Not right now.

Blueport Picks Three Highlights From eTail West 2014: Conversion, Customers and Content

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 by

Each year, eTail West brings together senior-level e-commerce and marketing professionals from various industries (apparel, consumer electronics, home furnishings and office products to name a few) to network, share best practices and showcase leading technologies. This year, eTail West focused on the overall theme of multi-channel/omnichannel and what it means for retailers. Couldn’t attend this year's conference in San Antonio? No problem. Blueport highlights our top three important takeaways for furniture retailers: conversion, customers, and content. Read on to learn more.

Highlight #3: Mobile And Email Can Live In Conversion Harmony

When it comes to offering an omnichannel strategy, email conversion on mobile devices proves to be a whole different animal. Consider how today’s consumers are constantly checking, scanning, and (maybe) reading a barrage of emails on their mobile. What will actually get them to click and ultimately buy? During the Email Summit of eTail West, Alaa Hassan, VP of iNetVideo, shared these tips on how to improve your email marketing to increase mobile conversion:

  • Analytics: Target your emails based on data surrounding customer behavior
  • Design: Your website must be mobile responsive, engaging and simple
  • Content: Test and repeat subject lines as much as possible and combine promotional with value-added content
  • Email lists: Your conversion rates can only be as good as the quality of email lists you use
  • Landing pages: Any landing page you drive to, even in email, must also be responsive to mobile

Our takeaway?

Shopping for furniture on a mobile device requires an even more superior experience to encourage conversion for product that is often larger, more expensive and requires more consideration than the average online purchase. This is exactly why Hassan’s tips are especially important for furniture retailers to note. Additionally, Blueport recommends linking to or offering free downloads of interactive apps within emails to encourage further mobile engagement and conversion. See how Blueport’s furniture e-commerce site,, makes use of an augmented reality app allowing shoppers to “view” how furniture will look in their home through a mobile device. Try out augmented reality through our app available on iTunes and Google Play.

Highlight #2: Serving Customers Everywhere Is The Key To Creating A Raving Fan Base

Kicking off day one of eTail West, keynote speaker Brad Wolanksy, CMO of the Yankee Candle Company, shared “16 keys to creating ‘raving’ and long-lasting fans”. Here are our favorites:

  • Raise the bar on customer service reps: Always hire someone better than the person they replaced
  • Paralysis by analysis: There are too many data points for you to be analyzing all of them. Identify the ones that are the most important to monitor.
  • Everyone has a role in customer service: Challenge the entire company to think like a consumer
  • Invest in the right tools: Like live chat or social monitoring

Notice a trend?  Serving customers is key to creating raving (profitable!) fans.

Our takeaway? 

For furniture retailers, every touch point matters – you never know when a customer might need another sofa or refer you to a friend. Making sure high-quality service is consistent and maintained over time, anywhere your customers are (whether in store, online, or on the phone) is critical. This goes for all activities among your store associates to your website to your social channels.

Highlight #1: No One Will Read Your Content If It Sucks

No business wants to hear what they are doing wrong but according to speaker Jonathon Colman, Content Strategist at Facebook, there are six main things every business should know when it comes to dealing with content. The pitfalls:

  1. Seeing content as just another commodity instead of a business asset
  2. Publishing as much content as possible versus valuable content your customer’s want
  3. Not scheduling or editing content before it is published instead of planning when, where and how it’s going to be published throughout the year
  4. Releasing content that is useless and inconsistent versus focusing on content that is clear and complete
  5. Designing with placeholder copy first, instead of designing with the real content in mind
  6. Allowing your platforms to define how content works versus content shaping your platform

Our takeaway?

For furniture retailers, the omnichannel opportunity can be further propelled by content. Content and promotion strategies that previously worked well in stores may not translate directly to an omnichannel strategy that incorporates the intricacies of online and mobile. Listening to what your customers want to hear and make content part of your overall business strategy.

Overall, we can’t help but be excited by the omnichannel trends occurring across the retail industry, and look forward to more widespread adoption of strategies and solutions that enable mobile conversion, consumer-centric service, and effective content. In the meantime, we’ll be working closely with our own furniture retail clients to help them take advantage of the $78 billion omnichannel opportunity in the marketplace.

About Blueport Commerce

Blueport Commerce is the omnichannel solution for the $78B furniture industry. We marry retailers' bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology and unique marketing and sales solutions to create modern, efficient, easy shopping experiences. $6.3B in furniture retailers choose Blueport. For some retailers, Blueport's SaaS omnichannel platform powers their branded websites, driving sales online and in their stores. For other retailers, we drive online sales through, our e-commerce website. For many retailers, we do both. Our technology is transforming furniture retail, for the 4% of sofas that sell online and the 96% that don't. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our available jobs on our careers page.

There’s something about “2013” that sounds like the future.

Friday, December 28, 2012 by

2013 Back to the Future2013 is a year – when you were a kid, picking dates unimaginably far away – that might have been the founding year of your Lego moon colony, the birthday of a future hero or the expiration date of a seemingly permanent galactic treaty.

When I Uber, use Nike+ or email from 34,378 feet, it feels a bit like the future. Things once cumbersome have become easy – they feel clean, simple and efficient, like the future we imagined in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Is an iPad so different from a Tricorder? I think much of Apple’s market cap comes from the fact that it’s one of the few companies that looks and feels like the future. Forget that (Maps, Lighting) and watch out below.

Retail’s challenge – make the messy elegant

While experiences like hailing a cab have been transformed, the messiness that is retail has a way to go. In many ways, it’s messier now than ever. Shopper interactions with stores continue to expand in scope, channels and expectation. 

Morgan’s 3 Key E-Commerce Trends to Watch in 2012 were dead on – highlighting new devices and channels, as well as the need to maintain an experience across these multiplying mediums. Brick and mortar retailers, only a few decades ago able to count on the ritual of “shopping” to drive their traffic, are challenged to adapt. Their real challenge is to streamline this complexity into a modern, clean, relevant experience. Can Ron Johnson bring the future from Apple to JCP? It will be fascinating to watch.

