FedEx CEO Takes Sloppy E-Tailers to Task

“FedEx Corp. Chief Executive Fred Smith took a tough line with e-commerce companies on Wednesday, saying they need to shape up sloppy shipping practices or risk losing customers. On Wednesday, FedEx said severe weather shaved $125 million off of its fiscal third-quarter profit, pushing earnings well below even scaled-back analyst estimates. But snow and ice weren’t the only things Mr. Smith blamed. A significant part of the industry’s Christmas-delivery mess, he said, stemmed from problems on the part of retailers.” [Source: Wall Street Journal]

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Chinese Ecommerce Giant Alibaba Eyes U.S. IPO

“Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group said Sunday that it will go public on a U.S. stock exchange in a move analysts say might raise up to $15 billion in the year’s biggest initial public offering. The announcement confirming plans for a U.S. offering ended months of speculation over where the company would list its shares after talks for a Hong Kong stock sale fell apart last year. Alibaba is one of the world’s biggest Internet companies and says that more than $150 billion worth of merchandise changes hands on its online platforms each year, more than Amazon.com and eBay combined.” [Source: Washington Post]

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A Case for Investors to Be Bullish on Ecommerce

“In the trend-driven world of venture capital, sentiment toward the ecommerce sector changes as often as the celebrity crush of a teenager. One minute, brick-and-mortar retail is going the way of the dodo and etailers are the hottest investment going. The next, investors have soured on the space, writing off as tired business model trends like flash sales, stuff-in-a-box, celebrity endorsement, and the like. At the same time, digital-first brands like Warby Parker, Bonobos, and JustFab are reversing course and opening physical retail locations under the guise of creating brand experience. So, which is it? Is ecommerce a hot category among VCs or not? And is there still an opportunity to build successful commerce businesses online, or has that ship sailed in the form of the destroyer known as Amazon?” [Source: Pando Daily]

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Comcast CEO: We’re Making Our Customer Service Look Like Uber

“With its $45 billion proposal to acquire Time Warner Cable awaiting federal approval, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts vowed Tuesday to bring Uber-like quality to the company’s much-maligned customer service. Referring to the widely praised, consumer-friendly car-hire firm, Roberts acknowledged in a meeting with USA TODAY’s editorial board that the perception of Comcast’s poor customer service lingers. But he said the company is making fresh efforts to ease the headaches. Uber “is fantastic,” he said, wielding his iPhone to demonstrate a new Comcast app that lets customers schedule an appointment and troubleshoot set-top boxes remotely. ‘I need to (be able) to push the button and see where my truck is. We’re beginning to make our service look like Uber.’ ” [Source: USA Today]

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Revenue-Obsessed Travel Companies Weigh the Costs of Great Service

“The basics of good customer service, like courtesy and attentiveness, may be free. But great service? That’s expensive. Consider what happened to Virginia Bibliowicz’ father, who rented a car from Budget recently. Shortly after he picked up the vehicle in Knoxville, Tenn., he suffered a heart attack and died. ‘When my sister and her husband returned the car later, Budget refused to let them pay the charges,’ she says. ‘I think Budget and this rep should be commended, and they will certainly always have our business.’ The car rental company didn’t accept a penny of the family’s money because it was the right thing to do, just as airlines offer no-questions-asked refunds when passengers pass away before their flight. These decisions make perfect sense to customers, but not always to a revenue-obsessed travel industry.” [Source: USA Today]

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Social Media Causes Banks to Change Approach to Customer Service

“J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s pullback from certain cash deposits is sparking a flurry of protests from would-be depositors on social media. When Sheree Kirsch learned she no longer could deposit cash into her nephew’s J.P. Morgan account because of a new bank policy designed to root out money launderers, she sent a tweet Tuesday via Twitter Inc. to complain about it. “I was like, ‘Am I a crook? Are we all crooks?’” said Ms. Kirsch in an interview. The bank’s customer-service team responded the same day with suggestions for alternative ways to transfer funds and an explanation of the new rule meant to bolster controls. Ms. Kirsch eventually was able to make the deposit through a money order. The exchange highlights the changes big banks face in the era of social media. J.P. Morgan’s customer-service account alone has more than 26,000 followers on Twitter and has sent more than 90,000 tweets since its inception.” …

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Betabrand Gets Smart With New Models

“Betabrand, an online retailer of crowdsourced clothing, just launched its spring line, and the company decided to take a different approach to marketing the new looks: Each of the models would have a Ph.D. “When you look beyond the ranks of the professionally beautiful, photography becomes a lot more fun,” Betabrand founder Chris Lindland said in a statement. “Our designers cooked up a collection of smart fashions for spring, so why not display them on the bodies of women with really big brains?” So they did just that. The new collection features women (yes, thin and attractive women, which some critics are sure to point out) with a Ph.D. or who are working toward a Ph.D.” [Source: Adweek]

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Wayfair Raises $157 Million In Latest Funding Round

Coming out of a record sales year, web-only furniture and home décor retailer Wayfair LLC has raised $157 million in a Series B funding round. That brings its total funding to date to $193 million. In 2012, it raised $36 million to expand flash sales at its upscale home goods brand Joss & Main.

Wayfair, No. 50 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, says the financing will help grow its online portfolio, which also includes modern furniture retailers DwellStudio and AllModern. The retailer declined to go into further detail about how it plans to use the funds. [Source: Internet Retailer]

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Vendors Using Instagram as an Unofficial Ecommerce Platform Worry It Will Become Official

“Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, is my favorite place to skim through pictures of friends. I like to see them celebrating their birthdays, eating at lavishly decorated dinner tables and enjoying their midday coffees. Something else I’ve grown to love about the website is much less expected: It’s a wonderful place to shop. Instagram isn’t designed to be an e-commerce site, and that’s part of its appeal to me. Internet giants like Amazon.com have finely calibrated algorithms that suggest items and services before I even think of them, and they are very useful. But there is something undeniably charming about flicking through photographs that are carefully curated and personally posted by some Instagram sellers, who regularly offer one-of-a-kind treasures.” [Source: NYT Bits blog]

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Shopify Analyzes Data on 37 Million Social Visits

“Shopify has compiled data from its platform merchants to determine how much value commerce sites get from social media engagement, and put the results into a massive infographic. If, like me, you find infographics tedious and antithetical to meaningful analysis, then you’ll be happy to see I pulled the most interesting tidbits out of the giant graphic for a closer look. It’s interesting to note that Shopify analyzed 37 million social visits to its client stores, and found that those led to 529,000 total ecommerce sales for 2013. Given that Shopify sold $1.7 billion worth of goods in 2013, and that the survey covered data gathered from 90,000 online storefronts, that’s not a huge amount of money derived from social channels. But there are some key caveats to consider, the biggest being that many merchants don’t invest much in social or use it as a sales channel at all in fact.” [Source: TechCrunch]

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