Articles by: Lexie Lu
The last six months of any year seem to pass at lightning speed. Once summer hits, there are marketing promotions to run, gearing up for back-to-school and then the holidays are right around the corner. Before you get caught up in the rush of Black Friday preparations, take a little time and evaluate your end-of-year needs.
There are more than 1 million retail establishments in the United States alone. That number ebbs and flows, of course, as businesses open and close each year. Part of outpacing the competition and ensuring your cash flow remains high throughout the last two quarters includes paying attention to the needs of retail businesses in general and assessing how your brand measures up.
Here are six things you should assess before the end of the year and see what adjustments you need to make before the new year arrives.
1. Prepare Your Holiday Marketing Campaign
Well before November arrives, you should already have a full marketing campaign in place. Once the busy season hits, you’ll have little time for planning social media posts, which items to get in stock and what to put on sale. Instead, use the summer months — which are typically slower for most retailers, unless you’re in a tourist town — and plan how you’ll reach your target audience.
Think about some of the better-known retailers. One example of a store that often prepares for the holidays well in advance is Macy’s, with their famous Thanksgiving Day Parade. In addition to the parade, they tell compelling stories through videos and print campaigns that tie into their message of “Believe.”
Macy’s also hosts an annual fundraising event for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which ties in nicely with the other elements of their campaign. If you can find a purpose you believe in and tie into it with your marketing, those who support the same cause should respond positively.
2. Create a Retail Business Map
For retailers, foot traffic can make or break you. Choose the wrong location for your store, and you risk not making enough sales to afford the rent. A retail business map shows potential foot traffic in the area and even what times of year are busiest. For example, if your store is near a college campus, you might be busy when school is in session, but lose out during what should be the busiest time of year because everyone goes home for the holidays.
3. Beef up Your Content
If your retail business doesn’t yet have an online component, it should. Studies show people often begin searches online, even if they’re planning to visit a local store in person. One easy way of beefing up your content through the end of the year is adding a content marketing system and managing contributors to your site. Happy customers, employees and management can all contribute to your blog.
In a recent survey of marketers, 74% of business-to-consumer marketers felt their content marketing campaigns were successful. However, you must know your audience well, create unique content and market that content in the right places. Accomplishing that feat requires diligence toward internal data about your specific audience.
You’ve likely seen people post their dollar store craft ideas on Facebook and Pinterest. Did you know Dollar Tree maintains a blog with tons of DIY ideas for crafts, decorations and even recipes? Every suggestion on the blog uses items you’ll find in Dollar Tree stores. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have fun, and they prove that with their blog posts, which hit their target audience perfectly.
4. Revisit Quarterly Budgets
Now is an excellent time to revisit your budgets for Q3 and Q4. Is there enough money left in the coffers for advertising, ordering extra inventory and paying seasonal helpers? If not, you may need to revamp your budget. During your slow time, you should also begin mapping out your first-quarter budget for the next year. Remember, you’ll be crazy busy once the holidays hit, and the new year arrives right on the tail end of the most hectic shopping season. Preparing for your first quarter now saves you valuable time later. You can always adjust as needed.
Toward the latter part of each quarter is a smart time to look at the budget for the next quarter. Make sure everything is in order and still makes sense based on your goals and profits. If you feel overwhelmed with this task, hire an accountant to help you out. A financial professional may see opportunities to save money you would never spot. You can hire an accountant on a contract basis to come in occasionally, or employ one full-time.
5. Update Software Now
Do you need any major software upgrades? Perhaps you plan to implement a new point-of-sale system before the holidays hit. It makes much more sense to update your systems now when you aren’t as busy and work out any bugs. If updates won’t be available until just before the holidays, considering delaying the updates until after the first of the year. People will only wait in line for so long. If your POS system is down or having issues, you risk losing sales. Once customers leave your store, it’s unlikely they’ll return.
6. Order Inventory
Based on sales so far and what customers are saying, what will the hot products be for the holidays? Think about gift sets and items people can pick up quickly during last-minute shopping. Not only should you begin increasing stock — within reason — on those items, but think of ways you can make them easier for your customers, such as pre-wrapped gift sets and baskets aimed at specific audience segments, such as Dad, Mom, boyfriend and best friend. The easier you make shopping for your customers, the more they’re likely to buy from you.
A word of caution here: Many business owners have spent a small fortune stocking up on inventory for the holidays, only to find they’re stuck with stock they can’t sell. Make sure your sales for the last few years justify the inventory you’re ordering, or have a backup plan for how you’ll move the items if they don’t sell. Cash flow issues plague many small businesses, so be cautious about the inventory decisions you make.
The Secret to Success
Planning is the secret to ending your year on a successful note. The more planning you put into your last two quarters, the easier your marketing and sales will be when the time arrives. Spend a little time prepping now, and have the best year you’ve ever had in your retail store.
A business to many (B2M) model sells goods and services to both consumers and other businesses, so is a mix of both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C). Meeting the needs of such a diverse set of clients is challenging.
There are about 30.2 million small businesses in the United States. Some of those businesses are B2B, some are B2C and others take on many faces. Trying to serve many different markets in the same niche requires a bit of finesse and attention to detail. There are some specific things on which you can focus that will make your B2M better than you ever imagined.
1. Know All Your Target Audiences
As a business that serves a variety of audiences, you must take the time to dig deep into the analytics of the different audiences you serve. Develop buyer personas for each different demographic. Although marketing campaigns might hit on more than one audience at a time, you still need to ensure you speak to specific people. Look for areas of commonality among your different audience segments, so your marketing speaks to all your buyers.
Facebook’s model is an excellent example of how a business serves both other businesses and consumers at the same time. They offer services for business owners, such as advertising and business pages. However, they also serve consumers, offering features for them such as online groups, free profile pages and games.
2. Dig Into Your ROI Reports
What goods and services bring the best return on investment (ROI)? While you expand your customer base by becoming a B2M company, it doesn’t help your profits if you don’t make a decent ROI for one segment or the other. Knowing which audiences spend the most money and on what also allows you to predict what inventory you might need and ramp up marketing campaigns around specific seasons.
3. Segment Your Website
If you don’t want to have multiple landing pages, you can simply segment your site into sections that serve your different buyer personas. This works particularly well with service-based industries. You might even make the transition as simple as offering a section for consumers and one for business owners or adding details to listings about how to buy in bulk as online retailers such as Office Depot do.
Shipley Energy creates a sales funnel for both segments of its buying audience. They offer a section titled “For Your Home” with an invitation to enter your zip code and click on the type of information you’d like to purchase (heating oil, propane, natural gas, etc.) On the other side of their home page, the column reads “For your business” and offers different information geared toward business owners, such as fleet fueling and wholesale fuels, and offers a free quote. Although the two segments look similar, the information contained is quite different.
4. Cross-Train Employees
Make sure your customer service staff is cross-trained to handle questions and problems from both the B2B and B2C segment. Calls get routed to the wrong department, or some customers will have a personal need of your product as well as business needs. Your employees should all feel comfortable answering any questions that might come their way. The only way to ensure your employees are fully versed in B2M needs is through extensive training and asking them to work in different departments from time to time.
5. Meet Everyone’s Needs
Figuring out how to meet the needs of one audience without disrupting another is a balancing act. Think about some of the direct sales companies out there. If they sell their products online, their sales consultants may suffer. However, the ability to sell to the general public is a tempting proposition that’s difficult for many multi-level marketing (MLM) companies to resist. One way some companies get around this is by matching buyers with consultants. However, MLM isn’t the only industry which must balance the needs of many.
Think through each aspect of your services to B2Bs and make sure they don’t violate the needs of B2Cs and vice versa.
Sony Pictures discusses their product placement policies and are pretty well known for placing products in their films. At the same time, they must create entertaining films which aren’t too advertisement based. They’ve set some standards for the types of products they’ll place in order to protect their audience (consumers). For example, they won’t advertise tobacco products.
6. Adjust Your Marketing
While there are ways of reaching both audiences at the same time, marketing to B2B and B2C is quite different. Marketing to businesses requires educating your audience and showing them you’re an expert. On the other hand, consumers want to know you can meet their needs or solve a problem. The ROI is also skewed. With consumers, they typically buy one of an item, while business owners may buy in bulk and spend much more money. A more expensive advertising campaign aimed at B2B may have a higher ROI because of the average sale.
The only way to come out ahead with your marketing efforts as a B2M is with careful tracking of costs and results. When the ROI is significant, repeat those efforts. When the results fall flat, find something different.
When it comes to running a B2M business effectively, the way you view your audience segments makes a huge difference. Know your customers and all the little details about them so you can meet their needs and give them a positive experience with your brand. Serving multiple segments isn’t just possible but might be profitable. However, you must be highly organized and ready to adapt to any market changes.
Video Marketing Tips
Videos have consistently grown in popularity in recent years and are a big part of most marketing budgets. However, you can spend a lot of time and money creating ones that have little to no impact. There are some key features every successful video marketing campaign must have to reach your target audience and turn browsers into buyers.
The average person watches about 90 minutes of video a day. Video gives you a chance to reach people you might not reach any other way. Since you want your videos to be the absolute best reflection of your brand possible, here are 14 ways of improving your marketing videos:
1. Set a Goal
Before creating a video, set a goal for the marketing endeavor. Do you want to inform your audience, reach new customers or use the video to convert site visitors into fans? Once you know your goal, it’s much easier to decide on what kind of content gets the job done and where to share your video. Make sure your goal meats SMART standards and is specific and measurable, so you know if you hit the mark or not.
