Tuesday, March 5, 2019

online business

online business

Marshalls to open for business online - FOX 10 News Phoenix

Posted: 04 Mar 2019 06:35 AM PST

- The wait is over – Marshalls is going to open for business online.

According to Business Insider, Ernie Herrman, CEO of The TJX Companies, the parent company of Marshalls, as well as TJ Maxx and Home Goods, made the announcement to investors Wednesday.

The plan is to create an online shopping experience the consumer can't get at any store and vice-versa. There will be items that will only be available at physical stores and items shoppers can only get online, Herrman explained.

"We look at it as complementary," Herrman stated.

TJ Maxx also offers different items online versus what they carry in stores. TJ Maxx launched their online presence in 2013.

"We have learned a lot from TJMaxx.com," Herrman said. He explained TJMaxx.com brought more customers out to physical stores based on the customer's knowledge of in-store specials through online campaigns.

Marshalls online launch is slated for sometime in 2019. No date has been set.

Office Depot and Alibaba opening online store - Long Island Business News

Posted: 04 Mar 2019 12:35 PM PST

Office Depot and Alibaba.com are creating a co-branded online store to expand the reach of both companies with small and medium size businesses.

The two companies announced the agreement Monday as part of a broader array of services they are providing to small business. Over time, the companies intend to help U.S. small businesses sell their products to buyers around the world through Alibaba.com, the wholesale trade site of the Chinese online retail titan the Alibaba Group.

It marks Alibaba.com's first U.S. partnership with a major retailer. The lion's share of Alibaba Group's business has been providing retailers and brands in the U.S. and around the globe access to the 700 million Chinese customers through its two major marketplaces Taobao and Tmall.

The core of Alibaba.com's business is connecting small businesses with its more than 150,000 suppliers worldwide, a catalog of product listings and manufacturing capabilities. So Office Depot's small and medium size business customers will be able to find a broader array of products or a reputable supplier to make their goods in a faster and more effective way. The agreement will give Alibaba access to Office Depot's 10 million business customers and 1,800 sales agents.

Office Depot Inc., based in Boca Raton, Florida, has struggled in recent years with intense competition from Amazon.com, which has been increasingly invading on the office supplier chain's turf by offering office supply sales for U.S. companies. Office Depot still has 1,350 physical stores. But its new CEO Gerry Smith has been pushing the company to go beyond selling office products to become more of a one-stop shop for businesses for all service at a time when small businesses' biggest challenges are cash and time. Nearly 70 percent of its Office Depot's annual sales now come from business customers, up from about 49 percent a few years ago, Office Depot said.

That goal of becoming more of one-stop shop for businesses will be furthered under this deal. For example, a toy manufacturer that was buying office supplies from Office Depot could now be steered by Office Depot to Alibaba.com to get access to the most cost-effective producers of toy parts that it's looking for. It can also help them get quick access to loans.

"As a trusted partner to millions of businesses, our customers tell us they want more choice in the market and need an expanded set of products and services to help their businesses grow," said Smith Office Depot in a statement. "We believe our collaboration with Alibaba.com is exactly what they are asking for."

Online Marketing Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Your Business - Upstate Business Journal

Posted: 04 Mar 2019 09:40 AM PST

online marketing mistakes
CITATION: "© [Thomas Lefebvre] / Unsplash"

Online marketing has become an essential element in growing a business. If you use the right tactics, it can help you engage with your audience, develop loyalty, and attract new customers.

If you're new to online marketing, it's important to know what not to do so you can avoid common mishaps. Here is our list of common online marketing mistakes to avoid.

Not Having a Website

A company's website is usually the first place people look for information on a product or service. Not having one means customers will most likely take their business elsewhere. Fortunately, making a website is easier than ever with free and inexpensive hosting companies like Wix or GoDaddy.

Not Employing an SEO Strategy

Spending time crafting a beautiful website is useless if nobody can find it. To rank higher on search engines like Google, you need to develop an effective SEO strategy. Taking time to research and implement relevant keywords on your site is a great way to boost your ranking. A few websites that provide information on which keywords will be most effective are Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool, Wordtracker's Free Basic Keyword Demand, and Microsoft Bing Ads Intelligence.

Not Having a Blog

Every business can benefit from having a blog. By creating consistent and relevant content, blogs can help you connect with your audience and attract new customers. To further engage customers and develop a loyal following, try to respond to every comment your blog receives and leave comments on other blogs to drive traffic to your own.

Not Branching Out on Social Media

To grow your brand and increase your following, it's important to market yourself on a variety of social media channels. This means expanding your marketing strategies to include platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Focus on sharing relevant information that will drive attention back to your website; this will increase traffic and engage new customers.

Not Budgeting for Marketing Costs

Websites don't market themselves. The common misconception that producing good content is enough to bring in customers is what halts the success of many new businesses. While paying for effective marketing advice from experts can be costly, it's often essential to produce noticeable results.

Avoiding these common online marketing mistakes is sure to help you start developing your business in our increasingly digital world.


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Learning Online: Getting Down to Business - E-Commerce Times

Posted: 04 Mar 2019 10:23 AM PST

Online learning platforms have made the process of offering workshops, courses, and educational content of all kinds easier than ever. In addition to the growth of online learning in traditional educational spheres like colleges and universities, there's been growth in the business world. Companies and organizations increasingly have been using online learning platforms both to train employees and to educate customers and clients.

"Online learning is growing and vibrant because it allows people around the world to access opportunities for growth and development that were previously inaccessible or unaffordable," said Abe Crystal, cofounder of the online learning platform Ruzuku.

"It's democratizing access to learning just as search engines democratized access to factual information," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Finding a Niche

A number of companies provide educational opportunities related to the work they do and the services they offer. The marketing company Hinge, for instance, runs Hinge University, which offers a wide range of courses related to marketing, communications and business strategies.

"For over a decade, Hinge has conducted ongoing research on the professional services marketplace, with a special focus on high-growth firms and how they market themselves differently from their slower-growing peers," said Hinge Managing Partner Lee Frederiksen.

"We created Hinge University to equip professional services firms and individual experts with the strategies, tools and skills to build an evidence-based marketing program that delivers faster growth, greater visibility and higher profits," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Hinge has identified the value of offering classes, in addition to other educational content, to people seeking help and information, thus both growing the firm's customer base and enhancing its standing in the industry.

"Our audiences include professional services executives, solo practitioners, marketers and client-facing professionals -- anyone in the professional services who is looking for proven research-based marketing strategy and skills training," noted Frederiksen. "We also have an enterprise membership level for large organizations that want to develop the visibility and skills of their professionals."

Benefits of Online Learning

While it shares some characteristics with traditional classroom learning, online learning is unique in the way instructors and students interact and engage with each other and with the content.

"Online learning is vastly different than in-person learning, with the most obvious difference being engagement," said Ruzuku's Crystal. "It's much more difficult to maintain attention, focus and engagement online, and requires new approaches to course design and participant interaction."

One significant benefit of online learning -- both for instructors and students -- is that it's accessible to people around the world.

"It allows educational institutions to provide course content to a geographically broader audience, and in turn enhance and diversify their revenue models," observed Steve Nyland, LMS manager and lead designer at Educadium.

"Increasingly, we see larger educational institutions providing complimentary courses related to core subjects that might not be feasible in a formal classroom setting, for both cost and logistical reasons," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Because of its many benefits and accessibility, online learning is quickly becoming mainstream -- one of the primary ways people teach, learn and share information.

"Online learning is rapidly becoming more mainstream, which leads to a raising of the bar," said Crystal. "People are demanding higher-quality, more effective courses with better user experiences."

The Internet has revolutionized the way educational content can be delivered and consumed.

"The Internet is transforming how people acquire new skills and grow professionally," said Hinge's Frederiksen. "Research has shown that people who learn online actually outperform those in traditional classroom settings. And from a learner's perspective, the lower cost and the convenience of learning at one's own pace and on one's own schedule -- at work, at home, even on the go -- can't be beat. Companies, too, recognize that training with these characteristics is far more effective, and it's more appealing to their employees."

It's likely this transformation of educational practices will continue apace, with proliferation of various kinds of learning management systems (LMSes) that specialize in particular kinds of interactions, content, audiences and purposes.

"Online learning, or e-learning, has been a fast-growing sector since the early 2000s, and this trend looks set to continue," said Nyland. "There are numerous overlapping reasons why. The cost-effectiveness of providing remote classes versus traditional classroom courses has persuaded a lot of larger universities and colleges of the value of systems like Educadium."

What Makes a Good Online Course

It's important for online course designers to understand the capabilities of the platform they're using, and the ways they can shape and design their content to make it as engaging and effective as possible for their particular audiences and purposes.

"While Educadium and other LMS platforms have provided the tools to create more flexible, multifaceted courses for some time, digital course creators are catching up in terms of understanding how they can better engage with their students," said Nyland.

"The online educational community has become smaller or more tight-knit, with a lot of sharing of pedagogical ideas and concepts on how we can best serve our clients, and how our clients can best serve their students and employees," he pointed out.

One of the keys to a successful online course is taking it beyond basic slideshows and making use of the wide variety of engagement methods available online.

"More and more, we see a move away from long -- boring -- self-paced PowerPoint-style presentations, with courses evolving to blended learning and instructor-led-training, or ILT, courses, combining the benefits of real classroom-based lessons with the benefits of digital self-paced e-learning modules," observed Nyland.

"More collaborative activities between groups of students are being used in courses, less focused on grading or core assessment needs, but more on enhancing the knowledge levels of learners and complementing their abilities, interspersed with core grade requirements," he added.

Quality is key for successful online learning offerings, in other words.

"If the first decade of the 21st century saw schools and businesses worrying about how they could meet their training requirements and make sure their students and staff were seeing the content they had to see to be qualified, they're now caring much more about the quality of that content and how it's shaping their learners," said Nyland.

