Archive | September 30, 2015

Is there a future for brick-and-mortar retailers?

mobile-e-commerce-strategy

E-commerce is a big threat to physical stores. The brick-and-mortar retailers are losing market share to webshops every year. The percentage of online shopping increased from 5% in 2007 to 9% in 2012 in the United States (Economist, 2012).

I think most retailers don’t invest enough effort in building a relationship with their customers. The main things that allow brick-and-mortar retailers to differentiate from online retailers is service and the shopping experience (Trafsys, 2015). So brick-and-mortar retailers should focus more on those things, such as expensive clothes and gadgets, that customers will want to try before they buy them. With these products the price isn’t the most important thing. More important is that there is a good relationship with the customers. A good relationship with the customers will also prevent against showrooming. Showrooming is that shoppers try products in physical stores before they buy them online for a cheaper price (Economist, 2012). This is a really big problem for physical stores who sell consumer electronics. Many people can acknowledge that they tried a laptop or mobile phone in a store before buying it online for a lower price.

So brick-and-mortar retailers should deliver a better service or shopping experience to compensate the higher price. In my opinion, the Apple store is one of the few physical stores in the Netherlands that deliver something extra. I bought my Mac Book in the Apple store The Hague last month. I didn’t buy it online because I like the experience of an Apple store and prefer the service of the physical store. Especially with these kind of prices, it gives a better feeling that you can go to a store when there is something wrong with your product. In conclusion, I think that brick-and-mortar retailers should focus more on service and shopping experience, instead of trying to compete with the low prices of online shops.

References :

Trafsys.com, (2015). Trend report: Why Personalized Retail Is the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Stores [online] Available at: http://www.trafsys.com/trend-report-why-personalized-retail-is-the-future-of-brick-and-mortar-stores/ [Accessed 30 Sep. 2015].

The Economist, (2012). Clicks and bricks. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/node/21548241 [Accessed 20 Sep. 2015].

‘’Education is broken. Come help us build the education the world deserves.’’

In a recent blogpost of (at least I can imagine) the most famous student of our year (‘First step to “speak” code? by gabriellapimpao), an argument was made that managers and programmers should aim to understand each other so that they can actually work together within organisations.

I thought about this very topic during the previous summer, being fully ignorant about the ‘world of coding’. I reached out to some of my friends, asking them for advice: ‘’How should I learn to code?’’ They advised me to have a try at Codecademy, which I would like to tell you some more about here.

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Codecadamy is an online interactive learning platform with over 25 million users. It provides free courses in various programming languages, including HTML & CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, Python & Ruby. For each language, there is a course in which you can learn the language step by step, in a very convenient and informative way. The learning material is partly co-created by the users their selves. For example, Codecadamy has an active forum community that is willing to help you out when you get stuck in your code (which happened to me, frequently).

What I find (most) inspiring about Codecadamy is the way they think about education. They acknowledge that learning to code may not be optimally done in classrooms. Instead, the founders (Zach Sims & Ryan Bubinski) felt that the skills required in the current working environment could be much more effectively and efficiently learned in alternative ways. According to Codecadamy themselves, they are ‘building the education the world needs’ by providing a learning environment that is net native. Thereby, Codecadamy provides individuals with a set of skills that are relevant out there, at this very moment.

Have you ever tried Codecademy? What is your opinion on such online learning sources, and are there any other sources you know of which may facilitate the learning process of coding?

Have you also looked for an alternative to Spotify or Pandora?

There you are, sitting in front of your computer, trying to study while listening to Spotify in order to boost your productivity. You are tired of the ads in Spotify, but do not want to pay any subscription fee, because yes, you think listening to music online should be free. In this context, you also avoid paying for downloads on ITunes, because it’s simply too costly to spend a dollar on every song you would like to have on your desktop. If that is the case and you do not want to let neither ITunes nor Spotify off the hook, then I might have a solution for you.

