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Why Digital Transformation Should Focus On Growth, Not Disruption

In the tech world in 2017, several trends emerged as signals amid the noise, signifying much larger changes to come.

As we noted in last year’s More Than Noise list, things are changing—and the changes are occurring in ways that don’t necessarily fit into the prevailing narrative.

While many of 2017’s signals have a dark tint to them, perhaps reflecting the times we live in, we have sought out some rays of light to illuminate the way forward. The following signals differ considerably, but understanding them can help guide businesses in the right direction for 2018 and beyond.

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When a team of psychologists, linguists, and software engineers created Woebot, an AI chatbot that helps people learn cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for managing mental health issues like anxiety and depression, they did something unusual, at least when it comes to chatbots: they submitted it for peer review.

Stanford University researchers recruited a sample group of 70 college-age participants on social media to take part in a randomized control study of Woebot. The researchers found that their creation was useful for improving anxiety and depression symptoms. A study of the user interaction with the bot was submitted for peer review and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health in June 2017.

While Woebot may not revolutionize the field of psychology, it could change the way we view AI development. Well-known figures such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates have expressed concerns that artificial intelligence is essentially ungovernable. Peer review, such as with the Stanford study, is one way to approach this challenge and figure out how to properly evaluate and find a place for these software programs.

The healthcare community could be onto something. We’ve already seen instances where AI chatbots have spun out of control, such as when internet trolls trained Microsoft’s Tay to become a hate-spewing misanthrope. Bots are only as good as their design; making sure they stay on message and don’t act in unexpected ways is crucial.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image3 Why Digital Transformation Should Focus On Growth, Not DisruptionThis is especially true in healthcare. When chatbots are offering therapeutic services, they must be properly designed, vetted, and tested to maintain patient safety.

It may be prudent to apply the same level of caution to a business setting. By treating chatbots as if they’re akin to medicine or drugs, we have a model for thorough vetting that, while not perfect, is generally effective and time tested.

It may seem like overkill to think of chatbots that manage pizza orders or help resolve parking tickets as potential health threats. But it’s already clear that AI can have unintended side effects that could extend far beyond Tay’s loathsome behavior.

For example, in July, Facebook shut down an experiment where it challenged two AIs to negotiate with each other over a trade. When the experiment began, the two chatbots quickly went rogue, developing linguistic shortcuts to reduce negotiating time and leaving their creators unable to understand what they were saying.

The implications are chilling. Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

In this context, the healthcare community’s conservative approach doesn’t seem so farfetched. Woebot could ultimately become an example of the kind of oversight that’s needed for all AIs.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that chatbots have great potential in healthcare—not just for treating mental health issues but for helping patients understand symptoms, build treatment regimens, and more. They could also help unclog barriers to healthcare, which is plagued worldwide by high prices, long wait times, and other challenges. While they are not a substitute for actual humans, chatbots can be used by anyone with a computer or smartphone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of financial status.

Finding the right governance for AI development won’t happen overnight. But peer review, extensive internal quality analysis, and other processes will go a long way to ensuring bots function as expected. Otherwise, companies and their customers could pay a big price.

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Elon Musk is an expert at dominating the news cycle with his sci-fi premonitions about space travel and high-speed hyperloops. However, he captured media attention in Australia in April 2017 for something much more down to earth: how to deal with blackouts and power outages.

In 2016, a massive blackout hit the state of South Australia following a storm. Although power was restored quickly in Adelaide, the capital, people in the wide stretches of arid desert that surround it spent days waiting for the power to return. That hit South Australia’s wine and livestock industries especially hard.

South Australia’s electrical grid currently gets more than half of its energy from wind and solar, with coal and gas plants acting as backups for when the sun hides or the wind doesn’t blow, according to ABC News Australia. But this network is vulnerable to sudden loss of generation—which is exactly what happened in the storm that caused the 2016 blackout, when tornadoes ripped through some key transmission lines. Getting the system back on stable footing has been an issue ever since.

Displaying his usual talent for showmanship, Musk stepped in and promised to build the world’s largest battery to store backup energy for the network—and he pledged to complete it within 100 days of signing the contract or the battery would be free. Pen met paper with South Australia and French utility Neoen in September. As of press time in November, construction was underway.

For South Australia, the Tesla deal offers an easy and secure way to store renewable energy. Tesla’s 129 MWh battery will be the most powerful battery system in the world by 60% once completed, according to Gizmodo. The battery, which is stationed at a wind farm, will cover temporary drops in wind power and kick in to help conventional gas and coal plants balance generation with demand across the network. South Australian citizens and politicians largely support the project, which Tesla claims will be able to power 30,000 homes.

Until Musk made his bold promise, batteries did not figure much in renewable energy networks, mostly because they just aren’t that good. They have limited charges, are difficult to build, and are difficult to manage. Utilities also worry about relying on the same lithium-ion battery technology as cellphone makers like Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 7 had to be recalled in 2016 after some defective batteries burst into flames, according to CNET.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image5 Why Digital Transformation Should Focus On Growth, Not DisruptionHowever, when made right, the batteries are safe. It’s just that they’ve traditionally been too expensive for large-scale uses such as renewable power storage. But battery innovations such as Tesla’s could radically change how we power the economy. According to a study that appeared this year in Nature, the continued drop in the cost of battery storage has made renewable energy price-competitive with traditional fossil fuels.

This is a massive shift. Or, as David Roberts of news site Vox puts it, “Batteries are soon going to disrupt power markets at all scales.” Furthermore, if the cost of batteries continues to drop, supply chains could experience radical energy cost savings. This could disrupt energy utilities, manufacturing, transportation, and construction, to name just a few, and create many opportunities while changing established business models. (For more on how renewable energy will affect business, read the feature “Tick Tock” in this issue.)

Battery research and development has become big business. Thanks to electric cars and powerful smartphones, there has been incredible pressure to make more powerful batteries that last longer between charges.

The proof of this is in the R&D funding pudding. A Brookings Institution report notes that both the Chinese and U.S. governments offer generous subsidies for lithium-ion battery advancement. Automakers such as Daimler and BMW have established divisions marketing residential and commercial energy storage products. Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and General Electric are all experimenting with various electric propulsion systems for aircraft—which means that hybrid airplanes are also a possibility.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are accelerating battery research investment by banning internal combustion vehicles. Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

In the meantime, expect huge investment and new battery innovation from interested parties across industries that all share a stake in the outcome. This past September, for example, Volkswagen announced a €50 billion research investment in batteries to help bring 300 electric vehicle models to market by 2030.

