Author Archives: Nikunj Sanghvi

Nikunj Sanghvi
Nikunj leads our Sales and Business Development efforts in the US, out of our San Francisco office. He is a business advisor at heart, given his extensive background in IT consulting across domains. An avid reader, he is up-to-date with tech trends which have an impact on digital experiences.
Featured Mobile Opinion

Digital Transformation in Healthcare – The Evolving Landscape (Updated)

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

In today’s world, the above quote stands true for businesses as well. Digitization is changing the landscape of every industry, and industries that are ready to adapt, and adapt fast will be the ones who will thrive and flourish. Just like many other industries, the healthcare landscape is also experiencing tremendous transformations owing to technology advancements.

The healthcare industry continuously works towards making patient care more efficient and cost-effective. Digitization stands to benefit the industry not just in optimization at operational levels, but across the entire value chain. From hospital management, patient care, managing reports to virtually assisting patients, the positive implications of using technology are innumerable.

As patients become more technology-savvy, digital technologies can reinvent the entire patient lifecycle, enabling a more personalized, timely and cost-effective treatment journey.

Evolution of Technology in Healthcare

Evolution of Technology in Healthcare

Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Smart-hospitals, surgical robots, wearable-tech assisted operations, telemedicine, are just some examples of how technology is revolutionizing the healthcare landscape.

Here is a look at how the healthcare industry is using technologies like AI, mobile apps, IoT, wearables, etc. to improve patient care and reduce costs across the healthcare value chain.

Technology-Enabled care:

TEC or technology-enabled care refers to the fields of telecare, telehealth, telemedicine, mHealth, digital health, eHealth, etc. TEC brings health technology, digital media, and mobile together. It has a profound impact on providing an integrated solution for patient monitoring and care in the health, wellness, and social care sectors.

Below are some examples of how TEC can make healthcare more efficient and cost-effective.

Reducing the patient-care and monitoring costs for patients with long-term ailments:

According to a report by ageuk.org.uk (which referenced a 2017 Horsfield report), approximately 4 million adults (40% of all people above the age of 65) in the UK have some form of a long-term illness. When considering a global scale, this number increases drastically. Patients with long-term conditions make regular hospital visits, require a lot of medication and continuous care. Digitization solutions like patient tracking and path monitoring can help improve the quality of hospital visits (which for a patient with a long-term illness is often), online consultancy and remote condition monitoring can help doctors diagnose issues faster and proactively, and online pharmacies can help get medicines to patients faster and more conveniently.’

Digital and mHealth can improve enterprise processes and improve outcomes:

Mobile Health, or mHealth, is providing medicinal and healthcare services over a mobile device. The healthcare industry is actually one of the top 3 domains to promote and accelerate the growth of mobile devices. According to a report by Statista, the global mHealth market size in 2016 was 21.2 billion US dollars. The projection for the year 2025 is 332.7 billion US dollars, which is an increase of over 15 times!

Digital and mHealth can improve enterprise processes and improve outcomes

 

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The rise in apps provided by the healthcare firms and the high engagement rate of apps have contributed to the prolific growth of this market. Mobile devices have become an integral part of our lives. Both Patients and Doctors can leverage the benefits of going mobile. While it helps patients self-manage and monitors their health, doctors can explore real-time information. Remote monitoring of patients’ health status is another benefit that home telehealth can provide. According to a study by mobius.md, in 2019 there are around 318,000 mHealth apps in app stores. This number almost doubled since 2015. The report further states that over 60% of people have downloaded at least one mHealth app.

4 Dimension of Effective mHealth

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TEC is also helping healthcare providers with information and assistance they require through technologies like medical reference apps.

Athenahealth’s Epocrates is one such app

Epocrates is the point of care medical application by AthenaHealth. More than 1 million health care providers trust Epocrates in the moments of care. Epocrates was released on stage by Steve Jobs when the App store was released.

Epocrates can assist doctors and physicians in:

  1. Reviewing drug prescribing and safety information for thousands of brand, generic, and OTC drugs.
  2. Checking for potentially harmful drug-drug interactions among up to 30 drugs at a time.
  3. Identifying pills by imprint code and physical characteristics.
  4. Access timely medical news and research information.
  5. Find providers for consults and referrals in the Provider Directory.
  6. Select national and regional healthcare insurance formularies for drug coverage information.
  7. Perform dozens of calculations, such as BMI and GFR.

Technology is empowering patients

Technology is also helping patients in getting more information on ailments, symptoms, treatment procedures, etc. helping them to be informed, thus reducing anxiety and apprehension during the treatment cycles.

PatientTalk.com is one such web portal, which leverages the power of video to engage with patients. It is a health care website for patients diagnosed with life-altering medical conditions, both acute and chronic. This network-quality video site features actual patients and health care professionals sharing vital information about the practical, physical and emotional issues that patients face before, during and after initial diagnosis.

Technology is empowering patients

WebMD is another popular online portal for medical information and advice. According to ExpandedRamblings, WebMD received 75 million user visits a month in 2018. Of these, 49 million visits came in through mobile phones.

How Apple is front footing the digital revolution in healthcare

Apple’s new Health app is helping people prone to illnesses stay healthier. The Health app has the ability to incorporate data from thousands of other medical and health-related 3rd party apps, which could be for nutrition, medicine or fitness. The app syncs across devices – iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, etc, and makes medical information immediately available. Features like heart rate monitoring, medication reminders, etc. help patients say on top of their illness.

Wearables in healthcare

 

Wearable tech is a part of the larger wave of technology called IoT, and it is growing at a fast pace. The Apple watch mentioned earlier is an example of wearable tech. According to research done by 3dinsider, over 178 million wearable devices were purchased in 2018. The projected number for 2019 is around 255 million units, which corresponds to a growth of 25.8%. The expected sales value of wearable devices at the end of 2019 is projected to be $42billion. The number of adults who used a wearable device in the US was 39.5 million in 2015 and had increased to 81.7 million in 2018.

Wearable tech has found usage in the healthcare segment beyond just monitoring and tracking the health and fitness data of the user. Wearables continue to evolve as virtual reality applications provide experience-based applications for clinicians and patients.

Wearables for Doctors

When the team at Google announced Google Glass in 2012, they said:

‘We think technology should work for you — to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t.’

Five years down the line the device could not take off, but it opened doors for various industries to put it into use. In 2013, healthcare saw the first-ever application of Google Glass when Dr. Rafael Grossmann recorded a surgical process through Google Glass. In 2015, wearables took another step forward when the first surgery using Google Glass in combination with Olympus 3D imaging took place. Simultaneously, the Olympus Endosuite was fully controlled using the MYO gesture-controlled bracelet. The applications of wearables in healthcare have since gone beyond Google Glass where wearables are used in innovative ways. Here are a few instances:

AiQ Smart Clothing has developed a vital sign monitoring system built into a t-shirt that can monitor users’ heart rate, respiration rate, electrophysiological signals, etc. This t-shirt can be extremely useful during video appointments sessions with doctors, where doctors will not have to rely on the patient’s old reports and get real-time data on their vital stats instead.

Wearable tactile sensor A group of scientists from the National University Singapore has developed wearable liquid-based microfluidic tactile sensors. These sensors can be easily utilized for monitoring critical parameters in biomedical applications, particularly for those that may come in contact with the human skin or where human movement is highly versatile.

A team led by Conor Walsh, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Harvard and founder of the Harvard Biodesign Lab are developing wearable soft robots. The team has developed a soft exosuit that can assist with locomotion and perform small levels of assistance to a wearer and a glove that assists with grasping motions for those with hand impairment.

Next Generation Wearable Medical Robot

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Multi-segment actuators used in the robotic glove enable an assistive range of motions. Image: Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

In the coming years, wearables will not just help in treatments but also in training medical professionals as well – An initiative called ‘Virtual Medics’ team at London Medical School’ aims to use wearables and other technologies to do just that.

Wearables for Patients

Wearable-tech can simplify a patients’ life beyond tracking and monitoring their health. Automation and push notifications can help patients get greater control of self-care, where the device can prompt them to check their weight, pulse, or oxygen levels, and enters results into mobile patient portals. Further, these results can be transmitted to the doctors in real-time. These details, when entered regularly, can predict the risk of ailments like heart diseases and keep a check on them.

Not only wearables help patients self-manage and monitor their health; they help doctors save costs.

E.g. the Zephyr Anywhere’s introduced a BioPatch which is a small device that is attached to a patient’s chest monitoring their vitals minute-by-minute and collecting medical-grade data for doctors’ use. The Biopatch alerts the nurses through smartphones, reducing their effort to physically check a patient every hour. This also helps them to react promptly should a patient need to be attended immediately.

Internet of Things (IoT) in healthcare

IoT is changing the way interactions happen across technologies and devices across industries. The increase in healthcare costs requires modern solutions, and IoT is seemingly the right solution for the benefit of both healthcare facilities and patients. IoT in healthcare manifests as IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) and is the interconnection of medical devices, infrastructure, software applications, health systems, and services. According to research by SmashingBoxes, there will be 40% IoT devices in use in the healthcare industry by 2020.

Internet of Things (IoT) in healthcare

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This growth in the influx of IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) is predicted to save the healthcare industry an estimated $300 billion. The revenue to healthcare facilities from IoT processes is estimated to be over $135 billion by 2025.

Here are some examples of how IoT is changing the healthcare landscape:

OpenAPS – closed-loop insulin delivery

OpenAPS – closed-loop insulin delivery

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OpenAPS is an open and transparent effort to make safe and effective basic Artificial Pancreas System (APS) technology widely available to more quickly improve and save as many lives as possible and reduce the burden of Type 1 diabetes.

