Should out of stock be the end game for the shopper?

out of stock

With today’s order management solutions and insight into inventory and warehouse management it still surprises me that stores don’t have a way for a shopper to order out of stock items. Instead of just preventing the order from happening why not offer an email or SMS alert when the item becomes in stock?

I purchase many different kinds of consumables and some of them are very hard to come by because of demand. I can order some things online and have them shipped to me or to the store (depending on shipping rules for New York) but many times the web site doesn’t list the item when it’s out of stock. So instead, I have to wait for a newspaper or flyer from the store and show up at 8:30am on the day of the sale to buy the item – and hope the line in front of me is not too big.

Imagine if you had a way to be notified when an item becomes in stock right from the store front. Or, even better, be able to order the out of stock item with a ship date well into the future. I am not saying this would really work for all products but we all know hot items sell out fast and being able to be notified when it is in stock would go a long way in my opinion.

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Lastly, eCommerce systems would have to do two things to make this work:

  1. The first thing is to show items that are not in stock. Many eCommerce systems hide items under certain inventory levels, in order for this to work you need to at least have the products in the catalog regardless of inventory.
  2. You will also need a notification mechanism that has visibility into your inventory. The system should handle (by user profile) how to notify the customer. If they signed up for email or SMS notifications, or if they are a mobile user a rich notification in the store front mobile app.

If you know an online site that allows this today comment here, I am always interested in seeing how companies carry out features like this.

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1M58WhW

Image optimization delivery with Trilibis SNOW IO

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Optimized image delivery has been around for a long time and one open source technology that has provided this to thousands of sites in WordPress is ImageMagick. I have been a huge fan of ImageMagick because it’s so darn simple and straightforward.

Trilibis, a certified IBM Commerce partner has a WebSphere Commerce extension (SNOW IO) that brings image optimization delivery to this extensible platform. The way it works is you install the ImageMagick software on your server and configure it to point to where your images are stored on the server. You then configure a job to run frequently (hourly, daily, weekly) to resize images stored in that directory. The default setup will create three versions of your images – Desktop, Tablet, and Phone sized images.

Check out my video below where I show how I configured SNOW IO to work with the out of the box Aurora starter store in WebSphere Commerce.

 

 

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1BmZECO

3 new videos about IBM Commerce!

You may have missed this but three videos were published last month by IBM Think Academy covering three different topics in the IBM Commerce space: Insights, Personalization, and Fulfillment.

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1wZpvFs

Big Win for CoreMedia LiveContext

content_logo_coremedia_gr_1spalteRegular readers of my blog know that I’m a fan of CoreMedia and the impressive content management integration that they have developed with WebSphere Commerce. They launched the product last year at the Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Tampa and have been hard at work developing enhancements and lining up customers.

I’m happy to announce that all of their work has really paid off. Their first joint WCS integration project officially went into production last November and I’ll tell you more about that in this blog soon.

On top of that, however, the company announced last week that retail giant, Office Depot, will deploy CoreMedia LiveContext (Office Depot press release) to enhance the customer shopping experience for officedepot.com. Based on the strength of the REST APIs that they developed with the WCS team, CoreMedia was able to integrate their technology with Office Depot’s homegrown e-Commerce system in less than a week.

This is not only big news for CoreMedia but for the retail e-commerce space in general. Since merging with OfficeMax back in 2013, Office Depot has  become one of the biggest players in Internet retailing with over $7 billion in web sales according to Internet Retailer. Given the high volume of online visitors that Office Depot supports as well as its large presence in the B2B space, this is a great validation of CoreMedia’s ability to operate in a very challenging enterprise environment. This is as challenging as it gets!!!

Given that the recently released WCS Release 7 Feature Pack 8 is designed to accelerate time-to-market for next generation B2B e-commerce, the timing of this announcement couldn’t be better. My sources tell me that CoreMedia has had Feature Pack 8 in their development environment since before its release last November and will be validated by IBM’s Labs in February.

The news around Office Depot – as well as the recent joint customer wins – will kick start some more well deserved attention for this solution.

Short URL: http://bit.ly/18Hgwxz

Stay up to date with the Commerce Validated Technology Partner Solutions Feed!

