jueves, 31 de mayo de 2012

A/B Tester Optimizely Raises Funding From Battery And Google Ventures, Plans Mobile Launch

Optimizely, the Y Combinator-incubated startup that helps companies A/B test their websites, just announced that it has raised new funding from Battery Ventures, Google Ventures, and InterWest Partners.

The startup previously raised $1.2 million from angels including Ron Conway, Chris Sacca, and Ashton Kutcher, but this is its first venture round. Co-founder and CEO Dan Siroker (who was director of analytics for Obama's presidential campaign in 2008) says he isn't disclosing the amount — which is the exact thing that a tech journalist doesn't want to hear — because he doesn't want to get into a competition over valuation and "vanity metrics."

So what are the numbers that Siroker thinks really matter? Revenue, for one. Optimizely says its revenue has increased 1,266 percent year-over-year. Percentage increases can be a little deceptive for young companies (Optimizely launched in 2010) since they're starting from zero, but that's still a pretty good sign. The company also says it's now being used by more than 2,000 enterprises, including Starbucks, Disney, and Salesforce.com. And Siroker sent me the chart below (via BuiltWith), which shows percentage adoption among websites in a few categories. Overall, he says Optimizely has pulled ahead of Google Website Optimizer and is now gunning for market leader Omniture, specifically its Test & Target product.

Optimizely's goal is to make it as easy as possible to run A/B tests on your websites. You just add a few lines of JavaScript to any page that you want to test, and you can use a graphical interface to change the layout, images, and text.

Siroker says the company's next big launch will be a mobile product — he notes that smartphone screens have "limited real estate," making it even more important to optimize the layout. More broadly, he says Optimizely sees a big opportunity in expanding beyond A/B testing altogether, into personalization.

Optimizely growth

Simple, fast, and powerful. Optimizely is a dramatically easier way for you to improve your website through A/B testing. Create an experiment in minutes with our easy-to-use visual interface with absolutely no coding or engineering required. Convert your website visitors into customers and earn more revenue today!

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Battery Ventures is a venture capital firm with offices in Boston, Silicon Valley, Israel. They invest in technology driven companies.

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Google Ventures was founded in March 2009. Google Ventures is broadly interested in startups in industries including consumer Internet, software, hardware, clean-tech, bio-tech, health care and others. They invest amounts ranging from seed funding to tens of millions of dollars, depending on the stage of the opportunity and the company's need for capital.

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InterWest invests an average of about $7 - 15 million over the span of their involvement with each company in their portfolio. They invest in companies through the full range of venture investment stages, and investments may be staged over several rounds of financing. Although they generally begin their involvement in the early stages of a company's development, they pursue attractive opportunities based on their individual merits rather than their investment stage.

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Review: Zuba Deluxe


Take a classic game theme (Aztecs, jungle techno, coloured balls, temple runography) and apply it to simple 'Columns' arcade gameplay and you end up with.... Zuba Deluxe. Unaccountably, it's free in the Nokia Store even though there's also a 'trial' version - don't question it, just grab it while you can. It's a competent enough, even at times gripping, arcade puzzler and with atmosphere oozing from its pores, it's hard to argue with at this price point.

Author: Good News 4 Me

Buy Link | Download / Information Link

Screenshot, Zuba Deluxe Screenshot, Zuba Deluxe


You'll get the idea immediately from the screenshots above. We're talking jungle foliage, Aztec skulls, mystically patterned and coloured orbs, but as soon as you see the descending columns above right, you'll know what to do. Drag the ball launcher from left to right as needed and tap to fire each ball into an advancing column. Match a colour or 'scarab' and you eliminate them from the playing area - match several and you get extra score.

Level by level, you proceed, with balls advancing faster, the aim being to complete a certain number of eliminations with as few misses (where a column of balls falls into the hole) as possible. There are several stages of nine levels - I'm not sure how many because the documentation doesn't say, but suffice it to say that there's many hours of happy gameplay here.

In addition to the four ball columns, there are numerous powerup balls, some of which are shown below right - these fall between the columns and can be caught and fired to good effect. My favourite is a 'fire' ball which zaps all balls in a column, but all the powerups are good, so you can basically make sure you catch and use everything that drops.


Screenshot, Zuba Deluxe Screenshot, Zuba Deluxe


At which point you basically know everything you need to. There are elements of strategy, in watching out for, and then executing blocks of coloured balls to get as high a score as possible in each level, there are elements of speed, in that the balls relentlessly advance and you only have so long to keep servicing the columns. And there are elements of luck, evidenced by which balls appear next in each column and in your launcher.

Behind all this, there's a pumping 'Tangerine Dream' style musical soundtrack that's right up my alley, plus appropriate firing and exploding sound effects when needed.


Screenshot, Zuba Deluxe Screenshot, Zuba Deluxe


Aside from the confusing presence of two 'free' versions in the Store, there's also the standard of English throughout ("same shap in a raw") to contend with, but look past this and you have a satisfying arcade puzzler that's a genuinely great way to while away waiting time in queues or on public transport.

Grab it now from the Nokia Store.

Reviewed by at

How many screens are there really?

Posted 07 May 2012 16:52pm by Oscar Trelles with 0 comments

The number of screens we interact with depends on who you ask. While we, as marketers, would like to think tablets have already replaced couch laptops, the reality is that consumers today are more likely to be looking at their smartphones while watching TV. 

Mobile devices may very well be the third or fourth screen, but that is assuming TV is the first one, and that assumption may be more wrong than right as screens converge and content follows.

In that context, it is difficult to develop proper multiscreen strategies, when ordinal numbering doesn't necessarily help us identify which specific device is being used by consumers and, most importantly, what is their current state of mind.

Another thing to consider is your definition of "screen". The Pebble smartwatch, for example, is a wrist wearable device, small enough to be a used as a watch, but a sophisticated piece of technology capable of communicating with your iPhone or Android phone.

