sábado, 30 de noviembre de 2013

Intel Has Acquired Natural Language Processing Startup Indisys, Price “North” Of $26M, To Build Its AI Muscle

Intel has quietly made another international acquisition in its push into artificial intelligence technology: it has bought Indisys, a Spanish startup focused on naturual language recognition. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but it is reportedly "north" of €20 million ($26 million). It comes just two months after news broke that Intel acquired Omek, an Israeli maker of gesture-based interfaces, reportedly for about $40 million.

Intel has given us direct confirmation of the deal and noted that the majority of employees joined the company. "Intel has acquired Indisys, a privately held company based in Seville, Spain. The majority of Indisys employees joined Intel. We signed the agreement to acquire the company on May 31 and the deal has been completed," a spokesperson noted in an email to me. She also added that the financial terms of the agreement are confidential and it is not disclosing the price. "However, I can confirm that the value of the transaction is not material to Intel." Among those who have now moved over to Intel, Pilar Manchon, CEO of Indisys, is now in Santa Clara working in Intel's R&D department.

No further details, either, on how the technology or existing products may get used. "Indisys has a deep background in computational linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and machine learning. We are not disclosing any details about how Intel might use the Indisys technologies at this time," the spokesperson said. (If you read further down I give some obvious areas where the tech may get used.)

Prior to Intel's statement to us, there were press reports (in Spanish, example) of a deal; a news release from Inveready, one of the Indisys' early investors, noted it was selling its stake to Intel.

(Inveready, who declined to comment for this story, has a track record with Spanish startup exits: it was also a backer of PasswordBank, acquired by Symantec for $25 million.)

Based in Seville, Indisys' dialogue-based systems have been used by Spanish companies like the retailing giant El Corte Ingles, insurance group Mapfre and the banking giant BBVA, across multiple platforms like web and mobile.

Indisys is a developer of natural language recognition technology, but also Siri-like intelligent assistant (IA) interfaces so that people can interact with it. Pictured here is "Maya," one of its creations. Other clients like Boeing have been using Indisys' technology for a project called Atlantis, to create interfaces to control unmanned vehicles.

While many of its reference customers are Spanish, the company says has developed multilingual technology. Indisys writes that its IA "is a human image, which converses fluently and with common sense in multiple languages ??and also works in different platforms."

As with Intel's Omek acquisition, there are likely a couple of reasons behind the purchase of Indisys.

The first is that it is part of Intel larger moves into 3D visualization and "perceptual computing", Intel's term for gesture, touch, voice, and other artificial intelligence-style sensory technologies. This is also the focus of a $100 million investment fund Intel launched in April 2013.

The second is that voice recognition technology is being worked directly into Intel's processor business.

Indeed, just earlier this week, Intel presented devices that showed off the company's advances in gesture and natural language recognition business. While there has been speculation that Intel would license technology from companies like Nuance to build it into its own systems, the Indisys deal is an indication that Intel is getting more serious and wants to build and ultimately control this technology itself instead.

Intel was not a stranger to Indisys: its venture arm, Intel Capital, led a $5 million Series A investment into the company in November 2012, raising just over $6 million in total. Indisys has been in operation since 2003, and that last funding injection was specifically to help build out its business into international markets.

Given that Omek was also a portfolio company, it's another sign of the tight integration between what Intel is doing on a strategic level as a business, and what it does on a VC level, something you can't say for all corporate VC arms.

FundingDream Aims to Reinvigorate Crowdfunding in China

Can a crowdfunding site succeed in China? If a new company can get the attention of a small percent of China's more than 1.4 billion people, the impact could be huge, and the revenue even bigger.

Still in private beta and launching in early December, FundingDream is an all-or-nothing setup resembling the Kickstarter model. Campaigns are funded and contributors charged only if they meet monetary goals.

FundingDream will focus on socially conscious projects, businesses and charities, applying a 10% fee to collected funds (Kickstarter takes 5% of total raised funds when goals are met). Project creation or backing is open to anyone, as opposed to Kickstarter which just allows creators from the U.S., UK, and Canada (New Zealand and Australia are on the way).


This isn't the first crowdfunding operation in China. Competitors include DreamMore and Demo Hour. The difference, FundingDream cofounder and CTO Joshua Jackson says, is his site's streamlined design (pages are in Chinese and English), socially conscious focus, and the audience. FundingDream, which is registered in the U.S., is open to donations and project creation from anywhere. Other Chinese crowdfunding sites aren't.

Jackson says his site will be a good fit for a more ambitious generation of Chinese entrepreneurs that wants to make a more global impact.

"1.4 billion people is an open and untapped market," Jackson says. "We're aiming to dominate because of our partnerships."

Those partnerships include Jiekuwang, a Chinese online shopping startup site with half a million active users. FundingDream will have access to the email addresses of those users, and plans to promote the site to them, as well as build them profiles to populate FundingDream.

"That's how we're jumpstarting the audience," Jackson says.

The Great Wall

Andy Shuai Liu, a blogger born in China says trust, or lack thereof, is a potential barrier to FundingDream's success.

"In a relatively low trust society where people are concerned about scams ... online, I assume many well-intended prospective benefactors would be seeking assurance that the cause and the project are legit before deciding to donate," he says.

Qiaoyi Zhuang, a Chinese-born journalist in New York, agrees. She says despite cultural challenges, crowdfunding is extremely popular among young Chinese students and NGOs. But Zhuang thinks it will be difficult for FundingDream to have more success than Kickstarter, which has launched more than 100,000 projects and raised $619 million since 2009. She says Chinese crowdfunding donations are typically much lower than the Kickstarter average of $25 per project, attributing that to a fear of online scams. And since the site will also host projects from outside the People's Republic, it may have a hard time getting traction with the Chinese.

"I haven't seen any Chinese crowdfunding sites want to target foreign users," Zhuang says.

Liu agrees, pointing out another potential roadblock: the very idea of donating. He says that in China people who give away money through charity are often the focus of ridicule — he says with the nation's income inequality, giving away money is looked at as a frivolous act.

Jackson, however, believes attitudes are changing. He says "people donating has become more common and less controversial."

Demo Hour, however, only raised less than $500,000 for 150 projects in its first year, a far cry from U.S. crowdfunding companies. And government interference is a real possibility, both Liu and Zhuang point out, especially when it comes to the web.

FundingDream has serious obstacles to overcome to gain a toehold in the crowdfunding business. But with more than 560 million Chinese people online, savvy marketing and local success stories could help buoy those chances.

Image: FLICKR / Philip Jägenstedt

Report: Loyalty programs don't always breed loyalty in Australia

Australian consumers buy more from retailers with loyalty programs, and are more likely to choose a brand with a loyalty program, but this doesn't mean they will be more loyal, according to a new report. 

The For love or money? 2013 consumer study into Australian loyalty programs report, commissioned by strategic marketing company Directivity and digital agency Citrus, surveyed over 1,000 consumers in February 2013 to see how Australians feel towards loyalty programs. 

And, the findings highlighted that while loyalty programs definitely influence buyer behaviour, they don't always equal customer loyalty. 

The loyalty landscape 

Almost 9 in 10 Australians over the age of 16 are members of a loyalty program and 11% of consumers are even members of more than 10 loyalty programs. 

Australian women are much more likely to be members of a loyalty program program than men (93% vs 82%) and women are also members of more programs (on average five compared to three for men). 

But surprisingly, men are more active with their memberships, with 49% presenting their card when purchasing, compared to only 41% of women. 

Older Australians (55+) are more likely to buy from companies that have a loyalty program than younger generations, yet this age group also believes more strongly that loyalty programs don't offer any real value. 

Loyalty programs do encourage consumers to spend more, with Australian consumers buying 80% more from companies they are a member of. Consumers also tend to buy more from companies that have a loyalty program than those who don't.

In fact, when faced with choosing two similar products/companies - one with a loyalty program and one without - 55% buy from the one with a loyalty program.

But none of this equals loyalty it seems. 

When consumers were asked if they feel more loyal to a brand whose program they are a member of, only 46% indicated that they did.

As one 25-34 year old female respondent said: 

A loyalty 'card' does not maketh a loyalty program. Unless being a part of this program entitles you to rewards, discounts, free gifts, exclusive invitations or something special over and above what other customers receive, I have no incentive to give retailers all my details. I am happy to give them this information for sales and statistical analysis of purchasing, however I deserve something in return. 

Show me the love, not just the money

The loyalty program reward that Australian consumers most want the most is financial, with 80% of respondents rating discounts when making purchases as very important. 

Points based programs where members can redeem points for vouchers, products or other rewards was the second most popular benefit (77%), followed by exclusive offers (65%) and access to more rewards based on spend (62%). 

But according to Citrus CEO Peter Noble, consumers also want to be surprised with unexpected rewards.

Ultimately financial rewards wins the day for consumers and is the main motivation for joining loyalty programs. 

But a winning program is one that also has multiple emotional and unexpected benefits creating an element of 'surprise and delight' and tailoring offers based on consumer needs and preferences. 

Adam Posner, CEO of Directivity, agrees with this saying that while basic monetary rewards give retailers a ticket to play in the loyalty game, the real opportunity lies in building deeper engagement with members through unexpected and emotional rewards.

This plays out in the research which shows surprise rewards such as a gift on your birthday, exclusive offers or special experiences go a long way to overcoming the belief that programs don't offer any real value. 

Australia's Top Ten

Wondering what loyalty programs are highest rated in Australia? According to the report, the most mentioned loyalty programs cited by respondents as 'doing a particularly good job' include:

1. Coles Flybuys (37%)

2. Woolworths Everyday Rewards (22%)

3. Qantas Frequent Flyer (11%)

4. MYERone (6%)

5. Priceline (5%)

6. Virgin Velocity (2%)

7. CBA Credit Card (1%)

8. IGA (1%)

9. Millers (1%)

10. Spotlight (1%)

[Image credit: whatleydude]

viernes, 29 de noviembre de 2013

How can you go about meeting and managing your customers’ expectations?

customer expectations are rising

It seems that everywhere I look this month I'm reminded of a major and growing trend that's increasingly impacting the way that every business needs to think.

It's this: customer expectations are rising faster than a bunch of helium balloons on a calm day. Especially when it comes to digital.

What does this mean and how can you go about meeting and managing your customers' expectations?

The Amazon effect

I recently placed an order with the online gardening retailer Crocus. It has an extensive selection of plants, the site is well designed, and I've bought from it before and been really happy with the service.

Here are the order details from my confirmation email.

Crocus order summary

Great. I'm looking forward to receiving the bulk of my order in 2-3 days and the onion sets in about four weeks.

A few days later, no delivery. I send Crocus an email. You know where this is going.

Below the list of items is a short sentence that I hadn't noticed:

Suddenly I'm less happy. My expectations are higher. If I think about this logically I know that not every retailer can offer the split delivery service of Amazon and that the error was perhaps in my assumption, but it doesn't matter.

The coffee shop effect

Free Megaweb

Coffee shops have long offered free wi-fii. Now, many retailers, restaurants and bars do too. For the price of a cuppa you can quickly connect and browse away to your heart's content.

So why do so many hotels still charge? And charge so much?