2. Develop a Brand Personality
Every company has a personality it presents to the outside world. Think about what impression you want to leave with people. Is your brand strong and reliable? Perhaps your business is youthful and fun. Your personality is about how others see you as well as how you see your brand. Think about the story behind who you are and use your videos to introduce your company to others.
Six Flags has used a little old man for years who dances to fun music and motions people to follow him to the theme park. Because it’s an entertainment venue, it wants people to associate it with fun. This video marketing campaign with catchy music and bright colors screams a good time.
3. Be Consistent
If you start off as a fun, hip company, stick with that theme. Don’t switch between a serious, studious image and a fun one. If you aren’t consistent in your branding, in both video and other mediums, then the consumer may not feel you’re very reliable. When you start a video series, stick with the theme all the way through. However, also be cautious of changing the tone of your videos from campaign to campaign.
4. Study the Competition
You can learn a lot about creating successful videos by studying your competition. Spend time on their websites and social media channels. Do they offer videos? If so, watch the entire video once and then go back and watch it while taking notes about what you feel is particularly successful. Do you notice any themes? While you never want to copy what a competitor does, you can certainly learn about the best ways to reach a target audience and discover areas they haven’t yet covered.
5. Show Off Your Expertise
Images get the point across much more quickly than words, so video is a great way of showing off your knowledge of the industry without tooting your own horn or sounding conceited. Show your best workers in action, discuss big projects you completed and highlight the unique value your company brings to the consumer.
H.O. Penn runs a video in the background of its landing page that highlights its machinery in action. This shows what the equipment does and how many types of machines the company offers.
6. Tell a Story
Around 92 percent of consumers state they want brands to create ads that feel like a story. They stay with people far longer than information or a sales pitch. You can utilize them in your video branding by discussing your founding, sharing customer testimonials or creating a story around your product. Think about some of the storylines from big-name companies, such as Geico and its cavemen ads or Subaru with its stories about how the car grows with and protects the family, featuring different scenarios.
7. Consider Mobile
Make sure your videos adapt to mobile. If you upload to a site such as Facebook or YouTube, the video will automatically be optimized for smaller screen sizes and adjust for whatever device the viewer is on. However, if you place it on your website, this becomes an important consideration. Around 85 percent of U.S. internet users watch video each month on their mobile devices. If they aren’t mobile ready, you’re missing a lot of potential traffic.
8. Think of a Unique Twist
Try to think of a unique way to highlight your product or service. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you must present your business in a new, fresh style that also highlights the value of your offerings. You may even want to hire a professional advertising firm to come up with a campaign theme for you. While you might not have the funds to pay them for every aspect of production, just having a plan in place helps you stand out as unique and creative.
Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” video campaign series shows the resilience of its product by mixing things you normally wouldn’t place in a blender, such as glow sticks or an iPhone. The videos are entertaining and unique but also highlight the power behind the technology.
9. Include a Call to Action (CTA)
Make sure you add a strong CTA to the end of your video. When users finish watching it, they should know what action they need to take to move forward. A CTA can be as simple as “visit our website” or as specific as “order the XS500 by calling 1-800-XS500.”
10. Keep It Short
Although it’s tempting to record long videos, the shorter it is, the more impact it’s likely to have. People are busy today and have short attention spans. If you can get your message across in a minute or two, then you have a better chance of the consumer sticking with you through the end of the footage.
11. Create a Thumbnail for Your Video
If you plan to upload your video to YouTube or some of the other social channels, you’ll want a thumbnail that clearly defines what it is about. You may even need a headline to grab user attention. Spend some time on YouTube looking at the thumbnails and take note of the attention-grabbing ones. Watch a few seconds of the video and see how well the thumbnail reflects what is highlighted.
My Little Bakery highlights different creations you can grab in the shop. Note how the thumbnails highlight a still image of the finished product. However, if you click on any of them, you get a video that shows the process of creating the treat.
12. Add Tags
Use your description and any areas for tags to define your audience — this is particularly helpful for social media posts. One simple way of finding popular hashtags is searching on Twitter, Instagram or YouTube and seeing what people search for and are talking about. You may even be able to tie your video marketing campaign into a particular event or holiday.
13. Consider Foreign Visitors
Do you have a large number of site visitors from another country? You can always add translation text so both native speakers and foreign visitors understand the video. Your site stats will show how many visitors you get from each area of the world and help you make an informed decision about whether it’s worth the investment to reach out to a particular market segment.
14. Educate and Entertain, but Don’t Spam
Have you ever watched part of a video that was such a strong sales pitch you clicked away? No one likes advertising that seems spammy. Instead, educate the public or entertain them, but don’t shove your product at them and demand they buy it. It’s a big turnoff for most people, and they’re much more likely to just bounce away from your offering rather than taking action and buying from you.
Video Marketing Is on the Rise
Whether you like video marketing or not, it’s becoming more popular. Now is the time to perfect your video advertising skills and learn what your audience responds to. Hone in on the finer details of video, and you’ll have much greater success than you imagined.
Selling to both consumers and businesses is one way to gain an edge on the competition and increase your market share. However, figuring out the best method of selling to two very different audiences isn’t as easy.
Around 74 percent of small business owners indicate scalability is one of the most important factors for growing their businesses. Unifying your B2B and B2C business saves your company money and effort and allows you to scale up more easily than having two separate sites.
However, there are a few challenges with unifying both sides of your online business. Keep these eight elements in mind as you pull together both types of e-commerce into one platform.
1. Make a List of What’s the Same
Whether you sell to other businesses or directly to consumers, there are some similar elements of the process. Look at the journey each type of buyer takes through your site and list out what the similarities. Can you vary the number of items, such as through a wholesale discount, but the actual checkout process is the same? What elements differ between B2B and B2C orders? For example, you may need to add a line for B2B clients for tax exemption information.
ServiceMaster Restore offers home services for residential and commercial properties. They have one home page with the option to also navigate to “Residential Services” and “Commercial Services.” Users go one way or the other, depending upon their needs. However, combining both types of services creates an opportunity for increased profits. Business owners are often homeowners and vice versa.
2. Unify Your Inventory
Even though you might sell products to both B2B and B2C, your inventory systems can be consolidated, so you have a handle on what is in your warehouse at all times. Unifying your inventory allows you to see patterns in sales and ensures you always have the items on hand for both consumers and businesses. Integrating your online shopping cart with your database also keeps information in real time. If you have an offline sales department or store, your sales force will know what items are in short supply and what needs moved.
3. Highlight Varied Uses
When you serve different buyer personas, your product typically has multiple uses to different segments of society. One way of ensuring your site speaks to each of your different personas is by listing the industries you serve. While this might seem limiting at first glance, it doesn’t mean you won’t sell to others. Your goal is simply focusing on the main uses for your product or service.
EZ Dock offers dock solutions for a number of different types of clients. They highlight the various uses of their product with categories such as those looking for PWC ports, kayak launches, boat ports and swimming docks. Further down their landing page, they list some of the different types of industries using their docks including residential, commercial, government and industrial.
4. Hire Better Design People
A unified site keeps costs lower. This means you can invest more in your website design and hire the absolute best designers and marketers within your budget. With only one main site to maintain, you’ll try different methods and test them thoroughly to see what converts best with your target audience. Skilled UX designers will help you plan the best ways of reaching leads.
5. Enhance Customer Experience
The experience your customers have on your site (UX) impacts the reputation of your brand and whether users return to your site for future orders. With a unified site, you can focus on creating an amazing customer service experience. Look at elements users appreciate, such as live chat staffed with knowledgeable agents. Although there are many factors which improve CX, excellent customer support is a big indicator of how happy people will be when they leave your site.
Office Max caters to both consumer and business clientele. Throughout the site, they indicate you can take advantage of bulk pricing on things such as paper and printer ink. However, their customer service is integrated and includes multiple ways to get in touch with them. Because they integrate both types of audiences, they can create strong customer service that gives them a good reputation among both individuals and businesses.
6. Invest in Better Logistics
No matter what type of customer you serve, good logistics are one of the keys to keeping that customer with your brand and developing a sense of loyalty. Think about how Amazon does this as an example. They offer Prime shipping so their members get packages within a couple of days. Utilizing warehouses, they get packages out within minutes of the order being placed and then team up with the USPS and other shipping providers (including some of their own employees) to get packages delivered on time.
Your company may not be as big as Amazon, but that doesn’t you mean you can’t combine the logistics of both branches of your company to improve your shipping speeds. The first key involves your website design and combining shipping options into your shopping cart.
7. Narrow Your B2B Focus
The very nature of B2B sales means you target a narrow niche of customers, whereas B2C has a much wider base of potential buyers. Keep this in mind as you revamp your site for both B2B and B2C customers. What is the narrow niche for B2B and how can you define your value to potential clients?
Flexfire LEDs sells to both individuals and businesses. They use a grid system and list out some of the advantages of using their products and provide details for each use. For example, they have a section titled “Control Your Lights” and another titled “Freedom of Color.” Relevant images of their product in various locations, such as a bar or a living room show the various uses of each item. They further invite site visitors to contact them for project design support.
