HSN’s sales are soaring.
The TV shopping network’s sales grew 14% in 2014, compared with 4.1% growth across the retail industry.
HSN’s growth, which is largely driven by its apparel and jewelry business, comes at a time when Americans are increasingly spending money on other categories, like healthcare.
We spoke to HSN Inc. CEO Mindy Grossman on how the retailer is thriving in this challenging environment.
1. Customizing online experience.
About half of the Home Shopping Network’s business is now from online shopping.
HSN has been working to make every customer’s experience different, Grossman said.
The brand tailors product offerings based on the customer’s browsing history and past purchases.
Even marketing is tailored toward what the customer has responded to in the past.
For example, customers who bought something after receiving an email are more likely to get emails from the company in the future.
2. Offering exclusive products.
HSN wants to make sure that other retailers don’t carry its products.
More than 70% of the items the company sells are exclusive.
Grossman said that this approach helps the retailer avoid the promotional strategy that many retailers experience.
“It’s important to ask yourself ‘why would the customer want this product,'” she said. “Offering exclusive products gives you a new value proposition, it can motivate the customer to buy what you’re selling.”
3. Changing the digital experience.
HSN has poured resources into redesigning its website.
The retailer has also created niche online shops for categories like vitamins and closet organization.
“Shoppers can get overwhelmed, so curation is importan! t,” Gros sman said.
HSN also has personalities like Colleen Lopez curate items online for shoppers.
Back in 2012 the Ramnit worm wriggled its way through social networks
If you’re an Android owner, you might start seeing ads in Google’s app store soon.
The company is going to start testing out search ads in the Google Play store. That means that when you search for a kind of app — like “travel” or “coupon” — the top result could be a sponsored suggestion that a developer paid for.
“Search ads on Google Play will enable developers to drive more awareness of their apps and provide consumers new ways to discover apps that they otherwise might have missed,” the company writes in a blog post.
In the next several weeks, a limited set of users will start seeing ads from a select group of advertisers. Google will test out the ads for a few month and look at the results and feedback before deciding on an expansion plan.
Selling ads on Google Play is a big opportunity for Google. The company makes billions of dollars a year from search advertising on web search and YouTube — adding Google Play would just sweeten the pot. Product chief Sundar Pichai told Forbes that the company wants to capitalize on the app store’s growing momentum. As investors and analysts panic about how Google’s revenue growth is slowing because it can’t charge as much for mobile ad clicks as desktop ad clicks, this news offers another avenue for mobile monetization.
Google Play search ads could provide a big revenue boost to Google. !
More than 1 billion people around the world currently use the Android operating system.
The company also reported it’s paid more than $7 billion to developers this year. Apple, which does not have ads in its App Store, paid developers $10 billion.
Cereal sales are declining, and some analysts believe they might never recover.
Kellogg, which owns brands like Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies, Froot Loops and Special K, saw morning food sales fall 8% this quarter, reports Devin Leonard at Bloomberg Businessweek.
Sales of 19 of the brand’s top 25 cereal brands fell last year, according to Bloomberg.
Here are a few reasons Americans are abandoning cereal.
1. Too busy.
In many households, both parents work and don’t have time to eat a bowl of cereal, according to Businessweek.
Kellogg is responding by offering more healthy cereal bars and snacks.
“We recognize that sometimes consumers don’t have time for a bowl of cereal and milk,” Kellogg vice president Paul Norman said in an earnings call.
2. Fewer children.
People are having fewer children, meaning that they aren’t going through as much sugary cereal.
“The company flourished in the Baby Boom era, when fathers went off to work and mothers stayed behind to tend to three or four children,” Businessweek writes.
The US fertility rate fell to a record low last year, The Washington Examiner reports, citing the National Center for Health Statistics.
Today, the average family has two children.
3. Health-conscious attitudes.
Consumers are increasingly wary of packaged foods and big corporations.
For years, people thought sugary cereals were healthy bec! ause of their low fat content.
But Americans’ dietary guidelines have changed to include fatty foods like eggs. Now, people are encouraged to avoid sugar for their health.
Rather than eating cereal out of a box, many Americans are choosing to make their own bacon and eggs.
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Uber has launched a partnership with Starwoods Hotels & Resorts to reward its most loyal passengers. The ride-sharing app announced on Tuesday the “first-of-its-kind” deal, which lets Uber riders earn “Starpoints” as they travel. Starpoints can be used to get free nights at any of Starwoods’ nine brands worldwide, including the Westin, the Sheraton, W hotels, the St. Regis, and The Luxury Collection.
To participate, Uber users must first sign up to become an “Starwood Preferred Guest” (SPG) member, which is the hotel chain’s own loyalty scheme. The membership requires guests to pay for one night at a Starwood hotel. Once that’s done, all riders have to do is link up their SPG and Uber accounts.
This is what happens when you link your Uber account to your SPG one:
The company says passengers earn 1 Starpoint for every US dollar they spend with Uber, and even more when they organise a getaway directly through the SPG-Uber account. You need 15,000 Starpoints for one free stay at a Starwood hotel. So, clearly, you have to use Uber a lot to get a free stay — this definitely best suits travellers and people who use Starwood hotels. But still, it’s open to all.
