Tuesday, 31 May 2011

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Sunday, 29 May 2011

How Shoppers Interact with Retailers through Social Networks

New Study Evaluates Consumer Behaviors, Attitudes toward “Social Commerce”

-Research Examines Popularity of “Group-Buying” Sites, Location-Based Apps

Washington, May 27, 2011 – Shoppers are willing to interact with retailers through a variety of social networks and retailers have limitless opportunities to capitalize on the momentum, according to the 2011 Social Commerce Study, a joint research project by Shop.org, comScore and Social Shopping Labs. The report, which evaluates shopping directly influenced by social media, polled 1787 adult online shoppers in April 2011.

According to the survey, 42 percent of online consumers have “followed” a retailer proactively through Facebook, Twitter or a retailer’s blog, and the average person follows about six retailers. While shoppers’ reasoning for following a retailer varies, the majority of respondents (58%) said they follow companies to find deals, while nearly half (49%) say they want to keep up to date on products. More than one-third also follow retailers for information on contests and events (39%).

Chart: Shop Social Media 2011 - How Shoppers Interact w/ Retailers

Shop Social Media 2011 - How Shoppers Interact w/ Retailers
Powered By: iCharts | create, share, and embed interactive charts online

Though many retailers use social media to build their brand, research indicates that companies may also be able to monetize these channels. According to the survey, more than half of Facebook users (56%) say they have clicked through to a retailer’s website because of a Facebook post, while over two-thirds of Twitter users (67%) say a post has spurred them to click through to a website. Additionally, the appetite for buying directly through social networks appears strong: one-third of shoppers say they would be likely to make a purchase directly from Facebook (35%) or Twitter (32%).

Given the popularity of devices like iPhones and Droids, many shoppers are using smartphones to easily engage in social media on a regular basis. According to the survey, 42 percent of Twitter users access the site on their mobile phone at least once a day, while the same is true for 34 percent of Facebook users. In addition, about one-third (32%) of people view YouTube clips daily from their smartphones.

“Instead of waiting to get back on their desktop computer to watch videos or interact online, Americans are easily accessing social networks when they have even a few moments of down time, whether they’re scanning Facebook news feeds while picking up their kids from school or tweeting about their shopping experience while browsing the mall,” said Fiona Swerdlow, Head of Research at Shop.org. “The popularity of mobile devices will only boost the power of social commerce, which presents an incredible opportunity for retailers.”

Shoppers are also using mobile devices for research and information while shopping in stores. According to the survey, nearly half of consumers (47%) have accessed customer reviews in store using their mobile device with men (55%) more likely to access these reviews in store than women (39%).

-Group-Buying Sites, Location-Based Apps Present Opportunities-
Though still in their infancy, group-buying sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Gilt City have already made their mark on many online shoppers. According to the survey, eight in 10 (82%) online consumers are aware of group-buying sites, though only 19 percent of survey respondents have actually made a purchase through one of the sites. Those who do leverage group-buying sites appear to be enthusiasts, as the majority of consumers (57%) have spent over $100 through these sites to date. While some traditional retailers have experimented with group-buying offers, the majority of shoppers say they have purchased non-traditional retail items like food and drinks (18%), entertainment (16%), and personal care items (12%) through these sites.

“Many shoppers are aware of group-buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, but haven’t yet been compelled to make their first purchase,” said Peter Leech, founder, Social Shopping Labs. “As these sites gain momentum and spread to more cities around the country, retailers have an opportunity to experiment not only with established sites but also group-buy promotions on their own Facebook pages and websites.”

The report also evaluated awareness and usage of location-based applications like Foursquare, Yelp and Gowalla. On the basis of sheer awareness among consumers, these platforms are still in the early growth stage among consumers: Foursquare has the highest awareness (16%), followed by Yelp (10%) and Gowalla (6%).

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Article by Kathy Grannis National Retail Federation

Friday, 27 May 2011

How Moms of All Ages Use Smartphones for Shopping

As smartphones spread to older moms, where does usage stand?

