Alexa, what do you see?

Computer Vision: The next step in artificial intelligence taking over your life

Computers have gotten a little more human-like than anyone is really comfortable with. Robots can open doors, perform surgery, and create literally invincible tic-tac-toe strategies. It’s a crazy world. But one thing computers can’t do? They can’t see you. They actually can’t see anything or understand the context and content of visual things. Artificial intelligence is trying to change that, and it could help to bring in the future of eCommerce.

Turns out, seeing is actually really hard

Can computers see? Most have cameras, but it turns out the answer is a little more complicated than that. Computer vision is the process of giving computers AI algorithms to detect and classify objects more accurately and efficiently. One example of this already in practice is facial recognition. Don’t panic, but computers are probably already identifying your face all the time.

More practical applications of computer vision are the next step for artificial intelligence, and this will allow computers to see AND understand images and videos.  Computer vision has the potential to streamline processes within every department, from manually entering product codes or barcodes in a warehouse to reviewing eCommerce photos.

Computers with vision are probably smarter and faster than you

Computer vision is starting to play a big part in eCommerce. Think of a world where your customer could search for a product with an image of a similar product on your site. Your computer could scour the entire internet for your products and bring back pictures to use on your site.

Even better, computer vision has the potential to take over retail with facial recognition, cashierless stores, inventory visibility, and visual search. This tech has recently made a noticeable impact in these four vital areas. Walmart has already been using computer vision technology in more than 1,000 stores to monitor checkouts and deter potential theft. So maybe don’t steal from Walmart.

Basically, replace all your employees with computers

Computers with vision have the ability to solve tasks that can be time-consuming, from manually entering UPCs or barcodes in a warehouse to reviewing eCommerce environmental photos for specific products. Its expansive use of big data collection allows the software to grow smarter and faster in decision making.

Today, only 3% of retailers have computer vision technology in place, however, 40% plan to start or finish implementing the tech within the next two years. Computer vision is a possibility for any company looking to streamline processes that take a manual user time to visually review and conduct an outcome.

PeakActivity is a leader in creating future-proof eCommerce. If you think your computers need a little bit of vision to drive your company forward, we can help you out with that. Visit our website for more information.

Quality Assurance: How It Works and Why It’s Important

The National Institute of Standards and Technology reports that software bugs cost the US economy an estimated $59.5 billion annually.  No one wants defects in their software, but inevitably they always seem to come up, resulting in customer disappointment, negative reputation impact, and revenue risks. This makes quality assurance one of the most important pieces of any software development process.

Quality assurance (usually referred to as QA) is more than a single step of the process; it takes place at every level of the software development life cycle. Testing and quality control help ensure that the development team delivers a high-quality product. Rigorous and systematic testing identifies problems early on in the development process, isolating project risks and maximizing ROI for you and your company.

What Is Quality?

Any software product is created to help its users improve their life experience, satisfy needs, or solve problems, so quality is the ability of a product to meet those objectives. Stakeholders and product owners see quality in an application when it meets their expectations, is delivered on time and within budget, and is maintainable. A software team defines quality as the degree to which the product meets the business requirements.

What Is the Role of the Quality Assurance Team?

The cost of errors in software grows exponentially as they sneak into later phases of the life cycle. To be the most beneficial and identify problems early on throughout product development, QA activities should be part of the development process from the very beginning, even during the planning and analysis stages. This will help reduce risks of creating incomplete or ambiguous requirements, or acceptance criteria that may be unclear on unable to be tested.

Quality assurance focuses not only on finding bugs, but also on preventing software issues, conducting root cause analysis, and educating the team about quality. QA improves the whole software development process, making it more efficient. By evaluating measures and metrics, testing constantly provides very important information about the state of the product. Critical business decisions are made on the basis of that information.

