Pinterest aims for products from the store down your street as its next big ad business

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Pinterest is known for having, and promoting, a lot of business content. It’s actually a majority of the content, and it’s usually from some of the most well-known brands that feed into the kinds of sometimes dream-level wants and needs of its users.

And while a majority of Pinterest’s potential is locked up there, the company has increasingly turned its gaze toward smaller and smaller businesses to try to entice users with local content — including that clothing store right down your street. That’s part of the reasoning behind Pinterest’s Propel program, which it started a year ago to work with small businesses that really either didn’t know what they were doing, or had just never done it before. In another step toward that goal, Pinterest has hired Matt Hogle to be the global head of small business.

Hogle spent 9 years at Facebook, working with small businesses and will be part of the effort for the company to try to find the right set of tools and strategies in place to appeal to small businesses as it starts to ramp it into a significant portion of its revenue. The number of small businesses advertisers on Pinterest has increased by around 50% year-over-year, the company said, and it looks to continue to refine a kind of hybrid strategy that mixes platforms and interactions with real people in order to entice those businesses. That’s important for, say, a local clothing store that only has one store and a limited online shop, but has products that would perform well on their own as content on Pinterest — and could quickly add revenue if they started advertising on it.

“We, as an ads business, know what customers’ business objectives are, and we capture that at the early stages,” Pinterest head of global sales Jon Kaplan said. “We know what they’re targeting, how they’re targeting, who, and we know the creative best practices. We should be able in the very near future to take all these elements and say, oh this is your objective, we’ll obfuscate all this complexity and hit a target [return on ad spend] you have. We’re not far. We’ve obfuscated a lot of the levers one can pull in Propel.”

Propel, for now, is adopting an increasingly popular human/digital approach for smaller businesses that are looking to advertise for the first time on Pinterest. If they have no experience whatsoever, or don’t even know what to do, Pinterest’s goal is to serve as a resource for best practices when it comes to creative content down to where to target it. Pinterest is increasingly rolling out more self-serve tools with more robust targeting and tracking, but the kind of small businesses — the sum of which could eventually account for a big chunk of its revenue — that Facebook has snapped up with the prospect of getting in front of the exact right people at the right time. The company says it will be rolling out the “promote” button, which allows advertisers to click a button on a pin to quickly spin up a campaign, to Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK in the next coming weeks.

In the end, Pinterest still has 200 million monthly active users, which is absolutely dwarfed by Facebook’s billions of users. But at the same time, Pinterest may be able to capitalize on the good will that Facebook has torched in light of its massive privacy scandal in which information on as many as 87 million users ended up in the hands of a research firm without authorization or permission. Facebook can prove a return on spend, but it can’t at the moment prove that it’ll be able to keep doing the same things that get that return on spend now that the Internet is revolting against Facebook for its massive breach of trust. (Hogle, to be clear, joined before details on the Cambridge Analytica scandal began pouring in.)

Pinterest’s value to advertisers is that it’s able to capture a potential customer when they are just a user clicking (or tapping) around Pinterest looking for ideas. Whether planning life events or just looking for wardrobe suggestions, Pinterest is able to go to advertisers and say they can catch them in those discovery stages and then stick the right ad in front of them to get their attention. Then, the service can follow the user all the way from when they are actually interested in doing something, searching for what to do, and eventually saving that product — or buying it.

It’s that potential value for advertisers that’s taken it to a $ 12.5 billion valuation in its most recent financing round. But while Pinterest is probably still a sort of curiosity buy for larger advertisers and brands, the challenge has been to chase down the businesses that don’t have huge marketing budgets and might not even be considering Pinterest as a potential advertising platform. After all, the playbook for Facebook is robust and there are plenty of success stories, and the same is true for Google. But at the same time, that bespoke coffee shop down on Valencia Street in San Francisco may have products that line up perfectly for a Pinterest user that’s looking for a holiday gift down the line.

“Over the coming nine months, into 2019, I think we’re gonna continue to invest in ways that make it easy for our small businesses to grow with us,” Hogle said. “Small businesses are unique in the sense that they don’t have the time or energy or resources — the CEO might also be the HR person and the marketing person, and so on. We need to make it extremely lightweight and seamless. At the end of the day, if we can’t provide value and deliver on the money they spend with us and demonstrate the value that’s created there — sales being that number one performance indicator for these companies — then we’re failing. The things we’re gonna continue to build are ways to make that process as easy and seamless.”

“Small businesses add disproportionate value to Pinners and our ad ecosystem,” Hogle said. “I truly believe that small businesses are part of the fabric of every community, they’re the engine that drives every economy around the world. Their relevancy, category or vertical, or proximity to consumers creates disproportionate organic value to Pinners and also creates disproportionate commercial value. Our goal is to show the people the most relevant ad they possibly can based on what they’re trying to accomplish. We can’t do that if we do not meet the needs of the vast majority of businesses that exist. It is a strategic decision, but it’s not just one that goes into paid ads, it creates disproportionate value for the entire platform and ecosystem.”

Hogle’s conversations started mid last year with Tim Kendall, Pinterest’s former president who left in November last year. What started as an exchange of ideas turned, as these conversations often do, it discussions about a potential job at Pinterest, and finally months later he ended up joining to start helping with the company’s small business efforts. Pinterest is increasingly looking to staff up with a suite of executives that will help it get its business in order ahead of a potential IPO. That includes a new COO, Francoise Brougher, who joined in February from Square.

But if Pinterest is going to eventually go public, and get its employees and investors paid out for their efforts, it needs to show that it can be a business that’s beyond just a curiosity budget for a big brand. Getting small businesses on board, like the ones Hogle looks to capture that are right down the street, are a big part of what the company hopes will eventually show that it has a diversified revenue stream and not beholden to just the big and potentially fickle budgets of larger brands.

“Our ad platform is not very old by industry standards, but the rate of development on our self serve tools and the rate of development on interfaces for our small customers is moving at a pace where I’m really pleased,” Hogle said. “The ability to carve out opportunity for advertisers is something that’s moving really quickly. Is it where it needs to be long term, of course not, but we’re gonna continue to invest. One of the reasons I joined was it was very clear to me that small businesses were a priority. We are going to invest in products and we’re also going to invest in educational programs. We’re gonna invest and provide the necessary resources.”

Mobile – TechCrunch

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Apple Business Chat has the enterprise talking about iMessage Apps

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Ten years ago, Steve Jobs announced the App Store. While its first titles were mostly games and novelties, soon major businesses began to recognize the power of mobile apps, shifting major investment from desktop PCs and web apps into iOS. This year, Apple is inciting new enterprise investment in iMessage Apps with Apple Business Chat–billed as an interactive, personal way to connect with customers while respecting their privacy.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

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Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook hasn’t felt ‘any meaningful impact’ in its usage or business in the wake of its privacy scandal

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Translation: Facebook will be fine.

People are really unhappy with Facebook and revelations that the company hasn’t been protecting user data the way it should. People just are’t unhappy enough to actually leave Facebook. At least that’s what CEO Mark Zuckerberg says.

During a conference call with reporters today, when Recode asked Zuckerberg if the backlash from the Cambridge Analytica fallout — including a #DeleteFacebook hashtag that has circulated online over the last few weeks — had hurt Facebook’s business or usage at all, he seemed to downplay concerns of a material shift.

“I don’t think there’s been any meaningful impact that we’ve observed,” he said. “But, look, it’s not good … It still speaks to people feeling like this was a massive breach of trust and that we have a lot of work to do to repair that.”

The idea that Facebook can go through this kind of backlash without a notable dent to its business is a testament to how big the service has become, and how consumers may not actually be as angry with the company around its privacy policies as it appears on the surface.

Still, investors have been concerned. Facebook stock is down more than 15 percent since the Cambridge Analytica drama came to light almost three weeks ago. The company is scheduled to report its first-quarter financial results on April 25.

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How Comcast’s Xfinity Home is using Analytics and more to Drive Business Decisions

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xfinity home

By: Comcast’s Shuvankar Roy, vice president, Xfinity Home and Neeraj Grover, director of business analytics and reporting, Xfinity Home

Q: Why are analytics right to use to drive business decisions?

A: Analytics can help to identify the actual pain points in many parts of the business, including the customer journey. By using analytics, it’s easy to prioritize initiatives and avoid making decisions based on hypothesis, with no evidence to back up your work. Data offers significant insights into your business and can help you to course correct, as needed. Additionally, data can help you to define goals, make forecasts based on trends, patterns or the season.

To give an example, we here at Comcast are hyper-focused on customer satisfaction. For us, it is imperative to gain insights into our customers’ interactions with our front-line employees, such as technicians and customer service representatives, to help serve them better. Measuring the net promoter score or NPS at all levels including transactional, products, and employees help us to identify pain points that customers may experience from our service and products. Without these insights, we would not be able to improve or change processes and better serve our customers at every level.

