Category : Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation

From the Ford Model T to IoT: the automobile revolution

From the Ford Model T to IoT: the automobile revolution

When motorized vehicles were first seen in the early 1800s, these ‘horseless carriages’ were perceived with ‘magic and wonder’. They brought with them a paradigm shift in the way people moved and lived.

In 1902, Henry Ford built his own ‘horseless carriage’, but had already failed twice at manufacturing commercial automobiles. It was his partnership with Alexander Y. Malcomson, Detroit’s largest coal dealer, that helped him succeed with his third attempt – . Ford’s Model T.

He revolutionized mass production of these ‘magical vehicles’ that were affordable and targeted at the masses. Using assembly lines, around 10,000 cars were being produced each day; this was a milestone moment in automation for the entire manufacturing sector, changing the very nature of production. Over the years, several car manufacturers entered the fray and automation in the manufacturing sector increased several fold, sparking a revolution in the manufacturing industry.

The next milestone in automobile evolution is here – digitalization is sparking a new revolution for the sector, redefining personal transportation yet again. New horizons are emerging around digitalization, especially through ‘Industry 4.0’ and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Digitalization is re-defining mobility and the car ownership experience

Digitalization and automation are re-defining mobility and can be seen as a win-win for both, car owners and automobile manufacturers.

While cars were earlier seen as a luxury, they have now become a necessity and an integral part of lifestyle experience. They are much more than just means of personal commute. Apart from the avenues that mobility opened up for them, car owners are now ready for a new relationship with their vehicles, through smart cars and in-built ‘digital assistants’.

Digital is bringing next automobile revolution

For car manufacturers, digitalization is helping them maintain an ongoing and direct relationship with their customers, apart from getting access to data collected by these smart vehicles. This data is helping car manufacturers get insights into the ownership experience, driving behavior and vehicle response in different conditions, which aids their future development and business strategies. Digitalization is also automating the manufacturing processes with new efficiencies and helping them innovate on behalf of consumers with partners in the ecosystem, such as dealers and insurance providers.

Manufacturers are increasingly relying on technology across their processes

Automobile manufacturers are depending on digitalization like never before. Digital technologies are being applied across processes, right from product design to customer engagement. These include:

  • Digital technologies are being used for product and process simulations, closing the gap between product design and manufacturing feasibility. With virtual prototypes reducing cost of research and development, it is also leading to faster production and easy management of complexities.
  • With Supply Chain 4.0, supply chain management and logistics have become more automated.
  • Dealers and service networks are now closer to the automobile manufacturers, thanks to digitalization. Dealerships have become touchpoints for customer experience.
  • With customers moving to digital buying experiences, sales and marketing is embracing new technologies to include personalization and improve the car buying experience.

Digital technologies fulfill the promise of personalized mobility

With the advent of ‘smart’ cars that often come inbuilt with digital assistants, the relationship that people have come to have with their vehicles has transformed. Right from research around the kind of vehicle they want to buy, to the purchasing cycle that follows, people are turning to online channels or a combination of online and physical channels. This is the reason that many automobile manufacturers are turning to digital channels – to attract buyers and maintain a sustained relationship with customers.

With increasing digitalization, the driving experience has also seen a transformation. Smart cars are improving the driving experience in a myriad of ways – by informing their owners about the time taken to reach their destination, vital parameters such as air pressure in the tires, roads to avoid, parking assistance, speed warnings – and this is just the beginning.

Dashboards in cars have been reimagined and now are a portal for a host of infotainment and telematics services. In-car digital assistants not just improve conveniences, but also offer a host of services, such as vehicle tracking, security and 24/7 road assistance in case of any breakdown/ accident.

Reshaping public commercial transportation

Digital disruption is also now igniting imagination of new systems around public and commercial transportation. Online ticketing, online payments, tracking and other digital options are now seen as pre-requisites of an efficient public transport system. But to popularize use of public transport, urban planners are looking at the opportunities digitalization has to offer.

Digital solutions for fleet management and route optimization are being used by several public transport operators across the world, while apps integrating different modes of public transport – buses, trams, metro rail, mono rail etc. – are either already in use or are being developed in several cities.

The future of transport with autonomous, electric, connected and personal vehicles

The automobile sector is going through another paradigm shift. With climate change now more real than ever, automobile manufacturers are investing heavily in electric vehicles. Research is ongoing into the sphere of autonomous or self-driven cars, which is likely to herald a completely new era of transportation.

Despite the ground-breaking research and huge investment in these areas, car ownership has seen a decline. Towards this end, shared mobility, such as ride sharing or carpooling, could see a rise in the future.

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Digital Transformation

Building Blocks for Successful Digital Transformation Programs: my experiences from Japan

Building blocks for successful Digital Transformation

Digital transformation or DX can be defined as bringing cultural, organizational, and operational changes in the organization, and across entire ecosystem through digital technologies, processes, and competencies across all function levels.

Over the past few years, Japanese companies have been focusing on digital transformation and modernizing their businesses to accelerate their growth. Pandemic gave an opportunity to further accelerate the transformation for the organizations.

Current scenario: Digital Transformation is serious business

Not just businesses, but even the Government of Japan is showing a keen interest in digital transformation and sees that as an opportunity to drive up productivity and build a stronger nation. They have set up an ambitious plan called Society 5.0 which is defined as ‘a human-cantered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space’. In order to meet this objective they aim to integrate cyberspace & physical space, use technologies such as AI, IoT and Robotics.

However, certain structural challenges such as the ageing population and increasing skills gaps have hindered their digital transformation efforts. According to IMD’s Digital Competitiveness metric 2021, digital talent in Japan is just 1% of its entire workforce and the country ranks 28 in digital and global competitiveness. Further delays in digital transformation could jeopardize their position as the third-largest economy.

Japan Digital Score Card

Japan Digital Score Card, Source: Deloitte

Improvement in workforce productivity especially in the areas of digital experiences has been a challenge for several years. Japan has a digital workforce productivity of 7.6 as compared to US which is at 13.3.

I have lived and worked in Japan for almost a decade and my areas of expertise span across IT Consulting, large-scale Digital Transformations, bootstrapping IT setup and scaling it across organizations to drive business growth. Based on my interactions with business and technology stakeholders across leading organizations in Japan, I would like to explain how this problem can be tackled efficiently.

Challenge #1: Understanding the “WHY” part of transformation

McKinsey’s recent report on Transformation Change says that only 16% of digital transformations are successful. Lack of clear strategy could be one of the reasons for such a low rate. The ideal approach would be to start with a clear strategy. Start with knowing the ‘why’. For example, ask yourself why is digital transformation necessary? Will it increase the revenue or decrease the overall OPEX? Knowing the answer to the ‘why’ will give you a head start to a smooth and successful implementation. It is important to involve the Business & IT Strategy teams. The business strategy is the outcome that the company plans to achieve through transformation. The IT strategy involves the technologies that will be used to make the transformation successful.

Actionable tips

  • Build business-IT alignment and consensus. Research shows that better IT and business team alignment can improve operational efficiency by 58% and customer experience by 54%.
  • While both Business & IT teams find ways to build the consensus, IT teams can take the lead in explaining the values it can generate for the business. Visualization, road shows can help to solve this problem. They should be able to explain how the changes can help the business unit improve its productivity or enhance performance.
  • Seek help from a technology partner company to help you sharpen your technology strategy. This could be the best chance to overhaul your complete enterprise architecture as well.

Challenge #2: Resistance to change

Willingness to change is an important factor contributing to the success of Digital Transformation. Change in the mindset is very much required to improve the adoption of Digital Principles in running the IT of organizations.

According to McKinsey’s research, two out of three Japanese managers feel they are not fully prepared to undertake digital transformation projects. There’s also the fear of failure, as only 16% of projects in Japan have been successful. Getting executive and stakeholder buy-in is vital to greenlight the project with adequate budget and resource allocation.

DT readiness globally

Actionable tips

  • Stakeholder buy-in and continuous engagement is of paramount importance.
  • Organizational Change Management practices must be followed and a Change Manager must be appointed.
  • Take help from technology partner companies to develop a proof of concept (POC) or proof of technology (POT)
  • Robosoft, for instance, does lighthouse projects to build POCs and POTs. We pick up small-scope projects that can be completed within weeks and collaborate closely with the customer teams. We demonstrate the outcome, show that as quick wins, conduct demos and help to win the confidence of stake holders. We observed this helps the customers to overcome the fear of failure, encourage them to adopt technologies and set their foot in right direction.

Challenge #3: Increasing skills gap

Call it a symptom of ageing demography or the dynamic nature of technologies that change quickly, Japan has a shortage of skilled resources. 68% of Japanese companies cited human resources shortage as a challenge. The reports showed that the country has a massive shortage of artificial intelligence and data analytics specialists and a major factor for this problem is the lack of funding and support on new investments in digital areas. Cloud Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Analytics is expected to grow to 15.6 million and it is high time for the Japanese Organizations to catch up with this speed.

ICT investments in Japan

Actionable tips

  • Ongoing wave of digital disruptions requires multitude of roles within the organizations. They must re-organize their IT teams and fill key roles such as Product Managers, Product Owners, Scrum Masters, Change Managers, Enterprise Architect, Data Analysts etc. Companies must understand the typical roles they would need to keep it in house and start hiring for the same
  • Organizations traditional thought process to outsourcing – While the organization is building its own team, it is also equally important to start identifying outsourcing partner with whom the internal teams can work and gain exposure.
  • Do not ignore your internal team of experts. The external partner brings global and technical expertise and experience. But the internal teams know the business processes and systems of the company well. They represent the company and know what they want. They act as a support function and subject matter expert to the external technology partner. Always take a hybrid approach wherever possible.

