Archive | September 2013

BRCK & Project Loon – Two approaches to get Africa connected


Recently I read an article about a crowd funded project named BRCK (pronounced as Brick) that wanted to create a solid way to provide internet to harder to reach areas such as the southern part of the African continent, where many projects have failed to provide internet due to the lack of infrastructure in many African countries. Another project that is currently trying the same is Project Loon, a very ambitious project that has been started by Google. In this blog-post I would like to introduce you to these two relatively new projects and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.

BRCK – Internet in a brick

BRCK first started as an idea to connect various areas in Africa to the internet. The founders of the project, all together under the name of Ushahidi, wanted to overcome several challenges that make it harder for areas in Africa to get connected. One of the main problems is the simple lack of a stable internet source. BRCK is able to connect to a lot of different internet sources like a simple ethernet cable, WiFi or Cellular Data (like 3G or 4G). Because of the capability to switch between these sources when required, it can form a much more stable source of internet. Together with this, BRCK runs on its own battery and can currently last up to 8 hours without recharging. In an e-mail conversation with one of the project managers, they indicated that the sun might be a reliable energy source for the BRCK in the future, making it even more suitable for those areas.


BRCK has some advantages but also some disadvantages that should not be overlooked.

Because of the capability of the BRCK to adapt to different internet sources, it can make use of any available source;
Project has already reached the target on Kickstarter (See source link);

  While BRCK provides a very reliable internet connection when one or multiple sources are available, it does require at least one source to be present;
  The energy source that is currently provided only lasts for 8 hours;
  Still relying on crowd funds.


Project Loon – Hot Air Internet

A while back Google announced a very ambitious project named Project Loon. Both pointing to the huge scale of the project (only a lunatic would be able to come up with something like this) and to the fact that they want to use hot air balloons to spread the internet. As Google explains in their Blog post about Project Loon, before Google many others have tried to use high-altitude platforms to provide internet to areas that currently do not have access and are hard to reach. They are now using the winds in the stratosphere (±20 km height) and solar power to control their balloons at high altitudes. Challenges they had to face were for example keeping the balloons in the right path around the globe. By using the solar power they can control the balloons, allowing them to change their altitudes and bring them in a wind that will bring the balloon(s) to the desired location. They also designed very complex algorithms to keep the balloons in the area where they want them to stay near.


Google has access to computing power, algorithms and has a good financial basis.
The balloons can cover large areas because of the height (20 km)

Is it really possible to send up enough balloons to provide solid internet? Many researches, scientists and even balloonists criticize Loon (see sources)
While Google has a very good financial basis to start the project, Google still is a commercial company, what is in it for Google?


There are a lot of different views on this subject and even within the different projects views about how to execute the project differ. Project Loon seems to have very good intentions but I doubt whether the project will make things better for the inhabitants of the continent. I suppose they have other things to worry about than their WiFi connection. BRCK seems promising in the way it tries to combine different internet sources to establish a reliable internet source, but as displayed it has the disadvantage that it still requires some internet source, while that is exactly the problem in some areas.

Your comments/views are welcome as always!


Meet BRCK: Internet for Africa (TED):
BRCK Kickstarter Project:
BRCK Official site:

Project Loon:
Official Google Africa Blog:
Loons Official Site:
Criticisms on Loon:




Vending machine personalizes your purchases

The days of inserting small change into a vending machine and watching how your bag of chips gets stuck on the way down may be history! A new innovative technology developed by SAP Hana, allows the customer to use his or her smartphone to purchase a product. The vending machine is provided with a sensor that connects with your smartphone application if you hold your device against this sensor.

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO so it all becomes clearer:



Using cloud technology the vending machine can personalize your purchase. Customers have to install the SAP Hana application on their smartphone and the cloud can easily identify the user and build a personal profile based on purchase history. Besides, customers can easily give feedback on their purchases and they can send gifts to their friends who also use the application.

This (in my opinion) ‘nice innovation’ can provide vendors with a lot of transaction and personal data that was not possible before. However, one has to take into account that this kind of application takes its risks regarding privacy violations due to the storage of sensitive personal data.

How do you fellow BIMmers think about this application? Would you use it?


Vending Machine Uses Cloud Technology to Personalize Your Purchases. 2013 [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 September 2013].

The Online Corner Store

Presently I am working at Oxolutions B.V. and one of my projects is relevant to last week’s topic about B2C E-commerce.

Problem statement

More and more retailers are hit by the economic crisis. Disposable incomes fall, a growing group of people prefer online shopping and the big grocery stores are constantly lowering their product prices. A possible outcome for the small retailers is to start an online store to offer their products. A lot of retailers we spoke are not capable of doing this. They often do not have the knowledge, time and budget to start an own web shop. We also spoke to some retailers who are capable of doing this, but these retailers indicate that an online competition against the big grocery stores is completely hopeless. De small retailer’s possibilities are limited and currently they are finding themselves in heavy weather.



This figure shows the heavy weather mentioned above. We can see a constant decline of the retailer’s revenue and sales volume in the years 2010 till 2013. De blue lines represent the average change of revenue made by the retailers. The orange lines represent the average change of sales volume sold by the retailers.

The Online Corner Store

Oxolutions B.V. tries to provide a solution to the problem mentioned above. We developed an online platform, which looks and feels like a web shop, for the small retailers. Every small retailer who participates in a certain shopping mall is allowed to use this platform to offer their products.

By doing this, the retailers create an online shopping mall were consumers use one platform to shop at different shops at one time. The products offered are not only groceries but also products like clothes, daily food, pies, home accessories, shoes and so on. This offers the costumer to  order their products of their favorites local shops online. When visiting the website, customers can select their own shopping mall on a digital map. The online shops are branded with the same logos and using the same recognizable colors as they use in the physic shopping mall. All Orders are collected during the day. At the end of the day, retailers drop off their orders at a central point from where distribution to the customer takes place.


The first benefit is that. By combining forces, retailers are able to go “online” so that they can participate in the growing online market. The second benefit is that customers are able to buy their products online from their well-known local retailers.


At this moment Oxolutions B.V. faces a few obstacles. The first obstacle is the delivery process.

