How Do Shark Tank Entrepreneurs Build Their Websites? (Infographic)

Ever watch Shark Tank and start fantasizing about the business you are going to build?

If you are going to build a business, you are going to have to build a website. So, where do you start? How do you even begin?

If you aren’t going to build your own website one line of code at a time — engineers get paid top dollar to do this — then you are going to need a content management system, or “CMS” for short. That’s a computer application that allows you to operate a website without necessarily having to be an engineer. You use CMS to publish and edit online content.

Related: 7 Deadly Web Design Sins You Might Be Making

And if you are going to be selling products on your website, then you are going to need an e-commerce management application to interact with customers. You need software that allows you to offer products for sale online and accept payment, among other more nuanced functions.

Austin, Texas-based hosting service WP Engine went through all five seasons of Shark Tank to determine what CMS and e-commerce platforms the contestants were using. WordPress and Shopify were the breakaway winners. To be sure, using Shark Tank contestants as a sample pool is not necessarily representative of the overall entrepreneurial community.

Related: Launching a Website: The One Thing You Can’t Forget

But, as you are sitting on your couch, watching Barbara Corcoran invest in an entrepreneur and planning your own blockbuster venture, here’s a wee glimpse into how those on TV are getting started. Have a look at the infographic, embedded below, generated by WP Engine, summarizing results of its investigation.

Click to Enlarge+

How Do Shark Tank Entrepreneurs Build Their Websites? (Infographic)

Related: Launching a Website: Mistakes to Avoid

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240525

In Ecommerce Push, Tumblr Adds ‘Buy,’ ‘Browse’ Buttons

Following Twitter and Facebook’s steps into the ecommerce space with “buy” buttons, Tumblr announced this week that posts from four sites — Artsy, Estsy, Do Something and Kickstarter — will now include action buttons in the top right corner of the post. The buttons will allow users to “buy,” “browse” “do something,” or “pledge.”

The four sites are the only partners that Tumblr is working with in this manner, but it could ostensibly expand to other ecommerce platforms if these buttons test well. The buttons are only available for desktop use for the time being, TechCrunch reports.

Related: Facebook’s ‘Buy’ Button Will Change How Brands Sell Online

If a Tumblr user is passionate about a Do Something cause or wants to buy an Etsy t-shirt with characters from their favorite fandom, the buttons will link back to the original page. It is also possible to remind yourself to check back later if you send them the e-mail you use to log-in to your Tumblr account.

Yahoo bought Tumblr last year for $1.1 billion, and according to a recent survey from the Global Web Index, it is the fastest-growing social platform, having increased its user base by 120 percent over the last six months.

Related: With the Arrival of Twitter’s ‘Buy’ Button, Is It Time to Move Into Social Commerce?

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240434

Everything’s Coming Up Broadband

How is broadband doing as a market? The two largest providers in the United States are Comcast and AT&T. Broadband started as a service for people to surf the Web. Generally, it was a separate service offered by the telephone and cable television companies. However, things are changing and growing.

The changes that are occurring in the industry are groundshaking, but they don’t get as much attention as they should. Understanding these changes is important, whether you are a service provider, an employee, an investor, a customer or a partner.

Although broadband used to be a separate service for surfing the Web, going forward it will be the connection to the service provider that will carry telephone, television, Internet access and everything connected to those worlds.

Example: Cable television is a service that delivers TV channels to the home over the cable-TV network. Going forward, however, cable TV will be delivered over the Internet connection, not the cable-TV network.

The same thing will happen with traditional telephone networks — and Internet services will let customers talk on the telephone and watch television, as well as surf the Web.

This transformation will take years to complete, but it already has begun.

Customer Exodus

Just look at how the cable television industry is losing customers for the first time over the last few years. This is a big concern for that industry segment, as other companies and technologies are moving in and growing rapidly.

AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and CenturyLink Prism are three highly competitive services. They are growing and winning business from the traditional cable television services like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox.

Why? There are several reasons.

One is that telephone companies offer better technology over their IPTV networks. This gives the customer the ability to do much more than view traditional cable television. This phone companies at a competitive advantage over the cable television world, for now.

Two is the fact that the cable television industry never took good care of the customer. There was no competition, so cable companies didn’t see the need to care about anyone other than the investor.

Investors loved cable television companies. Customers didn’t.

