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Is online shopping getting a QVC style makeover?

(MARKETING) A new startup has begun beta testing its new online shopping checkout system that is sure to save you time and return shipping labels.

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Is what you see what you get?

Shopping online can a fraught process. You see a pair of boots, or a bold liquid lipstick created by a certain famous kid, or even something major, like a laptop that Consumer Reports won’t stop raving over.

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While the boots, lipstick and laptop all look great on the screen, what happens if you buy and they’re nothing like what you thought you were ordering?

With Checkout Live, yes

Checkout Live is a new platform aimed businesses who understand why some consumers hesitate to shop online. Their premise is “Shoppable Interactive Live Video.”

Picture a YouTube product review, but on a professional platform.

The platform is built with business uses in mind, and dedicated to direct engagement with the audience. There’s also that handy “Buy” button waiting patiently next to each video.

Checkout Live offers high quality live streaming from any device, and is compatible with both webcams and professional cameras.

Their website stresses building “authentic” relationships with consumers, with the ability to respond directly to chat messages. That means no more scrolling through YouTube comments to see if your question has already been answered.

Ask about boot sizing, ask about blue lipstick on an olive skin tone, ask ask away! The service also emphasizes its ability to target “an active shopping audience” – people who are seriously searching for a new product.

Peace of mind

Checkout Live is currently in beta, and free to use; they only charge a fee on products actually sold. Their website seems to focus on makeup and beauty tool demos, but any product that can be tried on or used could benefit from this kind of direct, engaged advertising.

Imagine a dress worn by various sizes of models as they each walk around and discuss how it feels, moves, and looks while taking questions from their viewers.

Imagine a device being tried out in real time as viewers ask to see specific functionalities.Click To Tweet

Imagine feeling like you’ve tried on that outfit, worn that foundation, worked on that laptop – and happily, comfortably, clicking “Buy.”

#NewWayToOnlineShop

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Business Marketing

Facebook Ads Manager MIGHT suck less this Black Friday

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Facebook needs to look again at one of their business features that seems necessary for people who want to advertise for black friday

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Facebook Ads Manager is an unavoidable beast for most business owners. It’s not as user friendly as Facebook likes to claim and sometimes it breaks down right before a major sales season. Fun times.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, Facebook has launched a new status page for the Ads Manager platform. In a brief post to their business page, Facebook stated, “We know that having timely communication is important, especially when it comes to platform outages that affect your ability to manage campaigns on Ads Manager. So, we’re introducing the Ads Status Page to keep you informed about any disruptions to our services”

Ad buyers will now be able to visit the page to check for current issues on the platform. Facebook is providing an active status on Ad Creation/Editing, Ad Delivery, and Ad Reporting. So, next time you’re sitting at your desk fussing over a campaign glitch wondering, “What’s the problem here, me or Facebook?” you can pop on over to the status page and get your answer. And no, we can’t believe this didn’t already exist either.

This new status page is just one of many efforts Facebook is pursuing to quell advertisers increasingly public complaints about the performance of the Ads Manager platform. Facebook is planning to provide increased chat support for small business owners and “around the clock” support for larger advertisers during the holiday season. Facebook will also notify advertisers if there is a significant shift in key metrics such as cost per result, amount spent, impressions, reach, and results.

It’s no secret that Facebook has been getting some bad press as of late for their lack of transparency. The introduction of new tools, like the Ads Manager Status Page and the Brand Safety Controls which give advertisers more control over where their ads are run, are all part of Facebook’s attempts to be more transparent with both users and businesses.

Only time will tell if these changes will actually provide a significant benefit to advertisers or if we will continue to see huge technical difficulties during the holiday season.

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Business Marketing

Hear me out – Google Alerts but for Facebook Groups

(TECH NEWS) Groouply is a new App that helps you find out what people are saying about your business in facebook groups, even closed groups

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Mike Rubini, an Italian developer focused on a portfolio of software-as-a-service offerings, recently announced the launch of a new Facebook tool, Groouply.

(Note: Groouply is not to be confused with the educational forum Grouply, the community management app Grouply, or the now-defunct company Grouply, which developed social networking and online forums for small businesses.)

Groouply lets you monitor Facebook groups for keywords of your choosing. Depending on how it works, this could be a big deal. There are plenty of online trackers. In fact, there are two or three distinct industries built on collecting and processing the vast amounts of information we generate online. SEO, social media management, and big data processing have all developed into large industries with their own dedicated firms, tools, language, and (in big data’s case) terrifyingly powerful hardware.

