Stay Safe From Fraudulent Mobile App Companies By Following These 11 Tips

Mobile application development has emerged as a potentially lucrative business. High-quality, user-friendly apps, published under your name, can enjoy handsome download figures on Google Play Store and/or iTunes – helping you make pretty decent profits. Finding and hiring a third-party company for developing the apps you require is hardly a tough ask either – thanks to the presence of them virtually everywhere. Not all of these mobile app companies are equally sincere and efficient though, and you need to be wary of such sub-standard agencies. The following tips would prove handy in this regard:

1. Check the company’s track record – On the website of any proper mobile app development company, you will get information on the number of years it has been operating, the number of applications it has already created, and other pertinent details. Avoid selecting a startup company, and go for one with at least five/six years of successful track record. It’s not that a new company cannot be efficient – but a firm with more experience is likely to be handle your app project better. Why take a chance?

2. Ask for a free quote – In case there are no such provisions, start looking for another company. Unfortunately, there are companies that charge relatively high fees – simply to provide price quotes and estimates on customized mobile apps. Steer clear of them, if you do not want to unnecessarily add to the app development costs (which, in any case, won’t be too low!). Make sure that you get the free quotes within a couple of days (at maximum).

3. Check the contact details – It is always a good idea to pay a visit to the office of the app development company which you are planning to hire. However, that might not always be possible (you might have selected a firm from another city/country) – and that’s precisely where the importance of having all the contact details comes into the picture. Apart from the postal address, the company you select should also have its phone and fax number(s), email address(es) and Skype id (if available) present on its website. It would be best if you place a test call and send a test mail – just to check that the provided information is indeed valid.

4. Inquire about the portfolio – It is always more advisable to opt for a firm that has expertise on cross-platform mobile app development – instead of one that specializes on creating apps for a single mobile platform (for instance, iOS). Of course, if you require custom applications for two or more platforms, looking for different companies for the same would be a waste of time. A company that regularly develops iPhone, Blackberry and Android apps can become your long-term business partner too.

5. Check out clients’ testimonials and feedback – You can do it in two ways. First, check the website of the company that has caught your fancy – and go through the client testimonials published on it (practically every mobile company has a ‘Testimonials’ page). If you find video testimonials, listen to them carefully. With spam online marketing not being uncommon, it also makes sense to read the feedback on some of the company’s apps left at the online stores. Remember, a company can always publish fake feedback on its website – the reviews from iTunes and Play Store are probably much more authentic.

6. Avoid falling for companies that ask for hefty upfront payments – Making tall claims does not cost a thing, and there are fraudsters on the lookout to impress clients with extravagant promises, and then, extracting big advance payments from them. Do not select a company that asks for even token amounts BEFORE they have started working on your project. Payments should either follow a stage-wise schedule, or be made after the app has been developed. Clarify all details on this issue at the very outset.

7. Ask about the intellectual rights – Apart from minutely reading the ‘Terms & Conditions’ page of your chosen company’s website, you should ask its representatives about this too. Once the app you require has been created and delivered, you should retain all ownership and intellectual property rights on the same. The mobile app developers you had hired should retain no claims on the application, once the final payment has been made.

8. Ask for a written contract – While doing business with anyone, the trust-factor definitely matters. However, verbal promises and assurances count for nothing in the professional world. Once you zero in on a smartphone app company, ask the officials over there to provide you a copy of the contract for your project. Find out whether the name of the app, the development tools to be used, the cost of the development process, and other general/technical details are mentioned clearly. You do not want to get into a round of confused haggling later on!

9. Stay in constant touch – Even if you do not have much (or any!) knowledge about the technical aspects of mobile app development, you should have an idea about how the company is going about your project. A responsible mobile company would periodically show you wireframes and mockups of your application, get them approved, and then proceed to develop the final prototype. If possible, show the wireframes to a knowledgeable third-party expert – to make sure that the app is indeed being made in the way you want.

10. Make sure that the app has been tested – The more carefully the mobile app testing phase is carried out, the higher becomes its chances of getting approved at the online stores. Stay away from companies that promise to deliver applications within unnaturally short deadlines, and neglect the testing part to live up to their claims. Find out whether the app has been tested on the cloud network as well as in a focus group, before paying for it. Get the app installed in your own smartphone and activate it for a trial run. That would automatically reveal whether there are bugs present or not.

11. After-sales service matters – Just because an app does not crash during the first few times does not necessarily mean that it won’t develop technical snags later on. Make sure that you can contact the app developers immediately, if and when such problems indeed do crop up. If you have chosen a reliable, sophisticated mobile app agency, it will have dedicated social media pages on channels like Facebook and Twitter. You can convey the type of help you require via these platforms too. Calling and/or sending emails for troubleshooting is, of course, the best option.

Do not assign your app development project to any company that would delegate the task to another, obscure third-party firm. Ideally, your chosen team of app developers should be able to help in promoting your app on iTunes and Play Store too. It’s easy to prepare a shortlist of mobile companies that seem reliable – the onus is on you to find which one would be best suited to cater to your requirements.


The Advantages of Using the Microsoft Dot NET Framework

If you’re a developer getting ready to start your project, consider using the Microsoft .NET Framework as a platform. You probably have many choices available when it comes to software development and should be looking for things such as security, flexibility, and great user experience – all of these are encompassed in the .NET Framework, but there are plenty more advantages beyond that.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of using the .NET Framework is its simplicity and compatibility with different programming languages. For example, Visual Basic and C++ are complex languages, and it’s a challenge to go from one to another. The .NET Framework is very similar to both languages and easy to work with while also making it easy to transfer projects to another programming platform.

Another advantage of the .NET Framework is that it’s easily integrated into multiple formats. The data can be integrated with a PC, laptop, smartphone, tablets, and more. This makes it easy to access and use the program, regardless of what hardware the user is currently on. Installation is also very easy and less problematic than other formats.

A third advantage is the .NET Framework’s extensive security. Developers and the system administrators can set the security level, allowing organizations to free up the need for security since they can just set it directly. There are many options available, as everything from HTTP, XML, TCP/IP and SOAP can be used to manage the software in question.

The .NET Framework doesn’t use the Windows registry when running and installing. Rather than using the registry, the data of the software is stored in the code and accessed when it’s running. This results in fewer conflicts between different applications and also ensures that there are fewer problems with the registry. Now you can run multiple apps without any issues.

There’s a huge market for online applications and plenty of tools for building them quickly while on a budget. Yet another advantage of the .NET Framework is that it allows you to quickly scale your projects and use shortcuts to create intuitive, compelling applications. There’s no need to spend a small fortune on development and expect an endless development process that seems to drag on forever.

The .NET Framework offers extensive security, enhanced usability, flexibility, and fewer problems for the network. Business owners who invest in training their staff in .NET development or hire external .NET application development partners can reap the benefits of this flexible Microsoft framework via the enterprise applications it can produce when properly leveraged.


News on Android Application Development

Many don’t really understand the basics of Android Application Development. All they know is that they love their new Android phone. For many people, Androids are still robots like from Star Trek that have incredible learning abilities and look human but are really only a machine. So let’s start off with a true definition of the word:

Android:

Android is a software stack for mobile devices. It includes an operating system, middleware and key applications. It was purchased by Google in 2005. The Android mobile operating system is based on the Linux kernel. Google and other members of the Open Handset Alliance worked on Android’s development and release. The Android Open Source Project (AOSP) is tasked with the maintenance and future development of Android.

With a new and better understanding of the Android platform, we are ready to dive into Android Application Development. Let’s begin with the basics. The Android platform offers an impressive feature set:

Features:

• Application framework enables reuse and replacement of components

• Integrated browser based on open source WebKit engine

• Optimized graphics powered by custom 2D graphics library, 3D graphics based on the OpenGL ES 1.0 specification (hardware acceleration optional)

• Media support for common audio, video and still image formats (AMR, JPG, PNG, GIF, MPEG4, H.264, MP3, AAC)

• GSM Telephony (hardware dependent)

• SQLite for structured data storage

• Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, EDGE, 3G (hardware dependent)

• GPS, compass, camera and accelerometer (hardware dependent)

• Dalvik virtual machine optimized for mobile devices

• Rich development environment includes a device emulator, memory and performance profiling, tools for debugging, and a plugin for the Eclipse IDE

This is an impressive list and the idea of Android application development can be intimidating for some. A quick look at Android documentation may give you headache. There you’ll find articles like “Backwards Compatibility”, “Avoiding Memory Leaks”, and “Introducing GLSurfaceView”. Even though these topics are essential to successful mobile development there may be a much simpler way to go.

A number of app development tools exist to aid the newcomer, or n00b for those who are tech savvy. Superb mobile development frameworks that guide and direct the development of an app are now available. The best known of those is the Corona SDK.

Corona is the most advanced mobile development platform today because it offers an unequalled tool set that opens the door for amazing technological advancements. Perhaps the most important is the ability for cross-platform development.

Corona offers the only complete solution for developing across platforms, OS versions, and screen sizes. With Corona SDK, you can simply write once and build to iOS or Android at the touch of a button. Plus Corona automatically scales your content from phones to tablets, saving extra work.

Android application development is here to stay. And it’s made even easier with the exceptional tools mentioned above, namely Corona SDK. Look for cheaper, more intuitive Android applications and devices in the future.


Android App Development – The Key to Attract More Customers for Your Business

The Android operating system is undoubtedly the most popular mobile operating systems available today. Most top smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, MicroMax, Motorola, and many others, use Android OS to power their devices.

That is exactly why; Thousands of new apps are being developed for this platform. Companies are hiring professional Android app development services for creating apps under various categories like games, accounting, teaching, news, payment processing, eCommerce, and lots more.

These days, most of the reputed business has mobile apps to manage different departmental needs of their business, especially to meet their customer requirements. Going forward, most of the companies will have to follow suit, in order to reach out to their potential and existing customers.

Let us now look at some of the reasons, why your business needs Android development services:

Easy to gain attention, and is convenient to the users:

The bottom-line for any business is to reach out to maximum users. Since a big percentage of user's access internet on smartphones, it becomes the easy channel to connect with them. They can easily connect with your app, even when they are on the move. It is convenient for users to purchase online goods, to pay their mobile phone bills, etc, by using the apps.

Proficient Marketing platform:

With proper marketing strategies, you can use your business app to grow your customer-base. You can engage with your users anytime, and give them real-time updates about your business.

Your mobile marketing efforts will not only help in growing the number of people who download and install your apps, it will also help in long term branding of your business. It also works as a great channel to get customer feedback, which will eventually help you to improve your business.

Easy Comparison of Goods, Services and Prices:

Business apps help your potential customers compare the product prices, quality, and other features straight away. This can strengthen your credibility and position in the market.

Effective Customer Service:

The main key for sustenance and growth of any business is the quality of customer support they provide. It is very crucial for companies to provide effective customer support, in order to stay ahead of their competition.

