Sep 16

BLOG: Part 1: Social media advice from the ITEC Internet Marketing Panel

ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 15, 2014) — The recent 2014 International Tire Exhibition Conference in Orlando was packed with best practices for tire dealers across all facets of the tire and automotive service industries.

One resounding theme throughout the conference was how important it is for tire dealers to sign on line and get active.

The Internet Marketing Panel, moderated by Tire Business’ online manager Alaina Scott, detailed social media and online marketing tips by some tire industry experts. Panelists broke down how to utilize the social media and online platform to leverage your business in today’s market. They gave such great content, I am going to separate it into two different blogs, so keep your eyes out for the Sept. 29 edition of the social media blog for more tips from our experts.


Want more content from the 2014 ITEC Show? Check out the Sept. 15 print issue of Tire Business


Here are some of the questions Alaina asked the panel:

  • What is ad retargeting and what are the pros and cons?

Patrick Braswell, director of strategies initiatives, TCS Technologies, stepped up to analyze this practice. Basically, this is when a little image in a website can track you. He asked the crowd if they ever felt like they were being stalked online because they are seeing the same ad everywhere they go. That is ad retargeting.

Patrick said this can be a cool tool for tire dealers because the “shop and sale cycle of a tire consumer is seven days at the most.” Usually people buy tires within 36 hours, he said, but people will buy up to seven days later. If tire dealers use ad retargeting, they can retarget consumers as they continue searching online. It can help complete that purchase because it is keeping your company in their heads.

Mark Gillard, marketing and advertising manager, Norwell, Mass.-based Sullivan Tire Auto Service, said the whole process is funny to him because obviously he does a lot of Google searches for tires “and now I have tire ads all over the place.”

This is a sentiment I can relate to. I am probably one of a handful of 28-year-old women who repeatedly have ads for TPMS and tires dominating their online space — of course intermixed with some shoes and handbags.

Mark said ad retargeting can be a fantastic tool; however, you have to be careful because it can be annoying. He references buying a piece of art from six months ago but is still being pounded from with banner ads, “and now it’s turned me off.”

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) seems to change all the time. What are some of the things tire dealers need to know now to make sure they are utilizing it?

SEO is the “art and science of getting you found through the products and services you sell,” said Ross McArthur, director of sales business development – North America, for Net Driven.

Someone always told him the one constant in this world is change, he said, so it’s just up to you whether you keep up with it or let it pass you by.

“SEO is no different, so it’s going to continue to change,” Ross said.

One aspect that is always going to be important to SEO is content. Ross suggested following the three “U’s” for content: usable, user-friendly and unique.

Additionally, Ross advised building content around your products and services because search engines are ultimately looking to match the end consumer to the product or service desired. If you sell tires, your website should have tire content, etc.

Suggested content includes a fitment guide with tire brands or content detailing manufacturers of the products being offered. For services, write descriptions of what you provide, how long it takes for the services to be completed and why it needs to be done at a certain mileage, etc.

  • What advice do you have for tire dealers who get stuck on what to do with social media?

There are a lot of mechanics to social media, Patrick said. It’s just like how to handle repairs in your own shop — trying to fix a hybrid vehicle is different than repairing a standard vehicle.

“The best option is to really work with an expert who understands what they’re doing,” he said.

It is important to remember that your expertise in the local area and what your competitors are doing is going to be key for your social media presence.

The first thing to do is look at your local listings and make sure your information is correct and consistent on all the different sites, Patrick advised, such as Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc. For instance, your business is John’s Tire and Auto, make sure it is consistent and not listed anywhere as “John’s Tire Auto.”

Patrick said if you are unsure how your company appears online, check out, which is a free site that shows how businesses are listed.

  • What should a tire dealership do if its company name is taken on a site?

It can be detrimental and cause problems, Ross said. The first thing to do is try to be proactive so that it does not happen. Claim the company’s name on different sites. If someone does have your name, and they are acting as if they are your business, you can put a claim in as a complaint with the site. It doesn’t guarantee anything will happen, but it will at least notify the site that the problem is occurring.

This is also something that can happen with domain names for websites, not just usernames and handles on social media. Ross explained that Net Driven ran into this problem: The company’s first website was actually The company ended up having to pay $3,000 for It is best to pay for the domain, which can be purchased from for about $10 a year.

Sometimes a company name is taken — not because of foul play, but because there is another company with the same name.

Mark said Sullivan Tire’s YouTube channel is actually “SullyTire” because there is another Sullivan Tire that came in and scooped up the name first.

  • Once you are signed up, how do you grow the pages? What is the investment?

“I would first connect your offline marketing with your online marketing,” Patrick advised.

Focus on one social media strategy at a time and keep it simple, he said. One good starting point is to see what other businesses around you are doing, as well as other tire dealerships that are doing well on social media, and see what campaigns you can incorporate to your sites.

Alpio Barbara, president/owner of Redwood City, Calif.-based Redwood General Tire, said it takes an employee at his shop about 3-5 hours a week to run its social media presence. It is about building your brand name out there and making it personalized.

“I’m not afraid to put my cell phone on there,” he said of his company’s website. “If we have a problem, I want to hear about it; I want to hear about it now.”

Alpio said you can try to do it yourself. Everyone is busy, but try to find time for it. Either come into work early or stay late because being active on social media is important.

“It’s no different than having old magazines in your showroom,” Alpio said. You want to stay fresh. For instance, if you have a sale that ends in September, but you still have stuff up on your social media sites about it in December, it doesn’t do much good. You have to stay fresh and stay on top of it.


Don’t forget to check back to for Part 2 of tips from the ITEC panel experts. Have a comment about this article? Email it to

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Sep 15

Internet startup sells Old Forge pizza, Middeswarth chips around the nation

A local Internet entrepreneur launched an e-commerce site specializing in “NEPA-centric” foods.

Albert Martino started, which makes it possible to send Middleswarth chips and Revello’s Old Forge pizza to anywhere in the U.S.

The 30-year-old Kingston man grew up in Shavertown. When he moved to Phoenix, Arizona, he was frustrated with the lack of good pizza and tasty potato chips.

Having several years of e-commerce experience, he created so anyone from Northeast Pennsylvania can send a “little slice of home to someone they care about” anywhere in the country.

He chose to sell Middeswarth chips and Revello’s Pizza because they are two unique products to the area. Middleswarth are made in Middleburg, west of Selinsgrove. Revello’s is based in downtown Old Forge.

“I traveled extensively all over the country and there is really nothing like either product out there,” Mr. Martino said. “Some people develop such a taste and passion for the pizza and chips as comfort foods and when they move away, they can’t get them anymore so this solves that problem.”

Since launching the site two weeks ago, he said thousands have viewed its Facebook page and website.

“So far, we have been averaging 12,000 hits to the website each week. In our first week alone on Facebook, all of our posts combined reached 36,000 people across America,” he said. “The Internet is revolutionizing commerce because there is no more confines to a local geographic region anymore.”

Mr. Martino works with local warehouses that distribute Middleswarth chips and he packs and ships the orders.

He recently sent orders to Alaska and Hawaii. The site has been most popular among residents in Florida and Connecticut, he said.

Revello’s is shipped in orders of three trays with 12 cuts per tray at a cost of $45. The pizza is baked upon ordering frozen overnight and shipped out the next day via overnight shipping to keep it fresh, Mr. Martino said.

Currently, is a one-man show. Mr. Martino, a Dallas High School graduate who studied business at Luzerne County Community College, started designing websites when he was 15.

He has worked with other local companies, but left and started his own Internet marketing site,

While Mr. Martino started with Middleswarth chips and Revello’s pizza, he said people also have proposed he sell Tastykake products online and he has been emailing and calling the company to try to secure a deal.

“We really hope to get them. A lot of people like them,” he said. “They have enormous reach, too.”

