Monthly Archives: March 2020
In a continued effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, local and state governments have issued orders for nonessential businesses and establishments to close their doors. These orders, combined with the lack of consumers making their way into physical stores, have had a major impact on small businesses across the country. Many brick-and-mortar small businesses have determined the only way to stay open and serve customers is to transition operations to online ecommerce business, which is something several businesses will do for the first time.
For brick-and-mortar businesses suddenly struggling to figure out how to bring their stores online during this unprecedented time, there are several key considerations. Here are six steps that can be taken to quickly establish an ecommerce business presence and continue reaching customers.
1. Set up an online platform
The first step for any business owner considering ecommerce is to research the platforms available to determine which best fits the needs of your business and your budget. There are a number of cost-efficient ecommerce providers that allow small businesses to get up and running in a matter of minutes. You can check out a full list of the ecommerce providers Avalara works with.
When evaluating ecommerce platforms, there are a number of factors to consider, including multiplatform operations, shipping and fulfillment features, security measures, and compliance capabilities. If your business is transitioning to online for the first time, simplicity in functionality both on the back end and customer-facing features will likely be top of mind. Most ecommerce platform providers have several different plans designed to best fit your business. A good rule of thumb when deciding which plan is best for you is to keep in mind the following:
- How many products do you plan on selling? If you’re not planning to sell a lot of products, a simpler plan with lower rates may be suitable. There is no product limit for many providers’ main plans.
- What features do you need? If you’re looking to have a site that enables customers to view your products and make purchases, a simpler plan is likely the best fit. However, many businesses find it’s beneficial to include additional features that contribute to positive customer experiences, like customer loyalty plans, abandoned cart recovery, and more.
Note that during this time, your business may not have the luxury of conducting extensive research on multiple platforms, and instead may need to rely on something that works now. Fortunately, there are providers that offer out-of-the-box functionality that will enable you to get your basic store up and running quickly.
“For business owners who have invested their energy into building lasting physical storefronts, the process of moving online doesn’t have to be intimidating, even when the future of your brand relies on your ability to launch and drive online sales. Ecommerce platforms, like BigCommerce, are designed with out-of-the-box functionality and application integrations to ensure that even the most novice sellers can get their stores online quickly, and offer the tools to help their business grow now and for years to come. In these uncertain times, having an online presence is an essential way to stay connected to your customers and continue driving revenue. While it may feel overwhelming to move online so quickly, this an easy business decision that will pay long-lasting dividends.”
— Meghan Stabler, VP of Product Marketing and Communications, BigCommerce
Once you’ve identified a platform that works best for you, the next step is to register your domain name and get your account set up — all of which can be done from any connected device. Once you’re in, it’s time to start customizing the features of your website, which begins in step #2.
2. Determine which products you’ll sell online
Given the necessary timeliness of your efforts to transition store functions to ecommerce, it’s important to prioritize which products you’ll be selling online, so your most profitable and in-demand products are available for purchase as you launch your website. It can feel like you need to have every product in your store available immediately, but by prioritizing the most popular products first, you can get your online operations up and running then begin fulfilling orders while adding additional inventory.
3. Diversify your payment methods
Setting up your accepted payment methods is a crucial part of converting a browser into a buyer. Consider which payment methods are the most commonly used and accommodate the largest number of customers. Fortunately, most ecommerce providers offer integrations with the most common payment methods like Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Apple Pay, and more. If you’re still unsure of which payment methods you’ll need to accept, a good rule of thumb is to incorporate the same payment methods you offer through your in-store point-of-sale system.
4. Set up your shipping and returns functions
Once you’ve outlined your products and set up payment methods, the next step is to ensure you can get products to customers. Shipping, fulfillment, and returns can be a major roadblock for many small businesses making the transition from brick-and-mortar to online. A key feature that should be included in your ecommerce platform capabilities is shipping options, including drop shipping, printable shipping labels, and pre-setup shipping providers.
