Our lives have changed drastically the past year and a half, but here are few ways in which we can use AI to accelerate the new normal in Japan and the rest of the world!

As the first region to be affected by the corona virus, the Asian-Pacific region has been experiencing a new normal in lifestyle. Now that the extraordinary and the ordinary have been reversed, what can we learn from this experience? Kyodo’s PR Research Institute spoke with Min Sun, Chief AI Scientist at Appier and an Associate Professor at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, about the lessons and perspectives that Japan and the rest of the world should learn.

Business Sustainability Begins With BC and DX

Some say that the changes triggered by the coronavirus are as large as those that took place before Christ (B.C.) and anno Domini (A.D.). Sun analyzes today’s business frontlines on three different points: Business Continuity (BC), Digital Transformation (DX), and Budget/Spending. This, he says, allows their clients to better support and serve their end users in a better way.

First, let’s take a look at an example of how business continuity and digital transformation can be achieved simultaneously. Asian companies have been first in the world when it comes to innovation in the way their customers consume products and services, and how they provide customer support and engagement. With the current sharp decline in brick and motor stores, digital and contactless payment services have rapidly spread to ensure business continuity. China’s Ping An Bank has launched a “Do It At Home” campaign with the launch of its “pocket bank” application. In order to help customers with their finances, DBS Bank of Singapore has provided insurance and mortgage payment relief. Meanwhile, in Japan, this digital trend can be seen in Mizuho Bank’s decision to charge for paper bankbooks and Aozora Bank’s decision to discontinue them altogether.

With the current pandemic still going on, the travel industry has been hit hard. That being in mind, campaigns for consumers who cannot go out are attracting attention. The Singapore Tourism Board has invested a budget of 33 million Singaporean Dollars to launch a campaign to encourage its citizens to enjoy the attractions of their country. An unlimited “All You Can Fly” campaign has been launched by China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines. Using these initiatives, countries are showcasing the wonders of travel and stimulating domestic demand all the while encouraging future travel. I understand that the purpose of the “Go To Travel” campaign in Japan was the same.

It’s important for mail order and online retailers to make online shopping as attractive as in-store shopping. They need to take the best experiences from a physical store and make it available from home. Shiseido, Japan’s largest multinational cosmetic and personal care company, has partnered with one of the leading retail groups to introduce and sell its products through live streaming. U.S. based company Benefit partnered with China’s WeChat to launch an “eyebrow try-on” campaign to see if a new eyebrow shape will work for its customers.

These examples show how important it is for marketers to keep up with consumer needs and behaviors. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to prolong, marketers must learn to respond and adapt to the ever-changing customer, both online and offline.

Budget Management and Events During Corona

2020 was a year in which many companies entered survival-mode. Budgets have been reviewed, and the most important items are now separated from those that need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. In addition, more emphasis is placed on ROI than ever before. They began to focus on maximizing their investments and decreasing their sales and transaction cycles.

As consumers spend more time at home, they will spend more time online. To survive, companies are seeking a balance between stabilizing existing businesses and further digitization. The traditional offline experience must be brought to life online as well. This need is evolving the way companies interact with their customers now.

In Asia, social media is more prevalent in places other than Japan, whether for work, personal or commercial purposes. Fashion brands in particular are using WeChat and WhatsApp to connect with their customers from the comfort of their homes. Stores send photos of their staff wearing each product in their size to show how it looks from the customer’s point of view. The real estate industry also provides a virtual viewing experience for properties.

In addition to distributing publications, a Taiwanese technology content company is planning to distribute live educational content. I suspect that Japanese publishers are attempting to do the same with their numerous online events.

the connection of data

AI is the Key to the Digital-first Evolution

The first step to transforming your business to digital first is to use AI. In order for AI and machine learning (ML) models to work and accurately predict results, the first step is to unify multiple data sources and put that data into a business-ready format. AI can help unify data from different sources such as apps, websites, and CRM to get a complete overview of the customer.

The next step is to make the customer journey seamless. This means providing content that is most relevant to the user, on the right device, at the right time. Marketers can use AI to set the specifics of their engagement initiatives. When a consumer takes action, such as adding a product to their cart, you deliver a video or pop-up to the digital device they are using. Then users can receive timely and relevant messages.

In addition, AI-powered solutions can also deliver recommendations for products that are most relevant to the user. It’s not just about “popular” or “hot-selling” products, AI draws context from product descriptions to accurately match your products with the products people are interested in.

Moreover, AI can create an environment where brands and retailers can integrate all their touch points and respond to customers wherever they are, online or offline.
On the other hand, while omnichannel marketing is perceived to be effective, the reality is that many marketers still struggle to unify channels for customer engagement.

As companies of all sizes and industries compete, AI will undoubtedly become the core of DX in the future. The use of AI can help companies ensure resilience in their operations. It will enable them to quickly adapt to all future business, economic, and social changes. In the world of digital marketing, you can’t campaign without continuously optimizing your budget allocation through online multivariate testing. Without state-of-the-art natural language processing and deep generative modeling to generate copy, images, and articles, optimal ad management will be impossible.

The spread of the new coronavirus has triggered the realization of the importance of AI in supporting BC, DX, and budget management in Asian companies. “In the future, we expect to see organizations around the world grow through the use of AI,” said Sun.

These social implementations of AI follow a “human-centric” approach, and a comprehensive approach to PR and marketing adds a human touch. Efforts are also underway from PR firms to implement AI for better and more efficient communications throughout the planet.

Min Sun, Chief AI Scientist at AppierMin Sun, Chief AI Scientist at Appier and Associate Professor at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan

Written by Kazuto Kotaki
Deputy Director, IT Business Development and PR Research Institute, Kyodo Public Relations

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