And it is breaking Kickstarter's all time funding records, gathering almost $9 million so far, with still over a week to go.

But most importantly, it has gathered such a significant user base that it will be a viable development platform for content creators.

What about Nike's Fuelband?

Granted, it has a more specific use and target audience, but the availability of an open API is another opportunity for content that adjusts not only to the size of the screen where the data is being presented, but experiences that are aware of the context in which the user is consuming that data and are designed to react and learn from her choices.

As more and more internet connected devices become part of a consumer's ecosystem, keeping count of all those screens will become less relevant than establishing experience flows and delivery mechanisms that make it possible for consumers to have seamless experiences while transitioning between devices.

This is what screen convergence is all about. Consider the following scenario: 

You may have been thinking about going away for the weekend for a while. As spring sets in, the weather is perfect to enjoy the outdoors. It is Friday night, and while watching TV with the family, you see a spot for a resort that is not more than four hours away from town, and suddenly you got it: road trip.

Shazam's app listens to the commercial and brings you to the website on your tablet, where you can explore your options further, make reservations, and use the maps app to plan your route.

Once you select your destination and mark it on the map, you receive a warning: the car doesn't have enough gas to get you all the way there. Acknowledging the message takes you back to the map, which now shows you a number of gas stations along your route and within range, as well as their current gas prices, reviews, etc. You choose one, and your route is recalculated automatically.

The next morning, when you get in the car, the GPS app on the dashboard has already loaded your route and you are ready to go, just as soon as everyone buckles up.

The value is not in maximizing "air time" on all screens, but in establishing relationships with consumers and by solving real life problems. The payoff will be significant for those who invest in solutions that not only cover the available screens but are able to anticipate the state of mind of the consumers interacting with them.

Are you ready to embrace the Nth screen?

App review: Spotify for iPad

Posted 04 May 2012 09:42am by David Moth with 1 comment

Spotify unveiled its new iPad app this week, adding to its existing portfolio of iPhone and Android apps.

It's free to download and has graphics that are optimised for the new Retina display.

But to be honest I was surprised that Spotify didn't already have an iPad app, so was expecting it to offer some remarkable functionality to make it worth the wait.

Unfortunately it doesn't, but that doesn't mean that Spotify has dropped the ball with their latest mobile offering...

It's premium

As with its other mobile apps, you need a premium account to use the iPad version.

However, it's likely that most iPad owners will already have the iPhone version installed, so it's unlikely to drive a huge number of new sign ups.


The app itself is very slick and intuitive, so for anyone familiar with iPad apps it won't take long to work out the basic functionality.

It opens on the 'What's New' tab, offering recommended albums, your friends' top track and playlists, and new releases.

Personally I've never felt that Spotify worked for music discovery, but its integration with Facebook has added more than 7m users so social and sharing are key to its continued growth.


That said, the 'What's New' tab is almost an exact copy of the desktop version, which is slightly unimaginative but at least offers consistency for users.

The other tabs are home to 'Search', 'Inbox', 'Playlists' and 'People' which all offer the same functions as their corresponding tabs on the desktop version. 

The best feature is the ability to flick through artist, album and playlist details from a tab that slides in from the right of the screen.

It means you can swipe through tracks and play songs without navigating away from the search page.

When a song is playing the details and controls appear in a tab at the bottom of the screen and remain there as you navigate through the app.

By clicking on the album artwork next to the song details you can access all the usual tools such as adding the track to a playlist or sharing it with friends.

The iPad app also offers the ability to store playlists offline, which is a function already offered on its other mobile apps.

In conclusion...

Spotify's iPad app is long overdue, as its iPhone version came out more than two years ago.

But the fact it has taken this long suggests that perhaps it's not as in demand as you would assume.

Users could already play Spotify through their computer or their smartphone, so I doubt anyone was that put out by the fact that up until now there wasn't a iPad version.

And presumably most people iPad owners already had the iPhone app installed, so they were already catered for to some extent anyway.

That said, Spotify has come up with a very good, if unremarkable, iPad app, though the lack of the recently-introduced apps means the best experience is still to be found on desktop. 

It's easy-to-use and offers the basic functionality that one would expect, but fails to offer any unique tools that make it a 'must-have' app. 

The decade of the entrepreneur is coming

Posted 09 May 2012 16:48pm by Cielo Lutino with 2 comments

The release of companies topping the Fortune 500 list proved a bright spot in today's still shaky global economy, but John Sviokla, a principal and US business leader for strategy and innovation at PricewaterhouseCoopers, believes there's much good still to anticipate. 

He spoke last week at Guardian's Activate Summit in New York. The summit attracted professionals in the publishing industry and featured such heavy hitters as media giant Arianna Huffington and Jonah Peretti, co-founder of BuzzFeed, perhaps the first true social news organization.

Sviokla followed both in the event's program, no easy task. Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of Guardian US, conducted a funny, smart interview with Huffington, who she likened to Madonna, while Peretti wowed the audience with an energetic presentation replete with BuzzFeed's signature images of cute animals in ridiculous outfits. Given the high wattage profiles of those who preceded him, Sviokla's contributions to the event seemed subdued and easy to gloss over.

With the latest list of Fortune 500 companies showing record earnings, it's worth reviewing the environment that gave rise to their success and considering how businesses today might follow in their footsteps or even race past. Calling it "the most competitive environment we've ever had in the history of mankind," Sviokla shared his thoughts on today's open economy:

Volatility and agility

Until recently, the lifespan of a company that made it onto the Fortune 500 list was 75 years. Now it's fewer than 15 years. What's changed? What challenges are CEOs encountering today that they avoided in the past? Volatility, said Sviokla. Technologies and markets are evolving at a rapid clip, with few leaders able to foresee the changes that their industry might face. Instead, executives need to ask themselves, "If I can't plan for it, can I at least react in a good way?" said Sviokla.

