Designing an Effective Case Study to Help Tell Your Story

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Everybody loves a good story, and that thought is not just a popular line of prose. It’s a truth based in science. A group of Princeton University neuroscientists have found that stories activate sensory centers in our brains. “Communication is a shared activity resulting in a transfer of information across brains. The findings shown here indicate that during successful communication, speakers’ and listeners’ brains exhibit joint, temporally coupled, response patterns.” It is concluded that when a listener hears a well-told story, their brain reacts as if they are experiencing it in person. It is as if humans are pre-programmed to tell and share stories with one another. The basis for the success of many public speeches is the case the presenter incorporates within the content, and while a well-told joke can draw attention to the story, it is the well-told story that delivers on the message.

In marketing we are all about attracting customers for our business and our clients’ businesses. Case studies are investigations of real-life scenarios and experiences of individuals, groups or organizations. Real or perceived, an effective case study can help produce increased leads for B2B companies. Kristie Ritchie, VP of marketing at Upshot, says that case studies should be crafted anytime a marketer or company tries something new or innovates the brand, product or its approach. “Really, anything can be turned into a case study if you have the right information and story,” she says.

However, developing an effective case study can be a complex process that requires a strategy for focusing on an organization’s specific skills and experiences that catch the interest and attention of targeted consumers. “Case studies are meant to mirror the diversity of customers to make it easier for customers to see themselves or their use case,” says Sam Balter, senior marketing manager at HubSpot.

The process of developing an effective case study begins with the strategy. Determine the purpose around a specific targeted consumer audience and find an example where the details parallel the goals of that specific market segment. Know all there is to know about the market’s wants and needs and tailor the message around the most prominent solution. Back up the story line with facts; credibility is paramount if the receiver of the communication is to have confidence in the story’s claims.

Select a format that adequately supports the story’s premise and the facts of the case. Use charts, infographics and podcasts where appropriate. Keep in mind that that everyone comprehends messages differently. Make the supporting documentation easy to find and comprehend, utilize bold text, italics and bulleted lists to break up rambling text.  Be concise and get to the point quickly. Err on the side of brevity. Shoot for a great short story, not an unabridged novel. Stay on the message and be flexible. Be prepared to fine-tune the message and the format in order to make necessary adjustments to original assumptions. Tell the whole story including the ugly parts. Few readers will believe a perfect story that is without errors and challenges experienced along the way. Challenges overcome shows the communicator’s ability to navigate around initial failures to find success for customers.

People like to read and learn from others’ experiences, whether successful or failures. A well told and structured story about a case study can make the reader feel as though they are part of the plot and create confidence in the author’s abilities in a way that will make potential customers become ideal customers.

Junction Creative Solutions believes an effective content strategy adds value to our client’s business goals and objectives. Call 678-686-1125 today to learn how our experienced team of professionals are uniquely qualified to help you tell your story.

Mobile-First Indexing and Why it is Time to Optimize Your Onsite Presence

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It’s one of those announcements that can easily be missed if you don’t have a better than average understanding of the technical aspects of how your website works. In the dynamic world of digital marketing, rapid changes to how customers receive and respond to marketers’ messages come and go on a seemingly daily basis, but while new tech introductions may come about quickly, the full impact of their introduction may evolve over time. Google recently announced that beginning July 1, 2019, mobile-first indexing will become the default for all new web domains. For quite some time now, users have been moving away from desktop computers and gravitating towards using mobile devices to access the internet. According to Google, more searches are now performed on mobile than on desktop.

Other studies indicate that up to 70 percent of emails are opened from mobile devices and at least 78 percent of smartphone users and 70 percent of tablet users report performing at least one search per day on mobile devices. It is clear, to remain relevant, all content must be mobile-optimized. Creating content that is optimized for mobile will improve site performance, result in users spending more time on a website and increase page views and conversions. Creating a strong user experience that optimizes content delivery over mobile devices may require some fundamental modifications to an existing site.

Make sure all videos are high-quality and closely cropped to maximize detail, even when resized to fit a smaller screen. Content should be scrollable and easily navigated by mobile users. Avoid the “fat finger- small button” syndrome. Buttons should be large enough to be comfortable to a user and just efficient enough to accommodate smaller mobile screen sizes.

