About Jack Cieslak
Jack Cieslak has written 281 articles so far, you can find them below.
Jack Cieslak grew up in New York State where he attended the New School, emerging with a degree in Creative Writing. Seattle drew him in with its focus on personal health and fitness, as well as the environment, and of course the great weather. Three-thousand miles later he is all dug in and ready to throw himself wholeheartedly into writing of all types - including reporting new developments in e-commerce, and places where social media and e-commerce cross paths. Jack revels in a challenge, whether it's writing, running, or lifting heavy objects - Jack says "bring it."
September 12, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
"His Master's Voice"
HMV, a British entertainment media company whose name stands for “His Master’s Voice” (more about that later) has appointed Mark Hodgkinson to head up its ecommerce solution department and marketing efforts. Late of Asda (a British supermarket chain), Hodgkinson actually served as EMI’s (Electrical & Musical Industries) president of business development and executive vice president of global marketing and digital. This combined background in digital music and global marketing makes him uniquely well-qualified to helm HMV’s ecommerce solution and help the entertainment retailer diversify their revenue sources in this ever-changing digital age.
Hodgkinson fills the space left by Steve Napleton, who previously headed up their online sales department. He left HMV for Penguin, taking his years of ecommerce knowledge with him. Hodgkinson will need to act quickly to help HMV counter their eroding sales, which have been steadily slipping in recent years. The company lost another 15% in “like for like” sales for the 18 week period ending September 3rd. Total retail sales were down almost 22%, however, this was offset somewhat by the significant uptick in sales that their new fleet of stores, called “Fast Forward.”
HMV Fast Forward stores represent a new format-change experiment for the venerable music and entertainment retailer. These stores dedicate about 25% of their floorspace to high tech gadgets like tablet computers, iPods, and smartphones. These products tend to be high-value and convert well, a lesson they can take to heart on their ecommerce solution as well. Position pieces that are likely to sell where customers can see them, collect information, and effortlessly put them in their shopping carts is a proven key to sales.
Even as HMV moves to change their stores to reflect the increased sales at these new-format stores, how Hodgkinson will increase sales on their ecommerce solution has yet to be seen. As previously mentioned – he’ll need to work fast. He doesn’t even take the job for another month, entering his new position on October fifth. He won’t have much time to get the site ready for the busiest shopping period of the entire year. The phrase “Black Friday,” isn’t just a catchy name for the Friday after Thanksgiving, it got that name because so many stores finally went from “in the red” (not making enough money) to “in the black” (clearing a profit) for the year. If HMV isn’t poised for success on Black Friday (still a big shopping day, even at home!) and Cyber Monday (the following Monday where everyone messes around on their computers shopping from work instead of, you know, working…) then HMV could find themselves ending the year in the red.
HMV is one of the oldest music retailers in the UK. The name actually stands for “His Master’s Voice,” which is a painting of a dog listening rather, with a rather quizzical expression on its face, to a gramophone, which is apparently playing a recording of his master’s voice. The familiar sound coming from a strange invention is obviously perplexing to the animal, and serves as a poignant reminder of the changes that technology brings about in the world as it marches forward continually. While humans adapt to different technology, paintings like this, showing how animals interact with that same technology, can serve as reminders of a simpler time. Unfortunately for HMV, the gramophone days are over, and now they’ll have to evolve or die in the changing brick and mortar and ecommerce solution marketplaces.
September 12, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
PixelMags is an online publishing powerhouse that specializes in taking your magazine or catalog for you ecommerce solution and bringing it into the 21st Century. They can help you add other media, interaction, and other advanced features to what used to be a static document. Keeping things fluid and dynamic is the name of the game for online publications and ecommerce solutions alike. We were lucky enough to sit down with Ryan Marquis, co-founder and COO of PixelMags:
So right off the bat, let’s get into this. PixelMags is unique in that you provide a powerful service for two very different groups: retailers who want fully-featured catalog apps for their businesses, and also publishers who want sleek, functional, sharp-looking publications (I’ve got that right, right?). Can you talk a little bit about the processes that your team employs when serving these two different groups, or are they more similar than one might initially think?
They are as similar as they are different in terms of magazines and catalog clients, depending on what the publisher/client is looking for. Most clients that we have worked with haven’t evolved into what we call “interactive tablet content.” This means building an HTML5 catalog, or by using a provider such as Adobe or WoodWing. A majority of publishers are sticking to the standard PDF format, and producing a replica catalog. Where we come into play with that is we take the PDF, and with our CDS (content delivery software) tool kit, we make these PDFs into fully interactive catalogs.
We like to call the tool kit we have developed “unlimited.” Clients can have videos, slide shows, catalogs, links, 360-degree product rotation and so forth. Some of the catalogs that are utilizing these features are Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, FrontGate and LampsPlus. All of our catalogs have utilized our white label solution, which is basically saying that our logo and name are taken out of the application to make it appear is if the magazine or catalog themselves made the application out of their own office. It gives the publisher all of the identity, giving the consumer more confidence to shop and buy.
We have also integrated the catalog ecommerce system, which allows people to shop and purchase products right from the application. I am not going to put any numbers out, but Pottery Barn has seen a rise in sales and has seen millions of dollars in increased revenue. You can touch a couch on the interactive catalog, read more about it, and decide if you want to buy it without ever leaving the application.
When it comes to magazine publishers, a lot of those same features are available and have been utilized by using our CDS tool kit. Being able to pull videos from YouTube is a great feature that allows readers to take the reading experience farther than before. Of course, all of our apps are compliant with Apple’s new polices for iOS5 and the upcoming Newsstand. With all the features of auto-renew subscription SKU’s, background downloading and other specifications. We put a press release out announcing this recently in August.
