E-Commerce Times

Top 5 Data-Driven Mobile Services for a Competitive Edge

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The mobile data market has been approaching saturation in major industrialized nations. Mobile data consumption has increased steadily over the past several years, but consumers have found new ways to avoid paying extra for services they don't need or use — and intense competition among mobile carriers has allowed consumers to switch from fixed-data to unlimited plans and pay less in the process.

Operators increasingly have been turning to targeted data-driven services in order to drive higher data usage and find new monetization strategies. Parks Associates recently released the industry report Mobile Data Services: Business Model Assessment, which includes an analysis of the top five data-driven services in the U.S. market.

1. Social Media and Chat

The most commonly used type of mobile application is social media, according to Parks Associates' data.

More than 80 percent of U.S. smartphone owners under the age of 25 use social media and chat apps such as Facebook and Snapchat on their phones, the firm's research suggests.

Providers in emerging markets have been using social media to drive mobile data adoption and, in some cases, bring people online for the first time. In more mature markets, MSPs have used zero-rated (free of charge) access to social media as a means to attract subscribers.

Livestreaming, embedded video content, and voice and video chat have become part of the social media and messaging experience. Eighty-two percent of Twitter users watch video content, and 90 percent of Twitter video views take place on a mobile screen, according to
recent research.

Video calling and voice chat can drive heavier adoption of data while reducing reliance on legacy networks. Almost half of U.S. broadband households regularly used video calling and chat apps in 2015, and that usage will increase as messaging services such as Facebook Messenger gain increased adoption.

Chart: Use of Social Media/Chat Apps on Smarphones

2. Streaming Video

Video content accounted for roughly 50 percent of
mobile data traffic in 2016, and its portion is expected to grow to 75 percent of mobile data traffic by 2021, according to Ericsson.

YouTube, the most popular over-the-top service globally, has more than 1.5 billion logged-in users visiting its site per month, which equates to about 20 percent of the world's population.

Consumption of streaming video content via smartphone has a strong correlation with size of a user's data plan. Among U.S. broadband households, the percentage of those consuming streaming video doubles between those with a 1-GB or smaller data plan and those with a 10-GB or greater data plan.

Unlimited data plans are highly effective in promoting adoption of streaming OTT services. Mobile service providers have been taking advantage of this trend by offering unlimited data and video subscription bundles, such as AT&T's DirecTV bundle.

3. Streaming Music

Streaming music is more popular than streaming video, but it is not as data-intensive. Even music streamed at a high quality (320 kbps) uses less data than low-quality video.

Streaming music is effective at driving data plan adoption in regions where 3G and 4G technologies have become dominant but where the mobile market has not reached maturity. While streaming music will not drive as much revenue as video, it has less impact on networks and network quality, and it represents less of a risk to operators' quality of service.

Consumers in the U.S. spend an average of four hours per day listening to music, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Digital revenues made up 78 percent of the total music industry in 2016, with streaming music generating the majority of revenue in the United States and some other countries.

4. Mobile Gaming

More than half of U.S. smartphone owners in broadband households play mobile games, Parks Associates' data suggests, and mobile gamers spend an average of five hours per week doing so.

Gaming is not a new phenomenon, but has become a dominant application for mobile devices. Revenue models for mobile games typically include in-app purchases and advertising.

Mobile service providers traditionally have benefited from the popularity of mobile gaming by offering paid downloads from their own app stores, but the popularity of OS-bundled app stores such as Google Play and Apple's App Store largely killed that model in developed markets.

Instead, mobile service providers have turned to newer models, such as partnerships with the makers of popular games and game store subscriptions with carrier billing.

5. Cellular-Connected Devices and the IoT

Over the last several years, an increasing number and variety of non-smartphone products have begun to connect to mobile networks for fast and ubiquitous Internet access.

Those products — including tablets, e-readers, smartwatches, cameras and cars — require their own data plans, which may be sold either individually or as a part of a shared data bucket.

Adoption of connected car data plans, for example, is relatively low at present but growing sharply — both in terms of direct-to-consumer data plans and partnerships with automakers and connected car managed service providers. When self-driving cars hit the market, car data plans will become commonplace.

Chart: Mobile Device Adoption 2017-2017

Although the mobile data market is nearing saturation, MSPs still have opportunities for revenue growth and consumer loyalty. By integrated the top data-driven services with their offerings, MSPs can offer differentiated data-intensive applications or partner with top application developers to drive revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

Kristen Hanich is a research analyst at Parks Associates.

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E-Commerce Times

Study: Community-Owned Broadband Beats Commercial ISPs on Price

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Community-owned fiber-to-home broadband networks generally charge less for entry-level service than private providers, according to the
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, which released its findings last week.

