Sunday, 15 October 2017

Digital in the Age of Customer !!

Today’s customers are like a King. They are in the driver’s seat, with the power of the internet and social media tools creating tons of information. With the strong influence of smartphones, all the information is at their fingertips.

We are living in interesting times of Industry 4.0. Consumers are now on the cusp of a hyper-personalized era with fundamental changes in terms of choice, consumption, ownership and overall experience of products and services.

This is called “Age of the Customer”.

Digital technologies and customer focus are going hand-in-hand.  New channels, new devices, new service providers have changed our lives.

Look around and you’ll see that digital transformation is so omnipresent that it has touched nearly every industry.

Gone are the days of the 90s, when we used to rewind tapes before returning them to Blockbuster, as they have been replaced by Netflix, iPod, Spotify and their online streaming platform.

As Steve Jobs once said – You have got to start with Customer experience and work backward to the technology. He created a product like iPhone that evoked the needs & wants of the target market. Blackberry was the leader then with QWERTY keyboard. Nobody knew we will need a touchscreen phone until he made us realize what we are deprived of.

Every business began before the Internet, now faces the same challenge, how to transform to compete in a digital economy?

Creating customer value and building long-term relationships are even more challenging in a digital world as customers are well-informed, expect more, trust their friends, have millions of choices and more important have a voice which can be heard by mass.

Your understanding of your customers' context will make, or break, your ability to succeed at a customer's moment of need. Thankfully, your customers now create and leave behind digital footprints through their activity across all their touchpoints, such as websites, mobile apps, store visits, and phone calls.

All the successful digital firms like Nestle, Starbucks, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and Walgreens use this data to respond, based on context and develop deeper insights about their customers by applying analytics.

Here are top 4 ways to businesses are improving the customer experience:

1.  Hyper-personalization – make them feel unique, focus on each individual journey
2.  Seize the moment of truth – act in real time to impact each and every interaction with customer
3.  Empower employees – get your employees in the game so they can go extra mile to drive customer behavior
4.  Continuous improvement – get all the departments to pass the customer information while interacting with customer

Amazon, Nike, Zappos, Apple, Starbucks and Walt Disney are the top brands, based on the customer experience they are providing in this age of the customer.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

How Robotic Process Automation helping Digital Age

Digital has brought in so many technological advances to this age and one of them is Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

A simple definition of RPA is, automation of business processes across the enterprise using software robots. Any repetitive task which requires some decision making is an ideal candidate for RPA. Automation has become an integral part of Digital Transformation. Implementing these software robots to perform routine business processes and eliminate inefficiencies is the key for business leaders.

Today’s organizations often need to execute millions of repetitive and time-intensive business processes each day. Using RPA they can automate administrative functions such as customer address changes, registrations and other high-volume tasks and transactions. This helps avoids human errors & also allows employees to spend more time & focus on customer-related functions for better customer experience.

RPA is well suited for processes that are clearly defined, repeatable and rules-based. Any company that uses workforce on a large scale for general knowledge process work, where people are performing high-volume, high transactional process functions, will boost their capabilities and save money and time with RPA software.

Process automation can expedite back-office tasks in finance, procurement, supply chain management, accounting, customer service and human resources, including data entry, purchase order issuing, a creation of online access credentials.

By adding the cognitive computing power of Natural language processing, speech recognition, and machine learning, businesses can achieve high-end tasks which require human interventions.

Automation of front-end operations typically involves chatbots or conversational agents. RPA can provide answers to employees or customers in natural language rather than in software code. This can help to conserve resources for large call centers and for customer interaction centers.

As RPA brings more technologically-advanced solutions to businesses around the world, they bring a multitude of benefits as below.

·       Increased Speed: routine tasks are carried out swiftly by RPA without any intervention, thereby faster time to resolution
·       Reduced labor costs due to software robots than humans
·       Enhanced employee experience: since repetitive tasks as taken care by RPA, employees can spend quality time for strategic work and enjoy their work life
·       Higher quality: better consistency & accuracy due to minimized variations and better customer service
·       Enhanced insights: by automating the data collected and applying Big Data analytics for improved efficiency
·       Scalability: robotic workforce can be scaled to any level required

BPO industry is the most benefited sector due to RPA. Insurance, Banking industries use RPA for KYC, claims processing, policy admin, statement reconciliation, credit card application processing etc.

Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, UiPath & Verint are some of the few top vendors in the market today.


Be ready for RPA storm coming in near future with the addition of artificial intelligence capabilities. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Digital Transformation in Restaurants and Food industry

Digital disruption is omnipresent, get on board or get thrown off the track.

Digital is no longer a purview of only Banking, Insurance, Healthcare or Retail. The Restaurant industry is having pressure from multiple directions. 

Today’s consumer expects fresh food, whether it is in season or not, with an exotic dining experience.

