3 Ways SMBs Can Beat Competitors With Tech in 2021

As Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff recently put it, digital experiences are no longer nice-to-have features but need-to-have services for all businesses. Let’s look at three important ways SMBs can meet this new digital imperative head on in 2021 while beating competitors down the street.

Voice Growth Will Further Amazon and Google’s E-Commerce Dominance

For most people, e-commerce starts with a Google or Amazon search on our computer or phone. We read reviews, compare prices, and analyze how something will look or fit in our lives. We don’t know where we will end up, but we browse options from our favorite retailers until we find exactly what we are looking for. 

What happens when we stop using visual cues and start searching with our voice? And what happens when the results that our voice triggers are controlled by the device interpreting those questions or commands? 

As Retail Reopens, Voice Tech Takes Center Stage

Voice technology has been on the verge of going mainstream for nearly a decade. Despite big players like Amazon and Google launching their own smart speakers, and millions of consumers using the devices in their homes, investors in the voice technology space have been patiently waiting for the spark that would set off a new touchless world.

That spark is Covid-19.

Computers Without Boundaries: A Deep Dive Into Ambient Computing

“Ambient computing” is actually a catch-all term for several new technologies. These include Internet of Things (IoT) devices, AI-driven devices, and cloud storage solutions that allow previously impossible amounts of data to be stored and processed.

The advantage of looking at these technologies under one term, though, is that it allows us to see the future of marketing more holistically. And that’s what we’ll look at in this article. 

Location Weekly: Grocery Delivery in the Time of COVID-19 Alarm

In this episode of Location Weekly, the Location-Based Marketing Association covers Instacart’s doorstep grocery delivery amid the coronavirus scare, Papa Johns enjoying success with AR, 7Eleven opening an “Evolution” concept store, TapAd partnering with Gimbal, and Pandora launching interactive voice ads.

Location Weekly: FCC Fines Location Data Purveyors; Adidas Taps WhatsApp for Mobile Marketing

In this episode of Location Weekly, the Location-Based Marketing Association covers the FCC proposing hefty fines on mobile operators for selling location data, Apple turning your photo into a car key, Adidas tapping WhatsApp to reach consumers, KFC Canada integrating Google Maps and Assistant, Uber offering car-top signage for new driver revenue, and JCDecaux leveraging facial recognition for Yoplait in Australia.

The Pitfalls and Opportunities of Screen-Free Customer Service

One vertical that has been able to integrate voice into customer service in a meaningful way is retail. National retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and REI Co-op have created skills or teamed up with technology providers to connect with customers through voice-controlled assistants. Some retailers are accepting orders via voice, and others are doling out product information and reviews. What the most successful of these companies have in common is a defined strategy and plans to measure ROI.

Leveraging Voice: A Path for Brand Marketers

It’s important that companies can see who their customers are and what transactions are associated with each customer via voice assistants. This sort of knowledge is necessary for brands to make the channel a valuable part of an overarching loyalty strategy.

Given that voice is currently owned by just a few select companies, it’s important for brands to figure out how they will leverage voice differently from company to company or device to device. Will retail brands keep the same strategy with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, or will they find unique ways to take advantage of these platforms across differences?

What Does Customer Experience Mean in a Voice-First World?

The trend of moving customer experience beyond the screen has been dubbed “conversational customer care.” It’s still unclear just how many channels are included under this umbrella or how the future of conversational customer care will look. Brands that are dealing with demanding customers can’t afford to sit back and wait for this to play out. Screen-free customer experiences could be the future. They could be just a single touchpoint in the broader context of customer experience strategy. Or, they could just be a passing fad.

But the chances that voice-first customer experiences are a fad seem to be shrinking.

5 Ways to Reduce Errors in Voice Ordering

Restaurant chains like Wingstop, Domino’s, Panera, and Round Table have created their own skills to make it easier for people to place orders through voice assistants like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. But before voice ordering can truly disrupt the restaurant industry, restaurants have to find ways to reduce the friction and eliminate the kinds of errors that lead to the wrong orders being delivered.

Here’s how some of the country’s top restaurant chains are overcoming the challenges associated with voice ordering and developing more frictionless customer experiences.

How B2B Companies Can Survive in a Clickless Search Ecosystem

The dawn of the clickless world might raise alarms for B2Bs companies, and that’s fair. This trend will likely pose a challenge for companies that rely heavily on Google for new business leads — especially small businesses that generate a majority of leads from search traffic. 

However, the clickless world also presents an opportunity for B2B brands to streamline their online presence. In this new ecosystem, B2B brands can generate awareness and encourage customers to contact their business even before a customer actually sees their website. 

