To push, email, or post..and on what device? Getting an omnichannel strategy that works (webinar)

multichannel

Join us for this live webinar on Wednesday, August 26 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here for free

Mobile-first isn’t just a sound-bite mantra; today 64 percent of Americans own a smartphone, up from 58 percent in early 2014. If you’re targeting households with an annual income of $75,000 or more, smartphone ownership jumps to 84 percent. Similarly for young adults between 18 and 29, 85 percent own a smartphone.

As a result, companies are experiencing the shift to a mobile-first reality at lightening speed. Take Listia, for example, an online marketplace for selling stuff you don’t need and buying stuff you want using credits earned through the site. According to Founder and CEO Gee Chuang, even a year ago, Listia’s traffic was mostly web-based. Fast-forward to 2015, and most of their traffic is on their mobile app.

At the same time, the company still has considerable presence on the web, so reaching customers in the best way depending on their behavior is a priority.

That’s exactly why this webinar comes at a critical time for marketers who are racing to understand the best automation tools and strategies to reach consumers at the right time, and right place, on the right device. Omnichannel marketing is no longer an option.

Chaung points to a simple use case of a customer selling an item on Listia, and needing to know if someone has a question about it, or if it’s sold. “The challenge these days is not to overcommunicate these things,” says Chaung. “So we track if this person is mostly a web user or mostly a mobile user — so you’ll either get a push notification or an email.”


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That said, mobile has become a primary channel for much of LIstia’s commuication with customers — and, in some cases, the only one that makes sense. For example, if a customer has just been outbid on an item, Listia will send a push notification to reach the consumer quickly — there’s no gurantee they’re sitting in front of their computer.

On the marketing side of things, push notifications are relied on extensively. “We might remind you that you have 5,000 credits to use — and give you a suggestion where you can use them,” says Chuang.

“For example, if we see that a member is buying a lot of children’s clothes, we’ll send a message saying, ‘Maybe your kid has outgrown their clothes recently. If you want to earn some credits quickly, find some clothing that no longer fits your children and you can trade up for other things, like clothing, toys, or video games.'”

The mobile channel is also a great way to reach collectors — a very active user base on the company’s platform. A notification announcing that 10,000 new coins (or cards or stamps) were listed today gets great click-throughs.

But for Chuang, today’s success can be tomorrow’s failure — and the way to avoid that, he says, is through testing.

“One trap that a lot of people fall into is taking a month to set up all these automations and marketing messages and then next month you see a nice uplift — but you never really know if you could do much better unless you continually test.”

Listia continually tests types of messages as well as copy and timing, retaining those that not only deliver an obvious increase in usage — but also result in a decrease in the number of uninstalls or push notification opt-out’s. That last point is key for Chuang.

“You definitely don’t want to overpush to people, but if you do it right, and set a good pace, you get people to opt out less. And that’s when you know you’re doing it right.”

Join us for this not-to-be-missed webinar as we talk about how best to collect and utilize the data essential to an omnichannel approach, how to achieve a unified profile of the customer, and what kind of messaging is appropriate for different devices, on different platforms — all with the aim of maximizing ROI.

In this webinar, you’ll:

  • Why today’s marketing automation solutions fall short of customer expectations
  • How winning omnichannel marketing strategies balance push notifications, in-app messages, email, and social communications
  • Why understanding users on a person level, and not device level, is critical in mobile
    Why “Marketing” is evolving to “Communicating” and how to prepare for that transition

Speakers:

Doug Roberge, Strategic Services Consultant, Kahuna
Gee Chuang, CEO and Founder, Listia
Jon Cifuentes, Insight Analyst, VentureBeat


This webinar is sponsored by Kahuna.

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Comcast says it’ll offer 10 gigabits per second broadband to all customers by 2018

Comcast

Comcast intends to upgrade its entire communications network with new technology that will bring 10 gigabit per second connection speeds to its whole coverage area within two years.

Comcast’s VP of network architecture Robert Howald said as much to FierceCable today. The new high speeds will be brought about by a network upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 technogy, Howald said.

Comcast says it plans to start testing the new technology in selected markets soon. “We’re testing it this year,” Howald told FierceCable. “Our intent is to scale it through our footprint through 2016.”

Before any customers can enjoy speeds of more than 1 Gbps they’ll have to get a new modem, however. Comcast announced in May that a new DOCSIS 3.1 modem will go into production this year and will be available in early 2016.

The 10 Gbps top speed, Howald explained, is highly dependent on perfect network conditions and upgraded network gear. So customers probably won’t see 10 Gbps even with the new modems, but anything even approaching that will likely seem like a game-changing improvement.

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Microsoft rolls out SharePoint Server 2016 IT preview with cloud hybrid search, app launcher

A video of Microsoft executive Bill Baer showing off the IT preview of SharePoint Server 2016.

Microsoft today announced the availability of the IT Preview for its SharePoint Server 2016 document-sharing and collaboration software for deployments in companies’ on-premises data centers.

Updates include a new 10GB maximum for files that users upload, a new app launcher, a simpler file-sharing mechanism, and a tool that keeps users from sending certain documents outside SharePoint for a set period of time. But perhaps the most interesting part of the software is its inclusion of a feature called cloud hybrid search. Now when users search in Office 365, search results feature files from Office 365 and SharePoint. The search index is hosted in Office 365.

“With the cloud hybrid search solution, you index all your crawled content, including on-premises content, in your search index in Office 365,” Bill Baer, Microsoft SharePoint senior technical product manager wrote in a blog post today. “When users query your search index in Office 365, they get unified search results from both on-premises and Office 365 cloud services with combined search relevancy ranking.”

The new feature, which surfaces content into Office Delve, can crawl SharePoint 2007, 2010, and 2013, too, Baer wrote.

SharePoint might not get headlines to the same degree that cloud-only services like Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive do, but as one of Microsoft’s commercially focused Office applications, SharePoint brings in major revenue for Microsoft alongside Windows. Microsoft’s commercial licensing revenue, of which SharePoint is a part, came in at $41 billion for the company’s 2015 fiscal year, which ended on June 30.

This marks the first time that Microsoft has brought together the code base for the cloud-based SharePoint Online service and the on-premises SharePoint Server software, Baer said in a video about the new release, which is embedded below.

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IndoorAtlas offers navigation inside buildings, so you can always find the mall bathroom

IndoorAtlas uses magnetic fields to track location indoors.

IndoorAtlas has begun to deliver its service that lets you navigate inside enclosed buildings such as shopping malls.

IndoorAtlas' IPS app can find a mall bathroom.

Above: IndoorAtlas’ IPS app can find a mall bathroom.

Image Credit: IndoorAtlas

The Palo Alto, California-based company, which was founded in Finland, launched a private beta test in San Francisco for its “indoor positioning system,” or IPS, which lets you navigate to find specific stores, brands, products, promotions, and your friends. The navigation is a big deal because retailers say they lose 15 percent of sales because consumers cannot find the store or the product they’re looking for.

I saw a demo of the service inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre, a multistory mall in San Francisco. I started out at Bloomingdale’s and made my way to a Godiva chocolate shop, and the navigation worked precisely and continuously.


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Using the standalone IPS app, shoppers can now find the exact locations of specific products at multiple locations and then be guided to the last meter to find them. I searched on items such as men’s watches and was directed to different stores that offered them in the mall. We also found a restroom, which is the most frequently requested location at a mall. The directions were accurate, showing me a path around various obstacles among the Bloomingdale’s displays.

The service works only indoors and is a complement to global positioning systems (GPS), which use a network of satellites for fixing locations. By contrast, IndoorAtlas built a system based on the way that sea creatures such as lobsters and turtles navigate the oceans.

IndoorAtlas can find a chocolate shop at the mall.

Above: IndoorAtlas can find a chocolate shop at the mall.

Image Credit: IndoorAtlas

“We believe the IPS app will change the way people get around indoors, just like GPS did for outdoors,” said Janne Haverinen, CEO and founder of IndoorAtlas. “Our patented technology accurately determines positions within a wide range of indoor use cases like shopping malls, airports, museums, hospitals, hotels and more. Today’s beta release at the Westfield San Francisco Centre will be the first of many commercial spaces that leverage proximity awareness to deliver a superior experience to the visitor.”

IPS uses the core IndoorAtlas magnetic positioning technology and a smartphone compass to detect anomalies in the Earth’s magnetic fields. The company said the magnetic positioning works in every building with steel girders, to an accuracy of one to two meters. That makes it possible to do accurate indoor navigation, location-aware mobile search, location-based advertising, and online-to-offline commerce. This magnetic solution eliminates the need for cumbersome, expensive, hard-to-maintain external infrastructures such as beacons, routers, or radio access points via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

At the Westfield San Francisco mall, shoppers can get their exact location, paths to any place in the mall, product search results for categories from men’s belts to women’s dresses, and brand searches for specific brands such as Kate Spade or Hugo Boss. It also has a feature dubbed Buddy Finder. If your friend gives you permission, you can find where that person is in the mall and trace a path to reach them inside the building.

