E-commerce News & Analysis
| Thursday Sep 18, 2014
The global Internet and finance community is transfixed by the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Alibaba Group Holdings, the Chinese e-commerce giant that is expected to go public on Friday at a market capitalization in excess of $160 billion. This is likely to be the largest IPO of all time, raising up to $25 billion in capital for the company and giving a market capitalization larger than eBay (market cap, $64B) and possibly Amazon.com ($150B).
| Monday Sep 15, 2014
Picture this: You walk into your favorite store and the aisles are clogged with half-full carts. Miscellaneous items clutter the shelves. There are a handful of shoppers, far fewer than you would expect in this mess. They mosey through linens, picking up then replacing every throw pillow that sparkles, debating the merits of each sequined atrocity but never reaching checkout. This scene begs the question -- are the owners selling anything?
This is the scene that many online retailers face. Though many elements separate online and in-store shopping experiences, shopping cart abandonment has a particularly large effect on e-retailers. Whereas brick-and-mortar shoppers are unlikely to become distracted and leave the store, online shoppers can and do switch stores with just a couple clicks. Comparison tools make e-shopping around even more tempting to consumers.
| Monday Sep 8, 2014
Last year, Twitter revealed that followers exposed to promoted tweets buy more in stores. Now it's capitalizing on our insatiable desires for stuff with the introduction of a "buy" button.
In a blog post today, Twitter Group Product Manager Tarun Jain confirmed speculation that has been circulating since July when users started to report “Buy now” buttons in occasional tweets. Jain noted that Twitter is testing "a new way for you to discover and buy products," adding, "For a small percentage of US users (that will grow over time), some Tweets from our test partners will feature a 'Buy' button, letting you buy directly from the Tweet."
| Tuesday Sep 2, 2014
Last Christmas Eve, Amazon received an early gift in the shape of a patent for "anticipatory package shipping." The patent describes a method for shipping a package of one or more items to an end destination’s geographical area without specifying the delivery address at time of shipment -- the final destination is defined en route. While last Christmas may have been good to Amazon on several fronts, this patent and some other actions it's pursuing indicate how determined Amazon is to expand the already sizable moat between it and other retailers.
| Monday Aug 25, 2014
Investors in ad-tech specialist Rocket Fuel have been on quite a thrilling ride. Drawn by the buzz of the company’s automated platform, which uses artificial intelligence and big data analytics to purchase ad spots on digital exchanges, traders last September rushed into the IPO: the stock was priced at $29 and opened at $59.95.
Rocket Fuel shares by late January were at a new post-IPO high of $71.89, a gain of 147 percent from the offering price. Today, they change hands at around $14.50.
So what caused Rocket Fuel to run out of gas?
| Monday Aug 18, 2014
Ubiquitous sensors are one of the driving ideas behind the Internet of Things.
The ideas is that we will put on and wear more and more sensors until they become pervasive — enabling everything we interact with on a daily basis to have the potential to offer us greater insight or context for our activities.
It's not hard to see how many of the devices already available are impacting our lives, even in small ways. There are thermostats that can learn from our habits and even be controlled remotely through our phones, window shutters that adjust automatically, depending on how much sunlight is coming through and objects fitted with RFID devices, which let us know when they pass through checkpoints.
All of these devices make life a little easier. But one segment of the population could potentially benefit even more than the rest from IoT technologies: People with disabilities — not just at home, but at the office and everywhere in-between.
| Thursday Aug 14, 2014
Cracking the e-commerce nut isn't as easy as people who actually crack nuts for a living clearly understand.
In fact, two new studies demonstrate that brands and marketers still face significant obstacles to adoption, especially on mobile. But the biggest challenge may be behavioral. As we recently explained, more than 90 percent of retail sales still occur in physical stores.
Why are so many consumers reluctant to buy online, despite the rapid growth of e-commerce? Ripen eCommerce, a Princeton, N.J.-based agency providing marketing, creative, development and technology services to e-commerce clients, thinks understanding consumers' path to purchase is the first step online retailers should take to capture a greater portion of the $3.2 trillion US retail industry.
| Thursday Aug 14, 2014
Now that we've accepted the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT), researchers are starting to look at when, where, how, why and who will use it. They're also looking into potential risks.
Recent research from IDC, for example, shows that retailers are leading the charge to the IoT in the quest for better customer experiences.