If you’re fulfilling orders yourself, consider using a shipping app like ShipStation, which helps automate shipping for merchants of all sizes, and offers small businesses discounted shipping rates with USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
If you’re concerned about how to fulfill orders or that your current warehouse might be unable to fulfill orders, consider using an outsourced provider, like ShipBob, which processes orders for thousands of ecommerce brands. It’s also worth pointing out that your storefront can serve as a temporary fulfillment center during this time: It serves the dual benefit of getting the product to your customers quickly while simultaneously ensuring all that in-store inventory doesn’t go to waste. This is a model that works quite successfully for big-box retailers like Target.
Shipping costs are often something brick-and-mortar retailers haven’t had to consider when it comes to pricing, so be mindful of a product’s shipping cost and be sure it’s clearly displayed in the shopping cart. Be transparent about shipping costs throughout the shopping experience and avoid the risk of having customers abandon their cart if they discover a shipping cost “gotcha” at checkout.
5. Plan your online marketing strategy with social media
Perhaps one of the most important steps in this transition is communicating how your business will now be selling. This is where social media posts and advertising come into play to be certain that customers are in the know about your online strategy. On the upside, most brick-and-mortar shops are already using social media to market to their customers. However, it’s critical that businesses over-communicate the change in operations to ensure regular customers are aware of the new selling channel, and to capitalize on the expanded customer audience you can now reach.
Social media can be used to promote your new online presence and as a platform to advocate for your business’s distinguishing factors and unique value-add. Use this opportunity to tell your story and highlight the characteristics that make your small business stand out to consumers. Not only are consumers turning to social media to learn where they can continue making regular purchases during this time, but they’re especially inclined to support small businesses.
Another option, when using social media, is to go beyond your marketing efforts and consider using social selling platforms as a complement to your newly formed online store. In today’s social network-driven society, social media platforms are no longer just an avenue to increase brand awareness, but an opportunity to connect with customers and make sales in the social threads customers are already sifting through.
Comment selling platforms, like CommentSold, are blending content and commerce to convert social media comments into sales and automatically invoice shoppers from their social media timelines. By leveraging this method of “headless commerce”, or separating the front end and back end of an ecommerce application, businesses can easily combine their social media marketing and online selling for quick sales conversions and limited friction throughout the browsing and shopping experience. Through social selling capabilities, businesses can save customers the time they would otherwise have to spend sifting through websites to find the items that best fit their wants and needs.
“Captivating shoppers online can be increasingly difficult as more businesses turn to online during this time, so reaching customers where they are is more important than ever before. Social selling platforms allow retailers to connect directly with customers via live video and product content on Facebook and Instagram. Creative tools, like instant comment purchasing and real-time live sales events, can help retailers grab and keep their online customers’ attention.”
— Andy Smith, COO, CommentSold
6. Preview, test, and publish your store
The final step to bringing your store online is to ensure every function of your site is operational. Double-check each function by asking yourself these questions:
- Does my checkout work? Make sure orders work across all payment methods, your shipping options and charges are correct and visible, the items and price in your cart are correct. Check if discounts/promotions apply correctly and tax is calculated once shoppers enter their location. While often overlooked, ensuring sales tax is calculated correctly in real-time is critical to maintaining a positive shopping experience, and also helps prevent your business from being at risk of tax audits down the road.
- Is the content presented in a professional manner? Proofread all copy and double-check that spelling and grammar are correct across the website. It’s also important to check images, videos, and other forms of multimedia across platforms to make sure they don’t interfere with the customer experience.
- Does my store work on various channels and internet browsers? Consumers want to access products online whenever they choose from whatever device they are on. Testing your online site for functionality across channels is important to ensure that you’re not turning away potential customers who are unable to access your site.
At a time when more and more small businesses are at risk of closing their doors due to uncontrollable circumstances, ecommerce provides a viable alternative that, if executed on quickly and decisively, allows business owners to keep their operations up and running. Small businesses can take advantage of this unexpected time to explore new selling opportunities and ways to further serve their customers — something they might have otherwise not had the opportunity to do. Fortunately, the technology that exists today allows even the smallest of businesses to quickly ramp up online operations, reaching a broader audience, and incorporating all the necessary functions needed to provide a comprehensive, frictionless online shopping experience.