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At first, it sounds like a narrative device from a science fiction novel or a particularly bad urban legend.

Powerful cameras in several Chinese cities capture photographs of jaywalkers as they cross the street and, several minutes later, display their photograph, name, and home address on a large screen posted at the intersection. Several days later, a summons appears in the offender’s mailbox demanding payment of a fine or fulfillment of community service.

As Orwellian as it seems, this technology is very real for residents of Jinan and several other Chinese cities. According to a Xinhua interview with Li Yong of the Jinan traffic police, “Since the new technology has been adopted, the cases of jaywalking have been reduced from 200 to 20 each day at the major intersection of Jingshi and Shungeng roads.”

The sophisticated cameras and facial recognition systems already used in China—and their near–real-time public shaming—are an example of how machine learning, mobile phone surveillance, and internet activity tracking are being used to censor and control populations. Most worryingly, the prospect of real-time surveillance makes running surveillance states such as the former East Germany and current North Korea much more financially efficient.

According to a 2015 discussion paper by the Institute for the Study of Labor, a German research center, by the 1980s almost 0.5% of the East German population was directly employed by the Stasi, the country’s state security service and secret police—1 for every 166 citizens. An additional 1.1% of the population (1 for every 66 citizens) were working as unofficial informers, which represented a massive economic drain. Automated, real-time, algorithm-driven monitoring could potentially drive the cost of controlling the population down substantially in police states—and elsewhere.

We could see a radical new era of censorship that is much more manipulative than anything that has come before. Previously, dissidents were identified when investigators manually combed through photos, read writings, or listened in on phone calls. Real-time algorithmic monitoring means that acts of perceived defiance can be identified and deleted in the moment and their perpetrators marked for swift judgment before they can make an impression on others.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image7 Why Digital Transformation Should Focus On Growth, Not DisruptionBusinesses need to be aware of the wider trend toward real-time, automated censorship and how it might be used in both commercial and governmental settings. These tools can easily be used in countries with unstable political dynamics and could become a real concern for businesses that operate across borders. Businesses must learn to educate and protect employees when technology can censor and punish in real time.

Indeed, the technologies used for this kind of repression could be easily adapted from those that have already been developed for businesses. For instance, both Facebook and Google use near–real-time facial identification algorithms that automatically identify people in images uploaded by users—which helps the companies build out their social graphs and target users with profitable advertisements. Automated algorithms also flag Facebook posts that potentially violate the company’s terms of service.

China is already using these technologies to control its own people in ways that are largely hidden to outsiders.

According to a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the popular Chinese social network WeChat operates under a policy its authors call “One App, Two Systems.” Users with Chinese phone numbers are subjected to dynamic keyword censorship that changes depending on current events and whether a user is in a private chat or in a group. Depending on the political winds, users are blocked from accessing a range of websites that report critically on China through WeChat’s internal browser. Non-Chinese users, however, are not subject to any of these restrictions.

The censorship is also designed to be invisible. Messages are blocked without any user notification, and China has intermittently blocked WhatsApp and other foreign social networks. As a result, Chinese users are steered toward national social networks, which are more compliant with government pressure.

China’s policies play into a larger global trend: the nationalization of the internet. China, Russia, the European Union, and the United States have all adopted different approaches to censorship, user privacy, and surveillance. Although there are social networks such as WeChat or Russia’s VKontakte that are popular in primarily one country, nationalizing the internet challenges users of multinational services such as Facebook and YouTube. These different approaches, which impact everything from data safe harbor laws to legal consequences for posting inflammatory material, have implications for businesses working in multiple countries, as well.

For instance, Twitter is legally obligated to hide Nazi and neo-fascist imagery and some tweets in Germany and France—but not elsewhere. YouTube was officially banned in Turkey for two years because of videos a Turkish court deemed “insulting to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” father of modern Turkey. In Russia, Google must keep Russian users’ personal data on servers located inside Russia to comply with government policy.

While China is a pioneer in the field of instant censorship, tech companies in the United States are matching China’s progress, which could potentially have a chilling effect on democracy. In 2016, Apple applied for a patent on technology that censors audio streams in real time—automating the previously manual process of censoring curse words in streaming audio.

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In March, after U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News, “I think maybe I wouldn’t be [president] if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Twitter founder Evan “Ev” Williams did something highly unusual for the creator of a massive social network.

He apologized.

Speaking with David Streitfeld of The New York Times, Williams said, “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”

Entrepreneurs tend to be very proud of their innovations. Williams, however, offers a far more ambivalent response to his creation’s success. Much of the 2016 presidential election’s rancor was fueled by Twitter, and the instant gratification of Twitter attracts trolls, bullies, and bigots just as easily as it attracts politicians, celebrities, comedians, and sports fans.

Services such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are designed through a mix of look and feel, algorithmic wizardry, and psychological techniques to hang on to users for as long as possible—which helps the services sell more advertisements and make more money. Toxic political discourse and online harassment are unintended side effects of the economic-driven urge to keep users engaged no matter what.

Keeping users’ eyeballs on their screens requires endless hours of multivariate testing, user research, and algorithm refinement. For instance, Casey Newton of tech publication The Verge notes that Google Brain, Google’s AI division, plays a key part in generating YouTube’s video recommendations.

According to Jim McFadden, the technical lead for YouTube recommendations, “Before, if I watch this video from a comedian, our recommendations were pretty good at saying, here’s another one just like it,” he told Newton. “But the Google Brain model figures out other comedians who are similar but not exactly the same—even more adjacent relationships. It’s able to see patterns that are less obvious.”

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image9 Why Digital Transformation Should Focus On Growth, Not DisruptionA never-ending flow of content that is interesting without being repetitive is harder to resist. With users glued to online services, addiction and other behavioral problems occur to an unhealthy degree. According to a 2016 poll by nonprofit research company Common Sense Media, 50% of American teenagers believe they are addicted to their smartphones.

This pattern is extending into the workplace. Seventy-five percent of companies told research company Harris Poll in 2016 that two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted. The number one reason? Cellphones and texting, according to 55% of those companies surveyed. Another 41% pointed to the internet.

Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, argues that many product designers for online services try to exploit psychological vulnerabilities in a bid to keep users engaged for longer periods. Harris refers to an iPhone as “a slot machine in my pocket” and argues that user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers need to adopt something akin to a Hippocratic Oath to stop exploiting users’ psychological vulnerabilities.

In fact, there is an entire school of study devoted to “dark UX”—small design tweaks to increase profits. These can be as innocuous as a “Buy Now” button in a visually pleasing color or as controversial as when Facebook tweaked its algorithm in 2012 to show a randomly selected group of almost 700,000 users (who had not given their permission) newsfeeds that skewed more positive to some users and more negative to others to gauge the impact on their respective emotional states, according to an article in Wired.

As computers, smartphones, and televisions come ever closer to convergence, these issues matter increasingly to businesses. Some of the universal side effects of addiction are lost productivity at work and poor health. Businesses should offer training and help for employees who can’t stop checking their smartphones.

Mindfulness-centered mobile apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Forest offer one way to break the habit. Users can also choose to break internet addiction by going for a walk, turning their computers off, or using tools like StayFocusd or Freedom to block addictive websites or apps.

Most importantly, companies in the business of creating tech products need to design software and hardware that discourages addictive behavior. This means avoiding bad designs that emphasize engagement metrics over human health. A world of advertising preroll showing up on smart refrigerator touchscreens at 2 a.m. benefits no one.

According to a 2014 study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, approximately 6% of the world’s population suffers from internet addiction to one degree or another. As more users in emerging economies gain access to cheap data, smartphones, and laptops, that percentage will only increase. For businesses, getting a head start on stopping internet addiction will make employees happier and more productive. D!

About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy, and Natural Resources, at SAP.

David Delaney is Global Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, SAP Health.

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


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Business Intelligence Emboldens Digital Transformation

In May 2017, a computational social scientist from The Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge stood before an audience at the Linux Foundation’s Apache Big Data conference and revealed how close we’ve come to the ultimate goal of marketing: an easily scalable, highly accurate way to predict customer preferences using minimal data.

When she was still a PhD candidate, Sandra Matz created a Facebook ad campaign targeting people based on nothing more than how extroverted their Facebook Likes indicated they were. People with Likes associated with extroverts saw ads for a party game played in a group. People with more introverted Likes saw ads for a quiet game meant to be played solo.

The campaign required only simple algorithms and no advanced analytics. Yet over seven days of testing, the targeted ads generated up to 15 times higher click-through and conversion rates—and significantly more purchases and revenue for the game company.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image2 Business Intelligence Emboldens Digital Transformation“We developed this approach to show that you can achieve highly accurate behavioral and psychological targeting with a minimal amount of data and relatively simple machine learning tools,” says Matz, who is now an assistant professor of management at Columbia University’s business school.

As effective as this experiment was, Matz suggests that it’s still rudimentary compared to what could be done with more and richer data from more sources. And it’s downright primitive given the possibilities of applying more sophisticated Big Data analytics.

These possibilities have created a watershed moment for marketing and its role in the business.

Spiraling Down the Marketing Funnel

Tension has always simmered over marketing’s contribution to business success. The business knows it can’t sell products or services if it doesn’t make customers aware of them, but the impact of marketing strategy on sales and revenue is hard to quantify and reliably replicate—which, in the age of the data-driven enterprise, often leaves some business leaders not just undervaluing marketing but actively mistrusting it. No wonder human resources consultancy Russell Reynolds reports that the 2016 turnover rate among CMOs was the highest it has seen since it began tracking the statistic in 2012.

Most companies still determine customers’ readiness to buy by using a primitive model known as the marketing funnel, which sorts customers into increasingly smaller groups as they progress from first becoming aware of a company to buying, using, and finally advocating for the company’s products. Different versions have different definitions and numbers of stages, and some approaches see the model as a circle, but they all have one thing in common: their ability to sort customers into various stages is limited by the amount of knowledge the company has about each customer.

As a result, the marketing funnel ends up leaking. Some customers back away because they feel harassed by campaigns that don’t apply to their needs, while some of those who are interested fall through the cracks from a lack of attention. Many data-hungry business leaders think of the marketing funnel as no more than a variation of “throw something against the wall and see if it sticks,” and with the proliferation of digital channels and diffusion of customer attention, they have less patience than ever with that approach.

The silver lining is that a more precise, quantifiable way to build customer relationships is emerging. Done properly, it promises to defuse the tension between marketing and the rest of the business, too.

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The Defining Moment

The Cambridge University experiment is one more step toward the long-held marketing dream of the “segment of one.” This concept of marketing messages that are highly granular, even individually tailored, has been around since the late 1980s. Over the last 15 to 20 years, as customer behavior has become digitalized as never before, marketers have been optimistic that they could capture this data and use it to tailor their messaging with laser-like precision.

Yet what’s achievable in theory has been impossible in practice. We’re still struggling to find the right tools to move beyond the basics of demographic targeting. The rise of the internet, smartphones, and social media has generated more types of information about customer behavior in larger amounts than ever before. But using digitally expressed sentiment about everything from toys to turbines as the basis for accurately disseminating highly individualized marketing messages is still time consuming and cost prohibitive.

However, experiments like Matz’s are bringing us closer to creating highly personalized customer experiences—perhaps not always at the individual level but certainly at a level of granularity that will let us unequivocally determine how to best target and measure marketing programs.

Liking Lady Gaga

Between 2007 and 2012, Psychometrics Centre researchers gathered seven million responses to a simple questionnaire for Facebook users. The carefully designed questions measured respondents’ levels of extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism, a constellation of basic personality traits known as the Big Five.

With the respondents’ permission, the researchers used simple machine learning tools to correlate each person’s responses with the official Facebook Pages that the person had liked, such as Pages for books, movies, bands, hobbies, organizations, and foods. They soon saw that certain personality traits and certain Likes went hand in hand.

For example, most people who liked Lady Gaga’s Page tested as extroverts, which made liking the Lady Gaga Page a relevant data point indicating that someone was probably an extrovert. By 2016, Matz was able to create a lively Facebook ad to be shown only to people who had liked a significant number of official Pages that seemed to be linked to extroversion. A more serene ad was shown only to those whose Likes suggested that they were introverts.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image4 Business Intelligence Emboldens Digital TransformationDespite the large size of the Psychometric Centre’s data set, what’s most remarkable about its work is how few data points within that data set were necessary to build a reliable profile that could model useful predictions. Matz told EnterpriseTech that the algorithm the Centre developed needs, on average, just 65 liked Pages to understand someone’s Big Five personality traits better than their friends do, 120 to understand them better than their family members, and 250 to understand them better than a partner or spouse. This may be the first sign that the era of true behavioral marketing is upon us.

