Category: Ecommerce

Technology is about to change your business forever. Yes, again. (pt.2)

In part one of this post, we established the majority of UK small businesses are already struggling to keep up with digital technology; 82% of these firms still do not have a mobile-friendly site, even though the majority of web searches have been conducted on mobile devices since 2015.

In other words, nearly all of the country’s businesses are already three years behind their customers.

That’s a far, far bigger problem than businesses seem to understand; every year, more and more browsing is done on mobile, and more money is spent using mobile devices. That’s not standing still – that’s going backwards.

But it’s nothing compared to what’s in store. Because the next explosion of technological innovation is already underway and it’s frankly terrifying. Bear in mind that every type of technology mentioned in this video is already in use or at least in development:

Ultimately, markets will decide which of these innovations will take off and which die. And markets are people. Markets are customers. Markets are your customers.

What’s certain is technology has proven to be instrumental in shaping consumer habits – so at least some of these innovations will change the way your business operates forever:

Your customers may not want to speak to you

National Australia Bank’s “virtual banker” can already recognise 13,000 variations of 200 common questions from its business banking customers. And in terms of artificial intelligence (AI), that’s nowhere close to its full potential. In fact, many renowned futurists, like Ray Kurzweil, believe AI may become indistinguishable from human intelligence within the next 30 years.

Despite AI’s infancy, a recent Salesforce study found 69% of customers already prefer AI chatbots to human interaction for simple queries. And who wouldn’t? Nobody likes long call queues. And when you do get through, you often end up speaking to a robot-like operator with no knowledge of how to answer the simplest questions.

Even a small technological improvement in AI – fuelled by customers wanting a richer experience – will see an even greater number of people preferring to interact with a robot, which will further fuel innovation, and the cycle of development will repeat. It’s why companies like Google have invested heavily in organisations such as DeepMind (who they acquired for $500m in 2014), which teaches computers to think and learn like humans – including teaching new skills to themselves and then to other computers.

In short, the ability of machines to understand human language and behaviour may change the way businesses interact with customers forever.

There will be no such thing as “using a computer”

This is what a quantum computer looks like:

Well, kind of. That’s just what houses it. You can’t really see a quantum computer, because it works by shining lasers at atoms. Yep, a quantum computer is just a bunch of invisible atoms.

While the technology is too young to be particularly useful, the method it uses to solve equations means these computers could soon be almost infinitely faster than existing computers – while being so tiny, they’ll occupy virtually no physical space.  

Now, are you ready for your head to really hurt? This is what a carbon nanotube looks like.

They’re made from a material called graphene; with a width of just one atom, graphene is technically two-dimensional. It’s so light, even the mildest air current will make it float. It conducts light, electricity, and heat extremely efficiently, and it’s 200 times stronger than steel.

Now, imagine the potential of quantum computers combined with graphene. It would mean everything and anything could be a supercomputer. Your shoelaces. Powerlines. False eyelashes. Literally anything.

So, as much as the computer and the smartphone changed consumer habits, that technology looks seriously antiquated by comparison. You won’t have to make a conscious decision to use a computer, you’ll constantly be using a whole network of computers for everything all the time.

It’s likely that the combination and mass adoption of quantum computers and graphene could completely reshape the physical world as we know it – opening up mind-boggling new business opportunities and challenges.

No more middlemen

Have you heard of Bitcoin? No, we’re not going to try and explain how it works – that’s not important.

What is important is the technology that powers it – the blockchain. No, we’re not going to explain how that works, either. All that matters is to understand which parts of your business it could affect – which is absolutely every part of it.

Put simply, blockchain technology’s strength is that it removes the middlemen from virtually everything that involves data. It’s an unhackable system that anyone can use to directly send any type of data anywhere. Document storage, the transfer of money, and sending contracts could soon be facilitated by blockchain on a mass scale – all of this data could be securely exchanged from person-to-person (or business-to-business) without the need for anyone to manage that process.

Blockchain has the potential to do to the internet what Napster did to the music industry. And early adopters like American Express, BHP Billiton, and Apple are already capitalising on blockchain’s power.

In just a few years, your customers may expect to book, pay for, and receive your goods or services via some kind of blockchain-powered solution. Why? Because it will be quick, secure, and cheap for them – three of the key reasons that drive huge numbers of people to adopt a new technology.

