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HOW AI AND AR ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF THE ECOMMERCE INDUSTRY

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Thomas Kasemir, CPO of Productsup

 

The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more integrated and intelligent shopping experience. More than before, retailers are leveraging new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to enhance consumer experiences, broaden their customer bases, and drive sales.

It’s been a tough twelve months for some of the UK highstreet’s biggest names but utilising new technology can provide a platform for economic recovery and growth for retailers. Just recently, fashion giant H&M set out its intention to become a leader in applying AI techniques to the fashion retail sector, while footwear firm Hotter Shoes has baked AR into its mobile app, citing that 90% of its new customers are originating from digital channels.

With a rising number of ecommerce endpoints, such as traditional webshops, marketplaces, and social media, machine learning is going to be key for retailers in helping to automate and scale their product integrations and avoid costly human errors. As the UK approaches the point of relaxation from all COVID restrictions, these types of technological innovations will be instrumental in helping retailers to recalibrate and cater to shifting consumer expectations.

 

AI can help retailers to achieve competitive KPIs

Automated ecommerce ranges from data formats and APIs to automatic category matching, data format verification, mapping between different classification systems, and the intelligent grouping of error messages to improve product data and business outcomes. In the future, AI-based rich media creation will change the way channel-specific marketing campaigns and product data feeds are created, almost in real-time, for every region and target group a retailer trades in. AI can also assist with the analysis of business outcomes, generating actionable insights for marketers to measure and improve their KPIs.

As AI will help vendors automate their product offerings, they will not only be able to achieve their KPIs, but they will also be able to improve the experience of their customers as data will be kept constantly up-to-date and accurately reflect stock levels. Clearly, artificial intelligence in the ecommerce space is necessary to engage with customers in a more intuitive and meaningful way, but it will also bear fruits for corporate KPIs and goal setting; a win-win.

 

What role does AR play in the modern-day shopping experience?

Key industry players, such as IKEA, have been making use of AR for consumers for some time, allowing them to visualise a specific piece of furniture in their homes. While this is a fantastic innovation, this is just the start of what AI/AR can offer the ecommerce space.

Generally, while the modern-day shopping experience is shifting more towards social media platforms, brands need to hone in on their omnichannel strategies. Retailers must now engage with users across multiple platforms with authentic and channel-specific messages in order to remain relevant in their respective markets.

The next elements to master are immersive shopping, virtual reality and real-time conversational shopping events on social media. As it stands, no specific apps are doing this, but this technology will be gradually integrated into all social media apps. Just like in-app picture and video content today, soon real 3D and augmented/virtual media will be just another facet of a robust and far-reaching content offering.

Businesses should take note of these innovations and prepare themselves accordingly, as current ecommerce integrations suggest that more users are using social media to purchase items. Add to this consumers’ incessant desire for speedy delivery and efficient ordering systems, now is the best time to make use of AI/AR to meet these high demands.

 

What the physical high-street will look like as a result of the AI/AR shift

The pandemic accelerated commerce trends and technological advancements within the retail sector, but it also made all the shortcomings and challenges within the industry even more visible. AR and AI will only help to boost the relationship between in-store and online shopping, enhancing the user experience through accurate product listings, as well as providing speedy delivery or the option to pick up a product in-store on the same day.

As for the high-street, we can expect to see a much more digitally-driven in-store experience that resonates with both the older generation that prefers physical stores and the younger one whose retail experience is primarily online.

However, AR and AI are only as good as the data they work with, so companies looking to leverage them should ensure data excellence across the board and a reliable tech stack before anything else.

 

Technology

How Digital Adoption Platforms can enhance digital transformation and customer experience in the insurance industry

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By Vara Kumar, CPTO & Co-founder, Whatfix

 

Like many industries, the insurance sector was prematurely hastened towards digitalisation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, digital adoption continues to be a key focus of many organisations to strengthen their fully or partially remote workforce with nearly 50% of IT spend being put behind the growth of core applications and infrastructure, and an additional 25% being invested into digital solutions.

But with millions of claims processed every year, needing to provide superior customer service to drive retention, complex procedures and processes to navigate and both internal rules and external regulations to follow, digital transformation plans for insurance organisations are filled with challenges.

Increasingly digitalised workforce

With the pandemic came an overhaul of how we work. Remote and hybrid working is now the norm, and across most industries, there’s been a huge expansion in both the number and type of digital applications used to communicate, collaborate and enhance productivity across an organisation.

For the insurance industry, this has meant that every employee, from underwriters to customer service agents, has had to adapt to handling their steps of the process, from setting up coverage to filing a claim, remotely, and across multiple platforms and tools.

The challenge is ensuring this more digitalised workforce fully understands how to successfully navigate each application effectively and efficiently to ensure they can deliver on their services and customer experience (CX). But putting together a skilled, high-performing IT team can be difficult – according to an enterprise study, 54% of organisations said they’re not able to accomplish their digital transformation goals because of a lack of technically-skilled employees. This is further complicated by the fact that, in an age of labour shortages, the sector is forced to get creative and find ways of managing the workload and navigating new technologies with a smaller workforce.

Changing customer expectations

On top of the challenges that the increasingly digitalised workforce is experiencing, the tech-savvy customer of today also expects more from their insurers. Indeed, the pandemic forced customers as well as organisations to become more IT-literate, and in the customer service space in particular, customer expectations are high.

Customers today want and expect to be able to make maturity or house insurance claims in an efficient and straightforward manner, across multiple platforms, from phone to email to social media, preferably in a matter of minutes.

McKinsey observes that improving the value chain from the customer’s point of view is an important step within digital-ecosystem efforts, and HubSpot found that 90% of consumers expect an immediate response to a customer support issue, with 60% defining ‘immediate’ as under ten minutes. Even pre-pandemic 44% of customers were comfortable utilising chatbots for insurance claims, and 43% were comfortable using them when buying insurance policies.

Undergoing a digital transformation on the customer side is crucial then, as insurance providers that can meet these changing customer expectations are more likely to attract and retain customer loyalty now and in the future. However, just 30% of insurers believe that they have the capabilities to fully digitalise their customer experience.

So, what can insurers do to meet the technological demands of a digitalised workforce and a multi-channel CX for tech-savvy customers?

Using DAPs to boost digital transformations and CX

In a rapidly changing market, Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) can be a huge advantage to insurers looking to manage the challenges of today and come out on top. A piece of instructional no-code software that sits as an additional layer on top of other software applications, such as Claims Management or Policy Administration Systems, to help train and guide users on how to best use the software, DAPs can massively improve the agility and effectiveness of business processes across an organisation.

On the employee side, for example, DAPs can help insurers to manage challenges of a frequently changing workforce by making it easier for employees to get to grips with new digital applications. With the likes of  guided walk-throughs and task lists, which help employees through each step they need to know and just-in-time nudges to reduce policy administration, claim, or underwriting processing times, employees are more efficient and technology adoption is streamlined and accelerated. Easy to integrate into existing systems, DAPs can be used to not only train and onboard new employees but also upskill veteran workers, training the workforce as a whole on the latest technologies being used across the industry. As a result, everyone from underwriters, claims, and service representatives will better understand insurance tools that will enable them to be more productive and better deliver customer experiences leading to better business outcomes. Indeed, from the customer perspective, DAPs can enable companies in the insurance industry to keep CX positive and smooth. Firstly, by training on near real-life scenarios and secondly, by being able to more easily navigate applications, processes and systems internally, customer service representatives will be able to spend more time and focus on the customer and on resolving their queries, without being hindered by technological hurdles. For example, errors made in policy or claims processing can be reduced if employees can use self-help elements of DAPs to mitigate issues and solve queries themselves, in real-time. As a result, customers will be happier with their service, and more likely to stay loyal to that brand.

Customer-facing platforms can also be improved using DAPs. Typically, legacy apps whether on our phones or online, can make it difficult for users to complete their tasks, leaving them frustrated. With DAP user-specific content and just-in-time support, such as pop-ups, automated walk-throughs and user guides for every part of the user journey, customers can experience a smoother journey and have their queries and issues resolved more efficiently..

Drive efficiency and customer satisfaction

DAPs are already growing in popularity, with Gartner predicting that by 2025, “70% of organizations will use digital adoption solutions across the entire technology stack to overcome still insufficient application user experiences.”

So, now is the time for insurance providers to leverage this technology to facilitate their digital transformation plans. By ensuring their increasingly dispersed and digitalised workforce can use the latest applications to their full potential, and that their customer journey is as efficient and easy-to-use across the multiple channels customers expect, insurers will see huge benefits, from increased efficiencies to improved customer satisfaction.

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Are cyber insurance and incident response budgets the same thing?

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Dominic Trott, head of strategy – UK, Orange Cyberdefense

 

Cyberattacks on businesses increased by 13% in 2021 compared to the previous year. Yet while it’s not necessarily the case that the number of bad actors is increasing, it is the scale on which they’re operating that has broadened exponentially.

In addition, the manner in which cyberattacks are being carried out has also evolved. While some cybercriminals hack for fun, the vast majority of malicious activity is, unsurprisingly, conducted for financial gain and targets organisations on the basis of two simple principles: first, where there is the most value to be targeted; and second, where the attacks are most likely to be successful.

It’s also likely that the full extent of the cybercrime landscape is hidden. Accurate data on the impact of cyberattacks is often hard to come by because, in many cases, the breached organisations are unaware of the full extent of the attack – or even that one took place. They might genuinely not know this information if they don’t have accurate oversight of their digital estate, or keep quiet for fear of incurring legal liabilities or causing reputational damage.

The current security landscape has created the perfect storm for cybercriminals, as cyber insurers and Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT) often end up fighting over the same budget. Traditionally, it has been relatively easy for firms to obtain cyber insurance coverage at low premiums. However, the heightened cyber risks and exponential growth of ransomware attacks in recent years has led to premiums rising.

The question that businesses often ask, therefore, is ‘why do I need an incident response retainer when I already have cyber insurance? Surely, it’s a waste of money? If the worst does happen, the insurance company will pick up the bill for any damage done after the event’. I would argue that is a short sighted and potentially dangerous approach. Let’s look at the different roles of incident response and cyber insurance.

  1. Cyber Insurance: like other types of insurance, this aims to give businesses a way to ensure that if the worst happens, they can recover some of the costs. Cyber Insurance will likely cover you for some of the tangible costs associated with a breach, but it probably won’t cover all of them. By acting quickly and limiting the scale of the breach, you may be able to reduce the full impact. In addition, some insurance companies will expect you to have demonstrated a level of preparedness before accepting your claim – a bit like having a burglar alarm or dead-bolt locks on your house before a house insurance claim is accepted.
  2. Incident Response Retainer: aims to provide rapid, on-demand expertise in an emergency if the customer calls them immediately after an incident. The key to mitigating the impact of any cybersecurity incident is the reaction time between detection and response. Many companies lack the infrastructure needed to react in a quick and secure manner. Having an incident response team available 24/7 to identify, contain and eradicate threats and to get businesses back up and running as soon as possible may be crucial to their ability to continue successfully trading.

 

Cyber resilience

But isn’t incident response included in the insurance policy? In many cases, it will be. And perhaps this is where the confusion comes. Cyber insurers will often pay out, but only as long as the incident is covered by an incident response retainer. Their objective is of course to help cover the financial losses that result from cyber events and incidents and in numerous policies, the presence of a retainer agreement with an external incident response provider can help prevent severe losses. This will often bring down the premium of the insurance policy. Having a retainer also means you get to choose the CSIRT team that you are going to be working with in advance. You can assess their credentials, their experience, talk to their other customers – all before an incident occurs.

The key thing here is building cyber resilience. Of course, there is no such thing as complete security. For starters, incident response alone is insufficient to deliver cyber resilience from either a technical or procedural perspective. Good practice advocates that solutions should be in place across the full threat lifecycle. For example, the NIST framework recommends that organisations identify their threats and vulnerabilities; protect against them with security tools and operations; detect threats as they address the enterprise; respond to contain and remediate an incident as it occurs; and recover to take lessons learned from incidents and improve ‘business as usual’ appropriately.

But, leaving an end-to-end approach to threat lifecycle management to one side, having both cyber insurance and an incident response retainer working seamlessly together will at least provide organisations with a fighting chance of continuing their core business functions if and when disaster strikes.

 

Making cybersecurity a joint enterprise

There are worrying trends emerging in the cybersecurity market. While attacks are becoming more sophisticated and ransoms are rising, there are concerns that there might not be enough money in the still-emerging sector to cover everyone’s needs. So, what can companies do? They should still invest in insurance coverage, but they also need to look for other ways to cover their potential exposure, including CSIRT rapid response teams.

It cannot remain a budgetary decision for a CTO and a CFO to fight over whether to firefight OR recoup what has been lost in cyber-attacks. Both are important. An incident response team is the first port-of-call to help respond to any cyber accident or incident. Then and only then – once the breaches have been made safe – should you call in the moneymen.

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