E-Commerce Marketing Techniques Clash on China’s Singles’ Day

December 28, 2015

Stateside, all of the hype surrounding the holiday shopping season largely centers around two days: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, both of these days are dwarfed internationally by China’s Singles’ Day. Established in 2009, this holiday originally centered around China’s popular e-commerce company AliBaba, as they provided huge deals to consumers to drive business traffic. How big is Singles’ Day? This year, Alibaba reported around 1.43 billion US dollars in transactions on its Tmall e-commerce site, even as China’s economy is suffering a bit of an economic slowdown.

via Google

While originally Singles’ Day was entirely focused on AliBaba, in recent years other e-commerce providers in China have jumped into the fray, including China-based JD.com and international competitors like Amazon and Walmart. These companies all spent a fair amount of marketing time and money attempting to lure Chinese shoppers (and their average payments of 247 dollars on this day) to their business. There is a fair amount that content marketers can glean about e-commerce in today’s business culture from the outcomes of this monumental event.

One of the most interesting aspects of this year’s Singles’ Day was the proliferation of online financing: companies taking small interest fees to allow customer to pay for products in several installments over a period of time. This practice was incredibly popular with customers this year.

Another popular practice this year was preordering for deals. It may seem obvious, but offering customers a pre-order for a deal is incredibly well received. In fact, many customers are willing to (and in fact did) pay a premium to avoid waiting up all night to capitalize on deals.

Finally, a third great tidbit for content marketers to make note of is that mobile purchases made up 69 percent of all purchases made on Singles’ Day, making it the first time that mobile sales outpaced those on personal computers. This should only underscore for content marketers the need to optimize content and sales pages for mobile users.

Although it may seem to be worlds away, the information we can learn from the events of Singles’ Day can be applied to e-commerce all throughout the world. Content marketers would be smart to capitalize on the trends from China and apply them to their content in the US. 

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FNV Gets a Helping Hand From Celebrities to Encourage Kids to Eat Better

December 28, 2015

Slap a celebrity’s face onto a product label and it’s almost guaranteed to sell millions. At least that’s what the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is hoping will happen with its newest FNV (short for fruits and vegetables) campaign.

via Google

According to PHA chief strategy officer and general counsel Ryan Shadrick Wilson, less than one percent of food marketing dollars are allocated towards fruits and vegetables. This number is a huge disappointment considering the obesity epidemic the U.S. is currently facing.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.

So, to raise greater awareness the PHA is partnering with today’s hottest movie stars and athletes, including Jessica Alba and Steph Curry, to encourage tweens and teens to eat their fruits and vegetables.

The company is trying to replicate the success of its Eat Brighter campaign—which used Sesame Street characters to make fresh, healthy produce more appealing to children—by attaching famous faces to its campaigns.

The company is also taking a page out of Nike and Coca-Cola’s marketing book by trying out cheeky slogans and utilizing social media. For example, you can find witty in-store marketing materials displayed in the soda aisles that read “You know what else comes in six-packs? Bananas.”

While no sales data is available for the campaign, which launched in June in Fresno, California, and Hampton Roads, Virginia, there are signs that the strategy is working. PHA says that there’s been an increase of almost nine percent in the number of consumers who say they will definitely eat fruits and vegetables in the next week, and decrease of six percent in those who say they will definitely not eat fruits and vegetables in the next week.

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Study Says European Financial Sector Still Doesn’t Understand the Cloud

December 28, 2015

While interest in the cloud technology is obviously growing quite quickly, a new study shows that the European financial sector still has some rather large misconceptions about the technology. The report, published by the ENISA, showed how far European banks and other financial institutions lag when it comes to using the cloud in their everyday business.

The report shows that while more than 87 percent of the companies in this report are using cloud computing in one form or another, most of those using the tech are not remotely knowledgeable when it comes to the best practices for the technology. One of the main issues is that quite a few regulators see outsourcing and using the cloud as basically the same.

Among the problems this has raised, according to the report, is that nearly half of the financial institutions surveyed have not developed a cloud risk assessment even though they are aware of specific risks associated with cloud computing. As Security Intelligence reports, there are a ton of different misconceptions about cloud computing, but the security aspect is likely the greatest threat. Without an understanding of basic cloud security, European financial institutions may risk their customers’ high-priority information.

The report also came with a number of different solutions to the problem, including that everyone should adopt a similar set of minimum cloud security protocols and privacy requirements. In order to familiarize companies with the technology, cloud firms should be willing to disclose how many people they have on staff, where their servicing center is located and how many people have access to sensitive information. By doing this, the company can help make financial institutions that much more comfortable, even as they learn more about the technology in general.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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IoT Editor’s Day Silicon Valley: Can Better OS Make IoT Better?

By Ken Briodagh December 28, 2015

The Operating System is the face of any system. It can be an interesting face, a charismatic one or an outright attractive one. Zeidman Technologies is a proponent of the idea That an OS should serve the system, and the user, as well as possible.

The way it serves the system, according to Jacob Harel, VP, Product management and Business Development, Zeidman Technologies, is by taking original code and adding in features and drivers to generate new functionality across many devices in the IoT. The user is served by getting a system that can do anything he or she needs.

We sat down with Harel at IoT Evolution Editor’s Day in Silicon Valley, where we met with many of the Left Coast’s biggest brains in the IoT. (Editor’s note: We plan to do another one of these on the east coast sometime soon, but the next time to get face to face with me will be at the IoT Evolution Expo, January 25 to 28 in Ft. Lauderdale. See you in the sand.)

Image via Pixabay

“Because so many developers are using custom OS for every deployment, there’s a long time to market,” Harel said. He said the kind of modular OS that Zeidman makes compresses that time. “The next step is moving beyond making all of the critical decisions via statistical analysis, and to static analysis, which looks at specific cases and makes decisions based on the true given circumstances. It’s much faster.”

Custom OS was the rule in the early days of personal computing, when folks were still working with text-based systems like DOS and UNIX, but eventually everyone got on board with an easy-to-handle GUI and only the hardcore coders and sysadmins bothered with the custom stuff. It’s time for the IoT to get there, too. 

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

Author Info

Editorial Director

Quality Counts, Especially in the Call Center

One of the biggest buzz-phrases set to take the call center industry by storm in the New Year is ‘Quality Management.’ One of the biggest buzz-phrases set to take the call center industry by storm in the New Year is ‘Quality Management.’ While many within the industry already consider themselves adept at making sure quality remains high, there are further steps everyone can take to make sure that’s the case across the board. One of those steps is effective calibration.

In a recent blog post Gerald Sinclair -- WFO Practice Manager at Uptivity, an inContact company – looked at the value of calibration and the impact it can have on a “quality” effort.

“Calibrations ensure fairness for your internal staff, from a strategy perspective, and help deliver a consistent customer experience,” Sinclair wrote. “The goal of calibrations is to ensure that everyone who is responsible for call scoring is doing it consistently and fairly.”

His suggestions and ideas on the issue are worth a second look:

Choose Your Calibration Type: Sinclair notes that both “traditional” and “Digital / Hybrid” calibration choices are available. It’s incumbent upon the leader to choose the best for their respective company.

Include Your Management: “Management is driven by KPIs and financials, so it is important that other stakeholders understand their perspective and how call handling affects the bottom line,” he notes.

Include Your Agents: “Agent inclusion is a vital strategy for establishing agent buy-in and promoting self-improvement,” Sinclair says. “Encourage your agents to voice their feedback, concerns, opinions, and front-line insights.”

Leverage your Quality Standards Definitions Document: “This document outlines, defines and provides examples for the questions on your evaluation form,” Sinclair says. As such, it’s important to know what it is, how it works and how to best utilize it.

Be Consistent With Your Calibration Frequency: “For maximum effectiveness, calibrations should be held consistently with an established frequency,” Sinclair suggests. “More frequent calibrations are needed if there are changes to the program, new staff, or deviation percentages.”

Sinclair has other timely suggestions, available HERE on his blog post. But his bottom line is, getting everyone on the same page when it comes to careful calibrations can only work to the benefit the whole company.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

IoT Editor’s Day Silicon Valley: Lynx Software Says Gateways are Security Key

Operational Technology, or OT, is getting to be a hot topic here in the IoT and as we move into 2016, it’s only going to be gaining ground. So much so, that one of our IoT Evolution Expo Keynoters, Cisco’s John Oberon, VP IoT Software Platforms, will be addressing the meeting points of TO, IT and IoT at length in his speech.

One company looking to define this meeting is Lynx Software. “The OT networks are now meeting the IT networks in the IoT,” said Robert Day, VP, Marketing at Lynx when we spoke recently. “They meet at a gateway, and it’s not secure [today], if you can isolate the two networks, you don’t need to worry about the individual devices.”

We sat down with him at IoT Evolution Editor’s Day in Silicon Valley, where we met with many of the Left Coast’s biggest brains in the IoT. (Editor’s note: We plan to do another one of these on the east coast sometime soon, but the next time to get face to face with me will be at the IoT Evolution Expo, January 25 to 28 in Ft. Lauderdale. See you in the sand.)

Image via Pixabay

Day told us that the security of the IoT hinges on the gateways, not the devices. If there’s an attack or infection, as long as it can be isolated on one side of the gateway, it can be contained.

“The big guys are trying to secure the IoT like they do IT, but it’s not the same thing,” Day said. “IoT is too diverse.”

Lynx thinks this diversity is a strength of the IoT, but it offers a possible vulnerability, unless the gateways are secure.

So, let’s secure them. 

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

Comcast Fires Up First-Ever Live DOCSIS 3.1 Gigabit Modem

Just ahead of Christmas, Comcast (News - Alert) prepared to close out December in a big way by starting up something it believed to be a world first: a DOCSIS 3.1 modem installed on a network that addressed customers directly. Such a move may not sound like much, but it was actually a first step toward addressing some of Comcast's biggest issues.

The modem was installed in a private residence somewhere around Philadelphia, taking Comcast one step closer to bringing gigabit-speed broadband service out to users on its current network, a hybrid of coaxial and fiber systems. The new modem turned to the same connections currently in place—no need for new installation to put it to use—and a combination of some fresh software and a handful of Comcast's best engineers.

Testing appears to have gone reasonably well, as Comcast has plans to bring this new gigabit speed option to several areas across the country. Since DOCSIS 3.1 is a backwards-compatible system, it can be implemented with digging or too many hardware upgrades. Already, new and expanded trials are slated for several locations including northern California and Atlanta, Georgia. DOCSIS 3.1 seems to be working, so the tests will ultimately prove to be narrowing down further issues and getting the whole thing ready for prime time.

If Comcast is—or rather will be—in a position to offer more gigabit-speed options soon, it also could be that Comcast is preparing the necessary infrastructure to shut down the bandwidth caps. After all, putting out a 300 gigabyte bandwidth cap on a gigabit-speed system is little more than a sure source of frustration for users. This is especially true if Comcast's questionable data reporting methods are still in place when this system starts up; not so long ago we heard about angry Comcast customers who took a case to the government directly, in some cases begging for help against Comcast's combination of bandwidth caps and data use measuring. Offering better speeds and a lost bandwidth cap would make for the kind of environment that makes people want to keep Comcast service, denying markets to competitors.

Both DOCSIS 3.1 and its attendant potential boost to data speeds represent a big opportunity for Comcast to throw off its previous reputation and offer a great new start for users. High-end speeds, coupled with a departure from bandwidth caps, would represent a new opportunity to gain and hold customer loyalty. Used the right way, many of Comcast's earlier issues may be forgotten outright...if it's used the right way.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

PaaS + RTC= Compelling Customer Engagements

December 28, 2015

Most everyone loves real time communication (RTC) as the next big thing for businesses to engage with customers, from the beginning sale to ongoing support. In fact, this is becoming increasingly evident with the momentum that has been gathering around WebRTC applications development and deployment in particular as its ease of multiple media interactions from within a browser without the need for plug-ins demonstrated in 2015. That said, it is the combination of RTC plus leveraging platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that is bringing the next evolution of communication with easier to use and more compelling customer engagement capabilities.

Customer engagement is not quite a cliché these days, but it is close. With a range of advertising and social media options, being able to have more intimate and flexible interactions with a customer at all parts of the business cycle is not simply required, but vital. Customers are using a wide range of media types, from email and instant messaging to voice and video, and expect businesses to have "all of the above" when it comes to communicating. And all of the above includes both stock web interactions and optimized interfaces on mobile devices.

RTC should start at the front-end of the sales cycle, enabling customers to communicate with contact center members to learn more about products, get virtual "demonstrations" via video and in real-time, and to provide a more intimate communications channel between customer and sales than stock email or IM. Voice can supplement text-based conversation while video can provide more illustration and a real face to an employee rather than just being a generic "voice on the phone."

Regardless of the product, providing support after the sale ensures customer satisfaction and builds loyalty. Support calls, when properly handled, also provide upsell and new sales opportunities to the existing customer base, but businesses need to be careful that presenting those opportunities don't become an annoyance for a customer trying to get a problem fixed.

Platform-as-a-service comes into play in streamlining how businesses can use RTC as a rich set of tools for customer interactive in an off-the-shelf fashion. Instead of having to build and maintain systems for IM, voice, and video, with the associated development time, capital cost, and ongoing support and maintenance, PaaS provides those tools in a built, ready-to-roll fashion through APIs and SDKs.  A couple of lines of codes dropped into an existing webpage provide RTC in under 5 minutes, rather than the weeks and months it would take to build and test from scratch.

