December 20, 2020

The What, When, Where and Why of App Clips

App Clips is set to change how a business’s brand shows up digitally for its customers. App Clips will, in essence, allow users to have a native app experience available in critically contextual moments without requiring a download from the app store.

So now I’ve got you thinking: “What could I do with this type of opportunity? What are the key activities that users do in our app that could be offered up in this manner?” Hold that thought. We’ll get back to that in a bit. 

First Things First, What Are App Clips?

App Clips are “clips,” or parts of a full native app, that are exposed to users via almost any touchpoint that can distribute a URL. They contain a specific flow and are meant to enable users to conduct discrete pieces of business when those bits of business are most relevant. They can be accessed via QR codes, map cards in Apple Maps, links in iChat, web links in the Safari browser, NFC touchpoints, and Apple’s new proprietary Clip Codes, which combine the utility of QR codes and NFC. As of this past September 16, iOS 14 became available to download.

App Clips are one of the most important advancements to come to mobile from Apple in multiple technology generations. As more and more brands enable this solution, users will come to expect these functionalities throughout the physical environments where they eat, shop, vacation, get educated and relax. Adapting to their existence will be critical for brands to be on the forefront of mobile technology in the short term, but they will become table stakes very quickly.

When Might an App Clip Make Sense for My Business? 

A business may wish to consider developing and releasing an App Clip when it has a component in its app that has high context and utility or is very useful in a specific place. Experiences like ordering or purchasing outside the home, signing up for loyalty programs after transactions, ordering services at a table or other location, checking in to a place, or controlling a secondary device like a room lock or an internet connected device are all very likely candidates for exposure via an App Clip. If a business has seen fit to develop a function in its app and it is dependent upon context, it’s worth giving it a good long look with App Clips in mind.

And let’s not forget positioning is critical. An App Clip is, essentially, a call to action one step removed from the device, so users need to know why they would want to interact with it. Businesses need to ask two critical questions: What functions do they want to expose, and where do they place access points?

Determining function is a matter of understanding the value a brand provides its customers. What are the main value propositions of the business, and how is that value accessed through its app? The most critical and context-dependent elements of a business’s app are prime candidates for exposure.

Where Might an App Clip Be Helpful for My Consumers? 

When a business has decided what functions in its app it wants to expose, it should then consider the context where that function is most useful. Is that function most useful in transit to that business’s location? Placing a link in the business’s card in Apple Maps is probably the best way to go. Will users need to interact with a piece of hardware in the physical place of business, such as a kiosk, a lock, a locker or other device that wants some level of authentication or personalization? Then a Clip Code, QR Code or NFC touchpoint is the way forward. Perhaps a business wants to extend purchasing capabilities or enable loyalty interactions after purchase? Clip Codes located near the merchandise in question or NFC touchpoints at Point of Sale may be the ticket. If a business needs to leverage physical marketing in a specific place to enable interactions or purchasing, Clip Codes are the answer.

In the hierarchy of personalization, an app installed on a user’s device is the gold standard for brands seeking to interact with their customers digitally. It’s a generally acknowledged fact of commerce that a known customer is more valuable to a company than an unknown one, but customers at a point of sale are typically disinclined to stop and fill out paperwork, and they don’t always enter into a transaction having already joined that brand’s loyalty program.

Why Would My Brand Want to Create an App Clip?

By leveraging an App Clip as a part of a mobile-pay or ordering flow at the point of sale or even the point of browse — a new moment enabled by digital extensions attached to products — businesses can transition easily into a loyalty signup experience that is enabled as long as the clip persists on the user’s device. Given that clips persist for at least eight hours, users can re-engage at their leisure, and businesses will even have access to a special class of notification to assist with reuptake.

Brands also gain access to greater demographic and analytic data about the efficacy of their marketing and the associated utilitarian aspects of their app.

QR codes are an early and, let’s be frank, unattractive means of extending the physical into the digital. In typical Apple form, Clip Codes are their answer to QR’s limitations. Clip Codes, at the very least, do no harm to a brand’s marketing materials and enable greater utility than the brochureware on a website typically attached to QR codes. This is only true if brands ensure their marketing materials are explicit in the value and utility they advertise, and they deliver on that promise. If the brand has cleared that hurdle, then attaching precision analytics to that well-formed marketing is the logical next step.

Businesses need to ensure they track not only conversion rates of unknown to known users, but also pay attention to how often they enable even anonymous commerce. The right of users to engage in commerce anonymously is fast becoming something brands ignore at their extreme peril.

The following is my personal philosophy, and reasonable and intelligent professionals can and do disagree: It is more important to enable utility and commerce than it is to harvest user data or convert an anonymous user to a member of a brand’s loyalty program. The frictional overhead introduced by demanding user information as a condition of access is anathema to the design principle underlying App Clips. Apple explicitly contraindicates login or signup as a condition of use, and the zeitgeist is generally opposed to personal and demographic information as the coin of the realm at this time.

In summary…

All that is to say, provide utility and value first, and conversions will come. Users that have a good experience with a brand and feel like they got use out of its App Clips will retain the clip on their device longer with re-use and are more likely to convert to full users and permanent members of that brand’s user base over time. 

This article was published in the December 2020 issue of InBusiness Magazine.

December 17, 2020

16 Smart Ways For Tech Teams To Stay Ahead Of Industry Trends

Technology is one of the fastest-moving industries out there. The expectation to stay on top of the latest trends creates sizable responsibilities for every tech department. It’s not about just meeting deadlines—it’s about keeping up with the speed of technology.

As new trends emerge daily, it’s important your tech team stays on top of developments. Below, 14 members of Forbes Technology Council give their best tips for staying ahead of the curve in the ever-changing technology sector.

1. Look into new tech tools used in your industry.

I encourage my team to stay open to new technology. When a sales representative reaches out to us about new software, we don’t immediately discard the email because we have another system in place. When we notice a competitor using a new tool, we look into it. By being willing to question the way things are done and look for areas of improvement, we can continually innovate and improve. - Thierry Schellenbach, Stream - Chat & Activity Feed APIs

2. Focus on tech that enables growth.

It’s important to step back and realize that it’s not always about adopting the latest and greatest technology. Instead, focus on technology that enables your business growth. Prioritize developing new features that support that new revenue stream, but do it under an upgraded modern architecture and in a way that will accelerate future platform upgrades. - Ruchi Goyal, Accenture

3. Be sure you know what your customers are looking for.

We talk to our customers and partners—a lot. We hear what their short- and long-term plans are and bake those requirements into our product backlog. We also develop and test fast. Using the “MVP” mindset, we quickly build and invest in the next generation of certain capabilities and test them in the market to see what sticks. - Chetan Mathur, Next Pathway

4. Have team members rotate in a weekly ‘show and tell.’

Every week, have one of the team members do a “show and tell” of something new they’ve seen in the industry, whether it’s a new framework, new library, new system being developed, etc. That always starts a conversation and keeps the team members looking for new ideas and developing new skills. - Jeff Rubenstein, Kaltura

5. Share news stories among the team.

Our team constantly shares articles and news over Slack. Giving employees the chance to attend user conferences and creating an open environment for knowledge sharing is critical to pushing the team to think about how to stay on the bleeding edge. We also strongly believe that the best way to evaluate new technology is to make time for a quick proof of concept. - Sanjoy Malik, Urjanet

6. Evaluate your data.

Teams should evaluate data that measure the customer experience to continuously increase value. Using automation, teams can analyze this data, categorize it and surface relevant information to quickly find solutions to customer-impacting issues. Teams that leverage this approach remain ahead of the curve because it means they can focus on innovation over remediation. - Phil Tee, Moogsoft

7. Follow industry thought leaders.

It’s important to be connected with thought leaders in the industry. Before Covid-19, this came from attending conferences, but now that attendance needs to be replaced or supplemented. I highly recommend signing up for industry newsletters and doing proactive outreach to vendors that used to sponsor conferences in the past. They are still doing great work; you just have to dig a little. - Joaquin Lippincott, Metal Toad

8. Incentivize continuing education.

Schedule ongoing training sessions around new skills and tools. A regular tech employee should know how to code as well as implement html into assignments. Once they have the structural foundation, you can add to their repertoire by funding and incentivizing their education. As a bonus, this means your company provides regular benefits and remains relevant within the tech world. - Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales

9. Tap into industry information resources.

Subscribe to several different sources to keep up with recent advancements in the tech industry, especially those sources that provide an expert opinion on the subject matter. Then, constantly connect your internal teams with the latest tech trends and developments they should take advantage of. - Henry Peter, Ushur

10. Develop a technical marketing team.

We always use our technical marketing team. This team engages customers, press, technical journals, etc. to understand where technology is headed and our customers’ plans. From this, they put together a marketing requirement document that is given to the engineering team, who then interprets the information and works with marketing to develop an engineering roadmap. - Jay MarshallEyeLock LLC

11. Have team members lead lunch-and-learns.

I hold weekly brown-bag sessions with the team in which one of the members talks about a new topic and educates the whole team. This session allows us to learn and discuss new trends and see how we can utilize them in our company. We also regularly share news articles and talks, and I encourage team members to attend conferences and webinars and present what they learn to the whole team. - Amit Ojha

12. Establish personal development goals for each team member.

I coach people to look at personal development in terms of swim lanes that you establish at the beginning of the year and break down to monthly and quarterly actionable items. This can be technology to be learned, soft skills to improve and/or anything in between. Growth does not happen by accident—establishing a balanced yearly plan ensures alignment and palpable results. - Danny Acuna

13. Feed team members’ passion for their craft.

Loving the craft of technology isn’t just about doing projects but being immersed in the world and driving solutions outside the office walls. Be a part of the community via Meetups or Github projects. Read what’s going on and actively contribute to the community that’s building the future. Passion for the craft is key. - Tim Kulp, Mind Over Machines

14. Give team members time to attend conferences.

It’s important to give employees time to learn new technologies even if they aren’t able to use them directly in their day-to-day work. One way to do this is to allow employees to attend conferences and share what they’ve learned with the team. This can help infuse a learning culture that keeps everyone’s skills current. - Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket

15. Stay active in the open-source community.

We encourage our developers to actively participate in the open-source community by making parts of our codebase open as well as contributing to the projects that we use ourselves. The open-source community is what starts or adopts most of the new trends, so being part of it keeps us in the loop. - Sanket Saurav, DeepSource

16. Start a study and discussion program.

Having a study and outreach meeting program will help your team stay ahead of the trends. Each team member should spend one to two hours a month reading, learning and evaluating industry-leading tech that may impact their business. Once a month, everyone brings their findings and discusses them as a team in a roundtable session with leadership, which can lead to the exploration of certain tech if needed. - Tanvir BhangooTBX Digital Inc.

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

December 15, 2020

Build A Diverse Tech Team That Mirrors Your Audience With These 13 Strategies

The benefits of a diverse tech team are many, but one of the most compelling is that the team building tech should reflect the diversity of those who will be using it. This connects the development team with the audience on a fundamental level and ensures end-users’ true needs and wants are met. 

Below, 13 tech leaders from Forbes Technology Council share valuable tips on building a diverse tech team to provide a comprehensive reflection of the company’s target audience.

1. Get ‘cultural permission to change.’

Building a diverse team begins with something I call the “cultural permission to change.” This means that when leaders set a precedent for transformation, they give their people permission to seek out new opportunities to drive innovation across the organization. Cultural permission unleashes diverse perspectives, new ideas and innovative potential to meet changing customer needs. - Jeff Wong, EY

2. Be mindful when building your team.

We’ve learned to go about building our tech teams with mindfulness, in the same way we approach our AI projects. By applying a mindful filter to all our solutions, we keep the goals, thoughts and even emotions of our end-users in mind. This has a remarkable way of ensuring we deliver “lovable” experiences for those clients—and it includes incorporating diversity into our approach. - Ahmer Inam, Pactera EDGE

3. Seek expertise from outside the usual talent pool.

Deliberately seek expertise from outside the usual talent pool and cross-pollinate expertise. For example, when building a business-to-business product, include tech resources who have experience building business-to-consumer products, or when designing a domain-specific product, seek talents who embrace new thinking in the areas of AI, blockchain and cybersecurity. Ensure prototypes are tested with the target groups, and re-jig as needed. - Kumar Ritesh, CYFIRMA

4. Hire where the talent is.

Elastic is a company that is distributed by design so we can infuse our tech team with different cultures and points of view by hiring employees in any location. This distributed ethos helps ensure the company remains diverse and benefits from some of the most capable talent the world has to offer. - Kim Huffman, Elastic

5. Purposefully tap into specific talent pools.

We have partnered very deliberately with the National Society of Black Engineers, and we have three new recruits from a career fair of theirs that we participated in recently. It’s very possible to source talent, purposefully, from specific pools. - Tony Safoian, SADA Systems

6. Leverage internal ‘crowdsourcing.’

One strategy for building a truly diverse tech team is to consider internal “crowdsourcing.” We see organizational structures starting to flatten and ideas becoming democratized in many industries, and one way to accelerate that is to encourage it internally. When we canvass all of our stakeholders—which tech lets us do now at the speed of light—we see a good reflection of our target audience. - J. Tyler Rohrer, Liquidware

7. Create an actionable diversity plan.

Make diversity and inclusion a core company value and reinforce it across your strategy, ops and people. Having a strategy isn’t enough. You need an actionable plan and metrics that measure the impact of your efforts. We have four company values that guide us in creating a workplace where all employees are empowered: “Be an Owner,” “Obsess over Users and Enterprises,” “Execute Thoughtfully with Speed,” and “Cultivate D&I.” - Chet Kapoor, DataStax

8. Eliminate cross-functional silos.

Hiring team members of different genders, socioeconomic conditions and educational backgrounds is the first step; however, you can truly make an impact when diversity is ingrained in your decision-making processes. Tear down cross-functional silos. Involve people from other parts of the business with different opinions in the product decision-making process starting early on and continuing through the design and discovery sessions. - Meeta Dash, Verta.ai

9. Strive to be fully customer-centric.

Customers will always keep you honest, so ensure customer-centricity runs through your tech organization. It will both broaden and deepen the thought process and force not only your tech team, but your entire company, to more closely mirror the diverse needs and thinking of the customers you serve. It is how we are able to accommodate tens of thousands of hotels across the globe. - Sankar Narayan, SiteMinder

10. Interview how you want to hire.

Any time you want to make a team a reflection of some demographic group, the best way to ensure that happens is by starting with the candidates you interview. For a simplified example, if you want a team that is 50% female and 50% male you must start by interviewing as many men as women. Your target will be more complex, and so should your list of candidates. - Chris Grundemann, Myriad360

11. Set diversity goals, and measure results often.

The value of a diverse and inclusive team can’t be understated, but it can take some time to get it right. It’s important to set goals and measure how you’re doing along the way. Create hiring strategies such as partnering with local community organizations or participating in career fairs. Last and most critical, build an inclusive culture so that you can retain all your great new talent! - Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket

12. Foster an accepting environment.

To build a diverse team, you need to make sure you are fostering an environment where different perspectives and backgrounds are embraced. It’s important this starts from the top down, with leadership driving the charge by creating educational opportunities, training and emphasis on employee enrichment programs. - Andrew Jornod, VertexOne

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.

December 3, 2020

11 Game-Changing Reasons To Monitor Your Website Traffic

Big data” has become more than just a buzzword. With the right analytics, data can yield valuable insights to help a business identify its audience, improve the customer experience, boost sales and more. A particularly telling but sometimes overlooked source of data for a business is its website.

Monitoring website traffic and page views can yield a variety of data, including time spent on particular pages and bounce rates. Those figures can translate into invaluable insights about your customer base and actions your business can take to improve performance. We consulted 11 experts from Forbes Technology Council for their advice on what you can learn and accomplish by delving into the data from your business’ website.

1. To Flag Changes In Trends Or Cultural Signals

Many companies have a wealth of data that just sits there. Monitoring Web traffic, impressions and page view data to flag changes in trends or cultural signals can help in shaping strategies to future-proof businesses. We monitor traffic across channels and use the data for a range of things, including conversion optimization, user experience, targeted campaigns and product development. - Saba Mohebpour, Spocket

2. To Optimize For Sources You’re Not Seeing

Look at where your traffic is coming from. It can drive strategies regarding regions to focus on, industries to target or even languages to translate your content into. It can also tell you if you need to optimize more for sources you’re not seeing. You’ll probably find some fun surprises, and you’ll learn how the world sees your business. It’s always great to have an outside perspective. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

3. To See Where Customers Are On Their Journey

The paths visitors take through your website provide valuable insights into where they are on their buying journey. If you can tie Web traffic trends to user stories, it becomes much easier to spot and act upon anomalies. For example, if the same visitor has viewed a product every business day for three weeks and suddenly stops doing so without making a purchase, you’ve probably missed out on a sale. - Jennifer Redmon, Cisco Systems

4. To Identify Consumer Interests And Preferences

Data is insightful when we look at it from different perspectives (or “dimensions,” as we call them in the data world). The same rule applies to Web traffic/page view data: By slicing and dicing the data you gain insight into who is most interested in what. It matters because the more you know your audience, the higher the chances you’ll stay relevant to your market and succeed. - Arman Eshraghi, Qrvey

5. To Create An Efficient Content Plan

Creating a content plan is not a simple task. But it can be made easier if you analyze the data gathered from your website. Tracking the traffic will help you better understand what content is sought after by your audience and what you should focus on in the future. The more you analyze the traffic and the audience, the easier coming up with an excellent and working content plan will be. - Daria Leshchenko, SupportYourApp Inc.

6. To Understand Your Engagement Level

Website analytics are key to monitoring and understanding the pathways potential customers take through your site. It will highlight if they are engaging with your calls to action or if they are leaving quickly or are unable to find key resources. Ultimately, having lots of visitors to your website is pointless if they don’t engage and they leave empty-handed, so use data to refine your site experience. - Al Kingsley, NetSupport Limited

7. To Pinpoint Your Website’s Weaknesses

Web traffic and page view data can shine a light on your website’s weaknesses from a marketing standpoint. In turn, this elucidates potential solutions to problems you may have not been aware of otherwise. For instance, are you seeing several visitors dropping off your contact page? Then maybe it needs a revamp. These insights may be subtle, but they can make all the difference. - Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

8. To Improve Key Decision-Making

While parsing through mountains of data might be a frustrating exercise, even worse is making decisions without any data at all. It’s impossible to definitively say what feature should be worked on next or where users are bouncing from your site/platform/app without data. This is a linchpin for a lot of other spending decisions—marketing effectiveness, user interface/user experience, product roadmap—you name it! - Cecile Lee, Trendalytics

9. To Enhance Your Customer Experience

That data is your customers talking to you—use it to make their experience better. A company can use data to adapt its website to maximize conversion rates, determine if a marketing campaign is driving new users and ascertain whether a particular change has led to an increase in time spent on the site. Without proper analytics, you would be running blind. - Fabrizio Blanco, Viant Technology

10. To Optimize Marketing Budgets

Companies invest a significant amount of money in media outreach and press efforts to drive visitors to their website. By monitoring Web traffic/page view data, teams can identify where the return on these investments is best maximized. With this information, one can optimize budgets to improve efficiency. - Ashwini Choudhary, Recogni

This article was published on Forbes.com

December 2, 2020

11 Tech Pros Share Their Best Tips For Writing Better Code

Those fresh to programming may know the languages and rules but lack the experience that leads to creating cleaner, more efficient code. A few years in the trenches writing, checking and debugging code—and seeing what others produce—can help developers learn some helpful tricks to write code that’s easier to update, debug and pass on. 

Luckily, new developers don’t have to wait years to learn some real pro tips. Below, 11 industry experts from Forbes Technology Council share their best advice on how new programmers can create more refined, efficient code.

1. Begin with the end in mind.

The biggest thing to remember when it comes to creating cleaner code is to begin with the end in mind. Whether you’re building an online ordering website for a restaurant chain or an app for back-of-house operations, programmers must understand the end-use case. This ensures the code is built to allow it to scale and be robust enough for different use cases that may come up during future pivots. - Tanvir BhangooTBX Digital Inc.

2. Study other developers’ code.

Don’t be afraid to learn from other people’s code—especially experienced developers. Understanding common design patterns for frameworks is generally a good next step once you’ve begun to grasp language and syntax fundamentals. Avoid bringing patterns and habits with you from other environments, as these tricks may be less efficient, especially across dynamically and statically typed languages. - Jack Mannino, nVisium

3. Adopt test-driven development.

Adopting test-driven development, in which you write a unit test before writing code, takes some getting used to, but it helps drive a cleaner and simpler design. For me, it took about a week to get used to it, but now I could never go back. Writing the test first forces me to think about what I want the code to do, and it keeps the code simple. This helps reduce complexity and cost. - Dave Todaro, Ascendle

4. Make it as simple as possible.

Simplify. Edit your code and then edit it again to pull out any excessive lines. The same rule applies to writing. You can probably accomplish your programming goal with half the lines of code that you develop on your first run. Having fewer lines of code produces a more resilient product. - Suzanne Russo, Pecan Street Inc.

5. First make it right, then make it fast.

Focusing on efficiency too early in the process will lead to code that’s hard to read and incorrect. Also, the code needs to be maintained over time by yourself and other engineers, so make sure you leave enough comments in key pieces of the code. - Fabrizio Blanco, Viant Technology

6. Don’t overlook security.

Fresh programmers tend to focus only on “making it work,” but not learning to code securely is a bad habit with horrible consequences in the long run. Make sure you learn the security guidelines needed to develop secure applications, such as the OWASP TOP 10. - Jaime ManteigaTapTok & Venkon Corp.

7. Break your code into smaller files.

If you have a thousand lines of code in a single file, you’re asking for trouble whenever you add a new team member. Smaller files are easier to understand and are likely more reusable. Testing, documentation and even code reviews are simpler when everything isn’t in one large file. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

8. Review open-source projects and contribute if possible.

The nature of open-source projects fosters better collaboration and communication and easier-to-understand code by design. There’s no need to come up with elegant solutions that make it harder for the next person to comprehend. Much like an author catering to the widest possible audience, try to write code at a fifth-grade reading level. - Chris Sullivan, Castellum.AI

9. Leverage automated scanning tools.

The use of automatic security and syntax scanning tools enables your developers to quickly and easily identify and fix common issues that crop up during the software development lifecycle. These tools can be included as part of the continuous integration process as a gate to adhere to strict code quality prior to releasing to production. - John Bellone, SS&C Health

10. Volunteer to review code.

With more teams using Agile, code reviews are happening more frequently. Still, many agile teams do not review code at all or only review one piece of code per sprint. Volunteer for the code review. No one likes being the center of a code review, but it is a great way to learn and get some peer respect. - David Moise, Decide Consulting

11. Practice, practice, practice.

Remember that “practice makes perfect.” I do not believe that there is a shortcut to gaining more experience in technology; one has to put in the hours to gain efficiency. My mentor used to say, “The more I practiced, the luckier I got.” As a security professional, I encourage new developers to perform static analysis on their code to identify any known vulnerabilities prior to deployment. - Bob Fabien ZingaDirectly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

This article was published on Forbes.com

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