Barbara Larson

Barbara Larson

It’s silly how competitive an email inbox is. Brands of all kinds are fighting for a precious few seconds of their subscribers’ attention. And they’re not just battling other brands: They’re competing with moms, bosses and the babysitter who flaked out at the last-minute. Those that are successful stand out from the rest with a mix of compelling subject lines and captivating content…plus, their emails look really, really good.

great email design evokes a particular feeling – excitement, humor, urgency – that’s memorable and drives an audience to act. Here are five tips and examples for designing emails that do just that.

1. Create a Seamless Brand Experience

Gap and Instagram both faced intense scrutiny when they changed their logos. Why? Because consumers had come to know and expect a specific visual representation of the brand. The same idea applies to the inbox. Your audience expects your emails to have the same look and feel as what they see on your website and in the outside world.

Take this example, from publisher Oxford American. Their email beautifully matches the design of their quarterly print magazine, giving their subscribers a seamless brand experience.


2. Keep It Nice and Clean.

 Formatting and organization are key to creating reader-friendly emails, especially when more than 50 percent of all email is viewed on a mobile device. If your email is full of content, stick with a single-column layout and make sure to include clearly defined sections with big, bold headlines and call-to-action (CTA) buttons. To increase click rates, put your most compelling content above the fold (visitors spend almost 80 percent of their time there). Finally, be sure your font size is at least 16 px and build in plenty of white space – it will keep everything easy on the eyes.

 3. Tell Your Story with Images. 

The human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than it can process words. So, it’s not a surprise that 65 percent of recipients would rather receive emails that contain more images than text (HubSpot). Choose beautiful imagery that reflects your brand, customers or product and go light on the copy to tell your story.

Celebrity chef Mario Batali is known for his amazing culinary creations. That’s what his subscribers want, and that’s what he delivers with every email. Who wouldn’t feel inspired (and hungry) after viewing this delectable dish?

Picture 2

Remember, not all images need to be static. Animated GIFs can increase conversion rates by 103 percent and revenue by 109 percent (MarketingSherpa). So consider using a fun animated GIF to draw attention to your product or promotion.

Pro Tip: Some email clients, like Outlook, aren’t optimized for animated GIFs. Be sure the first frame of your GIF looks good as a static image to avoid any rendering problems.

4. Use Copy Wisely. 

Although consumers are drawn to images and video, it doesn’t mean you can take your copy for granted. The most obvious examples are the subject line and CTA, which go a long way toward determining your open and click rates. Your copy also provides context to the beautiful design you’ve created. Just avoid using too much cramped copy if you can. Instead, give a quick, compelling reason to click-through to a landing page where you have more time and space to complete your story.

This email from upscale women’s retailer Yumi Kim is a great example of a clean, fun design and smart use of copy that draws you toward the CTA.

Picture 3

5. Play with Color.

Did you know that 85 percent of people say color is the main reason they buy a product? Every color you use in your email causes a reaction in the reader. For instance, red inspires a sense of urgency, so use that color for a sale, time-sensitive event or promotion. On the other hand, green promotes growth and relaxation. From orange (immediacy), to yellow (attention), to fan favorite blue (trust and security), color choice is key to conveying the right feeling to your subscribers.

An attractive email does much more than just look good. If an email is designed well, it can attract your reader’s interest, create excitement and encourage action. Keep these five tips in mind and you’ll not only represent your brand beautifully, you’ll have better email performance and the results to show for it.

Source : searchenginejournal

It pays to be a hacker.

Anyone interested in becoming a millionaire by hacking an iPhone or iPad should listen up.

A bug broker named Zerodium has tripled its payment for zero-day exploits, or hacks that can be immediately taken advantage of and are unknown to the rest of the world, the company told Ars Technica in an interview. Anyone who can hack a fully patched iPhone or iPad running iOS 10, Apple’s AAPL -0.86%  latest operating system, will receive a $1.5 million reward. Zerodium previously paid $500,000 for a zero-day exploit. The $1.5 million fee will be reserved solely for sophisticated exploits that give hackers full access to a user’s data and device.

In an interview with Ars Technica, Zeroidum’s founder Chaouki Bekrar said that sophisticated exploits in iOS 10 are about 7.5 times harder to achieve than those in Google’s Android operating system. That’s why, he says, Zerodium has pegged similar hacks on Android devices at a maximum fee of $200,000.

