Technology and Education – A Match Made In Heaven?

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Technology is an integral part of our lives, and the educational system is no different.  Schools are spending more than ever on tech, with over $3 billion per year being spent on digital content.

In addition, public schools in the U.S. now provide an average of one computer for every five students and base much of their curriculum on ushering in 21st Century skills. Because of this, students are more engaged and motivated; therefore, learning is accelerated.

Using technology in education

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Convincing educators to buy into technology and integrate it into their classroom has been a slow transformation. Sadly, the United States is still falling behind in STEM courses: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Part of the problem for teachers is a lack of training, which requires ongoing development. Another is a fault of school districts, trying to integrate technology into their curriculum without considering how it supports their learning goals.

This post explains more on how this transformation is affection higher education:

How Technology is Now Empowering Educators | Inc.com

In fact, research shows that 70% of students want their universities to update their digital options, with 44% of the same group saying they’d be happier with their university experience if they could engage with more digital resources. With an obvious demand from students for better digital solutions, organizations that don’t engage with the latest in technology may struggle to engage with new students and grow.

Read the original post here:  How Technology is Now Empowering Educators | Inc.com

Higher education hasn’t changed quickly enough to keep up with the shifting needs and demands of students.  Even though more kids are going to college than ever before, the rising costs and the lack of tools with which to prepare them for the working world has brought colleges into the limelight.

Amazon got into the education space by launching a program in 2016 where schools and other educators could upload, manage and share educational materials, providing unlimited access to first-class course materials – Amazon Education Wait List.

What are some of the ways technology and education are being meshed? This video gives some great examples:

Virtual and augmented reality have the potential to offer immersive learning and are well on the way to becoming a vital component of how students learn. Virtually travelling to places like the International Space Station and The Colosseum would be invaluable learning opportunities. The list of possibilities is endless!

Along with 3D printing and cloud computing, the world is becoming more and more connected, better preparing kids for their future. Memorizing facts is part of the old school way, but today’s classrooms are allowing students to dive in deeper on subjects that truly pique their interest.

One buzzword is personalized learning, which offers diverse variety of instructional programs that are geared toward each student’s individual needs and interests. This post offers more insight into personalized learning:

Technology in Education: An Overview – Education Week

Education technology

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Many in the ed-tech field see new technologies as powerful tools to help schools meet the needs of ever-more-diverse student populations. The idea is that digital devices, software, and learning platforms offer a once-unimaginable array of options for tailoring education to each individual student’s academic strengths and weaknesses, interests and motivations, personal preferences, and optimal pace of learning.

Read the original post here:  Technology in Education: An Overview – Education Week

This requires an in-depth profile of each student, their goals, and setting up an individualized learning path for every person in the classroom. It also necessitates a flexible environment and grading system, based on mastery of a topic and not a letter grade comparing one student to another.

As a former educator, this sounds a bit overwhelming. It would make sense to utilize digital platforms that allow this process to happen through guided tutorials, so the students are partially responsible for facilitating their own individual learning goals.

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YouTube’s Mobile Video Sharing and Messaging Feature

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As if sharing videos through text or email wasn’t good enough, YouTube has rolled out a new feature for mobile-only users that allows fans to share and chat with friends and family in private…without ever leaving the YouTube app.

It works similar to the default messenger app with Android, allowing you to share a video with a single contact or a group. You are able to continue a thread without the need for a different messaging application, and others in the convo can respond with text or even another video.YouTube Mobile Video Sharing and Messaging

You have to invite others to be in your chat, and once they accept you are on your way to a video sharing fest! This post talks a little more about the process of getting your friends and family on board:

YouTube messaging arrives in-app to simplify video sharing – SlashGear

Once the updated app arrives on your phone, you’ll see a new tab that contains all the shared videos. It seems your YouTube friends will be able to see videos you have shared in general; there’s also the option to share a video directly with multiple people through the messaging functionality. YouTube says the feature is available now, though not everyone is seeing it at this point.

Read the original post here:  YouTube messaging arrives in-app to simplify video sharing – SlashGear

The sharing feature has been in the testing phase since the middle of last year. At the beginning of 2017, Canadian users were privy to a “soft launch.” It was eventually rolled out to other parts of North America and after lots of testing and feedback, YouTube decided it was officially ready for the world as of August 7, 2017.