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Sep 14

Start an Online Business with These 7 Key Essential Steps

Start an Online Business with These 7 Key Essential Steps image start ur business 2014

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Starting an online business sounds to be easy, but there are many things that new and aspiring entrepreneurs need to know in order to make themselves successful as digital marketers. The digital market is highly competitive yet with a lucrative opportunity to grow your business market. Every marketer has the equal opportunity of reaching to millions of online consumers and there are more rooms to establish your market positioning to earn better profits. There are, however, important steps to take before you can claim you are successfully enjoying a lucrative online business with a good return on investments. These 7 key essential steps will help digital marketers to start an online business with a better market positioning and business intelligence to make their businesses more competitive and highly productive.

Step No. 1 – Write Your Online Business Plan

Start an Online Business with These 7 Key Essential Steps image 670px Start an Online Business Step 2

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Writing a business plan will serve as the architecture of your online business. It will be your guide in identifying the various structures needed for your business and how to implement them to your business. Traditional business plans used for offline business is quite different when you are planning to venture into digital marketing business. With the help of a business plan, you can focus your resources on the important aspects of running your online business while setting up your market goals. Begin planning for your online business objectives.

  • Identify what products and services you want to sell.
  • Determine what kind of business personality to build for your brand.
  • Plan which market you want to introduce your business products and services.
  • What type of advertising you need to undertake in order to promote your brand.

Step No. 2 – Do a Market Research

Brainstorming for marketing ideas can be a tough one. It requires penetrating your target market to identify which products and services will likely give you productive results. It also entails understanding your competition’s marketing strategies and find out what works for them best. There are various ways however, that can give you a good start when doing a market research.

  • Check out the competitor’s links. Checking out your competitor’s popularity and market reach seems to be a painstaking process, but there is an amazing trick that you can do in order to shorten this process and to find out quickly what type of industries and websites that are linking to your competitor’s site by using this trick. Type ‘link: www. [competitor's name].com’ from the search tool box of your browser and you will find what websites are linking to your competitor’s site.
  • Do a keyword research about your target market. Keywords are the words and phrases that the consumers use whenever they are looking for something on the Internet. The Google Keyword Research Tool is an innovative tool that you can use to search for the most popular keywords being used by your target consumers and identify the level of competition, which indicates who among the marketers within your target market are using the same keywords for advertising their brand online.
  • Gather information from public opinions through blogs. Reading blogs can help you dig more information about your target market where people tend to be expressive about their ideas and preferences. Use blogs that are industry specific to find your target consumers and note the comments and information available from those blogs.

Step No. 3 – Define Your Products and Services

Start an Online Business with These 7 Key Essential Steps image roxy 2

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Products and services are the core of your business and it should be included in the key steps for planning how to start an online business venture. A meticulous plan for your products and services should include the following:

  • Create a brief summary about why your products and services are unique.
  • Write down the product descriptions.
  • Highlight the benefits that can be derived when using them.
  • Identify the method on how you should sell your products and services.
  • Plan on how to make your brand highly competitive against your competitors.
  • Write down your pricing policy.
  • Identify the technology that you can use in marketing your brand

Step No. 4 – Create a Website

Start an Online Business with These 7 Key Essential Steps image website1

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You need a website in order to introduce your brand to its target marketplace. Online entrepreneurs usually leave this aspect of their online business to the experts. There are professional web designing services that can deliver a stunning eCommerce site for your business with all the key elements necessary in order to give your customers a good online shopping experience. Among the considerations you need for creating a website or domain, hosting, web design and development.

Step No. 5 – Go for Social Marketing

Targeting the social market is the trend for online business these days. Social marketing can improve your website traffic and popularity. It also helps you reach more audiences for your business.

  • Create various social media profiles for your business. Use Facebook Page, Twitter and Google + to gain popularity and more business followers.
  • Engage in content marketing to give your business a voice to social media users. Try linking to articles from reputable sites as well for this will help improve your site’s trust rating and credibility.
  • Offer special bonuses, perks and privileges to your social followers.
  • Use social buttons to encourage your social followers to share and like your business.

Step No. 6 – Use Analytics

Start an Online Business with These 7 Key Essential Steps image analytics

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Digital marketing experts often note that with digital marketing it is important to focus on innovation and technology as part of your business architecture. Business analytics and data management go hand in hand in optimizing business marketing online. Analytics tool will provide you business intelligence that will help you analyze what part of your digital marketing strategies and campaigns work productively and those that do not.

