2016 Strategy + Innovation

Concrete Principles on How to GROW your BUSINESS.

ideas | strategies | channels | targets | customers

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

If You Think Data Is Important For Ecommerce, You’re Only Half Right

Data is the foundation of sound ecommerce business decision making. But data alone is relatively useless.
“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” ~ Daniel Keys Moran
For data to be an effective tool for your business – driving investment, ROI and profitability – it needs be analyzed in reference to your objectives. Consequently, it’s data-driven insights, not data alone, that allows for strategic business planning and revenue growth.
If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.” Ronald Coase
Gaining Data-Driven Insights
It’s imperative to have best-in-class industry analytic tools to gather robust yet detailed data. But it’s also critical that you have business and data analysts, or implement qualitative interpretive software (I’m still a fan of the former) to gain actionable data-driven insights for your marketing channels and your business as a whole. For example, do you know:
  • Which webpages are converting the most visitors and why?
  • Which products offer the greatest cross-sell opportunities and where?
  • Which tactics (e.g. print ads, SEO, PPC, email) are driving the most qualified traffic to your website and what does the consumer decision making journey touchpoint funnel look like?
  • Which email subject lines are resulting in the highest open rates and why?
  • How can you optimize your visitors’ journeys to give them exactly what they want as efficiently and digestibly as possible?
  • Which value propositions and copy do users find most engaging and compelling and why?
  • How much indirect traffic and revenue can be attributed to your mass display brand awareness campaigns?
  • Where should you start investing, where should you stop spending and what should you be testing to optimize your marketing mix?
Making use of data-driven insights, not opinions or theories, to make better decisions is by no means a new concept:
It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the data. It biases the judgment.” ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Room to Grow
That being said, challenges and concerns about a lack of effective data-driven insights are common and marketers are feeling the pressure. According to CMO.com only 40% of marketers think their company’s marketing is effective and while more than 75% of marketers believe measurement is important, just 29% believe they’re doing it well. Furthermore, only 44% of marketers say their marketing departments have a great deal of influence over their organizations overall business strategy.
Successful ecommerce companies provide an exceptional, frictionless and positive end-to-end customer experience. To do this, marketing needs the data to interpret to make effective data-driven decisions at every touchpoint of consumers’ decision making journey. Ultimately…
“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of
mouth is very powerful.” ~ Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

Thursday, July 07, 2016

A Future of Growing Revenue with Algorithms

ecommerce algorithms
As our lives become increasingly digital and connected, the world is drowning in data. Combine this with the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) and the vast amounts of data produced only promises to continue to grow.
Enter the Algorithm Economy. As described by Peter Sondergaard, Senior Vice President of Gartner Research, the Algorithm Economy is our future where algorithms become increasingly important marketable assets that have a dramatic impact on organizations’ bottom lines. This future would include a marketplace, much like an app store, where out-of-the-box algorithms with specific functions are sold.
Examples of these marketplaces are already starting to emerge – like DataMapper, which focuses on algorithms for the agriculture industry, and Algorithmia, a more general Algorithm-as-a-Service.

The Potential Impact

For ecommerce companies, the opportunity of an out-of-the-box algorithm that provides recommendations for customers is huge. If effective, this would give smaller ecommerce companies the ability to personalize their ecommerce shopping experience to a degree traditionally reserved for giants like Amazon and Zulily.
They could purchase and integrate a recommendation algorithm-as-a-service for their site and would likely see increases in average order value and revenue. Major companies are already using custom-designed algorithms to reduce manual sorting and improve efficiency.

The Long Road Ahead

The algorithm markets as envisioned by Sondergaard will likely contain general purpose algorithms. But since most algorithms require feedback mechanisms to “learn” and optimize in order to be effective, they will still need to be refined by those with the industry and user insights to make them truly valuable for specific businesses.
A recent example that highlights the amount work and capital involved in producing an optimized machine learning algorithm is the trending news feed section on Facebook. Looking beyond the controversial outcome of the algorithm, there was still a lot of effort needed to create it.
For two years, a team of over 20 curators worked to provide input so the algorithm could “learn.” Over time, the news feed algorithm did become more effective to the point where a story’s rank is now dependent upon factors as liking, clicking, commenting and sharing and, even the amount of time users spend reading an article.

Algorithms Have Already Proven their Value

Ecommerce company Snapdeal has seen great success using algorithms. They have played a crucial role in boosting the company’s sales with 35-40% of its sales now being driven by algorithms, as compared to less than 15% a year ago. They have a team of 50 engineers writing algorithms that incorporates user data to determine the right products for the right people. For example, someone going on a holiday to Aspen may see ski gear on the home page and someone else researching a trip to Maui may see whale watching tours.

