April 30, 2012
By Matt Bramowicz
Business is not what it used to be.
While in the past it may have been acceptable practice for a small or medium-sized business to cater only to its native language market, it is no longer the case. From the onset, small businesses are already at a disadvantage. Whether the company relies on boot-strapping or bank loans to cover expenses, resources are extremely limited, and profits may not even be seen for years. Add on top of that a bad economy, an over-crowded marketplace, difficulty in finding local clients, rising interest and tax rates, etc., and it seems like there is no way a small business can succeed.
Since big businesses have seemingly unlimited funds, many of the problems affecting small businesses are not a huge concern for them. Besides the already established name recognition, they have the money to spend on advertising campaigns, enticing employment opportunities to hire the best workers, established business connections, investors, lawyers…the list can go on.
As the business-stage continues to expand globally, small and medium-sized businesses can easily be left out of the spotlight since bigger companies with an already established identity tend to have more experience dealing with foreign audiences. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Thanks to the rise of technology and ecommerce, a small business can have the ability to compete, even on the global scale, with their big business counterparts.
The first step to going global, however, is research. Due to the economic downturn, it’s important for businesses to choose which markets to cater to that will benefit them the most. All of the necessary data regarding a country’s Foreign Direct Investment, Gross Domestic Product, and Ease of Doing Business Ranking are available online from the World Bank (http://data.worldbank.org/).
Some countries are safer investments than others.
According to the latest ranking of top countries for overseas investment, China tops the list. As China continues to grow both economically and industrially, foreign investors are eagerly lining up to invest in its internal market. The United States ranks second, up one spot from last year, followed closely by India. India is widely known for its great nonfinancial, financial, and industrial service opportunities, but navigation of the business environment may be a bit tricky to those unfamiliar with their practices. Brazil, Germany, Poland, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom round out the top ten, respectively.
But success isn’t guaranteed simply because a country is ranked high on the list. Before any company dives headfirst into any new foreign market, they must be certain they are familiar with the business environment. Without proper research, the attempt can be disastrous, as each market has its own share of localized intricacies that must be taken into account.
In China it is customary to be familiar with the country’s five-year plan which helps to understand the current and future business climate. In India, businesspeople do not usually offer their advice or even disagree if they are given instructions. For their input on how a task could be done more effectively, it is advisable to actively ask what their opinions or suggestions may be. In Japan, it is considered impolite to say ‘no’ outright. Refusals are either implied, avoided or someone might simply not reply at all.
Without prior knowledge to these different business practices, misunderstandings could ensue, which could lead to some very serious problems. Therefore, as an outsider it is even more important to show respect for a foreign market’s customs for the sake of both parties involved. Information on foreign business etiquette and culture can be found on the World Business Culture website: www.worldbusinessculture.com.
As the business paradigm shifts globally, smaller businesses can utilize new technological resources to help ease them into new markets.
For the majority of foreign business transactions, all documents, business cards, presentations, etc., should be translated into the foreign business associate’s native language, as well as English, even if they can speak it fluently. It is the standard custom, and failure to do so could be interpreted as disrespectful.
While foreign business etiquette rules can be researched and adopted fairly easily with the proper resources, translating necessary documents still require more outside assistance.
In the past, translating was done exclusively by professional translation agencies and freelance translators. In today’s tech-oriented business world, however, there are more options available to help small businesses conquer the language barrier.
In the past few years, significant attention and development has gone into machine translation tools in an effort to make them more accurate and grammatically correct.
As a result, two different systems have evolved:
· Rule-based systems, where rules of grammar and syntax along with individual language vocabulary are manually coded into a computer.
· Statistical machine translation (SMT), where computers analyze millions of existing translated documents from the web to learn vocabulary and look for patterns in language.
Yahoo Babelfish and Bing Translator both employ rule-based systems, which statistically perform better than the SMT system for short texts and Asian languages. However, Google Translate, which is based on the SMT system, outperforms rule-based systems for longer texts and has the ability to easily improve accuracy as more translated documents become available on the web.
As highly developed as machine translations have become since their inception, they still are not foolproof, and therefore are unreliable as a legitimate translation tool when professionalism is a necessity. In business, everything that is put out to the public or to associates reflects on the company as a whole. Grammatically incorrect or mis-translated texts give the impression that a company either does not care about its foreign business associates, or worse, is amateur and lacks the proper skill set to run a business.