8. Find Your Brand Voice
One challenge of speaking to both types of customers at once is getting the tone right. However, if you have a specific voice for your brand, this becomes easier. While the topics that interest your B2B customers may differ from those that interest your B2C customers, your brand’s focus shouldn’t change. If your goal is to solve a specific problem, then your messaging should still reflect your goals and personality. You’ll offer content from two perspectives rather than one. Your storytelling should be more brand driven so all buyer personas relate to your content.
Look for ways of combining operations between B2B and B2C so you can reduce costs and improve results. Communicate between different departments to ensure you fully understand the best ways of marketing to each client base. Make notes about what meshes well and what must be kept separate — such as wholesale prices. Although there are challenges in combining B2B and B2C operations on one website, the benefits outweigh the risks.
Technology has more of an impact on our daily lives than at any other time in history. Smart houses and smartphones are the first interactions most people have when they wake up and the last interaction they have before they go to bed. Doctors use technology for complex medical problems, teachers use technology in the classroom and businesses embrace new trends to attract customers.
The rise of the iPhone is an excellent example of how rapidly technology advances. Apple released the iPhone in 2007. At last count, 2.2 billion people own an iPhone just over a decade later. That is one little example of technology taking off and people embracing the smartphone.
In the coming years, some emerging technologies will become more common. Here are seven likely to take off and become a part of everyday life.
1. Speech Recognition
Speech recognition has advanced in the last few years due to the use of devices such as Alexa and Google Home, as well as advances in the way Siri and Cortana respond to voice commands. Consumers are already using this technology here and there, but expect it to become a more integral part of your day. There’s no need to navigate to Amazon and click on an item to order. Instead, users will tell their phones or smart devices to place the order.
Speech recognition will start to appear in the ways we navigate our vehicles and interact with devices such as smart refrigerators and washers and dryers. Knowing how to program a device will become a thing of the past, as speech recognition advances and a simple verbal command makes technology work.
You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but may not have used them. As business continues its march toward a global market, expect to see more and more use of cryptocurrency. Already, people are much more likely to use Apple Pay or a virtual credit card than cash. In a study by the German bank Bundesbank, researchers shared that for the first time in the bank’s history, cash made up less than 50 percent of all transactions.
As more hackers perfect their skimming techniques, people are reluctant to use debit and credit cards for purchases. Cash isn’t always convenient to have on hand, and it’s bulky to carry around. Expect to see cryptocurrency rise, both for the convenience and the ability to use it across different monetary exchanges.
3. Driverless Cars
There is already quite a bit of buzz about driverless cars. Could the future of driving be one where humans don’t even need a driver’s license or the knowledge of how a vehicle operates? Fully automated cars would reduce traffic accidents, allow people to make better use of their time commuting to and from work and save money on fuel use. Liquid silicone rubber (LSR) is one area where advances impact the driverless car industry specifically. Autonomous cars use LSR parts while reducing the cost and increasing the performance of the vehicles. This tech will help make driverless cars affordable for everyone.
4. Artificial Intelligence
The driverless vehicles mentioned above may make you think about the novel-based movie I, Robot with Will Smith, where the computers try to take over the world — and the car he’s driving in one scene. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) mean there are fewer menial tasks for humans to do, and people can focus more on creative and management-based endeavors. Through 2020, expect to see a push toward transparency in how AI functions. People still don’t fully trust AI — perhaps because of movies where computers turn on society — and developers are working to figure out how to expose the specific algorithms used for computer decision-making.
As people begin trusting AI more, the technology will take over more and more physical tasks. Although the day where a robot lives in your home and cooks dinner for you may be a decade or more away, the changes are coming. In the future, we may have everything from a robot nanny to a machine which cleans the entire house instead of merely a vacuum.
5. Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things is growing by leaps and bounds. A few years ago, the idea of connecting all our devices to “talk” to each other may have seemed almost impossibly futuristic, but today, the average home might have a smart thermostat and lights, programmed to turn on minutes before residents arrive home from work. Smart devices range from garage door openers to door locks to ways of interacting with your pets while you’re away.
As 5G Internet speeds hit more areas and more devices enter the market, expect to see an expansion of IoT in nearly every field. One significant issue with all of these devices, however, has been that they all run separately, meaning users must keep track of a lot of different things. As Google Home and Alexa improve and expand which products they work with, expect automation of all devices to become simpler.
AI will also begin working with IoT so that devices can automatically set your preferences based on past behavior and best guesses. Imagine a day where you don’t even have to set your coffeemaker to turn on. Why? Well, your smart home already knows you get up at 6 a.m. and sets the device for you.
6. Eye-Controlled Technology
Advances in facial recognition and eye-tracking software allow people to interact more easily with electronic devices. Already, the iPhone XS Max recognizes the user’s face to open without using a passcode or fingerprint. The user looks at the screen, and the device unlocks, but only for the user through facial recognition. Expect to see more devices using this type of technology in the future. Imagine a car that’s impossible to steal because the vehicle recognizes a list of pre-programmed faces before starting.
In the next age of technology, gestures and facial expressions may operate all types of devices, particularly computers and smartphones.
7. Smart Fabric
Imagine wearing a shirt which adapts to your body temperature, keeping you warm or cool based on comfort level. A team of researchers produced a wearable fabric with sensors embedded inside. Solar receptors could capture the power of the sun and heat the material on a cold day. Multiple sensors might track health metrics and notify someone before they have a stroke or heart attack. It could be used to better track the effectiveness of a workout.
The applications for smart material are limitless, such as bedding that maintains an ideal body temperature while sleeping and tracks sleep patterns. Smart fabric might help airlines ensure their passengers are more comfortable and alert flight attendants about any severe health complications, such as blood clots on long flights.
Impact of Technology
Changes in technology impact people’s lives. As artificial intelligence advances, jobs will disappear — computers will replace people. Either new jobs that use more human intellect will replace old ones, or people will feel an economic impact. Freeing our time from menial tasks will giving citizens additional hours to read, study, learn new skills — or waste more time on social media than ever before.
Technology changes so rapidly that you may not even notice the shifts. Do you remember a time when you didn’t carry your cell phone everywhere, and you went out to dinner with friends instead of sharing a photo of what you had for lunch on Instagram? Technology changes not only the physical aspects of life, but our social interactions. While most technology will make life easier, you must also be aware of potential negatives and work to counteract them for a fulfilling life.
Must Have Apps for 2019 to Download Before Your Next Trip
Seasoned travelers know you can do a lot of little things to make being away from home more comfortable. You can follow tips to pack lighter, such as rolling your clothes and using hotel laundry services and certain credit cards accepted everywhere. What you may not have considered are the apps you should download before your next journey.
Experts predict that U.S. domestic business travel will reach 483 million trips a year by 2020. By the year 2021, experts predict business travel spending will reach $1.7 trillion. If you aren’t already traveling as part of your work, you’re likely to at some point in your career.
Figuring out which apps are worth downloading and which are a waste of time isn’t an easy task. Dozens of travel and business apps are available. We’ve done the work of sifting through them and figuring out which are most beneficial for business travelers. Here are seven of them.
Skyscanner offers a mobile app that allows you to sort through the different prices for flying to and from various destinations utilizing business class. Some airlines offer discounts at specific times of the year, so pushing your meetings a week or two out might save you as much as 50 percent or more on your business class fare.
The app also notifies you of any specials, helps you track which airlines have the best deals and offers a chart which shows the cheapest months and days to fly. If your company makes travel arrangements for you, you can still offer input to the assistant making plans by looking at your Skyscanner app for the best dates before asking them to book your travel.
Have you ever headed out on a business trip that ran a bit longer than expected due to intense negotiations or a sudden added meeting or two? In large cities, the hotel you were already in may be booked up for a conference or other event. There are times when you suddenly have to find a hotel room at the last minute.
Enter Hotel Tonight, a way to find a hotel in any city with a few filters. The app has a partnership with some of the best hotels in the largest cities. They offer their unsold rooms at a discount. You can book rooms in advance or look for something at the last minute. The app includes a full description of each hotel along with ratings from other travelers.
This app is the perfect tool for syncing your travel itinerary and work calendars. If you plan to do a little sightseeing at the end of a work day, then you can also plan side trips around important meetings, meshing the best of both business and leisure travel.
You can also share your itinerary through the app with your work colleagues, which reduces communication issues and keeps everyone informed of when essential meetings are on the schedule. This app helps keep you productive and on task while on your business trip because you see at a glance what’s next in your planned day.
You might have some issues with actually converting your currency into foreign currency when traveling, including that there are only a limited number of banks which convert currency. Last-minute travel plans don’t always allow enough time to convert. You may find yourself in another locale with different money than your country uses. However, in tourist-heavy areas, they will likely still take the United States dollar and other popular currency in exchange for goods and services.
Elk is a currency converter for those trips that take you outside of your home country. The difference between what your local currency is worth in another country varies daily. You can quickly see if you’re being treated fairly and also being fair to others by using Elk to convert currency in real time. The app works with an iOS device and integrates with your Apple watch, putting information at your fingertips.
You may have some downtime during your business trips, so entertaining yourself is a vital part of travel. Watching videos is one way of keeping yourself entertained. Listen with headphones, and you won’t disrupt those around you.
