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The New Way to Target Ads at Consumers

July 19, 2019


If the refrigerator door’s display changes from Pepsi to flavored water before your eyes the next time you walk into a Walgreens, don’t be surprised.

Walgreens is rolling out a new technology that embeds cameras, sensors and digital screens into its cooler doors, creating smart displays that target ads to individual customers. The sensors and cameras connect to face-detection technology that can pick out a customer’s age and gender, as well as external factors like if it’s hot or raining outside and how long you stand there, and even pick up on your emotional response to what you’re looking at.

This allows the doors to act as a dynamic, responsive marketplace, similar to how online ads use your information to more effectively advertise to your interests.

The doors boast several benefits, like real-time stock information and instant campaign feedback, but also bring up questions about the future of targeted marketing and where the line of intrusion exists in this modern marketplace.

Benefits

The doors were created by Cooler Screens Inc. and thought up by CEO and co-founder Arsen Avakian. As the former CEO of Argo Tea Inc., Avakian spent hours in cooler aisles trying to figure out how best to advertise his products.

The doors combine the best of digital power with the traditional lure of brick-and-mortar stores. They show off the products in their best light and provide real-time basic analytics, telling advertisers which items customers picked up or looked at and alerting retailers when certain items are low in stock.

Using proximity sensors, in conjunction with the facial recognition technology, to determine when a customer is approaching, the doors shift what products are in view based on what they think the customer will want to see – ice cream on a hot day, for example, or water for …

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Slack vs. Skype: Which Is Best for Business?

July 18, 2019


Editor’s note: Skype for Business is no longer Microsoft’s main communication app to rival Slack. With the new 8.0 update, the application’s main function is video chatting, although it does still support instant messaging. If you’re looking for a comparison between Microsoft and Slack products that are on a more even playing field, see our breakdown of Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Skype was once a titan of office communication, but with the recent unveiling of the new and improved Microsoft Teams, this former player is being relegated to a single function. Still, Skype and Slack are among the most used communication apps in the workplace, as they’re ideal tools to directly message colleagues and spur collaborative conversations.

The right internal communication tool for your business depends largely on your type of company and what kind of services you need. Slack and Skype for Business are ideal instant messaging tools that have some call and video features. If you need more robust video tools, it may be worth looking into separate video conferencing software. It’s not uncommon for companies to use an instant messaging tool alongside separate video conferencing software. If you’d like to see our recommendations for the best video conference services, visit our best picks page. You can also check out our full review of Microsoft Teams.

To help you find the right communication solution for your business, here’s a breakdown of how Slack compares to Skype for small businesses.

Cost

Slack – The basic version of Slack is free, but it’s limited to two-person voice and video calls and only 10 app integrations. Paid versions start at $6.67 per active user per month and come with group voice and video calls, unlimited searches, unlimited integrations, priority support, and better security. Slack also offers a plan …

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Where's That 15-Hour Workweek We Were Promised?

July 18, 2019


The 44-hour workweek was considered long overdue when it became a right under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Two years later, Congress shortened it to 40. A lot has improved since then, but not this particular figure – in fact, it’s gone in the other direction. Today, by some estimates, the average American works as many as 47 hours per week. In certain industries, such as tech or finance, you’re lucky to manage a week under 60.

This wasn’t always the plan. In 1930, British economist John Maynard Keynes made a series of predictions about the state of the Western world 100 years hence. One prediction was that technological change will have progressed far beyond anything he could imagine. For another, compound interest will continue to accrue at 2%, such that the standard of living will increase four to eight times over. Finally, because of all this, no one will have to work.

OK, we’ll work occasionally – only because, according to Keynes, “we’ll be too glad to have the small duties and tasks and routines … three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour workweek may put off the problem for a great while.”

We’re now only 11 years away from Keynes’ future, and so far, he’s two-for-three on his predictions. Mechanization has replaced most forms of manual labor, machine learning targets us with ads based on our internet history, and computerization allows us to summon all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, whether that’s Ariana Grande’s birthday or the current value of your Bitcoin wallet.

Meanwhile, not only has standard of living increased four times over since the 1930s, but U.S. per-capita income has increased more than eightfold. We may take economic growth for granted now, but at the dawn of the Great Depression, Keynes’ predictions were bold …

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Immigrants Flock to U.S. for Better Life and More Pay

July 18, 2019


  • 92% of expats living in the United States told researchers they’ve been able to develop new skills.
  • More than 60% of respondents said they noticed an increase in pay, while 9% saw a decrease.
  • Since moving to the U.S., 63% of respondents said their quality of live has improved.

A newly released survey suggests that when it comes to expats, the United States remains the “land of opportunity” where people go to better themselves.

Released yesterday by HSBC Bank, the annual Expat Explorer survey found that, among the more than 10,000 expats from 163 countries and territories polled, 49% said they opted to come to America to advance their professional lives. That figure marks a 13% uptick from the global average of 36% and an almost 30% gulf with our neighbors to the north, Canada (20%).

