Maximilian Graf Stolberg, CEO DataLab. GmbH

“The DDV tour to Asia was a great opportunity for me to discover how disruptive technologies are being used to drive innovation in business while discovering Asian business specificities. I returned with a fresh perspective on ways to drive our clients´ future customer equity.”

Maximilian Graf Stolberg, CEO DataLab. GmbH

DDV Dialogtour to Asia from 15th to 21th January 2017

As Customer Equity specialists here in the mature consumer markets of Western Europe, we are used to advanced levels of retail sophistication and growing customer-centricity. In our competitive environment where legacy constraints and ever shrinking margins can constrain ROI growth, it is easy to overlook the incredible pace of innovation occurring in more other dynamic markets.

In January of this year I joined a group of German marketing experts, organized by the DDV (Deutsche Dialogmarketing Verband)*, to learn for myself how the pace of disruptive technological change in the Asian powerhouses of Shanghai and Tokyo is being fueled by competitive forces, consumer attitudes, digital platforms, technology adoption and challenging social conditions.

Devotion to the Chinese digital messaging platform WeChat is possibly the greatest demonstration of brand loyalty in the world market right now. With 768 million active users, this “super app” encompass a bewildering array of loyalty, payment and ordering functionalities and includes incredibly addictive gamification elements such as the „Red Packet“ game, based on the Chinese New Year tradition of making presents of small amounts of money in a red envelope. However, the sheer volume of offers and personalized communication available via WeChat often cover up a lack of insight that individual Chinese brands and retailers have about their customers.

Though Big Data and technological advancement are hot topics in China right now, the use of relevant customer information to drive customer basket lift, shopping visits and retention remains very limited. This is a maturing market driven by feature-rich platforms, yet few deliver on the promise of sustained customer engagement that we know to be such a crucial factor for driving our clients ´ long-term economic growth. Chinese customers have begun to realize that these programs, with their deals and discounts, do not offer them real long-term value. While sign-up rates remain stable, participation rates will remain low until retailers start to use the insight gained from their loyalty programs to engage with their customers in more meaningful, relevant ways.

At DataLab, we know that our clients are focused on driving revenue growth while delivering relevant customer experiences, so it was interesting to understand the importance the Japanese government and business leaders are now placing on AI (artificial intelligence). Huge investment is being moved into AI, as a way of solving both the country´s labor shortages and improving efficiency rates. Companies have seen significant savings by using Japanese designed AI communications engines that can understand and answer less complex customer queries in their customer contact centers.

For Tokyo University´s Professor Jun Rekimoto, humans do play a critical role in the technological revolution occurring around us. After IoT he expects IoA – the internet of abilities – to be the next big thing. In a fascinating visit to the Sony Laboratory, we saw how Dr. Rekimoto´s team of researchers are exploring how we might create what they call an “augmented existence” and the team has been experimenting with robotic and human-to-human telepresence, what they are calling the “human Uber”.

Founded in 2012, Toyota´s Future Lab is purposely located off-site to nurture innovation and its remit from the company´s chairman is “to disrupt Toyota”. The team uses data forecasts to investigate potential future scenarios and co-creates with various external stakeholders, including customers, members of the public and start-ups, via hackathons, to test prototypes for future products that will envision cars as platforms for creativity rather than solely as vehicles for transportation.

The trip has left me convinced that though our industry has much to learn from these innovative and fast-paced markets, technological advancement alone is not enough to enable companies to sustain revenue long-term growth rates. The only way to ensure this is to combine innovation with data-driven insights to create relevant and connected experiences that keep customers coming back for more.

A webinar giving more details about the trip can be seen here: