Exploring The World Of Online Payments

Exploring The World Of Online Payments

The saying “cash is king” is still true today. However, the use of physical currency is declining as more online payment options become available. The physical dollar, euro, pound, yen, and others are being used less in transactions. Instead, businesses are enabling customers to pay through digital payment processors. Why are businesses making the shift from accepting physical currency to digital payments? In the past, it was commonplace to see a sign on many storefronts reading “cash only.” During the COVID-19 lockdown, most storefronts shut down and converted their business online, eCommerce was booming. Now, with most storefronts opened back up to the public, many are opting to stick with digital payments. It makes sense to use online payment options because we live in a global economy, and digital transactions can help businesses reach consumers worldwide. However, online transactions don’t come without concerns, and some skeptics believe they could pose security risks. Luckily, different payment options are available that can help mitigate the overall risks. 

Digital Wallets

According to Investopedia, a digital wallet securely stores users’ financial information through a software-based system. Digital wallets can be adapted by financial institutions and payment processors, such as PayPal.1 Banks can use digital wallets through mobile applications that allow users to deposit checks, transfer funds and pay bills. Payment processors make it easy and secure to pay and get paid through online digital wallets. For consumers, many payment processors offer buyer protection to help combat fraud, and businesses can invoice customers worldwide in all currencies with a click of a button. Most smartphones also have a digital wallet feature that allows users to store their credit and debit card information securely, so there’s no need to carry a physical card.

Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, and many countries are considering ways to include them within local economies. An article from the Atlantis Press discusses how cryptocurrency uses technology that secures transactions making it difficult to falsify. This is accomplished through online transactions that include unique encrypted algorithms. Many countries, including Indonesia, are searching for ways to replace conventional money with cryptocurrency. Unlike traditional money, cryptocurrency is not created by a central bank or government, which prevents interference from the state.2 This is particularly useful for the developing world or unstable governments. For eCommerce, cryptocurrencies provide a secure way for consumers to purchase goods worldwide. The true potential of cryptocurrency has yet to be seen, but with online payments increasing, it’s bound to be a top contender.

Blockchain

Often blockchain is referred to when talking about cryptocurrency, but this digital transaction system can be used for so much more. So, what is blockchain? According to Forbes, blockchain can help prevent hacking and cheating because it uses identical copies of its database with each transaction. The blockchain digital ledger can store data from online payments, NFT ownership and smart contracts. Unlike traditional databases, blockchain is entirely decentralized.3 Blockchain can be used in many digital transactions, including cryptocurrency, traditional currency (dollar, euro, etc.) and asset transfer (inheritance, real estate, etc.).

Online payments aren’t going anywhere. The growing global eCommerce industry depends on having reliable and secure digital transactions for consumers. This is the time for businesses to expand their online payment options. Whether primarily brick and mortar or exclusively eCommerce, adding the ability to pay with cryptocurrency or through a digital wallet and blockchain will provide opportunities to attract new customers.

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Footnotes

  1. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/digital-wallet.asp
  2. https://www.atlantis-press.com/proceedings/iclave-19/125937703
  3. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/what-is-blockchain/

NFT Artworks Find Their Place in the Metaverse

NFT Artworks Find Their Place in the Metaverse

In March of 2021, American digital artist Mike Winkelmann, otherwise known as Beeple, made history. His artwork, Everydays: the first 5000 days, was the first non-fungible token (NFT) ever to be auctioned by a major auction house1. Sold by Christie’s for a head-spinning $69,346,250, it became, to date, the fourth most expensive artwork by a living artist2. Numerous platforms such as Opensea and Rarible provide places to buy and sell NFTs costing anything from the equivalent of a few dollars to millions. 

NFTs are a revolutionary new art form for artists, musicians, and makers. For the benefit of those who haven’t already fallen down the crypto-art rabbit hole, an NFT is a unique digital asset or token, a ‘proof of ownership’ on a piece of digital art. They can be bought, sold, collected, and displayed in virtual or physical galleries. Because they are recorded and stored on the blockchain, there is a permanent record of authenticity, ownership and transactions related to the asset. Just one NFT, or several, might be ‘minted’ (created) for a digital artwork, an analogy in the physical world might be a one-off painting, vs a print in a limited number of editions. NFT owners can also action fractionalized ownership, allowing a multitude of people to each own a ‘piece’ of perhaps a very valuable artwork. Art, photography, animation, video, music, cartoon cats, tweets, any of these can become the basis of an NFT, and some rapidly become highly valued. This very new market is awash with possibilities but has numerous challenges too. 

A new world of opportunities for artists and creators

Creating NFTs give artists and musicians a chance to connect with a new audience, selling their work directly with no need for agents or dealers. It’s an opportunity not just for those who don’t yet have industry connections, but also for many whose lifestyles are marginalized in their own countries, allowing a freedom of expression that may not be possible or even legal at home. Artists can always see the latest value of their work, as each NFT has a public ledger of its creation and ownership history, whereas in the physical world it’s easy to lose track as art is bought and sold. Even better, creators can opt to automate a royalty paid on their work, so that every time it is sold on, a percentage of the price will come back to them. 

Barriers to entry are low to moderate, though not non-existent. A digital artist won’t need to rent a studio to work in (unless their NFTs are based on physical paintings or sculpture that require space). Instead, they’ll need access to the internet and some cryptocurrency, most likely Ethereum as this is the blockchain the majority of NFTs are stored on. This is necessary to cover the costs involved in verifying and processing transactions and might work out to between $50-400 per asset or collection of them. Once armed with cryptocurrency, a would-be NFT artist just chooses which platform they want to use to mint and sell their wares. 

