Concepta and Clean the World Partner to Create a Dynamic Online Portal for Hospitality Customers

What happens to the soap after a guest checks out of their hotel? This question posed by frequent business traveler, Shawn Seipler, inspired a green movement. He embraced the opportunity to turn one man’s trash into another’s life-saving treasure.

Clean the World is the result of that vision. It’s mission: “recycling soap to save lives.”

Concepta became a partner in that mission by providing a new automated system for interaction with their hotel partners. This automation means Clean the World can now bring on thousands more hospitality partners and improve customer service at the same time.

Responsible Profit

Clean the World has paved the way for another unique movement. In 2014, they became Florida’s first Benefits Corporation (B-Corp). A social enterprise with a charitable mission and an environmentally-conscious corporate ethos. Where many non-profits struggle with donation-based funding, this business model ensures stable funding to all their charitable programs. And business is thriving.

Complex social and environmental climates leave no shortage of need for Clean the World’s services. For a decade, the organization has provided bars of soap to the communities of developing nations. This has resulted in a 60% reduction of the death rate of children under the age of five due to hygiene-related illnesses. In addition, Clean the World’s foundation provides hygiene supplies for emergency response. When disaster strikes, whether home or abroad, victims are recipients of their hygiene kits.

Clean the World funds their mission through their hospitality partners, who pay to have hygiene products collected and recycled, and thousands of generous donors and corporations that support Clean the World’s programs. By partnering with Clean the World, businesses earn a reputation of corporate social responsibility.

Today, over 8,000 hotels participate in Clean the World’s recycling program. Participation results in a reduction of their negative environmental impact and allows them to spotlight their company's humanitarian side. Housekeepers around the world collect hygiene amenities from over 1.1 million hotel rooms daily and contribute to the diversion of over 20 million pounds of hotel waste from landfills. Combined, these efforts ease both an environmental concern and a humanitarian crisis.

It’s more than a philanthropic gesture, of course. Customer experience and hotel reputation are critical brand differentiators for travelers, especially with rates leveled by bargain apps.

“People want to know that their money is going back to a worthy cause,” explains Sandra Beauchamp, CTW’s Vice President of Marketing, Products, & Technology. “They’re starting to choose hotels based on the give-back programs they have.” Clean the World’s data is a major marketing boost for hospitality partners, who can share measurable results to share with their guests.

How It Works

The collection process is simple. The housekeeping teams gather the leftover hygiene items after a guest checks and deposit them into dedicated bins. When the bins fill up, the hotels submit a request for pickup. The bins are then swapped for empty ones and the full bins get shipped back to a Clean the World facility.

Teams of volunteers help sort the collected hygiene products. Clean the World recruits these volunteers from local businesses and organizations that emphasize volunteering as a morale boost and team-building event.

The sorted soap is then ground down, treated with a proven disinfecting process, and reformed into brand new bars. Bottles such as shampoo, conditioner, and body wash get recycled or sent to an Energy from Waste facility.

Volunteers and businesses also support Clean the World by assembling hygiene kits containing soap, shampoo, conditioner, socks, and toothbrush and toothpaste. The kits are distributed with the help of NGOs, both domestically as well as in 127 countries around the world. Hygiene kits find their way to shelters, refugee camps, schools, deployed soldiers and more.

Popularity Problems

Proof that their methods benefit all stakeholders while contributing to a cleaner environment has won Clean the World international acclaim. This has attracted the interest of many more prospective hospitality partners.

That’s great from a profit standpoint, but with substantial growth came an increased need for a tool that would help with logistics. A manual system for requesting bins, printing shipping labels and viewing impact statements would no longer suffice. They needed a tool that would create a good customer experience while streamlining logistics.

Their previous model required reliance on direct contact. A staffer had to address every request, even for a routine shipping label. This was easy to do when Clean the World was small, but as they grew it became progressively unmanageable.