Smartphones are spreading quickly throughout the population. eMarketer estimates 31% of US mobile users will have a smartphone this year, and according to research from mobile ad network Greystripe, many of those phones are ending up in the hands of older users.
The company’s “Advertiser Insights Report” on moms who use smartphones found that in Q3 2009, just 8% of the group were ages 55 or older. By Q1 2011, 26% were in that age group, while the proportion of the smartphone mom population under age 45 had dropped correspondingly.
Younger moms and older moms had similar levels of participation across several smartphone shopping activities, according to the survey. Moms under age 45 were about equally as likely as moms ages 45 and older to use their phones to locate nearby stores, compare prices and make shopping lists.
But younger moms were ahead when it came to more advanced mobile shopping activities, like researching new products, downloading digital coupons, tracking sales and making purchases on their phones. Respondents under 45 years old were also less likely to say they didn’t do any mobile shopping activities.

Younger moms were also more apt to download mobile applications in a variety of categories, though older moms were even or ahead in areas like news and health and fitness apps.

Role that Their Phone Plays in Their Shopping According to US Mom Smartphone Users, by Age, Feb 2011 (% of respondents)

Types of Apps Downloaded by US Mom Smartphone Users, by Age, Feb 2011 (% of respondents)

The survey did not break out a category for shopping-related apps, but many are seeing high usage and opening up new possibilities for retailers to reach on-the-go customers. shopkick, for example, which released version 2.0 of its namesake app in May 2011, now allows shoppers to “favorite” stores, creating a personalized tab of relevant deals. The app reported that within five days it had logged over 1 million “faves.”

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Original source eMarketer Blog

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

7 Traps to Avoid When Starting Your Business

While economists continue to debate whether we're truly rising out of the recession or entering into a double-dip, one thing is clear: The employment sector is still in a slump. The strongest job growth seems to be in the small business sector, which has accounted for 65% (or 9.8 million) of the net new private sector jobs created in the US between 1993 and 2009, according to the Small Business Administration. The small business sector has actually seen a surge in activity: Research from the Kauffman Foundation indicates that the number of American businesses created in 2009 marked a 14-year high, surpassing the number of businesses created during the 1999 and 2000 high-tech boom.

If you're thinking about starting or joining a small business in this economy, here are seven traps to avoid:

1. Don't let the economy get you down.

While many workers view precarious economic conditions as a time to hunker down in their jobs and try to weather the economic storm, others see it as a window of opportunity. Starting a business in a weak economic environment can have several clear benefits: The cost of doing business can decline because suppliers and partners may be more willing to negotiate on pricing and conditions, and the opportunity cost of lost income from a traditional job may be lower. Access to capital is also improving: The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy reports that in mid-2010 commercial banks started easing lending conditions while levels of venture capital investments increased.

Of course, there are also precautions to starting a business in a weak economy: Discretionary spending is down, so businesses selling goods or services that appeal to budget-minded customers may have an easier time gaining new customers in this economy than sellers of full-priced luxury items. Similarly, do-it-yourself services and low-cost substitutes may fare better than full-service or premium alternatives. For example, self-service storage and organizational retailer Organize.com saw a greater than 10% increase in year-over-year sales from 2007 to 2008 and again in 2009. Explains Terry Shearer, CEO of Organize.com, "Even in a recession, people want to improve their homes, but they want to do it inexpensively. Buying good home products from a reasonably priced online retailer is a much less expensive way to improve your home than, say, hiring a construction team or designer."

 2. Don't think that an idea equals a plan.

Too often people start businesses with a general notion of what they want to accomplish but lack a solid, well-conceived plan. While a business plan is always important, in a tough economy, it's even more vital to think critically about your product or service, customer acquisition strategy, pricing and promotion plans, and key logistics like inventory management and fulfillment. Similarly, it's important to be very clear about your unique business angle and your differentiation from competitors.

