Tell us about the major milestones in your career as a Marketing professional?
I went from being a Product Marketing manager at a Marketing Cloud company to a CMO in under two years – something I would have never expected. Actually, to be the CMO of a rapidly evolving business like Zoovu is a milestone in itself, the past few months have been a whirlwind, building a world-class Marketing team in six months going from 2 to 10 members. Highlights include a full rebrand from; company name, brand colours, logo and entirely new website in under two months. The brand also achieved over 100% growth last year. This, too, is an amazing milestone and it feels so rewarding to be part of something like this.
We saw some of the biggest M&As in MarTech and Adtech in 2019. What cue did you take from these tech M&As to build a roadmap at Zoovu for 2020-2024?
The rise in M&A activity is interesting because it shows how the industry is shifting and reshaping to offer the most value for brands and retailers, equipping them for the period of change ahead. We’re particularly following the conversational category where we’re expecting to see more activity in the coming 12 months.
You head Marketing for a Conversational Search Platform. What does the future for this industry look like in the coming years?
We’re on the cusp of a turning point in search, as consumer attention and patience dwindles. More businesses are adopting conversational search – whether it be in the search bar, online, in-store or via robots. It won’t be long before the conversational search will be everywhere because demand is rising fast – in fact, the adoption of our platform is up 80.9%. As the popularity of voice assistants and smart devices rises, this will also see the rise of unstructured Voice search.
Social media will also deliver massive change. Instagram is the fastest growing social media channel and, while adverts are massive, much more needs to be done in terms of helping customers search and find what they’re looking for. Social media integrations are going to be key for the success of this industry.
It’s a very close battle between Voice and Online Search companies. Which Voice platforms have made the most profound impact on your Marketing agenda?
Leveraging Voice search is at the forefront of the Marketing agenda because it not only offers new opportunities for retail and e-commerce, but it is a massive shift in the way we communicate, culturally. Brands will be able to launch innovative Marketing campaigns, increase brand awareness and customer retention, all through Voice and in a way that hasn’t been done yet. This is going to reshape Marketing strategies, and not just at Zoovu.
The rise of Voice search will change the way consumers search and find products, how ad campaigns are run and delivered, which will impact wider Marketing initiatives. The reason Voice is going to move ahead of online is that it is a much better medium than online to understand user intent and context.
Tell us what you think about Amazon capitalizing on its position as the No.1 consumer search destination? What is influencing Amazon’s battle with Google and Facebook?
As an avid Amazon shopper, I am not surprised. Amazon is the #1 shopping destination in the US with 79% of consumers starting their search journey there. Amazon is not an advertising machine but a product machine and so people get to see first-hand vast product selections relevant to them without the content push and adverts provided by Google. It is also a different need to that of the other major tech brands.
Amazon, Facebook and Google are all focused on data collection and, while they capture it in different ways, they are all engaged in a race for consumer understanding and how better to engage these consumers to shop.
How is the rise in Voice search likely to impact Retailers? Have you seen any Brands that have done this well?
Voice search will change e-commerce for the better. Consumers will be able to navigate search using their Voice – cutting out jabbing fingers and sore necks from having our heads down all the time. For this vision to be realized, retailers need to invest in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and new secure payment gateways. For instance, Android Voice search users can already use Google wallet to make payments. Customer experience and retention also needs to be improved. An example of a brand doing this well is Nestlé. It created a Voice-led experience for customers to improve their skills through guided verbal instructions.
Which other brands and retailers can learn to take a bite off its market share?
To a degree, we can all learn from Amazon but those that would benefit the most would be any brand or retailer that is looking to expand its Marketing strategy and keep on trend with the ever-growing needs of today’s consumers.
What does this mean for marketers and brands looking to capitalize on the changing nature of consumer behavior?
They need to start thinking more carefully about how they engage with their audience and learn how to quickly pick up on trends. The need to be even more data-centric and leverage tools that help them do this – we’re going to see marketers shifting to be even more analytic than ever before.
We’re seeing a rampant adoption of AI, Blockchain, and RPA in the Voice and related tech businesses. What approach do you take in digitally transforming your operations with AI ML and RPA techniques? Have they borne you satisfactory results?
As mentioned, we doubled our growth last year, so we must be doing something right when it comes to AI. The fact that our AI and Machine Learning is proprietary means more of the same for 2020 and beyond.
What are your predictions for your product line in the APAC + ANZ markets for 2020-2024?
At the moment, we’re looking more towards the US and European markets and consolidating our position there. But all being well, expanding our platform and teams to target countries in those regions is something we’re considering in the future, especially in South Africa and Australia where we think there are some good growth opportunities.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Marketing leader?
You get busier, that’s for sure. We are already in an AI-centric world but things are evolving and changing quickly. If Marketing functions haven’t already started to implement AI to help with data and marketing strategies then they better get started.
This Is How I Work
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
For me, it’s easy. I lead a Marketing team in the tech industry, so every single person shows their excitement and passion every day. My philosophy is, ‘you can’t solve tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s solutions’ which means my entire team keeps one eye firmly on the future, finding new ways to work and make our lives easier, and our work more efficient.
One word that best describes you
Which superwoman/real-life icon/literary character do you profoundly connect with and look to emulate in real life?
She Hulk- she is smart, intelligent, confident so not just a green brute :- )
Also, does Captain Marvel count?
I like to think of myself as being there for both friends and colleagues, I have an innate protective nature for those close to me. You reap what you sow and treating your colleagues and team the way you would treat others in your life outside of work is just as important. We are all in it together and I think Captain Marvel manages that well – “Savior of the day, a great ally, team player and friend.”
What startups in the technology industry have sparked your interest?
I love Monday.com. The concept of what it does is simple but the Marketing around it is just amazing. Monzo is another one I’m watching. It recently launched in the US and it is genuinely changing the way people are banking. Bulb energy is another one. Perhaps an odd one to choose but, again, it is changing the way people use energy.
All of these companies are redefining the status quo of established industries and behaviors. My favorite of all is Phrasee. It is a subject line prediction company and it sends very entertaining emails on a Thursday – AI-driven subject lines that know how to attract and engage – I’m always telling people about it – very interesting and different!
What is the secret to your success?
It wouldn’t be a secret if I told you…but seriously, I think that drive, determination and passion are core to any success. Surrounding yourself with a team that fundamentally believes in what you’re trying to achieve is imperative. I also believe in coaching and letting people grow into their roles. Being a mentor and an example to your team is very important.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.
Steven Van Belleghem – a real visionary when it comes to blending the worlds of technology and consumer culture.
Thank you, Sarah! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Sarah is the Chief Marketing Officer at zoovu
Since joining the team, Sarah has successfully helped to facilitate the company’s close of its Series B funding round in early 2019. Prior to this role, she has held Product Marketing roles for various successful companies in the MarTech and Retail spaces, previously working in Product Marketing at Selligent and SmartFocus.
Zoovu is the ultimate AI-driven conversational search platform helping customers find the things they’re looking for by having a conversation – not by typing or talking keywords!
We turn every search into a conversation that leads to a fruitful shopping experience for the customer, the brand, and the retailer! Our AI-driven search platform interacts with millions of consumers, collecting hundreds of millions of data points every day. This stream of customer data combined with Zoovu’s machine-learning algorithms helps digital commerce professionals optimize and personalize each customer interaction through a series of questions and answers that lead them to confident purchasing decisions. Zoovu clients see a 211% uplift in conversion and a 47% average order value uplift.