November 17, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
E-tailers are more optimistic this holiday season, according to a holiday survey conducted by Alibaba.
Alibaba is one of the largest business-to-business online marketplaces and owns Vendio and Auctiva, both of which provide online merchants with ecommerce software solutions. Alibaba recently conducted a survey of over 1200 online merchants to gain an understanding of e-tailer insights about sales and trends this holiday season.
The survey yielded some interesting results such as a majority of e-tailers are feeling upbeat and optimistic about this holiday season, women are likely to spend 4 times as much money as men and word-of-mouth marketing tactics will be the primary focus of most e-tailers.
Optimism is trumping gloom this holiday season and 64% of survey respondents said they plan to use the theme of optimism to market their holiday products. 60% of e-tailers will use an optimistic marketing theme that will employ the use of bright and bold colors and avoid conservative designs with dull color schemes. In addition, 70% said they have altered their products to reflect this trend.
Linda Kozlowski, director of global marketing and customer experience at Alibaba.com, had this to say about e-tailers using optimism as a primary marketing tactic:
“Alibaba.com understands the value of optimism. Our online community is driven by innovation, providing a marketplace for entrepreneurs with a vision of new or improved products. Despite our global economic woes, this spirit of entrepreneurship is not flagging in the U.S. – which is good news for consumers and the market as a whole.”
The survey also confirmed something most of us already know- women are better planners than men. Responses showed men are much more likely to make last-minute expensive purchases, while women will ask more questions before purchases, are more price-conscious, and buy earlier. However, women are expected to spend four times as much as men this holiday shopping season.
Another trend the survey found is that shoppers will spend more on themselves than on gifts for others while holiday shopping this year. Even a majority of e-tailers surveyed admitted they will spend more on themselves; 62% of respondents agreed that they will spend the same amount or less on gifts for others compared to how much they will spend on themselves.
Also, a good portion of online retailers will be offering deals on shipping; 47% will give customers free ground shipping and 43% promise deals of expedited shipping. For those shoppers looking to snag some great deals, you better start shopping today. Most e-tailers responded that deals will begin mid-November and drop-off by mid-December.
Below is an infographic produced by Alibaba that highlights the most notable results:
October 20, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Yesterday, social commerce platform ShopIgniter introduced an in-stream technology that will allow merchants to utilize Facebook users newsfeeds to create a more connected social ecommerce solution.
ShopIgniter is a Portland-based social ecommerce software platform that aims to help retailers reach customers and revenue through social media platforms. The average shopper spends 25% of their time on Facebook, making it a necessary channel for online retailers to work with. ShopIgniter aims to enhance retailers’ merchandising, marketing, and metrics by providing ecommerce software including Social Storefronts, Social Search Engine, and sCommerce Analytics. Their diverse customer base includes Nike Golf, Kaenon, CafePress, Levi’s, and Generation Orange.
The new ecommerce software, which includes first-of-its kind inventory control, will allow merchants to share promotions and deals, complete highly-secure transactions, and manage inventory, all within consumers’ newsfeeds on Facebook. ShopIngniter’s innovative software includes inventory technology that makes it possible for retailers to show how much inventory is left and make recommendations to shoppers when a desired product is sold out. Providing recommendations will help businesses accommodate the excess demand created by social promotions. Also, the in-stream technology will use geo-targeting in order to place the right products in front of the most viable consumers. For example, shoppers in Seattle may see offers for items like rain boots.
Merchants can choose to use the in-stream technology in addition to a social storefront or as a stand alone feature for impulse buys and daily deals. Connecting this new technology into a fully-transactional storefront will enable merchants to utilize features like loyalty programs and rewards.
Alan Wizemann, chief product officer at ShopIgniter, explained their new in-stream technology:
“In-stream checkout gives brands and retailers a competitive sales edge, especially when integrated with the other merchandising and promotional capabilities of the ShopIgniter platform. The newsfeed is an excellent channel to offer impulse products, time- or inventory-limited items or highly desirable promotional products. We have taken extra care to ensure our software delivers a secure and elegant experience for our customers’ end consumers.”
Consumers will need to “allow” this in-stream technology to show up in their newsfeed, which will then enable merchants to access their email address, influencer data, social graph, and transactional data. This will give merchants the information needed to identify their most loyal customers and reward them accordingly.
The addition of in-stream technology to ShopIgniter’s social commerce software turns customers into promotional tools and revenue generators, while building deeper relationships with them through connection. ShopIgniter feels this technology will turn Facebook from social network to a complete ecommerce and product promotion channel.
October 18, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Ecommerce platform Shopify announced Monday that it has accumulated $15 million in Series B financing. The primary investors include Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital, Felicis Ventures, and Georgian Partner.
The Ottawa, Canada start-up is a popular platform for businesses who are looking for an ecommerce solution but lack the means to buy expensive coding software. Shopify provides merchants the tools and support to create and maintain an online storefront. The platform assists everyone from individual entrepreneurs to large organizations and even recording artists. Currently, it powers stores for over 15,000 merchants including Angry Birds, LMFAO, General Electric, CrossFit, and Tesla Motors.
Shopify was launched 5 years ago by Tobias Lutke as a method of selling snowboards online after Lutke noticed the difficulty of creating a professional online store. It quickly became a useful tool for other businesses and entrepreneurs due to its ease of use, attractive templates, and scalability. Shopify aims to help businesses of any size effectively create and maintain cheap and easy-to-operate ecommerce solutions.
Lutke explained how the new funding will help future success of the company:
“This large investment will allow us to aggressively expand operations with a focus on three areas of growth. First, we’re looking to continue hiring the best developers and designers in the world. Second, we would like to open the door to strategic partnerships and acquisitions. Lastly, we will provide seed funding to developers looking to build apps that integrate with the Shopify platform.”
The seed funding mentioned is officially named “The Shopify Fund,” which is a $1 million fund to encourage independent developers to write apps for the Shopify platform. This fund will help the company attract developers, designers, and entrepreneurs by allowing Shopify to pay those with intriguing app ideas or designs. A $5,000 to $10,000 advance will be paid out to those who contact Shopify with a great app or utility design or idea. Designers can contact Shopify even if they don’t have a potential app idea as the fund will also be used to hire on talent to help create items on the fund wish list.
Shopify currently has nearly 100 applications already on their platform. The apps and utilities will be made available to Shopify customers as a tool to expand their ecommerce solutions.
The ecommerce platform is also currently in the midst of their annual Build-A-Business competition, which is an 8-month contest to encourage entrepreneurs to create an online startup company. Upon conclusion, the startup with the most successful 2-month average will be awarded a $100,000 check along with trips to California and New York City to meet with several industry experts.
Monday’s announcement comes just 10 months after their announcement of $7 million in fundraising this past December.
October 17, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Attention all bloggers! Do you live and breathe blogging? Are you passionate about ecommerce and ecommerce solutions? Can you write a more enticing introduction than this (don’t lie to yourself…)? If you answered yes to these questions, you may want to check out Vendio.com.
Vendio Services, Inc. announced last week that they will be holding an ecommerce blogger search contest. This contest will provide one lucky winner with a host of prizes including:
- A paid (!) blogging contract for the Vendio blog, Vendable
- An iPad2, which can be used to assist with research
- Opportunities to attend several social media and ecommerce conferences throughout the year
- A full subscription to Vendio’s “Get it All” package selling plan
Vendio Services, Inc. is an ecommerce software solution, which aims to help merchants reach the largest online shopping markets through their multi-channel offerings. Headquartered in California, Vendio currently has over 90,000 merchants using their platform to assist with online marketplaces. Vendio’s platform uses interface, thus no programming skills are required for merchants to create an ideal and functional ecommerce solution.
The opportunity to blog on Vendable would give the lucky winner exposure to nearly 100,000 merchants who use Vendio to assist with their online shopping carts, as well as other entrepreneurs who frequent the website. The chosen blogger will also receive a full subscription to Vendio’s “Get it All” selling plan, which would allow them to create an online store and gain access to multiple ecommerce channels, such as eBay, Facebook, and Amazon.
For those who do not blog but are interested in other current ecommerce contests, Shopify, a SaaS ecommerce platform, is currently hosting their annual Build-A-Business Competition. The Build-A-Business Competition is great for entrepreneurs who need motivation to finally start the online business they’ve been wanting to but haven’t yet. The competition also offers over $500,000 in prizes, including an $100,000 check for the most successful online business start-up.
The contest runs over an 8-month period, however, businesses are only evaluated based on their most successful two months. This means even though the contest has already been going for 4 months, it’s not too late to join if you have a business start-up that you think could be a contender. The grand prize winner of this contest will receive $100,000, a VIP trip to New York City to have lunch with popular blogger and author, Seth Godin, and meet with Gary Vaynerchuk (Author of “Thank You Economy”), as well as a VIP trip to California to meet with investor and author, Timothy Ferriss, and visit the Googleplex to meet and get advice from experts.
