Search Engine Optimization

Parxavenue Top Calgary Search Engine Optimization Company – SEO and SEM

What’s the point of building a website if it’s going to rank on Google’s last page?

Building a website in 2018 is a lot different than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Back in the day; companies could create a website and use all kinds of flashy and spammy methods to rank their site in search engines, and it was quite easy to do. Search engines’ algorithms have become a lot smarter in the past decade and can now detect these old-school methods in a matter of seconds. Can you imagine a time when you can rank on Google’s first page 24 hours after building a website stuffed with 20 exact match keywords? Ranking your site used to be, that easy!

Many penalties have been given out lately as algorithms get smarter with the growth of technology. If your website has been penalized in any way whatsoever, many experts in the SEO industry will tell you that it might be easier to purchase a new domain and start fresh. Recovering from a penalty is time-consuming. Building back the trust you once had, won’t be easy – possible, yes, but not easy.

Parxavenue Ltd. an excellent SEO company based in Calgary, Alberta; has experimented with multiple domains, using all major search engines to see how hard they can “push.” The answers didn’t come right away, but after a few short months, they did find out how easy it is to receive a penalty and even have your website de-indexed!

Search Engine Optimization
Calgary SEO – Calgary SEM – Parxavenue Top Search Engine Optimization

If your SEO staff, team, or agency is using “Old-School” methods today in 2018, be aware that these techniques will catch up to you faster than you might be thinking. The best-ranking websites from any niche market have a very natural flow to them, using exact match keywords only when completely necessary. When working with the best SEO tools on the market today, it is quite clear that you have to follow Google’s best practices and again, that’s how simple it is. “Don’t be Evil” For helpful information regarding the best ways to go about working on your own website’s SEO, please click here.

Crowdfunding: The Musical Way

Despite the tragedies that occur each day, whether they make the headlines of our favorite international current affairs programs or not, it is important to remember that there is still goodness in humanity. This belief serves to keep the spark lit for hope in our continuing survival as a species. There is greatness in the human collective maximizing their ability to come together for causes greater and external to themselves. There is no situation where this is more obvious than crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is, to put quite simply, the act of gathering funds to propel a project, a cause, or a business idea by reaching out for help on a local, national, and international level. Typically, a large number of people contribute a minimal amount of money, which compounds to realize the creator’s ultimate fundraising goals. The essence of fundraising, that has been in existence from before we are accurately able to recollect historically, remains the same, but now it is notably much bigger and far-reaching with the use of the world wide web.

Crowdfunding has, especially within the past few years, leveraged the increasingly advancing technology available to us, to connect a significantly large cross-section of individuals from varying backgrounds to put support behind any number of requests. There are a number of crowdfunding websites that can be accessed within two clicks. Many have settled into specific niches to focus only on one or two themes, while others invite an open space for ventures of any background to garner support. Kickstarter is one that is particularly popular with small businesses, start-ups, and solopreneurs who just need that extra ‘kick’ to really get their products or other business ventures off the ground. It is hyper-focused in its design on allowing businesses to showcase their products in the clearest, and attractive way possible, that will make viewers and potential ‘backers’ feel intensely compelled to be apart of their journey.

Crowdfunding platforms offer entrepreneurial individuals the opportunity to gain a significant level of success that they may not have been able to access without having their business venture shared far and wide. Kickstarter alone, as of mid-June, has a record of more than fourteen million ‘backers’ that have helped to fund more than 145,000 projects on their platform. Coupled with the fact that there isn’t any conclusive data on the number of crowdfunding sites that exist globally, these platforms are only becoming stronger and more entrenched into the ways that businesses plot out their financial future.

The fast-moving trait of social media can accept much of the praise for how successful campaigns continue to be. With social media, not only are you able to share the campaign and call-for-actions with a new audience, but the viral potential is heightened by potential funders getting the opportunity to become more closely associated with the brand, business, or individuals behind campaigns.

