Monday, December 31, 2012

This blog is now replicated on

Thanks to the technical acumen of my beautiful wife, the content of this blog is now fully reproduced on the domain  Thanks, sweetie.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tim Callan interviewed at Search Engine Strategies

At the recent Search Engine Strategies show in San Francisco, I was interviewed about in-store analytics and RetailNext for the Search Engine Strategies YouTube channel.  Check it out.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Today I'm quoted in Time Magazine

If you thought I had fallen off the face of the earth, there is documentary evidence that I have not - in the form of my appearance today as a quoted source in a Time Magazine article on Big Data and retail shopping.  The article reads in part,
In the era of Big Data, it’s those physical stores that seemed destined to be left out in the cold. But the vast majority of purchases – somewhere around 90% — still occur in a traditional retail setting. And brick and mortar retailers are looking towards big data to help them stay relevant.

One company that hopes to give traditional retailers the kind of analytic tools available to ecommerce firms is RetailNext. The firm has developed a computer program that uses a store’s security cameras to give managers all kinds of information about how consumers interact with the store. Using this program, RetailNext can show exactly how many customers are in a given store at a time, which parts of the store they explore, which specific items customers spend a lot of time perusing — and which they do not. RetailNext can combine this information with other variables like staffing levels, weather, product assortment and placement to determine what does and doesn’t boost sales. Luxury retailer Montblanc has used RetailNext’s services to improve its staffing levels and its product arrangement within its stores, increasing same-store sales 20% in the process. Retailers like American Apparel and Family Dollar have also successfully utilized RetailNext’s services to improve the layout of their stores and increase same-store sales.

In fact, it’s possible that traditional retailers could one day have a better understanding of their customers than ecommerce firms do. That’s at least what Tim Callan, Chief Marketing Officer at RetailNext, argues. He says that for customers in physical stores the “decision making capability is infinite, while there are only so many things they can do online.” In other words, given the right tools, a retailer can glean much more about a shopper from watching her peruse a traditional retail aisle than he can watching her click through links on a webpage. His firm is working on computer programs that can accurately distinguish — through video cameras — whether a shopper is male or female, and believes in the future this sort of technology could interpret customers’ facial expressions and other gestures that will help retailers understand why someone did or did not buy a certain product.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ICANN's gTLD application system back on line

Yesterday ICANN put its gTLD application portal back up, after taking it down on April 12 due to a security hole.  The system reportedly already holds 2091 applications with an additional 214 registered applicants that haven't submitted anything yet.

I'm guessing that we'll see "unveiling day," when ICANN publishes the list of who applied for what strings, about a month from today.  That will be a super interesting moment in the internet's history, and I for one will be glued to my monitor while I check out who applied for what.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tim Callan invited article on Big Data in ZDNet

Last week I presented an invited article on ZDNet's Big on Data blog by Andrew Brust.  As a cool tidbit, the say it went live if you searched Google News on the phrase "big data," it was the first result.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tim Callan article in LP Magazine

Dig my new invited article in LP Magazine.  The article discussed how stores can combine Loss Prevention (thus the LP acronym) and in-store analytics into a single system to drive increased profitability.  And if you hurry up you can see my smiling face on the magazine's home page.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two weeks for seals to propogate

Here's a LinkedIn reply from my friend Irvin West, who is a Symantec sales professional:

The seal rollout will be phased over a period of 2 weeks and be completed on April 30th. It requires no action on the part of existing merchants. During this rollout phase, we are gradually transitioning to the new seal globally. During the transition phase, end consumers may experience seeing either the existing VeriSign seal or the new Secured by Norton seal. This is expected behavior, and by April 30th all seal displays will have transitioned to the new format.

I get that, and maybe it's a subtlety, but I'm surprised that accessing the same site from two different systems in the same household would exhibit that behavior.  I understand that things cache, but I would think that clearing my cache in the browser would take care of that, even though there is Javascript and possibly Flash involved.

Nonetheless, I'm sure it's just a matter of time until they're all switched over.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Norton Secured Seals spotted in the wild

As you know, the VeriSign Secured Seal is scheduled to change to the Norton Secured Seal this month.  Well, it seems to have happened, at least partially.  On my wife's Macintosh, we see the Norton seal:

While on both my PCs we see the VeriSign seal:

They both have the Norton-branded verification page:

I'm not sure exactly how long it takes the seal to propogate.  I cleared my browser cache and still got the VeriSign version, but that may have to do with caching further upstream.  Or maybe Symantec is sniffing browser versions and has rolled it out the Mac first.  Kind of a phased approach.

Anyway, it's just a matter of time before the more than 100,000 web sites displaying the seal are sporting the second, yellow version in place of the original red one.  I'll let you know when I can get a Norton seal on my PC.