A new means of support for museums, galleries, and charities

As well as providing a new revenue stream for artists, NFTs are raising funds for museums around the world and other non-profit organizations.

In Russia, St Petersburg’s State Heritage Museum is creating a limited edition of NFTs created from masterpieces in its own art collection, including works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Monet and Van Gogh. The project, titled ‘Your token is kept in the Hermitage’ is intended not only to raise funds but also to provide a new kind of accessibility to the museum’s collection and lend gravitas to the idea of collecting digital art3. In Italy, after months of revenue loss due to the pandemic, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence created a one-off edition of Doni Tondo by Michelangelo, selling it in May 2021 for $170,000. Hot on the heels of that success, the gallery is now minting NFTs for works including Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus4

Meanwhile, reference book publisher Merriam-Webster minted ‘The Definition of NFT’ and raised around $48,000 for children’s education charity Teach for All5, while NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden worked with photographer Platon Antoniou on a portrait that raised $5.4 million for the Freedom of the Press Foundation6

NFTs are not only making headlines and raising funds, in the future they may also make museum collections more accessible. Even large museums often only have the space to keep a small percentage of their works on show. Creating NFTs can open up the wider collection to people all around the world. 

NFTs and their place in the Metaverse

But one of the most fascinating things about NFTs based on art and collectables is their status as elements in the ‘Metaverse’, a concept set to transform our world in the next decades just as the internet did in the last 20 years. The future Metaverse is a shared, inter-operable digital space containing all the virtual worlds we know, not only in gaming but also social media, ecommerce, education, and recreation, with its own economy and experiences. Sometimes it may be in VR, resembling a next-generation Second Life, sometimes it might be AR, where digital elements are overlaid onto our physical world. Mark Zuckerberg sees it as a means of accessing ‘presence’ in the digital realm, imagining our future Zoom calls with holograms of colleagues, or loved ones seemingly sat right next to us7. At this early stage no one, not even Zuckerberg, can be quite sure what the Metaverse is. Although it was named nearly 30 years ago in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash8, the word doesn’t even feature in the current Merriam-Webster or Cambridge dictionaries. 

What we can be sure of however is that NFTs, and galleries in which to view them, will feature in the Metaverse, because they’re already here. Individual Metaverses created largely to display NFTs already exist. This year multinational auction house Sotheby’s opened a prime-location gallery within Decentraland9, the ‘virtual destination for digital assets’, while CryptoVoxels allows users to build stores, museums and galleries in a Minecraft-like environment. In both cases these spaces have their own economies: users can buy ‘land’ with cryptocurrency, ‘hire’ a digital architect to build out their spaces and sell NFTs once they’ve created them. This is a whole new world of art, enabling people all over the world to ‘teleport in’, ‘visit’ galleries and see famous artworks without having to get a visa or pay for a flight. One day the hope is that all these individual Metaverses will link up, allowing people to move seamlessly between different experiences. 

The issues still to solve in the new ‘Wild West’: identity, property, and theft

The industry is in its infancy and there are a number of legal and security issues still to be ironed out. Theft is a problem; with not much to stop someone ‘stealing’ a digital artwork and minting it into an NFT. There’s plenty of reported instances of this happening, from people finding false ‘verified accounts’ offering their own work to the heart-breaking story of the Japanese artist whose work was tokenized after her death10. Platforms will take down NFTs based on stolen artwork, and once deceit is discovered an NFT is discredited, but it can be akin to fighting a forest fire, stamp out one and more pop up elsewhere. 

In March 2021 hackers stole thousands of dollars’ worth of artwork from NFT marketplace NiftyGateway from users who had neglected to set up two-step authentication on their accounts11. A month later an anonymous artist known as Monsieur Personne ‘sleepminted’ a copy of Beeple’s market-busting Everydays: the first 5,000 days, creating a token that looked like it had been created by Beeple but wasn’t and proving that even NFTs can be fakes12. No doubt all NFT marketplaces are working on ways to stay one step ahead of bad actors. 

In this largely unregulated space, tax evasion and money laundering are also potential problems. The IRS sees NFTs as a tax evasion risk, since in theory people using cryptocurrency to buy and sell NFTs may be liable for tax during different parts of the process. Because the ‘value’ of an NFT is subjective, it’s also not too difficult to collude with others, for instance selling an NFT for a hyped-up price to an associate, in order to collect ill-gotten crypto gains. Existing laws may cover some issues but as so often happens, the regulators need to catch up with the technology. 

A greener, more sustainable future for NFTs

Like many new art forms throughout history, NFTs have caused controversy, much of it centred around environmental impact. Most are built on the Ethereum blockchain, which is ‘mined’ using the energy-heavy ‘Proof of worth’ system to ensure security. It’s hard to calculate exactly how much energy creating an NFT might use, but it’s been estimated that one Ethereum transaction consumes as much electricity as the average U.S. household uses in just under five days13. Some artists have attempted to make their NFTs carbon neutral by offsetting potential emissions caused by energy use. Opinions differ on how effective this really is. 

The good news is that the Ethereum Foundation and others are already finding solutions to radically reduce the amount of energy needed by NFTs in the first place. Ethereum has been working on a move from the electricity-guzzling ‘Proof of work’ system to the far more efficient ‘Proof of stake’ for some years. A 2022 upgrade promises to cut energy use by more than 99%14. In the meantime, some artists are choosing to use Tezos, Wax and other energy-efficient blockchain alternatives to Ethereum, including the British artist Damien Hirst who is using Palm for his monumental new enterprise, The Currency Project, comprising 10,000 oil paintings on paper, each accompanied by its NFT15. In terms of both legal and environmental issues, it is of course in the interests of the entire industry to find solutions, whether through regulation or by vastly reducing its environmental impact. 

