Welcome to our News and Update wrap-up for December 2012.
Congratulations to all our customers on the great performance in 2012 - it was a record year across the board! Combined, SimplePart’s 37 customer websites generated almost 52,000 orders and sold more than $5.7m in parts. This more than doubles the $2.6m in parts sold online during 2011.
To set the stage for what to expect through January and February of 2013, I’ve included a graph below of what happened to 30-day rolling receipts for all our customer websites from late 2011 into early 2012. Using October 1st 2011 as a reference point, what you can see from this graph is that from October 2011 through middle-January 2012 sales dropped by roughly 20%. From middle-January through the end of February 2012, sales jumped to 10% higher than our starting point in October 2011.
Our expectations for 2013 are for a slow January and for increases in order volume to begin hitting in early February. Our forecasting suggests that our seasonal shifts are running a few weeks off of last year. Enjoy the slower pace for another few weeks, and start preparing for another record year in 2013.
We are delivering around 3,900,000 page requests per day, and serving solidly 1,100,000 monthly unique human visitors.
US Holiday Season
The AP is reporting that US holiday retail sales growth this year was the weakest seen since 2008, and they blame stormy weather and rising consumer uncertainty for it. Analysts had expected growth of 3 to 4 percent, and saw only 0.7% growth for the 2012 holiday season (this is a survey with a brick/mortar focus). The survey that AP cites tracks electronics, jewelry and clothing primarily and is representative of buying trends in general in the two months before Christmas.
Even so, online commerce for the first 60 days of the November/December holiday season (through December 23rd) was $38.7 billion – a 16% increase over the same period last year.
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Google’s “big” changes on December 13th
Many websites are reporting significant changes in traffic from Google starting on December 13th. In many cases, websites that were returning in 1st place have dropped completely off of the first page. In others, position changed and site-links started appearing – or disappeared entirely. This change by Google was unannounced, and is creating a bit of buzz in the SEO community. There may be some correlation between the websites affected and the influence of Partial Match Domains – domain names that have the search query in them – according to initial reports.
It does not appear that any of our websites were affected by this, but big players like Amazon, Yelp and Wikipedia were.
Dynamic Pricing and Customer Profiling
NPR/Marketplace published a fascinating piece on Amazon’s “dynamic pricing” algorithms. These tools change pricing on Amazon’s products based on day of week, time of day, and time of year – and even based on individual customer profiles. These automated tools watch competitor pricing, supply and customer behavior and in an automated fashion, nudge pricing up and down to take advantage of “pockets of opportunity.” To document this, NPR tracked the price of the same Star Wars Blu-ray DVD box set on Amazon.com over several months. From the article:
In October, the DVD set cost $100. The week before Black Friday, the price dropped to $70. On Black Friday, it jumped to $90, and then the day after Black Friday, it hit $134. Right after that, it fell to $84. That means you might have paid $64 more than someone else on Amazon.com for the same exact item, just because you purchased it on a different day.
For the past week, Amazon has been changing the price several times a day, from $70 to $84 and back.
For the past week, Amazon has been changing the price several times a day, from $70 to $84 and back.
Amazon is able to do this not just because of slick tech-tools, but also because of the information they are able to gather about each specific customer, and about trends for customer in general. This market data is a huge advantage to Amazon – and to anyone else (Google, etc) who is able to capture it. Consider what kind of information Google is able to capture with its “free” Google Analytics tools (which many webmasters use to track performance provide reporting on their websites) about what each lead from Google Search or AdWords is worth to you, their customer. This trend applies not just to B2C products and services, but to B2B products and services as well.
Realistically, Amazon isn’t far away from offering that Star Wars box set at a different price to you than they do to your neighbor, based on what they know about each of your shopping habits.
We’re beginning to see online tools offering businesses the ability to see who’s visiting their website, even if visitors complete no transaction – this information can include name, email, address and shopping profiles. They do this by combining information from a network of websites – give your information to one, and it’s available to all the other merchants that participate in the network. This kind of market intelligence is not just the domain of big players like Amazon.
