Monday, 28 December 2015

3 Tech Trends to Watch in 2016

Technology is ever evolving. While 2015 may have seen virtual reality and wearable devices growing in prominence, a number of other developments are expected in 2016. According to Gartner, a number of these technological changes will pave the way for digital businesses through 2020. Some of the top trends are as follows:


  1. Device Mesh: This refers to an increasing set of endpoints used by individuals to use applications, get information, and engage with social communities, people, government or businesses. Mobile phones, automobiles, consumer electronics and sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT) are a part of the mesh.

  2. Information of Everything (IoE): All the devices or technologies that are a part of the digital mesh generate, use and transfer information. The data produced can go beyond video, audio and text to include contextual and sensory information.  IoE has the strategies and technology that can link data from all these disparate sources.

  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI): Artificial intelligence gained a lot of prominence in 2015 and will be even more popular in 2016. Technology companies like Facebook and Microsoft are rushing to open source machine learning technologies and other such tools. Similarly, in the enterprise tech space, organizations like IBM have begun to scale their Watson cognitive computing system by slicing it down to services and engines that link to the cloud through APIs. On the consumer side, whether it is Google, Apple or Amazon, all the big names have gotten their feet wet in some form of artificial intelligence play.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Bigcommerce vs Shopify vs Volusion – Which Shopping Cart is Right for Your Business?

As a new business, one of the decisions you'll be forced to make is – which platform to host your online store on? Selling products online has never been easier, yet the wide range of eCommerce platforms available can confuse even the most seasoned of business owners. If you're in a similar situation, our article may make your life a little easier. This article will explore the three most popular platforms – Bigcommerce, Shopify and Volusion. As far as popularity is concerned, Shopify is a winner with 200,000 online stores. However, the decision cannot be made on the basis of popularity alone.

The aim is to point out the salient features of each to help businesses choose one that fits best with their requirements.


Bigcommerce:

The Bigcommerce platform is very user friendly and even a lay person can learn the ropes quickly to use it. A major advantage is the ability to edit the online store elements without any restrictions. No other eCommerce solution provides the range of features that Bigcommerce does. In that respect, Bigcommerce platform leads the race. Also, the Bigcommerce theme customization option makes it possible for enterprises to custom design their online store. The platform allows unlimited storage space, products and bandwidth. With the import tool, transfer of existing products and categories is simplified.

Despite the host of benefits, Bigcommerce still hasn't been integrated with a Point of Sale (POS) system yet. Nonetheless, you’ll be able to find an alternative POS system to integrate with in their app store.


Shopify:

Shopify is a top choice for many organizations setting up an eCommerce store for the first time. It is supposed to be the easiest platform that can be used to build a store on. Their App store has a number of a paid and free applications can be used to include additional features to an online store. Also, the store themes are responsive across devices so that enhances both the viewing and shopping experience for consumers. Additionally, customer support is available around the clock to answer any questions you may have. Their popularity is also a result of having a checkout in 50+ languages and multiple currencies!

While it's a great platform to work with, there are some aspects that businesses need to consider. One, the transaction can be as high as 2% depending on what plan you're on. The fees can be waived provided their payment gateway is used. If you're on an inexpensive plan, the ability to edit themes maybe limited. It may also be difficult to make use of the abandoned cart recovery tool or set up real-time shipping rates.


Volusion: 

The biggest plus point with Volusion is that they don't charge any transaction fees. This is a boon for small businesses who can keep more of their profit. With an unlimited storage space offered by most plans, businesses can upload a number of product images. Volusion is fast, secure and has a vast variety of eCommerce tools that make installing and running an online store, a breeze. They have been given an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau.

Some drawbacks included a limited bandwidth, if you go over, there is an overage charge of $0.007/MB. The themes are responsive but there aren't many options for those on a basic plan. Apart from this, there's no blogging platform built-in.

Having considered all three, there are two aspects that stand out – scalability and flexibility. Bigcommerce performs the best on both of them. Their shopping cart offers the largest variety of built-in features and other tools that makes the Bigcommerce platform a true leader. Further, it can be easily integrated and customized with new features.

What eCommerce platform do you use to host your online store on? Did you consider any of the three above? Let us know what drove your final choice.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

How to Select the Right Platform for Developing Mobile Applications?