A New Source of Value

Algorithms will help ecommerce companies not only improve and personalize their user experience, but also allows businesses to make more data-driven decisions. For these reasons, ecommerce companies should be investigating how algorithms can help them optimize certain parts of their businesses from better understanding their customers’ behavior to driving more business and increasing revenues.
originally posted here on Revenuewire's Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Beacons: A Paradigm Shift for Brand Communication

beacon ecommerce
In 2014, 2.6 billion people were using smartphones. By 2020, that number is expected to skyrocket to 6.1 billion – or 70% of the world’s population. As we rapidly become more and more connected digitally, significant strides are being made that bridge the gap between physical shopping experiences and the refined targeting that a digital advertisement can offer. “Beacons” are shaping up to be a very promising solution in this regard.

What are Beacons?

Beacons are an inexpensive piece of hardware that can be attached to a wall or a countertop. Using a Bluetooth connection, they send a signal to nearby mobile devices (up to 100 meters) that have the appropriate app downloaded.

Multi-Industry Potential

While beacons are only in their infancy, there is a lot of hype around how they can be fully utilized and which industries can benefit from them. Retail brick-and-mortar stores are undeniably poised to profit from beacon technology.
But that isn’t the only sector that could benefit from its emergence – event organizers, transit systems, educational facilities, the hospitality industry, professional sports, payment processors and even home automation systems all have the potential to prosper. In fact, some of the world’s most recognizable brands are already buying in – Virgin, Macy’s, Major League Baseball, American Eagle, Walgreens and Walmart are just a few of the many who are investing in beacon infrastructure.

Customer Benefit

Imagine walking into your favorite clothing store and having your smartphone immediately notify you of all their hottest sales and promotions currently available. That’s precisely what beacons are capable of doing – sending highly contextual, localized and personal messages at the most opportune moment once a consumer has set foot within transmission range.
By cross-referencing personal information and purchase history via a compatible app, a consumer’s mobile device can essentially transform into a highly personalized and contextualized marketing medium. Whether the goal is to communicate items on sale, product recommendations or even the location of a specific item, the possibilities are endless. Additionally, targeting methods can be refined even further based on the time of day, the customer’s demographic and browsing history, not to mention the opportunity to gain even deeper insights and analytics than ever before. Even items can be used to trigger beacon technology, displaying images, reviews or videos about each product the consumer approaches.

Contactless Payments

The beacon-detecting app could also be taken a step further by facilitating contactless payments. By creating a profile on the app, shoppers will also have the option to exchange other information, including payment information. Once you’ve chosen the item of your liking, it’s tracked and charged directly through your mobile device. No physical payment necessary.

Looking Ahead

A recent report by Business Insider suggests that beacons will drive $44 billion in retail sales this year – a 1000% increase over 2015. And with companies like Google and Apple working diligently to develop the framework, it’s hard not to get on board with the opportunities surrounding it. Beacon technology has the potential to dramatically change the way brands communicate with customers. The only question that remains is how your business will utilize it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reboot: Adidas to make shoes in Germany again – but using robots


Adidas said the robots would not replaces human workers in Asian factories immediately. 

Company unveils new factory in Germany that will use machines to make shoes instead of humans in Asia

Adidas, the German maker of sportswear and equipment, has announced it will start marketing its first series of shoes manufactured by robots in Germany from 2017.
More than 20 years after Adidas ceased production activities in Germany and moved them to Asia, chief executive Herbert Hainer unveiled to the press the group’s new prototype “Speedfactory” in Ansbach, southern Germany.
The 4,600-square-metre plant is still being built but Adidas opened it to the press, pledging to automate shoe production – which is currently done mostly by hand in Asia – and enable the shoes to be made more quickly and closer to its sales outlets.
The factory will deliver a first test set of around 500 pairs of shoes from the third quarter of 2016.
Large-scale production will begin in 2017 and Adidas was planning a second “Speed Factory” in the United States in the same year, said Hainer.
Hainer insisted the factories would not immediately replace the work of sub-contractors in Asia. “Our goal is not full automatisation,” said Gerd Manz, head of innovation and technology.
Adidas produced 301m pairs of shoes in 2015 and needs to produce 30m more each year to reach its growth targets by 2020.
Six subcontractors of Adidas in China declined to comment on the new factories or said they were not aware of them.
In the longer term Adidas is planning to build robot-operated factories in Britain or in France, and could even produce the shirts of Germany’s national football team in its home country, said Hainer.
The shoes made in Germany would sell at a similar price to those produced in Asia, he said.
Adidas is facing rising production costs in Asia where it employs around one million workers. Arch-rival Nike is also developing its robot-operated factory.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

