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Lack of U.S. apparel workers hampers ‘Made in America’ campaign

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment
 

THE BUSINESS, AND ART, OF RETAIL By Andria Cheng

One of the biggest headaches facing U.S. retailers eager to sell more American-made products is not lack of demand, but lack of workers willing or able to do the job.

Given the huge exodus of U.S. manufacturing jobs over the past two decades, manufacturers are struggling to find workers with the prerequisite specialized skills that haven’t already been replaced by machines, according to a New York Times article.

As a result of the reduced labor supply, inflation-adjusted wages for cut-and-sew jobs in the apparel industry have risen 13.2% on an inflation-adjusted basis from 2007 to 2012, above the 1.4% increase of the overall private sector pay hike, the Times reported.

“The sad truth is, we put ads in the paper and not many people show up,” the Times quoted Airtex Design Group CEO Mike Miller. The Minneapolis-based company makes home textile products for chains like Pottery Barn WSM  and Restoration HardwareRH , the Times reported.

In Minnesota, manufacturers have resorted to recruiting at high schools, fliers at churches and community centers, and advertising in Hmong, Somali and Spanish-Language newspapers, the Times reported. It said a group of manufacturers, a non-profit organization and a technical college even joined together to run a program aimed at creating a skilled sewing work force. Even more surprising, the nearly $3,700 inaugural session tuition was covered by charities and the city of Minneapolis, according to the Times article.

Behind that desperate bid to recruit garment workers: in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, only 860 were employed last year as machine sewers even though the city reported almost 1.75 million workers, the Times  said, adding the nationwide total for sewing machine operators totaled only 142,000.

The move toward “Made in America” has gained traction with companies such as Wal-Mart WMT  as wages in China have escalated to a level that makes U.S. manufacturing more competitive, especially after factoring in transportation costs, currency exchange risks and safety concerns in the wake of the Bangladesh factory tragedy in April.

Wal-Mart has committed to buying an additional $50 billion worth of U.S.-made goods over the next 10 years and in August gathered 500 manufacturers, including General Electric GE , to lay out their case for U.S. manufacturing.

However, good intentions aside, brands like lingerie label Cosabella and designer Rag & Bone, as detailed in the MarketWatch article  in January, have said sophisticated lingerie machines no longer exist here in the U.S. and finding seamstresses and young workers interested in apparel manufacturing as a career choice was among their biggest challenges.

– Andria Cheng

Categories: Uncategorized

College-Gear Makers Pressed on Bangladesh

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment
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By SHELLY BANJOand SYED ZAIN AL-MAHMOOD September 30, 2013

DHAKA, Bangladesh—Factory disasters in Bangladesh have done little to change the habits of Americans hooked on cheap clothes. But some student groups are now taking aim at a market that has proven more responsive to protests: college gear.
This fall, the students are pressing their universities to stop selling licensed gear produced by manufacturers including VF Corp. VFC +0.26% and Nike Inc.NKE -1.36% unless the companies sign on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a five-year, legally-binding pact that has more than 80 corporate members, mostly European. The companies have contracts with U.S. universities to produce the T-shirts, hats and other gear that make up the $4.5 billion collegiate licensing industry.
The new push by United Students Against Sweatshops, which has chapters at 150 universities, follows a series of deadly garment factory disasters in Bangladesh that called attention to unsafe conditions for workers that make clothing for many Western retailers.
Companies including Hennes & Mauritz AB HM-B.SK -0.57% and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. ANF -1.28% have signed the European-led accord, pledging to secure funding for factory renovations and safety upgrades. Labor advocates consider it more substantial than an agreement signed by mainly U.S. companies that would require factories to fund their own improvements.
“Many suppliers are still pursuing the failed self-regulatory approach,” said Garrett Strain, international campaigns coordinator for USAS. “We hope suppliers of U.S. collegiate clothing will join the legally binding Bangladesh safety accord without delay.
“VF, which signed on to the separate Bangladesh safety pact made up of nearly two dozen North American retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT -0.28% and GapInc., GPS -0.10% said it shares the European accord’s aim to ensure safe working conditions for the people that make its products.
“It’s unfortunate that the students are focused on painting a picture of ‘us versus them’,” said Tom Nelson, vice president of global product procurement at VF. “If we could eliminate the noise around the competition between groups and get behind the real mission, which is to help the workers in Bangladesh, we could make this thing a whole lot better.”
Nike, which has declined to sign on to either Bangladesh safety pact, said it is committed to working closely with the factories that make its goods in the country. The factories have recently undergone safety and structural audits by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, a spokesman said.
University students’ tactics have proven successful in the past. More than a decade ago, Nike was among the first companies to disclose a list of factories that produced collegiate apparel after student groups staged protests at colleges including Harvard University and the University of Michigan.
Last April, Adidas AG ADS.XE +0.07% agreed to compensate 2,700 workers owed $1.8 million in severance pay at a shuttered Indonesian apparel factory after more than a dozen colleges including Cornell University and Georgetown University severed collegiate contracts with the German sportswear company.
The world’s largest retailers have flocked to Bangladesh in recent years, attracted by cheap wages and an abundant supply of labor at its more than 4,000 factories. The country’s clothing exports topped $20 billion last year
The student group toured the country last month, visiting factories, speaking with local labor groups and videotaping worker interviews that they intend to broadcast on their campuses this fall. During one meeting at a local labor office, about 30 garment workers sat on the office floor in front of the American students and listed complaints of delayed wages, poor sanitation and physical abuse from managers.
“It’s good that you have come to see us,” said one worker at Optimum Fashions Wear Ltd., a factory 15 miles south of Dhaka that makes clothes for VF. “We need our pay on time, we need clean floors,” said the worker, Munirul Islam, who added that the managers “yell at us and call us names if we bring up these issues.”
Mizanur Rahman, managing director of Optimum Fashions, denied unsafe conditions and abuse. He said his company occasionally delayed salary payments due to disruption from general strikes in the country.
VF, which said it has worked with Optimum Fashions since 2009, said it is working with management to fix the sanitary conditions and payroll problems but that it is not aware of any managerial abuse.
The retailer’s compliance staff has visited the factory twice in three months to help the factory improve conditions but hasn’t found anything that “we would consider puts workers in imminent danger,” said Mr. Nelson, VF’s product procurement head.
National Leadership

Formed in 1997, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a grassroots organization of youth and students who believe that a powerful and dynamic labor movement will ensure greater justice for all people. We use our unique roles of students as consumers, workers, and members of the campus community to win victories that set precedents in the struggle for self-determination of working people everywhere, particularly campus workers and garment workers who make collegiate licensed apparel.

National Student Coordinating Committee (contact info)

Anna Barcy grew up in New Jersey, and she’s a junior at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. She has been working with Rutgers USAS since her freshman year. She has worked on campaigns to cut contracts with RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Fair Labor Association, and Adidas. Last year, she worked as a Regional Organizer and this year she will serve as the Campus Worker Justice representative to the Coordinating Committee. Right now, she and fellow RUSASers are pressuring Rutgers admins to cut ties with T-Mobile to fight back against the company’s vicious union busting policies.

Julia Wang is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California where she is studying Neuroscience and Human Rights. She is a member of USC’s USAS local, the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE), campaigning alongside both campus workers and international garment workers. Julia helped to organize a campaign to have her university affiliate with the Worker Rights Consortium, the only independent monitoring organization in the country, and has worked on numerous corporate campaigns to garner respect for workers from some of the largest brands in the world. She is the International Solidarity Committee representative to the Coordinating Committee and is excited about moving forward to widen the scope of USAS’ international campaign work. Most recently, she’s been obsessed with lumber-jack winter socks, making biscotti, and super-spy heist films. If you buy her a coffee, she will most definitely love you forever!

Timothy Singratsomboune is a second-year student majoring in Ethnic & American Studies at The Ohio State University. Entering USAS at a time when the Sodexo Campaign, the Silver Star Campaign, and anti-privatization movements ran simultaneously at OSU, he has begun the journey to learning as many diverse tactics to create as successful Student-Worker Power as possible. Timothy has also been very involved in USAS’s Collective Liberation efforts and hopes to make USAS stand out as an example of an organization that is not just one of safety and tolerance, but one of inclusion and empowerment. Tim is 20 years old and identifies as a queer, multiracial, and proudly working class student. Tim is also a Co-Chair of the Mixed-Race Caucus.

Rachel Shevrin is in her third year at the University of Washington in Seattle, as well as her third year with UW USAS. She has worked strategically with her fellow UW USASers to cut contracts with Sodexo and Adidas, as well as campaigning with state AFSCME members to get better contracts for both the janitorial staff and student support service staff. Most recently, she helped lead the charge of making UW USAS part of the voluntary student funding system, pleasantly shaking up both the campus community and the administration, as well as the general status quo. Rachel identifies as a straight white woman who loves being goofy. As an At-Large Representative, she hopes to work with and get to know everyone!