According to IDC, retailers see the IoT as a way to improve customer experiences. Specifically, they are using it to pull consumers into one of their channels, where they will entice them with products that have been contextualized and personalized for the customers’ gratification.
| Tuesday Aug 5, 2014
Traditional brick and mortar retailers have been mired in a slump for most of the last year. To change their fortunes, they need to strengthen their core asset -- their stores. The majority aren't equipped to compete against pure play e-tailers on their own terms -- they don't have e-commerce in their DNA like the Amazons or eBays, they lack the technical skillsets required, and with $260B+ in online sales in the US alone in 2013, it’s too late to put the lid back on Pandora’s Box.
While many view traditional brick and mortar stores as more of an anchor than an advantage, more than 90 percent of retail sales still occur in store. Retailers need to use them to their advantage to push back against e-commerce competition.
| Monday Jul 28, 2014
The retail industry is at a crossroad. We've discussed omnichannel behavior for some time now -- both from a consumer and organizational perspective -- but we need to turn that discussion into strategy and action. Retailers are now challenged to use insight from data created across these channels to drive better business performance and meet customer expectations. Technology is they key to enabling this.
Nowhere has the explosion of omnichannel been felt more deeply than retail inventory. Monitoring, moving and replenishing stock was relatively simple when the only end point was the physical store network. But consumers now discover, browse and buy from retailers through a variety of channels -- physical, mobile, online -- through marketplaces and from Drop Ship Vendors (DSVs), which is creating more range, storage and fulfillment options than ever before.
| Friday Jul 25, 2014
Mobile has moved beyond a “channel” and become a behavior. A verb. A necessity. It’s safe to say that if you haven’t moved to mobile in some form -- advertising, app, responsive name, you name it -- you've fallen way behind. So I’m going to assume we’re all on the same page and have at least dipped our toe in the mobile waters.
Mobile is now the dominant channel in online advertising. And while many companies at least have a mobile site, most are missing that clear strategy for mobile customer acquisition.
| Friday Jul 25, 2014
If you sell stuff in your and your partners’ stores and via e-commerce, you have probably heard today’s buzzword -- “omnichannel” -- meaning that your customers should be able to use any part of your commerce chain as if it were a single entity: find and buy anywhere, pick up anywhere, return anywhere, all of this working seamlessly for the customer and integrated so that transactions anywhere are recorded and available everywhere.
You’re being told that your customers want and will soon demand this kind of transparency, and that if you aren't there now, you had better get cracking. You’re also hearing that getting there will take time, a lot of it -- Macy’s started in 2008 and is just now beginning to reap the benefits -- and will be a complex, expensive and “significant technology integration challenge.” By this time, you may be feeling that rush of panic as you contemplate how you can possibly keep up with this brave new world of real and virtual commerce.
You’re not alone.
| Thursday Jul 24, 2014
The term “channel” in a retail context has as many meanings as the disparate paths between merchant and consumer. As the variety of channels continues to grow -- online, offline, mobile, kiosk, call center, website, store -- retailers are challenged with meeting the expectations of consumers who pick and choose channels as their needs demand. Retailers want to provide these consumers with a consistent and seamless experience -- many explicitly claiming strategies to enable an "omnichannel experience" -- but converting the intention into crisp execution has significant challenges.
| Wednesday Jul 23, 2014
Imagine changing a flight or booking a hotel, comparing mortgage rates or researching healthcare providers. You’re probably thinking about specific websites that can help accomplish these tasks -- or maybe a search that could start the process.
Now imagine doing any of these things on a smartphone. Chances are it would take several false starts and -- if you were dedicated to the goal -- a lot of struggle before the job was done. It has little if anything to do with the screen size. Instead, it’s a reflection of design and content that doesn't match the contextual needs of the user. And it doesn't take an extreme example to illustrate this point.
| Tuesday Jul 22, 2014
Under pressure from pure play e-Tailers such as Amazon and eBay, brick and mortar retailers are scrambling to defend their businesses. To stay competitive, most have now added an e-Commerce channel. The challenge for many legacy retailers is that e-Commerce has involved a long learning curve and now mobile and web channels have become part of core functionality rather than a cutting edge addition to the brand. Add to this that many traditional retailers still lack a core competency in the technical nuances necessary to compete effectively with the Amazons and eBays.