The delivery of all kinds of products, like shoes, , frozen food and fresh products is a big challenge when your goal is to keep the quality at a high level and the shipping costs down. At the moment Oxolutions is in negotiation with various pizza-couriers and retailers, to overcome this obstacle. The second obstacle is the start-up of the project. Retailers only want to take effort to put their products online if the platform really generates customers. On the other hand customers will only visit the platform if the platform is filled with products from all the retailers and when a variety of products can be bought online.



Apple the new #1

Today, Interbrand posted the new top 100 of Best Global Brands 2013 in which they determined brand value based on financial performance, the influence the brand has on consumer choices and the strength of the brand has to require a premium price. For the first time in thirteen years there is a new leader. Apple, not surprisingly, became the most valuable brand in the world, taking over the top position from Coca Cola after thirteen years. Interbrand estimates the value of Apple at $98,3 billion; this is 28% more than in the 2012 report. Apple is haunted by the #2 on the list, Google, with an estimated brand value of $98,2 billion (a raise of 34% compared to last year). With these figures I can’t wait for next year’s list to see whether Apple will be able to maintain its top position.

To see the whole list, take a look at:

According to Interbrand “Every so often, a company changes our lives, not just with its products, but also with its ethos. This is why, following Coca-Cola’s 13-year run at the top of Best Global Brands, Interbrand has a new #1—Apple.”

To give an example, our lives changed due to the introduction of the iPad just a few years ago. I think no one can argue against the fact that Apple has become a very powerful brand in the world. Due to a great reputation Apple has been able to deliver high quality products and reduce seller uncertainty leading to higher price premiums. New product launches are very successful as we can see by the amount of people sleeping in front of Apple stores, nights before they can acquire the new product (e.g. iPhone 5). All they want is a product that fits their needs instead of focussing on finding products for the best price.

When I look at the top 10 of most valuable brands, I find it not at all surprising that 5 companies are technology brands. Tech brands continue to dominate Interbrand’s Best Global Brands report, the consultancy firm said in a press release, “underscoring the fundamental and invaluable role they play in consumers’ lives.” Technology is a dominant factor in our everyday lives and so will be the technology firms. I think the fierce competition among technology firms will lead to another top 10 next year. Consumer preferences will continue to change even faster in the future challenging firms. Successful firms (not only technology firms) will stay focused on producing what consumers are seeking for so they can benefit frim price premiums and generate more profits.

What do you think? Will Google become next year’s number 1 or is Apple capable to maintain its #1 position? And what about the fact that so many tech brands are in the list, is this a trend that will continue in the future? What should Coca Cola for example do to become the #1 again?

Future will tell us!



The Rise of the MOOC

One exciting IT-driven development of the last few years has been the emergence of the MOOC in the educational sector. When considering the possible implications that such a ‘Massive Open Online Course’ could have on the educational sector, I’m starting to fear that I am part of the last generation that physically attends classes on a regular basis. Visions of future students getting tanned on a Bahama beach while simultaneously being taught by an Ivy League dream team have been tormenting my mind ever since I started to read into the topic. Undoubtedly this is just the result of an unfounded overestimation of the MOOC potential – about time to regain my mental peace by assessing the future of the MOOC.

The MOOC is a fairly recent development in ‘distance education’ that allows people to enroll in an interactive online course. A good example of a MOOC-providing service is Edx, which is created by Harvard and MIT to provide students from around the world with the best of higher education ( The Major MOOC providers (Coursera, Edx, Udacity) generally aim to improve the accessibility of high education and the sharing of knowledge by creating a knowledge platform related to specific topics. The ultimate goal is to create academic communities for students and professors, who share knowledge through both traditional and technology-based course materials. A decent MOOC is therefore interactive; it should go beyond filming and uploading lectures.

Will MOOCS transform the educational sector dramatically? So far, the academic world has embraced the MOOC emergence enthusiastically. An increasing number of universities announced partnerships with the above mentioned major MOOC providers. At this moment, more than 1.5 million people have registered for classes through either Edx, Coursera or Udacity (, and this number is still growing. The number of people actually finishing a course, however, is considerably lower: about 90% fails to get a course certificate (Parslow, 2013:1). According to Parslow, lack of motivation is the main contributor to this high dropout rate. Participants feel isolated; they miss individual attention. This is probably one of the reasons why some feel that MOOCs were 2012’s big educational hype.

Yang (2012) describes the development of MOOC’s along the line of a typical hype cycle: the technology received a lot of media attention right from the start, initiating a hype that reached its peak late 2012. After a while, too much had been said about the topic and people got tired of MOOC’s, or at least not as excited about them as in the beginning. Yang asks himself the question whether or not we should still care about MOOCs, now that we are on the other side of the hype cycle. The importance of accessible education for people all  over the world leads him to think we should: MOOCs might have an important part to play in improving worldwide affordable, high quality education.

At this point, the future of MOOCs is unclear. The technology has already improved accessibility to education, but the lack of personal attention and control seem to seriously hinder massive (future) adoption. All and all, I’m inclined to think that the MOOC technology lacks the disruptiveness to transform the entire educational industry – such a pity for Bahamas Air.



Parslow, G.R., 2013: ‘Commentary: Massive Open Online Cources’, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education


Yang, 2012:

Social media marketing in Rotterdam: How these companies do it right.


If you live in Rotterdam, chances are that you’ve heard about the quote “010 isn’t just a code”. And if you pay attention when you’re outside, you will notice the long line of guys standing outside of barbershop Schorem before they open. Nultien kleding has 45.000 likes on Facebook, where Schorem has 73.000 likes. For comparison, bigger companies like de Bijenkorf (360K), Coolblue (150K), Albert Heijn (172K) and (326K) only have three to four times as much likes. Why are these two small companies so successful?

Nultien kleding (010 Clothing) is a small clothing company that started out as a webshop. They sell t-shirts and hoodies with a quote or picture that is related to Rotterdam. They currently have a webshop and one small shop in Rotterdam. Schorem is a barbershop located at the Nieuwe Binnenweg in Rotterdam. They run a 1950’s style barbershop, where only men are allowed inside.

Mangold and Faulds state that people are more likely to communicate through both word-of-mouth and social media when they are engaged with the product, service or idea. This is exactly what these two companies do right. People in Rotterdam are proud of their city and want to express this in some kind of way. Nultien kleding satisfies this desire by designing clothes with which the customer can express himself as a “proud Rotterdammer”. Same goes for Schorem. They are a no-nonsense barber. You can’t make an appointment, woman aren’t allowed in the shop, you can choose from only a few different haircuts and you get a cold beer while you are waiting. Apparently, this was what lots of guys were missing. Waiting times of 4 hours are common. Not because of the haircut, but because of the feeling of being a men.

Another factor for succes that the authors identified is that you should provide exclusivity. This is because people like to feel special. Nultien kleding and Schorem retweet tweets of their customers. Schorem invites people via Facebook for a free haircut by a barber in training. Nultien kleding had a promotion where customers could win a 100 Euro gift certificate by making photos of 010-billboards and tweeting them. These are all ways to make the customer feel special.

Kaplan and Haenlein state that you have to pick the platform to use wisely. You can’t use all social media platforms. It is important to allign these platforms and use them in the right way. Schorem uses Facebook mainly for telling longer stories and posting media, Twitter for short announcements and Instagram for professional photo’s of their barbershop. Same goes for Nultien kleding. Both companies use only a few social media platforms and use them in the right way.

I personally think the most important dimension about social media marketing is being social itself. Kaplan and Haenlein identify five factors about being social, namely; be active, interesting, humble, unprofessional and honest. I think the two companies did exactly what the authors of the article found out. They post new content every day. Sometimes a story on Facebook, a retweet or a picture on Instagram. They tell interesting stories, because they know what their customers would like to hear and actually listen to what they have to say. They communicate in a way which the customers understand and don’t tell lies.

What do you think? What is the driver behind the succes of these two companies? I would really appreciate your opinions on this case. Of course, ther feedback is always welcome.

Bart Mol


“Social media: The new hybrid element of the promotion mix” W. Glynn Mangold, David J. Faulds.

“Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media” Andreas M. Kaplan, Michael Haenlein.

Digital Magzine Ads – new direction for advertisement

In this decade, digital magazine emerged with the portable and digital trend results from mobile personal devices (tablet, iphone, etc.). Digital magazine user amount follows the geometric growth. According to MPA (magazine media factbook, 2012), “the number of iPad apps for U.S. magazines has increased more than ten-fold since iMonitor™ started tracking publication-related apps in April 2010”. The advertisements embedded in digital magazines started to attract companies’ attention. For prediction of digital magazine ads market, please refers to:

But how digital magazine ads utilize IT to distinct from traditional printed one and other e-advertisements? This blog will roughly excavate the 3 crucial characteristics of digital magazine ads.

1. Multimedia content

Digital magazine ads typically insert video/BGM/audio which linked from internet, provides the reader a more completed access to the ads’ content and superior experiences and excitements.



2. Interactive and reader-controllable

Differ from traditional one-way delivered style of print advertisement, digital magazine ads are carefully designed to enable the interactions between ads and readers.

Readers could tab on the content they interested in for more information, tab on the link to directly visit related website (which outside of the magazine), sign up for opt-in emails/newsletters, entering content (e.g. for questionnaires) and so forth. Ads can jump out from the page size limit to enriching content through, for instance, listing out only tiny photos for different products, user can tab to view detail information about the product if they interests. Ads providers can even be authorized to post mini game to improve customer engagement.



Besides the interactive property, controllability is another competency that digital magazine ads own, which provide a superior user experiences. As mentioned before, readers can explore the contents they are in favor of via interactions. Nonetheless, they are also allowed to skip the content they feel unattractive by avoiding tabbing, for example, play button of a video, links, or just slide vertically – at present, it is not surprised to see a digital magazine page can be slid both vertically (for more information about this page) and horizontally (to the next page).

3. High pertinency

At last, digital magazine ads inherit strength from printed magazine ads namely high pertinence. The source of high pertinency is, readers select magazine by themselves, different magazines vary from themes, this provides a direction for ads provider to choose the most effective magazine for them. Nevertheless, digital magazine ads leverage this strength by analyzing electronic statistics and feedback according to reader’s reading behaviors. Therefore, magazine publishers and ads providers can continuously improve the accuracy and quality of ads.

Here are some interesting facts about digital magazine advertisement:

  • Ÿ   Reader engagement with a digital interactive magazine (82%) is more than four times greater than with a website of similar content (18%).
  • Ÿ   Of all forms of electronic advertising, interactive magazine ads have the least negative impact on the reader experience — more than 7 in 10 find display ads in digital magazines less intrusive than banner ads; 8 in 10 see them as “easier to read,” “inviting” and “more fun.”
  • Ÿ   58% of digital magazine readers read their edition the same day it arrives.
  • Ÿ   60% of digital consumer magazine readers go to an advertiser’s website and 55% tried a new product or idea presented in their digital edition.


Technology and Self-Control

In his best-selling book Predictably Irrational [1], Dan Ariely made an important point about procrastination: Everyone does it, but some people simply apply smarter methods of self-control. For all those who would like to get more things done, here are some helpful apps to keep you on track!

stickK is a website that allows you to set up a commitment contract for any goal you want to reach (quit smoking, lose weight, finish your thesis in time) and include incentives for yourself, e.g. fines that you will have to pay for breaking the contract. In addition, you can select a referee for monitoring your progress to make sure that you report everything truthfully. The website was launched by a group of professors from Yale who recognized the difficulty that most people have with self-control and came up with a scheme that makes it easier to follow through on commitments. The results so far look promising:


If you would simply like to study for a few hours without any distractions, try Steve Lambert’s app SelfControl (Mac only) which allows you to block your access to certain websites. The best part: even after deleting the app or restarting your computer, you will not be able to access the blacklisted sites until the time runs out.

Let me know if you use these apps (or similar ones) and how it works for you!


[1] Ariely, D, 2008. Predictably Irrational, Harper Collins.
[2] Picture:

Team 16 – Technology of the week (5): DesignCrowd vs. Threadless


With the emergent electronic markets, it is very common to create a product for a company or a consumer whom could be a thousand kilometers away. The development of information technology contributed greatly to the rise in these electronic market. Information technology reduced time and costs, which created all sorts of new trends such as crowdsourcing.

In our technology of the week report we would like to introduce two companies that revolve around the phenomena of crowdsourcing.