Of course, most marketers want to know far more about customers than how outgoing or reserved they are. Scraping Facebook Likes isn’t enough to give them the holistic customer understanding they crave—not when they have an entire universe of other data to consider. The race is on to identify from the vast spectrum of available customer data not only which specific online behaviors have a predictive element such as extroversion or introversion but also which ones will drive the most potent response to specific product or service messaging.

Complicated? Yes—but we are within reach of the algorithms we need to connect the dots for greater customer insight. By reaching out over new channels with more accurate behavior-based messaging, companies could transform the entire customer journey.

A Customized Journey for Each Customer

Attribution, the ability to know the source of a sales lead, is key to behavioral targeting. The more details a business knows about what its customers have already done, the more accurately it can predict what they will do next.

In the past, developing a customer profile relied on last-touch attribution analysis, that is, evaluating the impact of the last interaction a prospective customer had with a brand before becoming a lead. The problem was that companies could rarely be certain what that last touch was, given how much activity still takes place offline and isn’t captured or quantified.

Companies also couldn’t be certain how, or even if, a last touch—be it downloading a white paper, visiting a store, or getting a word-of-mouth recommendation—accelerated the customer through the marketing funnel. They could only predict revenue by looking at how many people were deemed to be at a specific stage and extrapolating from past data what percentage of them were likely to move ahead.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image5 Business Intelligence Emboldens Digital TransformationToday, we’re capturing so much more information about people’s activities that we have a far more accurate idea of both what the last touch was and how influential it was. Behavioral targeting makes any content a customer interacts with valuable in analyzing the customer’s journey. A company can use hard data about those interactions to see where each individual prospect is in the customer journey and predict how likely each one is to continue moving forward.

The company can then generate a tailored offer or other event to nudge individuals along based on what has been successful with other customers who buy the same things and behave in the same ways. For example, a large grocer may send out two million individualized offers each week based on loyalty card activity. This may not strictly create a segment of one, but it creates many small segments of customers with similar behaviors based on what the grocer knows to be effective.

As Cambridge University’s experiment in creating an algorithm to identify and target introverts and extroverts proves, more precise messaging is more effective. By using more complex machine learning algorithms to further filter and refine successful messages to target smaller groups, companies could boost their conversion rates to as high as 50%—an exponential increase beyond today’s average rates.

By using machine learning to speed up the testing of different campaigns and to continuously compare results, companies could rapidly create a dataset about every potential customer’s responses and then benchmark it against others’ responses. This would let them determine individual prospects’ likely responses based on concrete actions rather than assumptions.

For super-luxury brands with a limited number of customers and the ability to capture a vast amount of information about each one, this could lead to true segment-of-one marketing. For other brands, the challenge is not just to figure out who the customer is and what messages to send but also how to scale that personalization to segments of tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of customers at a time. To do that both effectively and quickly, companies will need to leverage machine learning, the Internet of Things, and other advanced technologies that enable accurate predictive models. Companies can then benchmark their projected hit rates against their actual results and refine their algorithms for even greater agility and responsiveness.

The Next Steps of Predictive Marketing

Effective behavioral targeting requires companies to identify all the relevant data points, including external data points that indicate which information is valuable. This calls for data scientists who can spot and remove the irrelevant data points that are at the far ends of the curve and distill what remains into meaningful algorithms. It also requires machine learning tools capable of high-volume, high-speed listening, assessing, learning, and making recommendations to improve the algorithm over time.

Once you’ve created a baseline of primary criteria, you can determine the important criteria by which to segment your customer base. To use an oversimplified example, imagine that you own a coffee shop and you want to increase sales of high-margin bakery items. You need to look not at the customers who always get a muffin with their coffee or at those who never do but at those who buy a muffin sometimes, so that you can start to identify the triggers that make them choose to indulge.

To scale this process, look at both user-based and item-based affinities. User-based affinities link customers who have similar interests and shopping patterns. Item-based affinities link customers based on what they buy, individually or in groups of items. Using machine learning to pair and cross-reference these two factors will enable you to create messages that are personalized enough to seem individualized, even though they’re actually targeting small, multi-person segments.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image6 Business Intelligence Emboldens Digital TransformationRetailers of all types collect data about individuals, down to location, date, time, and SKU of the sale. They may experiment with behavioral targeting by making in-the-moment offers based on what they already know about their customers. For example, they may use a mobile app with geofencing to be alerted when a customer using the app is in the store. The alert triggers back-end systems to look up the customer’s purchase history, generate a relevant offer, and deliver that offer to the customer’s smartphone while the customer is still in the store.

The Line Between Marketing and Manipulation

Just the idea of receiving marketing messages influenced by their behavior will disturb some customers. When marketing is designed, as behavioral targeting is, to maximize engagement, the value of the content depends less on whether it’s useful to the audience or even true and more on whether it gets the target audience to engage and reveal another piece of the behavioral puzzle. As a result, companies considering behavioral marketing must consider a question as old as marketing itself: where is the line between advertising and propaganda?

Creating personal profiles of customers based on their actions and personalities will become inexpensive and easy, for better or worse. Better will lead to more relevant and compelling offers based on predictive models of what customers would like to buy next. Worse will create (or at least look like) scalable, granular manipulation.

If companies hope to apply this level of targeted marketing without coming across as intrusive or invasive, they will need to be completely transparent about what they’re doing and how—and with whom they’re sharing the information. Most shoppers say they’re willing to give up data about themselves if it leads to a better shopping experience and more relevant recommendations.

Numerous studies show that customers are comfortable sharing their buying patterns and preferences as long as it doesn’t compromise their personally identifiable information. Nonetheless, they may decide otherwise if they believe that by welcoming you into their lives, they’re throwing open the doors to strangers as well.

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As data mining for behavioral targeting becomes more common, companies will have to offer customers the opportunity to opt in and out at varying levels of detail. They will also need to identify and flag the significant minority of customers who prefer not to be profiled in such depth (or at all). Machine learning will be invaluable in responding to complaints on social media, tracking the relevant details of offers that were ignored or got negative reactions, and otherwise ensuring that companies don’t misuse customer data or misunderstand consumer wants and needs.