This promo clip by YouTube Help shows a quick glimpse of how the app works:

YouTube’s mobile video sharing and messaging service is comparable to other platforms, such as Instagram. With Instagram Direct, which was introduced in December of 2013, you can send messages, photos and videos to one person or to a group of up to 15 people.

And very much like Snapchat, Instagram also has the ability to send disappearing messages with photos or video. Vanishing videos wouldn’t really make sense for YouTube, as they want you to share your creation with the world, but I guess you never know.

Is there an over-saturation with messaging apps? Maybe, but with YouTube it sort of makes sense. People love to share their favorite videos, so why not be able to do so right within the app.

Even though they had worked out a lot of the bugs by the official launch date, it hasn’t been perfected. Given time, though, I’m sure there will be a lot of upgrades to the feature and possibly be offered on desktop as well.

This post mentions some of the less attractive features for the YouTube app:

YouTube adds in-app direct messaging and sharing featuresMobile Phone with Video

Sadly, the phone book doesn’t actually show whether or not your contacts are using YouTube; it just pulls up an “add me as a contact on YouTube” message and dumps it into an SMS. It would be a lot more elegant if the app could recognize which of your friends are signed into YouTube and just start the conversation there. That’s the challenge with what YouTube is trying to do here: It’s easy enough to just use the standard Android or iOS sharing pane to drop a video into iMessage or your chat app of choice, but it’s beneficial for YouTube to keep the conversation going on its own platform.

Find out more here:  YouTube adds in-app direct messaging and sharing features

Another quirk I found with the YouTube video sharing feature is that once I went back into the app, I had trouble locating the conversation to continue it. Once I realized the icon looks similar to the icon for Android messenger, it made sense.

However, until I had a couple connections, that area didn’t look like the place to carry on the discussion. There is supposed to be a tab that shows all the shared videos/messages, but it is possible that all the features haven’t been completely displayed.

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The Shift From Products to Platforms

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Finding a way to compete in today’s marketplace isn’t easy. Not only do you have to battle against the retail giants of the world, but finding a way to be noticed in the online space is another challenge in and of itself.

The shift from products to platforms is one way entrepreneurs are gaining traction. In fact, some companies are skipping products altogether and are moving toward a platform-centric approach because it offers more opportunity to scale.

In this article, the authors discuss the implications of some well known firms moving toward this option:

What will business technology look like tomorrow?

Platform-Based Business

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The second is a shift from products to platforms. Many people encounter evidence of this every day. The largest cab service owns no vehicles (Uber), the biggest hotelier has no property (Airbnb), the most comprehensive retailer holds no inventory (Alibaba) and the most valuable “media” company creates some content but not much (Facebook). There are more than 2.2m apps in Apple’s store, almost none of which the company developed itself.

Platforms are a way for companies to create marketplaces that allow both sides of the transaction to flourish—while the firm, as gatekeeper, enjoys a tidy revenue stream. This is hard to pull off. The platform must ensure that standards are high, and also attract different sets of participants (like drivers or app developers on one side and customers on the other). But platforms are very valuable when they work, since they scale beautifully in a digital setting. The meatiest part of the book is the treatment of platform economics, replete with demand-curve charts.

Read the full post here:  What will business technology look like tomorrow?

In this video, Boston University Professor Marshall van Alstyne discusses the differences between providing products as opposed to a platform. His statement that with a platform, “the value is created outside of the firm” is a key element.

In other words, the users of the platform create value for other users, not just to benefit the company. If you can integrate the social factor into your business plan, you will open up many possibilities:

The 3 C’s — content, commerce and community — have been playing a role in the foundation of businesses for many years but with the digital age, the need for innovation is pushing the envelope.

Finding a way to balance both sides of the spectrum, with knowing what consumers want and being able to deliver it when they want it, can be a bit tricky. One of the basics of business is supply vs demand, and a platform-based model that encompasses the community is easier to scale because it is more adaptable and agile.

Creating a platform out of a business that has traditionally offered products requires getting your followers on board with your new venture and building excitement. The process doesn’t happen all at once but in stages, according to research done by Harvard Business Review:

Transitioning Your Company from Product to Platform

Business goals

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Creating a new platform out of your product involves attracting a large number of users, but our research suggests that user growth isn’t linear. It occurs in stages:

  1. Structuring an external product “love group”
  2. Transforming the love group into early platform adopters
  3. Leveraging early adopters to accelerate platform adoption

See more here:  Transitioning Your Company from Product to Platform

It can be a difficult transition to make, partly because of human nature. The old school way of doing things was to create a finished product.

Another reason is that some companies are massive, with a ton of inventory and infrastructure, making it tough to change their plan of attack.

With the significance of the mobile platform, you have to keep your mind open to change and be able to turn on a dime. Listening to your customers and letting them be part of the revolution can allow you to gain a competitive advantage.

 

 

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Memes – Best Practices for Marketing

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Meme is a term you hear quite frequently in the online world, especially in social media circles. It is predominantly used by those that have grown up with the internet — hyper-connected millennials and their successors, Gen Z.

The term meme came from Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, as a method of depicting a trend or cultural idea that spreads and grows in popularity. Similar to GIFs, memes are a way of visually relaying a message or a catchy joke, many which are recognized worldwide.

Examples of this would be The Success Kid, Grumpy Cat, or The Most Interesting Man In The World. They have all been used over and over in different situations to communicate with others, usually in a humorous way.

 

Popular Memes in Today's Culture

Memes – Best Practices for Marketing

As a business person, if you are planning a marketing campaign and are considering using a meme to convey a message, you might want to think again. You have to contemplate what information you are trying to get across to your viewers.

If you are marketing to the younger generation, they may be completely turned off by your attempt to get their attention in such a obvious way.

You may have the best of intentions, but the subculture of people who spend a lot of time on the internet would see right through it. Use a meme sparingly and don’t force it into your content or you may come across like you are just trying to benefit from the trend.

In this post, the number one key when using a meme is to understand your audience and whether or not it is appropriate in conjunction with your brand:

How To (And How Not To) Use Memes For Online MarketingLeonardo Dicaprio Toasting

First, you need to know that memes aren’t for everybody. They’re most appealing to young adults who spend considerable time on the Internet, so they might be seen as juvenile or otherwise misunderstood by other audiences. Similarly, most memes take the form of playful, tongue-in-cheek jokes. If your brand is playful and energetic, this is a good thing, but if you want your brand to be seen as stoic, conservative, and traditionally professional, memes could easily work against your brand image. Consider your brand and your audience carefully before pursuing this strategy.

Read the full post here:  How To (And How Not To) Use Memes For Online Marketing

Even before the internet, there were many different memes created that went viral. Leonardo Dicaprio toasting is fairly recent (The Great Gatsby in 2012), but there have been memes for many years in magazines and newspapers, mostly in the form of cartoons or political satire.

A couple good examples are Alfred E. Neuman from Mad magazine fame and Kilroy was Here from World War II.

This video discusses the history of memes. It is done by a young YouTube star who creates videos about history and blends it with current topics:

I had no idea that you could study memes in college, but that shows you how much of our culture they have become.  Is it a permanent trend? I believe that as technology continues to advance, so will our memes.

Why? Because almost everyone likes a good joke and that’s what most memes are all about…making people laugh.

One problem with basing too much of your marketing campaign on memes is that they can be offensive and fizzle out quickly. Social media is a huge reason they continue to be popular, but also the reason they can have a short lifespan.

This post gives some good tips on using memes in social media:

Marketing Memes: Do They Work?Funny Joke

Memes Produce Immediate Reactions

This can be good or really bad. Because memes rely so much on humor, it’s somewhat easy to miss the mark or come off inappropriate or insensitive. As you know with anything involving the Internet, there’s plenty of offensive viral content on the Web. But as a social marketer, you have to be careful not to damage your brand in attempts of going viral. Memes produce immediate reactions because they are:

  • Easy to read
  • Simple to digest
  • Shareable
  • Relatable
  • Trendy
  • Recognizable
  • To the point
  • Aim for the quick laugh

See the full post here:  Marketing Memes: Do They Work?

The more original you can be with graphics and videos the better. The image macro has been used to death and with the sheer volume of weird videos and funny pictures with text available on the internet, it’s not original any longer.

 

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New Defense Against Hackers with IBM and z14 Mainframe

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According to the National Security Agency (NSA) Data Center, there are 300,000 hacking attempts every day across the globe. That is completely insane! It literally means that there are 3.5 attempts every second to breach a security system and obtain information.

Many people picture a hacker as a computer nerd sitting in a dark basement targeting a victim, analyzing their system, and then somehow  guessing their passwords.

Hackers and Cybersecurity

Wikimedia Commons

Another stereotype is that hacking only happens to big businesses, not individuals, but neither are an accurate assessment of today’s hackers.

