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Social media marketing group adds board members

BY CSA STAFF

Five new members were named to the board of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association this week, an organization focused on the interests of social media marketers.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association, or WOMMA, was founded in 2004 and the newest members of the group’s board include: Mark Bisard, vp and senior counsel of American Express; Christine Morrison, group Social media manager for Intuit; Kathy Baughman, president and co-founder of ComBlu; Patti Regan, president and CEO of The Regan Group and Emily Bader, EVP of strategic planning Zocalo Group.

"They are proven leaders and influencers within this industry who care deeply about the practice of word of mouth marketing, and are committed to helping maintain and develop appropriate ethical standards. I am confident they will be valuable assets and strong additions to our distinguished WOMMA board,” said WOMMA president Suzanne Fanning.

Other existing WOMMA board members include: Brad Fay, WOMMA chairman and COO of Keller Fay Group; Virginia Miracle, EVP of Services for Spredfast; Chetan Bhargava, senior manager of ecmmerce and consumer direct for The J. M. Smucker Company; Deborah Holland, EVP of Publishers Clearing House; Ekaterina Walter, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Branderati; Gemma Craven, EVP of N.Y. Group Director for [email protected]; Peter Storck, SVP of research and analytics for House Party Inc.; Rick Murray, president of Edelman’s Chicago office; Rod Brooks, vp and chief marketing officer of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company; Rob Key, CEO of Converseon and Tanuja Singeetham, digital and social media marketing manager for Nestle USA.

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Groupon continues its e-commerce transition

BY CSA STAFF

Record downloads of its app and North American revenue growth have Groupon feeling good about mobile initiatives and its ongoing evolution from a provider of daily deals via email to a full bore e-commerce marketplace.

The company said it experienced a record 9 million downloads of its app during the third quarter ended September 30, bringing the total number of downloads to 60 million. The company also said it achieved a major milestone during September when, for the first time ever, more than half of Groupon transactions were completed on a mobile device in North America. The popularity of mobile help the company achieve 24% revenue growth in North America. Groupon says it now has 43.5 million active customers, 10% more than the prior year, although it defines “active” rather broadly as anyone who has purchased a Groupon during the past 12 months.

"Our Local business showed continued strength in the quarter, particularly in North America,” said Eric Lefkofsky, CEO of Groupon. “Mobile adoption continued to increase in Q3, reflected in our record nine million app downloads. We’re pleased with our progress, but we still have work to do as we transform the business from our daily deal email roots to a full e-commerce marketplace.”

Along those lines, Groupon said it acquired leading Korean e-commerce company Ticket Monster from Living Social in a deal valued at $260 million.

“Ticket Monster has been successful building a mobile commerce business in one of the largest markets in the world. It will serve as the cornerstone of our Asian business, bringing scale and e-commerce expertise to that region,” Lefkofsky said.

The three year old company generates annual billings of more than $800 million and offers Groupon other benefits related to its shift to become more of an e-commerce company. Ticket Monster provides customers with a broad range of product, local and travel offers.

“The (Ticket Monster) team shares our vision, is already leveraging a truly mobile marketplace as well as one that has little reliance on email,” said Lefkofsky.

Groupon is looking to accomplish a similar objective closer to home, diminishing its reliance on email and selling products directly to shoppers. The company said its Marketplace concept continued to gain traction in the third quarter and accounted for 6% of total North American traffic. More importantly, customers who search for products spend 25% more than those who do not, according to the company.

Despite strength in North American, weakness in international markets proved to be a drag on measures of top line growth. For example, the company’s gross billings, which reflect the total dollar value of customer purchases of goods and services, increased 10% globally to $1.34 billion from $1.22 billion while total revenues increased 5% to $595 million compared to $587 million.

Excluding a one time charge of $18.5 million related to unredeemed Groupons internationally, the company’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were $62.3 million, down from $65.8 million. The net loss for the quarter was $2.6 million compared to nearly $3 million the prior year. Operating income fell to $13.8 million compared to $25.4 million.

At the end of the quarter, Groupon had $1.1 billion in cash and cash equivalents.

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Why Walmart’s opponents can’t be taken seriously

BY CSA STAFF

The newest tactic to disparage Walmart by an organization called the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) involves race, politics and a convoluted connection to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Eight-year Walmart employee and OUR Walmart member Charmaine Givens-Thomas has posted a petition on the organization’s website invoking the name of the slain civil rights leader. She is seeking 100,000 signatures and a meeting with president Barack Obama to address the injustices to which she contends Walmart subjects its workers.

"The day President Obama was inaugurated I, like many others, felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and hope,” according to an email distributed by OUR Walmart. “As a 61-year-old African American woman who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., I felt like we were closer to realizing King’s dream of good jobs and freedom. Today, we may not have segregation by law, but we have it in practice thanks to the economic realities of our country. For people regardless of race or upbringing to sit at the same lunch counter, they have to be able to afford the same lunch.”

Givens-Thomas contends Walmart pays workers poverty wages, begrudges the Walton family the wealth it has accumulated and asserts the company violates labor laws. Her diatribe covers a lot of familiar ground and will likely resonate with other low wage workers who feel they should receive an arbitrarily higher wage that is disconnected from the economic value created by their efforts.

No one is suggesting Walmart is a perfect company. Given its size, the law of largenumbers suggests over the years there have been plenty of workers wrongly terminated, discriminated against or denied promotions unrelated to job performance. That said, the arguments put forth by OUR Walmart and Givens-Thomas once again show the retailer’s opponents lack a basic understanding, or choose to ignore, the business fundamentals of the retail industry and marketplace realities that prevent retailers from paying higher wages to workers with limited skills and a misguided sense of entitlement.

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