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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How Entrepreneurs Come Up With Great Ideas

April 29, 2013 12:01 AM

How Entrepreneurs Come Up With Great Ideas

There is no magic formula. But that doesn't mean there's no formula at all.

Where do eurekas come from?At the heart of any successful business is a great idea. Some seem so simple we wonder why nobody thought of them before. Others are so revolutionary we wonder how anybody could've thought of them at all.But those great ideas don't come on command. And that leaves lots of would-be entrepreneurs asking the same question: How did everybody else get inspiration to strike—and how can we work the same magic?To find out, we turned to the experts—the startup mentors who discuss launching businesses at our Accelerators blog, as well as other investors, advisers and professors who have seen and heard countless success stories, and entrepreneurs who have written success stories of their own. They saw inspiration coming from all sorts of sources—everyday puzzles, driving passions and the subconscious mind.Here's what they had to say.

Look at What's Bugging You

Ideas for startups often begin with a problem that needs to be solved. And they don't usually come while you're sitting around sipping coffee and contemplating life. They tend to reveal themselves while you're hard at work on something else.For instance, one company of mine, earFeeder, came about because I wanted news on music I loved and found it hard to get. So I created a service that checks your computer for the music you have stored there, then feeds you news from the Internet about those bands, along with ticket deals and other things.David Cohen Founder and CEO, TechStars***

You're Never Too Old

Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook, Paul Allen and Bill Gates with Microsoft, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs with Apple—those success stories lead some people to think that coming up with big ideas is a young person's game. But the tech entrepreneurs who rose to early fame and fortune are just the outliers. The typical entrepreneur is a middle-aged professional who learns about a market need and starts a company with his own savings.Research that my team completed in 2009 determined that the average age of a successful entrepreneur in high-growth industries such as computers, health care and aerospace is 40. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are aged over 50 as under 25, and twice as many over 60 as under 20.Vivek Wadhwa Vice president of academics and innovation, Singularity University***

Be Present in Life

Start your brainstorming with problems that you are personally invested in. Building a business is hard as hell and takes the kind of relentless dedication that comes from personal passion.The next big question is "How?" Great ideas and innovations come from executing on your idea in a different way than everybody else is attacking it, if they're attacking it at all. A great way to do this is to look outside of your industry to see how others are solving problems. Approaches that they think are routine might be out of the ordinary for you—and inspire great ideas.Also, most businesspeople tend to ignore our creative side until we really need it. Making sure that your life has a balance of the arts is a great way to stay engaged creatively.This last tip will seem insanely obvious. However, in the world we live in, it's easier said than done: Simply be present in life.I'm sure you can relate to how overconnected we all are. Something as simple as having a cup of coffee becomes a juggling act of replying to emails and managing schedules. It's easy to miss a potential piece to your innovation puzzle when it's right under your nose if you aren't there.Angela Benton Founder and CEO, NewME Accelerator***

Ideas Are Abundant; Drive Isn't

Perhaps the greatest factor that determines whether or not an entrepreneur will be successful isn't the business idea itself, but rather the entrepreneur's willingness to try (and keep trying) to turn the idea into reality. Great ideas are abundant, but it's what we decide to do with them that counts.Samer Kurdi Chairman of the global board, Entrepreneurs' Organization***

Let Your Subconscious Do the Work

When the mind is occupied with a monotonous task, it can stimulate the subconscious into a eureka moment. That's what happened to me. The business model for my company, ClearFit, which provides an easy way for companies to find employees and predict job fit, hatched in the back of my mind while I was driving 80 miles an hour, not thinking about work at all.The subconscious mind runs in the background, silently affecting the outcome of many thoughts. So, take a break and smell the flowers, because while you're out doing that, your mind may very well solve the problem that you are trying to solve or spark a solution to a problem you hadn't considered before.Ben Baldwin Co-founder and CEO, ClearFit***

