Archive for the ‘mail’ tag
Scott Forstall and his love of user interface elements that mimic the “real world” is long gone. Jony Ive, the design genius behind the iMac, iPhone, iPad, and pretty much everything Apple in the last decade, was appointed to overhaul and comprehensively redo Apple’s most important crown jewel in October of last year.
Now, it appears, he’s close to complete.
Ive has been leading a thorough revamp of the iPhone UI in preparation for the upcoming iOS 7 release, and according to 9to5 Mac, he’s also most done. The changes are significant, described as “black, white, and flat all over.”
That’s a massive change from the original colorful, shiny, semi-transparent iOS development language, which tries hard to make virtual controls and objects look and feel and act like real controls and objects. You see that today in the drop shadows behind icons, the compass interface of Find My iPhone, and the physical button-like Apple toggle controls:
Forstall, the former iPhone chief who was cut from the Apple team after refusing to apologize for the Apple Maps disaster, was a big fan of skeuomorphic design: design that connects the new to the old with decorative but — some might say — unnecessary elements.
Those “some” would include Ive.
Apple’s Notes app is an example of skeuomorphic design, with faux leather at the top and the virtual remnants of virtual torn-off pages at the top. On iPhone, iBooks, Find My Friends, and Newstand are examples, with with fake bookshelves, fake stitching, fake leather, and fake shadows.
For a designer like Jony Ive, who has spent his life stripping away excess, simplifying relentlessly, there is something inherently dishonest about skeuomorphic design. It’s something of a lie … because there is no wood in your iPhone, no dead animal skin on the screen, and no paper to be torn off. And, he’s been quoted as saying that software designs built with physical metaphors do not stand the test of time.
There are design elements in the iPhone’s user interface language that are already trending away from the original color and connection to material controls.
Safari and Mail, for instance, have no parchment, no leather, no torn-off page remnants:
There are no images yet of iOS7, which will be one of Apple’s most closely-guarded secrets up to WWDC. Changes reportedly include dropping the textured, cloth-like background of Notifications Center in favor of a flat grey, and the shiny, transparent lock screen will lose its luster for a flatter, less evocative interface. You would have to think that a detail-oriented design-obsessed Ive will have comprehensively altered the appearance of almost everything in the iOS design language, but we’ll know more on June 10 when Apple reveals it.
In all this rush to get rid of skeuomorphic design, there’s one thing to remember.
Perhaps the iPhone was so transformative, so new, and so different, that skeuomorphism was a necessary first step in the evolution of its design language. And perhaps the virtual has now become so real … that now we don’t need it anymore.
According to recent reports, Facebook is testing a new feature that will allow users to easily turn Facebook photos into printed postcards. The new feature, which is named “Mail a Postcard,” was initially built during a Facebook Hackathon and is only available to a few test users at this time. If a Facebook user is [...]
iOS (Jailbroken): Some apps have a handy built-in browser that allows you to quickly load up links, but others, like Mail, or Messages, don’t. To open a link you have to switch over to Safari. BrowseInApp is a jailbreak tweak that adds a small browser to just about any app so you don’t have to switch over to quickly read a link. More »
Competition in many industries is fierce – so what is the hard-pressed marketer to do? How can marketers effectively wage war in their market when there are so many other companies fighting tooth and nail for their cut?
Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS, will share our discoveries in Wednesday’s free Web clinic – “Discovering Your Value Proposition.”
But first, we wanted to hear from your peers. Here are the best tips we received …
Deeply and truly understand your target audience
What they desire and want from engaging with your brand. Know about their preferences for online forums. Use buyer personas that are factual and based on actual research, not just your opinion. Test what messages and content resonate the best in getting them to take action. Ensure your product and services are really delivering value. Develop marketing content that is increasing value, efficiency and trust with your target audience.
– Justin Martinez, Web Content Editor
It’s a one-two hook
1. Marketers: Develop compelling content. Address sticky issues, highlight success stories, and lists of how-tos, to name a few areas. Demonstrate experience and market leadership. Pull in validation from everywhere – your metrics, feedback from others, industry pundits, etc. And feed it to your salespeople.
2. Sellers: Promote the heck out of it across your most relevant contacts – post it everywhere, email it as a “gift” to your relevant contacts, use it as an excuse to call people and talk about it.
