What You Get By Not Having A Brick And Mortar Shop

I read this article on Forbes.com that discusses the growing importance of brick and mortar stores. It made me wonder: Are they really increasingly significant in a world where everything is done online?

Brick and mortar businesses – those that operate physical storefronts – certainly have their benefits. Perhaps the biggest advantages are that they allow customers to actually touch and feel products, and they provide face-to-face interaction with salespeople or staff.

But, there’s one looming factor playing against brick and mortar businesses: They have substantially higher operating costs than online businesses.

When you’re operating a physical store, your expenses add up – and fast. You have to lease or purchase a location, hire people to staff the store, and contend with numerous other costs such as maintenance and utilities.

So, why not forgo the physical store, and pass your savings on to your customers? You know, like Amazon does.

While brick and mortar businesses focus on the distribution of goods, some businesses are taking a different approach. They’re forgoing a physical storefront and passing those savings on to customers as one of their value propositions.

These businesses are essentially reinventing their marketplace and industry – and they’re doing it without an actual location to walk into.

Let’s look at a couple of these entities below.

Surely banks can’t exist without physical locations, right? You need to walk in to a branch (or drive up to it), speak with a teller, and grab a promotional lollipop on your way out.

That used to be the banking experience, but not anymore. BankMobile is changing the way people bank. It doesn’t have any physical locations – it exists on people’s smartphones as an app.


BankMobile is FDIC-insured and offers everything traditional banks do – checking, savings, and line of credit – but for absolutely no fees. It’s the first bank in the country to offer checking and savings accounts with no fees attached to them.

Customers can access more than 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs on a nationwide network. They don’t get slammed with a hefty fee for having a low balance in their checking account, and they won’t ever see overdraft charges or any other kind of fee.

BankMobile has not only simplified banking, but it has provided customers with huge benefits. Who needs a physical branch when you can do it all from your phone? BankMobile uses technology to put a bank right in people’s pockets. If all of this sounds high-tech and complicated, it’s not.

You download the app, take a photo of the barcode on your driver’s license, and answer some questions. Then you’re all set. You have an account. You can deposit checks and even pay bills. And if you want to pay somebody, you can do so with just their email address or phone number.

BankMobile has effectively turned traditional banking on its head and differentiated itself. It’s able to provide customers with everything that the big banks can – and all without having to charge fees, which gives people a bad taste about big banks.

In the past, buying a mattress meant going into a couple of stores, flipping around on a few beds, and negotiating with a salesperson on your final choice. Oh, and then finding a way to haul it home or forking over a sizeable delivery fee.

Casper is changing this up, though. This mattress company, which launched in April 2014, doesn’t have a single brick and mortar location. Instead, it operates fully online, which allows it to pass the savings on to customers and offer them a unique value proposition: It lets customers try out mattresses for free in their homes for 100 nights. If they’re not into it after the trial period, Casper lets them return the mattress for free.


By going to market without any physical locations, Casper is able to save its customers money while building the business. It’s able to sell and ship luxurious, memory-foam mattresses for as little as $500 – a fraction of the cost of high-end bed sets.

It has effectively cut out the hassle of having to go to a mattress store, haggle with a salesperson, and pay for all the overhead to operate a physical store. It ships mattresses directly to consumers in a box that’ll fit in the back of an average car trunk.

Casper offers one mattress material (so it has maybe 5 SKUs total). It would take a lot of returned mattresses to make up for the cost of real estate and people to manage physical stores.

Casper didn’t invent anything new – it just flipped the traditional business model on its head by using some smart, out-of-the-box thinking. It is using the savings of not having a brick and mortar store to build a business.

I’m really impressed with what Casper is doing. Check out my blog post for more of my musings on this brilliant mattress company.

To Sum Up
Online businesses have a lot of money to play with to attempt differentiation in their own way. In the case of Casper, it has taken the money and turned it into a free trial process without forcing customers to buy. In the case of BankMobile, it has caught on to how much customers hate nickel-and-dime fees. It doesn’t have to charge fees since it doesn’t have to pay for all the branches.

Brick and mortar businesses aren’t going anywhere, and they certainly have their upsides. But smart companies are saving money, better serving customers, and expanding their businesses by forgoing physical locations.

Financial entities like BankMobile and companies like Casper have reinvented their marketplaces. They’ve demonstrated that they can serve customers well – by putting banking right at their fingertips and by providing a generous trial and affordable price on mattresses – by cutting out physical stores altogether.

What are your thoughts on businesses that bypass brick and mortar stores to pass along the savings to customers?.

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Why Didn’t I Think Of That?

Sometimes the best new businesses come from ideas that seem so simple that they make you say: “Why didn’t I think of that?” However, when you look more closely, the entrepreneurs are not necessary inventing something totally new. Instead, they are identifying one or two factors or trends that are important to customers that combined can ignite growth and success.

