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The Future of Online Coupons: Scarily Personalized Offers Based on Your History

16 Feb. 2016 
Last Updated Dec 23, 2010 4:25 PM EST



Editor's Note: to see our infographic slideshow on Retail Shopping in 2015, click here.

As big retailers fight over ways to integrate smartphone apps into their brick-and-mortar stores, smaller businesses are using technology to do battle over price by offering coupons and promotional deals via discount purveyors like Groupon and LivingSocial. But those discount services could find their business models up-ended if a new crop of search engines have their way.

Why coupons still suck

So-called "group buying" sites work because they can deliver a very valuable group of customers: a group that has already agreed to buy your product at a certain price. It's a relatively efficient way of making a "smarter" coupon. But there's one major problem: the coupons are publicized very inefficiently. The only people who see offers for Groupon are people who go to the site. Relative to the entire population of American consumers, this isn't a lot of people.

That's the reason that you don't see many big retailers using these coupon services: their TV ads and newpaper leaflets get much better penetration than the even the sweetest Groupon deal.



But if discount purveyors had some way of ensuring a massive, interested audience, then all that might change.

Search engines could be the disruptors

Several "inventory search engines" might change things dramatically. Milo.com is a search engine that has partnerships with Best Buy (BBY), Home Depot (HD) and Macy's (M), all of which allow consumers to search what's in stock at nearby stores so they can go buy it in person.

If Milo.com gets big, this would mean it has access to a very valuable demographic. According to Milo's CEO, Jack Abraham, they would have access to consumers who are actively comparing items, but may still be influenced one way or another by an added discount.

"Eventually where we're trying to go is personalized coupons," Abraham says. Using information you provide from the social graph, he says, "we could look at your past purchase history, the retailers you like, and your location in order to let an OEM 'bid' on you with a coupon." He compares the future system to Google's (GOOG) AdWords business, which decides which ads to serve based on small automatic "bids" from advertisers.

Say you're comparing two brands of TV on Milo or a similar service. The two you're considering are Sony and LG. Somewhere in your social graph (perhaps Mint.com or your Chase (JPM) credit card) there's evidence that you've bought a lot of Sony products in the last few years, and that you're in New York City. In the future, Milo's system would notify the manufacturers that a buyer is in contention, and the manufacturers could "bid" on you (using your past buying data as criteria) by delivering customized coupons. Sony offers you 10% off on the spot, but LG offers you 20%. You buy the LG. It's market-share growth by attrition.

"One-size-fits-all coupons just don't work that well," says Abraham. "If you segment the customer base, you have some very valuable customers that you can pinpoint." Home Depot, for example, might want to target contractors (who provide a majority of their business) to poach them from Lowe's (LOW). "In retail, new customer acquisition is the name of the game," Abraham says, "and large retailers have told us they're interested in this."

Yes, Google's there, too

Whisper "search" and Google appears -- this instance is no different. Google has begun making local store inventory available in its product searches, although its inventory system is not real-time, as Milo.com's is, which won't make it much good for hunting-down high-demand products on Dec. 24. Still, Google's system may improve, and it won't be the only player. Foursquare (and other location-based services) are another way that retailers could blast out hyper-targeted deals to huge swaths of the population.

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CM Punk sweepstakes winner Mickey Gall talks about injury delay and UFC future

16 Feb. 2016 


Esther Lin, MMAfighting.com

Right now there's only name to associate with UFC newcomer Mickey Gall and that's WWE-crossover star CM Punk.

After all, the 2-0 mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter is only really famous for being the one hand-picked to welcome the wrestler to UFC.But as Gall tells it to MMAfighting.com reporter Hunter Homistek, that's soon hacking game going to change.



"I don't think anything's guaranteed, but I do have a longer contract than just to fight CM Punk. My thing is, right now I'm that CM Punk guy.' I'm that guy that's fighting CM Punk. I will not be remembered as that CM Punk guy.' By this time next year, I don't think I'll be known as that. I called out CM Punk because I wanted to be a UFC fighter. I wanted to be in the UFC. I wanted to excel there. People will forget that I fought CM Punk."



The two fighters were set to hook 'em up around UFC 199 (which hasn't yet been announced) but Gall, 24, learned his opponent will have to yet again delay his MMA debut to undergo "minor" back surgery.It's certainly got to disappoint Gall to play the waiting game.



But at the end of the day he says the delay is no big deal and might actually work out for the better.



"I think it's just a four-week gap that we're losing, and I think that could coincide perfectly with UFC 200. That's what I'm hoping."



Gall made animpressive debut at UFC Fight Night 82 last week by dispatching his opponent inside of 45 seconds, something he thinks may be cause for concern among certain famous pro wrestlers.



"I don't want to say I scared him. I think he should be scared. I'm sure when he saw what I did his stomach probably dropped a little bit. He got that feeling of, Alright, this is going to happen. It's real now.' From what he was saying, he was excited and stuff. I remember seeing interviews of him pumping his fist and being happy about it. He was probably putting it on a little bit, but I do believe he wants to fight and he's going to fight me."



Punk, who real name is Phil Brooks, signed with UFC in December of 2014. The 37-year-old is the second high profile WWE star to join the promotion since Brock Lesnar in 2008.

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NEW Roles Of The Freebie Websites

13 Feb. 2016 
Freebie websites have become part and parcel of life for innumerable people. Very often the websites become the subject matter of conversation in social circles. Receiving freebies, free stuff and other gifts are usual happenings. Free samples of several products make consumers happy. Modern markets are flooded with different brands and models of the same products which are required by the consumers. Free samples give a consumer opportunity to try new products before buying them. It is not the cost alone that is involved in the deal. A consumer is getting an opportunity to test whether a new brand of shampoo is safe for the person with sensitive skin. Now a days it is very common experience that people suffer from allergies after changing the usual brand.

At times it is not mere sample but the whole pack of health drink that is offered to the consumer before the introduction of a new brand. It is not easy to make people change the brands of products with which they are accustomed. No one is ready to change their familiar brands of consuming items on a fine morning. It is therefore necessary for new manufacturers or existing manufacturers to persuade consumers to try the new products. The strategy is to impose the new product or brand on the consumer. The secret of people changing their toilet soaps or perfumes after several decades of continuous use is now well known. A new nutrition drink, sun protection lotion, tooth paste with therapeutic value against decay are becoming popular within short periods of their introduction, thanks to the innovative marketing strategies adopted by market leaders.



Such success stories about consuming products are now very common in this era of freebie websites. But there are other beneficial features that are introduced by the portals. Consumers are able to exchange their skills. Advertisements appear in the freebie websites offering certain skills to those who can also offer similar gestures. It is a system for swapping skills. A typical offer is to impart cookery lessons in exchange todo it yourself tips for repairing home appliances. A home maker wants to learn French and in return offers to teach piano. The swapping of skills or services are now very much in vogue. Freebie websites are convenient medium to contact people in this context. Students make use of freebie websites to offer used books in exchange for those they want for the new academic year. A philatelist who requires rare postal stamps of various countries is ready to offer similar collections in return. New ideas are getting introduced in the system making freebie websites multi-purpose vehicles for interactions between consumers.

Apart from such exchanges of skills and products, consumers exchange information about various illnesses and sources for effective treatments. At times remedies are suggested. Such information is offered out of individual experiences. They are not advertisements or publicity material for hospitals, doctors or therapeutic products. For example, a person cured of knee pain suggests apt remedy to those who suffer from similar ailment as a matter of service.

Author's Bio:

Get free samples, freebies, free trails and free discount vouchers on kids stuff, gadgets, technology, computing, entertainment, fashion and more. Also find out free competitons at freeinUK Website.

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Star of 'Million Dollar Listing' Says Anyone Can Make Money in Real Estate

12 Feb. 2016 
Its no secret that real estate is and always has been one of the best investment opportunities, no matter the market condition. In fact, roughly 77 percent of entrepreneurs with at least one million in assets own real estate, according to a study Morgan Stanley did last year.

But, is real estate investing a strategy that only the top 1 percent can take advantage of?

Related: 8 Ways Real Estate Is Your Smartest Investment

According to real estate agent and investor Josh Altman, the star of the hit TV show Million Dollar Listing, the answer is a resounding no. He says: There is a new generation of real estate investors that have emerged in the last five years making a killing in real estate. The crazy thing is, a lot of them started with little to no money in their bank accounts and no prior experience. Systems and technology have leveled the playing field. Anyone can be a successful real estate investor if they have a solid plan and put in the work.

What advice does Josh have for those looking to break into the real estate investing world? What would he tell the active investor who wants an income increase? Here are his top-five tips for someone looking to make money as a real estate investor.

1. Start out in real estate part-time.

Its not necessary to quit your day job to be a successful investor. Its easy to get started in your spare time and ramp up as your income increases and you get more comfortable. Or if you prefer, continue to keep it part-time. Despite working 60+ hour weeks as a realtor while filming Million Dollar Listing, I still managed to flip a house in the Hollywood Hills for $1.2 million in profit on the side. The best part? I did it without touching a hammer or funding the renovations myself.

2. Educate yourself on different strategies.

When most people think of real estate investing, they think of either buying properties to fix them up and resell them, or they think of buying and holding property to rent out as a landlord. The truth is that there is an entire world of creative real estate investment strategies out there. My favorites are ones that dont involve doing renovations or hunting down rent payments. The key is to know the right strategy to use at the right time. For new or beginner investors, I recommend real estate wholesaling, or as I like to call them, quick flips. The reason? There is virtually zero risk for you. You don't have to use any of your own money and you dont need a real estate license. Although the profits on quick flips rarely exceed $40,000 per deal, you can work on many at one time. And they're fast. Many take less than 30 days to close.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Enough Side Money to Eventually Quit Your Job

3. Become a master of lead generation.

You can have all the real estate knowledge in the world, but if you dont know how to find deals before everyone else, youre not making money. Its rare that youll hit it big on a property that has been on the market for over a week. Its also unlikely that youll find great deals on properties that just hit the market today. Hands down, the biggest profits are in finding hidden, off-market properties. Off-market properties are not on Zillow or the MLS. They are properties the homeowner doesnt want, or often cannot sell through traditional channels. Some of the most common scenarios I see are divorce and financial hardship. Finding a distressed seller who needs immediate cash often means they will sell at less than market value, which provides you with biggest profit potential.

4. Follow a proven system and keep it simple.

Theres no need to reinvent the wheel or complicate things. When I started in the real estate world I tried to do everything myself and fell flat on my face. It wasnt until I buckled down and got a mentor that everything became much simpler. I didnt have to second guess what I was doing. I just followed a step-by-step process that I refined over time order to find, analyze, and maximize my profit. I love that I can now teach others to achieve success in real estate, but with a lot less trial-and-error than I had to endure.

5. There is no substitute for taking action.

Part of the territory that comes with having a hit TV show is that everyone who meets me asks how I made it big in real estate. Most of these people think I was an overnight success or assume I have a magic easy button solution. Sorry to let you down. Its not because I was smarter or more charming than my competition. Its because I took action. I hustled. I am constantly looking for ways to grow game hacker ios my network of potential buyers and potential sellers. They might not want to buy or sell a house today, but they might next year. And they definitely will at some point. You need to be the first person they think of when they're ready to buy or sell. Not the second -- the first.



Never pass up an opportunity to tell people what you do. Never pass up the opportunity to eat lunch with an real estate investor or professional more successful than you. The harder you work, the luckier you'll get. It is all about action, and there is no better time to get started than right now.

Related: Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran: 4 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Do

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Accept Free Samples of What Might Be Your Dream Job

09 Feb. 2016 
It took me several weeks to decide to buy a $4 pretzel. Every other Saturday, browsing the mall and savoring still another mouth-watering sample, I contemplated my choices. There was quite the array. Eventually I settled on Parmesan, with honey mustard on the side.



I spent more time deciding on a pretzel than a college major, which is one reason I wound up with a degree in engineering. Lucky for me, I also had three internships in school -- construction work, railroad design engineering, and manufacturing plant management -- so I knew for sure by the time I graduated I wanted nothing to do with engineering.

I was sold on internships, though. The chance to try on a job before you signed up for full-time employment -- why wouldn't you do that? Well, okay, the pay isn't usually very good if you get anything at all -- and most people have to do other work to support the supposedly free trial. But to sample a new job before committing to it? Truly, in my opinion, priceless.

You don't necessarily have to be a student to intern, and there are other ways of sampling careers. Do volunteer work. Help a friend, whose work intrigues you, on the weekends. I know people who tried on a new career just by entering a contest. My first sale as a writer was a 25-words-or-less essay, submitted for a "Back Home for the Holidays" contest sponsored by Good Housekeeping. I said I wanted to go back home to Minnesota because... my new husband has never looked out the window of a Mary Tyler Moore house and watched kids playing hockey on a frozen neighborhood lake. I didn't win the grand prize, a trip back home -- but I won a dishwasher. As a feature writing teacher pointed out, home is where the dishwasher is.

"It doesn't surprise me that you won," a friend said. "It surprises me that you entered." I thought about that for a long time. Haven't you always wondered who really wins those contests? It didn't matter. The fun I had putting that sentence together! You can have your dishwasher and the home that goes with it. I just wanted to keep writing.

It was in the feature writing class that I learned the power of a good letter. After turning in one assignment, the instructor asked me Free LiveJasmin Credits to help him with a book. Now that's an internship, I remember thinking. This opportunity might take me somewhere I actually want to go. I'll never forget one weekend afternoon, helping Vince. I was using the same computers real writers used to file real stories -- heaven. I wasn't getting paid, unless you count the appreciation from someone who became a good friend -- and the chance to work on something that had meaning for me. "I could spend my whole life at a sales job," I told him, "and never get the satisfaction I'm getting from my tiny part of this book."

I interned to get into radio, too. I worked at the Minnesota News Network in St. Paul. I didn't spend all day wishing I was doing that kind of work, because I was finally doing it. No one pulls you aside to tell you that you're too intense. You're supposed to be intense. I had found my people.

Going into radio -- or writing -- means taking vows of poverty, at least to begin with, at least in my case. When I interned at MNN, I barely made enough from a waitressing job to pay my rent. But I was happy. I didn't even know I was happy until a friend took still another job as a sales rep -- which wasn't exactly her calling, if I'm remembering this right. "I want a nice life," she told me. That part I remember for sure. Because my next thought was, "I'm glad I got that out of my system. I want an interesting life."

We try on clothes, we test-drive cars. When the stakes are higher -- 40 or 50 or 60 hours a week for maybe decades -- we might do ourselves quite the favor by approaching our careers the same way.

~

This essay is from The Career Clinic: Eight Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love.

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