November 21st, 2014 by Leonard Klie

You knew it had to happen eventually.

Business social networking, collaboration, and file sharing is just too hot of an area now, and Facebook had been missing out on the opportunity, allowing companies like LinkedIn, Microsoft (Yammer), IBM (Connections), Salesforce (Chatter),  SAP (Jam), and Jive Software to carve out their own little niches of the market.

Well not any more. Word leaked this week that Facebook is working on a workplace networking system of its own. The product is reportedly in trials internally at Facebook and at several other companies and will likely be ready to hit the market in a few months.

The solution, called Facebook at Work, will let people communicate with their co-workers using the same tools that are the hallmarks of Facebook’s social media site. And if Zuckerberg and company can pull it off, it will be a major coup for Facebook.  On the consumer side, Facebook has already swallowed up the time and attention of more than 1.3 billion people (representing about 60 percent of the 2.1 billion people worldwide with Internet access). The pool of available ‘faces” was quickly running out, so Facebook is smart to look at other areas for growth.

Business users clearly represent an enormous opportunity. Though the service is expected initially be free of costs, and free of ads, that could change when and if Facebook at Work gains traction. Once the floodgates open and revenue from subscriptions, licenses, and advertising starts flowing in, world domination can’t be far behind.


November 20th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

IMG_5330 (1)The Salesforce Tour made a pit stop in New York City this week, setting up camp at the Javits Center on Wednesday. Marc Benioff was otherwise engaged so President and Vice Chairman Keith Block delivered the keynote. He wore much less entertaining shoes than Benioff probably would have, but headlined a solid keynote nonetheless. He couldn’t, however, compete with Mike Rosenbaum, executive vice president of platform at Salesforce, who delivered the new app-builder demo and got a case of Cokes delivered to the keynote hall by drone. But more on that later. Besides taking the “magic of Dreamforce” across the country, the purpose of the tour is to introduce Salesforce’s new Customer Success Platform and demonstrate “how this stuff actually works,” Block said. The six clouds that live inside of the Customer Success Platform have been under construction (and reconstruction) for some time now, and Block’s keynote address touched on key updates introduced for each one. Here are some of the standout highlights.

The Marketing, Sales and Service Clouds

These three are now deeply integrated with the Salesforce Social Studio, which leverages the best of what Radian 6 and Buddy Media have to offer, including advanced social listening and analysis. The integration also means a single sign-on for the entire cloud environment, and a more consistent UI as well. On the Service Cloud front, an SOS button can now be added to any app that users build, which makes it easy to get on-demand live support instantly. “Customers are just one click away from amazing customer service,” Linda Crawford, EVP & GM of the Sales Cloud, said.

The Apps Cloud

The Salesforce platform is now powered by Lightning UI which makes building apps a faster and more streamlined task, Rosenbaum said. It also comes equipped with Lightning Connect, which allows users to pull in data from outside of Salesforce i.e. Oracle and SAP. And here comes the drone story: The app-builder lets users pull in all kinds of features into apps, including augmented reality and, apparently, delivery by drone. Not only can a sales or service rep use AR technology within an app to show customers how a new product would physically appear at their location, but he or she can also have that product delivered by…you guessed it! Cue the drone! Salesforce knows how to put on a show; that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The Community and Analytics Clouds

Because they’re brand-spanking new, there’s not a whole lot to update here, but there are already a few improvements. For example, Block shared that within the Community Cloud, there are now both public and private communities, which brands like Home Depot are adopting. In Home Depot’s case, the public community is for consumers to share information and ask questions, while the private community is for contractors that work with Home Depot and need to communicate with the company (or with each other) internally. The Analytics Cloud continues to grow as well, with 45 new information and integration partners added this week. The most buzzed-about among the six pieces of Salesforce’s Customer Success Platform, the Analytics Cloud promises to “democratize analytics,” SVP Stephanie Buscemi told me. Check out my full video interview with Buscemi here.

November 13th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

In light of Kim Kardashian’s raunchy photo reveal yesterday, I can understand why marketers may now question her judgement when it comes to branding. Think what you will about her morals or about what she does with champagne in her spare time, but she’s done quite a few things right in building her brand. Her mobile game app, for example, earned Glu Mobile (the company that produced it) roughly $43 million as of the last quarter. And that isn’t a fluke.

In launching a mobile game, Kardashian has demonstrated that she recognizes the rapid growth of the mobile and gaming industries and knows how to monetize her image in those spaces.

Between 2009 and 2012, the U.S. video game industry grew by almost 10 percent, reaching roughly $6.2 billion. It’s growing four times faster than the entire U.S. economy, and mobile gaming is one of the main reasons for this change, CNET reports, citing new research from the Entertainment Software Association. The number of smartphone users worldwide is expected to reach 1.75 billion by the end of the year, eMarketer reports, and that means there are now a whole lot of people out there with tiny game consoles in their pockets.

Given the popularity of mobile games like Candy Crush and Doodle Jump, Kardashian’s move to mobile wasn’t entirely surprising, but it was smart. Kardashian, who worked closely with Glu Mobile to develop the premise and details of the game, didn’t just throw her image onto any old app. Rather, she zeroed in on the very thing that makes her so appealing to her fans–her sudden (and, as critics might argue, largely undeserved) rise to fame. She wasn’t an heiress like Paris Hilton, a pop artist like Britney Spears, or a movie star like Angelina Jolie; she was a smart, attractive woman with the right connections. In a way, she made celebrity seem more attainable, so naturally, her mobile game monetizes that concept; it’s all about getting famous and becoming a Hollywood star.

Trivial and amusing as it may seem to some, with $43 million earned in just three months, it’s probably Glu Mobile and Kardashian that are laughing now. The game has already proven itself to be a successful marketing tool, and the key is its freemium business model. Though the game is free to download, players spend real money on clothes, hair, photo shoots and virtual events. The object of the game is to become an A List celebrity, and the more players spend, the sooner it happens. Sound like a waste of money? Depends on who you ask. The bottom line is the game is a hit, and Glu Mobile should toast to that. They just need to make sure they don’t give the champagne to Kim, because who knows what she’ll do with it.

November 7th, 2014 by Leonard Klie

Despite positive results so far and plans to increase spending on voice of the customer (VoC) programs, companies are still struggling with taking action based on what they find, according to new research from the Temkin Group.

Less than one-third of companies rate their efforts as good or very good when it comes to “making changes to the business based on insights” and “reviewing implications that cut across organizations,” Temkin notes in its “State of Voice of the Customer Programs, 2014″ report.

“Customer feedback on its own is useless, but taking action based on what you learn is priceless,” Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group, wrote in the report. “Most companies are only scratching the surface on the potential value of these efforts.”

The study also reveals a significant change coming in VoC feedback channels during the next three years: Multiple-choice survey questions will give way to more open-ended questions and other mechanisms, including predictive analytics and customer interaction histories, will come into play.

For the third straight year, Temkin Group found that an overwhelming number of companies report that VoC programs deliver positive business results. Only 5 percent of large companies that were surveyed reported poor results from their VoC programs.

The positive results are fueling an increase in focus on VoC. More companies plan to increase than decrease their investments. The most spending momentum is with text analytics and software for collecting and distributing customer feedback. In both of these areas, more than 45 percent of firms plan to increase spending, while less that 5 percent are planning a decrease.

Temkin Group’s research also found that only 11 percent of firms have mature VoC programs. Not surprisingly, companies with more mature VoC programs have better overall business results, are much more active with analytics and mobile, and have significantly more VoC efforts and dedicated staff members.


November 6th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

Halloween is behind us, which means it’s basically time for Christmas, right? At least that’s how seeing Macy’s in Herald Square makes me feel every time I walk by it on my way to work. The decorations are going up, and consumers from all around the United States are getting started on their holiday shopping. Black Friday, a beloved shopping tradition for many, is just around the corner, but this year might be the start of something new.

According to IBM, for the first time ever, more than half of all online shopping traffic this Thanksgiving–53 percent–will come from a mobile device, an increase of 23 percent year-over-year. And really, I’m not surprised.

I’ve always been a fan of Black Friday deals, so when they started spilling over into Thursday night, I was almost temped to engage. But no, I thought to myself, I couldn’t break with family tradition and leave the table before the fifth course. It would be blasphemous, and my mother would probably disown me. And yet, the temptation overtook me, and I went to Macy’s last Thanksgiving. Suffice it to say, I’m not going back.

While the typical Black Friday crowd is determined, focused and prepared with pre-printed coupons and lists, the Thanksgiving night crowd is rowdy, grumpy, and unstructured. At one point, I was waiting in an unbelievably long line (I’m talking like 50 people) and asked the woman in front of me what the line was for. She had no idea, and neither did I. Yet we kept waiting. Turns out, Macy’s was selling Ugg-like boots at a 40 percent discount. When I realized I wasn’t in the market for those, I tried to leave the line, but it was impossible. People were squeezed in from all directions, and once the sales reps started tossing pairs of boots to people (albeit, gently), I knew I was out of my league. Eventually, I just gave up. The things I liked weren’t really on sale, and I ended up just sitting around waiting for my friend to purchase her perfume set, which came with a free umbrella.

As I waited, I started browsing on my phone to see if there were any good deals online. There were dozens of coupons and special offers in my inbox, many personalized based on my purchase history, so I started shopping. An item here, an item there, and I was finding great deals without all the shoving and yelling. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, I know. In fact, this is why mobile retail is growing as quickly as it is. It’s convenient, it’s more personalized, and it’s just better.

Long story short, this holiday season, retailers are going to have to try harder to get shoppers into stores, and I’m eager to see what how they’re going to accomplish this. In the meantime, here are a couple of other interesting sales trends to expect this holiday season, courtesy of IBM.

More Digital Coupons, Greater Savings for Consumers:  As consumers become more comfortable with digital couponing, IBM expects shoppers to cash in this holiday. Consumers will spend on average $123.28 per online order over the five-day holiday period, a decrease of 2.9 percent over 2013.  At the same time, however, shoppers will buy an average of 4.4 items per online order, an increase of 17 percent year-over-year.  

Retailers Give the Gift of Less Spam: As retailers use analytics to deliver much more personalized customer promotions, IBM predicts they will be rewarded with a 10 percent higher click-through rate for emails sent during the five-day shopping period.  The company also estimates that 35 percent of all click-throughs will happen on a mobile device.  The highest volume of emails is expected on Cyber Monday.

Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy:  Smartphones will continue to lead in mobile browsing over the five-day shopping period, accounting for 29 percent of all online traffic versus 15 percent for tablets.  However, IBM predicts tablets will account for twice as many mobile purchases than smartphones thanks to the larger screen size.

In-store Growth Led by Health and Beauty Gifts:  While online sales come of age, IBM also predicts strong offline performance with in-store sales growing four percent across November and December.  Health and Beauty products are expected to lead with 4.2 percent and 4.7 percent growth, followed by women’s clothing at 2.61 percent.


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