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The Role Of Technology In Retail Food Sustainability

Joerg Koesters

You know your business. You’re an expert in what to expect from your customers, marketing campaigns, supply chain logistics, and IT developments within your field. But there are a lot of new concepts and technologies out there that impact the retail market and food sustainability. Let’s take a quick look at how technology is shaping each of these areas.

Social media and the generation gap

Social media is a hot buzzword right now, but many people in business leadership fail to appreciate the role social media plays in building their brand and their business. We have social media marketing, but it can also be a tool for gathering intelligence on potential issues that arise due to a recall or disease outbreak. However, the data gathered still needs to be handled logically. Gone are the days when a business would hire a couple college kids to respond to queries on social media. Instead, having your social media profiles connected to analytics helps you more quickly determine when you’re dealing with business as usual versus a serious PR nightmare.

But beyond social media, the focus consumers have on food is changing as the generations pass the torch to the next generation. Though we’re often focused on Generation X consumers, due to their position at the top of their earning potential, Generation Z consumers have a radically different view of food retail. In Switzerland, the dairy industry that has remained unchanged for centuries is now facing digitalization, transparency and traceability, potentially to the point of which region, farm, or even cow from which the consumer’s milk comes.

Digital transformation

Another hot trend is digital transformation or digitization of businesses. From farmers in developing countries who use mobile devices to verify the weather conditions for the next few days to utilities that are able to better expand and invest in their infrastructure to power farms, digitization has the opportunity to revolutionize our world.

Imagine a supply chain that starts with a connected farmer in a developing country. Digitization allows for mobile device connectivity, so the farmer can determine what needs to be done about a pest in the field. Sensors allow a grain elevator to estimate what the season’s yield will be, allowing for better distribution of bulk food ingredients around the globe. A manufacturer can use analytics to determine points of peak demand, giving them flexibility with just-in-time supply chain management. A store can use connectivity to determine exactly where produce or meats have come from during a recall. Consumers know they’re getting the best food for their families.

Personalization and 3D printing

Another driving trend in food is personalization. Whether it’s food that meets a hot new diet or doesn’t have allergens that cause health problems for much of the developed world, today’s consumer wants their food their way. As the Internet is bringing people together from across the globe, families with children who face the challenges of ADHD, for example, spoke out and demanded equal food quality to that being developed in Europe. Many children with ADHD have problems with hyperactivity caused by artificial food dyes. In Europe, these dyes have fallen under strict regulation, requiring foods that contain the dyes to be labeled similar to how alcohol and tobacco is in the U.S. Upon learning this, U.S. families demanded through a Change.org petition that a particular candy manufacturer stop using artificial food dyes in its candy.

Another trend in personalization is the advent of the 3D printer. No longer a simple gimmick to experiment with, the 3D printer has become an essential shop-floor tool in large and small businesses worldwide. Why? Because it makes it much more feasible for the average customer to afford the exact specifications they want in their food. Imagine a supermarket where a customer can simply walk up to a kiosk, request a pound of gluten-free, garlic-parmesan flavored pasta that is fortified with vitamins and is available in a number of child-friendly shapes. Instead of having an entire row of pastas, the kiosk only takes up a few square feet while still delivering a wide range of options, from economical to gourmet.

Sustainability

You’ve probably heard plenty about sustainability over the past few years. As a hot new buzzword, it’s regularly thrown into conversations whether it’s really understood or not. You know that climate change is turning into a problem for your suppliers as the weather becomes increasingly unpredictable, making it difficult to forecast potential crop yields in the long term, but what about in the short term? With your customers’ access to and interest in sustainability initiatives, your company needs to provide the information they need on what you’re doing to keep our world running. But can sustainability be good for your business? The answer is a resounding yes!

Many retailers may be unaware of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This initiative among member nations is focused on ending hunger, improving nutrition, improving food security, and promoting sustainable agriculture across the world. Currently, half a billion small farms provide 80% of the food for developing nations. Rural development will help increase the output of small farms to meet some of the world’s rising demand. It’s estimated that today, 795 million people are undernourished, and projections show that our world’s population will grow by another two billion by 2050. How will we feed everyone? Sustainability feeds not only today’s generation, but it ensures that the capability remains to feed tomorrow’s generations as well.

