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Why Generation Alpha will need to hear brands as much as they see them

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Why Generation Alpha will need to hear brands as much as they see them 1

In the past twenty years, we have seen a revolution in user interfaces and user experience design. What was simply typing a sentence in Google for Generation X, turned to pinch, swipe, zoom across laptops, tablets and smart phones for Millennials and Gen Z.

Millennial parents were the first generation to have spent a large proportion of their lives working with screen technology and of course smart phones. They may not have been born with smart mobile technology like the following cohort of young consumer – Generation Z, but they were and are by and large digital natives.

Few of these parents would have predicted that artificially intelligent audio technology would influence the behaviours and expectations of many members of Generation Alpha – children born in 2010 (and up to the year 2024) as much as screen-based.

As the first members of Generation Alpha were reaching the age of four, the first Alexa smart speaker was launched by Amazon, and Siri and Google Voice became our friendly helper on our phone or in our car. The explosion in popularity of smart voice technology has had huge implications for these young people.

Many are now unconsciously familiar with and reliant on the additional family member whose voice can help them do things, tell them new information and entertain them. A lot of parents have seen their kids walk up to an Alexa Echo device and ask it a question or play their favourite music.

A child’s general openness to this new type of experience is something they’ll carry with them through their teens and into adulthood.

These intelligent entities are also the guardians or gatekeepers to audio brand interactions known increasingly as skills.

The Covid-19 pandemic has if anything, accentuated the relationship with home audio AI-tech. Confined in their homes during lockdown, people of all generations have followed the Alpha’s and have befriended Alexa, Siri and Google Home. For a lot of households, smart speakers have become a more important part of daily life than ever before with much of the audio content and a growing volume of brand interactions, happening as purely audio experiences.

Within the next few years, we can expect it to become the social norm to be using our voices to control everything from searching for brand information and shopping to turning on the lights or making an espresso as well as more serious things such as monitoring and responding to reports on our biometrics as we go about our daily lives.

Our personal worlds will become full of vocal and audio signals, introductions, marketing or background sounds to activity and Generation Alpha will be listening and filtering this audio information. Recognition and appreciation of audio branding will become critical. A recent Salesforce report shows that voice is among the key technologies that will impact the next decade of marketing, however only 57% of marketers implement audio tactics.

But how to turn an established visual brand and product range into a complementary sonic identity? And how does one ensure that the brand is clearly recognizable and it is not Alexa, Siri or Google Voice speaking for it.

To state the obvious, for every brand, there’s a clear need to meet the tone and aspiration of customers – which goes beyond simply preparing ‘skills’ for smart speakers that answer where the products themselves have come from. It means developing auditory cues, whether voice or music, that truly reflect the unique feel of the brand.

Sonic identity and audio brand elements will be arguably as important as visual branding, especially as brand associations are indelibly formed at early ages. It also means that voice native users will have low to zero tolerance for poorly executed experiences. Generation Voice will know what good sounds like and brands whose sonic identities and voice experiences have been well-crafted and repeatedly iterated will be leaps ahead.

Brands need to ask themselves – what is my core DNA? What am I trying to reflect? How do I want my customers to feel?

For example, Mastercard introduced a holistic brand strategy that integrates audio-visual elements in a way that can adapt to our changing digital experiences. Even though generation Alpha is not thinking consciously about their financial future yet, they will soon be of age to ask about a kid’s debit card linked to their parents’ account. And whereas the bank name on the card won’t matter at first, the audio experiences using the card will. These children have been raised with smart speakers around, there they will pay attention to the sounds around their first feeling of being an adult – having a bank card. And first impressions matter.

The success of the audio element of Mastercard’s strategy lies in its complete embrace of a ‘comprehensive sound architecture’.

Its sonic identity is based around music that identifies the brand and enables core melodies to be re-worked and woven into everything from advertisements to point-of-sale transactions. The brand has developed a payment confirmation sound that reassures the card holder that a transaction was successful. To date, Mastercard has rolled out said sound out to over 36 million digital wallets and physical payment terminals around the globe.

Simply put, you can look away from a screen, but you can’t ignore a sound. Anticipating the behaviour and use cases of every touchpoint a customer might hear your brand is pivotal – and then ensuring that there’s a level of consistency to guarantee a genuinely recognisable brand experience for your customers.

As we move towards conversational commerce, consumers will expect to ask questions of your brand, expect to buy from your brand using only their voice, but also expect to feel the same affection they feel walking into your store, but through their Siri, Alexa or Google Home in the comfort of their kitchen.

Brands that invest in defining their voice will reap the benefits. All else will be noise.

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Online jobs soar by 14% in third quarter 2020, Freelancer.com’s Fast 50 reports 

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Online jobs soar by 14% in third quarter 2020, Freelancer.com’s Fast 50 reports  2

Freelancer.com (ASX: FLN), the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace by number of users and jobs posted, today released the Freelancer.com Fast 50 Report for Q3 2020.

The quarterly index which measures the most sought-after employment skills showed the freelancing industry continues to thrive in the current economic climate. The figures from Freelancer.com revealed a 14% increase in jobs posted year over year, when comparing Q3 2020 versus Q3 2019, with the total number rising to 539,000 from 465,000.

In terms of the most in demand skills, key takeaways from the Q3 2020 Fast 50 Report compared to the Q2 2020 Fast 50 Report:

As COVID-19 forced more people online, entrepreneurs focused on eCommerce startups

With more people at home sparking a major increase in online shopping, entrepreneurs flocked to starting eCommerce businesses. Web and app development projects related to Website Build, Testing, and Management, Digital Marketing, as well as software and coding skills with Flutter, React.js, Vue.js, Node.js, React Native and CSS3 went up in the quarter, up 9% to 28,593 jobs. Design projects related to T-Shirts, Posters and Brochures, to Photoshop, Photo Editing and Creative Design, and even Interior Design, went up in the quarter 6% to 38,877 jobs. To reinforce the upticks in the third quarter, Sales & Marketing related jobs subsequently were on the up, rising 17% to 2,153 jobs.

Home remodeling booms during pandemic

Home organization hacks became even more popular during quarantine and consumers cleaned out shelves of storage containers and the like. Sheltering at home also influenced the increase in demand for Home Design which saw a rise of 17% to 1,579 jobs in the third quarter. Remodeling platform Porch.com also recently reported that more than three-quarters of all U.S. homeowners had done some type of home improvement project during the pandemic.

COVID-19 highlighted the importance of translation services

The biggest increase in demand in the third quarter was for translation services – this is most likely attributed to a much larger online audience since COVID-19, prompting businesses to boost their marketing efforts to reach new markets with information in various languages.

Projects related to Translation & Languages took off in the quarter up 20% to 6,043 jobs. Furthermore, as the majority of workers have moved online full-time, there is more demand for English content for communications including, sales and promotions, marketing and social media, and websites and blogs.

With restrictions starting to ease, demand for local services picks up

Lockdowns last quarter saw the demand for local services collapse – this quarter, as restrictions around the world started to ease, Local Jobs & Services picked up again, increasing 15% to 1,325 jobs.

Matt Barrie, CEO and Chairman of Freelancer.com, said, “Despite global economic activity falling in 2020 and unemployment continuing to climb, the freelance online job market has continued to grow. In this COVID-era, the whole world has been forced to work online – we completely rely on the Internet, hence we are seeing a lot more online projects and becoming accustomed to this new normal.

“As the skilled labor pool around the world has significantly increased over the past six months, many workers who found themselves jobless have turned to freelancing to supplement their income. Freelancer.com has seen an upsurge in users on the platform since early March with around 35,000 new users, globally, per day signing up. Many people are either looking for jobs or looking to transition out of jobs. Budding entrepreneurs who have found themselves out of their full-time gigs are setting up their startup or side hustle.”

While the world is starting to experience a slow recovery, the recession is far from over. The overall trend for jobless claims in the US remains high, reported to still be over 800,000. With stimulus benefits expiring and the unemployment rate at an all time high, Freelancer.com continues to see an increase in users joining the platform to boost their personal income.

In the UK, the categories which saw the biggest increases in jobs posted during third quarter included: Websites, IT & Software (up 22%), Local Jobs & Services (up 20%), Data Entry & Admin (up 14%), and Writing & Content (up 9%).

The Freelancer.com Fast 50 Report tracks the quarterly movement of the top 50 fastest growing and declining jobs on the site’s global online marketplace that spans 247 countries, regions, and territories. The Fast 50 Report is the leading indicator of trends in online jobs related to industries, technologies, products, and companies.

Freelancer.com is the largest freelancing and crowdsourcing platform in the world by number of users and jobs posted, connecting users with skilled jobs tapping into the best talent and ideas. With headquarters in Sydney, Freelancer.com operates six global offices in San Francisco, London, Vancouver, Manila and Buenos Aires. The company employees 500 people globally.

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Pivoting growth strategy to rebuild consumer trust and confidence

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Pivoting growth strategy to rebuild consumer trust and confidence 3

By Richard Steggall, the CEO of Urban FT

Trust is essential to all relationships, whether personal or professional. And in an uncertain environment like we are experiencing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, trust becomes even more critical. We place our trust in healthcare providers to do their best in caring for us; we trust grocery stores to provide safe access to nourishing food; and we trust our fellow community members to practice care and vigilance. The stakes in trust have never been higher and with financial services ranking among the least trusted industries in consumer’s eyes, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, there is much work to be done in luring customers back in.

No one person or organization has all the answers for making the financial services industry more respected and trustworthy in the eyes of consumers. But every business leader is in a unique position to drive positive change in their own organizations and communities. Namely, leaders in financial services must rethink their growth strategy and embed it with measures of transparency, ownership and accountability.

Define your purpose

The fast-evolving pandemic has not only presented us with a health crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, it is also driving significant social and economic pressures around the globe.

With increased consumer attention on corporate social responsibility, many brands are leveraging purpose-driven activities as a key differentiator in the competitive financial services industry. Purpose-driven business fosters a greater connection between a brand and its consumers, so long as the message at hand is sincere and meaningful to audiences. If implemented with due authenticity, it helps brands gain trust with consumers.

Defining your purpose may involve deploying volunteers into the community or making philanthropic donations. But those in financial services are on the front lines of the unfolding economic situation. Why not make modifications to core business activities that can be done to directly touch the consumer? Examples might include deferment of fees or personalized financial advisory to individual customers who have been financially impacted by coronavirus.

Protect consumer data like it is your own

A single data breach or ethical lapse can paralyze a brand instantly. Equifax discovered this the hard way when the personal information of 143 million consumers was leaked in 2017 and the organization was forced to pay a whopping $700 million in penalties, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Within 10 days of the news going public, Equifax’s YouGov ‘Buzz Score’ dropped from a neutral zero to -33. I would not have wanted to be in that board meeting.

Thanks to such notorious widespread security breaches, consumers are fast becoming more protective of their personally identifiable information (PII) and will only share data with brands they trust. Recent regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are also empowering consumers so they can decide for themselves who has access to their PII and who does not. These developments hold companies liable for the PII security of each consumer they engage with. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

Amazon Prime has excelled in protecting and promoting PII within the e-commerce industry, conveying to consumers how PII can improve how they shop while still offering protection. Once viewed as a platform for free shipping, Prime customers are now investing in membership because of the personalization, customization and unmatched convenience. Amazon’s responsible handling of PII has cultivated consumer trust and increased organic word of mouth marketing. For some financial service organizations, repositioning how PII is used could become a key differentiator in the marketplace.

Make fees clear as day 

This will probably come as no surprise but, historically, financial institutions (FIs) have made much of their revenue on the dreaded “gotcha” fees that can become quite overwhelming for unknowing consumers: overdraft fees, external ATM fees, fees for not maintaining a certain minimum balance, etc.

I don’t mean to knock anyone down, but now might be the time for FIs to stop promoting the so-called ‘free’ checking account. By now, most consumers get skeptical when they see the word free, knowing there’s probably back-end fees or inflexible stipulations attached. And if a product or service is worth it to them, consumers will pay for it.

The lack of transparency around extra charges only damages the reputation of financial service, solidifying the industry’s unsavory reputation for making money by taking money. There is a simple solution however. Financial service organizations need to be as upfront as possible about the fees that a customer might incur. No exceptions. In the end, this transparency will pay off over and over again in the form of trust, retention and referrals.

Master all touch points with humanization

For today’s consumers, there’s no shortage of options in financial services. While the power of choice is a win for consumers, there are still a number of potential pain points and disconnects. Apart from the misuse of data, other obstacles to trust could be simple errors that temporarily freeze an account, lack of streamlining, failing customer support or absence of personalization.

Richard Steggall

Richard Steggall

In other words, consumers are looking for a “digital concierge” to help them along their financial journeys—one they can trust and knows their preferences, needs and behaviors. As traditional outliers, such as price and location, diminish in importance, companies that humanize their digital user experiences (UX) will be more likely to drive long-term business growth, according to the Digital Bank Report’s “Humanizing the Digital Experience in Banking.”

Strive for digital agility

Thanks to the implementation of new digital technology, there are opportunities for financial service organizations to move beyond pushing products and to instead provide the digital personalized assistance that today’s consumers are looking for. This is the key to building sustainable relationships in today’s marketplace.

But the financial services industry must first bridge the gap between what technology can offer and what consumers are looking for. Only through digital agility will financial services organizations be able to adapt in a rapidly changing business environment and maintain strong relationships with consumers. Part of this agility will depend on adopting FinTech into services and products. For example, banks and credit unions may look to implement a FinTech Core, which works alongside an FIs banking core or transaction processing system to enable endless digital expansion without having to contract with each FinTech service piecemeal. Having this in place can help ensure that FIs adopt tomorrow’s technologies today, protect their digital ecosystems, personalize UXs and win back the trust of consumers.

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What is a glocal supply chain?

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What is a glocal supply chain? 4

Thanks to rapid advances in communication and information technology, manufacturers are now able to operate at a truly global level, sourcing materials where it is most convenient and expanding their international client base.  However, manufacturers also need to adapt their offer to local trends, predicting which items are going to be more in demand in a particular area and adjusting their stock accordingly. Here Neil Ballinger, Head of Sales for Europe at automation parts supplier EU Automation, explains the advantages of a supply chain that operates globally, but reacts to local demand.

In a world dominated by connectivity and information technologies, political, economic and social relations are naturally encouraged to adopt a global view and become more and more interdependent. This is what characterises globalisation, a term that began to be used in its economic connotation during the 1980s and that since then has become more and more widespread.

In manufacturing, globalisation has brought numerous advantages, such as the possibility to easily access technical knowledge, learning from countries that lead the way in automation and digitalisation. Also, in a globalised world it is easier to communicate with business partners in real time, no matter where they are located. This clearly benefits business transactions and helps establish trust among business partners.

However, one of the most controversial aspects of globalisation is the threat of homogenisation. In a globalised society, the same goods are often produced and distributed across very different markets, with little attention to the preferences and habits of the final consumers. In the long run this can negatively impact sales and prevent businesses from really establishing themselves in a particular location.

For these reasons, a new term has recently emerged to indicates the possibility of operating on a global scale, but with a special attention to regional markets – it’s the era of glocalisation.

Think global, act local

The shift from global to glocal has been pushed by several factors. Firstly, in recent years it has become evident that disregard of local market conditions can negatively impact business, leading to operation and supply chain issues. Secondly, there is increased public attention to the necessity of supporting national and regional economies by sourcing raw materials locally, which can also contribute in streamlining the supply chain and reduce freight fees.

Glocalisation is not really a new thing, since multinational companies have always been compelled to adapt their production to local requests. For example, automotive manufacturers have to diversify their offer based on specific regulations, with the most obvious example being which side the steering wheel is on and whether the speedometer is in miles or kilometres per hour.

What is new is the impact that a glocal business model is having on supply chain management, with manufacturers striving to achieve a supply chain that acts on a global level but adapts to local demand.

Can automation help?

Companies need distribution and inventory management systems that can trace products at a global level, which means providing visibility across all nodes of the value chain, regardless of geographic location. However, these systems also need to be able to adjust to local trends, predicting demand for certain items in specific locations and managing stock accordingly.

To achieve the level of traceability and flexibility that a glocal supply chain requires, it is necessary to analyse data on consumers’ behaviour in real time and to be able to rapidly move items where they’ll be needed. Automation technology can help create what is known as a cognitive supply chain, where all these complex operations are fully digitalised.

One example of this Amazon’s anticipatory shipping technology, which allows the logistics giant to predict demand based on big data collected while customers browse the website, entering contact information and leaving reviews. However, Amazon is not the only company using automation to manage its stock more efficiently.

Big data, big challenges

Fully automated – or cognitive – supply chains can perfectly integrate into a glocal business model and provide a number of advantages. However, they are still not widespread.

One of biggest challenges to overcome is the poor quality of data at manufacturers’ disposal. With consumer trends changing so rapidly, using a historical statistical approach for demand forecasts is no longer enough. Big data can help modernise this approach, but only if data are processed fast enough to react to the swift changes of local markets.

Another common issue is insufficient communication between the different nodes of the supply chain. Nodes located in different geographical areas can use a variety of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, that range from Excel spreadsheets to dozens of different open-source or proprietary software solutions. This is especially true for companies that have grown through acquisition, which is currently a very common scenario.

Luckily, smart technologies can help manufacturers overcome some of these challenges. For example, it is possible to implement an overarching supply management solution that collects and analyses data from all sources, reducing issue related to the heterogeneity of ERPs in place.

Manufacturers can also use digital technology to help their businesses react to unexpected situations. For example, digital twinning can be used to test issues with supply and distribution, and it is even possible to use sets of dummy data to create a series of possible scenarios and see how the supply chain would react to them. In this way, manufacturers can be more prepared to rapidly changing market conditions.

By overcoming some of the most common challenges in supply management, manufacturers can successfully manage the shift from global to glocal. Cognitive supply chains are an essential step in this direction, as they will allow businesses to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse customer base.

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