Uber’s Operator: What does it do and what does it mean for e-commerce?

kpu, marketing

Garrett Camp, one of the co-founders of Uber, the widely popular ridesharing application, has a new app coming out soon that is poised to drastically change the way consumers shop online. Working with Robert Chan, the CEO of the company, the app was finally unveiled today to popular website TechCrunch. This app is called Operator, currently in beta-testing with no public launch date yet specified.

So, what exactly is Operator?

Operator calls itself a “Request Network” – where “a network of human ‘Operators’ fulfill customer requests. It can handle a broad range of commercial requests… [but] for now it’s focused on ‘high-consideration’ purchases that may require expertise or have lots of opinions to choose from” (Costine, 2015). The goal of Operator is to

“Combine the best parts of brick-and-mortar and online shopping… [by] giving you the expert personal service you’d expect from an in-store employee, but doesn’t lock you into shopping at just one physical location. Meanwhile, Operator offers the convenience of shopping from anywhere, anytime via your phone, but handles the research you might not be qualified to do and the annoying checkout experience” (Costine, 2015).

Chan explained that “You used to dial ‘0’ and there was a human being on the other end. Why isn’t there an app on your phone where there’s a group of people helping you?” (Costine, 2015).

How does it work?

Basically how Operator works is that if you want something done, type in what you want and send it. From there, “a human operator will then do the research to find the best possible solution for your problem and provide you with some options. Once you’ve confirmed what you want, they’ll place any online orders and phone calls necessary to make it happen, then chat to confirm with you and provide a stylish receipt right in the thread” (Lee, 2015). It is believed that big retailers will have dedicated ‘Operators’ of their own to handle requests for items in their store, in addition to the experts working for Operator.

What does it mean for e-commerce?

Personally, I’m a little skeptical about its real-life applications – how are we to know if the ‘Operator’ has a hidden agenda or not. It is quite possible that they could have a bias towards certain brands that could influence their ability to find a proper product match. I’d also be worried that the ‘Operator’ simply has a different definition of product value, which could make the decision making process more difficult. With that being said, it could definitely catch on as a Neilsen study conducted in 2012 shows “Ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising” (Grimes, 2012). That, and I’ve learned never to underestimate the depths of human laziness.

References

Costine, J. (2015, April 22). First Look At Uber’s Co-Founder’s Shopping Concierge “Operator”. Retrieved from TechCrunch: http://techcrunch.com/2015/04/22/the-request-network/?ncid=rss&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Grimes, M. (2012, April 10). NIELSEN: GLOBAL CONSUMERS’ TRUST IN ‘EARNED’ ADVERTISING GROWS IN IMPORTANCE. Retrieved from Nielsen: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/press-room/2012/nielsen-global-consumers-trust-in-earned-advertising-grows.html

Lee, T. (2015, April 7). Uber Co-Founder’s “Operator” Service Will Run Errands For You. Retrieved from Uber Gizmo: http://www.ubergizmo.com/2015/04/uber-co-founders-operator-service-will-run-errands-for-you/

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Digital Marketing and Adobe InDesign

graphic design, indesign, marketing

Bridging the Gap

In today’s business world, it is becoming more and more common for businesses (especially small businesses) to rely on their marketing department to create all promotional material. With digital marketing slowly replacing traditional advertising methods, being a marketer and a graphic designer have started to become almost synonymous, where one needs both skill sets to succeed in today’s world. Unfortunately, universities have these programs mutually exclusive, in that a marketer does not learn graphic design unless they do so on their own time, and vice versa – a problem that is far too commonly identified when beginning one’s search for a career.

Adobe InDesign

As a marketing student, I have found that there are so many tools to use (and learn) in order to become a successful marketer. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are great tools to create and edit images from scratch, but Adobe InDesign is able “to create works such as posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers and books. InDesign can also publish content suitable for tablet devices in conjunction with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite” (WikiPedia, 2015). With Adobe InDesign, you can create “virtually anything that is made up of a combination of blocks of text, photos, or other artwork. Its purpose is to take the elements that you create in Illustrator and Photoshop and put them together in one place” (PrintWand, 2012). This is the tool I chose to learn first, and I highly recommend all marketers to do the same!

Why Use Adobe InDesign?

One of the key reasons for using InDesign over Photoshop and Illustrator as a marketer, is its ability to allow one to work on multi-page documents. InDesign “excels at projects that require multi-page layouts or master layouts where one them reoccurs on multiple pages” (PrintWand, 2012). InDesign also has a “Book” feature that “lets you split the workload between different members of your team and assemble the document later. You can flow text with smart objects, anchors, metadata, captions, hyperlinks, and all these wonderful tools that make a printed document or eBook look great and function great” (Perez-Fox, 2012).