Taking it one step further, this information is being used already to identify people across devices – that is, to tie your desktop at home, your smart phone and your computer at work together as You.
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Google using Gmail to track what you buy (and do)
Google has just launched a new feature which scans through the emails you send and receive with Gmail and looks for purchases, flight reservations, concert tickets, shipment tracking numbers, hotel bookings and more. It extracts detailed information about each of these things, and then stores it for analysis. They do this so that you can use Google Search to search for information about these items – Is my flight delayed? When will my package be delivered?
A helpful feature to be sure. It’s free to you to use, just like Gmail is.
But in doing so, you give something incredibly valuable to Google - see the above on dynamic pricing for just one example. Google now knows which websites you visit, which sports teams you follow, what you’ve bought, your home and office address, your telephone number, where you vacation, what music you like, how you travel, and if you have an Android phone, where you’re sitting right now as you read this email. If the websites you visit use Google Analytics, they also know how and where you shop (even if you don’t buy anything).
It is a brave new world. These changes in what market information is available affects you individually as a consumer of Google’s services, as a business paying Google for its services, and as a business relying on Google for the many services it provides for free.
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Locker DeliveryAmazon recently announced a “Lockers” delivery program for customers who don’t expect to be home when their package is to be delivered – or are worried about packages left on porches, and neighbors with sticky fingers. This program allows customers to have their packages delivered to a nearby locker (typically in an office supply store, drugstore, convenience store, etc), allowing them to retrieve their item at their leisure. Amazon’s program includes sites in Seattle, New York, Washington DC, Silicon Valley and London. What’s interesting is that Google bought a company called BufferBox in November which provides a similar service, suggesting that Google will shortly be jumping into the space as well. Now, rumors are that Overstock.com is looking to move into locker-delivery too.
It’s an interesting concept – certainly worth keeping an eye on.
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Tips for this Month
The impact of social media on online sales is already measurable and significant, and projected to grow even more significant during 2013. The short story is that social media does three things for you:
1. You’ll connect with customers, create a new marketing channel and generate some direct sales that you can link back directly to one of the social media websites.
2. You’ll give potential customers a venue to look up information about your business, outside of what you publish directly on your website. This increases customer confidence and indirectly boosts sales.
3. You’ll create social signals that will help search engines decide to show your website ahead of other competing websites. This will generate more traffic for your website and indirectly boost sales.
The places you need to be participating right now, today are Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. We have a team in place to help you create new accounts with these services, or link your existing accounts to your parts websites. Our team can also help you create content – or flat out create it for you if you’d like us to. Recent surveys have shown that 95% of tech consumers use at least one type of social media, and 44% of those surveyed said that social media influenced their decision on a purchase.
We can build and maintain a social media presence for you, turn-key. Just ask us for more information!
For additional reading on social media’s impacts, see below:
New Features Just Released
1. Live Chat released. You can now give your customers the option of chatting with you, rather than calling or emailing. Using Live Chat you have access to past orders, browsing history and detailed customer information. You can run Live Chat on many computers at once, and juggle many conversations at once. Ask us if you’d like to start using Live Chat.
2. Added category filtering by fitment for P2 websites.
3. Changes were made to the way credit card numbers are captured and stored for international orders to increase security.
4. Additional sitemap feeds generated for product/year variants.
5. Additional sitemap feeds generated for fitment variants of assembly pages.
6. Rel/Canonical rollout continues across websites to reduce the possibility of duplicate content penalties.
7. SpecialNote fields for Products are now shown on the Assembly page – this means that colors, sizing and additional details are more readily available on these pages.
8. The display order of Products on the Assembly page is now based on the numeric index, and not the description of the product.
9. Breadcrumb values for the SEO landing pages were refined and improved.
10. Through the Control Panel, you can now edit the landing page text for SEO landing pages.
11. Maintenance categories were added for Honda and Acura customers. These group common maintenance items together in one easy category. We’re rolling out Toyota and GM customers next, and will be continuing through the brands throughout January.