Back to the future

Digitisation, urbanisation, globalisation and resource scarcity are all megatrends forcing people to change – and companies to embark on digital transformation. Sharing economy businesses have grasped that what’s hip today and successful tomorrow might not even exist in ten years’ time. For this reason they’re constantly reinventing themselves, hand in hand with their customers. The ability to change requires courage, innovation, self-criticism, and plenty of staying power.

The success of the sharing economy rests on a combination of smart strategy and the ability to rapidly visualise this strategy.

Stress-free co-consumption

People have become so tired of politicians claiming that ‘there’s no alternative’ that in 2010 ‘alternativlos’ was chosen as Germany’s Non-Word of the Year. Indeed there are so many alternatives these days that people are no longer prepared to commit to a single option, but would rather be able to decide according to their moods and needs. Property has become passé because it means stress. “The real luxury is that you no longer have to possess things – you only have to be able to use them,” says Olivier Kofler, head of PwC’s Experience Center. It’s better to leave the boring job of maintenance and administration to other people.

That’s why so many services are now sold on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. This freedom of contract meets a very modern desire for flexibility of options, and is ultimately one of the key factors in the sharing economy. Another key factor is people’s innate inertia: they’re reluctant to move into the future of their own accord. People tend to focus too closely on what will happen in the next twelve months; very few are seriously wondering what will change in the next twelve years. Another factor helping make co-consumption such a success is the scarcity of non-renewable resources.

All these factors have enabled the establishment of a digital economy that doesn’t need any new resources, doesn’t tie people down, and relieves them of responsibility. Consumers are prepared to pay for this – and in some cases pay more – provided they no longer have to bear the burden of ownership, maintenance and administration.

A good example of this mechanism is the electric drill. If you own a drill you’re unlikely to use it for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. In the meantime the drill can sit gathering dust for weeks, if not years, before the next DIY job. Earlier attempts to share everyday objects like this unfortunately faltered. It was only with the advent of the sharing economy that platforms – digital platforms, of course – were created that did away with the stress of ownership.

Unique in many dimensions

Digital transformation is creating momentum in more than one dimension. If you want to harness all this momentum, you have to contend with several forces at once: content, commerce and community. Creating new products and services and offering them to existing or new groups of consumers is nothing new. What’s more of a challenge is entering into permanent dialogue with all the different stakeholders, including your own employees, doggedly finding out their needs, and translating these wishes and requirements into newly designed products and services. Highly digitised companies process their entire knowledge of their dialogue groups in the form of smart data, and then use this data intelligently. This way they’re able to cater to a huge range of changing user needs and refine the user experience on a permanent basis. The sharing economy has thus consummated the transition from the classic business-to-consumer (B2C) model to business-to-people (B2P).

Another huge opportunity created by digital transformation lies in self-cannibalisation. If you embark on digital transformation you have to scrutinise your own raison d’être and ask what you’re there for in the first place. Cannibalising your own revenue model is extremely healthy, because if you don’t do it yourself, someone else will. Look at sharing economy newcomers whose digital platforms have taken the place of conventional intermediaries such as distributors. Alibaba and eBay are prime examples. The middlemen could have initiated this transformation themselves rather than having to deal with the consequences after the fact. If you challenge yourself you can set the pace of innovation and progress and perfect your own competitive agility.

The way the impact of digital approaches is monitored also differs from conventional models. In the digital world, what used to involve phased projects with milestones and acceptance certificates is now done iteratively on an ongoing, simultaneous basis. For this reason you can’t apply proven key performance indicators (KPIs) like profitability and conversion rates directly to digital business models. They require new yardsticks measuring attributes such as entrepreneurial endurance, customer satisfaction and the development of growth or innovation. Measuring performance in a digital context isn’t about defining an unalterable target state. Instead you allow your goal to change, and measure performance in terms of inventiveness, prototyping, customer and employee interaction.

Of mavericks and lateral thinkers

A functioning digital economy rests on people – and a digital culture. To establish a digital culture you need strong leadership that takes in the business as a whole and is able to turn anxieties about imminent transformation into enthusiasm, and risks into opportunities. This way you can develop approaches that unleash enormous potential by bundling the creativity within your organisation and making it available to new markets.

The fact is that companies led by digital-friendly people that actively address digitisation are more successful than those that don’t see the necessity. Of course you can go too far. Simply hiring a chief digital officer and trying to ordain a digital culture from the top down is rarely enough to establish your company as a genuine pioneer. By the same token a middle-aged management that fears new forms of collaboration can become the number one obstacle to new digital models.

Evolution or revolution

There are two forms of digital culture. It can take the form of evolutionary development, with an organisation improving step by step, primarily in terms of processes and costs. The art of progressing in small steps is nothing new, but it can certainly get you to your goal. The second form of digital corporate culture is revolutionary and disruptive. It unleashes a huge amount of innovatory power and is driven by the courage to question and reinvent yourself. Companies taking this approach have to be prepared to completely rethink their market offering and target segments that have previously lain fallow. They have to make everything revolve around interaction with customers and staff. And they have to believe in the power of their disruptive idea. This form of transformation requires a lot of staying power, which can only come with exponential growth.

Where do Swiss SMEs stand?

Large companies are digitising their customer relationships and processes, and are prepared to invest accordingly. In our latest study, ‘Digital transformation: How mature are Swiss SMEs?’ we wanted to find out how far digitisation has advanced at small and medium-sized companies. There are several key findings: The degree of digitisation at Swiss SMEs varies widely. Digital maturity correlates positively with the size of the organisation, and negatively with the age of its management. The companies covered by our study have made internal processes and training staff on digital matters a firm priority. Customer involvement and the customer experience, by contrast, are further down their list of priorities.

This is because redesigning a business model constitutes a more radical departure for an SME than adapting existing processes, and because decisionmakers are still largely overlooking the opportunities presented by new business models. Organisations that have opted to transform their business model now see themselves as more competitive. Most highly digitised SMEs believe the financial investment was worthwhile. Further, more than 80% of study participants predict that the market will change fundamentally in the next five years because of digitisation.

On the basis of our findings we advise Swiss SMEs to take bolder action on digitisation and keep a close eye on their market. Digital transformation can affect the entire customer interaction, all processes and every business model. This means digital transformation has to be a C-suite responsibility. Small, simple digital steps can be enough to achieve significant efficiency gains. Just as important is the experience of industries that have already gone digital, and dialogue with innovative start-ups. It follows that digitisation is not a purely IT concern, but has to be placed firmly on the management agenda. This inevitably leads to the question of the appropriate business model. Ultimately the focus has to be on the customer experience and customer value.

Customers seize power

While we’re on the subject of utility: so-called loyalty programmes are a good way of achieving the right blend of customer experience, added value and digital culture. When designing a programme of this sort you first have to recognise and understand the main drivers of customer value. The goal of any loyalty programme should be to motivate customers to behave in the way you desire and reward them for doing so. At the moment too many loyalty programmes reward customers for something they’d be doing anyway. Experience shows that at most companies a small number of customers account for the lion’s share of profitability while unprofitable customers consume the most benefits. The loyalty programmes offered by certain Swiss banks are a good example of how on- and offline benefits can be skilfully combined. These banks give their clients access to exclusive offers via a specially designed online platform. On this platform private clients can take advantage of discounted leisure packages, while corporate clients get to benefit from innovative solutions for their clients or staff.

The sharing economy provides plenty of opportunities for companies to completely overhaul their business model and make sure everything revolves around the customer. They have to take people’s inertia into account. Is a user really prepared to travel 20 kilometres to pick up an electric drill? They also have to pay attention to the risks to their organisation and balance these out in their business model. If a company outsources specific links in the value chain to other market participants it loses part of its control, and the other players have to take responsibility. Uber drivers, for example, have to take responsibility for paying all their social security contributions. Other risks are that privacy may be jeopardised or automation fails to work properly.

In a nutshell

Sharing economy providers have given life to digital transformation. They foster a digital culture where they’re permanently communicating, interacting with their stakeholders and trying out everything at once. They allow their customers and staff to take part in this process, and work with prototypes. Switzerland has always held innovation and creation in high esteem. Take the process of industrialisation in the machine or textile industries. Now the challenge is to take this sense of responsibility and initiative into the digital age and measure it by the rules of this new economy. The success of the sharing economy rests on a combination of smart strategy and the ability to rapidly visualise this strategy. This way companies can transcend regulatory, geo-economic and intercultural boundaries and open up unique growth opportunities.