Adapting to the latest trends

Though many companies are currently holding their own, how much longer will that option be viable? Food delivery, better convenience store foods, and healthy fast-food chains are all gaining ground in the market. To remain competitive, you need to understand that these seemingly esoteric, theoretical concepts can and will make a tangible impact on how food is grown, transported, personalized, and delivered in the future.

For example, let’s look at online grocery shopping. This trend has been growing wildly in the past few years, with the percentage of U.S. households that have purchased groceries online increasing from 11% in 2013 to 21% in 2015. These households are also shopping differently online compared to in-store shopping, and busy households are increasingly shopping for specific products or setting up subscription-based shopping. How does a traditional grocery store keep customers coming to a brick-and-mortar store when faced with these competitors?

I know you’re busy running your business on a day to day basis, but you can see the additional levels of complexity in these topics that you need to understand to drive future revenue. To remain competitive, you need to improve your customers’ brand loyalty and grow your companys’ market share. By getting a better grip on these topics’ complexity, you’ll be able to address those concerns with a deeper understanding of the latest trends.

At SAP, we believe in helping our clients get the tools they need to stay ahead of the latest trends in their industries. Our upcoming SAP Future of Food Forum is an online series of virtual live discussions, with the first session on October 18. Among the topics we’ll cover during these discussions is the role being played by technology in terms of food sustainability.

To learn more about food sustainability and topics around the future of food, please join our virtual forum.

 

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About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the Head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a Technology Marketing executive with 20 years of experience in Marketing, Sales and Consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.

Future Cities: A Nexus Of Smart Utilities, Smart Transport, And Smart Tourism

Dr. Hichem Maya

Increasing urbanization represents one of the greatest challenges and opportunities today. The goal is to sustainably and holistically develop these future cities that will work on a smart, integrated, and connected digital network to improve livability and grow economic prosperity.

Innovation in this context means different things to different sectors. For citizens, it’s about quality of life, well-run institutions, and jobs. For businesses, it’s about the ability to thrive and innovate. For urban governments, it’s about transforming operations, empowering officials, and engaging better with citizens.

One of the top priorities of Dubai Plan 2021 is to create a smart and sustainable city that is integrated and connected. By developing and investing in a long-term strategy for success, governments can collaborate with technology providers on things such as improving traffic congestion, rethinking the distribution of utilities and resources, and optimizing tourist movement throughout the city.

Smarter traffic flow to reduce congestion

Congestion costs cities billions in fuel and wasted time, as well as increased accidents and pollution. Combining an intelligent traffic management platform and a traffic congestion management system could be the solution Dubai needs to manage roadway traffic. This approach involves intricate measurement of traffic flows and congestion to inform city planning.

Big Data from smart applications can deliver instant insights on traffic flows to help streamline movement within the city. Centralization of data from smart sensors supports data quality and contributes to a traffic data model with a flexible interface for leveraging tools and value-added innovations.

Smart sensors, along with algorithms applied to incoming data, can also enable decision-making to improve congestion and traffic flow. These tools can provide an early warning system for traffic problems, support public travel guidance systems, and create a working framework for traffic control from all perspectives. In each case, the aim is a safer, less congested city.

Smarter utilities to save resources

To meet customer, regulator, and shareholder expectations, the role of utility companies is expanding beyond providing utility services into connecting various components of the new energy economy.

Water is a critical resource that’s in short supply, and leaks, which are costly in terms of money and the environment, must be promptly fixed. IoT sensors in the water distribution network detect leaks early on, reducing the risk of water pollution and conserving scarce resources.

Energy distribution can be controlled with smart billing that incorporates meter and device management, as well as enterprise asset management. The results are significant: reducing the annual service and maintenance cost by 31% by resolving issues at the root, and achieving a 71% improvement in recordable accident frequency by integrating safety and health systems with asset management.

Smart tourism to welcome visitors (and support citizens)

Dubai’s smart city initiative helps tourists to feel welcomed in the city by promoting the local economy, capitalizing on tourist expenditures, and distributing tourism to minimize crowding. The advantages of the network include information about real-time traffic, local attractions and landmarks, and transportation arrival and departures.

