Singapore – The Singaporean government has announced a S$1b investment plan on AI in five years, a move that was announced as part of the nation’s Singapore Budget 2024 presented by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong

“Part of the investment will be used to ensure that Singapore can secure access to the advanced chips that are so crucial to AI development and deployment. We will also work with leading companies in Singapore and around the world to set up their AI Centres of Excellence here. We want these Centres to spur industry collaboration and innovation, and drive greater value creation across the whole economy,” he explained.

In the budget, Wong stressed how Singapore is already recognised as a serious player in AI development. Furthermore, he noted that they aim to go further–to build new peaks of excellence, and crowd in private sector investments.

Following this, MARKETECH APAC sought insights from various marketing industry leaders to learn more about their perspectives on this recent government move, and how the industry can use this to move forward.

Dan Bognar, Vice President & Managing Director, JAPAC, HubSpot

It is encouraging to see Budget 2024 committing more than S$1 billion over the next five years to accelerate Singapore’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption and innovation. We have arrived at a fascinating intersection where technologies like AI have the potential to play a pivotal role in nation-building and in helping to catalyse economic resilience. 

The reality is that AI provides an opportunity to enhance the future-readiness of Singapore’s growing digital economy. With its ability to improve productivity, AI represents a long-term, sustainable solution for firms to deal with ongoing economic challenges such as rising costs and increased complexities as the business grows. This will be especially relevant for SMEs, where technology can empower them with the means to compete with larger industry counterparts.

As the adoption of AI tools grows, organisations will also require targeted guidance to streamline their technology platforms and data sources. As many business leaders can attest to, a fragmented set of technology platforms, often a result of adopting multiple point solutions alongside legacy platforms, leads to disconnected systems that impede data, productivity and workflows. These shortcomings will likely increase overall operating costs, compromise the customer experience, and negatively impact business outcomes.

Continuous learning has become essential in ensuring that Singapore’s workforce remains in step with technological changes. As the digital economy grows, enterprises who are well-equipped to understand AI’s potential, and able to move quickly to lay a robust foundation for its adoption, will stand to reap the most benefits. These programmes will enhance businesses ability to reinvest in their employees as they capitalise on this change.

Mao Gen Foo, Head of Southeast Asia, Qualtrics

It’s pleasing to see Singapore’s continued commitment to upskilling initiatives, as highlighted in this year’s Budget, along with a significant investment in local AI capabilities and skills.

The newly announced SkillsFuture Level-Up initiative, aimed at supporting mid-career workers in acquiring new skills and competencies, is particularly encouraging. Programmes like this recognise the crucial role this demographic plays in our economy and the need for support in helping our nation’s workers adapt to evolving demands and technological advancements.

The increased focus and investment in AI capabilities, talent, and industry development is also exciting and important for Singapore to strengthen its position as a business and innovation hub. Singapore boasts one of the highest global acceptance rates for AI in the workplace, which supported by the government’s ambitions to set up new AI centres of excellence and investments in upskilling programmes, will empower a new cohort of talent and create high demand for skilled professionals.

Moreover, to ensure Singapore can attract and retain the talent needed in the future, this investment and focus on skills must be complemented by ensuring workers are provided with employee experiences that enable them to do their best work and create high-performing, highly productive teams.

Organisations that embrace this people-centric approach and empower their teams to excel in a period of technological and societal change will be the true standouts, propelling the nation towards a prosperous and competitive future.

Smith Leong, Havas Play Lead at Havas Singapore

Like any other industries, there are 3 things that matter to clients in advertising – Speed, cost, and quality. Based on the trends and what we have observed over the last few months, we can safely say that AI tools have shown us the possibilities of answering all 3 factors when used right. We have already started using some of these tools and they have definitely improved our quality of work at Havas.

We welcome the investment by the government in training as we can foresee the potential increase in productivity and quality of jobs. Talents will be able to do more, and better within a shorter time. That also means the potential increase of profit in relation. The challenge for such transition has always been due to the initiation cost and resources involved for both businesses and individuals.

With the initial investment by the government on AI, we can see the potential of Singapore being at the forefront of things which will help us attract both overseas talents and businesses trusting us with their investment, and that will continue to fuel the industry which higher interest and demand.

Kamal Brar, Senior Vice President, APAC, Confluent

I am glad to see the increasing local investments and upskilling support for Singaporeans and businesses to train and make the best of AI innovations. We live in an incredible time for innovation today where AI is driving significant productivity improvements for businesses in Singapore. While AI can’t replace the intentionality, creativity, or awareness of a human, it can automate the menial day-to-day, allowing employees and companies to focus on the most valuable tasks.