Magazines present their material differently than catalogers. Magazine publishers I would say are little more adventurous than others as far as trying new interactive content. That is one of the unique things about PixelMags compared to any of the providers in our space. We have designed our approach to be a digital distribution company. When I say that, I mean publishers have the choice to upload any form of content they wish. They can start with a PDF, and three months down the line they can transfer over to Adobe. Using the PixelMags destruction platform for a publisher, it allows them to start with a PDF and evolve into interactive content, meaning Adobe, WoodWing or even HTML5. Our reader within our application accepts all forms of input, which is very critical for both publisher and consumer.
We are the only provider in our space that is currently offering this evolution process. Typically, if you have been live for a year, and you try to switch from PDF to WoodWing or HTML5, you are not going to be able to just substitute one format to the other. You would have to shutdown that application completely, build an entirely new application, and then try converting the consumers that you already have to your new application. It is not an easy process, and it can have very big consequences. With our platform and distribution model, we have alleviated that nightmare of having a consumer transfer, making the process seamless.
Who are some retail clients that you’ve found it particularly interesting to work with?
Pottery Barn has been great to work with. LampsPlus is a great client, and they are doing a lot of innovative stuff, both with their digital content and even in their store. We also offer a web-based reader for our clients, where consumers can read their catalog on a website, like a page flipper. What’s unique about our platform is that whatever a publisher creates in our CDS tool kit will automatically upload to the application and onto their web base version too. They create in one location, and they can distribute it to multiple outlets. With LampsPlus, we have built a kiosk for them. So when consumers go into their store, and they do not have an iPad with them, they will be able to go to a kiosk in the store and be able to view the same interactive content on a web based kiosk that we developed for their iPad. Once again, Pottery Barn is great, Restoration Hardware is great, FrontGate is great, and same with LampsPlus. All great clients to work with as far as retail clients go.
How was the integration with Apple Newsstand? What have your customers been saying since you brought your services to that platform?
They have all been pretty ecstatic about it actually. We have a couple hundred clients now, and it’s a very big transition. We are focusing on the bigger clients right now, like Hearst UK and other ones to help integrate into Apple Newsstand. There is a lot of confusion though on Apple Newsstand. A lot of people actually think its an application, when in essence it’s a folder that is going to aggregate auto-renew subscription SKU’s and organize your magazine subscription. We have been working with Apple now for almost three years, and recently working more closely than before, making sure that we are doing everything right for when the Newsstand launches.
But beyond Apple – your website says “Android coming soon.” The Android OS is growing crazy-fast. I know that you and your team decided to focus on the iPad and iPhone because they are such well-designed devices and use such similar operating systems (I actually read a previous interview where you talked about the complexity of writing what is essentially two different apps in one). Android has some problems in that arena: a million different devices, different versions of the OS running all over the place, etc. How are you and the team dealing with that?
Great question. Android OS is growing very rapidly, and we are getting a ton of inquires from publishers about consumers wanting the app and magazine to be available to them on the Android. You have to take a step back though, which is what we have done, and evaluate the space. To develop on Apple, Android, Blackberry or any other OS system for tablets and smart phones out there, you need to know the install base, (how many consumers have this installed) and also the user experience. Android is an open source OS that tablet manufactures no matter if you are Samsung or some random developer out of China, can run and install this OS on their tablet device. As a digital distributor, I can go to China tomorrow, have a tablet built with Android OS running on it in a few weeks. Does that mean I am going to have a big install base or quality tablet? So getting back to the question, we are focusing on Android, but we are going to developing Android OS that running 3.0 or higher, like Honeycomb, and will narrow it done to specific tablets. We will use tablets with a good consumer adoption rate and a good quality name behind it. The Samsung Galaxy tablet and Motorola zoom are the first two tablets in that market that we are going to focus on.
Speaking of the team, how big is your group, all offices included? How quickly have you had to grow? What advice can you give our readers about adding new members to your team?
We have offices in the US, UK and in the South Pacific. In the US, we have ten employees. In the United Kingdom we have 13 employees, and three people in New Zealand and Australia. We have had to grow very quickly. The company is still relatively young, we are almost three years old. It has grown from my partner Mark and I to 26 employees now.
The advice I can give to readers about adding new members to our team, or in this industry in general is that we are always looking for good people. When we interview people, we go off their work and their work history. We don’t really focus on where someone went to school; we choose to focus on performance. You need to have a strong digital background, and be on top of what is going on in our industry, especially in the tablet world. We are currently looking for Java script developers, iOS developers and Android developers.
What has been one challenge that you and the team have had to overcome that gave you all a huge sense of accomplishment? How did you do it? What was so significant about the challenge? What did you all learn through the experience?
The biggest challenge in this space is the iOS platform. When we first started the business, it was just my partner Mark and I. Our biggest challenge, to be honest and totally upfront, was just starting the business. It took us nine and half months to get our initial software application developed and approved by Apple. We probably went back and forth with Apple with dozens of revisions of how our database works with the Apple infrastructure, and how a new issue is delivered, and how notifications are delivered. Setting up the whole infrastructure, the whole content delivery network was a challenge. We actually use Amazon as our delivery method. So when someone clicks download on an application, that content is actually streamed from Amazon’s cloud streaming network. There were a lot of different pieces that had to be put together. The biggest challenge was to build the initial platform, and the ongoing challenge is of course, maintenance, and adhering to Apple’s new regulations, especially when a new OS launches. Through this process we have learned how to work hard and how to drink a heck of a lot of Redbull!
