Cyber Monday: Saving you hours of time since 2010

With tech sites all posting articles about the best deals that they’ve found across the internet, it seems that Cyber Monday is becoming quite the popular event. However there is some debate about its takeover of Black Friday. According to USA Today’s article, there will be a decrease from 2013’s 131 million shoppers to 127 million. Brick and mortar stores such as Best Buy are using a variety of tactics to get customers into their stores. For example, instituting price matching programs in order to incentivize customers to not ‘window shop’ at their stores is just one way that Best Buy is hoping to compete against Amazon and other online retailers.

Still, even with internet purchases increasing every year, we still see the familiar Black Friday sales all over. This year was the first time I noticed that stores were opening their doors at 5pm on Thanksgiving day to get crowds inside even earlier (Though Massachusetts and a handful of other states are standing firm with blue laws, barring stores from opening so early). I witnessed a crowd of people in a line which wrapped around a Best Buy location here in Boston at 4:00pm on Thanksgiving—9 hours before the store opened its doors.

Maybe there’s something about having the product in hand, that day, that appeals to people. Perhaps some of the purchases aren’t for holiday gift-giving, but for personal consumption, explaining a desire to ‘have it now’. But as TechCrunch’s article explains, online sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday surpassed $1 Billion and $1.5 Billion respectively. Clearly all of this money isn’t going to online-only retailers such as Amazon, as retail stores are trying to address the increase in online holiday spending.

Inventory control is reason enough for stretching Cyber Monday to Cyber Weekend, Week, Month, (Year?). You’d have a greater chance of getting that Tickle-Me Elmo on ToysRUs.com than fighting in the retail stores. Since each store’s demand is estimated, each stores’ inventory of the giggling stuffed red Sesame Street icon is finite. Online sales can help this problem by using  more centralized inventory and distribution.

With all of this in mind, if I had to take a guess, I would say that Cyber Monday will continue to take over Black Friday sales, and our already shifting trend in retail shopping towards online will be present in online Black Friday and Thanksgiving deals. Brick and mortar deals probably won’t disappear, as it’s the loss leaders that pull in the crowds and increase sales. But we may see less deals in store as we do online in the near future. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I should go grab my spot for next year outside of Best Buy. After all, the early bird gets the 55” LED TV!

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Amazon Creeps into Your Neighborhood

Amazon is making huge steps into a series of new services for its ever-growing list of clientele. This holiday weekend, Amazon’s “Amazon Local” service kicked off. The service offers deals on food-delivery, entertainment, shopping, and even travel. It seems as though they are trying to implement a food-delivery service to compete with the likes of GrubHub or DeliveryHero.

Amazon Fresh Truck -Photo (cc) by Jeff Sandquist and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Amazon Fresh Truck – Photo (cc) by Jeff Sandquist and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

This service is not too different from Amazon Fresh, a grocery delivery service whose beta test was launched in 2007. In my opinion, this is probably in line with a strategy that Amazon has to be able to deliver to your home with same-day delivery. We heard a little over a year ago about Amazon testing out using drones to deliver packages with same-day delivery. I’m not sure if they’ve made any significant steps towards drones, but perhaps they’ve shifted their strategy to include package deliveries with their take-out and grocery delivery services. To be honest, this huge vertical integration of services is somewhat scary to me. It could disrupt many many businesses. I mean, just imagine the revenue companies generate from having Amazon as a customer. It’s got to be frightening to think about losing them.

Click these links to check out Amazon Fresh and Amazon Local.

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Data Visualization Assignment – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Today we were able to test out a Data visualization tool called Infogr.am . Below you can see a link to a quick infographic that I’ve made regarding attendance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

//e.infogr.am/macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-attendance-differences-between-1933-and-2013

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Which Stick Do You Want?

Not too long ago I wrote a post about the variety of streaming services available to users for watching television and movies. There has been an ongoing battle between streaming devices for your business. The companies involved in this battle are Google, Amazon, Apple, and Roku. Yesterday, however, Amazon announced their newest recruit, the Amazon Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV Stick is competing in a subcategory of small HDMI stick streaming devices against the Roku Streaming Stick and Google Chromecast. PCAdvisor’s comparison article outlines the differences in depth, but I’ll give just a brief overview of which of these three you may be looking for.

I think there are really only a few key categories of specifications to compare these devices: price, content, control/casting, games/misc.

Price – Chromecast
The price of these devices are all fairly similar. The Chromecast sells for $35, Amazon Fire TV Stick for $39 and Roku for $49.

Content – Roku
When it comes to content Roku is the winner. While Amazon and Google aren’t far behind, Roku has over 1,800 channels available.

Control – Roku/Amazon
The Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku Streaming Stick both come with remote controls for choosing content. This is because these two sticks have actual software built into them where all of your channels are stored. The Chromecast, however, relies on your smartphone or tablet to run the operating software and merely ‘casts’ your applications onto your TV. The Roku can be controlled by a smart phone or tablet as a remote, as well. As an added competitive feature, Amazon Fire Stick allows you to do voice search to find titles without typing.Amazon and Roku are the real winners in this category, because of the variety of ways you can control the device, while not absolutely being tied to a tablet or phone.

Casting/Gaming – Chromecast
This section is more or less the ‘icing on the cake’ for many people, depending on what you’re looking for. The Chromecast can screen mirror your Google Chrome tabs from your PC and show your photos and videos from your phone. The Roku Streaming Stick has this smartphone ‘casting’ of photos and videos, too. If gaming is important to you the Amazon Stick has games built in, and the Chromecast can mirror your phone’s games. The Roku Stick cannot play games.

Conclusion
Chromecast – Cheapest $, no remote, content limited, cast and mirror phone/pc.

Amazon Fire TV Stick – Middle $, remote/voice control, good amount of content, games.

Roku Streaming Stick – Highest $, remote/smartphone control, the most content, casting.

Hopefully this helps you make a decision based on what you’re looking for. Be sure to visit each company’s site for more details:

Chromecast
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Roku Streaming Stick

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Hidden Gem – Streetcar Wine & Beer

Located in the heart of Jamaica Plain, Streetcar Wine & Beer is a retailer serving the local community with a variety of craft beer and wine. Michael Dupuy conceived the idea of a niche beer and wine boutique in late 2011, and began taking steps to open the store. In July 2012, Streetcar opened its doors to the public.

Michael Dupuy is the owner of Streetcar Beer & Wine, which opened in July 2012 in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.

Michael Dupuy is the owner of Streetcar Beer & Wine, which opened in July 2012 in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.

The name for Streetcar comes from the old former E-line Streetcar tracks that at one time ran along Centre Street through Jamaica Plain to Forest Hills station. According to Dupuy, these railroads were not removed, but rather paved over. “Streetcar is a metaphor for what is underground.” says Dupuy, “Much of the unique flavor of wine comes from what is beneath the ground, in the soil”.

In the small shop you’ll find that many of the beers are from New England, but there are varieties from all over the world. The wines available at Streetcar are from a variety of nations and regions, as well, offering a great selection for any palate or pairing. One interesting offering from Streetcar is their Monthly Pass club. This is an opportunity for wine consumers from beginners to connoisseurs to experience different wines on a monthly basis. Members choose between 3, 6, or 12 months and 2, 4, 6, or 12 bottles per month. Streetcar Beer & WineThere is a fixed price for the varying quantities of wine received, and the wines are chosen and boxed by Streetcar. The customer can even specify if they truly dislike a particular type of wine, so that they don’t receive any bottles they wouldn’t drink. Dupuy says that Jamaica Plain is a community which is involved in their local businesses, and that people try to patron retailers and restaurants around them. This Monthly Pass club is just one way in which Streetcar is engaging with the residents of Jamaica Plain; acting as an educator and advisor for the wine and beer drinking community of JP, rather than just a retailer.

Streetcar is located at 488 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain (about a 10 min walk from Stony Brook Station) and is open Monday to Thursday 11AM – 8PM, IMG_20141118_115023Friday & Saturday 11AM – 9PM, and Sunday 12PM – 6PM.

If you’d like to learn more about Streetcar and their product offerings and events, check out their website here.

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Video: Keene Pumpkin Festival

In October I had the chance to go to the Keene Pumpkin Festival in Keene, NH and I spoke to some local people about the festival, and how the town contributes to it. Keene, NH holds the Guinness World Record for the most lit Jack-O’-Lanterns displayed at one time.

If you’d like more information about Taqueria Odelay, Studio Two, or the Keene POPS Choir, follow these links:

Taqueria Odelay – Website  Facebook

Studio Two – Facebook  YouTube

Keene POPS Choir – Facebook  More Info

Keene Pumpkin Festival – Website

 

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FitBit announces 3 more bands to add to your wrist-tech collection.

FitBit has officially announced their newest wearables to hit the market. The Charge (for sale now at FitBit’s website), Charge HR, and Surge models add incremental feature sets to improve upon their predecessors. According to TechTimes the Charge adds a small OLED screen which shows time, stats, and call/text notifications from your phone. The Charge HR adds a heart rate monitor, as suggested by the ‘HR’, and the Surge adds a larger screen, a GPS, and additional features for smartphone connectivity.

The Charge is a replacement for FitBit’s Force wristband, which was recalled in 2014 due to users experiencing rashes while wearing the band. This Wall Street Journal blog shows some photos on the Charge, which looks very similar to the old Force. FitBit is of course, claiming that the issues with rashes should no longer be a problem with this new charger.  The other new chargers by FitBit are set to be released in early 2015, according to the website. They will be in competition with other fitness wristbands as well as the ever-growing list of smartwatches being released on a regular basis. Microsoft has now officially announced their Microsoft Band, which is a smartwatch with a fitness tracker. The Inquirer compares the Charge HR and Band in this article.

With the introduction of new smartwatches from all of the major tech companies, we see a divide in what used to be strong relationships between some of the companies. TechCrunch writes that Apple’s “HealthKit” app won’t support FitBit because of the Apple Watch. I suppose that all is fair in this tech-war for the best wearable device. It will be interesting to see which device has the largest market share a year from now, once all of the newest models have had a chance to make an impact on the wearable market. If I had to guess, I would assume that FitBit’s user base will remain loyal, and they will hold a large chunk of the smart watch and fitness band market in the coming months.

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