How Retailers can Get Started with Personalization - Debjani Deb of ZineOne
This is daniel fidel of emerge artificial intelligence research. And you're listening to the ai in business. Podcast when you think about industries that have changed radically due to covid. Nineteen none probably come to faster than retail. The transition to e commerce has been swift has been unprecedented. And there's a lot of changes in terms of how retailers are having to approach interaction with their customer yes moving to digital yes moving to online but also how do we keep loyalty. We don't get to see them in person. How do we compete with the big players like amazon who stepped up to such a massive extent during covid and be able to compete realistically in our own niches in with our own businesses. We speak this week with someone who has an awfully sharp take on that space. Deb johnny depp. She's the ceo of zion. Ones one is a a i based personalization firm in the bay area. They've raised some fifteen million dollars. And if you go on their homepage you'll see brands like men's warehouse and even some financial services firms that they've worked with this week. Johnny speaks to us about two topics number one. How is she seeing the retail world reeling and responding to cove nineteen. What are the changes that are happening. What's the perspective boots on the ground in retail. Secondly i think this is a really interesting. Take what is sort of the scale of maturity of personalization where can companies start. And how should they think about first projects for building recommendations in personalization into their experience. She lays out a number of potential use cases. Companies could apply as well as some rules of thumb about sifting and sorting through those projects and thought that they were awfully helpful. If you're interested in learning more use cases in terminology for a i in retail be sure to download our ai in retail chichi you can go to emc. Rj dot com slash r. e. t. one that's not like retail than the number one. You can simply download our ai and retail chichi for free. It's a pdf guide. That hopefully give you some additional use cases on top of what you'll learn in this episode that's r. rj dot com slash. Our eighteen one without further. Ado this an awful fun episode and a lot out of it. This is deb johnny. Deb with zayn one here on the a in business podcast. So did johnny. We're gonna be talking about the transitions forward in e commerce in retail world. You guys are in the cutting edge of recommendations personalization. But i think the space is fascinating by itself. But we're now in this whole shift of the cove era that we're not out of yet. Maybe you and i both would have thought by now. We would be but we're not. How do you see the e commerce world bending in shifting to accommodate customers in this new system. What's the zeitgeist changed from your perspective. One question daniel. It's been fascinating to see this. You know as covid hits you know everything to set up a bit of a lockdown shock and all right. I think it has evolved into fascinating said those aspects. You know we see that. Governor actually publish says certain parts of the commerce spectrum sporting goods a groceries electronics exercise equipment really is at the forefront like really sort of popping in regards to their performance had there is the brick and mortar stores that are suffering in having trouble because people are not as much in the malls. One thing that is common through across all of this really is that the move to digital what would have happened in three years really has been in a condensed time frame of six seven months. If you would where the direct to consumer revenue through ecommerce have really sort of evolved very fast has in fact. Put a lot of pressure on these folks to do a lot more very fast. I have conversations with you know very large grocers things that they were thinking with three years out in regards to buy online. Pick up at store area functionality. Things they've had to do it overnight so there are things in technology that got in amazing push via day at m l. Just pure automation. That would have been much further out happening in a month timeline. Yes so we're seeing. I think this common idea of this being an accelerator to existing digital trends. I think is true as true in retail ecommerce says anywhere else in the if not more so clearly. You're seeing that. One thing that i think is easy for a layperson to observe or even a market researcher like myself to observe. Is that many of the firms in the mid market or even smaller large firms mostly or in integrate many cases seem to be kind of modeling the functionality of the big players who are a little farther along you mentioned pickup app store or whatever. I don't know how long ago was that walmart. Put that stuff out. I imagine they were somewhere on the cutting edge there. there's all kinds of maybe online promotions. It folks are doing. What are the kinds of new ideas that are that are entering this space. And what percentage of those are directly inspired from whoever they looked to as bigger competitors versus drawing from other industries. What are you seeing. Start to populate the new capabilities space of digital so. I think you know this has been to a certain extent a little bit of a if you would the covid every for mid market to the lighthouse customers. If you will because now the common languages everybody got to be digital ride. So the pressure is equal in regards to the sort of evolution. So you know the things that we are seeing. You know commerce right. It's a big one you know the adoption off. Cd b.'s customer data platform so that they understand the customers in a common way has become very part of the conversation the deployment of a and m. l. technologies that allow them to react to these customers. Sort of better. In a more competitively you would has become part of that conversation. All of them sort of leading to so the what does it take to get that edge in very pressurized environment which sort of covid has enabled so to a certain extent. We are seeing the tips off a new things that are coming along such a stash less commerce such as the rise of data the rise of aml technologies and so on so forth. Yeah i guess this kinda leads us in the direction of the next question which is what the the maturity in life cycle of those technologies actually looks like because a lot of firms are just making this wild swing