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Monday, November 26, 2007

Oops - Yahoo! Takes Another Hit

Yikes, I'd hate to be at Yahoo! today. On one of the busiest days of the years it seems that Yahoo! Merchant Solutions has had some back-end issues that caused their merchants stores to be unable to take orders for most of the day. The image tells the story but after today I'm sure the exclamation mark at the end of Yahoo has a whole different meaning for their merchant partners and they certainly didn't deliver on their goal from the first paragraph on the page.

It will be interesting to see how this all settles out. Launches Subscription based Service

I often watch what Amazon is testing to see what the next evolution is in eCommerce. They usually know what they are doing and are willing to try things out to see if consumers will adopt and if the idea will be a success. I was really excited to see today they are trying the subscription based model in their Grocery business (yes they sell more than books). Subscribe and Save is in beta and offers and interesting proposition for their consumers and vendors.

Consumers can now take advantage of a 15% discount on 1000s of products if you commit to a scheduled delivery in the future. For vendors, and amazon, having a guaranteed sale planned out into the future will only help with supply chain productivity and forecasting accuracy.

This isn't the first time this has been attempted but with the strength and brand of Amazon I think it will stick. Now we all just have to figure out how to apply it to the non-grocery based business model.

How Not to Build A Viral Video Campagin

This was posted on Techcrunch a few days ago and it shocked me when I read it. A guest writer and owner of The Comotion Group writes about how to make a viral video a success through non-community based ways. I would suggested that your take some time and read this article as it is a great what not to do list.

Your brand and even more importantly your relationship with your consumers (your community) is too important to be risked by falsely promoting a viral video or campaign, let nature take it's course and the population will decide if it is a success.

The idea behind a viral campaign is that you cannot make it a success, if you are listening to your community you will have a better chance of creating a targeted virus campaign but you cannot expect or force something to be viral.

You may win in the short term but the community will turn on you in the long run and is it really worth the effort of faking a viral success if all it does is turn your community against you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Crowdsourcing Hits the Political Scene

The idea of Crowdsourcing and the power of the crowd are becoming more prevalent in today's society. From group shopping on Amazon (for the record this is a really cool promo) to sports management in Europe (They just agreed to buy a team) we are getting to see this in action.

It now seems that the crowdsourcing concept has moved to the political arena in Australia with the launch of a online community based political party called Senator On-Line.

The party's goal is to be completely run by voters through their input facilitated by ongoing online polling. It is an interesting concept that could have an impact on how we interact with our governments formulation of policy. I'm sure we would all like a greater voice and this may be one way to promote political interaction. I've embedded a video from the party that provides an overview of what they are trying to achieve. The other side, and there is always one, is that you are limiting input to those who have access and the ability to use the internet.

Monday, November 19, 2007

History of Viral Videos

If you don't think that viral videos have made a lasting impact spend the next few minutes watching this video. It gives a good perspective on how many different videos were a success.

There are close to a hundred different viral interactions over the length of the video, it would be interesting to take this and compare it to the top media campaigns over the same time period and see which one has the better recall.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Google Takes on the Mobile World

It continues to amaze me how fast Google continues to drive innovation in new industries. I would hate to be one of the OS providers for smart phones after watching the below video.

Android is only a few weeks old and not only does it have most of the top hardware manufactures and service providers behind it but they are putting $10 million dollars in cash behind a contest to encourage application development.

I think I'm going to wait when the iPhone does launch in Canada to see where this nets out. After seeing the previews in the video I can't wait to see how quickly this platform will evolve.

I guess the one key point to take is that if after the last 6 months, with the rapid adoption of smart and iPhones coupled with the launch on Android, you don't have a mobile plan for your business you better start putting one in place!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Building an eCommerce Site for Success

It is critical in today's day and age that you do not get to far ahead of yourself when building your web properties. The distractions can be immense as different web 2.0 applications and changes to web developments evolve on an almost daily basis but it is critical that you take a focused approach that allows you to be a success.

Here are six steps that can help guide you decisions and site evolutionary process. I call it an evolutionary process as I believe that it is better to make many smaller changes over time instead of major upgrades. This way you can learn and react as you move along the path.

Here are the six steps of web development.

  1. Solidify Platform and Strategy: Critical to the success is that you first understand and solidify the strategy. What is the goal of the business and how will the site support achieving these goals? Once this understanding is established it is important to understand what is the platform required. This is one of the most important decisions as it on this platform that the eCommerce business will be built. You do not want to be going through costly and time consuming replatformization on a regular basis. Think what functionality you will need and understand scalability needs. This is a step that should take time as it will impact all other future steps. Think of this as the foundation of the house, a strong foundation will last for years but something quickly put together will not be able to support the house and lead to costly repairs.
  2. Optimize Programs: Before you go developing new programs spend the time to understand what you currently have, how consumers are interacting with the site and what do they see of value. Now that you have this understanding first optimize these programs and drive as much value to your customer as you possibly can. Not only will this maximize the value of the current programs but it will give you an understanding of what it is that your customers want. This doesn't mean that you need to keep all of the programs you have, think critically and pull the programs that do not help you achieve your goals and add value to your consumers. It is the consumers that are key, your business should be build from their needs out.
  3. Leverage Current Customers: This is your base. You have a solid platform and have optimized the current programs so take time to understand what your current consumers and users what. Then it is simple, build programs to meet these needs, turn your customers into advocates and loyal super-users by meeting and exceeding their needs, but keep in mind you need to do this profitably. This isn't as hard as you think, if you are building tools, functionality and programs that meets your customers need and desires they will drive conversion up and help your business grow.
  4. Attract New Customers: It is now time to go out and attract new consumers. This is a two pronged approach. This first, if you have done the first three steps correctly, will be your consumer advocates reaching out to new consumers. This will be the best way to grow as these consumers will come with a trust for your business that you would not be able to achieve on your own. The second is to use marketing tactics to drive new consumers to your site. It is important the you measure these programs to ensure you achieve the goals you want for the marketing programs, understand what is working and divert dollars to the program that dive results from programs that are not showing the required returns or advancements to the goals.
  5. Build Programs for the Expanded Customer Base: This is a step similar to step 3 but it involves a larger consumer base. What is critical to this step is that you do not alienate the base consumers - your loyal and advocate customers while you are optimizing the programs or when building new ones for these new consumers. The goal is to understand any new needs that may exist and turn these consumers in loyal users and advocates. Do this and your business will continue to grow and drive top and bottom line.
  6. Recognize Profit and Restart: This isn't a stage to rest but a time to reflect and understand how your business and site has evolved. How has the strategy evolved? Has the platform met the business and consumer needs? What are your weakness and strengths and what needs to happen in the future to continue to be a success? Depending on what the answers are the next steps will be defined. If a new platform is required then go back to step #1, if you are happy then go back to step #4 and attract new consumers and optimize programs for the expanded base.
Following this process may seem simple but the fact is that in practice it becomes very difficult. Outside pressures cause multiple tactics to be taken on at any given time. My advice is that you may have to attempt to do multiple steps in the progress of building your site but limit this to adjacent steps. This way you will be your business on focus and provide the best change for success.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A New Way to Reform Inmates

This is real but you will never believe it. It seems that a security consultant at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Centerin the Philippines thought it would be a great idea to put some structure to the inmates exercise programs. It started off with some simple music and quickly become complicated dance routines. Of course they were recorded and loaded to youtube and bang...a viral hit!

Here are some of my picks (there are tons you can find):


Algorithm March

The Hot Dog Dance

Canon in D


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You Tube Canada Launches

If you haven't already figured out has launched.

Not much difference but it will provide customized Canadian channels, content and promotions. It will be interesting to see how the Canadian advertising industry leverages it.

The CFL, Dose and a few others already have a few custom channels, it should be interesting to see how it all evolves.

See How Google is Evolving Search

I stumbled across this today. It seems that Google Labs now has an experimental section where you can play around with some of the changes that Google is testing out for future enhancements to search. They currently have four different tests going on at the moment:

Alternative Views for results, is the first experiment, which includes an info view, which lets you refine the results by image, measurements, locations and dates, a map view, that plots your search results on Google maps and timeline view from which you can refine the results based historical values found in the content.

The next two changes are variations of each other and adds a refining capability to the search results. Search Navigation works like guided navigation where the user can refine their results as they go along.

The final experiment is Keyboard Shortcuts for the result page. You may not think of this as new but once you play around with it for a bit it is easy to understand how it could be useful for different types of search.

My suggestion is that you sign up for one of the trials and play around. Not only will you be helping improve search but you will gain some insight into what different types of content will be important in the future. Think more details, locations and time-stamping.

I really like the timeline feature and used it just last night to find a old computer game, I played back in the late 80's called Roadwar 2000, after I was talking about it with an old friend I had reconnected with on Facebook.

It will also be exciting to see how Google continues to protect their dominance in search, by having this position it gives them the cash flow to invest in developments like Open Social and Android which only betters their position in the future and it looks like anyone can get a sneak peak through the new labs section. So sign up and start experimenting!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Next Generation of Content Acquisition

Helium (Nov 9th Link is now fixed) is a great example of citizen journalism, consumer generated content and crowdsourcing. The concept is simple: Publishers will post requests for content based on their specific needs, this is then put out to the community which contributes, edits and votes on the top articles. The publisher will then review the top submissions and when they choose one pay for the content.

Based on the pricing I was seeing and the quality of the content this looks like a great evolution. I especially like the fact that it is the community itself that ensures the content it is producing is of the best value for the publisher.

The other part of the model is that Helium rewards the top contributors of content with a sharing of the revenue they receive from adsense, which drives entrenchment and commitment to the community.

They just had their first birthday and it looks like they have come a long way. It will be interesting to see how this continues to develop and evolve. It will also be exciting to see how this model translates into other spaces.

Do we need to change how we teach?

We have changed how we learn, think about what you really took from university or college. I bet you learned more in your first year of work that during your years of education. Now look at how the world has changed from a communication and interaction basis over the last 5 years and imagine how different a classroom would feel today.

This is a great video that really makes you think.

Starting a Bank with Street Kids

A really interesting idea I saw today on Trend Spotting. The concept is that street kids organize to create their own bank through the Children's Development Bank. Not only does this give them the opportunity to save their money so they can break the cycle, but it gives them experiences and support that will help them take the next step. Take a look, it is a great example of how with a few dollars and support an initiative can go a long way in improving people's lives.