Sunday, June 23, 2013

Do Something: Ponder Online Privacy

Smart phones today allow you to perform all sorts of functions. Check your email. Google information. Take pictures. Record a video. Find a nearby restaurant. Access Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (pretty much any social media you can think of). Oh and make phone calls too.

Something that caught my attention recently is location sharing. When I use my phone to upload pictures on Instagram, there is a geotagging feature that allows my location to be identified. I don’t like this because I don’t want people to know where I am. I don’t share much about myself online (which is very unlike many of my millennial counterparts). Moreover, I have also noticed that I am prompted to share my location with Google when I am searching for directions or nearby stores. I am starting to worry about my loss of privacy with internet access on my phone.

If I share my location, I know that the next time I use my phone for similar searches, my location preferences would make it easier and faster to find results. However, I don’t want people to know when I’m not home or where I am. It opens the gates for a possible robbery or encounter with someone I don’t want to see if I were to check in with Foursquare. That’s exactly why I don’t use social media in that way.
But is online privacy really possible? I may not post much at all on my social media accounts, but that doesn’t mean that my friends will not post about our outings and events. That is why privacy settings are customizable. One can choose to first be notified about being tagged in photos or in posts (rather than have them automatically appear on the profile page) and later approve or reject the tags.
Similarly, privacy while surfing the web is a little more possible if there was a do-not-track option. Many websites reveal even more personal information about consumers. There is a push for do-not-track legislation to write privacy protection into law and so consumers can opt out of web tracking. The problem is that it would affect the ad industry. How can customer data be collected and not infringe on privacy? This is difficult especially since technology advances every day. Will the constant changes allow for discovery of a solution to this question?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Do Something: Research Taxes

I have a friend in Miami who posted a receipt on Facebook (see it below). He was astonished to find a “homeless tax” on there. I took a look and was also surprised to see it. What in the world is a homeless tax? I had to do an online search to find out more about this tax.

I found out that there is a Homeless and Domestic Violence Tax of 1% that is collected on all food and beverage sales by establishments licensed by the State of Florida to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, except for hotels and motels. Businesses that must collect this tax make more than $400,000 in gross receipts annually. Eighty-five percent of the tax receipts go to the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. Meanwhile, the remaining fifteen percent goes to Miami-Dade County for domestic violence centers. This tax has been imposed since 1993, and I have never seen it applied on any of my receipts. Clearly, I am not eating at establishments that make more than $400,000. But, I’m okay with that.
What do you think about this tax? Should Florida taxpayers’ money automatically go to these organizations or should taxpayers donate on their own time? What other organizations do you think our tax money should go to?
This tax is affecting Florida residents, but I bumped into another tax that will affect the U.S. The Marketplace Fairness Act, which passed the U.S. Senate in early May, would require online sellers with more than $1 million in annual revenue to collect sales tax on transactions across state lines. This would shift the competitive environment for online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores. Stores with physical locations already collect taxes. And so now, this act would bring online retailers up to par with stores. Without the act, online retailers are only required to collect taxes in states where they have a physical presence with warehouses or sales offices. Of course, many businesses agree with this bill because it levels the playing field. However, this could place undue compliance burdens on small Internet sellers.
Moreover, the e-marketing for online retailers would need to be reevaluated to determine if the strategy in place would still attract customers. If customers now have to pay a tax online, then online shopping no longer has an extra cost saving. It may just push people to go to the store and buy there.
So where is the convenience now? Convenience may need to be redefined. If online retailers focus on fast delivery, then it better be faster than it takes me to go from the store and back to my house with product in hand. That’s just me though.
Online retailers may also need to take a look at pricing to compete in that sphere. The main reason people go on Amazon or eBay is the lower price. Prices may need to be lowered to compensate for the tax and make it worth it for customers to stay at home in their pajamas while doing online shopping, and, most importantly, wait for the product to arrive. It’s all about perceived value.
Can lower pricing encourage customers to shop online rather than go to a physical store? Is the lower price worth the wait? Yet, if prices are reduced, where else would the company cut costs to maintain profits? Will quality be affected?
Nonetheless, I think online retailers would need to approach price-sensitive customers in new ways mostly just in the beginning. Different offers and discounts will help with the transition, but there are so many customers that love hassle free online shopping. The online sales tax won’t affect them much. And some customers will not even know about the tax until getting to the order summary page. I didn’t know about the homeless tax and the online sales tax, but doing a little research goes a long way.
Check out this article to read about how the online sales tax can affect consumers and the online marketplace.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do Something: Help My Friend


I recently found out that one of my really good friends got engaged. She is one of the sweetest and smartest women I know, and her fiancé is a lucky man. But, she is a lucky woman too. The girls and I got together over the weekend to hear about the proposal and it was beautiful. He did an amazing job putting it all together and making it so special. I am so happy they found each other and they are about to start a wonderful journey together.
And so, after talking about the proposal, we talked wedding! There are so many things to consider and decide on: the invitations, the colors, the venue, the music, the food, the dress, the centerpieces, and the list goes on. So many details! I can see how easy it is to get overwhelmed. However, the Internet has revolutionized the wedding industry: it has become an idea factory. There are dozens of websites that cater to helping those engaged have the wedding of their dreams. In fact, The Knot has a list of 10 Things You Need To Do First for newly engaged couples.
In my opinion, e-marketing has changed the buying decision process for the wedding industry. My friend has recognized her different needs for her wedding. One such need is a DJ for the reception. I helped her with her information search by providing referrals of several DJs that I know. This of course is word of mouth. I think that combining word of mouth and e-marketing is important. I was able to recall one of the DJs because he has been promoting himself online via social media. Now she has various options that she can evaluate to ultimately make a purchase decision.
The use of the online world will not end with the DJ. The industry is made up of multiple smaller enterprises like caterers, wedding consultants, dresses, etc. All of these businesses have their own way of reaching the customer and the Internet is a great avenue to do that. Not only that, but ideas are also important to have before going to different companies in search of the product. Pinterest is the site for ideas. It also allows brides-to-be to visually map out the big day. I will continue to help by searching online for ideas and companies that can help her dreams come true for this special day. I wish N & B a beautiful life together. Congratulations lovebirds!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Do Something: Get Fit Today


When I was in third grade, I used to be one of the fastest runners in my class. As time went on, I grew sluggish. I didn’t enjoy running anymore. I started to avoid any physical activity. In the last year, I have made an unconscious commitment to go to the gym at least two times a week. How could I not? I have the most amazing gym partner with the best discipline in the world about working out. 

Getting to the gym is not the problem. It’s what I do at the gym that concerns me. I go through the motions and I complete each work out. Yet, I don’t think I’m doing enough. Each week I do the same weights, and I don’t really increase them because I know what I can handle. I’m not pushing my limits. And that is a problem to me. So how do I fix it? With this blog.

Today, I have found new ways to get motivated. I looked into the different fitness classes that my gym has to offer. As I was perusing through the website, I clicked on “Contact Us” and recognized all the social media logos on that page. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. The gym uses each of these channels to interact with its customers. I found information about upcoming gym events as well as inspirational quotes and fitness information.  This is great online marketing for the gym. It’s a marvelous way of promoting events and building a good reputation as an organization that cares for its members by providing useful information. However, I didn’t notice much feedback from the gym members other than “liking” posts and pictures, and an occasional comment here and there. I think that something is missing that would allow my gym to better interact with its members.
After doing some research online, I concluded that the missing puzzle piece is a human element. I discovered online communities for fitness devotees. There are so many fitness bloggers that share their experiences candidly and they get a lot of feedback from people. I think my gym can look into incorporating blogs for their instructors and trainers on the gym’s website so that they may interact with customers on a more personal level. It could potentially motivate members like me to get serious or make the gym a more comfortable place for those who are turned off by going to a gym. How else can a gym use social media to get people to the gym and motivating them while they are there? Any ideas?
Related links:
This is a great article about fitness communities online:

This article highlights some of the best fitness blogs out there (I am definitely following some of these!):