Mobile Takes Holiday Shopping to New Levels

Now that most of us have cleared our fridges of leftover turkey and pumpkin pie and are starting to focus on the quickly approaching holidays, it’s as good a time as any to take a look back at just how important mobile devices were during the Thanksgiving and Cyber week shopping extravaganza.

Numerous predictions prior to the holiday shopping season pointed at the importance mobile devices and mobile commerce would play this year. Now that the numbers are in, it seems that was an accurate estimate.

According to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, the time period between Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday saw an increase in mobile sales by 27.2 percent when compared to the same period last year.

Of those mobile users shopping and making purchases with their devices, iOS users lead the pack with traffic was more than double and sales almost quadruple that of Android devices.

"For the first time mobile devices drove more than half of Thanksgiving online traffic, a trend that continued throughout Cyber Week," said Jay Henderson, Director, IBM Smarter Commerce.  "As the holiday shopping season becomes less concentrated on a single day, retailers and marketers took advantage by making it easier for consumers to find the best deals on the go, whenever and wherever they chose to shop." 

Braving the cold and the crowds for Black Friday shopping has become a tradition for my fiancés family – and so we always tag along for bonding time. But since I was up early to put the 20lb turkey into the oven this year, I laid in bed and hopped on social media where so many were  already posting and sharing the deals they we’re finding online in the A.M. Many of the sales people were concerned they would have to leave their dinner table to get – were just a click away. And just like that I found myself in bed, on my mobile device easily adding discounted items to my cart and paying for them through the easy tap of buttons on the screen. No waiting in line, no wondering if it would still be on the shelf – and no rushing through my dinner plate.

This experience possibly mirrors that of many others this holiday shopping season who are finding that using your mobile device has become more than just a way to keep in touch while on the go. Instead, the devices are – as with so many other areas in life – offering a bigger benefit including being able to read reviews, comparison shop and make better buying decisions.

Even after Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Cyber Monday had record online shopping sales – up 8.5 percent from last year.  And the IBM study found that mobile traffic actually reached 22 percent of the total Cyber Monday online sales. The five-day “Cyber Week” stretch of bargain shopping included a 12.6 percent increase in online sales. And it seems many retailers are still out for more extended sales into today – and some throughout the week in a bid to capture more consumer spending.

Just as I learned about all of the great deals Thanksgiving morning by hopping onto my social media feeds, IBM’s analysis found that social influence played a key role this year to help drive brand loyalty and sales.  Based on their analysis of trends across Facebook and Pinterest, referrals helped to drive around $97.78 per order from Pinterest and $123.44 from Facebook.

Understanding the evolution in the way people  are shopping today and what is influencing how they spend money is important for marketers not only during holiday shopping season but also as they plan to succeed into 2015. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

COGITO: A Smartwatch that Does the Job

Wearable tech is perhaps one of the hottest trends in the market. Everything from devices that track our health and fitness, to collars that help us find our pets and even connected sensors in our shoes that help us escape from a bad date – everyone is talking about wearable tech.

 

A recent report by Transparency Market Research predicted the global wearable technology market will be worth $5.8 billion by 2018.

Big name players from Google (News - Alert) and Apple are already teasing and exciting with their wearable tech offerings and much smaller companies have released their best bid to become a leader in the space. 

With the holidays approaching – and tech being a top item on most people’s shopping lists- now’s a great time to talk about one of the wearable tech items I was recently able to check out.
 

Many of the smartwatches on the market today are popular for their ability ease management of incoming communications. With so many options for communications today –email, text, voice, IM or social media - the amount of alerts and notifications we get on our mobile phones has grown tremendously. Having to pull your phone out of your pocket or cluttered purse every time you hear a ding or feel a buzz has grown to almost be obnoxious for many of us.

So when I had a chance to try out the COGITO to finally see what the craze over smartwatches was about, I jumped at the opportunity.

