I just wanted a coffee but the Dunkin’ app stole my money. Update – Problem solved!

Fix your damn app - and site!

Fix your damn app – and site!

If you know me, you know that I’m mobile obsessed.

Yes. Obsessed.

For the past nine or ten years, I’ve been immersed in mobile.

Mobile marketing, mobile websites, mobile apps, mobile devices.

Mobile. Mobile. Mobile.

As a self-professed advocate, I’m constantly extolling the virtues of mobile.

Especially apps.

Apps, to me, are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

They’ve got all the utility of a mobile site, without the need (for the most part) for an internet connection.

Utility apps are my favorite.

If I can get something done faster, in fewer steps, or using my phone in lieu of pulling out my wallet, or keys or ID, then it’s worth it.

So when Dunkin’ Donuts came out with their Dunkin’ app, I was ecstatic.

I’m always going to Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks.

I blame the wife – a coffee whore (and I mean that in the kindest possible way) and the kids.

I’m constantly making runs for egg and cheese croissants, donuts and coffee.

I was parting with my cash regularly with no other perk than a free donut if I filled out their survey online – very analog.

Dunkin’ Donuts perks were a big donut hole.

Unlike Starbucks, whose loyalty program gave me free coffee, iTunes music and app downloads, discounts, coupons, the works.

Starbucks treated me like they cared.

Dunkin’ not so much.

But then one day I discovered the Dunkin’ app, and immediately set out to add it to my collection.

Having previously used the Starbucks app, I figured the Dunkin’ app would be along the same lines.

Download the app. Charge it up. Present it at the point of sale. Earn rewards. Get perks.

Simple, right?

Wrong!

For one, there are like three or four different apps in the app store (albeit by different developers – but you get my drift).

So many choices!

So many choices!

Once you figure out which one you’re supposed to be using, it required an advanced degree in game theory to figure out exactly how to use it.

All I wanted to do was put some money on the damn thing!

Is that so hard?!!

Eventually, I was able to figure it all out, put money on my account and complete a transaction using their app.

The sense of accomplishment was short lived, though.

A few days after I got the app working, I upgraded my 64GB iPhone 6 Plus to the 128 GB version, and had to restore by new device from my iTunes backup, which essentially wiped all my stored passwords and forced me to log in to each one anew.

By itself, that wasn’t so bad, since all my passwords are stored in 1Password and I simply had to cut and paste to get back up and running.

That is, except for the Dunkin’ app.

For some reason, it wouldn’t take my password.

So I did what anyone faced with a similar scenario would do, I clicked “Forgot Password” fully expecting to walk through the fairly routine process of recovering or resetting my password.

But that would have been too much like right.

Instead of getting a confirmation screen telling me that my password (or instructions for resetting my password) had been sent to my email, I got a “We are currently experiencing technical difficulty and are unable to process your request” message.

Dunkin' app technical difficulties

Wait. What?

Confused by this seemingly ill-timed error message, I tried again – and got the same message.

Technical difficulties processing a “forgot password” request?

A horrible user experience at a critical moment.

Oh, did I mention that I was standing at the register of Dunkin’ Donuts, with several frustrated customers behind me watching me fumble with the app?

My frustration was all the more palpable because (prior to swapping devices) I had loaded my account with $25, which I could not use.

Flustered, I pulled out my bank card and swiped – angrily – snatched my order from the counter (which I no longer wanted) and stomped away in a huff.

For the next few days, I repeatedly tried to log in – unsuccessfully, before relenting and visiting the Dunkin’ Donuts website.

And you know what happened when I got there?

The same damn thing that happened on the app!

We are currently experiencing technical difficulty and are unable to process your request.

Really? So you're planning on fixing this when?

Really? So you’re planning on fixing this when?

Sonofabitch!

On your site? Technical difficulties on your site?

Is sending an email with password recovery instructions a technically challenging activity?

This borders on lunacy.

So what am I left with?

What am I to make of this?

Well that’s easy.

Dunkin’ Donuts is stealing my money by preventing me from accessing my account and make purchases using the funds I’ve uploaded to the Dunkin’ app.

Their “technical difficulties” are subterfuge allowing them to hold my monies hostage and force me to use my bank card depriving me of precious points, perks or rewards.

Dunkin’ Donuts, get your act together.

Fix your technical difficulties.

Or give me back my money.

The Starbucks app still works and I need to reload.

Note: Prior to penning this post, I sent Dunkin’ Donuts an email on their site, an email from the app, and tweet asking for assistance. As of this posting they have been radio silent.

Update 2/12/15: Dunkin’ Donuts’ customer service send me a response giving me the steps to recover my password, which I had already done – and was still broken.

Update 2/27/15: Problem solved! After waiting on hold for an hour to speak to a customer service representative, we determined that I had registered with “.con” at the end of my email address, instead of “.com.” I told the rep who helped me that the more appropriate error message to keying in an incorrect email address should have been something like “The email address you have provided is not in our records. Please check the address and try again.” and not “Sorry, we are currently experiencing technical difficulty and are unable to process your request.” With the error message DD provided, one would never realize that they may have made an error keying in their email address, as I did.

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Want higher mobile conversions? Offer mobile-only promotions and 4 more tips.

Want to make more money on mobile? Create mobile-only promotions.

Want to make more money on mobile? Create mobile-only promotions.

Retailers frequently lament the low conversions they see on mobile when compared to desktop or tablet traffic.

From their perspective, with over 7 billion mobile devices worldwide, and people spending more time browsing on mobile, more time on the platform should mean more money.

There should be a direct correlation between time on site and conversion, just like on desktop and tablet, for that matter.

The commonly held perception is that mobile conversion rates should equal that of, or eclipse, desktop rates.

Seems logical, right?

But who said mobile behavior was logical?

The fact of the matter is that there is no direct relationship between mobile browsing and conversion rates.

In retail specifically, conversion rates hover just below one percent (1%) on average.

If you’re a retailer with a mobile presence achieving between .8 and 1.0% conversion, know that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

If you’re achieving rates above 1%, you’re clearly ahead of the pack so keep doing what you’re doing.

But if you’re consistently seeing conversion rates below .7%, then it’s time for you to take a cold hard look at your mobile strategy.

If this is you (of the below .7% ilk) or if you’re looking for tips on preserving or even increasing your mobile conversion rates, you’ve come to the right place!

Here are my top five sure-fire tips for increasing your mobile conversions.

1. Offer mobile-only promotions. A key to increasing conversions on a channel is keeping users on that channel. You’ve seen “online-only” products and promotions, that encourage shoppers to take advantage of and complete purchases online. These types of strategies take advantage of online shopper’s natural inclination to save money, whether it’s a discount, free shipping or an online-only offer.

Brands which employ a mobile-only strategy will see an increase in conversions as shoppers will engage in similar behavior to take advantage of discounts, coupons, and specials.

2. Reward social share. If mobile is good for anything, it’s social sharing. Likes, favorites, retweets, and shares are social currency that brands should be actively trading in. Pinterest, for example, has given brands millions upon millions of unpaid promotions. Rather, than simply liking a post, brands should reward patrons or potential patrons for their favorable social promotion, by offering mobile coupons or discounts, in recognition, which can be redeemed the next time the user makes a purchase.

Sammydress is one retailer who understands the importance of rewarding users who promote their brand. Sammydress encourages users to post images of themselves via social media and offers points for these activities. Users who collect enough points can redeem them for discounts on future purchases.

3. Mobile exclusives. There’s nothing better than feeling like you’re getting an exclusive benefit. The same holds true for mobile. Treat your mobile users like members of an exclusive club by giving them perks each time they convert, whether it’s responding to a post-purchase survey, click-to-call, favorite, like or share content via the mobile channel. Mobile exclusives incentivizes users to make their mobile device their channel of choice.

Push notifications, text messaging and email are great ways of engaging your users with mobile exclusives, which can be pushed directly to members of your loyalty or rewards programs, folks who have signed up for your email newsletters or opted in to receive text messages from your brand.

4. A/B Testing. You’re never going to increase your mobile conversions if you’re not constantly testing, testing, testing. It’s one thing to have a theory about user behavior, and quite another to have data to back up your theories. More importantly, by performing A/B testing specifically, you’re able to see how one campaign or strategy racks up against another. Think desktop on mobile outperforms mobile on mobile? An A/B test will bear that out. Want to know whether an offer works best as a banner or a pop-up overlay? A/B testing can figure that out too. Is a red landing page more engaging than a black one? Conduct and A/B test and you’ll know for sure.

5. Give fewer options. I’ve often heard people say that they want their mobile customers to be able to have the same experience on mobile, as they do on their desktops. And I always respond “why?” They are different platforms, serving different needs, so why would you want the same content on both? Obviously, you’re not trying to reduce selection or service, but if you can accomplish in two steps on mobile, what it takes four to do on desktop, then by all means, cut out the unnecessary steps. On mobile, you want users to have a frictionless experience.Things like “one-click” checkout or allowing users to check out as guests (and thereby not have to log in to complete a transaction) are examples of how to apply this tip. And in this instance, less is more. The fewer steps you place in the path of the desired behavior, the more likely it is that you’re going to see your conversions increase.

These are just a choice few suggestions for how to improve your mobile conversion. Got a tip to share? I’d love to hear it!

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WTF!? It’s 2015. Get a f*@!ing mobile site already!

IMG_2339.JPG

I’m f*@!ing pissed!

Why?

I’ll tell you why.

Because it’s 2015 – 2015!! and motherfuckers are still making me view their shitty full sites on my mobile device.

Even though there are more than 6.9 billion mobile subscribers in the world and the fact that mobile browsing has overtaken desktop browsing, less than ten percent of the 700 million websites are optimized for mobile.

So that means even with my beautiful 6 Plus, I’ve still got to double tap, pinch and swipe to view the content of most sites on my phone.

I don’t get it.

Why wouldn’t you want your content to be viewed in a way that is readily consumable by your audience?

I mean, you built a website to put your stuff in front of potential customers, right?

So doesn’t it make sense, now that you know that everyone on the globe has – and regularly uses – a mobile device, to build a mobile site.

Or at the very least optimize your content to be accessible to mobile devices?

There are countless benefits for making a mobile version of your site.

Simpler navigation.

Prominently placed calls to action.

Streamlined options.

Leveraging the utility of native mobile browsers.

Click-to-call.

The majority of which is lost if you’re forcing your users to contend with a full HTML site.

Trust me, if you built a mobile site, you’d have far more engagement and conversions than you currently do.

Don’t believe me?

Check out your analytics.

See how many visits you’re currently getting from mobile browsers.

I’d put money on the fact that you’ve got more visits from mobile browsers, Android and iPhone devices than anything else.

What does it all mean?

It means that if you customize the browsing experience for folks visiting your site from mobile devices, you’re going to see decreased bounce rates, increased time on site, increased page views, potentially higher conversions and more revenue.

It’s a win-win!

If you require convincing that a mobile site is the way to go, you’re probably of the ilk that thought radios, the telephone, and the Internet were passing fads.

If you, on the other hand, know you need a mobile site and don’t know where to start, hit me up and I’ll put you on the right path.

But whatever you do, for the love of God, get a mobile site – STAT!

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2015 is The Year of Mobile and 5 other predictions

crystal-ball

Around this time of year, you’re going to be inundated with “resolution” and “prediction” posts, with folks proselytizing on their views of tech trends for the upcoming year.

Your boy is no better.

But unlike these other jokers at Mashable, Techcrunch, Gawker, et al., who spend time researching, interviewing experts and reviewing industry reports, I simply comb through their work, cherry-picking the tastiest tidbits and regurgitating their work as my original thought.

I kid, I kid.

But seriously.

The end of the year provides a great opportunity to review the wins, hits or misses or the previous year and reliably forecast what may happen in the year ahead.

There have been a number of interesting developments over the past year, which give me confidence to say that 2015 will be the year of mobile.

For example, there are more mobile devices than people on the earth.

Let that sink in for a moment.

That’s significant, especially if all of these people are browsing from their mobile devices.

Even if only half of them utilize their mobile devices as the primary means for getting online, brands that aren’t mobile-enabled are going to see their bounce rates increase and revenues decline, as folks abandon them for sites that are mobile optimized.

But rather than talk about how mobile will impact brands generally, here are my top five mobile predictions for 2015.

1. Mobile payments are going to take off. With Apple Pay already being adopted by 220,000 vendors, the mobile payment trend is undoubtedly going to grow. Apply Pay joins other established mobile payment solutions, like Google Wallet and PayPal, and newcomers, like LevelUp and Paydiant, as well as a host of others scoping the mobile payment space, including Square and Swipely. With folks taking privacy and security seriously, e-commerce sites and mobile applications that allow users to avoid the necessity of having to manually input payment details over insecure wifi networks, will undoubtedly be the preferred method for completing online transactions.

This year, I predict mobile payments becoming a standard.

2.  Mobile sites will proliferate this year. As brands start to realize that customers are spending increasing amounts of time on mobile devices, getting in on this action will be a critical strategy to engagement. Last year, the average person spent almost 3 hours a day on their mobile devices. That’s more time than they spend online, and this trend will likely continue. With streaming services offering television-like abilities, mobile may eventually outpace tv. But at a very basic level, this year brands will acknowledge that the failure to have a mobile site (either mobile enabled or fully responsive) is a distinct competitive disadvantage.

I predict the number of mobile sites will invariably grow at a tremendous pace this year.

3. Widespread adoption of auto-fill. Retailers bemoan cart abandonment as the bane of their existence. Over 68% of e-commerce shopping carts are abandoned. The holy grail for online shopping involves seeing shoppers through checkout. But for mobile shoppers, there is nothing more frustrating than having to complete payment and shipping forms on their mobile device. Payment options like PayPal or Amazon One-Click save users from filling out many of the fields required to complete their online purchases, but too few online vendors are set up with streamlined payment processes. And while a fine tuned checkout doesn’t necessarily equate to fewer abandoned carts, it couldn’t hurt!

Auto fill is a simple and easily implemented solution, that can occur at the browser or native (device) level, which will enable users to quickly and securely complete online forms, typically with one click, dramatically reducing the amount of time (and frustration) required to complete payment or shipping information (or forms of any kind). Google Chrome has already implemented the ability to auto fill forms in both full HTML and mobile web browsers, and many of the mobile payment solutions described above, also include the ability to complete non-payment forms as well.

I predict widespread adoption of mobile autofill solutions, as more players enter the space and users become more conversant with these types of platforms.

4. Mobile loyalty programs will grow. Nearly every retailer I frequent has some sort of rewards program. Stores like Anthropologie, Sephora, CVS, Modell’s, Target, and ShopRite all have rewards programs tied to a keychain or wallet-sized reward card that patrons can present at checkout to earn points or qualify for rewards. But 2015 will see an increasing number taking advantage of Passbook or eliminating cards in favor of mobile loyalty or punch cards. Instead of having to present a loyalty card, users will simply whip out their cell phones flash a QR code and transmit their rewards or loyalty account info, similar to how Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts’ mobile rewards work.

I predict that 2015 will see more brands taking advantage of the convenience of mobile loyalty and release Passbook-like offerings of their own.

5. Wearables will change the mobile landscape. In the not-too-distant past, when you thought “wearables” a massive virtual reality helmet was probably all that came to mind. But with Oculus Rift making wearable headsets more like goggles, and less like NFL helmets, the concepts is more palatable. The definition of wearables has extended from virtual reality headsets, to Google Glass to fitness devices like the Nike FuelBand, the Fitbit tracker, the Apple Watch and Android smart watches. Wearables will open a whole host of smart applications, devoted to health and fitness, as well as medical diagnostics.

I predict that wearables will have a breakout year in 2015, driven primarily by the Apple Watch, but supported by advances in Android wearables, the proliferation of 3D and augmented reality applications adding rich virtual layers to users’ real life experiences.

What are your mobile predictions for 2015? Feel free to comment and share!

Happy New Year!

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5 Resolutions to make Your Brand more Social in 2015

2015_loading

It’s that time of year again, where folks publicly state the things that they are (or aren’t) going to do in the upcoming year.

Cats resolve to do everything from losing weight, getting organized, finding a new job, drinking less, to saving money, eating healthier or reducing stress.

By and large, we make personal or individual resolutions, but very rarely do we devote this type of attention to our brands. But if  you think about it, was 2014 a stellar year for your brand? Aren’t there things you wish you had done better last year?

I’m sure there are.

But you didn’t.

In fact, you probably couldn’t have been more social because you don’t know what you were doing wrong.

Lets think about this for a moment, shall we?

Your Facebook page could have been more engaging. Right?

Right.

You probably could have posted more on Facebook, uploaded more flicks on Instagram, responded to more people who commented on your blog, or reciprocated more follows on Twitter. Right?

Right.

To be plain, you could have been more social.

But you weren’t.

Worry not my friend!

Here ere are five resolutions to make your brand more social in 2015.

Resolution No. 1. I will go mobile this year.

Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Did I say “mobile?”2015 will be the Year of Mobile. Brands who adopt a mobile-first approach, will far outpace those which fail to accept the fact that the mobile is the sweet spot for brands – especially in the retail and self-service industries. Mobile is the primary means through which folks are getting online, browsing and making discrete purchase/payments. With Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Wallet and other mobile payment platforms, it’s the key to unlocking tight sales and generating revenue across screens.

One brand that has taken the importance of mobile and social to heart is Williams-Sonoma. The Williams-Sonoma family of brands, which include Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, pottery barn kids, PBTeen, West Elm and Mark and Graham, have embraced mobile with mobile web properties that are simple to navigate and resulted in expansive growth of their brands online. In their annual report, Williams-Sonoma cites e-commerce as their “fastest growing business” and a “significant part of their sales success.” Other brands should look to companies like Williams-Sonoma, to see how mobile can be effectively leveraged in 2015.

Resolution No.2. I will implement a loyalty program.

Loyalty is becoming increasingly valuable to users who are looking to stretch their dollars. Who doesn’t want to be rewarding for spending money on the brands they patronize? More importantly, in this “look at me” world we live in, folks are quick to share that free coffee they just earned on Starbucks on Facebook (or Twitter) or invite friends to take advantage of a special offer (especially if it means they can earn more loyalty points for doing so).

Loyalty is especially important in the retail space. When the price of an item is virtually the same regardless of vendor, loyalty is sometimes the difference between making the sale or not. Best Buy has a particular good loyalty program, which rewards patrons for spending with them. Best Buy customers earn points for every dollar they spend, which can be redeemed for reward certificates. Loyalty members also qualify for discounts, free shipping and hosts of other special promotions. Starbucks, Sephora and Walgreens each have loyalty programs that reward customers who enroll.

Resolution No.3. I will use text messaging to engage.

Mass push notifications (aka text messaging) are a rudimentary, but effective way of interacting with your current or potential customers. Even though it seems counterintuitive in this age of smart phones, apps and responsive mobile sites, texting is still effective for reaching millions of mobile users who relish the quick tidbits of information that can be shared in 160 characters or less. One great thing about text messages is that, in addition to their brevity, you can embed links, which will let the user access greater detail, if they want, with a simple click.

Beyond the ability to broadcast messages to large numbers of people simultaneously, text messaging is far less intrusive than email, as users opt-in to receive them. Thus, there is a far greater likelihood of your messages being read and acted upon. There are a number of brands effectively using text messaging to engage with their audiences, including retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Aeropostale. Each of these brands understand the importance of text messaging, alongside their other targeted marketing efforts.

Resolution No. 4. I will use social media more.

Instagram has become the de facto platform to connect with this social demographic. But Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ (among others) still have a place with millions of users. This year, resolve to connect with your audience across multiple SM platforms. Even if you’re not creating unique content for each channel, at a minimum, make sure you’re broadcasting across all of them.

In 2014, brands like Fiat, Jockey and Burton, all made effective use of social media. By focusing on greater engagement, thoughtful campaigns and a commitment to truly using social media platforms, these brands were able to connect with and grow their respective bases in 2014.

Resolution No. 5. I will refresh my content regularly.

There is no worse sin in social media than stale content. Something new happens every day, so there’s no reason for your content to be static. Whether it’s a new sale, coupon, discount, store opening, product release, acquisition, whatever, updating your website or social media profiles with the new is always a good look for your brand. More importantly, by regularly refreshing your content, you give your users a reason to visit your site, social media space, or mobile app frequently.

I’m not talking about being social for social’s sake.

There’s nothing to be gained from spending all day on Facebook (or any other social media platform) if there’s no appreciable ROI.

I am talking about leveraging social media to enhance your brand and strengthen the ties that bind you with your current and potential audience.

As customers become increasingly more mobile and social, adopting a strategy that accepts this as a starting point becomes critical to the success of any initiative.

If you’re struggling to figure out how to adopt of develop a more social strategy or implement mobile effectively, or if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.

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Sales tips from a guy who hates to sell. You gotta believe.

Believe-logo

I used to see a career coach who told me that in order to get to where I wanted to be, I had to start from the bottom.

While I waited for folks to get on board and agree that I was the greatest thing since sliced bread – and pay me handsomely for my opinions and presence – I had to get a job.

And since I was transitioning from law to tech, I should use my gift of gab in an area that he thought would be a natural fit: sales.

The thing about his advice, while 100% accurate – I can sell – was the fact that I hate selling.

Well hate may be a bit strong.

I dislike it greatly.

And it’s not the act of selling that I dislike. I am a hunter.

It’s the things I have to sell that I generally dislike.

It wasn’t always this way.

When I was in high school I worked at Macy’s in the ladies shoe department as a shoe salesman.

Selling was a cinch.

To be clear, shoes sell themselves to women.

All I did was shuttle different sizes back and forth from the stock room until my client decided which pair (or pairs as was often the case) she wanted.

I’d ring her up, bag her goodies and she was off to shop some more, or to her car with the balance of her shopping spree.

Sure, I was masterful at upselling.

Transitioning a patron from a low priced item, say some 9 West black slingback pumps, to a higher prices one, like an elegant pair of Via Spiga heels that just arrived, was my forte.

But for the most part, I didn’t have to hard sell (or upsell) anyone.

Fast forward to 2008, the heyday of mobile marketing and SMS, when I worked for one of the three largest mobile aggregators selling mobile marketing to brands eager to get into texting.

The services sold themselves, and I simply guided green content creators through the short code acquisition mobile marketing campaign activation wireless carrier gauntlet.

In the process of demonstrating my expertise, I also upsold premium services and our platform, which allowed brands to publish their own compliant mobile ready campaigns.

As a captive audience, who had already taken the plunge to embrace the brave new world of mobile, selling (and upselling) was like shooting fish in a barrel.

But here is where my love affair with selling abruptly turned for the worse.

You see, my third sales or “business development” role was with an app development firm.

It was here that I understood that sales was not for me.

While I fully believed in the future of mobile, and was prepared to assail anyone who would listen with the wonders of developing mobile applications with us, my heart wasn’t in it.

I didn’t believe what I was selling.

Or rather, the thing that I was selling didn’t sell itself.

As a salesman, you can sell anything.

If you’ve got a silver tongue (as I did) a freezing man will buy ice from you.

And if you’ve got something that sells itself (or you believe that you do), the world is your oyster.

You can flit in and out of offices, meetings, conferences and presentations with a self assuredness that allows you to throw caution to the wind.

I’ve got it, you want it. Now, what will you pay me for it?

Selling was simple.

As was prospecting.

Lead generation was never an issue as we were on the leading edge of new technology.

Apps were everything.

Simply say the word “apps” and folks were rapt with attention.

And I sold lots of apps.

But then the company didn’t deliver.

Project after project became trapped in a bottleneck.

Features that were sold as standard became “premium” or required “custom development,” and I started to see the wizard’s cape showing behind the screen.

And that was it. I learned that I wasn’t built to sell just anything.

Actually, what I really learned was that I excelled at selling what I believed in.

Before the veil was pulled back, I would have sold anything to anyone.

After I saw the wizard, I became increasingly selective about what I’d co-sign, pitch or promote.

This isn’t really a “proper” tips post, but to stay true to it’s title, here are a few tips for being better at sales.

  1. If you need a script, don’t sell it. If you need a guide to sell, it’s not for you.
  2. If you wouldn’t buy it, don’t sell it. It’s hard pushing something you wouldn’t take/use yourself.
  3. If you agree with buyers’ objections, don’t sell it. When you find yourself agreeing with all the objections a potential buyer has for not buying in, you shouldn’t be selling it in the first place.

In the final analysis that’s the key: sell only what you believe in.

Because then selling comes naturally.

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Want to increase diversity in tech? Make it cool. TechCool.org

Ethnicity in tech US

There’s been much ado about the diversity gap in tech.

The big dogs, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter, EBay and Apple, have all released data, showing how much of their respective work force is made up of minorities and women.

Needless to say, the stats aren’t encouraging.

For the most part, tech is a white male dominated field.

Depending upon where you look, there’s anywhere from a 70/30 to 90/10 male to female ratio in tech.

From an ethnic perspective, the stats are far more sobering.

Generally, tech in the US is 58% white, 34% Asian, 2% Hispanic/Latino, and 2% Black (and 2% “other”).

The diversity gap stems from the fact that hiring in tech companies isn’t proportional to population.

While Blacks make up approximately 13% of the US population, they represent only about 2 to 3% of the technology workforce.

The disparity is palpable, especially when you think about the billion dollar valuations of tech companies like WhatsApp, Instagram and Tumblr, and how few people of color are up in the cut.

As a self-professed Black techie, I see this disparity every day.

In the majority of the tech circles I’m in, there are very few Black/brown faces.

We need more color in tech.

But how do we get there?

It’s one thing to know what the problem is.

It’s quite another to solve it.

Tech firms have begun recruiting at HBCUs and asking colleges and universities to recommend qualified Black students at job fairs.

But in my opinion, we’ve got to start earlier.

Obviously, exposing our youth to technology and fostering a love of math and the sciences is key.

Growing up, my father encouraged me to be an engineer.

I can still hear him in his thick Nigerian accent saying, “Chibuzor, you are going to be a engineer.”

That was his thing.

His first son was going to be an engineer, by hook or by crook.

Despite his aspirations for me, I simply wasn’t interested in joining the geek squad.

I fought him tooth and nail and I got an economics degree instead.

Today, I’m scraping together a meager existence and engineering jobs remain unfilled – or filled by white and asian men.

I could kick myself.

Who knew that Uneze had such foresight?

Why did I resist so vehemently?

Was his delivery so suspect that I gave it little to no weight?

Or was I just not checking for an industry I found to be so square?

Tech simply didn’t do it for me.

Looking back, it makes me wonder how many Black parents wanted their children to go into math and the sciences, but couldn’t instill any excitement in them to take it up?

All the Neil deGrasse Tysons of the world, much like Uneze before him, aren’t turning urban kids on to science.

My first proper experience with tech was cool.

I helped launch a Harlem-based start-up called DigiWaxx.

DigiWaxx was an online digital music promotions company that created a digital platform which made sending physical copies of records to DJs obsolete.

While it was primarily music and artist promotion, we pioneered what became the standard in digital distribution of promotional content.

The technology we employed was very rudimentary (at the time), but it was still tech.

And it gave me a glimpse into the myriad of non-traditional opportunities that existed in tech.

It also exposed me to the some really progressive folks on the leading edge of technology – most of whom were Black.

