Jay is a versatile business leader with vast experience in new customer acquisition and growth. He has several publications to his credit. Jay champions our vision of Simplifying Lives as Executive Vice President - Head MEA, Cyber Security Practice, Enterprise Applications Practice.
The swift expansion of the digital economy has resulted in a notable increase in digital crimes. Industry reports indicate that companies face annual costs in the trillions to address cyberattack damages. Adopt the ISO27001 framework to design a cybersecurity framework program for your organization.
By the end of 2023, Cybercrime Magazine predicts a colossal $8 trillion in yearly cybercrime damage costs. This surge in the frequency and sophistication of attacks places cybersecurity at the forefront of modern business concerns. It highlights the acute need for organizations to manage risks by adopting a robust cybersecurity framework.
IT Landscapes are Growing and Becoming More Complex
As business leaders accelerate digital adoption, the IT landscape grows, along with increasing security challenges. Additionally, the adoption of hybrid work models adds complexity to IT networks. The rise in cloud adoption and the increasing interconnectivity of Operational Technology, such as shop floor equipment, underscore the growing risk landscape.
Additionally, the surge in machine and IoT identities requires adopting a structured approach to creating a cybersecurity framework. Moreover, attackers increasingly use advanced AI and ML technologies to plan sophisticated cyber-attacks, further amplifying the threat.
The Imperative for a Systematic Approach
The ever-evolving IT landscape, geographically distributed workforce, and increased and ongoing sophistication of the attacks all necessitate a comprehensive cybersecurity framework that provides a cybersecurity strategy for now and the future.
While basic security measures like firewalls and antivirus software give some defense, they could be more foolproof. Enterprises must develop dynamic cybersecurity strategies to shield their digital assets and infrastructure.
Creating The Cybersecurity Framework – Compliance-led approach
To develop a compliance-led approach, organizations must use multiple standards beyond just one to cover all security aspects. While ISO 27001, NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), or Mitre Attack lay a foundation, industry-specific standards like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) for healthcare and PCI/DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) for credit card industries, demonstrate the need for a tailored approach.
While these standards prescribe a general approach and controls, adapting the measures to fit the organization is essential to creating a cybersecurity framework.
Key Elements of a Cybersecurity Framework
Discovery and Cataloging: Identifying assets, processes, systems, and stakeholders.
Classification: Assessing the value of each information asset.
Risk Quantification: Evaluating and assigning values to the likelihood and impact of identified risks.
Vulnerability Identification: Identify Vulnerabilities in the organization’s IT and OT systems
Discovery and Cataloging
Data discovery involves identifying, collecting, and analyzing data. The steps involved are:
Identify the data sources.
Understand system usage and its accessibility, determining who accesses it (such as user groups and applications) and their level of access.
Categorize the data based on the types of value it can create, such as:
Financial value: Data that can generate revenue or reduce costs.
Operational value: Data that can improve efficiency and productivity.
Strategic value: Data used to develop new products and services, identify new markets, and make better decisions about resource allocation.
Investigate the interdependency of data, its origins, integrations, and usage.
Data cataloging is crucial for enhancing data comprehension, improving data quality, and implementing governance policies such as retention, access control, and more. It involves:
Creating a data map.
Analyzing and constructing a data dictionary that includes:
Data element groups (e.g., Employee, Payment, Receivables, Procurement, Operational).
Information groups (e.g., Employee Salary-related, Vendor financial information, customer details).
Data sources (System names where data resides).
Dependent systems (Systems utilizing this data element).
Storage locations (e.g., Vendor app cloud, MN8 database, or cloud).
Data owners (e.g., HR, Finance, Operations).
Retention duration (length of data history maintained).
Data classification, often under-emphasized in cybersecurity, determines an organization’s data value. It guides the direction of cybersecurity investments for the highest return on investment. Allocating substantial funds to protect critical data (‘crown jewels’) is more effective than equally securing all data, especially when the loss of some data would have minimal monetary impact on the organization.
It’s crucial to differentiate between high-value and less critical data, organizing and labeling them effectively. For this purpose, leveraging artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies can be highly beneficial.
Data that is high-risk or sensitive needs extra care. Ask yourself the following questions to help lower the risk of data breach or loss:
Do I need to make a copy of restricted data?
Do I need to share restricted data with someone else?
How long must I keep a copy of restricted data?
Organizations must clearly understand and quantify the value of their data. This crucial step guides allocating effort and financial resources toward data protection. The process includes:
Estimating the nature of potential attacks, such as data theft or data unavailability.
Assessing the annual likelihood of such incidents.
Calculating the annual monetary loss – the Risk Amount – by combining the data’s value and the estimated incident frequency.
With the financial quantification of risks, organizations can prioritize and focus spending on protecting their most valuable data.
Identifying systems, software, and network vulnerabilities is crucial to mitigate risks before attackers can exploit them. Various methods are available for this purpose:
Manual Techniques: These require prior knowledge of the existing systems, software, networks, and their vulnerabilities.
Automated Tools: A range of automated tools can scan systems, software, and networks for known vulnerabilities.
OSINT (Open Source Intelligence): This method identifies potential vulnerabilities by gathering information from publicly available sources, such as websites, forums, and social media. It also includes threat intelligence from cybersecurity firms, government agencies, and private sector organizations.
Creating a Security Framework Leveraging Compliance Standards
The diagram below represents the 14 security controls prescribed by the recently updated ISO 27001. Organizations adapt and adopt these controls depending on their maturity level to formulate a Cybersecurity Framework (CSF). The CSF outlines policies and procedures and encompasses five core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. In response, organizations actively implement projects that align with these standards, thereby managing controls more effectively.
The Benefits of a Compliance-Led Cybersecurity Approach
A compliance-led cybersecurity approach offers numerous advantages for organizations, particularly those operating in highly regulated sectors. Here are some key benefits:
Regulatory Compliance: Achieving and maintaining regulatory compliance shields organizations from legal repercussions and ensures adherence to industry-specific standards.
Data Protection: Robust security measures ensure the safety and confidentiality of critical data, reducing the risk of breaches and unauthorized access.
Reduced Risk:Strong security protocols protect vital data, minimizing the chances of breaches and unauthorized entry.
Improved Data Governance: Clear data governance policies enhance data quality and management in addition to security.
Holistic Security: A comprehensive and structured approach leaves all vulnerabilities addressed.
Business Continuity: Incident response and recovery plans ensure uninterrupted operations in the face of cyber incidents.
As we move forward in the digital age, it is increasingly evident that cybersecurity is not just a defensive measure but a strategic imperative. The insights discussed in the blog demonstrate the necessity of a meticulously structured cybersecurity framework to combat emerging threats. Organizations can effectively navigate the complex cybersecurity landscape by adopting a holistic approach integrating discovery, cataloging, data classification, risk quantification, and vulnerability identification.
Such proactive measures create a comprehensive cybersecurity framework vital for safeguarding against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, ensuring compliance and data protection, and fostering a resilient, forward-thinking security culture. A comprehensive cybersecurity framework is the cornerstone of safeguarding an organization’s digital assets and fostering a culture of innovation and resilience. With data as valuable as currency, a cybersecurity framework becomes a key differentiator in the marketplace for organizations.
The Robosoft Advantage
At Robosoft Technologies, we recognize the value of both compliance-led and risk-based cybersecurity strategies. Our expertise in Cybersecurity, covering areas such as Application Security, Cloud Security, and Incident Response, positions us as your ideal partner for enhancing cybersecurity measures. Reach out to us today to fortify your organization against cybersecurity threats.
As businesses grow and adapt to changing environments, business processes also evolve as a consequence. While we ensure underlying applications are also updated, it is useful that the existing processes be inspected for inefficiencies, workflows be optimized, and manual tasks be automated to improve productivity and overall efficiency. SAP Signavio is a BPM tool for modeling business flows, associating with it the Decision flow, and permitting collaboration to arrive at a consensus and finalize To-be processes. Furthermore, integrating modeled processes with the ERP solution enables businesses to gain valuable insights and intelligence into the processes. Simulation enables the study of processes and the identification of bottlenecks.
Signavio thus empowers businesses with enhanced process analysis and management capabilities, elevating their business operations to become more intelligent. Using its business process modeling capabilities, organizations have the opportunity to model, analyze, and optimize their processes visually. By collaborating on improvements and simulating changes, businesses identify bottlenecks and achieve greater efficiency. Signavio is thus an actionable BPM tool for reimagining the business processes and optimization for a streamlined and efficient organization.
SAP Signavio’s unique positioning as a Business Transformation as a Service (BTaaS) solution within the SAP portfolio enables businesses to seamlessly adopt a cloud-based approach, enabling them to get started quickly without a large upfront capital commitment.
Key Functions of SAP Signavio
Businesses benefit from this integrated platform, integrating SAP Signavio’s business process management software with SAP’s enterprise software solutions. Here are some key functions of SAP Signavio:
Business Process Modeling Create visual models of business processes using Signavio’s intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces effortlessly. This empowers them to map out end-to-end processes, define roles and responsibilities, and capture process details.
Decision Management Signavio equips organizations with the decision modeling tool, facilitating the mapping of decision logic and enhancing the decision-making process. Businesses use this platform to document decisions along with process models.
Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement SAP Signavio offers a centralized platform for collaboration on process improvement and transformation initiatives, enabling stakeholder engagement, documentation, feedback exchange, and discussions.
Process Monitoring and Compliance Organizations monitor their processes in real-time using SAP Signavio, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and identifying deviations or bottlenecks. Process controls are documented, and audit trails facilitate organization-wide compliance efforts.
Integration with SAP Solutions Signavio’s powerful BPM capabilities seamlessly integrate with SAP’s suite of enterprise software solutions, creating a cohesive SAP ecosystem. This integration establishes data flow between process models and SAP applications, leading to enhanced real-time PPIs viewability, automation, and optimization.
Process Analysis and Optimization With SAP Signavio, organizations analyze their existing processes to identify areas for improvement. The platforms provide tools for process simulation and analysis, enabling testing of different scenarios to refine overall processes.
Key Components of SAP Signavio
SAP Signavio has been acknowledged as a leader in Process Mining according to the Gartner Magic Quadrant 2023 report. This recognition stems from the SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite’s innovative components comprising Process Modeler, Decision Modeler, Process Collaboration Hub, Process Governance, Customer Journey Modeler, Process Insights, and Process Intelligence. These components work together to provide businesses with valuable insights into their process, which help them make data-driven strategies and ongoing process improvements.
SAP Signavio Process Manager
Businesses utilize SAP Signavio Process Manager to get an elaborative view of their business processes by using these functionalities:
Collaborative Process Modeling Organizations utilize this tool to collaboratively design business processes by leveraging multiple business process modeling notations and combining essential process attributes for comprehensive modeling and analysis. With this tool, businesses gain the flexibility to conduct comparative analysis and document workflow when implementing changes. This capability allows them to assess the resulting impacts and evaluate the performance of the new process based on real scenarios.
Validation of Process Modeling Regulations SAP Signavio Process Manager helps businesses employ highly adaptable business process modeling conventions accompanied by real-time alerts, guidance, and error notifications. These features facilitate the design of business processes in alignment with industry best practices.
Business Process Documentation and Reporting With this tool, businesses achieve process compliance by generating an array of process-related reports. These process reports allow them to gain comprehensive insights into their process repository, covering all critical aspects from usage to analytics and governance to risk reports.
SAP Signavio Journey Modeler
Businesses using SAP Signavio benefit from the Journey Modeler tool, which provides an outside-in view of the business through these functionalities:
Design & Model Customer Journeys Journey Modeler enables the designing and optimizing of customer journeys and experiences collaboratively across departments. Organizations can model customer journeys, connect them to underlying processes, and modify those models to meet industry standards.
Business Repositories Integration This tool assists organizations in seamlessly mapping the alignment between customer journeys and business processes. This facilitates the automatic population of roles and IT systems, expediting the identification of areas for improvement.
Data Integration with Experiences Journey Modeler helps businesses enhance their process experience by coupling SAP Signavio Process Intelligence data or external systems with operational or customer experience.
SAP Signavio Process Insights
Organizations utilize the SAP Signavio Process Insights as a catalyst for enhancing process efficiency. It includes a range of functionalities, like Process Visibility, that are finely tuned to improve process management. Process Insights in SAP Signavio offers the following functionalities:
Process Analytics Businesses gain comprehensive process analytics capabilities using this tool to analyze key process metrics, such as cycle times, lead times, bottlenecks, and resource utilization.