Over time, the hassle experienced by hotel partners could have translated into less frequent impact updates. Room attendants, unable to see the results of their efforts, could have stopped taking the extra step of collecting the toiletries.

That’s dangerous for a program that relies on internal buy-in. If the team isn’t on board and there’s no visible impact to motivate them, the hospitality partner might lose interest in the program altogether.

Clean the World needed a better way to facilitate shipments and demonstrate impact to their growing network of partners.

The Search For The Right Developer

As enthusiastic supporters of technology, Clean the World started looking for a development partner to address the issue instead of considering a more analog solution.

“We went through a very extensive vetting process. We had 15 that we were looking at and we narrowed it down to 8, then compared them across the board,” Beauchamp said of the decision process.

Their requirements were simple but non-negotiable. As a B Corp, Clean the World needed a responsive developer with a clean reputation, someone who wouldn’t damage the brand they’ve worked hard to build. They wanted a partner with a portfolio of similarly high-volume projects that demonstrated quality and flexibility.

Also important was the potential for long-term collaboration. “We didn’t look at this as one project. We have a lot of technologies we want to do going forward, so we want someone we can grow with,” says Rob Keefe, Manager of Products and Business Development at Clean the World.

Based on these requirements, the team settled on fellow Orlando business Concepta. Proximity tipped the balance in Concepta’s favor. Their downtown office gives the team a physical location to meet and talk over issues.

Programming Around Bottlenecks

After identifying the main bottlenecks in Clean the World’s process, Concepta went to work on an ambitious solution. They designed a digital platform that provides hospitality partners real-time, round-the-clock, direct access to Clean the World’s services.

Requesting new bins is now an automated process that generates shipping labels and orders new bins on demand. The need for frequent direct contact has been eliminated. Hotel staff can simply sign in, print labels, and schedule the exact bins they need.

Most exciting is the responsive Impact Portal. Partners can pull up live, site-specific metrics illustrating exactly how much they’ve accomplished. The feature was one of Clean the World’s priorities, says Beauchamp.

“A big part of our service is the impact statements. Hotels want to know their impact: how much waste they’ve diverted, and how many bars of soap have been distributed because of their hard work. We want to show room attendants the results of their efforts, so we can make a huge difference in the lives of the people we serve. Soap really does save lives!”

Results That Shine

The online portal went live December 4, 2018, and the impact has been transformative. Where once 10 people were responsible for adding new partners manually, onboarding is now an efficiently automated process. In one day, Clean the World onboarded over 4,000 hotels - a feat which would have been impossible under the old system.

“It’s a turnkey process,” Beauchamp explains. “They get started faster, they can send their soap in faster, and we can process and get it out faster.”

She adds that the impact statements are a huge success with hospitality partners. “It’s like a competition now. They say, ‘I want to get to 1,000 bars!’ or ‘Let’s do a million by the end of the year!’ Knowing how many bars they’ve shipped, how much waste they’ve diverted, that keeps them invested.”

In a year’s time, Clean the World’s online portal has nearly 20,000 users, with more than 60,000 sessions logged so far. The self-service option has been a big hit. Users are spending a consistent average of 5 minutes on the portal per visit, which surprised the CTW team. “I expected that at first, because we have training videos on there. But we’ve maintained a 5-minute average visit. That’s great! It means people are staying involved and engaged.”

Freed from tedious tasks, Clean the World can focus their efforts on higher quality customer service. “We still get calls, but they’re more technical,” Beauchamp says. “The nice thing is that now it’s quality conversations we’re having with our clients.”

Next Steps

Concepta and Clean the World plan to use the portal to automate even more processes. Today, hospitality partners are able to upgrade their accounts through the portal. For example, some only use the soap recycling program. They’ll are now able to upgrade to bottled amenities right within the app.

There’s also an in-app retail store in the works. The store would offer shirts for crew members, recognition items for top performers, marketing materials, and other products to help hospitality partners make the most of Clean the World’s services.

