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One of the world’s oldest professions is matchmaking, and given the role of technology in today’s world, it’s no surprise that the industry is booming. With an explosion of new websites and apps, the dating services industry has performed very well in the past five years and is continuing to grow as today's singles turn to the Internet for help finding love.

Types of Matchmaking Services

According to a recent report by Marketdata Enterprises Inc, dating services is a $2.5 billion business in the United States alone. Since 2001, online services have soared in popularity and now account for 70 percent of the market’s value. The dating services industry includes several different segments.

Online Dating Websites: Sites such as, Plenty of Fish, eHarmony, and hundreds more bring affordable and convenient matchmaking services to America’s 124 million singles.

Dating Apps: Smartphones have brought online dating into the hands of thousands of Millennials through popular new apps. According to Business of Apps, the dating app Tinder is available in over 30 languages. The app has generated over one billion matches since its start, and subscriber estimates vary between 100,000 and 297,000 users.

In June 2014 during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the app had a 50 percent increase in downloads and usage. The ability to connect instantaneously through an app is an appealing aspect to many single consumers. Because this apps is free, it makes its profits through ads and its premium service, Tinder Plus.

Matchmakers & Dating Coaches: Companies and professionals in this industry provide matchmaking services and host singles events such as speed dating. These professionals also work to help improve their clients’ overall success in dating and relationships. These one-on-one services are more expensive than online dating sites.

A Change of Heart

The stigma once associated with online dating is disappearing. In 2005, 29 percent of U.S. adults agreed with the statement, “People who use online dating sites are desperate;” but in 2013, only 21 percent of adults agreed with the statement. Now, 87 percent of males and 83 percent of females agree with the statement, “Online dating is socially acceptable.”

But, even with this shift, online dating and mobile apps still face ongoing challenges. According to Pew Research Center, 54 percent of online daters felt that someone else seriously misrepresented themselves in their online profile. Pew also found that 28 percent of online daters have been contacted by someone through an online dating site or app in a way that made them feel harassed or uncomfortable. Other challenges facing the market include fake online profiles, fraudulent traffic, database breaches, and privacy safeguards to protect users.

How Will the Industry Evolve?

According to Marketdata Enterprises Inc., dating website revenues are expected to slow down and achieve only moderate growth this year because the U.S. market is extremely saturated. There are over 1,500 dating sites that all are working to attract the same consumers: single men and women.

But, that doesn’t mean businesses should lose hope. In fall of 2015, the leading dating site in the U.S. had an IPO. Match Group's portfolio includes Tinder, Plenty of Fish, How About We, and OkCupid. While Match said that nearly all of its revenue currently comes from paid membership fees on its sites, advertising revenue could be a big source of future growth, especially when it comes to increased usage among mobile users.





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Americans are spending more on their pets than ever before, and expenditures continue to rise. By 2020, the U.S. pet industry is expected to reach $96 billion in sales, according to Packaged Facts, a leading market research firm.

Approximately 56% of U.S. households own pets, and the close emotional bonds people share with their furry friends is a major driver of industry growth. To learn more about this and other trends, check out the article below, which highlights several key findings from the report U.S.

Many Consumers Believe That Pets Are People, Too

A vast majority of pet owners describe their pets as family members. Not surprisingly, these pet owners are often willingly to spend extra money to indulge their pets and care for their health — treating their pets as if they are their own children.

The “pets as family” trend has given rise to a wide variety of high-end pet products and services, including pet day care, dog fitness trackers, premium pet food, concierge services, and more

Marketers Target Tech-Savvy Shoppers

Pet owners are no strangers to social media — many pets even have their own Instagram or Twitter accounts that are updated by their owners.

    According to Packaged Facts, pet owners are more likely to use digital devices and technologies compared with non-pet owners, and 41% of pet product buyers turn to the Internet for information on pet care services.Pet marketers are working to cash in on this trend, with a combination of social media campaigns, content marketing initiatives, and clever YouTube videos that are designed to build brand awareness and drive sales.

Small Dogs Continue to Gain Popularity

A 2016 Packaged Facts survey shows that a higher percentage of U.S. households have small dogs (under 25 pounds) than medium or large dogs. What's driving this trend? Aging baby boomers may prefer small dogs, as they are easier to lift and require less outdoor time. Smaller dogs also fit well in apartments and urban settings..