Challenge #4: Lack of meaningful relationships with external technology partners

Traditionally, Japanese companies rely heavily on external partner companies for system integration and other tasks that are ideally done by the in-house teams. However, most of these external partner companies have a tough time understanding the business needs and have limited ability to perform a full-scale digital transformation. It is important to evaluate the technical partner on multiple fronts before you select the right partner.

Actionable tips

What the CXOs expect in their partner companies before choosing one and why Robosoft can be the preferred choice.

  • Global expertise is a must have for partner companies. Working with multiple global organizations ensures understanding of a wider spectrum of business and solutions.
  • Working with larger organizations helps to clearly demonstrate best practices, do’s and don’ts of DX and get unbiased advice.
  • Time to market is always a critical factor. Technology Partner to have readily available and skilled talent pool.
  • Quality always matters. The availability of Subject Matter Experts in the domain and a strong Technical Team is imperative.
  • Ability to work as a trusted partner understanding the larger picture of business and to provide proactive solutions.

Challenge #5: Choice overload

There are hundreds of service vendors each in SaaS, PaaS, XaaS, pure play services IT play. Do you know that there are over 360 vendors for PaaS offerings alone? Companies are spoiled for choices. They can choose from an array of technology options and service providers. While this is good, so many choices can overwhelm you. CXOs often get caught up in the decision-making process.

Actionable tips

  • Find a partner who can work at all 3 levels of an organization: Executive, Business and Project”. At Robosoft we aim to build deep relationships at level to align ourselves with the vision & mission, business goals of the organizations. Further, we help to narrow down the choices so you can make the right decision. Here’s how we do it for our clients.

Robosoft's engagement model

Enterprises want to make impactful strides in terms of scalable digital transformation and the Government of Japan is also pushing them to make efforts to deliver results. Despite the challenges organizations are well poised to take the next big leap. The right technology partner can accelerate your digital transformation project and help you realize its full potential.

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Airline Digital Transformation UX/UI

New Technologies Enhancing UX in Airlines Industry

UX in aviation

UX design has been a critical aspect of aviation for a long time, from the creation of cockpit systems to the development of cabin design and passenger experience. With the introduction of more refined UI and new technologies like AI/AR, and Biometrics, airlines are continuously looking at ways to enhance UX in Aviation. These exciting new technological advancements in the aviation industry are being enabled by robust new user experiences.

From the past, airlines have already been making significant efforts in improving the passenger experience from varied seating choices to chef-designed meals. Aircrafts are now also able to access real-time data directly from the ground, improving situational awareness and increasing control capabilities. Mobile devices will also gain access to wider navigation information and improved passenger services, ensuring that users of their devices will better understand why they’re using it.

However, improving customer experience is a never ending process and even now passengers tend to report that they are left looking for more in terms of improved UX. In a world where customer is king, it falls on the aviation industry as a whole to tackle its UX challenges and find CX improvement areas. Only then it may be able to appeal to the next-generation of customers.

Some UX Challenges and CX Improvement Areas in the Aviation Industry

According to McKinsey, the overall traveler satisfaction level hasn’t seen any kind of decline post pandemic. In fact, many have found the travel experience to be better than it was before the pandemic.

Flight and hotel experiences comparison post pandemic

Source: McKinsey

But these surprising numbers in customer satisfaction are mostly derived from leisure travelers who maybe just feeling happy to be on the road again. There are still major UX challenges and improvement areas like flight cancellations, delays, rebooking hassle, compensation merry-go-round, loss of time and money among others.

These are just a few examples of the vast majority of UX challenges generally faced by customers while traveling via air. Some major challenges and improvement areas in customer experience journey are:

#1 Non-uniform travel experiences

Till now aviation companies were looking to continuously improve only the in-flight passenger experiences while somewhat disregarding the other touchpoints for passengers. But now there is a need to improve the customer journey in all aspects of their travel by working towards an omnichannel experience. This will provide a seamless end-to-end customer experience by airlines from booking tickets to arriving at their destination.

In our previous article, we have talked about designing a deeper, more intimate airport experience for travelers. It breaks down the whole flying experience to seven stages and provides valuable UX recommendations for each.

#2 Adequate pre and post flight information

The new generation of customers are driven by seamless smartphone experiences and seek for the same everywhere. A big step to achieve this is by providing important notifications via normal text or via app notification. Airlines are now expected to be able to provide pre- and post-flight information, timely updates and assistance to customers.

#3 Longer processing time

Earlier, the check-in experience was already a tedious task, now add new norms after the pandemic and you got a steep challenge to keep your wits end together. The new health check regulations have undeniably added more minutes to the long waiting time of passengers patiently waiting for their turn to check-in.

#4 Undeniable influence of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

While OTA websites drive most of the traffic, the actual purchase is generally made on the airlines’ own website/app. Still, when it comes to easy website navigation and other UI/UX features, airline websites lose the battle. Even in today’s time many travelers find booking a ticket very stressful and confusing from airlines’ own website.

#5 Increase in CX while maintaining operational costs

FSC or LCC carriers used to cater to very different class of passengers who were either driven by flight experience or price. As it is becoming a challenge for aircraft carriers to attract new set of passengers, they are looking for ways to attract both these set of customers without compromising much on customer experience.

In our article on digitalization effects on leisure and travel industries, we pitched a Right Price Model for airline business which tackles the important CX initiatives while maintaining operational costs.

How New Technologies are Boosting UX for Airlines [with examples]

One of the main enablers for improved UX is the emergence of newer technologies and their applications in aviation industry. These technologies are digitally transforming the aviation industry and paving the way for a customer centric airline industry.

Some of these technologies and their real life examples are listed below –

#1 Blockchain Technology

Using blockchain technology helps airlines to securely maintain user data and privacy across multiple touchpoints via a digital ledger. The technology can find its use in identity management & record keeping, cross integrations for seamless travel experience, building robust data security systems and airline maintenance.

Air France deployed blockchain technologies to create a COVID-19 test verification system via a mobile app during the pandemic. Singapore Airlines uses blockchain technology for their frequent flyer loyalty program using KrisPay. It also offers promotions to customers along with the program.

#2 Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR & VR)

AR and VR technology when used correctly can not only enhance the UX but also help in improving the customer experience of navigating through the airport or aircraft. The obvious uses of AR and VR technologies can be seen in airports. For e.g. AR/VR can show the passengers cabin experience on VR headsets, provide a digital tour guide, show fastest route through airport, etc.

The Gatwick airport uses AR to help passengers navigate the complex layout of the airport, and London City Airport has installed AR tech to help air traffic controllers with the vital job of keeping planes safe.

#3 Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI integrated with machine learning, and predictive analytics can help immensely in providing a connected and customized experience to the flyers. Further, AI also has the potential to ease out various operational processes of airlines like revenue management, managing ticket pricing, etc.

Shenzhen airport in China uses AI for AI airbridge allocation as well as for AI turnaround times. Air France implemented the specialized AI platform called Sky Breath that collects data from the flight, performs in-depth analytics, and helps identify fuel-saving opportunities and increase efficiency.

#4 Biometrics

Biometrics is not new to aviation. All the major and minor airports started implementing it since 9/11 to improve their security details. But over the years it has found use in improving passenger experience as well by improving the time and speed of check-in and other operations. In fact, use of facial recognition has been proposed for airports to cut down on flight delays by 80 percent.

Fraport in conjunction with Zwipe have agreed to trial their biometric solutions to boost security at Frankfurt airport. Miami International Airport and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) started rolling out biometric technology with a few airlines back in 2019. MIA is now seeking a huge biometric push by 2023 that will serve multiple purposes.

#5 Internet of Things (IoT)

The airline industry is using IoT to build a integrated ecosystem combining the organizational functions to increase efficiencies and provide a seamless experience to their customers.

Virgin Airlines have implemented IoT in its Boeing 787. Every single element on the plane is attached to a wireless airplane network, providing real-time IoT data on elements like performance, maintenance, etc. EasyJet’s Mobile Host at London’s Gatwick Airport combines the traveler flight details with live data from the airport’s Google indoor maps. This allows the airline to deliver updated check-in reminders, gate updates, and even personalized directions.

#6 Mobile Solutions

Airlines are using the mobile platform to connect with their customers throughout the passenger journey starting from booking a flight to deplaning it. Airlines can send real time alerts and notification on and off the airport.

Almost all airline carriers nowadays send real-time flight notifications from post booking to deplaning. These include self check-in, flight delay notifications, feedback, etc.

#7 Hearable, wearable & Voice Technologies

These technologies have increasingly found various usage in aviation from internal communication between flight attendants, voice searches, voice bookings to voice check-ins. These are also used in conjunction with in-flight connectivity which provide a real opportunity to drive conversion, upsell items on flight.

#8 Advanced Data Analytics and Big Data

Aviation companies collect traces of customer data from each stage of their travel journey, be it planning, research, reservation, stay, or post-travel review of their experiences. They can use insights from this data and advance analytics to provide a high degree of personalization to the travel experience which in turn could help in building customer loyalty.

These technologies have the potential to revolutionize air travel as we know it. The airline industry is on the precipice of a breakthrough, and most of the credit goes to the wave of digital transformation across the industry with CX as center.

Technology in each step of airline customer journey

As you can see how much of a bigger role technology plays in designing the UX of travelers. Let us further break down the whole customer journey into 5 different stages and discuss how technology plays a vital role in each step.

1. Pre-booking – Airlines can offer a digital tour guide powered by a personalization engine to show destination highlights based on individual customer preferences. Airlines use data analytics telemetry based pattern identification to drive loyalty management programs and offer dynamic rewards while booking.

2. Booking and Check-in – Airline companies can use geolocation based service and marketing apps to offer transportation services, bot assisted agent or self service changes. Geolocation also allows display of local language and currency on website for familiarity and convenience while booking and payment.

3. Airport Experience – Use of IoT baggage tags providing real-time tracking, self-tagging and activation. Biometric enabled check-in and security check. A combination of AR/VR enabled mobile computing, AI, robotics, Big Friendly Data (BFD), Intuitive UX, and wearable technology to help users in self-service check-in to intimate boarding experiences.

4. In-flight experience – Taking help of big data and hearable, wearable & voice technologies to enhance in-flight experiences with traveler loyalty services, communications, and purchases.

5. Post-travel – Mobile solutions to assist in un-boarding and baggage claims. Also, sending customer satisfaction surveys post travel for better personalization in upcoming travel plans.

How Airlines are Ensuring a Highly Personalized Experience for Customers

Introduced in 2012 by IATA, the NDC airline standard is now helping airlines break away from over-reliance on GDS intermediaries. Airlines can now offer more differentiation, push new offers right away on their website, and provide high class personalization to their customers.

The NDC standard ensures each ticket seller stays up to date with each airlines’ newest offers and products. Other benefits of NDC includes:

i) Direct access to upgrades, exclusive packages, or limited-time offers even when customer is booking from a third-party.

ii) High personalization according to individual preferences across customer journey.

iii) Advance level of comparisons for all airline options, including their different services, products, promotions and of course, prices.

iv) Speed to market while distributing products widely across third-party agents or sites.

v) Same content across airline website and travel agent sites.

In short, NDC allows airlines to take control of their purchase and distribution when dealing with customers. This ensures a high level of customer experience from the airlines.

Possibilities for Airline Industry

As new technologies find ways to integrate themselves across various industries, customer expectations are growing higher and higher. Technology is now playing a major role in UX design for the whole airport and airline experience for customers. Today, what looks mind boggling due to technology may become standard norms in near future.

It is very important for the aviation industry to keep evolving with the growing trends in CX and UX. In times to come the airline travel experiences are set to become more personalized, valuable, and memorable for the flyers.

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Digital Transformation

How Digital Transformation is Enabling a Swift Strategic M&A in Automotive Industry

Digital Transformation enabling automotive mergers and acquisitions

If anything history has taught us, it is the brave, innovative, believers, and risk-takers who emerge the strongest after a catastrophe. The pandemic brought such an unprecedented event to people, businesses, and industries in general.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought additional challenges to the automotive industry which deeply impacted manufacturing quantity and quality, supply chains, chip shortages, and already shrinking global demand for vehicles. The pandemic, economic downturn due to the Russia-Ukraine war, etc. has leveled the playing field for auto manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers or OEMs globally. The field is set for proactive players to leverage this opportunity to the fullest.

We are already witnessing an increase in M&A and disposal activities as companies are focusing on rapid strategy execution. Using M&A, companies are now capturing and accelerating new capabilities, improving delivery time, and even improving their position in the market.

Automotive mergers and acquisitions since 2021

Mergers & Acquisition activities in the news

 

Mergers and Acquisitions in automobile industry since 2019

Source: Crunchbase

Auto manufacturers and OEMs are now finding that sweet spot of incorporating technology not only into their production but in mergers and acquisitions as well.

Disruptions due to digital transformation in the automotive industry

There was a time when legacy organizations held steadfast to their age-old beliefs and showed great aversion to any kind of change including technology.

But as we witness day after day, digital transformation is simplifying the lives of millions worldwide, and legacy organizations have started taking note. They are now becoming the beacons of change and leading the digital transformation revolution across industries.

The automotive industry is a highly competitive industry that is now continuously evolving by rapidly digitizing its operations. Digital transformation positively influences the entire value chain and impacts all stakeholders alike – consumers, suppliers, dealerships, manufacturers, and financial institutions.

New customer experience trends are now driving the digital transformation in the automotive industry. Customers are now seeking connected vehicles that offer a personalized driving experience. This rise in demand has come at such a crucial juncture where automotive manufacturers are short on supplies and going into losses.

Automotive majors took this opportunity to become more technology-centric organizations by adopting various tools such as big data analytics, cloud computing, and body/road sensors. The influence of technology could also be seen in establishing an efficient supply chain management system and enhancing vehicle performance through remote diagnostics.

Current Trends and Key Challenges for OEMs facing an Uncertain Future due to Changes in the Industry

Original equipment manufacturers face several challenges in today’s automotive industry from supply chain disruptions to shortage of semiconductor chips and skilled labor. This is why we will see companies increasing M&A activities in near future to acquire the capabilities they need to produce existing products as well as develop future ones.

#1 Surge in demand for Electric Vehicles or EVs

Since the introduction and favorable government norms, there has been an exponential increase in demand for EVs.

Electric Vehicles market in 2030s

Source: marketsandmarkets.com

We are now witnessing various M&A related to EVs and autonomous vehicles (AV) between auto manufacturers, OEMs, and technology companies. It could well be a continuation of the trend from 2021 of SPAC mergers with early-stage automotive companies in the EV and AV space.

The increased demands for EVs mean key players will shift their R&D and production capacities to electrification, digital transformation deals (software, connectivity, customized chips), EV battery and fuel cell technologies, and charging infrastructure.

#2 Major disruptions from changed market behavior and expectations

The demand for new and costly features by customers with higher-tech means more pressure on OEMs to deliver quality in a shorter time frame. Adding to this, there are challenges with regulators rightfully demanding the strictest adherence to environmental and safety standards.

The impact of CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric) megatrends also could be denied by OEMs to further increase the pressure on them. The disruption caused by these trends is restructuring the market with the future automotive industry likely to look substantially different from that of today.

Thus, OEMs are likely to enter into joint ventures sharing their R&D expenses and gaining access to scarce components such as semiconductors. Further, there will be alignment challenges with the governments to create the necessary charging infrastructure for EVs.

#3 Minimal differentiating factors

Earlier, manufacturers differentiated themselves on economies of scale, standardization, and product differentiation. Now with a seismic shift in the auto industry with advanced digital technologies, the differentiation factors have also changed.

Incorporating analytics, automation, and AI to improve efficiency across supply chain management to product development and customer relationship management is a must for almost any organization now. If businesses can’t keep up with the digital transformation, their businesses start bearing negative results.

In extreme cases, some traditional automotive suppliers must build exit strategies amid technological disruption across the sector. The financially and technologically weakest companies could be easy identifiers for turnarounds or restructuring by larger and technologically adept players.

#4 Change in organizational goals

The time is ripe for up-and-coming players in the auto industry to reconsider their vision for the future. They must now identify likely changing areas of profitability using scenario planning over the course of the next 10-15 years. Aligning your goals with changing times could prove to be vital as coming years declare a stark warning to those OEMs who are standing still.

Opportunities in Strategic M&A of Auto Manufacturers and OEMs

#1 New product line and business models

The first movers among the OEM and auto manufacturers are investing heavily in digital transformation to gain a competitive advantage. They are also competing with tech companies to enter into new businesses such as autonomous driving, connected services, etc. The strategic M&A with digital companies is also opening up new avenues for OEMs to establish communication channels with customers for selling vehicles, accessories, and services directly.

#2 Flexibility in choosing available strategic options

OEMs and their partners currently have three options to tackle the change and disruption in the industry – build, buy, or partner.

buy build partner for OEMs

Buy

Small to mid-size automotive companies continuing their own production are bearing double expenses. There are two primary reasons for this –
(i) Continue manufacturing their existing products with upgraded features
and (ii) Developing hybrid and electric vehicles autonomously

Despite the heavy cost, the main advantage of adopting a build strategy by OEMs is preserving the rights to the intellectual property associated with the capability or technology they have built.

Build

Companies can supplement in-house development with strategic M&A that helps fill the gaps and get instant access to required technologies. However, the increased costs of these assets act as a barrier to this method for most.

Moreover, the pandemic and lack of resources have made sought-after assets such as electric powertrain or connected car assets highly desirable and relatively rare. Also, there is a scarcity of assets associated with future technologies with appropriate scale.

However, there is an influx of capital toward tech-enabled companies that use intangible assets to serve customers. These companies are using newer business models with revised goals and letting technology play a far greater role than ever. Investors are betting big on these tech-enabled companies to provide important CASE capabilities to incumbent players in the auto industry.

Partner

Various analysis of the auto industry indicates a continuity in partnerships between automotive businesses as joint ventures or strategic partnerships. The main objective behind these partnerships is to share the burden of product and capability development.

Recent years have shown various automakers and OEMs to get involved in next-generation technology-related partnerships. We can expect full mergers between an auto manufacturer and a technology partner to create larger companies with larger balance sheets and larger capital spending capabilities.

Whichever strategic direction a business may choose to go, they must regroup first and ask important questions to themselves about their long-term and short-term plans. They must be open and honest to themselves about what new capabilities they need to bring into their organization, what are the gaps, and which strategy among build/buy/partner will be beneficial for them to fulfill those gaps.

