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1-800-Flowers CEO Chris McCann At NRF: Voice Is The UI Of The Future

There is a “fifth way of change” in technology that is transforming retail discovery and shopping, Chris McCann, president and CEO of 1-800-Flowers, told the audience at the NRF Big Show this week.

The change he referred to is the role of Connected Intelligence and voice activation and digital assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Okay Google in spurring what he calls “conversational marketing,” And for 1-800-Flowers, it represents coming full circle.

In terms of outlining the path to voice search and conversational marketing, McCann pointed to three periods that have spanned 1-800-Flowers’ retail existence since it opened its first outlet in 1976: first there was the retail store, followed by the use of telephone delivery to bypass walking into a brick-and-mortar location.

The third wave was the web, and McCann touted 1-800-Flowers as opening one of the first e-commerce features on AOL in the 1990s.

The fourth wave of retail change is represented by the impact of mobile and social media and 1-800-Flowers reacted to that by being one of the first brands to launch artificial intelligence-powered bots on Facebook Messenger that allowed customers to transact through that heavily mobile social channel.

“As we all know, the customer is always in charge,” McCann said from the podium. “And it’s the customers who are leading us into these new technologies. It’s not us looking at the technology and saying, ‘We need to get involved in it.’”

1-800-Flowers’ AI-powered concierge.

Retail Tech’s Tipping Point

1-800-Flowers could also lay claim to be one of the first store brands to launch a voice-based application on Amazon’s Alexa platform. The idea was to get involved early and learn right along with its customers, McCann said, noting that company was fortunate that Amazon chose to feature 1-800-Flowers in one of its commercials promoting the Echo and Alexa.

“I think we’re at a tipping point, as technology companies like IBM, Google, Apple, and others that are developing these capabilities at ground breaking speeds,” McCann said. “And so it’s wise, based on the culture of our company. Why, back in 2016, we saw this world emerging and though it’s time to get involved as early as we possibly can.

“When we launched our bot, we were one of the first companies who were launching fully transactional bots in Facebook Messenger platform,” he said. “And why did we do that? Because they have over a billion active Messenger users. That’s where the consumer is choosing to spend time. They’re not necessarily coming to our website. They want to transact with us in Messenger. And we were fortunate that Mark Zuckerberg featured us in his F8 Conference that year, when they really announced Facebook’s personalized time bots.”

Two weeks after that, 1-800-Flowers debuted its own AI-powered concierge built on IBM’s Watson capabilities called “GWYN” (“Great acronym,” McCann said, saying it stands for “Gifts When You Need.”) Alexa is there to help with the top of the customer experience, such as helping to choosing the right product, for the right customer, for the right occasion, for the right time.”

Speeding Tickets Are Better Than Parking Tickets

In explaining 1-800-Flowers’ approach and philosophy about new technologies, McCann emphasized that mistakes do happen, but that it’s better to fail fast rather than move cautiously, since other brands will surpass you.

“We’re feeling the pressure to go even faster and faster, because I think mass adoption of these conversational commerce technologies is happening at a speed much faster than anything else we saw,” he said. “We think that mass adoption of these capabilities is happening in a span of about 18 months, so to stay in sync with our consumers we urge the people in our company, all of our team members, to get speeding tickets, not parking tickets.”

And so, with voice activation, 1-800-Flowers is back to where it started with taking telephone orders. “It all comes back to voice.”

“Our company a couple of years from now will look radically different than it does today, on how we interact and how we engage with our customers,” McCann said. “We’re leveraging AI technologies to deliver more personalized customer experience.

“We’re continuing to move the needle forward there. Voice is the UI of the future. You see studies now that show that Google’s voice recognition is at 95 percent or better on a better recognition rate. And with those technologies behind our marketing, we believe we’re in the midst of another transformation of our company.”

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The Ultimate SEO Glossary: 200+ Terms & Definitions for Google Success [Infographic]

Are you in the process of learning SEO? Do you struggle to understand some of the terminology used?

We share the ultimate glossary of SEO terms in this infographic.

It includes a definition of what SEO is in case you haven’t got that far yet, along with some common (and uncommon) terms you’ll hear along your SEO journey.

You’ll find out about the following search engines:

  • Google
  • Bing
  • Yahoo
  • Yandex
  • Baidu

And it will explain the following Google algorithm updates:

  • Hummingbird
  • Panda
  • Penguin
  • Pigeon
  • RankBrain

Check out the infographic for more detail.