Process Mining With SAP Signavio Process Insights, businesses get an immediate head start to identify, refine, correct, and prioritize issues, helping them with accelerated pathways for process mining.
Process Improvement Recommendations Process Insights assists businesses with recommendations for process improvement and optimization recommendations based on the analysis and insights helping drive operational excellence.
SAP Signavio Process Intelligence
With SAP Signavio’s Process Intelligence, businesses can:
Process Discovery Businesses leverage the SAP Signavio Process Intelligence’s process mining capabilities to automatically discover and visualize the actual process flows based on event logs and data from IT systems. This helps them understand process analysis and identify variations and deviations from the intended process.
Performance Metrics and KPIs With the SAP Signavio Process Intelligence tool, organizations utilize a set of predefined performance metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to gain insights into process performance. These metrics include cycle times, lead times, waiting times, and other process-related metrics, helping stakeholders evaluate process efficiency.
Process Visualization Process Intelligence in SAP Signavio assists businesses in visualizing the discovered process flows through interactive and intuitive process diagrams. This visualization helps them identify process bottlenecks and pinpoint the areas requiring optimization.
SAP Signavio Process Governance
With the help of SAP Signavio Process Governance, businesses can:
Process Release Cycle Automation Businesses leverage this solution to easily manage and govern the rollout of the created process and customer experience models to their organization. They utilize the capabilities of the tool to automate the process approvals and process publishing. Organizations can set up various roles and tasks for process approvals, maturity evaluation, and risk assessment by choosing process attributes.
Process Maturity Assessment With the Process Governance tool, businesses utilize standard BPMN notations to configure process governance workflows. The tool enables automation and standardization of manual validations and reduces the risk of a wrong decision to help businesses achieve efficient operations.
Adapt to Regulation Changes Businesses leverage this tool to quickly adapt the solution to regulation changes and enable organizational process governance.
Advantages of adopting SAP Signavio
Organizations adopting the Signavio platform have several advantages for their business transformation goals. Here are some of the major advantages of SAP Signavio solutions:
Enhanced Process Visibility By leveraging SAP Signavio, businesses achieve a clear and comprehensive view of their business processes. The platform enables visual process modeling, documentation, and analysis for businesses to operate intelligently. Moreover, this BPM tool enables stakeholders to obtain deep insights into process design and execution. This enhanced visibility helps identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and areas for improvement.
Process Optimization and Continuous Improvement Organizations using the Signavio platform leverage its powerful process analysis and simulation capabilities to identify potential areas for process optimization. They make data-driven decisions to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction by evaluating different process scenarios and measuring their impact. Additionally, fostering a culture of continuous process improvement is achievable by utilizing tools to monitor, analyze, and refine processes over time.
Collaboration and Communication Through SAP Signavio, businesses foster collaboration among stakeholders engaged in process design, improvement, and execution. Businesses leverage a centralized collaboration hub of the platform that facilitates the sharing of process models, feedback exchange, and discussions. This collaborative approach helps them promote cross-functional alignment, enhances knowledge sharing, and facilitates efficient decision-making. Consequently, teamwork improves, leading to better outcomes for the business.
Process Standardization and Consistency With SAP Signavio solutions, organizations establish standardized process models and documentation across different departments and teams, enabling consistency in process execution, fostering improved collaboration, and facilitating the sharing and implementation of best practices throughout the organization. As a result of this standardization, operational efficiency is enhanced, and errors or inconsistencies stemming from ad-hoc or undocumented processes are significantly reduced.
Compliance and Risk Management Businesses effectively uphold regulatory compliance and manage process-related risks with SAP Signavio. The platform enables them to document process controls, facilitates the identification of compliance gaps, and allows the implementation of necessary controls to mitigate risks. Furthermore, organizations meet industry regulations and standards while minimizing potential vulnerabilities. This ensures a more robust and secure operational environment for the business.
Businesses that adopt SAP Signavio benefit from these advantages as they contribute to better process management, operational efficiency, and agility. However, organizations must consider their specific needs and goals while evaluating the suitability of SAP Signavio or any other business process management solution.
Reimagine Business with Robosoft’s Expertise
At Robosoft, we recognize the pivotal role of robust business process strategy as businesses navigate complex challenges and dynamic market conditions. Our deep expertise in business process modeling links to strategic intent for reimagining business.
With initial analysis and design to implementation and optimization, Robosoft stands as a trusted partner to assist enterprises with their business process modeling needs and help them adapt to the ever-evolving market conditions. Our complete suite of solutions includes:
SAP Consulting and Business Advisory
Full-cycle SAP Implementation
Application Integration and Modernization
Signavio’s business process modeling platform has already gained traction among various businesses, even before its acquisition by SAP. Some examples of organizations that used Signavio’s BPM platform include large enterprises such as DHL, Bosch, Siemens, Liberty Mutual, and Deutsche Telekom.
Signavio’s integration into SAP’s ecosystem has opened new opportunities for businesses seeking to leverage SAP’s enterprise software solutions by incorporating Signavio’s powerful BPM capabilities to optimize their business processes and achieve operational excellence.
Organizations have been scampering to protect data, identities, and other digital assets from Cyber Attacks. AI has further strengthened the hand of Cybercriminals, enabling them to unleash a new generation of threats. Cybercriminals are using ML to improve algorithms for guessing passwords using AI/ML ability to quickly analyze large password data sets. On the other hand, Cybercriminals can use Deepfakes to spread political or societal misinformation or even craft non-consensual porn of unwilling people. AI algorithms can analyze communications and craft convincing phishing emails to deceive recipients into disclosing sensitive information or initiating fraudulent transactions. AI can automate and enhance ransomware to target valuable assets. AI can be leveraged to evade security measures and exploit vulnerabilities in the business system.
The future evens out the advantages by pitting machine against machine. AI in cybersecurity is being used to detect what is normal business functioning and spot any deviations in real-time to enable quick response and improve the overall accuracy and efficiency of defense against cyber attacks. Going beyond the dated conventional approach of detecting threats based on signatures, AI in cybersecurity solutions identify behavioral patterns such as using specific ports at a particular time, a sudden surge in data download, and specific patterns or anomalies to detect an incident and take action before substantial damage is caused.
Thus, AI in cybersecurity offers the benefits of faster threat detection, proactive response, and greater scalability by evaluating network traffic patterns, analyzing large amounts of data to identify potential threats that may not be immediately apparent to humans, automating routine monitoring and reporting tasks, and reducing cybersecurity costs. AI can manage large and complex networks with ease. By incorporating AI in cybersecurity strategies, businesses can augment their security measures and work with a higher degree of confidence.
How AI Can Tackle Threats of Cyber Attacks
AI in cybersecurity has emerged as a valuable tool to combat the ever-evolving sophistication of complex cyber threats. AI is being smartly deployed to counter cyber attacks. AI is being used to automate the deployment of deception technology to misdirect attackers or lure them into a trap. Some of the ways in which AI in cybersecurity helps stay a step ahead are:
#1. Threat Detection and Intrusion Prevention
AI and deep learning algorithms quickly analyze enormous amounts of data and patterns to uncover potential threats and detect anomalies in network traffic or user behavior. Using Artificial Intelligence in cybersecurity, organizations can transition from the traditional methods that rely on administrators to specify good or bad application traffic.
Unsupervised deep learning algorithms can develop a positive security model of your application in real-time to promptly identify and respond to cyber threats. This proactive approach allows for prompt detection and response to cyber threats, making AI in cybersecurity an invaluable tool for safeguarding against evolving risks.
#2. Malware Detection
Detection and Prevention based on signatures are reactionary and cannot contain the initial damage that malware can cause. With AI in cybersecurity, the approach is to detect and classify malware by analyzing behavioral patterns, code patterns, and file characteristics. Supervised deep learning can train multiple models with large data sets and apply the trained models to detect malware behavior and identify new and evolving malware variants.
Using deep learning algorithms to model malware activities can sometimes result in false positives and false negative misclassifications. It may misclassify malware activity as benign—a false negative, or benign activity as malware—a false positive. Combining the modeling of both bad and good behavior can improve the success rate. This switch from trapping (based on signatures) to hunting (based on modeling behavior) tried to detect sudden excessive use of computing resources by monitoring abnormal requests, connection requests from non-validated sources, the abnormally high quantum of data getting transferred externally, typical requests coming in at atypical times, and so on.
ML is ideal for anti-malware protection since it can draw on data from previously detected malware to detect new variants, including identifying covert channels and file-in-file activities. While hunting requires substantial computing resources and continuous and ongoing improvement, it is the best approach for proactive defense.
#3. User Behavior Analysis
Threats extend beyond external sources, encompassing internal risks as well. However, Artificial Intelligence in cybersecurity can address such challenges effectively. AI models can be set up to determine standard user patterns and quickly identify any deviations. Computing enables round-the-clock monitoring of any such suspicious behavior and mitigates insider threats.
#4. Identify Vulnerabilities
Every organization digitally stores sensitive data, such as financial, personal, customer, and similar information, which is constantly under cyber threat. Today, various vulnerability scanners come equipped with comprehensive automated tests. These tests are designed to efficiently scan and analyze systems, applications, and networks to pinpoint potential vulnerabilities attackers can exploit. AI models rank these vulnerabilities in the order of risk they pose to enable prioritized mitigation.
#5. Phishing and Fraud Detection
AI models effectively analyze email content, URLs, and other characteristics to recognize and flag abnormal patterns for removal. Also, AI models analyze vast piles of historical data to recognize patterns and undergo continuous improvement by analyzing real-time data to stay a step ahead of phishing attacks, which are getting more sophisticated by the day.
#6. Identity and Access Management
Simple algorithms have helped gauge password strength and encourage users to have a stronger password. Multifactor authentication is already the norm in most places. Today, algorithms can detect compromised credentials by analyzing various factors, such as user behavior, the location of access requests, and the characteristics of the devices used to access the account. By considering all these factors, the algorithms can determine the authenticity of the access requests and prompt additional information if any suspicious activity is detected.
AI in cybersecurity strengthens the security layer by using tools like facial recognition and fingerprint scanners to secure authentication during login attempts and prevent credential stuffing and brute-force attacks.
#7. Network and Infrastructure Security
A behavior-oriented approach can be deployed to analyze network traffic patterns, detect unusual activities, and identify potential attacks like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks or intrusion attempts.
#8. Incident Response and Forensics
Artificial Intelligence in cybersecurity can aid in automating incident response processes by analyzing and correlating security event data, identifying the root cause of incidents, and suggesting remediation actions. It can also assist in digital forensics investigations by processing large volumes of data and uncovering hidden patterns.
#9. WAF with AI
WAFs are increasingly becoming part of the application security strategy. Web applications and API protection (WAAP) provide security from the edge of the database.
Use of AI in Cybercrime
With rapid technological advancements, such as AI in cybersecurity, organizations need to navigate the ever-changing environment. However, it poses various challenges for businesses in their pursuit of ensuring the security of their systems and data. Here are some key challenges:
#1. Cloud Adoption
Organizations are leveraging multiple cloud providers for their business needs. While it offers flexibility, it also attracts complexity. It increases the number of platforms and interaction points an application has to provide consistency across, ensuring it does not create an increasing number of vulnerabilities.
#2. API Integrations
The integration of systems and services through APIs has become prevalent. However, this also makes APIs a prime target for hackers. Therefore, protecting data ‘in transit’ and ‘in use’ has become a significant concern for organizations.
#3. AI in Cyber Attacks
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) methods are increasingly adopted in cyber attacks. AI supports the establishment of covert channels to siphon sensitive information. Therefore, these technologies enable cyber attackers to enhance their methods and tactics, making it more challenging for traditional security measures to spot and prevent their activities.
#4. AI in Malware
Malware creators increasingly deploy AI and ML methods to enhance the capabilities of their attacks. They can incorporate new, sophisticated, and changing features and functions on the fly, creating AI-driven malware that can continually adapt and evade traditional defense mechanisms. Therefore, AI in cybersecurity will play a vital role to combat these scenarios.
#5. AI-Driven Threats
The evolving environment presents a host of other threats that gain momentum by leveraging AI. These include targeted attacks against AI detection functions, advanced payload obfuscation techniques, evasion of networked communication with AI methods, decentralized botnet control using swarm intelligence, and the concealment of malware payloads within neural networks.
How Robosoft Helps Build an Environment of Trust
Robosoft helps its customers tackle cyber threats through two approaches:
Risk-based Approach: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) adopts a risk-oriented approach to reduce cybersecurity risks to networks and data. Domain-specific frameworks such as HIPAA or standards such as PCI/DSS are woven into the approach.
Compliance-based Approach: Frameworks such as ISO 27001 list 14 security control areas and 114 controls against which projects can be deployed to build an effective shield against threats and be security compliant.
At Robosoft, we provide a wide range of cybersecurity services to address security challenges. We help assess:
Environment Risk, Cybersecurity Maturity, and Security Architecture
Formulate operating policies and procedures.
Evaluate security vendors and tools.
Program management of the cybersecurity program
In addition, Robosoft helps deploy the selected tool across the complex organizational landscape. We specialize in identifying security tools that provide spherical (not just 360°) security and deploying them to keep threats at bay and meet compliance requirements.
Furthermore, Robosoft has a systematic methodology for each area of security and an overarching security program.
The Future of AI in Cybersecurity
At Robosoft, we believe AI is here to become an intrinsic part of cybersecurity, ushering in a transformative era. As the landscape of digital threats becomes increasingly complex and insidious, our vision for the future of AI in cybersecurity embodies a significant change from a reactive approach to a proactive one.
Traditionally, cybersecurity played a follower role through a reactionary force in post-attack solution development. However, as we progress to behavior and pattern-based defense, particularly through the use of AI in cybersecurity, security solutions will be able to steal a march over threats, enabling faster and more accurate responses to cyber threats.
Authentication techniques will get more sophisticated, incorporating facial detection, biometrics, and such solutions along with behavioral analysis and anomaly detection.
Vulnerability detection will not be limited to just scanning and identifying weaknesses but will include real-time remediation.
Continuous monitoring and analysis of vast amounts of data will enhance the Intelligence of Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) by incorporating behavior and pattern-based approaches. It will enable them to adapt to emerging threats and significantly improve their response accuracy and speed.
Adversarial AI will be leveraged to feed manipulated data to malicious actors that, too, leverage AI to launch sophisticated attacks, thereby evading detection. Nevertheless, machine learning algorithms will continuously evolve to counter such AI-based threats.
Security threats will persist and get more sophisticated over time. With AI in cybersecurity, we have an effective countermeasure against such threats.
A website is a constantly evolving entity that can transform and bring a competitive edge to the business. Websites supporting multiple brands or products tend to become large and complex, presenting challenges in maintaining and upgrading them. The retail space, in particular, experiences this often, as websites directly support go-to-market (GTM) initiatives. Incessant changes are required to support the introduction of new product lines or products, promotions on trends or the flavor of the month, local and global events, seasonal marketing campaigns, end-of-season events, and more.
Agile and dynamic responses are required to carry out updates modifications, and create new pages in keeping with the pace of change and scalability needs. This calls for simultaneous and coordinated actions from front-end designers, front-end developers, logic layer developers, content developers, and integrations. The process that typically takes months comes under intense pressure to be crunched into weeks.
Streamline scalable website operations to improve customer experience and revenue
A well-knit framework for scalable website operations will enable agility and dynamic updates. This is the basis of a practical approach to streamline the creation and maintenance of web applications, from development to release and maintenance, and do so expeditiously.
While numerous platforms promise to help with this, it is equally possible to set up an environment for well-oiled website operations within the organization. Here, we discuss an approach to setting up an environment within the organization that will help optimize web performance and transform the website delivery process. The overall solution is split across multiple stages, as illustrated below:
Step 1: Audit and plan based on strategy, design, and technology
With the intent of a unified web experience, it is essential to understand vital aspects such as the nature of business, number of brands, market positioning, frequency of updates, the business impact of the updates, degree of modularization, maturity of the web development process within the organization, in-house vs outsourced development, repository for the digital assets, its re-usability, and more.
A quick audit of current web development readiness and existing setup helps plan the subsequent phases crisply and economically. The audit envisions the brand’s digital assets as one web system rather than individual web entities (sites, apps, etc.). This unification approach is inspired by Rosenfeld and Morville’s Information Architecture Pyramid depicted below:
The audit assesses the information architecture from the point of view of the users’ needs and behaviors while establishing context from culture and tech perspectives. It helps build scalable website structure and meaning into the content that runs on the web system.
The audit stage involves multiple activities that are detailed below:
Strategic assessment: The first stage of audit starts with comparing the federal and independent mindsets. This helps determine distinct brands, locations, and entities involved while shedding light on the extent of visual variations required across sites. It also gives the teams applied insights into how the target audience perceives the connection between associated brands and their relationship to the overall corporate brand.
At this stage, the team understands content associated with brands and their similarities and differentiators. They are also mindful of the need to adapt similar content to suit different countries and build differentiation and sensitivity by using locally preferred languages, aligning with local cultures, target segments identified by business, and positioning to cater to specific geographies.
Design assessment: The objective here is to identify key improvement areas in the current system. During the design assessment, areas that must be considered include platform standards and specifications, interaction design standards, usability heuristics, and aesthetics and styling.
At this stage, best practices and human interface guidelines are leveraged to review what works and is not.
Tech assessment: The website structure is reviewed to group and catalog the content. This is followed by a top-down categorization of content that helps develop the structure or taxonomy for the website/app.
Reviewing the flow helps categorize and build scalable website structures from among the types depicted below.
The audit also identifies common components across site maps, features, design styles, navigation, transactional versus non-transactional pages, back-end systems, etc. Some website elements include utility navigation, global navigation, a breadcrumb trail, related articles, and a fat footer. Further, it does a deep dive into the following:
The findings are then synergized and categorized to form the input set for developing the design system and the engineering architecture. The setup comprising the web tools, practices, and governance structure is planned based on the audit outcomes.
An in-depth website audit helps categorize and group reusable elements from a design and development perspective.
Step 2: Build a scalable website once and build right – design, test, and modularize
The foundational elements are constructed to rebuild or extend the website to meet marketing demands. This stage is broken down into activities as follows:
Balancing standardization with localization
Corporations are realizing that the world is one large market unhampered by geographical boundaries. Brands must appeal to local target segments by aligning with local cultural perceptions and adhering to local compliance requirements. An approach that standardizes across geographies and keeps sufficient and controlled room for localization will provide the necessary balance. This ethos must be reflected in the digital assets that carry the brand’s voice to the customers.
Standardized customization allows the brand to take advantage of economies of scale, launch uniform products with a shorter GTM curve, and strengthen the corporate brand while creating a local appeal. Standardized customization allows the brand to take advantage of economies of scale, launch uniform products with a shorter GTM curve, and strengthen the corporate brand while creating a local appeal. It helps create alignment across product positioning, advertising, promotions planning, and product design functions.
A design system is recommended as it enables a centralized and evolving repository to steer the brand and its sub-brands towards a standards-based, product-based approach to scalable website design. It contains reusable design elements guided by clear standards and can be readily assembled to build digital assets as desired.
This step helps the brand achieve its goals of:
Efficiency: by enabling the reuse of components
Consistency: by introducing a shared set of principles and rules to build components and, through that, create consistent experiences across different platforms
Scalability: by increasing efficiency and consistency, help build layouts faster and at scale
The overall methodology in the design stage involves these steps:
Build a design system
Here, the objective is to maintain a high-quality, consistent design language across brands with various aspects considered (refer to the table below).
2. Use atomic design methodology
Building a design system is a complex process that can be addressed using a modular approach. The atomic design methodology is built on modularity principles – every application comprises small individual atoms like buttons, input boxes, texts, etc. When grouped, these basic components help form bigger/different components (molecules, organisms, templates, complex pages), as depicted below.
In the build design system stage, the aim is to produce the sub-atomic element, styles, and rules that underpin the system and identify the interconnected components and variables that enable complete coverage of multiple brands. Crafting design systems based on the atomic design framework helps develop the basic components while reducing the amount of rework at the development stage.
With simple modifications, buttons, textboxes, layouts, frames, etc., can be shared or customized easily, which eases the overall development, reduce the testing period, and improve the general appearance/behavior. Designers will find it easier to design, share, document, and manage files more effectively.
Test and perform iterative design
Before committing to the Design Library, each component gets tested for re-usability from both design and engineering perspectives.
– Publish to the library: This step is performed with strict control measures and appropriate tools (Zeroheight, etc.) for version control, document control, etc.
The design then gets implemented in keeping with these design standards, systems, and a central creative vision.
The primary goals of this phase include:
Identifying and extending the CMS functionality so that website goals and needs are met
Identifying and developing components by configuration
Extending the look and feel of the component to match website aesthetics as desired
Building the component framework to establish robust communications between reusable components
The engineering aspects actively seek reusable components and work on implementing these templates and features. This is followed by building the application framework on top of the CMS framework and integrating it with reusable API components (for example, state management, application cache, cookie management, compliance components, error handling, monitoring, profiling, and diagnostics.)
This modular approach aims to improve the building, hosting, maintenance, management, and enhancement of websites and apps for an overall elevated brand experience. It is guided by measurement criteria and metrics that ensure their web property is:
Efficient: automating tasks wherever possible so that waste is minimized.
Reliable: where systems continue to run uninterrupted at all times.
Scalable: where systems deliver to specific needs and demands of users, customers, and business operations.
Typically, building the product is a day-to-day activity that involves incorporating changes and fixes and deploying the latest version. Streamlining website operations can designate the build process, verify the approach against the architecture, and perform routine testing or automation before deployment. It lays down the core set of processes that will help perform these operations without a glitch.
Some recommended practices:
The components based on the atomic methodology share a common code that can be readily implemented and ensure unilateral behavior/appearance across different functional elements. The focus must be on enabling an enhanced scrolling experience, including features like scroll-triggered animations. Browser caching will enhance page load time, while using a content delivery network will add an additional quick loading experience.
Other recommendations are incorporating long-form content to boost SEO, scroll-triggered animations, visual feedback when the screen is loading, Google Analytics, etc. Using backup/failover/geographically redundant disaster recovery strategies, security features like automated intrusion detection, periodic scanning, automatic security updates, denial of service protection, and the right compliance controls is also suitable.
Step 3: Roll out and automate
In the roll-out phase, various activities are performed through several steps beginning with:
Assemble and build
Refer to architecture and design accordingly.
Carry out development activities.
At this roll-out stage, testing is done manually with or without the content. Manual testing is required as it can help identify any problem areas that may not be unearthed through only automated testing. Plus, it is a way to emulate user experience closely. Once this has been completed, performance testing is carried out on different components to see how they perform in a given situation against established benchmarks. Load testing is included in this step to identify bottlenecks, if any.
Automating deployment is the next major step in which the web application is deployed from development to the production environment using software tools to automate the associated processes. Integral activities included are version management and build management.
Step 4: Monitor and maintain
In this phase, the main tasks are to monitor, track, and maintain the website application’s performance using automation. Using software tools for these tasks helps proactively identify the application’s possible bugs and pain points before they can grow into bigger issues. Backups are automated, which means the website’s files and databases are backed up at designated times, making data protection and recovery more reliable and faster.
The Robosoft advantage – how to extend market competitiveness
To ensure you don’t miss out on the competitive advantages offered by a technical, creative, and productized approach to web development, you need to leverage your website operations framework to extend market competitiveness optimally. With Robosoft as your strategic partner, you can address your challenges in this respect.
Changing lifestyles and leanings towards outsourced services compared to doing it yourself are propelling the growth of numerous services, one of which is the on-demand laundry service. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of on-demand laundry. Property prices have further created leanings toward on-demand laundry services. Since most households may be able to afford a washing machine, but they may not be able to afford dedicated space or time for washing, drying, ironing, etc. In B2B, increased outsourcing of laundry is seen as the hospitality industry focuses on utilizing available real estate for revenue generation activities. Consequently, the on-demand laundry business has witnessed fast growth across different geographies. India’s laundry market is expected to grow to $15 billion by 2025, from $11.3B in 2019, according to a RedSeer Report.
As a business, on-demand laundry has its unique advantages. It is one of those businesses that have no receivables. Inventory or consumables are meager and do not block a significant part of the capital. Digital technologies are helping control the collection, delivery, and movement of garments, thereby permitting scale. The trend of increasing demand coupled with the ability to scale using digital makes on-demand laundry services the next upcoming industry.
Let’s dive deeper into what goes behind the operations of such an on-demand laundry service.
On-demand laundry service components and their digitalization
An on-demand laundry service lends itself to digitalization which enables tight control and management of every step of the operations. The similarities in B2C and B2B businesses simplify the digitalization of entire operations. Moreover, digitalization enables scalability of operations as it is now convenient to replicate the model in other cities nationwide as well as globally.
Following are the on-demand laundry service components discussed in detail:
Pickup & delivery
Service partners can take the help of route optimization tools to provide a hassle-free doorstep pickup and delivery experience to their customers.
Payment for purchase orders can be made during the booking process when choosing the time slot for pickup or during actual pickup. The customer can also be provided options to make an online payment at convenience.
b. Using QR Codes to pick up orders – Pick-up of garments
When a service delivery partner reaches the customer location, each customer is provided a QR Code induced bag to fill with laundry items for different wash orders. Each item is then photographed and provided with an individual barcode to keep count in the database. It creates an inventory management system where each item by the customer is tagged by the type of service requested and stored in the bag. The bag, in this sense, becomes an in-process inventory store.
Therefore, we can see that the entire process of controlling the inventory is crucial and can be automated completely with QR Codes and barcodes. This aspect of inventory management is useful for not only laundry but also manufacturing or construction as well.
c. Periodic schedule setup for pick-up
Customers can use the automatic scheduling feature to pick-up garments for cleaning and other purposes regularly. The customers won’t have to set aside any specific time daily for scheduling a pick-up and can set it for months or a year.
The bag with QR Code from the staging area goes into a van. The van scans individual bags and takes them to their respective hubs. Hubs will again scan the QR Codes of the bags and give them to the delivery partners. The delivery partners will now give the scanned bags to the respective end user.
#3. Subscription services
The end user can have different subscription options based on the time period and service. One can have free pickup and delivery if they have a subscription. In case one doesn’t have a subscription, they can be charged a certain amount after a total order value. This entire thing can be managed automatically on a digital platform.
The following stages for the on-demand laundry service come right after the garments are picked up. They are part of the logistics management for the whole service.
#1. Driver management and Vehicle management
The laundry service providers can use driver management systems to control and manage the fleet of pick-up and delivery vans along with their drivers. Each van is assigned a tracker, which helps in real-time location sharing with the service provider and the customer.
A daily attendance tracker can also be implemented to keep track of any absenteeism among the drivers. This helps avoid or manage any shortage of pick-up or delivery vans. The service providers can arrange for alternatives accordingly to keep a customer happy. Also, thorough background verification of the drivers is conducted to discourage any misplacement of garments.
#2. Hub management
A city is to be further broken down systematically into separate hubs. Each hub will have between 10 to 20 service delivery partners. All delivery partners in their respective work shifts will bring the entire bags into their respective hubs.
Hubs now will have to simply scan the QR Code of each bag and put it aside to update the entire inventory in the backend system.
#3. Delivery van management
The delivery vans are assigned to city hubs according to the available number of customers and order volume. Some areas may require a larger number of pick-up and delivery vans, hence, any idle delivery van from other hubs can be reallocated accordingly.
Central Processing Unit or CPU
The entire inventory from the hub is now scanned and put into a van. The van, now becomes the mega-store of inventory, delivers the bags to the central processing unit.
It is the factory where the actual washing will take place. The van consisting of QR Code bags is now unloaded after scanning at the CPU. These bags are delivered to the processing unit. The processing unit then opens the bags and assigns individual barcodes to each item in the bags.
Now each item is sent to respective wash jobs – washing, dry cleaning, ironing, etc.
a. Receipt and issue of garments
The bags from pickup vans are collected, segregated, and scanned to keep a record of each customer in the backend system. The bags are then moved forward to initiate the washing process.
b. Processing department – Barcodes based
i. Inspection – Call center
The service provider assigns specific people to look for irremovable stains on garments and call up the customers if it’s there. The customer is then provided with a choice to continue with the processing or return the garments.
This is where the actual washing or dry cleaning takes place. Each item is assorted according to their wash order instructions and put into respective washers or dry cleaners.
Independent wash –Some customers may opt for independent wash or dry clean of their clothes. Here a camera is fitted across washers for such orders, and the entire process is recorded. The recorded video is then accessible by the customers for a specific number of days.
After processing is complete, each item is now put into a rack. Racks will have QR Codes associated based on customer orders. Let’s say a customer ordered two washing and three dry cleanings. The rack will be incomplete until it has five items against the total customer order. Once the rack contains all the customer orders, it will signal that the order is complete, and all the items in the rack will be picked up and go to the finishing table.
iv. Finishing table
The repackaging of customer items takes place at the finishing table. Based on the item type, it puts a plastic wrap around the cloth item, put a hanger for suits, or wraps with paper on each item. All the items are now packed together and made into a single package which now goes into the staging area.
v. Staging Area – Issue
In the staging area, the package is put into a bag with a QR Code to return to the hubs and then to the customer via delivery vans.
24-hour turnaround: Any type of wash order (apart from large clothes) can be turned around back to the customer within 24 hours. Non-urgent sizeable items such as carpets and curtains can be returned within 72 hours.
Washing bulky items: Managing bulky items such as curtains and carpets is a challenge for businesses and households alike. With its pick-up and delivery services, on-demand laundry makes it conducive for customers to welcome their services.
Easy order placement: The customers can do a 1-click order placement via the mobile app and set it for repeat order placements.
Time slot convenience: Customers can choose their time slots for pick-up and delivery according to their own availability and convenience.
Wide selection of services: The services offered can range across all types of washing and dry cleaning. Hence, the customer doesn’t have to set up any extra household system for such tasks.
Green, clean environment: The central laundry processing unit is now designed for recycling water and heat-processed disposal of detergents along with cleaning agents, thereby reducing carbon footprint and being environmentally friendly.
Tight inventory control: Digitalization of the whole operation helps the service providers to keep tight control over the movement of items across various stages.
Scalable: One of the major advantages of the digital model and its platform is that it is scalable to cover multiple areas within a city, grow to multiple cities, and even expand to multiple countries. Thus, the model permits starting small and growing as the business grows.
Shorter breakeven period: Since laundry businesses are not mandated to be in a prime locality, business viability improves. Also, the sector itself is growing in volume. These factors contribute to an earlier breakeven which is estimated to be around 3 years for this business.
Tech stack and microservice architecture for developing an on-demand mobile solution for a laundry business
A possible three-tiered microservice architecture diagram for an on-demand laundry service:
The following could be the technology stacks that can be used to create an on-demand laundry service:
As lifestyles evolve, on-demand laundry services will grow. Digital platforms enable scalability, inventory management, and tight financial control. This unique feature applies to not only laundry services but other industries like manufacturing and construction. As we can see, implementing an automatic inventory tracking and update solution can increase the inventory turns, thereby reducing the capital requirement. Using QR Codes and barcodes can regulate the tracking of inventory goods in store and in transit.
In its current state, on-demand laundry service is quite a manually managed and fragmented market and offers huge opportunities for new businesses to create a niche. One can offer doorstep service and provide better garment care, eliminating the need to locate in prime areas and reducing capital requirements. One can use high-quality laundry products to clean delicate fabrics, maintain hygiene, and extend the life of the fabrics. The ability to maintain hygienic conditions counters the increasing prevalence of skin diseases such as rashes and allergies, which is yet another reason for its growth. The possibility of global scalability without receivables issues is a compelling business proposition.
The airline industry has always struggled with profitability – the lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic put them in even tighter shackles of debt, and labor challenges squeeze the margins further. Despite cutting operating costs by 35 percent compared to pre-crisis levels, airlines amassed a huge debt of over $650 billion that they need to recover. The rising prices of fuel, maintenance, and infrastructure pile up, especially with airports also looking to recover losses from airlines. Meanwhile, as airlines seek to make a comeback, they must make investments in employee welfare or competitive salaries. These accumulating costs take chunks out of the bottom line, which was already slim, to begin with.
International travel, the main source of revenue for airlines had come to a full stop during Covid-19. Even as vaccinations progress and countries open their borders, the road to recovery is slow. In 2021, overall travelers were only 47 percent as compared to 2019. Corporate travel may not go back to the glory days; the hybrid model of working is here to stay, so budgets will reduce. Leisure travel encourages the industry, but travelers remain cautious. IATA expects this to improve, recovering to 111% by 2025, but until then, airlines will find profitability a challenge, with multiple players competing for the smaller pool of travelers.
To increase profitability, airlines must critically examine the business model
To increase profitability, airlines must critically examine their business models. The post-Covid-19 scenario is an opportunity to re-imagine new models beyond the silos of low-cost, ultra-low-cost, and full service.
Low-cost travel is often conflated with low price but cost and price should be considered separately. LCCs tend to lower price by reducing frills and conveniences. This is an inconvenience to the passenger and back-fires in realizing the benefits of being a low-cost carrier. FSCs, on the other hand, charge a higher price to accommodate the services they offer. To retain the experience and yet offer a competitive pricing, they need to manage their costs.
Cost management and price determination should be separate activities. Lower cost should be an outcome of reimagined business processes, and increased efficiencies across the operations. Digital technologies hold the promise of lowering cost. Arriving at the pricing should be an analytical assessment of the common facilities and conveniences sought by travelers.
With data available, airlines can determine such conveniences and include them as standard ones in the base price. For instance, one can determine the number of bags most commonly carried in each sector, whether passengers have seat preferences, and other commonly required facilities and conveniences. Similarly, data can assist decisions related to seat selection, meals, and other parameters on whether to be included as standard or priced separately. Keeping customer experience as the prime factor in pricing decisions will result in better customer stickiness and make it the airline of first choice.
Introducing the Right Price Model founded on digital
With changing passenger preferences and the potential of data and technology, there arises a new model that can lower costs on one hand and arrive at the right pricing on the other – The Right Price Model.
The way forward for airlines or indeed any enterprise in the travel & leisure domain is not about low price or full service, but about getting the price right. Profitability lies in the Right Price Model – one which disrupts the traditional notions of FSCs and LCCs. In the Right Price Model, airlines can use the three pillars: revenue, passenger experience, and cost to arrive at the right price – one that ensures superior passenger experience and delivers profitability in the process – all anchored on data and technology.
Revenue – In addition to revenues from ticket sales, digital technologies can open new avenues of revenue generation as well as new ways of offering current services to generate alpha on the revenue. Airlines can adopt a broader strategic focus to monetize adjacent areas of customer convenience in the first and last mile, such as taxi or food delivery, parking, passenger assistance, etc. They can also provide a category of services that generates an alpha over the regular set of services, such as a redefined business class. Digital technology can be leveraged to create a configurable business class – based on the demand, available seats may be released for economy class or added to the business class. Physical differentiation on board can be created by moving the separators. The notion of business class can be redefined with digital and personalized services such as lounge access, priority boarding, SMS luggage tracking and alerts, and other similar digitally enabled services.
Passenger experience – Adopting a passenger-centric approach helps to create a competitive edge, and strengthen the brand, establishing strong emotional connections with the passenger. A digital-first approach with a pleasant look and feel, and easy discoverability helps overcome key emotional inhibitors, and short and easy booking journeys help convert users. The flying experience can be enhanced into a networking experience using digital technologies such as digital multi-player games, assistance, and notifications across the journey.
Airlines can also use data to optimize the experience for sets of passengers, based on the timeslots and routes. For example, if it is predominantly catering to tourists, then the experience can be customized for them.
Costs – Airlines need to optimize their operations to be lean, agile and efficient. For this, they can rely on digitalization of operations and automation of customer touchpoints using state-of-the art technologies like RPA, AI, ML, as well as interactive technology such as biometrics, virtual reality and apps. Not only does digitalization connect carriers to the customer’s expectations, but it is also the secret weapon behind the efficiency of operations. From ticket booking to route optimization, aircraft maintenance, or fleet management digitalization can help implement a lean operation resulting in cost savings, accuracy, and safety.
Digital technology enables a new model of profitability for airlines – The Right Price Model
Digital technologies play a role in optimizing operational costs, creating new revenue streams, and creating memorable passenger experiences. The past few years saw airlines increase their confidence in technology, successfully deploying contactless passenger processes from parking to check-in and luggage drop, tech-led security, and document processing. Automating workflows and enabling self-service through biometrics, chatbots, and virtual and augmented reality offers passengers a digital experience that delights them and reduces operating costs. In fact, SITA’s 2021 Air Transport IT Insights reports that CIOs are betting on technology to support the recovery, with planned IT spending on mobile-based services such as automating vaccination and health verifications, self-service, unassisted check-in, luggage tracking, boarding gate notifications, etc.
Digital can also be leveraged to improve customer experience and add new revenue. While the primary offering is flying, airline carriers can add revenue streams through a range of services along customers’ end-to-end journeys. Whether first-mile, in-flight, or last mile, digital assets, and technology systems can smooth customer touchpoints, automate processes and facilitate new revenue streams. Once mapped out, they can be leaned on to make the services complimentary, enhance customer happiness, or deploy them as part of personalization campaigns. These services can be built into the price, based on data-led scenarios around the customer or managed as additional add-on paid services.
Creating a new path to profitability, paved with passenger delight
Firmly on the route to recovery, International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that passenger numbers will reach 4.0 billion in 2024, exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 103% from 2019. This is a good time for carriers to study macro-trends and add digitalize their processes or use the potential of data and analytics to inform them about customer preferences.
Digitalization is a path for airlines that has solutions on every aspect of the business, whether cost optimization, passenger experience, or pricing and route planning.
Digitalization can automate passenger experiences to reduce the dependency on staff, streamline their own operations and reduce costs. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can play a strong role in determining pricing strategies, and with an agile operation, these strategies can also support changes in travel preferences. Airlines can also deploy technology to fulfil sustainability goals to arrive at data-driven flight paths and fuel efficiency.
With high-tech, the age of low-cost and full-service may have come to an end – the time is right for airlines to now move to the Right Price Model. Enabled by digital technology, airlines can now re-shape the economics of the industry, and re-invent the passenger experience to form a new path to profitability.
The automotive industry is one of the major industries that has witnessed a massive digital transformation in recent years. Digital is revolutionizing the automotive experience for consumers. The recent innovations in automobiles are designed to complement the overall driving experience of a consumer. One could even go on and say there is a clear shift from RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) to EPM (Experiences Per Mile) when it comes to customer needs from their automobile. The industry must quickly find new ways to adapt to this growing customer need or risk being left behind. One major factor of digital transformation is mobility where customers want to get everything done from their always evolving smartphones. But the future of mobility in the automotive industry doesn’t lie in the features offered for the vehicle but lies in redefining what “moves consumers” emotionally when they purchase an automobile.
Here are 5 trends on how the automobile industry is evolving to meet changing consumer behavior and expectations.
Customer experience and behavior trends in automotive industry triggered by digital transformation
1. Automobile buying experience shifting from physical to digital
The traditional model of car buying experience involved physical visits to the car dealerships to know about the cars and their features before deciding to purchase one. However, two disruptions in recent years have somewhat changed the entire complexion of this car buying experience.
The first major disruption was the emergence of the mobile-first generation with the purchasing power who value experience over possessions. And the second disruption was caused by the pandemic which forever changed the way a few industries and their customers operate and behave. The pandemic prevented customers from visiting the commercial premises and the dealerships too started closing to prevent the virus from spreading. These two disruptions, on top of the arrival of technologies such as AR/VR, 360-degree views, and standardizations in other areas, have made Digital possible in the car buying space and accelerated the digital transformation.
In one of their insights, McKinsey validates the importance of car dealers having a digital presence for their customers. The report suggests the purchase intent of customers mainly using digital channels dropped by only 2 percent while for offline buying journeys the purchase intent dropped by 8 percent post-pandemic. As digital is becoming increasingly important in the automotive buying experience, those brands that dive in and create brand affinity through experience on the digital channel are reaping the benefits.
2. Auto manufacturers and OEMs must adopt a retail approach for digital-savvy customers
Leading e-commerce brands not only changed the retail industry forever, but they also trained consumer minds to expect a retail service in every other industry, the automotive industry included. The abundance of information and availability of data along with the latest technology made it possible for modern consumers to do thorough research and compare the products themselves, replacing the need for in-person discussions.
The post-pandemic era saw more and more consumers choosing a digital-first approach for many touchpoints of their buying journey. In this approach, the customers are demanding online platforms that enable accurate product searches and comparisons which in turn enables them to finalize buying decisions online.
It may be noted that so far very few auto manufacturers like Tesla and Mercedes Benz have adopted a direct-to-consumer e-commerce approach. This is a unique opportunity for auto manufacturers to create a competitive advantage by positioning themselves as digital innovators.
3. Seamless customer experience journey management with digital adoption
Customers now have the privilege to enjoy the benefits of a connected vehicle making it safer to drive and less stressful. This increased connectivity not only improves the overall driving experience, but also enables the vehicle to generate and process a large amount of customer data for a more seamless experience.
However, there are still some areas of improvement in handling such a large amount of customer data by the dealerships and OEMs. Since most of the dealers still rely on physical processes in the customer journey, it invites greater chances of human error in data handling. With proper digital systems in place, making the jump from physical to digital will eradicate such minor issues leading to better management of customer journeys. Once you assess the viability of digital transformation in your organization and adopt the way, it opens up a world of opportunities for you. Adopting a digital approach minimizes errors, makes your team more agile and responds better and faster to clients’ requirements. As a result, it improves customer experience operationally as well.
Mercedes-Benz was looking for a solution to better serve its customers in Brazil, which has the second-largest plant followed by Germany. They invested in a Microsoft Azure cloud solution coupled with Power BI and Cortana Intelligence to map their sales processes, and analyze decades worth of data like license plate records, macroeconomic indicators, regulations, sales information, and statistics by each region of the country. Through this change in data analysis and interpretation model, Mercedes-Benz was able to:
Provide 180 service locations around Brazil with consistent, actionable information to ensure each location could provide accurate proposals to their clients.
Assist sales reps to engage with consumers proactively before a need is even expressed with the help of predictive analysis.
Support employees in engaging and serving customers better, and in improving overall customer experience and satisfaction.
Digitization enables manufacturers to identify additional customer touchpoints to make them understand the customer better. They can now better understand what motivates customers to defect to other brands before it happens and find resolutions for these issues.
4. Possession or ride experience – changing preferences
This changing scenario is forcing manufacturers and dealerships to find new ways to keep their customers satisfied and loyal to them. One such example would be Porsche launching its ‘Porsche Passport’ service back in late 2017. According to this service, Porsche customers could pay a fixed fee per month in return to use up to 22 different cars based on their needs or desires. The idea was to offer greater flexibility to customers in terms of options to switch along with insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. The whole idea underscored the need to cater to consumer experience rather than ownership.
5. Increased focus on both purchase and service experience
As mentioned previously, digitization offers auto manufacturers and OEMs a larger pool of actionable customer data. Companies can collect and connect millions of such touchpoints from call centers, surveys, dealer management systems, and communications to visualize each customer journey. The companies can now use this visual map to better monitor and action planning of each customer’s journey experience by appointing “journey owners”. Thanks to technology, dealerships can offer IoT based servicing and car care to their customers.
A survey by McKinsey & Company shows almost 50 percent of customers believe a better service experience is more influential than the actual purchase experience in the customer journey.
As millennials are increasingly becoming the foremost segment in car ownership, it is becoming more difficult for dealerships to attract them with the traditional approach. This customer segment is accustomed to instant gratification in the digital space and hence very time-intensive. Dealerships who cater to these specific requirements from the millennials along with their other services will increase conversions and thereby increase revenues.
Digital Transformation is building a case for CASE to improve CX in the automotive industry
The automotive industry is in a state of continuous disruptive transition. Newer technologies like AI, ML, AR, Big Data are influencing the customer experiences more and more with each passing day. Dealerships are using eCommerce as an option to improve customer experiences or sell their products be it vehicles, automobile parts, or even accessories. For example, we can see how Tesla has included artificial intelligence, solar panels & electric vehicles in its portfolio.
Customers are now experiencing newer vehicle capabilities and changing behavior according to newer realities and increased convenience. This led to the industry aggressively shifting gears and setting forward on an ambitious new course: “CASE”— the push for more Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric vehicles, and mobility solutions.
A fully connected car relies on three pillars of connectivity – infotainment, infrastructure, and telematics.
In today’s digital age and mobile-first generation, customers are expecting similar seamless experiences everywhere. The same expectations are there from newer vehicles in the market. These expectations include everything from high-quality infotainment systems for passengers to assisted driving and parking with payment from the dashboard.
People can now watch movies, use Google Maps, listen to music with Bluetooth connectivity, and more thanks to connectivity capabilities like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Smart vehicles detect drivers’ sleepiness, and the galvanic skin-response sensors can give a metric for stress to warn the driver and avoid any harmful accidents. On the outside of the car, radar, cameras, and laser scanners can “read” the road and then respond. All the above features and more come preloaded or customized based on the demands of the consumer.
Automotive telematics assesses the driver’s behaviors from timely insurance payments to driving routes. It also can be used to optimize the fleets in a car-sharing model. Automobile manufacturers have released their own telematics apps that connect with their selected cars. Honda Connect lets your car get connected with Amazon’s Alexa provides over 32 ingenious features for the safety and convenience of the riders. Similarly, Suzuki Connect lets you connect with the car and offers dynamic attributes such as 24X7 roadside assistance, driving analytics reports, functional alerts, live vehicle tracking, and many more.
The vehicles are being manufactured with the increased ability to safely operate with less and eventually no input from the driver. With no driver, the autonomous vehicle experience is all about making an impactful product design. The driving pattern of automated cars can be algorithmically optimized, increasing the capacity on any highway.
Although with autonomy comes the fear of the unknown and being out of control. It is our innate human nature to be in control of things to feel calm. So here is an opportunity for automakers to make it a much more fulfilling experience for customers via the following:
1. The rider of an autonomous vehicle is quite likely to experience anxieties arising from loss of control. It presents a huge opportunity for CX to help calm the rider by providing several inputs and communications.
2. From a servicing perspective, the car can book a servicing appointment and drive itself to the service station at the scheduled time and return after servicing.
3. The rider can use their mobile to summon the vehicle when required.
All autonomous vehicles in near future will require a human-machine interface (HMI) to communicate with the driver as well as the pedestrians. The features of this HMI interface include – Haptic controls with embedded touch controls, a touch screen with possible haptic feedback, gesture control with visual feedback, and voice control and feedback. These cars could not only understand, inform, and ensure passenger safety but also entertain passengers.
4. Speech recognition (Voice to Text) to tell the car your destination, temperature control, music choice, etc. The autonomous vehicle would store these preferences and recreate via voice detection/face detection of the customer.
Increased acceptance of autonomous vehicles presents a unique opportunity for ambitious automotive companies to break away from the clutter with an increased focus on optimal customer service as a point of differentiation. They need to develop new business models that cater to field services of these autonomous vehicles by offering after-sales customer support and maintenance “in the field”.
Autonomous vehicles however present a big dilemma in front of the insurance industry and could prove to be a big disruptor in the future. If the driver is taken out of the question, who does the risk shift to in case of an accident? Who will be liable for the payment of the insurance? As of now the OEMs and manufacturers are taking the heat as we see Tesla being charged with many lawsuits for its driverless vehicle accidents. But with time, the vehicles will be safer which in turn brings down the risk and then will bring down the insurance amount – making a huge dent in the insurance industry. There is also the case of reimagining traffic management by regulating autonomous and self-driven vehicles.
In major markets like the US, the ownership of vehicles per household is almost double the number of households which leads to vehicles sitting idly for a large portion of each day. To lessen this implication, the mobility industry is rapidly deploying new forms of car ownership models – carsharing, ridesharing, and ride-hailing services, to the customers. Combining ride sharing and car sharing could take every passenger to a destination with nearly 80% fewer cars in metro cities.
The negative implications of newer forms of car ownership models are seen in declining sales figures for automotive companies. The automotive companies now not only have to battle against each other for market share but well-funded car-sharing technology companies as well. To tackle this situation the automotive companies are now starting their ride-sharing or shared leasing systems with the help of capable technology partners.
The benefits of these new car ownership models are seen around us. Fewer cars mean a lower cost of building and maintaining the roads. Also less noise pollution, less environmental damage. This is one of the main reasons most Governments are pushing for completely having electric vehicles on the road.
Disruptive OEMs and startups are expanding the capabilities of a vehicle and demonstrating compelling options for the end consumer. Add this to the rising global energy costs, resource scarcity, global climate change, and increased government incentives/regulations leading to the invention of green energy and environment-friendly vehicles.
Electric vehicles are perfect examples of sustainable mobility solutions that will revolutionize the automotive industry soon. The need of the hour for existing manufacturers is to support new software-based architectures capable of driving needed chemistry efficiencies.
Initially, the adoption of EVs was slow among customers. But with each iteration, electric vehicles are becoming more and more cost-efficient with increased access to charging stations everywhere.
However, all is not well for the future of Electric Vehicles or EVs if proper measures aren’t taken now. One such would be making a proper scrappage policy. The rise of EVs on the road would lead to scrapping a lot of polluting vehicles. Also, the batteries of the EVs need to be scrapped properly. A standard battery has a life of 4 years. We can expect massive battery junk to pile up if a disposal strategy isn’t in place.
Hitachi’s new compact, lightweight direct-drive system combines the motor, inverter, and brake into a single unit and installs the entire system into the wheel. This EV claims to reduce the energy loss by 30% and increase the single charge range of the vehicle.
Key stakeholders of digital transformation in the automobile industry
Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart, once famously said, ”There is only one boss. The customer.”
The center of any digital transformation for any industry is the customer. Everything done by the automaker is intended to provide a seamless, delightful customer experience. Online car purchases without a single visit to dealerships, safer cars with driverless assistants, sensors, radars, and cameras are some positives for customers. HMI is being used more and more to operate vehicles. Smart virtual assistants take care of activities such as taking a call, sending a message, playing a track, and rerouting while the driver can focus on driving down the road.
Auto manufacturers and Distributors
Auto manufacturers now are looking towards technologies and software capabilities like IoT, connectivity, autonomous, 3D printing while designing a car. Software competencies are increasingly becoming a key differentiating factor for providing ADAS – Advanced Driver Assistance System.
Huge car manufacturers are partnering with Google, Tesla, or Apple for in-car infotainment systems and car connectivity with customers’ smartphones. Manufacturers are using data collection methods and analytics to make various decisions during the lifecycle of the vehicle. They can also predict the car inventory replacement cycles and new sales thanks to digital transformation.
What are the key takeaways from the trends discussed?
The sales of automobiles were at an all-time low in recent years due to many reasons – the pandemic and chip shortages among major reasons. This led to manufacturers finding new ways to connect and retain their customers. Manufacturers are now exploring going direct in addition to going via dealers to establish a connection with their customers.
The pandemic was a boon in disguise for the physical to the digital movement of products and services. The increased acceptance and affinity towards contactless services opened the doors to a complete digital customer journey in the automotive industry. The dealerships are moving on from pull marketing strategies to push marketing strategies. The focus is not much on bringing customers to the dealership and building relations but to showcase the product and stand out among the competing products.
Autonomous cars have become a reality and it created a few more avenues for automakers to provide a seamless customer experience. Electric Vehicles are becoming the new normal in the automotive industry and we can now see many manufacturers and even governments promoting the usage of EVs.
There is a clear indication of buyers, especially millennial buyers, inclining more towards vehicle riding experience rather than possession. They are ready to give up their car ownership in favor of convenient mobility solutions that fulfill their needs of transporting from one location to another.
These new trends and other disruptions mean automakers and dealerships are now focusing more than ever on delivering the perfect customer experience.
How automakers are delivering perfect customer experience
Customer experience is primarily about establishing an emotional connection with the client. We can dissect customer experience at the brand level and product level. Automotive manufacturers and OEMs can establish an emotional connection with their customers at both brand and product levels. Let’s discuss these two in detail.
Brand level connection
The human brain is divided into two halves, one part is emotional while the other part is rational. A brand-level connection with the customer would require engaging with both these parts and evoking a response. All the branding and marketing efforts from the automakers and dealerships focus on either of these two halves to position themselves in the minds of their consumers.
Typically the brand connection can further be subcategorized into – Sentimental connection and Rational connection.
i) Sentimental connection
A strong emotional connection gives an extra advantage over your competition. More often than not customers are swayed by their emotions when making a purchase. Automakers run campaigns that try to evoke a response from the consumer.
In the middle of 2021, Lamborghini ran a campaign with the tagline “It takes time to become timeless.” Here the intention of the automaker was to position themselves as someone who had been there forever for the consumers irrespective of time, and situation. The goal is to free Lamborghini designs to any new automobile design trends and separate itself from the competition as one of its kind.
Not everyone likes a drastic change to an old hit – be it music, a motorcycle, or a car. Lamborghini banked on that human emotion towards finding similarities to drive their campaign.
Similarly, there are other examples of automakers targeting particular sentiments of consumers to run their campaigns.
Ferrari never talks about luxury or driving as its customer segment only cares about sports cars. Hence, Ferrari takes extra care in hugely popular F1 grand prix and other such racing tournaments to promote its brand.
BMW collects goodwill by taking calculated measures to become a fully sustainable company in the future. It has firmly embedded ecological and social sustainability along with the entire value chain into its strategies. Environment-friendly and sustainable approaches are what drive the corporate strategies of BMW – be it cutting CO2 emissions and recycling to expanding hydrogen technologies.
People like to associate themselves with something good. And when you drive a BMW, you are bound to feel better knowing you are contributing something good for the environment.
ii) Rational connection
Unlike purchasing groceries, buying a car isn’t a decision made in a matter of seconds. It may come down to a final standoff between two or three options and the consumer may make the decision based on emotional parameters. But the period between recognition of the need to buy a car and the actual purchase may run into many weeks or even months. During the whole period, consumers will assign certain values to different parameters involved in purchasing the car. It is up to the automakers to keep persuading their consumers with the right message at each decision-making journey so that the consumer continues to keep them in consideration.
“What I try to impress on people is that the rational brain is not good at being rational, but instead is good at simply rationalizing what the emotional brain has already decided to do, and this happens non-consciously. You need to know how to structure decisions so that, when the context demands it, you can minimize the role of emotion. The easiest way to do this is distill whatever variables you can to numbers.”
~ Baba Shiv, Professor of Marketing at Stanford GSB
Along with the features of the vehicle, several rational parameters come into play when forming a buying decision. Some of these are value for money, a better resale value, access to service centers in proximity, higher quality, and reliability of the material and engines, low cost of spares, and a lower total cost of ownership. These parameters may not affect the buying decision much when it comes to luxury cars. But the luxury car segment only covers about 20% of all vehicle sales in the US. The remaining 80% is still going to consider the above factors.
In price-sensitive markets like India, where consumers seek great value and prioritize rational parameters, brands such as Maruti and Hero do well. This is the reason Maruti and Hero MotoCorp are market leaders with a market share of 48% and 37% respectively. Both these vehicles have lower costs of ownership, better sale value, lower costs of spares, and easily available service centers.
Product level connection
The brand-level connection ensures the consumer has your attention, but you still have to deliver a perfect vehicle of their choice to them. The automakers and OEMs need to create a fascination with the product in the minds of the consumer.
In the earlier days, buyers would look for design, mileage, material, and comfort in their vehicle. But thanks to continuous innovations and changing customer expectations, vehicles are now equipped with much more hi-tech features which make a difference.
Features such as infotainment, voice-activated facilities, autonomous parking assistant, wireless charging, proactive servicing, and parts replacement, roadside assistance, looks, mileage, comfort and convenience, cockpit, charging stations play a major role in helping customers choose their ideal vehicle.
Delivering a superior overall purchase experience has become first and foremost priority for automakers.
Consumers constantly search for review videos on YouTube and get a 360-degree view of the vehicles they desire to own. This process goes on for weeks to months, collecting all possible information from the automaker website to third-party websites. If a consumer has his priorities set and is well researched, it is more likely he will purchase the vehicle after just one test ride. So it becomes imperative for the dealerships to present all required information easily to their consumers through various sources and assist them well in their purchase journey.
Establishing a product-level connection also includes delivering a superior service experience.
Some of the ways automakers and OEMs can ensure superior service are mentioned below:
(i) Proactive reminders to the customer for servicing and parts replacement.
(ii) Digital appointment setting with the service centers and dealers.
(iii) Automated fault detection in the car.
(iv) Auto estimate preparation for the service entailed.
(v) Auto payments for the services to the dealerships and service centers.
(vi) Autonomous cars driving to service stations and back without interference from the customer.
Key benefits of digital transformation for manufacturers and OEMs
1. Improved campaign effectiveness
“The secret to developing personalized campaigns that will reach the right customers in the right moments is data. In the digital age in which we live, we must live and breathe data.”
~ Shashi Seth, Sr. Vice President of Oracle Marketing Cloud
The biggest advantage of increased customer touchpoints and a multitude of data is the number of accurate information companies could get about the customer. They can now leverage the power of technology and advanced software tools to run personalized and targeted advertisements. It gives the capability to adjust the messaging to individual customers for increased engagements during a campaign.
2. Build customer satisfaction
Manufacturers and OEMs can reduce the overall transaction time using customer insights to connect and extend key business processes. Digital transformation gives an opportunity to provide an enterprise-class, comprehensive, cross-channel solution for managing the complete loyalty life cycle of the customers. Dealerships can now track, reward, and recognize customer behavior in every aspect. This includes tracking and analyzing repeat purchases of products, referrals, social activities, and business with loyalty partners.
3. Increase prospect generation
Running personalized targeted campaigns ensures proper incentives are offered to customers who demonstrate a higher willingness to purchase specific products. It also helps in delivering adaptive, intelligent recommendations through optimized analytics and algorithms.
4. Achieve the coveted 360-degree view of the customer
Digital transformation with proper partners ensures you have single cloud analytics and data platform. It helps you visualize a single, consolidated view of the customer through their entire lifecycle journey. You can now reap maximum benefits after providing the best experiences to your customers.
Look beyond the horizon
The digital transformation in the automotive industry is bringing some big changes for automakers worldwide. It opens up a vast level playing field for all the automotive players. The industry incumbents need to come out of their comfort zones and match stride for stride with technology to succeed. The automakers need to better understand the customer experience demands of their new-gen mobility customers so that they can be provided with new value opportunities.
The pandemic rapidly changed consumers’ behavior toward online channels, and these shifts are likely to stick even after the pandemic is over. To succeed in this new era of online retail, enterprises will have to shift from an omnichannel and multichannel experience to a customer-centric multiexperience mindset.
In the new normal creating multi-experiences is an imperative not just for the retail sector but for enterprises across industries. What this means is retail enterprises will have to move beyond enabling consumers to engage anytime and anywhere to allowing them to interact in any way that is most convenient for them – Srinidhi Rao, Senior Vice President – Solutioning and Account Management
In this article, we will take a look at how the retail sector is evolving and some of the shifts that are enabling the new-age retailers to create customer-centric digital experiences for the experience economy.
The rise of experiential eCommerce for the experience economy
Experiential retail is a term that has gained popularity in the past few years. It enables eCommerce platforms to create an engaging in-store shopping experience – virtually. Experiential retail helps retailers to:
Engage buyers via an immersive and shareable experience
Prioritize customer engagement—not sales
Experience in-store online
Create experiences that not only addresses consumer-specified needs but their latent needs
Augmented Reality has been an enabler in the shift towards experiential retail. AR is not just a vanity technology but also helps shoppers make a purchase decision. Take for example in apparel and fashion, one of the main impediments to online purchasing has historically been the inability for customers to see how items would look on themselves. Jewelry brand Kendra Scott is tackling that problem via their platform, Virtual Try-On, which uses augmented reality (AR), machine learning, and computer vision techniques to enable customers to try out items from the comfort of their home.
Shopify, which allows its merchants to add 3-D models to their product pages, found that conversion rates increased by 250% when consumers viewed 3-D products in Augmented Reality. We MakeUp, the Italian cosmetics brand, created an AR filter on Facebook that allowed users to ‘try-on’ different shades of its lipstick. Users could find their perfect match which increased order placement percentage
Burrow, a DTC furniture brand, is using AR to help customers visualize how their couches will fit in their living rooms. Eyeglass maker Warby Parker is playing in the AR space, allowing people to see what a pair of glasses looks like on their faces before making a purchase.
At Robosoft, we worked with a leading American kids’ retail store to create an engaging digital experience for kids with exciting games, quizzes, stop-motion videos, and interactive AR-based shopping experiences. The app allowed kids and parents to scan in-store items & book pages and experience a game or video experience, get 360-degree views, bring characters to life, and take selfies.
Livestreaming is another trend that the retail sector is leveraging to offer an engaging experience to shoppers. Recently, Nordstrom unveiled its Livestream Shopping channel. Klarna, the payments platform partnered with Cosmopolitan Magazine to host its second “Hauliday by Cosmo x Klarna,” a virtual shopping holiday event in the U.S.
Shift towards niche marketplaces and brand exclusive eCommerce platforms
While the aggregator eCommerce platforms have had success in the recent past, the preference for direct-to-company brand stores is rising. Retail brands see increasing merit in building their own eCommerce platforms. Nike is focussing on its direct business to increase sales from its own website.
In January last year, Ikea said it would be moving away from selling on aggregators – a move which was also taken by retailers like Birkenstock and PopSockets. One of the major reasons for this shift is maintaining brand reputation. According to this CNBC report, Birkenstock’s decision of moving away from an aggregator platform was due to the large number of counterfeits and unauthorized sellers, which it felt had the potential to jeopardize the brand.
We are already witnessing the emergence of niche marketplaces such as Mamoq, ASOS, etc. These marketplaces offer niche product categories like fashion and apparel, vegan and organic products, designer decor, and more. According to a McKinsey report, 35 percent of consumers shop at niche marketplaces, especially for apparel, sneakers and other footwear, and home products.
The reason why retailers are establishing their own Experiential e-commerce platforms
Retailers can offer an experience in line with their brand and create a stronger brand loyalty among their consumers
Consumers get access to a select range of products and services.
Consumers get guaranteed authenticity of a product or a service and no product is sold by multiple sellers as it is on an aggregator platform.
Hyperlocalization for customized experience
According to a Salesforce study, more than 75% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations and offer personalized experiences. One of the ways to engage customers today and leverage personalization is through hyperlocalization. This means tailoring the offering of a store to the specific needs of the local customers. However, Hyperlocallization doesn’t mean offering a unique set of products for every location – rather offering a core minimum assortment (CMA) relevant to ‘most’ of the shoppers of that store.
A hyperlocalization approach includes a wide range of tactics like using analytics to make personalized recommendations, mega brands offering products and services that meet local demand, retailers sending customers localized offers on their preferred channel at the right time (and in real-time), etc.
Now, more than ever, customers are online with a clear intent. With customer behavior evolving at a rapid pace, personalizing the customer experience via hyperlocalization is increasingly delivering results and gaining traction. Incorporating hyperlocalization into the CRM strategy is an important step toward driving growth and giving your brand a competitive edge.
Leveraging data science and analytics will play an important role in driving Hyperlocalization. This case study outlines how a leading grocery retailer leveraged customer data science to personalize its store and digital experiences and drive a more local, personal, and deeper relationship with its customers. They also Integrated its merchandising analytics with its automated assortment planning technology.
Personalizing shopping experience with Voice technology
In 2017, 13% of all households in the United States owned a smart speaker. That number is predicted to rise to 55% by 2022. A Google report suggests, 41% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say it feels like talking to a friend or another person. Voice Assistants can bring the human factor into the online shopping experience.
Voice search personalizes shopping experiences with the use of recommendations based on individual preferences. For example, if a customer uses AmazonFresh to buy their daily needs and is ordering them through Alexa, the voice assistant suggests items that match their diet, based on the preferences that have been communicated to the device. And if an order has to be repeated, voice search can make the task even easier for the user.
With Voice solutions, it is faster and easier to take reviews and feedback from the customers. Voice search is quick and effective when it comes to typing a query and it can also be combined with other activities like cooking, driving, exercising, etc. Recently, Domino’s pizza rolled out a voice assistant feature Dom for automating pizza orders over the phone to ensure that the process is convenient and quick for customers. While the customer can place an order in a non-intrusive manner (can take as much time as they want, change orders multiple times without being embarrassed), it saves manpower, increases speed, reduces manual error, thereby injecting increased efficiency in the process.
According to an Adobe report, consumers typically use voice commerce for re-ordering common household goods such as toilet paper and laundry detergent. For visual or more complex purchases like apparel, flights, or concert tickets, people are focussing on providing a superior user experience to accompany Voice Commerce. At the same time, work is on to address privacy and security concerns related to Voice technologies.
Voice user interfaces are not meant to replace the graphical user interface. Voice complements GUI and is expected to work in tandem. Some considerations to keep in mind while designing a Voice User experience (VUX).
Making purchasing easy on your wallet
E-commerce companies have partnered with Finance companies to offer easy payment options. As a result, EMI purchase is becoming a norm.
Payments company Klarna partners with retailers all over the world to make it easy to pay. Shoppers can use the Klarna app and get flexible payment options anywhere online.
Targeted marketing for higher response and faster conversions
Direct response to simplify user journeys and avoiding huge advertisement costs
Direct response marketing is meant to evoke an on-the-spot response and encourage a prospective customer to take action by opting into the advertiser’s offer. Through direct response marketing is eCommerce brands can send customers targeted messages that drive specific actions—for example, buy a product, subscribe to a service, purchase a plan etc.
Some key elements of Direct response marketing are:
Customer Centricity – Addressing a customer problem upfront.
Personalization and targeting – direct response marketing works best when you have a specific buyer persona in mind
A clear CTA – Every direct response ad includes a clear call to action, compelling a visitor to do something specific.
Tracking and measuring – direct response helps to test the scale of consumer responses with a small campaign before launching a full-volume campaign.
Lookalike audience to expand and reach well-targeted customers.
Expanding the reach of digital marketing beyond the existing customer database with optimal costs and higher conversion is critical for eCommerce platforms to scale-up business. Lookalike audience modeling is a process that can enable that. It involves exposing a small seed audience, known as ‘reference sets’ to the larger universe of data on advertising platforms like Facebook, Google, Outbrain, etc. The attributes of the reference sets are analyzed by the Machine Learning algorithms of these platforms to create a larger dataset that is most relevant to the business.
Some efficient ways of choosing a seed audience for creating lookalike audiences for eCommerce can be based on:
Customer’s LTV – This tactic involves taking picking the dataset of existing customers with the highest lifetime value and use them as a lookalike audience seed. It will help in creating an audience that is likely to generate higher conversions.
Customers’ purchase behavior – creating separate seed audiences for different categories of purchase. For example, for a pharmacy store selling both OTC medicines and bodybuilding supplements, segmenting these product categories into separate lookalike audiences, might yield more results. It will help in presenting the shoppers with ads for products that present a natural continuation of the user journey basis their purchase intent.
Cart Value– creating a seed audience with customers having the highest cart value may mean expanding the dataset to shoppers who can make high-value purchases.
Website engagement metrics – website engagement metrics like time spent on site, scroll depth, etc. can be easily measured via Google Tag Manager, with Facebook also offers data about the top percentage of audiences that shared the highest time on the site within their ads platform. This kind of seed audience can help marketers reach out to audiences that are likely to engage with the platform and eventually make a purchase.
Lookalike audience modeling has become a critical tool for eCommerce marketers to scale-up their reach. A recent report by the IAB and Winterberry Group, suggests that marketers want to “prioritize ‘cross‐channel’ initiatives and maintain a focus on the harmonization of audience experiences across media. Lookalike audience modeling is a great way of doing that since it allows to use of data sets from various mediums to reach the most relevant audiences.
Summing it up
The next normal is still taking shape, and customer expectations will continue to shift in response. Customer expectations, maturity of newer elements of digital, appreciation of experiential commerce, all are coming together to shape the next normal in eCommerce. While digitization is disrupting the retail industry it is the enabler that will help retailers to create digital experiences that buyers seek in an experience economy. Retailers that focus on customer experience, respond with agility and innovation, and create a multi-experience strategy to acquire, engage and retain customers will be able to position themselves as leaders in the evolving turf.
Covid-19 pandemic has caused rapid changes in consumer behavior across categories. Enterprises are striving to recognize this evolving consumer behavior and leverage digital to acquire, engage and retain customers.
In the last few months, US retail sales fell by 8.1% year-on-year – the worst decline since the financial crisis of 2009. In the UK, retail footfalls dipped by 32%, and India saw a 40% drop in consumer spending. Sectors that relied heavily on their physical presence – brick-and-mortar retail have been among the worst-hit sectors during this time.
On the positive side, online businesses have seen a surge in revenues. In the times ahead, the acceleration of e-commerce and the role of digital experiences through apps will be a defining factor in helping retailers connect with consumers to acquire a competitive edge. The outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of digitalization. A CNBC report mentions that 40% of consumers say they have increased or significantly increased their online purchasing.
A key component of the online purchasing has been the video platform. Static images are giving way to streaming videos to better convey product and brand value.
Key benefits of video streaming for retail
Out of sight, out of mind is more pertinent than ever before. Hence it is essential for retailers to use innovative approaches to remain on consumers’ radar. Videos play a crucial role in this as it’s a more visually engaging medium. Let us look at some of the factors triggering the need for video streaming in retail:
Consumer demand drives the popularity of OTT
The lockdown of more than ¼ of the world’s population has propelled the usage of online streaming and entertainment services. In the US, OTT usage surged by 7.5% in April 2020 compared to the same month a year ago. And during the last year, the number of streaming services subscribers surpassed the number of cable subscribers and reached a number of 613 million. Disney+ has had a 75% rise in subscribers since early February. The Discovery+ app that Robosoft helped build has garnered close to 4.5 million installs. This rapid adoption unveils a need for a more human connect which a video meets better than static images or text.
Increasing penetration of smartphones, affordable high-speed data networks, demand for personalized experiences, rise in adoption of smart TVs, and devices such as Fire TV are some of the reasons behind the rise in demand for Video OTT services.
Relevance across categories and use cases
Video OTT is no longer a vertical medium confined to the media and entertainment domain. It is now a horizontal technology that can be integrated into various industries like – education, healthcare, and retail, amongst others. Fortune Business Insight cites Medical Aid and Educational platforms as significant contributors to growth in the streaming video market propelling it to USD 842.93 billion by 2027.
A new format of the familiar – TV home shopping re-invented
The TV channels, as we know it, had a slew of video channels showcasing products. However, the call to action to close the purchase loop was left to consumers calling up a number as there was no easy way to complete the purchase on the TV channel. The OTT technology in retail enables the best of both the worlds: the engagement of TV and the interactivity to explore options, make desired selections at own convenience and importantly place order and make the payment. Recently, the world’s largest air conditioner maker, Gree, sold 44 million USD worth of merchandise on Kuaishou, China’s leading short-video and live-streaming social platform.
Bring alive both the product and in-store experience (Video OTT for Brand promotion and Advertisement)
We have all experienced the gorgeous presentations of products in categories such as food, consumer goods, luxury, etc on the TV channels, evoking an emotion – a desire. Such experience is partially carried forward on social media platforms such as Instagram. According to Forrester, Instagram ads have the highest engagement rate of all digital ad placements. Several categories where visual appeal (food, apparel, interior decor) matters have taken advantage of the format. Video OTT adds a dimension of interactiveness and convenience to this.
Combined with AR/VR, it gives organizations the tool to bring the in-store experience to the digital channel rather than being merely a catalog of static images. In India, jewelry brand Tanishq has clocked a sales of USD 10.3mn in two months during the recent lockdown period through video calls and Whatsapp chats. Now imagine the brands in the retail domain across categories generating similar uptick in revenue using the OTT channel.
Taking a cue from this trend, in July this year, Google launchedShoploop, a video shopping platform for discovering, evaluating, and buying products, all in one place. Similarly, there have been more online video-based shopping apps that have been launched recently – for e.g. YEAY is the first app where products are sold solely through video. Bulbul is another – online Video Shopping app that is from India. Enhancing the online shopping experience further, Dutch Cheese Merchant Kaan lets online customers order artisanal cheese and interact with staff in real-time as if they were actually inside the shop. A setup like Kaan’s Stream Store could fill the missing human element into the often impersonal experience of shopping online.
Foster customers relationships and build loyalty
This is also the time for brands to build a stronger connection with their consumers by personalizing and humanizing their experiences. Videos can help bring the human-connect in the consumer’s shopping experience that is beyond ‘click and buy’.
According to a recent report from Mckinsey, the specialty-apparel and department-store retail channels have already reached peak promotional frequency online, so it will be difficult for brands to break through with clear, differentiated offers that stand out from competition. As the holiday season nears, shoppers will be bombarded with messages about flash sales, BOGO deals and so on which will be lost among a sea of similar emails and digital ads. Retailers will have to re-evaluate their strategies to stand out and Video streaming used effectively can help do that.
Don’t just communicate – engage and entertain – ‘Shoppertainment’
A PWC report suggests that consumers are 50 percent more willing to try new brands at this time. And consumers are spending more time on social media and online streaming platforms. This is a great opportunity for brands to recognize this changing consumer behavior to further their leadership position using Video OTT. Strategies include connect with consumers with effective storytelling strategies using live streaming, influencer marketing, AR/VR, 3600 videos, and more.
The younger generation expects more engaging shopping experiences. Leveraging this trend large retailers are already leading the charge with interactive video. For example, Fandango’s streaming service Vudu has been investing in shoppable ads to uplevel their platform’s e-commerce capabilities. Alibaba has tapped into streaming platform Bilibili to leverage anime video content and get in front of new audience segments.
Further, according to Taobao (Alibaba), there were 400 million users watching its 60,000-plus Livestream shopping shows in 2019. The Livestream channels, hosted by brand stores or influencers, generated 200 billion yuan ($28 billion) last year. Shanghai Fashion Week in late March was fully live-streamed on it: viewers could pre-order the clothes the models were wearing on the catwalk, as well as buy pieces from the designers’ existing collections.
Shorten the buying cycle, optimize costs and expand revenue streams
Video medium could help in shortening the buying cycles by making pertinent features of the product more evident and reduce the number of returns resulting from mistaken selection. Video OTT can also greatly facilitate product exchanges by providing a near live in-store experience. Recently, Galeries Lafayette in France used live video to help launch an exclusive Live Shopping service, where interaction with the store’s personal shoppers are made possible via video. Products can be chosen and confirmed by email with online payment, ready for either home delivery or Click & Collect.
Smaller retailers are also jumping the bandwagon using video platforms to reconnect with their customers. The number of merchants using it for the first time grew by 719% from January to February. Sarah Akram a master aesthetician and founder of Sarah Akram Skincare, which caters to celebrities like Billy Porter and Zooey Deschanel moved to video format to offer virtual consultations and live skincare assessment through Instagram’s live feature.
The video medium has also opened several opportunities for B2C services as well. Shapermint a direct-to-consumer shapewear company recently began streaming live yoga practices, meditations, and home exercises as well as sessions on how to care for children while working from home.
Better analytics for delivering personalized experiences
Video-streaming platforms coupled with a digital backbone can remember customer interaction history and personalize their subsequent experiences. can offer detailed data reviews and analysis are available for a better brand and product sentiment and roadmap. Further, the data from these platforms can help in collecting qualified high purchase intention leads, allowing precise retargeting and remarketing. Roku launched a new shopper data program that is designed to improve targeting and measurement of TV advertising for CPG marketers, with Kroger Precision Marketing (KPM) joining as a launch partner. The information will help CPG marketers better target ads that run on Roku’s platform and tie ad exposure to online and in-store sales.
While going back to normal may happen eventually, some shifts in consumer buying behavior may be permanent. Retailers are already shifting strategies and adapting to today’s current landscape. The pandemic turned more consumers into online shoppers across all categories. Retailers already believe that this could be the new normal. Given that, the audio-visual nature of streaming services will have a powerful impact on consumers as videos are the most engaging of visual media. Videos when done well and in a non-intrusive way can influence shoppers in their buying journey and help accelerate the purchase decision favorably.
Video platforms and live streaming will have a crucial role to play in the future because they offer a sense of community as well as entertainment — two things consumers are yearning for and two critical aspects of shopping. People buy things not just because they need them, but also because of the experience. Videos and live streaming have the potential to simulate a real-life experience, leading to a stronger brand association and hopefully a long-term relationship with consumers.
We live and work in the information economy. Information is sacrosanct. Most struggling organizations I have seen, struggle because either vital information fell between the cracks in the communication chain, or good quality information was never channelled through to the right people in time.
This happens all the time in sales leads, CRM operations, customer discovery, inventory management, and the list goes on. This is why we have processes because we want to ensure that information is passed around as easily and as efficiently as possible. These processes work like a charm in smaller organizations. Information flows around quite fluidly. But as the organization keeps getting bigger, these processes start becoming a big overhead. A lot of times, they act as a crutch rather than an enabler. Communication becomes difficult, and often information is restricted to functional silos as opposed to being spread around the entire enterprise.
Consider a large digital services company. When the on-ground sales representative identifies a potential lead or untapped segment, he emails his boss about it. This, in turn, is relayed to his boss, and then to his boss and so on. However, the higher up the information passes, lower the weightage is attached to it. The next salesperson having a similar idea will face a similar outcome. Thus, the obvious pattern was missed, and the opportunity lost. This affects not only company revenue but also employee morale.
This kind of information asymmetry actually gets more acute in the presence of poorly designed and deployed enterprise solutions. The need of the hour is an easy-to-manage, easy-to-access, centralized application that takes care of all your communication and process needs.
We are talking about Enterprise Mobility Applications (EMA). Let’s take a minute to understand these terms.
Traditional enterprise solutions can be defined as a suite of applications that perform certain functions like CRM, ERP, ticketing platform, internal communications and more. These disparate set of applications serve their own individual purposes. However, as more and more organizations feel the need to start communicating faster and passing information quicker, the suite of enterprise solutions stop becoming the conduit and start becoming the bottleneck. Enter Enterprise Mobility Applications (EMA). EMAs are nothing but enterprise utility applications on mobile phones. These applications are so ubiquitous that they can be installed and run on employee mobile phones also. These mobility solutions can provide employees with the ability to enter and read vital pieces of information without having to wait to get to a computer, or without the fear of it getting dropped off somewhere in the chain. This will definitely help boost business productivity. I am not alone in my thought. In a recent survey by Apperian, 43% of respondents stated that the primary goal of their enterprise mobility applications was improved productivity.
Why Do You Need a Change?
Before we deep dive into the world of EMAs, let’s take a step back and understand why a solution is even required in the first place:
To improve employee productivity that is hampered today by either communication gaps or information asymmetry
To quickly identify new revenue channels or predict the latest trends in the market
To increase your bottom line by eliminating the unnecessary costs of travel and time delays in decision making
To expedite processes that employees find unnecessary but management needs for better control and security
To ensure higher productivity, transparency and thus higher levels of satisfaction of employees
How Employee-Facing Business Processes Are Changing with Digitization and EMAs
Let’s try to understand some specific ways in which enterprise mobility applications are effecting a paradigm shift in the landscape of processes in organizations:
An Instant Communications Platform
Any organization, big or small, realizes the importance of instant communications. But only a large enterprise can appreciate the need for an exclusive deployment of a communications platform for the company. This kind of platform can not only enable the linear model of communication but also transactional and interactional models of communication, and is a huge improvement over emails and personal/verbal notes.
A good example of how a large enterprise has adopted a communications platform for its employees is the Ozone communications platform used by ICICI Lombard. ICICI Lombard wanted to develop an end-to-end solution to serve food using cashless mechanisms in their office premises, provide Bus shuttle booking, Visitor management, Cab and travel bookings etc. As a solution, we built Ozone app to host exclusive services so that employees can get everything need at the click of a button.
This app has helped employees not only communicate amongst themselves better but also better manage their meetings and logistics.
Another real-world example of this is NewsCorp, which has managed to establish strong lines of communication between their 25000 employees using EMAs.
Sales Leads and CRM
Every sales organization understands how critical it is to make timely follow-ups on leads and act on information specific to that customer. No more written notes and disorganized emails. This will help ensure greater horizontal and inter-functional collaboration within the company. A robust and ubiquitous CRM solution helps the entire sales team to rally around information on customers and helps them close out deals faster and more efficiently. A cloud-based CRM solution is any day of greater use and significance than one maintained on desktop applications like excel.
Salesforce is one of the leading CRM solutions in the world. Urban Ladder has greatly improved its abilities to follow up on its customer leads, track SLAs and mine better consumer insights with the implementation.
Supply Chain Management and Inventory Management
No one cares about the timely delivery of services and goods more than the customer. If you delivered on time, you merely lived up to the customer’s expectation. However, if you delay your shipment, you will be branded as inefficient. Having access to real-time updates on the exact location of your inventory (for hard goods) or progress on your project (for soft goods) puts your front-line employees in a good position where they can make educated decisions for their customers. Just in Time delivery models and agile supply chains thrive on the timely availability of critical information.
Another good example is that of Flex, the electronics manufacturer. Using a combination of IoT and cloud computing, Flex has increased connectivity between all stakeholders and consequently, productivity.
Workflows and Approvals
How many times have you had to stall some critical work because you didn’t receive approvals in time?
The prevalence of mobility solutions will ensure that all your approvers will get notified every time they have to approve some workflow, and give them the ability to do so from their mobile phones itself. Prevalence of cloud-based workflow models have fostered faster turnaround times.
A prime example of a solution that helps track workflows and maintain high standards is the BSI Entropy tool. Some of its biggest customers are GlaxoSmithKline and Vodafone, who have managed compliance and their customers better.
Onboarding and Training
If you run a sales organization, and you have new batches of people joining every month, you don’t want to be stuck conducting training throughout the year. A simple application that stores extensive training material on the cloud is the perfect solution to keep your organization agile. Another use case is to keep your executives and top leadership up to date with the latest happenings in the industry and thought leadership articles.
We have worked with the client to create a solution similar to this for Fortinet called the CISO Collective. This application has helped Fortinet executives and CIOs across the globe be on the top of their industry updates and consequently make better decisions.
CVS Health Corporation, the retail pharmacy chain has also ensured higher levels of collaboration between its executives using EMAs.
How to Select Applications That Work for You?
Whether you wish to develop your applications in-house or license them from a third party provider, enterprise app development requires you to follow some simple guidelines before making a decision.
Identify the Gap in Your Current Process
The first step in implementing a technology solution is to always identify the gaps that you want the technology to fill. Often times, companies fall prey to buzzwords in the industry without analyzing the need correctly, which results in a massive failure of the technology and a dip in employee confidence. Multiple ERP system implementations come to mind as examples. If your company can truly benefit from an enterprise mobility solution, you will know it from the information dissemination flows within your units. It is also possible that for various reasons unrelated to the technology, you are better off without the enterprise platform. This first step, though seemingly simple, is the most overlooked step of them all.
Work with the Functions Who Need It the Most
You can’t solve something unless you know what you’re solving for. Instead of imposing solutions on your frontline staff, it is always prudent to spend some time understanding the use cases of the business unit. A deep understanding of the daily operational activities and how these applications will augment the tasks is crucial in choosing the solution. This will give you a good idea of which features are the most important and which need to be shelved for the time being.
Evangelize the Product
A huge roadblock when it comes to adoption of new technology products is the adoption itself. Most teams get set in their ways of operations are often unwilling to move to a new style of working. The key is to target only a small subset of your workforce and test out the product with them. Work closely with the team to see how the product can be tweaked to suit them better. Once you gain the trust and confidence of this team, they become naturally influencers for the product across the company. Going big-bang with any new change is never a good idea. Working with teams while slowly building up confidence is the best and most effective approach.
Incorporate Feedback Regularly
No technology product can cater to 100 per cent requirement of everyone. Certain trade-offs are always required. However, never shy away from incorporating feedback from your teams. They are the ones who use the product daily, and consequently, they are the ones who will have a more informed opinion of it. Apart from making the operations smoother, you are also ensuring that your employees feel heard and appreciated.
Ensure Quick Technical Support
Though adoption is a slow process, rejection of a new solution can be brutally quick. To ensure that employees do not face technical difficulties in working with the product, ensure that they can readily access a technical support team to guide them through their roadblocks and hurdles.
Know the Pain Points Beforehand
In our collective experience of working in the enterprise, we know a few big reasons why such projects never see the light of day. It is in your best interest to know of them before you start the project so that you may be well prepared to circumvent any hurdles. Some reasons cited by other organizations are – the disparity in platform types and OS types; management of BYOD devices for contract employees; no budget from the higher management; prioritization of less important enterprise app features, thus not adding value to the chain. Prior knowledge of such impediments goes a long way in preparing the organization for rough waters.
The Ball Is Now in Your Court
Every organization might not benefit from employing an enterprise mobility solution. But the ones that might, seldom do it the right way. The advantages are evident; the process, not so much. A sensible decision-making body with common sense and an inclination for collaboration is all that is required to ensure that enterprise apps boost employee productivity in your organization.
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