You’re So Ravesy

JCPenney circa 1950's“Social” and “shopping” have gone hand in hand since the dawn of time. From an offline perspective, shopping at stores with a friend was popular back in the day. In the 1960’s, when malls began to spring up, it was common to aggregate groups of friends to go to the mall, walk around, shop and buy things. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Shopping Malls

I started working in eCommerce just as it was getting started. Little did I know in 1999 what a strong evolution the online channel would form in a relatively short period of time.

Fast forward to the 20 teens. Technology is as pervasive as television became not too long after its advancement into the family home. Now, a majority of the people in developed nations are connected to some sort of device which, in turn, is likely connected to some sort of network. The combination of these connections has created the odd paradigm that more people keep up with one another real-time, while at the same time spend less time together in person. That has led to the rise in social networks where people can maintain (and even prosper) relationships while utilizing the technology of devices and networks.

Rise of TelevisionNow, with millions (and by some counts Billions) of people online, engaged in social networking, and sharing a wealth of information it is almost impossible to comprehend and decipher all the information that is out there. Friends share all of that information. That has turned into a large peer-to-peer influence that takes place online and manifests in the modern “social shopping” where a snap of a picture, the click of a button, and a few key strokes with a new language (OMG) convey approval and criticism in the blink of an eye.

I have seen one company that has gotten into this fray of information and is working to disseminate that information for users in a meaningful way. That company is ToggleShift and they have debuted their basic product in the form of a social search/shopping engine called Ravesy.

Ravesy was conceived and built on the premise of cutting through the clutter that exists in the billions of posts, updates and likes across sites like Facebook, twitter and Pinterest.

Ravesy - Trend Search

The “noise” can be overwhelming. At the end of the day, people want to know what is trendy at the current time and to know that the information shared is constantly re-evaluated and updated based on the new prevailing trends. If you think about it, Google provides search results (and often on a lag or biased by how websites build content). Ravesy provides trend results. By definition, trend is “a general direction in which something is developing or changing.” Social shopping is certainly more about trends than it is about content on a page.

Online and offline shopping habits will continue to ebb and flow as new technology and new means to shop are built. For the last fifteen years I have ridden on the top of that wave and enjoyed seeing all the new things that come along. It will be interesting to see what the next fifteen years holds for consumers.

Target Apologizes by E-mail – 2013 Security Breach

Here is a screenshot of the apology from Target for the security infringements they incurred over the 2013 holiday season. 110MM users affected. The cost of this is staggering. Waiting to hear what the fines and other costs will be once this is all reviewed and assessed.

Target Apology e-mail


The World’s Best Retail Web Sites

During our recent ice storm in the DFW area, I spent some time cleaning out my office. I had set aside a December 2012 issue of Internet Retailer magazine that was very prescient – a year ago I was still receiving the hard copy, but have since switched to digital. The cover suggested

“The Hot 100 – The World’s Best Retail Websites”.2013Hot100_3DCover_500x500_jpg_200x200_crop_q95

At the time, I was intrigued by the mix of those suggested as the best.

In particular, I gravitated to the listing for In previous posts I had suggested that Trunk Club was a decent business model with some flaws that showed through in the delivery. I still stand by those suggestions. The remainder of this post is not to tear down Trunk Club, but rather to look at how we define and follow websites from a commerce perspective.

As I was looking over this article again, a different thought stood out to me. Is Trunk Club really a “retail website”?

Yes, they have a website.

Yes, they sell retail apparel and accessories to men.

But, to me, it is not a retail website – there is no eCommerce that is taking place. The site itself is used to market its services. It goes further in capturing leads and showing types of items it sells. The final sale is based on an offline experience (and not transacted on the website). Goods arrive to the customer after talking or emailing with a stylist. Selections are made by the consumer and returns are processed back at the distribution point. What is purchased is not done with a traditional website cart; therefore, it is not a retail website.

I know it sounds like I am splitting hairs. However, there is substantial debate about the differences between eCommerce and multi-channel or omnicommerce. I subscribe to the latter omnicommerce view. I believe that multiple channels co-exist to provide an overall user experience that increases conversion and builds businesses. To put Trunk Club in the same “top 100” class as other websites that acquire and retain customers that transact online is giving an accolade to Trunk Club that should be reserved for a real retail website.

