Interview with Shashi Seth, SVP, Oracle Marketing Cloud

Shashi Seth
Shashi Seth

“Data Science is pushing the effectiveness of email marketing in new directions, bringing us closer to human interaction.”

From eBay to Google to Oracle, tell us about your journey in product innovation.

My journey in product management really started at eBay, during a time when product manager roles hadn’t been fully defined. I was the first technical product manager hired at eBay to lead the establishment of a developer program, as well as set the strategic vision for their development platform. It was interesting to work at eBay in 2002 when it was still a small, and relatively unknown, but fast-growing company.

I learned a lot at eBay, but my real education in product management started at Google when I became part of the Search team. The art of modernization through experimentation was a key element of Google’s approach to the market. At Google, my team and I ran hundreds of trials to test dozens of ideas, and let the data determine, which features and functionalities were worth nominating for inclusion in the product. This hyper-growth, culture of innovation taught me the value of experimenting at light-speed, failing fast, learning from the outcomes and refraining from growing too attached to an idea before you have the data to back it up. The value of collecting, evaluating and learning from data was among the most important lessons I learned while at Google.

Despite getting exposure to AdSense and Adwords at Google, my first true exposure to advertising started at YouTube where I spent a ton of time figuring out video advertising at a time when it was still a nascent area of the market. My journey through product innovation continued to evolve over the years, regardless of whether I was at a start-up or a big company. I learned something new and different at every step of the voyage. In addition to rapid innovation and being data-driven, I would say the other most insightful things I experienced/learned in my career was the dramatic cultural shift and everyday user behavior during the transition from web to mobile. Designing products and innovating in a ‘mobile-first’ era changed the game dramatically, but I believe it was for the better.

What are the most cutting-edge skills for CMOs that could help them build stronger marketing teams?

As marketing’s top priority continues to rapidly move away from brand-building to focus more on revenue generation, every CMO is being challenged to re-imagine their organizations, processes, and tools. In this new world of marketing where data is the basis for success, modern CMOs have to be very strong at hiring the right people who bring strong capabilities in gathering data, understanding it and putting it to use. I believe CMOs need to focus not only on hiring people who already know how to be data-driven but also on training their teams to make data the engine that powers each and every one of their activities.

What is the context of “Right Content” in 2018, and how does it impact search and discovery results?

When humans interact with one another, they measure their words, tone, body language and much more based on the context of the conversation or situation. Similar to personal interactions, business and marketing communications need to be contextual, personalized and relevant.

Significant progress has been made on this front, but several more changes are coming. Good marketing is defined as introducing the right content, at the right time, on the right channel. The right headline, the right image or video, the right words, the right colors, the right call to action are all very important elements of a successful marketing interaction. In a world of rapid search and discovery, marketers only have a few milliseconds to inspire targeted audiences to pick the right content, which is why having the most impactful title and abstract can make a world of difference.

Similarly, a person’s decision on which email to open amongst the hundreds of emails arriving in their inboxes every day is typically determined by how attention-grabbing the email title is and any action taken by the reader thereafter is motivated by other elements inside the email. Data Science is pushing the effectiveness of email marketing in new directions, bringing us closer to human interaction.

How often do you measure the performance of your customers’ marketing efforts?

As one can imagine, at Oracle, where we run multiple thousands of marketing campaigns concurrently to more than 3,000 global customers, we generate and have access to tons of data. Our customers are eager to understand how their marketing efforts are doing, what kind of ROI they are getting from their investments, how they compare to others in their industry, etc. We recently started an effort to perform “Marketing Maturity Assessments” for our customers.

We do this by doing a ‘blind’ side-by-side comparison of our customers’ data with their industry peers, so as not to reveal any confidential customer data. This is one way we can determine the maturity of a marketing program.

We are also starting to build Data Science models that help us determine the most advanced features and capabilities that will have the biggest impact when used correctly. We are just starting to explore attribution models as part of this effort.

Early feedback from customers has been great and we are investing a lot of time and effort in growing this capability for our customers.

Oracle is a leading provider of CX technology in B2B. What are the biggest challenges in delivering relevant CX in a cross-channel campaign?

