August 30, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
The US economy has been taking a pretty solid pounding lately. The budget debacle in Washington resulted in a credit downgrade that sent shockwaves through the stock market and ended up with some pretty significant losses. Next an incredibly rare East Coast earthquake sent Twitter accounts from Virginia to New York into a flurry of excitement (which is pretty much what Twitter does best). Adding insult to injury, Hurricane Irene (later Tropical Storm Irene, but let’s not split hairs) came rolling in and may have done billions of dollars worth of direct and indirect damage to the nation’s economy.
In times of trouble, like the London riots that sent UK shoppers flocking to Amazon’s ecommerce solution to buy baseball bats, certain retailers see a spike in purchases designed to counter the crisis. For Amazon’s US ecommerce solution, the top 20 products in “Patio, Lawn, and Garden” contains two generators, one of which is the top seller. Spare gas cans and covers for those generators also ranked highly. A couple of waterproof flashlights are in the top 20 for “Home Improvement,” but they are labeled with reddish-brown “down” arrows that indicate their popularity is waning.
Home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s showed big gains in the days running up to the storm, as one would expect. Some analysts say that the near total shutdown of major cities like New York could have cost retailers billions of dollars in lost revenue that they weren’t able to rake in during what should have been the second-to-last back-to-school shopping season. Savvy shoppers who choose to get their textbooks and other school gear through an app like the ecommerce solution that Amazon put together might also have had some trouble over the weekend, as circuits in the Northeast were routinely tied up with family members trying to make sure others were safe, and emergency personnel trying to coordinate the relief efforts.
Other stores beyond ecommerce solutions that were able to rebound in the days during and after the storm included an Applebees in Times Square that paid to put its employees up in nearby hotels, as well as Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks stores in heavily populated areas. As people shook off the storm, many without power flocked to these bastions of caffeine and sugar to fulfill basic human needs and just get out of their own homes for some fresh air (of course the free wi-fi doesn’t hurt either!).
Some economic analysts are saying that the days after the storm could be a mixed bag of economic conditions. While stocks were in the process of rebounding at time of writing, many parts of the northeast are still without power and the cleanup effort is still ongoing. However, even as many businesses are still losing revenue because they aren’t open, other businesses will see a resurgence.
Companies specializing in water evacuation and water damage mitigation, as well as home repair, renovation, carpet installers, and tree and debris removers will all see some money flow into their pockets. The downside could be that homeowners, even ones whose insurance policies cover storm damage, may end up paying out a lot in the form of deductibles, which they may or may not be able to afford.
August 29, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
There are so many ecommerce software systems out there, it can be hard to keep them all straight in your head. Many of them offer similar pricing structures and features. Some of them even sound similar (Core Commerce or Big Commerce?). But one ecommerce solution is out to set itself apart from the crowd with a big dose of positive PR. Propell Corp, makers of “PropellShops” and their “instant ecommerce” system have helped the brand new Collaborative Arts Middle School (CAMS) in the Springfield Gardens neighborhood of Queens, NYC get their school uniform selling system up and running.
Now this might not initially seem like news. Sure, schools need to sell things (uniforms, books, supplies, fundraising stuff, etc.), and they sometimes turn to ecommerce software companies like Propell to get the job done. That’s not the story. The story is that CAMS, as a newly emerging school needed to get all this stuff in place, but didn’t have any resources to get it done – no money, no staff time. They turned to Propell because Propell is a partner in the nationwide eChalk system.
This of course begs the question “what is eChalk?” eChalk is the online communications and education technology company that specializes in technology solutions for K-12 schools. CAMS was able to get a turnkey ecommerce solution from Propell without any investment on their part or any upfront money.
PropellShops provides a number of useful services to the eChalk partner schools that they serve. One service that CAMS will be taking advantage of is a sort of “print on demand” model of uniform ordering. Propell works with schools and manufacturers to set minimum order amounts for uniforms and other goods. Then the ecommerce software selling system is opened up for students to order their supplies. As long as the minimum order agreed upon by all parties is met, then there is no charge to the school.
This is how CAMS will be outfitting their first year of students with the proper uniforms. Propell provides a similar service to other schools and colleges, non-profit organizations, businesses, and even the military. For CAMS there will also be a revenue sharing element for every item that is ordered. Apparently the setup and implementation was pretty painless, which is what any users wants from their ecommerce software. Just ask T.N. Holloway, Principal of CAMS:
“We are so grateful for the team at Propell. As a new school, we were facing many challenges, and providing uniforms was critical, but also presented expense and logistical challenges. Thanks to Propell, we are able to offer our families the convenience of at home shopping, and the school did not need to commit any financial, or personnel, resources. I’ve done this many times at other schools, and this is the best experience I’ve ever had. It’s saved us money and simplified everyone’s lives.”
Propell was also happy to be involved the process. Helping out a school or non-profit group always leaves one feeling good. Propell is obviously interested in helping those organizations, as they have partnered not only with eChalk, but also with the American Association of School Administrators. Ed Bernstein, CEO of Propell offered this:
“We’re proud to be working with CAMS and eChalk to play a role in supporting this innovative new school find an innovative way to deliver uniforms to its students. The PropellShops program lets staff focus on other things and lets us worry about everything else. We believe that Propell’s on-demand service is the ideal solution for the complexity, cost and staff time in running a school uniform program…Propell does everything, from running the shop, to making the items, shipping them, and providing customer service.”
This news comes shortly after the announcement that Propell had connected with a new PR firm to boost their brand visibility. ScMiGo LLC, a marketing firm based in the Chicago area, specializes in promoting ecommerce software and tech-related companies. ScMiGo is led by Scott Goldberg, who has made a name for himself in the marketing and promotions world by working with companies like Volvo and Disney, as well as celebrities like Derek Jeter and Paula Abdul.
August 29, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
This is a strange, uncertain time for businesses of all kinds. For ecommerce solutions, brick-and-mortar stores, and everything in between, there seems to be no surefire way to tell how your company is going to perform. You’d expect with a general recession, an unpredictable stock market, and cries of inflated values for a number of tech companies that the only news you’d be hearing about would be bad.
That’s not the case for Belk, a Charlotte, NC-based department store chain with over 300 locations in the southern US. The company just reported double the profit for this year’s Q2 , ringing it at $25 million, compared to the same quarter last year, where they brought in only about $12.4 million. Over-year profit reports like this are just one way a company like Belk evaluates its health and success.
Another important metric for a business with brick-and-mortar locations is the performance of stores that have been open for more than a year. For Belk, these stores reported growth of more than 5%. In an anemic economy where jobs, credit, and disposable income are all hard to find, doubling your profit from a year ago and increasing same-store sales by 5% is nothing to sneeze at.
While part of Belk’s success can definitely be attributed to their keeping sales, general, and admin costs down – with only a 4.3% increase over-year, CEO Tim Belk gave a lot of the credit for growth to their ecommerce solution. According to him, ecommerce, shoes, cosmetics, home, and kids products were the fastest-growing sectors of their business. He had this to say:
“Ecommerce is growing most quickly…We continue to invest in the business and are seeing the results. There are questions about fall, however, we are encouraged by the momentum from the first two quarters.”
Part of that investment has been modernization of their information technology systems and ecommerce solution. These coincided with a larger effort by the company to revamp its image and appeal to shoppers as a more modern store. Belk’s actually the largest, privately-owned department store chain in the US. Their 303 stores span 16 states and their ecommerce solution extends their reach even further. Despite having a stock ticker symbol (BLKI), the company is not listed on any stock exchange. All shares of the company are privately held by the founding family and employees.
It’s no surprise that a wider-reaching, more convenient ecommerce solution would be key to driving growth for even an established brick-and-mortar company. Target, a multinational big box store, places significant stock in their own online shopping cart system. They recently decided that too much of their revenue was going into Amazon’s pockets, as the ecommerce giant was previously running their online selling platform. Now, though, it’s switched fully over to a Target-run system, meaning all that valuable online shopping money is staying with the big red company.
Moreover, even smaller, online-only companies are opening up ecommerce solutions to monetize their businesses. While selling on Facebook has been a must-have for almost every shopping cart solution for a whle now, even WordPress is getting in on the act. A system called “Jumio” turns your WordPress site into an online selling system in no time flat. They’ve even pioneered a feature that allows users to flash their credit cards at a web camera and pay for items that way.
August 29, 2011
By Tamsin Ingot of lastminuteskideals.co.uk
The travel industry has always been known for innovation in terms of marketing and promotion. From TV ads and direct mail to online advertising, travel companies have explored countless avenues in order to secure new business. One of the key elements for any travel company, though, is how it deals with those customers once they’re on their website. Getting prospective customers there via promos and adverts is one thing, but having them stick around and actually spend on holidays and hotel rooms is quite another. It’s at this point that the infrastructure of the website comes into play, and the e-commerce solutions the companies have invested in truly get their chance to shine.
The rise and fall of travel agencies
E-commerce has quickly become one of the primary income streams for businesses, especially travel companies. One reason for this could be that holidays and hotels are one form of product that a good majority of people now book online. Gone are the days of a long trip to the travel agents (although they do still exist and serve a purpose). Nowadays people are far more likely to book their trips via a website, either belonging to a travel company directly, or one of the many price comparison websites. So how do these sites differ in their use of e-commerce to, say, a different type of consumer product? Well, one key difference is that when people book holidays and trips online, they tend to purchase one product at a time: a hotel room, a flight, a package etc. On other websites, like those that sell a range of products (books, clothes, movies, etc.), consumers may purchase tens of items per visit. For this reason, the actual infrastructure of the site’s e-commerce needs to be different.
A time that suits you
Hotels and the travel industry generally operate e-commerce systems based on ‘slot booking’ – similar to those used by online supermarkets that deliver. These systems generally work by offering you a range of potential times and dates, and giving you – the consumer – a choice of which you would like. Some sites may offer each of these ‘slots’ at the same price, but it’s not uncommon for each to be priced individually. This means that the e-commerce infrastructure is usually heavily reliant on databases which require regular updating. Thankfully, airlines, hotels, and other travel companies will generally provide a link to this data themselves rather than having the e-commerce clients do it. And now, thanks to the advent of price comparison websites, travel companies often don’t need to promote too much, as a lot of business can be driven from the comparison sites. The benefit to the consumer here is obviously that, in order to compete, travel companies have to consistently drive their prices down. If they don’t, comparison sites will make them look overpriced. It’s a fine balance, and it’s one that a lot of companies are tackling daily.
The future of e-commerce in the travel industry
So what lies in store for travel companies using e-commerce systems to fulfill customer demands? Well, the future certainly does look bright. More and more complex solutions are being developed all the time, leading to a smoother and more user-friendly experience for the end-user (or consumer). An increase in efficiency should correlate with increased profitability – and no company in the world would turn their nose up at that. Whilst bricks ‘n’ mortar travel agencies will always have their benefits and place in the industry, it would seem that future of online hotel and holiday booking lies very much in the online world.
This week’s guest blogger was Tamsin Ingot, who writes on behalf of lastminuteskideals.co.uk, which provides quality info on the best ski deals USA has to offer.
August 26, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Yipit.com recently compiled, analyzed and released sales and traffic data from the top Daily Deal sites for the month of July. Overall, July was not a memorable month for the daily deals industry, though there were a few clear winners. The results are not all that surprising: Groupon is on the upswing, joined by online travel sites. LivingSocial, Groupon’s nearest competitor, did not have the best July.
Based on data collected from over 650 daily deals services, Yipit found that the industry’s total revenue declined in July by 7 percent in North American cities. Despite the drop in revenue, the number of daily deals offered to consumers rose in July. The data also shows that the marketplace is becoming a bit cannibalized. In July, 38 daily deal ecommerce solutions shut down, compared to 36 new sites being launched.
In what may be the most significant news coming out of the report, travel deal sites continue to expand and chalk up great numbers month after month. New travel sites are cropping up all over, and even established booking sites are announcing new and exciting features. Travel ecommerce solutions account for six of the top 10 deals in July, and have become the third-largest daily deal category. Travel deals now account for 60 percent of the top deals and nearly 15 percent of the industry’s revenue.
As for the heavyweights- Groupon’s revenue dropped 4 percent month-over-month. This number pales in comparison to LivingSocial’s decline- a considerable 18 percent. Groupon used the relative gains for the month of July to put some more space between it and LivingSocial. The revenue of both companies declined by over 20% when comparing numbers for the first half of July to the first half of June. Groupon’s revenue in the second half July actually increased over the second half of June, while LivingSocial’s declined. Groupon generated more than twice as much gross revenue than LivingSocial. So what does all this mean? Basically, not a good month for Groupon’s closest competitor. In a month where everyone lost, LivingSocial was the weakest contender.
As a result of the slow month for LivingSocial, Groupon was able to snag some of the market share away from their competitor. So now Groupon remains atop the Daily Deal throne, representing nearly 50 percent of the total daily deal market. This number weighs in at more than twice the size of LivingSocial (21 percent), and far more than the next contender on the list, Travelzoo, currently representing a feeble 5 percent of the market.
Groupon also claimed the highest grossing individual daily deal. The Photoboom America deal generated $575,505 worth of revenue for Groupon in the top 30 North American markets. Some other interesting points: Travelzoo continued to aggressively expand its “local deals” offering. The ecommerce solution increased the number of deals offered in the top 30 North American markets by 48 percent, with a 35 percent increase in revenue month-over-month.
So where’s Google involved in all of this? Google Offers “continue to have significantly lower prices and revenue per deal than Groupon or LivingSocial deals”, according to the report. The company continues to struggle with generating significant revenue per deal, as they are the late comers to this party. Google’s daily deal ecommerce solution is also only available in limited markets. Google Offers launched in Portland, but has expanded to New York and San Francisco. As Google Offers expands to more major markets, we may see a three-pronged Daily Deal battle between Groupon, LivingSocial and Google Offers.
August 26, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
We’ve all been there. You hear a song on the radio or in a bar or restaraunt and you think: “What’s the name of this song? I want it!” Well, the people behind the mobile app SoundHound have come to the rescue of many music lovers. They offer an app that listens, analyzes and ultimately identifies the song you’re hearing and gives you the option to add the song to your iTunes shopping cart or watch the video on YouTube. Now, for those in Europe, Spotify has teamed up with SoundHound to offer instant streaming of search results.
Music search and discovery company SoundHound has signed a deal with digital music service provider Spotify to allow SoundHound users in Europe to instantly access Spotify’s catalogue (over 15 million tracks). At this point in time, users in the States will not have access to this new feature. Those who followed Spotify will recall that the company’s service was exclusive to European users until earlier this summer, when Spotify released a US version of its music streaming service.
Starting today, European SoundHound users on iOS and Android devices who have also added a Spotify Premium subscription to their shopping cart will be given the option to ‘Play Now in Spotify’ after identifying a song through the music discovery and recognition service. While all SoundHound users will have access to the streaming option, only Spotify Premium members will be able to actually listen to the songs. Those who are not Premium members will be redirected to a purchase page where they can add a subscription to their shopping cart.
“Spotify is a natural fit with Soundhound, the most groundbreaking mobile music search and discovery platform in the world,” said Katie McMahon, VP of Soundhound. “Our European users have been requesting seamless access to Spotify, and today they can enjoy Soundhound’s fast, beautiful and unlimited music search and discovery with instant access to listening to full tracks.”
The two companies did not immediately reveal financial details of the partnership. The two services compliment each other so well that it’s actually not surprising a deal was made. There’s still room for expansion, however. The two companies could open up the Spotify feature to free users, instead of limiting it to premium users only. Of course, allowing the newly formed American user base to access the new feature would also be beneficial for both companies in terms of exposure and market share.
The online music industry is becoming increasingly competitive, as new companies arise to take on the big dogs in the industry. Pandora, the mobile and Desktop Internet radio company, recently went public with a mixed reception on Wall Street. Today, the company that struggled to become profitable has unveiled its largest gains ever. Apple is set to launch the iCloud this fall, which will allow iOS and Mac OSX users to stream their music libraries to mobile devices. The idea of remotely accessing a music library from anywhere in the world is not exclusive to Apple. Google and Amazon also recently unveiled their cloud music offerings.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes Spotify to allow its American users to access the new features. Extremely popular in Europe, Spotify took years to land in the US as the company negotiated licensing deals with record companies. Spotify currently boasts more than 1.4 million users and 175,000 users have added a Premium subscription to their shopping cart.
August 26, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
The world of gaming is constantly changing, and the industry has started to show significant support for a change in content delivery. What used to be an industry dependent on physical media delivery is now a business focusing on online content delivery, via the “cloud”. A new service called OnLive recently teamed up with Eidos and Square Enix to offer a special coupon to those purchasing physical PC copies of the developers new release Deus Ex: Human Revolution. According to reports, GameStop, a brick-and-mortar retail game distributor, decided that the coupon promoted a competitor and is opening copies of the game, removing the coupon, and selling the tampered-with items as “New”.
OnLive is a service that allows PC, Mac, iPad and eventually Android users to access purchased games from anywhere, at any time, without the need for physical media such as a DVD. The coupon included in the physical copies of Deus Ex were good for a free digital copy of the game. Gamestop said that the OnLive service competes against Spawn Labs and Impulse, the cloud based gaming services which Gamestop acquired in April. “As OnLive is, at its core, a source for games (as GameStop is), it truly competes against all of our distribution channels,” the Gamestop representative wrote.
According to the promotion, a code for the OnLive version of Deus Ex is included in the retail copy of the game sent to retailers. Gamers need to connect to the free OnLive Game Service, punch in the code included with their disc, and begin playing. OnLive works on both the PC, Mac, and the OnLive MicroConsole, a small router that serves as a cloud-based video game console.
GameStop has been in search of viable alternative to its brick-and-mortar stores for quite some time now. The company recently purchased Kongregate, an online Flash-based gaming community. The company competes heavily with Steam, an online game marketplace that sells the hottest titles, often at cheaper prices than their physical counterparts. So what’s OnLive’s added value compared to Steam? No downloads. Just add a game to your shopping cart and play whenever and wherever you want.
On the whole, it seems that adding a digital copy of a video game to your shopping cart is not as simple as it used to be. It’s apparent that the marketplace is moving away from physical delivery and towards digital content delivery. Just by comparing CD sales compared to iTunes or Amazon MP3 sales, one can spot the trend. As competition between established names like GameStop and up-and-coming companies such as OnLive continues to heat up, the drama will likely continue to develop as well. As of right now, it is probably safer to purchase a copy of the Deus Ex: Human Revolution game from ecommerce solutions such as Amazon.
The relatively disturbing news of brick-and-mortar stores opening products and tampering with end-user experience is not limited to Gamestop. Slashdot recently reported that a Best Buy customer purchased a laptop that had been opened and “Inspected by Best Buy”. What the consumer ultimately discovered about their shopping cart purchase was much more than that. Best Buy had gone ahead and set up recovery disks and user profiles. In what seems like an obvious marketing ploy, employees had also taken it upon themselves to install a trial version of Trend Antivirus on the customer’s seemingly brand new laptop. So check those items in your shopping cart before checking out!