Whether your forte is blogging about ecommerce solutions or creating them, both of these contests offer invaluable prizes. Also, Vendio’s blogger search concludes on November 11th, so make your submission soon!
October 13, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Mega Jump Record Holder Philipp Schneckenburger
The world of mobile gaming is expanding all the time, along with mobile commerce and, well, everything mobile. There are tips and tricks all over for improving your mobile-optimized website and ensuring customer satisfaction and ease of use with your m-commerce platform. Everyone is getting involved, and with good reason–10% of visits to ecommerce websites now take place on mobile devices. New tablets and smartphones are high on everyone’s list for the holidays. And gaming isn’t just for PCs or consoles anymore. The rate of mobile gaming has increased from 8% to 38% of gamers since 2009.
For the first time, mobile gaming is making Guinness World Records history. The first mobile gamer to be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records has been announced. Twenty-one year old Philipp Shneckenburger, an accountant in Switzerland, earned a high score of 6,133,889 playing Mega Jump. In an e-mail exchange with the company, we found he is reportedly not your typical gamer: “It’s funny because I normally don’t play video or mobile games,” he said of the achievement. But that may just go to show that mobile gaming is accessible to everyone.
While visiting the United States about a month ago, Schneckenburger’s American cousin showed him Mega Jump. He took to the game quickly and downloaded it for himself when he returned to Switzerland. Then, between September 28 and October 3, he participated in the Mega Jump high-score competition set up by Kiip (a mobile gaming platform with real-world incentives to win) and Guinness World Records, beating out about 200,000 other players to take the winning title.
Kiip and Guinness plan to team up for similar events in the future, giving all gamers the opportunity to break records and earn a place in history. (Schneckenburger’s achievement will be recognized in the 2012 Gamer’s Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, which will be coming out in January.) Kiip gamers earn nearly 2 million achievements daily, and players have the opportunity to automatically submit high scores to be pitted against others for a world record.
Kiip CEO Brian Wong is excited about the record and the partnership:
“We’ve truly upped the ante on what players around the world can now strive for; but it’s closer in reach than ever before in history. This truly changes how we perceive the significance of mobile gaming today.”
In other mobile gaming news, Zynga has just announced its next move: a step away from Facebook and toward its own independent platform. Project Z would allow Zynga to get away from Facebook’s rules and form its own, but it also potentially compromises the number of users and the amount of exposure. Many of the new games Zynga has released have been HTML5, which seems to be the wave of the future for mobile gaming. This all comes as Zynga prepares for its IPO.
The release of the iPhone 4S, with graphics comparable to that of the iPad 2, is also good news for mobile gaming. The Gaming Center app now lets users connect with friends and get suggestions on games, as well as offers more achievements. The screen size has remained the same at 3.5 inches, but facial recognition technology may offer some interesting developments in the coming months and years.
Where would we be without the ability to play Zuma on the subway? Scrabble as we cross the street? Mafia Wars in a lunch meeting? (Just kidding about that last one. Sort of.) We’d be bored; that’s where we’d be. As we gear up for the holiday season, keep these mobile developments in mind and consider the gift of game.
October 5, 2011
By The ZippyCart Content Team
It appears PayPal is advancing into the realm of brick-and-mortar stores with the revelation of its new point-of-sale technology and payment options. The ecommerce solution, owned by eBay, is set to open a pop-up store in New York City this November to showcase their new digital payment technology and give merchants a realistic idea of what it will look like in retail stores upon its release.
Although the folks at PayPal had been hinting at new technologies in the works early this summer, the point-of-sale technology and new payment options were formally announced only a few weeks ago. The pop-up store, located at 174 Hudson, will be a place merchants are invited to visit and experience real-time demonstrations of the company’s payment processing technology and get an idea of its intended use in retail stores. Outside the store, passersby will have access to QR codes, which they can scan to learn more about the new technology and get information straight from PayPal.
In addition to QR codes and payment options, the new technology will allow users to check inventory real-time, immediately add items to their shopping cart, and provide location based services and in-store offers from local retailers. It will also be a virtual wallet, which will compete with big names like Google. PayPal President, Scott Thompson explained on their blog:
“[PayPal’s new payment technologies] will help give their customers a much better shopping and buying experience through PayPal. And let’s be clear about something – we’re not just shoving a credit card on a phone. PayPal is re-imagining money and making it work better for merchants and consumers – whatever device you’re on, wherever you are in the world, and however you prefer to pay (whether that’s cash, credit, or installments).”