The data also shows that 92% of expats reported that, since coming to the U.S., they’ve been able to develop their professional skills. As a result, 57% said they felt more confident at work, and 61% said they were more adaptable.

“Whether through choice or circumstance, moving to a new country brings a host of exciting and often life-changing opportunities,” said Paul Mullins, regional head of international banking for HSBC in the U.S. and Canada. “Our research shows that people don’t just move to the U.S. for career opportunities – they stay because of them too.”

Expats finding betterment in America

While the survey examined how expats were getting on after leaving their home countries, it also sought to understand why people stay in their new homelands. Researchers found that respondents felt staying in the U.S. benefited their careers.

According to the survey, 49% said they stayed in America longer than they initially intended to so they could “continue to progress their career.” A …

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Amazon Announces Changes for Third-Party Sellers in Response to EU Oversight Threat

July 17, 2019


  • Germany’s Federal Cartel Office had been investigating Amazon’s Business Services Agreement for several months.
  • Under the new rules, sellers will be given 30 days’ notice and a reason for removal.
  • This latest batch of changes at the massive e-commerce site doesn’t take effect for another 30 days.

After finding itself under the watchful eye of antitrust regulators in Germany for the past several months, Amazon has agreed to enact new rules for third-party sellers that officials say are fairer to merchants.

Earlier today, the massive online retailer said it will amend its Business Services Agreement to comply with existing European guidelines. In return, the German Federal Cartel Office dropped its inquiry into the company.

“We have achieved far-reaching improvements for retailers on Amazon’s marketplaces,” said Andreas Mundt, cartel office chief, in a statement. “We are dropping our investigation.”

Once this is implemented, Amazon estimates that 300,000 sellers will be immediately affected on its German site. While these changes are largely focused on the German page, officials said they will also impact merchants in Britain, France, Italy, and Spain and worldwide pages in America and Asia.

While the deal reached with Germany eases some oversight pressure on Amazon, it didn’t completely end it. Just hours after the German case was dropped, European Union investigators announced that they were opening their own investigation into Amazon’s use of third-party sellers’ data.

Welcome changes for third-party sellers

While third-party sellers account for approximately 58% of Amazon’s physical merchandise sales, the platform’s community of small businesses and merchants have experienced hardships as of late. Along with instances where stores were suddenly delisted from Amazon’s website, third-party merchants have also had to deal with a surge in counterfeit products and scams.

Under the new third-party seller rules, Amazon will now give sellers 30 days’ notice …

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How Call Centers Keep You Connected During (and After) a Natural Disaster

July 17, 2019


Natural disasters are unpredictable. Whether it’s a storm, earthquake or other disaster, the impact on the surrounding area and the telecommunications infrastructure can have serious consequences for a small business. While there’s only so much you can do to prepare for and avoid the effects of a natural disaster, call center services can ensure your phone lines stay operational and your customers can reach your business.

In the best of times, call centers are professional and friendly points of contact for your customers. They handle phone calls so you don’t have to, whether that entails fielding common questions, taking orders or even conducting telemarketing campaigns. During a major disaster, call centers become an emergency lifeline, keeping your business in contact with its customers even while you’re scrambling to protect both your company and yourself as the natural disaster rages on.

How do call center services help your business operate during a natural disaster, and how do they stay operational under the same conditions? Better yet, how can they help you get back on your feet when the storm settles? Here’s a look at how call center services can help you during and after a natural disaster.

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for information to help you choose the call center that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners provide you with free information.

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The threat of natural disasters to small businesses

Natural disasters occur in many different forms in all geographies. Hurricane, tornado, earthquake or fire – no small business is immune to the fury of Mother Nature when it strikes. Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t think about the possibility of natural disasters or establish a business continuity plan, even though 40% of small businesses never recover once a natural disaster strikes.

From …

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An Ad's Environment Is as Important as What It's Selling

July 16, 2019


  • A recent study found advertisements viewed in high-quality mobile web environments performed 74% more favorably than the same ads in low-quality environments.
  • Customers are three times less willing to seek out brands that advertise with “unsavory content.”
  • Ads seen in conjunction with high-quality content have the capacity to generate “up to a 20% higher engagement rate and up to a 30% greater memorability” among subjects.

In the age of content creators and influencers, advertisers have had to adapt to fit the open-source nature of the internet, leading to some major growing pains. With an estimated 163 zettabytes of online content expected to be available by the year 2025 and smartphone adoption in the U.S. expected to pass 70% this year, a newly released study suggests that the content an ad is associated with, among other things, can influence how a brand is perceived by a potential audience. It’s a small study with potential for a big impact.