2013 – Trees > Forest

2013 feels like the year that the factionalized retail trends of the past few years will start to harmonize. Chasing the latest widget, device or channel will evolve to a holistic view of brand delivery, understanding consumers’ needs and meeting those needs consistently across mediums. 

Three specific trends to keep an eye on in 2013 and beyond:

Ubiquity – Can we count (and scrap) the terms used to describe the ways shoppers and retailers interact? Distinctions between e-, multi-, omni-, digital and physical commerce will collapse, as former pure plays like Amazon build massive physical infrastructure and retailers like Williams-Sonoma consolidate stores in favor of online. 

2013 may be the year we finally start to treat stores as just another brand delivery method. The question for retailers in the past has been “do I need an online/mobile/social presence for my stores?” The question of the future is “do I need stores to deliver my brand?” Some categories (like furniture) will continue find stores useful. Other categories won’t. In either case, the days of stores being the default, requisite method of delivering a brand feel long gone.  

Back to Brands – Just as ubiquity will replace channel focus, a holistic approach to brand will replace digitally limited ideas like “user experience”. Where retailers have been looking at online and social as a way to express their store brands online, they are starting to look at what their brand means – regardless of channel – and how that can best be delivered. New entrants start with brand, and only embrace the channels that can deliver it. 

It’s those retailers that have a strong sense of brand and brand delivery that are winning in retail today. That clarity of purpose drives efficiency in their decisions online and off, and is a beacon to consumers looking for simple, cohesive solutions in a messy landscape.

All Aboard – Laggard industries will continue to be transformed, either by upstart entrants or forward-looking incumbents. If Uber can transform messy municipal markets like taxis, is there any market that “can’t” go online? 

Winners and losers in these markets will be determined by who has the assets to deliver the brand experiences people want. In some cases, those assets will be digital, others physical. Particularly interesting will be markets like furniture, where incumbents have massive advantages in brand delivery, and are finally bringing them to bear in a $70B market.

*          *          *

2012 was an unimaginably great year at Blueport. 2013 looks to be even more so as we continue to work with our retailers to deliver their brands online and recreate our own brand, We’re looking forward to looking back with you on what will be a fascinating, fantastic year.

Joy to E-Commerce Retailers: Cyber Monday 2012 Breaks Records

Friday, December 7, 2012 by

Cyber Monday 2012 Big-Ticket Retail E-CommerceLast week, we examined the record-breaking success of e-commerce over US Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2012, and their worldwide impact. This week we examine the numbers and impact of Cyber Monday 2012. As the only e-commerce platform, technology, and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, Blueport Commerce breaks down the Cyber Monday 2012 holiday numbers to uncover trends and insights relevant to big-ticket retailers.

Numbers are courtesy of MultiChannel Merchant/IBM's Cyber Monday Report; ITProPortal’s Black Friday 2012 Results: $1bn Milestone Hit as Online Spending Soars, But Cyber Monday Nets Even More; Internet Retailer’s A Robust Weekend for E-Retail; The Retail Email Blog’s Alert: Record-Setting Cyber Monday Propels 5-Day Weekend Email Volume to All-Time High and MarketWatch’s Bari Furniture Reports 62% Increase for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.


Cyber Monday

Sure, the term "Cyber Monday" may feel antiquated, but the concept is current enough to be embraced by the millions of people who didn't feel like hitting the local malls or stores to wait in line for hours. Let's face it: shopping from the comfort of your desk, whether at work or at home in your pajamas, is a lot less stressful than braving the crowds and hitting local stores. And online shoppers in the United States agreed, to the tune of $1.465 billion spent on Cyber Monday, making the day the most lucrative ever for e-retailers per comScore Inc. (Internet Retailer). Some more intriguing overall statistics include:

Cyber Monday 2012 Vs. Cyber Monday 2011

  • Shopping Peaks at 11:25 am EST: Consumers flocked online, with shopping momentum hitting its highest peak at 11:25 am EST (IBM).
  • Mobile Shopping and Mobile Traffic Increase: On Cyber Monday more than 18 percent of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, an increase of more than 70 percent over 2011. Mobile sales reached close to 13 percent, an increase of more than 96 percent over 2011 (IBM).
  • The iPad Factor: The iPad continued to generate more traffic than any other tablet or smartphone, driving more than 7 percent of online shopping. The iPad also continued to dominate tablet traffic reaching a holiday high of 90.5 percent (IBM).
  • Multiscreen Shopping: Consumers shopped in store, online and on mobile devices simultaneously to get the best bargains. Overall 58.1 percent of consumers who were in a store used smartphones compared to 41.9 percent who used tablets to surf for bargains on Cyber Monday (IBM).
  • Social Sales: Shoppers referred from Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated 0.41 percent of all online sales on Cyber Monday, a decrease of more than 26 percent from 2011 (IBM).

Blueport Cyber Monday tip: Save the best for last. Black Friday traffic was high for all websites across the world, with traffic from people scoping out deals. However, a big-ticket retailer’s best deals should be saved for Cyber Monday, which had the highest conversions, with people buying online at more than double the rate of Black Friday.

“Despite some news reports suggesting that Cyber Monday might be declining in importance, the day has once again set an online spending record at nearly $1.5 billion,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “However, it is also clear that the holiday promotional period has begun even earlier this year, with strong online sales occurring on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Now, we shall see the extent to which continuing and attractive retailer promotions are able to boost sales for the remainder of the week.”

Now what about furniture? In a trend that foreshadows the ROI potential of taking your big-ticket retail items online with e-commerce, home goods continued to grow, reporting a 26.8 percent increase in sales from Cyber Monday 2011 (IBM). Additionally, Bari Furniture, an online and brick and mortar retailer specializing in Leather Furniture, said that Black Friday and Cyber Monday produced record sales, with Black Friday sales up 59% over 2011 and Cyber Monday sales hitting an all-time record with a 64% increase (MarketWatch).

"As our selection broadens, reviews from our customers tell us that year over year growth will continue to expand for niche sites like ours that focus so closely on service, selection and value," President Tom Tilaro said.