The tourist network connects public and private enterprises with tourists, visitors, and constituents. Leveraging Internet of Things capabilities; Big Data; predictive algorithms; and in-memory computing, mobile, and hybrid cloud platforms delivers the right proposals and offers from the relevant service providers to tourists at the right time, in the right context, and based on geolocalized and personalized profiles.

iBeacons placed at selected tourist attractions could push information of interest to the user. Businesses can also leverage user behaviors and selections to target and engage customers more effectively. Not only will this system improve the tourist experience, but by successfully distributing tourist crowds, citizens will enjoy a better quality of life.

With this network, the city can also create tourist profiles to improve urban planning and better balance visitor crowds by enticing tourists to change their plans in response to compelling offerings made by the city’s partners.

The vision for a smart city platform will enable Dubai to establish an urban network that can directly link small business owners with customers (both citizens and visitors) through low-cost distribution channels.

For more on how cities are leveraging smart technology, listen to experts discuss Smarter Cities: Future Metropolis and Societal Impact.

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Dr. Hichem Maya

About Dr. Hichem Maya

Dr. Hichem Maya leads the industry digital transformation and value engineering team in the Middle East and North Africa at SAP. The organization helps businesses from a variety of industries to identify the proper value generated through digital technologies adoption.

How Digitalization Is Helping To Bring Clean Water To India

Ajitabh Das

Staggering economic growth may have improved the lifestyle for millions in India, but there are still millions who struggle for basic amenities like clean water.

According to a report by WaterAid, a global advocacy group on water and sanitation, around 63 million Indians don’t have access to clean drinking water. To compound this shortage, an estimated 40 per cent of the supplied water is lost to leakages in pipes and connections. Those statistics are why the Indian government has accorded a high priority to universal access to drinkable water.

To meet the enormous demand and improve the delivery of clean water, Indian water storage and transportation companies like Vectus, based in the northern city of Noida, have turned to IT to increase their operational efficiency. Vectus, a leading producer of water tank and piping devises, has 13 manufacturing and 13 Depots sites across India and has grown at an average annual rate of 35 percent. Despite achieving this impressive annual growth, the company faced operational performance challenges with its IT systems.

Employees  had  to  manually  record  customer  orders,  process  billing,  and  keep  track  of  product dispatches. The operational task was laborious and often inaccurate. According to  Manish Sinha, head of IT at Vectus, they “faced major issues with server downtime that caused staff to put in extra shifts to enter data, costing up to 12 million Rupees (USD 180,000) in overtime payments.”

To address their problems, in just four and half months, the company went live in all its 24 locations with next-generation ERP business suite and  has seen impressive results. Sinha says that after going live “we have experienced no downtime and have not once had to restart the server during working hours. In all, we believe we have increased total operating efficiency by 60 percent across the company.”

Vectus has seen  50 percent faster access to real-time data to monitor business performance, enabling smarter budgeting and planning. They can now check real-time inventories to know which products are selling. That helps them plan production and determine which products they should emphasize more for market promotion. By comparing real-time sales data with inventories, the company reduced waste and total procurement cycle time from over 21 days to just 15 days. Because of one-click accounting and cross-business transparency, the company is better prepared to meet compliance regulations, complete audits, and quickly report financial information.

Digital intervention will not fix all the problems related to India’s perennial water shortage, but it does provide a new effective tool for companies like Vectus to drive efficiency and effectively deliver much- needed clear water storage and transportation solutions to its customers.

For more on how technology can improve lives, see From Forest To Pharmacy: Analytics Enables Holistic Healing.

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Ajitabh Das

About Ajitabh Das

Ajitabh Das is a fellow for the SAP News Center editorial team at SAP.

Primed: Prompting Customers to Buy

Volker Hildebrand, Sam Yen, and Fawn Fitter

When it comes to buying things—even big-ticket items—the way we make decisions makes no sense. One person makes an impulsive offer on a house because of the way the light comes in through the kitchen windows. Another gleefully drives a high-end sports car off the lot even though it will probably never approach the limits it was designed to push.

We can (and usually do) rationalize these decisions after the fact by talking about needing more closet space or wanting to out-accelerate an 18-wheeler as we merge onto the highway, but years of study have arrived at a clear conclusion:

When it comes to the customer experience, human beings are fundamentally irrational.