Despite lower "teaser rates" private providers offer during the first year of service, publicly-owned fiber-to-the-home networks in 23 of 27 communities examined offered lower-priced service when averaged over four years, researchers working on Berkman's Responsive Communities project found.

In the 23 communities, prices for the lowest-cost program that met the federal definition of "broadband" — minimum speeds of 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads — were between 2.9 percent and 50 percent less than the lowest-cost such service offered by a private provider in the market.

In the four cases where a private provider offered lower pricing, its service cost between 6.9 percent and 30.5 percent less.

Difficult Data Collection

In total, the researchers collected advertised prices for fiber-to-home plans for 40 community-owned providers, but only 27 met the study's criteria: 25/3 download/upload; at least one private competitor offering broadband in their market; and data available for comparison purposes.

Data collection for the study was challenging, the researchers noted. They explained that the Federal Communications Commission does not disseminate pricing data or track broadband availability by address.

Additionally, service offerings follow no standard speed tiers or definitions, such as the specifics of video or phone service bundles, the researchers pointed out.

"We focused on comparing entry-level broadband plans in part because of these complexities," they wrote.

Better Competition

Because of data availability problems, many public policy questions remain unstudied.

"If comprehensive data were available, we'd be able to study many important public interest topics, including the relationship between cost and consumer broadband adoption, the precise effects of competition, and how pricing strategies play out across different demographic groups," observed David Talbot, leader of Berkman's Responsive Communities project and a coauthor of the research report.

Nevertheless, communities can reap real benefits from a municipal broadband network.

For example, it's a way for a community to get what it wants when it can't get it from an incumbent provider.

"There are many times when incumbents are not willing to provide the broadband service a community needs and wants," explained Heather Burnett Gold, CEO of the
Fiber Broadband Association.

However, "by and large, most communities don't want to get into the telecommunications business," she told the E-Commerce Times, "so they look for outside operators to partner with them."

Net Neutrality Hedge

"In general, well-run municipal systems — including ones where a private provider offers service over a publicly owned fiber network — tend to provide benefits that are the natural result of competition in the marketplace," Berkman's Talbot told the E-Commerce Times.

Among them are "the potential for lower prices and better service from all players in that market," he said. "In addition, the existence of locally run systems allows for local governance, and this can include locally set rules around data privacy and Net neutrality."

With the FCC repealing the Obama administration's Net neutrality rules, municipal broadband networks could play a role in keeping private broadband providers on the straight and neutral path.

"Municipal broadband is the last defense for cities to ensure they have an open Internet," said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the
Institute on Local Self Reliance.

"It's not a substitute for good federal policy, but for a city that needs to ensure that it has open Internet access, I think it makes a lot of sense to build a municipal network and keep it neutral," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"If the big players violate Net neutrality, it will be good for municipalities with their own networks," Mitchell added, "because it will make more people want to subscribe to the municipal network."

The Power of Three

However, the big draw for consumers to municipal networks is pricing.

Municipal broadband introduces competition — not only competition, but a special kind of competition.

"Price competition is different when you have three providers, and typically municipal broadband is the third provider in the market," Mitchell pointed out. "That leads to a more of a competitive dynamic than when all you have is DSL and cable. "

What's more, some municipalities have taken a very aggressive stance on pricing. In Fort Collins, Colorado, for example, the city plans to offer gigabit upload and download service for US$70 a month.

"Right now, it's $300 for a comparable service from our incumbents," said the city's mayor, Wade Troxell.

"There's no way that the incumbents can offer gigabit symmetric service," he told the E-Commerce Times, "because right now they're milking their coaxial cable, which is copper, and we're going to provide fiber."

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.

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E-Commerce Times

Salesfusion Launches Spiffy New Marketing Automation Tool

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Salesfusion on Tuesday launched version 12 of its marketing automation solution.

Salesfusion Launches Spiffy New Marketing Automation Tool

The company rebuilt Salesfusion 12 from the ground up to provide an architecture robust enough to support "the easiest-to-use, most modern campaign creation tools available to marketers today," said Greg Vilines, Salesfusion's VP of product and engineering.

It provides enterprise-grade power and features without the typical price tag, he told CRM Buyer.

Dated architecture was one of the challenges the company faced, said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"Rearchitecting enables Salesfusion to modernize their solution," she told CRM Buyer.

The new Olympus modular automation framework, a key part of Salesfusion 12, processes campaigns and adds horsepower to handle increased workloads from traffic spikes.

Salesfusion 12 "was purpose-built for data-driven marketers who wish to build sophisticated marketing programs in a fraction of the time it previously took," Vilines said.

Customers can try out Salesfusion 12 for two weeks for free, he noted.

Olympus' Capabilities

Olympus leverages a scalable platform that dynamically adapts to shifts in workload volume, leveraging Amazon Web Services' natural virtualization capabilities, Vilines said.

