Thursday, December 19, 2013

Social gambling

Social gaming and gambling are beginning to merge into a very interesting new category. Gamblification: social games have the reach, gambling has the money. Social games reach out to 500 million active players a month, while the online gambling industry is estimated at a mind blowing $30.3 billion.

The stakes for mastering the business and technology of successful mobile social gambling are very attractive. By 2015, the social gambling market is predicted to grow to $2.5 billion and the mobile app market is predicted to top $38 billion. The global total spend on virtual goods is expected to reach $4.1 billion by 2016.

Many casino and card games make use of a human’s gambling instincts to lure people into deep engagement. Although real money is used to purchase chips to be used in these games, the chips are not redeemable for money. However, some social games provide venues where in-system virtual currencies can be exchanged or raffled for virtual goods. In 2012, gambling equipment company IGT bought Double Down—a designer for Facebook casino games—for $500 million.

This is certainly a growing area to watch and I hope that my company Forever|NOT the relationship betting app successfully makes a mark in this segment.


Social gaming

According to Wiki, Gamification is the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. It has proven to be very successful in attracting large numbers of users. Taking age old games and adapting them to the net with extra social sharing features built in have helped King the makers of Candy crush build large audiences and earn up to $1 million per day. Beyond games, Gamification can apply to education (Khan Academy), pricing models (Uber), and Loyalty plans (Aeroplan).  It doesn’t stop there; corporates are using Gamification to create a sense of competition within organizations. For example, concepts such as leaderboard status can be applied to marketing individuals who are trying to get the most followers or to sales teams who are trying to sell the most volume.

Social network-based gaming has exploded in recent years, facilitated by Facebook. Social gaming is increasingly becoming a key focal point within the gaming community due in large part to the higher average revenue per unit through monetization of global social networks, local social networks, mobile social networks, and second screen social gaming.

For more examples refer to:

A bunch of stats are available here:


Video focused start-ups

Video content is pegged to be one of the most effective ways to get mobile traffic conversions. How do we increase the mobile. Video can be created in house or even curated through user generated content submissions.  

Online video watching is starting to make the television executives nervous. Awesomeness TV was so successful in getting traction using in house and UGC content that Nickelodeon purchased them for over $200 million. Online Video is easy to search, shorter in length and typically offers humor or shock entertainment in bite sized doses.

Online humor publisher Cheeseburger Inc., whose strong user base and viral content have been so significant that Bravo TV network produced a reality show about the company's employees. The Seattle Company, which has roughly a hundred employees, publishes more than 60 humor sites. The sites receive an average of 15,000 photo and video submissions a day.

Media companies are realizing that they need to stay abreast of the digital world. Turner Media has started an accelerator to nurture companies and also identify the next big ideas in the space.


Mobile web for digital advertising

With over 75% growth in mobile advertising in 2013 (AdAge Mobile Fact Pack) mobile is no longer an emerging channel. Even real time bidding which changed online ad buying is becoming a common tool for the mobile advertising market. Advertisers have realized that customers are spending more and more time on their mobile phones and must find ways to capture their attention.

There are a number of players competing for a slice of the fast growing mobile ad space and consolidation will likely begin as the dollar values start to increase. Google’s acquisition of Admob catalyzed the mobile marketing space and many new companies emerged.

With half of all email being opened on mobile devices, email continues to be a big aspect of mobile marketing. Other areas that show opportunity are in app advertisements. Mobile app revenues are driven by gaming apps and advertisers should explore ways in which they can display their logos on such apps.

Video is another aspect of mobile marketing that shows growth potential in 2014. With high speed access and larger screens on telephones, users prefer watching videos over reading. Shorter videos are the key. Taking 30 seconds down to 10 or 5 will make a huge impact.

Nearly 90% of time spent on twitter was on the mobile phone so advertisers need to come up with strategies that engage users without disrupting their experience.  Even Facebook is taking its Facebook exchange and adding features that are customized for advertisement buying on the mobile phone.

It’s clear that mobile advertising cannot be ignored and it seems that the technology is finally catching up to enable marketers to connect with potential customers without disrupting their overall experience.


Content Strategies

Content driven marketing strategies are becoming increasingly important as companies battle it out for consumer attention and brand recognition. Gone are the days where a simple advertisement was enough. More importantly advertisements cost a lot of money. Content driven strategies not only engage the customer with quality information that is relevant to their interests but also have a stronger impact with regards to brand recognition and overall purchasing conversion.

Return on marketing is propelled when there is great content involved. Content is the corner stone of all marketing strategies:

Social media marketing: Content marketing strategy comes before your social media strategy.

SEO: Search engines reward businesses that publish quality, consistent content.

PR: Successful PR strategies address issues readers care about, not their business.

PPC: For PPC to work, you need great content behind it.

Inbound marketing: Content is key to driving inbound traffic and leads. Emails must be thoughtful.

Content strategy: Content strategy is part of most content marketing strategies.

Content is a tool that every company needs to be thinking about in the market.


The role of PInterest

Pinterest is a great site for sharing images and tagging them. Visual search is a wonderful tool. Pinterest takes visual search and adds a layer of curation that is done by individuals in contrast to Google images which is algorithm based. The ability to follow people who have an expertise in particular areas enables a user to identify visual images that are much more customized to their areas of interest. This is a powerful tool for retailers. The larger the number of products being added on the pages of people who are broadly followed the larger the number of potential consumers who will see the products. To increase the return, it’s important that retailers make their branding obvious through hashtags or labels in the photo. This way the image always reminds the viewer who sells the product. Coming up with interesting images to promote products can lead to strong sharing and significant exposure for brands.

Smart marketers are using the sites to drive "social shopping" and inspire people to collect and share pictures of their favorite products. Pinterest has over 53 million monthly unique users globally, with three quarters of usage coming through its mobile app. All companies with consumer products should be interacting with Pinterest given the majority of users are women who typically make the household purchase decisions.

Some brands have embraced the opportunity. For example, the Martha Stewart brand has a huge Pinterest profile with more than 126 boards and almost 13,000 pins. This has helped them reach almost half a million followers. More is better when it comes to Pinterest. For large numbers of boards and pins, organization is key. Each pin needs to serve a purpose and be visually interesting.


The model of shared clothing and accessories

If you can’t buy it, rent it!

A number of online tie and jewelry companies have entered the market to allow us to subscribe to a new tie or necklace on a regular basis. They dub themselves as the Netflix of ties. Given the low barrier to entry many copy cats have followed. In the tie business there are already three notable companies that are building market share:,, If you are a man looking for a fashion update, check out the Tie Society website. It costs $10 to $50 a month, depending on how many ties you rent at a time. With this service, you choose the ties you want.

San Francisco-based Rocksbox, is an online jewelry rental business that has seen some decent success. There is also the well-known Bag, Borrow or Steal that even got a shout out in the Sex in the City movie. A lot of people purchase jewelry and have nothing to wear with it or never wear it when they bring it home. Another San Francisco startup called Le Tote has a similar business model, with both jewelry and clothes. The pricing is usually between $19.99 to $49.99 for these businesses. Moreover, if you really fall in love with the item, you can buy it at a discounted price. offers high end rented jewelry for people to wear at weddings or special occasions which is also a large market. Renttherunway offers jewelry rental but at a different rice per piece. I much prefer the monthly subscription price at different tiers. There are a lot of copycats out there from Bling Yourself to Bags to Riches. Investors have put real money behind these ideas. Bag Borrow or Steal, received $15 million in venture funding, bringing its total take from investors to $27 million. The investment enabled the company, which has reported steady revenue growth in each of its four years, to expand into high-end jewelry.  

I’m curious to understand how large this market of men who are willing to rent ties really is? I tried to do research but was not able to find enough stats. In general, I think it’s a great idea. Especially for people who want new styles often but don’t want to purchase them all the time. Moreover, storage is becoming an issue in smaller urban dwellings so the rental model has many beneficial attributes.


e-mail marketing

E-mail marketing is still the most powerful tool to build traction and keep customers engaged. Many companies have lost the art. Like an e-mail, the content should be fun, engaging and useful. Short and sweet is also a key theme. Customers have short attention spans but always value learning something new. The idea of starting with a quick tip was smart but has become overused. The fact that any email can now say your first name has lost its personalization flavor. The catchy subject hooks are also too obvious. Nevertheless, there are number of other strategies companies can deploy.  I think the first thing a company should strive for is sincerity. Each company should assume that the email is the equivalent to a customer walking into their store. How would you communicate with them?

Rather than using general statements the access to big data can help you tailor your emails in much larger ways. If I went to Sephora and purchased eyeliner, Sephora should know this. Perhaps their email to me should be asking if I like the liner and suggesting related products. If you presume you are the shop keeper in a mom and pop shop trying to upsell to a customer you will be better at drafting creative and personalized emails.

Email remains a powerful way to connect with customers and influence their buying decisions: 66% of online Americans say they have made a purchase as a result of an email from a brand, more than three times the percentage of people who have purchased in response to a message delivered via Facebook (20%) or text message (16%), according to a study by Exact Target.



Real time bidding of display ads

Before the digital age, ad space on television or radio was done in a very non transparent process where full understanding of the types and quantity of viewers you were purchasing. High barriers to entry meant that access to traditional mediums for advertising were for the big players only. Moreover, planning for advertisements happened months in advance and any last minute purchases cost a massive premium. The internet changed this. With big data, marketers can narrow the scope of their campaigns to a defined audience and also interact with the audience to ensure that the message was transmitted. Any small business can purchase ads on google or Facebook alongside the big players such as Coke or Pepsi. Moreover, given the additional big data available, advertisers can quickly test shift their strategies and fine tune them on an ongoing bases to ensure the desired results are achieved.

Programmatic buying enables advertisers to use complex algorithms to purchase ads based on prespecified parameters. Marketing is no longer a touch feely topic. There is a high degree of data and statistics involved. Real time bidding is to digital advertising what high-frequency trading is to Wall Street. Computerized, algorithm-driven trading allows for quick buying of ad impressions according to pre-set parameters. Twitters purchase of MoPub, an ad exchange with a real-time bidding platform, reinforces the market movement towards such platforms. It will be interesting to observe how Twitter continues to monetize its platform using advertisements powered by the MoPub technology.


Facebook social graph

I’ve been working with Facebook’s social graph and am quite luke warm on the results. First off, It’s quite slow and tends to crash my browser. Second, the results are not very extensive. I think the non keyword approach is interesting but they need to do a lot of work in getting the social aspects to work better. According to Facebook's Newsroom, Graph Search runs on search inquiry phrases (such as coffee shops my friends like), rather than key words (such as coffee shops) like traditional search engines. Facebook users can enter queries that fall into the categories of people, photos, places, and interests. The social network then strives to answer these search inquiries within the social network, rather than directing users to an outside source.

Social Graph enables users to Identify fans, Learn about the fans interests, Identify interests of competitors’ fans, Identify potential business partnerships by seeing similar fans liking complimentary products, Improve the quality of Facebook contests.

Facebook social graph is also great for targeting friends of fans who like [X]. By doing such searches the company can target people based on their networks and previous likes.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Digital Integration for Kiwi Omni-channel Retailing

Creating consistent, holistic customer experience across all channels is the name of the game in the world of retail. As this growing trend becomes more widely accepted internationally, we see retailers in all corners of the globe are thinking through these issues.

In a recent publication of Computer World Australia, I learned that the Kiwi (AKA people from New Zealand) consumer is moving to a more digitally integrated life at pace with countries throughout eastern Asia and Europe. this particular opinion piece urged Kiwi retailers to think of the consumer experience from a holistic perspective.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Google Sheets

Today is pretty exciting for the Google lovers in the crowd. Google just updated Sheets (their Excel competitor), and you can now use it offline.
That's some pretty cool news. It's been my biggest complaint that I could use Sheets offline. Of course, this now creates challenges with syncing the documents with large groups, but if you're careful, you can likely get around that.
However, I'm still waiting for Sheets to gain the same complex formulas that Excel has. Until then, I cannot make a complete switch to the free Google software. Microsoft is still my preferred vendor, but that is starting to become shaky ground. It does appear that with Google's foray into Chromebooks, the Android OS, email, search, and now a bigger step into productivity software, that Google is slowly taking Microsoft's position of most dominate tech company not named after a fruit.



