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2008 Awards: The Absolute Best in Small Business - Page 4

By SmallBusinessComputing.com Staff | Posted February 01, 2008
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Hardware     Security     Software/Services     E-Commerce    

E-Commerce

E-Commerce
Affiliate
Google AdSense
      Runner-up: Amazon Associates
Best Innovation
Like.com
      Runner-up: TheFind.com
Online Marketing
VerticalResponse
      Runner-up: Google AdWords
Site Search
Google Custom Search Business Edition
      Runner-up: Google Mini
Storefront
Volusion 5
      Runner-up: Yahoo Merchant Solutions
Web Hosting
Go Daddy
      Runner-up: Network Solutions
EBay Tool
eBay to Go
      Runner-up: Auctiva
      Runner-up: FotoShare


Best Innovation
Over the past year, personalized search engines, widgets and mobile applications ushered in an era in which doing business online no longer just means paid and organic search optimization.

Given these trends, we added a Best Innovation category this year, with nominees including iPhone applications (iRibbit), widgets (PopShops), a do-it-yourself video ad site (AditAll) and two next-generation search engines that placed first and second.

Specialized search engines are an affordable and easy way for e-tailers to reach new customers, so it's no surprise they captured the top spots. Like.com wins the category, with 32 percent of the vote. With its formidable formula — combining visual search with celebrity fashion — the search engine is poised to capitalize on the public's appetite for trendy apparel and accessories. And since the search engine automatically trolls eBay listings and welcomes stand-alone Web store feeds, links and affiliate programs, it's easy for e-tailers to like Like.com.

Not far behind with 29 percent is TheFind.com. "Discovery" search, or offering shoppers more guided queries resulting in personalized results, was pegged as a hot trend for 2007 by Forrester Research, TheFind seems to be proving it true. TheFind.com crawls the Web to rank more than 150 million products from more 500,000 stores, based on market supply and demand indicators. The result is that any search will return a custom-catalog that consumers can browse.

Online Marketing
Online marketing encompasses many things, pay-per-click campaigns, surveys, social commerce initiatives such as customer reviews and blogs and maintenance of your organic search indexing, and, of course, e-mail marketing. This year, VerticalResponse, which offers self-service e-mail marketing tools on the Web (as well as direct mail services) takes home the gold.

This past fall, the company began offering Google Analytics integration to its clients. The majority of its customers are small e-tailers and they seem to be happy — VerticalResponse won by a large margin with more than 66 percent of the vote.

Last year's winner, Google AdWords, places second this year, with close to 30 percent of the vote. In 2007, AdWords made news with its mobile and print extensions, and naturally there were a lot of new features added, such as version 5.0 of the AdWords Editor.

Storefront
Mirroring last year's close race, Volusion once again edged out Yahoo Merchant Solutions to win the Storefront race. Volusion 5 earned 37 percent of the vote, with Yahoo placing second with just shy of 34 percent.

Volusion added some 40 new features in its latest version. Volusion 5 comes with stronger product and category management tools, advanced order processing and shipping features and new CRM tools. Some of the notable improvements include new shopping cart features that let you view carts in real-time and collect contact information, "per product" dimensional shipping support that allows you to enter a product's dimensions and then calculate charges based on size and weight, an upgraded newsletter system that lets you manage and send commercial e-mail to promote goods and better Excel and QuickBooks integration.

For its part, Yahoo Merchant Solutions added two significant new features: The Merchant Solutions cross-sell tool automatically recommends complementary products when customers place items into a merchant's shopping cart, or when they browse product pages. Second, the new Keyword Finder feature helps sellers improve both search engine optimization and online marketing campaigns by highlighting keywords that have helped lead shoppers to their online stores and to make purchases.

Affiliate
For the third year in a row, Google AdSense and Amazon Associates take top honors, respectively, in the Affiliate category. Google AdSense garnered 52 percent of votes cast, with Amazon coming in with 20 percent.

In the past year AdSense revamped the look of its ad formats and introduced an ad placement tool, while also making it easier to oversee, optimize and experiment with accounts with better management features. In addition, Google launched such features as video units, AdSense for mobile content, and referrals 2.0 to bring in new revenue streams, as well as an Ad Review Center.

Showing that it keep up with the marketplace, Amazon Associates last fall Associates launched Amazon Widgets. These mini-applications allow you to feature products from Amazon on blogs, Web sites and social networking pages. Also notable from Amazon Associates in 2007: five new customization tools for the affiliate program's aStore.

Site Search
This year we added a Site Search category to reflect the trend of specialized search systems and products catering to e-commerce sites. Though relative newcomers such as SLI Systems, EasyAsk and Baynote's Community Guided e-Commerce all made impressive inroads this year, Google's offerings took both first and second place. Google Custom Search Business Edition won, with Google Mini following.

It's tough to beat Google in the search game, especially when it is rolling out specialized versions that appealed to small e-tailers. Last summer, Custom Search Business Edition was announced. The hosted service is designed to offer a simple and inexpensive way for small businesses to add Google search to their Web sites. Custom Search Business Edition starts at $100 a year for searching up to 5,000 pages and at $500 for 50,000 pages.

In second place is the more-expensive Google Mini appliance. Early last year, of Google Mini upgrades included added features designed to improve search efficiency for a small business's public Web site or e-commerce operation. For example, Google Mini searches are now be integrated with Google Analytics so you can track traffic and navigation patterns.

Web Hosting
As we outlined in our Web Hosting Primer article, when shopping for a host, you should look for companies that cater to online stores, and this past year more and more hosting providers rolled out plans specifically designed for small e-tailers.

Despite the maturing market, Go Daddy, appears to be the grand-daddy of this sector. The perennial favorite won this year with 40 percent of the vote. Go Daddy continues to attract new business with its budget plans, beginning at a mere $3.39 a month for 5GB and going up to about $13 to $15 a month for 200GB.

Coming in second is Network Solutions, with 27 percent of the vote, which narrowly beat out perennialy placers Yahoo Web Hosting.

eBay Tool
Proving that 2007 was indeed the "Year of the Widget," eBay to Go took the checkered flag for "Best eBay Tool." Here's why: It's easy to use, it's free and it can help generate more sales — especially if others pass it along.

Sharing second place are Auctiva and FotoShare by FotoTime. Auctiva is a free eBay seller management application including templates, scheduling and image-hosting. FotoShare hosts photos and videos for eBay auctions.


To request an .eps version of a Product of the Year Award logo click here.

Awards by Category:
Hardware     Security     Software/Services     E-Commerce    

Vangie Beal, Michelle Megna, Dan Muse and Lauren Simonds contributed to this report.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!



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