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The mobile health market could reach an astounding $86.6 billion by 2020, a yearly increase of 20.8 percent over a five-year period, according to Kalorama Information. In the race to re-imagine patient care, a number of innovative companies are creating new, breakthrough solutions that allow patients to access medical care from the comfort of their homes.

Whether you’d like to to text a therapist, or video conference with a doctor, a variety of services and mobile apps are being released to accommodate different needs and preferences. This dynamic field is quickly becoming crowded with competitors, and we can expect to see big shifts in the coming years as companies jostle for position and test new business models.

Interested to learn more? Here’s a look at a range of companies that are changing the way patients access medical care.

1. American Well partners with health plans, employers, and delivery networks to bring telehealth programs to the market. American Well’s mobile and web technology gives people convenient access to medical care, and its services extend beyond urgent care to include chronic care management and post-surgical follow up.

2. Doctor on Demand was founded by TV personality Dr. Phil and his son Jay McGraw, who produces the television talk show The Doctors. The service is promoted on their shows to millions of viewers, targeting a demographic that includes mostly young women. Doctor on Demand allows customers to see a doctor to diagnose ailments via video consultations, and it recently closed a $21 million Series A round led by Venrock, according to Forbes.

3. First Opinion allows users to text a doctor at any time to ask basic health questions and find out whether a trip to the doctor’s office is necessary. Texting a doctor through the service is free. According to its website, First Opinion has raised $8.6 million in funding.




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As pet owners, we want the best for them. We want to care for them, love them, enjoy their company, and most importantly keep them fit and healthy for many years to come. Unfortunately, the truth is, pets get sick. Just like with children, you can vaccinate, be super vigilant about the foods they eat, and where they play. However, just like children, pets can contract illnesses and diseases that we thought we prevented. Let’s take a look at common pet diseases and how to care for your sick pet


Two of the most common household fish are Betta and Goldfishes, however many people have more exotic fish in their tanks. Fish can also become susceptible to parasites, diseases, and infections. Most fish diseases can be treated fairly quickly with fish mox — or Amoxicillin for fish as well as other antibiotics. Here are some of the most common fish diseases:

Tail and Fin Rot, Gill Flukes, Fungal Infections, Dropsy, Cotton Wool Disease


Common symptoms to look out for are sluggishness, inactivity, difficulty breathing, and scratching. Regularly cleaning out your tank and introducing properly sterilized articles to the environment can prevent many of these illnesses.


Whether your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat, she is still prone to diseases and illnesses — yes even if vaccinated. Cats are prone fleas, ticks, parasites, and other more serious diseases.





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Music and Mental Health

You know you have done it. Maybe you’ve turned on a slow love song when you are in a romantic mood. Maybe you listen to something a bit more lively when it comes time to get your house cleaning done. We’ve probably all cried too when we hear certain songs that have special meaning to us and remind us of loved ones who might no longer be with us.

The thing is, music plays a massive role in our lives, to one extent or another. Yes, each of us will prefer different types of music, and some of us have tastes that might be even a bit eclectic. However, we all turn to music at different times for one reason or another.

The Effects of Music on the Body and Mind

You might not know this, but music can actually help reduce or manage the effects of post-operative and chronic pain. Music has a tendency to distract us and this can give us a sense of control. At the same time, it can trigger the release of endorphins that work to counteract our pain while it also relaxes us by slowing our pulse and breathing. It can reduce blood pressure, as well as the frequency, duration, and severity of headaches and migraines.

If you are dealing with stress and/or anxiety, music is known to relax and calm you and can even help you fall asleep. Music also has been shown to lower our levels of cortisol, which boosts our immune system while reducing stress.

Music Therapy

Music therapy is a type of therapy that can be defined as music being used to help people deal with cognitive, emotional, and even physical problems, and even to help with addiction recovery in some instances. In fact, when it comes to that, there are all sorts of songs about addiction. The person in therapy can interact with music in a variety of ways including dancing, singing, or just listening. They might also be moved to either write music themselves or be induced to have discussions regarding the lyrics.uld be doing.




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Often confused with a vegan diet, the yogic diet aims at giving the body all the nutrition it needs to stay healthy and practice yoga more flawlessly. Like yoga, the food you eat should be balanced and must follow the rules of moderation. Yoga is not just a workout but a form of lifestyle which when practiced in its truest of forms brings about the most benefits to the practitioner. The diet of a true yoga practitioner is not difficult to follow. Let’s walk through the basics of a yogic diet and the rules that define it.

The goal of the serious yogis is to maintain a healthy yet peaceful state of mind. It would require many changes in their lifestyle along with choosing only the purest forms of food as their source of nutrition. The yoga experts believe that the food you eat should be devoid of all sorts of harmful chemicals and additives. Try to stay as true to nature as you possibly can while making sure that the food you eat is healthy and nutritious for your body.

While some may believe that only meat can fulfill the body’s required protein intake, the concept holds no ground at all. If one is aware of the natural sources of protein that come in the forms of vegetables, leafy greens, legumes, and lentils, they will come to see the truth too. The right proportion of these foods can help fulfill the body’s required protein intake.

Instead of packing and freezing the food way before in advance, it is advised to prepare fresh food for every meal. This helps preserve its nutritional value and gives you healthy food every time. Eating raw food such as vegetables and fruits is a preferred mode of action. The high nutritional value they contain gives the body the energy it needs to function. Usage of herbs is also suggested too since they contain a lot of health benefits.




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Hard to treat ailments? Side effects?  . . . Welcome to a solution.

Prescription drugs can work, but how often do they really get the job done? How many of them work but cause sometimes debilitating side effects, dependence, sometimes even addiction. Numerous studies and researches have shown that CBD can help even intractable, treatment-resistant medical problems. Customer reviews abound with gratitude over CBD oil effectiveness – sometimes with just 2 drops a day! Many of them say goodbye to their symptoms from multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, vomiting, and don’t even have to deal with side effects.

These harsh terms paint a grim vision for the patient who has just received a prescription for a pill that they hear about on the news daily. Opioid epidemics and prescription pills are killing more and more as many hard drug users began with a Vicodin a day after a small surgery and don’t know that the slope to real addiction can be oh so slippery. CBD, the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, and even THC, the marijuana component that gets people “high”, are just not addictive as pharmaceuticals and illicit street drugs are.

In face, new treatment centers are focusing on medical marijuana as a modality to treat those in addiction recovery. It’s psychological effects can be beneficial for those in harsh withdrawal in the first few weeks of treatment. In the first months and years of recovery, one can use medical marijuana to curb anxiety, impulsivity, and cravings – which are affects that, even when the drugs are gone, never go away for the sober person working on their recovery program.

Patients are allowed (even encouraged) to self medicate.

For the most part, most patients will not have dosage instructions on their CBD products. This is actually one of the best parts of green medicine! A user could relatively safely start with a recommended dosage, then ease their way into a dose that balances out their ailment. Big Pharma beware . . . people are going to really like that idea and the confidence it gives them as the patient is going to feel like he or she is a real working part of their treatment. Everyone’s body is different and so is their endocannabinoid system


CBDs are the beneficial component from the marijuana plant that does not produce a “high”, impairment, or similar euphoric mind-altering experiences. It’s another reason that it rarely develops into addiction. It’s safety profile all around is fairly safe as it is very easy on the liver and does not attack normal cells (as treatments like chemotherapy do). Driving, working, caregiving, all are not usually questioned activities under CBD treatment.

These are just some of the ways that CBD and THC are changing the whole health industry of the country. Medical cannabis, specifically CBD products, give patients a safe and effective alternative to conventional drugs and therapies. The pharmaceutical industry, long dominating the healthcare market, is also feeling the pressure of this inevitable change and is toughening its stance against medical cannabis.




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Do you voluntarily throw down some burpees during your lunch hour workout or in your living room when you’re binging on Netflix?

Yeah … neither do we. They’re the worst!

If you hadn’t heard, burpees are now officially recognized as the most dreaded exercise on the planet. Let’s stop hating on them for one second, though. There are plenty of other painful exercises out there that hurt so much in the moment you’d rather pass. Although they mainly work the entirety of your abdominal muscles, lower back, quads, deltoids, and traps, side planks force you to engage your entire body to maintain form. If you find your hips sagging, it’s a sign you’ll need to strengthen them — one more reason not to skip this move. Start with 15 seconds on each side and work your way up.

Any exercise with the word ‘jump’ in it is bound to be hard, and frog jumps may take the cake. Also known as traveling squat jumps, this explosive plyometric movement requires maximal effort for each rep. By jumping as high and as far as you can, you’ll be breathing heavy and your legs will be on fire even after 10 reps.

Even though they’re hard, they’re so worth it. They mainly work your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and your core while bolstering strength. A frog jump can also easily become a cardiovascular workout as part of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine.

Probably the most universally hated exercise, burpees are actually one of the best total-body moves you can incorporate into your workout. They improve both cardiovascular and muscular endurance, as well as strength. They’re challenging, but can even be modified so beginners can reap the same benefits as veteran exercisers.

When we say a burpee is a total-body move, we mean it. It works the glutes, quads, calves, abs, deltoids, triceps, and pectorals. Oh, plus your heart. Convinced yet?

 Unfortunately — you know where we’re going with this — moves like planks, wall sits, and yes, your favorite burpees, are the ones with the most benefits. Well, shoot.So, before you skip these dreaded exercises, read on to understand why they’re so beneficial for you. You might just want to add them back in to your workout rotation.




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When I left my job as a registered nurse to stay home with my first baby, I would never have dreamed I’d end up where I am now. In fact, I thought I’d be perfectly content to not have a career and instead to devote myself to caring for my family, but that wasn’t the case.

I’m the kind of person that likes being busy. I like challenges. I like having something of my own that pushes me.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Being a stay-at-home-mom… keeping my house in order, caring for my family, homeschooling my children, and everything else I have to do keeps me plenty busy, and those things are fulfilling to me on a certain level. But embracing a career in a field I’m passionate about, on my own terms, is fulfilling on a totally different level, and it’s something I’ve always wanted. Thankfully, with my husbands encouragement and help, it’s become a reality.

How I Make A Living As An Herbalist

The evolution of my “herbal career” has been a slow one (which is a good thing seeing how herbalism is something that takes time to learn), but looking back, I can see how all the little progressions have led up to big wins. A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post on how I make a living as an herbalist which detailed my own personal journey in becoming an herbalist. 

It was a slow start with a lot of self-study and trying new things, and it moved me in the right direction.

However, this year, my herbal journey has taken some big turns. Let me tell you about some of them before I share my newest adventure.


First off, I’m no longer working as the blog coordinator for Bulk Herb Store. BHS has/is going through a big restructuring process, and the blog needed to take a backseat to that. I’m sure they’ll bring it back in the future, but it won’t be with me at the helm. Bulk Herb Store is a great business… one that I’m happy to continue to support (I love their products), and I can’t wait to see what all they have in store in the future!



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When I first heard the term forest bathing, I imagined a group of outdoor diehards from “Survivor” searching for creative ways to shower beneath pine trees. But forest bathing isn’t a physical cleansing practice. It’s an emotional one.

The term comes from the Japanese word “Shinrin-yoku,” which means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” This Japanese-based practice began in 1982 when the agriculture ministry of Japan promoted nature as a form of eco-therapy, or healing that happens by spending time in nature.

Heal with a little bit of woodland therapy

“The ministry promoted forest therapy because several years of research showed that it had health benefits,” says Susan Joachim, a forest therapy guide in Melbourne, Australia.

One study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine discovered that people who spent time in the forest had lower cortisol levels, lower pulse rates, and lower blood pressure than those who walked in the city. They also had lower stress levels. And this wasn’t from just one experiment. The researchers conducted field experiments in 24 different forests throughout Japan with 280 participants.

While the forest is a serene place of picturesque beauty, the healing benefits come from more than its atmosphere. Joachim says that trees release phytoncides, which are antibacterial compounds that protect the topiaries, or plants pruned into shapes, from diseases and tumorous growths. According to the Forest Therapy Association of the Americas, this substance boosts the immune system and increases the body’s count of Natural Killer (NK) cells, which helps us fight off illnesses. As people spend time in nature, they also absorb this curative tincture.





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Does the summer heat have you craving a sweet frozen treat? You’re not alone! Ice cream is no doubt a nostalgic (and effective) way to cool down on hot summer days. But if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant (or you just prefer a dairy-free lifestyle!), viable ice cream can be hard to find.

