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There are so many virtues associated with Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), but many sales and marketing departments are still unable to notch up the best for their businesses. And, one of the top reasons cited by marketing experts for that is not integrating marketing automation with CRM. By not integrating these two technologies, many sales and marketing teams deprive themselves from understanding what works for each other and tracking every step of the buyer’s journey. Consequently, they bring roadblocks to quality lead generation and shrink the opportunities to have better conversions.

Before I begin shedding light on how marketing automation and CRM integration boosts conversion rates, let’s have a quick insight into what marketing automation and CRM are.

Marketing automation allows marketing departments to easily automate and analyze routine marketing tasks, like social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, digital ads, landing page visits, etc. As a result, they get to focus better on lead generation and offer personalized content based on user response. Marketing Automation has become a bandwagon almost all marketing departments are now jumping on to generate more leads than ever before. Some top examples of marketing automation software are HubSpot, Pardot, SharpSpring and Marketo.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM), on the other hand,h complements marketing strategies by making it easier for sales team to convert marketing leads into paying customers. CRM tool, in a nutshell, serves as a database for storing marketing leads with their meaningful data, and help manage both existing and new customers. Some top examples of CRM software are SugarCRM, Odoo, Agile CRM and Nimble.

Let’s now move on to the most important aspect of this blog. How does marketing automation and CRM integration open new avenues for higher conversion rates?

Marketing Automation and CRM Integration a Boon to Your Business

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Image source: Blogspot

Helps You Devise Marketing Strategies that are Highly Likely to Work in Your Favor

By integrating marketing automation and CRM, your marketing team can easily track the efficacy of their marketing decisions. Being able to track how customers are responding to your marketing material paints a clear picture about what is working for you and what isn’t. For example, you can see what sort of emails coaxed your customers the most to become interested in your services or what type of social media campaigns got you most leads. Having such an insight helps you build on what worked the best for your and devise effective marketing strategies business.

So, you can effectively run marketing campaigns and ads that suit the requirements of your customers and help them improve quality of life by going for your products or services. Marketing automation and CRM integration also allows both sales and marketing departments to keep a track on every lead from the top of the lead funnel to the bottom of the sales funnel.

Enables to Increase Conversions via Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing means turning cold leads into buyers. And, this mostly becomes possible after you integrate marketing automation with CRM. Marketing teams can put colder leads on nurturing tracks to ensure they find your content interesting and relevant. Cold leads may not immediately get converted, but if you let go the hold over them, they become likely to buy from your competitors over time. That’s why lead nurturing is so important.

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Image source: HubSpot

If you keep contacting prospects systematically, it helps them build trust in your brand over time. The integration foundation allows marketing teams to understand unique interests of cold leads and treat them differently. Lead nurturing requires marketing team to have a better understanding of needs of prospects and targeting them with information that they want at each stage of their buying process.

A market study found that 80% of new leads never become sales. However, lead nurturing provides nearly 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost. Lead nurturing is like forming a relationship with leads, not only to sell them just once, but improve your ROI via upselling as well.

Helps Sales Teams get their Hands more on Quality Leads

Integration of marketing automation with CRM especially becomes important when it comes to differentiate between qualified leads and unqualified leads. Let’s understand, how?

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Marketing automation software allows marketing teams to automatically fetch all the information about how the leads interacted with marketing, like their social media engagement, page views, forms completion, queries, buying behavior, etc. When marketing teams enter leads along with their behavioral information in CRM, sales teams find it easy to draw a distinction between leads that are highly likely to be converted than those that are not. This is also called lead intelligence.

As a result, sales team dedicate most of their efforts to engage with qualified leads and improve conversion rates. Most CRMs allow to filter information, like leads that visited your site more than five times in past 30 days, or the ones that didn’t visit your site at all during the same time span. Such results help increase the efficiency and productivity of the sales team by encouraging them to spend more time on the leads from whom the marketing team has received positive response on their marketing material. Simply put, the more the focus on qualified leads, the better the conversion rates.

Speeds Up Sales Process

Since all marketing and sales report sits at one place, it becomes much easier to know where prospects are in the sales cycle. This in return helps expedite sales process. Sales people are also able to determine the best time to contact a lead in the nurturing process with appropriate content, thereby reducing the time it otherwise takes to convert a lead.

Another important aspect of marketing automation and CRM integration is the fact that it allows sales team to get involved in the development of a marketing campaign. As a result, marketing team is able to offer better and result-oriented content to its target audience, a factor that also speeds up sales process.

Without a doubt, marketing automation and CRM integration offers a plethora of opportunities to sales and marketing team to increase ROI via higher conversion rates. Many businesses are adopting this practice to boost their sales and get a competitive edge. It’s very hard to find a reason that why a business should not bank on marketing automation and CRM integration.

What’s your thought on the efficacy of marketing automation and CRM integration to boost conversion rate? Do you want to add more to what’s already being discussed? Please share your views in the comment box below.

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Information technology (IT) departments face many challenges while working on two solutions: Staff Augmentation and Managed Services. Although both are reliable solutions, making a choice between them to achieve your goals could be a difficult task if you don’t already understand how they work and suit different project requirements. Read further to have a better understanding of which one to choose to fulfill your vision and mission.

Staff Augmentation

Many IT departments prefer to have their own in-house teams for development projects. But, often arises a situation when the in-house team couldn’t fill a gap because of lacking some additional skills that are required to complete a project. This is where staff augmentation comes to their rescue. In staff augmentation approach, an organization ropes in qualified workers from outside to work with its in-house team to cover skills gaps for a specific project. Staff augmentation helps meet deadlines without compromising on the overall quality of the project. Using extra resources via staff augmentation also saves significant costs that are associated with hiring internally.

Firms that provide staff augmentation services helps businesses assess their needs and hire as many employees as required. And, since their is no full-time employee commitment with staff augmentation approach, employers can easily increase or decrease the number of employees as and when changes occur in requirements. With staff augmentation, you can zero-in on identified area to solve a problem. Let’s have a look at all the advantages of staff augmentation.

Advantages of Staff Augmentation

Cost Effective

Staff augmentation saves a lot of money that is spent on hiring, training, providing health insurances, retirement plans, taxes, and many more. You easily get access to employees with specific skills that your in-house team members lack, that too without having to spend money on recruiting and offering employee benefits. You only pay for the number of hours you extra resources have worked for. Therefore, you save a lot of money that is otherwise paid as full-time salaries year-around.

Staff augmentation service providers have a database of skilled and certified candidates to meet your specific project requirements. So, you also don’t need to spend money on training them. Only training that is required is to acquaint them with company domain and processes, so that they acclimatize easily.

Staff augmentation also helps cut costs of advertisements, job postings and administration to hire candidates with specific skill-set.

Better Control

Staff augmentation allows you to have a better control of your project all the time. You always stay in-sync with your resources and closely monitor their activities. If you come across any efficiency related issue, you can take effective measures before it’s too late, therefore you never lose on productivity. Besides, you can delegate what you feel is important to a resource you know is best suited for.

Staff augmentation also allows you to make better use of your existing resources. When an organization outsources a project, the company it has outsourced the project to has complete control over how the resources will be used. The company may or may not use all the resources for timely completion of the project. Staff augmentation, on the other hand, enables to keep a proper check on the activities of every employee and make the best use of them.

Scalability

That you may get a project of large size, scalability comes as a handy feature of staff augmentation. That ability to not say no just because of large size of a project always proves fruitful for your business. Also, being able to deliver diverse services enhances your brand value, and delivering quality solutions raises the bars of client satisfaction.

Flexibility

Staff augmentation approach also offers flexibility as it doesn’t let seasonal factors or employees leaving your firm to have an adverse impact on your business. Online retailers especially feel the need to cope with seasonal fluctuations as many employees go on vacation. By going for staff augmentation, they can always keep the number of IT staff in control and effectively deal with staff shortages and unexpected attrition.

Offers a New Perspective

With staff augmentation, you get a fresh perspective about how things are going. It’s very unlikely for a short term employee to participate in office politics and have a negative impact on efficiency. Instead, the efficiency and discipline the staff augmentation employee brings to your workplace could encourage your in-house staff to improve their performance too. The temporary employee also helps you understand the project in a better way by providing you an objective outlook from a new perspective.

Staff augmentation brings a lot of advantages to a business, but it’s not the only way to get your projects done. Another option that is also used by many organizations to fulfill their project needs is Managed Services.

Managed Services

Managed services means outsourcing IT operations to a service provider. A managed service provider (MSP) takes all the responsibility of resource allocation, management, monitoring and problem resolution. As a result, an organization that adopts managed services gets to focus on more important aspects of its business. Let’s gain an insight into all the advantages managed services has to offer.

Top Advantages of Managed Services

Reduces Costs related to Infrastructure and Complex IT Solutions

Since managed services approach does not require you to hire resources internally, you free yourself from the need of setting infrastructure for them, which reduces business cost. We all know that hardware and software components of IT systems keep evolving from time to time. As a result, businesses with limited budget may find it difficult to keep pace with them. However, going for managed services allows them to reap the benefits of latest IT solutions at a reduced cost and offer their clients top-notch services.

Control over Service Levels and Performance

Since both the client and managed service provider agree on a service level agreement (SLA), roles of both the parties are clearly defined. SLA clearly describes what services a managed service provider will provide and what the minimum response time, liability protection, payment structure and performance standards would be. Therefore, a client gets a better control over service levels and performance by paying a fixed amount every month.

MSPs also offers 24*7 support at no additional cost. Having access to one single point of contact for IT support also saves time, money and resources.

Allows to Focus on Core Competencies and Business Goals

MSPs have highly skilled technical resources to proactively maintain IT environment and infrastructure of clients. Therefore, it becomes possible for internal team to have improved focus on core business functions. Be it hardware, on-site data center, application monitoring, MSPs keep everything covered. An MSP acts as an extra arm to your internal teams, and takes the burden of devising IT strategies and solutions to meet your unique business and technical requirements.

Data Backup and Disaster Recovery

MSPs also provide backup and disaster recovery solutions, so that you never lose your important business information. Most MSPs have specially designed networks and data centers to ensure reliable backups and faster recovery, both locally and from the cloud. IT managed services also provides protection from hackers, malware and downtime. MSPs have cutting-edge resources and information to quickly identify security issues and take preventative measures to mitigate risks before it’s too late.

Enhances Global Expansion and Growth

Many MSPs are capable of deploying infrastructure and other services globally as they have global facilities. As a result, an organization can save a lot of money that is required to hire additional resources in order to support expansion. If you choose an MSP with a presence in a region where your business is likely to grow, you will easily get support for IT infrastructure, applications and operations. MSPs also offer scalable services and only charge you for the level of support provided at a given time.

Staff augmentation and managed services have their own advantages, but one needs to assess their needs, budget and other requirements before choosing between them to brace their business. Both the IT solutions are highly reliable and helps IT departments not just save huge business costs, but benefit from latest advancements and technologies as well.

What do you think about the future of staff augmentation and managed services? Which one suits your business requirements the most? As always, your views are vital for us, please share them in the comment box below.

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Be it a website, app or any other form of software, the toughest challenge that most businesses face is to find right talent, hire them and retain them in-house. Startups, especially, have a limited budget and can’t bear the high cost of hiring experienced developers for specific requirements and managing their IT requirements. These are the major reasons why many businesses, regardless of business size, go for offshore software development - A panacea for all software development woes.

Offshore development is synonymous to outsourcing your development project to a company or freelancers located in some foreign country, like India, Ukraine, etc. The best part though is you still control everything from within your organization, that too with reduced costs and more time at your disposal to focus on other core activity of your business. Also, there are many project management tools available in the tech market, like FindNerd and Trello, to help monitor development process and collaborate with offshore developers for the best outcome.

You may have a great business idea for an app or website, but without access to wide skill-set professionals, it’s very difficult take your idea to fruition. This is one of the major reasons why offshoring has become very popular in countries like US and UK. Software talent in these countries is very expensive and the cost of training and retaining them is also too high. Let’s take one by one the benefits of offshore software development that largely outweigh the benefits of having an in-house development team.

#1 Significant Cost Savings

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In Western Europe or North America, the cost of hiring software developers is approximately 90% higher than the cost of hiring offshore developers. It’s no secret that outsourcing your project to a software development company saves 20 to 40% of your total expenditure on your production cost.

You need not to bear the high expense of paying fixed salaries. Outsourcing allows you to hire professionals and pay them based on the task they have performed and the number of hours they have spent on it. By deploying a good project management tool, you can keep complete track of resources that have been assigned and their activities towards the completion of your project.

Another cost advantage of outsourcing is that you free yourself from buying expensive IT infrastructure and set-ups. Thus, you can use your capital for other important business investments.

#2 Improved Focus on Business and Customer Base

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Having outsourced your IT requirements to an offshore software development company, you find ample of time to focus on other core areas of your business, like marketing and branding of your business. You can devise new ways to boost your marketing and sales effort so that you have a good user base after your software enters the market. Being able to focus on other core areas of your business, you get a competitive advantage in the technological race.

#3 Hire Talented Professionals You Can’t have In-House

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Technology has become very diverse, and so as software development project requirements. And, it’s not only expensive to hire wide skill-set professionals, but finding them and roping them in is the toughest call in the first place. Offshoring comes as rescuer here by paving the way for you to hire nothing less than the best for your software development project.

Most of the offshore software development firms have a large pool of resources and technical expertise readily available to fit even the toughest software development and testing requirements. It’s just one time investment after analyzing your specific requirements and project size. Besides, there is no headache of recruiting, hiring, training, and housing employees for short-term projects.

#4 High Quality

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Since your project is being taken care by expert designers and developers who use latest tools and technologies, the quality of the project is always on a par with international standards. If you are not satisfied with something, you can always ask the offshore development company to redo so that it precisely meets end user requirements. By outsourcing your project, you can ensure that your software delivers accurate results and is in line with current market demands.

#5 Infrastructure and Environment

For developers, it’s very essential to have right IT infrastructure and environment to give their best. Most offshore software development companies are serious about their job and have sophisticated infrastructure and favorable business environment. As a result, productivity and efficiency rise by many folds.

#6 Highly Secured

Another advantage is the fact that most offshore software development companies offer high-tech security. They provide complete security to your confidential data and property.

#7 Timely Delivery

Software project requirements are often very complex and may require dozens of people working on different parts. Therefore, it becomes very difficult at times to figure out the accurate number of people you need to hire for timely completion of your software project. Besides, if some of them leaves in between, the team size shrinks, resulting into low productivity and pushing the deadline further. However, same is not the case with outsourcing. A good offshore software development firm provides you the actual number of people your project requires for timely completion.

To ensure timely delivery, you should choose a firm that has a good project management system, like FindNerd, as it helps track resources and keep a check on productivity on day-to-day basis. Besides, you would only pay for the number of people who actually worked on your development project.

Offshore software development has emerged as a very lucrative option for businesses to reduce overhead costs and get a quality product developed, that too on time. There is no need to have an in-house development team when an offshore firm can arrange everything your project needs at economical prices. If you are also looking forward to get a quality product developed through an offshore software development company, let us know in the comment box below or click here.
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Cloud computing has become a mainstay in IT departments. According to a research by cloud solutions provider RightScale, 95% of businesses use cloud technology in some way or the other. Without a doubt, cloud computing has emerged as the most cost-effective solution for businesses to access IT infrastructure and software on the Internet on pay-per-use basis.

However, many businesses find managing the general cloud usage and costs a very challenging task, especially when running across multiple cloud platforms. To better their plight, many companies, including some tech giants, have developed special tools for cloud management. That said, I am listing 7 cloud management tools you may like to choose from for your business in 2017.

Note: There is no denying that a cloud management tool, apart from these 7, could also prove to be the best fit for your business based on features and functionalities you need. So, don’t feel offended if I miss out on your favorite cloud management tool.

7 Tools to Manage Cloud Computing Usage and Cost

#1 Cloudability

Cloudability is an easy-to-use SaaS product, specifically designed for cost management by monitoring and optimizing cloud expenses. It helps provide better, faster and comprehensive access to data that consists information about your cloud spend and usage. Not only this, the software generates budget alerts and daily reports to keep you updated on finance. Cloudability supports multiple public, private, and hybrid cloud service providers.

With Cloudability, it’s easy to identify the resources you’re paying for but not using, and see spending breakdowns to know which services and accounts are costing you the most. Besides, it offers Reserved Instance (RI) planner for effective provisioning of Amazon reserved instances. Cloudability currently supports Amazon AWS, HP Cloud, New Relic, IBM/SoftLayer, Rackspace, Heroku, etc.

#2 Cloudyn

Cloudyn, a SaaS solution, offers various functionalities to provide unprecedented insights into usage, performance and cost of public and hybrid cloud deployments. Besides, the tool offers actionable recommendations and generates customized alerts to help managers improve performance and streamline cloud consumption and spend for increased growth. With Cloudyn, managers can access detailed information about cloud resources, governance, and reporting through a single dashboard and email alerts.

Cloudyn supports AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google, and OpenStack deployments. As far as accountability is concerned, Cloudyn ensures that through accurate chargeback and hierarchical cost allocation management. Cloudyn has more than 2,400 customers across all major verticals, including some Fortune 500 leaders too.

Microsoft Azure vs Amazon AWS: Comparison Between Two Cloud Computing Giants

#3 Rightscale

Rightscale is a cloud management tool that enables users to see and manage applications across all clouds and servers. Be it public, private or hybrid clouds, Rightscale offers a single console for designing, deploying, operating and governing infrastructure and applications. Administrators can easily define service catalogs across public and private clouds with the help of RightScale ServerTemplates. Besides, they can configure and manage their IaaS resources, keep a track on performance and control user access.

The tool provides a single multi-cloud management interface and application programming interface (API) for private and public IaaS environments, including Amazon Web Services, Google, HP, Rackspace, Microsoft Azure, IBM Softlayer, CloudStack, OpenStack, and VMware vSphere. For cloud analytics, Rightscale offers a dashboard to monitor, forecast and optimize costs across public and private clouds.

Rightscale also reduces downtime via assisted failover, automated backups, and disaster recovery environments. The tool is a good pick for avoiding risks and optimizing cost.

#4 VMware’s vRealize Business

VMware's vRealize Business, formerly known as VMware IT Business Management Suite, is a tool for cloud costing, consumption, comparison and planning. The tool enables managers to keep a check on the cost of virtual machines and get insight into how the shared resources running in the cloud are being utilized. As a result, it becomes possible for the user to manage budgets and resources. vRealize Business makes cloud infrastructure management simple by offering detailed information about capacity and efficiencies. It helps track costs of private cloud or public cloud from one console.

You can integrate vRealize Business with various public, private, and hybrid clouds. With vRealize Business, managers can also hold comparison between actual, planned and estimated spending to identify top spenders and consumers of all IT services. It allows to automatically collect data from vSphere and public clouds, and reference a database of virtual infrastructure expenses.

#5 CSC Agility Platform

CSC Agility Platform helps managers manage consumption, release, and operation of cloud-based services. The platform offers supports for various public, private, and hybrid cloud platforms, including Microsoft Azure, Microsoft System Center, OpenStack, Rackspace, Amazon EC2, CloudStack, CSC, Eucalyptus, HP Cloud, VMware vCenter, VMware vCloud Director, and many more. With CSC, a user can also automate workflow and firewall configuration over both private and public clouds. The release of Agility Platform 9.2 has brought enhanced API and Cloud SDK to simplify integration with third-party systems.

The motive behind CSC Agility Platform was to provide a cloud management tool that increases business agility, speed application delivery, and reduces costs. The platform also offers Application Release Automation to help users manage software releases and application delivery lifecycles.

#6 Microsoft Operations Management Suite

Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS), formerly known as Azure Operational Insights, is a SaaS platform to manage cloud IT assets from a single pane of glass. OMS offers support for various public, private, and hybrid cloud platforms, including Microsoft Azure, AWS, VMware, OpenStack, and many more. Operational insights, site recovery, backup, and automation are some of the amazing capabilities of Microsoft OMS.

OMS also offers real-time operational insights via custom dashboards, integrated search, and solution gallery. So, OMS makes it simple and quick to analyze even millions of records across all workloads and servers, regardless of their locations.

Runbooks and graphical workflow-authoring tools enable automation of manual and repeated tasks. OMS also rids the risk of security breach through Security and Compliance, and also ensures backup and site recovery. With OMS, you can extend existing management investments into the cloud via integration with System Center components, such as System Center Operations Manager.

#7 IBM Cloud Orchestrator

IBM Cloud Orchestrator is a cloud management tool that automates provisioning of cloud services using policy-based tools. The tool speeds up the service delivery time by 90% and reduces time to provision cloud services from weeks to minutes. It helps speed configuration, provisioning and deployment by providing access to ready-to-use patterns and content packs. Cloud Orchestrator also allows integration of management tools like metering, usage, accounting, monitoring and capacity management into your cloud services.

The cloud management tool reduces cost by letting you know the management tools not in use so that you can remove them. It gives rise to the implementation of common processes and fully automates error-prone manual workloads. IBM SmartCloud Cost Management and IBM SmartCloud Patch Management are two additional products of IBM to manage cloud services, usage and cost.

With the rise in adoption of cloud services, a cloud management tool has become the need of the hour to ensure reduced costs and effective management. There are many other popular and effective cloud management tools too, like Dell Cloud Manager v11, BMC Cloud Management, HP Hybrid Cloud Management, etc., that could turn out to be the best fit for your business as well. So, before you choose a cloud management tool, have a thorough assessment of your business requirements, and understand the functionality and offerings of the tool you want to pick for your business.

Have you ever used a cloud management tool before? Which is your favorite cloud management tool? Do you want to add something you think I have missed out in the blog? Please share your views in the comment box below.

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Django continues to be the pick of libraries for Python developers. However, there are some not-so-well-known libraries that happened to gain traction among Python developers in 2016. In this blog, I am unveiling 7 Python libraries, excluding the established ones like Django, Flask, etc, that Python developers may find worth considering in 2017.

7 Less-Known-Yet-Helpful Python Libraries for 2017

#1 Arrow

Mobile apps are everywhere, and are often meant for global population - be it for games, social media, health monitoring and whatnot. However, the problem with the standard data/time library for Python is that it doesn’t meet the requirements of modern apps that have their target audience living in different regions and countries. Arrow is one of the libraries to battle with this problem. It comes packed with features that simplify creation, formatting, manipulation and conversion of data, time and time stamps.

The library replaces the need for datetime type that supports Python 2 or 3. With Arrow, developers can convert one time zone to another at ease. Besides, Arrow’s date, time and calendar modules open gates to hassle-free internationalization of applications.

#2 TensorFlow

TensorFlow, launched by Google in November 2015, is an open-source software library for numerical computation. It’s been just over a year since TensorFlow was launched, but the library has already witnessed considerable popularity among Python developers. As a matter of fact, TensorFlow is one of the trendiest GitHub Python repositories.

The library uses data flow graphs capable of running over GPUs and CPUs in a desktop, server, or mobile device with a single API. TensorFlow was originally developed by researchers and engineers in Google's Machine Intelligence research organization for machine learning and deep neural networks research. Although TensorFlow has created ripples in the machine learning community, it has proved to be a good fit for production applications as well.

#3 Zappa

The release of AWS Lambda brought serverless architecture to the fore. Zappa is often said to be the next evolution of application deployment for Python web applications. Rich Jones, the principal author of Zappa and the CTO of Gun.io, said in an interview, “I believe that serverless architectures - that is to say, systems without any permanent infrastructure - are the future of network applications”.


With Zappa, deployment of all Python WSGI applications on AWS Lambda + API Gateway becomes a doddle. The library rids the need of spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on VPS services like Linode or PaaS services like Heroku. In even simpler words, we can say that Zaapa allows deployment of microservices on the cloud without any hassles of server management. Zappa is faster and scalable, too.

#4 Peewee

Peewee is a simple, expressive ORM for Python and supports SQLite, MySQL, and PostgreSQL. A database is often must for applications that use external data. However, it’s a very challenging task to get and set data from a database through ad hoc connection strings. Here comes Peewee to rescue. The library makes it possible for developers and database engineers to use a safe, programmatic approach to access database resources using a set of intuitive Python classes.

Developers who have previously created a database in SQLAlchemy would agree that it’s much easier to create a database in Peewee. Peewee is also a fit for the Flask web framework.

Click here to learn how to create a database in Peewee

#5 Sanic + uvloop

Sanic is a Flask-like, uvloop-based web framework that makes Python fast. Sanik, designed for Python 3.5, allows developers to build on async/await syntax for defining asynchronous functions. Before Sanic, Python had no way to go so fast. Another library, uvloop, serves as a blazingly fast drop-in replacement for asyncio’s default event loop.


Sanik enables developers to write async applications in Python in a way that is very similar to how they would write them in Node.js. However, going by the Sanic author’s benchmark, uvloop is well capable of handling over 33k requests/sec, which is way more than the capability of Node.js. Since Sanic is still new, more improvements and changes are highly likely to be made into it in near future. You can also contribute to its open source repository.

# 6 Bokeh

You may know that Python offers some libraries, like matplotlib and seaborn, for data visualization. However, Bokeh is a library that is specifically designed for interactive visualization that targets modern web browsers for presentation. Developers can use Bokeh for creating top-notch novel graphics in a way that is much similar to the style of D3.js. Besides, you can extend this capability with high-performance interactivity over very large or streaming datasets.

You may like to give Bokeh a try for creating interactive plots, dashboards, and data applications. Developers can also use Bokeh for transforming visualization written in other libraries, like Matplotlib, Seaborn and ggplot. Bokeh also helps in research by nicely integrating with Jupyter Notebooks.

#7 Blaze

Blaze targets database and array technologies used for analytics queries. NumPy and Pandas don’t help when it comes to running analytics over a dataset that is too big to fit in our computer’s memory. In such a case, developers often resort to PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Hadoop, Spark, out-of-disk storage systems (PyTables and BColz), etc.

However, it’s a very challenging task to understand how each system works and enters data into the proper form. Due to lack of learning about how to mix and migrate data between new technologies, it becomes very difficult to derive effective results from data analytics. Blaze ends this predicament by providing a uniform interface to a variety of database technologies and abstractions for migrating data. Blaze is a good option for expressing computations.


Although there are many other less-known-yet-effective Python libraries, like Gym + Universe, Boto3, Hug, Scrapy, Beautiful Soup and many more, I have picked only seven as the blog could go endless. Python developers can explore these libraries to see if they fit into their needs and choose accordingly.


Have you ever used any of the above seven libraries before? Do you want to add more to what’s already being discussed? Please share your views in the comment box below.
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The term Big Data has created a lot of hype already in the business world. Chief managers know that their marketing strategies are most likely to yield successful results when planned around big data analytics. For simple reasons, use of big data analytics helps improve business intelligence, boost lead generation efforts, provide personalized experiences to customers and turn them into loyal ones. However, it’s a challenging task to make sense of vast amounts of data that exists in multi-structured formats like images, videos, weblogs, sensor data, etc.

In order to store, process and analyze terabytes and even petabytes of such information, one needs to put into use big data frameworks. In this blog, I am offering an insight and analogy between two such very popular big data technologies - Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark.

Let’s First Understand What Hadoop and Spark are?

Hadoop: Hadoop, an Apache.org. Project, was the first big data framework to become popular in the open source community. Being both a software library and a big data framework, Hadoop paves the way for distributed storage and processing of large datasets across computer clusters using simple programming models. Hadoop is a framework composed of modules that allow automated handling of common hardware failure occurrences.


The four primary modules that comprise Hadoop’s core are:



Hadoop is a file system with a two-stage disk-based compute framework MapReduce and a resource manager YARN. Apart from Hadoop’s core modules, there are several others in existence as well, including Hive, Pig, Ambari, Avro, Oozie, Sqoop and Flume. These modules are also well capable of working with big data applications and processing large data sets.

The main motive behind designing Hadoop was to look through billions of pages and collect their information into a database. And, that gave birth to Hadoop’s HDFS and its distributed processing engine, MapReduce. Hadoop is a great help for companies that have no effective solution to deal with large and complex datasets in a reasonable amount of time.


Apache Spark: Spark, also an open-source framework for performing general data analytics on distributed computing cluster, was originally designed at the University of California, and later donated to the Apache Software Foundation. Spark’s real-time data processing capability provides it a substantial lead over Hadoop’s MapReduce.

Spark is a multi-stage RAM-capable compute framework with libraries for machine learning, interactive queries and graph analytics. It can run on a Hadoop cluster with YARN but also Mesos or in standalone mode. Apples and oranges, really. An interesting point to note here is that Spark is devoid of its own distributed filesystem. So, for distributed storage, it has to either use HDFS or other alternatives, such as MapR File System, Cassandra, OpenStack Swift, Amazon S3, Kudu, etc.

Now that we have caught a glimpse of Hadoop and Spark, it’s time to talk about different types of data processing they perform.

What are Different Types of Data Processing?

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There are three types of data processing: Batch Processing, Stream Processing and Hybrid Processing.

Batch Processing: Batch processing has been pivotal to big data world for years now. The simplest way we can define batch processing is operating over high volumes of data collected over a period of time. Since data is first collected, entered and then processed, results are produced at a later stage. Although batch data processing is an efficient way of processing large, static datasets, the time taken to return the result is long as it happens only after the computation is complete.

Nevertheless, batch processing is the best for holistic treatment of datasets. For example, when access to a complete data set is required, like calculating totals and averages, there is no data processing more suitable than batch processing.

Click here to learn more about batch processing

Stream processing: Stream processing has become the current trend in the big data world. The modern business era is about speed and real-time information, which is what steam processing is the most suitable for. Since batch processing does not allow businesses to react to changing business conditions in real time, stream processing has witnessed a rapid rise in demand in past few years.

Although stream processing systems can also handle vast amounts of data, they operate over one or micro batches at a time. According to Mike Gualtieri, an analyst at Forrester Research, “With traditional analytics you gather information, store it and do analytics on it later. We call that at-rest analytics.” However, streaming technologies allow analysis of a series of events that have just happened. “It could be a piece of farm equipment that has a lot of sensors on it emitting data on temperature and pressure. You want to analyze that in real-time to see if there is a risk of the engine blowing up.”

Click here to take a deep-dive into stream processing of big data

Hybrid Processing: Hybrid processing is nothing, but the capability of a processing system to perform both batch processing and stream processing.

Comparison Between Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark

Data Processing

Hadoop: Apache Hadoop provides batch processing. In fact, Hadoop was the first framework that created ripples in the open-source community. Google’s revelation about how they were working with vasts amounts of data helped Hadoop developers a great deal in creating new algorithms and component stack to improve access to large scale batch processing.

MapReduce is Hadoop's native batch processing engine. Several components or layers (like YARN, HDFS etc) in modern versions of Hadoop allow easy processing of batch data. Since MapReduce is about permanent storage, it stores data on disk, which means it can handle large datasets. MapReduce is scalable and has proved its efficacy to deal with tens of thousands of nodes. However, Hadoop’s data processing is slow as MapReduce operates in various sequential steps.

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Image source: zData Inc

Spark: Apache Spark is a good fit for both batch processing and stream processing, meaning it’s a hybrid processing framework. Spark speeds up batch processing via in-memory computation and processing optimization. It’s a nice alternative for streaming workloads, interactive queries, and machine-based learning. Spark can also work with Hadoop and its modules. The real-time data processing capability makes Spark a top choice for big data analytics.

Resilient Distributed Dataset (RDD) allows Spark to transparently store data on memory, and send to disk only what’s important or needed. As a result, a lot of time that is spent on the disc read and write is saved.

Ease of Use

Spark is easier to use than Hadoop as it comes with user-friendly APIs for Scala (its native language), Java, Python, and Spark SQL. Hadoop, on the other hand, is written in Java, difficult to program and requires abstractions. Since Spark provides a way to perform streaming, batch processing and machine learning in the same cluster, users find it easy to simplify their infrastructure for data processing.

An interactive REPL (Read–eval–print loop) allows Spark users to get instant feedback for the commands. Although there is no interactive mode available with Hadoop MapReduce, tools like Pig and Hive make it easier for adopters to work with it.

Graph Processing

Hadoop: Most processing algorithms, like PageRank, perform multiple iterations over the same data. MapReduce reads data from the disk and after a particular iteration, it sends results to the HDFS and then again reads the data from the HDFS for next iteration. Such a process increases latency and makes graph processing slow.

In order to evaluate the score of a particular node, message passing needs to contain scores of neighboring nodes. And, these computations require messages from it neighbors, but MapReduce doesn’t have any mechanism for that. Although there are fast and scalable tools, like Pregel and GraphLab, for efficient graph processing algorithms, they are not suitable for complex multi-stage algorithms.

Spark: Spark comes with a graph computation library called GraphX to make things simple. In-memory computation coupled with in-built graph support allows the algorithm to perform much better than traditional MapReduce programs. Netty and Akka make it possible for Spark to distribute messages throughout the executors.

Fault Tolerance

Hadoop: Hadoop achieves fault tolerance through replication. MapReduce uses TaskTracker and JobTracker for fault tolerance. However, TaskTracker and JobTracker have been replaced in second version of MapReduce by Node Manager and ResourceManager/ApplicationMaster, respectively.

Spark: Spark uses RDD and various data storage models for fault tolerance by minimizing network I/O. In the event of partition loss of an RDD, the RDD rebuilds that partition through the information it already has. So, Spark does not use the replication concept for fault tolerance.

Security

Hadoop MapReduce has better security features than Spark. Hadoop supports Kerberos authentication, which is a good security feature but difficult to manage. Hadoop MapReduce can also integrate with Hadoop security projects, like Knox Gateway and Sentry. Third party vendors also allow organizations to use Active Directory Kerberos and LDAP for authentication. Hadoop’s Distributed File System is compatible with access control lists (ACLs) and a traditional file permissions model.

Spark’s security is currently in its infancy, offering only authentication support through shared secret (password authentication). However, organizations can run Spark on HDFS to take advantage of HDFS ACLs and file-level permissions.

Costs

Both Hadoop and Spark are open-source projects, therefore come for free. However, Spark uses large amounts of RAM to run everything in memory, and RAM is more expensive than harddisks. Hadoop is disk-bound, so saves the costs of buying expensive RAM, but requires more systems to distribute the disk I/O over multiple systems.

As far as costs are concerned, organizations need to look at their requirements. If it’s about processing large amounts of big data, Hadoop will be cheaper since hard disk space comes at a much lower rate than memory space.

Compatibility

Both Hadoop and Spark are compatible with each other. Spark can integrate with all the data sources and file formats that are supported by Hadoop. So, it’s not wrong to say that Spark’s compatibility to data types and data sources is similar to that of Hadoop MapReduce.

Both Hadoop and Spark are scalable. One may think of Spark as a better choice than Hadoop. However, MapReduce turns out to be a good choice for businesses that need huge datasets brought under control by commodity systems. Both frameworks are good in their own sense. Hadoop has its own file system that Spark lacks. And, Spark provides a way for real-time analytics that Hadoop does not posses.

Have you ever got a chance to use any of the two frameworks for big data applications? Do you think Spark can replace Hadoop in the future? As always, your views are vital for all our readers, please share them in the comment box below.
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Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS are two big names in the cloud computing world. Given the several benefits offered by the cloud - on-demand scalability, reduced costs, effective operations - many businesses, regardless of their sizes, have already started moving towards it. If you are also planning to move your business to the cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS are certainly two big players to choose from. Below, I am offering a detailed comparison between the two heavyweights of cloud services, so that it becomes easier for you to choose your niche.

Microsoft Azure vs Amazon AWS: Cloud Comparison

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Before we begin understanding the distinction between Azure and AWS, let’s take a glimpse into their history.


AWS: Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, was launched in 2006, with the aim of providing an array of cloud computing services to help companies benefit from on-demand computing platform. AWS is currently located in 15 geographical regions, and plans are afoot for three more regions in India, China and United Kingdom by 2017.


With more than 70 services on offer, including compute, storage, networking, database, analytics, application services, deployment, management, mobile, developer tools and tools for the Internet of things, AWS holds a substantial lead over Azure.


Azure: Microsoft launched Azure in 2010, originally with the name Windows Azure, to provide businesses a cloud computing platform. It was renamed in 2014 as Microsoft Azure, which offers around 50 cloud services today, including compute, analytics, storage, networking and features targeted at the Internet of Things. Microsoft Azure enables building, deploying, and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers. As of now, Azure is located in 30 regions around the world and is gearing up to be available at 8 more geographical regions.

Let’s Compare the Features and Services of these Two Giants of Cloud Computing

#1 Compute


AWS: For compute, AWS offers Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which is an IaaS service and provides scalable computing on-demand. AWS also offers Elastic Beanstalk, a PaaS service, for app deployment. Other related services you can avail from AWS are EC2 Container service, AWS Lambda and Autoscaling.


Azure: Virtual machines are pivotal to Azure’s compute offering, which mainly involves IaaS. Azure also offers Cloud Services for PaaS to deploy highly-available, infinitely-scalable applications and APIs.


Azure’s Resource Manager helps manage and visualize resources in your app, whereas Web Apps enables customers to create and deploy scalable web apps that are supported by Windows and Linux platforms. With Azure, developers can build sites using PHP, ASP.NET, Node.js, or Python, or select from several open source applications from a gallery to deploy.

#2 Networking

Both Azure and AWS are excellent choices as far as their networking capabilities are concerned. Amazon’s Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) and Azure’s Virtual Network (VNET) let users to group VMs into isolated networks in the cloud. Besides, a user can define a network topology, create subnets, route tables, private IP address ranges, and network gateways.


With Azure, users can connect VNETs to on-premises data centers via site-to-site VPN networks or Azure ExpressRoute. AWS also allows to establish a VPN connection between your corporate datacenter and your VPC. Both Azure and AWS are equally good for their networking capabilities and allow to extend your on-premise data center into the public (or hybrid) cloud.

#3 Storage

AWS: Storage is an inextricable part of cloud services. Amazon offers Simple Storage Service (S3) for storage. AWS gets edge over Azure Storage service due to extensive documentation, including free webinars, tons of sample code and libraries, articles and tutorials. Besides, its discussion forums are very active and help users seek benefits from useful feedback provided by Amazon developers on a regular basis.


Other storage services offered by AWS include Elastic Block Storage (EBS), Elastic File System (EFS), Import/Export large volume data transfer service, Glacier archive backup and Storage Gateway, which integrates with on-premise environments.


Azure: Azure also offers Block Storage and Object Storage through blob storage, which includes page blobs and block blobs. Azure competes with Amazon’s EBS by offering page blobs that provide persistent block storage. On the other hand, Azure’s block blobs provide object storage, much similar to Amazon’s S3 service. Azure uses a flat architecture to store all the data in a single container with tags and metadata that allow identification, retrieval and manipulation of data.


Azure’s File Storage is an answer to Amazon’s EFS as it also provides a continuous availability storage option. With Azure, you can share File Storage among multiple VMs so that there is no hassle in running critical cloud applications. Also, it allows to share data between local and cloud servers.

Storage Options

Azure Storage

(Blobs, Tables, Queues Files)

Amazon Simple Storage (S3)

Block Storage

Azure Blob Storage

Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS)

Hybrid Cloud Storage

StorSimple

AWS Storage Gateway

Backup Options

Azure Backup

Amazon Glacier

Storage Services

Azure Import Export

Azure File Storage

Azure Site Recovery

Amazon Import/Export

AWS Storage Gateway


#4 Databases


Both AWS and Azure support relational and NoSQL databases.


AWS: A wide range of managed databases, including SQL Server, MySQL, ProgreSQL, Oracle and MariaDB, are available from Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS) and Redshift. AWS also offers Database Migration Service, which allows customers to move on-premise relational data to the cloud. For NoSQl databases, AWS offers DynamoDB, which offers high scale, low cost document and key-value storage.


Azure: Azure’s SQL Database supports relational database based on SQL Server. A very few changes are sometimes required to migrate from on-premise SQL Server to SQL Database. Recent addition of Elastic database pools allows customers to save costs by running multiple databases against the same set of resources.


For NoSQL, Azure offers DocumentDB, which is a high performance, highly available document database.

#5 Big Data and Analytics

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AWS: AWS allows processing of vast amounts of data they store. AWS Elastic MapReduce (EMR), a managed Hadoop, Spark and Presto solution, is indispensable to Amazon’s analytics offerings. EMR allows integration with various AWS services, including S3 and DynamoDB. AWS Data Pipeline makes it possible to move, copy, transform and enrich data.


Data Pipeline is well capable of reading and writing data from most AWS storage services. For data processing activities, it supports EMR, Hive and Pig. AWS offers Kinesis Streams for real-time analytics and QuickSight for making sense of data through dashboards and data visualisations.


Azure: Azure offers Cortana Intelligence and HDInsight, which comes with Hadoop, Spark, Storm or HBase. HDInsight also works well with blob storage or Data Lake Store. For data processing pipelines, Azure offers a data orchestration service Data Factory.


Azure Data Lake Analytics is a serverless hyper-scale data storage and analytical platform. It performs analytical jobs without the need of provisioning or managing computer clusters, and is also designed to access data in Blob Storage, SQL Database and SQL Data Warehouse. Azure offers Streamline Analytics for real-time data processing and Power BI for dashboards and visualisations.

#6 Internet of Things (IoT)

For IoT, there is a need of platform that allows communication between devices over the internet. Also, it’s essential to handle large pileup of data without security breaches.


AWS: AWS IoT allows building complete IoT solutions. So, devices can communicate with applications that run in the cloud over HTTP, MQTT and WebSockets. A declarative rules engine allows AWS IoT to transform and send IoT traffic to S3 bucket or Lambda function. Besides, AWS IoT can route data to Kinesis Streams in order to run real-time analytics via applications written using the Kinesis Client Library.


Azure: Azure offers IoT Hub that supports AMQP, MQTT, and HTTP. Though, Event Hubs scores higher when it comes to basic large scale device telemetry ingestion. It can consume a huge volumes of messages over AMQP and HTTP.


For real-time analysis of device data, you can use Event Hubs with Azure Stream Analytics. What separates Azure from AWS and others is data streaming to Apache Storm, a popular open source streaming analytics platform. Microsoft has also announced Windows 10 IoT core, a concise version of Windows 10, to run specifically on IoT devices.

#7 Mobile Services

Since People are now spending more time on smartphones to access the internet than PCs, the cloud could play an important role in empowering developers to build and operate modern mobile apps.


AWS: AWS offers Mobile Hub to allow mobile development for Android and iOS. AWS also offers a wide range of services required to create mobile applications, including authentication (Cognito), content delivery (CloudFront and S3), push notifications (SNS), data storage and synchronisation (S3), analytics (Mobile Analytics) and access to backend compute such as Lambda. AWS Mobile SDK allows developers to build apps from scratch and is compatible with iOS, Android, Fire OS, .NET and Xamarin.


Azure: Azure offers Mobile Apps to support backend solution. Mobile Apps is a client SDK that opens doors for developers to build rich mobile solutions. Users can use Functions for serverless mobile backends and Notification Hubs for push notifications. You can also set up and sync to a SQL Database without writing any server side code, thanks to Azure Easy Tables. DevOps for Mobile application development is also available through Azure HockeyApp.

#8 Open Source

Azure was not available for open source shops until recently as Microsoft didn't have the history of having a good relationship with the open source community. However, Microsoft has finally made a big strategy shift to allow users to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Apache Hadoop clusters. Amazon, on the other hand, has never had problems with the open source community, and has been Linux-friendly from the beginning, a factor that has helped AWS get a significant lead over Azure.

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Image source: Skyhigh Networks

AWS has become popular for the flexibility it offers to its customers, allowing them to pick and choose and build the cloud services they need. With AWS, customers get a plethora of product choices, but they sometimes find it hard to navigate through AWS complex features.


Microsoft Azure, on the other hand, has adopted an approach that is slightly different from AWS. It offers customers a stack of products that are simple to use. Their products are easier to navigate when compared to that of AWS, for an obvious reason - Azure does not offer as many products as AWS does.


Both AWS and Azure offer almost similar services when it comes to compute, storage, networking and databases. Pricing is not a big factor to taken into account when choosing between the two as both offer competitive pricing. So, you better decide your vendor based on your company requirements. It’s true that most cloud services are available from Amazon, but Microsoft Azure seems to be a better choice for a hybrid approach. Amazon is a veteran player in the game and offers a nice suite of cloud computing services. But Microsoft Azure can’t be completely ruled out as it continues to come up with new developments to not only match but surpass the pace of all the big players in the market, including Google.

What you think about the future of cloud computing? Which among the two cloud giants is your favorite? Please share your views in the comment box below.

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Data collection and analytics have always been crucial to chief business managers’ capability of making right business decisions. But unlike past, databases now have data with high volume, velocity, and veracity. Going by a big data infographic contributed by Ben Walker of Voucher Cloud in 2015, around 2.5 quintillion Bytes of data is created every day. The amount is good enough to fill 10 million Blu-ray discs.


Given the gigantic amount of data existing in databases nowadays, data industry coined a new term for it - Big Data. Big Data is basically large volumes of information present in databases in structured, semi-structured and unstructured form.


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A lot of hype has already been created around big data as its analysis opens new avenues for business managers to boost sales by targeting or retargeting right customers. Big data analytics helps understand what customers want to buy and what they don’t like about your products or services. Therefore, you can figure out a quick fix and improve the brand value of your business. Besides, you can provide personalized experiences and add more numbers to the list of loyal customers.


However, an important point to note here is that making sense of big data is a very challenging task. That said, one needs to put into use an analytics tool to make sense of big data and turn it into significant business value. Let’s discuss 7 tools business managers can use to work with big data for successful analytics.

7 Tools for Big Data Analytics

#1 Hadoop

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Apache Hadoop is an open-source software framework that facilitates distributed processing of very large data sets across hundreds of inexpensive servers that operate in parallel. It’s been quite a time business have been using Hadoop to sort and analyze big data. Hadoop uses simple programming models to ensure distributed processing of large data sets and making them available on local machines.


Click here to learn more about Hadoop

#2 Storm

Storm, another product from Apache, is a real-time big data-processing system. Storm is also open source and can be utilized by both small and big businesses. It is fault tolerant and goes well with any programming language. Storm is capable of performing data processing even if any of the connected nodes in the cluster die or messages are lost. Other tasks that Storm can perform is distributed RPC and online machine learning. Storm is a good choice for big data analytics as it integrates with existing technologies, which makes processing of big data much easier.


Click here to learn more about Storm

#3 Hadoop MapReduce

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Hadoop MapReduce is a programming model and software framework for writing data processing apps. Originally developed by Google, MapReduce enables quick processing of vast amounts of data in parallel on large clusters of compute nodes.


The MapReduce framework has two types of key functions. First, the map function which separates out data to be processed, and second, the reduce function which performs data analysis. As MapReduce involves two stage processing, it’s believed that a large number of varied data analysis questions can also be answered with it.


Click here to learn more about MapReduce

#4 Cassandra

Apache Cassandra is highly scalable NoSQL database. It is capable of monitoring large sets of data spread across large clusters of commodity servers and the cloud. Cassandra was initially developed at Facebook out of a need for a database to power their Inbox Search. The big data tool is now widely used by many famous enterprises with large, active datasets, including Netflix, eBay, Twitter and Reddit.


Click here to learn more about Cassandra

#5 OpenRefine

OpenRefine (formerly GoogleRefine) is an open source powerful tool that is meant to work with messy data. The tool allows quick cleaning of huge sets of messy data. Then, it transforms the data into useable format for further analyses. Even non technical users can integrate OpenRefine into their data workflow at ease. OpenRefine also enables to create instantaneous links between datasets.


Click here to learn more about OpenRefine

#6 Rapidminer

Rapidminer is an open source tool that is capable of handling unstructured data, like text files, web traffic logs, and even images. The tool is basically a data science platform that relies on visual programming for operation. With Rapidminer comes functions that include manipulation, analysis, modeling, creation of models, and fast integration in business processes. Rapidminer has become popular among data scientists as it offers a full suite of tools to help make sense of data and convert it to valuable business insights.


Click here to learn more about Rapidminer

#7 MongoDB

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Image courtesy: devGeeK

MongoDB is an open source and widely used database for high performance, high availability, and easy scalability. It is classified as a NoSQL database. MongoDB’s distributed key value store, MapReduce calculation capability and document oriented NoSQL features make it a popular database for big data processing. MongoDB is well suited for programming languages like JavaScript, Ruby and Python. MongoDB is easy to install, configure, maintain and use.


Big data analytics has become the need of the hour for business managers to make smarter business moves and yield higher profits. However, without a big data analytics tool, it’s very difficult to uncover hidden patterns, correlations and other insights to get a competitive advantage and take your business to new heights. With this, I am wrapping up this blog, hoping it helps you choose a big data analytics tool that suits your business the best.

Do you have a firsthand experience of using any big data analytics tool? Or, do you want to add more to what’s already being discussed above? As always, your views are vital for all our readers, please add them in the comment box below.

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NFC (near field communication) chips have become the new buzzword for marketers across the world. With NFC chips, marketers feel that they can easily deliver product/marketing content to their target audience, and thereby give a big boost to their respective businesses.

What are NFC chips?

NFC chips pave the way for an easy wireless connection between a mobile device and an NFC tag. Although NFC chips are not something very new - their emergence dates back to 1980s - they have become very popular in the past few years as marketers see them as a brilliant way to deliver content from one device to another.


The word “near” in near field communication signifies proximity since NFC chips-enabled smartphones can communicate with NFC tags only when they are 4 cms or less  close to each other. Such a proximity ensures high security and privacy.

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“NFC technology essentially converts smartphones into loyalty cards, single-tap location ‘check in’ devices, concert tickets, coupon carriers, contactless payment devices, transit tickets, and secure keys to access cars, hotel rooms, buildings, and computers—the possibilities are endless”, says Ruediger Stroh, executive vice president and general manager, Identification Business, NXP Semiconductors.


Imagine the fun of shopping without having to face the hassles of carrying and handling your credit card. Moreover, you are relaxed all the way through since there is no danger of credit card theft. NFC technology revolutionizes the way we pay for items we buy - simply take your phone close to an NFC enabled kiosk and pay at one go for all your purchases. Sounds exciting, isn’t it? Google Wallet has already made it possible for users to store their credit cards, gift cards and coupons in their smartphones and make a purchase. Android Beam is another example of how people share photos, videos and other data via NFC.


While the NFC technology is rising to popularity among both marketers and buyers, QR (Quick Response) codes have begun to decline after a long-time popularity.

What are QR codes?

QR codes are like bar codes and a user has to scan it with the help of their smartphones. For analyzing a  QR code, a user has to download a scanning app in their smartphone to analyze the information written in the square shaped bar codes.


You must have seen QR codes on poster advertisements, newspaper ads, business cards, utility bills etc. QR codes are very popular in Japan. The US has also witnessed a skyrocketing rise in the use of QR codes in the past few years. However, many tech giants, including, Google says that NFC chips will replace QR codes as advertisement vehicles in near future.


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Source: www.123rf.com

There are several benefits of NFC chips over QR codes:


NFC Chips

QR Codes

NFC chips are flexible. No need to create a new NFC tag to store different types of information and cause changes into it.

Changes can’t be made to an existing QR code.

NFC offers faster, easier and more secure transactions. A user only needs to wave their smartphone near the NFC tag area to let the information transfer instantly.

QR codes are not as fast as NFC is since a user first needs to open a scanner app in their smartphone, hover over the code and wait till the time the smartphone analyzes it and reacts to the code.

The feeling of use is natural. Touch is a natural action.

There is no natural feel since a user needs to open a scanning app to perform the action of reading a QR code.

NFC technology allows a two-way communication, thus could be used for a wide range of applications, such as mobile payments, secure access control and pairing electronic devices.

QR codes have no concept of two way communication.

NFC tags can be hidden behind printed media or within products.

QR codes are visible and not much could be done to maintain their performance via customization.

NFC tags offer high security since they have a fixed manufacturer ID number. Moreover, encryption is supported by special tags to hide the programmed data.

QR codes are not at all secured.


The only disadvantage of NFC technology compared to QR codes is that NFC chips are expensive and cost £0.20 ($0.30) each for an order of 1,000 tags. However, many tech companies are investing in research and development of NFC technology to bring down the price of NFC chips by a big extent in future. That it may happen, NFC technology opens gates for digital marketers to use it as the preferred embedded digital advertisement tool as more and more people buy NFC-enabled smartphones.  According to a report, there will be 1.2 billion NFC handsets world over by 2018.


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Image source: www.mobilecommercedaily.com


The time is not too far when an NFC tag within a poster of the latest movie in a cinema hall will let you get all the details of the movie with the help of your NFC-enabled smartphone, including online trailers, pictures and special interviews.


With NFC chips, marketers can make it possible for their target audience to access online content with utmost ease.  Marketers can use proximity marketing to their advantage by sending messages to any smartphone within the range of a particular product. They can develop analytics based on the reaction of customers to those messages and target the ones who appeared interested.


If you have ever availed NFC services and have some additional inputs to describe how they can help marketers to grow their business, please share them in the comment box below.




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Nobody had perhaps thought when mobiles phones were born that they would one day become an essential part of marketing. The popularity of mobile phones and apps has gone sky high, especially in the past few years. Mobile apps have become an important cog in the wheel of marketing strategies of many businesses world over. However, it’s difficult to devise a marketing plan without getting a deep insight into mobile app statistics. So, here I am bringing for you 7 stats that highlight the importance of mobile app marketing.


  1. Number of mobile subscriptions surpasses the world’s population

According to Ericsson’s most recent Mobility Report, the total number of mobile subscriptions in 2015 outnumbered the number of people living on our planet. The implication is crystal clear that smartphones have become the first choice of people to access the Internet.


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Image source: statista.com

 

2. 58% Rise in smartphone application usage over the last year

 

A new report by Yahoo-owned mobile analytics firm Flurry shows that overall smartphone app usage grew by 58% in 2015.


  • A major chunk, i.e. 48%, of the 58% growth in app usage came from existing users in 2015, up from 20% the previous year.

  • Personalized apps, like Android-lock screens, witnessed a skyrocketing rise of 332% in session usage.

  • News and magazine apps, on the other hand, recorded a staggering growth of 135% in 2015.


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Image source: http://flurrymobile.tumblr.com/

 

3. Android apps rocked in 2015


Another interesting fact about mobile apps, according to a report by App Annie, is the total time spent on Android mobile applications soared by 63% in 2015.  


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Image source: App Annie


The report shows that the downloading gap between Android apps and iOS apps is widening at an unprecedented pace. However, an important point to note here is that Android apps are still way behind iOS apps when it comes to monetization. The key is to develop apps that are available to both Android users and iOS users since the duo reign the app market combined.


Emerging market like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico are making a significant contribution in the growth of Android app market.

 

4. Google Play will become the leader in app market by 2020


The App Annie report also shows that Google Play store will have 166.4bn app downloads by 2020. Such an abundance of app downloads will take Google Play store to the number one position in the app market.

 

5. Apple iOS will make the highest app revenue in 2020

Although Google Play Store is estimated to continue record the highest number of app downloads in future, Apple iOS is expected to remain at the top in terms of app revenue. Apple iOS app revenue was 75% higher than that of Google Play store in 2015 despite the latter having twice the number of app downloads than the former’s in the same year.  


Apple iOS app revenue will touch the $45bn dollar mark in 2020, almost 200% up from 2015.

 

6. One billion people will use mobile commerce to shop in 2018

More and more people are moving to online shopping every day. However, there is a clear shift in the trend of online shopping - shoppers are now increasingly using their smartphones to shop online instead of desktops.


It is expected that m-commerce buyers will exceed to 1 billion in 2018.



Image source: Statista.com.

 

7. Mobile ad spending to reach $200bn by 2019


Investment in mobile marketing will keep growing over the years. The market for mobile advertising is growing at such a rapid pace that it will soon surpass all other digital platforms. Since people are now spending more time on their smartphones than PCs, many businesses are feeling the need of investing a hefty sum of money in mobile ad spending. So much so that, $200bn will be spent on mobile ad spending by the end of 2019, says a report by eMarketer.



Smartphones present a great marketing opportunity to businesses. I have offered you an insight into now and future of mobile app marketing through some significant stats. If you want to add some more stats and give readers additional information on mobile app marketing, please share them in the comment box below.

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Last updated on: June 13, 2017

The world has witnessed a rapid shift from analog to digital in the past few years. Since digital content is catching more and more eyeballs on daily basis, digital marketing has become the mainstream marketing strategy for businesses worldwide to boost their sales. So it won’t be wrong to say that digital marketing has become the new frontier of digital marketing. Through this blog, I am attempting to shed light on 9 biggest digital marketing trends that’s been making the waves in the digital world.

#1 Social Media Ads

More than a billion people exist on social media, making social media sites a great platform to post ads and increase sells. With cutting-edge tools, digital marketers can identify their target customers and sell them products via social media ads. Targeted marketing and retargeting will certainly be a differentiating factor between digital marketing and traditional marketing in 2016.

According to Interpublic Group’s Magna Global, digital ad spend grew 13.5% in 2016 and left behind TV as the biggest advertising platform in 2017. Social media advertising account for a big percentage of digital advertising. According to eMarketer, social media ads spending soared to $23.68bn in 2016 and will reach $35.98bn by the end of 2017.

#2 Native Advertising

Since Ad blockers inhibit the strength of modern-day marketers to display ads on many websites, it’s essential to follow a pragmatic approach of native advertising.

The best characteristic of native ads is they do not appear promotional, which is why ads blocking technology can’t stop them from being displayed. Ads blocking technology has emerged as the bane of digital marketers, which is why it’s paramount to create native ads and reach out masses with your products.

#3 Ads via Facebook Messenger

We all user Facebook messenger to communicate with friends and loved ones. Taking a significant step further, Facebook opened Messenger to third parties as well, thereby allowing users to interact with businesses and buy products they feel they need.. Messenger has millions of active users, meaning it could have a great impact on your digital marketing efforts.

Digital marketers must see a great opportunity in Messenger app to tap into the abundance of users and bolster their coffer.

#4 Podcasts

A podcast, which is a digital audio file that you can download and listen on your preferred device, has emerged as a great tool for digital marketers to spread their message across the world. Podcasts are trending, which provides a brilliant opportunity to digital marketers to advertise their products and boost their business sales.

Podcasts also paves the way to build customer loyalty by allowing you to offer tips to customers to fix resolve their problems. For example, if your company sells financial products, then you can offer your customers the guidance on important financial matters via podcasts. The most popular podcast programs, like TED Radio Hour and “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, were chosen by Squarespace and Casper to capture ad space during breaks, which significantly help them expand their ads reach and increase their bottom line.

#4 Marketing Automation

Marketing automation system has become the need of the hour for businesses in 2016. Marketing automation involves content management, social media automation, email scheduling, segmenting contacts and many more. Automated marketing not only reduces the size of your marketing team to half, but makes is possible to reach your goals faster, too.

By adopting marketing automation, digital marketers can bring ease to their jobs and make their goals achievable.

#5 Video Marketing

Video marketing possesses a great potential to create an impact on your prospective customers to buy your products. People are more likely to jump on videos than exploring a static ad. Since videos are full of colors, visuals, sounds and music, they keep the audience engaged and attract their attention to your products.

In 2016, digital marketers across the globe focussed on short videos (not more than 30 seconds) to take their businesses to fruition.

#6 PPC Personalization

Gone are the days when paid search was restricted only to targeting the right keywords to identify people who can buy your products. There have been many negative impacts on sales due to irrelevant clicks and site visits. But not anymore, the year 2016 calls for finding the right audience on the web. In 2015, Google introduced a top-notch feature, called Customer Match, to allow a company to upload a list of emails that customers have provided to the company and when these customers are signed into Google Search, YouTube, or Gmail, the company can show them its product ads.

The Internet knows a lot about people, the need is just to understand their behavior and make a list of those who are likely to show interest in what you have on offer.

#7 Buy Buttons

Social media sites, like Pinterest and Twitter, are also using buy buttons to make it easier for users to directly buy from there itself. Buy buttons on social media sites will avoid the need of visiting an e-commerce site to buy products, which would be a welcome change for more than one billion social media users worldwide. Marketers need to acclimatize to this changing trend and strive hard to make out the best of buy buttons on social media sites.

#8 Mobile Marketing

Mobile users have already surpassed the numbers of desktop users, which has a great implication for digital marketer.. A sudden rise in mobile users to access the internet has caused the stir in SEO arena, requiring marketers to optimize their sites for mobile devices too. So, digital marketers must deploy mobile marketing strategies to increase the visibility of their products to maximum users.

Digital marketing has become the need of the hour, no matter what type your business is. If you are a digital marketers, you must take cognizance of the above eight trends to add new dimensions to your business. If you have interesting digital marketing strategies in mind, please share with all our readers in the comment box below.

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Growth Hacking

The term growth hacking has created a lot of buzz already, with Facebook, Hotmail, Twitter, Instagram etc having grown beyond expectations and estimations of many renowned growth experts world over. You must be thinking what’s this new jargon is all about, right? Well, growth hacking is actually the linchpin for startups to grow a new business and it is completely different from traditional means of marketing, like ads on television, radio, newspaper or setting up big distribution partnerships. Until now, Search Engine Optimization(SEO) was the only means to grow business by attracting visitors to a particular website through improvement in its ranking in search engine results. However, SEO is not enough to get the much-needed growth to your business now, you must employ growth hacking techniques along with SEO to achieve the objective.


The distinction between conventional marketing and growth hacking is very important to understand to get your business what it needs to survive in the very beginning - GROWTH. Growth hacking means using marketing tricks that are effective to increase user base for new companies. Growth hacker has only one business to do, increase the numbers of users and make every decision from the perspective of growth only, nothing else at all. Growth hacking strategies are meant to make your presence viral on the internet so that people can take a good note of what you are saying and offering to them.


The aforementioned statement does not implicate that traditional marketing tricks do not target growth, but the approach is highly intensive when a new company adopts growth hacking. Growth hacking does not mean getting 10 million users for your business in no time. Instead, it means getting a first few users who will get you more users with everyday passing by. For example, cross-posting on Craigslist did wonders for AirBnb and increased its user base to an extent that left its counterparts scratching their heads.




Product development team and marketing team are known to be two different departments. But it is very important to understand that more often than not a product development team develops a product in a non-empirical way. They develop a product they think people would like, without actually knowing it if it has the features that people would actually embrace. And once the product is developed, the marketing team is supposed to sell it even if they have to push customers. Well, this is what a marketers are believed to do, aren't they? But all changes with growth hacking as it allows a product to market itself. Growth hacking in simple words can be described as understanding your customers and figuring out ways to help them find and start using your products.


Twitter is another great example to support the virtues of growth hacking. Many users were coming to Twitter everyday, but the problem was not many of them were sticking around. So, Twitter instead of emailing newsletters or investing money in other traditional means of marketing to bring them back, focused on making the product better. Twitter learnt very quickly that chances increased by many folds for a user to stick if he/she followed at least 5-10 Twitter accounts on the very first day. It’s simple human psychology, we tend to spend more time on something that interests us. Twitter began to help users get followers who they knew, which further increased their interest to use Twitter. It was no stopping for Twitter, it kept on improving features that helped users achieve things they wanted, thus successfully managed to retain users.



 

In this blog, I am covering the five most effective growth hacking strategies to take your new business to great heights.


  • Identify growth goals that need not to be extravagant but achievable

First, ensure to have 10,000 visitors on your product page. Put ads on social media and use influence marketing to generate leads. You can increase traffic on your website through blogs, so pay special importance to it and use remarketing to ensure conversions of at least 5 bounced site visitors every two weeks.


Ask yourself questions, like adding what features to your product will drive in more customers to begin using your product, what kind of content you need to produce to sound appealing and convincing to your target users etc. Klout is a great tool to determine as to how your are doing on social media platforms. A Klout score, based on your retweets, likes, shares etc, paints a clear picture about your influence on the internet. Posting content on websites with best Klout scores enables you to be accessible to more people, thereby increasing your popularity and odds to get more and more users. Not only this, Klout also suggests you the kind of content you need to develop to ensure your audience likes and shares it.

  • Referral Program


For a growth hacker, a referral program could result into a significant hike in numbers of users signing up on the respective website. Dropbox is a very good example to explain this growth hacking strategy. Dropbox came up with a referral program wherein it offered 500mb worth of storage space over cloud for getting someone onboard. The program made a huge contribution to grow the numbers of users on Dropbox from 100,000 to 4 million users in mere 15 months. PayPal is another great example it offered $10 to a user who invited someone and another $10 for the person who subscribed through that invitation. The program helped PayPal acquire 7-10% growth in numbers of users on daily basis. However, new startups could find such a move expensive. But nevertheless, they can offer something they can afford in exchange of more numbers of users.

  • Platform Hacking

You could make use of other successful platforms to make your business thrive by enrolling more and more users everyday. Think of ideas that could help you work with other businesses, products etc. Cross posting could help a great deal to skyrocket numbers of users on your website. AirBnb is a perfect example as it recorded a burgeoning rise in its user base by allowing users to post their listings on Craigslist. Instagram also banked upon the popularity of Twitter and Facebook by allowing users to cross-post.


When your content is posted on other famous platforms, it gets exposed to more people. As a result, you reach out to masses who may like to give a try to your product.

  • Use Retargeting Ads and Remarketing Tools

It often happens that a user comes on your website, searches a product and spends sometime checking its feature and other things, but then changes his/her mind and leaves without making a purchase, which could be for many reasons. However, it’s important that you follow the prospective customer with the product he/she was looking for on your website. This technique is called retargeting and really encourages such customers to make a purchase on your website. Moreover, right ads tools lift the rate of site visits and brand search. 

Ad exchange is also a lucrative way to get more users to grow your business. It could be both paid and unpaid, but ensures that top publishers, advertisers, networks and agencies spread a word about your product as they have a wide reach to masses.

  • Create Online Communities

Building your own online community could go a long way in increasing numbers of users on your website. An online community enables your business to get access to new prospects and build a strong bond with existing ones. With the help of online communities, people can share their experience with your product from time to time. You can also join forums and other existing popular communities to give rise to engagement with even more people. This strategy is good to adopt to make people know that you exist and are offering a product to improve quality of their lives.


With this, I am wrapping up this blog, hoping it provides a good insight into the next frontier of marketing and will help your business grow exponentially.

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Overview

Sensei Project Solutions approached Evon Technologies, a web and mobile app development company, in May 2013 with an idea of a mobility task management app for Android, iPhone and Windows mobile platforms. The idea behind the mobile app was to allow project team members to update tasks and get access to timesheets on the go from Microsoft Project Server’s Project Web App (PWA).

The client wanted the app to support both Microsoft Project Server and Microsoft Project Online.

The client shared with Evon details of an app that was already developed for Office called the “Sensei Project Dashboard”. The application ran within Microsoft Project Professional 2013 and worked on the SenseiDev2013 environment that was being used for the Time Reporting app. This app used HTML5 and C# code and had implications for the new mobile app. The code had significant importance to draw an outline of the business logic that the client needed in the new app for Android Phones, iPhones and Windows 8  Phones.

The app’s idea was very exciting for Evon as it was going to be the first app to support Project Online to both view and update tasks on the three most famous mobile platforms, as we know them - iOS, Android and Windows.


Challenges

The Evon app development team had to cope with some challenges too while developing the app. First was to develop features for iPhones and Android phones capable of working with  Microsoft Project Online and Microsoft Project Server. Another big challenge was to support Project Online due to authorization issue and scarce documentation.


Research & Analysis

The Evon app development team did a lot of research to make the new mobile app for Android Phones and iPhones compatible with Microsoft Project Online and Microsoft Project Server. And as there is a famous saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”, the valiant efforts of the team finally paid off with an architecture that enabled hassle-free interaction of Android phones and iPhones with Project Online and Project Server.

The Evon app development team did not just leave any stone unturned to deliver the apps as per the client’s requirements but even exceeded the client’s expectation and won accolades from them.

Solution

The ‘Tasks’ section in Sensei Task Master allows a user to first select a task and then edit it to send progress to their respective project managers. The Time Sheet feature, on the other hand, helps users see all the work planned for the selected period, track actual work and update remaining work. It also allows to insert tasks from other schedules or time periods. Users also get an option to save or send the timesheet, along with recall and delete.

The app works with both Microsoft Project Online and Microsoft Project Server 2013 and 2010.


Industry Reception and Acknowledgements

Evon has developed a plethora of immaculate apps for various clients across the world since its establishment in 2006 and has earned a stature every app development company strives for. Microsoft’s acquisition of Sensei Task Master from the client is another corroboration of the coveted expertise Evon has achieved in app development over the years.

Evon believes in walking an extra mile with its clients to ensure they always thrive in their respective businesses. Making regular enhancements and updates for the app on client’s demands and ever-evolving requirements only adds a significant degree of veracity to the aforementioned statement.

About Evon

Evon has so far developed 70+ iOS apps, 40+ Android apps, 10+ BlackBerry apps, 5+ Windows mobile apps, 5+ cross-platform desktop apps, and 300+ Websites & Web Portals.
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Before I begin explaining the SEO checklist which goes into making an effective SEO plan for the successful marketing for any business, let me give you an introduction of SEO. It stands for Search Engine Optimization, which means optimizing a website as per the guidelines defined by major search engines like Google, Bing & Yahoo, so that a website can perform better in those search engines and come up higher on the search engine listing page for certain sets of keywords searched on them by a user.

Smart SEO Checklist

The SEO checklist I’m defining here is the sets of tasks that every SEO developer need to keep in mind right from the beginning of a website development. This checklist should have a certain hierarchy maintained so that search engines treat a website as a flawless (or as flawless as it can be) entity and provide it a better place among thousands of other competitor websites. This SEO checklist is extremely beneficial for eCommerce development projects, as they need special attention so that they can become flawless project and always come ahead of their competitors.

Now let’s focus on the checklist which I’m going to split in two parts: On-page SEO and Off-page SEO.

On-page SEO Checklist

The On-page SEO is still divided into three parts with respect to different stages of web development mentioned below:

  • Pre Website Launch

  • Google Webmaster and Analytic Code Implementation

  • 301 Redirect for Canonical URL’s

  • Sitemap.xml Implementation

 

Business Analysis and Research

 

The first thing that is required to understand client business is the thorough analysis and research of client business without which other SEO tasks can’t be implemented correctly. The main important task SEO developer need to understand are what is client business, Geolocation for his business and end users to client business.

Competitor Business Analysis

Before targeting specific keywords for the client, there is a strong need to first analyze the top 3 competitors of client which help to determine what are the main keywords competitors are targeting, what is the design architecture they are focusing on and finally what are the top websites from where they are getting anchor backlinks.

Keyword Analysis and Research

It is one of the core SEO task which is the basic building block to get a website on top position on SERP. Lack in proper keyword research may lead to poor reputation of a website for some specific keywords chosen during keyword research. So keywords should be chosen after a deep research on client business.

SEO Friendly URL Generation

SEO friendly URL generation helps to make a website URL easy to understand by visitors and create more chance of getting clicked, as visitors also read the URL content while browsing on search engine for the searched query.

Robots.txt File Creation and Implementation

Robots.txt file is an important file that tell web robots which web pages to crawl(read) or not. And during the time of development, a robots.txt file need to be implemented which tells the robot, not to crawl the draft web pages of the website. If it’s not done then there are chances that draft site web pages may get crawled and indexed on Google’s database. If it happened then it implies a bad impact on website reputation, so this task need to be done on time.

Content Creation with Correct Keyword Density

Content creation practice should be done with the use of correct keyword density as per defined by the major search engines like Google. A web-page content which is specifically written for users and has keyword density of around 1% is considered to be SEO friendly content.

Meta and Image Alt tags Implementation

Meta tags play a vital role in keyword rank positions for the desired business keywords, so meta tags which include meta title & description should contain primary keywords that are describing the web-page’s content. Apart from this image alt tags are important too, as Google reads image tags also.

Google Webmaster and Analytic Code Implementation

Just before website live, a website need to have Google Webmaster and Analytic Code Implemented, so that website errors and important stats can be monitored easily.

301 Redirection for Canonical URL’s

Before live, it is also important to put a 301 redirect on different versions of URL’s to one main URL so that Google do not treat different versions of URL as different URL and penalize due to content duplicacy.

Sitemap.xml Implementation

Sitemap.xml implementation is also important as it makes the crawling and indexing of web-pages more easier on search engines. So, it need to be done at final stage of website live.

Off-page SEO Checklist

The successful off-page SEO work plan involves Link Building that need to be considered after website live is segregated into four parts which include directory submission, content marketing, video optimization and social media marketing. Let’s have a look on all these tasks separately:

 

Directory Submissions

 

  • Search Engine Submissions

  • Manual Directory Submissions

  • Niche & Local Business Submissions

  • Forums Posting

  • Social Bookmarking Submissions

  • Blog Submissions

  • Classified Ads Posting

Content Marketing

Video Optimization

  • New released optimization of Youtube Videos with proper Title, Description, Keywords.

  • Publishing Videos on top video sharing websites like dailymotion, metacafe, vimeo, myspace, etc.)

Social Media Marketing

  • Daily updating, sharing, commenting on major Social Media accounts (Facebook, Google Plus, linkedin, Pinterest, etc.)

  • Joining & creating communities related to your business and updating things there.

  • Creating account on social media community websites related to your business and will promote your business there.

All these off-page SEO plan require a strategic approach for successful business promotion. Hopefully, I will share the detailed information about these off-page SEO plans in future with thorough analysis on each and every aspect of these tasks.

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Retail merchandising strategy is paramount for small and medium sized retailers to boost sales of their products. It’s imperative to explore every corner of business strategy landscape to survive tough competition. For example, determining the place where a particular type of product needs to be placed so that maximum prospective customers can see it with ease, which can be the difference between a sale and non-sale.

Retail merchandising involves:

  • Launching right product

  • Setting right price

  • Positioning Products at the right places

  • Placing products in right amount

  • Knowing types of customers buying a particular product

  • Drawing traffic to particular products

  • Improving customer relationship

  • Buying trend

The problem is that with all this, there comes a huge volume of disparate data, which is basically useless if one can’t run proper analytics on it to figure out sales patterns, optimum positioning and buying behaviours of customers and perhaps more importantly so, the prospects.

Use of analytic tools could do wonders for small and medium sized retailers. Many of them often struggle to come up with an effective merchandising strategy because of being deprived of information they can extract from their own databases, forget about the vast amount of useful data floating around on the interweb.

Social media, industry forecasts, existing customers records and web browsing patterns can help retailers predict products a specific segment of customers is more likely to buy. For example, Kohl’s had announced personalized offers for customers in five of its stores. Smartphones were all required for customers to opt for the offer while they visited one of those stores. A customer who had looked for a pair of shoes online but never went ahead with the purchase would receive a coupon based on the same shoes. This had increased the chances of the sale of the shoes for Kohl’s by many folds, as customers have a very high likelihood to avail an offer when they get it at the time of purchase while they are shopping.

With increasing use of the internet on cellphones worldwide, experts predict that 25% of the world will be soon on social network. This creates big opportunities, but simultaneously, it also creates problems owing to unstructured, semi-structured and muddled nature of data. Here pops up a question how to use big data to help small and medium retailers devise marketing strategies that improve customer experience, boost sales, understand buying trend inside a retail outlet etc.

But first, let’s get some concepts right about Big Data. Let’s start with the three Vs of big data - Volume, Velocity and Variety.

Volume - Nowadays, a lot of data is available in the form of videos, musics and large images on social media channels. The volume is so large that normal computer systems are incapable of processing it.

Velocity - Data movement has become very fast. Gone are the days when data of 24 hours ago was considered recent. Now, people don’t rely on newspapers to stay updated, they rather get the latest news through social media, which even tells you what happened half an hour ago. Updates are now made almost every second as data is being accumulated across the world on various platforms. This fast movement of data represents big data.

Variety - Data is available in many formats, like database, excel, csv or access.  It’s sometimes even available in the the form of video, SMS, pdf etc. It’s a big challenge with big data to arrange data available through different formats in one format.

IBM is among many companies that offer big data solutions to retailers to help them devise personalized marketing campaigns. IBM’s big data solution helps retailers understand customer shopping behavior, improve cross-selling & upselling, analyze product and customer data to avoid stock-outs and overstocks etc.

However, these full-fledged big data solutions are very expensive for small and medium sized retailers. The best remedy to reduce high costs of big data solutions is to go for customized solutions. Evon Technologies offers such custom-made big data solutions to retailers at very nominal prices, thereby providing them an affordable way to make their business more agile and robust. Having a tool to understand big data is next frontier for small and medium sized retailers in order to ensure their survival amid cut-throat competition.  


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A lot of songs have been sung about the virtues of having precise information at the precise time. And these songs just don’t get old. If anything, they are only getting BIG.

 

People are looking for information (read products and services) all across the web. You, as a salesperson might have an offering but the problem is - what are the chances that the person interested in it will find you and reach across to you? Frankly, the chances are quite less. So what do you do to increase your chances to make a sale? Well, obviously the best thing you can do is to find and reach across to that person before he decides to give his money to someone else. But how to do that? Traditional lead generation methods are only so effective as to give you an excuse of an alternate to shooting in the dark. The generated lead data is limited, the windows are short, the targets are big, the work is harder and the results are uncertain. The conversion rates can well be compared to the conversion rate of a toiling army of bees for one drop of honey.

 

Lead-Generation-Methods-1

A decade ago, most salespeople would agree that the traditional methods only took them so far in terms of conversion rates. The data was too limited or redundant and took too long to accumulate but the silver lining, if we can call it that, was that because it was too little, it was easy to process. You got 30 leads, you go and do your salesperson thing with 12 based on some quick prospecting/scoring and depending on how good or lucky you are, you score a couple.

 

Then five years ago to until recently, salespeople were agreeing that the contemporary methods with the power of web and social media, brought improved capabilities in data acquisition and reach but still something was keeping them from milking that cow. You’d think with all that talk about shrinking degrees of connection, businesses increasing their online presence and all, you’d be better off than mere 3% growth.

 

Conversion-Rates.jpg

 

Yes, something was definitely missing from the picture. And that something was to do with this - “Having access to a lot of data means nothing if you don’t have a way to utilise it...to its full potential.”

 Analytics-Requirements.jpg

Hmm…”utilizing”, people thought. And then they thought of newer ways to do that. New buzzwords started cropping up - Mining, BI, Analytics. But while that was happening, the data kept spawning silently, persistently and exponentially. And by the time the Sales teams settled on their Analytics tools, they found to their utter despair that they weren’t enough anymore to handle the Volume, Velocity and Variety of data that has been piling up all that while. That almost took the whole bang out from the so called data-explosion. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Especially, in our case, for the Modern Salesperson.

 

The modern salesperson, despite having the same problems (perhaps even Bigger), are agreeing, either reluctantly or expectantly to one thing - that a major paradigm shift in the way information is produced and consumed has been set in motion for some time now, that there is an enthusing buzz in the air and that that buzz seems to hold a Big promise!

 

Big Data Promise and The Age of Proactiveness

 

There’s lots and lots of data floating around the web holding immense potential information for you as a sales person, if only it can be churned to your benefit somehow. But given the speed at which this data is getting generated and becoming obsolete, even the first step can become overwhelmingly discouraging. That first step is - to capture this huge amount of data in one place. But then, the tougher part comes next -  to make it sensible and actionable. For a salesperson, this sensible and actionable information is what he calls a Lead.

 

So how does Big Data help or proposes to help? Well to start with, Big Data Solutions solve this problem of getting you actionable leads by helping you with at least four things making your chances to conversion far better than those of that salesman a decade ago. These are:

 

Avoid Paradox.jpg

  • Identifying most valuable potential customers and creating windows of opportunities
  • Telling you the precise thing to show or say to them when the window opens
  • Have the right thing to offer at the right time to your prospect
  • Raising right flags at the right moment to generate cross-selling and/or up-selling opportunities 

 

 

Big Data Impact on Sales

 

Big-Data-Sales.png 

Companies collect a lot of data through a wide array of channels like mobile, website tracking/analytics tools, contact forms, social media, lists, groups & forums, CRM systems and news feeds. While big companies prefer to use their custom developed or customized Acquisition and Analytics solutions by Big Data solution providers like IBM (BigInsights), Cloudera and HortonWorks; most companies (SMBs mainly) prefer to source their data from a new breed of service providers falling under DaaS (Data as a Service) category who provide On-Demand industry-wise, rich, hard-to-find-data of personnel who can be potential clients. This data is then imported into organizations CRM systems from where the analytics and further lead nurturing process is taken up. Or some prefer to go for the simplest of the solutions - "Outsource" the whole lead generation process to companies like Technology Sales Leads (www.tslmarketing.com), let them deal with the grind and hope to get valuable leads.

 

HadoopAnyway, let’s take a moment to see how the actual data acquisition works in terms of Big Data in general. Well, it’s usually done using the combination of traditional, contemporary and modern methods using techniques like manual and/or automated web content mining, data scraping, searching, social media profiling and crowdsourcing. This data is usually in an unstructured form and is constantly fed and processed into what we call in Big-Data terminology as data-sets using technologies like Hadoop. 

 

 

However (can’t stress this enough), just acquiring a lot of data isn’t good enough, for the simple reason that due to its muddled and voluminous nature, it is of little value in itself. To make some sense out of it requires a lot of sifting through, filtering, consolidating, cleansing and validating. And because this effort requires time, using traditional (slower) approaches, it’s more prone to become counterproductive, especially in case of Sales because from Sales perspective, the long exercise might lead to generating more cold leads than any useful ones, as data keeps coming in and changing at a rapid rate and has the tendency to become obsolete fast.

 

So it becomes imperative to find a way to do it in a more efficient and productive way. One way to do it by having a tool or a system to do this crunching and churning for you - and giving you a streamlined and consolidated picture of what the above systems are feeding you with. But given the big volume of such acquired data, managing it and running complex analytics queries on it becomes a challenge with traditional RDBM systems. And that’s where the Big Data guys come in. Companies like Oracle, Cloudera, Hortonworks, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and many others all have identified the potential of a solution to this Big Data problem and have come up with their own versions of Big Data Analytics solutions.

 

In our graphic, this whole thing is happening at stage 2.

 

Once you have the targeted leads, the usual Sales Process takes over, the only difference is that since the lead generation, prospecting and scoring has been mostly taken care of by the system, you as a Sales person hit the ground running armed with exact information of who to contact to, what to offer him and when.

Start Well to Finish Well 

 

One of the big advantage that these solutions offer is the range of Analytics one can perform over a large amount of data in a quick and visual (graphs, charts, tables) way. If we take our case of Big Data application vis a vis Sales Process, the direct implication is the shortening of the traditional long-tailed lead nurturing and lead scoring processes by doing the dirty mining work and handing over targeted insights based on your specific criteria (like industry vertical, company size, company revenue, location etc). This ultimately allows a Salesperson to filter out the weak leads and focus on nurturing only the valuable leads (graphic: Stage 7), the ones which have the greatest chance of conversion to Actual Sales.

 

The beauty of the system is that at every step, new transactional data (financial, logistical, communications etc) is getting generated and getting fed-back into the system which in turn helps in the process of generating repeat, cross-selling and/or up-selling opportunities. Talk of eating your cake and having it too!

 


 

Evon Technologies is a software consultancy based in India and has performed Proof of Concepts for data mining companies with Data-Integration and Hadoop Analytics requirements.

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Here, in this blog, I would like to tell you why marketing of a product should start when its development starts. I am sure, you may think what is the need to market any product at its pre-mature stage. You may also think it is the stupid idea ever because the idea can be leaked or copied, but, let me tell you friends that it is the best idea to start marketing any product when its development starts.

 

Well, nowadays, entrepreneurs are more focused on marketing products from their initial stage. The agenda of marketing a product at its initial stage is only to provide awareness. Give a brief description of your product and explain its benefits.

Why do now than later?

  • He did not like the flow! I can't recode that again.
We built our product/website/app with our own seed idea, however different perspectives and views always help to improve the product idea. By involving your social and professional network along with potential customers early in the product development lifecycle, you not only improve the chances of success but also reduce the time required for taking the product from inception to release in the market. Hence, the key is to develop the product iteratively with an inbuilt mechanism of Customer Feedback early in the development lifecycle.
 
  • I have launched the product on 10 January and I have 1000 users on 16 January.
The above statement impresses the investors the most. Marketing takes as long as building a product. Today just results are not important but, quick results are. Your early marketing will give you a seed user base which is most important.
 
Hence, the two important keywords are, “Early Feedback” and “Seed User Base or Clients”.
 
Also, we would like to emphasize on early development of marketing plan. Marketing of a product is not something that strikes your mind when you are taking a shower, rather a proper planning and research is required to develop any idea. The marketing plan has to be clear and target oriented. It should strike the audience directly, then only it will work.
 
The marketing ideas can be generated with the help of family and friends' reviews. Involving and sharing the ideas of both old and new generations bring experiences and modernity respectively that help you evolve a new idea. To start a marketing plan, one should follow some simple rules.
 

Sell yourself and your product from the start:

  • Social media, YouTube and various other promotional sites will help you to promote the product. Promotion is not only free on these sites, but also fast & easy. In the previous era, to promote any product entrepreneurs not only indulge their money in its development, but also in the promotion. But now, because of these social media sites, promotion is advanced and free. Create your videos explaining the idea and tell about yourself why this idea can be best implemented by you.
  • Create noise, be loud; this can be done by sharing your idea, as simple as you share the logo of your product on the Social Media with your friends and family. The likes and comments will not only encourage you but also help you to know whether this idea is fruitful or not. Reach is important!
  • Conduct the SWOT analysis in order to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the existing market. This will keep you connected with the changing market situations and enable you to take decision what to be done next.
  • Use more target oriented search for companies which specialize in giving a launch platform to startups and bring your idea into reality.

 

Choose the marketing options like, Social Media & Print Media and, step by step walk along through the things you have done for developing a product. Treat your product like a baby, and let the world know what all efforts you made to bring your product into maturity.

Just to give you some initial steps you should do:

  • Create Twitter, Google, LinkedIn and Facebook page for your product and promote it on these websites.
  • This page should be like your daily journal. Your frustrations, your happiness everything should be recorded.
  • Ask your friends and family to follow that page.
  • Create a simple blog, with the product user stories.
  • Share, Share, Share. Let ideas come in.

 

At the end, I would like to say, our company, Evon Technologies has a dedicated team focused on digital marketing of the products we build for our customers as well as our in-house products.

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