Whether or not Facebook made a good offer to Snapchat, it's ironic that Snapchat rejected a $3B offer and just raised money at a $2B valuation. ( It's still a big chunk of change, but it does make the question of what the Snapchat team was thinking, even more prominent. My guess is that Snapchat thinks that they can grow the way that Facebook did, and that their lack of a revenue model now isn't a big deal. That's their thinking, seen through my eyes. But I think that's ridiculous. Snapchat has a huge user base, but their monetization model can't be simple advertising. When your product disappears after a few seconds, there isn't a lot of residual value of an advertisement. I'm curious to see how this plays out, but it doesn't look likely that Snapchat will live up to its massive expectations. The 2nd tech bubble may be on the horizon...


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Spotify launches free music stream service for mobile

More free music!

Until now, the free version of Spotify was only available on desktop/laptop computers, and mobile users needed a subscription to stream on demand. Spotify has just announced that it will launch free streaming on mobile devices starting Wednesday, December 11th. The company has spent the last year negotiating with the major record companies over the rates that will be paid to play free songs, and a deal has now been reached with Sony, Universal, and Warner. The service will be ad-supported, and allow users to play a limited number of songs on-demand, and will mostly offer pre-made playlists.

Investors have recently been increasing pressure on the company to increase the number of people who subscribe to its premium service, so this move may seen counter intuitive. However, the company believes that offering a limited free service will add overall users on mobile and entice more to make Spotify their featured music destination and invest in Spotify's full catalog.

It will be interesting to track this development and see how long free music lasts. It will be an indication on how fair and successful the deal will be for both the music companies and Spotify itself.


Super Bowl TV Ads in a Digital World

For this year's Super Bowl, brands are spending $4 million for a 30 second spot, which also carries the obligation of $4 million in additional advertising spend on the network that year. That is quite a big investment, and the question has always been whether companies can put such a large bet on getting the return for it. However, the investment is actually much bigger these days, and to realize the return takes that much more effort. In the digital world, if you want to showcase your brand with a Super Bowl commercial, you really need to support a life of the commercial that lasts well beyond the 30 seconds it appears on TV.

Brands are often building digital campaigns around the commercial. Activities in the weeks leading up to the commercial include pre-releases and sneak peeks, digital contests, and starting the conversations/anticipation through communications. Some contests and social media participation are also meant to be a part of the commercial itself. Doritos is the biggest and most successful example, running a fan contest every year in which they produce their own commercial and the winner's is featured as the actual Super Bowl ad. The campaign then picks up during the game, as most commercials now feature a hashtag or facebook page, hoping to drive traffic to them as the audience watches. Mass amounts of chatter about the commercials are going on outside proprietary pages as well, so it is important that brands monitor and perhaps be a part of those conversations as well. The life of the ad lives well past the game as well, whether it be through existing youtube videos, social and traditional media review and rankings of commercials, and the campaigns that are sparked by the commercials themselves. Many will seed the internet with additional content, and investments in paid and display advertising are critical in the periods during and after the game.

Successful, stand alone ads are more and more becoming a thing of the past. The Super Bowl is just a 4 hour game, and the commercial is just 30 seconds, and it now requires a full effort in creating a digital campaign to create an ad that will be memorable over time.


Start trusting reviews... anti-fraud tools introduced

Online reviews are under fire and have become untrustworthy to many people who are discovering the propensity of fraudulent ratings and reviews. Retailers, brands, and services companies have turned to this tactic, inflating their own online presence with internally written reviews and adding high ratings. While this may help push sales in the short term, the long term effect is the diminishing of the online review and rating system as a reliable evaluation tool, thus rendering their own reviews less influential. Half of people who read reviews now believe they have read fake reviews and that companies also remove negative comments.

Someone is finally fighting back, as Bazaarvoice  has announced an evaluation tool that authenticates reviews and indicates review that are managed by third parties rather than brands or retailers.  This company manages online product ratings and reviews for companies including Wal-Mart and Best Buy, with revenues around $175M and about 800 employees.

More than 80% of respondents of a survey said they would feel more trusting of reviews if technology filters screened for fraud. This technology clearly has demand, and consumers and many brands alike hope that it can permeate throughout the ecosystem of online reviews, affecting the way we are able to judge the quality of what we are reading.


Making Mobile Ads That Work

You glance at your smartphone to check the weather, and a tiny banner ad for a new movie pops up. What are the odds that this fleeting exposure will have any effect on you?  According to the Harvard Business Review, there’s no clear answer despite the sums spent on mobile ads—$8.4 billion in 2012, a number expected to quadruple by 2016.

Some experts argue that mobile ads are a waste of marketing dollars (see “For Mobile Devices, Think Apps, Not Ads,”  by Sunil Gupta, HBR March 2013). But new research shows that mobile display ads can work for certain types of products: those that are both utilitarian and “high involvement.” Minivans and washing machines, for instance, serve a practical purpose, and consumers buy them only after much deliberation, in large part because they’re pricey. Mobile display ads for “hedonic” products (things, such as sports cars and movie tickets, that people buy for pleasure) are unlikely to have any influence, as are ones for “low involvement” products (a tube of toothpaste, a candy bar).

We studied data from a market research firm that surveyed 39,946 U.S. consumers about products featured in 54 mobile display ads from 2007 to 2010. The products spanned 13 industries, including consumer goods, financial services, and automobiles. About half the participants saw an ad for a product on their mobile devices; the others saw no ad. At the start and close of the experiment, all rated their attitude toward and intention of buying the product.

Personally, I feel completely blind to all of the ads that pop up while surfing the Internet, except for the annoying ads.  I suppose if I saw a high ticket item in an advertisement that I might be inclined to take a closer look, specifically if I was currently in the market for that item.


