September 1, 2005

  • Closed For Renovations

    Unbelievable. I mean really unbelievable.

    The Gap, Gap Kids, Baby Gap, Gap Maternity, Gap Body, and Old Navy web sites are offline and according to USA Today have been for a while now:

    Hoping to minimize the customer inconvenience, Gap Inc. waited until after most back-to-school shopping had been finished before launching a “soup-to-nuts” overhaul of its major e-commerce sites, said company spokeswoman Kris Marubio. “We think this is going to make for a more compelling and exciting experience for shoppers,” Marubio said.

    The San Francisco-based company isn’t disclosing when the sites will reopen. Instead, visitors are being asked to leave their e-mail addresses with and so they can be informed when the sites are selling clothes again. “It’s major project for us so we know it’s going to take some time,” Marubio said. She warned the company may still have to fix some bugs even after the sites reopen.

    The continuing closure of and is likely to put another small dent in Gap Inc.’s sales, which have been sagging in recent months. The slump already has prompted management to lower its profit projections for this year. and each generated online sales of $236 million last year, accounting for 3% of Gap Inc.’s total revenue of $16.3 billion. attracted 4.2 million visitors in July while drew 2.6 million visitors, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a research firm.

    As Eric Peterson at Jupiter Research points out, they’re losing over a million dollars a day. And they can’t say when it will be open again! Haven’t they heard of a staging server? (Note that Banana Republic’s new site has reopened and gives a tour of new features at the site. One can only guess that similar features will be seen at the “Grand Reopening” of and sometime this fall.)

    Originally published at on September 1, 2005.

December 19, 2003

  • Separating Store From Products

    Signal vs. Noise Weblog asks whether Separating Store From Products is the best strategy.

    My guess (and this is a brand new thought) is that for some sites there are three modes for using the site — browse, search, and shop. This implies that you should be able to access the same information in all three modes. It might be that a “Store” is a way of looking at the information on the site rather than a separate place. I would argue that product pages without a “buy” button are impotent and should be avoided as they leave the potential customer without a way of reaching an obvious goal.

    In this model, “store” might not be a product catalog per se, but rather a view of product lists enhanced by retail merchandizing, suggestive selling, etc.

    Like I said, this is a brand new idea, but I’m warming to it already.

October 18, 2003

  • Thought

    CNET Net fraud and the truth:

    “A consumer stands a greater chance of being struck by lightning than falling prey to identity theft after paying a bill online. In fact, individuals actually reduce their overall risk of identity theft when they participate in some online monetary transactions.”

October 11, 2003

  • Thought

    CNET gets a makeover:

    “Dell hopes to get to the point more quickly with a new version of its Web site, set to be unveiled over the weekend.
    The new is designed to offer a cleaner, more streamlined view of products such as PCs and servers and easier access to services such as tech support.”

September 3, 2003

  • Thought

    Up2Speed provided commentary on’s latest patent in “Amazon Patents Order Forms”:

    “ Tuesday received a patent for using existing customer records to accelerate the purchase of something online by filling in details, like billing information.”

    Maybe I’m not reading this and the original CNET story correctly, but it seems that Amazon has patented pre-filling forms on websites with known user information. Can this be? This is standard operating procedure for websites that follow best practices — must we all start paying royalties to Amazon?

August 11, 2003

July 15, 2003

  • Thought

    CNET’s “E-commerce: What works” gives a nice overview of a few core online retailing capabilities:

    “Truly useful e-commerce tools address one of three areas: displaying, buying or sending the product. As a result, iPix’s 360-degree images,’s “one-click” option and Federal Express’ online order tracking are examples of popular technologies shoppers use online.”

June 20, 2003

  • Thought

    Great analysis on coping With price transparency by Jupiter’s Jared Blank.

    Travel sites should reveal competitors’ rates because consumers don’t believe they are getting a good deal if they don’t shop around. Even better, it will keep consumers on your site. Best-rate guarantees encourage people to shop around. Revealing competitors’ prices discourages the behavior.

March 7, 2003

  • Thought

    This article on moving more of their marketing budget to search listings is fairly typical of what we are seeing happening with online marketing. I’ve long preached “context is the only way” for online advertising.

    People are task driven online and want to reach some goal. If you can align advertising with the goal of the user, you will benefit them, and yourself. This strategy is what’s behind the success of search engine links like Google’s Adwords. Because the ads are in context and can be considered largely “content” on the page (i.e. the ads match what the user asked to see) they are more effective at moving the user to their goal and therefore more effective for the marketer because the marketer’s message is actually wanted by these users. This has to be more effective then distracting people from their task because they meet some demographic or interest expectation in the marketer’s mind — “I’ll promote the new Malibu on this mom’s site because women visit that site and they’re my target market”. Or worse yet, just distracting anyone that stops by because the CPC deal lets you blanket the net with pop-ups.

    I’m watching for a major overhaul of online marketing towards context and tight alignment with content over the next few years. I’ve been calling for this since 1997 but with Google and Overture showing people what it looks like in reality, it may finally catch on.

September 18, 2002

  • Thought

    This article from the Washington Post (via BizReport) talks about another effective use of the Net I don’t see covered much — micro-commerce sites. By focussing on incredibly small niches and keeping costs tight, a small company can build a nice business online. Instead of thinking about e-commerce as producing the “next Walmart”, I think it is more interesting to look at its potential to create the next “corner barbershop”. i.e. a nice business for two or three people to profit from that serve a specific need of a community.

    Of course, online, that community is not defined by the neighborhood they live in, but more likely by an obscure passion.

    Here’s a quote:

    “In many ways, the very same aspects of the Internet that benefit the largest global marketers can also offer benefits to the smallest outfits,” said Dan Hess, vice president of ComScore Networks Inc., an Internet research firm. “It offers an unmatched, unparalleled ability to reach niche groups of consumers. There is no other medium that can do that.”

September 11, 2001

  • Thought

    It’s time to look at the big picture for e-commerce, not just the profitability of e-business divisions.

    This editorial called “The Bottom Line on E-Commerce” in Interactive Week makes two good points about Bricks and Clicks e-commerce.

    1. E-Commerce is starting to become profitable for those doing it right. Examples include 1–, Ameritrade, eBay, Expedia,,, Northwest Airlines, Office Depot,,, and United Parcel Service.

    2. Profits from online ventures may not be the best way of looking at online success for Brick and Click retailers since e-commerce also has positive and in many cases measurable impact on offline sales and service costs.

August 24, 2001

July 12, 2001

  • Thought

    Kudos to the for running a positive story about e-commerce:

    Don’t cry for Webvan: E-commerce is thriving (7/11/2001)

    I’m becoming more and more interested in the “mini-web”. There are lots of companies collapsing today not because the ideas were bad but because investors and management insisted on “go big or go home”. These little guys are using the web in very efficient ways that allow them to be profitable almost from the start. Someone should have told Webvan to slow down!