Preceding this announcement, PayPal has been boasting record high profits. In Q2, PayPal announced earnings of $1 billion for the first time in the history of the company. Mobile payments already account for a great portion of PayPal’s business- about $10 million in mobile total payments daily. When PayPal’s new technology is officially released, consumers mobile payments will most likely skyrocket.
Seeing as ecommerce on mobile phones has been increasing exponentially as of late, PayPal could not have picked a better time to shake up the game with their innovative technology. If their vision fully comes to life, the entire shopping experience could be changed- but for now we will have to wait and see.
October 4, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Shopping on the web can be as convenient as (at times) questionable. Online retailers often offer great prices and special sales, but many shoppers are wary of purchasing from unfamiliar web sites. How do you know you are buying from a secure site? Is one store more trustworthy than another? Do they have good customer service? How quickly do they ship?
These are all legitimate questions and concerns when dealing with ecommerce solutions. It is sometimes hard to differentiate reliable merchants from the masses, which can cause potential online shoppers to shy away from ecommerce.
Google is doing their part to ease shopper concerns with the launch of Google Trusted Stores. Introduced yesterday, Google Trusted Stores is a pilot program set to help shoppers identify online stores that offer a great experience.
Trusted ecommerce solutions will receive a Google Trusted Store badge, which will be displayed on their site. Group Product Manager on Google’s Commerce team, Tom Fallows describes the badge:
“The Google Trusted Store badge is awarded to e-commerce sites that demonstrate a track record of on-time shipping and excellent customer service. When visiting a qualifying store, shoppers can hover over the Google Trusted Store badge and see metrics on the store’s shipping and customer service performance.”
When shoppers hover over the badge, a report-card like assessment is shown and users can compare retailers based on a letter grade assigned by Google.
In order to receive a coveted badge, online merchants must meet certain customer service and shipping requirements and share this information with Google. Users, when purchasing from trusted stores, will have the perk of opting for free purchase protection. Purchase protection offers Google’s help resolving an eligible issue when a shopper is unable to do so with a qualifying merchant. Eligible issues include failure to receive the correct item or an item that isn’t in its advertised condition, being billed the wrong amount, delayed shipping, or a return policy not being upheld. Google’s assistance with these issues can include item replacement or a complete refund.
Users are given 30 days after delivery, or 60 days after purchase date, to file a claim. Google offers up to $1000 lifetime protection as part of this program.
Google Trusted Stores is in the early stages of development and badges only appear on a handful of sites so far. Sites already sporting a Google Trusted Stores badge include, O.co, Wayfair, BabyAge.com, and Beach Audio. Google is accepting new merchant applications and has plans to expand their program in the near future.
October 4, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Webgility's Brenda Le
As the world gears up for Q4, ecommerce solution managers have bigger things on their minds than managing backlogged accounting work. It’s a time to look at the present and forward, focus on marketing, and daydream about the holiday feasts to come. (Okay, that should be restricted to your break time… but who can help themselves, really?) You don’t want to get stuck wallowing through QuickBooks, worrying about human error and the cost of the time it takes. But how can you get around that obligation? Webgility has a few ideas. We talked to Marketing Manager Brenda Le to get some insight on the possibilities.
So what exactly does Webgility do for online stores?
Webgility provides eCommerce and QuickBooks integration software for online businesses. Our flagship product, eCommerceConnector (eCC), is a desktop app that integrates your online store with QuickBooks, shipping processors, payment processors, etc. so you can manage your entire online business from one central application. We also have a mobile app, eCC Mobile, that connects with your online store so you can manage your store activity and performance on the go. We’re QuickBooks Gold certified, and work with numerous shopping carts and marketplaces and major shipping providers. So instead of being caught up in the day-to-day tasks, online sellers can use eCC and eCC Mobile to increase their operational efficiency, giving them time to focus on other aspects of their business.
What is eCC, and what makes it so great?
eCC streamlines and automates your business operations by connecting your online store, QuickBooks, shipping and payment processors.
Many online businesses face these challenges, which involves a lot of man hours and incur costs:
- Processing shipping involves manually transferring data back and forth between your online store and shipping processor.
- Entering orders into QuickBooks is done manually, so for larger orders, this could take a long time to complete.