August 25, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
The San Fransisco area is a hotbed for the tech industry. From established companies such as Apple to sucessful start ups like Airbnb, the Bay Area plays host to some very exciting new ideas. Today, ecommerce site Tinypay.me announced that it is using some of it’s new funding to move from its current home in the Netherlands to San Fransisco, CA.
If you’ve never heard of Tinypay.me, don’t fret. It’s a mashup of eBay, Twitter, Craigslist and other online ecommerce solutions. The company boasts greater connectivity on social networks than Craigslist and easier online store management than eBay or other ecommerce sites.
Tinypay.me consider itself to be the easiest way to sell stuff online. All you have to do to start selling is fill out a single form. The entire process takes just 60 seconds, the company says. To use Tinypay.me, you fill out one form per item. Anyone can then peruse your offerings on the site, and see where you or the item are located. You can also alert your friends on Facebook and Twitter to what you’re selling, and accept payments via PayPal. The ecommerce solution supports both physical and digital goods and generates a page that can be embedded into websites. No account is needed to use the service, as everything is handled through your e-mail.
One of the big benefits of Tinypay.me is the potential product placement on Google Shopping and other online marketplaces. In fact, placing products on these marketplaces where millions of people shop is how the company makes money. There’s no sales fee associated with selling on this ecommerce solution. The site used to charge a 5% sales fee when an item sold. Now, the company offers the service free to its sellers. So how do they generate revenue? Sounds kind of fishy, right? Well, Tinypay.me offers users the ability to start their own marketplaces. Suppose you’re selling iPhone related items, like a case or charger. You list the item, and that’s all well and good, no money spent on listing it on Tinypay.me.
Meanwhile, the system will automatically detect that you’re selling a popular item and will search for iPhone marketplaces within their database. You then get a notification that there are marketplaces available to sell your item on- to increase the exposure of your items. Sellers are not obligated to sell on a marketplace, they can simply rely on other users searches to sell their products and avoid the sales fees altogether. But, putting your stuff up for sale on those marketplaces could result in millions of interested potential customers. This is where the ecommerce solution makes money- each marketplace has their own sales fee, established by the manager of the marketplace. And Tinypay.me takes a 50% cut of those sales fees. So essentially, revenue is generated by add-ons for the site.
The site, which emerged from the 2010 Le Web conference, raised $1 million from Aksoy Internet Ventures. Part of the money will be used to relocate the company headquarters from the Netherlands to the heart of Silicon Valley. Aksoy Internet Ventures is a Turkish investment firm that believes that the ecommerce solution will “be a big hit globally”. Keep an eye on these guys, as the move to Silcone Valley is a big step in the right direction!
August 25, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Do you have a Kindle? Read lots of books on your iPad with the Kindle App? Then you’re in luck! Today, Amazon announced the Kindle Daily Deal program, which will feature a different Kindle eBook everyday at a discounted price. Think of it as a Groupon for all the bookworms out there! Depending on the quality of the selected titles (hopefully this won’t be exclusively for the bargain basement/romance novel titles) this promises to be very interesting for feverish readers and deal seekers.
The first book is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, a Newbery award-winning author. The eBook normally sells for $5.59, but is on sale for 75 percent off ($1.39) for the duration of the deal today. This seems like a great sign of things to come: not only is Kate Dicamillo is a Newberry award-winning author, and the title has received a 4.5-star collective rating from its 332 Amazon reviewers.
This is not a new approach to getting products in shopping carts for the ecommerce solution. Amazon offers a similar program with its Android Appstore, offering one premium app per day for free. Amazon MP3 also offers daily deals, accessible via the company’s Twitter account.
In fact, Amazon has taken a keen interest in the daily deal marketplace, and the Kindle offer is just the most recent development. The ecommerce solution has invested in daily deal service Living Social, and also purchased daily deal ecommerce solution Woot in 2010. They also launched the AmazonLocal deal service in markets including Seattle and Boise. Amazon says the Kindle Daily Deal will be refreshed each day at midnight on Twitter, and on the Kindle Daily Post blog. The deals also appear on the product page for the selected title.
This is also great news for all those lucky shoppers who managed to get a discontinued HP TouchPad into their shopping carts. HP recently announced their plan to pull out of the hardware business, and therefore issued a liquidation notice for its line of Tablets and Smartphones. The TouchPad has a native Kindle App, which essentially turn the product into the cheapest eReader on the market at $99 for the 16GB version. Unfortunately, even keen shoppers and deal hunters who added the item to their online shopping carts have been disappointed by mistakes in inventory management and have since seen their orders cancelled by retailers. More stock is reported to be on the way, although no ETA could be given.