The post The Ultimate SEO Glossary: 200+ Terms & Definitions for Google Success [Infographic] appeared first on Red Website Design Blog.

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Renovating in 2018? Cash-out Mortgage Refinancing Might Be the Best Way to Fund It

Renovating in 2018? Cash-out Mortgage Refinancing Might Be the Best Way to Fund ItIf you are a homeowner thinking about a significant home renovation in 2018, you have probably already considered your budget. As with any large project, you need to have the ability to pay the expected costs plus have a little bit extra set aside, just in case. The great news is that if you are a homeowner with a mortgage, you may qualify for cash-out refinancing, which can be a helpful way to leverage some of your home equity to cover renovation costs.

In today’s blog post we’ll explore the topic of cash-out refinancing and how this unique financial product can help to solve your budget woes.

What is Cash-Out Refinancing?

If you have never heard of it before, you are probably wondering exactly how cash-out refinancing works. In short, you refinance your existing mortgage into a new one while keeping the difference in cash. For example, if you have $100,000 left on your mortgage, but your home is worth $200,000, you might decide to refinance to $150,000. You will then be left with $50,000 in cash, which you can pull out to cover the cost of renovations or for other purposes.

Note that this is different from other forms of mortgage refinancing, which may or may not increase your total balance.

Some Of The Major Pros Of Cash-Out Refinancing

As you might imagine, there are significant pros to cash-out refinancing. If you decide to use the funds for renovation purposes, you are essentially using your mortgage to increase the value of your home. That is, of course, assuming you complete renovations which boost your home’s value!

Cash-out refinancing can also provide better or more stable interest rates than a loan or a home equity line of credit. This depends on a variety of circumstances, so be sure to check with your lender.

A Few Other Considerations To Keep In Mind

As with any financial product, there are some considerations to keep in mind. You may be extending the length of your mortgage, or refinancing to a different interest rate. You also can’t just walk in and sign for cash-out refinancing. There will be a process similar to the one that you went through when you got your current mortgage.

As you can see, cash-out refinancing is an excellent option for homeowners looking to use some of their home equity to finance other expenses. To learn more about this type of refinancing or to explore other mortgage options, contact us today. 

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61% of First-Time Buyers Put Down Less than 6%

61% of First-Time Buyers Put Down Less than 6% | Simplifying The Market

According to the National Association of Realtors’ latest Realtors Confidence Index, 61% of first-time homebuyers purchased their homes with down payments below 6% from October 2016 through November 2017.

Many potential homebuyers believe that a 20% down payment is necessary to buy a home and have disqualified themselves without even trying. The median down payment for all buyers in 2017 was just 10% and that percentage drops to 6% for first-time buyers.

Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas’ recent comments shed light on why buyer demand has remained strong,

“Looking into 2018, rent is expected to continue gaining. More widespread rent growth could mean home buying demands stay high, as renters who can afford it move away from the unpredictability of rising rents toward the relative stability of a monthly mortgage payment instead.”

It’s no surprise that with rents rising, more and more first-time buyers are taking advantage of low-down-payment mortgage options to secure their monthly housing costs and finally attain their dream homes.

Bottom Line

If you are one of the many first-time buyers who is not sure if you would qualify for a low-down payment mortgage, let’s get together and set you on your path to homeownership!

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Dunkin’ Donuts Goes Back To Its Local Roots For ‘Next Gen’ On-Demand Store Model

Dunkin’ Donuts has unveiled what it’s calling its “next generation store” in the city where it opened its very first location 68 years ago with new design elements that are meant to reflect the “on-demand’ expectations of its digitally connected customers.

The new 2,200 square-foot Quincy, Mass. location, just about one mile away from the original Dunkin’ Donuts location, includes the coffee chain’s first drive-thru exclusively for mobile ordering. It’s also the first of 30 or more new and remodeled Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants that will test variations of the new design this year.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ final new store design is expected to be unveiled once testing is complete. The Quincy store is also one of a select number of Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants testing new signage that refers to the brand simply as “Dunkin’.”

“The launch of our next generation concept store marks one of the most important moments in Dunkin’ Donuts’ growth as an on-the-go, beverage-led brand,” says Dave Hoffmann, president of Dunkin’ Donuts U.S. and Canada. “We have worked closely with our franchisee community to create a positive, energetic atmosphere for our guests that remains true to our heritage, while emphasizing and enhancing the unparalleled convenience, digital innovation and restaurant excellence that distinguishes Dunkin’.”

