How to Create an Online Extension of Your Brick-and-Mortar Retail Store

The hard truth of the internet is that if you plan on opening a retail business, you must have a vibrant digital presence, including (but absolutely not limited to) an online retail store. For proof of this, you have to look no further than former retail giants like The Good Guys and Circuit City. Both were nationwide chains that failed to update to the digital world quickly enough – somewhat ironic considering both were tech retailers!

Not only is a website necessary for success, but it also provides access to a global market numbering in the billions. It can exponentially increase your revenue stream for a fraction of the cost it takes with Brick and Mortar stores. A single website provides more access to more markets than thousands of stores – who can say no to that?

But launching a website doesn’t mean you have to become just another Amazon clone; the website design of an already established brand or retailer should incorporate elements of that business. Take Target as an example: an established retailer worth billions. Their Red Bullseye is legendary; correctly their website not only utilize this image. It also utilizes red themes throughout, another signature brand element.

A brand is the face by which already loyal customers recognize a brand. Presumably, they are loyal because they enjoy the service or produced by said brand. It’s also a way to tell potential consumers a little bit about the organization. Web Design is the online extension of this. SDI follows a design method known as User Centered Design (UCD).

User Centered Design

The guiding principal behind User Centered Design is that you should design from the perspective of the end User. A legendary story in the Human-Computer Interaction Sciences involves a certain Fax machine in the early 90s designed entirely by engineers, design included. The result? An excellent machine that was essentially inoperable by anyone who wasn’t an engineer.

As stated above, however, a good design should be an extension of a recognized brand. Startups face a similar issue, in that the design needs to convey a little bit about the business. A good designer will sit down with a client to talk about the company’s psychology: is a flirty, vivacious feel appropriate? Something a little more somber, or traditionally professional?

The user is also of consideration here, as your design should also fit in with the end users expectations. For instance, if you’re a business offering retirement planning, perhaps a periwinkle blue design with flowers and baby ducks is not the best choice. Tongue and cheek aside, all of this really does matter. A simple choice in color can make or break your website.

The Power of Mobile

Mobile devices are taking over the world, one step at a time. Currently, most developed nations have 85% or more of their population online. For the most part, these people came online in the era of the Desktop or Laptop, and are now segueing into mobile devices. It is expected that most internet access in developed nations will be from mobile devices.

Now, the majority of the world’s population live in developing nations that are only just starting to come online. Importantly, the data indicates that most of these new users are bypassing the desktop stage entirely, going straight to the mobile device. The last bits of important information here are that these populations are coming online very rapidly – and that they number in the billions of potential users.

We’re looking at two converging potential user markets, both of which are going mobile. This is why there is such a push by the so-called Mobile First movement. This basically means that an organization should design their website with the idea that most people will be visiting from a mobile device.

This last retail year was a great example of why any retailer looking to get started in the online sphere needs to be mobile. Even traditional brick and mortar stores like Walmart sold record amounts online – and had higher traffic from mobile devices, than desktop. Amazon itself was the big winner, capturing a full third of all money spent online on Black Friday 2016.

Social Media and Brand Awareness

Marketing is a necessary element to the success of any business, including websites. Modern Digital Marketing practices include leveraging Social Media to build a Brand Awareness campaign. This includes creating Twitter handles (plus tweets using trending relevant hashtags) and creating Facebook pages. These are necessary elements to getting your brand out there; plus they’re cost-effective ways to reach millions of potential users.

There are other ways to raise brand awareness, including live and/or streamed events. One of the most effective ways to raise brand awareness is to target gatekeepers and social influencers. These are people on Social Media who are well regarded in your industry, or have tons of loyal followers. We talked about this more detail recently, so please feel free to check out our post in order to learn more!

Got a brick and mortar business that you want to put online? Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 (or click to contact us) to discuss more.

How to Attract the Web Traffic – Your Website Needs

According to myth, there was once a great battle between the Greek hero Hercules and the many-headed beast the Lernean Hydra. This famous story (also known as Hercules’ Second Labor) has been depicted, recreated, retold, and redone many, many times in the intervening millennia. So often has this myth been shared that thousands of years later it still one of the most well-known stories in much of the world.

We bring this myth up because as digital marketers we often feel like we are battling the many-headed beast that is modern online marketing. There is so much that goes into creating a successful marketing strategy for a website – and don’t even get us started on apps! Many times it feels like when you cut off one head, two more pop up in its place.