In the brick-and-mortar past, companies could leverage that irrationality in time-tested ways. They relied heavily on physical context, such as an inviting retail space, to make products and services as psychologically appealing as possible. They used well-trained salespeople and employees to maximize positive interactions and rescue negative ones. They carefully sequenced customer experiences, such as having a captain’s dinner on the final night of a cruise, to play on our hard-wired craving to end experiences on a high note.

Today, though, customer interactions are increasingly moving online. Fortune reports that on 2016’s Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that is so crucial to holiday retail results, 108.5 million Americans shopped online, while only 99.1 million visited brick-and-mortar stores. The 9.4% gap between the two was a dramatic change from just one year prior, when on- and offline Black Friday shopping were more or less equal.

When people browse in a store for a few minutes, an astute salesperson can read the telltale signs that they’re losing interest and heading for the exit. The salesperson can then intervene, answering questions and closing the sale.

Replicating that in a digital environment isn’t as easy, however. Despite all the investments companies have made to counteract e-shopping cart abandonment, they lack the data that would let them anticipate when a shopper is on the verge of opting out of a transaction, and the actions they take to lure someone back afterwards can easily come across as less helpful than intrusive.

In a digital environment, companies need to figure out how to use Big Data analysis and digital design to compensate for the absence of persuasive human communication and physical sights, sounds, and sensations. What’s more, a 2014 Gartner survey found that 89% of marketers expected customer experience to be their primary differentiator by 2016, and we’re already well into 2017.

As transactions continue to shift toward the digital and omnichannel, companies need to figure out new ways to gently push customers along the customer journey—and to do so without frustrating, offending, or otherwise alienating them.

The quest to understand online customers better in order to influence them more effectively is built on a decades-old foundation: behavioral psychology, the study of the connections between what people believe and what they actually do. All of marketing and advertising is based on changing people’s thoughts in order to influence their actions. However, it wasn’t until 2001 that a now-famous article in the Harvard Business Review formally introduced the idea of applying behavioral psychology to customer service in particular.

The article’s authors, Richard B. Chase and Sriram Dasu, respectively a professor and assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, describe how companies could apply fundamental tenets of behavioral psychology research to “optimize those extraordinarily important moments when the company touches its customers—for better and for worse.” Their five main points were simple but have proven effective across multiple industries:

  1. Finish strong. People evaluate experiences after the fact based on their high points and their endings, so the way a transaction ends is more important than how it begins.
  2. Front-load the negatives. To ensure a strong positive finish, get bad experiences out of the way early.
  3. Spread out the positives. Break up the pleasurable experiences into segments so they seem to last longer.
  4. Provide choices. People don’t like to be shoved toward an outcome; they prefer to feel in control. Giving them options within the boundaries of your ability to deliver builds their commitment.
  5. Be consistent. People like routine and predictability.

For example, McKinsey cites a major health insurance company that experimented with this framework in 2009 as part of its health management program. A test group of patients received regular coaching phone calls from nurses to help them meet health goals.

The front-loaded negative was inherent: the patients knew they had health problems that needed ongoing intervention, such as weight control or consistent use of medication. Nurses called each patient on a frequent, regular schedule to check their progress (consistency and spread-out positives), suggested next steps to keep them on track (choices), and cheered on their improvements (a strong finish).

McKinsey reports the patients in the test group were more satisfied with the health management program by seven percentage points, more satisfied with the insurance company by eight percentage points, and more likely to say the program motivated them to change their behavior by five percentage points.

The nurses who worked with the test group also reported increased job satisfaction. And these improvements all appeared in the first two weeks of the pilot program, without significantly affecting the company’s costs or tweaking key metrics, like the number and length of the calls.

Indeed, an ongoing body of research shows that positive reinforcements and indirect suggestions influence our decisions better and more subtly than blatant demands. This concept hit popular culture in 2008 with the bestselling book Nudge.

Written by University of Chicago economics professor Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge first explains this principle, then explores it as a way to help people make decisions in their best interests, such as encouraging people to eat healthier by displaying fruits and vegetables at eye level or combatting credit card debt by placing a prominent notice on every credit card statement informing cardholders how much more they’ll spend over a year if they make only the minimum payment.

Whether they’re altruistic or commercial, nudges work because our decision-making is irrational in a predictable way. The question is how to apply that awareness to the digital economy.

