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HOW BUSINESSES CAN USE THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE TO AUTOMATE.

By Paul McFadyen, Managing Director of metals4U 

 

The Coronavirus pandemic has dominated our global markets for the first half of 2020 and will continue to impact business for the foreseeable future; it has drastically changed the landscape of how we do business now and will continue to do so for some time.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a growth industry but has largely been overlooked by a huge section of industry and manufacturing – many believing they are not a large enough concern to warrant the initial financial outlay, while others may not see where it can help them. ‘Smart’ technology is not just about robotic production lines, it is about increasing effectiveness across all areas of your organisation, regardless of which business sector you belong to or what size your organisation is.

Now it the perfect time to analyse what your business does, how you do it, and most importantly, what aspects can be upgraded to utilise the possibilities of the IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) to take your business forward to meet the new demands of post-Covid-19 global markets. The IIOT can be used to monitor, control, and update any aspect of your business.

IIOT sensors can be fitted within new installations or retro fitted into existing systems.  The sensors can monitor and detect changes in offices, warehouses, outside spaces, machines, server rooms, they also detect temperature changes, chemical reactions in manufacturing processes that may have an adverse effect on the end product or machinery, they monitor changes in air pressure, in air conditioning units, lighting levels, lift mechanisms; all this monitoring of space and systems create data that is automatically analysed, stored, and acted on following a set of protocols relevant to that particular environment and data set parameters.

Introducing elements of IIOT into the workplace brings benefits that may have been overlooked for a long time. As industry changes, procedures must be challenged and changed to incorporate savings; these can be financial, or time focussed, but are usually a combination the two as in business they are interwoven. The data created by IIOT installations is usually delivered to the system user via an app featuring real time reports and analytics. These dashboards enable a ‘call to action’ to meet maintenance requirements meaning less unplanned downtime, it can help decrease labour costs, and improve work safety.

Manufacturing is perfect for utilising IIOT and automation as all elements of the process can be led by data. An order can be processed, resources allocated, manufacture time scheduled, and the final product ready for dispatch without a human ever needing to be physically present.

The ability to have an overall view of machinery and resources over a small site can start to build a new generation of more efficient workflow and save valuable resources, of course these systems are scalable for those requiring a global overview of all your sites, personnel, and assets.

Automating elements of workflow within any business, from a small manufacturing business, to a customer service call centre, through to a vast market leading production plant, will make the difference between successfully navigating the changing landscape, and floundering helplessly as success and growth pass them by.

Smart factories utilising data collection technology makes it possible to do great things. Sensors on machinery monitors processes and builds a data fingerprint that can be used to alert staff when equipment needs repair or maintenance. This means you drastically reduce downtime due to broken machinery and save money on expensive repairs. Self-Driving Vehicles (SDV) are another automation option, these are used for picking and moving products during manufacture or logistics operations; they are responsive to employees moving around so are safer than human driven vehicles within an industrial setting. There is less room for human error causing accidents, and no accrual of holiday pay, maximum working hours, or days lost to sickness.

Automation is not about replacing human employees; it is about empowering employees to be more productive and effective. For example, utilising a chat bot for the most basic and frequently asked enquiries means that customer service advisors are more available to deal directly with customers that require deeper information and more personal service, or using an automatic call distribution system will direct callers directly to the most appropriate employee; reducing the number of contact points each enquiry entails saves your organisation time and money while providing your customers with a more meaningful customer journey.

Labour shortage is a commonly reported concern for many manufacturers, the move towards smart factories will create an evolution and even a revolution in the tasks your employees undertake. Automating some or all of your processes frees up time for your workplace talent to embark on more complex projects and elements of the business, the parts that need creativity and originality, while the automated processes complete the repetitive, mundane, or more dangerous elements of your business environment.

Investment in automated infrastructure and systems does require a financial investment that company owners and financial directors may be concerned about committing to now, but this resistance could be the decision that stalls growth and security in the long term. Automation brings many long-term productivity gains and leaves a business less susceptible to financial downturn when the next pandemic strikes, and sooner or later it will, automation is the way forward to future proof your business and preserve the long term health and safety, and financial security, of your employees.

We have all heard about the digital talent gap, and businesses should be taking the opportunity during this time of changing business landscape to invest in training and increase the digital skills set of its employees. Following a period of investment in automation, we need to safeguard new assets and resources to ensure we do not face a shortage of workers with the required skills to work and operate our new automated processes.

Smart Manufacturing Platforms are experiencing a steady growth in demand and now is the time to get proactive in the automation revolution to reap the financial, environmental, and increased productivity rewards.

Crucial to the success of automation is the monitoring of data and harnessing the power that data provides; smart data collection and automation connect the top floor to the factory floor.

 

Business

CONSUMERS IN THE COVID ERA CAN LEARN TO EMBRACE STRONG CUSTOMER AUTHENTICATION

By Ed Whitehead, Signifyd managing director, EMEA

 

The changes that COVID-19 has caused in rapid succession make it hard to slow down and think about just how to approach the retail and payments landscape and a world that will never be the same.

But it is important for retailers and financial institutions to take a breath, think about where consumers are headed and come up with a strategy to take your enterprises there in time to meet them when they arrive. Granted, all this is going on in the midst of great disruption in the world of online payments.

First, ecommerce sales have accelerated at an unprecedented rate. When the World Health Organisation in March declared a global pandemic and government began ordering non-essential stores closed, consumers turned to online shopping for necessities and nice-to-have items.

Ecommerce sales in Europe peaked at 70% year-over-year at the height of online buying during the pandemic, according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data. With non-essential stores reopening and with consumers less inclined to stockpile, online buying has cooled, but ecommerce spending in September remained at double their year-ago figures in some key verticals, according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data.

Ed Whitehead

That shift was unforeseen before the pandemic hit. But another disruption was long-anticipated and human-made. By the end of the year in most of Europe, merchants and banks will be required to adhere to the payment regulation known as PSD2 and it’s requirement for Strong Customer Authentication.

And while the UK has pushed enforcement of the regulations into 2021, the earlier enforcement deadline will apply to UK merchants who want to sell into the rest of Europe.

Interestingly enough, most of the worry over SCA has focused on whether merchants were ready for the change. But financial institutions also have work to do to prepare for SCA, both to serve their consumer account holders and to process transactions from their commercial customers, such as retailers. And while conventional wisdom has dictated that financial institutions are in a better position to offer SCA than are many retailers, a recent survey by Signifyd indicates that assessment might be overly sanguine.

 

Survey shows financial institutions need to reach out to customers

The September survey of 1,500 UK consumers found that 41% of respondents had encountered extra steps and complications while accessing their banking accounts in the past year. More than 37% said they had been unable to complete a financial transaction in the past year due to new security factors and 46.5% said they were very or somewhat likely to give up on a transaction that requires two-factor authentication.

Not very heartening results for institutions facing a requirement that customers be authenticated by two of three factors:

  • Something the customer has (such as device ID).
  • Something the customer knows (such as a one-time password).
  • Something the customer is (such as a fingerprint or other biometric trait).

Part of the problem could be customer education and communication — or the lack of it. According to the September survey, 74.3% of consumers said they were either not entirely sure how SCA will affect them (34.3%) or that they were not at all aware of SCA and how it will change transactions (39.1%).

These worrisome findings actually point to an opportunity for financial institutions and retailers. JP Morgan notes that with ecommerce sales rising so dramatically, an increasing number of consumers are becoming familiar with two-factor authentication.

Signifyd’s own data shows a sharp increase in the number of online shoppers who had never or rarely shopped online before. The number of new customers buying from merchants on Signifyd’s Commerce Network, for instance, more than doubled in May, compared to pre-pandemic figures. (Signifyd defines a new online shopper as a customer who has not made a purchase from the more than 10,000 merchants on its global network for at least a year.)

The increase in the number of new shoppers arriving online has slowed, but it is still well above a-year-ago figures. And about half the new users trying online shopping return for multiple purchases within 30 days, indicating they are developing new digital habits.

That means banks and merchants have an opportunity to help these new consumers become accustomed to security safeguards like SCA even as they are getting used to shopping online in general. When done right, this early consumer education will ensure that these new shoppers and bank customers will be comfortable with SCA, given that it’s the way they’ve shopped and banked online since the beginning.

 

New online customers create new opportunities for merchants and financial institutions

So, online transactions are exploding. Consumers who eschewed ecommerce shopping before are becoming regular online shoppers. All good news. But what should retailers and financial institutions be doing to take advantage of the good news — and to make sure that those new online users become loyal customers.

Getting customers comfortable with transacting in the SCA era, of course, is just the beginning. Retailers and bankers want customers to be delighted with their online experience, a standard that is a few notches above “comfort.”

SCA requirements present an opportunity for retailers to fortify their fraud protection with state-of-the-art, machine-learning systems that will provide a better customer experience today and position them to accommodate future changes to payments regulations.

The trick will be to offer a friction-free customer experience while still protecting the enterprise — a feat that will require merchants and financial institutions to look at state-of-the-art technology to power their SCA systems. Consultancy CMSPI predicted that merchants could lose £108.1 billion in annual sales because of new SCA rules.

CMSPI says the new 3D-Secure version 2.0 that provides the infrastructure for SCA transactions will kill 35% of transactions because of technical problems, declined orders and delays that frustrate customers.

But that assumes retailers don’t turn to innovative solutions that improve the performance of 3D-Secure-powered payments systems. The tools are out there as technology companies have been developing solutions to streamline SCA and make the process far more efficient.

 

Long-term steps for building loyalty among existing and new customers alike

The pandemic and its disruption feel like they will never end. But they will. Retailers will want to be in a position to build on the relationships they’ve initiated with customers before and during the lockdowns and social distancing.

Some of that will be redoubling efforts they’ve made all along. They’ll want to build flawless online experiences. They’ll want to provide intuitive navigation and enhance the customer experience with engaging content, precise personalisation, invaluable customer support, seamless checkout and instant order confirmation.

Beyond that, it will be important that financial institutions and retailers to clearly communicate with their customers so that they know the rationale for SCA and understand that it protects all parties involved in a transaction.

Automated systems can help with many of the initiatives that lead to improved customer experience. AI-powered content management systems, personalization engines and automated inventory control can advance discovery and fulfillment performance. Fraud and automated order management systems that instantly determine the most efficient way to comply with SCA requirements can speed checkout and reduce the chance of cart abandonment.

No question, the COVID-induced upheaval can make planning for the future seem a little overwhelming at times. But retailers that find the mental space to plot the future step-by-step will find themselves in a strong position today and in the post-pandemic future that we all look forward to.

 

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Business

PROTECTING THE CONNECTED CONSUMER FROM REAL AND PERCEIVED FRAUD RISK

Sam Holding, Head of International, SparkPost

 

Experts have researched and observed that when there is an economic downturn, there is often a marked increase in fraudulent activity. Unfortunately, the global financial situation caused by the spread of COVID-19 has been the perfect storm for this kind of behaviour. A quick web search on the topic brings back tons of tips sheets and articles about how consumers can keep themselves safe during such a turbulent economic crisis. While these resources suggest that consumers take simple steps like ignoring robocalls and watching out for phishing emails, the amount of channels through which scammers can take action can feel overwhelming. Due to the increasingly interconnected nature of technology, an attack on one website or communication channel can lead to what feels like a domino effect – taking down a consumer’s personal “stack” one by one.

 

The nature of this interconnectedness has given rise to the “Connected Consumer”. This consumer persona represents the vast swathe of people who have smartphones and have not only grown accustomed to ultra-personalised digital experiences but, as a result, expect these types of dynamic solutions. It should also be noted that this is not specifically a Millenial or Gen Z phenomenon, but rather a trans-generational disposition for easy-to-use technology. While the Connected Consumer isn’t necessarily at a higher risk for fraudulent attacks because of how they interact with technology, the stakes definitely feel higher. Because they may use their Facebook or Gmail credentials to login to countless websites and apps, a single fraud attack can feel like a chink in the armor that protects their whole digital footprint.

 

Sam Holding

With the rise of the Connected Consumer, it’s likely no surprise that there is an incredibly high app adoption rate amongst financial services customers. While people may be quick to download retail banking apps, due to their broader online experiences, they expect a highly personalised experience – something the financial services industry hasn’t always been able to give. In an industry known for stringent security and privacy controls and conservative decision-making, adoption of the latest and greatest segmentation and personalisation technologies hasn’t always been possible. But anecdotally as users, we know that an outdated app experience is not only frustrating but may also lead to concerns about security. If the front-end looks antiquated, what’s to keep non-technical consumers from assuming what’s under the hood is old and lacking up-to-date security measures?

 

The, perhaps superficial, perceived threat around slightly outdated app experiences and the very real threat of fraud requires a multi-pronged course of action to keep Connected Consumers feeling safe. Fortunately, many of the steps required are actually low hanging fruit that don’t require technologists and security professionals to completely change their normal course of action. The best place for financial services companies to start is with their email programs. Since email is the backbone of customer communications when it comes to financial institutions, no amount of attention to detail and care is too great when considering new strategies.

 

The first updated strategy that can keep Connected Consumers feeling safe is applying a mobile-first attitude when sending email messages. This can be applied to the look and feel of the actual email template, but should also be applied to the links in messages as well. Hyperlinks in the body of emails should “deep link” back to the banking institution’s mobile app rather than their desktop site. For Connected Consumers, these deep links show that their bank’s email strategies are in lock-step with their app. And, rather than having to fumble through a website that may not be mobile friendly, consumers can use their thumb print or even their face to access sensitive financial information instantly. Quick and even topical changes like this can show consumers that their information is safe by using the security measures built into their phone.

 

Another easy change financial institutions can focus on to create a more streamlined and, therefore, more secure-feeling experience is improved customer service. Certainly, it’s important for support agents to be friendly and helpful, but in 2020 they should also be fully aware of all of the personalised email messages the specific customer they are trying to help has received. Keeping support teams abreast of the latest email marketing campaigns can close the loop on security regarding customer communications. If a customer has a question regarding an email offer they received, the support agent can authoritatively reassure the customer that the message is, in fact, valid. This creates an unparalleled sense of security.

 

When it comes to security, especially during a time in which fraud is increasing, retail banks can’t take any chances. Connected Consumers need their banks to provide digital experiences that not only are secure but feel secure, a challenge that may be easier to meet than most think. With a few simple changes, financial services organisations can keep consumers feeling safe and stable even when the world feels completely off-kilter.

 

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