Content courtesy of Avalara.
Feel free to leave your questions and experiences in the comments section below.
If you can’t stop them, power them. That’s the strategy behind Snapchat App Stories, which launches today to let users show off their ephemeral content in other apps too. The first partners will let you post Stories to your dating profile in Hily, share them alongside [music] videos in Triller, watch them while screensharing in Squad, or give people a peek at your life in augmented reality network Octi. Developers can now sign up to add Stories to their apps.
Snapchat’s Stories format has been widely cloned, most famously by Instagram and Facebook, but with versions in various states of development for YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, SoundCloud, and more. Snapchat hopes to retain some grip on Stories and dissuade more copycats by letting developers bake the original version into their apps rather than building a bootleg attempt from scratch.
If you need Snapchat to share Stories to popular apps, that could boost content production plus subsequent viewership and ad impressions inside of Snapchat, remind people to shoot Stories, and make sure having a Snapchat account stays relevant. “We definitely think there’s a potential for monetization in App Stories but not yet” Snap’s VP of partnerships Ben Schwerin tells me. For now, Snapchat isn’t injecting ads into alongside Stories into other apps, though that’s clearly the plan.
“There are certain platforms out there that have decided they want to invest in building their own Stories product and their own camera, but it’s not a trivial thing to do. It takes resources and time. We think we can help developers do that” Schwerin explains. “Getting more people out there, regardless of age or where they live, comfortable using Stories probably makes them more likely to be able to pick up and enjoy Snapchat.”
Snapchat initially announced the plan for App Stories at its Partner Summit exactly a year ago. Unfortunately, its second annual developer conference that was set for this week was cancelled due to coronavirus.
Though advertising spend may be reduced, at least the app has experienced an increase in usage while everyone shelters in place. That includes third-party apps built on its Snap Kit platform that lets developers piggyback on Snapchat’s login, Bitmoji, and camera effects.
“We continue to see incredible growth from established apps like Reddit and Spotify and TikTok, and from startups that are really building from the ground up on Snap Kit like Yolo” Schwerin reveals. “People are spending more time at home and less time with friends. We’re seeing increased usage of Snapchat.”
Snap Kit has allowed Snapchat to rally would-be copycats into a legion of allies as it fights to stave off the Facebook empire. That strategy combined with a high-performance rebuild of its Android app for the developing world led Snapchat’s share price to grow from $ 11.36 a year ago to a recent high of $ 18.98 before coronavirus dragged it almost all the way back down.
Now, when people shoot a photo or video in the Snapchat camera, they’ll get options to share it not just to their Story or Snap Map and the crowdsourced community Stories, but also to their Story within other apps integrated with Snap Kit. Users will see options to syndicate their Story to products equipped with App Stories where they’re already logged in.
Unlike on Snapchat where Stories disappear after 24 hours, they default to a 7-day expiration in other App Stories. That relieves users of having to constantly post ephemeral Snaps to keep their dating or social app profiles stocked with biographical content.
In Hily, Snapchat Stories partially replaces the homegrown version it’d spun up in the meantime to show potential dates off-the-cuff looks at people’s lives. In Triller, users can tap on a content creator’s profile pic to see biographical Stories instead of just their polished music videos. In Squad, users can co-watch Stories along with other things to screenshare. And in Octi, users can see someone’s Snapchat Story amongst other hidden content revealed by its augmented reality camera.
One app missing is Tinder, which Snapchat originally previewed as its launch partner at the App Stories reveal last year. Tinder is using Snapchat’s Bitmoji stickers, but may have gotten cold feet about Stories. The fact that Snap is only now launching App Stories, and still hasn’t officially launched Ad Kit that lets it inject its ads into other apps and split revenue with developers, shows it’s taking time to adjust to its platform strategy after years of shunning outside integrations. It still won’t reveal the revenue percentage split it’s applying to Ad Kit.