Another major reason that crowdfunding continues to work, is the existence of digital, as well as physical incentives that are offered to those that contribute to the campaign. Many of these incentives typically include exclusive perks for being one of the first to get their hands on the new product, often with multiple free accessories thrown in for good measure. Individuals are given multiple tier options when considering contributing, so there is no judgment or pressure to cough up an exorbitant amount of cash on the outset. Every little bit helps, and not isolating potential supporters due to economic capabilities is important to any campaign’s success.

Below are three inspirational crowdfunding campaigns that garnered full financial backing within their first twenty-four hours:

 

  • Ava Ukulele

 

It’s no surprise that music is universal, but the jaw-dropping success of the Ava Ukulele crowdfunding campaign on the Kickstarter is proof that there is more to the story. Developed my Novako Music, the Ava Ukulele is an adventure-proof improvement to its traditional counterpart, bringing the ukulele into the hands of adventurers that need a sturdy, crisp musical companion for their travels.

Within just sixteen hours after the Kickstarter campaign went live, Ava reached its $30,000 goal. Now Novako Music can go full speed ahead with the manufacturing plan for their thoughtfully-engineered product that is obviously already making waves. Of course, from a user’s perspective, it should work very similarly to a regular ukulele, but its novel features have definitely sparked a wide interest with instrument experts and amateurs alike. From a Silent Mode that allows for earphone compatibility so that others aren’t disturbed while you’re playing, a retractable forearm rest that enables compact storage for traveling, to amplification facilitated by electric signals to play through a speaker, the Ava Ukulele deserves its resounding early success.

 

  • Pirl Charger

 

In general, people like novel ideas that are rooted in a dedication to innovating parts of our daily routine, and the Pirl Charger is no different. Borne from frustration with chargers that are either too clunky, charge too slow, or were just merely uninspiring in design, Pirl is a portable four-port charger that charges multiple USB devices quickly and efficiently. This charger has the added feature of informing you on a bright LED-display just how much wattage is being used for power, keeping you informed in a way that your regularly overheating charging ports. It delivers 2.7 amps per port and 50 watts of total power. They achieved their funding goal of $8000 within the first nine hours of the campaign by enthusiastic tech-lovers that are usually on the lookout for the next best thing for their devices. The Pirl Charger is well on its way to global popularity while disrupting the way we think about powering our most important devices.

 

  • Firefly

 

We all like products that will make different aspects of our lives easier in some way. With Firefly, an “advanced situational awareness wireless earphones” with a Bluetooth 5.0 connection and artificial intelligence controlled by voice, the problems caused by not being fully aware of your surroundings while listening to your favorite playlist are becoming a thing of the past. Jabees, the company behind this accessory that more than doubled its funding goal of $10,000 within the first twenty-four hours of the campaign, were interested in developing a product that tackled the issue of the countless pedestrians living in urban spaces that are prone to walking within their own bubble on the streets, not fully cognizant of the dangers driving all around them with each step. The situational awareness feature of Firefly is dedicated to filtering in external sounds, even while music is playing, to allow joggers and daily commuters to stay alert for the sake of their safety. It undoubtedly has an interestingly sleek design, but supporters are definitely passionate about innovative accessories that can make navigating our world just a bit safer every day.

One of the many reasons that crowdfunding works is its unique ability to build diverse virtual communities that can propel a product engineered with talent and passion, to its fullest potential. The above examples are just a snapshot of the thousands of ambitious business ventures that have been ravenously supported by individual funders that see their potential and are willing to become a part of their journey. Isn’t that what life is really about? Playing your part, no matter how seemingly small, to give support, inspiration, and motivation to the people that need it the most.

Tokenization and Transactions: The Future Is Now

“An Update To Our Privacy Policy…”

“Yes, This Is Another GDPR Email…”

“Improvements to Our Privacy Policy & Privacy Controls….”

Email, the 40-year old plus technology, still dominates our communication. Nearly everyone has an email address, is signed up to a mailing list, and has probably spent the past week being bombarded by companies scrambling to comply with, the now implemented, GDPR. On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a regulation passed in European Union (EU), is a law that enforces the protection of data.

GDPR requirements send a global message that extends well outside of the EU to all businesses. It provides consumers with a reasonable justification for any personal data a business has stored or collected, getting their permission to keep it, use it, and, in the absence of that, delete it!

