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PLDT, Smart drive digital transformation, offer ‘lifeline’ to small biz

PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) forge ahead in extending services that enable Filipinos to thrive in the new normal, reinforcing the “backbone” of the economy.

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PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) forge ahead in extending services that enable Filipinos to thrive in the new normal, reinforcing the “backbone” of the economy.

“In the face of massive job losses in lower income sectors due to the shutdown of retail services and establishments, e-commerce platforms serve as a lifeline for minimum wage earners and small business owners. More than the bigger establishments’ digital adoption, our network services and solutions allow small players to go into online retailing and thrive in the new normal,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart Communications President and CEO and PLDT Chief Revenue Officer, at a recent online summit hosted by the Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines.

The online summit series focused on reshaping the economy through inclusive business and highlighted the role of connectivity, e-commerce platforms and digital finance in the new normal, where customers have largely shifted from in-person transactions to online.

“An IBM research shows that in the space of 12 months, the pandemic has brought forward the transition from physical shopping to e-commerce by an estimated five years.  Banking has also gone digital. Payment and financial processing can be done in a click of a finger,” said Panlilio.

Workplace transformation

Panlilio added that, in addition to this shift, workplaces have also been transformed, alongside the entertainment needs of customers–both of which are empowered by connectivity and relevant services by PLDT and Smart.

“Analysts expect that in 2022 as much as 30% of the workforce will continue to work from home multiple days a week.  Meanwhile, as people stayed home for entertainment, broadband usage across the country rose exponentially,” he said, adding that these changes drove PLDT and Smart to rethink telco’s role as enabler of passions and utility on the internet, with a genuine focus on providing Filipinos with the tools and products to survive and thrive in the new normal.  

“The increased usage of data driven by work and study from home during the pandemic speaks of telco as a utility, while the increased use of data on a personal consumption level, such as video-streaming, online stories, e-games, etc., responding to the consumer’s need to be entertained and care for their overall wellbeing, describes telco as an enabler of people’s passion and purpose.  Both roles are equally important,” he stressed.

This is aligned with Smart’s “Live Smarter for a Better World” campaign, which highlights Smart’s role in enabling customers in their pursuit of passion and purpose and achieving “personal revolutions” that generate lasting positive impact to society through connectivity, long-running community partnership programs, and CSR initiatives.

To address these growing data needs, PLDT and Smart are continuously investing in their integrated fixed and wireless networks.

“Transitioning to the new digital reality requires internet speeds to increase, coverage to expand and reliability to improve,” he said, adding that the companies continue to invest in their network infrastructure, particularly in their 5G networks, subsea cables, and towers, in order to secure the future of our country in this increasingly digital world.

Currently, PLDT and Smart are ramping up the rollout of Smart’s 5G network nationwide, which now has over 2,600 sites–the most extensive 5G network in the Philippines.

“Our investment in fiber is also crucial and continuous, to support our increasingly connected societies.  This is broadly split into the fiber connecting our homes with high-speed internet, and the enterprise point-to-point fiber network servicing the growing data demands of government and enterprise clients,” he said.

PH as ‘hyperscaler hub’

In addition to ramping up their fiber installation and repair capabilities despite the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, Panlilio said PLDT is also building capacities to bring hyperscalers into the country. “Ultimately, our vision is to help make the Philippines a strategic hyperscaler hub in the region,” he said.

Alongside all these, Panlilio said that providing network services to support the country’s COVID-19 response remains a top priority.

“The fact that network services are a crucial component in our country’s COVID-19 response is something that we take to heart.  Working with our government to deliver fast and reliable connectivity that is easily accessible where they are needed, such as in COVID isolation facilities, hospitals, health centers, LGUs, etc., is top priority for us at PLDT and Smart,” he said. “For PLDT and Smart, and telco in general, two words stand out: service and connection.”

Underpinning these services is PLDT’s fiber network infrastructure, now over 429,000 kilometers, the country’s most extensive. This fiber also supports Smart’s mobile network, which covers 96% of the population from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.

