4 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Penetrate in Retail

BÜLENT DAL | CEO

The use of AI technologies in the new generation enterprise and customer solutions seems inevitable. According to a research conducted by Gartner in 2016, AI was not among the top 100 technology areas to be invested. However, in 2017,  organizations and IT Managers made room on their agenda and AI ranked as the 7th technology investment priority. According to another recent Gartner study, AI will be built in most of the products that will be marketed by 2020. One of the top 5 areas where 30% of companies will invest will be AI-based solutions. Artificial Intelligence will also be a secret sauce, retailers will use as a game-changer, to support growth, to give customers a differentiated experience and to make a significant contribution to competitive advantage*.

AI will penetrate the processes with 4 main approaches;

  1. Minimize customer’s effort in shopping. From Augmented Reality to the rise of ChatBot, many of the emerging user experiences have a common point, accessibility and serviceability; anywhere, anytime. Today, we have come to the point where we can order coffee with a mobile assistant or ask a Facebook Messenger bot when we need an umbrella. The experimental store concept, which Amazon has just launched is a good example of effortless buying, empowered by AI.
  2. AI injected into the workforce. AI reaches every corner of the store’s back office processes and in-house operations, enhancing its effectiveness. Artificial Intelligence seems to help employees work faster, add value and be more accurate rather than stealing their jobs. The trainings will be delivered by AI, continuously and interactively. AR will help to service the customers with the products not present in the store or those not even produced yet. For example, Nike recently developed a store concept in NYC, called “Nike By You Studio” that allows the customers to design their shoes – with the help of a designer associate- and having them on their feet just after 90 minutes**. With this customer experience process characterized as “Nike Maker Experience”, the system uses AR,  object tracking and projection systems to show the selected design on the shoe.
  3. To take advantage of the opportunities provided by the platform economy. Business models like Ebay, have been working for decades on platform economy. Today’s platforms, integrated systems and IoT transmits the consumer’s requests directly to the manufacturer in real-time. Smart home “hubs” are offered over platforms like Samsung, Google, Apple and Amazon. For example, by pressing a button (Amazon), a user can place an order for a laundry detergent or diapers. If you like the song you listen to on your smart speaker, you can ask Microsoft Cortana to buy it for you.
  4. Focus on customer needs and redesign to facilitate the shopping process. Customer-related processes can be made more efficient and effective with modern engineering and design. Design-oriented engineering, also called “DesignOps”, works on processes that cause difficulties in customer interaction; such as problems getting product support or trying to find what they are looking for. Speech interfaces (chatbots), process automation, and AR can provide ways to deliver a better customer experience.

While we are already making room for AI in our lives, we have to be careful not to make the cure worse than the disease. Unexpected discomforts may come up by the use of AI or robots, in customer interaction or collection of personal data. It is critical to timely detect such inconveniences and to take quick actions, not to jeopardize the customer happiness.

Every new ‘digitalization’ and ‘intelligent automation evolution’ step will influence our lives significantly.  For this reason, businesses should be careful to act within the ethical framework while innovating and make sure they perform cross-tests to predict the effects of the new processes.

Sources:
(*) Why retailers need to prepare for an AI- first world, today – and how they can. Avanade’s Tech Vision Report, 2017

(**) Nike’s new tech creates custom sneakers in under 2 hours, Stephanie Pandolph, Business Insider, September 2017.

 

A New Approach to Customer Engagement

BANU DAL | COO

Competition has always been a challenge, getting tougher every day. No secret that a business outstrips the rivals, only when the customers are satisfied and engaged. As Peter Drucker put beautifully; “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.”

To claim customer engagement, there should be customers, coming back over and over again, to purchase the products or services. It is critical to know the customer and predict the behavior, to take any possible action. We have been told that CRM is the approach and Loyalty Program is the tool, but that was some decades ago.

I witness that this perception didn’t give any ground since I still hear retail professionals say  “loyalty card is the way to collect the data and to know the customer”.