Let me give you a few observations in hopes of potentially stirring your own creative juices.

On a recent subway trip to NYC, I just happened to see an ad for Casper, a new mattress brand that lets consumers try out the mattress free for 100 nights.

Casper mattress

I had never heard of Casper, but what a novel value proposition, right? Instead of walking into a store and testing out a bed for 10 minutes, you get to sleep on it in your home for up to 100 nights and return it no questions asked for a full refund.

Casper, which launched in April 2014, sells mattresses online for as little as $500 (a fraction of the cost of comparable high-end bed sets). It has effectively cut out the hassle of having to go to a mattress store, haggle with a salesperson and pay for all the overhead to operate a physical store. It ships luxurious, memory-foam beds directly to consumers in a box that’ll fit in the back of an average car trunk. In New York City, they’ll deliver to your doorstep in about two hours.

Casper mattress delivery

The first factor Casper uses is the 100-day free trial period. It’s not an original business tactic, but it’s fresh to the mattress market. Sure, some of the big chains have what are called “comfort guarantees,” but none that I know of run with it as their primary value proposition and marketing technique.

Sleepy’s, the brand that I think of in the Northeast with over 1,000 stores, pushes a price guarantee as their primary value proposition. Sleepy’s does have a comfort guarantee, but unlike Casper, which takes the mattress back, Sleepy’s will only replace it for another one of equal or greater value.

The second factor is the trend of new mattress materials: latex and memory foam mattresses made famous by TempurPedic, adjust to your body regardless of the type of sleeper you may be which makes for less of a need for a large product line.

Add a $50 referral program, and the company has some strong social media activity going as well. Case in point: this couple who purchased the mattress made a YouTube video which they hope will get viewers to click on their referral code to buy the mattress.

Here’s their video of the mattress expanding. Pretty impressive.

Benefit Cosmetics
My 14-year-old daughter recently asked to be taken to the local Benefit store, and what I saw was brilliant. Benefit focuses on eyebrows, gets paid as a salon for the waxing, threading, and tinting, and then winds up upselling and cross selling you products for the whole face and body. Luckily, she saved up for the expense and I didn’t have to pay a dime.

Benefit Brow Bar

So, here is a high-end cosmetic brand that is actually creating demand for eyebrows. Just as more coffee is consumed because Starbucks is everywhere, Benefit is making eyebrows and eye makeup more important.

I notice many women today wearing this new “push up” or “wing” style of mascara. Benefit sets the trend and makes a special item, the Push-up Eyeliner, to help you execute the look. It’s only $24. You can check it out here.

It’s so impressive when a business can jump on a trend, or better yet, create one. The first Brow Bar opened in San Francisco in 2003, and now Benefit has more than 2,000 boutiques, Brow Bars, and counters in 30 countries. You can even find Benefit self-service kiosks like this one in airports. It’s essentially a mini store run by a computer complete with an advertising billboard to boot.

Benefit kiosk

So, the key factors here are: grab a specific concept like the eyes and eyebrows and make them important, and then create your own custom product to support the trend.

There are lots distribution outlets for makeup from health and beauty aid stores like CVS and Walgreen’s, to Sephora and department stores. Benefit gets to sell its own products direct, keeping all the margin, while making money on salon-type services, creating brand awareness to help push its product at those competitive outlets.

Bravo Benefit.

SoulCycle, Flywheel Sports and Peloton
In case you’re new to the indoor cycling scene, SoulCycle and Flywheel Sports offer Spin classes – but completely jacked. Each class (which costs upward of $30 a pop) is a high-intensity, hardcore workout combined with a social experience and loud music that leaves you drenched.


People love it. It’s not just exercise – it’s an experience. If you’re an avid cycler and frequent SoulCycle or Flywheel, you know the energy in the room and experience created by these fitness brands.

By focusing on Spinning only and making it cool (complete with celebrity endorsements and sightings), even the instructors become celebrities as in “you have to take Stacy’s class.”

These brands have taken the old Spin-class concept out for a new spin. They’re so popular that there are VIP programs where you can pay more for earlier access to reservations, making them even more money. Classes fill up and if you’re not on the list, you don’t participate.

And while their clients are happy to pay $35 a class, they also love the SoulCycle branded merchandise with the skulls.  SoulCycle launched its retail line in 2007 and releases a new collection every month. Yes, every month. What a testament to becoming a true lifestyle brand. Here’s an example of the kind of great promotional gear that SoulCycle is selling.

Flywheel Sports started in 2010; SoulCycle has been around since 2006, and it draws about 50,000 people to classes every week – including celebs like Katie Holmes and Lady Gaga. This is no small-scale fitness fad. This is huge.

