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5 Deals to Look Forward to in 2012

Consumers fed up with rising prices on fuel, food and other purchases will be happy to find that some things may actually be cheaper in the new Year.

The same economic uncertainty that’s driving many prices up has also created a handful of silver linings for consumers — particularly those planning a big-ticket purchase or trip in the short term, says Jack Plunkett, chief executive of market research firm Plunkett Research. Growing competition between web and bricks-and-mortar retailers has also generated more deals beyond the usual roster of furniture and household linens sales that pop up every January. “What we’re going to find, long-term, is that you get your best deals on the Internet,” says independent retail analyst Jeff Green. But for now retailers are “trying to keep people in stores for as long as they can.” That means more sales.

Shoppers will still need to exercise caution, experts say. One category’s price break is often counterbalanced by rising fees in a different area. One example: Rising charges for cellphone data use often eclipse price cuts on text-message plans. “Little savings here and there may not help much,” Plunkett says. But here are some deals that could help consumers keep their budget in check in 2012.

Consumer electronics

Prices typically drop in January and February as manufacturers introduce the latest in computers, televisions and other devices. That’s likely to accelerate this year as stores look to better compete with web sites, Green says. TV prices in particular continue to drop. During the last few months of 2011 the average price of a 42″ LCD screen fell below $500 for the first time, reports market research firm NPD Group. in 2010, the average price was closer to $600.

Shoppers may find that the deals don’t extend to all orders or categories, says Lindsay Sakraida, features director of deal-tracking site DealNews.com. Shortages have increased prices on components such as hard drives. other items are cheap because they aren’t worth it: a standalone GPS, for example, is now largely redundant for smartphone users, she says.

Text-message plans

With the introduction of Apple’s iMessage and other apps that let consumers message each other for free, experts say there’s little reason to shell out $10 to $50 per month for a text-message bundle. At the least that could put an extra $120 back in the budget for 2012.

Just don’t expect it to stay there. The average smartphone user consumed 435 MB of data per month during the first quarter of 2011, according to Nielsen. That’s up 89% compared with the previous year and well above the 200MB threshold for AT&T’s and Verizon’s cheapest data plans. Verizon also nixed its unlimited data plan this year, while AT&T introduced a plan to throttle the speed of its heaviest users.

Travel to Europe

The European debt crisis may be a boon for travelers: one U.S. dollar currently buys 0.76 euro, up from 0.69 euro on Sept. 1. That’s enough to give travelers an edge on hotels and daily expenses, says Melissa Klurman, a contributing editor for Travelocity.

The problem: rising fuel prices and airline capacity cuts have kept international fares moving higher. The crisis and in turn, the euro’s value — could also stabilize next year, diminishing savings for travelers who book well in advance, Plunkett says. The Continent may also be less hospitable than in years past. “European workers are disgruntled, so you might also run into a strike or two,” he says.

Wine

Bargain bottles are becoming more prevalent as boutique wineries spring back and consumers curtail consumption, Sakraida says. “People are now less likely to spend over $30 a bottle, so wineries are focusing on lower price points,” she says. A number of new flash-sale sites also offer high-end wines at discounts of as much as 50%.

Experts say some sales and low-priced bottles may mask so-so vintages, so it’s still important to read reviews before shelling out for a case.

Interest rates

Consumers planning to buy a house or a car can expect rates to stay low and maybe even go a little lower through mid-2012, Plunkett says. “This low interest-rate environment we’re in is going to be encouraged by the Federal Reserve,” he says.

Those savings, however, might be the only break purchasers get. Automakers have projected an increase in sales next year, which could lead to sparser incentives, he says. And that same low-rate environment has also pushed down yields on checking and savings accounts, according to rate-tracking sites DepositAccounts.com and Bankrate.com. “You might as well put your money in your pillow,” Plunkett says.

5 Deals to Look Forward to in 2012


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    Posted by admin - December 30, 2011 at 5:00 am

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    Checking It Out

    Editor’s Note: this story has been changed from the print version to correct the price that Vantage Media was sold for in 2007.

    Less than three months after mark DiPaola and his brother Todd launched iPhone shopping tool CheckPoints, the application has been downloaded a half-million times.

    It’s a noteworthy milestone: The company’s biggest competitor, Shopkick, took twice as long to hit that number with its first app.

    “We’re definitely ahead,” said mark DiPaola, CheckPoints’ chief executive. “We had really strong interest a lot faster than we imagined.”

    CheckPoints is one of a growing number of mobile phone applications that are built to tap the Global Positioning system in smart phones.

    Here’s how it works: People download the free application to an iPhone or Android smart phone and “check in” when they arrive at a grocery or other retailer, say a Ralphs or a Target, with the push of a button. The app then gives a list of sponsored products on sale at the store. If they scan a barcode on a sponsored product with the camera, they earn points that can be redeemed later for gift cards or other prizes. they don’t even have to buy the product.

    CheckPoints is an example of location-based marketing that has become more popular since Foursquare and Facebook Places started to let people “check in” with applications when they arrive at a restaurant or retailer. those applications allow people to let their friends know where they are so they can meet if they’re in the neighborhood.

    John Hadl, managing partner and founder of mobile consulting firm BrandinHand inc. in Santa Monica, said CheckPoints is different from other applications because of its focus on marketing products.

    “They’re the first that’s more focused on selling things for the independent brands,” he said.

    CheckPoints’ partners include Kmart, food manufacturers Tyson and Frito-Lay, and consumer electronics company Belkin. DiPaola said it has been easy to get companies to sign up for the app because it gives them the opportunity to market to potential customers at the point of purchase. CheckPoints charges partners each time a customer scans a barcode.

    “It’s an amazing opportunity for brands to reach out to consumers where they buy the product,” he said. “It’s very powerful.”

    In addition to gift cards and prizes, consumers get messages on sponsored products from the manufacturers. Tyson, for example, provides a phone game that involves flinging chicken wings. Or sometimes the manufacturer will offer a discount.

    The company doesn’t yet have data on how successful the app is at getting consumers to buy products. But Cliff Unger, a division manager at Playa Vista-based Belkin, said the company has been satisfied with the response.

    The company’s products can be scanned using CheckPoints at most of its major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target and Best buy. If someone scans a wireless router, for example, he gets tips on how to choose the best router for his purposes.

    “The campaign with CheckPoints has exceeded our initial estimates,” Unger said. “The number of scans we’ve seen is greater than we expected. we know we’re making an impression on consumers.”

    CheckPoint’s biggest competitor is Shopkick, a Palo Alto startup that also rewards people with points when they check in at retail locations such as Macy’s or Best buy. But while CheckPoints works at any store that sells its sponsored products, Shopkick only works at partner retailers.

    Competitive field

    Shopkick launched its first app in December 2009 and reached more than 500,000 downloads after its first five months. It took CheckPoints two and a half months to hit the same mark. Shopkick hasn’t released data on its second app, which came out in June.

    Hadl said CheckPoints’ progress is good, but it isn’t winning the game yet.

    “Anybody who can get to over a million users in under five months tends to be a rip-roaring success,” he said. “But 2 million is kind of a magic number. That’s when you have legitimate success.”

    DiPaolo projects his company will reach 1 million downloads by the end of March.

    CheckPoints is not the first venture for the DiPaolas. The brothers founded search engine marketing company Vantage Media in 2002. they sold the company, which they started in the same Venice offices on Abbott Kinney Boulevard where they now run CheckPoints, in 2007 for $150 million. CheckPoints has 20 employees.

    Before Shopkick and CheckPoints, consumers had to download an individual application for each store if they wanted to participate in location-based shopping.

    “The majority of mobile shopping apps are for a particular store, like Pizza Hut or Target,” mark DiPaola said. “This is a much easier app for a consumer and it has a broader appeal.”

    One of the first companies to start using location-based technology was Foursquare. The Silicon Valley startup launched an application in 2009 that lets users share their location with friends by checking in at restaurants, bars or other business and recreational locations. The application now has more than 5 million users.

