Archive for the 'E-commerce' Category

Are 2015 E-Commerce Sales Slowing?

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

There’s been some rumblings in the news lately that e-commerce - especially for traditional retailers - is in a slowdown. Witness the following headlines…

Target’s Digital Sales Slowdown Disappoints Investors - Forbes

Target, Wal-Mart See Online Sales Growth Ebb in Ominous Sign - Bloomberg

Macy’s and Nordstrom Struggle to Adapt to Changing Retail Trends - 24/7 Wall Street

Weak sales trend hits Dick’s Sporting Goods - Chain Store Age

So why are these traditional retailers having problems? The economy going soft? Buyers willing to use no-name or smaller e-commerce sites? The ubiquity of Amazon? Google traffic directed elsewhere?

Kyocera User Agent

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

I’ve had an iPhone since forever and I apparently forgot that the second cell phone I ever owned was a Kyocera but that was back in 2003 or so and I had to procure a certain phone because I was living in Vermont which had a limited cell infrastructure…I do remember the 2003 era Kyocera had this newfangled “text messaging” capability.

The one interesting factoid is that back when I was working in e-commerce, I used to sell Kyocera knives online. I haven’t thought of Kyocera phones until I saw this User Agent today.

IP Address 65.91.116.# (METRO PCS)

Operating System Unknown Unknown
Browser Default
KWC-Torino/ UP.Browser/ (GUI) MMP/2.0

Javascript enabled
Resolution : 320 x 220
Color Depth : 16 bits

Not exactly a “smartphone”…

Rogue SEO spells out oh so not awesome

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

So earlier today I was doing some catching up on Google Alerts for some domains that I manage.

And I kept on finding pages which were unusually formatted.

When I first noticed these pages the middle of last week, I took them for a stupidly overzealous SEO who was planting link farms on sites he owns.

Now, I don’t think so - after examining a number of these rogue SEO pages, it looks like someone is taking advantage of an exploit in Apache to post directories full of these rogue SEO pages, to boost their page rank (while adding outside links on these rogue pages to, I guess, appear genuine).

All of the pages I’ve found are on machines running Apache in shared hosting settings with poorly maintained / designed parent sites. That sure as heck points to exploit.

Take for example the page I posted above. The full URL looks like

Since, like I noted before, the site is poorly maintained which means you can go ahead and browse the parent directories. The main Web site seems to be a homepage (created in Microsoft FrontPage) for a concert promoter in Allentown, PA. The hosting provider is E-Commerce, Inc. And this was just one, out of a number of pages that I found hosted by E-Commerce, Inc. I also found other pages on sites hosted by The Planet and, irony abounding, The Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst College.

So, just who is planting these pages and why?

Yahoo Store Shopping Cart Goes Down, Owners Howl On Cyber Monday

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Good grief, Yahoo Small Business really fouled it up big time on “Cyber” Monday. It seems that the shopping cart for both Legacy and Merchant Solutions stores went down for at least 11 hours. Holy Moly.

Considering the types and size of stores that use the Yahoo platform, you’re talking a good guestimate of thousands of dollars lost per store. I’m sure people will be looking for alternate solutions after this.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Yahoo e-commerce store offerings, there are actually two types of platforms, the old pre-2004 legacy stores that are built upon proprietary RTML based templates and if I remember correctly, I believe this platform was bought by Yahoo. Needless to say, RTML is an incredible pain to work with and there are a few small businesses which specialize in RTML programming.

The newer Merchant Solutions stores feature HTML based templates, but doesn’t allow for as many products in a store because of performance issues. And yes, Yahoo charges a per product insertion fee.

From what I’ve read, there was a big update pushed to the stores just before Q4, which included an updated shopping cart and cross sell functionality. Apparently some legacy stores which reverted to the old cart during the outage did restore functionality.

When I worked on the platform, Yahoo tech support was wanting in many areas. Aside from the hold times, a clueful tech was hard to fine and system status messages were not at all verbose. For some reason, Yahoo tends to push updates all the way up to Thanksgiving (I’ve seen it happen when I worked on this platform) and it seemed like this one was a doozy.