The app can’t yet tell which floor you are on in a multi-story building, however. You have to tell it which floor you are on.

Founded in 2012, IndoorAtlas already serves about 270 million users globally, thanks to a commercial rollout it did with Baidu in China. The company has 20 patents and more than 40 employees. It also signed a partnership with SK Planet in Seoul last week to enhance the O2O service, Syrup.

IndoorAtlas spun out of Oulu University in Finland. It has raised $14.5 million to date, including $10 million from Baidu. The IPS app is available on Android and iOS in a private beta in the U.S.


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Developing Targeted Initiatives For Women Of Color In Tech

computerlady More than 30 diverse tech startups recently attended the first-ever White House Demo Day as part of President Obama’s Startup America initiative to call attention to the low numbers of women and minority tech entrepreneurs. Obama’s call to action included new public/private partnerships that promise to provide Americans with the opportunity to “pursue their bold,… Read More

Twitter’s web users will now get desktop notifications for direct messages

An illustration picture shows the search tab for Twitter on a computer screen in Frankfurt.

Twitter is making some updates to how users are being made aware of new direct messages. The company announced today that over the next few days it will start allowing users to receive desktop notifications for direct messages when they’re using Twitter.com.

“Notifications appear on the top right side of the screen, when a Direct Message is sent,” a Twitter spokeswoman told VentureBeat in an email. “Clicking the notification brings you into the modal where you read and reply to Direct Messages.”

How many will be affected by this change is unknown as Twitter hasn’t provided figures on the number of people specifically on Twitter.com. Eighty percent of Twitter’s 316 million monthly active users are accessing the service on mobile, however, there’s no indication about what percentage is exclusive to mobile.

Perhaps beneficial to those in places where smartphone adoption isn’t rampant, the addition of desktop notifications for messaging will be helpful.

Today’s feature release comes a couple of weeks after Twitter officially removed the 140-character limit on direct messages.

Developing….

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U.S. court declares FTC has authority to regulate cybersecurity

The judge's gavel is seen in court room 422 of the New York Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street February 3, 2012. Picture taken February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chip East (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) - RTR2XRP1

(Reuters, Jonathan Stempel) — A U.S. appeals court said the Federal Trade Commission has authority to regulate corporate cybersecurity, and may pursue a lawsuit accusing hotel operator Wyndham Worldwide Corp of failing to properly safeguard consumers’ information.

Monday’s 3-0 decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld an April 2014 ruling allowing the case to go forward, without ruling on the merits.

Noting the FTC’s broad authority under a 1914 law to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive trade practices, Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro said Wyndham failed to show that its alleged conduct “falls outside the plain meaning of ‘unfair.'”


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Wyndham brands also include Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, Super 8 and Travelodge. A spokesman said the Parsippany, New Jersey-based company is reviewing the decision.

Congress has not adopted wide-ranging legislation governing data security, a growing concerns amid high-profile breaches such as at retailer Target Corp, the infidelity website AshleyMadison.com, and even U.S. government databases.

The Wyndham case is a test of FTC power to help fill this void and police how companies protect against data breaches.

It arose from three breaches in 2008 and 2009 in which hackers broke into Wyndham’s computer system.

These hackers stole credit card and other personal details from more than 619,000 consumers, leading to over $10.6 million in fraudulent charges.

The FTC sued Wyndham in June 2012, claiming that the company’s computer systems unreasonably and unnecessarily exposed consumer data to the risk of theft.

Wyndham accused the FTC of overreaching, but U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark, New Jersey refused to dismiss the case.

In upholding that ruling, Ambro rejected Wyndham’s argument that the company lacked “fair notice” that its practices fell short of what the FTC could require.

He also rejected what he called Wyndham’s “alarmist” argument that letting the FTC regulate its conduct could give the agency effective authority to regulate hotel room door locks, or sue supermarkets that fail to sweep up banana peels.

“It invites the tart retort that, were Wyndham a supermarket, leaving so many banana peels all over the place that 619,000 customers fall hardly suggests it should be immune from liability,” Ambro wrote.

The FTC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is Federal Trade Commission v Wyndham Worldwide Corp et al, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-3514.


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Tim Cook’s China statement soothes Apple investor freak-out

tim-cook-lightsaber-apple-ceo-war-happy-celebrating-good-star-wars

Apple investors are willing to overlook many things, but the health of the Chinese iPhone market isn’t one of them.

On news of a tanking Chinese stock market early today, Apple investors were running for the exits. Apple stock dove way below the $100 market for the first time this year — to $94.87.

Apple may be a little sensitive about China, too. Tim Cook this morning made a rare mid-quarter statement about the market in a note to CNBC markets expert Jim Cramer. It goes:

I can tell you that we have continued to experience strong growth for our business in China through July and August. Growth in iPhone activations has actually accelerated over the past few weeks, and we have had the best performance of the year for the App Store in China during the last 2 weeks.

Cook gave no actual numbers, but the little he did say was apparently enough. Apple stock has now bounced back to pre-crisis levels at around $107 at the time of this writing (1 p.m. EST Monday).


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This isn’t the first time Cook has addressed fears about the Chinese market, and Apple’s dependence on hot iPhone sales there.

China’s stock market tanked back on July 6, too, remember, and sure enough Cook found himself reassuring investors after his company announced third quarter earnings July 21. Apple’s stock dropped 7 percent in after-hours trading that day, largely on worries over China.

Apple reported a decline in China iPhone sales of 21 percent from the previous quarter, but a 112 percent increase from the same quarter a year earlier.

During a conference call with analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple will continue to put the “pedal to the metal” in China, and that Apple might feel some bumps in the road but in the long term China will be a large and growing revenue source.

Cook has good reason for saying so. Apple’s large-screened phones sell best in markets where mobile bandwidth is plentiful, and the Chinese mobile carriers are just now building their LTE networks.

As of the end of 2014, the number of mobile Internet users in China reached 557 million (an increase of 56.72 million for the year), making it the largest smartphone market in the world, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

This means there will be fierce competition among companies like Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, and others for share in the emerging market. And there may be enough addressable market there to buoy up Apple’s iPhone’s sales for the foreseeable future.

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Gears of War: Ultimate Edition shows how little the series has aged

Gears of War still looks great thanks to the graphical facelift in The Ultimate Edition

The original Gears of War might be the most influential game of the last generation of consoles, second only perhaps to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Its behind-the-back perspective and cover-based combat have inspired countless knockoffs and inspired new directions for several other series.

But the degree to which Gears has acted as a base for other games only makes how well the original game, the Ultimate Edition of which hits stores tomorrow, holds up all the more impressive.

What You’ll Like

Gears’ gameplay is still as fresh as ever

By now, you’ve probably pressed a button to stick to cover, held the left trigger to peek over it, and the right trigger to shoot out of it thousands of times. But few of the games inspired by the original Gears of War utilize the formula as well as Epic did back in 2006. Gears of War highlights just how important feedback is in creating the sense of “feel” in games; the Lancer machine gun makes Locust bleed in exaggerated spurts, making it powerful; a point-blank Gnasher shotgun shell shatters enemies into spongy bits with the gross sound effects to match, making it clear how strong the weapon is up close.


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Gears of War is almost ten years old, and its gun fights are still as good as many games out this year. These shootouts are still as tense and fun as ever (especially on higher difficulties), weapons like the Torque Bow and Hammer of Dawn as novel as they were on release. And with Gears of War 4 still a year and change away, giving the original game’s fine-tuned gunplay a chance to shine on new consoles is a great idea.

So is the multiplayer

I’ll have more to say on the state of the multiplayer after I get some quality time with it after release, but the press and media multiplayer sessions I played solidified a strong impression: multiplayer Gears’ mix of of twitch reflex and methodical sneaking can still eat your nights away. These maps flow from claustrophobic to expansive seamlessly, with choke points and ways to circumvent them aplenty.

And though the original Gears of War doesn’t have the array of weapons fans have gotten used to, it’s far from boring. You have your traditional weapon types like machine guns and sniper rifles. But even someone without good aim can hold their own, with weapons like the Gnasher, the Lancer’s chainsaw bayonet and sticky grenades allowing players to use good awareness and positioning to outsmart those with faster trigger fingers.

These original maps are also among the best in the series, and all the game types like Warzone (the survival, round-based game mode), Blitz (a faster version of king of the hill modes) and Team Deathmatch are some of the most classic multiplayer modes you can have, and it goes to show how timeless they can be when combined with some excellent funneling and intersecting hallways.

The new visuals are a noticeable upgrade

It might be a little strange to give a game that was touted as an HD showcase for the Xbox 360 a graphical facelift, but Gears of War needed it. Every level, both in single and multiplayer, looks like you remembered it, though going back and looking at comparison shots will show you just how much has changed. The single-player cutscenes changed the most, and you’ll notice it too — characters’ faces have been reanimated (Dom, the perennial co-op partner, has a very different facial structure) some are wearing different clothes, and several scenes have been re-shot.

There’s no changing back the original game’s graphics and that might upset some purists, but just about everything touched on visually has changed for the better. Multiplayer runs at a solid 60 frames per second, too, which is actually a little jarring at first as you hop between campaign (which still runs at an uneven 30) and multiplayer, but I eventually got used to it.

Ultimate Edition developer The Coalition knew just what to touch up and what to leave alone, and while it isn’t the impressive showcase for the Xbox hardware it used to be, the remake manages to look just as great as it did then, even if not everything’s in the right place.

The cutscenes play out mostly the same, but several are shot from new angles.

Above: The cutscenes play out mostly the same, but several are shot from new angles.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Check out our Reviews Vault for past game reviews.

What you won’t like

The story is dumber in retrospect

Though the ducking, shooting, and reloading in the original Gears still feel great, the story, the background lore, the “destroyed beauty” theme the series trumpeted throughout its existence all feel wasted in a way, and it’s never more apparent than in the plot of the first game.

The first Gears of War is one of the most brazen examples of how the stories in games are often context for gameplay. Its story moves too fast, jumps from one locale to another in order to give you a new environment to shoot in, hints at too much and offers too little in order to truly captivate in any way. All of this was easily dismissable when the game first game out, but in the wake of the game’s sequels, which attempted to give the Cog/Locust conflict a little more gravity (with mixed results), it’s all the more reason to shake your head at some of the tropey, simplistic adventure game comedy-of-errors situations that force you to shoot more Locust. It’s not something you can easily touch up, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.

The AI is still messy

I’m not sure if this was always the case with the first game or if the remake introduced some of this, but playing through the game on normal difficulty (and then part of the game on hardcore), I noticed the AI is spotty in several areas; I’ve managed to flank groups of enemies and shoot them all before they even noticed me. In some sections, it takes far longer for Dom’s AI to find the spot he needs to be in order for me to proceed. It’s worse in co-op, as enemies don’t seem to know what to do when faced with two targets coming from multiple sides. It’s not a deal-breaker and it leads to some amusing moments, but I don’t remember this happening as much in the original, and it takes some of the tension of out gunfights.

No Horde mode

The lack of a Horde mode might be the only thing preventing this remake from being the default multiplayer option for people who’ve stuck with the series. It’s understandable that it wouldn’t be in (just every other facet of Gears multiplayer is intact), but that doesn’t make me miss it any less.

Conclusion

The original Gears of War holds up better than you might think for a game that inspired years of me-too shooters. It may not be worth $40 for everyone now, but if you haven’t touched the series before and want a good starting point before Gears of War 4 hits next year, this is the best place to start. If you’ve already played the game, you may already know whether you want to go back, but the Ultimate Edition does right by one of the defining games of the last generation.

Score: We are holding off on attaching a proper score to this review until the reviewer has had a chance to test out the game’s live servers. We’ll update this review shortly.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is out tomorrow for Xbox One. Developer The Coalition provided GamesBeat with a free download code for this review.

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Microsoft launches Cortana public beta for Android phones

Cortana, a character in Halo, owned by Microsoft

Microsoft today launched Cortana for Android phones as a public beta that anyone can download. To try it out, all you have to do is become a tester using this Google Play link.

In May, Microsoft revealed that its digital assistant Cortana would be coming to Android and iOS. Last month, a beta build of Cortana for Android leaked, letting Android users give the assistant a try.

Cortana for Android is the companion to your Windows 10 PC. That means the app extends Cortana’s functionality across to your Android phone, so you can use the digital assistant on the go.

cortana_android_public_beta

Cortana for Android lets you start and complete tasks across devices, set and get reminders, search the web on-the-go, and track important information such as flight details. Unlike the leaked build, the public beta includes the ability to set Cortana as the destination for the home button press.

That said, Cortana for Android cannot do everything the assistant can do on Windows 10 for PCs or on a Windows phone. For example, toggling settings, opening apps, or invoking Cortana hands-free by saying “Hey Cortana” are only available on Windows devices. Microsoft did, however, add that this is “for now” so the company is clearly still working to figure out how best to add these features to Cortana for Android as well.

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