There are a number of considerations that go into the selection of a platform for building mobile applications. Yet, it may not always be clear which app platform is best for creating a mobile application. Each has its own pros and cons. Since not all mobile apps are at par with each other in terms of quality, the platform chosen to develop and launch the app can make it or break it. Prior to selecting one, there are some key considerations that enterprises need to take into account. Paying sufficient attention to them will enable businesses in making the right choice as they embark upon the process of developing an app. These considerations are:
  • Identify the Target Audience
Some of the most important questions a business should ask itself are: Who are our customers? Are they also our target audience? Are members of the target audience Android, Windows or iOS users? Depending on the answers to these questions, pick the development platform. Typically, Android and iOS have the largest user base irrespective of geographical location. Although demographic data does reveal that Android's market share comes mainly from South East Asia. So, if your target group belongs to this region, you know what to choose for your application.


  • Earning From Your App
iOS is said to be a high revenue generating platform. iOS developers tend to make comparatively more profits than the average Android app developer. Also, the revenue/app download is greater for iOS than Android. This is primarily due to the fact that most Android apps are free in contrast to the iOS app store. However, both the OSs offer the benefit of a large and ever expanding user base. Therefore, the financial rewards will continue to differ depending on the choice of development platform.
  • Time Required To Develop
If speed is a crucial requirement for your business, it becomes essential to understand the time taken to develop an app for/on various platforms. Some experts believe that Android app development takes longer compared to others. This may be due to the fragmentation present in it. Additionally, unlike Apple's Xcode, Android development frameworks such as Android Studio are not very mature - one factor that adds to the development time. Some organizations may choose to use an alternative route. Cross-platform mobile development using Xamarin, PhoneGap, Sencha and Telerik are increasingly being used for building cross platform mobile apps.
  • App Store Convenience & Popularity
Developers are of the view that it is easier to publish apps to Google Play than it is to the iOS App store. Google Play has a fewer rules in place where Apple follows strict guidelines before any application can be published to its iOS store.

Another aspect to think about is - what category do you want your app to fall under? This also determines the choice of platform. For example, studies have shown that more number of iPhone users make online purchases than Android users. In such a scenario, a retail business can be better off in building their app on an iOS platform.

Ultimately, the enterprise decision makers need to weigh its business priorities and decide which platform works best for them. If speed is a factor, a business should consider Xamarin or PhoneGap. Similarly, small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) who want an app that works across platforms can choose either of the two. Large companies who need attributes, may go for the latest in iOS or Android development. Thus, a careful evaluation of enterprise needs and the points described above will help enterprises in the right platform to build their next mobile app.

Friday, 20 November 2015

3 Important Uses of Mobile Apps in Fleet Industry

Mobile devices have proliferated our work places and our homes. As consumers, we demand services on our fingertips, be it booking a taxi or finding a physician close to home. As businesses, mobile technology governs the way day to day operations are carried out. Take the case of transportation industry, while Uber may have radically altered the way we book or hail a cab, large scale automated solutions have made it easier to track and manage vehicle fleets. 

Fleet Management App


Technology, specifically in the form of mobile applications has made a huge contribution in making fleet administration simpler. Here are some ways that illustrate the impact of such apps on fleet planning and management:

1. Optimize use of Time and Money

Fleet management apps may include features that aid in keeping a record of fleet maintenance activities. Through keeping records, enterprises can potentially save money. How? Any oversight of required repairs will be reduced. With scheduled maintenance reminders, the possibility of unnecessary and expensive repairs will be eliminated. In the cab industry, fleet management systems are helpful in tracking costs so business owners know how much the drivers are spending on things such as fuel or parking. They can also capture and compare fuel expenses for all the vehicles in a fleet.

Apart from saving resources, these apps can also remind your drivers to drive safe and draw their attention to probable hazards or bad weather conditions. Companies can also monitor the speed at which a fleet is moving and warn reckless drivers who frequently flout rules. Implementation of safe driving practices prevents accidents. This in turn reduces insurance, repair or vehicle replacement expenses.

2. Integration with Accounting Software

Keeping a tab of mileage and associated expenses has generally been carried out with the help of Excel. With a Fleet management app, businesses no longer have to input rows of data into spreadsheets. Modern mobile applications can connect with and upload the necessary expense data directly to Intuit QuickBooks. This makes it easier to keep an eye on overall fleet expenditure and reimburse staff as needed. 

