The Biggest AI Opportunity for SMBs: Chatbots

NURAY GOKMEN KAHVECI | DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER

AI(Artificial intelligence) will have the biggest impact on society, individual consumers, and businesses in the next several years. The reason AI will be so impactful is that it promises one thing we just can’t get enough of these days: convenience.

As a small business or startup, it is unlikely that you will invest on an expert to “do AI”. It is more likely to notive AI capabilities show up in the software you are using. Existing AI technology for businesses is already remarkable, but it’s not realistic for any business to invest in all of these AI tools at once. Here is the biggest AI opportunity for your SMB business: Chatbots.

Artificial intelligence has transformed chatbots more human like than ever before, and they are becoming extensive. AI talking chatbots are taking food orders, reserving rooms, and scheduling flights. Without training, these chatbots can apply the pattern to similar problems or different questions. This ability gives them the “intelligence” to perform tasks, solve problems, and manage information without human intervention.

You can maximize the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots to improve service, save money, and increase engagement. Chatbots are rapidly moving out of the personal and into the business world and fall under the “Support” sections. According to the Facebook Messaging Survey conducted by Nielsen, 67% of people say they will message with businesses more over the next two years, and 53% say they are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via chat. To manage this massive interest in communicating with businesses via messaging apps, business will need chatbots.

80% of business decision-maker respondents to a 2016 survey by Oracle said they already used chatbots or plan to use them by 2020. Chatbots offer unique benefits for small businesses. It is a waste of money for small businesses to pay operators to answer calls or emails whenever they come in. AI-powered chatbots provide assistance to customers whenever they need it and immediately answer questions from potential customers, offering small businesses a way to simultaneously improve customer experiences and generate new business. They will enable businesses of any size to have scalable, convenient, 1-to-1 conversations whenever and wherever the customer prefers.

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The Biggest AI Opportunity for SMBs: Chatbots

NURAY GOKMEN KAHVECI | DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER

AI(Artificial intelligence) will have the biggest impact on society, individual consumers, and businesses in the next several years. The reason AI will be so impactful is that it promises one thing we just can’t get enough of these days: convenience.

As a small business or startup, it is unlikely that you will invest on an expert to “do AI”. It is more likely to notive AI capabilities show up in the software you are using. Existing AI technology for businesses is already remarkable, but it’s not realistic for any business to invest in all of these AI tools at once. Here is the biggest AI opportunity for your SMB business: Chatbots.

Artificial intelligence has transformed chatbots more human like than ever before, and they are becoming extensive. AI talking chatbots are taking food orders, reserving rooms, and scheduling flights. Without training, these chatbots can apply the pattern to similar problems or different questions. This ability gives them the “intelligence” to perform tasks, solve problems, and manage information without human intervention.

You can maximize the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots to improve service, save money, and increase engagement. Chatbots are rapidly moving out of the personal and into the business world and fall under the “Support” sections. According to the Facebook Messaging Survey conducted by Nielsen, 67% of people say they will message with businesses more over the next two years, and 53% say they are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via chat. To manage this massive interest in communicating with businesses via messaging apps, business will need chatbots.

80% of business decision-maker respondents to a 2016 survey by Oracle said they already used chatbots or plan to use them by 2020. Chatbots offer unique benefits for small businesses. It is a waste of money for small businesses to pay operators to answer calls or emails whenever they come in. AI-powered chatbots provide assistance to customers whenever they need it and immediately answer questions from potential customers, offering small businesses a way to simultaneously improve customer experiences and generate new business. They will enable businesses of any size to have scalable, convenient, 1-to-1 conversations whenever and wherever the customer prefers.

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A Business Model on Sustainability That Makes a Difference – Leader Behind the “Coyuchi for Life”

BÜLENT DAL | CEO

One of the most important achievements I gained from my participation in this year’s NRF 2019 was to meet the CEO of Coyuchi, Eileen Mockus, and to talk about Coyuchi‘s vision in delivering a sustainable vision of home textile products.

Sustainability is the process of maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.

Coyuchi provides organic home products including bed linens which was founded 30 years ago in Northern California, today headquartered in San Francisco. Coyuchi takes expert care to ensure that everything that bears the Coyuchi label is produced and processed to the strictest environmental standards in safe and humane conditions by relying on the USDA National Organic Program, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Fair Trade USA.

Eileen Mockus is Chief Executive Officer of Coyuchi, Inc. Eileen holds a Bachelor of Science in Textile and Clothing from the University of California, Davis and Master of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis on Small Business and Entrepreneurship at San Francisco State University.  Before joining Coyuchi as Vice President of Product Development in 2011, she worked in textile production, sourcing and materials testing for The North Face, Patagonia and Pottery Barn Kids. Elenie Mockus was among the most active female leaders at NRF 2019 and attended “The power of negotiation” and “Is sustainable the new sexy?” sessions as speaker.

Before Mockus started working, Coyuchi was mainly a wholesale company. Mockus has paid attention to the development of the e-commerce channel and recently the volume of e-commerce has reached a much higher volume than all other channels. When I asked Mockus how they were benefiting from digitalization and e-commerce, she said that they started getting feedback they couldn’t get about the customer before thanks to e-commerce. On the other hand, thanks to digitalization and mobile, they can follow the quality of the product and the source from the field.

Their latest impact-driven initiative is “Coyuchi For Life”, which allows customers to buy a subscription plan for new sheets or towels every six, 12, or 24 months, depending on customer preference, for a small discount off the retail price. When their rental period ends, customers send back the sheets to Coyuchi for a new set, and Coyuchi cleans and mends the used set and then sells the used sheets to customers at a discounted price at their retail location. “Coyuchi For Life” balances their customers desires to have “newness at a faster pace,” while allowing the brand to have a “longer-term relationship with and take responsibility for the product. Coyuchi satisfies people who are sensitive to contribute less waste to the world.

Mockus emphasized the importance of the digital channels for Coyuchi to interact well with customers who love organic products and prefer quality and end added that the same customer segment probably buy organic food, eats at high qualified restaurants and wants to know the origin of their foods. It is obvious that this segment has similar preferences in clothing, food and other retail products and there is an opportunity to create a value.

Mockus continued her speech that digitalization had a positive effect to evolve more business partnerships. They list their products at leading marketplaces like Wayfair and Amazon. Being available at Amazon since 2017, leading to more than 50% of products searches from Amazon and Amazon Prime is a good option for some of their customers. The other digital platform to reach the end customer is Zola which offers wedding products and services. They also use e-catalog, google and facebook channels to engage with Coyuchi customers.

Mockus, with the vision of being the most reliable and largest organic textile brand, stated that long-term reliable relationships are very important for Coyuchi and they supply a significant portion of the products used in are supplied from outside of the United States. One of the major suppliers for many years they were very pleased with the ongoing product quality is based in Turkey. I asked if they want to offer their products in Turkey  and was answered that the biggest obstacle was different bed sizes to sell their products abroad. For this reason, they do not feel ready for markets outside the North American market.

While digitalization is threatening for many companies, for a wholesales company like Coyuchi it is strengthening the company with a single store in the headquarters with a growth of 20% per annum and a long-term connection with the end-user. Today 20% of Coyuchi’s revenue is from online sales. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, there is 13 million tons of textile waste each year. EPA predicts that recycling these waste will create as much effect as cleaning 7.3 million automobiles’ carbon footprint. There is a customer segment who cares about sustainability and despite of the increasing competition in the retail, there is always an opportunity for companies such as Coyuchi can appeal new business models to make a difference.

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PLF During A Record-Setting Holiday Air Travel Season

More people than ever before will fly on U.S. airlines this Christmas holiday season – nearly 46 million of them – according to a new projection from the industry’s Washington trade group. With less than a month left in 2018 it now is almost certain that the average inflation-adjusted domestic round-trip air fare in America this year will be the lowest it has been in at least nine years. In order to accommodate the expected demand and to predict customer demand for specific flights on specific days, airlines should use advanced data analytics.

PLF (Passenger Load Factor) has always been an important metric for profitability which is highly effected by this holiday season. PLF measures the capacity utilization for airlines. It indicates the efficiency of the airline; filling seats and generating revenues. 80% of passenger load factor is considered as standard in the domestic airline industry.

PLF can be increased by improved forecasting of future demand or more appealing offerings. A high load factor, in itself, does not necessarily mean profitability. But in general, the lower the load factor, the lower the profit.

Considering the airline industry dynamics as cancellations of reservations, multi-leg flights complexity and the openings of new flight routes, forecasting PLF becomes even harder. Yet it is attainable by building airline-specific models to forecast the aggregate passenger traffic in a certain time frame, region or an individual flight. The model delivers an optimum revenue and enables the business units to cleverly act on price and campaigns.

