Author Archives: Ravi Teja Bommireddipalli

Ravi Teja Bommireddipalli Visit Website
Design Thinker, student of Ontology (science of being), digital advisor, MBA in Technology Management, global traveler - Ravi is all of this and more. As MD & CEO of Robosoft, he leads our charge as a full-service digital transformation company.
Design Thinking Opinion

How To Sell In The Digital Era (Hint: It’s Not About Technology But Human Emotions)

Contrary to popular belief, humans aren’t inherently rational when making decisions. Our buying decisions stem from the subconscious mind 95% of the time. The rational mind is good at justifying what the emotional mind has already decided.

A good brand understands this well and builds digital products and experiences that tap into the emotional and irrational side of the users’ brains. They apply design principles and theories of psychology to understand what resonates with users and create digital platforms and apps around it.

To build a successful digital product, you can start by understanding and applying the following design theories and frameworks.

1. RWW Framework: The real-win-worth it (RWW) framework is a go/no-go screening method that helps you eliminate bias from the decision-making process and maintain objectivity. Ask yourself questions such as:

  •  Is it real? Is there a market opportunity for my product? Is it feasible to build it?
  •  Will it win? Is there an opportunity for the product in the market? Can it help my brand gain and sustain a competitive advantage?
  •  Is it worth the effort? Is the idea worth implementing? Will it help me achieve my business goals or open doors for future opportunities?

2. Tim Brown’s Design Thinking: Tim Brown defines design thinking as a set of cognitive, strategic and practical processes that help you develop design concepts. The five components include:

  • Empathizing with the users and understanding their challenges.
  •  Defining the core issue that they face while using your product.
  •  Ideating potential solutions to solve the problem.
  •  Building a prototype of the solution to check if it can address the user’s problem and work on the product if it’s successful.
  •  Evaluate the outcome of the solution by defining the metrics and measuring them regularly.

3. Don Norman’s Three Levels Of Design Appeal: Great products always make users feel things. They trigger an emotional response and spur behavioral changes based on those responses. Don Norman calls it the three levels of design appeal in his book Emotional Design. The three levels are:

  •  Visceral: Evoke the proverbial love at first sight response within your users by targeting their old brains with your product design.
  • Behavioral: Build an immersive experience that helps users feel empowered and derive value. They should feel happy or productive after using the product.
  • Reflective: Target the logical side of the human brain by making the users feel proud of using the product and enabling them to share their experiences with others.

You can implement these principles by:

#1. Demonstrating trustworthiness. Most users (66%) revealed that they would purchase a product because of positive reviews. Request users to rate and review your products and publish them on all channels. Offer them freebies or discounts for their unbiased reviews. Use pictures of real people endorsing the product to build trust. An A/B testing experiment by a web company revealed that using real, happy people’s pictures on a landing page increased sign-ups by 102.5%.

#2. Facilitating snap decision-making. Facilitate quick decision-making on your digital platform or app. One in five users abandons their purchases due to an inconvenient checkout process. But one-click checkout options, for instance, can allow users to save their address and payment methods as a default option to accelerate the checkout process. Find out what stops your users from completing the desired action and eliminate those deterrents to create a seamless experience.

#3. Addressing by name. The bystander effect theory states that if one person sees someone in distress, they are likely to help them 70% of the time. If multiple people see distress, that number would be around 40%. Eliminate the bystander effect by addressing the user by name. This will elicit their response faster. You can do it through personalization. Research shows that 60% of people want personalized offers in real time.

#4. Using the power of commitment. Social validation compels users to complete a task. Allow users to make their private commitment public. If the user is participating in a 30-day fitness challenge, for example, give them an option to share their progress or completion badge on social media platforms. The response from friends and followers will boost engagement.

#5. Talking to the reptilian brain. Humans have three regions in the brain: the reptilian brain, the emotional brain and the rational brain. The reptilian brain works on instincts and controls the behavior for survival. Talk directly to the reptilian brain to improve conversions. Tap into emotions such as fear and greed through images and text. Center the experience around the user, such as their challenges and victories, through stories and powerful words like trust, safety and love that imply an emotional connection.

#6. Performing usability testing. Always perform usability testing to understand the interaction between your users and the product. Empathize with their challenges to build a better human-centric product. You can conduct various usability tests, such as the thinking aloud test, in which you ask the participants to express what they feel about the product as they use it to get firsthand, undiluted responses. You can also use eye-tracking technology to track participants’ eye movements. This allows you to record areas where the eye movement stops or moves faster. Observe and collect empirical data such as how long it takes for users to complete the desired action to identify the possible bottlenecks and fix them.

Ad guru Bill Bernbach said, “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion, and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.” His words still hold true in today’s digital era. New technologies and platforms have come, and the metrics to measure effectiveness have changed. But selling is still about how we persuade and sell to humans centered around users’ experiences.

As Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group put it, “True user experience goes far beyond giving users what they say they want or providing checklist features.” So, understanding human psychology and appealing to their emotions is key even in the digital era.

This article was originally published in Forbes Technology Council.

Read More
Customer Experience Design Thinking

A Data-Informed, Design Thinking Approach For User Retention

Consumers have an abundance of choices today, so brands might rightfully rejoice when acquiring users. However, user acquisition does not guarantee user engagement, and this oversight can have a spiraling impact on retention. All businesses, even the neighborhood retail stores, know that acquiring a customer is more expensive than retaining current customers.

In businesses where digital experience is the brand experience, user retention is even more challenging, as an average consumer has a multitude of apps for different purposes. Disengaged users are a red flag for mobile-led businesses, signifying potential revenue loss.

Existing users are an asset waiting to be tapped, with a direct way to reach them already in place. User retention cannot be an afterthought; it needs to be planned for even before a single line of code is written. How do we then go about retaining, activating and engaging current users?

Digital products that are most successful demonstrate good behavioral design by engaging users regularly, making them believe they can’t live without those apps. In building our user retention strategy, we can no longer overlook the human-centric design approach.

Donald A. Norman, in his book Living with Complexity, writes:

Donald A Norman Living with complexity quote

We can create positive customer experiences by placing users at the center and making sure that all the touchpoints address their needs—or, better still, predict their future needs seamlessly, which is the fundamental premise of design thinking. Involving the end user at every iteration (ideation, innovation, co-creation of solutions, continuous improvement) opens up avenues to discover ways of improving user experiences—and, thereby, retention and business growth.

Key Elements Of Design That Help Retain Users

Successful design attracts users through an emotional trigger, incentive or motivator that encourages a positive action or investment leading to a reward. With each use, they see themselves earning brownie points or feel valued even if the reward is not monetized. Users return to the app because they want a repeat experience.

Another element is the intuitiveness of the design—convenience of use, flexible features, consistent performance. Particularly when an app is enriched with complex features, simplifying the interface and making it intuitive (both UX and visual elements) can ensure that any time spent on learning the app seems worthwhile for the user.

However, this does not mean the design is perfect right away. The very essence of design thinking is that there is always room for improvement and the app keeps evolving so users remain interested and engaged. The loyalty of Apple phone users is based on the promise that with every iteration, the product is only getting better. Therefore, it’s important for design not to stagnate but to be iterative, innovative and tested to be able to meet their changing demands.

Key design elements to retain users

Tuning in to the demands, needs and unique context of the user tops the list in design thinking, and it begins from the moment the person downloads the app and starts a relationship with the brand. Behemoths like Apple and Disney, as well as digital native startups, have opened up our world to design thinking as a user-centric practice. Brands like Ikea continue to attract and engage users because of the do-it-yourself factor that instills a sense of ownership and pride in the product that the buyer has “put together” on their own.

Design Thinking Elevates User Experience

Today, brands and businesses also have the power of big data and artificial intelligence to guide the narrative around key business decisions and customer engagement.

While data and design have delivered immense value as separate disciplines, there is great merit in understanding what they could offer in combination for user retention. A McKinsey study of the design practices of 300 companies found that “the top financial performers had integrated design across the organization rather than creating design units within specific departments.” McKinsey also estimated that “60% of companies successfully scaling analytics to solve problems across the organization used cross-functional teams.” That means data scientists and researchers are sharing insights and coffee with visual designers and graphic experts on how to arrive at the best or most viable solutions to address specific user needs.

Based on what data analytics tells them, design thinking can help at key phases of the brand-user relationship: onboarding, nurturing and attrition.

Onboarding is the most important and needs to be friction-free. First impressions last, and they need to be immersive experiences that immediately introduce the user to the app’s unique features. A common feature of apps with “user love” is that they provide an instant connection to users with a simple user interface, making it easy for them to start using the app without a fuss. The simplicity of design encourages them to come back and explore unique features that they could potentially leverage repeatedly.

Nurturing user habits is a must, as merely hooking them initially doesn’t guarantee continued interest. Their engagement can be sustained by encouraging them to cultivate habits that are supported by the app and infusing a greater sense of personalization in the user. Push notifications and personalized recommendations based on predictive analyses of the user’s personal data, behavioral patterns and preferences need to be baked into the digital strategy.

The “listening to the user” aspect of design thinking in combination with data plays a vital role in the attrition phase. It allows the app to evolve along with the user’s changing needs, feedback and reviews. Telling users that their inputs are valued and acted upon in the form of new features and upgrades can enhance their sense of loyalty and likelihood of returning to use the app.

In The Design of Everyday Things, Norman says: “Cognition attempts to make sense of the world: emotion assigns value.” As research suggests, a marriage of the two could well take user engagement and business growth to unimagined heights.

This article was originally published on Forbes Technology Council.

Read More
Opinion Retail

What’s Next For Q-Commerce: The Golden Child Of E-Commerce

Fast & Furious. It is not just a reference to the famous franchise, but a principle the time-scarce millennials today live by. Whether it is content to be streamed, coffee or noodles – everything must be instant, and the sooner it is, the more appreciated it is. The latest to join this trend is Q-commerce, promising to deliver customer delight in 30 minutes or less.

Valued at around USD 20-25 billion in 2021, the quick-commerce industry is expected to grow to USD 72 billion by 2025. A major contributing factor for this is the ongoing pandemic, which has not just fast-tracked digital transformation by decades for businesses, but also altered consumer behavior, a shift that will stay for years to come. Consumers who were earlier willing to step out and visit their neighborhood mom and pop stores or malls now prefer to stay home and be served. Add to this the work-from-home lifestyle for the busy professionals and the concerns of the aging population to step out, the consumers today are willing to pay a higher price for on-demand instant delivery. As shifts like urbanization, rising disposable incomes and single households continue to grow, this number will only multiply.

Beyond US, quick-commerce is a global phenomenon. According to a report, 30 new quick-commerce companies have emerged in ten months in Western Europe alone. Berlin-based Gorillas became the fastest company to achieve unicorn status in Europe – just nine months into launch. In India, while existing delivery startups are overhauling their operations & supply chain to cater to this segment, specialty players are now targeting this segment, with a promise of 10 to 15-minute deliveries. A consumer tweeted that a brand delivered groceries in unbelievable 2.5 minutes – which was then used on its billboard.

The Q-commerce ecosystem consists of:

Third-party delivery platforms: existing delivery platforms who deliver items from neighboring retail outlets, usually just fulfilling delivery or picking the order. From promising one-day delivery, they have now moved to several hours to 30 minutes or less.

Popular retail giants: both offline and online giants have initiated the shift to an omnichannel experience & Q-commerce with drone deliveries, faster processes

Vertically integrated specialists: These companies create neighborhood warehouses, called dark stores and delivering often-purchased items to shoppers, typically within 10–30 minutes. In India, many of them target the ‘top-up and unplanned purchases’ of Gen-Z and millennials, by solving inefficiencies of the familiar neighborhood store.

With the threat of further lockdowns looming over the consumers, convenience and safety will be paramount, leading to a large influx of consumers ordering online. It will also subsequently lead to more players & investors entering the ecosystem. However, players will be under immense pressure to acquire customers as fast as possible and with low profitability margins, especially on grocery items; this will be a challenging exercise. The key will be to find a differentiation factor outside of similar items, offers and prices for the brand.

Here are some trends apparent in Q-commerce in 2022:

Diversification of inventory: While grocery items today form most of the stock of a Q-commerce setup, the premise of <60 mins delivery can be extended to other categories like medicines, books, food items and even electronics & accessories. With the right infrastructure & logistics, this is a plausible option with startups like Glovo a Spanish quick-commerce start-up, leading the way with electronics & furniture.

Better inventory & supply chain Management: The constraint of a rapid delivery makes inventory & supply chain management an essential part of the equation. The supply & inventory management for dark stores will be more tight-knit in 2022, with the delivery partner able to check in real-time the nearest next store option in case of stock-out. Real-time inventory management tools will have a critical role here- constantly updating the status of inventory, calculating & estimating times for delivery and freshness of products (especially for perishable items) to ensure that the delivery partner does not waste precious minutes figuring this out.

Personalized customer experiences: In a market where everyone has the same inventory, offers, and prices a personalized & seamless customer experience will be the key that differentiates a brand and makes them a market leader. With AI & ML, tailored customer preferences based on past purchases and frequency can be suggested. Personalized messages & notifications can help users feel more connected to the brand and lead to user retention. A distinct UI, intuitive design & hassle-free user journey can also drive retention. For instance, here is how McDonald’s India enhanced their delivery experience & conversion through a revamp of experiences on their website & app.

Brand Partnerships & Influencer-based marketing: Brands have already started to see Q-commerce as an opportunity to get their product to their consumers the instant they think about it. Even premium brands like Estee-Lauder signed up with Uber in 2021 for a 60-minute delivery of their products. 2022 will see a rise of many brands trying this out. Another prevalent trend might be the rapid delivery of brands promoted by influencers

More strategic warehouse hub locations: At the heart of q-commerce lie the dark stores, the mini-warehouses located conveniently across delivery points. The strategic location of various hubs and their proximity to each other can determine the efficiency of the delivery process. AI & ML have a vital role in providing valuable insights about the purchase volumes & values, suggesting locations where a new store can add value.

Sustainability & eco-friendliness: As Sustainability & Net-zero emissions initiatives take global center stage, sustainable options must be chosen in every process. Some low-hanging fruits here can be using eco-friendly or reusable packaging options for delivery and electric vehicles for delivery executives to save unnecessary strain on the environment.

Quick commerce is a great opportunity globally. The right mix of technology, infrastructure and an unwavering focus on customer experience can succeed in this rapidly evolving landscape. 2022 promises to be an exciting watch-fest, with popcorn delivered in 15 minutes or less.

This article was originally published on Forbes Technology Council.

Read More

Web 3.0: Technology’s Next Frontier

A little over 30 years ago, the first web page was created at CERN, imagined by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and fellow scientists. They wisely determined that the web should remain an open standard for all to use. Web 2.0 transitioned the internet from sharing information to the age of social media, allowing users to create, share and collaborate without needing web design or technical skills. As the euphoria dies down, we’ve now encountered the flipside of this social revolution, with its power to influence and misinform, and the issues of data privacy. The Cambridge Analytica scandal proved the power of data to literally elect world powers.