Alex Polizzi (hotelier, grand-daughter of Rocco Forte, and the UK media's go-to hotel guru) commented on this recently in The Telegraph. "Why should hotel guests pay for WiFi? This is the question that I am asked more often than any other".

I believe her. When I led digital marketing for IHG, owner of brands such as Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and InterContinental, I heard it too.

The reasons are logical: high costs from legacy contracts and impractical old buildings.

Does knowing this change the customer's opinion? Not even slightly, as a poll immediately following Polizzi's remarks attests with 92.5% of the (currently) 1,900 votes answering the question "Are hotel WiFi charges acceptable?" with a resolute: No!

The [input your own] effect

There are tons of other examples that spring to mind. The Twitter effect on customer service, for example. I'd love to hear yours in the comments.

What to do, what to do…

What are businesses to do when they're being measured against their direct competitors and against the very best from other sectors across the globe?

I think the approach is three-pronged:

1. Get inside your customer's head

McKinsey&Company references this in a useful article called The do-or-die questions boards should ask about technology, posing three key questions to address about customer experience and expectation.

The good news is that the digital landscape that's compounding this issue can also assist with understanding it through social listening tools, online feedback and the like.

2. Meet the expectation

If it's possible and affordable, make it happen.

3. Manage the expectation

If you can't make it happen, or happen soon, have a clear plan and communication strategy for how you'll manage and respond to expectations that aren't being met.

As always, continuing to understand your customers as their wider world evolves is key

Knowing you're listening to feedback, and adapting where you can, may be enough for many to continue to hold you in high esteem.

Unless you're a hotel charging for WiFi.

Verizon FiOS Expands Mobile TV Support To Android & iPhone, Now Lets You Watch Live TV Outside The Home

For the first time ever, customers of Verizon's FiOS TV service are being allowed to watch live television on their mobile devices when they're out of their homes, and disconnected from their home's Wi-Fi network. Currently, this new capability applies to just nine cable TV channels, including BBC America, BBC World News, EPIX, NFL Network (iPad-only), HGTV, DIY, the Tennis Channel and Scripps Networks Interactive channels, Food Network and Travel Channel.

The support for live TV viewing comes in the form of a newly updated iOS app, FiOS Mobile, which is now available for both iPad and iPhone as well as within newly launched Android and Kindle Fire applications.

The app first launched for iPad last November, offering customers 75 channels of live television. However, although the app didn't require any additional software running on users computers or hardware beyond a supported HD DVR, the iPad did have to be connected to the home's Wi-Fi network to work.

With the update, for the above select channels, that requirement is no more. In addition, the app now offers 76 total channels while in home, and has added support for local affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, plus Spanish-language channels such as UniMas and Univision, in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The app also includes the functionality previously found in the FiOS Mobile Remote and Verizon Media Manager apps, in order to combine all the mobile services offered under one roof. This includes on-demand content, like FiOS's 45,000 Flex View titles (movies and other programs on demand), as well as free and paid subscription content from HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Encore, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel and others.


The company says additional content and local channels will be added throughout this year and 2014. And though it could not speak to the size of its mobile install base for competitive reasons,  Verizon says that it has 5 million TV customers, 5.8 million users with Internet connections, which gives you an idea of the potential market for live mobile TV outside the home.

Verizon is not the first company to bring live TV to mobile devices outside the home – if anything, it's lagging a bit – but it is rather representative of a growing industry trend, where cable companies and networks are readjusting themselves in the face of changing consumer behaviors. Subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, have been fighting for consumer attention, and are even starting to fund their own programming – some of it quality programming enticing young generations to cut the cord. Netflix, for example, just won its first Primetime Emmy Awards for its drama "House of Cards," following 14 nominations,

Other cable and satellite providers have already moved to offer live TV outside the home, including Time Warner Cable, which added support for streaming select channels out of home in April, including at launch 16 local news stations, and 8 networks. (It now has 12.) Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, and Cablevision also offer their own out of home lineups, of varying sizes. (Dish uses Hopper with Sling, however.)

The networks themselves have been getting in on the mobile action too, with premium channels like HBO and Cinemax offering their own apps, kids' programming providers like PBS, Nickelodeon and Disney offering select shows and episodes, and there's even some support for full length programming from the major networks and other cable channels within their own standalone applications.

In fact, the increasing variety of options has been fueling a new kind of mobile startup to form – one that attempts to organize all the programming options for you, then tell you what other mobile application or streaming service lets you watch these shows and movies. For instance, Luma.tv recently launched to offer a personalized programming guide, following in the footsteps of competitors like recently launched app Yidio. And these compete more broadly with apps like PeelTelevisedFan.tv (Fanhattan), and others that want to provide mobile video and mobile TV guides.

The updated FiOS apps can be found here.

Facebook's Worst-Case Scenario: Becoming the Next Yahoo

It's 2020 and you're 13 years old. There is very little delineation between real life and the Internet. Your face computer ensures that an IM, text, photo or video is only a blink away. Your friends are nearly always accessible and you can hang out virtually just as easily as you can IRL.

You have no need to engage in a public forum, except on your terms. Social networking is baked into your everyday experience the way the web was synonymous with computers and mobile devices back in 2013.

Where does Facebook fit in in this scenario? It's still hugely popular and influential — with your parents. In other words, Facebook has become Yahoo.

Snicker if you must. Yahoo these days is that 90s throwback that Marissa Mayer is desperately trying to resurrect. At one time, though, Yahoo was as dominant on the web as Facebook is today. Fifteen years ago, Yahoo was the No. 1 destination on the web with 40 million monthly visitors. That may sound like pocket change compared to Facebook's 1.1 billion, but consider that there were only 140 million people on the web at the time.

