Mobile Opinion

3 Top CXO Priorities in a Digital World

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

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

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

1. Human insight as compliment to technology 

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

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

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

2. Digital expertise as competitive advantage 

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

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

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

3. Purpose for profit

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

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

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

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Mobile Opinion

Top Technologies & UX Best Practices Driving the Tourism & Hospitality Industry – Part 1

Digitization has enabled industries to accelerate growth by providing solutions to target a wider audience, reach it faster, and deliver their services more efficiently.

Consumers today are increasingly comfortable with no human interaction in categories like hospitality & tourism – which not too long ago preferred human interaction.

The hospitality and tourism industry has seen a massive movement towards digitized services in the last few years. Research suggests that 48% of smartphone users in the U.S. were comfortable researching, planning, and booking an entire trip using a mobile device.

What started with basic services like online booking and registration has since grown to apps facilitating shared economy like Airbnb and Uber, and mobile check-ins like from the Apple Watch.

What is Driving Digitization in the Hospitality & Tourism Industry?

The growth of an enterprise in the hospitality and tourism domain relies predominantly on the customer experience. Customer experience is about how a customer perceives the brand through all interactions across the various stages of the customer life cycle. Unlike customer service, which focuses on the specific interaction at a given time, customer experience is more of a holistic approach that takes into account the overall customer journey.

By leveraging the right technologies, travel enterprises can enhance the customer experience while maximizing customer acquisition, engagement & retention. The Atlantis in Dubai, for example, has a Virtual Tour video on YouTube that allows users to experience the hotel even before stepping out of their house.

Another major contributor in the shift towards digitization in the hospitality and tourism sector is the concept of the shared economy. Shared Economy is a peer-to-peer service made accessible over technology, for instance, Airbnb and Uber. In both cases, a consumer with a need and a peer with a solution are brought together via an application. Such P2P services have simplified the travel experience by making basic necessities like accomodation and commute more easily accessible, and have contributed towards attracting a greater percentage of consumers.

Technologies that Businesses in the Hospitality & Tourism Domain are Leveraging for Better CX

1. Chatbots, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

Hotels, airlines, and other divisions in the hospitality and tourism domain are leveraging chatbots for better customer service and communication round the clock. Today customers prefer contacting a company via chat rather than on a call; according to a report by Outgrow, 56% of people are more comfortable texting over a chat window than calling customer service, making chatbots an ideal solution. The reason for an aggressive adoption of chatbots is obvious: it saves manpower costs, eliminates wait time, minimizes errors, and maximizes efficiency with automation.

Powered by AI and Machine Learning, chatbot solutions today are capable of performing more than just basic conversations. The entire process can be automated to be triggered based on keywords entered by a customer.

In collaboration with the Government of India, we created a digital platform for Indian air travelers. We designed and developed a web portal and a mobile app that gives users realtime flight status and domestic & international flights schedule. The platform offers chatbot support for faster resolution of queries and also provides a personalized travel experience.

Another great example is FCM Travel Solutions’ Smart Assistant for Mobile, or SAM. Unlike Expedia, which is built on Facebook Messenger, SAM is a travel assistant mobile app that can be used to book flights, hotel rooms, gauge the weather at a destination, and more through a simple chat interface.

Image source

2. Smart Rooms & Voice Assistants

Voice search and assistants have become the norm today. According to a report by Quoracreative, Google sold over 8 million Google Home models in the year 2019, and Amazon had sold over 4.1 million Echo devices in the year 2018 by Quarter 2. And, according to a report by 99firms, approximately 65% of Amazon Echo and Google Home owners state they wouldn’t go back to using keyboard input unless necessary.

A brilliant example of using Voice-enabled smart rooms for improved customer experience is Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality by hotel giant Marriott. All smart rooms are equipped with an Alexa device that is configured for the hotel. It allows guests to control appliances within the room, ask questions about the hotel, book services like reservations, order items from the hotel, place requests with the staff, and also perform general search inquiries.

Another instance for smart rooms in hotels is Hub Hotels by Premier Inn. They provide a mobile app with which visitors can control appliances like the television and settings like the room temperature directly from the device.

3. Virtual Reality

VR technology gives potential customers an experience of their services and attractions to help them make a decision through 360-degree videos, VR hotel tours, virtual maps, etc. Another instance of VR in hospitality and tourism is the Pullman Brisbane King George Square Hotel VR Tour. The VR tour provides a complete view of the hotel from the outside, the lobby, individual rooms, services, the indoor restaurant, etc., all through a single video accessible for free on YouTube. This enables consumers to avail the ‘try before you use’ option that was, not an option previously.

4. Augmented Reality

The tourism and hospitality industry is leveraging AR to improve the customer experience through interactive hotel elements, pop up facts and information at tourist destinations, fun games like treasure hunts within resorts, etc. Here’s an instance of – AR wall map in Hub Hotels by Premier Inn, where room visitors point their AR-enabled devices to the map, and popular attractions around the city pop up on their device screen.

5. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT goes beyond a single room or hotel and covers a tourist’s experience throughout their tour. It is enabling smart cities and is fostering smart tourism ecosystems. Airplane can install sensors that sync with flyers’ devices to track heart rate and anxiety to improve their flight experience; hotels can leverage IoT to provide visitors with Smart Room features, local businesses can provide more personalized services by learning a user’s likes and dislikes from past purchases, etc.

Some of the top applications of IoT in the tourism and hospitality sector include:

  1. Smart rooms
  2. Airplane sensors for mood monitoring
  3. Location tracking for safety
  4. Personalized marketing
  5. Easy public transportation and better connectivity
  6. Better customer service

The customer trends and growing need for personalization in the tourism and hospitality industry demand platforms and technologies that can simplify the customer experience. And technologies like Voice, Alexa Skills, AI & ML are facilitating this process exceptionally. With most industries switching to technology-based solutions, the disruption of technologies in the travel and hospitality domain will continue at a steady pace, and travel brands will continue to transform and embrace technologies that elevate the customer experience.

Part 2 of this article will outline some of the top UX Design best practices that travel brands can emulate to increase customer engagement, acquisition and retention.

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Mobile Opinion

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

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

What are the factors for emergence of two-sided marketplaces

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

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

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

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

Traditional Managed Service Providers vs two-sided freelancers’ marketplaces

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

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

Traditional MSPs vs Gig economy

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

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

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

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

Gig economy sector-level distinctions

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

gig economy sector level distinctions with examples

Source: Mastercard Gig Economy Industry Outlook and Needs Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the key challenges are mentioned below:

1. Building corporate culture and work harmony

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

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

2. Supporting mobility at work

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

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

3. Supporting and adapting to rapid pace of business change

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

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

4. Inclusive workspaces

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

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

5. HR management of gig economy workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

key aspects of creating successful gig economy marketplace

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

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

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

For freelancers:

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

For hiring managers:

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

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

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

How two-sided marketplaces can build trust on their platforms

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

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

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

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

Impact of technologies and business models in such marketplaces

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

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

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

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

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

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Mobile Opinion

Key Customer Journey Best Practices

Everything about the customer is changing their expectations, behavior patterns, motivations, and purchase triggers. As a result, critical customer interactions today are digital, occurring anytime, anyplace. 

Without customer journey maps in place, it can be difficult to ascertain why a customer spends so long on a certain platform or feature. Similarly, it might be challenging to understand why a customer takes several steps to transition from Point X to Point Y when it should ideally take one. A customer journey is very specific to the experiences customers have. 

Therefore, customer journey mapping serves as a compass, providing valuable insights into customers’ specific experiences throughout their interaction with your organization. Imagine being able to predict the next step of your target customer; that’s the ‘super-power’ of customer journey maps. This is the reason why 69% of businesses list the customer journey as a top investment priority this year.

What is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the processes a customer goes through with the enterprise to achieve a certain goal. It encompasses all the customer interactions across all devices, channels, and touchpoints through every stage of the customer lifecycle – right from awareness to brand loyalty. It is one of the most effective ways to assess the needs, motivations, and aspirations of customers and how they feel about the brand or product. 

Despite utilizing various communication channels to communicate with their customers, brands often miss-out on connecting each activity with the customer journey. They focus on individual customer interaction touchpoints devoted to onboarding, billing & servicing; in contrast, a customer journey spans a series of touchpoints end-to-end. This requires the right tools and techniques that help in viewing and analyzing the complete journey. 

So how does one go about creating customer journey maps that perfectly aligns with their core target audience? 

The crucial first step is customer journey analytics to gather inputs and insights from customers and prospects with the help of surveys, social media and website analytics, customer interaction analytics, product and service reviews, one-on-one interviews with buyers, and the like. While the process of customer journey analytics might seem extensive and exhaustive, it’s most definitely worthwhile. 

‘You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around” – Steve Jobs

The Difference between CX & Customer Journey

Customer journey and digital customer experience are not the same. A customer journey is a series of activities and steps a customer goes through to achieve the goal. On the other hand, a positive customer experience is how a customer feels about the entire process. It is the set of conscious subconscious attitudes, feelings, and beliefs regarding the process. To sum it up, the customer journey is about what they do at each stage, and CX is how they feel about the entire lifecycle. The idea is to understand the CX to refine the customer journey for a seamless & integrated experience.

The Approach to Customer Journey Mapping

In its most fundamental form, customer journey mapping begins with compiling a series of user goals and actions into a specific timeline framework. It’s an effective tool that examines the story of how a customer perceives and relates to the brand or product over time and helps in visualizing the digital customer experience of interacting with the brand from the customer’s point of view. 