Dubbed Web 3.0, the third generation of the web is already making waves, because it promises to return to the initial euphoria of the World Wide Web, and give the power back to users. This means:

  • Users have more control over content
  • They manage all internet activities with just one account per user to hop from one platform to another, shop, browse, manage devices etc.
  • Innovative use of AR, VR, sensors will elevate their internet experience, ushering in the era of connected things

Why we need a paradigm shift in the way the internet works

Through massive innovation in mobile, social media, and cloud technologies, Web 2.0 touches the everyday lives of billions of people across the world. The dynamic nature of its pages means that users consume information, communicate better, enjoy interactive experiences, and generate content that can, in turn, inform creators and developers on areas for improvement. However, its fundamental shortcomings cannot be dismissed lightly. Apprehensions around the lack of autonomy users have over personal data, increasing government control, and the predominance of a few, large intermediaries over web content are well founded.

Web 3.0 aspires to be even more life-altering in expanding the scope of internet applications. Plus, it aims to address these pain-points in a comprehensive manner and by becoming more human centric. Web 3.0 will be underpinned by blockchain technologies that enable, edge computing, and artificial intelligence. Its operations will rely on decentralized and autonomous data networks, public digital ledgers, peer-to-peer communications, cryptocurrency, smart contracts and tokenization. All of this means fundamental and welcome changes for users.

How will Web 3.0 give the power back to users?

So how will Web 3.0 take away the power from data monopolizing corporations and authoritarian, anti-social governments and give it back to users? By re-structuring the transactional nature of the World Wide Web and re-defining the value that users extract.

The biggest differentiators for users are:

  1. The ability to create and share personalized content
  2. Data will no longer be owned by a single entity but be a shared resource, developed and owned collectively

A safe and transparent, yet personalized and seamless user experience with Web 3.0

  • Users of the web will protect their personal data in non-fungible tokens, which are cryptographic assets on a blockchain. Each token comes with a unique identification code and metadata, indicating that the user owns that particular virtual good or digital asset obtained through cryptocurrencies. Even if the system is breached, the user’s original sensitive data will not be compromised as the tokenized data becomes undecipherable and irreversible while preserving its business utility.
  • Content on sites and pages will be chiefly derived from what users provide on various media including online, voice, text sources. Drastically different from the current version, each user will view the same content differently as it will be processed, customized, and presented based on insights and feedback that are unique to them. As the back-end aspects of development will get their due share of attention this time around, visual appeal of the content will not be the only consideration – its ability to cater to user requirements, relevance of the content, and personalization will be defining factors.
  • Applications will use open-source software created by an accessible community of developers in a completely visible, open, and transparent manner.
  • Another giant leap forward would be in the way communities are built and operate – from business communities to social communities to private communities. Interoperability is one of the primary goals of Web 3.0, which implies that users can move or extend their personal accounts or avatars from one community to another, seamlessly.

Web 3.0 envisions a new order – a democratic, permission less system

Blockchain will ensure all transactional data is verified and immutably stored in a public, digitized ledger that is available across the peer-to-peer network. We might even think of the system as being permissionless since anyone, a user or provider, should be able to engage in consensus validation within the network without taking explicit permission from a governing body or an intermediary. Such a system is inherently trust-less as no single entity owns or has authority over it, and none of the participants need to know or trust each other or rely on an intermediary for the system to function. They only need to trust the system itself – this trust is built and distributed between participants through redefining the economic transactions and incentivizing ethical and honest behavior of those complying with network security guidelines, for instance.

Incentivization of operations, transactions, and behavior – in short, everything that makes the system work smoothly – is a desirable outcome of such a network and offered to service, data and content providers, which includes users as well.

The vision for Web 3.0 is to

  • Decentralize and cut out the middleman and challenge government-imposed control and the monopoly of large tech corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Make room for smaller, more players to emerge and thrive in the content generation market.
  • Restore content control to the user
  • Manage data as a collective, shared property
  • Incentivize engagement, data contribution and behavior for greater people participation and build a sense of earned ownership and value towards it.

Are we there yet?

We see blockchain being adopted across a widening range of services – from managing individual land records, passports/visas, social security to applications that intersperse multiple entities such as banking. A step towards the new reality, Opera recently brought out a beta version of its Web3 Crypto Browser with a non-custodial wallet to support blockchains.

There will be a greater prevalence of computing resources pushed out to the edge of the network and closer to the source of the data (such as phones, computers, everyday appliances, sensors, and vehicles) in lieu of/addition to centralized, legacy data centers. Incentivization will be a major factor here – for example, a user would be encouraged to barter or trade their personal data on their health, vehicle location, performance reviews on appliances etc. without having to give up ownership rights or privacy and operate independent of an intermediary’s intervention.

While the web’s newest iteration has many gaps to be bridged and its share of sceptics who consider it vaporware, Web 3.0 aspires to bring together the best of both worlds – the human-centric and machine-driven – to democratize the internet. In the attempt to breach technology’s next frontier, it continues to evolve and is more likely to coexist with, rather than replace Web 2.0 in the near future.

Read More

The ripple effect of hyperconnectivity: accelerating DX

How many connected devices do you own? Chances are, even accounting for smart speakers or smartwatches, the number may be in the region of 4 or 5. However, by 2030 it is believed that each human will have more than 20 connected devices, thanks to hyperconnectivity. The effects it will trigger points to a world where everyone and every ‘thing’ will be connected, intelligent, and talking to each other.

The term hyperconnectivity has been used for many years in the context of interconnected devices or merely being ‘always online’. In the near future, it will take on an altogether different meaning. 5G mobile networks, the Internet of Things, and big data will trigger an explosion of smart cities, homes, and workplaces. In turn, these will result in millions of connected devices, smooth data flows, and networks. This never before convergence will give a boost to not just the adoption of digital experience (DX) across enterprises but the nature and scope of such.

DX beyond mobile apps & websites

Today, DX still largely refers to the nature of customer interaction on websites, mobile apps, and such. Undoubtedly these have simplified our lives. For example, a few airports have offered self-check-in kiosks and automated boarding through facial recognition for some time now. Native apps of airlines such as United are more accessible to people with visual disabilities.

But over the last few years, especially in the post-COVID world, forward-thinking enterprises have re-oriented themselves to adopt business processes that have digital at the core, in order to improve the performance in an integrated fashion. A bank may employ Artificial Intelligence to assess the credit risk of consumers and make personalize offerings or communication. At an airport, inter-connected processes such as automated identity-screening and deployment of the Internet of Things can ease the customer experience beyond just a well-designed mobile app. These can help in airport navigation, tracking checked luggage, and smart retail operations.

The key aspects of our hyperconnected world which will impact the way enterprises design their services and accelerate the growth of DX will be: 5G-powered applications, Cloud, E-commerce, Artificial Intelligence, and Cybersecurity. We have already seen how e-commerce has re-shaped post the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from essentials such as groceries & pharmaceuticals many industries have adapted to re-wire their business for the remote world. They have understood the core emotions of the customer and offer reassurance of hygiene practices, virtual tryouts, and no-touch delivery. Video streaming, which was only associated with media & entertainment is now part of retail therapy too.

Connected Living and its impact

Machine Learning and AI have already begun to play a role in crafting digital experiences across industries. In the hyperconnected world, such technologies along with conversational computing and asset tracking will have a far-reaching impact. In many business value chains, logistics plays a critical role. Tracking of assets such as a package to determine which truck, vessel, or location it is in, will deliver efficiencies and peace of mind. Where needed, sensors can detect vital information such as temperature (in a cold chain) or other key parameters and keep the various stakeholders informed.  Such technologies can also help in creating customer delight: over time, the system can evolve to offer predictive logistics and get into pre-emptive shipment mode. If a customer orders a shaving kit on a regular basis, imagine the delight when an order arrives within minutes of placing it, instead of days – as the system would have pre-empted the order. Over the last few years, we would have read about smart refrigerators that ‘detect’ what needs to be ordered and so on. Such concepts need not be fantasy anymore as smart devices and logistics can make these a reality. Warehouses, fulfillment centers, and the entire value can get more efficient thanks to the ripple effects of hyperconnectivity.

The two places where we spend most of our time – home and work will transform beyond recognition. According to Frost & Sullivan, ‘the future home will become a ‘central hub’ for connected living’. Apple Watch is already powering Apple Fitness+, a service that then needs an Apple device to stream your personalized workouts. On-demand workspaces, entertainment centers, and Telehealth centers are also likely to emerge at home. The post-COVID world has also seen a demand for contactless biometrics and security technologies. All of these will get more personalized as data analytics, AI, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and advanced computing come into play.

A hybrid work structure is likely to be a reality in the near future. The result? The need for digital, automated workflows (which eliminate manual, repetitive tasks) will rise leading to more productivity and employees with a sense of accomplishment. The pressure on government services to make the most of hyperconnectivity and create smart cities also offers opportunities for enterprises. Monitoring of physical structures such as bridges, friction-free citizen services, safe public places, connected cars, smart supply of essentials such as water & electricity have all critical digital components which need a combination of strategy, design, engineering, and analytics.

The possibilities of a hyperconnected future are limitless. It would mean immersive, personalized experiences for customers across shopping, Telehealth, gaming, and real-time collaboration. The explosion of data in the hyperconnected digital enterprise has implications in security too. But the positives of a connected ecosystem lie in making our lives simpler and better.

Read More

Multiexperience and the 4 pillars of digital experiences: what every CXO should know for 2021 and beyond

2020 was a tumultuous year, to say the least, for people and enterprises alike. The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in a manner we never imagined or prepared for. While several industries have been adversely affected (e.g. restaurants, amusement parks, cinema halls) many others have benefited. Digital banking, fintech services, streaming video services, EdTech, online delivery are some of the categories which saw usage surge in 2020.

– In the US, 69.8M homes used OTT in April 2020, an increase of 5.2M homes compared to April 2019.

80% of Americans now say they can manage their finances without a physical bank branch.

– Nearly two-thirds of people (65%) ordered food delivery in July 2020.

Domino’s reported that it received a 22% increase in business from April to May 2020, an enormous spike in demand for the public restaurant industry.

It is believed that many of these behavioral changes are likely to be permanent and change our habits forever. For example, Fintech is viewed as the “new normal” by 73 percent of Americans according to the report commissioned by Plaid, and 67 percent plan to continue managing most of their finances digitally after COVID.

However, as we step into 2021, there are certain other categories where consumers have shown an inclination to ‘go back in time’ as it were. Almost two-thirds of people (63%) have dined in a restaurant during COVID-19, indicating a demand for alternatives to eating at home. Analysts believe that consumers may seek travel experiences of a different kind in the post COVID era. Staycations are already popular in India. Revenge tourism is also said to be a phenomenon leading to ‘flexi hotels’. Travel brands are looking at new modes of revenue. Consumers are conscious of the need to support local businesses such as restaurants, supermarkets, and more. It means there is pressure on them to make the most of digital solutions such as offering curbside pickup and options to order through digital platforms either through aggregators or stand-alone experiences.

In this context, digital experiences have come to play a critical role in creating brand preference. Delivering great customer experiences (CX) has become an imperative step for all enterprises.

Post-COVID era: the Customer Experience imperative

‘People buy from those who they trust’ is an adage that is timeless both in the offline and online world. Whether it is the familiar neighborhood store or a large enterprise in the online world, earning consumer trust has always provided an edge – helping in customer retention and loyalty.

As mentioned by McKinsey,‘particularly in times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty.’

They go on to stress:

Now is also the time for customer experience (CX) leaders to position themselves at the forefront of the longer-term shifts in consumer behavior that result from this crisis. Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating to redesign journeys that matter to a very different context will be key.

The key areas they identify are:

  1. Focusing on care and connection
  1. Meeting customers where they are today
  1. Reimagining CX (Customer Experiences) for a post-COVID-19 world
  1. Building capabilities for a fast-changing environment

Why is customer experience important?

Customer Experience (CX) is how consumers feel about the brand as a cumulative result of various interactions across touch-points. These could also include offline interactions such as in-store or customer service through chatbots and phone calls.

However, in today’s scenario, the digital experience is perhaps the most dominant factor in customer experience due to the following factors:

Product and service parity: we live in a world where meaningful, real product or service differentiators are hard to come by in most categories. From the humble toothpaste to a luxury hotel, every feature or service can be easily replicated by competition. In businesses that depend heavily on a digital experience to create brand preference, it is even more critical to offer a great CX as a competitive edge.

A bank that has set out to offer a mobile app or a digital-only neo bank are great examples where CX through the digital journey is the only differentiator. 39% of CEOs say customer experience is the most effective method of creating a competitive advantage.

Customer retention vs acquisition: acquiring a new customer can be 5x more expensive than to retain a current customer. In businesses that are subscription-based – such as OTT streaming, aggregator services, and more, design can play a crucial role in customer retention

Impact on bottom line: 84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in their revenue. Customers are willing to pay a premium of up to 13% (and as high as 18%) for luxury and indulgence services, simply by receiving a great customer experience.

Multiexperience: what is it and why it should matter to CXOs

The onset of the digital era and the proliferation of digital platforms, channels, and devices led to the concept of multi-channel experience – which essentially meant presence across multiple channels. It was essentially a checklist approach of presence across digital platforms. It later progressed to omnichannel – when such brand experiences were ‘connected’ across channels. Banks and retail enterprises were among those leading the call for such omnichannel experiences as can be seen by their efforts to have a presence through a physical store or branch, a website, and a mobile app.

As devices, platforms and technologies proliferated over the years, consumer habits, dependencies, and expectations changed too. In order to address these changes effectively, Gartner proposed a change in mindset, espousing multiexperience as a new approach.

It calls for a customer journey-centric approach providing multisensory, multimodal, and seamless experiences. It calls for crafting seamless and native experiences across an increasing number of touchpoints – whichever mode the customer is comfortable with. It could be voice, chatbots, personal assistants, wearables, and augmented or virtual reality.

The key is to get all this done without friction and using that platform, touchpoint, or interaction feature to the maximum benefit. At a glance, the difference between multichannel, omnichannel, and multi-experience would look like this:

Viewers are evolving and methods of consuming content are fast changing. Brands today are constantly battling for users’ attention and time. This combined shift in the OTT space led us to the creation of a unified and effortless experience for Discovery Plus. With users owning more than one device, the goal was to design and deliver a consistent experience across devices, regardless of where the user starts, continues, and ends the journey.

In the post COVID world, it is imperative that CXOs embrace the multiexperience mindset and craft effortless and seamless experiences that enable customer delight and win their trust.