Impact of Digitization on M&A of Automotive Manufacturers and OEMs

Improved efficiency: As automotive manufacturers and OEMs are gearing up toward the next generation of mobility, they are increasingly leveraging digital transformation to improve development time to market, reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Value addition for customers: While buying a company with an established working model, having a strong clientele base, talented workforce and technical know-how give automotive companies a head-start in achieving their business goals – acquiring digital assets enables them to not just accelerate but also add value to their existing operations which in return adds value to the customers.

New innovation and development: Automotive companies have also been looking at mergers and acquisitions as a way to innovate and develop new technologies for emerging mobility products such as e-vehicles, autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles, etc., which needs quick access to a talent pool with new capabilities.

Harmonious integrations: Digital transformation has opened up opportunities for automotive firms to integrate platforms from different industries that weren’t even previously considered part of vehicular services. For example – A car rental app can be integrated into an autonomous vehicle so that users can call upon them through voice commands on demand.

Digitization enables a quick M&A in the automotive industry

Some of the factors that play a role in the industry-wide changes could be found among the following:

  • Governments impose stringent emission norms for passenger cars due to environmental regulations. These strict norms reduce profitability for OEMs who relied on cheaper but environmentally harmful emission parts for vehicles. Now every manufacturer has to consider environmental friendliness while manufacturing parts
  • The economic downturn and the pandemic along with digital transformation have acted in conjunction to let smaller car manufacturers enter the market rather easily. The bigger players now not only have to reduce cost, increase profitability, and introduce digital, but also take care of competition from small players
  • The lack of resources and skilled labor has significantly increased product development costs. Companies are now in a conundrum to carve out non-profit making bodies and sell for capital while making sure they don’t look desperate to maintain their stock price

With all these factors pressing down on them, many auto manufacturers and OEMs are left wondering how they can survive the digital transformation in this sector.

Introducing digitization in any M&A significantly speeds up the process which proves to be beneficial for both parties involved.

A swift merger & acquisition between two parties can be done with the help of the right technology partner.

What is the importance of choosing the right digital partner?

Digital transformation brings a fundamental change to the companies by helping them embed required technologies across functions.

When done properly, digital transformation increases efficiency, develops greater business agility, and ultimately unlocks new values for employees, customers, and shareholders.

This is why it becomes critical for companies to seek help only from experts and specialists with a proven track record. The right technology partner can keep your company on track and guide you throughout the process of M&A.

Conclusion

Customer experience is becoming an important factor in driving digital transformation across the automotive industry. OEMs and dealers too must be in tune with the changing behavior of consumers or they risk falling behind.

Since it is not entirely a new thing, changing trends will call for more quick mergers between auto manufacturers and OEMs. Both parties should look for a quicker turnaround time for the merger. A swift action ensures profitability and scalability measures are taken as quickly as possible post-merger.

This trend will only gain more momentum as the introduction of electric vehicles is now bringing a whole new shift in the dynamics of the automotive industry. The future looks equally scary and exciting for auto manufacturers and OEMs depending on how brave and innovative they are and fast they can act and adapt.

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Customer Experience Digital Transformation

5 Customer Experience Trends in Automotive Industry Shifting Gears towards Digital Transformation

Customer experience and behavior trends triggered by digital transformation

The automotive industry is one of the major industries that has witnessed a massive digital transformation in recent years. Digital is revolutionizing the automotive experience for consumers. The recent innovations in automobiles are designed to complement the overall driving experience of a consumer. One could even go on and say there is a clear shift from RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) to EPM (Experiences Per Mile) when it comes to customer needs from their automobile. The industry must quickly find new ways to adapt to this growing customer need or risk being left behind. One major factor of digital transformation is mobility where customers want to get everything done from their always evolving smartphones. But the future of mobility in the automotive industry doesn’t lie in the features offered for the vehicle but lies in redefining what “moves consumers” emotionally when they purchase an automobile.

Here are 5 trends on how the automobile industry is evolving to meet changing consumer behavior and expectations.

Customer experience and behavior trends in automotive industry triggered by digital transformation

1. Automobile buying experience shifting from physical to digital

The traditional model of car buying experience involved physical visits to the car dealerships to know about the cars and their features before deciding to purchase one. However, two disruptions in recent years have somewhat changed the entire complexion of this car buying experience.

The first major disruption was the emergence of the mobile-first generation with the purchasing power who value experience over possessions. And the second disruption was caused by the pandemic which forever changed the way a few industries and their customers operate and behave. The pandemic prevented customers from visiting the commercial premises and the dealerships too started closing to prevent the virus from spreading. These two disruptions, on top of the arrival of technologies such as AR/VR, 360-degree views, and standardizations in other areas, have made Digital possible in the car buying space and accelerated the digital transformation.

In one of their insights, McKinsey validates the importance of car dealers having a digital presence for their customers. The report suggests the purchase intent of customers mainly using digital channels dropped by only 2 percent while for offline buying journeys the purchase intent dropped by 8 percent post-pandemic. As digital is becoming increasingly important in the automotive buying experience, those brands that dive in and create brand affinity through experience on the digital channel are reaping the benefits.

2. Auto manufacturers and OEMs must adopt a retail approach for digital-savvy customers

Leading e-commerce brands not only changed the retail industry forever, but they also trained consumer minds to expect a retail service in every other industry, the automotive industry included. The abundance of information and availability of data along with the latest technology made it possible for modern consumers to do thorough research and compare the products themselves, replacing the need for in-person discussions.

The post-pandemic era saw more and more consumers choosing a digital-first approach for many touchpoints of their buying journey. In this approach, the customers are demanding online platforms that enable accurate product searches and comparisons which in turn enables them to finalize buying decisions online.

It may be noted that so far very few auto manufacturers like Tesla and Mercedes Benz have adopted a direct-to-consumer e-commerce approach. This is a unique opportunity for auto manufacturers to create a competitive advantage by positioning themselves as digital innovators.

Tesla online purchase experience

3. Seamless customer experience journey management with digital adoption

Customers now have the privilege to enjoy the benefits of a connected vehicle making it safer to drive and less stressful. This increased connectivity not only improves the overall driving experience, but also enables the vehicle to generate and process a large amount of customer data for a more seamless experience.

However, there are still some areas of improvement in handling such a large amount of customer data by the dealerships and OEMs. Since most of the dealers still rely on physical processes in the customer journey, it invites greater chances of human error in data handling. With proper digital systems in place, making the jump from physical to digital will eradicate such minor issues leading to better management of customer journeys. Once you assess the viability of digital transformation in your organization and adopt the way, it opens up a world of opportunities for you. Adopting a digital approach minimizes errors, makes your team more agile and responds better and faster to clients’ requirements. As a result, it improves customer experience operationally as well.

Mercedes-Benz was looking for a solution to better serve its customers in Brazil, which has the second-largest plant followed by Germany. They invested in a Microsoft Azure cloud solution coupled with Power BI and Cortana Intelligence to map their sales processes, and analyze decades worth of data like license plate records, macroeconomic indicators, regulations, sales information, and statistics by each region of the country. Through this change in data analysis and interpretation model, Mercedes-Benz was able to:

  • Provide 180 service locations around Brazil with consistent, actionable information to ensure each location could provide accurate proposals to their clients.
  • Assist sales reps to engage with consumers proactively before a need is even expressed with the help of predictive analysis.
  • Support employees in engaging and serving customers better, and in improving overall customer experience and satisfaction.

Connected car generates vast customer data from multiple touchpoints

Digitization enables manufacturers to identify additional customer touchpoints to make them understand the customer better. They can now better understand what motivates customers to defect to other brands before it happens and find resolutions for these issues.

4. Possession or ride experience – changing preferences

According to a survey of 7000 people by Accenture, 48% of respondents said they would consider giving up car ownership in favor of using autonomous mobility solutions. Another research by PwC suggests that by 2030, more than 1 in 3 kilometers driven would involve sharing concepts. These researches point to a shift in the attitude of car owners from possession to ride experience. Personal mode of transportation is being avoided by the younger generation in favor of mobility solutions like ride-sharing, subscription models, or even rental services.

This changing scenario is forcing manufacturers and dealerships to find new ways to keep their customers satisfied and loyal to them. One such example would be Porsche launching its ‘Porsche Passport’ service back in late 2017. According to this service, Porsche customers could pay a fixed fee per month in return to use up to 22 different cars based on their needs or desires. The idea was to offer greater flexibility to customers in terms of options to switch along with insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. The whole idea underscored the need to cater to consumer experience rather than ownership.

Porsche car membership for customers

5. Increased focus on both purchase and service experience

As mentioned previously, digitization offers auto manufacturers and OEMs a larger pool of actionable customer data. Companies can collect and connect millions of such touchpoints from call centers, surveys, dealer management systems, and communications to visualize each customer journey. The companies can now use this visual map to better monitor and action planning of each customer’s journey experience by appointing “journey owners”. Thanks to technology, dealerships can offer IoT based servicing and car care to their customers.

A survey by McKinsey & Company shows almost 50 percent of customers believe a better service experience is more influential than the actual purchase experience in the customer journey.

McKinsey customer experience vs service experience survey

As millennials are increasingly becoming the foremost segment in car ownership, it is becoming more difficult for dealerships to attract them with the traditional approach. This customer segment is accustomed to instant gratification in the digital space and hence very time-intensive. Dealerships who cater to these specific requirements from the millennials along with their other services will increase conversions and thereby increase revenues.

