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Michael Stonebraker Explains Oracle’s Obsolescence, Facebook’s Enormous Challenge

March 31, 2015 Leave a comment

Professor Michael Stonebraker, 2015 ACM "Turing Award" winner for contributions to computer science.Michael Stonebraker is a living legend in the database world.

Not a year goes by I don’t hear this or that tech startup or industry executive refer with awe and admiration to his work of the past 40 years.

Stonebraker refined therelational techniques that today form the heart of billions of dollars in annual software sales by Oracle (ORCL),International Business Machines (IBM), and Microsoft  (MSFT).

Friday afternoon, I had the honor of speaking with Stonebraker by telephone, to congratulate him for being this year’s recipient of the Association for Computing Machinery‘s “Turing Award” for his groundbreaking contributions to computer science. More on the award can be found on the ACM Web site.

Stonebraker, a professor at MIT‘s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, said he was honored, remarking that “This is the Nobel Prize of computer science.”

(Stonebraker’s full bio can be found on the CSAIL Web site.)

Stonebraker not only continues to do fundamental research into database theory, but also has deep and informed views on the state of the industry that are of value to any tech investor.

Among the provocative views he shared with me is that current database technology from Oracle and others is “obsolete,” and that Facebook (FB) is grappling with “the biggest database problem in the world.”

Breakthroughs

Stonebraker’s chief claim to fame is having pushed forward the relational technology first conceptualized by E.F. ‘Ted’ Codd in a seminal paper in 1970.

Stonebraker’s companies, Ingres, then Postgres, and many more after that, such as Vertica(acquired by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) ) helped bring Codd’s academic notions to fruition in the commercial marketplace.

When asked what he contributed, Stonebraker is remarkably humble: he deftly switched the conversation to a glowing summation of Codd, whom he refers to as “Ted.”

“What Ted proposed at the time was radical,” he said. “It was a complete change from how things were being done in database.”

Ted saw two important things. At the time, there were databases such as IBM’s IMS, whuch was structured as a hierarchy, and the CODASYL database, which was structured as a network of connection between objects. Ted realized that what people inherently understand are relations, and so he turned the problem of data management into one of relations. That dramatically simplified things. He saw that things must be kept simple. Ted really followed the KISS principle [Keep it Simple, Stupid].

The other big breakthrough by Codd, says Stonebraker, was moving the actual manipulation of data away from assembly language programming of the time to higher levels of abstraction that would later become structured query language, or SQL.

The conventional wisdom at the time was that you should build for the particulars of how the data is stored. He saw that made no sense. He brought principles of encapsulation and abstraction to programming databases, like with a high-level-language in programming. The problem with the assembly approach was, your data lives a very long time. Today, your business might be in plumbing supplies. But then then you merge your company with another company, and now you’re in plumbing supplies and beauty supplies. Inevitably, your data structures will change as a result. If you write these assembly language programs, you have to throw them away and recode when things change, whereas if you write at a high level, with data independence, your data will not be dependent on the structure of the data. 

As for his own contribution, Stonebraker is equally humble. In conversation, he uses “We” instead of “I,” and he notes that the Ingres database “was the contribution of quite a number of people.”

Among them, Jerry Held and Gene Wong joined Stonebraker in receiving the ACM’s “System Software Award” in 1988 for Ingres.

Stonbraker notes that he and his fellow pioneers brought Codd’s lofty relational ideas into the realm of ordinary individuals:

Ted was a mathematician, and he wrote his things in mathematical terms that no mere mortal could handle. We turned it into constructs that could be manipulated by ordinary people. Second, it was argued at the time that RDBMS couldn’t perform, but we showed it could be efficient.

Oracle, Microsoft, IBM have a problem

Turning to the present, Stonebraker tells me Oracle’s database, IBM’s DB2, and Microsoft‘s SQL Server are all obsolete, facing a couple major challenges.

One is that at the time, they were designed for “business data processing.”

“But now there is also scientific data and social media, and web logs, and you name it! The number of people with database problems is now of a much broader scope.”

Second, “We were writing Ingres and System R for machines with a small main memory, so they were disk-based — they were what we call ‘row stores‘.”

“You stored data on disk record by record by record. All major database systems of the last 30 years all looked like that – Postgres, Ingres, DB2, Oracle DB, SQL Server — they’re all disk-row stores.”

But, with the fall in the cost of memory chips, “main memory is now cheap enough that OLTP [online transaction processing] is going to be main-memory databases, increasingly, and they don’t look like disk-based row stores at all,” contends Stonebraker. He cites as examples the newer “in-memory” database Hana from SAP (SAP), and also his own new initiative, VoltDB.

The third of the database market that’s legacy Oracle and SQL Server and DB2 will be replaced by things such as VoltDB, and whether Oracle can adapt or die remains to be seen:

Oracle or SQL Server or DB2 are legacy code at this point. There’s that great book by Clayton Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma. All the system software vendors are up against the innovator’s dilemma. They are selling the old technology, and the question is how will they morph without losing their customer base? There’s no question that with Oracle, the customers are dug in pretty deep in the traditional systems, but my point of view is there is two orders of magnitude performance difference to be had with other technology approaches, and sooner or later that will be significant. It may take a decade or longer for the legacy stuff to actually die away — there’s still a lot of IMS data in production in the real world! — but sooner or later it will get replaced. My point of view is that if you want to do 50 transactions per second, it doesn’t matter what technology you use, you can use whatever you want. But if you want to run 50,000 transactions per second, your current implementation is simply not going to do it. Sooner or later, you are going to be up against a technology wall that will force you to move to new technology, and it will be completely based on return on investment.  

Where NoSQL and Hadoop are going

Another third of the market, focused on “data warehousing,” is moving from row-stores to “column stores,” which can be far more efficient, he says. “All the data warehouse vendors have converted to the column stores or are in the process.”

The last third is “everything else,” says Stonebraker.

That includes “NoSQL” databases such as MarkLogic, which I profiled recently; and Hadoop, the open-source database widely used by Google and others, and now commercialized by startup Cloudera and by Hortonworks (HDP).

There are 100 or more of these NoSQL companies, and Stonebraker thinks they will all eventually end up looking like SQL databases. “It started out, NoSQL meant, ‘Not SQL,’ then it became ‘Not only SQL,’ and now I think it means “Not-yet-SQL’,” he quips.

NoSQL proposes low-level languages, and they are betting against the compiler, and that’s an incredibly dangerous thing to do,” he says, just like the assembly-language programming back in the day. He thinks VoltDB and other approaches can fix the problems brought about by legacy RDBMs, and “NoSQL guys will drift toward looking at SQL,” he contends. “They will move to higher-level languages, and the only game in town is SQL.”

As for Hadoop, it will take on SQL aspects and merge with data warehousing:

If you look at the major vendors there, Cloudera, Facebook and Hortonworks, if you look at what Cloudera is doing, they released the Impala system a little while ago. If you take a careful look at it, it is a SQL engine. MapReduce is nowhere to be found. The historical Hadooop stack was Hive on top of MapReduce, on top of HDFS. Look at Impala and you see MapReduceis nowhere to be found. I think everyone pretty much agrees the MapReduce interface is not very interesting. None of the data warehouse guys have anything that looks like that. So I think MapReduce will atrophy and be replaced by SQL. Impala is a column-store, so it looks like Vertica or Red Shift, or any other data warehouse model. So data warehouse and Hadoop are going to completely merge eventually. 

And so, “Hadoop will look like the data warehouse market, and NoSQL will look like the SQL market.”

Arrays, graphs and data science take over

More interesting to Stonebraker are areas such as the “social graph” of Facebook, and the emerging area of data science.

He predicts a lot of business analysts who run data warehouses will be replaced in years to come by data scientists, who are trained to work with arrays rather than tables, and with techniques such as regression analysis, Bayesian analysis, and other approaches represented by programs such as the statistical package R:

Another incredibly dominant trend right now is that the data warehouse market is about business intelligence, it’s about business analysts using Business Objects, and Cognos, and products like that as a GUI [user interface] in front of a SQL system. They are running SQL analytics. But what I think is guaranteed to happen is that business analysts will be replaced by data scientists. It will take a while, because we don’t have enough trained data scientists, but the market will get much more sophisticated. Suppose you are the Wal-Mart guy who has to figure out how to provision Wal-Mart products around major snow storms. The query you want to run is in the week before the storm, and the week after, What sold by department in the North East, and compare that with, say, Maryland — that’s standard business intelligence work. And what comes out is a big table of numbers. An alternatives is to get data scientists to build a predictive model to predict sales by department in the winter. You run that model and out comes a bunch of predictions, which is what the business guy actually wants. Sooner or later, the business intelligence world will move to the data science world, using things like regression analysis, Bayesian analysis — these are lots of big words, but all of these techniques, if you look at them, it’s an array-based, not a table-based calculation. People who do data science now often code in MatLab or R. So, as we transition to data science we are going to transition to array-based calculations. The question is, Are those going to be done on an RDBMS, or is there room for a new class of array-based data manage? I think the jury is completely out, but it’s going to be a sizable market over time and it’s going to happen, maybe not this year, but over time. It’s a possible opportunity for array-based data management. We just built something to do that, SciDB. It is a commercial product that is array-based. There are certain kinds of data science applications that are getting a lot of traction. The genomics market is one that will be huge as all of us get [genetically] sequenced. The things those guys want to do is completely array-based. SciDB is focused on genomics for the short term, but will eventually move into other areas.

Facebook has the biggest problem of anyone

His other point is that Facebook has a big problem: Its problem is a graph problem, figuring the combinations of “vertices” and “edges,” in the language of graph theory, but Facebook is entirely based on the database technology “MySQL,” which means that its underlying infrastructure doesn’t fit the task at hand:

Look at Facebook, it is one giant social graph, with the problem of how to find the average distance from anyone to anyone. You can simulate a graph as an edge matrix, and a connectivity matrix in an array-based system, and you model graphs in a table system, or you build a special-purpose engine to implement the graph directly. All three are being prototyped and commercialized, and the jury is out whether there is room for a new graph engine or if one of the other technologies would be good enough. I think the answer to graph problems is it will be done by either an array or a table DBMS. Facebook has a big transaction processing problem: You “friend” me, and that is an update to the social graph. That’s currently implemented on MySQL, and as of three years ago, they had over 4,000 MySQL instances. It’s probably 10,000 now or more. They would love to get rid of MySQL. They are prototyping everything in sight to explore new approaches. The infrastructure is at odds with the nature of their problem, and at such an extreme scale. I would say they have the hardest database problem on the planet. For Facebook, the question is make versus buy, and like Google and Amazon, they are running at such scale that it tilts them toward make rather than buy.