The Kindle is one of Amazon’s top selling products. Early adopters have been familiar with Kindle since 2007, when the very first Kindle came on the market. It started at $399 and sold out in five hours. Since then Amazon has produced major new additions to the line about every two years or so, with interstitial updates (different options packages, international versions, etc.) in the intervening times. Most recently they released a priced-to-own/priced-to-move version of their least expensive model, the Kindle 3 (Wi-Fi only), preloaded with a limited collection of screensaver ads and special offers for a reduced price. Consumers can now add the Kindle 3 to their shopping cart for $114, or the Wi-Fi and 3G version for $139. The item has the most 5-Star reviews of any product for sale on Amazon.
August 25, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Back in 2001, Target decided to use Amazon as its primary ecommerce solution for selling its vast catalog of products online. The move seemed like a smart one, but years later Target CEO Steve Eastman decided it was time to let go of the company’s relationship with Amazon. Today, the Minneapolis-based Target Corporation officially unveiled its new website, which is independent of Amazon and fully controlled by Target.
Target has slowly been moving away from Amazon in recent years. Eastman said in 2009 that “it is in Target’s best interest going forward to assume full control over the design and management of Target’s e-commerce technology platform, fulfillment and guest services operations.” The new site is actually quite easy on the eyes, and is much easier to navigate than its previous counterpart. “Establishing a new platform for Target.com allows Target to reinvent our guests’ online environment and create a more user-friendly, reliable experience,” said Eastman. “With the new Target.com, we are in a better position to satisfy our guests’ constantly evolving preferences — whenever, wherever — in the same way we have earned their loyal support in our stores for decades.”
The new site features include improved navigation, search and security, streamlined cart and checkout, and increased personalization via product recommendations, improved wedding registries and lists, integrated community features and social-networking integration.
So, what does the loss of Target mean to Amazon? The move has been anticipated for a few years now, so Amazon was likely prepared for the eventual split. Baird financial analyst Peter Benedict notes that it could have an impact on Amazon revenues. He writes: “We believe that e-commerce became strategically too important for Target to outsource this business to Amazon, in particular given the increasing competition between the two companies. Nonetheless, Target was a source of high margin commission revenues for Amazon (we estimate in the $100M+ range) on roughly $1.2 billion in Target.com merchandise volume.”
Benedict also noted that a number of large retailers have left the Amazon nest in recent years, including Toys-R-Us and Marks & Spencer. But the departures are not a surprise given Amazon’s new weight in the retail industry. The company continues to put up impressive numbers across the board. Its market value sits at $87 billion, more than twice that of Target. So, essentially, losing the rights to run the ecommerce solutions for these companies is not making a huge impact on the bottom line.
Online sales have become increasingly important for brick-and-mortar stores. More and more companies are beginning to catch on to the importance of having a clean and easy ecommerce solution for consumers to peruse and purchase products from. Recently, European clothing giant Zara announced that it would make online sales available to its US customers. The company has become the number one clothing company in the world in terms of sales, passing Gap this year. Another European brand, H+M, also recently announced the availability of online shopping in the US. Previously, online shopping through H+M was limited to European customers only.
The move towards ecommerce solutions and away from brick-and-mortar shopping is gaining momentum. Whatever the reasons are, ecommerce solutions have seen a 16% month-over-month increase, with consumer electronics leading the way. This could also signal a gradual shift in consumer attitudes towards making more/more expensive purchases online.
August 25, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Travelers have been making hotel and flight reservations over ecommerce solutions for many years. One of the earliest market sectors to catch on to internet sales was travel. It gave shoppers the ability to compare prices, airports, and different travel options to find the best deal, shortest trip, or some combination of the two. As smartphones started penetrating the mobile phone market, hotels and other travel companies are finding that more and more travelers are using them to make accommodations while on the road. In response to this trend, Marriott has released mobile app and a more fully featured version of their mobile site to help users get the best deal and book their rooms faster.
Apps are becoming increasingly important to ecommerce solutions and business of all kinds, really. They are great for boosting customer engagement inside stores and out. Users can check prices for their favorite products, compare them against other retailers or online outlets, and find the best prices. Mobile phone payments are becoming more and more common – either as an electronic wallet like Google and some credit card companies are trying to pioneer, or else through native apps and mobile sites.
Marriott’s ecommerce software app – entitled simply “Marriott Mobile” – is billed by the company as “the perfect travel companion.” It launched simultaneously for iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices all at once as a result of Marriott’s involvement with AT&T’s “Mobile Enterprise Applications Platform.” This novel group features a platform called “Write Once, Run Everywhere.” The name says it all: in cooperation with Kony Solutions, the platform allows users to create a single universal application definition that can be launched on multiple operating systems.
For loyal Marriott users, Marriott Mobile gives them unprecedented access to hotel reservations as well as tracking their accounts and other information on the go. Besides quickly finding a hotel in the local area (including pictures), users can also check for room availability, book one, or check their upcoming reservations (made online from a conventional computer or on the phone). If you have points, you can keep track of your balance, or cash some in when making a reservation.
