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Trump Transition Seeking Info on National Labs

Energy flow chart, 2015

U.S. energy accounting flow chart; click on image for full-size display (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

9 December 2016. The transition team for president-elect Donald Trump is seeking details about activities of U.S. national labs and programs related to climate change operated by Department of Energy. The questions for Department of Energy were contained in a questionnaire obtained and published today by the New York Times.

The form asks 9 questions about the national labs, including specific items about the highest 20 salaried employees at the labs, and publications, web sites, and professional societies of by staff at the labs. In addition, the questionnaire asks for cooperative research and development grants, as well as licensing and royalty proceeds.

Many of the 74 items on the questionnaire ask for details related to climate change, including specific questions about the programs considered essential to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and ARPA-E — Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy — projects. Two other questions asked about the Energy Department’s role in the agreement with Iran to curb that country’s nuclear weapons work.

Some 15 questions ask about the Energy Information Administration. Several of the questions ask about specific methods for calculating energy costs or challenge outcomes published in recent reports. Science & Enterprise reports on the annual accounting of national energy supply and demand compiled by Livermore National Lab, with data compiled by Energy Information Administration. The chart for 2015 from the latest report is at the top.

Energy Department employees who shared the questionnaire with the New York Times call the questionnaire unprecedented and worrying. One source told the Times the questions “amount to a with hunt in DoE’s 17 national labs, where scientists have the independence to do their work. Yet here are questions that are reminiscent of an inquisition rather than actual curiosity about how the labs work.”

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Start-Up Developing Nanotech Bone Repairs

Foot x-ray

Foot x-ray showing fractured heel bone (Jojo, Wikimedia Commons)

9 December 2016. An enterprise formed earlier this year is licensing an engineered bone tissue repair technology that mixes ultrafine diamond particles with biocompatible polymers. The company, OrthoMend Research Inc. in Philadelphia, is licensing the technology from Temple University, although financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

OrthoMend Research is acquiring exclusive rights to research conducted at Temple by engineering and medical professor Peter Lelkes on nanotechnology-based biomaterials, at first for improving the healing of bone fractures. The technology in this case combines nanoscale diamond particles with biocompatible polymer materials to improve healing of broken bones. Research published by Lelkes and others in 2012 indicates adding nano-diamonds to the polymer poly-L-lactic acid, or PLLA, reinforces bone scaffolds, improving their mechanical properties.

A U.S. patent for the technology issued to Lelkes and other inventors in 2015 says the combination of nano-diamonds and PLLA has advantages over metal connectors for bone repair, notably no temperature sensitivity, no interference with diagnostic imaging, and low toxicity. The patent also says nano-diamonds outperform other nanoscale carbon forms, including fullerenes and carbon nanotubes.

“The licensing of our invention to OrthoMend Research,” says Lelkes in a company statement, “is an important milestone in our efforts to translate our basic research from the bench to the bedside and will, without a doubt, result in commercial products that will benefit patients around the globe.” Lelkes is serving as a scientific advisor to OrthoMend.

Joseph Connell, OrthoMend’s founder and CEO, says the company first plans to apply the technology as a replacement for metal hardware, such as pins, screws, and plates, made by injection molding and used for bone fractures. But the company wants to expand those uses of nano-diamonds into delivery of drugs via a matrix, including bone growth hormone, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory therapeutics.

The company was formed in March 2016 and is incubated at University City Science Center, an accelerator and shared space for new science-based enterprises in Philadelphia.

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Synthetic Insulin-Producing Cells Designed, Tested

Diabetes items

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

9 December 2016. Synthetic beta cells, like natural cells in the pancreas, were shown in tests with lab mice to sense glucose levels in the blood and produce insulin. A team from the lab of bioengineering professor Martin Fussenegger at ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, reported its finding in today’s issue of the journal Science (paid subscription required).

Glucose control and insulin levels are vital issues to people with diabetes, a chronic condition where the pancreas does not create enough insulin to process glucose that flows into the blood stream and cells for energy in the body. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body is tricked into producing little or no insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a disorder where the pancreas produces some, but not enough insulin, or the body cannot process insulin, and accounts for some 90 percent of all diabetes cases. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes affects 415 million people worldwide, of which 44 million are in North America.