To make great mobile-friendly forms, short and sweet trumps long and comprehensive. Long paragraphs can be cumbersome and frustrating to mobile users, so keep prose short and concise. Automating forms will make them easier for users and use responsive templates for all forms and emails. Prioritize the placement of information so users can easily find the content that is most relevant to them quickly.

For desktop-only sites, Google’s mobile first decision will have little or no effect. The majority of digital customers have already left the station aboard the mobile train.  A fixed digital internet presence has no chance for success to connect with an ever-mobile consumer.

To learn more about the impact of Google’s mobile-first decision on your digital marketing presence and how your message can better connect with today’s consumers on the move, call Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) today at 678-686-1125.

Is Your Website 508 or ADA Compliant?

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We’re all accustomed to playing a game by a set of rules designed to establish an order of fairness. Each player follows a common set of regulations to ensure inclusion of all who share the field of participation. Being a champion in any community endeavor mandates that the actions taken to achieve success do not come at the exclusion of others from the community. The American Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a sweeping set of rules developed and implemented to grant access and inclusion to all members of society, eliminating artificial barriers to anyone suffering from mental or physical maladies who wish to participate in the most fundamental aspects of life.

Companies have come to realize the impact that compliance with the ADA and a plethora of other relative satellite guidelines have on their operations and how important adherence can be to their success. Making all physical and digital resources available to everyone with disabilities, while not specific to the original mandates of the ADA, is covered by a peripheral set of standards. Known as 508 compliance, the rules establish a few specific core principles of website design and function to insure unobstructed access to all governmental services by those with disabilities. While the regulation applies mainly to governmental websites, the standards are being implemented across the spectrum of commerce across the internet.

508 Compliance is based on a few foundational principles focused on providing “overall ease of use for webpages and mobile applications by removing barriers and enabling more people to successfully complete tasks.” Included are site functionality such as mouse functions, text alternatives, video and image transcripts. Compliance requires a website be highly readable and any use of color must be defined for the screen reader. Colors must be “web safe” and no CSS commands should change the browser’s native display such that a screen reader cannot translate it. Strict adherence to the standards can be complex and relatively expensive to develop and maintain. leaving many companies to ponder the costs and question the necessity to comply.

For websites routinely attracting users with disabilities or those sites mandated by law to comply, the answer to 508 compliance is simple. However, mainstream sites are also beginning to embrace adherence to the standards as well. With an estimated 48.9 million Americans living with disabilities, participation can make for enlightened business sense. An average 13.2 million people in the United States have at least one disability that Section 508 covers. Avoiding potential unrecognized legal costs and public erosion to brand identity is also motivating many organizations to seek compliance with their web presence.

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) has experience implementing ADA compliance initiatives for our clients, as well as providing for the proper annual registration.  Junction offers a website technology that complies with the WCAG2.1 and keeps your website accessible at all times.  Our team is able to analyze and decipher all of your website elements and activate an accessibility via the interface.  Website are monitored daily so that your website maintains its certification.

Contact our sales team to learn more about our ADA and 508 Compliance technology for existing websites and new websites.  Call 678.686.1125!

Instagram is Evolving into a Legitimate Ecommerce Platform

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Launched in 2010, Instagram allows users to upload and manipulate photos and videos and share them with other pre-approved users. Immediately popular, Instagram has grown to include one billion registered users in 2019. Acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram has a history of continuous improvement that has led it to create influencer marketing, an opportunity for businesses to sell directly to consumers through a network of independent influencers. Now a $2 billion industry, authentic influencer marketers are on the verge of even greater impact on sellers’ ability to target and connect with specific market segments. 

Facebook is rapidly advancing the introduction of new features that will permit an expansion of commerce over the Instagram app.  While shoppable product tags have been available on Instagram for several years, the app will soon be able to offer users the ability to shop and buy merchandise through Instagram Checkout without ever leaving the app. Shopping directly on Instagram provides considerable opportunities for increased monetization. One analyst estimates shopping on Instagram is a $10 billion opportunity. With more than 800 million active users, Instagram is the platform of choice for influencer marketing. Shopping will likely expand as the company rolls out the new features that compliment Instagram Checkout.

