Entropians embrace Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is changing the world of business like never before.

And COVID-19 has played out ten years’ worth of this change in the last six months. The everyday life experiences of people are going to be enhanced with rich new layers of relevant and highly immersive content, thus heightening our learning, working, shopping, socialising and entertainment.

We talk to the leaders at ENTROPIA, Prashant, Rama, Sourabh and Taher, on Demand 4.0, Extended Reality, AI and Machine learning, and IOT for B2C.

Let’s tackle the main subject head-on: Marketing 4.0…

Prashant: A lot of the industry 4.0 technologies such as AR/VR, Machine learning/AI, IOT and Blockchain, etc. are going to change everything.

For starters, people are already living a great deal of their lives through media, so high quality anticipatory intelligence based on machine learning will help them pack so much more life in a given day. IOT is set to redefine customer value propositions via real time data and personalisation. And Blockchain is set to pervade the basic infrastructure of living via distributed and automated controls and compliance mechanisms.

What is Entropia doing about these shifts?

Prashant: Over the last two years, we have launched service offerings into many of these areas, becoming the first industry 4.0 ready consultancy or agency in the country. Today, we have end-to-end services in the areas of Extended Reality – the entire spectrum of AR and VR technologies with a full-fledged in-house studio called EXR, and within the last year we have won more than a dozen clients in this area.

Additionally, we have developed B2C IOT prototypes from scratch to help solve real world customer and client problems via our ‘Aladdin’ offering – developing proprietary frameworks and mapping opportunities for our clients.

Our ambition in the next three years is to take industry 4.0 capabilities to 80% of our client base and integrate it into their intrinsic marketing thinking as a great strategic opportunity that can more than pay for itself.

Rama, how will Extended Reality change people’s experiences?

Extended Reality or XR is the umbrella term for all the technologies that enhance the human immersion into a synthetic reality using their senses.

In this vast spectrum between ‘Reality’ and ‘Virtuality’, there are three prominent areas – AR, MR, and VR.  Augmented Reality (AR) is the constructive augmentation of virtual onto the real world; Mixed Reality (MR) is the additive meshing of real and virtual, where there is an exchange of interaction or influence with each other, and finally; Virtual Reality (VR) is the destructive of the real world transporting the user to an entirely virtual space.

The impact of XR can be seen with the use of filters and face recognition apps that are increasing in popularity due to the sheer seamlessness of the experience. We foresee that XR will impact every sector like entertainment, health, tourism, property, education, sports, marketing & advertising, and more. COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of adoption due to the sheer need for virtual solutions.

How do you see Extended Reality bringing competitive advantage to brands?

Rama: XR can do so across the marketing funnel, right from Discovery, Interest, Engagement, and finally, Transaction. And at EXR, we offer a full stack of XR strategic solutions right across the marketing value chain. We also work on XR applications beyond marketing, especially in areas of training and education, where we have seen tremendous interest. 

For example, a real estate developer may want to showcase what the balcony view from the 30th floor of their new project would look like in 2022. They can show this to their prospective customer via a VR headset in their showroom, or use webAR to engage with customers who are not able to come to the gallery.

At present EXR is already working with clients across Telco, Packaging, Automotive, FMCG, Beverages, Manufacturing, Aerospace, Real Estate, and many other industries are joining the spectrum.

What have you been up to recently?

Rama: We recently converted everyone’s living room into a virtual BMW showroom, so consumers can explore the BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport at any time and any place; we also held a celebrity-filled Augmented Reality Raya concert for Goodday Milk in response to the MCO and conceived WONDA’s Gap-puccino – a safe social distancing utility for consumers – using webAR technology, all without the need of downloading an app.

Also, we converted the entire history of the UMW group into a virtual interactive museum that can be experienced in their offices and roadshows, serving as a training, recruitment, and equity builder for the Group.

Our earlier work also includes an immersive and fully interactive VR experience for UMW and Rolls Royce called Soar Into the Sky, where users could step into the Rolls-Royce part manufacturing plant; and an AR eye health test for Alcon’s Systane eyedrops brand – bringing a traditionally offline test to an AR filter based test.

Sourabh, What is the difference between Data Science, Machine learning, and AI? How will it change organisations?

Data Science is about drawing INSIGHTS from data that can help an organisation make better and informed decisions. Today, the availability of huge volumes of data allows brands to personalise customer experiences, delivering relevant products, mitigating risk and fraud, etc. And using predictive analytics lets you identify hidden patterns in data that you didn’t even know existed.

You may be wondering why so many Data Science applications sound like AI applications. Well, this is because Data Science overlaps the field of AI in many areas.

The concept of AI has been around since antiquity. The layout of modern AI, however, was constructed by classical philosophers who tried to describe human thinking/intelligence as a symbolic system. Thus, AI is the ability of machines to understand/interpret data, learn from data, and make ‘intelligent’ decisions based on insights and patterns drawn from data.

Machine learning is a subset of AI; and also used in scenarios where you need machines to learn from huge volumes of data.

Datafication and digitalisation are the catalysts for the future of work.

In the workplace, AI will continue to benefit higher-skilled workers with a greater degree of flexibility, creativity, and strong problem-solving skills, and AI-powered robots could increasingly displace highly-educated and skilled professionals, such as doctors, architects, and even computer programmers.

And how do Machine learning, big data and AI bringing competitive advantage to Marketing and CX?

Sourabh: With so much data being fed back to marketers, we are soon reaching a pivotal moment, where tailoring the customer experience to the interests of the individual customer, will be achievable. In the past, doing this with accuracy and to scale has been limiting. But AI is now making it possible. Content, message, tone of voice and visual expression can be adapted to the tastes of the individual.

Another shift taking place is the access to the consumer. So far, we’ve enjoyed a fairly direct path to the consumer through retail, online and mobile. But the growing use of virtual assistants will place a formidable barrier between marketers and their customers. We’re now using Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant to search our options, instead of going directly to the brand at source. Consciously or not, we’re bypassing the opportunity to be immersed in the brand experience. How will brands reach the customer when Siri stands in the way?

Consider if you will, a typical transaction. Somebody is swiping through their Instagram feed, and they see a product they like. Weirdly, it’s something they were just looking at the day before. Perhaps unbeknown to them, they’ve just been targeted by a brand using AI, to analyse search habits and expose potential customers.

Continuing with the customer, they place an order activating a whole sequence of logistical events. The smart factory picks the product, it’s dispatched to the delivery company guided by geospatial data. In the meantime, the customer receives a reply in the blink of an eye, reassuring them when they can expect their purchase.

Take the experience one step further. The customer received the product, but it was faulty. So, they go to the vendor’s site, where instead of interacting with another person, a chatbot processes their request. Through machine learning, a response is provided to answer the customer accurately and far quicker than a human could.

Any examples?

Sourabh: We have deployed our proprietary customer journey mapping tool – ELON for one of the growing F&B clients, collecting data across online orders, call center, instore WIFI, contests, social media listening and creating a unique customer profile and clusters based on behaviours, taste graph and motivations. An AI-led prediction engine is helping us predict not just the sales and channel preferences for future orders, but also manpower gaps for delivery business based on historical data.

We are using another proprietary predictive tool, Prescient, for one of the largest beverage delivery startups in Malaysia, utilising location data to optimise delivery footprints, and simulations in media allocations to drive marketing effectiveness and ROI. We also do churn prediction, smart bundling and correlative targeting based on past transaction data.

Beyond tools and platforms, we apply custom solutions. We have built in an AI led emotional intelligence platform for the largest P2P parenting portal in Malaysia (owned by a dairy brand). It listens to social conversations, engagements with utilities and predicts the mums’ needs and the life stage for which a custom offer is designed and served. It has resulted in increasing product lead to conversion (buying) by +68%.

Taher, What is the Internet of Things for B2C world like?

As the digital world is increasingly converging with the physical world, today’s consumer journeys are not a straight line. They are multichannel, and consist of digital, as well as physical ‘things’ connected through sensors and data to other objects via the internet. Business to consumer (B2C) IoT is essentially about connecting with the consumer through smart devices and gadgets; learning about consumer habits at an intimate level and using this data for a better customer experience.

IoT is the gold mine of data for marketers because of its ability to silently and unobtrusively collect complex behavioural data. Consider the types of IoT-enabled devices that will increasingly be utilised by the general consumer: coffee makers, thermostats, home automation systems, and wearable devices like smart watches are just a few.

How will IoT help brands?

Taher: IoT can be leveraged in every stage of the brand experience, including brand awareness, insight, contextual relevance, satisfaction, efficiency, loyalty, innovation and conversion. It brings competitive advantage because it improves the customer experience and helps retain customers by getting them locked into the product ecosystem.

We have been working on developing HolyTruth – an IoT-enabled feedback terminal which brands can use to collect customer feedback right at the point of experience. It has inbuilt WIFI connectivity and comes with a mobile app to monitor the feedback and gather insights in real time.

Also, we are working on IoT-enabled merchandising, which has touch sensors that help consumers share the feeling of touch with their loved ones who are away from home.

Prashant, how has Entropia fared with the COVID-19 lockdown?

I would sum up our fare as ‘blessed’. We had our own share of budget cuts and spending holdbacks, but overall, we are grateful to have been spared the worst.

Before the lockdown was announced, we already started working from home. We honoured all our signed-up recruits; repurposed unutilised capacity; and continued to invest in futuristic areas. In the five lockdown months, we’ve added 32 new people and we keep adding. We rolled back much of the pay cuts after a month, as we sensed the crisis bottoming out.

We also created an Entropia Empathy Fund, where Entropia matched staff contributions ringgit to ringgit. At the end of it, we helped eight NGOs who were supporting the frontliners in their everyday battles.

How has covid changed the industry?

Prashant: In some very important ways. Between November 2019 and June 2020, we launched three new services – EXR, Empathy and Medici.

EXR – our Extended Reality services offering moved in to help clients create inspiring virtual experiences, since physical engagements were not possible.

Empathy, our sustainability consultancy offering, is helping large corporations discover their ‘brand ikigai’ – what helps them stay relevant in a purpose-driven world, where more and more people expect brands to engender a genuine and meaningful relationship with the society and the planet.

Last but not the least, Medici, our end-to-end eCommerce offering is helping clients accelerate their eCommerce play.

It is this understanding of new age communication that has helped us win 24 new clients in the last six months, including Tenaga Nasional, Telekom Malaysia, Proton, UEM, Bank Negara, Sime Darby and PepsiCo, among others.

How do you frame your competition?

Prashant: Good competition makes us better. So, at Entropia we truly respect competition and those few times when we don’t win, we introspect with integrity and brutal candour, as to what we could have done better, instead of denying the quality they may have brought to the table.

Also, the truth is, the real competition for the industry today is the future. And we are all in it together.

Global networks are becoming less important, with several of them folding up in Malaysia or moving from ownership to affiliate status, as more and more clients are smart enough to place a premium on real value, rather than impressive global scale.

If there is one thing we have learnt is that there are no shortcuts. Irrational excuses, gossiping, bitching about, ganging up, smear campaigns, and all such cynical acts are nothing but silly distractions from the real business of getting better.

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