People with diabetes need to continually monitor their blood glucose levels and provide insulin externally, usually through injections. Failure to adequately control blood glucose levels can lead to serious health consequences, including cardiovascular disorders, kidney failure, and tissue damage that can be life-threatening. The widespread and growing need for diabetes treatments or management led to many therapeutic strategies, including regenerating beta cells, the cells in the pancreas that respond to blood glucose levels and produce insulin.

Fussenegger’s lab is one of many research groups working on solutions for diabetes, which recently focused on transformation and culturing of adult stem cells from fat tissue into beta cells. The researchers found this approach slow and expensive, however, and in their new work are seeking a more direct and predictable process. This process, say the authors, should produce synthetic cells that both sense glucose levels and respond with sufficient insulin, and can help people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

The team enlisted the aid of computational biology colleague Jörg Stelling that developed a computer model to predict the behavior of their synthetic cells as they modified or added components, which could then be verified experimentally.

The researchers began with a line of human embryonic kidney or HEK cells, a well-researched type of cell, where the cell membranes already have proteins that transport glucose, and potassium channels that respond to glucose levels. Fussenegger and colleagues then modified the HEK cells adding a calcium channel, where the calcium triggers the cells’ signaling mechanisms, and genes expressing insulin and glucagon-like peptide, or GLP-1 that helps regulate glucose levels in the blood.

The cells were designed to send glucose from the blood stream through their natural transport mechanisms into the interior, where potassium channels would close if glucose levels exceeded a specified level. Closing the potassium channels alters the voltage distribution in the cell membranes, which opens the calcium channels, sending signals to the genetically-altered mechanisms producing insulin and GLP-1.

The team tested the synthetic beta cells in lab cultures and mice induced with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In mice with type 1 diabetes, the implanted beta cells stopped persistent high blood glucose levels. And in mice with type 2 diabetes, the synthetic cells improved internal insulin production and glucose tolerance. In both cases, the cells kept working for about 3 weeks.

The tests, the authors note, are only a proof of concept and the synthetic beta cells still need considerably more R&D, including human clinical trials, before they’re ready for the market. Nonetheless, ETH Zurich applied for patents on the technology with Fussenegger and first author Mingqi Xie listed as inventors.

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IBM, Rice Univ. Partner on Elder Care Robots

Aging in Place environment

Aging in Place environment, at IBM research lab in Austin, Texas (IBM Corp.)

8 December 2016. IBM is developing Watson super-computer and cloud computing applications with Rice University to create robot assistants that help older individuals remain safe in their own homes. The company also built a simulated aging-in-place environment and is testing systems that monitor the well-being of residents in an assisted-living facility.

The collaboration with Rice University in Houston is designing a system called the Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant, or Mera, that combines sensors to monitor the daily health and well-being of older individuals, as well as a offer resource to answer health-related questions. Mera collects data on residents’ vital signs, such as heart and respiratory rates, and follow movements with an accelerometer that show if the individual has fallen.

In addition, Mera, can answer spoken questions about health posed by the residents. IBM employs Watson’s speech-to-text and text-to-speech converters, along with natural language algorithms, and connects to the company’s cloud resources to provide answers to questions from residents or caregivers. The robot itself is a humanoid device, known as Pepper, made by SoftBank.

A system developed at Rice University known as CameraVitals makes it possible for Mera to capture a person’s vital signs. CameraVitals records video of a person’s face, then with facial-interpretation algorithms, computes pulse and breathing rates, and pulse rate variability. The system interprets changes in skin color, some barely visible to the naked eye, to make its calculations.

IBM created a simulated residence for older individuals called its Aging in Place environment at the company’s research lab in Austin, Texas. The simulated residence links sensors in the walls and floors and connected components known as Internet of Things, as well well as wearable devices. When combined with data from Mera robots, the systems can interpret motions and changes in atmospheric conditions, e.g., carbon monoxide, to identify dangers encountered by residents, such as falling or gas leaks. In addition, the systems can recognize changes from the daily routines of residents to highlight more subtle problems for caregivers.

The company is taking these systems outside the lab for real-life encounters with older individuals, working with Sole Cooperativa, an assisted-living residence for older individuals in Bolzano, Italy. The collaboration with Sole Cooperativa will provide a real-world test of IBM’s systems, but also gain the benefit of real-world experiences.

“By better understanding a person’s routines and surroundings,” says Sole Cooperativa president Roberta Massi in an IBM statement, “we can identify potential risks, personalize care, and deliver precise recommendations that improve their quality of life. We can also more effectively improve our business operations by ensuring our staff is more focused on helping residents and patients as potential medical issues arise.”

Representatives from IBM and Rice tell more about the collaboration in the following video.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in IBM.

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LEDs Shown to Reduce Alzheimer’s Brain Plaques

Li-Huei Tsai

Li-Huei Tsai (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

8 December 2016. Pulsating LED lights were shown in lab mice to reduce amyloid-beta plaque deposits associated with Alzheimer’s disease on brain cells. A team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology reports its findings in the 7 December issue of the journal Nature (paid subscription required), with the senior authors starting a company to commercialize the technology.

Researchers from the labs of MIT neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai and bioengineering professor Edward Boyden are seeking alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting growing numbers of older people worldwide. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have deposits of abnormal substances in spaces between brain cells, known as amyloid-beta peptides, as well as misfolded tangles of proteins inside brain cells known as tau. The Alzheimer’s Association says some 5.4 million individuals in the U.S. have the disorder, of which 5.2 million are age 65 or older.

In this study, Tsai, Boyden, and colleagues explored the relationship between gamma oscillations, rhythmic neural signals in the brain, and the build-up of amyloid-beta plaques. Gamma oscillations are believed to help the brain perform normal functions, including perception and memory, but previous research also indicates gamma oscillations may be impaired in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The team examined these connections in genetically engineered mice to express Alzheimer’s disease. While the mice did not yet have amyloid-beta plaques built-up in their brains, they still showed impaired gamma oscillations. Using techniques from optogenetics, the use of light energy to influence activities of genes sensitive to light, researchers were able to stimulate gamma oscillations at 40 Hz, or cycles per second, in the hippocampus region of the brain important to memory formation and retention. An hour of stimulation at 40 Hz — and only 40 Hz, higher and lower frequencies did not work — showed a 40 to 50 percent reduction in amyloid-beta plaques in the hippocampus regions of the test mice.

Current optogenetics techniques use implanted circuits to generate the energy to influence light-sensitive genes, and the team sought a less invasive alternative. The researchers turned to MIT bioengineering colleague Emery Brown who devised a panel of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, to flicker at specified frequencies. Exposing genetically engineered mice to an hour of these flickering LEDs at 40 Hz showed gamma oscillations increased in the visual cortex of their brains, the part of the brain that processes visual information, and also reduced beta-amyloid deposits by about half.

The lower amyloid-beta peptides did not last, however, and within 24 hours returned to their original levels. The researchers then exposed test mice with plaque deposits to daily one-hour treatments of flickering LEDs for 7 days and found sharply reduced amyloid-beta levels in the visual cortex, as well as misfolded tau protein deposits also associated with Alzheimer’s. The team discovered as well that enhanced gamma oscillations result in more active immune system cells known as microglia that clear out beta-amyloid peptides from the brains of the test mice.

“The bottom line is, enhancing gamma oscillations in the brain can do at least two things to reduced amyloid load,” says Tsai in an MIT statement. “One is to reduce beta-amyloid production from neurons. And second is to enhance the clearance of amyloids by microglia.”

Results from these initial tests are providing a road map for further examinations into the length of time beta-amyloid deposits can be reduced, other regions of the brain outside the visual cortex that can be treated, effects on behavior of treated mice, and potential for other neurological disorders associated with reduced gamma oscillations.

Even while these further explorations go on, Tsai and Boyden founded the company Cognito Therapeutics in Newton Centre, Massachusetts to develop treatments for neurodegenerative diseases based on their research, leading to clinical trials. As reported in the Boston Globe, Cognito Therapeutics is being formed at TheraNova LLC, a medical device incubator in San Francisco, but plans to return its operations to Massachusetts. Morningside Ventures, a Hong Kong investment firm, is providing the company’s initial venture funds.

The following video tells more about the research.

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NantHealth, TransMed Partner on Cancer Genomics

Cancer in headline


7 December 2016. Two companies offering medical analytics aim to provide cancer specialists with individualized genomic analyses for their patients, and more access to clinical trials. The partnership will combine the services of NantHealth Inc. in Culver City, California and TransMed Systems in Cupertino, California for cancer care centers in the U.S., which the companies say will make it easier to enroll patients in clinical trials testing immunotherapies.

NantHealth offers the GPS Cancer system that provides molecular profiling of cancer cells from individual patients. GPS Cancer combines whole genome and transcriptome sequencing of DNA and RNA respectively of cancerous and normal tissue, with quantitative analysis of proteins by mass spectrometry that identifies specific chemical signatures. GPS Cancer analytics, says NantHealth, are designed to provide physicians with precise data on a patient’s cancer, including identification of biomarkers that can trigger drug resistance or indicate sensitivity to specific treatments, such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

TransMed Systems develops IT solutions for the health care industry, including platforms for clinical practices and to support precision medicine decision-making. TransMed designs its systems to draw data from disparate sources and integrating the data into a common health care repository, for providing common analytics to both physicians and researchers.

Under the agreement, cancer specialists and cancer care medical centers will be able to share GPS Cancer data through TransMed Systems clinical care applications, with the data aggregated in TransMed repositories for analytics supporting precision-medicine decisions. Reports for specific patient populations are expected to include data such as mean survival times, death rates, and complications associated with particular treatments. The joint data sharing and aggregation program will be offered in 2017 through networks such as the National Cancer Care Alliance.

The companies say the NantHealth and TransMed Systems alliance supports a key objective of the Cancer Moonshot 2020 project, a public-private consortium that parallels the White House Cancer Moonshot initiative. Cancer Moonshot 2020 seeks to expand the availability of immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients, to make the treatments a more viable alternative and eventually become the standard of care for cancer, replacing chemotherapy.

Cancer Moonshot 2020 was proposed and is led by Patrick Soon-Shiong, a physician-scientist and entrepreneur, who founded and is CEO of NantHealth, one of a collection of health-related start-ups, as well as NantKwest, a developer of cancer immunotherapies. A key goal of Cancer Moonshot 2020 is to develop a common master protocol for clinical trials testing cancer immunotherapies, that integrates data from the trials to cover all elements of the immune system, and document results of individual treatments, as well as combinations.

This common protocol is called QUantum Immuno-oncology Lifelong Trial, or Quilt. “Oncologists throughout the country are constantly searching for trials that fit their specific patients’ needs,” says Soon-Shiong in a NantHealth statement. “This initiative creates the opportunity for patients to access new and existing trials under the Quilt program.”

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Start-Up Reprogramming Stem Cells to Treat Heart Failure

Tenaya Therapeutics' founders

Four of Tenaya Therapeutics’ scientific founders, from left: Deepak Srivastava, Bruce Conklin, Benoit Bruneau, and Saptarsi Haldar (Chris Goodfellow, Gladstone Institutes)

7 December 2016. A new enterprise, spun-off from the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, plans to regenerate heart muscle from other cells to treat heart failure. Tenaya Therapeutics Inc. is also raising $50 million in its first venture funding round.

Deepak Srivastava, director of Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and a professor at University of California in San Francisco, is one of Tenaya’s founders. Srivastava’s lab studies the role of gene networks in cardiac disease, particularly their interaction with stem cells and non-muscle cells in the heart to transform into new heart muscle cells and tissue. He and colleagues demonstrated this ability in lab mice to reprogram non-muscle heart cells into new cells that function like heart muscle, to repair heart muscle after damage.

Heart failure is a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, a condition affecting some 5.7 million people in the U.S. “When heart muscle is damaged,” says Srivastava in a Gladstone Institutes statement, “the body is unable to repair the dead or injured cells. Right now, the only possible cure for heart failure is a heart transplant. We hope that this new venture will bring us closer to a more scalable cure.”

Tenaya Therapeutics is licensing this technology from Gladstone Institute to find treatments for heart failure. The company is expected to develop a clinical application of cardiac cell reprogramming to regenerate new heart muscle in people with the condition. Tenaya also plans to use its stem cell models of heart disease to discover targets for new drugs to treat cardiac disorders.

Tenaya is financed by $50 million raised in its first venture round, with funds provided by The Column Group, a San Francisco investment company. The Column Group specializes in early-stage drug discovery companies, with Tenaya being its 20th portfolio enterprise.

Tenaya Therapeutics was first formed and incubated in BioFulcrum, a program at Gladstone Institutes to focus its basic and translational science resources on specific unmet medical needs, bringing in collaborators from other academic labs and the business community. The first disease target of BioFulcrum was heart failure. David Goeddel, a managing partner at The Column Group and now president of Tenaya Therapeutics, is on the board of BioFulcrum.

Joining Srivastava as scientific founders of Tenaya are Gladstone researchers Benoit Bruneau, Bruce Conklin, Sheng Ding, and Saptarsi Haldar, as well as Eric Olson from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. All of Tenaya’s scientific founders from Gladstone are also partners in BioFulcrum.

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Trial to Test Radio Waves to Treat Alzheimer’s

Nerve cells illustration


6 December 2016. A clinical trial is inviting individuals with Alzheimer’s disease to test a device that its designers claim can reverse cognitive impairment resulting from Alzheimer’s disease. The study is conducted by NeuroEM Therapeutics Inc., the Phoenix-based developer of the transcranial electromagnetic treatment device being tested.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting growing numbers of older people worldwide. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have deposits of abnormal substances in spaces between brain cells, known as amyloid-beta peptides, as well as misfolded tangles of proteins inside brain cells known as tau. The Alzheimer’s Association says some 5.4 million individuals in the U.S. have the disorder, of which 5.2 million are age 65 or older. By 2050 that number is expected to increase to 13.8 million.

NeuroEM Therapeutics was founded in 2013 by Gary Arendash, based on research he conducted while on the faculty at University of South Florida. There, he began investigating the ability of electromagnetic waves to prevent and in some cases reverse the cognitive decline in genetically-engineered mice induced with human Alzheimer’s disease. Arendash is now NeuroEM Therapeutics’ full-time president and CEO.

The company’s transcranial electromagnetic treatments were shown in preclinical studies to prevent cognitive impairment of younger mice, before amyloid-beta peptides began accumulating into plaques. A related study with older genetically-engineered mice showed the transcranial electromagnetic treatments reversed accumulations of amyloid-beta peptides, as well as cognitive impairment displayed by the animals.

Subsequent studies showed electromagnetic treatments could prevent and reverse proteins from penetrating and accumulating inside neurons, causing further damage, as well as enhance the mitochondrial, or cellular energy components in neurons, and increase neural activity in the brain. The preclinical studies showed no harmful effects of the treatments on the brain functions, immune systems, or DNA of the test mice.

The clinical trial is recruiting 14 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease to evaluate the safety of the company’s device, known as the MemorEM 1000. The MemorEM 1000 is worn on the head for up to 2 hours a day for 60 days, emitting electromagnetic waves at 900 MHz, similar to cell phones. The trial is being conducted at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute and Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in or near Phoenix.

The study is looking particularly for changes in participants’ scores on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale, or ADAS-cog, a standard assessment measure of cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s. The researchers will also conduct PET scans and functional MRI tests to determine changes in brain functions and connectivity, as well as conventional MRI scans to identify any brain hemorrhages or tumors. In addition, the team will test the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of participants for amyloid-beta and tau proteins, and indicators of adverse effects on the immune system and oxidative stress.

NeuroEM Therapeutics expects to complete the clinical trial in the spring of 2017 and report the results soon thereafter.

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Many Health Apps Found Not Helping People in Need

Woman with smartphone


6 December 2016. Many mobile apps designed to help manage one’s health are not assisting people in most need of that help and often do not appropriately respond to information with dangerous consequences. Those are the conclusions of researchers from University of Michigan and Brigham and Women’s Hospital that appear in the December 2016 issue of the journal Health Affairs (paid subscription required).

The team led by health informatics professor Karandeep Singh at University of Michigan Medical School sought to evaluate the state of apps for smartphones and tablets that claim to help individuals with chronic health problems manage their conditions. Singh and colleagues focused particularly on apps receiving high ratings and recommendations from their users, numbering 137 and readily available from Apple’s and Google’s app stores. User ratings are likely important in selecting an app, say the authors, since medical societies, health agencies, and insurers today largely avoid recommending specific apps.

The apps reviewed are designed for people with asthma, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, lung disease, liver disease, kidney disease, and heart failure. Other apps are written for individuals recovering from stroke or cancer. Still more apps address neurological conditions such as addiction to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, as well as people living with chronic pain, depression, memory loss, or dementia.

The researchers found some conditions affecting large numbers of people with few apps to help them out. Individuals with diabetes or depression have a variety of apps to choose from, say the authors, but older people and those with arthritis and chronic pain, can find few highly-rated mobile apps. These populations, says the team, could benefit from better choices in apps, which could also have public health consequences.

Most (121) of the 137 high-quality apps allow their users to enter information, such as blood glucose levels or feelings and emotions, but the researchers found a mixed pattern in the way these apps responded to entered data if they reported dangerous conditions. The authors say the few apps designed for older individuals, and about half of the apps assisting people with asthma and stroke seemed to respond properly when values in dangerous ranges were entered.

However, only 28 of the 121 apps accepting user input responded appropriately to dangerous values, such as very low blood sugar or abnormally high blood pressure. Likewise, many apps recording moods and emotions, say the authors, did not respond appropriately to reports of suicidal thoughts or moods.

Among the benefits of mobile apps is the ability to track progress toward goals and provide alerts, reminders, and other feedback. While many of the apps, the researchers report, provide these functions, few of the apps offer tailored guidance based on the data entered by the user.

Another benefit of mobile apps is the sharing of health data with caregivers or health care providers, with half of the apps using e-mail and 1 in 6 (17%) with text messaging. The team evaluated these apps in 2015 after Apple and Google began offering secure transmission of health data, but less than half of the apps with this capability use these secure data sharing options. About two-thirds of the apps have written privacy policies, which the authors say is an improvement over previous reports.

The authors identify the need for professional societies and health authorities to become more proactive in recommending apps to individuals, rather than leaving evaluations to collections of user ratings. “We found that the consumer-generated rating on the app store is a very poor marker of how usable an app is, and whether a physician would recommend it,” says Singh in a university statement. “Going forward, we need to evaluate apps on the basis of what would it take for physicians, and organizations that issue clinical guidelines, to start recommending them to patients.”

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Why Personalization and Psychology are Crucial to Modern Ecommerce Stores

– Contributed Content-

iPhone in hand

(nvtriab, Pixabay)

Putting your products and services online for the world to see is perhaps simpler than ever. But why are so many ecommerce brands struggling to make consistent sales?

After all, any combination of the following consistently seems to serve as a black cloud over the heads of many stores online today including:

  • High bounce rate, as users have short attention spans and simply can’t be bothered to stick around on any given product page
  • Low customer retention: sure, you can make a sale once, but are you doing everything in your power to ensure that your satisfied customers come back for more?
  • Cutthroat competition, considering the thousands of competing stores in any given ecommerce niche, standing out from the crowd is much easier said than done

Don’t think of your online business as a game, but rather an exercise in experimentation and understanding what makes your customers tick.

Selling as a Science

In other words, treat selling as a science.

Buyer psychology is constantly evolving in the face of emerging trends in ecommerce. Even though you can sell just about anything online, it takes a few tried-and-tested principles of buyer psychology to truly seal the deal with modern customers. You can apply any combination of the following to your store as means of retaining more customers and ensuring that your brand makes an impression on visitors.

Adding a Personal Touch

The modern buying experience should always be about the customer. That being said, today’s buyers expect an intimate and unique shopping experience that goes beyond clicking “buy.” If you truly want to grab the attention of customers today, you have to get personal.

Doing so is easier said than done; however, consider the following steps as the building blocks of personalization for your brand:

  • Blogging: it’s crystal clear that just about anyone can make money blogging, but ecommerce stores in particular have a responsibility to build a dedicated audience that wants to hear from them
  • Social outreach: you should constantly strive to get the trenches of your customers, via social or email, as means of getting in front of new faces and letting them know that you’re concerned about them
  • Give your your business a face: don’t just be another sales pitch, but give your traffic an inside scoop on who you are a brand (think: pictures of yourself and your team, telling you company’s store on-site, etc)

Using Data to Your Advantage

Beyond giving your business a personal touch, you should also use hard numbers to your advantage when it comes to crafting the ideal customer experience. For example, you should use your buyers’ shopping history as means of personally recommending new products.

Likewise, you can use customer data to figure out what products are your best sellers and use those numbers to influence your next product launch. You can analyze your marketing campaigns too, noting what works and doesn’t in terms of your messaging (think: urgency vs. scarcity vs. social proof, for example).

Today’s ecommerce stores simply can’t afford to be another face in the crowd. Your customers want a personalized experience: take the time to understand the psychology behind your buyers to ensure you’re optimizing your store accordingly.

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