True, Yahoo at its peak wasn't as dominant as Facebook is today. Back in 1998, about one third of web users visited Yahoo. Today, with a global audience of 2.4 billion, Facebook has about half. That said, from a raw numbers standpoint, Yahoo is still no slouch. About 700 million people a month visit Yahoo's sites and in the U.S. at least, Yahoo gets more visitors than Facebook.

So why is Facebook still considered a much hotter company than Yahoo? Demographics. Facebook overindexes on users under 18 and especially on 18-24 year-olds, according to Quantcast. Yahoo underindexes on those below 18 and only slightly overindexes on 18-24s.

Can Facebook maintain that dominance in the youth market? It's certainly possible. As Rob Callender, director of youth insights for The Futures Company, a Chicago-based researcher notes, Apple and Nike have managed to be cool with teens year after year.

That said, Callender's latest research shows that teen use of Facebook has plateaued. Despite reports to the contrary, though, they aren't abandoning the platform in droves. "It's been a decline that isn't significant," he says. Part of the issue is the oft-cited phenomenon of kids being spooked by elder family members suddenly friending them. "Once people found out that aunts and grandfathers followed them, their enthusiasm went up in a puff of smoke," Callender says. (Seeing a 50-year-old with an iPhone apparently doesn't have the same effect.)

Ruby Karp, a 13-year old, explained the problem in a recent piece about Facebook on Mashable: "All of our parents and parents' friends have Facebooks. It's not just the fact that I occasionally get wall posts like, "Hello sweetie pie!" But my friends post photos that get me in trouble with those parents."

Luckily for Facebook, there's no social media behemoth there to take its place. Instead, teens are being siphoned away by Snapchat and messaging apps. Given teens' penchant for privacy, these closed-loop networks represent a potent threat to Facebook, which is taking steps to become a more public platform.

The wild card in this mix is Google Glass. If such wearable computing becomes popular and within a few years filters down to teens, it could drastically change the way they consume media. Facebook has shown that it can adapt to mobile, but bringing that experience to something like Google Glass will be a challenge on top of a challenge. Just as with mobile, Facebook's aesthetic advantage will be lost; on Glass it will be just another app. Here, Facebook's key selling point — its huge user base — will work against it as teens seek more intimate experiences.

In such a doomsday scenario, Facebook won't disappear. Like Yahoo, it will stick around along with its huge, aging user base. Still making money, but with its glory days behind it, Facebook will once again prove the maxim that demographics is destiny.

Image: Mashable

How This Kid Tossed One Raccoon In 43 Seconds

Some days you're on call for weekend news duty and it's pretty boring and you get tired of just sitting around waiting for something to happen and then this happens. And other times, you're just sort of hanging out and watching Twitter and HOLY SHIT IS THAT KEVIN ROSE TOSSING A RACCOON?

Why yes, yes it is.

The epic raccoon toss came after Rose heard his dog Toaster "crying and yelping in pain" around 1:00 a.m., leading the Google Ventures general partner to come to the dog's aid. Rose broke up the fight by picking the offending raccoon up by the sides and HURLING IT DOWN A SET OF STAIRS LIKE A BAWS.

Seriously, the Internet hasn't seen a raccoon so thoroughly PWNED since this image:

raccoon throw

Animal violence critics should note that the toss was in self defense (or rather, the defense of Rose's best friend). That said, as some YouTube commenters have noted, it's not clear who started the fight. I mean, the raccoon could have just been minding his own business before Toaster attacked him, for all we know.

Anyway, Toaster is apparently "ok, but has some minor claw and bite marks," according to Rose's video. The entire Internet, meanwhile, is urging Rose to take Toaster to the vet today to get a rabies shot.

We've reached out for comment and will follow up with any additional details if Rose responds. In the meantime, this:

Kevin Rose is a Partner at Google Ventures, where he primarily focuses on early-stage and seed investments. Prior to joining Google Ventures, Kevin co-founded Milk, a mobile application development company in San Francisco. Previously Kevin was the founder of Digg, and co-founder of Revision3, and Pownce (acquired by Six Apart). In addition, Rose is the founder of Foundation, a private newsletter and podcast, and formerly was co-host of the tech news podcast Diggnation.

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jueves, 28 de noviembre de 2013

Airbnb Reorganizes International Team To Focus On Local Activations And Improve Customer Service

Peer-to-peer housing marketplace Airbnb has reorganized its international team in an effort to improve its customer support and boost the number of local options available to visitors traveling overseas. With the re-org, the company has shifted some of its regional operations team to work in customer support, while putting more effort on getting others into the field to get local activations.

Reaching the community overseas is increasingly important for Airbnb, for which about 75 percent of its bookings have an international component. That includes U.S. guests booking accommodations overseas, as well as international travelers coming to the U.S. or visiting other countries around the world.

For Airbnb, the new organization is designed to move it out of land-grab mode and toward a more sustainable long-term structure, a representative for the company has said. When it first started investing in its organizational structure in early-to-mid 2011, Airbnb was in a whole different spot. The company had just raised $112 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, DST, and General Catalyst, and was ready to aggressively expand.

It was also facing intense competition from Samwer-backed clones Airizu and Wimdu, the latter of which had raised some $90 million in funding around the same time. At that point, Airbnb was all about getting local activations in international markets — that is, educating hosts and guests about the service and getting them to sign up and start using it.

Now, however, the company feels that it has overcome those competitive challenges. And as a result, it's moved to re-organize its overseas employees to work toward a new phase of its international presence. That's mostly resulted in regional employees being asked to move into roles that were more about customer support than they had been previously.

The company's goal is to combine the existing customer service organization, which revolved just around solving immediate problems that hosts or guests had with stays that they had booked, with its efforts around local customer education. With that in mind, the local customer service representatives are being trained to answer all queries that might come their way, creating a flat infrastructure, rather than one in which different representatives can answer different questions.

At the same time, Airbnb is also hoping to find ways to make its regional employees more entrepreneurial. As a result, it will be asking some of the folks to go out into the field more, rather than just working from whatever regional office they are in. To a certain extent, that would follow Airbnb's early efforts to recruit users in different major markets like New York City (and Y Combinator founder Paul Graham's advice to "do things that don't scale").

As part of the reorganization, Airbnb is also looking to create a regional hub in Europe. The company has offices in London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Milan, and Copenhagen, but it could also open a single major office for that region. It's not yet picked a spot for that office, according to sources within the company, but in other parts of the world, it has hubs in São Paolo, Singapore and Sydney.

While making changes to its international structure, Airbnb has also been working with local regulators to get them on board with its peer-to-peer marketplace for short-term housing accommodations. That's important, as the startup has faced scrutiny both here and abroad. The city of Hamburg, for instance, recently enacted a law to make Airbnb legal in the city. The company is no doubt hoping to have other local governments and regulators follow suit.

Founded in August 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique spaces around the world – online or from a mobile phone. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more that 26,000 cities and 192 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community...

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Using Vine and Instagram for product video

Instagram has added video capability to its iPhone and Android apps to let its users create 15-second videos and share them on Instagram or other social networks, while Twitter recently introduced Vine, its app for helping people create and share six-second videos.

For merchants, the heightened popularity of videos, and online users' excitement about making and sharing them, means that the time is right for shareable product videos.

The users of social networks have spoken: they love video and want to share it with their friends as often as they share photos. Social networks have responded by adding video-sharing capabilities to their toolsets, encouraging users to create and share even more videos.

It's also significant that the trend is towards shorter videos of six to 15 seconds, since this may indicate that users don't like longer videos as much as they used to.

For your own product and other videos, you may want to experiment with length and see if you can highlight your brand and product messages in just a few seconds, instead of extending the video to 30 seconds or more.

However, it's important to keep an eye on trends regarding preferred length of videos, as they may change. Use of Twitter's Vine app declined after the Instagram video application was launched – I suspect people may decide they like the 15-second Instagram format better than the 6-second Vine videos.

As shareable, 'homemade' video becomes more popular, online marketers need to take these trends into consideration for their own sites.

It's about enabling your customers to create their own videos, and then adding their videos to your website and social media pages. People are more apt to trust videos that their friends and fellow shoppers have created, and they love the chance to show off their own video-making skills to others.

Greater exposure for ecommerce videos

To begin encouraging video creation and sharing, make it simple for customers to find videos, share them, and submit them.

To make videos easy to find, don't just place them on your product pages: Make sure they're in blog posts, on your home page, and even on checkout pages. For instance, you can promote videos that are related to something that customers are viewing.

Give your videos wide exposure by getting them indexed in search engines. It's relatively easy to do this with Google: Click here for instructions on submitting your video site map.

For the Bing search engine, you'll need to email your site map to . Bing accepts the Google protocol site map, so you can simply submit the video sitemap you've already created for Google.

Examples of Vine for ecommerce

GetElastic has some excellent examples from retailers in this post.

This one, from eBay, shows how its eBay Now transactions work: 

This, from Urban Outfitters, injects some fun into product videos: 

When you simply place videos on several pages on your website, the videos should automatically help your pages rank higher in search results. Right now, video dominates Google's Universal Search results, which combine listings from its vertical search engines for news, video, images, local and book search engines, among others.

Adding sharing options helps your customers tell other people about your videos. Put sharing tools next to every video, everywhere on your website where videos appear. (Automated video solutions can make this process easier, reducing the time and work involved in posting videos and adding social network sharing features.)

As you create and post videos, find out if your customers are actually watching them, and if the videos help drive conversions. Conduct A/B testing on videos to see if content, length, and placement affect viewing rates.

Automated video products can make the testing process less time-consuming, letting you test more often. You might find out that your customers love the short video formats now being promoted by Instagram and Twitter – or that they really like longer videos.

Don't forget to create ways for customers to submit their own videos to your site. You'll need to have the capability to accept uploads, and then you need to incent consumers to make submissions.

Think about offering exclusive discounts or content to customers who send videos – you'll be more likely see an increase in visitors and conversions.

miércoles, 27 de noviembre de 2013

Amazon Announces The Kindle HDX 7- And 8.9-Inch Tablets With High-Res Screens, 2GHz Processors

Amazon has upped the Fire tablet ante with two new HDX models in 7- and 8.9-inch sizes with brand-new, high-resolution screens and running an updated Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor at 2GHz. Both models have adaptive screens that change brightness according to the ambient light and a special reading mode that will keep the tablet alive for 17 hours of uninterrupted reading.

The new models are considerably thinner than the original Fire models. For example, the 8.9-inch model is 34 percent lighter than the original 8.9 and is far thinner. Alongside these new models, Amazon is launching an updated OS, called Fire OS, with improved enterprise compatibility for email and secure browsing.

The devices are far faster than their predecessors, and gaming on the tablet was smooth and the graphics were surprisingly detailed. The 8.9-inch model also has an 8-megapixel rear camera complete with a small photo editing app that allows you to tweak brightness and contrast, retouch portions of the photo and even add meme-like top and bottom headers and "whimsical" "stickers."




The new OS supports some surprisingly cool second-screen tools that allow you to buy music you hear on a movie's audio soundtrack and even see the actors and characters in a movie. Amazon has partnered with a song lyrics provider to display the lyrics for downloaded music, allowing you to fast forward to certain lines in a song or follow the words along with the melody. The new OS will allow you to download Amazon Prime video for offline viewing.

Amazon has also added Mayday, a 24/7 customer support solution that allows you to ping Amazon support people. The service is ingenious. Remote support folks appear in a little video window and can annotate your screen with arrows and even touch UI items. You can mute them so they can't hear your discussion and block them from seeing your screen if something… untoward appears. It is a free solution to family tech-support problems, and as long as you're online you can access the service at any time. It is, in a word, amazing.

The 7-inch model starts at $229 for a 16GB model and $329 for the LTE-enabled WWAN version. The Wi-Fi-only model will ship October 15, and the LTE version will ship on November 14. Pre-orders are available now.

You can pre-order the 8.9-inch version for $379 (shipping November 7) and the 4G version, at $479, will be available in December.

The Kindle Fire HD also gets a slight processor bump to 1.5GHz. It costs $139.

Amazon has completely redesigned the Kindle line in this iteration, adding a glossy back bar to the HDX models and slimming down the HD model. The screen itself is very clear and bright and acceptably readable in direct sunlight thanks to the reactive brightness setting.

Amazon is also offering an improved case, called the Origami, that can fold to hold the device upright or in landscape mode. The 8.9-inch model has a unique sliding system that exposes the rear-facing camera and activates the camera app when initiated.

More interesting for the business crowd is the native enterprise support in Fire OS, offering hardware encryption, VPN-based browsing, and enterprise email support. Given that the Kindle Fire is already a popular "work" tablet given the price and size, it's clear that Amazon sees a solid new niche for the platform.

Are the new models worth the cost of an update? If you have a user at home who has trouble with their devices, May Day alone could be a godsend. Otherwise, the hardware is nicely updated and very nicely designed. Compared to the original, bulky Kindle Fire, these models exhibit a certain design maturity and far better hardware.

Overall these are solid, incremental updates to an already strong platform and should be a big hit with readerly types and those looking for an inexpensive but powerful tablet from a well-known manufacturer.


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11 great ways to use digital technology in retail stores

The use of digital technology in bricks and mortar stores has increased rapidly over the last few years. 

I've deliberately excluded mobile here, as that will be the topic of my next article, but here are a few examples of how retailers are using interactive mirrors, video, and touchscreens to enchance the in-store experience for shoppers. 


Burberry's flagship London store aims to bring some of the web experience to the high street, featuring mirrors that double as video screens and staff armed with iPads.

Other clever tricks include the use of radio-frequency identification technology (RFID), which triggers related catwalk footage when some products are taken into a fitting room, or near a video screen. 

A mixture of the practical and experiential. 

Tommy Hilfiger

This is an old one (from 2008) but still a good idea which could be developed for window shopping.

This campaign encouraged shoppers to leave their images for use in a collage of images being shown in shop windows. 


Nordstrom uses mobile POS devices in its stores to enable staff to check out customers anywhere in its stores, and cut the queues down. 

New Balance

The New Balance iPad app is deisgned to helo customers and sales assistants in store, allowing them to access the product catalogue, check stock, and help with sizing issues. 

Nike FuelStation 

This interactive store in London's pop up Boxpark mall uses motion-sensitive mirrors which display footage of local runners wearing products from the store as customers walk past them. 

It also uses interactive touchscreens to allow customers to access further information about products, and order online. 

Audi City

Audi's digital dealership, Audi City, contains no cars, only huge screens on which customers can view and choose their preferred features. 

The new digital showrooms are designed to fit into an area the size of a regualr shop, and are designed for city centes where traditional dealerships aren't possible.  

Alexander McQueen

The flagship store in London contains touchscreen tables which project images onto large video screens: 


Primark's new Newcastle store uses video screens, including the giant screen seen here:

(Image credit: Graham Soult) 

According to retail expert Graham Soult

The screen does communicate some product information, including pricing, but I think its primary value is in what it says about Primark as a business: namely, that it's the biggest, best-looking and most modern store on the street.


M&S launched its flagship store in Chesgire Oaks last year, replete with iPads, lots of video and QR, and these nifty virtual mnakeover counters: 


Tesco has trialled touchscreen kiosks in several stores. These allow for stock checking and ordering: 

The retailer has also used interactive mirrors which allow users to try clothes on 'virtually' using a gesture based interface. 

House of Fraser

The retailer launched a series of House of Fraser.com stores in smaller retail units to support its Buy and Collect service. 

The stores, similar in concept to John Lewis' 'At Home' outlets, uses touch screens and kiosks to allow customers to order for delivery to shop or home.

These stores allow House of Fraser to provide access to its whole product range without the need for the shopfloor space of its usual stores. 

This list is by no means exhaustive, so please suggest any great examples you've seen in stores... 

martes, 26 de noviembre de 2013

Six creative examples of product videos to inspire your own efforts

Product videos are a very effective online sales tool as they give a better view of the item and help to answer any queries the customer might have.

We've previously blogged a number of case studies from retailers that have boosted conversions by as much as 160% by using product videos, so the potential impact of the feature shouldn't be ignored.

But the precise use of video will differ depending on what you're trying to sell, as clothing retailers will obviously have a different sales pitch to a software vendor. So with this in mind here are six examples of businesses that got creative with their product videos.

And to find out more about how to get creative with marketing, come to Econsultancy's Punch event. Curated by Creative Review, Punch showcases the best of insight-driven creative and forms part of our week-long Festival of Marketing extravaganza.


With the awesome tagline 'Making apartment hunting suck less' and a cheerful French narrator, the animated video for PadMapper manages to be both informative and humorous at the same time.

It explains what the product does in a clear, concise manner and captures the viewer's interest for the duration of the 100 second clip. 