“The entire paradigm of targeting and campaign implies a vendor doing something to customers,” says Mark Bonchek, founder and “chief epiphany officer” at Shift Thinking, a Boston-based consulting firm that helps companies pursue digital transformation. “It implies getting people to do what you want them to do rather than helping them do what they want to do,” he says. “Be clear on the mental model behind your behavioral targeting. Is it more like a friend figuring out the right gift for a friend or a salesperson trying to close a deal with a prospect? People don’t want to be targets.”

Instead, Bonchek suggests, think of behavioral targeting as a way to build a reciprocal relationship that lets you enhance the customer experience at multiple touch points, not all of them actual transactions. Utility companies send customers information about their own and their neighbors’ energy use so they can benchmark themselves. The utilities often follow up with suggestions about how to save both power and money. Meanwhile, a credit card issuer could help customers understand their purchasing patterns and discover new stores or service providers.

“Loyalty is an emotion first and behavior second,” Bonchek says. “It’s the difference between pushing customers through a funnel and helping them achieve a shared purpose.”

The Art of Scientific Marketing

In mid-20th century New York City, a small local chain of markets developed a national reputation for customer service. It let favored customers call in orders and pay for them at pickup. Managers kept lists—handwritten lists, no less—of their best customers’ preferred products and called those customers with special offers. People were happy to pay slightly higher prices overall in exchange for exclusive bargains and highly customized service.

Although it leverages new technologies like machine learning and Big Data, behavioral targeting will in many ways bring us full circle to that hands-on era in which companies created relevant offers that made customers feel valued and understood. Matz believes it would be a competitive advantage for companies to let customers interact with their profiles and even correct them to ensure that they only receive offers that meet their needs and preferences.

As more situational data pours in from smartphones and wearables to be analyzed by AI, she adds, behavioral targeting could become something more immersive than mere marketing. “If you know from that data that someone is not just an extrovert with specific preferences but that they’re currently in a good mood, you can start fine-tuning messages for that particular point in time,” she says. “We’ll move beyond static profiles to interactions based on characteristics that fluctuate.”

With enough data to work with, she suggests, behavioral targeting could become less about making offers and more about informing customers about their options at any given moment, in real time. D!

About the Authors

Denise Champion is Vice President of Strategy, Research, and Insights for Global Marketing at SAP.

Jeff Harvey is Global COO, SAP Analytics & Insight at SAP.

Lori Mitchell-Keller is Global General Manager, Consumer Industries at SAP.

Jeff Woods is Global COO, SAP Leonardo | Data and Analytics.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


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Digital Transformation Enables You to Optimize Operations

CRM Blog Digital Transformation Enables You to Optimize Operations

Your organization runs on data and the more automated and streamlined your data management processes, the more successful you will be at optimizing your operations.

With today’s technology, you can easily transform many of the manual processes that fill your employees’ workdays, freeing them up for more productive tasks.

Connecting and exchanging data across your business units allows you to respond more quickly to challenges and opportunities.

You can have a smooth flow of data and processes across marketing, sales, service, operations, and supply chain. With unified systems, employees can provide better customer service and spend more time on profitable activities.

Optimized operations can:

  • Simplify financial procedures such as workflow-driven purchase approvals and budget reviews to reduce time wasted tracking down signatures.
  • Reinforce consistent business processes by implementing workflows that guide employees to follow critical procedures—such as safety and inspections.
  • Automate functions to improve customer communication. Send emails at critical points in customer order processing—such as order confirmation, production updates, and shipping notices.
  • Track product history.

Optimization in Action:

Making the most of the data required to meet regulatory compliance, a bio-med company automated every aspect of their supply chain. Through automated data collection, the company is prepared for any recall through:

  • Expirations and serialized parts at the lot
  • Tracking back one step to their vendor and forward one step to the receiving physician for every item.
  • Captured e-signatures to document receipt of product and accompanying disclaimers at the time of delivery

This is just one example of how efficient use of data can optimize business operations.

Perhaps digital transformation could work for your business in ways you have not yet explored. Contributing members of the ERP/CRM/ERP Cloud Software Blogs have put together a white paper: What the Heck is Digital Transformation and What Does It Mean for Your Business? Read 6 more real-life experiences of how digital transformation is working in unique ways to enhance business processes.

Download now and feel free to contact our expert authors listed at the bottom of the white paper for suggestions about how digital transformation can help you optimize your business operations.

By CRM Software Blog Writer, crmsoftwareblog.com

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Digital Transformation using Dynamics CRM and SharePoint platforms

Create customer experiences that boost engagement and value to your business

The concept of “digital transformation” has different meaning to different companies. As digital transformation will look different for every company, I use the image of old payphone booth, converted into WiFi hotspot, to best describe one aspect of Digital Transformation for a telco. Digital transformation is the realization that customers will turn away from brands that don’t align with their needs and expectations, in this case Internet access anywhere.  A top-notch customer experience is the way to keep customers involved and engaged with your brand.

Front-end customer experience is not the only focus of digital transformation. Using technology to redesign operational systems has similar impact on the company’s ability to successfully provide great experiences to the customer. For this reason we recommend to harness the power of Dynamics 365 and SharePoint as the main two platforms to support Digital Transformation.

While most Digital Transformation experts support their ideas with business-to-consumer (B2C) ideas and examples, the transformation we are experiencing today is no different from the Business to Business (B2B) model. Business customers want to do everything, faster, easier, simpler, and anywhere. They are no longer happy with getting information the traditional way. Mailing brochures with price proposals does not meet customers’ expectations any more.

When Microsoft CRM was first released, about 15 years ago, it was mainly used as advanced spreadsheet, to manage and update contact details of leads, contacts, and accounts. Since then Dynamics 365 was developed to manage all touchpoints between the business and its clients. In the B2B model, these touch points are mostly Email communications and documents exchanges between commercial businesses. Business documents are either generated within Dynamics 365 or imported / sync with other ERP systems, and other business documents are expected to be stored SharePoint. Theoretically, these two platforms are designed to hold all business documents the organization generates, from price quotations, orders, invoices, payment receipt, and account’s statement, to service agreements and legal / commercial contracts.

It may look like static process between organizations. The reality is that documents are frequently exchanged and worked on. Price quotations are negotiated, orders are modified, invoices need to be signed off and then paid, parties exchange contracts till all details are agreed upon, artwork and creative ideas go through proofing processes before production.