Leewana Thomas is a junior at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is majoring in American Studies with accidental minors in Educational Studies and Anthropology. She has been actively campaigning against the corporate attack on campus and in the community since her first year of college– she has pressured the college to avoid hotels under boycott or dispute with UNITE HERE, she has brought Alta Gracia to campus, and she is currently beginning the new Kick Wall Street of Campus campaign with USAS. This means she’ll be pressuring her school and other institutions to cut ties with the bank responsible for the highest number of foreclosures in the region. Leewana identifies as a straight white woman, and she is super stoked to help other students fight corporate greed and administrative corruption on campuses way up North.

Lingran Kong is a fourth year student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Political Science and Sociology. She has been involved in her school’s USAS local, the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC), since her first year. Lingran was heavily engaged in the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising and occupied the capitol building alongside local union members in fighting Scott Walker’s heinous attack on workers’ rights. Additionally, Lingran has worked on campaigns to push UW-Madison to cut its contracts with companies that exploit their workers and fail to uphold the university’s Code of Conduct. Lingran is also a Regional Organizer.

Martin Xavi Macias is a 4th year, studying Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Martin formed UIC Students Against Sweatshops after attending the Midwest Boot Camp in the Fall of 2012. The group joined (and pushed to rename) the Campus Worker and Student Coalition. Together, students and workers fought to attain a fair work contract for the Grad Employees Organization and will continue the fight for the rest of their campus workers. USAS also pressured UIC to cut ties with Adidas and carry Alta Gracia in their bookstore. Martin previously served as the Co-Chair for the People of Color Caucus on the Collective Liberation Committee. He loves: vegan food, his family, his partner and playing soccer with his team, the Mighty Mangoes – and supporting FC Barcelona! He identifies as a cisgender, working class person of the global majority (or POC) and is 24 years young. Martin is also a Regional Organizer.

National Organizers (contact info)

KB Brower started work as a National Organizer for USAS in 2012. She first got involved in her sophomore year at the College of William and Mary, where she became active in a historic 10-year long fight for living wages for campus workers. As a junior and senior she worked as a Regional Organizer in the Southeast and sat on the USAS Coordinating Committee. After two years of campaigning alongside the housekeeping and groundskeeping staff that culminated in a sit-in, the campus workers received their first raise in years. KB also helped organize USAS’ groundbreaking campaigns against Russell Athletic and Nike, in solidarity with workers who make college apparel. After graduating KB went on to organize with SEIU Healthcare 1199 NE, where she worked on a campaign that won collective bargaining rights for 6000 home-care workers in the state of Connecticut. KB is excited to be working with USAS again to help grow the student-labor movement!

Garrett Shishido Strain started as a national organizer with USAS in 2012. While attending the University of Washington-Seattle, Garrett helped organize several campaigns for student and worker power, including UW USAS’s successful campaign—culminating in three consecutive sit-ins—to end the University’s business relationship with outsourcing giant Sodexo. Beginning in 2010, Garrett also became an elected officer and organizer with UAW Local 4121 where he helped organize a contract campaign that resulted in significant wage increases and improvements for over 4,200 academic student employees across the UW campus. Garrett identifies as mixed-race/person of color and is 24 years old.

Jan Van Tol joined USAS as a National Organizer in 2012 after studying Russian and Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While a student, Jan organized campaigns to pressure the university to sever contracts with New Era Cap, Russell Athletic, and Nike over labor rights violations in their supply chains, forcing those companies to agree to groundbreaking settlements with workers and their unions. After graduation, Jan began work as an organizer for the American Federation of Teachers on a campaign to organize faculty and staff in the University of Wisconsin System and was on the front lines in the battle against Gov. Scott Walker’s corporate-backed attacks on unions. He started work as a National Organizer in 2012, and is 26 years old.

Marcelle Grair is a 2013 graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with Pre-law and Secondary Education concentrations. In 2012, she became actively involved in the “Justice for School Workers” campaign which involved school workers, unions, and students across the state of Georgia fighting to get unemployment benefits reinstated for Georgia school workers. She joined USAS during her senior year at Spelman College, and became a Regional Organizer. During Marcelle’s senior year she helped start a USAS chapter in the Atlanta University Center (Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College). Additionally, she worked closely with students on Agnes Scott’s campus, Atlanta Jobs With Justice, and Georgia school workers from the Atlanta University Center, Georgia State, and Emory University to organize events such as legislative days of action and the “March to Defend Unemployment Benefits.” After a year of strong organizing, Georgia school workers’ unemployment benefits were reinstated. Marcelle identifies as a woman of color, queer, part of the working class and is 22 years old.

Regional Organizers

Amanda Mendez, University of California – Berkeley

Bianca Hinz-Foley, University of Texas – Austin

Caiden Jay Elmer is a junior at American University majoring in Spanish and Latin America Studies. He participated in Unite HERE’s Organizing Beyond Barriers program and worked on a campaign involving DC university food service workers’ contract fights. He continued to work on the same campaign with American University’s USAS affiliate, Student Worker Alliance. He’s super pumped to continue building momentum in the DC area and to help organizing groups connect with one another. Caiden’s white, working-class and identifies as gay and transgender. He’s originally from Oregon and enjoys playing sports and being outside.

Caitlin MacLaren is a senior at New York University, where she has worked on campaigns to cut contracts with big banks and sweatshop brands. She helped launch the Student Labor Action Movement at NYU to build student and worker power on campus. Caitlin is currently part of USAS’s International Solidarity Campaigns committee.

Eric Samuels is a third year student at Temple University and a member of the Coalition of Students Against Sweatshops (COSAS). He will be the new Regional Organizer for the Philadelphia area and has been a member of USAS since the National Conference at U Miami back in February 2013. Eric was involved with COSAS working on the Badidas campaign last year and will continue a new ISC and CWJ campaign this upcoming fall semester. He is majoring in Marketing and double Minoring in Spanish and Management Information Systems. He had the pleasure of visiting the Alta Gracia garment factory in the Dominican Republic this past summer and met the most amazing union leaders, creating lifelong friendships with the workers and his fellow USASers. This trip created a whole new meaning for solidarity and Eric is friggin PUMPED to start the new school year organizing like no other. HIT A BROTHA UP if you want to learn more about his experience in the DR, about USAS in general or if you are in the Philadelphia region lookin’ to cheeel.

Jonathan Londoño is a senior at Arizona State University where he is studying US and Mexican Regional Immigration Policy and Economy under the School of Transborder Studies. With the help of national leadership, Jonathan brought the USAS campaign against Adidas to ASU where previously there was no chapter. His efforts had both students and university officials critically discussing the university’s contract with Adidas. As a Regional Organizer, Jonathan hopes to greater expand USAS in the southwest for future campaigns and stronger student solidarity. He has worked as a football video coordinator for over 6 years in high school and in college. Born in central Phoenix, Arizona, Jonathan identifies himself as a proud Colombian-American. He is 21 years old. Photo credit: graduated USASer Morgan Currier.

Katie Corbit is a senior studying Spanish and Community Action & Social Change at the University of Michigan. At UMich, Katie and her fellow USASers stand in solidarity with both local and global workers. She developed a passion for the USAS mission from participating in a USAS Regional Boot Camp and enrolling in an Ethical Consumption course during her junior year. When not studying, working, or fighting for the underdog, Katie enjoys playing with her cat, eating froyo, and watching Sportscenter.

Mark Ortiz is a junior majoring in Biology and Sustainability Studies at the University of Alabama. Mark is new to USAS, just starting the Alabama affiliate, Students for Fair Labor, at the end of his sophomore year. After running a successful campaign to get Alta Gracia clothes in the school bookstore, Mark wanted to get more involved in USAS and the labor movement to help build a strong student and worker movement in the South. He is looking forward to serving as an RO this school and having the opportunity to strengthen solidarity in the South. When he is not organizing Mark enjoys listening to the experimental sounds of jazz fusion.

Naomi Carbrey, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Razzan Quran is a junior at the University of Memphis. Growing up in Palestine enabled her to see the different dimensions of oppression and mistreatment. Since moving to the US two years ago, she has learned so much through USAS and the power of organizing. As a member of the Campus Worker Justice Campaigns Razzan looks forward to winning the Living Wage campaign on her campus and in her state. The South is especially an intricate organizing space due to blatant worker unappreciation and the state leadership’s disregard of basic civil rights. She joined USAS Spring of 2012 and is currently a Regional Organizer in Tennessee.