One of the sectors that is embracing RTC at a steady clip is health care.  Providers are rolling out telemedicine clients at a steady clip, as it provides benefits for patients and doctors.   Patients can get a virtual consult at home outside of regular office hours -- once upon a time, doctors made a thing called "house calls" -- to provide support for patients with existing conditions and determine if an issue is serious enough to merit a run into a physical location for further examination.  Doctors can now serve more patients and are less likely to catch the latest version of the flu.  Health care providers are happy because they can more effectively serve patients without the expense of ER and urgent care visits.

With PaaS solutions for RTC, any business can add real time communications services to more intimately engage with customers in a matter of days and weeks. Development time can be concentrated in making an effective application that needs the needs of businesses and customers, rather than spending time making nuts and bolts services. RTC PaaS companies provides those services in a pre-made fashion, meaning any business can get into RTC without having to worry about the complexities of implementing RTC services in their own data centers.

Edited by Peter Bernstein

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Polymorphic Attack Response Changing the Security Industry

December 28, 2015

By John Casaretto
Contributing Writer

Modern trends in sophisticated security attacks show that polymorphic attacks are on the rise. This issue has caused great concern and is forcing companies and the security industry to shift towards solutions that have intelligence and behavior sophistication and are appropriate in response to these constantly evolving threats. Polymorphic attacks come at multiple levels, they can change in time, or they can be launched under one type of attack but then switch to another while hiding the nature of the true attack. These types of attack campaigns are on the rise and classic security strategies are proving to be insufficient in responding to the threats. Things like signature-based protection and old school firewalls are not sufficient in the face of these advanced threat scenarios.

LightReading editor Carol Wilson dives into these questions and the dynamics of polymorphic attacks. Looking at the effect of these threats on the enterprise landscape, her report gets into several examples, such as how Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are being combined with other attacks such as volumetric attacks. More than seizing an opportunity of weakness, polymorphic attacks are staged in an effort to overwhelm targets with an emphasis on stretching responses as thinly as possible. In many ways, these attacks are a lot like a stress test which forces the subject into situations where their defenses will start to show cracks. In other ways, these attacks can simply be a distraction to a secondary or even third attack. In either case, the hopes are that flaws will be found or that there are a limited amount of personnel on hand to deal with a multi-level, phased, and massive attack.  

It is clear that not only has the landscape of threats evolved significantly, but the spectrum of attack targets has dramatically grown in recent years. The concept of siloed computers, data centers, and applications is completely gone. Today's enterprise environment is composed of many moving pieces and thus has many vectors which cybercriminals will seek to exploit. Applications, mobile devices, an increasing shift to cloud-based applications, and many other technologies has permanently change the game. In addition, the global threat of tenacious cybercrime organizations and marketplaces has made the spectrum of threats greater than ever. Techniques, tactical information, information about specific targets, source code for malware and many other pieces of information are traded, sold, and exchanged on a daily basis. In many cases, criminals will focus on the opportunity that will give them the greatest profit, sometimes it is malice, and other times the motivation is nation-state.

Whatever the focus is, there is little doubt that the threat of polymorphic attacks is changing the industry. Intelligence sharing, security analytics, and tightly integrated systems and processes are some of the ways that the threat is being dealt with. There are a number of products in the market that have stepped up to the game and many companies that are implementing sophisticated systems and process to deal with these threats.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

SDN and NFV Tech Continues to Rise

There is very little doubt that in web-scale networking there are a number of different changes when it comes the SDN and NFV services. Those changes are coming thanks in large part to the transition that is going on in the industry to a much faster moving and agile data center as well as business ecosystem. There is more data being passed through these data centers as well as more users coming in and quite a bit more focus on resource efficiency.

One report about the SDN and NFV markets shows that global cloud traffic actually managed to pass the zettabyte threshold back in 2014 and the move to the cloud is going to be almost complete by 2019. The report, as Data Center Knowledge points out, says that 86 percent of all data center traffic will be going through the cloud.

There are a couple of different reasons as to why the cloud is moving front and center when it comes to the SDN and NFV markets. The ease in which a company can scale its needs when it comes to the cloud is the biggest reason people are choosing this feature. There isn’t the need to download one kind of solution and then work around the fact that it might be bigger than a company needs for its purposes.

Using the cloud also means that IT professionals don’t need to be present at all times when it comes to making these adjustments, but it is the specific features that make the technology so attractive. There’s extra processing power as well as the fact that resources can be quickly and efficiently reassigned. There are examples when companies will need SDN and other times when they need to use NFV solutions but it seems more and more that firms are needing both pieces of technology on a more regular basis.