Beginning this year in addition to Checkout, Instagram is introducing a new camera, a new Donation Sticker for raising money on Instagram Stories and is initiating increased security with the introduction of “Hiding Counts” and” Away Mode”. Creator Profiles are on the horizon as the app continues to improve functions across the space.

More than two-thirds of North American retailers use some form of influencer marketing and more than half of all retailers spend at least 10% of their marketing budget on influencer marketing. Instagram’s new features play into marketers’ confidence in the channel. Eighty percent of sellers find influencer marketing effective and nearly 90 percent say the return on investment is compatible with or better than other channels.

Twenty-three brands have been chosen by Instagram to be the first to test out Instagram Checkout, including: Adidas, Burberry, Dior, H&M, MAC Cosmetics, Kylie Cosmetics, Nike, Prada, Uniqlo and Zara. The cost to vendors of Instagram Checkout is still unknown and the app still has to comply with Facebook founders’ new “privacy focused model” mandate, but the new feature will certainly become a favorite of ecommerce businesses.

Compelling Website Elements Can Motivate Your Viewers to Take Action

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Have you ever clicked on a website to search for information about a company and found yourself not knowing where to go or what to do next to secure the solution you were looking for? The dilemma is not unusual. Many landing pages (first page of a website), while artfully constructed and visually pleasing, fail to adequately satisfy visitors’ desire for additional information and motivate them to take action.

While there may be numerous objectives of a website, the ultimate goal of any ecommerce site is to generate revenue and to sell a product, idea or service. Alterative objectives, such as email opt-ins, trial offers, attracting social media followers or sharing a piece of content, are also important and may require the visitor to take multiple, individual actions. Converting searchers into customers requires detailed attention to some basic compulsory elements of design and messaging in order to compel searchers to remain connected and take the desired next move.

A successful “call to action” (CTA) never leaves the first or next move up to the visitor. To be heard over all the background noise of the internet, the CTA must be persuasive, compelling, concise and focused on the action you want them to take. Jared Spool, founder of UIE, writes: “Trigger words are the words and phrases that trigger a user into clicking. They contain essential elements to provide the motivation to continue with the site.”

Messaging should be convincing, draw attention to a few important and specific details and be in first person. The use of first person in the content can result in a 90 percent increase in converting searchers into followers. Focus content on the high points and keep it simple. Too much information at this point can confuse and frustrate the visitor and push them leave the site in search of another. Minimize choices, as too many options will paralyze the reader. In short, make an offer and ask for the sale. The “call to action” is the most important content on a landing page!

Visual elements are critical to welcoming the visitor and encouraging them to advance in the direction you want them to go. Experienced chefs know that diners eat with their eyes first. If they find their meal visually pleasing, they then will move on to the tasting aspect. Action buttons should be bold, prominent, visually dominate and in a position on the page that the viewer would expect to find them. Contrasting colors will grab viewers’ attention and motivate them into making the next move. They should be large enough to command the most attention on the page. Even the most creative and compelling messaging will be lost to small, unnoticed action buttons. 

While the average conversion rate of websites vary across industry, the median conversion rate of landing pages is 2.35 percent. Websites that continuously optimize of the landing page achieve three to four times the average. Focusing on creating a landing page that utilizes a few compelling elements will make your site stand out above all the rest and increase the number of converts from visitors to customers. For more information about how Junction can help you create effective CTAs, call 678-686-1125.

Marriott is Positioning to Fend-Off a Challenge from Airbnb

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Typically, major players in an industry are not pioneers into uncharted and untested niche territories; territories that promise to disrupt the status quo of long proven performances and produce huge revenues and “cash-cow” models that make C-suite executives and stockholders giddy. An atmosphere of invulnerability supported by decades of dominance in an industry has torpedoed many once dominate brands. Does anyone remember Kodak? Likewise, tobacco companies dismissed burgeoning e-cigarette marketers until they realized the potential threat to their nicotine delivery dominance. Perhaps due to a similar perceived threat, Marriott International is announcing its entry into a home rental market niche that will feature 2,000 “premium and luxury homes” in more than 100 locations in the US, Europe, Caribbean, and Latin America.

