Strong Close to Online Holiday Shopping 2009

December 22, 2009

In this morning’s industry note, Piper Jaffray feels confident with its prediction of 5% year over year growth for eCommerce sales during the 2009 holiday shopping season based on easy y/y comparisons, the snow storm, comScore’s 4% Holiday Shopping 2009 growth numbers, and Coremetrics’ 6% Holiday Shopping 2009 growth numbers.

Coremetrics also reported extremely strong numbers for late last week:

    -Online retail sales from Mon., Dec. 14 – Sun., Dec. 20, 2009 were up 14.6 percent compared to Mon., Dec. 15 – Sun., Dec. 21, 2008 (year-over-year).
    -Online retail sales for Fri., Dec. 18, 2009 and Sat., Dec. 19, 2009 were up 24 percent compared to Fri., Dec. 19 and Sat., Dec. 20, 2008.
    -Online retail sales for Sun., Dec. 20, 2009 were up 20 percent from Sun., Dec. 21, 2008.

I think some of this could be because of the snow storm that blanketed the East coast. Usually the last week tapers off a bit more due to shipping deadlines.

Back to PJ’s report, Gene Munster’s group is now predicting “8% retail eCommerce sales growth in 2010 as the economy improves and retail share gains reaccelerate.”


SingleFeed Sponsoring TechCrunch’s Avatar Screening – Need a Tix?

December 18, 2009

If you need a ticket to TechCrunch’s Avatar screening, ping me, and I might be able to get you in. SingleFeed is a ‘popcorn and soda’ sponsor. We’re doing this to get the word out about our Engineering Lead job opening.

So if you’re in San Francisco and need an excuse to leave work early tomorrow (screening is @ 4pm, must be at theater early), email brian at singlefeed.com or brian at comparisonengines.com.

Look forward to seeing everyone there!


The Importance of the Google Merchant Center Data Feed

December 15, 2009

Over the last 4 months, your Froogle data feed, I mean Google Base data feed, I mean Google Product Search data feed…ummm…I really mean Google Merchant Center data feed got a lot more important as Google is doing more and more with that data feed.

Background: Google Merchant Center recently replaced Google Base, the place where merchants submit and manage their product data feeds. There is some new functionality in the Google Merchant Center compared to Google Base, but the core function of the Google Merchant Center feed is still to manage products listings on Google Product Search, Google’s shopping search engine. Merchants know Google Product Search as a significant source of free traffic, partly because of the powerful product OneBox results.

For years, the Google Base data feed had been used solely for populating Google Product Search, but recently, the power of that structured data feed has come to light. Google now uses the Google Merchant Center data feed for the Google Affiliate Network (GAN), Product Listing Ads – Beta (which is run through the GAN), Extension Ads (which is an AdWords product), and the newly launched Commerce Search (which is an Enterprise product).

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here goes.

Google Product Listing Ads – Beta:

Google Product Listing Ads – Beta are run through the Google Affiliate Network (GAN), which can leverage product information from Google Merchant Center data feed. A merchant sets a commission amount per sale and Google, acting as a publisher, can display these ads where it sees fit (the merchant doesn’t have control). If a sale happens, Google gets paid a commission.

The screenshot above represents one example of Product Listings. In this case, there are a number of merchants represented in each Ad. You’ll also notice the OneBox 5 pack listings right under the Sponsored Listings.

Here’s an example of Product Listings with just one merchant listed:

Product Extensions:

Product Extensions is a Google AdWords product which was just opened up to all Google Merchant Center accounts. Merchant’s have control over where (for which keyword searches) Extensions are displayed. As Extensions is an AdWords product, normal AdWords CPC charges apply. You’ll see a ton of these Extensions marked by a little + underneath AdWords listings for most any product searches on Google.

Google Affiliate Network (GAN):
GAN came out of Google’s Performics acquisition in 2008. GAN can tap into a merchant’s Google Merchant Center data feed. In allowing this, a merchant is providing publishers access to a wealth of product information which allows publishers to provide a much deeper and richer experience than just banners or buttons.

