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China Leads On Mobile Wallets — Will Others Follow?

Tom Groenfeldt

Mobile wallets have taken off faster in China than in the U.S., concluded a recent Forrester Research study. It found that 76% of metro Chinese consumers use mobile wallets or are interested in doing so, compared with only 36% of the urban online U.S. population.

The past influences the future, and as a fast-developing country, China has not had the payments infrastructure and regulatory legacy that developed in the U.S., said Brendan Miller, a principal analyst at Forrester.

“Incumbency is a factor. We have the highest penetration and usage of credit cards in the world, plus high debit card usage. As you go into other countries you will find they have alternative or local payment options, so consumers are used to using these methods like direct debit from a checking account and they avoid a lot of the credit card and interchange fees we have.”

Asia has smart cities and well-developed networks that are simpler than those in the U.S., where multiple levels of government make integration of payments and services more complicated.

Asia’s mobile wallet providers have the potential to gain the understanding of customers that department stores used to enjoy before the big brands replaced many store cards. “Nordstrom,  Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears — all those retailers had their own private label credit cards for years and years,” Miller noted. “They provided a way of getting a better understanding of what consumers were buying, and a way to avoid credit card and debit interchange fees.”

The rise of Alipay and WeChat in China has been driven by the value the services provide for consumers. “First they made it super convenient for consumers to buy, and then they layered on additional services that consumers found engaging, such as gamification and the idea of sending gifts on the Chinese New Year — red envelopes — that got people engaged with the system.”

In the U.S., payments systems have made it convenient, but that’s the lowest rung on the ladder, Miller added. “Mobile wallet providers will have to up their game.”

Mobile payments with NFC have the potential to be faster than EMV, which Forrester expected would drive mobile payments. Miller said that when he presented to a group of retailers last year, they told him that hasn’t been the case. “Retailers haven’t updated their terminal logic. So when you pay with NFC you should be able to tap and have transaction process immediately. Instead, I get prompted for my debit PIN or a signature because the POS is using the old terminal logic and not running NFC.”

If a buyer provides a thumb scan in Apply Pay, no additional identification should be needed. “But it is going to take a while for retailers to reprogram those terminals to improve the flow at checkout.”

Retailers have been preoccupied with getting EMV to work right that they haven’t focused on the user experience with NFC, he added. “Right now NFC is not that much more convenient, and meanwhile EMV is getting faster. Visa and Microsoft have done a lot to speed those up.”

The Forrester study predicted mainstream mobile wallets in the U.S. will add customer engagement features. The Chinese may provide some examples.

Miller said that Alipay has made some announcements of partnerships with American payment processors, primarily with a focus on targeting Chinese consumers within the U.S., such as pushing adoption in place where Chinese consumers visit. The Chinese payment companies may have the potential to reach beyond the Chinese markets, he said, but the attitudes of U.S. consumers will be different from the Chinese. “This is all harder that anyone thinks is it. Everyone is disappointed by Apple Pay or Android Pay adoption. This is going to take time; payments is hard to do.”

Consumers won’t bother with mobile wallets until they see some extra value beyond what cards or cash can offer, like the ability to order ahead at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, or get recommendations or coupons while shopping. Alipay and WeChat have evolved into lifestyle platforms for Chinese consumers. Miller predicts space will open in the U.S. for third-party providers like Apple, Facebook, and Google that could merge their other customer engagement tools with a mobile wallet.

For more on this topic, see Survey: Mobile Payments Can Boost Growth And Profitability.

Twitter @tomgroenfeldt

Image: AP

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About Tom Groenfeldt

Tom Groenfeldt is a freelance reporter who focuses largely on finance and technology including trading, risk, back-office systems, big data, analytics, retail banking, international banking, and e-commerce. His work appears in several publications, including Forbes.com in the U.S. and Banking Technology in London. In 2015, he was named to the "FinServ 25," the top 25 top global influencers in banking, by The Financial Brand.

Survey Says: CFOs + Technology = Dramatically Improved Performance

Ido Shamgar

There are so many ways CFOs can look at improving performance – so much so that it can become a daunting challenge encumbered by missteps and misstarts, or worse, inaction.

But by narrowing the focus to three areas, enabled by the speed, accuracy, and power of technology, improvements in performance usually happen quickly and pervasively:

  • Continuous accounting
  • Dynamic planning and analysis
  • Turning live insights into action

The power of technology in boosting performance

In previous blogs, my colleagues have mentioned the Oxford/SAP survey of 1,500 global CFOs and senior executives. I’d like to focus on the survey findings that center around performance, and the practices of the 11.5% of responders who were designated finance leaders.

Successful financial leaders were masterful in the six key areas diagrammed above. They were:

  • Regular collaborators across the business
  • Influencers beyond the finance function
  • Extremely effective at core finance functions
  • Well-equipped at handling regulatory changes
  • Drivers of strategic growth
  • Users of automation to boost efficiency

According to the survey, when finance leaders are proactive in these areas, the payoffs are tangible and impressive. Their companies are twice as likely as those of non-leaders to report market share growth over the past year. They have a tighter grip on costs. And they make the most of innovations in technology.

Technology-supported improvements in performance: making it happen

How can the three areas I mentioned earlier, buoyed by technology, help drive the proven criteria for improved performance? Let’s look at some specifics.

Continuous accounting. Certainly, the period-end close isn’t going away, and shouldn’t. However, technology-enabled continuous accounting allows for ongoing improvement in the quality, accuracy, and efficiency of information. Key areas where continuous accounting is proving to be a valuable tool include intercompany reconciliation, account balance reconciliation, attestation, and equity account reviews. Additionally, continuous accounting fosters closer and more frequent collaboration with other business units.

