January 22, 2021

15 Digital Payment Upgrades That Would Improve The Customer Experience

Digital payment methods have seen increasing use in the past few years, and with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumer adoption has skyrocketed. In addition to convenience, digital payments offer contactless transactions—a safety feature many consumers are looking for.

With most purchases still happening online and more physical stores adding digital payment options, it’s a system that’s here to stay. Below, 15 tech experts from Forbes Technology Council look at the ways digital payment technology can be improved to cement its usage and improve the customer experience.

1. Standardize and secure payment options across the globe.

Digital payments need to be more secure and more widespread. In rich Western countries, digital payment solutions are common, but the potential for fraud is still high. In other countries, digital payment solutions are not available, so we need to improve the adoption of standard payments worldwide. - Gabriel Cian, Prestaleads

2. Make them easier to use.

Just as the best shoes are those you don’t feel when you’re wearing them, the best payment technology is invisible. The digital payment experience should be optimized by minimizing the effort needed to use the technology. A good example is the one-click purchase introduced by Amazon. It’s so crucial that the company tried to patent the technology. - Dmitri Lisitski, Influ2

3. Add more payment options to ‘unlock’ access to capital.

Increasing the number of payment options available and including alternatives such as loyalty points are two essential steps. This has the benefit of decreasing friction, increasing convenience and boosting the level of consumer engagement. Providing alternative payment options gives consumers access to capital that would otherwise have been “locked,” thus improving CX and increasing usage. - Len Covello, Engage People Inc.

4. Ensure compatibility across devices.

Payment technology can be improved by adding compatibility across devices. People use different brands of smartphones, computers and tablets to make payments. This can create complications when certain websites and apps work better on iPhones versus Androids or the Google Pixel. See what you can do to reduce potential barriers so that more customers will use the specific technology. - Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales

5. Allow consumers to set transaction amount limits.

One way digital payment technology could be improved is by allowing consumers to set transaction limits per vendor. To combat online fraud or unauthorized use of a digital payment platform, it would be advantageous for a consumer to be able to specify the maximum amount a specific merchant can charge their account—with the option of increasing the limit as needed. - Bob Fabien ZingaDirectly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

6. Leverage QR codes.

QR codes have been facilitating new ways of “touchless” digital payments, thus minimizing the spread of viruses such as Covid-19. Offered by leading payment companies like PayPal and Stripe, QR codes are expected to be adopted further as they improve the user experience while also providing a safer way of in-person payments at any point of sale. - Ahmad (Al) Fares, Celitech - Cellular Data Platform

7. Prioritize customer safety.

Ensure proper security measures are in place to prevent security threats. Anticipating potential data breaches and prioritizing the safety of customers making purchases across e-commerce and mobile applications ensure a positive customer experience. It saves them the headache of worrying about their data being stolen. - Joseph Feiman, WhiteHat Security

8. Enable biometric authentication.

Customers want secure payment processing, and business owners need to protect sensitive customer data. Biometric authentication addresses both concerns through fingerprint scans, facial recognition, iris recognition and heartbeat analysis. Biometric authentication prevents identity theft and fraud, which can increase consumer confidence and lead to greater digital payment usage over time. - Roland Icard, Simply iCard Consulting Inc.

9. Adopt remote, video-based authentication.

Banks, insurance agencies and governments cannot conduct significant operations with just passwords or digital signatures. Widespread adaptation of reliable remote, video-based authentication of the person involved will be needed to avoid fraud. - Tsvi Lev, NEC Corporation

10. Provide passwordless authentication.

Over 30% of online shopping carts are abandoned due to lost or forgotten passwords. This is a huge problem for the e-commerce industry, particularly during Covid-19. The adoption of passwordless authentication would aid in a more secure and frictionless process for customers and therefore, more sales for merchants. It’s a win-win. - Arshad Noor, StrongKey

11. Implement one-time passcodes.

As people are starting to prefer making digital payments over handling cash, consider the role that mobile plays in your plan. When consumers make digital payments with their mobile devices, one-time passcodes can easily be delivered for an additional layer of security. This protects companies and consumers’ information and leads to secure transactions and increased customer trust. - Andrea Giacomini, Mitto

12. Incorporate automation.

One way to enhance the customer experience is to incorporate automation so that the process is completely touchless from end to end. If we’ve learned anything from our new remote environment, it’s that reliance on paper-based processes is not sustainable. Even complex invoices such as utility bills should be captured and paid fully electronically without introducing friction. - Sanjoy Malik, Urjanet

13. Adopt native methods for each platform.

By adopting the native method for each platform, you lower the friction for the user. Shopping online through Safari should use Apple Pay, but within Chrome adopt Google Pay or the credit card saved to the Chrome profile. In stores, support the native device mobile payments. Once these new habits are built up, users will prefer them because they’re quicker than digging out a credit card. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

