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Loosening up to catch up: Amazon sellers now allowed to communicate directly

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Amazon is rolling out a new tool that lets sellers communicate directly with customers even when it’s not for an order status update or return.

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Amazon sellers leaned over a laptop while on the phone, checking data mid-conversation.

Except for addressing purchase order concerns, engaging with customers is something Amazon doesn’t let sellers do. Now, the retail giant is changing things up as it faces competition from other e-commerce platforms.

Amazon is rolling out a new tool, called Manage Your Customer Engagement (MYCE), that will allow third-party sellers to manage content and send email campaigns to Amazon customers. Brand owners that are part of the company’s Brand Registry program will have access to this new tool for free. Launched in 2015, Brand Registry already has over 350,000 brands enrolled in the program.

With the new communication tool, sellers will now be able to leverage email marketing to announce product launches and offer promotions to their customers. According to Amazon, its new tool will “help [businesses] drive brand loyalty, retention, and engagement with Amazon customers.”

However, sellers won’t have free range to send emails out to all Amazon customers. They will only be able to send out marketing emails to customers who’ve purchased products from their company and those who “follow” their business page or videos on Amazon’s live streaming platform, Amazon Live.

Also, Amazon customer contact information will not be shared with sellers and will remain private. According to CNBC, when using the MYCE tool, companies will only receive “aggregate data” and see “how many emails will go out when they decide to share marketing campaigns with their followers.”

Besides connecting brands with their customers, companies will also be able to monitor the impact of their campaigns by accessing performance metrics through the tool.

Furthermore, email campaigns will need to go through an approval process. A moderation team will determine if the campaign meets Amazon’s requirements. If a campaign is not approved, a new one meeting “content requirements” will need to be created.

“Amazon is committed to serving our shoppers by helping them engage with their favorite brands. With Manage Your Customer Engagement, brands will be able to initiate email campaigns about new product announcements and offers that Amazon will send to shoppers who choose to follow the brand,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC.

Amazon’s MYCE tool might seem unexpected, especially since the company has strongly prohibited sellers from directly soliciting customers. But, frankly, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. As more e-commerce platforms open up to take advantage of the online sales boom, Amazon wants to make sure its sellers aren’t leaving anytime soon.

Veronica Garcia has a Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Science in Radio/TV/Film from The University of Texas at Austin. When she’s not writing, she’s in the kitchen trying to attempt every Nailed It! dessert, or on the hunt trying to find the latest Funko Pop! to add to her collection.

Business Entrepreneur

Converse in viral kerfuffle over alleged design theft

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Aspiring shoe designer Cecilia Monge accused Converse of stealing her designs she submitted as part of an internship application.

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Converse shoe with red, yellow, green, and blue striations in recent conflict over alleged design theft.

In a TikTok video that quickly went viral, aspiring designer Cecilia Monge (@ceci.monge) showed her portfolio designs she sent Converse when applying for a 2009 internship with the popular sneaker company. Converse never replied to her application, but that doesn’t mean the didn’t receive her designs. Lo and behold, two years later, Monge felt “shook” to see the new Converse National Parks shoes with designs and colors uncannily similar to her own work. We can’t say the giant Nike subsidiary, Converse, definitely stole Monge’s ideas, but we can share the original TikTok video and a follow up video by Monge and let you decide for yourself.

Side by side, the designs are strikingly similar, to say the least, with wavy patterns and a near-identical color scheme. With 5.7 million views and more than 118k comments, Monge drew a massive outpouring of support. People believed Monge’s side of things, and not Converse’s response that comes off like a corporate version of “Nuh uh, no we didn’t.” To add fuel to Monge’s growing fire of indignation over what appears to be an out and out ripoff of her UNPAID design work, soon other designers and people in creative careers shared similar stories of when their ideas and designs were also poached by a big company.

It’s bad enough to solicit unpaid work from applicants. However, to then produce that design or tweak it slightly and use it without compensating the designer (or writer, artist, musician, etc.)? Why, that’s just lower than a snake’s belly. It’s another example of how some large corporations act with impunity, knowing they can outlawyer nearly any individual designer or creative person. It adds to the growing mistrust we individual contributors have that the company gives even one fraction of an iota of a rat’s patootie about us—profits over people, yadda yadda yadda. People are truly upset. In order to help collect these shared stories of similar suspect use of unpaid work or ideas, Monge created the hashtag #designersspeakup on TikTok.

In addition to more support and Converse-shaming, designers shared their stories. It gets painful to watch, because it gives one the impression that this happens all the time. Another TikTok user, @braunlaw, J. Braun, Esq., took this opportunity to add videos under that hashtag with tips on how applicants can protect their intellectual property without spending a ton of money to do so.

Aren’t we tired of watching the little guy lose and the big guys do whatever they want, no matter whom it may harm? I know I am.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to choose the right software for your business

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) What are the best software products for your up-and-coming company? Use these questions to decide which kind is best for you.

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software products

It’s almost impossible to run a successful modern business without some kind of software to help you stay productive and operate efficiently. There are millions of companies and even more independent developers working hard to produce new software products and services for the businesses of the world, so to say that choosing the right software is intimidating is putting it lightly.

Fortunately, your decisions will become much easier with a handful of decision-making rubrics.

Determining Your Core Needs

First, you need to decide which types of software you really need. For most businesses, these are the most fundamental categories:

  • Proposal software. Customer acquisition starts and ends with effective proposals, which is why you need proposal software that helps you create, send, and track the status of your sales documents.
  • Lead generation and sales. You’ll also want the support of lead generation and sales software, including customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. These help you identify and track prospects throughout the sales process.
  • Marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising platforms help you plan and implement your campaigns, but even more importantly—they help you track your results.
  • Finance and accounting. With finance and accounting software, you’ll track accounts payable and receivable, and countless variables influencing the financial health of your company.
  • Supply chain and logistics. Certain types of businesses require support when it comes to supply chain management and logistics—and software can help.
  • Productivity and tracking. Some software products, including time trackers and project management platforms, focus on improving productivity and tracking employee actions.
  • Comprehensive analytics. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other “big picture” software products attempt to provide you with comprehensive analytics related to your business’s performance.

Key Factors to Consider

From there, you’ll need to choose a software product in each necessary category—or try to find one that covers all categories simultaneously. When reviewing the thousands (if not millions) of viable options, keep these factors in mind:

    • Core features/functionality. Similar products in a given niche can have radically different sets of features. It’s tempting to go with the most robust product in all cases, but superfluous features and functionality can present their own kind of problem.
    • Integrations. If you use a number of different software products, you’ll need some way to get them to work together. Prioritize products that make it easy to integrate with others—especially ones you’re already using.
    • Intuitiveness/learnability. Software should be intuitive and easy to learn. Not only will this cut down on the amount of training and education you have to provide employees, but it will also reduce the possibilities of platform misuse in the future.
    • Customizability/flexibility. Out-of-the-box software products work well for many customers, but they may not suit your current or future needs precisely. Platforms with greater customizability and flexibility are favorable.
    • Security. If you’re handling sensitive data (and most businesses will be), it’s vital to have a software developed with security in mind. There should be multiple layers of security in place, and ample settings for you to tightly control accessibility.
    • Ongoing developer support. Your chosen software might be impressive today, but how is it going to look in three years? It’s ideal to choose a product that features ongoing developer support, with the potential for more features and better functionality in the near and distant future.
    • Customer support. If you have an issue with the app, will someone be available to help you? Good customer service can elevate the value of otherwise average apps.
    • Price. Finally, you’ll need to consider price. The best apps will often have a price that matches their quality; it’s up to you to decide whether the extra expense is worth it.

Read about each product as you conduct your research, and pay close attention to reviews and testimonials from past customers. Additionally, most software companies are happy to offer free demos and trials, so you can get some firsthand experience before finalizing your decision. Take them up on the offer.

Finding the Balance

It may seem like purchasing or subscribing to new software products will always improve your business fundamentals, but this isn’t always the case. If you become bogged down with too many apps and services, it’s going to make operations more confusing for your staff, decrease consistency, and drain your budget dry at the same time. Instead, try to keep your systems as simplified and straightforward as possible, while still getting all the services you need.

You won’t find or implement the perfect suite of software products for your business overnight. It’s going to take weeks, if not months of research, free trials, and in-house experiments. Remain patient, and don’t be afraid to cut your losses on products that aren’t working the way you originally intended.

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Business Entrepreneur

This app lets you swipe right on the co-founder of your dreams

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) It’s said that business can be a lot like dating – and Tertle is taking advantage of that to find you a vetted, high-quality co-founder with a few swipes.

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Two men standing in meeting room with others, shaking hands as they agree to be co-founder together.

Much like there is a dating app for every romantic match possible, there is now a way to match with your ideal co-founder. And the name will help you ease out of your shell when connecting with your new partner.

Tertle is a new online app that helps you find the co-founder that best suits your needs. According to developers, “Tertle sends you frequent, vetted, high-quality co-founder matches via email or WhatsApp based on things that matter to you – giving you precious time back and putting an end to endless profile crawling.”

So how does it work? Like any other matching app, you first start by creating your profile. Tell Tertle a little bit more about you and what you’re looking for in a co-founder.

Next comes the vetted matching. Tertle will match you up based on things you both care about – like your skill sets, location, values, and interests. Finally, you connect and chat. Receive weekly 1:1 video chat calendar invitations at a time that suits you.

When answering why Tertle was founded, developers wrote, “We, like you, are startup fanatics. Finding the right co-founders is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in pursuit of a successful venture. We think there’s nothing currently out there that really hits the mark in helping like-minded co-founders easily connect—and so, Tertle hatched.”

As a reviewer pointed out on Product Hunt, the safest (and most heard about) route when selecting a co-founder is to choose someone you went to college with or have a long-standing relationship with. However, this may not always be an option and so it’s nice to have a little help from profile-matching algorithms.

Tertle developer Ryan Connaughton appreciated the Product Hunt feedback and expressed the following, “In terms of the algorithm, I’ve been matching people manually to test the waters while also working on a simple algorithm as MVP (what skillsets they’re looking for and location IF thats also important to them).

Following an MVP, my thinking is I can vet harder with more in-depth data collection (personality types, values, problems spaces of interest, etc). Of-course this will require a much deeper user-research/spike piece first before I can get to the right solution.

In addition, there can only be so much ‘filtering/vetting’ you can do before you have to get some hard validation that this is the right person – that being, actually working together. So assuming that I can get the prerequisites above right and there’s interest, I think there’s then potential of guided mini-hackathon style projects or some kind of ‘trials’.

Worst case scenario: You meet someone new, learn some stuff, give each other feedback for you to grow and have fun building something. Best case scenario: All of the above, plus the problem/solution holds water and/or you form a continued lasting relationship.”

The site boasts being free to beta users forever; so, if you’re on the hunt for a co-founder, it may be worth it to join the waitlist and see what’s out there.

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