Most computer hackers are quite sophisticated, with hardware and software that is automated and can scan thousands of computers at the same time, looking for vulnerabilities. They can and will go after anyone, big or small, where there is weakness and opportunity.

Many takeovers begin with a program the infiltrates your computer through an email or text. One such program is called SubSeven or Sub7, which finds an exposed port through which the intruder can enter and take over your computer.

This article discusses the high tech equipment of today’s hackers:

Seven Scary Things Hackers Can Do to Your Computer

One of the tools a hacker uses sends out packets of data to probe computers and find out if there are any vulnerable ports available that are ripe for exploitation. All computers have ports that are open when they’re on the Internet. The ports accept different types of data from different sources—think of them as different doors in a house, or boating docks in a busy seaside port.

The nasty Sub7 program, for example, is known to use port 27374, as well as others. If port 27374 happens to be running that day, Sub7 will open that port. The port probe then alerts the hacker that, indeed, port 27374 is open for business…or hacking. The hacker knows that with a few keystrokes, they can take control of your computer.

Read the full post here:  Seven Scary Things Hackers Can Do to Your Computer

IBM Logo

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IBM has been in the artificial intelligence industry since 2005 with their Watson supercomputer. Through developments in AI and IBM’s DeepQA platform, Watson can answer questions by generating a hypothesis, gathering massive evidence, and analyzing data.

Watson, named after IBM’s first CEO Thomas J. Watson,  originally debuted in 2011 by competing on Jeopardy against some of the previous big winners. Watson took home the big prize, and from that time has been helping solve questions for medical, telecommunications, financial and government entities.

In May of 2016, it was announced that Watson would be helping battle the bad guys in cybersecurity. Using the X-Force Exchange, an intelligence sharing platform, this system enables collaboration with research on security threats and aggregation of intelligence information.

This video shares how IBM Watson would fight cyber-criminals:

It was announced this week that IBM has again raised the bar in the cybersecurity battle with its z14 mainframe. This system enables protection for valuable data and simplifies compliance to regulations by using machine learning to encrypt the data in a way that has never been done before.

How powerful is it? It can process 12 billion encrypted transactions per day and up to 13 gigabytes of data per second per chip. Caleb Barlow, vice president of threat intelligence at IBM Security, stated that it offers a “400 percent increase in silicon that’s dedicated specifically to cryptographic processes—over six billion transistors dedicated to cryptography,”

This article provides more details on how the IBM z14 will be used:

IBM dangles carrot of full encryption to lure buyers to new z14 mainframe | TechCrunch

defense against hackers

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Peter Rutten, an analyst with IDC says all-encompassing encryption is clearly the key to this release. “It’s like a security blanket across the entire system — database, applications, data at rest, data in flight, APIs, etc. — that can just be turned on, rather than manually picking and choosing what to encrypt, which typically has led to much [data] remaining unencrypted,” he explained.

Beyond pure encryption, customers also told IBM they wanted this capability delivered in a cost-effective way. Of course, IBM is promising this, and has revealed a new pricing strategy called a “container pricing model,” but Mauri wouldn’t discuss details, so it’s difficult to know exactly how the company defines “cost-effective.”

Read the complete post here:  IBM dangles carrot of full encryption to lure buyers to new z14 mainframe | TechCrunch

The cost of utilizing this new defense against hackers isn’t cheap. It was stated in the Los Angeles Times that the cost was going to approximately $500,000 for new customers to use its newest mainframe technology. Upon looking at IBM’s site, it shows that financing is available, but for most small businesses, this might be a little out of their price range.

 

 

 

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Machine Learning and Marketing In Today’s World

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Old fashioned marketing

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The old way of managing data, improving intelligence gathering, and creating more ways to be efficient in an effort to increase revenue, brand awareness and engagement is soon to be part of the marketing archives. In today’s wave of technological change, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and marketing are becoming intertwined.

The two words are many times thought to be interchangeable, but there are differences between ML and AI. Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that allows the training of algorithms by a computer, so that when data is entered into the system, it will figure out what the best course of action is and continually improve upon it.

AI has a more broad definition. To oversimplify the contrast, it is basically a computer program that does something smart.

In the case of Big Data, which is the massive amount of data being analyzed in order to improve how our personal lives, business, and ultimately our world operate, machine learning is at the forefront of these sweeping changes. The following article discusses some applications of Big Data:

What is Big Data

  • Companies use big data to better understand and target customers by bringing together data from their own transactions as well as social media data and even weather predictions.

