June 21, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Ways for Starbucks to Level Up Their Rewards Program

Starbucks is a consistent staple for many of us. Be it our stomping ground for a daily caffeine injection, escape for a tasty treat or a go-to gift card dispensary, a lot of us spend large portions of time and money with the company.

The coffee giant has spent time refining its rewards program over the years. Regardless of how the masses initially reacted when they changed from a “rewards per visit” to a “rewards per dollar” system a few years ago, the change has ultimately seen success. The primary goal of the rewards program is to incentivize the buyer to reach a set number of stars (125 stars at the current time of writing) to get a free item. At a base level, this works for daily spenders who have a consistent rhythm getting their fix at the chain. But does this straight spend-to-get-free stuff model work on a cognitive level for everyone?

Dragon Army is greatly interested in the use of game mechanics in non-game applications, so much so that we developed our own framework around it coined Applied Game Theory™. Naturally, we couldn’t help but take a deeper look at the mechanics and measures Starbucks is currently employing in its own rewards program. Here’s our take on what is working, what’s not and how Starbucks can push its program to the next level.

What’s working...

Social Pressure

   

Starbucks does a good job of making you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t jump on the rewards bandwagon. My closest store has no less than three large signs that make sure I’m aware of this fact. Social pressure can be used as a great psychological tactic in order to coerce participation.

Points

The entire points (Stars) system is easy to understand. You get 2 stars for every $1 spent, and you get a redeemable reward at 125 stars (approx. $61 spent). There is no real mystery to this, and nearly everything inside the program/app is based on this purchase relationship. Very easy to follow.

Challenges/Quests

  

The rewards program has some interesting missions you can complete once you are eligible for bonus stars. These are well designed and sometimes have multiple thresholds, so you can partially complete the mission and still collect a portion of points. These also include Limited Timed Events, which are a great component to get users hooked into constantly checking the program.

What’s not working...

Progression/Levels

The biggest place the Starbucks Reward program suffers is the requirement of earning 300 stars before you are ELIGIBLE to earn rewards. Given the structure of the current program, that means spending $150 before you can actually participate and earn free drinks that are only available to Gold Level members. The Green Level is basically a glorified paywall.

This stifles the incredibly important mechanic of progression. If a new user doesn’t see any tangible results until they've invested $150 (on coffee, no less), then the odds of retaining their attention and cultivating return to the program is going to be a tough sell.  

In contrast, Dunkin' Donuts DD Perks program starts users with a tangible reward from the outset. There is never a period where your purchases aren’t earning rewards. This new member experience is instantly more appealing because the reciprocity of gifting vs. reward bonds a better initial impression of the brand. Because Dunkin' Donuts is giving from the start and doesn't keep users from initially earning on the program, guests are more easily positioned to spend their dollars with the company.

Loss Aversion

On top of the initial requirement of spending $150 to be eligible to earn rewards, a member has only three months to reach that spend threshold — or they don’t qualify for the Gold Level. This is also an effort in loss aversion, but it doesn’t have near the effectiveness because users don’t have anything to really lose at this point.

Loss aversion works, but only when guests can cash in for an actual, tangible reward. Loss aversion, in this case, leaves a sour taste in the mouth because the threshold to enter is too costly and participation is unrewarding.

Let’s look at Best Buy Rewards. They have multiple membership tiers like Starbucks such as Standard, Elite, and ElitePlus. Both Elite and ElitePlus also have spending thresholds you need to reach within a time frame, but for UPGRADED benefits. You aren’t required to reach a certain threshold before getting access to basic standard benefits. This ensures there is always value in purchasing from Best Buy. This is the ideal use of loss aversion for membership features — to retain high value features not available in the lower tiers.

Lack of Social…anything

For being a business where tons of hangouts, talks, meetings and more happen, there is a curious lack of social initiatives. This is not only a missed opportunity but is a major drawback that users can’t interact with their peers to further engage with the program. Teamwork, competition, status and networking are all tactics that are missing, yet are totally capable of being included. Those mechanics also have the benefit of drawing more engagement out of a user over time, as well as driving organic growth due to the group dynamics.

For example, Tarte Cosmetics uses some base level social engagement, rewarding their users for performing social actions like retweeting and using specific hashtags. Shoe and clothing company Adidas uses the same tactics but does it on their retail store level. Buffalo Wild Wings incentivizes users to dine with friends, letting you cash in on your entire groups' rewards if everyone checks in together.

How to Level Up...

So, we have some things that are working and some things that aren’t so much. Where is the practical application? Glad you asked.

First, fix the stuff that isn’t working

Focus on the low hanging fruit by fixing the basic mechanics that are being improperly utilized. I've listed a few ideas below:

  • Fix progression and leveling by giving new members reason to spend and engage from the beginning
  • Fix unneeded loss aversion on the basic tier by removing it and allowing users to reach Gold Level at their own pace
Add more ways to engage besides spending money

Currently, everything in the Starbucks Rewards program is purely economic — you get points for purchase — but there is a huge opportunity to engage users outside of a purchase life cycle, which can increase brand recall and allow users to begin looking at Starbucks through more than one lens, such as:

  • Give members the opportunity to taste test a new beverage for free the first time
  • Give users minimal amounts of points for checking the app each day
  • Reward users for spending time in Starbucks stores
  • Reward users for visiting multiple locations
Meet people in the midst of their habits

Many of the offers in the Starbucks app are “buy # lattes for rewards” or “get a Frappuccino for $3”. This is fine if you usually buy those specific items, but many people are habitual when it comes to their coffee selections, and these kinds of offers fall completely flat. Given the fact that Starbucks tracks your purchases in-app, this info could be used more effectively to personalize your offers, and even deliver them at the times the app knows you like to get beverages.

For instance, the black coffee drinker (totally not referring to myself) might benefit more from a nudge to upgrade to a larger size or try the iced version, rather than trying to have me purchase a sugary Frappe.

Successful rewards programs sit nice and transparently in the midst of normal user behavior instead of requiring actions the user isn’t accustomed to. Let a user do their own thing and get offers and rewards the way they want to.

Leverage community and social

Having frequently and rabidly visited storefronts means that there is ripe opportunity to capitalize on group dynamics. Starbucks has countless options to engage their members in a community aspect, for instance:

  • Give bonus rewards for multiple members checking in at the same time
  • “King of the Hill” for certain actions, such as in-store visits, most "X" purchases, etc.
  • Bonus stars for two or more drinks on one card to encourage friendly purchases
  • Sharing favorite drinks/recipes with the community

Starbucks has a well-known and loved product set, great store environments and a forward-thinking brand positioning. They have so much potential to innovate and really push their rewards program forward. They just need to look beyond the simple implementation of how it currently exists.

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By: Jesse Wallace, Sr. UX Designer at Dragon Army, @jesse_wallace

 

May 29, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Dragon Army Named Most Highly Recommended B2B Service Providers in Atlanta

Dragon Army is honored to announce our recent inclusion in Clutch’s press release of industry leaders in the Atlanta area! In this annual report, we have been highlighted by Clutch as one of the top app developers in Atlanta, top android app developers in Atlanta, top iPhone developers in Atlanta, and top digital marketing agencies in Atlanta. This is very exciting news as Clutch, a Washington, D.C. based ratings, research, and reviews firm, analyzed hundreds of firms in order to determine the leaders and placed Dragon Army among the top three companies within several of the segments.

Clutch determines their industry leaders through a combination of client reviews, primarily obtained through interview-style phone calls, and individual ranking and research methods. Not only was Dragon Army featured on Clutch, but we were also featured on Clutch’s sister website, The Manifest, as a top mobile app developer in Atlanta as well!

Additionally, we are proud to share that we have received a perfect 5-star rating from our clients, and we’ve compiled a list of our favorite reviews below. Not only are we flattered by the kind words, but we believe this is a good representation of our commitment to our partners.

“They’ve taken the extra step to understand what makes us unique and provide solutions that reflect that.”

"Their aptitude for technology is really on the leading edge. They seem to be very well versed in all the emerging trends and technologies, which they’re able to bring to us as insight and help inform better decisions.”

"They’re good at coming up with creative ways to solve technical issues and they have great strategists."

Make sure to check out all of our reviews on Clutch’s website!

 

March 13, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Mobile Innovation: 5G Use Cases in the Mobile Space

Mobile innovation was a major theme at CES and Mobile World Congress this year. This comes as no surprise given the impending rise of 5G, which promises to enable a new wave of mobile advancements including mass-scale iOT, low-latency communications and enhanced event and media experiences. Outlined below are a few ways this new wave of innovation will affect the mobile industry:

How we got to 5G: A brief history of mobile wireless systems

In the 1980’s, the 1st generation of wireless cellular technology (1G) used analog radio signals. This early form of cellular technology was quickly replaced with 2G. 2G used digital radio signals to communicate with radio towers, thus allowing for more efficient wireless connectivity and communications such as SMS and MMS text messaging. 3G allowed for the birth of mobile applications and higher data transfer rates, while 4G allowed for faster interactions and network connectivity. Fast forward to the impending launch of 5G — and you’ll find a few questions on everyone’s minds: 1.) What use cases will 5G allow for? and 2.) How will it change the mobile industry?

Mass-scale iOT  

5G will be able to support a vast number of devices, as many as 50 billion, allowing for the mass-scale of iOT. Smart sensors will be implemented in virtually everything from our cities infrastructure (roads, railways and vehicles) to large-scale farms and agricultural sites, allowing for reliable more efficient connectivity and communication between machines — and between machines and humans. This means seamless interactions between humans and technology. 5G and iOT will unlock potential new ways for machines and machines and machines and humans to interact. For example, smart cars will be able to interact with traffic lights and other cars, making roads safer.

Low-latency communications

5G will allow for ultra-low-latency. This means only 1 millisecond of delay in the transfer of data between devices — a 30x improvement over 4G. The reliability of lower latency in 5G will allow for greater technological advances in autonomous driving and the remote control of critical infrastructure in healthcare, public safety, government services and manufacturing. Low-latency will affect the mobile space by improving augmented and virtual reality and 360 immersive experiences, making them faster and more accessible to users. These domains will see major improvements with low-latency and the efficient connectivity of 5G.

Enhanced event and media experiences

5G will change how users experience events and other forms of media. 5G will facilitate greater broadband access in crowded areas such as sporting events and concerts. Users will be able to download 4k movies in seconds without a wifi connection. Furthermore, 5G will enable ultra-hi-fidelity immersive AR and VR experiences. Imagine putting the user in the heart of an action film or at a sporting event. Not only will 5G facilitate high-quality immersive user experiences, it will allow for scale with the ability to reach millions of users at a lower cost.

5G has the potential to generate and facilitate numerous use cases in the mobile space. Industries such as healthcare, automotive and professional sports, as well as other forms of media platforms will be greatly impacted. Not to mention, living in a truly connected world will become more of a reality.

Looking forward to experiencing all that 5G has to offer in 2018 and beyond.

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By: Carolyn McGuire, UX Architect at Dragon Army, @crlynux

Image by: Carolyn McGuire

 

 

March 8, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Solving Gender Inequality In The Workplace

“We cannot all succeed if half of us are held back.”

Malala Yousafzal

How did we get here? It’s a question I ask myself often. Perhaps, it’s because I’m a believer in knowing where you’ve come from to know where you're going, or maybe it’s the philosophical side of me that loves to question all the “so-called” societal norms. Whatever the reason, as I sit here preparing to celebrate International Women’s Day this question keeps swirling inside my head — and it’s followed by a stronger question. How do we solve the issue of gender inequality in the workplace?

International Women's Day is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and it also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. Fortunately for us in the West, females now enjoy more choice, rights and freedom than many of our female ancestors — but we still have a long way to go. I find it interesting that all of mankind pops into this world as blank slates, and then through the course of life we’re conditioned to accept certain beliefs. These beliefs include a number of unconscious limiting thoughts, but for today’s purpose, let’s focus on the ideas of masculinity and femininity.  

According to a study published in the journal Science, until a few thousand years BC, women and men were seen and treated as equals — but with the advent of agriculture and the rise of the industrial era, a patriarchal society evolved. In this new male-dominated culture, feminine qualities were repressed and seen as weak. What had previously been a dynamic duo between men and women, suddenly became unbalanced. Men were seen as leaders and “masculine” qualities like ambition, assertiveness and physical strength were highlighted over “feminine” qualities like understanding, softness and listening.

Flash forward a few millennia, and the struggle continues. In order to bring balance into the workforce, we must first break the current system that was set-up for the industrial era, where men went to work and women stayed home. This system no longer serves society, nor does it promote equality. This system is out of balance, and it’s been out of balance for far too long.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending Conscious Company Media’s World-Changing Women’s Summit, and during the summit we discussed this topic in depth. The issue was brought to life through lectures, panels and workshops, all led by female entrepreneurs. These world-changing women are making moves, making money and fighting for a better world in the process. Below I’ve outlined a few action items that can be used to create gender equality in the workplace. We need to...

  • Free women and men of their gender roles. We must embrace feminine qualities as strengths, not weaknesses and, in doing so, give power to a new global process that supports inclusivity of all living things.
  • Empower female leadership. Our economy needs more females in leadership positions, and they can continue the movement by educating, supporting and empowering other world-changing women.
  • Provide more global funding to female entrepreneurs. While venture capitalists invested more than $58 billion in startups last year, women only received 2 percent of that money. If we want to see change, we need to invest more consciously.
  • Have difficult conversations. In a world where societal norms uphold that women “should be” pleasing, soft and passive, we need to create a safe space for women to speak their truth and challenge status quo.
  • Change the traditional nine-to-five system. Women and men alike are not looking to work less, they’re looking to work differently. Most households today are dual income where both parties work, so more flexible schedules are needed.

I could write entire blogs on each of the above points, but for today’s purpose — and in honor of the 2018 International Women’s Day — I want to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this essay. How do we solve the issue of gender inequality in the workplace? Let’s start by having open and honest conversations with our work families. If things are out of balance, take action today to change policy, empower more female leaders and break old systems that no longer serve society.

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By: Jessica Carruth, Director of Marketing at Dragon Army, @JessicaCarruth

March 5, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Dragon Download: #MWC18

The 2018 Mobile World Congress (MWC) conference was held last week. I did not get to travel to beautiful Barcelona this year, but I was eagerly following along at home — and I’m excited to share some of the popular trends coming out of the forum. If you’re not familiar with MWC, it’s the world’s largest mobile exhibition, hosted by the GSMA. It’s been running for 30+ years and has over 100,000 attendees annually.

One of the main themes from this year’s event was "The Network," which meant lots of conversations about the arrival of 5G. AT&T has already established itself as a US frontrunner, with its January announcement of 5G service in 12 markets this year. Respectively, Sprint and T-Mobile used MWC as an opportunity to announce plans to have 6 and 4 markets by end of the year. Hat tip to AT&T and Sprint for including Atlanta in their initial roll out!   

In addition to network news, several phone manufacturers added new models to their lineups this past week. Samsung officially announced the new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. LG hawked two new phone models, the V30S ThinQ and the V30S ThinQ Plus. Both products will include updated cameras with enhanced AI technology that will allow for visual searching on platforms such as Amazon and Pinterest. The Vivo APEX FullView concept phone was another noteworthy piece. It’s almost all screen, and Vivo has some pretty interesting approaches to solve the challenges that come along with that. The front-facing camera pops up from the top when needed. The fingerprint scanner is integrated into the screen and, to improve on the X20 that they announced at CES, this one works when the user places their finger anywhere on the bottom half of the screen. Instead of a traditional speaker, they used something called Screen SoundCasting, which sends vibrations through the screen, turning the whole thing into a speaker. I love seeing how companies get creative with these types of design challenges.

Another interesting mobile technology debut came from a group of researchers at Aachen University in Germany. They showed off microchips made of graphene, which are flexible and foldable. This technology could eventually lead to foldable phones, and the researchers are suggesting that these phones could be available within the next five years.

A mobile event wouldn’t be complete without talk of AR and VR innovation, and MWC was no exception. I was excited to see a demonstration of Ghostbusters World, an augmented reality game coming from Sony, that uses Google’s new ARCore technology. Another exciting experience was an immersive VR hot air balloon ride over the Grand Canyon, using the HTC Vive. The demo included a real hot air balloon basket to ride in, a fan to simulate wind and even a heater to blast your hands with hot air when using the burner controls!

AI was another hot topic at the exhibition this year. I was pleasantly surprised to see Pepper pop up in my twitter feed as I followed along with the event. Pepper is a robot from Softbank Robotics that can recognize faces, read human emotions and interact with people. Pepper is equal parts terrifying and adorable. I speak from experience when I say this because a Pepper robot lives on the second floor of Dragon Army’s temporary office space (#downtowndragons), waiting to greet us as we come and go each day.

With so much amazing innovation coming out of the conference this year, I’m really looking forward to 2023, when I can use blazing fast 5G networks to explore the Grand Canyon and fight ghosts, before rolling up my phone, tucking it into my pocket and heading home to my very own companion robot. What were your favorite innovations coming out of MWC18?

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By: Erica Warhaftig, UX Architect at Dragon Army

February 28, 2018Comments are off for this post.

The Importance of Celebrating Black History Month

Black History Month is a time for our nation to remember the important contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout history. As the 2018 observance comes to an end, I want to take a moment to explain why I believe it’s important to celebrate diversity.

Before I dive in too deep, I want to address the elephant in the room. I’ve been struggling to write this post for a few days. If it wasn’t the 21st Century, and I still wrote with a pen and paper, I’d have a few dozen crumpled up drafts scattered in and around the trash can in my office. I talked to several people for advice and read past transcripts of great speeches to get inspired, but everything I considered seemed off.

The problem was I wanted to write a blog post about what Black History Month means to me, and to my company, Dragon Army. I wanted to show that we believe in honoring and remembering the history of our African American teammates, family, friends and community members.

I wanted to illustrate that we’re a company with heart. That we challenge the small thinking that says one group of people is better than another. That we believe diversity is a source of strength, not a weakness. And, while Black History Month may shine a light on a divisive and disgraceful part of our nation’s past, it also brings to light wonderful stories and triumphs which should be celebrated and honored.  

But…

I’m white. For this reason, I’ve learned that there is no amount of reading, listening or thinking that I can do that will allow me to appreciate — or relate to — what it means to be black. I have lived a privileged life, and I recognize that. What I can say is that I believe it’s important to acknowledge this fact.

So, what do I believe? I believe it’s important to celebrate diversity (one of Dragon Army’s core values). It’s also important to recognize that there are advantages and disadvantages in this country related to one’s skin color — while also acknowledging how very unfair that is. And, while I know there are parts of our history that we might want to erase from our minds, we should never forget.

I believe there are some things we, as a conscious company, can do. We can make it a point to ensure our organization is diverse and that it's cherished for that diversity. We can work to expose our teammates to each other’s unique and wonderful cultures. We can have tough, open and honest conversations with one another to better understand and empathize.

A tangible action Dragon Army is taking to support diversity within the workplace is our commitment to hiring one of Georgia State University’s Minority Scholarship winners for the next three years.

We can also celebrate Black History Month! And, do our part as advocates for Dr. King's vision, as Dragon Army did this year by sponsoring Hands on Atlanta MLK Day.

At Dragon Army, we’re committed to doing our part to make the world a better place, and we’re open to ideas for how this collective group of dragons can celebrate diversity and inspire a little happiness along the way. We’re ready for the conversation, and we hope you are as well.

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By: Jeff Hilimire, CEO of Dragon Army, @jeffhilimire

 

February 26, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Six Reasons Why Dragons Cruise

At Dragon Army, company culture is our number one priority. Before you roll your eyes, let me explain. We believe that putting the team first and building lasting friendships require time spent together outside the workplace. That’s why every year Dragon Army pays for the entire office, including a +1 guest for each employee, to spend four days at sea. Together, the team bonds over good food, great company and tons of crazy cruise shenanigans!

On the surface, it may seem like just another perk, but let's look a bit deeper at the reasons why this benefit is special to our organization. Dragons cruise to:

  • Build team camaraderie. Our company cruise is an all expenses paid opportunity to get to know one another on a deeper level, which builds long-term trust and results in better client work.
  • Give shout-outs to MVPs. Employees get to brag about how great our coworkers are in front of their significant others, building pride in both the individual and within family members.   
  • Have fun. Our mini vacation creates a low-pressure opportunity to have adventures with coworkers outside of the normal work environment. Talk about team bonding!
  • Discover coworkers’ hidden superpowers. It turns out we have some amazing karaoke singers, blackjack players, dancers and rock climbers.
  • Bring corporate values to life. Employees get to experience “team first” and “have fun” in full force during our four days at sea.
  • Embody our core purpose. Most importantly, our annual cruise is an opportunity for all Dragons to inspire happiness!

Dragon Army is a company that exists to work for the people it employs, not the other way around. That’s why the cruise is so special. It’s our Leadership Team’s way of saying thank you to employees for all of their hard work the previous year — and thank you for remaining a part of the organization.

We just got back from our 2018 cruise to Key West and the Bahamas a few weeks ago, and now that we’re back on dry land, perhaps, the biggest benefit of the cruise is that we’re all feeling refreshed and ready to tackle any and all challenges as a team. #whatdragonsdo

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By: Khadijah Hall, Operations Coordinator at Dragon Army, @KhadijahHall

January 15, 2018Comments are off for this post.

MLK as a Role Model for Business

It’s been over 55 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. led his famous March on Washington. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the world watched as Dr. King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. In his dream, Dr. King spoke of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, regardless of race, religion or background.

At Dragon Army, we stand for the ideals that Dr. King compelled the world to see; that all people are to be respected and cherished for their diverse backgrounds, not discriminated against because of them. And while he started the march, it’s our job to continue it.

Atlanta strives to carry on Dr. King’s dream today, and that’s one of the many reasons I love this city. It’s a bustling, growing metropolitan that credits its rise to its diverse community, not in spite of it. Atlanta is home to The Center for Civil and Human Rights, and it is home to the Atlanta BeltLine — the most extensive transportation and economic development effort this city has ever seen, and among the largest, most widespread urban redevelopment programs happening in the United States. Atlanta is also a tremendous business community whose bedrock is home to the Civil Rights Movement.

If you believe, like I do, that companies have a responsibility to do good in the world and give back to their community, then there’s no better place to run a business than Atlanta, Georgia — the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the region where he made his biggest impact.

After fighting for human rights for all Americans, Dr. King began to focus on employment and corporations as the next evolution of equality. He believed that companies have a responsibility to be forces of good in the world, and that their influence could make a powerful change. We share the same belief at Dragon Army.

As CEO of Dragon Army, a mobile and innovation company headquartered in Atlanta, I believe I have a responsibility to not only rally my team to support our community, but also expose them to new ideas. To challenge their built-in stereotypes and prejudices, and to expand their ability to accept and cherish the differences in their peers.

One of our company values is “Celebrate Diversity.” We believe that diversity is key to our ability to build a strong, accepting culture. Diversity in backgrounds, experiences, demographics and viewpoints. We celebrate our differences and see them as strengths that help us move closer to creating a better world.

Reflecting on the last 50+ years since Dr. King was so unfairly taken from us, I recall the speech that Bobby Kennedy gave the evening of April 4th, 1964. He said:

… we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.

What we need in the United States is... love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

We all have heroes, people that we look up to for inspiration and guidance. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a hero to all of us. Not just as citizens of Atlanta or the United States, but of this great world in which we’re all connected. He was a beacon of light and hope, taken from us too early, and it’s incumbent upon us to follow his lead.

He started the march, and it’s our responsibility to continue it.

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By: Jeff Hilimire, CEO of Dragon Army, @jeffhilimire

March 15, 2017Comments are off for this post.

The Latest Trends In Video Streaming Technology

Do you ever experience difficulties streaming video on your phone or computer? The way video is delivered to your device is evolving and tackling many of the frustrations you encounter when streaming online. Check out how JWplayer, Netflix, and Wowza Media Systems are pioneering video streaming technology and delivering you the highest quality video.

1. Recommendation algorithms: DeepWalk

Do you ever feel Netflix suggests videos irrelevant to your interests? Video recommendation algorithms have existed in parallel to Netflix since the early 2000’s, but JW Player utilizes a new algorithm called DeepWalk to make more accurate suggestions. DeepWalk allows for factors other than viewing behavior to influence recommendations and works by learning content asymmetrically. Think of videos as points on a graph and each video is weighted by watch frequency and recency. Most recommendation algorithms correlate video A with video B, and likewise video B with video A. However, DeepWalk correlates video A with video B, but not the other way around. Because the algorithm learns asymmetrically and doesn’t solely rely on user viewing behavior, it can incorporate other factors to make more accurate suggestions such as video and user metadata.

2. Per-title encoding optimization

Despite it’s sometimes inaccurate video recommendations, Netflix engineered an algorithm to deliver users the highest quality video without using unnecessary streaming bandwidth. Instead of spitting out all videos using the same number of bits, Netflix developed a system called “per-title-encoding optimization.” It works by analyzing video titles to determine the their complexity. For example, videos with fast-moving action scenes require more bits to stream than animation or landscape scenes. Encoding optimization ensures you receive the highest quality video at the most efficient output.

3. Low latency streaming

Have you ever received a notification on your phone about the score of a game before seeing it on T.V.? The challenge with live video streaming is there’s always a delay - often reaching into the double digits. Most streaming platforms use Apple HLS to minimize delay. It works by breaking the stream into small HTTP files and delivering them in a sequence. But a platform developed by Wowza Media Systems provides video streaming to users with only milliseconds of delay. It delivers live video in real time by working with an open-source API project called Web Real Time Communication (RTC). The systems allow the stream to synchronize important aspects of live video such as commentary, scores, and updates. It’s becoming an emerging standard in video streaming, and soon you’ll know the score of the game on T.V. before it reaches your phone!

Game-changing video streaming trends are hitting the market and alleviating many frustrations for users. Although these technologies are working from the back end of your favorite platforms, they're sure to improve the quality of what you see on your TV, computer, or mobile device!

September 6, 2016Comments are off for this post.

Companies Must Do These 2 Things In Order To Innovate

At Dragon Army, we're laser-focused on mobile and innovation/emerging technology. All of us in the past have worked on large websites, integrated social media campaigns, robust email marketing strategies...and all of that is important within any digital marketing plan, but for us, its all about mobile.

One of the things I see our clients struggle with when it comes to mobile and emerging technology is the ability to move faster, iterate more effectively, and just generally "do more". Essentially, to act more like a startup.

In order to help our clients embrace their inner startup, I'm writing a book. I've posted on my personal blog about the process I've been going through while writing the book, but needless to say, its been a topsy-turvy journey so far.

Even though there is still a tremendous amount of work left to be done in order to get my book published, there are two things that have stood out during my research and interviews that companies must do in order to innovate. At their core, they need:

a flexible technology infrastructure and a culture that accepts, and even promotes, failure

I've seen companies that have a very fluid and flexible technology stack/infrastructure, but they don't have the mindset (from the top down) that allows them to embrace change and take advantage of their superior technology abilities. And on the flip side, it doesn't matter how willing a company is to change, if their technology infrastructure is too old and cumbersome, they won't have the flexibility to experiment effectively.

I'll update more on the process of writing the book as I make progress, but I thought I'd share this insight as more companies are planning their strategies and budgets for 2017 and beyond. Get your tech right and make sure you have a failure-led culture, and you'll be able to accomplish anything.

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