Microsoft - Accelerate Your Business Program

A couple days ago I caught Microsoft’s PR announcement in their blog about the company catering to SMBs with an interesting proposition: a membership that has Technology-as-a-Service written all over it. Microsoft is touting a new way of buying a PC, by not buying it at all.

-Microsoft’s blog post here.

I dug a little deeper to learn that Microsoft has already quietly debuted a Surface Membership program months before. A program where people lease their devices, trade them in after 2-3 years, get new devices and continue the cycle. Effectively always having the latest tech, just like leasing a new car. There’s technical support included (even ADH), and there are about 100 Microsoft Stores around the country to chip in from the B&M side with newly built SMB zones. Their new SMB initiative is a partnership with Dell to bring the TaaS model to the business masses.

Could Microsoft be leading the way by taking tech ownership out of the equation and capitalizing further on the subscription model that has fared so well for them? Could this as Microsoft says Accelerate Your Business?

The devil is in the details, so I dug a little deeper. Leasing is a money game, so it’s the financing that will make or break a new initiative. Microsoft’s offerings for commercial PCs are simple, just 3 devices, and 3 monthly plans at $25, $35, and $60 month. The cash price equivalents are $899, $1299, and $2199. Doing the math, it turns out that there’s an implied NEGATIVE interest rate of -3.3% by choosing to lease your device. So it’s cheaper to lease than to buy, cool. This is likely thanks to Dell’s Financial Services group and whatever discounts/deals were brokered between the two. It does feel like a pretty good deal.

As governments around the world would agree, cheap money offers the best kick to SMB sector company growth. With Microsoft and Dell leading the charge in the tech world aimed at SMBs, and with the same cheap lending approach, I think it’s a move in the right direction. TaaS could very well become the norm, for businesses (maybe even for your average consumer), and drive the engine for a new era in tech financing that everybody can benefit from.

UP YOUR HOLIDAY/SUMMER WEEKENDS

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Kelli Yapp

Kelli Yapp is a brand marketer and fitness professional based in New York City. Kelli's day-to-day is a balancing act comprised of: working on new business at MRY, a creative technology agency, teaching weekly classes at Exhale New York and Shadowbox NYC, working with clients privately as a fitness and health coach and contributing and writing lifestyle content.

Movement, and a lot of it, has always been a part of her repertoire. Kelli grew up dancing and training in a pre-professional ballet company, later shifting her focus to modern dance in college. She earned her BFA in Dance as well as her BA in Communications from the University of Michigan.

While dance was an unwavering life passion, she decided early in her college career that she wouldn’t go on to pursue it professionally. Advertising and brand marketing was ultimately what led Kelli to New York.

In her two years of living in New York, Kelli has taken on multiple careers, sported many hats and continues to be inspired by her clients and the community she's found through fitness, health and wellness.

"I do sweating as ritual, food as experience and life by way of upping. This crazy, exciting, balancing act between multiple careers and passions has fueled me to learn, give and do more. More of all the things I love." 

 

New Data Available about How Brands, Retailers Use & Value Live Streaming Video

 

by Steve Gehlen | 

We are excited to publish the results of a 15-question survey we conducted to help establish some benchmark data about how executives from consumer product brands and retailers use and value live streaming video for their business. Over 200 executives responded to the survey in December and January.

The data and insights in our findings are not available anywhere else. We knew the right questions to ask based on our experience helping over 100 brands conduct over 4,000 branded live streaming video events on our platform over the past several years.

 

Some of the findings may surprise you:

  • Executives most value live video’s unique ability to add an authentic human element to digital communication, relating to three of the top five benefits identified by respondents. This, along with other advantages, such as creating new video content for re-purposing later and enabling real-time audience interaction, is expected to lead to increased use by product brands and retailers in 2016.
  • Brands and retailers are leveraging the power of live streaming video for a greater variety of use cases than has been reported previously. The results identify over 10 different use cases.
  • 44% of the executives surveyed said they held a live streaming video event in 2015. 20% plan to test live streaming video for the first time in 2016. 
  • When asked about the importance of branded live streaming video as part of their overall marketing mix in 2016, 39% of the respondents said it will be “important,” and 20% said it will be “very important.” Nearly a quarter of respondents said the dollars allocated for live streaming video will increase in 2016.
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Based on the survey results, it’s clear that many consumer product brands and retailers are exploring live streaming video as a new digital communication channel. With live video, they are interacting with their employees, partners and consumers in a new way that is authentic, engaging and scalable.

For more information and complete results from the survey—including many additional insights, 15 charts and two cross-tabs—download the 10-page Research Report athttp://yourbrandlive.com/research.

Defining Market Competition Featuring Netflix, Pirates, and Uber

Competition is nothing new. It's existed before humans walked the earth and it will remain long after we've drunk the final glacier margarita. The founding father of capitalism, Adam Smith, named the invisible hand not for companies to invisibly high-five each other, but for opening new doors and climbing the status quo to raise the bar. He understood that without changing the game, progress becomes scarce.

It seems like an easy concept to swallow given the capitalists that exist in today's global economy, yet some "progressive" markets continue to stand in their own way. Uber's inability to penetrate the Portland market is a prime example.

In a nutshell, Taxi Unions in Portland carry a lot of political weight and have successfully blocked Uber's introduction to Rip City for too long. This will no doubt change in the long run, but it exposes a fundamental lack of acceptance by a city that claims to be a part of the cutting edge. Granted Portland is a ways away from San Francisco as a the tech cluster, so it's not rushing to integrate silly startups like Leap.

A refreshing counterexample to Portland's resistance comes from a personal favorite to every content consumer with steady internet: Netflix.

