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CWS News January 2008 - Aabaco (Yahoo!) Store Blog by Colorado Web Solutions

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Yahoo! Pro-Forma Update and Colorado Web Solutions

Posted on January 25th, 2008 by Colorado Web Solutions - Yahoo Store Developers and Designers

Yahoo has recently made an update to their form submission security by changing the built-in Pro-Forma submission scripts.

We wanted to let all of our clients know that this change should not effect any of you. At Colorado Web Solutions, we opt to use PHP for all of our form submissions vs. the Yahoo CGI scripts so this should not effect you at all.  If for any reason you have experienced any issues with any forms on your site, please let your project manager know immediately and we’ll take a look.

For Reference, here is a copy of the email that went out to some merchants regarding this issue:

Dear Yahoo! Merchant Solutions customer,

In an effort to improve security, we will be upgrading the pro-forma

script (form submission) functionality. Your site has been identified

as one using this functionality—-merchants typically use this for

newsletter signups, “contact us” forms, or price-quote requests.

The pro-forma script security changes will ensure form submissions

are properly associated with a store ID and that all email recipients

of form submissions are approved. Once the changes are in place, your

site will be automatically protected. However, you must take immediate

action to use the new approved format for the pro-forma functionality.

Otherwise, you may not receive submissions using the old format.




* New URL for form submissions.

The following change will be required within your form tags sent to

this script:

<form method=”post” action=”http://<accountname>”>

where “accountname” is your store ID. You will need to confirm this

revised tag is used for each form sent to this script on your site.

After updating the URL for form submissions, you will need to publish

your site.

* Approved email recipients.

Previously, any names listed within the form as values for owner

received the email:

<input type=hidden name=”owner” value=””>

With this update, merchants must now enter the list of approved form

submission recipients in the “Email To” field of the Form Submissions

section in the Order Emails page (or the Fax & Email page for Merchant

Solutions Standard and Professional merchants). Email addresses should

be entered one per line. If you have a form that uses an email address

not specified in the “Email To” field, that form submission will not

be delivered.

* Thank-you URL and Continue-URL under your store domain.\

Previously, merchants could specify any URL to take shoppers to for

the confirmation page (thankyou-URL) or after leaving the confirmation

page (continue-URL):

<input type=hidden name=”continue-url” value=””>

Now merchants will need to specify a page within their store domain to

send shoppers to.

<input type=hidden name=”continue-url” value=””>




If you have active forms on your site but are not receiving form

submissions, then you likely have not made all of the required changes.

* Confirm your form is submitting to the new URL:

<form method=”post” action=”http://<accountname>”>

and that you are using the correct account name.

* Ensure that any email address listed in your forms also appears in the

“Email To” field on the Order Emails page (Fax & Email for Standard and

Professional accounts). You should receive emails of the form

submissions to the owner addresses specified in your form, provided you

are submitting the form to the new URL and have specified all email


* Ensure your shoppers are being directed to a confirmation page under

your domain after submitting the form and after continuing from the

confirmation page.

For full details about the newly revised pro-forma functionality, please

refer to our help documentation.

We regret any inconvenience these changes may cause you, but we are

pleased to bring you a more secure Yahoo! Store environment.

Best regards,

The Yahoo! Small Business team

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Amazon’s take On Customers: Take Notes

Posted on January 23rd, 2008 by Colorado Web Solutions - Yahoo Store Developers and Designers

I was reading one of my favorite blogs today (Signal vs. Noise) and came across an article that I felt very strongly about. It was an interpretation of an article found in the New York Times about Amazon and their commitment to customer service.

I myself am a BIG fan of Amazon. I’m a member of Amazon Prime, so everything I order (if it’s sold directly from Amazon) gets shipped to me via Second Day Air at No Charge. I think this is about as close to “instant gratification” as you can get as an online merchant.

The point of this article hoever, was not about their shipping rates, it was about their commitment to customer service, which I think is something that ALL merchants should take note of. I’ve already written about this before, but I feel very strongly that this should be the number one focus for all online merchants and thus, deserves another spot on our blog.

If you’d like to read the post on the Signal vs. Noise blog, you can find it here.

To read the article from the New York Times, you can click here.

Here’s the article from the guys over at Signal vs. Noise.

Put Buyers First? What a Concept describes the way Amazon bailed out a reporter after he realized his son’s PlayStation gift had been stolen after being signed for.

