NEW TRENDS IN ONLINE SEARCH

The online world is constantly evolving. As such, the way that people use online search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. is changing all the time. Businesses need to keep up to date with these changes so that customers and potential customers can continue to find them online. Here are some of the big new trends that businesses need to be aware of.

Voice

People are now accessing their devices with their voice. People are using “digital assistants” such as Siri or Cortanta to search for things online. This is becoming more common as voice recognition technology continues to improve.

Messaging apps

People are now spending more time using messaging apps than on social media. This includes apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, WeChat, etc. Usage levels of messaging services overtook social media in 2015. Since then, usage has continued to grow.

Mobile

Look around the next time you are on a train or standing in a queue. You will notice that most people are staring at their smartphone screen, surfing the web and searching for information online. Since the arrival of the smartphone a few years back, mobile has become the primary channel through which people access the internet. One of the most significant consequences of this shift has been that we access the web much more often but for shorter periods of time.

Connected devices

According to a recent survey, people now own an average of 3.64 connected devices. This is going to keep on growing, particularly with the rise of the “Internet of Things” (IOT) and online digital assistants such as the Amazon Echo, Siri, etc.

What should you do next?

How you choose to take advantage of these trends depends on the type of business that you have and the customers that you are targeting.

Perhaps you should consider setting up a Snapchat or WhatsApp account for your business so that you can tap into these marketing channels. If you haven’t already done so, perhaps it is time for your company website to be redesigned with “responsive” technology so that it resizes appropriately for smartphone screens, tablets, etc. Maybe there are new ways for Siri or Cortana to access your firm’s services? Now is the time to consider these trends and how leveraging them could be advantageous to your business.

WORKPLACE BY FACEBOOK

Workplace by Facebook is a new collaborative platform for businesses who want to harness social media technology within the office environment.

Workplace can be used to communicate via groups, to chat with colleagues and offers the features of Facebook but in a business focused package. Workplace is designed to be easy and familiar to use so it looks very much like regular Facebook.

Workplace can effectively replace a firm’s intranet. The familiarity of the platform provides instant benefits in terms of user experience. Most people already know how to use Facebook. Since most employees can use the platform, businesses won’t have to spend as much time and resources on training people.

Workplace is completely separate from personal Facebook accounts, meaning information shared between employees is only accessible within the Workplace platform. Workplace is designed to work in a similar way to a corporate email account. Employees are issued with an account when they join the company and should they leave the firm, they will lose their account.

From a privacy perspective, employers can not use a Workplace account to access information on an employee’s private Facebook profile. Networks are isolated and only company-wide, which means only co-workers can see the information other employees post in Workplace.

On the security front, Workplace relies on Facebook’s own infrastructure and tools for threat detection to safeguard data. The system also follows third-party industry security standards.

Workplace features a News Feed that displays articles, updates or comments relevant to certain teams or, perhaps, to the entire company. A version of the Facebook Live service can be used to broadcast corporate communications, such as a presentation by the managing director.

Teams can communicate in real time using a version of Messenger. It is also possible to create private groups for brainstorms or discussions where users can share files, photographs, etc.

INNOVATION NEVER STOPS

It seems there is a new way of doing business being created every week. Disruptive, technology driven, new business models are constantly being developed by the likes of Uber, Skype, Amazon and Air BnB.

Your business might hold an established position in the market today but that doesn’t mean that you and your management team can be complacent.

Disruption and commoditisation have impacted most industries and we are now seeing new players coming into traditional markets and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue.

So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to minimise the impact of a potential disruptive new player entering your market?

It is difficult to constantly create new products or services. However, perhaps you could consider how best to commoditise some of your firm’s existing product or service offerings in order to increase profit margin and efficiency. This could also help you to improve customer experience – by making your services faster, easier to access and so forth.

When it comes to innovation, you don’t have to constantly re-invent the wheel. While creativity is usually associated with thinking outside the box, the fact is that few ideas are 100 percent original. The most brilliant (and often most profitable) business ideas are usually variations of an already existing theme rather than completely new concepts.

Netflix didn’t create a new industry. They just took the business model that had been so successful for Blockbuster Video and created a new way for customers to rent films – online instead of through a video shop. As Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” What sets creative people apart is that “they are able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

If you want to embrace innovation in your business, you need to develop an environment that encourages creativity. Your staff should be empowered to explore new ways of delivering products or services.

