Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and what it means for Advertising

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Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are arguably some of the next big technological advancements that will lead to a whole field of innovations never thought possible. What I’m trying to say is that with Virtual Reality, you’re essentially in a virtual world – something that has been pre-recorded (or programmed). You look around in real life using the VR headset and the virtual world’s view will change according to where you look; there are even added aspects of immersion in some VR such as body tracking and sounds. On the other hand, AR puts the technology or animation right in your field of vision. It takes inputs or visual queues from the real world, usually through a camera, and overlays some sort of graphic in that spot when you see it through a screen.

One of the biggest AR phenomena occurred just earlier this year – Pokémon Go. It took geo-data from your device and overlaid it on the Google Maps technologies to determine your location. The AR part occurs when the user “finds” a Pokémon on the map. This allowed the application to take the input from the camera, select a part of the visual input, and then it overlaid a 3D model of the Pokémon on it. Though, the next step isn’t just seeing a 3D model of a monster through a phone screen, but something being overlaid directly in your field of vision through some type of lens. Just imagine wearing glasses that convert your table, like the one that Tony Stark, Iron Man, uses, with other hardware. It could even take in your physical input and change the graphics around. This type of technology is being developed as we speak; Microsoft’s HoloLens would like to develop AR with a human input.

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As for Virtual Reality, there have been quite a few companies tackling the hardware aspect for VR.  VR hardware requires more power and hardware to achieve more than just a “looking around” feature. A few of the biggest are Facebook’s Oculus, HTC’s Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR. Each of these are fairly expensive and also require additional hardware to run which limits the reach for this technology. Though, with the rising curiosity from consumers in VR from consumers, there will be definite improvement in price and availability. In a recent study of 8000 people, 24% said they will likely use or purchase VR in the next year. Another 20% said they don’t plan to try it, but expressed increased interest after learning more about the basics.

 These gadgets are technological innovations, but what will they do for advertising?

Well, they make advertising a lot more engaging and interactive; it can be an experience instead of just a standard advertisement. Below are some of the current ways AR and VR are changing advertising, as well as some predictions as to how they will affect advertising:

Augmented Reality is quite prevalent now with the recent surge of the Pokémon Go app. Although, advertising using the AR technology is still in its infancy. The Pokémon Go application is a great AR game, but it does not have advertising directly in the AR portion of the game. With that in mind, for the next few paragraphs, I’ll be focusing primarily on advertising that uses the core of Augmented Reality technology.

The technology that exists today for AR overlays an animation over the camera input. The spots where the animation appears is selected if there is a certain picture or pattern. For example, if there is an application on The Nintendo 3DS console where it can recognize certain cards on camera and overlay a 3D model on it.

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The animation automatically appears on and moves with that picture or pattern; moving the camera to point away from that picture and pattern causes the animation to disappear as well.

As for how it could change advertising, Snapchat recently patented a technology that can determine what you’re taking a picture of – or more generally, what the camera is pointed at. This could be a huge advancement and can lead to many opportunities to make an interactive advertisement through Snapchat itself. This could lead to Snapchat overlaying a graphic on or around something as an advertisement. For example, if you happen to have a logo it recognizes, there can be some type of overlay that targets that specific consumer. This would open up a whole range of hyper-targeted interactive advertisements.

Another example of Snapchat’s object recognition technology creating advertisements is if the application recognizes that there is a coffee cup and overlays a logo right over it – as long as this technology also recognizes that there is no other logo in that cup. Below is a picture that gives you a better idea of what I am talking about.

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This will be a test to technology and application developers as more and more of the population gets smartphones with better and better cameras. The hardware limitation for the population is slowly closing in, allowing more of the population to be capable of simple augmentations. Now, the innovations must occur in the software.

Virtual reality is gaining traction as many hardware developers are racing to gain market share as this technology keeps developing. Many low end VR headsets require a phone (Samsung and Google have recently released a headset that pairs with their latest phones), while many of the high end headsets require some sort of computer to run those programs.

As this innovation diffuses through the market, advertisers have some time to develop interactive marketing campaigns.  VR advertisers should be taking a lesson from a long forgotten video game called Battlefield 2142 (I have not forgotten). The game allowed real products or movies to advertise on in-game billboards on their giant 64-player maps. Below is an example of one of these advertisements.

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I was an avid player of this game when it was released and to this day I remember seeing posters of “Taking of Pelham 123” all around these giant immersive maps. But, how does this transfer to VR? That’s just it, VR can be used in giant expansive worlds that allow advertisers to purchase their own little corner of it.

Another way to use VR technology to expand the horizon of advertising is using it to make the popular 360 videos more immersive. Facebook and YouTube both implemented the ability to view videos while moving the frame of view with either your mouse or by physically looking around with your phone. Extend this to high quality VR, then you get what Circa, a news publisher, plans on doing. They plan on making fully immersive VR newscasts twice a week which allows the viewers to go to places they’d seldom get to go to. That could include allowing the viewer to virtually be backstage at debates, concerts, or places across the country.

Diffusion of innovation is a problem in regards to the above strategy, but it can be a great opportunity in another aspect.

VR is interactive; it requires space (for body tracking), additional equipment, and a quite a bit of investment. This problem lead to arcades popping back up again, but this time with an emphasis on VR. Taco Bell recently partnered with Sony to create a pop-up VR arcade. It not only solved the problem of equipment, it solved the problem of a niche target market. The above VR strategy (advertising within a VR world) only advertises to players who have the VR equipment and are playing the said game – which is a very small market. The arcade let many people experience VR while promoting Sony PlayStation VR as well as Taco Bell.

 

Both technologies are getting better and more advanced through the years. With the success of Pokémon Go, FB videos, and the greater accessibility of VR technologies, there are an outstanding number of ways to show advertisements to your audience while being much more engaging and interactive. It will keep expanding the horizons and platforms that advertisements can be shown on. The future will just increase the accessibility of these technologies to make AR and VR a viable platform for advertisements.

Chris Lamoureux, COO of Veriday, elaborates on the recent Network of Giving Partnership

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In late September, we were excited to announce our partnership with the Network of Giving. Network of Giving specializes in delivering technology solutions to support important causes and communities around the world. NOG is a value added software and IP tool that empowers billions of caring consumers purchasing goods and services digitally which can benefit local organizations and causes seamlessly.

Recently, Chris Lamoureux, COO of Veriday Inc., elaborated more on this partnership and what it means in terms of future projects, innovation, and what this means to all the charities involved.

What is the extent of the relationship between Veriday and the Network of Giving?  What will you be doing together as partners?

Chris:  Changing the world is not easy, sometimes it takes a lot of time; days, weeks, months, years, sometimes decades. Although, with clear focus, a goal and vision in mind, changes can happen and make a positive influence on the world. We’ve been working with Network of Giving for several years now to help them change the world through one transaction at a time. The Network of Giving harnesses the power of everyday digital transactions, supports important causes, and helps communities around the world become more prosperous and resilient, particularly local communities.

What solution will we be creating together?  What problem does it solve for the customers?

Chris:  Through pioneering innovations, technology, existing financial structures, and business processes, the Network of Giving has found ways to link consumers, local merchants, charitable and community organizations, banks, payment networks, and other financial organizations into a dynamic ecosystem to create an entirely new way of supporting digital charitable giving. We at Veriday believe that this is an enormous untapped potential to change the world, and we are committed and focused on supporting the Network of Giving in their activities.

What are the benefits that the customers will see from the partnership?

We’ve been supporting the Network of Giving in the ground-breaking technology innovation area using leading-edge approaches and modernized thinking. It allows us to create a technology solution that can plug and play into the most complex financial services systems in the world. Taking the complexity of the service systems and delivering it simply into a marketplace in which any consumer can use the solution; to take a simple banking transaction, or a simple purchase, and direct that at a merchant while part of the proceeds go to support a charity of their choice.

From your perspective, what is special or innovative about the partnership?

What’s innovative and interesting about this partnership and what we’re trying to do is that we are taking something simple and something that is done every day, and using it as a catalyst for change to fuel and accomplish something bigger. Innovative, yet complex. Simple and elegant.

8 Reasons why Investing in an Extranet could be Beneficial for your Business

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8 Reasons to Invest in an Extranet

An extranet can help give your company an edge over the competition.  Extranets help streamline processes, workflows, and business functions, while cutting your overhead costs. Below is an infographic with 8 reasons to invest in an extranet to benefit your business.

Benefits of Extranet

Extranet Infographics

Open Source vs. Closed Source Software – What’s the Difference?