ICANN's gTLD application process disrupted

Regular readers will know that I've been following with interest the coming addition of many new gTLDs in the next year or so.  It represents the biggest change in internet naming since the world wide web became popular, and it means big changes for how companies market themselves and interact with customers and other interested parties online.  The implications may be far reaching, affecting branding, SEO, landing page optimization, security, and new applications, among other things.

A few weeks ago ICANN announced that it had more than 800 individual applicant organizations registered, and everything appeared from the outside to be on track.

Well, on track everything was not.  On April 12, the last day for applications to be turned in, ICANN took the application system off line because of security vulnerabilities that made it possible for some applicants to see file names and potentially other details of others' applications.  Original expectations were for a delay of a week or so.

The latest news is very different.  ICANN has announced that it may take until at late as April 27 just to declare when the application system will go back on line.  While it may be that someone is working on categorizing the existing applications, I still have to suspect that the original May target for announcing which applications had been submitted and what they said is no longer valid.  And of course, that means the window for contesting applications and all of the steps in the process that flow out from that are likely to be delayed as well.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April is the last month for the VeriSign Secured Seal

Well, this is it.  According to Symantec, April 2012 is the last month for the VeriSign Secured Seal as we know it.  At some date this month, we're told, they'll all be changing over to the new Norton Secured Seal.  This change follows the systematic adoption of the VeriSign check mark by Symantec as a fundamental brand asset, as you can see in the upper left corner of the company's home page.

Let us now minimize the impact of this change.  The VeriSign Secured Seal is displayed on more than 100,000 web sites in 160 countries and has been viewed upwards of 750 million times a day, for an estimated total number of impressions in excess of 400 billion.  That's staggering.  Still to this day when I tell people I used to work for VeriSign, they say, "Oh, you mean that little red check mark on the web sites?"

Well, that little red check mark is going away.  Now it will be a little yellow check mark, and it won't say VeriSign, it will say Norton.  I'll be very interested to watch this transition, and I'll keep you updated on what happens.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

839 registered applicants for new gTLDs

As I've written about in the past, the world of internet naming is about to go through a massive shift with ICANN's decision to take open applications for new gTLDs.  We just passed a milestone, which was the March 29 deadline to register as a new gTLD applicant.

ICANN has announced that it now has 839 registered applicants.  That implies that the actual number of applications will be something more than that.  While it's possible to register as an applicant and not submit an application, it seems like an unlikely scenario.  Based on that my estimation is that there will be more than 1000 applications at the end of the day.

The last day to submit an application is April 12, so I imagine some people are in scramble mode right now.  Last I heard ICANN was planning on announcing the number of applications and publishing the public-facing portion of those applications some time in May, with the date to be determined.  I'll be watching for that number and those applications, and I'll let you know what I find out.

Friday, April 6, 2012

An anecdote about the right and wrong ways to evaluate marketing programs

At one stage in my career I was in charge of marketing for several significant business lines at the company I worked for.  These business lines had their own distinct budgets, marketing teams, and sales teams.  This anecdote involves one of these business lines specifically, so from here on out I'll focus just on that effort.

I had a pretty crafty marcomm manager in that business line, and somewhere along the line she wanted to explore an outsourced contact discovery and meeting generation service.  How it worked was we gave a list of target companies to this firm, which would use a combination of public information, its own proprietary database, and good old fashioned cold calling to penetrate these organizations, find the correct, empowered decision maker, and set up a meeting with the outside sales person.  From there it's up to the sales rep to make things happen.

We all agreed to trial this program and then go back in a few months and look at the results.  In three months we spent a little over $100,000 to generate maybe one hundred of these meetings in total, spread across a dozen or so outside sales reps.  Two of these meetings led directly to revenue; one brought in a little over $100,000, and the other brought in about $400,000.  That's half a million dollars in revenue on $100,000 in spend, or a 500% simple marketing ROI.  Any direct marketer will continue working that program year in and year out, and certainly by our standards it was the most effective marketing spend that business had ever seen.

Shortly after this milestone moment the company went through a reorg, and this particular business got split out completely on its own under its own GM.  I stayed with the main business and therefore gave up control of those marketing decisions.  Not long after this reorg, the original, smart marcomm manager who came up with the program in the first place told me that the new GM had killed the program.

Why did he do that?  It turns out that he went to the outside sales team and asked them if the program was working.  Two of them thought it was great.  After all, they'd brought in six figure deals on the program.  The other ten hadn't brought in anything, so they all said it was a zero.  The GM came away and said, "Well, the sales team has spoken, and clearly this program is a dud."  And so he discontinued the single most effective marketing program in the history of that business.

The moral of this story is that you have to understand what information you're using to evaluate marketing programs and what that information tells you.  Certainly it's a good idea to get the sales team's feedback on what you're doing, and lots of great knowledge is available that way.  But in this case a different, better perspective was available.  The marketing team had actually traced revenue back to spend and knew factually what the ROI was.  Failure to use that information led to the wrong decision.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On the difference between data and knowledge

I recently wrote this comment in a RetailWire discussion on the use of Big Data in brick-and-mortar retailers (I warned you that this material would start making its way into my blog):
There's a big difference between data and knowledge. Data are necessary to take store management out of the realm of guesswork and into that of true, fact-based decision making. But data points on their own are highly difficult to work with, especially when we're talking about the complex, nuanced environments we're seeking to optimize.
Our customers at RetailNext have achieved great success by using a solution that takes the huge quantity of data available and converts them into views and reports that yield actionable insight. Our solution measures more than 9000 individual data points on the average store visit. Nobody wants to examine 9000 data points per visit. Instead they want to see correlations, comparisons, and models that help them understand the true behavior in the store. They want to see heat maps of traffic and how those maps change over time. They want to see the cyclicality of the day, week, and year and how that compares to staff schedule. They want to see how all of these things correspond to actual sales at the register. And they want to be instantly alerted to certain conditions like when a certain item is near empty on the shelf or too many people are standing in line. That's how Big Data can be useful, when it's translated into actionable insights that make shopping better.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Google to open its own Android store online

Google's opening its own Android store online. There also has been some talk of Google opening a physical store as well. Do these decisions make sense for Google? I think the first does and the second does not.

The challenge with e-readers and tablets is apart from your technophile superusers most people need to get their hands on them to become confident that the experience is good and is worth it. An e-store doesn't do that. We've seen that Amazon is going to experiment with its own bricks and mortar, definitely a direct response to both the Apple store and the Nook store in Barnes and Noble locations. We've seen that Microsoft is opening stores that take their lead directly from Apple stores, featuring Windows Mobile devices among other things. While the clear trend has been toward internet-based commerce, in this case we have seen that there is value in physical showrooms. Other industries like automobiles and mattresses experience this factor as well, where there value in buyers being able to interact with the physical product before making a decision. What's different about Android is that Google already has a physical footprint in a whole lot of wireless carrier locations. Thousands of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint stores are doing exactly that. It's hard to imagine Google putting enough of a footprint out there to materially affect Android adoption.

Online is another matter. Google has all kinds of advantages with its own store, such as a page rank of 10, better SEO knowledge than anyone else, free house ads in AdWords, 100% uptime, and local versions in dozens of languages and hundreds of countries. It's hard for even the likes of Apple to compete on an even footing. So I say the online store has lots of potential for Google, but brick and mortar probably doesn't make sense.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Government agencies demanding Facebook passwords: Here is why government should take a light hand on technology matters

The House of Representatives just killed an ammendment intended to make it illegal for employers to require that prospective employees hand over Facebook passwords before being hired, which apparently (and amazingly) is an actual practice at some government agencies.

Since it gives access to private correspondence, there's no fundamental difference between requiring an employee to hand over a Facebook password and requiring one for a webmail account like Gmail or Yahoo mail. And of course there's no fundamental difference between that and requiring employees to turn over the faxes they receive or the contents of their physical mailboxes for the employer's scrutiny.

I'm not a constitutional law expert, but I believe that the the Maryland Department of Corrections requiring an employee to hand over the contents of a personal mailbox under penalty of losing his livelihood might be a Fourth Ammendment issue. Witness the fact that we've had snail mail for centuries and employers are not making this demand on that medium (even the government). The difference is that Facebook is new, and therefore the people who are making these demands fundamentally don't understand what it is they're demanding.

This report is just the latest incident in a storied history of the U.S. government doing a bad job when it tries to meddle in technology. The unfortunate but undeniable fact is that since the advent of the personal computer, government policy has been unable to keep up with the progress of technology, leading to a long string of "doesn't get it" moments, typically involving trying to regulate or control what it cannot. Do we all remember the V-Chip?

When government is wise, it creates an environment that helps private industry and private individuals work out how to use technology best. When it is unwise, it makes ill considered decisions like this one.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tim Callan interview in AMA Marketing News on new gTLDs

And the hits keep coming.  Months ago, before I joined RetailNext, I gave an interview on ICANN's new gTLD initiative to the American Marketing Association's journal Marketing News.  It appeared February 29, and I just became aware of that fact.  It's a long interview (four pages), and it goes into great deal on the new gTLD initiative.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why Amazon would want to become a brick-and-mortar retailer

Amazon's recent decision to open a physical pilot store in Seattle garnered a lot of attention, including confused head scratching from those who feel that being purely internet-based in a better model.  In response to this head scratching recently wrote this comment in a discussion in RetailWire:
It's pretty clear that the e-reader market is going to transform pleasure reading in a fundamental way and that whoever owns the reader has a massive advantage in this new book marketplace. And suddenly Amazon's virtual-only advantage becomes a disadvantage. Apple and Barnes & Noble are out there putting their e-readers in stores where people can hold them and play with them. That's the fundamental strategy behind Apple stores with all the company's products, and Apple stores outperform any other retailer on a profit per square foot basis by a factor of two to one. And Barnes & Noble gives big air time to Nook, putting the Nook store in the best place in the establishment. The Android tablet gets a lot of attention in the thousands of Verizon and AT&T locations across the nation and similar treatment from other carriers in other markets worldwide.  And even Windows Mobile appears in the twenty or so Microsoft stores operating across the nation today (with surely more on the way).
These examples show Amazon the power of brick-and-mortar retail in winning that e-reader computing platform which will keep earning and earning for years to come. I believe with the company's deep pockets and the amount of revenue that's at stake, that it's well worth Amazon's while to figure this one out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Despite hiccups, successful Facebook commerce is just a matter of time

I recently posted this comment on RetailWire in a discussion of e-commerce sites on Facebook:
Any discussion of Facebook's affect on retail commerce needs to include the social marketing site's possible future as an actual locus of bona fide online shopping. Today Facebook serves as a marketing and customer service vehicle for most brands and retailers. But the company has made no secret of its desire to become a computing platform, an operating system essentially, just the same way that the web did. To realize this vision, one of the main things Facebook needs to conquer is to handle truly sensitive interactions entirely in its environment in a secure and trustworthy way. Online financial interactions (banking, securities trading, managing your retirement account, filing your taxes, etc.) and online retail are the two most obvious examples.
This isn't a small matter. Think about the truly transformative effect that the web had on retailing and related services. Remember travel agents? The internet killed them. Remember Tower Records? The internet killed it, too. And every consumer-facing retail segment in the world has been completely transformed by the world wide web. Facebook is going to throw its massive resources at this problem, and forward-thinking retailers will eagerly create storefronts to try and service the 850 million of us who visit Facebook every single day (although sometimes I suspect that 800 million of us are only there to play Words with Friends... ;-)
It's already started. There is a whole cohort of startups trying to provide robust online shopping and purchasing experiences in the Facebook environment. Surely they'll have their stumbling points, but just as surely they'll ultimately get it right. And when they do, Facebook will become that much more important to those who wish to sell their goods and services to the masses.
Shortly later I commented on a different discussion about some retailers closing their Facebook stores:
Don't confuse the tactical moves of specific retailers with the long term trend. Facebook as a platform is used by more than one sixth of the planet's population. That figure dwarfs the percentage of us who were internet-enabled back in 1995. Yet, at that time we didn't doubt the strength of e-commerce as a business model. The same will be true for Facebook storefronts.

There were winners and losers in the internet world as well. Remember when Yahoo supposedly had the search engine market all sewn up? That was before Google was even founded. Remember when was one of the biggest online retailers in the world? When's the last time you bought something on But just because some companies did better and some companies did worse, we don't doubt the trend.

The same will happen with commerce on Facebook. Big business there, waiting to happen. Maybe not for these individual companies, but that's not the point.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The disadvantage to customer surveys

I recently posted this comment (slightly modified) in response to a RetailWire discussion on the use of satisfaction surveys:

While the instinct to learn from customers and the market is a good one (otherwise we're just sitting around making things up), there are some definite disadvantages to customer surveys. Not only the irritation factor, but also surveys have sample bias (those choosing to take them are either super involved and therefore biased or pissed off about something and therefore biased) and suffer from the distortion that always accompanies self-reported information. That's one reason that more and more retailers are going out of their way to gather and learn from the huge quantity of performance data that stores inevitably generate. These data are not just sales at the register but also information about traffic to the store and behavior within the store. By correlating these data back to such factors as marketing and promotions, staffing, cyclicality, and even the weather, retailers have actionable intelligence they can use to improve performance without irritating their customers or suffering from the other disadvantages listed here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where Tim has been

Sorry, everyone.  My bad.

On December 19 2011, I started my new job as Chief Marketing Officer of a super exciting venture-funded startup called RetailNext.  RetailNext is like Omniture for brick-and-mortar stores.  Which is to say, RetailNext makes it possible to measure and analyze a retail environment to build an optimized shopping experience in the exact same way that an online retailer does.  We've had customers see store sales go up as much as 20%, at which point the ROI on a RetailNext installation is ridiculously high.

As you can imagine, it all has been very distracting.  But I am committed to this blog, and so I'm going to try to be a better poster.  Don't be surprised if my new retail-oriented world winds up giving me new background and opinions and thoughts than I had in the past.  And you'll probably wind up seeing some of them right here.