ECommerce in 2015

In 2015, global B2C ecommerce sales are expected to be over $1.7 trillion, with mobile commerce accounting for nearly $300 billion in sales. And as online business owners know, the ecommerce space has become increasingly competitive, with e-tailers constantly having to come up with new ways to attract consumers, many of whom shop via a mobile device (smartphone or tablet).

So what can online businesses do to help ensure they stay competitive in 2015? Following are seven ecommerce trends to pay attention to.

1. Content will become more interactive. “Consumer expectations have increased to the point where more rich, interactive and immersive visual experiences are expected,” says Russ Somers, vice president of Marketing, Invodo, which provides visual commerce solutions for retailers and brands. “Images that spin and rotate, interactive videos that have clickable elements that allow consumers to learn more about products and purchase them, and guided online walkthroughs of consumer electronics devices are a few examples of what will replace boring, standalone images in 2015 and beyond.”

2. Mobile commerce will continue to gain marketshare. “According to Goldman Sachs, worldwide mobile commerce sales will account for nearly half of total Web sales by 2018,” says Patrick Salyer, CEO, Gigya, which provides a customer identity management platform. “That’s in large part due to payment providers, such as PayPal, Amazon, Google [and Apple], making it easy for consumers to log in and securely make purchases from their smartphone, simplifying the mobile checkout process,” often by allowing shoppers to use their social login, he explains.

Indeed, already “many retailers are finding that a majority of their customers are interacting with their brand through smartphones and tablets,” says Jeff Barnett, COO, Demandware, a cloud ecommerce provider. “So there’s a clear need – and opportunity – to deliver a distinct [mobile] shopping experience specific to customers.”

To attract the increasingly mobile consumer, “ecommerce sites should leverage responsive design to provide the best user experience across devices, regardless of operating system or screen size,” says Matt Winn, senior marketing communications manager, Volusion, an ecommerce platform. “Doing so will ensure a seamless shopping experience, lead to increased site conversions and provide retailers with a more modern branding component.”

3. Micro-targeting and personalization will help drive sales. “Driven by the need to personalize the customer experience, e-retailers are customizing their sites for the individual visitor,” says Madhumita Dasgupta, global SAP delivery head for Retail, CPG, Travel, Transportation and Hospitality, Tata Consultancy Services.

“E-tailers will become more sophisticated with targeting and personalization techniques on their websites and via mobile,” says Anees Merchant, senior vice president, Digital, Blueocean Market Intelligence. “These targeted and personalized campaigns will enhance share of wallet per customer and enable retailers to better engage with customers.”

4. Customers will expect faster shipping. “Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping has revolutionized customers’ online shopping experience,” says Andrew Van Noy, CEO of Warp 9, an ecommerce solutions provider for midsized businesses. “Now Amazon and other retailers, such as Walmart and Google, are upping the ante and experimenting with same day shipping,” putting pressure on other major retailers to follow suit. As a result, “retailers who [only offer] 3-to-5-day shipping will be left behind.”

5. Selling internationally will continue to become easier. “There is a tremendous opportunity for business owners to tap into the global ecommerce economy in 2015,” says Steve Power, president, Bigcommerce, an ecommerce provider. “Most ecommerce shopping carts now include options for selling to customers outside the United States,” he points out. “And thanks to third-party fulfillment services, which simplify the process of shipping products across borders, even smaller ecommerce businesses can now reach customers around the world, tapping into the multibillion-dollar global ecommerce market.”

6. The online B2B market will heat up. “The B2B market offers huge opportunities for the ecommerce world,” says Todd Miller, vice president at growth equity firm Sterling Partners. “Much of the focus in this arena has been on retailers selling directly to consumers, but more B2B companies are collaborating and ordering product from each other, so the possibilities for a distribution network and online transactions in this specific market are endless.”

“You will see far more B2B in 2015,” agrees Van Noy. “Wholesalers and distributors are beginning to realize that their customers all shop online, and expect the same type of buying experience from their vendors,” he says. “B2B ecommerce makes it easier for wholesalers, manufacturers and distributors to connect to their customers on the go through mobile channels [and] simplifies the re-ordering and customer support processes, freeing up valuable sales reps to focus on bigger deals.”