We are definitely entering an era where content converts your prospects into believers, and is a huge differentiator. I actually think we will continue to see a massive shift in what a “salesperson” looks and acts like. Think “content purveyor” versus “lord of the conference room.” Marketers meanwhile should think of themselves more as multimedia publishers. Ready or not – it’s lights, camera, action time!
– Kathy Tito, Founder and President, New England Sales & Marketing
Turn a perceived negative into a positive
Pennsylvania One Call has been able to stand out with a direct mail marketing and education campaign that tied the mail piece to a local event within the neighborhood. We call it “The Gladys Kravitz Marketing Plan” because it targets the nosy neighbor.
Results? A 3% response rate to the direct mail piece, turning a perceived industry negative into a positive educational opportunity, changed consumer behavior, and an expansion of awareness to the homeowner.
Outreach programs like this help us prevent damage to underground utilities.
– Dan Lucarelli, Director of Marketing and Education, Pennsylvania One Call System
Discovering Your Value Proposition: 6 Ways to stand out in a crowded marketplace – Wednesday, August 8, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EDT
The Gladys Kravtiz Marketing Plan: Using location-based marketing techniques to turn a liability into an educational opportunity (see page 36, via Damage Prevention Professional)
For a company to avoid the recycling bin with the other 12 pieces of crappy and sometimes ill targeted direct mail pieces you get in your mailbox everyday, they need to do something pretty awesome. In Canada, a Porsche dealer did just that. But only if you’re rich enough to afford one anyway.
A crew from Toronto’s Pfaff automotive and Lowe Roche agency drove around affluent neighborhoods in a Porsche off their lot and photographed it in the driveways (or in front) of nice houses. From there, they created personalized ads with the message “it’s closer than you think” and delivered them to each person’s home.
Apparently this got a 32% response rate to schedule a test drive. Impressive all around!
Microsoft’s new Outlook.com mail service may finally drive some much-needed innovation in email. (Disclosure: I have Microsoft stock from my time as an employee there.)
I agree. This is definitely one of the more innovative products from Microsoft. It’s clean, it’s simple, and it’s easy to use.
The last fundamental innovation in email was in 2004 when Gmail launched. I’ve been a Gmail user ever since.
But despite huge increases in the volume of email we deal with in the last eight years, little has been done to improve the core experience. Yes, Google launched Priority Inbox. It’s supposed to help you figure out the important mail; for me, it’s been largely useless. Scanning through my inbox, very little of what Google has marked important really is.
Google’s other major moves with Gmail have largely been about trying to exploit its huge number of mail users into whatever lame social product Google is trying to bootstrap. (Remember Buzz?)
But better email tools could improve productivity for everyone. In the current version of Outlook mail, there isn’t enough innovation to get me to switch. But the existence of a new and credible player who wants to win may drive much-needed innovation in email. Here are some core things that would get me to switch by delivering value, not by tricking people like Facebook tried to do:
Outlook’s “Quick views” feature offers a quick view of how that could happen: automatic classification of mail. The system automatically scans email for certain attributes that people look for. Oh, hey, this email looks like a shipping confirmation. And this one has a photo. And these have attachments.
That’s pretty rudimentary. But imagine that your email tool could do this:
- Separate receipts from marketing emails. I have eight years’ worth of emails from Amazon, Buy.com, Groupon, etc. Sometimes I want to look up what I purchased, or I need warranty service. Finding those receipts can be a challenge.
- Pluck out bills. Emails from American Express could be scanned for payment due date, and the date could automatically be added to my Google Calendar.
- Keep my travel top of mind. Itineraries, hotel confirmations, and rental car reservations that are upcoming would be available in a dashboard view.
- Identify emails with expiring content. Nordstrom’s anniversary sale ends August 5th. This could be put into a Quick view that becomes more prominent when the date approaches and drops out when the sale ends. Expired emails would also be downweighted in search results.
Some of the above can be done with search. For example, I can search “Buy.com receipt”. But look what happens when I do that:
I get a bunch of unrelated junk. What you can’t see is that the list isn’t complete. I’ve purchased much more from Buy.com. In order to get all of my Buy.com receipts, I have to search for “buy.com thanks for your order”.