Fortunately, we have decades of collective experience, online and offline marketing strategies – as well as a mixture of both. For almost two decades SDI has helped businesses and entrepreneurs grow their businesses into a success beyond their wildest dreams. Our strategies use coding, designing, and good old fashion content: we attract the traffic, we engage the visitor, and we convert the visitor into a paying customer.

The Right Team

There’s something that those familiar with the 1997 Disney adaptation of Hercules may not know: in the original telling of Hercules’ Second Labor, Hercules only survived by working in concert with his Charioteer Iolaus. Only through teamwork was Hercules able to finally defeat the Hydra.

All corniness aside, this holds true for digital marketing as well. A properly designed marketing strategy starts in the web design phase. This means that you need to have someone with UX/UI expertise. Good digital marketing also means that you have to be fluent with code; the ability to spot and correct broken links, to create robot.txt files, and to edit code for other Search Engine purposes. Finally, you need a good ol’ fashion marketer. Someone who knows how consumers think, how to massage interest into full-blown conversion, and so on.

So, in other words, you not only need an Iolaus to help you cauterize, but you need a whole host of other people on your side. This is why SDI’s team is so effective: our training process ensures that all of our employees, leads, and managers wear multiple hats with ease and expertise. We function flawless because we’ve had to – and we’ve had to do it for years, across hundreds of projects.

Google and Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is probably something you’ve heard of. It is, in the context of the rapidity of the modern age, old news. But it is still extremely useful and absolutely necessary to get the web traffic you need. SEO refers to a whole host of techniques that not only make your website more attractive to Google and other search engines, but more will help raise page ranking (thus higher visibility.

In brief, the major tools used in SEO are:

Site Indexing is the process by websites essentially inform search engine directories that said website exists. Google Search Console allows users to create a sitemap that enables search engine crawlers to find all pages associated with a website.

Back and cross linking between all of a website’s pages can help improve visibility to Google’s crawlers. This is a simple but essential process; the best way to do this is simply to add hyperlinks to other pages within content, just like this.

Content is absolutely vital (hence the old saw content is king). Not only should it be good content that is relevant to the website and the business itself, it also needs backend web coding (i.e. title tags and meta descriptions). Plus, it needs to be seeded with popular, long-tail keyword phrase (not just keywords) that apply to the topic.

A keyword is a popular term that is searched by a bunch of people. The more keywords your content has (to a point) the more visible your website will be. The more specific the keyword phrase is, the better. But too many phrases, or using keywords not applicable to your service will result in Google punishing you and decreasing your visibility. So keep it relevant, and try not to have content with more than 15% being keywords.

    ○ Keyword: tacos.

    ○ Long-tail keyword phrase: where to find the best tacos in Silicon Valley.

Robot.txt files are used to tell a search engine what pages should be crawled and what content should be displayed. This helps because you can highlight portions of your content for searchers that may be a very popular search topic.

Engagement and Conversion

Engaging a user requires a design that attractive and relevant to the service offered. For instance, eCommerce websites need to use the Shopping Cart button. You may think you have a way to revolutionize the industry but revolutionize elsewhere. Certain design elements are comfortable and familiar, which helps streamline the engagement process.

Knowing where and what you can revolutionize requires an expert designer, someone who will give you a frank appraisal of what will and what will not work. But it isn’t just about design. Again, Content is possibly the most important element to engaging and converting users. Good content catches a user’s eye, using language that is appropriate to the industry.

Using the right language is important because it tells users that you know this industry. It tells visitors that you are familiar with the terms and definitions. Essentially, it places you in a rarified group of industry specialists. The best content not only keeps a visitor interested but gently guides them into conversion, the ultimate goal.

So we’ve told you how to bait the hook (SEO) and how to reel in the catch. We’ve touched on how to wrap it up (or how to bring the catch on board, to continue our analogy), but if you want to know all of our secrets you will have to give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

How to Become a Disruptor

Disruption Innovation is the fancy pants term people like to use when referring to new technologies or systems. More precisely, this term is applied when the new technology or system enters into and, well, disrupts an existing market. Recently, disruption has become a byword of Silicon Valley experts – to the point where it’s usage now generally induces laughter.

But no one laughs at how much money Mark Zuckerberg has made. No one laughs at the fact that Twitter has revolutionized communication. Even more disruptive innovations include the iPhone and even the Internet itself. Disruptive innovations change the world, in ways that no one can predict.

