Blog #4 – Retargeting

Products: I used to shop in Macy’s online store. Recently I just searched for boots on Macy’s website and clicked on the product I’m interested in and stayed on that webpage for couple of minutes. Several minutes later when I logged on my Facebook page, that pair of boots appeared on the right hand side of my Facebook page.Screen shot 2015-02-09 at 4.33.09 PM

Services: I just joint Marketing Profs as a member and have searched for its online courses. Several days later when I happened to go to gigaom.com to read a marketing article, the online course provided by Marketing Profs appeared on that webpage. Another example is about Marketo. I used to search for marketing articles through Marketo. And an ad asking me to download an article from Marketo was magically showing up on my Facebook page. I’ve also seen many other retargeting examples from online retail stores such as Amazon.com and taobao.com.

Screen shot 2015-02-09 at 4.18.42 PM Screen shot 2015-02-09 at 4.36.14 PM Screen shot 2015-02-09 at 4.38.31 PM

Generally speaking, these retargeting type of ads are distracting, especially when they are showing up on some totally irrelevant website of their business. But they are still effective in my opinion since they do make me more likely to buy and I did take many actions through those retargeting ads. I will download most of the articles from Marketo whenever I saw the ads on other website. And I used to spent hundreds of dollars on Amazon.com through its retargeting ads. The most important reason those ads work for me is because they know my product preference and shopping style through my recent activities on their website. So the products or services they displayed on the other website are either attractive for me in general or what I’m looking for recently. That’s how retargeting ads success – get to know the customers purchasing behavior and meet their demand.

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Be a Great Mind and Fall in Love with the BEST in BEAUTY!!!

Late into fall quarter my entrepreneurial strategy team was tasked with conducting some mild research on Birchbox, the send-you-free-samples-for-$10-a-month cosmetic company. Although this company can furnish classy, gentleman-colored boxes of a viridian hue, the bulk of their wares are shipped in a Mexican pink enclosure much more amenable to genderbirch-stereotyped shades of the lady consumer. A tragic byproduct of this “research” I conducted is that a seemingly omnipresent glare of the Birchbox magenta stalks me from page to page, whether I am looking up guitar tablature or checking out Facebook. What has struck me most about this is the stubborn longevity of their targeted advertising. I really thought (and hoped) that, by now, this cookie-guided box ad could be packed up and shipped to some other corner of the web. Instead, I keep asking myself if I want to ‘fall in love with the best in beauty’. Fortunately their efforts have failed to curtail my aversion to their product, but how long can I hold out? Falling in love can be so rewarding! The thrill of it all! The excitement! It can also, however, leave you with unwanted eyeliner, mascara, and associated sundries cluttering your bathroom countertop and an empty sense of feeling used.

EconAs a subscriber to The Economist, I will from time to time post interesting articles on my Facebook wall, copying the URL from the online version of the publication. Today, I was pleased to see that a song lyric site I visited bore the welcome catchy white text of my favorite news periodical. Seeing as how their advertising already succeeded in roping me in, their advertisements only reinforce my appreciation for their pithy, witty articles punctuated with epenthetic ‘u’s and other archaic Britishisms. This ad in question even helps trump up myself esteem, allowing me to identify myself with the sultry erudition of The Economist. By Jove, it’s a cheeky one, it is!

Lastly, for several months I contemplated making one of the largest retail expenditures of my life: a pair of Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots. Being the son of my father – through no fault of my own, mind you – I am prone to the Knackstedt proclivity of researching, studying, and open-mindedly reading every review of a product imaginable and, upon more consideration, devoting near-equal commitment toward price comparisons before any notion of a purchase is executed. As such, I have wanted a pair of this objectively sublime footwear for over two years. Longing indeed makes the heart grow 1000fonder, but the equally stylish ads have, with some sly regularity, popped up on various websites I have perused and engendered an even deeper yearning. Here, though, I can say that their algorithmic persistence paid off and that this story – and blog post – are wrapped up with a happy ending of me purchasing the shoes three weeks ago. There is now a noticeable spring in my step (although that could be complementary from my now much-lighter wallet, too).

