The Britton Digital Update—Week of January 16, 2017
Five minutes to get you up to speed on this week’s digital, business, social media, entertainment, and marketing news
As a noun, pivot can mean “a central point; a person or thing that plays a central part in an activity or organization.” In basketball, pivot has more of a changing-direction connotation. In business, a pivot is a combination of both—you start with whatever plays a central part in an organization, and then you change direction. Facebook pivoted from text to images to video. And now, its focus is clearly on live video. Starbucks originally sold coffee beans and espresso makers before pivoting to the coffee shops it’s known for today. Twitter actually started as a place where you could subscribe to podcasts before becoming the 140-character microblogging platform it is today. Most successful companies pivot during their life cycles. If they don’t, the market passes them by. Is that about to happen to Twitter? Or is it planning another pivot? What are you doing for your clients or your business—or even yourself? Are you developing and pivoting toward the things that will make you successful? Or are you going to let the market pass you by?
Speaking of pivoting, it may be time for some retailers to do just that. If you listened to reports of Black Friday and holiday shopping in 2016, you heard that online shopping was up, and brick-and-mortar was down. So retailers should shrug and close up shop, right? There’s no point in competing with the Amazon behemoths of online retail, is there? It may not be as simple as that. According to a report released this week by mobile-solutions firm DMI, online-shopping satisfaction has dropped by 5 percent, while in-store satisfaction rates have increased by 7 percent. One reason for the brick-and-mortar increase could be that “77 percent of US shoppers have used their smartphone in-store to help them shop.” It is also interesting to note that 74 percent of the general population surveyed indicated that the “in-store mobile experience influences where they shop.”
Maybe online shopping isn’t killing retail. Maybe retail just needs to improve its experience. After all, report after report shows millennials will spend their dollars on experiences versus big-ticket items that lead to debt.
Meet George Jetson …
If you grew up with The Jetsons as your favorite cartoon, it doesn’t take much more than reading that headline for the theme song to get lodged in your head for the next 36 hours. You can probably picture ol’ George in his futuristic flying car dropping off his family on his way in to Spacely Sprockets for another day of work. But this is all in the future, right? The future may be a little closer than we thought. “Airbus Group plans to test a prototype for a self-piloted flying car as a way of avoiding gridlock on city roads by the end of the year,” according to VentureBeat. It would not only allow us to pretend we’re George Jetson, but it would also massively reduce spending time on roads and help manage traffic congestion.
My question: Once we have flying cars, how long before we convert one into a time machine?
On the Surface
Despite many attempts at Windows smartphones, Microsoft has had a difficult time gaining any traction against Apple and Samsung for a piece of the mobile market. Windows phones fell to less than 1 percent of the market in 2016. However it may look on the “Surface,” don’t count Microsoft out just yet. A patent filing was discovered this past week that shows a Microsoft Surface as a foldable phone containing a hinge. According to the Verge, “Accompanying notes and diagrams detail what looks like a large smartphone that can fold over and transform into a tablet form.” It’s no secret that both Apple and Samsung have plans to release similar folding devices, possibly as early as this year.
While it would be hard to imagine it racking up more than a percent or two of the smartphone market, Microsoft is attempting to capitalize on the success of its popular Surface product, which is a strong move. Do we really want a folding phone? The manufacturers must think that enough of us do.
Raising the (Search) Bar
Snap Inc. has been very cautious over the past few years about the changes and features it adds to its Snapchat app. It has always focused on having users create content that is shared with its close community. It never intended for users to go much beyond that walled community garden. In order to follow someone, you needed their Snap code or you needed to know their profile ID. Other apps, such as Ghostcodes or Snapdex, intended to make finding others easier by creating an opt-in index. This past week, the Snapchat garden walls were lowered significantly when Snapchat added a universal search bar that is always present within the app across the top of the screen. This not only makes chatting with your friends quicker, but it also increases visibility when it comes to finding brands and businesses.
This is viewed by many as a move to make the app more mainstream (as opposed to mostly millennial) prior to its IPO later this year. TechCrunch also pointed out that search results could be another avenue for generating revenue by charging brands for ads placed at the top of search results. The feature is currently available to Android users, with an iOS-app update coming soon.
Could a Smartwatch Help Avoid Colds?
In last week’s Digital Update, I reported on Fitbit’s potential plans to release a smartwatch and launch an app store in 2017. Here is something that could fit right in with its plans (see what I did there?): Researchers at Stanford University used biosensors (which could be included in a device like a smartwatch) to monitor physiological changes in humans during various activities. TechCrunch reported that “The onset of Lyme disease was able to be tracked, [as well as] individuals’ sensitivity to insulin.” Could a smartwatch or wearable fitness device help identify changing physiological patterns and inform us when we are getting sick? Getting ahead of a cold could reduce the time needed to recover, not to mention cut down on the spread of illness between coworkers and classmates. This could mean real savings for businesses. The researchers are working to make these measurements and predictions more reliable through algorithms.
While we wait for sensors to help make that determination, “cold- and allergy-relief company Zicam has come out with a new app that tracks both your lifestyle and your surrounding environment.” While it tells you the obvious (that you are coughing), it also can show you some patterns of behavior that might encourage you to pause and take extra care of yourself to prevent a cold.
For the rest of the news this past week, here’s a compilation of the best news stories that we don’t have time to expound upon but that you should probably take notice of:
- Like Evernote, but for Creatives
- LinkedIn Just Became More Like Facebook
- Clear the Air with a Smart Air Freshener
- Microsoft’s Office 365 App Aimed at Deskless Workers
- Are Changes Coming to Google’s Local Ads?
- YouTube Launches Super Chat
- Pinterest Ad Groups Add More Campaign Control
- Nintendo Switch: the Details
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