Google Commerce Search:
This is a specialized site search for merchants that launched a couple weeks back. Google Commerce Search leverages the Google Merchant Center data feed. Watch the Google Commerce Search video intro or download the data sheet. Benefits of on-site search should be pretty obvious. An ecommerce focused site search is a smart move as retail is much different than any other verticals as consumers are looking for attributes like promos, sales, and categories. A regular site search product might be able to highlight some of these attributes, but using the Google Merchant Center data feed enables Google Commerce Search to provide a much more specialized (deeper and richer) on site search experience.

As with any Google product, expect OneBox listings, Product (Listing) Ads, Product Extensions, Google Affiliate Network, and Google Commerce Search to morph in the coming year, but the thing that will not change is the importance of the Google Merchant Center data feed. If you’re not submitting a high quality data feed, now is the time!


Cyber Monday 2009 Results

December 15, 2009

Results from Cyber Monday 2009:
comScore – December 2, 2009 – Cyber Monday Ecommerce Sales up 5% year over year.

NRF – December 1, 2009 – Shop.org’s CyberMonday.com, which features holiday promotions and special savings from more than 700 retailers, had 15.8 million visits yesterday, an increase of eight percent from Cyber Monday 2008.

PayPal – December 1, 2009 – PayPal saw approximately 20 percent more payment volume on Cyber Monday 2009 than Cyber Monday 2008

Mercent – December 1, 2009 – Cyber Monday Online Retail Sales Grow 33% over 2008, In-line with Black Friday Results

Channel Intelligence – December 2, 2009 – Comparing Cyber Monday 2009 to 2008, CI retail customers on average enjoyed an 83 percent increase in sales.

Coremetrics – 1. Sales were up 13.7 percent compared to Cyber Monday 2008. 2. The average dollar amount consumers spent per online order rose 38.2 percent from Cyber Monday 2008 ($180.03 versus $130.24), led by apparel retailers.


Expect to See More Online Only Retailers in 2010

December 4, 2009

I think that a couple more fairly well known brick and mortar retailers will go bankrupt in early 2010. Expect to see some of them come back as online only stores. Great article on OregonLive.com talking about the online resurrection of Circuit City, Linens ‘n Things, Smith & Hawken, etc.


SingleFeed is Growing. Seeks Rockstar Coder or 2

December 4, 2009

SingleFeed is growing and growing. We’ll be profitable next year. We need a rockstar or 2 to join our engineering team. This is a perfect opportunity for an engineer at one of the shopping engines who is ready to get back to start up life.

You’re a kick-ass, no bull, brilliant engineer and engineering manager who will wow our customers and the rest of the team by building a great product.

• You will work long hours coding and put your heart and soul into this company and be rewarded for it.
• You are metrics driven.
• You know documenting and testing needs to get done properly.
• You believe in Agile development.
• You are proactive, aggressive, bold, diligent, and a rock star coder.
• You inspire, lead, and coach while still rolling up your sleeves to code.

You know, love, and live Ruby, Rails, mySQL, but have a traditional foundation which enables you to learn new languages. You are not scared of picking up new (or old) programming languages because while you understand the benefits of Ruby, you recognize the business case for maintaining a system that is already working. A lot of our code is currently in Perl.

You have xperience building systems that handle lots of data and perform fast and reliably. Experience working with Amazon, eBay, ecommerce platforms, analytics/reporting systems would be very good.

You know Linux and when necessary can assist in the administration, maintenance, and upgrading of our systems. You understand network topography and could maintain, grow, and optimize our database clusters, our web Apache web servers, our DNS, our connectivity, and more.

This is a perfect opportunity for someone who wants to build a successful start up with a small team.