The customer journey map framework is used as a blueprint to create a narrative fleshed-out with user thoughts and emotions. Subsequently, the narrative is integrated into a visualization that is used to communicate insights and guide the product’s design process. Specifically, customer journey maps should always be created to support a business goal & can be broadly split into 3 distinct stages:

Customer Journey Map Stages

Customer Journey Best Practices to Drive Growth & Loyalty

Discover the strategic approaches and actionable tips that will enable you to optimize every stage of your customer’s journey. By implementing these customer journey best practices, you can enhance customer satisfaction, drive repeat business, and ultimately fuel sustainable growth: 

  1. Set Clear Objectives – Understand the goals and set clear objectives about why you are creating a map. This will decide the buyer persona, demographics, and psychographics of who represents your average target group. Having a clear objective with a well-defined persona acts as a constant reminder to direct every aspect of your customer journey towards them.
  2. Profile Personas & Define their Goals – Conduct research and gather valuable customer feedback either through questionnaires, user testing, surveys, product and service reviews, or one-on-one interviews. The key is to reach out only to customers and prospects & those who are interested in your offerings.
  3. Enlist Crucial Touchpoints – Customer journey touchpoints are the various channels through which customers interact with your brand. According to the Genesys State of Customer Experience report, fewer than 30 percent of companies track their customers’ channel preferences. Listing down the most common customer journey touchpoint will be the one most likely to be associated with an action and the one you need to focus on.

customer journey touchpoints

 

  1. Determine the Resources – It is important to consider the inventory of resources you have and the ones that you will need to improve the customer’s journey. For instance, a map can serve as a powerful tool to highlight gaps in the post-purchase service; this input can be used to persuade the internal management team and operational heads to implement the right customer service tools in place and manage customer demands more efficiently.
  2. Create Cross-touchpoint Activities – While the design is important, the focus is to create an efficient journey map that includes cross-touchpoint activities, including support for multimodal interactions, moving from self-service to an assisted service, proactive notifications, and status reminders. All of these increase operational efficiency and shape customer behavior by reducing the effort and stress involved in connecting via individual customer journey touchpoints.
  3. Incorporate Predictive Routing –A proactive route to create a smooth, seamless, and positive customer experience is by incorporating predictive routing to drive optimal journey maps with AI & Machine Learning. Predictive routing incorporates these technologies to gather data and create the best customer-to-destination match and helps in identifying the factors that influence customer-to-business interactions while optimizing operations.

customer-to-destination match

 

  1. Explore Technologies & Designs That Enhance Experiences – Emerging technologies and platforms can greatly influence customer perceptions. Explore how real-time customer journey analytics, wearables, internet-of-things devices, and conversational interfaces can optimize your CX. Anticipate new experiences through exploratory design. Spur innovation with interactive wireframes, online testing, prototypes, and direct observation of journeys.

A customer journey map is beneficial in facilitating a common business understanding of how customers should be treated across all channels, including pre-sales, logistics, distribution, and post-sales Moreover, it helps to break down ‘organizational silos’ for more open and wider customer-focused communication. Here are a few instances of how brands optimized business and operational efficiency with customer journey maps.

Brands who Differentiated with Customer Journey

Adobe is mirroring its creative design tool prominence into reimagining its office space to inspire a cross-functional working culture that best aligns with its organizational goals, objectives, and values. 

One of the core values of Metro Bank is to offer impeccable service and convenience in its domain. It brings to life its brand promise by providing employees the means and approvals to identify ways to kill bank rules that don’t work with their audience. 

IKEA’s journeys address the friction that arises from navigating a massive parking lot or the extremely challenging path through the store with peak moments of satisfaction. For instance, it gives certain, especially widely desirable items at a huge discount, what it calls a “gasp price” at such an affordable price that it takes customers’ breath away. 

To win over and satisfy the ever-evolving needs of the digital-savvy consumer today requires deep insights, with a passion for designing distinct and personalized customer experiences, and infusing these experiences across the customer lifecycle. 

Given the value customer journey maps can drive, its scope to scale the business performance for enterprises across industries is evident. But having them is not enough; executing them to simplify the lives of your customers is the key. 

 

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How to work with offshore teams (17 actionable tips to live & work by and 6 expert testimonies)

Have you ever wondered how you can work with offshore teams effectively? In this in-depth article, we cover 17 actionable ways to make it happen.

Working with virtual/ offshore development teams is as common in the technology space as having fries with your hamburger.

The top two reasons American companies outsource mobile app development are to reduce costs and improve service.

According to the IT Outsourcing Statistic Report for 2016-2017, outsourcing accounted for over 10% of the typical IT company in America.

The same report reveals app development services as the most frequently outsourced function in IT.  Furthermore, 40% of the companies that outsourced mobile app development last year intend to increase the amount of work they outsource in 2017.

Among companies offering a mobile app product, the trend towards outsourcing such work is clear: a staggering 53% of companies with a mobile app outsource their development efforts:

outsorcing work to offshore teams

 

Source: IT Outsourcing Statistic Report

As US companies increase collaboration with offshore and virtual teams, a new set of challenges and opportunities arises. The greatest worry on every executive’s mind is how to work with offshore teams effectively and productively?

What if I told you there is a series of actionable steps you can take that are guaranteed to help you make the most of your partnership with offshore agencies, freelancers and remote teams you might consider hiring?

For over 20 years, Robosoft has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world to create mobile apps, websites and integrated systems that have wowed and delighted customers, vendors and internal users. We know more than a few things about how to optimize, improve and successfully work with offshore & virtual teams!

If you are a US or European executive interested in productively and efficiently working  with offshore resources, please read this in-depth article.

Our considerations and recommendations are platform, agency and country agnostic. We look at 17 big picture, strategic considerations, along with process and day-to-day implementation strategies to help you get the maximum ROI when working with offshore teams.

Are you ready to learn how to work with offshore teams effectively? Take a look!

Big picture: vision, culture & engagement

In this section we discuss several considerations every product leader should note when working with offshore and onshore teams. Reading this section will help you become successful in building and launching a great mobile product, whether your teams are collocated in San Francisco or across the world.

Make no mistake – these actionable recommendations are even more important when dealing with offshore resources.

Creating a culture of belonging by describing your vision and end goal, clearly explaining what you want and helping to define the success criteria are all critical factors that make the difference between an awful and a great partnership with your remote team.

Share your vision and be inspirational

how to work with offshore teams

 

Source: AZQuotes.com

Once the ink on a partnership contract has dried, and you’ve selected your implementation partner, virtually all companies and their remote partners go through the same first step: gaining an understanding of what the client wants to build.

In this step, the person or company contracting with a strategic partner has the first opportunity to formally introduce their objectives, needs, and goals.

Too often, though, technology clients simply view remote/offshore teams as the execution partner for a specific feature, function or system. However, fundamentally, people work with people. The more you know about what a client wants to build and why, the more invested you can become in a specific idea or concept and its execution.

That’s why the most successful mobile app products in the world have amazing visionaries behind them. From the moment you start engaging with an offshore team member until the end of the partnership, you should always have a clear vision of your project that you consistently and constantly communicate to the people with whom you work – be those internal resources or outsourced team members.

This image summarizes how to best convey your vision to your team:

Virtual Teams

In short, the overall vision of your project is key to your overall success. When working with distributed team members, it becomes even more important to clearly articulate your idea, your vision and your product differentiator. To be successful, you want people to really believe and become invested in your vision.

Any professional team will work on a project with or without a clearly defined vision. But they will work harder and more effectively if they can identify with the problem you want to solve. Beyond getting paid, they work better when they can feel that they’re really making a difference through their work!

Define exactly what you want

virtual teams

Most developers we have met are analytical, organized and thorough people. If you tell them specifically what you expect to see, they will work hard to deliver a product based on your specifications.

As Antonella Pisani, CEO at Official Coupon Code correctly points out, in all dealings with offshore teams, when clients make their requests as specific as possible, everyone is happier. If the vision is the catalyst for the overall success of your mobile product, clearly conveying what you want is the engine for achieving each milestone required to build the overall product.

Emotional investment and effort from the client’s side is required to effectively communicate (more on that later!) with offshore team members and to articulate, through various means (covered below!), what remote team members are responsible for from an execution point of view.

Help create the definition of success

Knowing what you want from your offshore team wins only half of the battle. If everyone is to stay on the same page, clients and remote teams need to align themselves with the specific criteria for success.

This is true for both the overall success of a project and the intermediary milestones that need to be met along the path of development.  Most mobile app projects take between two and six months. If we accept  Murphy’s law, during that timeframe “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

In order to avoid any discontent when working with offshore teams, it is of paramount importance to clearly define success criteria upfront.

Here are some of the main factors that can have an impact on the success of a project and on which you should spend a considerable amount of time defining and monitoring.

virtual teams

 

Source: 10 success criteria for software development 

Some of these factors, setting expectations, proper planning, milestones etc., will be discussed and brought up as dependencies by competent technology partners and great offshore consultants.

Remember, though, that success is a two way street. That’s why it is the client’s job to clearly communicate project objectives and requirements and to always be available in a timely fashion for questions and clarifications that may act as impediments for your offshore team members.

Both the client and the offshore teams are in this together and both are responsible for the overall success of any project. Which brings us to our next point.

Foster a unified culture among onshore and offshore resources

virtual teams

Whether you work with internal, collocated resources or with offshore team members, it is always imperative to create a culture of belonging. Most companies and executives stop short of realizing that this concept is important whether a person is a contractor, full time employee or a third party agency providing technology services.

Ultimately,  everyone is working towards the same goal. If a product is successful, everyone wins. Together!  It is this winning attitude we think every client needs to own and promote as part of their engagement with offshore distributed teams.