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Zerodium is one of many so-called “bug brokers” operating in the security community. The company, which is joined by broker Exodus Intelligence, among others, pays individuals or companies that bring to it a fully exploitable flaw. After paying for the flaw, they then “own” the technique and sell it off to defense contractors, governments, and other groups.

Bug brokers have been criticized in the past for operating a potentially appealing way for malicious hackers to gain access to exploits that could target individuals and companies, though they’ve long argued they focus on selling technology to companies and governments, as well as cybersecurity vendors.

Despite these reassurances, the practice is concerning to those who don’t like the idea of companies selling technologies that allow them to be easily hacked. What’s more, the flaws aren’t typically disclosed to companies like Apple that can patch the flaw and break the hacking opportunity. That ultimately leaves millions of users around the world vulnerable.

Although Zerodium is paying a sizable sum for a flaw, there’s potentially a significant amount of money in being a bug broker. In a 2014 report in TIME, sister publication to Fortune, Exodus was said to have charged $200,000 per year to clients who wanted exploits on software.

The FBI is said to have paid $1 million to an unidentified company for access to a flaw that gave the agency access to data on the iPhone owned by San Bernardino attacker Syed Farook. Apple previously declined to offer the FBI access to the device.

But bug brokers aren’t alone.

Companies like Apple and Google GOOGL -0.14% also operate so-called bug bounty programs that reward users and security companies for finding flaws in their technologies. Earlier this year, Apple announced plans to offer rewards of up to $200,000 through its bug bounty program. However, unlike bug brokers, Apple uses the information to patch security flaws in its operating systems. Bug brokers use the flaw to generate revenue.

In addition to boosting its price on an iOS 10 hack, Zerodium has also increased its rewards for several software hacks. For instance, the company is now paying $100,000 for an attack on Adobe’s Flash, up from $80,000. An Apple Safari hack will net hackers $80,000, compared to a previous $50,000 reward.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the Zerodium move.

Source : fortune

Saturday, 05 November 2016 15:21

How To Search The Deep Web Safely

The deep web and its inner recess, the dark web — those less well-trodden parts of the internet beyond the reach of Google and Bing — are not for the faint-hearted or untrained. With the right tools, however, there's little to fear and plenty to discover. Here's how you can start exploring the deep web without having to worry about your digital well-being.

There are a few ways to approach this, but we're going to focus on one of the most straightforward and secure for simplicity's sake. We're going to be using Tails OS, a bootable operating system that includes everything you need to get down to those hidden parts of the web.

If you're still unclear about what the deep web is, it's any part of the internet that's not indexed by search engines — anywhere you can't get from just clicking links. A large part of the deep web is made up of .onion sites (like the infamous Silk Road), which use a special top-level domain only reachable by a special browser called Tor. Technically, the dark web is a more illicit subsection of the deep web, though the terms are often confused.

For the curious or privacy-conscious internet explorer, it's worth checking out to see what lies beyond the internet we interact with on a day to day basis. But please note: you should be extra careful when clicking links on the deep web as some can lead to illegal sites. Browse at your own risk.

Downloading and installing Tails

How to Search the Deep Web Safely

Fortunately Tails has an installation wizard that guides you step-by-step through the process of setting up the software — if you want to create a bootable USB copy of Tails (which we do) then you need a Windows machine and two 4GB+ USB sticks (the first is for an "intermediary" version of the OS).

You're also going to require Firefox, the Tor Browser or a BitTorrent client in order to verify the initial download and confirm it is what it says it is. On top of that you need a Universal USB Installer utility, which the installation wizard directs you to, which will take care of creating the first USB stick using your downloaded Tails ISO.

How to Search the Deep Web Safely

After that's done, boot from this newly created drive to configure the second one. This official guide takes you carefully through the process. Use the Install by cloning option in the Tails Installer to create your second USB stick, which includes some security enhancements and extras not built into the first one.

Finally, remove the first USB stick, keep the second in place, and boot from it. You're now ready to start venturing out into the deep web. If you run into trouble (and we hit one or two obstacles along the way), then a general web search for your issue or the official Tails support portal should get you moving again.

Browsing the deep web

How to Search the Deep Web Safely

The Tor Browser is your gateway into the dark web — you can actually use it on Mac and Windows too, but Tails OS adds an extra few layers of security, and comes with Tor included. The browser is based on Firefox, so you shouldn't have many problems finding your way around, and will open the Tails OS homepage by default.