The one thing you can predict is that when a past system is overthrown, there is money to be had. New systems require new ways of thinking, new support networks, and new problems. The early stages of a new innovation are a breeding ground for startups and entrepreneurs, but only the best adapted will survive to Facebook proportions of success.

The other thing about disruption is that it tends to occur around times of intense technological evolution – such as we are experiencing today. For obvious reasons, rapidly advancing technology has a habit of upending old ways – some bad, some good. For this reason, startups that use new technological innovations can be wildly successful.

But tech can be applied in all sorts of industries, in all sorts of ways. The rest of this post will take a look at some of the companies that are harnessing tech in the most disruptive and innovative ways. Enjoy!

Tesla Cars and the Age of Automation

There is one thing in this business that is a near constant topic of conversation: AI and Automation. AI gets a lot of deserved attention – its capabilities are near endless – but the least sexy (and most useful to developers and busy people alike) is its ability to automate routine tasks.

Autonomous and Near Autonomous cars are a great example of this, because they took what is a relatively routine process (driving) and took it over. We’re only see the beginning of this right now with Tesla’s super cool autopilot, but the future is already visible in Google’s Self-Driving car. Tesla is an all around disruptive company (from engines to manufacturing processes), but the autonomous feature is the start of something new.

Self-driving cars will change the world. We’ve seen it before: combustion engine at the turn of the last century or Steam Power a few centuries before that. Like everything having to do with AI, all you need is an algorithm that is capable of collecting, analyzing, and acting in real time upon a ridiculous amount of data. Okay – it’s not simple. But fortunately for you, you’ve got a hot tip on the guys who write AI code all the time.

Home Buying and Rocket Mortgage

SDI is based in the heart of the Silicon Valley. So naturally, we are constantly talking about buying and renting homes. After all, Silicon Valley is the most expensive place to live in the US, with San Francisco typically first or second in terms of the housing market, and San Jose possibly the most expensive area (cost of living and housing vs average income) in the States.

When you combine that with a massive population boom, the housing is a hot button issue, with serious feelings on all sides. Enter Rocket Mortgage, a new tech oriented business that uses mobile app technology to make the home buying and refinancing process simpler. Like really, really simple.

Owned by industry legend Quicken Loans, this technology makes it possible to get a mortgage in just a few minutes (generally under 10). To anyone who has ever purchased a home or thought about purchasing a home, that is mind boggling. Just as mind boggling is the fact that in 2016 (not all that long after it was launched), Rocket Mortgage processed over $5 billion in loan volume, making it one of the top 30 mortgage lenders nationwide.

Netflix and the Death of Cable[s]

While traditional Film and Television distribution methods were already under duress from illegal downloading, Netflix is the clear major disruptor in the field. That being said, the fact that there are so many companies disrupting this field means that it’s ripe for business and innovation – as long as you can handle a bit of stress.

Netflix started off delivering 3 DVDs (if you were opted for the ‘expensive’ plan) at a time, but quickly embraced streaming. Since this embrace, Netflix has upended how people consume media, even becoming a media creator of great renown in its own right. Netflix is now a global brand, making billions of dollars a year (almost $3 billion gross in 2016). All it took was taking advantage of new technologies.

Parting Thoughts

The answer to becoming a tech disruptor is not simple. There is no one answer nor any silver bullet. It’s about luck, determination, passion, and innovative thinking. While tech is often the vehicle for innovation, anyone can become a disruptor. SDI specializes in creating technological pathways for disruptive ideas.

You don’t even have to be a startup; Rocket Mortgage came from a well established Loans Services company. The only reason cable and film (along with the Music Recording business) took such a hit was a failure to keep up. Not only did they not respond to new, clearly better distribution models, but they doubled down and fought with all they had.

Now, every major TV channel has a Streaming platform. More and more, movies are being streamed on various platforms – at the same time they go out to theatres.

Think about it – and then give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 (or click to contact us) to get started.

Top Upcoming Cities for Tech Startups – and Why You Shouldn’t Care

Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Dublin, Sydney, New York – all are centers for tech businesses and startups. For centuries, industry has coalesced around certain, usually urban, centers. Tech startups simply followed the standard model for how things are done; just as the auto industry did in Detroit, or Philadelphia and the early steel industry.

There are several reasons for this:

Launching a startup is difficult in the best of circumstances. Launching without a local infrastructure is adding unnecessary complications. Just like the Auto industry, tech businesses utilize local business-to-business support, such as web and app development services.

Beyond B2B support, large urban centers also offer access to other resources, most notably people. Even if you’re startup is just you and a buddy, you are likely to need more staff at some point and time. Urban centers simply have access to more potential employees and a more diverse (in terms of education as well as culture) array of employees. Additionally, it’s easier to find vacant space for your startup in an urban center (a cheaper option than building from the ground up.

Access to a local market is necessary for traditional businesses. After all, you don’t want to open a SuperMarket in the middle of an unpopulated mountain range. Urban centers obviously have access to more potential customers and more opportunity for growth and expansion.

So Startups have always had a good reason to launch in populous Urban centers. From larger markets to lower overall startup costs, urban centers have always helped startups grow. But these centers don’t remain stagnant; new contenders are rising all the time. This is especially true with tech, with infrastructure that can be constructed rapidly.

Silicon Valley is one example of a tech center, but this evolving landscape is always presenting new options. Seattle, London, Boston, and Melbourne are all up and coming tech hubs.

1. Seattle

Microsoft actually got its start near here (in Redmond), but has only recently really seen an increase in the tech industry, with Apple acquiring local tech businesses, and even opening up a new campus. Additionally, Amazon has announced the launch of it’s new grocery locations Amazon Go (not to mention that their own HQ is in Seattle).

2. London

Each tech hub has a different flavor. Seattle and SIlicon Valley have some of the biggest and earliest names in the business. London is all about the B2B services. We’ve been getting a lot of calls from London recently, the vast majority of which are all about providing business support services for tech and non-tech sectors.

3. Boston

Boston-based tech businesses are killing it in the EdTech industry. This is probably not too surprising to US Citizens: after all Boston has a long history of intellectualism and is home to over 35 higher education institutions. So if you’re looking to start an EdTech business, look no further than Boston.

4. Melbourne

The Australian tech industry in Melbourne, Sydney, and especially Adelaide are making huge strides in incorporating tech into public infrastructure. This includes providing the space for high quality tech jobs as well as actual applications of tech into Public Transport and even irrigation control.

While the above cities are excellent options for the aspiring tech entrepreneur, it’s important to note that internet disrupts everything. This includes traditional ways of doing business – like launching in an urban center. At no point in time has it been easier to start a global tech business from anywhere – including from the comfort of your own home!

The internet and technology have managed to upset every point we brought up at the start of this article. Let’s take a look:

The web means that you can get technical support (like SDI) from anywhere in the world. You can launch in Duvall, Washington, but get development support from programmers based in Atlanta, Georgia – or Mumbai, India.

The same argument stands here: a programmer can work from anywhere in the world, thus local access is neither necessary nor cost effective. SDI is a great example of this: We employ the majority of our developers located in India, but are managed by team leaders out of local offices across the planet. This helps us offer lower costs without lower quality.

Tech Startups like an eCommerce website can reach a global market. They are not constrained to foot traffic like more traditional businesses. In other words, a local market isn’t necessary when you can reach a customer on the other side of the world with mind boggling ease.

The biggest thing tech hubs have going for them is irreplaceable though – the atmosphere. Often times, having ready, physical access to like-minded people results in a much more creative atmosphere (hence Tech Innovation Centers that pop up in places like Melbourne and Mountain View). But this is a blade that cuts two ways – groupthink has sunk more than one project!

So a Startup having access to tech hub is nice, but hardly a prerequisite any longer. Tech startups are not bounded by physical constraints. In other words, whether you live in South Bend, Indiana or right of Marsh Road next to Facebook, SDI can help make your launch a success.

Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

How to Protect Your Website from Malware and Viruses

A website is more than just the face of your business. It’s the throbbing heart of your organization. It’s the place where people access your services – frequently providing sensitive information, including Credit Cards. Most businesses can ill afford a major breach of their information.

Obviously, getting your website hacked can pose a substantial risk to your business. In the case of intercepted transactions, you directly lose the money from that particular deal. But the financial hardships don’t end there. The loss of future business is a real potential. People talk, especially if they get hacked. Even the rumor of being hacked can ruin a business.

Even for businesses that don’t use their website as a portal gateway, when you get hacked your own personal information is likely stolen, as is anything you store on the infected computer, anything on your servers, and anything on other computers that accessed your website. Heck, a website could get hacked and loaded with malware without the owner ever even knowing. Or, for that matter, the infected computer ever known.