Learn more in these blogs:

Dynamic planning and analysis. CFOs operate in an environment of instantaneous opportunities and challenges. With technology on their side, CFOs can both embrace and expand their role as strategic partners. They can provide on-the-spot analytics, simulations, and planning options with greater accuracy than ever before. They can analyze fast-breaking situations, such as regulatory changes, and assess their impact across the organization, literally in minutes. The CFO’s mandate is fast becoming: Don’t just report the past; impact the future.

Learn more in these blogs:

Digitization (a.k.a. turning live insights into action). Digitization, or turning live insights into action, plays many roles in helping CFOs improve performance. It pulls together information across all lines of the business. It increases speed and creates greater levels of transparency. It improves the quality and power of boardroom presentations, generating changes and simulations in real time. It allows for collaboration across the organization in areas such as cash collection, mergers and acquisitions, and P&L statements.

Learn more in this blog:

Pulling it together

By focusing the power of current and emerging technologies on continuous accounting, dynamic planning and analysis, and digitization, more CFOs can join the ranks of the finance leaders that companies desperately need. They can transform that way-too-low 11.5% into a clear majority.

Learn more

Learn how CFO leaders improve revenue, margin, and business performance significantly. Read the report.

And find out how organizations are gaining instant financial insights and using them to make better decisions—both now and in the future. Register now for 2017 Financial Excellence Forum, Oct. 10-11 in New York City.

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

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Ido Shamgar

About Ido Shamgar

Ido Shamgar is leading global programs for the finance line of business audience at SAP. He is a seasoned marketing and sales professional who is helping his customers become live digital organizations, by harnessing disruptive technologies.

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.

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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How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Tomorrow’s Digital Supply Chain

Alina Gross

Artificial intelligence (AI) may sound futuristic, but it’s a real-life breakthrough that exists in the present. Anyone who interacts with an online search engine, shops on Amazon, owns a self-parking car, or talks to voice-powered personal assistants like Siri or Alexa is using AI.

AI is a field of computer science in which a machine is equipped with the ability to mimic the cognitive functions of a human. An AI machine can make decisions or predictions based on its past experiences, or it can respond to entirely new scenarios. When given a goal, not only does it attempt to achieve its objective, it continuously tries to improve upon its past performance.

Revolutionizing the digital supply chain

Within five years, 50% of manufacturing supply chains will be robotically and digitally controlled and able to provide direct-to-consumer and home shipments, according to IDC Manufacturing Insights. Additionally, 47% of supply chain leaders believe AI is disruptive and important with respect to supply chain strategies, per a 2016 SCM World survey. With that in mind, 85% of organizations have already adopted or will adopt AI technology into their supply chains within one year, according to a 2016 Accenture report.

Supply chains need AI to aggregate their mass amounts of data. In the supply chain, AI can analyze large data sets and recommend customer service and operations improvements while supporting better working capital management. As corporate systems become more interconnected, providing access to a wider breadth of supply chain data, the opportunity to leverage AI increases.

Let’s look at the potential benefits of using AI to link transportation data with order data:

A logistics enterprise ensures the delivery of a product within two days. With AI, the carrier can view past performances from shipping a similar product on a specific day, using a particular route, which reveals there’s a 25% chance the order will arrive in four days, not two. This information supplies customer service and supply chain professionals with proactive alerts of potential fulfillment challenges.

To take this a step further, AI could also compare historical shipping data to the customer’s requested delivery date to provide recommendations on whether this particular carrier’s performance meets requirements, or if you need to consider a different logistics enterprise that is 15% more expensive, but 25% more likely to deliver the product on time.

Step by step to a more efficient supply chain with AI

There are many opportunities to use AI throughout the supply chain, from buying raw materials/components and converting them into finished products to selling and delivering items to customers. Supply chains can also use AI to end repetitive manual tasks and begin automating processes. This can enable companies to reallocate time and resources to their core business, and other high-value, judgment-based jobs, by using AI for low-value, high-frequency activities.

In an AI-driven selling platform, chatbots can manage many of the sales, customer service, and operations tasks traditionally handled by humans, including interacting with buyers, taking orders, and passing those orders through the supply chain. In warehouse operations, AI-capable robotics and sensors can enable organizations to enhance stacking and retrieval, order picking, stock-level management, and re-ordering processes.

Amazon is currently combining automation with human labor to increase productivity by using robots that can glide quickly across the floor to rearrange items on shelves into neatly organized rows, or alert human workers when they need to stack the shelves with new products or retrieve goods for packaging. And Logistics company DHL is using AI and automation to create self-sufficient forklifts that understand what products need to be moved, where they need to be moved, and when they need to be moved.

Supply chain companies see a path forward with AI

Leveraging AI is an important next step for supply chain companies looking to lower costs and improve productivity. It can enable your organization to spend less time on repetitive processes, such as planning, monitoring, and coordinating, and focus more on innovation and growth.

AI still needs careful monitoring, however, as well as experienced and knowledgeable logistics and operations professionals to ensure it’s being used to its maximum potential.

For more on how AI and advanced tech can help boost your business, see Next-Gen Technology Separates Digital Leaders From The Rest.

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Alina Gross

About Alina Gross

Alina Gross is currently pursuing her BA in international business at Heilbronn University. She plans on deepening her knowledge by adding an MA in international marketing. During her six-month, full-time internship at SAP, she has focused on marketing and project management topics within the field of supply chain, especially around event management and social media.