Android app is a simple way for customers to interact with your company. It allows you to address and handle your customer issues – 24/7, which will go a long way in creating customer loyalty and trust for your organization.

Hiring professional development services:

Android app development companies hire developers who have thorough technical understanding of the Android system, programming languages ​​like JAVA, and other development tools. It makes sense to take the help of these developers companies, because you can save a lot of both, costs and resources.

Conclusion:

It is important for businesses to win their customers' trust. Technology that has always been evolving over time and it is important for the companies to adopt new technologies to stay ahead of their competitors. Android apps have now become the future of business relationships with customers or clients.

If you company still does not have an app, then you must consult with any of the dependable Android app development companies right away.


Create Your Own App for the Apple iStore

Apple iPhone users are loyal there is no doubt about it. Once you have tasted the Apple there is no going back. Why do we love theses mobile devices so much? Simple because of their super cool apps. A few years ago creating an app was only possible if you were a computer programmer, however in the last couple of years things have changed dramatically and creating an app is by no means out of the reach of anyone who is willing to learn.

Apple provides the tools, developer’s create the magic.

Developers create living breathing entities that bring to life creativity to their applications and because apps are so versatile they can be personalised to suit your taste. You are only limited by your own imagination as far as creating an app goes. Apple say that their IOS is the world’s most advanced mobile platform, this is great news for developer’s in that the developer knows Apple’s advancement will always support the app.

Apple’s hardware and tools for developers are designed by one company thus making everything work together seamlessly and effortlessly giving the developer more freedom and time to come up with some super cool apps.

When creating an app say for a game the developer will want the game to be as close to reality as possible not only that but a good app can go viral and involve players from all around the world. The good thing about the Apple store is it’s available to Hundreds of Million’s of people.

The earnings potential from creating a good app is huge. As far as submitting your app goes once your app gets approved Apple take care of the majority of the work it’s a sort of set and forget business. If working with Apple is not for you then there are other big players in the mobile industry that are worth taking a look at:

• Android

• BlackBerry

• webOS

• Windows Phone 7 mobile devices

• Flash, HTML5 web apps

Where to get your apps done.

There are plenty of programmers who offer their services for providing mobile apps, You can find them at Vworker.com or Odesk.com all you have to do is come up with a good idea, place your order and wait for the bids to come in. The price of having your app created can vary tremendously so always best to shop around obviously it would be a wise to set a budget beforehand the cheaper and more rewarding alternative is to develop your very own app.


How To Improve Conversion Rates

Do you know your conversion rates? Conversion rate is the number of visitors to your site that take the desired action against the total number of visitors in a particular period or time. Research has shown that 60% of websites do not know their conversion rates. Then how do you improve your site’s performance if you do not know your conversion rates? What do you take into consideration when making changes to your site’s design? What do you do when you have plenty of visitors yet very few of them take the desired action? What do you want your visitors to do? How are they going to do it? What is the next step for your visitor after taking the desired action?

These and other questions can easily be answered if some efforts are made towards tracking and calculating websites’ conversion rates.

Converting your visitor is the ultimate aim of any website. Making the visitor to take the desired action is the fulfillment of a process that started from wherever the visitor clicked to come to your site. The desired action could be;

  1. Sales
  2. Subscribing to your newsletter or book-marking a page.
  3. Taking a survey.
  4. Downloading a software or ebook
  5. Clicking on a link.
  6. Going through the process (that is, clicking from page to page ) before clicking on the order button.
  7. Etc

Most of the time we think conversion starts when the visitor lands on our Site. But conversion actually starts from wherever the visitor first locates our site. How the site was located. What description the visitor sees before clicking to your site or what recommendation or word of mouth brought the visitor to your site. This pre-conversion state is what to a large extent, can determine whether conversion actually takes place or not. This is what I call the keyword-title-description-landing page formula. This formula is explained in my free ebook “Google AdWords Made Easy”. You can download this free ebook at home base business ideas site.

What enables conversion to take place.

A visitor landing at your site should immediately feel comfortable with your site. First impression as they say matters a lot. For conversion to take place you must hold the visitor’s attention once he lands on your site. Some of the points to note that make for easy conversion are:

  1. Your website should load fast. The next site is a click away. If your site loads slowly your visitor clicks away and you have lost a potential customer. Usually, graphics, animations, are the cause of slow loading pages. Your can use some software, available free on the internet, to reduce the size of your graphics so that they load fast.
  2. Your site should have a professional look about it. It should at first glance portray a quality site. This adds a little bit of credibility to the site. The site is then seen as a serious site.
  3. State your case quickly. Let your visitor know what your site is about in a few words. Don’t go rambling about your achievements. That can come later. Give the visitor what he is looking for.
  4. Arrange your content in an easy to understand way. Whether you are using Tables or CSS for site design, make sure your content is arranged in such a way that the visitor moves from one section of the site to another without confusion or frustration. If you are catering to different kinds of visitors, demarcate your site or page clearly showing these different sections for visitors.
  5. Include your Privacy Policy, Phone Numbers, About Us information on every page of your site. This builds some element of trust. Visitors may not click to these pages but the fact that they are there builds some credibility.
  6. Do not irritate your visitors with bad grammar or typos. Check and crosscheck your content. Ask somebody to read through your content and point out grammatical errors and typos. These kinds of errors portray a site as unserious and therefore suspect.
  7. If you must use banners use them sparingly. Do not allow your banners to distract your visitors from the desired action to be taken. Banners are been clicked on less and less these days.

