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Banks having mid-life crisis

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Banks are experiencing a midlife crisis. They desperately want to transform and become digitally enabled but they are being hamstrung by legacy systems, data silos and disjointed marketing, says CARLA PETERSEN, Senior Business Director at Acceleration, London.

Digitally maturing organisations who are leveraging technology to redefine their businesses understand that this journey starts with transforming their customers’ experience of their brand through the transformation of their operational models, which ultimately leads to the transformation of their business models.

They, therefore, treat their customer data as an asset and foster a culture that supports rapid iteration, rapid prototyping and risk-taking, enabled through well-integrated marketing technology. If something doesn’t work, they chalk it up to learning and try something else.

Yet, banks are inherently risk-averse. This is not unexpected given that the financial industry is one of the most heavily regulated, especially when it comes to the responsible use of their customer’s personal data. Most have the challenge of integrating expensive legacy systems that are still being used and navigating the slippery slope of digital analytics, mobile, social and cloud solutions that should enable the modern marketing capabilities of their organisations. A common theme, too, is the lack of executive-level buy-in and commitment to drive the type of cultural change that puts the customer at the centre of the business strategy. So where do some of the opportunities lie that will empower banks to be more future ready?

Data silos

A recent study conducted by Wunderman and research partners, Penn Schoen Berland, (in which 250 senior executives from global brands were interviewed) indicate that whilst 99% of all executives surveyed believe that data is critical to achieve success, 62% feel that they are unable to convert this data into insights or action and an even further 68% say they can’t use the data to create relevant messages. 

Banks have a wealth of information about their customers’ income, lifestyles and purchasing behaviour. The problem is that this data resides in silos within the organisation, making it impossible to understand what a customer needs when they need it – much less accurately predicting their needs over time so that the customer benefits from every interaction they have with the brand. The credit card division works off a different dataset to the home loan division, for instance. The result could be that the bank ends up offering a credit card to a customer who already has two or three, rather than offering him preferential rates on a home loan because the bank knows he’s looking to buy a house.

When data is integrated and centralised, all departments work towards a common KPI: to drive business growth by meeting the needs of a particular customer at a particular point in their lifecycle.

Yet, performance in banks is still measured by business-unit KPIs. This has resulted in disjointed organisational cultures and decentralised decision-making.

Stop-gap solution

There is some awareness of this problem though, as seen by the trend towards creating cross-functional teams when launching a new product or brand experience. In these set-ups, brand and product teams, marketing teams and the IT department come together to focus on what a good customer experience looks like and how technology and data can support it.

Once the cross-functional brainstorm is finished, however, the different teams go their separate ways to focus on their individual objectives that usually have nothing to do with the KPIs that result in digital transformation. Digital transformation requires strong leadership and vision to drive the change and reap the rewards.

Customer first

All marketing and digital transformation strategies need to put the customer experience first – and that requires a new approach to data management, a new approach to technology enablement and, most importantly, a new approach to organisational culture.

This cultural change can only be driven from the top and it is imperative that senior executives integrate digital transformation across all their products and services and create a team of digital experts who are experienced in modern marketing practices and understand the customer journey and how data and technology can enable that experience. Until this happens, the agility crisis facing banks will continue, putting their business models at risk.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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