Released earlier today by Integral Ad Science, The Halo Effect: Ad Environment and Receptivity examined how an ad’s overall environment impacts people’s reaction to it. Researchers at Neuro-Insight used Steady-State Topography to monitor the brain activity of 50 people as they made their way through a simulated mobile experience. Eight “digital display (i.e., banner) creatives” from the automotive, consumer packaged goods, financial services, technology and retail industries were shown on four high-quality and four low-quality mobile web environments.

What researchers found as they watched the brain centers responsible for “positive and negative affinity” was that among the few people in this study, the tendency was to enjoy ads more when they were next to high-quality content and disliked them when the content wasn’t acceptable.

“This biometric research demonstrates that the quality of an ad’s environment has a dramatic impact on how people …

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'Homeshoring' Brings Call Centers and Customers Closer

July 16, 2019


The call center industry is famous for offshore outsourcing, sending jobs overseas to places like India or the Philippines. While outsourcing cuts costs for a call center, it often comes at the expense of customer satisfaction. Luckily, call center jobs have been returning to the U.S. in large numbers throughout the past decade, thanks in large part to a trend called homeshoring.

What is homeshoring?

Homeshoring is the process of using at-home agents to achieve both cost savings and a high level of customer satisfaction. Offshore outsourcing typically achieved the first objective but failed miserably at the second. Customers regularly reported language barriers or difficulty understanding agents’ thick accents. In addition, agents in other countries are not always subject to the same requirements as those in the U.S., raising concerns about security and privacy. To solve this problem, call centers employed technology to allow agents to work remotely.

Traditionally, call centers have been located in office buildings with hundreds of cubicles and buzzing phone lines. In the U.S., where workers tend to be highly educated and demand more pay to meet the relatively wealthy standard of living compared to much of the world, this setup was costing call centers a fortune. Hence, offshore outsourcing began in earnest. As technology developed, however, it became feasible to get the benefits of a domestic home-based agent – accent-neutral with a high level of education – at a fraction of the cost.

“The basic beauty of homeshoring is that you’re able to tap into a talent pool with individuals who are highly educated,” said Peter Hargittay, former vice president of marketing and sales operations at Arise Virtual Solutions, one of the companies that pioneered the homeshoring movement.

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for information to help you choose the call center that’s

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What to Look for in Your Credit Card Processing Service Contract

July 16, 2019


  • Businesses need to understand what is included in their credit card processing service contract.
  • Withheld funds, termination fees and equipment charges are among the things credit card processing service sales agents fail to tell businesses about.
  • Before signing a contract, businesses should have an unbiased consultant review it.
  • If there is something in the contract businesses don’t like, they shouldn’t be afraid to negotiate better terms.

Accepting debit and credit cards has become a must for businesses today. While consumers are far from abandoning cash altogether, credit and debit cards have become the most popular payment method for shoppers.

Research from the 2018 TSYS U.S. Consumer Payment Study revealed that 80% of consumers preferred paying with debit or credit cards, compared with just 14% who said cash was their preferred form of payment.

This data shows the importance of being able to handle credit card transactions and is the reason why so many businesses are employing credit card processing services to handle those needs.

While most credit card service providers will openly boast about their cheap rates, low fees and mobile options, there are other things they aren’t so forthcoming about. The problem many small businesses run into is that the fees and rates they end up being charged to accept cards from their customers are much higher than they thought they’d negotiated.

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for information to help you choose the credit card processor that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

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What to be aware of in the contract

Phillip Parker, a credit card services provider expert with CardPaymentOptions.com, says it is critical to have a full understanding of any credit card processing service contract you are signing and to always …

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How to Start a Podcast

July 16, 2019


Many of us have made the long commute to work more bearable by buffering the departure and arrival with a podcast or two. Some of us have compensated for the sense of isolation felt as new parents by consuming manageable chucks of podcasts during baby’s naptime. And who hasn’t tried to cut through the boredom – and worry – of waiting to see a doctor by losing themselves in a podcast? Podcasts can be sanity savers, informative, educational, inspiring or just plain fun. 

As a result of its versatility, this form of media has grown in popularity since its inception in 2005. In fact, today, there are some 750,000 active podcasts, with over 30 million episodes produced. Nearly 51 % of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast, up 7% from just last year. Listeners enjoy an average of seven shows per week, with 80% listening to all or most of each podcast episode. 

Given podcasts’ ability to attract and keep an audience, it’s no surprise that business owners, entrepreneurs, and marketers are looking to capitalize on the popularity of this medium. As a podcaster, you can position yourself as an authority in a particular topic or field, which will help you influence clients and customers in ways that encourage them to purchase your products and services, invest in your business, or promote you to their peers. And all of this can be done on the cheap, because in most cases, creating a podcast does not require a significant financial investment. 

Although you may be an expert in your industry, perhaps you are not quite sure where to start when it comes to creating your own podcast. To help you avoid common rookie mistakes, we spoke with experts to get advice and recommendations on how to get started. 

Here …

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