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sábado, 31 de dezembro de 2011

2011′s Biggest Winners and Losers in Ecommerce

2011′s Biggest Winners and Losers in Ecommerce
Erica Swallo

In-demand prod­ucts, unpar­al­leled site design and usabil­i­ty, com­pet­i­tive search engine mar­ket­ing, con­tin­u­ous inno­v­a­tive, excit­ing hol­i­day spe­cials — these are just some of the vari­ables that make up a suc­cess­ful ecom­merce busi­ness.

On the other hand, some of the top pit­falls for Inter­net retail­ers include lousy ser­vice, unin­ven­tive prod­ucts, con­fus­ing cor­po­rate mes­sag­ing and inef­fec­tive adver­tis­ing.

We’ve seen a lit­tle bit of every­thing in 2011. As the year wraps up, it’s the per­fect time to recount the ecom­merce wins and fails of 2011. Some strong hous­es con­tin­ue to dom­i­nate this year, while pre­vi­ous­ly laud­ed com­pa­nies fell a bit from grace (cough, Net­flix).

Let’s take a look at the win­ners and losers in online com­merce for 2011.

1. Win­ner: Ama­zon
As the world’s largest online retail­er, Ama­zon has been mak­ing great strides for years, and 2011 was a fun year to watch the com­pa­ny do its thing.

First and fore­most, Ama­zon released a refreshed line of Kin­dle prod­ucts, includ­ing the Kin­dle, Kin­dle Touch, Kin­dle Touch 3G and Kin­dle Fire tablets. Kin­dle devices con­tin­ued to fly off the shelves all year — the com­pa­ny announced last week that it was sell­ing “well over 1 mil­lion Kin­dle devices per week,” out­pac­ing the launch of the orig­i­nal iPad in early 2010.

Though it has been met with crit­i­cism (and a soft­ware update to appease frus­trat­ed cus­tomers), Ama­zon’s Kin­dle Fire tablet is the retail­er’s best­selling item ever, hav­ing only launched three months ago.

It’s not just the devices that are mak­ing waves in the mar­ket. Kin­dle books are a big deal for the com­pa­ny too. As of April, Kin­dle elec­tron­ic books began out­selling phys­i­cal books on Ama­zon. For every 100 print books Ama­zon has sold, it has sold 105 Kin­dle books.

Ama­zon also cel­e­brat­ed a num­ber of other mile­stones this year, includ­ing the intro­duc­tion of Ama­zon Deals, Cloud Play­er, the Android App Store,, the ad-supported Kin­dle 3G and the Mac Down­loads Store, along with the acqui­si­tions of The Book Depos­i­to­ry and LOVE­FiLM.

2. Loser: Barnes & Noble
With the weight of its brick-and-mortar stores, Barnes & Noble looks like it’s fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle.

This year, its ecom­merce site per­formed tremen­dous­ly well. The Nook eread­er drove dig­i­tal sales. But the web­site’s increas­ing sales are no match for the total decline in rev­enue the com­pa­ny is fac­ing.

Barnes and Noble’s Novem­ber launch of the Nook tablet, the suc­ces­sor to the Nook Color, was a pos­i­tive event for the com­pa­ny — the device received cel­e­bra­to­ry reviews and online buzz.

But one can’t over­look the fact that and the house of Nook are severe­ly imped­ed by the retail stores’ extreme loss­es. Although I’d like to declare Barnes and Noble a win­ner this year for its feats in the tablet and eread­er mar­kets, I just can’t bring myself to reward medi­oc­rity.

3. Win­ner: Apple
Apple intro­duced the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S this year, bask­ing in the glory of a full-fledged hype mill at each launch.

The iPad 2 helped drive sales of the iPad to 40 mil­lion units, since the orig­i­nal was intro­duced.

While the world would have pre­ferred to see the iPhone 5, the iPhone 4S was received well, with record week­end sales of 4 mil­lion devices. Thanks to the iPhone 4S release, the com­pa­ny is on its way to sell­ing a record num­ber of iPhones this quar­ter.

Apple also set a new record for Mac sales in Q4 of 2011, hav­ing sold 4.89 mil­lion units.

4. Loser: HP
What is up over at HP? I can’t even begin to explain all of the hor­ri­ble prob­lems that com­pa­ny is fac­ing.

It holds top mar­ket share in the PC mar­ket, with Dell and Apple fol­low­ing suit, yet it has no idea where it’s going. To WebOS or not to WebOS? Fur­ther­more, to PC or not to PC? Those were the ques­tions Meg Whit­man final­ly helped the com­pa­ny answer after tak­ing over for con­fused HP CEO Leo Apothek­er.

After the failed HP Touch­Pad launch, the com­pa­ny is now out of the tablet busi­ness, but hopes to be back in the game by 2013. I’m sorry, that’s just sad.

5. Win­ner: Wal­mart
In August, Mash­able‘s Christi­na War­ren declared Wal­mart’s recent­ly pur­chased online movie ser­vice Vudu a “bonafide hit.” For the first half of 2011, Vudu had 5.3% of the U.S. mar­ket, putting it in third place after behe­moth iTunes and Microsoft’s Zune Video Mar­ket­place. Vudu even eclipsed Sony PlaySta­tion Store and Ama­zon.

Although it shut down its seven-year-old MP3 music store, Vudu, along with a few other Inter­net wins, places it on my win­ning list.

The retail giant is try­ing its hand at Face­book giv­ing this hol­i­day sea­son, divvy­ing up $1.5 mil­lion of hol­i­day grants via the world’s largest social net­work with its 12 Days of Giv­ing cam­paign.

And speak­ing of social media, Wal­mart’s social media strat­e­gy is top-notch when com­pared to other large retail­ers. It pro­vides on-message, utility-focused videos on YouTube and show­cas­es a team of 15 spe­cial­ized tweet­ers via its Twit­ter chan­nel.

Admit­ted­ly, I’m not a huge fan of Wal­mart’s ani­mat­ed Frank the Fruit­cake Face­book spam, but its social strat­e­gy is going in the right direc­tion oth­er­wise.

And while we all love to dote on Ama­zon, Wal­mart is still the largest retail­er in the world by a long shot, if you count offline busi­ness; and it ranks in the top 10 for online retail.

Wal­mart still needs to work on diver­si­fy­ing its online audi­ence, though — a recent com­Score report illus­trat­ed that 83.4% of’s vis­i­tors came from North Amer­i­ca in June.

6. Loser: Net­flix
Much of 2011 went quite well for Net­flix, but all hell broke loose after the com­pa­ny imple­ment­ed its 60% price hike in Sep­tem­ber. Short­ly there­after, CEO Reed Hast­ings apol­o­gized and announced that the com­pa­ny would be split­ting its stream­ing video and DVD busi­ness, rebrand­ing the DVD-by-mail ser­vice as Qwik­ster. Of course, Qwik­ster sound­ed like a stu­pid idea to every­one in the com­mu­ni­ty, so that idea was qwik­ly aban­doned in Octo­ber.

As a result of all of the mad­ness and con­fu­sion, the com­pa­ny’s stock plum­met­ed and the com­pa­ny dis­closed a loss of 805,000 sub­scribers in the third quar­ter.

Hope­ful­ly for Net­flix this huge snafu will be for­got­ten in the new year — but that’s unlike­ly.

7. Win­ner: Gilt Groupe
Although it was only found­ed in 2007 and focus­es sole­ly on ecom­merce, Gilt Groupe ranks in the top 50 Inter­net retail­ers, beat­ing out house­hold names like J. Crew, Scholas­tic, Crate and Bar­rel and Amer­i­can Eagle Out­fit­ters.

Gilt Groupe has even bro­ken the record for high­est gross­ing rev­enue in Sil­i­con Alley his­to­ry.

This year has seen announce­ment after announce­ment from Gilt, show­cas­ing the com­pa­ny’s abil­i­ty to inno­v­a­tive quick­ly and to build upon its pio­neer­ing flash sale site model.

In May, Gilt raised $138 mil­lion in a round of fund­ing, bring­ing it to a total of $240 mil­lion to date.

From there, it intro­duced its online culi­nary mag­a­zine Gilt Taste, an exclu­sive Face­book com­merce offer­ing and the relaunch of Gilt Home.

In Novem­ber, Gilt Groupe began ship­ping to more than 90 addi­tion­al coun­tries (beyond its U.S. and Japan­ese oper­a­tions), mak­ing it more glob­al than ever.

Gilt also intro­duced its full-price men’s retail site, Park & Bond, in 2011, though per­for­mance is yet to be deter­mined.

8. Loser: Sony
This year was dif­fi­cult for elec­tron­ics and enter­tain­ment giant Sony. The com­pa­ny is fore­cast­ing a $1.1 bil­lion full-year loss, which would make its fourth straight annu­al net loss. So, what’s going on?

For starters, the strength­en­ing yen, the unfor­tu­nate and lengthy PlaySta­tion Net­work hack­ing affair, and declin­ing LCD TV sales put the com­pa­ny in a bad place. Besides these more pre­dictable prob­lems, Sony also faced two nat­ur­al dis­as­ters that hit its busi­ness badly, includ­ing floods in Thai­land and the Japan­ese earth­quake.

Sony, like its com­peti­tors, is fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties adjust­ing to the ever-changing con­sumer elec­tron­ics sec­tor, and this year counts as anoth­er addi­tion to its los­ing streak.

Your Thoughts
This post out­lines some of the most buzzed about ecom­merce sto­ries of 2011. I could get into the nitty grit­ty of other com­pa­nies — after all, there are hun­dreds of other Inter­net retail­ers out there in the green and red. But I’d rather get your thoughts on the indus­try.

Let me know your thoughts about this year’s biggest ecom­merce win­ners and losers in the com­ments below.

Images cour­tesy of iStock­pho­to, desi­fo­to, Flickr, Noe­las, Wal­mart Stores

More About: ama­zon, apple, ecom­merce, fea­tures, gilt groupe, HP, Kin­dle, net­flix, nook, Opin­ion, sony, Year End 2011

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