Author Archives: Srinidhi Rao

Srinidhi Rao
Srinidhi is our Board Member Robosoft Technologies Inc., & EVP - Global Delivery. He also leads a group that focuses on end-to-end Product Life Cycle Management - from product conceptualization to delivery for a host of global clients. With nearly 20 years of experience - his techno-managerial background is an asset to our clients, as he brings both business and tech perspectives to crafting digital solutions.
Banking Fintech Insurance

5 key FAQs on neobanks and their digital experiences

5 FAQs in Neobanking and digital experiences

Founded in 1472, Banca Monte Dei Paschi di Siena is said to be the oldest surviving bank in the world. Since then, the banking industry has come a long way. It has not only grown in size but also wields huge influence across the world. Several powerful local and global brands have been established and many of them are synonymous with trust and financial safety. But as with every other industry, change is the only constant in banking too.

The onset of the internet, smartphones and better mobile connectivity has given rise to digital banking. For a large set of customers there was no reason to visit a brick & mortar branch office as all transactions could be completed on the web or on the mobile. Over the last few years, the term neobank has been used to describe digital-first or digital-only banking services. Europe, India and the US have been home for several successful neobanks in the recent past. What’s more, as a sign of its popularity, several niche services have already been launched in the domain:

– Launched recently, Lucy is a neobank targeted at women entrepreneurs.

– There’s a neobank exclusively to meet the needs of musicians: Nerve merges user experience and financial technologies to help artists build stronger communities and sustainable careers.

What makes neobanks an attractive proposition for consumers? Let us attempt to answer a few basic questions about neobanks, the reasons for their popularity and the role of digital experiences.

1. What are neobanks? Are there different types of neobanks?

When banking began the digitization journey, the FinTech industry emerged, providing technology to digitize several processes in financial services. This enabled online banking, payments and other services like insurance and wealth management. Customer preferences shifted as they embraced the convenience of online transactions. They prioritized convenience over the traditional approach of trusting a person at the local bank branch or an insurance agent. They preferred digital payments over cash, removing the need for ATMs. Neobanks emerged at the intersection of technology and banking in this industry shift. The concept of neobanks emerged around 2015, and in a very short span of time disrupted the entire banking industry.

“Neobanks are digital first, born in the cloud, completely online banks, with absolutely no physical presence. They provide banking services only via web or mobile a smartphone app.”

In Europe and the US, neobanks are also referred to as ‘challenger banks’ or ‘open banking’. They all have the following key characteristics:
– Customer first: understanding the generation that are digital natives, and rely on their phones for everything, neobanks adopt an entirely digital approach to the customer experience, offering crisp, user friendly and intuitive interfaces.
– Technology powered: Neobanks are entirely technology driven, using technology to acquire customers and deliver services. They deploy artificial intelligence to create personalized, customized offers based on data. Traditional banks rely on in-person or phone customer service, while neobanks may rely on chatbots or Robo-Advisors.
– No physical presence: Neobanks have no physical presence at all; they operate without branches, offices, ATMs or any type of physical infrastructure.
– No banking license: Neobanks typically do not have a banking license and offer services along with a banking partner, although some countries that allow digital banking licenses have seen some licensed neobanks.

Robosoft Neobank eBook download

In general, a neobank is different from a traditional bank, a mobile wallet or a digital bank, and can fall into these categories.

1. Independent neobanks that work with banking partners: most neobanks follow this model, where a FinTech firm creates a digital experience with a mobile or web platform, and they collaborate with conventional banks to offer services and products. Yolt, Lunarway, and Moven are examples of neobanks that work in this model.

2. Neobanks owned by traditional banks: several traditional banks have realized the value of a digital-only, customer first approach. Aside from their online banking portals, banks set up wholly owned neobanks as part of their digital initiatives such as DigiBank set up by DBS.

3. Licensed neobanks: some countries such as UK, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, and Singapore allow digital banking licenses, and as a result, some neobanks have acquired banking licenses. This allows them to offer more valuable, regulated services. Monzo, N26, MyBank, Starling Bank, and Revolut are some examples.

Additional read: Mobile Fintech vs Traditional Banking products

2. Aside from lack of physical outlets, how are neobanks different from traditional banks?

What neobanks did best is understand the new age consumer and use technology to create a user-first banking experience, rather than a regulation and process first banking experience.

Traditional bank vs Neobank Challenges

Neobanks create a purely delightful digital journey with easy to use and attractive interfaces. New solutions are built based on a mobile-first experience over a branch-first experience. They use data to create unique solutions and understand the pulse of the customers to create digitally enabled experiences.

3. What aspects of neobanks do customers like?

It is believed that the incredibly easy account opening and smooth, quick on-boarding are hugely attractive to those who have signed up with neobanks (Niyo in India anchors its advertising on the fact that its account opening takes just 100 seconds).

Deloitte surveyed millennials in over 20 countries and found that 68% say that new financial players understand their needs. They expect banks to offer a slick and sophisticated app, with new offers tailored to their needs. 79% of millennials access their mobile banking app multiple times a week. With Gen Z entering the workforce, there will be new expectations of social media integrations and deeply unique experiences.

Consumers want fully connected services from neobanks, which means creating products and services that cross over the traditional industry lines.
– Hyper-personalization options such as bundling services like real estate with home loans, peer to peer payments, personal finance planning, and even lifestyle related features are being integrated into the digital experience.
– For small and medium enterprises as well, neobanks are offering integrated services of banking as well as financial management including accounting, invoicing and taxation.

Neobanks have seen widespread adoption and growth as they are agile and easy to set up, and customers find it simple to engage with them.

Easy account creation: customers can easily open an account in a few clicks, without having to visit a bank branch or provide reams of documentation.

Personalization: the user experience is unique and tailor-made with data available on spending patterns and other insights

Range of services at lower fees: not having to bear costs of labor or branches as well as less spend on regulatory compliances allow Neobanks to offer services including banking, debit and credit cards, forex, loans and others free or at very low service rates

4. What’s in it for neobanks?

Low cost and agile: Neobanks are 100% online, so they have no investment on physical infrastructure and low operational spends such as customer support, ATMs or bank branches.

Wider reach of customers: the ease of account creation via mobile phones and simple user interfaces, enable neobanks to reach the unbanked populations including small and medium enterprises, blue collar workers and youth.

Data on consumer patterns and trends: being completely digital allows neobanks to collect and analyses consumer data, understand the patterns, and behaviors. Using machine learning allows them to provide a customized experience, and artificial intelligence helps neobanks create personalized services.

Benefits for the Neobank

5. What is the industry shifts which were favorable to neobanks?

Digital acceleration: The pace of adoption of new technologies and relying on digital solutions for everything (be it ordering food or hailing a cab) increased recently. The pace of this change accelerated after the Covid-19 pandemic and has impacted several industries including media & entertainment and delivery services.

Hyper-personalization: Product or service parity is common across categories. While consumers may see very little difference between brands, the ones which cater to a ‘segment of one’ are bound to have an edge. Consumers expect unique services, ongoing communication and access to relevant information and data.

Change in the notion of trust: An imposing building and presence over decades was equated with solid performance and trust by the older generation. Millennials and Gen Z don’t see such as markers of trust. They expect the digital experience to work and work best for them.

Shifts in technology capabilities: The foundational elements of technology put in place in the first wave of digitization by banks and FinTechs have a lot to do with the success of neobanking. API integrations allow data and information to be shared by various applications, which allows neobanks to offer simplified services, and fast digital experiences. Account aggregator system reforms such as India’s UPI (Unified Payments Interface) have enabled ways to connect, bypass legacy-infrastructure hurdles, and innovate using technology.

Technology-enabled design as brand edge: Both B2C and B2B enterprises have come to accept that design can be a secret weapon in creating brand affinity. While slick user interfaces attract users and simplify the digital journey, machine learning and artificial intelligence are bridging data and user experiences. With these AI / ML applications, neobanks draw from individual data to create a personalized experience, or offer unique services or products by predicting a user’s need.

Additional read: 5 factors set to impact the future of banking

Despite the rise of neobanks, traditional banks which have adapted well to the digital world still have an edge due to brand recognition, positive equity and a huge customer base. All in all, it promises to be a win-win for the end consumers who can get the best of banking facilities, customer service and digital experiences.

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Customer Experience Digital Transformation Real Estate

How Digital in PropTech is boosting value for the Real Estate Stakeholders

Digital has played a role in the real estate business for several years now – but largely in the area of selling properties. Digital marketing as an outreach to find prospects, use of technology in creating 3D-walkthroughs were among the common use cases. Later the sector started leveraging technology to enhance customer experience – the role of technology could be seen in home automation, ‘e-homes’ and shared economy as seen in the rise of Airbnb, WeWork among others.

Over the last few years, the umbrella term PropTech has come to cover the use of digital technology in construction technology, property management, interior design and sales & marketing of properties. CXOs also see digital transformation as an imperative in the property market. As with many other sectors, COVID-19 pandemic has forced all the stakeholders of the real estate market to seek digital solutions.

PropTech – Emergence & Evolution

Short for ‘technology in the property domain’, PropTech is expected to meet the changing needs of the real estate ecosystem in the digital world. Today’s PropTech goes beyond online search and leverages virtual reality, augmented reality, drones, and Internet of Things (IoT), seamlessly integrating with the realty sector, optimizing the way people purchase, sell and use a property.

The amalgamation of the tech industry with real estate helps all parties involved – investors, developers, real estate agents, and property management companies. PropTech attempts to make the realty industry easier, efficient, and easier to navigate.

According to research firm CREtech, global investment in real estate technology start-ups and more established players reached $14 billion by the middle of 2019, rising from $12.7 billion in 2017.

As with many other domains COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the PropTech too with increased interest and investments across sales and marketing, shared economy, interior design services, furniture rentals, and construction technology. According to a Housing.com survey, in India, 37 percent of the potential homebuyers are confident to buy a home completely online with a single on-ground site visit.