Robert Naylor is a junior at the University of Tennessee Knoxville where he is majoring in Global Studies. After winning a campaign to bring Alta Gracia to the campus bookstore in 2012, Robert moved on to fight for domestic partner benefits for UT workers and started up the Badidas campaign at Knoxville. This year he will be working in solidarity with United Campus Workers to fight for living wages throughout the University of Tennessee system. He feels honored to be working to build student and worker power across the Southeast. When not organizing, he enjoys reading, rewriting pop songs for social justice flashmobs, and secretly adding more whipped cream to his coffee when his friends aren’t watching. Robert identifies as a 20 year-old queer male.

Troy Neves is a second year Sociology and Political Science Major at Northeastern University. In the last year, Troy took part in successfully campaigning for Northeastern to cut their contract with Badidas. While he is relatively new to USAS, he looks forward to serving as  a Regional Organizer for the Northeast and collaborating to build student worker power!! Troy is a self-identifying mixed race, queer male. When he is not challenging the patriarchy (or maybe while he is), you can find him cooking, doing yoga, or hanging out with friends.

Yecenia Morales-Garcia is a second year at Gonzaga University and a co-founder of the GU-USAS chapter. Before joining USAS, Yes-Si organized around the DREAM Act and the closure of the School of the Americas. Now she has been a part of the picket line that shut down Evergreen State College, winning the support staff union just cause and increased pay. When she is not using her loud voice leading chants, she is using it to cheer on her fellow Zags. She is excited to be organizing in the Pacific Northwest. Yes-Si is 19 year old, Chicana-Chapina.

Collective Liberation Caucus Co-Chairs

Arianna Feldman, Macalester College
Vanlyn Turner-Ramsay, University of Memphis
Claire Hintz, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Petro On, University of Texas – Austin
Mariela Martinez, Brown University

Francisco Rios Casas has thoroughly enjoyed living in the city of Los Angeles for the past three years as an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California studying Human Biology with a minor in American Studies and Ethnicity. He has organized alongside workers on his campus and in solidarity with those making university apparel for many different brands. He identifies as a working-class person of color and, as such, seeks out any opportunity to positively impact people in these and other marginalized groups. He hopes to be a part of an inclusive and sustainable movement for social justice: one that is made up of a diverse community and one in which people are given the tools to discover a greater meaning in their work and, as a result, a greater significance in their life. He enjoys reading science fiction or history, listening to irreverent podcasts, travelling on a budget, and jogging!

Stephanie Medina, Brown University
Troy Neves, Northeastern University
Dominique Porter, Ohio State University
Caiden Elmer, American University
Stoni Tomson, Brown University
Mark Ortiz, University of Alabama
Timothy Singratsomboune, Ohio State University

Worker Rights Consortium Board Representatives

Jose Godinez is a Bay Area native and a sophomore at Syracuse University. He undeclared in the school of management and double majoring in Policy studies. He started a chapter at Syracuse the second semester of his freshman year. This summer, Jose joined USAS in a delegation to Bangladesh. He is really excited to launch the end death traps campaign at Syracuse and serve on the WRC board this upcoming school year.

Maya Menlo is a lifelong metro-Detroiter and current junior at the University of Michigan, studying public policy and Arabic language.  She recently had the exhilarating opportunity to work on the victorious USAS campaign against Adidas, and is excited to continue organizing for international workers’ rights with the end death traps campaign. She is a travel enthusiast, a raging feminist, a dedicated co-oper, a spicy food fanatic, a lover of productive meetings, and a total nerd.

Rob Battista was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and now attends The Ohio State University. He is a rising third year in chemical engineering and has been in USAS since early his freshman year. For the past two years, Rob helped to run the Buck the Cowboys campaign that helped halt Silver Star Merchandising’s desire to tap into large public universities. Also, Rob was an international intern in the summer of 2012 in Nicaragua where he worked to document the conditions in the free trade zone factories. While not organizing, Rob is working on his research which centers around glacial environmental change in the Peruvian Andes.

Sarah Newell is a junior studying Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, with minors in Cultural Anthropology and International Relations. She got involved in USAS when the breathtaking wonder of her local USC Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation caught her eye… or rather, her contact info. Since then, she has had the opportunity to help win a thirteen year fight for WRC affiliation at her university, easily the most fun thing she’s ever experienced. Outside of her love affair with all things labor, Sarah enjoys singing in an a cappella group, spending an inordinate amount of time reading blogs on identity politics, lollygagging with her English bulldog and the occasional geocaching session.

Youbin Kang is a 5th year student at Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design studying International Relations and Textiles. She is involved with Brown University’s USAS chapter, the Student Labor Alliance (SLA). She has worked with SLA efforts to cut Adidas’s athletic contract with Brown University, and the amazing win has motivated her to go on organizing. She is a 22 year old Korean student fighting for worker justice in the United States, and hopes that USAS in the form of international student solidarity spreads to more countries! Youbin is an avid knitter and really likes eating frozen gogurt.

Categories: Uncategorized

Advertisers Begin to Navigate the Mobile Landscape

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

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Nearly 20% of mobile marketers will increase mobile ad spending by 50% or more in next two years 9/30/13

Mobile advertising, once uncharted territory, is being taken up by marketers in droves, as publishers offer more opportunities on the devices, usage of mobile skyrockets and the ads show strong performance. In a survey conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and tech researcher Ovum, 19% of US mobile marketers said they planned to up their mobile ad budgets by 50% or more in the next two years. These respondents already market on mobile, and their responses suggest that they are seeing considerable return on investment (ROI) from the format.

As advertisers plan their mobile strategy, they have choices as to what ad inventory to use. The study found that the greatest percentage of respondents—by a wide margin—employed mobile sites or landing pages, at 70%. The next most common type of mobile ad was a static mobile display or banner ad, used by 49% of respondents. Despite search’s ubiquity as a digital tactic—and its importance on mobile—a lesser 44% invested in mobile search ads. This may be in part because there is less real estate for such ads on mobile screens. Nearly three out of 10 marketers used branded mobile apps, and 19% used mobile video ads.

There are still significant challenges mobile advertising must overcome, however. The greatest percentage of mobile marketers cited fragmented operating systems as their biggest challenge, followed closely by privacy concerns.

Responsive design should help ease mobile ad campaign deployment across devices, and 87% of respondents cited it as a “very important” or “important” development for mobile advertising, followed by HTML5, at 77%.

Despite the challenges, there is much to gain from mobile ad campaigns—a fact which has obviously not been lost on these marketers. In a Q3 2013 survey from the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and Neustar, between 45% and 48% of US marketers cited mobile marketing as offering each of the following significant and sustainable benefits: loyalty retention, improving transactions and improving customer service.

Read more at http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Advertisers-Begin-Navigate-Mobile-Landscape/1010259#yUj0Jqqx4mch9Cxx.99

Categories: Uncategorized

The nanoRep Self-Service Customer Support Innovation

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

 

nanoRep Customer Support Software

Customer service and support is a crowded space with numerous software vendors and various types of solutions. Many traditional vendors offer customer service portals on the front-end and a ticketing system in the back-end. To find answers, customers must find the link to the portal, drill down and narrow the search categories. If customers can’t find answers, eventually they are given the option to contact an agent via email. This traditional approach has many limitations:  
  • Accessibility: It assumes that customers will take the time to visit the company’s support portal, and navigate through articles and categories in search for answers.
  • Deflection of support tickets is more important than customer service.
  • Customer experience on website is not taken into consideration – no intelligent engagement.
  • Q&A knowledge base is built manually – agents must add new articles in pre-defined categories
  • Solution is limited to handful of products / services.  Knowledge base can’t be created for companies with hundreds, thousands and more products.  

Over the last several years, companies also adopted additional solutions such as forums, communities and virtual agents. Forums and communities help deflect support tickets, but answers are not always accurate and definitely not immediate (it may take days before and a forum or community member responds). Virtual agents on the other hand aim to deliver immediate answers and try to mimic real-conversations. However, it’s impossible to predict every scenario and therefore answers are limited. In addition, customers confuse virtual agents with chats and get irritated with the “robotic” nature of the conversation.

nanopRep realized those limitations and designed a self-service customer support software that overcomes many of these limitations and provides companies with excellent customer service. nanoRep provides a solution that enhances agent-productivity and increases online conversion.

At nanoRep we understand that web visitors abandon sites within seconds. Therefore, immediate answers must be provided in the most convenient way. Site abandonment is even more crucial for eCommerce sites.  Consumers have choices in term of product selection and price, and therefore customer service is a major differentiator. The fast growing eCommerce market presents a new customer service challenge – assisting online visitors in real-time, reducing abandonment, and increasing online conversion rate.