Finally, any website that gets hacked needs to be scrubbed and analyzed for other breaches or potential weaknesses. If a website owner is an accomplished tech wiz, then they can clean up their site themselves. But for everyone else, it means you need to hire IT gals and guys to scrub everything.

So the financial hardships associated with getting hacked are severe (usually at least $50,000) and have ruined more than one company. That’s hardly new information though and presumably most website owners are aware of the risk. Today, we want to discuss some practical steps said owners can take to ensure that their website is secure, both from Malware and outright Viruses. And no, we won’t have a section on making a more secure password. If you’re still using Password1 as a password, please get off the internet.

Use Web Common Sense

Keep in mind that the most common issue is simply not being aware of what you’re doing online. A website could be locked down like Fort Knox, but if a website owner clicks on a suspicious link or popup, or opens attachments in an email, their computer is infected. The next time they access their website, it’s compromised. Just like that. Even worse, you don’t even have to open an attachment. Hackers specialize in tricking the unaware, as we saw with the hack of the DNC and John Podesta’s account.

So for God’s sake, don’t click on things that randomly pop up, don’t open email attachments from unverified sources, don’t follow shady looking links, and never, ever, trust an email that asks you to follow a link to change your password if you haven’t asked for it.

Sometimes people get nervous and want to change the password either way. This is not a bad idea, but go to the website yourself, don’t follow a link sent to you. The biggest takeaway is to not interact with anything from an unknown source. That, plus trust the gut: if something seems suspicious, just stop messing with it.

Custom Website VS CMS Platform

One of the most common questions we get when developing a website is whether a client should go with a platform like WordPress, or build a Content Management System from the ground up. This is a tough question, because both are valid. For many entrepreneurs, a custom CMS is cost prohibitive (though it doesn’t have to be); plus platforms like WordPress or Magento help business ramp up quickly.

But one of the biggest downsides to a CMS platform is that its code is open to most people, including hackers. Often, hackers will find something that will enable them to exploit any website utilizing a platform. This isn’t the case with a custom website CMS because only the SMB itself and it’s development team have access to the code.

We aren’t saying business owners should avoid using a CMS platform. What it does mean that websites using WordPress or similar options need to keep up with patches and updates. Often these are to rectify issues that could be exploited. The other benefit to a CMS platform when it comes to security is that literally millions of websites are also testing out the code. Problems are generally quickly discovered.

Third Party Security Services

Additionally, websites built off a platform always offer very robust plugins to enhance a website’s security. You should also consider other third party options. There are plenty of services that a website owner can use (whether they use a CMS platform or built their website from scratch), including any number of excellent security plugins offered by Web platforms.

One of our favorite third party services (useable with both a platform and custom site) is SiteLock. Sitelock constantly monitors your website. It scans every aspect of your website, from code to plugins and applications. It will even tell you when you need to update or patch a service. The best part is that it won’t slow the performance of a website (a massive concern as a 3 second delay can result in a noticeable drop in traffic).

The Technical Stuff

The steps discussed above aren’t reliant upon technical knowledge; in other words, you don’t need to know how to really code to use a WordPress plugin. However, there’s more to good web security than installing Sitelock, or avoiding Phishing emails. If you don’t have the coding skill set, we strongly recommend you outsource this to a qualified development team. But you should still know the basics:

For those websites dealing with financial transactions, getting a SSL Certificate is a must. Websites with a Valid SSL certificate are indicated by “HTTPS” at the beginning of a URL. Plus, websites that use this usually say secure, with a padlock image, on the far left side of an address bar.

Web forms designed to be manipulated by users can also be hacked, without the proper steps. IF you have a webform, make sure your developer used Parameterized Queries (which means that people filling out the form can’t mess too much with your code).

User Permissions are an exceptionally common way for hackers to gain backdoor access to your website. While this gets very complicated (contact our security experts for more information), the idea is basically to make sure that most users have only the ability to read a website. Those who can access the site need to be chosen carefully, and those with permission to execute even more carefully.

We’ve only scratched the surface of good web security. For more details, give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

3 Missing Elements Your App Needs to Succeed

There’s a lot floating around on the internet about how to make a successful mobile app. Some of it is accurate, but much of it isn’t. So how does someone who is interested in creating their own mobile app empire know what advice is hokum, and what’s actually useful? The easy answer is learn from people with actual experience in building actual apps.

As such a company, SDI has been almost two decades building apps in hundreds of industries. We’ve built internal Corporate apps, we’ve built Business to Business apps, and we’ve built consumer facing apps. There isn’t a roadblock we haven’t encountered, there isn’t a problem we haven’t solved. We’ve built literally thousands of apps; in other words, we know what we’re doing.