September 6, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Having high-quality videos on your ecommerce solution can be a great way to increase conversions, get picked up in Google searches, boost SEO, and just add value to your site. However, what service to use can sometimes be tricky. YouTube is the biggest video-sharing website on the net, so for most entrepreneurs, that’s their go-to spot. Many ecommerce software packages have video hosting capabilities, but may not be optimized for search or ease of use. Plus they eat into your bandwidth, which, if you are running your store well, you should need all of to facilitate product, page views, and other user traffic.
So what is an ecommerce solution owner to do? Well, Vimeo suggests using their new “Pro” service. Vimeo is smaller online video sharing service than YouTube, but it has its own tight-knit community. Think of it as quality over quantity. Whereas YouTube has tons of users, Vimeo finds that their users are more likely to interact in more meaningful ways.
The service already had a “Plus” feature with an annual subscription fee with a number of expanded features. For starters, Plus users can upload higher quality videos than the Basic members (who already have pretty decent stats). They also get ten times the uploading space per week, unlimited HD uploads and embeds, and much more.
Vimeo Pro, however, goes beyond these features and is customized for ecommerce solutions and other online entrepreneurs. Billing it as “the best service in the Universe” (quite a boast!), probably one of the most useful features for the entrepreneur would have to be the branded video player. Users can customize their video player to match their product and corporate branding, keeping their look and feel uniform and adding to that visual brand recognition that users find so inviting.
Their “Portfolios” option allows businesses to create standalone websites filled with their videos to promote their products, services, or website. No coding is necessary, there are plenty of themes to choose from to match your ecommerce solution, and there’s no Vimeo branding at all. You can even take advantage of custom domains and built-in video SEO functionality.
Using the right tags with your videos is a key to boosting your SEO efforts. Getting your videos attention in the Vimeo community is also important. While Vimeo originally had safeguards in place to prevent people from selling on their non-ecommerce service, now they are willing to let art and commerce mingle, but only if you get a Community Pass that will allow business-specific videos cross over into the larger pool of the community.
With all these expanded features, Vimeo could be just the video-hosting service that you’ve been looking for. If your goal is to increase your site’s video presence online, drive SEO efforts, and drive conversions, then this could be the service for you.
September 5, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
The digital age has brought about many changes. Products that were usually only available in stores are available on ecommerce solutions. Items like books and CDs, which were previously only available in physical form, can now be wirelessly downloaded from remote servers and ecommerce software platforms. The retailers who previously sold these now-digital products have had to adapt or die. Even videogames have been impacted, and brick-and-mortar retailers like GameStop have had to step up their online efforts and diversify their holdings in order to remain competitive in the fluid world of the net.
Another market that has been affected by shifts to the digital has been comic books. We’ve covered different comic book ecommerce solutions before, along with which companies have “gone digital” the fastest, and how effective their efforts have been. DC Comics is the latest comic book publisher to make news in the industry, for a couple of reasons.
First off: the big story – “Day and Date Digital.” In case it wasn’t apparent enough by the name, “Day and Date Digital” means that digital comics are available on DC’s ecommerce solution for purchase on the same day that they come out in the comic book stores in printed form. There are several reasons why this is good – for DC, for comics fans, etc.
It represents progress. Information is information. If your ecommerce solution deals in digital products, then you already know this. You have the option of offering your customers hard copies or digital ones. Digital information can be downloaded quickly (almost instantly in many cases) and from almost any location. Tablets are struggling to find a foothold – they are really a “luxury” device: not as hard-working and functional as a laptop, but more useful and full-featured than a smartphone or other handheld device. However, as far as eBooks and other types of online media go, tablets and ereaders (like the Kindle and Nook, among others) are making them increasingly available and increasingly profitable. Amazon’s sales of ebooks on their ecommerce solution have steadily climbed, outpacing hardcover books, then paperbacks, then all books entirely!
DC shifting its digital comics towards full parity with print versions is the natural progression of the publishing world’s increasing integration with the digital. All books (and comics) these days, become digital at some point in their lives, before publication. Offering them for sale digitally at the same time that they are available in print just makes sense. It doesn’t cost anything extra, considering that they are already digital to begin with, and makes them available to a wider audience right away.
Younger readers who haven’t grown up with the nostalgia of printed comics, but who do read media on digital devices (tablets, etc.) may find this an opportunity to jup into the grownup world of comics. Grownups with tablets and other digital gear who want to de-clutter their lives, and stay current with the latest issues of their favorite characters may also take advantage of the new releases.
Last but not least, the news that DC comics new titles will be available in digital form on the same day as their printed editions is conveniently timed with their company-wide “reboot” of their continuity. That’s right – all the classic characters have all new comics, costumes, backstories, but keeping the most important parts of their core characterizations. Who knows how popular this will prove (comic book nerds are notorious for their hatred of change), but one thing is for certain: the “day and date” availability of all new titles on DC’s ecommerce solutions opens doors for the company that have never been opened before (I wonder if they needed a giant golden key).
August 31, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
This school year more than any other, it’s all about textbook rentals. A variety of new options have sprung up in recent months, and they are poised to take advantage of the new school year and the huge numbers of students flocking back to schools who are feeling a bit light in the pocket. With the economy in the shape that it’s in, the rise of lower-cost options, be they brick and mortar stores, ecommerce solutions, or a combination of both, is not surprising.