The 4-pillars of crafting seamless Multiexperiences

Great products and experiences are the result of meeting latent or overt customer needs through thoughtful design and seamless execution. The four fundamentals of crafting such experiences are:

  1. Strategy – chart digital roadmaps with a holistic approach keeping in mind consumer needs & business goals
  1. Design – craft human-centered designs for seamless experiences
  1. Engineering – elevate the design experience through software and emerging technologies
  1. Analytics – analyze user data for actionable insights and personalization

Strategy: Chart digital roadmaps with a holistic approach keeping in mind consumer needs & business goals

A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim’ is the dictionary definition of strategy. Enterprises must not lose perspective that the overall aim is linked to the business strategy and not just the digital experience. The various elements of the digital experience – be it a website or a native app should help achieve business goals

For example, acquiring new customers as a business goal will warrant a strategy different from say, retaining current customers. Each goal or intent will need a distinct approach in terms of user experience. At the center of any strategy to solve a business problem is the end consumer – the one who has to use a kiosk at an airport terminal, a mobile app to make a payment, or a website to make a booking.

At Robosoft, we use principles of Design Thinking – a human-centric framework that helps create solutions to understand customer’s stated and latent needs & pain points and address them. It can play a role in Services & experience design, Organizational change, Product Design, and more.

Design: crafting the sensory experience for business impact

In today’s world, customer experiences have a direct impact on brand loyalty and ultimately, the bottom line of a business. Tangible, real product differences are hard to come by in most categories or services. For a customer, there is very little to choose in terms of features between one bank and another or one eCommerce portal and another. Better the experience, better the chances of a consumer using the brand. Crafting the right digital strategy, transforming that into an intuitive user experience, and bringing it all alive through robust engineering and cutting-edge technology is what often drives market success.

Experience matters: B2C or B2B

Traditionally, legacy software and interfaces in the B2B domain have been known to be dowdy and poor on aesthetics. Even going beyond mere looks, the web interfaces of government services and many employee-facing digital experiences in enterprises were rarely associated with modern, slick designs that simply worked and delivered a great experience. However, there really should not be any difference between the way digital experiences are crafted – be it in B2B or B2C. Both have to keep the user’s needs at the center and craft a solution that enables them to complete their tasks in an elegant, easy manner.

We should also remember that today’s consumers are accustomed to cutting edge designs and seamless digital experiences in their daily lives thanks to mobile apps for banking, utility services, taxi aggregators, and more. The same consumers expect nothing less when they are at work, using the digital interfaces of enterprises they work for.

At Robosoft, our process of crafting a design solution starts with a deep dive into consumer insights. We conduct bespoke discovery workshops, observe users in the market place to identify pain points that need to be overcome. We partnered with McDonald’s India to redesign their mobile platform and make it the preferred medium for ordering. The vision was to bring the emotions of joy and delight from in-store to the new McDelivery app experience. After multiple store visits, an intense workshop with the client, and a customer experience map, we identified several pain points in the current user journey. This helped us craft a strong intent for the desired experience. The redesigned app garnered 103% more orders than the older app.

Engineering: bringing alive the design experience through technology

No matter how beautiful a design looks, it’s useful only if it works as promised. That’s where cutting edge software skills and years of experience comes into play. Just like fashion, technologies and platforms too have fads. To use a cliché, the only constant is change in the world of technology.

At Robosoft, we believe the role of technology should be to solve a real consumer pain point and should not be seen as a ‘nice to have’ feature just because it is the latest or fashionable to have it.The strategy, design, and engineering teams need to examine the business need of an enterprise and evaluate if there is a relevant role for a particular technology.

Analytics: using data to continuously craft better experiences

The need for Analytics in effectively managing digital product development arises from two perspectives:

(a) continuous improvement is a mantra all digital product teams should believe in and

(b) digital products must meet pre-defined goals and metrics which have an impact on the business.

Steve Jobs famously said, ’Real artists ship’ – emphasizing the need to constantly put out viable products for users to experience and not be hung up on a utopian concept of perfection – which is elusive. Every great product release can have scope for improvement. The second perspective is about measuring one’s success. Peter Drucker is quoted as saying, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. Essentially, the analytics team believes in providing actionable insights into user behavior which in turn helps the product management team to continuously improve the product performance.

Some of the key areas in which the analytics team can play a role include:

  1. Define & Monitor KPIs
  1. Communicate Performance Results
  1. Testing & Optimization of Product Features
  1. Track & Monitor User Feedback
  1. Create User Cohorts
  1. User Behavior Analysis

In essence, the 4 pillars to craft great digital experiences include Strategy, Design, Development, and Analytics with a process that is cyclical in nature. An important point to note is that the best of processes and technologies are no substitute for human insights. The ability to identify a relevant, unique consumer insight and applying it to solve business problems through digital experiences is a competitive advantage for enterprises.

Read More
Customer Experience Design Thinking Digital Transformation Fintech Media & Entertainment

Multiexperience: the imperative for every CXO for 2021 and beyond

‘People buy from those who they trust’ is an adage that is timeless both in the offline and online world. Whether it is the familiar neighborhood store or an enterprise in the online world, earning consumer trust has always provided an edge – helping in customer retention and loyalty.

The trust factor came into play even more so in 2020 which has been tumultuous, to say the least. The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of people and enterprises alike in a manner we never imagined or prepared for. While several industries have been adversely affected (e.g. restaurants, amusement parks, cinema halls) many others have benefited. Digital banking, fintech services, streaming video services, EdTech, online delivery are some of the categories which have seen usage surge in 2020. The one factor which binds all the brands we turned to during this time has been the trust and familiarity factor.

As mentioned by McKinsey, particularly in times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty. They go on to say:

‘Now is also the time for customer experience (CX) leaders to position themselves at the forefront of the longer-term shifts in consumer behavior that result from this crisis. Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating to redesign journeys that matter to a very different context will be key.’

Years ago, the proliferation of digital platforms, channels, and devices led to the concept of multi-channel experience – which essentially meant presence across multiple channels. It was essentially a checklist approach of presence across digital platforms.

It later progressed to omnichannel – when such brand experiences were ‘connected’ across channels. Banks and retail enterprises were among those leading the call for such omnichannel experiences as can be seen by their efforts to have a presence through a physical store or branch, a website, and a mobile app. Starbucks and Disney are among the many brands which aced the omnichannel strategy.

Beyond omnichannel – the multiexperience advantage

As devices, platforms, and technologies proliferated over the years, consumer habits, dependencies, and expectations changed too. In order to address these changes effectively, Gartner proposed a change in mindset, espousing multiexperience as a new approach.

It calls for a customer journey-centric approach providing multisensory, multimodal, and seamless experiences. It calls for crafting seamless and native experiences across an increasing number of touchpoints – whichever mode the customer is comfortable with. It could be voice, chatbots, personal assistants, wearables, and augmented or virtual reality. In simple terms, multiexperience is taking the brands or products where the customers are and allowing them to engage as part of their user journeys.

The key is to get all this done without friction and using that platform, touchpoint, or interactions feature to the maximum benefit. At a glance, the difference between multichannel, omnichannel, and multiexperience would look like this:

Beyond omnichannel - the multiexperience advantage

The critical difference is the consistency of the digital experience and the seamless handover from one device to another mode, without the hassle of starting off all over again. Dennis Maloney, Chief Digital Officer at Domino’s Pizza said:

“What’s the easiest way to order? When you don’t have to do anything.”.

Domino’s Pizza’s ‘Anyware’ platform allows users to order in 11 different ways – from voice assistants to smart TV. The focus is on letting the consumer do less to place an order and from as many devices and modes as possible.

Domino’s Pizza’s

Image source

Another example of such a seamless experience is being planned on Google Maps which was hitherto only seen as a navigation aid. Today, it is being re-imagined as a means to gather information such as cab fares, show real-time ‘crowdedness’ information, and live food delivery status.

Multiexperience also requires backend applications to be micro-services enabled so that re-usable components are created to make them digital-ready. The microservices architecture is based on a collection of interconnected services. They are easier to build and maintain, and focus on business capabilities while enhancing productivity, speed, and scalability.

Why multiexperience? Winning the two big wars.

‘Change is the only constant’ maybe a cliche but never has the pace of change been so accelerated as in the digital age. Who would have thought that several industries would be upended when technology and great customer experience come together? Fintech, utility services, food delivery, aggregators across taxi services, and more have benefitted from fulfilling customer needs through great digital experiences.

These developments have forced legacy brands across segments to re-look at their business model and customer experience. Product or service parity is common across categories leaving little or no room for real, meaningful product differences. The only edge very often is customer experience. And as we live in an experience economy, this becomes core to a business strategy and not just limited to optimizing technologies or user experience.

At Robosoft, we recently crafted a multiexperience OTT platform for Discovery+. Viewers are evolving and methods of consuming content are fast changing. Brands today are constantly battling for user attention and time. This combined shift in the OTT space led us to the creation of a unified and effortless experience for Discovery Plus. With users owning more than one device, the goal was to design and deliver a consistent experience across devices, regardless of where the user starts, continues, and ends the journey.

Multiexperience OTT platform for Discovery+

The other big war afoot is the one to win consumer’s trust. In the digital world, it is said that winning consumer’s attention is important. But I would argue that beyond mere attention, enterprises should strive to win consumer trust – as that is what leads to retention and consumer loyalty. Design can play a role in retaining customers, especially in businesses where subscription and repeat purchases are critical.

In the post COVID world, it is imperative that CXOs embrace the multiexperience mindset and craft effortless and seamless experiences that enable customer delight and win their trust.

This article was originally published at Linkedin Pulse under my LinkedIn handle – Ravi Teja Bommireddipalli

Read More
Mobile Opinion

The Superpower of Super Apps and How to Create One

2020 has forced enterprises to rethink and re-evaluate their business challenges and opportunities. The role of digital experiences is even more critical for enterprises as consumers interact with mobile apps for everything from ordering groceries to payments to watching video streaming services. Mary Meeker’s recent COVID-19 impact report suggests that businesses doing the best, have products that were always in demand but especially so in uncertain times – and that list now includes entertainment.

In this scenario, apps that can help consumers accomplish a multitude of tasks – also known as Super Apps have gained currency. Such apps were popular even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak especially in South and Southeast Asia – where consumers took to mobiles as their first entry to the online world as opposed to a gradual shift from desktops, laptops, and mobiles as seen in the western world.

Super Apps was a term introduced in 2010, by BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis. He described Super Apps as a closed ecosystem of multiple apps used on a daily basis due to their ease of use. In today’s world, Super Apps are a combination of functions like social, financial, utility services, and entertainment integrated into one app. We have seen food delivery apps extending to grocery deliveries and offering video recipes, cab aggregator apps evolving into food delivery, and payment apps encompassing everything from e-commerce to news. This phenomenon will only rise rapidly in the near future.

Why Super Apps are popular – the consumer’s perspective

A recent KPMG report suggests one of the major driving forces for the rise of Super Apps at a global level is the shift in consumer behavior and preferences. Specialist apps focused on delivering one service well– which led to a proliferation of apps in a device. After nearly a decade of fragmentation and unbundling of services in their lives — consumers are starting to revert towards re-bundling, says the report.

Of course, consumers are not specifically stating that they need a Super App. However, the shifts in their demands from a digital solution are leading to the rise of such apps. Here are a few such shifts:

Why Super Apps are popular - the consumer’s perspective

  • Convenience and simplicity of digital platforms: ease of use, and convenience play a critical role in the acceptance of any digital solution. Super Apps helps enterprises offer that.
  • Choosing one-stop-shops vs plethora of apps: ‘there’s an app for that’ was a popular saying. There are apps available from banks, bank-like neo banks, telcos, digital wallets, ride-sharing, food delivery, and so on – leading to app fatigue. In fact, a recent Clevertap study suggests that most users haven’t downloaded a single app in a 3-month period. And, it is a known fact that smartphone users spend most of their screen time on just 5 apps. Integrating all those most used 5 apps into one single Super App is definitely a win-win proposition for the user and the business.
  • A unified user experience: in a digital world user experience can be the key driver for retaining and engaging with the user. Super Apps can provide a uniform and individual user experiences across offers.
  • Save phone memory &internet usage: On an average, a smartphone may have about 30 apps with only a handful of apps being used regularly. Adding more specialist apps – thus affecting device storage is a problem for most users. Hence, an ‘app which does it all’ is seen in a positive light. It is also seen as a productivity aid as it reduces the time to complete tasks, as users no more need to download multiple apps for different services. It saves phone memory and mobile data. These are two important factors while serving customers in emerging markets and engaging them.
  • Data from Super Apps helps to offer personalized customer experience: a Super App can be a repository to a wealth of data from various services it offers. Brands can use analytics, track consumer habits, and offer an effective and personalized experience.

The rise of Super Apps and why they make business sense

The rise of Super Apps started in Southeast Asia and is now becoming a worldwide phenomenon. The success of the Cplatfor like WeChat and Alipay is encouraging the rest of the world to tap into this opportunity. Recently, Yahoo Japan’s parent Z Corp. merged with LINE, a popular chat app in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand to develop super-app models for both brands.

In India, our client Paytm rose from being a payments app to becoming a Super App and offer a range of services such as bill payments, movie ticketing, e-commerce and now contactless food ordering [users can scan restaurant menus through the app, place and orders and pay the bill thus maintaining social distancing]. In a recent interview, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of Paytm said, ‘Customers on our app should complete as much as their day’s tasks’. The merits of this approach is plain to see – make the app a single destination for a multitude of needs and tasks. Recently, we also worked with one of the leading e-commerce players of India to integrate insurance aggregator services on their platform.

In Indonesia, Go-Jekhas emerged from a ride-sharing platform to offering a range of services like food delivery, medical advice, and financial products. According to Go-Jek, ‘the biggest moat Go-Jek built is payments. Once you’re handling money for a user, you can build a castle of services within it.’ Such Super Apps leverage their existing infrastructure in innovative ways like using their ride-share drivers as bank tellers.

In India too, we are seeing such apps gaining investor’s attention – Tencent has the most prolific India portfolio including Ola, Flipkart, Swiggy, etc. Softbank, which backs Paytm and Ola in India, has also invested in Grab.

The much-revered Mary Meeker’s 2019 internet trends report cites how local services are evolving into super apps that fuel usage at scale. One such example is Meituan, an on-demand delivery platform with 412 million annual users, growing at 26% year over year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of consumers have turned to the platform to order non-food items – understandably spiking the company’s confidence that food delivery service will become the infrastructure service for China’s urban population. In India, Meituan-Dianping has also invested in the local food delivery service – Swiggy. Another such example is Alibaba’s Alipay which has become a Super App with services that support payments for more than 1 billion users.

Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report

Image source

Besides the shifts in consumer behavior, another factor that has led to the growth of Super Apps is the blurring of boundaries between industries. A digital wallet platform has emerged as a competitor for e-commerce players, a ride-sharing platform can be a competitor for delivery apps, and so on.

The growth of the platform economy has also led to the flourishing of Super Apps. Super Apps like Grab, WeChat, Alipay, Go-Jek, Paytm, Kakao, Line in Japan, or Rappi in South America, are examples of the platform business model.

In fact, the most valuable companies in the world – Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Tencent, and Alibaba incorporated the platform business model years ago. The acceleration of this trend has led to enterprises shifting away from a single-purpose to multipurpose apps, resulting in the rise of the Super Apps.

