Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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When Ranking Facebook Adoption As Percentage Of Population, Cyprus Is #1

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 08:59 AM PST


Which countries really, really love Facebook? If you guessed the U.S., you would be somewhat right – this country ranks #7 on Pingdom’s new list of countries comparing the percentage of Facebook users to the percentage of the current population.

When looking at numbers this way, however, it’s Cyprus in the #1 position. Hong Kong, Chile, Singapore and Norway round out the top five.

To be clear, we’re not talking about raw number of Facebook users. The U.S. is still #1 there. This is ranking countries by what percentage of the population is on Facebook. Or, more simply put, how popular Facebook is in that country.

On the island of Cyprus, Pingdom found that 95% of the population was on Facebook – that’s nearly everyone! And in Chile (#3), there were more Facebook users than Internet users. That could be an anomaly in how the data Pingdom used was compiled, but it could also mean that people had multiple accounts (one for business, one for personal, e.g.).

In its findings, Pingdom also refuted a previous claim which stated that the Philippines was the top country on Facebook, when using similar rankings. 93.9% of the population there is not on Facebook, says Pingdom, only 28.76% is, according to its numbers.

India and China, the latter which blocks Facebook, are the largest untapped markets for outside growth, with only 3.42% of India’s population on Facebook and a surprising 530,000 Chinese who have managed to establish accounts despite the country’s attempts to block it.

Facebook had once said that 70% of its growth comes from users outside the U.S. Pingdom says that’s more like 80%. There are now over 800 million Facebook users, out of the 7 billion+ people on Earth.

Since methodology is an important consideration, to generate these rankings (see chart below), Pingdom says it took SocialBaker's data on how many Facebook users there are in countries around the world, data on Internet users from the World Bank, and population data from Wikipedia. It only looked at countries where the population was greater than 500,000.

Ambient Field Conditioner Will Condition Your Ambient Field

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 08:24 AM PST


If you didn’t get everything you wanted this holiday and still have a few thousand left over, why not blow it on a box that you put next to your stereo that literally does nothing for the circuitry inside? This box by Less Loss is a “shield” that keeps “noise” out of your stereo. It costs (I’m not making this up) $1,323.

The box, when paired with $700 RCA cables, promises to reduce noise in your stereo equipment and, as one reviewer noted, it will cause your body to spasm wildly.

Before, my system sounded great, but my foot only tapped about half the time. Now with all LessLoss cords, including their digital cable, every time the music plays I can’t keep my feet still.”

To be clear, I’m not recommending you buy this. I do, however, recommend you check out their website for some of the most mind-blowing audiophile snake oil I’ve seen in a long time. As one BoingBoing commenter writes, “Magical audio equipment is merely another manifestation of the property that cults sometimes emerge by themselves from the ambient field of idiocy.”

GoodReads’ Recommendation Engine Acquisition Gooses The Publishing Game

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 08:11 AM PST

Screen Shot 2011-12-28 at 10.57.35 AM

While bookstores are reporting increased sales this month, I foresee a time when “Staff Picks” at the local booke shoppe will soon be replaced by recommendation engines that tell you what ebook to pick up next.

Services like Amazon’s own recommendation engine and smaller guys like Booklamp all promise to let you know what tome to crack after you finish the Stephen King epic but GoodReads adds a bit of value-add to the burgeoning self-publishing movement.

The service lets authors create their own author pages and fans can follow and interact with writers in the comments and on private author blogs. You can also rate fifteen books to begin getting recommendations for future reading. Authors can run private blogs, send out giveaways, and publicize events using the service.

The service has recommended 6 million books to 6.5 million users and there are currently 240 million books in the database. They are adding 14 million books a month. The team has doubled this year from 10 to 20 people (and they’re hiring).

“We’re profitable,” wrote Otis Chandler in an email. “We think we have the best book recommendations on the internet right now (yes, better than Amazon) and we launched our recommendations in September after having acquired a company (Discovereads) in March to power them – and the results have been phenomenal.”

In the end services like GoodReads and good old word of mouth will power the publishing industry. If I can market my own books – for free or for a price – and sell them to eager customers, I’m much more likely to self publish and, although this will be decreasingly likely, work with a publisher. The old model of publishing was the movement of widgets, by truck, from warehouse to store to consumer. The new model is one-to-one and sites like GoodReads are powering this revolution.

Click to view slideshow.

Genius: New App Wakes You Up Earlier If It Snowed Last Night

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST


This is smart: a new alarm clock application for the iPhone and Android wakes you earlier if it snowed last night. Called simply, “Winter Wake-Up,” the app lets you configure its settings to wake you up earlier than your scheduled alarm depending on weather conditions, with separate settings for both “Frost” and “Snow.”

Credit where credit is due, I stumbled across the app not out of necessity (it’s 70 ° F here in Florida), but on the blog at Springwise, which likes to collect interesting things. Although I’ll never have need for the app, I do recall what’s it’s like to have snow and ice and the time it takes to dig the car out from underneath it all. This woud be a handy app to have on hand for those who live in chillier climates.

There’s also an optional setting – a checkbox – which you can select that says “don’t bother to wake me if the weather’s too bad. I’ll work on Saturday.” (Or, as is more likely in today’s world, you’ll work from home that same day…just maybe a little later).

The app, released this month, is the creation of the Belgian digital agency Boondoggle, and is available for both on iOS and Android, here on iTunes or here in the Android Market.

Gillmor Gang Live 12.28.11 (TCTV)

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 07:59 AM PST

Gillmore Gang test pattern

The Gillmor Gang – Paul Greenberg, John Taschek, and Steve Gillmor – are recording live at 8am PT.

Recording has concluded.

comScore: U.S. Online Holiday Spending Up 15% To Record $35.3 Billion

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 07:28 AM PST

comscore-xmas 2011

comScore just released new numbers on U.S. online holiday spending for the season-to-date, and found that consumers continued to shop online in record numbers. For the first 56 days of the November-December 2011 holiday season, $35.3 billion was spent online – an increase of 15% over the corresponding days last year, and a new record.

The most recent week ending December 25th saw $2.8 billion in spending, an increase of 16% versus the corresponding week last year.

“Cyber Monday” ranked as the heaviest online spending day of the season for the second year in a row with $1.25 billion spent, reports comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni, but it was accompanied by nine other billion dollar spending days this year. These included “Green Monday” (Dec. 12th), and “Free Shipping Day,” (Dec. 16th), among others.

“Green Monday,” a term coined by eBay in 2007, refers to the Monday occurring around the second week of December, which has tended to be the heaviest online spending days of the year because it’s one of the last days where consumers can purchase online and still receive shipping by the holidays.

“Free Shipping Day” is also one of the last days when consumers can receive packages by Christmas Eve, and was the third heaviest online spending day last year at $942 million.

One interesting trend comScore found over the past few years is the dramatic increase in Christmas Day purchases of Digital Content & Subscriptions, a retail category that includes digital downloads of music, TV, movies, e-books and apps. As many consumers get new smartphones, tablets, e-readers and digital content gift certificates for Christmas, they spend Christmas Day loading up their devices with new content, the firm noted.

On an average day during the 2011 holiday season-to-date (Nov. 1 – Dec. 26), Digital Content & Subscriptions accounted for 2.8% of retail e-commerce sales, but on Christmas Day the category accounted for more than 20% of sales. As in previous years, comScore says it expects sales for this category of products to remain elevated throughout the entire week following Christmas Day.

Correction: Typo – Free Shipping Day was $942 million last year, not billion. 

LG Prada 3.0 Makes Official Debut In Korea, Europe To Follow

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 07:24 AM PST


Tech-savvy fashionistas finally have a reason to rejoice with the official release of LG’s Prada 3.0 handset. Namely, it’s the first time a in a long while that the company’s fashion phones aren’t completely outclassed by the competition.

When I say outclassed, I’m referring strictly to performance. With it’s 4.3-inch WVGA NOVA display, 1 GHz dual-core processor, and 8-megapixel camera, the Prada 3.0 is a solid little package, but one that’s a bit lacking considering its premium price tag.

Specs, of course, aren’t the point here. The Prada 3.0 goes back to the strictly candybar form factor of its forebear, and despite design language similar to the Lumia 800, it’s a handsome (if understated device).

What’s sort of curious about this whole thing is how exactly performance and style intersect with the Prada 3.0. Its spec sheet is above average, but many current-gen Android smartphones would likely run circles around it. Then again, will the Prada’s target market care? Doubtful — as long as it’s got that logo (and Prada’s Saffiano pattern) on the back, brand fiends with money to burn will eat it up. For a device that costs 899,900 won (or nearly $780), I’d prefer something with a bit more horsepower, but that’s just the cheap pragmatist in me talking.

Despite being a niche product through and through, LG recently outed the Prada as one of the company’s first devices to receive the Ice Cream Sandwich update. It won’t be long before the Prada 3.0 starts its world tour — the device will hit Europe and the rest of Asia in January — but there’s no word yet on U.S. availability.

iPhone App Downloads In November Up 83% Over Last Year

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 07:09 AM PST


Marketing technology company Fiksu tracked the impact of the iPhone 4S on iPhone app downloads and found that download volume of the top 200 free apps increased 15% from October’s previous record high of 4.91 million daily downloads. In November, the firm’s “App Store Competitive Index,” which measures this trend, peaked at 5.65 million downloads per day – the first time it has topped the 5 million mark. That’s an increase of 83% over November of last year.

That’s a remarkable number, when you think about it. And it shows how it’s very much still the early days for the mobile app ecosystem. As analytics firm Flurry recently reported, the addressable market for potential smartphone (iOS or Android) users in the U.S. alone is 91 million. In China, it’s 122 million. There are still a lot of untapped app downloads out there. And these Fiksu numbers are an example of what happens when those new smartphone users come on board: they download a whole bunch of new apps.

Fiksu calls this a “colossal expansion of mobile apps,” and yet that doesn’t even seem to be a strong enough word for what we’re seeing. It’s something beyond colossal, it’s downright transformative. It’s a new universe.

Meanwhile, app marketers, which the firm’s second index, the Fiksu Cost per Loyal User Index, addresses, are getting smarter about their ad spends. This index remained steady last month, only down four cents from October’s $1.47 to $1.43 in November. During the month, there was a steady demand for app downloads, unlike in October.

Says Fiksu CEO Micah Adler, “app marketers have become savvier about planning and executing their ad spends during seasonal periods to avoid paying premium prices for acquiring users. In fact, November presented them with a somewhat unique opportunity to add more users at costs that were actually below October’s.”

Data for the Fiksu Indexes was sourced from more than 7.6 billion mobile app actions including app launches, registrations and in-app purchases. There are more than 156 million downloads recorded by apps marketed via the Fiksu for Mobile Apps user acquisition platform.  More details are here.

Trademark Watch: What Is “Yahoo Axis”?

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 06:52 AM PST


Last Friday, troubled Internet giant Yahoo filed a new trademark application with the USPTO. I can’t find any record of an existing Yahoo product or service by the name, so I figured I should just throw it out here for all of you to speculate what the company has up its sleeves.

The name, before I forget to mention it, is Yahoo Axis. That will make you none the wiser, but perhaps the classes and descriptions might:

International Class 038: Telecommunications services; namely, providing access to computer database via the internet; transmission of information over the internet or other communications networks; telecommunication services, namely, the transmission of data and information

International Class 042: Computer services, namely, creating indexes of information, sites, and other resources available on computer networks; searching and retrieving information, sites, and other resources available on computer networks for others; providing an online link to news, weather, sports, current events, and reference material

Your guess is as good as mine, and the comment floor is yours. What is Yahoo Axis?

WeedMaps Buys Medical Marijuana Inventory And Patient Management Software MMJMenu

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 06:38 AM PST

weedmaps logo

In the small but budding legal medical marijuana industry, WeedMaps has the munchies for acquisitions (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Fresh off its $4.2 million bong hit in November, WeedMaps’ parent company, Canada’s General Cannabis, announced today its acquisition MMJMenu.

