AI will power up to 95% of all customer interactions by 2025. From digital chief economists to animated teaching assistants, we’re looking at 3 AI-first platforms transforming business in Asia Pacific, and beyond.

1.Bringing AI-Embedded Schooling to Generation Alphas

When the Chinese Ministry of Education delayed the start of the spring semester twice in early 2020, Tencent-backed VIPKid pledged to provide free online spring courses for children across China. The platform’s AI-embedded classes featuring animated teaching assistants enjoyed unprecedented results: course-completion rates went up from 80 to 90 per cent, with online activity captured and used over time to improve learning outcomes.

“We developed a complicated algorithm to analyse students’ eyes and how they move. And we train the model through deep learning. Each student has different ways to express feelings, so the feedback is very different.”

— Zhang Yanjing, VP of Technology, VIPKid

VIPKid, Zuoyebang and Yuanfudao are among the handful of Chinese unicorns competing in the booming education technology market. In South Asia, there’s Eruditus in Singapore, Byju in India, Ruangguru in Indonesia, Kyna in Vietnam, Taamkru in Thailand. AI-assisted platforms are enabling individualised learning experiences for Generation Alpha students, and automating repetitive aspects of coursework and evaluation to unburden overworked teachers. With Asia Pacific accounting for 54% of the global e-learning market (approximately US$ 350 billion by 2025), and the pandemic accelerating the move to online learning for schools — AI-assisted ed-tech is making teachers and courses accessible to Gen Zs and Gen Alphas across countries and income levels.

2. Digital Humans, When Speed is Of Essence

Meet Nola. Nola is a digital human, a retail assistant developed by Noel Leeming, New Zealand’s leading electronics and appliances retailer. When the store was swamped by customer enquiries mid-pandemic, Nola helped out as first line of support for online customer enquiries. Within the store, Nola greets customers, and helps them find what they’re looking for — consistently and tirelessly.

Developed by New Zealand-based UneeQ, these customisable digital avatars are already being employed across retail, healthcare, tech and software. BMW, Singtel and Vodaphone have experimented with digital humans, as has Australia’s U Bank. UBS even prototyped a digital double of their chief economist Daniel Kalt.

With 90 percent of communication taking place non-verbally, digital humans are designed to bridge the gap between chatbots and humans. Brands report interesting results. While older customers ask simpler questions, Generation Zs and millennials converse quite naturally, as they might when interacting with a Siri or Alexa or Google Home. What’s next? The age of holographic employees isn’t too far away.

Daniel for UBS, Sophie for BMW – Designed to be efficient, empathetic and funny. Source: UneeQ

3. Price Optimised, Zero-Friction Insurance for any Business

Sydney-based Insurtech platform Cover Genius co-creates insurance products, and thinks very differently about data than traditional direct insurance models. Partnering with everybody from shared workspace providers and logistics operators to gig-workers, Cover Genius is able to leverage anonymised, real-time data and machine learning to offer their customers more dynamic, personalised pricing. This approach also provides hassle-free claims payments, and dynamic product bundling, creating cost and time efficiencies for businesses of all sizes.

“There are some fundamental shifts occurring. More and more stuff is going online, people want to get more from their favourite online brands and there is a shift away from traditional direct insurance.”

— Angus McDonald, CEO, Cover Genius

Other insurtech players like Indonesia’s PasarPolis are differentiated by their ability to offer affordable and customised micro-insurance products, covering stolen vehicles for Gojek ride-share drivers at costs below USD $4 a year. Singapore-based insurtech player Igloo serves the emerging Philippine market where digital insurance penetration rates are currently below 1 percent. While insurtech in Asia Pacific is smaller and newer than its North American and European counterparts, demand from SMEs, growing prosperity and digital penetration across China, India and Southeast Asia, are bringing new opportunities for incumbents, disruptors and investors alike.

Consumers are increasingly prioritising convenience over brand. This is particularly true for Gen Zers — who’ve grown accustomed to services on demand with a tap or swipe. Over 70% of Millennials and 76% of Generation Zs expect personalisation as a matter of course. Over 63% of Millennials and 61% of Generation Zs expect companies to anticipate their needs. As do 67% of B2B buyers. How then do brands demonstrate one-on-one empathy at scale?
Artificial Intelligence can and does help. Based on feedback and behaviour, algorithms are able to learn what types of insights business and consumers find most actionable, filtering out the noise and personalising alerts to match.

From product design to supply chain management, Asia Pacific’s future-ready business are embedding AI within their most critical business processes. As with most technologies, successful application relies on aligning AI initiatives with concrete business outcomes. And still more importantly, with next-gen customers demanding both privacy and personalisation, AI calls for skilled human operators with the ability to know the technology’s limitations.