14. Integrate proactive cybersecurity features.

Digital payments have exploded during the pandemic, and so has the fraud targeting the channel. Digital payment providers and banks that have mobile apps that initiate transfers should invest in machine learning, risk analytics, authentication and orchestration platforms that work in the background to monitor activity in real time and stop fraud attempts by cybercriminals before they occur. - Will LaSala, OneSpan

15. Build technology that can be read everywhere, automatically.

Digital payment technology can be improved through the use of mobile or wearable devices. If we can bypass the bridge of security and allow this technology to be read everywhere—at gas stations, grocery stores or even automatically as we shop—we will have almost fully optimized the shopping experience and digital payment methods. - WaiJe Coler, InfoTracer

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

January 14, 2021

11 Must-Have Features For A Competitive Business Website

From the growth in mobile access to the rise of AI-driven customer outreach, business websites are evolving at a rapid pace. Leading-edge corporate websites now boast dozens of features that allow consumers to engage with brands in new and exciting ways, including optimization for mobile devices, interactive product demonstrations, 24/7 customer service and more. 

In today’s digital-first economy, having a website that both advertises your business and provides a seamless customer experience is not a luxury—it’s table stakes for survival. Below, 11 Forbes Technology Council members share the essential features your business website must include to keep up in the digital marketplace.

1. Omnichannel Capabilities

Although some work has been done, business websites need to demonstrate seamless omnichannel capabilities to stand out among the competition when it comes to the client experience. Omnichannel capabilities have become even more important with the rapid adoption of and reliance on digital channels during the pandemic. - Soumya Ghosh, Capgemini

2. Conversational Assistants

Conversational assistants will be the new norm to help businesses connect with website visitors in real time and create a delightful online buying experience. The basic rule-based chatbots have already shown us the value of instant gratification. With conversational AI bots, businesses will drive engagement, conversion and loyalty through real-time dialogue, content targeting and contextual assistance. - Meeta Dash, Verta.ai

3. A Frictionless Customer Experience

As more consumers move online—and plan to stay there even after the pandemic—invest in creating the most seamless digital experience possible. Use AI to eliminate friction across the online journey, identify and fix CX issues in real time, and gather data on who your customer is and what they want from the digital experience. This will inspire customer confidence and ultimately drive more revenue. - Gregg Johnson, Invoca

4. Personalization

Businesses must address continuous behavior transformation and personalization, be it in the creative handling of negative paths, implementing artificial design intelligence techniques or more intelligent chatbots. It is vital to shift from static content or A/B testing to a more one-on-one experience. This all should be seamless; heavy dependence on it can lead to the opposite effect. - Diana Xhumari, Tegeria

5. Natural Language Insights

Websites and mobile apps now need AI and natural-language-driven insights platforms that enable business users and analytics teams to quickly understand the reasons and key drivers for user/business behaviors. - Mark Schlesinger, Broadridge Financial Solutions

6. Identity Verification Solutions

With the increase in online fraud and constant data breaches, we’ll see businesses coming up with novel ways to keep the online experience safe. We are already seeing innovative identity-proofing solutions being integrated during user onboarding. I foresee this becoming more and more prevalent as identity verification solutions become more and more frictionless. - Labhesh PatelJumio Corp.

7. Transparency Around Data Collection And Usage

Websites should offer transparency and clarity into what information they collect and track specific to individual users and to what extent they directly or indirectly sell that data to third parties or advertisers. For subscription-based websites, notification of account access whenever a login is attempted is very helpful to identify users with compromised accounts. - Raymond Hicks5thColumn Inc.

8. Diversity-Focused Design

Design for diversity should be top of mind when it comes to websites. Use your website’s design to engage consumers irrespective of their gender, age, disability or ethnicity. Section-504 compliance should be incorporated to enable ease of use for disabled people. Research has shown that “men systemize and women empathize”—hence, design for customer personas when choosing graphics, fonts and colors. - Swathi YoungIntegrity Management Systems Inc.

9. Accessibility

Accessibility continues to be an area that is unaccounted for during initial development and often not prioritized when updates are made. Besides avoiding potential litigation, accessibility enhancements generally help all users by making it easier to navigate websites and take advantage of auto-fill features. Enhancements should ensure that the content is well tagged for screen readers—which helps with SEO as well. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

10. Intuitive Navigation

Businesses tend to focus on making websites look pretty. Instead, the primary design and focus of the website should be the customer. Navigation features should be clear, and information should focus on what the customer wants and needs to know about your product and business to enable an informed buying decision. It’s equally important to adapt your content to what your customer already knows. - Robert Weissgraeber, AX Semantics

11. Messaging Regarding New Opportunities

Most companies forget to articulate to their audience what they are offering and how that offering creates access to new opportunities, education and people. The core design of the technology solution needs to focus on enabling economic access to opportunities and serving the audience. - Chaitra Vedullapalli, Women in Cloud

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

January 12, 2021

13 Big Changes 5G Will Bring To Businesses And Consumers In 2021

From wireless service commercials to news stories, the arrival of 5G has been trumpeted far and wide. But while everyone may know that access to 5G is spreading rapidly across the globe, those outside the tech industry may not know why it’s such a big deal.

So why are tech experts so excited about the potential of 5G? Below, 13 industry experts from Forbes Technology Council take a look at the significant—even game-changing—impacts 5G may make for both businesses and consumers.

1. Smaller businesses will be able to access the IoT.

With 5G here, the Internet of Things opens up to a much larger audience, including small businesses. As an example, as the recent holiday season showed, more full-fledged pop-up retail locations were available, with greater capabilities. - Kevin Beasley, VAI

2. IoT systems will be cover entire cities.

In 2021, 5G will open more opportunities for businesses to use the IoT. The limitations of 4G have caused a lag in large IoT industrial systems. With 5G, the IoT will rise to its full potential, allowing developers to unite separate devices and sensors into one system. IoT systems will be able to cover entire cities, making smart cities in 2021 even more of a reality. - Jason Carolan, Flexential

3. Richer and more interactive customer communications will be enabled.

5G will fundamentally change how businesses communicate with customers. It will permit rich HD video, product demonstrations and a greater interactive environment. The standards for doing business and engaging consumers will change, and companies that cannot rise to this level of digital investment will lose connection with customers. - Kevin Parikh, Avasant

4. Businesses will need to become much more agile.

5G will create the need for higher levels of agility in business. Businesses must be able to launch new services and products quickly, analyze their performance and bring them down quickly for nonperformance. For consumers, 5G will bring a host of new experiences in terms of products and services—they will be spoiled for choices. - Padma Ravichander, Tecnotree

5. Multiple radio frequency networks will be replaced with united systems.

Consumers aside, 5G brings enormous potential for highly interconnected, huge-scale systems. To date, smart cities and grids have used multiple RF networks, which are increasingly difficult to manage; 2021 is a good year for them to consider implementing 5G to unite them all. At the same time, cybersecurity should be center stage when telcos pick their 5G providers, and systems should include strong, in-depth defense. - Satyam Bheemarasetti, NeoSilica Technologies Private Limited

6. Information security will be even more critical.

5G brings about faster, stronger and more reliable service; lower latency; less power usage; and the ability to carry more devices than 4G. All of this will impact the security posture of businesses and individual networks. The proliferation of hardware traffic points of contact will decentralize security, while the increased bandwidth capacity will strain monitoring systems. - Bob Fabien ZingaDirectly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

7. Major infrastructure upgrades will be needed.

Data will be created and modified through edge computing with the emergence of 5G, and communication will become more realistic, especially with remote work. It’s important to note that 5G heavily relies on its given bandwidth, so major changes in neighborhood infrastructure will be required to be successful. 5G will also lead to more IoT models with data being collected and analyzed at the edge. - Danny Allan, Veeam Software

8. The transition to the edge cloud will become smoother.

In 2021 businesses should expect to see more services continue to move to the edge cloud in place of their local infrastructures. Cloud and mobility are changing the way we are working, and the internet has become the new corporate network. 5G will allow businesses to make that transformation more smoothly without compromising on performance and security. - Amit Bareket, Perimeter 81

9. Gamers will see decreased latency.

Consumers can expect amazing new experiences in 2021 due to 5G and complementary technologies like edge computing. One example is Cox’s Elite Gamer Service, which optimizes the connection between a user’s gaming laptop and the gaming server. This decreases latency and ensures gamers have the edge against their online competitors. - Maddison Long, CloudOps

10. XR will become a viable commercial channel.

I expect to see extended reality becoming a real commercial channel, shifting from entertaining or training into serving. With the cost of hardware decreasing and marketplaces being more accessible, the scene is already set for XR to become democratized and widely consumed. Still, it can’t reach its potential until the experience is personalized, interactive and fed with tailored content in real-time speed. - Diana Xhumari, Tegeria

11. Apps will be revamped to take advantage of 5G.

When the 4G networks and the 4G phones met, we created an entire digital economy. Uber, Netflix and Doordash would not exist without 4G. With 5G allowing up to 100 times more speed, every app company will now ask, “What can we now do with our app that we couldn’t before?” Every app you know will be redone. - David Moise, Decide Consulting

12. Video streaming will be greatly enhanced.

As 5G proliferates in 2021, consumers can expect to see high-res video, 360-degree views, augmented reality and virtual reality content, and commercials across devices—particularly mobile, as it’s the most personal screen for consumer engagement. Moreover, due to the global pandemic, watching live sports broadcasts and events online will become the norm as buffer spinners get replaced with real-time clips and live viewer-participation widgets. - Dana Ghavami, Spotible

13. Real-time application of collected data will be enabled.

With 5G, the amount of data that can be collected and aggregated will be tremendous. This could allow for real-time diagnosis and mitigation of health conditions, farming optimizations (fertilization, water, etc.), autonomous vehicle tracking, and traffic and city services monitoring (parking availability, crime reporting). There are so many possibilities—all centered around data! - Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

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 16, 2020

In Defense Of The Office Building: Eight Benefits Of Physical Workspaces

Sr. Director of Android Engineering at Bottle Rocket, contributing to best practices and innovation throughout the organization.

As more of the professional world adopts a remote working policy (we call ours “Work From Wherever”), there is a lot of focus on the benefits of working remote, but it’s important to remember there are still benefits to having an office space that brings people together for hours a day.

Here are eight benefits provided by physical office spaces with some approaches for reproducing these benefits if your team is remote.

1. Hallway Conversations

Let’s start with the big one. When everyone is remote, most conversations are scheduled. It’s impossible to catch someone in the hallway as they are getting their coffee, and you may avoid reaching out so they have time to focus. Lack of communication leads to bigger issues, so, in remote settings, force the conversation or send messages right before or after lunch or team meetings to prevent interrupting their focus. With tools like Slack, your team can set their status when they’re focusing, and your hallway conversations can happen outside those times.

2. Relationship Building

Especially within company leadership, a videoconference call has had the air of “business” for so long that it’s hard not to want to focus on the topic at hand immediately when the meeting starts. In person, you might find people arriving early, talking about their weekend and generally building small relationships can pay off later. Without carving out this time intentionally, it’s easy for relationships to stagnate, and new members never feel very connected. We try to set aside a few minutes (no more than 10%) at the beginning of meetings for casual conversation and let people take a quick break when needed.

3. Work Brain Space

Never have home life and work life become so intertwined in our society as when much of the population began working from home. Many of us didn’t appreciate how nice it was to have a place to work that could separate us from the distractions and temptations of home. The mental space that a physical separation allows leads to an ability to focus that can be a lot more challenging to accomplish when it’s only a different room in the same place you live. Dedicating a room can help, but for those who don’t have that luxury, finding a coffee house with reliable Wi-Fi might help switch your brain into “work mode.”

4. Sending Out A Search Party

Their status is online, but they don’t respond. Wait, now they’re away. It’s great when people get in the zone, but sometimes they get busy doing something that causes them to forget about their chat and email. I enjoyed the convenience of walking through the office and checking in on them when necessary, plus some conversations are better in person. If they were really heads-down or in the middle of something important, you could give them space and avoid the interruption completely. With remote work, you have to rely on status or looking at their calendar to see if they might be focused elsewhere.

5. Emotional Intelligence

Along the lines of “video chats mean business,” it can be hard to break through the screen and connect with people. Some people are still not comfortable with their video being on regularly and so much of the context around their words is lost. Encourage people to have their video on if they’re remote, and relish the time you get to spend in person, even if it’s just to meet up for coffee or lunch.

6. Change Of View

Not everyone can afford to have modern furniture at home or live in a high-rise loft overlooking the city. Sometimes the workplace is a nice change from the suburban lifestyle or just a different perspective on the city where you live. The commute keeps you connected to the changes going on around you. This changing view helps provide some additional mental stimulation and breaks up the routine to separate the days. In remote settings, encourage your team to have a “startup routine” to help transition between home and work.

7. Customer Space

If a workspace can be mentally stimulating for your employees, imagine how much more it can do for your customers and partners. Visiting a different office puts them in a different mindset and can block a lot of their typical distractions. This helps the two groups engage more deeply, focus on the topic at hand and even connect with other employees. A random encounter during an office visit could change their whole perspective and demonstrate that you have great people throughout your organization. All this is possible remotely, but the focused interactions are much tougher when they can’t disconnect from their home base.

8. Not Another Video Call

It may become known as “Zoom Fatigue” generically, but constant connecting through links in emails and calendar invites, only to hang up just in time to click the next link, has run many people ragged. People need physical interaction and to hear each other directly instead of compressed through a combination of microphones and speakers. Such sterile interactions remove the humanity of the people we work with and allow us to retreat behind mute buttons and virtual backgrounds. Being in the same place at the same time reduces many types of friction, and it’s hard for me to believe that some people would never want to return.

Look For Success In-Office Or Remote

Whether your whole team has gone remote permanently or will be returning to the office soon, you should think about what you want to do with your physical space. Don’t underestimate the benefits of having a separate work area for your team and customers to meet together, and be sure to value the in-person moments you have, as they become more rare as society adjusts to more remote working.

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.

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