- Keeping track of inventory is challenging, especially when you have multiple stores.
eCC eliminates the redundant work that could lead to data entry errors. With eCC, you can sync your orders, customers, products and inventory between your eCommerce management systems. eCC automatically downloads your online orders, generates shipping labels, creates sales receipts, invoices, etc. in QuickBooks, and updates the order status on your online store. eCC will also update your inventory and customer details. For a full list of our features, visit http://www.webgility.com/quickbooks-integration-feature-list.php
eCC supports over 25 shopping cart and marketplace platforms (Magento, BigCommerce, 3dcart, Pinnacle Cart, Volusion, Amazon, eBay, etc.), all PC editions of QuickBooks (Pro, Premier, Enterprise and Point of Sale), popular shipping processors (Endicia, FedEx, UPS, and Stamps.com), and major payment processors (Authorize.net, PayPal, and QuickBooks Merchant Service). For a full list of our compatibility, visit http://www.webgility.com/ecommerce-connector-compatibility.php
How did you guys get started?
Webgility was founded in 2007 by Parag Mamnani, who has over 11 years of experience in the technology and eCommerce industry. Working closely with many eCommerce companies at his previous jobs at Gate6 (a web design and interactive company) and Amazon.com, he noticed that many of them were taking a long time manually entering their store data between multiple software. A strong believer in eliminating redundancy through software, Parag started Webgility and developed eCC. During the first year, he put together a team of developers to build eCC to be QuickBooks-certified, and partnered with top eCommerce software providers including Intuit, X-Cart, Magento, Endicia and Stamps.com. Today, Webgility has thousands of customers worldwide.
What size stores best fit the service you offer?
We work with a broad range of customers, from startups to large eCommerce companies that process thousands of orders a month across multiple online channels.
How has the explosion in mobile web and apps affected your business?
The explosion of the mobile web and apps has given us an opportunity to provide mobile services to online merchants. We provide a free iPhone app, eCC Mobile, for eCommerce merchants to manage their online store on the go. Our website is also optimized for mobile visitors.
Technology is constantly changing. What’s the future look like for Webgility and eCC?
We’ve more than doubled our customer base and staff in the last 12 months, and the growth is only accelerating. We’ve formed partnerships with leaders in the space, including Intuit, Magento, BigCommerce, Pinnacle Cart, Endicia, FedEx and UPS, and continue to expand the product feature set. We see tremendous growth in our core products and have lots of exciting new technology integrations on our roadmap.
What’s a typical day like in the Webgility office?
Webgility is a close-knit, cross-regional family. We’re headquartered in San Francisco, CA and have a Development and Support Center in Indore, India. Even though we’re separated by regions and time zones, we’re able to work effectively and maintain a clear communication line. It’s an open-door policy here: if you have any questions, you can always directly ping the person for help.
A typical day at Webgility:
- The Sales and Support team is always online and on the phone helping customers.
- The Marketing team is busy with creative ideas for our website, emails and social channels.
- The Tech team is launching new features to our products and all our internal systems constantly.
- We have frequent team meetings where we bounce around ideas and come up with creative business strategies. These are open forums: every idea and any comment is taken into consideration.
We work hard and play hard. There are movie events showing the latest blockbusters from Bollywood and Hollywood. There are karaoke parties, where some members showcase their vocal talent. You can challenge some to a game of miniature golf in the office, and hang out at the bean bag lounge area during our regular happy hour.
September 22, 2011
By The ZippyCart Content Team
Ecommerce software provider Rearden Commerce has locked in $133 million in a giant round of funding from existing investors American Express and JPMorgan Chase, as well as from new investor Citi. The fresh capital will be used toward “high-growth initiatives” for both the company and its current ecommerce software platform, Deem, while repaying its debt. With the addition of this round, Rearden Commmerce has raised a total of $353 million since launching in 2000.
Rearden Commerce is an ecommerce provider with a strong growth-initiative. As the ecommerce industry is expected to hit $279 billion by 2015, the company aims to leverage Deem’s ecommerce software platform by further developing its interoperable smart applications (which leverage big data, analytics, and semantics technology) to make the online shopping experience more technologically sophisticated for both the merchant and the consumer.
Currently Deem’s ecommerce software platform is used by over 7,500 companies across every market segment, connecting its network of 1.2 million merchants with more than 60 million consumers. This is a growth rate that has more than tripled its distribution channel penetration.