I am a Fan of This Fanatics Marketing Option

As noted last week in highlighting Einstein Bros. unique marketing option, I am a big fan of cool tools used for marketing in the digital realm. This week I have to raise up and applaud them for their clever use of calendar tools in an e-mail for their Friends & Family event.


I have often thought it would be great to add an “add to calendar” function into a digital marketing piece. Granted, a majority of the population probably does not know how to use the tools or the technology – but, for those who do, it is such a great way to be prompted to remember a promotion or a specific time to make a purchase. In this case, Fanatics added a .ics file link and a bold red “REMIND ME!” prompt.

I used the link ad added it to my calendar. Sure enough, on the right day, at the appointed time, I was treated to a great discount on a purchase for one of my favorite NFL teams – The Seattle Seahawks.

I will find a way to use this in a future marketing campaign. 14 Years Later

SMartPrice T1, VoIP, Data Solutions for Businesses and Consumers.It was fourteen years ago this week that I joined with two very smart gentlemen as we pushed forward to seek funding and launch At the time my first daughter was about to be born, we had just purchased a new home, yet I decided to throw caution to the wind. I left a great role with a major consulting firm – the same firm that had taught me all about the burgeoning world of eCommerce and digital marketing.

Living in Austin, Texas there was a buzz around start-ups and a sense of confidence that any business model could be successful. Companies were raising money left and right. Concepts were derived on scraps of paper and anything was possible. Austin was the epicenter in Texas of venture capital backed ideas leading to the moniker “Silicon Hills“.

The two gentlemen I mentioned previously were Jeff Hoogendam and Jim McKinley. Both were/are wicked smart and determined. Little did I care that we ended up taking five months to get funded (and just as the door was closing on funding for new businesses and the dotcom bubble was expanding to that point of elasticity where stretching makes a squeaking noise). We were having fun and developing a revolutionary business that would help change the way people shop for goods and services.

SmartPrice was simple – visitors go to a website, put in basic information about telephone usage and location and multiple options of varying prices are returned. On average, SmartPrice customers saved 30% or more on long distance telephone service (in 1999/2000 that was important before cell phones proliferated). In exchange for providing the information and a conduit for switching, SmartPrice was paid a commission by the new carrier. SmartPrice is still a working company today; though not active in acquiring new users.

Now, as I look back, I would not have changed anything. While my risk aversion has increased, I still crave the chance to start another company. Perhaps it is time…what will I look back on fourteen years from now?


Einstein Bros. Bagels – Smart E-mail Approach for Mobile

Last week Einstein Bros. posted an offer on Facebook. Of course I was drawn to it since I am the “Koupon King” and love to save money. A Buy One Get One Sandwich for lunch is a great deal. A user can save ~$7.00 – I walked away with lunch for two people for $8.50 with one drink.

That said, I was quite impressed with the approach Einstein’s took in handling the printing aspect for the coupon. Assuming many people may be checking FB on a mobile device or away from an attached printer, they added an option to e-mail the coupon to be grabbed and printed later (see red arrow below).

Genius on two fronts –

1) The coupon is more likely to be used; thus, accomplishing the goal of driving traffic. And,

2) Einstein’snow has the FB contact AND an e-mail contact (and ostensibly a preference on where to get coupons sent).

Einstein Bros. BOGO Sandwich



Open Coffee Club (#BigDOCC North) Debuts in Frisco, TX

As the start-up community in Dallas continues to grow and mature, more events are starting to take place where entrepreneurs, those aspiring to start companies and others who are curious and want to learn more come together to share ideas and conversations. This morning, many gathered at the Global Peace Coffee Factory in Frisco to do just that. The event is called Open Coffee Club (OCC) (in Dallas, affectionately called #BigDOCC) and it originated in Boulder, Colorado – home to a buzzing start-up community and the renowned TechStars incubator.

Michael Sitarzewski, originally from Dallas – transplanted to Boulder and back again – is the seed to this recurring event. OCC will happen weekly and rotate between the north area of Dallas and the south/central area of Dallas. Next week, OCC will be held at Ascension located on Oak Lawn Avenue in the Design District on Tuesday September 10 at 8:00am. Going forward, the event will be every week; alternating between central Dallas and North Dallas in the locations noted above.

