July 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

Who puts the ‘e’ in e-commerce

(Page 2 of 4)

In these days of conservative consumer spending, excellent customer service can mean the difference between a happy customer and a sale lost forever. To aid them in keeping in touch with visitors and shoppers, 60 merchants, 12% of the Internet Retailer Top 500 e-retailers, use GSI Commerce Inc., RightNow Technologies Inc. and LivePerson as their customer service vendor of choice.

1. GSI Commerce Inc., 29 Top 500 clients, including:
The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc. (No. 129)
MLB Advanced Media (No. 160)
Burberry Ltd. (No. 423)

2. RightNow Technologies Inc., 21 Top 500 clients, including:
Overstock.com Inc. (No. 29)
Musician’s Friend Inc. (No. 36)
Scholastic Inc. (No. 42)

3. LivePerson, 10 Top 500 clients, including:
Newegg Inc. (No. 9)
CafePress.com (No. 117)
Vera Bradley Retail Stores LLC (No. 240)

E-commerce platform: Support system

E-commerce platforms are the backbone of web retailing. While some retailers build and maintain their own, many license software or let vendors host their e-commerce platforms. In a recent survey of large e-retailers, 44% say they plan a platform upgrade within three years, says the E-tailing Group. Top goals are to offer more features and functions, and reduce costs.

1. ATG, 31 (tie) Top 500 clients, including:
NutriSystem Inc. (No. 46)
Nike Inc. (No. 49)
American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (No. 54)

1. GSI Commerce Inc., 31 (tie) Top 500 clients, including:
Ralph Lauren Media LLC (No. 88)
Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. (No. 121)
General Nutrition Centers Inc. (No. 253)

3. IBM WebSphere, 29 Top 500 clients, including:
Staples Inc. (No. 2)
Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 7)
L.L. Bean Inc. (No. 22)

E-mail marketing: Growing volume

Over the next five years, spending on e-mail marketing in the U.S. will grow at a compound annual rate of 11%, reaching $2 billion by 2014, according to a Forrester Research Inc. study. The study, “U.S. E-mail Marketing Forecast 2009 to 2014,” notes that permission-based e-mail campaigns designed to retain existing customers will account for the largest share of e-mail marketing messages, at one-third, by 2014. Many retailers count on providers for some or all of their e-mail marketing programs.

1. Experian CheetahMail, 69 Top 500 clients, including:
Staples Inc. (No. 2)
Victoria’s Secret (No. 19)
U.S. Auto Parts Network (No. 102)

2. Yesmail, 28 Top 500 clients, including:
HP Home & Home Office Store (No. 16)
Macy’s Inc. (No. 23)
Scholastic Inc. (No. 42)

3. e-Dialog, 25 Top 500 clients, including:
OfficeMax Inc. (No. 6)
Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. (No. 39)
American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (No. 54)

Fulfillment: Crossing channels

As consumers become accustomed to shopping both online and in stores, multichannel retailers must take a harder look at technology that supports cross-channel order management and fulfillment, says advisory firm AMR Research Inc. When retailers combine cross-channel order management with the ability to fulfill orders from any channel, including stores and warehouses dedicated for either stores or the online channel, they can better match customer demand with inventory, AMR Research says. But AMR says just 7% of retailers have deployed infrastructure to support cross-channel shopping.

1. GSI Commerce Inc., 28 Top 500 clients, including:
L.L. Bean Inc. (No. 22)
PetSmart Inc. (No. 230)
iRobot Corp. (No. 249)

2. Escalate Retail, 20 Top 500 clients, including:
Urban Outfitters Inc. (No. 57)
Lamps Plus Inc. (No. 138)
Hot Topic Inc. (No. 211)

3. CommerceHub (Commerce Technolo­gies), 13 Top 500 clients, including:
Staples Inc. (No. 2)
Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 14)
The Home Depot Inc. (No. 43)

Live chat/click-to-call: On the same page

As live chat becomes a more common tool used by 54% of large e-retailers, according to the E-tailing Group, online retailers are learning how to make it more effective. Live chat can be deployed so a customer service agent can view the same web page that a customer is viewing. Retailers are promoting expanded use of live chat by making it more noticeable on product pages, promoting its use within on-hold telephone recordings and displaying the average wait time for each customer service channel.

1. LivePerson, 34 Top 500 clients, including:
QVC Inc. (No. 11)
NutriSystem Inc. (No. 46)
Etronics Inc. (No. 77)

2. InstantService Inc., 11 Top 500 clients, including:
Nordstrom Inc. (No. 32)
The Orvis Co. Inc. (No. 119)
Ritz Interactive Inc. (No. 124)

3. ATG, 7 Top 500 clients, including:
Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1)
Dell Inc. (No. 3)
Best Buy Co. (No. 10)

Order management: Preserving order

Data consistency and effective use of cross-channel data, which is typically organized with order management systems, remain big hurdles to serving consumers efficiently across the channels of store, web and catalog. According to Retail Systems Research, an inability to effectively use customer information for cross-channel marketing was identified as the most significant inhibitor by the 88 retailers surveyed. The lack of cross-channel integration of inventory and order management systems was cited by 36% of “winners” and 35% of the other retailers. RSR classifies retailers whose same-store sales are growing by more than the historical industry average of 3% as winners.

1. Escalate Retail, 38 Top 500 clients, including:
The Home Depot Inc. (No. 43)
Hot Topic Inc. (No. 211)
The Buckle Inc. (No. 425)

2. GSI Commerce Inc., 29 Top 500 clients, including:
Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. (No. 39)
RadioShack Corp. (No. 224)
Ace Hardware Corp. (No. 451)

3. MICROS-Retail, 13 Top 500 clients, including:
Orchard Brands Corp. (No. 59)
GameStop Corp. (No. 113)
Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. (No. 189)

Payments systems: More options?

Despite lingering security concerns about doing business online in foreign markets, there are indications that these new markets can be a significant boost to sales. For example, letting European shoppers pay online through their preferred methods can boost overseas sales an average of 20% to 30%, payments systems provider CyberSource Corp. advises. Although 59% of North American merchants accept international orders, the percentage of these merchants that accept payment methods preferred by overseas consumers is relatively low, CyberSource says.

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