Category Archives: Business

Apple Inadvertantly Makes a Great Holiday Ad for Google Glass

This morning, I watched the latest holiday ad video from Apple. Here it is, take a look:

Now, that you’ve had the requisite moment to digest the holiday goodness and wish you were having some snowy fun and cookies and such…

Consider that the entire video was shot using the iPhone 5s.

Now to take it a step further, think about the composition of those shots and imagine how awkward it would be to hold the phone at certain angles.

Now think about how easy it would be with Google Glass.

Below are a few captures from the video that I thought would be a little unnatural to shoot with a phone.

Where is the camera?  I have a feeling it is going into the snow when grandpa comes in for the hug.
Where is the camera? I have a feeling it is going into the snow.
Don't mind me, I'm just shoving this camera into your face.
Don’t mind me, I’m just shoving this camera into your face.
Seriously, could you please get out of the way?  This tree is huge!
Seriously, could you please get out of the way? This tree is huge!

The one standout exception here is a timelapse sequence involving the gingerbread cookies:

Mmmmm.  Delicious time lapse.
Mmmmm. Delicious time lapse.

I’m sure this can be done with Glass as well. Heck, it might even be easier by just talking to Glass once you’ve set it down and started arranging the products. Well, now I’ve talked myself out of that exception too.

Here’s the TV version:

How fitting the title is “Misunderstood”… I wonder if the folks at Google will send Apple a Christmas card?

P.S. By the way, my snarky comments have nothing to do with the quality of the video. I thought it was an adorable and touching production. đŸ™‚

How One Simple Change Might Let Apple Swipe 30% of Google’s Lunch

It’s raining here today and you know what I’d really like? I’d like some sushi.


I live in the “wilds” of Northern Virginia and while there are a few places relatively close by I’m feeling a little lazy. I want something closer. And yeah, I’m a little bored too, so I want something I haven’t tried. So, like everyone else in the world, I figure I’ll just search for a place and see what I find…


Below is a screenshot of the search results in Apple’s iOS7. What you’re really seeing here is that I haven’t received any emails about places to get sushi. Of course, what you could be seeing though places close by that have delicious sushi.


I don’t know about you, but I find this annoying. Why? I guess it’s the fact that I’m holding a powerful, radio-enabled device in my hand that should be able to tell me just about anything I want whenever I want and in this case it doesn’t. Heck, it doesn’t even give me an option to search the web. I’m also not particularly in love with empty search results. It just seems like such a waste of time. It could also be that the rain is just getting me down, but really, this could be sooo much better.

Why Didn’t I Just Open Safari?

Remember when I said I was feeling lazy? That’s one reason. The other is that Apple has made it ridiculously simple (to borrow from Cupertinospeak) to search by just swiping down just about anywhere.

Spotlight search (aka looking for apps, contacts, and other documents such as email) has been part of Apple’s iOS for quite awhile. What’s changed is that Apple has made this feature more accessible. Prior to iOS7, a user got to the spotlight search prompt by by swiping right on the home screen. In iOS7, Apple changed this behavior by adding a “search anywhere” feature which allows users to bring up a search bar by swiping down.

This easy access sort of begs the question: Why not web search results instead of just what’s on the device?

Ok, I hear the chorus firing up and talking about user experience. There are some who are likely to say that this would be confusing to users. Undoubtedly, somewhere, someone has already done a variety of studies to prove that users are expecting different things from different search channels. Personally, I doubt the veracity of this claim but I have three other reasons Apple should pursue this.

  1. 30% of Google paid search clicks now come from mobile and tablets. [1]. This number is growing fast and is something Google itself readily acknowledges. This mobile shift is something that every consumer company on the planet is struggling to manage. And for companies who make their money selling ads, it’s becoming an all-out war. [2]
  2. iAd inventory is notoriously weak and underserved. If you follow the Apple developer community like I do, this is pretty much the number one complaint about iAd. In iAd’s favor, it’s very easy to implement in an app, but there just isn’t enough inventory to go around. As a result, most developers end up serving Google AdMob ads first and if there is no inventory there they use iAd as a backup.

Incorporating iAd and general web results into device search results would address both of these concerns. First, it would immediately impact Google (and Bing’s) share of mobile search in general. Second, it would expand the number of impressions for iAd but more importantly it would open iAd to a very different sort of audience: the motivated searcher. This is the consumer that advertisers are desperate to reach. The increase in inventory would undoubtedly have a major impact on network iAd sales.

Oh, and that third reason?

Apple already incorporates web search results in Siri…


So there you go… If I search on the device, I get nothing. If I search with Siri, I get a list of local restaurants. Why the difference? Is this really a good user experience? I think not.

On the other hand, if Apple brings these elements together, I’m able to find whatever I need in one place with one interface. I don’t need to go tapping about for the right app. I can just get what I need with just a quick swipe. This is the best reason to incorporate web search results. Of course, the side benefit is that by tacking on iAd, Apple can get a swipe in of their own against the big G.

None of this has gotten me any closer to that sushi, but I do have to say that I’m feeling a bit more spry having gotten this out my system.

27% US Yet to Begin Holiday Shopping

According to NPR, the past weekend (12/8-9) was the biggest weekend for buying Christmas trees this year, which is a little surprising because that distinction usually goes to the weekend after Thanksgiving. (side note: Christmas Trees are a $3B+ industry – both real and artificial. Wow!)

Wait, Thanksgiving? Oh yes, it’s been so long now that you’ve forgotten we’ve even had Thanksgiving. Well, you’re not alone.

This year’s early Thanksgiving is something of an anomaly. In fact, you have to go back to 2007 in order to find such an early occurrence of Thanksgiving and we won’t have another until 2017. If you dig a little more, you’ll find that consumers were procrastinating back in 2007. So with the Christmas Tree sales coming so late, I was curious to know if there as a general consumer trend to match. To answer the question, I turned to Google Consumer Surveys to gauge the 2012 US consumer’s interest in holiday shopping.


As with past surveys, I used Google’s tool to sample the US Population, pulling out a smaller subset after the initial qualifying question. In this case, the qualifier was Have you started your holiday shopping?. Those answering “No” ended up with a follow-up question to determine when they would actually start. After submitting the survey to Google, the experts there asked that I modify the survey to include “I don’t holiday shop” as a possible answer, and I’m glad they did.

The Results

First, the top-level finding:

The headline number is interesting, but I also think the fact that 14% of the population claims not to holiday shop is also intriguing. Since I don’t have historical data here, I’ll avoid conjecture.

If we look at the insights inferred by the tool, we’ll see that low-income, rural survey takers were more likely to have started their shopping than more affluent, suburban participants. At a higher level, more men than women selected “I don’t holiday shop”.

Looking at those procrastinators, we’ll see that of those who have not started holiday shopping, some 40% don’t plan to begin shopping until next week (week of 12/17/2012). This could spell some good news for brick and mortal retailers going into the weekend of the 22nd.

Complete Survey Results

By request, I’ve gone ahead and made the survey public so that anyone can access the data. Just hop on over to Google Consumer Surveys. Complete Survey Results. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line at or ping me on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: All of the comments and insights on this post are my own.

How to Talk to Busy People

Am I paying attention? This is what I’m thinking about when your sales rep calls me unsolicited and yammers about synergistic synergies and maximizing leverage.

Dear [Every CEO of Every Software and Services Company],

I am busy.

I know you know I’m busy. Heck, you might be busy too for all I know. Still, I feel like I have to say that to each and every day to one more of your minions. Sales reps, marketing reps, cold call reps slogging it out to get a call set up for the next boss on the ladder… These are the people you send my way. They clutter my inbox and their cheerful voices die the slow death of entropy in my voicemail box.

I am busy.

By the way, I’m not the only one who is busy. All of my colleagues are busy too. Not just the people I work with here, but all the people in the same line of business at other companies too. We’re busy, but drip by drip you cut into our productivity by sending your forces in through any means necessary.

Do I have your attention?

How to Talk to Busy People

And yet, people have to earn a living so the calls must go on.

If the calls must come, and surely they will, here are a few things to get you off on the right foot:

  • Find the right person before you fling your forces against the castle wall – There is really nothing more annoying than receiving an unsolicited email followed up by everyone in the organization forwarding the same email because you could be bothered to find the right person in the first place.
  • Don’t tell me you just want to learn about my business – You don’t. I know it and you know it. You want to sell me something. Instead of feigning interest in what I do, explain to me why I should care about what you do.
  • Tell me the price – Come on. We both know that you have a price. Yes, there might be a million custom things that could change that price, but you still have a price. Share it up front and get it out of the way. Everyone know the relationship-building game is just way to make it more difficult for the mark to say no. If you have a great product and I have a need, I won’t say no. If you try to manufacture a relationship or a need, then I’m going to say no.
  • Don’t try to be smarter than me – This is not to say you’re not smarter. Maybe you are. However, don’t come on with a sales tactic designed to make me fearful of my intellect or strategy. It makes you look really stupid when you make a misstep (and you will).

What Actually Works

Product: If you don’t have a great product, then stop trying to sell whatever you have and go back to the drawing board. If you don’t think this is very helpful, then you’re in the wrong line of business. Seriously.

Honesty: Be 100% transparent. Quickly and succinctly tell me why I should spend my company’s time looking at your product. Tell me how much it costs and why you price it that way. Don’t show me logos of other companies using your product until the end because frankly I don’t care. I care about my company first.

Listening: No means no. You might need to knock on a hundred doors to get a yes, but knocking on the same door a hundred times will get a pot of boiling water thrown on you. No means no.

I can’t promise that following all of this advice will work wonders on your sales process, but I can assure you that it will keep your company’s name from getting blacklisted.

It’s all about the numbers…

This post on TechCrunch by a fellow who runs a daily deal aggregator really got under my skin. It wasn’t so much that he was trumpting the daily deal model as much as he was providing completely unrealistic numbers.

If you take a peek in the Facebook comments, you’ll see a nice, long response by yours truly. Yes, I’ve finally decided to weigh in publicly on the rage that is Daily Deals (Groupon, Living Social, etc).

I’ve reposted my response below for posterity, but let me be clear: there’s a place for daily deals but they are not a panacea. They can be one of the most expensive ways to acquire new customers and retailers need to be careful.

Here are my three (3) rules for evaluating deals:

  1. Always make a decision on the numbers – There are some things you might do just for the fun of it. We usually refer to this as “doing it the brand”. However, deals where you are putting real money on the table need to be evaluated using metrics and realistic expecations.
  2. Always cut your expectations in half – If it turns out you’re right, then you can be pleasantly surprised.
  3. Always be blunt when someone tries to make you violate #1 or #2 – You can’t blame the partner if you didn’t stick to your guns.

If it looks too good to be true it probably is, but that doesn’t mean there’s not something to it.

Now that I’ve said all the tough guy stuff, let me also say that I’m not exactly shy about business. I’m always up for trying new ideas and testing new channels. I mean, ThinkGeek grew by 55% last year. Don’t think I’m being cocky here either. A lot of people worked very hard to make this possible. What I’m saying is that we certainly didn’t accomplish results like that by running away from new business.

So, here are my three (3) rules for testing new sources:

  1. Limit Your Exposure – A test is only a test if you can control the size of the deal.
  2. Avoid One Way Streets – Can you back out of the deal if something goes wrong or shut down the test early? if not, you’re probably going to regret it.
  3. Measure Everything – If you can’t track the test, you can’t say it worked. If you don’t measure the results, you’ll be n the dark about true impact of the rollout. Measure everything you can.

Maybe this isn’t a perfect formula but it’s working pretty well.

Got an opinion? Drop way down to the comments and tell me what you think.

Appendix: The Daily Deal Reply

Here’s what I had to say:

Sorry but your numbers are unrealistic for most if not all retail businesses.

The deal hunters of the world are interested in only one thing: deals. They won’t pay more, and they’re more likely to take advantage of low margin products (to maximize the value of the deal). There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but retailers really need to think this through using realistic data.

Here’s a analysis of your post and model:

Overage: The example in your post assumes a 50-100% overage rate. In the retail world, that simply does not happen. Ever. Your Excel model is a little more realistic, but 14% is too generous for forecasting. In selling to a discount-minded audience, the best you can realistically expect is 5%.

COGS: In your Excel model, you assume 40%. This may be true of service business but not true in retail. Even most apparel businesses don’t get close to that number. In addition, discount-minded customers rarely buy items where you’ve got great margin. They look to maximize the deal by buying items on sale or items with razor thin margins where they can’t get a deal anywhere except by using that coupon.

Commission: Your Excel model assumes a 40% commission. That’s not happening with any deal network. 50% is the floor and it goes up from there.

Using your model, if I change overage, COGS, and commission to realistic numbers the merchant loses $3 per customer.

But I can’t really stop there…

In your model you assume three (3) repeat visits for new customers. You also assume that the “conversion-to-repeat” will be static. In other words, there’s no entropy over time of the original 20% who return. This is unrealistic. First, for forecasting purposes you shouldn’t assume more than one (1) repeat visit. If you can’t make money from an acquisition after the second sale, you’ve got a bad channel. Second, over time, the number of customers who return from the initial acquisition is going to degrade. Not only that, but it’s going to degrade very sharply. You’re going to go from 20% on second purchase to 5% to 4% and then probably level off after that at 2% of the original batch of customers… if you’re lucky.

I’ll meet you half way though and only change repeat visits to 1.5 and ignore the entropy factor. Now, I’ve lost $5.90 per customer.

You also recommend that businesses provide a second incentive to a discount-minded customer. You’ve brought in a deal hunter to your shop and converted them to a customer and then you reinforce the discount mindset by offering a second deal? I’m sorry, but this is really bad advice. There’s nothing wrong with bringing in deal hunters, but retailers need to understand what that does to their margins. They also need to understand that it is very, very difficult to convert a deal hunter to a full margin customer, and by very difficult I mean impossible.

So, my advice to retailers is to be very careful about the offering and very conservative on the forecasting. If you can, limit (i.e. eliminate) your exposure on low margin items or stacking discounts. Deals are great, just be smart about it.

To help, I’ve uploaded this version of the model using the more realistic assumptions to Google Docs and made it public to the web. Interested parties can download it here.