Blueport experienced this phenomenon firsthand. One of our clients, TheRoomPlace, had their best-ever online sales day on Cyber Monday, lifting their revenue 14% from 2011. Another one of Blueport's clients, Leon's Furniture of Canada, experienced a 380% increase in revenue on Cyber Monday compared to their daily average sales. The best part of this? Leon's is actually a long-time Canadian retailer, where Thanksgiving is celebrated the month prior, meaning that Cyber Monday is truly becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

Between the success of big-ticket retail's predecessor of home goods and furniture over the holiday weekend, as well as the increased overall spending by consumers via e-commerce, Blueport Commerce remains committed to furniture as the next big category to go online.

As the 2012 Thanksgiving-Black Friday-Cyber Monday e-tailing season is behind us and we look to the December holiday season, big-ticket e-commerce retailers who sent early emails (early in both time of day sent and in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday) reaped the best rewards. Knowing that December is often the splashiest and most profitable holiday season, it’s a best practice to promote sales early and often to your loyal email subscribers and social media followers, as well as offer pre-holiday deals to your VIP customers.

Miss our Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday 2012 breakdown? Check it out here.

E-Commerce Retailers Rejoice: Thanksgiving Day & Black Friday 2012 Break Records

Friday, November 30, 2012 by

E-Commerce Retailers Black Friday Thanksgiving Day SalesEven if the Grinch was an e-commerce retailer, he'd be forced to smile after the close of a landmark 2012 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. By all accounts, from Thanksgiving Thursday to Black Friday to Cyber Monday and everything in between, 2012 was a wildly successful holiday e-retailing period. And retailers have a lot for which to be thankful.

As the only e-commerce platform, technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, Blueport Commerce breaks down the Thanksgiving 2012 holiday numbers to uncover trends and insights relevant to big-ticket retailers in a two-part series. Part one looks at Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday; Cyber Monday will be covered in part two.

Numbers are courtesy of IBM's Black Friday Report 2012; comScore’s Black Friday Billion: Kick-Off to Brick-and-Mortar Shopping Season Surges Past $1 Billion in E-Commerce Spending for the First Time; ITProPortal’s Black Friday 2012 Results: $1bn Milestone Hit as Online Spending Soars, But Cyber Monday Nets Even More; Internet Retailer’s E-Commerce Sales Rise 17.4% on Thanksgiving Day; SearchEngineWatch’s Black Friday E-Commerce Sales Set $1 Billion Record, 2012 Holiday Online Sales Strong; and The Retail Email Blog’s More Retailers Sent Email on Thanksgiving Than Black Friday.

Thanksgiving Day

  • Strong Gains Overall: Thanksgiving Day saw strong gains on the e-commerce front, with a 32 percent year-over-year increase in online spending bringing the total for that holiday to $633 million (SearchEngineWatch).
  • Promotional Email Frenzy: On Thanksgiving, more than 83% of major online retailers sent their subscribers at least one promotional email, setting an all-time record for the day. In 2011, 75% of retailers sent their subscribers email on Thanksgiving; in 2010, 60% did; and in 2009, just 45% did (Retail Email Blog).
  • Record-Shattering Web Traffic: Visits to retail web sites broke records, with Akamai Technologies Inc. reporting a peak of 7.63 million page views per minute from North American consumers to the websites of its retail clients at 8:55 p.m. Eastern Time on Thanksgiving Day (Internet Retailer).

Blueport's tip: It's never too early to start promoting discounts or special offers. Don't feel limited to just Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. And don’t think furniture has no place in these sales – it’s about more than just gifts. Even if people are buying for themselves, early awareness of deep discounts is critical to drive big-ticket online purchases. And US Thanksgiving has started to be recognized (at least for e-commerce) in Canada, with Blueport client Leon’s of Canada experiencing a traffic surge, with a visitor increase of 360% from US Thanksgiving Day 2011.This proves that Thanksgiving is now recognized outside of the US as a major e-commerce event.

Black Friday

While Black Friday traditionally conjures up images of overly caffeinated shoppers bundled up in multiple layers of clothes, camping out overnight at their favorite retail stores the night before stores open, an increasing number of consumers prefer to do all of their Black Friday shopping online. According to comScore, Black Friday saw over $1 billion in e-commerce sales for the first time ever, and a 26 percent increase versus Black Friday 2011.

“Despite the frenzy of media coverage surrounding the importance of Black Friday in the brick-and-mortar world, we continue to see this shopping day become more and more prominent in the e-commerce channel – particularly among those who prefer to avoid crowds at the stores,” said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. “With Black Friday online sales up 26 percent and surpassing $1 billion for the first time, coupled with early reports indicating that Black Friday sales in retail stores were down 1.8 percent, we can now confidently call it a multi-channel marketing phenomenon.”

  • Social Sales: Shoppers referred from Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated .34 percent of all online sales on Black Friday, a decrease of more than 35 percent from 2011 (IBM).
  • Mobile & Tablet Shopping: Mobile purchases (including tablet) soared with 24 percent of consumers using a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, up from 14.3 percent in 2011. Mobile sales exceeded 16 percent, up from 9.8 percent in 2011. The iPad not only dominated the tablet shoppers with 88.3% of share, it reached nearly 10 percent of all online shopping (IBM).
  • Multiscreen Shopping: Consumers shopped in store, online and on mobile devices simultaneously to get the best bargains. Of the people already in a physical store, 58 percent of these consumers used smartphones compared to 41 percent who used tablets to surf for bargains while in-store on Black Friday (IBM).
  • Brick-and-Mortar Sales Down: As the internet rises, in-store sales were down 1.8 per cent despite slightly improved year-on-year foot traffic amounting to 308 million visits to bricks-and-mortar retail outlets (ShopperTrak via ITProPortal).

Blueport Black Friday tip: The lack of influence of social media is surprising; particularly that it was down from 2011. While we encourage our retailers to keep an active social media presence, it's important to always link to either appropriate sale items or the homepage, allowing viewers to see upcoming promotions. And Black Friday certainly proves the importance of having a mobile-optimized website, if not a mobile app in addition, to encourage active shoppers to engage with your brand and, most importantly, transact.

Blueport client TheRoomPlace had its highest traffic of the year on Black Friday, doubling their traffic from four weeks prior. And Black Friday even hit Canada, with Leon’s increasing their visitors 33% from Black Friday 2011, proving that Black Friday is now recognized outside of the US.  