Small businesses are seeking alternatives to machine translations and costly professional translators.
A few new companies have developed solutions to help small businesses receive quality translations without breaking the bank.
One method, known as post-editing or hybrid translation, combines machine translation and human translators. Once text initially passes through machine translation, a human translator or a group of translators review the translation, making any necessary changes. This process allows for a faster turn around time as well as lower costs.
Translation Cloud, www.translationcloud.net, is one example of a program that makes use of this method. Translation Cloud utilizes its database of over 10,000 translators who connect to the system via their Facebook accounts. Users of Translation Cloud receive more accurate translations at a much cheaper rate. This method of post-editing also takes advantage of crowdsourcing, another relatively new concept that is gaining popularity.
Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have both relied on crowdsourcing translation and localization of their websites in order to reach a broader foreign market. Crowdsourcing is specifically effective when those who are supplying the crowdsourced translation are familiar with the product or company.
Smartling, www.smartling.com, is an example of a company that relies solely on crowdsourcing for delivering fast and accurate website translations. Their software allows a group of translators who were invited to work on a specific project to easily visit the customer’s website and translate whatever text they wish, directly on the site.
While these programs are more effective than machine translators at supplying accurate translations, they still cost money. A relatively new website called Ackuna, www.ackuna.com, addresses that problem by providing a completely free and open community-based platform, specifically focused on sharing translations.
Those who are in need of translation services, as well as those who wish to volunteer their language aptitude, can create a free account to either post requests or translate other people’s requests. Translations are voted up or down by other users in the community, and translators who provide accurate translations receive badges as rewards. The concept is similar to Quora, www.quora.com, where users post questions or answers on any topic to other users.
As technology advances, solutions will continue to grow. Right now, Duolingo, www.duolingo.com, is working on developing a program where its users can learn a new language for free, while simultaneously helping to translate the web through the language lessons.
For small businesses on a strict budget, any of these solutions could certainly be of great value for tackling the language barrier issue.
In the end, it is up to the business owner to determine what he or she wishes to accomplish, research the methods needed to make it happen, and utilize the appropriate resources. While the business landscape has changed in recent years, as technology continues to grow, opportunities for small businesses to succeed will continue to grow as well. It is just a matter of learning to take advantage of them.
Matt Bramowicz grew up in New Jersey and attended Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, where he received a degree in English and minored in Fine Arts. He now works as the head of PR/Marketing and as a graphic designer for Translation Services USA, a startup translation and technology company located in New York City.
Translation Services USA has developed social networking applications such as Translationcloud.net and Ackuna.com.
October 20, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Crowdpark is a Berlin-based company that creates social betting games which allow players to make bets in real time on anything going on in the world around them.
The company’s first game is called Bet Tycoon and has approximately 500,000 players on Facebook. Crowdpark uses a “dynamic betting” system so that each bet by a player influences the overall odds. This isn’t gambling though; players have to buy virtual currency to play with and they can’t cash out of the game for real money. Once a player has added a little virtual currency to their shopping cart they can begin to bet on almost anything, from sports and reality TV to politics and current events.
As players rack up virtual currency for making winning predictions about real-life events they are awarded with status and reward points. Players can also create their own bets to share with friends and compete for social betting dominance. A social betting index shows players’ overall opinions about trending topics based on collective predictions.
Crowdpark’s Bet Tycoon is currently only available on the Web but the company plans to begin releasing mobile games soon for Android and iOS. One such game, in development, is a sports betting game called Fanatical that will implement location-based betting. The mobile app will allow players to check in at any given location and begin interacting and competing with everyone else using the app at that location.
The company announced Wednesday that it has secured $6 million from European investors Target Partners and Earlybird Venture Capital. The new funding brings Crowdpark’s total funding to date up to $8 million. The funding will be used to fuel the company’s cross-platform expansion, further development of mobile ecommerce software, create new games, and hire more employees. Ingo Hinterding, Crowdpark’s co-founder and chief product officer, had the following to say about the funding:
“Crowdpark is defining an entirely new genre of social betting games based on actual events. Two of Europe’s leading VC firms – Target Partners and Earlybird – share our vision. We aim to extend our growth and build amazing games based on our dynamic betting technology, and in other hot growth categories such as casino games.”
Being based in Berlin has its advantages for a social gaming company like Crowdpark. The city is one of Europe’s most active in the gaming industry with more than 130 game developers, service providers, and publishers. Crowdpark also recently opened an office in San Francisco.
Who will be the next president of the United States? How many touchdowns will the Seahawks score this weekend? Who will get kicked off of Dancing with the Stars next week? These are just some examples of the range of topics that Crowdpark’s dynamic betting technology allows players to make social bets on. It’s all perfectly legal and just requires a shopping cart full of virtual currency.
October 13, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
L2 recently released its third annual Digital IQ Index for fashion, which ranks the digital competence of 49 prestigious fashion brands.
The index ranks the brands based on the effectiveness of their digital strategies across four categories: site, digital marketing, social media, and mobile. Brands were given digital IQ scores that fall into one of five rankings: genius, gifted, average, challenged, or feeble.
According to the index’s methodology, a brand’s website accounts for 35 percent of its overall digital IQ score. Nine sites of the 49 brands studied did not have an ecommerce solution, which significantly lowered their score. Brands that did have ecommerce-enabled websites averaged 19 percent more visits per user. The U.S. has the most brands selling online, at 79 percent, with the U.K. coming in second at 61 percent, while other European countries came in third at 41 percent.
The top two brands studied, falling into the genius ranking category, were Burberry and Kate Spade. Factors that led to Burberry’s number one spot are its high quality ecommerce-enabled site, Facebook page with more than 8.6 million fans, Twitter handle with 565,790 followers, and Instagram account with more than 86,000 followers. Kate Spade is doing some innovative things with social media and on the brand’s ecommerce solution. For example, an automatic email is sent to customers who abandon their shopping carts, offering them free shipping as an incentive to complete their order.
Social media presence, and the ability for customers to share information about fashion items via social media, are other big contributors to brands’ overall digital IQ scores. Fifty-seven percent of consumers surveyed reported that information they get through social media influences their luxury purchases. Only 57 percent of the brands studied allow users to Tweet products from their product pages, and only 53 percent allow users to share products on Facebook. According to the study, social media accounts for more than 14 percent of traffic going to a fashion brand’s website, and the majority of this traffic is from Facebook.
The mobile category was the least influential of L2’s four digital competence categories, but still accounted for 15 percent of a brand’s overall digital IQ score. Forty percent of consumers likely to buy luxury fashion products access the Internet from a smartphone daily, but only 18 percent of the brands studied provide mobile sites with ecommerce solutions. The majority of the 49 brands’ mobile sites have limited functionality, although some of the brands do offer mobile commerce apps.
Other interesting key findings from the study include that 10 of the top 15 brands are based in the U.S., compared to 6 in 2010. U.S.-based brands have the highest overall digital IQ rankings, followed closely by the U.K., Italy, and France. According to the study, a higher digital IQ translates to a higher shareholder value, so brands should take a close look at what they are doing across the four digital competence categories to see what they can improve on.
September 12, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
"His Master's Voice"
HMV, a British entertainment media company whose name stands for “His Master’s Voice” (more about that later) has appointed Mark Hodgkinson to head up its ecommerce solution department and marketing efforts. Late of Asda (a British supermarket chain), Hodgkinson actually served as EMI’s (Electrical & Musical Industries) president of business development and executive vice president of global marketing and digital. This combined background in digital music and global marketing makes him uniquely well-qualified to helm HMV’s ecommerce solution and help the entertainment retailer diversify their revenue sources in this ever-changing digital age.
Hodgkinson fills the space left by Steve Napleton, who previously headed up their online sales department. He left HMV for Penguin, taking his years of ecommerce knowledge with him. Hodgkinson will need to act quickly to help HMV counter their eroding sales, which have been steadily slipping in recent years. The company lost another 15% in “like for like” sales for the 18 week period ending September 3rd. Total retail sales were down almost 22%, however, this was offset somewhat by the significant uptick in sales that their new fleet of stores, called “Fast Forward.”
HMV Fast Forward stores represent a new format-change experiment for the venerable music and entertainment retailer. These stores dedicate about 25% of their floorspace to high tech gadgets like tablet computers, iPods, and smartphones. These products tend to be high-value and convert well, a lesson they can take to heart on their ecommerce solution as well. Position pieces that are likely to sell where customers can see them, collect information, and effortlessly put them in their shopping carts is a proven key to sales.
Even as HMV moves to change their stores to reflect the increased sales at these new-format stores, how Hodgkinson will increase sales on their ecommerce solution has yet to be seen. As previously mentioned – he’ll need to work fast. He doesn’t even take the job for another month, entering his new position on October fifth. He won’t have much time to get the site ready for the busiest shopping period of the entire year. The phrase “Black Friday,” isn’t just a catchy name for the Friday after Thanksgiving, it got that name because so many stores finally went from “in the red” (not making enough money) to “in the black” (clearing a profit) for the year. If HMV isn’t poised for success on Black Friday (still a big shopping day, even at home!) and Cyber Monday (the following Monday where everyone messes around on their computers shopping from work instead of, you know, working…) then HMV could find themselves ending the year in the red.
HMV is one of the oldest music retailers in the UK. The name actually stands for “His Master’s Voice,” which is a painting of a dog listening rather, with a rather quizzical expression on its face, to a gramophone, which is apparently playing a recording of his master’s voice. The familiar sound coming from a strange invention is obviously perplexing to the animal, and serves as a poignant reminder of the changes that technology brings about in the world as it marches forward continually. While humans adapt to different technology, paintings like this, showing how animals interact with that same technology, can serve as reminders of a simpler time. Unfortunately for HMV, the gramophone days are over, and now they’ll have to evolve or die in the changing brick and mortar and ecommerce solution marketplaces.
Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, all young artists who have mysteriously passed at the age of 27 however whose music increased in popularity after, thus dubbed the members of the “Forever 27 Club.”
August 23, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
It’s that time of year again when students of all ages are getting ready to head back to school. Of course, what goes hand in hand is the marathon season of back-to-school shopping which includes finding (and being overloaded with) brick and mortar retailers and retailers set up with ecommerce solutions offering up the ‘best’ sales and discounts on clothes, books, and technology. It’s quite the daunting task for both retailers and shoppers, however location-based mobile gaming app SCVNGR, which gives users task challenges when they check-in at a location has recently teamed up with UK-based retailer Topshop to make this season’s shopping more rewarding.
Beginning September 5, SCVNGR users checking-in within 500 meters of a Topshop location can participate in a variety of tasks designed to interact with Topshop’s back-to-school line of products. Topshop will be offering a 20% discount and a chance to win a £500 shopping spree to users who participate in the SCVNGR fashion-themed tasks like spotting out the best season trends and taking snapshots of the best “back to college” outfits, in addition to other on-location challenges that they will have to do in order to receive enough points for the rewards they want.
The SCVNGR partnership serves as a smart strategy for Topshop to test drive before the major holiday shopping season arrives. In the current retail climate, retailers are not only having to compete with their fellow brick and mortar counterparts for foot traffic but also those packing ecommerce solutions. Not to mention with the growing amount of deep discount and coupon sites to choose from, has created in some ways, a form of shopper’s attention deficit disorder; focusing the targeted consumer demographic on a specific brand has always been a challenge but proving to be even more so now than before.
Social networks, ecommerce solutions, and mobile are various channels that are bringing the “discovery shopping” experience to increase brand engagement for businesses, SCVNGR has succesfully leveraged this in the U.S. and will be making its foray into the U.K. market with the Topshop campaign. The mobile-based app has in the past teamed up with Neiman Marcus, Harvard, M.I.T. and the Smithsonian National Zoo.
SCVNGR is available for iPhone and Android devices.
Winehouse on the cover of the Back to Black album
On Saturday, July 23, five-time Grammy Award winner Amy Winehouse became the latest young artist to join the Forever 27 Club.
Her passing has gathered great criticism from the public at large about her lifestyle choices and bad girl image but what is clearly emerging to the forefront (as it should be) is her talent, her music.
The news of her death sparked almost, if not immediately, a wave of fans rushing to online stores like iTunes and Amazon (who had immediately released online special promotions) to fill shopping carts with Winehouse singles and albums.
Winehouse’s most public album, “Back to Black” (2007) has now skyrocketed in sales, a clear nod to a genre of music that, unfortunately, will not be produced again or at least with Winehouse’s soulful voice behind it.
According to the UK’s Official Charts Company, shopping carts have been increasingly filled with Winehouse music that the ‘Black’ album sales increased by 299%, jumping to the 59th spot in just two days, and is sold out in many brick and mortar shops.
As of Monday, the album took over the number one slot on iTunes in the U.S. and the U.S., UK, French, and German Amazon sites have both of Winehouse’s albums ‘Black’ and “Frank” (2003) taking over the majority of the top five spots on the site’s bestsellers list.
However, officials say this is just the start as sales are expected to continue to surge over the upcoming week. As the past has shown, posthumous fame (like those in the Forever 27 club) ushers in a new audience of listeners and creates the kind of success that can only snowball after death.
Winehouse clearly brought her inner demons and pain into her music. With bleeding heart singles like “Love is a Losing Game,” “Back to Black,” and the now very transparent “Rehab,” the ‘Black’ album is a eery snapshot of the troubles the artist was battling that eventually lead to her fatal undoing.
As the demand for her music increases, Winehouse’s label, Universal Music is rumored to release an album of songs that were expected on an upcoming album in addition to any unreleased recordings of the soul singer.
Wanting fans can anticipate to put at least one more new song from Winehouse in their shopping carts. The legendary Tony Bennett was the last person to work with the singer and recorded “Body and Soul” set for Bennett’s upcoming album “Duets II.” Bennett responded, “She was an extraordinary musician with a rare intuition as a vocalist and I am truly devastated that her exceptional talent and has come to such an early end.”
From her signature smoky voice and beehive coif, a style nod to an era where the 60’s girl group reigned supreme, paired with a gritty, unabashed personality, Amy Winehouse has become one unforgettable talent in music history.
June 3, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
For about 16 years now parents have been able to easily understand which CDs and movies to prevent their kids from purchasing via ratings and the universal Parental Advisory sticker. But now the question arises, what to do about online content?
As buying patterns shift away from the purchase of physical media and in the direction of online purchases, parents and children need a way to protect themselves from viewing explicit content. Or so the notorious British Phonographic Industry thinks.
They’re currently in the process of implementing a Parental Advisory warning message for online music and video which may be deemed explicit. It’s a good day for parents but maybe not so good for their children who will have to find a way to sneak that rap album in their shopping cart when Mom isn’t looking.
The parental advisory stickers, which first came into popularity in 1995, could become the standard for all explicit online video and music. YouTube, Spotify, Napster and Vevo, are all planning on monitoring their explicit material and utilizing the warnings.
It’s still unclear whether the new regulations will come into effect in the U.S. iTunes already employs a system were they mark inappropriate media as ‘explicit.’ Eight of their top 40 songs carry the label which is designed to warn people of songs that contain lyrics that involve sex or violence. They have come under some fire lately because their number 1 song S&M by Rihanna has “bleeped out” lyrics and a changed title but is unlabeled.
BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said:
“We are updating our Parental Advisory Scheme for the digital age to ensure that explicit songs and videos are clearly labelled, giving parents the ability to identify material that may not be appropriate for their children.”
May 16, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Princess Beatrice's unique hat will be available for auction on eBay's ecommerce solution.
The British love hats, and the recent royal wedding (which generated tons of ecommerce action, real world sales, and media coverage in insane amounts) gave the world a unique look at the lengths that the Brits will go to all for the sake of a great hat. The wedding was a veritable showcase of chapeaus, but the undisputed show-stealer was the one-of-a-kind headcovering worn by Princess Beatrice. It is now up for auction on eBay’s ecommerce solution auctionhouse.
For those of us unfamiliar with the breakdown of the British royal family, Beatrice is the oldest daughter of Prince Andrew, grandaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, and cousin to Prince William (all at the same time!). The fancy hat, which features a wedding ring with ornate, stylized ribbon in what can only be described as “antlers” in pink silk, was designed and executed by renowned milliner Phillip Treacy (who knew that there were any milliners still around?).
The hat attracted so much attention that it spawned its own Facebook page “Princess Beatrice’s Ridiculous Royal Wedding Hat” (who knew you could speak about a member of the royal family in such saucy terms!). It has over 136,000 “likes” on Facebook. That’s right: it’s a hat, an inanimate object, owned and worn by an obscure member of a family that operates mainly as a symbol without wielding any real political power…and it has 136,000 “likes” on Facebook.