Some people, particularly those who came of age before the digital revolution, struggle to get their heads around the idea of NFTs. How can anyone assess their value? If things only exist as pixels, do they really exist at all?  But this exciting realm is awash with possibilities, not only putting a value on digital art, but opening up to artists and audiences who are entirely new while creating an economy and an ecosystem already worth billions of dollars. With individual Metaverses like Decentraland already offering a ‘place’ to view NFTs in the virtual world, this is no mere fad. As the Metaverse comes of age these experiences will become mainstream. So perhaps it’s time to start breeding those CryptoKitties – NFTs are here to stay. 

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Footnotes

1. Beeple’s Opus: Created Over 5,000 Days By The Groundbreaking Artist, This Monumental Collage Was The First Purely Digital Artwork (NFT) Ever Offered At Christie’s, Christies, https://www.christies.com/features/Monumental-collage-by-Beeple-is-first-purely-digital-artwork-NFT-to-come-to-auction-11510-7.aspx

2. Beeple’ NFT Sold For $69 million Is The Fourth Most Expensive Artwork Sold By A Living Artist, Cryptoslate, https://cryptoslate.com/beeple-nft-sold-for-69-million-is-the-fourth-most-expensive-artwork-sold-by-a-living-artist/

3. Tokenized Art From The State Hermitage Museum, Including Leonardo Da Vinci, Will Be Featured On The Binance NFT Marketplace, The State Hermitage Museum, https://nftcalendar.io/tokenized-art-from-the-state-hermitage-museum-including-leonardo-da-vinci-will-be-featured-on-the-binance-nft-marketplace/

4. Uffizi Sells Artworks As NFTS To Recover Losses, The Art Insider, https://www.art-insider.com/uffizi-sells-artworks-as-nfts-to-recover-losses/2238

5. The Definition Of NFT, Opensea, https://opensea.io/assets/0x495f947276749ce646f68ac8c248420045cb7b5e/13014153790550692438812020292530308527796599818332639642513535596840089550849

6. Historic Snowden NFT Auction Benefits Freedom Of The Press Foundation, Freedom of the Press Foundation, https://freedom.press/news/historic-snowden-nft-auction-benefits-freedom-of-the-press-foundation/

7. Mark In The Metaverse: Facebook’s CEO On Why The Social Network Is Becoming ‘A Metaverse Company’ https://www.theverge.com/22588022/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-ceo-metaverse-interview

8. Snow Crash, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Crash

9. Sotheby’s Opens A Virtual Gallery In Decentraland, Decentraland, https://decentraland.org/blog/announcements/sotheby-s-opens-a-virtual-gallery-in-decentraland/

10. An Artist Died. Then Thieves Made NFTs Of Her Work, Wired, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/nft-fraud-qinni-art

11. People Are Reporting Thousands Of Dollars Worth Of Crypto Art Was Stolen On An NFT Marketplace, Business Insider, https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/currencies/stolen-nfts-on-nifty-gateway-reports-nft-art-marketplace-2021-3,

12. A New $69 Million NFT Was Sleepminted, NFTheft, https://nftheft.com/

13. Ethereum Energy Consumption Index, Digiconomist, https://digiconomist.net/ethereum-energy-consumption/

14. A Country’s Worth Of Power, No More!, Ethereum Foundation Blog, https://blog.ethereum.org/2021/05/18/country-power-no-more/

15. 1The Currency By Damien Hirst Is Now Live On HENI, Palm, https://palm.io/studio/the-currency-by-damien-hirst-is-now-live-on-heni/

The Next Growth Frontier: Reimagining Telecommunications in the Digital Age

The Next Growth Frontier: Reimagining Telecommunications in the Digital Age

Telecommunications has always been an important Industry in contemporary economies, but with the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding, society has relied even more on interconnectivity to access essentials of day-to-day life, As a result, telcos today are looking into their business & operating models with a new lens, creating a strong foundation for digitalization with a potential value of US $2 trillion through 2025;

As the digital revolution unfolds, the telco ecosystem has opened up to an immense opportunity to move up the value chain to explore new revenue levers. BORN’s own Aditya Basu, Head of Corporate Strategy and Marketing in APAC and MENA, notes

“Today the telco ecosystem represents an increasing competitive pressure on core business and an immense opportunity to move up the Value-Chain to explore new sources of revenue levers. To excel in today’s ever-changing market dynamics and customer needs, telco needs to build agile, modular, customer-centric & intelligent platforms that leverage their own & partner’s services.”

Key-Value Drivers & Market Levers in Telecom

Telcos over the past decade have seen revenue growth stagnate, despite exponential growth in bandwidth usage, forcing them to contemplate upon the new age growth drivers. Even today, telcos are more prone to diversifying their revenue streams but margin management still remains a challenge. Some of the key pain points & opportunity drivers for telcos across the pivots of business, operations, customers & services can be seen in the graph below.

Hence the key value drivers & focus areas for telcos across the globe should be:

  • Omnichannel Experience: The ability to provide an omnichannel experience by enabling the front (digital) to quickly adapt to market realities without having the backend (BSS systems) undergo major changes.
  • Modular new-age scalable platforms to onboard and bundle new partners and their offerings quickly and consistent product & services information across channels.
  • The ability to track consumer behavior across channels and achieve personalization at scale, thereby providing a superior customer experience.
  • Expanding product portfolio from Core to Complementary and beyond, thereby increasing channels & digital touchpoints to reach a larger audience.
  • Building and participating in ecosystems to collaborate and create economic value.

