Is a Loyalty Rewards Program Right for Your Brand? [Infographic]

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New customer acquisition is, necessarily, an important way to grow business, and tracking those acquisition costs is key to determining the success of your marketing efforts.

Once you get those customers in, keeping them is just as important, however; those repeat customers can have a big impact on your bottom line.

One way to retain customers is through a loyalty program, as explored in an infographic by loyalty and referral marketing company Zinrelo.

To say that loyal customers buy more is an obvious statement, but quantifying that amount can help marketers understand why this group is so important. After one purchase, a customer has a 27% chance of purchasing again, the infographic states. But after a third purchase, a customer has a 54% chance of returning. Those types of buyers also spend more with each purchase, and they are much more likely to make referrals to friends.

The big question then becomes, How does a brand turn shoppers into loyal customers? The infographic offers some tips on how a 360-degree loyalty rewards program can help.

For the full scoop on the benefits of a loyalty program, check out the infographic. Just tap or click to see a larger version.

Laura Forer is the manager of MarketingProfs: Made to Order, Original Content Services, which helps clients generate leads, drive site traffic, and build their brands through useful, well-designed content.

LinkedIn: Laura Forer

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Big Oil Nervous As Venezuela’s Maduro Seizes More Power

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Authored by Tsvetana Paraskova via OilPrice.com,

The pro-government constitutional assembly loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro seized the powers of the opposition-led congress today, in a move that necessarily has Big Oil nervous that Trump will make good on his economic sanctions threat.

Maduro’s bold political move on Friday means further intensifies the dramatic decline of democracy that led Trump last week to threaten economic sanctions that could remove Venezuelan oil from the U.S. refining market.

It also comes right after Trump indicated that a ‘military option’ was not off the table.

The government has accused opposition leaders of conspiring with Washington to overthrow Maduro. 

As Venezuela disintegrates politically and economically, big oil is stepping in to urge Washington to refrain from resorting to economic sanctions against the country, the third-largest supplier to the U.S.

U.S. energy giants rely heavily on trade with Venezuela – home to the world’s largest oil reserves – and the Trump administration’s move last week to sanction eight top Venezuelan officials coupled with talk of country-level economic sanctions could negatively affect U.S. refineries, and drive up gas prices.

Everyone from Chevron and Phillips 66 to Valero and Citgo – among others – process heavy crude oil from Venezuela along the U.S. Gulf Coast. It would be prohibitively expensive to replace Venezuela’s specific heavy crude with an alternative, as nearly two dozen major U.S. refineries are set up only to process this type of crude. Canada, Mexico and Colombia also provide heavy crude, but volumes are not considered to be high enough to replace Venezuelan. Saudi Arabia heavy crude would have to serve as a replacement, but a costly one.

Meanwhile, the letters of protest continue to find their way to the White House. Two letters pleading Trump to forego economic sanctions have been sent by the American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers advocacy group, of which Chevron is a member.

A third letter of appeal came from a group of lawmakers led by Texas Republican congressman Randy Weber.

The letter noted that while the group respected the efforts to deal with the “disturbing decline of democracy” in Venezuela, sanctions could end up losing Americans 525,000 refining-related jobs along the Gulf Coast.

International oil companies are said to be pulling staff out of Venezuela, especially after the end-July vote that Maduro orchestrated.  

Repsol has recently pulled all of its foreign workers from Venezuela, Statoil has pulled out its expatriate staff, while Chevron and Total SA have withdrawn a small number of employees, according to Bloomberg.

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First Week Bike Commuting: What I Learned

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Biking to work continues to climb in popularity. Our car-centric contributor decided to try it for week.

First Week Bike Commuting: What I Learned

Commuting by bike grew 63 percent in the United States between 2000 and 2013. As a result, cities across the country continue to invest in bike lanes and infrastructure that incentivize people to ditch cars in favor of two wheels.

Plus, people who bike to work have lower rates of cancer and heart disease than the general population. And they tend to be less stressed-out at work.