The Amazon customer service guy didn’t blink. After assuring himself that I had never actually touched or seen the PlayStation, he had a replacement on the way before the day was out. It arrived on Christmas Eve. Amazon didn’t even charge me for the shipping. My son was very happy. So, of course, was I.

The article goes on to discuss how taking care of customers can be the best way to build a lasting business, even if it comes at the expense of short-term results.

But I couldn’t help wondering if maybe there wasn’t something else at play here, something Wall Street never seems to take very seriously. Maybe, just maybe, taking care of customers is something worth doing when you are trying to create a lasting company. Maybe, in fact, it’s the best way to build a real business — even if it comes at the expense of short-term results.

It is almost impossible to read or see an interview with Mr. Bezos in which he doesn’t, at some point, begin to wax on about what he likes to call “the customer experience.” Just a few months ago, for instance, he appeared on Charlie Rose’s talk show to tout Amazon’s new e-book device, the Kindle. Toward the end of the program, Mr. Rose asked the chief executive an open-ended question about how he spent his time, and Mr. Bezos responded with a soliloquy about his “obsession” with customers.

“They care about having the lowest prices, having vast selection, so they have choice, and getting the products to customers fast,” he said. “And the reason I’m so obsessed with these drivers of the customer experience is that I believe that the success we have had over the past 12 years has been driven exclusively by that customer experience. We are not great advertisers. So we start with customers, figure out what they want, and figure out how to get it to them.”

Anybody who has spent any time around Mr. Bezos knows that this is not just some line he throws out for public consumption. It has been the guiding principle behind Amazon since it began. “Jeff has been focused on the customer since Day 1,” said Suresh Kotha, a management professor at the University of Washington business school who has written several case studies about Amazon. Mr. Miller noted that Amazon has really had only one stated goal since it began: to be the most customer-centric company in the world.

According to the article, Bezos’ obsession with customers has paid off too…

But Mr. Bezos refused to give in. “He was spending his time on long-term value creation,” Mr. Miller said. There aren’t many chief executives who can so easily ignore the entreaties of the investment community, but Mr. Bezos turned out to be one of them. Of course it helps that he owns over 100 million shares of the stock — and is the company’s single largest shareholder…

There is simply no question that Mr. Bezos’s obsession with his customers — and the long term — has paid off, even if he had to take some hits to the stock price along the way. Surely, it was worth it. As for me, the $500 favor the company did for me this Christmas will surely rebound in additional business down the line. Why would I ever shop anywhere else online? Then again, there may be another reason good customer service makes sense. “Jeff used to say that if you did something good for one customer, they would tell 100 customers,” Mr. Kotha said.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in 37signals.

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CWS Client featured by Yahoo!

Posted on January 18th, 2008 by Colorado Web Solutions - Yahoo Store Developers and Designers

Colorado Web Solutions is proud to announce that one of our clients, was selected to be featured by Yahoo! Store as one of their case studies. Take a visit to their site, it’s one of the examples of what Colorado Web Solutions can do to take your Yahoo! Store to a whole new level!

Congratulations Karen and the rest of the team!


Karen McMasters learned a lot of lessons as she turned her modest hobby into a multimillion-dollar store, including how not to run a business. Here she explains her strategies for success: Love what you do — and just get started.

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Find your Focus and Run with It

Posted on January 17th, 2008 by Colorado Web Solutions - Yahoo Store Developers and Designers

I just read a very good article today that was in BetaNews. Typically their blog is full of news about upcoming sites, new technologies, etc, but today I found an article that really hit the nail on the head for our clients (and ANY retailer). The article is about focusing on YOUR site and YOUR customers rather than going after other competing sites and being “better than they are.” We try to take this approach at Colorado Web Solutions as well. We certainly keep an eye on our competitors, but for the most part, we try to be the best company that we can be. We try to offer our customers the best service, the best technology and the best innovation available with Yahoo! Stores. With that in mind, here’s the article I read today in full.

Analyst: Retail Web sites should focus on customers, not competition
By Jacqueline Emigh, BetaNews
January 16, 2008, 1:57 PMToo often, retailers’ Web sites don’t work right, if at all…and they keep chasing after new customers instead of trying to retain their current ones. Are some big online retailers focusing too much on the competition at the expense of their own evolution?

NEW YORK CITY (BetaNews) – With retail Web sites that are too glitchy and search engines that don’t always turn up the right stuff, a lot of retailers trying to sell online are still missing the boat with consumers, according to an analyst at Forrester Research.