The improvement of PLF is a direct impact on the bottom line. The bettering of this KPI effects the plan and costs of complimentary functions; such as workforce, fuel, catering and ground services.

Take a look at our PLF solution, which is developed on R and the visualizations are developed with MicroStrategy, to see how we can help you grow your business.

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Don’t Cover Under Your Shelf(!) During the Christmas Shopping

There is no official start date for retailers to begin launching their Christmas holiday season sales. In fact, each year, different retailers set new standards to follow so the Christmas/holiday retail sales season is dynamic and continues to evolve. Retailers should be prepared for holiday shopping seasons.

On Shelf Availability(OSA) is one of the important metric for every retailer’s performance measurement during these seasons. OSA is defined as availability of product for sale to a shopper, in the right place he expects and at the time he wants to buy it. OSA is impacted by many different factors, all along the supply chain.

Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment are mostly used collaboration efforts between retailers and manufacturers in order to reduce the out-of-stock rates. While there are some marginal improvements, the truth is that many of the problems are self-inflicted wounds. Retailers are not constantly putting the right products on the shelves. Key reasons for this are:

  • Store replenishment procedures fail to replenishing shelves on a timely basis
  • In-store inventory counts are inaccurate
  • Forecasting and assortment processes and systems do not adequately account for local demand
  • Space planning and planogram processes are not readily adaptable to local store footprints and demand

As a result, the consumer does one of four things: buy another brand at the same store; buy a completely different type of product; look for that brand in another store; or, simply, not buy anything. If the consumer does not (and cannot) buy your product because it is out of stock, you don’t sell. And, provide an opportunity for your competitors to gain your consumers business and loyalty.

There is a lot that retailers can do to get their own store in order for better on-shelf availability while they pursue collaborative supply chain efforts. The time is now! The complexities of delivering on consumers’ omni-channel demands for seamless and consistent shopping journeys will not go away, they will only become more complex. And as more retailers gear up to satisfy these demands, consumers are becoming even less tolerant of delivery failures. The time to transition planning and store operations to accommodate these increasing demands is now, or else you will be left behind as customers shift their loyalty to those retailers who best meet their expectations. For more information on improving on-shelf availability, check Obase Replenishment – Smart Inventory Management solution.

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Leading Retailers by Kahn

BÜLENT DAL | CEO

The first of the last two major revolutions in the retail sector began with the creation of “ever day low price” slogan led by Aldi and Wal-Mart. In the mid-1990s, with this philosophy Wal-Mart led the  “Food Retail Revolution” to start in USA. After a while Amazon showed that providing customer friendly and support giving shopping experience was as effective as pricing on customer decision making process. The “Customer Experience Revolution” pioneered by Amazon has led many leading retailers including Wal-Mart to reshape their business models to facilitate a good customer experience.

The destructive transformation process that Amazon has pioneered continues uninterruptedly. Barbara E. Kahn, Marketing Professor  of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania published on June 2018 her thoughts about how successful retailers win customers in an era of endless disruption in her “The Shopping Revolution” book. Professor Kahn explains in her book that the customers enter the gravitational field of different retailers depending upon their own needs. She lists two principles that influence a customer’s shopping decision.

  1. Customers want to buy something they value from someone they trust.
  2. They buy from retailers who provide superior value.

She starts with two basic principles. The first is the principle of customer value. In the retail world, it means that customers want to buy something they value from someone they trust. That forms the columns of Khan matrix — product experience and customer experience. The second principle is the principle of differential advantage. They want to buy from retailers who do it better than anybody else. They can either give more pleasure or take away pain. That provides the rows of the matrix.

Below in Kahn Matrix according to two principles there occurs four pole retailer clusters. Top left  “Product Brand” row lists the digital native vertical brands, really cool customer experience brands like Warby Parker, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nike. The product quadrant would be things like brand or luxury or design or technology or something that’s really super-cool about a product that you’re willing to pay a premium price or even a luxury price.

On the top row, which is benefits or pleasure, the product quadrant would be things like brand or luxury or design or technology or something that’s really super-cool about a product that you’re willing to pay a premium price or even a luxury price. It’s the importance of in-store touch and feel. That quadrant would be retailers like Sephora or Eataly, which provide incredible, state-of-the-art customer experiences in the store.

On the second row, Walmart is an example of take away pain and offer low price. Walmart, Costco, TJ Maxx would be in that quadrant. Take away the pain from the customer experience is what Amazon did really differently, and they made it convenient. In Amazon’s case, their differential advantage is collecting a lot of customer data so that they can constantly simplify and personalize and customize the experience to make it easier and easier for the customer. In the matrix, that’s how she can define things. But the strategic implications of the matrix are something else.

When we looked at the winning strategies, each one of the winning retailers were the best at something. But they leveraged that leadership advantage to be the best at something else, too. Khan calls that the two-quadrant strategy. You have to be the best at two things and good enough at everything else. Retail is very, very hyper-competitive now. If you can’t make it, you’re really going to go out of business.

Source: “The Shopping Revolution: How Successful Retailers Win Customers in an Era of Endless Disruption”, Barbara E. Kahn, June 2018.

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Black Friday & Cyber Monday Hangover

Four years ago, it was just a simple weekend. But now it starts a week ago and If done right, this final push can get your bottom-line goals across the finish line for the year.

Retailers are looking more towards online sales than brick-and-mortar. Holiday shoppers also flock to online marketplaces for Cyber Monday to find some of the best deals of the year in addition to Black Friday.

Sales and Marketing departments think that having the right product/campaign offers with highly competitive discounts is enough to get the most from BFCM (Black Friday & Cyber Monday). Of course it is a great achievement to attract audiences and get good sales results. However there is a missing part behind the curtains: Order fulfillment!

It is a nice but a big problem if you have made a record-breaking amount of sales and haven’t prepared for this! Here is what you should do:

  • Speed up fulfillment – Create pick lists, packing slips, and shipping labels in bulk.
  • Check with Partners – Ask suppliers if they might support you during this period with direct fulfillment to the customer from their own stock.
  • Be transparent – Informing your clients about expected delivery dates or any delays you will decrease any unsatisfaction.
  • Process returns quickly – By processing return items quickly, you can prevent customer churn and improve your corporate reputation and open place for other packages.
  • Be Reachable – Think email, online chat, searchable FAQ lists in order to ease customer to find you well. Think catching social media comments or praises to keep it under your control.
  • Recover your stock – When the rush is finished, recover your stock levels to continue on strong through the rest of the year.

Black Friday might be over but others are just around the corner. For the next special day use your data. Take a look back at your data from years past and pay special attention to marketing channels. Replicating previous campaign messaging with higher engagement rates can be key to driving returning visitors and converting leads with less budget.

Take the time to think through your strategy, what’s worked in the past, and what is going to be best for your brand long term. Do what you can to delight your customers, but in an effective way that still creates ROI.

Automation is key! Manually managing your inventory can be a hassle on any day of the year, but will be especially stressful on BFCM.

Take a deep breath and prepare for the next special day… Check out Obase solutions.

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20+ years with MicroStrategy

As one of the oldest MicroStrategy partners our story has begun in 1997. When we first start, “The Intelligent Enterprise” term was very new to many companies in Turkey. That’s why it was a big success and very challenging for us to make Boyner-one of the biggest department store and Migros-the largest supermarket chain in Turkey to use MicroStrategy products.

MicroStrategy combines traditional business intelligence with cutting-edge analytics, mobile, and cloud technology, enabling organizations to build and deploy transformational applications that maximize the value of information and accelerate business.

At Obase, as a partner we understand the power of partnerships and know the importance of collaboration to achieve success in today’s world. As a result of this by keeping strategic perspective at the heart of our partnership with MicroStrategy, we were awarded as MicroStrategy Best Partner EMEA in 2009.

“The Very Firsts” in Turkey

During our 20+ years partnership with MicroStrategy we pioneered many “firsts” in Turkey. We completed Turkey’s first Data Warehouse project. We prepared first Enterprise BI reporting and B2B reporting platform in our region.

MicroStrategy Symposium Series in Istanbul at its second year became attracted by large enterprises’ decision makers and manager with 250+ attendees.

With a dedicated team full of Microstrategy certified engineers and also by being an R&D center we provide services and Microstrategy embedded enterprise analytics to the Top 10 companies in Turkey.

Today Obase provides license, maintanence and professional services with 1st level technical support for MicroStrategy business intelligence platform to +50 leading companies from different industries; mainly in retail, telco, airlines & transportation, finance, insurance and energy.

Together with MicroStrategy, with a highly futuristic vision and ability to follow the same path, at Obase, we will achieve to continue our partnership now and for the future.

We will meet you at MicroStrategy World 2019 event.

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Data-Driven Budgeting

NURAY GÖKMEN KAHVECİ | DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER

It is that time of the year! 2019 budget planning is in full gear and you are trying to come up with new ways to make the right decision in order to create an efficient budget.

If you think it’s hard to develop a budget, you’re in a good company. Today’s motto is “do more with less”! Faced with high competition, companies need to spend every penny wisely. A Nielsen study found that %40 of respondents feel very confident in their team’s ability to determine the most effective way to allocate their marketing budget.

Today, companies often use outdated and complicated spreadsheets, older IT systems, and manually prepared reports. After spending long times to collecting and processing data, the lack of consolidated information and tools to perform analysis makes it difficult to track execution, program success, and convert data points into narratives that support their goals. This approach to budget formulation is labor intensive, less accurate, and harder to manage for budget purposes.

It’s obvious that the data is empowering new insights and business initiatives. Your data is out there and why not use it? Good judgement and good data are integral for leaders to make good decisions. By building multi-dimensional, structured databases, you can add new levels of transparency, accountability, and collaboration to some of the biggest factors impacting your budget planning and formulation.

Data-driven budgeting, also known as performance budgeting or results oriented budgeting, is more than a mere accounting of resources; rather, it drives decisions predicated on outcomes resulting from the use of resources. A performance budgeting process examines company/department goals and objectives, measures planning results, and uses this information to modify budget allocations over time. Successful planning replaces gut feel with objective, fast based analysis. This enables you to make better business decisions in support of company mission.

New Ways To Get Better Results:

  • Collect or share data in a way that is actionable
  • Input targets
  • Integrate budget data and enforce business rules and guidelines
  • Optimise your planning against the objectives
  • Leverage data to inform planning, programming, budgeting, and execution decisions
  • Monitor KPI and set an agile monitoring system

Instead of arguing for your budget, base your decisions and arguments on 100% facts. In order to make the chaotic world of budget and money allocation a bit more structured, facts based on data and conclusions derived from it are vital.

It is sure: data driven decision making is here to stay and budgets shouldn’t be based on crystal ball forecasts any more.

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The Advantages of BDD

mıray tosun yurtseven | product manager

Nowadays, to prove the quality of a job, tests must be done immediately after the development. Tests are one of the most important evidences that prove a job is completed as desired. The other important evidence is the test carried out with business units. Business units test their usage habits according to the product they demand and their operations. Basically, they do their own behavioral tests. This approach brought a new test approach into our lives.

In these days, most people use BDD(Behavior Driven Development) which is an alternative method for TDD (Test Driven Development). Most people think that TDD is an expensive software development process and they prefer to use BDD.

The fact that the software development and test automation processes with TDD are considered to be costly, it shouldn’t be ignored that high quality software are developed with the TDD method. In today’s conditions, the necessity of completing customer demands as quickly as possible and in the meantime using a common language between Business Units and IT led to using BDD to solve communication problems.

In fact, as in all approaches, the main issue that the BDD focuses on is the production of quality code. In this context, in addition to solve communication problems between two different departments, BDD helps to find the bugs of a product very quickly with customer behavior tests.

There are two important workhops; first is SBE (specification by example), the second is TDD (test-driven development). In the first workshop (SBE), IT department representatives and Business unit representatives talk about a new product and its features, Business unit representatives give an example of where they want to use it and why they want to use it. The real purpose of this workshops is to decide how the system should behave in different situations . The second (TDD) workshop is carried out by runing the written automation codes to prove that the software has the desired behavioral functions. The test results are observed immediately right after runing codes, so that any inadequacy can be detected and turn into actions.Test automation for BDD has very simple writing method. Given-When-Then are the three titles of the test scenarios. Given is the heading of the test scenario to explain what customers want to do.  When is the timing detail of the action . Then is the explanation of the result of this action. For example, consider that we wrote the below steps for user to login to the system:

Given: User types a wrong password to the password field,

When: clicks the submit button,

Then: the system gives an alert message about the wrong password.

Another simple BDD writing method is Role-Feature-Reason matrix.   Role description begins with  “As a…”, for feature “I want…” and finally, “so that…” for the Reason. For example;

As a: retail customer,

I want: I want return the products I bought in 14 days.

So that: So that I will be able to payback.

The most important feature of the BDD is providing a simple platform where the codes are written in common language that lets everyone to read and write.. Due to its approach and creation of a common point for each stakeholders, it has become very popular recently and started to be used in many sectors.

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