For Snapchat to gain momentum it needs two things: a constant influx of new users, eager to use its augmented reality camera and Bitmoji wherever they’re available, and more impressions to monetize with ads after Instagram stole the Stories use case for untold millions of older users. App Stories could help with both.
“The proliferation of stories as the primary way to share video content on mobile we think is a good thing” Schwerin concludes. But Snap has sat by idly as it’s served as the R&D lab for Facebook’s product. Now Snapchat needs to own the viewership and the ad dollars that Stories generate everywhere other than Facebook. Just coining the concept doesn’t bring in cash.
More than a decade after announcing that it would keep Polaroid’s abandoned instant film alive, The Impossible Project has done the… improbable: It has officially become the brand it set out to save. And to commemorate the occasion, there’s a new camera, the Polaroid Now.
The convergence of the two brands has been in the works for years, and in fact Impossible Project products were already Polaroid-branded. But this marks a final and satisfying shift in one of the stranger relationships in startups or photography.
I first wrote about The Impossible Project in early 2009 (and apparently thought it was a good idea to Photoshop a Bionic Commando screenshot as the lead image), when the company announced its acquisition of some Polaroid instant film manufacturing assets.
Polaroid at the time was little more than a shell. Having declined since the ’80s and more or less shuttered in 2001, the company was relaunched as a digital brand and film sales were phased out. This was unsuccessful, and in 2008 Polaroid was filing for bankruptcy again.
This time, however, it was getting rid of its film production factories, and a handful of Dutch entrepreneurs and Polaroid experts took over the lease as The Impossible Project. But although the machinery was there, the patents and other IP for the famed Polaroid instant film were not. So they basically had to reinvent the process from scratch — and the early results were pretty rough.
But they persevered, aided by a passionate community of Polaroid owners, continuously augmented by the film-curious who want something more than a Fujifilm Instax but less than a 35mm SLR. In time the process matured and Impossible developed new films and distribution partners, growing more successful even as Polaroid continued applying its brand to random, never particularly good photography-adjacent products. They even hired Lady Gaga as “Creative Director,” but the devices she hyped at CES never really materialized.
In 2017, the student became the master as Impossible’s CEO purchased the Polaroid brand name and IP. They relaunched Impossible as “Polaroid Originals” and released the OneStep 2 camera using a new “i-Type” film process that more closely resembled old Polaroids (while avoiding the expensive cartridge battery).
Polaroid continued releasing new products in the meantime — presumably projects that were under contract or in development under the brand before its acquisition. While the quality has increased from the early days of rebranded point-and-shoots, none of the products has ever really caught on, and digital instant printing (Polaroid’s last redoubt) has been eclipsed by a wave of nostalgia for real film, Instax Mini in particular.
But at last the merger dance is complete and Polaroid, Polaroid Originals and The Impossible Project are finally one and the same. All devices and film will be released under the Polaroid name, though there may be new sub-brands like i-Type and the new Polaroid Now camera.
Speaking of which, the Now is not a complete reinvention of the camera by far — it’s a “friendlier” redesign that takes after the popular OneStep but adds improved autofocus, a flash-adjusting light sensor, better battery and a few other nips and tucks. At $ 100 it’s not too hard on the wallet, but remember that film is going to run you about $ 2 per shot. That’s how they get you.
It’s been a long, strange trip to watch, but ultimately a satisfying one: Impossible made a bet on the fundamental value of instant film photography, while a series of owners bet on the Polaroid brand name to sell anything they put it on. The riskier long-term play won out in the end (though many got rich running Polaroid into the ground over and over), and now with a little luck the brand that started it all will continue its success.
Now that folks are sheltering in place, they’re spending a lot more time online—talking about being sheltered in place.
