Archive for the 'Technology' Category

#BoysGotGame

February 26, 2014

Lulu, the new app that allows women to anonymously rank their Facebook beaus, Luluhas quickly risen to smartphone fame. In a single year, it has attracted a user-base of well over one million with more than 200 million profile views and countless praise from esteemed media outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Journal, Business Insider and NPR. With backing from acclaimed financiers such as Yuri Milner, an early investor of Facebook, Lulu is poised to reign the dating app world.

Beyond just a simple ratings scale of 1 to 10, women can give detailed, yet pointed descriptions of their exes, flings, and male friends using hashtags (e.g. #SilverFox, #CheaperThanABigMac), hence easing the dating woes (or boosting desirability) for subsequent unsuspecting women.

Co-founder and CEO Alexandra Chong explains, “[W]e get references for jobs… or renting an apt…. Why not get references from women on the guys that they may end up in bed with.” After a six-hour brunch with her girlfriends chatting up everything from careers to guys, Chong saw opportunity to tap into “girl talk” by creating a private space where they can share past experiences to “empower girls to make smarter decisions….”

https://i2.wp.com/57vje3fqw032jqgx93yq531jak.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/AlexandraChong-300x300.jpgInitially, marketing was geared towards sororities. One in four college women have the app, and average about 8 visits per week. This sparked a blaze that’s spread like wildfire among women in their 20s. But what’s really excited Chong has been the dynamic contributions of Lulu’s members. “… fifty-two percent of users create content. As you know in the social space that’s often unheard of. Typically the rule is 9-10%,” she tells Bloomberg TV’s Cory Johnson.

More than just piquing interest, user-generated content gives Lulu (and prince charmings) a huge advantage—credibility. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers worldwide rely on recommendations from friends and family, and 70% trust online reviews. Word-of-mouth is a tremendous driver for Lulu.

Lulu makes it easy for ladies to add their own two cents by inciting them to inhttps://i0.wp.com/www8.gmanews.tv/webpics/v3/2013/04/320_Lulu_homepage_24April2013.jpgteract with the app through Cosmopolitan-style quizzes and content. Chong tells Johnson, “For our users, it doesn’t feel like they’re doing much to give information.” She likens Lulu to a Wiki for girls. “The idea for us is to move beyond relationships and into health and to beauty and to all the things women care about. That has endless opportunities.”

Surprisingly, men are responding, well… favorably. In an article last November, The New York Times reported that Lulu had received over half a million requests from dudes who welcomed (read: braved) #feedback. One poor soul who had received a 6.5 score was a good sport, tweeting, “I can only assume this is on a scale of 1 to 5.” Um, sure.

BY ALLIE ABODEELY

3D Printing Puts the Means of Production in Your Hands

September 16, 2013

Bre Pettis, founder and CEO of MakerBot, sums up the company’s mission as “creating tools for creative explorers to change the world.” The Brooklyn-based 3D printer manufacturer, founded in 2009, has quickly made a name for itself in five short years. Along with drumming up press coverage in high-profile publications such as Fast Company, it was also recently acquired by industry peer Stratasys for $400 million.

Pettis

So, what exactly does MakerBot bring to the table? 3D printing capabilities have been around in some form for years with, e.g., laser cutters. What Pettis saw was a real need for a machine that not only produced physical objects from strands of melted plastic filament, but also provided a functionality that’s attainable for individual consumers – a major challenge as 3D printers have largely been the size of refrigerators and used for commercial purposes only.

Pettis took this obstacle in stride. A self-described “tinkerer,” he developed a passion for technology and problem solving at a young age. In a PJA Radio interview, Pettis says, “Because I was around programmers and hackers who were my heroes as a kid, when I was playing Wizardry, I learned [how to change the game]. I feel like I got a real leg up by having access to that technology. It’s a similar thing with the kids of today who grow up with MakerBots – [they] are just going to be able to manifest ideas that other kids won’t be able to.” Armed with an unconventional approach, Pettis, alongside some of the brightest engineers in the space, set about to bring to market a unique printer that prioritizes affordability and accessibility. Able to fit on a standard office desk and with a price point beginning at roughly $1400, MakerBot’s “Replicator” was a hit among engineers, researchers and designers. With over 13,000 MakerBot Desktop 3D Printers sold through to date, the company’s market share has steadily grown since 2009, from 16% to 21.6%.