Blog #3: Exploding Kittens

I chose to look at Exploding Kittens. This is a game developed by the creator of The Oatmeal. The reason I find it so fascinating is that it a simple card game, yet it has launched the most successful Kickstarter campaign ever. So far the campaign has raised $5,057,070 and it’s not even done yet! It still has 18 days remaining to raise more funds.

This game is already receiving a lot of press and hype, however it wouldn’t hurt for them to continue to reach out to the press and bloggers to expand their reach beyond the kickstarter crowd. I would recommend that the primary creator, Matthew Inman, along with his fellow creators, reach out to the following bloggers in order to increase their visibility.

1) Eli Sanders-@elijsanders

In order to gain more traction in the Seattle area I recommend Eli, a fixture at The Stranger, a Seattle newspaper, website and blog with a large readership base. While he typically blogs about politics and hard-hitting news, he does occasionally post about lighter topics. A post from his could have a broad reach.

2) Jace Lacob-@televisionary

Buzzfeed’s Entertainment Editorial Director

3) Christina Bonnington-@redgirlsays

Staff writer for Wired.

Blog #1 – Flash Volunteer

Research Company: Flash Volunteer

Flash Volunteer is a real time, real world volunteer engagement online platform. Since their mission is to “build community and increase volunteerism through creation of a sustainable, user-friendly online platform”, their potential users could be anyone who is interested in community services, looking for flexibilities, tech-enabled, but not necessarily tech savvy. Their current customers are mostly young professionals who work in the office, well educated, are interested in knowing more people and contributing to communities with fun.

Since it’s a non-profit organization, it doesn’t really need to compete with other companies. Its long-term strategy could be developing more user-friendly and easy-to-use volunteer online platforms and apps. It could “steal” some customers who are users of other volunteer platforms such as UN Volunteers and GloVo. But instead of competing with other platforms, it’s devoted to providing more options and flexibilities to volunteers. As its platform and products are developed more engaging and easy to use, it could expand its customer group, engage and motivate more people from young professionals to elder and less educated people.

Judy’s Book: Craig’s List meets Zagats meets Orkut

Judy’s Book is a social search tool as well as a web community where users can exchange reviews and recommend local business and places. In 2004, Seth Godin called it “Craig’s List meets Zagats meets Orkut.”

It looks like Judy’s Book is going after households and families, who are the major audience of the site and also where the quality reviews come from. Among those households, Judy’s Book looks especially at moms who are seeking trusted advice on local activities and explore local favorites. As a local business directory, the listings on Judy’s Book are mostly small business; they are the target merchant customers to Judy’s Book. Those small businesses can submit their deals in the web community, and the site will show the store search content in good placements.

I think Judy’s Book has potential in the market of “personalized search results”. With its localized search focus, it enables users to get reviews and recommendations on local store and share places and recommendations in social media such as Pinterest. The reviews and recommendations encompass all aspects of social lives, which include car dealers reviews; dentists and vets recommendations; civic and community libraries; elementary schools, and colleges and universities; art museums and restaurants.

Judy’s Book surely has an advantage in it review quality. It is the first local rating and review site to add Pinterest sharing to its photos. This also serves the local small business good as they can use the reviews to increase their social media presence and get more easily found through SEO. But the business rating and reviews industry is already a red ocean with big players such as Yelp, Urban Spoon, Craiglist and Citysearch, Judy’s Book also face competition from similar startups such as Insider Pages.

To stand out from the competition, and steal customers from those big players, Judy’s Book should go further in personalized search results. Other than just listings, Consumers are now using local search for directions, operating hours, price comparisons and so on. Traditional site listings will have limited market potential despite the large demand for local search; it needs to adapt its search solutions according to consumers’ needs and expectations. Therefore, a mobile strategy will be necessary.

Blog 1: Glympse

Glympse

Modern technology has led to constant communication with our family, friends, and colleagues, even when we are on the go. The myriad of available communication mediums has led to the expectation that we will be available and within reach at all times. There is no longer an excuse to be late for any event without first informing someone, or an excuse to get lost. Technology shows us where to go, allows us to inform each other of our expected arrival time and enables us to constantly update each other on our travel status. However, this expectation can lead to dangerous practices such as texting while driving, or to rude behavior such as constant texting during meetings or while engaged with others. It can also be a burden to keep others updated on our location and on our ETA. For the busy person on the go this can be stressful.

