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Jan
2
What's New in Technology January 2017
Posted by S2C Staff on 02 January 2017 11:18 AM

Tech-Fueled Marketing Trends for 2017

Technology experts anticipate that certain strong trends that debuted in 2016 will gain further momentum in the New Year. Here are some of the tactics and strategies that marketers expect to see:

  • Virtual reality (VR) has been around for a while, but it took its application into the gaming world to open marketers’ eyes to its potential as a sales and marketing tool. Increasing online retail business, virtual reality, and its cousin, augmented reality (AR) – the force behind the Pokémon GO phenomenon – enabled savvy marketers to provide potential customers with a novel opportunity to “try it before you buy it”. This provides an experience with which video and photography just can’t compare. VR headsets are becoming more affordable and more smart phones are becoming headset compatible. Marketers expect to see major advances and continued experimentation with both VR and AR.
  • Many marketers are betting that our reliance on smart phones will continue to accelerate. Desktop users are rapidly being overtaken by mobile technology users. It is no longer sufficient to have websites that are merely mobile-friendly. Forward-thinking marketing pros are encouraging clients to make their mobile internet strategy the major element in their marketing plan, ditching mobile-friendly to become mobile-centric. If your strategy is not aligned with current search engine optimization trends and mobile marketing, you could lose clients to competitors who have recognized its importance.
  • Alongside the rapid growth of mobile consumers is the consumer’s increasing acceptance of, and preference for, mobile payment options. Consumers’ demand for mobile payment options puts pressure on banks, phone companies and even large retailers to devise new solutions that are fast, convenient and secure. Some have forecasted that mobile payments will top $60 billion in 2017. Larger companies with multiple outlets and nationwide operations find themselves at a disadvantage here because they are unable to switch their IT infrastructure quickly to accept many of the newer mobile payment options. In this area, the flexibility of small businesses gives them a crucial advantage over the mega-merchants.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) marries the advantages of mobile technology with cloud-based computing to enable devices to react to surroundings without involving human beings. It may be something as basic and practical as your thermostat at home recognizing your schedule – and that it differs on weekends – or your vehicle suggesting alternate routes based on weather and traffic patterns. We are at the very beginning of the interconnectivity that will link devices to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness. Small business ventures are just as likely – if not more so – to benefit from smart IoT technology solutions as large enterprises.

Whatever the future brings, we can be sure that technology will continue to find countless ways to increase productivity and be more responsive to customer needs. Entrepreneurs – by their very nature – have a natural advantage when it comes to flexibility and willingness to embrace change. Perhaps the biggest challenge that small business owners face is staying current and able to make informed decisions amid a rapidly changing marketing environment. 

 

 


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Dec
12
What's New in Technology for December 2016
Posted by S2C Staff on 12 December 2016 10:39 AM
 

Technology: Cool Tech Gifts for the Holidays

’Tis the Season to be racking your brain thinking of gift ideas for family, friends and colleagues. Technology gifts can fit the bill for all ages and for all pocketbooks, but if you’re technologically challenged, things can get a little tricky. You can always ask for suggestions, but if you’d like a few ideas to get the ball rolling, here are some.

The Frequent Traveler

Whether it’s for business or pleasure, frequent flyers might appreciate the following:

  • Noise-canceling (NC) headphones. People on your gift list may already have them, but unless they are really top-of-the line (i.e. expensive), their NC headphones might not perform well. And, it must be noted that because NC headphones’ technology is designed to isolate and remove unwanted sounds whilst retaining the audio you do want to hear, inevitably there will be some loss in sound quality. Few will argue that Bose probably makes the best NC headphones – wireless and wired. However, not all models are designed to plug into consoles in the plane seat and therefore wouldn’t be a good choice for frequent flyers who like to plug into in-flight entertainment.
  • Bear in mind that noise isolating headphones are another option and a slightly less expensive option. Not as thorough as noise-canceling headphones, they can block some of the ambient noise. To be effective, you’ll need to find an in-ear version (the over-the-ear really doesn’t do much) that best fits the user’s ears.
  • A USB car charger with two ports is great for any driver. Many tech reviewers like the Scosche car charger, which can be ordered on Amazon. It provides 24 watts/4.8 amps of output and charges up to two devices quite quickly.

Home Office and Phones

Lots to choose from here, but consider these:

  • A portable charger that keeps phones and tablets charged up and ready to go when you can’t get to a regular socket. A popular choice at under $30 is the myCharge RazorPlus portable charger, and it works with any cell phone. It’s available at the big box stores – Best Buy and Walmart – as well as on Amazon.
  • Not a startlingly original suggestion, but the iPhone 7 (and iPhone 7 Plus) are Apple’s biggest and brashest phone offerings (around $650 and $770, respectively). For dedicated photographers, the Plus version offers a two-lens camera with optical zoom. Both versions are water resistant and have improved storage options. Apple got rid of the headphone jack in both versions, opting for Bluetooth technology.
  • Anyone who needs to keep several gadgets charged simultaneously in their home or office probably would love the 5-port USB charger from Anker 40W/8A. It’s small, fast and powerful.

There’s no shortage of great and innovative products out there to help our home and work life, as well as our travel, entertainment and health needs. Happy shopping!


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Nov
5
What's New in Technology for November 2016
Posted by S2C Staff on 05 November 2016 06:29 PM

Technology: Handling Negative Online Reviews

If you have a business that deals with the public, it is almost inevitable that you’ll get a negative online review at some point. To a small business owner, a highly critical review can be alarming, especially if the business is local and has a relatively small base of potential clients. If you are providing a specialized service (e.g. high-end wedding planning, special event catering, etc.) personal referrals and word-of-mouth carry much more weight than they might for a business with high volume and a varied base of customers.

Your reputation is the most precious commodity you have. Like it or not, we live in a digital world, and it is a good idea to be prepared to handle online reviews. Here are some steps to take to safeguard your good name.

  1. Time is of the essence. Know what is being said about your company on influential sites as soon as possible. If your business attracts the attention of reviewers on the bigger sites – Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc. – consider investing in a service that can monitor multiple platforms in real time and will alert you when reviews appear online.
  2. Stay focused and calm when you see a negative review. It is very difficult (read: almost impossible) to persuade a review site to remove a negative post unless it comes from a competitor and you are able to prove it. Most sites will not arbitrate disputes between companies and customers; they will leave reviews up whether they are good, bad or indifferent.
  3. The sheer number of reviews and reviewers works in your favor. If you spot a bad review or two, encourage your repeat (happy) customers to write something with a different perspective. Along with your customer comment card and/or usual feedback mechanism, ask customers to review you on Yelp and/or other popular sites.
  4. Reply to all comments – not just the negative ones. Remember, you are managing your online reputation, not putting out fires. An acknowledgement or thank you for a compliment is just as important to your overall image as a measured response to a customer complaint.
  5. If you are replying to a bad review, make sure your response is polite, constructive and professional. If this is difficult because you are too angry, delegate the task to someone who can write well without succumbing to put-downs or sarcasm. Try to approach the criticism as an opportunity to identify a need for change. If you are genuine and helpful and offer a way to resolve problems, you take the sting out of the criticism and demonstrate to other customers that you are a caring, respectful business owner.
  6. If you discover a genuine mistake and realize that the customer’s complaint is legitimate, own up to it as quickly as possible. Everyone – no matter how committed to customer service – drops the ball once in a while. The willingness to step up, apologize and offer to set things right publicly demonstrates that your company is committed to providing good service.

Make sure your employees know that you value an open and honest approach to customer communications. Don’t fear bad reviews or let a negative comment create a disproportionate amount of distress in your company. View criticism as a chance to fix problems in a timely manner and to demonstrate a true commitment to customer care.

 


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Oct
4
What's New In Technology For OCTOBER 2016
Posted by S2C Staff on 04 October 2016 03:31 PM

Technology: Data Breaches - What To Do

It is hard to know which is more alarming – that a security breach can affect more than 500 million people, or that it has taken nearly two years for the public to be informed of such an incursion. Yahoo’s major data breach is but the latest to hit the headlines. It might be somewhat reassuring to read that financial details like credit card and bank account data were not breached, and that encrypted passwords were not stolen, but let’s not forget that the leaks did include some users’ security questions and answers along with addresses, phone numbers and birthdates. 

If you haven’t already taken steps to reinforce your personal security measures, now is the time.

