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Fraud Consumes U.S. Online Commerce With An Appetite For Apparel

Lane Leskela

In our continuing saga on the wide world of large-scale fraud schemes, enter the invisible army of online commerce operators with the motivation and ability to steal consumer credit accounts and to create new accounts. One of their current objectives is to commit fraud by buying clothes and shoes and accessories to resell or to receive illegal chargebacks.

In fact, the apparel industry suffered a whopping 70% year-on-year increase in U.S.-based fraud attacks in 2016. This is according to new research that examines online fraud activity from the e-commerce fraud prevention provider Forter together with the Merchant Risk Council.

Let’s take a closer look at the results of the research, and examine what businesses can do to protect themselves from the growing threats.

Forter’s 2016 Fraud Attack Index

Israel-based Forter looked at data on more than 136 million transactions to compile its 2016 Fraud Attack Index, revealing a 79% increase in fraud incidents for U.S. domestic retail orders when comparing Q4 2015 to Q4 2016. Interestingly, online fraud attempts on international orders in Q4 2016 decreased by 13% when compared to incidents recorded in the same period in 2015. Nevertheless, fraud activity in online retail orders from outside the U.S. were 62% higher than in domestic orders during the fourth quarter of 2016.

Impact of EMV adoption

According to fraud research analysts at Forter, after the October 2015 adoption of EMV (microchip) credit cards in the United States, a rise in the number of domestic fraud attacks on online commerce sites was anticipated. As hoped, U.S.-based operators were negatively affected by not being able to easily copy the necessary data from physical cards. However, domestic fraudsters then shifted to increase their online pursuits, dramatically boosting domestic CNP (card not present) fraud activity last year.

Increase in online payment hacking

The 2016 Forter report noted an alarming upward trend in the Account Takeover (ATO) domain. Fraud operators have also shifted focus from “Merchant ATO” (breaking into accounts managed on the seller’s website in order to masquerade as returning customers) to “online payment ATO” (hacking into customer accounts managed by online payment services including PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Payments).

Thus Merchant ATO activity, which was on the rise in 2015, actually decreased last year. However, this represented a shift in account targeting by type rather than indicating an overall decrease in activity. The 2016 Fraud Attack Index reveals a 131% increase in all ATO attempts against U.S. online payment accounts.

Online payment fraud prevalent in apparel, with a 69% increase

Evaluating the online payment fraud differences between retail categories, Forter analysts also published the year-on-year percentage increases or decreases in fraud attacks for specific product verticals:

  • Apparel – 69% increase
  • Food and beverages 49.8% increase
  • Electronics – 1.8% decrease
  • Luxury goods – 8.4% decrease
  • Digital goods – 22.6% decrease
  • Travel & hospitality – 33% decrease

With an increase of nearly 50% over 2015, Forter’s data reveals that the food and beverage trade has also seen a dramatic increase in online fraudulent payments in the past year. As the five-quarter graphical analysis shows, the apparel industry remains under the threat of online fraud more than any other U.S. retail sector. Some of the contributing factors include widening deceptive buying practices and the large and growing market for stolen credit card information.

Forter’s report also warns online merchants and consumers that botnets are becoming increasingly popular with fraud players due to their ability to increase both the scale and reach of online attacks.

What to do

Fortunately, solutions are available that can help detect fraudulent activity and to prevent losses due to payment fraud. These solutions can:

  • Help customers reduce fraud-related financial losses by screening multiple payment scenarios while providing increased security for transactions in key business processes
  • Capture and analyze high volumes of transaction data from multiple sources and provide real-time detection to help quickly identify and halt fraud activity
  • Stop payment processing in real time on transactions that are associated with revealed fraud patterns
  • Offer prebuilt rules for fraud detection – for example, identifying customers located in high fraud-risk countries, and screening full customer addresses against politically exposed persons (PEP) lists
  • Prevent open access to identifying customer data and improve protection against sensitive information misuse
  • Mask sensitive data-capture fields before field values are handed over to a user interface

Learn more

Learn more about SAP solutions for fraud management and UI masking. Read the other blogs in our GRC series.

This article, GRC Tuesdays: Fraud Consumes U.S. Online commerce with an Appetite for Apparel, originally appeared on the SAP BusinessObjects Analytics blog and has been republished with permission.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Lane Leskela

About Lane Leskela

Lane Leskela is Global Business Development Principal, Governance, Risk, Compliance and Security at SAP.

Business Process Digitization In Life Sciences

Rajagopalan Subramanyam

Life science companies are facing several challenges that are forcing them to innovate.

A survey published in Harvard Business Review (March 2016) found that internal dysfunction and creeping complexity is the main barrier to consistent profitable growth. The survey polled 377 business leaders, most of whom represented companies with revenues of $5 billion and above.

Over time, companies accumulate disparate, inconsistent, and siloed processes. Some of these come from different processes and technologies introduced through acquisitions. Some linger from when the company was smaller. And some result from organizational resistance to change.

Resolving internal dysfunction and standardizing processes benefits the company in many ways:

  • Combats stalled profitability and growth
  • Leads to faster support and lower costs in technology and processes
  • Enables faster integration in M&A and reduces costs and time to integrate so business leaders can realize synergies more quickly
  • Provides better control over processes and makes it easier to determine the root cause of problems

Realizing these potential benefits, one leader in a niche biologics manufacturing space is undertaking a global process digitization initiative. The organization is standardizing processes, adopting leading practices, and building metrics and analytics around processes and sub-processes. The company’s goal is to support aggressive future growth plans. In that sense, it is re-imagining processes as a top-line enabler.

Digitization of processes helps companies re-imagine their business functions and gain deeper insights to improve the bottom line, move products faster and with greater precision, and understand patient or customer behavior at a deeper level.

The following are some trends seen by life science companies that are re-imagining their business processes.

Lines of business

Procurement

A progressive medical device company is looking to 3D-print smaller parts for its products.

A pharmaceutical company leverages 3D printing to print temporary spare parts so equipment can function without interruption until replacement parts arrive.

R&D

A Covance study (which appeared in biopharmadive.com in June 2017) reported that 10% of sites fail to enroll even a single patient in oncology clinical trials. In sites where patients were enrolled, the rate was slow: In one case, out of 116 sites, only 42 were active in patient enrollment. The study states that even in those active sites, it took 15 months to enroll just 77 patients. Pharmaceutical companies are leveraging analytics to improve their processes to improve patient engagement and increase enrollment rates.

Better patient engagement, faster enrollment, and positive customer experiences can help pharmaceutical companies get through their clinical trials more efficiently. For successful trials, this can mean getting approvals more quickly, which in turn can get products to the market earlier. The bottom line is faster revenue realization, but more importantly, much-needed therapies can get to patients sooner.

Manufacturing

Technology enables companies to finish products closer to the customer. This enables manufacturers to plan and move products better and to react more quickly to changes in the market.

To achieve this, some companies have chosen to separate their packaging operations from manufacturing. Still other companies are deploying cutting-edge planning systems to improve their planning processes.

Another pharmaceutical manufacturer has piloted process robots for some critical routine processes, such as palletization.

Distribution

Pharmaceutical companies, especially biologics, must transport their products carefully. Historically, cold chain shipments require a mandatory “temperature” release stating that products have not been subject to temperatures outside a prescribed range. This ensures that product properties are not altered so the therapy stays potent and effective.

Digitization allows companies to monitor other parameters that could potentially affect products, such as light, pressure, humidity, geographic location, length of time spent at various nodes en route, altitude, shock, etc. Integrated with an event management system and mobile alerts, anomalies or incursions can then be reported in real time, allowing quick action to save the shipment.

Other lines of business

Lines of business such as HR are also digitizing their business processes. Tasks such as resume matching and reading social media signals to gain insight on whether key employees could leave the company, etc. are increasingly being digitized. Digitization in HR also helps executives match roles with employees’ skill sets, experience, personality, and passions to put the best people in the right roles.

Leading practices, standardized processes

Based on observation of process dysfunction at various companies, some consulting companies have drawn up a taxonomy of best practices or standard processes. They have taken these leading practices and configured templates by industry, which companies can leverage as a starting point to accelerate ERP implementation. This approach not only saves considerable time and costs, but it also helps lower the volume of customization.

Another benefit is the quantification of process-related metrics at each logical step—for example, the number of erroneous orders or quality release failures with reason codes helps to periodically monitor the business.

Continuous process improvement

Digital transformation is introducing new process-related roles, such as process owner, process lead, sub-process lead, and even chief process officer. These roles reflect the importance of managing and governing processes for continued operational excellence.

Not only are these specialists responsible for continuous monitoring of their processes based on metrics and key performance indicators, but they are also entrusted with continuous improvement.

Another approach to process improvement is to use robots for operational functions. Such automation of processes with machine learning is known as RPA—robotics process automation, where a process robot learns the process and gets better at executing it. The business analyst can focus on data and metrics and glean business insights rather than battle with the operations tactics.

Re-imagining processes is an easy and cost-effective way to affect change, especially if companies start small and scale up their process improvement and automation as needed. The concept mooted by Dr. Michael Hammer in his book, Faster, Better, Cheaper, is now being taken to a whole new level.

I invite you to share your thoughts on this topic.

For more on advanced technology in life sciences, see The Internet of Things In Life Sciences.

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Rajagopalan Subramanyam

About Rajagopalan Subramanyam

Rajagopalan Subramanyam is Senior Director of the Life Sciences Business Unit at SAP.

Leading CFOs Align With IT To Automate And Streamline Operations

Thomas Zipperle

CFOs today have a unique vantage point within their organizations. No longer are they merely financial controllers whose only responsibility is to manage the company’s balance sheets. Now, CFOs take an active role in the boardroom when it comes to the organization’s strategy. This perspective puts them in an ideal position to initiate change for greater efficiency, and automation is an essential ally in developing the finance efficiency required by our relentless business environment.

Recognize the criticality of automation for driving efficiency

Recently, Oxford Economics and SAP surveyed 1,500 global CFOs and other senior executives and identified six traits that qualify a company as a “finance leader.” One of the six is the ability to “improve efficiency via automation.” This survey highlights the importance of automation-enabled efficiency as a benchmark of financial business performance because, as the study explains, “an inefficient business is like a bucket with a hole at the bottom, leaking productivity and profits.” This shows the relevance and to some extent, criticality of automation to the finance function and its role in enhancing efficiency.

However, only 11.5% of companies surveyed qualified as “finance leaders.” The responses of the faster-growing companies and their finance leaders highlight the importance of automation in a “strategically focused, value-driven (finance) function.” Among respondents whose revenues grew by 5% to 10% over the past year, nearly one-third agreed that automation is improving the finance function’s efficiency; this was twice as many as those with slower growth.

Align with IT to avoid disrupting operations

Additionally, finance leaders were always on the lookout for digital tools and innovative technology to help improve the financial efficiency of their business. This is supported by the research, which says that about 95% of finance leaders, compared with 70% of non-leaders, consider cloud-based applications “critical” or “very important” to the finance function. They were also much more likely than non-leaders to see Big Data and mobile technology in the same way.

The survey confirms that many CFOs are reluctant to use technology to enhance the efficiency of their finance functions because they fear it will result in the disruption of daily operations. That’s why it was named the number-one obstacle by responders. This is a valid concern, but one for which there is also a clear and available solution. To avoid this form of disruption, finance must work with IT to create a finance innovation plan that aligns flexibility in deployment with improvement in efficiency.

Start with the low-hanging fruit

The roadmap to successfully marry efficiency and technology is to invest in automation. Supporting this point, the Oxford Economics survey results suggest a key takeaway: Businesses should look for the low-hanging fruit and go for those first before going in for large-scale automation-related changes. This includes activities such as identifying where automation and technology will relieve staff of repetitive tasks and focusing on areas that can be streamlined to enhance the finance department’s efficiency, thereby improving service to the rest of the organization.

The survey also brings in the aspect of employee hiring; the fastest-growing and most profitable companies surveyed are continuing to hire. The reason for this is that while the finance function becomes more efficient, CFOs are redeploying employees in more productive ways.

Free up people and cash for more productive purposes

The other notable finding from the survey is that there seems to be a correlation between efficiency and cost control. The survey found that companies with 5%-10% profit margins (for the past year) were twice as likely as less-profitable firms to rate themselves as “very effective” at managing T&E expenses. They also found T&E spending analytics and supply chain analytics “extremely” or “very” useful.

These numbers tell us that for businesses, efficiency is about freeing up people as well as cash that is tied down in less-efficient ways, so that it can be invested in long-term growth. Most importantly, the survey shows how leaders in our profession are using technology to make it happen.

Learn more

Register today for our August 30 Webinar, “The Road to Strategic Finance: Characteristics of a Highly Effective Finance Function.”

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Thomas Zipperle

About Thomas Zipperle

Thomas Zipperle is CFO for SAP South East Asia, based in Singapore. As a business partner to the South East Asia management team, he supports SAP’s strategic growth in these emerging markets, provides them with relevant information on the state of the business, as well as decision support using SAP’s latest analytics tools. In his role, Thomas is also a distinguished speaker at many customer conferences, CFO roundtables, and events, where he shares his view on these latest innovations and showcases how SAP runs SAP. In 2016 Thomas was awarded the “CFO of the Year Award for Excellence in Technology” by CFO Innovation. Thomas has nearly 20 years of professional experience in Finance and Operations and holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Mannheim/Germany.

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.