Other Olympus components:

  • new data processing and indexing tools for inbound activity tracking, leveraging Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose and Elasticsearch; and
  • high-speed Redshift data warehouses to power advanced analytics and core dashboards and reporting.

"With the increased collaboration between marketers and sales teams, the complexity of multiple campaigns running concurrently and the associated data collection increases," noted Constellation's Zhou. "This new automation framework should help customers with performance speed and processing."

Salesfusion's New Features

Salesfusion 12 has three new features:

  • Page Builder – which has drag-and-drop builders that let marketers create landing pages and emails rapidly without needing specialized coding skills or third-party tools;
  • Advanced Analytics, which offers custom dashboards as well as reports that allow data drilling, visualization and data storytelling; and
  • Deeper CRM integration with Salesforce, Sugar, Sage, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Infor and Bullhorn.

PageBuilder has a WYSIWYG interface that lets users add images, videos and buttons. Users can build completely mobile-responsive pages that work across all devices.

PageBuilder leverages Salesfusion's Form Builder and automated actions to streamline interactions with prospects and customers.

Salesfusion 12 includes the Advanced Analytics platform, a new business intelligence module that lets users leverage marketing data to monitor campaign performance and connect marketing activities to revenue.

Salesfusion analytics dashboard
Click Image to Enlarge

Advanced Analytics was released in August as an add-on module for a fee, but is now included in Salesfusion 12, Vilines said. Further, it has new features – opportunity, ROI and funnel reporting.

For CRM integration, Salesfusion 12 includes integration with custom objects in both Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce. It has deepened connectivity with Bullhorn, and it integrates with campaigns in Salesforce, Infor and Microsoft Dynamics.

"Additional integrations with CRM will be important in making Salesfusion attractive," said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research, "particularly with CRM vendors like Microsoft that don't have marketing automation capabilities in their core product."

Salesfusion has always rated high on usability," she told CRM Buyer. "These advancements will likely make it more attractive, particularly for organizations where marketers wear several hats — in SMBs — or aren't everyday users of the application."

Salesfusion has customers in various industries, including technology, healthcare, finance and recruiting, Vilines said.

Future Plans for Salesfusion 12

Salesfusion will release new features continually over the next few months as part of the Salesfusion 12 launch, including the following:

  • Account View — reshaping ABM efforts to facilitate better insights and account actions;
  • Response Prospector, which will leverage machine learning and AI to find new leads and keep databases up to date; and
  • An updated REST API, which will craft new ways to integrate directly to Salesfusion's platform.

"Many of the marketing automation leaders are building AI capabilities into their solution," Zhou noted.

In this respect, Salesfusion may have to work hard to catch up — companies such as Boomtrain, Abert and Blueshift already offer AI-powered marketing automation products.

Still, Salesfusion continuously improves its core infrastructure, Vilines emphasized, "to meet the ever-changing needs of marketers."

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.

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E-Commerce Times

Facebook’s Move to Dial Back News Ratchets Up Drama

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Facebook once again has found itself at the center of a media storm, following Mark Zuckerberg's recent announcement of plans to shift its focus away from promoting news and business content and more toward emphasizing interactions from friends and family.

The shift follows more than a year of heavy criticism directed against Facebook. It has been blamed for failing to combat fake news on its website during the 2016 presidential election. In addition, concerns have been growing over mental health issues linked to spending too much time on social media, especially for children and young adults.

Further, publishers have complained that Facebook and Google have been hijacking their content and advertising dollars to the point that many digital media site valuations have nearly evaporated.

However, the change Facebook just announced represents a further blow to publishers, according to Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at Poynter.

The network will lose some short term users, but fall short of addressing some of the core concerns, he maintained.

"My own view is that the move is more of a copout than a solution on hate speech and truly fake news," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Facebook couldn't find a way to differentiate that from quality journalism and tossed the baby out with the bath water."

Facebook represents a huge market for content companies, with 1.37 billion daily active users as of September 2017, and 2.07 billion monthly active users.

About 67 percent of U.S. adults who participated in a Pew Research Study at the time said they got at least some of their news from Facebook.

For the first time ever, more than half of adults 50 and older reported getting most of their news from social media, the study found. That represented an increase of 10 percent over 2016 figures, when 45 percent of adults in that age group got their news from social media.

Zuckerberg announced the new direction for Facebook last week, in a post that touched on recent concerns that Facebook might cause addictive behavior and result in isolation, particularly among younger people.

"We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use, but also good for people's well being," Zuckerberg wrote.

Like Minds

Among the concerns voiced by critics — including former President Barack Obama — is that many social media users have tended to gravitate toward a single political viewpoint, boxing out those who don't share the same ideas.

In the future, posts that are more likely to spark conversations with friends and family will be emphasized, said Adam Mosseri, Facebook's head of news feed.