Feed: All Latest
Google’s recent release of a new markup specification, the speakable schema, brings the digital technology to another leap. The term speakable currently points to the ability of Google Assistant and News to provide internet users with excellent results that fit their needs.
The new schema SEO is useful when asking for specific topics and news related to a particular brand or happening. The returned results are then read back by Google Assistant with speakable texts.
Google’s new feature is currently intended to provide users with a summary of a story’s key points but has a later possibility for expansion.
Available documentations from schema.org points out to the text to speech conversion of a news article and available online documentation supporting the new feature.
What is Google’s new speakable schema markup?
Current technology is heading towards speakable-friendly smartphones and gadgets supporting voice searches. Google’s speakable schema markup tool allows businesses to indicate content sections that support voice search technology.
This new Google algorithm will allow businesses to pick the most crucial information relating to their business, highlight such content, and give them better visibility to their intended audience.
This is similar to how featured snippets work only that the information is delivered via voice assistant that reads to your website content to the visitors.
The new Google speakable schema markup is currently in its beta version, which can only be accessed by news publishers. It also has a limited audience reach, exclusively servicing the US for now and only working with Google Home devices including the Google Assistant.
How does Google’s speakable schema markup work?
Similar to the traditional way we get our websites to rank, optimizing your voice searches require you to input significant information fragments featured in your SEO campaign.
It means sections of your campaign material can be optimized for voice search.
The schema helps Google’s algorithm determine the importance of your chosen content fragment with your specific niche, helping it rank in the SERP. Content that is found relevant by Google, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Home streamlines that information and finds a way of reading them back to your website’s intended audience.
The way Google pulls up that information is based on its sophisticated algorithm. News publishers, though, are solely responsible for selecting text fragments that they want Google to feature.
The search engine will determine how relevant the information is and how it relates to their user’s voice search queries before voicing it out.
The current setup of Google’s speakable schema is only accessible to news publishers, allowing them to highlight parts of a news feature in voice search optimization.
Though the technology is still in its early stages, news publishers have the option of presenting the most accurate answers to any internet user’s query.
In its initial state, Google’s speakable schema is a powerful way of obtaining information about recent news and current events.
There are several points to consider when having your content optimized for the speakable schema. Most of these requirements fall under the precepts of meeting the demands of current and possibly future inquiries.
- The topic should focus on one subject and storyline with understandable and relevant writing
- All the information presented in the publication must be accurate in all aspects and must be factual
- The text should not contain ad campaigns
- The content cannot contain vulgar words or hate speech directed towards a person or entity
- The news should include the author’s information, including the publication data and contact details
Speakable content is available to businesses creating content but is currently limited to news publications. The points highlighted are just some of the specifications for the new Google schema to ensure all new information meets industry standards.
How will the speakable schema affect SEO?
The tech industry continually shapes itself with innovations like the speakable SEO feature of Google to accommodate existing and future demands.
The rise of voice-enabled searches primarily impacts the search engine optimization landscape, making it more demanding for businesses to ramp up their website performance.
Speakable is still in its beta form, and there are currently no effects on a website’s SEO performance. But as the industry adapts voice searches, we can see speakability becoming one of the forefronts of ranking in the Voice Assistant tools.
As such, the speakable schema will have a tremendous impact on how we use the internet and search for information. This predicament will also be another burden for some companies as they start figuring how to provide better services to their customers.
More and more companies will fine-tune their website content, so it adopts the voice-friendly features of Google. It entails restructuring current content and shifting their market options to include voice-search enabled gadgets and devices.
How to prepare your business for the speakable schema markup?
In the meantime, speakable is still in its early stages. The tech giant continually tests and further enhances its speakable schema markup to strengthen its capabilities. Nonetheless, it won’t take long before companies, and their website starts feeling its effects.
Getting ahead of Google’s SERP race will give your company a better chance of landing the top spots considering your site is at par with the latest algorithm demands of most search engines.
Here are the best practices to implement so your website content meets with the future SEO demands or hire an SEO agency to make it easier:
- Create coherent and conversational statements on your website relevant to your business niche. This will help stay ahead with speakable-type technology and make it easy for you to determine which information effectively relays to your intended audience.
- Using short and understandable sentences makes them acceptable to your website visitors. Remember that most people have only a minute of attention span, and you want to capture your audience in that small timeframe to get their interests.
- Writing in a conversational voice tone is the best way to reach a broader scope of website visitors. You want your audience to get a full grasp of what you are offering, so a short, concise, and simple-worded statement will get them glued to what you are providing.
How do you use speakable markup?
To start using the TTS suitability of Google’s speakable schema, you need to follow four critical requirements set by the search engine.
- Following all guidelines, including the technical side, content, webmaster, and structured data protocol, is the starting point of enabling the audio playback capabilities of your website texts
- Include Google’s speakable structured data semantics into the code of your web page
- Test and approve your chosen structured data
- Submit the content for eligibility and onboarding process
What are the benefits of speakable schema markup?
There are a lot of undeniable benefits to using Google’s newest schema platform. Though the speakable SEO is available for an online publisher, for now, future expansions will include almost every business with a website.
Among some of the benefits of using the speakable schema include:
- There are better opportunities for improving SERP ranking positions
- A speakable schema improves brand recognition
- It increases the click-through-rates of your website
- Position your website for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa’s voice search
- Increase your website’s social media following
- Provide your audience with a sneak peek of what your content offers without looking at their device screens
Depending on your market niche, Google’s upcoming speakable schema offers your business with industry-related benefits. This includes getting more views for your music and videos, getting more job applicants on your page, or increasing the popularity of a specific product or service.
But all these benefits are what we can foresee in the future. The fact is, Google’s speakable schema is still in its easy concepts, and it is not clear whether the tech giant would put the feature outright. The Beta version of the new algorithm already allows news publications to read featured information off a webpage.
The future of speakable markup depends on how the general population will receive it. Adaption of the new schema would mean expansion outside of its current scopes to include all aspects of the web. Additionally, industry acceptance of this new schema will only be derived depending on how universally the markup is put to use.
And as voice search becomes an accepted method of looking for information on the web, we might see Google pushing the new schema into its existing ecosystem. Regardless if these search engine changes are seen as a threat to existing methods or an opportunity for advancement, we can look at it as an answer to the changing needs of internet users.
Emily Browne is a web content enthusiast with three years of experience in SEO writing. She can be found on Twitter @Emilyrownee.
The post What is speakable schema markup and how does it impact the future of SEO? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Google, Amazon and Microsoft are the landlords. Amidst the coronavirus economic crisis, startups need a break from paying rent. They’re in a cash crunch. Revenue has stopped flowing in, capital markets like venture debt are hesitant and startups and small-to-medium sized businesses are at risk of either having to lay off huge numbers of employees and/or shut down.
Meanwhile, the tech giants are cash rich. Their success this decade means they’re able to weather the storm for a few months. Their customers cannot.
Cloud infrastructure costs area amongst many startups’ top expense besides payroll. The option to pay these cloud bills later could save some from going out of business or axing huge parts of their staff. Both would hurt the tech industry, the economy and the individuals laid off. But most worryingly for the giants, it could destroy their customer base.
The mass layoffs have already begun. Soon we’re sure to start hearing about sizable companies shutting down, upended by COVID-19. But there’s still an opportunity to stop a larger bloodbath from ensuing.
That’s why I have a proposal: cloud relief.
The platform giants should let startups and small businesses defer their cloud infrastructure payments for three to six months until they can pay them back in installments. Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, these companies’ additional infrastructure products, and other platform providers should let customers pause payment until the worst of the first wave of the COVID-19 economic disruption passes. Profitable SaaS providers like Salesforce could give customers an extension too.
There are plenty of altruistic reasons to do this. They have the resources to help businesses in need. We all need to support each other in these tough times. This could protect tons of families. Some of these startups are providing important services to the public and even discounting them, thereby ramping up their bills while decreasing revenue.
