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Interactive News & Events
Summertime and the Planning's Easy
With the lovely weather here in the Northeast heating up, now might be a good time to discuss some tips for hosting amazing outdoor events. It’s prime time for the outdoors for us here in the DMV area, but this can help anytime, anywhere in the world!
Tips for Amazing Outdoor Events
- Location is Key: Whether it's a tropical paradise or a hip and happening city, choose a location of interest. Your attendees want memories that extend beyond the event. Help them to check another place off of their bucket list and they’re going to love you even more!
- Prepare for Weather: A little rain never hurt anybody, ...but it can sure turn a crowd cranky fast! Not to mention the damage that can be done to your equipment and set up. Be sure to have a backup plan even on the sunniest of days. Having coverage with shade structures or an alternate space ready to go, can help you dodge this disaster.
- Dress Code Communication: Communicate with your attendees and be sure they know the attire that suits your event. It’s natural to strive to look our most professional, until they realize that a team building exercise is taking place on the beach and they’re in stilettos. If you’re going Hawaiian shirt style or even have a need for hiking boots, let everyone know!
- Kick it Up a Notch with Entertainment: Make the most of the space at your event. Even if it may be for a conference, an educational event or even an art festival, everyone appreciates a bit of unique entertainment. Keep your audience in mind though - maybe they are the type to go for some relaxing acoustic tunes? Or perhaps an edgy DJ with a dance floor? Just be sure to match your audience as well as your setting and equipment with the right pick.
- Make it Special: Sometimes it's creativity that speaks the loudest! Keeping the budget in mind, think like an attendee – what would really stand out for you? What would make this event different and memorable looking back? There so many cool things available now to support your event like never before. Maybe it’s a Food Truck cook off, or an Ice Cream Truck experience! Or even a beautiful candlelit dinner setting right on the beach? Or a crazy carnival of games? We all like to channel our inner child in the summer sun, let them know you totally get that and you care. Stand out!
Have an App for your event?
- Keep them Alert: Use Push Notifications to communicate effectively with your attendees. Maybe there’s weather coming in and a change of venue? Push that. Need to let them know shorts are probably the best choice for the next activity? Yes, push that. They’ll be thanking you later!
- Let them Explore: Hosting your event in an amazing location, with guests traveling from all over? Help them get excited and prepared by offering information before the event through a City Guide or Venue feature. Nothing gets you more pumped up about an upcoming event then having a sneak preview!
Grillin’ & Chillin’ this Fourth of July!
Let’s just be clear here – I am not condoning smartphone madness, or saying it’s okay to ignore your Aunt Bernice as she shares her entire summer agenda with you. You should in no way be typing your thumbs off on that device of yours, or glued to your phone screen non-stop. This Fourth of July celebration, while you’re stuffing your face full of grilled goodies and enjoying a lovely fireworks display, make the very most of it with your family and friends!
You don’t have to toss your phone aside entirely though, technology can help bring us together! Here are a few apps you can check out on your phone this holiday and enjoy with everyone else too!
Turn up the trivia and see how much your siblings really know about the history of this beloved country:
Keep your little cousins entertained with this fabulously silly game – Hot Dog Hero!:
Bond with the folks and find some awesome grilling recipes with the handy Weber Grills app:
Most of all, be sure to take a moment to relax, enjoy and be thankful. Happy Fourth Everyone!
My First Expo Experience
Over the weekend (March 22nd) I was invited to participate in the 15th Annual Maryland Women's Expo with members of our sales team, and it was such an amazing experience for me. The last couple of weeks leading up to the event were a mad frenzy, trying to get those last-minute details into place - and no matter how much you plan, nothing works the way it's supposed to, and you find yourself scrambling about looking for workarounds, and pulling your hair out! I was exhausted, but my colleagues were actually abuzz with excitement and insisted that I stay for the event. I hemmed and hawed about it, but then I thought, why not? I mean, I was at a Women's Expo surrounded by lots of beautiful women (co-workers included.) ;) Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Though (I'm told) the event was rather low key compared to others, I got to meet some incredible people from all over the area doing some amazing things. Our company was a major sponsor of the event and the exhibitors who participated were full of energy. There were speakers who talked about the importance of community and local patronage, self image and communicating the right message, spiritual and physical well-being, nutrition and diet, and most of all believing in yourself and what you can accomplish. What I was most effected by was the opportunity to see how hard our sales team works to make us (as a company) look good.
I'm telling you, there's nothing like them. From what I witnessed, our sales people are truly extraordinary. I had no idea how much time and energy they give to make such networking events a success. Our spread looked amazing: we had signage, tablecloths, balloons, and an incredible array of printed and promotional material. We were ready! And the thing that I marveled at the most was how they worked the room - our team was genuinely in their element. They were out there sincerely trying to connect and bring real value to people through the services we offer, and it showed. To see people respond to Bridget, Bill, Siobhan and Nicole is a sight to behold. They're Naturals, and they shine at these social events. They mingle and greet as if they're catching up with old friends, remembering good times and sharing what's new. It's like a beautiful waltz, to see them glide from one attendee to another with such grace and informal eloquence. (I'm not in sales, so please forgive me if I misrepresent this delicate exchange.) They often will tell us how great a networking event was, but it's nothing like being there and seeing it for yourself. It concluded with Nicole leading the crowd of attendees in a Zumba choreographed free-for-all, dancing to unwind from a packed filled day.
I was inspired. And I came away from the whole event changed. I love and respect our sales team. I love how well they connect with people. I love how well they represent us, and I love how they show that we're more than just ink on paper.
Go team, go!
Can We Rely On Big Data Alone
(aka Are We REALLY Connecting?)
So I fell asleep in front of my computer, and I had this weird dream. I was sitting in a small dark office building, poorly lit, with all of this state of the art equipment, and next to me was a man dressed in black (shirt, tie, jacket, everything. All black.) He sat, staring out over this equipment, lost in thought as people scurried about their work. He then turned and looked at me. And with a slight smile, he leaned in and said:
"I'm gonna talk shop for a second. As marketers, we all know how this works. We sit down with our clients, drill them with a hundred questions about their campaign goals, and develop a strategy to meet their expectations in a huge way. We collect data, study the numbers, hone in on what's working and move in for the kill. We create trends, we build the momentum, we make incredible stuff happen that most people don't even realize. We can bend and shape the world to the needs of our clients and hand them the keys to a huge market share. That's the formula (an oversimplification, I grant you), and it seems to work well. And this is all possible because of big data: the process of tracking, collecting and storing enormous amounts of information on every consumer. But it got me thinking (in a moment of god-like satisfaction) do the numbers tell me everything? Am I relying on the numbers too much? Is there something for which they can't account for?
He leans in even closer, and says:
"I know what you're thinking: 'If the status quo is serving us well, what does it matter?', right? I get the draw of big data. Big data has changed the game and given us access to a ton of information once thought unattainable. Still, I feel as if something's missing from the equation, and that we may be headed in the wrong direction. Is there a better way to connect with the customer, to empathize, to listen and respond to their concerns up close, to build better relationships (instead of sitting in some office looking over analytics trying to decipher what the client wants.) The human element - that's what I'm looking for, that's what's missing. My fear is if we don't start to connect with these customers on a more human level, we will have some huge backlash from all of this. Hopefully, I'm not the only one asking these questions."
Then, I woke up (drooling over my keyboard.)
What all of this means, I don't know but I couldn't stop thinking about it. It's just a dream but "the man in black" makes some interesting points. Can we utilize the data in a way that speaks to customers and their needs as individuals (not as a demographic), that lets the customer inform us as to what's relevant, and what matters, and not the other way around? Can we even accomplish such goals from a simpler, more organic tactic instead of fixating on big data? The funny thing is, I started noticing several pundits speaking to the same issue. People like Jason Miller, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, LinkedIn; Jeffrey F. Rayport, Managing Partner of MarketspaceNext; and Stephen H. Yu - President and Chief Consultant, Willow Data Stately, LLC to name a few.
So maybe there is something to the dream, afterall. What do you think? Are we too dependent on Big Data, and will there be a backlash? Are we overlooking other more engaging channels to achieve the same goals? How realistic is what the man in the dream looking for? Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know your thoughts.
In the meantime, I need to go to bed.
Is Marketing Hated?
I read an interesting article the other day. It talked about marketing and the misconceptions people have about who we are and what we do. It stated that most people hate marketers with a passion-hell, one commenter claimed that we were right up there with lawyers and politicians. The article goes on to list ways we can encourage ourselves to rise above the hype. I mention it because it's something that I never knew. I mean that sincerely (I did a Google search and my jaw dropped.) And secondly, it got me thinking about some of the seminars I've attended and our growing fascination with "big data." It makes our lives (jobs) so much more interesting because we now can have tons of consumer information available to us to meet both the needs of our clients and their customers. Or is that the problem? Are we collecting too much information? Are we too invasive? Is there a better way? I love the thrill of it all, and the promise that new technology brings, but where I work we never overlook the value of face-time and real conversation to winning over our customers. I work for a great sales team in a great company and our VP of Sales is like a one-man show when it comes to pushing product. We just recently brought in some fresh faces to up the ante, and I'm telling you these people are golden.
My question is, is the article (and others like it) right, can this be true? Are marketers hated, and if so, why? Is it motive, or how we go about achieving our objectives? Have I been walking around with blinders on the whole time? How is that even possible with all the excitement and buzz in the industry? Are we merely ignoring public sentiment or are these articles way off base? My inquiry is a sincere attempt to understand where this vitriol is coming from. Feel free to post your comments on our Facebook or Twitter page.
Augmented Reality vs QR Codes
Augmented Reality (AR) is something relatively new to the printing world, and QR codes have been around a while. Most people have heard of Quick Response Codes(QR), but in case you've just awaken from a very long, deep sleep, a QR code is a barcode that is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached. These have been around for years and pretty much everyone knows that when you see them you take your hand held device and scan the barcode. Augmented Reality (AR) is QR on steroids!! Okay, so that's my opinion and nowhere listed in anybody's definition, but it really is something you should consider as an enhancement to your QR code campaigns, or as a feature rich alternative. When using AR in a printed piece, the printed page itself represents your scannable image (i.e. your page *is* your QR code image.) This is achievable through a process called image recognition, and because of it, you're free to do most any unique design layout you can come up with for scanning. Our AR services offer some best practices for designing your pieces that will help you get the most out of your campaigns and ensure a great user experience. After you scan the page using the free Layar app, a "hidden" layer of virtual content is displayed. You can have sound, video, or graphics that come to life on your smart phone or tablet. You can direct the user to an ordering site for registration purposes or to buy or sign up for something, you can increase your social media presence by having the reader like you on social sites, or you can have a video that welcomes the reader to a meeting or convention. All of these resources offer huge opportunities for customer engagement and for promoting your brand. AR sounds fabulous doesn't it? It's a really awesome "add on" to a printed piece for a more feature rich experience. And there's no need to sacrifice your investments in QR, the Layar app reads QR codes as well! So you can have AR and QR side by side without jumping between apps.
We started offering AR last spring and it really adds that extra something to printed pieces, not to mention it brings print to life! Because it's new there is some confusion, okay a lot of confusion, about how Augmented Reality actually differs from Quick Response codes. Here are a few key differences that my super smart marketing guru put together to help illustrate the differences:
- Scanability & Design: With AR there's no need for a barcode, information is not embedded. AR works off of image recognition and then displays the interactive material.
- Ability to Feature More (with a Sleek Design): You can have multiple "features" meaning you can have a video playing in one area, a button to click to a website in another, and then a button to click and open up and send an email off. You are not restricted to one thing per scan (as with QR), and it can play into your printed piece so it's much better with the design and look of the buttons and each button having different actions to each.
- Analytics: You receive analytics for your AR pieces. Most QR codes do not have analytics. All Layar pieces have analytics on views and click through rates.
So AR's scanning technology and design, ability to link to multiple features in one piece (video, images, and buttons) and analytics behind the piece brings more to the table than QR could ever do alone.
Call us today for your free demo of AR using the free app "Layar". We're calling this Printeractive and we love to show it off.
A Rose By Any Other Name
A Huge Opportunity for DC and Dan Snyder
Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed in the following blog post are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions held by PI Interactive Solutions.
Well, if you live in the Washington Metropolitan area, you know that lately there's been considerable controversy over the name of Washington's signature team, i.e. the Washington Redskins. At the heart of it all is the dispute over whether the name "redskin' is a derogatory term to Native Americans, and should it be changed. For those of you who aren't in the know, the short answer is 'yes'. We can go back and forth over this, but unless we're on the receiving end of such a label, we can't fully understand it's impact. Now, I mention all of this unpleasantness because I think we could be missing a huge opportunity, 'we' meaning the franchise and local area businesses. An opportunity where everybody wins.
One of the arguments brought up against changing the name was how much money the franchise stands to lose if Dan Snyder were to concede to the idea. It's estimated to be in the millions, if not billions of dollars in terms of revenue and endorsements. From a business standpoint, such numbers are staggering, and nothing to take lightly. But here's a thing (or two): without a winning team the franchise stands to run into the same problem. No one wants to wear the jersey of a team that plays poorly year after year. It's embarrassing. If the team isn't winning, then the merchandise isn't selling. When that happens, the franchise isn't making money. And that's exactly where we're headed. Ticket prices are starting to drop, and scalpers are having trouble giving them away. Just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine had an extra ticket to sell to a home game (a friend couldn't make it), but could find no takers (not one.) Point number two: I'm a HUGE fan, and it doesn't matter to me what we call ourselves (well,...sort of) as long as we're WINNING games, HELLO? I don't believe that it's the name that endears us to the Washington team, it's the teammates themselves. For heaven's sake, we know most of the players by affectionate nicknames (or at least once upon a time we did. Now, there's so many players coming and going, it's hard to keep track. Coaches, too.)
Now on the flip side, think of all the business a new name would create. Local businesses far and wide would jump on board in a heartbeat. They couldn't make the stuff fast enough to keep up with the demand. The old merchandise would become collector's items, the new merchandise will have fans dying to be the first to sport the new whatever. I'm talking posters, banners, signage, programs, apps of all kinds (can you imagine an event app for every game?), games, merchandise, sports apparel, jewelry, broadcasting, multimedia,... you name it! Combine all of that with a winning team (this is a must), and a winning attitude and I promise you that you will gain more than you ever dreamed! There's nothing like this town, when Washington is on top. At the end of the day, Dan Snyder becomes a public relations hero, local businesses are booming, and the franchise's bottom line is enormous. Everybody wins. Not bad for simple name change.
So, allay your fears, whatever Washington decides to call themselves, it will stick. Trust me. The name is not our biggest problem, Washington needs to start winning games. As fans, we just go with the flow. If Washington starts winning, I guarantee people will embrace whatever sporty moniker the team happens to be graced with, just to keep the momentum going. It's our *team* we love, and the name only by extension. And with that, I'll quote Shakespeare:
... O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So [Redskins] would, were [the team] not [Redskins] call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which [the team] owes
Without that title. [Redskins], doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.
How Savvy Are You?
A New Year's Resolution that all of us 40 somethings and over should commit to is to become more social media savvy in 2015! You can teach old dogs new tricks and I, for one, am going to lead the charge! I opened a Twitter account only after being shamed into it by a Gen Y or Z'er. To this day, I have never tweeted. I do not fully understand all of the hashtag this and hashtag that business, but I am going to make the commitment to try something new and figure it out. The reason why us "older" folks need to learn the new technologies is because OUR clients, prospects and co-workers are using different forms of social media to communicate and unless we want to be left out in the cold, we need to increase our repertoire of social media sites that we use. Most of us have embraced Facebook to some extent and realize the business related benefits of LinkedIn, but Gen Y & Z'ers are using Twitter as a means to do business. HELLO! I attended a seminar in late November and when a gentleman in the audience said that he was doing business on Twitter, I really knew I had to get with the program. So, as I face the end of 2014 and embrace the coming of the New Year and all things new, I will be checking out Twitter and sending my first tweet. This is my New Year's Resolution!
Get Social. Here's a list of several Social Media Sites. Which ones do you need to embrace in 2015?
Let's Slow Down
Getting It Right Beats Getting It Now, Everytime.
Let me paint a picture for you:
You're at your office with a ton work that has to get done. You would love to give it the extra attention it deserves, but the problem is there is just no time. Everything you're working on is due yesterday and everybody's screaming for it. On top of the fact that your boss just walked in with yet another request, to which you can't say "no" — I mean, she's your boss, right? So what happens? You stress, you rush, you stay up late and cram all of your pieces together into some semblance of a "I got my act together" presentation in hopes that everyone will still be impressed.
Well, welcome to the club, I've been a member for almost 20 years and nothing's changed. We all do it: as employees, or even as a company, we find ourselves falling into this vicious cycle all the time. Why does *everything* need to be done in a rush? Not that we plan on it, it just seems to work out that way. Unfortunately, our industries feed that frenzy by cramming great 2-hour seminars into 20 minutes, turning networking events into hyper-speed meet-and-greets, or encouraging last-minute drop-offs or copy changes for jobs that are to print and deliver the same day! Where we should be the voice of reason and careful planning, we're not.
Fear of the competition is the short answer, but even more so, I think it's fear of disappointment. No one wants to be the barer of bad news. We're so anxious about pleasing the client that we'll promise anything, even if it's not possible. "Tell them what they want to hear, and we'll worry later about how we're going to pull-it-off." This seems to be the status quo in many of our industries. We can't help ourselves. We like being the good guys. The ones that can get it done. But more often than not this approach has consequences. We end up creating more work and more headaches for ourselves and our clients. And if a major fail occurs as a result, suddenly the value in getting it now is not as important as getting it right.
So, what do we do?
It'd be nice if rush jobs simply disappeared from our crazy universe and we ALL did things on time (yeah I know, keep dreaming, right?) We live in the real world, and in the real world sh!# happens. However, we can bring them under control. Let clients know upfront what you can and can't do. Be supportive, but be honest (with them and yourself.) Dont be afraid to ask why the rush? Maybe all they need right now is a short run, a lightweight app solution or basic website; the bulk of the order can be fulilled at a later date. Provide cheat sheets on how files and content should be submitted that would save lots of time and make everyone's life a little easier. But more importantly, we want to encourage (and reward) clients for getting jobs to us in a timely manner. Offer discounts and other incentives for clients who were apt in preparing their files correctly, and giving you enough time to produce and deliver an awesome product. If you make it worth their while, and they'll take you up on it. Let's encourage each other to slow down, and conserve that frenetic energy for situations that can't be avoided.
Sounds "kinda" okay, but will it work?...
The truth is that rush orders are inescapable, competition will always be nipping at your heels, and you can't be everything to everybody. Pick the things you're really good at and chuck the rest (who cares what the other guy is doing.) Henry ford said: "The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all but goes on making his own business better all the time." Be realistic about what you can accomplish and be the best at it. Optimize your systems to deliver the greatest impact for your particular brand, and people will take notice. Then encourage clients to avoid rushing jobs by offering helpful tips and great incentives so you can deliver the best product possible. If you develop this culture around your business, things will start to get a lot better (and a lot less stressful) for everyone involved. Try it! Soon, you'll be singing:
"I have to admit it's getting better, a little better all the time." — the Beatles
That Which Makes Us Better, Tends To Stick With Us.
Not unlike PowerPoint, apps will become the "norm" for conferences large and small. For the same reasons that they make large conferences and events better for both organizers and attendees, apps will do the same at smaller meetings. Participants are already expecting an app. They want content at their fingertips, networking at the push of a button, and their voice and opinion to be counted. Organizers will take for granted the ability to communicate directly with participants, en masse, in groups, and even individually via their mobile devices. They will come to depend on the information provided by apps that tells them in real-time what works and what doesn't. They will also no longer tolerate countless trips to the copier as the only means of making changes to the content and agenda. Meeting apps, once adopted, will become the only acceptable solution for managing and conducting meetings across the enterprise. Think about it: when was the last time you attended a meeting that didn't include a PowerPoint presentation?
Source: An excerpt from "Mobile Now: Why Every Meeting Needs An App" originally published at www.quickmobile.com
Let's Get to Work!
Somebody once told me, "The problem is, nobody wants to work anymore. Everyone wants a free ride."
Free rides are nice. They're exciting, frivolous and fun. Most of those feelings stem from the fact that you're getting something for nothing, and often there's no real appreciation for the opportunities that free rides can bring. But, man are they nice to have (when you can get 'em!)
If history has taught us anything, it's that we can accomplish pretty much all we set our minds to. We can create the opportunities we want and the success we hope to have, but it takes work. It really does, and I can't stress that enough. Talent alone won't do it — neither will wishful thinking, despite what my nephew believes. Now, there are people out there who make it all seem so easy — you've seen them, I'm sure. There's probably a few of them hanging around your office. For them, every situation that presents itself just seems to work in their favor; no matter how monumental, things always manage to fall right into place. Who are these people? Why are they so different from the rest of us, what are they taking?
Well, I've had several conversations with a good many, and they all say the same thing: it all points back to hard work. What they do may look effortless, but there's a lot of time and preparation spent in achieving that midas touch. Most people fall short of their dreams because they don't want to do the work. Many forget, or just don't have the patience for the day-in and day-out of working through the unglamorous and mundane aspects of the job. But that's what it takes. It toughens your mettle, and gives you staying power. If you've been fortunate to make it without this preconditioning, eventually it will show, and you won't last long.
I mention it because a member of our sales force was sharing with me her experience with today's marketplace, and how so much has changed. She explained to me what it took for her to get to where she is, and how she had put so much time and effort to do it. It just seemed unfair that all of that hard work amounts to nothing in this new arena. 'All the rules have changed, and now I have to start all over.'
Well, she's right...on both counts. All the rules have changed, and it is unfair. But I told her that she's proven one thing that makes her up for the challenge. She CAN do the work. And the truth is, that's the biggest thing standing between her and the success she wants to have. It is daunting, I'm sure, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it by saying that technology has made a ton of resources so much easier to obtain. While that's true, nothing will ever take the place of hard work. You're in control of where you are and where you want to be. Start navigating.
Now there are, of course, exceptions to every rule.
Yes, there are success stories where some people have seemingly been able to waltz through life without so much as a callus, a broken nail or a drop a sweat. Bless them all, I'm happy for them. I just know that those opportunities can be few and far between for most of us (though not impossible). But why wait for a miracle (or that elusive free ride), when we can make our own?
To conclude, We can create our own opportunities to success. We have that power. We just have to be willing to do what it takes to get there. I encourage you to be up for the challenge. Take the path that you have the most control over, and change your world. Let's get to work! And if that free ride ever comes along, take that too.
4 Tips for Building the Perfect Event App
The secret is out, the mobile event app is here to stay. For many conferences and meetings mobile apps are not only appreciated by the attendees but are turning into an expectation, a necessity. Whether you are just gearing up to offer your first mobile event app or have already taken the leap to offer a mobile solution with the intent to improve, here are some great tips to keep in mind when creating the best app for your attendees:
- Make It Easy: One of the very first things and possibly most important, is to provide user-friendly navigation. With a variety of attendees you want to make accessing and using the app and all of its features a no-brainer. It's important to have an interface that is not only branded to your event, but will make it seem like a natural process. "A place for everything and everything in its place" type of mentality. In order for their engagement to be successful, you need to think about how they want to be able to find everything easily and utilize it effortlessly.
- Keep it Interactive: They've ditched that tote bag and printed program for a reason. They want something more efficient and convenient, but don't forget they also want to enjoy all that the app has to offer! Going beyond their expectations by offering innovative features like an interactive map, a live activity feed, social media, push notifications, real-time polling and session Q&A, helps to truly bring the event to life, even through their mobile device!
- Look your Finest: You want an app that expresses the look and feel of your event. You need to pair that intuitive navigation with a great looking, fully branded interface. Make sure you choose an app developer that is going to give you the best final product and be able to produce your dream app. If your app is poorly branded or lacking in graphic presentation, it's less likely for attendees to fall in love with it. Text heavy, outdated, boring looking mobile apps will suffer in adaptation by the crowd. Dress (your app) to impress!
- Get them there, keep them there: You need to take into account how your attendees will access your app and use it throughout the event. Delivering a native app experience helps to offer the best user experience to your attendees, without the worry of a constant internet connection. The best approach to this is to actually offer them a native iOs and Android app, with a web-enabled solution as a backup for other devices. Another thing to keep in mind is their security and privacy. A web solution cannot compare with the capabilities for individual logins and passwords with a native app.