Limitations

The main limitation of InDesign is its lack of photo editing capabilities. While it allows users to draw vector graphics (logos, etc.), for editing photos you are better off using Photoshop or Illustrator.

Where to Learn

There are plenty of great tutorials to begin learning with InDesign. I personally started with Lynda.com’s Adobe InDesign CC Essential Training. While this is a paid tutorial, I have found Lynda.com to provide excellent tutorials across many different areas. Below is a link to the tutorial’s home page, where you can start your free trial or sign up for a membership to begin learning. In my opinion, definitely worth the investment.

http://www.lynda.com/InDesign-tutorials/InDesign-CC-Essential-Training/120609-2.html

Mobile Internet

marketing, mobile internet

Mobile Internet

Mobile internet is exactly what it sounds like, internet designed for use on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Its formal definition is “a combination of mobile computing devices, high-speed wireless connectivity, and applications” (Manyika, et al., 2013). Its usage is already widespread, “with more than 1.1 billion people using smartphones and tablets” (Manyika, et al., 2013). This figure is still growing as “mobile internet capability has become a feature in the lives of millions of people, who have developed a stronger attachment to their smartphones and tablets than to any previous computer technology” (Manyika, et al., 2013). Despite the exponential growth within the past decade, the full potential of mobile internet has not yet been realized, with approximately 2-3 billion people slated to join this new world of mobile devices, most coming from developing countries.

What’s interesting about the mobile internet is that it is always evolving with the technology that utilises it. Devices are getting better with high resolution screens, precise touch sensors, and powerful processors that rival early game consoles and internet service providers are finding ways to improve the experience with things such as 4G wireless networks, giving consumers lightning fast browsing speeds.

Mobile internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, and businesses have started to realize the impact it can have on the success of an organization. As the presence of mobile internet fluctuates in different countries, we will focus on the impact of mobile internet on small businesses in Canada and USA.

Via 6S Marketing, the following infographic looks at the state of Canadian Connectedness:

mobile internet

What this infographic tells us is that approximately 70% of Canadians (24 million people) use mobile devices, with 80% of them (19.2 million) using a smartphone. With technology constantly improving, it won’t be long before all phones become smartphones. One study suggests that the laggards – the last 16% of consumers in the innovation adoption lifecycle, will adopt smartphones by 2020 (Dediu, 2013). The percentages for users with smartphones are very similar in the US (Bosomworth, 2015).

Why is it so successful?

Mobile internet’s rapid growth can be attributed to three main factors: its interactivity, connectivity, and the development of new software.

Interactivity

With technological advances such as Google Now and Apple’s Siri – offering precise voice recognition, mobile devices are more richly and intuitively interactive. Mobile devices are also incorporating new gesture recognition software; example being the Samsung Galaxy S4 phone that allows users to browse by waving their hand in front of the screen (Manyika, et al., 2013). Other new advances such as wearable devices are also emerging in the market – with things such as Google Glass and various smart watches being readily available or coming in the near future.

Connectivity

Along with the major improvements being made in the hardware being used, major advances in the high-speed mobile connectivity are also being made. Within the past 10 years, mobile connectivity has improved from 3G to 4G/LTE connections, currently the fastest mobile cellular networks available. It is estimated that within the next decade, “network advances could include 5G cellular networks, satellite services, and possibly long range wi-fi” (Manyika, et al., 2013).

Software development

One of the most critical elements that has led to mobile internet’s emergence is the software applications “that deliver innovative capabilities and services on devices. These apps help make mobile internet use very different from using either conventional phones or computers, providing location-based services; personalized feeds of information and entertainment content; and constant contact with friends, colleagues, and customers” (Manyika, et al., 2013). Apps are crucial to the potential impact of mobile internet use, as it enhances its capabilities and has the potential to disrupt established business models – an example would be mobile banking, something that has been widely adopted by major banks and financial institutions, yet changed as recently as 2010 with the emergence of software apps replacing the older methods of SMS or the mobile web (WikiPedia, 2015).

Potential

In terms of potential impact, there are two main areas of which there is considerable untapped potential: growth acceleration and economic impact.

Growth Acceleration

As previously mentioned, the largest opportunity for growth of mobile internet use and impact will be in developing economies, where access to the internet has important implications for economic development, potentially helping hundreds of millions of people to leapfrog into the 21st century global economy (Manyika, et al., 2013). According to UNICEF, in 2013, half of the world’s adult population uses no banking services, 100 million children do not attend school, and few of the farmers on the world’s 500 million small-scale farms have broader access to markets; mobile access to the internet could address many of the basic needs of the developing world and enable its citizens to become participants in the global digital economy, including as entrepreneurs (Manyika, et al., 2013).

As mobile internet technology is dependent on the devices used for it (smartphones and tablets), the growth rate of these devices is important. The number of smartphones in use grew 50% in 2012, and smartphones account for 30% of mobile devices globally – the growth of these devices has been rapid and is likely to continue at the same pace, or accelerate in developing economies (Manyika, et al., 2013). It is estimated that by 2025, nearly 80% of all internet connections could be through mobile devices as sales of smartphones and tablets has already exceeded sales of personal computers and is looking to exceed the number of personal computers already installed or owned (Manyika, et al., 2013).

As mentioned before, consumers are spending more time online which is driving demand for software applications. App downloads grew 150% in 2012, with an array of new mobile services emerging – near-field payments (which allows data exchange between devices within a certain range) grew 400% in 2012 and is expected to grow 20x by 2016. An example of these systems at work is allowing consumers to wave a phone near a point-of-sale terminal to make a payment. Consumers are also shifting their entertainment consumption from cable and broadcast channels towards playing video games, emailing and text messaging on mobile phones – growing 200% in the past four years. Time spent online on mobile phones is increasing steadily at 25% every year, with 15% of total internet traffic coming from mobile devices. It is possible that by 2025, a far higher percentage of media consumption could be dominated by mobile technology (Manyika, et al., 2013).

With the evolution and advances in smartphone hardware as well as the emergence of other mobile devices (i.e. wearable devices), it is expected that sales will continue to grow and new uses will be innovated. Wearable devices will make it possible to deliver all sorts of content in novel ways – ex. Projecting images that appear to float in space in front of the wearer as well as the possibility to develop “virtual reality” applications (Manyika, et al., 2013). Other practical applications for wearable devices include programming a device to help a patient with Alzheimer’s recognize people and various objects, instant translation apps that can read signs and menus and digitally translate them in real-time, or even automating daily tasks such as schedule managing, answering questions, and sending alerts of important imformation (Manyika, et al., 2013). There is also continued reductions in the prices of smartphones and data plans, further fueling the rapid adoption rates – component costs are expected to continue to decline, which could reduce producer costs for midrange smartphones by 30% by 2016 (Manyika, et al., 2013).

Economic Impact

The economic impact that mobile internet and its usage could have on a global scale is massive, with estimates of $3.7 – $10.8 trillion per year by 2025 (Manyika, et al., 2013). Half of this potential value could come from using mobile devices to spread internet access to developing regions – people who have had poor access to education, health care, and government services and have never participated in the formal economy could become participants in the global economy through the internet (Manyika, et al., 2013).

To further estimate the potential economic impact of mobile internet technology, it is important to examine how mobile applications could improve service delivery, raise productivity, and create value for consumers in time savings and convenience surplus (Manyika, et al., 2013). One of the services that most benefits from mobile internet technology is the health care industry – specifically the management of chronic disease. It is estimated that $2 trillion a year could be saved by 2025 through monitoring patients through ingestible or attached sensors capable of transmitting readings and alerting patients, nurses, and physicians when an impending problem is recognized (Manyika, et al., 2013).

Another area that could potentially be drastically impacted is in education – mobile computing has the potential to raise productivity and improve learning both inside and outside classrooms. Early experiments show promise for hybrid online/offline teaching models using tablets to increase lesson quality, improve student performance, and increase graduation rates (Manyika, et al., 2013). The share delivered via mobile devices could have economic impact of $300 billion to $1 trillion annually (Manyika, et al., 2013).

Other sectors that could be impacted are the public sector, retail sector, and government and private-sector organizations.

So how has this mobile revolution affected small businesses?

A study conducted in 2013 found that 45% of small businesses in the US don’t have a website, and only 6% of small businesses with websites said they were mobile-optimized (Sterling, 2014). This is a staggeringly low percentage, especially if the majority of people use a smartphone daily. On average, men and women spend between 4 – 4.5 hours on the mobile web and 22 – 30 hours on mobile apps (Bosomworth, 2015).  This represents a major gap in the market, where small businesses are not allocating resources to a platform that a majority of their consumers are.

What’s interesting is that 71% of small businesses stated that they felt having a mobile website or app would have a positive impact on business (eMarketer, 2015). Half of the businesses that didn’t have a mobile website or app blamed it on the fact that they didn’t know how to build one, 25% said they were too busy running their businesses to maintain an app, and 25% said creating a mobile app or website simply cost too much. In addition, 37% of respondents said the time and resources required to enable mobile sales as one of the biggest mobile strategy challenges (eMarketer, 2015).

A possible solution? There are tons of independent developers looking for work to build their personal portfolio. Personally, I have a few friends that have done several projects for small businesses building mobile websites and apps for them, and they clearly stated that they accepted below average fees just for the experience. Small businesses should seek out these independent contractors through local job posting sites (i.e. Craigslist) and begin developing mobile-friendly solutions, as it is evident that it is still trending up and looks to be a potentially lucrative investment.

References

Bosomworth, D. (2015, January 15). Mobile Marketing Statistics 2015. Retrieved from Smart Insights: http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/

Dediu, H. (2013, October 7). When will the US reach smartphone saturation? Retrieved from Asymco: http://www.asymco.com/2013/10/07/when-will-the-us-reach-smartphone-saturation/

eMarketer. (2015, March 19). How much longer until small businesses join the mobile world? Retrieved from eMarketer: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/How-Much-Longer-Until-Small-Businesses-Join-Mobile-World/1012237

Manyika, J., Chui, M., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Bisson, P., & Marrs, A. (2013). Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business and the global economy. McKinsey Global Institute.

Sterling, G. (2014, February 12). Survey: Only 6 percent of SMBs have mobile sites, 45 percent don’t have any site at all. Retrieved from Marketing Land: http://marketingland.com/survey-online-6-percent-smbs-mobile-sites-45-percent-dont-site-73937

WikiPedia. (2015, March 28). Mobile Banking. Retrieved from WikiPedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_banking

Life & Basketball: Chasing Greatness

basketball, marketing

Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, now LeBron James.

Three of the most recognizable names in professional sports that leveraged their generational talent and business savvy to create global brands that guarantee success long after their playing careers are over.

Michael Jordan created the blueprint, with his immensely popular Jordan brand – a subsidiary of Nike which produces athletic clothes and shoes. Through carefully building his brand and other smart investments, Jordan now stands as the majority owner of an NBA franchise, the Charlotte Hornets, which he purchased in 2010. The hard work and determination that resulted in 6 NBA championships translated into the business world, and Jordan paved the way for other superstar athletes to transform their on-court success into successful off-court business ventures. Jordan has also publicly encouraged other players, past and present, to explore the opportunity: “it is a road I would love to see other guys follow. Hopefully they will get the opportunity” (Wallace, 2014).

LeBron James, the game’s current best player and face of the NBA, has drawn many comparisons to Jordan in terms of on-court greatness, and in my opinion will be considered right there alongside Jordan in terms of greatest of all time. But James has similarities to Jordan in a business-sense as well, with lofty goals for his life after basketball. In 2005, James went on record stating “I want to be a billionaire. I want to get to a position where generation on generation don’t have to worry about nothing” (The Associated Press, 2005).

lebron_james_original

Fast forward to 2015, and James is well on his way to achieving his goal, “having already earned close to half a billion dollars through endorsements, investments and NBA contracts, he envisions an entertainment conglomerate that befits his one-of-a-kind stature and philanthropic, family-values, all-for-the-fans persona” (Guthrie, 2015).

LeBron has established a sports marketing firm, LRMR, with close friend and business partner, Maverick Carter, that is flourishing. This summer, James is set to appear in a comedy directed by Judd Apatow, starring alongside Amy Schumer and Bill Hader. His Cleveland Cavaliers team is playing with championship aspirations and expectations, currently winning 14 of their last 16 games. Life’s pretty good for the king.

Coming into the league as the most hyped teenager in basketball, LeBron has far surpassed all expectations. His talents on the court have produced 2 NBA championships and 4 Most Valuable Player awards so far, but his off-court business savvy is what truly sets him apart from most other professional athletes who fail to properly manage the fame and fortune of being in the National spotlight.

Michael Jordan paved the way, and now LeBron James is travelling the same path – chasing greatness. Like so many other great NBA players, LeBron is chasing Jordan’s prestigious 6 NBA championships and title of Greatest of All-Time. But James is also chasing a different feat accomplished only by Michael Jordan – becoming a billionaire athlete, a goal I believe he will achieve. If I’ve learned anything from following LeBron the past 10+ years, it’s to never count him out.

References

Associated Press. (2005). LeBron James – Beyond his years, beyond the hype. Retrieved from: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=nba&id=2254792

Guthrie, M. (2015). LeBron James reveals ambitious plan to build Hollywood empire: “Winning is the first thing that matters”. Retrieved from: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/lebron-james-reveals-ambitious-plan-772367.

Wallace, M. (2014). MJ: Hopefully paved ownership road. Retrieved from: http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/11785709/charlotte-hornets-owner-michael-jordan-said-hopes-paved-road-other-players-become-owners