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London is getting another vegan burger bar and our stomachs are so ready

Topix - Fri, 2018-01-19 13:32

If a place isn't equipped with vegan sauce, vegan cheese or, er, a set of vegan tastebuds to remind them that yes, our people do actually enjoy taste and texture, then they can end up dry, sad and soft. London's Brick Lane is lucky enough to have Mooshies , a totally plant-based burger bar who make ridiculously tasty burgers, but we've just heard that Shoreditch is being blessed with another 100% vegan burger bar! The Vurger Co was set up after its owners became sick of unhealthy, processed vegan burger options - some vegans can't get enough of processed patties, and others prefer a more wholesome approach.

Categories: Today's Food News

Larry Augustin of SugarCRM: AI’s Hype Cycle Ahead of the Technology, Blockchain is Ready Now

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2018-01-19 13:00

It’s been way too long since my last conversation with SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin for this series.

CRM Technology Trends

But with artificial intelligence, smart speakers, blockchain and  so many technologies capturing our collective attention, I was happy to catch up with Larry to ask him how CRM/customer engagement will be impacted by any or all of these areas.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.  To hear the full interview, check out the video or Soundcloud embedded player below.

* * * * *

Brent Leary: The behavioral changes that have come from Alexa, people ask it questions throughout the day. They can be anywhere in their house. Have it play music, have it set up a to do list.

Now you’re seeing things like, it actually starting to affect business applications and at CES, what the big take away for me was, the battle between Google and Amazon for “voice supremacy”, for lack of a better way of putting it.

What’s driving this and what are the implications for CRM and customer engagement?

Larry Augustin: First of all I think it’s an incredible time to be involved in any of these things because watching that technology advance, it’s just amazing. It’s a little bit like the science fiction world of voice control of everything and voice interaction. You can see it now.

Now we’ve talked about it literally for decades. People have been talking about that, but now the distance, the gap is closing immensely.

My daughter’s away at college. She has an Echo Show, and that’s how we communicate. It’s been very nice. There’s a lot of opportunity for that in the world of engagement of customers and customer experience.

When you have a device sitting there like an Echo Show, the ability to interact with the customer over that remotely, and use that device as a point of engagement — I mean think about the possibilities.

You know we do that today with voice and phone and Skype and other technologies but when you make it so easy that it’s just sitting there on the kitchen counter and you say, “Alexa, connect me to whoever. Connect me to support for this question. Or connect me to this product or service that I’m using.”

You don’t have to go find your phone. You don’t have to go sit down in front of a computer. I think that’s a very powerful experience opportunity.

Another thing that Amazon has done well, they have this box that connects into the landline, phone line. So the Echo becomes a speaker phone for your house as well.  So, you start to think, well gee that old phone device can completely go away. It’s not going to replace my cell phone because I carry that around but just as I said, it sits right there on the counter.

You can get video conference to people. You can connect to anyone who has a speaker phone. You can start to see it becoming a true point of customer experience and customer engagement, particularly on the consumer side.  I think we are going to see a lot of things develop there and I really like where Amazon is going in terms of ultimately building that into their engagement model with customers.

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Brent Leary: So let’s talk about the blockchain. We’re not going to talk about bitcoin, which is probably a good thing since it’s been tanking.  How important or impactful or disruptive do you think blockchain technology could be to CRM and customer engagement?

Larry Augustin: I think blockchain is going to form the basis for many forms of commerce transactions in the future, because of the ability to create a distributed agreed upon general ledger.

That’s a very powerful technology concept and it’s just, it has lots and lots of use cases. Now currency just being one of them. I actually think it’s all the other use cases that will end up really defining blockchain in the future and I can give you some examples.

For example, customer loyalty programs. I think that they are a great direction, or a great use case for blockchain technologies. Your loyalty reward points, they’re a currency and you need to agree on what they are, the supplier/vendor needs to agree on what they are.

Then you have various rules about how you can exchange those, how you can share those, convert them to other people. You can see economies developing around those.

Some vendors may say, you want to sell those to a friend? Great. You want to give them to a friend? Great. With technologies like blockchain, that all becomes easily manageable and you can create exchanges and the mechanisms for doing that, that were very hard to do in the past. It limited what you could do, with say customer loyalty or rewards programs.

So I think that’s one example where it’s going to directly come in to the customer/vendor relationship, but any of those cases where there’s some virtual currency like thing that you need to share. I think we’ll see it there.  You can see it potentially coming up in licensing because your license is a kind of virtual currency.

Maybe you have a license for a certain number of seats in something you’re offering, right? You can see that and you want to be able to move those licenses around or share them.  Again, it’s just a distributed general ledger. So I think there are a lot of places that we’d potentially see blockchain coming in and I know we at Sugar have been thinking more and more about ways to utilize that technology in sharing of information.

Brent Leary: If you had to guess, what timeframe do you see blockchain really starting to hit the mainstream of what we do?

Larry Augustin: I think blockchain is going to hit very fast. Start with my first example, customer loyalty programs, loyalty rewards programs. Any place where you have some kind of credit with a customer, if you look at consumer or consumer apps, where you have in store credit, in game credits, loyalty programs, all of those.  Blockchain technology is great for managing that. They’re all sort of forms of currency if you will. I think blockchain is going to impact those things very quickly because the technology’s out there.

It’s become fairly mature. I think there’s still some maturity to be developed, but it’s mature enough certainly for those applications. People know how to use it, so I think we’re going to see it impact that stuff very fast.

Brent Leary: How about AI? Where are we with AI today? Has it hit the mainstream? Are we there yet?

Larry Augustin: If you would ask me the time frames for AI, I would definitely put it out there a little bit longer, because I think there’s a lot to be learned. I think AI is hitting a big part of the hype cycle a bit ahead of the technology today, as opposed to blockchain.

Blockchain’s got a lot of hype. It’s actually bitcoin that’s got a lot of hype, so does blockchain, but the blockchain technology, I think, is ready to move into applications and use cases today.

I think there’s still a lot of work on AI in those places. I’ll say I’m an AI optimist, and the way I see AI is in human assistance. Take away mundane tasks from us and help us be more human. Let people communicate with people and let me spend less time filling in forms or organizing data.

Let AI do those kinds of things for us. So have it help me. I think that’s what we’ll see at first and see it really work its way in out there. You know we’re already starting to see AI take some tasks and do them and help us with them.

For example, there was — there’s a Stanford reading comprehension benchmark. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but Stanford University developed this. It’s based on questions off of Wikipedia. You point your AI at Wikipedia. They read all this. They answer questions and for the first time now AIs are now passing human’s scores in that reading comprehension test.

Well, on some level, I don’t know about you, I can’t read all of Wikipedia. It’s too much, right? The fact that an AI can do reading comprehension better, actually what’s valuable there is they can read a lot more stuff than I’ll ever be able to read.

Then it can summarize and tell me, well here’s what you care about. Here’s what’s important for that, as you look at all of the information that’s out there, content that’s generated, everything generated on the internet.

Having an assistant who can read that, comprehend it and say, okay there’ve been 50 articles on blockchain but here’s the one that actually matters or three of them combined and let me synthesize that for you.  Let me give you the Reader’s Digest version if you will of those three so you don’t have to spend as much time to really understand things or become an expert.

I think you’ll see AI move into those roles first. I don’t think people want an AI to be their relationship manager. I think people want a human experience.

I have this feeling there’s going to be this, “I’m sick of talking to your AI, I want to talk to a person” cycle that will hit. That also pulls me back a bit to that notion of the AI is the assistant to that human.

So I can see the AI being the assistant of the call center rep, handling mundane tasks for the rep and the customer but not replacing the customer talking to a person so they feel there’s a human; that’s a human connection and can understand them, not just quantitatively but emotionally.

This article, "Larry Augustin of SugarCRM: AI’s Hype Cycle Ahead of the Technology, Blockchain is Ready Now" was first published on Small Business Trends

9 Tips About Remote Workers You Can’t Afford to Miss (INFOGRAPHIC)

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2018-01-19 11:30

With almost 40 percent of the U.S. workforce identifying themselves as freelancers, working remotely from home is an employment practice no employer can afford to ignore.

For employers, having teams work remotely from home comes with challenges, as well as many benefits. One of the biggest challenges employers of remote teams face is how to keep remote workers motivated.

How to Motivate Remote Employees

Business Backer has compiled an interesting infographic on ways to motivate employees who work remotely.

Create A Social Space for Teams to Integrate

According to renowned management author, Patrick Lencioni, one of the leading dysfunctions of remote teams is a lack of trust. Business Backer’s infographic advises employers to create a social space designed for teams to share personal news and get to know each other. A short 5 to 10-minute chat at the start of a remote meeting can be an effective way to heighten trust amongst remote teams.

Provide Professional Development Opportunities

A staggering 76 percent of millennials believe professional development is amongst the most important things an organization can offer.

Your workers might be remote but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide them with the chance to go on professional training courses.

Don’t Time-Track, Productivity-Track Instead

Religiously tracking time can make remote teams feel untrusted and like they’re being watched. According to the infographic, giving workers the flexibility and freedom to complete tasks when they wish can be up to 35 percent more productive.

Instead of relentless tracking time, focus on what your team is consistently managing to achieve.

Take an Interest in Your Employees’ Working Environment

Did you know that Automaticc, the creators of WordPress, offers remote workers $2,000 to make their home office a happy space? A happy workforce means a productive workforce and therefore providing your remote team with information on comfort and productivity in their home working environment could prove an invaluable move.

Take a look at Business Backer’s full infographic on motivating remote teams below.

Images: Business Backer

This article, "9 Tips About Remote Workers You Can’t Afford to Miss (INFOGRAPHIC)" was first published on Small Business Trends

1 in 6 Americans Owns a Smart Speaker, Important News for Online Businesses

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2018-01-19 10:30

One in six Americans (16 percent) now own a voice-activated smart speaker, up 128 percent from January 2017. Out of the rising number of people who own a smart speaker, 31 percent said they use it for shopping purposes, adding items to their cart so they can review them later for purchase.

Findings come from the Smart Audio Report, Fall/Winter 2017, which analyzed smart speaker ownership data from NPR and Edison Research. The study also found that 29 percent of smart speaker owners used their device to research an item they may want to purchase. A total of 22 percent used the speaker to re-order an item they have previously purchased. The same number of people ordered a new product with their smart speaker that they had not previously purchased.

Implications of Rise in Smart Speaker Ownership

The fact that a growing number of consumers are using smart speakers when shopping online is interesting for small businesses partnering with the likes of Amazon and Google. As consumers are using smart speakers to spend more time shopping online, researching items, re-ordering products and ordering new products, these innovative devices could prove advantageous to small businesses which sell online.

The rise of smart speakers also presents fresh opportunities for businesses to market their products and enhance their brand through voice-activated ads that enable viewers to ‘talk’ with a brand.

As Carrie Seifer, CRO for the IBM Watson content and IoT platform, commented in the report:

“We have already begun to see that consumers are spending more time with these cognitive ads than with other digital ads.”

With one in six Americans now owning a smart speaker, many of which are using these integrated devices to shop for products and engage with ads, small businesses would be wise to recognize the business potential of smart speakers.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "1 in 6 Americans Owns a Smart Speaker, Important News for Online Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

Turkish-American sisters now franchising Flatbread Grill

FastCasual.com - Fri, 2018-01-19 10:24
Turkish-American Sisters — Arzu, Fusun, and Gonca Esendemir — are now franchising their fast casual concept —  Flatbread Grill.

Lithium makers for EV batteries get a dedicated hedge fund

AutoNews - Fri, 2018-01-19 10:19
Will Smith, a former partner at Michael Hintze's investment firm CQS UK, is starting a hedge fund that will bet on companies that could gain from the expected boom in electric cars.
Categories: Latest News

Online Fraud Attempts During 2017 Holiday Shopping Season Up 22% Over Previous Year

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2018-01-19 09:30

Online fraud attempts in the U.S. during the 2017 holiday shopping season increased by 22 percent. The insight comes from new ACI Worldwide benchmark data gathered from top U.S. merchants.

Online Fraud During the 2017 Holiday Season

The report reveals fraud attempts were highest on Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve and and Dec. 21 –the all-important cutoff day for getting items express shipped in time for the holiday.

The 22 percent jump coincides with a 19 percent increase in overall transactions during the holiday shopping season. Higher volumes mean more opportunities for criminals to take advantage of the pressures of the moment.

Pressures affect companies of all sizes, but for small businesses operating in the digital and physical world, the impact of fraud can be more detrimental. As more sales come from digital channels, owners must implement security solutions to mitigate fraud attempts from succeeding.

“The consistent, alarming uptick in fraudulent activity on key dates is a signal that merchants must be proactive in their efforts to identify weak points across the omnichannel payment process — and define the short- and long-term strategies necessary to improve security and enhance customer experience, “ said Erika Dietrich, Director of Risk Management at ACI Worldwide, in a press release announcing the findings.

ACI gathered its data for online fraud attempts during the holiday season from ReD Shield. ReD Shield is the ecommerce fraud prevention portion of ACI’s business providing real-time, multi-tiered protection for merchants, payment service providers and independent sales organizations. The data represents hundreds of millions of transactions processed by the company.

ReD Shield handled 14 percent of all Thanksgiving Day online spend, 13 percent of all Black Friday online spend, and 9 percent of all Cyber Monday online spend.

Key Points From the Benchmark Data

The data were compared with the same period in 2016. The conclusion? Thanksgiving Day had the highest number of online fraud attempts, up by 1.9 percent from 1.26 percent in 2016. For Christmas Eve, online fraud attempts were up by 1.78 percent from 2016s 1.48 percent. For December 21, the cutoff date for express shipments, online fraud attempts rose 1.67 percent, up from 1.49 percent for the previous year. Only one out one out of every 109 transactions was a fraud attempt in 2015. And this rose to one out of 97 transactions in 2016. But in 2017,  one out of 85 transactions was a fraud attempts, a trend that has experts worried.

When it comes to the value of the attempted fraud transactions in 2017, the average ticket price was $227 over the entire holiday period compared to $239 in 2016. Although the price was lower in 2017, the volume was higher.

According to ACI, the jump in fraudulent activities for the specific dates was attributed to shipment cut-off, consumer traffic, and buy online pick-up in-store transactions.

Protecting Your Online Customers

Online fraud is expensive in terms of monetary loses and damage to the reputation of your brand. The December 2017 Online Fraud Trends and Behavior report from Stripe revealed a small online retail business can end up spending $2.62 battling back against online fraud for every $1 of a fraudulent order.

If you are not proactive and don’t have the right security measures in place, your online presence will suffer greatly, not only during the holiday season but year round.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Online Fraud Attempts During 2017 Holiday Shopping Season Up 22% Over Previous Year" was first published on Small Business Trends

Graffiti attack on shop fronts in Bromley High Street

Topix - Fri, 2018-01-19 08:38

An apparent serial graffiti artist targeted a number of stores on Bromley High Street, leaving black scribbles across the front of each building. Up to 17 shops were targeted, including fast food outlets, clothes stores, and even the British Heart Foundation charity shop.

Categories: Today's Food News

The Company’s New Revenue Generating Strategy Took Unexpected Forms

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2018-01-19 08:30

My kids hate commercials.

I mean, I hated them growing up, but there was no escape so you just put up with them. But my kids HATE commercials.

I think they’re so used to any and all content available on-demand when, where and how they want it, mostly ad-free, that when they have to put up with advertising they get really frustrated.

So one day my daughter was ranting about a local hardware commercial that kept interrupting her Hulu cooking show (I won’t spring for the no-commercial option) and the idea of inserting a commercial into another everyday setting occurred to me and this cartoon popped out.

I don’t know if this is what’s coming, but if it is, it’s going to drive my kids bananas.

Side note — I just noticed that the cat I drew on the Kitty Winks bag is, in fact, not winking. Sorry.

This article, "The Company’s New Revenue Generating Strategy Took Unexpected Forms" was first published on Small Business Trends

Atlanta Marriott Peachtree Corners Completes Multi-Million Dollar Transformation

Hotel Interactive - Fri, 2018-01-19 07:32
PEACHTREE CORNERS, GA—The Atlanta Marriott Peachtree Corners has completed the final phase of an extensive transformation that began 18 months ago.  ...

Thousands of Restaurants May Close Nationwide Due to Minimum Wage Laws, Expert Says

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2018-01-19 07:30

Restaurants are under increasing pressure from minimum wage hikes to pay workers more and pass off costs in higher prices for customers, Fox Business reports.

Eighteen states raised their minimum wage at the start of the year, forcing thousands of restaurants to adapt to rising labor costs. However, patrons will only absorb so much of the cost.

“When we increase in prices … we see guest count go down,” “Restaurant Stakeout” host and CEO of Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse Willie Degel told FOX Business. “The consumer is not willing to pay for the experience then.”

Minimum Wage Hikes Hitting Restaurants

Degel predicted a dark future for the restaurant industry if labor costs keep increasing.

“I think you’re going to see thousands of restaurants close their doors,” Willie Degel told FOX Business. “Fine dining is going to go by the wayside.”

Some restaurants are downsizing staff to keep their doors open. Red Robin announced last week that it will cut all busboy positions from its 570 stores nationwide. The chain hopes to save $8 million to help pay for the minimum wage hikes that hit many states where the chain operates, The New York Post reports.

Wages and benefits are ramping up across most industries without the prodding of minimum wage laws. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent for the last three months of 2017, slightly below what the federal reserve considers normal, between 4.3 and 5 percent.

The low unemployment rate has created a hyper-competitive labor market with businesses competing to attract skilled workers through higher pay and better benefits. Some construction companies are struggling to fill positions while offering six-figure salaries.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Thousands of Restaurants May Close Nationwide Due to Minimum Wage Laws, Expert Says" was first published on Small Business Trends

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group Plans To Open Its First Radisson Blu In Costa Rica

Hotel Interactive - Fri, 2018-01-19 07:26
MINNEAPOLIS—Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, one of the world’s largest and most dynamic hotel groups, today announced the signing of a new ...

Two-Pronged Approach

Hotel Interactive - Fri, 2018-01-19 07:20
Davidson Thrives As Proven Operator For Traditional Brands, Independent Hotels

AAHOA President And CEO Joins U.S. Travel Association Board Of Directors

Hotel Interactive - Fri, 2018-01-19 06:42
WASHINGTON, DC—AAHOA President and CEO Chip Rogers issued the following statement about joining the U.S. Travel Association Board of Directors. ...

New TRYP By Wyndham Coming To America's Coolest Neighborhood

Hotel Interactive - Fri, 2018-01-19 06:36
PITTSBURGH—TRYP by Wyndham, Wyndham Hotel Group’s urban lifestyle brand, announces its next U.S. destination: a transformed former school building in Pittsburgh’s ...

Knife arch installed at McDonalds in Woolwich in town of the fast food giant's oldest takeaway

Topix - Fri, 2018-01-19 06:27

A knife arch was installed at the McDonalds in Woolwich as police try to combat knife crime in the borough. Woolwich Riverside Officers conducted stop and searches while working in partnership with the fast food giant, whose oldest UK establishment is in Woolwich.

Categories: Today's Food News