Here are 10 things in technology that happened last month and how they affect your business and your clients’. Did you miss them?
1. Microsoft introduces a CRM tool for small businesses. Called the Outlook Customer Manager, the application will be included as part of Microsoft Office 365 Business Edition and will enable teams at smaller companies to manage customer interactions, notes, activities and emails all through Outlook. (Source: PCWorld) .
Why this is important for your business: Microsoft’s Dynamics is a powerful tool used by many enterprises, but its features and price oftentimes excluded small businesses from its benefits. The Outlook Customer Manager promises to offer a more affordable customer relationship management solution to small businesses that integrates with Office 365. (Full disclosure: My company, The Marks Group, is a Microsoft Partner ).
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
2. Facebook is integrating Instagram and Messenger for businesses. Now businesses will be able to “manage messages and comments on all three platforms – Facebook, Instagram and Messenger – from just one page. You’ll be able to see conversations, view Facebook profiles and respond to inquiries all from one place. (Source: CNET) . Why this is important for your business: As Facebook continues to consolidate its tools and applications, your business will find it easier to use the platform to communicate and service your customers. 3. An online retailer launches the first “shopfunding” site. Online retailer Goodshop has announced “Goodshop Give,” a new service that will allow its customers to “leverage their holiday purchase as a way to raise money for a cause they care about.” Businesses and individuals can launch crowdfunding campaigns on the site that will raise money as customers make their purchases – instead of soliciting donations. (Source: Goodshop). Why this is important for your business: This new platform not only provides another channel for your company to sell its products, but is also an opportunity to offer your customers a way to give back to charities and organizations they support. It’s easy to set up and enables you to take advantage of crowdfunding for a good cause. 4. A new debit card makes it easier to pay for your pot. It’s called CanPay, and it’s available in Washington, Oregon and Colorado. Most banks and credit card companies, like MasterCard and Visa, will not do business with marijuana retailers while Federal laws prohibiting activities are still in place. CanPay enables marijuana buyers to use a QR code on their smartphones to pay for a purchase. (Source: Forbes) . Why this is important for your business: OK, it’s only important if you’re a marijuana retailer. But this is an industry that will be growing significantly in the next few years. Until the Federal government changes its laws, an application like CanPay will make it easier for your customers (and less expensive because they’re avoiding ATM fees) to buy your products if you’re in the marijuana business. 5. An exoskeleton will prevent injuries in the workplace. It’s being developed by a startup called suitX, and it will provide braces for an employee’s back, legs and shoulders using “steel and aluminum supports to redistribute load from the user’s muscles and joints, reducing injury and increasing comfort.” And yes, it will be comfortable to wear. (Source: Fast Company).
Why this is important for your business: If you’ve got a warehouse, a factory or even provide risky field services, you know how much an injury can cost your operations. The MAX (modular agile exoskeleton), when it’s commercially available, could go a long way to helping you reduce the costs of safety, training and of course workmen’s compensation insurance in your business.
6. Google’s new feature may be a problem for bars and restaurants. The new tool, which will be included in both Search and Maps, will alert users how crowded your bar or restaurant is in real time. The technology will use aggregated, anonymous location history data. (Source: The Verge) . Why this is important for your business: If your restaurant or bar is popular – and crowded – potential customers may decide to just stay away. And no business owner I know wants to turn away customers, regardless of how busy they are. If your business is popular enough to generate a buzz because of the crowds it attracts, your numbers may be affected by this new feature. 7. A startup can help make hearing group conversations easier to handle. Ava will allow deaf and hearing-challenged people to better follow group conversations by using a “threaded speech-to-text application.” Each participant must download the app and set up a profile, and then the technology is able to follow the conversation. The company says that deaf people who can only understand 20 percent of a conversation will see their comprehension levels rise to 80 or 90 percent. (Source: TechCrunch) . Why this is important for your business: If you have hearing-impaired employees at your company, this application could significantly improve their job performance and their participation in group events and meetings. I can’t promise it will keep them awake while you drone on though. 8. Amazon is testing out secret, fraud-fighting tools for retailers. Well, if I’m writing about this, it’s probably not so secret. The company is taking on counterfeit products with a suite of digital tools to help sellers protect their brands from fakes and knockoffs. (Source: CNET) . Why this is important for your business: Although details are still sketchy because the product hasn’t been released, if you’re an Amazon retailer, you should keep a close eye on these tools that will help better protect your trademarks and intellectual property. 9. A startup will help book meeting spaces in luxury hotels. Bizly, a New York City startup, has an app that will list hotels in your city with available hourly rental prices. (Source: TechCrunch) . Why this is important for your business: Lots of companies, mine included, hold events for clients and marketing purposes in our home cities, and searching for the best location and price is always a challenge – and time-consuming. If this app can help me find the right place and save me time, then sign me up! 10. You can now get a “.blog” domain for your blog. Millions of new “.blog” domains are available for anyone who writes a blog, and WordPress says that it’s “intuitive, descriptive and it creates millions of new naming options” for your brand or business. (Source: WordPress). Why this is important for your business: For only $30 a year you can make your blog easier to find and draw more attention to your business and your brand.
Finally, two shopping centers in the Bay Area
are employing robots to help customers. It begins.
Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. His weekly columns and blogs for The New York Times, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and Philadelphia Magazine are read by thousands of small and midsized business owners around the country.