Then there are the PR reasons. After years of techlash and anti-trust scrutiny, here’s the chance for the giants to prove their size can be beneficial to the world. Recruiters could use it as a talking point. “We’re the company that helped save Silicon Valley.” There’s an explanation for them squirreling away so much cash: the rainy day has finally arrived.
But the capitalistic truth and the story they could sell to Wall Street is that it’s not good for our business if our customers go out of business. Look at what happened to infrastructure providers in the dot-com crash. When tons of startups vaporized, so did the profits for those selling them hosting and tools. Any government stimulus for businesses would be better spent by them paying employees than paying the cloud companies that aren’t in danger. Saving one future Netflix from shutting down could cover any short-term loss from helping 100 other businesses.
This isn’t a handout. These startups will still owe the money. They’d just be able to pay it a little later, spread out over their monthly bills for a year or so. Once mass shelter-in-place orders subside, businesses can operate at least a little closer to normal, investors can get less cautious and customers will have the cash they need to pay their dues. Plus interest, if necessary.
Meanwhile, they’ll be locked in and loyal customers for the foreseeable future. Cloud vendors could gate the deferment to only customers that have been with them for X amount of months or that have already spent Y amount on the platform. The vendors also could offer the deferment on the condition that customers add a year or more to their existing contracts. Founders will remember who gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Consider it a marketing expense. Platforms often offer discounts or free trials to new customers. Now it’s existing customers that need a reprieve. Instead of airport ads, the giants could spend the money ensuring they’ll still have plenty of developers building atop them by the end of 2020.
Beyond deferred payment, platforms could just push the due date on all outstanding bills to three or six months from now. Alternatively, they could offer a deep discount such as 50% off for three months if they didn’t want to deal with accruing debt and then servicing it. Customers with multi-year contracts could offered the opportunity to downgrade or renegotiate their contracts without penalties. Any of these might require giving sales quota forgiveness to their account executives.
It would likely be far too complicated and risky to accept equity in lieu of cash, a cut of revenue going forward or to provide loans or credit lines to customers. The clearest and simplest solution is to let startups skip a few payments, then pay more every month later until they clear their debt. When asked for comment or about whether they’re considering payment deferment options, Microsoft declined, and Amazon and Google did not respond.
To be clear, administering payment deferment won’t be simple or free. There are sure to be holes that cloud economists can poke in this proposal, but my goal is to get the conversation started. It could require the giants to change their earnings guidance. Rewriting deals with significantly sized customers will take work on both ends, and there’s a chance of breach of contract disputes. Giants would face the threat of customers recklessly using cloud resources before shutting down or skipping town.
Most taxing would be determining and enforcing the criteria of who’s eligible. The vendors would need to lay out which customers are too big so they don’t accidentally give a cloud-intensive but healthy media company a deferment they don’t need. Businesses that get questionably excluded could make a stink in public. Executing on the plan will require staff when giants are stretched thin trying to handle logistics disruptions, misinformation and accelerating work-from-home usage.
Still, this is the moment when the fortunate need to lend a hand to the vulnerable. Not a hand out, but a hand up. Companies with billions in cash in their coffers could save those struggling to pay salaries. All the fundraisers and info centers and hackathons are great, but this is how the tech giants can live up to their lofty mission statements.
We all live in the cloud now. Don’t evict us. #CloudRelief
The events of the last few weeks have had a dramatic effect on millions of people’s lives. Uncertainty over health, childcare, work, food and the wellbeing of loved ones has dominated all of our thinking over the past few days.
Not only has it changed the way we’re shopping and interacting with others, an expert at online search specialist Epiphany, Paul Norris, has looked at how it has impacted what users are turning to the internet for and advises how businesses can adapt their search strategy during this tricky time.
The Prime Minister’s speech on 13th March 2020 served as a catalyst for many to search for “working from home essentials” with searches such as computer chairs increasing by 185%.
As a nation, we also considered our options for emergency deliveries, including “wine delivery” services, which nearly tripled in just one week.
