27 September 2016

DIGITAL - After 18 Years, Google is Still at the Top

Log into Google today and you will see a special birthday doodle complete with balloons and streamers.

Google was officially launched in 1998 and celebrates its 18th birthday today.

It all began when Larry Page, a grad student at Stanford University, started working on a new search engine called BackRub as his doctoral thesis.

Sergey Brin, another grad student, partnered with Page on the development of the engine which used an innovative approach to finding pages ranked by relevancy.

The search engine was renamed Google - a play on the word ‘googol’ which is a number represented by a one followed by a hundred zeros - and Page and Brin dropped out of grad school to launch Google as a startup.

Leaving school turned out to be a great decision as the business went from an office set up in a garage in 1998  to a multinational technology company employing over 57,000 people today.

Google dominates the search engine market with a consistent market share of over 60% year after year. 

If anyone is looking for answers or information, the response is "Google it!"

The closest competitor in 2016 is Microsoft with 21%, and Yahoo following with 12% of the U.S. market.

BUSINESS - Taking & Marketing Great Photos of Animals

Nothing sells like a great photograph.

Photos show personality, evoke emotions and prompt action - like adoption or a purchase.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Professional  recently published a four part blog - Hit ‘Em With Your Best Shot: Taking Great Photos of Shelter Animals.

Their tips and tricks will not only help animal rescues and shelters, but can also be used by businesses who want to create photos to promote their products or services, and even by pet owners who are hoping for an amazing shot of their best friend.

Part One focuses on getting to know the animal before pulling out the camera.

Some pets are shy of people, some are shy of cameras and it’s important for them to be comfortable and relaxed.

Noises, toys and treats are all part of getting the pet’s attention, but they shouldn’t be used all at once.

Get technical in Part Two with tips about lighting, flash, background, composition and editing - don’t worry, even the most simple of cameras works wonders if the shooter knows about strong composition.

Dogs have more predictable responses to people, don’t mind a change in location and often know some basic obedience which is great for the photographer.

Cats? Not so much, which is why Part Three is all about taking photos of felines.

Patience is what working with cats is all about. Tips include the importance of forward ear positions, waiting for the perfect cat stretch, playing with toys and getting action shots.

After creating all these wonderful pictures, the next step is to post them and get lots of traffic to a website and/or social media page.

The tips in Part Four can “help get 'em from your homepage to their new home.”

Learn about what photos generate interest online, optimal sizing for different social media channels, which image works best for thumbnails and the type of information that should be included right on the photo. 

One relevant addition to the tips provided by the ASPCA: for some advertising campaigns, it's necessary to leave space in the photo for written information about the product or service. This is not usually the case when showcasing a pet for adoption.

Why are photos so important?

Hubspot’s blog post, 37 Visual Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know in 2016, touches on just how vital visuals are to any successful marketing campaign.

A few of their stats:
  • Researchers found that colored visuals increase people's willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.
  • When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
  • Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

People are influenced by visuals, adopters are moved by visuals, purchasers are motivated by visuals.

So get out that camera and start shooting - if you can't do it yourself recruit a volunteer or hire a pro - in today's digital world, it's worth it.

26 September 2016

BUSINESS - Unilever Negotiating Acquisition of The Honest Company

Unilever’s proposed purchase of Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company for $1 billion is its second recent move to acquire young start-ups with direct-to-consumer subscription models.

The Dollar Shave Club was purchased by Unilever earlier this year, allowing the much larger company to tap into the market share that Dollar Shave Club had opened up.

The model of cheap, subscription-based service eliminates a lot of expensive elements involved in brick-and-mortar operations.

These types of purchases offer benefits for the start-up in terms of an influx of cash to push them into the black.

For the larger company, such as Unilever with these purchases, or Walmart purchasing Jet.com, the benefits are less tangible but no less real.

Acquiring start-ups that are finding footholds with consumers who now demand much more flexibility and responsiveness from their providers allows large companies to remain relevant in a changing capitalist climate.

The convenience and price point are probably also a factor in The Honest Company’s success, with their bundle services and subscriptions designed to fit specific lifestyles.

The Honest Company also offers the promise of eco-friendly and baby-safe products (though there has been controversy over whether they keep that promise).

This second purchase by Unilever indicates a similar focus on accessing the subscription bases of successful start-ups in order to diversify their customer base and remain agile in a new market environment.

In 2014, 80% of The Honest Company’s sales were via a monthly subscription service. Although their products are now available in Costco, Whole Foods, and Target, their subscription services are still a significant part of their marketing.

And, even if some of their subscribers are inactive, those inactive subscribers are still a valuable commodity for Unilever.

Research has shown that even inactive subscribers purchase more, and more frequently, than non-subscribers. This means that Unilever gains benefits from The Honest Company’s subscription-model start despite the company’s move into department stores.

And the subscription model offers valuable information and direct access to customers, which provides value beyond the standard sales figures.

With venture capitalists being much choosier about where their money goes, these sorts of alliances between agile young start-ups and established larger companies will become more and more important.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

25 September 2016

DIGITAL - Pokémon GO Popularity is Declining

Pokémon GO peaked on July 15 with around 45 million active users.

(Chris Helgren, Reuters)
At that point the game was making more than all other mobile games combined. The mobile game was revolutionizing Augmented Reality (AR), and suddenly bringing the Internet of Things to the front of people’s minds.

The game, and its immediate uptake among an unprecedented number of users, was the first of its kind in terms of immediate enthusiasm and user engagement.

It had, and has, implications for anyone interacting with the digital world (which, at this point, is nearly everyone).

Now, the game’s popularity is in decline.

Interest in Augmented Reality, which was piqued by Pokémon Go’s popularity, has also started to decline, while interest in Virtual Reality (VR) remains high.

Was all the hype about AR unwarranted? Probably not.

AR intersects with the Internet of Things in ways that VR currently cannot – products like Microsoft’s HoloLens allow for a blending of digital and physical worlds that even the coolest Vive game can’t.

Despite that, both industries are growing, and with the development of the Virtual Reality Venture Capital Alliance (VRVCA) and the continued interest in AR technologies such as the award winning HoloAnatomy for HoloLens, that growth isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.

So while the AR hype will probably fade for a while, the industry remains vibrant and growing, and Pokémon Go’s success will be something that developers look to recreate.

Pokémon Go’s popularity decline is probably not just a temporary dip.

So, is Pokémon Go is on its way out?

Again, probably not. Between mid-July and mid-August, the game lost approximately 25% of its active users, and a linear projection would see the game dead in the water by winter.

However, the decline is not surprising.

The average mobile game only maintains 22 percent of users a month after they first play the game. Other estimates put that number even lower.

Even if the game loses users at the standard rate, there will be a “long tail” of user engagement. Ars Technica estimates that it’s possible as many as 26 million people could still be playing the game in mid-2017.

Niantic’s plans to release Legendary Pokémon in special events are sure to draw the older fans back into the mobile game even if they’ve dropped off from daily play.

And the developer has other plans to continue engaging players, including the introduction of player-versus-player battles.

There are many ways the game can keep itself afloat, and regardless of where Pokémon Go ends up, the doors it has opened for marketers, developers, and users won’t be closing anytime soon.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.