Successful restaurants recognize that the easy path to their customers' stomachs begins in their minds. They need to grab customer's attention and entice them with a memorable experience in order to trigger repeat visits.

Here are some of the applications of Digital disruption in the restaurants & food service industry:
·       Digital Signage to deliver eye-catching graphics to engage customers the moment they walk through the door
·       Online reservations using mobile app & flexibility of customization of menu as per customer taste
·       Chatbots: Restaurants are using virtual assistants to respond to customer inquiries and to process and customize customer orders. Taco Bell, Pizza hut have adopted chatbots to automate ordering process from a social media platform.
·       Robots – Restaurants are using AI-driven robots to increase capacity and speed of food preparation and delivery.
·       Recommendation engines – Developers are designing applications which use AI to help consumers choose meals & suggest foods based on their eating preferences.
·       Wi-Fi enabled dining spaces for truly engaging customer experience
·       Kiosks – Restaurants are integrating AI-driven self-service Kiosks to reduce customer waiting time and enhance the customer ordering experience.
·       Pay by phone and flexible paying options
·       Loyalty programs based on frequent visit
·       Digital supply chains to accurate demand forecasting, inventory optimization, and cost reduction.

Restaurants generate vast quantities of data through software that controls everything from scheduling food delivery and shift staffing to taking reservations to managing vendors and inventory to paying bills

Today almost every consumer is making dining decision on their smartphone.  They have tried new menu item based on the mobile ad.  Mobile payments have become the norm now in this industry. Customers would like to order quick meals via mobile and want to use mobile payments.

McDonald’s was the first store to accept Apple Pay.

Starbucks is a leader in digital transformation. Using more than 50mm Facebook fans & over 15mm Instagram followers at their disposal they mastered the social media engagement. First, they created an app to pay for coffee and food in their restaurants. Then they added the loyalty program, starting to craft hyper-personalized offers and experiences for their 24-hour connected customers. The company also developed new digital services to be enjoyed in their physical stores, achieving a highly praised omnichannel approach.

Pizza Hut has started an order and payment-enabled pepper robot. Customers can now have a personalized ordering, reduce wait time for carryout, and have a fun with the frictionless user experience.

TGI Fridays, Wendy’s and other big names have all adopted digital technology to lure their customers.

OpenTable, GrubHub, and Zomato are some of the latest apps showcasing nearby restaurants with high-quality pics, presenting a menu with exotic pictures, price, ratings etc. you can also get offers, deals instantly.

The digital technology available to restaurants has streamlined the lives of restaurant owners much like smartphones have bettered our daily lives.

Digital has entered the restaurants and food industry through the front door and brings many exciting trends.

As consumers expect Apple to come up with a new iPhone every year that makes the earlier model obsolete, similarly they want fresh ways of serving food with fantastic dining experience which is made possible by Digital disruption.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

How the Digital has changed the way we communicate

Digital Transformation has impacted every business on earth and all aspects of life today. 

Communication is the most impacted area of our life.

Way back in 1997, most of the communication was in printed form – we used to write down our contacts in a diary, read the latest news in newspapers which still exists, there were printed magazines, retailers like Argos, Radio Shack, Ikea had printed catalog of their products. We used to get that free on the doorstep and then used to cut few coupons to get discounts at the store.

Now fast forward to 2017, Today we live in “always on, always connected” world with communication from all directions.

Social Media has stormed into our world. The moment you get up in the morning, you see alerts of birthdays of your friends on Facebook, messages from Instagram or official email communication on your smartphone.

You start for your office and you get google map alert of drive time to the office. While in office you get a variety of communications from senior management on company vision to various policies from HR, to transport and other facility related stuff from Admin.

In the evening when you head back home, you get relevant personalized communications while you are driving thru city on offers, discounts, sales and the list goes on.

One of the most prominent aspects of change we have experienced this digital age is the increased number of ways we can now communicate with each other.

Employee communication plays an important role to change the culture for digital. When employees feel like they have a stake in the outcome, have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities they are more engaged and effective.

Similarly, customer experience is the biggest driver for digital communication. They seek relevant, personalized communication in real time.

There are so many examples of digital revolution in Communication:
·       Thinking mobile first for young generations
·       Creating chatbots for quick query resolution instead of calling the customer service and waiting on line
·       Creating social media strategy for customer connect
·       Giving customer service on any device, any place and anytime
·       Providing news and reminders on smartphones

Communication to customers, external media, and influencers as well as to employees is important in this digital age.

Communication has changed a lot since last few decades.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Digital Transformation in the Fashion Industry

Gone are the days when brand communication was mostly made up of ads that appeared on billboards, in magazines and/or on television. Today, all of this is augmented with Digital revolution.

