Business tools come and go. This week, Adobe finally announced the date for the death of Flash — a technology that has had a huge impact on the online experience for years. But businesses also got news about some new business tools from providers like Wix and HostGator.

Read more about these updates and other small business headlines in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Technology Trends

Adobe Starts the Death Clock on Flash But What Impact Does it Have on Your Business?

Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) has finally set the date for the death of Flash, and it is December 31, 2020. The pioneering technology was responsible for powering games and multimedia content on web pages. While it introduced a new level of engagement to websites, it failed to adapt and calculate the impact of mobility.

Wix Releases Code – A New Custom Design Feature for Web Developers

Wix (NASDAQ:WIX) just released a brand new coding tool for businesses and individuals seeing to create their own custom websites and web applications. The new feature is called Code. And with it, you can create your own custom elements to build the exact website you envision for your business.

HostGator Launches New Dedicated Server Platform 4 Times Faster Than Before

A web hosting company uses servers and networks to transfer your website information whenever someone types in your address. The faster the hardware and infrastructure is, the faster it will load on your computer or smartphone. HostGator just announced a significant upgrade to its hardware with its latest line of dedicated servers.

Tomorrow’s Office May Be Expandable to Suit Your Needs — or May Not Exist at All

Offices might look very different in 10 years. Some new tech innovations are bringing about new possibilities for businesses. And you may even have some completely different options to choose from. First, take the case of Meta, a startup that is working to integrate augmented reality into the modern workplace.

What Could the New Google News Feed Mean for Businesses?

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) just introduced a new and improved feed feature to its Google app. The Google News Feed allows users to completely customize what they see based on selected topics and search activity. And this new feature could potentially have an impact on businesses.

Economy

5 Challenges Facing Cattle Ranchers Right Now

America’s cattle ranchers are watching the new deal for beef exported to China closely.  The first U.S. shipments began arriving there July 16.  Buzz Tatom is a Partner and Ranch Sales Associate at Venture West Ranches in Montana.  Tatom spoke with Small Business Trends about the challenges facing ranchers now considering the latest news.

95 Percent of Small Businesses Are Focused on Tax Relief, Survey Says

Tax relief is on top of U.S. small business owners’ wish lists. NWYC Q2 2017 Small Business Sentiment Index That’s according to the Q2 2017 Small Business Sentiment Index from National Write Your Congressman (NYWC). The survey found an overwhelming majority of small businesses (95 percent) saying they would like Congress to act on tax relief and simplification.

Employment

Wisconsin Company Offers Optional Microchips for Employees — Would Your Business?

Would you ask your employees to implant a microchip into their hands? Do you think they’d even agree to it? One tech company in Wisconsin is taking this step. Three Square Market has offered employees the option of being microchipped, which could allow them to easily enter the office, unlock their devices and even make payments.

Talent Gap Puts Small Private Practice Doctors Offices in Tough Hiring Position

One thing threatening the future of health care at the local level is a private practice’s ability to attract top talent. Small Business Healthcare Recruiting Trends Without nurses and the staff needed to run a small doctor’s office, it’s more likely that the healthcare landscape will continue to shift to larger companies.

Marketing Tips

42 Percent of Internet Users in the US Are Regular Fast Food Eaters

Almost half of U.S. internet users patronize fast food restaurants regularly, according to a recent study. The study is part of an infographic from GlobalWebIndex. The infographic states that 42 percent of internet users in the U.S. are regular eaters of fast food, making it one of the biggest markets for fast food restaurants in the world.

Microsoft Launches Windows 10 App for LinkedIn

Microsoft-owned professional network LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) announced recently a new app that is deeply integrated into Windows 10 OS and accessible through Windows 10 Start Menu and task bar. “Every month millions of professionals around the world access LinkedIn using a web browser on Windows 10,” said LinkedIn’s Product Manager Hermes Alvarez.

Retail Trends

Trend: How Your Business Can Profit from Sparkling Water

This summer, the cold beverage of choice may not be soda or iced tea like it has been in the past. Instead, more and more consumers are reaching for sparkling water. In fact, the Beverage Marketing Corporation has projected sparkling water sales to increase by more than 20 percent in 2017, according to a report from Yahoo Finance.

McDonald’s UberEATS Partnership Shows Power of Convenience

Want a Big Mac delivered to your front door? Now you can, thanks to McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) recent partnership with UberEATS. For a fee of $4.99, customers can order McDonald’s menu items for delivery, which should normally take between five and 15 minutes. This is a convenient new option for fast food buyers, who are already apt to value convenience.

Chipotle’s Ongoing Health Issues Could Drag the Brand Down

Chipotle’s PR nightmare is far from over. The company has seemingly had to deal with crisis after crisis over the last couple of years due mainly to food safety issues at its restaurants. And a couple of recent incidents have reignited customer worries.

FTC Charges Online Trampoline Sellers for Phony Reviews – But Forgo Stiffer Penalties

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is sending out another warning to unscrupulous marketers who try to manipulate consumers with fake reviews. The warning accompanies the charging two brothers the FTC says posted deceptive ads and endorsements of trampolines they were selling online.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Legacy Advantage Wants to Be a New Kind of Bookkeeper

A good bookkeeper can be hard to come by. And that’s a problem that one entrepreneur learned throughout the course of his career, leading to him starting his own bookkeeping brand — Legacy Advantage. Read more about the company and what sets it apart in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. What the Business Does Provides bookkeeping services in a trustworthy way.

Small Business Loans

How Does Your State Stack Up for Small Business Loan Approval? Study Reveals More

If you’re based in New Jersey, you’re most likely to be approved for a small business loan. That’s according to a new report by Biz2Credit, which has identified New Jersey as the top state for small business loan approval rates. The report found nearly one-quarter (23.4 percent) of funding requests made by New Jersey-based businesses were approved by lenders.

Big Bank Lending for Small Businesses Returns to Post-Recession Highs

Small business loan approval rates at big banks recovered in June. According to the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index, loan approval rates at big banks improved two-tenths of a percent to 24.3 percent, matching an all-time index high.

Small Business Operations

Zoho One Launched: New All in One Pricing for Zoho Apps

Zoho just announced Zoho One, a new all-in-one suite of applications to help small businesses run essentially all aspects of their operations. Think of Zoho One as a bundle of existing Zoho applications delivered in one central place, with an exciting new pricing model that small businesses will love.

Image/OccupyFlash.org

This article, "Adobe Announces Flash End Date, New Features from Wix and HostGator Unveiled" was first published on Small Business Trends

While technologies like artificial intelligence, digital assistants and messaging apps grabbing the tech spotlight, blockchain is kind of flying under the radar relatively speaking. But the technology underpinnings for Bitcoin, the decentralized crypto currency some are betting on to go mainstream, is finding a number of potentially disruptive additional uses businesses are starting to take note of.

Understanding Blockchain Disruption

Jeremy Epstein, CEO of Never Stop Marketing and blockchain expert, just published a really great free ebook on blockchain, titled The CMO Primer for the Block Chain World: How this Trust Machine Impacts Branding, Customer Experience, Advertising and Much More. Jeremy shared with me the crux of what blockchain is, why it’s important beyond bitcoin, and how it might change the way marketers operate and disrupt how businesses create effective customer experiences going forward.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview click on the embedded player below.

* * * * *

Jeremy Epstein of Never Stop Marketing: Understanding the Blockchain Disruption in Marketing, Customer Experience and TrustSmall Business Trends: Maybe you can give us a high-level definition of what exactly blockchain is.

Jeremy Epstein: What blockchain basically is, is a globally distributed database. Everyone has a copy of the database. So imagine we all have a Google Sheet or a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and we’re all looking at the exact same copy of it. Instead of having a copy stored in one central location, we have a copy of that ledger of all that information stored at every computer, or all the participating computers around the world. And the security of that is guaranteed by some pretty cool type of cryptography and some other ways of making sure that the data is sort of tamper-resistant.

So that’s it at a very, very core level, but just like I tell people, you don’t need to know that SMTP is the protocol that makes your email work, you just need to know that email is faster than faxing. I think the same thing applies to blockchain. The key thing to walk away from this is not how does blockchain work, it’s that it works.

And if you’re a business owner or you’re anybody, the important thing to think about is,” what does this mean for me? What does this mean for my business? What does this mean for my company in the years to come?” And that’s kind of where I spend most of my time.

Small Business Trends: It’s a really interesting, maybe game changing technology. It’s the driving force beneath bitcoin, using that as a way to do transactions without having a lot of government intervention, a lot of intermediaries like banks. But what if you’re just a business guy whose looking at it from a standpoint of, “How does this improve my business? How does this improve the way I’m able to market and brand myself?” Why should those kind of people pay attention and be interested in what blockchain has to offer?

Jeremy Epstein: The primary implication of blockchain as I see it is that, for the first time ever we are able to transact items of value directly between two people with lower cost, less risk, and increased speed, without the need for any centralized intermediaries. That’s the game changer here.

So, if you’re a business owner, what you need to understand is, the third party institutions that basically are brokering trust right now between other parties, they’re in the cross hairs of this disruption.

Small Business Trends: Where do you see blockchain making the biggest impact when it comes to customer experience?

Jeremy Epstein: When you think about customer experience, there are a couple of things that happen in a blockchain world. And the way I sort of broke down the book was into sort of four section.

Let’s just talk about the familiar challenges that everybody has. If you deliver a better experience, you’re gonna have people buy more often. But what’s interesting now in a blockchain world, remember, everyone has a copy of the database. So, in the previous world, data was king; it’s who has the data, whoever has it is king. That’s why Facebook and that’s why Google, all these guys are sucking as much data as possible. But on blockchain everyone has data because its open. Now there are these things called private blockchain but we’ll leave that aside for a moment. But basically now, that information is available so, that’s number one.

So then the question is, “Okay, well how do I interpret that data as much as possible?” And that’s were the real life arms race of the next generation’s gonna be is, “How do I analyze that data? How do I do artificial intelligence, machine learning on top of it?” Everyone has the same data, it’s like we all have the same starting point and it’s who can get the insights, who can ask the questions, you faster, better and understand that. So I think the near term is we’re gonna have slightly better systems now to verify that Brent on Twitter is the same Brent that we see on email or YouTube or whatever, which is gonna allow you to deliver more unified customer experiences across every platform. And I think that’s really critical because you want … you have to keep pushing customer experience because the data no longer becomes the differentiator. It’s interpreting the data and then delivering the experience based on the insights in the data. So I think that’s gonna be sort of the first thing in terms of the accelerant.

I think the second thing though that’s really fascinating is we’re gonna move into a world where you’re gonna deliver customer experience without actually necessarily knowing who your customer is. I know this is a crazy idea, right. But in a blockchain world, the individual controls his or her identity. Right now, I don’t control my identity. I log on, I give information to somebody else, they have it. But in a blockchain world, I control the identity. I control all the information. The data doesn’t sit on a server. The information might be replicated on a ledger, but the only person who can update that information is the person who controls what’s called the private key, which is me.

I’m the only person who can make a change that says,” I moved from D.C. to New York. Or I moved from New York to Atlanta, or I now work at this company, that’s the only person who can update it. And then I can decide to whom I’m giving access to that information.

And so if you’re a company, I don’t give you my information and you keep it forever. I might just need to come on and say, “You know what? Can I prove that I live in Maryland or and thereby I don’t have to pay sales tax or I do have to pay sales tax. Yes, I can cryptographically prove that I live in Maryland but that’s all you need to know.”

A classic example is going to a bar and get carded. Right now you show them your driver’s license which shows them your name, your address, your date of birth, all that kind of stuff. They don’t need any of that. The only thing they need to know is, are you over 21. So you can cryptographically prove I’m over 21 and then they let you in the bar. That’s it.

Now you’re living in a world where I don’t have all this other information about the customer. And I can’t even keep the information because they’re just giving it to me on a permission basis and then pulling it back. Then the question is, how do you deliver a customer experience, if you don’t actually have that information about your customer, that’s the world we’re gonna go into.

So in that world, you have to be relentlessly focused on customer experience because the switching costs are basically zero. You don’t have vendor lock in and you don’t control the data. So the way you win is by delivering amazing customer experience.

Small Business Trends: What do people need to know right upfront and what do they get from reading this book that will help them understand what they should be looking out for with blockchain …

Jeremy Epstein: So I think if you’re an SMB or anyone, the first thing you can is say, “Okay. Where are the points in my ecosystem where there’s a lot of redundancy in the data systems. And maybe it’s within my own company or it’s within sort of, my partners.” Okay. Well, if that’s the case, is there a way to potentially, streamline my back office operation, reduce a lot of these redundancies, improve data integrity and start to kind of mine the data … analyze the data in more productive ways so that I can give better insights about the behaviors not only in my customer, but my partner’s customers to extend the value, create new value, or new opportunities for value creation for them. I think that’s number one is, understand where can I actually do this right now?

I think the second thing is to ask yourself is, “Okay. How do we measure customer experience? How do we know if we’re delivering a good customer experience right now?” It’s almost like blockchain is nice but start thinking about how do you become a customer experience company. How do you know whether people enjoy interacting with you? You have to start taking that very seriously and it’s not customer experience just on your website. It’s customer experience at every touchpoint.

Jeremy Epstein: There’s a lot here. I’ve been doing this for a year, year and a half now and I’m still confused about what’s going on so don’t feel bad. But at a very simple level, what I’m trying to do with this book is say, “okay guys, here’s something to try to understand and start to think about. There’s still time before you get disrupted, potentially. Hopefully not.”

If you buy into the idea that this stuff’s inevitable, which I believe it is, and you understand where it’s likely to impact, in terms of disintermediating third parties, reducing inefficiencies, and driving the need for improved customer experience, then you can take a very close look at your own business and say, “Okay. Where am I dealing with third party intermediaries? Are there startups in that space that are basically looking to disrupt those guys? Can I do it faster, cheaper? Where are there inefficiencies in my back office operations and way I work within my own ecosystems? Is there a way to develop or leverage some sort of blockchain technology to do that, to reduce my risk and reduce my cost?”

And third is like, “OK, how do we become a customer experience-focused company regardless of whether you’re a one-person shop or you’re 100,000 person shop or company.”

This article, "Jeremy Epstein of Never Stop Marketing: Blockchain Will Disrupt Marketing, Customer Experience and Trust" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Mandate Stays -- Skinny Repeal Bill Fails in Late Night Vote

The latest attempt to repeal Obamacare has failed.

Skinny Repeal Bill Fails

Three Republican Senators defected and voted alongside Democrats to defeat a bill that quickly became known as a Skinny Repeal. The vote was cast after 1 a.m. Eastern time in the nation’s capital.

For small businesses, according to analysis of the bill, the Skinny Repeal would have eliminated the individual and small business mandates of Obamacare.

If a small businesses reaches the 50 employee plateau, it is then required by Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act or ACA, to provide health insurance.

The final vote in the Senate was 49 voting for repeal and 51 against, maintaining Obamacare. An affirmative vote would have sent the bill back to the U.S. House of Representatives before it reached President Donald Trump. Along with the Democrats, GOP Senators voting against the Skinny Repeal bill include Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, Susan Collins, of Maine, and Arizona’s John McCain.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sounded defeated at 1:41 a.m. in Washington D.C.

“I regret that our efforts were not enough this time,” he said, addressing GOP leaders in the House, who would have gotten the approved “Skinny” Repeal next. “I’m proud of the vote I cast tonight. I expect that (the Democrats) are pretty satisfied tonight. It’s time they tell us what’s on their mind.”

Night Owl POTUS Tweets Reaction

President Trump has promised a repeal of Obamacare and Friday morning’s vote was as close as it’s come to happening. He was up in the wee hours crafting his response to the Skinny Repeal failure.

Trump has repeatedly insisted Obamacare is failing or “dead” and has promised a better healthcare deal. Much of the late-night action in the Senate is due to that persistence to get a repeal plan on his desk to sign.

Barring something unforeseen, it’s likely that small businesses and the self-employed under the Obamacare mandate will have to wait to see what happens if Obamacare spirals out of control in 2018, as Trump suggests it will.

McCain Returns, Votes to Keep Obamacare

The big surprise of the vote was McCain voting to keep Obamacare in place. He didn’t make clear why he was voting with Democrats.

Earlier this week, he famously returned to the U.S. Senate after missing some time when he was diagnosed with and underwent surgery for brain cancer.

His vote earlier in the week actually opened the Senate floor to debate the repeal. His vote on Friday morning sealed the fate of the Skinny Repeal.

All-Nighter Not Welcome

California Sen. Kamala Harris was not happy about the late-night nature of the debate. She says she first got the Skinny Repeal legislation late, too.

Twitter Reaction to #SkinnyRepeal Fail All Over the Place

It was either the middle of the night or pretty late at night when the 49-51 vote on the Skinny Repeal bill was final. That’s a good time for some Twitter chatter. And business owners were watching and reacting along with the C-SPAN footage.

And it’s pretty clear from the polarity in tone from the tweets, that small business owners and the self-employed aren’t really sure what was in the Skinny Repeal. The comments are all over the place. Here’s a sample:

That one sounds like the problem could be deeper than Obamacare’s health next year.

But one Pennsylvania constituent urged his Senator to break ranks from the Republicans and vote against the repeal.

Toomey voted for the repeal but it wasn’t enough. Sen. Rand Paul was also urged to vote for the repeal, which he did.

Another user said the repeal of Obamacare — even in skinny form — would “destroy” small businesses.

But as likely as you were to find an opinion like that, you could find the opposite, too.

Mitch McConnell Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "The Mandate Stays, Senate Fails to Pass “Skinny Repeal” of Obamacare in Late Night Vote" was first published on Small Business Trends

The movie Bottle Rocket has one of my favorite dialogue exchanges in all art. Dignan (Owen Wilson) says to Bob (Robert Musgrave): “Bob Mapplethorpe, potential getaway driver, go…” And after struggling to sell his character strengths, Bob says, “…I’m just not that good at this selling yourself stuff, okay, so I’m just gonna tell you the truth. I really want to be a part of this team… and I’m the only one with a car.” “That’s good. Because that hits me right here,” says Dignan, pointing to his heart.

 

Life works much the same way for many businesses. They have a product or service that no one else has. They are earnest about building the company and truly want to improve peoples’ lives. They’re just not experts at selling themselves or generating excitement in others.

 

This is where VYPER comes in. VYPER is a growth hacking toolkit – software designed to help your company create viral growth via contests, giveaways, content upgrades, popups and more.

 

vyper landing

 

At the heart of VYPER is incentivization and gamification technology that does the heavy lifting – helping companies setup and run campaigns, and ultimately boost engagement to maximum levels. Read: VYPER grows more leads and sales for your business.

 

VYPER equips companies to run contests designed to spark signups and referrals. The software assists with putting together the likes of a contest landing page and leaderboard. A leaderboard encourages friendly social competition and enables participants to unlock rewards according to their actions.

 

Basically, VYPER simplifies the work of offering perks in exchange for social shares and email sing ups. For brands that don’t know how to interact with customers (potential and existing) – or can’t build engagement as much as they would like on their own – VYPER gives them the means to do so directly. VYPER puts social sharing and interaction at the core of marketing efforts. VYPER knows how to help you generate excitement and encourage brand loyalty.

 

vper sample

 

Why is it so important to stimulate your customers to talk you up and bring others onboard? As the team at VYPER points out, studies from the Wharton School of Business show that customers who refer others or are referred themselves have a 20% higher lifetime value than normal customers.

 

VYPER is geared for generating phenomenal traffic through ‘word-of-mouth’ tactics. It’s built to support contests on either mobile devices or desktop. And the software takes the guesswork out of knowing when to offer bonus content or content upgrades by integrating automatic triggers based on customer action.

 

Tired of stagnate growth? Need help expanding your email list and driving sales? Explore the VYPER toolkit in greater detail at vyper.io. Plans begin at $29 per month, and start with a free 7-day trial.

 

Photo Credits

VYPER | Arthimedes/Shutterstock

The post VYPER – Quickly Power Your Business Growth To New Heights appeared first on KillerStartups.

Facebook Q2 2017 Results: Massive $9.32 Billion Earnings Buoyed by Ad Revenue - Including from Small Businesses

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has done it again.

The social networking giant has beaten analyst projections and generated close to $9.32 billion in revenue (PDF) during its second quarter. That’s up 71 percent from the same quarter last year.

Fueled by ad revenue from targeted ads by small businesses, the milestone puts Facebook in a league of its own.

Facebook Q2 2017 Results

Ad Revenue Brings Cheer for Facebook

A closer look at the quarterly results (PDF) shared by the company reveals the part played by mobile in boosting its ad revenue. In exact numbers, 87 percent of all of Facebook’s ad revenue is generated on mobile, compared to 84 percent a year ago.

Results also show the company’s ad revenue grew stronger in the Asia Pacific region (54.4 percent year-over-year) than in Europe (42.9 percent year-over-year) and North America (44.6 percent year-over-year).

2 Billion Users and Counting

The other highlight of the second quarter results is Facebook’s more than 2 billion monthly active users. The number means the company has maintained its steady 17 percent year-over-year user growth.

“We had a good second quarter and first half of the year,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO in release announcing the release.

“Our community is now two billion people and we’re focusing on bringing the world closer together,” Zuckerberg added

Notably, Facebook’s ratio of daily to monthly active users has remained at 66 percent in the past 6 quarters, clearly indicating strong user engagement on Facebook.

Agility and Innovation Pay Off

Facebook’s constant growth can be attributed to its strong foresightedness and agility.

The company has constantly optimized its app for low-bandwidth connections and cheaper Android smartphones. Thanks to these efforts, Facebook has been able to add 746 million users in Asia and the rest of the world region. And this incredible reach makes it irresistible to businesses, especially small ones, able to spend as little as $10 to $20 to reach just a small segment.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook sustains this growth in the future.

Zuckerberg Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Facebook’s Massive $9.32 Billion Earnings Buoyed by Ad Revenue – Including from Small Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends