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Industry News - May 28th 2010



Sears Will Be Unrecognizable After Transformation

Sears announces a major business transformation project which includes massive online expansion plans as well as scaling back on its brick-and mortar stores. Additionally, the transformation plan will allow other merchants to stock some of its brands and sell some of its partners' brands online.

According to Edward Lampert, chairman and majority shareholder of Sears Holdings, "I believe this company, to some people, will be unrecognizable to what it was 30 years ago." 
The department store announces it bolstering its online store and will launch a massive real estate Web site that lists more than 3,000 properties for sale or lease. The listing will include stores, adjacent parking lots, and in-store locations across the U.S. 

As part of the company's new online strategy, Kmart launched MyGofer pickup service, which lets consumers shop via mobile. The service also offers community groups and has a Twitter feed. 

"People are getting their information online, and they're going to get more of their information from mobile devices. If we're not there, the stores aren't going to matter," said Lampert at the company's more recent shareholder's meeting. 

The retailer also operates a real estate Web site, SHC Realty, which launched in December 2009 and lists more than 3,800 properties, including closed-store and open-store sites. 
The site is powered by Google mapping from Terrametrics and geo-databasing from Applied Geographic Solutions. Investors can generate maps showing the locations of for-sale real estate, and they can call up information about the markets where Sears is selling.


Overstock.com Adds Dynamic E-Commerce Personalization

Overstock.com implements RichRelevance's enRICH personalization engine for dynamic e-commerce personalization. Overstock.com uses enRICH engine to gain dynamic recommendations that reflect more than 40 different ways that people shop on the Web site (by price, by brand, by category). 

RichRelevance's unique partnership model helped play a key role in the success that Overstock.com has seen in integrating the enRICH personalization engine. The collaboration between the RichRelevance and Overstock.com teams enabled the solution to be implemented on Overstock.com in under six weeks. 

"David and his team understand what it means to be a real partner," said Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com. "RichRelevance delivers with a team that is 100% dedicated to our success. They've delivered an outstanding product that has made our site better. We're excited to leverage our single point of integration to add and customize their capabilities across our site."


Information Builders, 1010data Provide Data Warehouse Analytics as a Service

Information Builders, an independent leader in business intelligence (BI) solutions, today announced a new partnership with 1010data, providers of high-performance, hosted data warehouse solutions. This partnership links Information Builders' WebFOCUS analytics solutions to 1010data's hosted database, is intended to improve customer analytics performance and lower data warehousing costs. 

"The high costs and long lead times that are typical of enterprise data warehouse solutions are eliminated because 1010data does not require the installation of software or lengthy database planning and design cycles,†said Gerald Cohen, founder and CEO of Information Builders. "Together we give users immediate insight for better business decisions and rapid ROI.â€

Information Builders customers can now leverage the 1010data database solution as their enterprise data warehouse. Using 1010data, joint customers can improve performance of WebFOCUS, a flexible front-end information delivery platform, to enable fast and reliable querying of detailed data.

"Information Builders' WebFOCUS solution is a well respected brand and we are excited to be able to work with them to help customers get the most from their IT investments,†said Joel Kaplan, President and CEO, 1010data. "We are pleased that IBI has created a ‘named' adapter that can take advantage of the speed and performance attributes of the 1010data analytical engine. This partnership gives customers flexibility with a proven means of transforming data into actionable information that impacts operations and decisions day-to-day.â€

1010data and Information Builders also announced a joint customer win of a major retailer with more than 8,500 stores in the U.S. The retailer has already taken advantage of these powerful technologies to analyze its market basket information, which has led to immediate ROI. 

The companies will initially work together with a focus on the retail market. Using the joint solution, retailers can improve store site selection, merchandising, inventory effectiveness, product level assortments, promotional planning, and help improve customer loyalty programs. 


David's Bridal Doubles Web Traffic Using Dynamic Site Accelerator

David's Bridal accelerates and improves the performance of its online store using Akamai's Dynamic Site Accelerator. The bridal destination 's Bridal went live with new features on its site, the company realized it needed four times more peak capacity than it had anticipated to support its highly dynamic site. 

To support this volume, David's Bridal implemented the Akamai solution to offload its application servers while boosting site performance. Leveraging Akamais Dynamic Site Accelerator and its globally distributed platform, David's Bridal improved its site performance and offloaded its bandwidth and applications stress while extending its infrastructure without build-out costs.

"With Akamai, we spend less money and effort on infrastructure related tasks. Akamai enables us to re-direct our resources to e-commerce development activities that improve our online shopping experience and increase our sales," said Jerry Baklycki, manager of e-commerce development, David's Bridal. "Since leveraging Dynamic Site Accelerator, we've seen significant improvement in site performance. Now that our site visitors can tap into all the new site features - including enhanced search and a rapidly expanding online assortment - we are confident that the improvement will contribute to higher online sales."