    Using Big Data for Marketing Decisions

    Wikimedia Commons

  • Businesses optimise their processes by tracking and analysing their supply chain delivery routes and combine that data this with live traffic updates.
  • Others use machine data to optimise the service cycles of their equipment and predict potential faults.
  • Big Data is used in healthcare to find new cures for cancer, to optimise treatment and even predict diseases before any physical symptoms appear.
  • Big Data is used to analyse and improve the performance of individuals (at sports, at home or work) where data from sensors in equipment and wearable devices can be combined with video analytics to get insights that traditionally where impossible to see.
  • Police forces and security agencies use big data to prevent cyber attacks, detect credit card fraud, foil terrorism and even predict criminal activity.
  • Big Data is used to improve our homes, cities and countries by e.g. optimizing the heating or lighting in our homes, the traffic flow in our cities, or the energy grit across the country.

See the full post here:  What is Big Data

The use of Big Data is fundamental in finding solutions to these problems, helping make our personal and professional lives more productive. Even though it is a fairly new buzzword, ML has been around for quite some time now.

Another term that is used in conjunction with machine learning is neural networks, which is a computer system modeled after the human brain. The concept of machine learning and neural networks were developed in 1950’s, but it wasn’t until the early 90’s that it became more popular.

Even a Excel spreadsheet can be used for machine learning, as seen in the following video:

What a great representation of how marketers can analyze data and use it to their benefit.  That is why an online marketing specialist is so valuable to a business owner in Denver or anywhere in the world.

Spending the day evaluating and testing to find the best solution isn’t something most CEO’s have time for. They are busy managing everyday tasks and long-term goals, and they need to assign certain aspects of the company to others.

This description sums up machine learning and marketing in today’s world:

How Machine Learning Will Be Used For Marketing In 2017

Machine learning techniques are being used to solve many diverse problems, and we stand to benefit as we move towards a world of hyper-converged data, channels, content, and context — having the right conversation at the right time with the right person in the right way. For us marketers, ML is about finding nuggets of “predictive” knowledge in the waves of structured and unstructured data.

Read the full post here

machine learning and marketing

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The Senior Vice President of Ads and Commerce at Google, Sridhar Ramaswamy, stated “We can apply our data, intelligence, and scale to help marketers deliver the most useful messages for each and every micro-moment.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have a crystal ball to foresee these micro-moments?

Well, you can have the next best thing…it’s called machine learning.

Embracing Big Data is overwhelming and somewhat confusing, but is a critical component for online marketing. Start small, as the video mentioned, and work your way into more complicated calculations.

If you are just starting out and not sure where to begin, find a mentor to learn from. Having an intelligent group of like-minded people that you can bounce ideas off of and glean information from, such as a master mind group, will also help the lone marketer to not feel so alone.

 

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Mobile Shopping Trends and Apps

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The term m-commerce (mobile commerce) was being talked about as far back as 2014, but it started to become a reality in 2016 when mobile surpassed desktop usage. In a very short amount of time, the focus for retail stores and their marketing campaigns has shifted to mobile devices.

As of October 2016, adults have been spending more online time on their mobile devices compared to on a desktop computer, but 85% of the online money still spent was via desktop.Computer vs mobile

Why is there a lag in mobile catching up to desktop when it comes to actually making a purchase? This article from Business Insider provides some insight:

The Rise of M-Commerce: Mobile Shopping Stats & Trends

Multiple factors contribute to this poor mobile shopping experience. The most prevalent of these is smartphones’ small screen size. This makes product details difficult to read and payment information frustrating to enter, especially because many sites are not mobile optimized. This is far and away the main reason that customers give up: completing a purchase on a phone just takes too much work.

Speed is also a problem. Mobile users often shop on the go, which provides convenience but also puts them at the mercy of spotty Wi-Fi and LTE connections.

And finally, users feel less secure when entering their payment information on a phone when compared to a desktop or laptop.

Read the original post here:  The Rise of M-Commerce: Mobile Shopping Stats & Trends

As companies are striving to improve the mobile shopping experience, mobile apps are a big part of the push. Sites that can seamlessly integrate with the making a purchase are grabbing the attention of the generation that are the future consumers.