Producers on the rise

What qualifies as a good reaction for Sviokla is the kind of labor force smart companies develop, with producers taking top spot in his estimation. "You have to employ a new kind of talent," he said, "A producer in a media sense that brings together new capabilities in a new way inside an organization. The old roles aren't good enough."

Pressed further on that point, Sviokla responded that such an employee would be able to combine an organization's assets with assets in the marketplace in a new way in new markets. Privileged client relations left him unable to name specific companies achieving that goal, but he did identify health care as a vertical with admirable CEOs at the helm.

Innovations in innovation

"In this new Internet economy," continued Sviokla, "The horizontality of innovation is huge." In the past, innovations in, say, the steel industry would affect that industry alone. Today innovation travels across business segments.

It's carried in part by a labor force with a lifespan longer than the companies (and, in some cases, industries) that hired them. "People are going to have two and three and four careers because people are living longer than corporations," said Sviokla. Quoting business professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, he advised jobseekers and would-be jobseekers in the audience, "'You want to be employable, not employed.'"

The world is seeing innovations not just in industries, but in business models, too. "Those economies around the world that are willing to let old business models out and redeploy are actually the most vibrant economies," Sviokla said.

He ended his participation on an optimistic note: "We're going into a decade of entrepreneurship we haven't seen since the steam engine." For anyone who has read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which chronicled the success of the generation born during the 1860s and 1870s when the American economy experienced its greatest transformation, Sviokla's parting comment could only have been good news.


Five ways to market your brand abroad

Posted 30 May 2012 09:51am by Patrick Eve with 4 comments

William Hague's recent call to British business leaders to 'stop complaining', 'work harder', and 'get on a plane' to find growth opportunities has angered some business leaders.

But an increasing number of UK retailers are discovering new markets abroad without getting on a plane. E-commerce, adapted websites and well-executed international internet marketing programmes are seeing UK business selling to Europe and beyond while keeping the business firmly rooted in home soil.

We wanted to see what the appetite is among our own retail clients (all based in the UK) to develop new markets. When we surveyed them, almost one third said that that over half of their online business already comes from outside the UK.

We weren't surprised that 22% expect Asia to be their main growth area, but more surprising is that despite economic conditions, 40% expect Europe to be a 'fast growth' market in the next year. 67% cited northern Europe as a target market, and 52% are targeting southern European markets.

Which international markets will you be targeting in the next 1-2 years? 

Social media marketing combined with adapted e-commerce sites are clear drivers of this approach to international growth. No longer do you need a regional office, distribution centres or physical stores to sell outside of the home market.

Event traditional methods of PR and marketing are showing themselves to be less popular among than creating a direct connection with the consumer via social media. The top two marketing tools for growth are social media and a localised e-commerce site and the main barriers to international growth were cited as: insufficient knowledge about local cultures, language, local finance arrangements and local customs.

Don't assume your audience want to talk to you in English

Your e-commerce operation might be based in the UK but you should talk to your audience in their own language. This is incredibly important on social channels, where one-to-one interaction is the basis for good communications. 

Think locally to act socially

Facebook and Twitter are important, but there are other channels at work too. VKontakte is currently the most popular social network in Russia (it has 100 million active users), whereas China's big networks are Weibo and Renren. Be where your customers are.

Local knowledge is vital

in making the right kind of impression and developing a good reputation locally. Cultural points of reference will vary.

Something which would be applauded in the US may cause a storm of criticism in the UAE (as Puma found to its cost when it put a UAE flag on a limited edition shoe last year). Hire in local knowledge and native speakers to get these references right.

Use transcreation 

The art of conveying a message in another language, rather than relying on a direct translation - to develop a localised website, brand and even content for branded social network presences.

This helps to pick up cultural nuances, and create the sense that the brand belongs in that region, and that the business understands what local customers expect and want from them.

If you sell in another language, offer customer service in that language

If you're asking a customer to buy from a localised e-commerce site, they'll expect to deal with you in their own language.  

Any examples of companies doing this well? We'd love to hear.

Patrick Eve is CEO at TranslateMedia and a guest blogger on Econsultancy.

Review: SoundWave SW50 Bluetooth Speaker Phone


Buy Link

Somewhat futuristically styled (think UFO!), the SW50 is a neat little accessory, capable of being tucked away in any briefcase or on any shelf. First impressions are of it being cheaply made in plastic, but appearances can be deceptive, as we'll find out. Certainly one clue is gained by spotting the pretty meaty speaker cone that's the SW50's central feature.


On each side of the triangular SW50 is a port or feature: on/off switch, multifunction button (pairing/call-pickup) and microphone, and miniUSB port (for charging). I'd have preferred microUSB for the latter, but hey, the SW50 comes with a lead and many cameras still use miniUSB, so leads aren't exactly hard to come by.

The exposed speaker cone on the SW50's top adds a certain geek appeal and guarantees unimpeded sound, but has the disadvantage that dust gathers rather easily. I guess it'll depend where you normally keep the speaker when not in use. I found that a sharp blow would dislodge most gathered dust, while speaker operation naturally clears the rest:


Sound quality is really very good, I'd rate volume and quality as being 75% that of the more expensive units linked above, which is astonishing considering the SW50's size and price. One clue to the quality is found on the accessory's base, showing 'reflex' holes to allow bass frequencies to escape and to 'breathe':


Pairing was a doddle on all the handsets mentioned above, you press and hold the multifunction button until it starts flashing in red and then scan for Bluetooth devices in the phone's Settings. Once found, there's no PIN code to enter - it just works. And, as you might expect, thereafter you only have to turn the speaker on in order to get connected and start streaming audio from your smartphone. Incoming calls can be picked up using the green 'call' button and handled totally hands-free.

