Data Analytics Platform - How to Make Sense of Big Data

This is the second post of a series about how companies can transform into Cloud Native enterprises. To check the first post click here.


Understanding the Need for a Data Analytics Platform

A data analytics platform, also often referred to as a big data analytics platform is a complete stack of technology that enables three important functions: 1) collection, ingestion and storage of data from various databases, 2) synthesis and processing of data points using algorithms, 3) visualization of analytic output.

The benefit of having a data analytics platform is that it allows companies to unleash the power of the data they have been collecting over the years and may not be fully harnessing. When data is fed into a common platform and data points are explored, patterns could be uncovered to look at relationships over a period of time. From these patterns, new insights may surface, especially when putting variables that may not have been paired together before.

A common example is analyzing transactional (sales) data and media metrics. When overlaying variables such as media spend and sales, business leaders might see that a certain of range of media spend may equate to a certain level of sales. With observations like this, executives may draw the insight that media spend is a lever to pull when looking to increase sales toward a growth objective.

Another type of analysis that can be conducted involves customer-level data. This means that the data contains information to identify a transaction belonging to a specific customer. When a customer’s history of purchases and visits to a store is analyzed, companies will better understand their customers and identify which behaviors or groups are driving the highest revenue. This impacts marketing strategy and an outcome may be for the CMO to allocate his or her budget toward targeting customers who drive the highest revenue for the company.

Enterprise Data Lake

The concept of a data lake means putting various types and quantities of data into a platform that allows for the interaction of data points, resulting in breaking down of silos and enablement for deeper analysis.

This data platform not only acts as a storage for various datasets but also as a conduit that enables organizations to better mine their data and prepare for analytics projects.

Typical types of data that can be ingested into the data lake include: sales data, marketing data, and data from external sources. Having this system is one of the first steps on how a company can become more customer-centric and data-driven– by capturing and analyzing customer data in one place– and uncover market opportunities.

This platform ingests data points that are synthesized using algorithms that are created in the data exploration layer. Additional tools are typically added to the data lake, which may include business analytics and other data mining capabilities.

Data Analytics Platform - Enterprise Data Lake - Amihan Global Strategies

Diagram 1: An Enterprise Data Lake ingests and integrates data from various sources and prepares it for exploration and analysis.

Data Exploration Layer

While it’s typical that historical data from an organization’s core systems are ingested first, data collected as part of the data lake may also include new data being collected, either as part of the data collection strategy of core systems, or new data sources are connected to the lake.

When data is collected on an ongoing basis and not limited to a specific initiative, algorithms are set in place in order to merge data points and explore trends in the data. The merging of old and new data could inspire new ways of looking at organizational challenges and enhance business strategies.

Data analysts typically go through a process that involve discovering, defining, designing and deploying analytics. Each phase is marked by the following activity:

  • Discover: Taking stock of current systems and available data sets.
  • Define: Creating the measurement strategy for analytics and insights generation.
  • Design: Designing the analytics project (methodology, reporting, data governance) and visualization requirements.
  • Deploy: Generating reports, interpreting results, and creating models to replicate analysis on other or larger data sets.

Visualization

In order for data to be meaningful for the organization, it cannot sit in storage, with its access only limited to the IT team. Unleashing the power of data has a lot to do with preparing the analytics output into charts and tables that can be accessed by various stakeholders. A typical visualization set up involves the use of modern dashboard tools such as Tableau or Qlikview, and it starts with the analytics team collaborating with business leads to do a design session, which involves understanding business objectives, KPIs, frequency of reporting required, and what kinds of charts and tables are most useful to be visualized. Analysts will recommend a dashboard design, which also includes an approach on how best to visualize data, given their familiarity with the organization’s existing data found in the data lake.

Data Analytics Platform - Data Exploration - Big Data Analytics Platform - Amihan Global Strategies

Diagram 2: After ingestion, developers and data architects create a Data Exploration Layer which allow analysts to explore the data. An enriched data stream is created that can be used by various applications and data visualization tools.

Conclusion

Organizations can now address challenges using the power of data and technology. New ways to putting together data points and analyzing them help uncover solutions, or even a new dimension to an organizational challenge.

In order to mobilize data throughout the organization and make it smarter, an enterprise could look into implementing a big data analytics platform. Key phases include data collection and storage, processing and computing, and producing an output that visualizes the data in a meaningful way in order to make insights useful immediately.  Ultimately, the goal is to leverage existing assets and empower the organization to make use of its own resource (proprietary data) in order to sustain and move itself forward into the digital economy, connecting with customers better.

