Friday, September 1, 2017

Mobile Apps Increase Brand Loyalty Among Consumers

New research by Plastic Mobile, in partnership with Luxury Institute, has shown that mobile apps can make consumers more loyal to a brand – specifically, 71% of people who have downloaded a sponsored app for their tablet or smartphone said that the app made them feel “better connected” to that app’s brand sponsor.

In addition, the study also showed that 64% of the app-using population took a more favorable view of brands that have mobile apps, regardless of whether or not that brand sold its merchandise through e-commerce sites, mobile commerce sites, or exclusively offline, in brick-and-mortar stores.

The majority of the app users indicated that their purpose for using the apps they downloaded was to find information – features and specifications, prices, and specials deals – on the products and services available for that specific brand. Nearly half of the users indicated that they expected their downloaded app to give product previews and present loyalty programs.

Interestingly, the studies also found that the app users considered their apps to be more of an enhancement, not a replacement, for the live retail experience. In fact, 45% of the respondents said they liked having salespeople assist them with their purchase.

In other words, the main purpose of these apps, apparently (as far as the buyers were concerned), was not to push or close online sales but to highlight the personal service that a brand is willing to provide to its customers, whether in an online boutique or a physical store. This display of commitment towards quality customer service naturally results in buyers more willing to stand by their chosen brand.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Emergence of Vertical Social Networks

When it comes to sheer social networking size, the three giant social platforms - Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn clearly dominate the social networking doman - they are the undisputed leaders when it comes to networking with friends, current or former colleagues and business associates.

But do people really get truly engaged on these platforms? Does they participate in passionate discussions? (Well, do you?) Do these social networks make any positive impact on Joe’s adult life and to career? Or are they simply a means of passing time, a side entertainment?

If the latter were true and remained true, it would be a shameful waste of a tool with great potential. Think about it: how many doctors, lawyers, and other professionals are already on LinkedIn? How many sports buffs, homeschoolers, alternative music enthusiasts, avant garde artists, and other niche markets are on Facebook? These people are in social networking sites for a reason: they want to network with people like themselves and potential clients and buyers.

To cater to the specific needs of these groups, niche social networks keep cropping up. But the weakness of these small social networks is that they have trouble holding on to their members. Unsurprisingly, people who join social networks quite naturally drift to places where there are more people – that is, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The irony of it all is that when people move into these three giants, they often end up getting less engagement and less significant contacts from the specific group they wished to connect with in the first place. There are just too many other distractions in horizontal sites such as the big three.

There is a simple solution to this dilemma, the niche social networks now integrate with the giants - LinkedIN, Facebook and Twitter, whereby their connections/ or friends from the horizontal social networking platforms are imported and their posts on these niche networks are cross-posted (usually controlled by an easy to reset permission) to facebook, linkedin and/or twitter.  This way, people can network within their niche and yet maintain access to the rest of the world who are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In other words, the horizontal social networks are slowly but surely going vertical.

For instance, uses your Facebook contacts to make it easy for you to send gifts to your friends and family. Gifts can range from personal services such as “Wash your car” to actual items such as flowers or sports equipment. And of course, there is the option to share your gift on Facebook and Twitter.

Another example: uses a person’s Linked contacts to add credibility to a supplier or buyer by putting the two business parties in contact with mutual acquaintances. It is an excellent social commerce model, and a good example of how a small social network links with a big one.

Through these collaborations and linkages, the lines between separate websites are slowly dimming. The Web is truly becoming interconnected. For social networks and social commerce, it seems that happier days are yet to come.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Thought Leaders from multiple domains to gather at the the 2nd IITBayCon

June 12, 2017, Sunnyvale, CA.

The 121,000+ member strong IIT Bay Area Alumni Association is hosting the 2nd IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference (IIT BALC) 2017, on June 17 at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, USA. The leadership conference is primarily designed for IITians and their family and guests.

Besides over 40 plus illustrious IITians speaking at the conference, we are excited to have Deepak Chopra, an inspirational thought leader, Arjun Malhotra, Ca co-founder of HCL Group, and advisor to many startups, Rajat Gupta, former Managing Director of McKinsey, and pioneer of IIT Brand beyond India, and Ravi Mahatre, Founder, Managing Director, Lightspeed Venture Partners for keynotes.

According to the conference Chair Aman Walia, “We are finally on a road to create epicenter for IITians to network and discuss their ‘BIG’ ideas. This year attendance is expected to double, and number of startups by 500%. VC’s interest is growing in being at the IIT Bay Area Conference.”

The sponsorship has more than doubled over the last edition of the IIT Bay Area Conference. Rubrik leads as the Platinum Sponsor, joined by Gold Sponsors Light Speed Venture Partners and Google, and Silver Sponsors VMWare, Cohesity, Nvidia and Upaya.