Attack Practical Problems

Make a note whenever you encounter a service or a customer experience that frustrates you, or wish you had a product that met your needs that you can't find anywhere. Then ask yourself, is this a problem I could solve? And how much time and money would it take to test my idea?That last point is crucial. As my sage Stanford professor Andy Rachleff encouraged me, "Make sure you can fail fast and cheaply." In business school, I had a couple of big ideas. One was improving domestic airline service—which would have cost millions and taken years. I decided to pursue another opportunity that was a lot cheaper and would show results faster—a clothing line called Bonobos.In the end, it took me just nine months and $15,000 of startup funds to get a little traction and market feedback.Brian Spaly Founder and CEO, Trunk Club***

Head Into the Weird Places

For entrepreneurs to stretch their brains, they should seek out the unusual.Watch and listen to weird stuff. I enjoy watching obscure documentaries and listening to unusual podcasts. It's thrilling to find cool ideas lurking just a few clicks away.Walk in weird places. I take walks in hidden suburban neighborhoods, department stores, community colleges. When you're walking with no purpose but walking, you see things in fresh ways, because you have the luxury of being in the present.Talk to weird people. Striking up conversations with people who are different from you can be powerful. I still remember random conversations with strangers from decades ago, and how they shaped me.Victor W. Hwang Co-founder, CEO and managing director, T2 Venture Capital***

Search for a Better Way

As one goes about their daily life, it is useful if they routinely ask themselves, "Isn't there a better way?" You would be surprised at how frequently the answer is, "Yes." Other sources of inspiration for me are existing products. One should never feel that just because there is a product out there similar to yours that you can't execute it and market it better.Liz Lange Fashion designer***

Think Big

There are several factors an entrepreneur should consider when choosing a business idea or opportunity.Go big or go home: There are opportunities to make money by building businesses that marginally improve on existing products or services, but the real thrill sets in when the decision is made to go after an enormous idea that seems slightly crazy.Make the world a better place: The best kind of entrepreneur pursues a business that simplifies or improves the lives of many people. He or she repeatedly asks "what if" when thinking about how the world works and how the status quo could be dramatically improved.Fail fast: As overall startup costs decline and markets move much more quickly, it has become easier to test ideas without devastating consequences of failure.Pivot quickly: Many of the most successful companies exist in a form that is entirely different from how they were first envisioned. A successful entrepreneur will realize when a company is moving in the wrong direction or is missing a much larger opportunity.Kevin Colleran Venture partner, General Catalyst Partners***

Taking It to Market

It is important to look at an idea in two ways: first, to consider the initial inspiration for the business, and second, the often very different concept that ends up being executed to create the new company. We typically think of these ideas as the thing that sets these great entrepreneurs on the path of success. However, an idea is only that until you do something with it. Great entrepreneurs also discover the strategies to deliver the new innovative solution to the market.Ellen Rudnick Clinical professor of entrepreneurship and executive director of the Michael P. Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business***

Listen to People Who Know

Entrepreneurs come up with great ideas in a number of ways. Here are some of the best.Get customer feedback: Listen to customers and create products and services that give them more of what they like and/or remove what they dislike.Listen to front-line employees: The workers who manufacture the widgets, interact with customers and so on see what takes too long to accomplish, what is too expensive, what causes problems. Talk to those workers, or even do those jobs yourself.Reverse assumptions: Many great entrepreneurs come up with ideas by reversing assumptions. For example, the old assumption was that a bank needed to have tellers and branch locations. The ATM concept asked: How can we offer banking services without having a branch location and tellers?Dave Lavinsky Co-founder and president, Growthink Inc.***

Get Inspired by History

You often hear about the pursuit of the new new thing. But I believe entrepreneurs have a lot to gain by looking into history for inspiration.In the mid-'90s, some beer enthusiasts and experts called us heretics for brewing beers with ingredients outside of the "traditional" water, yeast, hops and barley. So, I started researching ancient brewing cultures and learned that long ago, brewers in every corner of the world made beer with whatever was beautiful and natural and grew beneath the ground they lived on.We now make a whole series of Ancient Ales inspired by historic and molecular evidence found in tombs and dig sites.Sam Calagione Founder and president, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Inc.***

Be Prepared to Shift Gears

Entrepreneurs need to understand two things. For one thing, their first (or second or third) idea is often not the real opportunity. In fact, it might stink. They have to be on the lookout for why it stinks and be willing to shift course.But they also need to understand that even if their idea has problems, there's often a good opportunity buried within it. They need to talk to people and continue tweaking and transforming it. In the process, they encounter setbacks, rethink their approach, try again and redefine what they're doing.For all that, the idea may fail—it's happened to many successful entrepreneurs. But they weren't deterred by failure. They kept at it and were better positioned to recognize and shape the next idea into something truly great.Donna Kelley Associate professor of entrepreneurship and Frederic C. Hamilton chair of free enterprise, Babson College***

You Can't Rush the Brain

I don't know where great ideas come from. I am not sure anyone does. I am not even sure how I come up with my ideas. The brain does its thing, and out pops an idea.While you are waiting for the brain to get its act together, do what you can do. Do the doable. Meet with people, schmooze, have a laugh or two. Build mock-ups and prototypes. At the very least, collect other people's problems. That's always a guaranteed doable.The deep idea here is that action has a creative aspect distinct from thinking. And thinking need not come first. Mostly it doesn't.Saras D. Sarasvathy Isidore Horween research associate professor of business administration, University of Virginia's Darden School of Business***

What Not to Do

One thing that isn't a rich vein of entrepreneurship gold: reading a market forecast from a big-name consulting firm and deciding to create a product to serve that need.Guy Kawasaki Author and former chief evangelist of Apple

Friday, April 26, 2013

10 Leadership Lessons

My Best Mistake: Nearly Getting Fired

Glenn Kelman

Glenn Kelman

Redfin CEO

My Best Mistake: Nearly Getting Fired

Most CEOs get to this job without once having been fired. They are so good at work, or maybe just impressing those who judge their work, that they have no idea how it even feels to be fired.
But I do.
When I was 28, running products for a company I'd co-founded, the CEO called to say that I had a problem with the board, that I probably couldn't overcome it, that I'd have to leave the company.
And that was it. Every firing happens differently except in this one respect: the person being fired can't believe how fast it happens.
I asked to meet the board's chairman, whom I idolized for building a supercomputer, for speaking French, for founding a company, for dressing like James Bond. The meeting was set for the next day.
It was 8 p.m. Sunday, too late to call family back east. I cleaned my room. I called my ex-girlfriend. I realized how few friends I had. I thought about all the obvious mistakes I hadn't fixed because I would have first had to admit they were mistakes. Someone else would get to fix them now. I couldn't sleep.
The next day, the chairman explained why I was being fired. I listened to him like I had never listened to anyone in my life. In 45 seconds, he did what almost no one paid to be your manager usually has the guts to do: he explained what was wrong with me as plainly as if I were a dented car.
At the end of it, I said I wouldn't leave. I promised to change. I cried.
"Glenn," the chairman said, looking away. "Please."
Then he said, "We're going to give you one more chance." He never said why.
I went back to work. I changed. All the things I imagined my successor doing, I did. The company went public. The CEO and I became good friends. I was able to look on my eight years there as a success, not a failure.
I once read that what makes a tragedy so hard to bear is the feeling that it so easily could have gone the other way. This feeling is also what makes our triumphs so giddy.
You Don't Have to Have the Job
Since then, I've never stopped feeling lucky. It's important for a CEO to feel lucky. When I was just starting out in my career, I'd heard Jim Barksdale say, "You don't have to have the job." I thought then that it meant you could leave whenever you wanted.
But now I realized it also meant you couldn't just take your job for granted. I've sometimes wondered if Bill Gates would still be burning to save Microsoft today if only he had earlier been fired from it, as Steve Jobs was fired from Apple.
Feeling lucky also fills you with love. Most CEOs walk around the office like we own the place, without realizing that the place itself isn't worth owning: a business's value comes from the people who walk out the door every night, who have to decide each morning whether to walk back in. One of the simplest things you can do as a leader is honor their choice, and appreciate their work.
Accepting the Gravity of What You've Done To Another Person
Nearly being fired changes you in other important ways. To this day, I can't bear to hear that firing someone is best for the person being fired. That may occasionally turn out to be the case but everyone should be clear that the person is being fired only because it's best for the company.
She is the one who will have to go home and explain to her family what happened. She will remember that day for the rest of her life, and may never completely come to terms with it.
So my role at Redfin isn't to meddle with whether a manager should fire someone, only with how it is to be done. The first sign of civilization among primitive societies was how we buried our dead; by the same token, one measure of a company's culture is how it handles those who have to go.
Redfin hasn't always been as humane as we should. Firings are botched because no one on either side has much experience with it, and everyone gets erratic. But we try.
Demolishing the Fortress
The most profound impact of my own experience with being fired came from what I said to my old chairman to save my skin: "I can change." Even now, more than ten years on, at a different company, I'm still changing.
Most people spend nearly all their energy trying not to change. This is what the philosopher William James meant when he wrote the mind's main function was to be a fortress for protecting your ego from reality. When the mind has to accommodate a new fact, James argued, it doesn't settle on the change to its model of reality that is most likely to reflect reality. It protects the fortress, calculating the smallest possible modification to its bulwarks that can account for the new fact.
Nearly being fired demolishes your fortress. Instead of being invested in the way you've been and what you've done, you become invested in whom you'll be.
This shift is the best possible thing that can happen to you. Have you ever noticed that the happiest people on the planet are born-again converts to a religion? It isn't the religion by itself that makes them happy, otherwise all religious people would be happy.
It's the shift from loving yourself to loving your ability to change yourself. When I left my meeting with the chairman I finally knew how bad of an executive I was. But I told him that, more than any other executive in his portfolio of companies, I was the one most committed to getting better. I told everyone around me I was trying to get better, so everyone would help.
Sometimes nothing helps. I lie on the bed at the end of a bad day and tell my wife I am tired of myself, because I can never seem to change. She asks me if I think I will get any better in ten years. Face down, I shake my head. Then she asks me if I was much worse ten years ago. We both know I was horrendous back then. I sit up. I see what she means.
The greatest kindness my wife has shown me is to think of me as a work in progress, an unfinished symphony. Professionally, my symphony is to be the world's best CEO. At my current rate of improvement, that will happen when I'm 94. But I'm trying to move that up.
Glenn Kelman is the CEO of Redfin, a technology-powered real estate brokerage. Follow him on Twitter @glennkelman.

Friday, April 19, 2013

7 Misconceptions About Cloud Computing That Could Be Holding Your Business Back

7 Misconceptions About Cloud Computing That Could Be Holding Your Business Back

7 Misconceptions About Cloud Computing That Could Be Holding Your Business Back image 5442962755 4a87be8d7e z 300x199Whilst commonly painted in the press as an unreliable and risky approach to storing your data, cloud computing is actually an excellent way to create a more agile technological infrastructure for your company and cut costs by reducing capital. The article below hopes to debunk some of the misconceptions surrounding cloud computing which might stand between your company and the successful (and profitable) fulfilment of its objectives for mobility, longevity and efficiency.

1. It's a fad

Seen as no substitute for the present day computing model, cloud architecture is both credible and efficient. Despite the idea that the cloud is somehow disconnected from current computing (indeed, more than half of all Americans claim they do not use cloud computing) in fact if you are using online banking, social media, eBay or Gmail, you're already a part of the technological revolution. Big contenders like Apple and Google have been keen to embrace cloud computing, affirming the idea that this is a technology revolution with longevity. Dismissing cloud computing as a nothing more than a passing trend is an oversight that is likely to cost you dearly as you continue to pay top dollar for the hosting and upkeep of your data.

2. It's not as secure as conventional data servers

It's name might not inspire confidence, yet cloud computing is actually a very safe and substantial way to store, share and secure your data. Whilst the media has been keen to spread tales of cloud computing's unreliability, in fact by putting control of the process back into the hands of the organization directly, cloud computing restores command to your business. Although it is important to correct the assumption that cloud computing is accompanied by host-based protection tools, there is no need to rule it out as a useful tool. By not concentrating data in one site (for example by developing a back up strategy based on having separate server locations) and using encryption software and behaviour-based key management services it is easy to build additional security around your data.

3. It's costly

There is no denying that there will be costs involved in making the switch to the cloud, but as it removes the requirement for IT management in the long term cloud computing will save your business money.

4. It's complicated

Another misconception about cloud computing is that it is too complex to execute without severe hassle and compromised productivity. Yet with many different types of cloud computing to choose from, your company should have no problem in choosing a compliment to meet your needs and keep things simple for staff and managers alike.

5. It's meant for big companies

Cloud computing is not the reserve of corporations in the FTSE top 50. By allowing companies to maintain their hardware onsite and simultaneously avoid having to obtain costly software licenses, solutions like virtual desktop infrastructure can help businesses of any size to reduce their expenditure significantly.

6. Changes are always technical rather than strategic

Assuming that the cloud is simply a matter of implementing technological changes to the way your company is run is a big mistake. Plans must be set up to incorporate processes – both strategic and staff derived – to reap the full benefits offered by the cloud. The alignment between corporate strategy and technology encouraged by the cloud is a great way to utilise a world of commodities with the benefit of using internal resources.

7. If the net goes down, the cloud becomes useless

Whilst in principal this is true, you can and should be aware that your net connection can become a point of vulnerability for this computing system and prepare accordingly. Having a backup connection with another provider is a pragmatic and sensible step for any company; indeed in the current business climate it is extremely unlikely that your business would be operating without a connectivity 'safety net' anyway.
By bringing about many benefits including scalability, agility and fast provisioning, cloud computing helps businesses at all sizes and to achieve financial growth. In encouraging companies and individuals to find new ways to interact and create innovative new business models, the cloud is an invaluable tool in the journey to making your business adaptable and efficient.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Malaysian companies must conduct annual software audits: MDTCC, BSA

Malaysian companies must conduct annual software audits: MDTCC, BSA

AvantiKumar | May 19, 2011
PHOTO - MDTCC deputy secretary-general, Mahani Tan Abdullah.

KUALA LUMPUR, 19 MAY 2011 - 
The Malaysian Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operative & Consumerism (MDTCC) and software industry advocate Business Software Alliance (BSA) have urged Malaysian companies to make software asset management an essential part of its annual audit and are considering making this compulsory.
During her keynote address at a recent conference themed 'Good Corporate Governance - The Key to Reducing Intellectual Property Risks', the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operative & Consumerism (MDTCC) deputy secretary general Mahani Tan Abdullah said the ministry is looking into the possibility of making annual software audits a mandatory part of annual audits.
"Software piracy can be mitigated if companies conduct yearly software audits, legalise their use promptly and make senior leaders aware and sign off on the software audit reports," said Mahani. "Self-regulation on the part of companies is very important."
"If companies ensure they are compliant in the first place, then fewer resources would need to be dedicated towards carrying outdoor enforcement action against companies in the country," she said, adding that campaigns last year also included educational institutions from primary onwards in order to encourage respect of IPR (intellectual property rights).Mahani said the ministry would continue with both enforcement as well as education campaigns.
"All company leaders by now know that software piracy will not be tolerated and sentences are increasingly severe. Courts would try IP infringement, supported by the ministry."
She added that IPR was seen as the third or fourth driver of economy. "Good software and good management can give companies an edge. Loose software asset management practices puts companies at risk. Most companies only focus on hardware assets and finances. Software assets must be part of a company's policies. Directors need to be aware of what is on the company machines and to control what can be downloaded to such machines. A company needs to have sound SAM. In addition, downtime and security are additional risks."
The Business Software Alliance ( is the global advocate for the software industry, working in 80 countries to expand software markets and create conditions for innovation and growth. Software's role in economies around the world Business Software Alliance (BSA) senior director - marketing, Asia Pacific, Roland Chan said software plays a critical role in the economies of countries around the world. "BSA members such as Apple, Microsoft and local MSC (Multimedia Supercorridor) status companies invest billions in different economies. The illegal copying of software or IP is not acceptable."
"Education about intellectual property rights and software asset management are key, in addition to enforcement campaigns, and BSA works closely with MDTCC to promote the use of original software, which is critical for excellence in a global community," said Chan, adding that BSA has developed the industry's first SAM courses, which were available online."Software audits are part of good Software Asset Management (SAM), a business practice designed to reduce IT costs, limit risks related to the ownership and use of software, and increase corporate-wide and IT efficiencies for a company," said consulting firm KPMG Business Advisory Partner in Charge, IT Advisory, Paul Bahnisch. "When it is effectively deployed, SAM can help companies improve control of their IT footprint, make better purchasing decisions, enhance visibility of their actual software needs, improve licensing compliance and enhance risk management and governance," said Bahnisch. "We see increasing instances in several countries where software audits are being made mandatory as part of their annual financial reporting, and we believe there are benefits for doing so, especially here in Malaysia."

RM50,000 for tip-offs on pirated software - General - New Straits Times

16 March 2012| last updated at 11:48PM

RM50,000 for tip-offs on pirated software

PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry's enforcement division seized about RM10 million worth of pirated computer software and hardware during operations this year and last year.
Its director-general, Mohd Roslan Mahayudin, said 74 enforcement raids against companies and businesses had been carried out to date, with 61 operations conducted last year.
He said the raids yielded a total of 394 computers and peripherals along with 1,416 copies of suspected pirated software, adding that the value of items was estimated at RM8.2 million.
"The biggest seizure was during the raid on a precision engineering company in Shah Alam on June 15 last year, where 31 copies of pirated software with an estimated value of RM607,800 were seized."
He said another significant seizure was made at an information technology training centre located in Petaling Jaya on Oct 13, where 54 computers worth RM162,000 were seized.
"Enforcement action this year has begun with 13 raids and it saw a seizure of 53 computers and peripherals along with 214 copies of pirated software, worth an estimated RM1.8 million."
Roslan also said many of the perpetrators were from the manufacturing and professional service sectors, including architectural, engineering and interior design firms and information and communications technology companies.
"Among the most common software discovered during the raids were business productivity software, including Adobe, Microsoft and Symantec."
Meanwhile, Business Software Alliance (BSA) Asia Pacific marketing senior director Roland Chan said the organisation would reward whistleblowers to complement the government's anti-piracy efforts.
However, the reward of RM50,000 would only be given if the tip-offs led to successful raids against any businesses using pirated and unlicensed software.
"BSA is encouraging the public to support the call for greater respect of intellectual property rights by offering leads through our hotline at 1-800-887-800."
He said reports could also be lodged at identity of informants would be kept confidential

Read more: RM50,000 for tip-offs on pirated software - General - New Straits Times

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ala Carte: Rama V - 02-Apr-13 10:45 - BFM 89.9 Pdcast

Chulalongkorn Rama V of Siam is considered one of the greatest Kings of Siam. His reign was characterized by the modernization of Siam, immense government and social reforms, and territorial cessations to the British Empire and French Indochina. We speak to the owners, Andre Shum and Danny Jee on what inspired them to own a Thai Restaurant which is set amongst a magnificent pool of lotus blossoms, quietly tucked away from the busy district of Kuala Lumpur.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ralph Lauren bolsters childrenswear sales via mobile

Ralph Lauren bolsters childrenswear sales via mobile

March 28, 2013
Ralph Lauren is encouraging sales of its childrenswear line through a new mobile commerce advertising campaign.
The company is running the initiative via Pandora’s iPhone application. Ralph Lauren has run mobile ad campaigns before for both smartphones and tablets to drive brand awareness.
“With careful planning and implementation, mobile advertising can be a great media for marketers,” said Tom Nawara, vice president of emerging solutions and innovation at Acquity Group.

Driving sales
The expandable mobile ad features a young boy who is decked out in Ralph Lauren clothing with a simple call-to-action – “Shop Now.”

When consumers tap on the ad, they are redirected to the company’s mobile site where they can shop the spring 2013 collection.
Furthermore, consumers can shop for boys or girls clothing, check out the latest looks and use the search functionality on the top of the screen to look for a specific item.
The mobile site also lets consumers access their account, sign-up for one, find the nearest Ralph Lauren store and check their order tracking.

Additionally, the mobile site features social media tabs such as Facebook and Twitter, which is a great way for the company to build an ongoing relationship with users that goes beyond the initial mobile ad click-through.

Past efforts
Ralph Lauren understands mobile.

In 2011, Ralph Lauren showed off its holiday 2012 collection through attention-grabbing header, banner and side bar advertisements on the New York Times Web site (see story).
Last year, Ralph Lauren used mobile to bridge online commerce with in-store experiences, allowing the luxury brand to pave the way with today’s modern and affluent consumers (see story).
Most recently, Ralph Lauren debuted its French mobile site that lets fashionable consumers shop the latest trends. The company tapped Branding Brand to help execute the mobile site. By expanding globally, Ralph Lauren is able to reach a majority of consumers (see story).
“Marketers are getting smarter in the use of mobile marketing as a key piece of an omnichannel mix,” Mr. Nawara said.

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

7-Eleven invites users to develop app features to help better serve them...

7-Eleven invites users to develop app features for future use

March 28, 2013
7-Eleven is reaching out to the public to help in the future expansion and development of its recently released mobile application.
The Idea Hub initiative aims to make 7-Eleven customers’ lives more convenient, especially when they are on the go. Through the effort, 7-Eleven is seeking public feedback to expand the capabilities of its app.
“We’re not going to have the corner on all the good ideas and innovations and we want others to innovate on our behalf and do things that we would not dream of,” said Mike Debnar, senior director of guest experiences at 7-Eleven, Dallas.

Mobile innovation
The new 7-Eleven mobile app is available for Apple and Android devices for free download in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, respectively.

Shortly after launching the app, the company has decided to roll out its Idea Hub, where users can share ideas about how to build onto the app’s basic platform and add services that would enhance its worth.
The Idea Hub can be found in the app’s Control Panel – located by clicking on the gear icon. The Idea Hub is divided into four categories for suggestions – general, stores, events and coupons.
From there, users can submit an idea or vote on one previously submitted, and sort the list by popularity or most recent suggestions.
According to Mr. Debnar, ideas that have risen to the top of the list include adding mobile payment capabilities, more coupons, individual store reviews, a membership loyalty program, nutritional information and local gas prices.
In addition to inviting users to help innovate future app capabilities, 7-Eleven also held an event at the recent South by Southwest show, and challenged tech-savvy attendees to come up with ways to improve the company’s mobile experience.
The company chose Sean Devlin, who focused on the 70 percent of the world’s population still using feature phones. Mr. Devlin created an SMS-based program that let non-smartphone-using 7-Eleven fans access the app’s most popular features.
“Our roadmap is like this, we loved all the ideas, but above and beyond that we want our guests to help reinvent and innovate for us as well,” Mr. Debnar said.
“Mobile customers like offers and deals – they like to find a lot of good value,” he said. “They’re really looking for value when they’re out and about.
“That’s why the mobile app is so valuable to them.”

Mobile app
7-Eleven originally released its mobile app last month, which features a store locator, mobile coupons, selected products, as well as news on store events and specials.

The initial capabilities were selected based on comments received from its Facebook fans.
According to 7-Eleven, mobile couponing was the top request.

Moreover, the recent app update also added the ability to check-in to stores via foursquare.
The store locator is a big feature for 7-Eleven. Through it, consumers can filter their search for key products and services. Store results can be tailored by selecting filters, such as hot foods, beer, wine, Redbox, lottery, ATM, fuel, diesel, propane, and whether food stamps payments are accepted.
In addition, the app customizes products geographically, and by time of day and local weather.
“I don’t think it’s any secret, this notion that the Web is disintegrating into smaller screens and more people are accessing Web data through tablets and smartphones, as well as through connected devices,” Mr. Debnar said.
“Our connected device strategy is to help customers and serve them better,” he said.

More key features
7-Eleven has partnered with product suppliers to get the word out about its new app, featuring free or value prices on popular products.

Coupons can be redeemed at the point-of-sale by scanning an on-screen UPC code from a smartphone.
Additionally, users can share a coupon link on Facebook and Twitter, as well as opt in to receive SMS offers and email updates from 7-Eleven.
“The big thing is not only the customization of the data that’s available, because we are looking at every store, but also seriously wanting the users to tell us what they want from us,” said Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for 7-Eleven.
“And that will help us in many different ways to best serve them,” she said.

Final Take
Rimma Kats is asscociate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

IKEA plunges further into mobile with shopping companion app

IKEA plunges further into mobile with shopping companion app

March 28, 2013
Swedish furniture retailer IKEA has rolled out an iPhone application that lets consumers browse the company’s collection and find in-store items.
The IKEA iPhone app is available for free download from Apple’s App Store. The app points to the growing need from retailers to enhance the in-store shopping experience with mobile features such as in-store mapping and inventory.
“There are great use cases to support a limited or no-commerce experience for a bricks-and-mortar retailer,” said Blake Sirach, vice president of design at Willow Tree Apps, Charlottesville, VA.
“For example, shoppers that like to plan prior to visiting a retail location can use an app like this to initiate dialogue with salespeople,” he said.
“A  shopper can simply create a list of items prior to visiting, and a salesperson can walk them through each item, ideally increasing sales conversions as a result of the mobile planning process.”
Mr. Sirach is not associated with IKEA. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.
IKEA did not respond to press inquiries.

Shop on mobile
The primary goal behind the IKEA iPhone app is to help inspire consumers with the company’s products while they are in-store.

Since IKEA does not offer mobile commerce, all content is linked back to the closest store.
Many of the app’s features mirror the experience on IKEA’s mobile site. The differentiator though is location with information on store-specific inventory, events and offers.
The homepage of the app features current IKEA promotions. Consumers can then click-through to see which of the products are available at their local stores.

Additionally, consumers can sort products by category or by typing in a keyword into a search bar that stretches across the top of the screen. Items can be sorted by name, price or date.
Basic product information and photos are available for each item.
Products can then be added to shopping lists that are linked to in-store inventory.
Additionally, consumers can view a map of each store’s layout to make it easier to find products in-store.

Mobile past
IKEA has been active in mobile for quite some time.

In addition to this new iPhone app, the company also launched a pilot augmented reality app last year in three markets. The iPhone and Android app works with IKEA’s print catalog to bring pages to life (see story).
Then earlier this year, IKEA rolled out a mobile advertising campaign to support its Life Improvement Project program. The mobile ad unit used interactive features such as swiping to inspire users with ideas on how to liven up their homes (see story).
Consumers nowadays shop for everything from their mobile devices, meaning that IKEA could be missing out on a big opportunity by not including mobile commerce.
“The data certainly suggests shoppers have become increasingly comfortable with shopping from their mobile devices,” Mr. Sirach said.
“For example, reported $1 million in sales revenue on Black Friday 2012, 30 percent of which came from their iPhone experience alone,” he said.
“In terms of bricks-and-mortar retailer apps, in-store conversions can be up to 21 percent higher for shoppers who use that retailer’s mobile app.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York