Is Your Business Prepared For Today’s Landscape?

The companies that master mobile are creating novel digital experiences that shape customers’ expectations of what brands can and should do for years to come.

Welcome to the Mobile Era, the Era of Big Data, the App Era, the Cloud Era—whichever name you prefer, we can all agree on its chief message…

that the days of “business as usual” are over. Innovation—specifically, continuous innovation—is essential for companies looking to shape their future and forge new paths.

[source: FastCompany] The shift from a physical to a digital economy has rewritten the rules of competition. Today, the rewriting occurs even faster, accelerated by mobility, the cloud, and ever-present security risks. Ask the world’s top executives and IT managers what keeps them up at night, and odds are they’ll describe the paradoxical nature of disruption. Call it the Uber Syndrome.

A new competitor with a new model, they fear, can catch them off guard and upend their entire industry. Uber isn’t the only billion-dollar case study. Look at the impact of Airbnb on hospitality; Netflix and Spotify on entertainment; BuzzFeed on media; Amazon on retail; and Apple on consumer electronics and telecommunications.

At the same time, these very executives and IT managers have the opportunity to carry out the disruption themselves. The same technology that enables a startup empowers existing players to innovate and reinvent their industry. A never-ending wave of new apps allows companies to better understand their customers and partners, and develop groundbreaking products or services faster than ever before.

But nonstop innovation requires its own ethos of motivation and its own set of organizational skills. And, of course, its own tools. In particular, the demands on corporate IT systems have never been greater—or more complex. Businesses need not only more computational, storage, and network capacity, but also more speed and flexibility. Or as Gary Barnett, the chief software analyst for London-based research firm Ovum, says, “Infrastructure capable of allowing companies to evolve different parts of their portfolio at different speeds.”

The Mobile Reimagining

Fueling the upheaval, of course, is the proliferation of mobile devices and apps. Next year, mobile connectivity to the Internet worldwide is projected to surpass fixed-line connectivity for the first time. The economic implications are significant: By 2018, global consumer spending via mobile is estimated to reach $626 billion, according to Goldman Sachs.

From an IT standpoint, mobile growth represents a formidable undertaking: After all, a single transaction, such as changing your airline seat or making a bank-to-bank transfer, instantly generates dozens of interactions with a corporate IT system (from account authentication to fraud analysis). Extrapolate that flurry of activity across a few billion smartphone users the world over and you get a sense of the urgency facing IT executives.

The companies that master mobile are creating novel digital experiences that shape customers’ expectations of what brands can and should do for years to come. “If you use an app on your phone to, say, open your hotel room door, that resets your expectation,” says Nigel Fenwick, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “When you go into another hotel, your perception of value has changed.” The entire concept of a key suddenly becomes antiquated.

To coordinate the interplay between apps and back-end systems, companies are relying more on APIs, the software-based rules that allow applications to share data with each other and with IT systems. Increasingly, this communication is driven by machine processes rather than by a consumer or by a mobile device. “A huge amount of cognitive activity is taking place between businesses without any direct human intervention,” says Jason Gartner, CTO of API Economy at IBM. “The key to that automation is having the processes, tools, and DevOps culture to be agile and responsive.”

The behind-the-curtain technical jujitsu between databases, analytics code, and the cloud services that power such sophisticated automation is one of those feats that wasn’t possible until recently. But in short order, it’s remaking business operations and much of our digital lives.

Just a few years ago, simply having a mobile app set you apart. Soon after, the focus shifted to the best user interface. Now, a company distinguishes itself by the intelligence derived from its mobile data. In the right hands (read: right IT infrastructure), it can enable real-time personalization, the holy grail of digital experiences. The apps on your devices know you, anticipate your needs, and deliver in the moment.

We’re Guardians of Data Now

The snake in this garden of opportunity is the increase of cyberattacks, both in volume and sophistication. The number of new malware threats now exceeds a million a day, according to Symantec. Nearly half target big companies.

Today, a brand’s equity is inextricably tied to the trust a company establishes with data. “The biggest threats to this whole world of datafication are security and privacy,” says Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who worked for 37 years at IBM, much of it identifying emerging technologies. “If people don’t trust that their data will be both protected and properly used, they won’t share it or participate.”

That duality—the thrilling potential and the bracing risk of technology—epitomizes business for today’s IT executives. How do you recognize and seize opportunities in such a dynamic environment? How do you equip your organization to keep evolving? How do you innovate week in and week out?

Find the answers that work for you, and you’ll find yourself and your company on the right side of disruption.

 

LinkedIn for Small Business

LinkedIn report says small businesses are becoming more astute users of social media for marketing.

Small and midsize businesses play an important role in our economy.

Every day, they fight for our attention while also trying to gain any leverage they can over the big box retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart, and more. There’s no doubt that social media is playing a crucial role in this battle. However, just how successful is it?

LinkedIn has published a new study called Priming the Economic Engine that shines some light on SMB usage of social media. Its findings present an optimistic outlook for 2014, with a renewed focus on marketing. And while that’s great, there were three additional key discoveries LinkedIn found about social media adoption:

  • While social media is used for marketing, SMBs are also learning from it.
  • Social media helps companies find new customers, especially the hyper growth SMBs.
  • There’s an opportunity for financial companies to connect with SMBs on social media — and they’re mostly receptive on LinkedIn.

Social media teaches

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Researchers from the professional social networking company surveyed 998 SMBs in North America to get their input about social media. 94 percent of respondents said that they used social media primarily for marketing — specifically to maintain a company presence and identity. Other reasons include generating word-of-mouth advertising, delivering content and new information about itself, advertising to promote awareness, and generating new leads.

The study shows that 64 percent of SMBs are looking out for new customers – 61 percent of respondents said that social media helps them accomplish this objective.

However, nearly half of those surveyed said that learning is also possible with social media. SMBs say that they’re able to correspond with their peers to ask questions or get recommendations, find experts in their industry, undergo continuing education, and more.

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In its study, LinkedIn found that hyper growth SMBs felt social media was helpful in building brand awareness and lead generation. How does one define “hyper growth”? LinkedIn group product marketing manager Lana Khavinson says that these are businesses that reported year-over-year revenue increases.

91 percent of SMBs that fit this description state that social media helped them increase awareness. 82 percent indicated that it helped generate new leads.

Financial services, SMBs, and social media

LinkedIn’s last finding shows that over two-thirds of SMBs are using social media for financial services. This helps them keep up-to-date on current financial trends or institutional news, gather preliminary information about products or companies, seek advice or gather intelligence to help make a sound decision, evaluate their financial decision, and make recommendations for financial products/policies/services to others.

It’s believed that those SMBs who are using social media for discovery and consideration will almost always seek out more information, ask for a consultation, or make a purchase (93 percent) — 37 percent will most likely choose to purchase a product or service.

Of course, this finding is a bit unusual as it’s specifically focused on financial advice for SMBs. However, LinkedIn states that there are unmet needs that financial companies will be able to provide through the use of social media, including providing best practices, sharing new innovation and technology developments, company background information, and more.

Among the many trustworthy social networks out there, LinkedIn states that SMBs consider LinkedIn (surprise!) to be the one where discussions can take place with financial service providers.

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It’s a tad awkward for LinkedIn to be running a study where SMBs say that LinkedIn is the best social network, but Kahvinson says that the company has a stake in the game. She says that LinkedIn is very invested in the SMB market and that it is “very much committed to supporting and connecting SMBs around the world to create economic opportunities.” This falls in line with LinkedIn’s Economic Graph concept that CEO Jeff Weiner unveiled in 2012.

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Khavinson hopes that SMBs will read this report and discover how powerful social media is in this day of age and how crucial it is to be involved and engaged. To help facilitate this, LinkedIn has launched LinkedIn for small business, a resource guide to help SMBs throughout their journey. There are tips and best practices relating to personal branding, marketing, sales, and hiring more staff. It’s also free for anyone to use.

Wrecking Your Own Chances Of Success

How Small Business Owners Are Wrecking Their Own Chances Of Success

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself drawn to an article (“Are You An Ignorant Small Business Owner?”) on Amex Open Forum. Certainly not!, I huffed. Then – wait, am I?

[source: Forbes] Having read the article, by marketing specialist Rieva Lesonsky, I was relieved to discover that – at least by her measures – I was doing OK: we have a great Website, we use social media, we’re figuring out how to “mobilify” appropriate elements of our services. But I was shocked at some of the statistics she cited, especially a survey by Yodle , an online marketing platform, that showed only about half of small businesses have Websites. I went to look at the survey from which that figure was drawn, and found even more sobering stats about small business owners non-use of technology. This from an article on Yodle about the survey:

Many small business owners are still not adopting modern technology and marketing approaches. Although just over one in two SMB owners (51%) use technology to help with accounting operations, this dwarfs technology utilization for appointment booking and scheduling (39%), customer relationship management (34%), point-of-sale systems (25%), and acquisition marketing (14%). Additionally, more than half of SMB owners do not have a Website (52%) or even measure the results of their marketing programs (56%).

And the Yodle survey showed that only about 1 in 10 small businesses have figured out how to use social media or online advertising to market their product.

And lest you think this doesn’t matter, because – after all, how many small businesses can there be? Well, here’s what the SBA has to say about the part small businesses play in the American economy:

  • The 23 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.

What’s the disconnect? Why are small business owners not using cheap (in many cases free), readily available technology to better establish and grow their businesses? I know that when I’m looking for a local business to deal with – from a handyman to a florist, a restaurant to a seamstress – the first place I look is online. And if I find that the store or restaurant or service provider doesn’t have a Website – or has one that clearly hasn’t been updated since 2003, or doesn’t provide an email address or phone number on the home page – I discount it immediately. I assume (rightly or wrongly) that the enterprise is unprofessional and low quality.

I suspect, in this era of Amazon, that lots of other people are doing this same thing, and coming to the same conclusions. This article places the number of people in the US who shop online at 75M – and I’m not even talking about shopping online; I’m just talking about going online to find a brick-and-mortar place to shop or a service provider to deal with in person.

I’m truly puzzled by this. When building a nice Website, getting a Twitter account, putting yourself and your business on LinkedIn or Facebook, and getting a Yelp presence or putting up a free account on Angie’s List are all relatively easy and painless – and can immediately create the sense that your business is a legitimate enterprise and give you access to lots of potential customers… why don’t small business owners do it?

Do they think people don’t care? Are they convinced their customers aren’t online? Are they intimidated by the Web?

What do you think?

 

The Retail Design Philosophy of Apple


 

A sneak peek at the Retail Design Philosophy that has made Apple the world’s most successful retailer

Purely on a sales per square meter basis, Apple is indisputably the greatest retailer in the world.

In a branding article we wrote earlier this year for The Melbourne Review titled; ‘Walking with Retail Dinosaurs’, we pointed out that Apple stores deliver the highest sales per square meter of any retailer – figures from the US show Apple stores deliver sales of US$65,000 per m2, which is 25% higher than the next best performing retailer; Lululemon Athletica. A quick glance at the Apple retail offer turns-up a number ‘Golden Rules of Retail’ that the technology brand does not do.

  • They do not cram every square centimeter of floor and wall space with product.
  • They do not rely on monthly sales and door buster discounts to attract customers.
  • They don’t skimp on staff or hire school kids with little idea of the product.
  • They do not utilize a ‘Loss Leader’ strategy.
  • They don’t offer product that is functionally unique to their competitors.
  • They don’t cut corner on store design and fit-out costs.

So what is it that Apple does, what is their philosophy that drives this incredible return on their retail investment?
The clip after the jump is an internal video that has made it to the outside world.

It appears to be a year-or-so out of date, but still provides a rarely seen glimpse of the mind-set that has so successfully built the retail dimension of this brand.

Apple has long had absolute clarity around their brand which layers intuitive technology with beautiful design aesthetic and soul. Over time Apple has built a huge community of passionate loyalists, the envy of brands across the spectrum. Apple retail stores provide a place beyond the functional where these fans go to connect with the brand. Customers continue to flock to Apple stores where they’re willing to pay a premium for the Apple experience, even when the same products are available in the US at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target and on Amazon at lower prices.

Beyond their brand clarity, service bar concept, and product range playground, the defining dimension of Apple stores is their retail staff. Staff are carefully trained to be experts in the forgotten art of ‘making customers happy’. Apple retail staff don’t earn sales commissions, it makes no difference to them whether they sell a customer the latest Mac Book, or get their old one running smoothly again. The role of Apple’s store staff is to deepen customer relationships and build loyalty by discovering what they need and helping them get there – no cross-selling, no up-selling.

Former Senior VP for retail at Apple, Ron Johnson believes retailers shouldn’t be asking, “How do we create a store that’s going to do $15 million a year?” but rather “How do we reinvent the store to enrich our customers’ lives?”

— Dave Ansett, Chief Cre­ator of Brands

 

Web Design For a Good Cause

Every non-profit organization deserves the best Web presence possible. It’s not easy to develop a strong Website—choosing the right words, pictures and videos to represent your cause and organization can that can represent the cause can be mind-boggling. Capturing each facet of what your organization offers can be challenging. This is why the experience and expertise of ted360 is so valuable.

By using your mission statement and how your non-profit got started, we will capture the attention of anyone who may be casually browsing. We will raise your profile through strong Website design and with various Internet marketing techniques which are specially used for the non-profit Websites, as we have already worked successfully with a number of non-profit organizations.

Web Designing For Nonprofit Organizations

A well-designed Website can increase donations from various sources, recruit volunteers, publicize events and fundraisers, educate the public about the cause and much more. We normally do not use standard templates, so each charity Website is unique. All non-profit Website development is done while keeping in mind future maintenance and accessibility issues. The Internet provides access to unlimited addresses, fantastic promotion options and viability unlike any other communication medium. So, most charitable organizations are keen on creating a brilliant Web design which can easily attract the casual surfing Web user.

We can also offer a range of different content management options for the organization to maintain the page content, with a varied level of accessibility options. Our sites are clean, simple and easy to navigate. Behind the scenes, they rely on robust programming. On the surface, they are easy to navigate and very friendly, helping your visitors to find the information for which they are looking.

Non-profit organizations have many decisions to make when it comes to getting organizational information out to the organization’s members and potential donors. Advertising through traditional media can be expensive. A Website is the most cost effective way to market your organization.

A Website can be the central location to get out all of your pertinent information at once. The online presence also gives you the ability to take donations online via different online sources.

We want to support, aid and encourage these non-profit organizations and hence, we make considerable efforts to provide Web design services to non-profit organizations of all sizes and budgets. So, if you are looking to get your non-profit organization’s Website designed, you should contact us.