All posts in “Entrepreneurship”

Study: Music Improves Customer Experience, Even in Serious Settings

Music can enhance the customer experience even in nontraditional retail environments, suggests a study released Thursday by Mood Media and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (SACEM). The study was conducted in France.

Customers had a more favorable experience in five business locations — including gas station, optical, banking, sports apparel and pharmacy locations, the study found.

“It’s undeniable that music has an amazing ability to connect on an intimate and personal level,” said Danny Turner, global senior vice president of creative programming at Mood Media.

“Brands that understand the connectivity between brand and in-store experience, facilitated by the incredible power of music to forge an emotional bond, are well on their way to elevating their customer experience,” he told CRM Buyer.

power of music in business

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Businesses should consider overhead music as important as store layout, lighting or other key design elements, said Valentina Candeloro, international marketing director at Mood Media.

Mood Media has begun designing music programs for an increasingly diverse body of retail locations, she told CRM Buyer, including auto dealerships, credit unions, apartment buildings and retirement home communities.

When researchers designed the study, data indicated that 90 percent of French people listened to music every day, but only 70 percent of businesses played music, Candeloro noted.

Some of the non-retail businesses, like pharmacies, opticians and banks, were concerned about the impact music would have, given the more serious nature of transactions or activities taking place in their locations, she said.

“The results of this study revealed and quantified the impact and potential that music offers across a wide array of business types,” said Jean-Felix Choukroun, director of customer relations at SACEM.

Music Markers

Seventy percent of study respondents reported a more positive perception of a business when music was playing overhead, while 65 percent said that music at the location helped differentiate the business from the competition.

Ninety-three percent of employees at those locations preferred music over no music at work.

When customers at more serious locations, like banks and pharmacies, were asked if they wanted music, only 33 percent said they thought music would be appropriate.

However, 76 percent of the customers who experienced music at those types of locales said they thought the music was complementary and compatible with the businesses.

In-Store Atmosphere

Music absolutely can have a positive impact in driving retail traffic and keeping customers engaged at a particular location, said Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research.

“The gist is, it absolutely helps,” she told CRM Buyer. “It leads to shoppers staying longer and being in a more pleasant mood.”

Research has shown that you need a minimum two-hour loop of in-store music to prevent employees from being driven crazy by repetition and turning the music off, Baird noted.

In-store or in-business music can have a definite positive impact on the net promoter score of a location, which reflects the willingness of customers to recommend that business to others, noted Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

For example, the lobby music of W Hotels — Starwood Hotels’ hip hospitality brand — has become popular enough to spawn its own Spotify playlist, she told CRM Buyer, as well as a microsite just for W music fans.

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

Salesforce Reshuffles SaaS, PaaS in Internet of Things and AI

By Jeffrey M. Kaplan
Oct 13, 2017 12:18 PM PT

It can be a full-time job trying to keep up with Salesforce’s newest cloud offerings and messaging. However, it is always worth the effort, because the company’s pronouncements are often early bellwethers of the future direction of the software industry.

This has become particularly true with respect to the company’s evolving efforts to penetrate and gain a prominent position in the artificial intelligence and Internet of Things markets. Salesforce’s most recent moves, in anticipation of its annual Dreamforce conference, also could be a key indicator of the rapidly changing competitive landscape.

Battle for PaaS Supremacy

Salesforce has been in the vanguard of promoting Software as a Service and, more broadly, the value of the cloud. As it has gained success with its widening array of SaaS/cloud offerings, it also has borrowed a strategy from the traditional software industry playbook: adding a development layer to its SaaS applications, thus enabling its customers and partners to build their own software solutions to meet their particular business needs.

Many industry observers have expected this Platform as a Service layer to become the next major battlefield within the cloud marketplace, because it clearly would show where customers and partners were making their biggest bets from a vendor alignment standpoint.

The global PaaS market will multiply in size more than four times, from US$1.28 billion in 2013 to $6.94 billion in 2018, representing a compound annual growth rate of 32.5%, according to MarketsandMarkets.

Even greater optimism about the size and growth of the worldwide PaaS market comes from Gartner, which assessed the PaaS market at approximately $7.2B in revenue in 2016, and predicted it will equal $10.6 billion in 2018, and double in size to $14.8 billion in 2020.

While that suggests impressive growth is ahead, the PaaS market would remain a fraction of the size of the global SaaS market, according to Gartner, which estimated that the SaaS market is currently $46.3 billion and will jump to $75.7 billion in 2020.

Despite the disparity in size, the battle for PaaS supremacy has continued to escalate. In fact, Salesforce has ceased talking about a single platform underpinning all of its SaaS capabilities. Instead, it has built and acquired a myriad of platforms for various purposes.

The company’s platforms not only have multiplied in number, but also have experienced name changes over time.

This evolving platform story has had a significant impact on Salesforce’s efforts to penetrate and win a major share of the artificial intelligence and Internet of Things markets. The company’s AI efforts began with its introduction of the WAVE analytics platform three years ago, and broadened a year ago with its rollout of the Einstein AI platform.

Salesforce’s IoT platform play has centered around its Thunder offering. The new Salesforce IoT edition set for launch this fall is an application built on its SaaS platform (formerly referred to as the “AppCloud”). It enables business users, rather than software engineers, to experiment in IoT to turn device data directly into business value.

Betting on APIs

The proliferation of platforms, both inside and outside of Salesforce, has created plenty of confusion among software developers and IT/business decision makers tasked with sorting out which PaaS is best for each use case.

The line of demarcation between PaaS and Infrastructure as a Service offerings from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and other cloud service providers has complicated the PaaS selection and implementation process. This confusion hasn’t helped Salesforce’s PaaS sales efforts.

So, it isn’t surprising that Salesforce has adopted a strategy to change the competitive landscape by putting more emphasis on the power of its application programming interfaces to improve the positioning of its IoT and AI capabilities.

Rather than continue to promote the ability of organizations to create their own applications via its PaaS offerings, Salesforce has promised to increase speed to value via its APIs. The new value proposition is that the APIs can capture data from various devices, products and “things,” and convert that data into meaningful commands via its Service Cloud and other SaaS solutions.

Salesforce’s new IoT Explorer package emphasizes the company’s API capabilities. The less expensive starter kit includes APIs that can translate IoT end-point data into meaningful triggers in Salesforce’s Service Cloud and other offerings.

So, instead of spending a lot of money to build elaborate IoT solutions on one of Salesforce’s PaaS layers without knowing the ultimate cost or financial return, companies now can make a smaller bet on a more targeted initiative, and use less costly or complicated APIs to test the value of the IoT idea.

Since the functional value of APIs is well documented and broadly understood, Salesforce’s bet is that selling the immediate value of its APIs in IoT and AI use cases will be easier than the more complex, long-term achievement of benefits through PaaS.

The company also hopes that the relatively economical cost of APIs will make it an easier sale than the more strategic investment in PaaS.

If these assumptions are correct, Salesforce could succeed in circumventing the PaaS logjam that up to now has prevented it from gaining a major foothold in the IoT and AI market.

Jeff Kaplan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2009. His focus is on cloud computing, SaaS, IT management, managed services and the Internet of Things. He is managing director of
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FTC Tightens Screws on Social Media Influencers

By John K. Higgins
Oct 12, 2017 5:00 AM PT

Social media influencer advertising has become a major factor in e-commerce.

Marketers of both big and small brands long have committed large chunks of their advertising budgets to endorsements by well-known personalities, in an effort to influence consumers to purchase products and services.

Social media influencer campaigns are based on that tried-and-true formula, but the implication is that the endorsements are voluntary.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has taken notice of social media influencer programs and has expressed concern over whether endorsements are voluntary or are compensated with money or other valuable incentives.

Failure to disclose a commercial relationship between the marketer and the influencer constitutes an unfair or deceptive business practice, according to the FTC.

“Consumers need to know when social media influencers are being paid, or have any other material connection to the brands endorsed in their posts,” said acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen when the agency recently settled a social media influencer case.

That settlement should send a message that commercial connections in social media endorsements “must be clearly disclosed, so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions,” Ohlhausen said last month in a settlement notice.

The FTC’s concern stems from its historic role of ensuring that consumers are protected from false and misleading advertising.

Aggressive Approach

At the same time that it revealed the settlement, the FTC sent warning letters to a group of influencer personalities, including actresses Lindsay Lohan and Lisa Rinna, informing them of the need to observe federal regulations. In addition, the commission published updated regulatory guidelines directed specifically to social media influencer advertising.

The burst of FTC activity underscored the commission’s increasingly assertive posture in regulating social media influencer programs. The FTC recently reached settlements with marketers for Lord & Taylor, Warner Brothers and Sony for failing to observe federal regulations covering social media influencer campaigns.

Last month’s settlement was the agency’s first enforcement action aimed directly at the influencer personalities themselves.

“While this is the first instance of social media influencers settling claims of misrepresentation online, it likely will not be the last,” Phyllis Marcus, a partner at Hunton & Williams, noted in an online post.

The FTC’s actions on social media endorsements “have gone all up and down the marketing chain,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

Multiple Connections

The recently settled case involved the owners of CSGO Lotto, an online gaming service. First, Trevor Martin and Thomas Cassell, two social media influencers widely followed in the Internet gaming sector, deceptively endorsed the services of CSGO Lotto, “while failing to disclose they jointly owned the company,” the FTC charged.

Second, the two owners compensated various well-known personalities in the gaming business with money or credits valued between US$2,500 and $55,000 per transaction to endorse CSGO Lotto, without adequately disclosing the financial arrangements, the commission said.

“Cassell, Martin, and CSGO Lotto falsely claimed that their videos and social media posts — and the videos and posts of the influencers they hired — reflected the independent opinions of impartial users,” the FTC maintained.

Posting platforms included YouTube and Facebook.

The settlement requires Cassell, Martin and the company to make endorsement disclosures clearly and conspicuously in the future. Failure could result in penalties of up to $40,000 per day.

Per the normal terms of such consent agreements, the company and the two owners cited by the FTC neither admitted or denied the charges. The settlement will become final after the FTC reviews public comments that were due in early October.

Warnings and Notices

The warning letters that the FTC issued last month were addressed to a group of 21 endorsement personalities as a follow-up to 90 educational letters the commission sent to marketing brands and influencers earlier this year.

Despite that notice, the FTC suspected that the 21 influencers still maintained associations with social media endorsements via Instagram, which failed to provide adequate clarification of any commercial connections. The commission required responses to the warning letters by Sept. 30.

The FTC’s updated guidelines include answers to a number of newly generated questions relevant to social media advertising, including influencer postings. The guidelines cover not only the endorser personalities but also the original brand marketers, advertising agencies, public relations firms, and even companies that recruit and assemble influencers.

“Marketers, brands and advertisers are responsible for the lack of disclosure of material connections in social media by the influencers they hire or otherwise incentivize,” said Michael Ostheimer, an FTC attorney in the commission’s advertising practices division.

“The FTC has long required disclosure of material relationships in product endorsements, and their recent action regarding social media influencers will be carefully reviewed and evaluated by companies in the retail industry,” said Paul Martino, senior policy counsel at the National Retail Federation.

The NRF “will solicit the views of our member companies on this matter,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“It would be premature for us to judge its significance to our industry or take a position on the FTC action before the end of the agency’s public comment period,” Martino said.

The updates address not only the broad legal concepts surrounding false or misleading practices, but also technical presentation points, such as the use of hashtags, placement of notices on device screens, and determination of compensation for endorsers.

Social Media Platforms Exempted

Significantly, the social media platforms themselves are not affected by the FTC’s activities.

“The platforms are not responsible for the social media posts of influencers who use them,” the FTC’s Ostheimer told the E-Commerce Times.

Some platforms even have initiated programs to assist marketers in meeting FTC requirements. Instagram earlier this year launched a social media influencer disclosure program featuring the use of a “Paid Partnership” subhead, for example.

“Partnerships between community creators and businesses are an important part of the Instagram experience, and a healthy community should be open and consistent about paid partnerships,” an Instagram blog post reads.

“Since June of this year we have been closely working with a select group of creators and businesses throughout the Instagram community to test our new ‘Paid Partnership With’ tag,” the company said in a statement provided to the E-Commerce Times by spokesperson Jessica Gibby. “We’ve gradually expanded access to the tag to more of our partners across Instagram.”

Instagram’s ‘Paid Partnership With’ notification “clearly describes when creators and their business partners have entered into a commercial relationship to post on Instagram,” according to the company.

In addition, Instagram has adopted a policy that is the same as Facebook’s branded content policy.

While such platform-provided tools can be helpful, marketers should not necessarily rely on them.

The FTC’s warning that “brands should not assume that a social media platform’s own disclosure tools are sufficient to bring a post into compliance,” noted Hunton & William’s Marcus in an advisory.

The bottom line is that the FTC has well publicized its policy through actual enforcement cases, press statements and advisories, including “The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking.”

Thus, social media marketers who fail to inform themselves of the FTC policies or who disregard regulations could find themselves subject to FTC oversight.

“The FTC’s warning letters show that the agency is committed to capitalizing on its recent enforcement actions against brands and influencers,” Marcus said, “and will continue to scrutinize social media compliance with the Endorsement Guides.”

John K. Higgins has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2009. His main areas of focus are U.S. government technology issues such as IT contracting, cybersecurity, privacy, cloud technology, big data and e-commerce regulation. As a freelance journalist and career business writer, he has written for numerous publications, including
The Corps Report and Business Week.
Email John.

Container Runtime Brings Greater Flexibility to Kubernetes and BOSH

The Cloud Foundry Foundation on Wednesday launched Cloud Foundry Container Runtime, or CRCR, as the default deployment and management platform for containers using Kubernetes and BOSH.

Container Runtime Brings Greater Flexibility to Kubernetes and BOSH

The foundation announced Container Runtime, a project supported by The Linux Foundation, at its annual European user conference.

Cloud Foundry is an open source Platform as a Service offering used for building and managing applications in the cloud or in data centers.

CFCR is an updated release of the Kubo Project with a new name. The new default approach makes deploying and managing containers easier and more flexible, according to Cloud Foundry.

Donated to the foundation in June by Pivotal Software and Google, the project expands options for Cloud Foundry’s enterprise user base, according to Devin Davis, vice president of marketing at Cloud Foundry.

Cloud Foundry users now can use Container Runtime to deploy Kubernetes or Application Runtime (previously Elastic Runtime) for a Cloud Application Platform.

In either case, BOSH underpins infrastructure provisioning for both Cloud Foundry runtimes.

Container Runtime also can provide default support for Istio, an open platform to connect, manage and secure microservices. CFCR now provides default support for persistence of Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services and Vsphere.

“Application Runtime is the app-centric platform that focuses on simplifying the entire development lifecycle,” Cloud Foundry’s Davis told LinuxInsider.

Platform Pillars

The new project enables Cloud Foundry to continue expanding choices for users. For example, a Kubernetes user can deploy and manage Kubernetes clusters with BOSH. BOSH is Cloud Foundry’s open source tool for deploying and managing distributed services.

The Cloud Foundry cloud application platform — Application Runtime — remains an option.

Container Runtime simply enhances Cloud Foundry’s capabilities, said Davis, by using some of its best and most unique components — such as BOSH, which provides a uniform way to instantiate, deploy and manage highly available Kubernetes clusters on any cloud.

Both Cloud Foundry Application Runtime and Container Runtime are built with the developer in mind, he said. They provide the flexibility to run apps in any language or framework on any cloud.

This flexibility extends to services as well, Davis added.

Plenty of Options

The Cloud Foundry project bolsters the relevance of container and Kubernetes overall, suggested Chris Ciborowski, CEO of Nebulaworks. Quite a few organizations would like to deploy a container platform like Kubernetes but are looking for best practices to do so.

“To this end, the CFCR (Kubo) is one option for organizations looking for this functionality,” Ciborowski told LinuxInsider. “For existing users of container platforms — like Google Container Engine, Amazon Elastic Container Service or Mesosphere DC/OS — the announcement is likely of little interest.”

Other options exist, he said. There are a number of ways to achieve a production-ready Kubernetes environment that can be deployed across any infrastructure in an idempotent fashion.

For example, to help with this agnostic approach, Nebulaworks leverages a set of tools: Terraform and Packer, along with Kubeadm, which is a tool that is part of the Kubernetes project.

“This approach achieves the same level of automated, agnostic deployments while allowing the use of a common set of tools that can do far more than just deploy Kubernetes,” said Ciborowski.

Slow Adoption Rate

Despite continued interest in containers, only 25 percent of enterprise companies actually use them in production, based on a recent Cloud Foundry Foundation study. This represents a negligible rise of only 3 percent from 2016.

“Enterprises are the colossal cargo ships of the industry. They move slowly, steadily, and with a rigorous navigation system,” the Foundry’s Devin said.

Enterprises cannot always afford to be as flexible or lithe as a smaller company — it takes time to evaluate new technologies before implementation.

“Up until now, there has not been a solution in the market that could scale within the enterprise,” Devin pointed out. “Kubernetes is the first container option with enterprise-grade scale and functionality, and Cloud Foundry Container Runtime facilitates this enterprise-ready technology, thanks to the power of BOSH.”

Key Development

As customers move more of their workloads to container-based systems, management and orchestration of those containers becomes increasingly important, observed Lee Atchison, senior director of strategic architecture at New Relic.

“The industry as a whole has recognized the need for better container management and container orchestration tools, and Kubernetes is playing an increasingly important role in this area,” he told LinuxInsider.

The Cloud Foundry announcement shows Pivotal’s leadership by adopting and standardizing on Kubernetes and related technologies. That has helped solve the important container management problems that customers have been experiencing, Atchison said.

Integrated Solution

Container runtime is not a mandatory upgrade or ideal replacement tool for all users, but it is significant for enterprises using containers now, and for those considering using them in the future, noted Davis.

Many enterprises are hesitant to invest in and adopt cutting-edge technologies, including containers. Container Runtime gives huge enterprises the opportunity to run containers at scale and in production. Cloud Foundry’s enterprise user base relies on BOSH to run applications at scale — and CFCR enables Kubernetes to take advantage of BOSH, Davis explained.

Still, alternatives do exist. Cloud Foundry adopters can continue to use Cloud Foundry Application Runtime exactly as they have been without moving to CFCR.

“Think of Container Runtime as a Lego piece you can snap into Application Runtime when you need it,” said Davis. “Our end users have wanted to utilize containers to achieve efficiency in their business processes, but until Container Runtime, there was not an enterprise-ready solution in the market that could meet their needs.”

For cloud-native 12-factor applications, a cloud application platform likely will be the best deployment method, he said. If users need more flexibility and developer-built containers for apps, or it they are using prepackaged apps delivered in a container, then Container Runtime will add control over application delivery.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

Salesforce Gets Granular

If you need an example of digital disruption, you can’t do better than the retail banking industry. A byzantine collection of rules and regulations plus the overhang of many legacy systems have conspired to prevent banks from becoming more involved with their customers.

Even innovations like the ATM, which entered the scene several decades ago, only serve to distance banks from their customers. This leaves plenty of opportunity for upstart technology vendors to disrupt the applecart.

Combine this with a generation of potential customers who were raised on digital products and services, and the result is that an important demographic is now up for grabs, setting the stage for disruption.

Making It Easy

Not long ago, Salesforce recognized those dynamics in play and moved to develop vertical applications for selected industries — including banking, where large institutions need to address the requirements of large customer bases. It came up with the Financial Services Cloud for Retail Banking, announced last week.

Some of what Salesforce delivers in its Financial Services Cloud will seem revolutionary to many bankers: things like a rich assortment of applications for all phases of banking, from loan origination to customer management.

However, a good chunk of the benefit comes directly from being a cloud solution with easy onboarding and updates scheduled three times per year.

Partnering Up

Where the Salesforce Financial Services Cloud differs from many banking products is in the way it brings together banking products resident in its AppExchange to deliver concerted solutions.

For example, nCino tells a powerful story of reducing loan origination time by orders of magnitude — not by building a closed system but by integrating other platform products.

Another example is Vlocity, also a partner with strong banking apps based on the cloud platform. It provides intelligent agent and omnichannel services for financial services and insurance.

In these and other relationships, you can see the Salesforce go-to-market approach solidifying. Partners bring expertise, which can be as big as loan origination or as specific as document signature capture. All of it goes into a solution that customers can craft for their specific industry needs.

Adding Specificity

As I’ve noted many times before, when companies get to the multibillion-dollar revenue level, they can’t expect to sell the same products in the same ways they did when their businesses were much smaller.

To show growth, a business needs help — and that means acquiring other complementary businesses and selling in concert with partners that can add specificity to the core product.

Salesforce has done both, and I look forward to hearing more about vertical strategies at Dreamforce.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at