Expanding into APAC: Advice for Kiwi startups

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Cat Mules

Wherever you stand on international technology policy, its innovators and investment experts agree there’s a bright future on the cards for New Zealand.

More recent evidence also verifies New Zealand software and deep tech investments are standing strong compared to last year given the economic blows and market restrictions that have resulted from Covid-19. To achieve effective business results, quickly, building on the customer experience is being pointed to as the way to go.

Nearly every business in Asia Pacific, identified by Ecosystm’s study of 600 businesses in ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and ANZ (Australia and New Zealand), has been forced to speed up their focus on the digital customer experience.

In the background, Cloud and other technology service providers are highlighting that this personalisation capability is AI-driven. Anecdotal evidence from digital enabler and AI leader Aware Group illustrates how the nature of those investments has changed to be more AI-led. Jourdan Templeton, Chief Technology Officer, lends perspective from the company’s sales of AI widely over Asia Pacific for more than three years, and that, while uptake is growing, it is not without its challenges.

“Over that period of time we’ve seen a shift in how people are thinking about AI and the projects they are willing to invest in,” Templeton observes.

“Over the last two years especially, everyone has expressed interest or responded positively to AI. There have been amazing wins in almost every industry, where companies leverage AI as part of their digital transformation journey. However, the largest cost in AI projects is generally related to ‘data wrangling’.”

Jourdan explains that business largely doesn’t have the capability established to realise the benefits of in-building data from the beginnings of a project.

“Often organisations don’t have their data in order, don’t have it well-defined and sometimes don’t even know what data they have across the business,” he explains. “Because of this, we found that interest in AI usually dropped in favour of large data estate modernisation projects, with the intention that AI would come next.”

Will AI be a main driver of business value in years to come? / Pixabay.

Most Asia Pacific business leaders in the Ecosystm report reported the pandemic is forcing them to refocus their digital transformation initiatives (38% compared to 22% who had to put their digital transformation on hold).

It’s a trend qualified by Jourdan here, who adds how that the trials of Covid-19 has been a trigger point for business.

“If we contrast that to the last six to nine months, we’ve seen an explosion of interest in real AI projects. Organisations are seeing the value of AI in helping them innovate their business model and engage with customers – especially with people being remote.”

The Ecosystm study finds digital channels and touchpoints that have experienced the most growth are in website (85%) SMS/ Email (EDMs) (63%) and social media (59%). Unsurprisingly, traditional advertising, in-person service centres and call centres are customer service areas that have dived in usage.

The study concluded that customer experience and better service delivery sidesteps any internal blockages that have previously limited businesses. It will require deep and constant collaboration. It will require a future focus, and willingness to embrace the digital experience now and in the future.

Templeton explains that for some organisations it will only be when they begin the journey of utilising AI more deeply in their business activities that they’ll realise its profound benefits.

“Almost every tool or service we use as consumers on a daily basis have some form of AI built into them. When we come to work, we expect to have that same level of personalisation built-in to our work tools. Organisations who understand this and are actively investing in AI to engage with their customers and empower their employees have a much larger advantage than the rest.”

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Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.

Aware Group

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