The upshot of all that is, “Off in the future, there will be a fair number of graph and array problems, and it will be intersting to see how those will be solved over time — that’s equivalent of saying, the database world is alive and well, and will continue to flourish for a while.”

GPUs and non-volatile RAM may again change databases

In closing, I asked Stonebraker what hardware innovations, like faster DRAM, would eventually impact databases.

He said “Two things are very significant,” one being GPUs, or graphical processing units, the kind of chips in which Nvidia (NVDA) specializes, the other being non-volatile RAM.

Regarding GPUs and other “co-processors,”

There will be various co-processor approaches. No one will build one [a co-processor] just for the databases market, because it’s not big enough, so we will have to piggy back on someone else’s technology, and GPUs are here, and we ask, What can we use them for? That is a very active area of investigation. Take a look at Intel’s “Xeon PHI.” At the Intel Science and Tech Center at MIT, one of the things they are having us look at is what to do with PHI, which has very fast floating point performance. Another thing is what to do with FPGAs, among things that hardware guys developed for some other reason.

Regarding NVRAM,

The thing I think will be way more important is non-volatile RAM, NVRAM. The various vendors are betting on various things, and it is probably coming this decade, and it’s going to be way faster than flash. Flash is too slow to be really interesting — some people are using it [flash] now, but it’s not mainstream. It is going to be very significant. Hewlett-Packard’s MEMRISTOR is one of the technologies; Intel is betting on something, though they won’t tell us what it is.

Correction: a prior version of this post attributed the CODASYL database system to IBM, when in fact it was not from IBM. my apologies for any confusion caused by the error.

Categories: Uncategorized

Capabilities of Mobile Device Management for Office 365

March 31, 2015 Leave a comment

zdnet-logo

Applies to: Office 365

Topic Last Modified: 2015-01-23

Mobile Device Management for Office 365 can help you secure and manage mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, Androids, and Windows Phones used by licensed Office 365 users in your organization. You can create mobile device management policies with settings that can help control access to your organization’s Office 365 email and documents for supported mobile devices and apps. If a device is lost or stolen, you can remotely wipe the device to remove sensitive organizational information.

In this article:

You can use MDM for Office 365 to secure and manage the following types of devices.

  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • iOS 6 or later versions
  • Android 4 or later versions
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8.1 RT

The supported apps for the different types of mobile devices in the following table will prompt users to enroll in MDM for Office 365 where there is a new mobile device management policy that applies to a user’s device and the user hasn’t previously enrolled the device. If a user’s device doesn’t comply with a policy, depending on how you set the policy up, a user might be blocked from accessing Office 365 resources in these apps, or they might have access but Office 365 will report a policy violation.

Apps supported by mobile devices to control access to Office 365

Apps on devices Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
Exchange ActiveSync
OneDrive for Business
Office Mobile

On phones

NoteNote:
  • Exchange ActiveSync includes native email and third-party apps, like TouchDown, that use Exchange ActiveSync.
  • Support for iOS 6 and later versions includes iPhone and iPad devices.
  • Management of BlackBerry devices isn’t supported by Mobile Device Management for Office 365. Use BlackBerry Business Cloud Services (BBCS) from BlackBerry to manage BlackBerry devices.
  • Users won’t be prompted to enroll and won’t be blocked or reported for policy violation if they use the mobile browser to access Office 365 SharePoint sites, documents in Office Online, or email in Outlook Web App.

The following diagram shows what happens when a user with a new device signs in to an app that supports access control with MDM for Office 365. The user is blocked from accessing Office 365 resources in the app until they enroll their device.

Shows enrollment process for new device.

NoteNote:
Policies and access rules created in MDM for Office 365 will override Exchange ActiveSync mobile device mailbox policies and device access rules created in the Exchange admin center. After a device is enrolled in MDM for Office 365, any Exchange ActiveSync mobile device mailbox policy or device access rule applied to the device will be ignored. To learn more about Exchange ActiveSync, see Exchange ActiveSync in Exchange Online.

If you create a policy to block access with certain settings turned on, users will be blocked from accessing Office 365 resources when using a supported app that is listed in Access control for Office 365 email and documents. The settings that can block users from accessing Office 365 resources are in these sections:

  • Security
  • Encryption
  • Jail broken
  • Managed email profile

For example, the following diagram shows what happens when a user with an enrolled device isn’t compliant with a security setting in a mobile device management policy that applies to their device. The user signs in to an app that supports access control with MDM for Office 365. They are blocked from accessing Office 365 resources in the app until their device complies with the security setting.

Shows user is blocked when device isn't compliant.
The following sections list the policy settings you can use to help secure and manage mobile devices that connect to your organization’s Office 365 resources.

Setting name Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
Require a password
Prevent simple password
Require an alphanumeric password
Minimum password length
Number of sign-in failures before device is wiped
Minutes of inactivity before device is locked
Password expiration (days)
Remember password history and prevent reuse

Setting name Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
Require data encryption on devices Windows Phone 8.1 is already encrypted and cannot be unencrypted

Setting name Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
Device cannot be jail broken or rooted

The following option can block users from accessing their Office 365 email if they’re using a manually created email profile. Users on iOS devices must delete their manually created email profile before they can access their email. After they delete the profile, a new profile will be automatically created on the device. Manually created email profiles on other supported devices like Android 4.4 and Windows Phone 8.1 are automatically replaced by a new profile when this option is turned on.

Setting name Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
Email profile is managed

Setting name Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
Require encrypted backup
Block cloud backup
Block document synchronization
Block photo synchronization

Setting name Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
Block screen capture
Block sending diagnostic data from device

Setting name Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
Block video conferences on device
Block access to application store
Require password when accessing application store

Setting name Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
Block connection with removable storage
Block Bluetooth connection

You can set the following additional policy settings by using PowerShell cmdlets. For more information, see Get-DevicePolicy.

Setting name Windows Phone 8.1 iOS 6+ Android 4+
CameraEnabled
RegionRatings
MoviesRatings
TVShowsRating
AppsRatings
AllowVoiceDialing
AllowVoiceAssistant
AllowAssistantWhileLocked
AllowPassbookWhileLocked
MaxPasswordGracePeriod
PasswordQuality
SystemSecurityTLS
WLANEnabled

You can manage Windows 8.1 devices by enrolling them as mobile devices. After an applicable policy is deployed, users with Windows 8.1 RT devices will be required to enroll in MDM for Office 365 the first time they use the native email app to access their Office 365 email.

The following settings are supported for Windows 8.1 devices that are enrolled as mobile devices. These setting won’t block users from accessing Office 365 resources.

Security settings

  • Require an alphanumeric password
  • Minimum password length
  • Number of sign-in failures before device is wiped
  • Minutes of inactivity before device is locked
  • Password expiration (days)
  • Remember password history and prevent reuse

System settings

Block sending diagnostic data from device

Additional settings

You can set the following additional policy settings by using PowerShell cmdlets:

  • AllowConvenienceLogon
  • UserAccountControlStatus
  • FirewallStatus
  • AutoUpdateStatus
  • AntiVirusStatus
  • AntiVirusSignatureStatus
  • SmartScreenEnabled
  • WorkFoldersSyncUrl

If a device is lost or stolen, you can remove sensitive organizational data and help prevent access to your organization’s Office 365 resources by doing a wipe from Office 365 admin center >Mobile device management. You can do a selective wipe to remove only organizational data or a full wipe to delete all information from a device and restore it to its factory settings.

For more information, see Wipe a mobile device in Office 365.

Categories: Uncategorized

HOW APPS ARE CHANGING THE ROLES OF PRODUCT MANAGERS AND MARKETERS

March 30, 2015 Leave a comment

Thinking-man-featured-image-for-apps-changing-roles-of-product-managers-and-marketersApps are changing the world. They are ushering in a new, engaged era by connecting people to brands in more intuitive, innovative, and actionable ways.

But you already knew that.

What you’re probably wondering is: now that apps are a big deal, how will they change what I do and what’s on my plate?

The Winds of Change: Apps & Who They Will Affect the Most

Whenever an exciting new technology rises to prominence, it naturally shakes up the whole system. Consumer expectations change, companies realign their resources, and new relationships are forged between people and the brands they love.

Apps (and the shift to mobile) have made us rethink the way we do business. We are moving away from interruptive models to interactive ones. Mobile-first businesses are popping up and thriving, while larger enterprises are racing to add a mobile component.

Today, product managers and marketers will most strongly feel the impact of this shift because these two roles are crucial to 1) actually building an app and 2) seeing it succeed.

Tomorrow, these two roles will merge into one. Intrigued? We’ll talk more about this at the end of this article. Let’s first address how apps are affecting the roles of product managers and marketers right now.

And this depends on whether or not your company is app-first.

Is Your Company Mobile-First or Not? The Answer Affects Your Job

In an organization where your app is the bread and butter of the entire operation, your role as a product manager or marketer will come with more authority, responsibilities, and flexibility. After all, you need to create a groundbreaking app because the health of your business depends on it! Product managers and marketers at app-first companies are more strategic thinkers. They need to deliver an app that pushes the limits on what’s possible on mobile, while also driving revenue.

Comparatively, in enterprises where mobile is not your core offering, product managers and marketers will have different app priorities. For example, there might be less focus on innovation and more attention on integrating the app with your other marketing channels and ensuring it adheres to your brand.

So, we just went over how the goals of product managers and marketers will change with apps in the picture. Now, let’s take a look at how apps will change the day-to-day lives of people in these roles.

From Product Managers to PlatformManagers

As a sharp product manager, you do a lot; you build things and rally a team of developers, designers, and engineers around business goals to deliver something that is worth selling.

That’s why the responsibility of bringing your company’s app idea to life will fall onto your capable shoulders. But if you think of your app as simply another product, you’re headed in the wrong direction because apps are much more than that. Apps are a channel for growth.

As a mobile product manager, your job is to now build an app that will act as a platform for communication, transactions, time management, ecommerce, etc.

Here’s how this process will be different:

1. Behavioral research primarily guides development  

Apps are not consumed; they are used. As a result, you’ll need to research long and hard about what problem your app is going to solve (i.e. how can people use your app to improve their lives?).

Quick Tip: Map out 3-4 main user scenarios around when and why people will use your app. Then, talk to people about their mobile preferences and behavior in your industry. Or, comb through articles, studies, or survey results that already exist. Find out how your app can help fulfill users’ needs and wants.