The official word out of Yahoo so far is not enlightening, but the store owner comments are. After reading about the outage, I agree with the owners, there is no excuse for Yahoo whether it was traffic or a borked shopping cart.

Holiday 2007 E-Commerce post

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Christmas is a month away and the 2007 holiday season has officially begun. While online merchants have been preparing for weeks, if not months for these next three and a half weeks, let’s go take a look at e-commerce trends for holiday 2007.

-Since Christmas arrives on a Tuesday this year, this means that the UPS ground deadline looks to be about Tuesday, December 18th for the lower 48. This is good, since the usual cutoff is about the 13th or 14th of December.

-I liked this roundup of Holiday promotions the WSJ found.

-Yes, we should be just a little skeptical of the claims that “Cyber Monday” as being the biggest shopping day of the year online. Hint, it’s not. Mondays are usually the highest traffic days for most Web sites (hence Cyber Monday) but you’ll see that the days just before the UPS ground shipping deadline are the highest volume shopping days. So for Holiday 2007, look for the numbers on Monday December 17th and Tuesday December 18th.

-From the “well, duh” department Web Research Drives More Real-World Purchases. You don’t say…

-It’s interesting that Google has reintroduced the Products link at the top of their homepage. Interesting to note that the link reverts back to Video if you click on some internal Google pages, I’ll bet that the Products link is there just for the holiday season.

However, I’m a little perplexed that with the apparent troubles of Froogle and of Google Base and the ongoing promotion of Google Checkout, why doesn’t Google name the link Shopping rather than Products? Don’t they want people to think of shopping with Google? Products just sounds so generic.

As someone who used to work in retail once said to me, “Christmas comes once a year and we know exactly what day it is.”

Google Page Rank drops for e-commerce

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Has anyone else seen Google Page Rank drops for e-commerce sites during this most recent PR update?

I’m beginning to wonder if Google is trying to degrade SERPs for specific products.

E-Commerce Update 6/17/07

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Two stories from the E-commerce world that I thought were interesting.

The first story from today’s NY Times alarmingly discusses the fact that E-commerce growth has slowed greatly in the past year. E-commerce as a whole will only be about 5% of total retail sales and is expected to grow to about 7%. This trend does not surprise me at all.

In the past, E-commerce grew because we had all of these players entering the field, trying out some new paradigm changing business model and watching what would stick. We saw clever business models, such as Amazon and not so clever ones.

But what goes hand in hand with a business model and what I think many online retailers initially ignored is that E-commerce works when there is a need that can’t be fulfilled or is hard to fulfill in a local store. Think about it, to shop online, you need to log on, then research a couple of stores, then choose your items and put them in the shopping cart and then reach for your credit card and checkout. Oh, and lets not forget the tracking and waiting for the shipment. Tasks that are time consuming.

In addition, E-commerce sites have to fight the perception that they are more expensive that traditional retailers because of shipping prices. As I’ve noted before, the most effective E-commerce promotion is Free Shipping.

Because of the perceptions of time and expense, E-commerce is indeed a different animal than a traditional retail store. In the E-commerce B2C sector where I worked, our best sellers time and time again, were the hard to find items that weren’t usually stocked anywhere else. And let’s not forget the sales we had from some sweet, sweet Search Engine Optimization. (Indeed, just because we were first in the search engine result pages for certain keywords, we got sales.) In addition, we always saw spikes around the gift-giving holidays for third party ship to orders.

The other interesting trend for the larger retailers is the local store pick up option, which definitely makes sense if you’re comparison shopping for a specific item and need it immediately.

Getting a little bit more technical, I was intrigued by this article in EWeek chronicling the dilemma that E-commerce sites have when testing credit card systems. The article states that many sites use old customer data to test merchant systems, which is scary.

You see the conundrum is that the merchant payment gateways don’t provide test data for retailers and if you’re testing real time card processing systems - online as well as offline, you want to see where the data goes (in this case where the money goes) before taking your systems live.

There are dummy credit card numbers you can use to test your systems, so you can see the numbers go through the gateway system but these are invalid numbers which won’t test bank processing.