However, the princess is choosing to use the hat’s popularity for good, and has listed it with eBay, one of the leading ecommerce solutions for buying, selling, and auctioning things off. Eschewing charity-only auction sites like Charitybuzz, all proceeds will go to UNICEF and “Children in Crisis.” Says the princess:
“I am an Ambassador for Children in Crisis and have learnt a huge amount about their work for children. When my hat started getting so much publicity I really wanted to put it to the best possible use and try and raise some money for the children they help. Children in Crisis and UNICEF are both doing amazing work for the most vulnerable children in the world so they were the natural choice for me, I really hope this idea can raise lots of money to give children a better future.”
In an era when people are famous for no reason and spend their time squandering money and resources on reality TV shows, it’s heartening to see someone use their notoriety and unexpected media coverage to help a charity (though to be fair, plenty of celebrities do like to help out). The hat got plenty of action once it was on eBay’s ecommerce solution, pulling in a 5,000 pound bid almost right off the bat. It’s up to 6400 pounds at time of writing. Bidding closes May 22.
May 6, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
For those of us that have been to Amsterdam, we are all well aware of, and in some instances may have partaken in, certain activities and/or endeavors not available (legally at least) in the US. One of the most common diversions many tourists and locals alike have ensued is the malicious act of prostitution.
It used to be that a potential customer would enter the red-light-district slinking their way through a maze of side streets and dark alley-ways in pursuit of a guilt-free night of copulation, with a complete stranger that would otherwise not give the whoopee-shopper a second look on the street or in a bar.
The adult playground known as Amsterdam recently took the world’s oldest profession to the web, by offering a woman’s ‘services’ via an escort ecommerce solution. Taking their online services a step further (and quite possibly a little too far), a popular escort site, known as Yantra, has begun to actually auction off a young woman’s virginity to the highest bidder.
Noelle, a 21-year-old Belgian student, who has concealed her identity on the site for fear of her parents discovering her plans (go figure), placed her virginity on Yantra’s auction block for nearly three months, until bidding leveled off at 50,000 euros.
In return for his generous donation, the winning bidder will be able to enjoy Noelle’s company for an entire 24 hours, although, as the fine print reads, the gentleman must treat her to a day of shopping, take her out to a lovely wine and dine service, and when the time comes for the deflowering, the man must wear a condom.
To make sure the young woman was still ‘intact,’ the escort company was kind enough to send her to a top gynecologist in The Hauge, procuring a doctor’s certificate that will be given to the virgin-aficionado for his files (tax deductible?).
Yantra’s ecommerce solution showcased a number of pictures broadcasting Noelle sdorned in a scantily clad pink lingerie number, accompanied by a directory of her physical attributes: brunette, brown eyes, 5′ 8″, size 10 dress, and a B-cup.
In an interview with Belgium’s Panorama magazine, Noelle’s motivation toward the monetization of losing her v-card were quite simple: “[After being a virgin for so long]…it’s high time I wasn’t. It’s just sex after all.”
April 27, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
In a move that would undo an acquisition it made only a little over 2 years ago, Microsoft is set to dump European comparison shopping subsidiary “Ciao.” The comparison shopping engine was part of parent company Greenfield Online Inc. Other constituent subsections of Greenfield, such as their survey group, have already been sold off (to ZMCapital for an undisclosed amount).
Microsoft acquired Greenfield Online Inc. in August of 2008 for 486 million dollars, possibly hoping to bolster their search engine, Bing, with ecommerce software capabilities powered by Ciao’s technology. The problem seems to be that they weren’t able to leverage those comparison shopping capabilities quickly enough. There may not have been much potential there to begin with, however, given that when Google’s Panda update rolled out overseas, Ciao lost 94% of its traffic! Did Microsoft get played, thinking that Ciao was more useful and powerful than it really was? Any service that shows such a huge loss from a single update seems like it must have had some really serious underlying problems.
Now Microsoft has the problem: stand by an investment that they made years ago, which probably isn’t going to pay off – ever, or hold on to it and try to dig themselves back out. Ciao’s ecommerce software has native sites in seven European countries, including Spain and France, which could be useful footholds for Microsoft to have to springboard Bing’s own shopping elements into greater prominence in these markets. However, sources say that Microsoft is just going to dump it as dead weight, probably for less than 100 million dollars.