  • Optimize your business environment with data analytics tools and create a workplace culture where employees are data and analytics savvy.
  • Hire a data analytic specialist
  • Invest in analytics tools and platforms to manage your data network.
  • Use innovative mobile applications to penetrate the social market and use mobile data to grow your business.

Step No 7 – Optimize Your Site with SEO

Learning the basic SEO is fundamental in digital marketing. Search engine optimization can help drive traffic to your website and it also increases your visibility to the search engines.

  • Use keywords to help the search engine find your website on search.
  • Drive your SEO marketing using multi-channel platforms such as using blogs, social media networks, email marketing and video marketing to cover more digital market areas to market your products.
  • Consistently use domain names. This is important because using at one time and using at another time will give the search engine a different message. This is crucial to your link building process.
  • Make sure to include keywords in your URL, content title and images.

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This article originally appeared on Digital-Warriors and has been republished with permission.

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Sep 13

Atlanta Internet Marketing Training and Certification for Georgia Businesses …

Atlanta, GA (PRWEB) September 12, 2014

Get started today with Atlanta Internet marketing training from the nationally recognized search engine experts, the Internet Marketing Academy of America (IMAA). Being in business today requires in incredibly strong, visible, and highly transparent online marketing presence, one capable of showcasing an organization’s product and services to the masses. Getting there, however, is not an overnight process – it takes time, discipline, highly regarded skills and a true desire for success. Enroll today with the IMAA Atlanta Internet marketing training and certification programs and start learning real-world solutions and strategies for dominating your industry and your competition. Want to get ahead in business – sure you do, we all do – then start learning proven concepts and strategies for building highly successful and profitable Internet marketing campaigns right now.

From understanding the dynamics of long-tail keywords, to authoring killer content, such as blogs and press releases, the IMAA offers comprehensive learning solutions for helping you build long-term, highly effective online marketing initiatives. The Internet’s a game-changer – no question about it – it’s why businesses need to embrace online marketing and advertising to the fullest extent possible, using every available resource and strategy for getting – and staying – ahead of the competition. With billions of dollars pouring into Internet marketing, and billions more on the way, now’s the time to enroll with the IMAA Atlanta Internet marketing training programs, effectively becoming a marketing guru second to none.

The IMAA also offers seminars in other select cities throughout North America, along with online eLearning classroom seminars for those with challenging and hectic schedules. Additionally, all of the IMAA training and educational programs also award valuable certification upon successfully completing all required coursework, so now’s the time to enroll and start learning Internet marketing the right way. Get started today with Atlanta Internet marketing training from the IMAA.

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Sep 12

5 Qualities For Affiliate Marketing

More and more people these days are turning to one
of the most popular businesses around – the business
of affiliate marketing. In this business, there are
no bosses, deadlines to meet, or piles of work that
have to be finished by the end of the day. In
order to succeed, you only need the necessary

There are basically five things you can’t do without
if you want to make it in the business of affiliate
marketing. Below, you’ll find each quality you’ll

1. Desire to learn
The first quality you must possess is the desire
to learn, coupled with the willingness to be
trained. Treading through unfamiliar territory
is tough indeed, especially if your lacking the
right knowledge. This is a combination of the right
frame of mind, coupled with a strong work ethic.

When starting out, you’ll need to be willing to
keep your eyes and ears open, using the experience
of others to learn more as you go.

2. Invest time and effort
The second quality you must have is the willingness
to invest time and effort in helping your business
grow, even if you don’t see immediate results. Even
though weeks may pass without hearing good news,
it’s very important for anyone who wants to get
their foot in the business world.

3. Determination
The third quality you’ll need is determination. If
you want to make it in the world of affiliate
marketing, you must possess to push yourself
forward. The ability to push yourself to greater
heights will determine what type of future you have.

4. Discipline
The fourth quality is self discipline. If you
teach yourself to work everyday with all of your
heart and soul, you’ll be that much closer to
reaching your goals and making your dreams come true.

