Blog | Just how personal is personal?

By Stephen Hamill

The importance of delivering digitally-transformed customer experiences this holiday season.

As the year comes to a close, consumers in Asia Pacific have flocked to popular e-commerce sites to maximize deals from hefty discounts, since the Singles’ Day in November to “12.12” and now to Christmas – the grand finale of this year’s shopping season.

Amid the popularization of online shopping sprees during the holiday season, customers are leaving traces of their digital footprints and preferences across multiple channels ranging from desktop, mobile and even brick-and-mortar stores.

With data on customers’ virtual shopping carts, payment preferences, social profiles, and even internet browsing histories, retailers stand a chance to understand their customers better.

But there’s a challenge too: how to gather, store, manage and analyze all of this data to provide better products and services and ultimately create the best customer experience?

This is where we’re seeing artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled cloud services come into their own, helping businesses across the region use this information to build the personalized, data-driven and secure customer experience that’s not just a possibility, but an absolute necessity.

Connecting Online and Offline Experiences

More and more customers today expect a personalized, seamless cross-channel approach to their shopping, whether that’s in-store or online.

According to Oracle’s recently published Topography of Retail report, 74 percent of consumers want “knowledgeable in-store staff that could meet their specific needs quickly”, while 64 per cent of consumers from emerging markets including China and India said they loved the idea of virtual reality “try on” apps, for personalized shopping experiences. Imagine looking online for the perfect Christmas gift and then going into a store the next day, to find a shop assistant who points you towards the gift you were looking for. That’s the level of cross-channel expectation we’re gearing towards.

Data, when analyzed correctly, is at the heart of this genuinely connected customer experience. It requires brands to effectively establish an understanding of their customers by analyzing existing behaviors, so they can give favorable, precise recommendations quickly, based on the results.

Here Comes the AI Revolution

AI is making data-powered personalization possible. Using cloud services powered by a combination of emerging technologies led by AI, machine learning and blockchain, retailers and brands are able to build a detailed understanding of a consumer’s behavior both within their stores and across their online channels, as well as understanding their likes and behaviors beyond their shopping experiences.

With this information, marketers can create appropriate content, specifically targeted to their audiences and delivered during key daily purchasing moments.

Zalora, the largest e-commerce fashion company in Southeast Asia, is an organization that relies on machine learning and AI to drive new levels of customer loyalty. It was important for Zalora to have a tool that helps them listen and respond in real-time to each personalized interaction with the customer.

Zalora has moved from a batch and blast model to become an orchestrator of personalized conversations, where they are able to speak to customers in a relevant and tailored manner.

Connecting Data Cross-Platforms

Looking beyond targeted offers, it is also essential to bring all data related to customers in one centralized location, especially if you want to improve service efficiency and accuracy.

With connected access to data from the marketing team, the supply chain and the back office all centralized in the cloud, companies can better coordinate internally and then create an integrated, end-to-end engagement plan without breaking into fragmented point solutions throughout the customer journey.

Bangkok Airways has become the first airline in Thailand to deploy the Oracle Service Cloud to improve its customer service and engagement.

The carrier expects the software to help it quickly identify and respond to requests and incidents, minimizing any disruption to customers’ travel plans and improving the customer experience through greater visibility supporting informed decisions.

Agents and supervisors can now route, track and audit emails, and generate reports to measure the performance of the incident resolution process and agents themselves.

Protecting Information

Yet, many will say that AI and cloud-based data-sharing present a major risk to identity security. After all, if brands are able to know so much about us, isn’t there a risk that hackers could easily access the data?

This is where blockchain comes in. Contrary to the belief that this is simply a vehicle for volatile cyber currencies, blockchain can create ultra-secure tokens which contain an individual’s unique personal information.

By using encrypted authentication, this information can only be accessed through use of a secure key, providing totally personalized information, alongside cryptographic security.

It’s about Trust

All these innovations are available right now, but companies need to carefully adopt this innovation while ensuring customer trust.

Over 90 percent of consumers in developing markets such as India or China and nearly half in developed markets such as the US or Australia that Oracle spoke to, said it was important that they themselves had control over the personal information that retailers held on them.

So, while one in three customers in Australia, New Zealand, and India would welcome a personalized digital experience based on previous interactions with brands, there has to be boundaries.

Retailers need to tread that fine line between customers appreciating good Christmas present recommendations based on their Singles’ Day purchases, and, feeling a bit uncomfortable with gift suggestions based on their mood in their latest Instagram story.

The continuous pursuit of customer happiness remains at the heart and core of companies. As many customers are demanding the future now, companies need to either predict their needs or lose them.

Emerging technologies including AI-enabled cloud solutions can help companies find more value from data, and ultimately, up their game in perfecting the digitally-transformed customer experience journey.

The author is the vice president of Oracle marketing cloud at Oracle Asia Pacific and Japan

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