The Future of Consumption: A Question of Trust

As a boy growing up in Hong Kong, I often joined my father on business meetings. These meetings typically took place in restaurants in Kowloon, loud, crowded, and smoky, where deals were sealed over rice wine. Trust was established.

Today the noise is online — deals are made with the click of a mouse rather than the tinkle of glasses. In digital, trust is equally required for trading to flourish.

At Davos this week, global leaders are discussing the future state of business. Trust has been eroded in many parts of the global economy. Governments are taking actions, like introducing GDPR, which gives control of data sharing back to consumers. Corporations like BlackRock are now beginning to link investment decisions to social action by businesses.

Governments and businesses have a responsibility to add trust again in the global economy. It is as good for consumers as it is for business growth. Technology is critical in making this possible. I believe we have a responsibility to contribute to economic growth and social inclusion by matching disruptive technologies to new models of consumption.

Governments and businesses have a responsibility to add trust to the global economy. Transparency in the supply chain adds trust.

At SAP Ariba, we saw how the fight against human trafficking begins with sourcing. Everyone on the supply chain is impacted by human rights abuses in the supply chain all the way to the retail store. Transparency in the supply chain adds trust. At SAP Hybris, we know a thing or two about commerce and retail. We know that consumers want their identities and data protected but expect simple, seamless, and tailored experiences, no matter whether they are buying shoes or a health insurance policy.

What excites me most about my new role as president of SAP Hybris? The topic of top-line growth and changing consumers is of course at the heart of the digital transformation. But I am also excited about our role in establishing trust between businesses and consumers. As billions of new consumers will be joining the global economy, our responsibility as SAP is to enable sustainable commerce for our customers and support the circular economy to achieve our mission to make the world run better and improve people’s lives.

In fact, the front office is at the core of the digital transformation. No part of the technology world is changing faster than B2C. The way people engage with brands has the potential for so much disruption and ground-breaking technologies like artificial intelligence and IoT are already transforming business and operating models. Robots in retail? It’s happening now. Smart traffic solutions to China’s densely populated cities? Check!

Back in the 1970s in Hong Kong, did anyone really suspect the door to the Middle Kingdom would not just crack, but burst open to a world of innovation? Today, my peers across government and industry agree about the potential for technology to offer sustainable benefits for business and society across both developed and emerging markets. Do you agree? Let me know.