Some organizations are also integrating their offers to break away from dependencies on third-party platforms. For instance – Ikea is breaking away from Amazon and is working on building its own platform. While some enterprises are partnering with existing payers to build Super Apps for e.g. Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan have together launched a healthcare venture with Amazon.

It is evident that Super Apps make sense in the current world and the world to be, especially for enterprises that already have the infrastructure to evolve into one, with minimal resource and cost implications. And, we have seen that happening with the likes of platforms like Zomato, Swiggy, etc which quickly adapted to essential services delivery platforms from being food platforms.

Recently, our client, one of the leading online marketplaces of Middle East, launched Noon Daily, a next-day fresh grocery delivery service in Dubai, via the noon App. The launch of the app was accelerated in the current situation with pre-payment and contact-less silent delivery features. We have also partnered with the client to launch their mobile wallet app – ‘Noon Pay’ which will make payments easier for their customers, hence closing the entire loop from ordering to payments.

Here’s how Super Apps can help enterprises in business growth

Here’s how Super Apps can help enterprises in business growth

  1. Revenue earned through transactions on the apps’ marketplaces and platforms.
  2. Scope of partnership with various merchants to provide their services on the app;  introduce and monetize credit to consumers, agents, and merchants.
  3. Revenue growth by allowing advertising capabilities on the platform.
  4. Super Apps can help enter new markets/geographies: the only prerequisite being identifying user’s pain points, provide great customer service, provide add-on offers and services on the same app, and do all of this seamlessly across geographies and industries.
  5. Lower product ownership and development costs: Most of the ‘mini-apps’ on WeChat were not developed in-house, but created through integration by companies who wanted to conduct business with WeChat’s immense user base. Most ‘super apps’ follow the platform-based approach to scale their products. In fact, WeChat opened its ecosystem in 2017 for developers to create mini-programs that work within the WeChat ecosystem. LINE has done something similar with mini-apps

As rightly pointed by Cristian Citu, the World Economic Forum’s Digital Transformation Lead:

“Today if you smartly combine established and emerging technologies with a data-driven and customer-centric approach organizations have a major opportunity for exponential growth”.

The same stands true for enterprises entering into the arena of Super Apps.

Key points to consider while building Super Apps

  • Start with a core product with high engagement and then build more use cases – Most Super Apps started as single-purpose apps and extended their services after acquiring a substantial user base. WeChat, after accumulating a large customer base with its instant messaging service, introduced new features to its users, such as its own payment method, house rental, and ride-hailing services. Subsequently, the platform gained new users beyond the initial ones.
  • Have a supply-side economy of scale-like Uber, GoJek, Grab, Lyft, Swiggy – Go-Jek leveraged their success as a transport service and later offered more services to their existing clients. Similarly, the likes of Grab and Uber used their stronghold in supply-side services in transportation to later offer additional services to their clients.
  • Understand the needs of the users, the market, and the economy before extending services – The success of apps in the Asian markets have been also largely driven due to the large number of the unbanked population in these geos. According to the World Bank, only 27% of the population in Asia has a bank account.  With their integrated wallet feature, super-apps have been welcomed by this huge unbanked population in emerging countries. This might not be the case in the western markets, like the United States, where credit cards provide a great ease in making payments.
  • Build strong partnerships and ecosystems – Cross-industry partnerships can also be a determining factor for the success of Super Apps. For instance, Grab, the ride-hailing company headquartered in Singapore and with heavy market presence across the SEA region acquired the local sub-division of Uber and UberEats. At the same time, Grab also started paving its way towards payments and invested in OVO, a popular payment platform in Indonesia.

Super Apps – yay or nay for your enterprise?

While building a Super App might seem like a promising idea, however, it might not be the right strategy for every business. Some factors that companies should consider before making this leap:

  • Cost, time, and resource consideration: the cost, resources, and time involved in building a Super Apps is relatively higher when compared to creating a single-purpose app. Business leaders should consider and ensure their business priorities align with the need for a Super App.
  • User experience: a single-purpose app can sometimes offer a great experience that might get diluted with the integration of multiple services, if not done well. If your business is ready to create and offer a similar or better experience through a Super App, it might hamper your core business and brand.
  • Specificity of the services: many businesses offer multiple services under one brand.For instance under Facebook – there’s a social media app, a messaging app, Instagram and WhatsApp. However, every app is a separate entity because they serve very distinct purposes. If your services are too specific and distinct in might not make sense to integrate them into one platform. Alipay made several unsuccessful forays into social networking/chat. WeChat too faltered in its attempt at direct e-commerce.

In conclusion

The Southeast Asian markets have seen tremendous growth and the rise of Super Apps. With the rise in the number of internet and smartphone users, this trend will only see further growth. However, enterprises have a long way to go when it comes to capturing western markets which are digitally mature, and regulatory norms are way more stringent. Enterprises like Uber have already led the way to Super Apps in these markets and initiated offering services like food delivery, ticketing with Uber Transit, and payment services with Uber Money. Irrespective of the market and geographies it will be critical for enterprises to consider the why, what, and how of their Super App strategy before taking the leap.

India is uniquely placed – both as a consumer market and as a hub for crafting Super Apps for the world. Our experience in crafting digital solutions that simplify lives for millions around the globe will help enterprises realize the superpower of Super Apps.  

Read More
Mobile Opinion

Customer experience in the age of uncertainty

The ongoing global crisis arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll in many ways – thousands of lives have been lost and the world has been disrupted like never before.  Enterprises have been forced to adapt to new ways of functioning and employees are also discovering the pressures of working under severe constraints. Several industries like travel, traditional retail, hotels, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) and more are affected adversely. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development says the world economy will go into recession this year with a predicted loss of global income in trillions of dollars.

Clearly, we are heading into an age of uncertainty on many fronts. Even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, which I hope is sooner than later, the impact of the crisis on our mindset and behavior will be long-lasting. In the coming months, focusing on customer experience will be even more critical for enterprises.

Empathy: the need now – more than ever

Over the last few years, experience with digital channels reveals how critical understanding user behavior has become. Consumers have faced anxiety over e-commerce deliveries, availability of products on retail shelves, health care services and more. In many parts of the world, consumers have become more frugal towards spending. Such behavioral changes will have an impact even after the crisis. It is critical for enterprises to gauge consumer mood by displaying empathy – a key trait of the Design Thinking process. How does it feel to be in the shoes of a restaurant-goer or an airline traveler when such services resume? What will be their pain points and how can enterprises address them?

Remote-working is also expected to change the way we work in the near future. Lack of shared physical space and human interaction while working from home has its downsides too. Digital-only interactions in a non-working environment where distractions are possible can lead to poor attention spans and even create mistrust (as not all activities are monitored physically). Such subtle mindset changes can affect collaborative environments later. As work & personal life can get an overlap while working from home, employees are conscious of the need to demarcate them and find time for personal hobbies like reading. When they get back to things as they were, they may resent it if work eats into their personal lives.

On social media, we see posts about how the lockdowns have triggered a behavioral change. Binge-watching streaming services, playing more games on the mobile phone or a digital detox through voracious reading, pursuing hobbies like singing or playing musical instruments are some of the ways in which people are coping with the change. It remains to be seen how ‘back to normal’ will affect mindsets and behaviors.

The impact on key domains and CX

Fintech: the crisis triggered by COVID-19 had a big impact on share markets and thus, investors. It is a grim reminder of the unpredictable nature of our lives which is likely to impact those who interact with banks & fintech products through digital products. They might seek more transparency and re-assurance from fintech brands with regards to their money being safe.

Travel, hospitality & tourism: many countries have banned domestic flights, trains, and buses. Brands in the industry face a huge decline in revenues. When lockdowns are lifted and the industry is open for business, brands may need to provide incentives for consumers to travel without fear. Consumers may have planned for trips which may have led to the cancellation. Creative incentive schemes to defer their plans and not cancel them may have to be devised and communicated. Hotels may have to stress upon hygiene factors to reassure guests. The booking experience and notifications may have to be thought of afresh given the above.

Healthcare & wellness: telemedicine is being adopted aggressively by hospitals for doctor consultation in the age of social distancing. Phone, text and video consultation is already available on apps such as MDLive, Lemonaid in the US and DocsApp in India have made the concept familiar to many. But as many new patients come into this fold, especially the senior citizens, they may need to be educated on how to use the platform well. This will have an impact on on-boarding, walk-throughs and the user interface of the app itself.  Mental wellness has also gained focus as people struggle to cope up with the stress of possible health issues, isolation, and fear of job loss. In the months to come, consumers may have to be encouraged to continue with the habit of using apps & other digital experiences to help calm nerves down.

E-commerce and Supply Chain: As the world increasingly adopts to shopping, food & grocery delivery through native apps, the impact is not just on robust engineering which can take on huge surges in demand but also on intelligent, empathetic UI and a whole new opportunity in communication.

“While it was said that the 3 most important criteria for success in traditional retail were ‘location, location and location’ in the era of social distancing, it could very well be ‘supply chain, supply chain, and supply chain”.

Supply Chain and its impact on customer experience will play a big role in the days to come. Enterprises would need to set up systems that can provide real-time actionable insights, analytics, and reports, all through a single, intuitive dashboard. Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence will play a role in demand forecasting, production planning and order fulfillment – which eventually matters most to the end consumer.

Industries such as entertainment, OTT will also be well advised to adopt design thinking practices to understand the evolving consumer needs and tailor-make a customer experience.

Customer experience

Digital experiences as a competitive edge

Digital channels, over the last few years, have overcome the trust deficit and emerged as a secure and reliable way of transacting. The ongoing global crisis arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic has got industries to lean further on these channels. Social distancing norms have dented approaches that depended on person-to-person interactions and necessitated leanings towards digital. And the race to acquire more customers via this channel and to subsequently, retain them, is on.

At the same time, consumers are getting choosy and lack patience.  Loyalty is becoming difficult to earn. Self-discovery is emerging as a clear preference among the millennials.  Hence, providing a superior experience that hand-holds consumers to achieve precisely their intended purpose quickly, in the simplest manner, is becoming the keystone of the digital journey.

Clearly, we are heading into an age of uncertainty on many fronts. Even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, which I hope is sooner than later, the impact of the crisis on the economy and  how we interact with stakeholders will be long-lasting. In the coming months, focusing on customer experience will be even more critical for enterprises.

The current times call for brands to shift focus from individual transactions to building customer relationships grounded in empathy, collaboration, transparency, trust, and care. With the world inclining towards digital, enterprises across industries need to rethink their digital strategies that can have a profound impact on the customer experience. Acknowledging changing customer behaviors and being able to ease their fears, instill confidence by prioritizing customer experiences that are embedded in empathy is the way forward.

Such scenarios across diverse industries present unique challenges in understanding consumer mindset and how it affects their interactions and behavior toward brands. Enterprises may well be advised to invest more in design thinking processes in the coming months. While none of us can predict what the world beyond COVID-19 is going to look like, customer experience will clearly be one of the key differentiators for brands looking to garner customer loyalty.

Read More
Mobile Opinion

3 Top CXO Priorities in a Digital World

What does a CXO in a global OTT streaming powerhouse have in common with a counterpart in a FinTech company? While target audience and market dynamics maybe different for every category there is a common factor: we all have to craft business strategies in a digital world. However, are all enterprises on a level playground when it comes to making the most of human capital and digital technologies?

According to PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series, while Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution (commonly known as 4IR) ‘may be everywhere, not everyone is yet fully on board’ to thrive in this digital revolution. We may never achieve a situation where all enterprises are equally adept at crafting delightful digital experiences by effectively using emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, blockchain and more.

In my interactions with CXOs across various industries, I have observed three common challenges which all enterprises – irrespective of domain, B2B or B2C, have to grapple with:

1. Human insight as compliment to technology 

Is technology everything? Is effective use of code, blockchain or voice technology a true long-term advantage? In my view, no. Nothing can replace the intuitive nature of human interaction and insight gathered from such. HBR defines an insight as ‘an imaginative understanding of an internal or external opportunity that can be tapped to improve efficiency, generate revenue, or boost engagement’.

In my experience as a student of Design Thinking, what has created the most impact in outcomes is empathizing with end consumers – what makes a person tick, what brings a smile and what gives a satisfyingly delightful experience – making a person feel productive and empowered. Such insights, when married with the right technology have the power to drive loyalty and thus impact a business financially. The fields of epistemology, ontology and psychology (the science of knowledge, being and behavior respectively) play a key role in gaining user insights. These sciences help us understand:

  • How the emotional and rational brains work
  • How the sub-conscious mind works
  • How humans make decisions
  • The power of strangers, reviews, ratings and public commitment
  • The bystander effect
  • The ‘give to get more’ principle
  • How to harness a refusal for sale
  • How to tap into the reptilian brain for snap decisions
  • How to keep the user entertained through gamification
  • How to balance color, motion, images, premium slots, information, etc. online
  • Usage of powerful words in English dictionary

2. Digital expertise as competitive advantage 

Back in 2018, many industry leaders declared ‘all companies are technology companies now’.  BCG described it as ‘a capacity to capture and capitalize on vast lakes of customer and other data and ultimately the capability to create digitally enabled market-leading goods and services.’ It made sense as what powers diverse businesses such as food delivery, vacation rooms, e-commerce, media or banking was technology. Technology was utilized to understand consumer behavior and help craft product or service offerings. Over the last couple of years a few macro trends have added new dimensions to this state of affairs.

  • Firstly, genuine service or product differentiation has become even more difficult to achieve. Customer experience – the catch-all phrase covering digital and human interactions often ends up being the differentiator.
  • Today’s consumers are brutally unforgiving. A poor website experience, a service issue unattended or a malfunctioning app is enough to lose a customer forever. Retention is the new growth. Understanding user psychology and analyzing user data during their online engagement is key.

In this context, for most businesses, digital expertise – the ability to apply machine learning and design thinking principles together becomes a key competitive advantage.

3. Purpose for profit

Brand purpose has become a buzz phrase over the last few years – with varying degrees of success. In my view, enterprises need to define a higher order benefit or a value which they stand for. However, such a goal has to be genuine, hard wired to the business the enterprise is in and matched by real, on-ground efforts. Doordash is not just a delivery company – it defines itself as ‘technology company that connects people with the best in their cities. We do this by empowering local businesses and in turn, generate new ways for people to earn, work and live’. They back this intent with initiatives like Project DASH (DoorDash Acts for Sustainability and Hunger), focused on tackling the problems of hunger and food waste in the local communities they serve. At Robosoft we have defined our higher purpose as “Simplifying lives” of billions of citizens globally through technology and human-centered design. Our engineers, designers and product analysts wake up every morning motivated to make a difference and simplify lives of users of the apps we build; simplifying the way citizens buy, sell, transact, bank, pay, get entertained, get insured, consume, order, travel and what not.

Design Thinking principles and understanding consumer insights can also help enterprises craft their higher order purpose and bake that larger idea into not only the products & services they craft but also in the way their employees deal with customers – becoming second nature to the company itself.

This article was originally published at Linkedin Pulse under my LinkedIn handle – Ravi Teja Bommireddipalli

Read More
1 2