Charting the Rise of Conversational AI

Conversational AI is a broad term used to describe technologies that automate conversations and personalize customer experiences. With the right systems in place, brands are able to understand, process, and actually respond to voice inputs in a natural way. While voice assistants, chatbots, and messaging services like WhatsApp, Kik, and Facebook Messenger can all be harnessed in a conversational AI strategy, virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are the most popular tools adopted by brand marketers today.

How the Rise of Unbranded Search Upends Restaurant, Retail, and Grocery Strategy

Fueled by the growth of mobile and set to rocket even further north in coming years thanks to voice, unbranded searches like “burgers near me” or “Thai food” are growing as fast as 113% year over year, according to a fresh study by multi-location marketing firm MomentFeed. Unbranded search grew about 30% from 2016 to ’17 and 56% the following year before doubling pace in 2018-19, suggesting the slope of this trend’s adoption could get even steeper in coming years.

“Alexa, Order Pizza!” How Voice Ordering Will Impact Restaurants

The numbers suggest consumers might be ready to start ordering food and beverages via voice, and voice shopping via at-home smart speakers is projected to reach $40 million in revenue by 2022. In 2020, we’ll see consumers leveraging this technology at a growing rate. In advance of this increase in adoption, restaurants will need to ensure they will be compatible with connected consumer devices.

In order to keep up with the likes of Dunkin’, Denny’s and Domino’s, restaurants of all sizes need to optimize their tech stacks and diversify their strategies.

Voice Tech Could Transform Loyalty Programs. Here’s How

Within the hospitality industry, a growing number of hotels are using voice technology to improve personalization with experiences like virtual concierges. Virtual concierges use voice technology to personalize a guest’s stay by offering experiences based on past behavior. For example, virtual concierges can adjust thermostats or place room service orders based on a traveler’s previous preferences. When hotels and other hospitality brands take action based on the insights gathered about guests through their loyalty programs, they improve the overall guest experience.

But brands in a number of industries are exploring loyalty use cases for voice.

Street Fight’s February Theme: Beyond the Screen

Consumer touchpoints continue to fragment and atomize, disrupting conventional approaches to media and tech. Drivers of this trend include devices from smart speakers to cars. Accordingly, as we roll into February, the Street Fight editorial team is thinking outside the box — that is, beyond the rectangles that frame our typical screen interfaces.

We will provide deep coverage of emerging technologies including voice search, visual search, augmented reality, and 5G. How are tech providers innovating with these modalities? How are users adopting them? And how are local marketers tackling the opportunity?

Dispatch from CES: Giant TVs, Obsequious Gadgets, and Artificial People

I’m fresh from a couple of days wandering the halls of the Consumer Electronics Show, affectionately known as CES — the annual conference that descends upon Las Vegas in January and proffers the latest in technological solutions to improve every aspect of our daily lives. This is my first time attending the world’s biggest technology conference, where 4,500 companies this year are vying for the attention of 180,000 attendees, according to my Uber driver.

As I made my way through the crowds at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center and other conference venues, I tried to get a sense of the common themes defining consumer innovation as we begin a new decade. 

SEO Trends for 2020 That You Need to Know

In 2020, we can only expect the competition for the attention of Internet audiences to become even more intense. More and more businesses appear each day, all raring to get to the top of the search results.

Add to that the fact that search engines, Google in particular, will continue to make changes to their algorithms in the coming year. SEOs must be on their toes to stay on top of the latest SEO trends. Here are some of the changes, which include the further ascendance of video, voice, and mobile as well as premiums on longer content and possible openings for non-Google search engines.

LBMA Vidcast: 7-Eleven Launches Mobile Voice Ordering, Adidas Tests AR Instagram

On this week’s Location-Based Marketing Association podcast: 7-Eleven launching mobile voice ordering, Adidas testing AR Instagram in London, Amex launching a mobile restaurant booking app, Augmented Reality wine labeling with Winerytale app, Toys R Us first in Canada to use Snapchats Portal Lens, and Factual introducing predictive & loyalty audiences. 

Retailers Wooing Holiday Shoppers Try AI On for Size

What if e-commerce retailers could use technology to replicate the role of the in-store sales associate, providing people at home with the type of personal attention that really drives sales?

Technology vendors are working feverishly to make that a reality. Using artificial intelligence and voice assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, online retailers are beginning to imagine a world where shoppers can ask their voice companions for recommendations on product fit or gift suggestions in specific price ranges. There may even be a time, not too far in the future, when shoppers can get personal feedback during try-ons inside their own closets, thanks to “smart” mirrors and other virtual reality technology.