    Facebook launched a similar service, Facebook Places, in August. The company has not released data on how many people use its application.

    Although DiPaola doesn’t consider Foursquare a direct competitor, it will take CheckPoints a while to amass the same user base that Foursquare has developed.

    The question is whether location-based applications will move from the mainstream into the mass market. Kathryn Zickuhr, a researcher with Pew Internet, released a study in November that showed only 4 percent of adults who use the Internet also use location-based services such as Foursquare.

    “These services are mostly popular with younger Internet users and with typical early adopters,” she said. “With these levels of adoption, location-based applications might be able to engage deeply with some users but not be able to reach everyone.”

    But CheckPoints’ early success could be evidence that the trend isn’t just momentary.

    “Clearly consumers are thirsting for help at the shelf, whether it’s with consumer electronics or groceries,” said Hadl at BrandinHand. “Mobile apps are now able to help them in new ways.”

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    Checking It Out


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      Posted by admin - January 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

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      LG planning smartphone push

      Electronics firm LG is looking to boost investment in product development by 12 per cent in 2011 to a hefty $18.2bn, as it tries to increase its rather paltry share of the smartphone market. Skip related content

      According to Reuters, a lion's share of the money will be directed towards LG's loss-making handset business.

      Although the firm has generated a lot of excitement over its Optimus handsets and the announcement of what it claims will be the world's first phone to feature a dual core processor, it recently announced a fall in profits.

      The Optimus one sold over one million units in its first month following its October launch, according to the firm, with sales since then passing the two million mark.

      Announcing those sales Jong-seok Park, the president and chief executive of LG, said: Optimus one seems to be what many customers were waiting for, proving that smartphones arent just for early adopters anymore.

      LG is also expected to use its increased investment to enter the increasingly crowded tablet market.

      "The focus for 2011 will be bolstering our core businesses of smartphones, tablets, TVs and large-sized displays and also supporting new growth engines such as solar cell, new types of displays and small-sized display panels for smartphones and tablets," the group told Reuters.

      V3.co.uk has asked LG for confirmation of the investment plans and is awaiting a response.

      LG planning smartphone push


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      Posted by admin - December 21, 2010 at 4:00 am

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      Nokia to add swiping to Symbian smartphone armoury

      Nokia, the world’s largest maker of mobile phones, will add swiping and wireless identification features in updates to its new line of Symbian smartphones to compete with Google’s fast-developing Android platform.

      Near-field communication, which permits users to use their phones as credit cards, transit passes and hotel-room keys, will come to “some existing devices” early next year, says Jo Harlow, senior vice-president for smartphones at the Finnish company.

      “In the past if you bought a device, you got one or two software updates,” she said. “We will now begin to deliver software updates more frequently and more of them.”

      new chief executive Stephen Elop last month unveiled plans to cut 1800 jobs globally in areas including in smartphones as Nokia moves to a common Symbian development path and shares some functions with the MeeGo high-end device platform it is developing with Intel. the process is being streamlined as Nokia absorbs former Symbian Foundation activities.

      Nokia to add swiping to Symbian smartphone armoury


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      Posted by admin - November 12, 2010 at 11:00 am

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      Blockbuster CEO: Movie Studios Supportive, Aligned With Co

      Blockbuster inc. (BBI) Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Keyes said movie studios continue to support the retailer as it works to shift its business more quickly to by-mail subscriptions, kiosks and digital downloads.

      “They’re of course concerned about the short term and will work with us in the short term, but for the long term, they’re aligned with us in that they want to see the brick-and-mortar store survive and to facilitate the cross-channel transformation,” Keyes said during a conference call.

      Keyes said Blockbuster is talking with movie studios “virtually daily,” and none have changed the terms …

      Blockbuster CEO: Movie Studios Supportive, Aligned With Co

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      Posted by - February 28, 2010 at 5:00 am

      Categories: Movie and Dining Reviews   Tags: , , ,