Explore the best ways for your business to harness developing technology.
By Lorrie Bryan
If you are like most people, you probably have never heard of DVORK or COLMAK, alternative keyboard configurations that were touted as easier and more efficient but never widely adopted. In 2013, researchers offered a new split keyboard design, KALQ, that features a layout with two 4-by-4 grids of keys that optimize thumb typing. Tests indicate that it is 34 percent faster than a traditional keyboard, but it hasn’t been readily adopted either. The standard QWERTY configuration, first developed for manual typewriters in 1868, persists today despite its awkward fingering patterns—it was purportedly designed so that users couldn’t type too quickly and jam up the delicate machinery.
So while keyboard layout has remained mostly unchanged, the commercial capacity and capabilities wielded by a single keystroke have evolved dramatically and are increasing exponentially. With a light touch to the keyboard screen on a hand-held device, businesses around the globe today are swiftly summoning terabytes of data, ordering billions of dollars of merchandise, storing warehouses of information in a cloud, and simultaneously sending personalized messages to all their clients. At speeds 100 times faster than Wi-Fi, the emerging new Li-Fi technology offers possibilities that exceed the imagination.
This constant barrage of emerging technologies often leaves overwhelmed leaders pondering which of these new tools are the most essential for businesses today. According to Nick Flor, associate professor of information systems at University of New Mexico’s Anderson Management School, of the technologies described, the customer relationship management system (CRM) is the most important.
Customer Relationship Management and Marketing Automation
“We live in an online world where customers have a tremendous advantage over businesses—the ability to easily switch to another business. All it takes is an Internet search returning a list of competitor products or even substitute products. Often, if those products are sold at a lower price or they have shiny new features that a customer desires, they’ll buy them,” Flor explains. “Utilizing a good CRM ensures that a business stays ‘close’ to its customers. It’s more than just a technology that emails a birthday card and coupons to customers. Many CRMs rely on data from a central website (think Amazon). But next-gen CRMs will aggregate data from a variety of social media platforms and use that data to make predictions about goods, services, and maintenance that add value for customers.”
You can optimize a basic CRM by integrating it with a marketing automation program, a system that uses software designed to help you prioritize and execute your marketing tasks more efficiently. A good marketing automation system can result in improved lead management in the form of scoring, nurturing, and segmentation, as well as more efficient email and campaign management.
Another way to stay close to your customers is to be in their hand via their mobile devices. Desktop computers are heading for the same scrap heap as rotary phones and fax machines. With the availability of increasingly complex apps and quickly evolving hardware, consumers are utilizing smart phones and tablets for most of the functions assigned to computers just 10 years ago. All of this mobile engagement is rapidly transforming the business marketplace. Just look at how the Uber app is revolutionizing transportation in cities across the globe.
If your company’s website is not readily navigable and engaging on a mobile device, start there. Consider setting up an adaptive website (websites that automatically tailor organization and presentation based on user access patterns).Then you are assured that customer experience will be optimized regardless of the device in use.
Does your company offer customers a smart phone app that facilitates the purchase of your products or services? Mobile commerce now accounts for nearly one-third of all U.S. eCommerce sales, according to an analysis of data from Internet Retailer’s newly published 2016 Mobile 500. And that number is expected to continue growing. Start with an online storefront that will change your website from merely informational to transactional. More sophisticated storefronts can offer customers the opportunity to personalize and apply their company’s brand to the products offered. In a nutshell, an online storefront can provide you with real-time customer data that you can use to build stronger customer relationships and deliver all the applications needed to attract new customers, secure additional business from existing clients, and become more cost effective in the process.
GURLs and PURLs
Enhanced URLs are another way to engage customers and build relationships. A generic URL (GURL) is a special landing page that shares timely information or promotes a specific marketing campaign. A personalized URL (PURL) is a customized landing page created especially for a specific recipient and is frequently an engaging element of a multichannel marketing campaign that integrates direct mail and email. The benefits of using PURLs are increased response rates and the ability to track responses in real time and follow up accordingly. You can engage customers and prospects at a deeper level by collecting valuable information when they log onto their PURL and then use that information to make subsequent messaging even more relevant and engaging.
If your server is waning or no longer adequate, you should consider heading to a cloud. One of the most popular cloud storage services available today, Google Drive offers individuals and businesses free and affordable storage rates, easy access to more than 40 popular file formats (videos, images, Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets, and PDFs), and hundreds of integrated apps to help you get things done efficiently. You can keep all your files online, and they can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection. Google Drive allows you to easily share files with your team members or external partners, eliminating the need for redundant emails.
Other advantages of cloud service are scalability and flexibility. The technology can be easily modified to meet the changing demands of your business and to integrate future technological advances. With the rate of innovation continuing to accelerate, we can hardly imagine what those future advances may be, but we know they are coming. The mighty digital age will continue to unfold, and the magnitude of a keystroke will be further amplified in days to come.