Oddly enough, the transaction logs conceal, so much more than the customers declare themselves, on a predesigned form.

I believe the reason behind the retailers’ assumption is, being stuck – for years – between RFM Segmentation with no reasonable action, campaigns sent out with bulk messaging and failure to personalize.

As technology advances and the processing power is more affordable,  we – technology providers – can easily incorporate mathematical models in our software and deliver you high-performance solutions. It is not a myth anymore; You can know your customer, better than him or her. With “Data-driven Behavioral Segmentation”, it is possible to develop a new approach to enhance customer engagement.

I would like to take this occasion to update you on what we have been working on lately, regarding this new approach.

  1. With no doubt, the online and offline channels should be integrated. The transactions made in the physical store and the online purchases should be aggregated on a customer record. Although there is progress compared to the early days of multi-channel, the pain point I get to hear the most is that the retailers cannot trace the customer who is ‘identified with an email address while shopping online’ and is ‘recognized with the phone number in the store’. In pursuit of the omnichannel, the retailers are having a hard time deduplicating the channel customers. Applying the Detailer Deduplication model, we helped retailers overcome this hurdle.
  2. We depict the ideal customer and the behavior set, extract all the alike-unlike sets and customers from an ocean of data. Certainly, this is a tough job, however using the Big Data approach, we are able to analyze with high performance and accuracy.
  3. Without the hassle of inputting the variables regarding the sales dynamics, marketing strategies, we work on the T-Logs to deliver the correlations. We incorporate data mining methods to extract the rule sets. We shed light on the probability of selling Y to customers who bought X, the lift factor of X to the sale of product Z.
  4. Predefined segment structures that encapsulate the customers in “not so accurate” groups are no longer needed. The new approach is to segment the clientele solely on behavior; monetary scale, the composition of the basket/categories or the timing of the purchase – weekday, weekend, morning, between 14:00-15:00.

Let me wrap it up!

Don’t lose time with the data collected at the first encounter, declared by the customer, filled in the boxes of a form designed by the retailer, which is no longer up-to-date. Take time to evaluate the Big Data & Data Mining solutions and bother only to collect the email and phone number from the customers, for communication & easier deduplication purposes. Your data has millions of stories to tell.

If this is on your agenda, let’s have a chat!

Listen to your data, make intelligent decisions.

7 Retail Customer Expectations Cognitive Computing Will Resolve in the Future

BÜLENT DAL | CEO

In a previous post- Cognitive computing and Customer Experience in Retail – I defined Cognitive computing as ‘the simulation of human intelligence & the thinking process;  thinking, reasoning, learning &  taking-action executed by the computer systems. In other words, it is an approach to perform the five human senses through information systems.’ We have been witnessing the critical changes in data-driven decision making and analytics systems & approaches, in the past years while creating solutions and initiating projects.

Let’s have a quick tour and understand how did we end up here?

In very early days, we started developing solutions for our customers to find the answer to their question “What Happened?”. After understanding this, the obvious question was “Why did it happen?” and we created solutions enabling interactive analysis, to find the answers. Any decent professional who knew the answers by then, started asking “What may happen?”, encouraging us to deliver our predictive solutions. Who can stop anyone to ask “What action should I take?” when they learn what is likely to happen in the future? Today the question evolved to the final – for now –  form. “What is the next best action?” and we are adopting cognitive computing approach, to deliver the answer.

According to the Louis Columbus research published in Forbes in March 2017, 70% of retailers are expected to run cognitive computing systems by 2021. Minimizing out of stocks with real-time inventory tracking and operation monitoring, providing better and more personalized services to the customers, will be embraced as ways of creating value.

With the solutions we offer, the retail industry has come to the point of making the right decisions automatically, with the real-time, operational and customer experience data they have in hand. The efforts to deliver a more personalized and high-quality service to the consumer, with less time spent on the consumer’s side, did not only increase the operational efficiency but improved the customer experience, as well.