I'm not entirely sure of the budget required for animated videos, but I would assume it is relatively cost effective considering that it has now clocked up more than 100,000 YouTube views. 

On the downside though, it lacks a call-to-action or even the company's URL.


Software demos can make for a dull product video, so Qubit got creative by pitching its personalisation software in a race with a guy making a coffee.

The video doesn't really demonstrate what the product can do, but instead shows how simple it is to use the technology. It's a great example of how an everyday activity can be used to add a layer of intrigue to an otherwise ordinary product video. 

Advance Auto Parts

Advance Auto Parts is a well-worn example, but it's worth repeating as the company's 'how to' videos are a terrific example of using the channel for a soft sales approach.

It has a library of instructional videos that educate customers on various aspects of vehicle maintenance in the hope is that having watched the tutorial the viewer will buy all the necessary parts and equipment.

The content is of genuine use to its customers and has proved to be a success, as visitors who watch video stay on the site twice as long and visit twice as many pages versus those who don't see video.

Simply Hike

Simply Hike makes great use of product videos and has more than 2,000 clips on its YouTube channel.

Tents are one of those items that people are likely to want to see before they buy, so Simply Hike has created excellent videos that explain all the important information and allow customers to take a good look inside and outside of the tent. 


Another animated feature, Shopify's video is just a minute long but it does a great job of explaining the company's service while making it seem like signing up is a very simple process.

The music and the narrator's voice are both quite soothing, so it relaxes the viewer and helps to convince them of the benefits of using Shopify. 


ASOS includes videos on all its product pages which allows customers to get a much better view of the clothing before they make a purchase.

Admittedly having a model posing in a pair of jeans isn't particularly creative but it's still worth flagging up as a way of using online video to increase sales.

Also some of them are unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally) hilarious, such as the utterly miserable plus size model and this guy who just loves to dance...

lunes, 25 de noviembre de 2013

Why Social Media Internships Should Never Be Unpaid

Interns are often hired to run social media for small companies that can't afford a full-time social media manager. Employers assume the job is simple and they have the skills to handle it because they regularly use social media in their personal lives.

However, social media internships, because of the nature of the work involved and skills required, should never be unpaid. Here are a few of the responsibilities of a social media intern:

Full Control Over Web Presence

Social media interns are often put in charge of a company's Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. Many have full control over what they say, when they say it and who they say it to. In smaller companies, they are often their own department, and in many cases, there's no one mentoring these interns. If that's the case, it can hardly be considered an internship at all. Lack of mentoring makes it more like a summer job, which should definitely be paid.

Direct Interaction With Current And Potential Clients, Customers and Users

When you're monitoring all interactions on social media, you have to create conversations with people. This means generating publicity and responding to customer service messages. Both of these responsibilities require interns to have a wide range of skills. Direct interaction with clients is a real responsibility that should result in real compensation.

Build Relationships With Other Businesses And The Media

Many interns have had very limited experience with media relations — it's why they applied for an internship in the first place. Sending a social media intern into the deep end on their own is unhelpful and unfair. It's important for interns to get hands-on experience, especially in media relations, so be their guide. Once they get the hang of it, their role in building valuable relationships should not go unpaid.

Work With Various Departments Of The Company

A company's social media should embody the entire organization. This means, to a degree, it should have input from many departments in the company. You need to work with marketing, customer relations, public relations, internal communications and more. One person should not have to be a liaison to all of these departments, in addition to creating content, and not be paid.

Brand Management (Even In Times Of Crisis)

Another important goal of a company's social media is to represent the brand. This means consistent messages across all platforms, as well as sharing relevant, quality content. When something bad happens, whether it's directly in the company, industry, or somewhere else in the world, it often has to be acknowledged on social media. Brand management requires a lot of time and dedication, and the person who does it should be paid. The stress involved is enough to earn the compensation.

Social Media Is 24/7

Things are happening on Twitter and Facebook all day, every day. Interactions never halt and new messages are always being shared. It's a big job to be on red-alert all the time. If you don't pay your social media interns, they won't feel obligated to make your company part of the 24-hour news cycle. Your social media presence might not be as strong as it could be if your interns were paid to manage it.

The responsibilities of a social media intern will vary depending on the type and size of the company. In a large company, there are plenty of people to lend a hand and plenty to mentor interns, but in a small company, there just aren't enough. No matter the size of the company, social media interns have plenty of responsibilities to worry about and should be paid to do them.

Do you pay your social media interns? Why or why not?

Mashable Job Board Listings

The Mashable Job Board connects job seekers across the U.S. with unique career opportunities in the digital space. While we publish a wide range of job listings, we have selected a few job opportunities from the past two weeks to help get you started. Happy hunting!

Image: Robyn Beck/AFP/GettyImages

Eight useful tools for testing social marketing

social analytics

The time and effort spent in coming up with creative, interesting social content is all for nought if Facebook posts and tweets are published at a time when nobody is listening.

Therefore marketers need to test and analyse their social activity to work out the most effective types of content as well as the optimum time of day to post updates. 

In a talk at Brighton SEO last week Moz director of community Jennifer Sable Lopez ran through a number of useful tools that can help marketers to test their social campaigns and content strategies, highlighting the best use cases for each one.

Here's a quick run through of some of the tools Lopez recommended...


Lopez may have a vested interest in mentioning Followerwonk as it was created by Moz, but nonetheless it is a very useful app and one that we use at Econsultancy.

One of its features allows marketers to find out when their followers are most active on Twitter, which is useful for working out when to tweet. 

Followerwonk also has a dashboard that shows when a brand has gained or lost followers.

This allows marketers to work out what is driving engagement, how often they should be tweeting and the type of content their followers like.