In Agile, which is one of the most widely used and efficient software development methodologies, testing and quality control go hand in hand with code creation. Constant testing allows software teams to find and fix defects in the same phase of the life cycle in which they were introduced, which reduces the risk of producing new defects and shortens product delivery time.

Why Are There Bugs?

Software is created by humans, and human error is inevitable. Defects happen when code is rushed or too complex, but even without these factors, bugs can still appear. While it’s easy to blame the developers, 20% of bugs are created at the requirements level and another 25% at the design level. No one can reduce risks to zero, but quality assurance eliminates critical defects, improves the system, and certifies that the product meets business and industry standards. Along with exit criteria, budget, and timeline, QA testing results factor greatly in any business decisions about a product’s readiness to go live.

Even when a product is released to the public, the job of the quality assurance team is not over. To stay competitive in the market, software should be a constantly changing product that stays highly adaptive to users’ feedback and quickly evolves to keep up with industry standards. Any adjustments or interference with code could potentially bring new issues, and it is always better if they are found by testers than by users.

Our Thoughts…

Building software is a human project, so there will be mistakes along the way, but the quality assurance team gives any project a safety net. The goal of developers is to make sure the product works. The quality assurance team is there to make sure the product works as well as it possibly can.

A high-quality product takes blood, sweat, and tears from every member of the team. A measured approach and a detailed test strategy will ensure a clear understanding of the final result by the customer. QA helps achieve these keys to any product’s success.

PeakActivity has a huge knowledge base in software building, including quality assurance. The right strategy is key to a successful product, and we can help at every step of the way.

Adobe Experience Manager: 5 Ways Your Company Could Benefit  

Your company’s online presence is arguably one of its most important sources of marketing revenue. Having a great online presence requires great content, and great content requires a great content management system.

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) is one of the fastest growing content management system options for enterprises, used by major corporations like Motel 6 and Chipotle.

One reason AEM has become so popular is that it simplifies the management and delivery of website content while also reducing the complexity of delivering individual online experiences to individual customers.

What is AEM?

Adobe Experience Manager is a content management system that provides one place to create, manage, and deliver websites, mobile sites, or any other kind of application you might need (from kiosks to eCommerce apps). AEM gives you the functionality to personalize the online experience you want and extend it to the tools you need.

What Are the Benefits of AEM?

1) Multiple Sites Managed in One Place

Having everything in one place is one of the greatest benefits of AEM. In the same platform, you can build and deliver web applications for desktop, phone, and tablet, along with any other screens you can think of. Marketing campaigns can be easily launched onto all platforms at the same time. Even if your site has to be in multiple languages and regions, all can be easily managed from the same place.

2) User-Friendly Content Management

Along with having everything available in one place, most sites can be simply created and maintained through easy-to-use templates. Even with limited AEM experience, you can build your own pages and content from the user-friendly dashboard.

3) Adobe Analytics Easily Integrated

Adobe Experience Manager can easily be integrated with Adobe Analytics, one of the best tools to track your website. Reporting visits and measuring page views isn’t enough anymore. Adobe Analytics can measure customer pathing, traffic sources, content effectiveness, and even video engagement. All of this information gives you real data about who is coming to your site and helps you simplify your marketing goals.

4) Specific User Experiences for Specific Users

Along with the data you’ve gathered from analytics, AEM also provides you with multi-site management capabilities. By using Targeting Mode in AEM, you can create a library of user experiences for each page on each platform, a personalization solution that makes it easy to identify and deliver your best content for each user.

See our A/B Testing Article for more information.

5) Adobe Community

The Adobe support community is one of the best for monitoring your site 24/7 and making sure it’s properly supported. If you have your site available in different countries, the support community can even tell you how it’s doing and why. Depending on the size of your company and your support needs, Adobe can even provide you with a dedicated team to make sure that your site is as well maintained as you’d like.