As people’s searches change to reflect new (increasingly home-based and socially distant) situations, it’s important that marketers adapt to the shifts in search behavior.
Here are a few ways to navigate the next few weeks and to prepare for when we emerge from the current situation:
1. Identify and capitalize on emerging trends
Monitor your search query reports closely – look for increased use of convenience and supply modifiers as availability and fulfillment is valued more. Searches containing “near me” have started to fall as queries for “online” services have increased.
If your business offers quick deliveries (and can still fulfill them), ensure it’s prominent in messaging, listings and on-site. Searches for next and same-day delivery will only continue to grow.
2. Listen to your visitors – use your site search reports and Hotjar polls
Your on-site search function is an absolute gold mine in times like these – demand and behavioral changes from your visitors are picked up directly. Use the Site Search report in GA (found under “Behaviour” on the left-hand side) as a listening board.
Surface the most-searched-for products and services on relevant high traffic pages. Rethink, test and measure your carousels and other key product and service listing elements where relevant. Enabling Hotjar (or similar) polls can also enable you to get more specific insight.
3. Shift budget into investment channels
If you’re pulling back on sales activation because demand is dropping, look to move that budget and resource into a medium and longer-term activity that will pay dividends when demand picks up. With the previous points in mind, conduct a meta-data review and weave more highly valued services such as next day delivery into titles and descriptions. Has content taken a back seat? There are some definite benefits to content strategy, planning, and creation with the headspace you’re afforded when working from home.
4. Bypass dev queues and do what you can from your CMS
Prioritizing your activity in a busy dev queue can be difficult at the best of times. If dev time is booked up because the team is completely promo and sales activation focused, do what you can. Are you able to edit content and optimize existing pages in the CMS? Can you create new landing pages in your CMS without tech intervention? If so, now is the time to utilize those capabilities.
5. Maximize performance where demand is strong
Identify where demand remains strong (or has even picked up) and do what you can to capture and convert it. Your top landing pages and product reports are a good first port of call and can provide you with some quick wins. Segmenting and analyzing site performance by product/area/service (depending on your sector) can help you identify and capitalize on bigger emerging trends. If you’re a retailer, think about splitting out essential and non-essential products.
Paul Norris is Senior Strategist & Head of London Operations at Epiphany.
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A social media platform used to match advertisers with thousands of influencers has been hacked.
Social Bluebook, a Los Angeles-based company, allows advertisers to pay social media “influencers” for posts that promote their products and services. The company claims it has some 300,000 influencers on its books.
But in October 2019, the company’s entire backend database was stolen in a data breach.
TechCrunch obtained the database, which contains some 217,000 user accounts — including influencer names, email addresses, and passwords hashed, which had been scrambled using the strong SHA-2 hashing algorithm.
It’s not known how the database was exfiltrated from the company’s systems or who was behind the breach.
We contacted several users who when presented with their information confirmed it as accurate. We also provided a portion of the data to Social Bluebook co-founder Sam Michie for verification.
“We have just now become aware of this data breach that occurred in October 2019,” he told TechCrunch in an email Thursday.
He said affected users will be informed of the breach by email. The company also informed the California attorney general’s office of the breach, per state law.
Social media influencers are a constant target for hackers, who often try to hijack accounts with popular handles or high follower counts. Some influencers have relied on white-hat hackers to get their hijacked accounts back.
Last year, an Indian social media firm left a database of Instagram influencers online, which included phone numbers and email addresses scraped from their profiles.
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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hopping on Zoom with betaworks’ John Borthwick and Matt Hartman to discuss the tech world’s adaptation to this new locked-down world, the future of new media and answer questions from the audience.
We discussed whether new media companies can raise capital right now, and touched on emerging trends around audio, voice, AR, live events, travel-related companies and many other topics.
It was a delight, and I’m excited to do more of these in the future.
For those of you who missed the Zoom, here’s a rundown of what we discussed (audio embed below).