Folks like Russell Simmons and (360hiphop.com and Global Grind), had whole teams of Black techies, who simply did not fit the stereotype of tech.

Today, I’m steeped in technology helping brands to build mobile websites, mobile and tablet applications, and immersive interactive experiences.

I’m also spreading the message about how cool tech can be to Black and brown kids to help overcome the diversity gap.

How?

Well for one, I’ve started TechCool.org.

Well, I haven’t actually started it.

I just copped the URL yesterday when I was thinking about writing this blog.

And roped my man into creating a logo for me (soon come).

But that’s besides the point.

What tech lacks is the cool factor.

When most of us think tech, invariably we think nerd (sorry Neil).

We don’t think rockstar.

But tech is full of rock stars, and I’m focused on bridging the diversity gap by helping to put the cool into tech.

If you’re the parent of a young Black kid, you know they emulate the rock stars.

Well not rock stars literally, but cats in the public eye.

Roll out a phlanx of sports or media superstars, and your kids are wide-eyed, imitating their moves on the court, pantomiming their videos or reciting their lyrics.

We’ve got to elevate tech to rockstar status, to excite kids about the possibilities.

I’m starting an organization whose primary mission is to encourage young Black kids to take up technology by exposing them to the superstars in the space.

My plan is to partner with celebrities as a catalyst to spark interest in tech, and do it in a way that inspires them to explore tech professions in the future.

I did a pilot of this program a few years ago with the Police Athletic League of NYC, called the Digital University, where we gave youth first hand experience with audio and video production, web development and social media management and marketing.

We brought in DJs to teach them how to mix, VJs to show them video mixing, gave them cameras to shoot video, video editing software to create movies, and brought in a celebrity or two to keep them inspired.

The kids loved it and we opened their eyes to the numerous possibilities which existed for them to explore tech-based professions.

Although PAL ultimately opted to teach a cooking class instead of continuing to offer the program – because home ec is more important than tech..duh! – we were able to establish a proof of concept that the right program taught by the right people, with the right level of cool could connect with kids in a meaningful way.

That experience has inspired me to go all-in and form a not-for-profit singularly dedicated to rebranding the tech industry to make it more enticing to our youth.

So stay tuned for more updates as I bring TechCool.org to life.

It will probably start off with a blog, and then some speaking engagements, before I’ve got bonafide programming and a formal offering.

But I’m committed to giving tech a facelift and helping to close this divide.

Feel free to share your thoughts on my plan and hit me up if you’re interested in being a part of the TechCool movement!

 

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Filed under advocacy, digital advocacy, technology

Sorry Verizon Wireless. But you suck.

no verizon

As a long time AT&T subscriber, I’ve had mixed feelings about my cellular and data service.

Some times, I could browse the Internet on my iPad or iPhone at blazing speeds.

At other times, content would load at a snail’s pace.

And some times, not at all.

Occasionally, calls would drop, if they even connected in the first place.

Being in the Northeast, I took it for granted that getting a strong cellular signal was a challenge with all the tall buildings jamming the airwaves.

I also accepted the fact that AT&T didn’t have the largest cellular or data network, and that was okay.

For the most part, in the connected world in which we live, I was usually able to jump on wifi and took signal or connection shortcomings in stride.

In the back of my mind though, I wanted something better.

Folks with Verizon service always seemed to be the ones whose phones always seemed to work regardless of circumstances or surroundings.

If I lost my signal on the train or in a tunnel, Verizon customers were still yapping, texting or surfing away.

I would watch those Verizon Wireless commercials with a certain degree of envy.

From the “can you hear me now” featuring the bespectacled geek to the coverage map comparisons, I marveled at how good Verizon customers had it.

I wondered what it must be like to always get a signal and be able to surf the internet regardless of a wifi connection.

So it was with unbridled glee that I received the news that my company was switching from AT&T to Verizon and getting us all iPhone 6s to boot!

You can imagine my excitement when I powered up my 6 Plus for the first time.

Man was it fast!

I was browsing and calling, texting and apping away!

The world was my oyster and Verizon’s blazing fast network, my playground.

At least so I thought.

You see, I had been using the 6 Plus in the office, where I was rocking wifi.

However, when I hit the mean streets of NYC…

Let’s just say, I’m calling bullshit.

Verizon sucks.

Full stop.

Their connection may be robust in West Jablip, but here in the city, their shit is fugazee.

Things that I thought would be a cakewalk for the company with the largest cellular network in North America, ended up being serious challenges.

I dare say Verizon was actually worse than AT&T.

To add insult to injury, things that I could formerly do with my iPhone on AT&T, I couldn’t with my Verizon device.

For example, before Verizon, I could talk, surf the internet, check my emails and text all at the same time.

