How Digitization Changed Sales

The days of face to face selling are over! All sales personnel pack up your bags! Well, that might be extreme, but it’s unfortunately not 100% false either. People and companies are no longer reliant on Sales People to learn about a new product or service. Information is all around us, and we tend to have learned almost everything about a product before we even have spoken to the salesperson for the first time!

So, if sales aren’t selling… what should they be doing?? They need to get into the business of providing information and gathering information… How? Here are the latest trends…

Social selling

This is a perfect example of just how digitization has changed the sales process. It is the use of the social media platform to connect with potential clients, with the aim to sell products or services. The best thing about social selling is that you are able to connect with your customers and other potential clients on a personal basis, thereby getting a personal response from those customers regarding your product or service. This is something you would have failed to do in the past.
In a way, as you interact with different clients in this manner, you are able to play the role of a leader. A leader here is in the sense that you are able to talk to your clients about the product/service in greater detail. Doing this, not only authenticates the product/service in question but also goes ahead to prove that the company in question is also legitimate. Ultimately, social selling creates a relationship between you and your clients. In turn, they trust your product/service. That is why there is a direct correlation between social selling and an increased sales volume.

CRM (Customer Relations Management)

Customer relations is another thing that has undergone a major change in regard to sales. Customer relations management means that you are able to keep track of all of your customers and potential clients alike. This means that having a well-implemented customer relations system, helps you keep an eye on who is interested in your product/service. Concurrently, you are able to keep track of each and every individual who visits your website, thereby converting that person into a lead.

In relation to sales, you are able to know the unique preferences of your customers and potential ones. In turn, this gives you a selling edge, in that you are able to tailor your product/service towards the preference of that customer or client.

Personalized data

A huge part of sales nowadays highly relies on being able to analyze customer data. This is all aimed at one sole thing: prospecting. Prospecting refers to finding new and potential clients according to what their specific needs and wants are. This is why many companies never spare a dime when it comes to investing in analytical tools that make the analysis of the huge amount of customer/personalized data available possible. Analyzing this personalized data these days is easier as compared to how it was done before the digital transformation, but its importance is, nonetheless, still the same if not more.

Analyzing personalized data gives you an insight into the buying habits of your customers. Not to mention, this method is also reducing expenses and taking less time as the digitization process continues.

AI/Automation systems in sales

Just like everything else, the sales process has too many tasks to keep track of. Remember, you have to keep in touch with the many customers who are contacting you; those that have numerous requests and questions regarding certain products/services, and whatnot. Not to mention, these tasks are endless, meaning that you have to be on top of such issues as they come.

Left unchecked, these endless sales tasks can be overwhelming to the sales representatives who are left to handle them. This is where automation systems come in. Needless to say, they eliminate all of this tedious work and allow salespeople to tackle other sales tasks that are more important.
These are just a few examples that show how technology has changed the sales process. Others include mobile technology, online presentations, BYOD and digital documentation. Without a doubt, the impact of the digital transformation in the sales process is tremendous.

Read my original article here.

What Is Fintech?

Over the years, technology has shaped many things, and one of those things is the way we handle finances. Let’s face it, these are changing times, and platforms like PayPal, Google Wallet, and Apple/Android Pay are the new phase of the larger financial system, especially in the commercial sector. This is what Fintech is. Fintech, or financial technology, refers to how technology integrates into the financial service sector. Fintech greatly assists businesses all over the world to better handle all of the financial aspects pertaining to those businesses’ practices.

Fintech, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency

If you think about it, Financial Technology has paved the way for the existence of Blockchain. Blockchain itself as a relatively new technology has paved the way for the existence of cryptocurrency. Make no mistake of underestimating its resourcefulness when it comes to handling business transactions. Blockchain allows business participants to transact with their clients directly without the need of a third party coming into the mix. This way, Blockchain behaves more of a digital ledger which keeps track of transactions over a Peer-to-Peer network.

It does this through a series of steps before, for example, a transaction is completed. In between those steps, cryptocurrency is part of the information checklist that has to be verified before a transaction is completed. Cryptocurrency is an encrypted medium of exchange which is stored in the Blockchain via electronic means. This is the reason why many businesses and companies are striving hard to integrate this collaborative technology into their business activities; that is, to change the way they carry out business processes at a reduced cost.

Applications

Fintech and Blockchain have countless applications, including in automotive where consumers can manage fractional ownership autonomous vehicles, in the healthcare sector where health information can be shared discreetly, in voting applications as well as in the financial sector where business processes and settlements can be done effectively at a reduced cost.

Due to this, Fintech is being adopted into various businesses including in the MENA region. Businesses here have now realized the inherent importance of employing FinTech into their business practices, and have highlighted strategies to help them get caught up. Two examples in the MENA region include Souqalmal, a price comparison website in the Middle East that allows users to compare financial products, and Telr, a payments platform that offers a set of unified APIs and tools enabling businesses to accept and manage online payments via web and mobile. Fintech, being a complex initiative, requires a specific skill set and knowledge for it to work. Sure enough, in the future, Fintech will be utilized in all kinds of businesses worldwide.

Read my original article here.

How Blockchain Technology Has Revolutionized Online Transactions

We all started hearing of Blockchain about ten years ago and most of what we heard was associated with Bitcoin. Fast Forward 10 years later and the technology is everywhere with many Fintech startups focusing on the Blockchain technology. So, what exactly is Blockchain? And how did it revolutionize online transactions?

The use of Blockchain technology is the newest and safest trend that guarantees total accountability within any sector. Blockchain was initially used only to process Bitcoin transactions. As of date, the digital currency is widely used, and its value rises day by day. The successful use of bitcoin transactions in everyday commercial activities is a classic example of how effective the use of the blockchain technology has become.
How does it all work?. Here are 2 examples:

Banking

Blockchain can transform bank credit information systems. These systems are ineffective due to three reasons. First, scarcity and poor quality data makes the judgment of personal credit situations difficult. Secondly, there are problems with inter-institutional data sharing. The third problem is the unclear user data ownership. Blockchain technology can ensure data encryption, which helps consumers control big data and establish ownership. It can also ensure the automatic recording of big data while also sharing and storing encrypted forms of consumer credit status within banking institutions. This enables credit data sharing.

One industry that is heavily focusing on Blockchain right now is Fintech. Activities in the fintech industry are being boosted by blockchain as payment and settlement services are made easier by the technology (and harder to manipulate).

Fintech

Blockchain can eliminate friction and stock tampering in the stock trading sector. It can significantly reduce the time and costs of stock purchases. The current stock trading model takes days and exhibits several middle parties.

Blockchain technology can streamline and add transparency to this operational process. It will also eradicate a lot of the gray tactics used by some stock traders such as naked short selling. Two companies that have experimented with blockchain in stock trading include Overstock and Nasdaq stock exchange.

The use of and success of the blockchain technology is promising in all sectors of every industry that relies on online data for daily operations. Government offices can use this technology to update information, an example of where this can be applied is the lands registries in the Lands Ministry. The blockchain technology is also particularly helpful in smart online contracts where execution is complete when certain conditions are met. The future of blockchain with no doubt holds more adoption of the technology by more industries and business sectors.

Evolution Of Grocery Shopping

Only two to three decades ago, the only way to shop was to physically visit a grocery store and pick the items you wanted. Stores flocked with buyers, and long queues were common as people lined up to pay for groceries. But that was before technology had advanced well enough, and not many people owned technological gadgets like internet-enabled phones or PCs. The internet was slowly taking shape, and technology “gurus” were yet to figure out how it could help with shopping.

Enter The Smartphone-shopping Age

Then came smartphones, and a large number of people suddenly got access to the internet. It was to be a game changer, a turning point in the history of shopping. Grocery stores saw the need to improve the quality of services they were giving their customers. Buyers expected better customer handling and convenience. The term e-commerce was coined. Suddenly, grocery shopping became easy; shoppers could visit virtual grocery stores online, sample the items on sale, pick what they wanted and collect the shopping later at a time of their choice.

The Online Shopping Craze

Today, a good number of people do their shopping online. It’s more convenient and gives more room for choice and comparison. It’s also time-saving compared to having to take a trip to the grocery store to choose your items. Some stores have delivery services while others will package your shopping and have it ready for you to collect anytime you wish. There are even app’s that let you scan your items with your smartphone or tablet, compute the cost as you continue picking items and send the total to the point of sale. It’s a system that makes shopping quick, and queues are unheard of.

Other app’s like El Grocer (Dubai based crowd-funded application) connects customers to grocery stores. Users can use the app to browse stores, select products, and receive notifications once the order has been processed and leaves the store.

Another example from Lebanon would be Toters! Toters is an on-demand delivery app that allows customers to order from various restaurants and grocery stores, including those stores that don’t offer delivery services themselves.

What’s The future of Grocery shopping?

As programmers continue to create apps and websites that make online shopping a better and hassle-free experience, shopping for groceries is set to become even more convenient and excitingly simple. Online shopping will be more real, with shoppers being able to take virtual tours of grocery store aisles. Perhaps the stores themselves will become more of virtual stores, with only a few physical outlets.

Check out my original article here.

The Company That Might End Privacy

A little-known start-up helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images — and “might lead to a dystopian future or something,” a backer says.

Until recently, Hoan Ton-That’s greatest hits included an obscure iPhone game and an app that let people put Donald Trump’s distinctive yellow hair on their own photos.

Then Mr. Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.

Source: The New York Times

His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.

Federal and state law enforcement officers said that while they had only limited knowledge of how Clearview works and who is behind it, they had used its app to help solve shoplifting, identity theft, credit card fraud, murder and child sexual exploitation cases.

Until now, technology that readily identifies everyone based on his or her face has been taboo because of its radical erosion of privacy. Tech companies capable of releasing such a tool have refrained from doing so; in 2011, Google’s chairman at the time said it was the one technology the company had held back because it could be used “in a very bad way.” Some large cities, including San Francisco, have barred police from using facial recognition technology.

But without public scrutiny, more than 600 law enforcement agencies have started using Clearview in the past year, according to the company, which declined to provide a list. The computer code underlying its app, analyzed by The New York Times, includes programming language to pair it with augmented-reality glasses; users would potentially be able to identify every person they saw. The tool could identify activists at a protest or an attractive stranger on the subway, revealing not just their names but where they lived, what they did and whom they knew.

And it’s not just law enforcement: Clearview has also licensed the app to at least a handful of companies for security purposes.

“The weaponization possibilities of this are endless,” said Eric Goldman, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. “Imagine a rogue law enforcement officer who wants to stalk potential romantic partners, or a foreign government using this to dig up secrets about people to blackmail them or throw them in jail.”

Clearview has shrouded itself in secrecy, avoiding debate about its boundary-pushing technology. When I began looking into the company in November, its website was a bare page showing a nonexistent Manhattan address as its place of business. The company’s one employee listed on LinkedIn, a sales manager named “John Good,” turned out to be Mr. Ton-That, using a fake name. For a month, people affiliated with the company would not return my emails or phone calls.

While the company was dodging me, it was also monitoring me. At my request, a number of police officers had run my photo through the Clearview app. They soon received phone calls from company representatives asking if they were talking to the media — a sign that Clearview has the ability and, in this case, the appetite to monitor whom law enforcement is searching for.

Facial recognition technology has always been controversial. It makes people nervous about Big Brother. It has a tendency to deliver false matches for certain groups, like people of color. And some facial recognition products used by the police — including Clearview’s — haven’t been vetted by independent experts.

Clearview’s app carries extra risks because law enforcement agencies are uploading sensitive photos to the servers of a company whose ability to protect its data is untested.

The company eventually started answering my questions, saying that its earlier silence was typical of an early-stage start-up in stealth mode. Mr. Ton-That acknowledged designing a prototype for use with augmented-reality glasses but said the company had no plans to release it. And he said my photo had rung alarm bells because the app “flags possible anomalous search behavior” in order to prevent users from conducting what it deemed “inappropriate searches.”

In addition to Mr. Ton-That, Clearview was founded by Richard Schwartz — who was an aide to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was mayor of New York — and backed financially by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist behind Facebook and Palantir.

Another early investor is a small firm called Kirenaga Partners. Its founder, David Scalzo, dismissed concerns about Clearview making the internet searchable by face, saying it’s a valuable crime-solving tool.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that because information constantly increases, there’s never going to be privacy,” Mr. Scalzo said. “Laws have to determine what’s legal, but you can’t ban technology. Sure, that might lead to a dystopian future or something, but you can’t ban it.”

Hoan Ton-That, Founder of Clearview AI
Hoan Ton-That, founder of Clearview AI, whose app matches faces to images it collects from across the internet.Credit…Amr Alfiky for The New York Times

Mr. Ton-That, 31, grew up a long way from Silicon Valley. In his native Australia, he was raised on tales of his royal ancestors in Vietnam. In 2007, he dropped out of college and moved to San Francisco. The iPhone had just arrived, and his goal was to get in early on what he expected would be a vibrant market for social media apps. But his early ventures never gained real traction.

In 2009, Mr. Ton-That created a site that let people share links to videos with all the contacts in their instant messengers. Mr. Ton-That shut it down after it was branded a “phishing scam.” In 2015, he spun up Trump Hair, which added Mr. Trump’s distinctive coif to people in a photo, and a photo-sharing program. Both fizzled.

Dispirited, Mr. Ton-That moved to New York in 2016. Tall and slender, with long black hair, he considered a modeling career, he said, but after one shoot he returned to trying to figure out the next big thing in tech. He started reading academic papers on artificial intelligence, image recognition and machine learning.

Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Ton-That met in 2016 at a book event at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. Mr. Schwartz, now 61, had amassed an impressive Rolodex working for Mr. Giuliani in the 1990s and serving as the editorial page editor of The New York Daily News in the early 2000s. The two soon decided to go into the facial recognition business together: Mr. Ton-That would build the app, and Mr. Schwartz would use his contacts to drum up commercial interest.

Police departments have had access to facial recognition tools for almost 20 years, but they have historically been limited to searching government-provided images, such as mug shots and driver’s license photos. In recent years, facial recognition algorithms have improved in accuracy, and companies like Amazon offer products that can create a facial recognition program for any database of images.

Mr. Ton-That wanted to go way beyond that. He began in 2016 by recruiting a couple of engineers. One helped design a program that can automatically collect images of people’s faces from across the internet, such as employment sites, news sites, educational sites, and social networks including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and even Venmo. Representatives of those companies said their policies prohibit such scraping, and Twitter said it explicitly banned use of its data for facial recognition.

Another engineer was hired to perfect a facial recognition algorithm that was derived from academic papers. The result: a system that uses what Mr. Ton-That described as a “state-of-the-art neural net” to convert all the images into mathematical formulas, or vectors, based on facial geometry — like how far apart a person’s eyes are. Clearview created a vast directory that clustered all the photos with similar vectors into “neighborhoods.” When a user uploads a photo of a face into Clearview’s system, it converts the face into a vector and then shows all the scraped photos stored in that vector’s neighborhood — along with the links to the sites from which those images came.

Mr. Schwartz paid for server costs and basic expenses, but the operation was bare-bones; everyone worked from home. “I was living on credit card debt,” Mr. Ton-That said. “Plus, I was a Bitcoin believer, so I had some of those.”

By the end of 2017, the company had a formidable facial recognition tool, which it called Smartcheckr. But Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Ton-That weren’t sure whom they were going to sell it to.

Maybe it could be used to vet babysitters or as an add-on feature for surveillance cameras. What about a tool for security guards in the lobbies of buildings or to help hotels greet guests by name? “We thought of every idea,” Mr. Ton-That said.

One of the odder pitches, in late 2017, was to Paul Nehlen — an anti-Semite and self-described “pro-white” Republican running for Congress in Wisconsin — to use “unconventional databases” for “extreme opposition research,” according to a document provided to Mr. Nehlen and later posted online. Mr. Ton-That said the company never actually offered such services.

The company soon changed its name to Clearview AI and began marketing to law enforcement. That was when the company got its first round of funding from outside investors: Mr. Thiel and Kirenaga Partners. Among other things, Mr. Thiel was famous for secretly financing Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit that bankrupted the popular website Gawker. Both Mr. Thiel and Mr. Ton-That had been the subject of negative articles by Gawker.

“In 2017, Peter gave a talented young founder $200,000, which two years later converted to equity in Clearview AI,” said Jeremiah Hall, Mr. Thiel’s spokesman. “That was Peter’s only contribution; he is not involved in the company.”

Even after a second funding round in 2019, Clearview remains tiny, having raised $7 million from investors, according to Pitchbook, a website that tracks investments in start-ups. The company declined to confirm the amount.

In February, the Indiana State Police started experimenting with Clearview. They solved a case within 20 minutes of using the app. Two men had gotten into a fight in a park, and it ended when one shot the other in the stomach. A bystander recorded the crime on a phone, so the police had a still of the gunman’s face to run through Clearview’s app.

They immediately got a match: The man appeared in a video that someone had posted on social media, and his name was included in a caption on the video. “He did not have a driver’s license and hadn’t been arrested as an adult, so he wasn’t in government databases,” said Chuck Cohen, an Indiana State Police captain at the time.

The man was arrested and charged; Mr. Cohen said he probably wouldn’t have been identified without the ability to search social media for his face. The Indiana State Police became Clearview’s first paying customer, according to the company. (The police declined to comment beyond saying that they tested Clearview’s app.)

Clearview deployed current and former Republican officials to approach police forces, offering free trials and annual licenses for as little as $2,000. Mr. Schwartz tapped his political connections to help make government officials aware of the tool, according to Mr. Ton-That. (“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to help Hoan build Clearview into a mission-driven organization that’s helping law enforcement protect children and enhance the safety of communities across the country,” Mr. Schwartz said through a spokeswoman.)

The company’s main contact for customers was Jessica Medeiros Garrison, who managed Luther Strange’s Republican campaign for Alabama attorney general. Brandon Fricke, an N.F.L. agent engaged to the Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren, said in a financial disclosure report during a congressional campaign in California that he was a “growth consultant” for the company. (Clearview said that it was a brief, unpaid role and that the company had enlisted Democrats to help market its product as well.)

A chart from marketing materials that Clearview provided to law enforcement.Credit. Clearview

The company’s most effective sales technique was offering 30-day free trials to officers, who then encouraged their acquisition departments to sign up and praised the tool to officers from other police departments at conferences and online, according to the company and documents provided by police departments in response to public-record requests. Mr. Ton-That finally had his viral hit.

In July, a detective in Clifton, N.J., urged his captain in an email to buy the software because it was “able to identify a suspect in a matter of seconds.” During the department’s free trial, Clearview had identified shoplifters, an Apple Store thief and a good Samaritan who had punched out a man threatening people with a knife.

Photos “could be covertly taken with telephoto lens and input into the software, without ‘burning’ the surveillance operation,” the detective wrote in the email, provided to The Times by two researchers, Beryl Lipton of MuckRock and Freddy Martinez of Open the Government. They discovered Clearview late last year while looking into how local police departments are using facial recognition.

According to a Clearview sales presentation reviewed by The Times, the app helped identify a range of individuals: a person who was accused of sexually abusing a child whose face appeared in the mirror of someone’s else gym photo; the person behind a string of mailbox thefts in Atlanta; a John Doe found dead on an Alabama sidewalk; and suspects in multiple identity-fraud cases at banks.

Detective Sgt. Nick Ferrara in Gainesville, Fla., said he had used Clearview’s app to identify dozens of suspects.Credit. Charlotte Kesl for The New York Times

In Gainesville, Fla., Detective Sgt. Nick Ferrara heard about Clearview last summer when it advertised on CrimeDex, a list-serv for investigators who specialize in financial crimes. He said he had previously relied solely on a state-provided facial recognition tool, FACES, which draws from more than 30 million Florida mug shots and Department of Motor Vehicle photos.

Sergeant Ferrara found Clearview’s app superior, he said. Its nationwide database of images is much larger, and unlike FACES, Clearview’s algorithm doesn’t require photos of people looking straight at the camera.

“With Clearview, you can use photos that aren’t perfect,” Sergeant Ferrara said. “A person can be wearing a hat or glasses, or it can be a profile shot or partial view of their face.”

He uploaded his own photo to the system, and it brought up his Venmo page. He ran photos from old, dead-end cases and identified more than 30 suspects. In September, the Gainesville Police Department paid $10,000 for an annual Clearview license.

Federal law enforcement, including the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security, are trying it, as are Canadian law enforcement authorities, according to the company and government officials.

Despite its growing popularity, Clearview avoided public mention until the end of 2019, when Florida prosecutors charged a woman with grand theft after two grills and a vacuum were stolen from an Ace Hardware store in Clermont. She was identified when the police ran a still from a surveillance video through Clearview, which led them to her Facebook page. A tattoo visible in the surveillance video and Facebook photos confirmed her identity, according to an affidavit in the case.

Read the full article here.

Samsung SDS and Syniverse Simplify Mobile Payments

SDS and Syniverse announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a wallet-agnostic, mobile payment platform to enable regulatory-compliant, cross-region mobile transactions for mobile operators and enterprises in logistics, financial, travel and hospitality, media and entertainment, and retail markets.

Continue reading “Samsung SDS and Syniverse Simplify Mobile Payments”

Galaxy Buds Awarded First Place Title By Consumer Reports

 

Consumer Reports – a nonprofit organization dedicated to product and service test – have recently awarded the Samsung Galaxy Buds first place in their ‘Stereo Headphones’ rating test. The Galaxy Buds received an overall score of 86 and were ranked first, while being praised for excellent sound quality and audio capability. Every year, Consumer reports test more than 40 pairs of headphones and earphones. This year, the Galaxy buds competed against other leading brands, where the products were tested head to head on sound quality, design, sensitivity, type, and sports capability. It should be mentioned that Apple’s Airpods, the market leader of wireless earphones, was ranked 49th.Continue reading “Galaxy Buds Awarded First Place Title By Consumer Reports”

Huawei’s 2019 Y9 – First Look

Huawei’s new Y9 (2019) features a massive 6.5″ display with a screen resolution of 1080 x 2340. The device packs an octa-core processor (Hisilicon Kirin 710 – 2.2 GHz quad-core, 1.7 GHz quad-core) paired with a 4 or 6 GB RAM, and a 64 or 128 GB storage. The Y9 is priced at about $270 and has a decent specs sheet for a budget phone. I will be using the Y9 for some time and provide a full review on how I feel about it and everything it provides.