This is where Glympse comes in. This technology allows the user to send their location to anyone. The recipient will open the message and “glimpse” where the user is on a map and will see their location move in real time.

Glympse appears to have started by targeting the young, tech-savvy market segment. Glympse has not been heavily promoted and is mostly in use by those in the startup and tech scenes. Glympse has a presence at Meetup and other technology events, which has succeeded in increasing its visibility in that target market. As those initial users adapt the app, they send Glympses to their friends, thus spreading use and knowledge of this application. As awareness of Glympse expands and more people adopt the technology, I believe that Glympse will reach a wider target market.

I personally use Glympse, as do some of my friends, which leads me to believe that we are part of the initial and expanding target market. We are all busy people on the go, who want to safely, conveniently, and quickly let our friends, family, and colleagues know where we are at.

This leads me to the overall market analysis. Glympse has the ability to expand into the majority of the marketplace. This is not a technology that stands to benefit only specific demographics; it can help anyone who wishes to know where someone is, or wants others to know where they are. This includes virtually everyone.

Glympse could easily expand to include people in the following markets:

  • Families with kids. If a child sends a Glympse to their parents, it allows the parent to see where the child is at all times. The parents can monitor their progress. This may give many parents the peace of mind to let their kids venture out on their own, whether they are beginning to drive, or going out with a friend.
  • People in an unfamiliar place. Glympse can be used when the user is trying to meet up with someone but they do not know the address, or if one or both people are unfamiliar with the area. Rather than try to describe landmarks or search out an address, they can send the person a Glympse, allowing the recipient to follow the map to reach them.
  • People on the move. Say two users are taking a walk around Greenlake and they agree to meet in the middle. Glympse allows them to see each other’s progress and ensure that they don’t accidentally bypass each other.

These many uses imply that Glympse has the potential to acquire customers who are currently relying solely on Google Maps or other similar map applications. Glympse takes it to the next step, by allowing users to share where they are at without addresses or landmarks. Glympse also has the potential to take the place of other more expensive technologies that are designed to help parents keep track of their children and their vehicles.

The Koru Program

Koru (http://www.joinkoru.com/) is a 4-week intensive practical skills training program available locally in Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston. In short, the program promises to provide participants with right business skills and professional connections needed to be noticed by today’s tech companies, with the added bonus of a guaranteed job interview with such a company at the end.

The program’s website outlines two flavors of the program that meet the needs of two types of customers: 1) the recent graduate or aspiring student, nearing graduation and willing to dedicate four weeks to the program, versus 2) the busy student or professional who needs to approach the program at their own personalized pace. In either case, the target audience seems to be students or professionals who desire to start a career in the tech industry, but does not have the time, money or interests in pursuing a 2-3 year MBA or similar business academic program at a traditional college.

I think Koru shines in its professional network, which is, supposedly, accessible to participants during the program. Several notable people are listed, including an expert in residence of the Harvard Innovation Lab, the head of recruiting at LinkedIn, several CEOs and founders, as well as the music icon, Nas! This certainly allows the company to compete with traditional MBA and alternative business certificate options, which may also have network potential, but do not guarantee interviews.

While this disruptive approach to career readiness certainly seems to position Koru well for stealing market share from traditional academic programs, there are a few potential challenges I can see facing the company. First, the pricing for the program is not listed. The website states that participants can pick a payment plan after they have been accepted. With this, it seems the initial audience they are targeting may be graduate students who are supported by affluent parents and/or not concerned about the cost to getting connected to a high tech company. Cost is typically a big factor in academic program choice, not just time commitment. For the company to reach beyond this audience, they will need to show they can be competitive on price upfront.

Another challenge for Koru may be in maintaining high enough quality of program graduates to ensure they can sustain their company connections. Since pledging an interview is part of their business model, it will be important to ensure reputable companies are willing to support this perk for their graduates. Currently, the program probably tries to address this by controlling the selection of their participants. Interviewing is, however, not a guarantee on the quality of students they bring in.