Monday, December 09, 2013

7 Simple Ways For Marketers to Get Started with Growth Hacking

There's a buzz throughout Silicon Valley around the term “growth hacking.” Competition and the fight for customer mindshare have made it harder than ever to grow small and medium business. Driven by product and inspired by data, a new breed of marketer has hit the scene. Growth hackers take advantage of digital opportunities on the Web to add customers and build their companies.
Here are seven marketing essentials to getting started in growth hacking. Implementing these will begin your journey toward sustainable growth.
1. Make it a habit to understand your users. The core of your business should always be about solving problems. How well you can solve those problems depends on how well you understand them. Do everything you can to feel the pain of your customers. Then, as you create solutions, strive for continuous feedback. Measure their activity, perform simple surveys, and watch as your customers use your product. All this will enable you to build features that will help you acquire and retain customers rather than building offerings your users do not want.
2. Focus on the first time user experience. Figure out the most important moments related to your product and then direct your users to these experiences as soon as possible. Chamath Palihapitiya, the famous growth hacker behind Facebook's wild success, has spoken about the importance of getting your users to the “aha moment” as quickly as possible. Their first touch should be an impression they never forget, so pack it with value and watch their affinity grow. According to Palihapitiya, once you get your users to the aha moment, your next goal is to deliver core value as often as possible.
3. Provide incentives for sharing. Your goal is to make the product market itself and give users simple ways to share with their network. Build engagement and interaction into the content so your users will be inspired to share it. Dropbox has become successful for providing users with free storage when their friends sign up. Quora makes it easy to share its content and then requires users to sign up once complete. The more unique and valuable the content, the more likely it is to get shared.
4. Maximize content and social posting. Nobody is questioning the value of content and social anymore. Your goal should be maximizing the quality and frequency of inbound. Use tools to schedule social posts and intercept mentions and keyword hits. Create unusual content using data, charts, videos, or interviews. This post by Kiss Metrics goes a long way to explain the need to be different when creating content.
5. A/B tests. A/B tests separate the pros from the amateurs in digital marketing. Simply put, these represent tests where you deliver two different forms of content to different users and compare their reactions. By having one control and one test variable, a company can gain insights into customer preferences and behavior. This facilitates the company's understanding of which marketing channels and methods are more effective than others. Common properties to A/B test are email campaigns, features in apps, and landing pages on the Web.
6. Time your emails. There are many advanced ways to use emails to boost growth. One simple concept is to build emails to trigger on inactivity or multiple visits to the marketing site. The world of creative emails is untapped. Think about unique ways to take advantage of the most popular communication channel in business.
7. SEO optimization. Many businesses don't think SEO applies to them—they're frequently wrong. The ability to dig into the technical nuances of SEO tactics is a major differentiating skill in growth hacking. This goes beyond just choosing adwords. Mint, a popular finance app, built landing pages for virtually every financial term in the book. This made the Mint brand ubiquitous with all things regarding personal finance and a trustworthy source of information.
Growth hacking is far more than just a term; it's the future of inbound marketing. It can be a daunting term, but it's really more about the process of blending empiricism with creativity. Many marketers immediately think of writing code when they hear “hacking,” but that's not always the case. Before graduating to code hacking, tackle the seven simple tasks above. You'll then be well-positioned to take on deeper, more technical steps.


Five Digital Marketing Missteps for Smart Marketers to Avoid

The digital marketing landscape can feel like a minefield. Every day new strategies, guidelines, and best practices seem to be sprouting up for engaging on social media, branding across channels, and establishing authentic digital relationships with customers. But as much as the digital revolution has changed the way marketers approach their jobs, it's also reinforced some of the core principles of great marketing. At the end of the day, you need to be smart about how you find and keep your customers.
Here are five missteps to avoid:
1. The misstep: Focusing relentlessly on minimizing cost per acquisition (CPA).  At first glance, minimizing CPA seems logical—why spend more acquiring customers from one channel when you can get them less expensively from another? But the snag is that not all customers are created equal. You may have noticed that some customers tend to stick around and make repeat purchases, while others are “one and done” or only respond to steep discounts. And if you could identify those great, high-value customers off the bat, wouldn't you be willing to pay a little more for them?
The save: Look at customers' long-term value by channel, ad network, affiliate, campaign, promotion, or keyword to hone in on which tactics are bringing in the highest-value shoppers—and where you should be spending more rather than less to acquire customers.
2. The misstep: Using ineffective segmentation. You've been in the situation. Someone from the team comes up with what seems like a brilliant segmentation strategy. Only there's no way to get the data you need to act on it. Or it requires hundreds of different creatives. Or it turns out that what you're segmenting on doesn't actually correspond to differences in customer response.
The save: Make sure you're segmenting on data that you can actually capture and that drives meaningful differences in customer behavior. And follow an 80/20 rule: Identify the two or three differentiators that drive 80% of the results, but at 20% of the time and expense.
3. The misstep: Obsessing over the wrong metricsWith the proliferation of data on what your customers are doing online, it can be difficult to know where to focus. The problem comes when marketers confuse tactics with goals. Your goal as a marketer is to maximize your customers' long-term value to your business. Boosting open or click-through rate and increasing engagement metrics like social media buzz or Facebook likes are all tactics. Even maximizing purchase conversion is a tactic. (If the goal were merely to increase conversion, it would be easy: a 95% discount would probably do the trick.)
The save: Figure out why you're measuring the metrics you are, and which ones are linked to customer lifetime value (CLV). Those are the ones that you should be focused on tracking and maximizing.
4. The misstep: Neglecting the baseline. It's easy to tell if an idea is working or not, right? Actually, unless you've set up a control group, it can be tough or even impossible to figure out what's driving your results. For example, are your VIP customers opening emails at a much higher rate than your overall list because the specific email creative is resonating more with them, or because VIP customers are just more likely to be engaged with your brand in the first place?
The save: Unless you're working with a sophisticated data science team, focus on testing one strategy tweak at a time—things like segmentation, creative, or offer. Make sure you've got a randomized holdout group that won't receive the new “treatment” so that you can measure the delta directly attributable to your new idea. And remember the motto ceteris paribus—all else equal. This means that everything that's not being directly tested should be held constant: You should draw from the same customer group and test your ideas at the same time.
5. The misstep: Comparing apples and orangesAny marketer who has tracked a group of customers over time knows that there's a predictable pattern, sometimes referred to as the customer lifecycle. Even with the best of retention efforts, not all customers stick around—over time some just naturally leave for competitors, move away, or drop out of the category altogether. The problem comes when marketers lose sight of this near-universal phenomenon. If you're comparing the average revenue per week for a group of customers who made their first purchase last month with a group who first bought two years ago, you're comparing apples and oranges.
The save: It's critical to be able to get a head-to-head comparison of different customer groups to see how your acquisition, retention, and engagement efforts are trending over time. But the key is to make sure you compare them at the same fixed point in their own lifecycle—say, the third or sixth month since they made their first purchase. Cohort analysis is one tool that savvy business intelligence (BI) teams use to compare different customer groups in exactly this way.
Ultimately, the explosion of e-commerce and digital marketing hasn't changed the rules of the marketing game—just the arena. Regardless of whether marketers are e-commerce novices or veterans, avoiding these common missteps can help ensure that they're positioned for success.


