Black Friday boasts $595M in US online holiday spending, up 11% vs. last year

Black Friday Boasts $595 Million in U.S. Online Holiday Spending, Up 11 Percent Versus Year Ago

Strong Lead-Up to Black Friday Boosts Holiday Spending Growth to 3 Percent for the First 27 Days of the Season

RESTON, VA, November 29, 2009 – comScore (NASDAQ : SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today reported holiday season retail e-commerce spending for the first 27 days of the November – December 2009 holiday season. For the holiday season-to-date, $10.57 billion has been spent online, marking a 3-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. Black Friday (November 27) saw $595 million in online sales, making it the second heaviest online spending day to date in 2009 and representing an 11-percent increase versus Black Friday 2008.

“Black Friday, better known as a shopping bonanza in brick-and-mortar retail stores, is increasingly becoming one of the landmark days in the online holiday shopping world,” said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. “The $595 million in online spending this Black Friday represents the second heaviest online spending day of the season-to-date and a double-digit increase from last year. While this acceleration in spending suggests the online holiday season may be shaping up slightly more optimistically than anticipated, it may also reflect the heavy discounting and creative promotions being put forth by retailers that now encompass the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Cyber Monday – the traditional kick-off to the online holiday shopping season – and the subsequent weeks will be the real test for how online retailers fare this season. That said, this is a very encouraging start.”

...keep reading at comScore

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Hispanic talent

Finding the “right” Hispanic expertise for your company

Like one of my good teachers once said, “would you ask the janitor to develop your marketing strategy?” Well then, why would you ask your call center representative to create and translate your Spanish collateral materials?

How many times do managers find themselves in the position of having to hire an employee—be it for a call center, sales or marketing—and didn’t know how to go about it?

Here are some tips on how to hire correctly.

If you are looking for a call center representative, you need to find a person with a customer centric attitude and bilingual skills. Ah, but this is tougher than it sounds. The customer service skills are easily detectable, but how do you test the prospect’s bilingual skills in a language you do not know? My advice is to have them take a proficiency test at a local branch of a language instruction institute or a reputable foreign organization that tests Spanish language skills.

...keep reading at Target Latino

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FOS (friend of sales)

Finding the best home for your ad operations

In the past, when the subject of "who wants to manage ad operations" came up in executive meetings, the only response was the sound of chirping crickets. Ad operations was frequently relegated to the farthest reaches of a corporate floor plan. Fortunately, that time has come and gone. The consideration of where ad operations lives has significant ramifications on the ability of a company to run efficiently and attain revenue goals. The human dynamics between functional divisions are as important, if not more so, than the technology used to support them.

Ad operations is much more than just a back-office function. In fact, it is the lifeblood of any publisher who relies on online media as a significant contribution to its revenue stream. Without ad operations, sales can never make the leap from insertion order to fulfillment of contract. Without ad operations, guidelines for pricing and packaging become a moving target. Without ad operations, the balancing act between creative ad units and credible, reliable content goes off kilter.

Given this critical function, where should ad operations live in an organization? In sales? In technology? In finance? Or, does it live on its own as a standalone division? Having worked with more than 40 publishers as clients, I've seen it all. Even within a single company, organizational structure can change with each new management regime. Depending on the choices that are made, the results can lead to operational efficiency, or downright dysfunction.

Care and feeding of ad operations

In considering the organizational structure that ad operations lives in, the following functions need to be preserved and nurtured:

Gatekeeping. Any publisher revenue forecast worth its salt is built from the ground up, based on metrics that ad operations works with every day. What is the monthly traffic of a site, and the resulting volume of ad impressions? What is the distribution of ad impression by size, by content type? What is the typical sell-through percentage for the site? What is the rate card, and what variances are allowed in day-to-day selling? Ad operations is the last stop before an ad campaign is launched and the last chance to help the publisher manage the pricing and packaging so at the end of a fiscal year, they actually stand a chance of achieving the budget. Ad operations can help by working cooperatively with sales and finance, acting as a gatekeeper to flag contracts that don't meet agreed-upon guidelines.