Digital Transformation is building a case for CASE to improve CX in the automotive industry

The automotive industry is in a state of continuous disruptive transition. Newer technologies like AI, ML, AR, Big Data are influencing the customer experiences more and more with each passing day. Dealerships are using eCommerce as an option to improve customer experiences or sell their products be it vehicles, automobile parts, or even accessories. For example, we can see how Tesla has included artificial intelligence, solar panels & electric vehicles in its portfolio.

Customers are now experiencing newer vehicle capabilities and changing behavior according to newer realities and increased convenience. This led to the industry aggressively shifting gears and setting forward on an ambitious new course: “CASE”— the push for more Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric vehicles, and mobility solutions.

Connected

A fully connected car relies on three pillars of connectivity – infotainment, infrastructure, and telematics.

In today’s digital age and mobile-first generation, customers are expecting similar seamless experiences everywhere. The same expectations are there from newer vehicles in the market. These expectations include everything from high-quality infotainment systems for passengers to assisted driving and parking with payment from the dashboard.

People can now watch movies, use Google Maps, listen to music with Bluetooth connectivity, and more thanks to connectivity capabilities like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Smart vehicles detect drivers’ sleepiness, and the galvanic skin-response sensors can give a metric for stress to warn the driver and avoid any harmful accidents. On the outside of the car, radar, cameras, and laser scanners can “read” the road and then respond. All the above features and more come preloaded or customized based on the demands of the consumer.

Automotive telematics assesses the driver’s behaviors from timely insurance payments to driving routes. It also can be used to optimize the fleets in a car-sharing model. Automobile manufacturers have released their own telematics apps that connect with their selected cars. Honda Connect lets your car get connected with Amazon’s Alexa provides over 32 ingenious features for the safety and convenience of the riders. Similarly, Suzuki Connect lets you connect with the car and offers dynamic attributes such as 24X7 roadside assistance, driving analytics reports, functional alerts, live vehicle tracking, and many more.

Autonomous

The vehicles are being manufactured with the increased ability to safely operate with less and eventually no input from the driver. With no driver, the autonomous vehicle experience is all about making an impactful product design. The driving pattern of automated cars can be algorithmically optimized, increasing the capacity on any highway.

Although with autonomy comes the fear of the unknown and being out of control. It is our innate human nature to be in control of things to feel calm. So here is an opportunity for automakers to make it a much more fulfilling experience for customers via the following:

1. The rider of an autonomous vehicle is quite likely to experience anxieties arising from loss of control. It presents a huge opportunity for CX to help calm the rider by providing several inputs and communications.

2. From a servicing perspective, the car can book a servicing appointment and drive itself to the service station at the scheduled time and return after servicing.

3. The rider can use their mobile to summon the vehicle when required.

All autonomous vehicles in near future will require a human-machine interface (HMI) to communicate with the driver as well as the pedestrians. The features of this HMI interface include – Haptic controls with embedded touch controls, a touch screen with possible haptic feedback, gesture control with visual feedback, and voice control and feedback. These cars could not only understand, inform, and ensure passenger safety but also entertain passengers.

4. Speech recognition (Voice to Text) to tell the car your destination, temperature control, music choice, etc. The autonomous vehicle would store these preferences and recreate via voice detection/face detection of the customer.

Increased acceptance of autonomous vehicles presents a unique opportunity for ambitious automotive companies to break away from the clutter with an increased focus on optimal customer service as a point of differentiation. They need to develop new business models that cater to field services of these autonomous vehicles by offering after-sales customer support and maintenance “in the field”.

Autonomous vehicles however present a big dilemma in front of the insurance industry and could prove to be a big disruptor in the future. If the driver is taken out of the question, who does the risk shift to in case of an accident? Who will be liable for the payment of the insurance? As of now the OEMs and manufacturers are taking the heat as we see Tesla being charged with many lawsuits for its driverless vehicle accidents. But with time, the vehicles will be safer which in turn brings down the risk and then will bring down the insurance amount – making a huge dent in the insurance industry. There is also the case of reimagining traffic management by regulating autonomous and self-driven vehicles.

Shared

In major markets like the US, the ownership of vehicles per household is almost double the number of households which leads to vehicles sitting idly for a large portion of each day. To lessen this implication, the mobility industry is rapidly deploying new forms of car ownership models – carsharing, ridesharing, and ride-hailing services, to the customers. Combining ride sharing and car sharing could take every passenger to a destination with nearly 80% fewer cars in metro cities.

The negative implications of newer forms of car ownership models are seen in declining sales figures for automotive companies. The automotive companies now not only have to battle against each other for market share but well-funded car-sharing technology companies as well. To tackle this situation the automotive companies are now starting their ride-sharing or shared leasing systems with the help of capable technology partners.

The benefits of these new car ownership models are seen around us. Fewer cars mean a lower cost of building and maintaining the roads. Also less noise pollution, less environmental damage. This is one of the main reasons most Governments are pushing for completely having electric vehicles on the road.

Electrification

Disruptive OEMs and startups are expanding the capabilities of a vehicle and demonstrating compelling options for the end consumer. Add this to the rising global energy costs, resource scarcity, global climate change, and increased government incentives/regulations leading to the invention of green energy and environment-friendly vehicles.

Electric vehicles are perfect examples of sustainable mobility solutions that will revolutionize the automotive industry soon. The need of the hour for existing manufacturers is to support new software-based architectures capable of driving needed chemistry efficiencies.

Initially, the adoption of EVs was slow among customers. But with each iteration, electric vehicles are becoming more and more cost-efficient with increased access to charging stations everywhere.

However, all is not well for the future of Electric Vehicles or EVs if proper measures aren’t taken now. One such would be making a proper scrappage policy. The rise of EVs on the road would lead to scrapping a lot of polluting vehicles. Also, the batteries of the EVs need to be scrapped properly. A standard battery has a life of 4 years. We can expect massive battery junk to pile up if a disposal strategy isn’t in place.

Hitachi’s new compact, lightweight direct-drive system combines the motor, inverter, and brake into a single unit and installs the entire system into the wheel. This EV claims to reduce the energy loss by 30% and increase the single charge range of the vehicle.

Key stakeholders of digital transformation in the automobile industry

Customer

Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart, once famously said, ”There is only one boss. The customer.”

The center of any digital transformation for any industry is the customer. Everything done by the automaker is intended to provide a seamless, delightful customer experience. Online car purchases without a single visit to dealerships, safer cars with driverless assistants, sensors, radars, and cameras are some positives for customers. HMI is being used more and more to operate vehicles. Smart virtual assistants take care of activities such as taking a call, sending a message, playing a track, and rerouting while the driver can focus on driving down the road.

Auto manufacturers and Distributors

Auto manufacturers now are looking towards technologies and software capabilities like IoT, connectivity, autonomous, 3D printing while designing a car. Software competencies are increasingly becoming a key differentiating factor for providing ADAS – Advanced Driver Assistance System.

Huge car manufacturers are partnering with Google, Tesla, or Apple for in-car infotainment systems and car connectivity with customers’ smartphones. Manufacturers are using data collection methods and analytics to make various decisions during the lifecycle of the vehicle. They can also predict the car inventory replacement cycles and new sales thanks to digital transformation.

What are the key takeaways from the trends discussed?

The sales of automobiles were at an all-time low in recent years due to many reasons – the pandemic and chip shortages among major reasons. This led to manufacturers finding new ways to connect and retain their customers. Manufacturers are now exploring going direct in addition to going via dealers to establish a connection with their customers.

The pandemic was a boon in disguise for the physical to the digital movement of products and services. The increased acceptance and affinity towards contactless services opened the doors to a complete digital customer journey in the automotive industry. The dealerships are moving on from pull marketing strategies to push marketing strategies. The focus is not much on bringing customers to the dealership and building relations but to showcase the product and stand out among the competing products.

Autonomous cars have become a reality and it created a few more avenues for automakers to provide a seamless customer experience. Electric Vehicles are becoming the new normal in the automotive industry and we can now see many manufacturers and even governments promoting the usage of EVs.

There is a clear indication of buyers, especially millennial buyers, inclining more towards vehicle riding experience rather than possession. They are ready to give up their car ownership in favor of convenient mobility solutions that fulfill their needs of transporting from one location to another.

These new trends and other disruptions mean automakers and dealerships are now focusing more than ever on delivering the perfect customer experience.

How automakers are delivering perfect customer experience

Customer experience is primarily about establishing an emotional connection with the client. We can dissect customer experience at the brand level and product level. Automotive manufacturers and OEMs can establish an emotional connection with their customers at both brand and product levels. Let’s discuss these two in detail.

Brand level connection

The human brain is divided into two halves, one part is emotional while the other part is rational. A brand-level connection with the customer would require engaging with both these parts and evoking a response. All the branding and marketing efforts from the automakers and dealerships focus on either of these two halves to position themselves in the minds of their consumers.

Typically the brand connection can further be subcategorized into – Sentimental connection and Rational connection.

i) Sentimental connection

A strong emotional connection gives an extra advantage over your competition. More often than not customers are swayed by their emotions when making a purchase. Automakers run campaigns that try to evoke a response from the consumer.

“The advent of big data analytics brings clarity, discipline, and rigor to companies’ long-held desire to connect with the customer emotions that truly matter.”The New Science of Customer Emotions, Nov 2015, Harvard Business Review

In the middle of 2021, Lamborghini ran a campaign with the tagline “It takes time to become timeless.” Here the intention of the automaker was to position themselves as someone who had been there forever for the consumers irrespective of time, and situation. The goal is to free Lamborghini designs to any new automobile design trends and separate itself from the competition as one of its kind.

Lamborghini Timeless campaign

Not everyone likes a drastic change to an old hit – be it music, a motorcycle, or a car. Lamborghini banked on that human emotion towards finding similarities to drive their campaign.

Similarly, there are other examples of automakers targeting particular sentiments of consumers to run their campaigns.

Ferrari never talks about luxury or driving as its customer segment only cares about sports cars. Hence, Ferrari takes extra care in hugely popular F1 grand prix and other such racing tournaments to promote its brand.

Ferrari drivers after Grand prix win

BMW collects goodwill by taking calculated measures to become a fully sustainable company in the future. It has firmly embedded ecological and social sustainability along with the entire value chain into its strategies. Environment-friendly and sustainable approaches are what drive the corporate strategies of BMW – be it cutting CO2 emissions and recycling to expanding hydrogen technologies.

BMW environment conscious image

People like to associate themselves with something good. And when you drive a BMW, you are bound to feel better knowing you are contributing something good for the environment.

ii) Rational connection

Unlike purchasing groceries, buying a car isn’t a decision made in a matter of seconds. It may come down to a final standoff between two or three options and the consumer may make the decision based on emotional parameters. But the period between recognition of the need to buy a car and the actual purchase may run into many weeks or even months. During the whole period, consumers will assign certain values to different parameters involved in purchasing the car. It is up to the automakers to keep persuading their consumers with the right message at each decision-making journey so that the consumer continues to keep them in consideration.

“What I try to impress on people is that the rational brain is not good at being rational, but instead is good at simply rationalizing what the emotional brain has already decided to do, and this happens non-consciously. You need to know how to structure decisions so that, when the context demands it, you can minimize the role of emotion. The easiest way to do this is distill whatever variables you can to numbers.”

~ Baba Shiv, Professor of Marketing at Stanford GSB

Along with the features of the vehicle, several rational parameters come into play when forming a buying decision. Some of these are value for money, a better resale value, access to service centers in proximity, higher quality, and reliability of the material and engines, low cost of spares, and a lower total cost of ownership. These parameters may not affect the buying decision much when it comes to luxury cars. But the luxury car segment only covers about 20% of all vehicle sales in the US. The remaining 80% is still going to consider the above factors.

In price-sensitive markets like India, where consumers seek great value and prioritize rational parameters, brands such as Maruti and Hero do well. This is the reason Maruti and Hero MotoCorp are market leaders with a market share of 48% and 37% respectively. Both these vehicles have lower costs of ownership, better sale value, lower costs of spares, and easily available service centers.

Product level connection

The brand-level connection ensures the consumer has your attention, but you still have to deliver a perfect vehicle of their choice to them. The automakers and OEMs need to create a fascination with the product in the minds of the consumer.

In the earlier days, buyers would look for design, mileage, material, and comfort in their vehicle. But thanks to continuous innovations and changing customer expectations, vehicles are now equipped with much more hi-tech features which make a difference.

Features such as infotainment, voice-activated facilities, autonomous parking assistant, wireless charging, proactive servicing, and parts replacement, roadside assistance, looks, mileage, comfort and convenience, cockpit, charging stations play a major role in helping customers choose their ideal vehicle.

Delivering a superior overall purchase experience has become first and foremost priority for automakers.

Consumers constantly search for review videos on YouTube and get a 360-degree view of the vehicles they desire to own. This process goes on for weeks to months, collecting all possible information from the automaker website to third-party websites. If a consumer has his priorities set and is well researched, it is more likely he will purchase the vehicle after just one test ride. So it becomes imperative for the dealerships to present all required information easily to their consumers through various sources and assist them well in their purchase journey.

Establishing a product-level connection also includes delivering a superior service experience.

Some of the ways automakers and OEMs can ensure superior service are mentioned below:

(i) Proactive reminders to the customer for servicing and parts replacement.

(ii) Digital appointment setting with the service centers and dealers.

(iii) Automated fault detection in the car.

(iv) Auto estimate preparation for the service entailed.

(v) Auto payments for the services to the dealerships and service centers.

(vi) Autonomous cars driving to service stations and back without interference from the customer.

Key benefits of digital transformation for manufacturers and OEMs

1. Improved campaign effectiveness

“The secret to developing personalized campaigns that will reach the right customers in the right moments is data. In the digital age in which we live, we must live and breathe data.”
~ Shashi Seth, Sr. Vice President of Oracle Marketing Cloud

The biggest advantage of increased customer touchpoints and a multitude of data is the number of accurate information companies could get about the customer. They can now leverage the power of technology and advanced software tools to run personalized and targeted advertisements. It gives the capability to adjust the messaging to individual customers for increased engagements during a campaign.

2. Build customer satisfaction

Manufacturers and OEMs can reduce the overall transaction time using customer insights to connect and extend key business processes. Digital transformation gives an opportunity to provide an enterprise-class, comprehensive, cross-channel solution for managing the complete loyalty life cycle of the customers. Dealerships can now track, reward, and recognize customer behavior in every aspect. This includes tracking and analyzing repeat purchases of products, referrals, social activities, and business with loyalty partners.

3. Increase prospect generation

Running personalized targeted campaigns ensures proper incentives are offered to customers who demonstrate a higher willingness to purchase specific products. It also helps in delivering adaptive, intelligent recommendations through optimized analytics and algorithms.

4. Achieve the coveted 360-degree view of the customer

Digital transformation with proper partners ensures you have single cloud analytics and data platform. It helps you visualize a single, consolidated view of the customer through their entire lifecycle journey. You can now reap maximum benefits after providing the best experiences to your customers.

Look beyond the horizon

The digital transformation in the automotive industry is bringing some big changes for automakers worldwide. It opens up a vast level playing field for all the automotive players. The industry incumbents need to come out of their comfort zones and match stride for stride with technology to succeed. The automakers need to better understand the customer experience demands of their new-gen mobility customers so that they can be provided with new value opportunities.

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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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Digital Transformation

How to craft SuperApps, role of microservices in the experience economy and more: top 5 reads from our blog in 2020

Towards the end of last year, no one would have been able to predict how 2020 would fundamentally alter our lives. In the first quarter of this year itself change was forced upon us in the form of widespread lockdowns. This triggered a host of behavioral changes across the world, on a never-before scale. People became more conscious of health, learnt to adapt to new ways of living and working from home. Digital experiences played a crucial role in enabling such a lifestyle and behavioural changes. At Robosoft, we partnered with several enterprises in crafting products that made the everyday life of millions of consumers just a little bit easier – streaming services that brought entertainment, sports, and infotainment to mobile devices or utilities which made us more productive and enriched our lives. We have attempted to share our views on broad trends shaping these changes in digital experiences. Here are five of our top blog posts from 2020:

The Superpower of Super Apps and How to Create One

Apps that can help consumers accomplish a multitude of tasks – also known as Super Apps, were popular even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak especially in South and Southeast Asia. Such apps saw a widespread uptake in 2020 as they help consumers in many ways: providing convenience and simplicity, a unified and personalised user experience and more. In this article, our CEO, Ravi Teja Bommireddipalli outlines why Super Apps can help enterprises and shares key points to consider while building such experiences.

What Does it Take to Create Products That Consumers Love?

The world is increasingly dependent on digital products and platforms to accomplish many of their daily chores and needs. Hailing a cab, transferring funds to someone, consulting a doctor or shopping often involves a digital experience. In this context, the relevance and value of great product managers is critical. A product manager dons several hats: that of a CEO, fire-fighter or orchestra conductor depending on the product lifecycle and project needs. In this article, Syed Abbas our Principal Digital Consultant shares perspectives on what it takes to create products consumers love.  In this article, he writes about the key attributes of a product manager and the steps involved in creating a product road map.

Microservices and Digital Enterprises in the Experience Economy

The world has seen the agrarian, industrial, and services economies. We are currently in the experience economy, a term first coined in 1998.  In the experience economy, customers are expected to have two types of experiences: customer participation and connection. Microservices – an approach to developing a single application as a collection of small services is critical in the experience economy. In this article, our Rajeev Rajagopal outlines the differences between traditional software products and modern application. He also writes about the key components & benefits of the microservices architecture.

OTT Video in Retail: The Coming Revolution

The rise of audio and video streaming services during the lockdown period was natural and has been well documented. But beyond media & entertainment, there is tremendous scope for OTT services to be adopted by other industries such as retail, among others argues our Jay Shah, in this article. It is a new format of the familiar home shopping networks on TV and offers the best of both worlds in terms of showcasing the product and in-store experience.

The coming glut of online delivery apps:  takeaways to deliver the competitive edge in UX

While we may switch back to older ways of worry-free travel and in-store shopping sometime in the future, some of our behaviors have been fundamentally altered in 2020. Our preference for contactless delivery has been a key development that may change the business proposition of many an industry beyond just food delivery. The value proposition of brands may be similar in many cases and hence great user experience will be a competitive edge opines our Srinidhi Rao, in this article. Now more than ever, customers would appreciate any simplified process. So any experience which goes a long way in reducing friction or making life easy – ordering through voice-enabled speakers, messenger platforms, or a smartwatch, enabling a virtual trial of a dress re-order previously ordered medicines, or renewing a subscription service would be welcome he opines.

