Categories
Health Lifestyle Smart Home Tech

How to Live a Holistic Lifestyle While Embracing Smart Technology

How to Live a Holistic Lifestyle While Embracing Smart Technology

When you think of living a holistic lifestyle, do you picture someone being completely off-grid with no computer, no internet, and no smartphone? While some people do live this way, the absence of IoT tech doesn’t define a holistic lifestyle.

Smart technology and a holistic life aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, plenty of people live a happy, healthy, joyful life filled with smart technology. The key is they don’t allow their tech to control their lives. They’re not glued to their smartphones, and if their smart coffee maker stopped working, they’d happily brew a cup of coffee by hand.

There are countless ways smart technology can improve your life. Here are just a few specific ways.

Smart tech can give you critical food and drug recall alerts

Part of living a healthy, holistic lifestyle involves knowing when your favorite food brands test positive for dangerous contaminants. This goes for your pets’ food, too. Food recalls are far too common, and it’s hard to stay on top of every single situation. The easiest way to stay on top of each situation is to subscribe to alert mailing lists and pipe your emails through your smartphone so you’ll never miss a recall.

Even more common than food recalls are drug recalls. As much as you might try to live without over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, sometimes that’s hard. For instance, you might need to take ibuprofen once in a while to ward off a stress headache. There’s no shame in that. However, some seemingly innocent OTC drugs end up having devastating health consequences.

For example, the popular heartburn drug, Zantac, has been voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer. Zantac is the brand name for the generic drug called ranitidine. Unbeknownst to the public for years, the chemical structure of ranitidine literally becomes a carcinogen during metabolization. That’s pretty scary.

If you’re not taking any OTC drugs, you might be taking a medication that is keeping you alive. If that drug gets recalled or black boxed, your doctor may not know about it for a while. Using a smartphone to receive alerts when drugs are recalled could save your life.

Smart technology and holistic living are compatible

You can live a holistic lifestyle while embracing smart technology; you don’t need to choose one or the other. Technology won’t negatively impact your health unless you’re literally sitting at your computer all day long and you never get up to interact with the world.

In some cases, smart tech can even help you live a healthier life. For example, Fitbit tracks a user’s health data like steps taken, burned calories, and heart rate. Tracking this data can help individuals see the impact of their exercise routines, and it also helps them achieve their goals. Other wearable smart tech can be used to transmit data to a healthcare provider, and some wearable devices deliver pulsed electromagnetic frequency (PEMF) treatments.

Other smart devices are incredibly helpful to people with disabilities. For example, there are smart shoes that provide haptic feedback to guide blind people safely around neighborhoods using a smartphone GPS connection.

Haptic shoes convey directional information in a way that doesn’t distract the wearer or anyone else around them. The shoes are equipped with actuators and vibrators on all sides. After the wearer’s smartphone calculates their route, vibrations in the shoe guide the wearer to their destination. These amazing shoes also detect obstacles like steps and curbs and use the same vibrations to guide the wearer around immediate obstacles.

You can use smart tech to connect with likeminded people

Smartphones and smart tablets are tools that can connect you with likeminded people. No matter what your passion is in life, you’ll find a group of people online who share your interests.

The best way to connect with people is to use video conferencing software. Audio phone calls are okay, but why just use voice when you can connect through video conferencing? If you have an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, you already have video conferencing built into your device via FaceTime.

It’s more fun connecting with people through video chat than voice chat. You can tell so much more about a person when you can see them live. Video is the next best thing to an in-person meeting.

You can also connect with people all around the world and you won’t pay a dime beyond what you would pay for data. If you’re on Wi-Fi, then there’s no extra charge.

Connecting with people all around the world is inspiring and can be beneficial for your business. People from different cultures often have different ways of viewing situations and can come up with ideas and solutions you would have never thought about.

You can use smart tech to discover potential business partners

If you’re running a business, there’s no better way to find potential business partners than by assessing the people you’re already connecting with online.

If you’re discussing business with people over the internet, you might get a feeling that someone is a potential business partner. Smart tech will facilitate video conversations so you can get a better idea of who those people are.

Most people can sense who a person is just by being in their presence. Video conferencing is the next best thing if you’re working with people across the world.

Smart technology allows you to bring your workouts anywhere

Perhaps one of the coolest ways smart tech supports a holistic lifestyle is facilitating the ability to take your workouts anywhere. Some online workout programs are hosted in the cloud, like Apple Fitness Plus, which makes them available anywhere you have an internet connection.

You can also upload your workout programs to your private cloud hosting account if they’re not already available online. Last, if uploading is too much work, you can simply load your smart device with your workout programs and use your device to play the programs. If you happen to be in a hotel with a smart TV, you can connect your device to the TV to play your workout video on a larger screen.

Smart tech will help you track progress and goals

As long as you aren’t tediously tracking data that doesn’t matter, using smart tech to track your progress and goals in any area of life will prove beneficial. For instance, you can use your smartphone to track your reps while you’re at the gym instead of lugging around a notepad. You can also download an app to track what you eat. There are also apps that will tell you what to eat and when to eat depending on your body type and specific goals.

Technology has always been great for tracking progress. You can also track your business goals, sales, and just about anything else from a smartphone app.

Embrace smart technology as a way to enhance your holistic lifestyle

Living a holistic lifestyle is central to wellbeing. A holistic lifestyle involves taking care of your entire self – your mind, body, and soul. Smart technology can help you take better care of yourself by providing you with tools to stay on track.

Regardless of what you’ve read online, living a holistic lifestyle isn’t about giving up gluten, eating a plant-based diet, and living in a converted shipping container tiny home. Living a holistic lifestyle is about unifying your mental self with your physical self to promote overall wellness. It’s a lifestyle that keeps you in touch with the way your thoughts and attitude impact your physical health and keeps you in tune with nature, whether you eat gluten, fish, beef, or potatoes. It’s not about what you eat – it’s about who you are.

Technology has the power to facilitate your growth both in your personal life and in business. There’s no reason you can’t use a little smart technology to sustain a joyful, healthy life.

The post How to Live a Holistic Lifestyle While Embracing Smart Technology appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
Startups

The Main Reasons Startups Fail

The Main Reasons Startups Fail

Launching a startup is ridiculously exciting. Not only do you get a chance to control your destiny and build an effective team, but if you’re lucky and you work hard, you could turn it into a “unicorn�—a billion-dollar enterprise.

Of course, most of you reading this know that the odds of your business becoming a tech unicorn are slim, even if you have a great idea in place. That’s because more than half of all startups fail within the first five years of operation.

Understanding the reasons why startups fail can help you avoid such a fate. So what are the driving factors that lead to startup failure?

Lack of Market Need

One of the most common causes of startup failure is a simple lack of market need. Economic systems rely on supply and demand. With a startup, you may be supplying a product or service, but if there is no demand for it, it’s not going to sell. You can have a great product, fair pricing, and the best customer service in the world—but it doesn’t matter if people have no need for your product.

The best way to prevent this from occurring is through market research. Before getting too deep into startup development, it’s important to research your target demographics and confirm their desire for a product like yours.

Poor Customer Experience

Another incredibly common motivator for failure is poor customer experience all-around. Not to be mistaken for customer service, customer experience refers to the overall experiences a customer has with the brand. It includes their first impressions, their experiences when using the core product or service, and their interactions with customer service.

If the usability of your product or service is poor, if your customer service is insufficient, or if other experiences are lackluster, your customers aren’t going to stick around. That’s why customer experience should be one of your top priorities for strategic development.

Running Out of Capital

Many business owners launch startups with the intention of running lean—relying on minimal resources to preserve the business for as long as possible. But even the leanest businesses need money to keep running. If you run out of capital prematurely, the business can’t sustain itself—no matter how good the business model is.

This is usually a problem with businesses that are self-funded or those that are utilizing a minimalistic approach. The solution is to start generating consistent revenue faster or to work with angel investors or venture capitalists to get more funding.

The Wrong Team

Sometimes, it’s a team issue. Your startup relies on a team of connected, experienced professionals collaborating to make your vision a reality. If there are members of your team who are inexperienced, or if they’re unwilling to put in sufficient effort, or worse, if they sabotage your efforts, your business isn’t going anywhere.

Too many startups hire quickly and with reckless abandon. But in many cases, it’s better to take your time and make sure you get the right people for your team.

Fierce Competition

Good businesses tend to get a lot of attention. If it looks like you’re making good money and dominating the market, it’s only a matter of time before another ambitious entrepreneur steps in to try and get a piece of the pie. If another startup competes with yours directly and they have a significant edge—such as offering a lower price, being more available, or offering better customer support—they’re inclined to undermine your startup’s operation.

Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your competitiveness, such by lowering prices, targeting a different demographic, or pivoting entirely.

Pricing and Cost Issues

The basis for a startup’s continuing operation is its underlying economics. If you want to continue existing, you need to make money—ideally more money than you’re spending on things like employee salaries and raw materials.

Many startups fail because they can’t manage things like pricing and cost. If they charge too much, customers leave. If they don’t charge enough, they don’t make a significant enough profit. If costs get out of hand, the company will collapse. The only real solution is careful financial planning and management.

No Real Business Model

It’s incredible how many startups get launched without a proper business model. They have a great strategy for getting attention or earning downloads, shares, and engagements, but there’s no real way to make money.

Before starting a business, you need to have a business plan. And no matter what your product or service is, there needs to be some way to monetize it. It’s possible for this model to evolve over time, but without a model, the business will inevitably fail.

Insufficient Marketing

At a certain point, your startup could become so popular that it’s self-sustaining. But most startups, especially young ones, heavily rely on marketing to increase their visibility. If a startup straight-up refuses to invest in marketing and advertising, it’s probably going to fail. If it doesn’t invest in the right strategies, it’s probably going to fail. If it invests too much in the wrong type of strategy, it’s probably going to fail.

Marketing is hard to get right, but it requires a decent investment and a solid strategy to direct its efforts. Working with a professional marketing agency is often the best solution.

Bad Timing

Sometimes, a startup just gets the timing wrong. If the product is too new, and audiences aren’t ready for it, it’s not going to make much of a splash. If you’re too late to a saturated industry, you’re going to blend in as white noise.

Timing is incredibly tricky, and unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to correct this potential issue. Market research and competitive research can help you determine the state of the market, but no matter what, there’s going to be a little luck involved.

A Loss of Focus

Some startups don’t explode in a burst of fire; they gradually wither away. Over time, an entrepreneur may become disillusioned with the business, or they may become motivated by new goals and different ideas. It could also be a problem that an entrepreneur is unable to clarify their vision, making it impossible for the business to achieve a focused goal.

In either case, there is no focus for the business, and the business declines as a result.

Internal Disputes

The greatest strength of a startup can also be its greatest weakness: the collaborative power of the team. Startups rely on an entrepreneur, a team of employees, investors, mentors, and other professionals and authorities to coordinate its actions. If these people can’t agree, or if they’re constantly undermining each other, the business can’t possibly survive.

Setting a coordinated, mutually agreeable vision from the beginning can mitigate this.

A Pivot Gone Wrong

Startups sometimes pivot; when faced with a sudden market change, new competitor, or other issue, the startup transforms to become a different kind of business altogether. This can be a powerful, life-saving move—but it can also go terribly wrong.

If you pivot too quickly or without a proper plan, you could end up exacerbating the problems that already exist, rather than solving them.

Legal Issues

In rarer cases, startups fail because of legal issues. There may be standing lawsuits against the business, copyright infringement claims, or an issue where the startup is directly breaking the law. The only solution here is proactive legal planning; otherwise, you may run out of money fighting the issue in court.

As you can see, there are dozens of ways that startups can fail, so it’s tough to stop all these potential modes of failure at once. However, with the right level of planning, research, and self-awareness, you can identify the weaknesses and threats that are most likely to impact your business and root them out.

The post The Main Reasons Startups Fail appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
AI Culture Startups

What Is the Future of HR?

What Is the Future of HR?

Human resource (HR) departments have long been integral to organizational success, and they’re likely to remain that way for decades to come. But the nature of HR is likely to evolve with new technologies, research, and trends.

What does the future of HR look like?

Remodeling the Workforce

For starters, we may see HR leading the charge in remodeling the shape of the average workforce. Increasingly, employers and consumers alike are valuing diversity and inclusion; companies are working harder to ensure a mix of people from different backgrounds are included at all levels of the organization. In the future, this is going to become an even bigger priority.

But this is a minor change compared to the next generation of workforce management. We’re already starting to see a blend of human beings and machines in the workplace, and in the near future, this is going to become more prominent – even in businesses filled with mostly high-skilled, white-collar workers. How will you handle the transition from a human position to one handled by an AI algorithm? How will you ensure that humans and machines can collaborate and maximize productivity together? How will you optimize the balance between human beings and machines in the workplace? And how can you tell what an optimal balance is?

These will be the big-picture questions dictating HR development in the future.

Remote Work

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was gaining popularity. Employees were getting a feel for the benefits of the arrangement, such as cutting down on commute time, improving flexibility, and even increasing productivity. At the same time, employers get to save money and see better results. After the pandemic forced businesses to rethink work and increase safety, these benefits became more apparent to a wider range of businesses.

Today, HR departments are evolving to treat remote work as the default – rather than a temporary or gimmicky new approach to conventional work. That trend is likely to continue into the future as remote work becomes even more widely accepted.

The Evolution of HR Software

Today’s HR departments and organizations rely on HR software like Rippling to handle things like payroll, benefits management, and employee device management. Using one platform, they can store, review, and gather information, send messages, and even generate reports to analyze data. It’s seemingly comprehensive.

But in the future, these platforms will likely become even more robust. We’ll see the addition of new streams of data, real-time analyses, and possibly the inclusion of machine learning and AI algorithms to increase productivity or improve results.

Culture and Unity

Part of HR’s job is to create and sustain the culture within an organization, and make the team feel unified. This is increasingly difficult in a world dominated by remote work, but it’s increasingly demanded by the workforce.

Accordingly, HR will need to find new channels for communication, teambuilding, and collecting employee feedback. Organizational culture management is going to evolve into new forms, and employees will have to develop a different set of expectations for how it’s facilitated. In line with this, HR leaders will have to remain agile, forging culture-based connections when they can while still preserving the structure of the business.

The Gig Economy: Here to Stay?

Technology is responsible for introducing the “gig economy.� Though freelancing and gig work concepts have existed for decades, apps like Uber, Fiverr, and Airbnb made it much easier for individuals to offer their services as freelancers. In turn, corporations have attempted to take advantage of this by relying more heavily on contractors and freelancers instead of making the investments in full-time employees. This is favorable as a cost-saving measure, but it also introduces more flexibility into the organization. And while workers miss some benefits, they also have more freedom to control their workloads and explore other opportunities.

However, it remains uncertain whether the gig economy is here to stay or whether it was something of a temporary detour. Either way, HR departments will have to adapt to keep in line with current trends.

The Employee Experience

We’re already seeing a wave of momentum favoring the development and maintenance of the “employee experience.� In other words, how does an employee feel about the business and engage with the business, from the moment they’re recruited to their ongoing career development? Positive employee experiences lead to higher morale, higher productivity, and higher employee retention. The subjective nature of the employee experience can also reveal a lot about how the organization operates.

In the future, employee experience will become an even higher priority – and become easier to measure and control. Better tools will make it easier for employees to provide feedback about their experiences throughout their careers, and better analytics platforms will make it easier to figure out which changes to make to improve the business.

Data-Driven Insights

Nearly all departments and all industries are increasingly relying on data to improve, and HR is no different. In the future, HR will become even more reliant on data to operate efficiently.

Today’s HR departments use a variety of data points to create images of job candidates, employees, and organizational efficiency, such as hours worked, employee retention, and metrics related to recruiting, training, and development. Data may become even more granular in the future, studying nuanced elements of employee behaviors from the moment they’re recruited.

Most of these data will be collected automatically, with the help of device tracking and robust HR software platforms – which leads to our next points.

AI and Automation

HR departments are also likely to incorporate more AI and automation. Automation is a no-brainer; if you can automate a task that ordinarily requires manual human effort, you’ll instantly reduce the hours your employees need to work. Not only does this save the organization money, it also frees up human employees to focus on more important things.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will also serve a bigger role in the future. With sufficiently advanced machine learning algorithms, HR leaders can quickly and efficiently crunch the numbers they’ve gathered and come to a final conclusion. And in the right context, a suitable AI could even handle previously human-exclusive tasks, such as handling employee conflicts or interviewing candidates.

Sustainability and Image

Today’s consumers care more about sustainability, and not just environmental sustainability. Human and social sustainability require businesses to engage in socially responsible hiring and employee management practices. Today, this includes hiring people from a diverse range of backgrounds, treating employees fairly, and compensating them well. In the future, these are going to become even bigger priorities for consumers, which means businesses will need to do more to make their operations transparent (and show off their sustainability efforts).

The very nature of human and social sustainability may also evolve in the near future. For example, if machines are gradually replacing human jobs in a certain industry, will it be considered socially sustainable or responsible to maintain at least some human jobs?

Cycles of Progression

Over time, the rate of change within HR departments is likely to increase; in other words, HR progression will be accelerating. As we’ve seen, technology tends to evolve exponentially. New technologies get incorporated into existing businesses that create even newer, better technologies. And once things like machine learning and big data analytics get thrown into the mix, it’s hard to stop that momentum.

This acceleration will also be fueled by competition. As HR departments begin pushing the limits of their productivity and effectiveness, other HR departments must follow suit to keep up. Nobody wants to be left in the dust with a years-old platform that’s now becoming obsolete in mainstream workforces.

Even with the onset of AI, automation, and a machine-heavy workforce, HR departments are going to remain important for productivity and sustainability for the foreseeable future. However, the role of an HR manager or HR director is going to change substantially in the coming years. No one can predict the future, but we can see many of these trends already developing in the present. The transformation is already unfolding.

The post What Is the Future of HR? appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
Lifestyle Tech

The Future Is Clear: Connected Glass Will Redefine Commerce, Lifestyle Trends

The Future Is Clear: Connected Glass Will Redefine Commerce, Lifestyle Trends

How we shop, how we work out, how we receive medical care – you name the sector and odds are good that it underwent some major transformations during 2020. That being said, many of the most dramatic changes were less the result of the COVID-19 pandemic than accelerated by it, and this is particularly true in the world of connected tech. Companies didn’t invent entirely new processes to remedy pandemic-related service gaps, but hurried in-progress solutions to market. And, in so doing, they also transformed our lives at home and out in the world.

What types of new technology have been particularly major players in our lives during 2020? At the heart of it all were a variety of Augmented Reality (AR) products, like virtual dressing rooms and Face AR for video conferencing, as well as well as AI-based fitness tools like Mirror, a connected fitness device acquired by Lululemon Athletica last year. But as critical as such technology appears to be to our new lifestyle ecosystem, such elements represent significant challenges, especially for the manufacturing sector.

Automated Manufacturing Meets Glass

Automation has been central to the manufacturing sector for years and it’s long been recognized that the only way the industry can keep up with demand today is by continuing to build on industrial automation. When it comes to glass, though, that’s easier said than done. After all, in premise, glass’s value comes largely from the fact that it’s clear. That’s not a problem for human workers who can still perceive its bounds and work with it in industrial settings, but it can present real challenges to robotic vision systems and create barriers to mass manufacturing new technologies.

In typical manufacturing settings, robotic vision programs use reflected light to scan materials and identify key points, allowing for precision work with minimal human involvement. When this same vision is turned on glass or highly reflective metal, however, these vision systems can’t collect the necessary information; the glass or metal is essentially invisible. Observing this issue, there are now new manufacturers working to develop advanced robotic vision programs that use different systems, such as light filters and changing points of view, that can enable such systems to successfully work with glass or shiny metals.

What does such robotic vision look like in practice? Imagine that a business wants to install new glass storefronts that allows customers to interact with displays or browse without even setting foot inside the store. It’s a good idea, and one that shares many traits with other display trends that have been in the news for nearly a decade, but tricky to execute in practice. To create a transparent glass display that’s actually a functional LCD screen, manufacturers will need to be able to apply the same types of automated manufacturing technology that they use for computers, and that means using robotic vision that can see the glass its working on. It’s a tall order, but it’s also the reality of modern technology.

Fitness AIs Rise

Another area in which improved glass-detection will be key to manufacturing is in the growth of the connected fitness sector. Connected fitness has been all the rage since the launch of products like Fitbit, but that was just a starting point. Since then – and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in interest in home fitness – the market for connected fitness tech has exploded. In addition to Fitbit, there are now countless other fitness and health wearables, home fitness equipment like the Peloton bike and SoulCycle’s competitor bike, and the Mirror fitness system mentioned above. All this is to say that people want to work out at home and they need tools to do it.

The Mirror fitness system represents many of the challenges facing glass manufacturing today. Placed in your home, it acts precisely as the name implies – as a mirror – but turn the device on and it’s a mirror, a screen playing a class, and an AI-connected system offering workout modifications and tracking fitness goals. That’s some complicated engineering, and it raises questions about how the device, and other devices like it, is made.

Most of the high-tech mirror and glass products on the market function, at least to some degree, on proprietary technology, so a full glimpse behind the curtain isn’t possible. However, we can infer based on our understanding of robotic vision systems that these products rely on cutting edge technology. Unlike other AI-powered machine vision programs, the ability to detect objects isn’t enough. Instead, it needs to be able to detect items that are, in many ways, meant to avoid detection.

Windshields And Other Glass Innovations

Where else is new glass manufacturing technology in use or on the verge of emergence? There are a number of areas of interest, including smart windshields that could prevent distracted driving, AR smart glasses, which have proved their growth potential in recent years after the initial failure of Google Glass, and much more. All of that indicates high demand for more complex, precise glass manufacturing and processing tools, with invisible but overlaid sensor systems.

One product that may be especially influential in understanding connected technology engineering and manufacturing is the subsector of smart glass known as light control glass of LCG. This glass product has recently experienced an explosion of growth stemming from its use in construction.

LCG has been embraced by builders and property financiers who recognize the health benefits of access to sunlight. Instead of installing tinted glass in window-heavy buildings, then, they choose digitally modifiable glass; individual users can adjust their windows with the power of touch. Better manufacturing technology now allows these glass products to filter out specific light forms, include hazardous UV rays, or darken to mimic traditional privacy glass. Within its niche, this is what’s known as a dynamic material and its applications are extensive.

Now, a significant part of what makes glass so valuable in all of the above applications, as well as in our smart phones and tablets, is that it works well in conjunction with the types of plastic conductive materials commonly used together. Essentially, the plastic conductive film touches the glass and completes a circuit. Typically, that doesn’t work with an all-plastic system, though, which is why we all have to go around worrying that we’ll drop our cellphones and crack the screens. The glass is just too important.

What some new equipment manufacturers are now attempting to develop is a plastic alternative that can stand in for glass’s conductive properties, which would allow for touch-sensitive but durable and lightweight products. Essentially, the more products that rely on touchscreens, the more incentive there is to develop an affordable, plastic alternative. Glass may function well and feel high-end, but it’s expensive and often impractical and our connected environment demands innovation.

Smart Glass Goes Plastic

Among the many potential applications of plastic alternatives to conductive smart glass products include high wear and tear, including AR-based virtual dressing rooms, the high-tech reinvention of stores like Toys R Us, which now features numerous touchscreen stations, and many children’s products. Plastic alternatives are also ideal for outdoor applications like the National Parks, local hiking trails, and even amusement parks, where touchscreens are more likely to be subject to weather conditions and other activity. Durability is a common manufacturing priority across industries, so everything we learn about smart glass manufacturing should be quickly applied to plastic analogs.

Over the last decade, we have steadily made progress towards a moment when users expect everything to be touchscreen equipped, but that moment remains elusive. Still, we’re getting closer, and sturdier material options will bring us closer still. Other improvements in projected capacitive technology allow for faster response times from touchscreen tools, greater durability that prevents scratches and cracks from significantly impacting overall device function, and new anti-glare and anti-stiction technology for greater interactive ease.

Ultimately, transparent conduction technology is going to steadily move away from glass, but most innovations will likely still begin with glass manufacturing. Because of the many advantages that glass offers in terms of quality and conductive capacity and its preference as a material in high-end connected tech, glass is the obvious template. New practices and materials will develop from there.

The post The Future Is Clear: Connected Glass Will Redefine Commerce, Lifestyle Trends appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
Tech

How Content Will Become More Interactive

How Content Will Become More Interactive

Consumers are craving more interactive content, and brands are attempting to give it to them. Over the next several years, we’ll likely see the emergence of multiple new forms of interactive content, and the transformation of classical or traditional online content to a more interactive format. But how exactly will this transformation manifest? And why is it happening in the first place?

What Is Interactive Content?

Interactive content is a broad term that includes any type of content that allows users to actively engage with the material. Their actions can influence the presentation of the content, or they may be able to use the content in new ways. Ordinarily, readers are merely passive consumers of content; they read or listen to the content, and don’t have to take any further action. Interactive content puts them in the driver’s seat, so to speak.

It’s best to understand interactive content with the help of examples. A simple iteration of interactive content is an online calculator; for example, you can easily find websites that offer calculators to help you estimate your monthly mortgage payments, given some initial parameters. To get the full experience from this content, you must enter some information about yourself—namely, the amount of money you want to borrow, your interest rate, and other numerical variables.

However, interactive content can be even more complex. For example, it’s increasingly common for brands to make use of motion graphics, which use simple animations to add life to advertisements, websites, and other visuals. With a simple change, these motion graphics can come to life only after a consumer’s response; for example, you can make the graphic come to life when a consumer hovers over it with a mouse or clicks it directly.

Interactive content is also demonstrated by dynamic presentations of data. Modern platforms (and some kinds of infographics) often present data in charts and graphs, which a user can manipulate directly to see the impact of various variables.

The Benefits of Interactive Content

So why is interactive content about to become more popular?

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of interactive content:

  • Greater consumer engagement. For starters, interactive content tends to do a better job of holding the attention of consumers and increasing engagement rates across the board. Consumers are much more interested in interactive content than they are in static content. Additionally, they must take some kind of action to get the full value from the content. This draw encourages them to interact with the brand even further.
  • Access to more consumer data. Interactive data can also give companies more access to consumer data, which is especially important if you’re using artificial intelligence (AI)v to boost the power of your content marketing campaign. Take the mortgage calculator as an example; if 10,000 people enter their basic information to figure out mortgage rates, you can use that information to estimate the average amount of money your target demographic wants to borrow. As long as you’re tracking how your consumers are interacting with your content, you can learn something valuable.
  • Higher retention rates. One of the biggest problems modern brands face is consumer retention. It’s hard to get a reader to stay on your site long enough to consume a full piece of content, let alone get them to continue to subscribe to your services for years. But interactive content can boost your brand retention rates and help prevent people from turning to a competitor.
  • Competitive differentiation and memorability. Speaking of competitors, the internet is full of them. If you’re an online brand trying to achieve greater visibility, you know the pain of dealing with hundreds of brands similar to yours—all fighting to achieve higher search engine rankings and bigger streams of traffic. Interactive content isn’t especially common these days, so it can be a great way to stand out from the competition. You can use interactive content as a way to better position your brand, increase its memorability, and help it stand out from the crowd.

The Future of Interactive Content

Any brand can start developing interactive content right now—at least with some rudimentary versions. It doesn’t take much effort to develop a simple calculator or a basic quiz for your consumers. But the future of interactive content is much more advanced.

Where does interactive content go from here?

  • New ways to interact. For starters, consumers will have more ways to interact. Some forms of interactive content will be able to do more with less consumer information, requiring fewer and fewer inputs from individuals to customize the experience. Others will be interactive in new ways; for example, instead of tracking the movement of a mouse cursor, with the right device, a website could track a user’s eye movements. Gesture-based interactions could also be a potential course for development.
  • Cross-device experiences. Our lives are becoming cluttered with a diversity of different devices. Chances are, your household has at least a dozen internet-connected devices, if not more, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearables, and even your TV. Interactive content could take advantage of this, drawing data from interactive moments across a wide range of device engagements; it could also present content in a cross-device format; for example, you could begin analyzing data on a wearable device, and continue analyzing it on another screen when you change rooms.
  • Personalization. More brands are hoping to integrate personalization into their content marketing strategies. Rather than giving the same experience to every user who visits your site, brands want to tailor the content to appeal to the individual accessing it, based on things like demographic data, browsing history, and previous experiences on the site. Interactive content could make this easier, giving consumers a chance to personalize their own experiences.
  • “Upgradedâ€� traditional content experiences. We’ll also see traditional forms of online content (like simple blog posts) become “upgradedâ€� with new opportunities for interaction. For example, a blog post can instantly become more engaging if it gives readers and option to learn more about the topic through an interactive visual element.

Why Is This Transformation Taking Place?

In many ways, interactive content represents the future of content marketing. But why is this transformation taking place?

  • Objective value. As we’ve seen, interactive content has tremendous objective value for the brands experimental enough to use it. With the right interactive content strategy, you could increase consumer interest, make your brand more memorable, increase customer retention, and ultimately bring more revenue in for your brand.
  • Consumer demand. Increasingly, consumers want more from their content consumption experiences. The internet is overwhelmed with basic, static written content, and users are beginning to grow fatigued. People want more personalization and they want more direct control over what they consume; brands that are able to give them that experience will be at a decided advantage.
  • Competitive pressure. As more brands begin to experiment with interactive content, there’s going to be more competitive pressure to deal with. If you want to “keep upâ€� with one of your top competitors, you may need to rival their overall interactive content experience. If you’re the only company in the industry that isn’t offering consumer interactions through your content, you’ll quickly fall by the wayside. Accordingly, many brands are attempting to be proactive—and be on the forefront of this trend.

How to Stay on the Forefront

How can you benefit from this rising trend in the content marketing world? Try to stay ahead of the curve. Look for opportunities to transform your existing content into something interactive; how can consumers get more value and more engagement from this? Additionally, consider working with a professional content or design agency; they’ll be able to provide you with strategic recommendations as well as the core material you’ll use to build your campaign.

The post How Content Will Become More Interactive appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
Smart Home

How to Attract and Retain Reliable and Trustworthy Tenants

How to Attract and Retain Reliable and Trustworthy Tenants

Every landlord dreams of having long-term, reliable, trustworthy tenants who pay rent on time and in full. An even bigger dream is having tenants who clean up properly before moving out and leave all necessary repairs to the professionals.

Ideally, the dream is to secure honest tenants who don’t hide details that would change their lease terms. For instance, tenants who run a home-based business are more likely to cause damage in the process of making their goods. For this reason, many leases prohibit tenants from running a home-based business. Some tenants will hide their business, while others will be upfront and honest.

While securing great tenants with integrity is just a dream for many landlords, it can be your reality by employing the following strategies.

1. Set the tone for your relationship on day one

From the very first interaction you have, you are training your tenants how to be with you. If you want your tenants to honor their lease terms, you need to set the bar extremely high from day one.

For example, the first time you interact with a tenant will probably be a phone call asking if a unit is available or perhaps they’ll just submit an application online. Make these small interactions count. Be professional rather than casual and be firm with anything you tell prospective clients about rent prices, deposit amounts, rules, and cleaning fees.

If establishing a strict relationship with your tenants is difficult, hire a property management company. You won’t have to worry about anything. They’ll screen, select, and onboard tenants for you and they’ll handle all of their needs like maintenance and repairs.

2. Hold clients responsible for being on time

Not acknowledging when a tenant is late for a meeting will set a tenant up to feel comfortable with paying rent late. The truth is, most people are conditioned to be perpetually late. They don’t like to make or follow through with commitments. They want to maintain control to relax their way through life and do things on their terms.

Don’t set your tenants up to be lax about anything. Make sure they know you mean business. For instance, say you schedule a walkthrough from 2-2:30pm. Tell your prospective tenant ahead of time that being late will cut into the time available for the walkthrough and follow through. If they don’t show up until 2:15, don’t give them any extra time.

If you start making exceptions in the beginning of your relationship, even before someone becomes a tenant, you’ll train that person to know they’ve got wiggle room with your deadlines. This can result in all kinds of problems including using the laundry room after hours, blasting loud music late at night, paying rent late, and expecting to have late fees waived.

3. Reward tenants for amazing behavior

There are always fees and punishments for bad behavior, but what about good behavior? Find ways to appreciate good tenants. For example, if a tenant pays rent on time every month for 6 months, give them a $50-$100 discount on their 7th month.

A discount will be an incentive for them to continue paying on time. After a year of on-time payments, you could renew their lease at a discount for the entire year to come.

You could also reward tenants with a month of free parking, or a $20 gift card to Starbucks. The rewards you provide for your tenants are up to you. However, most landlords don’t reward their tenants, so even small efforts will be greatly appreciated.

When your tenants feel appreciated, they’ll be more likely to stick around even if they find a cheaper place to live.

4. Set your credit and income qualifications high

Some tenants with lower income can easily afford rent because they don’t have many bills. However, that’s not always the case. Since you can’t verify exactly how a tenant spends all of their money, it’s best to set high credit and income qualifications.

The standard minimum for credit scores is 650. Most landlords will not accept tenants with a score under 650. However, you can set the bar a little higher if you want.

When it comes to income, you want tenants who earn at least three times the monthly rent. You need to make sure your tenants have enough income to pay for their car, car insurance, cell phone, utilities, cable, internet, credit card bills, student loans, and whatever additional debts most people have today.

You will find tenants who are exceptions to these rules. There are people who don’t play the credit game and don’t have any debt, but consider those people on a case-by-case basis and only advertise your high standards. If someone really wants to live in your unit despite not having credit or 3x the rent as income, they’ll contact you to discuss their situation.

5. Cover utilities if possible

Including utilities in the rent is a controversial move that many landlords advise against. Tenants who know their landlords cover utilities are more likely to let space heaters, central heaters, and A/C units run all day and night. There’s no incentive to monitor or conserve their usage.

However, covering utilities can give tenants the certainty they need to feel financially stable. Some tenants function better when they know exactly how much their bills will be each month.

Although it’s controversial, there’s a way to make it work. The first thing you need to do is include a clause in the lease that allows you to start billing tenants for abusing utilities. This is easiest when you’re renting single-family homes because you can hold tenants accountable for the electricity they use.

Apartment buildings, condos, and some townhomes don’t have separate meters for each unit so it’s hard to set parameters for what constitutes abuse. For example, if you own an apartment complex with 20 units, you’ll never know if one family is running up your monthly electricity bill by $500 while everyone else is using around $200.

While it’s a great strategy for creating happy tenants, use your discretion when covering utilities in the rent.

6. Don’t spy on your tenants or use smart devices against them

While smart home devices can be convenient, use them with caution. Tenants want convenience, but not at the cost of sacrificing their privacy. An ADT survey found that 93% of consumers are concerned about how their data is being used.

Recently, several landlords have been in the news for attempting to force tenants to use smart security systems to enter the building and access their mailbox. Tenants felt like facial recognition software was a violation of privacy. Other tenants opposed the idea of smart locks because the electronic key fob was also a tracking device.

Although there is no federal law prohibiting landlords from using smart surveillance and keyless entry systems, the courts have been ruling in favor of concerned tenants.

If you’re going to install smart home devices and security systems, make sure you know where your tenants’ data is going. If the device manufacturer collects that data and sells it to marketers, you should skip that device to protect your tenants’ desire for privacy. Your tenants will appreciate you using only the smart devices and services that don’t sell their data.

7. Let your tenants know you won’t use smart devices against them

There have been landlords who have used smart locks to lock tenants out of their house for not paying rent. Some landlords have even used apps to prevent tenants from using their thermostat to turn on the heat or air conditioning.

Make sure you tell your tenant that you’re providing smart devices for their convenience and that you’re not going to use it against them. Technically, it would be illegal for you to prevent a tenant from accessing their home or thermostat, but since some landlords ignore the law, many tenants are afraid to rent homes that employ these smart devices.

You can earn a whole lot of trust from a tenant by eliminating their fears surrounding smart home devices.

Create good communication with your tenants

The ultimate way to attract and retain reliable and trustworthy tenants is to maintain good communication. When a tenant contacts you with a request, reply as soon as possible, even if only to let them know you’ll get back with them when you have a solution. Good, clear communication is one of the most effective ways to retain your best tenants.

The post How to Attract and Retain Reliable and Trustworthy Tenants appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
Software

How an Intranet Will Consolidate Multiple Disparate Software Applications

How an Intranet Will Consolidate Multiple Disparate Software Applications

The average employee uses between 10 and 20 individual software applications throughout the course of their day. This makes sense considering modern businesses run on software. However, using too many individual applications stifles productivity by wasting time, which subsequently wastes payroll dollars. For instance, employees use separate applications for the following tasks:

  • Time tracking
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Email marketing
  • Shopping carts
  • Email
  • Direct messaging with team members
  • Video conferencing
  • Invoicing
  • Document storage
  • Client communication
  • Knowledge base
  • People directory
  • Document collaboration
  • Announcements
  • Accounting
  • Scheduled appointments
  • And more

When teams are required to use all of these applications separately, productivity suffers. Using applications that combine multiple features will strengthen productivity, especially for remote teams.

Increase productivity by using fewer applications

Using fewer applications will increase productivity, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop using the features you need. The ideal solution is to find software applications that provide multiple functions. For example, many popular CRM software applications provide email marketing, sales process management, a shopping cart system, and more.

Similarly, there are company intranet solutions that combine communications needs. One of those solutions is Happeo. Happeo is an internal collaboration platform that allows teams to work productively in a secure environment. The platform combines many functions like document storage, a knowledge base, a people directory, announcements, and document collaboration.

Many useful features not native to Happeo can be plugged into the network using integrations. For example, Happeo integrates with Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), which gives teams access to Google Workspace features from within the intranet, eliminating the time required to switch between applications to perform tasks.

If you haven’t implemented a company intranet like Happeo, you’re missing out on a massive increase in team productivity.

How does an intranet increase team productivity?

An intranet increases team productivity by improving communication and engagement, maintaining mobility for your remote workers, and supporting better collaboration. In other words, an intranet mitigates the challenges that halt productivity, especially for remote workers.

The most significant impact comes from the reduction of applications used throughout the day. For instance, when a team member has to switch from one application to another, it could take anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, depending on where the application is located and what steps are required to log in. If multi-factor authentication is required, it could take up to five minutes.

A few minutes here and there doesn’t seem like a big deal, but those minutes add up quickly. If a team member uses ten separate applications that take one minute to switch between, and they use each application twice per day, that’s twenty minutes wasted just switching between applications. That adds up to 3.33 hours per pay period per employee. For a team of 15 employees, that’s 50 hours per pay period wasted.

What are the benefits of increased productivity?

Aside from the obvious increase in ROI, productive teams offer many benefits to their company, company clients, end users, and other team members.

Productive teams make their companies look good

Productive teams get results that get companies noticed. Companies that build a positive, in-demand reputation based on their high-quality work are seen as leaders in their industry.

In the corporate world, many companies are on strict client deadlines that aren’t always realistic, but productive teams get pretty close to the goal. On the other hand, unproductive teams won’t be anywhere near the goal when the deadline hits, and they usually have to do plenty of apologizing to their clients. This drastically reduces the client’s potential to recommend that company to their colleagues and friends.

Productive teams create and manage expectations realistically. They can estimate the time it will take to complete a project, including accounting for inevitable breakdowns. This means they’ll have an easier time meeting client expectations because a productive team will set those expectations correctly from the start.

Productive teams make end users happy

Productive teams tend to produce better quality work, which makes end users happy. For example, end users don’t want to start using a new software application only to find a bunch of bugs that should have been taken care of prior to release.

Part of what makes a team productive is a lack of unnecessary back-and-forth to solve problems. Productivity stems from efficiency, and efficient teams handle issues as they arise to full completion.

When a team completes a project designed to be used by end users beyond the client, there’s no room for sloppy mistakes. The client will be held accountable by their end users for anything that goes wrong even though it’s not the client’s fault.

Only a productive team can produce a project that will make end users happy.

Productive teams create happy clients

Productive teams get their work completed on time and in full to deliver stellar projects to clients. When clients are impressed with high level work that gets delivered on time, they’re happy.

Happy clients matter because they are likely to order more work and refer your products and services to others.

An intranet will reduce your operating costs

How many different software applications are you paying a monthly fee to use? Considering most popular software applications are subscription-based, you’re likely using at least five—and that’s a conservative estimate. If access to each software application costs $20 to $100 per month, that’s $100 to $500 per month (or more if you use more apps) that you may not need to spend.

Using an intranet can help you combine many of the software fees you’re paying unnecessarily to separate entities. Your teams will need time to adapt to new software, but once they get going, they’ll find it easier to use an intranet for everything.

Don’t let the subscription model drain your software budget

Every company wants the best software for their teams, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive software on the market. You may not even need some of the features offered by some software applications.

The subscription software market is big. Digitalist Magazine projected that by 2022, 53% of all software sales will come from subscriptions. For most companies, there’s no way around buying subscription software. While an intranet will combine many disparate software applications for you, it won’t replace every subscription software you need. That’s why it’s important to take stock of your current applications to see if you have overlap with your intranet and if not, start looking for a cheaper option.

Don’t drain your budget by thinking you need to buy a subscription to every popular application on the market. There are other options, even some that don’t require a monthly fee. It’s hard to find, but there are software developers who sell their applications for a one-time fee.

However, when it comes to getting a cloud-based company intranet, you’ll probably need to pay a monthly subscription fee. Although, you’ll be saving money by condensing the number of applications you use, so it’s worth every penny.

Company intranets are the future of productivity

Corporations have been using intranets for decades to provide teams with information, files, training materials, and ways to communicate. Until recent years, intranets were largely hosted on-premises on the same server that ran the company network.

Although many companies still utilize on-premises servers to manage private, secure networks, cloud-based intranets are the future. The enterprise collaboration market is expected to grow from $31 billion (2019) to $48.1 billion by 2024.

If you haven’t implemented an intranet for your teams, it’s time. Businesses are rapidly moving to a remote team structure, and an intranet is the best way to keep remote teams connected and productive.

The post How an Intranet Will Consolidate Multiple Disparate Software Applications appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
Software Tech

The Biggest Obstacles Faced by New Programmers

The Biggest Obstacles Faced by New Programmers

Programming can be a lucrative and rewarding skill to develop, no matter what your goals are. You may be interested in launching a startup tech company, building your own app or tech product and nurturing its long-term development. You may be interested in joining a team that’s already formed, lending your programming skills to their collaborative efforts. Or you may be interested in using your programming skills in a more personal capacity; for example, you may use your programming skills to automate various aspects of your life or build out a pet project.

No matter what, if you’re learning programming for the first time or if you’re not used to the world of programming, there are some significant obstacles you may face.

Jumping Into Projects That Are Already Started

First, you may have difficulty jumping into projects that other people have already started—especially if they’ve had years of work behind them. If you’re starting a project of your own, you’ll get to call all the shots. You’ll have an idea of how to outline the project, how to think of it abstractly, which programming language to use, and how to code the product’s core features.

If you’re jumping into someone else’s work, you’ll face several different layers of challenges. For starters, you’ll have to learn everything there is to know about the project from scratch; you’ll need to learn what the purpose is, what the key features are, and what’s been done already. You’ll also need to see the product through the eyes of another person and get a feel for what they were thinking when they coded it.

Additionally, software products are often developed with dependencies on other apps, APIs, and libraries. Practicing active dependency management is the only way to resolve issues associated with these dependencies, include performance problems, security, and license compliance. However, if you’re not familiar with these dependencies from the outset, you’ll be playing catch-up to learn how to resolve them.

The best way to resolve this obstacle is to be as patient and proactive as possible. Talk to the people who coded this project initially and get a sense for what they were thinking throughout their journey.

Dealing With Compatibility Issues

It can also be extremely difficult to deal with compatibility issues and code a project so it works on many different platforms simultaneously. For example, if you want to launch a mobile app on both Android and iOS, you may need to comply with two very different sets of standards for the app. You may encounter a persistent bug that exists in only one version of your app, which means you’ll have to restructure the code and possibly make different updates in the future.

One potential solution here is to focus exclusively on one platform to start. Depending on your goals, this may limit your potential audience, but it will help you deliver a more polished product to your users—and save you lots of headaches along the way.

Debugging

Debugging is a natural part of the programming workflow, but it can be a hard one to get used to if you’re a new programmer. There’s no such thing as a product that has no bugs; almost every piece of software launches with bugs, no matter how much proactive testing you did. If you want to improve the product and keep it secure, you’ll need to find and fix those bugs—and both stages of that process can be confusing.

The key to success is being able to replicate the issue. If you can replicate the circumstances that caused the bug to occur, you can get a good idea of the steps necessary to fix that bug. If you’re unable to replicate the issue, it may not be a “real� issue in the first place. You’ll have to work with the person or people who reported it to find out more.

Keeping Up With New Tech Changes

In the programming world, things tend to change quickly. While there are some old programming languages that seem to stick around forever and some time-tested methodologies that have been around for decades, we also need to consider the constant inbound flow of new programming languages, new best practices, and new techniques.

Keeping up with the latest updates, the latest technologies, and the latest trends can all be excruciating for someone who’s still trying to master the fundamentals. However, it’s much easier if you’re an active part of a community. Jump into programming forums—especially those that revolve around open source software or specific languages—and get updates about the latest news. It’s also a good idea to dedicate a little time each week (even if it’s only an hour) to learn new things.

Providing Accurate Expectations

As a programmer, you’ll be frequently tasked with setting proactive expectations about your work. You’ll have to give time estimates, effort estimates, and projected views on the future of each project to your clients, your coworkers, and your employees (eventually). Doing this with minimal experience is borderline impossible. The best way to get better is through experience, but in the meantime, rely on the wisdom of people more experienced than you.

Communicating With the Team

The only way to effectively code a large project together with a team is through communication. You have to actively and clearly communicate with your colleagues to set goals, identify problems, and of course, resolve those problems.

There are many aspects of communication worth improving. For starters, you can aim to be more proactive; you can set expectations and lay out the potential problems early in the process, so there’s no ambiguity or room for misinterpretation. You can also work to use the right platforms for all your messages; there are many communication mediums worth using, but they all have various strengths and weaknesses to accommodate. Additionally, it pays to cater to your audience; not everyone communicates the same way, so how can you draft messages in a way that appeals to your specific listener/reader?

Staying Focused and Productive

New programmers often struggle to remain productive throughout the day. If you’re working on something challenging, you can’t simply churn out an endless stream of code. And if you’re not focused, you may end up making substantially more errors—which then increase your workload when debugging.

Every person is unique in terms of what helps them achieve peak productivity, so you’ll have to experiment and focus on solutions that are uniquely suited to your work style. However, what’s most important is that you have some kind of focus/productivity strategy in place. How can you improve your set of tools, your work environment, and even your own mentality to boost your effectiveness and output?

Maintaining a Work-Life Balance

When you’re working on an important client project, or when you’re trying to launch the app that will drive your startup to success, everything else takes a backseat—including your personal life and even your health, if you’re not careful. For new programmers who are passionate about their work, work-life balance can become a massive problem.

If you don’t take care of yourself, your personal responsibilities, and your relationships, even the most talented programmer will suffer the consequences. No matter how busy you get or how focused you become on the project at hand, it’s important to dedicate time to yourself and your personal life; take plenty of breaks, take days off, and make time for things that are important to you.

As you become more experienced as a programmer, these problems are going to fade in importance. Some of them will never go away completely—for example, you’ll always have a bit of difficulty jumping into a project that someone else started—but in time, you’ll develop management and coping strategies that help you push through.

The post The Biggest Obstacles Faced by New Programmers appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
accounting accounting operations IoT IoTinaccounting

Exploring the Impact of the IoT on the Accounting Industry

Exploring the Impact of the IoT on the Accounting Industry

When you look at the industries that the IoT is impacting, accounting isn’t the first one that comes to mind. However, if you take a close look and study what’s happening on a granular level, it becomes clear that the IoT is fundamentally shifting the profession for the better.

IoT’s Impact Spilling Over

The impact of the IoT is deep and wide. And though accounting may initially seem like a strange industry to be impacted so significantly by this shift to cloud computing and mobile devices, it’s undergoing a significant metamorphosis nonetheless.

And before we dig in and analyze some of the specific ways the accounting field is changing, let’s make sure we’re clear on what the IoT is and why it matters. In other words, let’s set the table with a dash of context.

There are plenty of definitions from a wide swath of experts in the tech field, but Oracle has one of the best explanations of what it is.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects — ‘things’— that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet. These devices range from ordinary household objects to sophisticated industrial tools,� Oracle explains. “With more than 7 billion connected IoT devices today, experts are expecting this number to grow to 10 billion by 2020 and 22 billion by 2025.�

The IoT is rather evident in our personal lives (whether we realize it or not). Smart kitchen appliances, thermostats, navigation systems, baby monitors, smartphones, and fitness bands…they’re all part of the IoT. But we aren’t always as aware of what’s happening in the business world.

Fueled by access to low-cost, low-power sensor tech, heightened connectivity, cloud computing, machine learning, and conversational artificial intelligence (AI), the IoT has exploded in the business world and become one of the most important trends shaping the future of the world’s biggest industries.

In the industrial sector, we’re seeing smart manufacturing, smart power grids, connected logistics, smart digital supply chains, and innovative preventative and predictive maintenance that saves businesses billions.

In software, we’re seeing software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications proliferate. And when combined with smart devices and sensor technology, these SaaS applications open up a whole new world of opportunity.

Traditionally, tech leaders have discussed IoT and its catalytic potential in manufacturing, software, automotive, transportation and logistics, retail, healthcare, and even education. But accounting typically gets left out.

This won’t be the case for long. Major changes are coming (and this industry is ripe for the picking).

6 Ways the IoT is Changing Accounting in 2020 and Beyond

The full impact of the IoT on accounting remains to be seen. Many of the changes are happening behind closed doors and won’t be obvious to those outside of the industry. But for those working in the accounting field, they can expect to see the following shifts, changes, and evolutions moving forward.

1. Shifting Learning

Education obviously plays a significant role in the accounting industry. This is a field where conventional wisdom is often flipped. It’s what you know, not who you know, that allows you to be successful. So the shift in education and learning is rather important.

The process of preparing for the CPA exam now takes place almost entirely online. Learning has shifted from classroom-based to virtual and students are benefitting from this evolution. One of the biggest benefits of this shift is the way in which students are able to learn in an on-demand setting. The content is always available, it’s more digestible than ever before, and mock exams and review courses make it possible to prepare for the “real thing� prior to sitting for the exam. Some learning platforms even offer one-on-one mentoring, which allows these education companies to offer support at scale.

The efficacy of these learning platforms is rooted in their ability to tailor content to the student based on real-time inputs and feedback. Adaptive technology means content can be adjusted to help each student address unique areas of weakness.

2. Better Decision Making

From the outside looking in, people assume that accountants are nothing more than Excel spreadsheet whiz kids and Quickbooks aficionados. But the reality is that accountants play a key role in advising businesses. The data they uncover is necessary for making important financial decisions. Thus, it matters what data they have access to and how they access it.

The IoT is helping accounting professionals collect real-time data, quickly transmit it to cloud servers, and then automate and analyze the data using AI algorithms. This all happens in the snap of a finger, which makes businesses more nimble than they’ve ever been.

3. Streamlined Accounting Operations

Accounting operations and processes can be strenuous. And with so many different steps and moving parts, efficiency isn’t always a direct byproduct of these operations.

Within accounting processes, there’s usually collaboration of different departments for both the collection and analysis of data and other financial information. And any delays between the transmission of data and the ability to register and analyze that data can lead to a host of negative consequences (including inaccurate reporting and ill-advised projections). The IoT has the ability to eliminate this delay, thereby empowering departments to make more accurate decisions.

Take the example of buying a computer for an office. The admin department can scan the barcode, and all of the details from that purchase are automatically transmitted to the proper database and logged into the blockchain. This creates an immediate record, and the accounting workflow reflects the purchase in real-time. Payments, invoices, and bills are all received by the accounting department without any need for human intervention.

4. No More Audits

As anyone in any financial position within a company knows, there’s nothing worse than preparing for an audit. Painstaking, excruciating, time-consuming – these are words that many would use to describe audits.

Now imagine for a moment, a world where connected ledgers, donations, journal entries, and all transactions are sorted, tracked, and irrefutable verified right away in real-time. (Not months or years later.) This is what blockchain and the IoT are doing/will do for accounting.

“Indeed, the IoT doesn’t just change things. It permits you to method, consolidate, and analyze, usually in real time, leveraging connected tools can take the strain off of CFOs,� tech journalist Chrisotpher Zach writes. “It’ll also lead to tighter books overall.�

It’s difficult to overestimate how important this will be for businesses – particularly smaller businesses that don’t have the time or financial resources to be as strict with auditing as they’d like. As the IoT minimizes auditing efforts, these organizations will benefit from peace of mind and better resource allocation.

5. Improved Asset Utilization

The IoT is already making it possible for organizations to track assets with better accuracy and efficiency – a trend that will continue to improve in the months and years to come.

“Fixed assets, vehicles and inventories can be confirmed along with their locations tracked automatically. Companies can use RFID tags and hand-held scanners to confirm the items of stock in a warehouse, this facilitates automated stock checking,� IT expert Elena Smith writes. “For geographically dispersed assets, the broadcast of GPS coordinates can monitor asset location. This increases the chances of catching thieves. Also, in the case of migration, this will reduce costly production downtime.�

Asset tracking information can be used with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to dramatically improve asset utilization across the board. And as organizations become more familiar with the use of RFID tags and tracking software, there will be steep declines in manual error, theft, and losses.  Many businesses will see a quick and significant increase in profitability.

6. Superior Risk Management

As we’ve mentioned, accountants and CPAs are often heavily involved in forecasting and, as a result, also have their hands in risk management. As the IoT provides a steady flow of real-time data, financial departments will be able to make decisions based on real-time and (very) recent data as opposed to historical data, which may no longer be relevant in today’s fast-paced, ever changing marketplace.

Superior risk management doesn’t automatically make businesses safer or more profitable. It still goes back to accuracy of data and which metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are being tracked. However, as long as these pieces are in the right places, organizations stand a much better chance of accelerated growth.

What’s Around the Bend in the World of Accounting?

It’s impossible to know what lies ahead. These are the trends we’re currently seeing, and they could take on entirely new shapes and arcs as time passes. However, one thing we know for sure: Accounting is no longer the cold, stagnant industry that it once was. Leaders in the space are more willing than ever to embrace change and innovation, opening up opportunities for greater efficiency, increased accuracy, better security, and more cost-effective services.

The post Exploring the Impact of the IoT on the Accounting Industry appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
digital marketing trends influencer marketing Marketing SEO Social social media Web

Exploring the Top Digital Marketing Trends for 2021

Exploring the Top Digital Marketing Trends for 2021

If there’s one niche of the business world that never stops evolving, it’s marketing. Digital marketing is highly dependent on the maturation of online technologies and is continuously pivoting and responding to new developments. Having said that, are you prepared for 2021?

The Digital Marketing Trends Set to Define 2021

Now is the time to begin planning ahead to account for the digital marketing trends of 2021. By staying current, you can develop a digital marketing strategy that takes the latest tips, trends, and frameworks into account.

“A good digital marketing strategy gives your company a cohesive plan that is consistent through your many online and offline channels,� Marcel Digital explains. “After all, you want your branding and message to be the same on your point-of-purchase advertising in your stores as it is on your social media pages and website. A cohesive message saves time and effort by not having employees recreate a marketing message for every channel.�

But our focus is not to discuss how to create a cohesive message. While important, we want to dig into the how. In other words, how do you execute once you’ve zeroed in on your message?

Though classic marketing principles and approaches will always prove effective, sometimes it’s helpful to study the latest trends to get a feel for innovative opportunities that can take marketing to the next level. And in this article, we want to focus on a few of the top trends for 2021. Take a look:

1. Live Video

Live video streaming has exploded over the past three years (and will continue to do so over the next decade). Powered by social media platforms, live streaming is available to the masses and provides an avenue for the continued democratization of content. Just consider the following data points as curated by HubSpot:

  • Internet users watched approximately 1.1 billion hours of live video in 2019.
  • By 2027, the live video streaming market is expected to hit $184.3 billion.
  • By 2020, live streaming is expected to account for 82% of all internet traffic.

Those are significant numbers – too significant to ignore. And there are plenty of reasons why businesses are making the jump to live video, including:

  • There’s almost no learning curve to record live video. There’s no need for a script, props, or post production. You hit the record button and push out live content. It’s casual, relaxed, and relatable.
  • There’s no requirement for advanced technology. While you can certainly enhance quality with some tech upgrades, a smartphone is all that’s needed to get started.
  • Live video feels exclusive and commands longer average view times when compared to pre-recorded videos. (There’s a sense of urgency from the viewer that they might not be able to see the content later.)

Live streaming video is used in a variety of capacities and is highly dependent on your brand, goals, and content strategy. However, it’s ideal for things like Q&As with an audience, customer support, special announcements, interviews with influencers, live events, and backstage events.

If you’re new to live video but want to get started, the best piece of advice is to jump in and do it. Try a couple of videos and see what happens. Were you comfortable? Did you enjoy it? Did the audience engage? What can you learn?

Your first shot at live streaming won’t be perfect, but you can always optimize over time.

2. Programmatic Advertising

Another sweeping trend is the growth of programmatic advertising. If paid traffic is part of your strategy for 2021, you need to gain some understanding and proficiency in this area.

As MarTech Advisor explains, “Programmatic advertising is the process of automating the buying and selling of ad inventory in real-time through an automated bidding system. Programmatic advertising enables brands or agencies to purchase ad impressions on publisher sites or apps within milliseconds through a sophisticated ecosystem.�

Over the past couple of years, programmatic advertising has become the preferred method of running ad campaigns. It offers real-time insights, enhanced targeting capabilities, increased transparency, better budget utilization, and provides a way to combat ad fraud effectively.

Programmatic advertising can be deployed in a variety of channels and formats, including display ads, video ads, social ads, audio ads, native ads, and digital out-of-home (DOOH) ads.

Contrary to how traditional media buying works, programmatic advertising doesn’t usually involve publishers and advertising working together in a one-to-one fashion. The type of programmatic deal – such as real-time bidding, private marketplaces, preferred deals, or programmatic guaranteed – determines how they’re delivered.

3. Voice Search

Would it surprise you to learn that approximately 27 percent of the online global population uses voice search on mobile? Or that more than 1 in 3 US internet users use a voice assistant monthly (up from just 9.5 percent in 2018).

Consider that by the end of 2020, roughly 30 percent of all internet browsing sessions will include voice search. And that more than half of adults use voice search on a semi-regular basis.

The writing is on the wall. Voice search will soon become the preferred method of browsing the internet. It’s faster, hands-free, and ultimately more convenient.

So what does that mean for digital marketing? Well, it changes everything, particularly on the content strategy side of things. People speak differently than they write. Consider, for example, someone searching for a pizza restaurant. Their queries might look like this:

Typed: pizza restaurant Bronx

Spoken: What’s the best pizza restaurant in the Bronx?

Voice search is ushering in a new age of SEO and content creation where long-tail keywords are the focus. Natural, conversational language wins the day. Brands that adapt to this style will see their SEO rankings improve and search traffic scale.

In terms of blogging strategy, brands should focus on developing content that answers questions. People go to Google when they have a question and the search engine knows this. So in an effort to satisfy their users, they’re elevating content that answers very specific questions.

4. Interactive Content

Online users are growing bored with basic blog posts and static content. They want to be stimulated. They also want control over their experiences. And these desires are currently culminating in the rise of interactive content.

Research shows that interactive content gains 2X more engagement than static content. This has led 34 percent of marketers to include interactive content in at least 10 percent of their strategies.

The most popular types of interactive content include quizzes, polls, interactive infographics, AR, VR, and online calculators.

Interactive content is typically just a subsegment of the larger content strategy. But in 2021 and beyond, it’s going to become an even bigger portion. While many brands are currently developing one piece of interactive content for every nine pieces of static content, that number will likely increase to 20 percent.

5. Shifts in Influencer Marketing

In 2016, the influencer marketing industry was worth an estimated $1.7 billion. By the end of this year, it’s projected to be worth somewhere north of $9.7 billion.

People like to hate on influencers, but they’re effective. The earned media value for money spent on influencer marketing was roughly $18 for every dollar spent in 2019. And over the last three years, there’s been a 1500% increase in brands searching for “influencer marketing� on Google. In other words, it’s effective and here to stay. But as we enter into 2021, this industry will undergo significant shifts that will ultimately change the way businesses approach marketing and advertising.

One of the biggest shifts will be the rise in micro influencers. These are influencers who have small yet loyal followings (anything less than 10,000 followers). And what they lack in reach (compared to large influencers), they make up for with high engagement and affordability.

It’s also possible that we’ll see an increase in performance-based influencer marketing. In the past, it’s always been sort of a flat fee deal. Businesses pay per post and the influencer gets the same amount of money no matter what happens on the engagement front. But as the influencer arena gets more competitive, brands will gain more leverage. Soon, we could see payment based on the number of clicks, comments, or even sales.

Ultimately, the changes in this space will be dictated by consumers. Followers make it clear what they do and don’t respond to by the type of engagement they offer. As brands and influencers gather more data and analytics from these types of posts, they’ll iterate and zero in on what works best.

Hit the Refresh Button on Your Digital Marketing

No digital marketing strategy is set in stone. As you approach 2021, take the time to understand the new trends so that you can shift your strategy into a direction that aligns with the trajectory of the larger consumer marketplace. Whether it’s live video, programmatic advertising, voice search, interactive content, or shifts in influencer marketing, there’s ample opportunity for growth and expansion.

The post Exploring the Top Digital Marketing Trends for 2021 appeared first on ReadWrite.