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June 07 2012

Commerce Weekly: Identifying real-time consumer intent

Here's what caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

Responding to real-time consumer intent

LocalResponse LogoA new survey by behavioral commerce company SteelHouse shows that mobile commerce is getting more social. Mediabistro shared an infographic produced by SteelHouse that highlights a few important points for mobile commerce:

"... one-third of customers state browsing for items as the number one reason why they use a retailer's apps, ahead of looking for discounts and deals (26 percent) and making purchases (22 percent). Overall, however, 66 percent of consumers prefer purchasing from a retailer's website than via their app."

Though the national survey was small — just 309 consumers across the U.S. were surveyed — the numbers confirm that social media is changing the way we shop.

Mashable took a look this week at four startups that are revolutionizing social ecommerce. Of the four, LocalResponse's platform seemed to make the most of mobile. The post describes the product as "a social advertising platform that aggregates public posts and 'check-ins' across multiple platforms to help brands and businesses identify intent and respond to it." The important note about this company is the way it's making use of real-time data. Mashable reports:

"Targeting data, such as behavioral, demographic or contextual, is usually approximated. LocalResponse's platform is able to identify where someone is, when they are there, and what they are saying about it. Marketers act on the consumer's real-time intent by converting people with exclusive offers or coupons via mobile at point-of-sale."

According to a post at Mobile Commerce Daily, making use of consumer data to discern consumer shopping behavior on an individual and geolocational level not only will ensure a future for mobile check-in platforms, but also will be the key for brands to better connect with consumers.

X.commerce harnesses the technologies of eBay, PayPal and Magento to create the first end-to-end multi-channel commerce technology platform. Our vision is to enable merchants of every size, service providers and developers to thrive in a marketplace where in-store, online, mobile and social selling are all mission critical to business success. Learn more at x.com.

Another centuries-old business goes all-in on digital

Move over Encyclopaedia Britannica. A 350-year-old post office would like to join the club of centuries-old businesses stepping up to embrace the digital age. A post at Fast Company reports that the British Post Office, established in 1660, is launching an NFC-based payment system in each of its 11,500 locations, making it the "biggest adopter of contactless payments in Europe," according to the post. Consumers will be able to ship packages and buy stamps using NFC-enabled debit and credit cards — and they won't even need to sign or enter a PIN for purchases less than £20.

The Fast Company post also takes a look at other mobile payment activity in the U.K., including the launch of the PayPal in-Store App, new NFC-enabled phones, and NFC ticketing.

A new problem for banks: Staying "top of wallet"

The digital disruption unsettling the retail and publishing industries' brick-and-mortar stores may have found an additional target: brick-and-mortar banks. A study (PDF) released this week by Carlisle and Gallagher shows that mobile wallets pose a threat to traditional banking. Carlisle and Gallagher's Peter Olynick discussed the results in a press release:

"People have already slowed their use of cash and checks in favor of credit and debit cards. Within five years, half of today's smart phone users will be using their phones and mobile wallets as their preferred method for payments. These customers will be using better tools to help them optimize transaction choices. Banks need to proactively consider how their products will stay 'top of wallet' in the new mobile wallet world."

In light of the study, financial analyst Peter Wannemacher told PCWorld that "[f]inancial institutions risk ending up as back-end funding sources for mobile wallets and payment products owned by other brands, who operate the front-end, consumer-facing aspects of the interaction and transactions." He says that traditional banks will need to offset the convenience of mobile wallets and mobile banking by offering compelling services.

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News tips and suggestions are always welcome, so please send them along.

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February 24 2012

Practical applications of data in publishing

At TOC, you're as likely to run into media professionals, entrepreneurs and innovators as you are publishers, booksellers and others working in traditional publishing. This, in turn, makes the underlying themes as varying and diverse as the attendees. This is the second in a series, taking a look at five themes that permeated interviews, sessions and/or keynotes at this year's show. The complete series will be posted here.


As the world — and publishing — becomes more and more digital, more and more data is produced and, ideally, collected. Knowing what kinds of data can be useful and how data analytics can be applied to inform publishing decisions is on the minds of many publishing professionals. Data was one of the overriding themes at this year's Tools of Change for Publishing conference, including discussions on how publishers can benefit from real-time data, practical applications of data and analytics, and how data can not only inform publishing decisions, but can actually aid in content creation.

In a keynote address, Roger Magoulas, director of market research at O'Reilly Media, talked about data research and the view of the data space at O'Reilly. He offered practical suggestions on how to incorporate data and addressed some of the reasons behind the buzz going on in the data space:

RogerSlide1.png

Machine learning and natural language processing, for instance, have become mainstream tools. Magoulas said the tools for making use of big data have kept pace with the increasing amounts of data produced, allowing a small team like his — just three people — to do everything.

When incorporating data to inform business decisions or to analyze business scenarios, Magoulas said data alone isn't enough — the data needs a narrative; the numbers alone won't tell the story. He addressed the area of data science from a functional viewpoint:

"On the one side, you manage data — you've got to acquire it; you might have to clean it up; you've got to organize it. On the other side, you're trying to make sense of it; you're trying to gather insights."

Magoulas said those are the two key parts, but that the most important part probably is having or cultivating a culture that can accommodate the data: "People need to understand the message that you're giving ... and how to value the input ... People need to be able to think in an experimental way and to stay curious."