Over the next several months Rearden Commerce will also roll out a next-generation Merchant Offer apps for both merchants and consumers. This seems to be one of the first steps in the company’s strategy to leverage its over 40 partnerships worldwide (with companies like American Express and Citi) and grab a firm hold in each of the various segmented ecommerce markets they hold a presence in. With group buying being at the forefront of commerce and mobile payments on the verge of taking off in a monumental way, it would be unwise for Rearden Commerce to not get in on these lucrative markets now.
Beginning with social commerce, the company recently acquired socially-powered daily deal site HomeRun.com and OfferEngine platform, which powers group commerce programs for third-party consumer websites. The HomeRun’s social platform will be integrated with Deem to create a more personalized deal based on the consumer’s preferences and location. The acquisition gives Rearden Commerce an additional three million HomeRun subscribers to grow from.
The partnerships with American Express and Citi opens the door for Rearden Commerce to get into mobile payments. American Express offers Serve, a form of a digital wallet that lets users make payments through their mobile devices or online without having to publish their credit card information. Combine this with an internationally integrated, ecommerce software platform like Deem, and there is a robust option for merchants and consumers that would be hard to match.
“We are energized by the unique capabilities that each of our partners brings to the Deem ecosystem,” said Patrick Grady, Founder and CEO, Rearden Commerce. “This is a group of some of the world’s most successful leaders in commerce for consumers and merchants alike, and we believe that the combination of their assets and the Deem platform are indeed transformational.”
September 20, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Millions of Netflix subscribers received an apologetic email early Monday morning from Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of the company.
The email is a slightly briefer version of a post from Hastings on Netflix’s blog that provides a lengthy apology for the lack of communication to subscribers about changes that the company is making to its services and pricing. Netflix recently made the decision to separate its DVD and streaming services and charge for both, leading to a significant backlash from customers and a fall in subscriptions.
Hastings explained the reasoning behind Netflix’s decisions and describes where the company is headed with its split services. The CEO ensured users that both the DVD-by-mail service and streaming ecommerce software will get better as a result of their separation. Hastings had this to say:
“So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently. It’s hard for me to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary and best: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to ‘Qwikster’.”
The re-named DVD service will remain essentially the same, even down to the red envelope, but will now have its own website. One improvement to Qwikster is that users will have the option of upgrading their subscription to include video games for Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii in their shopping carts, a feature that has been a long time coming. Hastings and Andy Redich, the new Qwikster CEO, made a short YouTube video describing the new service.
There are a couple downsides for customers who want to subscribe to both the DVD and streaming services, the obvious one being that they will have to pay separately for each subscription. The other is that since the services will now have separate websites some things will have to be done twice, such as rating movies. In other words if customers rent a DVD and rate it on Qwikster, their rating will not automatically show up on Netflix. Other minor things like entering payment information or changing contact details will also have to be done twice.
It is evident from comments left on Hastings’ blog post that many subscribers (or former subscribers) still believe that the company’s decision to split its services is greatly misguided. A quick read-through of the first page of comments reveals a varying degree of criticism, from mere disappointment to outright rage directed at the company and its CEO. Many users feel that the whole appeal of Netflix was the convenience of having two integrated services under one roof.
Hastings acknowledges at one point in his post that the DVD-by-mail service may not be around forever and that the streaming market is growing much more rapidly. He writes that Netflix will continue to improve and grow, with the addition of substantial new streaming material in coming months. Netflix is clearly gearing up to expand globally, the service recently launched its ecommerce software in 43 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
September 20, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
CrowdTwist is a new tool that allows brands to track and measure audience interaction across all online social channels.
The CrowdTwist platform integrates itself into a brands website and connects to all of the brand’s social media channels to provide data about consumer engagement and ROI. It keeps track of all online interactions and mentions by the public. Brands can use this information to determine the most influential or loyal followers and customize future marketing strategies based on the types of interaction that they are receiving.
The ecommerce solution benefits the customers as well as the brand, giving them points for all interactions that can then be used towards real rewards. Brands can choose to provide any type of reward that they want, from experiences to discounts or free shwag.
Data that CrowdTwist provides allows brands to understand what types of customer actions on various social media channels are most valuable. The recent explosion of so many new outlets for consumers online has fragmented brand-consumer interactions and made it more difficult for marketers to structure both their online and offline campaign strategies. CrowdTwist brings together metrics from all these scattered outlets and provides custom campaign tools for brands to reach different target markets.
Brands such as JCPenney, LiveNation, and TheFanHub are among those currently using CrowdTwist’s ecommerce software. The platform has already demonstrated its effectiveness; increasing average time-on-site by 250 percent, average page views per visit by 450 percent, and average purchase size by more than 30 percent.
CrowdTwist announced Monday that it has secured $6 million in a round of Series A funding led by SoftBank Capital and Fairhaven Capital. The company will use the funding to reinforce its rapid growth as it expands and forms new partnerships with brands. Irving Fain, CEO and co-founder, had this to say:
“Brands that take steps now to connect all of their online and offline audiences and enrich the overall customer experience are well positioned to discover, activate and retain their highest-value customers. Today’s funding by a fantastic roster of investors is an affirmation of this vision, and we look forward to continuing to build a world class team and product.”
Next week, the tool will begin powering the brand loyalty program for Simon Cowell’s X-Factor. The new talent competition TV show will use CrowdTwist’s ecommerce software to track viewer engagement and interaction with the brand across multiple channels. The show will be able to use the platform to track and analyze how viewers are interacting with their online, social, and mobile presences.
September 14, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
On Tuesday, Microsoft Windows president Steven Sinofsky demonstrated how to create apps in the new “Metro” style for the Windows 8 operating system at Microsoft’s Build conference.
Sinofsky also announced that there will be a new app store that Microsoft is currently calling the Windows Store, or just “store”. The store will include an ecommerce software platform that allows third-party software developers to publish and distribute Metro apps for profit. Microsoft has not yet announced what the company’s financial cut of app sales will be.
Developers will be able to use the platform to fill in details about the app that they wish to upload and sell. Microsoft will then put the apps through a certification process to determine whether they are high-quality, safe, and secure. Developers will be able to check on the status of their app in the certification process, which Microsoft is claiming will take only 24 hours. Sinofsky had this to say:
“It’s like ordering pizza, you know where your app is at all the steps along the way.”
The new style of apps will use tiles on the Start Screen and the store itself is a Metro app that will be a main tile of the new Windows 8 Start Screen as well. The ecommerce solution will be arranged in pages for different departments of apps such as “Games”. The store has a built-in trial mode that will allow customers to sample an app before purchasing it. This is a feature that Apple’s App Store does not currently have.
Once developers have started actual sales of an app they will have the option of including multiple licenses for customers to choose from such as a 7-day free trial followed by a prompt to purchase the app. Developers will also have access to detailed information about their customers including purchase details, market segments, and other information pulled from Windows Live IDs.
Classic Windows Desktop apps will be listed in the store in addition to the new Metro style apps. Sinofsky stated that Microsoft will not be making any licensing adjustments to existing Desktop apps. The difference between Metro apps and Desktop apps is that Metros are designed specifically for touch controls whereas Desktops are more geared towards mouse and keyboard and have difficulties with a touch-based interface, on a tablet for example.
There is no official launch date for Windows 8, but a preview version was distributed to attendees at the Build conference. However there is no active version of the new ecommerce software for developers to preview. The Metro apps that are available for preview were all developed in a 10-week timeframe by a group of college sophomores and juniors studying programming.
September 12, 2011
By Jennifer Escalone, Community Manager, Outright.com
Not too long ago, we announced the ability to see your sales by state. Today, we’ve made it easier to visualize this information using a map of the U.S. to show where your sales are coming from.
Wondering what’s the big deal? Well, truth be told, it could change everything about your business, from shipping to marketing. Take a look and tell us after you still don’t need to know each state’s sales!
1. Areas to Market
Your company just released a brand new toss-able toy, called a Blast Disc. It’s like a Frisbee, but way cooler. Sales are ok at first, but then they suddenly spike. What’s going? Everyone scrambles to try and capitalize on this sudden and unexpected success, but not sure how.
It turns out that the Blast Disc’s shape is PERFECT for the beach. It’s so great in fact that a brand new game has been invented. Thus, when you check your sales by state, you notice the big sales are coming from coastal areas. And now that you know what areas are buying your product, you can buy ads targeted to their location or end auctions at times conducive to their buying habits. You now have a marketing angle to make your toy and company blow up.
2. Areas to Improve
Knowing what you do about your new product, you look around the rest of the country to figure out how to sell elsewhere. You notice in the middle of the Heartland you made a few sales but nothing really stuck. After a little research, you find out the “game” invented around your company has a few followers – and they’re trying to start a league! Now you have a thousand options at your disposal to get even more Blast Discs in players’ hands.
3. Shipping Costs
After analyzing state sales data one day, you make a discovery: your sales cluster in certain geographic areas. At first you think it’s interesting, but merely an amusing coincidence, until you look elsewhere and realize shipping costs have been over budget every single month.
When you don’t know where your sales are coming from, you don’t realize how close many of them are. In this case you would want to take a look at your shipping model and find out how to get your Blast Discs into buyers’ hands at the lowest cost possible. Sales by state can make this happen by, for example, arranging for drop shipping from a central location.
4. Customer Service
After enjoying success with the Blast Disc line for several years, there is suddenly an influx of irate customer service calls. Seems tiny mechanical parts in the toy have begun to break down and are causing major problems for folks.
Again, you turn to your sales by state data. Recently, the Northeast portion of the country caught on to the Blast Disc craze. However, during certain parts of the year, there’s salt everywhere – either from the sea air or to counteract the snow and ice of winter. You now know the issue to fix and can set out correcting it.
5. Future Product Lines
Customers often shape products the way they want them to be. For instance, remember the classic kid’s game “Mouse Trap”? It’s supposed to be a board game with dice and everything – but what kid ever played it like that? They just wanted to make the mouse trap over and over again.
After using your Blast Disc product for years, customers eventually molded it into the product they really wanted. Other areas of the country didn’t experience the same phenomenon, and played with the original Blast Disc. It all depended on where they lived.
Knowing this data means you can now shape future Blast Disc releases into region-specific products. Following your sales by state means you now have even more opportunities to make money and develop a long-term relationship and following from your customers, something yearned for by every business owner.
About the Author:
Jennifer Escalona is the Community Manager for Outright.com. Outright dramatically streamlines the work involved with running a small business, by helping entrepreneurs pay the right taxes, organize their income and expenses, and keep their businesses on track. Helping small businesses thrive in the modern, connected world is what Outright is all about. With their software, you can automatically import your data from eBay and/or PayPal, and you can be looking at a detailed sales by state report for YOUR ecommerce business in just a few minutes!
September 9, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Vintners’ Alliance offers marketing and database technology for high-end wineries so that they can more effectively reach out to consumers via the Internet.
The ecommerce solution provides technology to track and analyze purchase history data including customer location, the type of wine a customer buys, and time since last purchase. This type of sales analysis helps wineries and vineyards target specific groups of customers for special offers.
Unlike companies such as Wine.com, Vintners’ Alliance does not take control of any actual inventory. The company instead tries to establish a direct connection between customers and wineries rather than becoming a go-between. Ahin Thomas, co-founder and President of Vintners’ Alliance, had this to say:
“Many companies have tried to enter the wine industry by inserting themselves between the vintners and consumers under the guise of improving wine retailing, but they end up creating an unnecessary layer between the two. Vintners’ Alliance connects producers directly to consumers, creating better margins for our winery partners, and more efficient, relevant offers for the consumer.”
The multi-billion dollar luxury wine industry has been slow to adopt ecommerce solutions for a variety of reasons. It is a niche industry that caters to a very specific target market and involves complex regulatory laws. With the technology it provides, Vintners’ Alliance seeks to make it easier for wineries to reach their desired customers and streamline sales. In a sense the company acts as a type of consultant to help wineries and vineyards grow their business.
Wineries can use the technology to identify purchase patterns, customer preferences, and the best price-points, allowing them to determine what customers are putting in their shopping carts in order to customize offers to them. Pat Connolly, Vintners’ Alliance co-founder, had this to say:
“Everyone loves wine, but finding the right wine at the right time and price is extremely difficult.Vintners’ Alliance was founded to bring to the premium wine industry the leading edge direct marketing and e-commerce practices previously available only to the most sophisticated companies to solve these problems within this specialized, highly regulated industry.”
Connolly and Thomas started Vintners’ Alliance in 2009 with a vision to transform the way wineries connect with consumers. Connolly is also Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Williams-Sonoma, Inc. where he focuses on the company’s ecommerce solutions and direct marketing. Additionally he serves on the board of directors for CafePress, Inc.
Vintners’ Alliance announced Wednesday that it has received $1.3 million in a Series A round of funding. Kohlberg Ventures led the funding with additional participation by a group of Silicon Valley investors. Thomas has said that he will use the funding to hire more employees for the company which currently has a presence in San Francisco, Mexico, London, Uruguay, and Bangladesh.
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