Now coming to niche focus areas of digital levers in the telecom, “Network of the Future” is a term telecom operators should swear by when developing their business models. Virtualizing current legacy Infrastructure promises to fundamentally change the basis of future service, as it can create self-optimizing and safe zero-touch networks. Expanding the product portfolio from core to complementary and beyond is another key driver. The increased digital transformation presents the telecom industry with opportunities to extend revenue streams beyond connectivity through IoT solutions, consumer and enterprise digital services across digital touchpoints, and reimagined digital communication models leveraging augmented reality/virtual reality and smart mobile advertising. Lastly, to win the race for customer loyalty and wallet share, telecom industry players should focus on providing superior customer experience and building and participating in ecosystems to collaborate and create economic value and exciting digital experiences.

Customer Experience Management in Telecom: What, Why,  How?

We can break down the elements of a telecom value chain as follows; Network convergent technology and infrastructure, Products and services, Partner and ecosystem, Enterprise technology, and Customer Experience Management(CXM) form the core of it. 

Drawing our expertise in CXM, we define CXM in Telecom as the amalgamation of the ‘system of records,’ ‘ system of intelligence,’ ‘system of engagement’ & ‘system of things’ for an end to end digital transformation across the customer lifecycle. Essentially, it means mapping customer interactions across touchpoints & channels and optimizing customer journey by delivering personalized experiences with Integrated technology & services. However, the needs and expectations of the partner ecosystem are always changing. Telecom providers will be facing discrepancies in consistent brand & omni-channel experience, and contextualizing personalization to align with the customer demands.

The need & expectations of our core partners and customers are changing rapidly and some of the key challenges in delivering a best in class experience are 

  • Consistent Brand Experience & Engagement – Customers expect the brand’s value proposition to be delivered consistently across their customer journey. Currently,  there is a value leakage across the  customer journey due to channel  proliferation & inconsistent interactions  across touchpoints
  • A Holistic customer profile – Organizations & brands should strive for having a single source of truth on customer’s interactions, channels,  purchasing behavior, experiences &  social interaction to create an integrated & unified communication strategy.
  • Omnichannel Experience – Omnichannel experience is one of the biggest challenges for organizations. An  integrated channel experience is highly  desirable, but hard to achieve
  • Contextualizing Personalization – Every customer wants to be treated as a  valued individual. Hence businesses should be able to chalk out relevant user persona and optimize their touchpoint management.

Aditya Basu further notes,

Enabling telcos to measure customer experience by creating a differentiated experience across channels will be a major competitive advantage and will enable combat some of the bottom-line pressures “

Walking the Talk Leadership: Enabling Telco Transformations Across the Globe

BORN built a commerce platform for a leading telecom player in Malaysia that delivers an exceptional customer experience. One of the hallmarks of the solution was the implementation of the headless commerce architecture with a common commerce platform providing unified catalog, Payments, Order Management, and Fulfilment capabilities across all channels. As a result of the solutions implemented, over 3.5 million users were registered across digital channels in 8 months since launch. There has been a 150% increase in the number of transactions on web channels, a 300% increase in conversion rate, a 30% reduction in bounce rate with a 10% increase in average web session duration.

We were also approached by one of the global leaders in Communication Technology, to create a fully integrated solution that could deliver advanced services to 3.5 million businesses across six continents. We implemented a diverse range of technology improvements, including new feature development, integration of multiple updated applications, and development of automated workflows. The company saw an improved user experience with a 5 point NPS improvement while the bottom line improved with a 70% reduction in the manual intervention. Our solution combined insight-driven CX and strategy frameworks to deliver the best outcomes. The accelerator methodologies used, delivered a customer-centric approach at speed. The company was able to apply a catalog of behavioral nudges to review their current user journeys.

Behavioral Sciences in Branding

Behavioral Sciences in Branding

It is essential for any designer to understand customer psychology in building a solid visual brand and digital experience. While design aspects such as typography, imagery, and color scheme play a huge role in branding, it’s also important for brand’s to gather data revolving around a customer’s online experience – including what pages they visit, the ‘digital routes’ they may take, and so on. By reviewing visual identity, behavioral maps, and behavioral science, we can get a clear idea of how to create effective branding for any consumer.

Visuals can make or break the customer experience

Color schemes, shapes, typography, fonts, and other design elements are integral to a company’s visual brand. Effectively communicating a brand’s message through visuals is helpful in multiple ways. It allows customers to get a sense of what to expect from the brand, highlights a brand’s uniqueness, and educates consumers on where the brand fits in a larger market. 

Visual identity comprises a brand’s logo, imagery, typography, colors, and creative design. A brand’s logo should be simple, communicative, and reinforce a positive brand image constantly. A good logo strikes emotion – the classic Nike Swoosh does an excellent job invoking a memorable connection. It represents triumph, victory, motivation, and optimism1. Seeing the Nike Swoosh at the end of a commercial or promo video often leaves the audience feeling encouraged and inspired. 

A strong visual identity leaves a powerful first impression on its audience. BORN Group’s design approach and content guidelines speak to the ever-changing global market. We focus on keeping our visual aesthetic in tandem with our tone and voice, reflecting our values in innovation, transformation, and strength. The marriage of compelling images with insightful content represents our branding, leaving a sophisticated first impression on our audience and potential clients.

Behavioral Maps

To truly follow a user’s journey on a site, a brand needs to think from a user’s perspective and  understand complex user behaviors. It is a common mistake for brands to get caught up in their own presumptions and neglect users’ real needs and pain points. In such cases, a behavioral map can be an effective solution.

