capabilities that transform how web merchants manage the day-to-day tasks of development, review and delivery of product content across channels. Moving far beyond today's workflow-based solutions, these new capabilities will empower merchants to manage product content for multiple commerce channels easily from one central environment and syndicate that content across all channels, applications and devices. The following new functionality will be available to clients through Demandware's automatic upgrade process.

Personal Dashboards: Each user will be able to control her own unique work environment with real-time access to common product or catalog lists, active and streaming top-selling items, promotional calendars, revenue reports and more. Users will be able to configure the dashboards to ensure a work environment that allows daily tasks to be performed faster.

Flexible Work Queues: Users will be able to create daily task lists to manage workload efficiency. Merchandisers will be able to create dynamic and static product lists to bulk edit, review and publish across multiple sites, in multiple languages and via multiple channels. As a merchandiser works through the queue, completed tasks flow out of the queue and into the next phase of the process.  Unlike rigid approval workflows, the work queues are flexible and will accommodate the unique needs of retailers of different sizes and  sophistication.

Cross-Team Collaboration: Merchandisers will be able to collaborate easily with other team members by sharing existing static and dynamic work queues across the organization. Team members will be able to collaborate on common tasks, view progress reports and easily educate one another across web, store and service teams.

"Great consumer experiences are built upon rich and complete product content that's relevant to the consumer and on-mark for the brand. With this latest release, our clients now have the ability to reach deeper into their organizations for product information, collaborate more effectively across teams and deliver to consumers shopping experiences as rich as the brand itself," said Jamus Driscoll, vice president of marketing for Demandware.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

DemandTec to Acquire M-Factor

DemandTec, "the Collaborative Optimization Network for Retailers and Consumer Product Companies" and provider of retail planning software and analytical services, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held M-Factor, a provider of predictive analytics software for marketing mix and trade investment spending.

This transaction has been approved by DemandTec's board of directors and is subject to customary closing conditions.

Through this acquisition, DemandTec's hopes to establish a more collaborative approach to marketing and trade planning to help consumer products companies better and more strategically manage marketing investments, trade strategies, pricing, assortment, and promotion plans in a way that more effectively addresses changing market conditions, consumer buying trends, and optimization of marketing funds between social media and advertising vehicles.

See also DemandTec Acquires Assets of Applied Intelligence Solutions.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Merchants Prefer mCommece Sites to Apps

Speaking on March 2 at the NEMOA Spring Conference in Boston, Bernardine Wu, founder/CEO of ecommerce consultancy FitForCommerce, said that merchants are approaching Mobile Commerce with mCommerce optimized Websites rather than SmartPhone apps, according to Multichannel Merchant magazine.

Maintaining a single mCommerce site is easier than setting up apps for multiple phone types, and "app saturation" makes the likelihood of a consumer downloading yet another app less likely, Wu suggests. Apps are useful, however, if a merchant has a specific reason for it, such as offering a game, a configuration tool, or some kind of entertainment.

Facebook Comments Box Feed on 3rd-Party Sites

Facebook has announced an update to its Comments Box plug-in that allows third-party Websites to add Facebook’s comment boards to their own pages via a single line of code. The feature uses “social signals” to  more prominently display comments posted by the consumer’s Facebook friends or friends of friends as well as the most popular or active discussion threads. (Facebook says it will hide comments marked as spam.)

Facebook’s default setting will also post discussions started on third-party sites on the commenter's Facebook wall if the consumer is logged onto Facebook. The commenter’s friends will see the post on their news feeds that shows the comment, and the post will include a link to the site where the original consumer posted the comment.

Click HERE for a very detailed explanation of this new feature on the MSNBC website.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

MyBuys Announces Free Mobile Platform Challenge

MyBuys, a leading provider of personalization for multi-channel retailers, direct brands, and digital agencies, has announced the MyBuys Mobile Challenge, which lets retailers test the performance of their mobile platform for free.

MyBuys will invest the costs and consulting needed to create a fully optimized, personalized Mobile Website to test head-to-head against any current mobile eCommerce site. If the MyBuys Mobile site doesn't perform better, no fees are charged for implementing the site test.

MyBuys Mobile uses real-time analysis of customer online behavior to personalize the shopping experience for every individual across the most popular mobile devices, including iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and iPad.

"In 2010, consumers purchased more than $3.2 billion in goods through the mobile channel-almost two and a half times the level of 2009," said Robert Cell, CEO MyBuys. "Yet, 85% of retailers have not yet created a mobile site. MyBuys is the only company to utilize Personalized Navigation, as consumers do not want to type search queries nor drill down endless categories to find things on their phones. Consumers will go to the best site that predicts what they want. MyBuys Mobile has increased mobile revenue by over 100% in every implementation thus far. We are so confident that the MyBuys' Mobile Challenge will prove to retailers that personalization is the key to improved performance and results that we are willing to put our money where our marketing is."

For details on the MyBuys Mobile Challenge, go to
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