3.  Keep track of Fleet location

For an organization that uses a large fleet of vehicles, a fleet tracking app can point out precise locations of your fleet. In addition, it becomes easier to see where each driver on your fleet is and whether they need any real-time help with driving routes. Also, drivers can share their trips on social media sites such as Facebook and Google Maps/Earth.

Has your organization invested in a mobile app for fleet tracking and management? Did you face any challenges in implementing it? Share your experience with us. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Why Phonegap Is a Better Choice for Cross Platform Development

Mobile apps are a great way to promote your business, irrespective of the size of your organization.

Android and iOS are the two most popular mobile operating systems, and apps launched on both platforms tend to do well. However, this is an expensive process, so is the additional cost justified?

The answer to that question is a resounding yes. One of the most popular cross platform development tools, PhoneGap, makes it easy for anyone to make an application for both Android and iOS devices.

PhoneGap Application Development


What is PhoneGap?

PhoneGap, also known as Apache Cordova, is an open source, cross-platform, mobile development framework that helps developers code various apps for several smart devices in one go. 

It allows the developers to assemble hybrid applications using CSS3, JavaScript, and HTML5 rather than opting for platform-based APIs like iOS, Android, or Windows.

PhoneGap applications are developed with expanded features for JavaScript and HTML. These apps are hybrid and neither local nor web apps. They are usually referred to as packaged apps, as they come in bundles for the end user.

PhoneGap Apps and Their UI

Apps made with PhoneGap run in a windowless, full screen web browser, with the UI layer made up of CSS and HTML components. This makes them responsive and very easy to make, while ensuring maximum compatibility for a wide range of devices and screen sizes.

Why Choose PhoneGap?

Developers prefer PhoneGap for its advanced features and the advantages it offers. Creating native apps for each platform would require separate development teams for each app. 

Additionally, PhoneGap mobile development allows you to create a single base code for all platforms, and simply export the resulting application for both platforms.


Let’s take a look at what makes PhoneGap the better choice over other CPTs:

  • Animations used in PhoneGap apps are usually faster compared to native apps, and CSS animations are more fluid, as compared to jQuery, because they are executed by browsers, which makes them faster and use lesser resources
  • Apps made with PhoneGap use GPS to identify the client’s exact location. Then it extracts their details based on their location
  • The integration of both -  the internal files and web services is more advantageous for clients with different needs
  • Applications designed on PhoneGap can also run offline
  • Apps can be recompiled for other platforms, without any additional coding
  • Application logins can be set up to work with Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts
  • In depth tutorials and developer support community

PhoneGap is a great tool for creating any kind of mobile application. That said, every app development framework and tool may have certain limitations.

Have you considered using PhoneGap for your organization’s app development? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you, and thanks for reading!

Monday, 19 October 2015

How Location-Based Mobile Apps are Revolutionizing the Retail Landscape

Gone are the days when you walked into a large retail store, headed straight for the sales section, but left empty-handed because you couldn’t find the thing you were looking for.

Emerging mobile technology and smart solutions have revolutionized the retail shopping experience, and location based mobile apps have made it easier for customers to find a retail store nearby with what they need.


Retailers have begun to grasp the idea of location-based mobile technology to their advantage and seem ready to climb onboard.

Forrester believes that, in 2015, mobile technology will transform the entire business model and “will both change the cost structure and revenue models for business.” To better understand the evolution of the retail landscape from the perspective of location based solutions, let’s first take a look at the evolution of consumer habits over the years.

Evolving Consumer Mindsets Creates New Opportunities

Today, over two-thirds of all US consumers own a smartphone and the impact of mobile technology on the retail industry is undeniable.

According to an IDC study conducted during the Christmas shopping season, 70% of respondents said they check prices on their phones, and 53% looked for deals.

Another research on the habits of mobile users reveals significant number of redeemed mobile coupons. “41% of mobile coupon users said they had redeemed coupons at the grocery store, 41% said they redeemed coupons at department stores, and 39% at clothing stores,” according to Business Insider.

With the proliferation of mobile technology in our daily lives and the widespread adoption of mobile solutions in the realm of retail sales; retailers, marketers, and service providers are at an ideal point to capitalize on the opportunity to revolutionize the classic brick-and-mortar retail shopping experience.

Reebok, the athletic goods company, has used a customized location-based mobile app to drive conversions at a pop-up store in Paris by participating in a two-day fitness event with LesMills.

The fitness center pushed a welcome message with a discount offer for the Reebok pop-up store to its app users, and as they moved around, they kept on receiving messages based on their location or interaction. A 35% conversion rate was recorded at the pop-up store that year – that equals about 350 purchases over two days.

Extra Features and Services Compel Customers to Use Apps

Realizing the massive response of customers to mobile technology, every other retailer now has a custom location based mobile app, or is in the process of developing one. Most leading retailers have begun to add various other services and functionalities into their apps to make customers want to use them on and in between visits.

Geo-Fencing and In-Venue Marketing Draws In Customers

Using Geo-fencing, a GPS technology that creates a virtual fence around your possible location, retailers are sending out opt-in text messages with current and upcoming promotions to consumers as they enter a marked area.

Coupled with location data, retailers are also leveraging business intelligence in the form of consumer buying behavior and preferences obtained from their app to streamline their marketing activities.

An in-store mobile technology senses a customer’s current location, tells the store owners who is at a particular aisle, what are they looking at and what may eventually be purchased. This helps retailers sell products the moment a consumer enters a relevant aisle. Large malls, expo centers, and even airports now provide in-venue services.

Location-based apps are creating waves in the retail industry and have affected how business is conducted. While large retailers are already using it to improve their bottom line, smaller cafes and restaurants have also started experimenting with the technology.

Are you thinking about deploying in-venue or location-based apps/services for your business? What could be the most challenging aspect of the implementation in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

Monday, 12 October 2015

Why Choose QuickBooks for Your Small Business?

Intuit QuickBooks (QB) is a well-known accounting program that helps businesses and individuals to manage their finances. An accounting program can help enterprises play a greater role in managing its financial performance while ensuring that all transactions have been accounted for in an efficient manner.


A large number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) prefer QuickBooks over other accounting solutions available in the market. If you're considering an accounting program for your business needs,
QuickBooks should be your top choice. Let us take a closer look at the advantages provided by this market leader.


What Makes QuickBooks Superior?

There are a number of factors that have led to Intuit dominating the small business accounting market with their product. Some of noteworthy ones are:
  • Effortless Setup ProcessQB is very easy to set up and install. The software includes a wizard that guides users through the installation process. Additional steps are suggested when a user answers a set of questions. Once you set it up, you can very quickly sync business contacts from your email client or use Microsoft Excel. In addition, QB's online version can auto-download important financial transactions from business bank accounts for accurate performance tracking.

  • Excellent User Support – What makes QB stand out from its competitors is the amount of support enterprise users are presented with. For instance, if you are a new business just getting started with QuickBooks, you will benefit from the 'Interview' mode that can take you through the installation activity with the help of 21 simple steps that don't require more than a simple 'Yes' or 'No' answer. Also, when you first use QB, you can very quickly create your company's profile within the program and add transactions if needed. All these actions are streamlined, courtesy QB's user-friendly interface.

  • Efficiency Enhancing Features: QB has a lot to offer to SMEs. One of the attributes that enterprises will find very useful is being able to track expenses. There are a number of tools available within the program that aid in expense management. For instance, QB Pro lets you track pending vendor bills and even print checks directly from the program using your computer. Another advantage is being able to manage customers, vendors and employee data through a single application. Some organizations may also choose to integrate QB and other popular CRM systems like Microsoft Dynamics to further enhance business efficiency. Finally, businesses can save time as QB allows you to easily delete transaction history and all the data related to firms you're no longer dealing with. You do not need to erase individual entries one by one.

Potential Drawbacks?

QuickBooks is no doubt a great product for financial management. However, there are some aspects that you should consider before investing in it. With cloud based applications gaining importance, think about whether you need an on-premise system or an app that is hosted on the cloud? Fortunately, QB offers both. So, ultimately cost and other business factors come into the picture when choosing one QB product over the other. Additionally, QB is targeted at SMEs mainly. What happens when your business grows in size? If you are not using QB on premise and not on the cloud, your business may face a little trouble scaling up.

Despite the concerns expressed above, QuickBooks does remain to be favored by SMEs world-wide. The range of features offered, 60 day money back guarantee, 30 day free trial, community support and automatic data backup make QB a formidable competitor among all other industry players.

Choose QB if you want a fully customizable, reliable and robust enterprise solution to streamline financial management and accounting processes.