Your competitors will be literally everyone – including the big players

Even if quantum computing hits some kind of wall, the internet will still become far more powerful and far-reaching than its current iteration. Companies who’ve been quick to capitalise on its potential have an enormous head start, and now have the potential to control the space completely.

Take Amazon, for example. Within the next 10-20 years, the idea of the “local business” could be dead – all thanks to Amazon.

Amazon already demonstrated its ability to transform consumer habits (contributing to the demise of the traditional high street) while it was merely an online bookstore. That’s a problem for two reasons:

  1. Amazon is now way, way bigger than you could possibly know
  2. By their own admission, Amazon wants to compete with every business in the world.  Yes, even yours:

Think of literally any product or service. If Amazon were to take its strategy of aggressively acquiring businesses, and combine it with automation, people-less delivery systems (like drones and self-driving vans), and home 3D printing, there would be literally nothing Amazon couldn’t supply to a customer anywhere at any time.

Again, Amazon’s plan is already in full swing, and all of this technology already exists. When they combine, the impact on small businesses around the globe could be profound.

Should you just give up?

Never give up! Don’t be scared of technology, and don’t be intimidated by the big boys like Amazon. Every challenge is also an opportunity, so arm yourself with a future-proof strategy:

  1. Embrace and adopt the technology your customers would benefit from (start by asking them what that is!)
  2. Declare guerilla warfare on big players like Amazon by exploiting their weaknesses (there will always be something you can give your customers that they can’t). Find out what that is, and get in first.
  3. Prioritise the “human” element. Even the smartest machines will never have emotional intelligence – so make sure that’s central to your operations and marketing.

Ready to explore chatbots, future-proof strategy, and emotionally-intelligent marketing? We’re already there! Call 0161 660 6735 to speak to a human being.

The rise of voice search and how to optimise for it

The implications of voice search

Hailed as a game changer, voice search allows us to trawl through web results by speech. Designed to improve how we have access to information, statistics illustrate just how quickly this medium has taken off.

In 2010, Google announced that 25% of Android searches in the United States were initiated through voice search. Years later, the organisation also published research stating that 55% of American teens used voice search more than once a day.

This raises an interesting question, these stats, while still frequently quoted, were originally published years ago. Furthermore, if voice search has continued to grow, why isn’t it an everyday part of our lives yet? One explanation could be that such a large technological shift requires years to be properly adopted. For example, despite elements of this research being around seven-years-old, it’s only recently that devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home have entered the mainstream market.

Voice search is a new avenue to access information. It might take time but eventually – much like mobile browsing – it could be an everyday part of our lives.

voice recognition

What are the benefits of voice search?

For years, identifying information was a simple matter of just typing it into a search engine and trawling through the data to find exactly what you needed. Now, voice-related queries are becoming increasingly common aided by the arrival of devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo. In fact, VoiceLabs estimates that there are now 33 million voice-first devices currently in circulation.

For users, the benefits of voice search are aimed around easier access to information. Whether this is on the move or while doing another task, individuals can use the voice function to speed up their access to data. Validity is not in question either as research demonstrated that 87% of users thought mobile voice search results were accurate.

Following a similar strategy of making data easier to access, we’ve seen other organisations look to integrate voice. One example is Adobe Photoshop. Whereas it takes considerable training to use the software, Adobe Sensei should allow users to make complex changes by simply asking.

For companies, the benefits of targeting voice search are all about appealing to customers. Simply put, if 33 million compatible devices are on the market, firms could be missing out on an extremely large customer base. Therefore, we are left asking the following questions:

Why do we use voice search?

To first answer the voice search optimisation problem, we need to understand how people use it. The Internet Trends Report 2016 highlighted that people ask queries in four distinct ways:

• To seek local information
• For fun and entertainment
• Seeking general information
• Using the personal assistant function

How do I optimise for voice search?

Armed with this research above, there are two key strategies which should pay dividends when looking to optimise for voice search.

Think local

According to research published by Marketing Profs, voice searches conducted through mobile are three times more likely than text-based queries to be local-related. Consequently, those with an effective local SEO strategy should be in a good position to reap the rewards offered by voice search.