As you might expect, browsing the deep web isn't quite as simple as clicking on a few links or searching Google. The best way in is through 'hidden' wikis like this one (note you won't be able to click through on any onion links without the Tor browser) and various others you can find via Reddit or with some clever web searching on sites like DuckDuckGo.

How to Search the Deep Web Safely

Of course the whole point of the deep web is that casual internet users can't simply fire up Google or read a guide like this to get started easily — so finding working, up-to-date links and directories can take some time. Forums, plenty of patience, and occasionally the Torch search engine are your best bets for finding a way into new communities.

The deep web has a reputation for shady activity, but it's also a place for whistleblowing, bitcoin exchanges, and political discussion away from the glare of the public internet. It's changed a lot in recent years as security agencies have become more aware of its presence, and it will continue to evolve in the future.

Staying safe on the deep web

How to Search the Deep Web Safely

The Tor browser protects you by routing your traffic through various different IP locations (and you'll probably notice your web connection slows down a lot as a result).

And as we've already mentioned, Tails OS includes extra security features like built-in encryption, and because you're running it on a USB stick you really are leaving no trace. Tails itself stands for The Amnesiac Incognito Live System, which just about sums up why it's one of the best options for some deep web browsing.

How to Search the Deep Web Safely


Don't compromise that security and anonymity by giving away personal details, including email addresses and so on, and keep downloading to a minimum. Once you've setup Tails, it's generally common sense — but if you're up to something illegal, you can't rely on these security measures to protect you.

As for whether using Tor will get you in trouble with the authorities on its own, it largely depends where in the world you live and what you're doing with it, but it's worth bearing in mind that nothing is ever 100 per cent anonymous and secure. For the most paranoid, there's always the option of tape over the webcam — but sometimes even that might not be enough.

Source : lifehacker

Friday, 04 November 2016 10:48

10 Great Marketing Tools for SMBs

Get Insights on Truly Deep Competitor SEO Strategies

Whether you’re keeping tabs on competitors or just trying to keep up with your own efforts, SEMRush is an incredibly powerful tool. Get insights on your competitor’s best keywords, ad strategies and budget, display ads, and even video ad campaign strategies. If you’re only worried about yourself right now, dive into all of that and much more with keyword research, deep backlink analysis, and localize your ad campaigns. SEMRush is one tool that offers almost too much power. A freemium tool, SEMRush starts their Pro plan off at $69.95/month, but most SMBs can easily get away with the free version.



With SEMRush, get insights into your own keywords or that of competitors.

Personal Assistant for Your Content Strategy? Check.

Creating content for a small business isn’t just about writing a blog post and publishing it. Real content requires discovering topics, planning your calendar, hiring freelancers, creating or editing the content, publishing it, and amplifying for results. You could use a few different tools to get all of these steps done and try to connect them with a few other tools, or you can use ClearVoice. They’ll do it all for you, including hiring freelancers. ClearVoice aggregates all the information that you need to make a decision and even helps you make a choice.

A Packaged and Personalized Social Media Domination Tool

There is a lot going on in the Twittersphere. How’s a marketer with a small team keep up with who and what matters to them? Enter Followerwonk. A tool built by none other than fan-favorite, Moz, Followerwonk helps marketers deeply analyze their Twitter network and connect with new thought leaders and industry influencers. This tool analyzes when you lose and gain followers, enabling you to mimic the positive behavior and ditch everything else. Go ahead and try it free for 50 days, or sign up immediately with up to 3 profiles for just $29/month and up to 20 profiles for $79/month.


FollowerWonk’s user dashboard gives insights into performance and more.

Never, Ever Leave Your Buffer Queue Empty

Buffer is already a powerful tool that we’re sure you’ve heard of, but Hiplay is the extension Buffer that your existing content needs. Repurpose all of your evergreen content with ease using Hiplay. Hiplay is a set-and-forget tool. After you connect your social media profiles and select your evergreen posts, Hiplay takes care of the rest by filling up your Buffer queue on a daily basis with your content. What else? Plans are $5, $10, and $25/month! That’s the cheapest social media intern you’ll be glad you hired.


The Hiplay app automatically selects and sends selected category articles to Buffer for social media distribution.

Transform Your Simple Screen Recordings Like a Pro

The best part about Camtasia? Everything starts and ends in one place. No need to download multiple tools to record the right video, learn to use a fancy (and expensive) tool to edit it, and yet another tool to make it look beautiful and professional. Camtasia takes care of everything from A-Z, to turn your screen recordings into compelling videos.


Users can edit audio and visual separately, incorporate webcam voice and video, and add in additional videos throughout the process. Take control of your screen recording videos for $99 on Mac or $299 for PC, which is truly an amazing deal for such a robust video editing tool.


Camtasia’s Techsmith allows you to do everything from one dashboard to make compelling videos.

Get Content Ideas Instantly

Enter your keywords and a wise man in a gray cable knit sweater (aka the Seeker) will give you content ideas in the form of questions. Not only is this tool fun to use and beautiful to look at, but it also gives countless suggestions, saving any strapped marketer loads of time. You’ll never run out of ideas using Answer The Public, whether you like it or not. It’s a free tool that can expedite your content planning sessions by as much time as it probably took to knit that cable knit sweater.


Content ideas generated by “the Seeker” just from your keyword input.


Easily Attract and Sustain Your Ideal Twitter Following

Building a legitimate and useful Twitter following is no easy task in an age of countless bots and never-ending spam. Narrow helps–a lot. Using keywords, hashtags, and locations, Narrow helps identify your target audience and attracts relevant users to your profile. After all that, analytics help to improve audience retention and track overall performance. In their own words, “no-fluff analytics” is music to a marketer’s ears. Account-based pricing means $19/month for one account and $49/month for up to three accounts. Not bad for someone trying to build a social media following.


Build a legitimate and value-add Twitter following with Narrow.


Get on the GIF Train, No Excuses

GIFs aren’t just for Reddit anymore! Join the GIF revolution with ease using ezGIF’s crop, resize, optimize, and effects tool. This tool is free to use and offers a hefty handful of features that many others don’t, including a GIF split and PNG optimizer. Stop switching between different windows of free tools to get one job done and start using ezGIF.

This Isn’t Just Another List

I promise. This is the honest truth about some of the best tools out there for SMB marketers. Investing your budget in the right marketing tools the first time around is high priority, and I get that. These are proven, well-known, and incredibly powerful tools that will equip any marketer to take on the digital world with ease. Use your new powers wisely!

I have no affiliation with any of the companies listed in this post, and I do not benefit in any way by including them. These tools are mentioned only because they’ve been researched, used, and found to provide value to entrepreneurs, small, and medium-sized businesses.

Source : searchenginejournal

If you want to know what Europe really thinks of us, Google searches are probably not a bad place to start.

Although you might not want to go there. Because it’s not always that flattering.

Search Laboratory have released data from Google searches over the last year, which reveals – whether we like or not – the most common questions Europeans have about Brits.

‘The biggest search story of the year in the UK has undoubtedly been Brexit,’ Search Lab preface their report. ‘Users from all over the continent have been searching queries in the hundreds of thousands every month since February, regarding Britain’s now impending exit from the European Union.’



But, we’re not here to talk about Brexit (for once, we know). We’re here to talk about what the rest of Europe really thinks of us.

And it’s a little bleak.

Germans, for example, want to know: ‘Why are the British so stupid?’, while the Dutch are more concerned with our looks, asking ‘What are the British so ugly?’

Meanwhile, Italians are asking why we’re so dirty and the Portuguese want to know why we’re such cry babies (something to do with the football, by any chance?)

The Spanish don’t even bother asking a question – they’re just telling Google: ‘The English are strange’.european-searches

Things are a little more random in the rest of Europe, where the Polish are worried about British flour and the Austrians don’t know if England is a country or city.

And bless the Danes, who are just interested in why our judges wear wigs.

Separately, last week, Citybase put together a map of Europe, based on search predictions made by Google’s ‘autocomplete’ tool.

Google Autocomplete r1


These search predictions are taken from the terms you’re typing, what other people are searching for, including trending searches, and relevant searches you’ve done in the past.

It’s also pretty random.


What Google autocorrect thinks about each country:

  • England is…’confusing’
  • Wales is…’better than England’
  • Scotland is…’not a real country’
  • Ireland is…’not North Korea’
  • And, just for the record, Iceland is ‘awesome’

Good to know. 


Source : metro

Monday, 31 October 2016 10:20

Google gets into the whiteboard business

Google, it seems, is still capable of surprising. A few weeks after launching a pair of handsets, a smart home hub and a virtual reality headset, the company is back with one of its most left-field hardware launches in recent memory. After all a big push into consumer mobile, the software giant is pursuing, of all things, the whiteboard.