The only real caveat I found was on Nokia Symbian^3/Anna/Belle devices - there's a longstanding bug whereby controlling playback volume on a generic (i.e. non-Nokia) Bluetooth accessory just doesn't work. This is nothing to do with the SW50 and indeed volume control worked perfectly from S60 3rd Edition/5th Edition, Android and Windows Phone, but I thought I should mention the problem. Playback still happens, but you're stuck at maximum volume!

With most modern smartphones being designed down to a thickness and having speakers which are rather tinny and weedy, the need for a decent Bluetooth speaker is evident more than ever. If pushed, I'd go for the Nokia Play 360 with its industrial design, great output and compatibility, and with the flexibility to be put into a stereo array, but at around £100 it's expensive, doubly so if you buy two. Making the SW50 seem even more of a bargain - better still, it's almost in 'impulse buy' territory.

You can see more on the SW50 and purchase it, from Mobile Fun, from their range of Bluetooth speakers.

Reviewed by at

NASDAQ’s Gamble With Facebook’s Fortune

NASDAQ had a choice. When its systems buckled under the titanic volume of Facebook IPO share orders, it could have pushed back trading a day, or at least recommended as much to Mark Zuckerberg and company.

But as the IPO's scheduled time passed, NASDAQ made a cavalier decision to stumble forth on broken legs, pretending like little was wrong rather than halt trading as brokers asked. There seemed to be no plan for if things went wrong. An error-filled day of trading ensued, and confused investors pulled back. Financials aside, public perception is important for a public company. And when Facebook's share price sunk, public perception went down with it.

In some ways, Facebook's IPO was no disaster. It successfully raised $16 billion and didn't leave a quick pay-day for the banks. Perhaps its share price would have fallen even if NASDAQ had upheld its end of the bargain. There are plenty of questions about Facebook's revenue model, reports of a weak second quarter, and a reduced estimate from Morgan Stanley analysts that all contributed to the slumping price.

But beyond Facebook's actual value and who else is to blame, NASDAQ's bungling of its IPO hurt the company's image.

Facebook has received plenty of black eyes over the years. There's the controversy about its inception, fueled by the The Social Network's dramatization and the heartless depiction of Zuckerberg. There's also the privacy flare-ups. Some were executed and explained poorly. Others saw Facebook pushing changes and features people would eventually accept or even enjoy, but before they were ready. Most recently, revenue per quarter slipped a bit in Q1 2012.

With nearly a billion users, Facebook had built up momentum, though. The world had grown to accept that Zuckerberg didn't have to invent the concept of social networking to have invented Facebook, the realization of that concept. It had emerged from privacy audits by the Federal Trade Commission and the European Union's Irish Data Protection Commissioner without being required to make significant modifications that would hamper its business. And it was finally starting to monetize mobile.

But the bullet train was derailed in part by NASDAQ's mangled tracks, and the name on the crashed stock was $FB. Justifying a $104 billion valuation was going to be tough enough. Impossible by some assessments, just a matter of time by others. The decline of Facebook's share price certainly wasn't all NASDAQ's fault. But understanding of the intricacies of its specific failure won't trickle down all the way either.

Now the average person who was a Facebook user and wanted to become a Facebook owner is spooked. They wonder if some unseen competitor or critical flaw in its business would lead to such a sell-off the morning of the IPO. Zuckerberg could have courted them by underpricing Facebook's stock, handing billions to the banks in exchange for a pop. Instead he planned to maximize the money raised, fuel for the long fight with Google.

But he probably didn't plan for a trading delay of 30 minutes and investors who were unsure how much of Facebook they'd bought. Or for 12 millions postponed share orders to suddenly be filled between 1:49 pm and 1:51 pm without being properly marked "late sale", exaggerating the impression that people were trying to sell, as Reuters' Rodrigo Campos and John McCrank explain in their excellent minute by minute account of the IPO.

By trading volume, Facebook's IPO would be the biggest in history with 576 million shares exchanging hands. There was no precedent to go by. NASDAQ could have admitted its software was unprepared, attempted to halt trading until its systems were sound, and accepted the blow to its reputation. It could have given Facebook a fair chance. Instead, with Facebook's money on the line, it rolled the dice hoping everything would be okay. It wasn't. Now both are worse are off.

The sunny Friday of Facebook's IPO started gleefully with a words of thanks from Mark Zuckerberg. He'd then receive a commemorative hoodie from NASDAQ'S CEO Bob Greifeld who was soon cheering and fist-pumping as Zuck hit the opening bell. With hype at fever pitch and orders piling up, maybe he should have been managing his exchange instead, or at least had a Facebook-approved game plan in place in case of a delay. It'd be no surprise if Facebook considered a switch to the NYSE.

Not everyone will remember NASDAQ's gamble, but the black spot left by the chaos of May 18th will be part of Facebook's image as long as the social graph lives. Other companies picking an exchange for their IPO should be the last to forget.

[Image Credit: Tut Factory Montgomery Advisor]

GoPago Lets You Order, Pay for Lunch on Your Phone

Lunch line a little long at your favorite sandwich shop? Soon you may be able to order your lunch from your phone while you're headed to the shop, pay for it, and breeze past the line to pick up your meal rather than wait thanks to a mobile payment service called GoPago.

Starting this week the app is also running a promotion called Heros, which give you $10 to spend on that lunch and the ability to be the hero of your group of friends and give $10 for lunch to anyone you want for free.

What is GoPago?

From a customer perspective, GoPago is a way to make buying your next lunch a little easier. Once you've linked a credit card with the app you can log in, check out the menu for restaurants near you, and place an order for what strikes your fancy including any special requests like extra mustard.

Once it receives your order the restaurant accepts it, and then lets you know how long the wait will be. For instance, if the restaurant currently has no line it might tell you your lunch will be ready in 5. If the line is out the door, then you might be quoted a 30 minute wait time. Restaurants can also refuse orders if they're too swamped to get to your order, or are out of things that you've requested. They can also suggest substitutions or ask you questions about your order.

Since the app lets you pay for your meal as well as order it, when it comes time to pick up your lunch you can go right to the pickup window and grab your meal.

The service can be used for any type of merchant, so you could also use it to schedule and pay for your next haircut or even buy a pair of shoes.

Founded in 2009, the San Francisco based company works with merchants in San Francisco and Mountain View, Calif. and the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. The service currently has 240 live merchants in San Francisco, with plans to expand that number to 550 next month. It also has 200 merchants signed up and ready to go in Dallas in July, more than 800 for Chicago at the beginning of November, and 1400 set to go in NYC on December 1.

A Win For Merchants

While definitely a nice service for customers, the real win with GoPago comes form the merchant side. In addition to being able help customers more efficiently, the service keeps track of what customers have been in the store today, what they purchased, and how many times they've shopped using GoPago. The app also has the ability to report what customers have looked at a particular merchant, so if you're always menu shopping at a local ice cream shop the shop will know and can reach out to you to suggest you come in.

"We believe that merchants greatest asset are their customer," Leo Rocco, Founder and CEO of GoPago told Mashable. The company sees its tools as empowering merchants and giving them the ability to directly connect with customers they might have otherwise lost or never had.

As a merchant you can give customers cash to spend in your store on the fly. So, if you see that someone has been checking out your menu but has never stopped in, you can offer them some cash to give you a shot. Likewise, if you see a customer regularly shops with you then you can give him or her some money to get a drink or item on you for being so loyal.

In addition to keeping track of who's shopping, the app on merchant side also keeps an accurate account of what people are buying, even those not using GoPago. Rocco says that many merchants have opted to replace their point of sale program entirely with GoPago "They want to take our point of sale system and use our reporting, because our reporting is a lot better than what they're used to," he says.

GoPago has partnered with JPMorgan Chase, and the bank is giving merchants who bank with them free Motorola Xoom tablets to get started using the service.

More than just a tool for small businesses, GoPago also offers some unique marketing options for larger businesses including Chase who plans to use the app to reward its own customers for making purchases. The app could also ultimately be used by big brands such as Coke, to offer free drinks to certain users.

Be a Hero

The hero program is an expansion of the function that allows merchants to gift customers, and puts the power of gifting in the hands of the customers themselves making them a hero for their group of friends. Individuals are given a code, that they can then distribute to friends and share an offer for an allotted amount of time. For instance, a person might be given the ability to give people a free cup of coffee with a code for 24 hours, with everyone using the promo code being given the ability to get their next cup of joe for free for a day.

The Hero program launched this week, and currently the app is offering a free lunch to anyone who signs up with a code. If you want to give it a whirl, you can have a $10 lunch -– or any other meal you choose — by entering the promo code Mashable into the app when you sign up (or from the More tab on your profile page if you're already a GoPago user). The promo code is only good for 48 hours, so if you want to give it a try with the free cash, you'll want to do it soon.

What do you think of GoPago? How do you think it compares to other mobile payment apps? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

GM defriended Facebook over rejection of bigger, bolder ads

Posted 30 May 2012 14:30pm by Patricio Robles with 6 comments

A couple of weeks ago, news broke that one of the world's largest brand advertisers, GM, was ditching its paid ad campaigns on Facebook.

The timing was curious, and some suggested it was intentional. After all, Facebook was on the verge of going public in the richest tech IPO ever. So the embarrassing news that GM was pulling its account sure looked like a well-placed blow to the world's largest social network.

According to a report by AdAge, the timing apparently wasn't coincidental after all: GM and Facebook had a falling out.

AdAge's Cotton Delo writes:

In a now-notorious meeting between General Motors Global CMO Joel Ewanick and other top marketing brass and Facebook sales executives, the automaker's team asked whether it was possible to run bigger, higher-impact ad units than the current offering, according to people familiar with the discussion. Advertising on Facebook has always been subtle. But GM wanted to do something bigger. To GM, Facebook's audience was interesting; its ad formats were not.

Rather than run sponsored stories, which look like Facebook posts, or smaller units on the right side of the pages, GM asked if it could take over a page. It was told no.

Most observers are painting the apparent clash between GM and Facebook as a battle between advertiser needs and user needs. And to be sure, there's a legitimate discussion to be had about this. But this discussion is also a red herring.

Facebook VP Carolyn Everson basically says that marketers who don't get it "will refer back to the formats that they've been used to over the last couple decades" instead of embracing Facebook's social ads. But good luck finding a Facebook executive who will talk about the obvious motivation behind GM's request: the efficacy of the ads Facebook is selling is in question.

At the end of the day, GM obviously didn't believe it was seeing a return on investment on its Facebook ad spend. Period. If its Facebook ads were working, it probably wouldn't have asked for more intrusive kinds of ad units and it almost certainly wouldn't have pulled its account entirely.

Which brings us to the billion dollar question: is there a way to deliver a satisfactory ROI through social without resorting to the type of intrusive, annoying ads that have historically been so problematic?

In the case of Facebook, the onus is really on the world's largest social network to answer that question. After all, it is the pioneering upstart that built a website used by more than 900m people, and it ostensibly knows far more about them and how they interact with its services than any advertiser ever will. If Facebook can't figure out how to develop an effective ad offering for the social channel, why would anybody expect one of its customers to?

Right now, Facebook is caught between a rock and a hard place. The generally poor reputation its ad offerings have isn't the result of lack of effort. The company has been trying for years to develop new advertising models that work in a social environment. Some have flopped; none have become the AdWords of social. Right now, Facebook is really little more than a display ad company. The problem: it refuses to recognize that.

Facebook, of course, could quickly turn its fortunes around by discovering the holy grail of social advertising. But if you look at the rapid decline of Facebook's share price, it would appear the company doesn't currently have many friends who believe it's likely to do that. The growing chorus of skeptics may prove to be right, but Facebook, flush with cash from its IPO and home to many talented people, is hardly as hopeless a company as some are making it out to be.