Keeping visitors engaged through their purchasing process requires accurate answers per product in real-time. nanoRep solves this challenge with an end-to-end customer service solution that includes a variety of Self-Service Widgets (available on every page), Self-Learning Knowledge Base, Ticketing System and advanced business analytics. Customers don’t need to navigate away to look for answers. They can ask questions thru the widget on every page, mobile and even Facebook, in their own language, just like they would ask a sales-person or an agent. nanoRep virtually holds the customer’s hand at any step throughout the purchasing process and helps reduce abandonment. 

For eCommerce companies with a wide variety of products, nanoRep offers complete knowledge base for each and every product. The artificial intelligence behind the self-learning knowledge base of nanoRep answers visitors’ questions per product in real-time and increases online conversion by 5X and more. With nanoRep, each product page can include an embedded widget, allowing customers to conveniently ask questions just as if they were visiting a brick-and-mortar store. 

Categories: Uncategorized

WHY WE DON’T BUY: Consumer Attitudes on Shopping Cart Abandoment

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

WHY WE DON’T BUY: Consumer Attitudes on Shopping Cart Abandoment

Marketers are constantly combating shopping cart abandonment and looking for ways to save potentially lost sales.
Causes for abandonment are continually analyzed and various tactics are incessantly being developed to discourage
abandonment and get consumers back into shopping carts. We are standing by the exit door enthusiastically waving
customers back into the store by sending customer support reminder emails about a cart’s contents or offering an
incentive to come back and complete an order.
Data has been sliced, diced, automated and finely tuned over the years based on changing consumer behavior
trends and the technology available to marketers to develop sophisticated shopping carts and robust cart
abandonment email programs.
Customers have become more technologically savvy and are no longer simply interacting with a brand’s website
and email program. Social networks, mobile devices and various technologies that bridge the online and in-store
have shopping experience have not only increased consumers’ expectations of intuitive technology, they have also
become keenly aware of how technology is used market to them.
High shipping costs, shopper anxiety, technical issues… These are the tried and true causes for abandonment that
marketers have worked to combat. The truth is that many of your shoppers know they will abandon their orders
before they even click “add to cart” on your product page.
Rather than depending on assumptions, in this study we go directly to consumers and ask them about their
awareness of shopping cart technology, expectations for marketing when they abandon a cart, and if any of this
helps. Marketers know that abandonment rates continue to increase. This report will:
• Explain why consumers are abandoning more frequently and how this could be an opportunity for marketers
• Analyze what the consumers want to happen when they abandon a cart and what will annoy them
• Examine key components of the shopping cart and cart abandonment strategies

Categories: Uncategorized

Four-Figure Denim for (Only) Your Figure

September 29, 2013 Leave a comment
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The Wall Street Journal

Friday, September 27, 2013  By Daniel Bernauer

Jeans hop on the made-to-measure bandwagon. Rare selvage from Japan? Real gold buttons? Your call for a bespoke pair of jeans…

DEPT. OF FIT | Plenty of bolts to choose from at 3×1’s store in New York’sdownloadSoHo.

OD-AZ041A_DENIM_G_20130926115021WHEN A CUSTOMER comes to see Scott Morrison at his shop, Mr. Morrison sits the visitor down and asks, “What do you really love about your jeans?” This is the beginning of a conversation that can get rather personal, and can end with a client paying up to $1,200 for a bespoke pair of jeans.

It’s an exchange that isn’t only taking place in the confines of 3×1, Mr. Morrison’s specialty store in New York, but throughout the denim industry. Both small shops and major brands like Levi’s are attempting to capitalize on a slice of the market looking for made-to-measure.

While the bulk of Mr. Morrison’s business is wholesale—Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and upscale retailers all over the world sell 3×1 brand jeans for men and women off the rack—about half of the business in his SoHo location comes from custom work. Clients can simply choose a fabric from the rolls of denim suspended from the walls and specify one of six fits ($525 to $750), or they can opt for a bespoke process ($1,200 for the first pair; $525 to $750 for subsequent ones)—both completed in the in-store factory, a hive of seamstresses sitting inside a glass cube. The majority of Mr. Morrison’s custom-buyers are male. “Historically nine out of 10 custom orders are men but more recently we’ve been seeing an uptick on the women’s end,” he said.

Ordering customized jeans isn’t unlike having a pair of trousers made for a suit: There are fittings, a pattern is drawn, the cloth is cut into pieces and finally sewn into pants. But denim can be trickier than other fabrics. Ranging in weight from 5 to 32 ounces per yard, it continues to evolve well after its been sewn. Mr. Morrison’s staff is not just tailoring, they’re laying a foundation for a fabric that will adjust to the wearer’s body.

For Mr. Morrison, who has been in the denim business for 16 years (he started the brands Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn), the cut matters but the denim itself is key. “You realize that a measurement is just a number and it’s not going to articulate how a fabric is going to feel on your body,” he said. Mr. Morrison’s shop carries 320 denims—some as thin as an oxford shirt, others as thick as a carpet. He mails swatches of new fabric arrivals to his regular customers every week.

Like most players in the premium-denim game, Mr. Morrison worships at the altar of selvage, the high-quality, old-school denim made on small-scale shuttle looms. This material was the standard back when denim was workwear, before jeans went mainstream in the 1960s. Selvage was all but extinct in the U.S. by the 1980s. Shuttle-loom denim has been revived in Japan, where much of the best selvage denim can be found (Italy, the U.S. and Turkey are also key producers).

“It’s laying a foundation that will adjust to the wearer’s body.”

Not far from Mr. Morrison’s boutique, Jean Shop’s Eric Goldstein offers custom finishing—adding patches, signs of wear and tear and distressing to his raw denim jeans, which are worn by the likes of basketball players Kobe Bryant and Amar’e Stoudemire (athletes, for obvious reasons, can have trouble fitting into regular jeans). Mr. Goldstein only uses Japanese selvage denim, customized to his specifications by each mill that supplies him. He keeps some of his favorite pairs on a “wall of fame” behind his cash register, where the most impressively worked in—some might say ruined—jeans are displayed with pride. He pointed to a nearly destroyed pair owned by a bike courier, the winner of a recent contest Mr. Goldstein held on Instagram. “Look at that,” he said. “It’s like art.”

Brian Kim launched his first custom denim business in Los Angeles in 2002, after making custom jeans for traveling rocker friends, including members of the band the Killers. Mr. Kim is opening a new operation as part of his company, Thvm Atelier (with jeans running $350 to $400). Mr. Kim is examining ways he might offer his services online, and is fascinated by the new denims coming out of top mills in Istanbul. “They’re developing fabric with more microtechnology, adding copper fabric into the yarns and making sweat-proof fabrics, things that breathe really well,” he said.

But most men aren’t looking for something experimental. They simply want to look and feel good. “You have an emerging group of guys, not just finance guys, creative firm guys and tech people, who have financial resources and wear jeans every day to work,” said Mr. Morrison. “They’re wearing a really beautiful sweater and a nice pair of shoes and they want something that is going to round out that look.”

The fervor for custom denim is spreading across the globe. “People in Amsterdam eat jeans for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Jason Denham, who five years ago opened his Denham The Jeanmaker shop in the Dutch capital. It featured a “Blue Salad Bar” of customizable options for his selvage jeans. He has since opened locations in Tokyo and London, offering a menu of tailoring options for selvage jeans.

image

Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi’s Lot No. 1 section in the Meatpacking District store

Of course, the master of American heritage, Levi’s, is keyed into the trend. As of last year, in New York and San Francisco, fans of Levi’s 501s can order a bespoke pair ($750 to $950). While the company’s master tailor, Ryan Grant-Hays, sources his selvage from the same American, Japanese and Turkish mills as other jean makers, he believes the brand’s advantage lies in its comprehensive 140-year-old archive and its highly personalized process. “Everything, from the fitting to the patternmaking is done in these four walls,” said Mr. Grant-Hays, 30, who cuts each pattern and sews each pair in the San Francisco shop. “Also the person I’m talking to goes into the personality of the jean. At 3×1, it’s a dozen ladies in a glass cube making your jeans. They don’t know you and who you are.”

Mr. Morrison of 3×1 takes issue with this. “Since we have the most options to choose from, and house the largest selection of selvage denim in the world, all under our roof,” he said, “I’m not sure how anyone could claim they offer a more personalized service.” His system “involves multiple fittings, measurements as well as our feedback forum, all one-on-one with our patternmaker.”

The argument over whose custom denim is most custom isn’t of interest to everyone in the industry. “It repulses me. People just want custom everything these days,” said Mordechai Rubinstein, a New York-based style blogger. “I thought Levi’s 501s were custom. You buy them, you wear them, you finally wash them and they mold to you. It’s suits that I want to fit right. When it comes to jeans, I’m about off the rack.”

But those who like it seem to like it a lot. Custom fitters cite loyal patrons buying multiple pairs. “I bought these jeans for the very precise fit,” said one custom fan, a 45-year-old neurosurgeon who went with Levi’s because 501s were the jeans he’d always worn. He said he’s looking to buy two more pairs this fall.

Mr. Morrison said his clientele is increasingly hungry to know every detail about his denim, its construction and its sourcing. He’s even printed up a little glossary in book form, so customers can develop their knowledge of chain stitching and crotch rivets. “Not everyone needs to be a denim nerd,” he said. “But at the same time we’re showing them something they can’t get at any other store, and that’s unique.” (here’s a really good one from Buddha Jeans:  http://buddhajeans.com/denim-dictionary-a-z-index/)

Mr. Morrison, whose love of denim approaches fetish levels, offers a simple justification for the trend. “Look at the seat shape,” he said, pointing to his behind. “It’s different on every guy.”

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All The Latest Fashion Weeks

September 29, 2013 Leave a comment
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Paris Fashion Week

September 29, 2013 Leave a comment
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Style season’s grand finale is here! Join us to discover shoes to swoon over, glamorous jewelry, beauty trends, and everything from couture collections to street looks in Paris.
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App-controlled Illuminated Garments

September 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Fashioning Technology

Lüme is a lovely collection of customizable illuminated garments. The color of the illumination can be customized via a mobile app. The collection is all black in color with decorative laser cut detailing (which too can be customized), drawing emphasis to the lovely colorful LED cutout patterns.

With illuminated fashion there is a fine line between glam and gimmick. Lüme manages to use light to create details in garments that you would love to wear everyday.

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The project was designed and developed by Elizabeth and Luis Fraguada.

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“School is a boring thing. E-mail is a boring thing. It goes together”

September 28, 2013 Leave a comment
 New York Times

By COURTNEY RUBIN Published: September 27, 2013

Technology and the College Generation

Jungyeon Roh

“School is a boring thing. E-mail is a boring thing. It goes together”

<nyt_byline>By COURTNEY RUBIN
Published: September 27, 2013

As a professor who favors pop quizzes, Cedrick May is used to grimaces from students caught unprepared. But a couple of years ago, in his class on early American literature at the University of Texas at Arlington, he said he noticed “horrible, pained looks” from the whole class when they saw the questions.

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He soon learned that the students did not know he had changed the reading assignment because they did not check their e-mail regularly, if at all. To the students, e-mail was as antiquated as the spellings “chuse” and “musick” in the works by Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards that they read on their electronic books.

“Some of them didn’t even seem to know they had a college e-mail account,” Dr. May said. Nor were these wide-eyed freshmen. “This is considered a junior-level class, so they’d been around,” he said.

That is when he added to his course syllabuses: “Students must check e-mail daily.” Dr. May said the university now recommends similar wording.

So students prefer social media. So far, so 2005. But some professors do not want to “friend” students on Facebook (“I don’t want to learn things about them I can’t unlearn,” said Thomas Tierney, an associate professor of sociology at the College of Wooster in Ohio) or do not think it is their job to explore every possible medium a student might prefer to use at 2 a.m. to find out about a test later that day.

How to get students, some of whom consider their school e-mail accounts so irrelevant that they give their parents the passwords, to take a look?

At the University of Southern California, Nina Eliasoph’s Sociology 250 syllabus reads: “You must check e-mail DAILY every weekday,” with boldface for emphasis.

In an e-mail, Dr. Eliasoph wrote: “Earlier it was because some students weren’t plugged in enough into any virtual communication.” Seven years later, she said she cannot remove the instruction because now students avoid e-mail because it is “too slow compared to texting.”

Morgan Judge, a sophomore at Fordham University in New York, said she thought it was “cool” last semester when a professor announced that students could text him. Then she received one from him: “Check your e-mail for an update on the assignment.”

“E-mail has never really been a fun thing to use,” said Ms. Judge, 19. “It’s always like, ‘This is something you have to do.’ School is a boring thing. E-mail is a boring thing. It goes together.”

The University of Alabama’s cooperative education office tries a pileup of retro-style reminders. Engineering students, some of whom recently lined up at 2 a.m. to sign up for job-recruiting interviews, are told, individually and in person, to check e-mail at a particular day and time to confirm their spot.

Even after all that, and the threat of their spot being given away, staff members still resort to texting some students. They respond immediately, said Amy Ratliff, senior coordinator for cooperative education.

When job offers arrive, Ms. Ratliff often has excited students turn up in her office only to realize they have forgotten a form they need to send to the company. Using e-mail to get the form or to send it apparently does not cross their minds.

“I say: ‘Do you have your phone with you? O.K., can you get e-mail on it?’ ” she said.

Ms. Ratliff added: “It’s like an out-of-body experience. These are incredibly bright kids.”

Eric Stoller, who consults with universities on social media and communication, said schools often have outsize expectations for students when it comes to all things tech.

“We have this perception that because students are fluent with things like smartphones and downloading music that they are born with chips embedded in them that make them technology wizards,” he said. “They are no better at managing e-mail than anyone else.”

(When Mr. Stoller, 36, was an academic adviser at Oregon State University from 2007 to 2010, he frequently answered students’ questions with, “Have you tried Google?” Usually, they hadn’t.)

Just how little are students using e-mail these days? Six minutes a day, according to an experiment done earlier this year by Reynol Junco, an associate professor of library science at Purdue. With the promise of a $10 Amazon gift card, Dr. Junco persuaded students to download a program letting him track their computer habits. During the semester, they spent an average of 123 minutes a day on a computer, by far the biggest portion of it, 31 minutes, on social networking. The only thing they spent less time on than e-mail: hunting for content via search engines (four minutes).

The actual average of e-mail time, at least on a tablet or desktop, could be even lower because Dr. Junco recruited students by — wait for it — e-mail.

“Yes, there’s other ways, but they’re so much more resource-intensive,” he said.

Use of the school e-mail account may be slightly higher at elite universities, said Kenneth C. Green, founder of the Campus Computing Project, one of the largest continuing studies of information technology in American higher education.

Scott Simpson, 22, a recent Yale graduate, agreed. “When I was a freshman I used it a lot because I felt really cool having my name at Yale dot edu,” he said.

Brittney Carver, 20, a junior at the University of Iowa, said she checks her e-mail once a day, more if she’s expecting something. Before college, she used e-mail mostly for buying concert tickets. She said she would never use it if she could avoid it.

“I never know what to say in the subject line and how to address the person,” Ms. Carver said. “Is it mister or professor and comma and return, and do I have to capitalize and use full sentences? By the time I do all that I could have an answer by text if I could text them.”

Mr. Stoller said some of the blame for Ms. Carver’s frustration with e-mail goes right back to the people who wish she and her fellow students would use it.

“Faculty and staff love to blame students for not checking e-mail instead of owning up to the fact that no one ever got that good at using e-mail in the first place,” he said, citing vague subject lines and (exaggerating to make his point) 36-paragraph e-mails from faculty in which the crucial information is in paragraph 27. “How are they going to learn to use e-mail when that’s the model, and why would they want to?”

Paul Jones, a professor at the University of North Carolina, does not think they should have to.

“E-mail is a sinkhole where knowledge goes to die,” said Mr. Jones, who said that he gave up e-mail in 2011. It was a radical move, not least because Mr. Jones helped write the code for the university’s first e-mail program 30 years ago. “I’m trying to undo that sinful work,” he said, joking.

E-mails to him receive an automated reply: “Goodbye E-mail, I’m divesting,” plus some 20 ways to reach him. About the only person frustrated by this, he said, was a department head who wanted to know “how will you possibly read our important departmental announcements?” Mr. Jones said with a laugh.

But in his quest to eliminate e-mail, Mr. Jones may have a surprising obstacle: students. Canvas, a two-year-old learning management system used by Brown University, among others, allows students to choose how to receive messages like “The reading assignment has been changed to Chapter 2.” The options: e-mail, text, Facebook and Twitter. According to company figures, 98 percent chose e-mail.

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Difference Engine: Pay up or Shut up

September 28, 2013 Leave a comment
etail-westpix 3September 27, 2013 

THE on-going saga of Google sweeping up people’s Wi-Fi transmissions—as its Street View vehicles trundled around the world, snapping panoramic pictures of their surroundings—has focused attention yet again on just how much privacy people can expect when using online services for e-mail, search, social networking, navigation and shopping. The rule seems to be: if the service is free, then not much. Get used to it.

It has been said many times, but the fact remains that anything users share over the internet will inevitably be bought and sold and, sooner or later, used against them in some way. That is the price people tacitly accept for the convenience of using popular web services free of charge.

