In a ‘distributed everything’ world, customer personalization is vital

This article was contributed by Todd Blaschka, Chief Operating Officer at TigerGraph

COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation among businesses and revolutionized ecommerce as we all adjusted to fluctuating lockdowns and quarantine mandates. The U.S. ecommerce market experienced ten years’ worth of growth in three months in early 2020 as consumers shopped almost exclusively online. COVID-19 created surpluses of some items, increased demand for other items (toilet paper), and disrupted supply chains worldwide. A year-and-a-half later, consumers are continuing to spend, with Americans spending $765 more per month than this time last year. Meanwhile, the pandemic forced businesses into a “distributed everything” model with partners, suppliers, and customers in different locations. Consumers have adapted to supply shortages and unpredictable product availability as they become savvier with their buying behavior. Smart businesses learned to “listen” to consumers, meeting them where they are with what they need when they need it — and personalization is what made this possible. Enterprises that embraced graph technology, AI, and machine learning to highlight connections between different datasets were better equipped to tailor customer interactions, predict supply shortages, and model for various business scenarios.

Business reimagined

At the start of the pandemic, businesses had to rethink, readjust, and reprioritize — all in real-time. The business world shifted from regular, predictable cycles to a distributed, everything-as-a-service model. Businesses had to examine how customers were now interacting with the company. Also, businesses (and ultimately consumers) had to contend with operations and supply chain disruptions. This included the 2020/21 global chip shortage along with shortages of pharmaceuticals, industrial machinery, auto parts, kitchen accessories, and many more items. These shortages prompted more questions: “What orders does my business already have with customers?” “How are these orders going to change once chips are available?” Businesses were struggling to map out various outcomes to multiple business planning questions, while consumers were taking a more direct approach to searching, shopping, and buying.

The new norm of ‘distributed everything’ brought with it an expanded definition of “fulfillment as a service.” Fulfillment extended beyond purchasing transactions to include the gathering of consumer information online — specifically, information that can help the business determine what the end-user is looking for. Meanwhile, the automated, distributed supply chain transferred power to the “people edge.” Consumers were able to purchase insurance directly from an algorithm-driven website rather than via a broker. How can businesses build loyalty in this new virtual, DIY consumer shopping model?

Creating consumer value and stickiness

Since 2020, consumers have learned to embrace the concept of ‘buy online, pick up in store’ (BOPIS). However, the way in which a business engages with a potential customer determines whether there will be a curbside pickup. Today’s better-informed consumers have greater expectations when it comes to personalization. If I’m shopping for life insurance, I can get multiple quotes online from multiple providers in moments. If I get a personalized quote that seems to match my lifestyle and concerns, that will resonate more than a generic template quote.

“Hello! Have your life circumstances changed? Time to reevaluate life insurance! Call your agent today!”

“Hello, Todd! It looks like you will have a child in college next year. Here’s what we are seeing among other members like you in the Bay Area… Would you like to learn more to see if we need to make some adjustments to your current plan?”

Which of the above messages is more compelling?

Similarly, if I visit a sporting goods store online and see real-time recommendations and offers related to my current search and recent buying history, I’m more likely to buy. Travel loyalty programs with customized recommendations for trip packages related to my searching about The Maldives will get a better result as well (especially given many people’s post-vaccine urge to resume travel). And if you think this extra personalization doesn’t matter, consider this: Even now, consumers continue to adjust their buying behaviors as 30 to 40 percent of consumers continue to switch brands or retailers. Every business needs to ask how they can help customers (or potential customers) by adding personalized value to their shopping experience.

Distributed consumers, ever-changing trends

The post-pandemic consumer has become educated, tracking supply chain trends and worldwide product shortages. Today’s consumer is not only seeking product information, but also how long it will take for that product to be delivered. If one retailer offers a sound system product but takes four weeks to deliver, the shopper will likely buy the same product on a competitor’s site if it can reach him in one week.

Today’s consumer also isn’t interested in excuses — especially when it comes to convenience. Survey results indicate that only one in five (21%) U.S. consumers say they are forgiving retailers and brands for COVID-related service disruptions. When it comes to in-store or curbside pickup, customer experience matters as well. A crowded parking lot, long wait times, and/or limited inventory at my local store means I may shop elsewhere.

COVID-19 has forced many businesses to adapt to different communications, travel, and supply chain infrastructure models as people moved from urban cities to more remote areas. Businesses should monitor real-time population data that align with evolving urbanization trends. What may prompt an impulse buy or increase demand for certain items? Businesses must then communicate with producers, manufacturers, and suppliers at every touchpoint along the customer buying journey — from click to delivery (or pick up) — to ensure a consistent customer experience.

Know thy customer

“Distributed everything” — data, people, and devices — continues to accelerate. How can businesses keep one step ahead of the curve to anticipate, address, and meet consumer shopping trends? Graph technology, AI, and machine learning can help uncover relationships among diverse sets of data — connections that yield key consumer insights. An insurance company may have your information in many business units, systems, and silos (life insurance, homeowner’s insurance, etc.). If that company can link data within these disparate smokestacks and examine not only your policy history but the characteristics of other people with similar policies in your area, you are more likely to get a personalized recommendation.

The smart company works to model the entire business around how their customer thinks, what they want, and how they act. In a distributed world, a singular business commitment to customer personalization is the difference between a purchase and a loss.

Todd Blaschka is the  Chief Operating Officer at TigerGraph.


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What Does GPU Stand For? A Look at a Vital Piece of Hardware

When you’re shopping around for a new laptop or desktop, it can be helpful to know a little about the important internal components that help such devices perform as well they do. This way, you can figure out if the computer you’re considering purchasing has the right specs for how you intend to use the machine once you take it home.

In this guide, we’ll be taking a quick look at one of these internal computing components: GPUs. We’ll go over what its abbreviation means, how they can (in some cases) be different from graphics cards, and a few other details you’ll want to keep in mind while shopping for your next computer.

What does GPU stand for?

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GPU stands for “graphics processing unit.” Generally speaking, it’s a type of processor that handles and speeds up graphics rendering (the generation of the images you’ll see on computer screens). This is especially important for computing tasks such as 3D rendering and gaming. So if you’re buying a PC or laptop for gaming or content creation projects, you’ll need to pay attention to the kinds of GPUs such devices have to offer because it can affect the quality of what you see on screen and how fast certain operations are completed.

Are GPUs and graphics cards the same thing?

Colloquially, GPU is often used interchangeably with “graphics card,” but it can also mean the actual GPU at the heart of the graphics card, alongside the memory and other components — in the same way that CPU refers to the central processor, not the entire PC around it. Technically, a GPU is part of a graphics card. The GPU does the graphics rendering, while the graphics card provides the power and access to high-speed memory it requires. It also connects it to the other parts of the computer it needs access to, like the CPU, system memory, and storage, to complete its tasks.

What does iGPU mean?

An iGPU is an integrated graphics processing unit. It’s a type of GPU that’s found on the same chip as a CPU. Almost all Intel processors (save its F-series models) include integrated or onboard graphics, so they have an iGPU. AMD only includes iGPUs on its APU model processors, typically found in laptops.

With iGPU’s, the main processor shares memory with the GPU, which results in benefits such as a cooler machine and less power consumption. iGPUs are great for normal everyday computing tasks like surfing the web and productivity tasks, but if you need a powerhouse machine for serious gaming or video editing, you may want to look at a graphics card, or dGPU, instead.

What does dGPU stand for?

A dGPU is a “discrete GPU.” A dGPU is not merged with the main processor and doesn’t share memory with the main processor either. It has its own memory, so it can be a full-size graphics card in a desktop or a discrete graphics chip within a laptop. Typically, dGPUs offer better performance and can handle more intensive tasks. But this also means they consume more power, and machines with dGPUs will produce more heat. Laptops can have dGPUs, but you’ll mostly see them in desktop computers.

How do I know if I have an iGPU or dedicated graphics card?

Generally speaking, you can search for your machine’s GPU information via its device settings. For example, on Windows 10, you can do so by navigating to Device Manager and then selecting Display Adapters, which should expand to show you a list of GPUs that your device has. You can Google the name of the GPUs to find out if they’re graphics cards or iGPUs.

You can also find your PC’s GPU info and other specs in several other ways, including third-party programs. Check out our guide to how to check your PC’s specifications on Windows 10 for more info.

Now that you’ve learned a little more about GPUs, you may want to continue doing a little more research before you commit to buying your next PC. If you need more information, you should peruse our best laptops guide.

Editors’ Choice

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Tech News

Google’s latest Android features are too vital to be Pixel-only

Google just introduced a number of great updates to Android, but only for its own Pixel product line. While that’s awesome for Pixel users, it shuts out the rest of the Android community from important upgrades.

There was a time when new Android updates brought more than just bug fixes and security patches. Like iOS, Google once handed out new features and enhancements throughout the lifespan of each version of Android to keep devices fresh and clean. 

For example, this latest drop includes adaptive battery improvements to make your phone last longer, a new bedtime feature in the Clock app that can play ambient noise and automatically limit notifications, and safety features that can alert your emergency contacts if you’re alone and in a potentially dangerous situation.

These aren’t just fancy new filters for the camera or stickers for Messages. They’re useful, important features that the rest of Android is missing out on. At a time when phone makers are working faster than ever to deliver updates as soon as they’re available, Google is keeping the best and most crucial Android features for its own phones. In particular, the life-saving Personal Safety app that will alert your emergency contact if you’ve been in a crash and now will check in on you if you’re out alone is only available for Pixel users. That’s a feature that should be baked into Android, not available as an exclusive app.

It’s not just new features, either. The excellent Recorder app is limited to Pixel 4, 3a, 3, and 2 phones. The full power of the new Google Assistant is hamstrung on other Android phones. Google Duo is far superior on Pixel phones. And on and on.

Now, it’s entirely possible that most of these features are part of the Android 11 update in the fall. Specifically, Android Police is reporting that the Clock app’s bedtime features “will be coming to all Android phones later this summer, following a short period of Pixel exclusivity.” Google was supposed to provide more details on the next version of its operating system this week, but it decided to postpone the launch due to the ongoing protests across the United States. It’s possible we could have learned more about it then.

Even so, Google is drawing an increasingly thick line in the sand between Pixels and the rest of the Android world—including phones that are part of the Android One program—for no other reason than to make its own phones more attractive.

It’s one thing to make a better camera or a fancy stand, but now Google is using Android against its partners. Google is fully within its rights to release new features for the Pixel, but Android users everywhere could benefit from battery and safety features. Unless you own a Pixel, you’re going to be waiting a while to get them, if they ever come.

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