Have We Turned the Corner? Protecting Online Consumer Privacy

“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. … And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. That should be a bipartisan effort.” ─ President Barak Obama 2015 State of the Union

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If online privacy advocates began 2015 inspired by President Obama’s emphasis toward concrete legislative action to curb excessive corporate data collection, recent legislative progress on initiates that have lingered since 2011, have heartened them and online consumers both in the United States and European Union.

In the United States, Senators Blumenthal (CT) and Ed Markey (MA) introduced last week, the Do Not Track Online Act of 2015. This most recent version of do-not-track federal legislation, first introduced in 2011, seeks to direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish new regulations regarding the collection and use of personal data obtained by tracking online behaviors. Under bill provisions, the FTC will have one year to develop a universal Do Not Track opt-out mechanism consumers can invoke to prevent companies from collecting personal information, except for limited collection subject to erasure, when that data is directly needed to provide a requested service. The bill also provides that all user data collection consent processes be clear about the purpose and uses for that data collection. Senator Markey noted, “Every online click consumers make provides a detailed and private picture of their personal lives, and American should have control over the collection and use of this personal, sensitive information.”

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Across the Atlantic Ocean, the European Union (EU) Parliament and Council of EU has concluded 3-years of law writing negations, through the informal agreement to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) final draft, expected to become the global gold standard for consumer privacy, upon expected final adoption and 2 year phase-in. The new legal standard requires companies to obtain consumer consent opt-in before collecting personal data, subject to fines of as much as 4% of revenues for non-compliance. Large international technology companies like Google and Facebook, could have substantially higher penalties in the millions of euros under the new law. Individual EU countries will have a flexible children’s protected-age standard they can adopt, that ranges between ages 13 to 16. Protected private information under the GDPR includes online IDs, along with any broad factors specific to the individual’s physical, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identify. Consumer consent standards require that consent must be freely given, specific, informed and constitute an unambiguous indication of the user’s wish to, either by statement or by a clear affirmative action, agree to the processing of his or her personal data while providing the right to request erasure without undue delay.

This definitive progress in protecting online user privacy is especially important looking toward 2016, since consumer privacy concerns have escalated due to major cyber hacks this year, ranging from US government data held by the Office of Personal Management to infidelity website Ashley Madison, to children’s toymaker VTech. Because there is no universal cross-device opt-out mechanism technically possible at this time, users who want to protect their online privacy from tracking must diligently set and maintain their preferences per individual browser and on each individual mobile, tablet and desktop device. Stronger and more broadly communicated public education of ad Industry opt-out programs like the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA’s) AdChoices is vital. Week 9 Conflicted feelingsLaunched in 2012, the campaign had only a 26% user awareness early this year. As the graphic above shows, the best mitigation factors addressing consumer concerns over data privacy deal with positive incentives like service or product discounts that would be best accepted as opt-in choices. “Rather than finding the most comprehensive or technologically persistent way to opt users out, the real question is, how can we maintain trust and keep users engaged and opted in?” notes Saira Nayak, chief privacy office at mobile attribution company TUNE.

Trusted US Consumer Protection Resources to Safeguard Online Privacy

US Federal Government’s Online Consumer Protection Website managed by the FTC

Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) Consumer Choice (Opt-Out) Page

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Motivated Mobile SEO: Start 2016 on the Right Conversion Path

In two weeks, I’ll awaken my large Dutch Oven from its slumber to prepare my traditional family New Year’s meal of pork loin, sauerkraut and dumplings. Good times or bad, no matter the life-altering events or temporary illnesses, I’ve unwaveringly observed this New Year’s ritual.