The event is simple –

  • New people introduce themselves and tell how they came to know about the event
  • Any open positions with companies related to the attendees are shared openly
  • Current items of interest in the tech or start-up community are discussed

The process builds camaraderie and gets the day moving. The meeting/event lasts until 9:00 am with a hard stop then. As Michael said this morning – “We could all sit here and talk for another 2-3 hours about anything and everything, but we all have things to do.”

And off everyone went…until next time!!

p.s. adding pic –

BigDOCC Inaugural Event

Nice Marketing Approach for Gmail Tabs by Extended Stay Hotels

Today I received an e-mail from Extended Stay Hotels to inform me that I need to make sure I help them get their marketing message in front of me so that I do not miss it. Gmail has updated their browser version to create tabs within the interface that separates apparent promotional mail from regular mail. I like Extended Stay’s approach – simple and to the point. Now, whether I want to get more promotional marketing is another question. Since I POP my gmail to outlook, I will see it regardless.


Gmail Tabs Help

Top 3 Gmail Hacks

If you use Gmail, chances are you did not know of a few features that can truly help you out when it comes to managing your inbox, your outbox, or any aspect of your Gmail account. Whether you use the browser version or rely on POP’ing your e-mail to something like Outlook or your iPad, these three features are indispensable.

  1. Dots – if you have a Gmail address, there is a good chance you signed up with either a concatenated name (e.g., or got “tricky” by adding a dot to it for readability or because it seemed available (e.g.  In actuality, Gmail does not care if, where, or how many dots are in your name. It could be – any iteration will end up delivered to your Gmail inbox. The beauty is that you can then use one e-mail address to pre-filter e-mail. Signing up for e-mail from an eCommerce site – use and set-up a filter in Gmail (or rule in Outlook) to route those to an eCommerce folder.
  2. Ooops – Gmail has a function that allows you to “undo” an e-mail just sent (this is in the browser version). To do so, you have to enable the feature under settings. Settings can be accessed at the top of the mail window (looks sort of like a gear/bolt). From there, hover over settings and click. From there, hover over “Labs” in the top navigation and click. Scroll almost to the bottom (the tools are listed alphabetically) and click the radio button next to “enable”. You are now set to create a “pause” in the send process. The next time an e-mail is written and send is clicked, a yellow bar will appear at the top. If you need to suddenly stop it, click “undo” and you are safe to go back and update your error (or mood/tone). To do the same in Outlook, set up a rule to delay the delivery in the outbox for ‘X’ amount of time.
  3. Timing – Some people are “early”people. Others are”late” people. Want to try to fit in more with when people do and/or expect things? There are tools to allow you to select the send time for your e-mails. In the browser version, you can use Boomerang for Gmail. This is a Firefox/Chrome plug-in that helps you to schedule the optimal time to send. In Outlook, you can use the “delay delivery” function by clicking the proper icon.


Be Ready For Heart Attacks

I have written before about paying attention for the signs of a stroke. Although traumatic experiences often cause people to become confused, desperate, and scared, it is extremely important to learn ahead of time ways to identify issues and, when possible, be able to act quickly to minimize long-term effects.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Patti Frenette. Patti is a spunky entrepreneur based in Dallas that has developed a handy little product that can literally help save your life. That product is called Aspirinpod. Patti developed the concept of Aspirinpod when she was advised of the benefit and immediate impact of aspirin related to heart conditions. Specifically, when a cardiac event is occurring, chewing a single, un-coated 325mg aspirin during the event can minimize the impact on the heart and increase the chance of survival. In fact, the FDA reports that this action not only saves lives, it also decreases heart damage.

When it comes to inventing products, it is important to develop something that is useful, handy, and readily available. Patti created the Aspirinpod with these things in mind. The Aspirinpod is a mini heart – actually shaped like an anatomical heart. It attaches easily to a key-chain  bag-strap  or other accessible accessory. Within the Aspirinpod (which opens like a pendant), can be stored a single Aspirin.

Note, this has to be aspirin (i.e. acetylsalicylic acid), not just any pain reliever.

Immediately, when heart attack symptoms occur, call 9-1-1, then chew the aspirin. Acting quickly and thoughtfully, can save a life and reduce lasting damage.


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