So let’s get right to it then and talk about 3 must-have elements for a successful app. Keep in mind, we’ve narrowed this down from a list of 25 essential features. The things discussed here were selectively chosen for both importance and uniqueness.

1. Keep Evolving

There are a few things known about apps and modern consumers:

A. One, they’re fickle. Most apps lose over seventy-five percent of their users in the 90 days following a download. Even more to the point, most apps that that are downloaded are never used more than once;

B. Two, modern consumers love a Unique Experience; but nothing can be simple, so they want apps (and websites, software, and so on) that provide a Unique UX/UI – without changing things to the point where it’s unrecognizable; and

C. Three, creating a long term strategy for app success means constant updating. One of the best ways to kill an app’s support and then to never update it.

Basically, all three of these things relate to engagement. They’re all different ways that, when neglected can spell disaster. But on the flip side of that, they’re also ways to improve user engagement. A successful App strategy needs to engage users immediately. Launch is peak app download time, so plan on getting users excited before your launch and keep them excited afterward.

Both design and coding are industries in flux. We’re always learning to code better and we’re always creating better designs that to improve UX. Engaged users appreciate updates to the newest and coolest (plus can improve time spent in-app). Plus disengaged users can be brought back into the fold through push notifications informing them of new updates. Plus new methods for monetization are coming out all the time, so updating potentially improves revenue generation as well as engagement.

2. Remember Big Data

The first 2 decades of the 21st century have represented a quiet revolution in the field of Big Data. At no point in the history of this species have we had a greater potential for data collection. It would be like if someone just domesticated a horse, then woke up the next day with a car out front.

And we say quiet revolution because, despite it being a buzzword, most people don’t quite grasp just how much a service can learn about its consumers. This has led to a second revolution in our understanding consumer behaviors and patterns. Having the tools for collection and reporting hardwired into an app is necessary to a successful enterprise.

App analytic tools abound on the web, with MixPanel and Google Analytics being the most well known, but there’s more to it than having the tools. After all, a screwdriver is only effective if you know how to use it. Understanding Big Data means understanding your business. Identifying and implementing Key Performance Indicators, industry metrics, and comprehending how it all fits together is necessary.

3. The Importance of Social Media

Recently, a report on the industry of Mobile Apps showed that most people spend the vast (and we do mean vast) majority of their time in Social Media apps. Social Media is not something any business owner can afford to ignore, whether their in the App game or not. But if you are in the app game, social media is crucial to your success.

First, there’s the undeniable market size. Literal billions of people use Social Media, whether it’s Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram or Twitter. Social media provides business owners with the world’s largest pool of potential consumers. Not only that, Social Media already segments these consumers with tools like Facebook Groups. So not only do you have access to billions, but you can easily find people interested in your service.

It’s also one of the best ways to research your market. There are the aforementioned Facebook Groups; as we stated, they provide you with a ready made pool of interested consumers but you can also use these to study said consumers. Plus, you can learn from competitors and their own Facebook pages: who has engaged followers, who’s not doing well – and, of course, why.

Finally, Social Media companies are not only aware of their ability to help businesses, but most are actively doing what they can to get better at it. You don’t have to look any further than Facebook’s ChatBots to understand how they’re doing that. SnapChat and Instagram both offer ways to help build brands, and Twitter is rewriting what marketing means.

Of course, you could always build a social media app or website yourself; when done right they make money hand over fist!

The trick to a successful app enterprise isn’t a trick. It’s hard work, due diligence, blood and sweat. It comes from utilizing the proper tools – including the experience of those who have built successful app enterprises time and again. Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

The Best APIs to Growth Hack Your SMB

An Application Programming Interface (API) is one of the best tools a developer can use. At its most basic level, an API is prewritten code (subroutines) that tells software and apps how to communicate with one another. In other words, APIs facilitate the development of apps and software because they provide a series of subroutines already written and tested. So, instead of creating an entirely new code for Navigation (which could take years), developers can use Google’s Map API.

As an app development company, we have extensive experience in leveraging different APIs for different industries. This experience has given us a unique insight into the best APIs for SMBs and entrepreneurs. SDI has worked with pretty much every major API in most major industries and sectors, so rest assured we know our business. What follows is a brief guide on the top APIs to use – and when to use them.

Twilio

The rise of Messaging Apps in the last year has been pretty astounding, from the advent of ChatBots, to the success of hybrid Social Media/Messaging platforms like InstaGram or SnapChat. In fact, if you are looking for an enterprise venture in 2017, a Messaging app is an excellent choice. And if you’re going to build a Messaging app, you’ve got to take a look at Twilio.

Twilio actually refers to a set of Cloud-Based APIs used to enable voice, text and video communication between different users. Twilio is especially beneficial to business to business communication, because it’s built to prevent service outages entirely, even when hosting servers have crashed (as happened in 2010. For more about Twilio’s Solid Distributed Architectural Design, check out this presentation.

MixPanel

Some sort of Analytic capability is an absolute must for any business of any size. Data is the lifeblood of the modern organization; it behooves a business owner to have an excellent Analytics API. ANd when it comes to Analytics, MixPanel may very well be the best option the web has to offer.

As compared to Google Analytics (the other top API in this field), MixPanel has several distinct advantages, the biggest of which is that it’s in real-time. One of the biggest critiques of Google Analytics is that it can take anywhere for an hour to a half day to update its metrics. MixPanel’s data is updated instantly.

MixPanel has several other features that are excellent, but the one downside is that it’s expensive. Don’t worry, our developers know how to massage Google Analytics API (which is free) to do pretty much anything. Check us out to learn more.

Stripe

Stripe is one of the most robust and best options for eCommerce in the world. It’s inexpensive, oriented towards SMBs and Entrepreneurs, and, perhaps most importantly is exceptionally secure. Paypal, probably the biggest name in this business, gives Stripe a run for its money, but the nice thing about Stripe is that it handles much of the regulatory compliance side of Banking.

Stripe stores all payment information on its servers, taking the onus of security and regulatory compliance upon themselves. This means their clients save money by not having to meet exceptionally high security requirements. The Stripe suite of APIs runs the gamut on Payment needs for online businesses, so contact our developers to learn more.

Watson

IBM’s Watson capabilities range from Cognitive Cooking to Chess, but Watson has also been quietly revolutionizing how businesses understand data. Watson utilizes AI to better understand how the data fits together and helps business owners plot a better course forward. Complete with an exceptional VIrtual Assistant, Watson can improve customer relations while improving an organization’s bottom line.

Watson makes it easier for a business owner better understand its customers, including how customers use a service – and how it can be improved to better fit the needs of users. Watson is the future of business analytics and customer relationship management. After all, AI is clearly the best way for business owners to understand this new generation of online shoppers.

Alexa

You had to know it was coming. The commercial success of Amazon, including Alexa, in the last year has been tearing up the internet. For any tech blog, the mention of Amazon is now obligatory. But this isn’t without merit, especially in the case of Alexa Skills Kit (aka Alexa APIs), including Alexa Voice Services.

The newest field for IoT business are Smart Homes. In 2016 alone, Both Amazon and Google made moves to create a Home AI, and industry legend Mark Zuckerberg built his own personal system, Jarvis. In other words, if you are looking to launch your own Startup, you should absolutely be considering the IoT and Smart Home fields. This could very well be the next billion dollar industry – and Alexa’s APIs help you get your foot in the door.

Any API, Any SMB

No matter what industry or business, SDI has the development staff you need to succeed. Every single one of our 200+ developers are thoroughly trained on every major API out there. With Twilio, our developers ensure constant, secure communication; with Stripe, we protect and guarantee your payments; and with Alexa, you can enable Smart Homes across the US.

Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 (or click to contact us) to learn what API you need to create a winning app!

How to Build A News App that Makes Cash

For years we’ve been hearing about the death of Print Media. Subscriptions are down, people are reading fewer newspapers, and even spending less time watching cable news. Recently the press took another hit, gaining the nomenclature of “Fake News” and termed the “Opposition Party” by Donald Trump (though this actually seems to be having the opposite effect, with NYT and others reporting a big spike in subscriptions).

But there is one thing about humans we often forget: the unending ingenuity of our species. We are the consummate adapters, always finding new ways to reinvent ourselves, new ways to survive. How is this ingenuity going to save the news industry? Through the conveyance of technological platforms – apps and websites.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google were hot button issues during the 2016 US Election cycle, from legitimate news to actual fake news. But no matter what your opinion is of these news vehicles, there is no denying their impact. Articles on Facebook especially seem to have a lot of life, sometimes getting views numbering into the millions.

Technology’s power to disrupt traditional business model has certainly changed how we receive and consume the news, but much of the News industry itself is still stuck. Sure, they have mobile apps and cool websites. But revenue generation is still an issue with many news businesses.

This doesn’t have to be the case. The technology exists to rewrite (pun intended) how News organizations make money. Strategies to create a successful News App exist; we know this to be true because we’ve done it ourselves. From a Mobile First focus to dynamic pricing and more, we know every trick in the book.

Mobility

Responsive Design was once the big thing, where websites were revamped to function better with mobile devices. But today, we always recommend that entrepreneurs design for mobile devices first. In other words, the assumption is that the modern consumer uses a mobile device far more often than a desktop. This assumption is continually validated; in fact, the majority of eCommerce purchases on Black Friday 2016 were from a mobile device.

Whether or not most internet traffic is mobile or not today is besides the point. Business owners need to plan for the future, and the future is clearly mobile. This is why we recommend building a news app and not a website. Having a News service that is oriented towards mobile users will drive engagement and get more downloads. Having a News App that is designed from the perspective of the mobile user from the get-go will keep users engaged and talking about your service.

While downloads and improved engagement are all great buzzwords, they’re chopped liver without a decent revenue generation strategy. Clever designs and top-notch coding only get you so far. What the News industry really needs is a shift in how they approach subscriptions – enter our next subject, Dynamic Pricing.

Dynamic Pricing

You know what this is – it’s overthrown the revenue approaches of many an industry. Dynamic pricing is when pricing changes depending on different variables:

♦ Location;

♦ Time and/or Date;

♦ Browser; and even

♦ Internet History.

The best examples of this are Kayak, Travelocity, Expedia, etc. Dynamic Pricing revolutionized how the Travel Industry operated (RIP Travel Agencies) – and it hasn’t stopped there. The power of technology allows businesses to know where a user is, within a block. Recently, an excellent Quartz article discussed how to apply this to the News Industry. We recommend checking it out but we’ll do our best to quickly summarize.

Not all people are created the same; people living in wealthy metropolises (New York, Austin, Denver, Los Angeles, and so on) tend to have more disposable income as compared to those living in rural areas. But Traditional subscription models use a fixed cost model – people in Seattle pay the same amount as the people in South Bend, Indiana.

This is neither a necessary or an effective method of revenue generation. Dynamic Pricing enables business owners to offer unique pricing, drilled all the way down to a user’s IP address and precise location. By offering pricing in keeping with a potential user’s disposable income, you are increasing the chances of converting a visitor into a paying user. While your overall profit per user may go down, your overall number of subscriptions is likely to go up (thus causing an increase in your profit margin overall).

The article goes on to discuss how this can happen using existing services from Google and Facebook, the world’s two largest distribution platforms, but the basic point is already made: custom pricing for the News industry is not only possible, but quite likely exceptionally profitable. But there is something else we know about the modern consumer: they/we love tailored services.

The Dilemma of Facebook

Facebook’s news feed is an excellent representation of how to improve news consumption and how not to present the news. One of the gravest threats to journalism and possibly politics overall we saw arise this last year was the increase of “bubbles.” Facebook, like many advanced tech services today, use algorithms that employ machine learning; this enables services to learn from users, becoming ever more effective.

While this is great in a Virtual Personal Assistant, it caused issues in 2016. People stopped getting exposed to legitimate news sources, as FB prioritized articles shared from Friends. This helped give rise to actual Fake News. Then, because of Machine Learning, a user would get more and more articles in the same vein. It doesn’t even have to be fake news – if you prefer one news source, FB’s feed would provide similar articles to the exclusion of other news sources.

That being said, FB is clearly on to something. They upended the News industry in the last year, and that should not be ignored. Feeds can use other information to tailor articles:

Location. Many users go to the news to learn about local happenings. Local news has been climbing in popularity as well. With a mobile app, we can easily tailor articles to the precise location of the user.

Favorite topics are another metric that can be used. If a person’s history indicates they love breaking science stories, create code that learns to satisfy the need for science. The same goes for politics, or healthcare, or any other interests.

Preferences and topics directly indicated by the user themselves. It never hurts to straight up ask a user what interests they have.

The key to preventing “bubbles” and isolationist thinking is to not tailor based on the News source itself. The divisions and biases are too raw, too fresh. The aim is to create a News App that keeps people informed, not something that simply confirms previously held beliefs.

Ready to get your own News App up and running? Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!