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From blue lipstick to Facebook Live, home shopping networks refine their pitch
August 15, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (Reuters) – The Home Shopping Network is getting an image makeover.

A studio set is seen at the QVC Studio Park in West Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.

A U.S. television network where shoppers can buy everything from electronics to kitchen gadgets, the Home Shopping Network is overhauling its lineup to offer more beauty products while adding streamed video content to win over shoppers without cable TV.

A division of Qurate Retail Group, the network is facing growing competition from Amazon Inc. and Evine Live Inc for consumers like 24-year old Erin Bounds, who regard buying products through TV shows a relic of the past.

“Someone who is 24 doesn’t have the time nor desire to watch an hour-long show about a piece of jewelry or a vacuum when they can get an answer and the product quicker and probably cheaper on Amazon,” said Bounds, a resident of Ellicott City, Maryland.

For decades, the main difference to shoppers between HSN and Qurate’s other shopping network, QVC, typically came down to variations in branding and merchandise, with HSN selling more electronics. Qurate acquired HSN in late 2017 for $ 2.1 billion so the two shopping networks could join forces to better compete against Amazon and its home-shopping-style online video promotions.

Qurate executives told Reuters they now are culling HSN’s core merchandise offerings to eliminate many higher-priced electronics and some home goods, such as vacuum cleaners and blenders.

Host Sloane Glass sells beauty products during a Facebook live event at the QVC Studio Park in West Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Instead, they are adding more niche cosmetic and apparel brands to help draw some distinction with QVC. They are also pushing both QVC and HSN to pursue younger shoppers with click-to-buy links on Instagram and Facebook Live for items such as earrings, shoes and Vince Camuto jeans, in a bid to spark a rebound in demand.

Second-quarter revenue at HSN declined 12 percent to $ 473 million from $ 533 million a year later the company announced Wednesday. Stock in the company, which counts media mogul John Malone as one of its largest investors, is down about 8 percent year to date, compared with a 14 percent increase for the Nasdaq index, and 64 percent increase for Amazon.com year to date.

“You’re seeing the impact of them digesting a large organization that is clearly not growing if you look at the numbers,” said Ben Claremon, partner and research analyst at investment firm Cove Street Capital, one of Qurate’s shareholders.

“There’s just not the degree of demand for home shopping products, and the desire to spend hours of the day watching them diminishes as you go down in age,” he said.

BALANCING BLUE LIPSTICK WITH BRACELETS

The new strategy is aimed at creating more distinction with the two cable channels after the merger, according to Rob Robillard, the new VP of Beauty Integration at Qurate.

In beauty, for example, one of HSN’s top selling products is Too Faced “Unicorn Tears” blue lipstick, which sells for roughly $ 22. One of QVC’s best products is the Doll 10 Nude lipstick with a price tag of around $ 25, noted Robillard.

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“We were sort of hoping there would be this real big difference between HSN and QVC,” he said. “But the two are actually very similar.”

Qurate will partner with Robin Burns-McNeill, chairman of Batallure Beauty, a company specializing in brand strategy, product and package development, sourcing and manufacturing in the fragrance, cosmetics and skincare categories, to create a collection of proprietary beauty brands, the company told Reuters exclusively.

The first manufactured beauty products from this partnership are slated to launch in fall 2019 on QVC.com, and, if all goes well, the company said they would likely tap on Burns-McNeill’s shoulder to create proprietary brands for HSN as well.

They have a tall order. Amazon is the top online destination for beauty and the fifth-most-popular retailer for skincare and cosmetics, according to Coresight Research, behind leaders Walmart, CVS Health, Target Corp and Walgreens. QVC and HSN do not rank on the list.

In March 2016, Amazon launched “Style Code Live,” a daily live fashion show which has since gone off-air.

This June, Amazon unveiled Prime Wardrobe in the United States, allowing Prime members to try on clothing, shoes, and accessories before purchase. Customers have up to seven days to try their clothes on at home, and are charged only for those items they choose to keep.