Not literally all at the same time, but with certain things running in the background, while I worked on other things…

You know what I mean!

But today, if I’m not on wifi, there’s no multitasking.

Anything that requires a cellular signal to complete is blocked until I get off the phone.

C’mon Verizon!

What kind of shit is that?

I’m so pissed that I forsook (the past tense of forsake – get with the program people) AT&T and coveted another carrier.

How could I have been sooooo wrong?

Verizon can kick rocks for all I care.

I want my AT&T back!

How about you? Are you suffering from regret after switching from one carrier to another? I’d love to hear about your experience, so please share in the comments!

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Filed under iPhone, mobile

They call me Stephen. And five more reasons I love Uber.

uber

If you’ve ever been a Black man in New York, you know what I speak of.

But trying to catch a cab in the city can be a bitch!

If there aren’t long lines outside of the station, or club, then there’s some dude further up the block hailing them earlier.

Better yet, you think that you’ve spied an empty cab coming your way, only to see a slunked down passenger in the back as they pass you by.

Or you could be passed over all together by completely empty cabs just because you’re HWB.

Hailing while Black.

A minute ago, someone put me up on Uber.

You know, Uber, the whole ride sharing app.

I had been using other apps, like Curb (formerly Taxi Magic), with varying degrees of success and never really tried Uber out.

Until recently, that is.

Ya see a few weeks back, I found myself stuck in the city late night, trying to get back to Jersey.

I had just missed my train, and I was totally NOT trying to wait on NJ Transit for another hour for the next one.

As I stepped out of Penn Station to hail a cab, I was totally dismayed to see the long line of folks waiting for cabs.

Then it dawned on me – Uber!

A few minutes later, a shiny black SUV pulled up, with an “Uber” sign in the passenger window.

As I got in, the driver said, “Hello Stephen,” and I knew I had found my steady.

Thirty minutes later, I disembarked in front of my house, with a “Good night, Stephen.”

No scrambling to find cash or swiping my card, just a “good night” and off.

Lest you think this was a one-off, I’ve used Uber at least a half-dozen times since then.

And each trip was as pleasant as the first.

With the exception of the talkative “Marilyn” who got lost and arrived late, which in turn made me late to my appointment.

But speed bump aside, here are the top five reasons I love Uber (and why you should too).

1. They call you by your name.

The first time I got into an Uber car and the driver called me by my name, I felt like a bonafide celebrity. It’s not like I’ve never had a car service pick me up before. But it’s an entirely different thing to be greeted in such a friendly and familiar manner when you’re not rolling in duckets. I don’t know what Uber tells it’s drivers, but that calling me by my name thing works.

2. No fuss or fumbling with money or cards.

When you set up with Uber, you associate a billing method with your account, and your fare is automatically deducted when you arrive at your destination. There’s no haggling with the driver, pulling out cash, tapping or swiping required. Arrive. Disembark. Done.

3. You don’t have to fight with other commuters.

Unlike hailing a cab on the skreets or calling up a cab company to request a ride, with Uber, there’s no fighting with other commuters. Open up the app, see the available drivers around you, request a driver and voila! Now just sit back and wait.

4. WYSIWYG.

The acronym, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) is totally apropos for Uber. The Uber app is totally transparent. You can see where your driver is, how long it will take to get to you, and the fare you can expect to pay. Now sometimes, there’s a glitch in the matrix and you’ve got to refresh your connection to actually see where your driver is (and the app doesn’t do a great job of recalculating the estimated time to get to you), but with Uber, there are no surprises. And if you ever have an issue, you can instantly contact the driver (via text or call) or even cancel your ride altogether. No muss, no fuss.

5. Super easy to use.

There is nothing – NOTHING – I hate more than a complicated app. All I want to do is get a ride. I shouldn’t have to solve a Rubik’s Cube to do so. Uber makes it über-simple to do so with their app.

  1. Open the app.
  2. Set pickup location.
  3. Request uberX.
  4. Wait.

That’s it!

Now, there is one thing that you do need to know about Uber.

Surge pricing.

What’s “surge pricing” you ask?

It’s the price you pay trying to catch a ride with Uber during peak traffic.

It’s usually quoted as a multiplier of the regular rate, say 1.5 or 2.0 of the regular rate.

If you get a ride at that time, expect to pay more than you regularly would.

Now they’ll tell you when the surge pricing period is over and there’s usually a brief window within which it expires – but it’s the one thing about Uber that I don’t love.

Anyway, the next time you find yourself jockeying for position on the curb to get a cab, take a chill pill, whip out your phone and hit Uber up.

Have an Uber experience you’d like to share? Leave me a comment!

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Filed under apps, iPhone, mobile