into digital. Everything's moving so much faster than maybe they would have presumed and they're thinking about where to get started. I think a lot of people admire what amazon does but there's so many things amazon doesn't mean we can leave the warehousing and logistics out of it. Just talk about customization terms of your email prompts in promotions customization terms of. What's on your homepage. What's on individual product ages on your add to cart pages a bunch of suggestions before you check all the way out. All of these things are different functionalities types of personalization. And i think if the small folks are going to compete upstairs with the big folks you better hope you have loyalty because if it's just who has more money to throw at the tech you're going to lose so having a better relationship feels so important but where to start there's an unlimited number of places where recommendation can get going. You walk us through how you see companies maturing from nothing on the personal side maybe sending out some you having a loyalty program or something to really being more on the cutting edge. Look like yes. And i think that's a great question. Ill you know. The personalization immature to are really has come into focus in these times reading. What will mean why that is that one of my big sort of bad needs have been you know that the way to reach the customer you know who lost ten fifteen years really have been okay. I'm going to send them a lot of email. I'm gonna send them a lot of push notifications sms and sort of a spray rates. Hurry but as the market has evolved become more wetted. Already had had pressure in this code framework. As i call it. You know people have been compelled to do more. So what i mean by that. What is the trajectory. Understand the customer so that you can be value added. that's the fundamental data is plenty. There is a lot of data. How you use that data to add value to your customer really is the question. So if you think about personalization majority curve from left to right at the very bottom left you think about things like doing better email where you know your customer so i do want to get an email about an abandoned guard. I would welcome that. But i don't want get thirty thousand emails about new products. It's not specific to me. So and then you go sort of sort of the next step right. I m walking into a store to get my both order. Know that on their geofencing yesterday are plenty. Know that i'm there at the moment. I'm they're sort of uber has made this common. You need to know the location and if you know the location you can help them in that moment. Telling them as the order ready. Who's coming out to get it. Rather than make them wonder sitting there. Going is go further up ahead thinking about okay. They just bought x. number of things. What else goes with it. is there a repetitive nature. To what they just bought it nice from five days from them saying are you running low on x. maybe is welcome instead off. Here is a long list of coupons that everybody's getting the same list and the only saving grace is how fast i can find the garbage can throw it out at so really about. I bought x. Tell me about why at the right time predict when i would need it predict the time between the visits when i would needed and let me have it when i come back. No one little bit about me or a lot about me. Because i've been shopping there for a while either online or in the store and give me the items that i most by so put them on top. The island of things on ish grocery shelf has been assigned twenty years. What do you that i level. Should we not do that with online as well. Should we not put time into. I buy petite i a petite woman but i never see the petite material when i log into a women's clothing store. Wyatt's things so bad nature you know when we talk about machine learning it's not about just very deep signs than just what scientists think about. It really is really fundamental features that add value that can be powered by the signs. Such as the ones we've been talking about that add value makes my experience better makes me feel like amion est or even though i'm shopping online. Yeah yeah yeah and so in. Our audience will be certainly familiar that you know hiring people from carnegie mellon just for the sake of putting data out rhythms for fun is not even remotely on the radar for our audience. Luckily where we're here to get some business goals done certainly build. Ai functionality and infrastructure and the things that the technology needs we can't pretend like it's just a like a hammer or mallet. There is some technical stuff. You're getting value is where we're headed. And you've given us some great initial portfolio items. I'm just gonna shake out a couple of these and get some more than you thought. So you mentioned the general lens is how can i add value to the customer great general lens and to some degree some of that has occurred even with the old school or stuff even before email. There were some direct marketing. Mailers that were. Let's say a little. You know there were a little aggressive. But they were still calibrated personalized. Whatever and they were split tested in different ways and whatever. So there's some there's some mentality of that in marketers that exists but we talked even about more than marketing you mentioned. Hey for my pickup. When i show up within you know a certain geo region. What's the prompt that should be in front of me about my order about related orders and about whatever else. What should that be okay. Let's think about it. What would be the follow-up order at how much longer later and that will come by sms or email k. We think about it when i log in my homepage could be altered based on historical purchases if i purchase clothing for small folks again. Can you show me the new stuff for small folks instead of having me. Click six times to find the things that are relevant for me. All of these fit the bill of the lands. You asked us to put on. I wonder are there places where people typically start. When he frame this question. A little bit differently. I say men. I sure would like to get into personalization. I'm gonna come up with a plethora of ideas. I mean our our research on the ecosystem of ecommerce vendor firms is something like sixty seventy percent of the venture. Money's going things that we could probably could. Under the umbrella. Personalization recommendation almost analysts amazingly big so hiccups in store email. Sms related purchases detection of a different user. Maybe i shouldn't show the small clothing to. I should pursue all of these things right. Do we generally have guidance on where to start. Is it as simple as what is technically most feasible. What data's most accessible and what's most valuable to our customer. We we kind of score things along those three criteria to figure out what projects to begin with. You probably have a more sophisticated way to think about it but really thinking from a company whose coming at this fresh. There's so much where do they get going. Yeah i really think about this as crawl walk run yeah certainly certainly sort of based on the majority of the company it place to start and typically it is about start with something small where you're not boiling the ocean people talk about omni channel and the ubiquity of data etc cetera. But nobody but nobody not even walmart gets there. Overnight takes years for the week about stock with a single channel and start with a use case. That doesn't require a lot of data. I'll give you an example danielle. The one that is very interesting. is that broad. We call it product. The lost city. How many other people are buying this in this moment in time. That supports the motivation feature. That really drives revenue and you can get started with it on a single channel with no data except for the data coming from your website. Homepage personalization simple easy. The other one is offers. You know the one thing that everybody who's offers driven company does is give the same offer to everybody than percent off today. Take well. I might just be there to buy some toothpaste. I don't need ten percent off by it anyways so there is a lot of signs of good signs that's available around offers an offer optimization. That's fairly easy to do. Makes a huge difference in regards to revenue and margins. That can be done really out of the box you know. There is a bar a promo bar in on most sites the same one that stays it easy piece of real estate. It's on brady much every website and you can use that to talk to the individual rather than everybody so instead of twenty percent off you can say hello to me and you can say something about me. That would make me feel on special. I can see what they're talking to me so there are a few things like that. That doesn't require boiling the ocean. You want to set your sights towards that longer term treasury. You do one a single view of your customer. You do want to know the customer as the drivers different channels as you have them. But that's not day one. This more newman task doing everything at the same time. I think it's really important for people to hear that from you. Because i think that boiling the ocean is common so is treating. I like. it's plug and play. You know it's it's obviously somewhere in the middle we. We do have a whole to get to this omni channel future world. We've got to have a better data infrastructure. We've gotta have team leaders understand the value of data and can integrated with it and can make this a fluid part of how we do business and move and shake those are real foundation level changes however we can begin with specific areas where we can see impact on marginally to begin with specific projects. That don't involve the wild infrastructure changes. We can get some momentum. See some dollars. Come in a question to run by you just because you know we get. See these amount of this from the enterprise side. Is it often. When people begin with personalization they find ways that are yes technically feasible maybe not super date intensive but also that if they bet for lack of better way of saying it if they flip up a lot of customers aren't gonna really notice it in some way so there's some kind of personalization around. I don't know maybe it's like you mentioned offers right. Maybe it's like an email offer where a backseat goes out. That's a little bit off not the end of the world versus if your homepage for every user for the whole twenty four hours is really messed up on. Of course you would only do a cohort anyway. But we've seen some folks experimental personalization ways that are a little bit less jarring the experience because enterprises are a little skeptical in. Because it's new for them. Do you see that being something that people have to balance in think about when they go for first projects yes. It's interesting actually asked that question. You know one of the things that i have seen across a customers as they have delved into personalization is that the mentality is destined. Learn this day. I will cut over to echo experienced that the final right so for folks that are supplying personalization to the market. They have to gear up for that. Same mentality of fast experimentation could troon experimentation and the ability to give the enterprise fahd to success. So i think it is. It is about control roofs. It is about starting where you're comfortable it is about starting with one use case and with. Aml you know. The idea really is about do things. That are easily explainable. Because you don't want to treat any algorithm as a black box because that doesn't really help the outcome you're trying to achieve you. Want this to be very explainable deliverable roi generating and ultimate satisfying to consumer. You're trying to serve so there is a baby step again crawl and do it with testing testing and testing more testing to get your full deployment big time yet. I think marketing personalization. I think naturally lead to this kind of iterative approach. Ai needs that. Anyway so i think that's kind of a in my that's good news it's great we have a mindset that's maybe fitting a that's a beautiful thing and you guys have seen these kinds of experiences with big brands like north face a new working financial services so those of you listening in these are words in the wise. You've seen this stuff Hit the ground running and depth johnny. And that's we had time. But i appreciate you sharing some of that wisdom with us here on the show. Thanks so much. thank you for having me. This was a great conversation. So that's all for this episode of the business. Podcast a big. Thank you to deb. Johnny for being able to join us on this episode. And thank you to you for listening all the way through if you want to support the shell and you like what you're hearing here. Be sure to drop us a review on apple podcasts. 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