Their pricing model relies heavily on a key understanding that other companies should snap to: piracy is normal competition and trying to destroy is a fruitless battle. They've accepted it as an inevitable force to be reckoned with, not only that, they've remained nimble and are using piracy to help build their infrastructure.

Measuring the popularity of piracy within a region plays a big part in that region's subscription price for Netflix - which makes complete sense. Countries with high piracy rates tend to have more affordable price points to compete and attract new Netflix users, and it's working.

The relationship between internet piracy and crowd-sourced taxi services is thin but drives a core point, market standards don't last. Wutznxt knows this and frankly, we thrive on it. If you're interested in changing your market's landscape, we'd love to lend a hand.

5 Tech Retail Trends for 2020

Forbes' Natasha Baker writes an interesting assessment on the direction of brick and mortar for tech brands. As a company whose bread and butter lies in the activation of tech retail, it's fascinating to see the advantage that tech brands have when it comes to CRM, especially as it relates to store layouts and customer flow. Give it a read or a glance, Forbes is taking aspects of retail that may seem cutting edge to some brands, but have already become old hat for others.

5 Tech Trends That Will Hit Every Retail Store By 2020

By Natasha Baker

Showrooming—the practice of shoppers using retail stores to discover products they’d like to buy, then completing their purchases online where they can find better deals—is often cited as a concern of physical retailers. With an enticing mix of low prices, breadth of selection, and convenience, online retailers attract shoppers in ways that brick-and-mortar stores struggle to compete with.

eMarketer reported that global e-commerce sales hit $1.3 trillion at the end of 2014, an increase of 22 percent over 2013. Meanwhile, growth at U.S. retail outlets is in the low single digits, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce collected by Business Insider.

But the prospects aren’t all grim for physical stores. In fact, retail experts believe there’s a tremendous opportunity ahead as the worlds of online and offline commerce begin to converge.

“We will see more disruption in the next 10 years of retail than we did in the previous 1,000,” said Doug Stephens, founder of Retail Prophet.

Here are five predictions for how brick-and-mortar commerce will look in 2020:

1. Retail stores will embrace showrooming

Rather than competing with showrooming, brick-and-mortar stores in 2020 will begin to embrace it.

“Stores will become like museums—we will go to see something, to learn and be entertained,” predicted Thomas Keenan, adjunct professor at the University of Calgary and author of a book called Technocreep, which explores the future of technology.

Further, beacons—sensors placed around stores that communicate information to smartphones—will track information such as which products customers linger around. The beacons can then push information on those products to customers’ mobile devices, allowing them to order from their devices and have merchandise shipped to their homes.

Beacons are already deployed at large retailers such as Lord & Taylor as a way to provide more interactive shopping experiences.

2. Analytics will be commonplace in physical stores

E-commerce retailers have had a leg up over their brick-and-mortar counterparts in terms of their ability to selectively target customers based on insights into consumers’ preferences and habits, as well as their ability to refine their tactics continually based on insights they glean via analytics.

By 2020, offline retailers will have the same tools available to them and will employ them widely. Whether it’s using analytics to map where people walk and what they pick up to better position products in the store or tracking shoppers at the device level to target promotions to them, data will be used to understand customers and increase sales.

Keenan foresees the rise of more intelligent devices in stores that can determine the demographic information of customers as they walk by, and target ads to them through a video console, similar to the smart shelves being developed by Mondelēz International.

 

As more customers start opting in to apps that allow them to be identified individually, they’ll receive the benefits of more customized experiences and offers; however, retailers should also be mindful of mounting consumer privacy concerns.

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3. Payments and transactions will become totally transparent

Apple’s foray into mobile payments signals the mobile payment model may soon be ubiquitous. By 2020, not only will more transactions take place via our mobile devices, whether it’s our smartphones or wearable technology leveraging near-field communication (NFC) technology, we’ll also see the emergence of even more streamlined payment experiences.

The goal for companies is to make the payment process as seamless as possible. Starbucks’ new mobile payment app—which allows customers to pre-order and pre-pay for beverages via their iPhone before arriving at a Starbuck’s location—is just one recent example of how businesses are moving toward more frictionless payment and checkout experiences.

Keenan predicted at large retailers like Costco, shoppers will simply walk out of the store while the merchandise in their carts is automatically tallied and the total charged to their accounts.

4. Retailers will make better use of sensory technology

Retail stores will have more awareness of our emotions and how to excite our senses in 2020.

 

Using Emotient, retailers can detect when consumers react positively or negatively to things such as signs, product displays and interactions with sales associates. This will allow retailers to aggregate data on customer sentiment and to adapt offers in real time based on how customers are feeling.

Keenan also predicts technology that subtly leverages our senses will be used more pervasively within stores, with greater emphasis on the smell within a store or other sensory details, such as music. Experiencing this type of store can develop a lasting, physical impression of the brand with the consumer, which may stimulate a purchase decision at a later date or online.

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5. Technology Will Become the New Sales Assistant

Technology will increasingly automate a lot of routine and mundane work that happens in retail institutions. Whether it’s more self-service check-outs,  in-store mapping to make it easier for customers to self-navigate around stores, or beacon and NFC technology for greater self-education on products, technology will play a greater role in automating the retail experience. In addition, retailers will be able to take advantage of managed infrastructure at the edge. This is a vitally important enabler because having to add relatively expensive IT staff can make deploying new technologies in retail environments cost prohibitive.

Of course, sales people won’t disappear. Rather, with many of their routine tasks automated, they will be able to focus on building relationships with customers while increasing sales and affinity for their employers.

E-commerce has certainly revolutionized the way we shop, but brick-and-mortar stores are far from dead. Increasingly,  online retailers have begun opening physical stores for the first time, which signals that there may be a return to real world shopping – only this time, reinvented for the digital age.