The corollary, of course, is that if individuals are not paying for some online product, they are the product. And collecting information about the product (users) enhances its value for the service’s actual customers (advertisers, corporate clients and government agencies) who pay the bills. That is how the business model works. Those who do not like it can choose not to use such free services and find paid alternatives instead that promise greater privacy. Though limited, they do exist.

In Google’s latest run-in with the law, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals refused to exempt the firm from liability under the federal Wiretap Act for intercepting people’s e-mail messages along with their network identification, signal strength, username, password and other data. Back in 2010, Google admitted it had collected some 600 gigabytes of “payload data” from unsecured wireless networks in more than 30 countries. Several putative class-action lawsuits filed at the time were subsequently consolidated into a single case.

In its defence, Google claimed it was perfectly legal to intercept data transmitted over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks—just as it is lawful to intercept “electronic communications [that are] readily accessible to the general public”. Therefore, like listening to the radio or watching television, the company reasoned that intercepting data on unsecured Wi-Fi networks was also exempt from wiretapping laws.

Not so, said the district court hearing the case. Data transmitted over an unencrypted Wi-Fi link, it concluded, is not “readily accessible to the general public”, as the terminology is ordinarily understood. Anyone seeking to intercept such signals and extract data from them would need to park outside the front door with a “packet sniffer” and specialist knowledge. No way could that be compared with listening to the nine o’clock news.

Rebuffed, Google appealed. And now that the appeals court has refused to dismiss the privacy lawsuit—confirming that the interception (inadvertent or otherwise) of unsecured data from people’s Wi-Fi connections is not exempt from wiretapping laws—the class-action against Google can proceed.

By mistake or intention, intercepting e-mails between private individuals was not one of the search giant’s smarter moves. When normal people send an e-mail, they rather expect it to be treated like posting a letter. The post office’s job is simply to deliver it to the address on the envelope—and not to open it and read the contents. However, Google has made it clear that its own Gmail users can have no “reasonable expectation” that their communications are confidential. “All users must necessarily expect that their e-mails will be subject to automated processing,” the company said in a court filing. Its servers scan Gmail contents at the very least for viruses and other malware. While at it, they also look for key words that help advertisers display their most appropriate advert adjacently.

Google’s privacy policy—amended last year so the company could meld personal data drawn from all the services it offers—explains what information is collected and why, how it is used, and ways for users to access and update their personal data. Google promises not to share the information with anyone outside the organisation, other than affiliates or other trusted businesses, or if required to do so by law, or for protecting against fraud, or for preventing Google itself from being harmed. This comprehensive document is more a “data-use primer” than a privacy policy.

Along with other internet companies, Google mines the data it collects from users for two purposes. One is to improve the user experience, making its various online services more personal, useful and rewarding for the individual—and thereby increasing their popularity. The other purpose is to provide better targeted information for advertisers.

Like other firms offering free services, Google makes its living out of matching the right kind of advertising to the specific interests of its individual users. To do so, it needs to know their likes and purchases as well as their identifiers and demographics, including name, sex, age, address, current location and income bracket.

If truth be told, no-one needs to eavesdrop to discover such things. People willingly volunteer all manner of facts about themselves when registering or subscribing to various online services. Scraping such information off social networks and combining it with data drawn from sites for searching, shopping, downloading, streaming or whatever lets social marketers infer all they need to know about most individuals.

That is fine for the vast majority of internet users, who are happy to trade a measure of privacy for the convenience of using popular sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. That such convenience comes free of charge makes the trade an even better deal. But where to draw the line?

It is one thing to reveal personal preferences such as favourite films, TV shows, dishes, books or music tracks. However, most people (though not all) stop short of blurting out more intimate details about their private lives. Even so, all those innocuous bits of self-revelation can be pieced together, jig-saw fashion, by intelligent algorithms. Throw in the digital paper-trails stashed in Google searches and Amazon purchases, and things can begin to get a little scary.

Babbage’s teenage daughter, for instance, uses his Amazon account and credit card to buy everything from romantic novels to cosmetics and underwear. As a result, he gets bombarded by e-mails recommending other female items he might like to purchase. Anyone leaning over his shoulder could easily label him a pervert or worse.

That aside, Babbage considers himself a privacy pragmatist. Though easy to block, he accepts “third-party tracking cookies” from websites for the convenience of being able to log on easily and get quickly to his preferences. He even accepts “Flash cookies” because they help serve up more appropriate pages (and because they are difficult to block anyway). Above all, he accepts that, in wishing to take full advantage of all the useful services on the internet, he has to trust someone. So, best to trust reputable brands, as they have more to lose from any breach of privacy.

But with the convenience of using free online services, even those offered by major brands, comes the responsibility to be personally vigilant, to watch out for oneself—and to be willing to pay for services that offer higher levels of security, freedom from advertising, or simply a better quality of service all round. One of Babbage’s colleagues says he would happily pay for Twitter if it provided proper analytics. He would pay for Facebook, too, if it did not compress his photographs so much.

Ultimately, though, Babbage is more concerned about identity theft than with Google selling his likes and dislikes to advertisers. This is one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes around, with an identity being stolen somewhere at least once every four seconds (see “Your life in their hands”, March 23rd 2007). The average cost of restoring a stolen identity is reckoned to be $8,000, and victims spend typically 600 hours dealing with the nightmare—plus many years more restoring their good name and credit record.

For that reason, Babbage has long used a credit-protection service that keeps his credit record under lock and key. That stops anyone from opening a line of credit against his account. It also puts paid to all those tiresome, and potentially dangerous, offers of pre-approved credit cards. He also changes his passwords frequently, using combinations of letters and numbers amassed from memorable phrases. And he just wishes others had security policies as robust as his bank, insurance company and health-care service.

As Meghan Kelly wrote recently on VentureBeat, “Unfortunately, this free economy is distorting our expectations.” Would people be so tied to their favourite (addictive?) free services if they had to pay for them? “When we pay, we can start demanding more control over the ways companies share our data.” The time has come to pay up or shut up.

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All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm

September 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Search Engine Land

Sep 26, 2013

by n

  • Hummingbird

Google has a new search algorithm, the system it uses to sort through all the information it has when you search and come back with answers. It’s called “Hummingbird” and below, what we know about it so far.

What’s a “search algorithm?”

That’s a technical term for what you can think of as a recipe that Google uses to sort through the billions of web pages and other information it has, in order to return what it believes are the best answers.

What’s “Hummingbird?”

It’s the name of the new search algorithm that Google is using, one that Google says should return better results.

So that “PageRank” algorithm is dead?

No. PageRank is one of over 200 major “ingredients” that go into the Hummingbird recipe. Hummingbird looks at PageRank — how important links to a page are deemed to be — along with other factors like whether Google believes a page is of good quality, the words used on it and many other things (see our Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors for a better sense of some of these).

Why is it called Hummingbird?

Google told us the name come from being “precise and fast.”

When did Hummingbird start? Today?

Google started using Hummingbird about a month ago, it said. Google only announced the change today.

What does it mean that Hummingbird is now being used?

Think of a car built in the 1950s. It might have a great engine, but it might also be an engine that lacks things like fuel injection or be unable to use unleaded fuel. When Google switched to Hummingbird, it’s as if it dropped the old engine out of a car and put in a new one. It also did this so quickly that no one really noticed the switch.

When’s the last time Google replaced its algorithm this way?

Google struggled to recall when any type of major change like this last happened. In 2010, the “Caffeine Update” was a huge change. But that was also a change mostly meant to help Google better gather information (indexing) rather than sorting through the information. Google search chief Amit Singhal told me that perhaps 2001, when he first joined the company, was the last time the algorithm was so dramatically rewritten.

What about all these Penguin, Panda and other “updates” — haven’t those been changes to the algorithm?

PandaPenguin and other updates were changes to parts of the old algorithm, but not an entire replacement of the whole. Think of it again like an engine. Those things were as if the engine received a new oil filter or had an improved pump put in. Hummingbird is a brand new engine, though it continues to use some of the same parts of the old, like Penguin and Panda

The new engine is using old parts?

Yes. And no. Some of the parts are perfectly good, so there was no reason to toss them out. Other parts are constantly being replaced. In general, Hummingbird — Google says — is a new engine built on both existing and new parts, organized in a way to especially serve the search demands of today, rather than one created for the needs of ten years ago, with the technologies back then.

What type of “new” search activity does Hummingbird help?

Conversational search” is one of the biggest examples Google gave. People, when speaking searches, may find it more useful to have a conversation.

“What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?” A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for words — finding a page that says “buy” and “iPhone 5s,” for example.

Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words.

In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.

