It's Still Early Days For Big Data In Thailand

On October 14, I attended Big Data & Business Insights 2014 in Bangkok — the first public big data event in Thailand. I spoke about how to use big data to increase customer value in the age of the customer — a topic that seemed a bit distant from the audience’s daily reality. Most of them use traditional data warehouse and business intelligence tools and are new to big data solutions like Hadoop platforms, big data visualization, and predictive solutions. Here’s what I came away with:

  • Big data is still new to Thai businesses. Most big data projects in Thailand are still at the testing stages, and these trials are taking place in university labs rather than commercial environments. Dr. Putchong Uthayopas of the Department of Computer Engineering at Kasetsart University noted that big data projects in Thailand are now moving from pilot projects to actual usage.
  • Organizations need more details of real big data solutions. Thai businesses have held off investing in big data solutions because they felt uncertainty about the outcomes of big data projects. Attendees showed a lot of interest when I talked about big data usage in traditional industries, such as John Deere’s “Farm Forward” use case, which helped farmers make better decisions on what, when, and how to plant.
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Chinese Businesses Embrace Social Intelligence

Chinese people are hypersocial in their lifestyle and daily work, and Forrester forecasts that 681 million of them will be using social media by 2019. Online Chinese are actively engaging with brands and companies on social media: 29 brands or companies on Sina Weibo and 32 brands or companies on WeChat on average. Chinese businesses have realized the importance of social for customer life-cycle management. While they’ve started using social to increase brand awareness — such as broadcasting on Sina Weibo — they can’t recognize potential customers in this one-way communication. They use public WeChat accounts to shorten response times to client service requests — but they can’t predict these requests in advance. To address these challenges, businesses in China are starting to use enterprise-class analytics tools for Chinese social platforms.

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Ease Your Selection Of Customer Analytics Providers In China

Forrester surveys in China show that business data and analytics are increasing as the No. 1 technology priority for Chinese businesses; 55% of technology decision-makers in the country plan to use data and analytics to improve business decisions and outcomes in 2014, up from 43% in 2013. Chinese digital marketers are looking for powerful tools to better understand customer behavior, especially regarding customer acquisition. Businesses in industries like banking and financial services, telecommunications, and retail understand that data and analytics are critical for enabling business transformation — but they have struggled with a lack of data and analytics tools in the market.

The supply side of the Chinese customer analytics market is fragmented and includes a confusing mix of global and local providers. Most customer analytics solution providers started doing business in China in the early 2000s, when the country became much more open to foreign capital. Companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola introduced new marketing concepts and became the first to use customer analytics solutions in China. To serve these global companies, leading analytics vendors like FICO, IBM, Oracle, and SAS successfully built up their analytics businesses and extended them into local Chinese markets. Increasing demand for analytics also compelled local vendors like Alibaba and Baidu to start providing customer analytics solutions in China. My latest report, “The Customer Analytics Market in China,” profiles these customer analytics providers in four categories to ease your decision-making on vendor selection.

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Big Data Analytics Can Help Beijing Cut Through The Smog

China faces a growing air pollution problem — one of the consequences of its significant economic growth over the past two decades. Surrounded by a large number of coal-burning factories in Hebei province, Beijing faces ever-worsening smog. To tackle this problem, city government has implemented new policies and laws, such as the Beijing Air Pollution Control Regulations, that provide guidance to technology vendors developing smog control solutions.

Source: AFP

Optimized Energy Management Is The Key To Reducing Air Pollution

Beijing’s government is focusing on air quality monitoring and has invited tech vendors like Baidu, IZP Technologies, and Yonyou to develop solutions. The city wants to show the source of pollutants and how they will disperse across Beijing a couple of days in advance — but that doesn’t do anything to reduce the smog itself. Rather, the key to reducing air pollution is changing how China consumes energy. For example, the government could use big data analytics to:

  • Optimize factories’ energy consumption. Asset-intensive industries like steel, cement, and chemicals face challenges in analyzing the vast amounts of data generated by energy-monitoring sensors and devices. Tech vendors like Cisco and IBM could leverage their Internet of Things data analysis technology to help customers turn this data into actionable insights. For example, one steel factory in Hebei province is considering technology that identifies when an oxygen furnace is wasting energy because the temperature of the output smoke is too high.
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Tencent’s News Portal Is Differentiating Itself By Using IBM Social Analytics During The World Cup

Contributed by James McCormick and Allison Smith

Tencent’s news portal is one of the largest online news portals in China, with more than 25 channels covering all types of news. Tencent faces fierce competition, which it intends to combat by building its analytics competency. With the eyes of millions of Chinese soccer fans on the World Cup, Tencent has a chance to better target its news and reports by using social analytics — which the news portal did by launching a mini-site of World Cup 2014 coverage. More than 50 advertisers showed interest in the World Cup site, thinking that it would differentiate Tencent’s news offerings and draw more traffic. And they were right: The site got more than 3 million hits in the first week of the Cup.

Tencent now has the first social analytics website for sports in China. Supported by IBM’s Social Analytics engine and hosted in its SoftLayer data center in Hong Kong, the site aggregates data from most leading Chinese social platforms including Qzone, Renren, Sina Weibo, and Tencent Weibo. Full coverage of these social platforms can help Chinese businesses get a fuller picture of customers to better personalize and target offers. Tencent’s news editors also have a separate social analytics tool to find buzzwords or popular terms on social platforms and highlight these attention-getting phrases in their titles and articles.

This investment is delivering two major benefits to Tencent:

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Big Data Adoption In Hong Kong Lags Behind Mainland China By At Least 18 Months

I was invited to speak at the Big Data and Business Analytics Forum in Hong Kong last week, and introduced our latest research on big data in Asia Pacific for both marketing and technology management professionals in the age of the customer. Listening to other speakers at the event who discussed Hadoop and explained the 4Vs of big data — volume, velocity, variety, and value — it dawned on me that there may be a significant gap in big data development between mainland China and Hong Kong. While Hong Kong is perceived as more technologically advanced, these terms were already buzzwords on the mainland 18 months ago. There are several constraints could have hindered big data adoption in Hong Kong:

  • Demographic limitations. With a total population of 7 million, Hong Kong doesn’t generate data volumes as gigantic as mainland China’s. This raises the unit cost of big data for Hong Kong businesses.
  • Budget to invest in new technologies. Hong Kong businesses are still struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crisis and maintain hiring freezes. It’s difficult for tech management to convince business leaders to invest over HK$1 million in a big data project and hire data scientists.
  • There are few local practices in unstructured data like social, location, and mobile. Hong Kong is open to global social platforms like Facebook or Twitter, meaning that multinationals can use global big data solutions to cover social in Hong Kong and keeping local adoption of big data technology for SoLoMo low.
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Service Differentiation Kicks JD.com’s Business Growth Into Top Gear

Contributed by Bryan Wang, Di Jin, and Vanessa Zeng

JD.com, the second largest online retailer in China, went public on May 22, listing itself on Nasdaq after merely 11 years of existence. At the time of IPO, JD had a market value of nearly $30 billion. Despite its size however, JD still managed to increase its customer base by 62% in 2013. How did JD manage to continually achieve business growth? I believe this is due to three key factors that differentiate JD:

■  Comprehensive logistics network for online retail in China. JD.com invested heavily in a last-mile strategy to ensure that customers receive products as quickly as possible, establishing 82 local warehouses with 1,620 delivery and 214 pickup stations across nearly 500 cities in China. This has made same-day delivery available in 43 cities — far ahead of the capabilities of Google Shopping Express in San Francisco. To better reach customers in lower-tier cities, JD is also collaborating with local convenience store chains in provinces like Shanxi and Guangdong to further strengthen its last-mile delivery capability.

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Cisco Extends Its Data And Analytics Capabilities At Its Annual Cisco Live Event

At the Cisco Live Event 2014 in San Francisco last week, we heard about plenty of updates, extensions, and new acquisitions to expand the business. The major technologies highlighted were InterCloud, Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), and the Internet of Everything (IoE). Among these new offerings, I reveal that Cisco’s extended big data and analytics capabilities excited me the most. Why? Because its data virtualization techniques can help customers easily analyze large volumes of virtual data, no matter where it physically resides; enhanced video analytics technology could improve the customer experience when checking out in retail stores or waiting for a train; while IoE analytics and digital intelligence increase customer engagement.

  • Data virtualization supports big data analytics. End user organizations realize the importance of quickly and carefully making decisions; to do this, they plan to centralize data from different branch offices or departments. Consolidating data that resides in multiple systems and in global locations — or that is locked away in spreadsheets — is expensive. For example, telecom operators in China have hundreds of millions subscribers and need to consolidate and analyze this customer data — but it resides in 31 provincial companies. Data consolidation will be a huge and expensive project, but data virtualization technology can help solve this problem. Customers could consider adding Cisco to their data virtualization vendor shortlist, especially given Cisco’s acquisition of Composite Software last July.
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Large Chinese Enterprise Targets Improved Agility

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in China face a quickly changing competitive landscape — one that their existing technology strategies can’t keep up with. To address this challenge, organizations are migrating from earlier-generation BI architectures, technologies, and organizational structures to new models and approaches. My “Chinese State-Owned Enterprise Targets Improved Agility” report, scheduled to appear later this month, describes the experience of a typical large Chinese SOE, the China National Cereals, Oils, and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO), which leveraged a BI-led program to jump-start the transformation of its technology management capabilities.

COFCO is China’s largest supplier of agricultural and food products and services, including oils, rice, wine, tea, and various other products, and is expanding into real estate, shopping centers, and other industries. COFCO is a large B2B trader with many technology stakeholders, and its headquarters couldn’t quickly collect or analyze data from branches or business units, delaying the company’s response to and decisions about market changes. Major obstacles included siloed operations centers and business units; inconsistent data management rules that complicated centralized data governance; and other process and people challenges.

To address these issues, COFCO decided to redefine the position of technology management in the organization and review its technology agenda and planning. It evaluated and selected BI as the most compelling project to deliver quick business outcomes that would convince business executives to further invest in the transformation. Best practices that COFCO implemented include:

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Analytics Helps Retailers Improve Customer Retention

IBM recently kicked off its big data market planning for 2014 and released a white paper that discusses how analytics create new business value for end user organizations. The major differences compared with last year’s event:

  • Organizational change. IBM has assigned a new big data practice leader for China, similar to what it’s done for other new technologies including mobile, social, and cloud. IBM can integrate resources from infrastructure (IBM STG), software (IBM SWG), and services (IBM GBS/GTS) teams, although the team members do not report directly to them.
  • A new analytics platform powered by Watson technology. The Watson Foundation platform has three new functions. It can be deployed on SoftLayer; it extends IBM’s big data analysis capabilities to social, mobile, and cloud; and it offers enterprises the power and ease of use of Watson analysis.
  • Measurable benefits from customer insights analysis. Chinese organizations have started to buy into the value of analytics and would like to invest in technology tools to optimize customer insights. AmorePacific, a Hong Kong-based skin care and cosmetics company, is using IBM’s SPSS predictive analytics solution to craft tailored messages to its customers and has improved its response rate by more than 30%. It primarily analyzes point-of-sale data, demographic information from its loyalty program, and market data such as property values in the neighborhoods where customers live.
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