Not right now.

Why Blueport For E-Commerce?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 by

Big Ticket E-Commerce Marketing

As Chief Operating Office for Blueport Commerce, Morgan Woodruff is responsible for growth, business development and client management as Blueport Commerce continues to expand its big-ticket retail client base.

In this blog, you'll learn how big-ticket e-commerce is unique and how Blueport helps its clients succeed in the space.

Luxury Websites: If You Don’t Have E-Commerce, Why Not?

Friday, October 28, 2011 by
Many luxury brands have been slow to cultivate their online presence, and even slower to integrate e-commerce capabilities. They seemed to think that the mass appeal and convenience of online shopping would dilute the value and prestige of their brands or that consumers would not be willing to pay big-ticket prices via the Web. This has been proven wrong, as research shows that wealthy people shop online more frequently and spend more per transaction. As of late, many luxury retailers have come around to see the value of the Internet for driving sales, and, even more, the value in allowing customers to transact on an e-commerce site.

According to a recent study by PM Digital, 81% of the luxury websites surveyed now have e-commerce, and the sites with e-commerce get 98% of the traffic that goes to these luxury sites. About a third of this traffic comes from search engines, and there is very little cross traffic, since luxury shoppers are very loyal to their brands. Surprisingly, only a very small amount of luxury brands’ traffic (0.29%) comes from luxury daily deals sites, like Gilt Groupe, ideeli and RueLaLa.

What Makes Luxury E-Commerce Successful?

When selling big-ticket luxury items online, however, it’s not as simple as using a plug-and-play e-commerce solution. Luxury brand customers expect a high-end boutique experience whether in-person or online. Here are some aspects to consider when selling luxury via e-commerce:

  • You need to provide rich product descriptions. The more expensive an item is, the more information the consumer will want you to provide.
  • Offer exceptional customer service, getting as close to what you offer in-store with a personal shopper. On the Web, that translates to online chat.
  • The entire online shopping experience should be like going into one of your boutiques. Craft a strong welcome message on your home page. And then as customers drill down into products, allow them to zoom in on the images or even watch product videos – the goal is for them to handle the product, virtually.
Related posts: Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Blueport Commerce Is on the Move!

Thursday, September 8, 2011 by
It’s moving week at Blueport Commerce! We will be opening for business at our new offices at 580 Harrison Ave. in Boston’s South End on Monday, September 12th. Everyone here is very excited about this next step in our company’s growth.
We spent quite some time finding our new space, all told about 16 months. We wanted a mix of everything: a beautiful space where we could continue to grow, a building that could meet our technical needs, amenities for our staff and an exciting place for clients and partners to visit. After much searching, we found the space. We were able to get all we wanted and more. The time is right, and we’re making the move.
These types of changes often get you thinking about your past as much as your future. How did we get here?
Remember when people were hesitant to buy anything online? That’s when we started selling furniture on the Web as We have evolved from a Web portal selling furniture to a technology and services provider for big-ticket retailers who want to sell and brand their hard-to-ship items online. We’ve already extended to markets adjacent to the furniture industry, such as appliances, electronics, flooring, carpet and more. We’ve been helping clients navigate their ways through social networks, daily deals and more. As a business, we have evolved, and now it’s time our office space catches up.
The future for Blueport Commerce is forecasted to be even brighter. As the market focuses on local e-commerce (something we’ve done for quite some time), we are poised to continue to be a leader. Come visit us, and see for yourself.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Scenes from the Summit: Pacific Crest 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011 by
The Pacific Crest Global Technology Leadership Forum for 2011 was again held in glorious Vail, Colorado. Blueport's third year at this event kicked off on Sunday with an investment-banker-driven, 7-mile run from the town (8,150 ft.) up to nearly the summit (11,428 ft.). What were they thinking? This was followed by a cocktail reception that night for the private and public companies attending. At this early stage in the conference, it was impossible to wrap your head around the event yet: It was a Sunday night and you were working with half the oxygen you’re used to. You spoke with tons of contacts, but there was no mention of the technology, localized e-commerce, social and mobile buzzwords that would be unavoidable in the remaining days.

The sun crested over the mountains at 5:29 a.m. and breakfast began at 6. Pacific Cresters fluttered around, effectively lining up 48 hours of ducks. You had to caffeine it up -- you needed it.

The summit had three modules --  two unique. At most tech summits, you end up in a room with Google or Gilt listening to egos roar as Sergey or Susan talk about how killer things are in ecommerce, search, social commerce and more. At Pacific Crest, these more generic types of corporate briefings were done throughout the two days and you slot them in as best you can. But most of the fun comes from the two more unique tracks of this conference: One portion is the roundtable discussions where industry focus meets opinion. Our CEO, Carl sat on the Internet Digital Media panel this year with Don the Tool King and the CEO of Beyond the Rack. The discussion is led by bankers and analysts who cover the e-commerce space. This year, logistics and inventory (Do you job it out? CAPEX it?) was among the hotter topics. Our market validation vis-a-vis panel discussions with these high-caliber attendees is flattering. When someone who runs a $17 billion fund nods in agreement -- well, nothing is quite like it.

This year, I spent most of my time differently than in the past. I focused on briefing investors interested in e-commerce platforms and, hopefully, Blueport.

Meetings were 25 minutes each (with 5 minutes for travel time to the next meeting lovingly factored in -- very 503, you know 917 wouldn't do that). They’re like those goofy Hollywood junket interviews for movie premieres. I did my best to not pull a Christian Bale, while sitting in a hotel room stripped of its beds (because THAT would be awkward), saying roughly the same thing over and over, changing it slightly for the audience and its reactions. They went something like this:

Them: Are you profitable?
Us: What's your average check size?
Them: Year-over-year growth?
Us: What are you looking for in your next portfolio company? 
Them: We typically would invest $25 to $50 million, but we did a round with Facebook at $200.
Us: OK, we want $5. Can we make that work?

Before you can imagine, there's a knock on the door. It's over and on to the next. It's a blast, and it’s exactly what I love about my career; that it's not a job or work per se, but it's fun. I'm insanely lucky. Events like this remind me of that.

Related posts:
Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Square Register Lets Retailers Play with the iPad, Too

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by
Yesterday, TechCrunch reported on the new Square Register, a replacement for cash registers that not only lets retailers accept credit card payments via iPads, but also allows the stores to communicate with customers more efficiently.

After a retailer processes a customer’s payment via Square Register, the retailer can invite the customer to download the Square Card Case, allowing the merchant to engage with customers in entirely new ways. Customers can add your “card” to this virtual wallet and access your location and contact information, their purchase history and receipts, a live menu of your daily offering and customized offers from you. Customers will also be able to use the Square Card Case to make purchases from your store within two physical blocks of the location. The customer can show up at the store, give the name to the cashier and then be charged on the back-end Square Register for the goods. It practically takes the whole payment process out of your relationship with customers.

Is iPad the Perfect Multichannel Retail Tool?

While we will certainly keep an eye on this application and how it works in real retail, we just need to say how amazed we are with the multifaceted iPad as a catalyst for retail both for merchants and consumers. The iPad is not only a tool for customers looking for great images of product and an ability to buy, share information on the fly and get feedback from their friends on all types of purchases from lunch to gadgets to big-ticket items and everything in between. It is also a tool for selling. Retailers can use iPads to show additional retail to customers, as a mobile option for checking retail and now as a replacement for cash registers and POS terminals with extraordinary customer engagement opportunities.

What can’t the iPad do? Or, more importantly, as a retailer, what else would you like the iPad to be able to do for your business?

Related posts: Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Is CSN Stores the Amazon of Home?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 by
I just read a great article on our friends at CSN Stores and their plans to continue to dominate the home goods segment of B2C e-commerce.

While they aspire to be the Amazon of home, co-founder Niraj Shah is 'careful to point out the differences between the companies—a key one being CSN’s focus on home products and its “specialized supply chain” for items like furniture. By shipping directly from manufacturers, CSN has managed to offer a large selection without having to stock its own warehouses (at least up to now).'

From our perspective as fellow big-ticket retailers, CSN is doing a few more things right that should help them leapfrog over Amazon in this space. 

First, CSN recognizes that buying items for your home, especially large pieces of furniture, can be quite different then buying a book. So in additional to providing more detailed product information, they have customer support available via chat and phone to assist potential customers .

Second, they also know that because they aren't always putting a package into the hands of UPS but rather with various freight companies, their centralized support is there during and after the delivery process to make sure every customer is happy.

We welcome companies like CSN Stores that continue to help break down the ecommerce barriers and show that there's more than one way to become one of the world's biggest retailers.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

How Does Your Ecommerce Shopping Software Manage Stock-Outs?

Thursday, April 14, 2011 by
New research from Oregon State University finds that, in addition to lost revenue, online stock-outs can also cause long-term brand damage due to customer dissatisfaction, a decrease in return visits and negative word-of-mouth.

Consumers' negative reactions were all linked to how B2C ecommerce websites manage stock-outs. Online retailers that do not notify customers until checkout that an item is out of stock are rated significantly worse than stores that let their customers know about avaialbility earlier in the shopping process.

Blueport's B2C Ecommerce Solution for Managing Stock Online

We designed Blueport Commerce's ecommerce shopping software to help big-ticket retailers mitigate this negative reaction to stock-outs. We integrate directly into a store’s inventory system and display updated, real-time product availability information. And we've designed our clients' websites to display important availability information for the consumer right on the product page based on stock, incoming purchase orders or inter-store transfers. Consumers know the local in-store availability and delivery dates before they add an item to their shopping carts.

Customer satisfaction can make or break your business. You need to leverage the right ecommerce CRM software to help keep your customers on your website -- after all, your competitors are only a click away.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

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

Forrester's Online Retail Growth Forecast

Thursday, March 3, 2011 by
This week, Forrester Research issued its Online Retail Forecast, 2010-2015. The firm expects US ecommerce retail to have an average annual growth rate of 10% from 2010 to 2015, reaching $278.9 billion in 2015.

Forrester thinks several growth factors are propelling this double-digit growth for the online channel:
  1. Universal Web connectivity among consumers.
  2. Increasing consumer familiarity with and preference for online retail shopping.
  3. Best-in-class shopping experiences.
  4. New online shopping models like flash sale sites, which have generated excitement and grown rapidly.
And What About Big-Ticket Retail Online?

Noteworthy for the big-ticket category was Forrester’s observation that while a growing number of Web shoppers are increasing their spend on “traditional” online categories, like books and media products, they are also increasingly purchasing online in new categories that are “high touch, high consideration goods like furniture or home appliances.”

By 2015, Forrester projects 11% of overall sales to be transacted through the Web channel as consumers spend significantly more online in the future. This means retailers in all categories, and particularly big-ticket players, will need to continue to rework and rethink their multichannel retail models, ensuring a cohesive relationship between their online stores and their bricks-and-mortar network.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Cross Channel Commerce: How The Home Depot 'Gets It'

Friday, February 18, 2011 by

Providing a seamless cross channel experience, with physical stores and ecommerce retail sites working towards a coordinated selling effort, has always been at the heart of our strategy at Blueport Commerce.  We get the importance of this approach in driving sales for big ticket items in particular, and so do our multichannel retail clients. 

The Home Depot is another retailer that ‘gets it’.

Hal Lawton, president of Home Depot Online, recently gave a presentation at the  Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference 2011, focusing on The Home Depot’s successful integration of online and offline stores. At the heart of this is the understanding that Home Depot customers want to shop, browse or do research through their channel of choice – and they want that experience to be consistent, whether it is online or in-store.

Since 45% of Home Depot customers visit the retailer’s site first, providing a localized e-commerce experience is essential to making sure customers get the most accurate pricing and inventory information for their area.  So the price and product selection customers see online is what they will see in store. This is a fundamental approach to the sites we build for clients like Carpet One and RoomStore.

One of the most interesting points of Home Depot’s cross-channel strategy is the fact that associates are responsible for sales in both channels.  For example, a store manager’s compensation is based partly on in-store sales and also on online deliveries to the local area. This represents a seismic shift in the siloed approach we still see many retailers take towards their e-commerce site and store network, but it’s a powerful motivator in making sure all your teams are truly working together towards an end goal: the sale.

What are your thoughts on Home Depot’s strategy?

