PlumberSurplus.com Ecommerce and Entrepreneurship Blog | About | Contact | PlumberSurplus.com Store

Google's Boutiques.com: First Impressions

Posted on November 18, 2010 by Joelle

As an avid online clothing shopper, I have pretty much pinned my size and style at any given online clothing store. However, occasionally I will have a post purchase regret, normally because the item is just not quite what I wanted or is not really my style when I recieve it. Google has brought order to my sometimes shopping madness with Boutiques.com. They have devised a tool using algorithms crafted by development experts, and fashion rules controlled by designers, to help the online fashion shopper shop better. The user begins by taking a style quiz, then setting preferences like colors and patterns, and lastly they are able to refine their personal boutique by “loving,” “hating,” or saving their favorites.  All features are accessible by iPad an iPhone and the shopper can set up to receive daily style tips and recommendations. You can also browse celebrity boutiques and follow their updates to receive the latest news, as well as their new styles.

Boutiques.com Review

The style quiz is easy and fast, though I would suggest not liking any style that is truly not you. You can also simply skip the questions, but that kind of defeats the purpose as the results will be less accurate.

Google’s blog talks about the innovation of Boutiques.com and how it came about

“First we partnered with taste-makers of all types. We asked them not just to curate 10-50 great items they loved, but also to teach our site their style and taste. They did this by telling us what colors, patterns, brands and silhouettes they loved and they hated. They took a visual quiz that taught the site to understand their style genre: Classic, Boho, Edgy, etc. Our machine learning algorithms use this information to enable you to shop all of the inventory in the style of that taste-maker, on top of the 50 items they’ve hand-curated.

These days, bloggers, stylists and everyday fashionistas are expressing their sense of style online. We invited them to create boutiques so people could shop their diverse styles. But you have a unique and independent style too, so Boutiques also lets you build your own personalized boutique and get recommendations of products that match your taste”

My boutique style: Casual Chic, Romantic, Boho.

In my eyes, Google has done it again. They were able to bring good refinement to an area of the Internet that I didn't even realize was missing it! I'm excited to see where this progresses.

Check it out and give us your feedback in the comments!

\

A Lesson in Ethics, Featuring Amazon.com

Posted on November 15, 2010 by Arianna

For years, Amazon.com has been one of the top selling marketplaces around the world, selling everything from books to automotive products. With such a large customer base, they have been the admiration of many small e-commerce companies, who strive to one day be a fourth of what Amazon has become. Despite their success and fame, Amazon seems to have forgotten an important core characteristic that must continue to be a part of a company regardless of their size - Ethics. Ethics is about making choices that, though they may not always seem economically beneficial or good, are ultimately the right choice.

In recent news Anderson Cooper, a reporter from CNN, did a story on the controversy surrounding Amazon.com and books defending pedophilia. As I watched in complete astonishment, I began to see how the lack of ethics can ultimately hurt a company.

On their website, Amazon has vowed to become “Earth's most customer-centric company.” They have done an amazing job branding themselves around customer service; however, the validity of their vow is being questioned. Amazon failed to not only offer a reply to customer complaints about selling these books, but more importantly they did not even remove the book in question. It wasn’t until after CNN’s story went through that something was done about it.

Instead of apologizing to their consumers or the media, the only response Amazon offered was that they do not believe in censorship. They failed to provide sensitivity to victims of pedophiles, and protection for children from such abuse. Their lack of censorship, which as Anderson Cooper pointed out does exist, only portrayed the little interest Amazon has for their customers.                                                               

With the holiday’s approaching, and Cyber Monday being one of the most important days for online companies, the news of this issue could not come at a worse time. Many consumers have threatened to boycott Amazon, reposting CNN’s video on their Facebook, and encouraging many to do the same.  This, in turn, can ultimately hurt their pocket books, publicity and brand image.

Regardless of the size of a company, ethics must always be a central pillar to the daily business decisions as well as future goals. Let this be an example to all e-commerce companies that every decision and/or product listing reflects the ethics of your company.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?

 

An Introduction To Net Neutrality

Posted on November 10, 2010 by Suzanne

Net NeutralityAs an employee of an internet company I consider myself somewhat technically savvy; however, when it comes to net neutrality, I have a hard time explaining and comprehending the idea. I know I must not be the only one, as this topic has been in the news a lot lately with Verizon and Google. So in writing this blog I planned to help others as well as myself better understand what net neutrality is, and what it means for the future of our internet use as consumers.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that all information is created equal, therefore, it should be available to all users of the internet without the interference of big companies stating what can or can't be viewed. For example, if there was not net neutrality then Google could choose to not allow any Gmail users to receive emails from Yahoo accounts and vice-versa. Also, wireless carriers could sell tiered services that would allow some people to get information faster than others. The reason why secret negotiations between Verizon and Google caused so much outrage is because Google has historically been pro neutrality. The idea of content being controlled by those like Google, Yahoo and ISP’s could mean the internet would slowly start to be run by big companies with their own specific initiatives that may not align with those of the consumer.