We hope you enjoyed our collection of top reads from 2020. As we step into the new year, we look forward to even more exciting opportunities to simplify lives of consumers.

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Customer Experience Design Thinking Digital Transformation Fintech Media & Entertainment

Multiexperience: the imperative for every CXO for 2021 and beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond omnichannel – the multiexperience advantage

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

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

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

Beyond omnichannel - the multiexperience advantage

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

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

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

Domino’s Pizza’s

Image source

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

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

Why multiexperience? Winning the two big wars.

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

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

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

Multiexperience OTT platform for Discovery+

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

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

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

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Customer Experience Design Thinking Digital Transformation Media & Entertainment

Key factors to consider while designing an OTT platform in 2021

The script of the media and entertainment sector is getting re-written, as the content consumption patterns of consumers see a tectonic shift in a post COVID world. While the gradual move of consumers towards OTT mediums was already underway, the lockdowns, need for social distancing, dearth of other entertainment avenues accelerated this momentum.

The average time spent on subscription OTT and Video-on-Demand content in the US alone has risen by 23% from last year.

As viewership skews towards OTT, more and more media and entertainment players are launching their OTT platforms. According to a recent Research Dive report, many digital media and broadcast providers have stepped up their efforts to build new channels for consumers to access different types of content. We recently partnered with the leading infotainment brand Discovery, to launch their OTT platform Discovery+ for the Indian market. The app received close to 3 million downloads within just 4 months of its launch.

With existing OTT players stepping-up their game with richer content, personalized experience, and more, the new entrants have stiff competition ahead. In this article, we will outline the factors that will help enterprises build a successful OTT platform.

Key factors to consider while creating a successful OTT platform

The journey of any digital product development starts from understanding the users’ needs and pain points, ideating on a solution that will address these needs, and finally developing a user and business-centric product.

In this article, we will outline the journey of creating an OTT platform in two phases: (a) Research & prototyping and (b) Execution & implementation.

Getting started – Competitor Research, User Research & Prototyping

At Robosoft, we use the principles of Design Thinking to create user-centric experiences – which start from empathizing with and understanding the users. In that context, user research and competition research become critical aspects to understand the business and customer requirements.

1. Competitor research

With the deluge of OTT platforms, it becomes important to understand the competitive landscape. This will not only help in outlining features that already exist and work but will also help in avoiding the shortfalls of other platforms. Knowing the competition is also critical to offer something better and unique and gain a competitive advantage.

For instance: in OTT platforms – ‘Add to Watchlist’ or ‘Like’ is a common feature. However, just trying to replicate the same model is insufficient. In order to create the differentiator, we need to delve deeper into the world of ‘favoriting’ and what makes the user want to add a particular content to a list

In this instance, some of the key aspects we need to understand about what is already being offered can be:

  • The value of a watchlist and how it works
  • UX flows – how to keep the viewer moving forward while making it quick and easy
  • How to help viewers feel smart and put their mind at ease
  • How to improve the disadvantages & limitations.

An understanding of such factors will help in creating a differentiation in UX, even while offering the same features.

OTT platforms

We kept such in mind when we built the Discovery+ app, ‘Continue Watching, Favorites & Watch Later’ features were added. Once the user likes or favorites something, they get a notification for similar content or new episodes and populates the home screen basis the user’s likes/favorites.

2. User research & prototyping

To design user-centric experiences, understanding users is critical. One of the most important stages of user research is creating Empathy Maps that enables design and development teams to chart out users’ motivation and pain points. In the context of OTT platforms, user research can help to derive the below expectations of users:

Expectations from an OTT platform: as a user

  • see value in what is offered before making a decision.
  • keep moving forward while watching content; it can be shifting from one episode to another or an alternate movie or series after a season.
  • seamlessly navigate through the platform or complete their journeys (e.g. from logging in to paying).
  • feel self-reliant or empowered and have their minds at ease while using the platform.

Prototyping

Once both competitive and user research is done, the findings can help in creating a high, medium, or low fidelity prototype of the proposed solution. Prototyping is the stage where a representative model is built to validate its viability and experience. It can help in testing various features and get quick feedback from users and iterating the solution accordingly. Keeping the final outcome in mind is the most important aspect of this stage.

For example: while testing a new live racing experience for GCN’s (Global Cycling Network) VoD app, our team had the below goals in mind and created flows to evaluate them accordingly:

Goals for user research

  • Identify any aspects that might cause the user to abandon the viewing experience.
  • Understand which aspects provide value and which do not.
  • Gauge how the sports enthusiasts feel about such a feature.
  • Explore how easy it is to navigate across the journey.
  • Understand the sports enthusiasts mindset and expectations to subscribe for such a feature.

The feedback ranged from excitement for the feature to quick suggestions on how we can improve the prototype. This helped us to build faster and build something that the cyclists and cycling enthusiasts will expect from the platform.

Execution and implementation

1. UX of content

With the proliferation of content on the OTT platforms, the challenge for OTT players is to ensure an easy experience. The faster and easily users can get to the content they like, the more likely they are to stay on. Some of the factors that help in this are:

  • A clear segregation of the content types: since content is key on OTT platforms, the experience to discover and view the content has to be delightful and seamless. Clear segregation of content types helps in this aspect.
  • Different treatment of content categories: live content and VoD content (VOD – Shows, Movies, or clips).

  • Easing the content discovery journey by defining clear navigation to browse content and finding what to watch and creating clear sections for premium, short-form content.UX of content
  • Clear categorization by language, type of content (Movies, TV Shows, genres, audience segments).

UX of content

2. Design System

As designs evolve, OTT players will need to think about building thoughtful design systems. A well-defined design system can help create well-designed user-centric digital products. While colors and typography play an important role, how the interfaces are built help to tell the whole story. This is where the Atomic Design system comes into play.

In an Atomic Design, interfaces are made up of smaller components. This means the entire interface can be broken down into fundamental building blocks and built up from there.

For example: for Discovery+, we created the design from scratch using the Atomic Design system to build a unified and consistent design that is scalable.

3. Personalized User Experience

In the digital era, users expect a personalized experience from all their digital interactions. Here are a few ways in which OTT players get their personalization game right:

AI-powered recommendation engine

Building a robust recommendation engine is the key aspect of creating a personalized user experience. More than 80 percent of the TV shows people watch on Netflix are discovered through the platform’s recommendation system. Netflix uses machine learning and algorithms to help go beyond viewers’ preconceived notions and find shows that might not have been their first choice, but they will like. The data that Netflix feeds into its algorithms can be broken down into two types – implicit and explicit.

Examples of ‘explicit data’ will be giving a thumbs up for a show. ‘Implicit data’ is behavioral data; for instance, if a viewer binged on a show and completed watching it in two nights, the engine understands that behaviourally. The majority of useful data is implicit.

AI-powered recommendation engine

Image source

Personalized upsell and retention packages

Today’s subscribers want services that are personalized at every stage of the experience from sign-up to discovery, viewing, and renewals. Thus, personalization should permeate beyond content and include the entire user journey on the app. Today a user is constantly toggling between multiple devices while accessing the platform. Developers will need to take into account data from these sources to notify the user about the upsell and the renewal offers. That also includes giving the user the power to make choices.

Device management is another aspect of creating a personalized experience. Allowing users to choose multiple devices, streaming quality options, renewal options tailored to their choices, etc. can help in elevating user experience and ensure retention.

Personalized upsell and retention packages

Image source

4. Elevating user experience through easy navigation

Even if an OTT platform has an awesome content library, if users find it difficult to navigate through it they will abandon the app. According to a research, 80% percent of users uninstall an app due to a bad user experience. Here are a few factors that lead to a great user experience:

Easy onboarding and simplifying the journey

It is critical to make the onboarding process quick and easy. In that context, app owners should only ask for essential personal details and permissions and stick to the key features and UI elements that are absolutely necessary.

Tech-savvy users might not want to be hand-held through the onboarding process. In that context, giving users the option to skip becomes a critical aspect. In fact, music video streaming app Vevo found that adding a skip option to their onboarding flow increased logins by nearly 10%.

Preview app content

Another way to speed up the process and make the onboarding process quick and interesting is to allow users to experience the app before asking them to sign up or taking them on a product tour. Hotstar previews popular content and lists membership benefits on the very first screen — and they feature a prominent free trial button. Going one step ahead – Netflix now lets users turn off autoplay previews. That means videos and movies won’t begin to play trailers or video clips as they are looking for something to watch. Users can turn it off on every device at once.

Preview app content

Image source

5. Intuitive UI and simplified viewing experience

Intuitive UI simplifies every aspect of the process. In the case of OTT platforms, it is important to not just simplify the process of discovering content but also watching. Some key features to get that right are:

  • Giving the flexibility to switch on-and-off the subtitles option.
  • Information about the quality of video and data consumption.
  • Option to resume from where the user left off.
  • Quick and easy buttons for start, stop, rewind, fast forward.

Image source

6. Building a multi-experience for users

Today viewers are consuming content on multiple devices. Seamless delivery of content on multiple devices is no longer an option for OTT players, it is mandatory.

While building the Discovery+ platform, the goal was to design and deliver a consistent experience across devices, regardless of where the user starts, continues, and ends the journey.

Building a multi-experience for users

Casting to a larger screen is another opportunity that can enhance user experience and help in driving the value for viewers. The Discovery+ app has the casting feature which is an easy way of connecting web, tablet, and mobile to a TV. The feature allows users to enjoy a big-screen experience with family and friends.

Another important aspect of adding value to users’ on-the-go viewing experience is by giving control of watching content at their convenience without the limitation of internet speed. In that case, the option for downloading the video for watching later enables the user to engage with the app and the content they like whenever they want.

Offline Mode

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7. Subscription models

A subscription model provides predictable and recurring revenue for a long-term engaged user base. Subscription strategies allow OTT platforms for price diversification, accommodating a broader, diversified income group of users over a fixed ‘one-price-for-all’ model. However, it is critical to choose a subscription model that fits the requirements of the viewers. For instance, most broadcast players getting into OTT have a yearly and monthly plan with free trials or free access to regular content. On the other hand, established players like Netflix will have subscription models that are only yearly or monthly.

On Discovery+ the subscription model that was built-in was ‘free unlimited access to regular content’. However, to view premium content, an additional fee is charged. On Global Cycling Network, users can buy a monthly or yearly race pass to get unlimited access to the best cycling content.

Subscription models

8. Easy Payment gateway integration

With a plethora of payment options available, making this step easy is important. Major OTT apps accept payments through credit or debit cards, digital wallets, and real-time payment systems where available. Further, these platforms bill users every month on the same day making the payment cycle easy.

9. Push notifications

Push notifications are an essential part of the user experience and can ensure continuous engagement with viewers. However, badly done push notifications can also lead to users abandoning the app. According to a survey, 71% of all app uninstalls are triggered by a push notification. Here are a few factors to get push notifications right:

  • Make personalized and relevant to the user.
  • Sending notifications in the engagement windows and at the local time zone of the user.
  • Send actionable notifications to drive engagement.
  • Don’t send too many notifications in a short duration.

Push notifications

Image source

In conclusion:

As OTT becomes increasingly popular, more and more entertainment and media firms will develop their own OTT platforms to engage with the viewers. While the variety and quality of the content will be important to acquire new viewers, UI/UX will play a decisive role in retaining them. In the future with newer technologies, we will see interesting innovations in the OTT sector, but a simple and delightful user experience will remain the most important factor that will define the success of any OTT platform.

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Design Thinking Digital Transformation

PR FAQs – Product team’s guide for creating digital products that customers love

Creating a product vision is not just the first step towards embarking on the journey of successful product development, it is the most critical one.

“Be stubborn on vision, but flexible on details” – Jeff Bezos

Enterprises across the globe have various tools and methodologies for arriving at the product vision. PR FAQs (Press Release FAQs) is one such tool. A PR FAQs document is a press release including critical FAQs, that is written for a product that will be released in the future. It is usually written by the product teams for a hypothetical launch of a product, considering that it is already released.

The concept of PR FAQs first introduced by Amazon is now used by product teams across organizations.

What is a PR FAQs and how it helps in creating customer-centric products

At Robosoft, we use Design Thinking principles to understand users’ pain points and needs and then create a product vision that not just solves the real challenges of customers but is in line with our clients’ business goals as well. PR FAQs is a tool that can help product teams present these learnings in a simple format for all the stakeholders across the organization.

Creating PR FAQs is an approach where the product teams work backwards – i.e. they visualize how their end product will look, what consumer challenges it will solve, and how it will solve it? All these are then addressed in the PR FAQs document while keeping customer needs at the center.

The concept of Amazon Go, the chain of automated convenience stores, was a direct result of the “working backwards” approach, which begins with the creation of a PR FAQs document (a press release, frequently-asked questions document, and visual mock-ups). In this case, it all began with identifying the problem: customers hate standing in lines, using the PR FAQs tool.

The Working Backwards process

Image source

Typically, product managers use a product brief to describe their product. This serves as a starting point for the company’s product development and a brief introduction. A PR FAQs document serves as a more futuristic and customer-oriented product brief.

Product teams create a PR FAQs document imagining that the product is already developed and released. They have already envisioned the final product in their minds while writing a PR FAQs document.

Usually, a PR FAQs document will answer the following questions for all stakeholders – design, development, sales & marketing teams, etc.

  • What does the product do?
  • What are the most exciting features?
  • What customer problems are you solving?
  • What benefits will the users get?

The format for a typical product brief is as follows:

  1. A press release: Written from the point of when the product will be released and how it would be introduced to the public.
  2. FAQ: Potential questions that a given customer would likely ask in order to gain knowledge of the product. The questions are usually framed to seem open-ended.
  3. Internal questions: Questions that are asked by the stakeholders during the product development phase.

Now let us take a look at a PR FAQs template:

  1. Heading: Short, catchy name for the product that a given target audience can relate to.  
  2. Subheading: One-liner explaining who the target market is, what the product does, and what it hopes to achieve.
  3. Summary: A brief paragraph, explaining what the product is and its benefits.
  4. Problem Statement: A brief paragraph explaining what precise problem the company is trying to solve with this product and why they are trying to solve this problem. This paragraph may also include pain points on existing products or processes that can be alleviated using the product.
  5. Solution: A brief explanation of how the company hopes to resolve the problem mentioned in the prior paragraph. Usually, it would be helpful to provide research or numbers to back the assumptions made for the resolution.
  6. User Experience: A paragraph explaining how a user would interact with the product itself. In this section one could add an internal quote; something regarding the product for example, why the company feels it’s essential for the given customer base to purchase this product. One could also add hypothetical customer quotes. This kind of information gives more insight into the product or the features.
  7. FAQs: This section would include all plausible questions target customers may want to ask. This includes the typical what, why, when, how, and who questions from the customer’s perspective. This could also serve as a justification for the company to launch the given product.
  8. Internal Section: This part of the document involves questions that the internal teams would ask. These questions could be regarding technical, sales, marketing, or design inquiries. The section would also delve into the solutions for any said questions and would make it transparent for teams to see where this product/feature is heading and what the ask is especially from the stakeholders. It could act as an aid to stakeholders for decision-making purposes. Typically, visuals could be added to avoid having to write out large chunks of words and would help keep it brief.

Some samples of how a hypothetical press release looks like can be found here and here.

Why it is important for product teams to create a PR FAQs document before starting the product design and development journey

A PR FAQs is a commitment to deliver

The PR FAQs is much more than a product brief tool.  The press release opens with a location and date of publication; this helps the product team to focus on an idea and commit to meeting their tentative delivery date. Along the way, details and dates might change, but it keeps teams accountable to ultimately deliver on their vision. A PR FAQs is more than a document –  it’s a commitment to deliver

Gives perspective to all the product stakeholders

A PR FAQs is written keeping customers at the center and is aimed to give all the stakeholders a brief about the product idea. But, if the PR FAQs document is not clear or exciting enough, the product idea might need to be refined further. A PR FAQs document can help identify shortfalls in the product idea at a very initial stage and can help identify issues like – cramming too many features, or not being able to address the real user pain-points and more. If stakeholders are asking questions that can’t be answered in the FAQs, then the product idea needs to be refined further before starting to build it.

As McAllister, former General Manager at Amazon explains, “Iterating on a press release is a lot less expensive than iterating on the product itself (and quicker!).

Furthermore, the FAQ component of the document can be extremely effective in capturing the assumptions and perspectives of different stakeholders in a consistent format that everyone involved can understand.

Helps in defining product vision and roadmap

A PR FAQs document can give focus and clarity on the challenges the product will solve for customers. It helps articulate what the client experience needs to be, defines specific requirements that are needed for the final product, highlights the most important features, and hence helps create a product vision and a roadmap.

Motivates the design and development teams to create an exciting product

A PR FAQs document can help product teams test their product idea and gain buy-ins from clients and internal teams on particular features or the product overall. A press release should be engaging and exciting and explaining what your product does. If the press release is not exciting, chances are the product isn’t going to be engaging either.

Getting the stakeholders excited about a “press release” sets the stage for motivated teams when the actual product is built.

How a PR FAQs document can help various stakeholders in the product development journey

A PR FAQ document is useful not just for the product teams but multiple stakeholders in the product design and development journey. Here’s how:

Engineering teams:  PR FAQs document can be used to start scoping out the technical aspects of the product. The development team can start by looking at what the product is, how it will help solve any issues, and how much time it will take.

While a product document might be independent of the technical solution, it can help to include some details that will give reviewers an idea of the scale of potential solutions.

The PR FAQs document can be beneficial for the engineering team to immediately start thinking about solutions to the product: what are the code libraries, databases, caching solutions, etc.?

Design teams: the PR FAQs document can help design teams to start thinking about design concepts.  It is not necessary to create a text-focused PR FAQs document. Adding a basic wireframe or an MVP concept can help the design teams to further visualize the design elements.

Sales teams: the PR FAQs document can help sales teams to start looking into the marketing of the product, what the market would be, who would buy it, and how profitable it would be for the company.

Marketing teams: the PR FAQs document can help marketing teams craft a key message or benefit that would be attractive to the end customer.

Other Stakeholders: the PR FAQs document can be used to see what resources need to be assigned to this product and how much time it would take to accomplish its implementation.

In Conclusion:

In situations where the product brief or PR FAQs document is cumbersome and difficult, it can be an indication that the product itself might not be worth the effort for implementation. Although, this might not hold true for all products and vary according to the product idea. Each company must find its own way of approaching the implementation of the product and see what works for them.

The most appropriate way to approach the process would be to begin with the basic given format described above and customize the product along the way. This allows for flexibility in the flow of the writing as well as allows room for things such as visuals and graphs that can be beneficial to decision-makers and stakeholders.

Download the above template for creating a PR FAQs document for the next product idea of your enterprise.

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