Tony Dobrowolski: Changes in marketing, biotech



A few odds and ends from around the business world as we head into mid-summer.

A lot of retailers, small and large, local, regional and national, are being bombarded with information about mobile marketing. Some have embraced the new trends wholeheartedly; some have dipped their proverbial toes in the water; others are still wary.

If you're confused about which direction to go in, or where to allocate your resources, don't worry. You have plenty of company. The digital world continues to be a difficult sell in the retail universe.

A recent survey conducted by RetailMeNot Inc. found that 75 percent of retail executives believe that digital advertising delivers a better ROI, or promotional performance, at a lower cost than traditional or offline forms of advertising.

But slightly less than half of those executives, 49 percent, still spend the majority of their resources on traditional forms of advertising.

"At the moment, spending priorities appear to be out of sync with ideals," the study states.

It appears, however, that many of these executives still see digital advertising as the future. Eighty-two percent believe their digital marketing budgets will increase over the next three to five years, compared to 39 percent who believe those spending plans will either stay the same or drop during that same time period.

The digital world in many ways is still uncharted water for many people, especially for those with a natural reticence for technology. It's almost like the fear that comes over you when first trying to learn algebra in high school. The numbers in this survey appear to reflect that trend.

Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of the retail executives surveyed believe that branded mobile platforms like apps are effective at driving in-store sales, but only 19 percent "strongly" believe that they have an advanced knowledge of native mobile applications. That anxiety is reflected in these numbers: fewer than a quarter of the respondents (24 percent) said they were willing to develop mobile apps on their own, with the vast majority saying they would at least rely on partners to do that work for them.

Retailers also seem confused about how to integrate mobile marketing opportunities into their overall budgets. Forty-five percent view mobile marketing as an integrated component of digital marketing; 24 percent place it under ecommerce, and 12 percent put it under stores. An additional 18 percent have mobile marketing set up as an independent department. There are experts out there who can help you decide what options are best for your business.

Although no one seems to agree on where mobile marketing fits in to their spending plans, 50 percent of mobile marketers agree that most consumers receive their information about retailers through mobile devices; 47 percent are actively using mobile displays; and 45 percent believe mobile gives consumers most of their information about deals.

Still confused? There are experts out there who can help you decide what options are best for your business.

The RetailMeNot Retailer Survey was conducted between April 24 and May 6 among 204 marketing decision-makers at retailers that sell both online and in physical retail locations and have at least $50 million in annual revenue. Grocery stores and restaurants were not included.


One of the state's fastest growing job markets is the life sciences sector. The state has basically harnessed the considerable intellectual heft provided by its considerable colleges and universities to high tech.

The life sciences sector is spreading slowly to Western Massachusetts. In the Berkshires, we have a handful of life sciences companies. The city of Pittsfield is hoping to get more involved in this action through the-yet-to be-constructed Berkshire Innovation Center at the William Stanley Business Park. The idea behind that project is to help existing Berkshire manufacturers develop products for use by companies in the life sciences field.

How this all plays out remains to be seen, but a market for these products is definitely there. According to a study conducted by the Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy at Northeastern University, Massachusetts ranks sixth in the country in life sciences employment, a significant feat because its population is relatively smaller than the top five (California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in that order).

When ranked by population size, Massachusetts is No. 1. When you count all the jobs in life sciences employment, the life sciences sector in Massachusetts is almost as big as the state's construction industry.

Here's another interesting statistic that relates to the Pittsfield project. The total number of jobs generated by the Massachusetts Life Sciences sectors, including jobs in the state's supplier industries, was 179,794 in 2012, which is some 66,000 more than the total number of state jobs that are directly attributable to the life sciences.

State employment growth in the life sciences sectors of research and development, pharma, and medical equipment increased 17.5 percent between 2006 and 2012 compared to 1.4 percent in total state employment over that same time period.

That's impressive.

Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at


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