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In the age of technology and automation, software is being used more and more in day-to-day tasks. No matter what type of uses the software has, there are two overarching types: closed source and open source. This article will take a look at the two different software, and compare them through the topics of development, support, flexibility, and cost.

First, let’s understand exactly what they are.

Closed source software is software that holds the source code safe and encrypted. Meaning, the user can’t copy, modify, or delete parts of the code without some type of consequence. It can go from voiding the warranty to even legal repercussions.

Open source software is software that does the complete opposite. It allows users to copy, modify, or delete parts of the code under their own discretion. The user is able to use functions of the open source on their own program with no consequence.

Which one works best? Choosing the best type of software depends on your business needs and objectives. The best way to compare is to look at some of the biggest differences between the two types.

Development:

Closed source software creators are the ones that generally handle the development and fixes, meaning it is under their discretion if they continue their ongoing development or not.

Open source development is handled through ‘mass collaboration’. As a result, development and fixes usually continue as long as the community is active.

In this, open source has the advantage. Closed source could end support of software at almost anytime, leaving you with whatever you have at that moment. Meanwhile, for open source software, if the community is fairly large and active, you can expect new updates, features, or fixes for a fairly long time.

Support:

Closed source software will usually have a dedicated FAQ, manuals, and options to contact someone. If there is a problem with the software, you can submit a ‘support ticket’ and get a response in one business day in most cases. All of these things will be organized and well documented as well.

On the other hand, for open source software, there are not many support options such as a dedicated and organized FAQ or contacting someone may not be available. Some of the only support options would be going through forums, reading articles, or hiring an expert.

Closed source has the advantage in support. Since a lot of the support costs have been factored into the price of the software (excluding special support types like 24/7 or personal expert). This allows for there to be a lot of different self help options such as FAQ, an organized user manual written by the developers, or an organized forum with experts. On the other hand, open source software usually doesn’t have this level of DIY support systems. Although, there might be third-party forums and explanations from the community, which could help.

Flexibility:

Closed source software tends to have only as much flexibility as the creators intended. The flexibility only extends to the front-end because the functions are limited to what was programmed. Changing these things could void the warranty or cause even greater problems.

Open source software tends to allow a lot more flexibility. You can modify the functions and even add community created modifications or features to suit your needs.

Depending on your need for flexibility either can be a viable option. Although, due to the increased flexibility open source offers with their option to change their code, it tends to scale up easier.

Cost:

This could be the biggest difference between the two types. There are a few different pricing models but the two that we’ll focus on are regular purchase and subscription services. Generally, closed source software tends to have some type of cost for the software. Closed source’s pricing model includes the right to use the software, whether it be as an upfront cost or subscription.

Open source, on the other hand, doesn’t have a cost associated with the core functionality. It can, however, have costs for additional features, assistance, or added functionality.

Based on these factors, both closed and open source are on equal grounds. Closed source has a high cost associated with the software, whereas open source has little to no cost associated with the software but has costs associated with additional features.

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Overall, if you want scalability, flexibility, and to cut costs as much as possible, open source is a great place to start your software journey. It can be difficult to choose a technology solution that best fits your wants and needs. Many organizations are turning to Liferay, a leading open source platform, to help them build a fully integrated intranet that connects their people and systems. For more information, feel free to reach out to us.

 

The Business Case for Liferay DXP

 

Is Digital Transformation in your Organization’s Future?

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Digital transformation has become an overused phrase in the workplace. According to Forbes, digital transformation is the use of technologies to radically improve the performance or reach of an enterprise. 78% of respondents across a wide range of industries said that achieving digital transformation is a priority for them within the next 2 years (MIT Center for Digital Business). But, what does this mean and how can you leverage digital transformation to your organization’s advantage?

In business, digital transformation can involve changes to the foundational components of an organization; from its operating model to its digital infrastructure. A transformation program touches every function of a business; from marketing and sales to operations. The process of digital transformation can be expensive and risky. Generally speaking, businesses that go through this transformation are the ones that have failed to evolve and keep up with their industry, and as a result, are playing catch up.

For large organizations, digital transformation takes a significant amount of resources and time, a cross-functional set of business skills, and a strong understanding of customer and employee needs in regards to their digital experiences with your organization. Putting your organization through digital transformation can be a risky process, although, if done right, it can produce great benefits for your employees, clients, and organization.

Keep in mind that digital transformation is not for every organization. Organizations that continue to foster a culture of constant evolution and cross-functional collaboration are always transforming. Organizations that aren’t constantly evolving and adapting are generally the ones that need digital transformation to be able to compete with competitors in their industry.

Employee productivity

In recent years, there has been a heavier focus on digital initiatives in most (if not all) industries. Businesses are starting to see digital initiatives as a means to help better engage customers externally and employees internally. 58% of businesses surveyed now look to digital to help sell profitably and 56% of businesses assess the impact of digital in relation to customer experience (Accenture).

On an internal level, digital transformation has the potential to empower your workforce. Implementing the right digital tools can help ease the collaboration process across departments and geography within your organization. Done right, digital transformation can help integrate and streamline entire business processes. A streamlined process means fewer unnecessary emails, errors and delays since workflows are being assigned to the correct employees. Through features like role-based workflows, you are able to assign tasks to specific individuals, which in turn will reduce the amount of work that falls through the cracks. With the ability to add, edit, share and collaborate on essential data, your teams can resolve problems more quickly and in real-time, which in turn can help your organization not only meet, but exceed client needs.

For more information on elevating employee engagement by going digital, click here.

Customer experience

Being productive, and efficient internally is important for an organization because a good customer experience starts with your internal team. With well-functioning internal processes, your customer experience has a significantly better chance of being successful.

A study done by Forrester Consulting concluded that 63% of organizations planned to improve their online customer experiences this year. Digital transformation is a customer-driven business transformation initiative rather than a strictly technical challenge. Throughout the customer journey, customers will interact with your organization across more than one channel within their journey. It’s important to ensure that the customer experience across all of your channels is consistent and positive, especially on the digital front.

Increase in sales

Companies that have embraced digital transformation are 26% more profitable than their average industry competitors and enjoy a 12% higher market valuation (MIT Center for Digital Business). While sales are important, what is more important is gaining the knowledge of how those sales are made. In today’s digital age, most consumers will almost exclusively interact with and learn about organizations through digital channels. With a better understanding of your customers, an increase in productivity and an improved overall customer experience, your organization will not only become more profitable but will have also build a stronger brand. By having a positive, well rounded brand reputation, your organization is more likely to succeed in retaining clients and converting prospects, especially when they are deciding between you and a competitor.

Promotes a positive and forward-thinking company culture

According to PA Consulting, only 26% of people think their firm has the right mindset to survive and thrive in the digital age. Across the three dimensions of digital transformation – organization, operational process, and technology – businesses are making strides, but they are still struggling with traditional silos and lack of alignment (Accenture). Many firms are stuck offering an “average” digital experience, meaning that they have a limited understanding of what to do next, how to do it, and how to measure the success of each digital experience. Embracing technology and using it to improve your organization’s business processes and engagement rates can create a company culture that encourages creativity and innovation.

Through the process of digital transformation (although it is different for every organization), you are working towards improving the way you run your business, how your employees interact within the organization, and how your external communication channels can improve. The process of planning how your organization will go through digital transformation and enhance business processes can promote out-of-the-box and creative thinking. By taking the initiative to innovate and change big things within your company, you are cultivating an environment that is open to change and improvement. Creating a company culture where development and creativity is encouraged can promote a positive, innovative, and forward-thinking company culture that you can be proud of.

Not one person alone can make digital transformation happen. It requires a company-wide buy in, strong collaboration, and executive advocacy. The motivation can’t come solely from the C-suite. The brainstorming and input on the transformation process must come from all levels of an organization. Take a look at the image below, courtesy of Bobby Albert. 96% of problems are not known to top managers. This statistic speaks to the importance of ensuring every individual in your organization has a say in regards to modifying processes, making improvements, and how to go about your organizations’ digital transformation.

Digital Transformation Iceberg
Now is the time for organizations to re-examine their businesses processes before they are left too far behind in the digital age. In a time where digital is transforming how we do things, it is more important than ever to ensure that your organization is evolving and reacting to the changing digital times.

 

The Business Case for Liferay DXP

4 Ways Technology Can Help Increase Customer Engagement

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Technology isn’t just changing the day to day of many companies by giving them the tools to be more efficient, it is also changing the way that companies engage with the customer. Prior to the Internet, customer engagement was fairly limited to the traditional forms of advertising and interaction. It used to be safe to assume that a customer made a purchase due to a flyer they received, or a referral from a friend or family.

Now, the definition of customer engagement isn’t static. It’s consistently evolving with the company and consumer due to new trends, technologies, and techniques. The broadest definition would be the interaction between the consumer and business through any channel that the business is on. Thanks to the Internet and technology, consumers can and do interact and engage with companies from anywhere and at anytime, 24/7.

Great customer engagement is not something you can just buy; it is a competitive advantage that can only be earned through continuous improvement and evolution. However, technology is one tool that can help you get there. Here are 4 ways technology can help to increase customer engagement:

1. Technology can help make customer experience more personalized. The new era of technology allows for ‘personalized marketing’. Personalized marketing is advertising to a consumer based on what their interests are – which are collected thanks to Internet cookies and browsing history. Take Amazon for example; if you’ve been searching for headphones for the past 5 minutes, the “recommended for you” section would most likely include headphones. This worked out well for the online retailer as it was able to generate an additional 10% to 30% more revenue. This is not only beneficial for the businesses’ bottom line, but it increases customer engagement. Due to this engagement strategy, 44% of consumers in 2015 started their product searches on Amazon.

Technologies, such as Liferay, allow you to tailor your website to the needs and preferences of each individual with targeted information and segment identification, giving your visitors exactly what they’re looking for. You are able to get a full view of your customers and personalize their experiences from start to finish.

2. Technology can help you to simplify processes. New technologies that compact and simplify complex functions are developed everyday. Implementing these new types of technology, such as a new portal technology, can help to make transactions, searches, or processes more efficient. A great example of this is the new ‘mobile cheque deposit’ feature that mobile banking offers. Prior to the widespread use of this feature, a customer had to deposit the physical cheque at one of the bank’s branches. The mobile cheque deposit feature simplifies the process of physically going to the bank to deposit a cheque to just taking a picture of it, regardless of your distance to the bank. This enhancement in customer experience will also lead to more engagement. Why? The customer is happier that a simple task is convenient and takes significantly less time. These processes could be anything from an online purchase to an email. Another example would be Amazon’s “one-click purchase” This simple improvement increases their engagement by drastically reducing the steps needed to order something which in turn improves the experience and simplifies the process.

The Liferay Digital Experience Platform’s modern interface, built-in features and easy integration helps you create portals that let your customers complete their transactions, access documents and get information online. For example, York University recently implemented Liferay technology to create a Portal for its students. It was flexible enough to implement many features in a fairly simple user interface such as financial account information, personalized exam schedules, and university news. The full case study can be found here.

3. Technology provides you with data to improve the customer experience. Most technology can be monitored in some way through some metric, such as time. Using just the time metric, you can assess what processes take the longest time and improve accordingly. These metrics can be extended to data showing a visitor’s complete journey through the portal or website, or where an individual spends most of their time, which can then provide insight into how to personalize the experience or make it more efficient (relating back to #2). Overall, it can help you improve and evolve the experience to match the buyer journey.

As Steve Jobs once said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” The secret to customer engagement lies in the abilities to know your customers inside and out, predict their wants and needs, and build the entire customer experience around this information. With technologies such as Liferay, you can build a website that allows you to create and track highly targeted marketing campaigns that present the right message to your visitors at the right time, based on social profile, behaviour and browsing history. Taking advantage of this technology will help you to evolve and improve upon the customer experience based on the customer’s behaviour.

4. Technology can be a platform for you to help resolve customers’ problems, and provide convenience and control. Technology shouldn’t just be limited to assisting with the business’ day-to-day processes; it can be extended to help the business communicate with the customer. Recent statistics show that if you resolve a complaint in the customer’s favour, they’re 70% more likely to do business with you again. A online self-service portal keeps your customers engaged with your brand and website and allows you to manage customer relationships in a scalable way. Consider the facts below:

  • 91% of survey respondents said they would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs (zendesk)
  • 3 out of 4 consumers prefer to solve their customer service issue on their own (aspect)
  • 40% of consumers prefer self-service over human contact (The Self-Service Economy)

There is a noticeable shift in consumers’ behaviour, and thanks to this portal technology, you will be able to react. From Omnichannel support to tracking the customers journey throughout to ensure they don’t have to backtrack in support when switching channels.  Overall, self service portals can provide your customers service on their own terms, make online answers easy for customers to find, and provide Omnichannel support.

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Taking advantage of technology, in some of the ways mentioned above, can help lead to great customer engagement, loyalty and retention. If you need help sorting through the many technology options, in order to find the right fit for your business, feel free to contact us!

10 Inventions that Changed the World

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10 Inventions that changed the world

In the past century alone, there have been countless innovations that have drastically improved our lives. Improvements in transportation through the invention of planes, cars, and even rockets. Improvements to healthcare, communication, and  entertainment have also been developed. In the past 20 years alone, we have innovated at such a rapid pace in so many different areas and industries. Trying to pick just the top ten would be difficult, so that’s why we have compiled a list of the ten innovations that have changed the world. Without these, life as we know it wouldn’t exist.

10 Inventions that Changed the World

The Future of Customer Service is Online Self-Service Portals

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We’ve all been there. We have all been on the receiving end of the frustrating “hold music” when you’ve called an organization to resolve an issue. “One moment please. Your call is important to us. A representative will be with you shortly”…repeated… again….and again. Being put on hold when you call a customer-service department has become a fact of life. In fact, according to a survey by ResearchNow, the average person will spend 43 days on hold with automated customer service in one lifetime. Unfortunately, when people think about calling a customer service line, it is usually accompanied by negative and unenthusiastic feelings.

Consider these scenarios as well: Have you ever waited in line for an ATM machine even though there is nobody in line for the teller inside the bank? Have you ever arrived at an airport and chose to use a kiosk, rather then going to a person at the desk, despite being no line? Often, as consumers, we try to avoid situations where we can’t help ourselves in some shape or form. A recent study by Zendesk confirmed that 67% of respondents prefer self-service to speaking to a company representative.

Online self-service is becoming one of the most popular channels by which customers are looking to resolve problems and learn more about organizations. Today’s digital customers are happier when they can manage and complete their tasks at any time they want, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Is your brand delivering on what customers want?

Consider these facts:

  • 3 out of 4 consumers prefer to solve their customer service issue on their own (aspect)
  • 90% of consumers expect an organization to offer self-service customer support portal; 60% of consumers have a more favorable view of the brand if the self-service offering is mobile responsive (parature)
  • 73% of consumers want the ability to solve product/service issues on their own; one-third say they’d rather ‘clean a toilet’ than speak with customer service (parature)
  • 91% of survey respondents said they would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs (zendesk)
  • 75% of consumers move to another channel when online customer service fails, and Forrester estimates that unnecessary service costs to online retailers due to channel escalation are $22 million on average

Why self-service?

As consumers, we like to schedule appointments, troubleshoot problems, change a reservation, ask billing questions, get status updates, seek technical support, access FAQs, and ask our own questions, with minimal human interaction.

There are 3 underlying themes as to why consumers prefer online self-service:

  1. According to a survey done by zendesk, 75% of survey respondents said that self-service is a convenient way to address customer service issues. Customers can do it any time they want and take as long as they need.  Phone and email support can’t measure up to the timeliness of online self-service.
  2. Additionally, customers want online self-service for efficiency. Forrester found that 77% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good customer service. Customers do not long for conversation and don’t want to be waiting in a queue to talk to a person, only to be transferred to a different department after already waiting. They want to get online, find what they are looking for, click around, and be done – as painlessly as possible, so that they can get back to what they were doing before they had the issue.
  3. Lastly, customers want control. Customers are increasingly being empowered to do almost anything themselves online. They do not want to have to rely on other people to do what they can do themselves. The customer does not want to give up control to the company but would prefer to take it into their own hands. Give your customers service on their own terms, not yours. 

Why self-service is also great news for companies

Online self-service is not only a good thing for customers. The shift towards online self-service is hugely beneficial for companies as well:

  1. Online self-service keeps your customers engaged with your brand and website.  A self service portal allows you to manage your customer relationships in a scalable way, as your company grows.
  2. Centralizes information and tools so that customers will always know where to find the information that they need.
  3. Online self-service provides companies with insight that simple website analytics can’t provide. Companies can track what their customers are doing on their self-service portals to get a clearer picture of their customers and experience with the brand.  This allows companies to continuously improve the experience based on observing what their customers are doing.
  4. Online self service portals are the most cost-efficient customer service channel.  A well built self service centre has the potential to be huge cost-savings for organizations.  By allowing your customers to track information online, in one place, you can lower the number of calls coming into your customer support centre

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Customers are making it clear that they are eager for effective self-service. But, they have also made it clear that the self-service experience that they want must perform seamlessly. Online self-service is only convenient, efficient, and control granting if you are giving your customers a great experience. On the flip side, a negative self-service experience provides your customers with an inconvenient and frustrating experience, forcing them to switch channels to get their issue resolved, which can be quite costly for the company.

So, how can your organization create an online self-service experience that lives up to customer expectations? Stay tuned for a new post, coming soon, where we will discuss the keys to creating a self-service experience that supports your customers and brand.

The Internet of Things Will Explode by 2020

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By the year 2020, there will be 24 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices installed around the world. In fact, it is predicted that every day in 2016, we will see 5.5 million new things get connected (TeamViewer). IoT has been labelled as The Next Industrial Revolution because it will change the way people live, work, entertain, and travel, as well as how governments and businesses interact with the world (Business Insider). It surrounds us in our everyday lives; from how we live to how we communicate. The IoT is a network of internet-connected objects that are able to collect and exchange data without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

Most people interact with IoT technology on a daily basis. Some everyday examples you may be using include:

  • Smart home devices such as smart thermostats
  • Wearable fitness trackers
  • Smart phones
  • Smart watches
  • Microchips

The impact of IoT is not limited to areas of our daily life as consumers and employees; it will also lead to innovative changes in the IT infrastructure that companies depend on. The following infographic, courtesy of Business Insider, dives into what IoT is and how rapidly this revolution is growing across several different industries.

The Internet of Things Will Explode by 2020 Inforgaphic

 

Business Uses and Benefits of Intranets & Extranets: Part 2

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According to techopedia, an extranet is a controlled private network allowing customers, partners, vendors, suppliers and other businesses to gain information. Extranets make communicating simple for individuals inside and outside of an organization.

Keep in mind that intranets are also a controlled private network, except access is only given to individuals within an organization.

In this 2-part series, we will walk through what intranets and extranets are, how they differ, and how they can benefit your business.

What is an extranet?Visual diagram of the intranet and extranet spectrum

Extranets are an expansion of your intranet. They are private networks designed to allow certain individuals outside of your company to communicate with members within your organization in a secure and private virtual space. To put it simply, it is an extension of your intranet that you make available to users outside of your organization.  Generally, organizations will use extranets for:

  • Customer service through distributing personalized information to customers in a more efficient way
  • Training and education for new employees
  • Communicating and connecting with customers in a more controlled setting
  • Easing project management tasks by providing a workspace with access to common online documents for teams

Why should I invest in an extranet?

Extranets act as a system of engagement for your business’s prospective clients. Just as intranets can increase employee engagement, extranets expand to engage individuals outside of your organization too. There are many benefits that a business can reap from an extranet including:

For Customers (extranet):

  • Improves your collaboration with customers, clients, and partners by providing personalized and specific pieces of information to specific groups.
  • Easy access to relevant information for consumers through FAQ’s, company and product details, and more
  • Present customized and exclusive content or offers to your customers in a secure way.
  • Make information available to consumers on a variety of devices
  • Shorter time from business to consumer by eliminating communication barriers
  • Builds customer loyalty and improves customer experience by providing additional channels for communication
  • Improved customer service and experience by allowing customers and users to resolve their own queries.

For Employees (intranet and extranet):

  • Increased productivity by making information more accessible to employees
  • Reduced margin of error by centralizing company information
  • More effective collaboration by easing department-to-department communication
  • Cost effective by cutting overhead costs and streamlining work practices
  • More efficient communication of internal job opportunities

Using an extranet in the Real World

We know that an extranet is an extension of an intranet. It’s the part of the intranet that outsiders can use. The Bank of Veriday (BoV) has invested in an intranet and an extranet. They are able to share all of their internal information with employees within the institution. When their customers log in online to check on their personal banking, they are logging into BoV’s extranet, which provides them with selective information that was made available to them. Extranets are still closed off to the general public and require some type of authentication.

An extranet can help give your company an edge over the competition.  Extranets help streamline processes, workflows, and business functions, while cutting your overhead costs.

 

To learn more about intranets, check out Part 1 of the series!