That’s why the cable television industry is losing customers today as new technologies and new competitors are moving into the space. Better quality, more innovation and better customer care always win.

This is a big opportunity for big competitors like AT&T, Verizon and Centurylink. This is also a growing opportunity for companies with new technologies and ideas, like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and more.

Today, if you look at the traditional cable companies, they are losing market share for television customers to competitors. The only part of the cable television world that is still growing is Internet services.

That’s good, because over the next decade that’s where the competitive battle will be fought.

Remember Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeast coast a couple of years ago? It destroyed Verizon’s landline telephone network, and the company decided not to rebuild it.

Instead, Verizon is using its wireless and Internet connections to deliver services. This is a sign of things to come.

Out With POTS

The networks of the future will not look the same as they currently do. Networks enabling POTS, or plain old telephone service, which most of us still use, would not be built today.

Instead, networks enabling Internet and wireless services are in demand. That is the future. That’s why new competitors are those that offer fast Internet and wireless services.

Wireless companies like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile will be players going forward.

Wireline companies like AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Windstream, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox also will be competitors.

Forget about the old-fashioned cable television or local telephone networks we use today. The future will bring spanking new technology.

There will be many companies that compete. Perhaps that means we can expect more consolidation in the industry as well.

Of course, that’s not the world today. Today, we already have big investments in POTS and traditional cable television service, so change won’t occur overnight. However, changes will occur. In fact, they already are occurring.

Tomorrow, the communications world will rely on wireless and landline broadband networks. Tomorrow everything in our homes, our offices, our cars — everything will be connected to this new broadband network.

So who will be the leaders in this new broadband world?

The next 10 years will be very exciting. We are still in the very early part of this new movie that will run over the next decade. When we started, we did everything over traditional telephone and cable television networks. When we finish, we will do everything over new and fast broadband networks, both wireless and wireline.

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he’s been watching for 25 years. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/81440.html?rss=1

Black Friday Reports: Sunny Online, Gloomy Off

It was the best of times and the worst of times for retailers over the 4-day long Thanksgiving Day-Black Friday weekend.

If you were an online retailer, it was the best of times. If you were strictly a brick-and-mortar store, it was perhaps not quite the worst, but certainly worse than expected.

Sales statistics of the past four days tell the story.

Survey firm after survey firm reported the same general conclusion: Online sales rocked.

Some US$2.4 billion were spent online on Black Friday — 24 percent growth from 2013, according to Adobe. The average order value was $138, up from $135 in 2013.

Incidentally, mobile drove a significant portion of these sales, figures provided by IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark show. Mobile sales accounted for 28.9 percent of all online sales this past weekend, an increase of 24.9 percent from last year.

In general, online sales were up 17 percent compared to the same weekend in 2013, IBM reported.

More Overhead for the Same Sales

Brick-and-mortar sales, by contrast, were disappointing — especially in light of strong consumer confidence, a stable economy and low gas prices.

Sales at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday were down 7 percent from a year ago, according to ShopperTrak. Purchases at physical stores on Thanksgiving Day were up, but the overall effect was flat: Combined sales for the two days came to $12.29 billion, a 0.5 percent decrease from last year.

One conclusion to draw is that the early store openings on Thanksgiving Day did not drive sales as retailers had hoped. Rather, the Thanksgiving Day hours merely extended the window during which consumers spent the same amount of money.

Black Friday Is Dead

These findings highlight a growing meme in the retail industry — that Black Friday as the day to score the best deals of the year has become an anachronism. Now retailers are trying their best to woo shoppers for the entire months of November and December with discounts and deals. The end result is muted sales for Black Friday.

This is true for both online and brick-and-mortar commerce. Perhaps the most telling statistic of all from the past four days is offered by the National Retail Federation, which reported that sales online and in person between Thanksgiving and Sunday dropped 11 percent year over year, to $50.9 billion.

Consumers no longer believe that Black Friday is their one best chance to get the best deals, said Deborah Fowler, associate professor at Texas Tech University.

“Black Friday is thing of the past,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

‘Twas the Weekend Before Christmas

For consumers willing to be a bit flexible about their gift choices, the weekend before Christmas would be the best time to get the lowest price, Fowler suggested.

Retailers, for their part, see the expanded shopping hours over the holiday — and the overall increase of the holiday promotional season — as simply a sign of the times.