First on the docket is Follet textbook group. They recently doubled the size of their textbook rental system and rolled out smarter electronic textbooks equipped with their new “CafeScribe” technology. Like most textbook rental services, books rented through Follet are about half the price of buying new, and come with a variety of loan periods. However, unlike a lot of textbook rental ecommerce solutions, Follet has their own network of real world bookstores that they manage in the US and also a lineup of Canadian partners. The expansion of rental services comes at a critical time, says Tom Christopher, President of Follett Higher Education Group:
“Student loans are now the largest category of unsecured debt in America, even surpassing credit cards. To help reduce the costs associated with higher education, we’re focused on delivering a spectrum of affordable choices so every student can be successful in the classroom.”
Having their own stores adds a new wrinkle to the textbook rental game, but it’s one that campus bookstores have been adapting to, even as the tech world seemed to get the drop on them. Campus bookstores have been dying a slow death for years. The rise on ecommerce solutions selling new and used textbooks for anything from literature books to CPA school textbooks at deep discounts was something that the old fashioned stores just could compete with. Now they are getting into the textbook rental game themselves, offering reduced price rentals on the same books that online competitors are pushing. The added convenience of getting these books right from their campus bookstore might be enough to shift some users aware from online ecommerce solutions and back into stores.
Additionally there are mixed-application textbook rental offerings. BookRenter.com, for instance, has their own ecommerce solution that connects students with textbook providers and ships the books out at huge savings. However, BookRenter also has deals in place with a number of campus bookstores where the store serves as the pickup point for the student. Everybody wins: the student saves money and the campus bookstore earns money that they might otherwise have lost. Chegg also has options allowing for bookstore involvement.
Electronic textbooks and temporary electronic textbook rentals are also part of this new frontier in the education world. Follet and Amazon both offer electronic textbook downloads through their ecommerce solutions. Different rates and lengths of time are negotiable, and most textbooks are viewable on a variety of platforms: iOS, Android, tablets, PCs, Macs, cybernetic implant – you name it. Follet’s new “CafeScribe” technology makes it easy for users to highlight passages and take notes. They can also do that with any etextbook rented through Amazon – who also allows them to recall those notes and highlighted passages even once the book has been returned.
Highlighting and making notes in the margins has been a staple of the college textbook game for years. While many people would think that highlighting and writing in rented textbooks is a no-no, BookRenter is finding success in letting their renters do just that. Chegg allows renters to highlight, but not write. Either way, there’s a lot of disruption going on in the textbook world!
August 30, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Adyen, a leader in international payment processing for ecommerce solutions and other businesses has announced a partnership with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The deal will extend a new suite of services to SVB client companies that will improve their ability to accept payments in different countries around the world, using a variety of currencies and payment platforms. Many ecommerce solutions and other online businesses begin selling international even when they are just getting established. Dominating a domestic market is no longer a requisite before moving out into the larger world – it’s not even a requirement at all. Companies can compete on a global scale and bring in diversified profits from around the world without ever becoming the top dog in their own countries.
SVB brings to the table their “Global Treasury Platform,” a service that allows companies selling goods via an international ecommerce solution to collect payments in many different currencies. Those payments can be deposited automatically in an SVB mulit-currency account, or to an in-country account. Adyen brings their ability to process international credit card payments. Their network of connections and security certifications makes them uniquely well-suited to providing the kind of support that SVB partners need. Teaming up with an industry leader like SVB helps broaden Adyen’s already significant reach.
Many of SVB’s business partners come from high tech, science, cleantech, and venture capital fields. The provide not only financial services, but networking connections and deep industry expertise to help their clients maximize their return on investment. They have 26 US offices and also do business through seven “international operations.”
Specializing in online payments for ecommerce solutions, Adyen is a payments powerhouse for small, medium, and even large businesses who need to know that their financial information will be handled safely and efficiently. This is a natural fit, as many of SVB’s clients do business internationally. Derrick Morton, CEO of FlowPlay, an online causal gaming site, had this to say:
“Almost half of our business is outside the US. In order to maximize international revenue, it’s important that we transact in the local currency and payment methods. Adyen has an incredible system for managing our complex currency and pricing matrix and with SVB’s international presence we are able to make local deposits of these foreign currencies.”
A casual, social, or mobile gaming business makes perfect sense to team up with a credit card payment processing partner like Adyen. Many “freemium” games are free to play, but feature in-game shopping carts to allow to buy power ups and extra items and pay for them with real money. Credit cards are the payment method of choice when using these ecommerce solutions. Adyen CEO Peter Caparso, whom we recently interviewed here at ZippyCart, said this about the partnership:
“By accepting convenient, international payments, retailers have the opportunity to create new revenue streams overseas. With SVB and Adyen services, our clients can now accelerate customer payments, minimize chargebacks, help ensure PCI compliance, and mitigate fraud and risk.”
August 29, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
If you’ve ever set up an ecommerce solution or have been thinking about just adding a shopping cart to your existing website, then you’ve probably looked into a variety of ecommerce software packages. CoreCommerce has been on our list of top ecommerce software companies for a long time, but they recently took a step to set themselves apart from the crowd: an unlimited free trial period (This has changed – CoreCommerce now is offering a free 30-day trial).
The way that most ecommerce software systems work is pretty simple and pretty common across the board. You do some research, maybe read some reviews, then sign up for the package that looks right for you at the company you like. Usually you get two weeks to familiarize yourself with the software and get your store set up. Now, depending on the type of store you want to set up, how many products you have, and how much time you have to dedicate to your store every day (among many other factors), two weeks might not be enough time for you to get all set up and/or decide if this is the right ecommerce software platform for you.