PropTech: Making an impact around the world

In the US, technology has traditionally played a role in home buying primarily through online search and connecting potential buyers with brokers. Of late technology has increased the dependence on sophisticated data to drive decisions, assess home value, and find ideal buyers. Adding to this are the emerging concepts of co-working and co-living that represent the largest group of today’s home buyers, which are driving real estate enterprises towards technology adoptions changing the landscape of digitized realty.

The next generation of real estate enterprises is already disrupting existing systems and creating new ones that address the customers’ growing demand for affordability, community, and flexibility. Companies like Better promise to ‘fix a broken business model’ by promising lower commission and fees.

Better Real Estate girl calling over phone

Even in the commercial realty space, we see realtors focusing on providing digital experience to the customers. Recently, SL Green Corp Manhattan’s largest office landlord announced the launch of Summit One Vanderbilt, a new, innovative destination that combines unparalleled vistas, curated multi-sensory experiences and cutting-edge technology to offer an unprecedented guest experience spanning art, nature, and design. Offering an interactive experience, this new destination intends to redefine the way people experience the intersection between nature and the built environment.

The real estate & property tech industry has attracted investor interest too and the offerings are diverse:

  • Flyhomes, an end-to-end home buying start-up, raised $150mn in Series C funding in June 2021. It is a real estate brokerage platform and aims to help clients through the entire homebuying process.
  • Guest House stages shoppable homes, offering the furniture and décor used to stage the home for sale.
  • A startup, Cortex is helping commercial buildings to de-carbonize. It’s machine learning capabilities work with human interventions in optimizing energy utilizations of a building. It claims to have helped Empire State Building save $800K per year in energy costs
  • Compass is among the biggest in this category. It went public recently and provides an online platform for buying, renting, and selling real estate assets. They claim to provide simplicity and transparency for agents, sellers and buyers. In 2019, they enhanced their digital experience adding AI-powered recommendations, ‘a visual workspace that allows agents and clients to collaborate, discuss, and monitor the market in real-time’, search facilities across local and multiple geographies, dynamic map search and more. Such seamless digital experiences simplify the lives of all the stakeholders in the prop tech industry.

 

 

 

Compass App layout screenshots

Source

In Asia, as recently as 2019, KPMG concluded that property organizations may still be behind the curve in developing an enterprise-wide digital and innovation strategy. However, industry professionals were confident that use of technology could produce efficiency gains across their common pain points.

Big data analytics, artificial intelligence, business process automation and the Internet of Things are likely to be the top technologies for Asia’s property industry over the next five years. According to PropTech CBRE, around 151 of China’s top 200 real estate companies have already digitized their processes. South East Asia is also home to serious players across services in the property segment – Capitaland, PropertyGuru and iProperty to name a few.

India is another market where PropTech is gaining traction. In 2020, the domain received nearly $551mn in investments. The players in the domain offer diverse services including selling & buying of property, peer-to-peer property listing platforms, a marketplace for the construction materials industry and more. Recently, India’s first PropTech syndicate fund was announced by Brigade REAP, a real-estate accelerator program which aims to invest in start-ups looking to raise up to $500K in early-stage funding.

Europe too has seen massive investment in the PropTech sector. According to a March 2020 report, sector funding grew 550% in five years to €550mn with the UK claiming the biggest share. Here too, modular construction, student living, co-living and software for construction project management attracted investments.

Technology in the property ecosystem

With changing dynamics and customer demands, there are several areas where aspects of PropTech can play a role:

Home Automation: thanks to efforts from brands like Apple & Google, home automation has acquired a cool quotient. The smart phone can be used to control lighting to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Home & office security, multimedia integration and personalized spaces are other use cases of automation.

Construction: constructing a property requires a lot of planning, risk analysis, forecasting, and cost estimation. This entire exercise could be optimized with the help of PropTech. This increases accuracy and efficiency, enabling faster project completion.

Purchase & rental: the traditional house hunting exercise can be arduous and time taking, and the results are often dissatisfactory. PropTech apps and online portals enable agents and investors to choose their property as per their custom requirements.

Co-working: such workspaces benefit owners as well as agents owing to cost-efficiency. PropTech helps the administration keep a track of its members and their payments along with other integrated services.

Workflow optimization: planning, building, operation and maintenance of construction projects involves collecting data, tracking tasks, documentation and reports. The entire process can be streamlined and managed digitally. PlanRadar is one such offering available across platforms and devices.

Emerging trends in PropTech

As with other industries where there are diverse players in the ecosystem, technology can add value to all in PropTech – sellers, agents, investors, owners, and tenants. Let’s look at some of the technologies and their role:

Big Data

Real estate enterprises are flooded with customer data which when analyzed properly can provide insights to create customized solutions and improve customer service. By analyzing patterns and probabilities, Big Data can play a role in mitigating risks. Property owners can plan activities by analyzing weather, traffic and environment data. Brand owners can derive insights to run media campaigns and advertise the property to the right target audience at the right time. It can also help customize the ads and its placement as per the customer needs which can help create brand affinity.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Automating rule-based repetitive processes has simplified various tasks across operations. Leveraging AI and Machine Learning in reality have shown various benefits such as simplifying repetitive tasks and streamlining data management, identifying customer preferences & creating suggestions, deriving insights & using them for advertising campaigns. Lastly, using chatbots to provide 24/7 customer services and support.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is software through which prospective buyers, renters, and investors are provided a virtual property tour alleviating the need to visit the actual property. It provides a 360-degree view of the property and opens the market to more buyers and is also a cost-efficient method to check and select properties.

Drones

Drones help view and record external features of the property, providing an outlook to interested clients saving them time and money. Unlike images and brochures, drones provide high-resolution aerial images, providing the actual view of the property. It can help present the entire location and surrounding areas. Drones are also used to deliver materials and even in bricklaying.

Sustainable Technology

As per the United Nations, real estate accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s energy consumption and a third of all carbon emissions. As the need for green business models increases, real estate enterprises support and advocate the construction and purchase of greener properties and systems to manage them. Sustainable technologies help realtors provide their customers with the best of properties without exhausting natural resources.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Several industries have been disrupted by SaaS products – which are cloud based solutions allowing users to access relevant data through browsers or apps. In PropTech too, SaaS can play a role in project management, sales and marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), financial transactions and property management.

Blockchain

Blockchain technology is used to store data and acts as a repository of deals and contracts for future reference. It reduces the use of paper and improves transparency, which is one of the main causes of disputes in the real estate industry.

3D Printing

Although in a nascent stage, 3D printing holds promise as it offers speed as a key benefit. Dubai aims to make real estate development more efficient by making every new building 25% 3D-printed by 2030. In India, a start-up built a 3D-printed house recently.

Future of PropTech

Although the pandemic has had a huge impact on the real estate business, it has also accelerated technology adoption amongst real estate industry leaders and start-ups alike. The emergence and evolution of PropTech are considered a boon at such unprecedented times, as they have helped real estate enterprises thrive during, and post the COVID-19 era. There are various opportunities in reality where technology could be leveraged to provide a better service to the customers and simplify business processes leading to greater impact for all – the enterprises, agents, investors and end consumers.

New emerging technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing and Blockchain are redefining the way real estate enterprises are functioning today. However, what determines the future of PropTech is in its ability to simplify user experiences while ensuring safety. If PropTech enterprises can deliver this, the marriage between real estate and technology will be a lasting one and continue to shape the future of real estate in years to come.

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Uncategorized

Multi-experience: its role and key factors for success in retail

In the ‘new normal’ the rules of how and why consumers shop changed drastically. Some of these shifts included – reliance on e-commerce channels, less confidence about in-person or in-store shopping, seeking safety and hygiene assurance from physical stores, and a rise in online deliveries for grocery and pharmacy products.

The world is slowly bouncing back and consumers are seeking to go back to older ways. Almost two-thirds of people (63%) have dined in a restaurant during COVID-19, indicating a demand for alternatives to eating at home. People working from home want the flexibility to work from both office and home. There’s also been a rise in outdoor activities – skis and snowshoes went flying off the shelves this year in January. After the panic buying of essential items, people are now back to normal buying habits in terms of quantities of purchase.

But some of the behavioral shifts that brought convenience in people’s lives during the pandemic will continue to stay.  76% of consumers switched to exercising more at home during COVID-19, and of those, 66% say they prefer it.  During the pandemic, people shifted to home cooking and healthier food – a trend likely to continue. Recent USDA reports point to a surge in demand for healthy, whole foods – especially ones seen as immune-system boosting and in wealthier countries, this includes sharp increases in demand for organic food.

The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of retail and a shift to e-commerce channels by at least 5 years. Delivery services also re-invented their digital experiences with services like contactless deliveries, drones, digital payments, and more. Delivery services have fastened their pace of digital shift to meet the evolving customer needs.

Just before the pandemic, Lowe’s underwent a major website overhaul to grow its e-commerce business. The store created a seamless omnichannel experience by investing in supply chain, IT, and leadership development. This well-timed digital overhaul, helped Lowe’s to launch curbside pickup in just three days during the pandemic.

Wendy’s revamped its website and app to create a more robust ordering system that can be updated in real-time. With uncertain supply chains, Wendy’s could easily remove certain menu items that aren’t available – so customers don’t place an order which can’t be fulfilled. The company expanded its delivery services and used its communication channels to alert customers of contactless ordering and payments for a more seamless digital experience.

The digitization efforts by retailers during the pandemic can be categorized into: Strategic changes, Operational changes, and Engagement/Communication methods. In our webinar Mart to cart role of digital experiences in online delivery, we discussed the evolving consumer behavior and key factors that can help delivery services in crafting great digital experiences.

Watch the webinar video here.