Shafiq Khan, senior vice president of eCommerce, Marriott International said this:
“We know that more than half of hotel reservations made using mobile devices are for same-day stays. This shows how rushed mobile travelers are; speed and choice are critical. With a few taps, you can now get immediate access on-the-go to our 3,600 hotels across 13 brands in 71 countries.”
Booking on the Go
Information gathered by eMarketer, a leading online data collection agency had a lot of light to shed on the hotel booking habits of travelers on the go. By their estimates, 2012 will see almost 30 million consumers plan out some aspect of their travel via the mobile internet. This is a fifty percent bump from 2011 levels. Travelers booking hotels, tickets, etc. on mobile ecommerce software systems is expected to jump to 15 million by 2012 – more than doubling its present rate.
The need for a comprehensive mobile app for Marriott is obvious. Up into June of this year, their website was experiencing more than 2.5 million hits per month with property-level revenue of more than 20 million dollars per month. This is a three-fold increase from a year ago.
August 25, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Online buying habits are changing. While large purchases such as TVs, videogames, and other electronics are still the leading items up for sale, consumer packaged goods (CPGs) are also on the rise. Early adopters of shopping via ecommerce software platforms tended towards major purchases because the deep discounts available online were significantly better than brick and mortar competitors. Consumer goods are now finding their way into more and more ecommerce software systems. Shoppers are turning to these options for both cost savings and convenience. One online retail company that is showing leadership in this market is Alice.com.
Alice.com is a domestic seller of consumer packaged goods. Based in Middleton, WI, they specialize in helping consumer goods sellers move their projects via online ecommerce software platforms. Some of their chief efforts include distributing free samples and coupons, as well as recording customer information and selling it off to retailers. Founded in 2009, the company recently went global, helping to provide ecommerce solutions to online shopping markets around the world. Great customer service and free shipping are hallmarks of the Alice.com program and remain in place even as they announce that they officially power the online selling sites for more than 100 consumer goods producers.
With the addition of four major players in the consumer goods marketplace, Alice.com is officially past the 100-client landmark. Solo Cup, Kellogg’s, 3M, and Ecover have all recently joined with Alice.com to leverage the ecommerce powerhouse’s online selling technology and other resources to provide their goods to shoppers worldwide.
Solo Cup, for those who are unfamiliar, specializes in “convenience tableware.” Disposable cups, plates, bowls, knives, forks, etc. Basically if you’ve ever had a picnic or cookout or been to a college party (those ubiquitous red cups? Solo) you’ve seen their stuff. Kellogg’s, makers of fine breakfast cereals, is a well-known name in the US breakfast foods market. 3M is the home of the “Scotch Brite” “line of cleaners, spongers, and other household cleaning goods. Ecover also specializes in cleaning supplies – but with an environmental twist. All the different dishwashing soaps, laundry detergent, and other supplies they produce are designed for both power and the environment in mind.
Chris Klem, Director of Marketing for Solo’s Consumer business, had this to say about the team-up:
“With so many of our customers now shopping online, our new storefront delivers an easy way for them to look for and buy their favorite everyday Solo products and find those items that may not be readily available in their local stores. Working with Alice.com, we were able to build a stress-free, uncomplicated e-commerce experience that helps us build ROI and differentiate ourselves in the noisy e-commerce space.”
Rising above the “noisy ecommerce space” is an important goal for any shopping cart solution or ecommerce software platform. Shoppers can find almost any good or service that they want on the internet. Ease of use, functional navigation, and great selection are all proven ways to drive traffic and keep conversions healthy. However, Alice.com is also bringing another proven winner to their partners who use their ecommerce software: Facebook sales.
While Google+ may be lagging behind when it comes to integrating brands and businesses on its social network, Facebook has been rapidly becoming more and more commercial and monetized. Stores have been creating Facebook pages for years now, and lately the baseline for a decent Facebook shopping experience has been the ability to fill a shopping cart and check out without leaving the store’s Facebook page. “Selling on Facebook,” is now a standard feature for most ecommerce solutions, and Alice.com’s Facebook selling capability will help keep their clients competitive.
August 25, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Finding ways to save money has always been a concern for savvy shoppers – especially parents when back-to-school time looms. This year online ecommerce solutions are changing the game for back to school shoppers. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, as many are reporting that they find traditional printed paper circulars the best source of back to school bargains. On top of that, extreme couponing – both online and in the real world – has led to some strange behavioral changes amongst shoppers.
Despite the persistent march of smartphones into the homes and hands of shoppers and their ability to give people access to coupons and deals through ecommerce solutions anywhere, anytime, only two percent of shoppers report that they’ll be relying on their smartphones for savings this back-to-school season. That’s according to a research study done by “The Checkout,” a constant shopper study done by the Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research.
Even without any change in the number of mobile users relying on their smartphones for savings, online shopping is seeing growth. 35% of respondents say that they will use an online ecommerce solution or other online resource when preparing for their back to school shopping. Whether they are just comparing prices, or actually filling online shopping carts, this number represents a 6% bump from last year’s numbers.
