Fiona Dias

Low-price retailer T.J. Maxx plans to open an online store this year, as does rival Saks Inc's Off Fifth outlets, making 2013 the year technology may have caught up with the speed of fashion. For such chains, which feature clearance items, last-year's fashions and overruns, their fast-moving and often unpredictable inventory has made selling goods over the web complex. "Retail is chaotic. Off-price retail is even more chaotic," said Fiona Dias, a leading e-commerce expert and chief strategy officer at ShopRunner.

Online retailers believe free shipping is one of the most effective sales promotions they can offer during the holidays, as a recent survey indicated, and when Walmart announced a free-shipping holiday promotion this week, the media and consumers took notice. With Walmart's new promotion, there's no annual fee as there is for some shipping programs, such as's Prime or Sears' ShipVantage program, and there's no minimum spend as many retailers require in their promotions. However, Walmart's promotion is limited to 60,000 items in key categories. Retailers have seen how effective Amazon's Prime shipping program has been, and many

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