OpenAPS is a simplified Artificial Pancreas System (APS) designed to automatically adjust an insulin pump’s basal insulin delivery to keep blood glucose (BG) in a safe range overnight and between meals. It does this by communicating with an insulin pump to obtain details of all recent insulin dosing (basal and boluses), by communicating with a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to obtain current and recent BG estimates, and by issuing commands to the insulin pump to adjust temporary basal rates as needed.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems (CGM)

CGM is an implantable continuous glucose monitoring system, which uses a 90-day sensor underneath the patient’s skin, which measures the blood glucose level and sends it to the mobile app through a smart sensor.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems

Connected inhalers

One of the major advantages of IoT and its subset technology wearables is that both can help and motivate patients especially the ones on a long-term ailment to adhere to their treatments. Propeller’s Breezhaler device is one such device that connects to its digital platform via a sensor, passively recording and transmitting usage data and sends reminders and notifications to the patients, and also insights into the triggers of their asthma attacks, so that they can prevent one.

Connected inhalers

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Ingestible sensors

Proteus Digital Health has invented ‘digital pills’ with ingestible sensors, dissolves in the stomach and produces a small signal which is picked up by a sensor worn on the body, which again relays the data to a smartphone app. Again, the purpose of this technology is helping patients with adherence to treatment.

Ingestible-sensors

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Big Data & analytics in healthcare

Doctors and Physicians have long relied on their judgment while diagnosing an ailment and making treatment decisions. Big Data and Analytics have proved to be a boon for them, with the opportunity to provide evidence-based treatment to their patients. Big Data has opened up doors for doctors to systematically review clinical data and make treatment decisions.

Big data can aggregate individual data sets into algorithms and provides evidence-based on a large pool of data for the right treatment. According to Fingent, the global Big data infusion in the healthcare market is projected to reach $34.27 billion by 2022 with a CAGR of 22.07%. On a global level, big data analytics is expected to be worth over $68.03 billion by 2024.

Some health-care leaders are already leveraging big data and are using it in innovative ways to improve operational as well as diagnostic efficiencies. For e.g.

  • Kaiser Permanente has fully implemented a new computer system, HealthConnect, to ensure data exchange across all medical facilities and promote the use of electronic health records. The integrated system had improved outcomes in cardiovascular disease and achieved an estimated $1 billion in savings from reduced office visits and lab tests.
  • Blue Shield of California, in partnership with NantHealth, is improving health-care delivery and patient outcomes by developing an integrated technology system that will allow doctors, hospitals, and health plans to deliver evidence-based care that is more coordinated and personalized. This will help improve performance in a number of areas, including prevention and care coordination.

Real-time health systems

In this age of data deluge, it becomes critical for the healthcare sector to make sense of this data and drive real value through it. RTHS is helping healthcare providers to process and interpret data quickly, to make it easily consumable by the patients and also use this data for operational intelligence as well. Today’s consumers are used to accessing data in real-time via their mobile devices, and healthcare providers can leverage mobile apps, digital maps, etc. to create a positive patient experience.

Experiential wayfinding is one such way to simplify patients’ journeys and experiences inside hospital premises. Technology providers like Jibestream provide enterprises SDKs that give developers the tools to customize and integrate maps into apps.

Real-time health systems

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare

According to research by Frost & Sullivan, AI in the healthcare industry was valued at 663 million in 2014 and is projected to increase to 6.6 billion by 2021.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare

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The healthcare industry is cognizant of the impact AI can have on improving the healthcare landscape. Technology is helping the healthcare fraternity in predicting diseases and giving a helping hand to doctors in preventing them.

Artificial intelligence already found several areas in healthcare to revolutionize starting from the design of treatment plans through assistance in repetitive jobs to medication management or drug creation. Here are some examples of how the healthcare industry has implemented AI:

AI-based health assistants

AI assistants are helping doctors in optimizing their time by covering a large part of clinical and outpatient services, freeing up doctors’ time to attend to more critical cases.

Your.MD is one such AI-powered mobile app that helps doctors with basic patient symptoms information. The chatbot asks users about their symptoms and provides easy-to-understand information about their medical conditions. The platform has a vast network of information that links symptoms to causes.

The assistant uses natural language processing and generation to provide a rich and fluid experience, and machine learning algorithms to create an intricate map of the user’s condition and provide a personalized experience.

Early and precise diagnosis

AI algorithms can quickly ingest millions of samples in short order and gather useful patterns. The medical fraternity is using this ability of AI to come-up with precise diagnosis early by picking up subtle symptoms as well.

Researchers at Stanford University have created an AI algorithm that can identify skin cancer. Similarly, DeepMind, a Google-owned AI company, is using machine learning to fight blindness in cooperation with NHS. Morpheo, another AI platform helps in the diagnosis of sleep disorders.

Improved patient care and treatment

Some diseases like cancer change the dynamics of the patient’s health at a fast pace. Keeping up with changes and adapting the treatment accordingly becomes critical in such cases. AI is helping in solving this problem.

IBM with its AI-based platform Watson is working on building effective treatment for cancer. It can ingest a massive amount of clinical trial data presenting cancer care teams with a list of effective therapies and treatment options.

AI is also helping patients in adhering to their treatment regimes. One example in this area is AiCure, a mobile app that uses AI and images analysis to control patient adherence to prescriptions.

Healthcare data is sensitive, and healthcare firms have to be very careful about the security of such data. Technologies like Blockchain are helping firms in maintaining the privacy of this huge amount of user data. Morpheo, for instance, uses blockchain to ensure transparency and privacy of patient data on its platform.

Improved patient care and treatment

How healthcare enterprises can succeed with digital transformation

More and more healthcare companies worldwide now understand the importance of investing in digital technologies and including it as a part of their core strategy. According to a report by Statista, the global medical tech industry size is almost 430 billion U.S. dollars. Medical facilities are seeing an equal monetary benefit from tech advancements. The same report states that Johnson & Johnson earned nearly 27 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 through its Medtech services. There still are areas for improvement, as seen in the below McKinsey report:

How healthcare enterprises can succeed with digital transformation

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Healthcare organizations looking forward to adapting digital transformation will have to look at it comprehensively, rather than in silos. Here are four core principles suggested by McKinsey which healthcare enterprises can follow to achieve success with their digital transformation efforts.

  1. Identify and prioritize their critical sources of value; they need to determine the products and services they provide that lead to competitive differentiation and benefit most from digitization.
  2. They must build their service-delivery capabilities—not just in physically integrating and managing new digital technologies but also in implementing new approaches to product development and distribution.
  3. Healthcare companies should look for ways to modernize their IT foundations, for example, upgrading pools of talent and expertise in the IT organization, moving to digital platforms such as cloud servers and software-as-a-service products.
  4. Strengthening their core digital transformation capabilities by developing internal experts with an expertise in digital technologies and approaches.

With technology on its side, healthcare is slowly transforming into a patient-centric industry. Digitization is benefiting both patients and caregivers alike. As technology advances, patients will be more informed and empowered to understand and deal with their ailments. For healthcare providers, digital transformation is opening global opportunities to create cost-effective and more efficient treatments.

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Mobile Opinion

Blockchain and its role in customer experiences across industries

For the last 10 years or so, blockchain technology has gained great visibility and ‘buzz’ in media. Originally meant to serve as the underlying technology for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, it has been portrayed as a panacea for many industries or at least as a ‘must-have’ for enterprises. Aside from the hype, it has received its share of ridicule too from different quarters. So what is the reality? What are the use case of blockchain across industries? Let’s start with the basics:

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is a universally distributed open ledger system. It comprises a sequential list which records every transaction that has ever occurred in a process. A blockchain is made up of many blocks containing user transactions – and each block points to the previous block. The process of adding new blocks is called mining – a concept made popular in the context of Bitcoin, the crypto currency system. It needs to be clarified that blockchain is not  bitcoin – the technology behind the latter is blockchain. Interestingly, blockchain is referred to as a meta technology as it impacts other technologies. Over the years many blockchain systems have been developed: Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric and Ripple to name a few.

Some of the hallmarks of blockchain which play a role in its acceptance include:

  • Distributed trust
  • Chronological nature and time stamp
  • Immutability
  • Cryptographic seal

Blockchain: impact beyond finance

The popular perception is that blockchain technology is utilized only by the finance industry. However, the basic nature of the technology makes it suitable for usage across domains.

The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.

~ Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016).

A few major applications of blockchain include:

A few major applications of blockchain include

 

  • Smart Contracts: any contractual transaction and agreement which is digital
  • Record Keeping: usage across healthcare, real estate, voting
  • Securities: global payments, P2P lending
  • Digital Currency: equity markets, crowdfunding

There are several types of blockchain systems including:

There are several types of blockchain systems including

 

  • Ethereum: Mature Smart Contracting Cross-Industry Platform
  • Hyperledger Fabric: B2B-focused Modular Blockchain Platform
  • R3 Corda: an Operating System for Financial Services
  • Ripple: Enterprise Blockchain Solution for Global Payments
  • Quorum: Enterprise-focused Version of Etheruem

Let’s look at some use cases across select domains:

Retail

Blockchains can help retailers that offer gift cards and loyalty programs make those systems cheaper and more secure. Gyft, an online platform for buying, sending and redeeming gift cards that is owned by First Data, has partnered with blockchain infrastructure provider Chain to run gift cards for thousands of small businesses on the blockchain — the new program is called Gyft Block.

Travel

Singapore Airlines launched KrisPay – a digital blockchain wallet that allows frequent fliers to convert air-miles into digital currency. It will enable travelers to spend their air miles at retail establishments, hotels, petrol stations and other partner merchants.

Logistics

Moving freight is a complex process involving different parties with different priorities. An IoT enabled blockchain can store the temperatures, position, arrival times, and status of shipping containers as they move through the system. Indelible blockchain transactions ensure that all parties can trust the data and take action to move the product quickly and efficiently.

Banking

Majority of banking systems are built on a centralized database, which makes them more susceptible to attacks as all information is stored locally in one place. Also, many banking systems are outdated and are, therefore, more vulnerable to new forms of cyber-attacks. With banking systems built on top of blockchain technology chances of fraud and data theft can be reduced as the distributed ledger technology encrypts and verifies every single bit of data in a transaction.

Automobile Industry

Volkswagen AG is testing three concrete potential applications for distributed ledger technology: mileage clocking system, protecting cars from hackers (for Porsche) and streamlining business contact between providers and customers of electric charging stations.

Real Estate

Blockchain can play a role in buying property to conducting due diligence to enabling crowd-sourced investments. For example, Hilton Worldwide has begun using a blockchain-based property management system. The Dubai Land Department authority used blockchain in Ownership verification, property sale by the developer and smart leasing process.

While Blockchain has use cases across domains its use in Digital Health, Pharma & Life Sciences can perhaps be the most impactful. Currently the healthcare industry faces three major challenges in data collection, data accessibility and data privacy.  To illustrate, counterfeit drugs is a major problem in the healthcare industry: 10% to 30% of the drugs sold in developing countries are counterfeit. WHO estimates that 16% of counterfeit drugs contain the wrong ingredients, while 17% contain the wrong levels of necessary ingredients. Blockchain technology can play a role in drug traceability as the manufacturer produces the drug and marks it with a unique code after which a hash is produced. According to a definition, hashing is the process of taking an input of any length and turning it into a cryptographic fixed output through a mathematical algorithm. Various subsequent steps between the wholesaler, pharmacist and the patient are then added to the blockchain.

Applications of blockchain in healthcare include:

Applications of blockchain in healthcare include

 

  • Solving for Interoperability
  • Securing supply chain
  • Giving patients control of their data
  • GDPR and HIPAA compliance
  • Smart contracts and automation
  • Accelerating clinical trials and R&D

Clinical trials have data management issues leading to inefficiencies in time management. Blockchain can solve such issues by standardizing data sharing. Robosoft’s Blockchain Solution utilizing distributed ledger scripted smart contracts based on Hyperledger Fabric offers guaranteed anonymity required for PHI, fully audited verification of data and more.

As a Top App Development Companies for enterprises, we truly appreciate the role of emerging technologies in crafting digital experiences. Among emerging technologies which have the potential to deeply impact the digital experience and the process behind it, blockchain seems to garner great share of voice. Connect with us to discover how blockchain can play a role in your enterprise.

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Mobile Opinion

Everything You Need to Know About Smart Home Automation Technologies

What Is Smart Home Technology?

Did you remember to turn off all your house lights in the morning, adjust your thermostat, or arm your security system before you left for work or on an extended trip? Smart home technology today enables users to manage these small but significant tasks to reduce the stress and costs associated with these household necessities.

“Smart home” is an umbrella term for the automation, digitization and interconnection of household tasks that can be set up automatically and controlled remotely, thereby making our daily lives more efficient. The United States alone will see over 42 million smart home devices installed by end of 2019. Globally, experts predict the home automation market will reach $21.6 billion by 2020 and upwards of $53.5 billion by 2022.

Smart Home Automation Technologies

Smart home technology as we know it began with the invention of the thermostat; today’s uses include home security, energy use monitoring, remote elderly or disability care, appliance and lighting control, and many more. The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the connecting of devices to the Internet (home appliances, thermostats, vehicles); tech like voice assistants and AI also form a part of home automation. According to ADT, a leading home & business security provider, nearly 4 in 5 smart home device owners preferred to control their device through voice command.  In this post, we cover technologies that are fuelling the growth of home automation, the security concerns associated with these innovations, and a few notes on the future of home automation.

Recent Innovations in Smart Home Technology

In the past, home automation technology varied from country to country, but advances in industry standards have enabled manufacturers to focus their efforts in improving the connectivity through mesh networking. Current major players include Google (Nest), Alexa, Apple (HomeKit), Amazon (Echo), Belkin, Wink, Logitech and Honeywell. Smart speakers are the second most common type of smart devices in home (with Smart TVs being the most popular) with wireless audio gaining in popularity.

Throughout most of 2017, home automation applications revolved primarily around security and thermostat control. In 2018, however, these devices were actually speaking to each other, connecting users to their homes and devices through a platform-focused approach. We saw data and analytics give homeowners a more comprehensive understanding of household operating expenses, and remote access gave them control over how effective those devices were practically helping them live simpler lives.

One of the recent innovations in smart home tech, WooHoo is a central hub for controlling all IoT devices in your home. This wifi-enabled device uses a 360-degree camera to detect which household member is speaking, using both voice- and facial-recognition software to learn the commands and preferences of each member. “If you’re in a smart car and you’re coming home,” explains Joseph Santos, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at Smart Beings, “it will interact with your vehicle and know that someone is coming home, so it will turn on the thermostat, turn on the lights.”

Smart Home Automation Tech

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Reactive Technologies uses smart meters and IoT devices (smart grid technology) to merge the telecommunications and energy sectors to better manage energy consumption for its users across specific regions. Through a recent project in France, Reactive is changing the “energy consumption of fridges and freezers in hundreds of retail locations, making adjustments throughout the day to free up energy when energy demand is high.”

While these changes don’t make a huge impact per household, smart home devices can collectively help reduce energy consumption and not only cut costs per household but also ensure that energy is better distributed to reduce both shortages and overages in the long run.

Security and Privacy Concerns

Convenience in the Digital Age has prompted us to share our digital footprint with a number of companies, which they use to create and market products they think we’ll use. With the advent of smart home technology, users are also sharing their physical footprint, both at home and while away. “It is not a matter of if but when these systems will be compromised, and the consequences could be much more severe than lost social security numbers,” shares Dimitri Stiliadis of Aporeto. “Addressing security and privacy will become a fundamental concern that will shape this industry.”

For example, many people leave their lights on while they’re traveling in the interest of deterring would-be burglars. Security concerns that can be addressed with something as simple as a lighting system app that allows you to remotely access your lights with a variety of controls while away offers the peace of mind needed to enjoy a vacation.

Homeowners may also be concerned that their home could be vulnerable to a hack or break-ins, such as having their home security apps fail, being robbed, or having their passwords leaked. For others, they’re concerned “about the privacy implications of living and working among so many Internet-connected cameras and microphones.” Some experts are also worried that IoT is “a security nightmare” because many technology companies don’t possess the technical and practical expertise required to ensure their consumers’ data is protected at a high level.

As with anything technology-related that handles consumers’ personal information, companies in the smart home space must prioritize privacy and security strategies to minimize the risks involved when these situations arise.

The Future of Home Automation

The latest home automation devices not only use wifi but also AI, “the ability to learn patterns, recognize faces and voices”, to gather and learn about the user and what their preferences are. The smart home tech that harnesses the power of voice control through your phone, television, and car is becoming more ubiquitous; companies that prioritize devices that can seamlessly integrate with smart home features and apps will see a distinctive edge in the marketplace.

Devices sharing homeowners’ data with businesses will be the next big thing…imagine having your refrigerator order your groceries for you because it already knows what items you are low on, or your light fixtures sending an order to Amazon for new bulbs when they’re nearing the end of their lifecycle.

Expect to see greater cross-compatibility across devices and platforms, and apps that allows users to control more than one aspect of their home (ie: not just lighting, but also heating, security and appliance control). IoT appliances will also take on more of the workload, alleviating the burden on homeowners…such as having your crockpot connected to your smartphone, so you know when dinner will be ready, or heating your home to your preferred temperature 30 minutes before you arrive, rather than waiting for the heat to kick in after you walk in the door.

As the technology continues to evolve, we won’t even need to manually set up these automations. AI tech will enable these devices to not only learn our preferences over time, but to also anticipate our needs and those of our family, leading to a truly automated lifestyle.

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Mobile Opinion

How Technology Impacts Omnichannel Experiences for Consumers

Technology has caused major upheaval in the retail landscape — from smartphones to social media to e-commerce — and has permanently altered both the ways in which retailers entice customers and the way people shop.

Individual consumers can more readily adapt to new technologies; smart retailers, however, are taking a futuristic approach to adopt technology to entice the consumer, by researching which established and emerging tech will help to further their brand and presence both online and offline.

People still value shopping for the inherent experience of picking out the products they need and love and don’t view shopping as simply transacting with retailers. Omnichannel approaches consider how people use technology and offer repeatable, consistent service that anticipates what they’ll want.

Shifting Consumer Behaviors Online and Offline

According to Forrester’s The State Of Retailing Online 2019 report, stores are growing but so are eCommerce expenses. So the industry continues to face the reality of physical store dominance combined with the necessity of digital presence. In fact, it goes beyond mere digital presence but fully optimizing various digital technologies and channels. In this context, it is important to highlight that many enterprises confuse multi-channel presence as being omnichannel. The former is about gives an opportunity to interact with the brand across channels but the latter makes it personalized and seamless. A truly omnichannel experience is a catalyst for both online & offline purchase – such shoppers spend 15% more per purchase than those who shop just on one channel.

The influence of digital in offline purchases is also a reality. According to a 2018 article, multi-touchpoint consumers are very valuable, and, by 2021, digital touchpoints will influence 41% of U.S. and 38% of E.U. offline retail sales.

A report from Digital Consumer Study also found that over 50% of consumers say they have used their mobile device to price-match, research product information, or make a purchase within the last three months.

Retailers are using technology to offer customized online experiences

Research shows that updates and changes in mobile payment, customer service chatbots, and AI-driven digital assistants have catapulted mainstream adoption of technology in retail, creating the feel of more “bespoke” shopping experiences. With more intuitive technology comes the ability for retail leaders to manage a nuanced approach to their omnichannel strategy.

Taking a cue from this shift in consumers’ shopping habits, retailers are striving to build relatable marketing campaigns, friendly customer service, rewards for customer loyalty, and personalized shopping suggestions that can help create an amazing omnichannel experience.

Retailers are using technology to offer customized online experiences

Retailers are using new-age digital solutions to engage with consumers offline

Consumer offline buying behavior has been shifting as well, and while more than half of shoppers view online shopping as cold and impersonal, three-quarters of cross channel shoppers expect the same high-quality customer service online as they would expect to receive offline.

A report from Ernst & Young (E&Y) states:

“Compared to offline grocery shoppers, high-use early adopters of online grocery shopping reduced their spending at physical grocery stores (by 18% in the first month and 4.5% over two years). Interestingly, shoppers’ new spend on online grocery sites was higher than their reduction in offline grocery dollars, indicating that online grocery platforms might also cannibalize offline retailers with overlapping assortments such as restaurants and drugstores.”

How omnichannel retail experiences are changing with technology

Omnichannel incorporates multiple touch points through both technology and in-person interactions to curate a seamless user experience for consumers. Importantly, it differs from multi-channel, in that omnichannel accounts for every platform that users will access and integrates these multiple channels so effectively that a consumer’s interaction is consistent across websites, social media accounts, apps, and in store.

Retail leaders should keep in mind that the priority or focus in developing a seamless omnichannel experience for consumers is not strictly to drive sales and revenue, but rather to build and maintain customer loyalty in their brand(s), creating lifetime customers.

Channels Involved in Omnichannel Experiences

Buying cycles have changed due to digital experiences. Mobile apps now offer rewards programs for customer loyalty and coupons for discounts both online and offline, and more than half of people state that they’d be willing to get discount notifications and coupons via text message. Almost one-third of shoppers browse products at a nearby retail store and then shop online to find the lowest prices and confirm quality.

Online shopping is undeniably convenient, but it’s still an inherently impersonal channel; 75% of cross channel shoppers want the same quality of customer advice provided online as in-store (chatbots). Digital assistants offer customized product suggestions with the personal information consumers share online. Voice assistants can offer faster, more personalized customer service, after either an online or offline purchase is made.

Channels Involved in Omnichannel Experiences

Customers also use mobile technology while in the store, great news for companies with a mobile marketing strategy. This includes push marketing using location-based advertising for suggested products while walking through a store; displays that offer on-the-spot, discounts-based, past-purchase history; mirrors that provide a 3D view of customers wearing products; and real-time inventory checks on items in-store.

Social media content marketing has reshaped the way we shop, too (for example, Instagram’s recent update to allow users to immediately purchase products they see in their feed).

Omnichannel Retail Experiences in Retail Today

Large offline retailers such as Walmart have focused resources on building up their online shopping support; on the flip side, online retailer Amazon has been acquiring brick and mortar stores, such as Whole Foods or their pilot AmazonGo location in Seattle.

  • Digital Mall of Asia (DMA) recently announced a partnership with Robosoft to recreate in-store experiences through a “high-tech virtual mall,” where customers can try out digital products much like they would in store.
  • In the States, Bonobos has created a store where customers can visit and try on various items, but they must purchase online; termed a “guideshop,” these stores “guide” customers to find the perfect fit. Orders are then placed online and shipped to their homes.

In conclusion, retailers can create a memorable experience through a seamless, nuanced approach. Staying abreast of changing technologies and updated methods of communication with consumers will enable you to adapt to changing consumer wants and needs. It’s “Digital Darwinism,” a world in which the most adaptable companies will survive.

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Mobile Opinion

[Webinar] How to build and grow an audience for mobile apps

Last Thursday, we conducted a webinar on how to build and grow an audience for mobile apps. The webinar was conducted in association with Pyze Inc., with Nikunj Sanghvi and Prabhjot Singh being the hosts. In case you missed the webinar, here some salient points discussed.

First, some hard truths:

  • 77% of users never use an app again 72 hours after installing.
  • 34% of app usage lasts less than one minute
  • 92% of the 4+ million apps fail

It was emphasised that the chances of success will increase only if the app engagement increases and we give enough reasons for the user to keep using the app again and again. And the only way to improve app engagement is to make every user interaction memorable and delightful.

Further, the following tips were shared on building apps for growth:

1. Use device sensors & features: smartphones and mobile operating systems come with incredible features nowadays. Apps should attempt to make use of device sensors, integration with in-built hardware features, OS gestures to improve interactivity and engagement. The WWF Together app was showcased as a reference.

2. Appeal to user instincts & emotions: understanding the consumer and using insights about their behavior towards the category is a key element for success. This was demonstrated through the use of a ‘bargain’ (a trait common among Indians while shopping) feature in an e-commerce app

3. Architect with scalability and flexibility in mind: an app which scaled from a simple recharge and bill pay app into a full-fledged e-Commerce space one was showcased – the scalable architecture helped them build customizable UIs to showcase products in different verticals

4. Think beyond the app: in many cases, it helps to think of your offering as a service, and not just an “app”

5. Adopt new features and update often: frequent updates help apps to remain on top of users’ minds and drive increased engagement and growth.

6. Go native when applicable: a native app has access to features and hardware that a cross-platform app often does not

The second half of the webinar focused on organic growth. It was highlighted that while some top app publishers generate over
$1M of revenue a day, most app publishers make less than $500 a month. The key, it was pointed out is that app publishers who use data intelligence are growing while a majority struggle. Top apps from Facebook, LinkedIn, King, Niantic, Supercell & others use sophisticated intelligence to Engage, Retain & Grow users.

The 5 pillars of growth intelligence are:

  • Deep Understanding of user behavior
  • Behavioral User Clustering & Macro analysis
  • Right-time per-individual Interactions
  • Automate engagement, retention & growth
  • Personalized content, experience & interactions

Want to know more? We have a recording of the webinar which you can watch at leisure. Just head over here to signup and we will send you the link.

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Mobile Opinion

How Artificial Intelligence Is Taking the Healthcare Industry by Storm

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been steadily transforming the healthcare landscape. From faster drug discovery, preclinical and clinical development, precision medicines, robotic surgeons to digital health consultations, chatbots and wearable sensors, the healthcare sector is seeing multiple applications for AI.

By 2021, the AI-enabled healthcare industry is projected to grow to $6.6 billion USD (a CAGR of 40 percent). Beyond personalized patient care the focus with AI technology has also been to decrease the costs of operations across the healthcare sector, faster drug discovery and error-free, efficient & secure clinical trials process.

In this article, we briefly explore five aspects of healthcare where AI is being implemented to dramatically improve the processes and helping in faster drug discovery, build efficient R&D capabilities, deliver personalized care and maintain data security.

AI and Pharmaceuticals – Research, Discovery and Development

Pharmaceuticals are a fairly new avenue for AI in the healthcare industry, with the potential to significantly disrupt the process that companies follow for drug R&D and make their way into everyday medicine cabinets. The average time for a drug to go from the lab to the patient is 12 years (CBRA). Of the drugs that go from preclinical testing to actual human trials, only 5 out of 5,000 (1/10th of a percent) ever make it through successfully, and, even then, only one is approved. Numbers from Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development show that average costs for new drug development are $2.6 billion.

There is a clear need for clinical research organizations to determine if new, improved methodologies using AI can be discovered to speed up this process in order to put necessary medications in the hands of those that need them. So how can AI actually help with the research, discovery and development of more life-saving medication with fewer hurdles and fewer costs?

Berg Health, a US-based biopharma company, takes a patient’s biological information and uses AI technology to highlight why some people are able to overcome diseases based on a patient’s genetic markers and the environments in which they live. This data is then compiled to propose more efficient treatments and suggest improvements for future treatment, which helps “in the discovery and development of drugs, diagnostics and healthcare applications.”

Atomwise conducted a search of existing drugs with the intention of redesigning them to treat Ebola, without having to start from scratch to find a treatment. From this search, Atomwise found two drugs that fit the criteria to reduce Ebola infectivity using AI technology; as a result, they were able to find a possible avenue within 24 hours.

AI and Bioscience – Biomarkers and Computer Simulations

AI can be implemented in the complex and ever-evolving realm of biosciences, and there are many big-name players and startups stepping up to design cognitive computing to address healthcare needs and the widespread adoption of AI-enabled life science.

One particular avenue would be research and development of modelling and extrapolation from the findings of the vast amounts of health data we’ve collected over the past few decades. Better models allow for better hypotheses and more refined research, leading to more detailed genome profiling, more effective advances in medical devices, better training of practitioners, and more personalized care methods.

Google’s approach to AI in health-tech is its DeepMind Health project, which combines ML and neuroscience research to create powerful learning algorithms that mirror the neural networks of the human brain. This project has brought together world-class researchers, clinicians, patients, and technology experts to solve the healthcare problems we see today to find solutions in the very near tomorrow.

Saama has been implementing a Life Science Analytics Cloud (LSAC) in order to meet the challenges faced with drug trial planning and feasibility, preclinical operations, and contingency plans for adverse drug reactions (their pilot program ran throughout 2018 with several pharmaceutical partners).

AI-enabled Medical Devices

Mainstream attention of AI medical devices has been primarily focused on wearables and sensors in the health and wellness industry, including Apple Watch, Fitbit, Garmin monitors, and apps on our mobile devices that track activities, activity levels, heart rate, and sleeping hours.

More cutting edge AI technologies, however, are focusing on actual medical care and improvements in the personalization and quality of healthcare for current and future generations.

The AiCure app is a real-time monitoring solution that confirms whether or not a patient has taken their medications and if they’re taking them at the correct intervals, a feature that is particularly useful for patients who often forget their medication or who go against a doctor’s advice. The app uses a patient’s mobile camera or webcam and AI-enabled technology to confirm that the dose and time taken are correct, supporting the management of their own health.

Face2gene is a search and reference solution that scans a patient’s face and references that information against a database to spot signs of possible disorders. Another example is Remidio, which has been successfully used via a patient’s mobile device to offer a diagnosis for diabetes simply by analyzing photographs of a user’s eye.

AI and Precision Medicine

Medical companies in the past have prioritized working with products that use historic, evidence-based healthcare. However, as we enter the 4th Industrial Revolution, companies are evolving their solutions and products using AI, VR/AR, and robotics to deliver outcome-based, preventative care.

Using these advances in technology, practitioners are able to more accurately assess “down to the familial and individual level, which one day may even be able to predict and thereby prevent disease.”

We’re seeing real-life advances in fields such as mammograms, where AI tech is able to review and read mammograms “30 times faster with 99% accuracy” and drastically cut down the number of unnecessary biopsies.

Other examples include Deep Genomics, which uses massives sets of genetic data and patient records to determine patterns of diseases and mutations that help doctors discover what happens in a cell when DNA has been altered through natural or therapeutic methods, and Human Longevity, a genome sequencing scan that offers patients an incredibly detailed exam with the added functionality of early-stage cancer or heart disease detection.

AI and Data Security

Massive amounts of data have been generated in the healthcare industry, from patient histories and medical treatment records to the recent stream of data from wearables in the fitness world.

Good quality data and analytics have often been priced so prohibitively due to the tremendous time and effort of curating what is truly useful and relevant. In addition, the majority of this data (nearly 80%) remains outside of a database or other searchable data structure.

An estimated 4 zettabytes of health-related information was generated in 2013 (4 trillion gigabytes); some are projecting the volume of data will increase tenfold by the year 2020…up to mind-numbing yottabyte proportions.

Researchers and practitioners in the past have been limited to the data they personally know or what their organizations own on (often) archaic systems. Using basic search engines such as Google doesn’t provide the detailed, relevant data required because these algorithms aren’t designed for the intricacy of life sciences and medical research.

A human-centric industry, healthcare is riddled with errors and potential fraud, making the implementation of AI applications ever more critical to protect sensitive data and prevent the exploitation of patients.

Cybersecurity in medicine alone is expected to be a $2B industry by 2021, with more enhanced ways to protect patient data and treatment histories. Experts have estimated that roughly $17 billion a year could be saved by tightening and improving existing security/cybersecurity measures with AI…an area that has traditionally relied on manual and time-intensive processes.

An increasing number of hospitals are being hacked, as many of their devices and systems are connected to the Internet and open to the outside, where they can be hacked. CyberMDX had recently discovered a vulnerability in their syringe pump that allowed hackers to control the device and give patients lethal doses of their medication. In this instance, companies, hospitals, and “advanced cybersecurity solutions could use machine learning” to more quickly understand weak points and detect unusual or suspicious activity to prevent these attacks in the future.

Summary

As decision makers, you need “the most current, relevant, and contextual data at your disposal to make the best decisions…AI is making it possible to crawl the endless sources of information out there and provide real-time analytics for [your] organizations.” (Future of Everything)

We have seen a significant increase in long-term illnesses, chronic diseases, and an aging population, rising costs of drig discovery – all factors that contribute to rising costs and workload on the healthcare, pharma and biosciences sector. Many companies, however, have been focused on solutions that only meet the needs we currently have, not the ones we will experience in the future…and this neglects to accommodate for our limited resources and the necessary shift from short-term institutionalized care to longer-term complex care requirements.

While regulations and compliance standards often hamper or inhibit the adoption of technology in the healthcare industry, “the good news is that many of the latest regulatory requirements are compatible with AI exploration.”

Executives and decision makers from pharmaceutical companies to hospitals to clinical research organizations can prepare for a compliance-focused approach with AI-enabled technology. They can do this through industry standards to adhere to; careful consideration of drawbacks and possible solutions of AI; training and education on AI technology for their teams and practitioners; transparent communication with the public about both the benefits and risks of AI-enabled medical technology; and gradually driving these innovations within their own organizations in order to measure their success, affordability, and effectiveness for future medical practices.

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Mobile Opinion

How to create a Digital Transformation model for an insurance firm

Digital transformation is changing the face of every industry today. Though the insurance sector has been a late adopter of the technology boom, it is definitely catching up. Digital transformation has become a priority for many insurers and that’s why they are investing not just in technology but are also building teams adept in taking their digital strategies a step ahead. According to a 2019 survey done by Accenture, 40% of the insurers say technology can improve customer loyalty and around half as many say it can help in boosting operational efficiency.

For most insurers going ‘digital’ implies having online portals, a mobile app, some automated processes etc. While this may be a good start, it will still keep them at a very nascent stage of the ‘digital transformation’ journey.

Imbibing true transformation will require a change in the broader ecosystem, including both front-end and back-end systems

Digital Transformation in insurance –need and the opportunities

In the near future, the insurance marketplace is going to exist and operate out of the digital environment. Earlier, going digital was mostly limited to e-commerce, but with the rapid adoption of the internet, mobile, technologies like wearables, social media, big data and cloud computing the need to go digital is irrefutable and opportunities are immense.

The digital disruption in the insurance sector is primarily driven by market forces like changing consumer preferences, competitors, technology innovations and the ever-changing regulatory model.

Here is a view on how these factors are changing the insurance landscape.

Changing consumer preferences

By 2021, e-commerce sales are expected to reach $4.5 trillion nearly double its value from 2017. However, the insurance sector has a long way to go when it comes to providing seamless and delightful digital experiences.

Customers are demanding more customized and digitally optimized solutions from insurers. 90% of insurance respondents say that in five years, consumers will buy most of their insurance through online and mobile apps. However, the sector has taken only baby steps to cater to those. While nearly half of the customers expect more digital transactions, a survey suggests only 22% of insurers have launched personalized, real-time or mobile solution.

Changing consumer preferences

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The paper-based processes and legacy systems of the insurance sector rarely meet the expectations of today’s technology-savvy consumer. Hence, consumers prefer digitally mature insurance partners who can provide faster and advanced solutions.

With the number of mobile users set to cross the $5 billion mark in 2019, today’s consumer is more connected than ever. Their expectations have also risen. Today’s digitally savvy consumers expect their insurers to provide value at every stage of the sales cycle and even post-purchase.

Prudent insurers are already using digitization to provide consumers personalized experience. According to Oracle analysts, insurance companies deem customer experience more important than the product or sustainable growth.

Many insurers are already moving away from mere transactional relationships with the consumer, to a more engaging one. They are looking at partnerships beyond financial enterprises to provide value-added services to their customers. For e.g. “Panasonic Smart Home & Allianz Assist” have partnered to provide integrated solutions which provide home monitoring and control systems along with home protection services. This solution protects people’s home from potential damage like break-ins, glass/window breakage, water leakage etc.

The emergence of a new breed of competitors

Legacy insurers are waking up to competition not just from direct insurance players but also from Insuretech start-ups. While new entrants impose significant competition for the established players, many foresee competition coming from outside the insurance industry.

According to a survey, 74% of insurers believe that some part of their business is at risk of disruption from Insurtech startups moving into their market.

Digital stalwarts like Amazon and Walmart are capitalizing on the insurance industry’s sluggish evolution into the digital world to disrupt the market and scoop their share of the insurance space by catering to niche customer groups. Digital maturity is enabling these competitors to move and innovate with agility and offer personalized customer experience.

The rise of aggregators’ business model has also given the power in the hands of consumers to compare quotes and coverage from multiple players, hence making the competition even stiffer for insurers.

Technology Disruption in the Insurance sector

The emergence of technologies like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), Predictive Analytics, Telematics etc., presents a huge opportunity for insurers to collect and exchange data about consumers, identify new growth opportunities and personalizing consumer experience.

Here is how the rise of technology is disrupting the insurance space:

Blockchain – Increasing digital transactions, complex compliance protocols third-party payment channels fraudulent claims, etc. are some of the challenges that the insurance sector faces. According to Mckinsey, five to ten percent of all insurance claims are fraudulent. This is where the insurance sector is starting to see the potential of blockchain technology. For instance, Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative, B3i, launched by organizations such as Swiss Re, Aegon, Allianz, Munich Re, and Zurich aims to explore the potential of distributed ledger technologies to better serve clients through faster, more convenient and secure services.

Internet of Things (IoT) – Insurers are using IoT and the ever-connected ecosystem to provide proactive solutions to consumers. IoT is opening up non-traditional insurance data to insurers which could reveal risk factors, enabling insurers to offer a price differentiation or new value propositions.

Mobile-Based Telematics – Mobile-based Telematics enables innovation in usage-based insurance (UBI). Telematics mobilizes the data collection process using telecommunications and information processing tools. Right now, it is largely used in the auto insurance sector where data collected through mobile devices deployed in the vehicles can help in analyzing driver behavior and provide customized services accordingly.

Predictive Analytics – Predictive analytics techniques can help insurers analyze real-time data from the web and social networks and reach out to the right audience with personalized products and services.

Gamification – Gamification as a tool helps in gaining higher customer engagement. Insurers are using it to incentivize customers through rewards and loyalty points or discounts. Gamification apps using fitness data from wearables can help insurers to incentivize with lower premiums for maintaining healthy habits.

Artificial Intelligence – According to IDC, by 2020 the amount of data available will grow 10-times, and there will be 1.7 megabytes of new information created every second for every human being on the planet. In the next few years, we will be collecting more data on how people make decisions on a day-to-day basis and this will give insurers more understanding of the personal risk attitudes of people and therefore drive better insurance products and coverage in new areas.

AI can be useful in analyzing real-time data and assist with fraud identification, identifying subrogation opportunities, shorten claims cycle time, improve claims forecast etc. According to a survey, 79% of insurance executives believe that AI will revolutionize the way insurers gain information from and interact with their customers.

In 2017, Lemonade Insurance made headlines when its AI Jim settled a claim in less than 3 seconds, while the topmost insurers take 316,800 times longer to complete the settlement vs Jim.

Changing regulations of the insurance industry

The compliance regulations of operations in the insurance industry are constantly changing and the legacy systems requiring tons of paperwork is not built to keep up with the ever-changing nature of the industry. Automated digital platforms make it easier for insurers to comply with regulatory guidelines, reduce the number of resources required for managing compliance and mitigate risks.

The insurance industry is seeing the emergence of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) to deal with the ever-changing regulations system. RPA can help in capturing the changes in the business rules, interpret data sources and communicate the changing compliance regulations to the current systems.

Creating a successful digital transformation model for insurance firms

Becoming a digital insurer is not just about implementing technology at an organizational level. Instead, it’s about creating a wider platform that can connect customers, partners, and employees all at the same time.

Here is how insurers can implement a successful digital transformation plan for their organization.

Mapping your digital maturity

Assessing where you lie in the digital transformation map is the first step towards this journey.

The ‘Not Digital’ status was common for most insurers several decades ago, when everything was produced through a paper-based model. For many legacy insurers, it is still a reality. The categorization in the below figure will help you in mapping where your organization lies on a scale of ‘not digital’ to ‘extremely digital’

Mapping your digital maturity

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Aim for an organizational transformation

Becoming a true digital insurer, cannot be limited to operational automation, it has to permeate every aspect of the organization from front end to back end processes, from policy to purchase claims and from finance to HR.