While most hosted ecommerce solutions work roughly the same way: tiered pricing based on bandwidth, sometimes charging a transaction fee, and of course, offering free trials, there are a few that deviate from this model. While CoreCommerce is the only one with an unlimited free trial, some other ecommerce software platforms offer a thirty day free trial for a nominal fee of something in the neighborhood of 3 or 4 dollars.
Many modern ecommerce solutions are remarkably easy to set up and get started selling online. A huge industry has sprung up around allowing anyone to sell over the internet. Emerging companies like Jumio have even rolled out products that allow users to turn their WordPress site into an online store. Even with all this ease of use, it comes down to the old adage “easy to learn, hard to master.” Fine tuning an online store until it looks and functions just the way you want can be a time consuming project, especially if your online business isn’t your only priority. With the CoreCommerce unlimited free trial, you can spend as long as you want tinkering with your online store in “closed” mode, until opening it up for business – at which point you pick a payment plan and enter your financial details. Before that point – no money down.
A good number of online entrepreneurs find themselves balancing their online store, family, other work commitments, and maybe even a social life! With all this going on, having more time to familiarize yourself with CoreCommerce’s many features could be the difference between a site that looks “okay,” and one that looks great!
And there are certainly enough features to get acquainted with. Just about two weeks ago CoreCommerce announced the unveiling of a whole array of new features designed to make their customer’s stores look and perform at a higher level than ever before. New storefront designs, complete with “hero images” to make products look as attractive as possible, allow for better appearance customization.
Users also have the ability to promote a “Deal of the Day.” Given the current craze for daily deals, this could be a huge motivator to get online sellers onto the CoreCommerce team, and help those sellers move even more products. Enhanced page load times assure that when all those customers come pouring in, the system will be able to accommodate all their orders. It’s a whole new ball game with CoreCommerce’s new ecommerce software features and extended trial period.
August 26, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
We always love it when we get a chance to sit down with a dedicated ecommerce professional and get some inside insight on their unique part of the ecommerce world. This week we’re lucky enough to have Peter Caparso, President North America for Adyen, an electronic payment solution.
You started as “President North America” for Adyen about three years ago. How did that come about? What about Adyen attracted you?
I first entered into the payments world back in 2003 when I joined Bibit, a Dutch global payment company. Bibit had come up with a strategy of connecting into local major acquirers around the world to allow them to offer localized payment methods at a minimal cost. Bibit was very successful on executing on this strategy and was eventually 100% acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland. At RBS I headed up the global ecommerce sales and account management for the card not present division for the U.S. From these experiences, I culled from merchant interactions how payment solutions needed to be more “merchant friendly” and flexible. Merchants wanted a real-time, transparent and user friendly service that did not put them indentured for multiple years. In the spring of 2008, I was attending a conference in Brussels and ran into some of the former founders of Bibit. An invitation to have a cup of coffee resulted in a four hour discussion regarding what is missing in today’s ecommerce solutions and what would make merchants selling efforts easier. In essence, Adyen embraces that philosophy while being disruptive to the legacy providers. The fact that Adyen has a significant amount of former Bibit employees working there (and the infectious can-do spirit) it was an easy decision for me to sign on board.
What are some landmarks from your time so far that you are especially proud of?
Helping our rapidly growing international customer base with innovative ways to augment and enhance their online payment process while in parallel working to maximize their online conversion rates. In parallel, opening new markets rapidly (South America and Asia) to serve merchants’ needs while actively building out the U.S. operations.
There’s a lot of goldfish imagery on the Adyen website. What’s the deal with that? For me it seems to say, “Hey, it’s safe in your little bowl, but if you want to compete in the larger world, then you need to get out of there, and we can help you.” Am I reading too much into this?
You are spot on! In today’s payment arena, often it is the merchant that is placed in a contained space, confined by legacy platforms and crude reporting mechanisms. If you have the courage to jump out of your comfort space, you can discover a whole new world of capabilities out there. This is the spirit of Adyen, a tech company that happens to play in the payment space.
Adyen seems to have a lot of certifications (Visa, MasterCard, PCI-DSS Global, etc.). What do these certifications mean for businesses that partner with you?
These are the important certifications that give our customers the safety, protection and options in their payment offerings. Adyen strives to have the right compliance in place so that our merchants can focus on their core business. For example, “Verified by Visa” means we offer a password-protected identity-checking service that takes the risk out of online retail for merchants and for their customers. Merchants get protection from fraudulent transactions and the costs associated with it and their customers get the reassurance they need to spend with confidence. Adyen supports Verified by Visa for all merchants. Another common one is MasterCard SecureCode which is a simple and secure way to protect transactions. Adyen supports MasterCard SecureCode for all customers.
The most important is being PCI-DSS certified. We host this important compliance for our clients if they opt into this service. PCI is a credit card standard for data security, aimed at preventing credit card fraud, cracking and various other security threats. Every company handling credit card data has to comply with certain levels of the PCI standard. Adyen is fully PCI certified by Trustwave.
Earlier this year, Adyen was granted a Payment Services Directive (PSD) license. This is a very exciting certification for us as it is an EU regulation designed to ensure that payment companies follow a very strict set of processing rules and confirms our commitment to be fully compliant and up to code on present requirements.
You are based in Boston, but it looks like you have staff in other places. How does the international nature of the company impact you personally, and North American operations in general?