Luckily for you, we’ve rounded up eight delicious ice cream alternatives even you can indulge in. And even better? They’re made with healthy ingredients and are fairly easy to prepare in your own kitchen. So, leave the FOMO at the door because this summer is about to get pretty delicious for everyone around! Here’s our dietitian-approved list of the best dairy-free, icy treats anyone can make at home.

Vegan Roasted Peach Ice Cream Sundae

This dreamy sundae not only features luscious vanilla bean coconut milk ice cream (made with just a handful of ingredients!), it’s also topped with gorgeous roasted peaches, which are in season! The two together make this a drool-worthy summery treat that we need right this second.

Lavender Oat Banana Ice Cream

This vegan lavender ice cream contains fiber-rich oats and naturally sweet bananas, which will keep you satisfied and relaxed on those balmy summer nights. What makes it one of our favorite dairy-free ice cream recipes is how easy it is to make — all you need to make it is a few ingredients and a food processor!

 Balsamic Roasted Strawberry Popsicles


Popsicles are those treats that will make you feel like a kid again, no matter your age. But there’s a healthier way to enjoy these nostalgic treats without heading to the freezer aisle at your grocery store. Load them up with fresh summer fruit and they make a nutritious, fiber-filled frozen dessert. Plus, they’re super easy to make! Here’s what we really love about this recipe: Roasting the strawberries concentrates the sweet strawberry flavor and makes the final product more creamy than icy.




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Companies that consistently provide positive customer experiences enjoy higher sales and customer loyalty.

Forrester study comparing revenue growth at several companies in their customer experience index found that leaders outperformed laggards by as much as 24%. Other surveys (and everyday experience) also show that people are willing to pay more for a brand that consistently delivers and delights.

“We are riding an “experience business” wave. This is the battleground where all of us will compete in the foreseeable future,” says Brad Rencher, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Adobe.

Customer experience isn’t just a fancy way of saying the customer is always right. It’s a change in mindset and tactics. “Brand awareness has been replaced by brand purpose,” says Rencher. Marketing has shifted from telling people what to buy to listening to what they need, and providing it in the right way, time and place.

New technology has also made it possible to understand and interact with customers in powerful ways. Advances in big data and analytics can reveal a person’s needs and preferences for completely personalized interactions. Mobile and social media open new touchpoints. Agile, extensible experience-driven commerce solutions pave the way for powerful omnichannel campaigns.

But the big question is, “How do you use those technologies?” Rencher provides the following learnings from some of the most successful customer experience campaigns.

Know and Respect your Market

Use data to anticipate what people want, but assure them that their privacy is protected. Digital efforts should make your company feel like a personal shopper, not a stalker.

How do you tread that line? As mentioned in these rules for content marketers, most consumers understand the value of predictive recommendations. 73% are willing to share at least one piece of information. 40% of those who don’t trust companies will ease their concern if you ask permission for data. It boils down to trust: earning it, and keeping it.

Speak in One Voice

Many sales, marketing, customer service, online and retail efforts operate in silos. Align your efforts around a customer persona, and use platforms that can orchestrate and synergize your efforts.



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When Amazon announced its bid for Whole Foods, you could practically hear the screams coming from the C-suites at Kroger and Wal Mart. When a giant like Amazon bites into your market, the chances of survival diminish—and the grocery industry is already famous for thin margins.

Buying physical locations is an interesting strategy because most grocers are doing the exact opposite. They are all working like mad to bring online shopping and unified ecommerce to customers.

More people are buying groceries online. A January 2017 report from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsenpredicts that online groceries will grow five-fold by 2025. The report indicates that 25% of American households buy some groceries online now, up from 19 % in 2014. More than 70% say they will engage in online food shopping within ten years. Of those, 60% expect to spend about a quarter of their food dollars online.

