Sunday, March 6, 2011

Today's Blog Readings and My Related Rants

Designers investigating a need, finding a market, developing a network.

Investors should recognize this opportunity for the next generation of banking. Call it Banking 2.0. We have seen how Web 2.0 has changed the way the world lives, communicates, and connects. Now is the time for the financial sector

The Inspiration Article: Notes from the Field: Mobile Money in Afghanistan

February 8, 2011 from DesignMind: Frogs on the Road Blog

"In the summer of 2010, frog's Executive Creative Director for Global Insights Jan Chipchase conducted field research in Afghanistan with generous support from the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion. He worked ... to investigate how people use cell phones to do their banking—known in the industry as mobile money..."
"...Over half the world’s population lives without reliable banking institutions where DIY means of storing cash to guard and access one’s life savings is a real phenomenon.  In Afghanistan, money is transferred through informal couriers or hawala brokers who operate on an honor system that has been used for centuries. There is an opportunity and a need for a new way of sending money to others and a new way of banking...." >> Continue Reading
My Rant: Online Retailers: Don't Just Survive, Thrive
The undeniable success of (now owned by Amazon) is proof that consumers respond to free next day delivery shipping (instant gratification is a key to consumer retail success, especially for impulse orders) and just as importantly their customer service friendly free return shipping with no restocking fees. 
One customer comment from the Zappos website summarizes all the important bullet points of their e-tail success, and what all businesses should use as a model for their own e-commerce divisions.
"I just wanted to tell you guys that you have hands down the most helpful and friendly customer service people working on the 1-800 line. Everytime I call (which is a lot) they are incredibly nice and always solve whatever I need addressed. Not only are they nice, but they always sound like they are in a good mood which makes it an even more pleasant experience. This is one of the reasons I love ordering from Zappos so much. I work as a waitress, and I am allowed to wear whatever shoes I want at work. All of my shoes come from Zappos practically, and customers are always asking me about them. I probably refer between 1 to 3 people a night to your website, writing down the www address and going on and on about the free shipping, selection, etc. I just wanted to tell you how much I love Zappos. That's all. Thanks!" Adriane R., Mar 18, 2006

The Inspiration Article:

Consumers Want Free Return Shipping
February 28th, 2011 by Jim Tierney in Multi Channel Merchant
Consumers love free shipping promotions, and many have come to expect such offers from merchants...And return shipping policies may be just as important as free shipping offers, according to a survey conducted last fall....
...  found that 88% of respondents rated free return shipping as important, or very important when making a purchasing decision....
...“It’s extremely important for customers to be able to replicate the offline experience of walking back into a store, with item in hand, and returning it,” ... >>Continue Reading

My Rant: US Investors Need To Keep Their Eyes on the Ballooning Middle East Quagmire
Last week, I was listening off and on to CNBC during the day, and Aljazeera English online and it seemed clear to me that CNBC and other US news media outlets were under estimating the global business and economic upheaval (completely aside from the humanitarian atrocities)  in Lybia. In a crystal clear signal of the gravity of he ongoing civil war (and it is, make no mistake a Civil War) in Libya and more broadly the trending Revolution 2.0 in the Middle East Nations, U.S. Defense Secretary Gates feels it is necessary to rush 2 warships to the region  " give the president the broadest possible decision space". 

While CNBC commentators discuss the lastest quarterly earnings that have beat expectations, and the investing opportunities around the new iPad, they are completely missing the bigger global issues. One reporter even said something to the effect that she didn't want to have to "check in with what was going on with Libya every time she wanted to make a decision; what a foolishly isolationist view of the global economy. 

The Suez Canal (image: major issue that has been very under-reported is the new policy of the Egyptian government regarding the Suez Canal. Only a week after the successful overthrow of Hosni Mubarak Iranian Military vessels traveled through the Suez Canal for the first time. See related articles here and hereIn an 2009 Bloomberg article, it was reported that a terrorist plot to detonate explosives along the Suez Canal. An article published in Heat USA reported "...Any sort of attacks to the Suez Canal would have dire effects on the world economy; 4.7 percent of the world’s daily output of oil travels through the area. If the Suez were ever closed, ships trying to make it from the Middle East to Europe would have to travel around Africa to complete their journey. On top of delays in supply, the cost of shipping would also increase. As a result, the price of crude would surely skyrocket...." Who knows what the New Egypt will bring to the operations of the Suez canal, but it is definitely something to be concerned about, hedged against, and watched closely. (Related articles Suez Canal/SUMED Pipeline,  Suez Canal: Pipelines Were Terrorists' Targets,)

The Inspiration Article:Adding Up the Business Costs In Libya

March 3, 2011 from China Bystander
"...Beijing has now evacuated all Chinese nationals from the chaos of Libya, 35,860 people including Taiwanese, according to the foreign ministry. What is left behind is what looks like adding up to billions of yuan in business losses not just from the cost of evacuating staff but also from damaged property and disrupted contracts.
Most if not all of the 13 state-owned companies operating in the country have had facilities looted or destroyed. The commerce ministry has said 27 Chinese construction sites and work camps had been attacked in the first days of the unrest. Having evacuated all its employees, China Railway Construction Corp. has suspended its 28 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) of contracts, as has China State Construction Engineering Corp., which has 9 billion yuan of active construction contracts in Libya, and China Gezhouba Group which has 5.5 billion yuan of housing building contracts. China National Petroleum Corp., which has services and exploration but not extraction operations in Libya and whose facilities are among those that have come under attack, has also stopped all work there. >>Continue Reading

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