brand challenges

Walmart's Woes Outrun Its Capabilities; Are Smaller Stores the Answer?

Posted by Dale Buss on February 20, 2014 03:53 PM

It seems the proud days of Walmart are now behind the US brand that is looking increasingly lost in a quickly evolving global market. 

The world's largest retailer on Thursday reported a meager net-sales increase of just 1.6 percent and a 3 percent drop in operating income for 2013 as Walmart coped with struggling consumers in America and elsewhere, a drop in US government support for many in its low-income customer base, and even the scourge of bad weather that has hit many US retailers over the last few months.

Worse yet, Walmart comp-store sales actually declined by 0.6 percent, an incredible blow to a brand that achieved the top of the mass-merchandising mountain by being able to create a powerful price-based loyalty among its customers that had survived every impediment before 2013.Continue reading...

Tesla Keeps On Surging as Musk Looks to Spread Innovation Bug to Apple

Posted by Dale Buss on February 20, 2014 02:42 PM

Part tech star, part automotive history-maker, Tesla keeps betting on the future and following founder Elon Musk's vision for making electric cars ubiquitous in global luxury markets and then affordable for mainstream consumers.

In the latest snapshot on his progress and thinking, Musk said this week that he's talked with Apple and vowed to lead the way to autonomous cars, and indicated that Tesla plans to boost production by more than 50 percent this year as its single nameplate, Model S, continues to appear on the wish lists of upscale, progressive car buyers everywhere.

"It's difficult to predict where the demand settles out with the [Model] S," Musk said on a conference call. But for now, he's forecasting sales of 35,000 Model S sedans this year after Tesla sold about 22,000 of them last year. And by mid-2014, he expects the Tesla factory in California to be making as many as 1,000 cars a week, implying an annual production target of maybe 50,000 cars.Continue reading...

traveling brands

In Prep for IPO, Virgin America Innovates with In-Flight Social Network

Posted by Mark J. Miller on February 12, 2014 01:47 PM

Virgin’s tech team and customer-relations crew must be working overtime this week. Over in the UK, Virgin Atlantic announced it is testing a wearable tech program with its airline concierge staff to better serve upper-class customers, and now the airline's US arm has partnered with Here On Biz on an in-flight social network based off of LinkedIn.

The venture, which focuses on business travelers, allows passengers on Virgin America flights to connect with other passengers on the plane and on the ground. 

"This partnership allows flyers to take advantage of those serendipitous travel moments where people with complementary business interests are in the same place at the same time—even if that place is on a plane somewhere 35,000 feet above the US," said Here On Biz CEO Nick Smoot, according to The Verge. "With our iOS app and this partnership with Virgin America, you can find your next big connection in seat 4C—or even just a row away from you."

The service, which passengers need to opt into, will launch next week on one plane based in San Francisco and expand to all Virgin America flights by month’s end, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.Continue reading...

brand roadmaps

Despite Gains, Apple Not "Innovative" Enough for Challenging Mobile Market

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 28, 2014 06:39 PM

If the reaction to Apple's latest earnings call says anything, it's that the personal-tech bar has been set astronomically high

After setting new quarterly sales records for iPhone and iPad in Q1 2014, and clocking sales figures of over $57.5 billion, Apple's stock proceded to fall almost 9 percent in after-hours trading on Monday. 

While the report was generally positive compared to 'normal' standards, it apparently wasn't positive enough for investors, who said sales of the company's flagship iPhones fell short of expectations, despite the fact that the company sold 51 million iPhone5S and 5C models in Q3, up from 47.8 million a year earlier. With the first-time, simultaneous launch of the smartphones in the US, Western Europe and China markets, analysts were hoping to see around 57 million handsets sold. 

And then there's that word again, "innovation." The charge to innovate, which has followed the brand around for nearly the last two years as it seemingly trudged through a product slump, has come up again, with anaylsts claiming that the reigning Best Global Brand must innovate again to get investors excited and to regain consumer mindshare.Continue reading...

let's make a deal

Google's Connected Home Ambitions Take Flight with Nest Acquisition

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 14, 2014 12:57 PM

On the heels of CES 2014, Google has effectively tapped into arguably one of the biggest trends in consumer tech—the smart home—by buying Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in cash, its second-largest acquisition to date. 