7. Retargeting will become an essential part of marketing. “Retargeting and sending post-cart abandonment emails offering discounts will become must-have weapons in an ecommerce brands' marketing arsenal in 2015,” says Mohita Nagpal, marketing specialist,, which provides A/B testing software.

“According to our research, more than 55 percent of online shoppers are open to the idea of purchasing a product they abandoned in their cart if it is offered again at a discounted price,” she explains. And many ecommerce platforms include or offer retargeting tools to help owners with shopping cart abandonment, making the process easy.

Article by  Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

Department of Labor Announces New Standards for Classifying Commercial Truck Drivers

New York State Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera today announced a new standard for determining whether a commercial truck driver is an employee or an independent contractor, helping to further protect workers' rights statewide. The standards come as a result of the New York State Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act that Governor Cuomo signed into law on January 10, 2014. The law, which went into effect on April 10, 2014, also provides new penalties for employers who fail to properly protect and classify their employees.

"The trucking industry is vital to how our state operates, from shipping materials that make our buildings, to parts and systems that keep us safe, to the food and products we use every day," said Commissioner Rivera. "For too long, truck drivers have sought to have a clear standard. This law provides clarity for employers and truckers."

The state's Joint Enforcement Task Force on Employee Misclassification (JETF) will enforce the law. The JETF, a partnership between the New York State Department of Labor, Workers' Compensation Board and other agencies, investigates reports of fraud and conducts proactive enforcement sweeps. In 2013, the JETF identified nearly 24,000 instances of employee misclassification, discovered more than $333.4 million in unreported wages and assessed nearly $12.2 million in Unemployment Insurance contributions.

George Miranda, President, Teamsters Joint Council 16, said, "For too long, New York's roads and highways were a race to the bottom for commercial drivers. Freight and delivery companies played fast and loose with their employees and got away with it. But no more. The Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act ensures that employee rights are protected. Thank you to Senator Savino and Assemblyman Wright for carrying this law through the legislature and to Governor Cuomo for getting it across the finish line. With the enforcement and education efforts announced today, we will ensure that this law marks a turning point for New York workers."

Mario Cilento, President, New York State AFL-CIO, said, "The Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act leveled the playing field for workers, contractors and taxpayers by establishing a fair set of rules that everyone must play by.  But, like all laws, it will only be effective if companies comply and if there is enforcement when bad actors fall out of line. That's why the enforcement initiatives announced by DOL today are so critical to the success of this landmark law, and ultimately the future of the industry."

"The New York State Motor Truck Association has long recognized the need for a clear definition of an independent contractor specific to the transportation industry," said New York State Motor Truck Association President Kendra Hems. "This legislation not only provides such a definition, but takes into consideration the unique characteristics of the transportation industry, enabling true independent contractors to continue working as such without being subject to a ‘one-size-fits-all' definition."

"The Fair Play Act is a major victory for truck drivers, port communities and the environment," said Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN. "Ending the rampant misclassification of these workers as independent contractors will give thousands of drivers a shot at the middle class, hold the trucking industry accountable for replacing old polluting trucks, and reduce pollution in New York's communities."

State Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island and Brooklyn) said, "I am pleased that the Administration and the Department of Labor are taking swift action to enforce this law.  I am sure they will find what we knew to be true when writing the law, that workers are continually misclassified as independent contractors.  This hurts the worker through loss of pay, benefits and other protections; and it hurts the good actors in the field who properly classify their workers and provide the appropriate pay, benefits and protections."

"Misclassification is one of the biggest threats facing workers today. It is indisputable that employers who intentionally misclassify workers deliberately try to strip the protections and benefits that the Legislature has expressly provided for employees," said Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-Manhattan), who sponsored the bill in the Assembly. "This bill ensures that every New Yorker who performs work transporting commercial goods will be appropriately classified."

Defining Who Is An Employee

An employee treated incorrectly as an independent contractor is considered misclassified. Misclassification denies workers rightful benefits such as unemployment and workers' compensation insurance, as well as wage standards and other rights. Misclassified employees can be denied a fair opportunity to form or join unions. Misclassification rates are disproportionately high in the trucking industry.

A legal independent contractor must be reported on a federal income tax form 1099. In addition, they must be defined as a separate business entity or they must be:

  1. Free from control and direction in performing the job, both under contract and in fact;
  2. Performing services outside of the usual course of business for the employer; and
  3. Engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business that is similar to the service they perform.