Net Neutrality seems to be the web's new battle ground. On one side, backers believe that the internet should be a place void of discrimination, while on the other side, backers think businesses should be able to create a better user experience based on what they think the customer wants. Both sides have good points, but in a world that is controlled more and more by media spin, the internet is one of the last places where both sides of any argument are readily available. I understand that it’s a stretch to think that there would be content that would be totally unavailable in search, but think about China and the restrictions they have on what their population can search. I think once we close the door on net neutrality we open the door to more restrictions that can be put upon the normal consumer.

What do you think?

 


OutdoorPros.com is your number one source for all things Gerber. From Gerber Knives to Gerber Multi-Tools to Gerber Flashlights, there is a Gerber product designed for you. Check out the Gerber Knife Gudie for more information.

What the Google Buzz Lawsuit Means to You

Posted on November 4, 2010 by Josh Mc

Almost as soon as it was out, there was complaints about Google Buzz and how it affected privacy. These complaints led to a lawsuit, which ended in a settlement, and Google giving $8.5 million dollars to an independent fund which will support better privacy on the web. However, for the Buzz user, this settlement doesn't mean a whole lot. There is no ability to receive compensation as a result of the privacy infringements, but you can rest assured that there is a company somewhere that is $8.5 million dollars richer and hope that it will affect privacy in the future.

See the original email from Google below and weigh in in the comments.

"Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we've reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (http://buzz.google.com), a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year.

Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case.


The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users' concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be.


Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at
http://www.BuzzClassAction.com"

 

Halloween at the Office (A Picture Blog)

Posted on November 1, 2010 by Josh Mc

As you may remember from last year, the Gordian Project enjoys dressing up for Halloween. This year was no different as the costumes were in full swing. We had everyone from a barbarian and Nacho Libre to Ron Burgundy (from the movie Anchorman) and a double rainbow working at the office on Friday. Over half of the office dressed up for Halloween and candy was strewn throughout for all to partake in. Hopefully your office did something fun for Halloween as well. Check out the pictures below!

 

Barbarian Halloween Costume
Trevor dressed up as a Barbarian with a stuffed bird.

 

Ron Burgundy Halloween Costume
Josh was Ron Burgundy from Anchorman.

 

Waldo Halloween Costume
Two Waldos showing their company spirt.

 

The Office Dressed Up For Halloween

The whole crew.

 


As you can see productivity was still up!

An Employee Working in a Halloween Costume

Until next year, Happy Halloween!

 

PayPal Proves That They Can't Be Relied On

Posted on October 29, 2010 by josh

Back on June 1, 2010, I wrote another post related to PayPal downtimes and, more specifically, why having a backup payment processor is valuable. PayPal proved me right, again, today.

PayPal was basically completely down.
On their live site status page, they said:
Impacted Service/Product:
Live Site
- PayPal APIs
- Website
- Website Payments Standard
- Website Payments Pro Payflow Edition
- Express Checkout

Seriously yuck! But, for us, it was no big deal. In fact, if we hadn’t decided to build an error email when PayPal was returning transaction errors, I never would have noticed they were down. Our backup simply gracefully took the transactions on, with only a minor delay to customers at checkout. For those who are curious, we were affected from about 8:15am to 9:30am and from about 11:30am to 12:00pm.

 

Google Search: Now Focusing on Local Results

Posted on October 28, 2010 by Josh Mc

This morning I sat down at my computer to perform some of my normal keyword research on Google, only to be greeted with an “update” Google apparently made over night. In this update Google has significantly changed the way they handle the local results set by completely integrating them with the organic results (only showing up for me in Google Chrome, so may be a test). In the below example search, there are two organic results, then seven local results (that appear like organic results) followed by five more organic results. This change makes a significant difference for the organic SEO’s out there; if you have a result set that competes with local search results, you really have to be in the top 2 for the results to show above the fold. If you were previously ranking at spot three for the results set below, you would now be beneath seven local results before your keyword would show.  Google also cuts back the organic result set from ten results to seven, kicking an additional three results off the first page.