 

Contact

Holger Greif
Partner & Head Digital
Office.: +41 58 792 13 86
Email: holger.greif@ch.pwc.com

PwC drives digital transformation with F10 and Kickstart Accelerator start-up initiatives

PwC is best known for its work with large, established companies. But we’re also increasingly recognised as a driving force behind smaller businesses and start-ups at the cutting edge of new technology. A great example is our involvement in two exciting start-up support initiatives: F10 Fintech Incubator & Accelerator, and Digital Switzerland’s Kickstart Accelerator.

F10 Fintech Incubator & Accelerator is dedicated for young fintech, regtech and insuretech players to develop into profitable companies by transforming their prototypes into valuable products. F10 is highly respected for it networks these start-ups with established mentor companies in the finance, insurance and professional services industries – including PwC as a founding member. Recent success stories in which we’ve been involved include a start-up developing chatbots for financial services (http://www.enterprisebot.org) . The F10 accelerator revolves around five workshops on key areas of start-up development: vision, team and strategy; business, product and technology; marketing and sales; legal, regulations and funding; demo day and graduation. For the applicants chosen to participate, F10 is completely free of charge, and takes no equity.

Check out our video:

Kickstart Accelerator is also rapidly gaining traction as one of Europe’s leading multi-corporate, zero-equity technology accelerators. Initiated by digitalswitzerland it offers an eleven-week acceleration programme for successful applicants with a promising prototype within five verticals: FinTech, Food, Robotics & Smart Systems, Smart Cities, Healthcare and EdTech – and even for start-ups with disruptive business models that don’t immediately seem to fit into any of these categories. As a global partner to Kickstart Accelerator, PwC provides mentors and experts to support programme participants.

Both accelerators have just announced the successful candidates for their latest programmes. PwC will naturally be on board. As well as being a great opportunity to contribute to the development of new start-ups, involvement in these initiatives also helps us stay up to speed on the latest markets and technologies and foster links with the people shaping the future of business and digital transformation. It is our ultimate goal to bring start-ups together with our clients and to help our clients to master the digital transformation – along our vision “From Strategy through Excecution” and in our PwC Experience Center.

What’s in for you: having hands-on access to latest trends and disruptive ideas, enabled by technology, to stimulate your client discussions.

If you’re interested in finding out more about these two exciting accelerators, or even in applying for a place on one of their programmes, check out the websites: http://www.f10.ch/ (the video gives a good introduction) and https://kickstart-accelerator.com/.
Or contact PwC’s experts: frederik.gregaard@ch.pwc.com (F10) or holger.greif@ch.pwc.com (Kickstart Accelerator).

Chatbot Revolution in Switzerland: A New Era of Customer Engagement

New chatbot survey reveals huge potential for banks, insurers and retailers that make the first move

What sounded like sci-fi a few years ago is now a reality in many industries: chatbots. Digital programs that conduct conversations with people are triggering a revolution in customer engagement. But not yet, it seems, in the Swiss banking, insurance, retail and consumer industries.

PwC’s new survey of chatbots, conducted in partnership with the University of St. Gallen/CEMS, reveals huge opportunities for players in the banking, insurance, retail and consumer industries that use their intelligence and dare to make the first move.

Banking: a rosy future for chatbots

The survey shows that banking, in particular retail, has enormous potential for using chatbots to transform the customer experience. Customers are dissatisfied with existing ways of communicating with their bank, and a large proportion could easily imagine chatbots as a supplement to their e-banking service for routine account and credit card business. With only 30% of surveyed customers saying they prefer human contact, there’s clearly a lot of headroom. Banks themselves also see the potential, initially for simple tasks such as granting small loans, but ultimately for more complex services such as opening new accounts, trading stocks, and investment decisions.

Insurance: chatbots a dead cert

Insurers have so far failed to capitalise on chatbots. But with our survey showing that only 20% of customers want personal service, 85% already use phone or email to communicate with their insurer, and 60% willing to deal with chatbots to handle their insurance affairs, it seems like a no-brainer. Customers realise that chatbots are quick, convenient and available 24/7. Insurers themselves acknowledge that they’re a great way of reducing handling costs.

Retail and consumer: the most impressive potential of all

With only 18% of customers surveyed having a preference for personal service and 75% (both the younger and older generation) saying they favour chatbot-based channels for communicating with retailers, this is the industry with the most impressive potential of all. Another plus-point revealed by the survey is that privacy concerns are fairly low down the agenda of customers in this industry, while companies are already able to assure a relatively high level of data integrity. The stage is set for a chatbot revolution in retail and consumer!