Of course, Amazon is already in the food business. They launched Amazon Fresh in 2016 in 20 cities across the United States as well as in Berlin, London and Tokyo. For $14.99 a month you can order groceries from Amazon Fresh. Amazon Pantry sells non-perishables like cereal, chips, rice and coffee for a flat delivery fee of $5.99 per box, and Amazon’s Prime Now offers items from local grocers in some cities. With a finger tap and a Dash Button people can order many household products including groceries, but not fresh foods. Customers can also sign up for periodic delivery of laundry detergent, toothpaste, diapers, paper towels and other items frequently purchased in grocery stores using Subscribe and Save. Aside from this, if you have an Amazon Echo device equipped with Alexa, you can build a shopping list then ask Alexa to buy the groceries on the list for Prime Delivery.

Why Buy Physical Stores?


With all these services already in place, why is Amazon looking to buy physical stores? In a word: spoilage. According to a recent story in Bloomberg, Amazon experienced challenges with the high cost of losses caused by food going bad, an issue it didn’t have to solve with videos or books. Bricks and mortar grocers discount softening tomatoes and pork cutlets near their expiration dates or sell them to re-manufacturers. Apparently, at Amazon Fresh, partially spoiled food items were returned by irate customers and/or discarded at an alarming rate.



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 In industrial manufacturing, machine-to-machine communications allows sensors in one place to communicate with control systems for an automated response.

For example, if the temperature in a commercial food processor reached a critical high, a sensor could send that information through a supervisory control and data acquisition system. In response, the control system could trigger a cooling system to bring the temperature down. No human interaction was necessary and plant operations sailed along without any downtime.

To allow these communications, devices had to be connected to each other and to larger systems using standard protocols like wifi, Bluetooth and Zigbee. These systems are referred to as the industrial Internet of Things (IoT).

While the industrial IoT got an earlier start, the consumer IoT is not far behind and it is going to be big. Really big.

Reimagining the Point of Sale

Using many of the same underlying technologies, the consumer IoT gives merchandisers a whole new perception of what ‘place’ even means in the multi-channel universe. Coffee makers, laundry machines, fridges, stoves, cars, watches, smart home monitors and many other items will become customer touchpoints.

The consumer IoT ushers in an era of personal, contextualized selling opportunities, allowing companies to place purchases right into the context of when and where people use an Internet-connected device. Say for example your company manufactures refrigerators. When the milk runs out, people can simply push a button on the fridge to reorder more. The milk can be delivered alone, or along with other commonly ordered items on a standard grocery list – all sourced and delivered by your local grocery partner.


If you manufacture almost any product, now is the time your organization should consider supporting this kind of transaction – right from the product itself.



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By next year, Forrester estimates that digital technology will play a part in almost 60% of all in-store transactions, which will equate to roughly US$1.8 trillion. While most brands have spent decades building their physical presence, many are losing out online because they simply aren’t holding any digital real estate.

In today’s quickly changing market landscape, missing out on a segment of your target because you aren’t selling through a channel they frequent could mean business failure.

While you may understand the business critical nature of selling to your market with an omnichannel approach, your CEO and the rest of the C-suite may not be there yet. The sooner you can begin the omnichannel conversation with your CEO, the better. Here are three arguments for an omnichannel strategy that have helped many of our clients bring their CEO on board.

Customers Expect Great Digital Experiences

Your CEO is desperately trying to imagine the future to please a board of directors who want the business to still exist 50 years from now. With so many competing stakeholder interests, it is guaranteed that your CEO is concerned about making the best decisions possible for business longevity and customer approval.

It is a no brainer that your CEO will want to jump on the digital experience bandwagon. Why? Because we are at a tipping point wherein companies will equip themselves with the technical skills to deliver innovative digital experiences, or they will not. Help your CEO understand that selling through multiple online channels will be a sink or swim differentiator for your organization. He or she needs to know that this is a time-sensitive decision that requires resources to develop talent that can build your online footprint, yesterday.

Customers Expect a Uniform Experience

CEOs are concerned about accelerating business activity—from product development through to customer response. To ensure customer response is positive, CEOs need to understand how important it is for the customer experience to be seamless throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

When beginning to build your online presence, it is vital that your strategy remains consistent with your brand. Millennials and their increasingly technology-savvy parents expect an integrated experience at every interaction with you. In fact, 68% of the trillion-dollar millennial demographic demand an integrated, seamless experience regardless of their touch point with your company.




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We all know the drill by now: the healthiest diets are those with a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats with an emphasis on high fiber, whole grains, and modest portion sizes. Vegetables play a featured role in most healthy diets.

For example, the Harvard School of Public Health’s “Healthy Eating Plate” says that with few exceptions, the more vegetables we eat, the better. (The big exception? Potatoes! They have high carbohydrate content and affect blood sugar in a similar way as sweets, so moderation is recommended.)

And yet for many, vegetables remain low on the dietary priority list. Sure, some people just don’t like them. Perhaps they remember the bland, squishy, unappealing green beans of their elementary school cafeteria. Maybe it’s simply a bias against foods considered healthy. And of course, for many it’s hard to compete with high-calorie, deep-fried, and sweetened options.

Researchers have discovered the answer: Better marketing!

Well, maybe. The study was simple. A large university cafeteria served its usual vegetables (and other foods) in their usual way and researchers tallied how many people chose each vegetable. In addition, the amount of the featured vegetable chosen was greater when the more elaborate description was provided. Labels touting the healthier aspects of the vegetable (such as vitamin-enriched or sodium-restricted) seemed to have the opposite effect — fewer diners chose these vegetables than when only the name of the vegetable was used.

Surely there’s more to it

It seems a bit simplistic to think that just calling a food something snazzy can make people eat more of it. But marketing experts have been doing this for years, influencing consumer choices by coming up with just the right description, phrase, or jingle. Of course, I’ve never seen ad campaigns promoting “twisted citrus-glazed carrots” or “tangy ginger bok choy and banzai shiitake mushrooms.” Maybe vegetables just need better public relations consultants.

Now what?


There are some uncertainties in this research. For example, we don’t know from this study whether the effect of labeling vegetables would be long-lasting. It might work for a while and then wear off as diners realize that despite the fancy description, it’s still the same old corn. And people eating at a big university cafeteria might be different from those choosing to eat at a fancy restaurant, a fast food dive, or eating at home. And we don’t know how good these vegetable dishes really were or how accurate the “indulgent” labeling was. So, as usual, we’ll need more research to address these questions.



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 general internist. Primary care doctors can and should manage sciatica, because for most individuals the body can fix the problem. My job is to help manage the pain while the body does its job. When a person’s symptoms don’t improve, I discuss the role of surgery or an injection to speed things up.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica refers to pain caused by the sciatic nerve that carries messages from the brain down the spinal cord to the legs. The pain of sciatica typically radiates down one side from the lower back into the leg, often below the knee. The most common cause is a bulging (“herniated”) disc in the lower back. Discs are tire-like structures that sit between the bones of the spine. If the outer rim of the disc tears, usually due to routine pressure on the lower back, the jelly-like inner material can come out and pinch or inflame the nearby nerve. Sciatica is most common in people 30 to 50.

How do you know if it is sciatica?

The key to diagnosing sciatica is a thorough history and a focused exam. Unfortunately, many patients expect an x-ray or MRI, and doctors, often facing time constraints, order one even though we know imaging tests don’t really help us treat early sciatica any better. The symptoms of sciatica are often worse with sitting or coughing, and may be accompanied by numbness or tingling in the leg. A physical exam can confirm that the sciatic nerve is involved, and I look for weakness or diminished reflexes in the legs that suggest that someone needs early referral to a specialist. (This doesn’t happen often.) With this information, I can make an initial diagnosis and start treatment.

Treating pain… and managing expectations


Many people think (understandably) that the worse the pain, the more likely something bad is going on. However, this isn’t true for sciatica. The body can reabsorb the disc material that is causing symptoms, even for those with severe pain. So, treatment focuses on controlling pain and keeping people as active as possible. If the pain is excruciating, lying down for short periods can help, but prolonged bed rest does not. So once the pain diminishes, I tell patients to get up and start walking short distances. Since sitting increases pressure on the discs in the lower back, I recommend avoiding prolonged sitting or driving. Many people try treatments like physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation, but evidence suggests that while these approaches may help typical low back pain, they are less helpful for sciatica. Over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen can help. When they don’t I may recommend short-term use of stronger, prescription pain medicines.



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It’s no secret that alcohol affects our brains, and most moderate drinkers like the way it makes them feel — happier, less stressed, more sociable. Science has verified alcohol’s feel-good effect; PET scans have shown that alcohol releases endorphins (the “pleasure hormones”) which bind to opiate receptors in the brain. Although excessive drinking is linked to an increased risk of dementia, decades of observational studies have indicated that moderate drinking — defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two for men — has few ill effects. (A drink equals 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.) However, a recent British study seems to have bad news for moderate drinkers, indicating that even moderate drinking is associated with shrinkage in areas of the brain involved in cognition and learning.

What the study said

A team of researchers from University of Oxford looked at data from 424 men and 103 women who are participating in the 10,000-person Whitehall Study, an ongoing investigation of the relationship of lifestyle and health among British civil servants. At the beginning of the study in 1985, all of the participants were healthy and none were dependent on alcohol. Over the next 30 years, the participants answered detailed questions about their alcohol intake and took tests to measure memory, reasoning, and verbal skills. They underwent brain imaging with MRI at the end of the study.


When the team analyzed the questionnaires, the cognitive test scores, and the MRI scans, they found that the amount of shrinkage in the hippocampus — the brain area associated with memory and reasoning — was related to the amount people drank. Those who had the equivalent of four or more drinks a day had almost six times the risk of hippocampal shrinkage as did nondrinkers, while moderate drinkers had three times the risk. However, the only link between drinking and cognitive performance was that heavy drinkers had a more rapid decline in the ability to name as many words beginning with a specific letter as possible within a minute.



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What is conjunctivitis exactly?

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the thin membrane that covers the whites of the eyes. There are three main types of conjunctivitis: allergic, viral, and bacterial.

Allergic conjunctivitis often accompanies other allergy symptoms like itchy, runny nose or sneezing.

Viral conjunctivitis is the most common and is triggered by the same viruses that cause the common cold. Therefore, it is usually accompanied by cold symptoms like runny nose and cough.

Bacterial conjunctivitis causes a thick discharge and responds to antibiotic eye drops or ointment.

Treating conjunctivitis

It can be hard to distinguish between viral and bacterial conjunctivitis simply by looking at it, so many doctors treat with a topical antibiotic “just in case” it is bacterial. However, according to ophthalmologists bacterial conjunctivitis often goes away on its own, and the practice of treating everyone “just in case” is irresponsible. A new study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology in the journal Ophthalmology shows just how big a problem the overuse of antibiotics for conjunctivitis has become.

Researchers looked at more than 340,000 enrollees in a large US managed care network with newly diagnosed acute conjunctivitis from 2001 through 2014. They found that almost 60% of the patients filled at least one prescription for a topical antibiotic.

White, more educated, and more affluent patients were more likely to fill antibiotic prescriptions, and the type of doctor making the diagnosis made a difference. Emergency room doctors, urgent care physicians, internists, and pediatricians were more likely to prescribe antibiotics than ophthalmologists.





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 On a wet afternoon in early November of last year, I arrived 20 minutes early to an appointment with a new (to me) pain specialist. I had first scheduled the appointment in September. Since I had never visited this particular provider before, and because he was outside of the facility where I received most of my care, my health insurance required a referral from my primary care physician. This had taken nearly two months of bugging my PCP’s office, but two weeks before the appointment was scheduled I finally got the green light by them and was told everything was “all set.” Nevertheless, when I arrived at the appointment I was told I could not be seen because the referral had not, in fact, ever been received.

I was livid. I had taken time off from a tutoring job, foregoing a not-insignificant amount of pay for an appointment that now couldn’t be honored through no fault of my own. Despite doing my due diligence to ensure all the proper paperwork had been handled, the ball still got dropped somewhere out of my sight and I was paying for someone else’s mistake. When I got home I spent the next two hours that day, as well as hours each day for the next several days, trying to get to the bottom of what had happened. This included placing numerous calls to my primary care office and their referral department, as well as my insurance company. Each party evaded blame and pointed their fingers at the other, frustrating me even more. I kept asking the same question: why was I told I was all set when I wasn’t? In the end, I spent over 10 hours trying to settle this issue and ensure that the next referral to see this provider was actually processed and received well before my rescheduled appointment in January. Of course, no one offered to compensate me for the work I missed.


Unfortunately, this is not an unusual occurrence. While this was the most egregious example in my recent history, I can’t count the number of times I have had a referral lost regardless of being told it was processed, or showing up at the pharmacy to be told they never received the prescription my doctor said they called in.



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