In its early days, digital marketing assumed that online shopping would be purely rational, a tool that customers would use to help them zero in on the best product at the best price. The assumption was logical, but customer behavior remained irrational.

Our society is overloaded with information and short on time, says Brad Berens, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California, Annenberg, so it’s no surprise that the speed of the digital economy exacerbates our desire to make a fast decision rather than a perfect one, as well as increasing our tendency to make choices based on impulse rather than logic.

Buyers want what they want, but they don’t necessarily understand or care why they want it. They just want to get it and move on, with minimal friction, to the next thing. “Most of our decisions aren’t very important, and we only have so much time to interrogate and analyze them,” Berens points out.

But limited time and mental capacity for decision-making is only half the issue. The other half is that while our brains are both logical and emotional, the emotional side—also known as the limbic system or, more casually, the primitive lizard brain—is far older and more developed. It’s strong enough to override logic and drive our decisions, leaving rational thought to, well, rationalize our choices after the fact.

This is as true in the B2B realm as it is for consumers. The business purchasing process, governed as it is by requests for proposals, structured procurement processes, and permission gating, is designed to ensure that the people with spending authority make the most sensible deals possible. However, research shows that even in this supposedly rational process, the relationship with the seller is still more influential than product quality in driving customer commitment and loyalty.

Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, studies how the emotional brain shapes decisions and experiences. In a popular TED Talk, he says that people in the process of making decisions fall into one of two mindsets: Type 1, which is stressed and wants to feel comforted and safe, and Type 2, which is bored or eager and wants to explore and take action.

People can move between these two mindsets, he says, but in both cases, the emotional brain is in control. Influencing it means first delivering a message that soothes or motivates, depending on the mindset the person happens to be in at the moment and only then presenting the logical argument to help rationalize the action.

In the digital economy, working with those tendencies means designing digital experiences with the full awareness that people will not evaluate them objectively, says Ravi Dhar, director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management. Since any experience’s greatest subjective impact in retrospect depends on what happens at the beginning, the end, and the peaks in between, companies need to design digital experiences to optimize those moments—to rationally design experiences for limited rationality.

This often involves making multiple small changes in the way options are presented well before the final nudge into making a purchase. A paper that Dhar co-authored for McKinsey offers the example of a media company that puts most of its content behind a paywall but offers free access to a limited number of articles a month as an incentive to drive subscriptions.

Many nonsubscribers reached their limit of free articles in the morning, but they were least likely to respond to a subscription offer generated by the paywall at that hour, because they were reading just before rushing out the door for the day. When the company delayed offers until later in the day, when readers were less distracted, successful subscription conversions increased.

Pre-selecting default options for necessary choices is another way companies can design digital experiences to follow customers’ preference for the path of least resistance. “We know from a decade of research that…defaults are a de facto nudge,” Dhar says.

For example, many online retailers set a default shipping option because customers have to choose a way to receive their packages and are more likely to passively allow the default option than actively choose another one. Similarly, he says, customers are more likely to enroll in a program when the default choice is set to accept it rather than to opt out.

Another intriguing possibility lies in the way customers react differently to on-screen information based on how that information is presented. Even minor tweaks can have a disproportionate impact on the choices people make, as explained in depth by University of California, Los Angeles, behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi in his 2015 book, The Smarter Screen.

A few of the conclusions Benartzi reached: items at the center of a laptop screen draw more attention than those at the edges. Those on the upper left of a screen split into quadrants attract more attention than those on the lower left. And intriguingly, demographics are important variables.

Benartzi cites research showing that people over 40 prefer more visually complicated, text-heavy screens than younger people, who are drawn to saturated colors and large images. Women like screens that use a lot of different colors, including pastels, while men prefer primary colors on a grey or white background. People in Malaysia like lots of color; people in Germany don’t.

This suggests companies need to design their online experiences very differently for middle-aged women than they do for teenage boys. And, as Benartzi writes, “it’s easy to imagine a future in which each Internet user has his or her own ‘aesthetic algorithm,’ customizing the appearance of every site they see.”

Applying behavioral psychology to the digital experience in more sophisticated ways will require additional formal research into recommendation algorithms, predictions, and other applications of customer data science, says Jim Guszcza, PhD, chief U.S. data scientist for Deloitte Consulting.

