A Profitero study showed Target’s online prices were 25% more expensive than Wal-Mart’s, which were just slightly more expensive than prices on Amazon.
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Order management systems aren’t just for e-commerce any more. In fact, more Top 500 retailers such as Mountain Equipment Cooperative (No. 410) are using order management applications to expedite multi-channel retailing. A new Blue Martini order management and e-commerce system from Ecometry Corp., now Escalate Retail, enabled MEC.ca to launch an integrated wish list and gifts certificates program. The wish list enables customers to create a list tied to the company’s complete inventory system so shoppers can check the availability of stock online and in stores. Co-op members also can purchase gift certificates online and redeem them in Mountain Equipment’s 10 stores or at MEC.ca. Ecometry (Escalate Retail) has 24 Top 500 retailers using its order management applications, followed by GSI Commerce with 14 and CommercialWare Inc. with 9.
Bite out of crime
Top 500 retailers depend on their payments processor for more than just a gateway service. Given the increase in online fraud, more Top 500 retailers count on their payments processors to provide them with fraud detection tools such as address verification and risk management systems. Chase Paymentech Solutions LLC provides gateway and other services, including address verification, transaction scoring, identity authentication and age verification, to 75 Top 500 retailers. Medium and large-sized merchants in general also employ twice the number of screening tools as smaller merchants and are two times as likely to use automated decision systems, says CyberSource Corp., the No. 2 provider of gateway and fraud detection services, with 41 Top 500 retailers.
The market leader is Scene7 whose clients include Office Depot (No. 2), QVC (No. 14) and Hammacher Schlemmer & Co. (No. 243). Hammacher is using rich media tools from Scene7, including dynamic sizing, zoom and online catalogs, to reduce the time and costs related to content publishing by 66%. RichFX recently upgraded its suite of rich media tools to include several new features such as Express Loader, a media uploading application that streamlines rich media creation. Among the Top 500 retailers using RichFX applications are Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 27) and J.C. Penney Co. (No. 13).
Affiliate Marketing Management
Unlike other forms of online marketing they keep in-house, the majority of Top 500 retailers rely on outside firms to manage their affiliate marketing programs. Cases in point are affiliate marketing providers Commission Junction and LinkShare Corp. The two companies provide affiliate marketing services to 45% of the Top 500 retailers. Commission Junction has 138 Top 500 customers, followed by LinkShare with 85 clients. Rather than manage the job internally, Everything Furniture Inc. (No. 300), for instance, signed a multi-year arrangement with Commission Junction to oversee its network of several thousand affiliates. “The third party companies act as an intermediary and send payments directly, so affiliate web sites linking to us have an added convenience and trust factor,” says Everything Furniture CEO Scott Perry.
E-mail Marketing Management
Only 15% of Top 500 retailers use outside help to manage their e-mail marketing program. Most Top 500 retailers do their own copywriting and promotions. But many merchants also depend on outside firms such as CheetahMail, with 55 Top 500 clients, and DoubleClick Inc., with 26 Top 500 customers, to help out with list management and campaign management and analysis. Bass Pro Outdoor Online LLC (No. 77) is using e-mail templates designed by CheetahMail to send out personalized messages that include items within a defined price range that corresponds with items the customer earlier browsed or carted and abandoned. “These e-mails are very specific and the conversion rate is higher,” says David Seifert, director of marketing.
Search Engine Marketing Management
With a typical Top 100 retailer spending as much as 50% of total online advertising budget on paid search, marketing managers want high click-through rates and strong sales conversions. But knowing the ins and outs of managing pay-per-click campaigns can be tricky, which is why 18 Top 500 retailers utilize Performics to manage their search engine marketing and another 10 use iCrossing Inc., a New York City digital marketing agency. Performics, a division of DoubleClick Inc., has several Top 100 clients, including HP Home and Home Office (No. 5), L.L. Bean Inc. (No. 22) and Blair Corp. (No. 95). Among the Top 500 retailers using iCrossing are Follett Higher Education Group (No. 71) and Omaha Steaks (No. 93).
Know the customer
A good customer relationship management application is more than a data repository of shopper demographics. When it’s integrated with an e-commerce system, a CRM program can help a Top 500 retailer provide better customer service and streamline call center operations. Talisma Corp., a provider of CRM applications to eight Top 500 retailers, develops programs that integrate customer interaction histories and legacy CRM data. Top 500 retailers, including Macys.com (No. 29), use CRM applications from SSA Global Technologies Inc. to personalize customer interaction at the call center. “The system enables us to increase our marketing effectiveness through closed-loop campaign management and better customer insight and analytics,” says Macys.com president Kent Anderson. Blue Martini, a part of Ecometry/Escalate Retail, also has 7 Top 500 clients using its tools for CRM activities, including Bluefly Inc. (No. 129). SSA Global also has 7 Top 500 clients using CRM applications, including Zale Corp. (No. 226).
Watching the numbers
Internet retailing is a numbers game and virtually every Top 500 retailer uses web analytics to help keep score. The largest analytics application developers, Coremetrics Inc. and Omniture Inc., which combined supply analytics programs to almost one-third of all Top 500 merchants, have enhanced their tools with advanced features that help retailers drill down and analyze buyer behavior. For instance, Benchmark Brands (No. 216) is now using web analytics from Coremetrics Inc. to spot and take action on page errors and reduce cart abandonment. Likewise 4inkjets.com (No. 285) is seeing higher sales after using Omniture analytics to examine high-volume and low-volume keywords along with high and low conversion rates for individual products.