‘Tis the Week for Holiday Shopping 2006

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

This will be the busiest week of the online shopping season 2006. The UPS Ground shipping deadline is Friday, December 15th and Monday, December 18th, will be the busiest day of the season for the US Postal Service with over 280 Million First Class Cards and Letters to be sent.

In that vein, I received an email over the weekend from Amazon Associates (I had signed up long ago for the program) and there are two interesting tidbits of news from the largest online retailer.

First, the last day for Amazon Super Saver Shipping is Friday, December 15th to receive gifts by Friday, December 22nd. No word on any special expedited shipping services for those procrastinators out there.

However, Amazon Associates are being told to pimp the Amazon Gift Certificate. These gift certificates have a 6% referral fee and they can be sent through email, an e-card or snail mail.

With this emphasis on the gift certificates, I am wondering if Amazon got burned on their late expedited shipping offerings last year.

The Black Friday / Cyber Monday Fallacy

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Since some are speculating about shoppers habits this upcoming weekend, I’d like to chime in. Speaking as a person formerly involved in E-commerce, I can tell you that Black Friday and the upcoming Cyber Monday won’t be all that. Sure, the weekend will be good for online retailers, but these won’t be the busiest days for online retailers during the 2006 Holiday Season.

In fact, the busiest days for online retailers this year will be December 12th and 13th. The reason? Christmas is on a Monday this year, and that pushes up the last day for a package to ship via UPS Ground within the Continental US to Friday, December 15th. (You can spec out a shipment on the UPS Web site to see what I mean.) Many retailers will use the 14th as an extra day for shipping and handling and to sort out issues on their end.

The bulk of e-commerce shoppers are those who would rather not go shopping in brick and mortar stores, hence the waiting until the second week of December to shop, but who also don’t want to be bothered with expedited shipping expenses and/or waiting for a package to arrive at the last minute.

Shipping is a big deal to consumers, as we’ve seen how consumers would rather take a “free shipping” deal over a percentage off deal - even when the percentage off will help consumers save more. This shopper psychology is why sites like Amazon pull stunts like “free expedited shipping” in the last days before Christmas - they’re trying to convince folks to stick around and buy and not worry about shipping.

*Formerly as in, currently advising.

Only 7 more weeks until Christmas!

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

And with that news, the UPS 2006 Holiday Calendar has been released.

e-commerce update 10-28-06

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

An e-commerce update…

  • Halloween is almost here and that means the day after Halloween we will see e-commerce sites making Christmas front and center. Some retailers already have mentions of their holiday season promotions on their home pages.
  • Talking about holiday promotions, don’t forget the lure of free shipping. This study from the Wharton School of Business quantifies what many of us have suspected - that consumers are lured by the words “free shipping”, even if the “free shipping” saves the consumer less than a percentage off discount.

    One interesting takeaway from the study is that a higher price point for your free shipping offer often translates into customers buying more in order to qualify for the free shipping.

  • Is it just me, or have Google AdWords keyword bids gone up recently?
  • Last but not least, I’m hearing a lot about deploying microsites to promote a product or product line. The idea behind a microsite is to direct a customer (through a marketing campaign) to a cluster of pages that have limited navigation and to basically funnel towards the desired conversion. A microsite differs from a landing page in that a landing page usually has navigation to other pages of a parent site.

    While I get the idea of a microsite, what I don’t like about them is the idea of not giving the customer a choice to see more information about you or your products or services prior to conversion. Of course, I’m hearing about microsites by a certain kind of marketer who places all of their faith in their copy. If you deploy a microsite, you have to make damn well sure that you give the customer enough information about who you are and why you think they would want the product.

    Also, microsites seem to depress SEO, so if you’re dependent upon them, that’s another reason to be wary.

Holiday 2006 - First USPS shipping deadlines

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

While I’m not quite living the active e-commerce life anymore (serving as an advisor this holiday season), I wanted to note that the USPS 2006 Military and International Holiday Shipping schedule has been released.

The first major shipping deadline for Holiday 2006 is November 13th, 2006 for Military Parcel Post Mail.

Have fun, my e-commerce friends!

[tags]e-commerce, ecommerce, online shopping, holiday shipping, USPS[/tags]