This said, GM's departure, and the way it apparently went down, signals trouble. Yes, GM was only spending $10m/year with Facebook -- a small fraction of Facebook's more than $4bn in revenue. But last year GM spent more on ad buys globally than Facebook generated in revenue from ads, making it the kind of whale that any media company would want to keep on its side. After all, if Facebook is ever going to grow its revenues exponentially, you can probably write on a single piece of paper the brand advertisers that it absolutely needs to count as customers. GM is certainly one of them.

For whatever reason, Facebook wasn't able to retain GM as a customer, and it doesn't appear the relationship ended on the best of terms. Which highlights an important lesson for Facebook and companies in the social space: the customer is always right. And when the customer isn't right, you had better have something to sell that makes the customer forget that. For Facebook, that's an effective social ad offering and nothing less.

Learn to code: make your own Bitly interface in two minutes

Posted 30 May 2012 12:46pm by dan barker with 7 comments

In this blog post, you will learn to code your own bitly user interface in just two minutes. (caveat: this depends on how fast you can copy/paste!).

The post contains ten steps to build your own bitly interface, a ready-made example, a simple explanation of how it all works!


Bitly recently changed their web-based URL shortening interface to help turn the service into more of a 'social bookmarking' tool.

I'm a really big fan of bitly, to the extent that it tells me I've shortened 1,728 links through the website itself. But I'm not enjoying the actual 'shortening' part of the new interface.

To get around that quickly I put together a very quick, simple Google Spreadsheet bitly interface. Here's a screengrab:

simple bitly interface

That's just a screengrab but, in the tool itself, any URL I enter into the first box is then instantly shortened in the second.

I thought it would be useful to put together this simple tutorial of how to do that. Firstly as it's fairly useful, secondly as it's a nice simple introduction to Google Spreadsheets & APIs. So here we are: DIY instructions, plus a simple 'copy this spreadsheet' example for anyone ultra-lazy.

10 steps to your own Bitly interface:

Here are the 10 steps to follow to make your own Google Spreadsheet interface for shortening URLs via bitly:

  1. Open a new Google Spreadsheet. (details here if you've never done that)
  2. In cell D8, type 'Enter Your URL Here:'
  3. In cell E8, type 'http://www.twitter.com/danbarker' (this is an example URL, you'll see it shortened by magic once you get to step 10)
  4. In cell D10, type 'Your Shortened Bitly URL:'
  5. In cell E10, copy & paste this: =IF(ISTEXT(D25), IMPORTDATA(D25), "")
  6. In cell D18, type 'Bitly Account'
  7. In cell E18, copy & paste this: bitlyexample
  8. In cell D19, type 'API Key'
  9. In cell E19, copy & paste this: R_8b726077f3d5c6029700c29e529395d3
  10. In cell D25, copy & paste this: =IF(ISTEXT(E8),CONCATENATE("http://api.bit.ly/shorten?version=2.0.1&login=", E18, "&apiKey=", E19, "&format=text&longUrl=", E8), 0)

That's it. Change the text in 'E8' (the bit from step three where I sneakily self-promoted my own twitter URL) to any other website address, and it will instantly be shortened in cell E10.

What you should see

If your copy & pasting skills are up to scratch, you should then see something a little like this in your google spreadsheet:

Bitly UI Example

I've added some colours there to denote the 3 sections. The top purple area is the actual interface. The middle (blue) area is simply the bitly account I've set up for this example, and the API key that goes along with that. The third (pink) area is the actual bitly API call itself

Here's are some notes on that (in gaudy colours) in case the above isn't clear:

Bitly Interface

If you're wondering what "the API call" bit is about, you can give it a go here:


If you paste that into a browser, you'll see it gives you a bitly URL in return. That's all we're really doing here - building up that URL, running it, and displaying the bitly URL it gives us in return.

Full example spreadsheet

If you have a Google account, clicking this link should prompt you to make a copy of a full example spreadsheet of the above.

Style it however you want; use your own Bitly account username & API key instead of the demo examples above. (you can get an API key here if you're logged in to bitly: https://bitly.com/a/your_api_key/).

How this works: step by step

To explain how this all works, here are the 10 steps we covered above, complete with an explanation about what's happening at each stage:

Bitly Creator Steps

That's it!

That's it! Feel free to add any thoughts or comments below, or to harangue me on twitter (@danbarker) if you didn't find this useful or I didn't explain anything well enough.

And do share the post with others if you think they'd find it useful too.

Dan Barker is an E-Business Consultant and a guest blogger on Econsultancy.

15 valuable tips for optimising your sales on Amazon

Posted 30 May 2012 11:32am by David Moth with 4 comments

Marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon are an important sales tool for online businesses.

Due to the huge volume of traffic and search queries handled by Amazon it offers sellers access to a hugely valuable shop window, and the marketplace is equally important to Amazon itself.

Globally the online giant is growing by 42%, with the marketplace driving a large part of that.

During a workshop at Catalyst Europe 2012, ChannelAdvisor's head of service for EMEA Dan Burnham shared best practice tips on how merchants can optimise sales on Amazon.


While users can browse for items using the categories on the left-hand side of the page, the search bar remains the primary method for locating products.

As such, it is important to make sure product details are optimised for search.

Amazon's search function harvests keywords from the product title, standard product ID (UPC, EAN, ISBN), brand/designer, manufacturer and search terms.

Product titles

Burnham said that product titles should use all the space available and be full of keywords, while also maintaining a customer-friendly structure. It is important to avoid punctuation, asterisks, caps or special characters as users won't include these in search terms.

Similarly, customers won't all use the same keywords, so merchants should vary their product titles and experiment to see what works.

Search terms

Amazon allows merchants to include five additional search terms for each product.