Achieving an organization-wide change would require commitment at every touch point. Digital transformation is not just meant to benefit the end user, but also making your organization change ready and agile enough to adapt quickly. That’s why aligning the organization for the change is an important step towards this journey.

Implement an agile approach.

Creating a step by step plan for digital transformation is critical and planning ahead is required, but over planning should be avoided. Change is the only constant and it is as true for the insurance industry as well. The digital transformation plan for your organization should be flexible enough to incorporate the changing dynamics and technological advancements getting introduced in the industry during the course of implementation.

The best approach would be having a long-term goal but a phase-wise plan. Insurers can start with analyzing market trends and start with the markets where digitization would solve most problems or bring the most benefits. For eg: bringing improved experience in areas with most consumer activity.

The next rational step would be to develop a plan to modernize core systems with cloud-based technologies to better support middle and front-office systems. This will help in improving the technical efficiency, streamlining costs and schedule risks of the modernization efforts.

Some of the process integrations that insurers can bring in their existing systems can be:

Mobile Capture — this process can help in expediting the applications and claims process significantly by allowing policyholders to apply for policies or initiate claims digitally at their convenience. It takes away a lot of manual processes like data entry or postal efforts because insurers can use mobile capture to send in forms, reports, and status to clients.

Customer Communications Management (CCM) — establishing a CCM system will help insurers built better customer relationships by enabling timely communications with relevant information. CCM can take care of real-time tracking, status updates, on-time alerts etc. leaving employees to focus better on other business tasks.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) — RPA can help insurers to improve customer management and making sure that compliance requirements are met. RPA system can collect and integrate data from the external website, portals, and applications and therefore automate activities like price matching, coverage comparisons or keeping a tap on regulatory compliances etc.

Case Management — one of the major challenges that the insurance sector face is doing away with the highly paper-based system. The automated case management system can help in digitization of documents, tracking case status, managing caseloads etc. With the help of Business Process Management (BPM) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems case management system can be highly effective. Integrating the case management system with CCM can lead to highly optimized and enhanced customer experiences as well.

Set up a dedicated “digital transformation team”

70% of Life and P&C insurers lack the confidence to execute complete digital transformation because they feel they don’t have an achievable plan with critical elements such as a clear vision, compliance, and risk processes.

A digital transformation plan cannot be successfully implemented with an ‘ad hoc’ team; doing so will only complicate the process. In fact, a poorly implemented system will lead to insurers spending more time, money and effort in managing the disparate system. Therefore, it is important to build a “digital transformation task force” for the job. Prudent insurers are realizing the importance of having a dedicated team in a survey almost 87% of insurance firms said they have a dedicated ‘digital innovation’ teams.

The dedicated team should comprise of members from each area of digital impact in the journey, this will help in bringing expert advice and planning across each touch point in the journey.

Create a robust IT infrastructure to support digital strategy

The infrastructure is the backbone of the entire process. It will play an important role in the seamless implementation of the digitization process (release cycles, automated testing, and deployment) and managing interactions across the partner ecosystems. Therefore, it is important to have a robust infrastructure which can help in redesigning of the front-end systems to provide rich user experience and also their integration with the back end operations.

A typical insurer’s operational cycle would resemble the below matrix.

Create a robust IT infrastructure to support digital strategy

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The above image represents the core function of an insurance policy lifecycle at the top, from left to right(New Business, Underwriting, Policy Maintenance, and Claims). Any core function of the business will have a trigger to initiate, then data collection, data evaluation, customer/stakeholder interaction and closing the deal. All of these functions at an organizational level would be supported by functions like HR, Marketing, Accounting, IT etc.

This means the insurance process is highly integrated across organizational levels and therefore it is important to have a robust IT infrastructure to support each and every element of this integrated ecosystem.

Leverage data and technology to innovate and create a personalized user experience

The new-age consumer is evolving into a more technology savvy and connected consumer, resulting in an explosion of data through multiple channels data through multiple technologies like IoT, wearables, social media etc. Drawing actionable insights from all this data like analyzing customers’ pain point, anticipating their needs and providing a customized solution will help insurers stay ahead of the curve.

In the healthcare insurance sector, health insurance provider Humana in the United States has partnered with Apple, and they let consumers share their Apple HealthKit data with the Humana Vitality app.

Any digital transformation plan should involve a process to unlock internal data sources, leverage external data sources and better gather, mine, analyze and visualize that data with advanced analytics technologies and finally, turn this data into action to provide a personalized experience to the user throughout the value chain.

Choose the right technology partner

Choosing the right technology partner is the most important step in implementing a successful Digital transformation plan. Many insurers have started realizing this fact.

51% of insurers plan to partner with major digital technology and cloud platform leaders within the next two years.

It is important to carefully choose a partner who understands not just your business well but is also capable of understanding your operational processes well. The digital transformation process is going to be integrated across all your processes, therefore it is critical to work with a partner who is comfortable with your processes, knows the limitations and will help you in improvising during the course of implementation.

Digital transformation in the insurance sector – opportunities that lie ahead

Digital transformation in the insurance industry is not just a means of adopting market trends but is an ongoing process to innovate, stay relevant and stay ahead of the competition. The legacy insurance ecosystem is usage based and telematics- led industry and incorporating advanced digital propositions will help insurers capitalize on the future.

A fully digitized process can go a long way in optimizing processes and reducing costs. For e.g. an integrated claims supply chain can enable insurers to reduce costs across the enterprise, improve customer service and mitigate risks even before an event occurs. Forty-seven percent of insurers say a lack of collaboration with the IT function is preventing them from realizing their technology investments’ value. Digitization of operations will help to break down silos within the organization and allow for faster processes.

In this age becoming a digital insurer is a mandate for insurers to stay relevant, sustain growth and increase profitability. However, it requires an org-wide transformation to reap the true benefits of digitization.

In the light of changing consumers needs, increased competition, technology, and data disruptions and ever-changing compliance landscape, it has become a must for the insurers to choose the path of digitization.

However, a successful digital transformation requires a broader approach, than just introducing automated processes. It will require these 7 steps to truly transform your organization: assessment of your digitization capabilities, stakeholders buy-in, an agile plan, dedicated task force, robust IT infrastructure, capitalizing on data, and most importantly choosing the right digital partner.

If done right digital transformation can enable your organization to not just stay relevant but gage and capitalize on the upcoming opportunities as well.

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Mobile Opinion

How eCommerce Platforms Can Offer Seamless User Experiences This Holiday Season

With the hustle and bustle of shopping bags, the excitement of the Holiday season hangs in the air. While customers may find themselves excited to hit stores to find that perfect gift for their special someones, e-commerce platforms must focus on giving those customers an unforgettable, seamless, enjoyable holiday shopping experience.

Online retailers get swamped with surges of traffic hitting their platforms during this season. In 2017 alone, companies such as Macy’s, Square, Walmart, and Amazon all saw web outages that likely cost them millions of dollars. These issues can lead to frustrated customers and sales losses this year and for years to come if online retailers cannot adequately mitigate these disasters before they occur.

In this article, we outline eight tips e-commerce platforms can follow to prepare for the holiday season to ensure a seamless experience for their customers.

Optimized for Mobile

“Mobile is undoubtedly the most disruptive force in retail since the onset of e-commerce,” says Salesforce Head of Consumer Insights Rick Kenney.

Your customers shouldn’t be restricted to your desktop site to find a seamless shopping experience when searching for those perfect holiday gifts. Based on a recent report from Salesforce, almost 70% of ecommerce visits and almost 50% of online orders were done using a mobile device.

Even while in-store shopping, 83% of customers between 18-44 years old are on their devices interacting with those retailers in real time. If you don’t prioritize the medium where they spend most of their time, you’ve missed the mark.

Even simple UX features can make a great impact when it comes to offering delightful experience on an e-commerce platform. For instance, online footwear retailer JustFab does an excellent job of simplifying their checkout page by allowing users to log in with their Facebook account to save time and effort filling in form fields.

Ensure Your Website Is Prepared

You can prevent your site from crashing during peak periods and sustained, heavy website traffic by preparing with a few of the following considerations far in advance of the season:

  • Confirm (and update) your bandwidth and capacity for spikes
  • Install new hardware and software
  • Review performance expectations and SLAs
  • Monitor SSL certificates for validity and expiration
  • Host stress tests

Ensuring your company has made these preparations and advancements to your site will significantly reduce errors and blackouts, enhance your UX/UI design, and increase consumer confidence during an otherwise stressful season. Optimizing your site is one of the most critical things you can do to help increase e-commerce sales.

Add a Progress Bar to Your Checkout

Showing customers where they are in the online buying process gives them time to prepare the information they’ll need to have ready next to complete their purchase. Research shows that the greatest drop-off point is at the checkout stage. This simple design feature gives customers a sense of organization and control over their purchasing power, which instills a sense of trust and, subsequently, creates a loyal customer base.

Nixon has only 3 tabs on its progress bar, enhancing the simplicity of the checkout process for customers while also offering other features on the related pages, such as guest or member sign-in and various payment options, as customers work their way from “Add” to “Purchase.”

Nixon

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Save Their Spot

Customers appreciate small but significant features such as saving their spot from when they last visited your site, should they need to leave suddenly or want to return to shopping when they have more time and focus. Saving their spot gives customers the impression you have been patiently and eagerly waiting for them to return, at their leisure. Use local storage features to track and store unique customer data to ensure a smooth transition back to your site.

Walmart allows shoppers to select their items and return later to schedule a time for delivery or pickup, depending on the items and time frame they’ve selected.

Proper Labelling and Layout

Don’t leave your customers guessing what info you need from them to make a purchase. Make it clear and eliminate any unnecessary information, graphics, and words. Customers read in an F-shaped pattern, so consider what information is important and place it near the top left corner of your site or in bold headlines.

Stats show that “the average e-commerce site can gain a 35.26% increase in conversion rate” by designing a better checkout process, even for large retailers such as Walmart, Wayfair, and ASOS. This increase in conversion rates, through better page layout and design, means big dollars…of the roughly $740 billion USD e-commerce market in the US and EU, this could mean an additional $260 billion in sales.

Keep the Questions to a Minimum

Ensure your purchase process is simple from adding items to their cart to entering payment details. According to the Baymard Institute 2017 survey, “28% of US online shoppers have abandoned an order in the past quarter solely due to a too long/too complicated checkout process.”

For those questions that must be asked during the checkout process, ensure that you let your customers know why you are asking, so they can see the value to them if they answer.

Ensure Products Shown Are Available

As a rule, don’t show items that you can’t offer your customers.

If someone uses filters to narrow down exactly the right gift for their friend or relative, only to find out that it is out of stock, they’ll likely be frustrated and leave without purchasing anything…even if they had items in their cart when they left.

Live Chat Feature

H&M is an excellent example of a retailer using chatbots effectively, providing fashion advice based on consumers’ preferences and offering to help if customers find themselves stuck on a decision about a product.

Chatbots and live chat features can offer customers an infinite amount of accurate product details.

HM

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Summary

Retailers should remember that their potential customers begin preparing and planning well before the holiday season starts. A November 2018 report from the National Retail Federation reported that, of the 164 million customers that will shop through the Thanksgiving long weekend, almost 25% said that’s when they start their holiday shopping.

Many sites have compiled a handy checklist of UX basics retailers should consider when implementing UX strategies, especially when typical website traffic is expected to increase. Don’t be caught in a tidal wave of traffic that debilitates your customers’ experiences with your company.

As a famous, anonymous individual once said, “There’s only one shopping day left until tomorrow.”

With the growth of eCommerce market, retailers across the globe are working towards creating delightful digital experiences for their consumers. UX/UI design plays a critical role in creating such experiences.

Over the years, we at Robosoft have created such experiences for global retail brands and its an honor to be recognized for our work. We are thrilled to be named as one of the Top eCommerce web design agencies by Design Rush a leading listing platform for full-service agencies, web design companies, digital marketing firms & top technology companies.

You can see more of our work here.

 

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Mobile Opinion

How mobile apps are bringing a new era of employee engagement

In the 1970s when Dave joined his first company, he was excited about the health benefits, insurance and other monetary benefits that his company was offering him. He stayed with this organization for over 30 years before retiring for a peaceful life.

Today, Dave’s son Rob has shifted 3 jobs in a matter of 7 years of his experience. While he does look forward to the monetary benefits offered by the enterprises he joins, his criteria for choosing or staying in a job are poles apart from his father. For Rob, the critical aspects of a workplace are – flexibility of working from anywhere, interesting work opportunity and the overall workplace environment.

This scenario and Rob’s expectations from his workplace speak for the most of millennial generation today. Millennials will make up the largest age-group of the global workforce and most millennials expect their organisations to provide means of employee engagement.

Employee engagement social business digital mobile

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However, what exactly is employee engagement? While it might seem that keeping employees happy and giving them benefits like – game rooms, Friday nights, bean bags, etc. is enough, employee engagement is much more than that.

According to Forbes –

‘’Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.’’

Employee engagement isn’t just about keeping employees happy or satisfied, it is about making sure they are giving their best to the organization in terms of productivity.

However, this is something that hasn’t been addressed by most organisations. According to a research, only 13% of employees working for an organization are engaged. For almost 42% of organizations, their top performers are not engaged with the workforce.

Now give this a thought; the top line of the enterprises, who are driving the maximum productivity for the company aren’t even engaged with the company, which in turn is affecting their productivity and finally company’s ROI. No wonder, this low rate of employee engagement costs US economy more than $500 billion per year.

It is clear that low employee engagement not just creates a negative work environment it is also affecting enterprises’ balance sheets. However, prudent organisations have started taking employee engagement seriously.

Over $720 million per year is spent on employee engagement in the US. After talent recruitment with right skills, companies see employee engagement as one of the critical challenges that they face.

Understandably so, because organizations with engaged employees outperform those with low employee engagement by a whopping 202%.

Hence, it is clear for enterprises that employee engagement isn’t a boat that should be missed.

As mentioned earlier, millennials and Gen Z are set to form the largest population of the workforce and their love for smartphones isn’t a hidden fact. Almost 70 percent of employees keep their phones “within eye contact” at work.

Today’s digital natives are constantly on their phones. When it comes to the workplace, they expect their enterprises to provide them with technology to engage them and make their lives easier, they want communication to be simplified and information to be immediate, interactive, and accessible everywhere.

According to Forbes, employee engagement is-

“the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. What we have to realize is that an engaged employee is not just bothered about a huge salary and swanky benefits.”

To meet the needs of the new-age employees, organisations are deploying various technologies to boost employee engagement and mobile apps top that list

Employee engagement

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Here are some areas where mobile apps can be beneficial in boosting employee engagement.

Peer to peer communication

Millennials expect their workforce to be friendly, where communicating with colleagues is easy and informal. Today’s employees have smartphones with them all the time. Further, according to an Adobe research, almost 81 percent, say technology that helps them connect to colleagues more efficiently is important to their ideal workspace.

Having an app to make communication amongst employees will make their work easier and also help them respond at the earliest.

Payroll

Mobile access lets employees view payroll on their own time. Access payslips. Raise concerns/queries etc. It makes their lives easier because running to the finance department every time they need access to their play slips or need any clarifications on salary can be frustrating and time-consuming.

HR operations

While most enterprises use various SaaS solutions or their own microsites for managing things like filling timesheets, raising requests, apply leaves etc. most of these solutions can be only accessed on their PCs or desktops. These processes if available on a Mobile app, can make employees’ lives easier by giving them the flexibility to fill in timesheets or apply leaves at their convenience. These critical HR processes are typically housed in disparate systems across the organization.

By simplifying these processes, HR leaders can significantly reduce friction in their workers’ lives.

Internal communications

Millennials not just want to have a job, they want to feel valued and connected with their workplace. According to a survey by HBR, millennials rate ‘being valued’ as one of the critical aspects of being with an organisation.

As per Forbes

‘’An engaged employee wants to have a say in the business, they need to feel like they’re part of a team that’s working towards a common goal, and crucially, they need to feel that they are a valued member of the company – not just a tool for generating profit.’’

Keeping employees updated with the larger decisions of the organization and constantly communicating with them can help to keep the workforce engaged. More often than not, this critical aspect has been left to monthly newsletters and mass emails sent to employees, with no personal touch. No wonder most internal email newsletters have an abysmally lower rate of engagement. Despite this, most internal communication emails happen on desktops or PCs through official emails.

A mobile app can give a boost to the internal communication efforts of an organization. Using push notifications for alerting employees of news and events, can ensure higher engagement vs the ones received by employees on the company intranet from their office desktop/laptop. Also, by delivering time-sensitive materials, employees can quickly digitally sign and acknowledge receipt of policies in support of corporate governance and compliance. And because a mobile device is more personal than a desktop, HR can actually leverage mobility to get live employee input.

Interactive learning modules

According to a research by Deloitte – employees under the age of 25, rate professional development as their number one driver of engagement, and this is the number two priority for workers up to the age of 35. Providing interactive learning modules and solutions can help organizations fulfil this need.

Having a mobile app which facilitates learning can help employees grow and learn at their own convenience. Further, an app can help in providing an interactive learning platform for employees and studies show that interactive learning is much more effective than static learning. In other words, employees will absorb and retain more information through interactive modules than they would if you simply assigned them a book or an article to read.

Here are some mobile apps that are changing the game of employee engagement.

Microsoft Lync

Microsoft Lync provides a unified communications platform, blending video, phone, instant messaging and collaborative work environments into one space. The app helps in-

  • viewing colleagues’ availability in real time and select the best way to communicate – initiating an instant message (IM), email, or a phone call.
  • connecting to conference calls with a single touch, without requiring long numeric passcodes or conference numbers.
  • forwarding or simultaneously ringing calls to Enterprise Voice (Lync ID) number so users never miss a call.

Microsoft lync Updated

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Slack app

Slack app is like Facebook for the workplace. The Cloud platform is both a desktop and mobile internal team communication and engagement tool. The idea is to help teams consolidate their communications to one platform. Employees are part of “channels” which can be open or private. They can tag people, private message them and attach files. They can also search the whole archive on Slack to see what messages were sent.

Slack app

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Engagedly

This is an employee engagement platform with built-in gamification for employee social collaboration, pulse survey tool, idea generation, and employee rewards. The app also allows for a 360-degree feedback, performance management, goal setting and eLearning. Engagedly takes a comprehensive and employee-driven approach to talent management.

Engagedly

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Developing a roadmap

Every organisation has its own structure and work culture. Depending on their needs, while for some organizations the ready-to-use software and apps suffice, others with disparate needs and innumerable departments and locations etc. might require a custom software or app for employee engagement needs.

Here’s is how enterprises can start their mobile app journey for employee engagement

Decide whether to have a custom app or an available suite of software

More often than not organizations tend to skew towards readily available SaaS tools in the market. However, it is essential to chart out one’s organization’s requirement thoroughly and then make a decision whether a custom solution or an already available product in the market will be best suited for your enterprise.

Voluntary vs. Mandatory

‘Engagement’ of any kind if forced isn’t engagement anymore. However, depending on which kind of tool the enterprise is deploying, it can be made voluntary or optional. For instance, while an app for internal communications or learning modules can be made optional. The one for team interaction can be made mandatory.

Choosing between a Native vs. Web App

While Native apps are a better employee engagement solution for various reasons, like their App Store deployability, user experience, and their ability to facilitate push notifications.

Web app is basically a website accessed through a mobile browser on a smartphone. Enterprises will have to carefully choose between the two, depending upon their budgets and requirements.

Deciding on the first Use Cases

Engagement apps in any organisations are deployed from the objective to create additional value for employees. Hence, the first use cases you roll out are so important. In order to ensure high onboarding numbers, it is important to launch the app with the right use-cases.

Deciding on the Content

While on a company intranet or microsite a lot of information can be shared. On a mobile app, it is important to keep the information to what is relevant. The storage space and user experience are critical reasons to carefully choose the content that should go on the app.

Modern intranets have come up with a growing number of new features and supported use cases. Mobile requires a new approach to content and functionality. When thinking about your app content, remember that it shouldn’t be a dumping ground for old intranet or newsletter content.

Ensure robust security measures

While a mobile app will give the flexibility and convenience to employees to access company information anywhere. It is critical to ensure security guidelines, to ensure that sensitive enterprise information isn’t leaked outside. Hence enterprises will have to think about app security inside the app as well as outside. For that first limit the information you put online. Every piece of content created for the enterprise’s internal website doesn’t need to be part of the app.

Align with the intranet roadmap

An employee app can be viewed as a channel displaying the intranet or as an addition to the intranet. What you need to decide is how content will be shared or not shared between the two platforms. Having a CMS solution might be an ideal situation in such cases. CMS system can help in customising and distributing information that isn’t highly confidential and is highly relevant to your employees. This way, content can be pushed to both the intranet and the app, while remaining safe.

Devise a rollout Strategy

When it comes to your launch, the question is whether to roll things out with a bang or to start with a soft launch. Experience has shown that a soft launch is more advisable.

A soft launch enables you to build your app from the ground up with the input of your employees and avoid the danger of launching a much-anticipated project that they don’t like and instead include them in the process.

In conclusion

In today’s digital world, an enterprise’s success depends on foresightedness, innovation and technology. However, using these three pillars are critical not just to connect with the consumers and the market outside, but also with the employees. To do so, companies will have to go outside their corporate comfort zone to design roles for a purpose-driven millennial workforce.

Mobile internal communication is the future of workplace communication, and mobile apps are enabling this change and paving the way for a more exciting and engaging work environment for the next-gen of employees.

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Mobile Opinion

How Will the Retail Industry Capitalize on Artificial Intelligence to Sell More This Christmas Season?

‘Tis the season…the holidays are once again upon us, and with retailers prepping months in advance for the advent of the 2018 season, the goal as always remains: keep customers happy and keep them coming back for more. The currently crowded e-commerce landscape includes behemoths such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Walmart (to give perspective, Walmart is the largest retailer in the world, and Amazon, at number 7 on the list, had a market share of 37% in 2017), so smaller retailers are using every available tool to stay in the game.

As e-commerce continues to grow, with 2018 poised to be the biggest year yet, brick and mortar stores will be forced to use such technologies as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI and ML) to keep their edge and outperform their competition, pursuing innovative and resource-conscious ways to connect with their digitally savvy consumer base.

To successfully compete in the 2018 holiday market, brand owners will need to ask:

  • What is it that consumers want from retailers this holiday season?
  • What functions will AI & ML influence this season?
  • What are the factors that brand owners should keep in mind while incorporating an AI strategy this holiday season?

In this article, we address those questions and examine how AI and ML technologies are forever shifting how customers and retailers engage and interact with one another, particularly during the frenzy of holiday shopping.

The Rise of Online Shopping

The e-commerce market in the United States is about $450 Billion per year, and e-commerce represents roughly 10 percent of the total market. On an average, consumers spend more than 3 hours per day on social media, and with the constantly evolving technological advances, search engines and websites aren’t the only platforms to see a dramatic rise in shopping activity. Social media sites such as Instagram have experienced a rise in their engagement. Consumers are more likely to respond and relate to direct messages sent by social media influencers than those sent directly from brands themselves. Brands such as Natori recognize the power of these organic touch points with potential customers, and the relationship-building groundwork they provide for future and repeat business.

According to the Deloitte 2017 Holiday Retail Survey, more than half of shoppers reported that they would make most of their purchases online for the 2018 holiday season. Past behaviour showed that consumers primarily use search engines to find the best deals and compare prices online, but the majority still went to a physical store to buy those products. Now, the scales have tipped, balanced between physical and online sales.

Succinctly put, consumers want more with less. They want an easy-to-use, issue-free shopping experience that promises to keep on giving, very much in the spirit of the season. They want the ease of price matching and to research customer reviews before they settle on which retailers will get their dollars, but they also want fewer choices when it comes time to actually making that purchase, to reduce the anxiety of the paradox of choice.

As soon as a customer decides to purchase a type of product, “having a smaller range of potential products to choose from reduces choice overload.” AI and ML play an important role not only in strengthening marketing efforts through retargeting ad campaigns but also, more importantly, in sending the right recommendations tailored for consumers (reducing anxiety and giving customers a sense of feeling taken care of) and providing consistently stellar customer service through voice assistants and personalized experiences.

There are several key areas where retailers are or should be harnessing AI and ML technology, in both brick and mortar and e-commerce, to increase their sales revenue this year for the holiday season.

Methods to the Holiday Madness

Methods to the Holiday Madness

Christopher Schyma, the Director of Retail at Sutherland, is quoted as saying:

The rise of automation through AI will have a much more significant impact on retail than other industries . . . This is the result of the changing retail industry – today’s customer requires digital-first experiences, where needs are met and expectations exceeded across a variety of touch points and at the complete convenience of the shopper.

Retailers will try to woo consumers this year with:

  • Marketing: Retargeting campaigns:
  • Customer experience: AI-based recommendations
  • Supply chain & logistics: Product stocks and shipping
  • Customer service: Chatbots

Marketing

Retargeting campaigns are by no means a new player in the retail scene. However, AI technology is becoming more sophisticated, allowing you to glean more nuanced data from consumers’ online and purchasing habits.

Instead of simply suggesting that they buy the thing they saw online in one of your ads, retargeting campaigns using AI can suggest complementary products as well, or products that they may need in the future.

Customer Experience

Personalized shopping experiences, both in-store and online, are one of the key aspects that retailers refine and prioritize when crafting their overall brand experience. AI has been involving with this process in small ways for the past few years, but we’re seeing a greater adoption of technology-forward processes. Shoppers input their preferences into their online profile, and the system generates not only a customized profile for them to view but also a tailored shopping excursion, whether they choose to visit the store in person or shop online.

This level of customization saves the customer so much time sifting through a myriad of products to help them find just the right ones. “AI tech is getting so good that it knows what you want—and can suggest complementary products—even better than you do.”

Customer Service

Self-checkout tills and chatbots have become almost ubiquitous in most customers’ shopping experiences. Recent data from Accenture shows that 65% of consumers “are already using or would like to use a number of technologies that are powered by AI when shopping, including chatbots.” Retailers can use chatbots not only in customer service scenarios to cut down resolution times but also in the lead generation process.

Chris Messina, the lead of Uber’s partner ecosystem development and expansion, coined the phrase “conversational commerce”, a phrase that conveys the “convergence of messaging apps, natural language interfaces and brands” that provide a more natural forum for consumers to connect with their favorite brands through chatbots.

The key for retailers will be to focus on freeing up their employees to do more complex, human-focused activities, rather than the mundane tasks that eat up time and can cause frustration and confusion for customers.

Supply Chain

Retailers can also make use of AI and ML technologies on the back end of their operations through their CRM, supply chain management, and logistics processes. Andrew Cross from Brabners says that AI will have a “serious impact on retail [through] the supply chain . . . inventory management systems are already in play.”

Companies such as Walmart have an AI system in place to solve their “last mile delivery issues” that frequently plague retailers when their stock is low or depleted. Richard Cawston, supply chain managing director for XPO Logistics, shares that Nestle has invested in “a custom-designed distribution centre that will feature integrated data analytics, intelligent machines, advanced sorting systems and robotics,” which will enable Nestle to streamline their operations in order to cut costs and better meet the demands of their customers over the holiday season.

Examples of Retailers Using AI Technology

Below are a few examples of retailers successfully implementing AI technology directly into their customer interactions, recreating experiences from the very first moment and giving customers a sense of awe and inspiration.

Retailers Using AI Technology

Tommy Hilfiger used chatbots heavily during New York Fashion Week in order to increase traffic to their site. The bots were nearly indistinguishable from a human, giving users the power to direct the conversation and providing them options on style guides and digital catalogues of their recent collection, as well as offering a “backstage” look of their latest show.

Stitch Fix makes use of sophisticated algorithms based on profiles filled out by customers on their likes and preferences. These profiles then help customers pick out the right items…not only saving the customer time and money but also ensuring your customers feel that each experience with your company has been tailored and personalized before they visit your online or brick and mortar store.

Japan’s SoftBank telecom operations created a humanoid robot ‘Pepper’ that could interact with customers and ‘’perceive human emotions’’. Pepper was deployed at the Ave apparel store and the store experienced a boost of 98% in customer interactions, a 20% increase in foot traffic and a 300% increase in revenue.

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Both The North Face and the Mall of America use the IBM Watson-enabled platform to offer tailored shopping experiences and customized lists of items. The system, “through voice recognition technology queries and sentiments of customers,” can understand and create a personalized plan for each customer.

Retailers Using AI Technology

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There are AI-enabled platforms that can help transform the entire purchase cycle from merchandizing to customer engagement for retailers, like Vue.ai. It is the world’s only end-to-end Artificial Intelligence stack for brands and retailers. Vue.ai’s product suite contains solutions for merchandizing and operations, the eCommerce site and app and all the way through to marketing.

Best Practices When Incorporating AI

Keep the human touch:

Retailers can embrace AI without losing the human values they built their businesses on. Your customers are people, as are your staff. Never let that become an afterthought.

Remember to be subtle:

Customers may feel “spied on” if retailers take too aggressive of an approach. Proceed with care, and remember that the choice to buy is up to the customer.

Privacy is paramount:

Your customers need to know that you have their best interests at heart. Put safeguards in place, no matter what technology you use, to ensure neither you nor your customers will regret sharing their information.

By using artificial intelligence in every aspect of your retail operations, from online searches to tailored suggestions to your supply chain management, you can ensure your customers feel valued and appreciated rather than feeling like a dollar sign. You can bring the human-ness back to holiday shopping…with a little (or a lot of) help from robots.

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