Innovation In The workplace: The Good, The Bad And The Utterly Pointless

Making Tax Digital

Making Tax Digital

The Dawn Of ‘Innovation

The entry level for ‘innovation’ products in business as far more accessible than before. The next ‘killer’ app and optimal design tweak is beating down your door, vying for your attention. But is ‘innovation’ a good thing? Do you even need it? And first of all, what exactly is it?

We live in the era of disruption, whether you are a retailer or a provider of services such as finances and accountancy. Technology is changing the way we work. The constrained circumstances many in the UK find themselves in isn’t helping business either. Lack of expendable income is causing a race to the bottom for services and a complete lack of loyalty.

To combat this, businesses are turning to technological and ideological ‘innovations’ in an attempt to bring those customers back and retain them. The biggest of all those innovations has been with us for a long time and has ultimately caused the biggest disruption of all the current and emerging trends-we are of course talking about the internet.

Webrooming

Brace yourself for yet another buzzword-’webrooming’. ‘Webrooming’ is in actual fact a kind of counter movement to something called ‘showrooming’. In a Huffington Post article titled ‘Webrooming vs. Showrooming: Are You Engaging Both Types of Shoppers?’, helpful definitions of both slightly absurd terms are given:

  • “Webrooming Consumers: research products online before buying them in a physical store.”
  • “Showrooming Consumers: visit store(s) to examine a product before buying it online.”

Speakers of plain English would refer to this as ‘browsing online’ or ‘looking in the shops’, silly buzzwords aside, it’s important to understand these trends.

It’s also important to keep in mind, such behaviours are not exclusive to the retail sector, they apply to your business too. Businesses are looking for accountancy forms that offer the best user experience at the lowest price. They are looking at your flashy website, they are searching for your app in the Android/iPhone store, they are checking your social media channels to see if your are a good fit for them.  You now have to embrace an omnichannel approach to your marketing strategy. Its a question of which ‘innovation’ is good, bad or utterly pointless for your business. This is going to require research, trial and error.

The Rise Of The Smartphones

From that fateful moment when Captain Kirk flipped open the communicator, we were destined to one day walk around like zombies holding communicator like devices in our hands. While the PC still holds its own in the office space, the smartphone is the king of the streets. Need to buy clothes online? There’s an app for that. Need to buy tickets for a sports or entertainment event? There’s an app for that? Need to speak to a tax advisor? Do you have an app for that? And could you grow your client base if you had one? It’s something to consider.

Chat Bots

Chat Bots are useful automated systems that can respond on your behalf to Facebook messages. More and more, people are taking to Facebook to reach out to businesses and a Chat Boy could save you time but be careful as they can also be a huge source of annoyance to potential clients. Digital Marketing guru, Jeff Bullas shares some insights into the effectiveness of Chat Bots in his blog post ‘How To Use Facebook Messenger Bots To Grow Your Email List

Combined messaging apps are now bigger than social networks themselves with the four biggest messaging apps surpassing the four biggest social networks across the total number of users.

People are now using messaging apps to do much more than just chat with family and friends. Such as, purchase goods, enquire about products, order pizza, connect with brands, post ‘stories’ and watch content.

You don’t even need any coding skills, there are already existing Chat Bot services you can subscribe to and integrate into your Facebook page such as Many Chat. You can use this software to send interested clients to your landing page via Facebook! Sounds great, right? A word of warning should be heeded though, let’s take a look at another quote from the same Jeff Bullas blog post:

You might be thinking, why not just send out a link to a landing page in your first message? And you could. But it might be counterintuitive and lead to poor user experience. My recommendation would be to send out a sequence of automated messages to educate followers and build trust. And on the final message, to incentivise them to join your email list with a new offer.

So there you have it, sound advice for anyone considering this particular marketing route, take it slow, take it easy, ease your customers in and don’t scare them off with the digital equivalent of a cold call, nobody likes cold calls.

Using AI To Optimise Your Accounting

Artificial intelligence could take the biggest pain out of accountancy for accounting firms. Systems are in place like Sage that can automate the process of book keeping and finance report management. It may not be advanced enough to replace humans, nor may you want it to be but it may be a useful assist  to a busy office. Having software that can ‘do the accounts’ could be especially helpful when staff fall ill or go on maternity leave. Overall, it could be an investment that boosts productivity and gives your firm an edge and a good professional standing.

The Issue Of Data Privacy

Like it or not, digital records exist concerning our birth, medical records, purchase history and countless other aspects of our lives. As a business, you must be cautious to tow the line between customer satisfaction and too much data. From May 2018, GDPR laws take affect, giving people the right to be forgotten. The simplest and shortest explanation of GDPR can be found on Wikipedia:

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU. The GDPR aims primarily to give control back to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.[1] When the GDPR takes effect, it will replace the data protection directive (officially Directive 95/46/EC)[2] of 1995. The regulation was adopted on 27 April 2016. It becomes enforceable from 25 May 2018 after a two-year transition period and, unlike a directive, it does not require national governments to pass any enabling legislation, and is thus directly binding and applicable

How binding is this ‘right to be forgotten’? According to ico.org.uk the ‘right to erasure’ can be defined as:

The broad principle underpinning this right is to enable an individual to request the deletion or removal of personal data where there is no compelling reason for its continued processing.

The ico.org.uk GDPR guide goes on to define where this right is applicable:

When does the right to erasure apply?

The right to erasure does not provide an absolute ‘right to be forgotten’. Individuals have a right to have personal data erased and to prevent processing in specific circumstances:

  • Where the personal data is no longer necessary in relation to the purpose for which it was originally collected/processed.
  • When the individual withdraws consent.
  • When the individual objects to the processing and there is no overriding legitimate interest for continuing the processing.
  • The personal data was unlawfully processed (i.e. otherwise in breach of the GDPR).
  • The personal data has to be erased in order to comply with a legal obligation.
  • The personal data is processed in relation to the offer of information society services to a child.

Data management software could  be a perfect fit for your firm, business or retail brand but it is highly recommended you seek out specialist advice on how GDPR may affect this and how it may affect the sensitivities of your client base.

Summary

Innovation is a double edged sword and not necessarily the solution to every problem. Software may not bring back cash strapped customers, that is out of your control. What it may be able to do is attract a more targeted customer base by aligning with their needs and creating much needed loyalty to your brand or service. As a rule of thumb, the margin for success is high if your technology or design innovation provides value, ease and comfort to your clients. Anything that makes you easier to reach, easier to interact with and simplifies the buying process can looked upon as favourable. Do a bit of market research into your client demographic. Leverage your social media assets to speak to your audience and see what works for them and whether or not it can work for you.

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