I thought Google did this conversational search stuff already!

It does (see Google’s Impressive “Conversational Search” Goes Live On Chrome), but it had only been doing it really within its Knowledge Graph answers. Hummingbird is designed to apply the meaning technology to billions of pages from across the web, in addition to Knowledge Graph facts, which may bring back better results.

Does it really work? Any before-and-afters?

We don’t know. There’s no way to do a “before-and-after” ourselves, now. Pretty much, we only have Google’s word that Hummingbird is improving things. However, Google did offer some before-and-after examples of its own, that it says shows Hummingbird improvements.

A search for “acid reflux prescription” used to list a lot of drugs (such as this, Google said), which might not be necessarily be the best way to treat the disease. Now, Google says results have information about treatment in general, including whether you even need drugs, such asthis as one of the listings.

A search for “pay your bills through citizens bank and trust bank” used to bring up the homepage for Citizens Bank but now should return the specific page about paying bills

A search for “pizza hut calories per slice” used to list an answer like this, Google said, but not one from Pizza Hut. Now, it lists this answer directly from Pizza Hut itself, Google says.

Could it be making Google worse?

Almost certainly not. While we can’t say that Google’s gotten better, we do know that Hummingbird — if it has indeed been used for the past month — hasn’t sparked any wave of consumers complaining that Google’s results suddenly got bad. People complain when things get worse; they generally don’t notice when things improve.

Does this mean SEO is dead?

No, SEO is not yet again dead. In fact, Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways.

Does this mean I’m going to lose traffic from Google?

If you haven’t in the past month, well, you came through Hummingbird unscathed. After all, it went live about a month ago. If you were going to have problems with it, you would have known by now.

By and large, there’s been no major outcry among publishers that they’ve lost rankings. This seems to support Google saying this is very much a query-by-query effect, one that may improve particular searches — particularly complex ones — rather than something that hits “head” terms that can, in turn, cause major traffic shifts.

But I did lose traffic!

Perhaps it was due to Hummingbird, but Google stressed that it could also be due to some of the other parts of its algorithm, which are always being changed, tweaked or improved. There’s no way to know.

How do you know all this stuff?

Google shared some of it at its press event today, and then I talked with two of Google’s top search execs, Amit Singhal and Ben Gomes, after the event for more details. I also hope to do a more formal look at the changes from those conversations in the near future. But for now, hopefully you’ve found this quick FAQ based on those conversations to be helpful.

By the way, another term for the “meaning” connections that Hummingbird does is “entity search,” and we have an entire panel on that at our SMX East search marketing show in New York City, next week. The Coming “Entity Search” Revolution session is part of an entire “Semantic Search” track that also gets into ways search engines are discovering meanings behind words. Learn more about the track and the entire show on the agenda page.

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Nike Q1 surge driven by innovation (ed.note: No mention of Dycoo investment payback)

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment

By  | 27 September 2013

Innovation "fuels our growth," says Nike president and CEO Mark Parker
Innovation “fuels our growth,” says Nike president and CEO Mark Parker

Basking in the glow of an impressive set of first quarter figures, Nike CEO Mark Parker took the chance to set out exactly where things had gone right for the sporting goods colossus.

His breakdown of the company’s “outstanding” results for the three months to 31 August came after the Oregon-based corporation reported US$7bn in quarterly revenues, up 8%, and an even more robust 33% net profit increase.

The latter figure was boosted by an easing of raw materials costs, as well as a general shift towards higher-margin products, fewer discounts and disproportionate growth in the higher-margin direct-to-consumer business.

There were drags on margin – primarily higher labour costs and unfavourable exchange rate movements – but not enough to remove the gloss from a 120bps boost.

Nike brand revenues were strong, rising everywhere except in China – of which more later – and with every product type contributing to the positive outcome.

In particular, running, basketball, football and men’s training were buoyant, offsetting a slight decline in sportswear.

Nike has reorganised its figures now, meaning that Hurley and Nike Golf’s performance has been absorbed by the broader Nike category, a reflection of their integration with the core Nike brand.

That leaves Converse to report as a separate division, and highlights its stellar current performance, with revenues up 16% to within touching distance of $500m, thanks to growth in the UK, North America and China.

“So how are we able to succeed in a challenging global economy?” Parker (rhetorically) asked his audience of analysts.

“By focusing on the fundamentals, the competitive advantages that help us win and expand our leadership position.”

“Innovation, portfolio and connections”
For Parker, three strands are vital to this process: innovation, the power and breadth of Nike’s brand portfolio, and its connections with the consumer base.

For innovation, he turned the spotlight on the Free Flyknit running shoe, which he said had enjoyed a “strong response” from runners in the first quarter.

“The shoe demonstrates how we take Flyknit and combine it with other footwear platforms, like Free in this case, to continue to innovate,” said Parker, adding that the company is set to pursue more product innovation using the Flyknit upper, in running and elsewhere.

“The potential for Flyknit is tremendous and, it’s safe to say, it’s going to be a big year for Flyknit,” he said.

Other new products receiving the Parker seal of approval included the Hypervenom football boot – described as the most successful boot launch in Nike history – and the Tech Pack premium fleece line.

“This is only a small sample of our new products, we’re accelerating our innovation agenda and it’s paying off, and there is a lot more to come, including some real breakthroughs and game changers over the balance of this year and into the future,” Parker told analysts.

The depth of the Nike brand and product portfolio, he continued, allowed the company to invest in some areas while others continued to deliver stronger revenues and profitability.

“We’re able to manage risk and deliver growth even when there is variability in the result of any of the individual components,” he explained.

“We’re able to leverage the strength in some areas of the business while investing in others, all with a focus on delivering sustainable, profitable growth at the Nike Inc level.”

Converse and China
A microcosm of this strategy is offered by the Converse brand and the company’s performance in China: one showing strong and dynamic growth, while the other is in transition.

Parker pinned Converse’s 18% revenue surge and 36% EBIT spurt on the diversification of the brand’s portfolio, alongside its geographical expansion with the opening up of new markets, plus growth of DTC revenues and fresh growth from apparel.

China is in the midst of a Nike repositioning exercise, but even so, the brand remains the leading sports brand in the market.

Key to improving fortunes in the future, Parker said, is an improving relationship with wholesale partners, working together to increase store productivity.

“In those stores that have been retro-fitted to the new product assortment, we’re seeing performance that significantly outpaces the rest of the fleet,” Parker explained, adding that “knowledge gained from early results can be leveraged and scaled to drive significant improvements across the entire market”.

Categories: Uncategorized

5 Retailers Innovating with Mobile & How You Can Replicate It

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment

By Ashley Eckel

Right now, at this very moment, your (would-be) customers are on their smartphones looking for anything that will help them shop better, become more informed and connect to brands in a more meaningful way. Advertising is still a very powerful medium, but when it comes to mobile, banner ads aren’t the only answer.

There are so many ways for you to connect with customers via their mobile device, that we’ve decided to dedicate an entire eBook to it: The Retailer’s Ultimate Guide to Mobile.

Here are five retailers that started thinking beyond basic banner advertising, and used mobile to insert their brand into consumers’ lives, behaviors and needs.Target-Height-of-Summer

1. TargetShared Mobile Content That Enhanced Customers’ Lives
Retail giant, Target, put its brand at the center of summer fun, sharing, and conversations when it used a mobile campaign integrated with it’s commercial spots and in-store promos to give customers a free song download. The catchy Ula Ula by Illya Kuryakiand the Valderramas became one of the “it” songs of the summer of 2013, and Target saw its customer engagement levels quadruple.

It may be tough as a retailer to focus your mobile efforts on anything but, well, shopping and buying! But the truth is, consumers use mobile devices to connect and engage, discover new things, be entertained—which means there’s huge potential to engage with them outside of the shopping cart. Think original videos, style guides, music, interviews, or any other branded (or non-branded) content, and the like.

Dove Kicks Off National "Show Us Your Skin" Campaign In New York City2. DoveGave Their Most Social Customers Something to Talk About
Dove brought a Times Square billboard to life with users’ participation. A simple mobile prompt on the billboard encouraged passersby to share pictures of themselves on social media via their mobile devices. In doing so, these new fans could see their pictures appear on the advertisement in real time. They didn’t just socialize with the brand, they became a part of it.

When 71% of users are accessing their social network from a mobile device, it means there’s room for you in the social equation. You can do so by creating ways for consumers to generate their own shareable, custom content, and allowing them to play an essential role in spreading the word about a broader campaign, in real time—across social media and beyond.