The company founded by former Apple executives Matt Rogers and Tony Fadell, who is credited as a key player in the invention of the iPod, is known for creating smart thermostats and smoke detectors. Nest told Forbes that it has sold about 1 million of its thermostats, placing them in nearly 1 percent of US households. 

And that's where excitement turns to concern, as consumers fear that Google may use Nest's technology to monitor them. Google has already addressed the concerns, saying its existing privacy policy "clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services," but that hasn't quieted the critics much. 

But Nest, a company started by and filled with ex-Apple employees, doesn't seem to be worried. Continue reading...

tech innovation

CES 2014: IBM Puts Watson to Work as Tech Consultant with $1B Investment

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 10, 2014 12:55 PM

IBM remains bullish on Watson, its supercomputer made famous on Jeopardy!, but it is having a hard time leveraging the super-smart artificial brain beyond trivia and into revenue-producing businesses.

IBM maintains that Watson has revolutionary real-world applications in a variety of verticals including health care and investing, with CEO Virginia Rometty projecting that Watson would generate $10 billion in annual revenue within 10 years. But according to Wall Street Journal, as of last October, Watson wasn't meeting revenue hopes, generating "only" $100 million. Setbacks include costs in “training” Watson “to master the particulars of various businesses.”

To better realize its potential, IBM announced at CES this week in Las Vegas that it is investing $1 billion into making Watson the centerpiece of a new business group based in New York—a group that will build out a productive and profitable ecosystem for the super-computer. Already employing 2,000 people, IBM projects the unit to create $20 billion in revenue by 2015.Continue reading...

tech in the spotlight

T-Mobile's John Legere Steals the Show—and AT&T's Mojo—On Day 2 at CES 2014

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 8, 2014 07:23 PM

T-Mobile President and CEO John Legere’s performance wins day three at CES 2014. He took to the stage, can of Red Bull in hand, and excoriated his competitors, attacking AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon for poor service, high prices, and for generally not being cool.

But his most vehement attack was on AT&T, whose CES party Legere infamously crashed earlier this week. "AT&T is a total source of amusement for me. They are the ones that take my bullshit. Dumb move. They take the bait."

Continuing on its 'Uncarrier' streak, T-Mobile announced it will pay customer’s up to $350 per line to cover early termination fees and release them from an existing plan on a competing carrier. "We're giving families a ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card," Legere said in the press release.

The announcement adds wood to the already smoldering fire between T-Mobile and AT&T, which last week announced it would pay $200 for every line T-Mobile customers switched over (requiring those customers buy a new AT&T phone.) Legere called AT&T's promotion a "desperate move," and countered, “Try the network, try what we're doing. And if it doesn't work, these pricks will pay you to come back!"Continue reading...

tech innovation

IBM Predicts Five Technologies That Will Change the World in the Next Five Years

Posted by Sheila Shayon on December 17, 2013 05:43 PM

As the year readies to close out, it's time for the annual onslaught of year-end lists of best ofs, worst ofs, and 2014 look-aheads. So in due course, IBM has released its annual 5 in 5 annual technology predictions, highlighting what the company thinks will come to the forefront in the next five years. 

“We try to get a sense of where the world is going because that focuses where we put our efforts,” Bernie Meyerson, VP Innovation at IBM, told VentureBeat. “The harder part is nailing down what you want to focus on. Unless you stick your neck out and say this is where the world is going, it’s hard to turn around and say you will get there first. These are seminal shifts. We want to be there, enabling them.”

Among the expected innovations in cloud computing and smarter cities, IBM expects there to be significant changes in the way the medical community treats illness, and how our digital lives are made more secure.

The new list of tech trends and innovations that IBM expects to impact our lives in the years ahead:Continue reading...

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