So factor one: take something inarguably really good for you healthwise, that has been around for decades, isolate it, make it special and exclusive. Then charge a lot, sell apparel, and create a lifestyle around it. These brands took Spin bikes out of the gym, put them in a boutique setting, and flipped the fitness world upside down.

New on the scene is yet another iteration: Find a problem a segment of customers have with the current successful model, and build a better mousetrap for those people. Enter Peloton.  No more driving and the added benefit of only smelling my own sweat.

Peloton sells you the same high-quality Spin bike found in the class for home use, and you still get the classes with all the cool different instructors. They are beamed in on the internet-connected 21.5-inch HD screen attached to the bike. You see the instructor head on (they can’t see you only your statistics) and can be part of the intensity without leaving your home.

Now, if you are single and looking for a scene, maybe you’re not the right customer. But you can see the brilliant business minds at work, segmenting customer needs and putting forth solutions.

Many gyms are suffering from membership declines while companies like these pick off their customers left and right. Equinox, the gym brand, saw the threat and hedged by buying into SoulCycle in 2011.

Nest Thermostat (Google)
Have you heard about Nest, the electronic, programmable, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat that learns and senses motion and lets you control your home’s temperature from any internet-connected device, smartphone, tablet, or computer?  Nest launched in 2011, and by 2014, it was purchased by Google for $3.2 billion.

Nest thermostat

Playing off “The Internet of Things” trend, Nest with great style and marketing, brought a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat to the market. But jumping on the trend was only one factor.

Not only does a Nest thermostat control a home’s AC, but it actually learns the home’s unique thermal profile, allowing homeowners to automatically save energy in ways they couldn’t with a standard thermostat.

These thermostats aren’t cheap at $249, but people are buying them. Nest jumped on the trend of the “connected home” but added the intelligence feature that tied in well to the personality of this high-end buyer.

Were the people at Honeywell, the Fortune 100 company that’s known for its iconic round thermostats, asleep at the wheel? It sure seems like it.

Honeywell has been around since 1885 and employs approximately 130,000 people around the globe. Did nobody think of a way to take the thermostat and make it simpler and better? Seriously?

Nest, like Benefit and SoulCycle, is extending its brand and product line by adding smoke and carbon monoxide alarms for a completely smart home. So not only did the company find a way to make the traditional thermostat simpler and better, but it developed a line of standard home products modernized for today’s homeowner and early-adopter personalities.

If you wanted frozen yogurt back in the 1980s, you basically had two options: TCBY or the freezer section at your local grocery store.

TCBY, the country’s first frozen yogurt store chain, turned froyo into everyone’s favorite frozen dessert. It tasted like ice cream, only healthier. It was so good, in fact, that Founder Frank Hickingbotham and his wife couldn’t believe it was actually yogurt.

And so the company had its first name: This Can’t Be Yogurt (TCBY). The name later (and permanently) changed to The Country’s Best Yogurt after a competitor sued over a similar name.

The first shop opened in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1981, and TCBY quickly grew to be the largest company of its kind, operating approximately 3,000 locations in 29 countries. In the mid-1980s, it received nearly 500 franchising inquiries a week.

The franchise achieved $1.8 million in sales in 1982 and hit $5.2 million the following year. Annual sales nearly doubled for the next few years, reaching $70 million by 1986.

People were hooked on frozen yogurt, and TCBY was serving it up to froyo-frenzied consumers in strip malls across the country.

Then, the 1990s arrived, and with the new decade, TCBY tanked.

No new franchises were opened in 1990, and the company went through a period of consolidation over the next several years. Competitors like Columbo and Freshens started to invade the froyo market, and even big ice-cream shops like Baskin-Robbins began serving frozen yogurt.

Fast forward two more decades, and TCBY was down to only about 400 stores in the United States. People were getting their yogurt fix in a new way: self-serve. TCBY? More like DIY.

Frozen yogurt shops like Red Mango have popped up everywhere. If you don’t have one of these self-serve yogurt stores in your neighborhood, you no doubt have another: 16 Handles, Yogurtland, Menchie’s, and Sweet Frog, just to name a few. You know the ones.

These shops put customers in complete control of their froyo experience, and as your kid overfills the container with yogurt and toppings, you get charged by weight. Sounds like a great way to increase the average ticket size. No more waiting in line for a lackadaisical high-school kid to hand over your chocolate and vanilla swirl.

Self-serve frozen yogurt shops didn’t invent anything new – they simply capitalized on the DIY trend. Pinkberry launched in 2005 and has grown to more than 100 stores – mostly in Southern California and New York. Red Mango, which opened in 2003, operates more than 190 locations in 25 states.

These are just two of the many froyo shops across the country.

The self-serve trend wasn’t lost on TCBY. The company hasn’t opened a traditional store in five years, instead focusing on the self-serve model. It has opened more than 100 such stores since 2010.

TCBY yogurt

TCBY is a great example of the need to evolve your business to keep up with what consumers want. When it comes to frozen yogurt, the trend is to step back and let customers get their yogurt on their own terms. TCBY, though it seemed to fizzle in the froyo market for awhile, gets it, and is back.

In Conclusion
It’s amazing how these companies found success by taking a simple thing and refocusing on customer desires or finding new customer desires: a cool, new mattress that’s more comfortable and comes with a 100-day trial; making eyebrows more important than ever and building customers starting from the eyebrows; making gym classes fashionable; making a connected home environmentally friendly and cool; and latching on to the latest trend in how consumers want their frozen yogurt.

All of these ideas seem so simple, but are they really? How can you refocus to customer needs or create something desirable by focusing on one core thing in your industry? I invite you to leave your comments below.


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Cuisinart – Toaster Ovens, Consumer Liability, Customer Service … Conundrum

I bought a nice Cuisinart toaster in 2008 or so, and the plastic handles started melting off by 2010. In November 2011, I called Cuisinart and I was happy that they were able to replace my TOS-50 with a TOS-40 for a small shipping fee of about $10.


Recently, the front heating element of this replacement unit (which has been used for about two and a half years) has started to split apart and glow a satanic orange color. That’s definitely not what you want to see in your toaster. 


So I called for a replacement. I spoke with Linda in customer service (not sure if this is really Cuisinart or a call center operation that handles their calls for them). I received excellent, helpful, and truly friendly customer service – none of that overseas stuff.

Right away, Linda said she’d be able to send a replacement and took all my information. She put me on a brief hold, but when she returned, she advised that since this unit was a replacement, the warranty is only for the balance of the time that my previous unit would have been under warranty.This meant that the unit was not covered due to timing.

So Cuisinart’s policy is: You are not entitled to a warranty replacement because on replacement units, you only get the remaining warranty that you would have had on the original unit.

I think my logic is sound: a warranty reflects the quality of the unit. Cuisinart’s concept is probably financial. We have a certain part of the revenue on the first unit we assign to covering warranty issues for a specific period of time, and if we have to give you a free unit, we don’t want to have the potential to have added costs, even if the replacement item breaks.

Now, I can’t recall if I was told of this limited warranty policy back in 2011 when I was originally sent the replacement, but thinking about it in terms of good customer service and wanting to keep a customer, you’d think that they’d have some room to keep a customer who had two problems and is potentially more likely to leave the brand or talk bad about it. As we know the old marketing story: bad news travels faster than good news.

It seems like I’m not the only person with a problem.

A quick Google search uncovered this Amazon review:


I asked Linda one simple question: “Do you expect me to purchase a Cuisinart now that I have to replace this faulty unit?”

She said that she guessed it was my choice but that was the policy. Trying to not be too much of a wise guy, but always hoping for an employee who would stand up in the face of bureaucracy and make the logical case to protect their brand goodwill, I tried one further comment. I asked: “Do you think your CEO wants me to buy another Cuisinart unit or a competitor’s?”

She got the point, and I could hear her typing on some internal IM (Instant Messaging) system to presumable a supervisor. In the end,  she couldn’t do anything. I could, if I wanted, have her escalate my request, but it would take 2-3 days to get a response. I provided my phone number and hopefully I’ll get another unit.

It’s only $79 and my family uses it every day (making it cost like pennies a day), but as a CEO and student of business, I really wanted Cuisinart with its excellent customer service to make it happen for me and for itself.

No luck though, and what kind of bummed me out was that there was no logic, no agreement on behalf of the customer service representative as pleasant as she was.

As a CEO myself, I’d want to:

a)   Make sure I didn’t have a product liability issue on my hands with a batch of bad heating elements that could burn a house down (or worse) with people inside. I’d want that unit back to inspect.

b)   Make sure to keep a customer a fan and not a detractor. Cuisinart sells in many other small home appliance categories, and is much more profitable than a $79 toaster and making me happy with a replacement for let’s say $35 their cost (I’m paying $10 shipping). Cuisinart has a good chance to turn adversity into something valuable. With social media today and blogs, word can get around fast.

So this brings me to the business questions:

1) Should companies stand behind the products they make for a specific period of time, even if it’s a replacement product? Is a replacement unit suddenly allowed to be a lemon?

2) Should a company try to keep a customer or risk losing one for life? Up to what cost?

3) Should companies investigate faulty products to improve their product offerings and keep consumers safe? Are there legal ramifications?

4) Should front line staff like customer service people somehow compare and pool their experience to improve customer service and improve their company?

5) Is there some type of planned obsolescence in play here, and does the customer have the same idea of time frame that a toaster should last? Does planned obscelscence or the general life of a product potentially hurt a brand reputation? Should the brand train the customer to expect only a certain length of service?

My opinion: Cuisinart, seriously? It’s a $79 toaster..

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Ford: It’s Time To “Go Further” With Your Website And Dealerships

Ford stock has gone up 25% since last year, according to Forbes. They have some of the nicest vehicles around. I especially like the Ford Fusion. I’m not saying this just because I’m a Nascar fan – it’s a really great-looking car.

Ford Fusion Energi

They have a new model that isn’t gas only or even a hybrid, which uses the engine but recharges the battery when you step on the brake. It’s the hybrid plus a full-time electric mode.  It’s called the Energi. You can get about 20 miles on a full battery before the gas engine is needed at all.

I went to the Ford website to explore.

Like most websites, I chose to build the car, choose the color and options. Something bugged me right away. Unlike European car websites like Audi that name the packages Premium or Premium Plus, Ford thinks it’s important to tell me I’m getting the options package 800A. Ohh the 800A.

Ford website

They have these factory codes listed that I don’t care about or need to know. It’s a throwback to the old days where there were thousands of permutations of option choices and packages. I recall from business school that this got so out of hand that it was one of the reasons U.S. car companies were operationally inefficient. Ford is obviously still tied somewhat to these package codes.

A key part of the Ford website experience is to get the user’s zip code right away. I would imagine it aids in showing accurate pricing and helps the user shop local inventory. I wound up building my car, and with my zip, I received an e-mail that someone from the Pleasantville, New York, dealership would be contacting me.

Great.  Six hours later, I decided I’d just go there and check out the car myself. It’s only about 20 minutes from my home, but I felt like I traveled back in time 60 years when I pulled into the lot.  Why haven’t these dealerships modernized? How can they sell cars that look cool but be trapped in the 50s?

Pleasantville dealership

1960 called. It wants its dealership back.

It was an old-looking place with big windows, paneling at the bottoms of the columns, and ugly off-white paint jobs. I think it’s standard issue for Ford circa 1975.

Audi dealership

This Audi dealership has a futuristic look to it.

In contrast, European automotive companies have dealerships that look like you’re transported in the future. (Note: after further research, it looks like Ford has developed some very model dealerships, but they’re just not in my 50-mile radius.)

I walked inside and I think the salespeople were from the 1950s too. Dressed not to impress, old tan metal and old brown veneer desks all in various stages of disarray.  The tile on the floor and the plastic plant just blew my mind.

Salesperson desk

I feel like I should be watching The Brady Bunch. The showroom and desk just feel so outdated.

What was going on? This wasn’t the sleek, modern-looking dealership I was expecting based on the sporty Fusion with its strong lines and sharp details. Even the salespeople seemed tired. Maybe it was their surroundings.

When I said I had submitted a request online to test drive the Energi, I was answered with: “Oh, let me check. I don’t think we have that here.”

This salesperson conferred with a slightly better dressed manager who reported: “No, we don’t have that here. We don’t have a place to plug it in.”

Couldn’t they unplug the calculator with the paper ribbon and plug the car in, I wondered. “From my knowledge,” I said, “you need nothing more than a regular 110v outlet.”

The manager said something about not having one in the back? That was that. He walked away.

“What if I wanted to buy one right now,” I asked the salesperson. He said: “All we have are the Hybrids but not the Energi ones.” I asked if I could test drive the Hybrid if he felt the drive would be similar.  He said it would, but the only one he had was in the showroom blocked in by four other cars. I knew they weren’t going to start moving cars out for a potential customer to take a test drive. That could take hours.

Why did they have only one Fusion Hybrid, and why was it in the showroom? It was baffling to me.

Fusions ready to drive

This is what I would have liked to have seen: cars lined up, ready to take for a spin. (Okay, I know there are no palm trees in New York.)

I did appreciate the Pleasantville salesperson’s assistance.  He called another dealership and found me the Ford Fusion Energi to drive.  There were two at the Scarsdale dealership – another 20-minute drive.

On my way over, I called to confirm I could test drive. I thought I was getting the hang of buying at a car dealership with all the salespeople taking turns and asked if I should ask for anyone in particular when I arrived.  I was told, no, just come on in.

When I arrived, the Scarsdale dealership had the same outdated feel, although the salespeople may have been a bit more enthusiastic than at the last place. And of course when I walked in, the person immediately wanted to know who I spoke with on the phone. I was also surprised by the greeting– no handshake or business card. The salesperson didn’t even ask for my name, just took my license to photocopy for the test drive.

Scarsdale dealership

Hmm … that makes me think about photocopying and how that is a little outdated too. It’s like everyone lacked basic customer service skills. I asked the guy his name, maybe trying to prove a point.

But at least I was able to accomplish what I had set out to do: Get behind the wheel of a Fusion Hybrid Energi. He got a dealer test drive license plate for the car, walked out with me and handed over the keys.

The car drove nicely, but I was curious about the all-battery portion of the vehicle. After all, that is the main difference between the Hybrid and the Energi. As soon as I stepped on the gas, I realized the battery part of the car was used up.  The battery portion on this car only goes about 20 miles and then it’s essentially the Fusion Hybrid. So now I was really testing the Hybrid and the not the cool battery concept.

Thankfully, I was able to make an exit without a big sales pitch. In fact, the guy didn’t really try to sell me at all.  To be nice, I asked him for his card and headed home. A couple days later, I got a phone call from someone with Ford. She had a strong Southern accent so I knew she wasn’t from Pleasantville or Scarsdale. She asked if I’d made a decision yet.

When I asked why my local Ford dealership wasn’t calling me, she informed me that all the internet requests get routed to one central location. Then, the leads get pushed out to several different dealerships simultaneously.

As a consumer, that’s incredibly annoying. Who wants four different salespeople from four different dealerships hounding you for your business?

Turns out this independent call center follow-up group is separate from Ford dealerships and my guess is probably outsourced.

I am sure there is much I don’t know about the U.S. car manufacturer/dealer process, but I know as a consumer my experience left a lot to be desired.  These cars look really cool. Maybe a little undercover boss action is needed here.

I’m perplexed at how Ford has turned arond the styling of their cars, the stock is up 25% for 2013 but some of dealerships and their sales demeanor (at least in my neck of the woods)  are still stuck in the dark ages. It’s time for Ford to follow through on its tagline and “Go Further.”.

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Browser Statistics – Who’s winning?

Despite Microsoft’s stock price being up 36% for 2013 as of July 16th, not many people realize that Microsoft is not winning the browser wars.  Since August 2012, according to w3counter.com, as of June 2013 Google Chrome has a 32%.6% market share, next is IE with 21.7%, Firefox with 19.5% and Safari with 15.4%.  This means that even when people get a new Apple or Windows machine that come with their IE or Safari operating systems, million of people opt to download Chrome.

Because Google is such a popular search engine, when you get the a www.google.com screen and your browser hasn’t been installed, a big “download Chrome” is on screen.  I believe that after you download it this is removed.   When you install the Chrome Browser, as part of the install process, they ask if you want to make it your default browser and you’re hooked.

A crazy thing about Internet Explorer versions – as many people use IE 8 as do the new IE 10 and fewer people use IE 9 than either 8 or 10.

Hope these facts help you look smart at your next dinner party..

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Top 15 Photos From The 2013 Daytona 500 (crash photos included)

The excitement. The chase. The roar of the engines. Tires falling on people. Engines flying through fences. What’s not to love about NASCAR? It’s an exhilarating sport, whether you’re watching from home or you’re right on the track, inhaling the smell of burnt rubber.

Ray Lewis Waves the Green Flag to Start Daytona 500 2013

Ray Lewis Waves the Green Flag to Start Daytona 500 2013

This was my fourth or fifth NASCAR race, and I’ve never been to Daytona, “The Great American Race,” which is arguably the race to watch in person. I had a chance to watch two races first hand: the Nationwide Race – Drive for COPD300 on Saturday, and the Daytona 500 Sprint Cup race on Sunday. Better than just being there, I also have what are called “Hot Passes” and had the opportunity to be in the garages and pits with the teams and drivers, and stand with them and their families during opening ceremonies.

Saturday was the day with the crash heard around the world.

I witnessed the terrifying crash that sent rookie Kyle Larson’s car hurtling into the crowd. Huge pieces of debris sprayed into the upper and lower sections of the stands, injuring 33 fans. My dad, who accompanied me on the trip, had the camera out during that last lap as you’ll see below.

The “Great American Race” turned out to be the highest-rated and most-watched since 2008—an estimated 31.6 million Americans watched at least part of the race.

I saw Danica Patrick make history as the first female driver to lead a lap at Daytona under green flag conditions and even finish with the most laps led. I saw the patient Jimmie Johnson lock up another victory, cementing him as one of this generation’s top drivers.

I like to think I helped out because during the intro I looked him in the eye, and through telepathy (I am an uncertified black belt in telepathy), told him to be patient and that this was his race. Don’t tell Jimmie, but I verbally told Carl Edwards this was his year to make a come back and be a top driver (you can see his photo response below, a confident appreciative smile). But having me and my fellow tracker, my dad standing a few feet away from Jimmie and his family during the invocation and National Anthem really sealed the deal for Jimmie. At least that’s my take on it.