I had never seen or worn any type of smartwatch prior and was surprised at how ‘normal’ the watch looked when I opened the box. So many concept images we see online for smartwatches appear to be super hi-tech gadgets. But this was easy to wear because it looked just like a watch. Except it’s a connected watch. Once connected to my iPhone (News - Alert) via Bluetooth and with the Cogito app – it was able to let me know when I got an email or someone had texted me and all I had to do was glance at my wrist quickly to evaluate if it required attention. 

The watch also uses a regular watch battery so it doesn’t have to be charged every night along with all of our other smart devices.

I found it especially convenient when I was driving or out running errands to have information at the glance of my wrist. Perhaps the largest benefit however was seen when I handed the smartwatch to my fiancé. He’s not someone who ever wears a watch or stays abreast of all the latest tech gadgets. As a machinist who works intensively with his hands however, he immediately commented on the convenience the COGITO provided when his hands were full of grease or if he was underneath a car and didn’t have his phone anywhere with him. For his use, the COGITO CLASSIC was used via Android (News - Alert) and Bluetooth. Being able to see who was contacting him and what they were saying on the watch’s face was extremely useful.
 

The watch can also be programmed to only push essential communications from important contacts as desired and is water resistant up to 10 ATM.

Whenever my fiancé is working on the shop floor there can be dust, possible dropping and other dangers his mobile device is now saved from because the COGITO ensures he is still connected and reachable for communications.

The COGITO CLASSIC retails for $179 and if you’re shopping around for gift ideas for a gadget lover or someone just starting out with smart devices – this is something to definitely keep in mind. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Cynaps Mint, the World’s First 3D Printed Bone Conduction Headset

During TMCs first Wearable Tech Expo in 2013, I saw a device that was originally designed to be a Bluetooth headset that was sewn into the headband of a hat. In this case it was a baseball cap, but it could just as easily be attached to any hat. It functioned perfectly as a Bluetooth headset and could be connected to a smartphone, MP3 player or any Bluetooth device.

It turns out that it also functioned incredibly well as a hearing aid. The device was created by a company called Max Virtual and last year’s version of the cap is called Cynaps Enhance. I was blown away when I first saw the cap in action. Just imagine a baseball cap that can help people with certain types of hearing disorders to be able to listen and hear what is being said! It is not every day that you see a potentially life changing medical gadget that found its inspiration in video games.

What makes this possible is bone conduction, which is the conduction of sound to the inner ear through the bones of the skull. Bone conduction transmission can be used with individuals with normal or impaired hearing. I am one of those who in the past stuffed the earbuds in my ears and cranked up the volume. It was perfect for drowning out all of the noise around me.

My hearing is not what it once was. In fact, a study published in 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly one in five U.S. teenagers already has some degree of hearing loss, probably as a result of listening to loud music while wearing earbuds. This problem could be eliminated if there was a way to listen to music and videos without putting anything in your ears.

Many times when a new technology is being developed, it comes to pass that the technology itself can actually be used for a variety of different scenarios. One thing I have learned from all of my previous lifetimes is how quickly things change. Well, not so much change as advance and improve to the point of change. Due mostly to advances in the technology behind a device, it is not uncommon these days to see improvements every couple of months. Something that I find more interesting is how technology from a different field can help the development of completely unrelated products and devices.

Today, Max Virtual is launching a new Indiegogo campaign, which is now the company’s third campaign. The latest device has been named Cynaps Mint. While the Cynaps Enhance was one, if not the, first bone conduction headset, we have seen several companies follow suit with their own versions. Another first for Max Virtual is that the Cynaps Mint is the world's first 3D-printed, bone conduction headset, which can also be disassembled and installed into any headgear.

Since I did mention that other companies also have bone conduction devices, you might be thinking “3D printing, so what else makes the Cynaps Mint so special?” Wouldn’t it be impressive if you could turn just about any object into a speaker? Imagine connecting the device to a window, such as the image below, or a desk top and listening to your playlist. The Cynaps Mint is the world’s first stereo vibration speaker, meaning that it can be placed onto a pair of surfaces to effectively turn them into a pair of stereo speakers.