2. Multiple stakeholders are involved

Even if you’re officially assigned ownership of your company’s app, you’ll need to work with multiple departments to build, launch, and maintain an app. Engineering talent will do the backend coding and designers will beautify the frontend. Marketing will help you think of the app as it fits into the customer experience and develop solid user acquisition and engagement strategies around it. Support will be instrumental in collecting customer feedback, addressing any issues, and relaying them back to your product team.

Quick Tip: Get these stakeholders involved early. Their insight and input will define your app’s purpose and feature roadmap, not just the post-launch promotion.

3. Functional wireframes are needed

Every product manager is familiar with wireframes, which are pictorial schematics essential for organizing product elements. Traditional wireframes help you answer questions like, “Does this layout make sense?” and, “What is the best way to display information?”

When it comes to apps, product managers also need to craft functional (not just visual) wireframes. Functional wireframes illustrate how an app is going to be used and help you map out key funnels and conversion paths.

Quick Tip: There are plenty of tools that can help you create functional wireframes online. For example, try out JUSTINMIND.

4. Increased focus on beauty and aesthetics of the user interface

The importance of having a beautiful, clear, and intuitive user interface is amplified on mobile, where screen size is small and sensitive to touch. Make sure you spend a lot of time polishing off your app so it’s easy to use and navigate through. People are much less forgiving when they encounter poor design on their beloved smartphones or tablets.

Quick Tip: Don’t forget about your app’s icon and home screen widgets (if it has any) when designing your UI and UX.

5. Different development guidelines need to be followed

Apps are constrained to the guidelines and limitations of the operating system they exist on. And depending on whether you develop for iOS or Android first, you’ll need to ensure you follow Apple or Google’s rules. Otherwise, your app may not be approved for their app stores and it risks being incompatible with smartphone features.

Quick Tip: Can’t decide if you should develop for iOS or Android? We’ve done an analysis on this common conundrum and deconstructed the answer into business and technology perspectives.

6. Your app’s roadmap will be (at least partially) dependent on the iOS or Android roadmap

Speaking of following someone else’s rules, your app’s long and short-term feature roadmap will also partly depend on Apple and Google’s roadmap. Obviously, you’ll lay out a vision of your app’s evolution based on business needs and customer feedback, but be prepared to adapt and react to changes in the iOS or Android operating systems.

Quick Tip: Due your due diligence to keep tabs on what Apple and Google are planning for their mobile platforms. Be quick to update your app to take advantage of new APIs, features, and developer tools released by these tech giants. Don’t be blindsided by major announcements and unprepared on next steps.

7. Product iterations could lead to multiple apps

As a product manager, it can be hard to see your product split into smaller pieces. But this could be a good thing when it comes to apps. Look at how different groups of people are using your app and ask yourself, “Are some segments using my app in very specific ways?” Sometimes, it may make sense to spin off features into brand new niche apps to provide a more focused customer experience.

Quick Tip: To help you understand how different audiences are using your app, use an app analytics and marketing platform.

8. You will be accountable for new metrics

Product managers and mobile product managers focus on different metrics. Key performance indicators for apps include session length, cohort retention, and user lifetime value. In a nutshell, these metrics will help you gauge the stickiness and likability of your app.

Quick Tip: If you’re unfamiliar with these metrics or want more information into what they mean, read this article.

9. You will evolve into an app marketer

On paper, you may be a mobile product manager, but you will also need to embrace and understand app marketing principles. Why? Because push and in-app messaging campaigns are both an extension of an app (that you’ll need to develop), and key components of an app’s marketing strategy. For example, push notifications can deliver your app’s value to users’ home screens (through transactional alerts), while also serving up promotional advertising (like highlighting an in-app sale).

Quick Tip: Want to get a head start on learning the best practices of push and in-app messaging before you begin to build them out? Check out “The Anatomy of a Successful Push Messaging Campaign” and, “The Anatomy of a Successful In-App Messaging Campaign.”

From Web Marketers to Omni-ChannelMarketers

As a versatile marketer, you wear many hats; clever wordsmith, tireless publicist, bubbly sales cheerleader, and customer champion, to name a few.

Now, it’s time to add avid app marketer to that mix. Traditional and web marketers will be called upon to create demand around a company’s new app, develop a launch plan, and ensure it earns a happy (and growing) user base.

And as apps become the digital centerpiece connecting consumer devices, marketers will focus on optimizing the omni-channel experience.

Specifically, here’s how your job description will change:

1. You will become more data-driven

Smartphones and apps contain a wealth of both behavioral and profile data, which can help brands understand what their customers are doing inside their apps and who they are in the real world. As an app marketer, you’ll need to use this information to better target your push and in-app messages. Data-driven app marketing leads to the personalized app experiences people crave.

Quick Tip: Hungry for some research-backed app marketing best practices that you can use right away? We reveal six of them in this post.

2. Web marketing and inbound principles will need to be applied to apps

Apps are fundamentally different than websites, so you can’t apply the web’s tired strategies to the mobile world. Instead, you’ll need to freshen up your web marketing prowess and inbound learnings for the app-first era where App Store Optimization (ASO) (not SEO) is the key to getting found, push and in-app messages are essential for nurturing users (more than emails), and context marketing replaces content marketing in driving conversions.

Quick Tip: The best way to learn something new is to relate it to something you already know. That’s why we created a handy-dandy “this = that” chart of web to app equivalents. Check out how the online tactics and web metrics you know and love map to mobile.

3. You will need to understand app business models and choose the right one

Your company’s app has the potential to bring in revenue, but you’ll need to decide which business model makes sense for your audience. At the core of this decision is your ability to identify what’s truly unique about your app and whether or not people would be willing to pay for this. Then, you need to evaluate the pros and cons of the mobile business models at your disposal. Some of these bring in more money right off the bat at the expense of gaining users quickly, while others result in high initial downloads and accumulate profits later.

Quick Tip: Not sure which model to choose? We’ve summarized the advantages and disadvantages of the six most bankable ones right here.

4. You will be responsible for integrating your app into your marketing ecosystem

A big part of marketing an app is to ensure it is well integrated with your company’s other marketing channels, including your web presence, social media accounts, and brick-and-mortar locations. Part of this process will require you to evaluate how your app will replicate, augment, or replace your brand’s current customer touch points. Or, will it provide entirely new ones?

Quick Tip: Remember, your app is an extension of your brand, so you can’t leave it to fend for itself. Weave your app into your marketing organization by figuring out how it connects with every major channel and where it can be promoted. Here are specific tactics on doing just that.

5. Your focus will be driving engagement, not sales

Marketers are typically held accountable for the number of leads they send to sales, or how much revenue was marketing-sourced. When it comes to apps, your focus will shift from enabling sales to eliciting engagement. In particular, you will probably keep an eye on the growth of your monthly active users, retention rate, and the click rates of push and in-app messages that drive meaningful app usage.

Quick Tip: One way to evaluate how successful your app is at continually engaging users is to compare it to industry averages and trends. Our “State of the App” guide distills data collected from thousands of apps making it a valuable resource for benchmarking.

6. You will optimize for the customer experience, not for the channel

Don’t fall into the trap of simply optimizing your app for mobile – optimize for how your app fits into the customer’s journey. Think about when people come across your app. What stage are they at in the buying process? What part of the marketing funnel does your app fit into?

Quick Tip: You can identify your app’s place in the bigger marketing picture by defining its consistent use cases. In other words, in what scenarios will people turn to your app over your other marketing channels? Why? What can it do better than your website?

7. You will evolve into a product/platform manager

As you start executing app marketing strategies, engaging with your users, and monitoring their in-app behavior, you’ll get insight into what they like about your app and what they don’t. You’ll be able to decipher and understand data on what features people use most, what screens they navigate away from quickly, when they fall out of conversion funnels, etc. This will empower you to lead updates to your company’s app and inform its roadmap, putting you in the product/platform manager’s shoes.

Quick Tip: Marketers should work to align their app’s development steps to the buyer journey and ensure user scenarios guide the app’s feature build-out. Wondering how? Here are the templates you’ll need to thoughtfully iterate on your app.

Blurred Lines: Apps will Blend Product Management with Marketing

Apps are blurring the boundaries between devices, channels, and careers. In the near future, product managers and marketers won’t exist as separate roles because a successful app needs both slick features and standout marketing.

You can’t build an app and expect people to automatically flock to it – you need to spend time and money promoting it. And mobile marketing isn’t about bombarding people with generic advertising; it’s about learning to predict, personalize, and evolve your app based on who they are.

Apps are indeed changing the way we live our lives, the way we connect with others, and the way we do our jobs. But this isn’t something to worry about. Rather, it’s something to get excited about.

Because without change, there can be no progress. And apps are most definitely moving us forward.

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4 Thoughts on How to Secure Funds for Your Business

March 30, 2015 Leave a comment

“The most important elements are character, character, character”

CA APPAREL NEWS

California Apparel News recently spoke with finance-industry executive, Ken Wengrod, to find out how lenders approach financing new businesses and how selling to e-retailers differs from selling to a bricks-and-mortar retailer.

Read more…

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As Twitter Introduces Periscope, Tech Titans Bet on Live Streaming Video

March 27, 2015 Leave a comment

Kayvon Beykpour, right, the chief and a founder of Periscope, and Joe Bernstein, also a founder, at their office in San Francisco. CreditJason Henry for The New York Times

Ms. Banks was not on the set of her daytime television show or modeling on the runway at New York Fashion Week. She was staring into her smartphone camera while using a test version of Periscope, a live-streaming video app that Twitter introduced on Thursday, one among a surge of such apps with names like Meerkat and Camio that are taking the social media world by storm.

The premise of Periscope, Meerkat and others is simple: Capture video of yourself doing anything from exploring a new city to playing with your dog, all using nothing more than your smartphone camera. The apps notify others that you are streaming live video of yourself, and you can share it with your friends and followers.

The concept is hardly novel and has resulted in numerous start-up flops in the past. For years, entrepreneurs have tried to make live-streaming video catch on with the masses, with companies like YouNow, Justin.tv and Livestream offering their own takes on personal broadcasting.

The new Periscope app from Twitter.

But recently there has been something of a renaissance of live-streaming apps. And companies likeTwitter and eager venture capitalists are spending millions of dollars on what they bet will be the next big thing to catch on with consumers.

“The world is way more ready for this than it was a year ago,” said Kayvon Beykpour, chief executive and co-founder of Periscope, which Twitter acquired this year. “We have the benefit of entering this market when people are more sold on the idea of live broadcasting.”