News Byte: IBM's Watson Ascends to the Cloud

IBM announced the launch of the IBM Watson Developers Cloud and with it the expanded commercialization of the cognitive computing entity that overpowered humanJeopardy! champions on the popular TV quiz show in 2011.
The cloud platform is aimed at applications providers that will be able to tap into resources allowing them to create Watson-powered apps. Since Watson runs on Big Data, App developers can use their own first-party data to design apps or access the IBM Watson Content Store for third-party data to inform their versions of Watson.
IBM did beta tests of the system with three development partners that will be introducing their Watson-powered apps in 2014. One, called Fluid, takes advantage of Watson's ability to understand the nuances of human language. Consumers using Fluid apps will make Watson their digital personal shopper and, IBM promises, receive informed responses to queries aimed at making smart purchase decisions.
To jumpstart Watson's emergence on the commercial scene, IBM will be working with several venture capital companies to identify strategic partners, according to a press release.
"This could bring about a paradigm shift not only in how people interact with computers, but in how we live our lives," says Mohamad Makhzoumi, a board member at Welltok, which will introduce one of the first three apps, a healthy living planner sponsored in part by insurance providers, health systems, and retailers.


Calvin Klein, Twentieth Century Fox latch onto Tumblr for content boost

Calvin Klein, Twentieth Century Fox and Turner Broadcasting are a few of the launch brands that are testing a new mobile ad format from Tumblr that inserts a piece of ad content within popular and trending posts.

Twentieth Century Fox was the first brand to launch a mobile trending blogs campaign. 
The film studio is leveraging the native ad format to promote the upcoming film “Devil’s Due,” which premiers in theaters on Jan. 17. When consumers click on the ad, they are directed to a Tumblr that has been created for the movie.
Twentieth Century Fox will also run a campaign to promote its film "Secret Life of Walter Mitty” in the coming weeks.
Turner Broadcasting is kicking off a campaign today to promote its series “Mob Cities” that premiers tonight. 
Delta’s campaign to drive traffic to its Tumblr – Taking Off – will begin running tomorrow.
The dates for the Calvin Klein campaign are not confirmed, but the high-end retailer will run a sponsored mobile ad on three different days.
“Tumblr is a content network, a social aggregation content network,” said Craig Elimeliah, vice president and director of creative technology at Rapp, New York.
“It makes perfect sense for those marketers already getting earned placement on Tumblr blogs that are fashion-focused and lifestyle-focused,” he said.
“Tumblr shouldn't be competing with Facebook and Twitter. Tumblr in my opinion should be competing with BuzzFeed and other more mobile-optimized content networks.”


Forbes' Branding and Marketing Trends for 2014

Forbes published a list of top Branding and Marketing Trends for 2014.  The list is helpful in knowing what to focus on for your growing business. The list is as follows:

1. Consumers Expect More
2. Attention Must Be Paid to Brands
3. Category is King
4. Brands Will Get Emotional
5. Real Brand Engagement Defined
6. Targeting Becomes Personal
7. Digital Done Right
8. Content is King, too
9. Mobile is Optimized
10. Fewer Tedious Texts
11. Micro Becomes Mainstream
12. Integration Intensification
13. Data Declaration
14.  The Funnel Flattens

Read more about each category here:


Sharing Of Video Ads Has Increased Nearly 50 Times In Last Eight Years

 The increase in innovative and creative video advertising, combined with an explosion in the use of social media means that the sharing of video ads has risen by almost 50 times over the last 8 years. So say Unruly, who have launched an exclusive interactive infographic that visualizes the staggering surge of video social sharing since 2006. ‘The Unruly Viral Spiral’ documents three of the most shared ads across the social web from every year since 2006. It also confirms the number of all-time shares for each video since launch and some of those numbers are staggering. For instance, the top 3 ads of this year - Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches”, GEICO’s “Hump Day” and Evian’s “Baby&Me” – have already attracted 11.6 million shares.That's 47.5x more than the top 3 ads managed in 2006!


Target Experiments With A Pinterest-Powered Online Storefront, Dubbed The “Awesome Shop”

Target is testing an e-commerce storefront powered entirely by Pinterest recommendations, with the beta launch of a site called “Target Awesome Shop.” The site, refreshed daily, is a mashup of data from Target’s own online store and the social network. Today, it features Target products that have proven to be the most pinned items on Pinterest and have the top reviews from The new shop may grow to include other social networks in the future, the company says.
The Awesome Shop website was hacked together in just a couple of weeks by an in-house development team called the RAD (Rapid Accelerated Development) group – a small team who can quickly build, deploy and test new initiatives like this socially powered shopping experience.
The retailer has already embraced the Pinterest platform itself, maintaining 45 regularly updated boards featuring everything from general product categories (Home, Style, Food & Drink, etc.) to those specially aimed at the Pinterest crowd in search of tips, ideas, and how-to’s. There are several seasonal boards, too, promoting holiday items and activities, as well as a “Pins You Love” board which already aggregated the top pinned items.
Asked what the benefit of sending pinners away from Pinterst to a standalone site were, Target communications manager Eddie Baeb explained the idea was to design a curated experience that also included the data from trending products (4 stars or higher) on That’s something a third-party site like Pinterest wouldn’t have access to, so it’s telling that Target is testing this particular data set off of Pinterest, rather than within yet another Pinterest board.
Currently, the new website is hosting over 1,000 items, some of which are flagged as “top pinned” or “highly reviewed.”