Image via Indiegogo

We have seen a lot of uses for 3D printing from construction sites to medical laboratories. Due to the convenience and flexibility of 3D printing, Max Virtual is able to offer every backer during the campaign a personal choice of 1,000 color combinations for their Cynaps Mint. Mike Freeman, who is Max Virtual’s CEO and product developer, said “I believe this range of color choice is unprecedented, and one of the goals of this project is to show how evolving tech such as 3D printing can change the game for small companies like Max Virtual.” Each order can be custom printed and assembled per the requested specs. 

The Indiegogo campaign starts today, and according to Freeman, “We're going to just work like crazy to get as many of these things out by Christmas as we can, and we'll keep the Christmas green light up on Indiegogo until we reach the time (or physical) limit to get those perks into those backers' hands by Christmas.”

I agree with Freeman’s sentiments that the world isn't at all what it was for us even a decade ago. What worked several years back is not cutting it these days. Those who want to really succeed will have to rethink reality much more frequently as it continues to evolve exponentially. If you are interested in finding out more about the Cynaps Mint you can visit the campaign site.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Video Conferencing Delivers Long Distance Face-to-Face Communication

December 02, 2014


By Alexandra Duggan
TMCnet Contributing Writer

In this digital age, the importance of face-to-face communication is often forgotten. Emails, instant messaging and texting have slowly become the norms of communication within organizations. 

Face-to-face communication allows people to better assess social situations and form a stronger bond with those they interact with. When it comes to business, people will often find that face-to-face meetings are the best way to communicate effectively- with coworkers and clients. Humans are a social species that are programmed to read body language and facial expressions; reading someone’s real time reaction can be beneficial to learn how participants feel about decisions being made.

Especially for businesses working with clients, face to face meetings can strengthen the relationships and help increase client trust.  Yet, it is well-known that travel expenses can get hefty, and can use a lot of valuable time. So where is the middle ground for face to face communication and saving on travel expenses? Video Conferencing. 

Most importantly, video conferencing improves communication and reinforces positive relationships. There are many important aspects of communication that can get lost over a basic phone call or email. Reading a client’s facial expression when you say something and addressing the negative or positive feeling creates a more productive relationship. Using this type of communication can give organizations a competitive advantage. Customer service departments that use video conferencing can create a much more personal relationship with customers, leading to a deeper loyalty to organizations.

Video conferencing also has been proven to increase morale and productivity within the office. Organizations usually have more than one location across the country. Utilizing video conferencing can make all of the offices feel connected, and construct a business that is team oriented and familiar with all branches.

All of these positive communication interactions can be completed without even leaving your desk. If you believe that your business needs to increase its use of video conferencing and take advantage of the benefits of face to face meetings, look into systems that will work best with your budget and business. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

After the Call, Analytics Playing a Bigger Role

After the Call, Analytics Playing a Bigger Role

December 01, 2014

It seems to be the buzz-phrase of the moment, but “Customer Analytics” is gaining traction because it’s something that actually works.

That’s the gist of the idea behind a new, free online reference piece, “The Inner Circle Guide to Customer Contact Analytics.” Published by ContactBabel (News - Alert) and call center leader inContact, the guide offers valuable recommendations for using speech, desktop and text analytics to improve agent performance and to help elevate the customer experience.


“Most contact center solutions have a specific, easily communicated reason for purchase, usually around cost savings,” says an introduction to the guide. “The most popular and widespread solutions, such as IVR, workforce management, CTI (News - Alert) and outbound dialing, have all had a clear and quantifiable route to cost savings and improved efficiency. [But] Customer contact analytics has a different appeal to contact centers, and can be used in many different ways to address various business issues. This is an advantage -- it is hugely flexible -- but it can also make its message to the market more complicated, and to the cynical, it can seem as though analytics is claiming to solve every problem that a contact center could possibly have.”

Still there are benefits to knowing your way around this nascent technology.

The guide is aimed at contact center managers and executives who need a detailed and objective view. It provides “…a detailed and realistic analysis of the benefits of customer contact analytics, as well as the technology, implementation and usage best practices, ROI model building, expected results and the market landscape,” the publishers note.

