Category Archives: Big Data

Microsoft Earn: CLO Effort Aligns ‘Time, Location, Context, Commerce’

Microsoft continues to push ahead with its card linked offer program, which has been in Beta in Washington, Arizona and Massachusetts since May. But since we last wrote about it in April, the program has been rebranded from Bing Offers to Microsoft Earn. The program is now more oriented towards promotional redemptions at The Microsoft Store. Registrants can earn points at participating merchants towards Microsoft products.

Participants in Microsoft Earn include hundreds of local restaurants, as well as national brands with local outlets. THey include 7-Eleven, Starbucks, Papa John, Whole Foods, Shell and Pet Smart. 1-800-Flowers is also participating.

Speaking at Cardlinx’s “Data Driven Commerce” meeting in Bellevue, WA, GM of Holistic Monetization Erik Jorgensen says “merchant acceptance is shifting from skeptical to believers.” CLO represents “a great signal for measuring the impact of the digital world to the real world.” It provides “friction free, almost magical consumer experiences.”

Early results have been promising with “member acquisitions easier and engagement great than anticipated,” said Jorgensen. “Meanwhile, customer confusion and support (issues) have been less than anticipated.”

Microsoft Director of Payments Will White said that CLO is an anchor product for a new generation of commerce built around wallets and authentication (“vitally important”), ease of use and personalization. CLOs “align time, location, context and commerce,” he said. The idea is to use signals to offer the right things at the right time.

The Economics of Sidecar’s Local Delivery System

Will logistics and delivery provide a key strategic advantage in local commerce? That’s the hope of players like Google, Amazon, Uber, Sidecar and Postmates. As we have previously noted, each hopes to get a leg up on the economics of local commerce and time-to-customer by cutting out the middleman: USPS, Fedex and UPS.

Sidecar, in particular, has suggested there are a revised set of delivery economics. A new blog post by CTO and co-founder Jahan Khanna says these economics have been changed by three factors: always on consumers and businesses; agile software that pinpoints ideal routes and matches and combines orders for delivery personnel; and “multi mode delivery networks,” consisting of walkers, bikers and autos – each utilized to complementa each other, traffic patterns, parking etc.

“When everyone is connected to the Internet all the time, people can work together in shockingly more efficient ways than was previously possible,” notes Khanna. “The ability to intelligently decide which mode works best at which time, and path-find between multiple modes, is a powerful cornerstone of the Sidecar network.”

Khanna notes that Sidecar has broken each of its local markets into quarter mile grids. The task is to predict how many orders are going will come into each grid – a process that is updated every 15 minutes. Additionally, Sidecar’s data group figures out where there are parking and traffic logjams. “The routing algorithm is the heartbeat of our on-demand infrastructure,” he says.

“Every car, bike courier and walker on the Sidecar network is not on one ride, or one delivery per se,” says Khanna. “Rather, they are assigned to an ordered set of multiple waypoints each with individual deadlines. They might be picking up two orders at the first location, dropping one off at the next, picking two more up at the third, and so on and so forth. The goal of the system is to maximize driver efficiency and minimize confusion due to reassignments, all while targeting a 95% on-time percentage.”

Khanna also says that all this works for $6.90 deliveries — even with San Francisco’s especially high labor costs. In San Francisco, walkers need to make $16 an hour, drivers need to make $22 an hour, and bikers need to make $19 an hour. At peak times, cars can handle six deliveries an hour; while a bike can handle four.

“Our technology enables us to work together more efficiently than was previously even imaginable,” Khanna sums up. It certainly beats FedEx’s $17 charge for same day delivery — which is still not capable of getting a hot pizza to a customer’s door. What it means for Uber’s attempt to make $3 deliveries is less certain.

Centro: Boost Demand Side Ads With Full Program, Not Just Programmatic

Chicago-based Centro, which helps provide targeted ad solutions to 13,000 publishers – 4,000 at any given time — says it is refocusing on providing publishers with complete Demand Side solutions that integrate first party data targeting, hyperlocal mobile tools, digital extensions and cross-channel capabilities.

Publishers increasingly want to provide greater reach for their advertisers than they can provide from their own-and-operated (O&O) properties, said Centro SVP Katie Risch and VP John Hyland in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey. “O & O solutions are becoming a smaller share of the mix.”

Centro DSP for Publishers, the new product offering, provides a wide range of mobile, display, video and social campaigns directly through Centro’s platform. An increasing amount of these efforts are automated. “Revenue is going towards self -serve,” said Risch and Hyland. “People don’t go back after they start with self-serve.”

To be sure, programmatic – an automated process of planning and placing ads on the platform – represents a big part of Centro’s evolution. Centro has committed 18 buyers specifically to support programmatic. But programmatic needs to be supported with other pieces.

“We are in an early iteration of programmatic,” said Risch and Hyland. It helps to “close the loop.” But “it doesn’t do enough to support the demand side of the business, which is critical for local targeting. The biggest challenge is how to drive demand. There has to be a human layer; a set of KPIs.”

Centro’s Brand Exchange, for instance, has enlisted 1,400 publishers. It allows auto dealers and other SMBs to call on the company to meet their needs for local inventory. With such services, “we are providing a cohesive media strategy, along with first party data.”

Signpost Raises $20.5 Million to Provide CRM-Based SMB Services

Signpost announced today it has raised a new $20.5 Million round, which will let it build out an evolved, CRM-based “close the loop” strategy of tracking SMB digital sources via transactions, social media, websites and email.

The current round has been led by led by Georgian Partners along with Spark Capital, OpenView Venture Partners, Scout Ventures and Jason Calacanis’ Launch Fund. The company has raised $36.5 Million since its founding in mid-2010. Earlier funders included Google Ventures.

Signpost’s evolution has been a dramatic one, fully reflecting the changes in local online marketing. The company launched as a provider of sales agents for local SMB deals, then evolved into an SMB-oriented SAAS company with offices in New York, Austin and Denver. In its case, deals gave way to a broad range of marketing services, including analytics, marketing automation, loyalty marketing, referrals and review acquistion.

The company now serves over 10,000 customers, and says it is eyeing a large customer set of six million very small businesses with 2-10 employees. Most of these have not previously had access to CRM and are unlikely to subscribe to pricey CRM tools such as Salesforce.

The inclusion of financial transaction information provided by a third party is something that is increasingly being added to marketing services. Google, ForwardLine and others similarly incorporate financial transaction information.

BIA/Kelsey Managing Director Rick Ducey, Signpost’s Ryan Sommer and Peter Krasilovsky play “Chinese style.”

FiveStars Links Growth to Big Data Analytics; Projects 8,000 + SMB Customers by Year-End

FiveStars, the well-funded SMB loyalty company that competes against Belly, SpotOn and others, is projecting it will grow its merchant base to 8,000-9,000 businesses by year-end, up from its current base of 6,000 customers. Customers who subscribe to FiveStars premium service pay as much as $200 a month. The San Francisco-based company has received over $45 million in funding.

Growth Manager Brian Lee, in a Webinar discussion with Radius Product Manager John Hurley, said the company is now positioned for rapid growth. Radius’ big data analytics helps it better understand its sales prospects and vertical segments, and manage its sales team.

Specifically, the company has grown increasingly confident in growing its sales team, which consists of 35 inside reps and 50 outside reps. “We had been stuck in neutral” with 15-20 reps for a long time,” notes Lee, who likes to call himself a “revenue hacker.” “But we asked ourselves: ‘Where can we grow as a team?’ Half the battle has been figuring out the addressable market,” he adds– something that Radius has helped with. “We are now ready to grow and talk to customers.”

Lee adds that it hasn’t been a matter of simply adding 20 sales people. “This isn’t a product you can (sell by reading) from a script. Every rep we bring on represents ‘X’ percentage of revenue. It is a very refined model that takes in both the performance of reps and the performance of leads. We look at what leads (the reps) are getting. And how are verticals performing.”

Pingup’s Mark Slater: Why ‘Task Completion’ Scheduling is Key for LODE

More than 75 companies are now providing scheduling solutions, resulting in a super fragmented marketplace where no single company has even five percent of the existing market. One by-product of the glut: the need for a one stop, API-driven product that can confirm bookings across the different platforms.

MyTime, which has been developed by Red Beacon founder Ethan Anderson, is one aggregator. Another is Avalon Ventures-funded Pingup, which has been in development for two years and just announced a deal with CityGrid Networks’ Citysearch and InsiderPages to embed task completion on their pages.

Pingup CEO Mark Slater talked with BIA/Kelsey about the space. He says it has become especially critical with the development of the Local On Demand Economy (LODE), which allows consumers to set up appointments on an on-demand basis (and is also the subject of BIA/Kelsey’s June 12 LODE conference in San Francisco.)

“We want to be the platform that powers LODE,” he says, noting that the traffic that had once been focused entirely on search has now broadened to also include task completion. Services such as Pingup are “an extremely efficient way to provide access to businesses,” he adds.

Pingup, which is based in Boston and has 19 employees, is “only about integrating the software,” says Slater. It has no aspirations of its own to be a media player or a destination in its own right. “We don’t represent a competitive threat to the demand side or the supply side,” he says.

Slater adds that its deal with CityGrid Networks’ Citysearch and InsiderPages will bring in thousands of businesses on the appointment supplier side. The company expects to name at least five more publisher announcements in 2015, potentially including listings partners, search engines, ecommerce companies and messaging companies.

A Look at Amazon’s Entry Into Home Services

Amazon Home Services has been in beta since November and has now formally launched. The service will take on Angie’s List, Home Advisor and a slew of new players in the increasingly crowded home services space (i.e. Pro,com, Serviz, Home Depot’s Red Beacon, Thumbtack and apparently, Google.)

VP Pete Faricy told The New York Times that it now covers more than 700 types of services and has already entertained 2.4 million “serve offers.” A look at Amazon’s map identifies four highly developed core markets (Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles) and 36 moderately developed markets (and many more lightly-developed markets.)

All of Amazon’s “hand picked” pros that hope to work with Amazon must undergo background checks, which will cost $50 (plus $40 per employee); have appropriate licenses, and carry insurance. All listings will also feature Yelp reviews as well. Pros will pay Amazon 20 percent for services that cost $1000 or less, and 15 percent above that amount, as well as monthly subscription fees — although those fees are waived through June 2015. The 20 percent fees are comprised of 15 percent service platform fees, and 5 percent transaction fees. The fees and requirements are fairly standard in the industry.

What Amazon brings to the table is its brand and especially, a high volume of consumers. It is currently targeting its customers with an offer of a $20 gift card for first time users. It also has millions of merchant and consumer credit cards in its profiles, which can be a major advantage. Longer term, it has the potential to leverage its Local Offers business, which has been including service offers for some time. Amazon doesn’t, however, have an instant collection of merchants that are pre-inclined to work with it for marketing purposes.

It also doesn’t have the behavioral intelligence that informs its retail services,or its own reviews – although Yelp’s reviews will help it out here. There are always thoughts that Amazon would want to try to buy a service such as Angie’s List or Home Advisor to complement its efforts in these areas.

On the surface, it seems like a stretch for Amazon to enter home services. It could, of course, be an initial failure, like Amazon’s Fire Phone. (or a long term success, like Kindle and Amazon Web Services). But if you are thinking big…services are a key part of the local economy that Amazon is tackling for sales, leads, payments, hosting and other areas.

We note that many of the competitors in the space leverage the new models of Uber-like, Local On Demand Economy that BIA/Kelsey is focusing on at our June 12 NOW event. There is certainly plenty of potential. As Home Depot Silicon Valley head Anthony Roddio noted at our ILM 2014 event in December, “The market is ripe but no one is there yet.” Some estimates have penetration in this segment at under 10 percent.