Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘e-commerce’ Category

Gladly Pay You Tuesday…

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We’re finally getting some rain in central Texas.  We’ll see how long it lasts!

And on the topic of rainmaking, this just in from our friends at Nucleus Research.

Nucleus conducted an analysis of 21 of IBM Smarter Commerce case studies and their ROI, and discovered that for every dollar spent, companies realized an average of U.S. $12.05 in returns.

According to the research, this payback occurred in an average of 9 months (with a high of 23 months, and a low of two).

The cases Nucleus analyzed included U.S. and European companies and government agencies which had deployed IBM Smarter Commerce technologies.

All the case studies were developed independently by Nucleus, following their standard ROI methodology, and IBM was privy to the results only after the research was completed.

In their analysis, Nucleus also observed some summary conclusions, finding that Smarter Commerce projects delivered both top-line and bottom-line benefits, with roughly 60 percent of returns coming from indirect benefits such as productivity, and the rest from direct savings such as reduced operational costs or hires avoided.

Specific key benefits included the following:

  • Increased productivity. In many cases companies were able to accomplish more work with fewer staff or avoid additional hires as they grew by automating previously manual processes and increasing employee productivity.
  • Reduced costs. Smarter Commerce customers experienced cost reductions in areas such as customer call handling costs, technology costs, and other costs associated with supply chain transactions.
  • Improved inventory management. Greater visibility into customer demand and inventory levels enabled Smarter Commerce customers to gain better control over their inventory, reducing inventory carrying costs and increasing inventory turns.
  • Improved decision making. Greater agility and rapid insight into data for decision making enabled companies using Smarter Commerce to more quickly make decisions and act on them with confidence.
  • Reduced customer churn and increased customer satisfaction. Companies using IBM Business Analytics were able to more rapidly understand customer satisfaction and retain more profitable customers by proactively addressing customers’ propensity to churn. For example, one telecommunications customer was able to reduce customer churn by 8 percent in the first year and 18 percent in the second year by further refining its churn analysis.

Customers Leverage Prepackaged Functionality

Nucleus indicated that the $12.05 average return from Smarter Commerce was at the high end of the range of returns Nucleus had seen from other assessments of deployments such as analytics and CRM, and many IBM Smarter Commerce clients indicated they had achieved high returns by taking advantage of the investments IBM has made in providing integrated solutions, more intuitive user interfaces, and prepackaged industry functionality.

By way of example:

  • Integrated solutions and prepackaged industry functionality accelerate time to deployment and time to value while reducing overall project risk.
  • Usability improvements drive more rapid adoption and make it easier for companies to drive adoption of technologies such as business analytics to casual and business users beyond the data expert specialists that have historically been the primary users of analytics.

Industry-specific functionality and expertise were particularly important in the success of customers adopting Smarter Commerce technologies in the government sector, such as social services agencies and police departments, where IT often has limited resources.

You can go here to download the full report.

Talk To The Mannequin Middleman

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Middlemen have gotten a pretty bad wrap since the Internet came along.

First, it was the travel agents, who were one of the first to be “disintermediated” by sites like Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Why hire a person to do what a computer and network could do?

Although it turns out it wasn’t quite that easy, as we later discovered, and nearly 20 years later there are still travel agents, but they’ve evolved and often moved up the value stack in terms of their offerings. (As an example, whenever I book a scuba diving trip, I typically now use an exclusive provider of scuba vacation travel, and they’ve served me quite well…although, sigh, it’s been far too long since I went diving!)

At IBM, we’re only supposed to employ our American Express travel agents when we’re traveling overseas.  I, personally, don’t mind using our Online Travel Reservation system for planning my travel, but that Web-based system has never been the same as talking to a really good Amex travel agent, and it certainly has never made me laugh.

So this story in The New York Times caught my eye, which explains how e-commerce companies are “bypassing” the middlemen in a variety of e-commerce verticals.

From eyeglasses to office supplies to bedding to nail polish to shaving supplies, there are host of “smarter commerce” e-commerce ventures popping up that are “controlling the supply chain,” providing products and services to end consumers at lower costs than many big retailers while pocketing the disintermediated profits.

But before you leap headlong into a Web server (which, let’s be frank, could hurt!), let’s not forget that physical presence still matters.

CNBC reports that “what’s old is new again” for some e-commerce retailers, outlining that a “growing number of online retail companies are setting up physical stores” in response to trends like “showrooming,” whereby consumers do in-store flybys only to later make a purchase online.