Another way to tackle the problem is filters. I have set up numerous filters that file things like receipts, daily deal emails and the like. (You can see some of my filters in the screenshot above.) But that’s a real pain to set up and only geeks will do it.
There are vertical players that are focused on solving pieces of the problem. TripIt and Kayak will parse travel-related emails. I forward my confirmation emails to TripIt, it picks out the relevant details and creates a more consistent itinerary. It can even generate a feed of events that I plug into Google Calendar. That’s a really roundabout way of doing things. OneReceipt and Slice do this for shopping emails.
But the separate apps have little traction. It should be built into the email platform. And once it’s in a large scale system like Gmail or Outlook, emailers will have an incentive to markup the information they send to make it even more actionable.
Google has built a very lucrative business on organizing the world’s information. It should do a much better job of organizing my information.
It’s somewhat mind boggling that this far into email adoption, unsecure email is standard operating practice. Yes, there have been some improvements. Gmail uses SSL for your mailbox. That wasn’t always the case.
But if you actually send something, that email is sent unencrypted to the recipient.
Securing email has had three historical challenges: it needs to be easy for the user, it needs to be universal, and it needs to have a business model.
Early experiments like PGP, which put a lot of work on both the sender and recipient, have failed in the consumer market. But for person-to-person messaging, we’re down to a small handful of providers that matter. (Yahoo, Google and Microsoft.) Among them, they should be able to solve this problem, at least for email sent among their networks.
Secure email is also something that would help with financial transactions and could potentially cut the flood of bills that are sent via paper mail. That the post office is running ads touting that paper mail is more secure than email is ridiculous. Not because they’re wrong, but because it’s true.
Even among my more tech savvy friends, many receive paper bills because the process of getting their bill or statement from each credit card company is difficult. If you have multiple accounts, it’s even more complicated because each financial institution has its own system. There is no interface as consistent as ripping open an envelope. They also have different rules about how long they keep old statements online. All of this stuff should show up in my email box as effortlessly and more securely than it does in my regular mailbox.
Because email recipients are concentrated on a few networks, it would be possible to have direct secure transmission of these statements and account notices. Doing that would also reduce the scourge of phishing, because the mail provider could authenticate that an email came from American Express or Bank of America.
This is a service that banks should be willing to pay for, both because it reduces their operational costs (mailing and printing statements) and because it reduces fraud liabilities (phishing.) Even at 5 cents per secure communication, it’d be a bargain.
Not only does this increase productivity, it’s better for the environment. The people who lose out are postal workers, especially the guy who’s job it is to convince banks that they should use paper statements instead of email. (I’m not making that up. Talk about a Sisyphean task.)
Will any of this happen? A guy can hope. And there’s nothing like real competition to help drive it.
If someone is willing to add these features, I will jump ship from Gmail. I would even go back to my Yahoo mail account.
Filed under: VentureBeat
I know Tumblr is not email, or Twitter, but why make it so infuriating to communicate with others on Tumblr?
marksbirch created a note on a post of mine, and of course I can’t reply to it (see Notr). So I went to his blog and asked a question, which he answered. But of course I can’t then add a follow on question to that existing ask. Of course not. So I tried to ask him a follow on question in a new ask, with a link to a post. Got this:
Hmm. Of course you can’t put links in questions. Why would you want to do that?
So I tried to send him fan mail, thinking maybe I oculd put a link in that. Turns out you have to follow someone to send fan mail. So I followed him, and tried to send fan mail:
Ok. I give up.
You think you know a little something about catalog marketing and analytics? Take this quiz, and find out for yourself. You may just find out that you’re the best qualified candidate for a job at a major retail brand!
Question #1: You mailed a catalog to 1,000,000 households, and generated $4,000,000 in sales. Your CFO wants to “grow the brand”. She asks you what would have happened if you had mailed 1,333,333 households. If you mailed 1,333,333 households, what is the total amount of net sales you would have generated?
- Measure total sales generated at your call center.
- Match back all online orders generated by customers mailed the catalog over a three week period of time to the catalog you mailed, sum those orders to call center orders attributed to the keycode on the back of the catalog.
- Execute a mail/holdout test, subtracting the difference between the mailed group and the holdout group.
- A non-promotional strategy.
- A promotional strategy.
- Question #1 = 1. You use the square root rule to approximate sales.
- Question #2 = 1. You can also use the square root rule to approximate sales here!
- Question #3 = 1. AOV is unlikely to increase significantly with more pages, given the online AOV.
- Question #4 = 3. Mail/Holdout tests consistently deliver better results than those generated by matchback algorithms.
- Question #5 = $600,000: $4,000,000 * 0.40 – $1,000,000.
- Question #6 = 2. There will be cannibalization, meaning that you can’t assume that the fourth catalog will generate what the first three catalogs generate. That rules out answer three. Answer one makes no sense whatsoever, leaving only answer two as a reasonable answer.
- Question #7 = 1, Yes. (0.02*100*0.4 – $1.00)/(0.02) = Lose $10 up-front, generate $15 profit in the next year, net = +$5.00.
- Question #8 = 3 … You lose $10.00 up-front (see Question #7 above).
- Question #9 = 2 … No, your business is not a failure. The repurchase rate is irrelevant. Customer loyalty is irrelevant, it’s your management of customer loyalty that matters most. If your catalog business is generating 15% EBITDA, you are a highly successful business leader.
- Question #10 = 1 … the non-promotional strategy is far more profitable … non-promotional = (0.05*100*0.4 – 1.00 = 1.00 profit) … promotional strategy = (0.06*110*0.4 – 1.00 – 0.06*110*0.20 = 0.32 profit).
- Question #11 = 3 … you need 1,400,000 new+reactivated buyers. Work backwards. You need 2,200,000 to satisfy your CFO. You have 2,000,000 twelve-month buyers who repurchase at a 40% rate, meaning that 800,000 will purchase again. 2,200,000 – 800,000 = 1,400,000.
- Question #12 = 1 … you need 1,300,000 new+reactivated buyers. Work backwards. You need 2,200,000 to satisfy your CFO. You have 2,000,000 twelve-month buyers who repurchase at a 45% rate, meaning that 900,000 will repurchase again. 2,200,000 – 900,000 = 1,300,000.
- Question #13 = 3 … 130 / 3 = 43.33.
This week, I eagerly await a small ribboned box that will arrive in the mail, resplendent with bangles and pendants. It’s not my birthday for another six months, and I’m not expecting a care package from a friend.
This is my first monthly shipment from Rocksbox, a recently launched subscription service for high-end jewelry. To get started, simply fill out an online form outlining your style predilections whether its chunky beads, vintage-inspired cuffs or dainty pearls. In a matter of weeks, you’ll receive gems suited to your taste, all sourced from independent designers.
San Francisco-based Rocksbox is often described as the Birchbox for jewelry. If you’re not familiar with Birchbox, it’s a startup that sends beauty samples in the mail to subscribers for $10 a month. The site has already built a fierce (almost cult) following in the fashion world. Rocksbox works in a similar way: for $19 per month, you’ll receive curated packages of designer goodies. Enjoy and return, or buy anything out of the box at a discounted rate.
The Birchbox model has proven a palpable hit with both users and investors, and has spawned a dozen imitators in the digital commerce space. But Rocksbox founder, Meaghan Rose (featured above) told me that unlike clothes or shoes, jewelry is a natural fit.
“Jewelry is easy to ship and return, it’s one size fits all (with the exception of rings), and women are willing to experiment with new boutique and designer pieces,” she said.
The startup only has a handful of employees, but is gaining momentum with San Francisco’s young, female and professional set. Rose, a jewelry enthusiast, formed the idea for the company while working in management consulting.
“I left my job with McKinsey and moved to the Bay Area not really knowing how I was going to get this thing off the ground,” said Rose. “I went to dozens of hackathons and meetups, and had coffee with anyone that would meet with me.” In short order, she secured investment from friends, family and a few angel investors, and launched the site three months ago.
Rocksbox is currently facing strong competition from Jewelmint and Lucid Box, but Rose told me that her customer-base is growing thanks to Pinterest, a social sharing site popular with millions of web denizens.
The perpetual challenge for subscription-based sites like these is to turn ‘sample and send back’ users into buyers. Most women are extremely particular about jewelry. Before launching, Rose said the team spent months designing the survey to determine users’ style preferences. In its current form, the survey contains street style photographs and images of necklaces, rings and bangles.
Rocksbox users typically buy one or more of the items about 15 percent of the time. With a bit of machine learning magic to build a model of taste, this number is set to increase. The challenge is to develop an algorithm that can recommend similar items to those bought, and adapt with users’ evolving personal style.
Subscription services are all the rage, with venture capital firms betting big on Shoedazzle, Beachmint and Birchbox. For this category to succeed, these startups will need to develop a strong enough recommendations engine to help women consistently find new looks, and convince them to make that habitual monthly purchase.
Stephen Elliott, founder and editor-in-chief of a literary website called The Rumpus, has found a modern-day audience for old-school letters. The program, a mixture of old-world letter writing and the modern web, is called Letters In The Mail and it aims to further disrupt the way we think about publishing.
Elliott is a writer, filmmaker (his movie About Cherry comes out later this year), and occasional teacher. He started The Rumpus in 2009, and it has evolved into a mix of reviews, interviews, the popular “Dear Sugar” advice column, with lots of other content. (I took a class from Elliott when I was in college, and also conducted a couple of interviews for the site in its early days.)
“We were around for a long time before we started making any money,” he says. Now, however, the team has cobbled together enough of a business model to pay Elliott and two full-time staffers (managing editor Isaac Fitzgerald and Lisa Dusenbery), as well as rent on a small office in San Francisco’s Mission District. That model includes a book club (where members pay $25 a month to receive a monthly book ahead of publication), events, advertising (“not so much as to be obnoxious”), sales of merchandise such as the “Write Like A Motherfucker” coffee mug — and yes, physical letters.
Elliott says his interest in letter-writing goes back 26 years, when his he sent weekly letters to his then-fiancée, who was traveling through Europe. For The Rumpus, Elliott has been sending out an (almost) daily email, which now has more than 12,000 subscribers. The email is a lot more personal than most website newsletters, with lots of anecdotes and musings, but Elliott says “it still wasn’t the same.”
“And so I had the idea that I would send The Daily Rumpus out sometimes as a physical letter,” he says. “Then I realized, there’s probably a lot of other writers that miss writing letters, so I got everybody involved and now when you sign up you get a letter from a different author three times a month.”
Letters In The Mail kicked off earlier this year, and it now has about 2,300 subscribers. The Rumpus is also in the process of launching a Letters For Kids program, which is being run by young adult author Cecil Castellucci. Asked about his favorites so far, Elliott says “they’re all really good,” but points to Matthew Spektor’s letter about a phone call he received from Marlon Brando, and to Lorelei Lee’s letter about an imagined conversation with her grandmother about Lee’s career in pornography, as two that stand out.
But why do the letters have to be physical? As someone who makes his living writing for a website, I’m probably more invested in the question than most people — but whether it’s on a screen or on paper, isn’t it still writing? Elliott says that when he writes a physical letter, he’s “aware of a deeper commitment and intimacy.”
“When someone reads a letter it’s generally the only thing they’re doing,” Elliott says. “They give it [their] full attention. When someone reads an email they’re often reading it on their phone while boarding a bus.”
Participating in Letters In The Mail costs $5 a month ($10 if you’re outside the US). Elliott says profits for The Rumpus are modest, because most of the money goes towards printing and to paying the letter-writers. Like every other Rumpus initiative, Elliott says the program started because he thought it would be interesting, not because he saw it as a moneymaker — but at the same time, it has to be profitable, because the site doesn’t have money to lose.
Beyond the normal ups-and-downs of starting a new site, and launching programs like Letters In The Mail, it seems like a pretty turbulent time to be writing about the literary world, as publishing and bookselling struggle to reinvent themselves. Elliott admits that there’s plenty of uncertainty, but he seems pretty sanguine about it:
” The publishing industry will undergo massive shifts, but that’s the nature of things. There will always be literature, and literary pursuits. How it’s consumed will change. And The Rumpus will change as everyone working on The Rumpus changes. We’re not tied in any way to the trials and tribulations of Random House. We’re our own thing, and sometimes we don’t even know what that is.”