May 18, 2020

How Mobile Experiences Can Adapt For Isolation

Technology is typically associated with the lifestyle of young people who spend too much time connected to their phones, travel around frequently and find ways to make their own lives easier by living what we often refer to as the "connected lifestyle." But what works well away from home can also work when you’re isolated at home.

In a time like this, many users are working from home, and while this may not be the norm in the future, it's important to find ways to adapt to this norm now -- for the sake of those who may find themselves in a similar situation down the road and for the sake of improving our processes overall in the long run.

Take the following industries -- and isolation-focused adaptations -- for example:

Food Delivery

Mobile ordering was originally launched as a way to help cut down the wait time at dining locations, but now we see that it is easy to transition the same ordering capabilities to a delivery service. Although not trivial, adding a delivery location and charge is only an incremental change on top of the menu and scheduling pieces that had to exist regardless.

Supporting multiple delivery locations on your profile, or suggesting prior addresses like Amazon does with their orders, would make it easier to order food for your family members that may have trouble getting out -- or for that friend who just had a baby who you’d love to visit. Support for simultaneous orders would mean you could have a videoconference meal together and rave about the local eatery while still keeping your distance.

Games And Entertainment

Digital content, both games and video, has been available through mobile devices for some time, but the advantage of everyone in the house being able to stream at the same time is even more critical when the whole family can’t leave for entertainment outside the home. Supporting more types of devices feels like a heavy lift when you assume only one or two people in a household will be using your service at once, but when everyone is home, all the screens can be in use at the same time, and that old device no one has touched in a couple of years is pulled into active duty.

Enjoying content together is a real differentiator. Simultaneous streaming of on-demand content allows that feeling of hanging around the TV watching a movie together, even if you’re apart. Some enterprising individuals have implemented this for Netflix on their own with a Chrome extension.

E-Learning

Independent, customized, self-paced learning has been possible for some time, but there wasn’t much opportunity to try it at a large scale. Apps like Duolingo provide flexible, gamified learning that works on the go, but also works at home with focused study.

Services should think about how they handle more dedicated sessions, as well as the bite-sized interactions that they may initially optimize for. How would you supplement the learning with additional content for those who might need to hear it explained a different way? With language apps becoming more common as a replacement for language teachers, we're seeing a huge shift in self-paced learning.

Telemedicine

Whether in a health pandemic or not, telemedicine is seeing a huge ROI through lower costs and faster, more convenient service. Although certainly no replacement for in-person visits, it can provide a valuable service for common issues that are handled through self-care.

Although prescreening questions are helpful, dynamic versions that dig into specific issues could be even more beneficial. If someone says they have a fever, ask about the severity and duration. During flu season, ask some questions that could confirm or rule out that diagnosis. Gathering baseline metrics several weeks after treatment, and throughout the year, would be beneficial for detecting anomalies -- especially if the records could be shared across partners, or at least within the same network.

The Internet Of Things

Smart devices permeate our homes, and automation and alerts from any activity are becoming the norm. Doorbells announce a delivery, and garage doors announce departures. Cameras monitor fur babies and furless babies.

Sharing access to these devices with a “circle of trust” makes it easier for a group to monitor a single location. The security concerns around these devices are paramount, so limiting access to everyone outside the circle is critical.

Fitness

The mobile revolution obviously brought better mobile tracking through apps and later wrist-mounted computers that could measure your activity passively, but also encourage good behavior. When working from home, it’s easier to become even more sedentary, with all work activities happening in a single room, and relaxing is often done within sight of that spot.

Social aspects of this should be prioritized -- to help connect and encourage people to stay active. Positive peer pressure through automatic sharing of your activity means that people aren’t able to hide, and we can hold each other accountable for good habits. Integration with social platforms should be seen as a way of amplifying the reach, not diluting the brand by leaving the walled garden you may have wanted to create.

It’s A Matter Of Accessibility

It’s certain that any sort of discussion around the connected lifestyle should include at least one use case where the user is at home -- and how we should optimize for that scenario moving forward. This, outside of our current crisis, is a great way to create a more accessible app for those who are homebound all the time. When pursuing this use case, consider the following:

• Look at the home as a primary use location.

• Looking into letting users share their experience with friends remotely.

• Focus on experiences with a long duration.

As is often the case, building for one constraint leads to improvements for many. If we all push ourselves to make improvements, we can work toward a better tomorrow, whether isolated or not.

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

May 7, 2020

15 Technologies That Will Disrupt The Industry In The Next Five Years

Five years ago, the words "artificial intelligence" and "machine learning" were on everyone's lips. Today, these technologies form a core part of how companies do business. Because technology is ever-evolving, there will always be new tech emerging on the horizon.

However, the past has shown us that not every emerging technology can remain relevant, much less disrupt entire sectors of the economy. With each new crop of technologies, there are usually a few that have that potential. Fifteen members of Forbes Technology Council discuss some of today’s emerging technologies that they expect to be game-changers in the next five years.

1. 5G Technology

The biggest disruptors are those that simplify the user experience, and 5G accomplishes just that. Even in fields like customer service, 5G can both enhance and simplify the customer experience. Voice calls will be clearer, video support more accessible and greater bandwidth will enable the widespread adoption of AI/automation. The result? Richer, easier and more helpful customer support. - Mike De La Cruz, Directly

2. Unsupervised Machine Learning

Unsupervised machine learning (UML) is disrupting how we leverage data for predictions and intelligence. Unlike traditional ML, it works without any data training or labeling, which enables it to recognize and flag unknown patterns and make more accurate predictions. UML eliminates the limitations of preexisting knowledge or human bias, and will therefore enable insights never before possible. - Yinglian Xie, DataVisor

3. Robotic Accuracy And Automation

The next game-changer will be more human intelligence-based robotics and automation. Think about drones delivering packages with human understanding: "Please place this order beside this vase on my living room table." If the vase got moved, the drone will realize that it moved at delivery time (vision recognition) and either deliver it there or ask the user for a new precise delivery location. - Ayman Shoukry, Specright Inc.

4. Intelligent Tech Revolutionizing Security

Intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are already enabling us to respond more dynamically to information sharing over email. It’s possible to detect when someone is about to make a mistake, as well as detect intentionally risky behavior such as exfiltrating data. This technology will revolutionize the way organizations consume security solutions and ensure that email is safe to use. - Tony Pepper, Egress

5. Connected Telehealth Solutions

As the pandemic strains hospitals, I’m encouraged by policy changes and shifts in public opinion that will lead to widespread adoption of telehealth. New telehealth apps, when made interoperable with critical patient data in electronic health records and other platforms of engagement for healthcare providers and payers, will change the paradigm with how care can be delivered more effectively. - David Wenger, Bridge Connector

6. Augmented And Virtual Reality

Virtual reality and augmented reality devices are becoming more capable and cost-effective by the minute. The possibility of using a VR space to interact with customers or co-workers seems much more plausible, and provides a richer interaction. The virtual experience may provide another revenue stream from customers, or be a sales tool to entice them to experience it for real. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

7. Hyperautomation

Hyperautomation provides companies with a framework to use a combination of AI and MLto identify and automate any business processes. Hyperautomation can span across a range of tools that can be automated, but also refers to the overall complexity of the automation. Robust data warehousing and availability of historical data becomes integral to being able to analyze the trends and gaps in current processes. - Jahn Karsybaev, Prosource IT

8. Edge Computing

AI and ML will increase in effectiveness when moving processing closer to the user. Edge computing will transform how data is processed and delivered to the end user, along with 5G data networks. New applications and the explosion of IoT devices will drive this new paradigm. - William McSorley, WM3 Group LLC

9. Spatial Computing

Spatial computing provides a new relationship between humans and digital content. Controlling interfaces with eyes, gestures and voice in a seamless and integrative manner offers a new precedent for interaction with the world. The technology has been partially used in semi-autonomous cars, drones and robots. The digital world will become more and more seamless with the real world. - Alexandro Pando, Xyrupt Technologies

10. Quantum Computing And IoT

AI and ML will continue to be on trend, but a few other things are coming. First of all, we’re talking about quantum computing. Once this moves from prototype to practice, it will create a breakthrough similar to the invention of the computer or the launch of the internet. The second thing that is trendy now and will continue to grow is IoT. Devices and their practical application are growing daily and will continue to grow. - Boris Kontsevoi, Intetics Inc.

11. DataOps

Given how many technologies we have gathering and transmitting data, I feel that DataOps will become more essential going forward. Organizations will need to adopt agile approaches and increase collaboration to manage and analyze the data. When they do, they'll unleash a wave of insights that will drive transformations at all levels, big and small. - Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

12. Natural Language Processing

Natural language processing (NLP) seems to be a game-changer these days. We want robots to be able to process human speech and be able to intelligently react to it. A minor change in a sentence can dramatically change the intent, so we want to make sure robots can handle them! - Gev Balyan, UCRAFT

13. Value Stream Management

Value stream management (VSM) is definitely a game-changer, because this breakthrough technology is now seen through a different lens—a lens of an (almost) completely remote workforce. You now need VSM to maintain visibility, which is a critical component of successful software development in the new world. - Bob Davis, Plutora

14. Additive Manufacturing

Complex geometries unsupported by traditional machining and injection molding can now be created on demand with a single print. As 3D printing becomes increasingly integral to the manufacturing zeitgeist, more businesses will have access to rapid prototyping, tooling and direct manufacturing, and acquire new core competencies. The world is on the cusp of fully embracing this disruptive technology. - Christopher Yang, Corporate Travel Management

15. Regulatory Tech Coming To Government

I'm interested in seeing how regulation tech develops. This category of technology enables governments to implement enforcement and monitoring activities required by law. This trend has the potential to make it easier for businesses and individuals to comply with regulations. There is also a dark side to this trend—how will it impact privacy and freedom? - Nelson Cicchitto, Avatier Corporation

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.

May 1, 2020

14 Trends Mobile App Designers Should Remember To Improve UX

User experience is one of the most important considerations for an app designer—particularly a designer addressing the unique challenges presented by mobile devices. Using the right design strategies and remembering to incorporate the latest UX trends can boost an app’s usability and popularity, as well as your company’s bottom line.

Below, 14 experts from Forbes Technology Council share the UX trends that mobile app designers should be focusing on.

1. Offering A Well-Rounded Experience

I think it all has to be about the end-to-end user experience. The user shouldn’t know if they are dealing with the front end or the back end as long as they can consume resources and accomplish what they are trying to do. - Haim GlickmanSungard Availability Services Limited

2. Using Open-Source Toolkits

By leveraging one of the many open-source toolkits to build hybrid applications, you are building on top of functionality that is battle-tested by the technology community. Even better, you can staff an engineering team capable of building an application that reuses components across iOS/Android, phones and tablets, and even the Web. It’s maximum productivity. - John BelloneSS&C Health

3. Leveraging PWA Tech

Thanks to progressive Web application (PWA) technology, developers can distribute their apps outside app stores and directly from their Web pages. PWA can deliver native-like capabilities without the need to develop separate apps for different stores. Most notably, developers can save on app store commissions (up to 30%) and share such savings with their users. - Ahmad (Al) FaresCeliTech Inc.

4. Including Portrait And Landscape Views

Ensuring that your app is designed to accommodate both portrait and landscape views allows users to orient their device for maximum visibility in the way that works best for them. This flexibility in experience design increases satisfaction and delight and helps maximize adoption among users. - Amy CzuchlewskiBottle Rocket

5. Focusing On Consistency

Consistency is key across your mobile app—for example, every feature is three or fewer touches/clicks from the point of logging in. Such consistency directs the user to quickly achieve their task and hence raises their productivity. - Ayman ShoukrySpecright Inc.

6. Enhancing Accessibility

Accessibility should become an essential part of mobile app development out of empathy alone. Otherwise, we would fail to reach close to 15% of the world’s population. Furthermore, embracing accessibility drives innovation. It forces developers to understand apps from a whole different perspective, leading us to new and inclusive ways of interacting with software applications. - Nacho De MarcoBairesDev

7. Adding Interactive Features

I would say a combination of several things will be trendy: animated illustrations, video content, storytelling and gamification. Users expect applications to be interactive, and we are going in a direction where video will be one of the main ways to deliver content to users. - Boris KontsevoiIntetics Inc.

8. Featuring Image-Based Controls

As mobile screens are getting bigger, their viewing experiences vary, too. Users are expecting an image-based rather than text-based experience to simplify their orientation. Smart UX designers will enable users to search and navigate using more intuitive image-based controls while eliminating the menu clutter. - Liat ZakayDonde Search

9. Enabling Dark Mode

Light has such a significant effect on our bodies—it changes our sleeping patterns, the way our brains work and more. By giving people the power to use dark mode on a mobile app you give them a way to turn off the light and still stay online (which we know they’ll do anyway.) Better still, give them the option to have it switch on and off based on their local time so they don’t have to change it manually. - Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

10. Designing For All Users

Inclusive design is becoming more and more critical. In the past, designers thought about meeting accessibility requirements to meet legal requirements (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act). That’s table stakes in mobile apps and no longer enough to be successful. The next opportunity is to design for all users. - Nelson CicchittoAvatier Corporation

11. Mimicking A Conversational Experience

Mobile apps have been developed as a separate channel for consumers when it comes to the business-to-consumer industry. Given the push toward an omnichannel, universal experience, a mobile app needs to mimic real-life experiences—for example, when ordering a coffee at a cafe, it includes a conversation with the cashier. A mobile app needs to mimic a similar real-life experience so it seems less technical and more human. - Tanvir BhangooFreshii Inc.

12. Creating Shared Experiences

A lot of professional work and personal dialogue is moving online, especially now with the quarantine in effect. Therefore, the user experience should be envisioned as being for more than the individual. Today, technology is becoming inherently more social, and its evolution is needed now more than ever. Tech must be mobilized to create products and shared experiences that society can benefit from. - Alexandro PandoXyrupt Technologies

13. Ensuring It’s Fun And Engaging

You want your app to be fun and engaging—something that lights up those pleasure centers in the user’s brain whenever they open it. One way to achieve this is by integrating animation. Even simple microinteractions and active menu item animations can make your app easier and more fun to use while giving it a polished, high-tech feel. - Ron CogburnExela Technologies

14. Incorporating Auditor And/Or User Feedback

Testing your assumptions is a “trend” that never fades, and for good reason—it’s one of the fastest, most effective ways to figure out if your designs are solving problems or creating more. Whether it’s bringing in a UX researcher to audit your app or giving early access to your intended audience, this type of feedback is crucial to formulating a more engaging, relevant user experience. - Marc FischerDogtown Media LLC

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.

April 15, 2020

The Experience-Driven Economy and its Implications for Businesses

Calvin Carter, Founder and CEO of digital experience consultancy Bottle Rocket, comments on the importance of developing a first-class user experience in the fast-moving digital marketplace and how this is imperative for future customer loyalty.


THE RISE OF THE CONNECTED CUSTOMER

Digital disruption has changed the way businesses operate forever. The explosion of digital connection points has created a whole new type of consumer, the almighty Connected Customer, who exhibits behaviour that is significantly different than any type of customer that has existed before. Their use of digital media such as apps, websites, and voice assistants drives their interaction with brands as a part of their normal everyday lives. This new norm, we refer to as the Connected Lifestyle, dictates how brands need to show up to be relevant in their heavily digital worlds. And to make it even more challenging for brands, this new breed of customer knows exactly what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

However, this does not necessarily mean the Connected Customer favours market leading brands. Instead, they favour simple, enjoyable experiences and interactions that make their lives easier or better. Once these consumers have a positive digital experience with a brand, that becomes their expectation for all experiences going forward, and they will not hesitate to switch brands if this cannot be matched.

This year, customer experience is set to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator[1], therefore if companies want to set themselves apart, they must focus on serving the customer — but in a whole new way than companies are used to. The new way to serve a customer is to fit inside of their Connected Lifestyle. If you can’t deliver experiences expected by their lifestyle, you’re out.


PUTTING INFORMATION IN THE HANDS OF CUSTOMERS

Within this experience-driven economy, you must remember that the digital journey may be a company’s only link to their customers. Brands must be willing to act differently by bringing convenience, and effectively your entire business, into the consumers’ hands. In return, the Connected Customer is likely to be the most valuable customer to your business, with larger spending averages and higher levels of advocacy. This will produce undeniable value for forward-looking businesses.


EXPERIENCE MATTERS

The vast amount of choice available for customers in all areas of their lives means that now is the time to take action. And while experience is the most important investment a business can make right now, a recent survey revealed that 90 percent of brands are still failing to meet customer experience expectations[2]. So, how are companies getting it so wrong?

Four out of five consumers agree that brands who know their customers best will earn their loyalty[3]. Businesses need to avoid overcomplicating the user experience and instead start taking the time to get it right. Take the success of Chick-fil-A One, as a great example of engaging the Connected Customer.

A dominant player in the U.S. fast food sector, Chick-fil-A found that frequent long lines resulted in lost sales as customers turned away. The kitchen was able to operate far faster than the front of house could take orders, so Chick-fil-A developed a mobile ordering and loyalty app called Chick-fil-A One to help eliminate customer frustration and create efficiencies for the business.

Not only did Chick-fil-A One allow customers to skip the line, it also allowed customers to easily personalize their order resulting in over 20 percent increase in their average ticket price illustrating the fact that 67 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience[4]. Re-ordering is also super simple, which increases frequency of purchases. The “surprise and delight” loyalty program allowed Chick-fil-A to offer new items to customers to try, for free, expanding a customer’s discovery of different menu items. New service designs married changes to their physical restaurants to support the Connected Lifestyle such as new drive through, pickup, curbside delivery and beacons that allow customers to receive table service. This new level of Connected Lifestyle experience successfully encouraged users to advocate for the brand and set a high expectation for all competing future experiences.


MAKING EVERY INTERACTION COUNT

Across all industries, it’s proven that Connected Customers respond well to Digital Customer Experiences (DCX) that are simple, personalized, and frictionless. And their expectations will continue to grow. With 53 percent of consumers looking forward to artificial intelligence (AI) making brand interactions a better experience[5], and more and more customer/brand interactions happening digitally, companies will need to continue to use various technologies to achieve meaningful connections with customers. By tracking data analytics and customer pain-points, businesses can build technology-enabled solutions that propel businesses and delight customers.

In the end, simplifying your brand experience is the most important thing you can do for your business because simple drives enjoyment, enjoyment drives engagement, and engagement drives revenue. It’s easy to make things that are hard, but it’s hard to make things that are easy. Companies need to double down on being easier to work with by fitting into their customers’ Connected Lifestyle.

This article was published in Engage CX Marketing

April 13, 2020

10 Top Tips For Small Businesses Looking To Improve Their Mobile Apps

From communicating with their target audience to promoting and selling their products and services, companies are using mobile applications to improve their marketing and sales strategies while offering an enhanced customer experience. A well-designed mobile app can give a small business an edge in competing against larger companies in its industry.

Building a successful mobile app comes with unique challenges, and the fast pace of technological advancements can quickly change customer expectations. However, making changes to your company’s mobile app without a plan or customer input can lead to headaches for developers and users alike. Below, 10 professionals from Forbes Technology Council share their top tips for renovating your business’ mobile app.

1. Keep It Simple And Relevant

A mobile app is meant to make the user’s journey simpler and mobile-centric with much less friction. As you invest in mobile marketing and customer acquisition, users will download your app but will only use it if it is simple and relevant. Remember that the average smartphone user engages with no more than 30 apps per month! - Ahmad (Al) FaresCeliTech Inc.

2. Drive Customer Value

Evaluate your existing app to see where customers are getting the most value, then look to expand those capabilities and drive even more value. Loyalty is hard to drive through just an app, but an app can build a valuable touchpoint that gives your customer something that helps you stand out from the crowd. Stay customer-focused, and you’ll see success. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

3. Audit Your User Experience

If a business wants to improve mobile app adoption and performance, it should bring in a UX expert. Have them complete an audit of your app. This allows them to pinpoint areas for improvement. Examples include simplifying user flows, changing color schemes and adjusting font and button sizes. These all play a role in making your product more engaging and relevant to your customers. - Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

4. Improve App Store Discovery Chances

To reach the highest number of people, improve the chances of discovery within the app store. Small businesses need to study who the customers are and understand their needs. It’s beneficial to know the top language they use, the unique selling proposition and demographic info. Choose the correct app name and a tagline that quickly and accurately describe who you are and what you do at a first glance. - Ashwini Choudhary, Recogni

5. Develop A Future-Forward Mindset

Develop a future-forward mindset to improve mobile app adoption and performance. Use open standards like HTML to power individual solutions, as they can be adapted more quickly to accommodate future needs. Using progressive Web apps that appear like native mobile apps also helps enable server-side rendering to ensure compatibility with future platforms. - Robert Weissgraeber, AX Semantics

6. Create A Branded User Interface

Customers may not like your app because it doesn’t match the experience they have with the rest of your brand. Use the same language, tone, colors and logo as the rest of your brand. Keep it updated on the same schedule as the rest of your branding to show customers you care about them there too. - Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

7. Leverage Push Notifications

Consider whether you need a dedicated mobile app or simply a responsive Web application that adapts for mobile use. Often, the biggest difference is that the dedicated apps can take advantage of features of the mobile operating system for better user experience. Push notifications, in particular, are often very useful to improve the adoption rate and performance of mobile apps. - Steve Pao, Hillwork, LLC

8. Check Online Reviews From App Users

Balance your ideas for improved performance with direct feedback from end users. Specifically, I suggest regularly reading online reviews from app users. When an app’s feature fails to perform, users are usually quite vocal about the problem. This end-user feedback will help you prioritize features that matter to users. - Nelson Cicchitto, Avatier Corporation

9. Implement Efficient Messaging Tools

Make sure to implement efficient messaging tools: saved and automated replies, 24/7 communication, integrations with WhatsApp, and more. In the current climate of COVID-19, every business should be utilizing frequent communication to keep users updated with any news or policies they need to know about. If needed, rely on software providers that can send updates to your users automatically. - Omer Rabin, Guesty

10. Serve Content From The Cloud

The life of mobile apps for businesses is surprisingly short. To keep a high level of customer engagement over a sustained period of time apps need to be constantly updated with new, relevant content so that customers keep coming back. Keep the app lightweight and serve the content from the cloud so that downloads are fast and updates are even faster. Include a “feedback” capability! - Gavin FinnKaon Interactive, Inc.

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.

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