If you have a Netflix account, downloading the app is a must for any traveler. However, there may be times when you don’t have access to cellular data. You’ll want to download a few movies or episodes of shows to your app, so you can pull them up even without WIFI access.
When you do have WIFI access, your viewing options are unlimited. Remember that downloads take up space on your mobile device, so delete files after you’ve viewed them.
6. Google Maps
Google Maps is one of the top means of navigating in a car or on foot. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, you can pull up the app and figure out what restaurants and stores are near your location and get walking or driving directions to the destination. The maps also integrate with Google Reviews, so you can see what others think about a particular establishment before frequenting it yourself as well as get price ranges.
Google Maps also offers stop-by-stop directions for local mass transit along with departure and arrival times for trains and buses. Never again will you feel overwhelmed by big city subway systems you aren’t familiar with. You can pull up the app and figure out the best route to take along with where to get on and off transit.
One of the worst parts about business travel is keeping all those receipts and tracking expenses, so you can get reimbursed or prove your per diem. Fortunately, there’s an app that simplifies the process of expense tracking.
The app is free to download. You take a snapshot with your phone of a receipt and describe the expense and submit a final report to your company when you’re finished. Even if your company doesn’t partner with Expensify, you can track costs for your records in case you accidentally misplace a receipt or to make your final report easier to pull together for accounting.
Be Choosy About Apps
The seven apps above represent some of the most useful ones we’ve found. While numerous apps for business travelers exist, be selective about which ones you use. The best apps serve a purpose by making your travel experience easier or reducing your workload in some way. Look for apps that expand communication between you and your home office or solve problems likely to arise while traveling.
New technologies come and go, regardless of whether people consider them innovative or exciting. Some of them have staying power, while others disappear into the abyss as if they were nothing more than an afterthought. Because the marketplace is so fast-moving, it’s difficult to determine what to invest in and when.
That’s precisely the case with IoRT, or the Internet of Robotic Things. The niche derives its name from the Internet of Things and the Industrial Internet of Things, both of which involve smart, connected devices and sensors. Like anything internet-connected, robotic “things” can do more of the same. They continuously collect, process and transmit data, as well as offer a variety of connected functionalities — such as remote access. The technology also paves the way for further augmenting systems through compatible tools like AI, machine learning, big data systems and more.
Markets and Markets predicts the IoRT market will be worth nearly $21.44 billion by 2022. We’re not that far off, which means we should start seeing its adoption ramp up. Just because a market is on the rise, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best time to invest, particularly for an enterprise operation.
We are becoming increasingly dependent on robotics, especially in manufacturing. But the question remains: What role do smart, “connected” robots play? Who’s already using them, and how? What’s the outlook of that rollout? Is it promising, or is it something everyone should wait to implement?
IoRT in Manufacturing
In many factories and plants, robotic systems aren’t just about automation — they’re also essential for eliminating dangerous environments and situations. For example, tasks that involve human workers repetitively lifting heavy supplies or components and putting them onto a conveyor belt or feeding them into a machine have a prolonged impact on their bodies. Even with proper support, the stress of the job can cause short-term injuries, as well as deteriorate parts of their body in the long term. Many are familiar with what happens to your knees or back when you’re lifting heavy objects day after day.
More than a million Americans work in a warehouse facility, and roughly 51,550 workers get injured or killed on the job every year. Implementing advanced robotics can prevent many of those injuries — even deaths. The risk is higher in facilities or operations that do not use such robotics.
IoT allows them to interface with other nearby equipment and machines, but also to interact with their human counterparts. Think collaborative or cooperative robots that work alongside human laborers, as opposed to replacing them altogether. Many high-profile manufacturers are already doing this, improving working conditions and boosting efficiency for their operations.
IoRT in Logistics
Outside of manufacturing, yet still related to the supply chain, is the logistics and order fulfillment section of the market. Internet robotics come into play here not just in terms of boosting efficiency and capability, but also improving the working conditions for the human workers. Much like in manufacturing, smarter robots work alongside their human counterparts. An automated storage tool might follow one worker around the warehouse floor, carrying heavy goods and shipments. Another might operate as a computerized forklift, pulling pallets or items from on high.
Amazon is the best-known proponent of this kind of technology, and they actively use devices like collaborative robots and smart shelving systems. These devices help in the order picking and retrieval process, primarily because Amazon’s warehouses are so extensive. Manual, human-only fulfillment would take an incredibly long time, as workers would need to traverse the space to find goods and then move them to the appropriate areas. The company is even taking all this a step further, dabbling in drone-based delivery in certain local markets.
IoRT in Consumer Electronics
It seems a tad silly at first to consider the consumer electronics side of things. That’s especially true when it comes to talking about highly capable, internet-ready robotics. What can consumer tech do that’s so great? When you look at the kinds of devices that are hitting the market, it becomes immediately apparent there is plenty of innovation.
Consider smart or robotic vacuums, for example. On the surface, something so simple seems almost ridiculous. But these devices incorporate a wide variety of sensors, impact-measuring tools and advanced software to navigate the home, sans human command. They can move about a residence cleaning up various spills and debris, then roll back into a charging dock when their battery is low. It’s almost exactly the kind of technology in use for Amazon’s warehouse robots — though Amazon’s tech is slightly more advanced.
Imagine if smart voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant had access to a robotic arm. They could easily do something like preparing and cooking food for a modern family. Indeed, they could take over many household chores, like laundry, mowing the lawn or even working on the family car.
What’s the Takeaway?
These are just three, fairly early examples of real-world IoRT applications. As with the IoT in general, it’s easy to see how promising and beneficial the technology can be. In only a few years, Amazon has amassed a robot army of 45,000 strong, and that number is still growing. They wouldn’t be doing that if they didn’t see efficiency and output gains.
Ultimately, the takeaway is that now is the perfect time to invest in the Internet of Robotic Things. There is still some time before it grows to dominate the marketplace and it certainly warrants more research and training in the next few years. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s skyrocketing in popularity. Surely, the competition will be considering adopting IoRT if they haven’t already incorporated the technology.
Although the capability for virtual reality (VR) was invented in 1957, it’s only in recent years that VR pops up in nearly every industry. Better screen resolutions, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), create a world where VR is more realistic than ever before.
By 2020, experts predict virtual reality and augmented reality tech will hit $15.6 billion. VR capability and frequency is growing at a rapid pace. Nearly every type of business imaginable now implements the technology.
If your business hasn’t yet invested in VR, it isn’t too late. Looking at some of the industries that use VR may inspire you to figure out where best to invest in VR for your own endeavors. While some places simply make sense for VR usage, others are less obvious.
1. Treating Phobias in Psychology
Virtual reality is utilized to treat severe phobias and fears, such as when soldiers have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Also, 50 percent of adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) battle anxiety and phobias, which VR can improve through graded exposure therapy.
VR addresses the challenges in overcoming fear by recreating real-life experiences and forcing reliance on abstract thinking skills. The process is taken step-by-step in a safe, monitored environment. The most typical use is in a blue screen type room with a VR headset. The fear is introduced in a slow series of encounters until the person begins overcoming the fear.
2. Training Manufacturing and Retail Employees
Virtual reality is a safe way of training employees in the intricate use of machinery. Particularly in some manufacturing industries, training means the difference between safety and potential injury. However, the technology also has benefits for nearly any type of exercise that requires real-world scenarios.
Simulations run the gamut from an encounter with a difficult customer to working on a dangerous machine that might kill a person if not used correctly.
3. Practicing for Surgeries
Another area where VR is making strides is in medicine. In the past, surgeons tried to plan out intricate surgeries, but much of the process was experimental. With VR, surgeons can now map out delicate brain surgery and practice before the actual surgery or come up with new ways of completing medical procedures and trying them out in a virtual world first.
Doctors practiced separating conjoined twins at the Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. VR is also utilized for review of surgeries after the fact so surgeons can improve with each procedure. No longer are people used as guinea pigs for new methods, but doctors thoroughly test the procedure before attempting the operation.
4. Marketing With an Edge
Another area where VR and AR appear frequently is marketing. New advances in the capability of smartphones allow advertisers to implement features which come to life when the user hovers their mobile device over a particular image. Print advertising comes to life with a combination of unique codes and mobile devices.
Expect to see AR utilized on social media, websites and in more print advertising than ever before. For example, M&Ms recently integrated AR with a campaign to sell their new caramel filled candies by turning billboards into games when people pointed their smartphones at a particular billboard.
5. Creating Cars for the Automotive Industry
Vehicle designers have a pretty good idea about aerodynamics and what goes into the design of a new car. However, there is still a costly process of creating prototypes and testing everything for safety and endurance. One way to speed up this process is through the use of VR technology. In the past, designers started on paper, but today they draw with the help of computer-aided design (CAD).
When Ford’s design team created the 2000X, they used virtual reality to get a jump start on the design process. They used a virtual lab space, and the designers moved around and made alterations to see how they’d work. The use of a virtual image also allowed designers to look at the vehicle through the eyes of the consumer and see what might need improving.
6. Enhancing Real Estate Listings
Imagine a world where potential home buyers walk through a house from a distant location rather than driving to a home in another city. A virtual tour of a home allows buyers to rule out listings which don’t meet their needs and narrow down their search, saving both them and the listing agent time and money.
Another advantage of using VR for real estate listings is that the person can plug their own furniture into the home and see if everything fits or looks the way they’d like. No more imagining if your sofa might look okay in the space. You’ll know immediately if it fits and how it looks.
7. Advancing the Troops
The military has used VR for a while to show soldiers potential real-life scenarios they might encounter while overseas. A highly trained military force is possible as well as helping specialize training for higher order forces, such as the Navy Seals. All three branches of the United States military utilize VR — Army, Navy and Air Force.
Some of the ways the military uses VR is for flight simulation, battlefield medic training, battlefield simulation, vehicle over rough terrain simulations and virtual boot camps. The Army has a fully immersive VR system at Fort Bragg. Such a system allows an entire squadron of soldiers to practice together in simulations of possible scenarios they’ll encounter while out in the field.
Adding VR to Your Industry
No matter what industry you serve, VR and AR enhance some of what you do. Whether you invest in a VR system for training or simulate situations, VR creates a highly trained and adaptable workforce.
As headsets go down in price and become easier to use, expect more small businesses to jump onto the VR train. They’ll be utilizing the latest technology for exploration and transformation. Think about how VR might help grow your business today. Then consider what type of return on investment you might see.
Mistakes happen. We are human, and we are not infallible. The trick is not necessarily avoiding mistakes altogether, but instead using them as a learning experience. In business — particularly when running a startup — it’s also essential that you deal with any problems as soon as possible to prevent them from growing into something insurmountable. Some business mistakes may even come back to haunt you later down the line, in that case, it’s about being prepared.
Of course, the best thing to do is to avoid making the mistake in the first place. That’s not always possible, as some things are just going to play out how they play out. However, you can avoid some common problems during your first year of business — mistakes which many other entrepreneurs have made in the past. Here are eight examples.
1. Register as a Business Entity
In the U.S., most states require you to have a business license or at least be registered before you can start operating as one. This process is not the same as incorporating or starting an organization, but it’s just as important because it separates your personal assets from your business assets. What does that mean?
If you’re selling a product that hurts someone or makes them sick and they decide to sue your company, that’s where the business entity comes into play. When registered as a business, that essentially takes over, and the person(s) suing can only collect from your business assets and funds, including available insurance. If you’re not an “entity,” your personal assets are on the table, too. It could very well be the difference between only losing your business funds and supplies or losing your home and personal materials, too.
The most common form of business entity is an LLC or limited liability corporation.
2. Plan Ahead
There’s no way to know for sure what’s coming in the years ahead. Your business could slowly start to grow, die off entirely or hit a sudden boom bringing in millions of dollars a day — you just don’t know. But that doesn’t change anything in regards to planning. You should always plan ahead and have multiple contingencies for when an event or scenario plays out. Don’t prepare just for success, either.
More importantly, you should remember to set goals you can strive toward. Don’t just set them in the near future, either — consider two, five and even 10 years down the line. What would you like to achieve? What new avenues, products or services would you like to pursue? Would you like to be in new markets?
Expanding your business into new markets or opening up new locations, for instance, will be necessary to grow influence and support. But it’s important to understand the risks, timing and requirements, so you don’t incur more significant problems. Do it at the wrong time, and you’ll stretch your capital and assets thin, which could result in failure for the entire operation.
Start with a huge list of desirable yet realistic goals and narrow down what you want to achieve as you continue to grow.
3. Learn to Protect Your Business
Too many startups fail simply because the owner or owners were not prepared to deal with certain unfortunate yet legal events. They did not consult legal assistance, they did not file the appropriate paperwork to protect their assets or they did not draw up a contract to prevent gutting or theft.
Imagine two friends working together to build a startup. Things start to go sour, and one decides to leave, but they want to take “their” ideas or accomplishments with them. It’s too late to draw up a contract to protect the business at that moment. So, you should do it beforehand.
Here are some things to consider:
- Protect intellectual property through trademarks, copyrights, etc.
- Draw up a contract before things get hot and heavy, explicitly outlining what stays with the business and who gets what during a split
- Create similar contracts for partners, vendors and investors
- Consult attorneys, accountants and bankers for advice and support — don’t do everything yourself
- Acquire the necessary insurance or emergency financial support
4. Don’t Incorporate Too Early
Many companies and business owners will decide to incorporate when they’re running low on funds, which opens up their business to public investments and incredible growth. It’s a good idea, and it’s a great source of capital — but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your business.
Do not incorporate until your business has a clear foundation and it’s apparent whether you’re going to sink or swim over the coming years. That might sound vague, but you can predict relatively well through past performance how a business will do on its current trajectory.
There are many requirements of an incorporated business you may or may not be able to deal with. For example, investors are going to want the company run the way they think is best, which means making decisions that please them — not necessarily how you would want your business to be shaped. This can completely alter the planning and design phases, as you must incorporate what your investors want as part of your decision, as opposed to only what you or your team might want.
5. Undervaluing Your Products or Services
The price you charge for your goods when you enter the market sets a precedent for your business. In most cases, it’s difficult to raise prices or change a payment plan after your company is in operation, even with iterative product updates. You’d have to make substantial changes to warrant the increase, and many customers are going to be against it or upset by it.
That doesn’t mean you should never change prices, but the critical point here is that you don’t want to undervalue what you have to offer when you’re just starting. A lot of businesses set their price points too low because they aren’t confident or they fear failure.
Before launching anything, explore the market thoroughly to review comparable products. What are similar companies charging? What do your products or services have that others don’t? What’s a good price range for your industry?
6. Avoiding New Technology
For any business, the adoption of new technologies, systems and tools is going to be a costly endeavor — that’s just how it is. The bigger the team, the more time and resources it will take to roll out a new solution — which includes higher costs.
Money aside, you should never be afraid to adopt new technologies or solutions. Many will help teams do their work more effectively, increasing output and ultimately lowering operating costs. In other words, it’s almost always worth the investment.
Do your research beforehand. Also, don’t adopt too many new platforms at once, just work on a single upgrade at a time. When assessing what to try or what to install, consider what parts of your normal day-to-day operations could do with a little improvement.
7. Know Your Ideal Customer
You could have the greatest idea ever for a business or product, but it won’t make a difference if you don’t know who your customer is. That also means understanding what they want, how they live and how they might interact with your business in the future. Will they be willing to upgrade to a new model as soon as it’s available, for instance?
Knowing your customer is not just vital for regular business operations and development, it’s also crucial to marketing. You need to speak directly to your customers through your marketing campaign, including those that have yet to invest in your business.
8. Need Strong Marketing
Speaking of marketing, you won’t see a lot of growth if you aren’t continually promoting your business. Marketing takes many forms from online and social media content to word of mouth referrals. Furthermore, as a local business or new startup, your marketing campaigns are going to look a lot different than large organizations.
You won’t succeed at marketing, however, if you don’t understand your market. That means getting to know your customers, understanding your competition and knowing the current market sentiment. Are people just not interested in the products or services you wish to sell, for instance? How can you change that?
If you don’t learn to market early, you’re going to have a much more difficult time later on. Not to mention, you won’t have a consistent way to bring on new customers and clientele.
Mistakes Happen, So Learn to Correct Your Trajectory
Even armed with these incredibly helpful tips, you’re going to make a few mistakes. That’s okay. What’s important is that you correct your trajectory as soon as you realize what’s happening and that you learn from any errors, so you don’t repeat them.
Running a startup business is not a simple or easy feat. It’s challenging, there will be lots of obstacles and it takes a lot of time, patience and money. But you can make it happen. Just stay focused on your goals, trust in your support and keep pushing forward.
Where should you invest your online marketing dollars? Tracking online marketing efforts isn’t an easy task. Results aren’t immediately noticeable for some campaigns, and building a brand name adds value to your company in ways other than strictly monetary.
Influencer marketing utilizes people online with an established fan base and voice to get the word out about your products and company. However, influencer campaigns tend to offer a slow build toward name recognition rather than fast results. Ongoing investment and working with multiple influencers works best for most businesses.
There are eight key reasons your business should invest in influencer marketing.
1. Reach More Millennials
The millennial generation is one of the largest generations since the baby boomers, and they are now a vast buying block. About 70 percent of millennials tell surveyors the recommendations of their peers influence their purchase decisions. In a sea of businesses and online advertising, standing out to a marketing-savvy demographic isn’t easy, but your brand can still reach millennials where they live via social media influencers.
2. Keep up With Competitors
As more marketers realize the value of influencer marketing, your competitors get on the bandwagon. Remaining competitive requires embracing the same types of marketing but also thinking outside the box.
Work with influencers your competitors aren’t already working with. Think about who has similar audiences to yours, develop relationships with them and reach out for partnerships. The idea behind influencer marketing is creating a mutually beneficial relationship. Your audience should be a gain for the influencer and vice versa.
Lululemon Athletica teamed up with well-known names and micro-influencers to get the word out about its brand. In the screenshot above, professional surfer Malia Manuel shows off her Lululemon gear as she holds a yoga pose. Posts such as this give customers a reason to visit Lululemon’s website or Instagram page.
3. Grow Your Social Following
When an influencer mentions your brand, you gain access to their followers. While not all will respond to a campaign, some will. You’ll gain likes, followers and shares each time you work with an influencer on a campaign, and try out this auto likes instagram free trial to increase your brand.
Another way of engaging with influencers on social media is by commenting on their posts and sharing their content with your followers. Make sure your comments aren’t spammy but are related to the post at hand and add value to the conversation. Folks interested in the topic may find your comment interesting and click on your profile to learn more about you.
4. Create Instant Trust
New brands sometimes have a difficult time building trust with new customers. You don’t have a proven track record and users have no real reason to trust you and your customer service. However, they may already trust the influencer, who does have a proven record of only recommending the best products and services in the industry. Getting a recommendation from an influencer people already trust lends credibility to your brand.
50 Floor utilizes the help of a well-known influencer on the landing page of its website. Richard Karn is famous for his role as the handyman Al on “Home Improvement.” When site visitors see his smiling face, they immediately think of high-quality work ethic and home improvement. Finding a recognized and trusted influencer lends credibility to your brand name.
5. Find Influencers Easily
Figuring out who to contact at a print magazine and how to create the right resolution and size ad is a grueling task for someone new to the advertising game. However, finding an influencer is as simple as researching a topic and seeing who is talking about that trend on social media. You can see at a glance which accounts have a decent following.
Pay attention to how many people interact on their profile pages and not just how many followers they have, as some people have a lot of bot followers. Are their users engaging when they post content? Pay particular attention to any branded posts they put up and how their followers react. Getting attention from 3,000 highly targeted and engaged users is preferable to little attention from a million followers.
6. Gain Sells
A powerful influencer mentions your product and the orders roll in. While influencer marketing isn’t always fast, there are times when it is. A recommendation to take advantage of a special offer works well, especially if the audience trusts the influencer has their best interests at heart. Working with such an influencer increases your sales.
One example of a company utilizing an influencer to sell a product is Glossybox working with YouTube influencers. It created videos of the influencers opening its monthly subscription boxes and then using those products. The conversions from a Revfluence campaign were phenomenal, with 150,000 views and $3,000 in monthly sales — for far more than a single month.
7. Create Unique Content
One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is creating content regularly. However, working with influencers gives you content to share on your social media sites and even on your website. Influencers create reviews, videos, short posts, photos and more.
The cost of hiring a professional writer and photographer is far more than the cost of bringing on an influencer who also creates this type of content. A smart marketing mix is splitting your budget between influencers and unique content.
8. Add a Fresh Perspective
Figuring out ways of marketing your products isn’t easy. Over time, ideas grow stale, and you need something fresh and cutting-edge. Influencers brainstorm ideas with you because they know what their audience responds best to. The way they see your brand may be slightly different than the way you see it. Their unique viewpoint allows them to showcase you in a new light with a fresh audience.
Influencer marketing is one of the most effective tools you have for increasing brand awareness. Approach it as you would any other type of marketing endeavor. Do your research, study the competition and create a plan. Keep in mind that the best results often take time, but don’t rule out immediate benefits, either. Look for ongoing partnership opportunities that expand the reach of your brand and add fresh ideas to your business.
Parallax Scrolling for Web Design
Parallax scrolling was all the rage a few years ago, but designers quickly realized it has pros and cons. Parallax scrolling offers a three-dimensional look where some background elements move at a different speed or in a separate direction than other factors in the foreground. Think of a slowed down bit of video footage and then a real-time speed video in the front as just one example.
While using parallaxing for web design still has a few challenges, you shouldn’t disregard it as a viable option for grabbing user attention just yet — here are seven reasons why.
1. Parallaxing Isn’t New
The technique of parallaxing isn’t a new technique itself — Walt Disney used this technique to create movies such as “Bambi” and “Snow White.” Parallaxing appears in Mario Kart, Sonic the Hedgehog and Street Fighter. Think about the way Mario moves at a faster speed while the background scrolls more slowly, and you’ll get a good idea of what parallaxing looks like.
Every Last Drop is an example of a website using parallax scrolling to grab user interest. The site educates UK consumers on how much water people use in a typical day. The image starts with a cartoon character sleeping and a night sky in the upper header. As you scroll, the background changes, the sun rises and the character wakes up. The website shares facts along the way about water usage.
2. Parallax Is Fun
Parallax is a lot of fun for users, making your site stand out from the competition and educating consumers in a unique way. However, it doesn’t seem to impact the effectiveness of your site. In one university study, researchers discovered that while participants liked parallax scrolling, they also didn’t find it necessary to use the site.
3. Add Visual Interest
People visit dozens of websites every week, so anything you can do to stand out from those other sites makes your brand more interesting to the user. You don’t have to create an entire animation for your parallax scrolling to be effective, either. Simple changes are sometimes the most powerful.
SK Builders offers a subtle type of parallax scrolling on their landing page that effectively shows the outside of one of their beautiful homes. As the user scrolls, a horizontal collection of images of the inside of that home appear. Because of the parallax scrolling, the larger image fades away more slowly, making the outside of the home still visible as you peruse the inside.
4. Stimulate Users
The animation and sense of depth of parallax scrolling stimulate users and gets them excited about your brand. The stimulation is likely the reason why those in the research group described parallax scrolling used on websites as “fun.”
Think about the message you want for your brand. If your message is that your brand is young and interesting, parallaxing helps underline that image.
5. Grabs Attention
You can use parallax scrolling in many unique ways. The first example we looked at used a changing scene and the second a downward motion with the top image at a slower speed. You can also move images sideways or zoom in and out. So, you can utilize parallax in several ways to grab the attention of those who land on your page.
The Boat does an excellent job of taking a story, animating it and using parallax scrolling to go through the various chapters as the action builds. The animation used is minor but adds to the overall impact of the tale. Using parallax scrolling allows an author or brand to grab the user from the minute they land on their website. The site also uses sound effects to set the scene even further.
6. Leads to Longer Page Views
Your page’s bounce rate should be under 55 percent if you want an average speed, but a lot of factors play into the success of your page, including the time a visitor spends viewing your page before bouncing away.
Parallax grabs the user’s interest and encourages them to stay on your page as they scroll through the storyline. Instead of landing on your page and bouncing immediately away, the user may hang around and see where the next scroll takes them.
7. Encourage Action
Sites continuously look for ways to improve the effectiveness of their calls to action (CTAs). Your business has probably changed your CTA’s wording, color, placement and even the elements surround it. What if you could drive action with parallax scrolling so the CTA is even more effective by the time your site visitor reaches it?
Urban Walks uses multiple layers to create a parallax landing page that features the screen of an iPhone. As you scroll down the page, the background image and the cell phone screen both change, playing several elements at a different speed than the background images. By the time you reach the bottom of the page, you’re ready to download the app to your iPhone.
Show Off Your Professionalism
Parallax scrolling for web design shows your company’s professionalism and attention to detail. While it does take a bit longer to load and has a few other disadvantages, don’t count this design technique out just yet. As Internet speeds increase and screen resolutions improve, users expect entertainment and high-resolution designs. Parallax may be the solution you need to reach those goals.
As we welcome 2019, business owners look into the future for growth and improvement beyond mere sales figures. Goal setting is a big part of business growth. Those who set specific and measurable goals are much more likely to succeed. If you want your business thriving in 2019 and beyond, write out your goals, and come up with a plan for reaching those goals.
It isn’t easy figuring out which goals to set and how to make them specific to your business. Here are nine precise steps toward setting your new business goals.
1. Collaborate With Your Team
Setting goals works better when company leaders and employees both offer their viewpoints — it becomes clear what’s possible and what isn’t. First, gather information from everyone on your team. Business goals should include the views of every department, from human resources to marketing. Each goal must mesh with the others, so the more input you receive from employees, the better.
The boss can set goals for everyone, but when your employees feel like they’re part of the process, they’ll work harder to help you achieve those goals.
2. Look at Broad Trends
Take the time to study internal analytics and trends in your business. If revenue falls by 50 percent every January, how can you increase income in the first quarter? Study both positive and negative patterns to see what works and what doesn’t.
Set specific goals to overcome the negatives of your business as well as ones that take advantage of what works well. Brainstorm with department heads, and figure out ways to improve even a modest 10 percent each year.
3. Set SMARTA Objectives
Set key goals and objectives that are specific and measurable. SMARTA goals help you set goals and take the steps toward achieving them. SMARTA stands for:
- Specific: Create specific goals with a narrow focus.
- Measurable: Decide how you’ll measure success (sales numbers, subscriber growth, etc.).
- Achievable: Your goals should be possible, or you’ll get discouraged.
- Relevant: Goals must make sense for the next phase of a business’ growth.
- Timed: Set deadlines.
- Agreed: Consult with company leaders and get their input.
Simply setting goals isn’t enough — set them with a purpose and vision.
4. Create an Editorial Calendar
Publishing frequently results in more exposure — businesses that publish at least 16 posts each month get over three times the attention. However, business owners often get distracted by the many other aspects of running a business and forget to schedule new posts. An editorial calendar creates a plan for what to post and when.
5. Hold Daily Meetings
Creating a plan is a nice start, but if you don’t follow through with it, it’s worthless. When you first come up with goals, the excitement drives you toward achieving them. As the year goes on, however, the excitement fades.
Holding daily meetings provides an opportunity to get everyone back on the same page and look at what tasks were completed and what ones need more focus.