During a conference session at this week’s National Retail Federation (NRF) show in New York City, Forrester’s Sucharita Mulpuru also pinpointed some big problems with Web site availability and on-time delivery of goods ordered online.

People who do try to buy online tend to move back and forth between competing Web sites, according to Mulpuru.

“Sixty-eight percent of shoppers have also shopped at Forty-five percent of shoppers have also shopped at [],” she said. “Thirty-four percent of shoppers have also shopped at”

Yet some Web sites are growing obsessed with beating the competition, when they should be obsessing instead over meeting the needs of customers, the analyst said.

In a big room at the Javits Center packed with retail managers from throughout the US, Mulpuru pointed to sales depicting overall growth of e-commerce from $76 billion to $220 billion from 2002 to 2006.

But still, year-over-year growth has slowed from 51% between 2002 and 2003 to 25% — or a level less than twice as high — between 2005 and 2006, according to Forrester’s numbers.

In surveys conducted by Forrester, consumers are still giving much higher customer satisfaction ratings to “going to a retail store” than to either “using a Web site” or attempting to do business through a self-service kiosk.

In a 2007 study by Forrester, more than 25% of Web shoppers said they’d experienced problems with online buying during the 2006 holiday season, with 17% complaining about shipping delays, 15% about out-of-stock or back-ordered merchandise, and 12% about “sluggish performance” of Web sites.

Meanwhile, some Web sites are paying too much attention to adding advanced technologies such as podcasts and streaming video when they “still haven’t even nailed down the basics,” the analyst said.

Even eBay’s could be much easier to navigate, according to Mulpuru, who is a senior analyst at Forrester for the retail market.

But retail Web sites vary considerably in terms of availability as well as other factors, Mulpuru said.

The analyst gave numbers from Internet monitoring firm Gomez, Inc. showing an average unavailability rate of about 2% across the top 25 Internet retailer Web sites — an average rate which is fairly consistent across the year.

Yet also according to Gomez’ statistics, some major retail sites are down much more often than that, especially during periods of peak demand.

From October of 2006 to June of 2007, the “least available” of these sites was unavailable almost 12% of the time for stints during the key holiday shopping time of December, as well as in February and March.

Meanwhile, in a survey done by Forrester among online retailers, 51% said they’re focusing mostly on customer acquisition, 24% on customer retention, 18% on driving sales to “other channels” such as brick-and-mortar stores, and 11% simply on brand recognition.

Mulpuru suggested, though, that maybe some of these retailers should concentrate more on keeping those customers they already have — because right now, half of all online shoppers are responsible for two-thirds of the money spent at Web sites.

Also, the time is right for major store chains to stop “siloing” their online sales, she said, and to start integrating their Web divisions more closely with the operations of brick-and-mortar stores, on both the technology and sales and marketing sides.

Although Web sites are currently “cannibalizing” sales in stores, many untapped opportunities are still out there for retailers to leverage “cross-channel initiatives” involving the use of Web sites and stores to push sales back and forth between them.

For instance, some retailers use e-mail for delivering coupons that can be applied either online or at a store cash register. And many consumers use the Web to research products before going into stores to purchase products.

Beyond improving Web site performance and usability, Mulpuru also recommended the use of other tools for raising the satisfaction levels of online customers. For example, almost 82% of retail sites are using site analytics, only 59% are carrying out online surveys with customers.

Another 46% do online usability testing, but merely 23% conduct online focus groups, according to a report from Forrester called “The State of Retailing Online.”

Mulpuru gave particularly high marks to some Web sites — such as and — for being proactive on the subject of online customer satisfaction.

But to illustrate how other Web sites are concentrating too much on their competitors rather than their customers, she cited another study by Forrester, conducted among e-business management-professionals, in which 83% said they agreed with the statement, “We look outside our company for illustrations of best practices.”

Another 73% agreed that, “We gather whatever competitive intelligence we can to guide our business.”

In terms of cross-channel initiatives, although they are widely regarded among many retailers as the wave of the future, carrying them out can be a lot more difficult than it might sound, as one veteran retail manager attending the conference in Manhattan told BetaNews.

Beyond coordinating sales and marketing efforts between different company divisions — often with very different cultures and outlooks — many traditional retailers also need to roll out better integration between computer systems used for corporate, in-store, and Web purposes, he said.

The retailer told us that, during times when the economy is shaky, it can be especially tough to convince corporate management to allocate the needed funds.

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