Why Chatbots are Essential for Businesses

Chatbots are those things you see that pop up on sites asking you if you have questions or need additional help.

Sometimes, there is a real person on the other end of that chatbox, but most often, these are bots that are programmed with responses based on frequent questions or algorithms.

These bots aren’t just another bit of code to add to your site. They can actually have a big impact on your success. Here’s why:

Users Actively Engage with Them

Chatbots aren’t typical pop-ups that annoy users and send them searching for ad blockers.

Users actually engage with these bots and rely on them for information. Many have reported that they feel like they are working with their own personal assistants on the site to find the information they need or achieve their goals, such as finding the right car to buy or the right couch to have with children around.

Bots end up improving the user experience on the site, which makes people feel better about your brand and be more likely to return. Bots also help people find exactly what they need, which means that you are helping to solve their problem and potentially earn a customer.

Think about how bots can help users find information on your site and incorporate them effectively. Make sure you set up the design to show users how they can be helpful, and include information encouraging them to engage with the chatbot in a way that shows this usefulness.

They Don’t Require Downloads

Users are very leery of downloading software or information on their own computers, especially from sites that they have just started using.

Bots don’t require that users download anything, which means that people are much more likely to use them. Therefore, you will get more usage, which increases your chances of generating a lead or making a sale.

Since bots don’t require a download, they also put less strain on your coding and hosting capacity.

Bots are Optimized for Mobile

Mobile marketing is the focus of the future for all brands. There are now more mobile searches than there are desktop searches, and mobile users are growing constantly.

If you want to remain relevant, you have to develop a strong marketing plan for mobile users. That includes optimizing your design and your content for these smaller devices.

Bots are optimized for mobile without you having to do anything else to make them that way. Bots were used on mobile devices for many years, so their design has already been perfected for mobile users. You can be sure that they are helping you to capture more of this important demographic for your site.

They Have Minimal Cost

Unlike developing a dedicated app, bots have a very low cost. You won’t have to spend thousands of dollars to incorporate them into your site.

Bot platforms have created the basic infrastructure for creating bots, so you don’t have to hire a team to do all the extensive development required for building a program from scratch.

In addition, bots require minimal maintenance, so you won’t have to make a big investment of time or money to keep your bot up to date or secure.

Not only do you not have to pay a lot of money to get or maintain a chatbot, but you will get a huge return for having one on your site. Users will feel more engaged, you’ll get more leads, and you’ll make more sales as a result of having the bot on your site.

They are More Popular because of WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a popular messaging platform that allows users to send messages without using a texting service. People can instantly send messages without having to pay for an additional service or without using the data on their plan.

Because more people are using WhatsApp, they are comfortable with these kind of messaging services and are more open to using them. That means that when they see the chatbot on your site, they are going to be more willing to engage with it.

They are going to understand that they can communicate easily and without being charged for the privilege. The more they use the bot, the more likely they are to get the information they need and to become a lead or a paying customer.

The more you can include on your site to increase user engagement or to promote sales, the more successful you will be. If you are not already using chatbots on your site, it is important that you look into how to incorporate them and start developing one.

You may find that a simple bot that answers frequently asked questions is enough to get the results you need, or you may find that you need multiple bot models depending on the user and the device. Either way, you will find that the investment is well worth it.

How Pokemon Go is Influencing Tech

No one saw Pokemon Go coming, and now no one can avoid it.

The small app game has become a juggernaut that has influenced everything from culture to business operations. It has made a huge impact on the marketing world, showing brands just what’s possible even with a simple app.

The game’s unique use of augmented reality has also shown what is possible with technology. Here are a few ways that the game is influencing tech (including the potential it shows):

Entertainment

Over the years, technology has improved significantly so that we no longer have black-and-white movies or simple line drawing animation.

Now, we have graphics that seem so real that you expect the dinosaur to jump right out of the screen during the chase scene. The picture is so crisp that you can almost feel the same breeze that is rustling across the leaves and the tiny hairs on the caterpillars and flies.

Augmented reality doesn’t necessarily improve the quality of the picture, but it makes for a more immersive experience that brings that scene into your world. Pokemon Go not only includes virtual items on the physical world, such as different types of Pokemon, but it also creates virtual spaces from physical ones, such as PokeStops and PokeGyms.

The game has shown that there is vast potential for other mobile games and apps. Not only can augmented reality help to create a more engaging game experience, but it can also help businesses better connect with customers through their games.

For example, augmented reality could easily be used in a game that helps visitors at Disney theme parks find beloved characters on the park map. They could appear just like the Pokemon characters do on the game. The park could use the game to reward visitors with special perks, like an extra fast pass to cut the line on a popular ride or a discount at the gift shop.

There are numerous ways that Disney could use such a game to drive purchases. It could make characters appear at restaurants or shops during slow hours when it needs extra sales, and it could pair those appearances with special discounts or other promotions at the locations. It could make rare characters appear only at specific parks, which could generate multiple-park ticket sales.

There are endless possibilities for businesses of all types to use augmented reality games in similar ways to drive sales and user engagement.

The travel industry, movie studios, chambers of commerce, museums and more can also take advantage of these opportunities to drive sales.

Healthcare

The technology used in Pokemon Go can be used for much more than entertaining or marketing. It could save a life.

Apps that use augmented reality can be used for a variety of healthcare applications. For example, they could be used to help people find the location of a defibrillator in an emergency. Similarly, it could be used to find the location of a fire alarm, fire extinguisher, or other emergency device. Instead of just showing these items on a map, it could include a bright graphic over the actual location through the lens of your camera.

Other potential uses include helping seniors remember to take their medication or to find the location of their pill bottle. The app could guide them to the location through their phone camera, and users could keep track of what pills they have taken for the day by capturing a pill just like they would a Pokemon.

Apps could turn healthcare treatment into a kind of game. Kids and teenagers who are resisting taking their medication could get points for taking their pill or shot at a certain time or win special rewards for taking it a certain number of days in a row. They could win special items for taking additional measures, such as drinking enough water or doing enough exercise.

The augmented reality portion of the game could turn the house into a game map. Maybe they have to go to different areas to do exercises or get enough sleep, and so on.

There are numerous potential applications for both personal healthcare monitoring and professional healthcare management. People can use it for their own treatment, and nurses and doctors can use it to encourage patients to get the right care.

Pokemon Go has not only shown the potential for augmented reality technology but also for marketing through apps and games. The technology shows that marketing should go beyond in-app advertisements and should instead focus on how apps and games can be merged with the real world.

If you are feeling especially motivated by the game’s success, you might even consider developing your own augmented reality game or app for your business or your niche. You could make money on the app itself or through the sales it helps generate for your business.

Microsoft Edge Browser: Pros and Cons

The new Microsoft Edge Browser is the Windows 10 answer to Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox, and, of course, Internet Explorer.

This new internet browser promises to be sleeker, slimmer, faster, and better, but does it deliver?

Let’s find out.

Overview: What Edge Brings to the Table

Microsoft Edge began as Project Spartan, a code name for its successor to Internet Explorer. While Internet Explorer will still be available to existing corporate customers and those who don’t upgrade to Windows 10, Edge brings plenty of new features to the table.

Here are just a few:

  • Lightweight design – Edge learned from the mistakes of Internet Explorer and the improvements of competitors, such as Chrome. Its lightweight design uses less memory, so it cuts down on initial load time.
  • Faster surfing – Likewise, Edge’s lower memory use makes for faster surfing, quicker page loading, and a much better user experience.
  • Super-smooth scrolling – The lightweight UI carries over to the browser. Like the latest version of Word and other Windows 10 products, Edge decided to cut out the jerky stop-motion scrolling that characterized past versions of Internet Explorer. This detail may seem small, but once you try it, you may be impressed.
  • Distraction-free reading – Edge has a distraction-free reading mode, which allows you to trim back on irrelevant content, download pages, and read them at your leisure. When you find articles you want to take with you, simply download them with the push of a button, then open up the Reading List at your convenience.
  • Instant answers – Like many of the other tech giants, Microsoft is beginning to offer immediate gratification, with services such as Cortana. Since Cortana is integrated with Cortana, Edge can offer instant answers to a number of common questions. When searching for weather, for instance, Edge displays it directly in the browser.
  • Note-taking – Ever want to write directly on a web page? Well, now you can. With touch-screen devices such as Surface, or even the mouse, you can write, doodle, and highlight directly on the web. Once you push the “Make a web note” button, you can add your notes, then share that annotated page with friends, family, or coworkers.
  • Enterprise-grade security – Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge tout their security features, acknowledging that cybersecurity is more important than ever. Windows itself has enhanced Smart Screen and Windows Defender, and all new Microsoft products have integrated Microsoft account functionality. While personalization and productivity are both big benefit of such integration, security is another – Windows Hello, for instance, greets users with a friendly login screen that doesn’t store passwords on devices.