As consumers, we have already tasted the convenience of mobile apps that can process requests immediately, reducing waiting time from days to seconds. With AI, we can also expect businesses to operate closer to the speed of life, that is, in real time. Minister Wong aptly reflected that emerging technologies will change the way expertise is defined and how value is created. One good example is in customer engagements. The ability to access data in real time, supported by AI to analyse previous interactions, individual preferences and behaviours, will help to make the business feel more human. Other possibilities can also include preventing fraud for a fintech app or handling an online retail order and marking out the most efficient delivery route.

Such value of AI is deeply dependent on having clean, trustworthy, up-to-date data. Organisations can tap on real-time streams of accurate data to keep up with AI-driven change. For this, companies in Singapore (small or big) should actively help employees to retrain and upskill in data management with the SkillsFuture Level-Up programme and new grants, especially as we see more AI centres of excellence open up here. 

Eileen Chua, Managing Director of SAP Singapore

The increasing need for employees’ training in AI, reflects on Singapore’s Budget 2024 focus and anticipates an ever-evolving business landscape. With the rising demand for AI expertise in this digital economy, building skills-centric organizations where expertise and know-how take precedence over roles and titles will improve business agility and employee experience. In order to achieve this, companies must have a holistic view of their workforce and ignite potential by providing opportunities for growth and development. 

In line with the Singapore’s National AI Strategy 2.0, SAP has also named SAP Labs Singapore as a global AI hub, with the aim of developing reliable, relevant and responsible business AI applications for customers and partners globally, while fostering innovation through a private, public partnership approach.

Sanchit Mendiratta, Managing Director, Merkle, CXM Group, dentsu Singapore

Over the past six decades, Singapore has consistently positioned itself at the forefront of global innovation and economic growth. From capitalising on its strategic geographic location to foster trade to diversifying its economy from manufacturing to cutting-edge fintech, Singapore’s journey is a testament to foresight, adaptability, and relentless pursuit of excellence.

In the last 14 months alone, the world has witnessed unparalleled advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), signalling a pivot that promises to redefine our way of life, work, and interaction with technology. This era of rapid technological evolution underscores the power of individual creativity and potential to generate significant impact. In light of emerging narratives about the possibility of ‘one-person unicorns’, it is clear that the ability to drive change is increasingly democratised, residing not only within VC-funded start-ups, big tech, or established multinational corporations but also within the reach of every individual connected to the internet.

The Singapore government recognizes the transformative potential of AI and is committed to ensuring its benefits are accessible to all. By empowering Singaporeans with SkillsFuture credits and monthly training allowances, alongside initiatives designed to encourage companies to adopt AI, the government is fostering a dual approach to innovation. This strategy ensures a comprehensive understanding and application of AI across all levels of society and the workforce, from the ground up by the people and from the top down by companies.

We are on the cusp of a new era where AI is not just a tool for operational efficiency but a catalyst for societal advancement and the empowerment of every individual. The government’s efforts to evangelize AI capabilities reflect our dedication to preparing Singaporeans for the future, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to navigate and shape the emerging new world order.

Thus, the future Singapore envisions is not merely a forecast, but a reality Singaporeans will actively create.

Rebecca Nadilo, Managing Director – Iris Singapore

There’s still so much to learn about the applications of AI – and most importantly – there’s much to teach about it. Singapore’s investment in tech, training and infrastructure means we’re in the best position to beta test its application and understand where, how and who is best to use it.

Tin Sanchez, Executive Creative Director – Iris Singapore

Change is scary – and AI marks a change in the way we do and make things. The budget can allow mastery of AI and overcoming our unease around it. My hope is that it boosts human creativity even more.

Hong Kong – Local beauty retailer Sa Sa has tapped omnichannel customer engagement platform SAP Emarsys to deliver a personalised online-merge-offline (OMO) experience that elevates interactions at every stage of customer lifecycle.

SAP Emarsys’ e-commerce service enables Sa Sa to build on this foundation and pursue a two-pronged approach to customer loyalty that optimises both acquisition and retention. The solution also allows Sa Sa to collect and analyse data from its various consumer demographics and gain real-time visibility into their shopping and buying preferences.

Moreover, these consumer insights enable Sa Sa to curate appropriate online product portfolios and offer the right mix of loyalty programs, such as rewards points and cash-back incentives geared to different customer groups.

Lastly, the solution helps Sa Sa build strong activation programs, utilising marketing automation and real-time personalization to create sophisticated insights-driven campaigns that drive real business outcomes.

Hong Li, director of e-commerce at Sa Sa, said, “The SAP Emarsys e-commerce solutions elevate Sa Sa’s customer engagement to the next level by offering intuitive and relevant online experiences to our customers. Sa Sa thrives on staying close to what our customers expect and thus it is important to have real-time panoramic visibility of customer data at every point in the customer lifecycle journey.” 

Li added, “With Emarsys, our data analysis capabilities are continuously improving so we can discover the best way to engage, retain and expand our customer base, with data-driven customer programs.”

