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These 6 tech trends are key to your brand keeping up in 2016

There are plenty of technology trends businesses need in order to stay relevant, but these six are the most important as they are the most unique, and revolutionized. Businesses should definitely take notes, and begin strategizing on how they can incorporate these practices.

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Looking ahead to a money-filled year

I’m in line the other day at Starbucks to get my fix, when I notice the woman in the very front holding the line up showing off her watch to the cashier. I, and a bunch of other Starbucks addicts got annoyed with the woman – I mean, who’s insane enough to hold up a group of friends to talk about some watch?

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But soon after, our frustration turns to awe, when we watch her pay for her entire Starbucks order with this watch. I watched first hand as technology bridged the gap between new tech and business processes or, The Apple Watch and Starbucks. Imagine had she attempted to pay, but Starbucks didn’t support the technology yet; that could’ve been a potentially lost customer.

Knowing that makes it critical for businesses to stay up to date and on top of the new tech developments. Some have done an excellent job developing their processes just as quickly as technology develops, while there are still some entities struggling to evolve and stay informed on what’s going on in the tech world. These are the businesses that risk being forgotten or replaced.

But, if they can embrace and incorporate the following six technology trends then they have a chance of keeping their customer base and staying afloat.

Trend #1: Embrace new forms of payment

Easier payments: remember when some businesses didn’t even accept credit cards? Now, such a business would be considered primitive. Especially now that you can walk into businesses like Best Buy, target, and Starbucks to pay for electronics, groceries, paper, egg nog lattes and whatever else you need.

Businesses everywhere are embracing this trend, making payments as simple as a watch swipe, and providing invoices/receipts to your email before you can even blink.

While only 17 percent of consumers say they pay using a smartphone, according to a study by creditcard.com, industry experts still have high hopes for the mobile pay industry. Research firm, Gartner, predicts the industry will be worth $270 billion in transactions by 2017, up from $235 billion in 2014. This is understandable when you consider Google just adopted Softcard, Samsung provides Samsung pay, PayPal has Padiant, and Apple of course offers Apple Pay. Merchants accepting these options are also growing beyond just Starbucks and Best Buy.

That billion dollar prediction, along with the abundance of technologies and merchants investing in the mobile pay industry, makes easier payment a huge upcoming trend.

Trend #2: Security is a must

Security becomes nonnegotiable: remember in October when Experian accidentally exposed the private data of 15 million T mobile users? They aren’t the only ones slacking in the security department. Nearly 5,000 other company data breaches have compromised over 800 million records, including medical histories, Social Security numbers, and bank day; all since 2005.

These massive security breaches keep happening because email is not really that secure, employees mobile devices aren’t really that protected and systems are not always as encrypted as they’d like to believe. White Hat, a security company, released a report back in 2015 that revealed 86% of all websites tested had at least one serious vulnerability (and sometimes more).

With the huge liability breached information presents; businesses are now developing more secure websites, making sure there are no vulnerabilities, no holes, and no chance for customer information (or any information, for that matter) to leak.

Therefore, one of the biggest and latest trends in business right now is making sure all systems are appropriately protected. This has started to happen with better encryption, new cloud solutions, and enterprise mobility management for mobile devices.

Trend #3: Your brand needs to be on mobile

According to a study done by comScore, 11.3% of all Internet users rely on their mobile device to surf the web and that number is only growing.

Because of this we will start to see more click – to – call buttons embedded directly into apps.

Now, when a customer is using a particular app and they have a question, instead of leaving the app to find the customer service number, they can just click a button and be connected directly to a customer service rep. So any troubleshooting questions, user issues, products inquiries, and anything else you use customer service for can be accessed directly from the app.

The best example of this trend can be observed from Amazon Kindle devices that offer its customers what’s called “mayday”. With “mayday”, users can simply click a button for an almost instant connection with a customer service rep,  at anytime of the day. Bank of America has also followed suit, and now offers customers a “teller assist” Option on their ATM machines. This service allows consumers to connect with a bank teller via live video chat if they have any problems at the ATM.

Initially this embedded communication technology was reserved for large corporations that could afford it. However, new companies are starting to develop embedded communication at more affordable and accessible prices.

Trend #4: Smart devices and the Internet of Things

Rolls-Royce, along with other aircraft manufacturers have begun building aircraft with sensors embedded within them.

These sensors take the guesswork and time out of physically searching a plane for malfunctions.

They can detect if anything has started to break down and gives aircrafts the ability to avoid possible accidents and fatalities by sending these updates directly to the ground station.

This kind of real-time update from the actual device is becoming more popular as technology develops. Now, inventory can self-report on its levels, trucks can self-track, and products can notify the company when there’s a problem.

In order to stay relevant, businesses should figure out how to take advantage of these real-time update devices, and see how they can incorporate them into their current technology infrastructure.

Trend #5: Employees with wearables

What about the employees who receive these real-time updates from the aforementioned devices? How do they receive the information? It certainly wouldn’t be right if they were receiving these updates on a basic, technologically ancient computer. No, instead businesses are testing out wearables to receive the data, so employees can have real-time access to real-time updates. Some companies use them for inventory updates while others use them internally for employee interaction; the options for wearables within a business setting are endless.

If a businesses values accurate feedback and real-time updates, complying with this trend is critical.

They need to start figuring out which wearable device is best for them, how to incorporate it, and the best way to synchronize it with their existing software.

Trend #6: Keep it in the cloud

Business clouds allow seamless and constant connectivity and can be seen functioning in about 93% of existing business, according to a cloud survey conducted by Right Scale. The 7% who haven’t adapted are expected to incorporate this trend no later than this year – or else they risk being left behind.

There are plenty of other technology trends businesses need in order to stay relevant, however these six are the most important as they are the most unique, and revolutionized. Businesses should definitely take notes, and begin strategizing on how they can incorporate these practices.

#DontGetLeftIn2015

Lauren Flanigan is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, hailing from the windy hills of Cincinnati, with a degree in Marketing from the University of Cincinnati. She has escaped the hills, and currently resides in Atlanta, where you can almost always find her camping at a Starbucks strategizing on how to take over the world.

Business News

Pandemic claims another victim: Godiva to close brick and mortar stores

(BUSINESS NEWS) It’s your last chance to get your chocolate in-person – Godiva has decided to sell all of their North American locations at the end of March 2021.

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Picture of Godiva Cafe storefront, closing at the end of March.

Life is like a box full of chocolates. But, if you’re planning on looking for that box of chocolates at your nearest Godiva location, it will no longer be there by the end of March.

On Sunday, the company announced it is closing and selling all of its 128 brick-and-mortar stores in North America. Godiva retail stores in Europe, China, and the Middle East will remain open, however.

The retail apocalypse is one that began years ago, but the pandemic made it so much worse. And, Godiva, which has many locations inside malls, strongly felt the presence of declining foot traffic. According to USA Today, the company’s demand for in-person shopping “waned as a result of the pandemic and its acceleration of changes in consumers’ shopping behavior.”

With in-store sales decreasing and online sales on the rise, it comes as no surprise to see the company closing its big box stores.

“Our brick & mortar locations in North America have had a clear purpose since we first opened our doors in this market – to provide an in-person experience for consumers to enjoy the world’s most exquisite chocolates,” said Godiva CEO Nurtac Afridi in a statement. “We have always been focused on what our consumers need and how they want to experience our brand, which is why we have made this decision.”

“This decision was difficult because of the care we have for our dedicated and hard-working chocolatiers who will be impacted,” she continued. “We are grateful for all they have done to make wonderful moments for our consumers and spread happiness through incredible customer service and living our values and behaviors.”

The privately held company did not disclose how many employees it will lay off because of the closures.

In 2019, Godiva had big plans. The company announced an expansion plan to open 2,000 cafes. The first opened in New York in April 2019, but those plans are now a thing of the past.

While all North American stores are closing, including 11 in Canada, don’t despair chocolate lovers! You’ll still be able to purchase your favorite luxury chocolates on the company’s website, and the company’s grocery, club, and retail partners.

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Business News

Office Depot still open to buyers – just not you, Staples

(BUSINESS NEWS) This isn’t the first time the office giants have tried to combine, but Office Depot has some particular conditions if Staples wants to acquire them.

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Balding man in glasses at a whiteboard, using supplies from Office Depot.

In Staples’ third attempt to take over Office Depot, its acquisition offer was rejected by the ODP Corporation, Office Depot’s parent company. On January 11, Staples sent a letter to Office Depot’s board of directors offering to buy “100% of the issued and outstanding common stock” from its office-supply rival. At $40 per share, the deal to acquire Office Depot is over $2 billion.

“Staples believes that its all-cash transaction is a compelling value proposition for ODP’s stockholders that offers a high degree of certainty and is superior to the intrinsic, standalone value of ODP,” wrote Stefan Kaluzny, on behalf of the Board of Directors of USR Parent, Inc (Staples).

In response to Staples’ offer, the ODP corporation issued its own letter. “The Board has unanimously concluded that there is a more compelling path forward to create value for ODP and its shareholders than the potential transaction described in your proposal,” wrote ODP Chairman Joseph Vassalluzzo.

Although Office Depot refused Staples’ proposal, the company said it’s willing to make other alternative deals. “We are open to combining our retail and consumer-facing e-commerce operations with Staples under the right set of circumstances and on mutually acceptable terms,” wrote Vassalluzzo.

In the letter, Office Depot said it is willing to consider a joint venture where both companies “would equally share the risks and benefits.” The company would also consider a partial-sale of its retail and consumer-facing e-commerce operations.

If Staples is willing to come to either of those agreements, they will still require regulatory approval. But, Office Depot says their options offer a less “regulatory risk” by pursuing a retail-only transaction. And, will “help maintain competitiveness against nontraditional retailers and optimize ongoing choices for consumers.”

In 1997 and 2016, the Federal Trade Commission blocked the two companies from merging. Who’s to say it won’t happen again, even with the changes Office Depot is telling Staples to make in its offer.

“What we do not plan to do, however, is engage in a transaction that, as history has shown, would likely result in a prolonged and expensive regulatory review process with no guarantee of success, without a commitment that Staples is willing to bear this risk through a customary “hell or high water” provision,” wrote Vassaluzzo.

Until Staples is willing to come to an agreement with Office Depot that doesn’t include a full takeover, ODP’s answer is a firm “no”.

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Business News

Big retailers are opting for refunds instead of returns

(BUSINESS NEWS) Due to increased shipping costs, big companies like Amazon and Walmart are opting to give out a refund rather than accepting small items returned.

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Package delivery people holding deliveries. Refund instead of returns are common now.

The holidays are over, and now some people are ready to return an item that didn’t quite work out or wasn’t on their Christmas list. Whatever the reason, some retailers are giving customers a refund and letting them keep the product, too.

When Vancouver, Washington resident, Lorie Anderson, tried returning makeup from Target and batteries from Walmart she had purchased online, the retailers told her she could keep or donate the products. “They were inexpensive, and it wouldn’t make much financial sense to return them by mail,” said Ms. Anderson, 38. “It’s a hassle to pack up the box and drop it at the post office or UPS. This was one less thing I had to worry about.”

Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., and other companies are changing the way they handle returns this year, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to weigh the costs of processing physical returns versus just issuing a refund and having customers keep the item.

For instance, if it costs more to ship an inexpensive or larger item than it is to refund the purchase price, companies are giving customers a refund and telling them to keep the products also. Due to an increase in online shopping, it makes sense for companies to change how they manage returns.

Locus Robotics chief executive Rick Faulk told the Journal that the biggest expense when it comes to processing returns is shipping costs. “Returning to a store is significantly cheaper because the retailer can save the freight, which can run 15% to 20% of the cost,” Faulk said.

But, returning products to physical stores isn’t something a lot of people are wanting to do. According to the return processing firm Narvar, online returns increased by 70% in 2020. With people still hunkered down because of the pandemic, changing how to handle returns is a good thing for companies to consider to reduce shipping expenses.

While it might be nice to keep the makeup or batteries for free, don’t expect to return that new PS5 and get to keep it for free, too. According to WSJ, a Walmart spokesperson said the company lets someone keep a refunded item only if the company doesn’t plan on reselling it. And, besides taking the economic costs into consideration, the companies look at the customer’s purchase history as well.

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