Melanie Teed-Murch has been with the retail chain since 1996.
...here's a second chance to catch up with IRCE exhibitors
Designs for the times
With record-breaking numbers in attendance and exhibitors IRCE 2012 was the biggest e-commerce experience ever. The more than 8,600 attendees visiting the exhibit hall could find more than 560 service providers representing every aspect of e-commerce.
Web site design firm Americaneagle.com talked to attendees about mobile commerce site design. Among the biggest challenges facing retailers is fitting the information that appears on a web page onto the smaller screens of mobile devices.
"Retailers need to remember that as the screen size changes, so does the size of the content and typefaces. A smaller screen will automatically display page content as smaller," says Tony Svanascini, CEO of Americaneagle.com. "Retailers want to avoid mobile designs that require consumers to manually expand the page to read it."
That creates a trade-off between site functionality and artistic design. Maintaining artistic flair without sacrificing functionality requires a designer with a thorough understanding of how consumers interact with web sites on mobile devices.
"There is no out-of-the-box solution," says Svanascini. "Creating a mobile site requires user interface expertise to deliver the proper shopping experience."
Balancing artistic site design and site functionality also requires an understanding of how each mobile device renders content.
"Site designers have to understand how a site will look on each device and what information is needed to ensure simple navigation and delivery of the retailer's marketing message," says Svanascini. "Our designers spend a lot of time working with mobile devices to keep up with the changes in the technology in order to achieve this goal."
The look and feel of the site is only one component of design. Integration with back-office systems provides retailers with better customer data that can help them increase site traffic and sales.
"Being able to deliver customers real-time inventory or track their behavior on the site to suggest products enhances the shopping experience," says Svanascini. "At Americaneagle.com we have an entire department that specializes in integrating web sites with back- office software."
Sorting good from bad
Boosting sales is a top priority for all e-retailers, but too often they lose sales through inflexible fraud prevention strategies. Rigid rules, such as never accepting orders from customers using an IP address outside the United States or rejecting prepaid cards or sales through affiliate sites, can result in good transactions being denied along with the bad.
"Some of the fraud prevention techniques used by merchants reduce fraud and sales," says Jack Alton, vice president of sales for Kount, a provider of fraud and risk-management solutions. "One reason this happens is because retailers focus on selling in channels they know have a low fraud risk. That runs counter to the idea that e-commerce enables retailers to sell to anyone, anytime, anywhere."
To illustrate his point, Alton cites the example of BodyBuilding.com. A retailer of body building supplements, BodyBuilding.com has many customers in the armed forces.
"A lot of those soldiers are stationed overseas in countries that have high risks of fraud, so when IP addresses showed the order was coming from one of those countries, it was automatically denied," says Alton. "We were able to significantly reduce false positives through implementation of better fraud detection tools."
One area where retailers struggle with fraud prevention is detecting the use of proxy servers by criminals to disguise their true IP address. Criminals will obtain the addresses of known proxy servers and pierce the server's defenses to create the appearance they are logged onto the server when ordering from the retailer's web site. That way they can appear to be in the United States, for example, when they're actually in Malaysia.
"Techniques such as proxy piercing and geo-location can unmask criminals hiding behind proxy servers," Alton says.
Reducing the number of transactions manually is another area where retailers can improve their fraud prevention. "Some retailers manually review 27% of transactions and approve as much as 90%," says Alton. "That shows how antiquated some approaches to fraud prevention are. Criminals are getting more sophisticated and that's why good is no longer good enough when it comes to fraud prevention."