A legal, separate business entity is a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation or other entity that meets 11 criteria under the new law. It must: 

  1. Be free from direction or control by the contractor over the means and manner of providing the service. The contractor may only specify the desired result of the work or provide direction required by federal rule or regulation;
  2. Not be subject to cancellation or destruction when its work with the contractor ends;
  3. Have invested substantial capital in its business entity beyond ordinary tools and equipment;
  4. Own or lease the capital goods, gain the profits and bear the losses of the business entity;
  5. Make its services available to the general public or others in the business community not a party to the business entity's written contract on a continuing basis;
  6. If required by law, provide services reported on a federal income tax form 1099;
  7. Perform services for the contractor under a written contract and under the business entity's name. The contract must state that the relationship between the contractor and the business entity is that of independent contractors or separate business entities;
  8. Obtain and pay for any required license or permit in the entity's own name or, if allowed by law, pay for the use of the contractor's license or permit;
  9. Hire its own employees without contractor approval and pay those employees without reimbursement from the contractor;
  10. Not represent the business entity or employees of the business entity as its own employees to the contractor's customers; and
  11. Have the right to perform similar services for others on whatever basis and whenever it chooses.

Protecting Workers' Rights

Employers who violate the Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act will be subject to civil penalties of up to a $2,500 fine per misclassified employee for a first violation, and up to $5,000 per misclassified employee for additional violations within a five-year period.

For a first offense, an employer could also face a criminal penalty of up to 30 days in jail or up to a $25,000 fine and debarment from Public Works contracts for up to a year. Subsequent misdemeanor offenses are punishable by up to 60 days in jail or up to a $50,000 fine and debarment from performing Public Work for up to five years.

Employers, including corporate officers and certain shareholders, are also subject to penalties, taxes and restitution.

More information about the Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act is available

Anyone with questions or who wishes to report suspected misclassification related to the Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act should e-mail: or call 1-866-435-1499 toll-free.


Amazon extends deadline for free shipping by a day to December 19

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Amazon is courting last-minute holiday shoppers by extending its free-shipping deadline by one day to Dec. 19.

Orders over $35 are eligible for free shipping. Last year's deadline was Dec. 18. The e-commerce company says members of its $99 annual Prime loyalty program can order by Dec. 22 for two-day shipping.

One-day shipping for items ordered on Dec. 23 costs $2.99 and up for Amazon Prime members. And same day delivery is available in 12 cities on items ordered by 10 a.m. local time for $5.99 per shipment.

Retailers are hoping to avoid shipping snafus that occurred last year while at the same time getting the last-minute online shoppers dollar.

Wal-Mart said last week the cutoff for orders with standard shipping to reach homes by Christmas is Dec. 19.


The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Macy's enters the same-day-delivery wars

Brigid Sweeney, Chicago Business

Macy's Inc. is joining the same-day-shipping frenzy as the holiday shopping season sets in.

Customers in Chicago and seven other cities can now buy items on the department store chain's website and have them delivered to their door the same day. The service costs a flat $5 if online purchases exceed $99, while smaller orders are subject to standard shipping rates plus an extra $5. Customers, who must place their orders by 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. Sundays, can select a desired two-hour window for delivery.

By debuting the same-day option, Cincinnati-based Macy's is trying to better compete with a host of others and grab a larger share of big-spending “omni-channel” customers who shop across the Web, mobile and in-store locations. Those shoppers are expected to spend an average of $592 on holiday shopping this year — 66 percent more than people who spend exclusively in brick-and-mortar stores, according to Deloitte's holiday shopping survey.


“Our goal remains to help our customers shop whenever, wherever and however they prefer, and to use the entire inventory of the company to satisfy demand,” Terry Lundgren, Macy's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. Inc. is the dominant player in the emerging same-day drop-off game. Its service,now in 13 cities, including Chicago, applies to items including toiletries, household items, office and school supplies — even laptops — and costs $5.99 for Amazon Prime members. Non-Prime members pay $9.98 for the first item and 99 cents for each additional item. Chicagoans must place their orders by 7:45 a.m. to guarantee delivery by 9 p.m.

Google Inc. also is rushing to customers' doorsteps. After launching its own express delivery service in San Francisco last year, the digital advertising giant expanded to Chicago last month. It also continues to debut same-day delivery partnerships with major brick-and-mortar retailers including Target, Costco, Walgreens, Toys R Us and specialty stores like L'Occitane and, locally, Treasure Island and Wrigleyville Sports. Customers are charged $4.99 per order or can subscribe for $10 a month or $95 a year (compared with Amazon Prime's $99 annual fee).

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has tested its same-day Wal-Mart To Go option, which costs $10 regardless of the size of the order, in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and parts of California since 2012.


A handful of startups, including Chicago-based WeDeliver, also provide the service on behalf of retailers by using crowdsourced couriers who drop off goods from their own cars (or bikes). Macy's will use Deliv, a Menlo Park, California-based company that raised nearly $7 million in Series A funding last year and $12.5 million in total. Deliv provides same-day delivery for stores in major malls owned by General Growth Properties Inc., Macerich, Westfield Corp. and others, as well as for smaller local retailers.

Working with third-party crowdsourced services allows traditional retailers to slash delivery costs and better compete with Amazon, which is testing its own fleet of trucks for same-day deliveries and has even experimented with using taxis.

Another group of more narrowly defined startups uses crowdsourced delivery people to deposit groceries (Instacart) or booze (Drizly, Ultra, Minibar) on your doorstep in as little as 30 minutes from order time.

There is, however, some question as to whether consumers really want the service for most purchases. Analysts say that while same-day delivery for groceries and perishables makes sense, larger demand in other sectors has yet to be entirely proven.

Wal-Mart, for example, has yet to expand its same-day delivery nationally. According to areport, executives say the option of ordering online and picking up in a store is more popular because customers don't want to be stuck at home waiting for their packages.

And eBay Inc., which launched its own same-day delivery test in Chicago and three other cities in 2012, said this summer that it will not meet its original goal of expanding to 25 cities by the end of the year.

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How Local Businesses Provide Same-Day Delivery Service To Customers

One of the hottest trends in e-commerce this past year was same-day delivery services. Packages are being delivered on the same day by cars, trucks, planes and bicycle couriers. Amazon is even piloting drones for last mile deliveries. The same day delivery trend is driven by companies of all sizes. Large companies that are in the same-day delivery space include eBay (eBay Now),Google GOOG -0.99% (Google Shopping Express EXPR -2.82%) and Walmart (Walmart To Go). There are also a number of startups that are leveling the playing field for local LOCM -0.53% businesses.

Garrick Pohl, the founder of zipments, told me that his company offers same-day delivery for large retailers, e-commerce and local mom/pop shops to stay competitive. Fortunately, many companies have found that same-day delivery with zipments to be a more affordable option than two-day delivery with the U.S. Postal Service or UPS.

Currently zipments operates out of New York City and has pilots in other major cities. One of their clients in New York City is Midtown Comics, which is a comic store franchise that delivers brand new comics to enthusiasts on the same day that they are issued. zipments originally started off as a peer-to-peer courier connection website, but the company evolved into a larger service as demand grew.

“Today zipments works with 1,000 clients across the country. zipments is used for making local pickup requests through their mobile app, API, and the zipments website,” said Mr. Pohl in an interview with FORBES. “After a courier accepts a delivery request, the status can be tracked with real-time updates such as pick up times and the final delivery time.”

Tech companies have been expanding the availability of same day delivery services at a rapid pace. Currently Amazon offers same-day delivery in 11 cities and eBay Now plans to be available in 25 cities by the end of 2014. Last week, Google announced that they would be offering their same-day delivery to Los Angeles after piloting the program in the Bay Area. Some of the other startups that offer same-day delivery include SixDoors, Instacart, Deliv and TaskRabbit.

The pursuit of same-day delivery has not been an easy road though. Online grocery business Webvan went bankrupt in 2001 after hitting a valuation of $1.2 billion at one point and offering their services in 26 cities. Other same-day delivery services that shut down in the early 2000s were UrbanFetch and Kozmo. These companies may sound like cautionary tales, but many of the same-day delivery services today have been much more practical and scalable. There is also a belief that same-day delivery services that existed back then were ahead of its time.

UPS, FedEx seek ways to manage massive peak season package bulge

CHICAGO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Determined not to repeat a holiday season that left millions of packages delivered too late and customers seething, United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp are investing heavily in new infrastructure - but the continued dynamic growth of e-commerce will test those efforts.

The world's two largest shipping companies are building new facilities, adding more temporary holiday workers and pushing retailers to help them avoid a recurrence of a pre-Christmas shipping logjam.

Even so, the rise in shipping originating with e-tailers including Inc and Zappos could test even the new capacity levels. Peak days at both companies now equal roughly double their average daily volumes.

Mark Wallace, vice president of engineering in the United States at UPS, said the company still has volume limits, despite substantial investment this year. "There is only so much capacity in the network."

A late spike in demand last year caused by last-minute online promotions plagued express delivery companies. Some 2 million express packages were left stranded by delivery companies on Christmas Eve, according to shipment-tracking software developer ShipMatrix Inc. UPS experienced far more severe problems than FedEx.

This year, UPS has allocated $500 million to expand and improve facilities and is hiring 95,000 seasonal workers - or 10,000 more than last year - to handle 2014 holiday packages.

During its second-quarter conference call, UPS Chief Executive David Abney said "these projects will weigh on earnings in 2014" but pay off long-term. A spokesman declined to comment further ahead of UPS's next quarterly earnings, expected to be released on Friday.

FedEx has said up to 90 percent of its $1.2 billion investments this year are to boost capacity. The company plans to hire 50,000 seasonal workers, up from 40,000 last year. Patrick Fitzgerald, senior vice president of marketing and communications at FedEx, said this year's capital investments would not affect the company's earnings forecast.

The investment is designed to address the rapid growth of consumer goods ordered online. Through 2013, peak volume, referring to the busiest day of the year, had climbed 57 percent over five years at FedEx, to 22 million packages. It jumped 40 percent at UPS, to 31 million packages.

Deloitte LLP predicts sales growth of up to 14 percent this holiday season, and FedEx said on Wednesday it expected peak-day package volumes to reach 22.6 million this year.

The peaks have become more pronounced closer to Christmas as last-minute online free shipping deals have proliferated. Unchecked, those peaks will only grow worse, experts said.

"The e-commerce shipping model isn't sustainable in its current form," said Yossi Sheffi, a professor of engineering systems and director of the Center for Transportation & Logistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "You cannot build a shipping network to operate 365 days a year based on a spike in packages three days before Christmas."


In a bid to better manage the peak, the shipping giants have asked retailers for clearer estimates of 2014 holiday volumes and have encouraged earlier deadlines for consumer orders.

"We now have the kind of visibility we didn't before on what to expect from our largest customers," said UPS's Wallace.

FedEx's Fitzgerald said customers could be disappointed if they offer last-minute sales without first consulting FedEx. "If we don't have the right discussions up-front, we may not be ready to handle" a sudden surge, Fitzgerald said.

In mid-August, Wal-Mart Stores Inc gave its carriers its peak forecast, both by day and by shipping facility, three weeks earlier than usual. Contingency plans include shipping from alternate Wal-Mart distribution centers or upgrading packages to faster services if "deemed at risk" of missing Christmas, said spokeswoman Jaeme Lazckowski.

Nordstrom Inc has moved up its cutoff point for Christmas deliveries by three hours on Dec. 23, and UPS has agreed to additional last-minute flights for the company.

FedEx and UPS had no choice but to engage retailers in reducing peak loads and getting them to manage consumer expectations on realistic delivery deadlines, said veteran Cowan & Co analyst Helane Becker. "They can't keep trying to squeeze more and more through such a narrow funnel," she said.

Both FedEx and UPS are concerned about impact on their core business-to-business customers.

"When packages went undelivered last year, that also affected high-volume business customers," said Rick Jones, a former UPS executive and now CEO of regional delivery company Lone Star Overnight. "Have no doubt this is not about getting little Johnny his Christmas present. It's about protecting that core business."

Logistics experts say the 2014 adjustments are a temporary fix, and more changes are needed for the 2015 holiday season. A price hike might help tackle ubiquitous free shipping offers, and negotiations with Amazon, in particular, likely will occur.

"What you will see is Amazon Prime with a little minus for the three days before Christmas - where free shipping doesn't apply," said MIT's Sheffi. "And Amazon will be able to blame UPS for it anyway."

Amazon declined specific comment. "We work very closely with all of our delivery partners and are confident in their ability to deliver for Amazon customers this holiday," the company said in a statement.

FedEx's Fitzgerald said the company does not plan a 2015 price increase "at this point." A UPS spokesman said the company has focused on fixing last year's problems instead of pricing.

By Nick Carey -