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1. The robot-recruiter is coming
Several companies are now developing robots to use for recruiting. Just a few examples include VCV.AI, which has raised $1.7 million to automatically screen job candidates using facial and voice recognition; HireVue, which has raised $93 million to develop an AI-driven “Hiring Intelligence” platform; AllyO, which has put $19 million behind an effort to make hiring more efficient by tackling the usual inefficiencies of lost applicants and conversions due to poor candidate experience; and Arya, which is a start-up that is using machine learning to identify successful sourcing patterns and choose potential candidates from online profiles. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Recruiting and interview tools using AI will be commonplace over the next few years and you can expect this technology to trickle down to smaller firms like yours and mine. Not only will this type of technology speed up and standardize your recruiting process, but it will also help remove bias. That’s a good thing.
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2. Amazon thinks small
Amazon announced it will provide more help to small and midsized businesses selling on its platform. So far in 2019, the company released 50 new tools and services to help SMBs increase business in its stores. Of the billions of dollars Amazon invests annually to enable SMBs to reach new customers and sell products online, the most recent investments have been in solutions and services related to fulfillment, selling and advertising — including brand analytics, global registration experience, Fulfillment by Amazon monthly storage and removal fee waiver, and Interactive Seller University content. (Source: Chain Store Age)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Amazon is putting the full-court press on attracting more small merchants to its platform — and keeping its existing ones happy. These tools make it easier to promote and sell products and enable even the smallest merchant to look big. If you have Amazon Merchants as clients you should take time to explore them.
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3. Retailers still wary of mobile wallets
Retailers nationwide are concerned about adding third-party mobile wallets, which is why mobile payment adoption in the U.S. is quite low — just 20 percent as of October 2018. One reason is that they are unclear about how tech companies operating the mobile wallet platforms will use the data. Second, a merchant association representative says retailers have broader concerns about spending money on tech that may not yield significant ROI, given the low adoption rates of mobile and contactless cards across the country. (Source: Digiday)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: All of these concerns are reasonable. So should your clients be accepting mobile payments in their stores? Here’s some advice: Listen to your customers. If they have the type of business that attracts the type of people who use mobile payments more than others, then that should be their motivation to consider these technologies.
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4. As e-commerce grows, 75,000 stores could close
With American retailers announcing this year that 5,994 stores will close — a number that already exceeds last year’s total of 5,864 — a recent report from Coresight Research now predicts that thousands more stores could close in the coming years. The reason is the growth of online shopping on sites such as Amazon. In fact, online sales currently account for approximately 16 percent of retail sales. And UBS analysts said in a research report last week that percentage will rise to 25 percent by 2026. (Source: WRAL Tech Wire)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Will this be the end of brick and mortar? I think not. But I do believe that today’s merchants will be best positioned to succeed if they sell products through different channels. That means not only serving customers in a store, but having a strong online presence as well.
5. Dropbox challenger just became profitable
A 32-person company named pCloud, which has attracted more than 9 million users over the past five years, announced that it recently reached profitability. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Given some of its advantages over Dropbox, particularly for small businesses, I can understand why the company is now in the black. The pCloud service lets users back up and sync files across devices. It gives them 10GB for free and then charges for more storage and features. Unlike Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive, pCloud functions more like an external hard drive. Once installed on a computer, the app enables files to stay in the cloud by default.
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6. Google Pay adds Gmail importing
Google has introduced a new setting for its Google Pay users with Android devices. It lets them have relevant data from Gmail automatically appear in the Google Pay app, including loyalty cards, movie tickets, airline boarding passes, etc. Users need Google Pay V. 2.86 or higher to see the toggle that enables the app. The setting is disabled by default, but opening Google Pay and clicking on Settings > General > Gmail Imports allows it to be toggled on. (Source: 9 to 5 Google)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Google is fully invested in expanding the use of its mobile payment service over the long term, and these added features reinforce that commitment. Regardless of the business, everyone should be evaluating whether to accept Google Pay from customers as another convenient way for them to do business.
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7. Thousands of 'fake' five-star reviews on Amazon
According to an investigation by consumer group Which?, Amazon’s customer review section is being overtaken by “fake” five-star reviews from “unknown” brands. After analyzing the listings of hundreds of popular tech products in 14 different categories, the group found that many of the highest-rated items in each category were from little-known brands, while thousands of positive reviews were written by unverified purchasers. In addition, Which? found evidence of duplicated reviews, as well as positive reviews for unrelated products, which suggests that the reviews might be automated. (Source: Independent)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: If you have a client who is an Amazon merchant, there’s a lot of temptation to hire one of those firms that do fake reviews for their products. Obviously, that’s been done by a lot of businesses already. But this is a practice that will absolutely come back to bite your client in the future. Amazon is cracking down on these companies and if customers get wind that they’re being dishonest, they will no longer be customers. Don’t let your client give in to the temptation. It’s not worth it.
8. Adblock Plus filters can be abused to execute malicious code in browsing sessions
A security researcher has uncovered an exploit in the filter systems of Adblock, Adblock Plus, and uBlock which may permit attackers to remotely inject arbitrary code into web pages. According to the researcher, the issue lies within Version 3.2 of the Adblock Plus software, which introduced a new filter option for rewriting requests in 2018. This feature is vulnerable to a security flaw that was thought to be “trivial,” and the issue could potentially be leveraged in attacks to steal online credentials, tamper with sessions, or redirect pages. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: The company, in a blog post, says that it is “taking this very seriously and is currently investigating the actual risk for our users to determine the best countermeasure.” In the meantime, you should check to see if any of your employees are using this tool, which could make your network vulnerable.
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9. Will Instagram replace word of mouth?
Jarema Osofsky, founder of a one-person plant business called DirtQueenNYC, began by selling plants on a Brooklyn street. But recently her business has grown rapidly due to Instagram. In fact, she says for her it’s the 21st century version of word-of-mouth advertising. “People post a picture of a plant that they got from me and tag me,” Osofsky says. From there, her service spreads among their friends. Potential buyers use Instagram to set up a time to meet her to talk about plant maintenance and sunlight setups over a cup of tea. She gets to know her customers personally and says Instagram has made shopping with her “more of an experience and less of a transaction.” (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: More and more small businesses are turning to Instagram not just for posting photos but building communities, getting referrals, and making sales. Osofksy’s story is one of many. Could it be your clients’ too?
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10. Pew: 10% of Twitter users create 80% of tweets
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Twitter users tend to be younger and more Democratic than the general public. It also showed that Twitter activity is dominated by a small percentage of the overall population. In fact, the most active tweeters — just 10 percent of U.S. adults — send 80 percent of the tweets. Pew says only around 22 percent of American adults today use Twitter, and their median age is 40, compared with the median age of all U.S. adults, which is 47. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Twitter is a great social media platform. But, like any social media platform, it’s important for you and your clients to know its demographics so that you can determine if it’s worthwhile investing resources there. For example, if only 22 percent of American adults are using Twitter, what about the other 78 percent? Are your clients there? Are engagement and the number of followers misleading? Given Twitter’s user base activity, it’s best to judge this data with a skeptical eye.

Note: Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.