The first company is DesignCrowd. DesignCrowd provides an online platform for other companies which are looking for any form of design, the community of 141.235 designers will create the input. The creator of the best design will get a financial reward. Designcrowd operates in a B2B-market, linking companies to free-lance designers with an industry consortia form. (

Our second company is Threadless. Threadless gives designers the opportunity to create clothes designs. The community decides which designs are the best and then Threadless decides to print them and put them in the shop. Consumers can buy the clothes and the designer gets financially compensated. Threadless operates in a B2C-market using co-creation design and a platform to create their items opposed to Designcrowd.

Threadless and DesignCrowd both use crowdsourcing for their business models, but the way they do so is very different. Whereas Threadless sells shirts directly to its customers and uses the crowd for designing their shirts, Designcrowd is an intermediary allowing companies to find designers. They use the crowd to deliver the most fitting design to a company at lower cost. However, both companies are extremely dependent on the crowds input.

Becoming a designer in the electronic markets nowadays is easier than ever. Are you ready to design and be judged by the crowd?

The age of not owning: they give us everything, we leave with nothing


Although people are now more than ever making use of online webshops for their purchases and companies are going online to grasp the potential of ecommerce, there is another business model that is becoming even more important in our day-to-day lives. Just like me, you probably use Spotify for your music, watch Youtube videos occasionally and might even have tried Netflix since it launched in the Netherlands. And if you’re creative, you might use Photoshop and noticed that this service moved to a subscription-based system.

What do Spotify, Youtube, Netflix and Adobe have in common? They have all started to rent their goods. The price may not even be high, that’s not the point, but we’ve come to live in an age of not owning. Where is the time when we had shelves from IKEA solely for storing our DVD’s and CD’s? Nowadays nobody has them anymore. Instead, consumers are moving away from buying music and movies towards streaming and everybody seems happy with this convenience. But I think it’s an illusion to view this as the perfect solution, when in fact it is a trap the world has started to embrace, when in the end we get nothing in return.

Just think of Spotify; you think that you have a music collection, with your own music playlists and even your local songs of your computer are imported. In a way you do have a music collection, but what if Spotify decides to increase the monthly subscription amount each month or even worse; decides to stop this service, or goes bankrupt. Then all ‘your’ songs would be gone, you may even have spent 100 euro’s of monthly subscriptions for it, when you do not even own the songs, you merely rented them. Also while paying for it; you were limited to syncing your Spotify account with only three devices.  It may seem okay to pay some money for an almost unlimited music library, but the consequences when it ends are disappointing.

Subscribing to digital content is still a fairly new business model, and I think that users are still trying to find out what it means to lease digital content and whether it is an investment that is worth it for what you get in the long term. But as things are going more digital content is moving to this business model; e.g. Oyster is a new application for books, and newspapers are setting up a paywall that let’s you view all content available online when paying a fee.

In other words: Do you think it’s worth it? Or do you prefer ‘the old way’ of buying and owning your digital content? And will this be a trend that is here to stay?


Caroline Massart



A to B? Has never been this convenient!

What is the most stressful situation of your day? Getting a shower? Drinking coffee? No, we think for many of you it is getting from A to B. For the technology of the week, we analyzed two techniques making commuting more convenient and less stressful. TomTom Live Services provides accurate, comprehensive and frequent traffic information, and better road coverage compared to other traffic solutions. As soon as an accident or other delay is found on the route, TomTom alerts the motorist and can re-route to an alternative, faster route. Subsequently, the idea of the iNStApp is to inform passengers real-time with the occupancy level of trains. The different occupancy rates in the compartments are indicated with green, yellow or red LED screens at the stations. Moreover, one can see the features of different compartments, such as wheelchair entrances, WIFI network or a silence compartment. The functionalities of iNStApp will be integrated with the already existing NS Reisplanner Xtra App, which displays current travel information.

TomTom LS and NS iNStApp are both technologies providing real-time information to travelers. We can deduct that people have to make a decision regarding which technology they use, depending on which type of transport they use. If the technologies have an effect on the type of transport a person chooses, it means that the two are competing . TomTom competes normally with many other companies, while NS enjoys a more monopolistic market. Also, the type of device the technologies are available on. TomTom LS is offered on a separate TomTom device, and is available on mobile devices, through apps. The iNStApp can be accessed with supported iOS’s, but even without one, thanks to the LED screens at stations that offer the real-time information, making iNStApp to some extent easier to use. Lastly, where for TomTom the consumer will have to pay, iNStApp is a free service. To conclude, as stated, the techniques are designed both beneficial to commuters and the organizations. Customer satisfaction will rise by providing real-time journey information and organizations will gather vast amounts of data. As a result, management of TomTom and NS can base their decisions on real data commuters data instead of the HiPPOs.

NS iNStApp explained:

TomTom Live Services explained:

McAfee, A., & Brynjolfsson, E. (2012). Big data: the management revolution.Harvard business review, 90(10), 60-66.
Wokke, A. (2013, 2 4). NS-app laat realtime drukte in treinen zien. Used on 9 24, 2013, from Tweakers:

Technology of the Week: Team 14

Omni-channel Retailing



Recently, a new business term has been appearing more and more in ecommerce blogs, forums and social media: omni-channel retailing. Although regarded as a buzzword by sales experts a couple of years ago, it is now a “must-have” competitive advantage for retail companies that operate in multiple channels (store, internet, social networks, mobile, catalogue), as users don’t want to see different, indistinguishable channels during their shopping experience but rather they seek a unified solution to meet their demands. Omnichannel retailing promises to refine the shopping procedure, meld the advantages of physical stores with the information-rich experience of online shopping and let customers move seamlessly among retail environments, as if they were one.


The following animation illustrates and captures the essence of the omnichannel approach:


But the question is : why should retailers invest money and time in converging their existing channels using the omnichannel approach? According to studies, the omnichannel shopper spends on average 3.5 times more with retailers than someone using just one or two channels. Furthermore, an “Omni-shopper” is very well informed, knows exactly what her needs are and most importantly, she exhibits strong loyalty and is more likely to influence others to endorse a retailer. Within 5 years, it is predicted that about 80% of retail purchases will be heavily influenced by omnichannel activity.

With that in mind, retailers might need to consider the following strategies in an effort to provide a unique and fluid experience to customers:

  • Synchronize all channels into a common database. In that way, discrepancies between different channels’ prices, stock amounts, availability of products, promotions etc. can be avoided.
  • Give flexibility in customers’ buying options. For instance, a customer shall be able to check the inventory by the store, buy the product online and finally, pick it from a specific location.
  • Create incentives for different departments to share data.
  • Install quick pick-up counters inside the brick-and-mortar for online purchasers.
  • Unite e-commerce and retail channel under one leader.