Our multiple locations complement each other well. The breadth of our team in the Netherlands provides U.S. customers the capability to get up-and-running quickly and offer an expansive amount of payment methods all over the world. In parallel, we have local staff in Brazil, Singapore, Germany and France as well as our two locations in the U.S. Our payment platform currently encompasses a portfolio of over 75 different types of payment methods in the U.S., South America, Western and Central Europe, Russia, South Africa, Israel, and Asia. We continue to add new payment methods every month and with one of our key strategic accounts helped place them into 20 new markets in the past six months. At the same time, the U.S. presence has provided Adyen with big name customers that include, but are not limited to, ShoeDazzle, Getty Images, PopCap Games, and so on.
Do you have a number one business tip for our readers regarding ecommerce, online and mobile payments, or anything of that nature?
Over the past years we have seen many changes in the international payments industry – more and more regulation around data security, the rise and fall of various alternative payment methods and ongoing developments around the authentication of credit card payments. These developments require you to continuously review and adapt the way you accept payments from your customers. Outsource as much as you can to alleviate unnecessary disputes or breaks in your business.
Also, always remain focused on maximizing conversion. Adyen considers payments to be an integral part of the customer experience. Payment pages should be easy to use, seamlessly integrated into your site and branding and optimized per market and device for highest conversion.
Lastly, expand your revenue internationally, in convenient payment methods. We see that this international expansion is happening in a much faster pace than before. Also, the focus of the expansion is now beyond the well known international markets: emerging markets are now really delivering significant revenues.
We believe a payment service needs to support these international markets. It also needs to be flexible: the platform has to be able to deliver new international payment methods within reasonable time frames to support that momentum.
What’s next for Adyen? What can we expect in the near future?
Mobile. With the convergence of smart-phones, coupled with social networking element, I believe that our handheld phone devices will serve as portable payment vehicles even more quickly than anyone thought. We’re seeing good partnerships and leadership in this space by companies like Google and Visa, but Adyen will serve as a mobile platform for these transactions. I believe a lot of our advancements and partnerships will continue to support this $640 billion market.
August 24, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Less than two months ago, the Federal Reserve Board issued a ruling that would reduce fees for purchases made using debit cards. Already the survey group “Internet Retailer” has conducted a thorough survey of ecommerce solution owners to see how the newly reduced fees would impact their businesses. The findings show that even before the changes formally go into effect, at least one in six online store owners is planning to steer their shoppers towards debit card purchases as opposed to using their credit cards or other methods of payments. The new rules will present a significant opportunity for savings for ecommerce solutions and brick-and-mortar stores alike.
It’s not news to anyone that economic conditions in the US are rough. Credit is tight, getting new money is extremely difficult. In a strange turn of events, more and more credit card holders are paying down their debts, thus hopefully freeing up some emergency space on their cards. However, in light of the credit crises facing the nation, and wanting to help consumers and retailers in some small way, the Federal Reserve Board convened to make decisions on how to change the debit card charges that financial institutions like Amex and Visa could collect from online retailers.
Their decision was ultimately to cut the interchange rate (the fee that financial institutions can charge stores and ecommerce solutions when a card is used) from 15 cents plus 1.6% of the sale all the way down to a base of 21 cents, plus .05% of the transaction. This is a huge change (though not as huge as ecommerce solution owners wanted). The impact on online sales can best be expressed with an example. The average online sale is $78.70 (about $80). Under the old pricing model, the average interchange fee was $1.40. The new system is closer to about 25 cents.
This is great for ecommerce solutions and other retailers who process debit card fees as it represents about an 80% reduction in interchange fees. This money then goes back into the company, not into a financial institution. Now, while there are plenty of huge chain stores and giant online commerce solutions, there are many more small, independent online stores than there are small, online credit card companies.
In light of the new cost savings associated with processing debit card sales instead of credit card sales, online retailers are already saying that they will be changing their sales tactics. 17% of those surveyed (total: 112 respondents) said that they would offer discounts for debit card sales and/or present debit card payment options more prominently on their sites. Almost 70% of respondents were from online-only retailers, but both online and real world businesses have a chance to benefit from this change.
Changes in overall revenue/profit for retailers will depend on how much of their store’s prior sales were done via debit card and how much was done by credit or other means. Credit card sales will now cost retailers more than debit card sales. A move like this, where retailers are cajoling shoppers into using debit cards instead of credit cards, could also have beneficial outcomes for consumers.
Whereas credit cards carry high monthly fees and can trap users in a pit of debt, debit cards only work as long as there is money in the account (usually – although overdraft fees can be as potentially damaging as credit card interest rates – almost). Either way, ecommerce solution owners are reacting with discounts, promotional language talking about the safety and security of debit card transactions, and just making slight site changes to make the debit card option appear a bit easier to see compared to the credit card option. There’s no telling how these changes will affect future innovations like Google Wallet and other digital payment options, although the language in the Fed’s changes talks about “card not present” transactions, which is what Google Wallet would be all about.
It’s not a perfect solution or a completely changed world, but things are moving towards a place where predatory credit card contracts are no longer as dangerous as they once were.
August 23, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
There are a ton of ecommerce software platforms out there determined to try to get you the best deal, save you some money, and of course, convince you to spend your money with them instead of anywhere else. From Priceline to Travelocity to Kayak and now even Groupon in getting into the deal with their special getaways, it seems like it’s impossible to settle on a flight or a hotel without checking at least a half-dozen different sites, then holding your breath, agonizing over your selection, and finally clicking “buy.” Then you have to never talk to anyone else about how much you paid, for fear that they will have gotten a better deal somewhere else (or, even worse – on the same ecommerce software platform!).
