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Comparing AI Virtual Assistants

23 Jan

Over the last year, artificial intelligence (AI) personal assistants have become BIG!! The leading ones are (alphabetically): Alexa from Amazon, Cortana from Microsoft, Google Assistant, and Siri from Apple. These AI options can answer questions, play music, give directions, tell jokes, and even play games (try Jeopardy on Alexa).

How good are they? For this stage in their development, they are very good and relatively accurate for the simple tasks in which they specialize — and they can be fun to use. But they do each have limitations and their evolving software updates will continue to get better. In addition, there may be security issues that occur now. [Read this article for more on security.]

Recently, Jeff Dunn, writing for Business Insider, did an excellent comparison of these four virtual assistants:

“As the Web diminishes and the Amazon Echo [Alexa] continues to be a runaway hit, all the big players are convinced that talking to an AI will soon become the dominant way we interact with our computers. So they’ve started building. Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa, Microsoft has Cortana, and Google has the new and refreshed Google Assistant. The tech has come a long way, but all of these companies openly admit that it’s very early days for this proposed future. As such, all of these assistants are far from polished. But they’re also things you can use today. So which one works best? I strapped in for eight hours of robot conversations to find out, testing each of the big four assistants across a variety of categories.”

“There is a ton of work to be done. The problems here are large and sweeping: Each assistant still feels like a fragile, thinly veiled web of loosely connected services — because that’s what they are. It’s almost impossible to tell when one of them won’t be able to do the thing you asked. You have to be OK giving up your location and loads of personal data to get the most out of them.  There are numerous instances where using a Web browser is simply faster for doing fundamental tasks. Each one is still wildly finicky when it comes to phrasing. They all think too much in black and white; one misplaced or forgotten word is often enough to discard an entire request.”

Here are some of Dunn’s comparative findings:

  • Best for travel — Google Assistant
  • Best for E-mailing — Google Assistant and Siri
  • Best for messaging — All four in different scenarios
  • Best for Music — Alexa
  • Best for weather — Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant
  • Best for social — Alexa, Cortana, Siri
  • Best for general knowledge — Alexa

 
Click the image to read a lot more from Dunn.

 

Technology and Planned Obsolescence

27 Dec

As we approach the end of 2016, we are going to present some of the most popular of the nearly 1,500 posts that have appeared on Evans on Marketing. Today, we cover the topic of planned obsolescence.

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As defined in Evans Berman’s Marketing: “Planned obsolescence is a marketing practice that capitalizes on short-run material wearout, style changes, and functional product changes. In material planned obsolescence, firms choose materials and components that are subject to comparatively early breakage, wear, rot, or corrosion. In style planned obsolescence, a firm makes minor changes to differentiate the new year’s offering from the prior year’s. With functional planned obsolescence, a firm introduces new product features or improvements to generate consumer dissatisfaction with currently owned products.”

In recent years, NO company has applied planned obsolescence more than Apple. Yes, this practice has led to rapid advances in the technology of music players, tablets, and smartphones. But, does Apple’s philosophy also spur consumers to buy new product versions that they don’t need?

Apple has recently been criticized for its planned obsolescence strategy. Do YOU agree with this criticism?

Consider these observations by Catherine Rampell, writing for the New York Times:

“The new software and recent app updates from Apple offer fancy new features that existing users want; maybe the battery is sealed with tiny five-point screws for aesthetic considerations. Perhaps, but this isn’t the first time that tech analysts and random crazies on the Internet have noted that breakdowns in older Apple products can often coincide with when upgrades come onto the market. Many have taken this as evidence of ‘planned obsolescence,’ a term that dates to the Great Depression, when a real-estate broker suggested that the government should stimulate the economy by placing artificial expiration dates on consumer products so people would buy more.”

“There is, however, a simple way to effectively render an old product obsolete without fleecing your existing customers. Instead of degrading the old model, companies can offer innovations in the new model that make upgrading irresistible. Apple succeeded at doing this for a while, offering new iPhones that included major improvements. In the past, consumers were so excited about the cool new features, like Siri, the voice-activated interface, that they may not have minded (or even noticed) if their old phones started to deteriorate; they planned on upgrading anyway. This time around, that’s less true. The iPhone 5S and 5C offer fewer quantum improvements. Consumers are more likely to want their old phones to continue working at peak condition in perpetuity, and to feel cheated when they don’t.”

[Note from Evans on Marketing: Many consumers still believe that Apple practices planned obsolescence with its latest lines of phones, tablets, and computers. In 2016, for the first time in years, had a quarterly sales drop. Do YOU agree or disagree?]

 

 
Click the image to read more.

Illustration by Kelsey Dake

 

The Psychology of Color

21 Dec

As we approach the end of 2016, we are going to present some of the most popular of the nearly 1,500 posts that have appeared on Evans on Marketing. Today, we cover how colors affect consumers’ product perceptions.
 

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From a marketing perspective, we tend to believe “perception is reality” — which means that what shoppers believe about product features is more important than the reality of those features.

With this in mind, Rachel Griffith has written a fascinating article for Fast Company on the impact of color on consumer perceptions. As she notes:

“When it comes to identifying your brand, your logo is probably the first thing your customers will think of. While honing the narrative and message behind your logo should of course be your primary concern, research suggests that your logo’s design — and specifically its colors — have more bearing on your customers’ opinions than you might think. Neuroscientist Bevil Conway, who has focused his recent research almost entirely on the neural machinery behind color, believes the science behind color processing to be very powerful and completely underexploited.”

“According to research complied by web design and marketing company WebPageFX, people make a subconscious judgment about a product in less than 90 seconds of viewing, and a majority of these people base that assessment on color alone. In fact, almost 85% of consumers cite color as the primary reason they buy a particular product, and 80% of people believe color increases brand recognition.”

To learn more about the perceptions of people with regard to red, yellow, blue, orange, green, and purple, click on the infographic from Fast Company.

 


 

Rogue One Is Finally Here!

13 Dec

Professor Evans recently did a radio interview following up on our prior post on Rogue One.

Click to listen to that interview.
 

 

Bravo, Patagonia!

7 Dec

Patagonia is a remarkable company that is true to its original mission: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire, and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Today, it “is a designer of outdoor clothing and gear for the silent sports: climbing, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, fly fishing, and trail running.” It operates online and through 30 stores.

What makes Patagonia distinctive from a social responsibility perspective is its giving back to the community, especially with regard to the environment. For Black Friday 2016, Patagonia pledged to donate all of its SALES revenue to environmental issues. Other companies sometimes pledge to donate from their PROFITS. But it is very, very rare for a firm to donate all of its sales.

As reported on the Patagonia blog by Rose Marcario:

“When we announced we’d give 100 percent of our global retail and online Black Friday sales directly to grassroots nonprofits working on the front-lines to protect our air, water, and soil for future generations, we heard from many of our customers calling it a ‘fundraiser for the earth.'”

“We’re humbled to report the response was beyond expectations. With your help, Patagonia reached a record-breaking $10 million in sales. We expected to reach $2 million in sales — we beat that expectation five times over. The enormous love our customers showed to the planet on Black Friday enables us to give every penny to hundreds of grassroots environmental organizations working around the world.”

“Many of these environmental groups are underfunded and under the radar, and they are overwhelmed with your commitment. On behalf of these activists and every Patagonia employee, we extend a heartfelt thank you to our customers, friends, and community worldwide who showed up to #loveourplanet.”

“You can learn more about the past recipients of Patagonia environmental grants in your community here. This additional infusion of resources will go a long way toward addressing climate change and other serious environmental issues.

 

Click the image to read more about Patagonia’s Black Friday 2016 environmental efforts.


 

What Is the State of Global Fashion?

6 Dec

Around the world, the fashion industry — at all levels and for all segments — is a key driver of the global economy. It generates trillions (that’s trillions 🙂 ) of dollars of revenue and employs millions of workers.

Recently, McKinsey & Company released a detailed report on the global fashion industry. Here are some of its findings:

“Fashion is one of the past decade’s rare economic success stories. Over that period, the industry has grown at 5.5 percent annually, according to the McKinsey Global Fashion Index, to now be worth an estimated $2.4 trillion. In fact, not only does it touch everyone, but it would be the world’s seventh-largest economy if ranked alongside individual countries’ GDP.”

“Yet, 2016 was one of the industry’s toughest years. Terrorist attacks in France, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, and the volatility of the Chinese stock market have created shocks to the global economy. At the same time, consumers have become more demanding, more discerning, and less predictable in their purchasing behavior, which is being radically reshaped by new technologies. It’s against this backdrop that McKinsey has teamed with the Business of Fashion to shine a light on the fragmented, complex ecosystem that underpins this giant global industry.”

“So what will change in 2017? No one would put money on volatility and uncertainty lessening. Nonetheless, our report finds that fashion companies are hopeful they can improve their performance through a combination of organic growth and leveraging new technologies. Successful companies will invest more to nurture local clientele: 2017 will be the year of organic growth by deepening relationships with existing clients, rather than through geographic, channel, and store-network expansion. And digital innovation will go behind the scenes: digitization will be the key to supply-chain efficiency, lowering procurement costs, and the enhancement of sourcing opportunities.”

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To access the full report, click on the image below.

 

A Post for iPhone Loyalists

4 Nov

Over the years, Apple has revolutionized the smartphone industry — sometimes, with great advances from model to model; and other times, with more modest changes.

According to Statista:

“Since its introduction in 2007, Apple’s iPhone sales have consistently increased, going from around 40 million units sold in 2010 to more than 230 million iPhones sold in 2015 alone. iPhone sales worldwide generated more than 155 billion U.S. dollars in revenues in 2015. As sales increased, the iPhone gained space within the company, and has become the most successful Apple product to date. “

“The iPhone’s share of the company’s total revenue has jumped from about 25 percent in the beginning of 2009 to around 70 percent in the first quarter of 2015. As of the first quarter of 2016 (4Q ’15 calendar year), iPhone’s share of Apple’s revenue was at 68 percent, the third highest figure to date. Much of the iPhone’s success can be attributed to Apple’s ability to keep the product competitive throughout the years, with new releases and updates.”

 
Here’s an interesting video that shows how the iPhone has evolved over the years across several attributes.


 

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