Should Your Business Consider Chatbots?

The business community has benefited greatly from advancements in digital communication technologies. Today, there’s practically no end to the ways companies and brand representatives can engage with, troubleshoot for, market to or otherwise stay in touch with their fans and customers.

Chatbots are a relatively new addition to a bundle of tools that already included email, video chat, SMS, social networking and more. Chatbots are the next logical step in many ways when it comes to keeping businesses and customers in constant and easy contact. But they’re not for everybody. Below are some of the advantages of — plus one or two warnings about — chatbots to help you decide if it’s the right time and the right tool for your company.

What’s a Chatbot?

This word is one of those terms that pretty much gives it all away up front: A chatbot is an audio-based or text-based assistant that can autonomously help customers find answers to questions, troubleshoot problems or carry out other business-related tasks, such as ordering or re-ordering products, changing payment information, inquiring about or renewing subscriptions and memberships and much more.

Command-based chatbots are relatively rudimentary but still deceptively “intelligent.” They can respond to customer inquiries using heuristics that match replies with the most relevant topics or sub-menus for the customer.

On the other hand, AI-based chatbots are more sophisticated but also have a further way to go before they’re available to a wider array of businesses and more consistently able to reply accurately to any inquiry. But chatbots powered by AI are undoubtedly already showing their potential: Thanks to their use of natural language processing, they can reply “from scratch” instead of using canned responses. They can even become better over time at picking up meaning and intent from conversations with human callers.

With the different types of chatbots a little better understood, let’s move on to the main question, which is whether or not chatbots are worth the investment for your business. For a start, some industries are simply a likelier fit than others.

If Chatbots Make Sense for Your Industry

Chatbots are a relatively new concept, but they do already exist out in the wild. And there are several frontrunners when it comes to the types of industries that are well-suited to adopting chatbots. Some of them are:

  • Hospitality
  • Banking and financial services
  • Retail
  • Service-based companies

Based on polling, some 80 percent of business representatives would be interested in bringing chatbots into the fold at their company. But early popularity in the industries mentioned above already indicates which use-cases might yield the best results and return on investment. In hospitality, guests and travelers often require nearly instant solutions for checking into hotels and lodging, boarding airplanes and other conveyances, choosing venues, organizing transportation for meetings and conventions and a multitude of other tasks that have to happen at the speed of business.

In financial services, chatbots can help even regional banks and nonprofit credit unions provide members with account information or help them tailor their retirement or college savings. In retail and services environments, chatbots can pick up some of the slack during high-traffic times of the day or season by taking orders, pointing customers to what they’re looking for and more.

The point is, there might be use cases in your industry, and there might not be. Industries that depend on timely, accurate, always-available customer interactions appear to be early favorites, but as the technology improves, applications will undoubtedly continue to appear almost everywhere.

If You (and Your Customers) Value Time

On the customer and the company side of things, the first major advantage of chatbots is that they’re on standby 24 hours a day and don’t take a single day off during the year, provided there aren’t any technical snafus behind the scenes.

Allowing customers to have their questions answered on their own time is great already, but chatbots also save time for the company by providing an automated solution to the “problem” of answering common inquiries all day long. Both parties can breathe easier. Customers know they won’t have to try their luck calling back during business hours or trawling through a website for answers, and businesses know their employees are a little freer to respond to other, more urgent demands on their time.

There are one or two caveats when it comes to using chatbots in extremely customer-facing industries. Human beings know — or can be trained by locals — to respect cultural taboos and avoid words or phrases that might cause offense in another country or region.

The problem of maintaining cultural propriety during international affairs is not a new problem. But while it seems to make sense to turn chatbots into public liaisons in regions where you don’t have a strong employee presence to process customer calls, those chatbots had better have been developed with linguistic and cultural input from the region they’re intended to serve.

Being mindful of potential cultural frictions and even the subtleties of respectful political correctness is key to successfully using a chatbot to fill in your service gaps here and abroad.

If You Want Additional Insight Into Your User Base

The average interaction between a human customer and a chatbot can yield a surprising amount of information about your user base — too much, potentially, for a human operator to take in all at once, much less record and pass on to interested parties.

A phone conversation is practically analog compared with a chatbot chat when it comes to the potential to take in information from your user base. When your customers interact with your chatbot, with just a couple of simple questions and basic analytics, you’ll come away with a greater understanding of how they use your products, where common sources of frustration are coming from and nitty-gritty details. These details include their location, the device type they’re using to contact you or interact with your services and other factors that might be of interest to your marketing team, your R&D team or both.

Chatbots are here already — and companies are figuring out how best to put them to work. By 2021, say industry experts, the chatbot “market” — including third-party cloud-based chatbot solutions — should reach a total value of $15.8 billion. That’s a ringing endorsement. Just remember that chatbots are a product like any other, and computing their probable ROI isn’t that much different, no matter what else you’re promised by a software vendor. In some cases, the human touch might just be the better choice for your business anyway — you’ll need to decide based on your unique circumstances.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

How #BigData Can Transform Your #Sales

Big data, cloud computing, AI and machine learning are all popular buzzwords these days. Nearly everyone is talking about these technologies and how they can be leveraged to provide benefits to a variety of companies.

In a general sense, big data can absolutely transform your business operations for the better. It feeds into a concept you should know well, called business intelligence. Through the technology, an endless supply of information is generated about your business, employees, customers, products and impact on the world at large.

This data, when used appropriately, is the end-all be-all for achieving ultimate success and improving sales. Before that can happen, however, raw data coming in must be analyzed, processed and converted into a more usable format.

How Big Data Becomes Actionable

There are two types of data that a business has at its disposal, one of which is less useful. The first type is raw data, which comes unstructured and in its original form. The second type is processed or organized data that is actionable and ready for use.

A major difference between raw data and usable data is that the latter provides a great deal of insight into whatever process, party or component you are studying. A huge swath of customer performance data, before being processed, might show something more generalized and simple — people like a certain product best, for example. However, diving in closer and analyzing the trends or patterns within datasets can reveal so much more.

Suddenly, you understand who it is that likes said product, why and what they’re using it for. Also, you can break your audience down into niche segments to better understand what they’re after. It’s even possible to see how they react after receiving your products or services, and how that affects their future relations with your company.

Closer to the real world. Companies or teams that use quotas and sales targets to measure performance can benefit greatly from data analytics. Target-setting is not the same as forecasting, so it’s vital you get the numbers right. By looking at existing data, you can more accurately choose these goals, honing the process over time to find the best marketers or salespeople.

Of course, these are just a few examples. There’s a lot more you can learn from the right data. The point is just that customer data and insights can help you understand your audience better, allowing for more accurate and informed decision-making. It also leads to a greater opportunity for success.

Some of the enhancements data analytics offers include:

  • Segmented and accurate audience targeting
  • Location-based analytics that relate to a particular place or region
  • Dynamic pricing opportunities that take local events into account
  • A reduction in customer churn, boosting retention and loyalty
  • Enhanced customer relations through better understanding
  • New business and upsell opportunities
  • Guaranteed or successful marketing trends

Using Data to Unlock Opportunities

Spending on big data technologies had surpassed $57 billion by the end of 2017. By 2020, it is estimated that every person on Earth will generate 1.7 megabytes of data per second. That’s an insane amount of digital information being generated on a consistent basis.

It’s becoming more and more common for companies — across all industries — to leverage the kind of big data, cloud computing and AI platforms that offer huge returns in business intelligence. Digital information is constantly flowing, with or without your express attention. As people tap into local networks, apps, online experiences and digital platforms, these systems continue to collect a multitude of user data. It’s a byproduct of the digital age, and you can put all of it to use, provided you know how to understand it.

Since that information is already flowing, it’s equal parts easy and convenient to access and extract more insights from it — this is the ultimate goal of business intelligence.

How You Leverage the Data Is Crucial

It’s not about how much customer information and data you’re collecting, because today it will essentially be coming from everywhere. It’s especially helpful that people carry a smartphone on their person at all times, resulting in even more intel-gathering opportunities.

Instead, it’s all about how you process and leverage the data you have. You could be collecting huge swarms, but it’s not lucrative in the least if you don’t know how to put it to use. You’re just going to be wasting a lot of time and resources.

It’s not a question of whether or not data can transform industries, specifically modern business. It’s more the question of how. Learn to process and understand it efficiently and you’ll be well on your way to improved revenue and better customer experiences. Big data can — and will — transform sales in many ways, providing better opportunities for your employees and improved experiences for your customers.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

Rating Data and Local SEO: Turning Reviews Sites Helping You Further

Buying online products or services is always intimidating for me. And not just me, consumers mind get flipped with the following sort of questions:

  • Is the seller legitimate?
  • Is the product reputable?
  • Could I get this item at a lower price elsewhere?
  • Am I likely to be scammed or dissatisfied with my experience?

You faced it somewhere while contemplating a deal. Didn’t you?

To most of us, the next logical step is to look around what others are saying about the seller and the product. Of course, we Google that.