Among the many benefits contained in the free download, readers will learn:

  • How to use analytics to solve known problems, as well as the more strategic, long-term uses;
  • How to build a business case for analytics, including estimating ROI;
  • Best practices for the implementation and use of analytics; and
  • The market landscape, technology, and future directions for analytics.

If that sounds like information your business can use, the guide is available for free download HERE. At nearly 75 pages, its comprehensive insights are sure to contain something of interest to all.

Get Optimal Contact Center Results with Analytics

Get Optimal Contact Center Results with Analytics

December 01, 2014

It seems to be the buzz-phrase of the moment, but “Customer Analytics” is gaining traction because it’s something that actually works.

That’s the gist of the idea behind a new, free online reference piece, “The Inner Circle Guide to Customer Contact Analytics.” Published by ContactBabel (News - Alert) and call center leader inContact, the guide offers valuable recommendations for using speech, desktop and text analytics to improve agent performance and to help elevate the customer experience.

“Most contact center solutions have a specific, easily communicated reason for purchase, usually around cost savings,” says an introduction to the guide. “The most popular and widespread solutions, such as IVR, workforce management, CTI (News - Alert) and outbound dialing, have all had a clear and quantifiable route to cost savings and improved efficiency. [But] Customer contact analytics has a different appeal to contact centers, and can be used in many different ways to address various business issues. This is an advantage -- it is hugely flexible -- but it can also make its message to the market more complicated, and to the cynical, it can seem as though analytics is claiming to solve every problem that a contact center could possibly have.”

Still there are benefits to knowing your way around this nascent technology.

The guide is aimed at contact center managers and executives who need a detailed and objective view. It provides “…a detailed and realistic analysis of the benefits of customer contact analytics, as well as the technology, implementation and usage best practices, ROI model building, expected results and the market landscape,” the publishers note.

Among the many benefits contained in the free download, readers will learn:

  • How to use analytics to solve known problems, as well as the more strategic, long-term uses;
  • How to build a business case for analytics, including estimating ROI;
  • Best practices for the implementation and use of analytics; and
  • The market landscape, technology, and future directions for analytics.

If that sounds like information your business can use, the guide is available for free download HERE. At nearly 75 pages, its comprehensive insights are sure to contain something of interest to all.

Motive Customer Experience Management Enables Virtualized Device Security Service

These days, more than ever it seems, we are incredibly security conscience. Major department stores, real estate firms and financial institutions have been hacked revealing account information for tens of thousands of records. As the Internet of Things (IoT) progresses and more devices connect and communicate with each other coupled with the growing use of mobile devices, more avenues of attacks are becoming available to cyber-attacks.

According to Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert), its Motive Customer Experience Management (CEM) is a first-of-its-kind portfolio specifically designed to automate care, service, network and IT operations with data analysis. There are currently over 600 Motive deployments worldwide to fulfill, optimize and protect customer experiences. Due to the fact that Alcatel-Lucent knows the whole network, the belief is that Motive can provide the CEM software solutions purpose-built for cloud, mobile and fixed environments.

Today, it was announced in Paris that Alcatel-Lucent introduced the Motive Security Guardian. This is a virtualized security solution which will not only optimize delivery of services, protect service provider’s networks, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, and mobile and home devices from malware that can degrade performance, but it will also provide what should result in a good customer experience.

 Patrick Donegan, who is senior analyst for Heavy Reading, said “Automated subscriber alerts notifying them of security issues are an important part of an operator’s portfolio to combat the growing threat from cyber attackers. The cloud offers additional cost and service agility advantages as a platform for delivering these kinds of services.”

This is the type of service that Motive offers. When malware is found on a device, its owner is immediately alerted with step-by-step instructions on how to remove the threat. The fact that an issue such as this can be resolved almost instantaneously not only reduces call to care agents, but it definitely improves the customer experience.

Patrick Tan, who is the general manager of network intelligence at Alcatel-Lucent, made the following comments, “Motive research shows that 65 percent of subscribers expect their service provider to protect their devices. As customer experience becomes the new frontier for competitive differentiation, operators can leverage this trusted security service role to provide always-on and up-to date protection of their subscribers’ devices that ensures an excellent service experience.” You can get a better understanding of how Motive Security Guardian works by reading Patrick’s blog. He delves into some to the details of how device security is provided.

As part of the CEM, the Motive Security Guardian brings the following to the table;

  • Provide security operations teams with insights into what subscribers and devices are most affected by malware, as well as the most common types of malware, to better contain and block threats.
  • Enable network planning and engineering teams to better understand the impacts of malware on network resources and performance and arrive at strategies for the improved efficiency and optimization of service delivery.
  • Empower customer service agents to identify and resolve malware related issues quicker, resulting in shorter call times
  • Allow product development teams to rapidly launch revenue generating device security services that are better at protecting subscribers than standard anti-virus products and build trust in the network.
  • Help operators improve customer satisfaction by moving from reactive to proactive care by directly sending malware alerts to subscribers with instructions on how to remove the threat from their device, reducing the number of calls to the care center.

Formerly known as Kindsight (News - Alert) Security Labs, Motive Security Labs is the power behind the Motive Security Guardian solution. The lab processes more than 120,000 new malware samples on a daily basis. It also maintains a library of over 30 million active samples. Rather than being installed on each device, it resides on an operator’s cloud network. From here it can identify and pinpoint malware on mobile or home devices.

New malware infection rates are on the rise and identity theft, privacy invasion and cybercrimes are spreading to mobile devices. Antivirus software, which has a detection rate of less than 50 percent, is no longer enough to protect all of the devices being connected today. Alcatel-Lucent believes that Motive Security Guardian is the solution.

Edited by Peter Bernstein

A Closer Look at the Global VoLTE Market Ahead

December 01, 2014


By Joe Rizzo, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Voice over LTE (News - Alert) (VoLTE) allows mobile network operators to offer rich voice, video and messaging services as a core offering. VoLTE enables operators to use their data network to transmit voice services in small sized packets and it helps to increase spectrum efficiency and reduce operational and maintenance costs, due to the fact that only one network is used. In addition, VoLTE enables operators to offer a new set of standards based services referred to as Rich Communication Services or RCS which include video calling, real time language translation, video voicemail and instant messaging.

The major market for LTE is in the Americas and that for voice over Long-Term Evolution is in the Asia-Pacific region, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 54.20 percent from 2014 to 2020. Based on the technology, the VoLTE market can be divided into Circuit Switched Fallback (CSFB), Voice over IP multimedia subsystem (VoIMS) and Dual radio or Simultaneous Voice and LTE (SV LTE). The CSFB market accounted for major share in 2013, but the VoIMS is expected to grow faster as compared to CSFB and SV LTE in the next 6 years.

It is because of this type of growth that today, Research and Markets has announced that it will be adding a new analysis report to its offerings. The newest report will be entitled "Voice over LTE Market by Long-Term Evolution, by Technology and by Geography - Analysis & Forecast to 2014 – 2020." Some of the key topics in the report will include premium insights, market overview, industry trends, market by technology and VoLTE market by geography.

Since VoLTE does provide what can be considered a win/win solution for both sides of the coin, it is quickly becoming a very popular technology. When you consider that LTE offers twice the spectral efficiency of 3G/HSPA and more than six times efficiency as that of the GSM technology; this allows allocating more bandwidth for more data services, you can understand its popularity.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Microsoft Set To Land Acompli in Nine-Figure Deal

December 01, 2014

By Steve Anderson Contributing TMCnet Writer

A small leak gave this one away in advance, but the early word seems to be quite cemented now as word about Microsoft's plans to buy Acompli, a company focused on email, are coming to light. What's particularly telling about this deal, however, is just how much money Microsoft (News - Alert) is set to shell out for the email-focused startup.

Current reports suggest that Microsoft is planning to shell out better than $200 million for Acompli, a move that's being regarded as a clear sign that Microsoft is looking to support other mobile operating systems than the one it made for itself. Acompli has been previously regarded as an excellent means to connect between Google's mail service, Microsoft's email servers, and both Android (News - Alert) and iOS operating systems, a plus as Acompli has versions available for both. Acompli was born out of one central premise, as expressed by some of the veterans of VMware and Zimbra (News - Alert) who started Acompli in the first place: when it comes to mobile email, people are more than happy to read it on mobile devices, but are less inclined to actually take much action around that email.

Microsoft, meanwhile, made the affair quite official with an actual blog post, in which Microsoft vice president Rajesh Jha noted that it was “...essential to give people fantastic email experiences wherever they go,” further noting that more than half of all email messages are read first on a mobile device. As for Microsoft's plans for the new acquisition, reports suggest that Acompli's work will go to supplement work already being done by the Outlook team, which will in turn help step up the presence in mobile. The Acompli app offers the ability to readily integrate a calendar with email, as well as the ability to work more rapidly with contacts and attachments, helping users keep all the most important email front and center where it most needs to be. Better yet, IT departments seem ready to embrace this platform, making it almost as valuable at work as it is in a user's personal life.

Microsoft's mobile presence has been a bit soft in the field; the company came to the party well after Android and iOS had largely captured the market between the two. But Microsoft has likewise been shown to aggressively pursue the market, and has made itself one of the major providers in the field. Perhaps the only real way to break entrenched market share is to offer up services or products that no one else has, and by bringing in Acompli, Microsoft may well be able to better offer those services. That's the kind of thing that might just do it, being able to pose the proposition that Windows mobility is just as good as everything else on the market, but with some added bonuses. With even IBM offering new mail services, email seems to be a great place to start offering such bonuses.

Naturally, it won't be immediately clear if this plan works. First, the development between Microsoft and Acompli needs to take place. But if that's done, then the end result can start putting out its proposition on the market stage, and we can see the impact accordingly. Still, Microsoft is clearly putting the effort forward, and may well have a whole new means to take on the highly-competitive mobile field thanks to an ability to offer up an experience that's similar to, but sometimes potentially better than, its customers.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Using ACD? Here’s How To Make the Best of Your Collected Data

December 01, 2014

It seems to be the buzz-phrase of the moment, but “Customer Analytics” is gaining traction because it’s something that actually works.

That’s the gist of the idea behind a new, free online reference piece, “The Inner Circle Guide to Customer Contact Analytics.” Published by ContactBabel (News - Alert) and call center leader inContact, the guide offers valuable recommendations for using speech, desktop and text analytics to improve agent performance and to help elevate the customer experience.

“Most contact center solutions have a specific, easily communicated reason for purchase, usually around cost savings,” says an introduction to the guide. “The most popular and widespread solutions, such as IVR, workforce management, CTI (News - Alert) and outbound dialing, have all had a clear and quantifiable route to cost savings and improved efficiency. [But] Customer contact analytics has a different appeal to contact centers, and can be used in many different ways to address various business issues. This is an advantage -- it is hugely flexible -- but it can also make its message to the market more complicated, and to the cynical, it can seem as though analytics is claiming to solve every problem that a contact center could possibly have.”

Still there are benefits to knowing your way around this nascent technology.

The guide is aimed at contact center managers and executives who need a detailed and objective view. It provides “…a detailed and realistic analysis of the benefits of customer contact analytics, as well as the technology, implementation and usage best practices, ROI model building, expected results and the market landscape,” the publishers note.

Among the many benefits contained in the free download, readers will learn:

  • How to use analytics to solve known problems, as well as the more strategic, long-term uses;
  • How to build a business case for analytics, including estimating ROI;
  • Best practices for the implementation and use of analytics; and
  • The market landscape, technology, and future directions for analytics.

If that sounds like information your business can use, the guide is available for free download HERE. At nearly 75 pages, its comprehensive insights are sure to contain something of interest to all.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson