Mobile Retail Trailers, the New Food Trucks of Retail?

retail food trailers

Businesses are going mobile. And that doesn’t just mean they’re using smartphones and tablets to stay in touch. Some businesses are actually taking their whole operations mobile.

You likely already know about the food truck craze. But now there are some retail businesses that are following their lead. Blaine Vossler and Mackenzie Edgerton are two of those mobile entrepreneurs.

The couple started their business, The Local Branch Co., in San Francisco in 2014. The business sells hand-printed apparel and accessories. But the business doesn’t have a traditional storefront. Instead, it sells those handprinted shirts and bags out of a 1979 Airstream trailer.

Edgerton told CNN:

“It was just a random idea. We hadn’t really seen anyone doing mobile retail, but we were inspired by food trucks.”

But now, Vossler and Edgerton aren’t the only ones discovering the versatility and other benefits of running a mobile retail business. Mobile businesses are becoming increasingly popular especially with young business owners who might not have the resources, or even the desire, to open a more traditional retail storefront.

Not only does this type of business model negate some of the costs associated with maintaining a traditional storefront, it also gives business owners the ability to put themselves in prime locations. Whether it’s a busy downtown shopping district, independent art fair or other type of event, a mobile business like The Local Branch Co. can be there. It can, and does, also travel to different cities around the country, something that traditional retail stores obviously can’t do.

And social media provides the opportunity for these mobile businesses to still build loyal followings. Those who want to shop at these mobile businesses on a particular day can simply follow them on Facebook, Twitter or other platforms to see where they’ll be.

Not every type of product necessarily lends itself to being sold out of an old trailer. But this mobile movement at least shows a new way of thinking about running retail businesses. No longer is it necessary to have a static storefront or even to rely solely on eCommerce platforms. A new generation of business owners is finding unique ways to put themselves in prime locations to succeed.

Image: The Local Branch Co.

This article, “Mobile Retail Trailers, the New Food Trucks of Retail?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Underrated Unified Communication Benefits for Small Businesses

Unified Communications Benefits

Over the past decade, there have been great advancements in the business communications industry.

If your business has yet to jump on the unified communications bandwagon, it’s imperative that you understand you’re missing out on valuable benefits. Productivity gains are but one of the many reasons to take advantage of unified communications.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of its other underrated benefits.

Presence Everywhere

With a unified communications network, your company can reap the benefits of streamlining all forms of communication.

Recent studies have shown that 49 percent of businesses are able to gain 20 minutes of productivity for each employee that they are able to reach on the first try. When you’re able to contact your employees on a real-time basis, productivity is greatly enhanced.

You’ll find that from instant messaging features to VoIP calls, unified communications improve profit margins by boosting overall operational efficiency; this is especially true for businesses that employ mobile workers.

You Can Record and Listen to Past Conversations

Has one of your employers ever had a conversation with a client only to forget important details? If so, you should definitely be implementing a single communications network because all communications are recorded and saved.

This means all you need is the name of the employee who carried out the conversation to find it in the database. With all communications saved, it makes it simple to boost customer service because you can review clients’ needs and requests on a regular basis to make sure none of them get overlooked.

You can even have the saved communications sent to you after each one of them is recorded. You can keep track of every conversation that takes place over the network, which is also advantageous because you can properly monitor the way employees use your communications network.

Ability to Work from Anywhere

When your workers have access to a unified communications system, productivity is greatly increased because they don’t have to be in the office to perform their duties.

Instead, they can access the system from anywhere with an Internet connection. This means workers can sit at home, log in to the system and contact a client. All the while, the communications will be recorded for you to review, ensuring that you have access to the communications that take place after office hours.

Your clients will be especially favorable of the ability to speak with your employees after the office has closed.

A unified communications network also improves customer service because it gives you and your workers the ability to easily direct phone calls and emails to the right departments.

Even if the office is closed for the day, customer inquiries can be directed across the network to a department manager’s phone. Whether the manager is in the office or at home, he can handle customer inquiries, which reduces the number of customer representatives you need to keep on staff.

Social Media and Presence Technology Can Be Easily Integrated

Did you know that social media communications can easily be integrated into a unified communications network?

In doing this, users of the network can benefit from Presence technology, which helps users determine the whereabouts of one another.

Take, for instance, that you’re trying to get in touch with the media department’s supervisor.  You can log in to the network and see where he took his last call, like from from his cell phone, desk phone, home phone, etc. This helps you pinpoint the best way to get in contact with the supervisor based on his last communication.

Access via Multiple Devices

One of the most overlooked and underrated benefits of unified communications for a small business is that users can access the network from multiple devices at the same time.  And with more and more workers accessing their business data on mobile devices, including smartphones and laptops, this makes multiple device accessibility all the more desirable.

Your workers will find it simple to manage contacts, perform IP telephony communications and even carry out multiple communications at the same time.

A video conference can take place on a laptop while a voice call takes place on a worker’s business cell phone.  And no matter the number of communications performed, you can rest assured that all of them will be digitally recorded.

The Takeaway

No matter the way you view unified communications, there’s no denying that your small business will benefit from creating and deploying its own unified communications network.

You’ll, of course, enjoy the cost savings that come along with this type of network, but more importantly, it’s pertinent that you assess how the above mentioned benefits can boost your profit margins.

It’s also important to consider how unified communications can improve your customer service, which should be at the heart of your organization’s mission and values.

Switchboard Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Underrated Unified Communication Benefits for Small Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Keurig CEO Admits v2.0 Mistake

keurig CEO

Keurig made a big mistake with its Keurig 2.0 coffee machine. And now the company is admitting it.

The Keurig 2.0 frustrated customers with it’s inability to accept third-party coffee, older K-cups, or reusable pods. Keurig is finally making an effort to fix at least one of these problems by bringing back the refillable My K-Cup.

recent report of Keurig’s fiscal second quarter this year shows the company took a 23 percent hit in brewer and accessory net sales compared to last year. According to the report, 22 percent of this loss was due to a decline in brewer sales volume. It seems this sharp fall off was a startling realization for Keurig.

The problem with Keurig 2.0 is with the machine’s DRM (Digital Rights Management) system. DRM makes it so Keurig 2.0 machines only accept official, and more expensive, Keurig K-Cups that are one-time use only. The consumer backlash to this decision was more than the company anticipated.

President and CEO, Brian Kelly said in an earnings call:

“We were wrong. We underestimated, is the easiest way to say it. We underestimated the passion the consumer had for [My K-Cup].”

In an effort to bring sales back, the company plans to reintroduce My K-Cup for Keurig 2.0 later this year. However, consumers will still have to buy the new My K-Cup to work in their machine.

Older K-Cups and third party pods will also continue to be unusable. But consumers who are determined to use any pod they chose can try a popular “hack” that works around the DRM system. Basically by cutting the top off of an official K-Cup and securing it to the top of another pod, you can trick the machine into accepting it.

Yahoo Finance Columnist Rich Newman has said Keurig has been using what is known as the “walled garden” business model.

“You get a one-time payment for selling the device and then you get the recurring revenue by selling the stuff you need to operate the device. Everybody would love to have that business model … Usually, it doesn’t work.”

Keurig is attempting to correct its mistake but it could be too little too late for some consumers. The company took away features many consumers loved about Keurig. Despite the announced return of My K-Cup, the company is still keeping things on its own terms.

Time will tell if Keurig can win back the customers it may have lost.

Image: Keurig CEO Brian Kelley

This article, “Keurig CEO Admits v2.0 Mistake” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

What is Shared Hosting?

web hosting

When it comes time to find a home for your website, one of the first questions you may ask is, “What is shared hosting?”

That’s a good question and answering for you is the purpose of this post.

Shared hosting can be described as:

Definition: An inexpensive web hosting setup where different parties share one Web server to securely host their own websites on a server maintained by a hosting company.

What is Shared Hosting

Photo credits: Workstation and hardware icons by Mike McDonald, on Flickr and
PageSpeed module for Nginx Web Server by Linux Screenshots, on Flickr

All done!

Just kidding! To really understand shared hosting, we’re going to break down the description above into two smaller bits that make up the whole.

What is Shared Hosting?

“An inexpensive Web hosting setup where different parties share one Web server…”

As with many service businesses, Web hosting companies typically offer different plans, each tailored to meet the needs of its clients at different levels. Web hosts typically offer three primary types of hosting setups:

  1. Shared server hosting
  2. Virtual private server hosting
  3. Dedicated server hosting

As the first tier offer, shared hosting is the least expensive and that’s a good thing, especially for small businesses. For this reason, shared hosting is the first home for many a business website — it’s a place to get its feet wet and begin to grow.

Why is the cost lower? From the hosting company’s perspective, shared hosting trades off higher process for higher volume. They can fit more hosting accounts on one server and that means that maintenance costs are divided across many parties driving down the price on the customer’s side.

While the price of shared hosting is low however, the limitations imposed are high.

You see, when a hosting company says shared, they mean shared: all the sites hosted there use every resource on a shared server. That includes CPU power, memory and bandwidth. Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem however, if one of the sites sees a spike in activity, it can slow or even freeze the other sites on the server.

That’s not a good thing.

Another downside of the low price is the low level of support provided to shared hosting accounts. While you can often purchase a higher level of support, since you’re not paying a lot at the basic level, you don’t get a lot.

“…to securely host their own websites on a server maintained by a hosting company.”

Though the server is shared, nothing else is. Each party hosting on a shared server can see and manage only their own site, no others. Even though they share an email server, email is delivered to, and accessible by, each individual party.

That said, security is of higher concern on a shared server. Simply by virtue of being on the same machine, it’s harder to lock down a website completely. Most hosting companies handle this as well as they can, so it’s not a huge risk factor, just a potential one.

Since multiple parties coexist on a shared server, concerns for security lead to limited access to the back-end of server. Under a shared hosting plan, a lot of the back-end is locked-down.

A benefit of this is that maintenance is typically taken care of by the Web hosting company, leaving you free to focus on business.

Unfortunately, this also means that you have very little control over your hosting server. You can’t install anything unless the hosting company provides it and, while that’s fine for many small businesses, it does start to chafe as a business grows and wants to add more functionality and design to its site.


Its low price and hands-off maintenance requirements makes shared hosting a very viable option for small businesses that stay small or are just starting out. The security risks on a shared server are higher, but it’s more of a situation you need to keep an eye on as opposed to being a show stopper.

As a business grows however, the resources its website demands grow as well. As more traffic and transactions begin to strain a shared server, it’s time to upgrade to the next tier of the hosting plans.

The desire for more control of a website’s back end, including the need to install software beyond that offered by the hosting company, is another common reason for upgrading your hosting plan. Once you’re at the next tier, you have much more control over your website’s home.

Web Hosting Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What is Shared Hosting?” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

Desktop Suffers Drastic Decline While Mobile-Only Soars

mobile only users

A recent report by digital analytics company comScore shows a continued decline in desktop use as mobile use continues to rise.

In a post on the official comScore blog, Senior Marketing Insights Analyst Adam Lella explains:

“Just a year ago, there was still nearly twice the percentage of desktop-only internet users (19.1 percent) as mobile-only users (10.8 percent). While the share of mobile-only users has climbed over the past year to 11.3 percent, the desktop-only population has drastically declined to just 10.6 percent. Of course these numbers also tell us that the vast majority of the digital population (78 percent) is multi-platform and goes online using both desktop and mobile platforms.”

Interestingly, while the data clearly shows a continued move toward mobile-only technology, Lella says the report also concludes:

“All signs indicate that the desktop computer is here to stay for the foreseeable future, but let’s also not be surprised if, as a society, we become even more mobile over the years to come. And with more mobile-only internet users than desktop-only users, it is yet another sign that digital media is evolving towards ‘mobile first.’”

Continuing a Trend

The steady increase in the popularity of mobile is nothing new.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Mobile Access 2010 report, 59 percent of all adult Americans accessed the Internet wirelessly, including on laptops. Two in five adults (40 percent) went online, used e-mail or used some form of instant messaging on a cell phone in 2010. That was an increase of eight percent from 2009.

By 2012, the true effect of mobile technology on both business and personal use was becoming clear. An April 2012 Pew Mobile Technology Fact Sheet revealed that 70 percent of cell phone users and 86 percent of smartphone users had used their phones in the previous 30 days to perform at least one of the following tasks:

  • Coordinate a meeting or get-together (40 percent)
  • Solve an unexpected problem that they or someone else had encountered (35 percent)
  • Decide whether to visit a business, such as a restaurant (30 percent)
  • Find information to help settle an argument they were having (27 percent)
  • Look up a score for a sporting event (23 percent)
  • Get up-to-the-minute traffic or public transit information to find the quickest way to get somewhere (20 percent)
  • Get help in an emergency situation (19 percent)

As of October 2014, 90 percent of adults surveyed by Pew said they own a cell phone; 32 percent said they own an e-reader, such as an iPad or a Kindle, and 42 percent said they own a tablet computer.

ComScore began documenting the drop in PC use and the rise in mobile device use starting in March 2014, and in the course of just over a year, the numbers changed dramatically. A year ago, the firm said there were nearly twice as many desktop-only users (19.1 percent) versus mobile-only users (10.8 percent). Today, 10.6 percent of users work primarily on personal computers, and mobile-only users make up 11.3 percent of the mix.

According to comScore data, 78 percent of the U.S. Internet audience is “multi-platform,” meaning they access the Internet using both PCs and mobile devices. Of that number, 22 percent is either PC- or mobile-only.

Why This is Important in the Business World

Google’s Mobile Path to Purchase report surveyed 950 consumers across the verticals of Restaurants, Food and Cooking, Finance, Travel, Home and Garden, Beauty and Apparel, Automotive, Electronics and Health and Nutrition to analyze how they used their mobile devices to research their purchases. The majority of consumers began their research on search engines (48 percent), followed by branded websites (33 percent), and followed by branded apps (26 percent).

By far, the majority of the consumers surveyed (89 percent) said that most of their time spent on media is through mobile apps, versus only 11 percent who said they used the mobile web to access media. The full study can be downloaded here.

Clearly, consumers are using their smartphones to look up literally everything. And if they’re standing in line at the gas station and need to look something up in a hurry, a tiny, confusing website designed for a PC is only going to frustrate them. A mobile device has to be easy to read, user-friendly and, perhaps most of all, incredibly succinct.

According to speaker and author Chris Brogan, if businesses do nothing else, they should at least invest in a responsive, mobile-ready website that features one clear action that the company offers on the home page. Brogan hit the importance of being mobile ready as a major theme when delivering the keynote at the 2013 What’s Next Conference, Forbes reports.

This could include a button to push, a video to watch or a demonstration of the value of a particular product. (Having a mobile-friendly website also helps with SEO, by the way. Such sites improve rankings on mobile-friendly search engines, including Google and Yahoo.)

It also goes without saying that mobile devices do a business good by ensuring that employees and company heads can always stay in touch. If you’re on a two-week vacation to Maui, perhaps this doesn’t sound as attractive as it’s supposed to.

Realistically, though, problems get solved faster, questions get answered more quickly and work can be turned in or reviewed immediately.

Desktop computers haven’t gone extinct yet, and it will probably be a long time before they do. But a company that hasn’t caught up to the Digital Age will suffer for it until they do.

Old Computer Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Desktop Suffers Drastic Decline While Mobile-Only Soars” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

The Rise of Voice Search and Something You Can Do About It

As using your voice grows as a search medium, more options may rise for targeting and delivering better experiences. But until then, there are clues we can use to be smarter about our marketing.

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