Cyber Monday with Infographic

A new study from enterprise data and analysis firm Qualtrics surveyed 1,100 consumers to find out how they choose to shop during the busiest shopping time of the year. The firm discovered that while users enjoy their Cyber Monday shopping experience, many will still be heading to the stores this holiday season.

Only 28 percent of those surveyed reported they would be shopping for post-Thanksgiving deals exclusively online. While 56 percent of American shoppers said they would be supplementing their online shopping experience by heading to brick-and-mortar stores for Black Friday deals.

“American marketers have done a masterful job at crafting the traditional kick-off of holiday shopping into an event most shoppers revere,” said Qualtrics Chief Marketing Officer Danielle Wanderer.

“There’s no other single day of the year when American shoppers drop their mouse and head to their favorite brick-and-mortar retailer.”

Qualtrics reported that 10 percent of surveyed participants will be purchasing holiday gifts on their mobile device. With another 55 percent saying they wouldn’t be doing any online shopping this holiday season.

No matter where they shopped, consumers reported they’d be spending big this holiday season. Two-thirds of those surveyed reported they would be spending at least $600 on holiday gifts this year. Another 14 percent said they could see themselves spending over $1,000 dollars on gifts in 2012.

The push to spend big bucks on holiday gifts is expected to pay major dividends this year. According to a recent study by the National Retail Federation, shoppers will spend over $586 billion on gifts this holiday season. The mark would represent an over 4 percent increase from this time last year.

As expected, finding deals was the biggest factor for holiday shoppers this year. Half of consumers surveyed said that finding discounts was the most influential factor for their holiday shopping experience.

Research for the study was done by Qualtrics and Research Now. The two firms used social media data and consumer opinion surveys to discover holiday shopping trends. The study was conducted over a three-day period in early November.

Fancy parties, presents, home cooked meals — there’s a lot to look forward to as the holiday season approaches. But the American public has a message for retailers: not so fast with the Christmas decor; focus on preparing for Cyber Monday instead.

According to a new survey of 2,346 American adults, 75% think stores shouldn’t put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. That same number of people think stores should focus on Cyber Monday preparations, and dedicate a website to Cyber Monday shopping only — just in case the immense traffic causes a popular online shopping destination to crash.

What’s more, many shoppers (73%) hope stores redirect their energy into mobile apps to make shopping-on-the-go more reliable. (In fact, numerous studies and surveys predict mobile shopping will grow tremendously in the coming years).

Retailers might be wise to heed these requests, especially since Cyber Monday is surpassing Black Friday. Last year, Cyber Monday sales topped $1.25 billion in the U.S., up 22% from 2010.

Earlier this month, a survey showed 51% of shoppers are more likely to shop online this year because of the bad economy, and 31% of those people said they’ll also stay away from physical stores because shoppers might be too aggressive.

Of the 75% who will shop online, 69% will access the sites through their home computer, 17% will use their work computer, 44% will use an app or website through their tablet and 34% said they’ll shop using their smartphone.

Stores will still likely dive into early decorating even after learning this information. But it’s interesting to note how much importance shoppers place on having stores’ websites function during the holiday shopping season; percentage-wise it’s up there with the much debated issue of early decorating.

The survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of SOASTA, a web performance and analytics company that gets major websites ready for Cyber Monday. shopping. It surveyed 2,346 adults, age 18 and older, between this Sept. 17 and Sept. 19.


Using Social Media to Increase Your Search Rank by Jasmine Sandler

The rules of search have changed. In fact, they change on a daily basis. But never so dramatically has rank been uprooted since the explosion of social media. Social media sites, especially the power houses of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, have become backlink central for affecting organic search results.

Social media’s influence on driving business via the web is expected to surpass search engine optimization (SEO) in 2013, according to eMarketer. Web marketers and PR professionals must pay attention to how social media affects search, and ultimately how it can change the rules of online visibility and (online) brand engagement.

Prior to Facebook’s takeover of the online universe (800 million active users today), online visibility in natural search was a sum of several measurable components: SEO site compliance on site structure and meta tags/content, directory link submissions, and qualified and relevant site/blog-linking. In 2010 the game officially changed, with Google’s support of social media – author reputation, bookmarking, commenting, as well as a number of other social factors (likes, tweets, retweets, shares, etc.) – as a major factor in how it ranks websites and blogs in its algorithm. Real-time search in Google meant that search was only as valuable as the latest blog post, social share, and comment.

Today, the line is blurring. And this causes some confusion for web marketers. Should they focus on optimizing and driving traffic to their social pages? To their website? Where does their online brand live? How do they communicate their brand value proposition, whether their personal or corporate brand? The good news is that technology has advanced so that web marketers can manage their content and sites through the use of simple and effective blogging tools. Further, those blog tool properties, such as WordPress, support integration of social plug-ins and necessary content for social sharing including video, effective product/service literature, and tagged imagery. And so, marketers can use social and manage their web presence to support online brand consistency.

So how can you use social media to increase your SEO rank and ensure that the rank and ensuing traffic will convert to web business? First, you must create and understand a parallel social media optimization/search engine optimization strategy. All creators of content on your team (copy, social commenting, videos, and imagery) need to be on one brand team. The approach must be holistic. A unified brand message must drive visibility across all content and all channels.

To define a common strategy for execution across standard SEO practices as well as across social media content development and sharing, marketers must rethink keyword development. The questions become less about search visibility vs. obvious competition and more introspective in terms of what the corporate and executive brand mean. Ask your team questions such as: What is our brand value proposition? What do we want our audience to say about us? How will we incent our audience? How will we be leaders? Why will people follow us? Answering these questions will help you to zone in on your top branded, broad-based, and narrow-based keywords.

Once these target keyword phrases have been developed, you will need an actionable task plan to follow and with which to measure effectiveness of your new blended social/SEO strategy. The strategy must contain: content types and frequency, such as a weekly webinar production, and planned outreach per social channel and media (social) buys/ads with effective messaging and resulting goals. Determining success in social affects search visibility such that the quality of the author, relevancy of the topical content, number of followers, number of comments/retweets, and number of shares of blog posts must be considered and followed for search visibility to pull from success in these metrics.

When determining how you will rank in natural search for branded and business-driving keywords, first do the ABCs of SEO work in terms of on-site optimization wherever your online marketing plan calls for conversion. Once that has been completed, rein in your social and search teams to determine your custom strategy and measurable plan. Remember that, just like traditional SEO practices, social media optimization work must be consistent, authentic, managed daily, and measured for success

Vauxhall grabs three awards at RAC Future Car Challenge Read more:

GM, and its UK division of Vauxhall, took three awards from the RAC Future Car Challenge for green technology in both its production and prototype vehicles.


The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) Future Car Challenge is an annual event in which a fleet of vehicles are driven the 63 miles from Brighton to London in the UK, with the winner being the car which used the least energy to get there. This year’s winner was the Renault Zoe, a pure electric car which will be going on sale in Europe soon. But the big news for us in the US was the three awards grabbed by Vauxhall, GM’s UK division. Two of these were won by the Vauxhall Ampera, a rebadging of the Opel Ampera, basically a Chevy Volt with some slightly different styling.

The Ampera took the award for Most Efficient Regular Car (The Zoe being much smaller than the Ampera, the Most Efficient Small Car winner is generally the outright winner), as well as the title for Best Range Extender/Plug-In Hybrid. GM’s HydroGen4 (entered as a Vauxhall) hydrogen prototype took the prototype vehicle class title of Best Fuel Cell Vehicle. This is a nice feather in GM’s cap, especially at a time when they are losing huge amounts of money in the European market. But it is also important to us here. Although we may not get the Renault Zoe in the US, the Volt has become a very high-profile car.

It has been criticized over and over for having been built at a time when GM was in need of government assistance to stay afloat. But this award, among others, shows that the technology works, and that the car wasn’t some cobbled-together political tool for GM to pretend to be green. Add to this the fact that Consumer Reports recently named the Volt as the most reliable car that GM makes, and the criticism starts to look a bit hollow.

The awards from the RAC shouldn’t really come as too big a surprise. We know the Ampera to be an efficient vehicle, especially within this kind of distance. What is potentially more interesting is the prototype vehicles. There is a lot of guesswork out there about what the future of transportation holds, and there was an unfortunate lack of variety among even the prototypes. The HydroGen4 represents the biggest deviation among the award winners from the norm of plug-in electric vehicles. These vehicles have some significant drawbacks, and the potential is there for other alternative fuels to take the lead if a way can be found to make them viable. This might not be hydrogen, but it’s always good to see manufacturers exploring other avenues.

What Obama’s second term means for technology

Obama has four more years in the White House, but what will his policies mean for the future of the tech we use every day?

A couple of years ago, President Obama was having dinner with Silicon Valley movers and shakers, including an ailing Steve Jobs. Although no recording of the dinner has been made available, legend has it that the President asked Jobs what it would take for Apple’s manufacturing jobs to come back to America.

“Those jobs aren’t coming back,” replied Jobs.

Whether that is true or not, during the campaign both President Obama and Governor Romney focused a lot of their energies on plans to bring that kind of manufacturing back to American shores. Now that the president has won a second term, what does that mean for American technology and manufacturing?

Mr. Obama’s plan was built on education and training, investing in clean energy, and giving tax incentives to companies that bring jobs back to America.

Jobs’ grim reply was based on the fact that American workers are no longer trained for the needs of high-tech manufacturing. Obama believes that making college more accessible, both at the university and community college level, is part of the solution for closing that skills gap.

A major focus during Obama’s first term was keeping tuition rates down, doubling funding for Pell Grants, and trying to get community colleges to work together with local employers to better train outgoing students for jobs that already exist locally. There’s every reason to believe that push will continue.

Another creative idea from the campaign trail was the creation of “manufacturing innovation institutes,” where businesses and research institutions work together to make sure that American research and development produces corresponding high-tech manufacturing jobs. How the federal government can spur that idea remains to be seen, but it could be a key step in reshaping the American manufacturing sector and making sure the next Apple keeps its assembly lines here at home.

During the campaign, Obama predictably hit Governor Romney on the Republican Party’s close ties with the oil industry. In his first term, the president advocated an “all of the above” energy policy. He’s willing to explore any source, including oil, which can help America reach a majority of energy independence by 2035. It is now expected that investment in alternative energy technologies will only continue in the next four years.

During his first term, President Obama pushed ahead with plans to double fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks by 2025, which is spurring the auto industry’s investments in hybrid and electric vehicles and has led to an American manufacturing boom of sorts in battery technology. Since these rules are now under no threat of repeal, cars and light trucks are expected to sip less and less gas in the next four years. Horsepower may be a different story.

One of the places where we heard repeats of 2008’s campaign pledges was in the area of corporate tax structure. The president promised to end tax breaks for companies that participate in outsourcing during his first term and promised to do the same in his second term (which you can assume to mean that the first effort didn’t go so well).

He also wants to provide tax incentives for companies to bring jobs back to the US. Considering Apple currently enjoys a 1.9 percent tax rate on its foreign earnings, I’m not sure how much of an incentive the US government can provide. Perhaps they will mandate that all federal employees will have to buy an iPad Mini. At least all of our forest rangers will have something to do while they’re stuck in those fire towers.

Any conversation about tax policy centers on Congress. In the coming days, it will be interesting to see if our Republican House makes any overtures of bipartisanship to the president now that they know they are stuck with him for another four years. If history is any indication, don’t hold your breath. There’s probably better chance of an impeachment investigation than bipartisan tax reform.

Whatever the case, many pundits believe that the president will be bolder in his second term, enacting whatever policies he can without congressional approval if Congress proves to be as intransigent as they have been in the past. A lot of the policies mentioned above came to pass through that same kind of executive maneuvering. Because of that, the next four years of America’s technology and education policy might be just as much decided in courtrooms as in the Oval Office.


Earth Fare: Central Indiana’s Latest Natural Food Grocer

Noblesville’s Hamilton Town Center is now home to Earth Fare. Earth Fare is a natural food grocer which operates 29 stores from the midwest to southeast part of the country. Earth Fare opened this past Wednesday, November 7th to much praise and popularity. Many are more familiar with Traders Joe’s or Whole Foods, which are much larger competitors. Compared to the average grocery store, it is tad bit more expensive but it does have a fantastic selection and variety. I spent my morning today there today and was very pleased.