DoxTray (by www.DynamicsObjects.com ) is cloud application scheduled to be released by December 2017. While companies are using SharePoint to internally collaborate between users, DoxTray aims at providing similar functionality for document collaboration between businesses. DoxTray relies on data stored in Dynamics 365 database, as well as documents stored in SharePoint.

DoxTray provides clients the facility to upload documents such as orders and contracts, download invoices, pay for invoices, and use DoxTray to facilitate exchange of notes between two businesses regarding contracts, orders, quotes and artwork / creative design proofing.

DoxTray is free, with paid add-on options.

If Digital transformation is the vision of your business or your customers, we would like to hear from you.

Read More….


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TIBCO NOW 2017—The Year of Digital Smarter

The TIBCO NOW 2017 global tour has wrapped, and your journey to Digital Smarter is supercharged moving forward. After three worldwide events in Singapore, Berlin, and San Diego, complete with presentations, announcements, networking, education, and demos, you’re now equipped with the information, skills, and resources to become a digital leader. TIBCO NOW has given you the tools and inspiration to take your organization to the next level through digital business transformation.

Here you’ll find a round-up of the news and blogs that went down this year across all three TIBCO NOW events. The fun doesn’t have to end! Keep the conversation going on social with #TIBCONOW, #DigitalSmarter, and #DigitalLeadership. Stay tuned for announcements of next 2018’s TIBCO NOW, being held September 4-6 at the Aria in Las Vegas. Stay connected with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Press Releases

TIBCO Software Announces 2017 Asia-Pacific Partner Excellence Awards
TIBCO Trailblazer Awards Celebrate Customer Innovation in Asia-Pacific at TIBCO NOW Singapore
Melbourne Airport Deploys Real-Time Data to Support World-Class Customer Experience
TIBCO Software Announces New Mashery Professional API Management Solution
Sold-Out TIBCO NOW Conference Kicks Off in Berlin
TIBCO Trailblazer Awards Recognize Customer Innovation in EMEA
TIBCO Announces New Spotfire Smart Data Catalog Offering
TIBCO Releases StreamBase 10 and Reimagines Streaming Analytics
TIBCO Introduces Robust New TIBCO Cloud Offering
TIBCO Software Celebrates Winners of EMEA Partner Excellence Awards
Sold-Out TIBCO NOW Comes to San Diego
TIBCO and Ingram Micro Announce Strategic Distribution Relationship
TIBCO Honors Innovative Customers with Trailblazer Awards
TIBCO Expands Cloud Platform to Include Messaging and Spotfire
TIBCO Embraces Open Source with Smarter Microservices and Event-Driven Microgateways
TIBCO Makes Enterprise-Class Messaging Available to Everyone
TIBCO Collaborates with Amazon Web Services to Deliver Serverless Integration Solutions


TIBCO NOW 2017 Brings Digital Smarter to Singapore
Digital Business Leadership is About Doing Digital, Smarter
TIBCO Trailblazer Awards Celebrate Customer Innovation at TIBCO NOW Singapore

The First Step to Digital Smarter—TIBCO NOW Berlin Day 1

Going Further with Digital Smarter—TIBCO NOW Berlin Day 2

In Berlin, Three Companies Honored with TIBCO Trailblazer Awards

TIBCO NOW San Diego Day 1—Get Started on Digital Smarter

TIBCO Honors Innovative US Companies with Trailblazer Awards

Based in Boston, Chelsea works in corporate communications and is passionate about spreading the word of TIBCO through The TIBCO Blog, social media, and any means necessary.

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API-led Hybrid Integration Platform—The Foundation of a Successful Digital Business Initiative

appintegration API led Hybrid Integration Platform—The Foundation of a Successful Digital Business Initiative

Speed of innovation is the new benchmark of success in today’s digital business landscape. To keep pace, businesses need to empower users across the organization and increase the agility of the IT team. To do this, businesses need a system that enables them to identify opportunities and solve problems by connecting a wide variety of data sources, people, and processes.

TIBCO fuels digital business by enabling better decisions and faster, smarter actions through the TIBCO Connected Intelligence Cloud. From APIs and systems to devices and people, we interconnect everything, capture data in real time wherever it is, and augment the intelligence of your business through analytical insights.

Gartner* says “Modern integration is pervasive: The integration issue is not confined to a narrow set of use cases within an organization’s four walls. Integration is now pervasive because it empowers many aspects of the digital transformation journey, including ecosystems and the API economy.”

To support these new pressures, top innovators are adopting hybrid integration platforms (HIP) that support a variety of use cases. A good hybrid integration platform is the foundation for connected intelligence.

Success today means you need to be more than just a consumer of cloud services. Your company actually needs to offer new services or new business models via the web as APIs to be competitive. But is your company ready? Now is the time to examine your application landscape and ask yourself:

  • Are your development teams able to deploy new products as quickly as you need them to?
  • Are you able to leverage the intellectual property of your workforce in developing new offerings?
  • Will your existing systems and services support this new provider model?

If not, you need to decide which pieces of your current systems can at least be useful and included in your new architecture. Then, you need to select tools that will support an API-led cloud native approach to application development.

To stay competitive, you need to make sure that your integration solution supports this new business model by connecting everyone to everything, enabling you to acheive connected intelligence.

By filling in gaps in existing integration stacks, TIBCO is helping organizations across the globe evolve their infrastructure into a self-service, API-led hybrid integration platform.

You can learn more about how our hybrid integration platform can power your digital transformation by visiting our website at: https://www.tibco.com/solutions/hybrid-cloud-integration

You can also watch our on-demand webinar called “Adopting a Hybrid Integration Platform.”

* Gartner – Massimo Pezzini, How Pervasive Integration Enables Your API Initiatives (and Vice Versa)

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Digital Hub Returns

Digital Hub is not a new idea. It’s been percolating for a few years, and its roots can be traced to Dublin, Ireland, where in a cluster of eight buildings, there exists what might be the original hub. In Dublin, it’s made up of 97 companies employing 725 people, and it was given a jumpstart by the government in 2003. Elsewhere, we might be more attuned to the idea of a tech incubator.

Fast-forward to today and half a world away in Kuala Lumpur, where Oracle has employed the hub concept to label its small and medium-sized enterprise incubator — and for good reason. More than two-thirds of the world’s total micro and SME market, equal to 266 businesses, is in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a New Straits Timesreport.

“The KL digital hub is set to leverage Asia Pacific’s small and medium enterprises’ immense growth through providing our Oracle Cloud solutions to streamline operations, boost innovation and build a platform for growth,” noted Fitri Abdullah, Oracle managing director of Malaysia.