As a result, reach, watch time and referral traffic may decrease, he noted.

The changes will make it more difficult for content brands and businesses to break through to Facebook users, said Tania Yuki, CEO of

"Brands and media content companies are still welcome in this more intimate space, provided that their content enhances the time spent on Facebook and adds value to the experience of the average user," she told the E-Commerce Times.

"The onus is now on creators to think with that lens, rather than with the lens of purely driving business value for themselves," Yuki added.

Think Outside the Box

The impact of Facebook's latest move could be positive in the long term, suggested Jamie Spencer, senior vice president of
Magid, "if it convinces publishers to reallocate resources currently creating and posting Facebook content towards initiatives that deliver high-quality, monetizable content."

The amount of money invested in Facebook content now brings a questionable return, he told the E-Commerce Times, whereas if resources were reallocated toward premium video content for over-the-top or other distribution channels, consumers would get better content and publishers would see a stronger return.

Facebook's shift comes about six weeks after Snap announced plans to separate news content from personal posts by friends and family.

Snap late last year said it would create side-by-side feeds with Stories featuring original news and creative content on the right and Stories from friends on the left.

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.

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E-Commerce Times

Infrastructure as an Anchor

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Oracle's race to the cloud has offered multiple successes to its investors and some disappointment as well. No transition of this magnitude can be expected to run like clockwork, but the difference between revenues for Oracle's Software as a Service apps for last quarter, US$1.1 billion, and those for its Infrastructure as a Service apps, at $396 million, should at least get you thinking.

There's a good explanation for this, and it's surprising that the company hasn't done more to provide guidance to its financial analysts — but then again, the purpose of reporting your finances is just that. There's no room for anything that can look like an excuse. That's too bad, because it can lead people to wrong conclusions.

I spent a day at Oracle last week receiving a briefing on the company's road map for the year ahead. While some of the information was presented under nondisclosure, I can say that the briefing ran the gamut and went into areas that I am not expert at, such as serverless apps, bare metal servers and the new autonomous database — but I am coming up to speed as fast as I can.

Information Utility

The company's cloud architecture and IaaS offering gave me one surprise: Oracle intends to roll out 13 distinct regions for IaaS connected by a very high-speed backbone. Each region is highly modularized with triple redundancy and easily can scale as demand increases. All of this is very important, I believe, because this is not simply about cloud computing but about another disruptive innovation we all will face in the next few years.

The disruption is the formation of an information utility, and it's all but certain that no single corporate entity will own all of it. As big as Oracle's plans are, Salesforce has similar ideas, and so do Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Amazon, and hosting services too numerous to mention. Yes, there will be consolidation, and those too-numerous vendors likely will be scooped up first.

But back to Oracle — $396 million is a lot of money but small change compared to its SaaS number and small compared with the company's aspirations. The logical conclusion that many finance people have drawn from that number is that Oracle has a "problem," or that it's not executing well in PaaS and IaaS, but really? Not exactly.

Only three of the 13 regions have been deployed so far, according to Oracle President of Product Development Thomas Kurian, who led off the analyst briefing. More will hit their markets this year — but the rollout takes time, and we'll still be talking about it next year.

Not having the regions up and running means that in some strategic places, the company doesn't have IaaS to sell. So the $396 million is a look into a still very much expanding world.

Just for fun, you could say that three of 13 is just under a quarter of the deployment. If the other regions were running as well as the three in place, the IaaS and PaaS numbers easily might be four times the reported revenue number. It's unclear if that's good or not since we don't know a lot, such as capacity and utilization of the existing regions, but still…

So for now, the revenue picture remains lumpy, but now we have more explanation and color for the results. Hopefully this also gives financial analysts something to consider as they try to figure out what the numbers mean to investors. The rest of the market seems to expect a bright future for Oracle as its stock continues to do well despite the lumpy earnings.

More Co-opetition Ahead

There's also discussion about renewed competition in the database market circulating after
a story in The Information suggested that companies like Amazon and Salesforce were building competitive database products and would depart Oracle in the near future.

I don't agree. If for nothing else, building a database is a big effort and one that detracts mightily from a company's primary business interests. It is dilutive of effort and cannibalistic of resources. For these reasons, it should be taken on only as a last resort. That's the way any business should look at any effort to self-source rather than go to the marketplace for needed resources.

On top of that, I recently spoke with Parker Harris, CTO and cofounder of Salesforce, and when asked about the story he said, "We have a good relationship with Oracle and we use a ton of it. We are not getting rid of the Oracle database. We are working on technologies that add capabilities around the edges, like sandboxes. We will have SQL Server and Oracle for a long time."

No surprises there. It's been true for a long time that in these big markets, sometimes we compete and sometimes we cooperate. In the era of the information utility, I expect a lot more co-opetition.

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

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