The fashion industry is engaging with digital technology in new and different ways, in order to stay competitive and to engage with the ways that consumers are searching for jewelry, clothes, and accessories.

Technology is turning the fashion industry inside out. Today, consumers are most active as digital shoppers in the Fashion industry and are demanding a heartening digital experience across channels. People love the brick-and-mortar stores but also exploit online channels through social media, while on the go and online. These Omni-channel experiences should provide customers with a “wow” factor and Digital Transformation is the way to achieve this objective.

In today’s fashion world, competition is fiercer than ever, giving consumers’ far greater power & they demand only the very best customer service. Most of the fashion brands now have a social media presence on Pinterest, Instagram presence, tapping into our heightened engagement with imagery.

It can take many years to build a successful brand, but only a short time to destroy it. Fashion brands have always needed to be ready and able to respond to issues of uncertainty, risk, and reputation, all at varying times.

Burberry is the posterchild in digital for fashion that started with live streaming runshows. Then came iPads and mobile apps for consumers to try out different outfits.

In Paris, a window front invites passers-by to download the Louis Vuitton Pass app in order to interact with the window and explore.

L’OrĂ©al has put up a 'social wall' on its main website so consumers can share posts while shopping.

Harrods is the latest luxury retailer to transform its in-store experience with digital technology. They have many new super-high resolution stairwell displays at the flagship Knightsbridge, London store

Adidas has a store wall which shows shoe collections in 3D to see shoe designs from all angles.

With this availability of streaming big data and resultant analytics, fashion brands use the insights for hyper-personalization, align consumer experience and to track customer trends. The customer’s data is the core component of digital transformation in the fashion industry. So, hyper-personalization of mobile retail experiences will be huge in the near future.

Today, dressing rooms enhanced with augmented reality and social media features have transformed the shopping experience altogether. L’Oreal, Maybelline have already started testing special kiosks that enable shoppers to virtually try on makeup by simply taking a picture.

Even the most successful digital retail experiences are built from desktop experiences but the future is in mobile with a predicted 80% of sales traffic coming via this medium.

With digital at a side, fashion weeks across London, Paris, Milan & New York witness runway shows streamed online, Instagram & snapchat stories in real time, creating a close connection between consumers and brands. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

How machine learning APIs are impacting businesses?

In this Digital age, every organization is trying to apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to their internal and external data to get actionable insights which will help them to be closer to today’s customer.

A few years back it was the field only for data scientists and statisticians, who used to analyze the data, apply several techniques and provide results.

Today many of the organizations are using APIs to access the ready-made algorithms available in the market as they make it easy to develop predictive applications. In fact, you don’t even need to have an in-depth knowledge of coding or computer science to introduce them into your apps.

APIs provide the abstraction layers for developers to integrate machine learning into real-world applications without worrying about which technique to use or how to scale the algorithm to their infrastructure.

These APIs can be categorized broadly into 5 groups:
·        Image and Face Recognition: It understands the content of the image, classifies the image into various categories, detects individual objects and faces, detects labels and logos from the images.
·        Language Translation: Translate text between thousands of languages, allows you to identify in which language any text that you need to analyze was written. Some APIs allows organizations to communicate with the customer in their language.
·        Speech Recognition and Conversion: Today most of the customer service is handled by Chatbots with underlying APIs helping simple question and answer. Speech to text APIs are used to convert call center voice calls into text for further analysis.
·        Text /Sentiment Analytics using NLP: With the rise of Social Media, consumers easily express and share their opinions about companies, products, services, events etc. Companies are interested in monitoring what people say about their brands in order to get feedback or enhance their marketing efforts. These APIs can identify, analyze, and extract the main content and sections from any web page. They further help in to analyze unstructured text for sentiment analysis, key phrase extraction, language detection and topic detection. There are some tools also helps in spam detection.
·        Prediction: These APIs, as the name suggests helps to predict and find out patterns in the data. Typical examples are Fraud detection, customer churn, predictive maintenance, recommender systems and forecasting etc.

Google Cloud, Microsoft Cognitive Services, Amazon Machine Learning APIs & IBM Watson APIs are the leaders in the market.

With growing number of free/reasonably priced APIs and tsunami of data generated every day, the race is on as to which is the best Machine Learning API.

These machine learning APIs are not yet perfect or matured and they will take some time to learn and act accurately. But they allow faster time to market-based on ready availability, rather than asking data scientist to code the algorithms.

In future, machine learning will lead to revolutions that will intensify human capabilities, assist people in making good choices and help navigate through the world in powerful ways, like Iron Man's Jarvis.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

How do you measure the success of Digital Transformation?

Digitization is disrupting every business and is spreading like a wildfire across every sector such as Banking, Financial Services, Insurance, Retail, and Manufacturing.

Digital Transformation does not happen overnight. It is a continuous process. That is why it is very hard to plan too far ahead in a digital transformation program. The technology is evolving so rapidly that your plans will certainly change.

How do you measure return on digital transformation in order to make the timely course correction and improve its success rate? It is even more important that people who will measure the progress know the actual meaning of digital and customer behavior. You will be surprised to know that how many employees/leaders take the customer journey themselves – buying an online policy on their own website, purchasing a merchandise or calling their own customer center to complain.

One of the ways is to break the long-term plan into small doable projects with specific KPI’s. These should not last more than six months.

While traditional metrics of revenue, costs, customer satisfaction should be measured, companies should move beyond these quarterly revenue and margin guidance as they keep pulling them back to short-term tactical focus. The new metrics have to be added to get the right control and visibility of progress.

Some of the new metrics which can be considered are:
·       % of marketing spend that is digital
·       Brand value in market
·       Reach of organization in the market
·       Digital maturity quotient of the employees including board and senior leaders 
·       % revenue through digital channels
·       Contribution to digital initiatives from each department like purchasing, finance, HR, IT, Sales & Marketing

Customer Focus:
·       Net promoter score
·       Rate of new customer acquisition
·       Number of customer touch points addressed to improve customer experience positively
·       % increase in customer engagement in digital channels
·       Reduction in time to market new products to customers
·       Change in customer behavior over time across channels

Return on innovation:

·       % of revenue from new products/services introduced
·       % of the profit from new ideas implemented
·       Number of innovative ideas reach concept to implementation
·       Number of new products or services launched in the market
·       Number of new business models adopted for different class of customers
·       Rate of new apps and APIs to offer new products/services inside and outside the company

Always keep these metrics simple and measure right things and celebrate even the small successes so employees are motivated.

A digital transformation is a big culture change so there is plenty of fear which leads to resistance. Such inertia has to be changed with clear communication, as to why it is needed to change and what benefits it will bring to each department and employee.


A lack of urgency is the greatest obstacle businesses face when considering the value of digital transformation. Proper planning is important but more than that execution as per the KPIs you select, is what take you through.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Machine Learning - The brain of Digital Transformation

We are all familiar with machine learning in our everyday lives. Both Amazon and Netflix use machine learning to learn our preferences and provide a better shopping and movie experience.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has stormed the world today. It is an umbrella term that includes multiple technologies, such as machine learning, deep learning, and computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), machine reasoning, and strong AI.

Organizations are using machine learning for various insights they want to know about consumers, products, vendors and take actions which will help grow the business, increase the consumer satisfaction or decrease the costs.

Here are some top use cases for machine learning:

·     Predicting & preventing cyber-attacks: With WannaCry making havoc in many organizations, machine learning algorithms have become extremely important to look for patterns in how the data is accessed, and report anomalies that could predict security breaches.
·     Algorithmic Trading: Today many of financial trading decisions are made using algorithmic trading at higher speed, to make huge profits.
·     Fraud Detection: This is still one of the key issues in all the financial transactions. With the help of deep learning/artificial intelligence, the identification and prediction of frauds have become more accurate.
·     Recommendation Engines: In this digital age, every business is trying hyper-personalization using recommendation engines to give you a right offer at right time.
·     Predictive Maintenance: With embedded sensors as the Internet of Things, many of the heavy industrial machinery manufacturers are applying machine learning to predict the failures in advance, to avoid the costly downtime and improve efficiency.
·     Text Classification: Machine Learning with NLP is used to detect spam, define the topic of a news article or document categorization.
·     Predict patient’s readmission rates: By taking into consideration patient’s history, length of stay in hospitals, lab results, doctor’s notes, hospitals now can predict readmission to avoid penalties and improve patient care.
·     Imaging Analytics: Machine learning can supplement the skills of doctors by identifying subtle changes in imaging scans more quickly, which can lead to earlier and more accurate diagnoses.
·     Sentiment Analysis: Today, it is important to know consumer emotions while they are interacting with your business and use that for improving customer satisfaction. Nestle, Toyota is spending huge money and efforts on keeping their customer’s happy.
·     Detecting drug reactions: With Association analysis on healthcare data like-the drugs taken by patients, history & vitals of each patient, good or bad drug effects etc; drug manufacturers identify the combination of patient characteristics and medications that lead to adverse side effects of the drugs.
·     Credit Scoring & Risk Analytics: Using machine learning to score the creditworthiness of cardholders, defaulters, and risk analytics.
·     Recruitment for Clinical Trials: Patients are identified to enroll into clinical trials based on history, drug effects

With today’s advanced cognitive computing capabilities, image/speech recognition, language translation using NLP has become a reality which is used in very innovative use cases.

Machine learning is nothing new to us but today it has become the brain of digital transformation. In future, machine learning will be like air and water as an essential part of our lives.

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