IBM vice president and global retail leader Jill Puleri was quoted in the story with this observation: “If there’s one thing showrooming teaches us, it’s that consumers still want to see what they are buying in person.”

It goes on to cite data from IBM suggesting that “50 percent of online sales were generated after consumers first browesed offline.”

So what’s next? One could easily envision pop-up stores emerging in highly-trafficked areas around the world: airports, train stations, even shopping malls, where consumers could “touch and feel” the merchandise and then get incented to go and make an actual purchase online.

Now if they could just figure out a way to make those in-store mannequins just a little less creepy.

Holiday Shopping And Streaming

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Santa brought Turbo a new (used) set of vintage 1988 Ben Hogan "Redline" blade golf clubs...whether or not they'll do anything to help lower his handicap remains to be seen!

Santa brought Turbo a new (used) set of vintage 1988 Ben Hogan “Redline” blade golf clubs…whether or not they’ll do anything to help lower his handicap remains to be seen!

Well, I hope you and yours are having a happy holiday season, wherever in the world you may be.

I just returned from a wonderful visit to see my parents and some extended family up in my hometown of Denton, Texas, where we were treated to our first white Christmas in three years, the snow billowing down starting around mid-day Christmas Day, and plunging the Dallas/Ft. Worth roads into a virtual ice skating rink.

As for the Christmas holiday shopping season, Sarah Perez with TechCrunch just reported that Amazon.com once again came out on top, in terms of online satisfaction.

No big surprise there.  I conducted a large portion of my own holiday shopping via Amazon, and received everything I ordered within a few days. I also treated myself to a set of Ben Hogan 1988 “redline” blade golf clubs, which I discovered on eBay for a very agreeable price. Unfortunately, the weather in Texas has kept me off the golf course (now back in Austin, I hope for that to change in the next few days!).

Of course, if you were trying to watch movies on Netflix on Monday, you might have found yourself watching a blank screen. Due to an Amazon Web Services outage, Netflix viewers were treated to bags full of coal starting around 3:30 PM on Monday, AWS’s third major outage this year.

Myself, I went on a “Redbox” binge over the holiday, discovering some recent titles for $1.20 a pop (including the latest Spiderman!), only to discover they’ll be bringing some competition to the streaming realm with the introduction of “Redbox Instant,” expected to go into private beta sometime soon. Redbox Instant is expected to match Netflix’s monthly streaming subscription price of $8 U.S.

Whatever your preference, it certainly looks like more and more Americans will be viewing filmed entertainment on devices other than their TVs. Another TechCrunch story reports that one in four Americans now owns a tablet computing device, with such devices now even having overtaken the number of e-reading devices like the Kindle (again, I did my fair share here over the holidays, giving out two Kindle Fire HDs as family gifts. Now I can only cross my fingers my family will use them!)

Regardless of your preference, the story goes on to say that one in three people in the U.S. now owns some kind of tablet or e-reading device, and this data before the full gamut of holiday shopping data has hit analysts’ spreadsheets.

One such analyst, Strategy Analytics, has Apple’s iPad still leading the pack, with Amazon and Samsung quickly narrowing that lead.

So what did Santa bring YOU for Christmas, and better yet, what did Santa YOU give others???

Written by turbotodd

December 27, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Big Commerce In China

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China's Taobao is just one of thousands of Chinese-based e-commerce properties helping propel China into the world's single largest digital marketplace. So far in 2012, Alibaba (Taobao's parent company) has generated over $157 billion U.S. in gross merchandise volume, making it the largest e-commerce property in the world.

China’s Taobao is just one of thousands of Chinese-based e-commerce properties helping propel China into the world’s single largest digital marketplace. So far in 2012, Alibaba (Taobao’s parent company) has generated over $157 billion U.S. in gross merchandise volume, making it the largest e-commerce property in the world.

You read in my last post about last Monday’s “Cyber Monday” tidings according to the IBM Digital Benchmark.

Well, TechCrunch is reporting from comScore data that the holiday shopping juggernaut continues well beyond Cyber Monday.

comScore’s data found that e-commerce spending for the first 30 days of this November-December 2012 holiday season has amounted to a respectable $20.4 billion, a 15 percent increase over the same time period last year.

During the past week alone, comScore reported three individual days surpassing $1 billion in spending, according to the TechCrunch post by Leena Rao, with the peak, of course, coming on Cyber Monday at $1.46 billion.

Of course, all that might seem like chump change when you hold it up against some e-commerce numbers coming out of China, via a post on VentureBeat.

China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba alone has sold an estimated $157 billion U.S. in gross merchandise volume this year, which VentureBeat observes surpasses Amazon and eBay combined.

In fact, Alibaba is believed to have garnered a $3 billion single sales day earlier this year.

But the real story here may be Jack Ma’s “Alipay,” Alibaba’s payments processing unit, which now has over 700 million registered users.

According to a recent report from the folks at eMarketer, China’s antiquated banking system and low usage by consumers of credit cards is benefiting the e-commerce industry there.

Alipay, now China’s largest third-party online payment solution, essentially provides escrow payment services that not only facilitate e-commerce transactions in China, but also reduces risk to consumers, because with Alipay, they have the ability to verify whether or not they are satisfied with their purchases before releasing funds to the seller.

And Alipay isn’t just limited to the Chinese marketplace. It now handles transactions in 12 foreign currencies, including in U.S. dollars, Japanese yen, and the euro.

According to the eMarketer report, Alibaba is also upgrading its COD payment infrastructure, investing some $79 million U.S. in a portable device that Alibaba says will consolidate logistics records with credit/debit card payment information in a single terminal.

It’s Alipay’s intent to install thousands such devices across China’s first- and second-tier cities (think Beijing, Shanghai, etc.) by the end of this year, which will help with China’s broader goals of fomenting increased internal consumer consumption.

Of course, if you’re News Corporation, and you’re in the iPad publishing business, no amount of Chinese e-commerce facilitatin’ payment devices are going to help a fledgling business model.

Earlier today, News Corp. finally bifurcated its publishing and entertainment businesses, and seemingly as a minor sidebar, also conceded defeat of its The Daily iPad app effective December 15.

The Daily had been News Corp’s digital pride and joy, a valiant attempt at delivering a daily news publication via the iPad only 100,000 people wanted.

At 99 cents a week, that apparently was not revenue enough even close to maintaining a viable business, so The Daily will now be put to bed.

Ever-reliable media critic website Poynter noted The Daily had two key lessons of failure from which we could all learn.  One, they had no clarity on its intended audience (I thought that was supposed to be iPad users!), and two, one platform, the iPad, just wasn’t enough in a multi-device world.

Perhaps they should have instigated a Chinese edition? Surely they could have drummed up a few more hundred thousand from a population of 1.3 billion!

Written by turbotodd

December 3, 2012 at 11:34 pm

(Not) Home For The Holidays

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I’m pretty happy I don’t have to travel today.  I’m going to wait until tomorrow, when all the turkeys have gotten off the road.

Of course, watch out for Wal-Mart and other big retail parking lots.  The consternation about having to work on Thanksgiving is pervasive, and I wouldn’t want to see any customers attempt to play Frogger in those big parking lots.  It’s dangerous enough just trying to get through the doors and into the store!

As always, my wise counsel is to shop from the comfort of your couch.

Walt Mossberg, the ever-dependable tech journalist with The Wall Street Journal, has written an article about “Making Sense of All the New Laptop Flavors.”

He goes on about the various flavors of Windows 8 PCs and tablets, before concluding that the “least costly Mac laptop” is the 11-inch MacBook Air, for $999.

I bought one just about a year ago, and I maintain it’s still the best, fastest, lightest, most dependable computer I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned plenty.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have splurged for more SSD, but that’s it.

If you want to make sure your personal shopping engine is fully revved before Black Friday, Gizmodo’s providing its Ultimate Black Friday guide for geeks, grouping deals by category, and offering a list of when every retailer is slated to be open on Black Friday, just in case you prefer shopping in a mosh pit.

As for an update on my new Apple Mini-me “mini,” otherwise known as the 5th generation iPod touch, I can only say I have no buyer’s remorse, even now after having seen the iPad mini in the flesh.

The retina screen and the small form factor on the newest touch are working perfectly for me thus far. I bought a new “Need for Speed” racing game just to be able to check out the graphics in full force, and the retina screen is simply stunning (as are movies and Netflix streams). I’ve always read what a great gaming platform the touch is, but playing that racing game has cemented it.

Over the next several days, if you want to keep pace with IBM’s annual holiday campaign “Digital Analytics” benchmark, just follow IBM’s e-shopping analytics guru, @jay_henderson (a fellow Texan!).

Jay and his team will be working and posting reports throughout the weekend and into next week to keep us all informed how the holiday e-retail season is going. Jay’s already indicated we can expect to see growing numbers on the mobile and tablet shopping footprint this year.  You can read Jay’s holiday set up piece here.

That said, don’t ignore those retail emails piling up in your in-box — email continues to be the e-retail Trojan Horse, with lots of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals already being distributed. From Amazon to Golfsmith, I’ve received a number of holiday email deals, and it’s all I can do to keep my credit card filed away in my anti-scanning wallet!

If you’re looking for gainful employment this pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday, you might want to try somewhere other than LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s Website had a “service unavailable” message this morning, and TechCrunch has been reporting a LinkedIn site outage.

As for me, I’ll be (mostly) disappearing from the cyber maze over the course of the next week. It’s my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, and I’m taking them on a cruise in the Caribbean to celebrate. I may send a post or two via email if I’m so inspired, but mostly I’ll be spending some quality time with my parents and some extended family, and gazing out at the Gulf of Mexico in a pina colada-induced haze (virgin pina coladas, of course).

For all of my readers here in the United States, I wish you a very happy and restful holiday weekend. For those of you outside the U.S., enjoy the email and conference call silence from your U.S. colleagues…it won’t last long!

Showrooming With Santa

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ON the topic of Smarter Commerce, I’ve seen two stories today….count ‘em, TWO…about the intent for numerous retailers promising to match online retail prices at brick-n-mortar stores during the coming holiday season.

Found that Tickle Me Elmo for ten whole cents cheaper at Amazon???…just step right on up the Target cash register, because the Price is Right!

One of the stories was in The Wall Street Journal, and claimed that over the past few days, Best Buy and Target both had said they would match the prices offered by the online sites of some rivals, including Wal-Mart and Amazon.

This in an effort to combat “showrooming” (bet you didn’t even know there was such a word!), whereby shoppers checking products in stores then buy them on competitor’s websites, presumably for lower prices.

But, as the story goes on to observe, there soon could be trouble at the register, as these new policies require shoppers to both ask for and PROVE the existence of lowered prices.

“Mommy, Mommy, I just found the latest Furby on Amazon.com for a whole fifty cents less!”

Now, excuse Mommy while she fumbles around in her purse for her smartphone!  Oh, never mind that line of people waiting around the store to pay full price for their Furbys!

You get the picture.

According to the Journal story, Best Buy’s going to go them one better, and provide their sales reps some discretion — if the SKU’s price is too low, you don’t get to go!…out the store with your Furby, that is.

All the more reason, I say, to stay in this holiday season, tablet or laptop in hand, with a nice warm cup of Egg Nog, and do ALL your holiday shopping from the comfort of your own home!

Written by turbotodd

October 18, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Live @ IBM InterConnect 2012: A Q&A With IBM’s Alisa Maclin On The IBM Marketing Center

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lisa Maclin is Vice President of Marketing for IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative. IBM’s Smarter Commerce portfolio consists of software solutions, including over $2.5B in recent acquisitions, as well as consulting and implementation services and workload optimized systems.

Alisa Maclin is Vice President of Marketing for IBM’s Smarter Commerce Initiative. Smarter Commerce is a unique approach designed to help companies better integrate and more effectively manage their value chain — including buy, market, sell, and service processes — to put the customer at the center of decisions and actions.

IBM’s Smarter Commerce portfolio consists of software solutions, including over $2.5B in recent acquisitions, as well as consulting and implementation services and workload optimized systems.

Previously, Ms. Maclin was Vice President of Market Strategy and Planning for IBM Global Business Services, with responsibility for developing and executing marketing strategy for IBM’s consulting and application management business worldwide.

Ms. Maclin has more than 20 years of global marketing and sales leadership experience at IBM, including executive roles in IBM’s Software, Global Services, and Sales and Distribution divisions.

We sat down with Ms. Maclin recently at the IBM InterConnect event in Singapore to better understand the evolution of the Smarter Commerce story over the past few months, including the announcement of the new IBM Marketing Center, which has been described as a “multipurpose cloud-based suite aimed at organizations that want to take advantage of the Smarter Commerce capabilities without having to invest in their own IT infrastructure.”

We discussed this, and much more, during our few minutes together in Singapore.

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