Week 8 Mobile Call Button

Occasionally, I even join the 45% of American’s who make a New Year’s Resolution because I’ve heard that folks who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to obtain their goals, than those that do not make those formal declarations. As Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

SEO practitioners who think they survived Google’s Mobilegeddon on April 21, 2015, may have prematurely felt they completed that thousand-mile “mobile-friendly” journey. In fact, 2016 resolutions to “go-mobile” have never been more pertinent: almost 69% of mobile search results are different than desktop with this trend toward differentiation expected to continue. According to Google’s Gary Illyes , “… if you think about it, there’s no reason for us to stop improving our MF [mobile friendly] algos.” The mobile-friendly journey is far from finished.

Now that we know mobile has created the Internet search engines’ “Whole New World,” it’s time to steadfastly resolve to continue to “go mobile.” Here’s two SEO tactical tips that will help you reach your new year’s improved conversion rate goals.

Tip #1Let call buttons lead the conversion. Customer in-bound calls result in 3 times more conversions (sales, appointments or reservations) than similar business website visits. Because 97% of customer leads are lost on landing-page visits, Larry Kim suggests that marketers utilize the new call-only feature available on Google AdWords, similar to those on Facebook and Twitter.

Week 8 Call Industry

Source: John Busby, Marchex Institute

According to John Busby, click-to-call commerce is estimated at $1 trillion this year, expected to double by 2019. Businesses spend $1 billion annually on click-to-call paid search.

Tip #2Bid-up mobile ad positions, using high purchase-intent keywords that are more likely to result in ultimate conversion. Because it’s twice as hard for a mobile ad to be seen than desktop or tablet as shown on the graph below, Erin Sagin suggests

Week 8 Ad Bids 2

Source: Margot da Cunha, WordStream

that marketers bid-up mobile ads with keywords that relate to high transactional intent and defer informational keywords to more visible desktop ads. High transactional – or purchase – intent keywords include “buy now” words such as buy, discount, free shipping, while “product” keywords include brand or product-specific names, affordable, cheapest, or comparison.

Have you made any 2016 mobile SEO New Year’s Resolution goals? Let’s start a conversation, in the comments below.

Prepared to run a strong 2016 SEO race? These SEO experts talk about important future trends:

Erin Robbins O’Brien writes “10 SEO tips you’d be surprised you didn’t know

Danny Goodwin writes “SEO Trends 2016: 44 Experts On The Future of Organic Search Success

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Don’t Rely on Santa to Deliver Connected-Toy Cyber Security

There was a point in recent history, where a parent having been asked about securing their daughter’s privacy, thought first about their daughter’s locked handwritten diary, hidden under her bed’s mattress.

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Almost 3 million American parents knew that day had long-gone, as they faced a potentially more serious Internet privacy breach last week. Their adult VTech account, along with their related children’s profile data, had been compromised because of cyber-attack, according to the Hong Kong headquartered company’s announcement. Stolen data included non-encrypted children’s’ names and birthdates, mailing addresses and e-mail addresses, security secret Q&A’s as well as device and software download history. VTech manufacturers baby monitors, smart watches, pre-school electronic learning and gaming tablet toys that download educational software from the company’s website Learning Lodge app store.

According to reporting by Lorenzo Francheschi-Bicchierai who has interviewed the anonymous VTech Hacker, the hacker’s intention was never to profit by selling the data to third-parties, rather he went to Motherboard for public disclosure “When I got the [database] dumps, I realized how serious it was. I just wanted issues made aware of and fixed.”

VTech has until January 8, 2016 to respond to a US lawmaker’s information request about the hacking incident and the company’s plan for parental notifications. VTech has also been asked to provide what data the company collects on children, its data security policies and practices and explain how the company complies with the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law updated in 2013 designed to help protect the privacy of kids under age 13 through limiting types of collectable data and requiring parental authorization for its collection. Although VTech does maintain a Press Room archive with recent press releases on the cyber incident at its e-commerce website, there is no prominent website notification of the reason that the Learning Lodge is off-line, nor any parental disclosures of the hacking incident with follow-up parental action steps.

During reviews of recent large-scale cyber-attacks, security experts have discovered two primary flaws: organizations keep too much data and utilize primitive security equipment and protocols.

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VTech tablets can no longer access the Learning Lab app store.

Toy companies are rushing to cash in on the changing nature of childhood in the Big Data era, where Internet connected toys are linking children to a vast surveillance network,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “These playthings can monitor their every move, turning what should be innocent and pleasurable experience into something potentially more sinister.”

Concerned about the plethora of over 50 free Santa apps Google and Apple stores that have FaceTimed the handwritten Letter to Santa and local news weather forecaster monitoring of Santa’s Christmas Eve journey, the ad industry and BBB self-regulatory watchdog group ASRC, issued a cursory press release that reminded parents of their responsibility for safeguarding their child’s online privacy. There was no mention of privacy concerns about recently released IoT connected toys like Fisher-Price’s interactive learning buddy “Smart Toy Monkey” or Mattel’s Artificial Intelligence “Hello Barbie,” which have garnered published independent security analyst concerns during the past year.

Because of rapidly-changing cyber technology and complex technical security agreements that must be in place between connected toy seller’s and their third-party technology providers, have we reached the point where COPPA law should be amended to require standardized parental disclosures of children’s privacy risks on product labeling and in children’s advertising? I believe that the time has come, where new standards like those used on tobacco products and in prescription drug marketing, must receive serious consideration. What do you think? Let’s start a conversation, in the comments below.

To read more about Internet of Everything (IoT) and Children’s Toy Security

Jenna Wortham writes about “’Future Crimes,’ by Marc Goodman

Lily Hay Newman writes about “Internet-Connected Toys Are Getting Hacked, and It’s As Creepy As We Feared It Would Be””


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“The Coke side of life” ─ When More Science Becomes Less Evident.

“It is not fair that Coca-Cola is signaled out as the #1 villain in the obesity world, but that is the situation and makes this your issue whether you like it or not. I want to help your company avoid the image of being a problem in peoples’ lives and back to being a company that brings important and fun things to them.” James Hill, president Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) email to Coke executive

With the Associated Press’ (AP’s) release last week of email correspondence between anti-obesity non-profit GEBN and Coca Cola executives, yet another round of media frenzy confronted the beverage giant. The controversy began when Yoni Freedhoff, MD an obesity expert at the University of Ottawa and a HealthNewsReview.org blog contributor, contacted the non-profit about funding and learned that Coca Cola contributed an initially undisclosed $1.5 million in 2014, to launch GEBN.

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Applebaum International Sweetener Symposium Presentation Page 33

Based on Dr. Freedhoff’s initial tip, The NY Times investigated the GEBN-Coca Cola connection further, publishing an early August 2015 expose noting the following:

  • The $1.5 million non-disclosed Coca-Cola start-up funding;
  • The $4 million Coca-Cola project funding for GEBN’s founding members Dr. Steven N. Blair at the University of South Carolina and Gregory A Hand, dean of WVU’s School of Public Health;
  • The gebn.org website, registered to Coca Cola in Atlanta, who also served as site administrator; and
  • Coca Cola’s chief scientific officer, Rhonda Applebaum who was not made available for NY Times interview, had been active on GEBN’s behalf, on Twitter.

Applebaum, who laid out the corporation’s “Balance the Debate” strategy at a 2012 sugar industry conference presentation, noted that by engaging scientists, collaborating with them to develop the science and educating the public using evidence-based science, the industry would be able to “balance the debate to address the negative, advance the positive.” Coke accepted Applebaum’s retirement request after the emails, which documented her early CEBN management, became public last week.

Redirecting the association of sugary drink consumption and higher obesity and Type 2 diabetes, health experts contend that Coca-Cola is using CEBN to convince the public that physical activity can offset poor diet choices despite evidence that exercise has only minimal impact on weight, relative to calorie consumption. “The message is that obesity is not about the foods or beverages you’re consuming, it’s that you’re not balancing those foods with exercise,” Dr. Freedhoff of the University of Ottawa said.

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Applebaum International Sweetener Symposium Presentation Page 28

While Coca-Cola executives provided executive-level responses to each throb of the frenzy, they have been far from expressing true contrition and more patronizing, if caring, plays taken from Applebaum’s “Balance the Debate” playbook. In an August 2015 Wall Street Journal op-ed, CEO Muhtar Kent addressed the concern that it puts stockholder interests ahead of its consumers: “By supporting research and nonprofit organizations, we seek to foster more science-based knowledge to better inform the debate about how best to deal with the obesity epidemic. We have never attempted to hide that. … However, in the future we will act with even more transparency as we refocus our investments and our efforts on well-being.” In addition to the launch of its “Our Commitment to Transparency” microsite that tracks research partnerships and funding activities, Kent indicated additional steps being considered might include creating an oversight committee as well as providing more communities with product options that include less sugar and fewer calories.

After the AP email excerpt publication last week, Sandy Douglas, president of Coke North America further addressed Coca-Cola’s ongoing efforts engaging public health community individuals. “We will continue to listen and learn. We will do so because we care,” Douglas said without describing timeline or project specifics. ”Stressing the company’s sincere desire to respond to public concerns over the CEBN funding controversy by noting “This is not a PR stunt for us,” further noted that Coke overconsumption is not the company’s goal. “If folks are saying the moderate consumption of our beverages is causing obesity, then we’re going to argue with that, because it’s not true,” he said. CEBN partner The University of Colorado School of Medicine and CEBN, has agreed to return $1 million of Coca-Cola’s grant because of misperceptions over the intent of the gift while Coca-Cola has indicated it will redirect those funds to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Additionally, the corporation has ended annual sponsorships with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy for Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Practice as a part of its funding review related to the CEBN controversy.

Do you think Coca-Cola has taken sufficient steps to restore a trusted place in the public health policy debate concerning obesity prevention? Join the conversation, in the comments below.

To read more about the Coke and the lack of Global Energy Balance Network funding disclosure

Kathlyn Stone writes about “Behind the scenes of the Times’ takedown of a Coke-funded “front group

Andy Bellatti writes about “Marion Nestlé’s War on Soda

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What’s Up? Finding Native Advertising Share-worthy

This week, I found myself launching a Unilever-promoted Upworthy video, enticed by the headline, “They ask these couples a question that is usually none of our business. But then they show the video.” Although I never learned who “they” are, and in the Upworthy 2:55 minute video version never see the expectant couples’ reaction to the video command “Breathe calmly and bring your child into this world,” I knew I was watching storytelling, at its most intense.

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There were characters: eight anxious expectant couples and scores of happy, playing, school-attending, tree-climbing future children. There were emotions: joy, anxiety and fear of war and environmental waste. There was structure and surprise: tangible progress being made to create rainforest certified farms, increase clean drinking water availability, and disease elimination with simple hand-cleaning cleaning products “so that more future children can expect to meet their great grandchildren, than anyone living today.” There was meaning: “There has never been a better time to create a brighter future for everyone on the planet for those yet to come.”

The Unilever video, which has a longer 4:25 minute version on the Unilever YouTube Channel that includes more violent war scenes, relieved parent video-watch reaction and Unilever, Dove, Knorr, Hellmann’s, Lipton and Ragu logo close, is one of several promoted Unilever Project Sunlight videos available on Upworthy’s Unilever Section after the two organizations entered into a 2014 native advertising agreement. According to Upworthy’s co-founder Eli Pariser, “Unilever’s leadership in moving to improve child welfare and contribute to a more sustainable world made them a strong fit for this [native advertising] program. The heart of [Unilever’s] Project Sunlight matches several of the top topics our audience voted to see more of in 2014. We look forward to working together to bring more attention to young people who are making the world more sustainable.” Upworthy has earned $10 million from its native advertising agreements that include Unilever and Starbucks. For Unilever, the Project Sunshine Series quickly garnered 25 million total impressions from 1+ million unique visitors, while social sharing generated similar better-than-expected results.

Although I initially enjoyed Upworthy posts on my Facebook timeline, I was an example of one of the 88 million 2013 viewers to stop visiting as of June 2015, when viewership declined to 19.8 million. Even though Upworthy includes a subtle, light-colored font disclaimer at the top of sponsored content pages, the site’s algorithm and design make it easy for a visitor to miss the distinction between Upworthy editorial content and a brand’s sponsored posts, sponsored curation and content consultation messaging. For me, the extra time commitment to evaluate brand vs. Upworthy editorial content caused me to stop reading: I no longer felt inspired by the content because I began not trusting its truth. According to a 2014 Contently survey of native advertising more broadly, 2/3 of respondents felt “deceived” after learning a given article or video was sponsored while 59% indicated that a news site loses credibility by publishing sponsored material.

Although Upworthy’s initial partnership with brand content sponsors has been a clear revenue success for them, their mixed results in 2015 viewer traffic combined with general sponsored content viewer avoidance and unfavorable rating, Web publishers should venture into native advertising carefully. However, given the 41% 2015 global increase in ad-blogger software that caused an estimated $21.8 billion loss in blocked ad revenue, eMarketer expects native advertising to reach $8.8 billion by 2018, up from $4.3 billion in 2015.

To read more about Upworthy and Unilever’s native advertising experience

Joseph Lichterman writes about “How Upworthy is using data to move beyond clickbait and curation

Lara O’Reilly writes about “Unilever and Upworthy share the same fundamental objective: worthiness

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Three Marketing Strategies for Small Business Crowdfunding Campaign Success

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently adopted rules to monitor small business start-ups’ use of interstate crowdfunding that provides access to small investor equity security markets, up to $1 million annually. Now startup entrepreneurs will have the option to either use nation-wide, or in several states intra-state, crowdfunding as a way of attracting new small investor capital or to continue attracting rewards-based funding from consumer platforms like Kickstarter. In an effort to mitigate some risk through investor-protection oversight, equity security crowdfunding will be limited to existing brokerage firms or new SEC registered Internet funding portals. Whether funded by investors or backers, creating crowd-attracting marketing “buzz” is still the name of the global crowdfunding game, expected to generate $34.4 billion this year.

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In order to establish and maintain favorable marketing messaging that is both infectious and contagious, businesses looking for equity security or consumer-based crowdfunding, no different than individuals hoping to satisfy urgent personal financial needs through platforms like GoFundMe, must successfully execute the three following online marketing strategies well:

  • Found relationships on trust. Campaigns lead by founders who are rich in industry-specific expertise directly related to the campaign’s Big Idea have found start-up advantage because these founders better understand industry dynamics, know customer needs and have valuable established network connections. Trust develops beyond experience confidence through timely and transparent campaign communication, the willingness to encourage consumer feedback and adopt positive contributions as well as the ability to deliver backer rewards on-time.
  • Keep the Big Idea simple, visual and sharable. Just as new-generation What-You-See-Is-What-You Get (WYSIWYG) editors let computer users engage with design changes in real-time, What-So What (WSW) Big Idea message design builds relatable and sharable first impressions. The “What” component explains the campaign’s product or service while the “So What” explains why the message reader should care. For example, Kickstarter’s Initial 3Doodler’s $2.3 million campaign was described as “3Doodler: The World’s First 3D Printing Pen.” A Big Idea message encapsulates the campaign’s product or service through a phrase or sentence that expresses innovation, originality and ability to meet self-interest needs while igniting reader surprise, memorability and shareability-intention especially on broad social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. The Big Idea should be the focal point of all communication efforts including an engaging, image-rich campaign landing page and campaign video.
  • Help opinion leaders talk-up the Big Idea. Use email to engage your Big Idea’s target community well before your campaign launch by connecting with community opinion leaders such as well-respected journalists, publishers, bloggers or technical industry experts or other respected consumer groups that can perform early product testing evaluations. The ability to engage and build favorable opinion leader interest will generate early earned media impressions that can be reinforced by the campaign’s launch.

Thanks for reading this week! Have you become a crowdfunding backer? Tell me what was it about the campaign that sparked your interest, caused you to share the project with others or convinced you to become a supporter, in the comments below.

To read more about Online Crowdfunding Trends

Ruth Simon writes about “Small Businesses Struggle to Tap ‘Crowd’ Funds

Chance Barnett writes about “Trends Show Crowdfunding To Surpass VC in 2016

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Sephora’s Connected Consumer: “Flash Sales” Come to Brick-and-Mortar Retail

While shopping at JC Penny early this year, my routine Women’s Apparel route to Home Furnishings was unexpectedly blocked by an enclosed shopping area distinguished by a darker-light ambiance and music. Realizing the department store, like many brinks-and-mortar retailers had experienced financial performance issues due to stagnant sales, my first reaction was a fear that perhaps JC Penny’s had sold floor space to one of my least-favorite retailers like Spencer Gifts. To assuage my concerns, I ventured around the corner and entered through the mini-store front. Not familiar with the name Sephora but finding large colorful cosmetic displays, a Beauty Studio and lots of glam images, the new space felt very “JC Penny’s-ish,” enough to dissuade my fears so I could continue on to my bedsheet purchase. Later, I discovered my local mall’s JC Penny’s store was one of 500 other Sephora store-within-a-store locations, a move that has proved profitable for the troubled retailer while extending France-founded Sephora bricks-and-mortar in the US to a 12% US beauty market share.

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The Sephora Flash Boutique selfie mirror that allows customers to examine their newest Sephora-look while allowing them to share the results over their social media channels.

Sephora brings its low-pressure, consumer empowering, leisurely hands-on consumer premium product testing to 3,000 sq. ft. floor plans, it recently opened its initial smaller 1,000 sq. ft. Flash boutique concept store at 66 rue de Rivoli in Paris, set to become ultimate connected consumer experience allowing them to shop 150 beauty product brands. Sephora’s Flash Boutique is its first blended physical and digital marketing channel offering that gives them immediate physical access to best-selling products while offering them combined purchase, digital shopping cart access through various tablets, terminals and digital display shelves to the company’s full 14,000 product-line.  The concept offers specialized technology experiences like a selfie-mirror that allows customers to view the results of their own product-testing or the use of the virtual make-up artist applications that gave personalized step-to-step guidance on make-up contouring, while providing store visitor phone-charging stations. “We’re completely focused on making shopping more efficient, intelligent and fun for our clients, according to Julie Bornstein, chief marketing and digital office for Sephora.

Sephora’s penetration of digital-to-physical retail sales is double that of the prestige beauty industry, driving sales for the retailer.

The store’s new discovery tablet displays help customers explore trending beauty looks and leisurely self-test new products.

The store’s new discovery tablet displays help customers explore trending beauty looks and leisurely self-test new products.

Technology innovations include the company’s existing Sephora-To-Go mobile app for iPhones and its augmented reality features that allows customers to interact with content based on nine popular beauty brand founds as well as opt-in loyalty and birthday club in-store personalized beacon alerts. Since beauty and cosmetic products are best-suited for in-store testing before purchase, Sephora’s boutique strategy is to make the in-store experience sufficiently eventful that customers shun online replenishment from other retailers through Sephora’s digital on in-store shopping channels.

I appreciate retailers who beyond the smart phone to innovate disruptive physical-digital shopping experiences that provide consumers with “purchase now” options as well as online purchase for home delivery or store pickup. New Sephora Flash Boutiques are expected to launch world-wide in the near future: Would you like one to open near you? Tell me more, in the comments below.

Or read more about Sephora and the shift to retail connected consumers

Sarah Halzach writes about “The Sephora effect: How the cosmetics retailer transformed the beauty industry”

Ernesto Sosa writes about “The Rise of the Connected Consumer for the Retail Industry”

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