Dwellable – Redefining Vacation Rental Searching

Dwellable is a Seattle Start-up company providing online reservation service of vacation rental properties on its website and mobile applications. The founder and CEO Adam Doppelt is also the cofounder of Urban Spoon. According to him, the inspiration to build this company is a disastrous family trip experience in Hawaii. The pain point made him realize that a better searching site should be in place with objective and reliable searching results that redefines the searching experience in vacation rental market.

With the existing competitors such as AirBnB and Homeaway thriving in marketing, Dwellable is also targeting at travelers and property owners. The secret sauce for Dwellable’s quick tap into the market is its technology based visual designing, listing algorithm and listing free for property owners.

What worth mentioning in marketing that really sets Dwellable apart is that, by utilizing SEO/content marketing, thought leadership, App Store Optimization and social media, the company quickly gained public attention in short period of time and attract early adopters and fans at very low cost.

Moving forward, the challenges for Dwellable would be scale the business via strategic alliance with more property rental businesses, improving inventory and driving traffic without sacrifice of quality.

Breaking the Commercial Real Estate Barrier for Small Businesses

OfficeSpace.com is number 199 on the GeekWire 200. The site is a destination for tenants in the market for office space and other types of commercial real estate. OfficeSpace.com aggregates listings from a variety of sources and presents them in a user-friendly search, much like Zillow and other sites do for homebuyers. What’s special about OfficeSpace.com? For starters, you can view the listings for free. Yes, that is special in the commercial real estate market. If you visit the leading providers CoStar and LoopNet, it quickly becomes apparent that simply searching for office listings is going to cost you. For those of us who own or manage small businesses, this can raise a frustrating barrier to the simple act of getting started. OfficeSpace.com recognized that small businesses were not well served in the commercial real estate market–and a majority of businesses are small. A 2012 report in GeekWire describes how the company re-focused after being purchased in 2010 by entrepreneurs with ties to WhitePages. With its eye on the market for smaller spaces, OfficeSpace.com offers a simple interface without the extensive research and analysis capabilities offered by those other providers that are geared especially for real estate pros. By giving small businesses easy access to listings, OfficeSpace.com provides a service to commercial brokers, presumably making it easier for them to work on transactions that would otherwise yield a lower return on their time invested. Simple economics would suggest that exposing all willing buyers to what you’re selling will promote a more efficient market. OfficeSpace.com may just be the catalyst for participants in the small office market.

Exo Labs – Market Analysis

In order to capture the attention of young students, hands-on and up-to-date activities are necessary, which is why Exo Labs is marketing a new iPad-compatible camera for microscopes. Traditionally, students are stuck looking into an old microscope and outdated slides when studying objects under a microscope. Exo Labs is trying to capture the student (and teacher) market through the use of a versatile and simple camera for microscopes.

It appears that Exo Labs is attempting to replace traditional microscopes and educational tools which are either too powerful and expensive, or too cheap and destructible. Exo Labs is attempting to capture a market whose users require a usable and durable microscope, but may not need the complex analysis that more expensive systems offer. In order to capture this market, they are first going after educators and students, but they are also working to implement it in traditional research settings and showcasing these efforts on their blog. There are a large number of microscope cameras specific to high powered microscopes, which is perhaps why Exo Labs decided to approach the academic market which has a much greater concern with budget and actively engaging students. In order to put cameras into the classroom, Exo Labs is approaching teachers and administrators to show them the usefulness of the device. In addition to the hardware camera, the company maintains an iPad app which enables schools which already make use of iPads to integrate it into their curriculum.

A key component of Exo Labs marketing is their blog in which they showcase how different users are making use of the camera and iPad software. The blog showcases how teachers and students have integrated the camera and software into different activities, which is great for gaining a teacher’s attention. Additionally, the blog has showcased how scientific staff is also using the Exo Labs camera to help further their research, which will likely help the company gain more traction as it adds researchers into its target market.

 

Assignment 1 – #188 Remitly Market Analysis

Have you ever had trouble sending money internationally from the US? Many people are nervous about sending money overseas. Remitly is a Seattle based company that serves as a viable option in sending money internationally. It is fast, safe, and secure for anybody to send money outside of the US.  All you need is a bank account!