These initiatives form a large part of PLDT’s capital expenditures, which totaled P460.7 billion in the last ten years. To address the growing data needs of their fixed and wireless customers, PLDT and Smart are prepared to invest between P88 billion and P92 billion in capital expenditures in 2021.

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E-commerce retailers can save money by considering pick failures at stores

While warehouses are built for efficiency in picking, packing, and shipping items, pick failures are much higher in physical stores that are not designed for these purposes for several reasons (e.g., customers moving inventory without tracking, delivery receiving and recording errors, issues with labeling, theft).

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The share of e-commerce retail sales has grown steadily over the last decade. This trend has been driven by retailers with traditional brick-and-mortar stores adopting online channels to connect to customers. In a new study, researchers explored the world of omnichannel retailing — the merging of in-store and online channels in which customers can select from a combination of online and physical channels to place and receive orders.

The study examined top U.S. retailers’ use of omnichannel ship-from-store programs in which retailers use store inventory to deliver orders to homes instead of using a dedicated warehouse or fulfillment center. For the first time, the study incorporated the possibility of fulfillment attempts at stores to fail and identified how such retailers can adopt a policy that leads to significant savings when these effects are considered.

Conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Onera, Inc., the study is published in Manufacturing & Service Operations Management.

“The rising trend in e-commerce has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with online sales jumping from 11.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 to 16.1 percent in the second quarter,” says Sagnik Das, a former Ph.D. Candidate in Operations Research at CMU’s Tepper School of Business, who led the study. “In omnichannel fulfillment, retailers attempt to minimize costs while fulfilling orders within acceptable time periods.”

Das and his colleagues focused on single-item orders. Typically, online orders are sent to a favorable sequence of locations to be filled in order. Failed trials (i.e., when orders are not filled) are sent to stores later in the order for further attempts until the process reaches a time limit.

“The problem of multistage order fulfillment is an interplay of pick failure — that is, the likelihood that orders will not be filled due to unavailability — at the stores where they may be shipped from, walk-in demand at the stores, and associated shipping costs,” explains R. Ravi, Andris A. Zoltners Professor of Business, and of Operations Research and Computer Science, at CMU’s Tepper School of Business, who co-authored the study.

As stores become an integral part of retailers’ fulfillment strategy in omnichannel ship-from-store programs, the high rate of pick failures at stores becomes a considerable factor in fulfillment costs. While warehouses are built for efficiency in picking, packing, and shipping items, pick failures are much higher in physical stores that are not designed for these purposes for several reasons (e.g., customers moving inventory without tracking, delivery receiving and recording errors, issues with labeling, theft).

Researchers modeled the problem as one of sequencing the stores from which an attempt is made to pick based on anticipated pick failure and ship an order in the most cost-effective way over several stages. To identify the best solution to the fulfillment problem, they modeled pick-failure probabilities as a function of current inventory positions and the result of other online order fulfillment trials.

The study used data on actual orders from several top U.S. retailers that worked with an e-commerce solutions provider to optimize their fulfillment strategies. Researchers proposed three order fulfillment models: one in which physical and online demand were both sparse, another in which physical demand was dense, and another in which both demands were dense. They extended the third model to also incorporate order acceptance decisions along with sequencing the stores from where they are filled once accepted.

By enabling retailers to incorporate the probability of pick failure in their order management systems for ship-from-store programs, the study’s proposed online order-acceptance policies saved omnichannel retailers as much as 22 percent. Specifically, they identified the optimal sequence of stores to try the accepted orders to minimize costs; one of the policies also uses these downstream costs to determine when to shut off the online channel for selling certain items based on current inventory availability levels.

“Our study demonstrates that modeling pick failures along with their interaction with selecting and shipping costs is an important component in optimizing ship-from-store fulfillment costs for large retailers,” says Srinath Sridhar, Chief Technology Officer at Onera, Inc., who co-authored the study.

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Choosing a lucky CEO means bad luck for the hiring company

Sometimes CEOs happen to attain outstanding performance thanks to events beyond their control. Firms that subsequently hire them pay them more and experience declining results, according to a study.

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Seneca, the Roman stoic philosopher, wrote that “luck does not exist.” Modern managerial studies take the liberty of disagreeing. Luck exists in the form of events that are beyond the control of CEOs and firms alike. Movements in oil prices and the business cycle (e.g., variations in GDP growth, and employment rate) that boost the market value of firms are a couple of examples.

A recent study by Mario Daniele Amore (Bocconi University, Milan) and Sebastian Schwenen (Technical University of Munich) found that choosing a lucky CEO means bad luck for the hiring company.

Good luck allows CEOs to “shine” in the labor market, making them more likely to leave their firm. “The hiring companies, though, are not perfectly able to separate out luck from task performance in their candidate pool,” Prof. Amore explained. “Therefore, lucky CEOs are likely to possess greater bargaining power vis-a-vis new firms’ shareholders, and thus gain benefits in the form of higher compensation and more attractive job assignments.”

Using a sample of S&P 1,500 US firms from 1992 to 2018, the authors found a positive association between a CEO’s luck at the departing firm and the level of pay at the new firm. Specifically, this larger pay is mostly made of non-cash compensation items like stocks awards and options, rather than salary and bonus. More interestingly, lucky CEOs were observed to move more swiftly to new firms and to have a shorter time-spell between CEO jobs.

Authors also observed that the increase in lucky CEOs’ bargaining power especially occurs in less competitive industries.

Unfortunately, incoming CEOs’ luck is also associated with a subsequent decline in the performance of the hiring firms. In particular, the performance of firms that hired low-luck CEOs gradually improves, whereas the performance of firms that hired high-luck CEOs experiences a moderate decline.

What is worse, luck may induce an attribution bias: high-luck CEOs, or the boards that hire them, misattribute luck-driven performance to observed individual actions, with the consequence that lucky CEOs will likely implement at the hiring firm the same corporate investment policies they implemented in their former companies, irrespective of their real effectiveness.

“Luck increases the attractiveness of CEOs in the managerial labor market of less competitive industries, bringing about higher bargaining power of lucky CEOs to transit swiftly and earn more. Nevertheless, appointing a lucky CEO is associated with poorer company performance and slower growth,” Professor Amore concluded.

Mario Daniele Amore and Sebastian Schwenen wrote “Hiring Lucky CEOs”, which was published in The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization.

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Purpose beyond profit: How brands can benefit consumer well-being

I a brand adequately addresses moderating factors, the potential benefits to consumers and marketers are considerable. These factors include consumer trust, brand authenticity, brand credibility, commitment to purpose, consumer-value congruence, and brand-purpose proximity.

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Researchers from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University published a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology that offers fresh insights into “brand purpose” and its potential benefits to consumers.

The article, “Conceptualizing brand purpose and considering its implications for consumer eudaimonic well-being,” is authored by Patti Williams, Jennifer Edson Escalas, and Andrew Morningstar.

In response to industry reports, apparent consumer demand, and high-profile calls from top executives including BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink, brands have publicly begun pursuing purpose beyond profit. Brands in a wide variety of categories have sought to define, articulate, communicate, and act according to their “brand purpose.” 

The authors define brand purpose as a brand’s long-term aim central to “identity, meaning structure and strategy” that leads to productive engagement with some aspect of the world beyond profit.  

This research team explores the different types of well-being consumers may experience by engaging with brands they believe reflect their own values. Specifically, they focus on eudaimonia, a feeling of fulfillment resulting from living a meaningful life, contributing meaningfully to society, and acting in alignment with moral virtues.

Their framework cites five mediating factors that affect the relationship between brand purpose and consumer well-being: consumer purpose, meaning and significance, self-acceptance/achievement of true self, positive relationships, and other-praising emotions.  

The article suggests that, if a brand adequately addresses moderating factors, the potential benefits to consumers and marketers are considerable. These factors include consumer trust, brand authenticity, brand credibility, commitment to purpose, consumer-value congruence, and brand-purpose proximity.

While consumers may gain a vital sense of well-being; marketers, may secure positive brand judgements, brand loyalty, and brand evangelism.

“The ultimate goal of our review,” the authors write, “is to guide future consumer psychology research into brand purpose, a concept that we believe may have a transformative impact on business, consumers, and society.

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