Blueport Commerce and our clients are thrilled with the increase in e-commerce purchases of the 2012 Thanksgiving holiday season. While Thanksgiving and Black Friday have traditionally been thought of as in-store retail events, this year’s online spending numbers prove that more and more consumers are moving to an e-commerce model for the convenience, discounts, and promotions.

Let us know – did you see improvements – or disappointments – during these two days?

Part two of this series next week will examine Cyber Monday 2012’s numbers and trends.

3 Ways to Leverage Social Media to Promote In-Store Events

Friday, September 28, 2012 by

e-commerce social media drives traffic to in-store eventsPart of being a smart retailer is recognizing the need to drive traffic, both online and to your physical stores. But to be a successful omnichannel retailer, you must use your digital presence to drive traffic to stores, and store traffic to digital, including your social media sites. According to comScore, users spend 1 in 7 minutes online on Facebook. And per State of Search, Twitter has over 100 million active users. So if you aren't promoting your in-store events online via your social media channels, you're not doing all you can to drive traffic to your event. At Blueport Commerce, we're an e-commerce platform and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, and we recommend a multichannel strategy for retailers that involves leveraging social media in the following ways to promote in-store events.

1. Use all social media channels available. In order to reach the largest audience possible, make sure you use all social media channels in which your audience participates. Some of these might include Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, as well as any niche social media groups of which you are a member. It's important to remember that not every consumer participates in every social media channel, so you may reach Bill only on Facebook, while Suzanne is on LinkedIn and Twitter. Additionally, remember to tailor your messaging to each channel's particular style: Facebook is a great place to use images and focus the content on sales, while Twitter will usually require a URL shortener to link to your event page, as well as a 140 character limit. Content on Twitter tends to be a short and brief call to action. If you're a part of a LinkedIn Group, you could write about your event if it has some sort of relevant charity tie-in that furthers your knowledge in your industry. Remember that social media is about engaging your audience in a discussion, versus talking at them. You could even post questions compelling them to answer, such as, "What are you most looking forward to at our Super Savings Sales Event on March 15?"

2. Regularly update your channels about your event and stay alert during and post-event. One of the sins of social media marketing is to "set it and forget it". Whenever you have news about your upcoming event (price markdowns, new inventory, special guests, contests, in-store raffles) you should update your social media channels. Just creating an event page on Facebook is not enough. You want to stay top of mind with your followers, so be sure to post a status update or tweet when you add a noteworthy element to your event. By creating a hashtag, you can stay on top of the conversations followers and others are having about your event. Another advantage is after the event, you can gather post-event feedback to help you make the next in-store event even better. You may think that once the event starts, all your social media work is done and you are home free. In fact, just the opposite - while you have successfully driven traffic to the store, it's crucial you stay on top of social media during the actual event. People may have questions while the event is happening - everything from directions to the store to what time the event ends. You want to be constantly encouraging dialogue and conversation with your followers, aligning your products with their needs. By answering questions quickly during the event, you can encourage even more traffic and add to the legitimacy of the event and your company.

3. Incentivize attendance. It's key not only to promote your event, but to make sure it's worthy of people's time to attend. The best way to get people to your event is to create special reasons for them to go, whether it's face painting or other entertainment for the kids, business card raffles or free furniture giveaways. You may also want to post teaser graphics on your Facebook wall, digital flyer links on Twitter or videos on YouTube leading up to the event, to give people a sneak peek of what to expect.

We recognize that the success of local ecommerce retailing for big-ticket items depends largely on the brick-and-mortar stores, and vice versa. As a result, we at Blueport encourage all our clients to use the free and effective social media channels available to them in order to drive attendance to in-store events and increase their in-store sales. One of our clients did just that - they had a very large in-store event and promoted it online months in advance leading up to the big day. They posted photos of the furniture and appliances that would be featured, asked engaging questions to their followers to encourage discussion, and had multiple free furniture giveaways leading up to the event, available only to their social media followers. Both during and after the event, they kept the buzz alive by posting photos of the event, people at the event and the contest winners with their new furniture. Because it was a multi-day event, it was important that they communicated during the event to get followers who may have been on the fence to attend. It led to them growing from 600 to 22,000 likes on Facebook and increasing their engagement and viral levels. Over the course of one week they reached 1.89 million people and had over 72,000 people engaged with them. And best of all, it was free and allowed them to find a whole new online fan base that translated into in-store traffic and sales.

Related posts:

Why eBay's Acquisition of GSI Commerce Is Good for All of Us

Friday, April 1, 2011 by
Consolidation seems to be the word of the day.

This week’s news of eBay’s purchase of GSI Commerce was the latest in a steady stream of consolidation and acquisitions in the e-commerce retail industry that I am very excited to see.  No doubt, the result of this trend has been a tremendous validation across all sectors of retail and e-commerce technology and a boon to all players in this space.

For example, we are seeing a growth amongst enterprise class retail POS solutions such as those run by Oracle, stemming largely from this summer’s ATG purchase.  We are also seeing a growing focus on big-ticket retail workforce-warehouse solutions such as those designed by RedPrairie.  Their acquisition by Escalate Retail recently only strengthened this trend.  Last year’s IBM/Sterling Commerce buyout was also a pivotal turn for the industry, strengthening Big Blue’s position and helping them close the gap on multi channel SaaS offerings. The effects on other platform players like Blueport Commerce, as well as on tertiary vendors and tech providers (the likes of Akamai Technologies) that serve these companies has also been extremely positive from a growth standpoint.

I think the most important thing to note is that the consumer was not left out of these recent shopping sprees from billion dollar publicly traded companies.  In fact, this week’s eBay’s acquisition of GSI Commerce proves even a tried and true marketplace leader does not know all and needs to redefine its strategy to meet changing consumer needs.  The result of many of these acquisitions is actually a better offering for clients and a better way for them to manage their business.