The Jamboard is an unlikely launch for the company, the product of a few years’ worth of development attempting to take the next step with its workplace tools. According to G Suite’s Director of Product, Jonathan Rochelle, the project was born out of a desire to build a new collaborative tablet interface for G Suite, the collection of business apps formerly known as Google Apps for Work‎.

“Jamboard,” Rochelle explained, ahead of the unveil, “is the whiteboard now in Google Cloud.” It’s a 55-inch 4K touchscreen hub for workplace collaborations designed from the ground up.A director competitor to Microsoft’s Surface Hub built around Google apps. It’s a familiar sort of interface whose output lives in Google Drive, connecting to users in person or via smartphone or tablet using the company’s companion apps for iOS and Android (nope, no Windows yet).

Google’s been testing the hardware with a number of high profile partners, including Netflix and Spotify, who have been trying it out in their own corporate boardrooms. The result is pretty impressive. Built from scratch (though the company has yet to name any hardware partners), it’s a fairly intuitive and extremely responsive interface. Users can draw with the include passive stylus and erase with their fingers (or an included eraser/microfiber).

Google Jamboard

Tools like handwriting and shape help streamline the process and worked quite well in my own hands-on time with the product. The board also has 16 levels of pressure sensitive touch and nice little animations that bring small things like erasing to life, as you watch the text flake and fall off the display. The system runs on a highly specialized version of Android that features a built in browser and Google Maps among other features, along with opening it up to potential third-party apps. 

It also has Google Cast built in, so you can also use it as a big video display, complete with speakers that face down into the magnetic tray that holds the styli and eraser. The speakers, from what I heard aren’t great, but they’re plenty loud and will do the trick with teleconferencing audio. You can also just use the built-in Bluetooth to run it all through a speaker.Google Jamboard

As for why Google went with 4K here, beyond the occasional video watching, it says that the high res is necessary so as to avoid pixelation when you’re up close to the board. There’s also a built-in 2K camera capable of capturing telepresence at 60 frames per second.

All of the collaboration occurs in real-time, making it possible to monitor the board on a mobile device with minimal latency. And once a project is finished, it can be shared with the team as a PNG or PDF.

It’s also a surprisingly nice looking thing. The back of the board is lovingly sculpted, making it, quite probably, the nicest looking whiteboard I’ve ever seen. There are a couple of standard full USB ports back there, along with a USB C, HDMI and Ethernet. The board can be mounted to a wall or users can choose to buy the optional stand. All said, it should run less than $6,000 when it launches next year.

Source : techcrunch

Cybercriminals are targeting people using Apple products as they are more likely to have disposable income, a security expert has warned.

Blogger Graham Cluley said that while malware was more common on Windows, Apple customers could not "afford to be lackadaisical" about security.

On Monday, hereported a text message scamthat tried to trick people into handing over account information.

Apple's supportsite warns customersnot to enter details on spoof sites.

The text message scammers sent out alerts to victims' smartphones, claiming their Apple ID accounts were going to expire. The message encouraged people to visit a fake website where they were asked to enter their account information.

"It tried to grab personal information and credit card details with the aim of committing identity theft," said Mr Cluley.

"They deliberately took advantage of people's trust in the Apple brand to steal information.

"Avoid clicking on links in emails because they might take you somewhere phishy. Instead go to the website directly and log in that way." Spoof Apple website

The spoof website has since been blocked by web browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.

Apple's support website says customers "should never enter Apple account information on any non-Apple website".

"In general, all account-related activities will take place in the iTunes application directly, not through a web browser," it explains.

On Tuesday, Mr Cluley reported on a second scam disguised as an update to Adobe Flash, which encouraged victims to install a new version of the software.

In a blog about a discovery by the security firm Integohe wrote: "The best advice for many users may be to ensure that you have configured Adobe Flash Player to automatically update itself."

Apple's Mac OS X operating system does have a safeguard, enabled by default, that prevents people installing software written by unknown developers. However, it appears the attackers were able to circumvent this.

"The fake Flash update attack appears to have used a stolen Apple Developer certificate, suggesting that some third-party Mac developers may be being sloppy about their own security and putting the rest of us at risk as a result," Mr Cluley told the BBC.

"The truth is that criminals will go where the money is.

"Apple products cost more than some of their competitors so it's likely that their customers have more disposable income. That's cash which the bad guys would like to have filling their pockets."