Topics for the Leadership Conference 2017 include Autonomous Vehicles, Clean Energy, FinTech, and Off Beaten Track, and Founder’s Journey. About 20 startups will also be pitching their value propositions.

After a day-long intense tech talks, the 2nd IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference will present high energy entertainment to attendees for unwinding with Silicon Valley wines. As Bimal Sangari, Outreach Chair, says, “Attendees will enjoy the total experience of meeting other IITians. They will work and play, both.”

To learn more about speakers at the 2nd IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference 2017, please

About IIT Bay Area Alumni Association – IIT Alumni of Bay Area is a 501(c)(7) non-profit organization of alumni from the Indian Institute of Technology in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have more than 120,000 alumni members in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Contact: For media inquiries, Praveen Gupta, Ttel: (408)-429, 9782, and all others Bimal Sangari.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Move Over Google, Facebook's Search is Here!

On January 15, 2013, Facebook announced a new service that is undeniably the social networking company’s brave attempt to take some of Google’s market share in the search engine arena. And – we never thought we’d say this – it looks like it just might work!

The service we speak of is Facebook Graph Search. In a nutshell, it’s a search engine that lets you search through your Facebook friends’ private information in addition to all of the world's public information. In other words, it gets you results that are practically inaccessible to all other search engines, even the mighty Google.

Okay, time to be more specific. Here are some examples of questions you can answer by using Facebook Graph Search:
  • Which of my friends live nearby and play a musical instrument? (You want to form a band.)
  • Which of my friends have a background in tax law? (You want free legal advice – no, we don’t recommend that you get your legal advice this way, but you know you will still do it if given half the chance.)
  • Photos of my friends last Christmas (You’re compiling a collage?)

It even has excellent social and mobile commerce possibilities:

  • Which of my friends have been to Asia? (You’re taking a trip and want hotel recommendations from people you trust.)
  • Which of my friends have online stores? (If given a choice, you would prefer to buy stuff from people you know.)

If this works – and we think it will – Google will have something to worry about. After all, when Google tried to venture into the social networking platform through Google+, it bombed big time.

Heck, with its social and mobile commerce potential, Facebook Graph Search may even take some of’s sales away. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if one day, Facebook releases online store features such as shopping carts and “Buy This” buttons as well. Why not? Multiply did it.

There’s only one question in our mind right now: Although every IT guy worth their salt knows that a social graph is “all the people you are connected with on a social network,” it is never used in that context by the majority of Facebook users. So why use it to name an essentially non-IT product?

Facebook Graph Search: we give Facebook’s IT guys a thumbs up on this one – but what were their marketing guys thinking? Well, they were probably thinking, “Who cares about the name? This is gonna make Google quake.” And it will.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Amazon to Acquire Web-based Math Learning Company TenMarks

Amazon Inc. recently announced that it will be buying 
TenMarks in an agreement that will likely be wrapped up in the fourth quarter of 2013. TenMarks provides innovative math learning curriculum to students all over the United States.

Vice President of Amazon Kindle Dave Limp said that both Amazon and TenMarks hold student learning in high regard. The two companies will together create high-value educational content and applications in several platforms including online, smartphones and Kindle gadgets that students, teachers and parents will have fun with.

TenMarks co-founder Rohit Agarwal added that both Amazon and TenMarks aim to create practical solutions for schools and families. TenMarks allows students, teachers and parents to use several resources, including programs for professional development and communication tools with the students’ parents. Agarwal also said that he believes Amazon and TenMarks will create “significant innovations in the K-12 arena.”

TenMarks says that their company provides personalized math instruction and practice to K-12 students in a clear and manageable format. The program also comes with clues and videos, along with real-time scores. TenMarks has geared their product design to help students be motivated, nurtured and engaged individuals in their learning.

Accroding to Aarti Chandna, CEO of Foundze, Inc., a leading website for educational apps, “Educational apps are becoming more main stream in K-12 education.” Chandna added that the effectiveness of an educational app depends not only on how easy it is to use but also in how well it holds a student’s attention and engages them throughout the learning program. For the teacher, on the other hand, the educational app should make assignments simplified and personalized, based on the abilities of the students, and automate grading. Chandna also said that Amazon’s acquisition of TenMarks is a sign that the traditional method of teaching is being replaced as bigger companies are revealing their interest in the development of educational apps.

The terms of the Amazon’s acquisition deal with TenMarks were not revealed, with the deal still subject to several closing conditions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Twitter's Keyword Targeting

Twitter advertising has added a unique feature - it allows advertisers target the recipients of their advertisements by using a technology that analyzes that person’s communications.

Necessity is the mother of invention - this particular way of advertising was necessitated by the fact that unlike Facebook or Linkedin, Twitter users don't build an extensive profile. In fact, Twitter limits user profiles to 160 characters including spaces, and a link. 

