Why Google, Walmart, Amazon and Whole Foods are pioneers in voice data

September 14, 2017 – CIO Online Each day it becomes more apparent that data is integral to every facet of our lives. Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods and the new partnership between Google and Walmart are further proof.

Each day it becomes more apparent to me that data is integral to every facet of our lives.

When Google and Walmart got together recently to allow consumers to purchase goods from the retail giant through their Google Home devices – Google’s answer to rival Amazon’s Echo technology – the potential for a fascinating new data set reflecting our everyday lives became even more clear. I’m talking about voice data, sourced from what one day could be a technology that’s as pervasive as our mobile phones and our televisions.

As revolutionary as it has been to access mobile data breadcrumbs representing our physical locations, voice data reflects everyday interactions consumers have with brands in an even more intimate setting – their homes. This is the type of data consumer-packaged goods giants and product developers of all kinds have clamored for, investing in in-home ethnographic consumer research, focus groups and other traditional methods of understanding how people interact with brands and products in real life.

Marketers have already begun experimenting with voice data derived from Amazon’s voice-activated home IoT platform, Alexa, for instance. Within the past year or so, Amazon has opened up macro-level information generated from consumer interactions with brands on Alexa. Developers and brands can track the number of unique customers accessing the content they develop for Amazon’s Echo or other devices, and even gauge the number of times people mention their brand names when using them.

To continue reading, please visit Gladys Kong’s article for CIO Online

Amazon Slashes Whole Foods’ Prices

August 25, 2017 – Cheddar TV – Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is expected to close on Monday. The organic grocer will immediately cut prices on a selection of products. The discounts are part of the vision to make Whole Foods’ high-quality offerings more affordable. Gladys Kong, CEO of UberMedia, says consumers should expect Whole Foods to be impacted by Amazon’s data operation.

To watch Gladys Kong’s interview on Cheddar TV, please click here

What Motivates the World’s Most Powerful Women to Mentor

August 25, 2017 – Fortune Magazine – This spring 21 women from around the globe traveled to the U.S. to participate in the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership.

In its 12th year, the three-week program matches women from countries ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe with some of the top female executives in the U.S. This year’s mentors hailed from companies including FidelityMastercard (MA, +0.34%)IBM (IBM, +0.12%)AccentureS’well, and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ, -0.89%).

Non-profit Vital Voices helps runs the orientation and debriefing piece of the programming and stays connected to alumnae when they return to their home countries.

To continue reading and to watch the video featuring UberMedia CEO Gladys Kong, please click here

This Fall, College Towns and Businesses Can Get Smart with Location Data

August 18, 2018 – CIO Back to school isn’t just about yellow buses, backpacks and pencils. For colleges as well as the cities and businesses that surround campuses, it means an influx of students and dollars. The fact that just about all of those people will be carrying mobile devices means there’s far more data available than ever before that can help local businesses get a better handle on who’s in town and uncover potential opportunities.

When my firm UberMedia evaluated Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, home to schools including Georgetown University and George Washington University, earlier this year, we used data showing the pathways to well-known shops there such as Anthropologie and Banana Republic. Anonymized mobile location data can tell us a lot – where people come from, how long they spend in each location and where they travel afterwards. Even in that simple form without additional data layered on, it’s powerful information for these large international retailers.

But it got me thinking that mobile location data could be quite useful for lots of other types of businesses and organizations around other colleges and universities. What if mom-and-pop restaurants used this sort of data to market in smarter ways? Or what if towns and cities analyzed mobile location information to learn more about where their new part-time residents come from?

To continue reading, please visit Gladys Kong’s article for CIO.

From Kosovo to California, Technology and STEM Education Remain Universal

By: Gladys Kong, CEO of UberMedia, for Innovate Pasadena

I was honored to participate in this year’s Fortune / State Department Global Women’s Mentorship Program for the first time. As a strong believer in supporting female entrepreneurism and exchanging ideas across borders, the annual mentorship program was a perfect fit. I’m also well aware strong mentors and leaders — including the legendary Bill Gross — have shaped me into the leader and businesswoman I am today.

When asked if I had a preference of who I wanted to be paired with to mentor, I emphasized the “where” did not matter as much as the “what.” I wanted a technical CEO, like me. We’re moving into the next age of globalization where technology is the only truly global language. While cultural nuances exist, technology remains universal.

I learned this firsthand when I emigrated to the United States from Hong Kong as a teenager. Uncomfortable speaking a language I had only learned in classrooms and studied in books, I gravitated to STEM studies that were like my schooling in Hong Kong. It led me to Caltech, where I earned a BS in Engineering and Applied Science, and UCLA, where I earned my MS in Computer Science. Ultimately, it led me to UberMedia, where I served as CTO for three years before being named CEO in 2015.

Fortune and the State Department paired me with Hana Qerimi, co-founder and CEO of Shkolla Digjitale (Digital School) in Kosovo, the only private education institute in Kosovo offering computer science, programming and robotics after-school lessons for school-aged children. We formed an instant bond over coding and STEM education. Her students were using the same coding curriculum in Kosovo as my children in California.

Our instant connection over coding led to larger conversations about leadership. As two CEOs with technical backgrounds, we found we both apply an “engineer’s mindset” to management. Neither of us are — or will ever be — loud, powerhouse CEOs that relish in the spotlight and use the stage to convey ideas; rather, we shine by applying rational and logic thinking, observing before concluding and valuing a team-first approached. I’m just as comfortable meeting with my engineering team as my sales team, which is critical given technology is the backbone of our company.

To continue reading, please visit Gladys Kong’s article for Innovate Pasadena. 

The death of traditional retail and how data will lead its evolution

July 24, 2017 – CIO With headlines setting off alarms forewarning the death of retail, it is easy to get sucked into the overwhelming stream of information and data. Luckily, there is more than one side to every story, and that data can actually support a more promising position on the future of the retail industry.

recent article from the WSJ calls 2017 “the year of bankruptcies,” with eight bankruptcies since the beginning of the year. The most bankruptcies in one year happened in 2008 when 20 companies declared bankruptcy. Over 3,500 stores are expected to close this year. There has been a decrease in foot traffic equaling 6 percent per year. Visits to shopping malls went down 50 percent from 2010 to 2013. Online and e-commerce was the main driver of this large drop, but changing demographics and needs were also contributing factors.

To continue reading Gladys Kong’s article for CIO, please click here. 

I’m a Great CEO and I’m Not a Loud Powerhouse

July 18, 2017 – Fortune – My STEM education gave me a different approach.

As a self-described “technical CEO” of a data and technology company, I understand the importance of a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. My STEM education shaped me into the leader and businesswoman I am today.

We’re moving into the next age of globalization, where technology is the only truly global language. While cultural nuances exist, technology remains universal. I learned this firsthand when I immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong as a teenager. Uncomfortable speaking a language I had only learned in classrooms and studied in books, I gravitated to STEM studies that were like my schooling in Hong Kong. My confidence increased, and I began to excel in the math and science curricula.

This led me to Caltech, followed by UCLA. At both schools, I continued to lean on STEM—the one place where my language skills mattered less and the rational side of my brain could flourish. Armed with degrees in engineering and computer science, I knew I would pursue a career in the technical arena. But what my STEM education led me to was far beyond what I could ever imagine.

To continue reading Gladys Kong’s article, please visit Fortune.

Being upfront about the future of television monetization

May 12, 2017 – CIO Forget what you’ve heard about digital being the death of television. Digital and data is only strengthening the power of television.

How many times have you heard that television is dead? Gone are the days of MASH, when television shows were an event. It’s all about going digital, they say.

While many are cutting the cord, it’s not time to give up on the power of TV. TV advertising remains a highly effective advertising medium — one that digital complements well. In fact, according to ARF, out of 3,200 advertising campaigns, TV advertising was “the most effective vehicle for driving ROI, and adding digital to a TV campaign yields a 60 percent kicker effect.” This is not something brands can ignore.

Television advertising and measurement largely rely on ratings – known as the Gross Rating Points – for buying and selling. This is often referred to as the “currency” – one which has been in place for over 60 years. However, this is changing, albeit slowly, due to the availability of digital and data.

To continue reading UberMedia CEO Gladys Kong’s article for CIO, please click here

Anomalies and False Narratives: Finding Truth in Big Data

By Kerry Pearce, SVP, Product Development, UberMedia

It’s rare for marketers to find clear answers in Big Data. But for inquisitive marketers, Big Data is incredibly helpful for identifying the right questions.

Recently, a fitness apparel brand sought to identify potential customers by analyzing mobile location data. We focused on gyms, public recreation areas, and stand-alone fitness locations like yoga and cycling studios. We found the audience, but we also found something unexpected: a large overlap with audiences that frequent fast food establishments, none of which could be classified as healthy options. To the client, this looked like the kind of previously unseen and counterintuitive insight Big Data is famous for. Yes, the client reasoned, logic dictates that you’re unlikely to find a significant audience of gym rats who also have a serious French Fry habit. But with so much data, how could that conclusion be wrong?

Big data is really about picking the relevant “small” data

For all its emphasis on scale, Big Data is really about analyzing the small fraction of collected data that is relevant to the inquiry. This is because collecting Big Data, by definition, means collecting even more noise. This is why data scientists talk about “cleaning up” the data as a prerequisite to analysis – the idea isn’t to find the needle in the haystack, but rather to locate the relevant haystacks.

So is it possible that people who workout a lot also enjoy eating unhealthy food? Of course it’s possible, and we can even come up with some behavioral theories to explain why. Perhaps, these gym rats workout to offset junk food. Or maybe, the appeal is convenience, because people who workout are pressed for time. Neither of these theories is inherently wrong, but the further down the road we go with this particular data-driven narrative, the more susceptible we become to our own bias. Put simply, we want to believe we’ve discovered a new audience segment, and so we tell ourselves a story where Big Data unearthed a hidden clue. But is it truly a relevant data point; or put another way, is this insight one that will move the needle for a marketer?

When the data adds up, worry

One constant requirement of narrative is that the storyteller ties up loose ends. But that’s not how the real world works because the real world is messy. So if the data adds up to a tidy story – the audience segment for fitness apparel is huge because everyone is passionate about fitness! – it’s time to worry.

Too often, marketers seek out only data that confirms narratives they already believe to be true, or narratives they want to believe to be true. All humans are susceptible to this problem, by the way – it’s why we want to believe news reports about studies that tout the health benefits of drinking alcohol and eating dessert. But marketers can be especially prone to this type of bias because marketers are the guardians of a brand’s intangible qualities and values. They know their brands, which simultaneously makes them experts and the least likely people in the room to see the bias of their own assumptions. They believe everyone cares about fitness – whether they actually demonstrate that care or not – because everyone who works at a fitness brand is demonstrably passionate about working out. The question is not how to get rid of that bias – you can’t – but how can marketers use Big Data to seek out deeper truths that may upend what we think we know for sure?

Embrace the anomalies

The overlap between the fitness and fast food audiences is an anomaly – one we must embrace. If taken at face value, the overlap seems to prove what we want to believe: everyone is passionate about fitness. But the same data can actually be used to tell just the opposite story. People who go to the gym and frequent fast food may not be passionate about fitness at all. True, they do exercise and so may require workout gear, but their level of enthusiasm for exercise might actually be diminished by their interest in fast food. Put another way, the anomaly didn’t enlarge the fitness audience, it actually made it smaller because the deeper we dug into the data, the more nuance we found. And in that nuance we discovered a subset of the fitness segment that doesn’t really share the primary values associated with the overall segment.

Of course, trading a large data set for a smaller, albeit more useful one, feels counterproductive because doing so forces us to abandon the story we told ourselves. In embracing the anomaly, we found hard evidence that the passion for fitness is not universal. But in exchange for letting go of that false narrative, we put ourselves in a better position to locate that passion. It’s not an easy trade, even if it is a good one. In fact, for marketers, letting go of stories that neatly summarize brands and customers is terrifying. But the alternative ought to be even more frightening, because a strategy based on a false narrative is one that is inevitably doomed to fail.

Announcing ‘Data in the Digital Age’ – A New Series on CIO.com By Gladys Kong

March 9, 2017 – CIO.com Mobile technology and data solutions expert Gladys Kong provides her views on the data landscape in new monthly series.

Here is an excerpt from UberMedia CEO Gladys Kong’s inaugural post, How Location Data can Transform your Business:

“Not far from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The California Institute of Technology, and scores of startups like UberMedia, you can find a typewriter repair shop. The firm has been located in Pasadena, California for more than 100 years. While it might seem out of place in the age of laptops and cloud computing, it has at least one important thing in common with its tech-savvy neighbors — the right location. The difference, however, is that you probably wouldn’t expect a typewriter repair shop to thrive in such a time and place.

That expectation comes from powerful, but sometimes incorrect or incomplete, assumptions about the world around us. Increasingly, the use of location data is challenging some of these assumptions and transforming our communities and businesses…”

To continue reading, please visit CIO.com.