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

Multichannel Retailers Continue to Battle Fraud

Monday, January 31, 2011 by
One of the ongoing concerns of multichannel retailers remains fraud and customer theft. A new report from CyberSource showed that fraud rates for online retailers in the United States and Canada remained steady at 0.9% in 2010 for the second year in a row.

The good news is that retailers are continuing to get a better grasp on how best to mitigate fraud resulting from their ecommerce site, even during high volume periods like this past holiday shopping season.

CyberSource estimates that online fraud cost retailers an estimated $2.7 billion in 2010, down from $3.3 billion in 2009.  This is due to retailers becoming more aggressive about rejecting suspicious orders.  According to CyberSource, North American online retailers rejected 2.7% of orders in 2010, up from 2.4% in 2009.

While the threat of fraud will obviously never go away, retailers should continue to invest in solutions to help them manage the risk.  At Blueport Commerce, we have developed extensive fraud intercept solutions embedded into our platform. A collaborated effort of our technology and staff monitor each order that comes in through our clients’ ecommerce stores, intercepting fraudulent orders before they are even processed.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

2011: The Year of Mobile Commerce

Thursday, January 27, 2011 by
I came across several headlines this week touting 2011 as “The Year of Mobile.”  This past holiday shopping season, the influence of mobile on retail (be it mobile commerce or mobile shopping tools used in store) was undeniable, and many experts predict we will see a true tipping point for the mobile channel this year. 

The latest forecasts come from Forrester, which has just released a list of mobile predictions for 2011.  Forrester analyst Melissa Parrish says the mobile marketing category is poised for major investments, though challenges such as consumer privacy still remain.  According to Parrish, 34% of online retail marketers had or were planning to have a mobile presence in 2010, while consumers continued to adopt smartphones as their primary mobile device.  Both of these trends help set the stage for mobile’s advancement in 2011. Parrish does caution that multichannel retailers will need to rethink their mobile strategies and steer their focus away from apps towards more integrated mobile experiences for their customers.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

The Next Big Thing in Big-Ticket Ecommerce

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 by
Are consumers ready to buy big-ticket, million-dollar artworks online?

Some of the biggest names in art and technology are betting on it: chief executive Eric Schmidt, Twitter chairman and co-founder Jack Dorsey and Russian mega-collector Dasha Zhukova are investing in, a new service set to launch this spring. The site is designed to help collectors find art based on their personal preferences and past buying history, much the way the music site Pandora guides music lovers to new bands.

Read more about how collecting art is the next big thing in selling big-ticket items online in the Wall Street Journal's "Clicking on a Masterpiece."

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

The Big Online Opportunity for Big Ticket Retailers This Holiday Season

Friday, December 17, 2010 by
The holiday shopping frenzy is in full swing, and this year ecommerce and mobile have no doubt emerged as key sales drivers. This past Cyber Monday saw the heaviest online shopping traffic in history.  Even Black Friday, traditionally the focus of bricks and mortar retail stores, saw a significant spiked increase in online retail spending. Whether they are shopping online, using their mobile phones in the store to price check or getting their friends’ advice on a product through Facebook, holiday shoppers are channel agnostic and digitally savvy. 

And this holiday season, they are also increasingly using digital channels to research and buy big ticket retail items like never before. 

A great example is this week’s truly ‘big ticket’ sale from luxury flash-sale online retailer Gilt Groupe.  The members-only site made waves by offering three 2011 Volkswagen Jettas for $5,995 (that is a significant $10,000 off the $15,995 retail price of the car).  Over the course of the three-day sale, one car was sold at noon ET every morning.  Access to the sale on the first day was limited to Gilt’s mobile applications on iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android devices and was opened to both online and mobile customers on the following two days.

The idea of purchasing a car online or through their phone may still seem daunting to some, but the success of the Gilt promotion is a powerful proof point of the seismic shift occurring in how consumers shop and the increasing comfort they have with the online channel.

I’m interested in hearing from you about some other memorable promotions and offers you have come across this holiday season from the big-ticket retail category?

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

The (Unexpected) Ecommerce Advantage

Friday, December 3, 2010 by
Oftentimes, the big-ticket retailers we speak with think their business is too complex to go online.  Those readers familiar with Blueport know that we specialize in meeting the unique, localized needs of these types of companies.  Doesn’t fit in a UPS box? Perfect! That’s our specialty.