5. Optimism
The last quality you must have is optimism. Bad
attitudes should never discourage an affiliate
marketer from pursuing their dreams in order to
make life better for themselves or anyone around

The attitude you have towards the business should
always be good, because you’ll have to realize that
you’re the captain of your ship and your the one
steering it towards destiny.

If you put the above tips to good use, you’ll go
farther than you ever thought possible in the world
of affiliate marketing. You’ll need these qualities
to succeed, as affiliate marketing can be a cutting
edge career. With the above qualities, you’ll do
just fine in the industry.

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Sep 12

Milestone Internet Marketing Makes The Inc. 5000 List of The Fastest-Growing …

Santa Clara, CA – Milestone Internet Marketing, a pioneer and leading provider of digital marketing software and services for hotels and businesses worldwide, qualified in the Inc. Magazine’s top 5000 companies in America, ranking #4155 on the list. This prestigious list of the nation’s most successful companies is the hallmark of the entrepreneurial spirit and a celebration of innovation.

Milestone’s innovative technology software and digital marketing services power thousands of web and mobile sites, social media engagement, and Internet marketing products. With clients ranging from the world’s top hotel brands and management groups such as Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Wyndham Hotel Group, Best Western International, and Interstate Hotels Resorts, to historic landmarks to local niche restaurants and businesses, Milestone has experienced significant growth over the last three years.

“Milestone’s business growth is directly related to the significant ROI and profitability our clients have achieved with Milestone’s cutting edge digital marketing software and services. We have earned our customers’ trust and confidence because of our commitment to drive results and increase their bottom-line in the digital marketplace,” said Anil Aggarwal, CEO of Milestone. “We want to take this opportunity to thank all our customers, partners, and employees, whose commitment and dedication have contributed significantly to achieving this milestone.”

For more information about Milestone’s leading edge products and strategies, please visit To learn more about Inc. 5005000, go to

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Sep 11

For Alibaba’s Small Business Army, a Narrowing Path

As Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans
an initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange expected to raise
approximately $20 billion as early as Sept. 18, celebration is surely in order for the company’s executives. But for millions of small entrepreneurs who’ve invested blood and sweat to build their business on Taobao, Alibaba’s consumer-to-consumer e-commerce
platform, life has gotten harder, leading many to inflate sales, operate at a
loss, or abandon the platform altogether. In that sense, Alibaba is increasingly a microcosm
of modern Chinese development: The initial gold rush that has allowed a great number
of enterprising upstarts to improve their stations in life has yielded to a game
in which those with the most capital win.  

Since its founding in 1999, Alibaba has provided one hopeful avenue for many Chinese with start-up
For aspiring entrepreneurs with little start-up funding, including students,
housewives, and moonlighters, Taobao — which literally means “sieving for
treasure” — provides a sliver of space in a virtual bazaar where millions of
visitors click each day. Chinese media often reports on new
graduates who make thousands of dollars a month from Taobao, while their
friends toil at mundane jobs for a few hundred. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s flamboyant founder,
claimed in his letter
to investors
on Sept. 5 that “we fight for the little guy” because the
mission of the company is to “help small businesses grow by solving their
problems through Internet technology.” The IPO’s promotional video features several
smiling and grateful Taobao sellers from all over China who claim that the site
has bettered their lives.

But many other small-timers have seen their dreams of Taobao
wealth thwarted. After investing their meager savings to stock inventory and
design virtual storefronts, they have to pay high advertising fees to Taobao, stay
up nights answering customer inquiries, and even resort to cheating to keep up
their store ratings. According to estimates in
an August 2013 article in Enterprise
, a Chinese newspaper, over 80 percent of sellers on Taobao did not
turn a profit; thousands of shops close down each day. (Alibaba has not responded to Foreign Policy’s request for comment on the treatment or success rate of small Taobao sellers.)

With more than one
products and services from which to choose, Taobao customers
usually rely on the site’s search function to find what they want, which means that
items placed on the first few pages of search results get the lion’s share of
attention, while the rest usually languish. As a result, shop owners routinely pay high marketing
fees to Taobao to keep their wares on top so as to have a chance at making sales,
even when Taobao hikes
advertising rates or charges high fees for participation in promotional events.
The Enterprise Observer describes the
advertising and search optimizing costs on Taobao as a “bottomless pit” for
small-time sellers who pay Taobao high marketing rates for traffic until they
run out of funds.

