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Optimizing the Brick-and-Mortar Customer Experience
March 27, 2015
The retail industry has finally awakened to what customers always have known -- they don't distinguish too much between channels. Modern shoppers are happy to embrace the immediacy and experience of the physical store while also benefiting from the informed and personalized ease of shopping online. Retailers should translate the smartest online strategies into their in-store experience.
Amazon Fires 1st Shot in Storage Price War
March 27, 2015
Amazon on Thursday announced two new plans for unlimited storage in its Cloud Drive service. The Unlimited Photos plan includes 5 GB of additional storage for videos or other documents and files. It costs $11.99 per year. The Unlimited Everything option provides limitless cloud storage of photos, videos, movies, music and files for $59.99 per year. Both plans come with a free three-month trial.
FTC Blasts WSJ's 'Misleading Narrative' on Google
March 26, 2015
FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, along with Commissioners Julie Brill and Maureen Ohlausen, on Wednesday released a statement reaffirming the agency's decision not to prosecute Google over its search practices, and insisting it was in line with the recommendations of the FTC's staff. The statement refutes "recent press reports" suggesting Google got special treatment due to its political influence.
FAA's Sluggish Pace Frustrates Amazon's Drone Ambitions
March 25, 2015
For one brief shining moment, it appeared that Amazon and the FAA were in concert on outdoor drone testing in the U.S., but in testimony before a Senate subcommittee hearing held Tuesday, Amazon put paid to that notion. Although the FAA last week granted Amazon permission to conduct outdoor tests, the unmanned aircraft system covered by the authorization is no longer in use.
Facebook Aims to Turn Social Media Into 'the' Media
March 24, 2015
Facebook reportedly has been talking with multiple news organizations about hosting their content on its network, rather than linking to their websites. No deal has been finalized, but The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic are among its first likely partners. They may be interested in negotiating with Facebook now because they understand change is inevitable.
Microsoft's Novel Windows 10 Antipiracy Plan
March 23, 2015
Microsoft this summer will distribute Windows 10 to anyone running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1, regardless of whether the existing OS is a genuine or pirated copy. Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft's operating systems unit, disclosed the marketing strategy last week at the WinHEC summit in China. Some 74 percent of all commercial software used in China is pirated, according to BSA.
5 Crafty Customer-Retention Strategies
March 23, 2015
Remember all those hours you spent at the mall just hanging out, not buying a thing? Well, a lot of us just never grew up. We just moved our hangout from the local mall to the Internet. We meet our friends online, we order food online, and we window-shop online. It's a good life. That is, it's good unless you are at the receiving end of this online voyeurism.
Amazon Expands Free 2-Hour Delivery to Baltimore, Miami
March 20, 2015
Amazon on Thursday expanded Prime Now, its one-hour fulfillment service, to select ZIP codes in Miami and Baltimore. The service -- which delivers thousands of products, including groceries -- eventually will blanket both cities. Strategically placed warehouses in Baltimore and Miami now can respond to orders placed using the Prime Now app. Prime Now made its debut in New York City in December.
Importance of a System
March 18, 2015
I was telling a friend recently about some of the ideas in my book, Solve for the Customer. He was interested in my belief that customer science has evolved from a general emphasis on process in business, especially in the back office. His company does a lot to ensure that its customers are happy and loyal, because their business involves long-term relationships and agreements that renew for many years at a time.
Talking Barbie Says Hello, Parents Say Goodbye
March 18, 2015
It's not so much Hello Barbie's talking -- it's her listening that has parents up in arms. Here's how Hello Barbie works: A kid presses on the doll's belt buckle and speaks into a microphone in the doll's necklace. An AI system processes and analyzes that speech in the cloud. Responses are then streamed back to the doll, who replies to the kid -- all over a secure WiFi connection to the Internet.
New Facebook Marketing Tool Chews Up Data, Spits It Out
March 17, 2015
Facebook has launched Topic Data, a new service that reveals to advertisers the subjects users discuss, the products they use, and the activities they follow. Marketers will be able to sift through data compilations of what users say about events, brands, subjects and activities. Data on all of Facebook's 1.3 billion users will be used -- anonymized and aggregated to protect their identities.
FTC Goes to Bat for Duped DirecTV Customers
March 16, 2015
The Federal Trade Commission last week charged DirecTV with deceptive advertising practices in a complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. DirecTV, which has been in discussions over a potential merger with AT&T, currently has more than 20 million subscribers across the United States.
Cortana Could Edge Out Siri, Google Now
March 13, 2015
Microsoft later this year will offer its Cortana personal assistant as a standalone app for iOS and Android devices. The engine behind Cortana is "arguably better than [Siri or Google Now] simply because it's far more mature and comprehensive," said tech analyst Rob Enderle. The Cortana personal assistant evolved from the AI character Cortana in the Halo video game series.
Astroturfing's Legality Is in the Weeds
March 13, 2015
We see it all the time: a glowing 5-star comment on Yelp about our favorite neighborhood restaurant. At first glance, it looks authentic. However, what if the review actually were purchased by the restaurant? Would that change your perspective on the review or the restaurant? Of course, paying for advertising is hardly new. Celebrities for years have endorsed products and restaurants.
FCC Drops Net Neutrality Rules on Dissection Table
March 12, 2015
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has released the final version of its controversial open Internet rules. In the introduction to the some 400 pages of new rules, which cover both wired and wireless broadband, the commission stated its "carefully tailored rules" would prevent specific practices that are harmful to Internet openness, such as blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.
Google Roars Onto Auto Insurance Turf
March 11, 2015
Google last week launched an auto insurance rate comparison site in California. Mercury Insurance, MetLife and 21st Century Insurance are among the 14 firms already signed up as partners, and Google promises more will follow. Bolt Solutions last week announced that it too has joined up. "We have a Google Compare agreement with Google," said Bolt spokesperson Chrissy Snyder.
Square Reshapes Itself for Small Businesses
March 10, 2015
Square on Monday introduced two new services for small businesses: instant deposits; and protection for disputed purchases. Square, which six years ago began offering square-shaped mobile credit card readers for smartphones and tablets, has shifted its focus away from point-of-sale operations and toward data collection. The company processes millions of credit card swipes daily.
How Deep Can Watson Drill?
March 10, 2015
IBM last week announced the acquisition of AlchemyAPI, which uses deep learning to perform natural language processing. NLP consists of semantic text analysis, including sentiment analysis. IBM "has some of these capabilities already, and we continue to explore ways to expand and amplify them through our growing developer community," said IBM Watson VP Steve Gold.
Get Ready for Self-Driving Autos to Wreak Disruption
March 09, 2015
Autonomous vehicles are on a roll, suggests a new report from McKinsey & Co. Acceptance will increase substantially by 2050, accounting for as much of 20 percent of new car sales. The shift to self-driving technologies could reduce auto accidents by as much as 90 percent, the report suggests. In addition, self-driving vehicles could free up commuters' time in the car.
Mobile Wallets as Credit Card Killers
March 09, 2015
Years have spent trying to oust the credit card as the ultimate payment method. Publications and pundits have been quick to hail new technologies as "credit card-killers," and they're not without justification. The credit card has lost whatever futuristic luster it may have once had. Magnetic stripes wear out, plastic snaps in half, and the incessant manual inputting of 16-digit numbers becomes tiresome.
Nextdoor Snags $110M for Community-Building Efforts
March 05, 2015
Nextdoor on Wednesday announced it has received $110 million in venture capital to grow its neighborhood-based network of residents and vendors. Nextdoor plans to use the money to develop additional ways for members to benefit from the recommendations shared on the social network. "People don't know their neighbors -- but we are changing that," said spokesperson Jennifer Burke.
Just Showing Up Won't Capture Federal Cloud Business
March 03, 2015
The observation that "80 percent of life is just showing up," generally attributed to comedian Woody Allen, has morphed into the admonition that "80 percent of success is just showing up." However, it appears that vendors who just show up with a generalized approach to marketing cloud technology to federal government agencies likely won't attract much business.
FCC Comes Through on Net Neutrality
February 27, 2015
The FCC has adopted new open Internet rules by a 3-2 vote along party lines. The rules, which affect both wired and wireless access, prohibit broadband providers from unreasonably interfering with efforts of consumers and edge providers to reach each other. The Internet is "simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
Pebble Makes Big Ripples on Kickstarter
February 24, 2015
The money is pouring into Pebble's Kickstarter campaign for its new smartwatch, Pebble Time. Within hours, upwards of 27,000 supporters had pledged more than $5.6 million. The project's goal was to raise a mere $500,000. The strength of the response highlights the enthusiastic fan base Pebble has built. "Pebble Time appears to be yet another blockbuster," said tech analyst Ryan Martin.

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Are you looking forward to self-driving cars?
You bet -- I'd love to have a built-in chauffeur.
Yes -- self-driving cars will save lives.
Kind of -- I'd like some self-driving features, like parking.
No -- self-driving cars are too dangerous.
No -- I don't want to give up another freedom.
Absolutely not -- I saw Terminator and I'm not letting some robot take me for a ride!