Creating Demand

All well and good — and timely too — with Oracle OpenWorld happening next week. Oracle has learned the lesson of its main rivals for supremacy in the cloud: In addition to creating product (supply), it also needs to create demand, which would seem to turn a foundation of economics on its head.

Say’s law states that supply creates its own demand, but the literal meaning of the term might not be what applies.

It is true that supply of new category products and services creates its own demand. Customers often aren’t even aware of their need until a product shows up that demonstrates a void in life. For example, how many people really knew they needed an iPhone before it was announced in 2007?

By the same token, how many businesses knew they needed cloud computing before Salesforce introduced its product in 2000? I was there, and I can tell you it was not very many at all.

Businesses were crying for enterprise software that was easier to install and maintain, and that didn’t cost the equivalent of the GDP of an emerging nation. Cloud computing provided that, and those attributes are why the cloud initially succeeded.

Now, many years later, the bloom is off the rose, and while I think Say’s law still operates quite well under the right conditions, it doesn’t operate in cloud computing, because supply is ubiquitous. It’s time to focus on demand.

Lowering Cloud Costs

We know the cloud, and most of us don’t even consider it as risky as having data under the control of a corporation. Just look at Equifax and all of the other data breaches over the last few years. They’ve nearly all been breaches of in-house data centers.

But back to Oracle. Good on them for recognizing the need to generate demand in this key segment. We live in a different and later part of the cloud computing cycle, a time when cloud isn’t new or unique. It’s a time when the cloud has been proven better than what it replaces; a time when price concerns are a big part of decisions.

With price concerns come commoditization and automation as cost-cutting measures, and the soon-to-be-announced Oracle autonomous database is a great example of responding to those trends. There’s a stampede to the cloud happening right now. Perhaps it goes by the name of “digital disruption,” but it amounts to the same thing, and low-cost producers are in a good position to dominate.

I don’t know which company it will be, but it appears Oracle soon will have competition in Kuala Lumpur.

Another large company (I’m guessing American) will launch a hub there in October, according to the New Straits Times‘ story. No names have come up yet, but if you need some ideas just check out the incubators along Route 101 south of San Francisco.
end enn Digital Hub Returns

Denis%20Pombriant Digital Hub ReturnsDenis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at

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Smart Apps for Dummies Part 2—Raise your Digital IQ

In the first part of Smart Apps for Dummies blog series, we explained that low-code is at the convergence of several driving forces, illustrated in the diagram below.

live apps Smart Apps for Dummies Part 2—Raise your Digital IQ

Why low-code is essential to digital leadership

Now let’s address the why. Why are so many companies embracing low-code as a way to stay or become a digital leader?

Speed is of the essence

From a business standpoint, speed is of the essence. Not only speed of development of apps but foremost, speed of innovation. Ideas can now become fully functional apps in minutes rather than months. These apps seamlessly integrate and extend existing systems in place. Creating and changing enterprise apps is now easier and faster. Being able to quickly deploy, see results, and make changes is of huge benefit. It allows you to keep up with changing demands and growth. Slow results or difficult changes mean your company is constantly grasping at straws trying to stay in the game but instead, ending up behind.

But don’t lose sight of the end game—digital leadership

Low-code is essential to digital leadership. It is an enabler of digital transformation and a catalyzer of innovation.

under dig leadership Smart Apps for Dummies Part 2—Raise your Digital IQ

Enhance customer experience

Quickly translate ideas into sophisticated apps and pilot them in the marketplace innovation faster than the competition so that you can deliver disruptive products and services that meet and exceed customer expectations.

Innovation with connected digital products

Visual, easy-to-use, yet powerful tools allow you to break traditional barriers between business and IT. Maintaining a short and iterative app creation and enhancement process fosters active collaboration and ultimately greater alignment to solve business problems.

Nimble and cost effective operations

By rapidly creating and launching applications, you improve agility while maintaining the ability to enhance and expand apps over time. A simple, intuitive and cost-effective platform for creating smart applications that solve business challenges empowers your staff—unleash their creativity and turbocharge productivity.

This is why low-code was recently highlighted by ZDNet as a top enterprise technology to watch in 2017.

“[Low-code platforms] can greatly offload IT in simpler business situations and can even make it possible for digital transformation to occur in a far more decentralized manner than in the past”. 

Why low code is great for citizen developers

Who is the citizen developer?

There is ample content written on the citizen developer. Check out an especially great piece written by George V Hulme here. There is little doubt that citizen developers that have emerged in the past few years are true agents of change—a force to be reckoned with.

From our standpoint, a citizen developer can sit in either the IT or business side of an organization. He or she is foremost a problem-solver who has the drive and determination to engage in app development even though he or she lacks traditional coding skills. They:

  • Aspire to create a better way to work and know the challenges that get in the way of productivity, and envision solutions to be more efficient.
  • Have to grapple with the inability to drive change as much as desired because IT gets in the way, processes and existing systems are too inflexible, and delays are a common issue.
  • Have new ideas on how to delight customers and grow revenue, but need a way to quickly go from idea to operational app.
  • Are accustomed to long lead time to change. Going from idea to operational systems takes months at best, if not lost in the IT backlog.
  • Desire to advance skills on an ongoing basis to grow personally while positively impacting the business.

Empower citizen developers to drive digital transformation at digital speed with TIBCO Cloud Live Apps

  • Self-service over the cloud: Creating a new account is swift and does not require any software installation. Users are up and running instantly. Access is zippy and available anywhere and anytime from a web browser.
  • Jump right in and start describing a solution to a business problem in plain language. A five-step interview is all it takes to create applications from the ground up. Contextual help and video tutorials are available at your fingertips.
  • Get the job done in no time with intuitive visuals, simple drag-and-drop tools, and step-by-step guided interactions.
  • Capture new business requirements easily and perform app updates in a few clicks.
  • Speed up development with app sharing and reuse. Find the right app or template in just a few clicks.
  • With simple drag-and-drop, choose from a variety of pre-built connectors, unlock data from core systems, and bring it to life in minutes.
  • Create apps that play nicely with existing IT environment and are worry free for both business and IT.

In our next blog, we’ll look at why low-code is for IT (development) managers and how embracing low-code helps IT transform and extend IT’s reach.

Enough talk, we want to you to see it in action!

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At TIBCO NOW in October: Customers’ Digital Transformation Perspectives and Use Cases

tn blog At TIBCO NOW in October: Customers’ Digital Transformation Perspectives and Use Cases

At TIBCO NOW in San Diego, October 25 and 26, TIBCO customers and industry experts will deliver industry perspectives and use cases in breakout sessions with Q&A. A partial listing is shown below.

Come to TIBCO NOW to learn about tools, practices, and strategies that can support your company’s successful digital transformation. Learn more and register.

Wednesday, October 25

Industry Perspectives: Manufacturing
Ahmer Srivastava, director of analytics, Western Digital

Industry Perspectives: Travel
Mike Schuman, senior manager of operations and enablement, United Airlines

Innovation Panel
Christine Watts, chief enterprise architect, University of Chicago Medicine.

Thursday, October 26

How EagleView Created Real Value with TIBCO Cloud Integration
Bruce Harris, director of business applications, EagleView

Connecting SaaS applications goes beyond just integration. It changes processes and has material impact on your business. When done right, these impacts can be transformational. EagleView, a provider of aerial imagery, data analytics, and geographic information system solutions, will share how TIBCO Cloud Integration both changed the way things were done and set the basis for transformational change.

Delivering High-quality Master Data in Real-time for Trusted Insights
Erik McConathy, Tractor Supply Corporation; Barry Wooffitt, TIBCO

Your organization has access to an increasing volume and variety of data, which is fast becoming one of your most important assets for fueling decisions and driving innovation. But you really can’t depend on it ― and more importantly, the insights and business decisions based on it ― unless you’re governing master data, synchronizing it in real time, and managing quality. Learn how Tractor Supply is using TIBCO Spotfire and TIBCO MDM to improve product data quality and pave the way for additional investments and find out what lies ahead for TIBCO MDM.

Design Reports that Make Data “Over-the-Counter” & Easy to Use
Jenny Grant Rankin, Ph.D, author/lecturer, University of Cambridge

Most people misunderstand most data. Fortunately, misunderstandings can be easily avoided when data reports adhere to research-based reporting standards. The speaker will share a checklist of best practices synthesized from over 300 research studies that can make data easy to use without expert assistance. You’ll receive these standards, other free resources, and an understanding of how to design reports so users can understand data easily, quickly, and accurately using TIBCO Jaspersoft.

Real-time Monitoring for IoT Use Cases
Christine Watts, chief enterprise architect, University of Chicago Medicine; Michael O’Connell, chief analytics officer, TIBCO

Remote real-time monitoring of equipment, combined with modern analytic techniques, drives significant value in industries such as Energy, Logistics, and Manufacturing. We will show how to use TIBCO Spotfire, R, TIBCO Statistica, TIBCO StreamBase, and TIBCO Live Datamart to address use cases such as improving operating room efficiency, reducing re-admissions, and preventing cardiac arrest. The presentation includes a customer IoT case study.

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How Technology is Enabling Family Businesses to Thrive in the World of Digital Commerce

Posted by Maggie Miller, Senior Commerce Content Manager

In 1989, Peg and Tim Liebert founded a mail-order company they called Kansas Sampler. The catalog was filled with apparel and gifts related to the state of Kansas and local sports teams. In 1990, they expanded into brick-and-mortar retailing by opening five stores in the Kansas City area.

Fast-forward to 2017 – the family-owned business, under the name Rally House is operating over 60 stores in nine states and a growing ecommerce site with son Aaron Liebert leading the helm.

What’s helping to drive the growth of this second-generation family-owned business? Modern commerce technology.

“The retail industry changes fast,” said Liebert. “We came to a point where we needed a technology solution that was flexible and scalable so we could adapt quickly in this fast-changing industry.”

To modernize its business to meet the demands of today’s customers, Rally House turned to NetSuite to run its ERP, CRM, point-of-sale, ecommerce, order and inventory management and commerce marketing automation. Before that, the company was running on an operation of disconnected on premise systems and applications including QuickBooks, Excel and Celerant for POS and ecommerce.

Transforming Stores to Warehouses

The cloud-based solution helped Rally House double its store footprint in two years withoutSpringfield St.%20Louis%20Blues How Technology is Enabling Family Businesses to Thrive in the World of Digital Commerce having to add new IT staff. Real-time inventory visibility has allowed Rally House to display item availability by store on its website. Optimizing even more, Rally House moved its inventory to the stores – shutting down its distribution center. Fulfilling online orders from stores is a huge cost savings and provides a greater selection, faster shipping and improves customer satisfaction.

Another way Rally House is innovating the customer experience with technology is by offering a buy online, pick up in store option which also helps generate increased store traffic.

“We wouldn’t have been able to support this growth without NetSuite,” said Liebert. “Now we have a solution that can last with us forever.” 

Technology Turns the Page for TALAS

Another family-owned company taking on a new chapter in business transformation is TALAS.

 MG 1154 How Technology is Enabling Family Businesses to Thrive in the World of Digital CommerceStarted in 1962 by Elaine and Herbert Haas, TALAS was the first company in the US to provide the museum and library community with hand bookbinding and conservation supplies.

Today, Aaron Salik leads the second generation family business which now serves institutions, businesses and individuals around the world.

As the craft of bookbinding and art conservation was undergoing a resurgence, TALAS saw a need to upgrade its business with modern technology. TALAS closed the books on its outdated, disconnected systems including Sage and a homegrown ecommerce site and implemented NetSuite’s unified solution including ERP, CRM, ecommerce, inventory and order management and commerce marketing automation.

“NetSuite has allowed us to take a 50-year-old business and transform it with technology to grow without adding extra resources,” said Salik.

New Website Restores Online Experience

With the majority of the business coming from online sales, it’s critical for TALAS to provide a best-in-class online experience. Its new online store provides a fresh, easy to use, mobile-optimized experience and eliminates the manual order processing of online orders. With the new site, TALAS has seen its search rankings soar, helping to drive new customer acquisitions. Talas is now reaching a global audience and boosting demand for their products across the world. Customers seem to be enjoying the new online experience with sales up by 20 percent.

By investing in NetSuite both companies have gained a scalable solution that supports the business, without having to incur the costs of hiring new staff. From eliminating a warehouse to automating operational processes, both companies were able to create efficiencies that increase profits, cut costs and innovate on the customer experience. All while having technology that can grow with their companies for many more generations to come. 

Posted on Mon, September 11, 2017
by NetSuite filed under

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