We are now at the point where the consumers will start judging the industry norms, with simple but impressive styles.

A study published by Synchrony Financial in March 2017 reveals predictions about the future customer expectations. According to these predictions, we will soon meet the DIY consumer.

  1. Customers have already begun to gather more information from content providers such as, search engines and social media before they even come to the store. Some are more informed on a specific product than the sales associates, as they enter the store. In the future, the consumer will get the information via sensors on the products, pay with fingerprints or smartphones, without accessing any POS or waiting in the queue. The associate will be in the store as the expert, to be consulted.
  2. Fitting rooms with interactive mirrors will be the medium to call a different size, to put an order or even to pay.
  3. No need to wait for the store to open. There will be 24/7 sales. Even if the store is closed, orders will be placed at the storefront, delivery will be done by robots.
  4. Physical stores will be preferred for experiencing the product, entertainment, learning and getting help. For example, a 3D face modeling application, that perceives the face shape of a person will suggest a personalized model of eye-glasses. After the selection of one of the choices, 3D printers will be printing the final product, while the customer is in the store,
  5. Entertaining, having a good time, listening to a mini-concert or having a cup of coffee while shopping, attending a course to make artisan chocolate or an original leather belt in the store, reserving a fitting room; These are likely to be witnessed in the close future of retail.
  6. Customers will start asking “Why am I going to the store? Stores should come to me!”. With voice-driven systems, customers will expect the product or service to wherever they are, at home, in the car, etc, just by calling their name.
  7. Most important of all, the customers will be more time-conscious. They will expect to have what they want, right away. Customers will not settle for any delivery or return pickup that exceeds an hour.

As the expectation of the customer’s experience grows, we will look for an answer to the new question “How can we meet this expectation in  a better way?” Apparently; brands adopting systems based on cognitive computing will be differentiated in every field and will be leading the competition ahead.

4 Effects of Blockchain on the Retail Industry

BÜLENT DAL | CEO

Thanks to Bitcoin,  we have been talking about transferring money and shopping in different points of the world with no  central authority, almost for 8 years by now. Behind Bitcoin, there is a digital currency that comes into life through a reliable, cryptographic protocol –  blockchain  technology.

With Blockchain, digital data is not stored in centralized systems, but is kept in the form of linked records on multiple distributed systems. In a structure that can be described as a ‘digital registry’ held on millions of computers, transactions are stored in an encrypted form. The way to  exploit such a system,  is not  to hack a central – or any – computer. This doesn’t work. Since the chains are distributed to millions of computers, it is hopeless to change any record on all of them and abuse the system. In addition to being reliable, Blockchain also eliminates the financial middlemen. With Blockchain, access is granted only to users that are allowed to see the entities. All operations related to the digital registry can be done with absolute reciprocal confirmation on this reliable network where the information source is clear and transparent. In classical digital systems,  the transaction is conserved by a central authority while the parties receive a copy, whereas the distributed system grants direct access to the parties. Goods, services, payments, asset purchases can be done faster and with lower transaction costs.

All of this shows that the  Blockchain technology and Bitcoin that entered our lives with the finance sector but will seriously affect other spaces as well, especially retail;

