The rumors are true: We’re really into holiday shopping here at Purch. Our writers and editors have a common mission to help people buy better, every day, and that mission gets kicked into high gear this time of year. But Purchers aren’t just savvy shoppers and deal finders — we’re also volunteers, philanthropists and all around do-gooders.

So in the spirit of giving back, we’ve brainstormed a list of ways that we (and everyone else) can help out in our communities over the busy weeks ahead. These excellent ideas were inspired by two Purchers who make doing good their mission both at work and in their personal lives —  Juli Weber, Purch’s organizational development manager and Jeannie Mitchell, our New York office manager.

1. Donate to a food or clothing drive. You can also help organize a drive at your workplace, school or other community organizations or organize a mini drive among friends and family members.

Pro tip: Gamify your food or clothing drive by asking people to bring in different categories of items each week or create donating “teams” and award the team that donates the most!

2. Donate household items. Want to donate something a little more specific? Or perhaps you have an abundance of something — diapers, toys, toilet paper — that someone else could use? Consider dropping these items off at a local shelter.

Pro tip: It’s always a good idea to call shelters before dropping off donations. Some shelters only accept certain goods, while others may have specific requests for items they need most.

3. Donate toys. Lots of organizations collect toys and games during the holidays for kids in need. And let’s face it: Shopping for toys is fun for grownups, too! So get out there and make a kid’s day.

Pro tip: Some organizations have “wish list” programs that connect people who want to donate gifts with specific individuals in need of gifts for themselves or their children. Participating in these programs is a great way to make personal connections while giving back.

4. Collect cash for food. Sometimes, collecting food or other items can be logistically difficult (Where do you keep all the donations you receive? How do you get a box of canned goods across town on the subway?) Consider collecting money instead. You can decide ahead of time what cause you’d like to make a cash donation to or use the money you collect to buy items to donate.

Pro tip: If you plan on donating food with the money you collect, give your local food pantry a call first. They may have specific requests during the holiday season, says Purch’s Juli Weber — and she should know! Juli recently purchased several frozen turkeys with money donated by employees in our Ogden, Utah, office after hearing on the news that local food pantries were quickly running out of this popular ingredient for holiday meals.

5. Donate your time. Giving your time is one of the most generous things you can do during the busy holiday season. Whether you spend some time stocking shelves at the food pantry or visiting with seniors, you’re guaranteed to connect with people in your community in a meaningful way.

Pro tip: Volunteering is a great thing to do during the holidays, but volunteers play an integral role in communities every day! Try to keep the holiday spirit alive by finding a volunteer role that you can carry out all year long.

6. Practice random acts of kindness! If the prospect of volunteering or organizing a food drive seems a bit daunting to you in these final weeks of the year, don’t worry; every little bit of giving back counts. Whether it’s stopping by a relative’s house for an unexpected visit, shoveling your neighbor’s portion of the sidewalk or giving an unexpected compliment — your smallest acts can make a big difference in someone’s day.

Pro tip: When thinking of small ways to give back, focus on your strengths; Let the simple things you excel at guide your giving!

Resources for the NYC area:

https://www.foodbanknyc.org/donate-food/

https://www.cityharvest.org/

https://www.newyorkcares.org/coat-drive/about

http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/drives/

https://www.bowery.org/donate/donate-goods/

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dhs/about/donations.page

https://brooklyn-ny.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/default.aspx

http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/event/2017-holiday-toy-drive/

https://www.newyorkcares.org/winter-wishes

https://www.newyorkcares.org/holiday-volunteering

https://www.nycservice.org/

http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/2698/volunteer-opportunities

Want to hear more from Purch? Follow us on Twitter.

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A few weeks ago, we published a blog post about how PR people can improve their working relationships with journalists…from the perspective of a journalist and editor. And that post got us thinking: Surely PR people (or communications people, as they may preferred to be called) have their own thoughts on how to improve working relationships with journalists. So we decided to ask them!

We picked up the phone and called Goodman Media, Purch’s external communications agency, and lucky for us, Goodman Media’s executive director, Amy Jaick, had time for a chat. “What’s your advice to journalists for making the most of their relationships with communications folks?” we asked Amy. Here’s what she had to say.

1. Ask for more. Journalists are now expected to share stories in many ways — not just through articles. Communications experts know this and can often provide resources, like infographics or social media strategy tips, which help journalists deliver their message in a novel way. So go ahead and ask your PR contact for more than just a source!

2. Be willing to compromise. Journalists often want to get an expert source on the phone right away to grab a quote for a story, but sometimes that’s just not possible. Communications pros appreciate it when journalists are willing to explore a client’s expertise outside of direct conversations and will gladly point journalists toward published articles that their clients have written or talks they’ve given that fit into the story being told.

3. Learn to listen. Good communications people are experts on the broad trends occurring in the industries they represent. Sometimes, when journalists contact them for assistance with a story, they may have input on those trends or news that can help make a story even more impactful. Be open to hearing what they have to say, and trust that they’re up to date on the topic you’re covering.

4. Busy? Build a relationship anyway.  Just as a journalist’s role has expanded to include tasks like social media promotion and video explainers, so too has a communications person’s job grown to include delivering clients’ social media strategies and creative assets. The hustle and bustle of these jobs can make it tempting to neglect non-urgent emails or catch-up calls, but both journalists and PR folks need to stay in touch precisely because they’re so busy.

5. Fix your mistakes. Sometimes, journalists get things wrong. If a PR contact reaches out to you after an article is published and asks for reasonable edits — fix an incorrect fact, correct the spelling of a name, put a quote in context — please take the time to consider his or her request and to fix what needs fixing.

6. Help us help you. Part of a PR person’s job is increasing the reach of articles (or other media) in which a client is mentioned as much as possible — either on social platforms or through other channels. Journalists also want to increase the reach of their articles. So why not collaborate to reach as wide of an audience as possible? Talk to your PR contact about a social media strategy for the piece you’re writing. They’ll almost certainly be interested in working together to make big things happen.

For more insights from Goodman Media, follow them on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Want to join in the conversation? Talk to Purch on Twitter

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Just before the holiday shopping rush began this weekend, Purch’s ShopSavvy launched a new set of updates on its app and website that gave us all — both Purchers and deal-loving shoppers everywhere — a reason to celebrate. The new features make ShopSavvy even easier to use and help deliver more product and pricing information to folks who want to buy the best stuff at the best prices. But ShopSavvy’s dramatic makeover was missing one crucial thing: A before photo.

To paint a better picture of the brand’s transformation, we called Rylan Barnes, Purch’s VP of software engineering for mobile and emerging platforms. Rylan, who’s based out of Dallas, is one of the original founders of ShopSavvy, so he knows every detail about the site’s evolution — and some of those details might just surprise you.

Can you give us the slightly abbreviated version of ShopSavvy’s origin story? 

It all started back in 2002. I was trying to find a better way to help college students buy and sell their textbooks, mostly because I was fed up with how expensive textbook were. So the first version of ShopSavvy was actually just a price comparison search engine for college textbooks, where users could also buy and sell directly with each other.

A few years later, in 2008, when smartphones were starting to be opened up to developers, I expanded the idea into all categories (not just textbooks), and I morphed it into a mobile app with a barcode-scanning feature. It was just a simple scanner with a few extra features that let you save things for later. Then we raised an investment — which included capital from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin — and opened an office in San Francisco, so we could take this early momentum to the next level.

The original use case for the app was something summed up in our old motto, which was, “From pocket to prices in 10 seconds.” The idea was that you could get a complete, comprehensive answer about a product’s price really fast. And while the app was really good at that, that’s all it did. We even used to call it the non-shopper’s shopping tool, because it let you get in and out of a store quickly, with no fuss. But once we started building out a team, we decided to take things to the next level, so we aimed to bring in features around discoverability and frequency of use.

We built a custom web crawler that went through the websites of all major retailers and aggregated whatever they were promoting so that we could then surface it inside our app. And unlike RetailMeNot, where there are a lot of deals but you can’t actually do any shopping, we built something where a user could do both.

Is this the part of the story where ShopSavvy becomes part of Purch?

Purch acquired ShopSavvy at the end of 2015, and we were very excited about what Purch and ShopSavvy could do together.  With Purch’s editorial content and ShopSavvy’s product database we could build the perfect intersection of content and commerce.

 ShopSavvy has always been about saving users money, but the original context was limited to just helping users in the aisle of the store. Now we can help users before they go to the store. And we also now help our users find the best price and the best pick.

This latest update to the app/site seems to be a big step forward. What new features are you most excited about?

We’ve taken the app’s features around discoverability to the next level. First, we surfaced best picks from TopTenReviews and soon we’ll show best picks from all Purch sites. We make it very easy to jump to exactly what you’re looking for as quickly as possible. We’re also now creating original content for the first time ever. In the past, we were only an aggregator of others’ content. Throughout next year you’ll see more features around personalization and targeting, such as location-based triggers and price alerts.

You can find out more about ShopSavvy’s latest update in this release. Or, better yet, download the app and check out the new features first hand! For more from Rylan Barnes, follow him on Twitter.

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No relationship is discussed more openly and in greater depth in the Purch newsroom than that between a writer and her “PR people.” Writers here (and everywhere else) depend on public relations contacts for story leads and sources — just as PR folks depend on writers to spread the word about their clients. But like any worthwhile relationship, this one is… complicated.

Here to help us navigate the liaison between journalists and PR reps is Nicole Fallon, managing editor of Purch’s Business News Daily. As a writer and editor, Nicole receives 20 to 40 emails a day from PR people pitching their clients’ news and know-how. Many of those emails result in insightful business profile pieces or helpful tips for startups. Others miss the mark.

So what can PR folks do to ensure that their pitches are well received by journalists? Here are 13 pro tips from someone with a separate inbox folder just for pitches:

1. Don’t “re-pitch”: If I’ve told someone that we don’t cover something and they continue pitching it, I’ll likely just delete those emails.

2. Be flexible: We can’t always write a story exactly as it’s pitched, but maybe there’s a different topic that the client can talk about. When PR people are willing to think outside the box, it demonstrates that they really are interested in helping both the reporter and their client.

3. Listen: My favorite way to work with PR people is when they reach out to me and ask what my team and I are working on. Maybe they have a client who could offer a quote or an interview.

4. Personal is better: I automatically delete anything that looks like a mass pitch and isn’t personalized at all (i.e. no “Hi Nicole”). You can always tell when people just copy and paste one pitch and send it out to everyone.

5. Don’t send spam: I really don’t like “email newsletter” type pitches. I didn’t sign up for that. That’s when I look for the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email. This happens a lot with company announcements or product updates.

6. Do your research: If it’s very clear that a PR person has no idea what our publication covers, and he or she sends me something irrelevant to small business, it’s unlikely that we’ll have a productive conversation. I consider that a sign that someone hasn’t done their research.

7. Details count: PR people are strapped for time, and journalists can relate to that — but if someone sends me a great pitch meant for another publication (or another journalist), I’m not going to respond to that.

8. Not sure where to pitch? Just ask: Ask a reporter how they prefer to be pitched. For example, do they like being pitched via social media? Some reporters are constantly checking social media and like being pitched on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Others, like me, are bad at checking their DMs and don’t want to be pitched that way.

9. Don’t go overboard: If I see the same person’s name more than once or twice in a week, I’ll be less likely to want to work with them. Every day contact is definitely too much. Aim to pitch a reporter no more than twice a week — preferably once a week or less. It boils down to this: throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks isn’t the right approach.

10. Make a list: Sometimes it can be helpful for PR people to send a list of clients over. I can see what their clients are really experts in, and when I’m working on an appropriate story, I can reach out to the PR person. This makes it a two-way street because now the PR person is available as a resource on the reporter’s timeline, not just the PR person’s timeline.

11. Don’t call us; we’ll call you: Calling someone on the phone may have been appropriate before email became the go-to workplace communication method, but it isn’t anymore. Phone pitches in the middle of the workday are disruptive. Follow up on an email pitch once first with another email before picking up the phone.

12. Treat reporters the way you want to be treated: Calling a reporter’s cell phone outside of office hours to deliver a pitch is almost never ok. Breaking news is a different story, but many reporters don’t necessarily cover breaking news.

13. Steer clear of informal communication: Like personal cell phones, reporters’ personal Instagram and Facebook pages, as well as personal email addresses, are (probably) not the right places to pitch. LinkedIn is different because it’s for professional purposes. But again, before trying one of these alternative pitching methods, check to see if the reporter is ok with that.

TL;DR? It all boils down to this, according to Nicole: “Be respectful of a journalist’s time and space. Try to find a way to balance what they need with what your client needs.”

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Purch blog, which will feature insights on how journalists can make the most of their PR relationships…from our PR team!

For more excellent professional tips, follow Nicole Fallon & Business News Daily on Twitter. Want to comment on this post? Reach out to Purch on Twitter.

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By Doug Llewellyn, President & COO at Purch

When Amazon announced that it bought Whole Foods for nearly $14 billion back in June, the news sent shockwaves (if not ripples of fear) through the retail community. Is Amazon going to take over the grocery sector? Is the death of brick-and-mortar stores across all industries imminent? But as these and other nervous questions fly in the wake of the acquisition, retailers should be asking a different question: What can we learn from Amazon, and how can we follow its lead?

Amazon’s disruption of the retail world is nothing new. For decades, the e-commerce giant has reshaped the role that brick-and-mortars play in the customer journey, even spurring other retailers to follow suit. Take Warby Parker, for example. Founded in 2010, the company upended a $140 billion industry by moving the sale of eyeglasses online.

Of course, not every company can be the next Warby Parker, but every retailer can learn from the example set by Amazon. By studying the things that Amazon does right, companies can stop maligning this industry behemoth and focus on what really matters — building better businesses, both online and in stores.

Put customers in their place

Companies should start by remembering the old saying that “The customer is always right”. As the success of Amazon’s customer-centric model shows, that’s never been more true than it is today.

Luckily, retailers don’t have to be industry giants to provide top quality service or understand customers’ needs and expectations.  Brick-and-mortar retailers can easily engage in conversations with shoppers on-site or collect customers’ email addresses to follow up on transactions. Tools like Survey Monkey or Ask Your Target Market are also great and affordable options for smaller retailers to dig deeper into the customer mindset.

Make it personal

Putting the customer back at the center of the business model might sound like some kind of metaphor, but it isn’t. Amazon and its ilk use technology to understand consumer behaviors and target shoppers with products that appeal to them. In essence, every Amazon shopper exists at the center of his or her own retail universe.

Companies like Best Buy have clearly taken notice. Over the past 12 months, Best Buy has doubled down on improving its e-commerce platform — making transactions simpler for shoppers, enhancing its customized product recommendations and incentivizing online shoppers to buy more with competitive pricing. In Best Buy’s case, these efforts helped pave the way for a major win: Its domestic online sales grew by 31.2 percent year-over-year during the second quarter.

With enough thought and planning, even small retailers, whose businesses may not be as technologically advanced as Amazon or Best Buy, can create customer-centric shopping experiences.  E-commerce sellers can implement several different practices to personalize the shopping experience, including: seasonal deals, bespoke pricing and personalized discounts, suggested items to purchase and timely push notifications for mobile shoppers.

Be flexible

As Amazon’s recent foray into organic groceries shows, company business models can and should evolve according to new opportunities. Take, for example, Leesa, a mattress retailer that once sold its products exclusively online. In 2016, the company made a bold move when it opened its first brick-and-mortar location in one of New York City’s busiest shopping districts.

Recognizing when it’s time to try new things — whether that’s expanding e-commerce endeavors or creating a better real-world presence — is crucial to staying competitive. Be flexible, but focused. Channel experimentation around a goal, such as inciting buying behaviors. Then get creative. Offer discounts or daily deals. Diversify the products and services offered, and make sure that offerings are timely and seasonally relevant.

As retailers implement these ideas, they should also make sure to look beyond the now into the future.  As they do so, they should take a page from Amazon’s hugely successful membership program: Amazon Prime. Membership models and cash-back programs go a long way toward rewarding the loyalty of repeat customers and enticing new customers to get on board. And you don’t have to run an Amazon-sized business to offer big customer perks. There are many tech solutions for smaller businesses that seamlessly integrate loyalty programs into POS systems.

By taking Amazon’s lead and keeping customers at the center, gathering data to better understand their needs and implementing practices and tools to make the overall experience better, companies can improve their own businesses and achieve greater long-term success.  So instead of fearing companies like Amazon, perhaps we should all take a page from their playbook and follow suit instead.

Follow Purch COO Doug Llewellyn on Twitter for more industry insights! 

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