10 tech trends: Professional chatbots?

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Chatbots for professional services, time to mobile-optimize your firm’s Web site, and eight other recent technology-related news items, and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.

1. Chatbots may soon have a huge impact on the legal industry. Chatbots — computer programs that can converse with humans via text or audio — have recently started being used by lawyers. In mid-July, Joshua Browder, creator of the traffic-ticket-fighting chatbot DoNotPay launched a free, no-code chatbot that allows lawyers to create chatbots for any area of law — giving consumers access to free, instantaneous legal help through a form of artificial intelligence. (Source: The Province)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: If you’re a professional services provider, you’ll want to consider implementing this technology in the future to automate routine requests and hopefully reduce your internal costs. If you’re using the services of a lawyer, know that some of your questions in the future may be answered by a software program and not a real person. Does this make a difference?

2. Report: 57 percent of traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets. On August 22, BrightEdge — a leader in enterprise SEO and content performance marketing —reported that 57 percent of traffic among its clients is coming from smartphones and tablets. (Source: Search Engine Land)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: The desktop isn’t dead, but it’s seriously declining. Make sure your Web presence is mobile optimized and that your online advertising is focusing on mobile sites and services.

3. WhatsApp rolls out verified business accounts — and might have a whole new app in the works. WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned chat service, is enhancing the way users can engage with businesses on its platform. It’s launching a new pilot program for verified business accounts that will tag some accounts with a green check symbol once their contact info is certified by WhatsApp. (Source: Mashable)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Although growing in use here in the U.S., WhatsApp is hugely popular in Europe for messaging, and I’m recommending to my clients with customers there to consider a re-look at the app’s new capabilities for providing better customer service.

4. Google announces a big jump in speed and better enhancements for ads. Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages group announced enhancements to ads served on AMP. By using “Fast Fetch” ad request and rendering, these ads will now be faster and potentially will improve viewability rates. This is phase two of Google’s three-phase plan for supporting comprehensive advertising functionality in AMP. (Source: Search Engine Land)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Google’s investment underscores the importance of mobile in the future and should be a reminder to make sure your Websiteyou’re your clients’ ecommerce platforms are fully mobile-capable. Google is also making investments to deliver your ads faster to people on their mobile devices, which may lead you to consider more emphasis on AdWords in the future as your main online advertising strategy.

5. It’s a great time to be a Web developer. According to a recent report, 79 percent of Web developers and designers said they had attained client growth of at least 25 percent per year, and more than a third reported growth rates of 50 percent or more. Though nearly 50 percent of Web developers and designers have been in the business for five years or less, the majority had revenue of at least $250,000, and a third made more than $500,000. (Source: Small Business Computing)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: The Web development business certainly has room to grow, and offers plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs — and those who advise entrepreneurs.

6. After one of tech’s biggest breakups, HP Inc. is doing pretty well. In 2015, in one of the biggest corporate breakups in Silicon Valley’s history, Hewlett-Packard Co. split itself in half, with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, or HPE, handling data centers, software and services, while HP Inc. is responsible for printers and computers. Nearly two years later, in the opinion of one Bloomberg columnist, HP Inc. has surprised industry experts by having more momentum than HPE: It has embraced higher-end products and expanded revenue despite lackluster spending on PCs and printers. The company’s stock price is also way up. (Source: Bloomberg)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: During HP’s struggles, many of my clients questioned whether it made sense to invest in their technologies. Not anymore. HP has re-emerged as a leader in both hardware and software.

7. Google issues refunds to advertisers over fake traffic. In an effort to give marketers more transparency about the ads purchased through its platform, Google is issuing refunds for ads that ran on Web sites with fake traffic. In the past few weeks, the company has informed hundreds of marketers and ad agency partners about “ad fraud.” The refunds amount to only a fraction of the cost of the ads served to invalid traffic, so Google has offered to reimburse its “platform fee,” which typically ranges from about 7 percent to 10 percent of the total purchase. (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Online advertising has its perils. Google is not only refunding money for ads that ran on sites with fake traffic but also implementing safeguards. But are you seeing those refunds? If you’re working with a marketing firm or ad agency, you want to make sure that any refunds from Google are being reflected in your fees.

8. Marc Benioff, Ashton Kutcher, and even Michael Jordan poured millions into a startup that helps programmers make Google money from home. Gigster — a startup that connects companies to freelance software developers, designers, and project managers — has received $20 million in a new round of financing from the likes of big name investors like Y Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz, and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Capital, as well as new investors —Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and basketball legend Michael Jordan. (Source: Business Insider)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Big names with big money are getting behind yet another freelancing site, which indicates that the growth of freelancing will certainly continue in the future. For developers, designers or project managers, this site may be a place for new business opportunities. If you’re looking for someone, here’s another resource.

9. Walmart taps Google to challenge Amazon’s hold on voice-assisted shopping. Walmart and Google are teaming up to enter the voice-shopping market, which is now dominated by Amazon’s AI virtual assistant Alexa. Alexa currently lets U.S. consumers shop directly from Amazon, but, starting in September, they’ll be able to buy Walmart products in a similar way — using the voice-activated Google Assistant platform on their phones and home devices. (Source: Venture Beat)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Big companies are putting big money into voice-assisted services, including shopping. Although Amazon’s Alexa is the early leader, Google’s Assistant platform — and others — are sure to be players. Can customers order products from your clients’ sites using these technologies like they can do from Walmart and Amazon? Will they in the future?

10. A manufacturer announces two 3D printers that produce items as strong as steel. Imagine printing a custom valve wrench in 10 minutes on a 3D printer! Markforged, a Boston-based 3D printer manufacturer, makes it possible with its just-announced new models — the X3 and the X5. (Source: Tech Crunch)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Both products are designed to create carbon fiber-infused objects using a standard filament printing system, and both can produce items that can replace or are stronger than steel. Users can print both usable parts and usable tools using the same machine, and, because of its fiberglass weave, the piece won’t snap on use.

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