Having taken care of all of the above, your site is set to present your visitors with your carefully packaged offer. You begin by getting to know your present conversion rates. It is only logical that before any action is taken to improve conversion rates, the present conversion rates are known.

What is your website’s conversion rates.

There are many actions a site may desire a visitor to take once he lands at the site. It is the conversion rates of these desired actions that you want to calculate.

Lets look at some the typical conversion rates that need to be calculated and what can be done to improve them.

1. The SALES CONVERSION RATE. This gives you an idea of how many visitors are buying your product out of the total number of visitors that visit you site.

The sales conversion rate = number who bought / total number of visitors x 100

So if you have about 10000 visitors in the month and out of that , 350 bought your product, your conversion rate is

350 / 10000 x 100 = 3.5%

This means that for every 200 visitor that land at your site 7 will buy your product.

How to improve the sales conversion rate.

  1. Make navigation through your site to your order page so simple a ten year old can find it.
  2. Make bold call to action. Example, BUY NOW, or ORDER HERE. Put it near the top, at the middle and near the bottom of you sales page.
  3. If you offer free shipping indicate this at your home page and prominently on your sales page. Research has shown that free shipping is the second most important consideration for buyers apart from price.
  4. Your web page should load fast. Imagine a potential customer clicking to your order page with the intention to buy only to be frustrated by a slow loading page. The importance of fast loading pages cannot be over-emphasized. Some of the ways to reduce loading time are:
    1. Reduce the number of graphics on your page. Apart from the number, you can also reduce the size of the graphics. There are a number of software you can use to reduce the size of your graphics.
    2. Always specify the dimensions of your graphics in your html coding. In your IMG tag be sure to specify the width and height of your graphics. This makes it easy for the web browser to load the page because it doesn’t have to figure out the dimensions of the graphics.
  5. Experiment with different colors on your pages. Measure and track the result of any little change you make. It has been reported that change in the color of a page layout increased conversion rate.
  6. Do not use Pop-ups for displaying your vital information. For example, your shipping rates. Though Pop-ups can be effective in drawing attention to vital information, it is not worth taking the chance. With all the free Popup blockers offered by most toolbars and software companies it will be counter productive to display your vital information in a Popup only to have it blocked. Displaying information in Pop-ups could seriously reduce your conversion rate. Instead use banners that will display a strong call to action.
  7. Include a progress indicator on each page to your order page so that your customer knows at what stage he is. You can number the pages or steps and clearly describe each step so that the customer can easily move back and forth through your pages.
  8. Make it automatic so that when the shipping info is same as the billing info, the customer doesn’t have to fill the same information twice.
  9. Because of credit card concerns, not all customers will want to order using credit cards. Offer other forms of payment, check, fax, phone etc
  10. Display critical information at the check out page. Information like warranties, guarantees, shipping costs, testimonials, return policies, after sales service, support service etc
  11. Develop a system whereby if a visitor abandons the checkout process for whatever reason after providing an email address, your system immediately emails the visitor offering an incentive to tell why the process was not completed. This happened to me. I abandoned purchase when the order page could not load due to my unsteady internet connection. I promptly received an email from the company. I later went back to the site to purchase the item.
  12. If you are selling tangible product use high quality pictures. Since the visitor cannot touch or smell the product, it is essential to provide a top quality picture that will look like the physical product.
  13. Include the number of days the customer will have to wait for the order. If possible provide tracking of the order. All these help to make the customer comfortable and close the sale.

2. THE SUBSCRIPTION CONVERSION RATE. This is simply calculated by dividing the number of subscriptions (subscribers) by the total number of visitors for that period and multiplying by 100. This gives the percentage of visitors that subscribed.

Example, if the total number of visitors in the month is 9000 and 300 visitors subscribed. Your conversion rate would be

300 / 9000 x 100 = 3.3 %

Getting visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or ezine depends on where the visitor had seen the offer to subscribe. If you are promoting a subscription page, then your description must be enticing enough to lure surfers to visit your page. That is, if they are coming from search engines,ads etc.

Most times people will only give their email address when they are sure they will get some quality stuff from your newsletter. If they are already at your site and it is a quality site then you may require little persuasion to get them to subscribe.

How to improve the subscription conversion rate.

  1. Make sure your privacy policy is clearly stated.
  2. Highlight the benefits of your newsletter to the subscriber. State plainly the high points of your newsletter. Direct your visitor to a good issue in your archives.
  3. Provide a valuable free gift. Example a free ebook or report.
  4. If you are providing a free ebook or report, tell the visitor what is special about your own because there are a thousand and one free ebooks and reports on the internet so why should yours be different. For me I usually get a high conversion rate from surfers seeing the articles I post at various article sites on the internet. They become interested when they see the quality of the articles.
  5. Change the position of your subscription form. From upper left to upper right. Then recalculate the conversion rate. Compare the result of the two positions. Try other positions until you get the position where conversion is highest.

3. DOWNLOAD CONVERSION RATE. This rate shows you how many of your visitors (in percentage) are downloading your software or ebook or whatever you have presented for download. It is obtained by dividing the number of downloads by the number of visitors to your download page. Example , you had 4000 visitors to your download page for the month and 300 downloaded your software your conversion rate is

300 / 4000 x 100 = 7.5%

you will need to install a script at your site to monitor the download. You can get a free download monitor script at http://www.Focalmedia.net

How to improve your download conversion rate

  1. Write a compelling copy emphasizing the benefits to your visitors of whatever you are offering for download. Then make a bold call to action .example, Download Now or Start Download.
  2. Download should start with the first or second click. That is do not make the download page more than two clicks away from the introductory page.
  3. Make it clear to the visitor that it is a free, trial or demo download. You could list the features and benefits of the download in a Popup window. That is the popup is activated when a link is clicked and not by itself.
  4. Put your download button at the top of your page with the main menu. Alternatively, you can put it at the left hand side navigation links
  5. If it is a free report in PDF make the download start when the download link is clicked. It is some times frustrating when PDF download opens up in the browser.