Terms were not disclosed. It was an asset-sale, though, so it probably wasn’t much. General Cannabis, which is publicly traded over the counter in Canada (OTCBB: CANA), (OTCQX: CANA), reported $10.4 million in revenues for the first nine months of 2011, and it only had $1.4 million in cash. WeedMaps accounts for 82 percent of its revenues.

MMJMenu provides back-end enterprise software for medical marijuana dispensaries. The software handles everything from patient management to inventory control to checkout at point of sale. Medical marijuana dispensaries re highly regulated. Emblazoned on MMJMenu’s homepage is its key selling point:

mmjmenu is the best choice for medical marijuana business owners that want to stay compliant with state laws & regulations.

WeedMaps is the “Yelp for medical marijuana dispensaries.” Now it will be able to offer these businesses enterprise software as well as advertising services. MMJMenu claims “hundreds” of medical marijuana business customers “in California, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, Washington as well as in Canada.”

Call Genie Acquires Mobile Advertising, Analytics Startup VoodooVox

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 06:07 AM PST


In what looks like a firesale, Call Genie has acquired US-based mobile analytics and advertising network company VoodooVox, which has raised a ton of venture capital from investors like Apax Partners, Softbank Capital, Steamboat Ventures (Disney), Berkshire Capital Investors and Village Ventures.

VoodooVox provides demographic information on phone calls and mobile ad traffic in real-time, enabling companies to gain insights into their call volume and mobile application activity.

Call Genie, which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, says it acquired the company to expand its product offering and move deeper into the mobile advertising market.

Under the terms of the agreement, Call Genie will issue 11.25 million shares to VoodooVox shareholders, as well as pay an additional $1.8 million in cash over an unspecified period of time.

VoodooVox CEO J. Scott Hamilton in a statement says the company has amassed roughly 300 million phone records of individuals and companies alike. He continues:

“We have paid particular attention to mobile phone numbers, and believe we have created the reference data source for rich demographic information on cell phone numbers.

Through our library of APIs, this information source can be easily integrated into carrier platforms and mobile ad serving networks”.

The transaction should be completed in January 2012.

Japan Gets Wi-Fi Dispensing Vending Machines

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 05:37 AM PST


It’s no secret that Japan is the country of vending machines (they even have models like this one now), but this is new: Tokyo-based beverage company Asahi Soft Drinks took the wraps off a vending machine [JP] that not only offers drinks but also sends out Wi-Fi signals within a 50m radius.

The Wi-Fi will be available for free, is accessible with multiple devices, without registration, and for anyone to use (meaning users won’t have to buy any drinks to go online through the machine). It’s possible to use the web for about 30 minutes before the machine cuts you off (re-connecting is possible, however).

After logging in, users will see various location-specific information on the home screen, for example on local stores, or sightseeing spots.

Starting in 2012, Asahi will set up 1,000 of the vending machines in five different regions in Japan (Tokyo, Sendai, Chubu, Kinki, and Fukuoka) in the first year. The plan is to roll out a total of 10,000 units in the next five years.

Asahi is currently operating 250,000 vending machines all over Japan.

DIY Health Reform: Employers Solving Healthcare Crisis One Onsite Clinic At A Time

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 05:26 AM PST


Editor's note: This guest post was written by Dave Chase, the CEO of, a patient portal & relationship management company that was a TechCrunch Disrupt finalist. Previously he was a management consultant for Accenture's healthcare practice and founder of Microsoft's Health business. You can follow him on Twitter@chasedave.

In several of my past pieces, I have written about the importance of a disruptive model of care and payment called Direct Primary Care (DPC) such as The Most Important Organization In Silicon Valley That No One Has Heard About. As the DPC models scale, they become a great option for individuals and small business. However, larger organizations have another option at their disposal that I’m as excited about as the DPC models.

Employers fed up with the annual “get less for more” health story when they get annual health plan updates have taken matters into their own hands. This has created one of the hottest sectors of the economy — onsite clinic providers. These are companies providing corporations with primary care onsite at employer workplaces. Each of the onsite clinic provider CEOs (e.g., Concentra, CareHere) I have spoken with have shared that their business is growing 100% annually. Reportedly 20% of employers with over 500 employees are implementing onsite clinic programs.