Experimentation should be encouraged and your office should have collaborative workspaces in order to allow people to sit down together, work as a team, solve problems collectively and create new solutions.  In addition to this, your business should celebrate innovation through recognising those team members who find new ways of doing things. Whether that is a bonus for implementing a new innovation or perhaps celebrating the delivery of new innovations with a team night out. The key is to encourage your team to be creative, find new and better ways of doing things and keep innovating.

SKYPE TRANSLATOR

Skype Translator allows users to talk to people anywhere in the world with real time translation.

Skype has designed the system in order to break down language barriers between friends, family and colleagues.

Recently, Skype has expanded the availability of its real-time translation feature, integrating the tool with calls made to mobile phones and landlines.

Previously, the translation feature, which began rolling out to users back in 2014, only worked for Skype-to-Skype calls.

Skype Translator supports over 50 languages. The system works best with headphones and a microphone and it helps if users speak as clearly as possible. As you or your contact speaks, it will be translated in your headphones and the translations will also appear on your screen.

In order to use Skype Translator, users will need some (paid for) Skype credits. To enable the translation functionality, users must select a contact then select the translator icon and turn translator on.

Finally, it is necessary to select the language for translation using the drop down next to your contact’s name, while in a call or instant messaging / chat.

When the person on the other side answers a call that is using Skype Translator, they’ll be played a message telling them the call is being recorded and translated. The rest of the call will take place with short delays while waiting for the conversation to be translated.

The system is good but it is not perfect. Skype uses automatic translation powered by deep learning systems, which are designed to improve over time.

As the technology develops, the errors will gradually reduce but in the meantime, it is a good compromise and it’s certainly better than not having any conversation at all.

Are you prepared for a Cyber attack?

The changing nature and innovative trends of digital technology means it has become heavily incorporated into all aspects of our everyday lives, including business. However, this has meant that we are now more prone to potential cyber attacks, and business owners are not an exception.

This year has seen the biggest reported hacks in cyber history. Two years ago, hackers stole 500 million users’ data from Yahoo accounts – including eight million user accounts based in the UK – but the hack was only made public last month.

Other huge companies have been affected by cyber security breaches in recent years, including Dropbox, Myspace, TK Maxx, EBay, AOL and Ashley Madison.

Even those these are major companies, businesses of any size including SMEs should do everything to ensure that these hacks do not happen, because all computer systems are vulnerable.

Unfortunately, many SMEs do not make cyber security a priority. Andy Patel, senior manager for technology outreach at F-Secure, said: “SMEs typically don’t allocate resources to cyber security, and they allocate very few resources to IT. This leaves them open to attack in a variety of ways. A cyber security incident is likely to cost an SME proportionally more to recover from than a well-prepared company.”

In order for an SME to be fully protected from any potential attacks, business owners need to be prepared and take various measures in order to ensure that the risks of a compromised cyber system are reduced.

There are various ways a business owner can do this:

Use two-step authentication

If your business requires consumers to use an account – i.e. for emails or for purchasing products or services – then it is important to set up a two-step authentication process, which requires the individual logging in to add access details at various points. It’s a great way to stop hackers from easily accessing personal details and sensitive information.

Use anti-virus software

This is a must. Using anti-virus software helps to detect viruses, Trojan horses and malware, and they also help to keep these issues at bay, offer extra protection for your business’ computer and IT system, as well as encrypting your data.

Train your staff on cyber attacks

Everyone working at your company should take responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of personal data. You may have an IT specialist whose job it is to do this but minimizing the risk of security breach requires a team effort.

Complete regular scans

Ensuring the security and protection and private data is not a one-off task. It’s something that requires regular checks and maintenance. Always scan your business’ cyber system and make sure you stay up to date with the latest in computer technology.

Watch out 

Beware of the threats to your security and watch out. Hackers are always attempting new techniques in order to unlawfully access your data system.

Sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-37447016

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/09/25/yahoo-deserves-severe-scrutiny-over-its-epic-hack—but-it-is-no/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connect/small-business/business-solutions/how-to-improve-your-cybersecurity/

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Making Tax Digital: Bringing business tax into the digital age

Under MTD, HMRC suggests that all individuals and small businesses will have access to simple, secure and personalised digital tax accounts.

By 2020, HMRC state that the tax return will have been abolished and that most businesses, self employed people  and landlords will need to keep records digitally and will update HMRC more frequently than is currently the case.  These reforms will not apply to unincorporated businesses and landlords with an annual income of below £10,000.

Businesses will begin to fall within the requirement to keep digital records and make regular updates for income tax and NIC from April 2018

If you need help to become digital and keep digital records please give the office a call on 01280 875250 for more information