Businesses collect information from prospective consumers across geographical borders, and store this for reasons from marketing to completing transactions. Strict compliance to this regulation is cause for concern for all businesses, large and small.

As a small business owner, odds are repeatedly stacked against you and your business’ success. Your business relies on legitimate inquiries from prospects, sales and orders from purchasers online. Websites are the cornerstone of most business operations today, which is why this regulation is a challenge for all businesses.

What was common practice for businesses in the past, will no longer cut it: the ‘boilerplate’ privacy policy and “click to Agree” wrapper technology. The GDPR is, like many important, well-intentioned social shifts shaping our ‘new normal’, which comes with the severe pendulum swing that can hit businesses hard.

Facebook and Google have already been saddled with lawsuits that seek fines with a combined total nearing 8.8 billion USD. For a small business, a regulator, or unhappy customer, could easily deal a death blow. The future looks bleak just a few days after the official GDPR date. In reality, it could be a gift, especially for small businesses.

Some technology innovators started digging into the technology behind BitCoin. It’s called “blockchain”. A few are already delivering tools that are the answer for compliancy, and (wait for it), bonus! How to run a smarter streamlined business!

‘Tokenization’ for Transactions

Blockchain technology has massive potential. The myriad of possibilities for individuals and businesses to handle transactions on the blockchain, is dependent on what are called “tokens”. Put quite simply, a Token (also known as a “utility token”) can encrypt all of the sensitive data often used in business transactions, like credit card numbers, and communications, etc., through randomly-generated numeric values. These values retain the record of, and access to, essential information about the data, effectively hiding it from ‘prying’ human eyes.

Numeric values (also called “hashes”), are stored, in precise sequence. They’re, linked to the blockchain, which is called a distributed ledger (also known as DLT “distributed ledger technology”). The DLT keeps a copy of the encrypted numbered “hashes” on any number of computers across nodes so many copies of the DLT chain exist and are constantly added to with “hashes” – this is known as the blockchain. Public key hashes are like IP addresses, while private ‘keys’ are held by the users – for accessing the actual underlying data.

What makes a ‘utility token’ more powerful than the oft-mentioned cryptocurrency token, like Bitcoin, is function. Cryptocurrency tokens have the singular purpose of speculation and transfer of funds. It’s done through the blockchain ledger, so no bank or credit card company is needed to transfer from one account to the other.

Utility tokens, on the other hand, can be used to run entire companies. They’re not only used for payments, but they can do everything required to process secure transactions. A significant bonus is that some of these tokens can replace the software small businesses pay for every month! The business gets privacy for their transactions, and the tools they need to operate, in one low cost system – that costs a fraction of what most companies spend on technology.

Tokens can be used to confirm who is doing the transaction, what has been done, and where the data is at all times. Only the users of the tokens hold the keys to unlock and view the progress.

Today, Large companies hold our data – so they hold all the keys. This is what is at the heart of the recent flurry of law suits.

A lifelong serial entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of BlockCerts Blockchain, Tim Vasko, is a treasure-trove of information regarding the intersection of technology, business, and global culture. Vasko believes that “…truly giving people and companies the tools they need, and ownership of those tools through blockchain, enables trust for all users. Tokens and blockchain, will define the next generation of business in an Open Structure, trust-based economy which is imbedded in every transaction”.

This is done through “smart contracts”, where there are endless possibilities. Businesses can tokenize their work and payments, while customers through Blockcerts, are assured they remain firmly in control of their own data.

Other players that are forming Tokens for basic data security Perspecsys (Symantec, and CyberSource (Visa).

Automating GDPR compliance, is essential.

Changing global regulations have the potential to spell trouble for any business. Without the deep pockets necessary to ensure compliance, tools such as BlockCerts, that provide tools for little to no cost to small business, or apps like Perspecsys and CyberSource solve challenges and are paving the way in making trusted transactions with privacy and security possible.

The GDPR is a new model that forecasts what the global market of customers expects.