It doesn’t matter whether a person is sitting in San Francisco, Bangalore or Kiev. What matters is that everyone is aligned behind the same vision and set of goals.

Creating a unified culture of belonging across borders, time zones and employment statuses is, as Vishal Agarwal correctly points out, a product of leadership.

As the owner of a project, you should make it your mission to ensure that every single person contributing to your project’s success feels included, appreciated and part of your greater vision.

Strategic considerations:

All the tips and recommendations in this section relate to issues and opportunities that arise specifically because your resources are not collocated.

Working with remote partners can sometimes lead to disagreements, miscommunication, missed expectations and a culture of distrust.

In order to avoid these unpleasant situations, it is of paramount importance to pay close attention to these issues BEFORE you actually engage a distributed team, independent consultant or offshore mobile app development agency.

“Hire those you can trust”

Source: How to Run a Remote Team

Wade Foster is the CEO of Zapier, a SAAS company with more than 1 million active users allowing customers to link their various web apps and trigger different events from one digital platform. Foster knows a thing or two about offshore teams: their entire company (75 employees at the time of writing) works remotely across eight different time zones.

In an article he wrote about managing an offshore team, Wade makes an excellent point that is worth exploring here.

  • You should only hire people and companies you trust.
  • You need to trust that they will do what is best for your company and product.
  • You must trust that they will work hard, to the best of their abilities to make you and your product successful – unless proven otherwise. 

When dealing with offshore teams this becomes incredibly important. After all, things often get lost in translation – and we don’t mean in a literal way. We mean that with people working in different time zones, most communication is in a written form. When you talk to someone in person, you get a completely different experience because 93% of communication is nonverbal. However, more often than not, communication with offshore teams is done in a written format – emails, chat sessions, project management tools. This, in turn, opens the door to misinterpretations, incomplete information and, sometimes, distrust of your offshore resources.  

Every client who selects an offshore vendor or team member should only sign on the dotted line if they fully trust that partner. Anything less will lead to uncomfortable interactions, bad faith and project failure.

Respect your team’s expertise

remote teams

 

With trust, comes respect. You cannot have one without the other. With your offshore resources you should absolutely have both.

In the many interactions between a client and an offshore team, there will be countless times a problem can be solved in multiple ways. Some clients and employers feel the need to be very hands-on with their offshore resources. No one says a hands-on approach is bad – but clients should only exercise this right within reason.

After all, you’ve hired a team or a distributed resource for their skills, qualities and past achievements. It’s highly important for remote resources to feel their input is valuable and that they are trusted to make decisions based on their professional judgment during the implementation of a feature.

As Du Nguyen correctly points out in his article, Six Tips for Making Agile and Offshore work in Harmony:

“Showing respect and asking for opinions from the offshore team helps them feel included and could bring up useful actionable insights that can improve your processes. Encourage them to ask questions and get involved.”

When team members feel their input is valuable, they are more likely to take initiative, emotionally invest in your project and go the extra mile to deliver on their promises.

Choose teams that have worked on similar projects

When it comes to working with distributed teams, it is often smart to stick with what you know. In other words, it makes perfect sense to select a strategic partner with previous experience working on similar tasks and projects.

If a team or consultant has successfully delivered on similar projects in the past, it is a good indicator that they can produce similar results with your project.

As we argued in a different article on how to choose the perfect technology partner, most consultants and remote development teams will be more than happy to share their client contact information with you, so you can check their references. It’s downright suspicious, and a huge red flag, if they refuse or otherwise stall when you ask for references.

According to Kim Lachance Shandrow at Entrepreneur.com, talking directly with technology partners’ past clients also affords you the opportunity to ask them how efficiently and reliably the developer worked; both are crucial pieces of information you must know.

In short, when it comes to choosing distributed teams, it sometimes makes sense to do business with companies and employees previously in that situation. If they’ve successfully worked from a remote position with similar clients and have delivered good quality work for companies that launched products similar to yours, they will do the same for you.

Communicate effectively with your virtual team

virtual teams

Great communication is the key to a successful partnership, whether you work side-by-side or in different time zones. It is no different when working with virtual teams. However, as Luke Watson correctly points out, communication remains the number one issue when working with offshore resources.

Fostering an environment in which effective communication between onshore and remote resources becomes a goal in and of itself is the best way to avoid this.

To help offset some of the issues caused by non-collation of resources is to decide how to effectively leverage different communication channels. Here is a ranked list of how to efficiently use various communication methods between onshore and virtual teams:

  • Email – use sparingly for project meeting notes, official communication, schedules and commitments
  • Chats – always have a chat window open ( skype, slack, hangout etc). Use this for quick clarifications, status updates and questions.
  • Productivity tools – JIRA, Asana, Trello, Basecamp, etc. are some of the best tools on the market for proper project management.Whatever tool you choose should be enforced across the team. Having a great project tool reduces friction, improves communication and documents assumptions about a project.

In short, communication with offshore teams can indeed be an issue. However, with the right process and tools set in place, it can absolutely be overcome.

Treat your offshore partner like a partner

virtual team

Choosing an offshore company or individual partner is exactly this: teaming up with a partner someone you respect and who is more than merely a vendor doing business with you. Spend time to get to know the person or the team with whom you will be working.

Steve Mezak had this to say in an article titled “Six Can’t Fail Tips for Effectively Managing An Outsourced Software Development Team” (and we could not agree with him more!)

“If you treat your outsourcing partner as an equal, they are likely to work harder for you. They might feel inclined to stay late so they have longer workday to overlap with you, or forego their own national holidays to work to your schedule. Empathize with how hard they work to meet your needs rather than point a finger of blame.”

When working with a partner agency, the conversation naturally revolves around what should be done. That’s totally fine. However, as mentioned above, when hiring an offshore team you have people working with other people. Beyond simply getting a paycheck, people form connections, become emotionally invested in a project and go the extra mile for the clients and projects they care about. Treating your offshore resources like real partners will pay off in the long run. Every single time!

Look for flexible teams that are not afraid of change

virtual teams

 

Technology is constantly changing. One decade has passed since the first iPhone was released. In these ten short years, mobile app platforms, frameworks and programming languages have all significantly evolved. Think Eclipse versus Android Studios IDE or Xcode versus Swift, for example.

As technologies evolve, so should your remote teams.

When you have collocated resources, it is significantly easier for your team to attend meetups, conferences and events that improve their collective knowledge.

Of course, with the proliferation of online courses, one could argue that offshore and remote resources can also gather more knowledge, but it is not the same.

In other words, you want self-driven offshore teams who actively work on different platforms, improve their knowledge on their own and “have a broader perspective to view development technologies as tools in their arsenal to build the next great application.”

You want naturally curious, always learning teams and offshore consultants to join your ranks that will infuse your own team and product with fresh and exciting new development perspectives.

Hire companies with representatives in your time zone (hybrid approach)

virtual teams

Offshore teams are oftentimes more experienced and cost effective than local hires according to the IT Outsourcing Statistic Report for 2016-2017. That is why over 50% of IT departments outsource their work for mobile application development to third party vendors and agencies.

One problem remains: if you have an issue or need a clarification during work hours, how do you get your answers if the team you’re working with is in a time zone 8 hours or more ahead of you?

To resolve this issue, many vendors have started offering a hybrid model for business engagements. Hybrids are companies with an offshore development force and a registered presence in the United States as well as some local resources available within the client’s time zone. Local resources are typically project and product managers, design resources and account managers who are available during local work hours to take questions from a client and act as liaisons between the client and the development team.

This model has become so popular that most vendors with a predominantly offshore presence are now offering it to their American clients. This alternative to the traditional offshore model has made many startup founders feel more at ease with leveraging distributed teams to get their products to market in a speedy and efficient manner.

Recognize your offshore team’s achievements & share positive feedback

As we mentioned above, when you are working with offshore resources, it is natural to simply communicate with them about tasks that need to be completed, timelines and bug fixes that need attention.

However, as Georgia Gallone from GG Digital Solutions Ltd correctly points out, when you partner with offshore resources, it’s important to remember you are working with people. No matter where in the world you live, or what your cultural background, positive feedback can go a long way to improving your working relationship.

If the team has done a good job at delivering on time and on budget – express your appreciation. If users love the product, share that valuable feedback with your offshore teams. Treat your distributed teams as you would any other close partner: when something goes well, be sure to tell them so.

Great execution: process, deliverables, expectations

No team, virtual or collocated, can function properly without a clearly defined process that all parties recognize and abide by. In this section we focus on the specific considerations that need to be accounted for when working with distributed resources.

Have a regular check-in schedule

When you are dealing with collocated resources and you need to solve a problem,  the solution is really simple. You walk over to the person’s desk and talk about it. Things get a little more complicated when dealing with virtual teams. But they don’t have to be!

Regular check-ins are recommended for any type of project where there are multiple stakeholders and decision-makers. This becomes significantly more important when working with offshore and virtual teams. As other experts have mentioned, a regular cadence of meetings is critical to the overall success of the project!

To get the most out of regular check-ins with your virtual teams, the best strategy is to maintain a very structured approach so everyone’s time is used effectively, as shown in the image below.

If you follow these tips for productive check-ins, you will likely cut through the noise and get tasks done efficiently in a timely fashion.

Establish one consistent process across teams

virtual teams

If you are a startup working with only one offshore development team, the process is simple. You align on a process of engagement which everyone then executes. Often, however, companies hire virtual teams to augment their existing team or to work on a new project.

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for executives to ensure that all resources, onshore and offshore, follow the same processes and transfer deliverables in the same format.

In software development, many steps can and will be done differently by various people unless a common set of practices is put in place. From coding to testing, requirements gathering to production release notes, there are quite a few practices that must be absolutely standardized across teams. As others have mentioned, lack of standard practices in the development cycle is one of the biggest mistakes affecting the cost of software development.

Get alignment on monitoring the performance of a virtual team

One of the most frequent sources of discontent between clients and virtual teams collaborating on the same project is missed expectations. As a client, you expected to see something done in a specific way but it was delivered in a different manner.

The best way to avoid hard-feelings when working with remote teams is to agree, up-front, on how the performance of the offshore team will be monitored throughout the process.

Of course, no one expects every single detail to be outlined in the master service agreement. However, it is incredibly important for clients and service providers to discuss how the performance of a virtual team will be monitored and reviewed throughout the engagement.

As Tara Waddle from Allshore Virtual Staffing correctly points out, there should be alignment between onshore project managers and virtual resources on quantifiable KPIs, task turnarounds and feedback mechanisms, so everyone clearly understands what is expected for each step.

Know and learn the virtual team’s process

Another common source of discontent between clients and offshore resources involves how and why virtual teams deliver work products in a certain way. Professionals have different methodologies, processes and work methods of which clients may not be aware.

Of course, distributed resources and virtual teams will adapt their work deliverables to the clients’ needs, within reason. However, it always helps if clients and onshore managers are open to understanding and learning the process used by virtual teams.

In a globalized workforce, professionals come together and work on joint projects while sharing different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Much of the conflict between clients and service providers is due to a failure to understand the other party’s perspective or why something is being done.

Knowing a virtual team’s work process means meeting them halfway on the path to a long and strong partnership.

Humans are visual creatures – use tools to visually communicate what you want

virtual teams

Source: Can a Conference Room be Intelligence

As we all know, most people are visual learners; 90% of information processed by the brain is visual. That is why this article is a combination of text and summary images – to allow you, the reader, the option of skimming through our recommendations or reading them in their entirety.

The same concept applies to working with remote teams. What you write in an email or chat window, or what you say on a phone call may be subject to multiple interpretations. When you visually show what you expect, people can process that information and produce the necessary deliverable faster and more efficiently.

That is why it is absolutely critical to use tools that can help you convey your point in a visual fashion when working with distributed virtual teams. Luckily, many of these tools are free to use or very inexpensive. Google Hangouts sessions have a built-in option for screen sharing. This is also true with Skype. Many companies in the US use Join.me or Gotomeeting.

Ultimately, whatever option you choose is less important than making sure you have an easy and effective method to visually convey your thoughts and desires to your virtual team members.

Summary:

Working with virtual teams is a reality. Whether you choose a development partner with an offshore  base of operation or you decide to hire a professional in a different city, this is an everyday scenario for many companies in America.

Although the benefits of collocated resources are well-known and understood, companies are naturally looking for the best people for a job. Those people may be on the other side of the country or the other side of the world.

In this article, we looked at 17 distinct strategies that have already been implemented in one form or another by different US companies to ensure that teams can work effectively and efficiently, regardless of their office locations .

If you are a company wondering whether a distributed model will work for you, don’t bother. Working with virtual teams has already been proven successful. The only question should be what you can do to ensure that the virtual team model is implemented in an efficient manner. We hope our 17 actionable recommendations provide  a good overview of how you can make it happen.

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Beyond Statistics: Customer Experience in 2020

A few years ago, the customer experience was how a customer was treated when they were at a store, a restaurant or a hotel. It perhaps began when the customer entered and ended when they left the premises. In that context, enterprises, especially in consumer goods, placed a lot of emphasis on in-store experiences right from point of sale material, shelf display and packaging. Service brands laid emphasis on people-driven customer service.

Procter & Gamble, coined the phrase ‘First Moment of Truth’ to an in-store experience, especially when the customer is interacting with the packaging or POS material. It is believed that it occurs within the first 3-7 seconds of a consumer encountering the product and it is during this time that marketers have the capability of turning a browser into a buyer. The actual product experience was the ‘second moment of truth’ – as it was about the product living up to the claim. As the world became more digital, enterprises realized that the web played a big role in influencing brand choice even before they entered a retail store or went to an e-commerce portal. Google called it Zero Moment of Truth – as the web, especially search results, expert & customer reviews influenced the consideration set before the final brand purchase. So what the consumer saw in the digital world influenced the sale. In a way, it paved the way for Customer Experience – heavily influenced by digital, as we know it today.

Customer Experience (CX) today goes beyond the product or service a customer is looking to buy (or has already bought). Technology has made communication quick and easy, and customer experience today is a continuous, on-going process. When Amazon, for example, receives an order, they follow a process to ensure the customer is happy and informed throughout the journey. Constant email and message communications inform the customer where their product is, and when it will arrive. Once it is delivered, they ask for feedback and offer a return-back window. They have a 24×7 service line that customers can use to express issues. They send periodic emails about other products that a customer could be interested in. All of this culminates in ‘Customer Experience’. It may begin with a web search and include an app experience, interactions with customer service or the website. CX today is associated not just with the product, service, store or salesman, but with the entire brand that is delivering the experience.

In many cases today, the digital experience is perhaps the most dominant factor in customer experience. [click to tweet]

However, this is not to say that a great customer experience in digital can be a substitute for a poor product or service experience. It is said that good advertising can kill a bad product faster. Similarly, today’s savvy consumers will see through ‘all style and no substance’.

Why Customer Experience is Important

The sheer variety of options that are available to consumers today, makes CX the primary differentiating factor. Consider the e-wallet market, for example. Customers looking to perform the simple task of making quick transactions have over 100 options, as listed in this blog alone. In terms of functionality, there’s not much these apps can do differently. The only factor setting them apart is how customer-centric the brand is, and that encapsulates the app, the support team, the customer-facing representatives, etc.

 13% of customers will share with 15 or more people about a bad experience with a company, and 72% of consumers will tell 6 or more people about a happy experience.

It’s quite evident that in 2020 and for the foreseeable future, customer experience is going to play a vital role in the growth of sales and customer retention. Here are 3 factors that sum up the importance of CX:

1. Customer Experience Enforces Customer Retention

More often than not, customers return to a brand because of their experience than only due to the product or service itself. ‘Build it and they will come’ is simply not true. A product or service with great functionality needs the expertise of customer experience design too. In today’s world of product parity, this is even more important. There is very little that separates one bank’s services from another and hence the primary interface – in many cases, the mobile app becomes crucial for customer retention. According to Forbes, 96% of customers pledge loyalty to a brand based on customer experience. Acquiring new customers is important, but retaining customers and getting repeat orders can propel a business.

2. Consumers Decide Based on the Experience, Not the Product

Yes, having a great product is important, but it does not ensure a sale. Research shows that CX plays an important role in consumer decision making. In fact, consumers who have a good experience with a brand tend to spend more, return and refer. According to GrooveHQ, a customer that is highly engaged is 6 times more likely to return to try a new product or service. The report also states that customers who have had a pleasant experience with a brand spend 140% more compared to the customers who have had a bad experience in the past and 69% of these happy users would recommend the brand to others.

Here’s how McDonald’s was able to scale their CX with a user-friendly mobile app. McDonald’s India had a vision to make its mobile app the preferred medium for ordering. The goal was to bring the emotions of joy and delight from the in-store experience to the new McDelivery app. By analyzing the pain points in their current user journey and crafting a strong intent for the desired experience, McDonald’s was able to simplify the process of discovery, personalization, decision making and create delightful interactions. With the best UI in place, they increased orders by 103% with the new app, redirecting traffic from web-based ordering.

Consumers Decide Based on the Experience

3. CX Gives Brands the Information Needed to Make Their Product or Service Customer-Centric

Customer experience involves customer engagement, which gives businesses the data needed to improve products, services or the experience itself. According to this article on Hubspot, 70% of dissatisfied customers are willing to shop with the same brand again if their issues are promptly resolved by customer care. Enabling customer feedback channels through store forms, online chat windows, email, and telephone is a great way to initiate communication between the brand and a customer, and also seek feedback that allows brands to improve.

However, customers do not think about these things as much as enterprises do. They do not segregate an ‘offline’ and an ‘online’ experience in their minds. They simply want to get things done irrespective of the channel or technology.

Customer Experience Strategies That Brands Should Adopt to Scale Acquisition, Engagement & Retention

1. Collect Data & Infer Results

Collecting customer feedback is quite easy with numerous options available. A simple NPS survey or customer effort score (CES) survey can give brands valuable information about their product/service and CX. Advanced technological solutions like AI and Machine Learning enabled bots that can interpret a customer’s mood through Natural Language Processing allows brands to take proactive measures in solving a customer’s problem. There are many solutions at a brand’s disposal, and it is important to collect consumer experience data to derive useful insights.

2. Find a Balance Between Automation and Human Intervention 

Anyone who has dealt with customer service calls (and the hold timings) can say how frustrating it can be. Chatbots, powered by Artificial Intelligence was meant to be the solution to resolve customer issues. However, we can safely surmise that neither of the routes have reached perfection. It’s vital for brands to implement a smart mix of technology and human intervention. The first step is to identify roles that are best addressed by humans. AI can play the role of enhancement by analyzing interactions, the context of queries and automating several processes. An often neglected aspect of human intervention is the role of strategy and the role of design thinking prior to crafting or solving a customer experience issue.

3. Implement Immersive Technologies

During the launch of their SUV XC90, Nissan rolled out a VR enabled application that allows customers to take a test drive, virtually. Advertising and marketing methods have changed with the changing technological landscape. Technology like AR, VR, 3D Images/Videos, etc present customers with an immersive shopping experience that helps them better understand the product, in turn improving customer experience and satisfaction.

Video source

4. Deliver Hyper-Personal Services

An article by Accenture stated that 75% of customers are more likely to purchase from a brand that knows their name, purchase history and/or recommends products based on past purchases. This forms a part of several design thinking principles that can help in customer retention and help prevent churn. With smart feedback systems and CTAs in place at customer exit locations (in-store or on a website/app), it’s not difficult to gather relevant customer information. Brands should then segment their marketing campaigns based on customers’ data, which increases the chances of engagement and purchase.

5. Have a Relevant Omnichannel Presence

Customers will not articulate that they choose a brand because of its omnichannel presence. But a relevant usage of platforms and experiences adds to a brand’s aura and helps in creating a ‘big brand’ feel. It can lead to brand affinity – a key differentiator in a parity world.  The modes of communication consumers prefer, depend on demographics, location, age, gender, lifestyle etc, making it vital for a brand to be active and reachable on multiple channels today.

An omnichannel service does not simply mean having a token presence across channels of communication, but a one that is relevant and adds value to the consumer [Click to Tweet]

Success Stories Resulting from Exceptional Customer Experience (CX)

Hewlett Packard’s Virtual Agent for Customer Service

HP Inc sells over 50 million PCs every year, and with every PC they acquire a new customer who will in some time in their journey be in need of service and support. In fact, HP Inc handles over 600 million technical support contacts every year. Working with Microsoft, HP rolled out an AI-enabled virtual assistant that interacts with customers and helps them solve issues they face with a product. It guides users through a troubleshooting process and provides solutions. If a solution isn’t available, it transfers the customer to a human representative. Here’s a brief overview of the key benefits:

  • Prior to implementing the virtual assistant, HP would address 15 % – 20% issues digitally. Now, they address close to 80% issues successfully.
  • The bot helps customers navigate over 50,000 pages of product information by understanding their needs.
  • All of this resulted in increased customer satisfaction.

Mercedes-Benz Leveraged Predictive Analysis and AI to Better Serve Customers

Mercedes-Benz

Image source

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.

Thomas Cook’s Nurture Program

Thomas Cook was looking to establish a better and direct relationship with their existing customers, and prospects. They wanted to influence customers to be able to recommend their travel packages. Thomas Cook ran a CX improvement program a few years ago and collated data to study their customers’ interests and ran campaigns to request for personal recommendations based on past interactions and through display re-targeting. Through these hyper-personal campaigns, they were able to:

  • Receive over 15,000 leads.
  • Increased ROI, as high as 7.5 : 1 in a span of 3 months.

Hotel THE PIG Revamped their Online CX Experience to Boost Revenue

Kitchen garden hotel THE PIG wanted to increase their customer acquisition through online channels. They revamped their online booking process to make it more customer-centric and easy to use. In collaboration with Etch and Micros, the hotel implemented Opera Reservation System (ORS) in order to put in place a customized booking system that is customer-centric. By simplifying the customer’s booking journey, they achieved a 250% growth in online revenues over a two year period.

Improving customer experience is a seemingly simple two-step process: understand the needs of the customers, and implement effective methods to satisfy those needs. However, it is a lot more complex to accomplish and calls for collaboration with experienced partners who understand customer journeys, the role of digital experiences and the technologies that help craft them. There are also a plethora of tools available that help to collate consumer feedback, analyze customer satisfaction levels, and serve customers better. With the right strategy and tools in place, brands will be able to scale their customer experience alongside brand reputation, sales, and customer retention.

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Mobile Opinion

Driving Growth by Designing Experience-Based Subscription Models

There has been a surge in preferences for temporary ownership over permanent ones. People want the benefits of owning without having to buy. Uber, Lyft, Curb and other on-demand ride services are cited to have a drastic impact on automobile sales due to the ease of use without having to buy. There’s a drastic shift in the customer mindset that has urged companies to manage a direct, responsive, multi-channel relationship with their users, giving rise to a complex subscription-based economy.

The intent here is to break down these complex structures into user-friendly designs, which can be easily comprehensible.

Since businesses capture data of their current users, it helps to create personalized offers through target marketing and build custom communication and pricing models. This increases the LTV (lifetime value) of a user or consumer.

A subscription model provides predictable and recurring revenue for a long-term engaged user base. Click to Tweet

The business can concentrate on the retention of users overspending on acquiring new ones. Similarly, subscription strategies allow for price diversification, accommodating a broader, diversified income group of users over a fixed ‘one-price-for-all’ model.

Subscription plans are also psychologically attractive to users as they don’t have to make long-term commitments nor do they have to pay a large amount at a single go. It’s thereby no surprise that a lot of industry giants as well as mid-size companies are using subscription models as the basis for their business.

These strategies can be broadly categorized into 3 types:

1. Traditional Models

The simple relationship of regular exchange of certain goods or services at a fixed price for a certain period that creates a long-term understanding between brands and it’s users. These can be broadly divided into:

a. Unlimited use: Set price for unlimited use of product or service for a fixed amount of time.

b. Pay as you go: Pay for usage as and when needed at a fixed price per-use.

c. Premium: Additional/Upgraded services or features for an additional fee.

d. Pay per unit/user: Based on the number of people using product or service.

Examples of traditional subscription models

Examples of traditional subscription models

2. eCommerce

A newer subscription model type based on the supply of fast-moving consumer supplies that are needed regularly to reach repeat users. These can be divided into :

a. Curation subscription: Surprise the user with a curated selection of different products based on their preferences.

b. Refill subscription: Replenish the same or similar items (usually commodities).

E-Commerce

Examples of e-commerce subscription models

3. Innovative

Novel subscription models that combine one or more pricing strategies, that offer products and services catering to multiple needs. These can be broadly categorized into:

a. Buy-back subscription: Exchange the used subscribed product for virtual money or other products.

b. Hybrid subscription: Merging two different offerings symbiotically for wholesome user experience.

c. Consumer durable subscription: Use and switch multiple durables (that are usually long term purchases) for a set price and a short term period.

Examples of innovative subscription models

Examples of innovative subscription models

The adoption of these models has helped businesses’ stand apart from the rest. But the question remains, how do we create a holistic blend of pricing strategies, coupled with the best UX practices to give the users exactly what they need.

Let’s explore some of the strategies that can help you build a model conducive for your business as well as the user’s wallet

1. Feature-Add Value

Increase pricing with added features exclusively.

Eg. InVision: Instead of just showing incremental features with pricing, Invision shows the user various kinds of features they can offer and what they are missing out without these. It highlights the most popular package based on user behavior to buy/upgrade prompts the user towards a particular purchase.

Feature-Add Value

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2. Interactive Pricing

A customizable pricing model calculating real-time numbers for B2B services and products.

Eg. SketchApp: Instead of having the users contact the support team for a definite number of users or a large enterprise pricing, Sketchapp allows the user to customize the volume with a slider, keeping the pricing interactive and engaging with real-time costs.

Interactive Pricing

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3. Paywall

Limited access to content to influence subscription.

Eg. Medium: Medium lets users experience featured content, by allowing 3 free stories to read. This helps the user to gauge the quality of content available on the platform that has a greater probability of influencing long-term subscriptions.

Paywall

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4. Freemium

Unlimited access to the platform with basic features, to get the user glued to the product before adding a fee component with value-added features.

Eg. Spotify: Spotify allows the users to access unlimited music (with ads), playlists and podcasts, but only access the shuffle mode on mobile. Similarly, it allows on-demand content on its web portal and not on mobile. This way the user gets a taste of the content and adopts the platform faster, moving from being a free subscriber to a paid subscriber.

Freemium

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5. Sell a story

Elaborate the benefits to a user to add value instead of highlighting just the features. This also projects the tone of voice and persona of the brand.

Eg. MailChimp: In the below example, MailChimp has put down the features, in an incremental form, by listing down its features, not merely as bullet points, but as a story to tap into the reptilian brain of the user. This creates a personal association with the brand and builds a connection.

Sell a story

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6. Fair billing

Bill only for the number of people using the product or the number of units used. If it is prepaid, return in the form of credits or discounts in the next billing cycle. This helps in building long-standing relationships.

Eg. Slack: Slack follows a ‘fair billing’ policy, where it provides its subscription fees ‘per active user’ per month. If a user becomes inactive during this period, Slack adjusts the payments for the inactive members in the next billing cycle. This assures the users that the brand cares for them, creating a loyal base of users.

Fair billing

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The above strategies can help you build a model conducive for your business as well as the users’ wallets. Let’s understand the parameters on which these strategies have been built that will help you create a pricing strategy for your own business.

a. Strategic pricing for business objectives: A well planned strategic pricing is the base of a good subscription model. Tiered pricing models that suit all types of users helps to accomplish business goals to scale business, acquire and retain customers as well as increase the lifetime value of the users.

b. Multi-Channel user acquisition: Create a seamless experience for the users to subscribe via multiple channels, viz., mobile, desktop, tablets or via customer support. This helps in adapting diverse pricing strategies while staying flexible to user needs.

c. Monetize long-term relationships: The formula for growth in this subscription economy is monetizing long term relationships rather than just shipping products (Click to Tweet) — that can help you in creating better variations of your products. In turn, you spend less money on marketing and on-boarding.

d. Adapt pricing to user behavior and needs: Understanding the user psychology that comes into play while making a purchase will help increase the conversion rates in subscriptions.(Click to Tweet) For eg., The left digit of a price gives the perceived value, making $2.99 more desirable than $3.00.

f. Aim for consistent, positive interactions with users: Strive to create a long-lasting user relationship even after the transaction has been made. Timely communication with users and personalized recommendations encourage the users to stay subscribed to a particular offering over another.

g. Give user total control & transparency in payments: Strive to make the billing easy and accurate for different pricing models. Keep the invoice easy to understand and informative to develop transparent and honest relationships between users and the brand.

The formula for growth in this subscription economy is monetizing long term relationships and offering value above all;(Click to Tweet) by creating different versions of your products that cover a wider audience that includes different customer personas.

It is imperative for companies to create a symbiotic relationship between the brand and users, by understanding their basic needs and expectations. It is now essential to understand and tap into the user’s emotions and craft experiences, which they can connect with and value. By using a holistic blend of effective information, usability best practices, and design guidelines, a brand can ascertain the purchase decision and retain user loyalty for an extended period.

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Mobile Opinion

How technology is raising the bar of customer experiences in luxury retail (Updated)

In November 2017, Leonardo da Vinci’s last painting ‘Salvator Mundi’ was sold at an unbelievable price of $450 million, making it the most expensive painting in the world. Needless to say, not just the art community and the connoisseurs of art but the entire world was left astounded by the price of this sale.

So, why would someone pay such a huge fortune for a painting?

The answer? They are not buying the painting, they are making a statement. According to psychoanalysis done on the purchase, The individual who bought the painting is someone for whom the value of owning the world’s most expensive artwork outweighs literally everything else.

The above statement holds true for most luxury purchases made. We don’t pay for the product; we pay for the experience and the exclusivity and the aspiration associated with it. On the other hand, most days to day purchases are either need-based or impulsive, where price plays an important role.

For the same reason, the rules of customer engagement for the luxury retail sector are also different than the regular retail sector. For instance:

  1. Creating a perfect customer experience is the most critical factor while engaging with customers.
  2. Luxury brands seek exclusivity; they do not try to be everything to everyone.
  3. Brand communication across touch-points focuses on creating an aura, a mystique and appeal to the emotional or irrational brain.

Until a few years ago, for luxury brands, conventional wisdom used to be creating the best-in-class customer experiences in the store and not much importance was attributed to the e-commerce channels, online interactions or multi-branded retail websites. However, with the changing times, the way shoppers buy luxury products has also altered – digital experiences play a critical role. While the reason behind purchasing luxury items remain the same, the modes of purchase are changing. A 2019 Deloitte report showed that HENRYs (High-Earners-Not–Rich-Yet), one of the most preferred and ideal target audience for luxury brands, paid online with mobile devices or with debit/credit cards to earn reward points. Another report by luxe states that the overall global luxury market sales will increase from 313 billion USD (in 2016) to 471 USD in 2025. Of this total, the sales made via online channels will increase from 25 billion USD (in 2016) to 91 billion USD.

The trend to note here is that while the global sales value is increasing by about 65%, the online sales value is increasing by over 300%. Interestingly, the same report showed that at least 40% of all luxury purchases were influenced by consumers’ online experience.

In a few years, Millennials and Gen Z will account for almost 45% of all luxury purchases made. Further, today’s luxury buyers are more tech-savvy than ever. According to this ICSC report:

  1. Millennials and Gen Z shoppers will account for nearly 55% of the luxury retail market by 2025, becoming the primary target audience.
  2. The mindset of the Millenials and Gen Z audience is tech-oriented, which is why luxury brands are making huge digital investments or partnering with other e-commerce companies for online distribution.
  3. Today’s luxury product buyers are not just concerned with price and quality, but also look for premium and personalized experiences.

Luxury brands have taken note of this shift well in time and are using technology in their favor to interact with today’s consumers at the same wavelength. Here’s how luxury brands across the globe are playing the technology game right and things that brands across industries can learn from:

Changing with the times – creating compelling digital experiences

The baby-boomer audience is brand loyal and values traditional buying, but they have also adopted the online spending patterns of the younger generations. The millennials are anyway the digital-natives.

The common thread between both these audiences is the rise in the online time spent and the shift towards online buying. With users spending a huge amount of their digital time on smartphones more so on apps, mobile has become a critical aspect of engaging with the consumers. Luxury retail segments are leveraging this love of consumers for their smartphones and the accessibility of apps to connect with them and create experiences that matter for their customers. Here are some examples:

Using apps for customer engagement

Gucci

Most luxury brands use their apps with a focus on brand awareness and keeping in touch with their customers. Nearly all of them have features like a catalog with new collections, videos or photos from fashion shows, fashion tips and trends, etc. However, very few get creative and create experiences that are sticky, interactive and delightful; and Gucci, the renowned Italian fashion brand, did just that.

In 2017, during the holiday season, Gucci added new features to its mobile app to make the most of the spending-heavy season.

The app offered a holiday gift guide, featuring a catalog of products either selected or designed for the season. The virtual guide was embellished with designs and artwork by Spanish artist Ignasi Monreal, making up an interactive “Book of Gifts” with shoppable GIFs and a holiday countdown calendar.

Other new features in the app included a virtual reality video, which had a nine-day countdown clock, Gucci-branded stickers, and emojis that could be placed over photos taken in the app. A “Cabinet of Curiosities” feature, which was unlocked when shoppers at Gucci boutiques scan a mobile sticker in window displays. Once the users scan the stickers, a virtual world with spell bounding designs featuring the 2017 gifts selection of ready-to-wear apparel and accessories by Alessandro Michele, opened up.

Gucci

 

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Chatbots for superior service

Luxury brands do not just have to create great brand experiences. They also have to make sure that their customers feel special and get exclusive attention from the brands. In such a scenario, Chatbots helps brands to deliver superior and personalized customer service as well. An example of a brand that leveraged the Chatbot technology to connect with their customers is:

Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger

 

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The brand introduced its chatbot during New York Fashion Week, with the aim to drive traffic to their website and create personalized customer experience around their new collection. The bot lets the user steer the conversation in a different direction, based on what the user wants by giving them an option to get fashion styling advice, browse the full collection, or take a look behind the scenes of the latest fashion show starring Gigi Hadid.

Using the power of social media to build the aspirational value

According to Oberlo, approximately 42% (approximately 3.2 billion social media users in the world) of the world’s population is on some form of social media, and spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes on one or more social media platforms every day. Facebook leads the race in 2019 with approximately 2.32 billion active users every month. 90% of all millennials are active on some form of social media, and 77.5% of all Gen X users are active on some form of social media, both being the main audience for luxury brands.

These staggering statistics have shifted the focus for luxury retail brands towards social media marketing. The same Oberlo report states that 54 % of people who browse social media platforms use it to research products, and consequently, 73% of marketers who implemented social media marketing said their efforts were effective.

Jean-Paul Gaultier

The French luxury fashion brand used the power of Twitter hashtags to create enough noise about the brand, without posting a single tweet. The brand created a Glory wall on its website which featured users’ names when they tweeted about the JPG collection tagging them. If more users mentioned the brand the higher up their names would appear on the wall. The handle with the most tweets at the end of a designated period earned a bottle of their favorite perfume.

Jean-Paul Gaultier

 

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Tesla

Tesla went beyond getting popular influencers for their campaign; they asked their existing customers to share their ‘Tesla stories’ and used these stories to build a connection with their consumers. The brand’s website has a dedicated section for a customer testimonial. By doing this Tesla not just strengthened the brand loyalty of the existing customer base; it also raised the aspirational value of the brand.

Customer Stories - Telsa

 

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Using technology to augment offline experiences

One of the most critical aspects of luxury retail is the overall shopping experience that the consumer gets while buying a luxury product and it is more than just ease of transaction. It is about creating an unforgettable luxurious experience. Most luxury brands are known for providing the best-in-class ambiance inside their store for this very reason.

According to a Forbes report, the overall global market for VR and AR in specifically the retail sector will reach 1.6 billion US dollars by 2025. Luxury retail brands have a lot to benefit from implementing AR and VR into their customer experience strategy.

Here are some examples of the brands which are using technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, mobile apps, etc. to create interesting in-store experiences.

Jaguar Land Rover

To enhance the luxury car experience, Jaguar Land Rover partnered with IBM to launch a new in-store virtual reality screen. The store enabled customers to experience the Jaguar or Land Rover model using a sensory-based technology. The consumer could control the environment around the experience through an iPad and Microsoft Kinect sensory technology and can choose the model, color, and features of a car. The experience also allowed consumers to get into the car to check out interior features with a 360-degree view, and to make real-time changes.

Dior

Christian Dior is blending technology and fashion design with the introduction of virtual reality headsets in a number of its boutiques, creating an immersive 3D experience with its collection and runway atmosphere. By rolling out ‘Dior Eyes’ in a number of its stores, Dior maintains its relevance and provides an elevated in-store experience. The headset is equipped with high-definition image resolution and integrated holophonic audio, creating a 3D immersion into the backstage world at a fashion show, including the sensation of 360° vision, letting visitors move about in the virtual universe.

Creating a sensory appeal

For the purchase of luxury brands, desire plays a key role. So luxury brands should aim to create that desire in their digital experiences too – be it offline or online. The regular display of merchandise which would be par for the course in an e-commerce app or a regular retail store will not apply here. One of the ways that luxury brands use to create desire and emotional connect is by appealing to the sensory stimulations of the shoppers, both for in-store and digital experiences.

When it comes to digital experiences, technologies like AR/VR see a lot of usages to appeal to the shoppers’ sense since they help brands to alter a consumer’s ambiance digitally. Some brands which are using sensory branding using digital technologies are:

Burberry

Burberry is one of the pioneers when it comes to using technology whether it is in-store or online. It has also done exemplary work when it comes to using these technologies to create sensory experiences in-store.

