Monthly Archives: July 2015

Back to School – the digital version. Another top five list.

back-to-school-digital

Back to school can be a daunting time for busy parents trying to eke out those last days of summer.

What can be especially trying is the planning and shopping for back to school items.

What to get, where to get them, and at what price are issues that cause many a sleepless night.

It’s no wonder that retailers start advertising early in an effort to drive traffic towards their physical and digital stores.

But as shoppers become more discerning about products and price conscious, retailer have to do more to appeal to shoppers.

So here are my top five tips for winning over your online shopper.

1. Make it mobile. I say this so much, I sound like a broken record – or Max Headroom. But I’ll say it again. Make it mobile. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to navigate a full desktop site from a mobile device. Sure, I can pinch and squeeze, but why do I have to? There are plenty of other sites out there that are catering to the mobile shopper. And if you’re trying to win dollars from other retailers, do yourself a favor and make your user’s shopping experience as simple as possible. And it starts with making your site mobile.

2. Offer mobile only promotions. Everybody likes a bargain. More importantly, folks, especially moms, don’t want to feel like they’ve missed an opportunity. When you have a mobile only promotion. That is either offered only if a user sees it when they’re browsing your site from their mobile device, or which can only be redeemed while shopping on your mobile site, you’re giving shoppers a reason to take advantage of that offer – because they don’t want to miss it. Mobile only promotions is a great way to drive traffic to your mobile site and increase mobile conversions.

3. Apps. Apps. Apps. Dialing up a mobile app on your device is far easier than trying to access a mobile site from your browser. And although it may not seem like much, for a busy back-to-school shopper, time is often of the essence. Making sure that you’ve got a mobile app that shoppers can easily access from their mobile phones or tablets, means that they don’t have to worry about accessing the internet or being on a strong wifi signal to browse and shop. The mobile app is also great for sending push notifications alerting your users about new offers and promotions.

4. Wish lists are a must. As kids get older, shopping with parents just isn’t…how do I say this delicately…cool. After a certain age, your kids would much rather hang out in the mall with their friends, then be seen in public with you. Life’s cruel like that. They don’t want you picking things out for them (your tastes as so blase). And they certainly don’t want to try things on with you lurking outside of the dressing room like Quasimodo. But when it comes to back to school shopping, that can be a good thing. Especially if the stores you patronize offer wish lists. With a wish list, your petulant teen (or pre-teen) can go online, find the things that they like, and shoot you a link to that wish list for you to purchase from the convenience of your computer or mobile device. No muss. No fuss.

5. Shop with your phone. If you just enjoy the act of shopping and would much rather see, feel and touch items before you buy them, then shopping with your mobile device as your companion. Retailers have come to expect that shopper will be comparison shopping, looking up product details and reviews, taking pictures and generally vetting them with mobile phones on the ready. In fact, many retailers are using beacons to identify which shoppers are really paying attention to their phones and using this as an opportunity to communicate special offers, savings or promotions while the shopper is on or near the store. So make sure that you’ve got a full charge before you head out, you could be in for extra savings.

6. Coupons! I know I said this was a “Top 5 List” but I realized that there was one more tip for busy shoppers. There is a whole industry around helping shoppers ‘clip’ digital coupons that can be used either online or at checkout in-store. RetailMeNot, for example allows you to search for a retailer and offers up a results page replete with coupons that could potentially save you dough when you’re shopping. So if you follow Tip No. 5 and have your phone on you when you shop (at home or in store), mobile (and online) coupons could really impact your bottom line.

Take that competition!

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The utility company of the future is mobile – today.

electric meter

Virtually everyone in the world is mobile.

That’s a fact.

We spend more time with our mobile devices, than we do our spouses and children.

Sad, but true.

But since we are inextricably tied to these devices, and use them obsessively, it only makes sense that brands should cater to this behavior.

I’m not saying that brands should make us more drone-like, such that we never put our devices down.

What I am saying is that since we seem to draw greater and greater utility from them, brands that understand user behavior, can benefit themselves significantly by paying attention to this trend.

Think about it.

Before you used to have to go to the bank to make a deposit.

And you could only do it during banking hours.

Then came ATMs and you could deposit funds even when the bank was closed.

Today, you don’t even have to leave your house to make a deposit.

You can simply snap a photo of your check with the banking app on your mobile phone and you’re done.

The banking industry paid attention to it’s users and came up with solutions that met them and technology where they were.

A similar opportunity exists for utility companies.

Back in the day, if you had a problem with your service, you’d have to go down to the utility company, take a number, and wait in line to actually speak to someone.

Because lord knows that calling them was a massive waste of time.

A year ago, the best you could do was log into your utility company’s website from your desktop computer to check your bill, input a meter reading or schedule an appointment.

But today, you can pay your bill, connect or disconnect service and input a meter reading all from your mobile phone.

No longer are you tethered to a computer to accomplish basic (and sometimes fairly sophisticated) tasks, you can perform these things on the go.

You’re probably wondering, “why is this fool blathering on about the utility company?

I’ll tell you why.

I just paid my PSE&G bill, sitting in my boxers on my phone.

No. I was not sitting on my phone.

I was on my phone, while I was sitting in my boxers.

Whatever.

My point is that we’re seeing a wave where more and more businesses, especially businesses which offer utilitarian value (banking, utilities, cable) streamlining their offerings for mobile.

And consumers are becoming increasingly discerning about who they patronize, and making these decisions based on how well they meet their mobile needs.

I can tell you that I’m automatically turned off by any brand that doesn’t have a mobile website.

And I don’t just mean doesn’t have a mobile website, but one that auto-detects that I’m using a mobile device and renders the appropriate screen.

So you can imagine my glee in discovering the PSE&G had made the leap to mobile.

I wonder how many more utility companies are following suit.

If your’s isn’t – shame on them.

But I’d imagine that it isn’t far off.

 

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Don’t be a dummy! The value of QA

qa

Do you remember those Hanes commercials, where the underwear was inspected by inspector 12?

The point of those commercials was that before those underwear protected your man package, someone decided that they met some established standard of quality to bear the Hanes seal.

If a thread were out of place, if the sticking was off, if the color was wrong, that pair would have been rejected.

Hanes was giving its customers a glimpse into the world of quality control.

The world has changed a lot since then, but the concept of quality control has not.

It has actually made the leap from physical good to digital ones.

If you’ve every built a website, mobile site, mobile application, micro site or kiosk, then invariably part of the process involved subjecting the product being developed to some form of testing.

In the digital space, we refer to this testing as quality assurance testing or QA.

QA is a way of preventing mistakes or defects in manufactured products and avoiding problems when delivering solutions or services to customers.

During QA, the developers ensure that the product that they’ve developed meets all the criteria established at he beginning of the development cycle.

Essentially, you’re running your website, mobile site, app, kiosk – your product, through it’s paces, confirming that it performs correctly, logging defects and passing those defects to the development team for remediation.

Typically QA testing involves making sure that at a threshold level, all the component parts are there: home page, navigation buttons, header, footer, menu, shopping cart, etc. and then making sure everything works the way it’s supposed to.

So during QA, testers run through test cases or test scripts to make sure your product behaves properly following the “happy path” as well as when users do something completely unintended.

If they encounter something anomalous, they test again, to see if they can replicate the error they’ve just observed – and if the can, they log the defect by providing the exact steps to reproduce the error, so that the developers know what to look for.

Logging a defect involves detailing the starting point, the exact steps the tester followed to trigger the error, the expected and actual results.

Often that defect log will include a snapshot (or snapshots) of the actual observed error.

Once the developers review the defect, confirm that the issue is not just a one-off caused by a poor network connection, tester error, a source issue (for example a mobile site generating the same issue as the full site) or something wholly unrelated to the product being tested, they get to work on resolving the defect.

When the problem has been solved, they’ll pass it back to the QA team for validation of the fix. If everything checks out – the fix passes. If not, they’ll send it back to the developer with additional notes about what they’ve observed.

This process continues until the issue is resolved (or until the developers determine what blockers must be removed in order for the issue to be resolved – because sometimes the issue may lie elsewhere).