Faced with healthcare’s hyperinflation which is hurting their competitiveness, employers have been trying an array of solutions. Led by IBM’s study of their $2 billion annual health expenditure, the overwhelming evidence comes to a surprisingly simple conclusion: more primary care = healthier population = less money spent. Ben Franklin was right. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Time and again, it’s been shown that proactive primary care can reduce the most expensive downstream healthcare costs — surgeries, scans, emergency department and specialist visits — by 40-80%. Rather than waiting for small issues to become full-blown medical incidents, proactive primary care can make a big difference.

These disruptive onsite clinics are proving that employers don’t have to endure the “get less for more” program anymore. Larger employers are finding onsite clinics have the same cost and health benefits as DPC models, but it goes beyond just direct costs. The good news for startups is the onsite clinic providers aren’t entrenched with old technology and almost comically convoluted and interminable decision processes at traditional healthcare providers that have prevented innovative technologies from gaining a toehold.

Where do the savings come from?

In the U.S., we tackle healthcare in a way that would be the equivalent of having the best firefighters and firefighting equipment in the world and then paying them more if there were more fires. Thus, you might find firefighters implicitly encouraging kids to play with fireworks on dry hillsides and allow buildings to be built with only one exit and no sprinklers. Even today, many hospitals measure their occupancy like a hotel. That is, higher occupancy is perceived positively similar to the fictional firefighter hoping for more fires so they get paid more. Instead, the key to slaying the healthcare cost beast is to view expensive interventions such as hospitalizations (other than child-birth) as a failure rather than something to be optimized. In the “do more, bill more” model we’ve been afflicted with, we get exactly what we reward. That is, full-blown medical conflagrations that are lucrative for healthcare providers but devastating to healthcare budgets that we all ultimately pay for directly or indirectly.

One other benefit employers realize with onsite clinics is that their employees aren’t wasting half a day going to a doctor's appointment. Not only is the clinic nearby, but the need to even go to the clinic is reduced. In the flawed fee-for-service model, a doctor can only be paid if you visit their clinic. Not surprisingly, many doctors will optimize for the patient to come to their office as frequently as possible as it allows for more billing events. In contrast, DPC and onsite primary care physicians share the fact that as much as 2/3 of clinic visits don’t require a face-to-face encounter. Rather, phone or electronic communication is sufficient. For example, one doctor shared how he hasn’t seen a patient with Shingles in 5 years. These patients simply take a photo with their camera phone, email it to him and he can easily tell it is Shingles. He can then call in a prescription saving everyone time and money.

Fortunately, onsite clinic providers aren’t incentivized by convoluted health reimbursement models that reward the most expensive care possible. Both DPC and onsite clinic models are rewarded for value and outcomes, rather than mere activity. Further, the smartest of these recognize who the most important member of the care team is — the individual. After all, the individual is the only person who goes to 100% of their appointments and the 99+% of their life spent away from the clinic is when they return to or maintain their health. Having implemented HealthIT systems in dozens of health systems, it’s evident from a systems perspective that the patient is treated as a vessel to attach billing codes to rather than an equal member of the care team. It should be no surprise that legacy HealthIT is optimized around the flawed model, rather than the new models. Entire new categories of software emerge as healthcare providers recognize the most important member of the care team has largely been ignored.

The organizations that treat the individual as a member of the care team practice a “Collaborative Care” model that is making a real dent in healthcare costs. For the more difficult issues such as obesity and substance abuse, the Collaborative Care model extends to other care providers. In other words, not only is the patient-provider connection important but the provider-provider connection is also critical.  For example, after a few years of trying various approaches, a large media company’s onsite provider assigned health coaches to their employees and had rewards and penalties for following care plans. The coaches coordinate between the primary care physician (who is also rewarded for individuals sticking to care plans) and the individual to great effect. There's the dual win of a healthier employee and less money spent. Emerging technology solutions are making this much easier so the entire care team (individual, coach and doctor) are in sync to achieve the health goal.

The most successful onsite providers are rewarded for being patient-centered, accountable and coordinated. In contrast, the flawed “do more, bill more” reimbursement model that is still pervasive implicitly rewards a provider-centric, unaccountable (e.g., it’s good news when a sick patient comes back more frequently) and uncoordinated model. For traditional healthcare providers, they should heed the warning that providers are making newspaper industry mistakes. As more employers learn of the great benefits from a well-executed onsite clinic model, they will continue this Do it Yourself Health Reform trend that is happening one employer at a time.

‘Big Data’ Giant Mu Sigma Raises $108 Million From General Atlantic, Sequoia

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 05:21 AM PST


Mu Sigma, a provider of analytics and data-driven decision support services for enterprise customers, has raised $108 million in funding in a round led by growth equity firm General Atlantic.

The financing comes about half a year after Mu Sigma raised $25 million from Sequoia Capital, which also participated in this round.

Headquartered in Chicago with most of its 1,500+ employees working out of Bangalore, India, Mu Sigma is a professional services firm that helps companies analyze ‘big data’ to “institutionalize decision support”.

In a statement, Mu Sigma says it is already profitable and able to finance its operations on its own, but that it raised more venture capital to ‘accelerate growth’.

A portion of the new capital will be used to purchase shares held by existing shareholders, but the company did not disclose which shareholders and how much of the $108 million injection will be reserved for the buybacks.

Mu Sigma did say all current shareholders will retain stakes in the company.

More in this Wall Street Journal article.

Will UK Prime Minister Get An iPad App For Work? Unlikely. Here’s Why.

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 04:51 AM PST


According to some press reports today the British Prime Minister, David Cameron is to get “his own personalised iPad app” to stay on top of Government business.

Cameron is known to use an iPad to read newspapers and catch up on media generally, as evidenced by this photo taken at a party conference last year. But this report sounds just a little like a slow news week combined with some idle chatter over the Christmas party season amongst the Whitehall press gang and the ‘spads’ – insider shorthand for Special Advisers.

3DS Sees Record Sales In Japan, Fueled By Mario Kart 7 And Super Mario 3D Land

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 04:39 AM PST


Nintendo is really lucky to own the Super Mario brand: after the bumpy, Mario-less launch of the 3DS in Japan back in February, big N is seeing record sales for its portable console. As predicted, sales in Japan for the 3DS crossed the four million unit mark before the end of the year, namely sometime between December 19 and 25.

That’s the week Nintendo sold 510,629 units 3DS systems, according to Japan’s biggest video game magazine Famitsu [JP]. In total, the company has shifted 4,135,739 units in the country since the launch on February 26. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata earlier predicted the 3DS will find 4 million Japanese buyers sometimes in February next year.

Apart from the holiday season, sales were boosted by the recent launches of Monster Hunter 3G, Super Mario 3D Land, and Mario Kart 7.

The Famitsu says that sales for both Mario games passed the one million mark in Japan last week. Mario Kart 7 sold 1,082,391 times through December 25, while Super Mario 3D Land reached 1,042,511 units.

This is very good news for Nintendo, which has lost US$923 million in the first half of the current fiscal year.

Daily Crunch: Parapet

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 01:00 AM PST

Andy Rubin: Android Had A Jolly Good Christmas With 3.7M Activations

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 12:52 AM PST


Google SVP Andy Rubin took to Twitter again today, not to delete one of his tweets but to publish a brand new one, saying Android saw 3.7 million activations in two days (Christmas day and the day before).

He also posted it on his Google+ account, just in case you were wondering.

Probably, Rubin was trying to add some context to a report published earlier today by Flurry, which said 6.8 million Android and iOS devices were activated on Christmas day alone, combined, and 242 million apps were downloaded the same day.

Just last week, Rubin revealed that Android passed 700,000 device activations per day, which means the 3.7 million Christmas period activations translate to roughly a 2.7 times-spike.

Not exactly a bad report card for a two-day period, but not mind-bogglingly impressive either.