Key Competencies:
• Ruby on Rails
• mySQL
• Perl
• Linux administration
• Apache web server configuration/installation
• Network administration, including but not limited to:
1. DNS
2. mySQL Cluster administration
3. ssh tunnels, network connectivity
• Amazon EC2 AMI

More:
• Experience managing small Agile teams
• Loves working on a team
• Likes to get things done – we value prototypes and code over posturing and talk
• Entrepreneurial – everybody has ownership and a say


Same Store Sales Numbers for November 2009 Disappoint – What does it mean?

December 4, 2009

According to Thompson Reuters (via WSJ), same store sales for November 2009 rose a meager 0.5%. The International Council of Shopping Centers reports a 0.3% drop. Considering how bad last November was, these numbers look awful.

While online seems to be showing some very strong growth, offline is having serious problems. And when online only accounts for 6% of overall sales, it’s not enough to save the retail industry.

Here are same store sales year over year data for some major retailers – most of these were taken from this NYTimes article:
Abercrombie & Fitch: -17%
Saks: -26.1%
Children’s Place: -13%
Neiman Marcus: -12.7%
Hot Topic: -11.7%
Dillards: -11%
Macy’s: -6.1%
JCP: -5.9%
Target: -1.5%
Gap: Flat
BJ’s Wholesale Club: +1%
JW Nordstrom: +2.2%
Limited Brands: +3%
Kohls: +3.3%
Costco: +6%
Ross Stores: +8%
TJX Companies: +8%

Again, just another data point or 2.

So what’s going on here? Lot’s of theories:
-It’s just really tough out there for consumers (the usual, starting with high unemployment)
-Consumers were waiting for the deals at the end of November and in December
-Consumers are only buying what’s on sale
-Merchants are doing an amazing job of pushing consumers online and therefore online could end up stronger than anyone imagined
-Warm weather = less sales of winter clothes

With the seemingly stark difference between online and offline growth figures, you’ve got to be bullish on agencies focused on online marketing.

Companies like GSI Commerce, which are enabling the big retailers to succeed online through TrueAction, it’s online marketing division should be cleaning up. Expect search marketing shops and feed management companies to continue to report nice gains and expand into other online marketing channels, raise additional capital, increase M&A activity, and more as we move into 2010.


Black Friday – My Experience…Another Black and Blue Day?

December 3, 2009

For the 4th year in a row, I hit the road well before the crack of dawn to check out the Black Friday rush. While you’ve now seen the reports of online and offline sales growth or lack thereof, I wanted to give my impression.

Like last year, I visited 2 Best Buys, HomeGoods/TJX, Golfsmith, GameStop, REI, Road Runner Sports, Gap, Banana Republic, Macy’s, and a couple other stores throughout the bay area. This is just about the same trip I made last year. Started in San Francisco @ 5am (Best Buy), made my way down to San Carlos by 8am (Best Buy, HomeGoods, TJX, Golfsmith, GameStop, REI, Road Runner Sports), and ended up in Palo Alto at the Stanford Shopping Center (Gap, Banana Republic, Macy’s).

My quick impressions (garnered through listening, asking questions, watching, etc.):
-Consumers are not going overspend.
-Consumers are using debit cards and cash more than they did last year
-Consumers were on a mission. They researched online before stepping into the store. They knew what they wanted (the doorbuster deals) and stuck to their guns, rarely purchasing items not on their lists.
-Comments from Best Buy managers both indicated that foot traffic was about equal to last year
-1 smaller independent store (skis/snowboards seller) which I visited last year wasn’t even open this year
-While everyone continues to say that mobile commerce is here, I was the only person I saw all day who scanned bar codes (with my Android HTC Hero using 2 apps: ShopSavvy and iXMAT Scanner)
-A lot of merchandise was quickly out of stock – and I’m not just talking about the doorbuster deals.
-Consumers seemed to want to wrap up their shopping early. This is similar to last year when merchants had to drop prices over and over to get consumers to come back and spend.
-HomeGoods/TJX was completely empty and didn’t even open early.
-No one was in Golfsmith or Road Runner Sports. Very sad.
-Petco was empty and didn’t even open early.
-GameStop was buzzing and smartly had someone explain the deal of the day as you entered the store.
-Both Best Buy stores were packed for hours and hours. The line at the San Carlos store must have been at about 80-100 people the entire time I was in the store.
-Aprx. 80 people were in line for the 8am opening of REI. I got a $5 gift card at the door. The store was pretty much empty by 8:40am. I didn’t have to wait at the register.
-Much easier to get parking at the Stanford Shopping Center this year. Felt like a lot less people shopping. Gap sales associate who had worked last 7 Black Fridays said that foot traffic was about the same as last year.