Well Deem Travel is trying valiantly to end those days of pre-vacation torment by assembling a best-of-the-best combination system of different travel partners. Like a veritable Justice League of ecommerce solutions (or Avengers, if you are a Marvel fan), the super team up delivers rail, air, seating, and hotel information in a never-before-seen combo called the “Deem” Travel platform.
First up: TripAdvisor – the brains! Already firmly established in the travel world as a go-to resource for everything you want to know about your travel destination, Trip Advisor brings its wealth of opinions and reviews to the Deem ecommerce software system. Next Seat Guru – the planner! Jet Blue and some other leading airlines have made their seating charts available so that travelers can pick their seats for maximum comfort. But this feature isn’t universal across all airlines yet. SeatGuru brings its wealth of seating plans to the table for strategic placement of passengers within cabins. Last up is “SilverRail,” arguably the coolest code name of the group. Armed with in-depth knowledge of US and European rail systems, the new Deem ecommerce software platform is a triple threat. Patrick Grady, CEO of Rearden Commerce, the Hannibal of this team up (if this was the A-Team!) said the following:
“Anyone booking travel online knows the hassles of triple-checking multiple websites for the best itinerary and spending time sorting through thousands of unorganized search results. We’re incorporating this new information, alongside the information our Relevance Engine has about a traveler’s preferences, company policies and past travel history to surface a few relevant, customized recommendations from thousands of choices. Deem Travel will know what seat you like, the time of day you like to fly, which airplanes have Wi-Fi, which seats have extra leg room, whether you prefer high speed rail, and where you like to stay – and it’s smart enough to make it work within your company’s travel policies.”
Only time will tell if this new ecommerce software system is as deadly and effective as the sum of its parts. Deem is angling to help businesses find the best deals for their workers when they need to travel for business, and let them preserve the precious discounts that they’ve worked so hard to secure in this tough economy. While it might be a bumpy ride for Deem to establish dominance, their customers will no doubt travel in comfort.
August 23, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Not an actual picture of Jay Walker - here is, instead, a jaywalker.
Priceline, the travel ecommerce solution that specializes in name-you-price deals and other great savings for shoppers, is seeing record profits and surging stock prices. Earnings per share are up around nine dollars, a dollar or more above the eight or so dollars that Bloomberg had previously predicted. The stock price leaped up to $527.81 in the face of strong international sales, totalling over 600 million dollars and accounting for more than half of Priceline’s revenue.
All the press surrounding this successful ecommerce solution, which bolstered its international footprint with the acquisitions of Booking.com and Agoda.com, has not been great, however. The man who is credited with “inventing” Priceline, a guy whom you’ve probably never heard of, called Jay Walker, has started stirring up a storm of patent litigation. A graduate of Cornell, Walker, now 55, has spent almost his entire professional career starting businesses, creating ideas, and registering patents. Patents only have a lifespan of 20 years, by the way, so it’s possible that some of his earliest ideas may no longer be enforceable.
That’s no stopping the former ecommerce solution inventor from leveling the barrel of his lawsuit gun (patent pending) at just about any and all companies that he and the lawfirm that he’s partnered with, IP Navigation Group, think has anything do with anything even vaguely related to any of Walker’s seemingly endless lists of patents. IP Navigation Group bills itself as a “patent monetization” firm, meaning that its main job is to look for ways that their clients might have been wronged by patent infringement and try to extract money from the offenders.
Some critics call the company’s tactics “patent trolling.” It’s easy to see why – just taking aim at companies that have a product or service similar to something that you’ve patented is an easy diversion. Going out and making the product yourself is much more difficult. Also: it’s a race to the marketplace. Just because you have an idea first doesn’t necessarily mean that you should have unlimited right and access to that idea for the full 20 years, even if you never do anything with it (although, yes, I understand, that’s exactly what patents mean). But coming up with an idea all on your own, without any knowledge of someone else’s patent and then getting slammed for a violation (and hefty fees), by someone you’ve never even heard of has to be galling for inventors and innovators of all kinds. Walker offered this harsh commentary on his critics:
“Not only are we not a troll, but the people who want to label me are often the same ones that want to use our property and not pay.”
Patent litigation has become incredibly lucrative lately, and much more common. A recent court case around certain Android capabilities saw HTC shelling out to Apple. Patent infringement lawsuits are up almost a quarter over the past ten years, with 2,833 in 2010 vs. 2,296 in 2,000.
Walker has a ton of patents. He actually tried to sell off his patent portfolio at an auction in San Fransisco recently, but none of the bids (which went up to 135 million) matched his undisclosed minimum. Just to give you an idea of his reach in vying for patent money: he attempted to take on Facebook arguing that he had a patent on “anonymous communication” on the internet. The case was thrown out of court.
August 23, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
News is very cyclical. A few weeks ago, all anyone could talk about was online, streaming music services. Cloud music players were all the rage, as were online music ecommerce solutions that would let you listen to tracks, buy them, and store them remotely. Spotify made landfall in the US, only to be overshadowed by Rdio, which the cool kids had been using for weeks before Spotify came along. Pandora, meanwhile, had its IPO and continued to chug along, selling the off music track off its ecommerce solution, but generally made little noise.