Accelerate time-to-insight

Amihan Analyze is a fully-integrated big data analytics platform designed for speed, scale, and flexibility.

Built with the world’s most successful open source data projects–it combines the massive-scale data processing speed of Apache Spark, Trino’s highly-parallel and distributed query engine, and the elasticity and power of Apache Kafka and Apache Nifi. All in one, unified platform.

But wait, there’s more!

Are you looking for a comprehensive view of Amihan Analyze capabilities? Download the Amihan Analyze data sheet.

DOWNLOAD INFOSHEET

Infrastructure for Innovation: Why Legacy to Cloud Native (L2CN) is the New Architecture for Digital Transformation

This post is the first part of a series on The Cloud Native Enterprise.


It took some time, but it seems digital disruption has finally broken through the barriers and arrived in the Philippines full force.

Everyone is realizing the need to transform: Last month, Summit Media, the nation’s largest print magazine publisher, rebranded itself as a digital media company and subsequently launched a Content Lab for branded storytelling across physical and digital channels. Last year, PLDT began a massive pivot away from its dwindling long-distance revenue, prompting PhilStar to spell out its (and soon every giant’s) unofficial mantra: “adapt or perish.”

So it’s safe to say that the pressure is on for corporations to innovate and go digital. The question is how — how to transition culture, systems, and processes in institutions that employ tens of thousands and serve tens of millions of people.

The IT Dilemma

The initial barriers to digital transformation are often strategic and cultural: making a commitment to adapt, and then getting the organization to see and buy into that new direction.

But even the most determined and aligned companies are held back by the infrastructure and IT systems that their companies are built upon. 9 out of 10 IT decision-makers report that they are held back by their outdated IT systems, and it was found that 80% of IT workers spend over half of their time troubleshooting and maintaining legacy systems . These old systems keep companies from adopting new technology due to incompatibilities or difficulties in integration.

People have increasingly looked to the cloud for an answer. Cloud computing, in plain terms, is a service that allows you to rent remote server space rather than own it. This allows you to pay for server space as you use it, which in turn enables companies to scale up new services that work and scale down services that don’t with little risk.

Cloud-native apps, which are optimized for the cloud environment, employ elements like microservices, which break down complicated apps into small functions that can be upgraded and deployed independently, and containers, which allows software to work with different forms of hardware. These characteristics allow apps, services, and systems built on the cloud to be modified, adapted, changed, deployed, and scaled rapidly in the spirit of experimentation.

But the cloud comes with its own risks: cloud security has improved significantly, but will never be on par with a well-managed private server. It requires a massive shift in culture: from siloes and long production timelines to maximum collaboration and once-a-week updates. Furthermore, leaving the legacy system altogether isn’t really an option: old IT systems often contain wells of valuable information, are informed by many years of troubleshooting and experience, and are connected to countless business and operational processes that would be thrown into chaos without it.

So what’s the CTO of a large bank to do in the face of this dilemma? Waiting around isn’t an option either: upstarts with little to lose are starting from scratch and harnessing the cloud to grow and carve out market share seemingly in warp speed. Incumbents must figure out a way to keep pace, launch their own breakthroughs, while minimizing their exposure to risk.

Why not have it both ways?

When we first spoke to the team of the largest bank in the Philippines, they were puzzling through this very challenge.

Though they were committed to reinventing themselves for the digital world, they were feeling constrained by their legacy IT systems, which made it difficult to try new technologies without exposing themselves to security risks. On the other hand, they had seen banks diving completely into the cloud — something that, for them, could be a recipe for disaster. This was the banking sector, one of the most high-stakes of them all, and as the bank’s CEO put it: “People don’t like to be told that you’re experimenting with their money.”

When we asked, “Why not do both?” it felt like a dozen lightbulbs going off across the room. What we’ve found with our clients from banking, retail, healthcare, and beyond is that moving to the cloud isn’t a binary decision or an on/off switch. It’s a process. That process hinges on a hybrid cloud which connects public cloud servers, private cloud servers, and privately-owned, often legacy, servers and systems.

More than just a hybrid cloud, we at Amihan believe in a Legacy to Cloud-Native (L2CN) Enterprise Architecture which merges the best of both the cloud ecosystem and your own legacy IT systems.

The idea behind L2CN is to minimize risk and maximize the opportunity for innovation. In an L2CN enterprise, the company invests in extending and strengthening their legacy system — while at the same time building new services and products for the cloud, where they can be deployed, modified, and scaled with ease.