I got this feed URL passed on to me by a colleague and if you use an RSS or Atom feed reader then this is right up your alley. You can view the feed in your favorite reader or even subscribe to it with browsers like FireFox. You can also just view the partner page to see the list of partners and their solutions.

You will immediately see there are three new partners on board already this year:

partnerfeed

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1yIZXe8

Tip of the day: How effective is your tweet?

searchThere are a lot of tools out there that help you measure how effective a tweet is doing. Did you know Twitter added a nice analytic package for your tweets? Last year Twitter launched a new page where you can measure the effectiveness and engagement of your tweets. Here I present two options that can help you figure out how well your tweets are doing in your network.

The first option is the new Twitter activity page on the Twitter site itself. Just follow this link (https://analytics.twitter.com) to view your engagement levels. You can gauge three different categories: Tweets, Followers, and Twitter Cards. Here are some screen shots on what you can expect:

Continue reading

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1EeeZMx

Responsive design and WebSphere Commerce

In this video I show a free way to develop responsive design advertisements using a combination of Eclipse and inline editing with Chrome. I showed this technique last year in the post “Tip Of the Day: Modifying and saving CSS with Google Chrome” and now I combine it with managed files in WebSphere Commerce Management Center.

 

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1y5v0vQ

Blog stats for 2014 and what I learned

Each year I read around the net how different blogs did for the year and attempt to compare myself to those blogs or just simply learn how I can do things better. I also get asked many times by aspiring tech bloggers how much traffic to expect. I always say “not much at first” but focus on “green content” – ie. content that will forever get hits from SEO and search engines, or timeless content. As you will see below, a majority of my top posts came from previous years. My average bounce rate was 1.37 for 2014, meaning each visitor viewed almost 1.4 posts on each visit. This at least tells me the majority of people who get sent to my blog look at another post for some reason or another.

This year I focused on developer and business content and cut way back on personal information and relied more on platforms like Facebook for that stuff. I also focused on what I considered better content and less frequent posts unless I had something good to share or it was time sensitive. So here are my results for this blog:

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Short URL: http://bit.ly/1yN1PRQ

It’s a Christmas Miracle! Softlayer enables business partners to create integrations in a snap

Santa has come early for IBM Business Partners!

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I remember the days when I worked at Key Services and any time we wanted to try out new software it had to go through all kinds of approval processes because it was expensive. Usually it would require approval for a server and then the man hours to go through the installation and configuration process. Needless to say it was very costly to try out new things or even prototype things on new platforms.

What if I told the IBM Partners they can get going on the latest and greatest for under $200 a month? Well you can. In my previous post (Is your solution Ready for Smarter Commerce?) was the entry point to start building widgets and integrations into the Smarter Commerce platform. If you select the developer option and then WebSphere Commerce you get presented with two options:Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 8.06.48 AM

 

If you select option two you could get a fully configured WebSphere Commerce instance up and running in minutes! Just look at all of the different areas you can provide solutions for:

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Short URL: http://bit.ly/1wsq4Fk

My top 10 videos on YouTube this year!

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It is that time to reflect on the past year and this year I am starting with my YouTube channel. In case you missed any of these blockbuster hits you can watch them now!

This year I had over 32,000 views (up over 10,000 views from last yearThank You) on my YouTube channel and gained over 150 new followers. This is the first year where I had five videos over 5 minutes long in top ten. I still stand by the YouTube law that videos over 3 minutes rarely get fully watched but in the end content is king – so maybe I did something right with those 5. I gained 3% in audience retention from last year.

Only two of the top 10 videos were actually published this year (Editing and Saving CSS with Google Chrome and Data Load Utility in WebSphere Commerce Introduction) a 57 second video and a 14 minute video.

Most of my views believe it or not still come from external search (mostly Google) or YouTube search, accounting for almost 50% of my traffic sources.

Traffic source – Top 5 Views
External website 8,097 (25%)
YouTube search 7,301 (23%)
Unknown – embedded player 5,213 (16%)
Unknown – direct 3,861 (12%)
YouTube suggested video 3,191 (9.9%)

Before we get to the list let’s look at some demographics:

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The United States and India are by far by largest viewership.