3. Don't be an island.

Though entrepreneurs tend to be well versed in a wide variety of areas, even the most skilled entrepreneur cannot expect to be an expert in every aspect of business. From IT issues like network maintenance and website development, to marketing and customer acquisition, to accounting, payroll and legal services, there's too much for most people to handle alone. Have a clear sense of your own strengths, and surround yourself with the right partners and advisors for the remaining tasks.

4. Don't expose yourself to unnecessary financial stress.

Starting a business can be extremely costly, both in terms of lost income from a full-time job and in terms of capital investments — but it doesn't have to be. Don't quit your day job too soon, seek outside investors in addition to your own personal assets, and consider lower-cost options for starting your business. For example, if you're going into a retail business, make sure you consider both brick and mortar and online business models, given the considerable difference in capital requirements for each model.

5. If you build it, they may not come.

Having a great idea and even a great skill and product are very useful in starting a business, but you also need to have a carefully thought-through marketing plan. Customers won't just come to you. You need to think through all of the tactics at your disposal — from newspaper and radio advertising, to online marketing, to good old-fashioned referrals — to consider how to acquire customers and then turn those customers into repeat buyers.

6. Don't launch without specific goals in mind.

Starting a business can be as simple as turning your hobby into an online store or as complicated as building a capital-intensive new product or service requiring research and development. In any scenario, it's important to map out clear goals for yourself and set up times to reassess your progress. Consider setting targets for product availability, establishments of key partnerships and vendor relationships, sales levels, and profitability levels. You don't want to wait until you're two years into a business to discover that you need to make fundamental shifts in your strategy that could have been identified 18 months earlier. Set regular, realistic goals and review periods to learn from your experiences and make changes as needed.

7. Don't be afraid to fail.

Many of the most successful entrepreneurs failed before they were successful, and most have had significant failures along their paths to success. Henry Ford failed multiple times before finally launching his successful car company, and Bill Gates and Paul Allen formed a firm called Traf-O-Data before going on to create Microsoft.

Fortunately, more new businesses succeed than fail. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 7 in 10 new small businesses survive at least two years. What's most important isn't whether you succeed or fail in your intended milestones, but rather that you assess and learn from your actions along the way so that no mistake — or spectacular success — takes place in vain.

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provided by
Yahoo Small Business
by Melissa Chaika Sobel

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Future of Augmented Reality - SmartAR

Sony's SmartAR demoed live, raises the bar for augmented reality

Remember Sony's SmartAR? The markerless AR technology that promises reality augmentation without the need for unsightly tattoos? It's back again, showing itself once more after an all-too-brief 48 hour layoff. A new live-demo shows Sony's markerless object recognition system focusing on posters, tables, books, and coffee cups in lieu of the traditional AR card -- allowing it recognize multiple objects at once. Focusing on objects rather than markers allow augmented entities to interact more naturally with their environment. For instance, bouncing AR balls plummet off the edge of a table, and realistically ricochet off of a book placed in their path. Objects don't even need to remain on screen, as demonstrated by an AR pop-up menu that remained viewable even after the object-marker that spawned it left the viewer's field of vision. Sony seems to have built the groundwork of an augmented reality system that might actually be useful -- pair this up with a set of swank AR glasses (or better yet, holographic AR glasses), and we'll have a vision of the future we can really look forward to.

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Engadget Japan
sourceSony (YouTube)

How Do I Get People to Like My Brand on Facebook?

It's a tricky question most marketers are asking themselves as brands' presence on the world's largest social-media platform grows by the day. And the answer is one many companies might not want to hear. It can be done, but it will take time, effort and -- yes -- money.

The now ubiquitous "like" button appears all over the web via Facebook Connect, but perhaps nowhere does it leverage more weight than on a brand's official Facebook page. The number of fans a brand can attract on Facebook serves as public indicator of its social worth, and more "likes" means more impressions on the real-time newsfeeds of self-selected fans.

But the number of people who like a brand doesn't directly translate to the number of impressions that a brand makes with its posts. And, of course, not all likes are created equal. As Facebook continues to evolve and remain a powerful marketing channel, marketers should keep some fundamental questions in mind when casting a social-media net. Because ultimately, Facebook is about keeping your fish happy and healthy once you've caught them.

Am I the kind of brand people are going to like?
If you're considering jumping into the Facebook fray, you have to take an honest look at your brand and assess whether users will find real cultural or social value in associating their names with yours. Ashley Ringrose, founder and CEO of the social-media-centric digital shop Soap Creative, said a like isn't much different than a bumper sticker. Would someone want to attach your logo to the back of her car?
If your target consumer demographic is active on Facebook, if there is demonstrated brand affinity (for example, a pre-existing user-created fan page with a promising following) or if your comparable competitors have staked a healthy social claim, then you should consider building a page of your own. But the golden rule is best summed up by Lee Oden, CEO of TopRank Marketing and publisher of the TopRankBlog.com: "If your brand sucks, no one is going to like you."

Do I need to buy paid media to get people to like me, or will they find me on their own?
Some brands have been able to grow their Facebook pages virally without the use of paid ad placement leading users to their pages, but they're the exception rather than the rule. Coca-Cola, the brand whose page boasts more likes than any other on the platform, didn't earn all 22-million-plus of its fans without a little prodding -- and it is one of the most iconic brands there is. "Most people aren't actively looking for brands on Facebook," Mr. Ringrose said. "You would never go, 'Hmm, I wonder what Skittles is doing?' Or "What's that weird organic coffee brand up to?' It's more about putting it under users' noses. 'Do you like this brand?' 'Yes, I do.'"
A common misstep marketers make is not properly leveraging Facebook's ad-targeting tools to achieve a more efficient media buy, Mr. Ringrose said.

Michael Lazerow, CEO of the software and services firm Buddy Media, which works to help some of the biggest brands, such as Target, grow and manage their Facebook pages, said the ultimate approach to building a following is a more holistic approach that lies at the intersection of paid media and earned reach. "It's about figuring out what the impact of paid media is, what the viral lift from social is, and how those fit together," he said, noting that Facebook needs better analytics tool to help find this sweet spot.

I've made a page and filled it with content. Now what?
Just because you've built it doesn't mean they will come, Mr. Lazerow said. Marketers have to apply resources behind their efforts in social media, and be prepared to feed the beast with fresh and original content that (rather than clogging up their news feeds) gives fans the real-time opportunity and incentive to experience your brand. Questions and complaints need to be responded to and dealt with, and brand advocates -- those unpaid evangelizers who sing your praises without the pay -- need to be recognized and encouraged. "Everyone loves their new puppy," Mr. Ringrose said. "But you've got to feed it and take care of it. You can't just throw it away after the campaign or Christmas is over."

What kind of content do Facebook users respond to best?
This differs by brand (as do the habits of users who follow them) but Roger Katz, CEO of the social-media firm Friend2Friend, said giving your fans genuine reasons to engage with your content and pass it along to their own friends is the holy grail of social-media success.
"When a brand has a fan, they are one step away from all of that fan's friends. That next step is an incredible opportunity, but it's also a challenge." He said when it comes to getting your fans to help spread your content, it has to be because your fans genuinely want to spread the word -- and usually that isn't because you shouted at them, spammed them or gave them a coupon. "People like experiences, and when they have them, they talk about them and share them. Getting users to propagate their own messages to their friends about your brand is where the magic is," he said.

What is more important: the number of likes you have, or how much people comment on and share your content?
Most experts agree that while the number of likes associated with a page is a clear and easy way to measure its influence, it is not the most-telling number. In fact, when you consider the number of impressions your posts are actually getting (once you factor in how may of those fans have hidden brand page updates on their feeds or might miss your post in the clutter) the number of impressions you're actually achieving is much closer to half of how many fans you have. Mr. Ringrose even estimates that the unique impression rate on a post can average as low as 20%.
And then there's the all-important question of engagement. "If you have a million likes on your page, and only 10 people are actually engaging, we don't call that a successful page," Mr. Lazerow said. "It all depends on what each brand wants to do. There's nothing wrong with wanting a large fan base, but what are your goals?"
Still, Mr. Ringrose said even as they grow their fan bases, brands need to make sure they aren't treating their pages as free, one-way advertising platforms. "I'd rather have half as many likes and twice as many comments," he said. "The total number of likes is such an easy number to wrap your head around, and it's a badge of honor for many brands, but monthly and daily active users and feedback on posts, to me, are more important."

What if Facebook changes its rules?
That's a hurdle no marketer has much control over. Facebook can (and will) change its policies, its page functionalities and its design, and all brands can do is keep up. Marketers -- both those that farm out their social-media responsibilities and those that maintain pages in-house -- should be advised that these changes are a reality from the beginning of the endeavor. "What we're doing [for clients] now may not be possible six months from now," Mr. Ringrose said. "Facebook is getting better and letting us know when big changes are coming, but the reality is, you're a rental property, and the landlord has his way."

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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Truth in Advertising

Some of the biggest names in advertising gather around the table with "Art and Copy" director Doug Pray to pitch the life-enhancing, world-changing powers of advertising and do a little pro bono whiteboarding.


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Monday, 16 May 2011

Social Media Demographics

Detailed Facebook Demographics
Age range Male Female
14-17 9.8% 9.1%
18-20 13.7% 13.2%
21-24 17.5% 16.6%
25-29 13.2% 11.7%
30-34 10.2% 9.7%
35-44 15.3% 15.4%
45-54 10.4% 12.3%
55-63 5.5% 7.2%
64+ 4.5% 4.8%
Detailed MySpace Demographics
Age range Male Female
14-17 14.8% 19.6%
18-20 27.2% 19.0%
21-24 14.7% 14.8%
25-29 12.0% 12.5%
30-34 6.8% 7.1%
35-44 8.4% 7.5%
45-54 12.1% 11.8%
55-64 0.9% 1.1%
65+ 3.0% 6.6%

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Retailers turn to Facebook to sell their wares

More of the world's biggest marketers are selling their stuff at the place where consumers hanker to hang out: Facebook.

 Think of it as the ultimate convenience for a mobile generation that considers it seriously inconvenient to leave Facebook — even for a moment — in order to go to a retailer's website. 

Now, marketers from Express to J.C. Penney to Delta Air Lines are steering those purchases to their Facebook pages.
Within a few years, social media gurus say, the very notion of shopping on a retailer's website will become dated. "Expecting people to come to your website is expecting them to make an extra effort," explains Janet Fouts, a social media coach. "They're already on Facebook."

The numbers are dazzling. Facebook has roughly 500 million users — 250 million of whom are on the site every day. The average user has 130 friends. Each month, people spend a total 700 billion minutes on Facebook.

 "It's social networks like Facebook that are the center of people's lives," Fouts says. "It's where their friends are. It's where they play games. And it's increasingly becoming where they shop."
Facebook executives say it's critical to make Facebook stores friendlier than websites. "Retailers who provide deeply social shopping experiences will see the most success," says David Fisch, director of commerce partnerships. 

Among the most recent to make the Facebook e-commerce move is Express, the apparel chain. About two weeks ago, it started selling its entire line via its Facebook page. An inventory calculator tells consumers if the item is available.

"Clearly, we won't be the last to do this," says Lisa Gavales, chief marketing officer at Express.
Others in the hunt:

J.C. Penney. The retailer rolled out a Facebook shopping app shortly before Christmas. The commerce tab on its Facebook page provides a "full shopping experience" without leaving Facebook, spokeswoman Kate Coultas says. 

1-800-Flowers. Nearly two years ago, 1-800-Flowers was among the first retailers to open a store on its Facebook page. "We're always looking to embrace new waves of commerce," President Chris McCann says.

Delta. Since August 2010, Delta has been selling airline tickets from an e-commerce store dubbed Ticket Counter on its Facebook page.

GameStop. Early last month, the video game retailer launched a storefront on Facebook. 

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Article By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY