Tell us about your role and journey into Technology. What inspired you to start Blue Acorn?
I started Blue Acorn out of a passion for Ecommerce. At the time, I was a CRM consultant by day, and I spent my nights and weekends starting and growing an online retail business. I learned everything I could about Ecommerce from technology, to digital marketing, to analytics and through all of that realized that there weren’t any companies that focused solely on helping other companies succeed in Ecommerce. I eventually decided to hone that passion by helping other companies find success in selling products online.
What is Blue Acorn and how does it fit into a modern Content Marketing Technology stack?
Blue Acorn is an Ecommerce Agency that drives revenue growth to our clients by creating and optimizing the shopping experience for their customers. Our approach is rooted in data – both quantitative and qualitative – to inform where to invest time and energy that yield the best results. We fit into the customer journey from the moment someone lands on the website, until the moment they make a purchase – everything in between that is our sweet spot.
Tell us more about your merger with iCiDIGITAL CX and the acquisition of BrandShop?
A shared thesis between myself and my partners at Beringer Capital – is that Customer Experience is the battleground in which brands will succeed or fail. Blue Acorn addressed part of the customer experince – but our clients, and our market, demands partners that can help them across the customer journey – not just one point of it. While Blue Acorn mastered the online shopping experience, we saw the opportunity to couple that with content, data, marketing, and digital commerce operations to deliver to our clients deep expertise all of the way from acquisition through the uboxing experience.
How do you plan to extend the benefits of these developments to your existing customers and prospects?
The first step we’ve taken is internal eductation – our teams need to know and understand what we do across our offices and practices. With that foundation laid, we have been evaluating our client’s needs and introducing them to our broader set of capabilities and we’ve already seen interest from a number of clients in our broader offering.
How does Blue Acorn improve brand-customer relationship?
The brand-customer relationship is all about the customer experience – and we offer brands a collection of services to deliver upon an experience driven commerce premise. Many brands are still new to managing direct to consumer relationships – and we’re able to deliver rich experiences to their customer whether it be through digital marketing, third party marketplaces, their own website, on the phone through our call center, or all the way through the delivery and unboxing experience. These are all brand-customer touchpoints that we deliver for our clients. Coupled with a rich data layer beneath it all, we’re able to not only provide those customers top-tier service, but also leverage the data to unearth additional opportunities for our clients.
Where do you see AI and machine learning technologies improving Brand Advocacy programs using Content?
We’re already seeing websites leverage AI to personalize experiences for visitors. What used to be a manual process of identifying segments, defining the attributes for those segments, allocating customers and visitors to those segments, and then delivering personalized content based on the visitor’s segment – can now be machine learned. Defining some inputs, a few different variations, and a metric to optimize against – we’re seeing AI tools being developed to automate the entire personalization process.
According to you, which businesses are fastest to adoption of Content Experience platforms?
The brands that have executive leadership that believes customer experiences is the battleground. And they believe with their wallet. Customer Experience is the new marketing – and those that believe that delivering the right messaging, to the right person, at the right time – are those that are going to be the fastest to adopt Content Experience platforms. Those that lag, will be stuck delivering the same experience, with the same content, and the same information to everyone, and pretty quickly we’ll see that become quite “old-fashioned”.
What are the technical challenges that you face in adoption and deployment of AI and NLP capabilities at an Enterprise-level?
Our clients are often dependent on a network of highly specialized software and marketing tools to engage with their customers. Many of them have started incorporating AI into their tools – however – they’re all disconnected. Not every AI is the same, and when you want to deliver consistent, seamless experiences across touchpoints – we’re now seeing different AIs delivering different parts of that journey which can introduce inconsistent results from one step to the next. Think about this, if you use an ESP that uses AI to optimize your email content for click-throughs to your landing pages. Then you use a landing page solution that also has AI baked in to optimize conversion. But each solution is from a different software vendor, that has their own, proprietary AI driving them. It can lead to many different AIs influencing the customer journey instead of one common shared solution. This makes a strong case for content experience platforms that centralize content delivery leveraging one AI engine to power the experience across a number of touchpoints.
Which markets and geographies are you currently catering to?
We currently focused on North American-based companies that operate nationally and globally.
Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use in your current roles?
We currently use Salesforce and Pardot.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
In particular to our market – the need for our brands and retailers to shift from channel-centric solutions to customer-centric solutions requires a host of new technologies with new approaches. Things that centralize order management, product management, content management, and customer management. One are of particular interest to me is on the customer management side. Traditional CRMs focus on B2B application – sales funnels, leads, opportunities, etc. But, in order to build an engagement model with consumers directly – a different type of CRM is needed – a direct to consumer CRM. One in particular that I’ve been watching is Zaius – who’s really one of the only to brand itself as a D2C CRM. Solutions like that allow companies to have one centralized view of their customer and all of their interactions – and with that information – you can leverage it to power personalized experiences across marketing, ecommerce, service, etc.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Marketing Technology leader?
Preparation involves education. AI is a relatively new field for everyone, and we’re all learning about its uses and implications. The question to always be asking is how can AI be applied to a situation to drive a better result, with less resources. We’ve only dipped our toe in the water as to what it is capable of but we must educate ourselves, and we must try it – even in specific use-cases. There is an inevitability that AI-powered systems will automate much of what people are doing today – so either master leveraging AI for your benefit in helping you acheive business objectives, be in a defensible position that can’t be replaced with AI, or prepare yourself for the time when you need to find a new career field.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
“Our people” are generally technologists by nature – so it doesn’t take much to inspire them to work with technology. Really, the challenge no matter where someone falls on the “technology maturity spectrum” – it’s a question of inspiring them to work with technology that is beyond their comfort zone. Giving people comfort about trying new things, like a new technology, is important. Helping them to see the benefit to them (“what’s in it for me?”), and getting them comfortable with new technology are important actions to take. But also demonstrating how others have used it to their benefit – sharing stories to inspire them – speaks to the practical application and benefit rather than the theoretic benefit.
One word that best describes how you work.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Excel, PowerPoint, Slack, Zoom
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Sunday night work routines gets me off to a head start on the week and helps me think through and plan my week before it begins.
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I don’t read books, actually. Generally stick to short-form industry and business publications.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Not sure who specifically told me this or where it originated, but somewhere along the way I picked up an important lesson to always be learning.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
I’m a constant problem solver with broad-based knowledge.
Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Roy Rubin, Marc Benioff
Thank you, Kevin! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Kevin Eichelberger is the Co-CEO at Blue Acorn iCi. He is an entrepreneurial-minded technologist that leverages his strengths as a strategist, innovator, and leader to drive towards a far-sighted vision.
As the Founder & CEO of Blue Acorn he not only laid the groundwork, foundation, and vision for the organization, he also defined and executed strategies over the years that have exceeded my original expectations.
He has been published in Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, The Chicago Tribune, Internet Retail, and various other national business and trade publications. An accomplished presenter and speaker, he has also been a featured presenter at industry events including IRCE, Fashion Digital, Conversion Conference, Opticon, Magento Imagine, Innovate, and DIG South.
Blue Acorn iCi is the only digital consumer experience company pioneering what’s possible through the convergence of analytics, ecommerce, content management, and full-service commerce offerings.
In an era of heightened expectations, it’s crucial to create exceptional interactions and experiences. No other company brings together engineers, data scientists, retail experts, designers and strategists to expand your reach, accelerate your sales, service your customers and grow your business. Through these integrated capabilities and unparalleled expertise, Blue Acorn iCi makes content and digital commerce more effective for your organization.
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.