6. Break Big Goals Into Smaller Ones
In one study on New Year’s resolutions, researchers found that only eight percent of people achieve their goals. One reason for abandoning goals is that large ones seem overwhelming.
One solution is to break big goals into smaller goals, which are more achievable. Look at your broad goals and divide them into smaller tasks that you can check off as you complete them.
7. Make the Goals Visible
One way to keep your eyes on the prize throughout the year is to write out your goals where everyone can see them and make them as visible as possible. Create large wall hangings and send out team email reminders about smaller goals.
Once you achieve a goal, either add a sizeable green checkmark over it or replace it with a new one. Seeing goals in black and white prioritizes the most critical ones over less important tasks.
8. Find an Accountability Partner
Saying you’ll do X, Y and Z is easy, but following through is more laborious. Keep your eye on the prize by finding a mentor or someone to whom you’re accountable. Set up specific deadlines for check-ins to see where you’re at with your goals.
A good accountability partner understands your business and cares about your success. For example, another executive in a different department has a stake in your success because it impacts the company as a whole. For small businesses, seeking out another business owner who is not your competition but is in a similar industry would be a great option.
9. Reward Small Successes
Make progress toward your end goal by rewarding the small successes along the way. If your big goal is to double sales in 2019 and you add 25 percent new revenue in the first quarter, you’re a quarter of the way there. Go ahead and reward employees with a pizza party at lunch or a cake in the breakroom. Take a day off for team building or some other fun activity. When employees know they have something positive to look forward to along the way, they’re more likely to keep plugging ahead.
Create Multi-Year Plans
Goals should go far beyond the next few months or year and on into five years, 10 years and even 15 years in the future. Sure, the ones so far in advance change and morph, but having them maintains focus. Write your business goals out and break them down into smaller tasks until your dreams become a reality.
Inspiring Graphic Designers 2019
Designers get into the field because they love creating something from nothing and making beautiful, aesthetically pleasing designs. Over time, however, skills build, and designers expand and improve their work. One of the best methods for developing your design work is studying the work of other incredible designers who seem always to be a step ahead of everyone else in the field.
There are about 266,300 graphic designers in the United States alone. Globally, the industry grew at around 4 percent in the past five years. Figuring out which designers offer the inspiration we can all learn from isn’t an easy task. We looked at some of the top designers out there today, broke down their skills and chose the following four as unique and revolutionary. Study their designs and learn new skills that will elevate your design work to a level you never thought possible.
Designer 1: Jessica Walsh
Jessica Walsh hails from New York City and works as a designer and art director at Sagmeister & Walsh. She has designed for big-name clients such as Levi’s, The Museum of Modern Art and Jay-Z. She’s won more design awards than there is room to list, and Forbes magazine named her to their list of “30 Under 30 Top Creatives Designing the Future.”
She even wrote a book that is in the process of becoming a movie. Walsh is unique because she started at just 11 years old coding and designing websites. She then studied at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. After graduating, she turned down a six-figure job offer from Apple to expand her design skills into other areas.
She’s best known for her memorable photography that breaks all the rules, such as one image on Behance of two women painted blue except for their hair, and words written on their faces in white. It’s a striking image and shows why she’s a powerhouse in the design industry.
Walsh taught other industry professionals to walk away from money if it means you’ll be a better designer for it.
Designer 2: Wai-Loong Lim
Wai-Loong Lim leads Y Studios. We chose Lim for this list because he’s won awards around the globe for a variety of product designs. His range of work is impressive, including everything from dishware to sound systems.
Some of the brands this designer works with include Target, Johnson & Johnson and Motorola. To create cutting-edge designs, designers must experience the world around them and free their creativity. For Lim, surfing gets him outdoors and fulfills his sense of adventure.
Surfing requires a particular type of patience as the surfer waits on the perfect wave. Y Studios’ philosophy is similar in that they patiently work on a design until genius strikes. Their focus is on designing products which fulfill specific needs. Designers with his studio have time to let ideas mature and simmer until they reach perfection.
The brilliance of Lim’s designs lies in the underlying green consciousness of the company. While they don’t call themselves a green company in the sense of being environmentally friendly, the core of their beliefs reflect in designs such as a portable dinnerware set that environmentally aware workers can purchase, rather than Styrofoam or disposable plastic.
Lim brings the industry a reminder that creativity takes time.
Designer 3: Steve Krug
When it comes to user experience, study designer Steve Krug for inspiration. Krug wrote what many consider the bible of usability, “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common-Sense Approach to Web Usability.”
He worked as a usability consultant for two decades for companies such as Apple, Lexus, NPR and Bloomberg. Today, he teaches others about usability through workshops and direct consulting.
Even though Krug might not be the first person who comes to mind when studying design work, he is worth investigating because his principles make your website more usable. His book is a must-read for anyone wanting to delve into the UX of design.
Designer 4: Jennifer Morla
When it comes to visual communications, Jennifer Morla is a familiar name. Morla founded her design agency, Morla Design, in 1984. The goal of the firm is multidisciplinary, covering everything from web design work to packaging to print work. She’s an AIGA Medal recipient whose work appears in the Smithsonian and Denver Art Museum. She’s won more than 300 awards of excellence.
The New York native completed a BFA in graphic design from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. She credits her early inspiration to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and seeing an IBM exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair. Today, she shares that inspiration and guides young design students as an adjunct professor at California College of the Arts.
Her career spans companies such as Levi Strauss & Co. and PBS San Francisco. Her company designs for Amnesty International, Apple, Rondale Publishers and Wells Fargo Bank — but also dozens of other big brand names. She’s gained a reputation as an artist able to take something ordinary and shift the focus just a bit. She points to using a “combo platter” in her designs: surprise and educate.
New designers should study how unique Morla’s work is — not to copy it, but to learn about the element of surprise. Her work offers a fresh perspective that shows off her artist’s voice perfectly.
No matter how long you’ve been a designer, improvement is possible. If you aren’t growing and changing, you’re stale. Instead, study some of the best designers and most inspirational people in the field and apply what you’ve learned to your work. You may just surprise yourself.
In modern design fields, it’s no longer acceptable to be average. That’s not to say it was ever acceptable in the first place but doing so now can have much more significant consequences on your business and clients. You see, companies today need to stand out and be bold. One of the best ways to do that is through striking visual themes or styles — which comes out in the design elements graphic artists or web developers employ.
If you want to be noticed, you have to crank the volume up to eleven. At the same time, you must be mindful of design guidelines and requirements. That way, visual elements — flashy or not — do not detract from the overall user experience. Thus, we have the eternal struggle of a designer, whether that be in web design, graphic design or some other form of visual creativity.
In light of that, it’s essential to keep up with bleeding edge design trends — or even stay ahead of everyone else. Here are six emerging graphic design trends for the coming year that you would do well to honor.
1. Light or Dark? Why Not Both?
One trend we’re seeing right now is using contrasting light and dark color schemes or styles. Primary color variations might include blue and grey, black and white, or similar contrasting hues.
Why not take that a step further and offer both options to potential audiences? People browse most websites, apps and portals using mobile devices, and it’s always great to have that light and dark choice depending on your preferences. A lot of apps actually employ something called “night mode,” where users can activate a theme that is dark and easy on the eyes in low-light conditions.
Developing multiple versions of a design in varying palettes also affords you — the designer — a lot more freedom to express personality and creativity. Clients and customers will love it, and so will you. It’s a win-win for everyone.
2. Expansive Minimalism
The idea of a more expansive minimalist style may seem a bit contradictory, but in the past, minimal designs have largely employed muted or neutral colors with a lot of white space. Lately, we’ve seen the rise of a new form of minimalism that uses greater color and contrast. Designs are still pared down and efficient with minimal distractions, but the colors used are more vivid, as is the scenery and visual elements of the layout.
Colors might pop more. Backgrounds might include a little more going on with a texture-based element. Navigation buttons and attention points might be a little brighter. These all contribute to a more innovative yet equally beautiful minimalist style.
3. Kinetic Typography
There’s nothing more important in design than the typography you choose. Including the wrong font in a design even once will show you exactly why this is. You want text content to stand out, but you also want it to jive with other visual components, and it must be readable to boot.
Kinetic typography — or moving, dynamic typography — is a relatively new trend that is taking hold everywhere. Why? Because you’re essentially using the same fonts and styles you always have, but simply injecting a little more activity into its presentation. It involves graphic animation techniques to present moving typography. Letters might dance, strobe or even bounce around. Accents might shiver to accentuate a point. Colors and styles might also shift, briefly or over a longer period.
Funny enough, the practice is not actually new — it has been around since the 1950s, originating with Alfred Hitchcock and his 1959 film North by Northwest. More recently, it’s gained popularity and is making something of a comeback that could even be part of a dynamic type movement.
4. Vivid Colors and Imagery
Giving a design or visual element “pop” is what truly makes it stand out to people. It’s always been possible to do this by injecting vivid colors and imagery, but mainstream designs generally opted for easier palettes — not anymore. In fact, many designers and graphic artists are taking it upon themselves to experiment with incredibly bright and eye-catching colors, whether that be lighter hues that are much more intense than the norm, or super bright neons that just seem to flash on the page.
This trend specifically calls for stepping outside of the norm, shedding away conventional color and visual styles.
