Will ‘Brick-and-Mortar’ Survive Alongside Online?

Business Innovations

09 January 2019

Will ‘Brick-and-Mortar’ Survive Alongside Online?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

In this day and age of e-commerce and internet-only presence, a brick and mortar business evokes a sense of a time gone by, when running a business meant getting ready in the morning and going to a fixed location every day.

Times are very different today. E-commerce is the norm and many businesses and start-ups offer services and products via the digital medium alone. One instance is travel services. When all the research and even financial transactions can be done sitting at work or home, there is no longer a need to go somewhere and book a vacation. Or even retail therapy for that matter does not necessitate dressing up and stepping out. Or groceries. Everything comes home, without the customer required to go anywhere.

Is it then any wonder that brick and mortar offices are slowly becoming a thing of the past? But is that entirely true? Let’s delve a little deeper and find out more, shall we?

Meaning: what’s in a word?

‘Brick and mortar’ is defined as: existing as a physical building, especially a shop, rather than doing business only on the internet.

When compared to e-commerce businesses of this century, a brick and mortar business is a company that has a retail presence, e.g. a shop or a chain of shops, and offers face-to-face customer experiences. These shops have a physical presence that lets customers visit, talk to the staff, touch and handle products and buy in person.

And that is where the big difference lies. But before that, a small lesson in history.

How did the term originate?

The moniker ‘brick and mortar’ is a metonymy, a figure of speech that is derived from the very material that a physical structure is made of: bricks and mortar. The earliest references to it can be found in the 19th century when British novelist Charles Dickens used the phrase in his book ‘Little Dorrit’.

It is also one of the few words that is a retronym, which means it is used to describe shops that had a physical presence before the internet came into being. Interestingly, the term is also used to describe businesses from a pre-internet era, to distinguish those stores with a physical presence as against those that had an order-by-mail model.

A brief history of retail stores, and more

It’s really difficult to say when brick and mortar businesses actually came to be. Perhaps the earliest vendor stalls in the first few towns laid the foundation for permanent, fixed stores. This was when traders stopped moving from town to town and began selling farm produce, clay pots, handmade clothing, etc. in the village market. Since then brick and mortar shops have remained an integral and important part of shopping and customers.

All businesses of the 19th and early to mid-20th century started off as single brick and mortar establishments. And then they grew to become a chain of brick and mortar establishments. Case in point is McDonald’s, a company that started with a small restaurant and now is a massive global business with restaurants in over 100 countries. However, like many businesses of its times, it too has an online presence, and its business model works splendidly on both platforms.

Present day scenario: can online and brick-and-mortar co-exist?

Many smaller businesses, those that are still limited to a brick and mortar model, have realised the importance of being ‘online’. Some, like smaller restaurants or a dry cleaning service, now have apps and websites to reach customers or to improve their service.

But does it also work the other way? Do online businesses also feel the need for a brick and mortar presence? It seems they do. Several online businesses have non-public physical facilities from where they conduct their business. It could be a warehouse from where they store and distribute goods, a call centre to handle customer queries and grievances, and, of course, an office where the business owners and other staff members operate from. This could be a permanent physical space, or they could operate out of a co-working set-up.

Conclusion

Throughout history, this physical presence, a retail store where a customer can go and look for a product, or a place where they can service or repair their products, or have their grievances addressed, has played a crucial role in the customers’ shopping journey.

Many companies and business models today are a product of the digital world. And while they continue to operate in cyberspace, there is a distinct need for a physical presence where the people behind the business can come together, on occasion, if need be, for the efficient functioning of the business itself.

Amazing ways live video can give your business a boost

Business Innovations

15 January 2019

Amazing ways live video can give your business a boost

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

If content is king, then it would be safe to assume that video content is the emperor. It is one of the most effective content mediums in today’s digital market, and if a business wants to stay ahead of competitors, it needs to embrace video to gain a prominent spot in the consumers’ mind and life.

The country today is heading towards a video streaming market that is expected to touch $5 billion by 2023. This has been made possible by rising affluence, affordable digital devices, deeper data penetration in rural markets and even digital adoption by newer demographics.

With the increasing competition, it is also critical to reach the right customer, at the right time, with the right message. And live video streaming on social media networks like Facebook and Instagram is the fastest, cheapest and most effective way of doing so.

Here are 6 amazing opportunities for including live video in your content marketing plan.

#1 A Q&A session

Let’s start with a simple Q&A session. This is an effective way for you to strengthen your relationship with your customers, current as well as potential. You could answer questions on how to use the product, or give tips to improve user experience, and even deal with grievances.

The session needn’t be restricted to your product alone, you could even organise a Q&A session to answer doubts and queries related to the industry. For instance, a company in the business of manufacturing beauty products can conduct a live session on skin care. This creates stickiness and takes your product from a cold and lifeless entity to something warm and more approachable.

#2 Share live events

There was a time live events meant actual music concerts or fashion shows with a live, physically present, captive audience. That is still the case, no doubt. However, with the seamless integration of digital in our lives, today an event can be conducted in one location and streamed ‘live’ to captive online audiences across the world.

Instead of waiting for a telecast later, people can participate in the event as it is happening. And the participation isn’t passive. Broadcasting the event live on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter gives your customers, current and potential, a chance to interact, ask questions, and become part of the brand story.

This helps build trust, showcase what your brand stands for beyond the product or service, allows you to express opinions, and works towards creating a stronger, expert brand.

#3 Test or review your product live

Another tried and tested way to build trust among your community is by testing or reviewing your product online. Time it with the launch of your new product and you are guaranteed more eyeballs than you could have imagined with just a launch.

Land Rover adopted this brilliant strategy while launching its latest vehicle. For an entire month the car brand did a live test drive video on Facebook. The vehicle was driven over all kinds of terrain and customers as well as car aficionados were treated to the vehicle’s performance. Any surprises the video got 9.7K views, and was shared across the platform by customers?

#4 Broadcast the launch of a new product

Similar to the product demo or test, you can also launch your product online and broadcast the event live. This is turning out to be quite a popular way for brands to generate a buzz around their new product and of course, eventually lead to sales.

For example, Dell used Facebook Live to launch its first Inspiron gaming laptop in India. The live event reached out to more than 55k fans through the launch alone.

#5 Live testimonials

Testimonials are great to get your customers to talk about your products. Have you given any thought to live testimonials? A new take on traditional customer endorsement, live testimonials, if done right, can provide you great returns no matter what your industry.

Goes without saying that you should choose your most satisfied customers, and get them to speak from the heart while directing them gently. Keep the videos no more than 2-3 minutes; else your audience will drop off.

 #6 Invite influencers

Everyone is talking about influencers these days. Perhaps your business can benefit from the opinion of one. Invite an influencer from the same industry to give your audience a whole new take on the subject, making the session interesting for them. Additionally, your influencer will certainly invite his or her audience to participate, giving your product more mileage.

But how do you find an influencer? Rely on tools like Buzzstream or Grin to locate an expert who can help your business. If your influencer turns out to be in a different geography, you can use Instagram’s new feature – collab-live stream – to overcome that challenge.

Conclusion

Thanks to social media live video options you can connect with your audience at a deeper level and engage with them like never before, wherever they are, whenever you want.

Three Lunchtime TEDTalks for The Entrepreneur in You

Business Innovations

20 November 2018

Three Lunchtime TEDTalks for The Entrepreneur in You

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Jokes aside, who doesn’t love TEDTalks? Nothing beats these quick, bite-sized inspirational videos that showcase fascinating insights on topics ranging across the board. What began in 1984 as part of a conference on Technology, Entertainment and Design (yes, that’s where TED gets its moniker from, in case you didn’t know; I didn’t), is today a massive global community that shares ideas and triggers conversations.

A TEDTalk works in numerous ways: it can teach you to become a better professional and even inspire you to be a better person. It aims to help people get a deeper understanding of the world they live in. It sparks curiosity; it motivates; it teaches something new every time; a TEDTalk can shift your perspective and broaden your horizon; it can even show you what’s possible and help you reach you true potential.

As an entrepreneur, you need to constantly challenge your assumptions and beliefs. A TEDTalk will give you all that, and more.

However, with thousands of existing TEDTalks, and new ones being added regularly, knowing where to start can be daunting. If you’re looking for quick inspiration during your lunch break, you’ve come to the right place. Here are three short, yet essential, TEDTalks that you must watch:

#1 Creative problem solving in the face of extreme limits

Start-ups operate on the premise that there will be restrictions and limitations – of capital, resource and time. However, when is little too little? And how can a start-up apply innovation even in the face of these limits?

Watch this TEDTalk by Navi Radjou to understand creative problem solving techniques under extreme limitations. The demands of a start-up are high and relentless, and that is what drives greater creativity, much needed for innovation, scientific discovery and even social constructs.

The next time you feel backed into a corner, watch this talk to understand how you can turn this challenge into an advantage.

#1 The one reason start-ups succeed

Why do some start-ups manage to become more successful than others? Are there any factors at play here, or is it just a matter of luck, of being in the right place at the right time?

Bill Gross, a serial entrepreneur and a mentor for several startups, attempts to explain the reasons for this through his TEDTalk. In his vast experience in the business world he has seen rock-solid ideas flounder terribly, while doubtful businesses flourish. And it led him to wonder why.

In this video, Bill measures each start-up according to the power of its idea, the timing of the launch, the attributes of the team at the front, access to capital and also its business model. What he finds is how one factor leads to success more than any other. Watch the video to know which one.

#1 Do what you love

A no-brainer, right? Your start-up is your passion and that’s what you love to do. Watch Gary Vaynerchuk as he does a fantastic job of still convincing you of this in his inspiring TEDTalk.

Perhaps you decided to start off on your own attracted with the idea of making more money; or just the thought of running your own business and being your own boss got you excited. But those ingredients aren’t enough to be really successful. You also have to be part of something that you really care about; and you have to actually enjoy what you do.

Conclusion

If you haven’t watched these TEDTalks yet, then add them to your list right away. And in case you noticed, we’ve pegged them all at #1 because there really isn’t any criterion for comparison. Each of these videos will expose you to new ideas, opening your mind to new experiences. Your journey towards successful entrepreneurship hinges on this.

Is our workplace ready for AI assistants?

Business Innovations

28 October 2018

Is our workplace ready for AI assistants?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

The world is rather interesting these days, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI). The technology has long moved out of the ambit of sci-fi and has made a definite entrance into our professional lives. But how far has it really penetrated?

Today there are digital assistants scheduling meetings, chatbots working alongside teachers as their assistants and even AI working with HR to make better hiring decisions. The implications of AI in the workplace have started to get noticed. The day isn’t far when HR will leverage the combined power of human intelligence and Artificial Intelligence to deliver a more personalized employee experience.`

It has been predicted that by 2022, one in five workers will have AI as their co-worker. Imagine that!

#1 Humans and AI will work side-by-side

Today artificial intelligence is working effortlessly alongside HR managers and teaching assistants. Chatbots are quick on the uptake and, as Jill Watson, the AI-empowered teaching assistant at Georgia Institute of Technology showed, they can very soon begin to answer routine student queries. This will allow teachers and their human assistants to free-up a significant amount of time and focus on more complex areas of teaching.

As AI becomes a new, trusted member of the team, taking over more routine tasks, HR leaders will now need to spend time orienting and training chatbots, and also educating the rest of the team on how to work with them. The result of this will be more time for human employees to do tasks meant for humans, such as complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.

#2 Can AI take over some roles entirely?

There is a fear that AI will take over some tasks entirely. Even in the worst case scenario, this is unlikely. At best, certain activities will need to be re-defined, and that could call for revising business processes and introducing new job roles. As the point above outlines, AI can take over certain routine activities, allowing individuals who earlier performed these roles to bring greater value to their customers and employees.

#3 Sourcing and recruiting new hires

Another notable area where AI is helping companies is the way they source and recruit new hires. With the backing of AI, recruiters can prioritize jobs more efficiently, find the right talent faster, and match candidates more effectively. Rather than relying on filters such as years of experience or education levels, machine learning can help shortlist candidates based on core skills such as agility, cognitive abilities, etc. This ‘horizontal sourcing’ model can even help talent move across business verticals, domains, and industries. This is a fantastic example of AI truly reinventing a business function.

#4 Machine learning will help improve careers

There is a trend that is gradually being noticed across industries and sectors. Employees at all levels are staying 30% longer in their roles. This is an excellent opportunity for companies to help employees focus on their career and not just aim for promotions. Managers at Cisco are already leveraging machine learning to help their team members present their skills, interests, and passions, and then look for internal roles that can help further their career goals.

#5 AI as a virtual coach and to reinforce learning

Several newer companies are investing in chatbots that will provide employees with individual coaching in the workplace.

Take the example of the MIT Media Lab startup GiantOtter. The company is riding on AI to develop and train ‘Coach Otto’, a training bot that provides online coaching for companies. An employer can use this chatbot as a coach or a companion to improve an individual’s performance on the job, for instance preparing a manager for a difficult conversation with an employee.

Conclusion:

There is no doubt that AI + human is the future of work. Now it is simply a question of businesses using AI to create a seamless employee experience. What do you think? Will the advent of AI threaten existing jobs, or will the two work seamlessly and create a more efficient system?