However, newspaper circulars still reign supreme, with 43% of respondents indicating that they were their preferred research for back-to-school deal hunting. Maybe there’s just something a little nostalgic about the end of summer and the return to school that reminds parents of a simpler time, when they too were returning to school and checked out store circulars with their parents, looking for the coolest new gear. Sure people do that on ecommerce solutions, but it’s not quite the same.
Mo’ Coupons, Mo’ Problems
Circulars and inserts in newspapers don’t just hold allure for parents and kids looking to save money on Trapper Keepers and new jeans. In these tough economic times, coupon-lovers have been sharpening their scissors and their deal-hunting skills. The love of a bargain has led to “extreme couponers” showing up at stores with quadruple-stacked coupon-combos that end up getting them huge discounts on extreme volumes of items. Some coupons only work really well when combined in massive numbers, but many stores are intervening to limit the amount of special offers that can be combined at any one time.
However, these limits aren’t stopping some people out there from pocketing extra copies of newspapers loaded with special offer circulars. Whether it’s someone stealing their neighbor’s Sunday inserts, or putting a quarter into a newspaper box and pulling ten out instead of just one, people are committing crimes in order to save a little green. This is one place that ecommerce solutions online have advantages over brick-and-mortar retailers or those who rely on physical items like circulars – there’s less theft and fraud of this kind (sure, there’s other types of fraud online).
Tying It Together Online
Last up, for coupon hoarders who want to come into the modern age, there are a variety of ecommerce solutions geared at giving you the best deals all in one place. While Amazon has a back to school app to help students buy and sell old gear to make some quick money or get a great value, websites like Grocery I-Q act as coupon clearing houses. They give you a bunch of coupons all in one place. Many of them can be downloaded directly to your smartphone and presented electronically. As more savvy shoppers start to embrace smartphones and technology like tablets, etc. expect the line between physical and electronic coupons to get blurrier and blurrier.
August 24, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Most of the major travel search engines are well aware of the fact that purchasing two one-way tickets to a destination is generally cheaper than buying round-trip fare, especially when the purchaser can use different airlines for each one-way trip. However, on sites like Expedia, Hotwire and Orbitz, users must dig into the innards of the site to find one-way tickets that will work. Today, ecommerce solution Kayak announced it is offering users the opportunity to purchase “Hacker Fares”, compiling the most rock-bottom one-way prices into full round-trip tickets.
Say you are looking for a weekend roundtrip flight from Seattle to San Francisco, and the best price is $280 for a ticket on Airline A, Kayak will now also show you the price options for two one-way fares on Airline A and Airline B, which may be cheaper. Kayak is deeming these “Hacker Fares” because searching and matching separate airline and travel sites for these cheaper one-way fares require a bit of “hacking,” as users must book two separate tickets on separate airlines. The Kayak approach makes finding cheaper airfare online much easier. It was entirely possible to book travel plans in the same manner before Kayak’s Hacker Fares, but users would have to scour multiple search engines and the whole process was quite convoluted.
Often times airlines don’t appreciate this approach to booking airfare. Delta Airlines recently banned 21 online travel engines from showing Delta flights in their search results. CMO Robert Birge says that airlines won’t be upset over the new “Hacker Fare” because the ecommerce solution is simply searching what’s already out there, and just presenting the consumer with new options based on previously available, albeit difficult to access, information. “These are not interline fares,” Birge points out. “An interline fare is one roundtrip booking on separate airlines, but one booking whether fulfilled by an OTA or airline. Hacker Fares are separate, one-way fares so if someone books this with a Delta one-way fare, they would have to book at Delta.com and the other one-way fare from another provider.”
Kayak does this by “running the additional query approach simultaneously and presenting those fares that add cheaper or different options and doing it quickly and accurately.” So Kayak is merely consolidating one-way fares that are widely available into roundtrip options that normally would take a lot of manual searching and skill to find. While Birge would not reveal how often a roundtrip fare on the same airline is more expensive than two separate one-way fares on different airlines, he did say that the ecommerce solution expects the addition of “Hacker Fares” to impact a “significant percentage of queries” on a daily basis.
The world of online travel ecommerce solutions is becoming increasingly competitive. Recently, Jay Walker, the creator of Priceline, went on a lawsuit spree for violations of patents he claims to own. The company is doing phenomenally well, but Walker seems to be feeling a need to sue anyone that comes up with a product remotely similar to an idea he had and registered through a patent. Expedia also recently announced huge earnings increases. The ecommerce solution reported a profit of $140.4 million, a significant increase from the same period the year before, in which it recorded a profit of $114.3 million. In July, Expedia partnered with Groupon to offer discounted travel deals. Within the first three days of its travel promotions, 15,000 deals were purchased through Groupon’s ecommerce solution, with 25 of Expedia’s nearly selling out.