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Return of 'Great Montreal Raft Race' put the fun back in F1

It’s time to put the fun back in F1. Formula One’s new owners are hoping to dial down some of the intensity of the high-power and high-pressure racing circuit this … Click to Continue »

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6 Untapped Opportunities in Ecommerce (That Will Become Huge Soon)

Remember 1994? I don’t. But apparently, it was a significant year.

On August 11, 1994, a US Internet startup called Net Market performed the world’s very first secure online transaction, which marked the beginning of the ecommerce era as we know it. And what was sold? You’ll never guess — it was the latest Sting album, Ten Summoner’s Tales.

Soon after, online-transaction-based sales started to pop up like mushrooms after the rain.

Pizza Hut was the first to accept an online food order on the Internet (also in 1994). It was a large pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and extra cheese. In 1995, it was Amazon that started selling everything to everybody online. Then, companies like Dell and Cisco started using Internet in all of their transactions, and eBay first started online auctions.

Buying online had an astounding novelty element and, with its convenience and efficiency, it was just a matter of time until it completely reshaped the way people shop and trade. Offline went online. Online, however, also moved forward.

Today you won’t surprise anybody by enabling them to shop online. It’s seen as a given. If in 1994 ecommerce itself was a new opportunity, now, in 2017, retailers need to seek new untapped opportunities in ecommerce.

What are these opportunities and what are the emerging trends that ecommerce is quickly picking up on? Read on to find out.

 

1. Extended use of AI 

Unless you’ve been on a sabbatical somewhere deep in the South American jungle, you’ve probably heard about Artificial Intelligence, generally referred to as AI. Even though, intuitively, most people relate to it as something “robotic”, what AI really brings to the table is better human and user experiences across the web.

AI is making a splash in ecommerce now too, as its technologies really help to stand out from the crowd in the competitive online retail world. Due to its relatively high pricing, not many brands are harnessing the AI possibilities (yet). But when they do, customers notice.

Last year, The North Face launched an insanely smart AI-based solution to help you find the perfect jacket for whatever you’re doing — whether it’s skiing in Vail, hiking in Norway, or just staying warm at home. The idea was to provide a personal online shopper that understands exactly what the user is looking for.

“The issue is that online shopping over the past two decades has been about a grid of products on a white background,” explains Cal Bouchard, Senior Ecommerce Director at The North Face. “We wanted to take the conversation you might have with an associate in a store and see if we could put that as a service online: ‘Here’s what I need. Here’s what I want.’

 

the northface AI

 

If that’s what consumers want, then AI is what ecommerce needs. In the future, when technology will become more democratized, retail brands are predicted to use AI throughout the entire customer journey: for visual search, recommender systems (to exactly match users’ personal taste, shopping personalization, and even for virtual buying assistants that can be pre-set to purchase on a customer’s behalf if a beloved product goes on sale.

 

2. Advanced chatbots for making orders & customer service

 It was at the OMR conference in Hamburg last year that I first used a Facebook Messenger chatbot, trying to make an order at a Starbucks booth. I had a sweet little chat with the virtual Barista there, who asked me a few questions about my personal preferences — up to how many spoons of sugar I like in my cappuccino — and voila, within minutes I was enjoying a cup of warm arabica.

The cool thing about this whole process was that I got to skip the lines, make an order asap, and have my name spelled correctly on the cup (which is a big deal).

“The Starbucks experience is built on the personal connection between our barista and customers, so everything we do in our digital ecosystem must reflect that sensibility,” says Gerri Martin-Flickinger, CTO for Starbucks.

So my bottom line is: When it comes to placing orders, chatbots are the future — especially now that they’re advancing so rapidly.

This year, the world witnessed the release of a new customer service chatbot created for the Australian government to help people get information about disability services. The chatbot turned out to be frighteningly realistic:

Its name is Nadia. Nadia has a digital face, and she sees you through the webcam, recognizes your facial expressions and even simulates them back, creating the illusion of empathy. It’s like she’s a real person talking to you through Skype — so it’s just a matter of time until emotionally intelligent chatbots with 3D faces make their own presence in ecommerce.