Microsoft Edge for Developers

While Edge is not problem-free, it offers so many advantages that some are willing to drop their previous browsers just to use it.

One of the biggest issues with Edge is its lack of extension support. Those who want to install plugins will have to wait until corresponding add-ons have been developed.

Developers need not worry, however, since Microsoft already has a developer portal, which has several features that developers can find useful.

  • There are virtual machines for testing and development purposes.
  • RemoteIE allows free testing with Azure Remote App.
  • A GitHub page contains open-sourced demo sites.
  • A screenshot generator lets developers see how their page would look across different generations of browsers.
  • A roadmap shows where Windows 10 and Edge are headed in the future.

Clearly, Edge is ready for further development.

There is already plenty of opportunity for developers who wish to expand their offerings to Edge.

As for users who are hesitant to adopt Edge due to its lack of plugin support, they probably won’t have to wait too long before plugins start appearing.

Microsoft Edge and Windows 10: Roadmap to the Future

It’s obvious that Edge is more than just an upgraded Internet Explorer.

Learning from its own customers and the state of the marketplace, Microsoft Edge and Windows 10 have taken big strides towards a more connected world.

Tech giants are scrambling to offer streamlined, omnichannel experiences that bring personalized, immediate value to users, regardless of their device. While Microsoft has made some blunders in the past, its foothold in the tech industry gives it the ability to innovate right alongside companies such as Facebook and Google.

Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge are perfect examples of this innovation. With this new release of Windows and its latest browser, Microsoft has been able to offer much – if not more – of the value that its competitors are offering.

For instance:

  • Edge offers the same sleek minimalism and speed that Chrome does, and promises a future full of plugins, add-ons, and apps.
  • Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant program, competes with Siri, Google Now, and Facebook’s new assistant, M.
  • With Windows 10, Office 365, and Microsoft Edge, Microsoft has introduced a new era of easy online collaboration for the workplace, friends, and family.
  • The Microsoft operating system and software suite will help bring the web and multimedia to the HoloLens and similar AR and VR devices.

With Edge and the latest wave of Microsoft products, the tech giant has proven that it can still innovate.

Social Business Software’s Massive Growth Potential

 

Social business software – such as marketing automation tools, social media management tools, and business collaboration tools – will explode in the next few years.

According to a forecast by 451 Research, revenue will increase by $24 billion over the next 5 years and reach $37 billion by 2019. The study covered the following segments: Marketing Automation, Social Media Monitoring & Management, Enterprise Collaboration/Social and Web Experience Management.

According to the company’s research director, they expect to see substantial investment and growth in 2015. He stated that these applications are “being built to meet the needs of increasingly dispersed workforces.”

Over the next several years, 451 Research expects a 22% compound annual growth rate.

Social Business Software: A Growing Marketplace

The various segments of social business software are growing rapidly. But, according to some, this growth is still fragmented and still has a long way to go.

According to industry expert David Raab, for instance, almost 70% of marketers are unhappy or marginally happy with their marketing automation software. And according to a study by Bluewolf, only 7% of marketers are seeing good, measurable results from their software.

While business collaboration tools are growing in number, they too suffer from growth pains. Jason Green, founder and partner at Emergence Capital Partners, claimed that these collaboration tools are increasing efficiency and reducing friction between employees. However, these tools still have a ways to go in order to reduce information overload or “noise.”

The same problem that Twitter faces – too much happening at once – seems to be affecting business collaboration tools: too many conversations happening simultaneously over too many communication channels.

It’s safe to say that these challenges will be overcome, however. We are seeing the development of new social business software across the board.

For instance, mobile-first collaboration tools are on the rise, meeting the demands of on-the-go workers and distributed workforces.

Even Facebook, the world’s most popular social network, leaped into the social business arena with Facebook at Work, a platform designed to allow coworkers to communicate and collaborate on the job.

Currently, Facebook at Work is in closed beta, and only allows co-workers to communicate. But if Facebook chose to expand the platform and create a professional network like LinkedIn, it could become a serious competitor in the social business arena.

Though it’s difficult to gauge how popular or effective Facebook at Work will be, there is a clear demand for these types of software and platforms.

The explosive popularity of Slack, for instance, demonstrates a clear demand for collaborative business tools. In just over a year, this corporate chat and messaging service went from 0 users to over 280,000.

Do Social Business Tools Signal the Death of Email?

Some think so.

The New York Times boldly claimed that this app may be the one to sink email for good. Though this claim seems rather audacious given the ubiquity of email, there are a few trends that suggest “social” may supplant this form of communication.

What leads the New York Times to make this extraordinary claim is the fact that several companies actually use Slack as their primary form of communication, not email. The New York Times, Walmart, Comcast, Blue Bottle Coffee, and a large number of startups are all using Slack as their go-to communication tool.

While it seems unlikely that Slack itself will entirely replace email, Slack’s growth spike offers clear evidence in favor of 451 Research’s forecast for social business growth.

Facebook at Work has been quiet since its beta launch in January. But given the social network’s track record, its existing platform, and its foothold in the social networking world, it’s certainly conceivable that Facebook at Work could become a giant in the social business space.

Key Success Factors for Social Business Software

In the coming years, some tools, such as Slack, will see massive success. Others, however, will fade into the background.

So what is it that makes tools like Slack a success while its competitors stagnate?

In general, social business software is designed to automate and streamline communications, whether that communication involves business collaboration, social media management, or marketing automation.

Simplicity will be a major key to success for many of these social business tools.

As Vik Singh pointed out on Tech Crunch, many marketing automation tools aren’t simple at all. He said that he encountered one marketing automation system that took over 8 hours to process all its workflows before the sales rep was allowed to touch the lead.

Singh said, “Where’s the speed, simplification and automation that marketing automation promised us?”

On the other hand, Slack succeeded so dramatically precisely because it is simple to use. Quartz pointed out that it is easy for users to jump right in: teams can sign up and start communicating immediately.

 

Although marketing automation, social media management, and business collaboration tools have saturated the market, they still have some evolving to do. Many businesses and corporations cling to inefficient communication and collaboration tools, such as email or Microsoft Office. Even the automation and collaboration tools that seek to replace them, though, have a long ways to go.

These inefficiencies represent a huge opportunity for social business software companies. Slack, Facebook at Work, or other similar, simple tools may become dominant standards in the next few years.

5 Things Software Management Services Have in Common with Software Monetization Services

Software management services are offered by companies who help you procure, maintain, and operate software for your business. Even if you have your own IT department, it often makes the most sense to choose and use software management services for your business.

In the same way, software monetization services – such as those provided by CodeFuel help you procure, maintain, and operate software monetization for your business. And if you’re in the business of software, it often makes the most sense to utilize professionals who are experts in monetization.

At first glance, these two businesses may seem like apples and oranges, but remember that apples and oranges do have something in common – they are both fruit. To be a little more concrete with our analogy: they are both third-party experts in their respective fields.

A side-by-side comparison will highlight not only the benefits of both, but the overall benefits of outsourcing certain business functions to an external agency.

Here are 5 benefits that both services share:

1. Compliance

Software management services help a business comply with industry regulations, licensing standards, and more. Deploying enterprise-level applications and installations can be trickier than it sounds. Expert outsourcing can be the answer that you need to help you find out what your business can and cannot do when it comes to software.

Software monetization services, likewise, know the monetization industry inside and out. They provide pre-packaged solutions or customized solutions that comply with marketing standards set forth by the FTC and other government bodies.

2. Best Practices

Not all business software is created equal, and not all implementations are best for your business. Software management services know industry best practices and they can help you find the ones best-suited to your specific needs. This prevents you from wasting money on the wrong solutions and keeps you from the trial-and-error that can cause delays for the rest of your business.

Software monetization services also know industry best practices. Despite the fact that the monetization industry is a rapidly changing environment, there are certain practices that have proven themselves to be more effective than others. From display advertising to search monetization, consulting with a software monetization company can help you find the right solution and the best implementation.

3. Licensing Knowledge

Anyone who has ever dealt with enterprise-level deployment knows how much of a pain licensing can be. There are different levels, different pricing plans, different deals, and more. Knowing the various licensing requirements across an industry can help your business know where to save money and the best deployment solution for your business. Software management services know their industry inside and out, so you don’t have to.

In the same way, software monetization services dig deeply into the advertising and monetization world to discover the most money-making and money-saving licenses. Creating a proprietary search monetization solution, for instance, would require in-depth knowledge and specialization. Rather than hiring a team of people to develop proprietary tools for you, it is always more cost effective to find experts to do the job.

4. Industry Knowledge Means Better Deals

The right software management services company spends its time finding and providing business software implementations for their customers. If you go directly to the software vendor, they may attempt to upsell you or offer a less-than-stellar package that makes them more money. Software management company knowledge includes everything from licensing to specific software packages and special vendor relationships.

And the same holds true for software monetization companies. In this case, having an industry insider is virtually necessary, since the industry is constantly in flux and always evolving. The best way to stay ahead of the game is by aligning yourself with one of the industry’s top players.

5. Frees Up Internal Resources

Having a third party handle the tedious and cumbersome task of software deployment frees up your company resources to do other things. An IT department, which may or may not be up to the task of choosing and implementing enterprise-level software, also has their core job function to focus on. Allocating internal resources – at least to the procurement phase – would simply be cost-inefficient.

And, due to the fact that software monetization is such an esoteric and complex field, allocating internal resources to this task would simply be inefficient. Lack of expertise, training, and industry knowledge would inevitably produce inferior results and cost more than outsourcing would. Your marketing and accounting departments should work with experts, not try to become experts.

 

While the similarities between these two disparate industries may seem superficial, they both bring into sharp focus the benefits of outsourcing to experts. Both of these external services provide your business with the expertise you need, when you need it, so that your business can stay on task. 

5 Marketing Benefits of Software Bundles

Software bundles are product suites that contain multiple applications. They are frequently used to combine multiple small apps, tools, extensions, or plugins into a single package. For instance, you could purchase a bundle of WordPress plugins or Photoshop extensions.

Since selling an individual plugin is often not possible, developers will often package multiple tools together in order to make a viable sale. While you can package your own apps and plugins together, it’s often more feasible to work with others when creating your software bundle.

Doing so carries a number of benefits that can give you edge in marketing and monetization.

How?

Here are 5 of the top reasons.

1. New Partners

No developer is an island, and bundles are proof of that. When you work together with other developers, you build connections with other companies and individuals who can be your partners in business.

In marketing there is an awful lot of emphasis on the competition, but sometimes not enough on non-competitors. Forming relationships and pooling resources is sometimes the best way to climb the ladder and become successful.

More successful companies are excellent resources that can help you further your career, while smaller fish help reinforce your own position as an authority in your industry. Besides, who knows how they could help you down the line?

2. Bigger Audience

Another benefit to partnering up and bundling is growing your audience. The more partners who are involved, the more audiences you’ll have access to. Since each partner will undoubtedly let their followers know about the software bundle, you’ll gain exposure to that audience as well.

Promotion is one of the primary reasons you should consider bundling your software. While many developers shun the idea if the bottom line won’t see a big enough impact, it’s often best to look at it as a marketing investment. It’s very unlikely that bundling will hurt your business in any way.

In fact, the opposite is usually true. If, for example, two developers pool their audiences, revenue-share programs can often earn more money for each developer, even if they charge the same price for their bundle as for the individual app. Why?

As mentioned below, a bundle enhances the value of a product. If you include two apps for the price of one and double the audience pool, you are likely to see more than double the number of purchases, due to this enhanced value.

The end result?

3. More Money

If you do your math right, the aggregated demand of your audiences combined with the enhanced value of the bundle will bring in a larger net income. In other words, if you create or join a bundle, you’ll be able to see a return on investment.

On its own, a plugin can be difficult to monetize, unless it has an extensive range of features and provides serious value to the customer.

Given the increased value and demand for a bundle, however, that plugin can potentially earn more money, in addition to the other marketing benefits and networking benefits mentioned here.

4. Portfolio Experience

For new and intermediate developers, extensions and plugins are ideal ways to get your feet wet. And a portfolio piece looks that much better when it has been included in a bundle along with product from other well-established companies. This way, you can point to the project and its reception: the number of downloads, the ratings, the revenue, and so forth.

It can be daunting and difficult to jump headfirst – or even feet first – into software development. And if you don’t yet have the technical knowledge, it makes sense to take baby steps towards that goal. But just because you start small doesn’t mean you have to go unnoticed.

5. Enhanced Value

A sole plugin has much less value than a suite of products. This enhanced value increases the likelihood that you’ll gain all of the above benefits, such as increased recognition and income. Products that are more valuable in a customer’s eyes will also reflect better on your company. 

It is for this reason that subscription models like Netflix are so successful. Despite the service’s low monthly cost, it has been able to outstrip the traditional a la carte model used by other movie rental outlets.

A Word of Advice

When you bundle your products, ensure that you are adding value to the complete package. Don’t include software that you yourself wouldn’t use or recommend. If, for instance, there is persistent or annoying software, this could have a negative impact on your business instead of a positive one.

Finally, it should be noted that there is another use of the term bundling. The other usage of “bundling” is almost synonymous with pay-per-install, where you include third-party apps with your main software program and earn income when users install those apps. This is also a common monetization strategy, implemented successfully by advertising industry leaders like CodeFuel.

 

Happy bundling!