The new brand effort, called “Homes and Villas by Marriott International”, will collaborate with property management companies around the world to make private residences available to customers seeking upscale residences for business and personal travel accommodations. The effort appears to be in response to Airbnb’s launch of Airbnb Plus, which features high-end listings with strict hotel-like benefits. Marriott’s new plan infringes on Airbnb efforts, but doesn’t completely compete with it in every way. Homes & Villas will have minimum three-night stays, with prices ranging from $200 – $10,000 per night.

Airbnb offers mostly single-room accommodations from a menu of 6 million listings, primarily privately-owned properties. Its target market is mostly budget-minded travelers who would prefer staying in a hotel but can’t afford the higher costs. In comparison, while Marriott operates 7,000 properties in 130 countries, its entry into Airbnb territory offers just 2,000 selections. Still, many industry experts see Marriott’s move as proof that the hospitality industry leader is feeling the heat from Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. “People stay at different hotels for different trip purposes,” Stephanie Linnartz, the global chief commercial officer at Marriott. “Home sharing is another offering.”

If Marriott is to be successful in its attempt to stall Airbnb’s progress into its territory, it will need to figure out a way to ensure delivery of the same high-end quality of product and service that the company is known for. Working with outside property managers who represent independent property owners poses a challenge to maintaining the brand image. Will Marriott’s management be able to effectively enforce the demanding processes that have resulted in the brand’s lofty image?

Perhaps a better question is whether Airbnb, best known for its credibility in low-cost, hostel-type accommodations, will be able to make inroads into an upscale hospitality environment dominated by a long-standing leader in the high-end market niche. Either way, it is refreshing to see an accomplished industry player respond to a credible challenge to its market dominance. Experience has demonstrated that size, market position and dominance is not guaranteed to any player.

Keep Your Collaborators Close and Your Most Damaging Competitors Even Closer

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Perhaps the most inconvenient aspect of shopping online is returning an item that failed to meet expectations. Repacking and taking the unwanted item to a shipping location is often inconvenient, time consuming and expensive. Amid all the fanfare about how online sellers are eating brick and mortar retailers for lunch, a surprising partnership between one of the nation’s leading, traditional department store chains and online giant Amazon is attracting a great deal of attention.

Beginning in July, if you buy something on Amazon and want to send it back, Kohl’s will take the unwanted item off your hands and return it to Amazon for you. The department store chain has announced that it will accept Amazon returns at all of its 1,150 stores. Kohl’s says it will accept “eligible Amazon items, without a box or label, and return them for customers for free.” The program is an expansion of a pilot program introduced at Kohl’s stores in the Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee markets in 2017. “Amazon and Kohl’s have a shared passion in providing outstanding customer service, and this unique partnership combines Kohl’s strong nationwide store footprint and omnichannel capabilities with Amazon’s reach and customer loyalty,” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said. She added that this is part of the company’s bigger plan to “drive traffic” to stores and “bring more relevance” to shoppers.

Kohl’s predicts the partnership with Amazon will help attract consumers and get them to  buy something while in store to return an unwanted Amazon purchase. As a result of the pilot program in Chicago, Kohl’s reported a 9% increase in new customers and increased sales volume in stores participating in the program. Shares of Kohl’s Corp. soared nearly 12% after the announced expansion of the program.

The brick and mortar retailer also announced plans to carry Amazon products in more than 200 of its stores. The moves are seen as an attempt to respond to the decline in traditional retail sales brought on by consumers trending towards online purchasing. Forming a partnership with your biggest competitor could be akin to keeping your collaborators close and your most damaging competitors even closer.

It is also a good example of how the survival of traditional retailers is dependent on creating a positive experience for consumers who have abandoned the Malls and embraced online shopping. If brick and mortar sellers are to survive, they will need to reevaluate their marketing strategies, form mutually beneficial partnerships and focus on doing the things for customers that the competition is unwilling or unable to do.  This partnership will set the example for others to follow!

Junction Reaches Its 10 Year Anniversary

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Starting a business is the dream of many. The vision of creating an environment where unrestrained creativity, innovation, and personal opportunity abounds is too much for hundreds of thousands of dreamers to resist each year. It is estimated that by 2020, 27 million Americans will leave the workforce every year to pursue the dream of self-employment. While a vast majority of new businesses survive the first year, the longer-range outlook is a bit more sobering. On average, nearly half of all businesses will fail to survive their fifth-year anniversary and 30% will survive 10 years.  These statistics routinely fail to staunch the inherent optimism of budding entrepreneurs.

April 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). An explosive combination of passion and grit, Junction has grown to serve more than 325 brands since its launch and has become an award-winning strategic agency committed to creating high-impact solutions for SMB’s and Fortune 500 companies. While rankings and recognition are important in this highly-competitive industry, Junction’s persistent focus is on delivering superior performance. The Junction team is passionate about driving exceptional results for clients. An unrelenting pride in our work has resulted in Junction being recognized as a top design firm with industry awards on the shelf.

“It feels like just yesterday we had reached the 7-year mark! As we achieve this 10-year anniversary, I reflect on the path that we have taken to arrive at this milestone,” commented Julie Gareleck, founder, CEO and Managing Partner of Junction. “The path to success isn’t a straight line. We’ve navigated and thrived in what was considered the worst economic climate, adapted to changes in technology, and tirelessly worked to deliver a positive impact to our clients.”  

It is imperative to remain passionate about the work and to implement the lessons learned along the way to ensure future growth for any organization.  “Regardless of the circumstance, I continue to learn from the challenges and triumphs.  We are a better organization today as a result of those lessons.”

When asked about the growing team at Junction, Gareleck feels very fortunate to have amazing individuals and team players on her team. “I am humbled by the efforts of the Junction team for without them, this business would not operate.  As a CEO, I strive to surround myself with individuals who drive greater value in the areas that I am the weakest.  Their unwavering dedication to our clients and this business are what propels this business forward,” says Gareleck. “I also have gratitude for our clients who have trusted us with their business and initiatives.  It’s rewarding to see that our work has impacted more than 325 companies, each with unique needs that give us the opportunity to drive value.”

The challenges for businesses in this competitive and disruptive environment are unrelenting. As Junction’s portfolio continues to expand, the breadth of our expertise managing and executing multi-faceted, integrated strategies and solutions expands. For those organizations that continue to innovate and focus their efforts on building a long-term, customer-centric culture, the future can promise to be bright for decades to come.

To learn more about what is happening across industry, visit our notebook to reference  thought leadership that Junction’s team has been publishing for the last decade!

A Little Mystery and Intrigue Accompanies Apple Card Introduction

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Flashy introductions touting world shattering, high-tech, gee whiz, holy cow demonstrations of almost magical performance have been the typical approach of Apple when revealing their newest products. The flash of the reveal has consistently been trumped only by loyal consumers’ responses. The recent introduction of Apple’s foray into the financial services sector was expected to be received with the typical enthusiasm awarded to past product introductions, but the initial response has fallen short of expectations. Perhaps it is the usual, ho-hum response typically afforded product introductions from the financial industry. Let’s face it, financial products generally are not described as sexy and disruptive.

Apple’s long-awaited introduction of the “Apple Card” made its debut with the company’s usual flare and promise. The effort is a partnership with Goldman Sachs, who is making its first offering in the credit card world, and MasterCard. Apple Card is built into the Apple Wallet app on iPhone, offering customers a familiar experience with Apple Pay and the ability to manage their card right on iPhone. While Apple is playing up the card’s benefits of no annual or late fees, no over the limit fees or international surcharges, the card’s cash back features have been described as underwhelming by critics and early consumers. The interest rates, dependent upon a cardholder’s qualifications, appear to be in-line with the current financial industry’s best offerings. The card does not contain a credit card number, expiration date or CVV security code, instead featuring facial and touch identity capabilities. The card is tied to Apple Pay, a service that lets people load banking information and pay in store or use it for purchases online. It works globally where Apple Pay is accepted, lets users track spending in the Wallet app, and focuses on transaction privacy.

But the new offering may be destined to receive a similar response from consumers as Apple Pay. First introduced five years ago, Apple Pay has struggled to capture a modest two percent of the credit transaction market dominated by MasterCard and Visa.  “It’s just easier to use card payments,” said Harshita Rawat, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. “Mobile payments need to evolve their value proposition to get consumers to switch from their plastic card payments. This new offering Apple Card is a step towards that but it needs to evolve even further.” Apple appears to be banking on the new Apple Card and the “Z” generation to boost Apple Pay acceptance. Jeff Fromm, author of “Marketing to Gen Z” and a partner at agency Barkley, says, “Gen Z is going to ‘hashtag’ Apple love this card.”

Whether on a revolutionary or evolutionary path, the Apple Card is already having an impact on the established players in the credit card market. Competitors are investigating advantages like privacy protection, no card numbers and advanced security features. And while credit cards may not be sexy, there is a certain amount of cool factor to the Apple Card for all those loyal Apple fans. “Although the Apple card’s rewards aren’t too exciting, it might bring more value to its already loyal customers in the form of convenience and security,” says Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at finance site WalletHub. “When using the card via Apple Pay, users will quickly be able to see where and how they spend their money without the use of a third-party app.”

For Apple, the journey into a field less traveled and experienced contains more than a little mystery and intrigue. Will the brand’s magical touch of the past be repeated? It appears that even for a veteran like Apple, only time will tell.

Look Out! After Some Tweaking, Subscription Service Might Just Work Here

Once the relatively sole purview of magazines, cable TV and book of the month clubs, subscription business models are now popping up all over. Software, once purchased and installed on one computer at a time and repurchased when a new version became available, is quickly being replaced by monthly subscriptions. Ownership of the product remains with the provider and access is subscribed to consumer users over time. The expansion of subscription service is being driven mainly by advances in technology where barriers to forming and maintaining ongoing consumer/marketer relationships are eased or eliminated.

For a monthly fee, consumers can now contract with providers for everything from personal care, fitness, movies and entertainment to financial services. Many believe that the larger market is seeing the beginning of the end of personal ownership. A McKinsey report found that the value of online subscriptions rose from $57 million in 2011 to $2.6 billion in 2016. While the subscription e-commerce market has grown by more than 100% percent a year over the past five years, the growth of the model has been accompanied by a significant amount of trial and error and as much pain as gain.

With subscription business models, revenue is generated from individual customers making recurring payments for continued access to a good or service over an extended period of time. The challenges to success are many, but matching customer demand for utilization with a price for the service is perhaps the most critical calculation. MoviePass, the subscription movie ticket upstart, paid each movie theaters’ full price for their subscribers’ tickets. The price was predicated on estimating how many times each month customers would utilize the service. When it was discovered that 15 % of customers were visiting theaters more than what was predicted each month, the difference between projections and reality resulted in a $147 million loss for the emerging business. Getting the price right is critical.    

If the price isn’t perceived by the consumer to be a good value then the service will fail to launch. However, set the price too low and sustainability and growth of the provider company will be elusive at best. Ultimately pricing should be flexible enough to respond to unanticipated volatility in demand and new competitive market entrants. Longer term pricing rates will provide opportunity to level market demand over time and give providers more time to form stronger connections with individual customers. Building strong, ongoing customer relationships are important to every business but are particularly critical to subscription services where referral from family and friends generates three to five times higher conversion rates than any other channel of marketing.

Subscription service, once thought to be nothing more than a threat to profit margins by many traditional business model executives, is finding converts even among the most skeptical. The trend appears to be gravitating towards each brand offering their own unique pricing plan rather than third party player offerings across multiple brands. The rate of acceptance and transition also is dependent upon the maturation of consumers, particularly among those who still find comfort in one-time payment for ownership. As the fine-tuning continues in delivery and more consumers cross the divide between traditional ownership to shared usership, it is likely that subscription services may just find their way into every imaginable type of product or service business. Just another case where fundamental market disruption results in the demise of the “it won’t work here” premise.