With thousands of new apps coming out every day, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of them geared toward making buying easier via mobile. In 2016, the average person has approximately 25-30 apps on their smartphone, and app stores saw record numbers of downloads and purchases in the first quarter of 2017.

Finding ways to encourage people on the go to make a purchase is the goal, and offering a way to compare prices so people know they’re getting the best deal is a very prudent way to guide them toward your site.

Amazon and others have apps that do just that:

Other companies that have impressive shopping comparison apps are Ebay, OfferUp, Groupon, Wish and Walmart. My parents were big on comparing prices and getting the best deal, but finding what you want at the best price is much easier now and the younger generation is definitely on board.

Catering to the millennial age group is one of the most talked about marketing topics, mostly because 85% of them own a smartphone. They are much more apt to find a hotel or restaurant and book a reservation with their phone, whereas the over 35 age group would be more likely to get on their computer to manage such tasks.

Because they grew up with social media, they use it to their advantage when it comes to checking out what others are saying about a company they may potentially do business with. They aren’t into the traditional method of being sold to and prefer engaging with a brand online before handing over their hard-earned money.

This article provides more insight on marketing to millennials:

10 Tips for Millennial MarketingMobile marketing trends and apps

Advertising companies have moved their efforts to the digital world in order to reach millennials. While a vast number of the population find online advertising to be credible, only six percent of millennials in the U.S. consider online advertising to be credible. For this reason, marketers need to figure out how to target millennials online. Some marketers have catered to this demographic by creating faster mobile loading times and eye-catching content that fit into every mobile screen.

Sixty-six percent of millennials follow a company or brand on Twitter, and 64 percent like a company or brand on Facebook with the sole purpose of getting a coupon or discount. Something that millennials have mastered is the way to cut costs in this economically-driven time. That’s why this group is most likely to share their location on their mobile devices in order to receive coupons from businesses that are close by. Chances are, if you advertise a sale or give out free shipping coupons, the clientele will follow.

Find the full post here:  10 Tips for Millennial Marketing

When it comes to mobile shopping trends and apps, the future is wide open. Offering mobile coupons and other deals to entice a buyer to make a purchase is a great way to reach the younger generation.

Word of mouth spreads very quickly these days, so making sure you are managing your social accounts and engaging with users will help to gain loyalty and improve the chance of making a sale in the eyes of these mobile-only individuals.

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Is Using Adwords Worth It?

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Google seems to be the almighty and powerful ruler of the online world. They give away many of their products for free, making them a little hard to compete with, especially for small business startups.Google Search

With all of their resources, including their brand value of 101.8 billion dollars, Google has become so dominant that it is hard to imagine anyone ever taking them down. It will happen someday, though, just like it happened to Sears, Kodak, and other brands.

Here is just a sampling of the top 16 services Google offers, some free and some paid:

Top 16 Most Popular Google Products And Services – eCloudBuzz

  1. Google Search Engine
  2. Google Chrome
  3. Gmail
  4. Android
  5. YouTube
  6. Google Adsense
  7. Google Drive
  8. Google Adwords
  9. Google Maps
  10. Google Public DNS
  11. Google News
  12. Google+
  13. Blogger
  14. Google Docs
  15. Google Books
  16. Google Translate

Read the full post here:  Top 16 Most Popular Google Products And Services – eCloudBuzzIs using Adwords worth it

If you haven’t tried using some of these platforms, you should consider checking them out. One in particular that is good for business is Google Adwords. If you aren’t familiar, it is an advertising service that enables businesses to set a budget for advertising and only pay when people click the ads, also known as pay-per-click advertising.

Paid advertising is also the bulk of Google’s revenue. In 2016, it amounted to almost 80 billion dollars.

There have been constant tweaks to the service, and in March of this year they changed how their exact match keywords and close variants of those phrases work, helping advertisers get more focused clicks.

If you do plan to check out Adwords to see if it is a good fit for your company, you better be ready to set aside a chunk of time to learn how it works. Like maybe…a year or two!

Seriously, though, it is such a robust platform that once you start clicking, you may get lost in the sea of options. It wasn’t always that complicated but since they changed their interface in 2009, they have added so many new features that it isn’t very friendly to the novice user. There are tabs inside of tabs, scrolling menus, and links scattered all over the page.

The good news is that Adwords has their own tutorial series and it is geared toward beginner users. This is the Step 1 Video on how to create an Adwords campaign:

Before you begin, you need to have a gmail account and a website for your business. Then you go to http://ift.tt/mYita6 and click the Start Now button. The site will guide you through the basics of signing up.