Technology. Ad operations needs to be in a position to ask for and receive the budget needed to improve the technology that runs its business. If it doesn't have the management clout within an organization to vet out new inventory reports, or new order management and billing solutions, or sophisticated targeting methodologies, it will always be hamstrung with workarounds that are inefficient and lead to errors.

A seat at the table. Here's what I mean by "seat at the table." Too often, new ad product initiatives, editorial calendars that include special site sections, and management changes in ad packaging are planned in a vacuum as far as ad operations is concerned. Leaving ad operations out of the loop leaves out an important piece of the success equation, and generally results in last-minute fire drills because the maxim "the devil is in the details" was not considered.

What's the best neighborhood?

What is the best corporate neighborhood for ad operations to live in? Let's take a look at the variations and consequences at play in creating an org structure that includes ad operations.

...keep reading at iMedia Connection

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5 Signs You Need A Website Redesign Now

Back in 2005, you took your business online with the latest and most cutting edge eCommerce technologies. Now, almost half a decade later, your website is still chugging along, but that once shiny layer of digital paint is now showing signs of age.

Does this story sound familiar?

Standards, styles, and best practices on the web change at lightning speed, and although your website may still be completely functional, you may be warding off potential customers and clients unknowingly. Here are 5 questions you need to ask yourself to see if your website needs a redesign, pronto.

Question 1: In terms of speed, how fast is your website? You’ve worked hard to get your visitors to show up at your website’s door – don’t put them to sleep with long load times. Numerous studies have been conducted and all of them have found the same result: Longer load times = less visitors = less business.

A study conducted by Akamai in 2006 found that if your website takes longer than four seconds to fully load, 33%, or one-third, of all visitors will abandon your site. Additionally, Amazon found that a 100ms increase in site load time would result in a 1% decrease in sales, while Google found that an increase of 500ms on load time would directly result in a drop in traffic and revenue by 20%.

Whatever numbers you go by, the one takeaway is that your website needs to load, fast. Try optimizing your website by compressing images for the web, aggregating and cleaning out your CSS, and removing old, unnecessary content to reduce HTTP requests. You can also try switching webhosts if loading issues persist.

Question 2: Does your website lack consistency? Although it may not seem like it, consistency in major elements on all pages of your site is a must. Elements like navigation, fonts and colors, URL format, and editorial style should show consistency throughout your website as it shows your professionalism and attention to detail when conducting business.

If your site is riddled with typos, mismatching font sizes, and non-loading images, not only will it impact the credibility of your website but can also negatively affect your search engine optimization strategy, which can result in lowered sales.

Sites like Yahoo!, eBay, and the BBC have hundreds if not thousands of pages online at any given time, yet almost all of those pages have a similar feel, design, and editorial style. Browse through, compare, and take notes, and see if your website maintains a solid level of consistency when compared to some major leaguers.

Question 3: Does your website scream sensory overload? Don’t try to throw text, imagery, links, icons, buttons, ads, or whatever else at your visitor right off the bat. Information overload will prevent you from surfacing the most important information on your website while delivering a load of clutter your visitor will have to sift through. You’ll be shocked to see how quickly a set of eyes can glaze over. (Check out this info-mess here.)

Take a minute to review the different types of information hierarchies used today at, and while you’re at it, analyze how the information on your website is organized. Matching the contents of your website up with the right information architecture will not only produce more efficient visitors but will also produce more efficient shoppers as well.

Question 4: Does your website look old-school? Technologies aren’t the only thing that evolve at a break-neck pace online – styles do too. Whatever style was hot back in ’05 probably isn’t what’s hot right now. Here’s how Message Web Designs explains it:

Just like hairstyles, websites date. What was all the rage a couple of years ago is now seen as pass√©… Sometimes this is down to design trends - like the 3D buttons and interfaces that were so popular a few years back when graphics tools made it easy to create bevel and emboss styles. Other times it's because the web is maturing and web designers develop a better understanding of what visitors want. For instance, Flash intro pages were all the rage until web designers realised that users didn't like them and wanted to get straight to the content. Flash introductions are the beehive hairdo of the web design world: dated, impractical and utterly pointless.
...keep reading at Elance

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Do keywords really matter

Why Keywords Matter from Wordtracker on Vimeo.

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Adopt a family

For most of us, the holidays are a time of joy celebrated with family and friends, but for thousands in our community, it is a time of struggle and disappointment. But you can help through the Neighbors 4 Neighbors Adopt-A-Family 4 The Holidays program which officially kicked off Tuesday night with a fundraiser in Doral.

This year my family is participating in Channel 4’s Neighbors 4 Neighbors Adopt a Family 4 the Holiday’s program. We've been assigned a family in need from the Miami area and the family that we are privileged to assist this Thanksgiving and Christmas season is a family of five (mom, dad, a 10-year-old girl and two 5 and 3-year-old boys).

Through Divine Savior, we're providing them with a basket of non-perishable food but I don't want to stop there... so if there's anything you can send, please do so and share with those in [dire] need. If you have any questions, please let me know!

...keep reading at CBS

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Living with a gadget addict

Living with a BlackBerry Addict

Meg Cadoux Hirshberg writes about how her husband, Stonyfield Farm's Gary Hirshberg, never lets his BlackBerry leave his side.

Her name is Bond Girl.

My husband, Gary, refers to her simply as his BlackBerry, but I know better. Bond Girl has become the awkward third wheel in our relationship. She sleeps on Gary's bed table and wakes us each morning. When he reaches to silence her, he can't resist scrolling down her sleek silver body to check for last night's e-mails. Bond Girl joins us when we dine and sits on the sidelines at our kids' soccer games, purring randomly. She knows all Gary's secrets and contains all his memories. She alone knows where he'll be today, tomorrow, and ever after.

My normally calm husband turned quietly frantic when he misplaced Bond Girl a few months ago. She turned up after a 15-minute search, and I joked that it would be interesting to see just how long he could live without her. Not missing a beat, Gary replied, "I think you just did."

Over the 25 years that Gary has been in business, we've marveled at each new technology. I remember my amazement at our first PC in 1985 and first fax machine in 1987. Then cell phones came along. But none of those affected the texture of our relationship the way Bond Girl has. Although the barrier between work and the rest of life has been eroding steadily, it's taken the BlackBerry to shatter it altogether. Her incessant buzzing -- Check me! Check me! It just might be important! -- slices into our family cocoon. The way some mourn the loss of wilderness, I grieve the loss of quiet space, free of electronic intrusion and interruption. Bond Girl gives Gary constant access to the world. But more disturbingly, she gives the world constant access to him.

Entrepreneurial businesses are colicky babies that never stop screaming for their owners' time, energy, and imagination. Their families are in a constant battle for attention. For the entrepreneur, maintaining work-family balance involves managing guilt on both sides. Enter the BlackBerry. It beguiles both the entrepreneur and the family by creating the alluring illusion of freedom. The entrepreneur can be surrounded by family, untethered from the office -- but always accessible to work.

...keep reading at Inc.

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Anatomy of a recommendation

Client Satisfaction or Delight?

Here's what most business owners don't get:

It's not enough to satisfy clients, you need to delight them. The good news is that this really works. The bad news is that it takes more thought and effort than the average business owner is willing to give.

I recently went on a vacation to Sedona Arizona, as I mentioned last week. Well, Sedona itself certainly delights. It's a natural wonder and the spectacular red hills, desert pants and breathtaking hiking trails don't need any marketing help.

But it's a different case with the restaurants.

...keep reading at Action Plan Marketing

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