The second person this effects is the SEM user that relies on Google AdWords clicks. With this change, Google has implemented a map that follows you down the page as you scroll. This is interesting for the local results, but covers up the ads in the right bar as you scroll.

Google Local Map Placement



I’m not sure why Google would want to cover up what makes them their profit, but this new update does not seem to be completely well thought out. I know that local search will continue to get more and more popular with time, but this new results set seems to tailor directly to the local results set, while negatively affecting everything else.

Here is a before and after screen shot.

Before

 

Google Search Before Update

After

Google Search After Update


What are your thoughts? Do you like this change? Do you think it will stay this way, or is it simply a test Google is doing?

 

Web Development for the Non-Programmer: Web Applications and Servers

Posted on October 22, 2010 by Trevor

This article is the third in a series on web development for the non-programmer. For the first, go here.

To a visitor, a web page is simply an HTML file (with its associated images and other resources). It doesn't matter where it comes from or how it's made. A web server could act much like a hard drive, simply storing and retrieving HTML files. However, such a server would be static: the pages would always be exactly the same for every visitor. While this is fine for some sites, many sites need features that aren't possible with static pages: features like visitor accounts, changing statuses and online purchasing. To do this, web servers need to create and serve HTML pages dynamically.

In order to dynamically serve web pages, web developers use a suite of server-side applications and tools. At the heart of these is the server itself. This is the application that receives incoming connections, retrieves the web page (either from a file or by calling a program that generates it) and sends it to the client. The server also responds to requests for images and other resources, usually by simply retrieving the file requested. Note: confusingly, the term "server" is applied at several different levels, with context determining whether it references the machine ("The server is down"), the operating system ("Windows Server 2008"), or the actual program. There are currently two popular server applications: Apache, a free, open-source, cross-platform server for general use, and IIS ("Internet Information Services"), Microsoft's server software targeted mainly toward businesses. Both have many features beyond simply passing HTML files, including standard plugin systems that allow them to handle virtually any input or output. Each is able to handle multiple simultaneous requests, running the necessary plugins separately for each request.

Generally web pages are created using a programming language that is specifically adapted to the task. Common languages include PHP (with Apache) and ASP.Net (with IIS), but practically any language for which the server has a plugin can be used. Since HTML files are basically text files, they can be created using any process that generates text. However, most languages use a template-based approach, where the body of the web page is stored as a template, with fields or areas that can be filled in dynamically using code that the web developer writes. This could be something as simple as filling in the visitor's name or as complex as generating a list of products for sale with pictures and "buy" buttons. Large, complex websites have millions of lines of code, all centered around generating the text in the HTML files they serve.

It is possible for a web site to handle all the data involved with creating and serving web pages on its own, either stored in temporary memory or in files on the hard disk. However, most larger web sites use a database for that purpose. A database is a program or system used to quickly and easily store and retrieve large amounts of data. They keep the data safe and secure, and help prevent issues such as two users trying to change the same data at the same time. They aren't limited to web applications, but they are ideally suited for them. There are quite a few different database systems, each targeted at a different usage sector. Microsoft's SQL Server, for example, is aimed at large business applications, while MySQL is generally used for smaller sites and programs, and SQLite is an extremely lightweight database for applications that need only basic functionality. The vast majority of databases use a language called SQL ("Structured Query Language") to store and retrieve data.

To sum up the server-side process, then: When a visitor sends a request to a web server, the server application receives that request. It determines how that request is to be processed and passes it to the appropriate plugin or program. If the web page is to be dynamically generated, the code that the web developer wrote is run, often using templates to create the structure of the page and retrieving page data from a database. The completed page is passed back to the server application, which sends it to the visitor's computer.

The server-side process is the heart of web development, and to attempt a short list of related topics and current events would be foolish. The field changes continually as new program versions are released and new techniques are developed. One of the long-standing debates is between using the open-source Apache server and related technologies versus the closed IIS/ASP.Net system. An open-source .Net platform, Mono, was recently released that promises to mix things up a bit by allowing ASP.Net pages to be run on Apache (and other) servers. Cloud hosting is also gaining ground as a viable option, with pages being created and served from any one of a number of shared servers across the internet.

Stay tuned for next month when we go more in depth on other aspects of web development.

 


For the best prices, on the largest selection of faucets, from your favorite brands like Kohler, Danze, and American Standard shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

B2B Technology Finding Ways to Replace Paper

Posted on October 19, 2010 by Suzanne

Technology has slowly taken over our everyday lives. Some of us still may not realize how much technology affects us until we try to live without it. This becomes painfully clear to me when I see a business request a fax or continue to send paper invoices, both allowing room for error that is not necessary. I myself have slowly come to the realization that technology rules my life. It’s sad, but I have to admit that I feel incomplete and unprepared when I leave home without my cell phone or iPod. When did this happen? Technology, like internet, cell phones, eReaders and iPods are relatively new in my life so how did it take over so quickly? It all comes down to convenience. Simple put technology makes the things we love easy. So it’s no surprise that it works so well in business.

In business technology makes everything streamlined and efficient. Invoicing becomes more exact. Shipping information can be communicated quickly. The possibilities are endless. That is where B2B eCommerce comes into play. B2B or Business to Business is the electronic exchange of business documents between businesses for the purpose of conducting commerce. This article from Electronic Cash News helped me understand B2B eCommerce. Most of the time, businesses using B2B technology will be using EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). This technology allows the exchange between the 2 parties to have little to no manual interaction, allowing companies to cut out the middle man, which in this case is usually paper.

When I compare companies that have an EDI with those that do not, the differences are numerous. With EDI, invoices are automatic (to an extent) and accurate, while the company without EDI may send invoices via a number of different methods such as snail mail, email, or fax. All methods that require manual interaction, which is inefficient and can lead to errors. But these efficiencies are not just in invoicing, they can also help many other aspects of the business such as order entry, shipping updates and even communicating stocking status.

With the advances in technology, especially with EDI, I find it hard to understand why more companies are not moving to more of these types of B2B interactions. I suppose these businesses are the ones that said internet retailers wouldn’t last, but according to this article from Internet Retailer “half of retail transactions will take place online or be influenced by what consumers see on the web by 2013.” So it looks like it’s time to break the news to your fax machines and your paper; the internet is here to stay and if your business wants to keep up it’s time to move on to some up to date technology.

 


The possibilities are endless with a bathroom remodel. Discover your classic side with a clawfoot tub, experiment with fresh bathroom vanities, select from a wide variety of shower doors and coordinate it all with a matching bathroom faucet. Shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all of your bathroom needs.

ECommerce Sites Gear Up for A Hopeful Holiday Shopping Season

Posted on October 15, 2010 by Joelle

Controversy still remains whether the economy is getting back on its feet, but research shows that internet retailers remain hopeful, Colin Sebastian of Lazard Capital Markets agrees estimating 10-15% growth in sales in 2010’s fourth quarter over last year’s holiday season.   The optimistic approach isn’t short of serious strategy; while growth is expected for two-thirds of e-commerce companies, they approach the holiday shopping season armed with free shipping coupons, increasing focus in social networking, and decreasing shopping cart abandonment.

Another survey shows that the majority of consumers plan to start their shopping trips not at the stores but online; 49% of consumers expect to shop directly on Marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay and 41% say they will start on search engines, the favorite being Google by 67% and Yahoo at 19%. Internet retailers can expect higher customer acquisition costs due to higher marketplace commissions and paid search ads during the holiday season.

'Tis the season for free shipping! It’s reported that 85% of e-commerce sites will offer free shipping promotions specific for the upcoming holiday season.  Top three forms of free shipping promotions this year are expected to be:
27% will offer free shipping on select products at select times during this holiday season
26% will offer free shipping on select products throughout this holiday season
13% will offer unrestricted free shipping at select times during this holiday season

Other marketing initiates internet retailers are bumping up this season are mobile and social networking. 38% of e-commerce sites plan to use texting as a way to promote sales and easy shopping cart access, and 25% plan to improve traffic to their sites through sales texts including hyperlinks directly to products. Social networking hits a high this holiday season at 91 % of internet retailers using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to market with 14% of those with “extensive plans.”

The talk of tight wallets and unemployment rates have 73% of consumers saying they will spend the same as last year during fourth quarter, and 18% of consumers report that they will spend more. Interesting. So most consumers plan to be spending the same but 90% of consumers are starting their holiday search online. This leaves huge opportunity for online retailers to capture sales before other e-tailers or retailer do, and is reflective in their optimistic attitudes and serious plans for capturing consumers.

Last year experienced record highs of shopping cart abandonment in the mid-September through Mid-November season. Researchers tie this to high volume of browsers and waiters, and predict the same for this year. The majority of online shoppers plan to research and find the best deals on the products they know they want, and then wait for the conditioned sales after Thanksgiving. 20% of consumers said they will do all their shopping online this season, and 33% will use the internet mainly for comparison, but would consider buying if they got the best deal, this is probably the biggest factor playing into high shopping cart abandonment rates. 

Stay tuned my next Holiday update will be on top selling products for this holiday season!