  1. Source of product / authenticity: The main effect of the blockchain will be to provide consumers with more reliable and accurate information about the products they buy and the information they are sensitive to, such as the source, purity and content.  Consumers prefer retail chains that they can trust, when they have problems detecting the authentic and the fake.A recent survey shows that 40% of consumers who are  aged under 49 believe that products sold with organic qualification do not reflect reality and this is just a marketing tactic. The data provided with the blockchain can provide information down to the seed level  or the animal’s DNA.
  2. More reliable digital transactions and operations: Nowadays, payment transactions between consumers and business partners are executed via third parties, incurring speed and commission costs. Blockchain-based payments and transactions need no third party. Faster and abuse-free transactions will increase the efficiency of collaborative work and costs will be reduced. In particular, invoice matching, goods receipt and quality control processes will be improving. Organizations can shift their EDI (electronic data interchange) processes – where orders, invoices and delivery processes are registered – to blockchain.
  3. Supply chain traceability: In complex supply chains, product tracing and stock control become challenging and managing it needs enormous effort. As we all know, in the supply chains where product traceability is difficult, the bullwhip effect leads to the overstock. In addition to monitoring products with Blockchain, supply chain can be dynamically monitored and the conditions agreed upon on the smart contracts can be audited, enabling the work and payment orders to be dynamically  generated. Unsafe food  production and inappropriate distribution may be prevented at the source. As a result, product reliability, instant service quality control will be ensured and exploitation will be avoided.
  4. Network loyalty programs: While many companies try to broaden their loyalty programs beyond one brand, the loyalty apps running on multi-brands and multi-organizations are very popular by now. Blockchain can contribute with the real-time tracking, allowing points to be processed faster, cheaper and more reliably both for the brands and the customers of these loyalty programs. Customers can receive hyper-personalized suggestions and even have the ability to customize them, e.g. enabling the customer to exchange points with other users, enhancing customer loyalty and avoiding customer churn.

Cognitive Computing and Customer Experience

BÜLENT DAL | CEO

I have been writing on cognitive computing for a while. However, the effect of cognitive computing on customer experience and phygitalisation, increased my apetite to focus for this post.

Cognitive computing can be defined as the simulation of human intelligence & the thinking process;  thinking, reasoning, learning &  taking-action  executed by the computer systems. In other words, it is an approach to perform the five human senses through information systems.

Data-driven artificial intelligence is well utilized on either cloud or local infrastructures. In everyday life, we run into the cognitive computing functionalities, more than ever,  as natural language processing, voice & toning analysis, visual recognition, weather & location detection, bots and conversational commerce.

A recent Forrester research shows that;

– 45% of the online customers choose not to buy if they can not find quick anwsers to their questions.
– 50% of the potential sales are lost if customers can not find what they are looking for or can not get specialized services.

– 29% of online customers prefer to use the live customer service while shopping.

In fact, these outputs reveal some of the reasons behind the consumer visiting the nearest store in this age of digitalization; a direct and candid interaction with the store associate and getting personalized recommendations, prices & offers.

This brings us to the debate on the importance of monitoring the customer expectations momentarily in both worlds; online and digitalized physical stores.

In the past days, it was sufficient for the leading retailers to collect and make sense of  the behavioral and demographic data to provide differentiated customer experience. Today, the retailers find themselves in a business where they have to instantly capture all the data about consumer’s questions and remarks, to interpret them from an emotional perspective and to take action accordingly.

Good news is that, there is a way to transform this pain into a business solution; enabling such a relation between the retailer and the consumer.

The volume of the retail data doubled in the past year and the years ahead are promising a steeper growth in shorther timeframes. This huge data mass will be processed by cognitive computing on cloud or local hybrid computer systems, to deliver solutions to – continously and sustainably –  test the pulse of the consumer.

5 Reasons You Should Use Detailer CEO Dashboard

Dilruba Çelikkol |  Detailer Product Manager

To fulfill the need of  prompt decision making of our time with accurate information, CEO and the CxOs need a platform where they can see the state of the enterprise. This platform should carry all the KPIs needed to run the company, with a periodical and comparative monitoring. No need to mention that it should be accessible anywhere, anytime with highest security possible. Our resolutions to the above statements for the retail industry shaped the blueprints of Detailer CEO Dashboard. Detailer is a business analytics platform, transforms the data into reliable information and information is transformed into predictions, providing foundation for both real-time tactical and long-term strategic decisions of the retail managers.

And here I want to share  the 5 reasons you should use Detailer CEO Dashboard?

  1. It is mobile. You can reach any information and monitor your company 24/7, from every internet accessing corner in the world.
  2. All the information you need on one board. You do not get lost, in and out of the reports, chasing the related charts and losing track of what you were looking for in the first place.
  3. Has a straightforward interface, talking the retail language, which makes Detailer CEO Dashboard easy to use, comprehend and take action.
  4. The platform has all the KPIs, nothing more, nothing less.  All the metrics to manage a retail company is boxed in Detailer. The data you need is available in both summarized and detailed forms. You can always drill to see the details in a chart.
  5. The colors are talking. You just have to listen to them. If your dashboard is green as a golf course, your company is doing great. Beware if it starts to look like a Christmas tree with other eye-catching colors on it.

You, as decision makers are seasoned professionals with  profound business skills. However you need to listen to the stories your data are telling you, with the single version of truth, to keep the whole company aligned. You can do these effortlessly, in a heartbeat.

Microstrategy Amsterdam Symposium

BERRAK ÇELİK |   GLOBAL busıness development dırector at obase

 

5th of July, 2017 was a super nice day in Amsterdam. My long-time colleague Onursal Esin and I attended  the Microstrategy Symposium.

It was a priviledge to listen to Michael Saylor  – inspiring as always. Ben de Jong from ABN Amro was the Customer Keynote speaker and he named his session beautifully; “Information is beautiful”.

We hosted a customer session where Turkish Airlines Big Data & BI Manager Mr. Ibrahim Oral Emül talked about “Cost Savings and Technology Enablement in the Airline Industry”.

 

He revealed how they used Microstrategy to empower the enterprise. He gave insights and took time to candidly answer the questions of the audience.

I think we could go like that for hours, but for the sake of a lunch in time, I took the stage and  introduced the Passenger Load Factor Optimization system, we developed for the airlines industry. (I will be sharing information on our PLF Optimization solution in a future post.)

We hosted a customer session where Turkish Airlines Big Data & BI Manager Mr. Ibrahim Oral Emül talked about “Cost Savings and Technology Enablement in the Airline Industry”.

We got really positive feedbacks after the session, filled us with motivation and energy.

We were honored to join the Executive Lunch hosted by Michael Saylor with the distinguished guests and Microstrategy Executives. Insightful conversation about the industry, the future and feedback from the seasoned experts were accompanied by delicious Dutch food.

Looking forward to be back, hoping to enjoy most out of the  business and more of the food.

Berrak Çelik | Global Business Development Director at Obase

 

Obase @ TheBase

I know I am late to write the post, but yes. Obase was at The Base : ). We were welcomed by the Microstrategy  Netherlands and Nordics team.

Actually the story goes back a month when Account Executive Sharon Waizman reached us through Robert Prochowicz – Microstrategy Senior Presales Consultant we have been working for years.  Sharon kindly invited us to share our experience and speak at the Microstrategy Symposium. We agreed to make it an airline industry session. Mr. Ibrahim Oral Emul – Big Data & BI Manager at Turkish Airlines reacted generously to our invitation to make it a Turkish Airline session.

 

So began our devotion to Netherlands and the Nordics. While in Amsterdam, we thought of joining the Microstrategy team and introducing them our Business Analytics products developed on Microstrategy, for the verticals; Telco and Retail. Sharon invited us to The Base building close to the Schiphol Airport.

We had a fruitful session with the team lead by Kathrin Schneider, MicroStrategy Netherlands and Nordics Sales Director. We introduced our products Detailer – Retail Analytics and Corpwatch – Data driven management app for the Telco C-Level. (I will be revealing more in other posts) We all were extremely excited to see a potential of collaboration emerging as we talked.  Vertical solutions, for the C-level use that are ready to implement are really what we need in the analytics market today (this will also be the topic for another post) and I was proud to see that we are on the rightest track. We will certainly be chasing opportunities where we can deliver value for the companies in Europe, hopefully kicking off in Netherlands.

Berrak Çelik | Global Business Development Director at Obase