In the past, Twitter allowed advertisers to target users based on their interest which were determined by analyzing the accounts that the user followed. But this method didn't utilize an important social commerce data resource - people's tweets. The tweets indicate a person’s actual interests in a very specific manner - not what they think they are interested in (i.e. follow) but what they really are talking about. The other good thing about this is that this keyword analysis can be done in real time. 

With the new social commerce tool, Twitter allows marketers to set keywords that would trigger their ad when the said keywords appear in a user’s tweets.

For instance, if the company is promoting an American Idol finalists’ concert in New York, they could make it so that their ads will appear on a user’s timeline when the user sends out a tweet containing the keywords “American Idol” or “New York.”

Companies can also make it so that their ads are triggered by Twitter searches and would appear in a user’s search results instead of the user’s timeline.

“Tweets are signals of what's top of mind for people in real time, including their intentions, needs and wants,” Twitter explained in the newsletter it sends to its subscribers. “You can reach users at the right time and in the right context based on keywords in their Tweets and the Tweets they've recently engaged with,” the newsletter says.

While this Twitter Ads tool is advertised by fans of twitter as truly revolutionary, it is not very different than an echo of Google’s contextual ad technology, which shows ads to their Gmail users based on the terms in their email messages. Same contextual advertising is also used by Google adsense advertising units while people reading articles on a blog or Google news receive ads based on the keywords included in the text of the news or blog. 

Authored by Yash Talreja, Edited by Blessie Adlaon

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Amazon Launches Amazon Coins for In-App Commerce – Will This and Other Virtual Currencies Be Regulated by the Government?

Late last week, Amazon launched its virtual cash, dubbed Amazon Coins, by posting an open "Dear Customer" letter on its website to inform US Kindle Fire owners that they have received a gift of 500 Amazon Coins in their accounts.

Amazon Coins are a form of virtual currency that recipients can use to buy Amazon apps, games, and in-app items such as game upgrades or avatar personalization features.

For instance, if you want to unlock a level in your game but you are unable to overcome the previous level, then you may be able to buy your way into the game level instead, using Amazon Coins. Or maybe you want to dress up your avatar with a special star-spangled cape or an Iron Man suit. You will probably need to purchase those with virtual coins.

Each Amazon Coin is worth 1 US cent, so Amazon’s gift of 500 Amazon Coins is worth 5 real-world US dollars.

But why is Amazon giving money away, even if it is just virtual money? Like all other free trials, Amazon is trying to orient and entice users into using its virtual currency, hoping some of them will pick up the habit and buy more. In turn, this purchase and trade of Amazon Coins should invigorate the apps sales and "social commerce" within the apps.(We view this as "Social Commerce" because after all, buying stuff from other people or gifting cash - real or virtual - is a "social" activity).

But will it end with just buying games, apps, and in-app features within Kindle Fire?

If you think about it, it doesn't have to, right? After all, since virtual money is bought with real money, why should Amazon Coins not be granted to Amazon customers as rewards, and be usable like frequent flier miles and other loyalty points, to buy real-life goods such as clothing, toys, and appliances? Amazon itself recently started allowing people to use their credit card reward points to buy products at Amazon, and we believe Amazon Coins may one day "grow up" to be equivalent to these schemes.

It’s not hard to envision virtual currencies being used as real-life funds.

On the other hand, we note that Facebook had also come up a similar virtual currency scheme called Facebook Credit, which was available in 14 countries, but it decided to retire this feature and migrate its apps and games to local currencies without giving any reason. Here is the announcement on its developer site:
We are moving from Facebook Credits to local currency pricing, and plan to migrate all game developers on in the third quarter this year. We want to provide ample time for you to review the new documentations. After launch, developers will have a minimum of 90 days to implement the updated payments infrastructure to continue accepting payments. For now, we continue to support Facebook Credits. In the coming weeks, we will provide further updates on when developers can begin integration. Learn more in our local currency FAQs and overview.

So that's a setback to people looking for these platforms to create a world without borders. After all, monetary exchange is a big part of social networking.

Was Facebook's move related to the March 2013 announcement by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of new guidance relating to the regulation of virtual currencies? These regulations were widely seen as a first step by a government body towards regulating virtual currency, as opposed to electronic money representing government-issued fiat money. Are we going to see demands from national taxation authorities such as the IRS, requiring residents to report holdings of such currencies on their tax returns, in the same way that they now require reporting foreign currency holdings?

Only time will tell. Unlike Facebook, Amazon is boldly charging forward with its virtual currency, Amazon Coins, without being deterred by such potential regulations. Amazon is already involved in handling tons of payments and regulations ranging from sales tax, VAT, and import duties, so they probably already have a massive regulatory compliance department.

Certainly, Amazon Coins can take social commerce to a whole new level – but how high a level can social commerce really go with virtual currency? For now, at least, it’s anybody’s guess.