Statistics:

  1. 72% of buyers don’t commit purchases until they have gone through reviews –Insights from Testimonial Engine.
  2. 93%of local buyers consider online reviews to make their opinion about a company –BrightLocal 2017 report.

If you Google “flooring companies Vancouver bc”; Yelp will be the first search result.

It’s just one query; there are a lot. Every industry keyword with every location – Google loves to rank Yelp at the first page.

Embracing Yelp

Yelp comes as the first name that’s so much synchronized with local ratings and reviews. With an average of 138M site visitors every month, its 206th most popular website globally according to Alexa.

While the site has nearly 4.7M visitors daily, it results in 200K calls daily to businesses. Statistics say that 98 percent of Yelp users made a purchase from a business they found on Yelp.

Well, Sites like Yelp, YP, Hotfrog or CanPages do have an impact on businesses. And these rating websites seem a good thing for your business, right? Leaders like Stigan Media suggest retailers go for Digital Ads this holiday season. They should bring more foot traffic and page views on your website.

Do a check.

Here’s the deal with rating and review sites.

Yelp, YP, or Angielist are more of competitive battlefields,and they use to stack businesses right there among each other making it easyfor buyers to comparison suppliers. A couple of bad Yelp reviews can easilymake Yelp users move to another store. If your listing does maintain a highrating, competition is still fierce.

Data Proof: Studies have concluded that only one five star difference on Yelpcan influence the user’s decision to choose one service provider over another.

Let’s consider an example to understand the behavior of Yelp’s Sphere.Let’s say the agency, DC web design Ottawa paid for a potential buyer to click on a search ad, and the paid click can get user’s attention on another competitor on Yelp. You can feel the risk. It’s just areal barrier local service providers handle.

They pour efforts, time and their money into beating out the competitors to get their advertisements in the top-ranked pages with the sole intention of getting valuable clicks, and ideally converting them into customers.

But that’s not enough.

Savvy online buyers land on a service provider’s website. Then they’ll move to Google Places, or Yelp or Angie’s List where they can verify that whether business and services are credible. They’ll compare reviews, prices and customer services with other competitors before finally making the decision to purchase.

Wait. Is this thing a solution?

What’ll be the outcome if visitors referred from paid clicks don’t have to leave your website to see what others are saying about your services? Can a strategic stream of ratings or reviews embedded on your website make the difference? Yes, it will work. Many businesses enforce this thing in their UI design. It would surely enhance users’ experience, put your credibility easily visible and further help visitors making their decision to purchase.

Possibly, this can help you build credibility and trust with the many visitors came from social platforms or paid clicks. This would remove any chances of getting land your paid visitors to your competitor’s listings.

Encourage more and more of your existing customers to leave you feedback on Google maps, Facebook Page, Yelp, Angie List, YP and elsewhere.

Some tips to get it done in a well manner:

  • Don’t do it manually. When data is less, you can put it manually. But in the case when you’ve bulk data to upload, it becomes time taking. Embrace marketing automation applications that enable webmasters to smoothly integrate ratings into the website and update them as soon as you get new reviews.

  • Don’t try to do all reviews five out of five. Feed some average ratings between the perfect fives, so you appear more authentic and trustworthy; rather than looking like a manipulative guy with customers’ reviews.

  • Some clients do reviews their own even before you ask them. Either they are extremely happy with your work or they have complaints to show to others. Try to get the ratio of pleasant reviews/angry notes as high as possible.

An average user goes through seven reviews to buildhis mindset about a company. Google seems to give a decent weight to reviews inlocal rankings. It’s one of the major ranking factors when an agency like SVPruns a local campaign. What are your thoughts on it?

Aggregately, users go through seven online reviews before building an opinion about a provider. Google also seems to allocate an immense weight toreviews when it comes to ranking local web pages. They consider it as one oft he intrinsic factors when an agency like SVP runs a localized search campaign.


Written by Shyam Bhardwaj, blogger and SEO analyst.

Why You Need to Use Behavioral Segmentation

How do you current and potential customers find you? That is the conundrum for every company in today’s day and age. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to have a location, or to have a location that’s close to others who might add synergy to your business’s stability.

And while technology might seem like it would be an easy way to garner a wider, more solid core of customers, in fact websites and email aren’t enough either. Add to the mix social media (and the realization that one site isn’t enough either) and you’ve got a very confusing mix of how to reach people.

 But luckily, data has given us some insights into what we do need to know about our customers—not just where they live but what their lives look like and how their internal lives work, too. So how do you segment what you know and what you need to know? This graphic explains it.

Why You Need to Use Behavioral Segmentation

Starting a Business: How to Find the Right Technology Solutions for Your Company

Starting a business can be a complicated experience, but it is often rewarding. If you are starting a business, you should consider using technology solutions to make the business run more efficiently.

Use Technology for Time Management

Time management is a necessary part of starting a business. You need to have a timeline, goals for your time and know what you’re doing at all times. If you know these things, you’ll always know exactly when you need to be performing a task or something similar. It’s important to start doing this right away.

IT Operations Matter

Handling IT aspects can be hard especially for someone who has never worked in IT before. Using Managed IT operation services might make it easier for you to handle different aspects of IT. It may also make it easier for you to form connections with the people you’re working with since it can be easier to get started with your business if you handle the technological aspects of it.

Team up for Technology

If there is a piece of technology you really want but just aren’t quite ready to invest in right away, you might want to team up with another company that’s getting off the ground. Split the cost of the tool and then split your use of it. There are different ways you can do this, but the easiest is finding software that can easily switch between different systems or companies.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Technology is all about working smarter instead of working harder. Dedicate different tasks to the way you want to work and make sure you’re doing everything you can to make the tasks easier. It’s important to try different things and make sure you’re prepared for anything that could come in the way of your business being successful.

Research before Investing

Always do your research. The chances are you researched about your business before you invested your time and money in it. Do the same thing with technology you plan to use in your business. If you know what you want, start researching it right away so you can make the necessary changes. It’s important to focus on how technology can improve your business instead of how it could cost your business a lot of money.

Starting a business doesn’t have to be difficult. Even though it takes a lot of work, there are things you can do to ensure the process goes smoothly.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

How To Keep Customer And Client Data Secure

Small business owners will have to collect a lot of client and customer data. If you don’t keep that information secure, there is a chance your company could get into trouble. There is also a chance you might develop an adverse reputation if your brand appears in the newspapers alongside a story about hackers who stole money from consumers bank accounts. So, use the advice from this post.

Use cloud storage services

If you take a moment to check out the infographic at the bottom of this page; you should learn more about data and how you will need to use it in the coming years. Whatever information you collect, make sure you choose the most secure storage solution. That is usually the cloud.

Encrypt all private details

Companies that collect customer names, addresses and bank account details will need to make sure they encrypt all that data the moment they receive it. Failure to do that could mean a hacker breaks into your system and steals everything. That is not something you want to happen.

Hire an IT support specialist

IT support experts know how to test your system for vulnerabilities and then provide some advice designed to counteract the issues. Make sure you hire a professional and use their services if you want to guarantee you’re not missing anything vital.

Use the info from this page to make sure you never fall victim to a hacking attack that will ruin the reputation of your brand. Also, take a look at the infographic to learn more about some of the challenges your business will face in the future.


Graphic by USC Online

Give Consumers What They Want With These Ecommerce Trends

The future of online retail isn’t just evolving, it is changing at an extremely rapid rate, a rate which many ecommerce owners are struggling to keep up with. It wasn’t that long ago that buying things online was considered remarkable and there were only a few companies out there that would provide this service. Some of them are even Nowadays, eCommerce sales are in the trillions of dollars, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to stop increasing any time soon.

Today, we look at the future of ecommerce with great optimism. The guys at Subscriptionly put together an infographic showing how brands both big and small are making improvements to their services, and making the entire online shopping process easier, more efficient, and quicker.

Industry experts have been following the movement of eCommerce since its beginning, and by also looking at consumer wants and needs, have come up with some predictions for the future of this industry.

One of the biggest changes that is set to come about in the near future is the rise of digital currency. Already, people all over the globe have started to use cryptocurrencies as a form of online payment method. As an immediate result of this, a few established ecommerce stores have started to accept certain cryptocurrencies, most commonly Bitcoin.

Over time, it is looking likely that the use of digital currencies will become more commonplace, therefore, people may favor stores that will let them pay using this method.

There are many perks with using this way of payment. For example, the transaction fees are much lower than credit card or PayPal fees.

Another benefit that people will be interested in is the fraud prevention that comes with it. All transactions that take place using digital currencies are recorded on a blockchain, a sort of digital ledger, making them safe and irreversible.

Speed is also a positive that comes with using digital currencies. When using a credit card to make a transaction, it will sometimes take hours or even days for the transaction to process. Some digital currencies are a lot quicker and could end up saving the user and store owner a lot of time.

If you are an ecommerce store owner, it may be worth taking the time to look into the various benefits of accepting cryptocurrencies as a form of payment.

You can find out more about this as well as various other trends that are set to change the course of ecommerce in the infographic below.

future-of-ecommerce-0607