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Here’s Why Message Centers Are Crucial For Mobile Engagement


Mobile messaging, especially tied to proximity, has become a very popular and effective means of engaging with consumers. The proliferation of smartphones and how users are embracing mobile commerce (see recent studies that support this) has created the perfect storm for marketers. You can now message your customers through various strategies, but given the ephemeral nature of push notifications, your customers could easily miss important messages. Strategies that employ more persistent messaging such as email and SMS have shown varying degrees of success, but those utilizing “message centers” have been the most effective by far. In this post, we’ll discuss the effectiveness of using in-app message centers and how ShopAdvisor has utilized this strategy to double mobile messaging open rates.

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Mobile Proximity Messaging Best Practices

The success of any mobile proximity campaign is highly dependent on user engagement. Messaging that doesn’t motivate a user to take action is a wasted impression and will effect your results negatively. ShopAdvisor has run several national proximity campaigns as well as many more smaller, regional ones. In this post, we will outline some messaging best practices and share some interesting metrics from ShopAdvisor client campaigns.

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Thoughts on Building a Development Team

A few months ago I was promoted to Chief Technology Officer at ShopAdvisor. With that title change came a lot of new responsibilities, but it also came with several new opportunities. We’ve been working hard over the last several years to find the right market fit for our technology. After our recent successes with Elle Magazine and proximity programs for retailers, we’ve found ourselves needing to round out our engineering team with some new hires. I knew this would be an uphill battle here in the Northeast, given the current job market, but it was an exciting challenge to take on.

We followed the standard playbook. We put together the job descriptions (and then added some marketing flair), posted them in a few places, and reached out to some agencies. We also bought access into a resume search engines, just to give it a whirl. We got the standard influx of resumes that one would expect. Lots of highly qualified candidates, but sponsorship was a challenge that a small company like ours didn’t want to take on. We got several resumes of not-so-qualified candidates as well. We also started getting A LOT of calls from agencies that we never engaged with. There were some good resumes that we saw; there were even some great ones. Continue Reading

The one TO DO list hack that will maximize your productivity

Most of the time when we look at our TO DO lists we get overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter what software we use: Asana, Trello, Todist, etc., your lists just keep getting longer, making them harder and harder to stay on top of. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of techniques out there that help us break down our lists and organize them. We can categorize them into projects. We can mark them as “someday”  or “later” and hide them from our view. We can assign priorities, give them context, and schedule them to reappear later. But ultimately, our ability to stay productive comes down to the actionability of the tasks themselves.

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What did I do the other day? A productivity journal experiment.

I often find myself trying to figure out what I did the other day. When I was a bit younger, it was easier to think back a few days and remember what I worked on, where I went, what I had to eat, who I spoke to, and so on. However, now (that I’m older), I find my job requires me to jump around so much that all the days seem to blend together. Tasks on my TODO list remain incomplete and I find myself incapable of remembering what I did a yesterday or the day before, never mind three or four weeks ago.

I’ve kept journals in the past. In fact, when I was building Lifeables I used to keep a running journal (using MaxJournal) that I would update periodically during the day. That was very handy for looking back to remind myself why I did something a specific way or for noting ideas as I had them. I kept that journal going for months and it was an incredibly valuable tool. The problem was that it had a very definitive scope, and I only updated it with things that had to do with Lifeables development. At one point I tried to expand it to include general Lifeables business related topics (fundraising, product meetings, etc.), but since I kept them in a separate journal, I almost never remembered to add entries to it.

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Why “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger is a perfect analogy of my life as an entrepreneur

I’ve been an “entrepreneur” for a very long time. If you want to count shoveling snow for dollars when I was a kid, or my brief stint trying to start a baseball card shop with my cousin when I was 11, then I’ve been doing this for well over 25 years. By the time I was a sophomore in college, I had already experimented with everything from Amway to selling computers using classified ads. I even tried investing in a psychic hotline, so yeah, I’ve tried quite a bit. It wasn’t until I started my first web design business from my college dorm room that I really found my passion.

Since then I’ve been involved in more web projects and products than I can remember. I’ve owned and bootstrapped a web development firm with several employees, raised seed and venture money for web startups, built products that have succeeded and products that have failed. The other day I found myself telling someone my “entrepreneurial” life story. I went through all of my successes, challenges, and failures. It was both exhilarating and depressing at the same time.

The next day I was shuffling my playlist on my iPhone and “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band came on. This is by far one of my favorite songs (and if you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor and go listen to it; you can thank me later). As I was listening, and re-playing my previous conversation in my head, it became incredibly clear just how much this song could be my theme song as an entrepreneur, and maybe yours too.

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How To: Install phpMyAdmin on Amazon Linux

I’ve been managing a few small MySQL databases lately that often need record updates but certainly don’t warrant building a separate management interface. The easiest way to accomplish this (assuming you don’t have complicated joins and relationships) is to install phpMyAdmin, a robust, web-based admin utility for MySQL that is built in php. In my case, I’m running these mostly on Amazon Linux instances, so after a little poking around, it turns out the installation is just 3 simple steps.

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Creating systems with Asana

Ever since reading The E-Myth Revisited a hundred years ago or so, I have become a huge proponent of using systems to help run and optimize business processes. No matter how big or small the task, if it is something that is repeated, there should be a system. Having good systems in place not only makes training easier when mitigating turnover, but they provide measurable processes that can be constantly tweaked to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

We started using Asana at ShopAdvisor about a year ago as part of my ongoing war to eliminate email (but that’s another story). It took some getting used to (even now we still have a few holdouts), but once we migrated completely from JIRA, we had much greater participation from all team members, not just the developers. Asana also gave us a lot more flexibility around tasks lists, prioritization and recurring tasks. This made it extremely easy to implement and manage systems with complete transparency to the whole organization.

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How To: Install wkhtmltopdf on Amazon Linux

The other day I was optimizing a reporting engine and needed a quick and easy way to generate PDFs from HTML templates. There are several options out there, but after some research, I decided to use wkhtmltopdf (http://wkhtmltopdf.org). It then took me a few hours of scouring the Internet to find the appropriate steps to install it on Amazon Linux. I kept running into a series of problems with the version, required libraries, and font kerning. Some trial and error, and help from some others, finally got me up and running. Here’s what worked for me.

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The curious case of PHP template engines

I’m a sucker for PHP. I’ve been writing PHP code since 1998, so it feels very familiar to me. I built my last major web project in PHP, and if I had to do it again, I’d make the same choice. So whenever a task comes up that could be automated with some quick code, I typically default to PHP. Recently I found myself battling with some reporting templates I inherited that were coded as a mix of Python, SQL, HTML, and Javascript. The finalized reports need to be converted to PDFs, which means the PDF converter needs to be able to process Javascript. This has proven to be a problem since the prior developer was unable to find a good solution. So now I’m left with a highly inefficient, manual process. Continue Reading