Omnichannel marketing is a key tenet of Oracle Marketing Cloud; however, we also realize the customer experience (CX) is not solely defined by marketing. Rather, CX is pervasive throughout the entire buyer’s journey. We are leveraging our key strength in the CX area to ensure each customer’s journey is consistent, relevant and personalized across all touch points — whether that is an email, SMS, push, web or mobile site, commerce, chatbot, etc. This requires a significant investment in first having a 360-degree view and understanding of each customer.

We already took a big and bold step, thereby launching a product called CX Audience, which allows audience segmentation to be used across all CX functions. We are also working on some cutting-edge products that will build upon the current capabilities in CX audience and give us a distinct lead in the customer data space.

What are your thoughts on the unification of automation and analytics platforms for marketing, sales and advertising?

Point solutions in sales, marketing, services, advertising, etc. are definitely running on borrowed time and are vestiges of the past. We are clearly seeing the convergence of these functions in organizations, and an increased focus on revenue generation and ROI. These unifications need to happen with specific use cases and the customer journey in mind.

Many of these solutions today are highly dependent on humans providing updates, manually setting up and managing marketing and advertising campaigns or filling out CRMs. Future marketing tools will remove many of these requirements and move much more towards algorithmic updates based on interactions, conversations, and actions. I believe in the next five years, these focus areas will be completely redefined.

How can programmatic algorithms further empower CMOs to meet customer-brand promises in digital ad markets?

Programmatic algorithms are already making complex economic decisions in financial trading markets with high-speed transactions that beat humans in terms of speed, consistency, and decision-making. Large DSPs and advertising platforms have also utilized complex pricing algorithms for over a decade now. In organizations where the leadership must do more with less, the need for strategic direction and wise use of funds is a constant challenge.

We believe Artificial Intelligence and/or Machine Learning-based algorithms will help CMOs decide how much to spend, on what programs or tools, at what point in time and on which customers. These upstream decisions have a very profound effect on downstream performance metrics, brand building, revenue generation and more.

What benefits do you extend to your customers and employees as part of your marketing transformation?

At Oracle, we are quickly transforming from a platform company to a solutions company. It is our mission to not only provide the best marketing automation solutions but also help our customers maximize these tools to deliver excellent ROI. We want to help every customer accelerate their marketing journey and quickly get to the point where they are taking market share away from their competition.

This requires that our customers not only take full advantage of and stretch the limits of our tools, but it also means we need to learn from our customers and create a product feedback loop that enables Oracle to deliver products that leapfrog traditional marketing solutions. I call this shared thought-leadership. This push-pull with our customers and employees really helps in the transformation and advancement of our solutions.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

If you don’t already have an idea and a plan for how AI will impact your business, you may be too late. This AI-centric world you speak of has been here for a while. I firmly believe that algorithms will pick up most — if not all — of the mundane tasks that humans currently need to perform in their day-to-day roles and do them better. There are already several examples of the benefits of automation happening all around us:

  • Airplanes flying on auto-pilot;
  • Cars that keep drivers in their lane, safely behind the car in front of them and automatically parallel park;
  • Robotic vacuum cleaners that suck up dirt from our floors without any human interaction;
  • Maps that identify the fastest route from point A to B and provide accurate turn-by-turn directions on how to get there;
  • Search functions that return a plethora of relevant results in milliseconds, drawing from a knowledge base of trillions of records, and much, much more.

We have been living in this world for a while now. At Oracle Marketing Cloud, we have invested heavily in the use of AI with the mindset that this intelligence is fueled by real-time access to massive amounts of data. Smart algorithms are increasingly being used to help maximize the performance of each step of the marketing automation process.

The impact of these investments immediately flows into the pockets of our customers. Oracle’s investment in AI also involves hiring more data scientists, training our existing employees and increasing employee access to AI tools and data. AI will no doubt be a defining technology of our future — both personally and professionally — but the truth is that ‘future’ is already here.

Thank you, Shashi! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Experienced leader with broad experience in all aspects of Product Management – including Monetization, and Strategy Development. Direct experience in Internet Video, Search and E-Commerce industry and excellent background and experience in technology. Skilled manager with experience building and managing teams. Strong experience in fostering innovation – both in product and strategy.

OracleThe Oracle Cloud offers complete SaaS application suites for ERP, HCM and CX, plus best-in-class database Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from data centers throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information about Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), please visit us at oracle.com.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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