Beauchamp has also anticipated a need for the dashboard to be customizable on an individual level. Hospitality partners will be able to adjust what they see and arrange things to fit into their unique workflows.

For now, the portal is living up to Clean the World’s high expectations. Beauchamp was enthusiastic about the wider benefits it provides to hospitality partners. “Of course, they can get an answer more quickly, cut down the time to service, but it’s also a chance to see the exciting things Clean the World is doing. They’re able to see their dollars being utilized in a meaningful way. Clean the World partners are able to engage with us better than ever before. Any time there’s a hygiene crisis, we respond, and our partners are a part of that story.”

Founder and CEO Shawn Seipler says, “The development of the portal has been an instrumental component of the onboarding process. Partners can see their real-time impact and Clean the World can allocate more resources to our mission: recycling soap to save lives.”

That’s the real impact of the portal: more resources being diverted from landfills and sent where they’re most needed. It’s a win for Clean the World, a win for the hotels and resorts involved, and a win for the planet.

Kingdom Strollers: How Technology Helped Make Strollers Big Business In Orlando

Kingdom Strollers started out of a condo in central Florida as a small family business in 2010. It is now a well-oiled, data machine, looking to implement business intelligence solutions next for features like up-selling opportunities on insurance, beverages and other add-ons and better visualization in forecasting inventory levels. Their investment in technology made them an industry leader in Orlando tourism.

SMB/SMEs have many start-up costs that are a priority. Investing in digital and business intelligence tools seems like something that can be developed later, yet delaying the launch of complementary technology can actually be the reason a business rapidly stagnates.

From a rented 6,700 square-foot space to a newly built, 16-000 square foot warehouse they can call their own, Kingdom Strollers can clearly see the return on investment from digitizing the business.

Kingdom Strollers, a stroller and crib rental company serving tourists and one of only a few Disney-preferred providers, has seen its revenue grow 40 percent year over year since working with Concepta on custom web development. This included adding abilities such as inventory tracking, online booking, delivery updates and travel agent referral tracking to its website.

The owner, Matthew Wilhite, knows the world of stroller rentals is not a glamorous one. The investment in technology made the company considerably more “attractive” though.

There is a lot of tracking involved with one simple order, from checking an inventory constantly in flux, to ensuring on-time delivery and knowing the exact stroller location drop-off. One major pain point for the company was constant updates to an order, all previously done through countless phone calls and changes to the master spreadsheet. Now, the order and update process is managed through the website—a win for the company and the customers.

Many small-to-medium size businesses struggle to update their processes as their business grows, not realizing that custom options for automation, insights and analytics are affordable. Kingdom Strollers prioritized the digital transformation of the business early.

The Hottest Web Development Trends of 2019

Originally published January 6, 2017, updated Feb. 5, 2019.

Web developers are focusing on the customer this year.

There’s been a growing emphasis on the customer journey over the last few years, and 2019 will see more focus on providing a responsive, customized experience to every visitor.

To that end, the leading web development trends for 2019 are those that help developers engage visitors and provide personalized service.

Motion UI

Visitors won’t spend much time on a site if they can’t find what they need.

Simple, interactive design keeps users engaged and makes navigation straightforward.

One of the most common ways to add this functionality in 2019 is motion UI.

The trend includes both the concept of featuring simplified motion effects in web design and a specific tool for doing so.

Motion UI is a standalone Sass library for creating CSS transitions and animations.

It offers interactive motion effects that visually guide site visitors towards popular features. Developers like Motion UI for its customizable components and flexibility.

Adding effects is simple, so it’s an easy way to add interest to a site without throwing off development schedules.

Whether it’s done using Motion UI or another tool, dynamic visual effects are showing promise as a way to improve user engagement.

Expect wider adoption as developers explore its value in an enterprise context.

Adaptive Design

The line between mobile and home computing is so faint it’s practically invisible.

Consumers own just under 4 connected devices each (including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices) and switch between them regularly during an average of 5.9 hours of daily media usage.

