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How to offer customers a frictionless online experience

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Companies of all sizes still have clunky, hard to use websites – here’s how to fix that and offer a quality online experience.

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The internet has clearly done wonders for retailers and businesses that sell physical products. Ecommerce is exploding and the evolution of various platforms makes it possible for even the smallest of companies to create their own global supply chains with very little upfront investment or cost. But don’t forget about service-based businesses – such as beauty salons, yoga studios, gyms, chiropractors, and massage centers. These types of businesses have benefited tremendously as well.

The internet has given service businesses the opportunity to increase exposure, drive leads, and better engage modern customers in a convenient manner. However, with great opportunities come incredible responsibilities.

If you want your business to be competitive in today’s landscape, you have to offer customers and clients frictionless online experiences, or so-called omni channel solution.

Smooth user experience (UX) is what separates successful businesses from average ones when it comes to online marketing and lead generation. If you want to offer frictionless UX to your customers, here’s where you need to start:

1. Understand buyer journeys
“Today, customer interactions are continuous, contextual, highly personalized and ever-changing, no matter if the customer is on an iPad, talking to Alexa, or entering a subway station,” digital marketing expert David Aponovich points out.

The problem a lot of businesses encounter is a misunderstanding of the customer buyer journey. They view it in isolation, instead of as a long-term play.

“When you start to build digital experiences around your consumers’ actual lives, and stop thinking in one-time purchases, you’ll be one step ahead of your competitors,” Aponovich continues. “Removing friction? It starts by being where your customers want you and need you to be.”

2. Offer convenient scheduling
No more asking customers to call the office or send an email in order to schedule an appointment. Rarely will a customer remember to do this. And if they do, it creates an unnecessary hitch in the buying process. You need to offer more convenient scheduling options.

An online appointment scheduling resource will help tremendously with this aspect of UX. A tool like SimplyBook.me makes it easy for smaller businesses (with minimal resources) to streamline the scheduling process for customers and clients. Customers can seamlessly move from interest to purchase/scheduling in the same step.

3. Present plenty of visuals
Nobody likes clutter. As you know, minimalism is the best policy in modern web design. If you want to give your visitors what they’re looking for, ditch the superfluous elements and meaty paragraphs. Instead, opt for high-quality visuals that say more with less.

4. Increase website functionality
Your website should be more than a receptacle for content – or even a platform for scheduling appointments. While these are important aspects, the site itself needs to be functional. This could look like selling physical products directly from the site (if you have them) or offering interactive content that addresses key customer pain points.

5. Make yourself discoverable
It’s easy to believe that UX is all about your website experience, but it actually encompasses a lot more than that. If you want to keep your customers happy, they need to be able to find you. Today, leading brands are putting a huge emphasis on social media, online word of mouth, SEO, and PPC advertising. Prioritize discoverability and you give yourself a pretty big head start.

The internet gives your business an opportunity to reach your target market in a manner that few who went before you would have ever dreamt possible. But it’s not enough to simply reach your audience. Once you engage them, you have to expose them to frictionless online experiences in order to drive conversions and grow your brand. Take some time to think about how you’re doing in this area.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Tech News

Palm is a tiny phone that pairs with your giant smartphone

(TECHNOLOGY) Nokia’s new Palm mini-phone release encourages endless Honey I Shrunk the Phone jokes.

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My current phone is dangerously close to being excluded from regular software updates. However, I have no real intention of purchasing a new one until crucial functions become unusable. There’s so little storage that if I want to install a new app, I have to delete one.

Yet I hold on to my increasingly historical device because I love how tiny it is compared to everything else on the market. Larger screens are no longer a novelty. It’s now the norm to have a five inch screen at a minimum.

But Palm has something different in mind. Yes, Palm as in the same people who brought you the now defunct PalmPilot. Mobility-loving users rejoice, they have risen from the ashes of the technology graveyard to bring you a new miniature innovation.

Palm released a eensy teensy credit card sized “ultra-mobile companion device” creatively called Palm. This cute little pal’s screen measures a mere 3.3 inches and weighs just over two ounces.

It easily fits in your athleisure wear, clutches, wallets, and even bike mounts. Palm is meant to help you out in times when your “big phone” is too gigantic for whatever you’re doing. Hold up, don’t we already have smartwatches for that?

Well, yes. But the tiny device boasts several features absent in smartwatches, including rear and front facing cameras, full keyboard messaging, and an expanded accessory ecosystem. The adorable companion even has facial recognition and customizable notification settings. Plus, if you’re not a watch person, Palm is a non-wearable alternative.

So that’s all neat, but is this all just a gimmick to convince you that your giant smartphone needs a baby smartphone friend? Well, that depends on your lifestyle.

If you’re frequently using your phone on-the-go or simply want a technology detox, this device may be the thing for you. It makes your phone more like a fun toy to check sometimes instead of a huge screen that sucks the life out of your waking hours.

But if you’re constantly on your phone and always prefer the bigger screen, you’ll want to stick with your current device. Or give one to your kids to use as an American Girl Doll accessory.

The device starts at $349 and pairs with your existing phone, but comes with an additional $10 charge since it has its own cellular radio. Palm syncs with Android and iOS and is currently available in the U.S. exclusively through Verizon.

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Tech News

Remote job search site literally copied & pasted competitor’s entire site

(TECH NEWS) What happens if someone copies and pastes your site into their own site, then charges users for it? Besides rage… ?

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Despite the fact that plagiarism has been a no-no with very serious potential consequences since middle school for most people, some folks didn’t get the memo. One group of individuals even went so far as to copy a competitor’s entire website and publish it as their own, raising the question: just how much idiocy do you have to remain alert for?

This egregious case of copy-and-paste innovation started when a new company by the name of Jobscribe went live on Product Hunt. After spending some time in the spotlight, the company’s apparent plagiarism was brought to light by Product Hunt user Robert Williams in a review left on the Jobscribe announcement page – Jobscribe had duplicated Williams’ site Folyo — right down to the site copy and testimonials — and published the content on their own domain. Then had the gall to announce their launch on Product Hunt.

You can’t make this stuff up.

It’s easy to look at what happened to Folyo as an isolated incident, but this kind of “sharing of ideas” happens to businesses on a much more frequent basis than one might assume. In an era where everything is online and innumerable new sites are published every second, it’s all too easy for a competitor to steal your hard work and publish it as their own service.

Sadly, there isn’t much you can do after the fact; besides reporting the site to their web host for plagiarism and making a visible statement on your site (and social media if applicable), you’ll simply have to wait for the “competitor” to have their version of your content taken down. Steps you can take to mitigate some of the damage before instances like this even happen include patenting your service and brand before going live, but that won’t help you if you’re already a victim of plagiarism.

If you visit the Jobscribe website, it’s gone, and you get a note from GoDaddy that the site is parked. Adios.

Not so fast – if you visit the Jobscribe page on Product Hunt now, you’ll find that the page redirects to something called Worklead, a service which offers a functionality similar — though this time, not identical — to Folyo’s original purpose. Additionally, users have complained that the “free” service costs $5 (not a large sum, but indicative of the continued shady tactics the company employs).

Unfortunately, while the site’s copy has clearly been changed (arguably for the worse), the damage is done with little in the way of recourse for Folyo’s creator, and there’s no reason to believe that Worklead’s services will offer clients anything other than a lighter wallet.

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Tech News

Facebook Ads Manager unreliability keeps dumpster fire rep alive

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The Facebook Ads Manager isn’t exactly reliable, refunds aren’t offered, and social media practitioners hate the (still) necessary evil.

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If there is one thing upon which we can rely when it comes to Facebook, it’s disappointing us. Sure, it is clear that the platform has done amazing things to connect people from all over the world. It allows the sharing of passions, photos, ideas, lifestyles, and pointlessly hilarious memes. But we have all glimpsed the dark underbelly of the social media giant.

Facebook regularly shows us the ugliest side of ourselves. This is a topic that is covered ALL. THE. TIME. How many of us have expressed our regret that Auntie posted insensitive views with the same pride she shares her great-grandchild’s first touchdown in the junior divisional beauty pageant and peewee football game?

But the content created by users is not Facebook’s latest letdown.

Ad buyers are regularly unable to see the analytics of their campaigns. For example, on October 29th, a number of digital media professionals found the Facebook Ads Manager to be unresponsive for hours. This lapse in availability is devastating to those who purchase ad space. This was aggravated by the fact that many campaigns were time sensitive, as they focused on the midterm elections.

Further, online advertisers rely on instant feedback and data to inform their next decisions. Many have expressed that the October 29th outage is a fairly regular occurrence with Facebook and continues to make their jobs nightmares.

Additionally, refunds were not offered for the time advertisers had purchased and not been able to use.

This recent occurrence appears to be the longest shutdown of FB Ads Manager, contributing to the dumpster fire of a reputation Facebook ads have cultivated.

We continue to ask – how can such a wealthy and dominating platform not get this issue into check? Or is it part of a broader design to lower expectations and soak up money like an adult child living in their parent’s basement, with no end in sight?

Facebook continues to decline commenting on their unreliability. Perhaps they know that all the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers will continue to use, share, swoon, and offend regardless of internal issues, and that advertisers will not (for some time) be able to subsist without reaching these groups.

For now, it seems Facebook is still in the driver’s seat. Whether or not they know how to drive this dumpster on wheels is another matter.

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