All Articles Tagged "consumers"

Laz Alonso On Blacks Needing To Support Black Hollywood: “Go To Walmart And Pay The Extra $5″

July 18th, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
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We could go on, and on, and on, about the lack of roles for black actors in Hollywood, but what about supporting the people in the parts we do have? That’s what actor Laz Alonso spoke to us about after he participated in a Verizon Wireless panel alongside Kevin Hart and Jill Scott at this year’s Essence Festival. After talking about the power of technology and its influence in Hollywood, Laz spoke to MN more in depth on the power black consumers hold, specifically, and how they can use that buying power — and general support — to shift the black landscape in Hollywood. Listen up and tell us what you think. Is he right?

Tech Talk: Is Your Small Business Ready For A Mobile App?

December 14th, 2012 - By Blair Bedford
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AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

As a small business in America in 2012, the potential for growth in revenue and brand awareness is increasing due to the deluge of interactive business tools like mobile applications. For example, we recently covered, the new Around the Way app, which directs users to black-owned businesses in their area. “For any small business listed, the app could be literally sending customers through the door,” we noted.

Small businesses that jump onto the mobile app bandwagon also hope to take advantage of the different ways that technology allows customers to interact with them and their products, from scanning product barcodes in stores to receiving more information to offering discounts and coupons on a consumer’s favorite products. This increasingly effective way to interact with businesses also increases the pressure for small businesses to create their own applications. But before you begin to step out into the complex world of mobile app creation, consider the implications of the process.

“For the most part, creating an app is not cheap, and it’s also not easy,” Jared Hendler, digital media strategist and executive creative director at PR firm MWW Group, says. In his role at MWW, Hendler oversees the company’s digital marketing/social media group and visual branding practice.

“The biggest disadvantages of small businesses looking to create a mobile app are the costs and maintenance of the app itself. You have to keep up with the updates of each operating system,” he says. Small businesses would have to manage the upkeep of an app within each of the leading mobile OS systems, Apple, Android and the latest OS to the mobile market, Windows 8.

“When you’re creating an app, you have to create for all these different screen sizes and make sure it’s going to work on all these different devices, whether it’s Nokia or Samsung or HTC. It’s challenging,” he adds.

Another aspect a small business owner must note before tackling the mobile app process is the time that must be considered to create and maintain a full mobile application.

“The challenge with small business owners is that they wear many hats: they put in long hours, they are the marketing person and the accountant, they’re doing inventory, they are doing a lot of different things, and they’ve got to allocate a specific amount of time doing digital and social,” Hendler says.

Sian Morson, founder/CEO of Kollective Mobile and Chief Technology Officer of Around The Way App, believes that small business owners could handle the major project of creating an app, with the right knowledge to do so, or a team of those who do.

“App development is big business, and lucrative too. I’ve heard stories of small businesses owners getting burned by people who promise to deliver apps and never do, or deliver badly developed app or quite simply apps that don’t work. If a small business owner is planning to develop a company app, learn as much as possible as you can so that you can speak the language. Or find someone who does.”

Morson also comments on the costs associated with app creation, which could sometimes be too good to be true for quality development.

“It really depends on your needs and your budget. But always make sure you’re getting quality work.  I would say that cost is mostly driven by functionality. If a price sounds too good to be true, as with anything else, it probably is.  Apps these days, range from $5,000 and up depending on who is doing the work.”

A small business owner must also be able to put in the work of marketing themselves. One example of this is Janine Hausif, CEO of recently launched app, Around The Way, which helps consumers find local black-owned small businesses.

“The old adage ‘If you build it, they will come’ is dead and gone in today’s tech-savvy world,” Hausif says. “Now it’s ‘If you build it, you need to tell people about it or they’ll never know you exist.’ Small businesses need to create a solid, consistent brand to gain and retain consumers.”

Between the time allocated for creating and maintaining a business app to the cost associated, a mobile app for a small business might be a major undertaking and more of a disadvantage to a business that isn’t based in technology itself.