Q: What type of analytics are essential?

A: To a large extent it depends on the maturity of the organization. To start with, you need Business Intelligence tools to identify and measure leading and lagging indicators. With this level of analysis, you will be able to understand what is driving an uptick and what may be causing a downward spiral.With Business Intelligence, your organization will be able to start predicting what is happening and provide corrections as needed.

As the organization matures and starts collecting more and better quality data, consider digging deeper beneath the numbers by using machine learning algorithms. These can provide further insights into top factors impacting your KPIs and help come up with a few “if-then” solutions that may help improve your metrics. We recommend testing each solution separately to see if the outcome actually enhances the indicators you want to influence.  The tests help foray from predictive into prescriptive analytics.

A particular type of Analytics can also be used for specific applications. For instance, Artificial Intelligence when paired with chatbots can offer your customers immediate access to assistance, and the text analytics can also help provide insights into areas that may need improvement.

Adoption of technology that leverages analytics to solve issues could become the critical differentiating factor to improve service delivery.

Q: With so much data/analytics that exist within a company, what are some best practices to narrow down the data that matter the most?

A: We see three factors of success for any projects: rely on extensive domain knowledge, be very skeptical of visible past trends and don’t  overanalyze,

Providing enough domain knowledge at each step of the way is key to identifying the most relevant data for any analytics study. The structure that works the best for us is having the analytics and business intelligence teams work carefully (or at times embedded) within the business units. This ensures that there is participation from subject matter experts to provide real-time feedback as insights are provided. The input and validation from SMEs ensure that the right data elements are being considered.

The other factor is to be very skeptical of apparent past trends as market conditions evolve. Lastly, avoid over analysis. In some cases getting 80 percent, accurate data is sufficient to understand directional and correct patterns which can help you make timely decisions. Avoid the pitfall of ensuring 100 percent accuracy as you may miss the opportunity to course correct in time.

Q: What type of business decisions can be made based on analytics?

A: Many decisions can be made based on analytics, but it’s important to look at the whole picture such as market conditions and what’s going on in the world. As you begin to make decisions based on analytics keep in mind these key points:

Analytics may be wrong sometimes as correlation is different from causation so take immediate corrective actions when you realize the change that was implemented is not working. Don’t be afraid to pivot and move on to another solution.

Prioritize analytics initiatives based on business goals. You can get a lot of data, and there may be many areas that need to be fixed, but you can’t do it all so narrow in on the few that will make the most significant impact to your business and go from there.

At times, be sure to complement data with other approaches. Sometimes it’s essential to conduct a few focus groups or review processes to find the triggers leading to the lagging data.

Q: Can you share an example where you made some critical business decisions based on the analytics?

A: Losing customers or churn is a measure that is key to most businesses. A while back our team leveraged decision trees and other machine learning algorithms to predict the type of customers that may have a high propensity to churn, and we identified key factors that led to it. The outcome of the machine learning algorithms identified customer engagement – the lack of activity and usage with the service – as the most impactful predictor of customer churn.

The importance of this factor led our teams to dig deeper into customers’ engagement with their services, their tenure, the services they have subscribed, and their preferred channels of engagement with us. This led to further insights into how our customers engage with each product and what service delivery steps could help drive customers to have a better experience. Ultimately, we found that customers who participate with or used the product(s) regularly led to more satisfaction with their service, which lowered churn.

Xfinity Home touch-screen

As the IoT space expands with more and more devices in a secured and connected home, the value for AI to help further improve customer service will be imperative.  Machine learning supported chatbots will become more sophisticated as they can scan for any system issues or other similar customer issues and quickly help to resolve and respond to customers. This level of customer care and service can be provided at an increased scale and response time will be quicker without adding to the cost of operations –the cost to provide the best customer service may even decrease.

The post How Comcast’s Xfinity Home is using Analytics and more to Drive Business Decisions appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Businesses that support Business Chat in Messages

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If you’re looking for a list of Apple’s Business Chat partners, you’ve come to the right place.

One of the more interesting new features found in iOS 11.3 is Business Chat, which lets you securely communicate with businesses in Messages on your iPhone or iPad. You can get information, schedule appointments, or even make purchases with a text. At launch, Business Chat has support from a handful of partners, along with Apple itself.

What exactly is Business Chat?

If you’re looking for more information on Business Chat, check out this excellent overview by Jeffery Battersby about the system and it’s advantages and potential.

How Business Chat works for businesses and consumers

Business Chat partners

To start, Business Chat has a small group of partner businesses, though that’s sure to grow as the system becomes more popular. We’ll be updating this list over time with additional partners.

  • Apple
  • Discover
  • Hilton
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Marriot International
  • Newegg
  • TD Ameritrade
  • Wells Fargo
  • 1800Flowers.com

Spot a new one?

Have you been able to use Business Chat with a business that isn’t on this list? Let us know in the comments.

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AgileBits introduces 1Password Business for larger teams

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AgileBits just launched an iteration of their famous password manager specifically for businesses, featuring compliance controls, three-factor authentication, and more.

Today, AgileBits — the developing company behind widely-used password manager 1Password — announced the newest addition to its family of password management solutions. Called 1Password Business, the service is a bit like 1Password Teams, but built specifically for managing larger groups, protecting your employees, and securing your data.

With 1Password Business, you can make sure you keep up with GDPR, HIPAA, SOC2, and other compliance regulations by better controlling who has access to what using very meticulous permissions, custom groups, device restrictions, and travel restrictions. And, when you need to share a password with a certain group of employees for a specific situation, you can do that as well. AgileBits themselves even use 1Password Business to stay compliant:

We ourselves are growing quickly and long gone are the days where everyone worked on every project. We are looking to hire another 100 people this year, and 1Password helps us stay compliant with our SOC2 regulations as we grow.

In addition to compliance controls, 1Password Business features automated provisioning for when your business is growing so quickly that onboarding is a real pain:

Active Directory Integration – automate provisioning and de-provisioning.
Okta Integration – allow Okta to manage your team for you.
Command line Integration – integrate 1Password into your custom business flows.

On top of both of those huge features, 1Password Business offers third-factor identification, advanced auditing and reporting, and free family accounts. For more information you can check out AgileBits’ blog post.

If you’d like to sign up for 1Password Business, you can do so by heading to the 1Password sign up page and choosing the plan that’s right for you — a Business subscription is priced at $ 7.99 a month. If you’re uncertain, you can even get a 30-day free trial to make sure 1Password gels with your business practices.

Questions?

Share any questions in the comments below!

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The Top 10 CRM Companies for Business Owners

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The market has become flooded with customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, making it incredibly difficult to narrow the field enough to find the right CRM software for your needs. If you have a good idea of what you’re looking for, however, the sheer number of options can be beneficial, allowing you to zero in and find the perfect fit.

Every business — theoretically, at least — has customers, but that doesn’t mean that every business needs a CRM. There are, however, a few different business models that will be able to realize significant benefits from an investment in CRM software. Those with sales teams will have an advantage when it comes to finding patterns in consumer behavior, and a CRM will help them identify the most effective steps of the sales funnel — as well as those that need more work.

A CRM solution will also help identify the most promising leads so your team doesn’t accidentally let them slip through the cracks. Any business that needs to market itself will benefit from these insights and the improved ROI brought about through a CRM, as will businesses looking to automate certain tasks that are taking valuable time away from other functions in the organization.

If your business needs to track leads, rank them, improve the sales funnel, and become more efficient, a CRM is a good place to start. There are hundreds of options out there. I’ve(or my team) has tried over 60 different CRM software tools. We decided to tell you which ones are the best according to us. To make things easier, this is post and list is more geared towards small to medium sized business owners.  

Top 10 CRM Companies for Business Owners

  1. HubSpot

HubSpot’s free version offers what is essentially an intro to CRM solutions, complete with an abundance of training guides and resources.

HubSpot Academy gives users access to valuable classes and certification programs to educate them on all aspects of running a business.

HubSpot takes the top spot, however, because of its wide-ranging capabilities — the CRM core has specific hubs for sales, marketing, and customer experience to bring the different sides and needs of a business together, eliminating silos.

  1. Spiro

Spiro’s secret sauce lies in its AI capabilities, which can speed up information processing and yield more effective relationships with clients. The solution also comes with a bot that can compile data from various sources, such as calendars and emails, to provide sales personnel with a to-do list that’s always up-to-date.

It also handles the data entry aspects of sales, freeing salespeople up to spend time nurturing relationships without losing the valuable data embedded in each call — in fact, Spiro’s reports have eight times the data richness of other reports.

  1. Hatchbuck

An ideal option for small business users, Hatchbuck helps manage contacts and automates follow-ups, tracking individuals as they move through the sales funnel and alerting you when prospects are ready to make a purchase.

Having sales and marketing working together prevents leads from going unnoticed, and this solution will get the job done without having to pay for more than what your small business truly needs.

Best of all, its integration with Zapier means small businesses don’t have to give up the tools they’re already using, and the platform provides smart insights into the sales and marketing data it collects.

  1. Salesforce

Salesforce’s cloud-based CRM solution offers an option that can cater to both enterprises and small businesses. Salesforce offers plenty of features and functionalities, including advanced analytics powered by its Einstein AI, project management tools, and customizable dashboards.

Its Customer Success Platform offers powerful apps that can help businesses develop a consistent e-commerce customer experience and collaborate on campaigns.

  1. ONTRAPORT

ONTRAPORT offers the “most powerful visual marketing automation and reporting platform in the world,” enabling small businesses to map their customer journey and utilize data to create visuals of trends and patterns.

Its Projection Mode uses predictive intelligence to anticipate what prospects and customers will do next and make decisions based on data. The platform’s automated workflow tools aim to help brands measure their work rather than create more of it.

  1. Insightly

Insightly is a great option for midsize businesses, and it offers a free edition so users can try the product out; Insightly also offers paying users upgraded features to keep it relevant as businesses grow and become more complex.

The platform provides relationship maps to help businesses adopt the best approach and tracks contacts’ contacts, creating organizational hierarchies to streamline communication. Insightly also automates workflows and creates milestones to keep teams on track.

  1. Zoho CRM

While it doesn’t offer the same degree of customization as many competitors, Zoho is a great value with an intuitive, user-friendly interface, making it possible to implement without bringing in a developer.

In addition, Zoho has a full suite of other business apps that will work seamlessly with its CRM. Its ominchannel focus features a conversational AI, Zia, as well as SalesSignals, which streamlines notifications and ensures businesses hit every customer touchpoint.

  1. Agile CRM

An affordable SaaS solution, Agile allows a team of up to 10 users to manage a collective group of 50,000 contacts for free.

Compared to other CRMs that can cost thousands of dollars per month, Agile CRM’s enterprise version is quite a value at less than $ 50 per user per month. Its all-in-one CRM package aligns messaging across an entire company and seals data leaks so organizations can make the most of their information. The CRM automatically creates tasks for salespeople and automates marketing features, helping teams save time.

  1. Pipedrive

Pipedrive is created with small business owners in mind, and the speedy setup and intuitive design mean that no training is required. The “light-touch sales platform” ensures businesses can get started using the product minutes after setup, and it uses a visual display to show how deals in the pipeline are progressing and help salespeople pinpoint their to-do tasks and deadlines.

Pipedrive’s automated tracking eliminates time spent on admin processes, and it builds action steps around what will move things forward in the sales funnel. Its strongest feature is its ability to be customized, allowing small businesses to fit the platform to their processes.

  1. SugarCRM

With a separate open-source edition that’s ideal for developers, SugarCRM differentiates itself with lots of custom options and exceptional customer service. It’s also supported on many different operating systems besides Windows and Mac OS, including Linux and Unix.

The CRM boasts the highest Net Promoter Score across major CRM providers; its Hint feature speeds up research prior to calls, and the platform collects information across the sales, marketing, and service functions to create consistency.

The exploding market for CRM solutions makes finding the right one difficult, but their popularity also shows how effective they can be. For businesses of all sizes, the right CRM software can transform an inefficient, disorganized process into a well-oiled, automated machine.

Start your CRM search with this list, and don’t hesitate to try a few out. Taking the time to find the perfect fit will pay off in the long run.

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Oppo ‘gradually’ winds down its Blu-ray player and audio business

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For years home theater fans have loved Oppo's well-engineered and capable products, but today the company announced that after 14 it's getting out of the business (Oppo's mobile arm is separate and will continue) of Blu-ray players, headphones and au…
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macOS 10.13.4 lands with eGPU support and business chat in iMessage

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Mac owners can finally use an external GPU to boost their computing power now that Apple has released macOS 10.13.4 to the public. The software update has been in beta testing with developers for months and is now available to everyone for the first time. macOS 10.13.4 brings a number of improvements to the Mac, […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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Apple’s Business Manager provides web-based IT management, launches this spring

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In a move that flew under the radar with this week’s iPad launch and education announcements, Apple began the quiet promotion of a new web-based business management platform to deploy and manage iOS, macOS, and tvOS devices.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

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