Car dealers now need to go digital

It’s a tough time for traditionally run businesses. For car dealerships especially, car sales in Singapore have been decreasing moderately over the past few years, a trend that is influenced by a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour. 

Many young adults in Singapore grew up during a time of rapid digitalisation, which significantly democratised access to information. With varied sources of information on hand, customers today can better make informed decisions on their purchases and who they buy it from. This is most visible in the retail sector which is facing huge challenges in overcoming rising competition from overseas and online rivals.

The auto market faces a more difficult task due to the nature of the goods involved. Unlike other segments like e-commerce and FMCG, automotive customers are buying big ticket items that come with heavy financial commitments, so they’d naturally be more discerning when making a purchase.

To distinguish themselves in today’s market, car dealers will need to first focus on customer experience. They need to get with the times and leverage on the digital tools available out there to create one that’s seamless and qualitative.

Expanding inventories and helping them grow digitally

One way for dealers to draw in more customers is to ensure that they have an inventory of cars that people want to buy.

I’ve worked with car dealers for many years and, from my experience, keeping inventories well-stocked – while also obtaining financing via auto loans – is their biggest obstacle. This isn’t only the case for their business expansion, but for even just keeping themselves afloat when faced with cash flow issues.

Many dealerships struggle with finding the right mix of new and used inventories, especially the latter as it depreciates more rapidly. On top of that, getting the right financing options from banks when buying cars from other dealers can be very difficult. The approval process can be burdensome and lengthy, and it can make a big impact on their business, as every second wasted means a car’s value is being depreciated or intended purchase being lost to other interested buyers.

It’s true that the financial services sector is undergoing a digital transformation but we’re mostly seeing this in more consumerist areas such as e-wallets and cashless payments. The B2B segment hasn’t really kept pace. This is especially for used car dealers who can truly benefit from using technology that improves access to capital, while relieving worries about stocking cars to instead focus on the people driving them. 

Fortunately, more industry players are warming up to the idea of a digital stock financing solution that’s tailored specifically to dealerships. At its core, this tech solution helps dealers manage existing financial commitments i.e. vehicles currently under financing and overall cash flow availability. This is done by aggregating the range of lenders and helping dealers make informed decisions on the financing options available.

However, there are more specialised platforms. These are ones that go beyond helping dealers source the best financing to also helping them to source and fund new and used vehicles on both physical and digital auctions. One example would be what’s provided in the UK by Secure Trust Bank’s V12 Vehicle Finance digital facility.

Reduce paperwork; spend more time with customers

No matter what business you’re in, keeping your back-end running tends to take a big chunk of your daily operation’s time – especially if most of your documentation is still in paper form. 

A study by the International Data Corporation found that over 20 percent of employee productivity losses were caused by paper-based documentation issues that businesses go through. If you’re a car dealer, wouldn’t the time spent on paperwork be better allocated to customer-facing areas instead?

Internally, dealers digitising their paperwork lessens their need to monitor their stock turnaround manually, to organise documents in rows of filing cabinets and of course, the tediousness of sifting through them manually and It also helps remove unnecessary clutter and reduce the risk of missing documentation. Additionally, their business could save costs as they won’t need to spend so much time and money on managing papers. Their cash flow issues are also resolved as they could take advantage of immediate funds transfers vs the traditional cheques issuance method. 

Digitising the Loans Origination Process

Digitisation can also benefit dealers when dealing with customers, especially those opting to finance their cars. Typically, the loan origination process is lengthy due to its reliance on physical documentation. Although much of the information is captured by computers linked to a dealer management system, the details captured would then be printed, faxed or enveloped before being sent to the lender via post. The paper trail ends up being long and adds to the complexity of the process and raises the risks of error.

In contrast, a digital loan origination management system would allow for a more direct digital capture of applicant information via scanners or mobile devices. The information would then be digitally combined and sent to the lender securely for processing. 

This alternative helps to counter the usual gripes consumers tend to have when spending too much time at dealerships to finance transactions. Indeed, a report by Cox noted that more than half of the time spent at dealerships during the purchase process is on negotiating or doing paperwork, which resulted in significant customer dissatisfaction over the time taken..  

Giving what customers really want

We now live in a digital first environment; one in which technology is catalysing efforts to overcome long standing physical hurdles in businesses that now must operate in a customer-first environment. 

Dealers now need to do what they can to cut down on inefficiencies that have been holding their businesses back. By going digital, they can save time and improve operational productivity to give their customers a more valuable experience.

Helen Neo is CEO and Co-founder of Genie Financial Services

Context Not Content in Bits and Bytes

This pandemic is forcing us to rethink the way we work and live. I hope we rethink the way we tell our stories.

Today, social platforms are inundated with Lenin’s words on change – there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen. Despite knowing that change is the only constant in our lives, we are terrified of it. However, stories of human grit overcoming the challenges past and present give us the confidence and the resolve to not only navigate these changing times but also emerge stronger. “This too shall pass” is not just a phrase, rather a reminder of the human spirit.

Long before we discovered the binary code, stories were motivating individual behaviour, inspiring community action and storing information for posterity. As we progressed so did our stories and their levels of immediacy, impact and integrity. But all progress comes at a price. As the fault lines that were faintly visible start to stare at us, our individual response to this crisis will decide the future of our collective experiences.

What you see is all there is

We need to be vigilant while we sit safely huddled in our homes interacting with the outside world through stories that coming streaming in bits and bytes through the ubiquitous digital platforms. Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking Fast and Slow explained a cognitive bias – what you see is all there is. He says that we normally make our judgements and impressions according to the information available to us. And today what is available is immediate, gargantuan and polarized – a cognitive nightmare.

The signs of this evolving context have been around for decades but became visible during the financial crisis of 2008. As the Gig Economy flourished and powered ahead so did the digital platforms, thus providing a much-needed impetus to a new breed of storytellers. In a bid to stay relevant, enterprises of all kinds and sizes eager to engage with and influence their audiences flocked to these platforms and the storytellers.

Of course, the engagement often implied that the most available and not the most creative or the most impactful stories prevailed. Earning the trust of the audience was easy given that the narratives were not judged on merits rather evaluated on volumes which was driven by the dollars backing these narratives. Our minds are hardwired for stories and the ones that capture our attention are the ones that are always there in front of us. What you see is all there is.

Rethinking Stories

As the world comes to grips with this pandemic and prepares to open for business, uncertainty prevails. A storyteller knows the power of uncertainty way too well. It is the time when the audience is vulnerable to the creative imagination of the storyteller; a point when the story either leap frogs into hearts or gets entangled in the mesh of our minds.

The digital platforms have not only blurred the lines between various forms of narratives and transformed the characters into a unit of measure but also purged storytelling of its creative process that powered imagination. What remains is propaganda which is delivered with relative ease given the digital context and a narrative that dangerously stokes nationalistic rhetoric and a fear of the unknown.

This pandemic has forced us to rethink the way we work and live by impacting our ability to produce, consume and share resources. I don’t know what lies ahead when it comes to storytelling, but I do know that our minds don’t need the facts laced by misleading data nor do our hearts need to be exposed to the truths of only a certain section of the society. The context of the stories today favours those with power, money and knowledge to influence our behaviour individually and our progress collectively.

As Albert Einstein said – imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. We need to reclaim our imagination to not only ensure economic progress but also a balanced world. We have to rethink our stories if we want to change the context.

Hemant Bohra is a storyteller, entrepreneur and an author turned male ally. He is the Founder of Fortuna PR, a mid-sized public relations firm in India and CXOLife, an initiative that shares work-life balance practices of CXOs. Recently, Hemant moved to Paris to work with companies eager to explore storytelling as a strategic tool.

Empowering individuals to steer their careers

Having worked her way through marketing, youth leadership development and helping organisations change, Jael Chng is now empowering people in their career design. Combining skills like design thinking, marketing communications, change management theories, psychology and behavioural science, she empowers people to live with more life, zest and courage.

Jael believes that one of the biggest things that impact us and those around us, is our career-life. Being a huge lever for change: it shapes who we are, it impacts our relationships and our quality of life. It is a powerful tool that shapes our dignity and identity and it also puts food on the table. If we want to change lives for the better, why not change them via career-life? Therefore, in this season of her life, Jael co-founded My Working Title with Darlene, to inspire and empower people to actively design career-lives.

A recipient of the 2019 Women Icons Asia Summit & Awards, Jael Chng took time to share her journey with AsiaBizToday.

When and how did you become an entrepreneur?
I became an accidental entrepreneur.

In 2016, a friend mooted the idea of career development for youth. Initially, I gave that person 10 good reasons why I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur. However, this need resonated with me as the future of work for youth has been in my heart. As I shared this idea casually with friends and ex-colleagues, to my surprise, a few said to me “I want to join you in this.”

We then tested the idea – we interviewed 70+ people and found out that the topic and planning of career can be a lonely, murky and difficult process and people found it hard to talk about it and make sense of it. We discovered that some people made career decisions in a haphazard way, with little available information and knowledge about the job market (low opacity of information) and often focused on the job search (employment) rather than their career-life (employability).

We then ideated and prototyped solutions to solve this problem. We thought – why can’t career conversations be fun, exploratory and meaningful? Therefore, we put our brains and hands together and created Career SUPERDRIVE™, a board game that is a facilitation tool that encourages people to play to discover, plan by designing and prototype by doing smart experiments.

We launched My Working Title in September 2017 with Career SUPERDRIVE™ and since then, we’ve created experiences and curriculum around this idea. With our proprietary approach, frameworks and tools, we’ve also started consulting, designing and delivering bespoke experiences for clients and also offer a certification programme.

Since our launch, our products are now used in 18 countries and we’re thankful to have organisations like LinkedIn, Grab, Shopee, GIC, Aviva, National University of Singapore  (Business School), Singapore University of Technology and Design, Workforce Singapore Group as our clients.

We’re not stopping in our prototyping efforts. Recently, we launched Team SUPERDRIVE™ to strengthen teams – understanding of team dynamics, discuss team alignment and performance obstacles, team strategy moving forward. Currently, we are also discussing collaborations with career-tech partners and academies. With the need for agile leadership, we’re also creating an experiential game called Leadership SUPERDRIVE™. Stay tuned!

What was your motivation to get into this?
Many years ago, I went to ITE (Institute of Technical Education) for a meeting and as I walked into the school, I suddenly had a strong wave of thought – “What kind of jobs are these young people going to find? What kind of families will they have?” That thought stuck with me.

During one of the change management projects I was working on, I kept hearing employees lament “HR doesn’t plan my career for me. Why am I not promoted?” and I hear from the HR team “The employees don’t actively take up the learning opportunities we give them. They passively expect us to help them with their planning and we can’t because we are swamped.” It was clear that there was a mis-match in expectations.

In today’s VUCA world, where organisations will be gearing more towards being an organism rather than a machine, we see a great need for individuals to rise up to design their own careers. We are seeing companies not promising career paths, and working towards being more open to co-design careers with people – it is no longer a fixed career ladder, but a rock climbing wall for individuals. Business models are no longer fixed and its form is evolving at a high speed, which means jobs will be too. It is a shared responsibility, and it needs both individuals and companies to have constructive, positive career conversations. Career conversations are now an important must-have for employee engagement, talent management and learning and development.

We are also seeing more mental stress and a stronger need for resilience – skills are becoming obsolete fast, and adaptability, grit and a growth mindset is what we need to survive and thrive.

I’m super thankful to have an amazing co-founder Darlene, who is kind, smart, and not at all hesitant to roll up her sleeves (literally too), to make this work. If she didn’t suggest that we do this together, I wouldn’t have the courage to do so.

What have been your experiences running this business?
It’s a rollercoaster ride! I’ve experienced many highs and lows, high hopes and low disappointments. Words like grit, hustle become real. Often we can’t predict fully customer’s behaviour, product take-up etc and I’ve learnt that the key thing is to set direction and intention, then go with the flow and ride the waves! I liken it to being a rubber band – being stable and dynamic, strong and flexible.

Which are the important factors that keep you going?
When I feel low, wake up and question what I’m doing, I go back to my ‘why’ and remind myself of the good that has already happened.

When I hear that our work has helped bring clarity, perspectives and possibilities to people, it makes my day. When we asked our participants what are their takeaways, we hear things like “I need to grow up”, “I found out more about myself and the strategies I can take moving forward.”, “I am able to discover, learn and plan for my future career in a more detailed way :)”,  “I can place more importance on exploring my interests, passions and translate that into career planning.”, “I get to know my colleagues more, beyond just work tasks.”.

There is a power in articulating one’s goals and we’re glad to spark a thought, an action, a behaviour change that may just have that ripple effect – to bring your whole self to work. People want to live meaningful, purposeful lives, also through their work.

We’re thankful that Dr Paul Brown, Professor of Organisational Neuroscience, Monarch Business School Switzerland, authors of neuroscience books calls Career SUPERDRIVE™ “a remarkable breakthrough in how enquiry might happen and answers be found”.

These affirmations keep us going through the entrepreneurial grind.

Have you faced any obstacles in your initiatives? Do you think you have faced specific challenges because of being a woman?
Yes of course! They range from having more ideas than resources, how to keep the momentum for innovation going while keeping the lights on, testing and recovering from failed experiments and finding the joy to continue. Buying cycles from potential customers can be long and it is a challenge maintaining a good level of energy, enthusiasm and optimism while actively waiting for things to materialise.

Where do you usually find inspiration from?
I love looking out for ideas and inspiration from novel thinkers, in the fashion + retail industries especially – in particular where people or initiatives that merge design and business.

One of the things we want to do at My Working Title is to make career design fashionable and desirable, like how fitness has evolved to being ‘cool’ today.

I recently met and heard from Tim Kobe, the first designer of the Apple store. It was refreshing to hear his take on the return on experience (as opposed to investment). I enjoy watching the Netflix series ‘Stayover’ where they merge interior design + business. I also love wandering into art museums to just do this: observe how artists present their point of view in a fresh way.

What’s your proudest moment so far?
I don’t think I have a big proud moment, but I am proud of little moments along the way.

It ranges from messages from our participants who tell us that they feel less stressed because they can generate more options, they feel like it is not abnormal to want to explore different working titles and that they got to know themselves and their colleagues/friends better and deeper.

Other moments include how companies like LinkedIn and GIC took a chance on us though we were still starting out, and this paved the way for many other people to benefit from this approach.

How would you define success ?
I define success as living out your purpose with passion, practically. This means – finding meaning in what I do, and making money. Money is a vehicle to fuel good, that can come in the form of caring for my family, society, country, the world and also myself. Success to me is living daily in peace, stillness, strength despite the circumstances, and having more than enough, so I can always give. Success to me is having the freedom to create, to develop and to do that sustainably.

What Advice do you have for other aspiring Entrepreneurs, especially women?
Go discover your sweet spot of your purpose, passion and pragmatism. Be open, be collaborative and be discerning.

The future of cyber security in Southeast Asia

The digital world we have all adopted as part of our everyday lives is a fluid one and with it so too is how we must interact online. Whether it’s simple emails, corporate engagements or general leisure we have all willingly chosen to store a lot of our personal data on the internet. Surely that has brought us all a lot of luxuries and efficiencies but it has also exposed us to various threats.

Cyber security is a critical part of the world we live in. As our world becomes increasingly more digitized in the years ahead cyber security will take on a more important for individuals, companies and governments alike. There are many layers of protection that all of these stakeholders can and should take in the fight against cybercriminals.

Let’s explore what we can expect in the years ahead as our fight against those cybercriminals matures.   

Consumer will demand simplicity

Consumers want and need simplicity. Cyber security is a complex problem but the layers of protection available to users must be straight forward in order to ensure adoption. Push notifications instead of pin codes and biometric recognition (ie: facial, fingerprint, voice) are frictionless methods of authenticating a user that lowers the barrier to entry for consumers to engage in a cyber security strategy.

Service providers cannot rely on the traditional SMS and Voice pin codes as standalone solutions. Security loopholes aside, consumers need frictionless solutions. We’re already seeing progress on this front with security solutions that are more user friendly like the Twizo Messaging Clients solution that allows for authentication to take place via LINE, Telegram and Facebook with more chat platforms on the way. Simple push notifications bringing a “reject / approve” function to the user as opposed to flipping through multiple screens and passcodes.

Flexibility and Choice

One size does not fit all! The needs and preferences of a particular enterprise and consumer do not necessarily match the next batch of users. It is the responsibility of authentication service providers to offer their partners as much flexibility as possible in terms of how these partners can adopt a cyber security strategy.  

Relying only on the traditional 2FA solutions prohibits enterprises from scaling their cyber security strategies and anything that prohibits scalability in the fight against cyber criminals will ultimately lead to data breaches as well as consumer hesitation.

Multi-Factor Authentication

A single authentication dependent on a single device is no longer enough. Cybercriminals are continuing to develop their strategies and so its important for authentication service providers to stay ahead of the game.

A platform that offers a variety of different ways to authenticate a user that can work independently or in conjunction with one another will offer enterprises and consumers a higher chance of minimizing their potential victimization.

Implementation of new technologies

SMS and Voice pin codes are the traditional solutions but far from the full extent of authentication options. Biometrics via voice recognition such as the Twizo Bio Voice solution which allows for users to say their password outloud after being prompted via a phone call,  pin codes via messaging clients and ground breaking research around sonic vibrations are some of the latest examples of innovation in the authentication space.  

Industry Education will improve significantly

Governments and service providers alike are contributing to the education of both enterprises and consumers when it comes to cyber security. There are multiple layers of protection that all stakeholders must take when it comes to protecting ourselves online and we can absolutely expect governments and service providers to take a more active role in highlighting the multi-pronged approach needed in the cyber battle.

Too many enterprises and consumers alike view Two Factor Authentication (2FA) as an unrealistic component in the cyber security battle and this is being addressed through industry education. There is no singular method of protecting ourselves online except for disconnecting from the internet which is obviously unrealistic in today’s world. What is realistic though is adding as many layers of protection between ourselves and the cyber criminals, 2FA being one of the viable methods in doing so. It is up to governments and service providers to contribute to that change in perspective amongst enterprises and consumers. We are starting to see efforts of those sorts being made on a government level in South East Asia and across APAC which we anticipate will continue in the years ahead.

Government level initiatives such as the new European Union GDPR efforts are indicative of a global effort around data protection.

Cyber security is a real world concern that we all face and it is the responsibility of all of us to protect ourselves online. Thankfully there are service providers out there who are making 2FA simple to engage with through easy integration options, extensive authentication solutions, free and paid platforms and scalability flexibility. Ultimately having a safer online experience with our data secured correctly is in all of our benefit and so be sure to select the right partner for your needs.   

Only by bringing down the barrier to entry will we see wider adoption of cyber security strategies with 2FA serving as a key component.

Eric Dadoun is the CCO of Twizo and nurtures keen interest in startups, telecom and other businesses in general