Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Nonprofits: On the Go with Heads in the Cloud

Following is the unedited version of my article for the October 13-26 edition of the Long Beach Business Journal.
A PDF of the published article is included underneath.
Nonprofits: On the Go with Heads in the Cloud 
Most nonprofits are constantly striving to do more with the same level of resources – if they are lucky. Studies show that in many cases they are having to do more with less.
New technologies and the rise of social media have provided low-cost tools for nonprofits to outreach, spread their message and cultivate stakeholders and supporters. The latest in cost saving innovations are mobile technology and cloud computing.
In April of this year, the Pew Research Center reported that … 64% of Americans adults own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011.

The worldwide usage of mobile devices outstripped desktop and laptop computer usage during 2014. All the statistics reveal that mobile search, shopping, customer engagement and communication continue to trend past static device usage.
We have been told for a while now that the future is mobile. Welcome to the future.
So there you have it, the vast majority of your customers, clients, partners, funding sources, influencers, mavens, and the public at large are walking around and using their tiny computers as they go about their day, and keeping them close when they are not. The portal to the whole spectrum of your audience is open and accessible whenever and wherever. Your audience is mobile so should you be.
What are some strategies for “going mobile”?
  • Make sure you have a mobile responsive website. When a website is responsive, the layout and content responds or adapts based on the size of the screen it’s presented on. A responsive website automatically changes to fit the device you’re reading it on.
  • Provide a way for your clients to sign up for courses and events or to donate through their mobile devices via a mobile optimized online form or third party service like Eventbrite.
  • Design your emails and marketing collateral with the mobile viewer in mind. Will people be reading it on the phone, or is it something to be sent via email as a mobile download? Don’t try and do too much. Keep fonts large, sentences short, use single columns and get the recipient to click to your website for more information.
  • Try a text message fundraising drive. An article on the Nonprofit Hub website states that the Human Rights Campaign found that text message subscribers are 2.5 times more likely to donate than a non-text message subscriber. The Humane Society of the United States found that members who received a text message reminding them to donate were more likely to give online by 77 percent. I have no experience with SMS fundraising campaigns so do your due diligence on infrastructure, security and practices.
  • In managing your nonprofit, mobile technology is allowing team members to remain connected wherever they are. This results in more time servicing with clients and networking with donors and less time stuck behind a desk. Depending on the sensitivity of the organization’s information, put in place policies and practices for mobile communication by voice, text or email.
  • Ensuring that your communications, systems and practices are mobile friendly sends the message (excuse the pun) to your stakeholders and supporters that your nonprofit is a professional organization that is responsive and sensitive to current trends.
What is cloud computing? What does it mean that “something is in the cloud’?
Cloud computing means that instead of housing software, applications and files on your computer or your own server, they are hosted by someone else online or “in the cloud”. You gain access from anywhere using the internet. Gmail is a good example. Office 365 is another program that offered as a cloud based subscription. You don’t need your own servers or storage.
So what are the advantages?
  • Portability and convenience – you can access your files and programs from anywhere using an internet connection. Team members can access files from home, on the road or in the office. Work flow is increased by easy file sharing. Team communication is sped up with secure messaging programs.
  • Cost savings – this is a big selling point for the nonprofit world. There is little IT cost when using the cloud. There is no server. Installs, upgrades, back-ups and other maintenance are done for you. You are not paying to power your own network infrastructure.
  • Security – all your files and programs are saved off site. If there is a system crash at the office or one of your computers fails, everything is safely stored and ready to be downloaded.
  • Environmentally friendly – with cloud computing, you only use the server space you need which decreases your carbon footprint and can result in at least 30% less energy consumption and carbon emissions than using on-site servers.
  • Low cost options – there are many low cost, no-cost solutions like OneDrive, Dropbox, Hightail, Gmail, Office 365 subscription service, VaultPress.
How about the disadvantages:
  • No internet connection, no access – this is a problem. Make sure you have a proven and reliable internet provider.
  • Security and privacy – many people are frightened that their information is not secure. Cloud services providers have made security their top priority. Make sure you have strong password protection.
  • Incompatibility of some programs – some applications that don’t run well in the cloud or need significant conversion to migrate. For example, certain systems might rely on local file storage. Fortunately, many cloud providers assist with migration.
If you are a little jumpy about this new amorphous cloud universe, don’t go all in. Pick and choose which cloud based solutions you are comfortable with. That’s what I have done. The more I have used cloud services, the more comfortable I have become with giving up important emails and documents that I used to hold tight on my laptop.
Cloud computing solutions are maturing and improving all the time. As the technology continues to evolve, costs will continue to fall and reliability and security standards will improve. I am certain that in the future, operating in the cloud will be as routine as all the other technological advances that used to bamboozle many of us.
There is an old Latin saying, Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis, which translates to “Times change, and we change with them”. We have changed a lot with the technological advances of the past 20 years.
The portability, flexibility and cost savings of mobile technology and cloud computing will ensure they are two of the most profound and lasting changes so far. They have the potential to relieve nonprofits of the time, energy and costs that can be redirected towards their irreplaceable missions that assist so many in need in our communities.
Paul Brindley
paul brindley consults

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Los Angeles Market Week Spring16 – Some Like It Hot

Barry O at Venue Tradeshow at The REEF
The relentless tropical heat beat down on LA for last week’s Spring 2016 Los Angeles Fashion Market, which set up shop in the downtown Los Angeles Fashion District from October 12–15.
The hot weather must have kept some buyers away because there was a distinct drop in the usual activity and energy this time of year. Business was as sluggish as sales of Fall merchandise must be at present. I can’t imagine buyers have much spare cash to be throwing down for their Spring orders. Apparel News reported that “… some buyers had less money available for Spring orders and others were scrambling to fill inventories with warm-weather apparel.”
It doesn’t help local sales agents that the LA Spring Market is at the tail end of the Spring selling season. Vegas was 2 months ago. The NY shows were last month. With any semblance of Fall yet to materialize, buying budgets must be drying up like a Californian river.
The show must go on and it did in the showrooms of the California Market Center, The New Mart, the Cooper Design Space, the Gerry Building and the Lady Liberty building — as well as at temporary trade shows Designers and Agents (New Mart), Coeur (at a new location at the Alexandria Ballrooms at 5th & Spring), Brand Assembly (Cooper), L.A. Men’s MarketShape and Select (all at the CMC).
Designers and Agents was a bit light on exhibitors. They usually completely fill the 3rd Floor event space. Friend and generous bestower of complimentary hats, Ben De Luca of Brooklyn Hat Co. thought Monday was solid but the Tuesday I was there was significantly slower. He wasn’t holding out hope for much better on Wednesday.
The classy Brand Assembly filled the bright, white 11th floor event space of the Cooper. Brand Assembly has swelled to 112 brands. The contemporary women’s showcase has doubled in size over the past 12 months.
The SYDNY Showroom showing their all Australian roster at Brand Assembly
The SYDNY Showroom showing their all Australian roster at Brand Assembly
The LA Men’s Market show at the 10th floor event space in the CMC has grown into a mini Agenda. This is a show to keep an eye on. It was the only space of the entire week that had some real consistent buzz going.
The new Shape show for contemporary active and lifestyle brands had some good quality labels like NUX and Bhujang Style but very little foot traffic. There is definitely scope for a showcase like Shape but they need to get it off the 13th floor of the CMC and put it somewhere that buyers will actually visit.
I did spot a gem at Select on the ground floor of the CMCLA’s own Lesebi was showing waterproof handmade nylon ankle bracelets produced by women in Mayan communities in Cancun, Mexico. Lesebi has partnered with Mayan Ook (ook is the Maya word for ‘foot’) which commissions and sells hand woven and embroidered garments made by local women from the state of Quintana Roo’s Mayan Zone. The Mayan Zone is formed by small rural communities located in the municipalities of Felipe Carrillo Puerto and José María Morelos near the Tulum region.
Lesebi ankle bracelets
Lesebi ankle bracelets – $12 wholesale, minimum order of 5
On Thursday and Friday of last week, Venue Tradeshow tried to eke out the last of the buyers’ seasonal budgets at The REEF space in the LA Mart on Broadway and Washington.
Venue Tradeshow
Venue is a showcase for emerging young contemporary, street and lifestyle labels. I like the concept. I like the artwork that decorates the space. But the space is too cavernous for the thin spreading of brands. Miles Canares, the owner/producer is a young and enthusiastic impressario who is genuinely supportive of his exhibitors. I would recommend he find a tighter spce closer to the heart of the fashion district to concentrate the energy of the show and maximize the opportunities of attracting buyers.
more Venue artwork
more Venue artwork

Paul Brindley
Principal Adviser
paul brindley consults

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Melange Live: Where Fashion Meets Technology

Melange Live co-founders, Tom Keefer & Steve Brown open the two day event
Melange Live co-founders, Tom Keefer & Steve Brown open the two day event
Last month I attended the inaugural Melange Live forum in the New Mart building in the downtown Los Angeles fashion district.
Melange was a two day event that created a space for innovators, technologists and fashion visionaries to come together and kibbitz about the raidly expanding nexus between fashion and technology.
There was a steady flow of panel discussions and presentations by entrepreneurs, punctuated by small group side sessions, general networking and interactions with companies showing their wares in booths.
Hadar Paz, CEO of Powerfront Inc. presenting on the 'Evolution of Chat, The Next Big Thing'.
Hadar Paz, CEO of Powerfront Inc. presenting on the ‘Evolution of Chat, The Next Big Thing’.
Hadar Paz, CEO of the Australian owned e-commmerce provider, Powerfront Inc. presented on the ‘Evolution of Chat, The Next Big Thing’. Hadar was highlighting his real-time customer engagement program, Inside.
Darren Goble, Inside’s Customer Success Manager (and fellow Antipodean), explained Inside as “allowing brands and retailers the ability to ‘see’ current online visitors and view their history and behavior in real-time. Inside features an expanding suite of functions that are based on Big Data collected for each individual visitor. A visually impressive back end graphic interface gives customer service and sales staff an engaging 3D live view of website traffic and the customers they are serving right now; and features functionality that can track customer behavior, identify opportunities and proactively engage with potential customers at the right time and in the right context to help increase sales conversion.”
Hadar said of the Melange Live experience, “Very excited to share our technology and we were really encouraged with the response the platform received. We know Inside is a perfect fit with fashion. For the first time, online businesses can now apply long established bricks-and-mortar sales and customer service methodologies into an online environment and dramatically help bridge the disparity gap between online and offline sales conversion percentages.”
I had an interesting conversation with Brian Dainis, Founder & President of Philadelphia based web design and app development company,Curotec. Brian told of Philly’s push to become a technology hub. The  burgeoning tech corridor is centered around North 3rd Street, now pithily renamed, N3RD Street. At this rate, the entire country will be a tech hub. Not a bad thought actually.
Tom's Shoes panel: Sarah Tabbush, Dir. Social Media, Tom's; Liz Heller, Co-Founder, Screenspaces; Ann Lawrence, co-Founder, Pink51.com
Tom’s Shoes panel: Sarah Tabbush, Dir. Social Media, Tom’s; Liz Heller, Co-Founder, Screenspaces; Ann Lawrence, co-Founder, Pink51.com
I particularly enjoyed the Tom’s Shoes panel that focused on consciousness consumerism. I got into the apparel world in 2000 working forWildlife Works, one of the pioneers of consumer driven conservation. Wildlife Works’ production of organic fabric clothing has saved untold human and animal lives, and protected vast swathes of the globe over the past 20 years.
Day 1 ended with networking drinks and nibbles.
Jim Palmer, the owner of Malibu Vineyards, was pouring the best wine I have tasted this side of Santa Maria.
JoJo Bowen of Bowen’s Whiskey was literally keeping everyone’s spirits up with her excellent small batch American whiskey from the wilds of Bakersfield. Who knew?
I thought attendance on both days was a little thin. However, it was the first of a proposed bi-annual series of Melange events. It was well worth attending. The organizers have given themselves every chance of pulling more of a crowd by wisely situating the forum in the center of the fashion district rather than some trendy domicile. The substance over form approach is refreshing. With so much scope of technology in the apparel industry, I expect the event to grow as the word gets out.
For additional information, I have reposted the California Apparel News review below.

 Apparel News logo


Fashion Meet Tech at Melange Live Event at The New Mart

OMNI-CHANNEL PANEL: Lauren Croke, director of Web and e-commerce for Eileen Fisher; Suzanne Hader, chief marketing officer for Halston; Alex Golshan, vice president of e-commerce/omnichannel at BCBGMaxAzria group; and moderator George Shaw, head of R&D for RetailNext
The worlds of fashion and technology merged at the launch of Melange Live, a conference that explored new developments in e-commerce, mobile/digital payments, brand building using social media and new innovations in wearable technology.
“It has become a mobile-first world,” said Tom Keefer, who cofounded and organized the Sept. 16–17 event at The New Mart in downtown Los Angeles. Tom Keefer is a Los Angeles–based youth-marketing specialist who has worked with Newsweek Intl.LA GearK-Swiss,Mattel and the BBC Worldwide Global Licensing Team.
In recent years, the term “omni-channel” has become the buzzword for retailers looking to merge their bricks-and-mortar, online and mobile platforms. But as consumers become more comfortable navigating and shopping on these platforms, the distinction between them has become blurred.
Omni-channel, George Shaw, head of R&D for RetailNext, said, is “really the latest name for shopping.”
Shaw moderated a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges of omni-channel retailing, featuring panelists Lauren Croke, director of Web and e-commerce for Eileen Fisher; Suzanne Hader, chief marketing officer for Halston; and Alex Golshan, vice president of e-commerce/omni-channel at BCBGMaxAzria group.
“When we look at how things have changed over the last 10 to 15 years and where things are in terms of instant gratification, the younger generation, that’s all they know,” Golshan said.
The challenge is getting different departments with different procedures, or legacy systems, in place to cooperate.
“The customer doesn’t care about your legacy systems,” Golshan said. “At the end of the day, you don’t want to get gridlocked on who gets the sale credit for which channel. If you have a customer who wants something, you should be able to pull from your wholesale bucket. You need an executive team that is focused on doing the right thing for the customer.”
For many customers, the biggest challenge is finding the right product in the correct size. Manufacturers and retailers need access to real-time inventory in order to meet that demand.
“With Eileen Fisher the bottom line hasn’t always been our driver,” Croke said. “Eileen has always been about solving customers’ problems. We need to break down the hurdles between visibility and inventory.”
What’s needed is a cultural change within organizations and within the inventory, Golshan said.
“You never want to have a situation where you’re sold out in one channel and not allowed to tap into other channels,” he said.
The panel also discussed the challenge of price discrepancy across retail channels.
“There are specific times of year [for example, Black Friday] when you know you’re going to be outpriced by some of your retailers,” Hader said.
“Our approach to omni-channel is really content-based,” she said, explaining that mobile information can be “a ride-along” to a consumer’s in-store shopping experience. Hader said Halston strives to provide customers with “a compelling second-screen presentation” by giving them news about celebrities wearing Halston or offering wardrobe advice and brand information.
“For us, a big focus is blurring the line between digital and physical,” Croke said. “When I started it was how to take the best elements of the store and bring it online. Now it’s the inversion. The store is still the place where we can drive customers. If somehow we were exposing inventory online and on time, we would understand the customer coming into the stores and we could curate the local environment.”
Golshan agreed, noting that there is a lot of online data that brands do not have access to.
“If we had access to that rich data in the store, it would help us understand customers across channels.”
Retail innovations
From Apple Pay to location-based marketing, there are several upcoming technological developments for retailers to provide better customer service and a more-engaging shopping experience.
Retailers are now challenged to keep up with the new technology. One of the worst experiences with technology is if it doesn’t work, said Marie Driscoll, CFA director for the Fung Business Intelligence Unit at Li & Fung.
Driscoll said GPS-enabled apps allow retailers to engage customers while they’re shopping in their competitors’ stores and discussed the impact of “Uber-fication,” or the sharing economy of websites such as Rent the Runway on the traditional business model.
The H.E.N.R.Y. consumer—described as “high-earners but not rich yet”—might not be able to afford to buy a designer handbag but could afford to rent one.
“They can live the lifestyle they can’t afford in an Uber economy,” Driscoll said.
Test-tube textiles and other developments
Kristine Upesleja, chief executive officer of Madisons-Innovative Textiles and an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, gave attendees an overview on wearable tech and new developments in what she calls “fashion engineering.”
The popularity of “wrist tech,” such as fitness trackers, is expected to drive interest in technology-enabled clothing such as activewear that measures your breathing and heart rate.
Upesleja highlighted new developments such as the Jins Meme smart glasses, which lets users navigate their cell-phone home screen using their eyes. Sensors in the glasses read the wearer’s blinks and eye movements. Bragi’s “Dash” wireless earbuds act as noise-canceling headphones and can track athletic performance. There is a new incarnation of the mood ring that measures if the wearer is angry or stressed and then sends meditation advice to a cell-phone app. The tech company Cute Circuit is integrating washable conductive ribbons into garments that enable the clothing to be connected to the Internet and be functional.
Upesleja also discussed new textile developments from 3-D printing to bioprocesses that “grow” nonwoven textiles from cellulose-based bacteria and bio-fabricated leather generated from animals’ skin cells.
“Fashion hasn’t changed much; you still need to dye, cut, sew and finish,” Upesleja said. “The fundamentals remained the same for centuries. Today is a brand-new day.”