4. CONVERSION RATE FOR CLICKING ON A LINK. Sometimes a web page is written where the main aim is for visitors to click on a particular link. The link could be an affiliate link., or a link to another page or even an email link. You have to install a script to monitor these clicks. There are many click trackers on the internet . You can get a free click tracker script at http://www.focalmedia.net . The conversion rate is the number of clicks on the link divided by the number of visitors to the page. Example, if the total number of visitors are 6000 and the number of clicks 1500. Then the conversion rate will be

1500 / 6000 x 100 = 25%

How to improve this conversion rate.

  1. One effective way to improve conversion rate for clicking on a link is to put the link in the content. This is called in content link. The text link flows with your write up. Visitors are more likely to click on such a link than one that is not in content.
  2. The text link should clearly indicate to the visitor what to do or what to expect after clicking on the link. You are sure to get a more favorable response this way.
  3. If the link is an affiliate link do not use the long affiliate links provided by affiliate merchants. They are often long and too obvious get clicked less times. Get a script that will shorten the affiliate link you can download a script at home business ideas. Make your links bold.

CONVERSION RATE FOR AFFILIATE SITES.

Affiliate sites need two conversion rates to succeed. One on the affiliate’s site, the other on the merchant’s site. The first is within the affiliate’s control while the second is not. So to succeed in affiliate marketing the affiliate has to choose a merchant with good conversion rates. The merchant should show proof of conversion rates. Or you can calculate how many visitors you sent to the merchant’s site and how many converted (that is, resulted into sales).

Conversion on affiliate sites largely depends on traffic. As a matter of fact, you need a lot of traffic to succeed as an affiliate. With little traffic your conversion will be almost nonexistent and there will not be enough data to show a consistent conversion rate. For example you might make a sale after 10 visitors to your site and make the next sale after 2000 visitors. This is not consistent. The first sale after 10 visitors might have been a motivated buyer. Which means you were lucky. You need more than luck to succeed in affiliate business.

How to improve conversion rates on affiliate sites.

  1. Build traffic to your site.
  2. Effective pre-selling. An affiliate tries to persuade a visitor to click on an affiliate link. He has to pre-sell the product properly. Emphasizing the benefits of the product to the visitor. Building on the emotions of the visitor and leading him to click. Research has shown that most buying decisions are influenced by emotions.
  3. Get your visitor to subscribe to your newsletter. With the traffic you are generating you do not want to miss out on the other visitors who do not buy. Provide an opportunity for them to subscribe so that you can still pre-sell again and again through your ezine or newsletter.
  4. Provide very few choices for your visitor. Do no clutter your page with all kinds of offers. This makes the visitor to be undecided and may lead to frustration. Promote one or two product per page. Write your best review of the product.
  5. Own the product you promote. This way you are able to give real life experiences about the product or service. It more believable when writing reviews from experience and this increases conversion rates.

CONCLUSION: Calculating your conversion rates would be meaningless if you cannot determine whether you are improving or not. Stick to a period of test and be consistent. Example, one month, two weeks etc. Whichever is suitable for you. Calculate for that period. Compare with the previous period or the next period. Make changes to your pages and test again. By testing you will know what works.

Also if there is any industry standard conversion rate (especially for the sales conversion rate), compare your rate to the industry standard. By comparing you will know whether you are doing well or not. Or you can set objectives for yourself. Set a reasonable conversion rate that you want to attain within a certain period and go for it.


How to Avoid Common Pitfalls of Real Estate Investing

As of now the real estate market in the United States is doing really badly. There are no buyers and the demand for property has fallen greatly. However, this does not mean that there are absolutely no chances for investments. Real estate investing can actually reap several benefits for you. However, you should be careful and also avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

When you plan on investing, always have a standard plan. When you are investing in property, have an aim as to what you want for from the property. Several investors invest in property without any long term plans for it. There is no point in buying a property without having a financial benefit. Also, frequent investors have a big problem of tax liability by the time they finish selling one kind of property and buying another one.

Build a team of professionals. Whether you are buying or selling your property, you need certain type of people like CPA, tax attorneys, real estate agent and so on to finish the deal for you. So, first build a team of qualified and experienced people who can handle various aspects real estate investing. Also, with the right people around you, you will get the right advice.

When purchasing a property do your homework thoroughly. Review the property from all angles like the neighborhood, the conveniences, facilities and public transport. All these play a role and can help to hike up the price of the property. Sometimes, investors blindly buy property because they are getting it cheap. It is after the purchase they realize that they will find it hard to sell or rent the property due to its location or surroundings.

Also, prepare selling strategies while purchasing a property. This is a must for all investment properties. You need to prepare the strategies so that you know your options and what your property is going to be worth in a few months of time after you have made all the modifications and renovations.


Garment Racks Give Retail Clothing Stores a Personality

Garment racks are a fixture in retail stores worldwide. But not all retailers realize the close relationship between their garment rack layout and the personality and feel of the store. Everything each customer sees and experiences within the store contributes to the overall impression she will carry with her, and will certainly influence her likelihood of returning. So the positioning of garment racks and your ability to use them effectively are very important in successful store management.

The usage and layout of garment racks within your store speaks volumes to your customers and contributes to their overall experience as a shopper. That being the case, retailers need to put more thought into how clothing is displayed and what the collective projected personality of the store is as a result.

Store owners should consider mixing a variety of racks into their store design, but cautions against having too much variation in materials or appearance. In other words, a square rack used for displaying shirts could work fine near a circular necktie rack. However, they should carry the same appearance as far as color and materials are concerned.

It is also important to think about your clothing racks beyond aesthetics. Consider the space you have to work with, and mix and match racks that will allow you to do the most good within that space.

Here are a few tips to bear in mind when thinking about your garment rack needs:

Reinforce your Brand: If you own a western wear store, don’t use a rack that looks like it came directly out of an upscale Manhattan boutique. If you own a store that caters to teenagers, don’t use a traditional garment rack that belongs in their mothers’ department store. Build to your audience and reinforce your brand.

Mind your Space: It is always a difficult line to walk between the space you have available and the products you’d like to carry in your store. Carefully selecting your garment racks for the layout of your store, may free up some room you didn’t even know you had available.

Stay Consistent: Wherever possible, try to consistently use garment racks that look similar to one another with regards to material, colors and finishes. Consistency makes for seamless flow from rack to rack throughout the store.


How to Avoid Telephone Tricksters Calling About Viruses on Your PC

The phone rings, you answer, and someone says they are from Microsoft or your Internet provider and have detected a virus on your PC. What next?

Well, it depends on how much time you have on your hands and your sense of humour, but before we get to that let’s just explain what is going on here.

I’ve been plagued with these calls, often once or twice a week. Someone, usually with a heavy Indian accent, calls and reports that they are calling from ‘Microsoft Security Centre’, stating that they have ‘detected viruses on my machine over the internet’.

Myth buster number one: This is not possible! Firstly, Microsoft never phones people to tell them that their PC is infected (assuming it actually is). Secondly, how would a company get your phone number based on your PC?

I had one such call recently and had a bit of time so I thought I’d a) waste their time so that they weren’t conning some unsuspecting old lady, and b) find out exactly what they were doing in order to ‘prove’ to people that there were problems with their PCs. I had what is known as a ‘virtual machine’ installed – this is like Windows running as an app in Windows. It is totally ring-fenced, and to the outside world they could not tell any difference. By letting them run in a sand-boxed system I knew that my main system was completely safe.

Step 1 – they gain access to your PC

After you’ve admitted that you have a PC they’ll start saying things like ‘have you noticed it going slow recently’. Let’s face it, all Windows PCs get slower over time, especially without a little bit of house-keeping, and they are never as fast as we want them to be. They will then ask you to go to a website and run an app. This part is actually legitimate as they are using a third party product that allows for remote support. You run an app, it displays a set of numbers which you then read out to the person on the phone, and they enter it into the software at their end – they can then see your desktop and control your keyboard/mouse as if they were in front of the PC. Note that at this stage your PC is not infected with anything – you’ve simply allowed remote control so that they can prove that your PC is compromised.

Step 2 – the convincer

Now they have to prove to you that there is a problem. The person that connected to me did two things:

a. They ran the Windows Event Viewer. This is an app installed on all versions of Windows that logs any errors that happen on the system. Note that an error to Windows is not always what we would consider an error. For example, when Windows boots up it’ll check to see what printers are available. If you have a printer driver installed, but the printer is switched off that will log an error. So our friendly ‘Microsoft Technician’ told me to go into the Event Viewer and proceeded to show me all of the errors on my PC. He told me on no account to click on any of the line items as he said that this would damage things further. In reality he was concerned that I would read the error log and see that it was telling me that my printer was not switched on…

b. Next he opened a Dos window by running ‘CMD’ from the Start/Run option. He typed TREE /S, which is a simple command that shows every single file and folder on the PC. As you can imagine on even a fresh install of Windows there are tens of thousands of files, so this takes a few seconds as they go whizzing up the screen. And while that is going on he’s typing something in the background which is only displayed once the computer has finished listing all of the files and folders. So at the end of this I could see ‘System Error: Antivirus software disabled’. Of course, this was not actually the case!

At this point he’s now ‘convinced’ that my PC is heavily compromised and that I need upgraded antivirus software. Bearing in mind that up to this point it had taken about 15 minutes.

Step 3 – the closer

They use standard sales tactics here of offering ‘either/or’ options rather than yes/no. He didn’t say ‘we can provide protection – would you like it’. It was more a case of ‘we can provide one year at £199 or three years at £299’. For that he would download and install some antivirus software for me. Most probably this software would be loaded with its own viruses or malware, or worst still it would silently log all of your keystrokes and pass it back to them, providing all of your passwords as you move around the Internet. £199 is a lot of money in anyone’s book for antivirus software. I don’t pay anything for mine – there are plenty of free antivirus apps which sit quietly in the background doing their thing without costing you anything.

Anyway, back to our friendly tech support guy, who is now pushing to see which of his two options that I want. At this point I’d seen enough and advised him that he was playing around with a virtual machine and that I was simply wasting his time so that he did not scam any innocent people. Strangely he hung up after that…

So in summary all he’d done was connected to my PC, opened the Windows Event Viewer and run a harmless command in a Dos window before I cut him off, but it is easy to see how people get suckered in.