Geography Views
United States 10,305 (32%)
India 5,385 (17%)
United Kingdom 2,458 (7.6%)
Germany 1,790 (5.5%)
Canada 1,221 (3.8%)

I actually started published videos and content at my night-time so it is available to the east in their morning, I have already started seeing shifts in views – it will be interesting next year to see if it made any difference.

So here are the 2014 Top 10 videos:

Video Views
Quick Tip – Eclipse Auto-Complete 1,581 (4.9%)
eSpots and Precision Marketing with WebSphere Commerce 1,554 (4.8%)
Quick Tip: Getting The XPath In Google Chrome 1,498 (4.6%)
Aurora – the WebSphere Commerce Starter Store 1,359 (4.2%)
WebSphere Commerce – Extended Sites Part I 1,272 (3.9%)
Searchandizing with WebSphere Commerce 1,073 (3.3%)
Debug JavaScript and HTML in a UIWebView on an iOS Device 1,006 (3.1%)
Editing and Saving CSS with Google Chrome 978 (3.0%)
Data Load Utility in WebSphere Commerce Introduction 977 (3.0%)
IBM Digital Marketing Optimization (Coremetrics) Integration With WebSphere Commerce Part 1 965 (3.0%)
Short URL: http://bit.ly/1yYorfu

WebSphere Commerce is now on the Request for Enhancements site!

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Yes, this news is actually about 9 months late but I am realizing not many customers know about this so I figured I would re-announce it today. This is the place where you can vote on features and even submit new ideas for features and get them voted on. And it is not just WebSphere Commerce but all the products in the B2B & Commerce portfolio.

B2B & Commerce RFE Community

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Short URL: http://bit.ly/13tLxCI

Coding Commerce: Showing the shopper which items they already purchased

Do you shop on a specific site and would like to see what products you have previously purchased in the shopping experience? I have seen some implementations of a “My Closet” where its a specific page on the site that shows what products you have already purchased. What I think would be really cool is if you could get that information on the product page or product listings or even both.

So let’s look at the WebSphere Commerce Aurora site, here is what the men’s shirts category entry page looks like:

mens-shirts

 

Continue reading

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1sxiGZv

Is your solution Ready for Smarter Commerce?

Business Partner Ready for Smarter Commerce

Earlier this year IBM announced a partnership with over 16 new partners who have created integrations with the IBM Commerce platform. That number is now up to an astounding 35 partners in less than a year later! You can check out the total partner list here. IBM has a very easy process to get started in this space and get your solution into the certified partner list. Click the picture below to get started:

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Short URL: http://bit.ly/1zf8Meo

Coding Commerce: Extending the Price display widget for consumable products

Commerce systems are getting more and more advanced and specifically in the B2B space you are seeing more and more information about products on the product page or even in product listings. We see things like color swatches, likes, ratings, reviews, etc in the B2C world but in the B2B world its all about value. This little change to WebSphere Commerce (and I mean little, a few lines of JSP code) should spice up your site to show the value of your consumable products. Here is a picture of a somewhat normal looking product display search result. We will be enhancing this with the price per page based on the contract price of the customer:

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 5.12.26 PM

 

I present to you a pattern. A pattern you can use across all consumable products in your catalog. The pattern is generic and can be applied to any product simply by assigning an attribute. Let’s start with an example, a printer cartridge. Most printer cartridges, especially high-end business printers, come with a max number of page the cartridge should be good for, like 500, 1000, 10,000, or 20,000 pages. From a business perspective it would be good to know how much you are paying per page so a product listing like this might just do the trick:

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Continue reading

Short URL: http://bit.ly/13eB3al

Thank you for a great 2014!

Over the years I have had interactions with many of you and I wanted to say thank you for reading my blog!

I am attempting to gauge the value of my blog by getting some reader feedback. So if you have time please write a short email back to me (no need to reply to all) and let me know what value you have gotten from my blog or videos on YouTube.

What I am looking for is any value what so ever, here are some things to consider:

  • It helped me with a problem I had at my job or at customer XXX
  • It helped educate me on a particular technology or feature
  • It helped me on a school or work assignment
  • It helped me close business at customer XXX
  • It helped my marriage or significant relationship

It is up to you if you want to name customers or companies – the more information the better, I will leave that up to your discretion. I promise this information will not be made public.

Sincerely,

Bob Balfe

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1x3lUoE