Driving the shift are technological advances and the ubiquity of smartphones, as well as years of people getting more comfortable with revealing information about themselves online through text and photos. With the new video apps, the comedian Jimmy Fallon has live-streamed a monologue rehearsal for his late-night talk show, the “Today” co-host Al Roker has broadcast the backstage hubbub at the morning show and Silicon Valley venture capitalists have trained smartphone cameras on themselves when they engage in activities like taping podcasts or making presentations.

“All of a sudden, the world’s pockets are full of good cameras and good screens with good data plans and good social platforms to let everyone know you’re broadcasting,” said Chris Sacca, founder and chairman of Lowercase Capital and an early Twitter investor.

In a statement, Ms. Banks said Periscope was a “wonderfully voyeuristic platform and it boggles my mind that the things that I’m sharing are able to be experienced by others live.”

Yet the current crop of live-streaming apps face a history of video app failures. Viddy, a video-capture start-up that was a Facebook darling in 2012 and raised tens of millions of dollars, experienced early spikes in activity and at one point was seen as the “Instagram of video.” Socialcam, a competitor, was looked at much the same way. Both apps fizzled or were acquired after consumer interest waned over the course of a summer.

Mr. Beykpour said one advantage of Periscope was the short lag time between the stream and the ability to send text responses to the person streaming, essentially letting people communicate with the broadcaster in near real time. Periscope also takes advantage of a user’s Twitter followers to rapidly build a potential audience, and the app suggests other active Periscope users as people to follow. In addition, the app lets users store videos for replay or sharing later.

Although Periscope operates independently of its corporate owner — much like the Twitter-owned short-form video app Vine — it has access to Twitter’s money and technical support.

But Periscope has competition, including Camio and — in particular — Meerkat, which appeared this month and has gained traction with consumers and celebrities. In a matter of days after Meerkat was introduced, its use exploded and it soared to become the 177th most downloaded app in the United States and the 22nd most popular social networking app, according to App Annie, a mobile analytics firm. Meerkating, which describes the act of someone shooting a video live stream, is becoming a verb.

Much of that traction came from Meerkat’s breakout popularity during South by Southwest, the technology and music conference held in Austin, Tex., this month, where a number of fledgling start-ups have gained momentum by creating buzz.

Periscope was under development for a year, but Twitter failed to quickly introduce and market the product after it bought the company in January, the people close to Twitter said. That let Meerkat swoop in to take the spotlight. About two weeks ago, Twitter restricted Meerkat’s access to its social graph, which meant that a user’s Twitter followers would not automatically show up in Meerkat.

Success for Ben Rubin, Meerkat’s founder, did not come overnight. He is a founder of Yevvo, another live-streaming video app that made its debut in 2012 yet saw little traction. Eventually Yevvo rebranded itself Air, which also flopped.

Now investors are eager to fund Meerkat. The companysaid Thursday that it raised $14 million from the venture capital firm Greylock Partners and other investors, including the YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and the actor Jared Leto. In an online post, the Greylock partner Josh Elman said he invested in Meerkat because “it feels like we are at the dawn of a new era for live video.”

“Think of the selfie culture these days,” Mr. Rubin said. “Culturally, we’ve reached the point where cameras are more familiar and people have started to feel comfortable with video.”

He pointed to Jeff Needles, a friend from Twitter. Mr. Needles has recently hosted 24-hour “Meerathons,” in which he streams himself on Meerkat around the clock.

Others entrepreneurs, like Justin Kan, have tried and failed in some forms of live-streaming personal video. His early start-up Justin.tv was a 24/7 live feed of his own life.

“We weren’t able to retain an audience because, really, we just weren’t that interesting,” Mr. Kan said in a recent interview. Eventually, he found success. Mr. Kan sold Twitch, a gaming-focused streaming start-up, to Amazon for about $1 billion last year.

Live-streaming video also poses certain challenges. Some people do not wish to be recorded without their permission, something difficult to prohibit when everyone with a smartphone can freely stream video using the app.

At the start-up incubator Y Combinator’s demo day in Silicon Valley this week, audience members were told not to live-stream the presentations because doing so might violate rules prohibiting general solicitation for funding set forth by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Live-streaming video’s appeal to operators of sex cams is also obvious. Some of the apps offer settings, such as private broadcasting, that could promote the practice.

Mr. Beykpour, Periscope’s co-founder, said that pornography violated the app’s terms of service and anyone watching a video could report it for a violation.

“Our focus now is to keep it a safe place,” he said.

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Richard III Gets a Kingly Burial, on Second Try

March 27, 2015 Leave a comment

British Army pallbearers carried a coffin containing the exhumed remains of King Richard III to his final resting place: a marble tomb next to the altar in Leicester Cathedral.CreditMatt Short/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — “Richard III, 1452-1485” — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times.

With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers wearing red sashes over their khaki uniforms and rows of glinting medals attesting to their service in the country’s most recent wars, in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Torin Weston, 4, in Leicester, England, on Thursday.CreditPool photo by Richard Pohle

With the tomb topped by a black marble plinth, the king’s remains, in a lead-lined inner coffin, were then lowered into what the Anglican prelates presiding at the service described as his final resting place. That placed him barely a stone’s throw from his ignominious grave for the past 530 years, in ground beside the cathedral, where frightened Franciscan friars disposed hastily of his corpse after his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field outside Leicester on Aug. 22, 1485.

That first grave lay in oblivion for centuries, unremarked until it was discovered beneath a municipal parking lot beside the cathedral in September 2012, in what has been hailed as one of the most astonishing archaeological hunches in modern history. The acknowledged good fortune of the archaeologists, who found what proved to be Richard’s bones within hours of their digger making its first cut in the buried ruins of the Greyfriars priory, was followed by what others in the field have described as an exercise of extraordinary scholarship, involving a closely knit team of experts in archaeology, engineering, forensics, genetics, geology, history and medicine, many of them from the University of Leicester.

Their work confirmed “beyond a reasonable doubt,” as the Leicester scholars have described it, that the bones were those of Richard. Critical to their findings was that the nearly complete skeleton included a deeply curved spine, evidence of the bone disease known as scoliosis that prompted later accounts that Richard was a hunchback.

The studies also established that a catalog of nearly a dozen wounds, including two ferocious blows to Richard’s skull from a sword and a halberd that would have killed him instantly, comported closely with contemporary accounts of how he died, toppled from his horse in boggy ground, after two hours of combat at Bosworth that placed him only yards away at his death from Henry Tudor, the victor at Bosworth Field who succeeded him on the throne as Henry VII.

The scholarship laid the groundwork for Thursday’s ceremony, where the few hundred seats that were available were as keenly sought-after as any at Wimbledon’s Centre Court. Crowds running into tens of thousands lined Leicester’s streets to watch Richard’s coffin pass on its way to the cathedral last weekend. The ceremonies drew hours of live television coverage and days of newspaper headlines, almost as if Britain had lost a 21st-century monarch.

The presiding cleric at the cathedral service was the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the worldwide head of the Anglican Communion. Some saw his presence, and the fact that the reburial took place in an Anglican cathedral, as an anomaly, since Richard was a devout member of the pre-Reformation church in England, and thus a Roman Catholic, who died well before Henry VIII’s break with Rome in the 1530s.

The Most Rev. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, presided over the reburial ceremony of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral in England on Thursday.  CreditPool photo by Richard Pohle

But any misgivings between the two churches were smoothed over when England’s foremost Catholic prelate, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, presided at a service welcoming Richard’s coffin to the cathedral on Sunday, and delivered a sermon that offered what many saw as a deft message of reconciliation to the contending schools of thought about Richard’s legacy as king.

To those seething at the spectacle of a notoriously violent monarch being rehabilitated by the church, the cardinal cautioned that power in Richard’s time was “invariably won or maintained on the battlefield and only by ruthless determination, strong alliances and a willingness to employ the use of force, at times with astonishing brutality.”

The recovery of Richard’s bones has spawned a raft of new books about the fallen king, and the BBC is planning a new television series to be titled “The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses,” with the role of the king to be played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Mr. Cumberbatch, who has been identified by genealogists as a third cousin 16 times removed of King Richard, attended the cathedral ceremony on Thursday and read a poem specially written for the service by Britain’s poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.

Women dressed for the occasion left after the service on Thursday.CreditDarren Staples/Reuters

Notably absent from the cathedral on Thursday was Queen Elizabeth II. Perhaps wary of the controversy stirred by the honor being accorded the man who has come down through history as the most vilified of her predecessors — a man identified on the monarchy’s official website as having “usurped” the throne from its rightful heir — Elizabeth, 88, limited her role to an anodyne message on the opening page of the order of service for the reburial, noting the “importance” of the occasion.

“The reinterment of King Richard III is an event of great national and international significance,” the queen’s message said. “Today, we recognize a king who lived through turbulent times and whose Christian faith sustained him in life and death.”

The most senior royal at the ceremony was the countess of Wessex, a former commoner who is married to Edward, the third of Elizabeth’s sons. Another high-ranking royal among the guests was Richard, Duke of Gloucester, a 70-year-old cousin of the queen. His first name and title are the same as Richard’s before he seized the throne, and he is a patron of the Richard III Society, which has campaigned for a rehabilitation that would recognize Richard’s work in the field of legal innovations, including steps to widen court access for the poor.

People waited to view the coffin of King Richard III, shown in a portrait, on Wednesday at Leicester Cathedral in England. CreditDarren Staples/Reuters

For Richard, the years since the discovery of his bones have marked a remarkable comeback. For more than 500 years, he has been popularly cast as one of the most odious villains of English history — the “poisonous, bunch-back’d toad” of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” reviled as a child killer for his role, as Shakespeare and generations of historians have depicted it, as the prime mover in the smothering murders of the two young brothers known as the Princes in the Tower.

Their killings have come down as among the most heartless in English history. The boys were Richard’s nephews, aged about 13 and 11, one of them the rightful heir to Richard’s dead brother Edward IV, but they stood athwart their uncle’s ambition for the throne.

The grim legend that has been Richard’s legacy still draws widespread support, and its proponents have been vociferous in condemning this week’s events in Leicester. One of the country’s most widely circulated newspapers, The Daily Mail, told its readers this week, “It’s mad to declare this child killer a national hero.” The Times of London ran a similar headline of its own: “A glorious return for one of history’s biggest losers.”

Since the 1700s, there has been a minority voice among writers and historians that has cast Richard as the victim of a conspiracy by the Tudors, whose dynasty was founded on Henry Tudor’s victory. Among these protagonists, Shakespeare is seen as having won favor at court as a spin doctor for the Tudor cause, especially for Queen Elizabeth I, who, this version contends, wanted Richard’s reputation blackened to strengthen the Tudors’ own shaky legitimacy.

The public response of the past week appears to have been driven in part by the jamboreelike atmosphere that has swept Leicester. The weekend procession in which Richard’s coffin was driven to Bosworth and back featured people dressed in medieval suits of armor, period dress and the habits of Franciscan friars, some shouting “Long live the king!” The enthusiasm continued as the coffin, on wooden trestles beside the cathedral’s baptismal font, was opened to the public for what amounted to an extended lying in state. At one point, the waiting time ran to more than four hours.

Some saw the message encoded in the public acclaim less as one of embracing the idea of Richard as a “good king,” as he has been described by Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, than one of redemption beyond the grave, a theme that has had a compelling force, across all ages and religions.

That theme was pervasive in the reburial service, perhaps captured best when Archbishop Welby, standing beside the grave as the coffin was lowered, invoked forgiveness for Richard. “We have entrusted our brother Richard to God’s mercy,” he said, “and we now commit his human remains to the ground, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Correction: March 26, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the title of the most senior member of the royal family in attendance at Richard III’s reburial. She is the Countess of Wessex, not the Duchess.

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Lululemon’s Holiday Sales Better-Than-Expected

March 26, 2015 Leave a comment

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Yoga-wear retailer’s shares jump despite currency issues, port delays hurting its outlook

Lululemon Athletica Inc. gave a weak outlook for its current quarter and the full year.  

Lululemon Athletica Inc. gave a weak outlook for its current quarter and the full year. Photo: Getty Images

March 26, 2015

Lululemon Athletica Inc. said Thursday that sales grew a better-than-expected 16% in its holiday quarter as traffic improved, fueling hopes that the yoga-gear maker is rebounding after a recent slump.

Shares gained 7% to $65.20 in late morning trading.

Still, Lululemon gave a soft outlook for its current quarter and full year, saying that shipping delays at West Coast ports and bad weather on the East Coast have dragged down its sales. The company said it also is struggling with the impact of weak currency in Canada and Australia, where it does about a quarter of its business.

Analysts have said Vancouver, Canada-based Lululemon may be on the cusp of a turnaround after setbacks stemming from a recall of some yoga pants for being too sheer. The recall, which dented its reputation and cost it tens of millions of dollars, was followed by a shift in consumer tastes toward more elaborate designs over basics that caught Lululemon flat-footed as it struggled to improve quality and quell infighting on its board as well as high executive turnover.

Lululemon has revamped its product line to include more embellished and patterned items now fashionable among its customer base as it pushes back against competition from lower-priced rivals such as Gap Inc.’s Athleta brand. The new approach, however, has increased lead times and depressed margins, as printed fabric is more expensive to produce than basic black or gray.

In the latest quarter, Lululemon said new silhouettes and colors drove momentum in its women’s bottoms category, while its men’s category also posted strong growth.

Lululemon’s same-store sales increased 5%, excluding currency fluctuations, while direct-to-consumer net revenue increased 20%. Gross margin narrowed to 51.5% from 53.5% a year earlier, pressured by factors including foreign exchange and airfreight costs.

The yoga-wear company had originally given a disappointing outlook for the quarter, but in January boosted its forecast and said it entered the new year in “very good shape” thanks to improving trends and strong results during the holidays.

Inventory pileup has been a problem for Lululemon in recent quarters as it has struggled to strike the right balance of seasonal and core merchandise.

Overall, for the period ended Feb. 1, Lululemon posted a profit of $110.9 million, or 78 cents a share, up from $109.7 million, or 75 cents a share, a year earlier. The company had forecast earnings of 71 cents to 73 cents a share.Revenue grew to $602.5 million from $521 million a year ago, topping the company’s projection for $595 million to $600 million. Lululemon said the weak Canadian and Australian dollars brought down its revenue by $13.2 millio

n.

For the first quarter, Lululemon forecast per-share earnings of 31 cents to 33 cents, below analysts’ call for 39 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters. The retailer forecast revenue of $413 million to $418 million, missing the $442 million in revenue analysts had projected.

For the year, the company estimated per-share earnings of $1.85 to $1.90, while analysts had expected $2.06 a share in earnings. Revenue is expected to be between $1.97 billion and $2.02 billion; analysts had expected $2.05 billion in revenue

Categories: Uncategorized

How Should Ecommerce Brands Look at Their Return Policies?

March 26, 2015 Leave a comment

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Returns are a challenge area for many ecommerce brands, partially since it can be tough to prioritize creating an easy and free return process for customers when so much focus already goes into having them make purchases in the first place. For this reason, some brands that do a great job in showcasing products and ensuring that customers find what they want and receive it quickly still lag behind in this area. However, there are some stats out there that are challenging the idea that return optimization can be safely tabled during the pursuit of other targets. In fact, according to an infographic released by Trueship.com, the average rate of returns from ecommerce purchases is one in three, while 79% of shoppers want a free return shipping offer when they make a purchase.

Is it worth holding out on free return shipping if it creates loyalty? 

An interesting question in ecommerce in general is how to think about the real value of new versus return customers, and whether it is ultimately better to focus on acquisition versus retention. Many studies have pointed to the benefits of increasing customer retention efforts in terms of overall profit generation. In an article by Retention Science, several studies were pointed to, among them a Bain & Company report that stated a 5% increase in customer retention efforts could lead to a 25-95% increase in company profitability. These stats are pretty compelling, and may be grounds for companies that have been holding out on free return shipping to reconsider their stances.

If free shipping is going to be a major cost center, consider ways to offset that cost. 

The logistic costs of free shipping can vary greatly depending on the volume and physical size of products being shipped. In order to offset these costs, some strategic thinking may be required. One of the keys to turning a return scenario into a positive is treating it as an opportunity to surprise and delight your customers. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of assuming that a customer who returns something simply doesn’t like your products and is effectively ending the relationship. In reality, offering free returns has been shown to be a powerful driver of loyalty and repeat purchases. Pivoting a return into an exchange or even a larger purchase made using store credit can turn the negative scenario of a return into an up-sell opportunity.

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Hidden Water: 8 Ways We Use Water That Might Surprise You

March 26, 2015 Leave a comment

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By Kyle Rabin | 03.22.2015 |

Drought remains an all-too-common news story in the US but the silver lining is that a growing number of people are curious about how they can cut back on their water waste, and in many cases are willing to think outside the box to do it.

Enter the water footprint.

This clever measure of your overall water consumption helps you understand the direct and virtual ways in which you use water. The “direct” part of your water footprint is the amount of water you use in and around your home, school or office throughout the day. The hidden or “virtual” part includes the water it took to produce the food you eat, the products you buy, the energy you consume and even the water you save when you recycle. Virtual water makes up the majority of your water footprint.

As people learn about their virtual water use they’re realizing that water isn’t an infinite resource and that there is plenty we can do to use water more efficiently – which benefits both the environment and the wallet.

The growing interest in virtual water is just fine by us since it represents the bulk of an individual’s water footprint. Here are eight ways we indirectly use water and impact water resources:

Food’s virtual water

1. The food you eat makes up the largest part of your overall water footprint – about two-thirds. The more processed foods, meat and dairy we eat, the more water we consume. Diets that include large amounts of meat, cheese and eggs require more water than diets that consist mainly of vegetables and grains. Similarly, diets that are made up of highly processed foods (like candy, chips and ready-made meals) require far more water than those that incorporate more whole foods like fruits and vegetables. We probably don’t need to tell you that eating more fruits and veggies is better for you, too, do we? (When it comes to reducing your meat consumption, think of Meatless Mondays.)

2. Wasted food translates to wasted water. About 25 percent of all freshwater consumed annually in the US is associated with discarded food. On a global scalethat’s a little more water than the volume of Lake Erie that is being wasted. The good news is that there are many effective ways to reduce food waste.

Energy’s virtual water

 3. You might find this shocking but your electricity consumption factors into your water footprint, too. That’s because the nation’s power plants – nuclear and fossil fuel-fired plants in particular – use a tremendous amount of water. Many of these thermoelectric power plants rely on outdated cooling technology that withdraws millions of gallons of water daily. In all, thermoelectric power plants account for a stunning 45 percent of total water withdrawals in the United States, including both freshwater sources such as lakes, and saline water sources, such as estuaries.

4. Most renewable energy sources require little to no water. Switching to renewable energy – particularly wind and solar – can put a big dent in your water footprint. “Small-scale solar photovoltaic systems on rooftops,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “have suddenly become the most commonly built, most numerous electric generators, with individuals making decisions based on the cost of the solar panels and the price of their local electric utility.” In addition to shrinking my carbon footprint, one of the reasons I installed a rooftop solar electric system on my home was to reduce my water footprint.

5. You can waste less water by using energy more efficiently. This means doing things like converting to energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs. Conservation can also help, e.g. turning off or unplugging electronics and appliances when they’re not being used. Five to ten percent of residential electricity use today is lost as “standby power,” feeding our plugged-in electronics and appliances when we’re not even actively using them. By plugging your electrical equipment into a power strip, you can cut power to several devices – e.g. TV, DVD player and surround-sound system – at once when you shut off the strip. Or convert to a “smart” power strip, which are surge protectors that cut power to other devices when a primary device is shut off.

6.  Gasoline and oil consumption are also tightly bound to water use, because refining oil requires large quantities of water. For instance, it is estimated that the United States withdraws 1 to 2 billion gallons of water to refine nearly 800 million gallons of petroleum products every day. Driving less, carpooling and using public transportation as much as possible are good ways to avoid fossil fuel use and save water.

Water’s virtual water

7. To move and treat water you need power, which needs… water! Wait, what’s that now? The process of moving drinking water requires electricity. So does the wastewater treatment process, and there is water embodied in that electricity. So by using water more judiciously – e.g. capturing rainwater for certain uses around the house and wasting less water in general – we save electricity and therefore save much more than the water you saved directly.

8. Yes, even bottled water has a water footprint. The amount of water that goes into making the bottle packaging could be six or seven times more than the water inside the bottle. Want to kick the bottled water habit? Here are some helpful resources.
If you weren’t familiar with the water footprint concept before, hopefully you now can see why so many are interested in this subject. For more than 100 other water-saving tips check out this page.

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Target’s ‘Brick and Mobile’ two-app strategy rooted in solving problems

March 25, 2015 Leave a comment

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By Laura Heller

3/25/2015

AUSTIN, Texas—Target (NYSE:TGT) is using mobile, not just as means to deliver discounts, but as a way to solve problems for its shoppers and create a more personalized experience that instills loyalty.