The New Model: Mobile Video Marketing

Mobile is proving to be an extremely effective marketing vehicle for brands, solving the issue of weakening TV advertising impact together with giving consumers an opportunity to engage and make a digital purchase. Mobile content is richer than ever, and consumers are now spendingmore time consuming media on mobile devices than TV.
On a given day, some of the highest ranked mobile apps have daily active users that rival the audience of "Monday Night Football" and "The Voice," and taken as a whole, the addressable audience in the mobile app universe far surpasses TV. Keep in mind that today more than 87% oftime spent in mobile apps is in the entertainment category (games, sports, news, music etc.) and social. These environments are extremely effective; they offer brands the opportunity to deliver video ads with the impact and emotional benefit of TV combined with a call to action related to the brand. That mobile call to action could be to purchase, watch a longer form video, promote a social action, drive an install and more. Net-net, it delivers the ability to encourage a consumer to act, engage with or buy a product. This scenario is a beautiful marriage of the power of TV's emotional impact with the pull-through ability associated with retail or direct response.


Google+ Extends Reach Across the Web With New Social Ads

Google+ will extend its reach across the web in the guise of new ad units.
Google has been testing new social ads composed of posts published by brands to its two-and-a-half-year-old social network, which they can now promote and target across the Google Display Network.
It's launching the units, dubbed +Post ads, with Toyota, the French telecom company Orange, and Mondelez brands Ritz Crackers and Cadbury U.K.
The ads contain the same social context -- +1s (Google's version of Facebook "likes"), shares and comments -- as any Google+ post. Advertisers will only pay when a user hovers over the ad for two seconds, which will cause it to expand on the screen.
Brands will be able to promote photos, videos and Google Hangouts -- or group chat sessions hosted within Google+ -- inside the ads. For example, Toyota is promoting its "Collaborator," a tool it's built on Google+ to let people customize their own car and invite friends to provide feedback via a Hangout session.
Meanwhile, Google+ itself will still be ad-free. Up until now, brands with a presence on the network have only had their organic followings to distribute content to. (Toyota USA, for example, has 247,000 followers.) But the positioning of Google+ as a mechanism to promote content more widely could be a hook for marketers to invest more in their presence there.
If the function of Google+ is in part to be a place for marketers to create content for their paid ads, it also makes the lack of user engagement less relevant. Google reports that there are 300 million monthly users accessing the Google+ content stream, but it hasn't divulged daily usage.
While only public Google+ posts are eligible to be promoted on the web, it will now be possible for users to see their likenesses and comments packaged into social ads, which was presaged in a disclosure by the search giant in October. The setting that determines whether users' names and profile photos may appear in the new ads is carried over from whether they had previously authorized Google to personalize content and ads based on their +1s.
For the vast majority who presumably have never gone that deeply into their settings, the default is for their names and pictures to appear in ads, though they can opt out in their account settings.