The next twelve months in our industry will be interesting to say the least.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

E-commerce 2.0 – The Next Wave

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 by
Excerpts from Lazard Capital Markets  Tech and Media Conference
March, 13, 2011; Boston, MA

Blueport Commerce executives recently participated in a panel presentation titled “E-Commerce 2.0: The Next Wave” at Lazard Capital Markets Annual Technology & Media Conference. Held in Boston, on March 14 and 15. This conference brought together industry executives in a fireside chat format, with presentations from more than 50 leading technology, media and Internet companies. 

Drawing on his deep expertise developing online strategies for leading big-ticket retailers, President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Prindle, discussed the next e-commerce frontier and what brands need to do to capitalize on its growth.  Below are some key excerpts from his presentation:

Colin Sebastian – Lazard Capital Markets:  Carl, please take a minute to introduce Blueport.

Blueport is the only managed e-commerce provider focused on localized, big ticket commerce.

Think of us as GSI Commerce (GSIC) for players that need to involve local stores in their online efforts and whose products don’t fit in a UPS box.

Our clients range from a $250M furniture chain in Chicago, a $1B appliance, electronics and furniture superstore chain in Canada, a $4B flooring retailer with 1,100 independent dealers, to Sears (SHLD).

We provide each with a managed e-commerce solution – a localized, cross-channel commerce platform and the managed services to make their unique businesses work online.

CS: The pace of innovation in e-commerce is accelerating.  This is also driving another step forward in the shift of commerce and advertising from offline to online channels.  Given this overall trend, in your own businesses and markets, can you specify what are the 2 or 3 most important drivers of growth today?

Well, this session is definitely aptly named.  We’re at an inflection point – the start of a second wave of e-commerce.

The first wave of ecommerce was characterized by the Amazon model – online shopping for relatively simple, understood products shipped via UPS. 

There’s very little local store involvement in this model.  Customers buy things on their lunch break, and a guy in a brown shirt delivers it. 

A massive eco-system has grown supporting this model in last 15 years – advertising, merchandising, technology and so on. And, it works great – we see 45% penetration in some categories like PCs.

But, the e-com 1.0 model is bounded in a couple of ways.  One boundary is size – this model probably only works for less than half of all retail, less if you include services. 

The other boundary is profitability – e-com 1.0 was first because it’s easier.  Because it’s easy, it’s prone to commoditization, price pressure…it’s an efficient market, with all of the margin pressure that it entails.

What we’re seeing now is a second wave that pushes past these boundaries, engages the rest of the retail economy, and can be more profitable.

What’s driving it? Consumers looking to apply the habits learned via the Amazon model to new areas.  Companies that that have for a long time been on the sidelines because they DIDN’T fit that model – are now heading to the internet to meet them. 

The energy, the growth, is in the technology connecting the two – whether it is mobile, social, coupon sites, etc. – new technologies are giving new players access to new customers.

And Blueport is providing the multi-channel solutions for these new players to do something meaningful with that traffic.

CS:  You mention mobile. How big a factor is mobile becoming, for example as a percentage of your own transactions or volume, or as a lead generation tool?

Mobile is a huge factor, but different depending on whether you are an e-com 1 or e-com 2 player.

For e-com 1 players, mobile’s increased convenience is arguably driving new volume.  It’s also increasing price transparency, which accelerates the commoditization of some of these categories.

For an e-com 2 player, it’s a huge factor in a different way:  local.  Where e-com 1 was national, e-com 2 is local – local businesses, local services, huge retail chains were their offering is fundamentally local.

Take appliances as an example – I don’t think we’ll see refrigerators transacted via phone any time soon, but mobile can drive customers to local stores, critical for retailers trying to gain a slice of precious weekend “in-store” shopping minutes.

The game changer that starts to blend the two is the tablet…increased use of big screen browsing plus local is intriguing.

CS: There is a fairly rapid increase in merchant and enterprise use of Facebook, not only as a tool to reach out and communicate with consumers, but also to drive transactions.  Similar to the mobile question, how quickly is social becoming a meaningful part of real lead generation and driving online sales?

Well, Facebook, at its most powerful, is a personal network of friends.  A company interrupting that conversation can be pretty cringe worthy.  A company trying to be your friend doesn’t really work.

At the same time, along with apps, Facebook has become the “other” Internet, and retailers have to be there. 

We’ve seen it work in three ways:
  1. Brand Building: in high engagement categories, brands can interact with their customers on topics they are passionate about.
  2. Deals: Facebook can replace email as a way to distribute deals.
  3. As a Platform: we look at Facebook as an emerging platform/operating system that can host online stores with built in traffic.
CS:  Blueport appears to be in a sweet-spot helping merchants in challenging product categories figure out their e-commerce strategies.  Can you talk about the multi-channel environment, how the pace of that shift online may be changing?

It’s a phenomenal time to be where we are.  As we’ve talked about, there’s a seismic change from e-com 1 to e-com 2, and we’re in the middle of it.

You asked about the multi-channel environment.  The term multi-channel has been around a while, but its meaning is changing. 

In e-com 1, multichannel meant exactly/only that – more than one channel.  Retailers in categories that work well via direct ship built drop ship e-com systems, often entirely separate from their store business.

In e-com 2 today, we see true multi-channel, or cross-channel commerce (or just “commerce”).  Retailers are using the internet to drive their core business, not build a separate one.

Companies that were on the sidelines are now investing in solutions that reflect their businesses.  They look to online to drive customers to local stores, sell their local inventory and services, reflect their local pricing and local deals – to drive their core business.

A client, CarpetOne, is one of my favorite examples of this.  They are a $4B flooring retailer in 1,100 local markets.  They didn’t want to be Lumber Liquidators and drop-ship cheap boxes of hardwood.  They wanted to drive their core business – local installation of quality flooring. We enable that – their site reflects each market’s local product, pricing – pictures of owner’s dog, whatever makes that local market work.  It’s a seamless online experience that connects online to local store.

Sears (SHLD) – is a company taking another innovative approach.  They are reentering the furniture category via a unique cross-channel strategy.  They’re putting small footprint galleries in their stores, that drives traffic to a dedicated furniture website that we run for them,  The site taps into local inventory, and Sears customers can get a sofa delivered tomorrow for $79.  Blueport powers the whole thing.

So, we’re seeing massive change in these categories, the evolution of true cross-channel categories, and it has accelerated dramatically in last 18 month. 