So what are banks, insurers and retailers waiting for?

The survey suggests that making the first move is crucial. As tech companies gradually find ways of luring customers away from traditional providers in the financial services and retail industries, established players can stay competitive by moving fast on chatbots. The survey also suggests, though, that it’s not enough to copy a model from other industries, as chatbots fulfil needs that are very specific to customers in a particular market. Fortunately there are already mature chatbot technologies available for these industries. Also, chatbots perform best if they’re part of a fully integrated ecosystem, so you have to make sure your data and processes are integrated. A proper roadmap is crucial as well: chatbots work best when they’re back by a long-term strategy.

These are the key points. For more detailed insights, we invite you to check out the whole survey:

 

Chatbot Revolution in Switzerland

 

It’s a must-read for companies in the banking, insurance, retail and consumer industries that want to use chatbots to stay competitive by transforming the experience of their customers.

Contacts:

Holger Greif
Partner and Leader Digital Transformation
+41 58 792 1386
holger.greif@ch.pwc.com

Dominic Olonetzky
Co-Head Consulting, PwC Digital Services
+41 58 792 2926
dominic.olonetzky@ch.pwc.com

Otto Hieb
Senior Manager Financial Services, PwC Digital Services
+41 58 792 4743
otto.hieb@ch.pwc.com

SMEs – Digital Champions?

Most SMEs are focusing on the digitisation of their internal processes. The change is largely driven by individuals. Digital champions are making this transformation a priority of senior management. They are bold and they are adapting their entire business strategy to the digital age. These are the results of a study by PwC Switzerland, Google Switzerland GmbH and «digitalswitzerland».

The level of digitisation at Swiss SMEs varies. The bigger the company and the younger the senior management, the more a company has done to embrace the digital age. It also depends on the industry: companies in the telecommunications and media sectors are – not surprisingly – leaders in the area of digitisation. 80 percent of the study respondents expect that the market will undergo a fundamental change in the next five years due to digitisation. These are the results of the survey of 300 Swiss SMEs.

Digital, but not everywhere
The companies that took part in the study are focusing on the digitisation of internal processes as well as on websites and e-commerce solutions. Clients and their experience are seldom the point of focus. Only 42 percent of the SMEs surveyed include clients in their business processes. Companies that have embraced the digital transition believe that the financial commitment was worth it.

Prioritise digitisation in senior Management
“The success stories coming out of Swiss companies show that digitisation fundamentally changes a company. It’s a topic that should be on the agenda of the managing director, CEO and members of the board,” said Patrick Warnking, Country Director of Google Switzerland. “Human resources are a major factor in the success of digitisation. You need people who can make your plan come alive every day,” added Holger Greif, Leader Digital Transformation at PwC Switzerland. 2

A plan for champions
Based on findings from the study, Norbert Kühnis, Leader Family Businesses and SMEs, PwC Switzerland, recommends that business leaders be bold and take a careful look at their market: “It often takes a courageous decision for a successful major step. I recommend that Swiss SMEs observe the market and look at digital possibilities as opportunities. A champion uses digitisation to expand their relationship with clients and to doggedly go after client needs.”

More information
Download the study

Tech breakthroughs megatrend: how to prepare for its impact

With an ever growing number of technological breakthroughs disrupting businesses of all kinds, PwC understands companies need help developing their emerging technology strategies to get ahead of the changes. In our new report, Tech breakthroughs megatrend: how to prepare for its impact, we evaluated more than 150 technologies globally and developed a methodology for identifying those, which are most pertinent to individual companies and whole industries.

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Sharing this guide to the “Essential Eight” technologies, which PwC believes will be the most influential on businesses worldwide in the very near future: Artificial intelligence, Augmented reality, Blockchain, Drones, Internet of Things, Robots, Virtual reality, and 3D printing. While not all of these technologies will have the same impact on your business, it’s important to consider the range of technologies together, because they will inevitably drive business models in both beneficial and quite challenging ways.

Download the full report here.

If you have any further questions please contact us:
Holger Greif, Digital Transformation Leader
Reto Häni, Cybersecurity Leader
Axel Timm, Technology Leader
Christian Westermann, Data Analytics Leader