Despite how both the company and the nascent 3D printing industry have evolved in the last few years, MakerBot continues to emphasize the community-driven approach it was founded on. In 2008, even before debuting their first Replicator prototype, Pettis and colleague Zach Hoeken launched Thingiverse.com, a hub specifically created to crowd source and share digital designs for hardware and software. In doing so, MakerBot preserves and celebrates openness of the industry, allowing entry to all innovative minds.

The cloud site now houses nearly 100,000 designs, ranging from simple toys and models to truly game-changing technology. In fact, MakerBot’s technology earlier this year enabled a South African man who lost several fingers in an accident to co-develop a 3-D printed prosthesis with a prop designer in Bellingham, Washington. News of the project spread and resulted in the pair developing a prosthesis for children with amniotic band syndrome (a condition in which they are born without hands) – at a fraction of the typical $10,000 price tag. Pettis points to this as what he predicts will be many real-world, transformative applications for 3D printing. “Literally, by owning the means of production, you are making some impossible things possible.”

Visit PJA Radio’s “The Unconventionals” to learn more about how Bre Pettis is innovating the 3D printing industry.

BY NANDITA RAY

Showrooming and the Rise of the Mobile-Assisted Shopper

September 13, 2013

Have you found a product you liked in a store, but then purchased it later online, or maybe on your smartphone right there in the store? If you answered yes, you are part of the “showrooming” phenomenon that has concerned retailers for years.

Given the growing penetration of the smartphone market, our Center on Global Brand Leadership, in collaboration with global loyalty experts from Aimia, sought to better understand how these new mobile-assisted shoppers (“M-Shoppers”) were actually using their devices in store aisles.

We are pleased to share with you today the results of this research in our new report, Showrooming and the Rise of the Mobile-Assisted Shopper. We surveyed 3,000 consumers in three markets (US, UK, Canada) to examine how smartphone owners use their devices in-store and then analyze what strategies retailers need to consider for these mobile-assisted shoppers.

Our study found that all M-Shoppers are not the same. We identified five unique segments of M-Shoppers, each with different attitudes toward physical stores, patterns of showrooming, and motivations to pull out their phone or tablet within a store. We uncovered some threats, but also several opportunities for retailers to strategically enable M-Shoppers to use their phones as part of the shopping experience.

DOWNLOAD the full report (.pdf) at: http://j.mp/Mshoppers

THEN JOIN US: On October 3, 2013 at 11-11:30am ET we will present a webinar on the research.

READ coverage of the report and its findings in Businessweek.

BY MATTHEW QUINT and DAVID ROGERS

The Evolution of Online Education and its Future Real-Life Applications

June 5, 2013

Once considered a threat to traditional higher educational institutions, online course offerings now seem to be a defining element in creating and maintaining a world-class reputation in the space. Speaking at the BRITE ’13 Conference, Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia University’s first chief digital officer, discussed how the growing demand for massive open online courses (MOOCs) is disrupting conventional thought around the school’s many programs.

PJA

There are several platforms in place already, including Harvard and MIT’s co-created platform edX, and for-profit providers Coursera and Udacity, with the landscape changing daily as colleges and universities around the globe explore digital learning models and test them in larger markets. This past April, Stanford University, a long-time advocate for open learning, struck an agreement to share its proprietary Class2Go platform with edX, GigaOm reported.

Despite the growing number of courses offered online and the increasing appetite for them, the sentiment around online degrees seems to be a different story. As discussed in a US News & World Report piece in late 2012, it is still unclear how far down the road major blue-chip organizations are from universally embracing job candidates with online degrees, although smaller organizations have begun to look more seriously at them. Similarly, many schools themselves have reservations – Columbia being one of them. Administration is reluctant to provide online MBA courses for full credit, stating that a large part of the experience happens on campus and in the traditional classroom setting. Given how quickly online ed has taken hold in the past year alone, Sreenivasan predicted more and more accredited institutions will likely begin to offer full-fledged programs.  He explained that the advancement of and increasing accessibility to technology would be a key driver in this space. Columbia, he pointed out, has been involved with online ed since the turn of the century, citing its Fathom project, a learning portal which ran from 2000-2003. He said that its failure to catch on was due to the fact that it was “ahead of its time” and needed people to catch up to, and be able to access, the innovation before it could succeed.

Whatever the challenges, Sreenivasan was adamant that any successful initiative would be rooted in Columbia’s commitment to its brand, claiming that ongoing exploration and testing of online courses would not detract from “the magic that happens in the classroom.” Instead, he expects to optimize how both the digital and physical classrooms operate. How? The same way other big businesses improve their product and services: data. Through the ability to offer classes to tens of thousands of students, educators are able to collect enormous amounts of information on how students interact with courses and online tools. From Sreenivasan’s perspective, it is only a matter of time before digital learning becomes mainstream.

Watch Sree Sreenivasan’s BRITE ’13 talk to learn more about his and other organization’s views on the future of online education.

BY NANDITA RAY

Small Experiments That Lead to Big Results: The Value of A/B Testing

May 29, 2013

The use of randomized experiments to determine the most effective marketing or communications approach – known as A/B testing – is an extremely valuable tool for companies aiming to make the biggest impact on key stakeholders. However, according to Pete Koomen, president of website optimization software company Optimizely, the method is not implemented nearly enough. At the BRITE ’13 conference, Koomen shared personal experiences to demonstrate the very real value that A/B testing can contribute to developing results-driven communications programs. The most compelling of his examples included the 2008 Obama presidential campaign and the countless tests its analytics team ran on www.barackobama.com website content and email subject lines. Koomen noted that even the slightest word phrasing could drive visitors to action (e.g., donating funds, signing up to volunteer). “It was an extremely powerful technique for [influencing] decisions,” he said. However, given the deep investment in time and resources needed for A/B testing, Koomen observed over time that companies tended to avoid using the technique – a fact that he and his business partner Dan Siroker quickly recognized as a major business opportunity.

Koomen

The success of the 2008 campaign spoke for itself. Koomen estimated that methodical experimentation accounted for roughly $75 million more in donations to President Obama’s campaign and 4 million new website registrants. These results motivated Koomen and Siroker, both former Google product managers, to found Optimizely in 2009. They created a simple program that even small and medium-size businesses could utilize without having to depend on specialized in-house talent to run experiments. Organizations with limited resources could take advantage of marketing tactics that Amazon and other major blue-chip companies have been using for years to increase traffic and user conversion.

At BRITE ‘13, Koomen shared some best practices and lessons learned from running over 100,000 tests for clients and identifying the most effective approaches for achieving business objectives. For the Obama campaign, this entailed what Bloomberg BusinessWeek called “strange, incessant, and weirdly over familiar e-mails” due to the unusual, extremely casual tone Obama’s team usedjourney to office in 2008. The fundraising team found that the most successful subject heading “Hey” alone brought in millions of dollars in funding.

A few things that Koomen recommends businesses keep in mind as they take stock of their websites’ performance are:

  • Define quantifiable success metrics. One of the most important parts of testing. As exemplified by the Obama campaign, Koomen states that the campaign staffers did a good job of attracting people to the official website, but turning the site’s visitors into subscribers had proved more challenging and converting email signups to paying donators even more so.  By tweaking the website to optimize those two KPIs – subscribers and payers – the new website outperformed the old version by about 40%.
  • Explore before you refine. Koomen cautions against refining and optimizing in favor of exploring first to ensure you are aware of all potential solutions before selecting one to improve.  Otherwise, there is a chance the best solution will be missed.
  • Less is more. Reducing optionality can have a major impact on a website’s effectiveness. Koomen cites a client which removed a series of links related to its product portfolio and company background from its shopping cart page and saw a 16% improvement in the dollars per visitor.

PJA

Watch Pete Koomen’s BRITE ’13 talk to learn more about how A/B Testing can drive greater communications effectiveness.

BY NANDITA RAY

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