3. Victoria’s SecretDelivered Exclusive Mobile Offers
This summer, Victoria’s Secret PINK gave its mobile application users exclusive access to the “Ultimate Shopping Night,” an in-store back-to-school event at 300 stores across the country. Loyal fans were invited to the August event via push notification in mid-July, and then directed to an in-app landing page that used geo-locating capabilities to identify the nearest Victoria’s Secret store. Mobile content not only promoted the event, but also the brand’s loyalty program and connected to event messaging on social media.

Mobile-only promotions are the perfect way to reward your dedicated shoppers, get
them excited about new campaigns and products, and spur the intent to purchase. When they know it’s exclusive, the intent to buy becomes a lot higher.

4. NickelodeonPut Mobile Coupons in the Hands of In-Store Shoppers
Nickelodeon boosted Dora Rocks purchases in Target stores by using a mobile campaign that prompted in-store shoppers to use their mobile device to receive an instant $5-off mobile coupon. Coupled with a fun voice message from Dora for the kids, Nickelodeon achieved coupon redemption rates that were 10 times higher than existing benchmarks.

Coupons are still one of the most effective ways to drive real-time sales and in-store traffic, but gone are the days when retailers had to hope savvy shoppers would stumble on their offer in the Sunday paper. Today, when done right, mobile coupons can drive high levels of engagement and redemption—almost 10 times more than paper coupons. All you need to do is ensure that the mobile coupon arrives on a customer’s mobile device for just the right product at just the right moment.

5. Simon MallsUsed Geo-fencing to Ensure Local Relevancy
Simon Malls took advantage of mobile geo-targeting functionality during the holiday season to get families into local malls. The company used a mobile campaign that gave kids a special message from Santa, and local coupons for the parents. More mall visits, and thousands of coupon redemptions later, this was one success local mobile initiative.

Seventy percent of consumers use their mobile devices to look up nearby store locations, So, it’s up to you to put yourself in the location equation—the right way. By connecting local advertising or promotional efforts to the mobile experience, you can bridge the gap between awareness and action.

Ashley Eckel is the Marketing Director for StarStar, a new type of mobile phone number that allows brands to deliver any mobile experience to any phone through a simple, fast phone call.

Categories: Uncategorized

Fashion Ecommerce is a Billion $ Global Opportunity

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment
etailBlogLogoMadMimi

BY 
ON SEPTEMBER 26, 2013

JustFab Team - Goldenberg, Ressler, Simmons

JustFab, the Los Angeles-based women’s fashion subscription ecommerce giant, has raised a $40 million Series C round. The news comes as the company continues to expand aggressively into Europe and grow its brand portfolio through the recent acquisitions of ShoeDazzleThe Fab Shoes, and FabKids, as well as the launch of its first brick-and-mortar storefront.

The latest investment round, which come just over a year after its $76 million Series B round in June 2012, was led by Hong Kong-based Shining Capital Management with participation from existing investors Matrix Partners, Rho Ventures, Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), and Intelligent Beauty, the brand incubator which launched JustFab and its sister companies Sensa and Dermstore (since acquired by Target).

Collectively, JustFab reaches over 35 million members globally. Three million of its current members are located in Western Europe, a number that the company says is increasing by approximately 400,000 each month, with the rest based in the United States and Canada. In recent months, the company has expanded its European footprint, entering France and Spain – thanks to that Fab Shoes acquisition – in addition to its previously announced markets of Germany and the United Kingdom.

“We’re way ahead of our own expectations in Europe,” JustFab co-founder and co-CEO Adam Goldenberg says. “It’s been difficult to keep up with at times, but it’s obviously a good problem to have. We could actually grow faster there, but we’ve had to walk a fine line between investing for additional growth and slowing things down to allow our logistics and customer service to catch up.”

Goldenberg describes the Western European market opportunity as comparable in size to North America, noting that both markets spend approximately $19 billion per year in women’s non-athletic footwear. The challenge in Europe is that nearly every country requires additional language support, new logistics solutions, advertising networks, and other intricacies to be considered. Nonetheless, the company has been able to acquire customers as cheaply as 50 percent of the cost of adding US customers, Goldenberg says, and is happy to continue investing in this growth.

JustFab’s founders expected the company’s Series B round to be the last capital it ever needed to raise. But over the last 12 months the company encountered several opportunities to invest in additional growth earlier than originally planned – namely accelerating its European expansion, absorbing its largest competitor in the footwear category, entering the kidswear category via another acquisition, and launching its activewear brandFabletics. Had the company not had additional cash reserves, it never would have been able to capitalize on these opportunities.

Today’s round is meant to ensure that JustFab is equally well capitalized when the next unexpected opportunity crosses its path, according to Goldenberg. “We got access to capital at an extremely attractive valuation and were able to add the right partners,” he says.

The addition of Shining Capital gives JustFab a window into the Asian market at a time when it’s beginning to plan future geographic expansions. It’s a similar playbook that the company employed when it chose Matrix to lead its Series B round. Matrix general partner Dana Stalder, who lead international expansion of both eBay and Paypal, has been instrumental in JustFab’s continental expansion, Goldenberg says. The idea is that Shining may one day play a similar role, should the company expand into China and other Asian markets.

It has been less than one month since JustFab cut the ribbon on its first brick-and-mortar storefront, a “flagship location” located at the Glendale Galleria mall outside of Los Angeles.

Of the decision to enter retail, Goldenberg says:

It’s certainly a test. If things go well, we could do a broader rollout in the future. But it’s also a phenomenal learning opportunity for us. We believe we have the best selection and the best quality at our price point. Having a physical store will help us overcome the two biggest reasons keeping women from making their first purchase with us: concern over whether the item will fit and concern over quality.

We have over 200,000 VIPs within driving distance of the Glendale Galleria who we paid to acquire as members but who have yet to buy from us. We think that having a storefront will help us convert some of these women to loyal customers and we’ll certainly learn a ton about what they want.

JustFab’s retail store is unlike nearly every other brick-and-mortar shoe store you’ve ever entered. First, the merchandise will be cycled weekly, rather than seasonally, meaning that the selection will be different nearly every time a consumer walks through the door. Also, the company developed its own custom iPad-based POS (point of sale) system which will be carried by each of its stylists (retail sales reps).

“We wanted the store to be a very integrated experience,” Goldenberg says.

The POS system enables stylists to look up a member’s ecommerce account to view their purchase history, style preferences, and sizing information. Members can also use their ecommerce credits in store and return or exchange merchandise purchased online. The system also monitors back of house inventory in real-time and can send an alert to support staff to bring requested items (in the proper size) to the floor to be tried on by a customer.

“Our goal is to have the shoe on your foot within 60 seconds of it being requested,” Goldenberg says.

JustFab’s latest round of funding appears to be less indicative of the company’s immediate cash needs and more the size of the opportunity that Goldenberg, his co-founder Don Ressler, and the company’s President, fashion icon Kimora Lee Simmons, see ahead. It also indicates that several prominent investors are willing to bet on more good times ahead for the company. JustFab has now raised a total of $149 million across three rounds of financing.

While Goldenberg declined to discuss JustFab’s current financial performance, he reiterated projections first made in August around the acquisition of ShoeDazzle, that he expects JustFab to generate $400 million in 2014 revenue, and reach profitability by the year’s end. Goldenberg has also said previously that the US operations of the JustFab brand (excluding ShoeDazzle, FabKids, and Fabletics) is roughly break-even today.

The more capital JustFab brings in, the greater the pressure it puts on the company to achieve a massive exit. Goldenberg has said repeatedly that he views JustFab as a multi-billion dollar opportunity and that he has no intentions of exiting in the near term. But while early investors are presumably thrilled with the growth, the time continues to tick.

Another interesting twist is that Goldenberg has said repeatedly that an IPO is not his preferred outcome, and that he would choose a strategic acquirer if the option presented itself. And yet, as JustFab’s valuation continues to climb, this option becomes less and less plausible.

File these all away under good problems to have.

JustFab is the clear leader globally in fast fashion ecommerce. Having acquired its largest competitor and now with a fully stocked rainy day fund, there are fewer and fewer obstacles in the company’s path. Thus if someone’s going to prove that a massive and sustainable business can be built in this category, it’s going to be JustFab.

And there’s the rub.

All signs point to the fact that the JustFab model is “working,” but the company still has miles to go until reaching any sort of finish line. Consumer shopping habits can be fickle, and today’s online business model of choice can quickly become tomorrow’s old news. (See Gilt and Groupon.) This remains anything but a sure thing.

Whether JustFab’s founders truly have the midas touch or whether they’ve been the on the right side of fortunate timing and missteps by competitors remains to be seen. Those who have bet against team Intelligent Beauty in the past have routinely been proven wrong. With JustFab appearing closer than ever before to joining the billion dollar club, it may be Goldenberg and Ressler who have the last laugh.

Categories: Uncategorized
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