Over time, as breakthrough services scale up and become more central to the whole enterprise, the balance of the company’s operations will naturally shift towards the cloud. But this migration happens gradually, not all at once.

To learn more about how to build a Legacy to Cloud Native (L2CN) Enterprise Architecture, join us at our April 25 event or download our 1-page guide:

DOWNLOAD: Legacy to Cloud Native Enterprise Architecture (PDF)

How do you merge your legacy systems, the private cloud, and the public cloud in order to achieve breakthrough innovation?




Amihan and Summit Media Launch "Ready or Not"

On March 9, we celebrated the public launch of AMIHAN Chairman Winston Damarillo’s new book, Ready or Not: The 6 Big Disruption That Will Change the Way We Do Business at the National Book Store in Glorietta 1. The event was co-organized by the book’s publisher, Summit Media.

The audience was treated to Damarillo describing the story behind the book and his vision for the future. His talk was followed by a panel of entrepreneurs and leaders who shared their views on the future of small business, politics, creativity, and the workforce.

Their calls to action: read up on the coming technological trends; think critically and take nothing for granted in the next decade of rapid change; and finally, hone in on the creativity and spirit that makes us uniquely human in the new age of machines.

Panelists: Richard Dacalos, Upstart the Board Game; Niña Terol, McCann Worldgroup Philippines and Kickfire; Sam Ramos-Jones, Pampubliko; Rexy Josh Dorado, Kaya Collaborative

“The next 10 years can be a lot of fun, and it can be a boon for the creative economy in the Philippines,” said Damarillo, “but only if we’re ready.”

The event ended with a book signing and a raffle where members of the audience received free books, shirts, and Google Home AI speakers. We were lucky to be joined by Summit Books President Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, whose company had just rebranded itself as a digital publisher at the core.

Thank you to those who attended and we look forward to shaping the next decade with you!


Decoding Digital: A Primer to the Future of Industries

Welcome to the age of digital disruption. Over the past decade, the Internet has unleashed a new wave of technologies that are destroying old business models and redefining what is possible. Banks, retail brands, media companies, telcos, and even political establishments have struggled to find their footing in the new digital landscape: one in which upstarts can scale and take down incumbents in little time.

How to transform? The process starts with understanding what the digital future has in store. This primer, a companion to AMIHAN Chairman Winston Damarillo’s book Ready or Not, aims to shed light on 3 key technologies that will disrupt business in the Philippines: blockchain, artificial intelligence, and big data.

You’ve heard them all before, but what do these words even mean? What does it mean for you, the Filipino business leader? This document will serve as your key to unlocking the meaning and opportunities behind the jargon.

DOWNLOAD: Decoding Digital (PDF)

Enter your information below to access our 9-page primer on digital disruption, big data, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.




Alistair Israel: The Tech Revolution Is Only Beginning

“When I was a kid, I always liked to tinker with stuff. I would tear things apart, figure out how they worked, and put them back together,” said Alistair Israel, Amihan’s Enterprise Architect and founder of Yehey, one of the pioneering web portals in the Philippines.

“I’m still doing the same thing now – learning, experimenting, seeing how things work – but now I’m doing it in the context of helping startups and large corporations innovate.”

On February 1, 2017, Israel spoke at A Space Manila’s _TALKS event on the subject of Tech Evolution. There, he shared learnings on the history and future of technological change from his 20 years in the industry. Other speakers at the event were Stefano Fazzini, CEO of Metromart, and Jean Ong, Product Manager at Global Telecom.

Israel began by describing the exponential growth of computing power since the 1960s. This is called Moore’s Law: every year, the number of transistors one could fit into a microprocessor would double. In the late 1980s, you had 100,000 transistors in a chip; by the year 2000, that number would be about 100 million; today, the largest transistor count is 7.2 billion. “If you take an Android phone today and recreate just the microprocessor using 1971 technology, you would need a supercomputer the size of a parking space.”

This is happening everywhere in tech, said Israel. He drew a connection to the rise of the Internet of Things: In 2005, we had less than half a billion Internet-connected devices. Today, we have more than 25 billion. “The story everywhere is accelerating change,” said Israel, “and it’s not slowing down.”

What will that future look like? Israel discussed other emerging technologies that are on their way to breaking through, chief among them being artificial intelligence. “If this decade is the decade of big data and cloud computing, 2020 onwards is going to be all about machine learning and AI.”