Celebrity-driven shows and videos on QVC still have their upside, according to vendors such as Xcel Brands Inc Chief Executive Robert D’Loren. A QVC apparel vendor for more than six years, D’Loren cites on-air appearances of fashion designer and QVC host Isaac Mizrahi – D’Loren’s largest, most successful brand on QVC – as strategic advantage for the home shopping network.

D’Loren thinks Qurate, which currently accounts for 60 percent of Xcel’s brand volume, is well-positioned to take on competitors Amazon.com and video retailer Evine, and that it’s “only a matter of time” before millennials like Bounds give Qurate’s QVC and HSN a shot.

“There is something to tuning in, watching, having product fully demonstrated to you that is unique and has great value, and I haven’t seen that anywhere else in the market,” he said.

Editing by Vanessa O’Connell and Edward Tobin

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eFootball's coming home; FIFA's virtual World Cup kicks off
August 3, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

LONDON (Reuters) – The 2018 World Cup is over and now for the FIFA eWorld Cup, a virtual tournament that kicked off in London on Thursday with goals galore and multiple Cristiano Ronaldos and Lionel Messis strutting their stuff on a digital stage.

The FIFA eWorld Grand Final trophy on display during the tournament at the O2 Arena in London, Britain August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The three-day finals see 32 elite players, distilled from a global pool of 20 million starters worldwide, flexing thumbs and fingers for the prize of a shiny trophy and $ 250,000 to the winner.

England’s 21-year-old Spencer Ealing, the reigning champion who plays under the nickname ‘Gorilla’, is back ‘to defend what’s mine’.

Germany boasts eight finalists and Argentina just one but 18-year-old Nicolas ‘nicolas99fc’ Villalba — a man who eschews compatriot Messi for Ronaldo and Brazilians Neymar, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo Nazario in his team lineup — is a favorite.

Some have big name clubs behind them, such as Manchester City’s Kai ‘Deto’ Wollin or fellow-German and Bayer Leverkusen player Marvin ‘M4RV’ Hintz, but others are unaffiliated.

The group stages, with 16 playing the FIFA 18 game on Xbox One and the other 16 on PlayStation4, started with the audience online only until the doors are opened on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London’s docklands.

The group stages of the FIFA eWorld Grand Final get underway at the O2 Arena in London, Britain August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The semi-finals and final will be on Saturday after group stages and knockout rounds, with most of the teams featuring the same top players in virtual form.

RANDOM TESTS

The tournament echoes the real World Cup played in Russia this year in other ways as well, including anti-doping urine tests and the monitoring of betting markets for suspicious activity.

Malta’s Kurt’kurt0411’ Fenech, a 23-year-old former odds compiler for a sports betting company who says he now earns far more from gaming, welcomed that.

“People might think ‘Oh, it doesn’t belong in esport’ but it 100 percent does,” he told reporters in a roped-off World Cup-style media mixed zone.

“We have to play a game which requires full concentration and I know that there’s stuff out there that can help you with that. So I’m really pleased there is an anti-doping. It’s needed in every sport and we are a sport now.

“The testing is really extreme, it’s like professional football.

Professional Xbox and Playstation players take their positions for the group stages of the FIFA eWorld Grand Final at the O2 Arena in London, Britain August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

“They’ve just picked three people randomly,” he added, gesturing towards the brightly lit ‘field of play’ where players and coaches sat in booths and stared intensely at screens.

Alexander ‘Alekzandur’ Garcia Betancourt, the only American in the finals, said Adderall was the drug most commonly mentioned.

“It’s normally for people with ADHD so if you don’t have that and you abuse it, it’s very easy to gain an advantage,” he said.

“It’s good that they are doing that now with the doping controls,” added the 19-year-old Kansas City native who has signed for his local MLS side.

“We follow the same WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) regulations as normal athletes. We have to follow those rules, make sure we’re not taking anything we’re not supposed to.”

Fenech, who estimated his earnings were on a par with those of professional Maltese soccer players, felt he was also representing his country — whose team are ranked 184th in the world by FIFA , one place behind Bhutan and just ahead of Macau.

“If I can go on to win this I could become president,” he laughed.

“Our football is nowhere near where we should be and we do usually finish last so for me to compete with the best of the other countries – Germany, France, England – it’s definitely something for a country to be proud of.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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‘Who Is Jesus?’ Google Home Couldn’t Answer and People Weren’t Happy
January 27, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

Anger over Google Home’s inability to answer questions about Jesus led the company to bar the device from answering questions about all religious figures, according to a statement released Friday.

Some users became angry when the smart speaker was unable to answer questions such as, “Who is Jesus?” but could respond to similar queries about Buddha, Muhammad and Satan, CNBC reports. Some unhappy social media users alleged that Google was “censoring” Jesus.

Danny Sullivan, Google’s public search liason, tweeted a statement by way of explanation on Friday. “The reason the Google Assistant didn’t respond with information about ‘Who is Jesus’ or ‘Who is Jesus Christ’ wasn’t out of disrespect but instead to ensure respect,” the statement reads. “Some of the Assistant’s spoken responses come from the web, and for certain topics, this content can be more vulnerable to vandalism and spam.”

Until the issue is fixed, according to the statement, all responses for questions about religious figures will be temporarily unavailable.

Google’s reliance on “featured snippets” — the pullout information that appears at the top of a page of search results — has gotten the company in hot water before. Inaccurate and offensive information can find its way into featured snippets, which has led Google’s smart products to repeat sometimes inflammatory comments.

Google Home is now responding to questions about religious figures with, “Religion can be complicated, and I am still learning,” users report.

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Home Depot's CEO Did This 25,000 Times. Science Says You Should Do It Too
November 10, 2017 12:04 pm|Comments (0)

When Frank Blake announced his retirement three years ago as the CEO of Home Depot, employees flooded him with handwritten notes of appreciation.

“I got boxes and boxes of notes,” Blake recalls. “They are my most important mementos from my time at Home Depot.”

Those notes brought the spirit of gratitude full circle.

During his seven-year stint as CEO, Blake set aside several hours every Sunday to hand-write notes thanking standout employees for their service. He estimates he wrote more than 25,000 notes to everyone from district managers to hourly associates.

“I’d see the notes framed at the stores,” he told me. “So I knew it mattered.”

Science confirms it mattered. Studies show that employees who feel appreciated are happier, more engaged, more productive, and more likely to contribute in positive ways.

And it’s not just the recipient who benefits. Studies show that people who express appreciation are more optimistic, as well as physically and emotionally healthier.

In other words, gratitude stays with those who give it.

So, as we head into Thanksgiving, here are four tips for using the lost art of letter writing as a way of expressing appreciation to your employees.

1. Be specific about why you’re thankful.

When Frank Blake thanked me via email and phone for writing about this particular topic, it made me smile. We all want to be appreciated for what we’re doing, and when you’re recognized for something specific, it’s even more of a motivator.  

Blake says when writing his notes, he stayed away from generalities. Instead of simply thanking employees for their customer service, he told me he’d write: “I heard that you did xyz for a customer recently. Thank you for setting a great example of customer service.”

Lydia Ramsey, a business etiquette expert and author of Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits, suggests mentioning the specific effect on your team or organization. For example, “Thank you for coming in on your day off. You helped us finish our project on time and set a great example for everyone involved.”

2. Set up a system.

When Blake sat down every Sunday to write his notes, he had a process for identifying the recipients: Each store would collect specific examples of great customer service. The store would send those names to the districts. The districts would send their top picks to the regions. And the regions would send their top picks directly to Blake.

“I figured the advantage of this is that it created an atmosphere of people being on the lookout for recognizing great behavior,” Blake says.

Regardless of the size of the company, he advises bosses to develop a mindset that focuses on identifying employees who put in extra effort, and then a system to recognize those employees.

3. Keep note cards handy.

In this digital media age, it’s easy to skip the pen and go straight for the keyboard. But when was the last time you put a text or an email in a keepsake box? There’s just something about a handwritten note that creates a more meaningful connection.

To avoid the temptation of dashing off a digital thank you, have fun picking out some note cards that reflect your personality, and stash them in a convenient place in your desk. That way, “you don’t have to hunt them down, and you can write that note immediately, while the act is still fresh in your mind, says Ramsey.

4. Go beyond gratitude.

Making employees feel appreciated goes beyond thanking them for a job well done. It can also include recognizing and acknowledging significant events in their lives like birthdays, engagements, work anniversaries, kids’ graduations, and even family illnesses.

Regardless of the precipitating event, Ramsey calls handwritten notes “a chance to build positive relationships with employees.”

And since fewer and fewer people are putting pen to paper these days, you’ll stand out with each letter you write.

Letting people know you’re thinking of them creates a chance for meaningful connection. It also creates a keepsake they can look back on and remember that you took the time to reach out.

“There’s something so powerful about the written word,” says Blake.

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Greenstar Home Services Announces Partnership with Nest
June 30, 2017 1:05 am|Comments (0)

Greenstar Home Services, an air conditioning, heating, and plumbing company based in Orange, CA has partnered with Nest Labs, Inc. to include the Nest Learning Thermostat as a standard component of…

(PRWeb May 20, 2017)

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55% off Panda Security Ransomware and Virus Protection Products for Home Users – Deal Alert
May 18, 2017 1:55 pm|Comments (0)

Panda security solutions will fully protect you against the newly released malware and ransomware attacks, and Panda is offering 55% off all security products for home users using the coupon code ANTIRANSOMWARE at checkout. See Panda’s Internet Security product here, or their Antivirus Pro product here, and enter the code at checkout to activate the 55% savings. This code will work for all Panda Security products for home users. 

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Nest Cam Outdoor shows me the cat lurking outside my home
November 13, 2016 4:15 am|Comments (0)

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Seeing is safety.

I live in a relatively safe neighborhood, but some years ago, my home was burglarized. The thieves broke in through the back door. Since then, we’ve been more vigilant about locked doors and windows and installed a Nest Dropcam indoors to keep an eye on our house. It does a great job of showing my open-floor-plan kitchen, dining room and den, but is of no use for the space outside my home.

Nest Cam Outdoor takes everything that’s good about Nest Cam — easy setup, anywhere-in-the-world access and cloud-based footage recording – and adds in weatherproofing. It is an excellent addition to the Nest family of smart home devices. Read more…

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Apple’s Echo rival could make Siri the master of your home
October 30, 2016 9:20 am|Comments (0)

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Amazon is sitting pretty on top of the smart home with its Alexa voice-controlled Echo devices, and Google will close in later this year with its own Home assistant device. But what about Apple?

While iOS 10’s much-needed Home app for controlling all your HomeKit-compatible smart home devices is a step in the right direction, the company may need an Echo rival of its own.

Apple is reportedly working on an Echo-like smart home device according to Bloomberg

This report corroborates a earlier one from The Information earlier this year that Apple was developing its own Echo-like product based around Siri.  Read more…

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Acoustiblok® “Hits Home Run” at Fenway Park with Solution to…
August 30, 2016 4:10 am|Comments (0)

Acoustiblok’s All Weather Sound Panels® were installed at Boston’s famous Fenway Park to resolve noise issues from a chiller and other mechanical equipment in an exclusive outdoor function area….

(PRWeb August 29, 2016)

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Amazon Echo Dot gives you a voice-controlled smart home for only $90
April 16, 2016 12:10 pm|Comments (0)

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Nobody saw it coming. While Apple and Google were busy trying to beat each other to the smart home with HomeKit and Nest, respectively, Amazon snuck in from nowhere with the Echo and its Alexa voice assistant and embarrassed them both.

When I reviewed it last year the Echo could only do a handful of things like play music, read the news, tell you the weather and set timers. Today, the Echo’s a full-featured, voice-activated smart home hub thanks to all the third-party devices and services that can connect to it.

The Echo’s success pushed Amazon to put Alexa in more devices and now she’s available in the Fire TV, Fire TV Stick and two new devices: the Tap (read my review here) and Echo Dot. Read more…

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