Meanwhile, Esmond Tong, managing director at SAP Hong Kong, commented, “Today’s retail environment is complex and competitive, shaped by new technologies and fast-evolving customer behaviour and preferences. SAP Emarsys presents a single, integrated platform where customer-centric market leaders like Sa Sa can build, execute and scale real-time marketing campaigns. With Emarsys, Sa Sa is growing its customer lifetime value through omnichannel interactions that are personalised, intelligent and compelling.”

Singapore – Super apps – mobile applications that can offer multiple services within a single app – are here to stay, with around 51% of Singaporeans reported to have used them at least a couple of times every week. This is according to the latest data from Qualtrics, with support from SAP and Center for Experience Management in Singapore.

According to the data, the most frequent use cases are shopping for general items, buying groceries, ordering food and ride-hail services, paying for items in-store, and arranging for items to be delivered. 

In terms of which super app features are mostly used, digital wallets come out on top. Around 59% of respondents said they have used a digital wallet to make a physical purchase in the last 12 months, and 64% said they intend to use a super app to make a physical purchase in the next six months.

Meanwhile, it is also revealed that consumers have less intent to use a super app for listening to music, messaging friends, playing games, and buying insurance.

When it comes to factors that would increase super app usage, feedback suggests overcoming consumers’ concerns with privacy and security is one of the main areas to address. The study also revealed that consumers are looking for improvements in mobile app ease of use and payment options, across many of the brands and apps that they interact with.

“Equipped with the right customer insights, brands can tailor how they deliver services via super apps to ensure this new channel complements their customer experience for the people that are using them, while maximising the investments they’re making in the space. And simultaneously, by knowing what customers aren’t using super apps, organisations can take important action to ensure no-one is left behind by the change underway,” the research noted.

Singapore – Multinational software company SAP has recently launched the SAP Labs Singapore, a digital innovation hub that will drive product leadership, foster local digital talent, and boost ecosystem and community engagement. 

This new hub will be the first in SEA for SAP with the aim of catalysing deep technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and advancing transformative digital supply chain, intelligent business network and sustainability solutions.

The opening of the hub was witnessed by Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry; and Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) Managing Director Jacqueline Poh

Thomas Saueressig, member of the executive board of SAP SE for SAP Product Engineering, said that the hub joins a network of strategic high-tech clusters, reinforcing SAP’s strong confidence in Singapore as an innovation and investment hub, its highly educated and skilled talent, and its position as a regional beacon of excellence in technology innovation and a digital future.

“The future is created today. That is why SAP helps customers become sustainable, intelligent, and networked enterprises. We invest significantly in R&D to build solutions that not only help our customers digitally transform but create value for their businesses and the communities they operate in. Our global and diverse labs network is SAP’s unique innovation backbone and a source of inspiration, creativity, and innovation,” Sauressig said.

Meanwhile, Poh said, “SAP’s decision to establish SAP Labs in Singapore reinforces the company’s confidence in our position as a hub for enterprise software product development and innovation. SAP Labs Singapore will create exciting job opportunities here in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning that will further deepen the skills of our workforce.”

Lastly, Manik Saha, the newly appointed managing director for SAP Labs Singapore, commented, “As companies look towards a new era of growth, businesses need to be agile and continually reinvent themselves. In a digital-first future, organisations must rapidly develop an innate ability to innovate – not just to adapt to the changing customer landscape, but to also create new sources of value and competitiveness as they consider broader challenges like sustainability. We aim to empower all organisations to embrace an innovation mindset.”

Singapore – In its bid to make its client Asian SMEs reach a global network, business-to-business (B2B) marketplace Proxtera has announced that it will be joining Ariba Network, a global digital business network owned by technology company SAP.

Through the network endeavor, Proxtera will now be part of one collaborative, intelligent, global business network with access to new demand channels to grow its business in an increasingly digital and networked economy.

This recent endeavor by Proxtera aligns with the company’s goals to connect over 350,000 SMEs to new trading partners across a growing list of countries in Asia including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and India. With each trade, Proxtera envisions to offer a host of integrated digital tools and services that helps marketplaces, platforms and SMEs more quickly, access, evaluate and act on business opportunities.

“Proxtera’s mission is to enable SMEs around the world to thrive in the new normal of the digital economy and access new trade opportunities previously thought out of reach. Proxtera aims to help SMEs as they recover from the impact of the pandemic and to bring us one step closer to an open, more collaborative future where businesses of all sizes, including SMEs, have great trade opportunities afforded to them as a traditional corporate ecosystem,” said Lim Kang Song, chairman at Proxtera.

Meanwhile, Paul Marriott, president at SAP Asia Pacific Japan, commented, “It’s clear that no business does business alone. This is part of our broader vision to reimagine how businesses, including SMEs, can collaborate with a network of global trading partners across supply chains, economies, and industries, and empower companies to move faster and smarter than ever before.”

