Amazon Buys Zappos for Aprx $800M+ in Stock

July 22, 2009

I’ll have to look at the numbers a bit more.
-Techcrunch article (includes Bezos’ video)
-Tony Hsieh’s email to employees. Here’s an snippet:

We realized that Amazon’s resources, technology, and operational experience had the potential to greatly accelerate our growth so that we could grow the Zappos brand and culture even faster. On the flip side, through the process Amazon realized that it really was the case that our culture is the platform that enables us to deliver the Zappos experience to our customers. Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) made it clear that he had a great deal of respect for our culture and that Amazon would look to protect it.


Alan Rimm-Kaufman Passes Away

July 22, 2009

I’m a little in shock. Just catching the news that Alan Rimm-Kaufman passed away over the weekend.

I really liked Alan. I think everyone did. I originally met him in early 2006, just as he was wrapping up work with the NRF on standard data exchange formats. He helped me out a ton over the years, and I’ll miss discussing metrics oriented marketing and swapping biz ideas with him at random industry events.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Alan Rimm-Kaufman Legacy Fund, CBI Preschool, 501 East Jefferson Street, Charlottesville, VA, 22902, and that individuals consider joining the national bone marrow registry at http://www.marrow.org.

-Alan Rimm-Kaufman (1968 – 2009): a Tribute
-Alan Rimm-Kaufman Passes Away After Courageous Bout With Leukemia
-A Community Loses One of its Own


More SMBs in Trouble Thanks to CIT

July 18, 2009

As if there weren’t already enough problems, if CIT goes into bankruptcy protection, it could spell more doom and gloom for thousands of small and medium sized businesses and their suppliers this holiday shopping season.

CIT provides factoring for hundreds of thousands of retailers. Even with my fancy economics degree, I don’t remember covering factoring, so we’ll take the definition from Wikipedia:

“Factoring is a financial transaction whereby a business sells its accounts receivable (i.e., invoices) to a third party (called a factor) at a discount in exchange for immediate money with which to finance continued business. Factoring differs from a bank loan in three main ways. First, the emphasis is on the value of the receivables (essentially a financial asset)[1], not the firm’s credit worthiness. Secondly, factoring is not a loan – it is the purchase of a financial asset (the receivable). Finally, a bank loan involves two parties whereas factoring involves three.”

Or as the NYTimes puts it:

“When small and midsize suppliers ship goods to retailers, they are not paid right away. Yet they need cash to continue producing merchandise. Factors provide the suppliers money until the retailers pay, which can take 30 to 90 days. Factors also guarantee suppliers that they will get paid, even if a retailer to whom they shipped goes bankrupt.”

Make sure to check out the following articles for more info:
NYTimes – CIT Says It Won’t Get More U.S. Aid
FT – Troubled CIT calls for $2bn infusion
And I think Bloomberg summed it up best with: “If CIT were to fail, a chain reaction would be set off that could very well leave retailers with a shortage of merchandise during the crucial holiday season this fall,” Tracy Mullin, president of the National Retail Federation, said in a July 15 statement. “That cannot be allowed to happen at a time when retailers are already struggling to survive the national recession.”


Smith & Hawkin Closes

July 10, 2009

Another day, another retailer closes it’s (online and bricks ‘n mortar) doors. 700 employees. 56 stores.


NexTag Advertising

July 10, 2009

In the old days (you know, 2yrs ago before the complete economic meltdown), you’d see NexTag advertising everywhere.  And it was always about their lending lead gen business.  Obviously lending lead gen is a much tougher business to be in right now, but NexTag is still one of the top 10 US display advertisers.  I get the feeling that NexTag has probably pulled back some of its mortgage ads and pushed ahead with display advertising for comparison shopping.  I have no explicit data to back this up except I’m seeing display ads everywhere on Yahoo!

Here’s an example that I saw on Yahoo! News

Not sure if the ads are behavioral (I had been looking at laptops on a couple site).

Also, @ SingleFeed, we saw NexTag jump in market share this past month in terms of revenue and traffic. NOTE: data is preliminary. That said, it’s at least a data point that could point to NexTag’s advertising paying off.

And since you never see the shopping engines buying ads beyond PPC marketing, it’s something to pay attention to. If it’s working for NexTag, it could work for Shopzilla, Shopping.com, Become, Smarter, etc. There’s a lot of cheap ROS/remnant inventory out there.


Don’t put all your eggs in the Google Shopping Basket

July 1, 2009

If you’re submitting an optimized data feed to Google Shopping, you can get an amazing amount of traffic and sales.  But just as organic placement can fluctuate because of algorithmic changes, your product listings on Google Shopping might fluctuate because of similar algorithmic changes or placement tests.  The old standard of Onebox results showing up below the sponsored ads and above the organic listings is not a guarantee anymore. You might find the Onebox listings in a different form, halfway down the page, or even in the AdWords listings [Any product results showing up in AdWords listings are called Product Ads. These are not related to Onebox listings in any way.] (will share screenshots of these variations soon).

With all these tests that Google is running, your traffic will most likely go up and down and up and down and up and down.  Frustrating when you’re a marketer trying to meet your numbers.  That’s why you can’t put all your eggs in one basket – be it Google Shopping, NexTag, Shopzilla, Amazon Product Ads, or PriceGrabber.

Brian Mark of Toolbarn had a great slide in a SES presentation years ago that showed how he used the shopping engines to make up for a decline in traffic/sales after a site change knocked all his listings out of Google’s organic results.  If he didn’t have the shopping engine listings, he would have been in serious trouble.  In the same vein, as Google Shopping will continue to play around with its listings, merchants should think about listing on other top shopping engines.  Yes, Google Shopping might be at the top of the list in terms of traffic and revenue (and of course, ROI), but NexTag, PriceGrabber, Shopzilla, and Shopping.com can provide a steady stream of traffic and revenue in the face of uncertainty from Google Shopping.

I’ll release some recent SingleFeed numbers discussing aggregate  traffic/revenue #s for the shopping engines soon, but let’s just say that listing on additional top engines can significantly boost results.  Yes, you’ll have to think about PPC costs and not all products will work on all shopping engines, but if you’re smart about your data feed marketing efforts (reporting/analytics!, you can succeed


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