The role of multi-experiences in retail

In a post-pandemic world, digital experiences have come to play a critical role in creating brand preference. Delivering great customer experiences (CX) has become imperative for all enterprises.

“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.’’

~ Ravi Teja Bommireddipalli, CEO, Robosoft Technologies 

For a long time, the retail industry has focussed on creating omnichannel experiences. However, in the new normal creating multi-experiences is an imperative not just for the retail sector but for enterprises across industries.  What this means is retail enterprises will have to move beyond enabling consumers to engage anytime and anywhere to allowing them to interact in any way that is most convenient for them – online store, mobile app, voice, social media, etc.

 

Here’s how retail enterprises can incorporate a multi-experiences strategy for their business:

Design Thinking approach as the starting point

The journey of creating multi-experiences starts from understanding the users and empathizing with them. It calls for a customer journey-centric approach providing multisensory, multimodal, and seamless experiences. Principles of Design Thinking – a human-centric framework can help create solutions to understand customer’s stated and latent needs & pain points and address them.

It is a holistic problem-solving framework that can help businesses create a blueprint, for service delivery to an optimal design experience. This human-centered, iterative design process consists of 5 steps—Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. At Robosoft, we work with clients through collaborative Design Thinking workshops to identify user pain points, define user journeys and create a product roadmap.

Leverage MXDPs (Multiexperiences Development Platforms)

MADPs (Mobile App Development Platforms) are evolving into MXDPs (Multiexperiences development platforms). According to Gartner’s definition of MXDPsMultiexperience development involves creating fit-for-purpose apps based on touchpoint-specific modalities, while at the same time ensuring a consistent user experience across web, mobile, wearable, conversational and immersive touchpoints. MXDPs serve to centralize life cycle activities — designing, developing, testing, distributing, managing, and analyzing — for a portfolio of multiexperience apps.

The global multiexperience development platforms market size was valued at USD 6.52 billion in 2019 and is poised to grow at a CAGR of 18.2% from 2020 to 2027.


Source

 

According to Jason Wong VP, Research & Advisory, Gartner

“We are observing technology changes in mobile app development platforms (MADPs) and in adjacent technology markets where development platform vendors are expanding their value proposition beyond mobile app and web development. This market evolution and platform expansion have resulted in the emergence of multiexperience development platforms (MXDPs) that are used for developing chat, voice, augmented reality, and wearable experiences — as well as mobile and web apps — in support of the digital business.’’

In 2019, Gartner published the Magic Quadrant for Multiexperience Development Platforms. According to which many traditional mobile application development platforms have extended their use cases and offering to meet evolving business needs. This includes capabilities to develop:

  • Mobile and web apps, including iOS and Android native mobile apps
  • Progressive web apps, and responsive web apps
  • Smartphone and tablet apps
  • Wearable, AR/VR, IoT, AI apps.

The use cases of MXDPs expand across verticals including healthcare, BFSI, retail, and more.

At Robosoft, we work with clients across sectors offering digital advisory, design strategy, UX/UI services, application development across platforms and devices, and expertise in emerging technologies such as AR, IoT, AI, blockchain, chatbots, and more.

COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of digitization and also reinstated the need for technology partners that can help enterprises to adapt to this rapid change. For the retail industry, the shift of consumers to the online channels will not just continue to rise even after the pandemic is over. Thus, the role of multi-experiences becomes more critical than ever.

Source

 

MXDPs can help retail enterprises develop web and mobile apps, along with voice, Augmented Reality (AR), chat functionalities, and wearable experience, etc. on a single platform. These experiences created on a single platform can be deployed on various devices as per business and customer requirements.

Retail enterprises will have to create robust and seamless digital experiences within optimized time and cost. Multi experience development platforms can:

  • Increase operational efficiencies and improve app development time using streamlined design processes and reusable codes.
  • Eliminate the shadow IT, which is a probable security risk that most of the organizations face.

Mapping end-to-end customer journeys

“Experiences are more important than products now. In fact, experiences are products.”~ Brian Solis, digital anthropologist and futurist and an award-winning author 

In the experience economy, the customer experience with a brand is a sum of experiences across touchpoints.

‘’Buyers don’t just materialize on your website. Instead, it often requires multiple touchpoints along multiple channels or platforms before they eventually pull the trigger. As a result, it’s also more critical than ever to optimize people’s experience as they move from one platform to the next.’’ ~ Kerry Munro, VP of Ecommerce at Home Depot Canada

When it comes to creating multi-experiences, how seamless the journey is across modalities that consumers prefer plays the most critical role. In this context, mapping a customer journey and delivering experiences around it becomes critical.

In its most fundamental form, a customer journey map begins with compiling a series of user goals and actions into a specific timeline framework. User actions across various use cases can trigger a set of opportunities. If one were to map a similar journey for a food ordering app, it might look like this:

 

The key elements of any customer journey map will be:

  • Persona – The motivations, behavior patterns, pain points, needs, aspirations, and other characteristics of the target audience
  • Scenario – defines the situations the journey map addresses that are associated with the goals.
  • The Timeline or Journey Phases – A specified time interval from the point of first exposure to the point of achieving the end objective (sale) and all the distinct phases.
  • Emotions – The behaviors, thoughts, and feelings the user experiences throughout the journey alongside the phases.
  • Touchpoints or Channels – The customer actions while interacting with the brand at different stages and touchpoints in the journey.
  • Opportunities – The insights gained from the mapping process and what can be done with these inputs to optimize the customer experience and identify opportunities.

We worked with a restaurant aggregator platform that helps people discover great food joints around them and offer a great dine-out and ordering experience. Though there were many touchpoints in the process, we classified the entire journey into three easy steps – discover, order, and post-purchase experience.

The journey was used to map visual sitemaps and user flows that helped us in designing an intuitive and seamless user experience across touchpoints.

 

Just mapping the customer journey is not enough. While ensuring experiences for multiple devices, touchpoints, and interaction modalities, that are personalized for individual users, another critical element for the success of the multi-experience strategy is consistency. In fact, according to a McKinsey report consistency on the most common customer journeys is an important predictor of overall customer experience and loyalty.

As rightly said by David Weaver (co-founder of Vintage Cash Cow)

“A successful customer journey map will give you a real insight into what your customers want and any parts of your product, brand or process that aren’t delivering.”

It is important to understand when, why and which channels do customers use before, during, and after purchase. Customers expect online channels to remember who they are, what they are looking for, and pick up from exactly where they left off irrespective of the channel they choose.

To apply such seamless and consistent multi-experience strategy, Jason Wong,  VP, Analyst, Gartner suggests a four-step model:

  • Sync me – “You store my information and I can find it
  • See me – “You understand my context, my location, my situation, my historical preferences maybe and you give me better information and better interaction”
  • Know me – Using predictive analytics to make suggestions to customers
  • Be me – “Act on my behalf, I give you permission,” Wong said. “Make the best decision for me – what’s the next best action I should take

Multi-experiences in action

One of the most successful examples of creating multi-experience strategies is perhaps Domino’s pizza which enabled customers to order pizza in 15 different ways from their favorite devices, enabling them to choose whatever interaction modality that is most convenient for the user — voice on google home and messenger, text, smart TV, and more. The objective was to make it more and more convenient for customers to order from Domino’s.

While multi-experiences will help retailers be present across channels that are most comfortable for consumers be it voice, chatbots, AR, etc., innovation will help them stand out. Prior to the pandemic, Samsung launched a  Multi-Experience store in Dubai. The store features its products and showcases how its connected device ecosystem works. Product displays are interactive and customer-centric. The in-store customer service department is also enhanced with digital technology. Additionally, the store hosts the educational Galaxy Workshop each evening and has amplified promotions with augmented reality.

Not just FMCG retail but even retail bankers like Commonwealth Bank of Australia have also put a multi-experience strategy in place, giving customers options to connect on 18 channels and offering real-time decisions. To amplify their MX strategy, the bank uses a customer engagement engine that “intelligently suggests and personalizes the next best conversation to have with each customer.”

At Robosoft we worked with one of the leading last-mile delivery service providers to create a customized social media platform that can help F&B retail enterprises create a customized eCommerce solution to transform their social media content into a sales transaction. The platform allows customers to order directly from their Instagram feed, track the order, choose to pay through multiple payment options.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of digital transformation in retail and brought permanent changes to customers buying patterns. To stay ahead and retain customer loyalty it is critical for retail enterprises to evolve from a multi-channel strategy to a multi-experience mindset. This will require adopting a customer-centric approach powered by design thinking principles, leveraging MXDPs, deriving the right insights from customer journeys, and finally using innovation to stand-out and stay ahead of the competition.

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Customer Experience Digital Transformation

Beyond EdTech, the role of video and digital experience in Learning Management Solutions

The EdTech industry was a darling of the investment community even before the break of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to EdSurge, investment in US EdTech companies reached $1.66 billion across 105 deals in 2019, a five-year high in value. Interestingly, eight of the top deals went to companies that offer educational services to employers and employees, typically focused on training.

Developing nations such as India too saw a surge in adoption of EdTech and are home to unicorns such as BYJU’S and several other big players such as Vedantu and Toppr, among others. A few years ago, we at Robosoft had developed the Meritnation app – through which study material for classes 6th to 12th for various school boards could be accessed. We also partnered with Room to Read, a leading non-profit organization based in California, to create an interactive & feature-rich digital platform to foster a reading habit among children.

Over the past few years, consumer-focused online education platforms such as Coursera, Unacademy, Simplilearn and Udemy have seen a surge in adoption, primarily for vocational learning. Educational institutions had also invested in their own virtual learning platforms in the recent past. SP Jain School of Global Management’s Engaged Learning Online (ELO), launched in 2018 aimed to offer classroom-like interactive learning to MBA students across the globe. Harvard and Oxford have their own platforms in HBX and Hive respectively. NYU uses a multitude of interactive video and audio tools like NYU stream which is a media sharing platform for the NYU Community that allows NYU instructors to upload and share videos with students.

2020: when EdTech was disrupted

The COVID-19 pandemic upended the entire industry in ways they could not have imagined. Traditional product roadmaps were rendered defunct as the industry had to deal with an unprecedented demand, unique consumer requirements thus forcing them to adapt or implement changes quickly. Canvas, a learning management system prioritized backend engineering efforts so that the site stayed up amid a huge spike in traffic. They also strengthened video conferencing integrations as consumers turned to such features during periods of remote learning and working. Changes such as optimizing the user experience on mobile devices (the primary access device for many) and adapting to different paces of learning – asynchronous or live lessons, were also implemented.

Consumer-facing video conferencing solutions such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet (among others) have gained in popularity for such needs beyond just communications. Schools and colleges are also investing in bespoke interfaces and video communication solutions.

The digital experience – be it on the browser, native mobile app on a phone or tablet has become crucial in such a scenario. As with all customer experiences in digital, it all starts with following the basic tenets of Design Thinking – empathy for user’s needs. The user in this case can be digital natives such as students or ‘digital migrants’ such as teachers or parents.

Aside from educational institutions, enterprises too had to resort to remote ways of working. According to a recent McKinsey report, organizations are using digital learning to increase collaboration among teams that are working either remotely or across different time zones.

Digital learning

While video conferences became the norm, they had to find new ways to continue the process of onboarding and training without face-to-face meetings. Video streaming in real-time or access through a catalog has become the go-to mode to meet such objectives. This in turn is likely to have a huge impact on Learning Management Solutions (LMS) in the months to come.

Video content management & experience: the key to LMS across domains

The mobile phone, specifically video calling, was not just a device to connect people but solve business problems – way before the era of remote everything. We created a video chat based claim survey for a leading insurance provider in India, making it possible for them to assess claims in real-time and thus reduce turnaround times. Consumers are also attuned to video consumption over OTT services during the extended lockdown periods.

As enterprises continue to adopt technologies for remote learning and collaboration for employees, technology companies are amending their features and support. In the years to come, effective use of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, VR, adaptive learning approaches, gamification will increase in LMS.

However, video is set to play a critical role in Learning Management Solutions across industries in the months & years to come. Here are a few use cases:

Learning Management Solutions across industries

Employee onboarding: many companies have declared that they will offer remote-working as an option forever – not just limited to the uncertainty during the current year. So what was a face-to-face opportunity for bonding & learning will now have to be managed remotely. According to a report from Kaltura – 90% of respondents reported having used video to learn new information at their current workplace, and close to 70% said they preferred this medium over written documents. The onus is on enterprises to then provide a digital experience that not only informs but brings alive the business culture, values and processes.

On-going training & learning: a well-crafted LMS can ensure continuous learning & skill development of employees. It can improve employee engagement through effective use of interactive elements such as quizzes, rewards and more.

Compliance training: compliance training is a mandatory, yet most dreaded of learning programs for employees. A video-enabled compliance training can help enterprises launch a learner-centered strategy for their remote workforce.

Sales enablement: front line business development executives can be educated about products & services, latest market trends through impactful video content

Customer education: aside from employees, a video-driven LMS can also help educate customers – especially if it is a complex software or a product that needs walk-throughs.

Partner training: interactive videos in an LMS can be an effective tool for partner training programs, and help business’ partners understand the features, branding, and selling techniques for products and service offerings of an enterprise.

Some of the common features that a Learning Management System should enable include:

  • Asynchronous learning: giving the option for users to learn at their own pace
  • Cross-device and platform compatibility: providing a seamless experience across web, mobile and tablet irrespective of the operating system
  • Ability to aid testing and assessment: in order to measure the effectiveness of the training modules and the employee’s progress the LMS should aid testing and assessment based on metrics agreed upon
  • Catalog of content: as course material and video content increase, the LMS should allow for easy search through an easy to use catalog feature
  • Microlearning videos: these are short videos that focus on one issue or learning point at a time, making it easy for employees to pick up the knowledge and go back to their office work.

So what are the critical factors to consider when choosing a partner to create a video-driven Learning Management Solution that best suits your needs? Expertise in the technology domain, experience in crafting diverse digital experiences, hands-on leadership are some of the desired qualities to look for. Working with offshore teams is also a great option as what were once considered to be obstacles are long gone.

A convergence of empathetic digital experience, video technologies, content management systems are in the offing for Learning Management Solutions beyond EdTech in the years to come.

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Blockchain Digital Transformation Enterprise Applications

Webinar overview – Introduction to Hyperledger Sawtooth: An open-source enterprise blockchain platform

Blockchain, the universally distributed open ledger system has gained visibility and acceptance in multiple industries – BFSI, retail, healthcare, logistics, real estate to name a few. Blockchain is an innovative mix of decades-old, tried and tested technologies including:

  • Public key cryptography (1970s)
  • Cryptographic hash functions (1970s)
  • Proof-of-work (1990s).

Over the years many blockchain systems have been developed – Hyperledger Sawtooth, Hyperledger Fabric, R3 Corda, Ripple, Quorum, and more. Among these systems, Hyperledger is Developed and maintained by Linux Foundation, an umbrella organization, that maintains various open-source blockchains

Hyperledger has been used in various industries:

  • Walmart brought unprecedented transparency to the food supply chain with Hyperledger Fabric
  • Honeywell Aerospace creates online parts marketplace with Hyperledger Fabric
  • ScanTrust Brought Transparency to the Supply Chain with Hyperledger Sawtooth

In our recent webinar, Shripada Hebbar, our Principal Technical Architect, simplified the concept of blockchain and helped participants understand how Hyperledger Sawtooth can be implemented for businesses – with a live demo.

Hyperledger Sawtooth and its application

Hyperledger Sawtooth — is an open-source business blockchain (distributed ledger) platform. The primary aim behind Hyperledger was to create a blockchain platform that could be easily implemented by different businesses.

Key discussion points of the webinar included:

  • Short introduction to Blockchain technology
  • What problems blockchains can solve
  • An overview of open-source implementations that enterprises can adapt and use
  • Introduction to Hyperledger Sawtooth – an open-source blockchain
  • Demonstration of a use case – voting system using Hyperledger Sawtooth. The Github link for the live demo can be accessed here.

You can watch a recording of the session here.

If you want to know more about how we can help you create digital solutions for your enterprise using emerging technologies like Blockchain, AI, AR/VR, and more please drop an email to me at [email protected].

I hope you found this webinar overview useful and look forward to joining us in our future webinars on other topics pertaining to creating delightful digital experiences that can simplify lives of your consumers.

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Customer Experience Media & Entertainment

OTT Brands in the post-COVID World: 6 Trends and Opportunities in 2021

The rise in consumption of video and audio streaming services over the past year due to extended lockdown periods arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been covered extensively in media. The OTT viewership and streaming hours in the US and across the world shot up expectantly during the pandemic. All the major OTT trend reports suggest it will only grow further in the coming years after the pandemic. In hindsight, it was a natural fallout of having to stay indoors for long periods.  People resorted to options in indoor entertainment through streaming services and mobile games. 

OTT Services on Smart TV

There is a rapid exponential increase in OTT platform usage across the past decade. The OTT industry revenue is expected to ride the COVID-19 wave and reach over 210 billion dollars by the end of 2026. According to a recent CII-BCG report, the number of paid OTT subscriptions was up by 55-60% to 100-125 million in 2020 from 49 million subscriptions in 2018.

Another important factor for OTT ascendency is the introduction of 5G technology. The 5G technology is going to be a major factor assisting the increased usage of OTT services. Having 5G combined with OTT services would mean less buffering and faster streaming. This would encourage OTT service providers to venture into live sports and other events streaming.

What are the current OTT viewing trends?

The USA and Global

According to the 2020 report from Comscore, in the US, 69.8M homes used OTT in April 2020, an increase of 5.2M homes compared to the previous year. The same report also indicates the average home viewed 102 hours of OTT content during that same month, an increase of 17 hours compared to April 2019. Another report by theTradeDesk indicates 27% of the US households are going to end their TV subscriptions by the end of 2021. The trend was similar across the globe, for both video and audio streaming. In the US and UK, consumers shifted from audio to video streaming as the former was more suited to a commute while the latter for in-home consumption.

India

The BARC-Nielsen report from April indicates that in India, VOD viewership on digital was at 3 hours 59 minutes a day in week three of lockdown, with a 12 per cent increase from pre-COVID time. In March, audio streaming too saw a spike in India – there was a 42% increase in time spent on listening to them. 

OTT trends and opportunities for current and new brands

Now consider this – once the pandemic situation eases, more people will step out for their regular work, are things going to be the same hereon for OTT brands? 

Robosoft Technologies brings you 6 trends and opportunities for both established and new players in the OTT segment. These will discuss the impact of the trends and the way forward for OTT brands.

1. Need for a sharp brand value proposition

The OTT market is already cluttered in many geographies. A study from a major OTT market tracking organization, Parks Associates, suggests the number of OTT video services in the USA has more than doubled in the past six years to 300 platforms through the third quarter (ended Sept. 30, 2020). Similarly, India had 36 OTT streaming services and the number has gone up to 60 by mid-2020. New entrants are eyeing the market and the competition is only going to increase. The most important trend observed among Indian consumers is their willingness to pay for content during the pandemic. 

In this context, brands need to offer a sharp, differentiated value proposition primarily led by either a demographic or psychographic segment. A diverse country like India offers opportunities to target consumers by language preference. 

As seen through another key trend of 2020, there has been a continuous emergence of hyperlocal OTT services such as Hoichoi (Bengali), Aha (Telugu), Koode & Manorama Max (Malayalam), Planet Marathi OTT (Marathi), CityShor.TV (Gujarati), and more. 