“If a small business is insistent on creating an app, those businesses that are in technology or selling services through web or social media or for development sites are the businesses that might benefit from an app,” Hendler suggests.

Although creating an app might be out of the realm for your small business, there are many options to explore when looking to interact with consumers via mobile, beginning with creating visibility of your business.

“Small businesses can find other alternatives to becoming mobile, like getting involved with apps like FourSquare and making sure your businesses are linked and listed, where consumers can check-in to the business,” Hendler advises. “Make sure your business is listed on all of the [mobile] maps and make sure you’re connected in using mobile payment options, like PayPal or Square, which is a great option for a small business.”

Sian Morson agrees.

“I don’t think that a mobile app is a necessity for all small businesses. Before small businesses owners think about creating a specific mobile app, I believe that they should explore other mobile options like local search and a mobile-optimized website. Local search is exploding right now, and the majority of people on mobile devices who conduct a local search take action. That means they will either call, or check a store’s location to see how close or far they are from it. For a small business owner, that’s gold. ”

Utilizing other mobile apps that are designed for the visibility of smaller businesses locally could also increase your visibility to consumers in the mobile world.

“Apps like Scoutmob, which empowers small businesses to offer local deals and apps like Cardagin, which a business can create loyalty programs without having to create your own infrastructure [in the mobile app world], are also great for smaller businesses. Go where the eyeballs are.”

If you are looking for something a little closer to your own platform, creating a mobile website that works on various mediums is also a great way to gain mobile exposure.

“A small business would be much better off having a mobile version of their website instead and doing something with responsive design, so their website is responsive to whatever platform is needed, whether it is a tablet or mobile phone,” Hendler recommends.

Creating experiences in the mobile realm for your consumers could begin with just more visibility, one little step closer to bigger consumer brand awareness.

“Entering the mobile space will be necessary in the very near future. Find out where you fit in that space. Prepare for it. Plan around it. Make it happen or else your existing and potential customers will lose interest,” Hausif advises small business owners.

Sandy’s Aftermath: Storm Cost Could Reach $20 Billion

October 30th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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Flooding in Manhattan. Image: Samuel Rigelhaupt / Sipa USA (Sipa via AP Images)

Those affected by Hurricane Sandy woke up this morning to devastation. Trees down, flooding, fires and property damage, hundreds of thousands without power, hospitals in New York evacuating, in some cases moving critical and neonatal patients, transportation at a standstill, and most unfortunate, the loss of life. Everyone in the storm’s path is in our thoughts. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a press conference on right now says it could be the worst storm the city has ever experienced.

Now the business begins of cleaning up and putting things back to normal.

From a business standpoint, we previously reported that the markets would be closed again today. We heard on NBC this morning (via CNBC reporter Bob Pisani) that the New York Stock Exchange is working feverishly to reopen tomorrow, particularly because it’s month-end. Today, the focus is on checking out backup generators for power, communications systems, and whether or not a couple hundred people can make it to work tomorrow. You can get more info about that here. But it is expected that the NYSE will open in at least a limited fashion.

Ultimately, as the clean up effort begins, companies, individuals and the government are trying to assess the cost of the damage the storm has caused, though estimates have already put the price tag at $20 billion with insurance covering between $5 billion and $10 billion.

As Forbes points out (h/t to our writer Ann Brown), the personal toll for workers who can’t make it to work and can’t work from home has yet to be tabulated. That includes restaurant workers, hotel staffers, and others who depend on an hourly wage to make ends meet.

Then there are those who have lost their homes or who are without power. The storm could actually help some industries, like construction, home supplies and food markets, where activity will rise as the aftermath unfolds. The impact will be felt for days but should be temporary, reports the Wall Street Journal, quoting Moody’s Analytics.

“Sales, wages and productivity will all take a big hit. The storm, for instance, is arriving at the tail end of the $8 billion Halloween retail season. But some sales can be made up later, and the storm will drive purchases of items like plywood and generators that wouldn’t otherwise have been sold,” the paper says.