Our Thoughts

Adobe Experience Manager is the clear choice for web content management for many of today’s top companies. With thousands of content management solutions, Adobe Experience Manager has simplified the process by bringing the most important options together in one place. Unlike other CMS options, it can simplify your life by integrating all the important functions of digital marketing and content management onto one single platform.

WordPress vs. Headless Content Management

WordPress vs. Headless Content Management: Choosing Simplicity or Functionality

Reader Takeaways:

  • A content management system (CMS) is a system that stores and displays your company’s content onto a website, mobile app, or another platform.
  • WordPress is great if you’re looking for a simple marketing website you can build without a development team.
  • Headless CMS might be for you if you’re a larger corporation with a team to build custom applications for multiple platforms.

Managing content correctly can make or break your company’s website functionality. With so many new types of content management systems (CMS), it can be hard to decide. In this article, we’ll break down two popular types of content management systems so you can make the right decision.

What Is a Content Management System?

All of the content you’ve created for your website has to be stored somewhere so you can add, remove, and edit when needed. The system can contain a front end, where the content is displayed on a website (or app, game, kiosk, etc.), and a back end, where the data is stored and edited.

WordPress

WordPress is the simplest, most popular way to create your own website. WordPress is a content management system that is free to use, encompassing both the front end and the back end of your website. That is to say, you add the words and images, pick a theme, and choose some features, and boom… you have a website.

WordPress sites are great all-in-one solutions you can build yourself with preloaded themes and plugins. So WordPress is nice if you have a small website, but it was meant for blogging, so it works best on a site with only information or marketing content.

WordPress has its downsides when it comes to scalability and performance. As soon as you try to add more functionality, like maybe an eCommerce site or a forum for your customers to chat with each other, you’re going to have to create a lot of custom code that could slow down the site.

WordPress might be for you if:

  • You’re looking for an enterprise-level website you can build without a development team.  
  • You need a simple marketing website.
  • You don’t require a lot of functionality or availability on digital devices and platforms.

Headless CMS

While WordPress is your all-in-one solution, a headless CMS has only one focus: the back end. In short, a headless CMS stores your content and leaves the front end display up to you. While that might sound counterproductive, the headless approach can put your content into any technology you can think of, from iOS apps to kiosks to smartwatches and even inside virtual reality headsets.

Using a headless CMS is a powerful option for companies with mobile and web developers. With the right vision, a headless CMS can use any front end tool they want to present content in meaningful and interactive ways.

While a headless CMS can be free to use, just like WordPress, it requires a development team to plan, create, and maintain. And since you’re not working from a template, the user experience can also sometimes suffer. Many growing companies looking for more functionality are choosing headless CMS.

Headless CMS might be for you if:

  • You’re a larger corporation, with a team to build custom applications.
  • You need to publish content on multiple platforms, all at once.
  • A traditional website isn’t doing it for you, and you need more functionality.

What We Recommend

WordPress makes creating a great website quick and easy, and it’s a terrific option for most companies. But as your company is growing, consider making the move to a headless CMS part of your long-term vision; you will be more flexible, prepared for new devices, and have no worries to scale for high traffic. Understanding your options in content management can help you deliver the experience you want, and the one your customers expect.

PeakActivity can help bring your company to the next level by considering all your options in content management. By working with those in the know and using the right tools, you can instantly access new tools to help your website thrive.

ADA Compliance and Your eCommerce Site

Using the internet with disabilities is no easy feat, and the law agrees. Just this year, hundreds of eCommerce companies have been hit with lawsuits claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because people with impairments were unable to access or effectively use sites across the internet.

In fact, more than 10,000 ADA compliance website lawsuits affected companies large and small over a wide range of industries in 2018. With so many different people using your website with a variety of browsers and devices, being accessible and compliant isn’t just the nice thing to do for your users; it’s the right, and the legal thing to do.

What is ADA compliance?

When you think of ADA compliance, you probably think of making sure your building is wheelchair accessible, or other structural changes like lifts and cut curbs. But in 2010, ADA Standards for Accessible Design was published, requiring that websites be accessible to everyone, including people who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, illiterate, or have a learning disability. With the additions to the ADA, new requirements were put in place for how to cater to all customers who visit your site, including requiring sites to be accessible by screen readers.

Many people with visual impairments use a screen reader to use the internet. Screen readers interact with a website by conveying to the user the contents of your site through text-to-speech and sound icons. The keyboard is used to navigate the site rather than a mouse, which requires visual cues. If your eCommerce site can’t be read by these devices, you’re losing out on potential customers, and you’re in violation of the ADA.

Read more about screen readers here.

Why does my eCommerce website need to be ADA compliant?

When a person with a disability arrives at your eCommerce site, they should be able to navigate easily enough to browse the site, contact you, or maybe even buy something. eCommerce sites require tons of interaction, with buttons to click, things to read, and information to enter, even more than an informative website would.

Beyond just avoiding lawsuits, if a person can’t navigate your site easily, they’ll probably just move on to your competitors. 19% of the population has a disability, so making your site ADA compliant may help your reputation, as well as helping you access thousands of new customers.

How can you ensure your website is ADA compliant?

When a visually impaired person tries to access a site that is not ADA compliant, they will probably run into trouble as soon as their screen reader tries to read the pictures on the site. If your images don’t have any captions or code behind them to explain what’s in the picture, called alt-text, your site is not ADA compliant.

The first step in becoming ADA compliant is to figure out all the aspects of the law and how they apply to your site. While lack of alt-text is one of the most common problems cited in lawsuits, making sure your site is accessible requires fixing all the issues people with disabilities may come across. For example, certain disabilities require the site to have full keyboard accessibility, so your site can be read by people who cannot use a mouse. Other violations of the ADA involve color contrast, so that colorblind people can see all parts of the site. The ADA even includes provisions banning flashing lights on your site, so as not to trigger someone with epilepsy.

Knowledge is the logical first step in creating an ADA-compliant site. ADA compliance training can ensure that all members of your team are knowledgeable on all the requirements involved with website ADA compliance, so things don’t go unnoticed. By identifying what needs to be done on your site and working with knowledgeable people, you can easily find the right tools to develop new code that is compliant.

Don’t let a lawsuit be the catalyst to make your site ADA compliant. By working with those in the know and using the right tools, you can instantly access new customers who may have otherwise looked to your competitors. Being accessible and compliant isn’t just a common courtesy for your users; it’s required by law, but more than that, it’s just the right thing to do.

A/B Testing: Taking the guesswork out of eCommerce

Reader Takeaways:

  • An A/B test is the process of sending users to different versions of your eCommerce website to test the performance of each version.
  • By continually running A/B tests on different parts of the site, you can continue to learn more about your customers and how best to cater to their needs, with the goal of finding new ways to convert browsers into customers
  • The process of A/B testing requires creating goals and testing the highest priority areas of the site first.  Changing just one variable at a time ensures that you know what had an impact on your customer’s responses.
  • While the benefits of A/B testing are endless. The best part is the ability to create an eCommerce site that has been proven to be successful.

A/B testing is the easiest and most effective way to convert casual eCommerce visitors

into loyal customers. Running an A/B test requires sending your users to multiple separate versions of the site to determine which they prefer. In an A/B test, you can actually talk to users and watch them interact with a product, uncovering and solving problems that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. With this valuable data, you can quickly see how small things can make a huge difference to your customers. Every site can be improved, and A/B testing can reveal weaknesses and successes in your marketing strategy that you can utilize to make data-driven improvements, taking the guesswork out of your eCommerce site.

A/B Testing Basics

A/B testing is the process of splitting your eCommerce site traffic between multiple versions of the site to see which experience has a better result based on a certain goal metric. In other words, it will show you which of the sites produced more leads, engaging customers, or purchasers depending on the needs of the site. By continually running A/B tests on different parts of the site, you can continue to learn more about your customers and how best to cater to their needs, with the goal of finding new ways to convert browsers into customers.

The solutions that A/B testing can provide are endless. Every part of every site can be tested to ensure that your eCommerce marketing strategy is working. For instance, you might begin A/B tests where you notice your conversion rate falling off. Rather than replacing the page entirely or relying on a gut decision on how to fix the problem, A/B testing allows you to effectively troubleshoot. Will incorporating different verbs or adjectives into your wording or simply changing a font improve your results? An A/B test can give you an exact outline of the problem with a data-driven solution. Keeping up with the constantly changing needs of your customers requires constant A/B testing.

Process of A/B Testing

Our team has established a repeatable method that outlines where to begin and how to proceed at each stage of the A/B testing process. Since it’s easy to get carried away when running A/B tests, it is helpful to keep your scope in mind. Beginning with the highest-priority part of the site, establish the goals you have for your conversion rates. Use research, including data from previous A/B tests if they apply, to form a hypothesis which you can prove right or wrong with your test. Stick to one variable and find out why you’re not meeting your goal on that page.

Once you design and create your test, an A/B test runs until you have enough data to make a solid decision. Once you have enough data, you can quickly determine which of the two solutions is better to meet the goal you set out. Then, repeat the process with a different variable. Changing just one variable at a time ensures that you know what had an impact on your customer’s responses.

Benefits of A/B Testing

A/B tests can be run at any time to create customer-centric designs for your eCommerce site, increasing your conversion rates. The benefits of A/B testing are endless, but the best part is the ability to create an eCommerce site that has been proven to be successful. By creating a culture of data-driven decisions on your site, the results can create higher customer lifetime values.

By being able to test strategies that may be considered risky, such as aggressive marketing tactics, A/B testing can reduce the risk of higher bounce rates. As your business grows and evolves, so do your customers, which is why assuming that your site is great isn’t always the best strategy. A/B testing is an ever-evolving process that can ultimately make a huge difference in your marketing return on investment.

A/B testing is a way to change your eCommerce site for the better using data-driven analytics. By asking your customers what they want out of your site, you’ll ensure that your site is as effective as it can possibly be. Running A/B tests is a way to identify problems or things you might want to change, without assuming the effects of the solution for your customers. eCommerce can be a tricky business, so invest in A/B testing to allow the data to drive your eCommerce strategy.

Social Commerce: Boosting eCommerce Revenue by Leveraging the Power of Social Media

With the gap between social media marketing and eCommerce rapidly narrowing, combining marketing and technology has become more important than ever to creating and maintaining visual brand awareness. Social Commerce allows targeted users and brand loyalists the opportunity to engage and purchase products as well as services within their existing social ecosystems. This creates an increase in brand loyalty while attracting new customers through targeted social media efforts. While social media used to be disconnected from direct sales, it is now a fully integrated sales attribution channel. eCommerce sites need to up their game in order to keep up with consumers on social platforms, integrating full omnichannel experiences to drive greater brand affinity and increases in sales.

Reaching New Customers

One great advantage of social commerce is it can reach a global audience, so the influence has no boundaries. Integrating a strategy of social commerce creates more than an opportunity for repeat sales, it drives customers’ trust in a brand or product. Finding new customers is simple when implementing the right strategy. Targeting potential customers who will be interested in a brand supported by real customer engagement builds great trust from new audiences. In the first few months of a targeted social media strategy, an apparel company saw an increase of more than 270% increase in Traffic Referrals. Targeting new customers on social media is one of the easiest ways to boost a marketing strategy.

Creating Brand Awareness

Social Commerce is one of the most rapidly growing commercial markets and can be a great way to showcase more than just products and features. Creating a brand culture and brand lifestyle makes a company more personable to current and potential customers. Social networks open the doors for two way communication between brands and customers. With the right strategy, PeakActivity increased the brand perception of a leading retail furniture chain driving traffic and sales by more than 50%. These continuous efforts to drive engagement through social commerce attract new customers while increasing brand loyalty. This loyalty drives repeat customers and increases the lifetime value of the customer.

Streamlining Customer Experience

Some social networks allow customers to buy directly from the platform. This means businesses can enhance customer experience with a frictionless and streamlined checkout process. This ultimately eliminates the need to fill out long forms and visit the company website to make a purchase. This type of social commerce makes it easier for customers to make purchases on the go and to compare products or consult their trusted network. This new type of eCommerce customer experience requires a specific marketing strategy related to social commerce. Once PeakActivity took over an apparel brand’s Facebook page, the last click attributed sales increased over 112% over the previous year.

Increasing Revenue

Integrating social commerce with existing channels is a proven strategy to increase sales, increase order value, increase repeat customers, and reach new customers. By creating a social commerce strategy on platforms that are already free, you can directly influence the purchase decisions of customers. By integrating a full social commerce strategy an apparel company saw an increase of time on site of over 156% and an increase in conversions by over 75%.

Social commerce is the future of eCommerce, and without it, businesses are losing out on the conversions from targeted social media demographics. Along with creating a cohesive story across all channels, PeakActivity consistently has been able to reach customers through social media and increase engagement for a wide range of clients including apparel, furniture, healthcare, and industrial businesses.

In order to keep up with consumers, any company planning on investing in eCommerce and social media must also ensure Social Commerce is added to the strategic plan as soon as possible.

tvOS Is Here. Are You Ready?

TvOApple’s tvOS SDK is here and it’s ready to change the way we experience TV. It’s a new platform that redefines not only our living rooms, but the way we interact with displays everywhere. For companies like Adaptt (http://www.adaptt.co) who create interactive experiences for omnichannel customers, tvOS could provide another level of experience to the end consumer. With tvOS and the new Apple TV, you’ll be able to create apps that completely immerse your customers into your product. And, because tvOS and iOS work together, your customers can download your app onto their own device, and interact in your store, giving them a complete shopping experience.

Integrated Solutions

TvOS will allow developers to create a more personal experience that connects businesses and consumers. A user can have an app installed on their iOS device, and have that app communicate directly with the tvOS app running on an interactive display running on an AppleTV. The user can view their personal shopping catalog and combine it with retailer suggestions. A user can sync a furniture collection from the store’s retail screen onto their device and bring it home. Or, create a shopping list at home and have the location of each item mapped out on the interactive in-store display.

These are just some of the possibilities that tvOS will bring. Here at PeakActivity, we are quickly diving into this new technology so we can bring all of its potential to the marketplace.

Is GoLang the next NodeJS?

Back in 2010, PeakActivity was working with a small mobile applications startup and the founder (a semi-technical fellow), kept harping on how we HAD to use node. It was going to be the next big thing and all the cool startups were using it. Turns out, he was right. Node has really come on strong because it’s simple to get started and very developer friendly.

There’s always a tendency to want to use the newest and coolest tech, so now that node has matured a bit — developers will start thinking: what’s next?

Here at Peak, we’ve been doing some kicking around of Go. What piqued our interest? We’re big fans of Parse, and when Parse wrote about their adoption of Go [http://blog.parse.com/learn/how-we-moved-our-api-from-ruby-to-go-and-saved-our-sanity/], we had to check it out.

Many of the startups we advise are playing with Go as well. It is beginning to gain the gushing attention that node.js was back in 2010. Do a quick job search on “GoLang” in our neck of the woods, South Florida, and you don’t see a lot of job postings for it just yet. That doesn’t mean it’s not the next hot thing, as we all know that enterprises and jobs tend to be laggards to technology adoption.

So, is GoLang the new hot thing? Sign up for our newsletter or come back to our website, follow us on Twitter, etc, and we’ll do our best to keep you apprised of how we like it.