Dunkin’ Donuts “Store of The Future” Drive Thru — the chain’s first — in Quincy, Mass.

Dunkin’ On-Demand

The store is meant to reflect the on-demand focus that all major QSRs are rapidly adapting to. The coffee chain has been emphasizing its mobile focus for the past three years and so this can be viewed as the culmination of those initial efforts.

It also recognizes that the concepts of speed and loyalty have vastly changed in light of mobile ordering and discovery.

In particular, the challenges from the heavily mobile-oriented Starbucks has had a major impact on direct rivals like Dunkin’ Donuts, but also on more general QSRs like McDonald’s. By way of comparison, Dunkin’ Donuts has nearly 7,700 locations in the U.S. (and another 3,000-plus in other countries) while Starbucks has 17,009 outlets.

Aside from its regional U.S. concentration in the northeast,  Dunkin’ Donuts now has more than 7.5 million DD Perks members. The growth of the rewards program reflects a broader influence of social media and mobile payments in that, aside from building up points for discounts, the primary benefit for customers is simply a “better experience.”

In the case of a QSR chain like Dunkin’ Donuts, that means getting customers what they want quickly with as little friction as possible when it comes to paying.

And that’s the aim of the Dunkin’ Donuts’ “next gen” outlet, which boasts an open layout and more natural light to make the spaces more “breathable” and not just merely “efficient.”

The new store also previews the “fully-integrated digital kiosks” coming in 2018, where guests will choose to order with or without the help of a store staffer.

Dunkin’ Donuts has also introduced an area dedicated to mobile pickups, so that members of the DD Perks Rewards program who order ahead via Dunkin’s Mobile App can get in and out of the restaurant faster than ever before. Guests will be able to track the status of their orders placed for pickup inside the restaurant via a new digital order status board.

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101 Stats to Guide Your Social Media Marketing Strategy in 2018 [Infographic]

Are you considering using social media to promote your business in 2018? Need some facts and figures to help you form and execute your strategy?

CoSchedule share 101 stats you need to know in this infographic.

Here are a few that standout:

  • 88% of businesses are using social media
  • 96% of people that talk about your brand online don’t follow it
  • 91% of social media users are accessing social channels via mobile devices

Check out the infographic for more stats.

The post 101 Stats to Guide Your Social Media Marketing Strategy in 2018 [Infographic] appeared first on Red Website Design Blog.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 16, 2018

Last week’s economic releases on inflation, core inflation, and retail sales. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Inflation and Retail Sales Ease in December

Consumer prices fell from November’s reading of 0.40 percent growth to o.10 percent growth in December, which matched expectations. The Core Consumer Price Index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, dropped to 0.30 percent from November’s growth rate of 0.40 percent. Analysts expected a Core CPI reading of 0.20 percent for December.

Retail sales were lower in December as compared to November’s reading of 0.90 percent growth month-to-month; December’s retail sales grew by 0.40 percent. Core retail sales, which excludes automotive sales grew by 0.40 percent in December as compared to November’s growth rate of 0.90 percent. Analysts expected retail sales to increase by 0.50 percent. Retail sales excluding automotive sales also grew by 0.40 percent as compared to an expected reading of 0.30 percent and November’s growth rate of 1.30 percent.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported higher average mortgage rates last week with rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaging four basis points higher at 3.99 percent. Mortgage rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage were six basis points higher at an average of 3.44 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was one basis point higher at an average of 3.46 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims rose to 268,000 filings as compared to 248.000 new claims expected and 258,000 new jobless claims filed the prior week. Last week’s new jobless claims.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic releases include readings from the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued and a report on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan.

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Wondering If You Can Buy Your First Home?

There are many people sitting on the sidelines trying to decide if they should purchase a home or sign a rental lease. Some might wonder if it makes sense to purchase a house before they are married and have a family, others might think they are too young, and still, others might think their current income would never enable them to qualify for a mortgage.

We want to share what the typical first-time homebuyer actually looks like based on the National Association of REALTORS most recent Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers. Here are some interesting revelations on the first-time buyer:

Wondering If You Can Buy Your First Home? | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

You may not be much different than many people who have already purchased their first homes. Let’s meet to determine if your dream home is within your grasp.

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How Voice And Audio Have Become The New ‘Touch’

Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and the voice-first revolution have the potential to redefine how fans discover and experience music, as well as related brand experiences — and this shift is happening today, not in the distant future.

But according to Susan Panico, SVP of strategic solutions at Pandora, what marketers really need to focus on is how human intelligence can scale artificial intelligence — not the other way around.

“[Marketers] have to remember that there isn’t really a more personal geo-location than [someone’s] home, right?” Panico said. “And as more people adopt a connected home devices, it’s really important for marketers to think about that you’re in a very intimate environment.”

GeoMarketing: We all like to play with VR headsets, but what have you seen at CES that’s really affecting your business at Pandora? And, in a broader sense, what do marketers then need to know about these trends?

Susan Panico: One of the biggest trends isn’t even really a trend — it’s here and now: Voice. We’re really seeing everything being controlled with voice, and audio becoming the new touch.

And, for Pandora, we’re now on 2,000 connected devices because we want to make sure that people can get their music wherever they are. We’ve also seen tremendous growth in [listening] on voice activated speakers: We have 300 percent year-over-year growth there.

But what becomes really interesting is — when you think about all those buzz words of AR, and AI — for us it’s a lot more about human intelligence, and how that human intelligence can scale artificial intelligence.

And the implication of all of this as a marketer is, well, I don’t think that there’s any more personal geo-location than your home. Right? And as more people adopt a connected home devices, it’s really important for marketers to think about that you’re in a very intimate environment.

There’s a lot of co-listening opportunity, and the way that you speak to people has to be very authentic and very natural, and it becomes a lot more important to think about “what’s your sonic identity?” What’s the sound of the brand? What’s the voice that you’re going to use to talk to? Just think about the things that you do in your home, or apartment — you don’t want that experience to be jarring. You don’t want someone shouting to you like you’re on the radio, and you want something that’s a lot more contextual, connected, authentic, and natural.

So it’s interesting because so many marketers think about what their visual representation is, and now they really need to start thinking about their sonic representation.

You’ve been evolving a bit at Pandora. What trends do you see in how people are listening to their music, and how has that changed since Pandora launched? What are you thinking about in terms of taking the company forward?

What’s really interesting is that we sit on about a billion data points a day. Not only do we get people’s age, and zip code, and that sort of data through registration, but they’re persistently logged in all the time — so we’re able to see and match that behavior. Also, what’s become really interesting [determining] the ideal time to serve an ad.

No two Pandora stations are alike, right? My station wouldn’t be the same as your station because of how you thumb up and thumb down. And what we’ve seen from an advertiser or brand standpoint is that when you interrupt that listening experience is just as important as what the actual message is itself.

All that data and  intelligence that we’ve taken around serving up the next perfect song that is going fit what you’re wanting to listen to is just as important when it comes to when and how you serve up the ad.

For example, a lot of young people, younger millennials, they take a lot of time to settle into what they want to listen to. They’re changing stations around; you don’t want to interrupt them during that time. Whereas people like myself, who are the Gen X side, they know exactly what they want to listen to.

So, all of that science informs what we do. It’s not about just the data points; it’s about the human on the other side.

What kind of ads or brand experiences on Pandora have been most successful or compelling, in your mind?

Well, audio is the primary media platform that we use, of course, but one thing that we’ve seen that’s been really interesting over last year is this idea of value exchange. A lot of brands giving the gift of an experience, or of some kind of value, in exchange for time spent listening. And what we’ve seen is that in exchange for watching a 15 second ad ,or interacting with an ad, that you can give an hour of uninterrupted listening, you can give more skips — and then, with our premium access, is you could get on-demand tracks in a free experience.

That’s been a really powerful platform for us, particularly with multi-tiered service that we have for all sorts of listeners.

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Not on the First Page of Google? 21 SEO Mistakes Destroying Your Website [Infographic]

Are you trying, but failing, to get your site on the first page of Google? Want to know if you’re making avoidable mistakes in your SEO strategy?

SEO Jury share 21 SEO mistakes to avoid, and what to do instead, in this infographic.

The mistakes are broken down into the following categories:

  • Content
  • Image optimisation
  • Meta descriptions
  • Title tags
  • Links
  • H1 tags
  • Mobile
  • Page

Check out their infographic for more detail.

The post Not on the First Page of Google? 21 SEO Mistakes Destroying Your Website [Infographic] appeared first on Red Website Design Blog.

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