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Four key digital transformation trends you must pay attention to right now

Last week ClickZ Intelligence held its webinar on The What, Why and How of Digital Transformation in association with Marketo.

If you missed it, it’s now available on demand where you can listen to the high level overview from me, and actionable information from Marketo’s VP of demand generation Heidi Bullock and HeroK12’s head of marketing Bryan Lanadburu.

As a taster, I’ve summarised just a few of the key points from the webinar for you to read below…

The increasing speed of technological and consumer change creates a need for companies to act differently – or suffer the consequences

Taking a view of the long term trend over the current century and the last, it is clear that digital technologies such as smartphones are just one of a number of changes that have emerged and reached mass market adoption with an increasing speed.

Before the internet, innovations such as the telephone, refrigerator and clothes washer came to market at an accelerating pace, as shown in this chart from HBR.

Digital transformation and speed of consumer change

Today, we are now in a situation where adoption of products and services by hundreds of millions of people can occur in a blindingly short time – the recent explosion of Pokemon Go being further evidence of this.

Established companies of all sizes are being challenged by this increasingly rapid pace as fast-moving startups with more of an eye on customer centricity than internal process adherence eat into market share.

It is this changing set of circumstances that has caused a spike in interest around the idea of digital transformation, as illustrated by this chart of search volumes from Google Trends.

Digital transformation search volume from Google Trends

Digital transformation has multiple definitions but common themes

There doesn’t exist a single, accepted definition for digital transformation, however common themes do emerge.

The first is obviously around technology. Businesses with established processes and ways of working may not be making the most of new tools that are available to grow and protect market share.

The second is around business transformation. The reason why many businesses use legacy technology and lack innovative ways of working is because they have processes, skill sets and cultures that create barriers to moving quickly. While marketing often drives and sets an agenda for digital transformation, doing so requires the buy in and support of multiple departments.

The third is around customer experience. As previously mentioned, it is too common an occurrence that companies look inward at the status quo rather than outward towards the needs of their customers. Customer centricity is an element that needs to be deeply embedded as part of any serious digital transformation effort.

Technology, techniques, teams and talent will help you win

/IMG/582/278582/marketo-logo-large-320x198In the panel discussion, Heidi Bullock from Marketo emphasised that the reason why businesses need to care about the shift to digital channels (with people now spending over eight hours per day using them) is because digital channels are where your customers are. Luckily, 93% of multinational companies are in the process of changing their business models to adapt.

These adaptation requires aligning the three areas of techniques, teams and talent, and technology. By doing so, you can start to take steps towards improving your business processes to enable your company to adapt to the speed of digital change.

You don’t have to be huge to be very successful

HeroK12 and digital transformationBrian Landaburu of HeroK12 shared his lessons at a company which has been moving in a transformative direction for only three years.

HeroK12 is a tool that is sold to schools and school districts to keep track of pupil performance and behavior. Students can be recognized in a positive way and change school culture by focusing on positives rather than just discipline.

Leading a ‘hard pivot’, Bryan has switched marketing entirely from an old way of working involving trade shows, advertising and mass media to an entirely inbound approach, having people learn about it through lightweight interactions over time delivered by Marketo. Everything was reinvented, with business processes and the product also changing.

The result is that a product which helps millions of students at thousands of schools (with thousands more software users interacting everyday on the platform) is served by a company of only 35 people and a marketing team of just four staff.

This provides an example of how an effective transformation can result in a highly efficient and brilliant experience for customers, even in industries and sectors where old ways of working can be difficult to change.

Are you dealing with the issue of digital transformation? Then make sure you come to Shift on August 30th 2016 in San Francisco. A limited number of complimentary passes are available so make sure to register your interest!

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SEO in the festival season: which retailers have the right strategy?

Summer in the UK means festivals, and there are plenty to choose from again this year.

Festival goers need the right equipment: clothing and camping equipment, as well as waterproofs for the English weather.

Thanks to data from PI Datametrics, I can see which sites have prepared for the festival season, and which ones have room for improvement.

Seasonal SEO strategy

We’ve looked at seasonal SEO before, and it’s all about optimising for key periods of the year, and ensuring that your site is in prime position to profit from the spike in interest and search traffic which follow.

Optimisation need to be done in advance, and sites need to hone their internal linking strategies to avoid any cannibalisation of their own search traffic.

This means creating hub or landing pages for target search terms, and linking back to these pages using the target keywords.

Festival search trends

Google Trends data gives a good indication of the products that people are likely to be looking for and the peaks in interest.

search trends festival

To take ‘festival clothing’ as an example, here are some key trends:

  • Festival wear terms peak yearly in May, June, July and August.
  • In 2015 ‘festival clothing’ peaked in August and was searched 33,100 times.
  • In May 2016 ‘festival clothing’ was searched 40,500 times.
  • ‘Festival clothing’ has risen 82% from May 2015 – May 2016.

trend seo

This kind of trends data can be valuable to plan your content and SEO strategy round (see above).

  1. Content needs to be planned and published well ahead of the target event or season to allow time to optimise it for searchers.
  2. It’s important to be there when customers are searching for related products and considering purchases.
  3. This is the peak purchase period. If you have the right strategy, this is when it can pay off.
  4. The discount period is a time when interest is declining, but still comparatively high. A good time to reduce excess stock.
  5. Don’t delete the page once the season has passed. Keep it fresh and ready for next year so the planning doesn’t go to waste.

Example 1: ‘festival clothing’

This is what search performance should look like ideally. The sites here all rank consistently for the selected term, and they’re competing against each other, not their own content, for search rankings.

festival clothing top

ASOS is the top site for the term above, and this is the landing page for the term. What’s key here is that the retailer has created this dedicated page and linked to it consistently.

festival clothing

On the flip-side, failing to plan correctly produces this kind of inconsistent performance.

festval poor perf

Example 2: festival essentials

These are the top performing sites for the term:

  1. Gigwise
  2. Mountain Warehouse
  3. Skiddle
  4. Tesco
  5. Her Packing List
  6. All Noise
  7. Go outdoors

As we see below, they all rank consistently, more or less, for the five months before the peak for festival-related traffic.

festival essentials

 

 
One of the top performers, Mountain Warehouse, seems to have planned its content strategy very well.

The is the page Google returns for ‘festival essentials’, a checklist of key items, all of which link to the relevant product categories. As I write, it sits at number three on Google UK, in prime position to attract product searches.

mountain warehouse seo

By contrast, Millets – though it has a festival landing page – has done less work to optimise the on-page copy.

millets seo

It also seems to have neglected internal linking. It has lots of content related to festivals and key products on its blog, and therefore plenty of opportunity to link consistently to the landing page above.

millets blog

There’s a lot of content here, and many opportunities to link to the landing page, or even relevant product pages, but not a single link to a product (or product category) sold on the site.

For comparison, look at this content page from Mountain Warehouse, which links back to the products it mentions.

It’s very odd, as Millets has got certain parts of the strategy right, but has totally failed to join it up. We have some useful content around festivals, and a landing page for the term.

All Millets needs to do is to link consistently from the content to the landing pages. It’s a real missed opportunity.

In summary

The examples above show the importance of a unified SEO and content strategy for seasonal events.

It’s about knowing when the seasonal traffic spikes are likely to be, the key terms to target, and then implementing the right strategy well in advance.

This also underlines the importance of content and SEO teams working well together. On Millets, it looks like the teams producing the content have no idea of the SEO strategy at all.

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Was killing the Dallas shooter with a robot the right choice?

predator-drone-610

Last week in Dallas, Texas, shots echoed through the crowded downtown scene of what started as a peaceful and cooperative protest. Things went from calm to chaos very quickly, leading police to falsely identify a suspect on social media, pursue a vehicle with over a dozen patrol cars on the freeway, and to fatally bomb the alleged shooter after a standoff and exchange of gunfire later that evening.

Images from earlier in the evening featured police officers posing for photos with protesters, in unity with citizens. Dallas’ police force, after all, had earned a reputation for its community outreach and positive interaction with its citizenry.

In a matter of seconds, the scene went from calm to chaotic. A suspect was identified by the department on Twitter, along with a photo that appeared on every news network covering the situation. Unfortunately, that suspect turned out to not only be totally innocent, but to have been actively assisting the police on the ground after the shooting started. In another part of town, over a dozen patrol cars pulled over and apprehended people that they believed were involved in the shooting, having fled the scene shortly after.

Through all the chaos, the person the police now believe acted alone, Micah Johnson, was cornered in a parking garage and killed with an explosive using a robot designed to assist soldiers on the battlefield.

“We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was,” David Brown, the Dallas police chief, said at a news conference. “Other options would have exposed our officers to grave danger.”

Indeed the use of the robot, which required a human to give the command to detonate the C4 explosive it was carrying, ended the standoff without any further police lives lost.

The benefits of robots on the battlefield

There is no denying that drones and other robotic systems are saving U.S. soldier lives on the battlefield. The United States has used drone strikes to take out some of its most notorious foes. As an alternative to ground troops, it makes practical sense. You put less of our lives at risk by using a drone fitted with sophisticated targeting systems that can be replaced.

According to the official report released by the office of the Director of National Intelligence, between 2,372 and 2,581 enemy combatants were killed across 473 drone strikes that took place between January 20, 2009 and December 31, 2015. It’s also being reported that 64 to 116 non-combatant civilians were also killed in those strikes.

Military robotic units aren’t just limited to flying drones. Unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) are popular choices for military. Systems including the Foster-Miller TALON provide a wide range of support to troops including reconnaissance and bomb disposal. These vehicles are designed to go where troops can’t, access buildings that may be too dangerous for human entry, and provide real-time visual data from the front lines.

The case against using robots to kill civilians at home

The Dallas Police Department used a bomb-wielding robot to kill Micah Johnson. The explosion enabled officers to incapacitate him without putting them within line-of-sight to Johnson, a move that Dallas’ mayor and police chief insist saved lives.

When it comes to the robotic aspect, these machines offer additional insight and perspective. They enable bomb squads to investigate suspicious packages and dispose of explosives. They empower swat teams to survey a scene prior to making entry. These robots have been used effectively by police forces for years, but until now, they have been used as a means of solely preserving life. Now, they’re being used to destroy it.

This action sets a new precedent in how these robotic devices are being used at home. This is the first known case of a United States police department using a remotely-placed explosive to kill a suspect. Where gunfire and other means of lethal force are unfortunately common practice by police in the United States, using a robot to administer that force is new.

This was an execution administered by a police force in order to end a standoff that had already cost the department five lives. This raises the question whether the robot could have been fitted with something less lethal. Could a flash-bang, a small non-lethal explosive that emits a bright light and deafening bang in order to disorient suspects, have been used? What about tear gas?

Despite the obviously hostile situation, due process was not a possibility for the shooter. Where humans can target extremities and disable a suspect in some cases, an explosion is less specific. The crime scene is essentially destroyed, as is the possibility of interrogating the suspect.

To many, using equipment and methods designed for the military at home raises new questions. If the police are allowed to detonate explosives in order to kill civilians, where does the militarization of law enforcement agencies stop? Are we heading towards a future out of science fiction where police are patrolling our streets, enforcing laws and making life-and-death decisions on our behalf?

The case for using robots to against civilians in specific cases

Micah Johnson was highly trained, and he managed to survive over an hour of exchange with the police. Before he was killed, he managed to kill five police officers and wound seven others. He indicated that he had explosives planted in areas unknown, which made entry by live police officers potentially more dangerous. Indeed when police searched his home, they found binary explosive components similar to those used by shooting enthusiasts to create explosive targets for effect.

This was also no autonomous detonation. A human controlled the robot’s movement, camera positioning, and the articulated arm that held and detonated the explosive. It could be argued that this was no different than a sniper zeroing in on a suspect from afar and pulling the trigger.

This was a case where police are stating there simply wasn’t any alternative. We, the public, will likely not know the true story behind the events of that night for some time. It is easy to sit back and make assumptions as to whether or not there was any other way. But one thing is clear, the debate over whether or not this should become a part of law enforcement’s main bag of tricks has just begun.

 

The post Was killing the Dallas shooter with a robot the right choice? appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Is the GPL the right way to force IoT standardization?

Young man in a hoodie sitting on the floor with his computer and drawing on the wall

The Internet of Things has tremendous potential, but remains a mishmash of conflicting “standards” that don’t talk to each other. As various vendors erect data silos in the sky, what is actually needed is increased developer communication between disparate IoT projects.

I’ve argued before that this is one reason IoT needs to be open sourced, providing neutral territory for developers to focus on code, not business models. But there’s still an open question as to what kind of open source best facilitates developer-to-developer sharing. In Cessanta CTO and co-founder Sergey Lyubka’s view, the restrictive GNU General Public License (GPLv2) is the right way to license IoT, at least for now.

He might be right.

Giving developers something to work with

By Evans Data estimates, there are now 6.2 million developers worldwide focused on IoT applications and systems, up from 4.1 million developers last year, a 34% increase. Importantly, this swelling developer population isn’t primarily interested in cashing in on IoT. As VisionMobile’s extensive survey data uncovers, these developers are mostly looking for fun and a challenge as they explore IoT boundaries.

Not surprisingly, then, open source has become the lingua franca of IoT projects, with 91% of IoT developers acknowledging the use of open source software in at least one area of their projects, according to a separate VisionMobile survey. The reason, the report concludes, is that “open source technology is very strong in solving the nitty-gritty, niche challenges that developers have; areas that commercial vendors would struggle to address.”

The question, then, isn’t whether open source should be part of IoT. It is, and will continue to be such. No, the question is what kind of open source license is best-suited to reaching this growing population of IoT developers.

Permissive or insistent?

According to Lyubka, a more restrictive, free software license like the GPLv2 is the best approach for IoT licensing, at least as it pertains to firmware. In his view, the GPL ensures that “firmware [will be] easily available and affordable for prototyping and DIYing.”

He also feels it’s the best license because it affords the developer the option to dual-license her code, offering a proprietary (“commercial”) license of the same code so that the originating developer gets paid while the downstream developer can use the code without concern of having to open source her own proprietary code.

He explains this in more detail:

We need more developers to easily access the internet of things and code for connected devices. We need to share ideas amongst engineers and product developers to better understand what works and what doesn’t.

There is no reason why startups, DIYers and even established companies should have to pay for firmware as they experiment and prototype exciting new products that will help fulfill the market mandate.

At the same time, businesses who develop IoT solutions need to be able to compensate their developers to keep making those IoT solutions stronger, simpler and more scalable for everyone.

That’s why the GPLv2 option, in my opinion, works again for IoT firmware. Once someone commercially applies your code and doesn’t want to open their own solution, they pay.

Though I’ve spent years arguing that such restrictive licensing inhibits developer adoption and offers a poor way to monetize code, Lyubka may have a point in this early IoT market. It’s true that developers increasingly turn to permissive, Apache-style licensing (or completely eschew licensing), but there’s something to be said for a copyleft approach, forcing developers to stick together in the early days of a project, IoT or otherwise.

Would copyleft help us standardize IoT?

Given the tremendous importance of standardizing IoT protocols and firmware, allowing disparate systems to talk to each other and even share code, it makes sense to keep developers from pulling code and embedding it in a proprietary product, thereby creating more IoT silos.

The early days of Linux, for example, were arguably aided by GPL licensing that kept all the developers rowing in the same direction, differentiating themselves at the packaging layer rather than in foundational code differences between distributions.

In the long run, permissive licensing like MIT or Apache strikes me as the absolute best approach, given their propensity to lower barriers to developer adoption. But there just might be reason to force IoT firmware to cohere, at least in the early days.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, one way or another.

The post Is the GPL the right way to force IoT standardization? appeared first on ReadWrite.

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The right way to get dynamic with Google AdWords

Want to create more personalized, more effective search ads? Columnist Todd Saunders discusses four dynamic ad varieties and how to make them work for you.

The post The right way to get dynamic with Google AdWords appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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