This is significant in that AI allows for greater abstraction. “You used to have to install everything manually in your computer, but now, you can take out your phone, go to the app store, and press the install button.” It has become abstracted; you no longer have to worry about the technical details, which allows more people to interact with the technology and build on top of it. Soon, artificial intelligence will create even more abstraction: “You just talk to your phone and ask it to compute something you and it will do it.” With more of the grunt work for everything being done by machines, the rate of change and innovation is poised to explode.

With all of this comes more opportunity for everyone. He described data as one of the great frontiers: “As the amount of data we generate and gather grows, computing and storage costs keep going down. That big gap right there to me represents the Big Data opportunity.”

In his view, technologists and entrepreneurs in Asia have the most to gain. “Multinational companies are already basing themselves in Asia more and more. And the opposite is also true: Asian technology is beginning to dominate the market everywhere.”

“This is only going to keep speeding up,” he said, “as open source software allows developers around the world to collaborate, open courseware enables more people to learn skills on demand, and the overall democratization of tech gives everyone the power to create.”

For Israel, who taught himself to code at age 10 and built one of the country’s pioneering web a few years out of college, technology will always represent this: a revolution in how people in countries like the Philippines are able to create solutions and connect the world. The best part is that it’s only beginning.


"Fire It Up!" Challenges Young Hackers to Build Mobile Apps

The partners bridge the gap from talent to creation – and eventually to the marketplace.


Conferences are known for teaching, inspiring, and connecting people. But that’s not enough, said Winston Damarillo, Amihan’s Executive Chairman and founder of Developers Connect Philippines (DevCon).

“Conferences are the perfect venue to challenge people,” Damarillo said. Thus Fire It Up! Amihan & DevCon Mobile App Challenge was born. After helping thousands of young developers learn from their peers, the DevCon challenge took the organization’s mission a step further and pushed talented young programmers and teams to create the next hot mobile app using Firebase, a platform designed to help developers build high-quality apps with ease.

Emerging as a winner of the contest was Tueri, a Tinder-esque app that matches tutors and tutees. The developers found in Firebase a platform where everything they needed was available: analytics, notifications, authentication, and other things that developers may need in building an app. As the champions of the competition, Tueri’s creators, Team White Cloak, brought home a prize of P100,000.

Special mentions from the competition were iTravel, a travel app for millennials that involves geolocation, and partnerships with hotels and airlines, among others; and Taravel, an app that recommends a travel itinerary based on an emotion, inspired by the Filipino love for “hugot.” Both teams took note of how Firebase’s services and cloud database allowed them to minimize backend work and focus on building the apps themselves.

“This is why we decided to use Firebase: because it allows people to skip the boring stuff and focus on building something new,” said Damarillo. As a veteran tech entrepreneur himself, he said that this idea extended beyond Firebase. According to him, most startups that are good at creating products, but find it challenging to deal with all the other aspects of building it. For most start-ups, said Damarillo, the mindset is: “I just want to build a product. I don’t wanna deal with taxes, BIR, employees. I just want to build the next app. And if it’s big, then I’ll make a company out of it.”

This is where Amihan envisions its role in the startup ecosystem: to become a marketplace that connects small developer teams with large enterprises. Product teams and individuals can focus on innovating, while Amihan can find markets and partners for them.

“For any product that’s starting out, it needs to be anchored in the needs of the market. But it’s tough to reach that market if you’re just starting out. So in the absence of that, focus on your passion. We’ll take care of the rest.


Amihan Launches Book & Digital Innovation Center

2016 made one thing clear: technology is fast changing society and disrupting industry in the Philippines. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has arrived, ushered in by political upheavals and viral memes that were, at their core, powered by the Internet and big data.

On Friday, January 27, Amihan Global Strategies convened entrepreneurial leaders from across sectors to prepare for the digital revolution. The event celebrated the launch of Amihan Chairman Winston Damarillo’s new book, Ready or Not: The 6 Big Disruptions That Will Change the Way We Do Business, as well as the Amihan Innovation Center, a new collaborative space in Ortigas Center’s Orient Square designed to accelerate innovation. Special guests in attendance included Senator Bam Aquino, Golden ABC’s CEO Bernie Liu, and Nestor Tan, CEO of Banco de Oro, who wrote the foreword for Ready Or Not.

Ready Or Not, here comes the digital disruption


(L-R) Bernie Liu, CEO of Golden ABC, Winston Damarillo, and Sen. Bam Aquino

Winston Damarillo treated the audience to a preview of Ready Or Not, his new book outlining the technological trends and building blocks that are transforming lives of the Filipino customer.

“It’s a new game,” said Damarillo, “and it comes with a new set of rules that we can’t ignore. Enterprises need to adopt a new mindset that embraces data, responds to customer needs and taps into the power of their communities.”

Ready Or Not brings together Damarillo’s insights and experiences from Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and the Philippine business community, and combines it with illustrations from acclaimed comic artist Manix Abrera to form a dynamic picture of how the Philippines will look in 2025. Each book comes with a card game by Upstart creator Richard Dacalos, which helps readers experience disruption for themselves.

Ready Or Not was published by Summit Books, and is now available in all National Bookstores and Power Books locations across the country.

Breaking down barriers to activate innovation

The event also marked the opening of the new Amihan Innovation Center, a collaborative workspace in the Ortigas area that was built to accelerate digital innovation. Damarillo envisions the office as a place where innovation teams from large companies can work side-by-side with entrepreneurial upstarts, and forge new ideas that cross boundaries.

Ace Subido showcases UNAWA during the Amihan Innovation Center Launch.

Currently, the space brings together Amihan’s business minds with their product teams, which focus on customer intelligence, interactive platforms, and cloud-based digital infrastructure. During the launch, clients were toured around the space and given live demonstrations of Amihan’s mobile customer engagement platform NIMBLETM, the Big Data and Analytics Platform UNAWATM, and CLOUDBLOCKSTM, our cloud-native infrastructure used for rapid innovation. The Amihan Innovation Center also serves as a home base and event space for entrepreneurial organizations like Global Shapers Manila, the youth group of the World Economic Forum, and Kaya Collaborative, a nonprofit that brings young global Filipinos back home to work with social entrepreneurs in the Philippines.

“Digital disruption can be scary, but it can also help us become a stronger and more dynamic nation,” said Damarillo. “It will take all of us working together to get there.”


Amihan at Hadoop Summit 2016

Guest post by Kathrina Molera
Past Associate at AMIHAN

It was a few weeks back when our Big Data architect, Ace Subido, and I went for a tech immersion in California to attend the Hadoop Summit of 2016. The community is celebrating 10 years of Hadoop contributions this year. 10 years! Yes, that’s how long Hadoop Big Data technology has been maturing, and from what we’ve seen, it will surely continue to develop and improve through the coming years. The event was attended by the biggest players in the industry – Yahoo, Google, Hortonworks, Microsoft, and Cisco – just to name a few. A number of promising startups were there as well. We were 1 out of 2 companies from the Philippines who attended the event, the other being PLDT’s Talas Data Intelligence, Inc.. It was a proud moment for us to represent the country. To show our peers that we’ve been doing Big Data and Hadoop innovations for some of the largest enterprises in the Philippines, and doing our best to evangelize Hadoop in our side of the world.

Learning about Big Data from the best companies in the world

The three-day event had a fully-packed agenda consisting of keynotes, breakout sessions, and the community showcase. The keynote sessions included impressive demos of the latest innovations in the field, such as how Progressive Insurance Company used Hadoop & analytics to bring down insurance cost for their customers through user segmentation. They utilized a sensor device to track the driving behavior of their customers to determine whether they are a safe or bad driver. Through the data collected and by performing analytics, Progressive was able to adjust the premiums per individual, saving their customers a total of $523M.

Another noteworthy talk was on Google’s answer to the need for an on-demand Big Data & analytics platform. If you’re a company that wants to see if Big Data is right for you, you can easily spin-off machines through Google cloud and start crunching data. You don’t have to spend months setting up your own Big Data infrastructure, it can be available in just minutes. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to having your infrastructure on-premise or in the cloud. Big Data experts can help you determine the best setup for your enterprise so you can maximize machine power and optimize costs at the same time.

There was also a panel interview with some of the heavy users of Hadoop, namely Blue Cross, Macy’s and ConocoPhillips, companies that have been highly successful in implementing the technology. During the panel, all the participants acknowledged that platform is the easy part in building a Big Data and analytics practice, and that people and process are the hardest challenges because change management has to be implemented within the organization. Thus, there needs to be a Big Data champion inside the organization who can effectively lead the implementation of this new kind of technology within the company. The panel reiterated that having this infrastructure will provide flexibility for business users to access data and generate insights faster for decision making. They also pointed out how data security and governance should be kept in mind at the beginning; most organizations focus on the technology and how data can be accessed and security and governance are only tackled after users have started working with the infrastructure. This makes it harder to integrate when the infrastructure is already in production as downtime and architecture changes would have to be considered.

Panel interview with some of the users of Hadoop: Blue Cross for health, Macy’s for retail and ConocoPhillips for utility. Everyone agreed that the biggest challenge is people and process.

The breakout sessions were divided into business and technical tracks, satisfying all kinds of audiences. Some of my personal favorites included a talk on Uber’s developer data kit, a session on Microsoft & Google’s Hadoop cloud platforms, and Blue Cross’ showcase of their Hadoop reference architecture. Uber’s data kit allows multiple groups to access customer and trip data. It works like an API, so their developers can just call programming methods every time they create new functionalities for the app. Designing codes like this eliminates the need to rewrite hundred lines of code and keeps the development team lean and efficient. This is also true for Google, who made their APIs for machine learning and image and voice recognition available to the public, making it easier for others to develop new applications that can solve the world’s problems. Microsoft talked about the unreasonable effectiveness of ACID (Analytics, Cloud, IoT, Data) in areas like education, farming, science, transportation and the environment. Genetics studies that used to run for years to capture results can now be completed in days through technology. This is exciting as there is finally have the cure for cancer soon. And with IoT and Big Data, healthcare is now being transformed to ensure proper care is given to patients. Studies on this can then promote more healthy citizens in the future.

Women in Big Data

The event that really struck a chord was a lunch with the group Women in Big Data, during which an interesting question was raised about how to encourage young girls to be more inclined to technology. One of the panelists voiced out that it should start with the parents’ upbringing of the child. The toys, colors, and perspective of a child should not be restricted to what society dictates. I completely agree with this. Other ways I believe we can encourage young women to strive for a career in technology are by setting an example by breaking gender barriers, exposing them to all sorts of technologies at a young age, and empowering them to pursue the track. Developing a community that supports & encourages women to pursue technology, and to foster a mentor-mentee relationship are some of the things that the group aims to achieve.

The latest products showcased

Apart from the sessions, there was also a community showcase area in which all of the partners and sponsors had their own unique ways of catching the participants’ attention. Needless to say there were lots of freebies, and we managed to checkout other product demos and ask questions in detail. One nifty product by Trifacta called Wrangler allows easy cleaning and preparation of data through drag & drop functionalities so data can be visualized smoothly. With this, business users can manipulate and pull appropriate data according to the reports they need to generate. Gone are the days when you need engineers just to prepare the data for consumption. Several hardware vendors are also there showcasing their products such as switches, storage, racks, servers and network devices. Now, you don’t need expensive hardware to deploy Big Data infrastructure, commodity hardware from Edgecore, Quanta and SuperMicro can be used to support complex analytics jobs.

Party time! Great DJ, laser lights, dance music, games and unlimited food and drinks!

The next 10 years

All throughout the event, I kept thinking how overwhelming it was to see how big the community has gotten, and how many of the biggest enterprises in the world now leverage on the technology. It is a confirmation that digital transformation is not just a fad, but is a MUST, and that data will be the most precious asset of any company. It’s exciting to think about what happens next and how technology will shape the world in the next 10 years. I hope to see more companies from the Philippines participating in the next Hadoop Summit events. Let’s show the world what Filipinos are capable of!


Making the Best of Mobile Engagement

Mobile engagement provides businesses with direct access to their customer base and can be a powerful tool to improve the user experience.

True or false: the first and last thing you touch as you start and end your day is your cellphone. If you care to admit it, the answer is “true”. And why not? Mobile phone users are increasing every year due to the wide range of interactions the device helps perform. Apps for e-mail, messaging and social networking facilitate contact that is now deemed “essential”, and apps that are recreational such as for entertainment, fitness and gaming fill in the rest. By 2016, there will be 4.43 billion mobile phone users in the world, and our numbers are set to rise to 5.07 billion by 2019.

Imagine if you could send targeted messages through all those devices—these little portals that lead directly to consumers who can’t wait to check their notifications. That’s a lot of people your enterprise could be talking to, not to mention a lot of people who could be genuinely listening.

Draw users to your content with mobile-responsive design

Users on mobile phones make up a huge audience, and with the addition of tablet users, the landscape widens so that mobile in general spells many opportunities for enterprises to enhance their reach. It’s in a company’s best interest to make mobile engagement part of their long-term digital strategy.

Be part of that mobile data traffic explosion by drawing users to your content. Ensure that people can access your site along with all your marketing content on their phones by designing these to be mobile-responsive. This means that your website will have to be designed in such a way that users can easily read the content on the different devices they own, whether they’re using a phone, a tablet or a desktop.

On the small screen of a phone, content can be viewed in one column, while a bigger screen such as for a tablet may display the same in two. Images in responsive design will also resize automatically for optimal viewing on different devices. Changes such as these will make it easier for mobile users to peruse your catalog and make it more likely for customers to return to your content.

Create a mobile app that can be the user’s virtual assistant

Apps are the quickest ways for mobile users to make digital interactions. It’s easier to navigate through transactions when users can swipe or push buttons in an app in place of such steps as calling a number, being put on hold, giving a delivery address, and requesting for today’s specials before placing an order. When a mobile user orders food through a restaurant’s app, four of the previously mentioned steps are eliminated: the delivery information and menu are already in the app, and a few button clicks are all it takes to send a food request through to the restaurant.

To engage mobile users, the enterprise must create an app that reflects what its web and real-life storefront can provide. The app must be the customer’s virtual assistant and the enterprise’s virtual employee—it should work to provide the customer with information on a complete range of services and make purchasing easy by providing clear buttons to facilitate the sale. The app should also be visually consistent with the enterprise’s branding strategy as it basically represents the business at the user’s fingertips.

Consider the devices and platforms that your customers are using when designing an app for your enterprise. Keep in mind that most users have mobile devices that use iOS or Android systems, and ensure that your app has interoperability. It would also be worthwhile to think about how your app can connect to other apps, benefiting from their user base and making yours convenient for a wider group.

Allow for socialization on all platforms

Mobile users don’t just want to do stuff online—they also want to post about it! Your content should have options for connecting the user to their social media accounts. On your website, you should always include buttons for your social media accounts, and you can choose the appropriate social networks for your enterprise as well. A clothing store would do well to have Instagram and Pinterest to showcase photos of their product catalog, while a telecommunications company may need Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to receive and send messages to customers. Know which social media spaces your customers are inhabiting and establish a presence there.

An enterprise app should also give mobile users the option to post about their experience and share their opinions about their services. Good reviews from users can positively affect the opinions of their peers, and bad reviews will give you the feedback you need to improve services. Business apps should also offer the option for social sign-on—logging in with another social media account—because it saves users the tedium of entering their information all over again, and ease-of-use gives your app a competitive edge.

Mobile users listen to personalized messages

Mobile technology and use has enabled enterprises to find out more about their customers: where they are, how they shop, what they like, etc. Analytics and other tools can help make sense of the collected customer data and let you predict trends in customer behavior or preferences.
However, information collected from mobile users would be useless if the enterprise doesn’t act upon it.

Personalize your messages to mobile users by giving them offers that are relevant to them. For example, with geolocation, an enterprise can determine when a user is within proximity of their store and offer them a special discount through a push notification on their phone. An enterprise can also detect how a user navigates through transactions with their app so that it can recommend a faster way to get things done next time.

Mobile engagement is the most direct line from enterprise to customer as it happens through devices that are constantly in user’s hands, and a lot of magic can happen when businesses are willing to adapt the user experience to it. There are many ways to take advantage of this powerful connection, but whatever an enterprise’s mobile strategy is, it should be in sync with the overall digital strategy of the business. When mobile engagement works in cooperation with other aspects of the enterprise’s digital presence, it enhances the entire customer experience with seamless connection and usability—qualities that will surely entice mobile users to come back for more.


Digital Customers. Customers are immersed online most of the time.

How Digital Customers Can Help You Build a Better Business

With the needs of digital consumers becoming more personal, companies must learn about their online habits and preferred channels to serve them better.

Throughout our waking hours, we filter the world through screens. Our cellphones are the first thing we check in the morning, followed by the laptops and tablets we use for work and entertainment, and perhaps a last look at our personal digital devices just before we go to sleep.

More people today are using digital devices such as smartphones, laptops/desktops and tablets, with smartphone users alone reaching 1.86 billion worldwide in 2015 and expecting to rise to 2.66 billion in 2019. The top five activities that Internet users perform with their mobile devices include e-mail, working, reading news articles/articles/books, using social media, and watching movies/videos online, indicating that the Internet is a primary source for information that digital consumers can also use to make purchase decisions.

Although an online strategy must be carefully designed before implemented, all businesses should realize that the end-users of their products are themselves taking their transactions online, morphing into digital consumers with the use of personal digital devices. Companies looking to reach their customers more efficiently will find that the Internet and connected devices allow for many opportunities to do so.
Every business transaction starts with the consumer seeking satisfaction, and with so much access to information via digital devices, needs are becoming more personal and specific. It’s necessary for enterprises to learn the habits of the digital consumer so that they can fulfill these needs, increase customer satisfaction, and help build a healthy digital economy while reaping its benefits.