Burnham said it is important to use all five, highlighting a Nokia smartphone that appeared fourth in a search for 'Nokia phone', but top for 'Nokia phone with Bluetooth'. The boost in rankings was down to the fact that the merchant had used included the search term 'Bluetooth' in the product details.

To optimise the additional search terms, avoid using any words that appear in the product title.

Don't repeat the title, product name or brand, it's a waste of search terms.

Search Index

Amazon's search index takes into account price, availability and sales history, but the better selling products will generally rise to the top. However, Burnham pointed out that Amazon occasionally shuffles search results to more evenly promote products. 

Browse Nodes

These are essentially product codes that identify your items within the product categories. Merchants can select two for each product.

Again, it is about giving Amazon as much information as possible in order to increase your visibility in the marketplace.

Filtered Navigation

This is a relatively recent addition and allows merchants to include detailed product criteria, such as the size and colour of each item.

Users can then filter their product search to find more relevant items. Iit is very important for sellers to include the detailed information in their product listings otherwise they won't appear in filtered results. 

Product Variation

This tool allows sellers to group different variations (e.g. size or colour) of the same product. Users can then check different items from the same product page.

Burnham said the merchant has to provide an SKU and establish each item's parentage, but it is a user-friendly way of giving customers access to your full product range.


Who owns the product page?

Though Amazon's marketplace can include links to a number of different merchants for any one item, only one seller's information appears on the product page.

Amazon's algorithm makes a decision on who get precedence based on a merchant's sales volume, refund rate, buyer feedback and A-to-Z Guarantee Claims (i.e. the speed of their returns process).

However, if you feel you have better images or product data than is currently being displayed, you can contact seller support and request that your data be given preference.

Product Descriptions

Burnham pointed out that each customer has their own buying criteria, they might be looking for the same product but for different reasons.

Therefore the more information you provide, the better chance you have of matching to each one.

That said, too much information can also be off-putting, so product descriptions should be kept to a maximum of 200 words. And though there is no published list, limited HTML formatting is allowed. These formats are all known to work: <br> <b> <i>.

Most categories will also allow up to five bullet points in product descriptions.

This should be high level details that you want to include, so limit bullet points to features with the broadest appeal.

Comparative Pricing

Burnham said consumers need to be told how much they are saving in order to encourage them to make a purchase. Amazon allows merchants to use two different forms of comparative pricing – a "Was" price or a "Sale" price.

The "Was" price is generally the RRP, and sellers can then undercut that with a lower sale cost. 

But merchants need to be aware that there are strict criteria around what constitutes a valid RRP, and the ASA is clamping down on sellers that mislead customers.

Product Images

Images are vital for driving conversions as consumers need to know what they are buying. Ideally images should be 500x500 pixels with a white background, and the entire product must be visible and should take up roughly 80% of the space.

Images should not include watermarks, borders, URLs, animation, seller logos or any other text.

The Buy Box

An estimated 70% of all sales on Amazon are made through the Buy Box, so it is a vital tool for merchants.

For those familiar with Amazon, it is the box that sits in top right of the page and is generally owned by the seller with the cheapest price. As such, repricing tools can be a major asset.

This allows merchants to set minimum costs based on profit margins and the amount you are willing to undercut Amazon and other sellers.

But price is not the only criteria – Amazon also takes into account seller performance and stock quantities, and occasionally randomises it to ensure other sellers get some exposure.

For new sellers, it will generally take a long time to build up the sales history needed to own the Buy Box.

Merchants also need to be aware that used products cannot feature in it.

Secret Shopper

Burnham said that merchants need to take a step back from the process of selling products and browse their own storefronts and listings as a buyer.

You need to ask how easy it is to find your products; are the listings clean and detailed; do the images represent the item well; and are returns policies easy to understand?

These are basic things, but it's easy to take your eye off the ball getting caught up in data and not reviewing what your products actually look like.

Monitor Performance

Amazon has built its empire on excellent customer service, and it expects sellers in its marketplace to play by the same rules. Burnham says merchants need to monitor performance on a daily basis, as a poor feedback rate of just 5% can cost you the Buy Box.

Amazon also pays great attention to the order defect rate, returns process and buyer communications.

On Amazon the buyer is king. It is primarily a software company, so it's very rigid but means you know what you're getting into. If you say you're going to do something and you don't, Amazon is watching and will kick you off.

Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA)

FBA essentially allows sellers to use Amazon's logistics network to deliver their products. Amazon stores your products in its warehouse, then packs and ships them as well as providing the after sales care.

Products that are offered through FBA can be sold to members of Amazon's Prime loyalty scheme. Prime customers represent an estimated 6% of buyers, but they buy make up as much as 17% of sales.

Burnham suggested that sellers should consider including the top 5%-10% of their products in FBA in order to accelerate sales.

Products that have high views but low conversions should also be considered.

miércoles, 30 de mayo de 2012

Does your content strategy make your site ‘house’ or ‘home’?

Posted 28 May 2012 14:10pm by Rob McLeod with 5 comments

Most digital marketers have a content strategy they would confidently defend and rightly so. Content strategies ensure there's always something new and useful on your site for visitors and define how that content will be promoted.

The main problem with this is that something that probably started off with all the best intentions can quickly become lip service and a chore.

Keeping it fresh and relevant is a challenge.

A 'content strategy' is not a new idea. Although today there is an increased emphasis on its value, a content strategy derives from the old adage that great content is rarely created by chance.

I often hear marketers talking a about a website or content destination as a 'house' and, while this is useful, I think many need to think more about how content is what you add to make a house a home.

If you think of your audience as the people who come by for a visit, the content on your site is what makes them want to come back and visit you again.

It would be easy to say that every marketer needs a sound digital content strategy but that does nothing to help anyone seeking to improve an existing strategy. The question is where do you start, what would be most useful to your customers and how do you deliver that information in the most effective way possible?