And that’s why we thought the findings of a recent study from ShopVisible and JC Williams Group was worth sharing.  The study discusses the challenges that retailers are currently facing to provide excellent online customer experiences. After conducting interviews with executives at leading retailers and consumer product manufacturers who had undergone an e-commerce platform change or were currently in the midst of an enterprise-wide system change, the report found that those companies who are just getting started in ecommerce have an advantage over those who have had an ecommerce site for years.

Why?  The answer is simple.  While retail executives are aware of current trends such as social and mobile commerce, they are having trouble innovating based on old legacy systems. The report concluded that “brands that perhaps have not previously had direct-to-consumer interactions with customers have an advantage of coming into ecommerce with a clean slate.”

Ecommerce is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity and key initiative for many brands today. So if you think you’re late to the ecommerce game, think again.  You may be just in time to deliver the right kind of experience that your customer is looking for!

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

There is no denying it, mobile commerce is on the rise

Thursday, December 2, 2010 by
Mobile commerce is continuing to get quite a bit of traction leading into the holiday season, with many brick-and-mortar retailers using mobile promotions to drive sales through consumers' smartphones and tablets this holiday season.  According to the Mobile Marketing Association, almost two-thirds of mobile holiday shoppers expect to use their phone to conduct research before visiting a store , but only 13% plan to purchase or pay for gifts through their mobile device.  Though the number of actual mobile purchases may seem small, that number is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. According to a study by ABI Research, mobile commerce sales in the U.S. will grow to $3.7 billion this year. The projection compares with $1.2 billion in 2009 and just $396 million in 2008.  A recent Wall Street Journal piece on this trend notes that while mobile commerce represents a trace amount of the $2.3 trillion of retail spending done in the U.S., its proven to be a powerful shopping aid for consumers, and will no doubt grow to be a powerful shopping tool in the near future.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Understanding the Google-Groupon Rumors

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 by
We’ve discussed in past blog posts Google’s increased effort around local search and commerce, so it was no surprise to hear rumors that the search giant could acquire the local ecommerce deal site Groupon for approximately $5 billion, making it Google’s largest acquisition to-date.  In today’s TechCrunch feature “Why Google <3s Groupon,” Erick Schonfeld explores what makes Groupon so attractive to Google.  Could it be that Groupon has figured out how to track the last mile in local ecommerce between an online ad and an in-store purchase – the same pay-for-performance model Google has employed throughout the years?

To read the full article:

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

What You Should Know About Ecommerce Hosting

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 by

When it comes to evaluating your ecommerce hosting site options, you have a lot to consider. And perhaps the most important question to answer is whether you should host your own website or work with a hosting provider. This article from Practical eCommerce goes into the specifics of whether or not you should host your own site, and it makes good points supporting the merits of both options.

When examining ecommerce hosting sites, the point is that you always want your website to be running -- efficiently, quickly and securely. Maintaining your own server in-house can be more inexpensive and gives your business the control to make sure your site is performing as you and your customers demand it to be. On the flip side, using a hosting provider gives you access to people who specialize in servers, so if a problem arises, it will likely be able to be fixed more quickly.

More to Know About Ecommerce Hosting Sites

If you decide to go with a hosting provider, you should be aware of these options so you can decide which would make the most sense for your ecommerce business:

  • Shared hosting: This is when your website gets space on a physical server, sharing it with other websites. Keep in mind that with this hosting solution, problems on another site that lives on the server can affect your site.
  • Virtual dedicated hosting: This option still has your website living on a server with other sites, but it acts as if it is on its own standalone hardware. If one of the other websites on the server crashes, your site would not be affected.
  • Dedicated hosting: Dedicated hosting would give your website and any of its subdomains its own server. Reasons to go with this option would be if you have a highly trafficked site or if your website offers audio and video downloads, which can require a lot of bandwidth.

As you delve deeper into considering Internet hosting providers, you will also want to know about their contingency plans should anything go wrong, as well as how their customer and technical support works.

Blueport Commerce hosts the entire technology platform for its ecommerce clients, including server hardware, maintenance, expansion, upgrades and secure, PCI compliance, leavgiving our customers valuable peace of mind. You can learn more on our Hardware & Secure Hosting solutions page.