Asian consumers are a receptive audience

According to Digital Consumer View 2015 (Asia), more than 60% of survey respondents in Asia say they use their smartphones often, while 50% also use laptops and desktops. This high penetration of smartphones and personal computers spells great opportunities for marketing to the digital consumer. The same survey reveals that an average of about 70% in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Thailand and Singapore are happy to receive promotional content on mobile, digital and social platforms, making for a very receptive audience that businesses should start addressing.

Consumers in Asia are increasingly buying products and services using the devices they own, from early steps such as comparing information between products to the final action of purchasing. This is because their digital screens make it easy for them to do entire processes with the use of one app.

In the above survey, 75% of respondents said that they used their digital devices for banking transactions, which was followed by shopping at 70%. We’ve all experienced waiting in long lines at the bank to make a simple deposit transaction, sometimes nervous about the fact that we’re carrying a significant amount of cash. Similarly, making a huge purchase at a store can call some unwanted attention, and there’s still the problem of storing the item while going on with your shopping. The use of digital devices to reduce or eliminate such steps and get the product or service quickly to the customer is what has made adoption swift for digital consumers.

Start talking through e-mail and social media

Besides searching for information on a browser, other ways that digital consumers gather information about products and services are through e-mail and social media.

In the survey, 68% of respondents said they opened e-mails in their smartphones, which means that marketers should be creating mobile-responsive messages that can be read with ease on smaller screens. With 60% also saying they opened e-mails on their laptops and desktops, e-mail in general still proves to be a significant communication channel for marketers to use in reaching their customers.

Social media is also a great tool that companies can use to not only inform customers, but also to engage them in conversation. Half of the survey respondents said that they bought a product after seeing a promotional post on social media. The platform also allows for conversations about your product to occur, and these may have a positive impact on sales. If you see one friend tweet that a product is good, you can also check out what other people tweeted about it and base your decision to buy on their reviews. This type of conversation and others also occur on social chat apps such as WeChat and LINE, which have high penetration in Asia and amplify promotions on a larger scale with relatively little effort.

Make messages personal

However, it’s not enough to identify which channels to use in reaching the digital consumer—what really matters is the message. Forty percent of survey respondents said that they weren’t interested in integrated content sent to their e-mail addresses, indicating that messages sent to customers must be targeted and personalized to a certain extent.

One factor that companies should consider in fine-tuning the messages they send to digital consumers is the user experience. According to the survey, although respondents in Asia said they found well-rounded content on most channels, they also thought that a significant amount of content on these channels tended to be repetitive or boring. It’s easy to spot whether the “person” at the other end is a living being who genuinely cares or a “bot” rattling off a script.

Companies must make the effort to perform dynamic content management, sending messages to consumers in a variety of flavors that portray a consistent yet exciting brand identity. It would also help to give customers the information they need in the easiest way possible because convenience is most likely a factor that would generate return business. Yes, we’d love to view your catalog of new products—but please remove all these pop-ups on your landing pages so we can find prices right off the bat.

Give the right, relevant information

Companies should also ensure that their messages contain accurate information and content relevant to the user. Between 29% and 44% of respondents said that they had received conflicting promotions across different channels, which means that marketers in Asia should work harder to achieve content congruency in their use of multiple digital platforms.

Making content relevant to digital consumers in Asia may be achieved by personalization, or understanding the individual preferences of customers through collected data. Digital Consumer View 2015 (Asia), cited personal information such as location, recently viewed items, delivery options and purchase history as some of the best clues that could lead digital consumers from a promotional message to a purchase. Marketing products to people based on their proximity and what they already bought gives digital consumers a sense that attention is being paid to them, that a company is anticipating their needs and looking out for them.

Enterprises should sincerely care

Overall, Asians are receptive to data collection for personalized marketing, with the exception of the Chinese, who reportedly had the highest percentages of unhappiness at the prospect of their information being collected. Fifty-nine percent of respondents also said they were “happy” or “very happy” with offers they received from companies based on their purchase history.

This means that despite certain privacy concerns, digital consumers still respond well to enterprises that seem to care about their needs and are eager to address them, as long as the information used involves a relevant operation—e.g. purchase history for shopping, or account information retained for future banking transactions.

Combined with responsible data collection and a sincere desire to cater to customers on their own terms, enterprises can reach out to digital consumers through online channels and find out what services they prefer and how to improve their interactions. Enterprises must get to know their digital consumers to learn more about their own business and work to provide a richer user experience that can be mutually beneficial.