So now we’ve come back around, past news of stock market meltdowns and PC company shakeups, to this place again: music. The latest announcement from Rdio is that it will be offering family plans, giving subscribers a discount on the streaming music service when they pool their accounts together under one roof. Users can pay for their chosen package through the Rdio ecommerce solution and have three different options: unlimited for one person ($10/month), unlimited for two people ($18/month), or unlimited for three people at $23/month (sorry, larger families, after 3 people, the discount disappears). Drew Larner, CEO of Rdio, had this to say:
“When we first introduced Rdio, everyone in the industry offered the same rates and service plans for on-demand music: five dollars per month for Web-only access and ten dollars per month for Web and mobile. Now with whole families using Rdio, we’ve had a tremendous number of requests from our users for a family plan. We’re really proud to be the first digital music service to bring this type of plan to market.”
These plans allow users to store playlists and other data, as well as access their accounts remotely via various smartphones and tablets. Despite being on a family plan, all members can share files and interact socially under their own login names (everyone doesn’t have to pretend to be the same person – which would defeat the point).
The old prices, meanwhile, are still in place. If you just want web-only access and you are a solo user, then $5/month is all you need to spend. The Rdio pricing structure is quite similar to Spotify’s. A major difference is that while Spotify has a free, ad-supported mode, Rdio is never supported entirely by ads. Even if users aren’t ready to take the plunge and pay for a subscription via their ecommerce solution, they can still take advantage of a seven day free trial.
August 22, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
By now everyone (or pretty much everyone) is aware that the United States, which enjoyed the highest possible credit rating on its sovereign debt (AAA) has been downgraded for the first time ever by Standard & Poor, a worldwide credit rating agency. The markets showed bumpy fluctuations for the first few days, but there has been a modicum of recovery since then, though stocks of publicly traded ecommerce solutions have not returned to their July 25th levels. But what does this debt downgrade mean for smaller ecommerce solutions and people operating independent shopping cart sites? Several reports on spending and credit conditions at these small business shed some light on prospects.
For starters, despite historic lows in interest rates as set by the Fed (Federal Reserve), credit remains extremely tight. As such, almost all small businesses have found getting additional credit to expand operations difficult. Ecommerce solutions that operate entirely online, however, have the greatest ability to keep overhead and operating costs low, and are taking advantage of every resource they have to do so. Even major players like Amazon are reacting to adverse economic conditions by attempting to avoid taxation wherever possible.
However, all this talk about a lack of credit and cutting costs doesn’t mean that things are necessarily dire for all small ecommerce retailers. According to a report by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 92% of retailers surveyed said that their credit needs were met and that they were not interested in borrowing. Additionally, the low Fed interest rates are beneficial to ecommerce solutions of all sizes that already have established lines of credit. Finally, those on the cusp of great growth or who have the next big idea can still get venture funding. While the total number of companies financed isn’t huge, the numbers can be. Airbnb recently became a member of the “billion dollar” (valuation) company, with millions of dollars in investment capital to back it up.
If your ecommerce solution is faltering right now, there’s not much good news on the horizon to try to cheer you up. You could consider going international, where the relative weakness of the US dollar will make your products appear more attractive to foreign consumers. However, many (formerly monied) European markets are in danger of sinking beneath the waves of debt, including Italy and Spain. However, the truest test of a savvy business owner is dealing with adverse market conditions.
August 22, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Things are looking rocky for Hewlett Packard. The top PC producer in the world, and a leading US technology company (in an era where fewer and fewer US companies are leading anything worldwide, except maybe leading in job losses), they’ve decided to sell off their PC division. This is even in the face of so many consumers still routinely putting HP devices in their shopping carts.
The news also comes hot on the heels of the company announcing that they would be stopping production of WebOS hardware. The WebOS department was responsible for the WebOS tablet, which was by all accounts, a resounding flop. Just not enough shoppers putting the untested tablet into their shopping carts in a world where iPad is king and everyone else plays court jester. The tablet, though, is a device still struggling for a niche in an economy where middle and working class consumers have less disposable income than ever before. The rich have more than ever before, but they would have had the cash to buy one no matter what the situation.
So HP is now scrapping their PC division. On the surface this may seem like an inscrutable move: people are still filling their shopping carts with HP PCs, why shut down maybe your most productive division? Well, for starters, while the division brought in 30% of the company’s revenue, it only pulled in about a 6% margin – the lowest in the company.
Some say that HP has never really “wanted” to be a consumer PC company. They actually rejected an offer to buy the world’s first ever PC, built in the 1970s by a then-employee. The computer was called the “Apple I” (ridiculous name) and it was built by some guy named Steve Wozniak, who probably toiled in obscurity for his entire career.
Speaking of Apple, they are the US company that so many in the tech and business worlds point to when they want to talk about US dominance or innovation or success or just not feel so bad about the way the company is doing in general. It’s not necessarily an apt example, however. While Apple is the most successful and highly-valued company in the US, it’s not a leader in computer sales. It dominates the tablet world (we had so much coverage of the trials and tribulations of people trying to put an iPad 2 in their shopping carts) and was an early leader in the smartphone market as well (reports are coming in of a man who is already camped out for the iPhone 5). Their high profits aren’t necessarily due to high volumes of sales. Their software and hardware are both top of the line and take years to develop. The price tags reflect this.
While we’re on the topic of prices, HP’s stock prices took a dive on Friday as investors decided that they didn’t like the new direction HP was taking. Some argue that the company is just returning to its roots as an innovation company designed at selling high-end tech to engineers and very specific users, instead of trying to create consumer products to feed a wider need, when that’s being done so well (and so cheaply) by so many Asian companies.
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