CS:  What are the key attributes that a bricks-and-mortar retailer or supplier of goods look for in an e-commerce vendor?

When looking at vendors, look at what experience they have in YOUR vertical.  Are you looking for an e-com 1 solution, or e-com 2?  Do you want a direct ship, separate enterprise, or do you want your local markets involved? 

Make sure the vendor has experience in your markets and your vision of what you want ecommerce to do for your core business. 

You can make some disastrous mistakes trying to sell appliances or furniture like you do shoes & apparel.

CS:  What would it cost a retailer or brand to build and maintain a state of the art e-commerce site from scratch, versus using a service provider such as Blueport?

Here again, it depends on what you’re selling. 

If you’re looking for an e-com 1 solution – you can put up a Yahoo! store up for next to nothing.  My 10 year old has one.

For e-com 2 – it’s more complex, requiring far more integration with your local stores’ existing systems and operations.  There’s no Yahoo! store or ready-made platform for that (but Blueport is close).

If you try to build an e-com 2 solution yourself, you have to look at three costs:  the cost to build it, the cost to run it, and the opportunity cost of screwing it up. 

We have a current client who first tried to build it themselves.  They spent $3M, and it never got off the ground.  It was two years of lost opportunity. 

With Blueport, they pay a monthly platform fee and a revenue share.  We’ve done major redesigns of their sites three times in the last two years, and added countless new features.  And they pay only their share of the overall platform and hosting costs.

We also help run the business for them from a marketing, merchandising and services perspective.  This is paid through the revenue share, so they get a turnkey, expert staff on a pay for performance basis.

This story has repeated itself a number of times – people trying it themselves, then deciding to work with us.  At the other end of our contracts, we’ve never lost a renewal, so people see the value of what we do (and would prefer not to have to do it themselves).

Part of the story is that the categories we’re in are a good fit for outsourcing.  They are challenging, don’t match the internal expertise of the players in them, and ultimately, they’re not like PC’s or software, where online is 45%-65% or more of volume. Stores are still key, so our clients get to focus on that part of their business, while we port and drive that business online.

CS:  Can you talk about the competitive nature of your business, who do you see as the most successful competitors and what are trends in pricing for these e-commerce services?

Sure, we segment the market on two dimensions. 

One dimension is e-com 1 versus e-com 2.  Is the customer in a market that will be a simple drop ship model, or do they need a cross-channel solution involving local stores?

The other dimension is platform versus managed solution.  Does the customer just want a technology solution, or are they looking for a partner to help them manage their online business?

On the e-com 1 side of the market, e-com 1 platforms are increasingly commoditized and under a lot of price pressure.  It’s a pure customer acquisition game.  Yahoo stores again.

For e-com 1 managed solutions, GSI Commerce (GSIC) is dominant with a huge lead in infrastructure and increasingly in services, where they’ve made some great strategic acquisitions.  While Amazon (AMZN) keeps looking at this space, GSI is the clear leader.

On the e-com 2 side of the market, e-com 2 platforms are mainly custom builds from players like IBM, and ATG (ORCL).  These are big dollar projects with two commas in the total cost, and they leave the customer to manage the solution - there’s no marketing, management, etc. And, they don’t have a ton of experience in these e-com 2 categories.

For e-com 2 managed solutions, where Blueport plays, we’ve yet to run up against a true competitor. 

I guess we really have two competitors: a customer doing nothing, which is less and less of a factor, and a customer trying to do it themselves, which with our case studies, is an easier and easier argument to overcome.  In a lot of cases, people are coming to us now who tried themselves, and now want out.

We expect competition to evolve, but we have a technology platform and service staff with a lot of specific functionality and experience in these markets, which makes it easy to talk to prospective clients, most of whom have been on the sidelines waiting for a provider that understands their business.

CS: That’s time – thanks to everyone for their participation.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Retail E-Commerce Trends to Watch in 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011 by
In her latest report entitled “Five Retail E-Commerce Trends to Watch in 2011”, Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru has outlined several main areas that retailers should focus on when trying to boost their ecommerce store sales this year. Here are a few highlights that I think are particularly of note for retailers in less traditional ecommerce categories:

Retailers must boost their multi channel offerings: Consumer shopping behavior is changing, and in 2011 retailers will need to continue to ensure they are offering a seamless experience, online and in- store.  Mulpuru encourages retailers to deploy kiosks inside bricks and mortar stores to help customers do product research in store, as well as offering more buy online, pick up in store options.  According to Forrester, only 12% of retailers have kiosks and 10% have in-store pickup.

Tablet commerce: Forrester says retailers must cater to a growing legion of customers shopping via their tablet computer or smartphones. These tools are enabling consumers to shop, whenever and wherever they please, and as such retailers need to ensure their sites are optimized across all these digital channels.

Integrating mobile into the in-store shopping experience: While not every customer is comfortable purchasing products via their mobile phone, Mulpuru encourages retailers to use the mobile channel to provide information to customers on the go that will help draw them in to the store and supplement their shopping experience.  For example, providing store locations and hours or using geolocation apps to reward customers for visiting your store.

You can read about the rest of the ecommerce trends outlined by Forrester here.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

RedPrairie Acquires Escalate Retail

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 by
We have seen a wave of retail and ecommerce acquisitions lately, and the latest comes from cross channel vendor Escalate Retail.  The company announced today that it has been acquired by Red Prairie, a vendor providing workforce, warehouse and transportation management software solutions.  The acquisition is touted by both companies as a move to provide retailers with collective functionality that enhances multi-channel retailing with order capture, POS, store kiosk, call center operations, and more.  In essence, it will give Red Prairie the opportunity to extend their supply chain capabilities into the retail space.  Read more about the deal here

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Engaging Customers at Every Purchase Touchpoint

Thursday, January 13, 2011 by
A newly released report from eMarketer highlights the seismic shift that is occurring in how consumers shop, and consequently, how multi channel retailers need to market to them.

Digital media, technology and content have dramatically altered the multichannel retail shopping experience.   eMarketer outlines how retailers can use technologies to target consumers during their three shopping phases: pre-shop, in-store and post-shop.

Pre-shop: Make the shopping experience as easy and convenient as possible for consumers, by equipping them with a variety of digital shopping tools to help them save money, grant them access to deals or provide the product information they are looking for quickly.  At the heart of this is your ecommerce store, which should give customers everything they need at their fingertips and a foundation for their purchase path. 

In-store: eMarketer highlights several technologies that retailers can incorporate into their stores, such as self-checkouts or kiosks, but they emphasize the most notable of these is mobile. In addition to store staff, location-based check-ins and in-store mobile tools and apps such as price comparisons will offer retailers an additional opportunity to engage and interact with their customers in the final moments before they make their purchase decision.

Post-shop: Once a customer has made their purchase, retailers should look for creative ways to encourage customers to share their stories via social media or other online communities.

As eMarketer notes, more touchpoints for consumers along their purchase path mean more opportunities for retailers to get creative in how they engage with them.  Start by thinking holistically about the customer purchase path and how your various retail marketing initiatives impact their decision process every step of the way. 

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Talk to the phone: Shoppers prefer interacting with their smartphones than with store staff

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 by
A new Accenture study provides further evidence of how mobile is changing the way consumers shop bricks and mortar stores and interact with retailers.  According to Accenture, 73% of shoppers with smartphones favor using their smartphone to handle simple tasks in stores compared with 15% who favor interaction with an employee.  Similarly, 71% favor using their smartphone to identify a store with a desired item in stock, while 17% would prefer to get that information by speaking to an employee. 

These figures reinforce the rise of “the omnipresent consumer”, one that wants a seamless shopping experience whenever and wherever it suits them, be it in the store, online or through their mobile phones. How retailers rise to this multi-channel challenge will no doubt be one of the big trends to watch in 2011.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Leon's Furniture Earnings Jump 41.7% in Q2

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 by
Congratulations to Blueport Commerce client Leon's Furniture on a highly successful second quarter.

A Canadian multi-channel retailer, Leon's Furniture recently reported a 41.7% earnings jump in Q2. Leon's cited the increase was mainly the result of higher sales, an improvement in margins as well as the retailer's continued commitment to improving productivity and expansion.

Check out their Blueport-powered ecommerce site for more information about the company:

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Arhaus Furniture's Custom iPad App Aims to Drive Cross Channel Sales

Thursday, August 19, 2010 by
Arhaus Furniture, a high-end furniture multi channel retailer with stores in 13 states in addition to a print catalog and an e-commerce site at, will soon arm their entire delivery team with an iPad application aimed at not only enhancing the product delivery experience, but also driving repeat and incremental purchases from their customer base.

The application is designed primarily for customer use: customers will be handed the iPad at the start of the delivery, which will include a welcome and thank you message from the retailer, will be able to look at different furniture setup options and even browse the entire Arhaus ecommerce catalog. Customers will also sign off on deliveries using their fingers on the touch screen and will also be able to fill out a post delivery survey on site.

While the iPad application will certainly result in efficiencies in the retailer’s fulfillment and delivery systems, what is interesting here is how the company is adding another level to their customer service experience through a true cross channel retail strategy. For example, while a customer is having a sofa delivered that they purchased at their local store, they will be able to browse the ecommerce catalog through the iPad app for the matching chair they recall seeing during their shopping trip. 

No doubt that we will continue to see more and more retailers integrate these type of mobile and tablet products into their multi channel strategy to enhance their customers' retail shopping experience, be it in-store or on the go.  And as retail channels become increasingly blurred and intertwined, the importance of having consistent content and product information for your customer no matter where they are shopping will be imperative and essential to driving sales.

How are your stores or franchises integrating technologies such as the iPad into their sales or customer service process?

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Local E-Commerce: The GSI Commerce Perspective

Friday, August 6, 2010 by

Forrester’s e-commerce analyst Brian Walker recently featured a great interview with GSI Commerce founder and CEO Michael Rubin on his blog. Rubin discussed how GSI is evolving and what some of the main areas of focus will be for the company in the near future.

One of the most interesting things that stood out for me from their conversation was Rubin’s identification of localization as one of the next key e-commerce trends to watch in the near future. Consumers are increasingly demanding more personal, relevant and local products and services from their online shopping experience. Consequently, retailers will need to invest in technologies that cater to these local preferences to capitalize on the consumer need.

Part and parcel to a localized e-commerce experience is the expectation of rapid and lower cost delivery and return of products. In order to deliver on this promise, Rubin points out that multichannel retailers will need to leverage their stores and distribution centers to get consumers the products they want as quickly and cheaply as possible. This is an area where GSI is investing a great deal of time to provide innovation. 

We have been focusing on e-commerce localization at Blueport Commerce for the last decade.  Like GSI, we believe this is at the heart of the next generation of e-commerce, or rather, the next generation of cross-channel retailing. Whether they are shopping for a new piece of clothing or a new piece of furniture for their home, consumers want their retail experience to be local.  They want the comfort of knowing they can connect with retailers in their area, who can answer questions about the product, or handle exchanges or returns quickly and easily. 

In order to deliver this kind of experience, retailers need to stop thinking of e-commerce as an isolated ‘island’ within their operations and begin to construct a truly coordinated, cross-channel strategy. E-commerce teams need to be aligned with bricks-and-mortar stores as well as fulfillment and warehouse facilities.  When all of these components are working as one holistic retailing effort, localization is inherent and e-commerce becomes a driver of multi-channel retail sales.

This approach is at the heart of Blueport’s e-commerce package and I am intrigued to see the innovations from GSI in this area as well.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce


Multichannel retailers have their work cut out for them if they want to succeed online

Thursday, July 8, 2010 by
That’s the latest from Goldman Sachs ... Goldman estimates that e-commerce will grow at five times the rate of traditional retail, overtaking offline retail by 2020.  Not surprisingly, the most successful retailers will be the ones that invest most heavily in technology to keep up with demand.

Goldman notes that while online pure plays already realize the importance of investing in Web technologies, multi-channel retailers will be challenged to keep up with their pace of innovation and e-commerce spending.   While pure play e-tailers spent 7% of their revenue on e-commerce technology in 2008, multi-channel retailers only spent 2%. 

