Tailored Ads and Buying now : A Big Week for Ecommerce

ferhan patel twitter birdThis past week has already witnessed a marked uptick in products and services that more accurately target and engage with the consumer on some of their favorite platforms. This year’s Advertising week (based in New York) showcased two new services from tech behemoths Google and Facebook that improve targeted ads and ad ratings metrics, while Twitter and YouTube announced plans to make shopping even easier.

Google revealed a new product that will enable marketers to deliver ad campaigns directly to consumers using their email addresses. This new service launched by Google is called “Customer Match” and is a very targeted approach in determining when and what ad a consumer will see when logged in to Google.

Facebook on the other hand, revealed a new tool that gives advertisers a ratings metric when purchasing video ads. This tool is comparable to what advertisers have used when purchasing commercial time on television. This tool is meant to streamline the planning and purchasing process for advertisers.

It’s no surprise that companies like Google and Facebook are leading the way in refining their processes for identifying and capturing their users. In the same vein, YouTube and Twitter both announced the addition of the “buy button” to their service offerings.

YouTube recently revealed that it would simplify the process of transitioning from ad content to product purchase. With one click, YouTube will direct the user from the video content featuring a particular product directly to the retail site. This means that whether the video is a product review uploaded by a YouTuber or the official ad for the product, the viewer can easily shift into shopping mode.

Similarly, Twitter announced that the company is introducing a new feature for tweets. Going forward, a user will be able to purchase a product featured in a tweet in “as few as two taps – one tap on the buy button and a second to confirm the purchase”, according to reporter Vindu Goel. Twitter announced this week that that it plans to roll out this new “buy now” button, that any US merchant can access if it uses Demandware, Bigcommerce or Shopify.

Although these new features are not yet completely available in all markets, the continued push to incorporate targeted advertising and shopping opportunities to new areas of one’s digital life is not slowing down. In fact, the introduction of these services are most likely indicative of more to come.

Google Lets the Games Begin With Chromecast

ferhan patel chromeAccording to The Guardian, there was a time when the gaming industry was dominated by speciality companies (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo).  But that is no longer the case, as major tech companies such as Google and Apple move into the market at a rapid pace. Apple has recently redesigned their Apple TV product with more of a focus on gaming. Now, you can download and run games, giving Playstation 4, Xbox One, and the Wii U a run for their money. Google has also been focusing in on this market and is ready to capitalize on the market with their product, Chromecast.

With Chromecast, Google has designed a playing system where you can use your smartphones with your TV. The smartphone serves as the controller and the source of the processing power.

When compared to competitors, Chromecast president responds, “There’s a fundamental difference between the other models out there and what we’re doing. Games require computing power, and the smartphone has superior computing power to any of the popular streaming boxes that are out there.”

He believes that the smartphone is one to two generations ahead with computing power compared to other available products out there. This allows consumers to take advantage of better computing power with better rendered images and not waste time or space downloading games to a streaming box.

When Chromecast was first launched in the summer of 2013, it was a small thumb-sized device that simply plugged into a TV. Since then, google has sold over $17 million of the devices and have acquired thousands of apps to support their product.

Not only is Google focusing on gaming but on sound too. They are continuing to grow Chromecast Audio, which will connect easily to speakers and allow you to play music from partner services including Google Play Music, Pandora, and Spotify.

The vice president of Spotify, Gustav Soderstrom comments on this partnership, ““If you think about last year’s big focus on the internet of things, people kept talking about connected fire alarms and similar devices. But the obvious thing is to get your music playing with those connected features. That’s the most natural entry point to the internet of things.”

As the tech giants continue to make headway in the gaming world, the boxes, stations, and wiis of the world could be on their way to becoming obsolete (like the Dreamcasts, Nintendo 64’s, and Gamecubes). Even so, you will still have your favorite games, and a new, interactive way of playing them.

Chinese Banking Barriers

Cferhan patel yuanhina recently announced some drastic changes being introduced to their private sector. Plans were put into effect earlier this month that resulted in fund transfers being capped, the limiting of daily transactions and more requirements required for users to prove their identities when using their banks. Though implemented to battle the threat of fraud and money-laundering, many feel that the restrictions do not bode well for the Chinese markets.

Limiting online transactions has China’s populace in an uproar. The country’s financial analysts can’t help but scratch their heads at the poorly devised plan to safeguard China’s assets. Especially after China’s premier recently announced a removal of “red tape,” and a call for innovation of the market. The implementation of so many restrictions and rules would seem to be directly opposed to the mission espoused by the premier.

The rise of smartphones brought with it a surge in electronic transactions. Logging more than 400 million annual mobile users in China, the decision to limit this wave of active users seems counterintuitive. Though the limitation on activity would seem like the largest misstep, the real difficulty will come in proving identification when enrolling in online banking. Where you were once able to provide a simple identity-card and prior bank-account information to enroll in online services, China is proposing a multi-tiered identification system that requires tax documentation, educational records, and bank involvement to set up online accounts.

This massive speed-bump in the banking process is sure to result in thousands of irate customers. Beyond limiting the amount of money able to be transferred, these rules would even place restrictions on where citizens are able to make transactions and essentially send money. Currently, no money can be transferred between banks should the owner have accounts in separate branches. It remains unclear how the Chinese government felt these changes would circumvent the currently grim economic state, the changes will not be explicitly formalized until the end of the month. Perhaps the deafening uproar and the nearly unanimous dissent against these drastic changes, will counteract this process, but it remains to be seen how this will be resolved.  

Cryptocurrency Today

Ferhan Patel FintechWith more and more of our lives being handled digitally, it should come as no surprise that our finances be taken care of the same way. Financial technologies (FinTech) has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, with startups growing at exponential rates each year. Analysts have observed this trend, and many believe that in a brief number of years paper money could be completely phased out. The fluidity of electronic finance reduces costs from customer to vendor, and makes for instantaneous exchange between parties while providing mutual protection.

Born out of the 2008 financial crisis, FinTech startups were an answer to a question that had long been thought insurmountable. How can I best invest my money without relying on the struggling banks? Enterprising entrepreneurs took notice of this, and began developing early FinTech platforms that combined emergent technologies with their financial know-how.

Fast-forward seven years and we’re emerging from the post-financial crisis dust cloud. FinTech has exploded, growing alongside technology at a tremendous rate. In one year, social media’s integration with FinTech grew by four times, and the climb is expected to continue its exponential leaps.

The advent of new financial technologies forced industry dinosaurs to adapt or face extinction. Older firms like Vanguard and Schwab developed what they call robo-advisors to assist customers online and on their mobile devices. Citibank, a giant in the banking world, began rolling out their own cryptocurrency. After the meteoric rise of Bitcoin, Citicoins are Citibank’s attempt at gripping the coattails of the emergent currency.

The elimination of brick-and-mortar banking has forever altered the face of traditional lending. Without the cost of maintaining a physical chain or an employee payroll, the savings are immediately passed on to customers. The reduction in cost allows customers to easily acquire credit lines, and keep the interest rates down by eliminating overhead costs. The strangest phenomenon brought on by the evolution of FinTech is cryptocurrency, and its acceptance in the mainstream economy. From boutiques to restaurants, Bitcoin is accepted alongside any dollar.

There is no telling where the future of FinTech is going. So many of our everyday hurdles have been streamlined by the introduction of modern technology, it’s difficult to imagine what’s next. With many FinTech developments designed for mobile use, the future of finance is literally in our hands.

Uber: Old Problems, New Demographics

Ferhan PatelThis summer has proven to be an interesting one for Uber. The company that connects passengers with drivers through an app is facing a C$400million dollar lawsuit.  Taxi drivers in Toronto jointly filed the suit alleging that services provided by Uber are initiating an “enormous marketplace” for transportation throughout the city that is simply not legal, as Uber drivers are not licensed to operate taxis.

Cab driver Dominic Konjevic is labeled as the plaintiff in this battle.  However, law firm; Sutts, Strosberg LLP – who filed the complaint against Uber, claims that the case represents all taxi drivers and car service companies operating within the province.

Toronto is not unique in having residents pursue legal action against Uber. The company has been embroiled in legal battles internationally.

In spite of these ongoing legal battles, however, Uber has just announced a billion dollar investment to expand the company’s presence in India. Uber is also rolling out new initiatives intended to recruit more drivers of a particular demographic.

By 2016, Uber plans to increase its ridership in India to one million rides per day owing to this billion dollar infusion of funding. This is a significant increase in ridership from the current number of approximately 200,000 rides per day. Currently Uber’s biggest competition in India is Ola, a similar car service that enables the user to find a ride based on location, price and car.

In addition to this planned expansion in India, Uber has made headlines recently for its targeted recruitment of a very specific population for drivers. In the US, Uber just announced plans to partner with Life Reimagined.  This organization aids older people in figuring out their professional trajectory after major transitions. Although Uber drivers in the United States currently tend to be young and female, strategic partnerships such as this one may change that trend.

Prior to this initiative, Uber sought to recruit another demographic, in that case it was veterans. The thought behind this was that veterans would be disciplined and perhaps enjoy an outlet that required that trait. This turned out to be a successful campaign, and on average those drivers tend to receive better passenger ratings.

The Growing Field of Assistive Technology

Ferhan PatelEarlier this week, a young boy by the name of Zion Harvey was the first child to successfully receive a bilateral hand transplant. While this news is extremely encouraging to those who are missing limbs, it is also a huge leap in the medical community and hopefully indicative of even more developments in the field to come. Interestingly enough, this advancement in transplant surgery comes at a time when assistive technology for disabled individuals is also on the rise. Startups like Open Bionics have found a way to create a bionic limb using 3D scanning and printing at a fraction of the traditional cost, in less than a week. The Guardian recently published an article highlighting different companies that are helping to expand this burgeoning field.

Constance Agyeman, who manages the Inclusive Technology Prize claims that assistive technology can potentially,

“transform the level of dignity and independence that disabled people experience in their everyday lives,”

but that current solutions are often times very costly and too narrow in their focus.

Encouraging Innovation

Although this developing area of assistive technologies is still young, some well-known companies are providing resources to people looking to bring their solutions to market. Google launched a campaign that concludes at the end of September entitled “Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities”. This campaign is part of a $20 million grant program that supports the development of these kinds of technologies.

Virgin Media announced a £1 million partnership with Scope, a charity concerned with disability. This new partnership allows the experts at Scope to work in conjunction with Virgin Media’s internal innovations team. The collaboration between these two entities means that Scope will have access to Virgin’s existing assistive technologies and funding. This increase in capital ensures Scope’s ability to effectively distribute both information and training around assistive technologies currently used by the four schools run by Scope.

According to Jaime Purvis, an expert at the Digital Accessibility Centre, a non-profit that focuses on digital inclusion,

“There’s more being done now than three or four years ago, but it’s still not as widespread as it could be … There are a lot of [disabled] people being left behind because they don’t have access to the hardware that tech companies are creating”

Purvis believes that the best way to generate activity and gain the support of tech companies behind this mission of closing that gap is to stress the market potential posed by inclusive assistive technologies.


Top Trends in Wearable Technology

Ferhan PatelOne of the most exciting new markets emerging in the technology sector today is that of wearable devices. The Apple Watch and FitBit have proven to be two heavily covered examples of wearables with mass appeal, but smaller batch designs reveal that we have even more to look forward to.

Fitness Trackers

At this point in time, Fitbit and the Apple Watch have completely shaped what we expect from our fitness trackers. Monitoring our health can no longer be separated from our wearable devices. Instead, these are tools that we expect to be integrated into our wearables.

Pet Wearables 

Another interesting trend emerging in the wearables sector are those being developed specifically for pets. In 2014 it was widely reported that Americans had spent a record $56 billion on their pets. This speaks not only of american’s desire to care for their pets, but for a willingness to spend on their pets. Given these numbers, it’s no surprise then, that startups are comfortable entering the pet wearables space. A few great examples of these emerging products are those designed by WonderWoof and FitBark. These wearables monitor the fitness levels of your pooch, and products like the Tagg GPS Plus, GPS and fitness monitor not only track where your beloved pet is located, but also determine whether or not the pet’s body temperature is too hot or too cold.

Focus on Fashion

As wearables start to become more commonplace in the market, the aesthetic design will start to play an increasingly important role in the success or failure of the product. No longer are consumers simply looking for function. As more choices become available in the marketplace, the fashion behind these devices will become even more important. Many wearable companies are already soliciting the expertise of established design-based companies. For example, Misfit partnered with Swarovski to make a jeweled device. This line also included bracelets and pendants merging the commitment to wearables as statement pieces meant to reflect the person wearing them. Sony sought out advice from both Ted Baker and Roxy for their line of smartwatches. Instead of being simply “wearable” these new devices must also be fashionable.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has been a symbolic harbinger of futuristic technologies for years. However, we are now at a point where sweeping advances in technology and design are making Virtual Reality a truly unique experience. Currently in wearables,  virtual reality is being expressed through sleek head pieces that look like typical headsets with optical displays. Not only is the experience for the user more immersive owing to the quality of the tech within these devices, but the actual devices are getting smaller and less obtrusive.

Wearable cameras

Given the selfie-craze and compulsion to share everything, it’s no surprise that wearable cameras are undergoing major pushes in design and function. GoPro is leading the way with mountable cameras that can truly go anywhere. And products like the Narrative Clip 2 are providing a wearable camera that livestreams video. The Narrative Clip 2 embeds the technology of a camera into stylish sunglasses. The types of innovations within this field seem to grow by the day, but It’s difficult to predict which of these devices will take off. It was once indicated that Google Glass would take us to the next frontier in the wearables landscape, but that didn’t quite happen. Even with the threat of failure, or unreached potential, there is also the possibility that any of these new devices could revolutionize how we view cameras and wearable devices.