The real key to getting started with a Google Adwords campaign is doing keyword research to find phrases that online shoppers are searching for. The keyword suggestion tool included in Adwords is where the complexity begins, but you cannot skip this step or you will just be throwing your money away.

This post offers some advice when researching what keywords to focus your campaign on:

How to Create a Profitable Google AdWords Campaign (from Scratch)Business Revenue from Adwords

The keyword tool acts much like a thesaurus. You enter in phrases you think your prospects are searching, and Google tells you other similar, relevant phrases. Google also will tell you how often people search these phrases, how competitive the keywords are in AdWords, and how much it’ll cost to advertise on each keyword. All of this information will help you determine which keywords you want to use in your first campaign.

Before you start using the tool, make sure the Advanced Options are set. If you’re in the United States, then set the Location to United States and set the Language to English. The Device should default to desktops and laptops, which is what you want unless you’re targeting only mobile devices.

Next, click on the Columns drop down menu and make sure to check Competition, Local Monthly Searches, and Approximate CPC (cost per click). Local Monthly Searches will show the searches in the United States (if you picked the U.S. in the Advanced Options). Plus, you’ll see the AdWords competition and the cost per click for each keyword. This will help you analyze the keyword opportunities.

See the full post here:  How to Create a Profitable Google AdWords Campaign (from Scratch)

After you follow the above steps, enter the optimal keyword phrase you think your customers might type in when searching for a business like yours. At that point you need to decide whether there’s enough search volume on that keyword and whether you can afford it.

Honing in on the best keyword phrase to fit your situation and one with high buyer intent will help you to get the most out of your Adword dollars. You can literally spend hours doing this type of research to find that perfect search term.

Is using Adwords worth it? The answer is yes, but the time you need to spend learning the system may not be. Most businesses in our area hire a Denver online marketing agency to manage their pay-per-click advertising campaigns so they can focus on running their company.

 

 

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Amazon’s New Services & Acquisitions

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Amazon, the online giant, has been busy lately and they appear to be somewhat unstoppable.  Right now Amazon is the third most influential stock with the S&P 500 behind Apple and Alphabet…some pretty elite company.Amazon New Services & Acquisitions

Their shares have gone up 32% this year, including a 2.4% jump with their recent announcement  last Friday that they plan to buy Whole Foods for 13.7 billion. This is by far and away their biggest acquisition, with their previous biggest purchase of Zappos at 1.2 billion in 2009.

That deal isn’t official yet, as it seems other online stores such as Walmart might have something to say about the Whole Foods’ purchase, even possibly throwing their hat in the ring. No matter what, though, Amazon is on a mission to become much more than the leader of the consumer discretionary sector.

Here is a list of Amazon acquisitions in the last 3 years according to CrunchBase.com:

Three Yeas of Acquisitions By Amazon

As you can see from the statistics, the amount they purchased most companies for is unknown, meaning that they base their disclosures on their company’s revenue, assets, and net income. In other words, the bigger the company, the less they have to individually disclose, and Amazon loves to keep their activities under wraps.

So back to the jaw-dropping investment in Whole Foods. It appears that Jeff Bezos is a genius with his theory that cash flow is king and net income is discretionary.

They have, however, posted solid earnings of eight straight quarter of profit, but this is widely due to the cloud-computing business, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Mr. Bezos is always willing to operate on a thin margin and reinvest much of the profit back into the company.

The video below gives an excellent rundown on Amazon’s recent offer to buy Whole Foods:

With Amazon having their iron in just about every type of retail fire, I’m not sure how they are able to keep up. It probably helps that they have almost 350,000 employees working for the Seattle-based company, but as they keep moving into new sectors can they continue to recreate each one?

They have a presence in everything from apparel to outdoor furniture, home goods to electronics, and now they are in the perishables market with Amazon Fresh. This followed on the heels of Amazon’s Prime Pantry, where Prime members can shop for groceries and household goods while still receiving free shipping with a certain minimum order.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

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With Amazon Prime Fresh, you pay an extra fee of $15 per month to browse perishables, household products, and gourmet specialty items from the Amazon Fresh page that are delivered that day or the next day, depending on what time of day the order was placed.

They also resurrected their Amazon Dash Wand to include Alexa, the virtual personal assistant that lives inside the Echo as well as other Amazon devices. The Dash Wand can be used by speaking to Alexa about foods you want to stock up on, but it can also be used to scan a barcode, which will also included in your cart.

Is the Dash Wand an expensive item?  You will be pleasantly surprised. Check out this post from TechCrunch:

Amazon’s Dash Wand barcode scanner returns with Alexa and is now essentially free | TechCrunch

At the moment, the item is available for Prime Members only. And it’s essentially free (for a limited time), priced at $20 and shipping with a $20 rebate off your first Amazon purchase after registering the thing. It also comes with a free 90-day trial of AmazonFresh. So the device is a gateway to both Amazon’s $15 a month grocery service and a free new back door for getting the company’s smart assistant into more homes.

See the full post here:  Amazon’s Dash Wand barcode scanner returns with Alexa and is now essentially free | TechCrunch

If you want to see a demonstration of how this Amazon service works, watch this short video:

Amazon’s new services and acquisitions are causing a buzz in both the online and brick and mortar world. They are definitely on a roll! On top of it all, their customer service is amazing.

Amazon is making some of the other big retail chains break a sweat to catch up. There’s no doubt in my mind that Amazon is one of the most innovative companies of all time.

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Google’s Family Calendar – Part of the Family Library

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I use my Google Calendar for everything from business and doctor appointments to birthday and anniversary reminders. In fact, I don’t think I could manage my busy life without it, and I can’t imagine going back to writing everything down on a physical calendar or in a planner.

Google Calendar

Pixabay

With the introduction of virtual assistants, you can take it a step further. If you happen to own an Amazon Echo, you can ask Alexa to read your upcoming calendar events. All you have to do is download the Amazon Alexa app and connect it to your your calendar of choice, and she will let you know what you have coming up on your schedule without you having to look it up.

For families, my favorite calendar app has gone to a whole new level with Google’s Family Calendar.  Shortly after the I/O Developers Conference, which was held this year in Mountain View, CA from May 17 – 19, 2017, Google announced additional Family Library settings with Calendar, Keep, and Photos.

The original Family Library was launched about a year ago, allowing up to 6 family members (including the manager of the account) to share their apps, games, books, movies, and TV shows. It allowed a family member to sign up, decide the group’s payment method, and then set limits on purchases to keep everyone on the same page.

The addition of Google’s Family Calendar is appealing, but I’m not completely convinced it is much different than how the current calendar works. At this time it is in beta mode, and the next post provides more info:

Google family calendars are going live

The premise behind the family calendar is simple. When you create a family on Google, a calendar called ‘Family’ automatically appears for all members in Google Calendar. Anyone in the family can modify events and rename the calendar, but non-family members cannot be added.

While this isn’t a groundbreaking feature, as sharing a calendar between Google accounts has been possible for years, this does make sharing events between family members a bit simpler. In addition, this also avoids duplicate calendar events when one member shares an event with another.

Read the full post here:  Google family calendars are going live

The Family Library that was released in July of 2016 has features that help parents keep a handle on their kids’ purchases. It allows everyone to share their favorite stuff and it’s all on the cloud.

In May of this year, Google consolidated all of its family-sharing products under the new Family groups feature, with the capability to enjoy YouTube TV and Play Music Family Plan, as well as the Google Play Family Library. It seems Google is regularly updating their products, gearing them toward the future.

Setting up the payment method for everyone to use simplifies the process, and you can have it set so that kids up to 17 years of age will need to have their purchases approved. This offers peace of mind for parents, since the manager of the account can add and delete members, and it also keeps kids out of hot water.

The following video offers a description of the features of Family Library:

The idea that Google has become more family oriented with their Family Groups feature is impressive, but there are some restrictions. Auto-sharing doesn’t just happen and there is some initial setup with each feature.

You can only change your family group membership every 12 months, you need to live in the same country as the family member that manages the group,  and if one of the family member leaves the group, all of their purchases are no longer available to others.

I do agree with the following tweet as to how nice it would be to know each other’s schedule, and especially when you are out of town on a vacation as a way to check in:

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We decided to sign up for the Google calendar to see what it was like but because it isn’t available to everyone, I still don’t see it as one of my calendar options. One feature we use regularly, though, is Google Photos to share pictures and albums.

I will be curious to see if it is widely used by families across the 14 countries that are available. It definitely seems like it would be beneficial for parents trying to keep an eye on and organize their kids’ activities.

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