Department stores have shut and, even when they reopen, shoppers won’t necessarily be flocking to them. Travel has been reduced and might be for some time. Events, like the Google Nexus unveiling that had been planned for yesterday, were put off, which interrupts prospects for the holiday shopping season.

The New York Times points out “intertemporal substitution” will probably take place, with consumer activity likely taking place at a higher volume in the coming days to make up for the missed time. Gas prices may also spike, but then come back down to Earth.

As a final note for those who were expecting it, the consumer confidence index has been postponed until Thursday.

And on a final note, here’s one of the many incredible images from the storm that’s been making the rounds on the Internet, a carousel in downtown Brooklyn, still lit, floating but intact.

via andjelicaa on Instagram

Has Everyone Gone Pop? Why R&B Has Become The Red-Headed Stepchild Of The Music Industry

September 27th, 2012 - By La Truly
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I’ve been perplexed and dismayed for a few months now when thinking about the current state of music. We’re living in the era of music that relies too heavily on free downloads, more beats than thought-provoking lyrical content and shocking ‘announcements’ to drive album sales.

I just started listening to the radio again at the beginning of the summer. Was I happy with what I was hearing? Meh, maybe 75 percent as opposed to the good 90 percent of the late 90s and early 2000s. The cause, I realized, was that every song pretty much sounded the same. If I wanted the depth and relatable sounds I had grown up on, the SWV, Jagged Edge, Guy, Brian McKnight, Aaliyah, and Joe, then I would have to dig deep, reach back and pretty much forsake much, if not all of what is being played right here and now in 2012.

R&B was a mainstay for me growing up. There was soul there. Though I couldn’t completely relate to Faith Evans telling her man that she would never let him go, or Babyface outlining just exactly how fierce his girl’s “Whip Appeal” was, I saw R&B as a goal. I wanted to know love like that and yes even in some silly way I wanted to know the heartbreak of it too. R&B was what we came home to after pop, rock and rap amped us up for the day. Now, the house is no longer a home because R&B has been kicked out to fend for itself outside the realm of the mainstream music industry.

It’s been kicked out by everyone in the house: First of all, consumers. We complain that “Don’t nobody sing about nothin’ no more,” yet we twiddle our thumbs and look everywhere but to the music shelves in our local retailers when great R&B albums are released. When do we come out of pocket? For a Jay & Yeezy concert? Okay, that’s cool if that’s truly your preference. But honestly, Carl Thomas and Tamia, two of the brightest voices of R&B for YEARS, have put out absolutely phenomenal albums this year and I had to go in search of reviews for both. We say we want it, but do we support it? I’ll never forget how people used to wait in line to buy whole albums. To get that CD in their hands. To support the artistry that spoke the most into their lives. Now we pick apart these artists’ hard work and effort, barely ever spending that little $9 to $12. I’m guilty of it.

Secondly, R&B has been kicked out by the new generation. And to be fair, it’s not entirely their fault. When I was coming up, R&B was good music because it was relatable. People were in love. It wasn’t corny or foolish to put yourself out there for the sake of love. It was real, honest, respected. Grown folks could see themselves in the music and us young folks had something beautiful to look forward to. Nowadays, people mostly look to music to live a life vicariously that they’ll never get to experience firsthand. I will never know the life of a bada** rockstar. I’ll never know the lifestyle of a foul-mouthed, bootylicious Barbie but Rihanna and Nicki Minaj give me an all-access pass into that world. No shade. They’re getting theirs. But the depth they’ll deliver to me is few and far between. And so it is with the newer generation. “Love” and all of its highs and lows is for the birds to them. It’s wack. They can’t relate to a love song, but they can sure get with a jam about sex. People who thought the 90s were hyper-sexualized and overly gaudy are probably crapping bricks right now. Where we used to love music we could relate to, we now love music we pretty much know nothing of the lifestyle except in fantasy. People are not openly proclaiming that they are in love and everyone is cynical about the possibility. The real R&B artists who are STILL MAKING MUSIC, as an amazing musician friend of mine pointed out, aren’t being supported and won’t draw a cult following like Nicki Minaj because nowadays the masses want crazy, flashy sex in their music instead of easy, sweet adoration. We cling to heavy beats and synths instead of deep, poetic lyrics.

Thirdly, the music execs and DJs have abandoned R&B. Raphael Saadiq’s Stone Rollin’ album last year was the bees knees. It brought a sense of balance from new and old school back to today’s music. How much press did he and his ridiculously talented band get? How much promo did he get? How much air time did he get? DJs play the same four songs in the heaviest of rotations DAILY. Where’s the pressure for them to be more open to a wider range of music? DJs have a larger amount of power than they let on and we, AS THE LISTENERS, even believe.

The blame can’t be placed on any one group. All of us, consumers, execs, DJs, lovers and friends have done our part to push R&B out to make way for anything and everything that will “cross over.” Anything that will make a fist pump, and anything that can become a dance jam for a club where they twirl around glow sticks and dance off beat. It’s time we start making our way back to the artists who are still making music of substance before we look up and realize too late that one of the greatest genres has become extinct.

La Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. Armed with the ability to purposefully poke fun at herself and a passion for young women’s empowerment, La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change. Her blog: www.hersoulinc.com and her Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.  

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Experts Say Credit Card Hack May Reoccur

April 4th, 2012 - By MN Editor
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Distrust of financial institutions continues to spread. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.* admitted Tuesday to accidently charging customers in several states including New York and Connecticut twice for their debit card charges.  It’s just the most recent financial snafu.

Last week’s data security breach had card holders up in arms. Global Payments, Inc., the company responsible for last Friday’s breach of 1.5 million bank card numbers, claims the “incident is contained.” However, security experts say other transactions may have been compromised.

Read the rest at BlackEnterprise.com

Get Ready For It: Verizon Will Now Charge You to Pay Your Bill

December 30th, 2011 - By Brande Victorian
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Verizon apparently missed the memo that consumers don’t like to pay to access options that are rightfully theirs–like paying a bill. Remember how quickly Bank of America backtracked with the $5 monthly fee they were going to charge people to access their own money? But if the phone company is looking at things from an airline perspective, they might assume that sure, consumers will put up a fuss initially, but at the end of the day what other choice do they have?

Starting Jan. 15, Verizon will charge customers at $2 fee if they pay their bill with a credit card online or over the phone. Most companies I’ve had personal experience with charge to pay a bill over the phone–and typically more than $2–but those fees were standard policies from the beginning, not a sudden attempt to cover the ability to “continue to support these bill payment options” as Verizon explained it. And being charged to simply pay a bill online with a credit card is extremely rare.

A Verizon memo says it will offer customers free options before charging the fee. That includes snail mail, enrolling in Verizon’s AutoPay, allowing the company to keep a credit, debit or ATM card or bank account on file (their preferred method), electronic check, using your bank’s online bill pay, or paying at a Verizon kiosk.

It should be noted that Verizon Communications Inc., the landline phone company that owns most of Verizon Wireless, tried to impose a $3.50 fee for people who paid their bill for FiOS TV or Internet service month-to-month by credit card last year and backed out after complaints. I’m pretty sure this attempt will follow suit. With enough people struggling to just pay a bill, the last thing customers need are erroneous fees.

Does your phone company charge you fees if you pay your bill a certain way?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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The Secret to Marketing Success Is Moms!

December 12th, 2011 - By Charlotte Young
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women consumers

By Charlotte Young

Marketing to moms is essential for any business to survive. Kat Gordon, the founder and Creative Director of the marketing agency Maternal Instinct, tells Inc.com that women are increasing making the shopping decisions in the household, even with automotive, electronics, and insurance purchases.