Companies who can provide consistent user experience regardless of how visitors reach their site will enjoy greater engagement and more return traffic.

It’s not enough for web design to be responsive anymore. Responsive design leads to awkward or unattractive sites on some devices.

Now design needs to be adaptive, able to rearrange itself to suit different device classes while providing a high-quality user experience for each.

This year, developers will explore optimized templates that translate content to a variety of device classes.

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Artificial intelligence is everywhere. It’s already being used to improve search results, upsell products, power facial recognition programs on social media, and sort articles on sites like Wikipedia.

Now, it’s making a place in the customer service arena.

More than 40% of organizations worldwide plan to launch customer-facing artificial intelligence technology this year.

Chatbots are leading the charge. Within the next five years they’re set to become the most common AI application across all consumer applications.

Natural language processing (NLP) has matured enough that chatbots offer real value instead of frustrating customers.

In fact, over half of consumers like having the constant point of access to businesses chatbots provide.

Look for more chatbots, virtual agents, and NLP-based form filling tools throughout 2019.

Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps are still generating excitement in 2019.

Developers view them as a serious competitor for native apps, especially as more browsers support their full suite of features.

There are a lot of benefits to using PWAs. Development is often shorter and less costly. They offer excellent performance even on poor devices and in low signal areas.

Dropping below the three seconds most users wait before leaving a slow site helps lower bounce rates and increase time spent on-site.

PWA service workers provide limited offline functionality, which is a significant benefit with 70% of world economic growth over the next over next several years coming from emerging markets, that’s a significant advantage.

There are still some problems with browser compatibility, but those will fade away as browsers catch up to the latest W3c standards.

Looking forward

Some of these trends should grow in popularity as 2019 proceeds.

Artificial intelligence, for example, is making strides in proving its worth as an enterprise tool.

It would be hard to imagine anyone abandoning it right as it begins to realize its full potential.

Others aren’t as easy to predict. Motion UI may be exciting, but there aren’t any numbers on its practical impact yet.

For now, these are all solid tools for developers looking to boost performance and improve the customer experience.

Questions? Concepta’s team stays up to date on the latest web development trends. Drop us a line to talk about which ones are best for your next project!

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9 Mobile Development Trends to Watch in 2019

Originally published January 23, 2018, updated January 29, 2019.

Mobile development is one of the most innovative and fastest growing sectors of the tech industry.

The average American spends over three hours a day on their smartphones (not including calls) and companies are pushing to gain a share of that time.

As mobile continues to work its way into daily life, the technologies rising to the top are ones that make that constant usage easier and more enjoyable.

It should come as no surprise that practicality, good user experiences, and convenience are the keys to winning public support in 2019.

Consumers expect their smartphones to do more than take calls and check email. They want more connectivity with the world around them, and they want that connection to be as safe as it is convenient.

To that end, here are the trends driving mobile developers in 2019:

1. Mobile Application Security

Users share more personal data with apps than ever before.

Mobile wallets have banking information, social media and habit trackers store details about personality and routines, and navigation apps keep records of everywhere a user goes.

At the same time, there’s enormous pressure to put apps out fast enough to keep up with consumer demand. Data breaches can be caused when companies rush development – and the risks are only rising.

The average cost of a breach was $3.62 million in 2017. Last year saw a 6.4% increase to $3.86 million.

In 2018 experts began tracking so-called “mega breaches”. These are cases where between 1-50 million records are breached, and they’re becoming more common as the Internet of Things (IoT) makes more user data available.

Alarmingly, 10 out of 11 of this type of breach are caused by malicious actors as opposed to technical errors. That shifts the focus from passively securing connections to actively preventing criminal intrusions.

In 2019, look for developers to emphasize security from the beginning of projects, with encryption throughout and automated testing at regular intervals. Artificial intelligence will also be on the rise for mobile security applications.

