Ecommerce 2008 Las Vegas is getting prepared registration booth being setupI’m in Las Vegas for the 2008 conference. It looks like it’s going to be a great conference with the keynotes and sessions that are lined up this year. The CEO & President of Borders is kicking off the first keynote, followed by the author of Wikinomics, Don Tapscott. The first session of the day after the keynotes has four sessions I would like to attend; Emerging Retail Technologies, Natural Search Tactics for the Retailer, Selecting the Right Solution Provider for your Retail Operations: eCommerce Platform Selection Case-Study, and Social Media And The Reluctant Retailer. I’m not sure what I’ll end up with.

One thing I’ve noticed that I’m not excited about it the number of sessions led by vendors. has been very good in the past about focusing on retailers giving the presentations and this year seems like they’ve taken a 90 degree turn. There are still quite a few retailers presenting and lets hope they keep a tight hold on the vendors from pitching their wares for the hour.

The show kicks off Monday night. If you are at the show, drop me a note and I’d love to meet up with you.

Benchmark at HP Labs

It’s been a long few weeks on the road lately.  I’ve spent time in New York and Boston visiting customers and analysts, and I just wrapped up a week in Cupertino, CA at HP Labs benchmarking the Ecometry product for high load web traffic and order processing.  It was one of those test scenarios where nothing seemed to go right.  We had a dozen or so problems with configuration, Fedex servers failing and various other issues.  Late in the week we got everything working and got some good numbers.  The office is going to continue to benchmark from Delray and try to get more data points with different configurations on the 3 node Oracle RAC.

HP has a fantastic lab and was kind enough to give us access to their top of the line systems.  They have a giagantic XP SAN with I think it was 172 TB’s of storage.  We had a set of three large Itanium servers to run a 3 node RAC Oracle config on and used about 16 app servers to pump orders in via web and interactive interfaces. 

I snapped some quick shots of the lab and some of the Superdome systems they have available in the lab. 


Next week, I’m off to Vegas for!

Tracking offline conversions & Google’s improved Flash indexing

I came across these two blog posts and thought they were worth sharing. 

Avinash Kaushik wrote a great post about tracking offline conversions at Tracking Offline Conversions: Hope, Seven Best Practices, Bonus Tips.  I interviewed Avinash last year about his book in this post – Q&A with Avinash Kaushik, Author of Web Analytics: An Hour A Day.


On Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, they talk about their latest improvements in indexing Flash content in Improved Flash indexing.   I still wouldn’t use a great deal of Flash for an e-commerce site, but it’s good to know that they are making progress on improving this area.

Tips on creating content for e-commerce email campaigns

I was going through my email this weekend and had these emails come through from and  Which would you click on and engage with?

circcity email newegg email

For me, I know it’s the Newegg ad.  It provides more insight to what the sale has to offer and there’s more to intrigue me to go deeper.  The Circuit City ad just tells me they are having a sale.  Being that’s it a holiday weekend, I know every retailer out there has some sort of sale, so it doesn’t do much for me.

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10 Tenets of the Google User Experience

While surfing the Google corporate pages, I came across this doc that explains the tenets that Google strives for in thier user experience.

Here are the main factors, check out the document for the background behind each.

1. Focus on people – their lives, their work, their dreams.
2. Every millisecond counts.
3. Simplicity is powerful.
4. Engage beginners and attract experts.
5. Dare to innovate.
6. Design for the world.
7. Plan for today’s and tomorrow’s business.
8. Delight the eye without distracting the mind.
9. Be worthy of people’s trust.
10. Add a human touch.

Experience Strategy Development

If you are working on your experience strategy or a redesign of your site, you should definitely take an hour out of your day to watch this presentation.  It’s given by two guys from Adaptive Path which is a product experience strategy and design firm.  The presentation was delivered to employees of Google, but someone was kind enough to share it on you tube. 

Even though the topic is mainly centered around experience through an application, it also has great information if you are working on customer experience in the store. 

I particularly liked two parts in the later half of the presentation where they talked about the Peak End Rule and The long wow.  Enjoy!

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Back to The Basics, Order Management and Updating the Customer

When talking to retailers about their online strategy, the topics lately have been about rich Internet application interfaces like AJAX, Flash or Silverlight and social functionality like consumer product reviews.    Despite personally enjoying these topics,  I often try to bring the conversation around to the basics to make sure the retailer has done the basic things like implement accurate real time inventory visibility and accurate tracking through an order management system and set of processes.    Nothing creates a sub par customer experience more than messing up the basic fundamentals of what consumers have come to expect when shopping, tracking, and receiving their order.  The experience I had with Barnes and Noble last week illustrates this pretty well.

My wife was speaking with our daughter’s 4th grade teacher and she told my wife that she wanted to have the class read The Westing Game before school was released for the summer.  Unfortunately, the school library only had a few copies so my wife and I decided to purchase the needed books and donate them to the school.  We spent the following weekend visiting a few book stores and bought all of the copies they had, but we were still short about 10 copies.  (continue reading…)

Heat Maps to Test Your Ecommerce Site Design via Feng GUI

Amazon Ecommerce Heatmap

I came across a useful free tool for creating heatmaps of your website design at Feng Gui.   The site allows you to type in your url or upload an image and it creates a heatmap based on what it thinks a real human would be most likely to look at.  The application uses a ViewFinder algorithm to create a saliency map based on objects in the field of view that stand out relative to neighboring items. 
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Interviews with Circuit City CEO Philip Schoonover

circuitcity.jpgCircuit City’s CEO Philip Schoonover has done a couple interviews this week, one with the WSJ and the other with the Times-Dispatch of Richmond, VA (Circuit City’s Headquarters).  Here are some of the more interesting questions and answers from the two interviews. 

WSJ: Why do you think the new, smaller-sized store will improve Circuit City’s profitability and sales growth?

Mr. Schoonover: It offers a different experience. Customers can touch and compare, and learn how to use the most complex products and services that we sell.
It is a more efficient use of space. Typically, our stores are 35,000 square feet, and less than 18,000 of that is selling space. The new prototype is 20,000 and has 17,000 of selling space. This fundamentally changes the economics. We can get higher revenue per square foot, higher-margin dollars per square foot, and we can find additional sites that weren’t necessarily available for our old box.

I’m a big believer in high interactivity shopping experiences, so it will be interesting to see what they do with the new store format.  The main concern I have is the smaller stores.  Will this mean a smaller product selection?  Will they turn into the Radio Shacks in the malls?  It’s almost as if they are positioning themselves between Best Buy and Apple, and I’m not sure they can build an identity between these two and flourish.   Apple has set the bar high for shopping experience and Best Buy’s product selection is better than all except for Fry’s and a couple regional players.  (continue reading…)

Data Visualization: Use of Flash by Top Ecommerce Sites /w Retail Vertical – Bubble Chart

Here’s another visualization which shows the ecommerce sites in the top 500 which use Adobe Flash on their site.   While this is not a clear indicator of good use of Flash, it does give a sense of how much flash is used.  I use it to look at the sites to see who’s doing innovative things with Flash.    Although, it could just show that they have poorly optimized Flash that is bloated.  The current retailers using the most Flash are SonyStyle, Nike, Dicks Sporting Goods, and Disney Direct

Changing the label at the bottom left corner to Retail Vertical will show the top use of Flash by retail category instead.

Update: I’ve moved the visualization to after the click as it was too much on the homepage. (continue reading…)

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