This is an important consideration for Blueport and our customers, who are predominantly multi-channel or brick and mortar retailers in the early stages of their e-commerce development.  While they will certainly not be able to keep up with the e-commerce budgets of mammoths like Amazon, they will be challenged to harness the right e-commerce innovations that bring in the most bang for the buck, generating the most leads and driving cross-channel sales.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Live from IRCE: Drop the ‘e’ in ‘e-commerce’

Friday, June 11, 2010 by
This week while attending the Internet Retailer Conference & Expo in Chicago, I sat in on a session called “What top execs need to know about the future of e-commerce platforms,” which was presented by Forrester’s Brian Walker.  In this session, Walker brought something up that we have been debating internally at Blueport Commerce for a while – whether we still need the ‘e’ in ‘e-commerce.’

Because we specialize in “big-ticket” retail, a lot of the companies we work with use their e-commerce sites not only to sell direct to consumers, but also to educate shoppers who will ultimately make their purchase in a local store.  So we tend to think of our platform as cross-channel and not solely ‘e-commerce’.

Walker went on to say that Forrester (which typically has conservative estimates compared to other analysts firms) believes 51% of all retail sales will be made or researched online by 2013.  He also pointed out that e-commerce sites will not be driving all those sales.  With the emergence of new devices like the iPad, consumers will be shopping from nearly everywhere – TRUE multi-channel shopping.  And if that’s the case, the term ‘e-commerce’ will address only a piece of the entire commerce pie.

What do you think?  Is it about time we drop the ‘e’ in ‘e-commerce’?

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

e-Dialog Acquires MBS and M3 – Gains Targeting Insight Across Channels

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 by
Last week e-Dialog, a division of GSI Commerce and a Blueport partner, announced the acquisition of database marketing firm MBS for approximately $22.5 million cash. This announcement follows closely on the heels of last month’s acquisition of mobile services company M3.

What does this mean for e-Dialog?

These acquisitions are all about the data. e-Dialog not only gains a wealth of data acquisition and integration technology, it also leverages interesting consumer behavioral insights and patterns. This technology will help the company to better collect, analyze and act on customer data across channels. We believe this will only strengthen e-Dialog’s already great targetingimpressive data segmentation capabilities.

What does this mean for the industry?

John Rizzi, CEO of e-Dialog noted that the average multichannel retailer does about 7% of revenue online and 93% in stores – yet most retailers do not tie those customer activities together or create strategies that are truly cross-channel.   The missed opportunities resulting from this lack of integration are glaring.

As consumers’ shopping behavior (be it for mass products or high-ticket items) becomes increasingly cross-channel, retailers must be ready to meet them where they shop – be it in the store, online or through mobile – or risk losing the sale.  That means that it’s increasingly essential for companies to be able to integrate their databases across channels to create a ‘single view’ of each customer. 

e-Dialog’s ability to integrate email, point of sale, mobile, social media and online databases will prove to be a competitive differentiator which will push others in the industry to further innovate to keep up. 

We look forward to continuing working with e-Dialog to provide our clients with the very best in multi channel marketing services. 

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Big Ticket E-commerce Playbook, Rule Four: Localize

Monday, April 12, 2010 by

E-commerce 1.0 = World Wide Web (only):  Typical e-commerce does not accurately reflect how multi-channel chain retailing is done in-store.  Just as “all politics is local,” all big ticket chain store retail is local, too.  Through local selection, local prices and local promotions, stores battle local competitors for local customers.  Most e-commerce solutions aren’t built for localization – one site offers the same thing to every visitor, regardless of where a customer resides.   Retailers who adopt this approach for big ticket e-commerce hamper both their online efforts and their stores.

Big Ticket E-commerce = Localize!  Remember that e-commerce supports your overall multichannel retail strategy and your websites should be as localized as your stores.   Some big ticket retailers have hundreds of localized, micro-branded sites with content that resonates with local consumers.   Others use IP mapping to localize prices, offers and product selection, directing customers to local stores with products on display.  All have checkout processes that reflect that delivery times may be 48 hours in one area, two weeks in another.  Make sure your e-commerce platform embraces the complexity of local e-commerce – when done correctly it’s a powerful sales tool online and in your stores.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Big Ticket E-commerce Playbook, Rule Three: Think Multichannel

Thursday, April 8, 2010 by

E-commerce 1.0 = E-commerce Rules!:  Inhabitants of E-commerce Island often focus solely on one metric - online sales - to the point of becoming competitive with the “rest” of the multichannel retail operation.   Internal competition may work for first wave markets where multichannel upside is limited, but this strategy hamstrings big ticket ecommerce efforts.

Big Ticket E-commerce = Multichannel Impact:  Take a more holistic view of the potential the e-commerce channel has for your retail chain.  Set multichannel key performance indicators (KPIs) and track interactions across every channel.  It’s every bit as big a win for your big ticket e-commerce efforts when a customer sees your TV ad, goes to your website and is convinced to buy in your bricks and mortar store as when someone clicks “Place Order” online.   It takes additional coordination to drive multi channel results, but in big ticket categories they represent the majority of your upside.  Recognize this, and measure and reward a holistic set of metrics.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Blueport Commerce Is a Different Kind of E-commerce Company

Sunday, March 14, 2010 by

At Blueport, we pride ourselves on being different from other e-commerce companies. We’re more than simply a back-end system that retailers can plug into. We believe that technology and integration only opens your online store. Expertise in managing that store is what drives results.

Blueport's e-commerce services team ensures you get the benefit of our ten years of experience in big-ticket retail when marketing, merchandising and operating your online store. We know the unique aspects of these considered purchases, from imaging to marketing to customer support, and we'll work with you to develop those programs for your e-commerce efforts.

Our mission is to help you capture the e-commerce opportunity as part of an integrated multi-channel strategy. At Blueport Commerce, we're a turnkey solution specialized for big ticket that ensures your transition to e-commerce is easy, worry-free and profitable. By combining the industry's most advanced technology platform for localized, big-ticket retail, dedicated integration services and personalized service packages, Blueport Commerce can port your unique business to a ready and willing online marketplace.

We like to think we’re the complete e-commerce package. Let's talk.