As part of its network endeavor, Proxtera is currently developing Proxtera Plus for its network of 350,000 businesses and SMEs. Proxtera Plus aims to provide a smooth search, product match, and transaction experience for large buying organizations with a deep and diverse range of buyers and sellers from wholesale e-commerce platforms across Asia via Proxtera’s trade network of marketplaces, for example, Eezee, GlobalLinker, SGeBiz, and Sourcesage 99SME B2B. 

In addition, it also aims to help with compliance of purchases against internal corporate policies and enable quick digital approvals. Proxtera Plus is intended to make closing purchases accessible, supported with secure payment rails and integrated fulfillment options.

Singapore – Despite last year’s nature of culminating businesses to turn their pivots digitally, Singaporean businesses have instead created a gap between them and their customer base in terms of customer experience (CX) strategies, new study from software company SAP shows.

In its APAC-centric study, SAP notes that Singaporean businesses fall short of expectations by as much as 28% when it comes to being customer-centric, behind the APAC average of 21%. Furthermore, only half (55%) of consumers in Singapore stated that brands here are able to resolve their issues after three interactions.

SAP focused in its study the existence of key gaps as identified from the study included customer centricity, personalized experiences, openness in privacy and data control, as well as sustainability and ethical behaviour.

About three in five consumers in Singapore are now expecting brands to be purpose-driven, going beyond profits and transactional relationships, to demonstrate trustworthiness, empathy, shared values, and care for society.

Singapore consumers surveyed indicated a gap between their expectations and actual experiences on this front, in areas such as brands respecting the rights and welfare of their workers (80% vs 67% in APAC), treating suppliers ethically (76% vs 56% in APAC), actively work to reduce gender and racial inequality (73% vs 55% in APAC), and not engage in anti-competitive behaviour (70% vs 54% in APAC).

“While it’s positive that brands in Singapore have adapted quickly to the pandemic by tapping on digital tools and turning to e-commerce, customers still expect brands to deliver on the basics – this means providing them with positive experiences and swift resolution of issues,” said Peggy Renders, general manager and senior vice president at SAP Customer Experience in Asia Pacific & Japan.

The study also noted that local businesses were found to be lacking include responsiveness within 24 hours to customer queries (78% vs 51% in APAC), acting on customers’ feedback to improve products and services (84% vs 58% in APAC), resolving issues in less than three interactions (83% vs 55% in APAC), having a reward programme customised to their interests (81% vs 54% in APAC), and offering innovative or better ways to serve customers during COVID-19 (86% vs 65% in APAC).

In addition, delivery endeavors were among the most dissatisfied areas for those surveyed, with 82% of Singapore consumers expecting brands to provide timely and accurate delivery options they could trust, but with just over half (59%) saying this was met in reality. The dissatisfaction over quality and reliability of delivery services especially significant for local supermarkets, where just 55% of Singaporeans mentioned they received trustworthy delivery services (vs 80% expectation).

Proactiveness in engaging customers was another area cited as an area of improvement, with just around half of Singapore customers shared that brands are actively updating them on relevant specials and new products (56%), is proactive in anticipating their needs and wants (55%), and provides tailored suggestions based on their purchase history and preferences (50%).

Being intuitive mobile natives, Singapore customers also want brands to provide omnichannel experiences that enable their lifestyles, expecting brands to provide them with a network of physical and online stores (76%), have easy to transact options across multiple channels such as online to in-store (81%), yet still provide a consistent experience irrespective of channel (82%).

“It is sobering to know that despite all the efforts businesses have put into digitalisation over the past year, fundamentals around customer centricity are still not being met in Singapore. There is clearly an urgent need for brands to humanise the gap between digital actions and the heartstrings of consumers,” Renders added.

Having transparency and control over their data and orders is also a key area brands are falling short on, with Singapore consumers highlighting shortfalls in having full transparency over how their personal data is being used (35% gap), security of their private data and not sharing it with third parties (33% gap), only obtaining private data from customers to serve them better (25% gap), and making it easy to track their orders and queries (23% gap).

Despite the negative light, Singapore brands fair slightly better than the APAC average on the expectation-experience gap, in the areas of whether brands look for new ways to recycle and reuse products, packaging materials and materials (12% vs 18% APAC gap), having specific policies to reduce and report carbon emissions (10% vs 14% APAC gap), and having a strong focus on sustainability and ethics in sourcing and selling their products (4% vs 10% APAC gap).

“The pandemic has laid bare the criticality of the customer experience in our hyperconnected world today. The key to sustainable growth in a post-COVID world lies in the right solutions and leadership that transform the customer experience. As a future-forward nation that is home to the region’s leading businesses, brands in Singapore have a golden opportunity to transform to give customers exactly what they want, and when they want it, in a future that is entirely digital,” Renders concluded.