Ways Retailers Can Benefit from the Technology Evolution| By |Paul Dobbins

Technological innovation and access to high-tech devices have grown steadily over the last two decades. Coupled with near ubiquitous internet access, this technological growth has changed how customers shop, influenced their needs and wants, and affected how they interact with brands.

To survive and thrive in today’s environment, tech retailers and their salespeople have had to evolve as the industry has. Let’s take a look at a few ways retail brands can embrace those changes to benefit from the evolution in technology sales.

The New Necessity

Retailers used to be able to get by selling the latest and greatest gadgets. They could rely on the novelty of the latest iteration of a device, or the status of a new phone, and so on with little effort. Not so much anymore, as today’s customers have access to smart electronics like never before.

And remaining connected to these smart devices is viewed as a necessity. According to Smart Insights, 80 percent of internet users own a smartphone. That percentage is likely to grow as more carriers are offering free or heavily discounted smartphones alongside their contracts.

While discounts are one way to encourage purchases, they’re not the only way. In fact, they can often prove detrimental for retailers. Instead, retailers should begin looking for new ways to maintain that customer desire for constant connectivity. For example, phones and laptops are broken or damaged all the time. If and when this happens, a protection plan or service agreement can prove incredibly handy. By offering a warranty program, retailers can meet that need for constant connectivity, make life easier for the customer, and introduce a new way to produce revenue.

Clamoring for Customization

In addition to wanting quick and painless electronic upgrades and protection offers, customers also want to make sure the products they use every day are a good fit. Retailers can fulfill that desire by allowing customers to tailor products to their individual lifestyles and preferences. For example, offering a variety of phone cases, computer bags, or protective skins lets consumers customize their electronics, showcasing their individual style and personality while also providing retailers yet another revenue stream.

Building the Brand

Finally, one of the best ways tech retailers can succeed in today’s market is through brand building and maintaining customer loyalty. By delivering a personalized, high-quality experience for customers time and again, you’ll keep them coming back for more—rather than see them opt for a larger online e-commerce competitor. Customer retention is much more profitable than customer acquisition. Focus on keeping your shoppers happy with excellent customer service and a consultative sales experience that includes add-ons and loyalty programs. As many retail experts know (and the Harvard Business Review proved), increasing customer retention rates by just five percentage points can boost profits by up to 95 percent.

By riding the wave of change and innovation, technology retailers can stay successful in today’s evolving sales environment.

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5 Technology Trends Entrepreneurs Should Follow| By |Murray Newlands

Technology now dominates numerous industries across the world. From computing, to design, artificial intelligence (AI), and even virtual reality, the opportunities for investment are now endless. However, as a result of the mound of innovation in existence, it can be hard for entrepreneurs to chose a tech niche that suits their skill set.

To help you, I’ve put together a list of five technological trends with which you should consider getting involved to help you in your quest to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, also known as AI, is already a lucrative industry that serves a variety of areas. Companies that operate in fields like big data, robotics, aerospace, manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, marketing, and customer service are now turning to AI for an array of functions. Some of these include:

  • Acting as a personal assistant to help make calls, conduct searches online, book appointments, and other common tasks
  • Auto-piloting and other navigation capabilities
  • Analyzing, sorting, and organizing vast amounts of data
  • Calculating data using predictive algorithms
  • Using machine learning to enhance user experience and boost sales

This fast-growing industry provides a stellar opportunity for entrepreneurs because the technology is still in its infancy. Artificial intelligence is far from perfect, and since there are already numerous industries depending on it, future improvements will only make it more useful and effective.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is another movie-worthy piece of technology that is now being used in a variety of industries. Besides being incredibly useful, VR is also one of the few innovative inventions that transcends age and still leaves most people in awe of it.

VR already serves numerous purposes in several different fields and does not require a huge capital investment to get started. The most common uses for VR include:

  • Theoretical and Practical Training: VR allows employers to provide safe and effective training experiences for their employees while cutting training costs. For instance, pilots can use advanced simulation units to train for real-life experiences. In the event they make a mistake, they will be able to learn from it without putting their life at risk.
  • As a Teaching Tool for Educational Institutions: One of the biggest challenges teachers of all levels face is engaging their students; virtual reality allows them to capture their student’s attention without leaving the classroom. More importantly, VR can be programmed to create effective digital learning environments for students of all ages and capacities.
  • Conferencing and Group Meetings: Although video conferencing is currently the norm, VR is positioned to take control of the digital conferencing industry. Instead of simply looking at a video on your screen, virtual reality allows you to mimic a real “digital meeting” where participants will be able to sit next to each other and interact as they would in person, even if they are thousands of miles away.
  • Films and Entertainment Industries: Many major players in the film and entertainment industry are already experimenting with virtual reality by designing movies specifically for virtual reality viewings, and then featuring them in notorious events, such as the Cannes Film Festival.
  • Video Games: Video games and virtual reality are a match made in heaven, with major gaming franchises already capitalizing on new VR sets by creating experiences tailored for these innovative gaming devices.

Chatbots

Chatbots are the new talk of the town, and thanks to bot-creating platforms, getting involved is easier than ever before. The best part about chatbots and the reason why they have become a must-have tool for all companies is their ability to engage with consumers in a completely personalized way.

It’s worth noting that the most dynamic chatbots are powered by AI, and as previously mentioned, artificial intelligence is still in its early stages. That being said, AI-powered chatbots have already changed the way brands communicate with their audiences and can be used as a growth-hacking tool for companies of all sizes.

Businesses can now build functional chatbots with tools without coding that will then be able to help their customers around the clock. These bots can be used for different purposes that range from completing simple tasks and answering basic questions to updating profile information and editing billing preferences.

Automated Cars

After years of testing, driverless vehicles are set to hit the road before 2020, making automated cars one of the hottest industries to get involved with right now. Although not everyone is thinking about owning an automated car in the next few years, experts and entrepreneurs predict they will take over from traditional vehicles shortly after they hit the roads.

The hype surrounding automated cars can be credited to one thing: they will change the world as we know it. Self-driving vehicles offer a set of awesome advantages that in essence can transport the same number of people inside of a city at a fraction of the cost. Individual cars are set to become a thing of the past, with some claiming that automated vehicles will take over as much as 90% of the automotive industry, including public transportation.

Some cities are even including automated vehicles into their long-term public transportation plans, and with driverless car lobbyists strongly pushing their agendas, don’t be surprised to see autonomous cars going through a golden age very soon.

Software as a Service

Software as a Service, commonly referred to as SaaS, is one of the three major components of cloud computing and is proving to be one of the most effective distribution models available today. In a nutshell, SaaS companies provide software solutions to companies, which are accessible via the internet. This eliminates the need for hardware download and installation while still maintaining superior functionality and capacity. SaaS companies traditionally serve high-tech industries; however, with the digitalization of the workplace, new opportunities are popping up in various trades, and you can capitalize on these by becoming the bridge that links the two together.

Finally…

Finding the right niche as an entrepreneur can be very challenging, but with the technological advancements the world is facing today, venturing into one of the trends outlined above will surely enable you to take advantage of their promising future while paving your path to success.

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The Dark Side of Business Intelligence| By |Telmo Silva

fake data

A well implemented reporting processes and tools can be scary for some. If your company reporting tool relies on Excels, PDFs and PowerPoints, then there is always an opportunity for you to “tweak” the results. It’s not necessarily lying but rather an adjustment. Just enough so that the line chart looks steeper, numbers are rounded up (or down), tables are filtered to certain rows, and columns are hidden to “make it more readable”.

But a fully automated, simple, standardized data warehouse and reporting system that publishes dashboards to everyone in the company on a regular basis and keeps everyone informed about the status and progress of all performance indicators? Scary!

85% of statistics are wrong

Have you heard of those statistics that some ridiculous large percentage of BI projects fail and the top 5 reasons why they do? Typically they cover items such as the wrong tool, undefined processes, change management, etc. etc. I believe that the number one reason why they fail, especially in large corporations is because such level of transparency scares most business managers, all the way up to board members and shareholders.

I was once part of a project team responsible to deliver a new BI initiative and as the leading business analyst I was faced with opposition at every level, from the regional manager to the top corporate member. It just seemed that I was “simplifying” things too much, or not “understanding” the complexity of the metric, and how they need time to “analyze results” prior to sharing them. Often the phrase “we prefer accuracy over speed” was used in meetings. Often this accuracy would require several additional months of implementation and forced delays in report publication.

In the end, the implementation went live but with such a limited number of metrics and performance indicators that it was, essentially, useless. Whatever data of value was provided, it ended up being exported to Excel for the actual calculation and final publication anyway.

Highly unsatisfying knowing that after several million of dollars later, we basically released what could have been achieved by sending everyone an email with an Excel every week (although it was disputed that even such level of automation and data feed would be disruptive to some).

Business Manager 2.0

Do you have an alternative? Keep “fudging” reports until everyone in your company loses trust in them and in you? Make a mistake severe enough to cost you more than just your time? This is the type of practice that many large corporations employ to ensure their stocks remain high, to push their sales people to sell more, to stress teams to deliver more for less and ultimately to cheat the other party into thinking their numbers are not good enough or just the opposite, they are absolutely off the chart.

As a manager I am responsible for reporting numbers to my investors, employees, partners and customers. One of my biggest concerns is to ensure that I am absolutely clear and transparent with anything that I share or present. To the point that I get in trouble sometimes by being “too accurate” and “not exciting enough”.

On the bright side, the tide is changing. A new generation of business owners and managers are now taking positions higher in corporate structure and they demand speed, automation, efficiencies and electronic delivery. Away with paper and presentations and emails. They use Skype and Slack, they edit their own LinkedIn, measure their own profiles and are very good at doing fancy stuff in Excel. They go out and look for SaaS apps that can simplify their routine, improve speed and delivery. And they do all this out of their own initiative without the need for IT or Financial approvals. Most cloud SaaS solutions offer a free or low cost version that they can easily own in their own discretionary budget.

But more importantly, they are politics free. They don’t mind upsetting the status quo because their priority is getting the job done the quickest and best way possible. They don’t mind sacrificing 100% accuracy for 80% if they can get their data 5 or 10 times faster and a much reduced cost, without having to wait on others. They understand that “guesstimates” are sometimes more accurate than the final, sanitized numbers – if there was ever such a thing to begin with. Trust your instincts, use your experience, your “gut” as Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Blink. They are risk takers, data and technology savvy, and hungry for speed. These women and men will eventually be taking CEO roles and board seats in all types of companies and they will change the way businesses are run worldwide. And we love it!

Transparency Pays

There is a saying along the lines of “it’s easier to remember the truth than a lie”. It may take you several iterations to make the data and the dashboards display the right numbers on demand or at a specific time every day, without you having to do a single thing about it. Your team, employees, partners, will also get their dashboards and be aware of whats really going on. It helps communication, expectations. It increases efficiency. It reduces time spent on mundane and non-business focused tasks. And it may even help save your business.

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4 Ways Agility Protects the Status Quo (And 5 Reasons Anticipation is Better)| By |Daniel Burrus

Organizations that have adopted an anticipatory mindset and culture enjoy a variety of powerful advantages over those that rely on strategies that simply aren’t as effective as they once might have been.

Agility is one such strategy—the often vaunted capacity to react to change as quickly as possible to address problems and changing market conditions.

Does that make agility an extinct dinosaur? Far from it, so long as you understand its strengths and weaknesses.

Why Agility Is No Longer Enough

Countless organizations have long prized agility as the best way to deal with the speed of change and disruption. The prevailing mindset was: the faster and more efficiently you were able to react—be it to address challenges or shift strategy—the quicker off the mark you would be with regard to beating your competitors to the punch.

The increasing number of organizations, including agile ones, being disrupted by digital technology clearly indicates that agility is simply no longer as useful as the key strategy it once might have been to protect and defend against change. Given the ever-increasing speed with which technology is driving change of all sorts, agility in many cases can only slow down the speed with which you fall behind. It’s like being a tightrope walker who sees that the cable is about to break. You can be as agile as the day is long, but you’re still headed for a fall!

Further, being agile doesn’t lend itself to innovation, particularly the sort of game-changing innovation that every organization strives for. For example, one of Time magazine’s choices for great innovations was an adaptive device that, once connected to a stethoscope, automatically transfers data to a smartphone for ready analysis. The device can identify health issues that a human ear often can’t detect.

Did the developers of that innovation use agility to come up with their breakthrough idea? Being agile would not have helped. Agile innovation is good, but it will position you as a follower and keep you from jumping ahead.

The Place for Agility

So, given the stage of exponential change we are currently in, one that I have referred to as a profound tipping point in human history, does the reactive nature of agility provide enough value for organizations and individuals, or should we give it a decent burial?

Not at all! The ability to be agile is a key strategy in both an organization’s and an individual’s toolbox. After all, there are always going to be unpredictable problems that demand rapid solutions, unforeseen situations that mandate fast decisions, and other shifts and challenges that require quick analysis and response.

But it’s important to keep agility in a proper context. Agility is the ideal strategy for:

  1. Unpredictable change.
  2. Reacting quickly after a change occurs.
  3. Solving problems quickly after they occur.
  4. Creating a competitive advantage over slower rivals.

In other words, agility is a reactive strategy, and you should be using it as a key strategy, but don’t treat it as the panacea to change and innovation that many organizations assume it still is. After all, reaction is all well and good, but reaction doesn’t allow you to leap ahead in both your thinking and action. At the very least, it’s just another step in the dance that protects the status quo.

Anticipation—The More Powerful Option

Let’s be clear: I want you to be agile, and no methodology will allow you to accurately predict everything. But, agility needs to be balanced with a new key strategy—becoming anticipatory if you want to become the disruptor and turn change into game-changing opportunity.

It may seem the stuff of science fiction to some, but our Anticipatory Organization Model has proven itself over time and is geared toward showing both organizations and individuals how to anticipate the future and make bold moves with the utmost confidence. It’s the ideal strategy for:

  1. Turning disruption and change into an opportunity.
  2. Identifying and acting on change before it occurs.
  3. Identifying and pre-solving problems before they occur.
  4. Driving exponential innovation with reduced risk.
  5. Jumping ahead of competitors with the confidence that comes from certainty.

One of the keys lies in the proven methodology of identifying both Hard and Soft Trends. Hard Trends are based on future facts; they will happen, they are those future events we can all bank on, from the increasing number of retiring baby boomers to digital technology that is becoming more sophisticated and useful at a predictable, exponential rate. By contrast, Soft Trends are based on assumptions and represent future possibilities—things that may or may not occur but which are open to influence.

Leveraging those two concepts—those things we know are going to happen as well as those that carry less certainty—allows organizations of all sorts to plan and carry out strategy with a newfound level of confidence that fosters rapid growth and accelerated innovation.

There will always be a place for agility in the most successful and prosperous organizations—provided that a focus on agility doesn’t preclude the far more proactive ability to be anticipatory whenever possible.

The ideal would be to consider agile and anticipatory as synergistic strategies. When used together with strategic intent, they can accelerate innovation, growth and results. By adopting an anticipatory mindset and culture, change and disruption become your biggest competitive advantage.

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Ransom With a Flair for Customer Experience| By |Mikhail Dubov

Good experience means more money. Even for criminals.

WanaCrypt0r 2.0 WanaCrypt0r 2.0

The latest global cyber attack has already sparked hundreds of debates on topics from IT security to healthcare spending. Needless to say, we at Chattermill thought about what this says about Customer Experience. After checking our own computers are safe that is.

Attackers have hijacked thousands of computers with vulnerable versions of the Windows operating system. The Trojan virus spread quickly through phishing emails that tricked users into downloading an infected file. Once a computer is infected all personal files on the computer’s hard drive are encrypted and a modestly polite ransom note (image above) is displayed to the user.

This is old school ransom with a user interface – Ransom 2.0. It is not using the letters cut out of the newspapers and fortunately nobody is kidnapped but this kind of crime causes huge damage

This is old school ransom with a user interface – Ransom 2.0. It is not using the letters cut out of the newspapers and fortunately nobody is kidnapped but this kind of crime causes huge damage and puts lives at risk given the healthcare systems were infected.

Ransom Note

But what was fascinating about this 21st century ransom note is how the criminals have obviously learned from some of the best practices in modern software. Let’s break it down:

  • Clear messaging: the note obviously skims over the fact that it is a crime, does not mention the word “ransom” but other than that it is clearly written with concise instructions and answers to common questions for and by real humans.
  • Multiple languages: given that the attack targets some of the least sophisticated PC users, having it available in the native language is a nice touch.
  • Free Trial: Apparently, you can decrypt some of your files for free. “Try now by clicking Decrypt”. Admittedly we have not tested this feature and don’t really want to have to do so…
  • Contact Us link: I could not find how this works, potentially the attackers use some form of encrypted chat or email. Still, I can’t count how many times I’ve been on a website of an actual big company where contact information was conspicuously hidden.
  • Helpful UI: Explanation links, color-coded timer, button to copy the bitcoin address etc. There isn’t much functionality, but what’s there is as easy as possible even if the design is not great.

Bitcoin is far from user-friendly in its current iteration and I doubt most people who were affected by the attack would be savvy enough to be able to work it out in only 3 days. Still, it’s a huge improvement (from a Customer Experience point of view) compared to having to drive to a remote location and leaving a bag of money, in small denominations.

Why are criminals, particularly ones as so inconsiderate they would attack the NHS and potentially endanger human lives care about their victims’ comfort? Obviously not because of their warm and fuzzy feelings or because they want a nice review. It is because they know, good customer experience means more money. Even in their twisted business.

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