5 Simple Ways to Get More Out of AdWords

AdWords is a proven way to drive converting traffic to ecommerce sites, and there are numerous ways to optimize campaigns. But with limited resources, how do you know which ones are more worthy of investing your time and money? Here are five simple yet effective tips you can implement right away that will have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your AdWords campaigns.
Tip 1: Use Negative Keywords
If you use broad match or phrase match keywords without negative keywords, you’re likely paying for clicks that won’t get you conversions. This is a huge waste of your budget.
To figure out what negative keywords to use, check the keyword variations for your ads are showing that don’t make sense for your business. If you’re unsure of how to do this, there is an easy way to check. Under “Your Campaign,” click on “Keywords” in the top menu. From the “Details” dropdown menu, select “all.” Then choose “Search Terms” and this will show you all the search terms that have resulted in a click. You can select the terms and add them as negative keywords right from there.
Tip 2: Implement Ad Schedules
In AdWords, you can identify your high-converting time ranges, and by scheduling accordingly you can greatly improve the effectiveness of your ad dollars. If you’re a B2C business you might find that most of your conversions mostly happen outside of the 9-5 work day because customers are shopping in the early morning or evening, whereas B2B businesses may find the opposite to be the case.
Tip 3: Add Site Link Extensions
Site links give people more options to navigate your site directly from search results. This makes it easier for them to find exactly what they’re looking for. If a lot of people are searching on your brand name, but are clicking through to a deeper category or product page, include a sitelink within your ad to provide those searchers with single click access to the information they are looking for.
Tip 4: Implement AdWords Remarketing
AdWords remarketing will show your ads to people who visited your site but didn’t complete a required action. It enables you to reconnect with these visitors and keep your brand top-of-mind. There are several types of remarketing you can try on the AdWords platform, just one should help you to start boosting conversions.
Tip 5: Use High Intention Keywords
Although bidding on high volume search terms can increase your clicks, if the search term is too generic these keywords can often be less effective than lower search volume keywords that target people in a buying mind set.  For example, a broad term with a high search volume like “accounting software” could result in more clicks, but probably far fewer conversions compared to a longer more specific term, like “online accounting software for mac.”
Don’t Blow Your Budget
AdWords is a great way to get more traffic to your ecommerce site. But if it isn’t the right traffic and no one is converting, then it’s a waste. Whatever you end up doing, make sure to track improvements so you can further optimize!

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Challenge of Securing Data in our IoT Future

IOT Security

Since 2008, the number of people connecting to the Internet has been outpaced by the number of objects. With the growth of devices that collect and transmit data online expected to continue rising exponentially to 26 billion by 2020, the amount of data, much of it very personal, is expected to similarly explode.

Despite the rising connectedness of our lives with technology, nearly 87% of individuals remain unfamiliar with what the Internet of Things means and how it affects them. The term, referring to devices that aggregate and transmit data via the Internet, includes everything from wearable devices, cell phones, coffee makers, headphones, lamps, alarm systems, vehicles, thermostats and almost anything else that can be connected online.

In a commercial setting, jet engines and oil rig drills are among the many objects which are now online. The ultimate goal of this connectedness being to empower new business models and improve the quality of life through embedding objects and devices with electronics, sensors, software and network connectivity.

This network of smart devices, objects and sensors and the data they produce promises to make our lives easier, improve efficiency and give us insights into a variety of aspects not previously possible. Smart cities where resource consumption and costs are reduced through real-time data from people and objects are just one example of the benefits attributed to IoT.

However, with so much data being produced by so many different devices, there is a major risk associated with this emerging Internet of Things (IoT) era – data security.

More Data = More Vulnerability

As more of our world moves onto the cloud, the exploitable vulnerability of personal information and business data increases. One study by Hewlett Packard revealed that 70% of IoT devices contain serious vulnerabilities.

In order to ensure both business data and personal information remain secure in the IoT age, companies must understand the risks associated with IoT and keep their security practices up-to-date.

There are ten concerns which are especially predominant for connected devices. These include:
  • insecure web interfaces
  • insufficient authentication/authorization
  • insecure network services
  • lack of transport encryption
  • privacy
  • insecure cloud interfaces
  • insecure mobile interfaces
  • insufficient security configuration
  • insecure software
  • poor physical designs

To showcase the vulnerabilities associated with IoT, security researchers such as Samy Kamkar have put some of the devices we use in our daily lives to the test. OwnStar, a device Kamkar created, was capable of intercepting communications from GM vehicles’ OnStar app, making it possible to geo-locate cars, unlock them and even turn on their engines. While the growth of automation in the automotive industry may make car owners lives more convenient, it can also make them more susceptible to hackers.

Another example of critical vulnerability is medical equipment such as pace makers and drug infusion pumps with wifi capabilities. Tests conducted by students at the University of Alabama successfully hacked a pacemaker implanted in a dummy patient, proving their ability to accelerate and slow down the heart rate. Similar tests by security researcher, Billy Rios, concluded that hijackers with malicious intent could ultimately change the dose of drugs administered to patients by hacking drug infusion pumps in hospitals.

Establishing Security Throughout the Device Lifecycle

Ultimately, the most effective solution for protecting privacy is for security to be addressed at each stage of a device’s lifecycle. From the initial architectural design to its daily use, device makers and businesses that adopt these technologies must have security at the forefront of their priorities. Luckily, there are several strategies companies are adapting to protect themselves from security breaches.

  1. Choosing Partners Carefully: Since companies have control over the design process of every connected device they manufacture, a consideration process must be in place to ensure suppliers provide physical components and/or software that does not compromise security.

  1. Improve Cloud Security: With most connected objects, much of the security functionality will depend on the integrity of the web service used. In these cases, working with cloud service providers to establish controls will be integral.

Another approach which has gained popularity recently for enabling cloud security is having an independent processing area on the the silicon of the device itself, otherwise known as trusted execution environments.

  1. Secure Device Booting: When powering an IoT device, digital signatures are used to verify the authenticity of the device’s software. This digital signature safeguards against software which has not been authorized from running on the device.

  1. Device Authentication: Each device that joins your network should authenticate itself before it begins transmitting data. Stored in a secure storage area, a set of credentials should be used by each machine to access a network, similar to a username and password.

  1. Facilitate Deep Packet Inspection and Firewalling: A form of computer network packet filtering, deep packet inspection controls potentially harmful traffic being routed through the device. In the instance of deeply embedded devices, such as a smart energy grid, unique device protocols exist simultaneously with IT protocols making extra security measures such as DPI and firewalls necessary.

  1. Controlling Security Patches and Software Updates: Ironically, security can be compromised when a multitude of devices carrying out critical functions and services rely on security patches and updates. To minimize the possibility of compromising a device’s functional safety, these updates must be rolled out in a way which conserves bandwidth and secures the functional safety of each device.


IoT is already promising to be an enormous business opportunity, with some estimates indicating it will add $10-$15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years. However the explosive growth of these new technologies means that more effort needs to be put into the safety of personal and business data being passed through billions of devices.

With more existing in the cloud, the amount of information vulnerable to breaches is continually expanding. Staying up to date on the latest security guidelines will help ensure companies are able to leverage this opportunity while being protected from security breaches.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Adidas Launches Subscription-Based Women's Service Avenue A

Sports apparel giant adidas has launched Avenue A, a quarterly women-only subscription service that offers a curated box containing premium running and training products.
Adidas says it’s working closely with fashion trendsetters and trainers to come up with gear that caters to an active lifestyle without compromising style. The first shipment of Avenue A is curated by fitness artist Nicole Winhoffer and will include PureBOOST X, a new running shoe designed for women that features what Adidas says is a first of its kind floating arch that provides unrivaled support.
On her involvement with Avenue A, Winhoffer said, “The brand is paying attention to a woman’s need to be stylish, confident and one of a kind. They’re doing it in a really cool new way.”

The Avenue A campaign originated from a call Adidas President Mark King made to employees to come up with ideas to improve the brand’s running business. Employees submitted 442 ideas, these were narrowed down to 11 finalists, and a team of senior managers selected the winner:Avenue A.
Avenue A will ship quarterly, so subscribers will receive four boxes per year at $150 per box. While the contents of each shipment is a surprise, the box will be filled with three to five premium items – a mix of footwear, apparel and accessories appropriate for the season.

Subscription services have been a growing trend in the fashion and lifestyle industry over the last several years, with notable companies like Birchbox (cosmetics) and Le Tote (apparel) reeling in hundreds of thousands of consumers looking for an alternative to traditional brick and mortar shopping. Indeed, Birchbox gross sales alone are estimated to have surpassed more than $100 million in the last year, showing just how lucrative the market has become. With few traditional sports and activewear manufactures going the subscription box model, adidas is well positioned to take a big piece of the untapped market with Avenue A.

Jason Belzer, Esqis Founder of GAME, Inc.  and a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Sports Law at Rutgers University. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBelzer.

via: Forbes

Monday, January 11, 2016

a look back on some of the major ecommerce growth contributors in 2015

ecommerce growth contributors

2015 was another auspicious year for ecommerce with continued sales growth and important evolutions. Online retail sales rose to nearly $70 billion in the U.S. in Q3alone – a solid 15% increase over 2014. As part of this, mobile shopping continued to surge, accounting for 18.7% of all ecommerce orders, a 6.5% rise year-over-year.

With 4 in every 10 transactions now involving a mobile device of some kind, it shouldn’t be any surprise that omnichannel commerce and personalization have been the driving forces behind many of the year’s most significant initiatives by ecommerce companies. While ecommerce presents more and more opportunities for companies to connect with target markets, there are also increasing complexities and challenges that have arisen that need to be overcome to be successful.

Some of the most important features that ecommerce businesses increasingly needed to master in 2015 included more content and retargeting to get more quality customer traffic to ecommerce sites and shopping experiences and checkouts designed for where customers are shopping.

Content & Commerce

Storytelling as a form of digital marketing has evolved dramatically over the past year. Combining content with commerce to create a memorable customer experience has proven to be extremely beneficial for not only digital merchants, but essentially any company looking to become an influential online presence. 70% of content marketers are creating more content than they did a year ago, because it reaps a plethora of benefits:

  • Improved SEO. Relevant, original content will help your business achieve better organic rankings in Google.
  • Garnering a Bigger Audience. An engaging story published on social channels increases brand impressions, reach, the amount of people talking about you and, ultimately, your fan base. Three out of four online shoppers report using social media to help them make purchase decisions and 43% discovered new products as a result.
  • Generating Sales Leads. Gated content can be used as a way to build your database. Ebooks, white papers, infographics and webinars are all compelling ways to provide your audience with rich, insightful information that will help to build positive brand impressions and increase their levels of engagement with your brand. They are also a great source of lead generation.
  • More Conversions. Attaching a compelling story behind your product or service can be a significant conversion driver.

Remarketing & Re-engaging

An immense advantage of ecommerce over traditional marketing is that you can track visitors to your site and market to them later. Targeting people who have formerly visited your website or purchased a product from you is an effective way to re-engage with shoppers who have previously been interested in your product(s). Not only that, but it works extremely well when it comes to niche-marketing.

Remarketing is also a highly effective lead generation channel as there are now ways to plant a retargeting code on an email signature, by-passing the initial website visit entirely. Reiterating the importance of emails, it is notable that companies who sent cart abandonment emails saw an open rate of 40.5%. When you combine that with the 18.4% increase in average order value for recovered cart purchases, it’s abundantly clear that remarketing efforts have contributed to the continued ecommerce growth seen in 2015.

A Local Shopping Experience, Globally

Online shoppers with an appetite for your product or service can be located anywhere in the world – not just your local (and potentially saturated) market. For digital goods in particular, where there are no shipping costs required or lengthy delivery times, incorporating this type of strategy is critical for those whose current or future objectives include expansion.

Identifying the languages of your potential customers and translating the digital content and currency to match is important, even more so is having a solid understanding of price sensitivity (which varies depending on the regions you’re targeting) and of preferred regional online usability and behavioral trends. Amazon, for example, uses a different design in the UK compared to the United States (or check out their Chinese site) and highlights different products depending on the region.

Responsive­ Web Design

As mobile devices continue to proliferate, consumers expect a design responsive to the device they are shopping on. One study suggests that customers spend 66% of their total time online viewing from a mobile device.

And while mobile may have only contributed to 18.7% of total ecommerce revenue this past quarter, consumers are spending more time shopping on mobile devices than desktops, and they will almost certainly be scoping out your products and services for competitive comparisons. Not only that, but on April 21st of this year Google announced that it would be penalizing websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. There is simply too much to lose by providing a poor mobile experience.
Ecommerce Will Continue to Get More Personal

Ecommerce has become more personal than ever before. With the amount of big data one can now access and the ease with which branding messages can be catered to match your consumer’s demographics and psychographics anywhere in the world, it’s a great time to be a digital merchant.

With customer research and resource allocation, even ecommerce businesses on a shoestring budget can market to their customers in a more intimate and effective way to maximize their conversion rates at an even lower cost per acquisition.

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The Challenge of Securing Data in our IoT Future

Since 2008, the number of people connecting to the Internet has been outpaced by the number of objects. With the growth of devic...


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