In fact, given customers’ tendency to make the fastest decisions, Guszcza believes that in some cases, companies may want to consider making choice environments more difficult to navigate— a process he calls “disfluencing”—in high-stakes situations, like making an important medical decision or an irreversible big-ticket purchase. Choosing a harder-to-read font and a layout that requires more time to navigate forces customers to work harder to process the information, sending a subtle signal that it deserves their close attention.

That said, a company can’t apply behavioral psychology to deliver a digital experience if customers don’t engage with its site or mobile app in the first place. Addressing this often means making the process as convenient as possible, itself a behavioral nudge.

A digital solution that’s easy to use and search, offers a variety of choices pre-screened for relevance, and provides a friction-free transaction process is the equivalent of putting a product at eye level—and that applies far beyond retail. Consider the Global Entry program, which streamlines border crossings into the U.S. for pre-approved international travelers. Members can skip long passport control lines in favor of scanning their passports and answering a few questions at a touchscreen kiosk. To date, 1.8 million people have decided this convenience far outweighs the slow pace of approvals.

The basics of influencing irrational customers are essentially the same whether they’re taking place in a store or on a screen. A business still needs to know who its customers are, understand their needs and motivations, and give them a reason to buy.

And despite the accelerating shift to digital commerce, we still live in a physical world. “There’s no divide between old-style analog retail and new-style digital retail,” Berens says. “Increasingly, the two are overlapping. One of the things we’ve seen for years is that people go into a store with their phones, shop for a better price, and buy online. Or vice versa: they shop online and then go to a store to negotiate for a better deal.”

Still, digital increases the number of touchpoints from which the business can gather, cluster, and filter more types of data to make great suggestions that delight and surprise customers. That’s why the hottest word in marketing today is omnichannel. Bringing behavioral psychology to bear on the right person in the right place in the right way at the right time requires companies to design customer experiences that bridge multiple channels, on- and offline.

Amazon, for example, is known for its friction-free online purchasing. The company’s pilot store in Seattle has no lines or checkout counters, extending the brand experience into the physical world in a way that aligns with what customers already expect of it, Dhar says.

Omnichannel helps counter some people’s tendency to believe their purchasing decision isn’t truly well informed unless they can see, touch, hear, and in some cases taste and smell a product. Until we have ubiquitous access to virtual reality systems with full haptic feedback, the best way to address these concerns is by providing personalized, timely, relevant information and feedback in the moment through whatever channel is appropriate. That could be an automated call center that answers frequently asked questions, a video that shows a product from every angle, or a demonstration wizard built into the product. Any of these channels could also suggest the customer visit the nearest store to receive help from a human.

The omnichannel approach gives businesses plenty of opportunities to apply subtle nudges across physical and digital channels. For example, a supermarket chain could use store-club card data to push personalized offers to customers’ smartphones while they shop. “If the data tells them that your goal is to feed a family while balancing nutrition and cost, they could send you an e-coupon offering a discount on a brand of breakfast cereal that tastes like what you usually buy but contains half the sugar,” Guszcza says.

Similarly, a car insurance company could provide periodic feedback to policyholders through an app or even the digital screens in their cars, he suggests. “Getting a warning that you’re more aggressive than 90% of comparable drivers and three tips to avoid risk and lower your rates would not only incentivize the driver to be more careful for financial reasons but reduce claims and make the road safer for everyone.”

Digital channels can also show shoppers what similar people or organizations are buying, let them solicit feedback from colleagues or friends, and read reviews from other people who have made the same purchases. This leverages one of the most familiar forms of behavioral psychology—reinforcement from peers—and reassures buyers with Shiv’s Type 1 mindset that they’re making a choice that meets their needs or encourages those with the Type 2 mindset to move forward with the purchase. The rational mind only has to ask at the end of the process “Am I getting the best deal?” And as Guszcza points out, “If you can create solutions that use behavioral design and digital technology to turn my personal data into insight to reach my goals, you’ve increased the value of your engagement with me so much that I might even be willing to pay you more.”

Many transactions take place through corporate procurement systems that allow a company to leverage not just its own purchasing patterns but all the data in a marketplace specifically designed to facilitate enterprise purchasing. Machine learning can leverage this vast database of information to provide the necessary nudge to optimize purchasing patterns, when to buy, how best to negotiate, and more. To some extent, this is an attempt to eliminate psychology and make choices more rational.

B2B spending is tied into financial systems and processes, logistics systems, transportation systems, and other operational requirements in a way no consumer spending can be. A B2B decision is less about making a purchase that satisfies a desire than it is about making a purchase that keeps the company functioning.

That said, the decision still isn’t entirely rational, Berens says. When organizations have to choose among vendors offering relatively similar products and services, they generally opt for the vendor whose salespeople they like the best.

This means B2B companies have to make sure they meet or exceed parity with competitors on product quality, pricing, and time to delivery to satisfy all the rational requirements of the decision process. Only then can they bring behavioral psychology to bear by delivering consistently superior customer service, starting as soon as the customer hits their app or website and spreading out positive interactions all the way through post-purchase support. Finishing strong with a satisfied customer reinforces the relationship with a business customer just as much as it does with a consumer.

The best nudges make the customer relationship easy and enjoyable by providing experiences that are effortless and fun to choose, on- or offline, Dhar says. What sets the digital nudge apart in accommodating irrational customers is its ability to turn data about them and their journey into more effective, personalized persuasion even in the absence of the human touch.

Yet the subtle art of influencing customers isn’t just about making a sale, and it certainly shouldn’t be about persuading people to act against their own best interests, as Nudge co-author Thaler reminds audiences by exhorting them to “nudge for good.”

Guszcza, who talks about influencing people to make the choices they would make if only they had unlimited rationality, says companies that leverage behavioral psychology in their digital experiences should do so with an eye to creating positive impact for the customer, the company, and, where appropriate, the society.

In keeping with that ethos, any customer experience designed along behavioral lines has to include the option of letting the customer make a different choice, such as presenting a confirmation screen at the end of the purchase process with the cold, hard numbers and letting them opt out of the transaction altogether.

“A nudge is directing people in a certain direction,” Dhar says. “But for an ethical vendor, the only right direction to nudge is the right direction as judged by the customers themselves.” D!

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


About the Authors:

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Sam Yen is Chief Design Officer and Managing Director at SAP.

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

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Artificial Intelligence: The Future Of Oil And Gas

Anoop Srivastava

Oil prices have fallen dramatically over last few years, forcing some major oil companies to take drastic actions such as layoffs, cutting investments and budgets, and more. Shell, for example, shelved its plan to invest in Qatar, Aramco put on hold its deep-water exploration in the Red Sea, Schlumberger fired a few thousand employees, and the list goes on…

In view of falling oil prices and the resulting squeeze on cash flows, the oil and gas industry has been challenged to adapt and optimize its performance to remain profitable while maintaining a long-term investment and operating outlook. Currently, oil and gas companies find it difficult to maintain the same level of investment in exploration and production as when crude prices were at their peak. Operations in the oil and gas industry today means balancing a dizzying array of trade-offs in the drive for competitive advantage while maximizing return on investment.

The result is a dire need to optimize performance and optimize the cost of production per barrel. Companies have many optimization opportunities once they start using the massive data being generated by oil fields. Oil and gas companies can turn this crisis into an opportunity by leveraging technological innovations like artificial intelligence to build a foundation for long-term success. If volatility in oil prices is the new norm, the push for “value over volume” is the key to success going forward.

Using AI tools, upstream oil and gas companies can shift their approach from production at all costs to producing in context. They will need to do profit and loss management at the well level to optimize the production cost per barrel. To do this, they must integrate all aspects of production management, collect the data for analysis and forecasting, and leverage artificial intelligence to optimize operations.

When remote sensors are connected to wireless networks, data can be collected and centrally analyzed from any location. According to the consulting firm McKinsey, the oil and gas supply chain stands to gain $50 billion in savings and increased profit by adopting AI. As an example, using AI algorithms to more accurately sift through signals and noise in seismic data can decrease dry wellhead development by 10 percent.

How oil and gas can leverage artificial intelligence

1. Planning and forecasting

On a macro scale, deep machine learning can help increase awareness of macroeconomic trends to drive investment decisions in exploration and production. Economic conditions and even weather patterns can be considered to determine where investments should take place as well as intensity of production.

2. Eliminate costly risks in drilling

Drilling is an expensive and risky investment, and applying AI in the operational planning and execution stages can significantly improve well planning, real-time drilling optimization, frictional drag estimation, and well cleaning predictions. Additionally, geoscientists can better assess variables such as the rate of penetration (ROP) improvement, well integrity, operational troubleshooting, drilling equipment condition recognition, real-time drilling risk recognition, and operational decision-making.

When drilling, machine-learning software takes into consideration a plethora of factors, such as seismic vibrations, thermal gradients, and strata permeability, along with more traditional data such as pressure differentials. AI can help optimize drilling operations by driving decisions such as direction and speed in real time, and it can predict failure of equipment such as semi-submersible pumps (ESPs) to reduce unplanned downtime and equipment costs.

3. Well reservoir facility management

Wells, reservoirs, and facility management includes integration of multiple disciplines: reservoir engineering, geology, production technology, petro physics, operations, and seismic interpretation. AI can help to create tools that allow asset teams to build professional understanding and identify opportunities to improve operational performance.

AI techniques can also be applied in other activities such as reservoir characterization, modeling and     field surveillance. Fuzzy logic, artificial neural networks and expert systems are used extensively across the industry to accurately characterize reservoirs in order to attain optimum production level.

Today, AI systems form the backbone of digital oil field (DOF) concepts and implementations. However, there is still great potential for new ways to optimize field development and production costs, prolong field life, and increase the recovery factor.

4. Predictive maintenance

Today, artificial intelligence is taking the industry by storm. AI-powered software and sensor hardware enables us to use very large amounts of data to gain real-time responses on the best future course of action. With predictive analytics and cognitive security, for example, oil and gas companies can operate equipment safely and securely while receiving recommendations on how to avoid future equipment failure or mediate potential security breaches.

5. Oil and gas well surveying and inspections

Drones have been part of the oil and gas industry since 2013, when ConocoPhillips used the Boeing ScanEagle drone in trials in the Chukchi Sea.  In June 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued the first commercial permit for drone use over United States soil to BP, allowing the company to survey pipelines, roads, and equipment in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. In January, Sky-Futures completed the first drone inspection in the Gulf of Mexico.

While drones are primarily used in the midstream sector, they can be applied to almost every aspect of the industry, including land surveying and mapping, well and pipeline inspections, and security. Technology is being developed to enable drones to detect early methane leaks. In addition, one day, drones could be used to find oil and gas reservoirs underlying remote uninhabited regions, from the comfort of a warm office.

6. Remote logistics

As logistics to offshore locations is always a challenge, AI-enhanced drones can be used to deliver materials to remote offshore locations.

Current adoption of AI

Chevron is currently using AI to identify new well locations and simulation candidates in California. By using AI software to analyze the company’s large collection of historical well performance data, the company is drilling in better locations and has seen production rise 30% over conventional methods. Chevron is also using predictive models to analyze the performance of thousands of pieces of rotating equipment to detect failures before they occur. By addressing problems before they become critical, Chevron has avoided unplanned shutdowns and lowered repair expenses. Increased production and lower costs have translated to more profit per well.

Future journey

Today’s oil and gas industry has been transformed by two industry downturns in one decade. Although adoption of new hard technology such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has helped, the oil and gas industry needs to continue to innovate in today’s low-price market to survive. AI has the potential to differentiate companies that thrive and those that are left behind.

The promise of AI is already being realized in the oil and gas industry. Early adopters are taking advantage of their position  to get a head start on the competition and protect their assets. The industry has always leveraged technology to adapt to change, and early adopters have always benefited the most. As competition in the oil and gas industry continues to heat up, companies cannot afford to be left behind. For those that understand and seize the opportunities inherent in adopting cognitive technologies, the future looks bright.

For more insight on advanced technology in the energy sector, see How Digital Transformation Is Refueling The Energy Industry.

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Anoop Srivastava

About Anoop Srivastava

Anoop Srivastava is Senior Director of the Energy and Natural Resources Industries at SAP Value Engineering in Middle East and North Africa. He advises clients on their digital transformation strategies and helps them align their business strategy with IT strategy leveraging digital technology innovations such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, Advanced Analytics, Cloud etc. He has 21+ years of work experience spanning across Oil& Gas Industry, Business Consulting, Industry Value Advisory and Digital Transformation.