A behavioral map focuses on a certain action performed by a customer that is deemed as ‘successful.’ Mapping exactly how the customer gets to the desired action will give us insightful information on how to keep users engaged and entice more users to complete the same action. Examples of helpful behavioral information include most-viewed pages, CTA or filters toggled, the engagement time spent on certain content modules, and the digital routes taken to an action, etc2.

To design a seamless user experience, a brand should identify key behaviors and reduce any obstacle a user may face to achieve said action. Utilizing behavioral data will help brands convert first-time users as well as increase ROI in the long term. 

Pictured above is a simple example of a user’s behavior map on Klick, a digital healthcare hub3.

Choice

Behavioral science, as opposed to cognitive or social psychology, deals with the processes and heuristics of decision-making4. Personal preferences, purchasing power, and economic climate all have an impact on a consumer’s buying habits. Being able to identify product value propositions and occasions of purchases will also provide marketing professionals insightful information on building a successful brand5

Design elements, consumer behavior, and user experience are integral to a brand’s digital strategy. Leveraging natural human instincts and user behavioral data will improve users’ digital experiences and elevate the overall storytelling and brand identity to a new level.

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Footnotes

  1. https://www.brafton.com/blog/graphics/visual-branding/

2. https://www.mindtheproduct.com/how-to-design-products-using-behavioral-science/

3. https://www.klick.com/health/news/blog/insights/using-behavior-and-surveys-for-patient-journey-mapping/

4. https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/publication/documents/2019-04/external_ipsos_besci_advising_-_vf.pdf

5. https://www.omniconvert.com/blog/consumer-behavior-in-marketing-patterns-types-segmentation/

Making Waves – eCommerce After COVID

Making Waves – eCommerce After COVID

“We are in the midst of a seismic shift in business and society.  Understanding platform strategy will be vital to grasp tomorrow’s economic model.”* –Aditya Basu, Strategy & Marketing – CEO Office.

As tectonic shifts sink continents and elevate swamps into mountains, the tsunamis unleashed leave those in their path with a single question: how will you survive?  Thus we are reminded of Andy Grove, the former chairman of Intel and author of “Only The Paranoid Survive”(1996), the subhead of his book being “How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company”. 

Grove is credited as the “Father of OKRs” by legendary investor John Doerr, but was also a mentor to Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz and many more.  Though “Objectives and Key Results” are worthy of their own article, “Strategic Inflection Points” (the theme of “Only the Paranoid Survive”) seems a more urgent read as the “return to the new normal” looms like a tidal wave eager to flood the COVID-wasteland that left businesses marooned and our cities desolate.

A Strategic Inflection Point is the moment in a company (or person’s) trajectory where they have the opportunity to weather a crisis and soar to new heights, like a phoenix reborn, OR plummet to new lows like an ostrich with its head in the sand.  These inflection points are often prompted by “10X forces”; a force that is outside the norm of what may even be considered possible.

Grove introduces the 10X force in the context of six forces known to affect businesses, originally introduced by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard.  The forces as paraphrased by Grove are: the power, vigor, and competence of 1) existing competitors, 2) potential competitors, 3) suppliers, 4) customers, 5) complementors (other businesses from whom customers buy complementary products; products that are used in tandem or required together — like cars and gasoline, or from an online merchant’s perspective: an eCommerce site-build and fulfillment services for the products to be shipped), 6) the possibility that your product or service can be built or delivered differently.  

A 10X force could be any of the normal forces, but an order of magnitude larger than what is expected.  Dramatic examples of before and after general “inflection points” might be: Commuting to work: by horse, then car, now computer.  Entertainment: by video rental, then mail, and now streaming.  Shopping: from retail to online.

As referenced by Aditya Basu, we see examples of 10X forces as evidenced in the McKinsey Digital Report 2020 (DigitalCommerce360): “We have seen a 10 year growth in a mere 90 days for US eCommerce penetration.  Online spending represented 18.6% of total retail sales for the first two quarters of 2020.” And in the BCG+ Deloitte Digital Report:  “Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with US retailers in 2020, up 44% from 598.02 billion in 2019.”

Basu also reveals that 66% percent of B2B leaders now believe eCommerce solutions are essential, up from 48% pre-COVID.  He emphasizes: “what may be most interesting is: the shift in numbers serves as a dramatic example of the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ of a 10X force.  When you consider ‘10 year growth in 90 days’ and ‘a $260+ billion dollar increase in sales’ you begin to get an idea of the sales velocity reached by business leaders that were able to steer into the storm and capture the 10X force. As for those who were blown off course, or completely knocked over — there may still be time to get it right, but you need to be decisive, and can accelerate your rebound by partnering with those who navigated the crisis early.”

Grove explains how 10X forces may sneak up in plain sight to capsize your business before you even realize what’s happening.  He also explains how to be nimble so you can be better prepared for the squalls, and not only come out on the other side, but far ahead of the beached wreckage and flotsam left behind.  Strategic Inflection Points are essentially the moments where the future is made. But since it’s hard to predict which way the wind blows, or whether a breeze will turn into a gale, it is often difficult to separate the signal from the noise when it comes to 10X forces.  Grove makes suggestions on questions to ask yourself in the context of competitors and complementors (Chapter 6 of “Only The Paranoid Survive”), as well as recommending the importance of looking to middle-management, and sales (from the ground to C-suite) to get a “barometer” on what storms may be brewing.  