Golden rules

These rules help against any scammers, not just those trying to sell you antivirus software:

  • If someone calls about a virus on your PC it is 100% a scam. Microsoft do not have time to call the millions of people around the world that get viruses on their PCs every week.
  • Never give out any personal information on the phone unless you are 100% sure that the person/company calling you is legitimate. For example, I had a call from my bank’s security company the other day. They asked me to give them my date of birth to check that I was me. I was not prepared to do that because I had no way to confirm that they were indeed my bank. So I asked them for their number and called them back (after verifying on the Internet that the number was indeed correct). Also, call from a different phone, as often scammers will stay on the line, and when you go to dial out they’ll pretend to answer the phone so you think that you’ve rung them back again…
  • Do not respond to telephone surveys. These are ‘phishing scams’ – they are trying to collect enough information about you in order to use your identity fraudulently. Maybe they’ve already managed to get some details about you, such as your name, address and social security number, but perhaps they just ask you to confirm your date of birth or mother’s maiden name, which on their own you may not be suspicious of. Note that they may call you a couple of times over a period of time and ask different questions to build a profile on you.
  • If they are making you an offer that is too good to be true then it probably is e.g. iPad for £50 etc. With the Internet these days it is very easy to validate a company. A quick search on the company name or website will generally reveal if it is a scam site or not.
  • If you get suckered once you most likely will go onto a hotlist where others will try to scam you again a different way.

If you have time to kill

Finally, when these people do call, and call they will, you can always have a little fun. I actually posted this story onto a business forum I frequent to warn others, and it was hilarious to see what others were doing. My favourites were:

  • Passing the phone to a toddler, who would simply make random noises down the phone to them
  • Keeping a football whistle by the phone and blowing it full blast down the receiver – my personal favourite and one that I may well use in the future!
  • Asking them to call your mobile number as your home phone battery is about to die, and then giving them a premium rate gay sex line
  • Simply saying ‘can you wait a moment, the doorbell’s gone’ a few minutes into the call, then keep coming back to the phone every few minutes saying ‘won’t be a moment’. One guy kept them on the line for 35 minutes
  • Of course, the old classic of screaming down the phone at them is always great for relieving tension

If at least one person is not scammed as a result of this article then I’ll be happy. These people preying on others that are trying to make the best of technology that simply don’t have the IT skills to know they are being duped and are putting their PC and identities at even more risk.


Asset Backed Securities Credit IO’s – Don’t Be A Slave To Your Data

In this article I am going to address a common complaint that we’ve seen ABS investors have: that when they’re putting together systems, too much automation creates a “black box” which then doesn’t permit the user to adjust the data in the manner in which they see fit.

Let’s face it, traders are on the front lines evaluating complex securities such as ABS bonds and the more you can permit users to take the data and create useful models that don’t “lock them into a particular view” of what’s being traded, the better it will be. Most often, traders build their own spreadsheets and, in general, do a great job. However, the lack of ability to dynamically communicate with a database of securities information can cause a great deal of trouble in the ABS market, if only when the next month’s data set comes out from trustees and they find themselves scrambling to manually update their spreadsheets.

Additionally, IT departments blanche at the thought of those overly flexible, manipulable spreadsheets that defy “systemization”. In this article we will discuss a specific example and how to satisfy the needs of both areas: IT and the Trading Desk.

Let’s take up the subject of “Credit IO’s”.

Definition: A Credit IO is an ABS bond which is sufficiently far down in the Capital Structure of an ABS deal that, based on the level of collateral defaults and loss severities that the market is currently experiencing, cause an investor to NOT expect any payment of principal.

Assumption: the bond’s principal WILL be written down to zero at some point. The investor expects NOT to get any principal back. However, until that point, the bond can earn interest cash flows therefore it’s an “Interest Only” bond.

Key Factor: Loss timing. Between now and precisely WHEN the bond is fully written down, the bond will be earning interest. Those monthly cash flows are worth something. The faster the bond will be written down, the less interest cash will be received. The longer the bond exists, the longer the bond will receive cash flows. The trick is to figure out when the losses will hit the bond. The timing of the losses will therefore have a dramatic effect on the price that an investor should be willing to pay for the bond. Less time until the fully-written down point = lower price.

So let’s take a look at some of the elements relating to the data side of this. Here are some of the relevant points:

1. Delinquencies

2. Foreclosure and REO timelines

3. Loss Severities to be used in determining how much of each loan will be lost due to defaults.

4. Credit Enhancements levels – primarily overcollateralization (OC) and each tranche’s current level of credit support (how much of the capital structure is supporting the particular tranche(s) we are evaluating).

On a Bloomberg you can bring up a simplistic method of evaluating this by typing an ABS cusip followed by the Mortgage key (F3) and then typing “MTCS” . This gives you the ability to take the deal’s current level of 60 day and 90 day delinquencies and apply a particular percentage of each that you expect to go through to default. The amounts of loans in Foreclosure (FC) and Real Estate Owned (REO) are assumed to be 100% in default. So we have as an example:

Table % % that will default default amt

% of Deal 60+ Day Delinq 8% 60% 4.8%

% of Deal 90+ Day Delinq 5% 70% 3.5%

% of Deal in FC 3.5% 100% 3.5%

% of Deal in REO 2.5% 100% 2.5%

For a total of 14.3% that we expect to end up in full default and thereby experience a loss.

Sum those figures up (14.3%) and multiply by a single loss severity input and you will have the approx amount of the deal that you will experience as a loss. Let’s say we use 50% Loss Severity. That will give us 7.15% of the outstanding collateral balance in the deal that we expect to impact the deal’s capital structure in the form of losses. Compare that amount versus the particular bond’s credit support that you’re evaluating and if you have a ratio (called the “Coverage Ratio” on Bloomberg), that is less than 1.00, then that bond is likely to disappear completely because there is simply not enough support for the bond to survive. Anyone with access to a Bloomberg can do the above. The above doesn’t actually try to predict WHEN the losses will occur – only that they are expected to occur at some point in the future. It also does not let you consider future loans that are current on their mortgage payments or are 30 days delinquent that will come down the “pipeline” into the more severely delinquent states and finally into realized losses. It also doesn’t try to tell you what it all means in terms of a “price” that you might be willing to pay for the bond.

So let’s kick this up a notch.

Loan-Level Delinquency information

First of all, let’s assume that we have access to loan-level information and that we know, not only the current delinquency status of each loan but exactly when the loan entered that status. Intex provides good loan level data for deals from about 2006 and onwards. Loan Performance provides loan-level information for all deals – loan level information is generally what Loan Performance is known for (but they don’t have very good data about the capital structures nor can they do really good cash flows on the bonds as Intex does). The point is that loan-level delinquency information is available.

So let’s retrieve all the loans from a particular deal into a spreadsheet from our database of loan-level information. Ideally, this should be automated from within the spreadsheet so we can always refresh the data whenever we need to ensure that it is representative of the most current data in our database.

We now have our hands on which loans are in which delinquency condition. Now, if we simplistically project out maximum timelines that all the loans will experience in FC and REO before they hit their loss point, we can derive a table of months going forward and WHEN those losses will be experienced.

For example, we can state the following:

A. Let’s say that a loan has been in FC for two months already: Let’s permit 6 months for the total “normal” amount of time that a loan is going to be in FC so that there are expected to be 4 months more of FC time for this particular loan. Then permit 6 months more for the full REO process. This means that month 10 is WHEN we expect the loss to hit.

B. Let’s say that a loan is currently in REO and has been so for 4 months. Permitting 6 months of complete REO time suggests that we have 2 more months to go. So 2 months from now is when we think we will realize a loss on this loan.

C. Let’s say that a loan has just become 90 days delinquent for the first time. They’re probably going to be in FC real soon, but maybe we feel that we should allow an additional month of being 90 days delinq. So we would have 1 more month of 90 days delinquency. A full 6 months of FC and 6 months of REO so that we expect the loss to hit in month 13.

We can continue to do the above for 60 days delinq loans and 30 day delinq loans. And possibly take some current loans based on the idea that some of these will also hit the skids.

Let’s assume an overall “Loss Severity” of 60%. According to some market participants 60% is getting more and more real. This means that, given a loan amount of $100,000 you are expecting to lose $60,000. Apply the loss severity input to each of the loan balances and sum those loss amounts up into each of the months you have projected into the future.

The result is that you end up with a table of months into the future within which losses can be summed up – month by month. At that point we have a relatively simplistic table giving us WHEN we expect the losses to hit. These losses will be applied to the bond’s outstanding balance and will eventually “amortize” the bond’s principal, via write-downs, down to zero. At each month, you calculate what amount of interest the bond should receive. Then we apply the loss amount for that month and decrease the bond’s outstanding principal balance so that in the next month there will, of course, be less interest earned. We keep doing this until the bond’s balance has been written down to zero, at which point you’re not earning any more interest on the bond. At that point, the bond has disappeared. Then sum up the interest payments that you received during the time when the bond was still “alive” and you have the amount of cash you’re going to receive on this bond. Divide that by the principal currently outstanding on the bond and you have the price that might be indicative of what you would be willing to pay. Notice that this last sentence is disregarding the time value of money. It can be an enhancement to “present value” (PV) those interest cash flows and then sum up the PV-ed cash flows to get a more accurate price.

It should be noted that if there is any “OC” remaining at the bottom of the capital structure in the deal, you have to allocate the loss amounts to the OC first before they start to impact the bond you’re evaluating. Likewise if there are any bonds BELOW the one you’re evaluating, because of the fact that losses are allocated from the bottom of the capital structure upwards, then each of those bonds below your bond each have to be written down to zero before the loss amounts start to impact your particular bond. The point being that your spreadsheet application must retrieve all of the bonds and any OC BELOW your bond and apply the loss amounts to EACH of their principal outstanding amounts BEFORE the losses start to impact your particular bond. Of course, this means that ALL of the bonds below the one you’re evaluating are also, each one, a “Credit IO” bond.

A few other observations

I want to emphasize that decreasing the FC and REO timelines in the model will have the impact of decreasing the amount of time that the bonds will survive thereby decreasing the length of time that the bonds will earn interest resulting in a lower price that one would be willing to pay for the bond. Obviously, if you’re buying you want to pay as low as possible so underestimating time lines will help you. If you’re selling, you’ll probably want to consider that the time lines are longer so that you can sell it for a higher price. These are the normal competitive sort of interests in the market place.

The above represents a simplistic model but one which gives a much greater degree of flexibility than the Bloomberg MTCS function. Done correctly, it also permits the user to adjust the time lines and severities to ones which they feel comfortable with when evaluating “Credit IO’s”.

Also, by keeping all of the above factors in mind, the user/trader can still perform the analysis in the way that they see fits best for the environment they’re in. They’re not “locked” into a “black box” which they can’t see inside of. There are, of course, much more extensive features that can be built into such a model which are not within the scope of this article.