New data on sales of Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus show that the iOS mobile platform grew significantly faster than Google’s Android, with the latter suffering a fall in market share in the fourth quarter of 2014.
iOS enjoyed a year-on-year change of 46.1% between Q4 of 2013 and 2014, compared to Android’s 26.6%. This led to an Android drop-off in market share in the last quarter, from 78.2% a year ago to 76.6% in 2014. iOS, in contrast, rose from 17.5% to 19.7%.
We’ve argued before that the success of iPhone 6 represents an existential threat to Android. Previously, it appeared that Apple was content to cream off the richest 15% of the smartphone market while Android dominated everything else. But now it looks as if iPhone is taking share from lower-income consumers too. Android also has weaker app-developer loyalty (app makers prefer to release iOS apps first) and apps on Android tend to make less money than those on iOS. Put those two factors together — Apple taking a greater share of phone users and app developers regarding Android as the second-choice platform — and it raises the question of just how much of the market can Apple steal? Just how dominant is Android, really?
The data shows that the smartphone market is still a duopoly, 9to5Mac points out. Competitors like Windows Phone and BlackBerry are ! barely g iven a chance by consumers. Android and iOS have a combined global share of 96.3%, according to new figures from the International Data Corporation (IDC).
Here are the new numbers:
Artificial intelligence is about to take off in a big way.
According to a new report by Goldman Sachs, AI is defined as “any intelligence exhibited by machines or software.” That can mean machines that learn and improve their operations over time, or that make sense of huge amounts of disparate data.
Though it’s been almost 60 years since we first heard of the term AI, Goldman believes that we are “on the cusp of a period of more rapid growth in its use and applications.”
The reasons? Cheaper sensors leading to a flood of new data, and rapid improvements in technology that allows computers to understand so-called “unstructured” data — like conversations and pictures.
Other industry insiders are confident that AI will continue to evolve at a much higher rate while affecting wage growth in many industries. Ray Kurzweil, the director of engineering at Google, believes that human-level AI is coming by 2029.
So who are the players going to be?
First, several big tech companies have been storing up patents related to the field.
IBM is the leader, with about 500 patents related to artificial intelligence. IBM’s super-computer — Watson — is an example of the shift to AI, as it entered the healthcare sector in 2013 and helped lower the error rate in cancer diagnoses by physicians.
Other big patent players in the space include Microsoft, Google, and SAP.
A lot of big tech companies have also been buying AI startups.
In the last two years, Google bought five different companies having to do with technologies like image recognition, natural language processing, and neural networks. Yahoo set its sights on boosting its image recognition and natural language processing abilities. Twitter bought a deep learning technology last year to power its image recognition capabilities, while Home Depot uses a recently bought data analytics lab to help with their pricing.
Analysts fro! m Goldma n Sachs are particularly bullish about AI technologies that come from Asia and the US, while Europe lags.
So how do investors capitalize on the coming boom?
Goldman believes Japanese hardware company NEC — the number one facial and text analysis company in the world — is a good investment. They also recommend several companies that sell AI components into cars for scenarios like helping drivers park: Nidec, MobileEye, Nippon Ceramic, and Pacific Industrial.
Marketo and Opower, both based in the U.S, are also rated as buys. Both of these companies focus on personalizing customer engagement through the use of AI to analyze massive amounts of customer data. Goldman’s analysts are also bullish about Amazon and Twitter, two companies that use AI to boost revenue and customer loyalty.
Clickthrough rates (CTRs) for US Facebook ads showed impressive growth throughout 2014. According to data released in January 2015 by Kinetic Social, US Facebook ads had an average CTR of 1.26% in Q4 2014—up 50% over 0.84% in the third quarter. This rate was more than triple that in Q1 2014 (0.41%) and nearly quadruple Q2’s 0.32%.
Among industry impressions tracked on the social marketing platform, travel emerged as the leader in average CTR, which rose a whopping 557.5% year over year to reach 2.63%—the top rate. With massive growth of 803.6%, consumer packaged goods came in second, at 2.53%, followed by retail (1.27%), financial services a! nd insur ance (1.14%) and education (0.62%).
Other research supports the idea that consumers are interested in interacting with travel brands via Facebook. According to Adobe Digital Index data released in late January 2015, global social engagement with travel industry brand posts on Facebook was 3.5% in Q4 2014—the second-highest out of the sectors studied. This trailed only retail (4.2%) and led tech (2.9%), media (2.4%) and finance (2.4%). In addition, data from Shareablee showed that the number of unique visitors who engaged with US Facebook brand pages totaled 25,200 in September 2014, up 13.5% over six months.
Facebook is the social network of choice among travelers for sharing and engaging with industry content, too, according to September 2014 polling by ShareThis. Nearly seven in 10 travel content shares occurred on Facebook, vs. just 11% for second-place Twitter. At the same time, 53% of engagements, or clickbacks, by travel planners were via Facebook, compared with 14% for Pinterest, the second-highest response.
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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