David's Bridal also uses the solution to accelerate all the dynamic aspects of its site. Shoppers can choose and try on endless combinations of styles, colors and accessories by navigating through its online portal. "All of our product pages are dynamic and in order to support this level of content, we needed an infrastructure that could scale to support our needs. The Akamai solutions instantly enable us to accelerate our dynamic content and minimize the demands on our servers."

Stan Payson noted, Vice President Interactive Technology and New Business Integration, David's Bridal. Payson continued, "Since deploying the Akamai solution, it has reduced our peak capacity requirements by 40%, web server peak capacity requirements by 90%, peak CPU utilization by 70% and peak bandwidth requirements by 98% - all while supporting double the peak traffic. We are very impressed by the results, especially considering the image-heavy and dynamic nature of our site. No other solution provider could offer the level of support and acceleration services we needed."

David's Bridal can now drive as much traffic as the company likes to its site and be confident that shoppers will have a great online shopping experience. Not only can the company increase site performance, they can now also absorb unplanned and unanticipated traffic spike without expanding its infrastructure. "David's Bridal's mission is to provide the bride with the best possible experience, and Akamai provided us a solution that not only improved her online shopping experience but also reduced our infrastructure costs," explained Caryn Furtaw, CIO, David's Bridal.


Ann Taylor Re-engineers E-commerce, Checkout

Ann Taylor announces significant improvements to its e-commerce business as well as double-digit Web traffic growth in its most recent quarter.

According to Kay Krill, President and CEO of Ann Taylor, the company's e-commerce business is on fire and it is significantly growing at a very rapid rate. 

The brand announces it is re-platforming its Web site this summer, which includes adding technology enhancements that will simplify and speed up checkout processes. The brand also is adding the capability for clients to post reviews and comment on its products, mobile-enabling its Web site, adding personalization and segmentation and enhancing international shipping capabilities.

"We think that that strategy is going to help us improve the channel even more," says Krill. "We will continue to focus on expanding online assortments and online categories such as weddings and beach and swim and maternity for LOFT which I think is going to further propel this business. I think that we're in great shape on e-commerce; we continue to think it's a significant driver for us and we're really optimistic about the future."

In its most recent quarter, Ann Taylor, including stores, e-commerce, and the outlet channel, posted sales increased 11.3 percent to $198.4 million on a comp improvement of 16.4 percent.


IBM Acquires Sterling Commerce for $1.4 Billion

IBM and AT&T announce they have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Sterling Commerce from AT&T for approximately $1.4 billion in cash. The acquisition will expand IBM's ability to help organizations create business networks and help simplify and automate the way they connect and communicate with customers, partners and suppliers both on-premise and through cloud computing delivery models.

According to Craig Hayman of IBM, who heads up the Websphere division, "CEO Sam Palmisano said he will spend $20 billion on acquitions that are at the core of the smarter planet initaitive, and this is one of them that will help deliver on that promise."
Hayman noted on a conference call that Sterling Commerce currently serves 18,000 clients and a billion eletronic business transactions per year in the financial services, retail, manufacturing, communications and distribution industries, and that it will "join the Websphere business at IBM where we will work to extend the investment in this space together."
According to Joel Reed, senior vice president product management at Sterling Commerce, will "not operate as a stand-along unit but will roll in under the Websphere group." Reed sees a lot of synergies between the two companies, especially in combining "Websphere's e-commerce capabilities with Sterling's order management, logistics and fulfillment."

IBM's products and services complement the business-to-business capabilities of Sterling Commerce and together enable the integration of key business processes through the entire cross-channel solution lifecycle - including marketing, selling, order management and fulfillment. These offerings also give clients the flexibility to manage their networks of business partners through public or private cloud computing environments. 

By acquiring Sterling Commerce technology and its large trading partner network, IBM anticipates it will be able to deliver powerful new cross-channel solutions to its clients. In addition, Sterling Commerce technology will complement IBM's industry-focused software offerings, enabling the addition of capabilities to IBM's frameworks supporting the retail, manufacturing, communications, health care and banking industries.

According to IBM, the combined technologies and expertise of IBM and Sterling Commerce will make business and partner networks smarter and more efficient by enabling integration beyond the enterprise. The company believes that through this acquisition, clients will be able to extend the capabilities of their existing systems using, for example, IBM's rules management, analytics and business process management software. This can enable these organizations to respond more nimbly to sudden business challenges as they happen. 

IBM plans to continue to support Sterling Commerce clients and enhance Sterling Commerce technologies while allowing these organizations to take advantage of the broader IBM portfolio. Following the close of the acquisition, approximately 2,500 Sterling Commerce employees will be integrated into the WebSphere organization within IBM's Software Group.

IBM and AT&T expect the transaction to close in the second half of 2010, subject to regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions. AT&T expects to record a one-time pretax gain of approximately $750 million in the quarter in which the transaction closes. 


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