The type of customer they are going after are ones with family and friends from countries outside of the US. Most likely these are individuals aged 18+. The individuals range from parents sending money to children, family members sending money to each other, and friends sending money to friends. One incentive of using Remitly is their exchange rates and low cost in fees. The type of customers Remitly is attracted to are those who use Western Union and Xoon for sending money internationally.

Ritani — Market Analysis

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. For men, it could be overwhelming to pick an engagement ring. Ritani is a jewelry company which specializes in custom-designed items. A customer can create his own engagement ring by selecting a diamond and a ring setting.

After ordering the ring online, the customer can go to one of Ritani’s participating stores to see the ring in person. Customers do not need to commit to a purchase and can walk away if they don’t like it, which differentiates Ritani from other online diamond retailers.

Ritani targets young professionals who have high income and shop both online and in-store because the company found that segment spent significantly more than those who interacted solely with one retail channel.

The jewelry industry has become more and more competitive. Among Ritani’s competitors are other online diamond stores, such as Blue Nile, James Allen, Union Diamond, B2C Jewels, Brian Gavin, Diamondwave, etc.

Assignment 1 : OfferUp – Market Analysis

Assignment 1 : OfferUp – Market Analysis

OfferUp was founded by two new fathers with a mountain of kid’s stuff, Nick Huzar and Arean van Veelen, locally in Seattle in 2011. With that motivation, OfferUp was born with one mission: revolutionizing how you buy and sell locally with a single snap. It was ranked at #126 in Geekwire 200 Startup List.

I started using OfferUp since 2 years ago when I moved to Bellevue. Cleaning up things in the garage and storage, I realized how much “new stuff” I bought but never used for once. I started posting things through Craigslist, eBay, and other social media channels. Then I found some disadvantages of these networks: 1) communication is too slow through email channel; 2) buyers need to travel all the way to my area for the purchased items, and it’s a waste of time if the buyers are not satisfied with the item when they see it; 3) I am very concerned about overwhelming my social media network with these “junk sale”. So I searched online, downloaded a few apps and gave a try, OfferUp helped me make a few fast deals within 48 hours after the post.

OfferUp is doing what its slogan says: Sell, Buy, Simple. Users only need to spend 2 minutes on the app/website through 4 easy steps: picture, price, description, post. It browses the items by zipcode, which narrows down the buyers in the neighborhood. Items can be searched by categories, and last quarter OfferUp launched “Holiday” SEO to boost the sales during holiday seasons in 2014. It focuses on mobile users, and reached over 40,000 users on Android, and non disclosured number on iPhone/iPad users. From a few articles I read about OfferUp, it steals almost 30% market shares from Craigslist and eBay locally in Seattle. The app connected Facebook and Twitter’s users , which is easily to tell OfferUp’s scalability in nationwide market expansion.

The entrepreneurship pivot: Hointer builds a suite of services, who knew?

What’s a Hointer?

Background

Once upon a time, Amazon supply chain manager Nadia Shouraboura spent her time trying to find channels to get consumer goods from point A to B. The mathematics PhD saw an opportunity for consumers: a new way to delight in-store shoppers. And so, Hointer was born.

I came to learn about Hointer a couple years ago from an article in Geekwire about a tiny startup in Seattle that was revolutionizing the way we shop. The initial premise was simple: remove that uncomfortable part of shopping for jeans. The user would walk into Hointer’s brick-and-mortar store in Pacific Place in Downtown Seattle and would download an app on their smartphone via free wifi. The user would then walk around the store and scan QR codes of jeans they liked and request them in their size. The user would then enter a change room, where a handy robot would drop the requested jeans from a chute for the user to try on. Rejects were places in a reject chute, and the jeans the user liked could be purchased directly from their phone. The user could then walk straight out of the change room having never interacted with a sales associate. (Read: you never have to embarrassingly walk out of a change room and request a different size.)

At the time, I had to see this in person, and was impressed by the ease of use and the novelty of the technology. I remember thinking at the time about how limited such a specific technology seemed to be, and I wondered how Hointer would scale, and if it would succeed in markets outside of tech-savvy Seattle, San Francisco, and New York. I then promptly forgot about the technology.

Pivot to Today

Scanning the Geekwire 200 companies, I noticed Hointer was buried on the list at #185. Only #185 after three years existence? What gives?

Then I went to the website. Instead of progressing how I thought the company would: by franchising stores nationwide and internationally, Shouraboura instead pivoted the technology and is now offering it to traditional retail powerhouses around the world. Turns out you can use those nifty robots in a number of retail operations. Hointer is now a B2B retailer, selling customized packages of the Hointer suite to suit a brick-and-mortar retail operation.

Target Market

Hointer initially began as it’s own B2C enterprise: selling high-end jeans to high-end consumers. We’re talking people who are willing to pay $150 – $300 for a pair of jeans, and want to do it in the least socially interactive way possible. With a switch to licensing technology, Hointer has completely changed the target market. With a typical license running around $40,000 to $50,000 per year, Hointer has identified companies who can afford this technology (likely bigger companies), who desire to change the way brick-and-mortar business is performed to keep in line with increasingly tech-conscious consumers. In 2013, Hointer partnered with Levi’s. Customers get the experience of Hointer with their well-known product. There is rumor that the company will soon partner with a “major consumer electronics chain” in the U.S. While not product specific, it appears as though the tarket market are consumer retailers with a flare for technology, and a willingness to take a risk on increasing sales. Who are they trying to protect from? Online retailers like Amazon can offer better prices on consumer goods, however, in a world where we must try on a pair of jeans before buying, technology like Hointer’s could be greatly valued in the marketplace.

Assignment 1 – Redfin

You can’t always remove the middleman from the deal, but you can automate parts of the process to help reduce costs! Redfin did this for the real estate market. Traditionally, if someone wanted to sell or buy a house, they would reach out to a real estate agent who would either put their house on the market or show them houses that were up for sale in the area. When the deal was finally closed, the seller would pay 3% of the house price to seller’s agent and 3% of the house price to the buyer’s agent. Which means the seller makes 6% less money and the house price for the buyer has to appreciate by atleast 6% for them to break even. This process works well people who are new to the area or not technically savvy. But for the educated and tech savvy population of Seattle metro area, this is waste of money.

 

Redfin simplified the process by providing online listing services similar to traditional websites, but also having real estate agents who help you with paper work and close the deal once you have decided which house to buy. The redfin agents don’t spend as much time showing houses as their target customers are expected to have spent time reviewing the information about houses online and building a shortlist of houses that meet their needs. This saving in time/money is passed on the customer in terms of cash back.  

 

Redfin’s website has multiple search filters that help buyer narrow down the options from a vast pool. You can also save the search criterion and redfin will notify you if a new house matching the criterion is listed. You can add a house as a favorite and redfin will send updates to your inbox if anything about the house changes. Redfin also has user friendly phone apps that let you search and monitor houses you like. The entire buying and selling process can be managed online with step by step updates. Redfin has recently introduced 3D walkthrough that provides interactive HD view of the house interiors, so users can make a better shortlist of the homes they would like to see and save time and energy. In addition to having the publicly available data about the house listed on the website, Redfin agents also add their insights when they tour the house giving buys one more perspective.

 

All these features in addition to cost savings, which is significant considering houses are not cheap, gives Redfin a unique competitive advantage. They don’t have any direct competition but traditional lead generating websites like Zillow and traditional real estate agents are it’s two biggest competitors. The target segment for Redfin are young tech savvy people who can use the features of redfin to narrow down the list of houses they want to look at, are comfortable managing the buying/selling process online, do not have time or do not want to spend a lot of time going thru the traditional buying/selling channels and want to save money in the process.

 

I still don’t understand why we end up paying thousands of dollars to real estate agents for a job that is not very complex and in some cases, does not require a lot of time. I believe website like redfin will take over the real estate market in the next few year. So if you looking to buy/sell a house, spend 30 mins on redfin’s website before you sign up to lose 6% of your property’s value!

Assignment 1

Please look at the Geekwire Seattle Startup 200. Pick a company between # 100 and 200 (or smaller and not on the list) – preferably a product you use or would use – and analyze their potential market. Who does it look like they are going after, and what segment are they starting with? (Note: I’m not asking for a marker sizing exercise here. Just take a look at the type of customer they are going after, and who they are trying to steal customers from.)

Please try to tag the assignment with the categories “Assignments” and “Market Analysis.”