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Machine-learning takes on ecommerce

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While machine learning is a relatively new concept for many, there are an increasing number of platforms and services that are adopting this construction of algorithms. ROBERT SCOTT, SafariNow CCO, talks about the relevance of supervised and unsupervised machine learning.

Given the massive increase in the amount of data that companies – of all sizes and across sectors – are generating, it is no surprise that data analytics and machine learning are fast becoming key components of every innovative company’s toolkit. For the uninitiated, machine learning refers to the way in which companies can now leverage computing power to find important patterns within their data – and then use these patterns to improve their service or product offering.

Because of the sheer volume and complexity of the data being created today, it is often far beyond the capacity of any human – no matter how analytically gifted – to find any relevant trends or insights within what has been tagged ‘Big Data’.

Notably, one of the big differences between machine learning and computer-assisted analysis (where humans are involved) is that the recent breakthroughs in machine learning enable computers to teach themselves how to solve problems. So previously, when humans were directing computers, they were limited to very direct questions and answers (for example, “what is my top selling item?”) and required the person using the machine to dictate which method to use to the solve the problem. Now, machine learning enables computers to find answers in ways that are unguided by human intervention.

Although it is a relatively new and novel concept for many, the technology has already been applied to platforms and services that we use daily. Take Google Search, for example. When we enter a search term, Google uses elements of machine learning to analyse our behaviour once the first results have been served up (i.e. did we need to type in the same search term again, or did we follow some of the top links provided?) and then refines and improves its service according to the data. Other examples include Google’s self-driving car, how Netflix suggests which movies you should try next, and how a dating site suggests which people are most likely to be a suitable match for you…

Unexpected Insights

As with most technological tools today, almost any company or sector can leverage machine learning to better serve their customers. The challenge for companies is to recognise where – and how – certain insights and trends can improve their product or service offering.

Within the travel sector, we have identified various areas in which machine learning can be applied in order to fine tune our offering and help travelers locate their dream destinations. One of the great benefits of this tool is that it often finds relationships between factors that are completely unexpected and unplanned.

Machine learning has led us to the insight, for example, that some accommodation providers have a preference for prioritising requests from customers who would like to stay with them in the next few days – whereas other providers would much rather prioritise requests far in advance (for the school holidays, for example). Often, it is these unexpected – or unplanned – insights that can be the most beneficial for customers.

Continual Improvement

As an online travel aggregator, there are in fact infinite possible use cases for machine learning – and we are at the tip of the iceberg in terms of harnessing its potential to improve our offering to consumers looking for the next adventure.

Looking ahead, machine learning will perhaps become a standard application within the travel and e-commerce environment. Companies that are open to innovative ways of finding insights in their data can ultimately serve their customers more efficiently – and even develop closer relationships with them in the long-term. The key for companies is to keep an open mind as to whether or not their long-held beliefs about what customers want is actually supported by the data.

By always remaining alert to new patterns and insights, companies can make adjustments – both big and small – to enhance their offering.

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New iPhone pricing for SA

The iStore has announced that the latest iPhones, the Xs and Xs Max, can now be pre-ordered at www.myistore.co.za , and will be available in stores starting 28 September 2018.

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iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max feature 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch Super Retina displays that offer remarkable brightness and true blacks while showing 60 percent greater dynamic range in HDR photos. iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max have an improved dual camera system that offers breakthrough photo and video features, A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine, faster Face ID, wider stereo sound, longer battery life, splash and water resistance,

Pre-orders will be open for cash purchases and on iStore’s revised payment plan in partnership with FNB Credit Card, allowing customers to pay off their iPhone at a reduced interest rate. However, the contract period is 37 months rather than the usual 24 months.
*FNB Credit Card Payment Plan, price per month over 37 months, a 40% trade-in value after 24 months

How to pre-order – Pre-ordering online for either cash or the FNB payment plan gives customers the benefit of reserving their purchase without having to queue and the added convenience of having purchases delivered directly to their door. Pre-orders of iPhone Xs and Xs Max are completed online by visiting www.myistore.co.za.
FREE iCare Plus – Exclusive to iStore, all customers can get its 2-year extended warranty, which includes one Apple Certified screen repair, that normally sells for R1 999, for FREE. To qualify, customers should secure a voucher online now at www.myistore.co.za , and subsequently redeem it when they upgrade their contract or purchase any new iPhone at iStore (iPhone 8 and newer) between now and 31 December 2018. Offer is limited, secure your voucher now.

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Accenture opens Fjord design centre in Johannesburg

Accenture has launched its first design and innovation studio on African soil, Fjord Johannesburg.

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The company says the move significantly expands its design capabilities and demonstrates its commitment to unlocking Africa’s innovation potential through the creation of experiences that redefine industries in our constantly evolving digital era.

The new studio, opening in November, will be located at Accenture’s new 3875m² offices in Waterfall. It will be led by Marcel Rossouw, design director and studio lead for Fjord Johannesburg.

Said Rossouw, “Brands are constantly asking, ’how does one take a business need or problem, build that out into a definition of a service experience, and then bring it to market?’ It’s about re-engineering existing service experiences, identifying customer needs, prototyping rapidly, iterating often and proving or disproving assumptions. But it’s also about getting feedback from customers. The combination of these factors helps companies advance towards the ultimate service experience.”

Fjord is the design and innovation consultancy of Accenture Interactive. The Johannesburg location marks its 28th design studio globally, solidifying its position as the world’s leading design powerhouse.

Working in the same location as Accenture Interactive will allow Fjord to fuse its core design strategy DNA with the digital agency’s expertise in marketing, content and commerce to create and deliver the best customer experiences for the world’s leading brands. Accenture Interactive Africa‘s blend of intelligent design and creative use of technology has already been used by some of South Africa’s largest and most prominent brands, including Alexander Forbes, Discovery, MultiChoice and Nedbank. The digital agency has also earned industry accolades for its innovative and compelling business results, most notably two gold awards in the Service Design category at the 2017 and 2018 Loeries awards.

“Great design tells great stories,” says Wayne Hull, managing director of Accenture Digital and Accenture Interactive lead in Africa. “It unifies a brand, drives innovation and makes the brand or service distinctive and hyper-relevant in both the digital and physical worlds. This is critical to achieving results. Having Fjord Johannesburg as part of Accenture Interactive, and collaborating with all of Accenture Africa, will provide unique experiences and forward-thinking capabilities for our clients.”

“Businesses in South Africa are becoming more design-aware and are looking to take greater advantage of design skills to compete with the rest of the world,” said Thomas Müller, head of Europe, Africa and Latin America at Fjord. “We’re excited to open our first design studio on the continent and to be part of an emerging market that is ripe for design and innovation, and open for business. Developing markets like South Africa are challenging assumptions and norms about what digital services and products are meant to be, and we’ll strive to put design at the heart of the innovation being produced there.”

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