Ok, just another data point or 2 for you to ponder. I don’t have the same sense of doom and gloom from last year, but I definitely don’t have a sense of holiday cheer either.

Biggest thing I’m pondering. If my experience at the 2 Best Buy stores is any indication, sales might end up higher, but profit numbers might be under pressure as consumers seem to just be purchasing the deeply discounted products.


Holiday 2009 Retail and Ecommerce Stats – A look at Black Friday 2009 Results

December 2, 2009

Will post 2009 Cyber Monday results soon, but here are 2009 Black Friday data points from a number of sources. Some of these numbers have to be investigated a bit more, but I at least wanted everyone to have some tea leaves to read in one place.

Predictions made or data gathered before Thanksgiving:
Online.
-comScore – November 24, 2009 – Forecasts 3 Percent Growth for 2009 Holiday E-Commerce Spending

-Forrester – November 2, 2009 – US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2009: Forrester expects online retail sales to reach $44.7 billion during the months of November and December 2009, an 8% increase over 2008

-Experian Hitwise – November 24, 2009 – Visits to Black Friday Websites are up 4 percent compared with the same week in 2008.


Total Retail Sales.

NRF – October 6, 2009 – Forecasts One Percent Decline in Holiday Sales

Retail Foot Traffic (Offline).
ShopperTrak – October 20, 2009 – 1. Predicts 4.2 Percent Retail Traffic Decrease for 2009 Holiday Season. 2. 1.6 Percent Sales Increase Expected During Same Period.

Results from Black Friday:
comScore – November 29, 2009 – 1. Black Friday Ecommerce Sales up 11% year over year. 2. Holiday Sales thus far (first 27 days of November) up 3% year over year.

ShopperTrak – November 28, 2009 – Black Friday Retail Sales Increase 0.5 Percent As Compared To 2008

ShopperTrak – November 30, 2009 – Black Saturday Sales Rise 1.5 Percent Versus 2008; Friday / Saturday Foot Traffic Declines

NRF – November 29, 2009 – Black Friday Verdict: As Expected, Number of Shoppers Up [13.4% - 195m vs. 172m], Average Spending Down [$343.31 per person from $372.57 a year ago]. [This is for Black Friday Weekend: Thursday – Sat and projected Sunday.

PayPal – November 28, 2009 – PayPal saw a double digit growth, approximately 20 percent, in online sales compared to 2008

Mercent – November 28, 2009 – Black Friday 2009 Online Retail Sales Grow 41% Over 2008

Channel Intelligence – November 30, 2009 – Thanksgiving Day sales for 2009 saw a 67 percent increase over 2008 and Black Friday sales increased 70 percent year over year.

Coremetrics – November 28, 2009 – 1. The average dollar value that consumers spent per online order rose 35.0 percent year over year, led by apparel retailers. 2. Consumers are buying more items per order than they did last year—by 18.3 percent. John Squire, chief strategy officer, Coremetrics: “Secondly, there are fewer online retailers this year than last year. Those who survived the first several months of the downturn are pulling out all the stops to lure shoppers with aggressive incentives. The net effect is a jump in the amount the average person spends online and in the number of things they’re willing to purchase per order.”

Google Retail Advertising Blog – November 30, 2009 – Black Friday Searches Rise 20%


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