Consumers expect convenience from retailers when they hit the stores or go online for their holiday shopping, Walmart spokesperson Sarah McKinney told the E-Commerce Times.

“That is what we heard from customers and saw last year,” she said. “People want to shop wherever and whenever they want. It is our job to give that to them.”

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/81421.html?rss=1

FCC’s Spectrum Cash Cow Produces Rich Milk

Bidding for wireless spectrum in the United States Federal Communications Commission’s latest auction has gone through the roof, raising more than US$36 billion as of Tuesday morning.

A total of 70 qualified bidders are seeking 1,614 licenses in the 1695-1710 Mhz, 1755-1780 Mhz and 2155-2180 MHz bands.

Officially labeled “Auction 97 in the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS-3),” the auction almost certainly will raise even more money over the next few weeks.

“They’re going to have a brief break for Thanksgiving, and then the auction will resume Monday,” Ronald Gruia, director of emerging telecoms at Frost & Sullivan, told the E-Commerce Times.

Going Wild for the J Block

Bids for J-block licenses from New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago alone totaled nearly $5 billion as of Monday, Gruia said.

The J Block constitutes a single 10 x 10 MHz block of spectrum from 1770 to 1780 MHz. Other spectra are licensed in 5 MHz and 10 MHz blocks, with each license having a total bandwidth of five, 10 or 20 MHz as laid down by the FCC.

Here’s the breakdown for bids for the J Block as listed by Gruia: more than $2 billion for New York City; $1.66 billion for Los Angeles; and $1.14 billion for Chicago.

Demand for the J Block is strong because “more bandwidth gives more throughput and better performance for services,” Gruia said. “It’s like owning your own Boardwalk or Park Place in Monopoly.”

The AWS-3 auction has been years in the making because many government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Defense already use the spectrum.

They will be moved to other bands, freeing up AWS-3 for commercial use.

Who’s Buying and Why

AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile already use AWS. Many European countries use the same bands to power their LTE networks, so this auction could lead to consumers being able to use their mobile phones more easily when they travel.

AT&T and Verizon are looking to boost their spectrum position, said Phil Kendall, executive director of wireless operator strategies at Strategy Analytics.

Carriers are seeking to stockpile spectrum because “they’re looking to future-proof themselves,” Gruia said. “Spectrum is a valuable commodity, especially when you can combine it with more advanced techniques and, down the road, 5G.”

Dish Networks also is bidding, sparking speculation as to its motives. Some theorize it will follow up by making a bid for T-Mobile.

Or Dish “may be participating in Auction 97 to try to bid up the value of spectrum and so increase its own enterprise value without necessarily winning any spectrum,” Kendall told the E-Commerce Times.

Looking at 5G Perhaps?

With 4G efforts still under way, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced in September that he was looking into 5G technologies that ultimately could facilitate a throughput of up to 10 Gbps.

However, the time horizon for 5G is 2020, “which is the target date NTT Docomo set for the Tokyo Olympics,” Gruia pointed out.

The current auction is “very much” for mainstream 4G services, Kendall said.

“It offers more capacity for existing services but certainly doesn’t unlock particularly new business cases or innovative services,” he continued. “This is more about capacity to support medium-term data demands rather than allowing the carriers to do things they don’t already do.”

Still, “how many auctions out there are going to be like this?” Gruia asked. “There won’t be that many more opportunities to get spectrum.”

The Impact of the Auction

Among other things, funds from the auction will generate the funds needed for FirstNet — a nationwide network for first responders — the CTIA suggested.

The auction is necessary for U.S. carriers, because the competitive wireless market “will increasingly depend on spectrum depth,” Kendall said. “Being short on capacity creates a weakness that competitors will home in on to steal from [carriers'] previously loyal customer base.”

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it’s all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon’s Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/81411.html?rss=1

The Intangibles: 5 Things That Aren’t on the CRM Data Sheets

CRM has been around for a long time now — more than 25 years. Amazingly, many businesses, including large businesses with revenue in excess of US$100 million, still operate without it. That’s amazing, because to many business leaders, CRM has become table stakes when it comes to creating a software infrastructure.

Within CRM, many of the features have become table stakes, too: creation of the customer record, tracking the history of lead acquisition, the ability to segment customers — even social media capabilities.

All the major vendors include common features like these in their products. If choosing CRM based on a “feature bakeoff” was a bad idea in the past, it’s an even worse idea now that most features in CRM applications have become standardized.

So, if you’re looking for a CRM solution, what should you look for? First off, don’t start looking until you know your requirements.

Once you know what your company needs, don’t fall back into the trap of comparing feature lists and bullet points. Instead, go a little deeper and weigh some subjective aspects of the CRM applications — and the vendors who sell them.

Following are five factors to consider that aren’t necessarily on the data sheets you’ll received from CRM sales reps.

Ready for Flexibility

There’s an old saw that holds that every successful CRM implementation involved some degree of customization. There’s some truth to that — CRM works best when it fits the needs of the business most precisely, and few applications are perfect fits right out of the box. If that’s the case, you’ll want to look for a solution that was built from the outset with that concept in mind.

Customizations are expensive — but smart CRM vendors are building their systems with built-in configurations to attempt to anticipate users’ needs. That saves setup costs, and it also accelerates the time to profitability for the CRM system.

Fits With Users

Your CRM system isn’t going to pay off if your users won’t use it. If the system forces you to alter your processes in order to fit it, instead of vice versa , you’re unlikely to get great user adoption.

Similarly, if the interface doesn’t present the data users really need, they’re unlikely to make it their go-to resource for customer information. Look for CRM applications with good, clean interfaces that create a good user experience — but, beyond that, look for interfaces that allow users to customize their views of data easily and without any assistance from IT.

It will make users feel like the system really is theirs, and it will keep them engaged with it over time.

Eagerness to Integrate

To deliver optimal value CRM needs to be part of a software environment where data is shared readily and insights are available to everyone who needs them. Installing it and letting it run on its own as a brand new silo defeats that purpose.

Some applications are harder to integrate with existing systems than others — and difficult integrations are more expensive integrations. Pay attention to which prebuilt integrations exist in the applications you’re examining, and compute the cost — in time and money — of the integrations you’ll need to build.

Does What You Need

Are you buying CRM for sales enablement, lead flow management, pricing and quote development, guided selling, marketing automation or customer feedback? If so, tread carefully — these may be present in the CRM application’s features list, but they may not be as complete or robust as your needs demand.

There are dedicated applications and suites to handle these tasks for a reason. CRM is a valuable repository for customer information, and it’s often critical to the success of other systems — but it may not deliver the right answer to your pressing problems.

Practices What It Preaches

The relationship you have with CRM will include the vendor. One thing to ask to see during the sales process is how CRM is being used to sell CRM to you. The vendor should have a customer record on you and be able to use it as a case study in how CRM can advance the sale.

Be forewarned — many vendors aren’t willing to do this, for a number of reasons. One of the most surprising is that the organization selling a CRM application often doesn’t use its own CRM.

The CRM vendor ought to be the very best at using the application and, perhaps more importantly, it should be demonstrating the behaviors that lead to CRM success. If a vendor can’t model the right way to use CRM, starting with using the application in its own environment, then it casts doubts over its CRM’s effectiveness and the clarity of its road map.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is content marketing manager for CallidusCloud and a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years, focusing on CRM since 2006. When he’s not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he’s wearing his airplane geek hat; he’s written three books on World War II aviation.

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/81404.html?rss=1

Nokia’s Surprising 2nd Shot at the Wireless Game

Many thought after Nokia sold its wireless phone business to Microsoft earlier this year, the company simply would fade away from the space. However, all of a sudden it’s starting to look like Nokia is coming back. It just took the first step back into the wireless and tablet market with its new Google Android tablet.

It appears Nokia is getting ready to re-enter the smartphone space in 2016, competing with industry leaders like Apple iPhone, Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy and Microsoft, which acquired its smartphone business, including the Lumia line.

What a turnaround. Will it be successful? Stranger things have happened, haven’t they?

Second Time Around

This is not Nokia’s first time up to bat. Remember, it was No. 1 in the traditional handset space for roughly a decade. It won the No. 1 spot when Motorola lost it in the late 1990s, when networks switched from analog to digital.

In the 1990s, Motorola was king with the StarTac, but it began failing years before the first iPhone was even on anyone’s radar.

Motorola has been trying to make a comeback, but it hasn’t done so in a meaningful way to date. So will Nokia be successful its second time up to bat?

After Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft, we all expected it would no longer operate in this space. However, the smartphone space is still one of the hottest around — if you can figure out a way to carve out some market share.

So, since Nokia still has a very strong brand name in this space, it is going to re-enter the tablet space, then the smartphone space. Tablets are the first test to determine whether it will be a successful player.

The smartphone, tablet and smartwatch space continues to grow and to change over time. When the first iPhone and Android handsets hit the market seven years ago, it changed the marketplace very quickly. Leaders like Nokia and BlackBerry were clobbered.

They tried several smartphone devices, but they just barely carved out a few percentage points of market share.

What will be different this time?

Another Chance at Bat

One, Nokia still has its brand to build on. There will be no confusion, since Microsoft has stopped using the “Nokia” name on its smartphones.

Two, Nokia has had the chance to recognize the new smartphone world. It no longer is rushing to deliver something just to hang on. Instead, it can start thinking in advance of about creating smartphones and tablets that can capture a slice of the market share pie.

Three, the smartphone space is maturing, and users may be looking for more than just an iPhone, Nexus or Galaxy.

If Nokia can do this, then I think it can indeed become a player and a competitor once again in this new world. It has the potential, if it hits home runs, to reinvent its company and start a growth track once again.

Whether it will is the question. That is what no one can predict. It all depends on its strategy, its marketing, its advertising and so on.

Does it understand the new and changing marketplace? Does it understand the strengths and weaknesses of its brand in the marketplace? Does it see certain areas it can capture and own on the business or consumer side?

The big question is, can it reach out and grab a slice of the market share pie with a new OS, new handset and new software? If it can, and if it somehow can win a slice of the pie, then it could indeed grow from there.

That is the question. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Either way, it’s good to see that Nokia has not thrown in the towel and will get back into the ring once again. It’s good to keep things shaken up.

I hope it does well, and I wish the company the best.

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology

industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he’s been watching for 25 years. Email him at

jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/81387.html?rss=1

LinkedIn Faces More Litigation for Doing What its Contracts Say It Will Do

By Peter S. Vogel

11/17/14 7:17 AM PT

LinkedIn has been a wildly successful social media business site for many years. It provides a free platform for millions of members to share professional experiences and for businesses to promote themselves.

However, LinkedIn’s financial success also makes it a target for lawsuits — even suits that don’t seem to make much sense.

LinkedIn Sued for Making Employment History Available

LinkedIn

currently claims that it “operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 313 million members in over 200 countries and territories.”

Its members voluntarily post their employment history (whether true, embellished, or fabricated) as an online biography or resume. This information is available both to LinkedIn members and Internet users (depending on members’ LinkedIn settings).

A lawsuit was filed on Oct. 4, on behalf of a potential class in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claiming that LinkedIn violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The basis of the suit is that “any potential employer can anonymously dig into the employment history of any LinkedIn member, and make hiring and firing decisions based upon the information they gather, without the knowledge of the member, and without any safeguards in place as to the accuracy of the information that the potential employer has obtained.” In the case of

Tracee Sweet et al v. LinkedIn, the plaintiffs allege that LinkedIn does the following:

1) fails to comply with the certification and disclosure requirements mandated by the FCRA for credit reporting agencies who furnish consumer reports for employment purposes,

2) fails to maintain reasonable procedures to limit the furnishing of consumer reports for the purposes enumerated in the FCRA and to assure maximum possible accuracy of consumer report information, and

3) fails to provide to users of the reference reports the notices mandated by the FCRA.

Given LinkedIn’s business model of members voluntarily posting their own personal employment history, it is hard to believe that there are FCRA violations, so this will be an important case to follow. The next step is for the court to agree that the class should be created (certified) before the case proceeds, or dismiss the case.

Update on 2013 Lawsuit Over LinkedIn Harvesting Email

Perkins et al v. LinkedIn, filed on Sept. 17, 2013, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges the following:

LinkedIn intentionally and knowingly created and developed this deceptive advertising scheme to improperly use the names, photographs, likenesses, and identities of Plaintiffs for the purpose of generating substantial profits for LinkedIn.

LinkedIn harvests member email accounts of Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Mail and Google Gmail, …

When a new member signed up for LinkedIn, LinkedIn asked for that new user’s external email address. This request is made without any warning of what the email address will be used for.

Although some of the claims make no sense to me, in the lawsuit the plaintiffs allege that among other things LinkedIn “breaks into its user’s third party email accounts” and:

“When users sign up for LinkedIn they are required to provide an external email address as their username and to setup a new password for their Linkedln account. LinkedIn uses this information to hack into the user’s external email account and extract email addresses. If a LinkedIn user leaves an external email account open, LinkedIn pretends to be that user and downloads the email addresses contained anywhere in that account to Linkedln’s servers. Linkedln is able to download these addresses without requesting the password for the external email accounts or obtaining users’ consent.”

At the beginning of the lawsuit, LinkedIn filed motions to dismiss all claims brought by the plaintiffs. On June 12, Judge Lucy Koh granted two of LinkedIn’s motions to dismiss the lawsuit, since she did not believe that LinkedIn violated the Federal Wiretap Act, the 1986 Stored Communications Act (SCA) and California’s Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act (CDAF) (Section 502 of the California Penal Code).

The SCA restricts ISPs from disclosing information about it customers without their consent in civil matters, and the CDAF is a state law that restricts use of online data.

As generally occurs when motions to dismiss are granted, Judge Koh allowed the plaintiffs the opportunity to amend the lawsuit to fix deficiencies in the complaint, so just because the two claims were dismissed does not mean the issues are resolved.

Two claims that Judge Koh did not dismiss include the common law right of publicity, which “challenges LinkedIn’s use of users’ names in the endorsement emails” and the California’s Unfair Competition Law, which broadly prohibits “any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice.”

What’s Next?

There has been more action since the judge’s order in June. On Sept. 18, the plaintiffs revised their complaint, alleging violations of SCA and CDAF again; and on Oct. 13, LinkedIn filed its motion to dismiss the SCA and CDAF claims in the revised complaint, which is being considered by Judge Koh. So there are still a lot of moving parts, and this LinkedIn case is long from being over.

Given the widespread proliferation of personal data strewn about in social media, no doubt we will continue to see litigation challenging social media sites’ commercializations of user data.

E-Commerce Times columnist Peter S. Vogel is a partner at

Gardere Wynne Sewell, where he is Chair of the Internet, eCommerce & Technology Team. Peter tries lawsuits and negotiations contract dealing with IT and the Internet. Before practicing law, he was a mainframe programmer and received a Masters in computer science. His blog covers

IT and Internet topics. You can connect with him on

Google+.

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/81368.html?rss=1

How to Prepare for the Fourth Quarter Slaughter

So summer is over and the holidays are quickly approaching. How are you going to prepare for the busiest shopping season of the year? In the past, you and your staff see the holidays as one of the busiest times of the year. Each time finding out what you could have done different and how things for the next year can improve. With sales projected to be up 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion compared to last year, it is vital for companies to evaluate how to prepare for the upcoming season and take necessary steps to ensure a profitable fourth quarter.

Related: Surviving Fourth Quarter Madness — How to Handle the Year-End Sales Crunch

1. Prepare your promotion and marketing schedule in advance.

It is essential for businesses to prepare their promotion and marketing schedules in advance to ensure they do not miss key opportunities to sell. At the beginning of the year, come up with a marketing plan with specific dates and ideas. This will allow you and your staff to prepare key marketing materials with plenty of time for changes and revisions.

2.  Forecast demands and inventory.

Sometimes, it is difficult to predict sales with the economy constantly changing, but by using past sales analytics and doing some research, most businesses are able to project sales fairly accurately. Make sure to have your most popular products in full stock when the busy seasons come your way.

Related: The Holidays Are Coming: 4 Ways Startups Can Meet 

3. Get your staff ready.

The holidays can be a stressful time for all those working in the retail space, but you can lighten the load by preparing your staff for what is to come. Talk to them about what is expected, prepare them for sales, shipping, and fulfillment. Lastly, bring on extra helpers if the work load is just too much for your current staff to handle. This will ensure your customers and staff are taken care of which will ultimately produce more sales.

4.  Differentiate yourself.

The most important part of preparing for the busy season is differentiating yourself. Everyone is looking to get some big slice of sales pie but not everyone will be successful around the holidays. Make sure you stand out!

For instance, to prepare for Cyber Monday, we offer a huge sale on all our products, up to 50 percent off. When all the sales are done on Monday, we extend our promotion to Tuesday picking up all the late comer consumers. Hold off on sales in the month of November and hit your customers with promotions come December. After the holiday season is over, leave them alone: You do not want to become a nuisance. Ultimately be bold. Be different.

Related: 5 Ways to Winterize Your Business

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239697