Blockcerts appears to be ahead of the curve with over a decade in development. BCERT Tokens are expected to hit the market in late June.

BCERT Tokens are something Facebook and Google now have 8.8 billion reasons to wish they had in place. Now small business has a chance to be ahead of the curve.

Anna Recklovski’s experience with the hyped crypto-startup Profitcoins

If you had told Anna she would be dealing with cryptocurrencies a year ago, she would have laughed. Born in Germany but raised in America, she had seized the opportunity to study abroad and get a taste for living in her birth country.

Image: Anna in the “Olympia” park in Munich, fall 2017.

After graduating from Technical University in Munich, Anna was ready to tackle the world. She thought it would be easy to find work. Six weeks into her search, Anna wasn’t so hopeful anymore. Feeling defeated, she had to make a hard decision: Do I stay and tough it out, or should I grab a ticket back to the States?

The next morning, Anna got up early and went to nearly every shop to apply for a job. Two days later, she got hired at a café. Things were going well. She loved interacting with her customers and made a perfect cappuccino to boot. The only problem was that rent was due in two weeks.

While talking with one of her favorite customers, Jonas, she told him about her financial issues. Jonas was a day trader and offered a solution: Profitcoins.

Anna was new to cryptocurrency arbitrage, but Jonas assured her that she would be fine. He helped her sign up, and she started trading that day. By that Friday, she had made €100!

Profitcoins saved me from having to go back home. Super easy to use and safe, I’m pulling in about €600 per month right now, which has taken a ton of stress off my shoulders financially.”

Anna is now working at a hardware prototyping firm. Even though she enjoys a nice salary now, she still loves the benefits of cryptotrading. If it were not for Jonas suggesting Profitcoins, she would still be stuck at the café making mochas. Now, she is living her best life!

Financial and Legal Estate Planning Tips for Young Families

Countless families do not address estate planning because they may feel they are too healthy, young, or just don’t have the time. While it can be difficult to anticipate what may occur if you pass on if you have a spouse and minor children who are dependent on your support, the time to address estate planning is now.

Estate planning does not have to mean that you are anticipating to die while your family is young, but preparing for what may happen is a responsible action that can demonstrate to your loved ones how dedicated you are to them. The following steps can help you begin, or an estate planning lawyer can help with the process.

Create a Will

Putting a will together is primarily about choosing guardians for your children, but it can also include asset designation. If you and your children’s other parent were no longer present to raise your kids, the designated guardian in your will would be the legal guardian appointed by the court.

It is important to outline your preferences because there is a chance that the court would be forced to select a guardian if you don’t appoint one. A family member is usually appointed, however, if you have a dear friend you’d rather select, the court would not be aware of this unless you make it known.

Purchase Life Insurance

Being prepared for financial tasks can be just as important as legal responsibilities. A good life insurance policy should replenish your income for several years if you were to suddenly pass away. Term life insurance is an inexpensive choice young families often choose because it can be fairly reasonable for those who are healthy and young.

Have a Living Will and Durable Powers of Attorney

Though these documents may not end up used if you are healthy and young, they are still needed. They can inform your family of your wishes if you are severely hurt in the future, which can spare loved ones from having to make tough decisions.

Adults must write a living will (advance medical directive) to outline your preferences for end-of-life medical care.

A medical durable power of attorney gives an individual you trust to fulfill your requests included in your living will, and it gives them the right to make healthcare decisions if you are unable to.

A financial durable power of attorney gives another control of any owned assets. If your spouse needs to gain access to your bank accounts to pay bills and they are not named the durable power of attorney, they would have to go through an entire court process and be given a court order to do so.

Name Account Beneficiaries

A final step is to complete the beneficiary form for any retirement account you’ve opened. This can be changed later, and also avoids court process to access the account. When a beneficiary is designated, the individuals you name can access the account balance.

The Growing Problem With E-Mail Security

E-mail security has been a huge issue since the technology’s emergence in the mid-1990s, and for all of our tech sophistication and heightened awareness of the problem, it’s only gotten worse.