For these reasons, I decided to spend a week biking to and from my office, despite having no previous experience riding a bike beyond recreation.

First Week Bike Commuting: What I Learned
The author on a ride

I went from a strict regimen of drinking beer and sitting on my behind, to biking daily. Here’s what I learned.

Day 1: Thank God I Worked Up To This

I decided to go about this bike-to-work endeavor at a time when my physical fitness was closer to Chris Farley than Chris Froome. So I spent the week before prepping my legs for what was ahead.

First Week Bike Commuting: What I Learned
Photo credit Pexels

The route to and from my office was 16 miles through the hilly landscape of North County San Diego. My bike was the new Cannondale Bad Boy 1, which is a bit more heavy duty than a road bike.

For the week prior to giving up automobile transportation, I’d come home and log at least 12 miles in the saddle. This gave me a feel for riding the local topography and the cadence of the new bike.

This was a blessing. It eliminated nervous jitters for my Monday morning initial ride and made the first day, with its notable prolonged climb, not overly hellish.

Day 2: Find A Better Route

First Week Bike Commuting: What I Learned

While day one didn’t feel too bad, the morning of day two my legs felt like jello. Partly because I foolishly biked for speed the day before, but also because I wasn’t routing intelligently.

I used Google Maps to plan my route. But after my initial ride, I noticed it led me up a painfully steep climb that seemed to be unnecessary.

I spent some time after the first day driving through the streets leading to my office.

As I expected, the path Google took me on was totally inefficient. While the route I planned out on my own was nominally longer, it had a small back road that reduced the elevation changes on the ride considerably.

Day 3: Lessen Your Load

Hauling a backpack with my lunch, laptop, work materials, and a change of clothes was a hassle. To counteract this, I came home and packed up all of the essentials I needed for the week of work, including lunches and clothes for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

After arriving home Tuesday, I drove back to work and dropped off the care package at the office.

While I needed to keep my laptop on my person at all times, the difference between riding with only a lightweight laptop on my back versus all the other essentials was massive.

Day 4: Find Your Flow

First Week Bike Commuting: What I Learned
Photo credit Pexels

As I mentioned, I stupidly decided to see just how fast I could ride the route to work on my first day, because I’m too competitive and have the attention span of a goldfish.

Though many outdoor enthusiasts and athletes might have the natural inclination to push performance, doing so during the first week of bike commuting is masochistic.

Instead, work on practicing meditation while riding your bike. Focus on the calming rhythm of each pedal stroke, breathe in the scenery, enjoy the feeling of morning sunshine on your face.

There’s a slew of research supporting daily meditation and relaxation breaks. Focus on having fun during your ride will and you will be substantially happier when you get to the office.

Day 5: Reward Yourself

By the fifth-straight day logging 16 miles, I was walking around the office like I was on stilts. My legs had reached a near-traumatic level of soreness.

So on the last day, I really took my time. I broke up my morning and evening commute into two legs, stopping at a hole-in-the-wall deli on my way to the office to stuff my face. And I made a pit stop at a local watering hole during my return.

Did those brief respites make some marked difference in how my legs felt at the end of the week? Not at all.

But it’s a lot easier to coax your sore frame back onto a bike if you know the light at the end of the cycling tunnel is a cold beer or a warm breakfast burrito.

The post First Week Bike Commuting: What I Learned appeared first on GearJunkie.

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Scientists Say It’s Raining Diamonds on Neptune and Uranus

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Image: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Move over Jupiter and Saturn, a crap load of diamonds could be found in two of the most mysterious places in the Solar System: Uranus and Neptune. Researchers using the Linac Coherent Light Source at Stanford have demonstrated in the lab— with one of the brightest sources of X-rays on the planet—that the depths of these ice giants are perfect for the formation of diamonds.

The scientists behind this are excited as it’s the first time this effect has been reproduced in a lab environment similar to the lower reaches of the icy giants’ atmospheres. Scientist have long wondered about the effects of having copious amounts of hydrogen, helium, and methane (which give the outer planets their distinctive blue hue), and whether these chemical circumstances are ideal for diamond formation.

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“This [condition] will generate diamond precipitation inside such celestial bodies,” Dominik Kraus, a researcher with Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf in Dresden and author on the paper told Gizmodo in an email. “This means that there is not necessarily a pure diamond core but certainly a large diamond envelope around the rocky cores that are supposed to exist inside Neptune and Uranus.”

On Jupiter and Saturn, the current thinking goes like this: when storms roll through clouds of methane molecules, lightning strikes cause carbon atoms to disassociate from their chemical bonds. When they collect in the air, you get clouds of soot which then sink into the lower atmosphere, being put under more and more pressure. That pressure is what squeezes the carbon into graphite and then again into diamond. It’s also under the effect of gravity, so it would truly fall to the middle of the planet as “diamond rain.”

On Uranus and Neptune there could be a cloud layer where a sea of hot methane forms which then separates in a high pressure environment causing the resulting carbon to squeeze into diamond.

But we’ve never actually recreated those conditions in a lab. Until now.

Using a tool called the Matter in Extreme Condition instrument, the scientists shocked a thin polystyrene sheet with a laser blast which produced pressure of up to 150 gigapascals. That laser heated the material to about 6,000 Kelvin, which is very hot, but not hot enough to melt diamond. Since the polystyrene is a hydrocarbon polymer, it happily breaks up into its constituent hydrogen and carbon atoms which then are compressed. For an incredibly short moment, this causes nanodiamonds to form.

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Because scientists are now able to reproduce an environment similar to the one located about 10,000 km in the interior of Neptune and Uranus, further research could show us if there are more stable options beyond diamond precipitation.

“If the temperature is high enough close to the core (some calculations predict that) it could also be ‘oceans of liquid carbon’ with gigantic ‘diamond icebergs, swimming on top of it,” said Kraus. “But most theories suggest that diamond would remain solid, at least inside Neptune and Uranus, but this may be different for some exoplanets.”

It’s pretty hard to actually test what’s being created in real time with the laser pulse, so that’s where the ultrabright X-rays come in. Think of it like an incredibly bright and extremely short—firing only for 50 femtoseconds—camera flash.

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“We can only produce this exotic state for about a nanosecond and during this time we need enough X-rays to probe it,” said Kraus. “We then do simple X-ray diffraction (that’s the method how nearly every crystal structure is identified) and we got a surprisingly clear diamond signal.”

Previous experiments either never really provided direct evidence of this process, or results from the method used to normally compress carbon, diamond anvils, was not clear enough. “The problem with diamond anvil cell experiments is that it is very difficult to distinguish tiny pieces of diamond created from hydrocarbons to diamond pieces that might stem from the comparably huge diamond anvils themselves,” said Kraus.

[Nature Astronomy]

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Is It Okay To Skip Gears When Shifting A Manual Transmission? An Engineer Explains

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Learning to drive a stick shift is a skill that’s slowly dying out in America. My first car a 5-speed manual transmission and despite the fact that I loved that car, it was a pain in the ass that none of my friends knew how to drive stick so anytime I brought my car on a road trip I was the one who got stuck driving….I’m ranting, time to stop.

This video above, it’s from the Engineer Explained YouTube channel and he’s discussing whether or not it’s safe to skip gears when shifting. To make a long story short, it is, but you need to adjust the clutch and gas accordingly when doing this. Skipping gears while shifting can cause your engine to lurch or nearly stall out, so it’s always good to adjust your clutch/gas accordingly when you’re skipping gears whether it’s downshifting or upshifting. FWIW, I’ve always been a big proponent of skipping gears when downshifting to slow my car down and save my brakes over time, and I know I’m not the only one out there who does this.

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Your Best Life Hacks From Fiction

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We asked you for the best life hacks you’ve learned from fiction, and you gave us a literally fantastic set of tricks, ranging from tiny tips like how do de-fog a mirror with a hair dryer, to grand life advice like “Fear is the mind-killer.”

We start with a theory of economic injustice that also makes practical fashion advice, from a series of novels about a medieval world sitting on top of four elephants that sit on top of a turtle.

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett: The Sam Vimes Boots Theory

What Lies Beneath: Dry a foggy mirror fast

Babylon 5: Try to fly

Her: Juice your veggies

Sometimes the annoying side character has a good point.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary: The principal is your p-a-l

WarGames: How to butter a corncob

How I Met Your Mother: Get a guy for that

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: The enemy’s gate is down

Superman: How to make your eye water

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Find your lost belongings

Batman Begins: Rub your chest to get warm (director Chris Nolan just made this up)

Austin Powers: Cross yourself like a real Catholic

Dune by Frank Herbert: Fear is the mind-killer

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut: How to catch flies

The Martian: Turn on Dark Mode

The Education of Little Tree by Asa Earl Carter: How to climb a hill

Unknown source: The sugar-water hiccup cure

A Widow for One Year by John Irving: Don’t turn your wheels (in case you get rear-ended)

The House Bunny: How to remember names

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein: Always bring a hankie

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot: Stop itchy pubes (confirmed)

American Psycho: Alcoholic aftershave dries you out (confirmed)

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George: Save your bones for broth

Every mob movie: Take the command position

The Princess Bride: Life is pain

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Don’t panic

The towel advice first appeared in the original radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide: 

Here’s Adams on the history, and actual usefulness, of his towel:

There’s plenty more advice in the original thread, including a lot of wise aphorisms we didn’t have room for here. We can’t get enough of these fiction tips, so keep sharing below.

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Smoking Showdown: Vape Pens vs. Joints

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The dim glow of an e-cigarette activating has become the butt of quite a few jokes about the concept of “cool.” While they’re not hip, the tech behind them is, especially when paired with cannabis. But not everyone wants to smoke their marijuana out of what looks like a Bluetooth-enabled straw. Sometimes a joint works just fine, especially among friends. So which one’s best?

Competition

Vaping, like smoking a cannabis cigarette, provides you with a pretty easy way to consume the plant. One is powered via USB port, the other with a lighter. They’ll both get you high.

Vapes

Ah, vaping. The future of enjoying cannabis. Vaping, either with cannabis oil in cartridges or ground up cannabis flower inside a heating chamber, heats the cannabis without burning it, vaporizing the active ingredient and getting you high.

Joints

Rolling a joint is the tried and true way to get high. Grind up your herb, get some rolling papers, and light up. Sure, it’s smoking, but it’s definitely healthier for you than actual cigarettes.

Vapes: The Dorky Future of Enjoying Cannabis

While vaping does look dorky, its advantage over smoking a classic joint is convenience is worth the nerd points. Besides, cannabis is probably the coolest thing you can vape, so you automatically win that round.

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You can carry a vaporizer practically anywhere, as long as you’re following the law wherever you are. They range in size from pen-sized vaporizers with twist-off cannabis cartridges to handheld units the size of a point-and-shoot camera.

Don’t get it twisted. You’re not exactly engaging in a healthy activity by partaking in some vaporizing. But it’s still healthier than smoking a cigarette. With fewer toxins and no combustion involved, it generates fewer carcinogens, and doesn’t produce any smoke, only vapor.

Joints: Cannabis for People Who Drive Stick

Joints are the classic cannabis consumption method of choice. Get your rolling paper, filter, and ground cannabis, and light it up. Smoking one with friends is always a blast, and doesn’t look like you’re all getting your DNA analyzed. Also, it’s a battery-free experience, so you don’t have to worry about where you put your charging cable.

Of course, assembling a joint from scratch is a pain when compared to pulling out a pen and taking a quick puff whenever you want. In addition, all your saliva residue might hold the rolled result together, but it’s not exactly germ-free. A joint is also more noticeable than a pen, and while you might get away with using a vape pen inside an establishment, smoking indoors is usually a no-no.

Vaping’s For Dorks, But It’s The Future of Cannabis Consumption

Vape fans, rejoice! While you will look like a geek for years to come, vaping is simply the most convenient way to enjoy a bit of cannabis. You don’t need to start a fire, you can take a puff basically anywhere, and there’s no smoke. Plus, it’s healthier! Sure, joints are cool if you’re hanging with friends, but hey, who’s gonna turn you down, anyway?

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How to Take Photos During Today’s Solar Eclipse With Your Smartphone

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Sometimes the best eclipse photos aren’t of the eclipse at all. Photo by David~O.

Everybody wants to capture the perfect eclipse photo today, but not everybody has thousands of dollars in professional photography equipment. Turns out you can take some half-way decent pics with your smartphone.

Be Safe

As we’ve mentioned, make sure you’re not looking directly at the eclipse. You should have the right kind of protective eclipse glasses, and make sure to avoid the counterfeits. Wear them the entire time you’re shooting and viewing the eclipse. If you don’t have them—or a special pinhole box—don’t look at it.

Use a Solar Filter and Lens If You’ve Got Them

Apple suggests your iPhone can shoot the eclipse straight up without any special equipment. It could even handle shooting a shot of the sun right now. Same goes for GoPros and some other smartphone cameras. Why? Everything you shoot will be wide angle, meaning the field of view is pretty large, and the amount of light coming in from the eclipse won’t damage the camera’s sensor.

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That said, NASA cautions using any camera without a solar filter of some kind, especially if you’re going to use some sort of telephoto lens on your phone. So, if you have filters and lenses, use ‘em. If you’re worried about damaging your smartphone’s camera sensor, though, just wait until the moment of totality when the sun is completely behind the moon. You won’t need a filter for any kind of camera then.

Turn Off the Flash

Flash can help when you’re shooting in dark places, but not for eclipses. Todd Vorenkamp at Explora recommends you turn off the flash. For one, it’s useless when the sun is out, and there’s no way your flash will illuminate the dark side of the moon. Also, your flash will annoy people around you and possibly ruin their shots as well.

Don’t Count on Autofocus

Before you go to shoot the eclipse, make sure you’re not using autofocus on your smartphone’s camera. During the eclipse, the low light will confuse the camera and give you blurry, out-of-focus shots. To do this, simply tap the screen and hold your finger on the moon to lock the focus on it.

Adjust the Exposure

To keep your images from looking over-exposed and blown out, you need to adjust your exposure, or limit the amount of light that can come into your smartphone camera. On iOS, once you have your finger on the moon and locked your focus, slide it down to darken the exposure (you should see a small sun). On Android, the process is similar, but you may also be able to adjust the “exposure value” manually within the camera app.

Use a Tripod

During the eclipse it will be dark and you’ll be letting in as little light to your smartphone camera’s sensor as possible, so the slightest movement or nudge can turn your shot into a blurry mess. A tripod will keep it from moving too much.

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If you don’t have a tripod, or won’t be able to buy one in time, you can try building one yourself out of any materials you have at hand. Anything that will hold your phone still at the right angle will do. Heck, I once used a hat to shoot a long sunset timelapse.

Record a Timelapse or Video, Shoot Other Things, and Enjoy the Eclipse

Okay, let’s face it. You’re not going to shoot an amazing eclipse photo with your smartphone. The good stuff is all going to come from pros using really expensive gear. What you can do, however, is something that’s more personal to you. A video of you and your friends or coworkers watching the eclipse can make a great memory. Or better yet, set up your phone to record a timelapse while you enjoy the eclipse.

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You can also look for other things to take photos of during the eclipse. Look for interesting shadows on the ground, get a shot of somebody doing something interesting with the eclipse in the background, take a pic of your pets confusion, or consider shooting a few quick commemorative pics for memory’s sake and just enjoy watching the eclipse with your (protected) eyes. Be present and take it all in. After all, there will be plenty of great photos of the event.

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