Retailers experiment with mobile holiday offers

Most top retailers in mobile commerce are offering mobile site and app designs and promotions consistent with the designs and offers on their desktop e-commerce sites, according to a new study by Internet Retailer editors of the top 100 merchants in the recently published 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500. E-commerce and m-commerce chiefs say it is important to provide consistent and seamless shopping across digital channels because customers expect it.
However, as shoppers spend an increasing amount of time and money on mobile, some top mobile merchants are giving their customers using smartphones and tablets exclusive offers, and are using uniquely mobile technologies such as text messages and app push notifications to give mobile shoppers an edge.
Groupon, HSN Inc.,, and Target Corp. all tell Internet Retailer that the majority of their traffic Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday came from mobile devices, and web-only retailers Groupon, and report the majority of their holiday weekend sales were mobile. Groupon Goods is No. 5 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 500, HSN No. 9, No. 88, No. 11 and Target No. 36.
All five merchants say it is very important that shopping on mobile commerce web sites and apps mirror shopping on PC web sites, even during the holiday season.
"We want all of our members to experience Rue La La seamlessly across devices," says Gerry McGoldrick, vice president of marketing and mobile chief at members-only e-retailer "During the busy holiday season, we aim to keep things simple and streamlined for our members, and we believe the key to that is a seamless, consistent, familiar experience. Our members experience Rue La La from different touch-points—iPhone, iPad, Android, apps, desktops—and we want them to be able to pick up where they left off from any device."
This is indeed a key consideration for retailers. Google Inc. research shows that 85% of online shoppers start shopping on one device and finish on another.
"By and large the offerings and marketing that Target has on its desktop web site and in stores are consistent on mobile," a Target spokesman says. "We want the mobile experience to feel connected and seamless for guests, who are increasingly moving between various channels."
Groupon does keep design and offers consistent between e-commerce and m-commerce. However, it made one enormous change for Thanksgiving weekend—on the home pages of its sites and home screens of its apps, it replaced daily deals (discount vouchers that are routinely featured first and foremost) with Groupon Goods, merchandise that's more gift-oriented, the merchant says.
Groupon has presented some mobile-only holiday offers, including a $10 Target gift card for $6 in select markets. The merchant also is sending holiday-themed push notifications through its apps, which have been downloaded more than 60 million times, Groupon says. Push alerts, for example, have included "Skip the lines! Get Black Friday doorbuster deals on Groupon. Shop now!" and "Want great Cyber Monday deals? Check Groupon first. Shop now!" also is sending app users push notifications during the holidays. "You Heard It Here First" push messages notify app users of time-sensitive sales before all Rue La La members are notified via e-mail. HSN Inc. sent app push notifications and text messages notifying mobile shoppers of exclusive pre-Black Friday sales.
Some top 100 mobile retailers that strive to keep consistent, familiar designs and offers across PC and mobile channels do tweak their mobile sites and apps to better serve consumers on smaller screens. Tory Burch LLC, No. 70 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 500, has created a commerce site using responsive web design, which enables retailers to build a single site with a single code base and single set of web content that renders to fit the size of a screen. On larger screens, a hero image highlighting “Tory’s Gift Guide” includes an embedded box with a Shop Now button that breaks out to include subordinate links such as Most Wanted Gifts, Gifts by Category and Gifts by Price. When the site is viewed on a smartphone, only the Shop Now button is featured; that leads to easy-to-tap images that help mobile shoppers more easily drill down.
Timed to coincide with the start of holiday shopping, ShopHQ (formerly last month unveiled mobile apps for iPad and Android tablets. Like most other top mobile retailers, ShopHQ believes in consistency between e-commerce and m-commerce. However, it does offer mobile shoppers a bonus. When mobile shoppers use the Watch Now feature to view the ShopHQ television network live feed on their devices, they are presented with content related to what's on the air, including some enhanced content not available on the desktop.
"We do not offer special pricing or promotion strategies by channel or platform. By providing our customers the same experience, regardless of how they interact with us, we are able to offer a consistent shopping experience that does not discriminate by channel of engagement," says Tom Kraus, vice president of e-commerce at ShopHQ, No. 52 in the Mobile 500. "We are expecting huge mobile growth this holiday season as our customers continue to adopt and expand their utilization of mobile as an engagement and order channel. That growth, especially in tablets, will push mobile to new levels as we enter the first half of 2014."
Target has been giving mobile commerce some special attention this holiday season. Target developed two mobile-optimized Facebook applications, one that offered Black Friday ad leaks and one that will award mobile shoppers with gift cards this month. The Target mobile shopping app features holiday mobile coupons, which customers use by having a cashier in-store scan their phones at checkout.
HSN is betting big on mobile commerce this holiday season, says Edward Deutscher, operating vice president, digital technology. Mobile sales were strong leading into the holidays, up 57% in the third quarter, year over year, Deutscher says. By mid-September, HSN had eclipsed the $167 million in mobile sales it generated for all of 2012, he adds.
"We have invested a lot in optimizing all of our digital initiatives mobile-first, ensuring that the experience is seamless across all channels," says Deutscher, keeping with the consistent and familiar approach. HSN has gone mobile-first, a design scheme where a retailer creates sites and apps for smartphones first, and then carries the design up to tablets and then desktops, making some refinements for the larger screens along the way.
HSN is offering a mobile coupon ($20 off $40) to new customers throughout the holiday season. Mobile customers can win prizes for watching featured video content. And the merchant offers a mobile-exclusive sweepstakes where shoppers can win a $3,000 HSN shopping spree; HSN is promoting the sweepstakes through mobile display ads.
 Unlike HSN, some top mobile retailers have not gone the mobile-first route. Foot Locker Inc., No. 27 in the Mobile 500, and Shopping, No. 28, are not doing anything unusual for mobile for the holidays, but both offer m-commerce sites for smartphones that are more streamlined than their desktop sites. Foot Locker's mobile site home page, for example, features a primary image that says, "Sale/Limited Time Only," and below is a list of best sellers. A site search box tops the page. The PC site home page, though, is loaded with images and videos of athletes and shoes.
Similarly, Shopping's mobile site is quite uncluttered, with a carousel of images and offers also found on the PC site. Stacked vertically below the carousel are bars for Shop By Department, Deals, Account, and Your Orders.
While some top mobile retailers have special offers or features for mobile shoppers this holiday season, most are forging a mobile channel that mirrors the desktop channel to give their customers consistency in digital shopping.
"The sales and offers our customers will see on mobile will be similar to the ones available on desktop," says Jason Ross, founder and CEO of "We're focused on making sure mobile customers can find all of the great offerings they'd find on the web while they travel during the holidays and are away from their desktop computers."


Wearable Watches - Marketing to on Tiny Devices?

As technology has evolved, devices have taken on new form factors. Whereas marketers in the past were concerned about newspaper/magazine ads, today, digital marketers need to be mindful of not only "traditional" desktop computers and laptops, but also phones, tablets and potentially the proliferation of "smart" wrist-watches.

Some would argue that it is difficult to advertise on smartphones given small screen sizes and limited space to create ads. This challenge is exacerbated by potential smart-watches such that could potentially replace phones in many cases. Sure this seems pretty James Bond-like, but wearable technology is gaining traction, and big-time manufacturers including Samsung and Sony have released smart-watches that integrate with current product lines and have "smart" functionality and internet/bluetooth connectivity. There are rumors on TechCrunch and other well-respected blogs that both Apple and Google are in the process of developing their own smart-watches.

While it would be difficult to prognosticate on whether wearable watches will disrupt the mobile internet landscape - it stands to reason that digital marketers will have to find ways to properly target such devices with ads that are legible and not incredibly intrusive. I think it is a significant challenge and would imagine that full screen ads would be one of the only effective ways to reach consumers - the question is whether consumers will be irritated to the point of abandoning such technology if it becomes overly obtrusive.


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Prediction - no more long line at cash registers!!

Black Friday shopping is a lot of work. After finding the stuff you want, you have to wait in line. There is a line to try clothes on, to the bathroom, and to pay as well. Why should we still wait in line to pay? I say no more waiting in line to pay!

This idea came to mine as we were waiting in line. We found the exact items online at the company store. We added those to our cart. We were surprised to find bigger discounts online. Hence we just ordered it online when the cashiers refused to match the discounts. Besides the annoyance to having to wait for items, I realized that I should not have to wait in line to pay. I could have self check-out on my phone.

Mobile phones has the technology needed to process transactions. Camera can read the tags on the items. You give it your credit card and your transaction is done and done. I don't need the bottleneck of waiting in line for 30 minutes just to get out of the store. I can be out at other stores spending more hard earned money.

People are comfortable buying on mobile devices. IBM has reported that 25% of commerce on Black Friday is completed online and a lot of it is on mobile. In fact 43% of online came from mobile. So we shouldn't ever need to wait in line to pay again.

Look at Tesco in Korea. In the subway, you scan the items you want on your phone, pay on your phone, and delivery can be done before you get home. US stores need to match the convenience. The more convenient it is for people to buy and pay, the more people want to shop! This last sentence is probably hard to prove, but hey customer is always right!



Facebook Videos Now Auto-Play On Mobile, Expect Video Ads Soon

Facebook could look a lot more like TV soon. While Vine and Instagram Video are booming, you don’t see many people natively uploading videos to Facebook. But now Facebook is bringing auto-play for native videos to all users after testing the feature in September. And it’s just the beginning of a huge push to put Facebook in motion.
Previously, any video uploaded to Facebook directly or shared to the News Feed from Instagram would appear the same as YouTube videos — locked behind a play button. While the conscious decision to stop scrolling for, open the video player, wait for it to load, and watch might not seem like a big deal, it may have been too much of a time and effort investment for some. If people don’t watch videos, they don’t get likes and comments that encourage friends to upload more, and they might skip uploading them themselves.
But after spotting an auto-play video in my feed yesterday and asking Facebook, the company confirms the new format is now internationally rolled out to most iOS and Android users and will reach all of them soon. Facebook tells me it’s still testing this feature on desktop and doesn’t have schedule for when it will roll out there.
On mobile, auto-play gives natively uploaded Facebook videos and ones shared from Instagram an advantage: you don’t have to think about playing them, they play themselves. At first they’ll play in-line even as you scroll, but with no sound. If you tap them, they expand full-screen and the audio kicks in. Videos uploaded to third-party sites retain the old click-to-play-format.
I’ve found the new design to be quite pleasing. As I wrote when Facebook’s auto-play style was first unveiled, it feels a bit like the moving photos in the Harry Potter newspapers.
If you don’t want to watch, you can scroll by with little disruption. This isn’t Myspace, Vine, or Instagram where auto-play sound is suddenly going to bombard everyone around you. If you’re not sure if you want to watch, you get a little preview. Maybe the thumbnail was dull but motion shows the video is actually exciting. A little animated audio levels icon clues you in to there being sound to be heard, though. You can watch silently if you don’t have headphones or privacy, but if you want the full experience, you can tap and the video plays instantly without a loading delay.
To respect users who don’t want to burn data, Facebook has added a setting that lets you only auto-play videos if you’re on WiFi and not on cellular data. It’s found in your phone’s Facebook settings on iOS and the Facebook app’s settings on Android.

When Facebook started testing auto-play, it was upfront about looking for ways to give the feature to marketers as well as users.  It wrote “At first, this feature will be limited to videos posted by individuals, musicians, and bands. We’re doing this to make sure we create the best possible experience. Over time, we’ll continue to explore how to bring this to marketers in the future.” I would bet we’re going to hear some news about this soon, either just before or after the New Year.
Facebook recently starting letting developers put videos in their app install ads, but those don’t auto-play. Maybe they will eventually, though.
For advertisers, auto-play videos could make their ads a lot more noticeable. Most people wouldn’t volunteer to watch a video ad (cool movie trailers aside), but if it’s already playing and looks compelling, they might watch or even expand it to include sound too. Facebook is a fan of consistency, so video ads might have a very similar user experience to organic videos.
Because they’re more captivating, Facebook could potentially charge a lot to show video ads. Back in September, AdAge reported Facebook could charge between $1 million and $2.4 million to distribute a 15-second video ad for a day. Facebook raked in$2.02 billion in Q3 2013, and video ads could give that number a significant bump in Q1 and Q2 2014. Finally, we might start to see a landslide of ad spend previously devoted to television coming online, as the Facebook format would be relatively familiar (though possibly with no sound unless clicked).
The question remains whether users will freak out about video ads. Comments on my last piece about them and general sentiment has been quite wary of what video ads will do to the Facebook experience. If they’re the most eye-catching things on the social network, they could seem quite annoying. AdAge says Facebook might cap video ads so users don’t see more than three a day. Striking the right balance will be critical, though surprisingly, Facebook found that showing static photo ads in the News Feed hasn’t had a significant negative impact on engagement.
And if you’re thinking to yourself, “AdBlock Plus, bro”, that’s up to you. Personally, I think ads are the lifeblood of innovation, funding free products we rely on. But they’re a nuisance unless well-targeted, so hopefully Facebook can keep video ads relevant to the viewer. Otherwise I’d expect a lot of people to look for ways to banish them from their feed.
The secret to making people swallow video ads might be getting them to shoot mini-movies themselves. If there were more user generated videos on the site, the ads would blend in.
The problem is, right now Facebook’s video creation tool is painfully outdated. Unlike its Instagram Video product, there’s no way to shoot multiple shots in a single video, no editing, no stabilization, no cover image, and no filters. That means videos shot with Facebook often look pretty crummy. Crummy videos get few likes, so people don’t shoot them, so no one sees them, so no one thinks to shoot them…
It’s time for Facebook to modernize its video creation tool.
It could easily port in the Instagram Video features, maybe with a better tagging interface since Facebook is more about friends. It also has patents on some pretty futuristic video technologies like recording video as soon as your camera is open, recognizing and tagging faces or locations, and detecting audio and visual cues like saying “that’s beautiful” to select a cover image thumbnail or create anchors for navigating around within a video while watching.
These features could make it much more fun to shoot and view Facebook videos, which could fill the feed with them and camouflage the video ads.
And even if the native creation tools stay the same, a better watching interface could make a big difference. Right now there’s no real way to discover and watch Facebook videos in bulk. A Facebook “channel” that showed your friends’ videos back-to-back (perhaps with clips from Pages and advertisers mixed in) could be an addictive lean-back experience. Better video viewing could pit Facebook in more direct competition with YouTube.
So basically, Facebook has a huge opportunity to step up its video…game, and auto-play on mobile is just the first step. Photos fueled Facebook’s popularity back in its early days. As it turns 10 years old in 2014, we’ll see if video can give it a second wind.