If there’s a ‘green light’ the fix (or fixes) is/are passed from the development environment (QA) to the client (for user acceptance testing) or live (depending on the severity of the defect in question and internal protocols for resolving live defects).

No one cares if your website or app looks great if it crashes.

In fact, there’s a whole world of QA testing which is devoted to trying to break your website or app.

Because people aren’t always as smart as we give them credit for being.

And websites or apps don’t always perform the way they’re supposed to.

So QA ensures that you don’t put out anything that you would want to put your seal of approval on.

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Holiday shopping tips for the digitally challenged.

2015-black-friday-cyber-monday-sale-657x420

I know it’s mad early to be talking about holiday shopping, but luck favors the prepared.

Nearly everyone is familiar with Black Friday.

It’s the biggest shopping day of the year, where retailers slash their prices and shoppers act as if the world is coming to an end.

There have been countless stories of people being trampled – trampled when store doors open as people literally rush to savings.

I’m not a Black Friday kind of dude.

If I’m going to go shopping and try to save money at the same time, I’m going to do it intelligently.

And I’m going to do it online.

While Black Friday is a boon for brick and mortar establishments, it’s also a win for online retailers who offer similar savings for folks not inclined to deal with holiday shopping crowds, but are still looking for bargains.

Online shopping on Black Friday has become so popular that it spawned a completely different shopping day, devoted entirely to the online shopper: Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday, for the uninitiated, is like Black Friday, except its wholly online.

Instead of rushing to your local Target to stand online in the hopes of snagging that 42″ flatscreen LG, simply flip open your laptop, type in the URL and viola! it’s in your cart.

No muss no fuss.

If you’re a truly savvy digital shopper, you know that Cyber Monday type deals are available all year round.

But it’s only during the holidays that online retailers really promote these savings.

So this year, as you make your list and check it twice, make sure you’re bookmarking your favorite sites, because the savings you’re looking for are only a click away!

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Go back to school already! A top five list

back-to-school-heroNow that summer is in full swing, weekends are invariably full of the obligatory beach trips, pool days, and the incessant banter of children seeking to be entertained.

For all the sleep away camps, trips to see the grandparents and efforts to get rid of distract our kids, they always seem to be underfoot.

As parents, suffering the assault of that which we have borne, our thoughts inevitably turn to the one thing that brings us all solace: back to school.

For all our suffering, we know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

One day, in the very near future, these miniature clones will be cast from our homes, refrigerators and wallets, tucked safely behind the walls at institutes of higher learning.

And as the day of our liberation approaches, we shouldn’t bask in the glow of that warm thought too much.

There’s work to do so that our hellions are prepared for that momentus day.

So here are the top five things you’ll need to prepare your kids for back-to-school.

1. Backpacks – I don’t know about your kids, but by the end of each school year, my kids’ backpacks look like they’ve been on the losing end of a catfight. They’re usually dirty, with holes, broken zippers and often, petrified food. Getting new backpacks is a priority, especially if you want your future meal tickets to look the part of eager schoolchildren and not homeless hobos.

2. Laptop computer – my teenage daughter has been on a campaign to get a laptop computer for the past two years. As she enters the eighth grade, she may finally get her wish. Laptop computers are a must for teens seeking a bit more independence than the community family computer affords. And it removes any excuse they may have for not doing their homework. Just make sure you’ve got good spyware installed.

3. Cellphone – when each of my kids turned ten, they got a cell phone. It was a simple Metro PCS LG nonsense, but it was their entre into the world of digital connectivity. Now having a cell phone is more than just a means of communication with one’s parentals, it’s a social norm. And we can’t have our children ostracized because their the only ones without one!

4. Lunchbox – or should I say food transportation unit. My older kids are loathe to actually carry anything that actually resembles a lunchbox. For them, gone are the days of the square tin with a handle. Replaced by Goodbins, and various other ergonomic, compartmentalized food receptacles. While the older kids opt for the good old brown paper bag, the younger two are still happy to tote an old fashion lunchbox.

5. Hugs – what start to the school year would be complete without your obligatory hugs? One day they’re going to go off and not come back. So hug ’em while you got ’em! The summer’s no over yet!

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