2. 5G Wireless Connectivity

2019 will bring the first major wave of 5G phones and wireless networks to urban areas. AT&T, which switched on their 5G wireless network in 12 cities last year, will add at least 7 more during 2019.

Sprint announced a 9-city 5G presence in the first half of the year with potential for wider coverage depending on how fast they can build out their infrastructure.

There were some test programs and small-scale rollouts from Verizon and AT&T last year, but without the right devices to handle it those haven’t done much more than raise excitement.

Now Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, OnePlus, and LG have all announced 5g-ready smartphones to be released this year.

Why is 5G so exciting? For one thing, it’s fast. 5G is at least 10 times faster than 4G.

Users will be able to download movies and apps in seconds rather than minutes, and streaming mobile video will be as fluid as watching at home.  C

arriers are warning that it’s only a little faster than 4G outside cities, but it’s still a major improvement considering how well it handles high-resolution media.

Latency is another major draw. 5G’s incredibly low latency- under one millisecond- will let multiple devices communicate quickly enough to respond to the real world.

Experts are primarily thinking of self-driving cars and drones, but the technology will also take mobile gaming to a whole new level of user experience.

5G is about more than smartphones, though. The technology is part of an overall shift towards improving the wireless infrastructure to support the growing Internet of Things.

5G could mean major advances for smart cars, self-driving vehicles, smart homes, Augmented Reality devices, wearables, and other mobile connected devices.

3. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP is a set of protocols focused around HTML, JS, and a Google Cache that boosts the performance of mobile pages.

AMP-compliant pages load twice as fast as normal pages and perform well across a variety of devices and signal ranges.

With their higher availability and faster loading times, pages that use AMP have lower bounce rates and longer average session times.

Users also find AMP pages easier since Google places them in a special carousel at the top of search results.

That’s very tempting for companies looking to increase their site traffic (and who isn’t?).

There are some functionality limitations to AMP, but for basic pages those limits are outweighed by the speed and SEO preference.

Look for companies to continuing moving some of their customer-facing content to AMP throughout 2019.

4. Instant Apps

The barrier to adoption for a lot of apps is the download requirement.

People only have so much memory on their smartphones, and they hesitate to download apps that could just sit unused on their phones.

That’s not an unrealistic fear: only 20% of apps are opened again after the first use.

Surveys show that 75% of consumers feel more comfortable using apps with helpful reviews or screenshots, but Instant Apps take that a step farther.

Users can access them directly from the Google Play store without downloading.

Companies don’t need to build separate instant apps to take advantage of the trend, either.

Since they’re effectively features of an existing app (for example, the map section of a store app) which are used independently via a website, they use the same APIs and source code.

Developers only need to update their existing apps for Instant App functionality.

Instant apps offer some enticing benefits:

  • Instant apps open in seconds while the supporting website loads behind, giving the customer-facing impression of instant access.
  • Consumers can use just the feature they need or test-drive apps before downloading them.
  • Businesses can offload more functions (returns, coupons, and the like) to their app since customers can access them without having to go through the download process first.
  • Instant apps can be shared via links, which friends can view without downloading anything.

Early adopters have seen significant increases in full app downloads and engagement.

Updating for Instant App compatibility can take as little as a single day.

Instant Apps have become available on over 500 million devices worldwide since launching.

With satisfied customers including Vimeo, The New York Times, and the Wal-Mart owned shopping service Jet, it’s a sure bet that they will continue to rise in popularity.

5. Mobile Payments

Digital payment options are seeing a slow but steady transition to the real world. 2.1 billion consumers worldwide will use mobile wallets to make payments in 2019, a 30% increase from 2017.

Mobile payment has already become commonplace in China and India, where some stores accept nothing else.

Outside those markets mobile payments have been slower to grow, though they’re still gaining ground. In 2018 20% of Americans were using mobile wallets and payment options.

Experts predict that number to rise nearly 40% over the next year as mobile security improves enough to lend consumers confidence in the technology.

The leading general-purpose mobile payment systems in America are Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. At least half of US retailers accept these, which makes it easier for consumers to leave their wallets at home.

Look for more brick and mortar businesses to begin accepting mobile payments. There’s also a trend towards loyalty programs with integrated mobile wallets that bears watching.

The Starbucks app’s mobile payment option saw over a million more users than Apple Pay in 2018, and over twice the number of Google Pay users. It will be interesting to see how this develops in 2019.

6. Mobile AI

Mobile AI is being fueled by edge computing and the rising demand for on-device processing.

A variety of mobile applications which were once unreliable are now maturing into enterprise readiness.

  • Conversational interfaces have improved along with advances in Natural Language Processing. Chatbots are leading the pack. In fact, 80% of businesses plan to release some kind of chatbot by 2020. Expect to see more chatbots and personal assistant AIs this year (especially on social media).
  • Recommendation engines are the power behind upsells at online checklists, but they’re also used in evolving applications like smart travel planners and health care apps.
  • Enterprise AI is a core component of digital transformation. Insights gained through enterprise analytics and predictive marketing will continue driving business in 2019 and beyond.

7. Wearable Devices

Technology has become a constant, reliable presence in daily life, and nowhere is that more obvious than with wearable devices. Users enjoy having increased control and persistent access to their data.

Most wearable devices on the market are smartwatches, with fitness trackers close behind. The category is broad, though.

New applications are constantly under development: wearable cameras, augmented or virtual reality headsets, and even smart clothing.

As a whole, the category is growing faster than predicted last year. It’s expanded from 84 million units in 2015 to an estimated 245 million units this year.

With companies like Apple offering products for a wide range of consumers and Google rumored to be working on a new wearable, this is definitely something to watch in 2019.

8. Augmented Reality apps

Although Augmented Reality has been tossed around for years, it’s coming into its own as a mainstream feature.

Both Google and Apple have released toolkits (Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit) that make it possible for more businesses to take advantage of AR features.

The enterprise applications of AR are as varied as businesses themselves. One exciting use-case is the IKEA Place App.

IKEA has 411 stores in 49 countries, but for many people visiting a showroom still requires a road trip and significant planning. Enter IKEA Place, an Augmented Reality application that displays furniture at scale over a live camera image.

Users can then see how catalogue items will look in their home and whether larger furniture will fit. AR is seeing a rise in usage in fields like healthcare, engineering, and real estate as well.

Industry analysts predict that the AR market will reach $108 billion in revenue by 2020.

9. Beacon Technology

Beacon technology isn’t new. It’s been drifting around for a while in highly niche use cases, but it’s beginning to find its place as mobile technology becomes more advanced.

The idea of beacons is simple. A Bluetooth transmitter emits a signal visible only to compatible devices within a limited range. Smartphones with the right app can pick up that signal to receive timely, location-specific information.

Beacon locations are much more accurate than other locational data, which creates opportunities for more tailored interactions. Some examples:

  • Unlocking a hotel room as the registered guest approaches their door
  • Sending seat directions, game updates, and important alerts to fans within a sports stadium
  • Alerting loyalty club members passing a store of current sales

Since the technology has been around, what will expand in 2019 is the number of beacon-oriented apps for smartphones, wearables, and other connected devices.

Best Mobile App Development Company in Orlando

Concepta maintains their position as one of Orlando’s best mobile development agencies by creating dynamic technology solutions for modern business challenges.

Right now, that means staying on top of mobile trends.

Mobile development is one of the biggest enterprise priorities of 2019.

Companies need to be where customers are, when customers need them, and that means going mobile.

With that in mind, Concepta recommends investing in a right-sized mobile presence.  

It takes some planning, but sound mobile development is a solid path to winning new customers and improving the overall customer experience.

In the long run, that’s a competitive edge that pays off.

Interested in how these trends can help grow your business in 2019? Get a free consultation with Concepta’s experienced developers to explore your options!

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