All posts in “Entrepreneurship”

HubSpot Connects With Shopify, Workplace by Facebook

HubSpot this week rolled out platform integrations with Shopify and Workplace by Facebook, which are designed to support the marketing and sales efforts of small and mid-sized businesses.

HubSpot Connects With Shopify, Workplace by Facebook

The Shopify integration, which is now live and available free of charge to shared customers in all versions of HubSpot, lets e-commerce marketers take the following actions:

  • Sync specific merchant sales data from Shopify into HubSpot for use as a marketing signal, showing a new orders pipeline in the CRM and importing online store customers as new contacts, complete with a shopping and marketing timeline;
  • Segment users based on products, deals and order history; then use those lists to inform emails, ads and workflows;
  • Automate campaigns with an email workflow to welcome and onboard new customers, an abandoned cart email followup, and re-engagement email that sends special offers to customers who have been inactive.

The Shopify integration also features a new e-commerce reporting dashboard that shares data on orders, new sales, lifetime value and abandoned cart recovery, and indicates the correlation between marketing efforts and revenue. Further, it has advanced marketing functionality for HubSpot Marketing Hub users.

The HubSpot integration with Workplace by Facebook delivers notifications from HubSpot right into Workplace, so sales reps don’t have to switch between channels.

These notifications are triggered by team member or lead activities within HubSpot and come with a link that brings sales reps directly into the application.

Quick and Customizable

The Shopify integration helps turn sales data into a signal for sales and marketing, said Marcus Andrews, HubSpot’s principal product marketing manager.

“The addition of this data reveals a new version of HubSpot — one focused on the e-commerce use case,” he told CRM Buyer.

Marketers can use this data to build lists personalized by product and order data, and use that data in customized or pre-built workflows, Andrews said, and salespeople “can easily sort contacts based on Shopify store deals, and get a real-time dashboard of orders as they develop.”

All pre-built workflows can be implemented “in a matter of minutes, but are uniquely customizable,” he noted.

The integration with Workplace by Facebook “helps teams get more done without having to log in and out of multiple tools,” Andrews said.

CRM Boost

“Both these interactions bring more data to the CRM, eliminate the number of tools people need to use, and increase sales and marketing effectiveness,” Andrews said. “Whenever you have different systems sharing and [communicating], it will increase productivity and decrease complexity.”

HubSpot has jumped onto a crowded CRM integration bandwagon.

“The usual suspects — Salesforce, Saleslogic and others — are all attempting to co-opt the sales channel,” said Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

That’s important, given the low and inconsistent sales rep adoption of CRM systems, according to Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force, coauthored by Miller Heiman Group CEO Byron Matthews and CSO Insights Research Director Tamara Schenkto.

To have real business impact, CRM systems must be coupled with sales processes that can be driven by sales enablement, the authors maintain, noting that only 25 percent of sales organizations are confident in their CRM data, and only 25 percent agree it improves their sales productivity.

“CRM applications do not work very well,”Frost’s Jude told CRM Buyer.. “I’ve used many CRM and sales support apps and am not impressed with many of them.”

Most CRM applications depend on a centralized data store that’s accessed online, and “this introduces latency into the interaction,” he pointed out.

Further, the user interfaces for most CRM systems are not intuitive and are hard to master, Jude said, which “provides a significant disincentive to using them.”

The HubSpot integrations make it possible to manage a sales event from capture to completion, Jude noted. “If the UI is intuitive and the applications are quick, they could have a profound impact on adoption.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

New Video-Making Tool Targets B2B Sales Pros

Consensus, which offers a Software as a Service platform for intelligent video demo automation, this week released Consensus Snap, a Chrome plug-in for business-to-business sales teams.

Snap enables sales reps to record, send and track personalized screenshot video demos on the fly.

Users can activate the screen recording or webcam features of Consensus Snap to record anything on their screens — PowerPoint slides, proposals, spreadsheets or software demos, for instance — and send off a personalized video to prospects. Possible uses include walking a prospect through a product feature, ROI analysis, or proposal agreement.

Users record the video, copy a custom link into an email — or a message via an online site such as LinkedIn — and send it off.

Consensus Snap tracks when and how recipients engage, and with whom they share the content.

“Bringing video to the sales playbook, and the ability to track consumption, reminds me more of LinkedIn PointDrive for video,” said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Sales professionals have found that conversion rates are two to three times higher when engagements include video rather than regular email messages alone, “particularly if the content is helpful information, such as highlights from a demo, or reinforcing key challenges the customer mentioned in meetings,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

Consensus Snap’s interactive video demo automation cuts sales cycles by 68 percent and increases close rates by 44 percent, according to the company.

Video Comes to Sales

Sales and marketing departments have been using video for the past few years, and “we’ll see an increasing use of tactical video — in sales situations and others — as a way to get above the noise of ordinary marketing emails and make a more personalized message,” predicted Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“Key for all competitors in this space is usability — making it as easy as sending an email,” she told the E-Commerce Times. Providing features like filters and easy editing tools “will be key to broad adoption.”

Personalized video “is definitely becoming more common” in B2B sales, noted Tara McWhite, director of campaigns at Cliently.

People “love video,” she told the E-Commerce Times, pointing out that upwards of 75 percent of people who open an email that includes a video play the video at least once.

“Imagine getting a 75 percent click-through rate on a landing page link,” McWhite said.

The engagement rate for video messaging in sales is at least three to four times higher than traditional outreach methods, she said, and “I believe the effectiveness of video messaging will remain high.”

Putting a face to a name “automatically creates a familiarity that makes it harder for the lead to say no,” McWhite remarked, and then “it’s just a matter of getting them on the line to get that yes.”

All About Engagement

Consensus Snap “can be used to augment synchronous communication delivered by phone, webcam or face to face,” noted Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates.

However, with some applications, such as walking a person through a proposal, video can be problematic. The sales rep has no opportunity to answer any questions or address any concerns, she told the E-Commerce Times.

“Sales is really about two-way communication to maximize your effectiveness,” Thomas said. “It’s not about how good your pitch is — it’s about how well you engage.”

From the buyer’s perspective, ValueSelling researchers recently examined B2B sales transactions that involved 206 managers and executives in a variety of U.S. industries. B2B buyers prefer that initial contacts be made via technology than by sales people.

The study “didn’t include video because its use is not yet widespread,” Thomas said, and sending out a video to solidify an initial contact or meeting “would be a waste of time and energy.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

Publishers Protest Google’s ‘Troubling’ GDPR Policy

By John P. Mello Jr.
May 2, 2018 5:00 AM PT

Four trade groups representing 4,000 publishers on Monday blasted Google’s approach to compliance with Europe’s General Data Protection Rules. The new rules are set to take effect at the end of the month.

Under its new GDPR-compliant policy, Google, as a provider of digital advertising services to publishers, will have sole control over data sent to it by publishers or collected from publishers’ websites.

What’s more, Google’s policy requires publishers to obtain legally valid consent, as required by the GDPR, for data sent to or collected by Google.

If Google finds the consent mechanism “insufficient,” it can stop serving ads on publishers’ sites, the policy states.

“Your proposal severely falls short on many levels and seems to lay out a framework more concerned with protecting your existing business model in a manner that would undermine the fundamental purposes of the GDPR and the efforts of publishers to comply with the letter and spirit of the law,” the publishers wrote in Monday’s letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

The letter is signed by Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next; Angela Mills Wade, executive director of the European Publishers Council; David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance; and David Newell, CEO of the News Media Association.

Consent Controversy

The new policy could force publishers to obtain consent from data sources for Google that they wouldn’t need to obtain for themselves, the letter states.

“The act of requesting consent in the first place may not apply to us, but if we share that data with Google, then we would need consent,” Danielle Coffee, vice president for public policy at the News Media Alliance, told the E-Commerce Times.

“Google is essentially throwing all accountability to the publishers,” said Amit Dar, U.S. general manager at Taptica.

“This is another squeeze publishers are feeling between the end users and the revenue generators,” he told the E-Commerce Times.”As if they didn’t have enough to take on, now publishers must decide how to implement a strategy that adheres to how they see GDPR and balance that with how Google views GDPR.”

Publishers should obtain consent from people whose data they’re submitting to Google, maintained Josh Crandall, CEO of NetPop Research.

“Google is simply stating that the publishers that submit works to Google, presumably for additional audience aggregation, are in compliance with the GDPR requirements,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Google is simply protecting its own business by requiring upstream publishers to comply with GDPR, where necessary.”

Compliance Caution

The new policy shows that Google is trying to be careful about adhering to the GDPR, Crandall said.

“Google and the EU already have a tense relationship around data privacy, search results, and other business practices,” he said. “Google is following the requirements of the GDPR very closely to avoid any further issues that they can.”

It’s likely that Google has other motives for its new policy, suggested Taptica’s Dar. “You can be certain that Google is more concerned about its bottom line and business model than adhering to new regulations.”

Google did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

In their letter to Pichai, the publishers questioned the timing of Google’s new policy.

“We find it especially troubling that you would wait until the last-minute before the GDPR comes into force to announce these terms,” the publishers wrote, “as publishers have now little time to assess the legality or fairness of your proposal and how best to consider its impact on their own GDPR compliance plans which have been underway for a long time.”

However, nearly all advertising technology vendors are rolling out their GDPR solutions now, noted Eric Berry, CEO of TripleLift.

“While one could view this negatively, the reality is that Google would have been the only ad tech vendor to have released a solution, had they done so much before 30 days prior to GDPR’s effective date,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Passing the Buck

Facebook recently changed its terms of service so users in Asia, Africa and Latin America, which were considered part of Facebook Ireland, would be considered part of Facebook Inc. in Menlo Park, California, a move critics see as a way to remove users in those regions from GDPR protection.

Google’s policy change appears to bear some similarities to Facebook’s approach, although Google has more to lose than Facebook.

“The majority of Google’s money comes from collecting data and distributing it for sale, so they have more at risk because of their business model than other social media platforms,” noted Gary Southwell, general manager of CSPi.

“With this policy Google is taking a hard stance and trying to pass the buck,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “I believe the publishers are posturing themselves in an open letter so the EC will review this and come down with a decision in their favor.”

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.

Insurance and the Consumer IoT

Smart home and consumer Internet of Things solutions promise significant opportunities for the insurance industry in terms of reducing costs, alleviating risks, deepening customer engagement, and creating new services and revenue streams. There are many barriers ahead to overcome, but given the tremendous upside, insurance companies have begun attacking these challenges with a multi-tiered strategy.

The currency of these opportunities is data, and the level of integration required to realize the insurtech vision and enhance aspects of the insurance business is a huge undertaking. It requires collecting massive amounts of unstructured data from a variety of connected sources.

The requirements for substantiating requests and implementing regulatory changes to policies and pricing will the involvement of thousands of homes with active devices, control groups, and multiple sources over a period of years for corroboration.

IT Transformation Ahead

Many carriers have been running trials and data-gathering efforts through various partnerships for the past few years, but these have been relatively small-scale efforts. Insurance companies will have to transform their IT infrastructure completely to manage the volume, velocity and variety of big data from the IoT solutions installed in their customers’ homes and cars. Querying that data at scale will require technology capable of handling hundreds of terabytes.

Finally, integrating that data into the daily workflows of underwriting, claims, customer service, and product development will require the transformation of all related back-end systems.

In light of these challenges, insurance companies have begun developing both short-term and long-term IoT strategies:

  • Short-term plans tend to focus on raising consumer awareness, generating measurable results for marketing and sales, and deepening customer engagement to pave the way for future products and services.
  • Long-term strategies provide a road map for implementing the technology and forming the partnerships required to bring a complete insurance IoT solution to market at scale, and to operationalize the data in every aspect of a firm’s core business.

Insurers have taken a variety of progressive actions to leverage IoT for marketing and sales. For example, State Farm has a dedicated Web page that includes educational content and special offers for specific security products and monitoring solutions. Travelers has offered several special offers from August Home, Canary, Roost, Vivint, Piper and Nest Protect.

Consumer Awareness Efforts

One key aspect of short-term plans is consumer education. While insurance consumers generally are aware of their own costs and coverage, they are less familiar with the factors that influence insurance costs. Similarly, they recognize the benefits of smart home products, but in general are not yet persuaded that the value exceeds their cost.

Consumer awareness actions on the part of top insurance companies include the following:

  • Consumer education programs on digital media promoting the value propositions of smart home devices.
  • Recommendations of specific smart home solutions, often with special pricing offers, as part of larger co-marketing campaigns in conjunction with retailers, OEMs and service providers.
  • Soft and hard home insurance premium discounts for installing smart devices. Soft discounts for installing smart devices are offered as incentives policyholders can “discuss with their agent.” They become part of the negotiating process for renewals or new policy holders. Hard discounts are offered as a fixed percentage off all or a portion of the home insurance premium, much like “security” discounts have been offered for installation of a monitored security system. Validation of a working device may or may not be required.
  • Free devices, such as smart smoke detectors or water leak sensors, are offered to attract new policyholders. Some free device programs are offered to existing policyholders as both retention efforts and data gathering and risk mitigation trials.
  • Lead-generation efforts and data mining to identify and target owners of smart home solutions as potential policyholders with lower risk assessments.

Insurers and smart home manufacturers have an opportunity to create mutually beneficial partnerships that can increase adoption of smart home solutions and build engagement with consumers.

Partnerships in the insurance areas leverage data from smart devices to enhance customer benefits and awareness, including providing more transparency around premiums, personalizing policies, and reducing risk for customers.

For smart home players, partnering with the insurance industry can help extend the value propositions of their solutions, in addition to driving adoption.

Among U.S. broadband households, there already is considerable consumer interest in smart home solutions.

Currently, 26 percent of U.S. broadband households have at least one smart home device, and more than 50 percent plan to buy a smart home device in the next 12 months.

Chart: Preferred Insurance Incentive for Acquiring Smart Products

System Integration

With a variety of devices going online, a key challenge in the smart home industry will be to integrate these devices into a system in which device categories interoperate and share data to create a personalized and valuable experience for the end users.

These types of negotiations among smart home players can get bogged down in territorial battles, with companies often unwilling to cede ground to perceived competitors. That can create problems, as consumers expect ease of use and interoperability in their devices.

In this respect, the data needs of insurance companies are not aligned with the current fragmentation in the market. They need a clear, standardized process for aggregating data from a variety of devices and services.

Large players may negotiate and manage a variety of relationships with data collectors, but medium to smaller players will require an intermediary to manage the task. Of great benefit would be a standardized schema and app tool for sharing insurance-related data points with one’s insurer. Consumers are ready for such advances:

  • Almost 60 percent of consumers are likely to purchase a smart home product that can either detect, notify of, or prevent damage or loss due to water, fire, or theft.
  • Roughly 75 percent of respondents willing to purchase a smart product are willing to let the devices automatically communicate with insurance companies.
  • Nearly 40 percent of consumers report they would switch insurance providers in order to obtain smart home products.

Security and safety are key drivers in smart home adoption, and they can serve as a broader force in integrating all areas of the smart home. In the end, all parties, including the consumer, benefit when the rich data sets generated by smart home solutions are accessible across categories.

As technology continues to advance, more progressive actions will occur around the operationalization of IoT, including more VC investments, employee trials with connected devices to help define data collection aspects, and pilots with small groups of homes. The process will not be easy, but both short- and long-term benefits will make these efforts worthwhile and ultimately rewarding.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Brad Russell is research director for the connected home at
Parks Associates.

AI-Based Customer Data Platform Supports ABM Operations

Lattice Engines, a provider of account-based marketing tools driven by artificial intelligence, on Thursday announced the launch of Lattice Atlas, positioning it as the first customer data platform for ABM.

The new platform synchronizes all customer data across a single, integrated view, the company said, making it easier for customers to see their data, no matter the source.

Customers often have to view data across multiple tools and workflows — for example, in order to compare data with existing versus new customers, noted Nipul Chokshi, vice president of product marketing at Lattice.

“We realized that our customers needed a customer data platform that unifies all data,” he said, one that “enables AI-driven audience creation as well as omnichannel activation and personalization all in one centralized place, and provides enterprise grade marketing governance.”

The new platform employs the ABM identity graph, using patent-pending adaptive match technology to resolve identities by matching first-party to third-party data in Lattice Data Cloud, which has more than 20,000 curated insights, Chokshi added.

The platform includes configurable AI that predicts how likely buyers are to convert, how much they are willing to spend, and when they plan to make a purchase.

Lattice Atlas includes native, pre-built apps across multiple channels, and Salesforce, Marketo, Eloqua and REST APIs.

Growing Customer Base

Lattice currently has about 200 customers, ranging from high-growth midmarket firms to some Fortune 500 members, according to Caitlin Ridge, director of corporate marketing. Companies that work with Lattice on marketing and sales include PayPal, Dell, Adobe and SunTrust Bank. Lattice is a Salesforce Gold and Marketo Accelerate partner.

The company has launched a beta test of the new platform and plans to test it through the summer months.

“Our goal for the beta is to ensure the product we’re bringing to market is solving our customers’ ABM problems in ways that help them scale, while removing some of the complexities currently involved in their technology stack and processes,” Ridge told CRM Buyer.

“We’ve seen previous success with Lattice’s other solutions and knew that the Lattice Atlas platform would complement their best-in-class AI-based scoring engine to create automated, engaging campaigns across all of our target accounts,” said Steven Shapiro, vice president of digital and the buyer’s journey at Informatica, one of the customers beta testing the product.

Growing Business

The market size of vendors that are customer data platform specialists is currently about US$600 million and growing, said David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute.

The B2B market is about a year behind the B2C market, but there has been increased demand for these type of solutions, he told CRM buyer.

The most important benefit for a system like is ease of access to data, Raab said. “The data currently is going to be spread among different systems. You could have a data science team spend three weeks to pull together some sort of data set.”

There appears to be a growing wave of interest in embracing ABM in the martech sector, observed Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“I recommend companies looking for an ABM solution to first determine the goal they want to accomplish,” she told CRM Buyer. “Is it finding the right accounts, or prioritizing existing leads and accounts?”

The Lattice Engine predictive sales and marketing solution has delivered good results, Zhou said, based on her discussions with a few of the company’s customers.

Lattice sits between a company’s sales force automation and its marketing automation solutions to help prioritize accounts based on key attributes, she said.

“The challenge for companies remains data quality,” Zhou pointed out. “Predictive solutions require sound data to feed it for better results.”

David Jones has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2015. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, e-commerce, open source, gaming, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. He has written for numerous media outlets, including Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times. Email David.