The question everyone will be asking is how many iOS devices were activated during the same period, but don’t expect any Apple executives to jump on Twitter to tell you. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that slightly less iPhones were activated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but more iOS devices in total when you account for iPods and iPads.

Amazon, Apple Soar In Customer Satisfaction In 2011; Netflix Plummets

Posted: 27 Dec 2011 08:56 PM PST


According to customer experience analytics company ForeSee, e-commerce giant Amazon once again topped consumer satisfaction in online retail after taking the top spot in 2010. However, Netflix, which had a dismal year, plummeted in customer satisfaction. For the past seven years, Netflix and Amazon have been competing for first place in Foresee’s Index, but this is the first year where one of the e-retailers saw a massive dip in sentiment.

Amazon climbed two points to score 88 on the study's 100-point scale, which is the highest score from any retailer in 14 consecutive studies. Netflix's well-publicized blunders, including price hikes last summer and the unsuccessful attempt to spin off the DVD rental business, caused its customer satisfaction to plummet by seven points and 8% to 79.

Netflix saw scores drop in every single element of the website that ForeSee measures, including site content, site functionality, merchandise, and prices. Next to Netflix, both Gap (down 6% to 73) and (down 5% to 72) saw the largest declines in satisfaction, leaving them with scores at the bottom of the Index.

Besides Amazon, the largest gains in satisfaction go to (up 8% to 79) and JC Penney (up 6% to 83), which nabbed Ron Johnson, former head of Apple's retail operations, as CEO this year. Top-performing e-retailers include Amazon, Avon, JC Penney, QVC, and Apple.

The report also found that American consumers were less price sensitive during the 2011 holiday shopping season than they were last year, as price had a smaller impact on satisfaction than last year. Instead, for many e-retailers, improving merchandise and content would have a greater return on investment than price, says survey respondents.

Another key finding from the report related to repeat buying. Highly satisfied shoppers say they are 64% more likely to consider the company next time they are purchasing a similar product, 68% more likely to purchase from the retailer online, 48% more likely to purchase from the retailer offline, and 67% more likely to recommend the retailer to others. And analysis of top e-retailers in the United States has shown that, on average, a one-point change in website satisfaction was found to predict as much as a 14% change in revenue generated on the web.

For Google+, User Count Is A Journey Not A Race

Posted: 27 Dec 2011 07:18 PM PST

Google User Count Journey

That’s a good thing because Google+ missed the starting gun. And its ”invite only” launch strategy saw all its disconnect users flailing independently. But in the long run that might not matter much, because Google+ doesn’t need a critical mass or tons of engagement. It needs signups so it can get its identity layer under users of its other products. That way it can turn everyone’s searches, mapping, email, and more into fuel for its ad targeting engine.

While the 62 million count cited today by analyst Paul Allen might not sound like much, it’s a start, and the projected 293 million count by the end of 2012 is important. Our writer Eric Eldon breaks down that Allen’s count is of total users, not active ones. That’s worse, but the good news for Google is that the sign up rate is increasing. Its variety of in-roads to the service including the top navigation bar across Google products are work.

With enough cajoling, users are registering even if their social network needs are already being met by Facebook and Twitter.

Google may never beat those services in terms of engagement with a content stream. That’s even while taking a differentiated macronetwork approach of letting you efficiently manage Circles of any type of relationship from best friends, to loose acquaintances, to followed celebrities. But that’s fine because Google isn’t a dedicated social company out to make the world more open and connected.

At its core, Google is an online advertising company that offers a range of features to draw your time and data. It cares a lot about making great products, but they don’t drive the business directly. In that vein, Google+ doesn’t need to have the best news feed, it just needs users to sign up once and stay signed in.

If it takes Google 4 years to start catching up to Facebook in terms of user count, so be it. The company has plenty of money to burn so it can take this long-term approach. What matters isn’t when, but if if it can eventually grow its registration base large enough for Google+ to produce ROI.

As Larry Page said on the 2011 Q3 earnings call, by “baking identity into all of our products… you’ll have better, more relevant search results and ads.” When Google’s average user can be served high CPC ads for lawyers while they search for nearby restaurants because yesterday they searched for lawyers, then the journey is complete.

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