I also tried out some professional photo gear while in Daytona – the NASCAR mecca. Here are my top 15 NASCAR opening weekend 2013 moments in photos. We used either the Canon 5D Mark II (full frame, but slow on the highspeed photos) and the Mark 7D (great on high speed action shots) with Either a 24-105 Canon L Lens or a 400mm Canon EF Lens.

NATIONWIDE DRIVE FOR COPD300 Saturday February 24, 2013

Turn 2 pile-up -- Nationwide Daytona 2013

Turn 2 pile-up — Nationwide Daytona 2013

Daytona 2013

3 car pack — Nationwide Daytona 2013

Daytona 2013

Brad Keselowski with Sam Hornish Jr. on the bumper! –Nationwide Daytona 2013

Daytona 2013

Wreck about to happen

Daytona 2013

Kyle Larson car pre-tow away Nationwide Daytona 2013

Chaos in the stands - Nationwide NAscar Daytona 2013

Chaos in the stands – Nationwide NAscar Daytona 2013

DAYTONA 500 – February 24, 2013

Danica - all 5'2" of her - Go Danica

Danica – all 5’2″ of her – Go Danica

Daytona 2013

This is your year Carl!

Daytona 2013

Dale Jr. holding on for the Ride — Daytona 500 2013

Daytona 2013

Standing next to Jimmie Johnson – Daytona 500 2013

Daytona 500

Last practice lap prior to Daytona 500

Daytona 2013

The start of the Daytona 500 2013

Daytona 2013

Early in the race Harvick’s Bud Crew watches the Sprint Vision jumbo screen

Daytona 2013

The Blur – Daytona 500 2013

Daytona 2013

Jimmie Johnson’s Lowes 48 team jubilant with Daytona 500 2013 win

Daytona 2013

Winner Jimmie Johnson Nascar Daytona 2013 — burn out on grass

Daytona 2013

Even the stuffed monkey is a Dale Jr. fan!


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It’s Time To Drop The “Ground Zero” Moniker

More than 11 years: That’s how long it’s been since terrorists invaded our soil and killed nearly 3,000 people. Yet the World Trade Center area of New York City continues to be referred to as Ground Zero.

Isn’t that a bit insensitive? I think so.

World Trade Center

It’s almost like we’re commemorating the attack with a special name for the area where the twin towers collapsed. It just doesn’t feel right. Ground Zero conjures images of destruction—not construction and revitalization.

So, why did we even call it Ground Zero in the first place? The term was first used at the end of World War II to describe the detonation site of atomic bombs. Within hours after the attack, the media began using the term to describe the destroyed World Trade Center. The name just kind of stuck.

But Ground Zero is also a term that people use broadly to mean a center of activity. That’s exactly what it is today. The World Trade Center area is a hub of revitalization—not devastation.

In fact, lower Manhattan has thrived since 9/11. The area has gained 4,000 new school seats, 19 new hotels, $250 million in new parks and more new residents than Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia combined, according to the Association for a Better New York.

Lower Manhattan is also welcoming newborns at a higher rate than any neighborhood in the borough—17.8 births per 1,000 residents—according to city figures. If that’s not a sign of new life, I don’t know what is.

I’m proud to have our new ePromos.com offices just a few blocks away, and for me, it will always be the WTC – World Trade Center.

It’s time for New Yorkers (and the world) to nix the “Ground Zero” nickname. We won’t ever forget the place where the towers fell, but we need to start calling it something else..

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The Promotional Product That People Can’t Wait To Receive

Promotional products have a way of waltzing right into people’s lives, entertaining, informing, surprising. Sometimes the waltz is right into the living room in the form of a coffee table book. EMC Corporation, the global data storage company, sponsored the creation of its own promotional product: a coffee table book called The Human Face of Big Data.

promotional book

It’s nearly five pounds and 233 pages of the most fascinating data visualizations. It aims to show, via 200 stunning images and essays, that the planet is developing a nervous system that will soon rock our worlds—even more than the internet.

EMC, along with five other sponsors, funded the book, which was created by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt. The project began in March 2012, when approximately 100 of the world’s top photographers in more than 30 countries sought out images to illustrate The Human Face of Big Data.

The book is packed with inspiring stories about how people are positively using the accumulated data. For example, Google is using big data to create a flu-trends web page to predict flu outbreaks. Engineers in California are using data to create a program that uses people’s laptops to detect earthquakes. It’s all captivating stuff that has practical, real value.

From a promotional products standpoint, books are a great segment. We typically reprint a book’s cover with a company logo, but this one takes the cake. Not everyone can commission their own book, but when you can, it’s impressive. Actually, in this case, it’s brilliant. Great job, EMC.

Can I get a free book? I promise not to just use it as a decorative piece in my living room..

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Online Product Reviews: Don’t Flaunt That You Suck

As a businessman, wait correction, business person, I have always thought that having product reviews on a website was an honest way to open the kimono and let the customer’s voice really speak.

Ideally, the customer’s review should help you. It’s good for social media, SEO (search engine optimization), and even good for your brand image to be open and honest. But when you are a brand and all the reviews suck, you have a problem.

After my recent experience at Lenovo.com, I think I’ve changed my mind about product reviews. They are not for everyone—especially mediocre brands.

Lenovo sells 15 flavors of laptops right now on its site, and its reviews are an average of 3 out of 5 stars. Many products have only a couple of reviews—and several have none. That makes the whole review function kind of pointless, and it’s also embarrassing to have so little interest in writing a review.

online product reviews

In contrast, Apple doesn’t have reviews. It doesn’t really care what you think; it’s already told us that it knows better than the consumer what we want. Maybe Apple is a bad example. If any company wouldn’t have reviews, it’s Apple, but if it had reviews, it would likely have higher scores than Lenovo.

If, on average, you are getting a failing grade, why flaunt that you suck? When you have too few reviews and people don’t really use the review function, it can make your pages look busier and actually perform less effectively.

When choosing reviews, I think it comes down to your brand. If you know through your surveys that your customers are proud fans and like you (think restaurants, hotels, etc.), you can expect those positive reviews to grow organically on your site.

If you use Net Promoter Score, the customer loyalty metric that divides your customers into three categories, and you know it’s good, you are probably safe. Additionally, if others can rate the review, the better the reviewer’s ratings or the most helpful reviews can be shown first.

If you don’t have a popular brand or you are susceptible to powerful negative feedback that can turn people away, I would say no to reviews. I was on the fence about purchasing a Lenovo, and it was a review of 2.5 out of 5 stars that sealed the deal for me to choose another brand.

So which laptop did I purchase?

I went for the 15” Retina Display MacBook Pro—a bit heavier, but the display is worth it. Even though I had been a proud owner of Lenovo laptops for years (I had the tablet edition long before the iPad was around), the crappy reviews on Lenovo’s site turned me off. They just reminded me of the problems I’ve had with poor service and the bureaucratic nature of the company.

Retailers need to pay close attention to their product reviews. Oftentimes, they would sell more products by not even allowing reviews. If a product is less than exceptional, at least let consumers find out on their own. Don’t give them the opportunity to broadcast it on your site. That’s a quick way to turn shoppers away. I’m proof..

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Brad Keselowski Adds 100k Twitter Followers by Tweeting During Historic Race

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing the Aston Kutcher of Motorsports, 2010 Nascar Nationwide Series Champion, Brad Keselowski.  The driver of the Number 2 Miller Lite Dodge, had his phone in his car at last night’s historical Daytona 500 and during a two hour “red flag” stoppage started tweeting.  The publicity on TV and in social media outlets gained him 100k follower in just two hour.

The Sprint Cup Race weekend was rained out on Sunday after a five and a half hour delay. The race was expected to start at noon on Monday, but due to weather was further postponed to Monday Night at 7:13pm.  All in all, the race was completed 36 hours after its scheduled start time.  Fans of House and the Simpsons were probably pretty surprised to find their favorite shows preempted by The Great American Race.  This was the first Nascar race in Primetime.

A freak fire caused the already delayed race to be further held up for 2 more hours.  Check out the Daytona 500 Fire footage here. During a standard caution where drivers are allowed to drive around the track at reduced speeds to get back in race order, the driver of the Number 42  Target Chevy, Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car and it slid up the track crashing into a Jet Dryer.  These Dryers are nothing more than actual jet engines strapped sideways to a trailer and are used as massive blow dryers to dry the track or otherwise quickly blow away debris. They also hold about 200 gallons of jet fuel and boy what a scene it was.  It took about an hour to put out the fire and clean the track. There was fear of damage to the asphalt due to high heat, but fortunately the race was able to continue.

Nascar Daytona 500 Fire Cleanup 2012Enter the opportunistic and charismatic Brad Kesolowski, who started the night with fewer than 100k followers and as of this morning has 205,000.  He took an on track photo and started tweeting and bantering back and forth with his old and new followers, turning the “red flag” stop into a twitter event.




Some of the drivers, perhaps jealously, grabbed Keselowski’sphone so they could actually see what caused the crash and checked the weather as more rain was looming. While Brad crashed in the final laps 187/200, it was a good night for the Brad Keselowski brand; he’s now the Aston Kutcher of Motorsports.  Use your fame wisely my friend and easy on the Kyle Busch comments.  Follow Brad here @keselowski.

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