But so far, Facebook Groups haven’t been a point of focus. You can check search engine results pages, Reddit, Hacker News, Twitter, and public FB posts. But automatically notifying a user about specific mentions in FB groups is something new. The developer claims the tool can even collect data from closed groups.

The potential applications for this are striking. You could get a sense of who’s talking about your company, and what they’re saying. You could make course corrections based on how you’re perceived. You could learn about potential markets you hadn’t considered yet. You could step in to discussions about your company to correct misconceptions. (You could also get dragged into some pretty unprofessional arguments, if you aren’t careful. It is Facebook, after all.)

You pick a group and a keyword, as well as the frequency of your email updates. Options shown in the demo video include daily and hourly. Once you’ve set up the account, the company takes 1-3 days to set you up on the back end, and then you’re good to go. At the current pricing, a $99/month account lets you track 10 keywords across 5 different groups.

Some folks have raised concerns. People have inquired about how the tool collects the data, wondering whether it’s compliant with Facebook’s terms of service. Others have expressed hesitation over the price. Paying $99/month for online marketing tools isn’t unheard of. The popular SEO research tool ahrefs charges $99/month for their basic package, and claims that their $179/month package is their most popular option.

But ahrefs offers a week-long trial for $7 so you can test-drive the service. They’re also running a robust, proven service. Your $99/month gets you 500 tracked keywords, updating weekly. It also gets you keyword reports and batch analysis, backlinking alerts, and 10,000 pages’ worth of site audits.

Groouply’s arrival has generated some buzz. When it launched two days ago, it became the #4 Product of the Day on the tech forum Product Hunt. Depending on what happens next, it could fill a much-needed niche in the social media marketing toolbox.

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Business Marketing

Accessibility to your website could make or break your brand

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Some companies are making sure their websites have more accessibility, and are creating design tools that help simplify the process for other designers.

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In August, The American Genius reported that Domino’s Pizza had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a case it had lost in the Ninth Circuit Court, in which the court ruled that the pizza chain was required to improve the accessibility on their website to blind and visually impaired users.

Last month, SCOTUS declined to hear the case, maintaining the precedent that the standards set forth by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) apply not only to brick-and-mortar business locations, but also to websites.

The decision was a major win for disability rights advocates, who rightly pointed out that in the modern, internet-based age, being unable to access the same websites and apps that sighted people use would be a major impediment for people who are blind or visually impaired. Said Christopher Danielson of the National Federation of the Blind, “If businesses are allowed to say, ‘We do not have to make our websites accessible to blind people,’ that would be shutting blind people out of the economy in the 21st century.”

Although legislators have yet to set legal standards for website accessibility, the Domino’s case makes it clear that it’s time for businesses to start strategizing about making their websites accessible to all users.

Many companies worry that revamping websites for accessibility will be too costly, too difficult, or just too confusing given the lack of legal standards. However, some forward-thinking companies are going out of their way to not only make their websites more accessible, but to create design tools that could help simplify the process for other designers.

A great example is Stripe.

If you have an online business, you may already be using Stripe to receive payments. Designers Daryl Koopersmith and Wilson Miner take to the Stripe blog to detail their quest to find the perfect and most accessible color palette for Stripe products and sites.

Color plays into accessibility for visually impaired users because certain color contrasts are easier to see than others. But making Stripe more accessible wasn’t as simple as just picking paint swatches. Stripe wanted to increase accessibility while also staying true to the colors already associated with their brand.

Our perception of color is quite subjective; we often instinctively have strong opinions about which colors go well together and which clash. To make matters even more complicated, existing color models can be confusing because there is often a difference between how a computer mathematically categorizes a color and how our eyes perceive them.

Koopersmith and Miner give the example that if the human eye compares a blue and a yellow that have the same mathematical “lightness,” we will still perceive the yellow as the lighter color.

To achieve their goal, Koopersmith and Miner created new software that would adjust colors based on human perception and would generate “real-time feedback about accessibility.” In this way, the designers were able to adjust Stripe’s pre-existing brand colors to increase accessibility without losing the vibrancy and character of the original colors.

Not every company can afford to hire innovative designers like Koopersmith and Miner to create new tools every time there is an accessibility challenge. But Stripe’s project shows gives us reason to be optimistic that improving accessibility will become steadily more … well … accessible!

Disabilities rights advocates and designers can work synergistically to set standards for accessibility and create comprehensive tools to achieve those standards. In our highly visual age, it’s important to ensure that no one is left behind because of a visual impairment.

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