Initially this might seem like a huge financial loss, given that they paid 486 million dollars for Greenfield Inc in 2008. However, it’s worth remembering that Ciao wasn’t the entirety of Greenfield Inc (there are other departments and technologies that we aren’t hearing about) and that Microsoft has already made some money off of Greenfield. It’s also worth remembering that Microsoft is a huge company that can probably afford to take a hit like this. When you play the game on the scale that Microsoft does, this is just the cost of doing business.
April 15, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
An original 10-inch acetate of the Sex Pistols’ single God Save The Queen is on its last day at auction on eBay. The auction has clearly sparked a nostalgia from the U.K across to the U.S. of a time when punk was a big movement and the nihilistic swagger of front-man, Johnny Rotten, was the epitome of cool. At press time, the single was going for a whopping $23,780 (£14,600), but today will reveal which lucky bidder was able to snag this rare acetate into their shopping cart.
Rare acetate of God Save the Queen
The Sex Pistols have been regarded as one of the most influential acts in English punk and pop music history. Known for Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, the God Save the Queen single is a memento worth boasting about as the original band members only produced four singles together and are still highly coveted in the U.K. The record’s lyrics, as well as the cover, were the center of controversy as it took a bold jab at the Monarchy. Both the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority refused to play the song but the single still managed to reach number one on the U.K. charts.
“This is a once in a lifetime oppertunity [sic] to aquire [sic] an historic piece of Pop Culture and one that will rise considerably over years to come” the current owner wrote on the eBay listing.
An acetate can be played on a record player but they are normally used as a cheap test pressing before going into full vinyl production. Acetates are exceptionally rare as only a few are printed, and the stylus on a record player will wear the music out, which means while it would be cool to take it home, dropping a needle on it is not.
The current owner has held onto the record for 22 years and only spun it once, but he prepared for the occasion and recorded the track onto a CD, which will be given to the auction winner. The acetate will come in its original 10” studio sleeve and plastic cover along with the original catalog.
“It literally took my breath away to play this and i [sic] am delighted to say it played through absolutely fine with no jumps or skips,” the owner concluded.
April 8, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Swedish cell phone company, B-Reel, is out to change the way ecommerce is as we know it. B-Reel brings 3LiveShop, a live online store that works as a complementary service for the customers of the telecom operator 3. The company has teamed up with Teenage Engineering, LA-based studio for commercial products, and tech agency, Isotope, to create its hardware and ecommerce backend system. The days of clicking and dragging items into a shopping cart could be nearing an end.
What a 3LiveShop experience looks like
B-Reel explains its services on its site:
“We have designed an [sic] user friendly interface and developed a multi-touch environment – all built in Flash. The system is capable of detecting multiple fingers and hands at the same time it allows the sales person to interact with products on the display while it’s all recreated on the customer’s side. Think Tom Cruise goes phone salesperson in Minority Report! The video and products are in separate streams to always ensure the best possible display of the products.”
Basically, a user can sit at their computer and using a webcam, video chat with a sales associate in real time. Using their finger, the associate will drag items onto the screen for viewing, show the product features like color and cost, while being a guide through the purchase process, all the way to putting that item into the shopping cart for the user. What 3LiveShop has been able to develop is an advanced technology that lets a sales associate do all of this through a customized, multi-touch interface. The best way to look at this is that a 3LiveShop associate is like a personal shopper but online.
Call me old fashioned, but I thoroughly enjoy the anonymity of online shopping. Not having to interact with someone face to face, stands reason why live chat or even a simple customer service phone call will suffice. However, it could be just a matter of time and adaptation that will prove 3LiveShop was the original pioneer to the one-day boom of advanced, multi-touch interfaces that will have us all shopping to a different technology.
The 3LiveShop concept sounds like an entertaining way to shop and it is certainly an amazing display of highly sophisticated technology, but just how practical of an application it has to general online shopping is unclear. If the future of ecommerce lies with a Minority Report-like technology, then while we are at it, can we throw in a flying DeLorean as well? That would be neat.
What do you think of 3LiveShop, do you think this is the future of online shopping?