In total there are 17 major languages for delivering OTT content in India currently. Each of these has its own vast library of content and niche audience. Segmentation through a lifestyle preference is also possible as seen with the successful launch of Discovery+ in India which has a unique proposition of unscripted content aimed at lifelong learners.

This hyper localization or segmentation through a niche can also be seen with the emergence of BritBox. It is an online digital video subscription service showing primarily British shows made available for UK, USA, Canada, and Australian audiences with South Africa next on the list.

According to a survey conducted by Deloitte, in May 2020 among US consumers, the reason for choosing a particular brand of service seemed to indicate a preference for both a broad range of shows & movies and content not available elsewhere.

Content and discounts attract streaming video subscribers

Image source

It reflects in the content strategy of several brands which are now emphasizing ‘originals’ which then call for huge investments in creative talent and production costs. As consumers, we have also chosen to snack on a streaming service based on a particular show or movie and not renew the subscription when the show completes a season. To that extent, brand loyalty cannot be taken for granted in this segment. 

The above survey also found that 66% of people were frustrated when the content they wanted to watch was removed from service, and 53% were frustrated by having to subscribe to multiple services to access the content they want. From October 2020 to February 2021, the churn rate for streaming video services held at around 37%. 

Late entrants in a particular category will then have their work cut out to wean away from the audience from established players. There are several key factors to take into account while designing a successful OTT platform. A quick study and research go a long way in the successful journey of your idea.

Create a successful multi-device and multi-platform OTT App

2. No room for complacency in the post-COVID-19 era

Traditional cable TV is still the most popular option for entertainment for households in developing markets like India. Apps and digital experiences through personal computers and smart TVs have increased in popularity due to unexpected extraordinary circumstances. When the situation eases in the months to come, two factors will come into play – app fatigue and subscription fatigue. The former existed even before COVID-19.

The Deloitte survey mentioned earlier also indicates that even before COVID-19, the average US consumer had 12 paid media and entertainment subscriptions – with millennials averaging the highest at 17. The report goes on to say ‘with more subscriptions being added or sampled during the lockdown phase indications are that consumers have signed up for more services than they can handle or afford’. 

In my view, multi-experience indicates that streaming services have a twin task of answering ‘why to choose me?’ and also work at retention strategies. The price-value equation will be worked out by consumers driven primarily by the quality of the content and the ‘worth’ of such in dollar value. 

Due to the availability in abundance, a user may have 30-40 apps installed. But the ones which get used daily are perhaps only 4-5. However, here it’s a question of payouts every month and there’s a limit to the number of subscriptions and the monthly payout.

3. Room for growth, new audience, new devices

The OTT market already has big global players with deep pockets. YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney+ are considered the Big Five in a Comscore report and they accounted for 82.5% of the streaming hours in April 2020. Yet, the next 5 services have a higher percentage change in hours per household in April as compared to January.

Change in hours and reach of Big 5 and non Big 5 OTT services

Image source

By the end of 2020, Apple TV+ has also garnered an audience with a captive base of iOS, Mac and Apple TV users. Indications are that there is still room for growth in terms of audience and devices.

The trend is expected to grow with Indian Originals having quality content expected to grow beyond the South Asian audiences in the coming days.

4. Table stakes: Success factors and expected features

Content creation, processing, storage & retrieval, content distribution and management continue to be the backbone of the OTT business. 

Over the past few years, growth and engagement have been dependent on customer experience, customer acquisition & retention, use of recommendation engines, technologies such as voice and presence in large screens such as Smart TVs.  

The high penetration of Smart TVs and the presence of big global players in the OTT market has also contributed significantly to the growth. Some content owners like Discovery Plus are going directly to consumers via Roku and OTT only operators like Amazon Fire TV for their content distribution. OTT players such as Netflix, Disney, NFL, and NBC have been investing in creating OTT TV apps to bring their videos directly to consumers with multi-experience options. Having a multi-experience OTT service enables the OTT platforms to provide multimodal, multisensory, and seamless experiences to their subscribers. 

See the work behind creating a multi-experience OTT platform for Discovery+

Discovery also made its first US pay-TV deal with Comcast for further distribution of its streaming services. The arrangement will enable the SVOD to be accessible on the Xfinity Flex OTT platform as well as traditional X1 set-top boxes. 

As parity features come into play (no pun intended) in OTT services, some key features will become table stakes for streaming services as shown below.

Key Features of OTT Services

5. Monetisation strategies: ad-support is welcomed

Streaming services are lowering the entry barrier by offering free trial periods and price-offs for a subscription. 

In markets like Asia, ad-supported services are common. As with publishing, a relatively smaller percentage of the market will be willing to pay a premium to avoid ads or have an ‘ad-lite’ experience and commit to a subscription. Deloitte’s COVID-19 survey found that 35% of consumers will pay a premium to avoid ads in the US. Providers are increasingly turning towards pay-per-view and advertising monetization as alternatives to subscription monetization.

In the months to come, streaming services may opt for a combination of snackable, short-term subscription options and advertising revenue to offset the high cost of production. The consumer, hitherto used to high-value, big-budget movie productions from Hollywood and other film industries, will expect similar production values from OTT content providers. Disney+ is already bundling its videos together with ESPN, National Geographic, and other content producers. This will likely expand in the future.

Survey finding consumers' preference for ad supported streaming services

Image source

6. More than just consumption with value addition

Brands in the OTT space can also position their services beyond passive consumption by enhancing their offering to include gamification engines, interactive live television, real-time polls and more.

Interactive Entertainment Platform

Connected TVs are becoming increasingly popular among US household. The consumers’ preference to watch the OTT content on a larger screen led to a significant jump in the usage of Smart TVs from 37% in 2018 to 51% in 2020. This jump however doesn’t affect the demand for mobile streaming on smartphones and tablets.

Another interesting space that is developing quietly is the diffusion of retail into OTT platforms. The traditional TV ads fail to deliver a direct purchase option for their consumers as they have to dial-up a number or visit their website for the sale to happen. However, OTT platforms have the potential to bring the best of both worlds. The interactivity, convenience of time, and most importantly the ability to make purchases on the platform itself. 

Netflix is again on the verge of major disruption in the OTT space with their online shopping store. This will provide fans of particular TV shows or cinemas with collectables from the show. This innovation is surely a major step for Netflix to keep their consumers on their platform and increase brand loyalty.

Conclusion

In summary, the situation which existed before the COVID-19 pandemic has been accelerated over the past few months. Consumers who used to sample a service due to free offers or a favourite piece of content have had a plethora of options to choose from. 

A churn is inevitable in the coming months as both the consideration set and the purchasing power of most consumers are limited. Yet, with a sharply differentiated positioning, investment in relevant content, smart acquisition & retention strategies and above all, crafting a great customer experience across devices the future augurs well for both established and new players in the domain.

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UX/UI

The coming glut of online delivery apps: 5 take-aways to deliver the competitive edge in UX

The global COVID-10 pandemic disrupted our lives in a manner we never imagined or prepared for. As is obvious, visits to restaurants, shopping malls, multiplex theatres all come down drastically. According to The National Restaurant Association, more than 110,000 restaurants in the U.S. closed for business in 2020. On the other hand, the need for social distancing, safety concerns, and lockdowns resulted in a steep growth for delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats which grew by more than double in 2020

Even outside of food delivery, ‘online delivery ‘of almost everything has become a part of the new normal. In April this year, Amazon reported an increase of 220 percent in its profit compared to the same period last year.

Source

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, e-commerce and food ordering through mobile apps were common in many countries. However, the in-store purchase was preferred in some categories. According to Nielsen, only 4% of grocery sales in the United States came through online channels last year. In March 2020, Instacart, Walmart Grocery, and Shipt have seen surges of 218%, 160%, and 124% respectively in the number of downloads compared to the previous month. The urge to change habits is also reflected in new demographics (e.g. those above 60) opting for online shopping.

Many believe that it is not a temporary phenomenon but a permanent change in behavior impacting grocery, pharmacy, food, and other industries. Beyond just a web or app design, business models are likely to be affected. Setting up of ‘dark stores’ – outlets that look like supermarkets but closed for customers and geared to be hubs for online delivery are a reality. Mini automated fulfillment centers at the back of large stores, with some even using robots, are getting traction. Stand-alone restaurants and supermarkets will face a tough situation compared to the consolidation possibilities of a brand of chains – e.g. Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King, etc.

At Robosoft, we are seeing a surge in inquiries for digital solutions for online delivery in the US and other geographies. Several enterprises are likely to create native apps and websites to cater to this demand leading to a surfeit of such experiences. Enterprises are already battling issues such as app fatigue, poor user retention, and lack of brand loyalty. How can they maintain a competitive edge? Here are a few pointers:

Address the concerns on safety and hygiene upfront

The first step towards creating a compelling digital experience is to understand the consumer pain points through empathy and craft a solution that intuitively solves that problem. In these times of anxiety, understanding customer needs, their mindset, motivations, and barriers are even more critical. Design Thinking workshops, even held remotely, can help enterprises gain valuable insights into the consumer mindset. Consumers need the reassurance of safety precautions undertaken by the brand – in any form of delivery service. A norm of the remote-working era – over-communicate is worth following as contactless delivery, safety precautions taken by the staff need to be visually highlighted.

Clear, bold, reassuring message from Pizza Hut on their website.

Clear, bold, reassuring message from Pizza Hut on their website.

Details of safety precautions followed by Pizza Hut mentioned on their mobile app for customer reassurance.

Image source

Like most delivery apps, Postmates offers contact-free delivery choices. But they also encourage customers to report if their delivery person appears unwell. The company has also set up a Fleet Relief Fund to help employees with COVID-19 medical expenses.

The Kroger app added a designated FAQ section for COVID-19, which is explicit for users to look for COVID-19-relevant answers.  Walmart puts COVID-19 updates at the top of their shopping page. Users can tap and learn what Walmart is doing to provide a safe shopping environment. 

Swiggy a leading delivery app from India, recently added a ‘Care Corner’ feature in their app. It is a dedicated section within the app around COVID-19 offering users options for sending home-cooked food, sending care packages, getting medicines and groceries picked up.

 

The Care Corner section on Swiggy’s app

Be honest about the constraints of the new normal

During the early days of lockdown, supermarkets were overrun and shelves emptied by people stocking up supplies. E-commerce apps could not sell several non-essential products and even the essentials were delayed in terms of delivery. While consumers may be irked by such developments and even express their disappointment, deep down they’d understand that these are extraordinary circumstances and cut some slack for their favorite brands. However, consumers would rather prefer an attitude of ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ in these times and also likely to be more forgiving of snafus. So information about delayed turnaround times, unavailability of stocks, price surges if any, and replacement options must be conveyed upfront and not as unpleasant surprises at the end of a purchase process.

Details of pickup locations, product availability, and order status on the Instacart mobile app.

Put customers in control with a choice of delivery and technology

Now more than ever, customers would appreciate the simplification of processes. They already have enough to deal with at home. So any simplified process – from ordering through voice-enabled speakers, messenger platforms or a smartwatch, virtual trial of a dress (for a fashion e-commerce brand), re-order of previously ordered medicines, offering a subscription service can go a long way in feeling that’s one less weight off their shoulders. Delivering products at the chosen time by the consumer, option of curbside pickup are also examples of putting the consumer in control.

Domino’s makes it easy for its customers to order from any device

Domino’s makes it easy for its customers to order from any device

Online Delivery

Shoppers can order essentials and non-essentials items in the same purchase on the Walmart app for curbside pickup or delivery.

Image source

Aid product discovery: use a recommendation engine to anticipate needs

The nature of the anxiety and concern for taking precautions can make consumers unsure of all that they need to stay safe. For example, grocery shopping apps can aid consumers by highlighting immunity-boosting products. Food delivery apps can add product badges which could highlight nutritional information or the number of orders in the past hour – giving some sort of assurance of making a safe choice. The role of a Recommender System is at the core in recommending items and driving customer conversion by auto-suggesting the right product to customers based on needs and behavioral data. Amazon is known for putting it to great use – 35% of Amazon.com’s revenue is generated by its recommendation engine.

Such systems get better over time which subliminally cues to the user that this brand understands me and my tastes. It helps in building loyalty and improving the average ticket size of orders.

Beyond transactions, offer relevant content for engagement or information

Aside from assurances of safety, there is plenty of scope to create engagement through relevant content. Food delivery apps such as Zomato have already integrated recipe videos which consumers could find valuable when the propensity to try new recipes at home is high. The insurance brand Discovery from South Africa is a great example of providing value-added content beyond merely selling a product.

Image source

Instacart provides three options to the users if an item is unavailable:

  1. Shoppers (assigned delivery partners) can choose the best replacement for the unavailable item
  2. Users can designate a substitute item.
  3. Leave out the item when unavailable.

Instacart’s app provides three options to the users if an item is unavailable.

In the coming months and years as more and more brands adopt digital solutions and online delivery models, meaningful product-level differentiation will be difficult to achieve. The competitive edge would really lie in the positive sentiments the digital experience evokes in a consumer, thus subliminally generating brand affinity. It is an appeal to the emotional brain which drives brand purchase decisions than the rational brain. The choice of the right digital partner in the experience economy is also a key factor in providing a competitive edge to enterprises.

In one of our webinars, Mart to cart: role of digital experiences in online delivery, we discussed the evolving consumer behavior and key factors that can help delivery services in crafting great digital experiences. You can watch a recording of the session here.

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Mobile Opinion

Webinar Overview: Art and Science of managing workplace and employee skill management

Enterprises are grappling with challenges of a rapidly evolving business environment, due to the impact of COVID-19. We are also witnessing major and unanticipated shifts in workplace models.

In this scenario, business leaders are looking for digital solutions that can help them address the challenges of managing teams, up-skilling and re-skilling employees, streamlining employee communication, and ensure business continuity. Further, the current remote-working scenario has only highlighted the need for ensuring workplace agility as an imperative for enterprises.

Both business leaders and employees have a lot of questions regarding how the current situation will unfold and the kind of transformations we will see in the context of workplace and employee management.

In our recent webinar, ‘Art and science of managing workplace and employee skill management’ our Srinidhi Rao along with Daniel Masata, CEO and founder Volonte, a workplace agility platform, discussed and answered critical questions around workplace management.

Daniel Masata has extensive experience in the HR domain as a senior executive at the $25bn Adecco Group, leading Global Strategy & Transformation. He has also served in leadership roles in 4 different countries (US, Germany, France, Switzerland) and with full P&L responsibility for up to $550m in revenue & 600 employees.

During the course of the discussion, Daniel helped participants understand how a combination of technology, people, and behavioral science can make workplace and employee management a proactive, positive, and data-driven experience, thus creating a win-win situation for both the talent and the enterprise.

Some of the questions that were answered during the course of the webinar include:

  • Key challenges of enterprises today in a remote-working world
  • Role and need for empathy in today’s workplace
  • The need for up-skilling & re-skilling – and the difference between them
  • Role of technology in creating positive digital experiences
  • The process to achieve workplace agility
  • Key success factors for product development in workplace management

You can watch a recording of the session here.

If you want to know more about how we can help you create digital solutions that can help you simplify workplace management for your enterprise, please drop me an email at [email protected].

I hope you found this webinar overview useful and look forward to joining us in our future webinars on other topics pertaining to creating delightful digital experiences for the internal and external stakeholders of your business.

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Customer Experience Enterprise Applications Fintech UX/UI

Customer Experience in FinTech and FinServ: the opportunity to build loyalty is now

Across the age spectrum, more people are opting or are at least open to using financial apps for managing tasks ranging from daily budgeting, stock investments, banking services, payments, or insurance needs. In 2019, consumers accessed financial apps over a trillion times. China, India, Brazil, United States, and South Korea were the Top 5 nations in terms of total sessions in finance apps.

Consumers love finance apps

According to the 2020 Mobile Finance Apps Report by Liftoff and AppAnnie, the install-to-register rate of finance apps is a healthy 46.2% indicating the willingness of users to not just download such apps but engage with them too. The install-to-purchase rate dips to 19% pointing to a lot more work needed to encourage usage. Entrepreneurs and the start-up community are betting big on FinTech, as well. Many of the breakout apps of 2019 were in FinTech from digital banking (e.g. Nubank), payments (Google Pay), and loan disbursement (e.g. KreditBee) to all-in-one super apps like PhonePe.

Traditional banks, long dependent on brick and mortar retail-based banking are trying to keep pace with changing consumer behaviors and digital experiences. Data shows that growth in average MAU from 2018 to 2019 was higher for FinTech apps than for legacy banking apps.

Change is the only constant

Fact is, the mobile app revolution, and how it would affect businesses, was a disruption that many industries did not foresee. Consumer preference and user experience in one domain has had an impact on other domains too. For example, urban mobility apps such as Uber have raised expectations of user experience for all transactional consumer apps. In that context, legacy banks must compete long used to brick & mortar banking are trying keep pace with new-age digital banks and FinTech companies in terms of ease-of-use, design aesthetics and ‘cool quotient’.

According to UserTesting of UK, a company focused on testing as a service, consumers were drawn to FinTechs for 3 major reasons: In-demand products and services, trusted recommendations and ease of use.

Utility bill payments, peer-to-peer lending, bank transfers, and more were made possible by FinTech apps, many of which started as digital wallets or simple payment services. The social buzz and recommendations from friends helped these apps gain traction. Ease of use is another factor that works in their favor.

Traditional banking apps have acquired a reputation, rightly or wrongly of being difficult to use. According to research from US-based finance portal. PAYMNTS, 54.1% of consumers surveyed said they would use their banking apps “much more often” if only they had more control over the authentication requirements of their apps.

Across financial services, especially banks, one can observe these common features:

Across financial services, especially banks, one can observe these common features

The FinTech and FinServe industries have two unique characteristics – the tasks consumers perform can be clubbed as ‘routine’ and ‘risky’. Product owners need to address these through a mix of technology and human instinct. In other words, Artificial Intelligence for the routine and Emotional Intelligence for the risky. Banks are already using AI technologies to automate routine banking tasks such as resetting passwords, checking account balances, transferring funds between accounts or paying monthly bills.

According to a Bain & Co report, consumers prefer digital channels, but they give higher Net Promoter Scores to companies that allow customers to speak with a representative to resolve a problem. Emotional intelligence has a role to play especially in providing a personal service experience during a stressful situation.

The post COVID world and financial services

Shifts in consumer behavior during uncertain times, such as the current global pandemic, accelerates the need for digital even more.  According to a recent report “Credit Union Innovation Playbook” by PYMNTS, “the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a remarkable shift in the ways consumers want to bank — away from brick-and-mortar branches — making it much more crucial to improve digital banking services”.

It is not all black and white when it comes to consumer behavior towards financial services. The one factor which legacy brands enjoy, at least among the older consumers, is familiarity and trust. Longevity and the comfort factor of seeing physical branches dotted across the city subliminally can create positive brand equity – a feeling of ‘having been around’. In contrast, new-age digital banks may have to work harder to earn the trust of consumers. 51.1% of credit union members in the US cite “trust” and “risk of fraud” as the biggest barriers to trying new-age banks. According to EY, ‘responsible banking’ is more important than ever as consumers indicate their ‘future purchasing decisions will be impacted by banks actively supporting the community, being transparent in all they do, and ensuring they are doing good for society’. What does all this have to do with customer experience? The short answer is:  everything. Here are the reasons why:

The business success of financial services and FinTech brands will increasingly depend on how they master the digital experience. Genuine, meaningful product differentiation is difficult in the highly regulated banking and finance industry. Enterprises are faced with two challenges:  How to drive customer engagement with limited differentiation at the product level while increasing volume and velocity in customer acquisition? The answer is crafting a superior customer experience across all digital channels.

Retention is the new growth. Enterprises know that new customer acquisition comes at a high price. However, retaining and growing the lifetime value of an existing customer (active or inactive) is usually a cheaper way to increase revenue. Design Thinking methodologies come into play here. Implementing strategies to encourage loyalty (and therefore retention) can often be a more successful strategy than chasing new audiences. Citibank’s research found that 83% of consumers (that number goes up to 94% among Millennials) are more likely to participate in a loyalty program if they can access the program easily from their mobile phone.

Now more than ever before, Empathy is the key. It is said that all our decisions in life are driven by the emotional brain, rather than the rational one. One would imagine it is even more so in the current times. At Robosoft we strive to understand the emotional triggers that act as barriers or motivators for actions when interacting with a digital product. When working on a FinTech product even a simple task of paying bills can evoke a diverse set of emotions.

Now more than ever before, Empathy is the key

When working on a peer-to-peer lending product for the US market, we created an emotional map of a user which looked like this:

Emotional map

In a world that is increasingly adopting remote working, marketers may not be able to get a first-hand feeling of consumer motivations or behavior. In this context, getting the customer experience right throughout the consumer buying journey is a critical building block for brand loyalty. The key is in approaching product creation from the POV of building long-lasting customer relationships rather than regular transactions.

Human instinct and customer experience

The advertising legend Bill Bernbach once famously said in the context of marketing communications that ‘It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about the changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.” One can extrapolate this observation to digital experiences too as product owners should remember that basic human instincts will remain unchanged and are common across domains.

In the context of customer experience which can drive brand loyalty there are common principles applicable across categories – be it FinTech, OTT streaming services or food delivery apps. Some of the principles applicable to Financial Service are:

Focus on users over products: at a recent webinar, famous author Seth Godin spoke about enterprises designing more for their benefit than that of the users. As an example, he mentioned how easy it is to remember secure 6-digit numerical passcodes for apps. But when an enterprise introduced a seven-digit numerical passcode citing seemingly extra security they have not considered the friction it is likely to cause. It is an example of doing what matters to the enterprise first rather than the user.

Image source

Design Thinking workshops and user research tools help gain insights into consumer needs. Remember, users may never be able to explicitly convey or may not even know what they need. It takes expertise to interpret their pain points and derive meaningful insights that can be put into action.

Think experience, then features: it is always tempting for product owners to pack in all the features that they think are ‘nice to have’ or likely give a competitive edge. But what is sacrificed is simplicity which could lead to a sub-optimal product experience. At Robosoft, our strategy & design teams work closely with product owners in enterprises to prioritize features that are important to the user at every stage of the product roadmap. We must also remember that we can’t have it all – we have to lose some to gain some. In a banking product, a balance needs to be sought between convenience and security.

Think experience, then features

Create an emotional connection: just as some movies, books, and songs evoke an emotional response in us, digital experiences have a potential too, in their own way. It doesn’t mean that using a bank’s mobile app should move one to tears (may happen if it is out of frustration!) just as some movies impact us emotionally. It is about creating a subtle feeling of accomplishment, productivity, safety or whatever is the relevant parameter for that category and product.

Key emotions that a Financial app should address:

Key emotions that a Financial app should address

Copywriting for UX is also an aspect which product owners need to pay attention.

UX copywriting, or user-experience copywriting, is the act of writing and structuring copy that moves digital users, like visitors and customers, toward accomplishing a goal in an intuitive way.’

There is both science and an art to copywriting which helps accomplish tasks better. Tone of voice and brand personality can also be reflected in the copy. The language used in say, a small-loan lending platform will vary from that of a high-end wealth management app.

Provide clear and precise directions: unlike say a trivia game where confusing instructions could lead to minor irritations and friction, financial services deal with a lot more ‘serious subject of money. Confusing navigation or language can lead to errors that can cost money to the user and erode trust in the brand.

Provide clear and precise directions

Use analytics regularly to give users what they want: baking analytics into the product at the very beginning ensures that the right metrics are tracked for continuous product improvement and personalization.

Use analytics regularly to give users what they want

Integrate technologies seamlessly: both consumer-facing experiences and backend processes can be made better by emerging technologies. Blockchain, robo-advisors, process automation, voice, and chatbots have roles to play in improving customer experience. In the post COVID world, video banking may see a surge as well as the need to invest in

Provide an intuitive & interactive experience: According to Interaction Design, ‘a user is able to understand and use a design immediately—that is, without consciously thinking about how to do it—we describe the design as “intuitive.” In the context of FinTech or FinServ apps the process could start right from the login method, conveying a sense of safety & privacy, using AI to monitor and predict transactions and more.

Be inclusive: user experience which works for all must be the mantra when crafting digital experiences. Websites and mobile apps that understand the needs of visually or hearing impaired and other eventualities must be considered. Uber’s consumer app, for example, notifies the commuter of any special needs the driver might have. Some food delivery brands think not only of the consumer but of the delivery executive too by urging the user to consider a tip. Food delivery apps like Zomato also highlight the profile of the delivery executive, giving a brief summary of his or her aspirations thus making the experience more humane and inclusive.

In sum, the unchanging human instincts we spoke about earlier, the‘obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of our own’ has come to the fore more than ever. The recent global pandemic has added new dimensions to customer experience in financial services. It is a great opportunity for enterprises to build a competitive business edge through great customer experience.

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Mobile Opinion

Gig economy: Growth factors, key challenges, and role in reshaping HR responsibilities

From Uber to Amazon to Airbnb, two-sided marketplaces have disrupted multiple industries. The workforce or labor industry is now going through disruption that retail, hospitality and automotive industries have gone through due to the emergence of such marketplaces. The ‘freelance economy’  currently makes up 36% of the U.S. workforce and is projected to reach 50.9% by 2027. Labor marketplaces have been key players in shaping the freelance ecosystem. In this article, we explore how two-sided marketplaces will impact the future of work and how these models could augment in the future.

What are the factors for emergence of two-sided marketplaces

There are various macro-trends that have led to the emergence of such marketplaces:

  • Everything is moving online: This trend started with eCommerce portals like eBay and Amazon, which were among the first industries to move online. But as the internet and economies matured a lot of industries followed and the internet became the entry point of work.
  • Increasing cost of living: The other macro trend that has contributed to the emergence of two-sided marketplaces is the increasing cost of living and people across the globe are looking for ways to supplement their income.
  • Rise of remote workers: In today’s gig economy people are looking for flexible lifestyles. They do not want to spend a lot of time commuting to their workplaces. Even companies spend substantially to shuttle employees to offices.

What is unique here is, two-sided marketplaces are not just restricted to traditional gig-economy workers, limited to one category like graphic designers. Such type of work has always been outsourced to freelancers, but now we see other categories of work going online too.

  • Rising skills gap: The demand-side of the marketplace is facing a skills gap. Organizations are increasingly finding it very difficult to identify the right resources at the right time. In the Bay Area, it takes an average of 3 months to find the right resource, which may be too long a waiting period for many enterprises.

Traditional Managed Service Providers vs two-sided freelancers’ marketplaces

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is an entity that large enterprises could engage with to manage their contingent workforce. MSPs help enterprises in the complete cycle from hiring contingent workers to paying them and ensuring that it is done efficiently. Such services drive a lot of efficiency and value for large enterprises.

Gig-economy or freelancers’ marketplaces like Upwork provide a different way of engaging with the worker. In most MSPs, the operators are staffing companies, and they continue to operate with their traditional models. They call hundreds of potential candidates each day to fill the on-site vacancies. The drawback is these companies have a very large footprint.

Traditional MSPs vs Gig economy

The challenge most organizations are facing today is the skills gap, especially in emerging technologies like AI, ML, RPA (Robotic Process Automation), and Blockchain. Additionally, considering that MSPs are under pressure to deliver cost-savings, it becomes difficult for them to balance the equation because of the overheads.

Two-sided marketplaces bring technology as a solution to the cost and skill gap problem. They replace the traditional overhead in recruiting with a global marketplace platform that essentially flattens the world. Once you take the location out of the picture, the skills gap is not so wide.

Also, these platforms enable hiring managers to self-source candidates and allows them to hire candidates faster, and at a much lower cost. In the case of MSPs, the process takes much longer – from submitting a requisition, waiting for it to come back from the suppliers, reviewing the resumes and so on.

The gig economy marketplaces deliver on the speed, cost, quality equation really well – just like Uber and Lyft have done in the taxi aggregator space.

Gig economy sector-level distinctions

Broadly speaking, the gig economy can be broken down into four sectors based on services provided to the customers.

gig economy sector level distinctions with examples

Source: Mastercard Gig Economy Industry Outlook and Needs Assessment

Asset-Sharing Services: When we talk about Airbnb, Tripadvisor rentals, many of these services are located in areas such as the USA and Europe where the cost of living is high. Even though the volume of bookings for these services are much lesser than transportation-based services, they compensate with higher ticket size per home rental.

Transportation-Based Services: The universality of ride-sharing economy across the globe has shot up transportation-based services and caught the imagination of the world like anything. From major platforms in North America such as Uber or Lyft to those in Asia Pacific such as Grab, Go-jek, Ola; everyone has thrived in this economy. And despite having low ticket value per customer, the sheer volume of bookings more than compensate for the revenue generation.

Professional Services: This sector of the gig economy brings the lowest of revenues when compared to others. This may be due to the transactional nature of the services. While many of the consumers of these services are present in developed markets, the access to high speed internet in developing nations has enabled businesses to outsource their services to gig economy workers present in these countries. The cost per work or “gig” is significantly lower in the developing countries to add to the abundance of choices available.

Handmade Goods Household & Miscellaneous Services (HGHM): It is the fastest growing and diverse of all the gig economy sectors. It features many niche platforms that are still working towards brand awareness. Currently, there is a heavy concentration of these platforms in North America and Western Europe when compared to the rest of the world. It is expected to start reaching for a global base once it starts approaching the saturation limit of customer base in the current regions. These companies seek to fill a specialized gap in the service market such as on-demand message services to in-home tech support.

Key challenges for Corporate and Corporate Real Estate (CRE) to support gig economy

The rise of the gig economy has instilled a sense of freedom and empowerment in workers today. It has increased the expectations of gig economy workers from corporate and CREs in terms of facilities and benefits. Today corporate and CRE groups are expected to do more than just provide a desk to every worker and maintain space. They are expected to create an environment of harmony and support that contributes to company goals.

Some of the key challenges are mentioned below:

1. Building corporate culture and work harmony

The most difficult aspect of working with gig economy workers is incorporating a corporate culture among them and creating an ideal work environment for them to work. The fact that 30 to 50 percent of your workplace are not your employees makes it difficult to build that corporate culture. It directly affects the worker attitudes and their commitment to long term needs of the company.

Addressing these concerns starts with treating all workers the same, whether they are gig workers or permanent employees. Companies need to understand the brand equity and future opportunities gig economy workers bring. The gig economy workers may return in a new role later to the company. Now if they had a good experience in your company, then they’ll be the advocates of your company even after they have moved on from their job.
CRE can go a long way toward supporting this mindset, by providing environments that encourage all workers in the gig economy to feel like part of the team.

2. Supporting mobility at work

The convenience of technology has increasingly made all the workers mobile and flexible to work from anywhere without any drop in work quality. People are working from home, in coffee shops and on the road as suits their responsibilities, schedule and lifestyle. Gig economy workers may not have the say in the matter since they don’t have a permanent desk job.

Corporate and CRE can support gig economy workers by providing access to required technology that helps them stay connected from anywhere. Moreover, if you provide agile work spaces that accommodate more people with fewer spaces, more and more contingent workers may desire to work from the office.

3. Supporting and adapting to rapid pace of business change

The biggest benefit of the gig economy for corporations is the ability to scale the workforce up and down as required by the immediate business goals. It helps the business to become more agile and adaptable to any changes in the business economy. It’s also easier to move gig workers with a particular skill set between business teams for short-term work.

Corporates must be always ready to respond to any rapidly changing structure of business teams in the gig economy. It means being ready to move and rearrange office space or implement work from anywhere settings at the drop of a hat. The recent pandemic has shown those businesses who always had a contingency plan were the first ones to recover and resume normal services in the gig economy.

4. Inclusive workspaces

Collaboration in the workspace is what runs the business machine smoothly. Having half your workforce as gig economy workers would always pose a collaboration challenge. The teams are in constant flux and the people don’t know each other well to build some sort of rapport. This in result hampers teamwork and stops the influx of better ideas, leading to fewer innovations than needed to be competitive in the global economy.

Corporates and CRE groups can encourage more impromptu collaborations by providing collaborative workspaces based on the understanding of spaces required. If your office has workspaces for different sets of groups like groups of 2 or 3 or 10 people to work together, office mingle areas such as cafeterias, gym, team huddle areas then it’s already half the work done.

5. HR management of gig economy workers

The HR department is the frontier for any gig economy worker. Traditionally HR departments in corporate culture have been reduced to hiring individual talents based on requirements and reactive risk mitigation. But with gig economy workers being reactive to risks isn’t going to cut it.

The HR department must always plan ahead when it comes to gig economy workers. It will be like assembling a crew for a special task and each crew member has to be thoroughly checked and tested for business requirements.

How the two-sided marketplace is redefining the future of traditional HR in enterprises

Traditionally, HR’s role in most organizations has largely been of risk mitigation – coming into effect when employees are not performing well, resources need to be reduced or during employee onboarding. All these can be labeled as fairly reactive.

But HR has also to be at the front center when it comes to the macro-trends with skills gap – how an organization’s talent pool is in comparison to other organizations, how to retain, grow and re-skill resources and so on. As these macro trends evolve HRs role now has become much more strategic. The two-sided marketplaces are giving HR an incredible tool for strategic workforce planning.

Traditionally strategic workforce planning was about the talent inside the four walls of an enterprise. But the workforce of the future is going to look like construction crews or movie production – where experts come together to build something and then disperse.

As HR starts playing a strategic role, there is an opportunity to include these gig marketplaces into their workforce planning and beyond winning the talent war, delivering strong outcomes for their stakeholders. This is one of the things that is redefining HR from managing risk to playing a more strategic role to deliver real quantifiable results for businesses.

With online marketplaces, HR teams can deliver on speed and cost – both of which are quantifiable and can be a game-changer in the domain. This will impact the traditional roles of HR in terms of background checks, training, etc. as most candidates will be self-trained. Some gig workers can also act as mentors or trainers going forward. For instance, Everwise connects resources to mentors, and LinkedIn matches mentors to profiles. Further, e-learning is becoming increasingly popular. A growing trend suggested that large enterprises will soon use online marketplaces such as these to help their employees experiment. This is something that Google already does. Enterprises can allow workers to enroll on these platforms, interact and share their skills, and get real experience. This benefits the employee as they can get trained and paid for the project at hand, as well as the enterprise as they get a skilled resource.

key aspects of creating successful gig economy marketplace

  • The chicken before the egg problem: Marketplaces should have good jobs that are matched to the right resource. So they have to be really good at profiling and matching freelancers with opportunities based on their skill sets. Marketplaces struggle with the ‘chicken before the egg’ issue of whether they should get the supplier or the demand first. In an ideal labor marketplace, we need to find both. For instance, Uber started with both, they seeded demand and also had drivers.
  • Making payment structure easier: Make payments easier is one of the biggest pain points for freelancers. On an average, payouts take 30 to 90 days, which can prove to be inconvenient for freelancers who rely on this income to pay their daily bills. It is important to create a marketplace that makes it easier for them to get paid soon after the completion of the project. This gives rise to another important marketplace – the responsibility of collecting payments from clients.
  • Ease of use for hiring managers: It is imperative to design an easy request creation process for resources, much like Amazon. Additionally one can bring value to them by curating relevant talent and building trust through reviews, ratings, etc.
  • Mitigating risk: For buyers, HR, procurement and legal teams it is important that these online marketplaces mitigate risk. For example, through classifications like the 1099 forms for freelancers as in the US. If you are engaging someone from a gig economy it is important to ensure that all relevant documents are in place – from registration to insurance.
  • Incentivization: It is also important that these marketplaces provide incentives to both sides to get them on the platform. They have to kickstart liquidity (transaction) through tactics like lowering transaction fees, offering referral codes and making some transactions free. While it is not difficult to get freelancers on such platforms, demand-side is the tougher nut to crack, especially with large enterprises.

Key challenges in successful onboarding of both parties to a two-sided marketplace

Some things play an important role and should be considered while creating a two-sided marketplaces:

For freelancers:

  • Easy profile creation that can be matched to their skillsets
  • Fast and frictionless payment process
  • Finding quality demand and quality projects

For hiring managers:

  • Fast and easy search of relevant resources
  • The right collaboration tool
  • Imbuing a sense of trust with the platform and those registered
  • Protection from below-par delivery or non-performance

Additionally, these are some points to consider in the case of legal and procurement teams:

  • Visibility on spends
  • Usage pattern of the platform by hiring teams
  • Proof of value for the organization
  • Protection against misclassification

How two-sided marketplaces can build trust on their platforms

The data provided by freelancers is usually not validated, much like how resumes work in the traditional recruitment world. It is important for marketplaces to validate the information to build trust. For instance, it is highly essential to verify a creative freelancer’s portfolio. Hiring managers should also be able to verify their work portfolio by way of displaying renowned client logos. For engineers, Github is a great platform to validate their skills. They could complete skill-based tests and get rated in order to get verified on the platform, thereby mimicking a storefront where one can make a decision to purchase after careful consideration of the quality of the product and its reviews. Evidently, this means the marketplace has to use elbow grease in verifying the recruiter/freelance profile in the initial stages.

Marketplaces need to evoke trust in freelancers, especially for SMEs by using Escrow as a way of protecting freelancers’ work, holding money in a trust and releasing it only when the work is completed to satisfaction.

Few learnings for HR based two-sided marketplaces from counterparts in other industries

One of the biggest learnings from a platform like Uber is how they match buyers and suppliers. Similarly, Airbnb curates suppliers by identifying them on behavioral metrics and highlight things like – ‘This host is known for being friendly’. Uber suggests features like ‘This driver is known for great conversations.’ Labor marketplaces can take a cue from this and up their curating game by classifying freelancers beyond their listed skill sets. It can make a difference between a good digital experience and a great one.

Impact of technologies and business models in such marketplaces

 From a technology perspective, AI, ML, and Blockchain will play a huge role in how the marketplaces establish trust, resource profiling, getting matched, and getting paid quickly.

Blockchain will play an important role in building trust because of it’s shared ledger model. It is a great opportunity in labor marketplaces to make it more transparent versus the current models that are siloed and closed.

In terms of business models, the prevalent business model is a transaction fee or percentage fee that is taken from the freelancers and buyers. This model will probably stick for a while. However, over time these marketplaces could have difficulty commanding higher prices.

New models such as retainer-based SaaS models where you pay a certain amount and get services on a monthly fee, may emerge. In such models, both freelancers and the marketplaces get paid on a revenue-based recurring model. One such example Legalzoom – an online legal technology company that helps its customers in creating an array of legal documents without having to necessarily hire a lawyer.

Unequivocally, the freelancer economy is on the rise, and the two-sided marketplace is sure to transform the future of work into a more flexible, efficient and cost-effective systems.

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