Apparently, the evolution towards an integrated physical, digital, mobile and social shopping experience is just starting. For that reason, retailers will have to adapt to the new strategy and innovate if they don’t want to lose market share and be left behind the competition.

What about you? Have you found yourself in a position where you used a multi-channel approach to buy a product? Do you think that companies should invest on that strategy?



Click to access 2013_XChannel_rpt_RSR.pdf

Team 13 – Technology of the week (5): smarter bidding

Did you ever buy something on eBay? Then you might know finding the right item for the right price can be quite a hassle. Everything in our world gets smarter; can our online bids also become smarter?

eBay is the largest online marketplace at the moment, and therefore it is not strange that given the topic of this week, – e-markets and auctions – the technology in this blog has something to do with eBay. Since mobile is big at the moment, the focus here is on mobile apps. The ones that are introduced and compared are ‘Myibidder’ and ‘Pocket auctions for eBay’.

Pocket auctions for eBay is a free app that provides a handy shortcut to use eBay more efficiently. Search becomes easier and smarter, by for instance offering a feature in which you can scan barcodes, which the app then finds on eBay. Another handy aspect is that you can get warnings when you are outbid and you can receive notifications when the bid is nearly closed. The downsides? For one, it is only available for android. Myibidder on the other hand is available on other platforms as well, though this app usually is not available for free. The niftiest feature of this app is that it can ‘snipe’: you pick an item you want, you place your maximum bid and the app does everything for you! It does so by placing the bid seconds before the bid ends. The risk of losing the item is higher, but if you win you got it at the lowest possible price. An advantage of Pocket auctions over Myibidder is that it gives much more information about the items, meaning product uncertainty is lower.

Which app would you choose? Either will make your online auction experience smarter!

Team 13
Session 5

Technology of the Week Team 15: versus Airbnb

Want to go on holiday? Instead of visiting an archaic travel agency (80/90s style), consider diving into an online auction where you might bargain your way into a luxurious 5-star hotel in Manhattan, New York City. Or stay at someones mansion in Kenya and take care of the giraffes in the backyard.


The former, applies a B2C business model offering exclusive hotels to offer up their otherwise vacant rooms on an anonymous basis, whilst the latter applies a C2C business (or, collaborative consumption – Botsman & Rogers, 2010) model offering consumer a means to earn some additional income whilst away from home themselves.

The anonymous feature of implies a higher level of uncertainty than normal for consumers in exchange for a lower price, i.e. the option to trade down, whilst still being relatively certain preferences (location, star-rating etc.) are fulfilled. Also, organisational learning is applied. Airbnb basically offers all available information, including house rules set by the host, reviews of hosts about guests and vice versa (word-of-mouth). Prices are fixed but fellow consumers can find something fitting their preferences in detail. A simple comparison: uses the information provided by consumers to search their database and find the consumer a match to bid on; Airbnb uses the information provided by consumers to offer a complete list of potentials where even more lodge-specific information can be found and allows the consumer to make up his/her own mind. However, both businesses aim to offer a solution to properties that would otherwise be vacant and have disrupted the hospitality-industry, offering consumers increasingly more options to choose from. In other words, the buying power of consumers has increased.

So, how would you book your holiday?


Key insights from ShoppingToday, an event about future trends in e-commerce

At ShoppingToday, an e-commerce event about the latest trends in online retail, online travel and finance, various interesting insights were given to offline and online retailers.  

First, Cor Molenaar, Professor of eMarketing at Erasmus University, discussed the importance of disruption and emphasized that retailers should not fall behind on the latest trends. According to Professor Molenaar, the future of online retailing will be in mobile websites (not in apps!) and therefore all retailers should create a mobile website as soon as possible. In addition, he explained how physical shops will become important again as online retailers are now starting to work together with local shops to provide one-hour delivery (eg eBay Now). Consequently, he urged online retailers to start thinking about ways to improve their delivery times, potentially by integrating their physical stores with their websites.

Second, PriceWaterhouseCoopers discussed future trends and technologies. According to PWC, five key trends can be identified:

  1. Big Data and Analytics:  Gathering and analyzing customer data and providing the customer with interesting offers at the purchase decision
  2. Internet of Things: Being connected 24/7 by means of a smartphone
  3. Digital Payment: eg Google Wallet and eBay’s Paypal
  4. Digitalization of the shopping experience: Currently we are still talking about multi-channel shopping, while retailers should offer the customer a ‘one-channel experience’, in which offline and online channels become fully integrated
  5. Digitalization of products and services: How music, movies and books have become digitalized, many more categories will follow

Last, Edwin de Jong, 21-year old founder of, and, elaborated on his success story. Indeed, quite remarkably, nearly three years after having founded his business, Edwin already holds over 1% of the bicycle market. His business model is focused around drop shipping. Drop shipping is a supply chain management technique in which retailers deliver goods from the manufacturer directly to the customer. Thus, the retailer does not own inventory. It took Edwin three years to successfully set up this technique.

His key insights:

  1. Founders should not be too emotionally involved with their business. Indeed, Edwin explained that he did not have any affection for bikes nor for webshops. Yet, he saw an opportunity within the bicycle market and consequently acted upon this opportunity
  2. It is worth investing in a domain name. Domain names can be quite expensive, but one has to make a tradeoff between paying a high cost-per-click (CPC) in Google Adwords, and investing in a domain name. ( apparently cost over 50.000 euros, while the CPC for ‘fiets’ is 1 euro)
  3. Startups should advertise effectively. For his webshops, Edwin uses affiliation, (the Dutch eBay), Google Adwords and makes sure that potential customers can find him on Google (SEO).

My personal key insights from ShoppingToday

  1. Big Data is the future
  2. If you want to start up your business, just do it!

Mireille (311069)

Pay-as-you-go Personal Assistants

After reading the articles about electronic market places and auctions for the upcoming session and thinking about the business solution we have to come up with for Designing Business Applications, I started to think about how we make and create business around us. ‘Apps’ are entering the market place on a daily basis; people manage to come up with ‘solutions’ where some people did not even know a ‘problem’ existed. Thus, we are not always using information (i.e. disgruntled people) to come up with solutions. As technology is within reach for most of the developed world, many of the proposed solutions are technical in nature.