In fact, music is a significant part of the emerging evolution of digital goods and several trends nowadays seem to differentiate between key players. One of them, crucial for the online music market, is that users tend to favor subscription and usage fees over buying. Hence, the ITunes store is likely to experience a downward shifting over the next couple of years. What’s more, customers expect to have access to their goods, in this case songs or playlists, on all of their devices, as – we all know it – the usage of mobile devices is increasing tremendously. And there’s a couple more trends that appear for digital goods in the next years, but what has this all got to do with Spotify?

In fact, there is an alternative for Spotify users that incorporates these trends. Even though it does not possess the exact same strategy as Spotify, if you are tired of the latter, you should give it a go. I am talking about a tool called 8tracks. Based on Napster and also available on tablets and smartphones, 8tracks is an online music social media platform (“the social alternative to Pandora”) that fosters interaction, creativity and enables people to listen to and upload music playlists. One disadvantage of other online music marketplaces like Spotify is the fact that once you have put the music you know in a playlist, you are kind of stuck. Here is where 8tracks comes in, because its greatest strength is that enables users to successfully seek for new music variety, depending on their genre, mood, activity or location. Whether it might be the running playlist you were looking for that includes dubstep, or the study playlist that offers instrumental deep house, you will find it on 8tracks.

Even though the website contains a couple of drawbacks, i.e. you cannot skip tracks more than without causing a playlist change, it offers an outstanding music and playlist variety that you can, similar to Facebook, “like” in order to save on your account and to listen to it again. Further, the website efficiently uses ratings and word-of-mouth, enabling their users to observe how many people have liked a playlist or what comments have been posted. Even more, 8tracks, taking advantage of big data, provides its users with playlist recommendations based on their listening history, leading to 5 million users worldwide at this point.

What do you think about this application folks? I have been using it for two years and am still amazed by the tremendous variety and the great user talent to create playlists. Here is a short video how it works.

Author: Hugo Krier

References:

http://www.slideshare.net/nexway/nexways-top-6-digital-goods-commerce-trends

http://www.dailytech.com/Pandora+Competitor+8tracks+App+Hits+Android/article23228.htm

Amazon Flex- The Uber for High Speed Deliver

Amazon launched yesterday in Seattle a new on-demand delivery service, Amazon Flex, that relies not on traditional couriers, but ordinary people to bring the packages to clients. Like with ridesharing, drivers have to bring their own car and install an app on their phone that will notify them of gigs; the only difference is that they will transport packages instead of people.

According to Amazon Website drivers will be paid $18 to $25 per hour (they can work as much as they want) to deliver packages ordered with Amazon Prime Now, the company one-hour delivery service. In order to be eligible, applicants must have valid drivers’ licenses, be over the age of 21, pass a background check and own an Android smartphone.

It’s worth to be mentioned that Amazon is also considering using the Flex service for less urgent packages, which suggests that the company sees this as a more than just a way to make its high-speed shipping dream a reality. Let’s think about Christmas for example: Flex could really be helpful to handle the crushing holiday demand.

As The Guardian reports, Amazon Flex appears to have taken its cue from Uber and other “gig economy”-based services. Flex is not the first one though: it joins services like Instacart and TaskRabbit that employ strangers to ride around town to run your chores and bring stuff to your doorstop. By adding this new service Amazon put itself right in the middle of an ongoing debate about the nature on work in a modern economy: the new sharing economy model has in fact led to lawsuits in a number of countries. Uber is probably the most well-known example: the company has been repeatedly sued in the last few years by former drivers claiming that they were not third-party contractors but in fact proper employees of the firm.

Let’s face it, it’s a gig economy world, and we are living in it, which often means screwing employees out of proper benefits and job security that full-time employees enjoy. One question remaining: is it really the type of economy we want to contribute to?

Sources:

http://www.geekwire.com/2015/amazon-set-to-launch-new-amazon-flex-package-pickup-service-in-seattle-area-with-prime-now/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-taps-on-demand-workers-for-one-hour-deliveries-1443499263

http://gizmodo.com/amazon-flex-pays-you-to-deliver-strangers-packages-1733544959

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/29/amazon-flex-gig-economy-uber-for-packages-service

The Window Socket: will it work??