Source : bbc

Adobe noted that companies that foster creativity enjoy 1.5x greater market share and 71 percent of companies report creating 10x the number of assets today than just a few years ago! A study by the United States Census Bureau shows that estimated annual operating expenses of United States retail, accommodation, and food services firms has rose between 2006 and 2016.

If you are among the many businesses that have a big need for design without the budget, read on for resources that you can use to either create designs yourself or hire someone for little money.

1. UCraft

Ucraft allows users to make their own responsive websites and landing pages for free (via its starter package) or $8 per month (via its builders package).

The free package is ideal for users who are looking to create one page, while the paid package offers a complete website build along with unlimited pages. How it works is: users select a template (and get a free subdomain form ucraft.me), choose an app based on function (such as create a new page or upload photos), then drag and drop elements onto landing pages.

Your website gets hosted on a cloud hosting that Google provides, making the website easy to access and edit anytime. In addition ucraft’s website builder function, it also has a free logo maker tool, search engine optimization functionality, the ability to connect a custom domain, and team collaboration capabilities.

2. Slance

Slance, the new student freelance marketplace connects businesses with U.S. students. Students gain relevant work experience while businesses can get low budget designs. “Other freelance sites allow businesses to access the global talent pool but issues often arise like time zone, language, and cultural differences,” says Slance co-founder Adam Thornhill. “Students provide a fresh, youth perspective that seasoned professionals do not offer,” he added.

Slance operates on simple four step process:

1. Post a job in minutes.
2. Review applicants based on their feedback rating.
3. Hire freelancers from the Slance dashboard.
4. Pay freelancers.

3. Fiverr

If you have $5 in your budget, check out Fiverr. For just $5, freelancers will create your design, be it a business logo, illustration, banner ad, or something else. Fiverr’s online marketplace expands to even more services such as writing and recording professional jingles, creating t-shirt designs, and much more. So while you’re on Fiverr design help, you might stay awhile to fill some of your other business needs.

4. PicMonkey

Social Media influencer Eren Mckay cannot stress enough how great of a tool PicMonkey is. “I use it on a daily basis,” she says. There are two versions available:

free and paid, with one of two paid options starting at $3.33 monthly, billed annually. Out of every free image editing tool, PicMonkey is Mckay’s number one choice (and she’s always creating engaging images that she posts on her social channels that she made with the tool). “I especially love how it has a variety of functions and intuitive interface,” she added.

5. Canva

I’ve been using this tool for over a year now and can’t say enough great things about it. While I do have a graphic design background, I love using Canva for inspiration. Within minutes, users can create professional looking images for anything their heart desires from ebooks to posters. There are a ton of templates, shapes, charts, grids, frames, lines, and icons to choose from in order to achieve that perfect for your business design. Canva is free to use (just drag and drop images of text). Additional images are available for purchase at competitive prices.2016-10-23-1477241896-8847283-ScreenShot20161023at12.57.55PM.png

Pictured: A Canva infographic template screen shot taken on 9/3/16.

6. Visme

If your graphic design needs include presentations and other engaging content, Visme lets you do both. Creating an account takes seconds and if you’re a fast copywriter, slides can be created in minutes. Like many of the other tools featured, Visme uses drag and drop functionality with hundreds of free images to choose from. Upgraded plans that offer more storage, charts, and other features start at $7 per month. For $16 a month, collaborate with other members of your team, get access to analytics to track the number of visitors to your published content, premium support, and the list goes on.

7. Bannersnack

Bannersnack is a banner creation app that lets users create static, animated HTML5 and interactive banner ads. While prices are subject to change, at this time at minimum, I’d recommend a single user license running for $12 a month ($144 billed yearly). On the basic plan members get unlimited downloads (without watermarks), static banner templates, 25,000 embed view per banner per day, and access to stock photos. The free version is limiting and is designed to give users a feel of the app before upgrading.

What will you create today?

Source : huffingtonpost

The hotel and hospitality sector caters to millions of travellers every day, and each one of them checks in with their own set of expectations. Meeting those expectations is the key to getting people to return, and increasingly hotel and leisure operators are turning to advanced analytics solutions for clues about how to keep their customers happy.

Additionally, although their marketing departments would be loathe admit it, not all guests are equal in the eyes of hotel and leisure operators. Some will simply check in and check out with a minimum of fuss. Others will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on fine dining, entertainments, sports activities and spa treatments. Identifying those customers with a higher overall lifetime value to a particular business is hugely important in today’s market, but a customer’s lifetime value might not be empirically obvious from observing their behavior during one visit.



For example, a high-rolling customer spending money like it is going out of fashion in the hotel casino may be on a “holiday of a lifetime” following retirement, and unlikely to behave in this way every day. Meanwhile a frugal business customer taking an economy room and spending very little on extra services may be a travelling businessman who will potentially return frequently if the hotel meets his needs, and therefore have a higher lifetime value. Big Data analytics can help make this distinction.

A third overarching use of analytics in the hotel industry revolves around “yield management”. This is the process of ensuring that each room attracts the optimal price – taking into account troughs and peaks in demand throughout the year as well as other factors, such as weather and local events, which can influence the number (and type) of guests checking in.

Analytics has applications in all of these areas and although the hotel and hospitality sector has lagged behind others such as retail and manufacturing in adopting an analytics-first philosophy, that could be starting to change.Hotels are now using big data and analytics (shutterstock_217868887)

One pioneering example included US economy hotel chain Red Roof Inn who, during the record-setting winter of 2013/2014, realized the huge value of having a number of hotels close to major airports at a time when flight cancellation rate was around 3%. This meant around 90,000 passengers were being left stranded every day. The chain’s marketing and analytics team worked together to identify openly available public datasets on weather conditions and flight cancellations. Knowing that most of their customers would use web search on mobile devices to search for nearby accommodation, a targeted marketing campaign was launched, aimed at mobile device users in the geographical areas most likely to be affected. This led to a 10% increase in business in areas where the strategy was deployed.

Another US chain which has been recognized for their innovative use of analytics is Denihan Hospitality, which owns boutique hotels across the US including the James and Affinia Hotels brands. Denihan used IBM analytics technology to bring together transactional and customer data across its chains, and combine it with unstructured data such as customer feedback comments and reviews left on rating sites such as Tripadvisor. Menka Uttamchandani, the company’s vice president of business intelligence, said “Every company has massive amounts of data – it is what one does with that data – such as providing relevant dashboards, click through deep dive actionable reporting and analytical insight that can foster a competitive edge.” 

After evaluating customer feedback and transactional data, the chain took strategic, data-driven decisions to rearrange many of their rooms to better cater to either business or leisure travellers, provide more bathroom storage for rooms popular with travelling families, and provide a greater range of in-room facilities such as kitchenettes where guests would appreciate them.

The chain even went as far as putting analytics in the hands of the frontline hotel staff, who were armed with dashboards on their smartphones enabling them to anticipate what a particular guest might expect or desire from their stay, in terms of restaurant meals, concierge services or excursions to local places of interest. Housekeeping staff receive real-time updates on whether customers in a particular room require an extra pillow or are likely to call room service for a sandwich and a coffee at 2am.

Of course as in most industries, a majority of analytical work in the hospitality industry is focused on marketing. The overall aim is often to launch personalized marketing campaigns in the form of email or targeted social media advertising. This involves analyzing all of the information available about customers who are visiting, by gathering customer feedback, transactional activity, use of loyalty programs and bought-in third party demographic data. This is then used to decide whether, for example, an offer of a free restaurant meal, or a ticket for a show at a nearby theatre is more likely to persuade a high lifetime-value customer to make a booking.

At Marriott, however, Big Data is not confined to marketing, and has been put to use across the hotel chain’s operations. Unstructured and semi-structured datasets such as weather reports and local events schedules are used to forecast demand and determine a value for each individual room throughout the year. This enables the chain to set prices with optimum efficiency – vital in an age where customers are used to saving pennies by scanning price comparison services for the best deals. 

Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which owns 1,200 hotels around the world, is another large chain which as heavily invested in Big Data and analytics. Their system, too, is based around optimizing room pricing by analyzing data on local and worldwide economic factors, events and weather reports. Knowing how the home weather of their core customer base in North America impacts the price that those customers are willing to spend for a week in the Caribbean sunshine gives them prompts as to the best time to reduce prices or launch marketing promotions. This strategy has led to an increase in its revenue-per-room – a key metric for hotels – of almost 5%.

The hotel and hospitality industry may just be starting out with Big Data but it has an enviable volume and variety of data to work with. Customers leave a data trail from the moment they book to the moment they check out, and analysts are beginning to get to grips with turning that data into actionable insights. Once it gets into its stride, I expect we will see more innovation from this particular sector which should result in more satisfying stays for us as customers.

Source : forbes

Google used to own search. Now 65% of consumers start searching for products on Amazon or other retail sites – bypassing search engines completely. As a result, the Alphabet, Inc subsidiary has made moves to a) win back this product search traffic, and b) move down-funnel to become a bigger part of the shopping process.

Just two weeks ago at Google I/O they announced all the new places they’ll capture queries: in the home (Google Home), in messenger (Allo), on video (Duo), in-app (Instant App), and elsewhere on the web.



And though it’s not the flashy stuff of conference stages, the company’s recent introduction of Shopping ads in image search results, and new local inventory ad features  are no less significant. By allowing users to comparison shop and buy within all their personal search results, they continue their shift toward e-commerce (perhaps you’ve heard of Google Flights?).

Travel brands can learn two things from Google and its recent moves:

First, travel websites are search engines for travel shoppers. Just like most users start with Amazon when looking for products, travelers start with suppliers, meta sites, and OTAs. This means there’s big opportunity for brands to provide search-results-like customer utility, and be rewarded handsomely for it.

Second, customization and personalization are not nice-to-haves anymore. Strategies for customization are a must, and this applies to ad strategies as much as to on-site experiences.

Google (and Amazon) has always focused on custom experiences in ads. First, ads felt personal because they were based on intent. Then geolocation. Then context. Then historical behavior, real-time predictions and social connections.

As they say, data is the new creative. These days “customers are expecting you to use your data to come up with personalized experiences,” says Jononathan Wardnman, VP CRM at Hilton Worldwide. Google may have started it, but it’s the new normal –  we can look to the rise of DSPs, DMPs, and Facebook’s recent earnings for proof.

Customizing ad experiences doesn’t just mean that ads should be hyper-relevant. They should also be triggered, delivered, and designed for optimal performance with a given user or set of users. Too often brands simply plug and play display ads into a webpage. Real results come when ads are native, feel like functionality, and are delivered only in the moments when they’re beneficial, not when they’re distracting.

How users engage with elements on a page depends on lots of things – functionality, design, layout, the user’s perception of the brand, just to name a few. Similarly, interaction rates, click-through rates, and how cannibalistic an ad placement is depends on hundreds of variables. Some are related to where and how they appear, but many have more to do with the intent of the user in a particular instant: How far along the purchase path are they? What other sites have they visited? What is their purchase history? Have they converted on this site before? These variables help determine the right experience for a user in an intelligent ad strategy.

It’s a common misconception that customized ad strategies aren’t worth the effort – that programmatic provides sufficiently data-driven inventory. But what works for one site won’t necessarily work for another, and part of providing custom experiences is knowing when not to show ads at all.

Brands that understand – as Google does – that e-commerce sites are now more than just transactional, aren’t fearful of rampant comparison shopping and low conversion rates. Instead, they embrace consumer behavior and give users what they want. Sometimes that means guiding them to a purchase or conversion. Sometimes it means showing them the right ad to help them keep shopping (and profiting from it).

To learn more about creating custom media strategies, and common misconceptions that cost travel brands millions of dollars in revenue every year, download this free e-book: Top 5 Myths in Travel Media.

We were happy to begin this year’s Forum with a conversation with Donald, and we’re happy to argue (or agree) with him any time about the future of travel.

We kicked off the Skift Global Forum 2016 in New York City last month — our biggest gathering yet — with an interview with the CEO of one of travel’s largest companies by market cap: Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald.

In his time at Carnival, Donald has steered the conversation away from the infamous “poop cruise” to one that is squarely aimed at winning over the vast swath of consumers who choose to vacation on land instead of by sea.

Under Donald’s tenure, Carnival has launched the Fathom brand, and sent the line to Cuba where it became the first cruise line into the country following a thaw in sixty years of restrictions. Carnival has also announced a joint venture in China and become a leading voice on the long-term approach to the region, despite some quarterly concern among analysts.On stage, he addressed all of these topics, as well as what the cruise company sees as its true competitive set. Donald also spoke broadly about the American situation, from current social conflicts to focusing on shared values rather than political divisiveness.

It was a pleasantly frank conversation with one of the leading figures in global travel. You can watch the complete discussion, below.

At this year’s Skift Global Forum in New York City, travel leaders from around the world gathered for two days of inspiration, information, and conversation for panels such as this as well as solo TED-like talks on the future of travel.

Source : skift

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