Twitter Launches Customer Service Chatbots For Brands

“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” – Michael LeBoeuf.

Support and service for customers has become an increasingly central part of any brand loyalty and growth strategy. Want to make it big and dominate the market? Look after your customers and treat them as individuals!

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To help brands converse with followers and users in respect to customer support, Twitter is launching two new products to help answer basic questions and address complaints. The first product is a ‘Welcome Message’ to let a business “greet” a user when they receive a direct message from them. This will be an automatic reply which will explain what will happen during this online exchange.
The second new product is the ‘Quick Replies’ which prompts the user with how to get their question/issue answered without the need of an actual conversation. Sort of like automated customer-service calls options, they will however put you through to a human if needed.

Pizza Hut, Spotify, Tesco, Norton and Airbnb are among the first to begin using the service with other brands jumping on the opportunity throughout the year.

In a blog post, Ian Cairns, customer service product manager at Twitter, said: “When quick replies and welcome messages are used together, businesses can reduce wait times and educate people on the best ways to interact with them. For example, they can enable faster resolutions by helping customers more easily provide information to solve problems before an agent sees the first message, or they can simplify automated services and transactional flows that were difficult in the past.”

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The number of tweets from customers to brands for customer service has increased by two and a half times in the past two years with DMs also rose by nearly 50%. It’s a known fact that better customer service leads to better sales and customer loyalty; people want to be cared about and not just be another sheep in the flock.

A study released in October with Applied Marketing Science found that customers who tweeted at businesses and received responses were willing to spend 3 percent to 20 percent more on average-priced items in the future.

“Just tweet them.” More commonly now, when I have a complaint about a brand (mainly train service or clothes delivery) I head to Twitter to voice my issue or question directly as I know this is the fastest way to get a response or reconciliation as it is in the public eye. Slightly harsh I know but I only do this for a big brand that can handle it as I have worked on the social media customer service side myself. The chatbots are a great way for brands not only to save face through taking the conversation off the timelines, but also to be able to help their customers as quickly and efficiently as possible when a human is not always in the office or on the ball.

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Instagram tests ‘tap to buy’ tags on brand images.

Instagram is great listening to its consumers and is evolving to move further into the World of e-commerce. I often find myself tapping on an Instagram picture to find the brand of clothing a blogger is wearing or the name of jeans to go and buy elsewhere online but now we will hopefully be able to ‘tap and buy’ the items in the image, for an express purchase.

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The Facebook-owned app is testing tags from retail brands of their products for sale in images that lead directly to the brands website. The tags will be hidden behind a button labels “tap to view products”, when selecting the product they want the users will see details (in-app) of the product price, description, further photos and a “shop now” button to take you to buy it on the brand’s website.

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Instagram will not take a cut of the purchase but instead plans to allow brands to pay to show their shoppable images and products to people who do not follow them. Eventually Instagram wants to add a “Save” feature so you can bookmark product posts as you browse and come back to them. Users aren’t always ready to buy on impulse, infact only 21% of purchases are made one day after seeing a product. According to a study run by Instagram, 60% of Instagrammers say they learn about products and services on the app, while 75% say they take actions like visiting sites, searching, or telling a friend after being influenced by a post on Instagram.

Personally, I use Instagram as my main source of style inspiration and to see how a certain piece of clothing looks on someone (although I may not be as tall or as ab-tastic as some of the models). So this is a great addition for a consumer like me, who now doesn’t have to exit the app, go to the website and search the product to purchase it; it cuts the user journey significantly. I mean…it will definitely ignite my impulse buying mode but hey, I’ve always try to be more spontaneous in life.

Mastercard Launches Selfie Pay

Yes, this is really happening. Your selfie game has been taken to the next level as Mastercard starts rolling out their ‘selfie pay’ system.

Ok, so it’s a little more in depth and technological than just a fun selfie. Last year Mastercard launched facial biometric trials across the U.S,Canada and the Netherlands that allowed consumers to use facial biometrics for their payment authentications. Put simply, this means that Mastercard app users can confirm an online payment using their face via their smartphone camera.

mastercard-authentication_digitally.jpgThe colloquially known ‘selfie pay’ (actually called Mastercard Identity Check) will now be rolled out across Europe in the following markets: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Worldwide Mastercard users will hopefully be able to use this new technology from the beginning of next year.

To be able to use the MasterCard biometric authentication system, MasterCard users will have to download the corresponding app and send a selfie to provide the company with their facial biometric data that will be stored, ready for purchases. Think you just hold up someones photo to a lens and steal all their money? Think again. To get around attempts to spoof the authentication process, the app requires the user to blink to confirm it’s really their face in shot.

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Mastercard’s Indentity Check app can also support fingerprint scanning, giving customers the choice of either using their face or finger at the point of purchase…I can just imagine the stony faced, blinking selfies at the Tesco self check-outs now.

The main motivation behind the idea was actually to speed up e-commerce, especially for those online shoppers (guilty as charged) who cannot remember any more passwords. Mastercard says the new system will “dramatically” speed up the checkout process online, “while also improving security.”

“We are relentlessly focused on making the online payment experience near frictionless, without making any compromises on safety and security,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of Enterprise Risk & Security, Mastercard. “This is a significant milestone in the evolution of payments. Shopping in person has been revolutionised thanks to advances like contact-less cards, mobile payments and wearables, and now we are making Identity Check Mobile a reality for online shopping in Europe, and soon, the world.”

 

Snapchat: New name & shades

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Over the past few years Snapchat has become one of  the most popular social networks in the World; becoming the number one messaging choice for millennials. Pushing forward at a rapid pace, Snapchat are now taking on the tech giants as the only ones bold enough to take on the Google glasses.

Yesterday, Snapchat revealed a re-name to ‘Snap Inc’ to reflect that the company is no longer a ‘one trick pony’ and is diversifying into a wider strategy beyond their core messaging app. Snap Inc’s chief executive, Evan Spiegel, announced that the company is now launching ‘Spectacles’ – a pair of $130 sunglasses that have an inbuilt video camera.

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So why the name change? Spiegel explains the reasons behind rebrand, “When we were just getting started it made sense to name our company Snapchat Inc., because Snapchat was our only product! Now that we are developing other products, like Spectacles, we need a name that goes beyond just one product – but doesn’t lose the familiarity and fun of our team and brand. We decided to drop the “chat” and go with Snap Inc!”

These funky specs, launching late Autumn time, are seemingly easy to use with just a single button to press to record a 10 second snap, or tap three times to record a video to the 30 second limit. The camera reportedly operate for a full day on a single charge and has a light on the front to show when its recording. The brilliant 115-degree lens is  designed to be as close as possible to a person’s field of vision, and records a circular video to simulate your nature point of view when you play it back.

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“When I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes — it was unbelievable.” – Spiegel

The Spectacles have been created to follow Snap Inc’s mantra of capturing moments. The footage you record on the glasses is sent to the Snapchat app via Bluetooth/Wifi, straight into your memories section. Spiegel explains how he felt whilst testing out the prototype,”It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”

Snap Spectacles will naturally be compared with Google Glass, but will hopefully have a better marketing plan and longer shelf life than Alphabet’s first attempt at wearable face-based computing. Firstly, Spectacles are less expensive at $130 compared to the $1,500 price tag from Google. Secondly, Spectacles look a little cooler being fashion style sunglasses available in three colours compared to the Google ‘dad style’, thin lens, reading glasses look.

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The main aspect that Snap Inc Spectacles could triumph over Google Glass is the element of FUN. Google took their glasses very seriously. It was a serious product with a serious price tag. Snap Inc has chosen  bold colours and minimal adverts to show just how simple and fun the product really is.

Although I predict that this product may be the ‘selfie stick’ of 2016 Christmas lists, I think it’s great that a tech company is willing to just have fun with its customers. I like how Snap is bringing back a more human attitude towards tech by going the extra mile to help save our favourite moments and memories….I need all the help I can get!

Google Updates Penguin Search Algorithm

Over the weekend some poor souls woke up on Saturday morning, not only with a slightly sore head, but also with the discovery and possible ranking hit from Google’s Penguin algorithm update.

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The latest and fourth Penguin update will also be Google’s last of this type as Google has said that Penguin is now uses real-time signal processing within its core search algorithm.

Google‘s algorithms reply on over 200 signals to clarify what you might be searching for. This includes specific keywords, how fresh the content on the website is, pagerank and region. Now, Google Penguin’s real-time signal has been designed to catch out fake back links or any spamming on a site. During the last update in 2014, any site that was penalized, even after they made changes and improvements, would have to wait until the next filter from Google ran, which could of taken months.

 

As the newest update is real-time it means that Google is constantly re crawling and re-indexing pages to be assessed by the Penguin filter…sort of a  blessing and a curse that you can be caught and penalised more regularly but also have the chance to improve your site and be freed faster to put you back on track.

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Google states, “With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page.”

Google has also announced that Penguin has become more “granular”. Previously, the Penguin filter would apply a site-wide penalty, but now, although it is not completely page specific, there may be impact on specific pages or sections on your site whilst other pages are unaffected.

As Google says, “Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.”

So when will this all officially kick in globally? Well, the real-time Penguin update is not fully live yet but it is being “rolled out”. It will only take a few weeks to be completely up and running so if Google regularly visits your pages you will see changes more quickly. The best thing to do at this point is prepare, prepare, PREPARE!

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Play with your pet at home from the office!

Do you ever wish you could send a text to your dog at lunch time asking him how his day is going or whether he is being ‘a good boy’? Well now you can check in with your furry little friends from the office with an exciting new pet gadget.

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Remember the computer make Acer? They haven’t been do that well in sales in recent years, so have decided to branch out into new growing markets into ‘petwear’. Not an obvious choice from a tech brand but it’s not what you think…

Forget doggie jumpers and cat crowns; Taiwan based company Acer has recently announced its acquisition of PawBo Inc – A wireless interactive pet camera. PawBo lets crazy pet owners (myself included) keep an eye on, and play with their loyal companions when they are away from home.

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This fabulous pet camera has 720p HD recording quality, 130-degree-wide-angle lens and connects with smartphone and tablets to let you see and play with your furry little friend. The PawBo supports two-way talk, a laser-point game, treat dispenser and allows up to eight people to connect to the PawBo simultaneously.

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All hail PawBo! It’s tough to leave your dog or cat at home whilst you go to work, but it’s an unwilling sacrifice many have to make in modern day life. This is a fun way to check and play with on your favourite furry friend during your lunch break. I love that there is a treat dispenser too … although I worry my dog would then try and break into the walking, talking treat vault.

Instagram Launches Business Tools in Europe

Instagram has finally rolled out their majorly anticipated business tools which helps brands, especially the smaller guys, to get noticed and stand out to potential new customers.

There are three parts to the new business tools, which are now available in Europe. They include new analytics, contact button and being able to boost your adverts and promotions.

First of all the new tools enable business profiles to have a ‘contact’ button to allow potential customers to connect directly with your brand.  Secondly, Instagram is providing business users with a mobile analytics suite called ‘Insights’ that will display all your ‘actionable information’ about the people who like your posts and shoppers in a simple, uncomplicated format.

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Furthermore there will be a new tool called ‘Promote’ which, as you can guess, helps you promote your best content. This feature will enable brands to get their best performing posts at the top of users’ news feeds “to reach new customers on the go using Facebook’s best in class targeting and measurement.”

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Instagram‘s head of development Amy Cole has said that smaller business have been a key part of the Instagram community, further stating,”Small businesses are some of the most creative and innovative in our community and it’s incredible how many businesses have grown using the platform. But we want to make Instagram work even better for them, so we listened carefully to their feedback to understand challenges they face, and the tools they need to drive real business results.”

Instagram Steals Stories

Oh no they didn’ttttt!!!?! Many people are waking up this morning with hanging jaws at the news that Instagram has casually nicked Snapchat‘s concept of ‘My Story’.

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Image:Instagram Blog

 

On Instagram’s Offical Blog they announced: “Today, we’re introducing Instagram Stories, a new feature that lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile. As you share multiple photos and videos, they appear together in a slideshow format: your story.” That’s funny….that sounds exactlyyy the same as Snapchat.

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Image: Instagram Blog

Instead of posting the highlights of your life in beautiful, well thought out filters, you will now be able to add everyday ‘off the cuff’ images to your story. It works exactly the same as Snapchat with the 24hr time limit to view the images or videos and you can also draw on the images and add emojis into the mix.  Instagram’s blog explains how you access the new stories feature “You’ll see stories from people you follow in a bar at the top of your feed — from your best friends to your favorite popular accounts. When there’s something new to see, their profile photo will have a colorful ring around it.”

 

When CEO of Instragram, Kevin Systrom, got accused of cloning Snapchat stories, he was pretty open about the steal “They deserve all the credit,” but insisted “This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”

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Image: Instagram Youtube

The ‘spin’ in this case is sort of a Snapchat for adults sort of thing. It also means that Instagram have now created a place for content that you don’t feel is not worthy of appearing on your actual profile but allows you to post loads of photos from an event or day in the life of you. The only slight difference I can see is that you can choose who doesn’t see your story by singling out particular followers you want to exclude from watching.

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Image: Instagram Blog

In my opinion, it seems that Instagram has contradicted itself. Systrom himself has said he won’t post on his own Instagram unless “the moments captured seem special enough”. Instagram recently made it harder for people to show up on their own friends feeds by sorting the feed of posts by relevance/popularity, meaning top Instagrammer’s and brands feature first, so this seems to be the opposite of what Instagram had built itself to be – A polished photography platform for your special and memorable moments in life. Now you can be spammed by your friends taking 67 pictures of their trip to the zoo.

Personal Snapchat Facial Filters

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Tired of the cute dog face filter? Done with having flowers round your head? Now you can draw your own!

Snapchat‘s latest update has introduced two exciting additions. Firstly, Bitmoji is now integrated which means you can add a personalised, ‘expressive’ emoji with a cartoon version of your face (was popular a few years back on Facebook).

Secondly, Snapchat has launched the ability to draw on your own face for a new filter. Aka when you draw on your face, the drawing moves as you do. For instance:

The filter reacts and tracks your face and movements, so if you move at different angles it will adapt to your facial movements and stay on fleek.

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Image courtesy of @Keedyfuzz

The new snapchat addition also lets you remember your last piece of art you created, allowing you to post multiple snaps with the same drawing. Time to play!

 

iMessage iOS10 – Full of New Tricks

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I recently blogged about Google’s collaboration with imessage for their new ‘Gboard’ keyboard with an array of simple search features but now it has been announced that Apple are introducing even more fun and effective ways to communicate! Below are a list of the new features you can look forward to this Autumn with the launch of iOS 10.

Message bubble effects

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Taking customization to the next level, Apple wants you to use more than just emojis and text to express yourself. Now you will be able to add effects to each individual ‘chat bubble’. This includes adding emphasis by doubling the size of the bubble to ‘shout’ or minimizing it to ‘whisper’ to your friend.

Write and draw with your finger

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This feature seems to be a cross breed of the old school MSN messenger and Snapchat’s handwriting tools. You will be able to hand write notes or draw a sketch as well as scribbling over text and images. (NB: I wish my hand written note would look like the example above, unfortunately more like a school child.)

Tap To replace words with emojis

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Say goodbye to scrolling furiously to find that fireee emoji that perfect goes alongside your hilarious comment or finding a any reason to squeeze in a random melon emoji – The new iMessage will allow you to tap on a word and replace it with the corresponding emoji! The keyboard will also have a ‘predictive emoji’ sort of feature that will suggest an emoji as you type and emoji only messages will appear three times larger within the thread.

Invisible ink: Hide sensitive texts and images

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Apple users will be able to use ‘invisible ink’ which will scramble your message or ‘frost over’ an image until the recipient swipes their finger across the message to unveil it. This is a fantastic new feature for sending either highly rude/explicit images to friends and partners or equally great for sending irrelevant random images to waste peoples time.

Respond to messages without typing

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One of my favourite new additions to imessage, as a lazy friend, is that you can now quickly confirm that you have seen the message politely without the recipient just seeing an annoying ‘seen at 14.30’ notification. Tapback lets you tap the message and send an icon like a heart, thumbs up or question mark to react to the message. Hmm Facebook?Twitter anyone?

Launch Camera inside message

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Taking large inspiration from Snapchat, you can now take a photo or video instantly within a message – great for when you’re experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out) or family lives far apart. There is also a new redesign of the camera roll in messages to make it look more like iPhones photos app, allowing you to see more of your gallery.

Message background effects

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Another flashback from the glorious days of MSN; the plain white background of iMessage is out and special effects backgrounds are in! These special backgrounds can be opted to appear when certain messages are sent such as ‘Happy New Year’ displaying exploding fireworks. Will be interesting to see the variety available and whether any more fun or daring ones get added.

Overall, although it may seem like a lot to change and I’m a little dubious about how frustrating it may get when I’m trying to send just a plain message whilst dodging all the extra buttons and the ‘predictive emoji’ feature kicks in…I think this is just a great way for Apple making tech more personal and will just be a lot of fun adding just a little more happiness and emotion to boring text.