Tag Archives: digital marketing

The EU VAT Directive For Digital Products Begins Tomorrow!

Hello everyone! My sincere apologies for not updating the Digital Marketing Times blog more in 2014.  This was due to a number of circumstances, including business-related and personal/family reasons.  I intend to write much more on this blog in 2015, so please stay tuned and check in regularly, as there will be more digital marketing information you can use right here.

Before I begin, I want to wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015!

The information I want to discuss today relates to the EU VAT directive that will take effect beginning tomorrow, January 1, 2015.  Essentially, all marketers who sell digital products are required to collect VAT based on the purchaser’s location.  This is where a myriad of problems come in, especially for those that are small- to medium-sized businesses, as a lot of expensive administrative costs and extra paperwork is required to be in compliance.

A good summary of all of those issues can be found here:

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer; thus, the information I present here is NOT to be taken as legal advice.  Thus, I am NOT responsible for any information presented here that you choose to use in your business.  Please consult a qualified attorney and/or accountant for legal advice regarding the EU VAT and your particular situation.

I’ve learned from a reliable source (who lives in the EU) that each EU member state must create a national law, pass it in their respective Parliaments, then apply those laws in their respective countries in order to make the EU VAT executable.  As you can imagine, that will take time.

Now, the question remains whether those national laws, once they are passed, can retroactively apply the EU VAT directive back to January 1, 2015, the first day the EU VAT directive is to take effect.  That is anyone’s guess, but for the EU countries to actively enforce that directive, they must pass their own national laws first.  That has not happened yet, and it will be a period of time before they do.

Suffice it to say, though, if you do sell digital products, you need to be aware of this law and take steps to be in compliance for if/when the respective EU countries pass their national laws to enact the EU VAT directive, especially if those laws do retroactively enforce that directive from January 1, 2015. (In other words, you need to be preparing for this NOW if you haven’t already).

Thus, what can you do if you sell digital products from your website(s)?

Well, if you don’t utilize a third-party processor like ClickBank (and I’ve heard that JVZoo and Zaxaa are working on complying as well) to take care of the VAT (and there are problems with this approach as well, which you can read more about at the link above), you’d have to register your business in each EU member state to which you sell, as each EU member state has different VAT rates (there are reportedly around 75 different rates!).

Plus, “digitally-delivered service” is defined differently in different EU countries; some countries will see sales of ebooks and digitally-delivered programs as being subject to VAT, while other countries will only see the sales of ebooks as being subject to VAT.  Thus, it is virtually impossible to satisfy the requirement due to the fact that digital marketers don’t usually get the required data needed to determine the purchaser’s place of origin until AFTER he/she has clicked the “Buy Now” button.

Thus, unless a third-party processor or a website plug-in can calculate the appropriate VAT after the purchaser has input his/her info, it’s virtually impossible for a digital marketer to apply the correct VAT for each purchase.  And, as I said, there are around 75 different VAT rates that can apply, depending upon the specific country and purchase.

Thus, you can see some of the issues that this EU VAT directive is causing for digital marketers, which is why many are calling it the “VATMESS,” even creating the hashtag #VATMESS on Twitter.

In my opinion, (again, not to be taken as legal advice), the best course of action would be the following:

1. Stay tuned to this developing issue- check back here regularly, as I’ll keep tabs on this issue.  The link above is also a good blog to check out.

2. Contact your attorney and/or accountant to learn how you can be in compliance with the EU VAT directive.  Do this NOW rather than later; even though there are no national laws in place (to my knowledge) to enforce the EU VAT directive, it’s possible they could retroactively apply the respective national law back to January 1, 2015 if/when the national laws are created and enacted.

3. Do NOT go the route that some digital marketers are considering: Not selling to EU members.  While this may seem like a reasonable alternative to avoid the legal issues and administrative headaches and paperwork that will accompany selling digital products to EU members, you would be in violation of discrimination laws for willfully not selling to EU members, creating a different type of (and equally large) legal issue for your business.

Essentially, you cannot just ignore this and hope it goes away.  While, as the link above indicates, EU government officials are beginning to realize the strain and cost the new EU VAT directive will put on digital businesses, especially those that are smaller- and medium-sized, the directive is likely NOT going away.  Instead, there will probably be some modifications that will be made to help make it easier for these businesses to be in compliance, but the businesses will still have to obtain the VAT, whether it’s through their own efforts and/or through a third-party processor.

In fact, the directive could potentially apply to physical products beginning in 2016 (as stated at the link above), which makes it even more vital that your business (especially if it also sells physical products in addition to digital products) stays informed and gets into compliance with VAT now.

As they say, “knowledge is power.” Stay in the know and stay tuned to this blog and to the link above for further details on the EU VAT directive – only by staying updated and taking action can ensure your business is in compliance with the new directive and can be profitable in 2015 and beyond.

 

Amazon Prime Is A Marketing Problem, Not A Value Problem

Much talk has been made over Amazon’s decision to raise its Amazon Prime program cost to $99 per year, up from $79 per year.  It’s the first time in the program’s nine-year history that the price was raised.  This comes shortly after Amazon raised the rates in countries throughout Europe.  Combine that with the fact that Amazon has only made a relatively marginal profit and is a publicly traded company, and it’s not that surprising that Amazon would raise the rate of Amazon Prime.

In fact, there were rumors that Amazon might raise the price to $119 per year, even up to $139 per year, so the fact that the price only went up $20 per year is actually small.

However, there are many people complaining about the price increase, enough so where they are reportedly considering dropping their Amazon Prime subscription before the next renewal.  At last check on this DealNews poll, there were 200 more votes to end their Prime subscriptions before renewal, about 58% willing to end it versus a 42% willing to keep it (essentially around 4 in 7 people willing to end it versus 3 in 7 people willing to keep it despite the rate increase).

Some are wondering if people are still getting enough value from their Amazon Prime subscription to justify the increased cost.  Well, let’s consider what you get:

– You get free 2-day shipping on nearly every items fulfill by Amazon, even if you don’t spend the minimum $35 as non-members must do.

– You get to borrow one free book each month (though you need an actual Kindle device; Kindle mobile apps or desktop applications do not quality for this benefit).

– You get access to Amazon Instant Video, including many free television episodes and series, movies, and more.

Those benefits alone give you more than what other subscription-rate video-only providers give you, such as Netflix or Hulu Plus, thanks to the countless number of items you can shop for online.

In addition, Amazon plans to release a new streaming radio service for Amazon Prime members in early April, thus entering the free online streaming industry alongside competitors such as Pandora, Spotify, Google Now, and iTunes Radio.  Thus, even more value will be provided to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Thus, I think it’s safe to say that the value of Amazon Prime is as high as ever, and soon to be even higher.  Why, then, are many people complaining and even considering ending their subscriptions to Amazon Prime?

In my opinion, it has to do with Amazon’s marketing.  How many times have you heard the magic number of “$99”?  Probably too many times – every time you think of Amazon or Amazon Prime, I’m sure that number has popped into your head, along with the soon-to-be old rate of $79.

This $99 is what people keep focusing on, and, thus, have overlooked what that number actually is.  That $99 is a yearly rate, not a monthly rate, and this is a point that Amazon has failed to remind people of.  In fact, to my knowledge, they haven’t even compared their service to Netflix’s.

Remember that Netflix offered their streaming online movie and television service for $6.95 per month, then it went up to its current $7.95 per month.  Not too many make mention of the $7.95 per month cost now. (Many subscribers and investors DID complain about the fact that Netflix raised the cost 60% to offer both DVDs and streaming to customers after they originally offered the two together for $9.99/month, plus the fact Netflix didn’t offer a discount for bundling the two together).

The $7.95/month cost, when multiplied by 12 months per year, comes out to an annual cost of $95.40/year, less than $4 cheaper than the new Amazon Prime rate.  As mentioned above, value isn’t the problem with Amazon Prime – it still offers way more than Netflix for that $99/year.  However, Amazon has failed to emphasize this in their marketing.

One of the main keys to marketing is pricing, and presenting that pricing so that it represents the most value.  This is usually shown by breaking a price down to its lowest unit cost.  You see this exhibited by many companies; one common example is life insurance companies breaking down life insurance to cost per day.  I’m sure you’ve seen Alex Trebek talking about Colonial Penn’s life insurance coverage costing “less than $.35/day; that’s less than the cost of a daily newspaper.”

When higher-cost items are broken down into smaller units, they are much more palatable to the budget-conscious consumer.  When you keep prices at higher units, especially ones pushing $100 like the new Amazon Prime rate, it’s going to be naturally oppressive to people because most people consider $100 to be sizable money.  However, if that cost was broken down by month or even day, it would be much more palatable to most and likely would quell much of the anger and dissension that has gone through the Amazon Prime subscriber base.  The yearly cost of $99 broken down by month comes out to be $8.25/month, $0.275/day (less than the cost of Colonial Penn’s life insurance daily rate, in fact).

This would especially be true if Amazon was comparing that monthly cost to a comparable service like Netflix or Hulu Plus, both of which do not do anything in regards to carrying a large inventory of items and shipping them to the consumer.  This would reemphasize the value subscribers are getting with Amazon Prime, and for most, would justify the higher rate increase.

Due to the fact that Amazon has failed to do this, everyone is fixated on the $99/year cost.  Certainly, the one-time payment of $99 can be a sizable amount for many, but when you consider that it’s a yearly cost and the fact that most households easily pay that much and more per month for their cable and Internet subscription packages, their groceries, their clothing, their utilities, their car insurance, their home insurance, and other essentials and non-essentials (cable and Internet, while important, isn’t exactly an essential package like food and shelter), you can see that the Amazon Prime rate increase isn’t that substantial for the value a subscriber gets.

Yet, Amazon is letting the public run wild with the $99/year price increase as being the “end of the world” and a good reason to end their subscriptions to Amazon Prime, even if they’ve been loyal subscribers for years.  This is another example of where the power of social media and online communication via the Internet must be monitored and responded to right away, as Amazon really hasn’t combatted this pervading viewpoint that the price increase is unreasonable.

As mentioned above, it was inevitable that the price increase would happen; after all, Amazon makes a marginal (in relative terms) profit compared to most companies, especially those that are publicly traded on a stock exchange.  Of course, investors will get antsy over rising costs and slim profits, so Amazon had to take some step to increase their revenues.  Besides the fact they raised the minimum purchase price for free shipping to $35 from $25, they’re raising the price of Amazon Prime to $99 from $79.

Again, though, it’s a relatively minor increase compared to what was originally proposed, not to mention it’s a one-time yearly fee, not a twelve-time monthly fee.  Most people pay far more per month for food, clothing, car insurance, health insurance, cable and Internet TV subscription bundles, etc.  Yet, most of those people aren’t complaining to the extent that they are about the Amazon Prime price increase, and that’s because of how those services are marketed as compared to Amazon’s marketing of Prime.

For Amazon to quell this anger and dissension amongst the Amazon Prime subscriber base, they need to do two things:

1. Break the yearly price down by month, even by day (as I did above), and emphasize that in their marketing.

2. Reemphasize all of the value subscribers will continue to receive, including the new music service that is scheduled to come online next month.

The first item has been non-existent, while the second item has been haphazardly done at best.  I really think that by emphasizing these two points, Amazon can help to quell the concerns and anger coming from much of the Amazon Prime subscriber base and keep many of them from fleeing.  If too many of them leave, this could start a bad cycle, as Amazon’s profits will suffer, scaring investors further and making Amazon consider more price increases in the near future, which will only make subscribers even angrier and giving them more impetus to unsubscribe from Amazon Prime.  It will be interesting to see the numbers of how many Amazon Prime subscribers stay and how many go as the new rate increase kicks in.

What do you think of Amazon’s rate increase of Prime? Reasonable? Unreasonable? Are you a subscriber to Amazon Prime? If so, do you plan on keeping your subscription or dropping it? Why? Feel free to answer any or all of the questions in the comments box below.

Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry – Part 4 (Other Competitors & Challenges)

This is Part 4 of the 5-Part Series, “Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry” – Other Competitors and Challenges.

To read Part 1 (Google)

To read Part 2 (Samsung)

To read Part 3 (Amazon)

As has been discussed in the three posts above, Apple is facing stiffer competition on many different technological fronts from companies such as Google, Samsung, and Amazon.  This is especially true when it comes to the smartphone and tablet market, where Apple made waves years ago with the original iPhone and iPad.

The problem is that Apple hasn’t been very innovative since that point.  Yes, they’ve updated the iPhone and iPad numerous times, some revisions with nice enhancements (such as the iPad 2), but the revisions of late have been of the “ho-hum” variety, which hasn’t impressed customers or investors.  In fact, I know more Apple fans often wait a version or two to upgrade, knowing some who are still on iPhone 4s who haven’t upgraded to the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s (or 5c).  In the past, it was quite common for Apple fans who would go grab every new version, but with the prices and the constant “rebooting” of the iPhone every year, but few notable upgrades, most Apple fans think they can wait a version or two before upgrading.  This is another notable shift in how people are viewing Apple.

Many people, including noted CNBC commentator Jim Cramer, think that Apple must be more innovative – this is because the technology field has become much more competitive and that the main rivals for Apple have caught up and even surpassed them in technology, as I’ve noted in earlier posts of this series.

Some are excited by the fact that Apple is purported to be introducing a new smartwatch this year, a type of watch that can be programmed in order to answer calls on your smartphone, hold those calls, surf the Internet, and more.  While it’s certainly different for Apple to be doing that, what some might even call “innovative,” personally, I think it will take much more than that for Apple to really regain some momentum in the tech industry.

“Why?” you ask.

Well, for starters, Apple was rumored to be releasing a smartwatch last year, but that obviously didn’t happen.  In the past, that might have been acceptable, but as I said above, the competition has become much better at matching and outdoing Apple in technology.  Samsung already released the “Galaxy Gear,” a type of smartwatch that works with their Samsung smartphones (though it’s purported to work with other Android phones as well).  Now, the “Galaxy Gear” didn’t come out to the most favorable reviews, which is why Samsung plans to release a second version of the “Galaxy Gear” in 2014.  Early indications seem to suggest that Samsung may release that second version before Apple even releases its initial smartwatch.  This certainly doesn’t help Apple’s image of being an innovator of technology when one of its main rivals will likely come out with a second version before Apple even comes out with a first.

However, the bigger problem for Apple in the growing smartwatch industry is not so much Samsung, but by a relatively new company that came out with a smartwatch that has received rave reviews: Pebble.  Pebble Technology developed this smartwatch thanks to the help of the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, and began shipping the Pebble Smartwatch in January 2013, over a year ago.  This competitor is not going away anytime soon; besides the fact that most would consider it the leader in the smartwatch industry, apps are being developed for it.  In fact, it can communicate with both Apple and Android phones via many different third-party apps.

Thus, Apple (and Samsung, for that matter) has its work cut out for it.  Therefore, I don’t think releasing a smartwatch, no matter how favorable the reviews are, is really going to give the company the impetus of being the tech leader again.  Certainly, it may raise its standing a bit, could even boost the valuation of the company for a short period of time, but as for that “grand slam” that’s going to put it back out in front of the competition, that’s highly unlikely.  At best, it may put itself up there with Pebble and show that it, too, can come up with a solid smartwatch on its first try (something Samsung largely was unable to do), but as for being out in front in the smartwatch industry, that honor has to go to the rising upstart, Pebble.

Other avenues for Apple seem to have a bit more promise for the company in terms of it being considered an innovator again.  Two, in particular, come to mind: Its “iBeacon” technology, and rumors of entering the health-monitoring industry.  The latter is pretty interesting, and we’ll explore this in Part 5.  I bring up the former here because, while it is interesting in its own right, there’s one hurdle that could torpedo much of the momentum from such a technology.

The “iBeacon” technology is one of the technologies that retailers hope to use to learn more about their customer while in-store, and then use that information to provide relevant ads and offers on their mobile devices (usually smartphones) while they’re in certain areas of the store.  So, for instance, if you’re in a Target store near the clothing area, you may get a special offer for a new pair of jeans.  If you’re in a local grocery store and you’re nearing the frozen food section, you might get a special offer for Van de Kamp fish sticks, etc.  Essentially, it relies on push notifications when a person is in a specific area of a store. It runs on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also known as Bluetooth Smart.  Certainly, this technology shows a lot of promise for retailers to provide real-time marketing offers to their customers while they are in-store.  And, to my knowledge, Apple is the first one to offer such a technology.

The problem that I think will torpedo much of the momentum from this technology was highlighted in this Mobile Marketer article from February 11.  There is an upcoming Federal Trade Commission workshop on geolocation to address such technologies as the iBeacon, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and others that can track customers while in-store in an effort to learn more about what areas of the store they visit and stay in most often and provide relevant offers based on what’s near-by to them.

The problem comes in where some privacy advocacy groups are claiming that too much information is being revealed because of this technology.  One privacy advocacy group even claims that some marketers are even tracking in-store users in order to make stocking decisions based on income and/or race.  If true, obviously, this will cause the FTC to “raise an eyebrow” and greatly hinder the information that retailers can gather from this technology, thus negating much of the benefits retailers can get from it, and torpedoing much of the benefits for Apple.

Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA certainly did not help Apple when it came to the iBeacon.  Nor did the recent revelation that Nordstrom was tracking its customers’ every movement (without their knowledge) when they used the company’s Wi-Fi in-store networks.  Nordstrom immediately stopped that practice when it was revealed, thus putting an onus on the collection of too much data.

Thus, it would seem likely that the information the iBeacon system can collect will be limited in scope.  While it may still help retailers to some extent, the chances of that information being regulated is likely, and this will limit how much positive benefit Apple will receive from such a technology.  Whereas the iBeacon could have been a saving grace for Apple in terms of it regaining much of its former “tech leader” status, the fact that the technology will likely be limited and regulated due to privacy concerns and even racial/ethnic issues, the iBeacon technology will likely only benefit Apple slightly in terms of innovation and ingenuity.

So, again, Apple’s best efforts will likely not provide the “grand slam” it really needs to get back out in front of its competitors in the tech industry.  Can Apple even get back out in front of them?  And, if they can, what would do it?  These questions we will explore in the fifth and final part of this series, “Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry.”  That post will appear early next week – keep an eye out for it.

“Apple’s Gotten Rotten In Tech” Series Will Continue This Week

I hope all of you are well!

My apologies for not continuing the “Apple’s Gotten Rotten In Tech” series last week – I had some business to attend to that couldn’t wait.  However, I have learned more interesting things about Apple just over the last week where the wait will hopefully be worth it.

To refresh your memory, here is Part 1 (Google) and Part 2 (Samsung).

In fact, I am planning on making this at least a five-part series (for now – I may revisit this topic periodically over time).

As mentioned before,

Part 3 will be how Amazon has made life harder for Apple.

Part 4 will be how Apple’s efforts have fallen short in regards to the increasing tech competition.

Part 5 will be a continuation of Part 4, since there is a lot of information to cover, including some new information I have learned just over the last week.

Tentatively, I will attempt to post Part 3 either Wednesday or Thursday of this week, Part 4 either Thursday or Friday of this week, and Part 5 Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Therefore, I hope you’ll keep an eye out for this continuing series; again, I apologize for the delay and hope the wait is worth it.

3 Reasons Why Real-Time Marketing Is Anything But A Slam Dunk (In The Milk)

As we’ve arrived at Super Bowl Sunday, there is much talk about the ads (as usual), including how there will be more ads with hashtags than with website URLs, as discussed by AdWeek.  There is also much talk about real-time marketing.  You may be wondering, “What is real-time marketing?”

Real-time marketing is marketing that is essentially done at the “right time, right place, and to the right audience.”  In essence, the marketing takes into account events that are happening at that moment, thus leading to the “real-time” moniker.  The perfect example was last year’s Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens and the clever ad Oreo did.

As you’ll likely recall, there was a power outage in the third quarter, putting a halt on the game for 34 minutes, though it felt like an eternity to most fans and probably the players and coaches as well.  Oreo was able to utilize that power outage to put up this clever ad, “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark.”  It was real-time marketing at its finest because it took advantage of the situation where fans, players, and coaches had to stop everything because of the darkness caused by the power outage.

As everyone knew what Oreo was referring to by “in the dark,” Oreo got rave reviews for being ready and able to act.  Due to their success, many companies are looking to hit it big with real-time marketing this year.

However, that will be anything but a slam dunk in the milk (pardon the Oreo pun), even with many companies employing NFL-Draft-like “war rooms” to monitor the game for any opportunity.  There are three main reasons why it will be much harder to pull off as great a feat as Oreo did last year:

1. The event must be big enough to create that moment.

For real-time marketing to be effective, that moment has to be big enough to really create a moment that can be captured in an ad.  Obviously, having a rare power outage at one of the biggest sporting venues in the United States qualifies.  Certainly, it would seem unlikely that such an event like that would occur again.  Smaller events won’t provide the same impact, never mind the fact that people must notice these events in order for the ads to be effective.  There will likely be few opportunities for such a large event to take place that people actually notice.

2. The event must last long enough to create that moment.

Another factor in Oreo’s success was the fact that the power outage lasted 34 minutes and really put a halt to the game, which viewers clearly noticed.  That gave Oreo enough time to react and the stage for people to notice the ad.  This is another reason why it will be much harder for companies to have as successful real-time marketing as Oreo did last year.  There will likely be few opportunities that last long enough to have enough impact to make an ad for.

3. Virtually, every company is trying to capture the moment.

With Oreo’s success last year, now, every company is trying to duplicate that success.  As a result, virtually every company is employing their employees, hiring ad agencies, and even hiring celebrities to watch the game and tweet during it.  Thus, it will be quite difficult for any one real-time marketing ad to have the power that Oreo did last year because, there will likely be few opportunities for such an ad to take place, and it’s quite possible that more than one company will target the same moment, thus limiting the amount of impact that one company will get from that moment.

This doesn’t mean that companies can’t benefit from real-time marketing opportunities during the Super Bowl and other big-time events (such as the Sochi Olympics that begin later this week), but they shouldn’t expect the same impact that Oreo got last year.  Oreo was the trendsetter, and in some ways, made it look easy.  Now, however, everyone is involved, which means that real-time marketing for the Super Bowl and other big-time events will be anything but a slam dunk (in the milk).

Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry (Part 2: Samsung)

Editor’s Note: Barring a schedule change, Parts 3 (Amazon) and 4 (Apple itself) of this series will appear on this blog next week.

Today, we will take a look at how Samsung has done damage to Apple’s image as the tech leader. You can see how Google has done damage to Apple via Part 1 of this series.

Samsung has been one of the most prominent manufacturers of smartphones and tablets when it comes to the Android operating system.  Samsung has created the Galaxy S series of smartphones to rival Apple’s iPhones.  The Galaxy S3 and S4 smartphones have received strong reviews, though some were disappointed that the S4 didn’t do more to upgrade on the S3’s impressive features.

However, Samsung’s technology has greatly caught up with the iPhone, and in some ways, has surpassed it.  For instance, Samsung includes a 13-megapixel camera with its smartphone, whereas Apple’s iPhone 5s’s camera only has an 8-megapixel camera (just as the iPhone 4s and 5 have), just as the Galaxy S3 does.  Samsung has jumped ahead of Apple in this regard, likely because more and more people are taking pictures with their smartphones, even more so than using them for voice calling.

There’s more features that show that Samsung has overtaken Apple as an innovative of technology.  The Galaxy S4 has two other impressive features that overshadow the iPhone 5s’s technology.  One is the size of the screen: The Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch screen, whereas the iPhone 5s (like its immediate predecessors) only has a 4-inch screen.  Even more than that, the Galaxy S4 introduced the ability to control the touchscreen via the user’s eyes or hand gestures, known as “Air View” and “Air Gesture,” respectively.  Thus, it’s not even necessary to touch the touchscreen in order to control the on-screen display, something that iPhones don’t have at this point.  It’s important to point out that the S4 was released on March 13, 2013, whereas Apple released the iPhone 5s on September 20, 2013, six months later!

Samsung has another line of smartphones that is also doing damage to Apple’s reputation as the tech leader.  The Galaxy Note series is one of the most prominent types of smartphones that is commonly referred to as the “phablet” class.  This name is a combination of “phone” and “tablet,” largely due in part to the size of the screen and the ability of that screen to accept motions from a stylus (a type of electronic pen).  Whereas most smartphones have screen under 5 inches in diameter, the Galaxy Note has consistently been over 5 inches, with the latest version, the Note 3, coming in at a large 5.7 inches. The Galaxy Note 3 was released in September/October 2013, about the same time as the iPhone 5s.

While Apple got rave reviews for its Retina display, it falls short of the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 in terms of pixels, as the iPhone 5s only has 1136-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi, while the S4 has 1920 x 1080 Pixel, 441 ppi and the Note 3 also has 1920 x 1080 Pixel display.

Plus, Samsung’s phones provide the user with the ability of replacing the batteries (whereas Apple’s aren’t removable without service support from Apple technicians), batteries that provide even more talk time than Apple’s iPhones.   Surf times are about the same for both companies, though Apple does win out in LTE with 10 hours versus Samsung’s 8 hours.

In fact, Apple is falling behind in the smartphone industry in terms of popularity, as reported by Mashable.  While Apple did increase the number of iPhones it sold by 13% in 2013, Samsung increased the number of smartphone sales by 43%.  The overall smartphone market grew by 38.4%, thus showing that Apple’s demand is slowing down compared to its competitors, largely because it is not seen as “cool” or “innovative” compared to its competition.

In fact, Apple is following in the footsteps of Samsung in the following regard.  Reports are surfacing that the iPhone 6 will have a 5-inch screen, the first iPhone to have greater than a 4-inch display.  As mentioned above, Samsung has already achieved 5+” status with both its S4 and its Galaxy Note 2 and 3 “phablet” phones.  Again, Apple is not being innovative enough to keep up with the “Joneses,” and is now starting to follow them, further showing why many investors and analysts are looking down upon the stock, which is currently under $500 as I write this post.

One other area where Samsung has outmaneuvered Apple is in the “wearable tech” industry.  Many people have talked about “smartwatches,” which is a watch device that allows you to receive notifications that your smartphone is receiving a call, as well as enabling you to accept that call.  You can also adjust various settings on your phone via this device, as well as surf directly on the device via its roughly 1.5″-2.0″ screen.

Samsung has already released the “Galaxy Gear” to combat the industry leader in the field (no, not Apple, but Pebble, a company I’ll discuss more in Part 4 of this series).  This was released on September 4, 2013.  The reviews on the Galaxy Gear were less than favorable by many, especially to Pebble’s smartwatch, but the fact that Samsung has already dived into the wearable tech industry shows that Samsung is more in tune with the development and speed of the technological industry than Apple.  In fact, word has it that Samsung is about to release the “Galaxy Gear 2,” an updated version of its smartwatch, to go with its new Samsung Galaxy S5 (and potentially other Samsung smartphones).  No date has been mentioned of when these two devices will be available, but probably a safe bet that they will appear sometime in 2014.

Apple had excelled in the development and speed of the technological industry when it released the iPhone and iPad, but it has failed to maintain that standard.  There are continuing rumors that it will release an iWatch in 2014, but at this rate, it might be after Samsung releases its second smartwatch.  Apple is using 64-bit processor technology in its iPhone 5s, whereas it seems that Samsung will stick with 32-bit technology in its new S5 smartphone, so that is one area where Apple is leading in technological innovation, but those moments have been few and far between for Apple over the last few years.

In Part 3 of this series, we’ll look at how Amazon is outmaneuvering Apple in the tech industry.  Watch for that. In the meantime, let me know via the comments below if you are a Samsung or Apple user, if you have used one and switched to the other, and what you like/don’t like about either Samsung or Apple.  Also, let me know if you think Apple’s best days are behind it or if there are brighter times ahead for the tech giant, and why you think or don’t think so.  Thank you for reading, and have a great day.

Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry (Part 1: Google)

You may be asking yourself, “What’s wrong with Apple?”  If you’ve been following the stock market, you’ll have heard a lot of commentary on what’s wrong with Apple and why its stock price is now barely over $500.  It dropped 8% yesterday, and it has fallen about another .25% or so in pre-market trading today.  Recall that this was the stock in 2012 that hit $700 and had analysts questioning whether it would hit $1,000, long before Google ever would.

Of course, we know that Google is well over $1,000 (it’s actually over $1,100), and it has been over the $1,000 mark since about the midway point of 2013.  And, in addition to the stock market, Google is one of the key reasons why Apple has gotten rotten when it comes to the tech industry, and has done it in two main ways.

1. Google’s Android operating system, the main operating system competitor to Apple’s iOS operating system.

2. Google’s Nexus line of products, including the Nexus 4, 5, 7, and 10.

Regarding the Android operating system, it’s on virtually every major phone and tablet that doesn’t run iOS, Windows, or Blackberry (the latter two are bit players in the mobile industry, with BlackBerry teetering on the point of collapse, while Windows hasn’t gained enough traction to put a real dent in either Android or iOS).  That means that Android is on virtually every smartphone and tablet made by the following companies:

– Google (co-created the Nexus 10 tablet with Samsung)

– Samsung (besides its own line of phones and tablets, also co-created the Nexus 10 tablet with Google)

– LG (in addition to its own line of phones and tablets, it was also the manufacturer of Google’s Nexus 4 and 5 smartphones)

– HTC

– Asus (manufacturer of Google’s Nexus 7 tablets – both versions)

– Etc.

In fact, Android has 81.3% of the global smartphone market, far more than Apple.  In most markets, Android smartphones make up over 50% of sales in those markets.  Yes, that includes the U.S. as well.  Apple still gets plenty of fanfare in the U.S., especially when they release a new version of the iPhone or iPad, but it’s far from the only game in town anymore when it comes to quality smartphones and tablets.

As for tablets, in Q2 2013, Android tablets doubled the pace of Apple tablets, as reported by Mashable.  In Q2 2012, the two operating systems were about 50/50, but in Q2 2013, it was Android with 67% of the tablet market, versus 28.3% of the tablet market for Apple.

Thus, Google has been pulling ahead in both smartphones and tablets for quite some time; this is NOT a recent phenomenon.

In addition, Google’s Nexus series has been turning the tide for the Android operating system against the iPhone.  The Nexus 4 came out to very solid reviews (the only real knocks were the lack of LTE and a relatively average camera), and the Nexus 5 (having LTE and a better camera) is coming out to even better reviews.  Even some Apple fans on various retail sites have said that they’d either consider replacing their iPhone with a Nexus phone, or have already done so.  That was unheard of just a few short years ago, further emphasizing the fact that Apple has lost the innovative edge, while Google and others have caught up to the iPhone in terms of technological usefulness and ease.

The Nexus smartphones are making inroads against the iPhone for several reasons. One reason is the lower cost without a contract ($349 for 16GB version and $399 for 32GB version) versus $199 subsidized on a 2-year contract from main providers AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint.  T-Mobile was finally added as a mobile provider for iPhones, and they do offer the option of paying for the phone upfront, but expect to pay about $610 for the 16GB version and $710 for the 32GB version.

That major difference in price used to not matter to many people, but that is becoming less and less the case, as Android smartphones, particularly those made by Google, Samsung, and LG, have caught up to Apple’s iPhone in terms of technology.  In some ways, they have even surpassed it.  Google’s Nexus phones are quite responsive in terms of their processors and in their touchscreens, similar to Apple’s iPhones.  This is why more Apple users have or are considering losing their iPhones for good for Android smartphones.

In fact, being on Twitter everyday @jchengery, I have noticed an interesting trend of more people taking up Android phones as their phone of choice.  One notable celebrity who is an Android user is Donald Trump.  I’ve noticed other people who were iPhone users in the past, but have recently switched to Android. One such example is CNBC Tech Reporter Seema Mody.

There are rumors that Apple will release an iPhone 6 later in 2014.  Some reports even suggest that it will have charging capabilities without wires.  Well, that’s great for Apple fans, but that’s not a new innovation for the industry.  Another main reason why Google Nexus phones have been making inroads against iPhones is because of Qi.  This wireless charger, for Google’s Nexus 4 and Nexus 10, was released in 2012; then, an updated pad for its Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 was released in 2013.  More and more people are wanting wireless technology due to the fact that they can connect to the Internet virtually anywhere; thus, they want the ability to charge their phone anywhere, even without an outlet nearby.

In fairness to Apple, they did come up with the fingerprint scanner on their latest iPhone, the iPhone 5s.  However, there were some issues of it not working easily for all people.  Plus, it disappointed users somewhat because it didn’t allow them to swipe their fingers to purchase items on the iTunes and App Stores, a feature many were looking forward to.  The main reason that wasn’t included in the iPhone 5s is mostly because it was a test feature that was only intended to unlock the phone for the user. While the scanner created much buzz during the debut of the iPhone 5s, the staying power of that buzz fell away pretty quickly, thus not giving Apple the boost it needed to stem the tide by Google and others in the tech field.

All of the aforementioned circumstances form part of the reason why there is such a disparity in the respective stock prices, with Google being over $1,100, while Apple is just over $500.  Many analysts and even loyal Apple supporters are clamoring for new, innovative products to revolutionize the industry, much like the iPhone and iPad did.  However, that’s been the major problem for Apple: Since the original iPad debuted on April 3, 2010, there have been no new products from Apple, and very few technological innovations, virtually none on the order of the iPhone and iPad.  They made some modifications to the iPad, some of which were very ingenious and innovative, especially with the iPad 2, but Apple has been in the rut of releasing a new iPhone (or two, in the case of 2013) and iPad each year, and nothing else, a pattern that is wearing thin with analysts and many Apple fans.

Google has made similar inroads against Apple’s iPad as well.  Google’s Nexus 7 FHD tablet (2nd generation version) has received rave reviews for its speediness thanks to its Android 4.4 operating system (codename: “Kit Kat”), its lower price ($229 for 16GB version, $269 for 32GB version, and $349 for 32GB LTE version), its high-resolution screen, and its form factor.   The prices are considerably lower than the Apple iPad Mini Retina (the latest version of the Apple iPad Mini), as the equivalents cost $399, $499, and $629 respectively. In addition, Google allowed you to choose any carrier you wished so long as you could use a micro-SIM card, whereas you had to enter into a contract with any of the four main carriers to have an Apple iPad Mini Retina with LTE capability.

In fact, there were rumors that Apple wasn’t even going to release a new iPad and iPad mini at the end of 2013, partly because there were some material shortages at their main Foxconn headquarters in China, thus delaying the manufacturing of new iPads and iPad Minis.  I believe that Apple had no choice but to do so because both Google and Amazon had headstarts into the 2013 holiday season with their latest tablets, both of which received rave reviews, and thus, Apple had to act.  The new iPad Air and iPad Mini Retina received good reviews, though some questioned why Apple didn’t become the first major tech provider to equip its wireless devices with the ability to utilize the new wireless ac protocol, which is reported to be between three to four times faster than wireless n.

This was a missed opportunity for Apple, as they could have set a new standard in wireless devices.  Additionally, if the iPad Air and iPad Mini Retina aren’t updated with new versions until late 2014 or even early 2015, it’s likely that their competitors (Google, Amazon, Samsung, etc.) will have wireless ac capabilities in their phones and tablets before then.  Plus, the fact that ac is backwards-compatible with wireless n and g made this a real no-brainer for Apple, yet it was a feature they did not act on.  This is further proof that Apple has lost its technological edge and is no longer the tech leader it was just a few short years ago.

One other area where Google has caught up to Apple is in the TV industry.  There have been many rumors that Apple is negotiating with major broadcast networks to provide channels such as HBO, Showtime, and others over an Apple TV device.  So far, that has not come to pass – it can stream Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and others, but nothing beyond that.  Even if Apple can get programming from major cable providers, it’s debatable how much of an effect that will have on Apple’s valuation, since the broadcasting industry is already a well-populated, well-established field.

Google has taken advantage of this lack of cable programming by introducing Chromecast, a USB device that plugs into your HDTV and allows you to wirelessly stream YouTube and virtually any website that is in Google’s Chrome browser on your HDTV.  In addition, it’s only $35 (even less at some places) to gain many of the same capabilities that Apple TV provides, yet the Apple TV costs $99.

Again, Google duplicates Apple’s abilities at a fraction of the cost.  The fact that much of the population is taking price into greater consideration when choosing their wireless devices favors Google and Android (including Amazon, Samsung, LG, Asus, and others).  Apple’s premium brand is losing power and influence in the industry, which is all the more reason why its stock valuation has fallen considerably from the $700+ it was at in 2012.

Thus, Google continues to make up ground on Apple, further showing that Apple has gotten rotten in the tech industry, especially when it comes to innovation and remaining the tech leader, which it no longer is.  At best, it’s near the top, still in the hunt, but it’s no longer alone up there, and in many ways, it’s fallen behind Google, Samsung, Amazon, and others.

The next post in this series will focus on how Apple has fallen behind Samsung in terms of tech innovation. Watch for it. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the battle between Apple and Google in the tech industry, what products you prefer, and what products you’d like to see from either or both companies in the future in the comments below.

5 Reasons Why Facebook Marketing’s Golden Age May End Sooner Than You Think

You’ve probably heard several reports on Facebook’s popularity and participation waning, especially among the younger generation, as many of them are moving to such platforms as Instagram (owned by Facebook), Vine (owned by Twitter), Tumblr (owned by Yahoo), and Snapchat (owned by themselves, though Facebook did offer $3 billion for it, and was promptly turned down – no kidding!).

One of the earliest mentions of this was last May on NBCNews’s Today website.  A major reason that was stated was that kids are not wanting to spend much time on social platforms where there parents are located.  They can’t really converse with their friends as much as they’d like in the way they want to because their parents will see it (and let’s face it, how is a child going to ignore or refuse a parent’s request to be added as a Facebook friend? Not without some tension in the household, or further questioning at least).

More studies have been done since then, including a recent study by Princeton University that states that Facebook will go much like its predecessor, MySpace, in losing a whole bunch of followers and being much less of a presence on the Internet.  The study essentially says that Facebook growth will reach a peak, then lose 80% of that peak between 2015 and 2017.  Understandably, Facebook denounces the Princeton study, poking fun at it by turning the study back on Princeton’s enrollment.  Seriously, Facebook and most are not that concerned about the Princeton study.

However, I think it’s important to note a few trends that would indicate that Facebook marketing’s golden age is now, an age that likely will not last forever:

1. Much like Google AdWords, Facebook has become more strict with the ads it allows, with more guidelines.  Thus, like AdWords, Facebook ads won’t be as lenient, and as a result, the opportunity to benefit and profit from it will be harder to achieve.

2. If it is true that the younger generations are not spending as much time on Facebook (and being that there have been a number of studies and articles on this, plus using a little common sense, I think it’s safe to say that teens and younger generations aren’t as enamored with Facebook as they once were), then you have to wonder if they are going to spend as much time on Facebook in the future when they become self-sustaining adults and have more of their own purchasing power.

The answer, at this point, would likely be “no,” which would also mean that Facebook advertising is not going to stay as lucrative as it is right now.

3. Related to #2, and as mentioned above, other social platforms are taking teens and younger generations’ time away from Facebook, thus leading to them going elsewhere off of Facebook.  Therefore, other marketing opportunities are opening up (Tumblr is a great platform that really hasn’t seen the peak of it yet, while Twitter, Vine, Instagram, and Snapchat are still exploring all of their possibilities), likely leading some marketers away from Facebook (which could help you if you are marketing on Facebook, at least in the short term, due to less competition).

4. I think one main reason why Facebook is losing some appeal is because of the Internet and the information age we live in.  Think about what makes the Internet so appealing: There are so many facets, topics, and interests on the World Wide Web, and it continues growing, with thousands of new sites coming online every day.  Therefore, it’s virtually impossible to get bored on it, provided that people keep finding something new, and that’s what’s happening to Facebook.

It’s become “old news,” not as fresh and innovative as it used to be.  In other words, it’s not that “cool” anymore.  Now, does that mean people are going to give up their Facebook accounts? Doubtful in most cases.  However, that does mean people won’t be spending as much time on there, and, if they’re not on there, they can’t see your ads, so it still is a blow to marketers who are looking to target the future generations of buyers.

5. This leads to the point that more older generations are logging onto Facebook.  On the one hand, this is good, as they do have buying power (for now).  However, as they get older, they’ll be starting to retire or continue working and cutting back on extraneous expenses and time spent on frivolous activities (such as social media).  This means that the older generations won’t be on Facebook as much (thus meaning that they won’t see your ads that often), and when they are, they won’t be buying as much because they’ll have higher priorities to attend to (health care and medical costs, food, shelter, possibly helping their children and grandchildren if they are in financial difficulty, etc.).

This leads back to point #2 in that the younger generations may not spend as much time on Facebook as they gain more earning power.  Thus, Facebook advertising won’t be as effective over the long term.

Therefore, the bottom line is that Facebook marketing is profitable and relatively easy right now, but don’t expect it to stay that way.  Between the decline in interest and time spent on Facebook by the younger generations and the waning buying power and buying interest of older generations (more of whom are spending more time on Facebook) over the coming years, it would stand to reason that Facebook marketing’s golden age will come to an end sooner than some might expect.

Therefore, if you really plan on implementing Facebook marketing into your business’ marketing strategy, make 2014 the year to do so, and begin doing so right now.  Otherwise, you may not find it as lucrative in the future.

For those who are utilizing Facebook marketing in your business: How have you been doing with it? Answer in the comments below – thank you.

For those who haven’t utilized Facebook marketing in your business yet: Do you plan to in 2014? Why or why not? Answer in the comments below – thank you.

A Strategic Example To Differentiate Between Omnichannel Marketing And Multichannel Marketing

If you followed me on Twitter, @jchengery, you’ll have seen a tweet about this article on iMedia Connection: 6 tech trends you can ignore in 2014.

The author, Eric Anderson, Vice President of Marketing at People to People Ambassador Programs, claims that there are six tech trends digital marketers can safely ignore in 2014.  One of them is “omnichannel,” as he believes that “multichannel” is a sufficient-enough word to encompass the idea that all marketing channels should be integrated and provide the same seamless experience for a customer, whether he/she shops in a store, via a desktop/laptop, or via a mobile device (such as a smartphone or tablet).

While I can certainly see his point about where “omnichannel” is a bit redundant, I think it does have its place in the marketing world.  A good article that showed this was this one from eMarSys, presented by New Markets Sales Director Alex Timlin.  In it, there are some great photos of the concepts of multichannel marketing and omnichannel marketing.

Essentially, omnichannel marketing is where the marketing process to a person is consistent and seamless across all channels, whereas multichannel marketing is where the person is marketed across multiple channels, but the message and experience may not be consistent across all of them.

You may know that the prefixes of those words indicate a great deal about the relevant strategies.  Both come from Latin (for the record, I was a Latin major, so I’m very familiar with these prefixes):  “Omni” stands for “all,” while “multi” stands for “many” (which is where the word “multiple” comes from).  Thus, omnichannel marketing refers to having a strategy across all channels, while multichannel marketing refers to having a strategy across many channels.

Anderson believes that the word omnichannel isn’t even needed if multichannel marketing strategies are properly set up, but as Timlin points out, many industries are just learning about the need for proper integration across channels to ensure there is a consistent marketing message and experience across all of them.

It got me thinking on what would be a good example to clearly illustrate the differences between omnichannel marketing and multichannelmarketing.  I think (and hope) the following example will help.

Imagine a military army that has four different divisions in it.  These divisions consist of tanks, jeeps, planes, and troops. (If you’ve ever played a strategy game on your computer, or on any of the popular gaming systems, such as Nintendo, PlayStation, or XBox, it may be helpful to picture that game or games in your mind.)  Each division has a commander.  The mission is to infiltrate the enemy’s land and take the enemy’s headquarters, which is heavily fortified.  The enemy knows that the army is coming and has four divisions of tanks, jeeps, planes, and troops to counter.

Here are two scenarios:

Scenario 1 (Multichannel approach): Before the battle, the commanders decide to attack from each direction (north, south, east, and west), figuring that they will defeat the enemy divisions and surround the headquarters.  The attack proceeds, but before each army division can defeat the enemy, the enemy divisions retreat and becomes a unified force surrounding the headquarters.  The commanders and divisions are cut off from each other, so they continue trying to plow ahead, with only marginal success.  While they make some headway against the enemy, casualties and fatalities are high because the enemy is unified and able to utilize all of their resources (jeeps, tanks, planes, and troops) against the army, while the army’s divisions are separated, thus not matching up the best resources to attack the enemy. Thus, the division’s tanks are being bombarded by planes, while another division’s troops are being thwarted by the enemy’s tanks. They suffer heavy losses against the enemy.

Scenario 2 (Omnichannel approach): Before the battle, the commanders discuss attacking from the north, south, east, and west, but they also discuss the possibility of the enemy divisions combining into one unit before the separate divisions are defeated.  Thus, the commanders decide that they must be on the same page with their attack strategy if the enemy does combine into one unit.  As a result, they choose to integrate each division so that there are an equal number of tanks, jeeps, troops, and planes in each division from the start.  The battle commences, and the enemy does combine into one unit.  However, the army was prepared for that possibility and starts to combine  its resources strategically against the enemy (using planes to bomb the tanks, using jeeps to overrun the enemy troops, etc.).  There are few casualties as the army is able to overtake the enemy and take over the headquarters.

Just as in the example, there are several divisions (commonly referred to as “channels”) on the same team.  This is the case in any company in any industry:

– Product Creation

– Product Distribution

– Marketing

– Social Media

– Management

– Etc.

The channels of the company all want to make the company more successful and profitable, just as the army divisions want to achieve victory.  With a multichannel approach, the company channels don’t really know what the other channels are doing and aren’t allocating the resources together in the most effective manner to make the company successful.  Thus, much of the effort isn’t as optimized as it could be with an omnichannel approach.  With an omnichannel approach, each channel is aware of the other channels’ efforts to help the company be more successful and profitable, and integrates its own resources and abilities to help the other channels’ efforts to be more unified and successful.  As a result, the effort across all channels is more optimized, and, thus, more effective in promoting the company’s main message and marketing strategy to its target market, resulting in greater success and profitability.

While it would seem that companies would want their multiple channels to coordinate with each other in order to make their efforts more successful on a unified front, it’s not as easy as just going out and doing your best for the company (much like the army divisions just plowing ahead with their individual resources).  If your channels aren’t on the same page, much of the effort is duplicated and isn’t optimized for maximum effect.  This is why it’s critical to have your channels on the same page, knowing what each other channel is doing, and working together in order to achieve that symbiotic approach that will fully maximize the efforts of each channel and provide the best results for the company.

This is why I believe that the term, “omnichannel marketing,” came to be born. It is to remind companies that just having many channels working as hard as possible toward the goal of making the company more successful and profitable will often not lead to the best results.  There needs to be coordination amongst all channels to ensure that every product test, every marketing campaign, every distribution channel, and every social media platform is on the same page in regards to how the company wants to be perceived in the marketplace by its target market, how the company will go after that target market with its products/services, and how the company will respond to any feedback, complaints, and interaction with that target market.

What do you think?  Do you think “omnichannel marketing” is a necessary term in digital marketing today as Timlin and I think? Or, do you think that “omnichannel marketing” is not needed and that “multichannel marketing” is sufficient, as Anderson thinks?

Vote in the poll below, and let me know any further thoughts in the comments section- thanks!

Apologies for being out-of-touch – new blog posts this week!

Hello everyone, I hope 2014 is off to a great start for you!

Apologies for being out-of-touch; I’ve been copyediting two books that I just finished with on Friday. Barring any last-second changes from another party on the project, they will be published soon.  I am in both of them, along with 44 other contributors in the one book (about Overcoming Adversity) and 28 other contributors in the second book (a How-To book, largely dealing with business and digital marketing, but on a few related topics too).

I appreciate your understanding – I’ll have more posts this week, including one that should be up today regarding an article that I will be tweeting about later today.  It’s on “omnichannel” versus “multichannel” – I’ll provide some thoughts on the article, including a way in which you can differentiate between the two marketing terms, and why I think the “omnichannel” term came about (and why I think it is a good thing).

See you then – take care!