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AWS re:Invent 2017 - Tales From The Future Of Cloud

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In the weeks leading to the AWS re:Invent 2017, we have seen many speculations about the nature of the announcements that Amazon would do during its annual event. The first few days have maintained, if not exceeded, the expectations.

There is a constant element behind all the news emerging about Amazon's Cloud: a significant shift towards the 'applications' side of the technology. Follow us as we unveil the future of Amazon Web Services and the entire Cloud world.

The general trend sees Amazon more and more focused on providing companies with technologies that increase the engagement and improve the customer experience. From this point of view, we could even dare to say that AWS is becoming more ‘customer-centric’.

This broader trend translates into a specific attention to the technologies that affect the customer behaviors online and offline (and are affected by them in return). It is easy to see that video content and AR, VR, and mixed reality have taken the center stage in the last couple of years.

Many companies are trying to take advantage of the potential of these immersive technologies, which so far have proved to be too complex and expensive for general use. The great players - Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and now Amazon - are trying to close this gap, providing affordable tools (in terms of costs and complexity) available for a broader audience.

AWS Elemental MediaConvert is the way Amazon wants to capitalize on the obsession that both customers and Brands have for video contents. The new suite, formed largely on the back of the acquisition of Elemental Technologies in 2015, is a file-based video transcoding service with broadcast-grade features:

It allows you to easily create video-on-demand (VOD) content for broadcast and multiscreen delivery at scale. The service combines advanced video and audio capabilities with a simple web services interface and pay-as-you-go pricing. With AWS Elemental MediaConvert, you can focus on delivering compelling media experiences without having to worry about the complexity of building and operating your own video processing infrastructure.

While we do not have more than the announcement right now - even though Elemental has been around for a while - there is a major strength in the proposition: the ability to create high-quality, end-to-end video processing workflows in the cloud without upfront investment for video processing infrastructure (you pay based on the duration of video that is processed and the features you use).

If you read the description carefully, you will see how Amazon is now “into competition to some extent with the likes of Google’s YouTube and its efforts to work with media companies and other creators to build and host live streams and ad-based videos. Interesting timing, given all the negative press YouTube has had over the kind of content that it’s been hosting over the years.” (TechCrunch)

The second product launched at the AWS re:Invent 2017 - this one entirely new - is called Amazon Sumerian and is, in some extent, a straightforward response to the announcements made by Mark Zuckerberg during the last Facebook’s F8 event. The topic is, of course, virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.

Amazon Sumerian lets you create highly immersive and interactive scenes on VR, AR, and 3D applications without requiring any specialized programming or 3D graphics expertise. The scenes can then run on different hardware - Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and iOS mobile devices, while the support for Android ARCore will come soon. All this starting from the libraries of pre-built objects that make the creation effortless and less expensive.

If you look at the bigger picture, it is easy to understand where Amazon is heading: In a world where the new wave of technology has a lot of time-consuming processes behind it, Amazon aims at becoming the one who can modernize and simplify that — thereby becoming the default platform for creating applications on that new tech. Elemental and Sumerian score two points. And now the ball goes to the opponents.

For a deeper coverage live from the AWS re:Invent, you can also follow Luca Bianchi, CTO of Neosperience, on Medium.

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Topics: aws developers development customer engagement Innovation

Mobile App Marketing - 5 Core Elements Of Successful Strategies

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Everyone wants to build the next Snapchat, Uber, or Angry Birds. Developers usually assume that their app can become the next big thing because it is a solid product, with a clear value proposition and the aim to improve customer’s life. However, this is just the beginning.

Let’s face it, your app is not alone: there are now more than 2 million mobile apps available for Android, and more than 1.5 million in the Apple Store. What makes an app successful is not the fact that it has been created. It is how you can plan and execute a mobile app marketing strategy to engage and monetize customers.

First things first, why should you invest in branded app development? The answer is in one simple number: the apps now account for 86% of the time spent on mobile devices. The smartphone is the primary reference for every single activity we carry on as human beings, customers and organizations. And apps have become the core of the online environment.

The focus on marketing does not mean that a good development and the inner value of a mobile application are not important. If your app is defective, delivers a bad user experience and has a dull design, you will never stand out from the crowd. Therefore, you are doomed.

At the same time, if you do not build a strong ‘reason why’ and a distinctive essence, you would never answer the most critical questions of the mobile era. “Why should I care to download and use your app?”; “What makes it different from the thousands of alternatives out there?

We see a huge opportunity: In 2017, app downloads will hit 108 billion. We also see a huge threat: How can you be sure that your app will survive the competition?

A thoughtful app strategy has four pieces:

  • A strong value - the reason why people should download and use your app.
  • A strong development path - any release is the tipping point for the next one.
  • A continuous marketing plan - the distribution process does not end after the release.
  • A specific monetization plan - the revenue model that will sustain your efforts.

They all seem reasonable pieces, and yet only a small percentage of businesses understand how effectively mobile apps could be used to promote the brand and connect with customers. The results: apps with no value; apps that never get an update; money spent without a marketing plan; developers that have no clue how to monetize their customers.

If you do not have all the pieces in place from day one, you are destined to limp along. The innovation drives fast, and the apps as we know them now are rapidly evolving into something more complex, integrated and smart. Chatbots are the main trend now, but they only represent one of the possible evolutionary paths, together with the digital signage and the Internet of Things.

In this ever-changing scenario, do not make the mistake to cling to old beliefs. Downloads, for instance. We do not really need to remember that mobile marketing is not a matter of downloads, but too many brands still focus on the number of downloads to determine the success of their strategy.

This is the result of a misconception, born and grown when the mobile apps were still for the few, and there was not so much competition around. In today’s crowded stores, downloads might be an eye-catching vanity KPI but they rarely tell too much about the destiny of your app.

Many important companies have learned the truth the hard way that. Even when your app gets downloaded, it does not mean you are hitting the target by delivering a great customer experience:

  • The average user has 36 apps installed;
  • Only 26% of apps are used daily;
  • 25% of apps are never used;
  • 65% of customers stop using an app within three months.

These numbers mean that you need other key performance indicators to be certain that your app is ultimately working. They also tell the importance of an ‘app+ strategy “to maximize their potential to win, serve, and retain their customers in their mobile moments.” (Forrester)

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Sure, there are lots of reasons why even good apps fail to deliver results (ROI, revenues, engagement), but one big reason is the lack of effective marketing. So, how do you create a strategy that puts all the pieces together? These are five core elements you should never forget.

CUSTOMER NEEDS

If you build an app and you do not know what customers want, you will miss the most critical part. One-fits-all strategies do not work with mobile marketing. People determine the way brands should address them and reach them, with their habits and behaviors. Start with a question: “What do my mobile customers need?

LAUNCH PLANNING

Mobile marketing is a long-term effort. This is even more true when you are planning the launch of your mobile application. One does not simply publish the app and wait for miracles. You need to strategize your launch months before the day it actually goes live. Establish your tone of voice, priorities and messaging. The first impression matters.

APP STORE OPTIMIZATION

What is the point of developing a great app if nobody can find it? We all understand the importance of search engine optimization to rank higher with online contents. With more than 4 million apps available, we also need to familiarize with app store optimization, to gain low-cost app visibility, increase the quality of your store page and boost conversions.

USER ACQUISITION

The development is done, your app is online, and your page is well optimized. You have done a good job, but the process is not over yet. Is anyone downloading and using the app? Your marketing effort must focus now on customer acquisition. What channels will you exploit to get customers? Advertising, promotional materials, social media, public relations, community management?

USAGE INCENTIVES

Distribution and promotion are critical to boosting usage. Usage on its part is essential to retaining users, keeping your app top of mind, and making your app profitable. You need to encourage social shares and set incentives to ensure that users do not forget the app: discounts and offers, mobile-only rewards, exclusive events, gamification, advanced loyalty dynamics.

With mobile device sales steadily growing all over the world, you are facing a unique opportunity to reach your customers and engage with them with meaningful experiences in every moment of truth. By focusing on mobile marketing alongside development, you can create a product that not only makes life easier for customers but also makes a profit for your company.

 

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 5 Common Myths About App Store Optimization

To help you provide a strategic advantage to your organization, Neosperience has crafted the first DCX 7-Steps Checklist, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation. Download the free guide here:

Download DCX 7-Steps Checklist

Topics: Digital Customer Experience Innovation Mobile development

Gartner’s Top 10 Technology Trends for 2016 To Improve Your Business

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"My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there." (C.F. Kettering)

What technologies will impact organizations from 2016 on? As the end of year approaches, it is natural to look back at the highlights of the past. If you are an innovative digital leader, though, you will agree that it is way more useful to look ahead and try to foresee what is going to happen next.

That is exactly what Gartner’s analysts do every year, tracing the main technology trends that will define the borders of business transformation for the next future. As usual in the digital era, evolution is all about disruption.  

First of all, what kind of trends should be considered in this list? Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as “one with the potential for significant impact on the organization. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to the business, end users or IT, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.

These technologies are very different but they share a common trait: they impact the company's long-term development plans, customer experience programs and marketing initiatives.

Last year, in this very same period, we were discussing the 2015 release of Gartner’s technology report. The innovative trends traced could be divided into three major areas of interest:

  • The merging of the real and virtual worlds;
  • The advent of intelligence everywhere;
  • The technology impact of the digital business shift.

Some trends were already evident at the time of the release, others were still in nuce or ready to explode. In a customer’s perspective, all of them had the potential to change forever the way companies define their digital customer experience and build meaningful connections.

Of course, one year is not enough to show the real potential of complex disruptive devices (i.e. this is the case of context-rich systems, the Internet of Things and smart machines). To some extent, the real effects will be fully displayed in the next five years or so. If you want to know more, just take a look at our in-depth analysis.

Now it is time to focus on the newly-released report about Gartner’s Top 10 Technology Trends for 2016. In the words of David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow:

"Gartner's top 10 strategic technology trends will shape digital business opportunities through 2020. The first three trends address merging the physical and virtual worlds and the emergence of the digital mesh. While organizations focus on digital business today, algorithmic business is emerging. Algorithms — relationships and interconnections — define the future of business. In algorithmic business, much happens in the background in which people are not directly involved. This is enabled by smart machines, which our next three trends address. Our final four trends address the new IT reality, the new architecture and platform trends needed to support digital and algorithmic business."

You may not implement all of them at the same rate but one thing is for sure: you will have to make decisions about them during 2016, if you want to improve your customer experience strategy and - as a result - strengthen the relationship with your customers.

THE DEVICE MESH

In the mobile era, customers live submerged in an ever-connected ecosystem, shaped by different mobile technologies. The device mesh refers to this expanding set of endpoints used to access information or interact with people and brands. Today, a successful business strategy is not even conceivable without all these devices, more and more able to communicate with each other: smartphone, wearables, smartwatch, smart TV, domotics, connected cars, iBeacons, the Internet of Things.

AMBIENT USER EXPERIENCE

Digital technologies delete the limits of physical existence, pushing the experience to a whole new level. Virtual reality - and augmented reality - become the perfect companion for companies to deliver immersive experiences, and engage customers emotionally. Delivering the brand values in the process. The ambient user experience preserves continuity, and the experience seamlessly flows across a shifting set of devices and interaction channels as the user moves from physical to virtual.

3D PRINTING MATERIALS

3D printing was already in last year’s list but, from 2016, it will become more affordable and various. Advances will enable 3D printing to use a wide range of materials, and 3D printing will find its way in different industries, with practical applications including aerospace, medical, automotive, energy and the military. We will witness an annual growth rate of 64.1 percent for enterprise 3D-printer shipments through 2019, claiming space in your budgets and investments.

INFORMATION OF EVERYTHING

Everything in the digital mesh produces, uses and transmits information. This information goes beyond textual, audio and video information to include sensory and contextual information.” The real problem, then, is to make sense of all data, in order to extract useful insights that will lead to the renovation of your strategy. Information of everything addresses this influx with strategies and technologies to link data from all these different data sources.

ADVANCED MACHINE LEARNING

The future of business lies in the adoption of smart and connected tools, able to autonomously learn and - in a retail perspective - predict customer behaviors. “In advanced machine learning, deep neural nets (DNNs) move beyond classic computing and information management to create systems that can learn to perceive the world, on their own. DNNs enable hardware - or software-based machines to learn for themselves all the features in their environment, from the finest details to broad sweeping abstract classes of content.

AUTONOMOUS AGENTS AND THINGS

The creation of a meaningful connection between a brand and customers passes through the connection between people and smart machines (physical and virtual). “Machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations - including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors. While advances in physical smart machines such as robots get a great deal of attention, the software-based smart machines have a more near-term and broader impact.” Just think about Google Now, Microsoft's Cortana and Apple's Siri.

ADAPTIVE SECURITY ARCHITECTURE

Security is the keyword for an evolution without pitfalls. Data security and infrastructure security. “The complexities of digital business and the algorithmic economy combined with an emerging hacker industry significantly increase the threat surface for an organization. IT leaders must focus on detecting and responding to threats, as well as more traditional blocking and other measures to prevent attacks. Application self-protection, as well as user and entity behavior analytics, will help fulfill the adaptive security architecture.

ADVANCED SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE

The combination of ever-connected customers and communicating machines represent the foundations of digital disruption. A huge challenge for all businesses, that will have to adapt values, strategies and architectures. “Providing this required boost are high-powered and ultraefficient neuromorphic architectures. Fueled by field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) as an underlining technology for neuromorphic architectures, there are significant gains to this architecture, such as being able to run at speeds of greater than a teraflop with high-energy efficiency.

MESH APP AND SERVICE ARCHITECTURE

All companies willing to develop a mobile app will have to face a critical change of perspective, from linear application designs to a more loosely coupled integrative approach, focused on Web-scale performance, flexibility and agility: the apps and services architecture. “Microservice architecture is an emerging pattern for building distributed applications that support agile delivery and scalable deployment, both on-premises and in the cloud. Bringing mobile and IoT elements into the app and service architecture creates a comprehensive model to address back-end cloud scalability and front-end device mesh experiences.

INTERNET OF THINGS PLATFORMS

We are surrounded by increasingly intelligent devices and objects able to talk to each other without human intervention. The Internet of Things is the final frontier in connecting users’ entire physical life to the digital world, a further step in the evolution started by mobile devices. “IoT platforms complement the mesh app and service architecture. The management, security, integration and other technologies and standards of the IoT platform are the base set of capabilities for building, managing and securing elements in the IoT.

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To help you ensure a strategic advantage to your organization, learn about the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation.

Download DCX 7-Steps Checklist



Topics: Digital Customer Experience Future Innovation Cloud Mobile Internet of Things development