Burberry’s in its flagship store in London gave shoppers an experience of a theatre, with 500 speakers and 100 screens fitted throughout, which show original content created in-house at Burberry. In this store, customers can’t help but engage with all their senses with the brand.

The physical store aimed to replicate the user-friendly experience of the website and hence, they were not just engaged but were also effortlessly guided through the store through their intuitive navigation.

Prada x Prada the 360-degree VR experience platform launched by the brand takes consumers on a sensorial journey and an exploration of the world of Prada fragrances.

The VR-based app takes shoppers to an interactive digital journey. Through a transitional series of scenes and experiences – each one offering glimpses into the narrative and aesthetic codes of La Femme Prada and L’Homme Prada. Users are immersed in a three-dimensional space from which multiple experiences can be activated. The ensuing succession of textures, scents, sounds, and interactions evokes the multi-faceted nature of the fragrances and stimulates multiple senses of the user.

Luxury marketing has a code of its own. A key aspect of luxury brands is to create desire. It is anchored at tapping into the emotional, even irrational brand. We all have our emotional brain and rational brain playing a role in decision making. But almost always it is the emotional brain that leads our purchase decisions. Prof Baba Shiv of Stanford University said that:

‘’The rational brain is only good at rationalizing what the emotional brain has already decided.’’

We see this all the time with the purchase of fashion brands. In the case of luxury brand retailing, such irrational behavior is taken to an extreme where desire plays a key role.

Over the years Robosoft has partnered with leading luxury retailers including a leading brand of super-premium writing instruments and a German automobile manufacturer, to create state of the art digital experiences.

While working for these brands we have learned that luxury brands should aim to create the desire in their digital experiences too – be it a website, an iPad app or a mobile app. Some of the key elements of creating desire are mystique, sensory visual appeal, and the design approach. The design of such experiences should be simple wherein the content is always the main focus, celebrating each product.

Dean Gonsalves, our Vice President, Design, says:

‘’ Luxury brands should be mindful of quality vs quantity, control that urges to add everything in the guise of Product Visibility. There is indeed a stark difference between abundance and unnecessary choices.’’

Technology opens up the door of the luxury brands to create these elements for their audiences in an omni-channel environment.

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Featured Mobile Opinion

Digital Transformation in Healthcare – The Evolving Landscape (Updated)

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

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

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

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

Evolution of Technology in Healthcare

Evolution of Technology in Healthcare

Digital Transformation in Healthcare

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

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

Technology-Enabled care:

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

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

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

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

Digital and mHealth can improve enterprise processes and improve outcomes:

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

Digital and mHealth can improve enterprise processes and improve outcomes

 

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

4 Dimension of Effective mHealth

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

Athenahealth’s Epocrates is one such app

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

Epocrates can assist doctors and physicians in:

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

Technology is empowering patients

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

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

Technology is empowering patients

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

How Apple is front footing the digital revolution in healthcare

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

Wearables in healthcare

 

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

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

Wearables for Doctors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Generation Wearable Medical Robot

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

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

Wearables for Patients

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

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

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

Internet of Things (IoT) in healthcare

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

Internet of Things (IoT) in healthcare

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

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

OpenAPS – closed-loop insulin delivery

OpenAPS – closed-loop insulin delivery

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

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

Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems (CGM)

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

Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems

Connected inhalers

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

Connected inhalers

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Ingestible sensors

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

Ingestible-sensors

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Big Data & analytics in healthcare

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

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

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

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

Real-time health systems

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

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

Real-time health systems

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare

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

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare

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

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

AI-based health assistants

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

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

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

Early and precise diagnosis

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

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

Improved patient care and treatment

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

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

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

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

Improved patient care and treatment

How healthcare enterprises can succeed with digital transformation

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

How healthcare enterprises can succeed with digital transformation

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

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

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

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Mobile Opinion

The road towards a cashless world – digital payments and the future (Updated)

When was the last time you pulled out your wallet to make a cash payment? It’s probably been a while, isn’t it? While debit and credit cards continue to be the preferred mode of payment – digital transactions, bank transfers, and e-wallets are getting equally popular. Convenience and security are two important reasons why cashless transactions are preferred.

According to a 2018 survey conducted by payment processor TSYS (as seen on creditcards.com) that involved 1,222 consumers, 54% of the participants preferred paying via debit cards, 26% preferred credit cards, and only 14% expressed a preference for using cash. What’s interesting is that when compared to 2017’s report, the preference for payment by debit cards increased by 10%, indicating a continuous shift to cashless transactions.

Another survey by the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC) suggests that the average amount of cash carried by consumers daily was $59, indicating that when consumers choose to pay in cash it is often when the amount is very small. The same report highlights that 55% of payments were made in cash but only when the net payment amount was under $10. The below image depicts the average cash holding by age group across the years:

Digital Payments and The Future

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Types of digital payments:

  1. Device-centric mobile proximity wallet

It is a wallet that stores the user’s payment credentials in the mobile device. These credentials, at the point of purchase NFC (Near Field Communications) or MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission), are leveraged to enable proximity payments.

  1. Device-centric mobile in-app wallet

This wallet is used for in-app purchases where a debit/credit card isn’t available. This wallet uses the EMV payment token and the issuer’s identification and verification to complete the in-app purchase.

  1. Card-not-present or card-on-file wallet

A digital wallet that uses the previously-stored payment credentials of users. The term Card-on-File is referred to the authorized storage of the user’s payment credentials by a merchant.

  1. QR code wallet

Similar to CNP wallets these wallets are device agnostic and cloud-based. QR codes are used to complete the transaction at the POS. Paytm is an example of such wallets.

  1. Digital checkout wallet

The payment networks offer digital checkout wallets or digital acceptance services to both issuers and merchants. The networks support a web browser, mobile app, and in-app channels.

Evolution of digital payments and digital wallets

The early 90s

The digital wallet space has been in existence since the ’90s. Online payment services started to operate in the early 90s.

  • Around this time PayPal was used as a software solution for eBay. However, the concept of storing payment information with an online provider to enable purchases outside of eBay initially didn’t catch up.
  • Almost at the same time, more players emerged in the digital wallet industry. Some of the popular entities of that time were Millicent (founded in 1995), Ecash and CyberCoin (founded in 1996).

The Late 90s–2000s

Most of the earlier digital wallets were stored on the desktops of personal computers. By the early 2000s, the new-age digital wallets emerged which were compatible with wireless and other mobile devices, and were more often stored on a central server owned by a digital wallet vendor or Internet service provider (ISP).

The major drawback of such wallets during this time was the compatibility. Moreover, the dearth of one multipurpose wallet required customers to download various digital wallets from multiple vendors. It was thereby a complicated option for customers.

To deal with this drawback several financial and technology enterprises like MasterCard, Visa, American Express, IBM, Microsoft, Trintech, and CyberCash came together and established a digital wallet standard. They defined Electronic Commerce Modeling Language (ECML) as a standard mechanism to explicitly define a format for online order forms that could incorporate digital wallet technology from any vendor.

Launch of Apple Pay

A significant shift in the digital wallet landscape was witnessed only in 2014 with the launch of Apple Pay; the wallet was supported by over 220,000 merchant locations in the United States. Other giants like Google and Samsung soon followed with their payment options – Android Pay and Samsung Pay respectively.

2015-2019

According to a BCG report, 2015-16 was known to be a watershed period in the payment history, and the trend continues. Within a span of just 2 years, between 2015 – 2017, the total value of the mobile wallets market doubled.

Total revenue of global mobile payment market from 2015 to 2019

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A 2018 Trends Report on Consumer Mobility released by Bank of America shows that P2P mobile payments, which is one to one payments over mobile wallets, increased from 36% in 2017 to 44% in 2018. An interesting fact here is that the number of mobile transaction users is rapidly increasing among the younger generation (51% of millennials said they used mobile wallets in 2018) while not so rapidly with people over the age group of 65, which stunted the overall increase in percentage but proved the shift to cashless transactions nonetheless.

Finally, late 2018 and 2019 saw a rapid rise in mobile wallets and digital transactions. This largely occurred due to the growth in technology that led to numerous e-payment vendors and apps. The added assurance of security through OTPs and passwords is fueling the transition from cash and card payments to mobile payments.

An eMarketer report released in December 2018 projected that almost 938 million people worldwide will make a payment over their smartphone in 2019. This number represents nearly 36% of all smartphone users and is an increase of 13.5% over 2018.

As per a survey by the Boston Consulting Group, the amount spent via digital wallets is expected to rise to $500-$550 billion by 2025.

Change leading the digital payments revolution:

There are four major shifts in the global technology landscape that have led to the digital wallet revolution:

  1. The ongoing digital revolution
  2. The entry of non-traditional players
  3. Evolution of a more demanding digitally-savvy consumer
  4. The emergence of new markets

The ongoing digital revolution

By 2020 it is expected that almost 75% of the world’s population will have access to the internet. 80% of these users will be accessing the internet through their mobile. Over the years, smartphones have gotten smarter and are equipped with high-end technologies like powerful processors, substantial memory, high-resolution cameras, barcode scanning, GPS geocoding, NFC-based technologies, social media platforms, etc. With all these armors, every smartphone user is a potential commerce enabler.

The evolution of smartphones is enabling new payment capabilities. This has revolutionized digital payments coupled with innovations in payment access and security technologies such as tokenization of card details for reducing fraud, biometric-enabled multi-factor authentication, EMV standards for user authentication, NFC-capable readers at merchant stores, hardware-based secure element approaches, etc.

The entry of non-traditional players

The digital wallet industry is not limited to Fintech and Financial enterprises. Over the years we have seen players across multiple industries entering the sector. These categories range from device manufacturers (Apple, Samsung, Google), technology and e-commerce enterprises (eBay, Alibaba, Amazon), telecom companies (Vodafone, Orange, Airtel) and start-ups like PayTM and FreeCharge in India, Google Pay, etc.

The disruption in the digital wallet space is further expected to heighten as the number of Fintech startups continues to grow. In the past five years, the number of such start-ups has doubled, with funding growing six times. The largest share of the overall Fintech funding, in fact, has gone to the payment Fintechs, spanning from wallets to integrated POS systems, P2P payments, and cross-border transfers, etc.

Some startups such as Ant Financial Services Group (China), First Data, Stripe and Mozido (USA) and One97 Communications (India), have grown to over USD 1 billion in valuation.

Evolution of a more demanding digitally-savvy consumer.

The tech-savvy consumer today has shifted to the digital platform for a lot of reasons, and hassle-free money transactions are one of them. The emergence of non-banking tech players along with retailers and e-commerce enterprises and the advent of features such as biometric authentication from ApplePay and integrated rewards from Starbucks, have to meet the customer’s expectations changing from payments solutions.

The consumer today expects a seamless digital experience from every interaction they have with brands in the virtual world. Hence, there is a growing need for an intuitive and frictionless user interface and design.

The digital wallets are expected to offer a seamless interaction on smartphones and apps to deliver on par with the evolving customer needs, both enhancing and increasing customer interactions and building relationships.

The emergence of new markets

According to a recent study, consumers in markets like India, South Korea, and China are more open to experimenting with mobile payments than the US, UK, Australia, and others. One of the reasons for this shift is the growing number of internet users in these countries.

Internet Users by Country 2016 to 2021

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A DCR Strategies report revealed that by 2020, every 1 in 2 dollars spent online will come from a purchase made by a mobile phone. The same report also revealed that the global mobile wallet spends increased by 32% in 2017 to $1.35 trillion. Here are some interesting facts from the report : more than 50% of smartphone users don’t prefer carrying any payment instrument (cash or card) with them, one in three Canadians already paid for something through their mobile phone, and two thirds of Canadians are looking to stop using cheques and other outdated modes of payment.

The growth story of digital payments in India

The Indian economy has traditionally been dominated by cash. However, the increased adoption of smartphones together with a favorable regulatory environment is pushing the economy to a less cash-dependent state and promoting the usage of digital payments.

The growth story of digital payments in India

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This report by Statista shows the rise in transactions on mobile phones in the past few years:

Transactions on mobile phones

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The parliament released a statement in July stating that the overall digital transactions in India increased by 51% to reach INR 3,133.58 Crore in 2018-2019.

According to a study by Assocham-PWC India, digital payments in India will increase from $64.8 billion to $135.2 billion in 2023, which is more than a 100% increase. The study stated that India is expected to clock ‘the fastest growth in digital payments’ between 2019 and 2023 with a CAG of over 20.2%. It also stated that on a worldwide transaction scale, India’s share in digital payments will increase from 1.56% to 2.02% between 2019 and 2023.

To further emphasize the move from cash to cashless transactions, a report by economic times India stated that debit and credit card transactions until September stood at 2.9 billion, mobile wallet transactions at 2.1 billion, and UPI at 1.5 billion.

The major contributors to this estimate will be the person to merchant (P2M) transactions driven by digital payments at the physical point of sale, followed by business to business (B2B) and peer to peer (P2P) transactions.

Digital wallets gained a major boost during the demonetization drive of 2016. Further, some key actions like – expansion of the digital payments infrastructure at merchant establishments, expansion into rural areas, relaxation in the PPI norms, incentivization of digital payments at fuel pumps, toll plazas, insurance portals, etc. and launch of the Bharat QR codes, have helped further in the adoption of technology.

The fastest-growing segment of digital payments is Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPIs), which has grown at a CAGR of 97% in the same period that now accounts for 10% of the total digital payments volume.

Mobile-wallet is the largest category within PPIs, but the segment also includes prepaid cards (including gift cards) as well as other paper vouchers.

Paytm leading the way to a cashless economy in India

Paytm is India’s largest mobile commerce platform. It started by offering mobile recharge and utility bill payments and today it offers a full marketplace to consumers on its mobile apps.

PayTM’s total annualized gross transaction value (GTV) grew four-fold to cross $20 billion in February 2018, as compared to 2017 and hit $50 billion GTV in FY19.

As of July 2019, PayTM has over 450 million registered customers with over 130 million of these as active users and over 12 million registered merchants. They are investing heavily to reach a target of 250 million monthly active users by March 2020.

Emerging markets to lead the way

Today’s consumers prefer faster and convenient solutions in all walks of life. As the world moves towards becoming cashless, initiatives taken by enterprises and governments to promote cashless societies, technological innovation, and financial inclusion will emerge as the key drivers of the significant growth rates of the non-cash transactions in the emerging markets.

While the proliferation of mobile payments and digital innovation are expected to be the levers of high growth across all the regions, differences in adoption patterns and development of new use cases are likely to shape the individual regional trends. Due to the entry of new players, the ability, new technologies, and the expansion of traditional payments infrastructures into the digital world will lead to the growth of the digital payments industry in the upcoming years.

According to Statista,

  • In India alone, the total transaction value of digital payments in 2019 amounts to US$64,787 million.
  • This total transaction value of digital payments is projected to increase with a CAGR of 20.1% between 2019-2023 resulting in a total value of US$134,588m by 2023.
  • Globally, China has the highest value of digital transactions at US$1,570,194m in 2019.

New technologies will lead to new use cases of digital wallets

When it comes to mature markets, a combination of NFC/contactless technology and mobile payments may lead to the development of new payment use cases. Countries such as Australia, Canada, and the U.K. are exhibiting this trend. Further, as new technologies like IoT and Blockchain are adopted by a greater volume of enterprises, the digital wallets industry will disrupt.

In the future, many more use cases of IoT and blockchain are expected. Firms such as mobile payment company Abraare are experimenting with blockchain technology to enable mobile P2P payments and cross-border payments. Blockchain also can be leveraged for digital cash by mobile wallet providers such as Coinprism and Xapo; the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently embraced blockchain as the basis of digital currency within the country. Further to incorporate IoT enabled payments banks will also create more digital touch points.

In the mobility segment, connected cars may turn into new POS for in-car services, including infotainment and real-time navigation.

OpenAPIs is another breakthrough technology disrupting the digital wallets industry. OpenAPIs provide secure and standardized interfaces across all stakeholders, enabling data to be gathered in one place by aggregators.

Regulators will create policies to enable the digital payments ecosystem

As the new technological innovation is transforming the payments landscape, regulators and central authorities across the globe are taking measures to make the digitization of payments easy. Regulators will work towards creating a level playing field for all stakeholders in addition to implementing consistent standards for cyber-security, data privacy, messaging formats, and interface standardization.

Some such key regulatory and industry initiatives are:

  • Regulators on the reduction of risk at banks have given traction to initiatives such as BaselIII’s Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR).
  • Cyber-security and data protection are witnessing a renewed focus, especially within the EU through the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Network and Information Security (NIS) directives.
  • The arrival of PSD2 in early 2018 is expected to meet regulators’ ambitions to create a level playing field for all stakeholders and promote competition by opening the payments market to new entrants in Europe.

The emergence of a collaborative ecosystem

Technological innovations will drive the digital payments industry to evolve and adopt a collaborative ecosystem. As Fintech players and other Third Party Payment (TPP) enterprises give way to better and faster payments interface, banks are opening up their platform to these enterprises. Some of the players like PayU have already acquired Citrus Pay to become a larger group. This consolidation was aimed to expand into more offerings around banking and other services.

Further, new entrants into the payments space, are increasing competition and forcing payments services vendors to consolidate to capitalize on economies of scale. Some examples of such collaborations would be Fiserv acquiring Monitise and PCLender to provide a broader range of customer offerings, and banking players Misys and FIS integrating operations.

In the coming years, the industry will see more such consolidations and Payment vendors with advanced digital capabilities could become acquisition targets as incumbents look to scale up operations to make the most of the expanding digital payments market.

Benefits of consolidation for payments vendors

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Stringent data privacy laws will be established:

In recent times, data breach cases and cyber-attacks like WannaCry Ransomware have created the need for more stringent data privacy and security laws.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) and New York Department of Financial Services’ regulation on cyber-security are already in place, and more regulations from different central authorities are expected with steep penalties for non-compliance. Further, the U.K. announced a data-protection bill24, which gives more control to consumers on their data. China’s new cyber-security law includes liabilities such as suspension of business activities and fines up to 1 million RMB for violation.

The growth of the cyber-security industry is also a sign of increased emphasis on cyber-security. According to a Forbes report, The overall spending on cyber-security services and products increased over $114 billion in 2018, a rise of 12.4% as compared to 2017. The report further states that the cyber-security investment will continue to grow by 8,7% to $124 billion.

The digital wallets and mobile payments industry will expand in the coming years owing to the infrastructure becoming more robust, enablers like NFC, POS acceptance devices and online integrated mobile payments.

However, security, ease of transactions and enabling multiple transactions on a single platform will be of key importance in gaining more users. The digital payments ecosystem is on a growth curve, and a collaborative ecosystem with financial services, Third Party payment vendors and Fintech enterprises will emerge in the years to come.

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