“Grove’s 10X force on retailers is important from a competitive standpoint, but we often find that organizations are sometimes competing against themselves because they are not efficiently operating the three most important levers to ensure an excellent Customer Experience; those levers being Brand, Behavior, and Book of Record Experience.  Customers not only interact with your company’s Brand, revealing Behavioral insights, but also with Back Office operations.  Customer experience defines the digital economy and goes beyond creative design and content management.  All three experiences must be tied together to drive consumer engagement.” says Amanda Volz, Vice President of Sales at BORN Group.  She continues, “In today’s world customers expect retailers to provide them a seamless shopping experience that’s safe, efficient, but most of all omnichannel. In other words, retailers must be experts in ALL the ways their customers shop: online, mobile, brick and mortar, in order to keep up with the behavioral shift that COVID has forced on both retailers and customers.  Those who are able to accommodate all of these models have had the most success in navigating the last 18 months.

Basu offers further advice on how an eCommerce strategy is pivotal to making sure you do more than tread water: “In order to have the most leverage to seize short term opportunities and win new digital-first shoppers, you must conceptualize how to build and scale your eCommerce blueprint. You don’t need to get it perfect, but planning for contingencies, good and bad, makes it possible for you to at least be prepared for whatever comes next. Though it’s impossible to be ‘prepared’ for everything, you can set yourself up to handle challenges robustly, or even be in a position where every obstacle can become a step higher on the road to success.”

Basu continues: “Ultimately, the big question when dealing with inflection points, 10X forces, and planning ahead in general is: what to focus on? In life, as in business, weathering a storm is not just about navigating a crisis in realtime, but the preparations that make it possible for you to do so.  As the conditions of an actual storm, pandemic, or other crisis make it impossible to simulate and predict, the best you can focus on, in the now, is 1) to make sure everyone works together efficiently, that you have the people willing and able to rise to the occasion when one presents itself.  2) to make sure that all your “instruments” are in tip-top shape, and that your crew operates them expertly.  This might come in the form of certifications, cutting edge tech, best practices and data management.  3) have a compass to make sure your organization is always aligned onward and upward; at BORN we embrace the Stella Framework (as referenced by Amanda Volz above) which keeps the Customer Experience (CX) front and center.  While an individual’s customer’s experience may be unique, the sum total of all experiences combined represents the pulse of your company, and how it can stand up to unforeseen stresses.”

At BORN we’re like a racing yacht, crewed by seasoned and certified professionals with a love of the sport, helping you get where you need to go, fast and in style… we can turn on a dime, equipped with the best-in-class partner solutions like Arctic Fox for Salesforce, Bulldog for Adobe, Eagle for SAP, Bison for ShopifyPlus and more.  We also work with the sharpest partners in the world so we can always see beyond the cloud; through our sister agency Pininfarina we offer physical design.

“The retail experience must continue to evolve while focusing on the magic mix of the tangible and intangible. eCommerce and the online experience is a fundamental part of the equation in creating a strong and recognizable Brand personality in the market.” says Paolo Trevisan, Vice President of Design at Pininfarina of America. “While we continue pursuing our passion for timeless design solutions across various verticals including automotive design, transportation, industrial design, architecture and interiors, the synergy with BORN can allow for an experience-focused digital approach that will continue to push the boundaries of our human-centered approach.”

Wherever you are, and wherever you’re going,  BORN helps you capture a 10X force to fill your sail and ride the wave.

*”eMarketplaces: Unlocking The Value of Platform Economy” read Aditya Basu’s original article in its entirety here: (https://www.borngroup.com/views/emarketplaces-unlocking-the-value-of-platform-economy/

**”The Three Most Important Levers” … read about The Stella Framework here (https://www.borngroup.com/news/the-stella-framework-2/)

Hyper-Personalization, Mass Customization and the Demand for Unique Experiences

Hyper-Personalization, Mass Customization and the Demand for Unique Experiences

Hyper-personalization is often considered to be the ultimate ambition for brands and businesses. However, providing extraordinary levels of personalization to each individual as they interact with marketing, retail, or in the wider realms of customer experience, assumes a level of prior knowledge that is extremely challenging to achieve, even with today’s big data capabilities. A powerful alternative, mass personalization, or mass customization as it’s also commonly known, is a more achievable strategy that brings its own rewards. What sets these two similar-sounding concepts apart?

Hyper-personalization

Let’s start with hyper-personalization. Go back a hundred years and imagine being a fly on the wall in the village stores. The local storekeepers would probably greet everyone in the village by name. They would know where they lived, their family history, their station in life. A customer coming through the door might see the storekeeper readying their regular purchases before they’d even got as far as the counter. Once there, the storekeeper might ask after a new baby or aging relative and suggest appropriate goods. It wouldn’t have been considered anything other than normal at the time, but this intimate relationship exemplifies hyper-personalization: deep knowledge, built up gradually, with an awareness of their customer’s situation and likely state of mind and able to anticipate the right solutions.

In today’s digital world, a new kind of hyper-personalization has become possible and is already in use by industry giants like Amazon, Netflix and Starbucks to provide unique experiences at scale. They are leveraging artificial intelligence, algorithms and real-time data to provide highly relevant, curated content or communications that anticipate the needs of every individual user at the perfect moment for them. 

Product recommendations are most common – for example, Netflix employs machine learning to create unique show recommendations for every user. For their hit series Stranger Things, the company designed multiple thumbnails to appeal to different users based on their likes and dislikes, highlighting different aspects of the show from specific actors to horror and sci-fi, children’s adventure, even romance1. Starbucks utilizes data from their long-running loyalty app to send their customers emails featuring individualized offers, based on their previous buying behavior and known preferences2. Customers are happy to share data, knowing that it means they will receive offers that resonate with their needs.

But the truth is that hyper-personalization is still an extraordinary challenge. In a metaverse, almost everything is virtual, making it possible for people to use multiple log-ins, or alternatively share a log-in with several members of the family. This presents a problem for any AI or machine learning-based engine: who is the person interacting and what exactly are they looking for? Netflix asks people to self-identify when they arrive on the site, but it may not always solve the issue. 

Hyper-personalization can also run the risk of seeming like a ‘blunt instrument’ if used without subtlety or high-quality data. Levels of sophistication are growing but it will take time before all brands and businesses can anticipate needs in a way that feels like beautiful serendipity, rather than sometimes coming across as intrusive or ‘creepy’. But it’s not the only method of delivering targeted, individualized goods and services that make people feel special. 

Mass customization

For many years, consumer brands sold their products via resellers. The brands focused on what was core to them: innovation and manufacturing good products. As they relied on the retailers to sell their merchandise to consumers via stores, brands did not gather data on the consumers, their retailers did. With the ubiquitous reach of the Internet, brands can now access consumers directly, a strategy referred to as D2C or Direct to Consumer. But what if they do not know enough about these consumers to give them a personalized experience in the first instance? 

Enter mass customization. This is another way to cater to the growing demand for focus on individual needs. Thinking back to our local storekeeper, the advent of the industrial revolution meant that the old-fashioned hyper-personalized approach largely dwindled in favor of chain stores and the mass-produced goods which have dominated the marketplace for more than a century. Now there are new ways to combine mass production’s economies of scale with digital technologies that allow individual customers to make a number of choices about their goods or services which are then designed to order. By orchestrating modular designs, online configurators, 3D scanners and flexible production systems everything from eyewear to houses can be customized, and though customers are often charged a premium for the service to make it viable financially, they’re happy to do so3. It’s a powerful response to the increased desire for personalization, for people to feel that their products have been made especially for them. 

For Dell the ability to customize desktop models has been fundamental to its strategy since it was founded in the 1980s, allowing customers to choose the appropriate processor, memory capability and screen type for their particular needs and budget4. In the automotive industry, mass customization has been the norm for some years, with customers able to make a number of decisions – engine, gearbox, style package, paint color – in order to configure their perfect model. In 1999 Nike made it possible to customize their sneakers, and many customers have been only too delighted to pay a premium for doing so, given the kudos that their unique new footwear brought them5.

In comparison to hyper-personalization, mass customization creates its own benefits. A business may know nothing about the potential customer who has landed on their site, but as the customer interacts with their product offering, they will gradually learn more and more. Best of all it won’t feel intrusive, or like an off-putting ‘data grab’; instead, it’s part of a natural process towards giving the customer exactly what they want. Moreover, for existing brands, mass customization offers an opportunity for a revenue stream with increased profits, selling direct to the consumer, without the additional costs retailer and wholesaler relationships entail. 

Customized cookies

Take OREO for example. Owned by multinational Mondelez, this iconic brand sells ‘the world’s top selling cookie’ through wholesalers and retailers, the result being that they had a limited direct relationship with their customers. BORN worked with them to create a new flagship digital experience, OREOiD. On the website www.oreo.com, users are empowered to customize their OREO cookies, designing their own unique, authentic cookies that can be boxed and sent as gifts. They can choose different flavors, dips and colored sprinkles, even add photos and messages. 

The site won four Webby awards and is now widely admired. The experience on the site is not just a delight for the user, who can enjoy the playful, process of interacting with the brand alongside treating a loved one or celebrating a special occasion with their gift. It’s also incredibly useful for the brand in their bid to develop a holistic view of their customers. When a user decides to go ahead with their purchase, they will necessarily need to submit practical details like their name, physical address and email address, what we might call ‘longitudes’, and they will be happy to do so. But they will also reveal their emotional sensibilities and relationships, their ‘latitudes’. For instance, we might learn that they like celebrating birthdays, that they have a sister whose favourite color is purple and lives in Chicago. Or that they work for a corporation who regularly have events for a large number of people and whose brand colors are red and white. Through playful interactions OREO can be privy to a whole sphere of information created almost effortlessly from the customization journey.

Not only did OREO enjoy record sales from their new venture, in addition they are gathering the building blocks for hyper-personalization, in the form of customer information, should they desire to go down that route in the future. 

Of course, people may behave differently on a website from how they do in a store, or on the phone to a call center. By adding in details gained from interactions in other channels to the data gathered from mass customization, brands can build their view of each individual customer until it gradually come into sharper and sharper focus.

Whichever route they choose to go down, the potential rewards for companies who can successfully implement hyper-personalization or mass customization are great. Furthermore, while businesses are boosting sales by providing highly relevant product recommendations or creating new revenue and data streams by empowering users to customize their products, consumers are winning too. They’re happy to pay a premium to gain access to the targeted and customized experiences that they desire, and still finding added value.

For more information on BORN’s work with OREO, please visit here.

Footnotes

  1. 3 Examples Of Hyper Personalized Marketing Campaigns, Wedia, https://www.wedia-group.com/brand-content/3-examples-of-hyper-personalized-marketing-campaigns/
  1. Why Hyper-Personalization Is The Future Of Marketing (And How To Do It), WebEngage, https://webengage.com/blog/hyper-personalization-marketing-future/
  1. How Technology Can Drive The Next Wave Of Mass Customization, McKinsey & Company, https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/dotcom/client_service/bto/pdf/mobt32_02-09_masscustom_r4.ashx
  1. 3 Success Stories Of Mass Customization, TopMostBlog, https://www.topmostblog.com/3-success-stories-of-mass-customization/
  1. Nike’s Online Customers Can Step Into Designer’s Shoes, Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-nov-23-fi-36665-story.html

Draw Them in with Content: Enabling Buying Decisions through Visual Commerce

Draw Them in with Content: Enabling Buying Decisions through Visual Commerce

The content that goes behind selling a product has rapidly scaled over the past decade, with more and more features to capture user-generated content and professional footage to sell products. This trend has been styled Visual Commerce and is a key part of the buyer’s journey – approximately 75% of internet users search for visual content before carrying out a purchase1.

The path to a sale has never been easy. Buyer journeys at a brick-and-mortar store always included some amount of comparison shopping and brands tried to influence buyers by helping them visualize their product on a mannequin or styled as part of a setting, or having a sales associate available to talk to. 

With eCommerce becoming all-pervasive and accelerating faster than retail these days, brands need to take over even more of that visualization in order to provide a seamless omnichannel experience – that is, to persuade a buyer to make an informed purchase decision without being able to touch and feel it. 

Visual commerce is about using compelling content in context to attract, influence and convert buyers on their journey. In short, heightening user engagement to drive sales.

High-quality content for product visualization

What they need is a step-up from static 2D product images. What they need is a branded visual experience, one that incorporates interactive content that is engaging as well as informational and is consistent in its messaging. 

Lookbooks and digital catalogs using large, high-resolution photos and livestreaming videos that show 360° views, as well as entertaining content such as GIFs and memes, are included in this list.

Add curated user-generated content as well as shoppability layers to visual assets to create shortcuts in the sales process. 

Immersive content using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can project a homeware product into the users home or help buyers visualize an accessory as part of a look in 3D. IKEA’s AR app goes as far as helping the buyer design entire rooms2. The more diverse your media, the higher the search engine rankings

User-generated content provides social proof and builds trust. According to a Bazaarvoice survey in December 2020, nearly two-thirds (62%) of consumers from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the US said they were more likely to buy a product if they were able to view customer photos and videos. Roughly a quarter of them were influenced by UGC on or used Facebook to make purchases based on UGC3. In fashion, up 9 out of 10 shoppers trust an influencer more than traditional advertisements or celebrity endorsements and this, alongside peer reviews (55%) and social media (74%) impact purchase decisions4.

There exist tools and platforms that allow you to

  • aggregate posts from your users on multiple social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest
  • curate the best content for your site
  • tag your products on their posts
  • display them as galleries or besides specific products, and
  • study the analytics of user engagement. 

Such shoppable posts can take users directly to the payments page and avoid extra time till purchase. 

Besides providing fresh and eye-catching imagery at low cost, using UGC and reviews also is a badge of authenticity, develops customer loyalty and builds trust. Would-be buyers can also see the context and the lifestyle in which the products are being used.

Product discovery through a personalized experience 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are the ever-evolving technologies that underpin the rich personalization features of visual commerce. They help brands offer ever more individualized and dynamic content, offers, and recommendations to customers based on their demographics, preferences as well as past and present behavior. Content works harder over more buying journeys.

AI-powered visual search improves product discoverability. This feature enables people to go straight to a product using pictures clicked on their mobile devices, thereby increasing engagement, conversion rates and consequently, customer lifetime value. ASOS is a good example of an eCommerce website that does this well.

Visual configurators can also give a 360° view of the product and empower buyers by offering them options to change or personalize details. Allow them to point to a part of the product or use icons rather than use naming conventions that they may be unfamiliar with. Allow them to save and start over.

Gucci configurator for knitwear

Easy and seamless experience

The end goal of visual commerce is to reduce friction in the buying journey. The experience overall needs to be easy and seamless, else it will result in abandoned carts. IKEA users, for example, don’t love that they have to open up the IKEA website or app, besides the AR app, to complete the purchase. Amazon, on its part, had a consumer camera called the Echo Look, which enabled users to take videos and selfies, before folding its functionality into the Amazon shopping app.

Visual commerce for a digital world

Fashion shows are being reimagined as heightened visual experiences for a digital tomorrow, to market to buyers who are not there in person5. Even in B2B industries such as manufacturing, the lack of trade shows and exhibitions have given a push to visual commerce, showing that visual commerce is here to stay6

For more information about BORN Group’s expertise in brand and customer experience, click here.

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Footnotes

1. Visual Commerce 2017: How Image Recognition and Augmentation Are Changing Retail, eMarketer, https://www.emarketer.com/Report/Visual-Commerce-2017-How-Image-Recognition-Augmentation-Changing-Retail/2002059

2. IKEA’s Revamped AR App Lets You Design Entire Rooms, Wired, 20 Apr 2021, https://www.wired.com/story/ikea-revamped-ar-app-design-entire-rooms/

3. User-generated visual content can influence purchases, eMarketer, 21 Feb 2021, https://www.emarketer.com/content/user-generated-visual-content-influence-purchases

4.  The State of Fashion 2018, McKinsey and the Business of Fashion,  https://cdn.businessoffashion.com/reports/The_State_of_Fashion_2018_v2.pdf

5.  5 Digital Artists Reimagining The Fashion Show, Vogue UK, 23 May 2021, https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/digital-artists-reimagining-the-fashion-show

6.  COVID-19 Driving Visual Commerce Accelerator for Hand-Selected Manufacturers, Manufacturing Tomorrow, 2 Jun 2020, https://www.manufacturingtomorrow.com/article/2020/05/covid-19-driving-visual-commerce-accelerator-for-hand-selected-manufacturers/15326/