OPERATIONS

Aptaris names VP technology

BY Dan Berthiaume

Tampa, Fla. – Marketing enterprise management systems provider Aptaris has named Bill Morrell as VP technology. Morrell previously held IT executive positions at companies including BabyAge.com and Destination Maternity, as well as consulting roles with clients including Cadbury Adams, Nascar and DME.

“Bill is a technology strategist who understands the tremendous pressure and deadlines retailers face daily. He creates solutions that deliver efficiency and are keenly focused on making the retail merchandising and marketing process more simplified,” said Tom O’Reilly, CEO of Aptaris. “From optimizing vendor funding, campaign and deal management to building collaboration tools, Bill will be a solid addition to the Aptaris leadership team.”

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Survey: Top retailer sites too slow — and getting slower

BY Marianne Wilson

Mahwah, N.J. — The websites for the top 500 U.S. retailers are still too slow and continue to get slower – pages have slowed down 14% since summer 2013, and are 16% slower than fall 2012, according to a study by Radware.

Radware’s quarterly “State of the Union” report measures and tracks the performance and page composition of the top 500 U.S. retail websites (as ranked by analytics firm Alexa.com) over a two-day period with the purpose of gaining ongoing visibility into the real-world performance of leading Ecommerce sites.

Key findings from the “State of the Union: Ecommerce Page Speed & Web Performance, Fall 2013” include:

  • The trend toward bigger, slower pages continues. The median page took 8.56 seconds to load for first-time visitors, representing a 14% slowdown over the median of 7.48 seconds recorded three months ago (summer 2013).
  • The median page takes 5.3 seconds to become interactive. Sites have experienced a slowdown of 8% since summer 2013, when the median time to interact (TTI) was 4.9 seconds. Ideally, pages should be interactive in 3 seconds or less. (TTI is the point at which a page displays its primary interactive content (e.g., feature banners with functional call-to-action buttons.)
  • Three common design practices are failing users. Most sites made at least one of three critical mistakes in the design and presentation of their feature content: loading feature banners last; placing a call-to-action at the bottom of feature banners; and/or not implementing a call-to-action at all.
  • The adoption of performance best practices is inconsistent, even among leading sites. Among the top 100 sites, adoption of some best practices is nearing the saturation point, whereas others remain neglected.
  • Browser vendors are not keeping pace with page demands. Across all three major browsers, performance is trending downward as browser vendors struggle to keep pace with the demands of today’s large, complex, dynamic web pages.

“In just the last few years, web page speed has migrated from the fringe to center stage, emerging as not just a technology trend, but a hot-button business issue,” said Tammy Everts, web performance evangelist, Radware. “Numerous studies have found an irrefutable connection between load times and key performance indicators, such as conversion rates and revenue increases. Site owners need to understand that optimizing performance is much more nuanced than just pushing out faster pages to customers: It’s about understanding what users want from every page of your site, then fine-tuning those pages to ensure that critical content loads first instead of last. A site owner who neglects core-performance best practices is missing out on significant opportunities to make relatively easy performance gains.”

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Wal-Mart CEO details progress on key strategies at annual investor meeting

BY Marianne Wilson

Rogers, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores is focused on near-term execution to grow its same-store U.S. sales, improve returns in Walmart International and leverage expenses for the full year, company president and CEO Mike Duke said Tuesday at the company’s 20th annual meeting for the investment community.

Acknowledging the challenging retail environment, Duke said: “We’re in a tough and unpredictable global economy. The competition is also tough. And the holidays are right around the corner — raising the stakes even further on serving customers and delivering on performance. All of this is to say that near-term execution is critical for us.”

Duke said that shoppers will see “fantastic new merchandise, aggressive investments in price through lots of rollbacks and better in-stock levels” in Walmart stores.

“We’re focusing on execution to deliver results,” he noted.

Duke said the company is much more streamlined in how it makes real estate decisions and invests capital. He highlighted the stronger performance of new stores and progress in bringing down the cost to build, expand and remodel stores, and also touted the progress that the company has made in e-commerce over the past year.

“The biggest opportunity we have is winning the intersection between physical and digital retail around the world,” Duke said. We’ve never been more connected across the company on e-commerce, and our results demonstrate this.”

In the first half of the year, Walmart’s e-commerce sales grew 30% globally, including a strong performance at Yihaodian in China.

Duke said that progress was made last year on a company-wide goal he set two years ago to reduce operating expenses as a percentage of sales by at least 100 basis points over five years, and that the company is committed to delivering leverage again for the current fiscal year.

Highlighting the long-term areas where the company is making progress, Duke said investments in leverage initiatives are paying off around the world. For example, the U.S. logistics team is reducing shipping costs and increasing transportation efficiency, a single process initiative is generating significant savings in labor productivity in China, and the company has migrated all but one market in Latin America to its Costa Rican Shared Services Center.

Duke also said that he was very pleased with the work Wal-Mart has done to make a difference on big global issues.

“We’ve only accelerated in the past year — with our commitments on renewable energy, to reduce certain chemicals in products and to help revitalize manufacturing in the U.S,” said Duke.

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