 

3. VR shopping

Online shopping was created for one simple reason: efficiency.

People were tired of standing in lines. They were tired of not finding their size in stores, and generally, tired of wasting their precious time on commuting. And while ecommerce solved most of these problems, there’s still one big advantage that physical stores have over their online competitors: the experience of actually being there.

Unarguably, brick and mortar stores can simply offer more in terms of experience. There’s a reason why visiting a Dior store in Paris feels somehow bigger, almost event-like, than going through a grid-template presentation of clothes online.

To fill this missing experiential gap, brands have already started offering VR shopping opportunities to their customers — and the trend is expected to grow bigger in the near future.

Last year, Alibaba introduced virtual reality possibilities to their customers in China, who were able to browse and buy at the famous Macy’s store located on Times Square in New York. This way, the Chinese customers were able to get the full Macy’s experience while still being thousands of miles away from the actual store.

Efficiency redefined.

 

4. Same-day delivery & drone delivery

 Fast, instant, immediate, delivered today, or, even better, yesterday: that’s how customers want it done. And while some may argue that a matter of just a few days can’t possibly make too much of a difference, the reality proves the opposite.

According to a McKinsey study, about 50% of customers say that they’re willing to pay more for the luxury of getting their products faster. Today, same-day delivery accounts for less than 1% of all sales made, but in just a few years it’s predicted to be as high as 15%. And as a matter of fact, such a growth is faster than the whole ecommerce industry altogether (which grows ca. 11% annually).

So yes, same-day delivery is quickly becoming huge — not only because people appreciate the efficiency, but also because it combines the best of brick-and-mortar (aka getting products right here, right now) with the best of ecommerce (wider selection and lower prices). And that’s hard to say no to.

Last year, Amazon introduced the same-day delivery option to its Prime users.

This year, Jingdong, the Chinese online shopping giant, plans to fly a ton of deliveries with drones.

It’s becoming clear, then, that the key to succeeding in ecommerce is getting as close to instant shipping as possible.

 

Source: IBTimes

 

5. Shoppable content

Shoppable content has been attracting a great deal of attention lately, and it’s easy to see why.

Today’s consumers highly value instant (or almost instant) accessibility. They go by words like “instant gratification” and “split-second immediacy”, so for brands doing content marketing, it’s not enough to just write engaging stories with a call to action at the end. Why? Because while it admittedly grabs people’s attention, it’s still not able to satisfy them. There’s no actual, tangible outcome.

The use of APIs made it possible to open up an entirely new chapter in ecommerce, allowing content of any kind to be instantly shoppable. In a nutshell, the API technology builds a bridge between the online retail store and the content platform (e.g. blogs, magazines, landing pages, newsletters), and integrates products directly into content.

This way, a “normal” content piece transforms into a powerful sales channel, smoothly converting content consumers into product buyers. It’s a win-win situation for both customers and retailers.

 

6. Live streaming

When Facebook first introduced live streaming, it seemed that the world suddenly went crazy. We’ve all enjoyed watching Buzzfeed staff blow up a watermelon, the ‘Chewbacca Mom’ who couldn’t stop laughing at herself, or Dena Blizzard playing her self-invented Chardonnay Go game (arguably way more fun than catching pokemons, by the way).

So it was only a matter of time until brands and retailers decided to follow suit and start live streaming themselves.

According to Ad Age, several brands have already experimented with this new technology: car brand Chevrolet live streamed the launch of their new Bolt EV model on Facebook, and Kate Spade, the luxury retailer, broadcasted their NY Fashion Week show from the catwalk.

For most brands that have tried their hand at live streaming, the general appeal boils down to increasing brand awareness, engaging customers and building a stronger community.

But, with an extra bit of creativity, brands can also attempt to monetize live videos, too.

The above-mentioned Macy’s hosted a live streaming shopping tour in its NY store via Taobao Live Streaming venue, one of the most popular in China, which reportedly attracted 100,000 viewers and 880 comments. Macy’s also issued ecoupons during the live stream, which the viewers could later on use to purchase real products.

It is up to you, whether you decide to take the route of innovation and follow suit now — or do it later when everybody else is on it. What’s a sure fact is that the majority of brands aren’t stuck in 1994 anymore. They’re moving forward with the times.

So the question is: are you?

untapped opportunities in ecommerce

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Rapper Lil Wayne Sails Away From Miami Mansion for $10M

Lil Wayne may have had enough Miami vice.

The musician (real name: Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.) is offloading his Miami Beach mansion to a new owner for a cool $10 million dollars. The waterfront home sits on a tiny, exclusive island just minutes away from world-famous South Beach.

Wayne’s estate features sleek, modern architecture, expansive windows, and a private boat dock. Dual balconies provide views of Biscayne Bay, while the roof boasts a custom-built skate park.

But the real mic drop may be an indoor shark pool.

Yes, that’s right. An indoor shark pool:

Photos courtesy of Spectrum Real Estate.

There’s no word on whether the 6-bedroom main house comes with sharks included, but a 3-bedroom guesthouse boasts a private recording studio.

There’s an outdoor infinity pool to cool off in during those hot South Florida summers, and 15,000 square feet of interior living space.

Photos courtesy of Spectrum Real Estate.

In related news, sharks appear to be having a pop culture moment this summer, with a “floating screening” of  “JAWS” in Texas (viewers sit in innertubes while watching the movie), while “Sharknado 5” has a planned release in August.

Ty Forkner of Sotheby’s International Realty carried the listing. 

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Who left Dale Jr. star struck? Beyoncé and Jay Z did

Star-struck fans of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. might like to know it’s happened to him, too. Earnhardt was similarly wowed when he met Beyoncé and Jay Z in Monaco, … Click to Continue »

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Bigger Success. Less Content. [Webinar Recap]

In a recent webinar, author & keynote speaker Andrew Davis joined us to share his knowledge about growing your business and becoming more successful with less content.

We live in the age of information overload. There is more content created today than ever before. There are 17 new websites released every second. So, keep in mind that your customers are already overwhelmed. Be mindful of this when you think of your audience’s inbox.

So how do you become part of the information your audience wants to consume? Change your mindset. Treat your content like a product. Think of it as something you’ll brand, market, and invest in (over time). This mindset helps you create content that is so valuable that your audience would pay for it.

What comes after this? Creating a content brand. That’s different than branded content. Branded content is created for a company. A content brand is created for a valuable audience. A strong content brand will harness the power of subscription (like your newsletter) – so long as you provide value to your audience regularly. Why? Because subscriptions are reflections of relationships.

 

Content brands build relationships. Relationships build trust. Trust drives revenue.

 

Ask yourself, how can you harness the power of a subscription?  Break out of the marketing mindset, and instead think like an entertainment (TV) executive. Why? Because an entertainment executive thinks of the audience first, and the advertiser second. To build a content brand, you must think the same way. What audience do you want to attract, what content would add value to their lives, and finally, and finally, how does that content drive revenue?

To learn the four simple secrets to driving revenue with content, watch the video!

This webinar is for you if:

  • You want to build a relationship with your audience.
  • You want to focus your content marketing efforts on building the best content for your audience (not content for content’s sake).
  • You want to build a content brand for your business.

Watch the video today!

 

 

bigger success with less content

The post Bigger Success. Less Content. [Webinar Recap] appeared first on GetResponse Blog – Online Marketing Tips.

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7 Off-the-Grid Homes That Will Make You Want to Unplug

The chaos of modern life – with the constant stream of emails, multitude of devices and keeping pace with modern technology – can be exhausting. If you’ve ever thought about throwing away all your electronics, living sustainably or finally ditching life in the city, these seven off-the-grid homes may have just what you need.

Ambajejus Lake, ME

Moreair Is, Ambajejus Lake, ME
For sale: $389,600

Photo from Zillow listing.

Unplugging from smart phones and the internet wouldn’t be difficult at this ultra-private island property off Ambajejus Lake. In addition to the beautiful lake and Mount Katahdin views, it features two structures: one that is more insulated for winter stays, and a larger cabin that would be more comfortable during the summers. You can enjoy complete solitude with this property – your nearest neighbor would be approximately one mile away.

Find more homes near Lake Ambajejus.

Boise, ID

50 Yellow Pine Ln, Boise, ID
For sale: $725,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

This charming Idaho log cabin has floor-to-ceiling windows, a beautiful stone fireplace, a gourmet kitchen and a large bathroom with a clawfoot tub for soaking. The home comes with a large horse barn and complete-and-utter privacy on 40 acres of land. Hydro- and solar-powered, this home makes it very easy for you to enjoy a sustainable, off-the-grid lifestyle in the middle of the woods.

See more homes for sale in Boise.

Winthrop, WA

98 Sage Canyon Rd, Winthrop, MA
For sale: $497,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

This home, with views of the North Cascades National Park and Methow Valley, makes going off the grid look luxurious. The house is set on 97 acres, featuring protected meadows, wildflowers and a pine forest. Inside, the home boasts 3,600 square feet of custom craftsmanship, including a spiral staircase, large rec room and a spa-like master bathroom.

See more homes in Winthrop.

Sierraville, CA

804 Fiberboard Rd, Sierraville, CA
For sale: $988,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

With such close proximity to Lake Tahoe and Reno, NV, this home is the perfect getaway for those wishing to unplug. The interior of the home is rustic yet modern with a chef’s kitchen, two-story ceilings in the living area and a large stone fireplace. The property is perfect for snowmobiling in the winter and fishing in the summer, and even includes its own helipad.

Check out more homes for sale in Sierraville.

Albuquerque, NM

20 Canoncito Dr NE, Albuquerque, NM
For sale: $612,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Steps from the Piedra Lisa and La Luz trailheads, this solar-powered home is made for exploring the high desert. It was also designed to bring the outdoors in with large windows, a deck spanning the width of the house and a cozy window seat.

See more Rio Rancho listings.

Wolcott, VT

1858 Town Hill Rd, Wolcott, VT
For sale: $399,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Whether you’re craving a cozy spot to finally draft that novel, or you simply want to enjoy the privacy and tranquility of rural Vermont, this custom-built, modern home fits the bill. Completely self-sufficient with propane radiant-floor heat, it’s made for those harsh Northeastern winters. It also has an apple orchard and a permanent tree blind for a homeowner who wishes to hunt on the land.

Find more homes in Wolcott.

Black Mountain, NC

60 Bucks Walk, Black Mountain, NC
For sale: $949,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Sweeping mountain and forest views, a custom-crafted interior and a separate, spacious guest cottage are just a few of this home’s selling points. Though the home has the capability to be completely off the grid with solar paneling, a diesel generator and cistern water storage, you won’t be roughing it with an updated kitchen, tranquil bathrooms and a library.

See more Black Mountain homes for sale.

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Unbreakable: China doubles down on quantum internet

China has set a new distance record for photon entanglement, the foundation for a communications network secured by the code to end all codes.

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Darlington Raceway to honor Dale Earnhardt Sr. with Sept. 2 tribute event

Darlington Raceway will honor the late Dale Earnhardt and the 30th anniversary of his 1987 Bojangles’ Southern 500 win with a special tribute on Sept. 2, the track announced Tuesday. … Click to Continue »

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How to Measure Whether Your Content Marketing Strategy is Results-Driven

Content marketing, and a good content marketing strategy, are essential for success in today’s market. A good strategy is something which helps people plan for how they will bring new traffic and conversions to their online presence. Even such a seemingly simple thing as a blog post is a useful addition to a content marketing strategy — if it brings in leads.

Creative content agencies will encourage businesses to form a coherent strategy for content marketing because such a strategy, if successful, can mean that businesses can consider and try out other marketing strategies without suffering from any loss of revenue. Another reason having a strategy is being able to form a coherent brand, and perhaps also to find ways in which your marketing can teach your intended audience, as well as persuade them to become customers.

It is important to know that there is a visible difference between a content marketing strategy, and a content marketing plan. Where a content marketing strategy asks why, a content marketing plan asks how, so the strategy should come first. The strategy lays out all the details of why the business is creating content, who it is being created for, and why the potential customers should look to that business over others. In contrast, the marketing plan, according to top content marketers, should contain information which is more along the lines of what topics will be covered in the marketing itself, and what content the business will create, and so on.

 

How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy

A good content marketing strategy will help to show how the marketing itself will introduce people and potential customers to the business and what it values, as well as detailing how that will be addressed. There are no strict rules for what such a strategy should look like, but many creative content agencies cite the following five rules as good components of any strategy.

  1. Make the case for using content marketing: there are many forms of marketing – explain why the business chose content marketing over them.
  2. Explain what the content marketing itself will involve. What will the business achieve through content marketing, what they are going to provide through said content, and what the customers themselves need.
  3. Audience personas and content marketing maps: describe the audiences who the business is targeting, what values it is going to show through the marketing, and what the needs of its audience are.
  4. Brand story: what message does the business want to get across to its audience, and what values.
  5. Channel plan: what channels are the business going to use to spread their message? Will social media be involved?

 

Measure your content marketing strategy: goals to achieve

Results-driven strategy

The best content marketing agencies will make sure that the businesses they work with are clear about what they want out of their content marketing – what goals they have. A business knowing what they want to work towards in terms of the goals they want to achieve. Knowing what results they want in terms of content, channels, and audience at the very least makes it more likely that the strategy will be successful.

 

Failed strategy

Not every strategy is successful. Sometimes the audience has been misjudged, or sometimes they don’t respond as well to the brand which is being marketed to them as was previously thought. A failed strategy does not necessarily mean a complete failure, however. It simply means that whichever part of the process failed needs to be re-evaluated.

A strategy which is not fully thought out is one which is more likely to fail. Therefore, it is necessary to be absolutely sure of your goals when it comes to content marketing management.

 

The research done

Results-driven

Research which is driven by results is research that knows, in some form, what it wants. While knowing the exact results would negate the need for research, it is important to at least know some general points about the direction you want your research to take – what audience uses social media, for example, and what iteration of the company brand would be best received.

 

Failed strategy

Research can sometimes fail, through either the fault of the business, or the fault of inaccurate information. Sometimes a business does not always pay attention to the result of their research, leading them to make decisions which are not in their best interests. Sometimes the information itself is out of date, for various reasons. This can lead to a business taking certain marketing avenues, but not achieving the desired results due to having outdated information.

 

Types of content and channels

Results-driven

The type of content and the channels used can differ according to the audience which you seek. Good research will help sort out which channels and what content is best. For example, social media is better for a younger audience, while blogs and traditional websites are good for older audiences. Social media relies on smaller pieces of content than do blogs, and so on.

 

Failed

Failed strategies in this, again, revolve around a lack of research. A good example would be the use of social media; bad research would lead businesses to use social media to reach an audience which has no use for social media. The content marketing would fail, as it would have no way of reaching the intended target audience.

 

Tracking

Results-driven

Tracking results during the content marketing process is vital for a good company. The best content marketing agencies will all recommend it, as businesses can track how the marketing is faring by using it, and so keep a better eye on what is happening.

 

Failed

Failed strategy in this area can come about either through a failure to track anything in the marketing campaign, or a failure to do anything about the information being tracked. If a business knows that one area of marketing is not successful, then leaving it as-is is a failure.

 

Updating and Experiments

Results-driven

This naturally follows on from tracking – having a content marketing strategy allows you to explore new ideas which might act as good follow-ons from what is currently happening.

 

Failed

Running experiments with no clear idea of what works and what doesn’t in a marketing campaign. Not knowing what is working in a particular campaign means that any experiments lack support in that area, and are more likely to fail.

 

Conclusion

The top content marketing companies will tell businesses that having a coherent content marketing strategy, one which covers the five stages of planning, implementing, measuring, analyzing, and improving is imperative for success. Following these five stages will allow for the creation of a strategy which is likely to succeed.

results driven content marketing

The post How to Measure Whether Your Content Marketing Strategy is Results-Driven appeared first on GetResponse Blog – Online Marketing Tips.

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Mortgage Rates Start Summer Near 2017 Lows … Will It Hold?

This month the Federal Reserve hiked rates for the third time in seven months. Does this mean the end of low mortgage rates? Let’s take a closer look to see how it impacts your home-buying and refinancing plans.

What is a Fed rate hike, anyway?

The Fed Funds Rate is an overnight bank-to-bank lending rate. While this rate isn’t available to consumers, the Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) uses it to help influence overall rate levels in the economy.

When times are tough, the Fed lowers the Fed Funds Rate to stimulate the economy. In the heat of the 2008 financial crisis, it cut the Fed Funds Rate all they way down to .25 percent, and kept it there until December 2015, when it felt the  economic recovery had solidified.

Then it started hiking in increments of .25 percent, and have done so four times: December 2015, December 2016, March 2017, and June 2017.

Even though the Fed Funds Rate has now risen to 1.25 percent, traditional mortgage rates haven’t risen much – and, in fact, are near 2017 lows as summer kicks off.

Certain mortgages are already up 1%

When we say “traditional mortgage rates” are holding near 2017 lows, we mean rates on primary mortgages that most people get on their homes.

However, one mortgage product that’s directly impacted by these Fed hikes is the Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).

HELOC rates are based on two components: a set base rate called a “margin,” plus a fluctuating rate called an “index.”

The index for HELOCs is the Prime Rate, which is a rate that is directly tied to Fed Funds. In fact, the Prime Rate is the Fed Funds Rate plus 3 percent.

We know that the Fed Funds Rate is now 1.25 percent after recent hikes. This means that the Prime Rate is now 4.25 percent.

Therefore anyone with a HELOC now has a rate of 4.25 percent plus whatever their margin is. Margins are typically somewhere between zero and three percent in addition to Prime, and your margin is based on your credit quality and how much or little you’re borrowing relative to the price of your home.

HELOC rates rising 1 percent because of recent with Fed hikes means that your monthly interest cost on a $100,000 HELOC is now $83 more per month.

If have or need a HELOC to get cash out of your home but don’t want to risk your rate rising further, here’s how to evaluate the difference between a HELOC, home equity loan, and a cash out mortgage.

Traditional mortgages are holding at 2017 lows

The reason rates on primary mortgages most people get haven’t spiked like HELOC rates is because primary mortgage rates are tied to trading in mortgage bonds, not the Fed Funds Rate.

Most U.S. mortgage loans up to $424,100 are packaged into mortgage bonds, and these bonds trade daily in global markets. Mortgage rates fall when prices of these bonds rise on economic uncertainty, and vice versa.

Rates have been holding near 2017 lows as demand for mortgage bonds remains strong. The reason for this demand is that these bonds are considered a safe investment when policy initiatives in Washington and global economic growth looks uncertain (like it does now).

Where do mortgage rates go from here?

Thirty-year fixed mortgage rates on loans up to $424,100 are currently at or just below 4 percent as of  this writing – please note mortgage rates change throughout each day.

The Mortgage Bankers Association updates its rate forecasts monthly, and the June forecast calls for rates to rise very slightly – about .125 percent to .25 percent – from current levels as we move through the summer. And they call for rates to be around 4.375 percent as we move into the holidays.

These projections can change monthly as the economic and political environment evolves in the U.S. and globally, but for now you can see that rates might rise by about .375 percent by year end.

On a $300,000 loan, this would mean your payment rising by $66.

Not that $66 is small, but in the context of the global rate market, this is a relatively small increase that shouldn’t fundamentally alter how much home many people qualify for.

Looking for more information about mortgages? Check out our Mortgage Learning Center.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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