This means having an up-to-date complete Google My Business listing and ensuring all citations are as accurate as possible. This is also a key opportunity to start working on improving your business reviews. Simply put, those with a higher business rating are more likely to receive greater local visibility than those held in lower esteem.

With the advent of voice search, the importance of thinking local cannot be understated. By combining all the above elements into an effective strategy, you should be well poised to target these queries.

Target frequently asked questions

To further enhance chances of appearing for a vocal query, it is worth understanding how these terms are made. Voice search is conducted conversationally and usually in the form of a question. Therefore, gearing content towards more natural phrases could be an effective way to target this consumer base.

For example, for furniture retailers, instead of typing “leather sofa” into a search engine, someone asking vocally might state “where can I buy a leather sofa?”. Similarly, questions may be asked around the topic, such as “how do I clean a leather sofa?”.

This presents a change to keyword research where those desiring visibility for voice search could benefit by employing a more conversational tone. However, although this could make identifying phrases easier, it’s very important to still bear desktop and text searchers in mind – and not to leave them on the sidelines.

Laptop

Can voice search by commercially viable?

The main challenge for SEO will not be ‘how do I optimise for this?’ but instead will ask how voice search can be made commercially viable. If a robot directly obtains the answer for the user without that person visiting the related page, he or she will not contribute to the website’s traffic or conversions.

Therefore, voice search could create an attribution problem and may lead to declines in traffic as its popularity increases.

Although a gloomy prospect, it is worth remembering that the strategies used to target voice search are fundamentally good SEO. Other channels will likely improve and may even off-set the negatives brought about by this new technology.

Next steps:

If you are interested in working with CandidSky and seeing how we can help to grow your business online, contact us today to arrange a call.

If you would like to work at CandidSky and grow your career prospects, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

And finally, take a look at our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.

The hidden potential of Marketplaces

Looking to grow your online revenue this year?

In this post, we discuss the hidden potential behind Marketplaces and share how we can support your business in integrating into, and optimising for, new audiences.

What is a Marketplace?

Simply, an online marketplace is a type of website where products or services are sold and provided by third parties (you).

Amazon and eBay represent two of the largest marketplaces for third-party retailers, with other opportunities including ‘Not On The High Street’, ‘Etsy’, and ‘Asos’.

The relevance of these marketplaces to your business depends on your product offering, and considered assessment of appropriate marketplaces for your niche can provide access to highly qualified customers.

marketplace

Benefits of Marketplaces

Exposure to new audiences

From increasing organic search rankings to paid and social media advertising, the exposure of your products to qualified audiences is the ultimate aim of our marketing division. In identifying and integrating with suitable marketplaces for your niche, we gain visibility to a previously untapped customer base.

Channel diversification

By diversifying your inbound marketing channels you not only increase the potential for revenue growth, but also protect yourself from dips in performance on other channels.

Low CPA (Cost per Acquisition)

Generally, marketplaces operate on a cost per sale model. This means that you pay either a fixed cost or a percentage of the final sales to them. Whilst this can reduce profit from each sale made, it is common to find that the costs associated with marketplaces are either lower or similar to other forms of acquisition.

Access to international markets

Integration into marketplaces can provide access to international audiences, potentially exponentially increasing your audience size.

Getting started…

The killer question. I’m sure you’re itching to begin your journey into online marketplaces. Before you do, there are a few things to consider:

Marketplace research & identification

The identification of suitable marketplaces to your product offering is a key step to prioritising your integration efforts. For example; do you sell unique, original products? Alignment with NOTHS or Etsy may be a more suitable than Amazon. Are you price competitive in your niche? Ebay provides access to millions of price-savvy consumers.

Product upload & feed creation

So you’ve identified an alignment strategy. Now begins the fun of integrating your product offering into your chosen platforms. Depending on the size of your product offering you may consider utilising a feed from your existing database to streamline the process.

Campaign optimisation

Marketplaces often run their own internal algorithms to decide where your products rank in their listings compared to others offering a similar item. By optimising your feed in line with key ranking metrics you are able to significantly increase your exposure within a marketplace, leading to increased transactions.

Final thought

Whether you require support in identifying the most appropriate channels for your niche, creating a feed to allow smooth integration, or optimising your data for improved visibility, it’s often worth seeking advice or diving deeper into some research to make sure you get the most out of your marketplace campaigns.