That was the message delivered by Target’s VP of Product, Alan Wizemann, at RetailLoco, which was held in conjunction with SXSW Interactive. Sponsored by the Location Based Marketing Association, RetailLoco is a one-day event focused on mobile marketing.

Mobile is now critical to Target’s growth. In fact, it’s so critical that Target CEO Brian Cornell has dubbed the retailer’s strategy “Brick and Mobile.”

“Mobile is becoming increasingly important to all digital retailers, and given the profile of our guests, it’s particularly important for Target, as mobile accounted for more than 40 percent of our digital orders in the fourth quarter,” said Cornell during a conference call with analysts. “And notably on Black Friday, 10 percent of our iPhone app revenue was from guests purchasing on their phone while they were simultaneously shopping one of our stores.”

To that end, Target is testing and evaluating a variety of mobile programs.

“Not one technology is going to be a solution for us,” Wizemann said. However, the plethora of technologies are also a double-edged sword: “There are multiple technologies and integration to multiple apps. You get too much noise, too much static.”

Rather than inundating shoppers with marketing messages, Target is choosing to focus on apps and features that solve problems for shoppers, preferably before the shopper realizes there is a problem, Wizemann said.

For Target, that means features that help shoppers navigate large stores, as well as time-saving devices such as organizational tools for creating lists. In-store pickup has proven to be a hit with shoppers—customers made more than 400,000 in-store pickups during the 2014 Black Friday week—and Target is currently testing curbside pickup at a handful of locations in California.

“Some of the testing around that data has been remarkably interesting, [particularly] around the speed point, but we’re not sharing that yet,” Wizemann said.

Target is testing “endless aisle” applications that will ultimately facilitate order fulfillment in stores and extend the product assortment to the retailer’s smaller stores, including Target Express.

“As we move into smaller stores, we want to have the same journey for our guests, the same assortment,” Wizemann said. “[Mobile] allows us to turn those screens into a more personalized experience. We can do some pretty amazing things with small-format stores with fulfillment methodologies.”

Target currently has two apps: the flagship Target app and the Cartwheel app created to deliver discounts to shoppers in-store. Wizemann said the retailer has begun to integrate components of Cartwheel into the flagship app, but as in most mobile initiatives, Target’s dilution of services into two apps may create problems that still need to be resolved.

“Both are leading in the app store from a retail standpoint,” he said. “We are finding guests are either in one or the other.”

Related stories:
Target: Mobile is 40% of all digital orders
Walmart and Target apps tops with shoppers
Mobile promos prove to be Super Bowl gold
Target promises completely revamped apps
Target expands curbside pick-up app

Categories: Uncategorized

Competition for New Textiles-Focused Manufacturing Innovation Institute

March 25, 2015 Leave a comment

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

WASHINGTON, DC  – Today the President is announcing nearly $500 million in public-private investment to strengthen American manufacturing by investing in cutting-edge technologies through a new, textiles-focused manufacturing institute competition led by the Department of Defense, and by sharpening the capabilities of small manufacturers through Manufacturing Extension Partnership competitions in twelve states. The White House, as detailed in a new report, is also launching a Supply Chain Innovation Initiative focused on building public-private partnerships to strengthen the small U.S. manufacturers that anchor the nation’s supply chains.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, to create jobs and strengthen America’s leadership in advanced manufacturing technology, provides the resources to double the number of manufacturing innovation institutes nationwide to 16 by the end of 2016 and fulfills the President’s goal of building a network of up to 45 institutes over the decade. In contrast, the House Republican Budget released yesterday entrenches the harmful sequester levels of funding and proposes to eliminate the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, putting at risk critical investments in advanced manufacturing, workforce development and training, and innovation proposed in the President’s Budget.

After a decade of decline in the 2000s when 40 percent of all large factories closed their doors, American manufacturing is adding jobs at its fastest rate in decades, with 877,000 new manufacturing jobs created since February 2010. Ohio alone has added nearly 70,000 manufacturing jobs over that period. Manufacturing production is up by almost a third since the recession and the number of factories manufacturing across the United States is growing for the first time since the 1990s.

In addition to announcing new competitions for nearly $500 million in public and private investment the President is calling on Congress to do its part to make the bipartisan investments needed to strengthen manufacturing across the United States, including in places like Ohio.

Click here to find the new White House and Department of Commerce report on strengthening small manufactures: LINK

Investing Nearly $500 Million to Strengthen U.S. Advanced Manufacturing:

  • More than $150 Million in Public-Private Investment through a New Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competition
    • Today, the Department of Defense is launching a competition for leading manufacturers, universities, and non-profits to form a new manufacturing hub focused on revolutionary fibers and textiles technologies. The $75 million federal investment will be matched by more than $75 million of private sector resources.
    • This is the ninth competition for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation institute, and the first of eight new institutes that the President’s budget proposes to fund by the end of 2016. Returning to sequestration levels for appropriations, as the House Republican Budget proposes, would put this expansion at risk.
    • The first institute awarded is in Youngstown, Ohio. Only in its third year, it is already drawing investment to Ohio—including a $32 million job-creating investment in the region from GE—and advancing research that will help accelerate the speed of 3-D printing in metals by a factor of ten.
  • $320 Million Competition to Strengthen Small Manufacturers in 12 States
    • Non-profits in 12 states will compete for $158 million in Federal funds matched by $158 million or more in private investment over five years to provide technology and engineering expertise to small manufacturers through the latest round of competitions to strengthen the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)’s network of centers in these states.
    • Today, the President will tour MAGNET’s Manufacturing Innovation Center at Cleveland State University, the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership affiliate.
    • In contrast, the House Republican Budget proposes to end funding for the MEP, dealing a blow to the 30,000 small manufacturers the program serves, including the more than 450 Ohio manufacturers served by MAGNET, the Ohio MEP affiliate, in recent years.
  • New White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative
    • The President will unveil a White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative focused on building public-private partnerships to strengthen the small U.S. manufacturers and a new report on the need to further strengthen small manufacturers that form the backbone of America’s supply chains and play an increasingly important role in creating and retaining manufacturing jobs and investment in the United States.

More than $150 Million for a New Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competition:

As part of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, each manufacturing institute serves as a regional hub for leadership in emerging manufacturing technologies, bridging the gap between early research and product development by bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in key technology areas that can encourage investment and production in the United States.

The new competition, kicked off by the Department of Defense is the ninth manufacturing innovation institute competition launched by the Administration to date, joining the eight institutes already underway. The Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute will ensure that America remains at the leading edge of fiber science, through a $75 million public investment matched by more than $75 million of private investment in researching, prototyping, and commercializing fibers with extraordinary properties. Known astechnical textiles, these modern-day fabrics and fibers boast novel properties ranging from being incredibly lightweight and flame resistant, to having exceptional strength and electronic sensors. With wide-ranging applications, technical textiles can forge the foundation of protective gear for firefighters impervious to the hottest flames, replicate the sensing capabilities of a smart watch into a lightweight fabric, or detect when a wounded soldier needs to be treated with an antimicrobial compression bandage.

After a decade of decline in U.S. manufacturing during the 2000s, the American textile industry is adding jobs for the first time in two decades, increasing shipments by nearly a fifth since the recession, and winning globally with a 45 percent increase in exports since 2009. Today’s announcement builds on this momentum in American textile manufacturing and lays the foundation for future leadership in the production of sophisticated fibers and textile technologies.

For the latest on the new institute competition, please visit Manufacturing.gov.

$320 Million Public-Private Manufacturing Extension Partnership Competition to Expand Services to Strengthen Small Manufacturers:

The more than 230,000 small manufacturers in the U.S. employ 42 percent, or almost half, of all manufacturing workers. However, small manufacturers often trail their larger peers in adopting the latest technologies and practices to increase their competitiveness and productivity, with many small manufacturers in need of access to capital and expertise to adopt the latest innovations in manufacturing – like 3-D printing, advanced sensors, and digital design – that can help sharpen their edge.

Across the country, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a state-federal network of 60 centers and 1,200 manufacturing experts, helps small manufacturers improve their production processes, upgrade their technological capabilities, and bring new products to market.

Today’s MEP competition will award nearly $32 million annually for five years across twelve states – an expected total of $158 million matched at least dollar-for-dollar by $158 million or more of non-federal funding – to strengthen and reinvest in this nationwide network of manufacturing expertise. Non-profits working with manufacturers in each of the twelve states will have the opportunity to compete for cooperative agreements to operate MEP centers and expand the range of lean production and technology acceleration services offered to small manufacturers, and help bring their products to market. Annual funding is subject to continued performance and the availability of appropriations. New MEP competitions are being launched in 12 states: Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

For more on the competition, applicants should visit the NIST MEP competition website. A public webinar for applications will be conducted on Monday, March 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm EST.

A public-private partnership, the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership helps small manufacturers compete, increasing employment and investment across the country and generating a high return on public investment. Every dollar of federal investment in the MEP translates into $19 dollars of new sales for small manufacturers, or almost $2.5 billion annually across the 30,000 small manufacturers that MEP serves. Since it was founded in 1988, MEP has worked with nearly 80,000 manufacturers, leading to $88 billion in sales and $14 billion in cost savings, and helping small manufacturers create more than 729,000 new jobs. Today’s announcement represents the second round of competitions as part of a multi-year plan to launch new competitions to strengthen the MEP network of centers in every state.

New White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative:

The new White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative announced today follows on the President’s State of the Union commitment to improve the access of small- and medium-sized manufacturers to technologies and resources they need to improve their innovation and productivity through public private partnerships and new federal efforts.

As discussed in depth in a new White House and Department of Commerce report, a dense network of small manufacturers makes up the backbone of America’s supply chains, contributing more than 40 percent of all manufacturing employment. However, even as their share of U.S. manufacturing employment grows, small firms continue to face stiff challenges in innovation. As the new report finds –

  • Small manufacturers are playing an increasingly important role in U.S. supply chains and the manufacturing sector overall. Today, small manufacturers employ 42 percent – or nearly half of all U.S. manufacturing workers – up ten percentage points from their share in the 1980s.
  • Dense networks of these small manufacturers are vital to the process of taking a product from concept to market, and the exchange of manufacturing know-how across suppliers is essential for the diffusion of the new product ideas and innovative processes that give U.S. manufacturing its cutting edge.
  • However, because of the unique barriers they face, small manufacturers often lag their larger peers in adopting critical new technologies. For example, a recent survey found that fewer than 60 percent of small manufacturers were experimenting in any way with 3-D printing, a potentially transformative technology that is especially beneficial for small companies due to its flexibility. In contrast, over 75 percent of large firms were using the technology.
  • The White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative will focus on public-private partnerships and new federal efforts to strengthen U.S. manufacturing overall by closing this gap.