Spend time on your site

The value of spending time on your site cannot be overestimated. The more time you spend on your site, the better your knowledge of what makes it special will be.

It is near impossible to create a site visitors will want to return to without being a regular user of the site yourself. Put yourself in their shoes. Just like in a real house, if it is merely a place to lay your head and hang your coat, then it will never mean more to you than a basic coat rack.

Make the most of all your pages

To get the most out of your content strategy, you have to make full use of the whole site and not just the 'obvious' pages.

Quite often you find a website with lots of great content on the homepage but a severe deficiency the further you delve into the site. Not using all the pages on your site would be the same as buying a massive house with a large kitchen and king size bedroom but sleeping, eating and cooking in the front room.

It is important to make useful information available to you visitors at every turn

Listen and get involved in existing conversations

The term 'engagement' is bandied around by marketers all the time these days. And engaging on networks like Twitter and Facebook is relatively straightforward. But engagement on your own website is equally important and is, in many cases, much harder.

But a site that does a good job of engaging visitors will achieve far greater results. This could be as simple as including dynamic content such as Twitter feeds or it could involve having a regularly updated blog with lots of comments. So, put the welcome mat out, stick the kettle on and make your home feel alive.

The true test of any content strategy is whether or not it facilitates the consistent delivery of information your customers find interesting, engaging and useful. And if it is true that a house in which nobody lives is nobody's home, the aim would not only be to attract visitors but to provide something that will make them want to come back for more.

Rob McLeod is Head of Planning at Realise Digital and a guest blogger on Econsultancy. 

With $1.3M In New Funding, CodeGuard Launches Its Free Website Backup, Monitoring Service

At TechCrunch Disrupt NYC last May, the unanimous winner of the "Audience Choice" award was a young, Atlanta-based startup called CodeGuard. The startup caught the audience's attention based on a simple value proposition: To become a "time machine for your website." In other words, CodeGuard's free service allows any site owner to back up their website and revert to earlier versions, while monitoring for infections.

After months of tweaking and beta testing, today CodeGuard is officially pulling back the curtain on a new-and-improved service, backed by a fresh $1.3 million in funding from Imlay Investments and a host of angel investors, including Palaniswamy Rajan, Bert Ellis, Tom Noonan, Matt Chanoff, and Merrick Furst.

The new funding adds to the $500K the startup raised back in June of last year from Imlay and others. All of CodeGuard's seed investors have returned to re-up their investments and give the startup the fuel it needs to expand — now just under $2 million total.

While there are a number of companies that provide disaster recovery and data backup, what differentiates CodeGuard from the rest, says co-founder David Moeller, is that it utilizes differential backup. What does that mean? As opposed to solely storing just a snapshot of a website's source code and database, CodeGuard compares the current version with prior versions and only stores the differences.

This minimizes the space needed for backups and, in turn, gives the startup insight into all the changes in a website's code and database. After launching its public beta at Disrupt last May, CodeGuard has since upgraded its backend infrastructure to Amazon EC2 and S3 to enable scaling and to provide near-total redundancy.

The startup is also today officially launching a complete redesign of its user interface, which means, among other things, an update to its "Time Machine" feature. The majority of the UI updates are visual in nature, giving those site owners who may not have a computer science degree a visual glimpse into their website's operations, rather than lines of text (as in the previous version of CodeGuard). Now, site owners can simply log-in to CodeGuard's free dashboard and sort through prior versions of their website visually, choosing from particular versions of files that they want to restore — or restoring the whole site to a previous version.

Previously, CodeGuard had simply downloaded a zip file of the contents of a website and presented its Time Machine in text-form, but now users can take advantage of a visual representation of their file mix, watching as their development support works on the site, etc.

The startup also release a cPanel plugin so that hosting providers can allow their users to create accounts with a few clicks from a hosting provider control panel, which now complements a WordPress plugin with similar functionality.

In the big picture, CodeGuard wants to provide backup for life for websites of all stripes, from the big players to the mom and pop shops and millions of bloggers out there using WordPress. Of course, users want things to be easy, but when it comes to backup and monitoring, there are a lot of different use cases, and configurations change from provider to provider. WordPress itself has a laundry list.

So, CodeGuard has struck strategic partnerships with hosting and web service providers like Parallels, CloudFlare, A Small Orange, HostDime, HostMySite, WebHostingBuzz and NameCheap, and now offers integration options via cPanel, Plesk, and WordPress, as well as FTP/SFTP, MySQL and WordPress backup and restore. And that's really one of the coolest parts of CodeGuard's technology — it performs platform-agnostic, non-intrusive change monitoring and differential backup, whether tunneling over SSH or using near-ubiquitous but dated protocols like FTP.

In terms of cost, CodeGuard offers a pay-as-you-go service, which is free until users hit the 2GB limit, at which point they can upgrade to a yearly rate of $10/month. For $25, users can access all their backups for 72 hours.

Moeller says that the key here, though, is that CodeGuard isn't doing the typical bait-and-switch that's become rampant among backup solutions. The goal, he says, is to keep backups and snapshots as small as possible so that users never get to that 2GB limit.

The other important differentiating point for CodeGuard is an element of customer service. That is to say that many solutions give site owners the tools and just leave them be. In contrast, when CodeGuard, say, opens up a site's servers and checks to see what's been modified or deleted, it automatically alerts users if they find any changes. That way users know that their backup solution is working — based on the fact that the startup actually notifies them with each change.

With its new infusion of capital, Moeller says, CodeGuard has been ramping up its team and integrating its technology with hosting providers all over the country. In the last two weeks, its observed 20 million changes to files, and its new system has been designed with scale in mind, to be able to handle an exponential load. The startup hopes to begin offering Tumblr backup in next quarter, along with support for a number of other content management systems.

For more on CodeGuard, check 'em out at home here or in the video below: