4 Ways Your Return Policy Could Hurt Your Store’s Holiday Sales

4 Return Policy Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Store’s Holiday Sales

When a shopper buys a gift from your store, you have the opportunity to earn not one but two loyal customers — that shopper, and the person who receives the gift. A poor return policy, however, not only can cut into your store’s holiday sales, but also hurt your reputation with prospective customers.

If you think return policies aren’t a big deal to shoppers, think again.

According to the National Retail Federation 2017 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook, three-fourths of holiday shoppers check a store’s return policies before making a purchase. They don’t always like what they find: 22 percent of shoppers have decided not to buy something because they weren’t happy with the return policy.

Return Policy Mistakes

It’s tough enough competing with online retailers for customers during the holidays.  Make sure your store’s return policies aren’t turning shoppers off.  Here are 4 return policy mistakes not to make:

1. Your Return Policy is Too Confusing

Is your return policy full of exclusions, fine print and different rules for different types of items or methods of payment? If so, customers are more likely to put the product back on the shelf than to bother trying to understand the policy. Keep it simple. Post your return policy prominently at the point-of-sale, print it on receipts and have every salesclerk explain it to customers when they make a purchase.

2. The “Return Window” is Too Small

Does the customer have two weeks to return an item, or two years? Making your return window shorter might sound like a smart move to discourage returns. In reality, it not only tends to discourage customers from buying in the first place, but also makes customers who do buy something more likely to return it, says a study reported in The Washington Post.

The study analyzed 21 different studies of retail returns policies and found that the longer the return window, the less likely customers are to ever return the purchase. Sounds counterintuitive, but just as a limited-time sale gets customers to hurry into your store, a very limited return window can get them to hurry and ask for their money back before it’s too late.

Keep in mind, too, that holiday shoppers are buying gifts to give weeks or months later. Gift recipients need enough time to make up their minds and return the product.

3. Returning a Purchase is Inconvenient

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of shoppers in the National Retail Federation report say if they have trouble making a return, they would be leery about ever shopping at that store again. During the busy holiday shopping season, shoppers who need to return something are more likely than ever to dread the task. Make it as convenient as possible by training all your employees on how to handle returns and, when necessary, opening a separate returns line at the point-of-sale. (The day after Christmas, you may want to open more than one.)

4. You Only Offer Store Credit for a Return

More than half (55 percent) of shoppers will avoid a store with such a policy, according to the National Retail Federation report. While you should always suggest exchanging the product first, you should give customers a refund in their original method of payment. For gift-giving time, offer customers gift receipts that gift recipients can use to get a refund for the purchase amount.

Unhappy Shopper Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “4 Ways Your Return Policy Could Hurt Your Store’s Holiday Sales” was first published on Small Business Trends

4 Ways Your Return Policy Could Hurt Your Store’s Holiday Sales


Innovations from Samsung, Venmo Make Small Business Headlines

Tech innovations like mobile payments have made a big impact on small businesses in recent years. And even more innovations like virtual reality are poised to do the same over the next couple of years.

This week, small businesses got some welcome news in both of those areas. Samsung unveiled a new 360 degree video camera. And popular peer to peer payments app Venmo announced a partnership with PayPal.

Read on for more information on these headlines and other news that might impact your small business in the weekly Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Technology Trends

New Samsung 360 Round Promises Live 360 Videos in 3D — But Can Your Business Afford It?

From product demonstrations in virtual reality to 3D podcasts, businesses are clamoring to use new video technology in their marketing, services and more. For small businesses, the barrier of entry in some areas remains the price. For example, the latest camera addressing livestreaming 3D content for Virtual Reality comes from Samsung.

Venmo Payments Now Accepted with PayPal

There is one peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app millennials seem to prefer more than any other, and it is Venmo if the number of payments processed is to be believed. Now PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) is expanding the capability of Venmo users by allowing them to make purchases from the more than two million merchants on the PayPal platform. PayPal owns Venmo through its acquisition of Braintree.

New GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Service Aimed at Web Professionals

If you’re managing multiple small business websites for clients or yourself, there’s a new hosting service that addresses performance and security needs. GoDaddy Inc. (NYSE: GDDY) has announced Pro Managed WordPress. It’s a hosting platform with comprehensive security and the tools web professionals need to look after multiple websites and clients in one place.

Suffering a Data Breach Will Cost You Customers Who’ve Been Hacked, Too

There’s a strong connection between customer loyalty and data security, according to a recent report from Bank of America Merchant Services and Forrester. If your small business isn’t updating its data security tools and payment processing methods regularly, it could really cost you.


This Mid Atlantic City is Tops for Women-Owned Businesses in the US

Baltimore was just named the top city for women-owned businesses in the U.S., according to a recent report from Citrix ShareFile (NASDAQ: CTXS).

Trump Executive Order on Health Insurance Aimed Directly at Small Business

Obamacare still hasn’t been repealed. And the chances it happens before the end of the year seem unlikely.

Latino  Owned Small Businesses See Revenues Up 26 Percent But Credit Scores Falling

Latino owned businesses are rising on the tide of the improved national economy with improved revenues. However, they need to leverage business credit better to keep their credit scores from dipping. Last year’s falling Latino credit scores (down from 595 to 592) were in contrast to the higher revenues for 2016 (averaging $258,702).

How to Comply with the Not-Yet-Repealed ACA Healthcare Law

The latest attempt to repeal Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has failed. On July 28, 2017, the “Skinny Repeal,” which promised to eliminate the individual and small business mandates of Obamacare, was unsuccessful. However, the new administration has vowed to continue working on the issue of healthcare.

U.S. Ranks 5th Among Cashless Countries, Is Your Business Ready for the Cashless Trend?

Across the world, cashless culture is now the new normal and the United States is among the top countries to have embraced it. Data shared by Forex bonus provider ForexBonuses shows there are nearly three credit cards for every person in the U.S. The country ranks fifth among cashless countries.

In-store Retail Continues Slump In Fall But With Some Positive Signs

Retail sales at brick and mortar stores continue to slump moving into fall. That’s just one of the insights from in-store analytics firm RetailNext’s year over year numbers in the Retail Performance Pulse report for September. But not all was doom and gloom in the reports as some regions showed more positive numbers than in August.


42 Percent of Small Business Owners Would Take Action Against Employee Political Activism

There’s been plenty of debate on what is and what isn’t allowed at work, specifically regarding politically motivated speech. President Donald Trump infamously said he supported NFL owners firing players who refused to stand for the national anthem prior to games. And it turns out, a lot of small businesses feel the same way.

Truck  Drivers Most In-Demand Among Small Business Jobs Not Requiring a College Degree

Not every small business is looking to fill its IT department with some new recruits. In fact, there are thousands of small businesses right now looking for employees who don’t possess a college degree. Leading online job site Indeed.com pulled another set of figures and found which non-college degree jobs are most in demand among small businesses.


Where  Small Businesses Affected by the 2017 Hurricane Season Can Turn for Funding

Businesses in several states and territories are struggling to recover after recent hurricanes. Harvey, Irma, Jose and Nate all had an impact on residents and businesses in the U.S. And for small businesses especially, recovery can be a lengthy process. But the early stages of recovery can be critical for small businesses.

Marketing Tips

The Importance of Disclosure in Influencer Marketing

Disclosing an influencer-brand relationship in blog posts, social media posts or other types of content isn’t just a good idea — it’s an actual requirement. Small Business Trends caught up with Rachel Honoway, CEO of Performance Marketing Association at the recent Influencer Marketing Days conference in New York City’s Times Square.

The Challenge of Measuring Influencer Marketing Results

Brands aren’t always sure how to measure results from influencer marketing campaigns. But there’s an easy way to rectify that problem — consider your brand’s goals before actually launching a campaign.

The Power of Testimonial Videos for Amazon Product Pages

If you’re not including testimonial videos on your ecommerce product pages, especially on Amazon, you could be missing out on a lot of sales. Small Business Trends caught up with Frank Morelli of Gen.video at the recent Influencer Marketing Days conference in New York City’s Times Square. Morelli is an Account Executive with Gen.

How Your Small Business Can Profit from the 2017 Holiday Calendar

Santa has an extra gift for brick-and-mortar retailers this year: There are four Saturdays in December before Christmas, which hasn’t happened since 2012. The extra Saturday has the potential to be a windfall for retailers, since it gives customers more time to shop for gifts.

3 Reasons a CRM Just Became a Must-have for SMB Sales and Marketing

The relationship between sales and marketing has always gotten a bad rap. After all, both teams share the same ultimate goal, which is driving revenue. The problem is they use different yardsticks to measure their success along the way. Sales has specific quotas for deals closed and dollars earned. Marketers, on the other hand, use measurements like impressions, clicks and leads.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: EcoEnclose Offers Earth Friendly Shipping Supplies

Shipping materials have a reputation for being wasteful and bad for the environment. But what if you could get a more eco-friendly solution? That’s exactly what EcoEnclose is trying to provide. The company sells a variety of shipping materials made with recycled and recyclable content. Read more about the business and what it has to offer in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Small Business Operations

USPS  Rate Hike Could Cost Businesses Nickel More on Priority Flat Rate, 50 Cents a Letter

The price to send a letter may be going up a penny early next year — making it a full 50 cents for a stamp. The US Postal Service proposes that increase and a nickel across-the-board hike on Priority Mail Flat Rate packages, too. If the changes are approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, the new prices will take effect on Jan. 21, 2018.

Social Media

Snapchat is Most Popular Social Media Among Teens

More than $264 billion is spent annually for products bought by and for teens in the United States. As a small business, understanding a demographic worth over a quarter of a trillion dollars can help you better address their needs.

Customers Can Now Order Food Right from Your Facebook Page

Social media channels are becoming all-in-one platforms where you can get almost everything. Case in point is the addition of the new food ordering feature directly on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). After a year of testing, responding to feedback and adding new partners, Facebook is rolling out a feature allowing small restaurant owners to offer food for order on the platform.

Image: Samsung

This article, “Innovations from Samsung, Venmo Make Small Business Headlines” was first published on Small Business Trends

Innovations from Samsung, Venmo Make Small Business Headlines

Christi Olson of Microsoft: Cortana, Office 365, Bing, LinkedIn Connect Personal and Professional Life

While there are over 150 million phone devices with digital assistants like Siri and Google Assistant, and quickly growing smart speaker devices with Amazon’s Alexa on board, there’s another device that dwarfs these numbers in comparison. While they are considered voice-first devices, there are over a half billion Windows 10 devices (including Xboxes) with Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, on board listening out for your questions and requests. And throw in pieces like Office 365, Bing and LinkedIn, Cortana has a lot of potential data and interactions to draw on in order to help people get things done in a much more efficient and contextually relevant manner — both for personal and business reasons.

What Can Cortana Do?

Christi Olson, Microsoft’s Head of Evangelism for Search, discusses how this lineup of services and platforms is coming together using AI and conversational interfaces to transform how people work, as well as how they’ll engage with customers.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview click on the SoundCloud player below.

* * * * *

What can Cortana do now and what will it be able to do in the future? Microsoft's Christi Olson discusses how its the tool will change the future of work.Small Business Trends: Maybe you can give me a little bit of your personal background.

Christi Olson: I’ve been in the digital marketing search space since early 2005 time frame. I got in with organic and paid search way back in the day, at the early stages, and fell in love and have just spent my career working with small businesses and/or large businesses to help them figure out what do they do from an advertising and visibility standpoint. How do you make your business visible? Now, as we’re talking today, the fun is that it’s no longer just about what you’re doing on a physical device, it’s also for voice search as you ask a question to a digital assistant like Cortana, Alexa, Siri or the Google Assistant. They can find you that way.

Small Business Trends: Very good. It’s funny, as soon as you said Alexa, I started reaching for … It happens to me all the time. That’s the life we live right now, so that’s cool… Give me the biggest differences between traditional search and voice search.

Christi Olson: The way we’re thinking about voice search is the fact that people are doing it in a much more conversational tone and manner. If you think about text search, we’ve been trained over the last 10 years to start with a very short, concise word, like a single word or two words, and put it in and hopefully it gives back that result. The differences with voice search, it’s more like you and I are talking right now. When I ask a question, and this is one I asked this morning, “do I need an umbrella this morning? Do I need an umbrella”? I’m not asking weather. I do ask something related to the weather to understand what I’m saying. That’s one of the biggest difference you see between text and voice.

I work on Bing, the search engine for Microsoft. When you think about the difference in conversational words in nature, it means that the queries are much longer, so as a business, if you’re running SEO or a search campaign, you probably have these short concise words and phrases. On text search it’s anywhere from typically one to three words in length, but with research queries we’re seeing on average them being between four and six words, all the way up to the longest query I think I’ve seen when I’ve done analysis of our query logs, like 128 words

Small Business Trends: Wow. In this instance they’re talking to Cortana, so maybe you could tell us a little bit about Cortana and maybe how it compares and contrasts to some of the other assistants out there like Alexa or Siri or anything else.

Christi Olson: Cortana is the personal digital assistant for Microsoft. The way I like to think about Cortana is the fact that everything that a personal assistant would do for an executive or like a business assistant would do, Cortana does for you in your daily life, but she resides on your devices. I say the word devices because that’s actually one of the variances between Cortana and some of our competitors like Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant, is that we’re sort of device agnostic. Cortana is embedded into Xbox. It’s embedded into Windows 10 in the lower left hand corner. It looks like a search bar, that’s actually Cortana, and also, it’s on IOS, Android and Windows phone devices, so it goes pretty much across any device you would use on a regular basis.

Small Business Trends: In addition to the devices, Microsoft has business applications. Can you talk a little bit about how Cortana may interact with some of the business applications to help a business user out with a question they may have?

Christi Olson: What Cortana is doing is it pulls the power of the Internet and understanding all the difference between entities and relationships, peoples and actions that can happen. Microsoft is developing a graph of its own which pulls in anonymized data from everything like Office 365, Bing, LinkedIn, across all different types of devices, so it’s like the knowledge or the fuel behind the algorithm to pull all of your world together from a business world to a personal world. When you ask it a question, it’s not just based off of the Internet, it’s also based off of what device you’re using, the tool or technology you’re using, and getting context behind what you’re trying to do.

Small Business Trends: We talk about AI a lot and we also talk about conversational interfaces, but how do they really work together? How does AI and conversational interfaces work together to create the kind of experiences that folks are looking for today?

Christi Olson: When we talk about artificial intelligence, it can be a scary topic to a lot of people. It’s actually based on the queries we see coming through Bing, and one of the questions is will AI destroy humans? It won’t. Artificial intelligence really is out there to amplify intelligent technology. It’s to amplify technology that enhances what we do. It enhances essentially what we want to do. How AI fits into this digital assistant world is a combination of things like machine learning, natural language processing, vision recognition and search. The whole idea behind AI and the technology is it just makes it smarter.

You and I were talking before we started the podcast today, and before we started the discussion, that you’ve been getting into voice search more and more over the last three to five years, so if you used a voice technology five years ago, which I know I did. I tried doing dictation for some blogs. Did not work well. It didn’t understand me. Artificial intelligence has improved so dramatically in the last five years that we’ve gotten to this point with natural language processing that it understands us about at the rate as a human translator. It’s about 95, 96 percent understanding. It’s gotten a lot better over the last few years, which then means, for consumers, you’re more likely to use it because as you and I are speaking today, it can understand you and get an idea of what you’re trying to do and the intention behind what you are trying to do. It just gives more context. It fits into this whole idea of conversation as a platform because you can have actual conversations with it. It understands what you are doing.

Small Business Trends: Let’s talk about conversation as a platform in the context of marketing. How do these interfaces and AI help from a marketer’s perspective, to be able to get the attention of the folks that are trying to build a relationship with and carry it all the way through to bringing them on as a customer?

Christi Olson: It’s a great question because when you think about conversational platforms, the idea behind it is right now we’re used to asking a question and getting back, like from a search result, 10 blue links. It might give you an answer, it might not. What’s powerful about artificial intelligence and this idea of conversation as a platform, is it can take you from answers to actions.

I like speaking about this in terms of not just the digital assistant, but also some of the other conversational technology that exists today. A lot of people are used to chat bots. You ask it a question, it gets you an answer back. We’re actually starting to see some really intelligent chat bots that are connected into everything from CRM systems, all the way to your checkout and your purchase systems, or reservation systems so that you can essentially ask, start with a conversational dialogue like, “Hey, I’m looking to go out to lunch today at 2:00. What restaurants have open tables near me at 2:00?” Essentially getting that response back to say, “Yep, here’s what’s available. Do you want me to make that reservation on your behalf?”

Instead of just asking a question or doing something pretty simple like getting information or finding a business near you, you’re going all the way to the action side of things, where you’re trying to take an action, whether it’s booking a table, making a purchase, getting an appointment. That’s sort of where we’re heading in terms of AI powering this conversation as a platform. It’s going from information all the way down to action.

Small Business Trends: Well, you said that’s where we’re going to. If we were at a ball game, what inning would we be in with some of these technologies?

Christi Olson: Let’s see, there’s nine innings and we’re probably somewhere around four, three to four. We’re still pretty early on in the infancy, and the reason I say that we’re early on infancy is there’s a lot of businesses out there, enterprises all the way down to small businesses that are still trying to figure out how this technology ties into what they do. How do they leverage conversational platforms and technologies for their business. Businesses have been burned in the past where they invested in something and then it didn’t quite get the adoption that they were hoping for or wanting to. There’s always a little bit of trepidation before you jump in feet first and say, “I’m going to invest wholly in a given technology.”

Brent, one of the things you and I were talking about as we hopped into this is like why should businesses be thinking about voice search and these conversational platforms including chat bots? I typically put it into the scenario, if you think about digital assistance on my device, there’s about 154 million voice enabled devices in terms of cell phones in the US today. When we think about Windows 10 devices, because Windows 10 does have Cortana on them. There’s currently 500 million Windows devices, so you think about adoption, the technology is out there and there’s a lot of users, a pretty substantial portion of people, have access to that technology. Creating the tools and taking advantage of it right now, it’s where there’s a lot of low hanging fruit.

Small Business Trends: About a month ago, there was an announcement around a little conversation between Cortana and Alexa. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what are the hopes for that kind of integration of these devices and assistance?

Christi Olson: One of the visions we have at Microsoft is to put Cortana everywhere you would need assistance to get things done, on your phone, on your PC, your Xbox, and on smartphone speakers. We want to have a partnership with other companies to make it open dialogue to make it so that you didn’t have to have three separate personal assistants, or four separate personal assistants. We want them to be able to interact and engage with each other. What was announced in early September, or I guess late September time frame, was the fact that you can, we’re developing the partnership with Amazon and Alexa to be able to say, “Hey Alexa, ask Cortana fill in the blank,” and essentially you can use Cortana and Alexa together. You don’t have to be dependent on only using Alexa on the Echo device. You can also integrate Cortana, which then accesses your entire Microsoft graph worth of data knowledge and information.

It also means that from a voice skill stand point, it might be the skill of asking Open Table to book a restaurant, asking Domino’s to order the pizza and send it to my house, or it might be the skill of asking the Lightify system to turn on the lights in my living room. There’s different language that consumers have to learn how to speak to do that. This essentially makes the language a little bit more unified. It means as a business you don’t have to create three or four separate versions of that code depending on the platform. It’s you defining the platform, it’s cross backing. It’s great for essentially the consumers and it’s also great for businesses because it means less work.

Small Business Trends: Peer out to the future a little bit. Let’s say one, two, three, even five years if you like. Where are we going to be with digital assistants and conversational interfaces, and how are people going to be using them at that time period?

Christi Olson: If I were to look five years in the future, I’d say we’re actually seeing really good adoption right now. I ran this survey back in the February time frame, where we reached out to about 2,000 people across the United States, all different age, demographics, geo locations. We’re seeing that about 80% of people have used a device at least once in the previous two to three months. That’s pretty good on the adoption side. What we saw is that they’re still trying to figure out, “Okay, when do I use it, how do I use it, how can I have it help me get things done and how can I have it help me essentially make my life easier? I think part of it, in where we’re going to be in two to three years is, as more businesses essentially create, I would say it’s a combination of skills to help take action, or chat bots to essentially say, “Hey I’d like to make this purchase. I’d like to do this thing,” having the technology on the back end make it easier for the consumer to do that next step, will take us essentially from the Internet of Things to an Internet of Actions. It’s going to take us a little bit of time there.

Consumers are also building the trust. You have to trust giving access to your data and information to the device, and so right now the trust level is, I would say it’s somewhere in the medium. It’s not super high on the trust. Consumers are willing to give access to some information, but they’re still trying to say, “What do I hold on to myself?” You have to build that relationship. In order for the digital assistant to be able to make recommendations, to be able to give you a notice saying, “Hey traffic’s really bad.” You’re on one side of Atlanta. You need to be on the other side of Atlanta in thirty minutes. You need to leave ten minutes earlier than normal because traffic is so bad, you have to give it access to data and information. That trust has to be built.

Something that we’re taking pretty seriously at Microsoft is right now, you can’t advertise on Cortana. We aren’t offering advertising and [inaudible 00:15:16] because we want to build the trust with consumers so that they will use it and interact with it. If you start placing an ad randomly like, “Hey do I need an umbrella today?” “Yes, and by the way did you know this movie is playing at 4:00 down the road?” What? You have to build that relationship to make experiences for the consumer that are willing to do and that make sense for them to add value both with how you would either advertise or give products and services, and how they use it.

Small Business Trends: Christi, where can people learn more?

Christi Olson: If you’re looking for content about Cortana, trying to learn more, you can go to http://ift.tt/2yEXs39. If you’re looking for information about bots and chat bots, Microsoft has a free tool called, QnAMaker.AI, that helps you go from essentially an FAQ page on your website to chat bot in about five minutes. It requires zero coding skills and knowledge.


This article, “Christi Olson of Microsoft: Cortana, Office 365, Bing, LinkedIn Connect Personal and Professional Life” was first published on Small Business Trends

Christi Olson of Microsoft: Cortana, Office 365, Bing, LinkedIn Connect Personal and Professional Life

HP ZBook x2 Targets Businesses in the Creative Field

HP ZBook x2 Designed to Meet High End Needs and High End Budgets

You know when a company says it has created the ‘World’s most powerful and first detachable PC workstation,’ it is not going to be cheap. Based on the specs being releases, saying the HP (NYSE:HPQ) ZBook x2  is powerful doesn’t do it justice. And the way HP is marketing it, there will be many small businesses in the creative field that will be eying this machine.

The HP laptop/tablet/PC/workstation was unveiled at the recent Adobe MAX event. This is because the different configurations come with a one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. The collaboration with Adobe makes it clear HP is going after the creative community.

If you are a small business or freelance photographer, video editor, and digital artist, professional or otherwise, you are going to love what the HP ZBook x2 offers. You are going to have the same power of a workstation where ever you happen to be. A great option for many creatives working in the field.

Xavier Garcia, vice president, and general manager of HP Z Workstations at HP Inc. explains the device in a press release. “With the HP ZBook x2, we are delivering the perfect tool to accelerate the creative process… As the world’s most powerful and first detachable PC workstation, there is no device better suited to turn the vision of artists and designers into reality.”

HP’s Detachable Computers

Earlier this year HP introduced the Spectre x2 and the Elite x2. At $1,499.99 and $1,299.99, they were not cheap, but were clearly created with businesses in creative space in mind. The new HP ZBook x2 seems like an improved version of the Spectre, advancing the company’s detachable concept.

HP ZBook x2 Designed to Meet High End Needs and High End Budgets

So What has HP Packed into this Beast?

There are five different configurations, starting at $1,749. So you’ll pay much, much more than this for the fully configured version.

There are two versions of the device with a seventh-gen Intel Core i7 processor, two with an eighth-gen Intel Core i7 processor, and one with an eighth-gen Intel Core i5 processor. You can get up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and up to 512GB of internal storage on an SSD.

The ports include an HDMI, a USB 3.0 port for charging, two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, an SD card reader and a headphone jack.

When you are ready to put your inspiration on the screen, the company says the pen included with the device has a natural tilt with almost zero latency, 4,096 pressure-sensitive levels, and never needs charging.  The screen has 100 percent Adobe RGB with a billion colors on a 10-bit 4K multi-touch UHD display.

Do You Need the Power of the HP ZBook x2?

If you are in the creative field, one of the most frustrating things about working digitally is not having enough power. This is especially true when you are out and about. For the group HP is addressing, the HP ZBook x2 will be welcomed.

If your business fits into this group (and your budget allows), you can get your hands on one by December 2017.

Images: HP

This article, “HP ZBook x2 Targets Businesses in the Creative Field” was first published on Small Business Trends

HP ZBook x2 Targets Businesses in the Creative Field

What is the Main Street Cybersecurity Act and How Will It Help Your Small Business?

What is the Main Street Cybersecurity Act and How Will It Help Your Small Business?

The Main Street Cybersecurity Act is a bill currently making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives that could lead to more tools geared specifically toward helping small businesses improve their cybersecurity. A similar bill has already passed in the Senate. And industry experts are confident some version of the bill will become law in the near future.

Cybersecurity issues have led to myriad problems for small and large businesses alike. Data breaches can cost businesses money in damages, legal and PR fees, and perhaps most importantly — customers.

Cyberattacks can have catastrophic effects on small businesses and their customers,” said Republican South Dakota Sen. John Thune earlier this year. He helped introduce the Senate version of the bill. “This legislation offers important resources, specifically meeting the unique needs of small businesses, to help them guard sensitive data and systems from thieves and hackers.”

But the tools currently available through the National Institute for Standards and Technology  and other entities are largely geared more toward big corporations due to the cost and how complicated it can be to understand and implement those resources. Small businesses are usually less likely to have team members completely dedicated to cybersecurity. So the tools and resources need to be simplified in order for small businesses to realistically benefit from them. And that, basically, is what this bill aims to provide.

Small Business Trends recently spoke with two experts on the subject to gain some perspective about what the bill would mean for small businesses. Kendall Burman is a partner at Mayer Brown who formerly served as Deputy General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Commerce. And Todd O’Boyle is the CTO of cybersecurity company Strongarm. Here’s a rundown of the bill and its potential impact.

What is the Main Street Cybersecurity Act?

Basically, the law would require the National Institute for Standards and Technology to provide more tools and resources specifically geared toward small businesses. The agency already offers a Cybersecurity Framework, a Computer Security Resource Center, IT resources and more. But many of the tools were created with large corporations in mind. So even though the framework is flexible and could certainly benefit small businesses, those companies with limited resources might not have the ability to decipher and grasp the full potential of those tools.

O’Boyle says of the bill, “It directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to focus more of its resources on cybersecurity for small businesses. Right now, NIST’s cybersecurity programs are focused on enterprise-size companies and cybersecurity is not a one-size-fits-all kind of problem.”

Currently, the National Institute for Standards and Technology offers a Cybersecurity Framework that businesses can use and customize to support their cybersecurity goals. The agency estimates that about 30 percent of U.S. companies are using the framework to manage cyber risk. But officials would like to see that number climb to 50 percent by 2020.

What Would the Main Street Cybersecurity Act Mean for Small Businesses?

Going forward, the bill could lead to creation of some supplementary resources to help small businesses actually understand and make use of the framework and other tools the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

O’Boyle says, “I’d anticipate videos and one-pagers on phishing, basic information technology (IT) hygiene, and cybersecurity incident response.”

But it’s important to note the bill, if passed, wouldn’t actually require any extra work on the part of small businesses. There will be more tools and resources available. But there isn’t a mandate for small businesses to use them.

Burman says, “One of the most important things to remember is that this guidance is voluntary. It’s not a regulation, not designed to be a sticking point for business. It’s just intended to be resources that you can look at and use as a tool to implement improved security.”

What is the Outlook for the Main Street Cybersecurity Act?

The bill is currently making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. So it’s not law just yet. But it does have bipartisan support and the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A similar version of the bill also recently passed in the U.S. Senate.

Burman described the outlook for the bill as “optimistic.” So even if the House and the Senate need to make a few minor adjustments to pass an identical bill, it seems small businesses will soon have access to better resources to improve cybersecurity.

Main Street Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What is the Main Street Cybersecurity Act and How Will It Help Your Small Business?” was first published on Small Business Trends

What is the Main Street Cybersecurity Act and How Will It Help Your Small Business?

42 Percent of Small Business Owners Would Take Action Against Employee Political Activism

42% of Small Business Owners Would Take Action Against Employee Political Activism

There’s been plenty of debate on what is and what isn’t allowed at work, specifically regarding politically motivated speech.

President Donald Trump infamously said he supported NFL owners firing players who refused to stand for the national anthem prior to games. And it turns out, a lot of small businesses feel the same way.

According to a survey conducted by BizBuySell.com, a company tracking small businesses being bought and sold, as many as 42 percent of small business owners say they’d take similar actions to reprimand employees who exercised political speech at work. Of course, that means a majority (58 percent) would take no action.

For the survey, 34 percent of those responding identified as Republican. Another 34 percent identified as Independent while 16 percent were Democrats. BizBuySell interviewed 1,361 small business owners for their opinions on this and other topical issues.

The Debate on Employee Political Activism

The results of the survey reflect the national debate on the divisive issue. Regardless of what football players do for the anthem prior to a game, a small business owner has to decide what action to take if an employee decides to begin making political statements while on the proverbial clock.

Depending upon the actions taken by employees, it may be a legal violation to “reprimand” or even fire employees who participate in political discussions at work. It’s important to set clear rules and boundaries for this activity, according to America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

SBDC sets out three guidelines for small businesses currently dealing with this issue or those potentially encountering it in the future. The group shares these recommendations:

  1. Set rules on what sorts of activities — politically motivated — are permitted on the job site. Make it a policy, let all employees know about it, and enforce it evenly, according to SBDC.
  2. Never ask an employee what his or her political affiliation is. Also, it’s illegal to fire or even threaten to fire, demote or punish employees who vote in opposition to your political leanings.
  3. Political discussions should be confined to certain areas of your business. Those areas should not include anywhere designated for getting work done.

What Would You Do?

So, how do you feel about the results of this survey?

Are you unaffected or not bothered if one or a group of your employees takes a political stand while they’re on the job?

Would your opinion on this matter change if the employee or employees shared similar political stances as you?

MSGT Messenger Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “42 Percent of Small Business Owners Would Take Action Against Employee Political Activism” was first published on Small Business Trends

42 Percent of Small Business Owners Would Take Action Against Employee Political Activism

New Samsung 360 Round Promises Live 360 Videos in 3D — But Can Your Business Afford It?

Create Live 360 Videos in 3D with New Samsung 360 Round

From product demonstrations in virtual reality to 3D podcasts, businesses are clamoring to use new video technology in their marketing, services and more. For small businesses, the barrier of entry in some areas remains the price.

For example, the latest camera addressing livestreaming 3D content for Virtual Reality comes from Samsung. The 360 Round was designed as an all in one solution to capture, view and edit VR content. But all of this comes at a price to give most business owners sticker shock.

The design is Samsung’s way of giving creators a rugged device they can use anywhere. It is a camera with 17 lenses for capturing 4K 3D video and spatial audio, as well as creating 3D images with depth.

The Samsung 360 Round is entering a very fragmented market with devices across a wide range of specs and prices. For a small business, this unit has many pros, but the price and size may be deterrents. Still for those seeking to take advantage of the huge Virtual Reality potential in the coming years, the camera would seem to more than do the job.

Suk-Jea Hahn, Executive Vice President of Samsung (KRX:005930) Electronics’ Global Mobile B2B Team, highlighted some of the reasons it delivers for today’s creators in the press release, “The combination of livestreaming capabilities, IP65 water and dust resistance and 17 lenses makes this camera ideal for a broad range of use cases our customers want — from livestreaming major events to filming at training facilities across various industries.”

Specs of the Samsung 360 Round Camera

  • 17 cameras with 1/2.8-inch, 2MP image sensor and f/1.8 Lens
  • Video resolution: Up to 4,096 x 2,048 at 30fps per lens
  • 10GB of RAM and 40GB of internal memory, Up to 2TB SSD, up to 256GB SD card
  • Microphones: 6 internal (spatial audio); 2 external ports
  • USB-C connector port
  • IP65 water and dust resistance
  • LAN or USB-C connectivity
  • Dimensions: 205 x 205 x 76.8mm, 1.93kg or 8″x 8″ x 3 “, 4.25 pounds

Price and Availability

Samsung has not announced the price for the 360 Round, but CNet and Fortune have reported it is going to cost $10,500. This is much cheaper than the $45,000 Nokia Ozo and slightly better than the $15,000 GoPro Odyssey, but still very pricey.

When it becomes available later this month, the question is whether any small businesses seeking to explore the new opportunities of VR will be able to afford it. The VR industry is growing and slated to reach $215 billion by 2021, according to an International Data Corporation report. But it will take very unique businesses to turn such expensive technology into a positive ROI .

Image: Samsung

This article, “New Samsung 360 Round Promises Live 360 Videos in 3D — But Can Your Business Afford It?” was first published on Small Business Trends

New Samsung 360 Round Promises Live 360 Videos in 3D — But Can Your Business Afford It?