It's vital that those offering courses online continually work to make their offers more competitive, creative and engaging.

"As e-learning becomes more common as a solution, providers of e-learning are having to be more competitive and creative in how they meet that need," suggested Nyland. "There's a long way to go, but the steady march toward that being the norm continues day by day. If education is the key to both personal success and resolution of our many societal problems, the LMS is a powerful and important social tool toward that goal."

Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. Email Vivian.

New school business official advises 'judicious' spending approach - Palo Alto Online

Posted: 04 Mar 2019 02:33 PM PST

Palo Alto Unified Board of Education members said they wanted fresh eyes on the budget when they hired Jim Novak to be the district's first new chief business officer in a decade.

He delivered on that at a budget study session last Thursday, providing a clear breakdown of inefficiencies that are costing the district unnecessarily and growing financial pressures that the board must prepare for. He recommended a "judicious" approach to spending on new programs in the coming year.

"If we do nothing different than what we have currently budgeted we will be — and I put that in quotes — 'fine,'" Novak told the board. "That means no salary increases. That means no new programs. That means no new nothing. That's not acceptable."

Novak, who was hired last summer from a Southern California district to replace longtime chief business officer Cathy Mak, suggested that the board "designate next year as a year to tighten the budget up."

Given salaries and benefits make up 86 percent of the district's $251 million budget, Novak suggested looking more critically at staffing ratios, including combining classes with low enrollment and adjusting staffing to match enrollment levels, to cut down on overstaffing. At the elementary schools, for example, uneven grade-level staffing ratios — classes ranging in size from 20 to 27 — have resulted in two to four additional full-time teachers, he said. He estimates there are approximately 20 full-time teachers over contractual and stated ratios at the middle schools and about 15 at the high schools.

A district practice of only adding and never subtracting teachers after the initial "14th day" enrollment reports that come in at the start of a new school year also contributes to overstaffing, Novak said. The district could have collapsed three to four classes at that point this fall, he said, which would have resulted in about $400,000 to $500,000 in savings.

Palo Alto Unified's average per-pupil ratio (the number of students per full-time teacher) is much lower than the Santa Clara County average: 14.9 compared to the county's 21.2 in 2016-17, the most recent year data is available.

Novak suggested phasing in a new approach to staffing over two years and to work towards negotiating with the teachers union having the same class sizes averages within levels, rather than the current contractual ratios that differ for grades and subject levels.

He warned that stricter staffing ratios, however, will result in larger class sizes. Controlling class size, particularly at the high schools, has become a priority at the board level in recent years.

Board members discussed the value and cost of providing a wide variety of classes to students.

"I would certainly benefit from a clear framework about how to understand these tradeoffs," said board member Ken Dauber. "Variety is something we should talk about. I think we are paying for that and we don't know how much we're paying so we're sort of treating it as free."

Board member Melissa Baten Caswell stressed that "variety and enrichment" is what draws families to Palo Alto Unified.

"I don't want to kill that," she said. "We should understand the cost of it but we should also understand the value it's providing to our community."

The district is also facing pressure from increased costs in special education, professional services and pensions, Novak said. The district has budgeted $43.1 million for special education this year, up 11.6 percent from four years ago. Assistant Superintendent of Strategic Initiatives and Operations Lana Conaway, who oversees special education, said she believes the department should have a dedicated budget person to aid in planning and overall financial management. Novak also suggested the district "tighten" procedures for assigning special-education aides and look at increasing the special-education services Palo Alto Unified provides to cut down on the number of out-of-district placements the district is paying for.

In a letter on behalf of the Palo Alto Council of PTAs and Palo Alto CAC for Special Education, a group of parents criticized the budget presentation as "incomplete" as it relates to the district and board's stated intent to reform and invest in special education.

"We find that this budget study fails to consider the needs of special education students, and points only to their costs. Ours, is not an 'ill-guided' 'stakeholder approach,'" reads the letter, quoting from Novak's presentation, "this is the law -- a Free and Appropriate Education. We have seen that, historically, the district will be spending the money for FAPE regardless of whether it is part of the budget and systemic reform, or otherwise expended through unbudgeted legal fees."

To address growing pension costs, Novak recommended waiting several years to set aside funds "as our budget situation improves." For this year, the district has budgeted $25.3 million for CalSTRS (California State Teachers' Retirement System) and $6.7 million for CalPERS (California Public Employees' Retirement System), both of which are expected to rise in coming years.

At least one board member, however, disagreed, advising a more prudent approach.

"When a pension reckoning comes, those who have put themselves in a better position will suffer less," said Vice President Todd Collins.

Novak also advised halting a practice of using one-time funds for items in the district's operating budget, which he described as "kicking the can down the road." Though changing this practice would create "short-term pain," it will benefit the district long term, he said.

"I believe there are so many practices that we can do better in this district and free up money," Novak said.


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