Later this year, the Administration will convene a Supply Chain Innovation Roundtable of CEOs and representatives of leading manufacturers committed to partnering with the small businesses in their supply chains to accelerate technology adoption, strengthen the linkages within domestic supply chains, and to improve product design and process engineering. In addition, the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Defense, as well as the Small Business Administration, will announce additional Federal efforts to help small firms adopt cutting-edge technologies and improve information flow within supply chains.

The Supply Chain Innovation Roundtable builds on the Administration’s successful SupplierPay initiative which has brought together close to 50 companies, including Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce, and IBM, to strengthen small businesses by increasing their working capital.

While strengthening our capabilities at home, the Administration is also taking key steps to provide U.S. manufacturers with new markets and new consumers throughout the world. Through trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Administration is breaking down barriers to U.S. exports, leveling the playing field when it comes to labor and environmental standards, and, for the first time, focusing on improving the ability of small businesses to export to these new markets.

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Giant Accelerator Ready to Restart in Search for Fundamental Laws of Nature

March 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Technologist

by Michael Keller 3/24/2015

The world’s largest and most powerful atom smasher will be firing back up for a new round of experiments as early as this Thursday after being shut down for upgrades two years ago.

When physicists throw the power switch, the overhauled Large Hadron Collider will send unimaginably tiny particles like protons and the nuclei of lead atoms in opposite directions with significantly more energy than when the experiment’s first run ended in early 2013.

“We are really excited because we are entering a new phase of the LHC after two years of heavy maintenance and heavy improvement of the whole accelerator chain, of the whole infrastructure,” said Rolf-Dieter Heuer, a German particle physicist who heads CERN, the organization that runs the LHC. “And to restart the LHC now at a new, higher energy, which hopefully opens new windows—depending on the kindness of nature, of course—we are excited.”

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See more images and learn more below.

After accelerating to nearly the speed of light through a 17-mile underground loop built near Geneva, the particles are sent to crash into each other inside one of seven detectors located at intersections along the track.

Collisions between two protons fired at each other during the first LHC run occurred at a maximum energy of 8 teraelectronvolts. With this capability, the LHC has already entered the pantheon of humanity’s great scientific endeavors for helping physicists verify the existence of the hypothesized Higgs boson. That finding, which earned François Englert and Peter Higgs the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics, gave the world a glimpse into the fundamental workings of nature by revealing why matter has mass.

It is also notable for another feat: LHC has been built and operated with the help of thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians, and contributions from more than 110 countries. The project’s costs now total more than $7.5 billion. The two-year shutdown upgraded the different detectors and other hardware along with the computing capabilities of the project.

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[Upgrades to the LHC include 1) new magnets, 2) stronger connections, 3) safer magnets, 4) Higher energy beams, 5) Narrower beams, 6) Smaller but closer proton packets, 7) Higher voltage, 8) Superior cryogenics, 9) Radiation-resistant electronics, 10) More secure vacuum. Image courtesy of CERN.]

Earlier this month, officials tested the LHC by injecting protons into each of the beams that will deliver the particles to their collision point when the machine restarts. Researchers said the test was successful at detecting issues that need to be corrected before the protons start whizzing again.

When the next run starts, collisions will be made at around 13 teraelectronvolts—about the energy produced by the motion of 13 flying mosquitos. That doesn’t sound like much, but the energy is squeezed together in a space a million million times smaller than the insect, according to CERN.

Colliding subatomic particles together at high energy lets observers watch what happens when they break apart. These insanely high-energy impacts allow physicists to recreate the universe’s conditions a billionth of a second after the Big Bang.

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(A technician upgrades the machinery inside the LHC’s underground loop that sends protons and ions on a course to impact each other. Courtesy of CERN.)

Hopes are high that the next phase of LHC operations will lead to a new round of discoveries. Research goals include: getting a better, more precise understanding of the Higgs boson; using the Higgs to search for a class of theorized exotic particles that interact only with it; uncovering more clues about dark matter and antimatter; and searching for a type of particle that could reveal the existence of extra dimensions.

“When the LHC turns back on, we’re really again headed into unexplored territory,” said Dave Charlton, a physicist who heads the ATLAS detector at the LHC. “It’ll be another new era of science, and we’ll see what we find. There are many possibilities of things we might see.”

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Top Gif: Artist’s rendition of collisions inside CERN’s LHC particle accelerator. Gif created from Youtube video, courtesy of CERN.

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Why Shoppers are Leaving Stores Empty Handed

March 24, 2015 Leave a comment

download

Consumers are walking into retail stores expecting to get fast, smart guidance while they shop. And yet, they fail to get the answers they need, according to a retail industry survey. In fact, of the consumers who don’t know exactly what to purchase, 93 percent say they can’t find the right person to help them. To read the survey summary and learn more about retail consumer behavior trends, download this brief.  http://www.timetrade.com/files/content_resource/Timetrade_Retail_Reality_Check_Market_Brief.pdfretail-reality-check-brief-image

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New Research Reveals What People Like to Share

March 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Social Sharing Habits:

social media reviewsAre you curious about which type of social content gets the most shares?

Are social shares part of how you measure social marketing return on investment (ROI)?

Do you wonder which social channels’ users share most frequently?

In this article you’ll discover the most recent findings about what types of content get shared most, which channels seem to have the most users who share and what posting times result in the most shares.

social sharing research

Discover new research on what people like to share.

#1: Mobile Sharing Doubled

In 2014 consumers doubled their sharing activity on mobile, according to Q4 Social Sharing Report from ShareThis. Mobile device (or smartphone) users now spend 20% of their activity on that device sharing content. When using a desktop computer, they spend just 6% of their time sharing content. In fact, sharing activity on a desktop dropped 30.2% in 2014.

sharethis sharing by device image

ShareThis shows consumers doubled their sharing activity on mobile and decreased it on desktop.

Key Takeaways: First, with mobile becoming the social focal point, ShareThis study authors recommend brands “adopt a mobile-first strategyif your goal is to reach customers through social media. January 2015 research tells us that 80% of consumers now own a mobile device.

Second, since sharing is a social activity, it makes sense that consumers perform it from the privacy of their mobile devices and tablets, which they use more at their leisure. With desktops and laptops serving as work platforms, consumers would be concerned about employers tracking Internet activity there.

#2: Facebook Dominates All Channels in Sharing Activity

In the same study mentioned above, ShareThis compared the sharing activity for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and three more platforms. They found that Facebook outstripped the sharing activity of its next closest competitor, Pinterest, by more than 10 to 1. Eighty-one percent of all shares occurring on the seven channels combined (including email newsletter) originated on Facebook.

sharethis sharing by network image

ShareThis shows in Q4 2014, 81% of all shares came from Facebook. Lagging far behind was Pinterest, which originated 7% of all shares.

In Q4 2014, 81% of all shares came from Facebook. Lagging far behind was Pinterest, which originated 7% of all shares. This study did not measure Instagram.

Despite this statistic, keep in mind that ShareThis did not include Instagram in the study.

Instagram has a much higher rate of engagement than any of the channels in the ShareThis study. Our previous post linked above explores recent research on the engagement rate difference on social media channels. Several studies concluded that Instagram’s engagement rate far outstrips Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Considering that “engagement” is made up of likes, shares and comments, we can assume that shares make up a reasonable portion of Instagram’s engagement rate.

forrester user interactions with brand posts image

Forrester shows Instagram’s 4.2% engagement rate wowed marketers last spring. “Engagement rate” includes shares.

Keep in mind too that researchers find that both sharing and overall engagement rates are declining. TrackMaven’s Content Marketing Paradox Report analyzed 2 years’ marketing activity for 8,800 brands, including 13.8 million pieces of content across seven marketing channels.

The chart below compares the rise of social content quantity with the decline of sharing and engagement. As more content floods the Internet, each piece is forced to compete for the limited number of readers available to consume it.

The chart below also shows that in January 2013, brands were at an average of 25 posts per channel. That number doubled to 50 posts per channel by September 2014 before falling off a bit. Engagement rate went the opposite direction. Where the interaction rate in January 2013 per post was .35 per 1,000 followers or 3 interactions for 10,000 followers, by September 2014, that number had halved to about .15 per 1,000 followers.

trackmaven output vs engagement image

TrackMaven shows social content amount (in teal) far outweighs content engagement (purple).

In a bracing statement, the study authors explain:

On social networks, brand-generated content is seeing the lowest engagement rates now than anytime in 2013 and 2014; 43% of professionally marketed blog posts receive fewer than 10 interactions. On Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn, more than half of all posts receive fewer than 10 interactions (73%, 60%, 65%, and 68%, respectively).

Again, the TrackMaven study shares overall engagement, which includes likes and comments as well as shares. We can extrapolate that the number of shares trajectory is going the same direction.

trackmaven interactions per post image image

This TrackMaven graph charts the 2-year decline of “interactions per post” (a.k.a. “engagement rate”) from December 2012 to December 2014.

As the chart above demonstrates, Twitter gets the least sharing activity and Facebook the most. Don’t forget that for now, Instagram has a far higher engagement/sharing rate than any of those platforms studied by TrackMaven.

#3: Consumers Share “List” and “Why?” Posts the Most

Have you heard of the “Listicle”? It’s an article in list form, and it’s one of the most shared types of content on Facebook and other channels. (Due to its popularity,“listicle” even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014.) From June to November 2014, web-based marketing tool company BuzzStream and agency Fractltracked 220,000 pieces of content from 10 high-engagement and 10 low-engagement businesses. They found the most shared content took the form of “listicles” and “why content.”

So common they barely need explanation, “list” posts or “listicles” appear as the typical “5 Reasons to Create Personas for Your Business” or “The Top 7 Pinterest Marketing Strategies.” The number of “list” post shares measured in the study varied from 21,000 to 24,500 each month.

“Why content,” on the other hand, explains a concept or clarifies a topic. Also considered were “how-to” or “explainer” posts, which provide useful information. The “why” posts from the 220,000 pieces of content BuzzStream reviewed from September through November 2014 earned an average of 24,500 shares each month.

“What” posts often take the form of questions. Posts like, “What Is Your Spirit Animal?” or “What Character from Literature Would You Be?” charged across social media sites in 2014. While “what” posts did earn 29,000 shares in October, their share numbers tended to fall more in the 18,000 to 20,000 range, prompting study authors to deem them less reliable than “list” and “why” posts. In other words, those “What color is your aura?” posts may have been a short-lived fad.

buzzstream and fractl content type shares image

BuzzStream and Fractl show “List” posts and “why” posts performed the best and most reliably. “What” posts’ October blip was an anomaly.

How-to articles and videos received the fewest shares overall.

Keep in mind that with lots of data from the biggest channels now available, researchers have figured out just which subjects are most popular on which platforms.

Social analytics and tools company ShareThis found that Facebook serves as the Internet water cooler and social salon where friendships dominate. Therefore, users discuss all kinds of topics. Conversely, other platforms provide a meeting ground for people who focus on certain categories. Beauty and Fitness, Food and Drink and Shopping dominated the conversations on Pinterest. And 2014 saw a surge in sports chatter, news and finance to some extent on Twitter.

sharethis category sharing image

The ShareThis 2014 Q4 Social Sharing Report shows a lot more sports fans found Twitter in 2014. Pinterest provides a meeting ground for those interested in shopping, beauty and fitness, and food and drink.

Key Takeaways: “List” and “why” posts get the most shares, possibly because these formats fit the digital reader’s habits. Both are scannable and concise. The “list” post promises to keep the reader’s eye moving to the section that most interests him or her. The “why” post promises a short explanation of a topic the reader likely searched for. As for topics by channel, watching which industry gets discussed most on which channel could pay off.

#4: Post on Facebook During Early Afternoon

On his QuickSprout blog, Internet marketing entrepreneur Neil Patel compiled into an infographic the findings from 11 robust studies on the best times to post on social media. We’ve included just the Facebook findings below for the sake of space, but if you click the link above, the infographic covers Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ as well.

quicksprout time to share image

The QuickSprout blog shows marketers speculate that Thursdays and Fridays are big days because people long for escape from work the later it is in the week.

Consider these best times to post by channel:

  • Twitter: 5:00 p.m. for highest retweets
  • Facebook: 1:00 p.m. weekday afternoons to get the most shares
  • LinkedIn: Most shares occur on Tuesdays from 10:00–11:00 a.m.
  • Pinterest: 9:00 p.m. on Friday or Saturday nights has most traffic
  • Google+: Best engagement is 9:00 a.m. on Wednesdays
  • Instagram: For brands, evening hours

See the post linked above to get more specific findings.

Key Takeaways: While these times may feel random, Neil Patel claims that he raised his social media traffic (coming from his channels to his site) by 39% when he followed the guidelines. Always good to test!

Conclusion

Tailoring your social media strategy using these findings could help you get more shares and spread brand reach.

While nearly all companies stand to benefit from a presence on Facebook, social channels with smaller audiences still offer opportunities.

Businesses with younger audiences have opportunities on Instagram, where a 2015 Pew study found that 53% of all Internet users ages 18 to 29 are active. Half in that age group use Instagram daily.

Marketers in the athletic industry may get more share action on Twitter, which seems to be a gathering place for sports fans.

On Pinterest, retailers have a chance to provide the deals and new products users want to share with their friends. Sharing excellent content raises Pinterest users’ profiles and gives them a way to connect with friends, building their relationships.

Finally, experimenting with posting times could prove a low-cost way to get more shares.

What do you think? How do you get the most shares of your content? Have you noticed times that work better than others? Leave your comments and questions below.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Suzanne Delzio

Suzanne Delzio is the director of Informed Web Content, which helps small and medium-sized businesses build authority, traffic and reach with search-engine-optimized blog posts, web pages & email newsletters. Other posts by »

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Activewear Is Poised for Another Banner Year

March 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Sourcing Journal
Posted on February 13, 2015 by

Driven by health and wellness trends as well as a huge demand for athleisure looks that combine easy style, comfort and function, the active category generated a 7 percent dollar increase totaling $36.1 billion in the 12 months ended December 2014, according to The NPD Group Inc. Industry executives continue to be bullish with sales projections in the mid-to-high single digits in 2015 for the category, which consists primarily of a variety of multipurpose tops, jackets, and pants in high-tech Lycra spandex blends.

But no matter how popular or profitable the athleisure trend is at the moment, the issue of longevity is quickly becoming a key topic of discussion among industry leaders.

A main reason for concern is a fear of over saturation of active-inspired products in both the high-end and low-end wholesale and retail sectors. Filling the burgeoning demand for active apparel and related accessories has not been a problem since the competition on the playing field is already jam-packed with powerhouse sports apparel and fitness brands such as Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Under Armour and Champion, as well as retail specialists Lululemon Athletica and Gap Athleta.

A growing number of designer brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Tommy Hilfiger are expanding or launching athleisure collections. Retailers also know it’s a win-win situation and major stores ranging from Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Dillard’s Department Stores, to fast-fashion specialists H&M and Zara, and Target and Wal-Mart, are beefing up branded and private label assortments and labels in the active arena.

Like many trends that have come and gone in the fashion apparel industry over the years — hot pants in the Seventies, bodywear worn by Jane Fonda in workout videos in the Eighties, and shapewear glamorized by Madonna on tour in the Nineties — industry executives say athleisure looks have lasting power and are redefining the boundaries of sportswear, ready-to-wear and innerwear, especially loungewear. But executives generally agree the trend will most likely crest by 2016.

Looking back, a key example of the demise of a trend is the rise and fall of shapewear, which was wildly popular and considered to be a cash cow for more than a decade. But marketing efforts failed to convince women they needed a wardrobe of shapers and the category began to lose its luster in 2008. Reasons included a lack of innovation, sameness of product, and a glut of inventory produced by too many brands and private label makers. There also were limited options for silhouettes, fabrications, colors and prints. Business fell flat. The most recent figures by NPD reflect the fate of a bygone category: Overall dollar sales of shapewear in 2014 slipped 3 percent to $678 million.

But unlike shapewear, executives say several factors will provide a silver lining for the athleisure classification: Lifestyle driven trends, an active consumer who will always be a yoga, pilates or spinning enthusiast, and an appetite for multipurpose apparel that can crossover from the gym to the office or be worn as casual yet chic everyday wear.

Here, a conversation with several industry and retail executives on the status of activewear.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group Inc., said he believes the active apparel and ath-leisure trend will slow down and transition to streetwear by 2016.

“We have seen several new entrants in the active arena over the past seven-to-eight weeks, and we are seeing retailers expanding or bringing in new brands. But the low-end is doing a good job with active and ath-leisure and the big challenge for the high-end players will be to do a better job for the prices they charge. I don’t see active going bust to the same degree as shapewear did, because shapewear stopped its potential for growth by a lack of innovation, and people kept introducing product at dramatically lower prices. It was also a niche market, and active doesn’t have the borders the way shapewear did…The next big trend will be streetwear. You can already buy streetwear brands that look active like Polo Ralph Lauren.”

Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at Kurt Salmon Associates, a global consulting firm. Aronson described active apparel and related accessories as a “big business” with lots more potential.

“It started at Lululemon with soccer moms and as the business became bigger others started getting into it. Under Armour probably has the biggest major department store distribution. I don’t think active has reached its crest yet and there’s still room for growth…Whatever you call it in that kind of genre of active or ath-leisure, a lot of people can wear it from petites and large sizes to beautiful people. It’s for men, women, juniors and children. By 2016 everything will start to go down channel. This is not luxury wear, but there can be style with all of the bells and whistles on it. It can be moderate-priced, higher than moderate, and it certainly can be lower than commodity-priced.”

Barbara Lipton, group vice president of intimates and activewear for Macy’s Merchandising Group, the private brand powerhouse of Macy’s. Lipton said the active category is generating “tremendous growth.”

“We are experiencing tremendous growth in our private active brands, Ideology for women and Material Girl Active for juniors. Both brands are performing above expectations and will continue to grow over the next three-to-five years. We believe the momentum for activewear will be strong with the ongoing focus on health and wellness being top-of-mind for women today. More and more women are enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, so offering great, easy outfits that take her from the studio to street and/or relaxation at home to sleep are becoming important wardrobe staples in every women’s closet. Activewear has become the new weekend wear, trend right dressing that is comfortable yet functional, and meets the needs of her active lifestyle. Women no longer want to change into several outfits once they get home. Easy loungewear pieces can serve many purposes, from home to walking the dog, to running errands, and then sleep. It’s easy, comfortable, convenient.”

Maureen Stabnau, senior vice president of merchandising for Bare Necessities, noted the active market is robust but crowded.

“It’s year-two for us doing active and it’s still a very good category on a growth trend. Everybody’s on board and a lot of sleepwear and loungewear brands are going after it like Komar, Carole Hochman, Urban Essentials by DKNY, and Karen Neuburger. But it’s getting crowded and there will be a back-off. A lot of people will move out _ I’m already seeing it.”

Ned Munroe, chief global design officer at Champion, a unit of Hanesbrands Inc., believes the active trend has staying power.

“I think the trend will not go away. Athleisure is here to stay and it’s defining a new category of apparel, Munroe said. “Champion is absolutely poised for great growth in the category because Champion is both a performance brand and a lifestyle brand, not a sportswear or fashion trend brand like Zara or Topshop. We are poised for growth because we specialize in innovation. Consumer market research shows that 93 percent of our consumers are wearing our athletic apparel for everyday wear … It’s not just about designer apparel for athletes, it’s about print, color and an everyday fashion component”

Carrie Henley, executive vice president and general manager of activewear-lifestyle brand Marika at FAM Brands Inc., advised brands to continue offering product that is “true to activewear and fulfills a function.”

“We constantly look for the latest and greatest in technology. We are currently planning on expanding our outreach with e-commerce, as well as putting forth research efforts into active tracking devices helping to enhance our customer’s workout,” Henley said. “Our product is considered ath-leisure as it is designed to be acceptable for everyday wear, easily transitioning throughout our customer’s day. We have begun to create a customizable experience for each consumer, making the items they purchase more personalized, Our Marika Tek line now includes our “Trim to Hem” fit, making leggings completely customizable for customers.”

Valeria Velandia, co-founder of Miel, an active lingerie brand, believes there is room for up-and-coming brands. “I think the people who shop at independent stores and organic boutiques want to find new things in active apparel, not what the bigger brands are doing. They are definitely interested in smaller, specialty brands. We launched Miel in 2008 to fullfill the gap between fashion and sexy lingerie and performance wear and sportswear. Our products integrate function and fashion.”

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