  • Change your Yahoo password. If you haven’t been a Yahoo user for a while, don’t assume you are home free. If you’ve ever had a Yahoo password, get online and find the old one, replace it and opt for the two-step option even if you are planning to close the account immediately.
  • If you are still using the same passwords for multiple sites, get busy replacing them with different ones. If you have any that are similar to your Yahoo password, change them. Avoid anything that might be gleaned from your publicly available data (significant dates, locations, etc.) or might be guessed from your social media. Your passwords should be so random that you need a password manager to remember them. Find one and make use of it.
  • Password management programs have come a long way since the first ones entered the scene. The early versions stored your passwords in an encrypted vault. Today’s options allow you a variety of real-time options, which include syncing passwords and the ability to change online passwords with one click. If a password manager seemed as if it might be as onerous as tracking your passwords in notepads, it’s time to check out the latest generation in password safeguards.
  • Whenever you have the option of using two-step authentication, take it. This method generates a unique login every time you access your account. And, yes, you will be relying on your smart phone to do this, which is sometimes rather inconvenient. Remember, it will never be as inconvenient or devastating as scrambling to protect your assets if a cyber thief accesses your account.
  • Security questions and answers don’t always provide the added security we might hope they would bring. Avoid anything that might prove simpler for crooks to uncover. Consider how easy it might be to find your mother’s maiden name or the town where you were born when public records can be accessed and checked at super-speed on the internet. Think, too, of all the personal data we happily share on social media.
  • Because cyber-security essentially remains a reactive business (solutions are developed in response to actual threats rather than in anticipation of them) we don’t have the luxury of letting our guard down. The best defense against cyber-crooks is vigilance. Always be suspicious of unusual emails from financial institutions or requests for you to update your personal data. Similarly, be very suspicious of unsolicited phone calls from makers of your computer, its operating system or software manufacturers with news of patches or security updates.

Although the response to hackers is in the hands of corporate computer security experts and cyber law enforcement, as individual consumers we all can try to minimize our chances of being easy targets.

 


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Sep
1
What's New in Technology for September 2016
Posted by S2C Staff on 01 September 2016 05:31 PM

Technology: Update on Chip Card Technology

Back in October 2015, retailers experienced a liability shift when the onus for absorbing the cost of counterfeit transactions shifted from the banks to the individual merchants if the retailers had not migrated from swipe card systems to the newer EVM technology. Those merchants who installed EMV (chip) technology in their cash register networks by the October deadline were able to continue to enjoy liability protection from the card issuers. The ones who missed the deadline were left to do the best they could – making good on any counterfeit transactions or other thefts from scammers.

In the 10 months that followed this deadline, it has become clear to almost anyone who uses a credit card that the new EMV systems are slower than the swipe format, and that there’s often serious confusion – involving both the consumer and the employee at the cash register. The last few months have shown us the practical shortcomings of the EMV technology and have also underscored the major problems – financial and organizational – that large national retailers have encountered in making the switch.  

Some merchants were able to make a fairly smooth transition, but many weren’t. Some of the largest companies installed the new EMV – but not throughout their stores – and others found the process extraordinarily complicated, costly and time-consuming. What seemed like a good move to improve security at the cash register has, in many cases, proven to be a major headache. So where does all this leave us, what solutions do we have and what do the experts predict?

The EMV Advantage

The point of replacing the traditional swipe credit card payment system was to ramp up security. Swipe systems transmit the same card information over and over again. If cyber crooks intercept the card data, they can use it over and over again to run up fraudulent changes. EMV technology or chip technology transmits one-time/one-use encrypted data and is extremely difficult for scammers to counterfeit. (EMV is named after Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the companies that originally developed the technology.)

Status Report

Credit card companies estimate that a staggering 70 percent or more of all merchants in the United States have NOT adopted the EMV technology, choosing to cope with increased liability rather than deal with implementing a new system. Some are overwhelmed with the costs and the time required to adapt their large-scale systems. Others may have made a business decision to deal with the additional fraud risk rather than see longer lines at the cash register.

Solutions

For their part, the credit card companies and the hardware makers are working on newer, faster technology. However, any update to existing EMV systems – just like the original rollout in October 2015 – will involve lots of different parties and will be time consuming and potentially costly. Some observers think the EVM woes may deliver an unanticipated boost to the mobile payments industry. Store-specific apps (Starbucks and some fast food chains) on consumers’ cell phones are fast and secure. Other consumers don’t want to load their phone with multiple payment apps and they prefer options like Apple Pay or Android Pay, which have integrated payments with stores’ loyalty programs. In the fast-paced world of payment technology, it remains to be seen who will win market share. As things stand with EMV still evolving, smartphone payment technology may well be emerging as the winner.

 


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