Women currently control $13 trillion of the world’s $18.4 trillion in consumer spending. Even still, she says that 71 percent of women feel brands only consider them for beauty and cleaning products. How should companies woo these women consumers? Inc.com reports on ways businesses can start reaching out to women consumers.

First tip to reach women consumers is to make accessibility easy. Research shows women spend the equivalent of 17 days in a year in the car with their kids. Companies must make their site mobile. In addition, women love online communities, especially Facebook. Instead of asking women to change their online habits, companies should find opportunities within existing communities and networks to market their product.

Research also shows that videos are a must! Over 80 percent of moms want to see a product in action so companies must be ready to give their product a video spotlight. Women consumers want to be greeted as friends through marketing, not talked at with sales pitches. While humor is a good marketing strategy, it’s also important to give female representatives a chance to preview the campaign. Women represent only 3 percent of creative directors and men often forget that male humor can be borderline offensive to women.

Women are givers and they like to buy from companies that are givers as well. Inc.com reports that 82 percent of women are more likely to buy from companies that support charitable causes that they believe in and are also more likely to switch products to one they feel helps others.

When a firm woman base has been established, Gordon notes that it’s also important to thank women consumers and to use a “story-selling” approach that will continue to give the company a human perspective. With a new marketing strategy in place, it’s also good to ask for feedback. Women know what they like and what they want improved and they’re not afraid to offer their opinion.

Americans Hold onto Money as Retailers Hold onto Hope

October 4th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Wall Street Journal) — Retailers are coming to terms with a new reality: the consumer who traded down during the recession and never came back.  Buffeted by high unemployment, heavy debt loads, falling home values and high food and gas prices, these shoppers have been whipped into a permanent state of consumer caution. They buy only what they need, avoid premium labels, clip coupons and scour sales.  Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Chief Executive Mike Duke told analysts in a recent conference call that paycheck-cycle shopping is more pronounced than ever, with shoppers stocking up shortly after getting paid, then moving to smaller product sizes toward the end of the month when they run short of money.    “Consumers are fragile, fatigued and fed up,” said Chris Christopher, senior economist at IHS. Global Insight, citing wage stagnation, food inflation and high gas prices.  Retailers and manufacturers are figuring out how to appeal to these new “forever frugal” consumers—rather than pin too much hope on economic rebound. Some are waiting longer to pass on higher costs, whether for food or cotton. Coca-Cola Co. and other companies have added new packages at small sizes and lower price tags. Some retailers are holding the line on hiring, even as they head into their busiest season of the year. Many stores are expanding their selection of cheaper private-label products and some are offering credit cards with across-the-board discounts. Layaway has made a comeback.

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What's in the Bag?: Consumer Buying Behavior

September 29th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Wall Street Journal) — Consumers, pinched by falling incomes, trimmed their spending last year even as prices for everyday goods climbed, according to a new report from the Labor Department.  Consumer groups, defined as families, single persons living alone or sharing a household with others but who are financially independent, and two or more persons living together who share expenses, saw their average income before taxes drop 0.6% from a year earlier to $62,481. Average spending dropped 2% to $48,109 last year. Even as income and spending fell, consumer prices increased 1.6% in 2010.

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Tricks Retailers Use to Get in Your Pockets

September 21st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Bankrate) — The ‘Magic’ of display: We can learn a lesson in Underhill’s book from a story told by a retailer about a tempting display of T-shirts.  “We buy them in Sri Lanka for $3 each. Then we bring them over here and sew in washing instructions, which are in French and English. Notice we don’t say the shirts are made in France. But you can infer that if you like. Then … we fold them just right on a tasteful tabletop display, and on the wall behind it we hang a huge, gorgeous photograph of a beautiful woman in an exotic locale wearing the shirt.”  Resist the urge: “Write a monthly mall shopping budget and stash cash in an envelope specifically for that purpose. When the envelope is empty, stop spending,” says Ramsey. “A written budget makes you think twice when you are tempted by impulse buys.”

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