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B2B sales strategy digital-first embrace new tech Marketing Sales Tech

How Can B2B Sales Go Digital-First Even After Covid-19?

digital-first b2b sales

Covid-19 has taken growing trends and accelerated them at exhilarating speeds. This has made it difficult for businesses to keep up with new consumer needs and best practices. Juggling social distancing and quarantine periods has been difficult enough; now organizations need to figure out how to thrive in a post-Covid world.

One such trend is that of digital and virtual sales. A study conducted by McKinsey and Co. shows that 90% of B2B decision-makers are confident that virtual sales will continue even after Covid-19 has passed. While remote/digital sales became necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, businesses should prepare to make this a part of their full-time strategy entering 2021.

Changing your B2B sales strategy is easier said than done. To help you make the transition effectively, keep the following tips in mind. They’ll help you get started on the right foot.

Embrace New Technology

Transitioning to digital sales will be a challenge if your business isn’t equipped with the right tools. A carpenter will be much more productive with a table saw than a sheet of sandpaper. Your digital arsenal will need a boost if you hope to find success with virtual sales.

Here are the types of tools you’ll need to succeed with digital-first B2B Sales — especially during and after this pandemic.

  • Videoconferencing tools enable more fluid and personal interaction with customers.
  • Customer relationship software keeps track of customer information and sales leads.
  • Data analytics tools let you know which strategies are working and which aren’t.
  • Email marketing software automatically sends email messages to generate leads and close sales.
  • An online sales navigator organizes the sales you make online over platforms such as LinkedIn.
  • Sales presentation tools broaden the capabilities of your videoconferencing calls, increasing their effectiveness.

While even one of these tools will help, the best strategy implements multiple tools. Start with your digital sales goals and pick out the tools that will help you reach them.

Learn How to Build Relationships Digitally

A huge part of sales is the relationship-building process. How can you develop close ties with customers and partners without seeing them in person? Just like with sales pitches, you’ll need to take a different approach to really reach your clients on a deeper level.

Charles Gaudet, CEO of the business coaching and consulting firm Predictable Profits, offers the following three-step guide for building relationships digitally:

1. Social Selling

Your social media sites can be used for more than just marketing. Interacting with clients’ pages by liking, commenting, and sharing their content helps establish a digital relationship with them.

2. Video

As with sales pitches, video is more effective than text or voice alone. Video calls are more personal than emails or even phone calls. While all three should be used to a degree, great success comes from making sure video is a part of your relationship-building strategy.

3. Steady Communication

As important as the platform you use to contact customers is how you communicate with them. Such is true with any partnership or relationship. Prompt follow-ups, honest inquiries, and genuine care expressed through steady communication will go a long way.

These three simple steps will help you start developing relationships with your customers virtually. As you get used to the process, you can adjust it to meet the needs of your customer base and fit it to your team’s strengths.

Learn How to Sell Virtually

Traditional sales tactics aren’t as effective in the virtual world. Some techniques will translate over nicely, but your general sales approach will need some tinkering to align with virtual interactions. These small adjustments are what set a successful digital sales strategy apart from the rest.

For example, in-person sales meetings often involve reading and expressing body language. Body language helps the sales rep gauge buyer interest and figure out what keeps them engaged during a presentation. Your appearance, expression, gestures, and posture also carry more weight in an in-person meeting.

What methods will you use in your digital sales strategy?

Virtual meetings don’t allow for as much physical expression, so you must learn how to generate interest and attract attention using other methods. For example, a study performed by Gong.io shows that deals close 127% more quickly when video is used. Video allows you to connect with customers more effectively and use visual resources that can be of great benefit to a sales pitch.

Be Aware of Pitfalls

Digital sales isn’t a fairy wonderland of endless cash flow and paying customers. There are still pitfalls and obstacles that stand in the way of success. Recognizing and anticipating these pitfalls will prevent you from getting stuck in a sales rut.

“The biggest pitfall of a digital-first sales approach is the ability to get and keep your prospects’ attention,� notes Gaudet. “With every enterprise sales organization using a digital-first strategy, inboxes are flooded with messages. To counter this challenge, companies must use an omnichannel approach to prospecting.�

An omnichannel approach means using a variety of sources to contact and connect with customers. Email, social media, and cold calls are all methods that work better together than separately.

Grab Hold of Digital Assets

Prospects will do their research when shopping online for products, services, or business partners. Due to their careful research, you’ll need to have your digital assets lined up and displayed to attract their attention and lure them to your company.

Your first digital sales weapon is your website.

Your website is often the first exposure a customer will have to your brand. Your website should have educational resources, clear pricing and product/service options, as well as a certification of authority in your respective field.

Your online sales and marketing strategies will bring customers over to your website and social pages, where the content they find will influence them just as much as any sales pitch would. Take the time to review your digital assets to look for ways to strengthen them, display them better, or add to them.

Give digital sales a try — and get good at this type of sales.

Ready to give digital sales a try? Remember that your remote sales team is important and will need training for these unprecedented times. Better now than later, because this trend will sweep you in its direction eventually whether you like it or not.

The sooner you start working on your digital sales strategy, the sooner you can optimize it to shatter your sales goals in 2021.

Image Credit: pexels; pixabay

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Grow Hack Tech

Is Technological Progress Slowing Down?

Technology is amazing. And it seems to get even more impressive every year. Every day, there’s some new gadget or breakthrough in the news worth getting excited about. And every year, our collective capabilities as a species seem to be getting broader and further-reaching. 

For decades, we’ve seen a veritable explosion in technological development – an exponential curve of innovation that constantly takes us to new heights. And we’re told that this technological curve is continuing – that we’re still growing exponentially, with massive leaps forward every year. 

But is this really true? 

There’s a compelling case to be made that while technological progress is still moving forward, it’s slowing down. And if that’s true, we need to be prepared for the consequences of such a shift in momentum. 

The Low-Hanging Fruit

Our first clue that tech innovation is slowing down is a change to the traditional model of tech development. In many ways, technology is all about solving problems; every new tech advancement is a solution for some long-standing issue. It makes sense that our current wave of tech advancement resembles an exponential curve because new technologies make it faster and easier to solve other, often unrelated problems. 

For example, the development of the internet was revolutionary for technological development overall. People now can review massive databases of information, communicate with other like-minded professionals, share ideas, and even publish their ideas to a broader audience. These capabilities have led to new ideas and new technologies that otherwise could never have been possible. 

But this trajectory is limited. In the course of tech development, we often explore new territory very quickly – but only for a limited period of time. Think of it this way. As early human beings began exploring new territory, they found themselves surrounded by an abundance of game animals, trees, and fish. But as they hunted, harvested lumber, and fished, many of those resources began to dry up. In other words, they’d taken all the low-hanging fruit, and were forced to come up with new ideas. They had to explore new territory, invent new agricultural methods, and even find new sources of nourishment. 

Our current burst of technological progress could be almost exclusively focused on low-hanging fruit. We’re solving the easiest problems first, and we’re solving them in quick succession. But the hard problems – like general intelligence-level AI, efficient battery storage, and even finding a cure for cancer – show little progress even over the course of decades. 

Any futurist will tell you that all of humanity’s problems can be solved eventually. But we have to understand that our pace of innovation tends to slow down as we master all the “easy� problems and start looking at the “hard� ones. 

Digital Innovation vs. Chemical Innovation 

We also need to understand that most of the tech progress we’ve seen in the past 30 or 40 years has been limited to the digital world. These technologies have been astounding, accelerated by novel high-growth startups, but they’ve almost been exclusively focused on digital communication efficiency. The internet, software engineering, and AI have all taken amazing strides forward. But on the level of chemistry and physics, we’ve advanced very little. 

We’re still incredibly reliant on non-renewable resources to fuel our consumption. We haven’t discovered any groundbreaking new elements, molecules, or chemical processes. And our understanding of the universe at the base level of physics hasn’t changed much, if at all, since the 1980s. We’re still struggling to reconcile major physics ideas that were first introduced nearly 100 years ago. 

So what? Digital innovation may be so incredibly fast-paced that it can be the conduit through which we solve all other problems, right? 

That may not be the case. For the majority of the digital age, we’ve depended on the momentum of Moore’s law. Moore’s law is an informal observation that the number of transistors that we can fit on a dense integrated circuit tends to double every two years. In other words, our computing power can double every two years, leading to major breakthroughs in a number of different technologies. 

However, it appears that the age of Moore’s law may be nearing its end. There’s an absolute physical limit to the amount of space on a transistor chip. With exponential growth since the 1960s, we’ve gone from integrated circuits with 10 transistors to ICs with something like 10 billion transistors. How much further can we really go without breaking the laws of physics? 

We may be able to push things even further, but to do so, we’ll need to invest in high-end chipmaking equipment and innovate entirely new manufacturing methods. Doing so will sharply increase the cost of chip production, ultimately negating the cost-effectiveness benefits. 

Of course, there’s a solid counterargument here. It holds that digital innovation may continue at the same rate of exponential growth even if we’re unable to maintain the consistency of Moore’s law; even if the number of transistors on a chip remains more or less stagnant, we can find new ways to use the chips we already have. 

Consumer Products and Perceptions 

We see an endless conveyor belt of new gadgets and new consumer-facing technologies emerging on a constant basis. But how innovative are all these products, really? 

Apple introduced the iPhone, a game-changing new type of technology, back in 2007. It combined several existing technologies into one, comprehensive unit, and changed the way we think about mobile tech forever. In the past 14 years, how much innovation have we truly seen in this space? We’ve seen a flock of competitors coming out with smartphone options of their own. And of course, we’ve seen Apple unveil a new model of iPhone nearly every year. 

But these new, “innovative� smartphones only make marginal improvements to the original formula. Their cameras are sharper. Their processing power is beefier. Their storage capacity and battery life are more robust. But they can hardly be considered new technology, at least not at the same groundbreaking level of their predecessor. 

As consumers, we’re getting used to a slower pace of technological breakthroughs. We’re content to see new smartphones, new video game consoles, and new TVs that offer merely slight improvements over their counterparts, rather than completely changing the game – and this is enough for us to continue thinking that we’re living in an age of exponential technology growth. 

What Does a Tech Slowdown Mean? 

So what does all this mean? Is it really a big deal that there’s a major tech slowdown? 

Much of our economic growth depends on technological innovation. Countless retirement plans like 401(k) depend on the growth of the stock market, which in turn depends on baseline economic growth; a slowdown in tech innovation leads to a slowdown in GDP, resulting in a cascade of economic effects that could cripple the economy at large. 

The larger danger is that we don’t realize the tech slowdown is occurring until it’s too late. Tech stocks are being traded and inflated as if they’re inventing fundamentally new technologies; as a general trend, they multiply in price in response to even the most meager announcements. If carried out for years to come, this could result in a massive tech bubble, or a broader investment bubble, that pops once investors begin realizing just how slow our growth has crawled. 

Of course, this slowdown may be merely a temporary lull. Just as the digital era sparked the launch of a million new problem-solving technologies, we may be on the cusp of another, equally paradigm-shifting breakthrough. To get there, we’ll need to refocus our research efforts and accept the limitations of the digital space. 

Our half-century long honeymoon with explosive tech growth in the digital era has been incredible, but it’s nearing its end. If we want to keep moving forward (as we should), we need to reset our expectations, redouble our research efforts, and start looking into new territory for technological expansion. 

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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.

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Entrepreneurs Marketing Tech

How AI is Transforming Online Marketing

ai online marketing

AI is swiftly working its way into many facets of our everyday lives. With more and more companies using AI, it isn’t an exaggeration to say AI might bring the next industrial revolution. It has already started making large strides in areas such as customer service, but what can it do for online advertising?

It’s Revolutionizing Email Marketing

Email marketing is a mainstay of the digital marketing world. It’s easy to see why when you realize over 300 billion emails are sent each day. It’s no wonder advertisers want to get a cut of the pie. Thankfully, Artificial Intelligence is there to help with some of the more laborious tasks in email marketing.

Personalization

Writing dozens of different emails for your customers individually can only work for a small, locally-owned business. If you’re a larger enterprise, you’ll eventually have to resort to sending out emails at scale to get the word out.

AI can help you with this. It’s no secret that people are different, and what might make one person open an email the moment it hits their inbox, another may not even take a second look. AI algorithms can analyze how your recipient reacts to different subject lines and opening lines and personalize these so that they’re far more likely to open them.

Sending email goes far beyond basic salesman tactics, such as using your customer’s name. AI can incorporate a person’s whole field of interest, as well as mutual contacts, in order to extrapolate what type of content appeals to them. This will, in turn, help you boost your click-through rates through the roof.

Personalized emails perform far better than their non-personalized counterparts. In fact, some case studies have reported an increase in generated revenue of up to 171%!

Another benefit of AI is that it can find the time that your customer is most likely to open an email. They might be much more likely to open an email coming at 10 AM on a Wednesday than one coming at the end of their weekly Netflix binge. AI algorithms can help identify these individual preferences at a large scale.

AI doesn’t just help with email marketing personalization – it can help with personalization on the outreach side of things, too! AI algorithms can help sales and PR teams determine the most effective points of personalization to use when sending a follow-up email, for example.

Practicality

While we humans pride ourselves on being adaptable, we cannot notice the small changes that an AI will. This, in turn, helps you optimize your email campaign towards your customer’s changing needs. What you’re trying one week might not work by the next.

One of the biggest benefits of AI, however, is how well it can see our errors. People are quite prone to handwaving errors and ascribing them to factors that they are not in control of. Luckily, AI does no such thing. Instead, it’ll let you know the weaknesses of your campaign with the brutal honesty a person wouldn’t be able to muster up. AI grammar checkers, for example, can help you identify spelling, grammar, and even syntax issues in your email copy.

Finally, using AI can be significantly cheaper in the long run than using people. The benefits of hiring a machine learning services company far outweigh the costs. While the marketers themselves will always serve a crucial role in marketing, AI can save you dozens of laborious hours. Not only will you make more money, but your workers will also thank you.

It’s Helping Target Customers with Social Media Ads

Social media is the latest large frontier in advertising. Ever since Facebook has skyrocketed in popularity, corporations have been looking for ways to use social media for advertising purposes. AI helps with this and can even help a business isolate its target audience more precisely.

Maintaining Consistent Quality Across Platforms

It’s no secret that there are many more platforms where you can advertise in order to garner attention. It’s no longer enough to simply purchase a TV ad and be done with it. Today, consumers require multiple touchpoints before they turn into buyers. If you aren’t on a variety of social networks, in addition to TV and popular streaming services – your ads may not be as effective.

Your brand needs to have its message delivered through a variety of different channels. This can be hard to manage consistently if you’re making every campaign by hand. Usually, you’ll get a few very similar campaigns that will be somewhat engaging to most of your audience.

Rather than settling for somewhat engaging, today, you’ll need to impress your customers if you want their business. This can easily be done by using AI to help subtly guide your campaigns towards your target audience. For example, Hulu has a largely older audience in comparison to TikTok. With TikTok having a primarily adolescent-teenage population and Hulu favoring older audiences, you’ll need to take two drastically different approaches.

Localization

Even as a medium to small corporation, you’ve definitely faced issues when localizing your ad campaigns. It can be hard to really know what the locals of your area want by simply doing a handful of manual surveys.

By incorporating AI, you can automate a good chunk of this process. Something especially surprising is how good AI is at optimizing a CTA to the geographical location of your choice. Since the call to action is one of the most important parts of an ad, this can lead to a massive increase in sales.

If you’re branching out to a new area, that makes localization all the more important. This is especially true if you’re expanding to an area where you’ve already got competitors. If you misjudge the cultural norms of the area, you might find yourself with a failure on your hands. AI is spectacular at detecting these nuances, and even smaller corporations can benefit from this these days.

Social Media Ad Copy

Despite the technology being fairly new, AI has been getting more and more use as a method of creating social media ad copy. Companies are using it to create copy, which is later simply edited by marketers, with some daring to hand over the whole process to the AI. Here are some advantages AI can offer in creating social media copy:

  • Speed – AI is much faster than people. It can take historical data about your customer’s behavior and come up with what you should post next by the time a writer has written the outline.
  • Time – If you’ve got writers that can do better than the AI in terms of copy quality, this doesn’t mean it’s useless. It can provide you with valuable data that your authors can use to craft the perfect ad.
  • Detect trends – AI can help you predict trends ahead of time, as well as detect subtle changes in customer behavior. This will help you better understand your target audience and improve the equity of your brand.
  • Frequency and theme – AI can check out your past posts and the posts of other companies in your niche and analyze them in order to determine what posting times and subjects are proving most effective at the time.

Product descriptions fall into a similar pattern. They will also be written faster and more effectively with AI than they will with a human author. Another benefit of AI in this area is that AI is able to update its listings at a moment’s notice.

If it notices that your customers are fans of something, it’ll make an effort to make that stick out more in the description immediately. Furthermore, this can be combined with localization to make custom region-specific descriptions.

Measuring Performance

Another use for AI which saves manpower is measuring performance. Manually calculating things like engagement rates are a death sentence for progress. Instead, you could have AI look through almost every facet of how your ads performed.

Not only can you track user engagement flawlessly, but you can also compare and contrast your ad’s performances amongst target groups and even different forms of social media. With that being said, this isn’t to be used recklessly.

With AI that’s sufficiently advanced, you can even determine which parts of your ad copy your users dwell upon the most and which goes by barely detected. This will let you put out more polished adverts with haste.

As always, it’s a good idea to have the AI’s performance monitored by a human every now and again. For example, Amazon has had a famous incident where its AI was extremely biased towards male candidates.

One example of how AI is helping with performance-based marketing is with Facebook. Facebook’s ad platform uses the performance of your ad to determine which users should see the ad. By leveraging multiple data points quickly, Facebook is able to put your ad in front of the users who are most likely to be interested in your product or service.

Improving The Customer Experience

There are a lot of ways to gain new customers; however, none of them are quite as infallible as providing an amazing customer experience to influence word of mouth. Companies have been trying to outdo each other in customer service since the dawn of modern capitalism. Today, AI is the next technology you’ll need to incorporate in order to ensure your customers get the best experience possible.

AI Chatbots

The customer service industry is one of the ones that have benefited the most from the inclusion of AI. If a customer has an issue with a product, or they’re having issues navigating your website, they’ll want to talk to someone to have it explained for them.

Now, these can be full-time employees who are paid for all of the manpower in answering the questions that your customers may have. On the other hand, you could have AI handle that (like an AI bot) while your employees are given tasks that are harder to automate.

This change is already in full swing. If you’ve seen a “Talk to one of our representatives� button on any sites you’ve visited recently, the chances are that’s a chatbot right there. With that being said, that isn’t a bad thing; chatbots are generally clear in writing and are sometimes more helpful than actual workers.

This isn’t to say that you should fire any customer service employees on the spot. No! Rather than letting these valued employees go, it is best to delegate them to other tasks, with customer support being done by people exclusively in the cases where the AI doesn’t rise to the occasion.

Predictive Marketing

Imagine being a vacuum cleaner salesperson in the ‘70s. When would the ideal time be to knock on someone’s door to sell them a vacuum cleaner? When their old one just broke.

Unfortunately, for a vacuum cleaner salesperson in the ‘70s, there was no way to know when exactly that was. Today, AI can predict most of a customer’s purchasing desires and decisions. Because of this, it is one of the most important tools to get started with.

Customers don’t want to be bombarded with ads for things they don’t currently need or care about. Because of this, any customers you advertise to that simply have no need for your product or service are nothing but wasted capital.

By using AI that puts large amounts of data together in order to better understand consumer behavior, you can ensure that the customer is going to be interested in your product.

For example, let’s say that customer A has been searching for vacuum cleaner bags, vacuum cleaner pipes, as well as vacuum cleaner alternatives. Customer B has been searching how to use Vacuum Cleaner X. The AI will be able to determine that Customer A’s current vacuum cleaner is broken, and Customer B has possibly just purchased a new vacuum cleaner. With this information, it will show Customer A an ad for your company.

This is extremely common in large corporations such as Google or Amazon. However, it’s slowly becoming more affordable for small and medium-sized businesses.

Improving Your UI

The UI (User Interface) is what your customers interact with your website or mobile app through. Having a seamless interface is crucial in making conversions because customers won’t stay on a site that’s not easy to use.

Thankfully, instead of hiring dozens of UI testers and running constant surveys among your target group, you can have AI do the testing for you. The AI has the intuitiveness of a person but is able to identify issues more quickly so that you can make changes to the UI more easily.

It looks through a variety of things, such as:

  • Where the user is when they load up the site
  • How long they stay on the website
  • The site’s bounce rate
  • The user flow
  • How many products each user views before leaving the site

These metrics can be measured by an AI at a large scale to help you make more informed decisions quickly.

Conclusion

While AI certainly has a long way to go, it’s has made massive strides in its development lately.

AI is not perfect, and there’s still a long way to go in terms of improving it. However, your business could definitely benefit from making use of AI in your next marketing campaign to improve conversions, targeting, and user experience metrics.

Image Credit: jose francisco fernandez saura; pexels

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Data and Security IoT Tech

The Importance of Cybersecurity for the Investment Banking Industry

cybersecurity for investment banking

Digitalization is visible across most, if not all, spheres of our professional and personal lives. While it offers a number of undeniable advantages, it brings along the need for security, especially cybersecurity. Consider the following:

  • An increasing number of devices are interconnected, communicating via the Internet
  • Digitalization brings convenience but also collects data, with the potential for misuse

Implications of interconnected devices for companies.

This brings along implications for companies. They must protect themselves from cyberattacks, or else – for instance – hackers could take control of Internet-connected medical devices. This is but one example, and the vulnerable lot includes financial services firms, including those in the investment banking industry.

A good cybersecurity setup for this sector is difficult to determine.

Cybersecurity is hard to determine considering the constantly changing threat landscape, plus the effect of shifting business priorities and exponential technology forces on how organizations approach cyber risk management.

There is no denying, though, that the cloud, data and analytics, and social media are top of the list of technology items requiring attention at large firms.

Look what large enterprise banking spend on cybersecurity

The criticality of cybersecurity is borne out by budgets for the same. The largest budgets of course belong to Fortune 500 companies. Within the Fortune 500, financial institutions appear to have the deepest pockets. JP Morgan Chase & Co, as per a 2018 letter to its shareholders, spends roughly USD 600 million annually on cybersecurity. They also employ around 3,000 IT security people.

Media reports have suggested that Bank of America spends roughly the same amount on cybersecurity.

It is thus no surprise to see the number of financial institutions posting job ads for cybersecurity positions. Given how cybersecurity covers a broad range of issues and security breaches are quite common, the pool of investment banking professionals must also include tech-savvy information security personnel to protect their online systems.

Why are banks a cybersecurity risk?

Why, though, is Wall Street at such risk? According to Moody’s, the capital markets businesses of banks “are an appealing target for cybercriminals attempting large-scale theft or launching sophisticated attacks to create operational disruption.�

Companies in the investment banking industry also house other attractive “targets�, such as payment and cash management systems, and data of their high-net-worth clients and retail banking private clients. Cyberattacks have many purposes:

  • Stealing money
  • Extorting ransoms
  • Stealing or manipulating data
  • Creating significant operational disruption
  • Generating negative publicity

The attacks themselves can take many forms across a wide range of channels. A typical attack is perpetrated by a criminal in a remote, safe location, trying to get into the systems of a bank or of its clients. Other attacks include attempts to divert payments into the accounts of criminals.

Fraud is very closely linked with cybercrime, and so are the methods employed by investment banking professionals to fight the two.

Investment Banking

Because of the nature of its work, the investment banking industry offers a number of targets for attacks and fraud. These include the following:

  • Pending mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions: Business negotiations for M&A deals include some very valuable information attractive for attackers, especially for industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medicine.
  • Mobile computing devices: Given how many activities of investment banks happen through such devices, they are often targeted to get unauthorized access to client or management accounts.
  • Insider trading: The fact that people working at investment banks are privy to confidential information means they can also facilitate cybersecurity breaches. Interestingly, some analysts also speculate there could be a correlation between such institutions hiring cybersecurity professionals and the increased instances of breaches and insider trading attacks a few months later.

What does a successful cyber attack do?

The impact of a successful cyberattack could be wide-ranging for the work of investment banking professionals, with effects in financial, regulatory, and reputation terms. A challenge in this regard comes from the number of ‘false positives’ that could arise and unfortunately, are not possible to eradicate completely.

The only way out is to keep working on rules to detect such instances and thereby reduce their occurrence. The rules need to become more accurate and efficient, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) could be of great help hereby, for instance, scanning for a change in client behavior or for suspicious IP addresses.

Compromised data can also affect the bottom line. Details of an ongoing deal could be manipulated or transferred, thereby damaging share prices of involved companies involved.

New cybersecurity technology

The solution is for the investment banking industry to invest in new cybersecurity technologies. Investment banks must encourage proper procedures to remove human errors, negligence, or failure to follow security protocols. Some key aspects are as below:

  • Huge amounts of data: With larger amounts of data being collected, processed and analyzed for decision-making, every aspect of data collection and management must be secured.
  • Autonomous devices: Do not miss out on security for sensors and smart meters. Watch out for physical tampering, unauthorized access, and other attempts to affect data integrity.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) security: Data assurance programs must establish end-to-end security for IoT data.
  • Hire the right people: This implies hiring sufficient staff to implement and monitor security measures, as well as ensuring they are trustworthy.
  • Keep clients and staff informed: These entities must be informed about the risks of phishing attacks, social engineering, and others.

The way ahead is clear. Security measures and awareness along with effective regulation are imperatives to mitigate the risks and effects of cyberattacks in an industry as critical as investment banking. Given the sensitivity of information here, the monetary and reputation damages could otherwise be very serious for the business.

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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.

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An Analogy of Types of Mobile Apps and Which is Best Suited for Your Business

types of mobile apps

Apps or applications have become a part of our daily lives over the past decade. Applications are programs or software that run (usually) on smart devices and have a specific purpose.

The term “app” has become so popular that Microsoft decided to stop using the word “programâ€� from Windows 10.

mobile app development for business

A good example of an app or app name would be a shopping app — such as Amazon. You could access it through your laptop browser and also through the dedicated app. It is the same for the New York Times, Accuweather, and at least a million more names. However, not all smart device apps have a browser-based counterpart.

If you own a business and have decided to go digital, you would want to launch an app sooner or later.

At the stage of conceptualizing, you would run across three types of mobile apps – Native, Hybrid, and Web.

This blog aims at demystifying the terms and making you acquainted with the pros and cons of each type of mobile apps.

Native, Hybrid, and Web – Three Classes of Apps

Native Mobile Apps

Native apps are designed to work with a particular operating system. The world of mobile computing is largely divided into two OS platforms Android and iOS.

A Native app designed for one of these would not work on another. Not only would it not work, but it also cannot even be installed.

If the Native app is designed for Android, it will use Java, and for iOS would use Swift and Objective C. Windows phones used C#, but that is an outdated OS.

Most of the apps that you use are Native apps. They have been built using the platform SDK (software development kit).

Native SDK is, without a doubt, the best platform for app development until now. The SDK provides necessary direction to a coder with tools, libraries, sample code, parameters, and self-use guides.

For example, Google gives the Android Studio a very capable IDE with a code editor, compiler, and debugging tools packaged into a single-window system.

Advantages of Native Apps

  • Since they are designed using platform IDE, they work faster and seamlessly. This causes fewer app crashes.
  • A Native app can use the hardware, compass, GPS circuitry, GPU in a more productive manner.
  • A large part of the app framework is preloaded. Only the current data is fetched from the net. This also allows the app to work offline if it does not need fresh data. You can continue to listen to the currently loaded page of a meditation app such as Headspace even if you are in a subway tunnel.
  • Native apps have a more natural navigation flow. This is because developers are using the same libraries in different apps. Most apps have the same layout. Developers tend not to spring a surprise in this department because if a user is uncomfortable, they will uninstall the app.
  • They are able to provide better visual output and maintain aspect ratio. There are no misplaced icons or sudden changes in font size.

Disadvantages of Native Apps

  • Effectively the same app has to be designed twice, once for each OS. Each following version also needs two sets of coders for simultaneous release. This is more expensive, especially for a small business.
  • Native apps require visiting the official app store, finding an app through search or ratings, and downloading it. Thereafter one has to sign up and log in. This makes installation a lengthy process of 10-30 minutes, depending on network speed.
  • The app development process is, to a large extent, controlled by the OS since the SDK and IDE are proprietary.

type of mobile app development

Source

Web-based Apps

Mobile Web apps are not full-fledged applications. They are not completely installed on the OS. Rather they use a mobile browser (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and others) for several functionalities.

On the whole, a mobile app looks very similar to a Native app. It mimics a simplified menu compared to the full-fledged website that runs on a laptop and uses very few system resources.

They have grown in popularity as HTML5 has made Flash redundant. Flash was not made for mobile OS except very ancient versions such as Symbian used by Nokia back at the turn of the century.

To make it look and feel like a Native app, browser navigation is not visible, and both vertical and horizontal scrolling is enabled.

Web app development has now evolved into PWA or Progressive Web Applications. Twitter and Pinterest are the most well-known examples of Progressive Web App development.

Advantages of Web-based Apps

  • They cost far less. This is the principal advantage. This is because they are being designed for browser-based usage and do not need the huge amount of coding that Native apps require. There is no need to develop a separate version for each OS.
  • PWAs do not need a frequent update. This is because the update features can be added to the backend, and the browser would fetch the new version.
  • PWA is SEO sensitive. Any clicks made in the app count towards user engagement. Since SEO is what makes or breaks a digital business, it is an important contribution indeed.
  • PWAs are increasingly app store independent. They can be found via a simple search or even social media. Being free of the app store ecosystem gives a business owner greater independence in running subscription-based services.
  • They are light on resources. PWA apps use less RAM and are popular in regions where budget smartphones are used. They also save battery. Most PWA apps can run on very little data.
  • Due to the use of HTML, an app owner has greater access to manpower. There are plenty of HTML coders, but few are experienced in Swift.

Disadvantages of Web-based Apps

  • They do not have an appealing look. A PWA cannot access the contact list or camera. The overall UI lacks sophistication. Unless the brand has huge name recognition, a PWA cannot be successful.
  • PWA is unable to use critical features such as hardware acceleration. This makes the app quite basic, and at most, it can fetch information and display the same. But often, an app is required to do much more, render complex graphics, and even perform extensive calculations (such as video games). PWAs remain rudimentary till now.

mobile app design

Hybrid Apps

These have tried to tap into the advantages of both Native and Web-based apps. They rely on a browser, but the app comes with browser access baked into its code.

Hybrid apps such as Uber are usually single-page app and look remarkably like their website counterparts.

Advantages of Hybrid Apps

  • The reason Hybrid app development has become popular is the reduced cost of development. There is only one set of code to be written.
  • At the same time, unlike a PWA, a hybrid app allows greater access to system functions such as a camera and microphone.
  • Hybrid apps do not use the native SDK but allow reasonably high-level emulation.

mobile app code

Disadvantages of Hybrid Apps

  • Hybrid apps use an embedded browser known as webview. The webview variant of the browser is not as efficient as the original browser. This affects app performance. The UI is most often bland and unexciting.
  • In theory, the same Hybrid app works on both Android and iOS, but in reality, the differences between the OS and the way they allow browsers to run shows through. To make the app smooth on both these platforms require an investment that is comparable to Native apps.

How to Select?

This would depend on a number of parameters – cost, purpose, time to market, manpower availability, and necessary scalability.

If you are running a small business, it makes sense to go for a PWA app. Your upfront costs are less, and you could get an initial response of the market to your idea and find what needs to be fixed. Thus a PWA can be used as a prototype for full-fledged Native app development.

App development is complex, and you would need to perform a SWOT analysis to find which app type offers you the best bang for your buck.

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Mindful Technology Use: The Next Digital Revolution

mindful technology digital revolution

For the past couple of decades, we’ve seen an impressively powerful technology revolution. In just 20 years, we’ve gone from having less than half the U.S. population with internet access to having the vast majority of Americans rely on the internet for work, socialization, and leisure for most of their day. The movement has been to develop more technology, use more technology, and integrate technology into more areas of life.

Mindful Technology

For the most part, these changes have been positive. Workers are more productive than they’ve ever been before. People are able to talk to friends and family inexpensively, no matter where they are in the world. And, of course, we get a chance to search for movies, TV shows, and even memes we’d otherwise never dream of seeing.

But the next digital revolution may be a more nuanced one. Instead of pushing for “more� technology, it may be time to scale back—at least in some ways. It may be time to spark a revolution of “mindful� technology use. But what is this concept, exactly, and why is it so important for our health, productivity, and daily interactions?

Mindful Technology Use

You may associate the term “mindful� with “mindfulness meditation,� and you’re not too far off. In case you aren’t familiar, mindfulness meditation is the practice of mindfulness, or paying attention to the present moment. In the course of daily life, our minds tend to wander; we drift between an annoying song stuck in our heads, a grocery list, an imaginary argument with someone who upset us earlier, and random stimuli in our environment, all during an important work meeting. Mindfulness encourages us to be presently conscious, if only in brief, fleeting moments between these competing distractions.

Mindful technology use follows a similar principle. The idea is that we’re constantly afflicted with technological distractions, and we’re tempted to use technology far more often than is warranted—and far more often than is healthy.

Some people have advocated abandoning technology altogether, such as quitting social media or abandoning email in favor of traditional phone calls. But the productivity-increasing potential of technology is far too powerful for this to be a smart move.

Instead, our goal should be to become more aware of how and when we’re using technology—and only use technology when it benefits us to do so.

Non-Mindful Technology Use

It’s perhaps easiest to understand what constitutes “mindful� technology use when we illustrate “non-mindful� technology use.

A perfect example of non-mindful technology use: losing time in an infinite scrolling social media feed. Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and dozens of other social platforms now utilize a mechanism known as “infinite scrolling.â€� The users can endlessly keep discovering new content by scrolling — possibly forever. Nearly all of us have fallen victim to mindless scrolling at some point, forgetting that we’re spending time doing this and losing ourselves in consumption.

How much time would you estimate you have lost in your scrolling adventures?

Here’s another example of the non-mindful use of tech. Have you ever found yourself bored for a moment, whether it’s waiting in line or dealing with an unnecessary meeting, and found yourself opening an app on your phone without thinking about it? Suddenly, you’re in the middle of using an app — you didn’t choose this. You didn’t think about it. You just did it. Unconsciously. You maybe even started playing one of your games.

In these contexts, technology functions as a kind of 301 redirect for our minds. We automatically follow this pattern of behaviors, even if it’s not good for us. And the fact that most digital apps are specifically designed to be addictive just makes us more vulnerable.

All of the data about the consequences of  mindless scrolling are complex:

  • Wasted time. For starters, we waste time. We spend too many hours on apps that are meant to provide us with temporary entertainment. We end up dwelling on apps meant to increase our productivity in a way that renders us unable to do any “realâ€� work.
  • Lost attention and focus. We also lose our attention and focus. If we’re compelled to open an app and start scrolling every time we’re bored, we’re practically unable to pay attention in conversation or focus on our more important work.
  • Bad habits. Mindlessly using technology leads to bad technology habits, which can follow us for years if not addressed. For example, we’ve all conditioned ourselves to drop what we’re doing and respond to notifications whenever we receive them—at least at some point.
  • Mental health issues. Some forms of non-mindful technology use are associated with mental health afflictions. For example, chronic social media users tend to be more inclined to feel lonely, depressed, and anxious.

Principles of Mindful Technology Use

Mindful technology use sounds great. But it’s also a bit vague. So what does mindful technology use look like? How can we achieve it?

The principles of mindful technology use include:

  • Simply learning more about the effects of technology can make you a more mindful technology user. If you know that an app has the potential to be addictive, you’ll be inclined to use it less frequently or in less repeatable patterns. If the claims a productivity app makes are dubious, you’ll consider using an alternative.
  • Mindful technology use is also about minimalism. That doesn’t mean restricting your use of technology or using as little as possible; instead, it means avoiding wasted technology use. It means not using more apps than you can reasonably handle and focusing on the tech tools that are most beneficial for you.
  • You need to be transparent and aware of your own habits if you’re ever going to improve. That’s why mindful technology use is heavily focused on awareness. Consider tracking how much time you spend on each of your most popular apps and documenting instances where you feel like you’re not in control of your own use of technology.
  • Mindfully using technology also requires intention. You shouldn’t be using technology because you feel like you have to or because they’re a part of your habits or routine; you should be actively choosing to use technology if and when it suits you.
  • Analysis is the gateway to improvement across all these tenets. You have to understand your own behaviors, feelings, and attitudes if you’re going to change them.

Changing Bad Habits

It can be difficult to change a bad habit—especially if it’s been deeply ingrained and reinforced for many years. However, there’s always time to change your patterns of behavior.

With technology use, most of our patterns rely on triggers and/or repetition. For example, when we receive a notification, we look down at our device; this is a trigger that encourages a natural response, and it’s all too common now that most of us are working remotely. If the trigger continues, your response will likely continue.

Breaking a bad habit reliant on a trigger requires breaking the trigger in some way. Ideally, you’d get rid of notifications entirely and only check your communication channels when you truly intend to do so. However, reducing or changing your notifications may also help.

Repetition is another issue. If you can engage in the same sequence of actions repeatedly, you’ll easily build a habit, whether you mean to or not. For example, you may mindlessly tap an app on your phone, knowing its location so familiarly that you don’t even have to look at it.

Again, you’ll want to break the pattern. In this case, that could mean moving the app to a different location on your smartphone, so you’re forced to think about whether you truly want to open the app or whether you’re doing this mindlessly.

Toward a More Mindful Future

Almost anyone can benefit from practicing more mindful technology use. It’s challenging to break bad habits and resist the natural tendency to engage in behaviors encouraged by modern tech. However, it’s extremely rewarding to regain control of your own mind, health, and productivity.

Image Credit: armin rimoldi; pexels

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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.

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Tech technology predictions

Where Are the Drones and Self-Driving Cars? The Problem With Tech Predictions

As early as 2010, journalists have been predicting that self-driving cars were about to “take over the world,� or some variation of that phrase. Google’s first self-driving car model, a Toyota Prius, had more than 150,000 successful miles logged in 2010. Since then, there’s been a rotating series of claims that “the year of the self-driving car� would be 2013. Then 2014. Then 2015. And so on. 

And of course, self-driving cars aren’t the only example of a technology being heralded a bit too much and a bit too early. We’ve also heard about the limitless potential of drone delivery—for the last five years or so, despite little progress actually being made. We hear about how smart homes are about to replace traditional homes entirely. And every once in a while, we hear about a promising new breakthrough in a technology that has the power to connect our brains directly to the internet. 

Let’s not hold our breath for that one. 

So why is it that so many bold technology predictions turn out to be overly ambitious? Are we that bad at predicting the course of technological development? Or is there something else at play here? 

Turns out, there are several factors intersecting to produce this effect. 

“Me First� Marketing 

First, we have to consider the power of marketing and the power of competition. In the tech world, it’s not enough to make a great new technology—it pays to be first. If you’re the first company to achieve success in a new area of tech, you’ll instantly achieve a permanent advantage over your competitors. If Google perfects a robot butler before Apple does, they’ll immediately and forever be associated with butler robots—which could eventually add up to billions of dollars in additional market share. 

Because of this competitive pressure, companies are inclined to overstate their progress. A corporate representative might imply that their self-driving cars are almost ready to go, when in reality they may need a few more years of refinement; but getting to say “we’re close� gives you an edge over your competitors. 

This isn’t to say that all tech companies are lying about their progress, of course. But they’re certainly all pressing to advance as quickly as possible, and they’re all eager to be seen as the frontrunner in their respective industry. Accordingly, they may be inclined to overstate or exaggerate things—even if it’s just a little bit. 

The Sensationalism of Modern Journalism 

Next, we need to think about the sensationalism of modern journalism. If tech company representatives overstate their progress slightly, journalists have the power to exaggerate the claim even further. 

In the modern era, journalism is all about clicks. For most publications, it’s much more valuable to go viral on social media than it is to produce a reputable, fact-based story. Instead of relying on consistent paying subscribers, most news outlets make money through onsite ads—and those ads can only generate revenue if their stories get clicks. 

Guess which kinds of stories get clicks? The sensational ones. The ones that evoke strong emotions. The ones that inspire heated debates. The controversial ones that make bold claims. 

Because of this, media publications are highly likely to publish a story that claims some kind of futuristic technology is almost here—even if that’s far from the truth. There are no real repercussions to posting a story that “2013 is the year of the self-driving car,� because it will be forgotten quickly—and you can just write a story that “2014 is the year of the self-driving car� next year. 

There’s also an illusion that occurs, distorting our sense of how sensationalist the media truly is, and it all depends on survivorship bias. 

For example, let’s say five publishers produce stories on a new technology; three of them boldly claim that it’s nearly here, while the other two are more modest in their reporting. The three bold claimers get a ton of comments, likes, and shares, and their headlines are seen all over social media. The two modest claimers get buried. To the casual observer, it seems like every story you see is sensationalist and overblown—when in reality, 40 percent of stories are accurate, despite going unseen. 

Slow Adaptation and Adoption 

Tech accessibility depends on acceptance and adoption. Consumers must fully buy into a technology for it to begin circulating, and in many cases, government regulators and politicians have to be on board as well. Society can be slow to adapt; many technologies are risky, intimidating, or simply hard to understand. And some people don’t like change in general. 

If politicians or consumers make it difficult, even a fully polished new technology can remain in tech purgatory for years. 

Unforeseeable Developmental Issues 

Of course, some technologies end up stagnating because of unforeseen developmental issues. There’s a critical hurdle that can’t be easily overcome, like a safety issue that hasn’t been resolved, or a lack of viable power. In some cases, major technologies are held up because of insufficient advancements in other areas—like new kinds of batteries or more durable materials. 

The Death of Moore’s Law

For much of the modern technological era, we’ve been benefitting from Moore’s Law, an informal argument that we can practically double our computing power every 18 months or so. Tech innovation has been remarkably fast, exponentially taking us to new heights. 

But now, Moore’s Law is… dead. Innovation has slowed. Our progress isn’t nearly as fast as it used to be, we fail more frequently and we’re coming up on some major physical barriers—limits to the paths of growth we’ve relied on for decades. It’s getting harder and harder to innovate, but at the same time, we expect lightning-fast innovation. It’s a recipe for bold claims and disappointing results. 

Consumer Hype

We also need to acknowledge the role of consumer hype in this equation. Consumers tend to be crazy about new technology, overestimating its utility and overvaluing the companies creating those technologies. Companies like Tesla, on the forefront of tech innovation for their respective niches, are trading at price-to-earning (P/E) ratios that far exceed the rest of the market. And people are talking about them nonstop. 

People are paying close attention to game-changing technologies, and they’re constantly hungry for optimistic news. So why not give it to them? 

The Retrospective Effect

Finally, we should consider the retrospective bias that tends to affect technological development. Usually, when a new technology is introduced, it’s clunky, ineffective, and/or inaccessible to the broader public. Over time, it gradually evolves, inching its way into our daily lives. Only years later does it become fully integrated, at which point we falsely remember using that technology for years, saying something like, “oh, that’s always been there.� 

Voice search, for example, has been around since 2011, but its early iterations were unreliable and hard to use. It wasn’t until 2016 or so that it truly became a powerful and universally used tool—but people still feel like voice search has been around for a decade. 

Right now, game-changing technologies are being developed. Self-driving cars are being tested on the streets. Delivery drones are being manufactured. We’re just a few steps away from full integration. Maybe in a few years, we’ll look back and say “that’s been around since 2013!�

I bet you won’t have to look far to find an article that claims 2021 to be the year that self-driving cars or autonomous drone fleet deliveries finally take hold. And for all we know, they may be right. But looking back, it seems like most of our bold tech predictions end up embarrassingly wrong. And we should consider that whenever reading about some sexy new technology that has the power to save the world in just a few months. 

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