However one can also create a business by letting people tell them about their problems, instead of making them up ourselves. is an example of such a business. This Dutch company basically acts as a temporary employment agency. Or, put in terms of the upcoming lecture: Fetch has created an electronic marketplace for personal assistants. People can come up with the most bizarre requests; Fetch will scour its pool of PAs and find someone to do the job. Look at the request of the week below:


For non-Dutch speakers: someone lost his/her keys in a drain in front of their house while in a hurry. They requested Fetch to send someone to dig for the keys, lock the bike and leave the keys on a table as the person in question had to go to work.

This way, Fetch simply sits back and waits whilst people inform them about their hitch. Customers mention in detail what they wish Fetch to do and the company selects someone from their pool able to do the job (they also have people skilled in plumbing, (house) repair work or willing to book your concert or flight tickets). Using social media and word-of-mouth, Fetch manages to use technology to create a very low threshold for people to approach them with their (often bizarre – check out the other “request of the weeks” on their Facebook) problems. Besides, having an actual PA is simply too posh in the down-to-earth Dutch culture. Also, people know exactly what they want Fetch to do and thus provide the firm with detailed information, leaving less room for errors.  So, would you pay someone to FETCH your problem?

WANTED: Acknowledgement

Social media and mobile phones changed the world. We are the first generation that finds it normal to talk to 10 different people in 10 different countries at the same time while walking to school. Being able to do this is quite amazing, but at what price?

In Marc Maron’s: The ‘social’ media generation the author shows a dark side of mobile social media (see link below). He specially points out the emotionally unhealthy attachment we have to social media. The reason for this attachment is the need of acknowledgement that people have.

Need for acknowledgement is in human nature and as children we are always looking for it from our parents, or the people close to us.  But with the introduction of social media, the whole world is close to us. This means that our need for acknowledgement grows from our inner circle to the whole world.

Looking for acknowledgement is an intensive process, and it means that we are always looking at our phones to see what those 10 different people in 10 different people have to say to, and about us.

According to the author this results in an unhealthy addiction which he depicts in his own way in his comic.

Shopping for groceries? Just go online, order and pick up!

It is something we do every week and you simply can’t avoid it: shopping for groceries. After all, eating and drinking are one of the primary necessaries and the products you need to fulfill these needs have to be purchased. We are used to walk or drive to a supermarket, take the shopping cart or basket, zigzag through the store to collect the products you want. Arriving at the checkout, we are often faced with one of our biggest annoyances: long queues [1].

Anno 2013 shopping for groceries hasn’t changed a lot, but that doesn’t mean there are no developments in this area. For example major grocery stores such as Costco in the USA have tried to introduce self-checkout lanes, enabling customers to do the checkout themselves. But after a period of testing, the company decided to eliminate self-service checkout from all their stores. According to Costco’s CEO Craig Jelinek “they are great for low-volume warehouses, but we don’t want to be in the low-volume warehouse business”. He believes human cashiers are more efficient in doing the ‘checkout-job’. At the same time, competitor Wal-Mart was adding 10,000 self-service checkout systems to stores [2].

A new trend among grocery stores can be identified: e-commerce. Two new ways of shopping for groceries have emerged: delivery-at-home and self-pick-up online shopping. I will briefly introduce both concepts.

Delivery-at-home online shopping is already a well-known concept in e-commerce. Often referred to as click-and-mortar, companies start a webshop to allow customers to order products online and deliver the products at the customers’ homes. An example of this concept is, an initiative of Koninklijke Ahold NV. Founded in 2002, it is the online variant of grocery store Albert Heijn (AH) which provides customers with the ability to order their groceries online and have them collected and shipped to their homes by the company. Recently, AH updated its mobile shopping-assistant app ‘Appie’, expanding the features of the app with order and delivery functions [3].

Self-pick-up online shopping is quite a new concept in e-commerce, allowing customers to order their products online and pick up the orders at a near pick-up point. This concept was implemented by AH too. Pick-up points provide customers with the benefits of choosing a preferable timeslot and location to pick up their groceries. The service is an easy and fast way of getting your groceries, but above all: it’s free-of-charge [4].

The latest development in self-pick-up online shopping is, a new distribution concept in which consumers order groceries online and collect them at an automated distribution point. These distribution points – the first one being opened today in Eindhoven – look like drive-in checkouts without payment facilities (because payments are done online). After ordering the groceries online, customers receive a QR-code which they need to scan at one of the drive-in checkouts in order to collect the parcel with their ordered groceries. Groceries ordered on before 10pm can be collected from 10am the next day [5].

I think the concept of is very interesting, mainly because of the time savings. What do you think of this concept?


Is the end of ‘Please stow all electronic devices’ near?

Is the end of ‘Please stow all electronic devices’ near?
As discussed in the class of the 23rd of September, mobile device and mobile internet usage are exploding. However, aviation ruling has not changed much in the mean time. As many, I could not have helped but wonder about the necessity of not using electronic devices during takeoff or landing. I can understand it to be a good thing for the pilot to hold off on these, but there has never been hard data on negative consequences of passenger’s electronic devices-use during these critique moments of flight. Or are there? And might there be possibilities of this changing for the better, and enabling internet on board? Maybe even in-flight online shopping?

Myths & Truths of in-flight smartphone & tablet-use:
To delve further in this topic it is good to bust some myths you might think are true and get into the real cause of this communications technology-ban in airplanes.
Myth 1: Interference with airplane equipment: This one is the most commonly known. However, aeronautical communication technology works with wavelengths below 500MHz, while consumer electronics work on wavelengths from up to 2GHz. Interference in that sense, is not possible.
Myth 2: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not want to test every device on possible interference: Also a myth. All mobile devices share the same communication components. Whether you are using an iPhone, Blackberry, or even a Nokia, it all works the same. So, separate testing is not a thing.
Myth 3: Everybody in the plane using it at the same time is the problem: Also wrong.  Electromagnetics don’t work in the sense that they become stronger with more users using it at the same time, so this won’t cause problems.
A more viable hypothesis is the one stating that cell towers can overload due to the speed of movement of the mobile device users. This is actually technically true, but this is luckily also a technicality that can be managed by enough capacity. [1]

The Real Truth: Since all of these myths can be busted, what is the real reason for the ban on the use of electronic devices during takeoff & landing? It is your attention! Since only 8% of airplane accidents happen during the cruising-stage of a flight, and respectively 42% and 50% during takeoff and landing, the FAA simply tries to make sure you pay attention during these critique moments of flight… But, since us 2013-citizens almost live in our smartphones and tablets, is this reasoning still strong enough?

Oh yeah, something about the end of all of this might be near?
After delving into the myths & truths about the use of electronic devices on airplanes, let’s now take a look at the future. A lot seems to be changing. This Thursday, the advisory committee of the FFA voted to recommend easing the rules on device use on-board. If the FAA does accept this recommendation, which would then happen this Monday, some things are going to change. If the FAA accepts, it will be allowed to use your smartphone, tablet and laptop during takeoffs and landings, making calls or browsing the Internet is still a ‘no-go’. Just switch on airplane mode and you will be fine. [2]
A thing I have to admit, I have been doing for a lot of flights myself already. I mean there is not much better than watching some episodes of Lost while you are in the most critical parts of your flight, right?

Impact on mobile shopping?
After the allowance of using electronic devices during takeoff and landings, the next step seems to be in-flight internet. Even though it is only a small percentage of airlines are currently adopting it, it is a growing trend to offer Wi-Fi on longer flights. The impact of this on online shopping seems to be interesting to research. Will passengers shop for goods available on their destination? Will hotels be able to target last-minute bookings from passengers? Will it be possible to do tax-free shopping and pick this up at your destination airport? What would you like to buy, in-flight?


“Lost-character Jack Shephard looks at the wrecked airplane”

[2] the future of recruitment?

Hopefully in September 2014 most of the BIMmers are graduated and the next step will be a perfect start of our careers at one of our favorite employers. But how do you find your employer and maybe even more important, how do they find you?

There are currently a lot of different options, but overall we see a shift towards online ways to apply for a job. Where job boards such as are getting more and more expensive for companies, is offering a cheaper and more efficient way to find the ideal match. is a platform where students can fill in an online resume. The resume is totally digitalized and therefore it is easy to analyze these resumes. For companies on the other side this is the ideal way to find students who suits them the best. A GPA of 7.5 or higher for their bachelor? Sport activities in their resume? Only BIM students? It is just a few clicks away for recruiters. This is perfect for the multinationals, but maybe even better for small and medium-sized enterprises. For these companies it is currently quite hard to fight against the multinationals, but now they can easily find student with the right profile. For students on the other hand this is interesting, because a lot of unknown enterprises are offering interesting jobs with more responsibilities and so on.

I think that or other platforms will be the future of recruitment, because with digitalized resumes and a labour market which is more flexible this is a perfect solution. A platform like is also suitable for professionals with more working experiences where this will work more like an executive search firm, but then just a few clicks away. In Europe the labour market is getting more flexible like in the United States and therefore professionals would love an online resume, where employers can offer them interesting jobs. Furthermore I believe that another part of the pie will go to Linkedin, where you have also an online resume.  With this resume it is more difficult to get data from, as it is less standardized, but for personal contact to get a job Linkedin will be important. Finally, I think that the losers will be the job boards as they are not doing sufficient with data analytics and are therefore not offering a total solution for customers to find easy the right job.

Unfortunately, this video is in Dutch (I couldn’t find a video in English)

Je carrière begint op from on Vimeo.

Let free app pay for itself

B9CCB819-7D48-4CFD-BF90-F3BEBA1136C8Take a minute to check all the apps on your smartphone or tablet. How many of them are paid? How many of them are free?

Every time when I am strolling in Apple/Andriod app store and noticing that there are dozens of excellent apps that are for free. A question keeps bothering me — how could those companies that develop these free apps generate profits?

The first answer come up to my mind is ADVERTISEMENT!

Nowadays, app developers become so smart that sometimes customers do not even notice that they already being advertised. Putting ads in the last page of e-books, banners, walls in games are old school stories. Companies become smarter and smarter to place ads. For example, the smart side bar shows the ads based on your recent online purchase. Also,  a relatively new way of doing it is called CPI. It stands for Cost Per Install. This is the method that companies allow third party firms use software to send “pop-ups”(ads for other apps) to their own apps and get paid for per installation of other app. For example, in games, buyers get special gifts (usually the currency used in the game) for downloading another apps from the pop-up list. The company that owns the game app gets paid from the third party for per installation.

Besides ads, there is a freemium model. I am sure that most of you have experienced it in your free apps. Some apps have two different versions, one is normal and for free and the other one is pro (with more advanced functions) and against for a fee. Or sometimes, the free app you download always reminds you to update the current version to the newest one but for a fee. This model is also frequently used as a profit generating method.

Also, sponsorship and donation can be helpful as well. Companies that trying to develop apps based on some famous brands or platforms can get sponsorship from those famous firms. Or companies that have a loyal customer base can get donations from the users.

Moreover, if a company’s app become so popular and turn into its own brand, then, the company could licensing it to other companies that even irrelevant from the app itself. For example, Angry Birds has been very famous and it licensing its brand to more than 200 partners for T-shirts, plush toys, phone cases, water bottles, pens etc., even a theme park in the works ( 2013).

With the development of IT, more different ways and business models are showing up to help free apps to generate profits.

What’s your opinion about those methods? Or do you know some new mechanisms that could help?

For more detailed information please read:

AH Bonuscard: what is personal information?



Most of us properly go shopping at Albert Hein (or AH) every now and then. In order to buy products at the discount rate, you need a bonus card. According to the AH-website, Albert Hein is careful with the personal information we provide for our bonus card. (

However, recently the consumer authority pointed out that the history of products bought is easily hacked by third parties. The only thing that is needed to view this information is the number of the bonus card. The product history section is divided into a recently bought and a most bought section. This section includes all products, so also cigarettes, liquor, condoms and pregnancy tests. (

At first Albert Hein claimed that you needed a customer account and password to access this information, but AH recently had to admit that not only the claim of the consumer authority was right, even with an anonymous card the product history was accessible. However, because the product history does not include the information of the cardholder, this is not against the law. (

Apparently AH believes what we buy is not personal information. I can imagine that there are some situations where you would like to keep your grocery list to yourself. Even though the thought that everyone is able to access what I buy makes me uncomfortable, it is not enough to stop me from buying at AH. I bet Facebook knows more about me than AH, and I willingly provide them with this information. However, the claim that AH is careful with my information,  I do find ridiculous. If you are going to use information on my preferences and not protect this, at least be straight forward about this. I am curious what you guys think on privacy issues like this: What exactly is personal information, and what is not?


During our class last Monday we elaborated on Facebook’s $1 billion (or actually $715 million [1]) acquisition of photo sharing app Instagram. Most people seem unable to understand why Facebook was willing to pay this much, since currently Instagram is lacking any kind of monetization strategy. [2] It clearly is a big risk Facebook is taking and I think we underlined that last Monday by elaborating on the specific challenges and difficulties that are attached to the task of turning Instagram into a money making app.

However, Instagram is not the only application that is struggling to monetize their “success”. Another great example is Pinterest. If you don’t know about or use Pinterest yet, I am secretly guessing you’re a guy. So especially for you; Pinterest is an app/website allowing users to save images and categorize those images (‘pins’) on self-created pin boards. Users are able to follow other users’ boards and will consequently get updated with their new pins, they can just browse others’ boards or they can search for pins in specific categories. Key is the possibility to “re-pin” images you find interesting to your own pin board, so that pins will get spread to more and more users. [3]

Clearly there is also something in it for companies; it could be for instance a successful instrument to promote new products. Pinterest even offers a tool to help companies analyze what is going on on Pinterest concerning their brand or products. Now, if you think about Facebook, brand content usually really stands out and it even annoys us as a consumer. For Pinterest, this is clearly not the case; brand content blends in easily, resulting in another problem. Users are actually pinning and spreading products, but how can Pinterest make brand-provided products stand out? [4]

Last year, all of a sudden pinners found out that Pinterest was manipulating their pins to make money through affiliate links in partnership with Skimlinks. This way Pinterest was quietly earning revenue whenever a user clicked on to buy something from an e-commerce website. [5] Bloggers and other media heavily criticized their new approach and a scandal was born. It seemed that the fact that Pinterest was monetizing their pinners, wasn’t even bothering them too much. Where Pinterest truly went wrong, was not informing their users about the change and the rationale behind it. Still, it didn’t take too long before the partnership with Skimlinks was ended and the affiliate links were banned from the website. [6]

The newsletter I received last week, gave me the impression that Pinterest seems to have learned its lesson and is trying to tackle the problem I presented earlier. The founder and CEO Ben Silbermann explained to me that in order for me to be able to keep using the application, the company is going to experiment with promoted pins. He assured me that there won’t be any advertisements and that it is only an experiment for now. Ben clarified: “Nobody’s paying for anything yet. … We want to see how things go and, more than anything, hear what you think.” [5] This clearly shows Pinterest is taking a different approach this time by being more transparent and careful.

As one of their users I am really pleased Pinterest changed their ways of treating us and I’m curious what this experiment will bring in the future. Are there any other Pinterest users here? How do you like their experiment so far? And did I offend anyone saying Pinterest is more of a woman thing?







15 years of Google

Being the BIM class of 2014, we cannot let this day pass unnoticed. 15 years ago, in 1998 Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google. To celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary Google is using the logo from 1998 again. Looking back to those 15 years; how did Google get from being a search engine to being the powerful multinational selling products and services like search, cloud computing, online advertising, software and since recently even hardware. And what is Google going to be like 15 years from now?


Before Google, search engines used the number of times a specific word was used on a website for ranking websites. Page and Brin thought they could do better: they developed an algorithm that uses incoming and outgoing links of a webpage to calculate a Pagerank. This technique gave Google a competitive advantage over competitors and is still the heart of Google’s search engine.


In 2005 Google bought Android; an operating system that was originally build for cameras. Google changed it into a system for phones and tablets. Android is now the biggest mobile operating platform in the world and runs on almost 75% of all sold smart phones. It is therefore safe to say that buying Android for about 50 million dollars was one of the best decisions in the history of the company.

Google Glass

The latest and perhaps most innovative product from Google is Google Glass. Google Glass might change the way we use electronic devices and information completely. Think of GPS, making and sharing pictures or videos. Besides that ‘Now’ that knows what is important for you at what moment gives a whole new dimension to the use of electronic devices.

I know that many services Google provides are still missing; think of Maps, Youtube, Drive, Gmail and Chrome, but this is not the point. Point is that because of the enormous amount of data Google gathers from consumers through all the different services they provide they can keep expanding the number of products and services they bring to market without making stuff consumers don’t want. I personally think this means that we have not seen the best of Google yet and that 15 years from now they will be even bigger and more powerful than they are today and will be providing much more products and services than they do today. The only thing that seems to be able to stop Google is privacy legislation.

What do you think of Google 15 years from now?




Technology of the Week 5 – Team 18: Auctionata and Tophatter




The topic of this week will be on online auction markets. A standard form (eBay) and two variations (Auctionata and Tophatter) of online auction are used for the elaboration of this report. The three companies we are comparing have their focus on B2C and C2C markets. Standard online markets such as eBay suffer from the barrier in physical experience products that cannot be easily described via the Internet. This results in high product and seller uncertainty.

Nowadays, eBay’s auction business model is one of the most successful models. Therefore, we consider it the standard in online auction models. A variation of this online auction model is Auctionata, which is an online auction company that specializes in art, antiques and collectors’ items and aims for the high-end market. They differentiate themselves by providing an additional service, which are third-party assurances. These assurances reduce the product uncertainty and add value to their service. Furthermore, there is another variation, which is Tophatter. Tophatter targets the lower-end market and focuses on auctioning jewellery. Tophatter differentiates due to the integration of social media into their business model. This aspect sets up connections between sellers and buyers (linked to their Facebook accounts) in virtual chat rooms, where the live auction takes place.

Our comparison shows that Auctionata has lower product uncertainty due to third-party assurances service. Tophatter however also reduces its product uncertainty by giving users the opportunity to connect with each other. At last, Auctionata is rated with lower seller uncertainty than Tophatter. Auctionata supports sellers. The company films the products and streamlines these videos real time via their website to registered users. Tophatter only supports textual and visual descriptions of the product.

Technology of the Week 5 – Team 18