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Industry News - June 13, 2008



REI.com Launches PowerReviews' Tag-Based Customer Reviews

Recreational Equipment Inc., (REI) has achieved significant results in using PowerReviews on their site. The reviews are up and running at www.rei.com and have been incorporated into REI's online store fueling its "Top Rated Gear" section of the site.

Since the launch of REI's reviews feature in August 2007, REI customers have been submitting reviews after making purchases at rei.com, as well as encouraging in-store customers to go online and submit reviews after their in-store purchase.

REI has achieved the following results:

Customers have contributed 29,000 reviews for outdoor gear purchased from REI. REI determined that those customers who post reviews purchase at a 26% higher rate than non-review readers. Additionally, about 33% of REI's product styles have received at least one review.

All reviews are accessible at rei.com and also at in-store kiosks so that in-store customers can access the same valuable information as online shoppers. All reviews submitted by an REI member include member badges that identify the reviewer as such.

"Customer reviews support our long-standing mission of education. Our commitment remains the same as when we started out in 1938 - to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure," said Brad Brown, VP of E-Commerce and Web Strategy, of REI. "PowerReviews' social navigation and tag-based approach means that all REI customers - from beginner kayakers to avid skiers - can search for and evaluate products that have been reviewed by people just like them."  

United Supermarkets Completes Chain-Wide StoreNext POS Conversion

United Supermarkets has completed a 47-store rollout of StoreNext's ISS45 point-of-sale (POS) system in six months. Wrapped up in March, the implementation throughout the independent chain's stores in West and North Texas stores began in October 2007 and included development of 16 separate interfaces and integration to the grocer's Web site, back office and accounting systems.    

"The story here is an unheard of project completion time," said Chris St. Clair, CIO of United Supermarkets. "We piloted the initial store on October 31 and through the height of the holiday season, finished the first 15 sites by the end of the year. The response and service of the CRS team and StoreNext has been outstanding."

The remaining stores were finished after the New Year, according to St. Clair. He said that United switched to StoreNext's ISS45 to replace a legacy system that had outlived its time.  

Key features and benefits that are being leveraged at United's three formats include:

·Sophisticated electronic payments capabilities, including credit-to-debit conversion, auto tender resolution, gift cards, Blackhawk and signature capture from ISS45's tight integration with software from MTXEPS, Inc.

·A powerful transaction-processing architecture that translates to speed and efficiency at the POS, providing a friendlier guest experience.

·Store-branded messaging and promotional offers for guests at the checkout lane using dual, touch-screen terminal displays. 

·Guests receive faster checkout and shorter queues due to higher performance across the board for both scanned and non-scanned items.

·Clerks and guests can display receipts electronically and dynamically scroll the receipt, resulting in fewer transaction errors.

ISS45 POS provides a customizable range of capabilities and built-in local tailoring to meet the specific needs of today's service-oriented, cost-conscious independent and regional chains. The solution's system-based architecture is designed to provide extraordinary reliability, and is one of StoreNext's two POS software platforms designed exclusively for independent grocers.

Virgin Entertainment Group Adds Transaction Intelligence

Virgin Entertainment Group, the parent group of Virgin Megastores North America, chooses Inetco Insight to provide the IT team with transaction intelligence. Using this new system, the IT team can ensure that store system outages, application slowdowns, or credit transaction failures can be detected, isolated, and fixed in a proactive manner, prior to negatively impacting the customer experience or revenue stream.

With Inetco Insight, we have essentially added an invaluable resource that does 24/7 transaction monitoring and consistently reports on a level of detail that no human would be able to give … all this for one third the price of a full time headcount,” said Robert Fort, VP of Technology, CIO, Virgin Entertainment Group, North America.

The software provides a unique window into transaction anomalies such as high purchase amounts, multiple credit card swipes, slowdowns, failures, and reversal patterns. Real-time, 24/7 event monitoring and threshold alerting capabilities helps the team manage by exception and proactively resolve issues before they affect the end customer purchase experience or revenue stream. Visualization of the end-to-end transaction flow allows the IT team to quickly isolate and fix the root cause of network and application issues, decreasing the number of store system outages and expediting the mean time to repair.

Staples Adds New In-Store and Online Enhancements

Staples announces a number of unique in-store and online enhancements to help improve the shopping experience for its small business customers. Staples is changing in-store merchandising and store layouts at all 1,400 U.S. stores to offer customers a more hands-on, experiential shopping experience and better service. The company is reorganizing its core office supplies to accommodate and showcase exclusive new product lines, such as M by Staples, and introducing new features, such as:

-A merchandising display called "Staples Mix It Up" makes it easy for businesses to buy a variety of supplies in new exclusive colors, designs and shapes in bulk. Mix It Up recreates the experience of the old neighborhood candy store by letting customers fill as many paper clips, binder clips and push pins as they can in one fixed-price container.

-The 3M Post-it Shop is a dedicated section offering Staples’ widest selection ever of colorful Post--it notes and flags.  Located in the front of Staples stores, the new experiential shop will offer more than 110 3M Post-it note and 40 flag products and provide product samples for customers to test and try. The display also offers an extensive selection of eco-friendly Post-it products made from post-consumer recycled paper.

-An in-store “no return” DVD rental service, called FlexPlay, lets customers rent the latest movie titles without having to return them to the store.  Ideal for business travelers and busy small business owners on-the-go, FlexPlay offers a fresh selection of hit movies for viewing anytime, anywhere and uses a patented technology that erases the DVD after 48 hours of opening the inner package.

-A new interactive display for desktop tools, featuring a demo area that lets customers learn about and try out a broad variety of staplers and punches before they buy – including Staples’ exclusive One Touch product line featuring half-strip, full-strip, executive and heavy duty staplers, as well as three-hole punch products.

-Newly Xerox-trained Copy & Print Center associates are experts at helping customers make their color projects more eye-catching and effective. Associates received advanced training in color theory, machine calibration and how colors will improve any project, whether it’s business presentation, marketing collateral, employee training guide or signage.

Online Enhancements
Staples also is expanding Staples.com to be more than just an ordering site by introducing several online features customized to unique shopping needs of many businesses such as: 

-The online eco solutions center (www.staples.com/ecoeasy) offers a one-stop shop for eco-conscious businesses. From Forest Stewardship Certified paper and recycled file folders to biodegradeable packing peanuts and energy star-rated technology, the site makes it easier to find and purchase Staples’ more than 3,000 eco-friendly products. The site also provided quick links to information on Staples’ many technology recycling services. Staples has also enhanced it search engine on Staples.com to help customers better locate eco-friendly products when searching by key words, such as “recycled, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Energy Star.”

-The online technology trade-in site (www.staples.com/greensight) makes it easy for businesses to get money in return for their unwanted technology. Powered by Greensight, the site lets customers recycle their newer technology items like laptops, desktops, digital cameras, and LCD monitors in return for Staples coupons to spend online or in stores. Customers can calculate the trade in value for a wide variety of their personal and office technology in real-time, and if the equipment has value, print out a UPS label and ship it to Staples for free. Equipment without any trade-in value can be brought to any of Staples 1,400 U.S. stores where it will be responsibly recycled for a small fee.

-An online business card solution (www.staplescustomprinting.com) lets customers design high quality businesses cards on Staples.com for same day pick up in store or delivery. Customers can customize their cards from the convenience of their office, choosing from more than 2,500 designs and templates, and even upload their existing logo for free to create their own unique look.  The service builds upon Staples’ Business Cards in Minutes retail service which lets customers design business cards in-store at the Copy & Print Center counter for pick up within 30 minutes.

-Staples’ new Web site (www.staplespromotionalproducts.com) features an expanded assortment of customizable promotional products which can be personalized for marketing giveaways or creative employee incentives.

Overstock.com Implements Security Tool to Protect Online Customers

Overstock.com selects Breach Security’s WebDefend Web application security appliance to provide continuous protection against Web-based attacks and data leakage for its online transactions. WebDefend also protects customer credit card data enabling Overstock.com to fully comply with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) in advance of the June 30, 2008 deadline for tight web application security controls.

“At Overstock.com, we pride ourselves on offering our customer community an enormous variety of quality merchandise in a reliable, fast and secure web environment—our success depends on a top quality web presence while meeting security standards,” said Carter Lee, vice president, Information Technology at Overstock.com. “The dynamic nature of our business requires frequent updates to our web applications. By deploying WebDefend, we achieve the necessary balance between rapid application development, secure customer transactions, and continuous PCI compliance, beyond what code scanning alone can provide.”

Overstock.com has averaged 16.6 million unique visitors a month over the last 12 months. Overstock.com’s ability to attract, serve and maintain satisfied customers is heavily dependent upon the operation of a secure, high-performance Web site. WebDefend provides Overstock.com with both protection for online customer transactions and identification and remediation of Web site coding errors that may impact security and overall usability. By using WebDefend, Overstock.com ensures that its Web site operates as designed, supporting performance targets and ensuring high levels of customer shopping satisfaction and security with each transaction.

WebDefend includes a pre-packaged PCI policy and reports. The PCI policy helps ensures the proper security configuration for attack prevention and the logging of all payment card use. PCI-specific reports provide an immediate view of the system’s overall level of compliance and details of payment card data use for audit purposes.

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