Cybersecurity specialist Kazpersky Labs, for example, reports that while the volume of spam dropped last year, the firm’s tracking showed a 59 percent jump in phishing attacks. But the bad actors are a creative lot – just when you think you have a handle on one e-mail scam, they change tactics and you have to adjust your defenses.

Throughout most of 2017, for example, the types of e-mail to look out for contained malicious URLs, linking back to sites hosting malware. Proofpoint found the volume of these e-mails jumped by 600 percent in the third quarter – a 2,200 percent from the same 2016 quarter. But by the fourth quarter, cybercriminals switched their preferred scamming methods from malicious URL use to messages carrying malicious attachments. The volume of these messages jumped by 300 percent during the fourth quarter from the third.

Keeping up is almost like trying to win at the whack-a-mole game.

It’s fascinating (in a train wreck kind of way) to look at the ebbs and flows of the scams that the bad guys use to convince people to act, and how adept they are at seizing on major events and issues to get past their guard.

Last year’s big opportunities?

The FIFA 2018 world cup preparation, giving rise to fraudulent, if official-looking messages about lottery wins and promising free tickets. And the cryptocurrency craze has provided a rich vein of blockchain-themed tricks, like malware-laden websites disguised as cryptocurrency exchanges. Another trick is malware in spam emails, billed to be utilities for earning Bitcoins.

There is a cost to all this. Phishing scams alone cost American businesses about $500 million a year. But there are a lot of impacts of cyber attacks – obvious and those beneath the surface – to think about, as a study by Deloitte showed.

The firm identified 14 cyberattack impact factors with direct and/or intangible costs that will add to the pain of a major cyber incident. The direct costs ranged from attorney fees and litigation to customer notification, and technical investigation to cybersecurity improvements. Beneath the surface? Operational disruption, for one. Then there are increases in your insurance premiums and the lost value of customer relations and contract revenue. It’s not a pretty picture for potential damage, Deloitte’s modeling showed.

Any number of solutions will help mitigate the risks that come with our increasing dependence on e-mail as a fast, efficient and inexpensive way to communicate with each other.

The best place to start is to make people aware and equip them to be on guard against malicious e-mails that might make their way into e-mail boxes. The tips bear repeating: Never click on a link or an attachment on an unsolicited e-mail. Always check the sender. Bad actors can be quite skilled at replicating logos to look like the real deal, but your bank is not going to ask you to share sensitive information like your social or account number or bank account password through this channel. And common sense applies. Offers that seem too good to be true usually are, especially if the outreach is out of the blue.

But e-mail security issues have a broad scope, and are an enterprise-wide concern. It makes a holistic, enterprise wide approach to secure messaging the imperative for any organization that exchanges sensitive information with customers.

The way of the future? Increasingly, it’s moving toward integrative solutions that enable users to control, track, share and protect sensitive business information as a means of heading problems off at the pass.

How the Right Insurance Agent Can Save You Money

In life, being frugal can be a great way to budget, but it can also backfire in certain situations. This can be true when it comes to purchasing (less expensive) insurance from the wrong professional. Since you do need some level of insurance, and you may even need more of it than you think, here are some ways finding the right agent will save you money.

When you deal with a reputable insurance agent or company whom you trust, and you are advised to consider purchasing a specific type of insurance, you can be confident that it’s not a ploy to get you to dish out more cash. Rather, it’s probably in your best interest to listen up.

Look for an agent who takes the time to talk with you to find out what your specific insurance needs are, who patiently explains the insurance policy and answers all your questions, who offers personalized policies that meet your  needs, and who follows up with you regularly by checking in to make sure everything is up to date and that your insurance needs have not changed.

An additional way your insurance agent can help you save money is when you consider the agent’s area of expertise prior to purchasing a policy. While years and years of experience in life insurance is great when you want to purchase that type of insurance, it is less helpful when you are seeking to purchase rideshare or boating insurance. Moreover, it is especially important if the area in which you need coverage is relatively rare.

In the long run, taking this approach can save you both time and money because your experienced agent will know exactly what coverage you need, ensuring you buy the right policy for maximum protection without wasting time shopping around.

One more way your insurance agent can save you money is by the added value he or she brings to the table. This means that if your insurance agent can refer you to other reputable and competent professional such as financial planners, accountants, lawyers, business consultants and the like, then you will be saving time and money by avoiding trying to find professionals on your own or by working with the wrong people. When you trust your insurance agent you can be sure that he or she will only refer you to other trusted professionals – which can save you more money in other areas of your life too.

You’ve Been Pulled over by the Cops – Now What?

You ran a red light.

You were driving over the speed limit.

You were quickly checking your phone while driving.

You knew it was wrong, but you didn’t think you’d get caught – until you saw the flashing lights in your rearview mirror! You’ve been pulled over by the cops. Here’s what you should do next.

Pull over when it’s safe

First things first, signal your intention to pull over to the right side of the road, and look for a well-lit spot with enough room for you and the police car to safely park. Once you’ve come to a complete stop, turn off your engine and wait inside your car for further instructions from the officer. It may take a few minutes for them to approach your vehicle, as they may need to run your license plate number.

Know your rights

It helps to know your rights in a traffic stop. Keep in mind that police officers can pull you over for any reason when driving. If asked, you are required to provide your driver’s licence, ownership information and proof of insurance. Otherwise, you are not required to answer an officer’s questions unless you’ve been involved in an accident.

If an officer suspects you’ve been drinking, they are allowed to administer a roadside breath test. Police officers are allowed to look in the windows of your car, and use a flashlight to do so if it’s nighttime. However, cops are not allowed to search your vehicle without a warrant, unless they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that they will find illegal drugs, alcohol or evidence related to a crime.

Look for credentials

You have the right to ask for a police officer’s credentials, and you might want to consider it if you’ve been pulled over by an unmarked vehicle. There have been several cases of fraudsters posing as police officers to steal cars or solicit money for fake tickets. You can also call 911 to confirm that the vehicle belongs to the police.

Keep your documents accessible

As mentioned above, you are required to provide your license, ownership papers and proof of insurance if asked. To make the traffic stop as painless of possible, make sure you have those items in an easily accessible location at all times. Wait to be asked by the officer before you collect your documents. Once they have asked, let them know you’ll be opening your glove compartment or your purse to retrieve the items.

Maintain your composure

You might be annoyed at the inconvenience of a stop, or angry that you were the one pulled over when other drivers were also breaking the law. Whatever the case, you can vent to friends and family later. When interacting with the officer, listen politely and respond respectfully. If you don’t feel like you’re being treated fairly by the officer, don’t pick a fight or respond defensively. You can note their name and badge number and file a complaint at another time.

Fight it later

While you shouldn’t argue over the merits of the ticket during your traffic stop, you can consider fighting it later. Not only can your ticket come with a fine and demerit points, but it can also raise your car insurance rates the next time you’re renewing your policy or looking for a quote. With all those potential consequences, it can be worth contesting your ticket in court, since you’ll avoid the fine, demerit points and insurance increases if you win.

You can do your best to prevent a traffic stop by obeying the rules of the road, but if you do see those flashing lights in your rearview mirror, remember these tips to make the best of a bad situation.

AI, Marketing and the Skilled Workforce Needed to Drive Its Progression

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have become common components of emerging modern technologies, from the algorithms that recommend new products for purchase to the chatbots that provide customer service assistance on many commerce websites.

Some digital marketing now incorporates AI to great effect, and these approaches can be beneficial, particularly in highly competitive spaces.

  • The use of AI in digital marketing can help optimize a user’s website experience by predicting consumer behavior, personas, cycles, and customer service needs.
  • As mentioned above, AI helps to optimize processes, which can benefit return on investment (ROI). AI can make a payment process more secure and frictionless, and machine learning can help collect better data from customers.
  • Search sessions on a site will be improved by AI assistance, since AI will be able to better predict user behavior and search terms.
  • Reaching the right audience for your brand will be an easier and more efficient process with the help of AI, which can allow for better targeting based on behavior, demographics, etc.
  • AI will improve sales models and other predictive elements, as machine learning and other AI-related tools can process data more fully and more quickly than humans.

However, many wonder about what sort of skills or talents are needed in the workforce to fully take advantage of all the benefits of AI-aided marketing. How can AI be implemented in marketing approaches if there is a lack of professionals who know how to develop and manage machine learning and AI-based tools?

While there is currently a talent gap between the needs of these emerging AI-related jobs and the skills present in much of the existing marketing workforce, many marketing professionals are taking the talents they possess — creativity, resilience, and risk tolerance — and working to build up their analytical skills. Many successful marketing professionals are learning skills related to AI, machine learning, and data proficiency through online courses or short-term workshops, or going back to school to learn more about data analytics, programming, and mathematics.

In addition, since AI is a quickly evolving field, agility is one of the qualities most prized by companies seeking individuals who can innovate and develop the technology for new applications. Many companies are finding that, when it comes to working with AI, it is useful to hire professionals who are creative thinkers, who have a high degree of resilience, and who are not afraid to take risks — and then encourage those employees to acquire and refine their skills through training programs or experience on the job.

AI and machine learning are already present in much of the digital space, and the influence of these technologies will only increase in the next few years. AI-aided marketing and AI-skilled employees will be less of a luxury and more of a requirement for companies and brands in the future.

How Social Payments Are Transforming Financial Transactions As We Know Them

In honor of arrival of the Year of the Dog in February, I sent my nephew in China a gift of money through a chat app on my phone. He pocketed it happily, using the same app to express his appreciation, thanks and best wishes back at me for the new year.

It was another day, another dollar, as they say, or the everyday sort of transaction that people in some countries like China don’t think twice about. For people in most Western nations, though, this sort of payment system is still something of a curiosity.

That’s changing fast, though. And as the social sharing economy continues to evolve, look for such peer-to-peer transactions over people’s social feeds to become the norm. It quite possibly may disrupt the traditional banking system as we know it.

Venmo, PayPal’s free digital wallet, was an early player in Western economies, launched in 2009, but really taking off in 2014 as Android Pay and Apple Pay made their much vaunted debuts. Other entries since – Facebook Pay, Google Wallet, Square Cash – speak to a concept whose time has come. Case in point: Venmo handled $17.6 billion in transactions in 2016; that almost doubled to $34.2 billion last year.

If there’s a model for the rest of the world to follow, it’s China’s. Its system was a response in a country that had no credit card use, and whose banks were inefficient and underused. In less than 10 years, two rival payment services, Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Alipay, have transformed China’s financial ecosystem by making mobile payments – especially social mobile payments – an easy and accessible option.

As social payments continue to catch on in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and other nations, it’s moving us ever closer to becoming cashless economies. In fact, Sweden may be an example today of how we’ll all be operating in the not-to-distant future. A mere 1 percent of the value of all payments made in Sweden are in coins or notes. Its citizens live for their bank cards, but over half Sweden’s population depends on the leading social payment smartphone app, Swish.

It’s not just the world’s more privileged societies that stand to benefit from this evolving financial ecosystem. Social payments stand to bring much needed financial services to countries with significant populations of unbanked or underbanked people. Financial inclusion, of course, is key to lifting them from poverty.

Even if traditional banking services aren’t available to such populations, mobile phones increasingly are. Their pace of adoption is on a positive trendline, at 37 percent of the populations of underdeveloped economies.

Not surprisingly, both Tencent and Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial (formerly known as Alipay) see an opportunity to make inroads in countries where people may be unbanked, but not unphoned. Both are moving aggressively in Southeast Asia as part of that quest; at the end of last year, the Alipay service reportedly had 280 million users of its four local payment platforms in Thailand, India, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

The sharing economy is real and expanding rapidly. By 2025, a PricewaterhouseCoopers study found, spending in the five components that comprise it (travel, car sharing, staffing, streaming and, no surprise, finance) may hit $335 billion – or half of total spending in those areas.

It’s not just social payments that will help to reshape the financial sector. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin will be another facet, a means for settling payments directly and without much hassle or effort.

Either way, though, if this new social order we’re developing can advance those who currently have no access to things the rest of us take for granted like financial services, then it’s all to the good.