Taobao’s dominant market position gives it commanding
pricing power over the small shop owners. “If I make $50 dollars in gross
profit each day, advertising costs on Taobao take $30 out of that,” wrote one self-identified
shop owner on Tianya, a Chinese discussion forum. “But if I don’t advertise, I won’t
even be able to make enough money to buy lunch.” Another self-identified shop
owner and blogger complained,
“Taobao changes its rules constantly to make money out of the entrepreneurial
zeal of one group of young people after another.” The conclusion: Sellers “are
nothing but crop in [Alibaba's] field: they are reaped and burned, then their
ash becomes the fertilizer for a new batch.” Alibaba made
an eye-watering $2.5 billion in revenue in the second quarter of 2014,
according to its filings with the SEC, approximately 53
of which are from online marketing services where sellers pay
Taobao to make their merchandise more visible. According to the disclosures,
Taobao boasts 8.4
active sellers, who peddle everything from
shampoo to boyfriend coupons to live scorpions.  

Given the harsh competitive environment, many Taobao sellers
intentionally cheat to inflate sales, leading to higher store ratings and the
increased visibility and credibility that comes with them. (Taobao gives out ratings
like “crown,” “diamond,” or “gold medals” to shops that have high sales
turnover or stellar customer reviews.) Many shop owners resort to falsifying
in a practice known as shuadan
or shuaxiangliang, literally “running
up orders.” Tutorials abound on the Chinese Internet on
the “correct” ways to shuadan and sidestep Alibaba’s inspections.
friends, and other Taobao sellers are often enlisted in the effort, while professional
scammers advertise
to shop owners to help them run up fake sales. “If I don’t run up fake sales,
my store won’t rank high, which means no traffic,” wrote one seller on
Tianya. He sounded pessimistic about his future on Taobao, writing, “If I don’t
run up fake sales, my shop will die a quick death; but if I do, it’ll die a
slow death.”

Small-time sellers also gripe about Taobao’s inherent
conflict of interest with Tmall, Alibaba’s business-to-consumer platform for
established brands and the virtual equivalent of a gleaming virtual shopping
mall. Tmall merchants pay a commission to Alibaba and collectively enjoy a
better chance of converting browsing users to customers, according to a research
report cited in a Sept. 2 Wall Street
article. The research report recommends that Alibaba turn Taobao
into a showroom window while directing traffic to Tmall. That strategy seems to
have already been implemented — well-heeled businesses now dominate the front page and
top search results on Taobao and redirect traffic to their shops on Tmall. That’s
not surprising; because of higher fees it collects on Tmall sales, Alibaba has an incentive
to direct customers from the bazaar to the mall, potentially further eroding
traffic and sales for small-time Taobao sellers.

The sellers have noticed. In December 2013, thousands of them banded together to “lay
siege” to large merchants on Tmall like the Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo by
placing orders and cancelling them immediately, wreaking havoc on the
merchants’ store ratings and order logistics. Alibaba dismissed
the attack as reaction against a crackdown against fake sales, but the Taobao
sellers who took part demanded “equal shares of traffic” and “equal treatment
of Taobao and Tmall” in their respective online bylaws. This was Taobao
sellers’ second
action against Tmall since 2011; state-run China Daily called the 2011 action an “online riot.”      

To be sure, Taobao’s crackdown on fake sales and
optimization of traffic in favor of Tmall are positives for its reputation and revenue.
The reshuffling of small-time sellers could also reduce the number of
counterfeit goods on the platform and ensure the rest play by the rules, which
ultimately serves customers well.

None of that will comfort the millions of Taobao shop owners
struggling in China’s e-commerce landscape. In a March 2014 article entitled
“Why has Alibaba abandoned small sellers on Taobao?” IT Age Weekly calls small sellers
the “bottom of the food chain” because their numbers are swelling and the
market is becoming more competitive. The platform has given mom-and-pop
upstarts a chance to jump on the site’s giant bandwagon to broaden their
entrepreneurship, but the fare to board that wagon is getting increasingly
expensive, with many elbowed off by better-funded competitors. Alibaba still says
it wants to help small businesses, but as the company steps into the glare of
Wall Street’s spotlight, it remains to be seen whether that will stay true. 

AFP/Getty Images

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Sep 10

Putting Business First in the Internet of Things

Post written by
Bruce Sinclair

Bruce is the president of Iot-Inc.

Do you remember your first experience using the Internet?

As a university student I worked part-time in a cranio-facial research lab programming for a little extracurricular cash. Visiting researchers from around the globe would come and go but over the six months he was measuring and experimenting with force vectors on the jaw, I struck up a friendship with an unusually tall visiting Associate Professor from a small prefecture outside of Osaka, Japan. Kenji Takemoto and I shared a sense of humor and an interest in using 3D animation to visualize data.

On a typically rainy day I made my way across campus to the lab and slouched in front of my HP graphics workstation. Waiting for me was my very first email. It was from Kenji, who had returned home just the week before.

I was amazed. A message from half way across the world, and it was free!

The early Internet started by making connections between people and in doing so, changed everything. Fast forward 25 years and go back six and this time it was me who was in Japan. As CEO and acting head of sales, I was demonstrating our start-up’s smart home IoT Platform to the country’s second largest ISP by flicking my thumb within the browser of my iPhone 1.

I turned lights on and off in my company’s Canadian office halfway around the world and KDDI was amazed.

Some are seduced by shiny things and others by shiny numbers; whatever your tastes, the Internet of Things has it all.

The hype surrounding IoT hasn’t even reached its peak, but none the less, it’s impressive: 50 billion connected devices and a market opportunity of $7.1 trillion by 2020. What’s not to love? Considering last year’s global GDP was around $74 trillion, these numbers are certainly big enough, but are they meaningful?

A dirty little secret behind projections like these is, the thousand-row spreadsheets upon which they’re based, pivot on just a handful of assumption variables that are rarely made public yet are just that… assumptions. Modify these variables, just a little, and the projections change wildly. Assumptions are then reverse-engineered to tweak projections and in the rare case when they’re are made known, it’s just as easy to justify an assumption of “3.5,” for example, as it is to justify a “3.2.”

To date, a majority of the analysis on the Internet of Things has focused on the return from new revenue opportunities, increased efficiency and better decision making. But at what cost? If, for example, a 1% reduction in Healthcare system inefficiency results in a $63B savings over 15 years (as GE estimates) then what’s the investment required to generate that return?

Although taxonomy can differ, IoT investment can be roughly blocked into three areas: sensors, networking and apps. Quantifying the required investment yields a full spectrum. As Roberto De La Mora, Sr. Director, IoT Products and Solutions Marketing at Cisco puts it, “I have never seen two projects that are not only the same, but even similar in scope or size.”

From less than a thousand dollars for Retail IoT to over a million dollars for Infrastructure IoT, the investment can be lofty but luckily it doesn’t start out that way.

“The initial proof-of-concept investment is usually very small. Says Steve Jennis, SVP Corporate Development, PrismTech. “Once a successful evaluation/prototype moves on to a first commercial deployment, our customers will typically spend $50K – $150K. Subsequent projects can range up to $1M+ for very large systems”. Since cost is proportional to the size of the deployment, business can throttle their investment until they tune their business models to achieve a satisfactory ROI.

At the heart of every IoT investment is the product category known as the IoT Platform.

To demonstrate our smart home IoT Platform, we built a demonstration lab, affectionately known as the “Spooky Room” within one of the few windowless offices within our 9th floor Montreal headquarters. Spooky because at any time of day or night, lights would mysteriously turn on and off, the fan, stunt doubling for an air conditioner, would randomly start billowing its attached ribbons, and the desktop computer would light up and begin operating at will. This frightened anyone who happened to be walking by at the same moment a salesperson, in some other time zone, was amazing someone else.

Today’s IoT Platforms are far more developed and robust but the fundamentals are the same. The IoT Platform handles networking — bridging the physical and virtual worlds and it’s the place to start when analysing the economics of IoT deployment.

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