Twitter Analytics

Twitter rolled out its own analytics product earlier this year, though a quick show of hands in the auditorium showed that many people were blissfully unaware of it.

Econsultancy's head of social Matt Owen has previously given a useful run through of how to get started on Twitter Analytics, but essentially it allows you to access data and graphs showing your timeline activity, information on your followers and insights into Promoted Tweet campaigns.

Facebook Insights

Facebook's analytics platform doesn't perhaps offer the most useful insights into marketing activity on the network, but there are a few features worth using.

For example, one of the dashboards shows the average number of fans who saw your post in an hour, which can help to decide the optimum time to post updates.

Furthermore, it can be useful for finding out which type of content is most popular in terms of reach and engagement.


Formerly known as PageLever, Unified is a social analytics tool that gives insights into fan engagement on Facebook. 

Marketers can then optimise their Facebook efforts by analysing the type of content that gets the most interactions as well as the best time of day to post updates. 

Simply Measured

Simply Measured is another social analytics tool that gives similar insights into which type of Facebook posts are most popular among a brand's fans.


Most Twitter users will probably have used bitly at some point to shorten a link before posting it, however it can also be used as a way of tracking clicks and traffic across different social networks and marketing channels.

Google+ Ripples

Though it appears many brands are still unconvinced by Google+, the network does at least have a useful analytics tool.

Google+ Ripples is an interactive graphic that allows marketers to see how their posts have been shared on the network and by whom. This in turn helps users to discover new and interesting people to follow.


TrueSocialMetrics is another analytics platform that allows marketers to identify their most engaged followers by showing how often they interact with branded content.

Cold War-Era CIA Tapped James Bond for Gadget Ideas

It looks like the relationship between former CIA Director Allen Dulles and 007 mastermind Ian Fleming ran deeper than some might've expected. A study of declassified documents has revealed that the United States' highly secretive security organization copied gadgets from James Bond films and used some of the books to bolster its image.

According to a University of Warwick analysis of letters and interviews, the real-life CIA nabbed inspiration for its own gizmos from those that appeared in such films as Goldfinger and From Russia With Love. During Dulles' tenure, the agency also tapped the British author to paint the American organization in a more positive light at a time when stateside filmmakers and writers were keeping mum.

Christopher Moran (above), a professor at the University of Warwick, pored over the documents, which included letters and media reports from the 1950s and '60s for the study Ian Fleming and the Public Profile of the CIA, which was published in the Journal of Cold War Studies.

"There was a surprising two-way influence between the CIA and the James Bond novels during the Cold War, stemming from the mutual admiration between Allen Dulles and Ian Fleming," Moran said, in a statement. "This ranged from the copying of devices, such as the poison-tipped dagger shoe in From Russia With Love, to the agency using the 007 novels to improve its public profile."

Moran noted that the relationship between the two iconic figures was blossoming at a time when the CIA was strictly off-limits for U.S. media, though Fleming could say what he liked from overseas. In fact, a 1964 edition of Life has Dulles describing Fleming as "brilliant and witty" — referring to their 1959 meeting in London. Fleming told the CIA director that his agency wasn't doing enough in the area of "special devices."

"For a long time, the James Bond books had a monopoly on the CIA's public image and the agency used this to its advantage," Moran said.

Dulles, per the article, urged CIA technical staffers to replicate as many Bond devices as they could. As a result, the CIA mimicked Rosa Klebb's poison-tipped dagger shoe (below) from From Russia With Love.

Poison-tipped Dagger Shoe

The CIA had less luck when it attempted to duplicate the homing device used in Goldfinger — apparently, the CIA's version had "too many bugs in it" and stopped working when enemies entered crowded cities.

On the PR front, Fleming included a swath of glowing references to the CIA in his later novels — purportedly out of respect for his close friend Dulles. The relationship went two ways, though, as Dulles was known for gushing about Fleming in the American press — saying on one occasion that the organization "could do with a few James Bonds."

The early 007 novels (from the 1950s), per Moran, introduced readers to the CIA for the first time with the agency's character Felix Leiter. The American agent is portrayed favorably, but readers are left in no doubt that MI6 is the superior intelligence service.

"In Live and Let Die, for example, Leiter comes across as a bit of a bungler, unable to blend in with the locals and forced to rely on paid informants," Moran said. "But in the later books, as the friendship between Dulles and Fleming deepens, a far rosier picture of the CIA emerges."

In Thunderball, Bond's boss, a.k.a. M, praises the CIA, and Dulles is the literal subject of several honorable mentions in later books.

What do you think about the CIA-007 relationship? Discuss in the comments.

Images: Keystone/Getty Images; Youtube, jb00784

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Trailer Unites a Trio of Heroes

The most patriotic comic book hero needs help fending off evil in Marvel's upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie, and as the new trailer shows, Captain America and ally Black Widow find that assistance in the wing-wielding Falcon.

Captain America, played by Chris Evans, is trying to defend the nation's capital alongside Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a. Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson). The action-packed trailer sets the captain out to "neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen," according to Samuel L. Jackson's character, Nick Fury, the head director of international intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D.

Falcon, portrayed by Anthony Mackie, soars in to help battle the villains, including the sequel's namesake, Winter Soldier. The big bad guy is a brainwashed assassin — and Captain America's former best friend — played by Sebastian Stan. Robert Redford will debut in the film franchise as new S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Alexander Pierce.

The film is a sequel to 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, which told the story of how ordinary Steve Rodgers morphed into Captain America. After a 60-year slumber, the World War II hero returned to protect the modern world.

Winter Soldier will arrive in theaters in the UK on March 26 and in the United States on April 4.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Image: Marvel Entertainment