5. Futuristic-Retro Feel
We’re in this strange state of mind currently where so many designs are using a mix of futuristic and retro-style themes. Think cyberpunk, but with a more functional approach. Elements like geometric shapes, abstract patterns and bright neon colors are starting to bleed their way into popular designs.
It can effectively be described as a mainstream yet futuristic influence, albeit one steeped in class. If you can find a way to adopt these visual elements, while still adhering to minimal practices yet with captivating results, you’ve won. From the outside, this concept can seem incredibly nuanced and complex, but once you have a working design in place, it’s evident a futuristic influence can really kick up some dirt.
6. Authentic Photos
Professional, sterile and faux stock photos have never really been appealing, especially when you’re dealing with humanized or forward-facing portals. Audiences often look at professional stock photos and feel distanced or segregated in a way. There’s this hidden sense of impossibility to them. In the real world, you could never hope to look like the people in these photos, nor experience what they purportedly are.
Not to mention, photo devices and quick-snap technology have advanced considerably. Most people carry around an excellent point-and-shoot with them everywhere they go — embedded within their mobile device. Perhaps that explains why it’s acceptable to include photos in a design that look like a personal camera or smartphone took them. People love the emotions that genuine pictures elicit, and it really brings a natural, welcoming feel to modern designs.
Get Ahead of — Not With — the Program
In the end, if you’re interested in standing out and coming up with some remarkable designs, following these tips and potential trends will undoubtedly get you there. Web design is one market where being ahead of the curve helps you considerably. In other industries, people may not be ready for change, or big players may be more resilient to innovation. That’s certainly not the case with modern design, so be sure to let your creativity and expressive nature flow.
Your company slogan sends a message about who you are as a company and shapes how consumers see your brand. Think about some of the more famous slogans that immediately come to mind, such as McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” or Hallmark’s “When you care enough to send the very best.” They’re catchy, and they sum up the vision of the company in just a few words.
There are more than 30 million small businesses in America. No matter what industry you’re in, you likely have competitors. One way to stand out from other companies like yours is to come up with a strong company slogan that explains in a nutshell what you have to offer consumers. There are some key things to remember when you’re creating a slogan. Here are six of them.
1. Reflect the Product
Take the time to think about the product or service you sell. How can you describe it in the simplest terms possible? Try to think about what makes your product different from all the others like it out there. Now, add an action that the user takes when interacting with your product.
Skittles uses the slogan “Taste the Rainbow” throughout their advertising. Note in the screenshot above how they even use the slogan in a hashtag on Facebook. The slogan works because it sums up the product with its rainbow-colored candies and also describes the action the user takes — taste.
2. Brainstorm Ideas
Now that you have an idea of what makes a slogan work, brainstorm ideas. Talk to employees and even customers about how they view your business. Ask for one word that they think describes your business.
Once you have a collection of works, write each one in the middle of a large sheet of paper, and start attaching others words with a line and the new word in a circle. Continue until you run out of ideas. The goal is not to stop and think but to let your thoughts flow freely. Involve others in the brainstorming process. You’ll likely walk away with several good ideas that may turn into catchy slogans.
3. Play With Words
Think about what words play into what you do and who you are. If you sell beds, for example, think about famous sayings about sleep and rest. Can you use any of these phrases with the brainstorming ideas from the last step? The best play on words is one that’s unique but easily recognizable. It takes a lot of work to succeed with wordplay, so be patient, and ask others for feedback.
Reading Truck Body does a good job playing with the words of their slogan and coming up with something that describes what they do while keeping it interesting. Their slogan is “No Body Better.” Since they create custom truck bodies, the word “body” describes what they do. They also use the slogan to show their philosophy of being the best in their industry. It’s a play on words that has multiple levels.
4. Stay Succinct
The hallmark of a powerful slogan is that it’s succinct. Edit your slogan over and over until you get down to the lowest number of words possible. In the example above, Reading Truck Body uses only three words to get their message across. Skittles, which we looked at in our first point, uses only three words as well. Although you can expand beyond three words, the shorter you can keep your message, the more easily people will remember it.
You have less than three seconds to grab the user’s interest. Beyond that, they may bounce away to another site, never to return. Make those first few words and images count! Grab the user’s attention before they bounce away.
5. Know Your USP
Every product or service has a unique selling proposition (USP). Figure out what makes your company or product stand out from the crowd. What do you have to offer that no one else does? Now, you have to figure out how to summarize your USP and what your company does in as few words as possible. The easiest way to learn how to create a slogan that’s multi-functional is to study other slogans. Check out a few well-known examples:
- Subway — “Eat Fresh”
- Burger King — “Have It Your Way”
- John Lewis — “Never Knowingly Undersold”
Notice how each highlights the USP in some way.
M&Ms has gone to characters to help promote their products, but one of their most famous slogans is “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” The slogan has been used in various commercials and online campaigns for years. It describes the product and the USP perfectly.
6. Remain Honest
Customers need to know that you’re reliable. Don’t add details because they sound good in a slogan unless you can deliver on those promises. Don’t say you’re the cheapest in the area if you aren’t. Instead, focus on what you know you can deliver and deliver well. It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver than to overpromise and underdeliver.
Take Your Time
Don’t rush into a slogan that you’ll regret later. Take your time to go through the steps, brainstorm, get feedback and allow the slogan to develop over time. If all else fails, call in the help of a professional. If you’re on a budget, talk to your local university and see if a marketing student wants to work with you on coming up with a new slogan.
Your landing page is the first impression site visitors have of your business. A landing page has the potential to pull site visitors in and turn them into customers or to drive them away.
Out of the many challenges marketers face, getting landing pages built and testing them ranks in the top five. It’s hard to know exactly what your target audience wants and how to deliver. Figuring out how to improve your landing page in the final quarter of the year is a particular challenge because there are so many other competing things that need completed, such as holiday marketing and the logistics of delivering more orders than normal.
Fortunately, there are some specific steps you can take now to improve your landing page before the end of the year and see an instant improvement in results.
1. Offer Something Unique
Give visitors something they can’t get anywhere else. What unique selling proposition do you offer that your competitors do not? Think about how many websites there are on the Internet. While they might not all be direct competition, they are all competing for attention. You have to stand out from the crowd and the best way to do that is to offer something unusual that your target audience wants.
Snapchat gets a lot of things right, but adding something truly unique pulls site visitors right in. Among their offers, they tout Snapchat original videos. These are shows you can only view on Snapchat. The model of original shows has been quite successful for companies such as Netflix, so Snapchat is getting in on that action, even though they are not competitors at this point with Netflix.
2. Write Headlines that Hook
Your headline on your landing page says a lot about you. People see your headline when they’re searching for a keyword on Google and your site pops up in the search results, for example. Does your headline make them want to click on the link and read more or is it blah and non-descriptive?
The wording of your headlines is of ultimate importance. In one study, researchers looked at the specific wording and tracked which words results in more shares on social media. They found that there were three top phrases in the most shared content:
- Will make you – 8961 engagements
- This is why – 4099 engagements
- Can we guess – 3199 engagements
They studied other wording as well, but these three stood out from the pack with the most social shares, likes and comments.
3. Add a Call to Action (CTA)
The whole purpose of your landing page is to get the reader to take some type of action. In the most recent study we could find, experts estimated that 70 percent of small business websites lacked effective CTA buttons. These numbers may have improved slightly in the last few years as people have learned more about CTAs and why they work, but it is still an area worth upgrading.
There are many elements that go into creating a strong call to action. The best way to improve yours is to make small changes and then do some A/B testing to see what your site visitors prefer. Try different colors, placement, wording and sizes.
Halo Overhead Doors does a great job with their CTA buttons. The minute you land on their home page, you see an orange CTA button above the fold. This button invites site visitors to “get started,” and the orange contrasts with the background to make it stand out. At the top right, in the navigation bar are two CTA buttons that read, “Request Estimate” and “Request Service.” These buttons target both potential customers and current customers. Further down the page are additional CTAs to capture other users who want to browse, get ideas for garage doors for their homes or see what others have done to update their homes.
4. Post a Video
Most businesses publish about 18 videos per month on average. Videos are viewed more and more by people online, which is why you’ve seen an influx of them in recent months. Around 55 percent of people say they watch videos online every day. Videos allow you to highlight the story of your business or your unique selling proposition (USP) to site visitors. A video instantly engages consumers.
5. Keep it to One Point
What is your goal for your site visitors? Make your landing page simple and stay on that single point to increase conversions. The fewer places a user can click away and get distracted, the more chance there is that she will instead convert from a visitor to a subscriber or customer.
Bloom has one goal – to get you to order a custom floral arrangement. Everything on their landing page points users to that goal. They show some images of custom arrangements displayed in homes and offer a free design consultation. They then explain the three easy steps you’ll take to get a completed arrangement and how it’s all customized to your tastes and home.
6. Find Your Pain Point
A pain point is a problem the typical customer experiences that you can solve with your product or service. For example, if you offer a meal delivery service, the pain point might be that a working mom has no time to put a healthy meal on the table and finds herself serving fast food one too many days of the week. Your solution is a healthy meal delivery service she can customize to her family’s needs and budget.
Once you find the pain point, you’ll be able to address how you can help consumers get rid of the pain.
Improve Your Landing Page
Start with small changes, test them and see how your site visitors respond. Any small improvements to your landing page help conversion rates. With enough small changes, you’ll see significant results.