When offering practical suggestions on incorporating data into a business, Magoulas stressed that becoming data savvy is important; "you can't just go buy big data and expect to know what you're doing." He also said keeping the data close to the analysis is important:

"You want to be agile, and if you separate it out and have a data group, an analytics group, and a design group, everyone is going to be waiting for someone else. Integration is really important."

You can view Magoulas' keynote in the following video (and you can find his slides here):

The data discussion turned real-time and academic in the "Mendeley Case Study: How The World's Largest Crowdsourced Academic Database Is Changing Academic Publishing" session, hosted by Jan Reichelt, director and co-founder of Mendeley Ltd. Reichelt shared some lessons learned at Mendeley and talked about how real-time data on content usage provides important insights into how academics interact with research. He stressed the increasing importance of social and community-collaborated content:

MendeleySlide1.png

MendeleySlide2.png

In addition to insights gleaned from the data around content usage, data around content production also was telling. Similar to other areas of the publishing industry — journalism, self-publishing — Reichelt highlighted the blurring lines between types of content producers and the types of content produced in academic publishing:

MendeleySlide3.png

Reichelt's presentation slides can be found here.

Peter Collingridge (@gunzalis), co-founder of Enhanced Editions, talked about how publishers can benefit from real-time data and analytics in terms of marketing. In an interview, he said data can inform answers to vital questions:

"When you're in a much faster-paced world, with the industry moving toward being consumer- rather than trade-facing, and with a fragmented retail and media landscape, you need to make decisions based on fact: What is the ROI on a £50,000 marketing campaign? Where do my banner ads have the best CTR? Who are the key influencers here — are they bloggers, mainstream media, or somewhere else? How many of our Twitter followers actually engage? When should we publish, in what format, and at what price?

Data should absolutely inform the answers to these questions ... Over time, you build up a picture of which tactics work best and which don't. And immediate feedback allows you to hone your activities in real-time to what works best (particularly if you are A/B testing different approaches), or from a more strategic perspective, to plan out campaigns that have historically worked best for comparable titles."

As the data deluge grows in the digital age, it not only is useful for analysis and informing decisions, it also can be used to create content. In a video interview, Robbie Allen, founder and CEO of Automated Insights, a company that produces narrative content from raw data, addressed this topic. He said for now, quantitative content created from structured data — think sports stories, financial reports — is best suited for automation, but that creating content from unstructured data isn't out of the question:

"In the unstructured world, we still can access what I call 'consistent unstructured data.' If there's patterns to data, we can still pull out data from that and make it structured. So, ultimately, we start with structured, then we go to consistent unstructured, and eventually, we'll even be able to pull data out of completely unstructured."

Allen's full interview can be viewed in the following video:


If you couldn't make it to TOC, or you missed a session you wanted to see, sign up for the TOC 2012 Complete Video Compilation and check out our archive of free keynotes and interviews.


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September 22 2011

Four short links: 22 September 2011

  1. Implicit and Explicit Feedback -- for preferences and recommendations, implicit signals (what people clicked on and actually listened to) turn out to be strongly correlated with what they would say if you asked. (via Greg Linden)
  2. Pivoting to Monetize Mobile Hyperlocal Social Gamification by Going Viral -- Schuyler Erle's stellar talk at the open source geospatial tools conference. Video, may cause your sides to ache.
  3. repl.it -- browser-based environment for exploring different programming languages from FORTH to Python and Javascript by way of Brainfuck and LOLCODE.
  4. Twitter Storm (GitHub) -- distributed realtime computation system, intended for realtime what Hadoop is to batch processing. Interesting because you improve most reporting and control systems when you move them closer to real-time. Eclipse-licensed open source.

August 29 2011

The application of real-time data

From her vantage point as chief scientist of Bitly, Hilary Mason has interesting insight into the real-time web and what people are sharing, posting, clicking and reading.

I recently spoke with Mason about Bitly's analysis and usage of real-time data. She'll be digging into these same topics at next month's Strata Conference in New York.

Our interview follows.

How does Bitly develop its data products and processes?

Hilary MasonHilary Mason: Our primary goal at Bitly is to understand what's happening on the Internet in real-time. We work by stating the problem we're trying to solve, brainstorming methods and models on the whiteboard, then experimenting on subsets of the data. Once we have a methodology in mind that we're fairly certain will work at scale, we build a prototype of the system, including data ingestion, storage, processing, and (usually) an API. Once we've proven it at that scale, we might decide to scale it to the full dataset or wait and see where it will plug into a product.

How does data drive Bitly's application of analytics and data science?

Hilary Mason: Bitly is a data-centric organization. The data informs business decisions, the potential of the product, and certainly our own internal processes. That said, it's important to draw a distinction between analytics and data science. Analytics is the measurement of well-understood metrics. Data science is the invention of new mathematical and algorithmic approaches to understanding the data. We do both, but apply them in very different ways.

What are the most important applications of real-time data?

Hilary Mason: The most important applications of real-time data apply to situations where having analysis immediately will change the outcome. More practically, when you can ask a question and get the answer before you've forgotten why you asked the question in the first place, it makes you massively more productive.

This interview was edited and condensed.

Strata Conference New York 2011, being held Sept. 22-23, covers the latest and best tools and technologies for data science — from gathering, cleaning, analyzing, and storing data to communicating data intelligence effectively.

Save 30% on registration with the code STN11RAD


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