Sunlight, we all know that the future of our energy source lies within the sun. We have already started developing and implementing new ways of generating electricity from the sun through for example Solar Panels. However these panels take up a lot of room and are very expensive to install, not to mention the fact that these panels give power to huge electricity units such as houses and cars. However we, as modern day people, can struggle with a shortage of electricity on much smaller items as well, such as phones, camera’s, flashlights etc. You don’t always have a charger with you and definitely not a charger that runs on sunlight, well here is a solution, it is called the Window Socket.

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It is a small socket that has on one side a electricity plug in entry and on the other side a small solar panel. You use it by sticking this socket (using the suction pad situated around the solar panel) on a window of your house or on your car for example. The solar panel then collects sunlight and turns it into energy/electricity which then allows you to use it as a power source for your phone or some other item that is in need of electricity. Not only does it transform sunlight into electricity it can also store it for up to 10 hours of electricity when it is fully charged (which takes about 5-6 hours), this way you can take it with you and use it when you are away from home.

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This seems like the perfect solution, however there is one important characteristic that I’ve have been hiding from you guys, and that is that this is an idea, it hasn’t been transformed into a real product. The reason that this is still a concept and not an actual product is due to the fact that there quite a few problems concerning the process of attracting and generating the sunlight into electricity. There are many critics who have brought up some serious concerns regarding the size of the Window Socket. One such a critic is Chris Clarke, in an online article he wrote he states that this product isn’t able to work because of its size. According to Clarke the Socket is much too small to create enough energy to completely charge a phone, “50 square centimeters of photovoltaic surface,…, maximum power output of the PV cells drops to 1 watt” (http://www.kcet.org/news/redefine/rewire/solar/photovoltaic-pv/viral-solar-window-outlet-cant-possibly-work.html). Another problem is that the 1 watt is the absolute maximum amount of electricity the Window Socket can produce when it is in direct sight of the sun for up to 5-6 hours. Five to six hours is a long time, and the chance that a window stays in the sun for so long is short, not to mention the fact that it has to be a clear sky day, with absolutely no clouds at all. According to Clarke the window will also absorb light and therefore make it even harder for the Window Socket to charge fully. Just for clarity reasons, a toothbrush requires 5 watt, so with 1 watt it is almost impossible to charge a phone completely.

There are thus some flaws that have require some attention, and I personally think it is going to take a while before the ultimate solution is created, however I am very much impressed by this idea and personally I think, with some changes here and there the Window Socket could become a success. But I want to know from you guys the following: 1) do YOU think this can be success and if yes, then 2) how can you tackle these problems to make it become a success? I am eager to here your thoughts.

Thanks,

Philip van Zadelhoff

References:

http://www.yankodesign.com/2013/04/26/plug-it-on-the-window/

http://www.kcet.org/news/redefine/rewire/solar/photovoltaic-pv/viral-solar-window-outlet-cant-possibly-work.html

http://inhabitat.com/window-socket-portable-solar-powered-outlet-sticks-to-windows-charges-small-electronics/

(_https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2syn3G4GCRM)

Biometrics in our daily lives, useful or threatening?

Biometrics are a variety of technologies used to identify a person by certain unique attributes, such as fingerprint or iris recognition. Furthermore, some of the tech can be used to track a person’s activity, health, even his sleep patterns. Nowadays biometric technology is used on a daily basis. From the simplest of tasks, such as unlocking your mobile phone, to ensuring national security, biometric technology has impacted everyone’s life. But do its uses outweigh the hidden dangers?

Endless amounts of data are created every day through the use of biometrics. When you go for a run and bring your iPhone, Apple knows where you went, how fast you ran and how that compares to your previous runs. Google usually chips in on this as well, tracking your movement wherever you go.
If you wear an activity tracker, such Jawbone or Fitbit, your sleep patterns are tracked and stored, allowing you to optimize your sleep. Some trackers can even measure your heart rate. Combine all this data and you get a pretty complete picture of a person’s health and daily routine. Rather private information, don’t you agree?

­In New York the so-called Domain Awareness System is a network of 3000 camera’s that allows law enforcement agencies to review video material in order to better solve crimes that were committed. A very powerful and useful tool that is only a face recognition software upgrade away from being able to follow our every move, effectively putting the last nail in the coffin when it comes to our privacy.

All these data combined are very valuable. But who stores it and who has access to it? What if someone gains unlawful access to my biometric data? The consequences could be far reaching. Blocking my credit card and getting a new one when it’s stolen is one thing. Changing my fingerprint is a whole different ball game.

There are plenty of benefits to biometric technology. Imagine a scenario where everyone was wearing a health tracker. If someone would get sick, say a fever, the tracker would instantly notice the change in body temperature. It would alert the person wearing it to take a day off, both minimizing the chance of spreading the virus and optimizing recovery time. The economic benefits would be significant. However, you would no longer be able to play hooky from work..

Chances are we are going to see a lot more biometric technology the coming years. Anything from national security to playing video games will be influenced by it. Lets just hope all that data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Sources:

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/541461/keep-calm-and-play-on-video-games-that-track-your-heart-rate/

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/03/how-activity-trackers-remove-rights-personal-data

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/biometric-security-poses-huge-privacy-risks/

https://www.sans.org/reading-room/whitepapers/authentication/biometrics-double-edged-sword-security-privacy-137

http://www.biometricsinstitute.org/pages/faq-2.html

http://www.wareable.com/fitness-trackers/the-best-fitness-tracker

Letting consumers work for you

A retail dilemma

You have started your own company which creates a consumer product, sold through your own web shop. The product turns out to be a big success and you decide to expand your company’s sales channels by collaborating with several big retail chains (each with multiple stores throughout the country) which will sell your product in their physical stores. After a few months, you’ve analysed sales data of these different retail chains and notice that your product is, on average, sold significantly less often in some of these stores than in others (after controlling for store reach, close competitors, etc.). You decide that it might have something to do with the stores itself; maybe your product isn’t placed in an optimal way, maybe the store personnel has little knowledge of your product? The question is; how are you going to find out whether the stores are the problem, not your product? Visiting each retail location takes too much time and can be quite costly, not a very desirable solution.

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Roamler
A company that can aid you in this search for information is Roamler. Roamler was founded in 2011 by two Dutch guys and can formally be described as a “retail analytics company” (Roamler, 2015a). Roamler is able to execute large scale field research in a relatively short amount of time including product placement, campaign execution, competitor prices, product usage (by consumers), and much more. Roamler’s unique feature is that it deploys consumers as its field researchers. Roamler has an app which everyone can download on his or her smartphone. Roamler send out assignments (based on their clients whishes) via this app and people can choose to accept them or not. Every correct assignment rewards them with a small amount of money. These assignment are the research targets, they can consist of taking shelf pictures, questioning personnel or testing products at home, basically anything that that Roamler is asked to investigate by its client. This task force of consumers is considerably large, with over 10.000 active ‘Roamlers’ in the Netherlands alone (Roamler, 2015b). After Roamler has gathered a sufficient amount of data from its Roamlers, they will process the data into a presentable report which its client can use to make important retail decisions.

The consumer workforce
By deploying consumers as field researchers, Roamler has found an efficient way to gather large amounts of offline data relatively quickly. The great thing is that the possibilities are endless as Roamler simply provides the service and companies can come up with any assignment. Smartphones are powerful tools and as the vast majority of the Netherlands has one (81%) (Telecompaper, 2015), developping a system which can utilize this group can be extremely effective. Furthermore, Roamler’s service is quite unique in a world where companies quickly want to digitalize to increase efficiency and data management. IT provides companies with an efficient and effective way to manage their online retail channels while Roamler (for a large part) does the same for offline channels.

I believe Roamler has found the perfect formula for using online tools to tackle offline problems. Their service has great potential and retail analytics might just be the beginning. Can you think of any other way how to use Roamler’s cheap, mobile and effective workfore? How might Roamler help your future business?
By Niek Huisman

Sources

Roamler (2015a). Over Roamler. Retrieved at 28-09-2015 from http://www.roamler.nl/About

Roamler (2015b). Personal interview. Held at 01-05-2015

Telecompaper (2015). Majority of the elderly in the Netherlands has a smartphone. As found on http://www.telecompaper.com/pressrelease/majority-of-the-elderly-in-the-netherlands-has-a-smartphone–1088067