MarTech Interview with Andrew Steele, CEO at LighthousePE

While customers demand a higher degree of personalization through every marketing campaign, marketers have to be smarter and more sensitive about how they collect customer data to drive deeper personalization gains, Andrew Steele, CEO at LighthousePE shares a few observations:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Andrew, tell us about your B2B Tech journey so far and about LighthousePE?

I moved to Silicon Valley in 1998 during the first dot-com boom to work for a startup that ended up getting acquired six months later by Microsoft. I had a great couple of years at Microsoft post-acquisition, but always felt a calling in the startup world. It was from that point that my entrepreneurial journey started. 

After leaving Microsoft, I led sales and marketing for companies that got acquired by Comcast and Motorola, and then co-founded my first startup in 2009, called Truedomain. It was in the email security space, and it actually helped inform what the big email providers like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo! ultimately implemented with the DMARC standard. We helped shape the direction there. 

I moved to Arizona in 2014, and within a couple of months, I partnered with a neurologist to co-found BeckonCall, which is a mobile on-call communication platform for doctors. We started it in 2015, and it’s still going strong with customers in about 20 different states. As that business hit its stride, that’s when I got involved with LighthousePE in late 2019.

LighthousePE was born out of a local marketing agency. They built the technology to help their brick-and-mortar customers generate more foot traffic and create more personalized experiences. They quickly discovered this platform had potential beyond just their clients. I was brought in as CEO to help spin this platform out into its own company and expand its technology and market penetration…

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How has the LighthousePE product evolved over the years?

LighthousePE initially began as a tool within a marketing agency used to help their clients engage with their customers through their mobile apps in a more personalized way. The premise of the platform was to leverage proximity engagement to achieve that goal. Not to be confused with mobile marketing or location-based marketing, proximity engagement is a more precise and personalized form of technology designed to communicate with customers on a 1:1 basis. Where location-based marketing typically only uses location information to send the same message to any customer in the area, proximity engagement combines geographic location with other known data about the customer to engage them with timely and relevant messages or offers that are more individually personalized. At its core, proximity engagement is about using data to understand the specific preferences of each customer to deliver a message the customer actually wants in the moment it is most relevant, not simply sending a broadcast message you might want them to receive.  

This tool proved so effective for the small group of clients in which we were implementing it we decided to launch a strategy to expand our footprint beyond just clients of the agency. In just two years, we’ve expanded to the food and beverage, casino and salon and spa industries. We’ve also evolved the technology––and continue to––to become a true AI-driven solution. 

How in your view will sensitivity toward privacy become stronger in the marketplace in 2022 and what should brands and platform providers be doing to adjust to these changes?

More consumers will continue to expect privacy. It will be table stakes for all brands. While customers will continue to want more personalized experiences, they want to be the ones directing what information brands are utilizing to create those experiences. Brands will have to prioritize transparency and many will likely need to adjust the way they market to, and engage with, their customers. This is why first-party, opt-in data is becoming so valuable to brands in essentially every industry. 

Much of the attention surrounding consumer privacy understandably tends to focus on increasing restrictions on the use of third-party data. What has been largely overlooked, however, is the opportunity to shift focus to opt-in, first-party solutions that respect consumers’ privacy. That’s really the core foundational principle behind proximity engagement––that brands acquire and use first-party consumer data within the context of a trust-based relationship to improve their customers’ experience and deliver more value to them, not to monetize with third parties by selling it or selling ads against it. 

What are some of your top predictions surrounding customer privacy in 2022?

A number of privacy laws, like CPRA, CPA and VCDPA, will kick into gear in the next couple of years, and we’ll likely see more privacy laws be enforced at the state level. I would also expect that Google and Apple will continue to expand the limitations on how brands are allowed to collect consumer data outside of an opt-in scenario, and what they’re able to do with it outside of using it for their own product or service. But I see this as a good thing. It only means brands will have to prioritize first-party, opted-in information––and that unquestionably creates an all-around better experience for the consumer. 

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As marketers start getting accustomed to changing trends, when it comes to privacy, how can they enhance the user experience by adhering to customer’s data privacy matters?

The best way marketers can enhance the customer experience while adhering to privacy is to prioritize transparency. Let your privacy rules and guidelines be known to your customers. What is being collected and why? How is it being used? Make it easy for them to self direct what information they share with your brand. Secondly, shift marketing strategies to relying on first-party, opted-in information. It goes back to the fundamentals of “permission marketing”, which is what we should all be doing anyway. It paves the path to better conversion rates, deeper brand loyalty, and more truly personalized experiences.

A few thoughts on how you feel martech as a segment will move in 2022?

Because there is such a concerted effort around privacy protection, I think martech as a segment will have to become more reliant on first-party data. Personalization will continue to be a priority and it will no longer be just reserved for the big players like Amazon and Netflix––consumers will come to expect it across all the brands they engage with. Additionally, I think there’s going to be a big push around creating connected experiences in which the personalized messages and offers they receive in their email inbox, for example, mirror their mobile and in-person experiences. 

As an example, in quick-serve restaurants, a brand might send a personalized offer to a customer based on their purchase history and preferences, then send that same offer when they’re within a mile of the restaurant and it’s nearing lunchtime. That offer will then display on the digital menu when the customer pulls into the drive-through, inviting them to take advantage of it. This will extend beyond digital channels as well. The way in which employees engage with customers will also be shaped by first-party insights.

Some last thoughts, takeaways, digital marketing and martech tips and best practices before we wrap up!

My two cents: I think in many ways, the proliferation and easy access to mountains and mountains of consumer data has let digital marketers rely too heavily on data science and get a little lazy with the basics of how to be good marketers. A lot of martech today relies exclusively on explicit relationships between a handful of data points, which misses a huge part of the picture. Don’t get me wrong, data science is a massively valuable tool, but as access to broad swaths of third-party data becomes increasingly more difficult, I think a lot of marketers are going to have to reorient themselves with the 5 P’s––especially the fifth one, ‘People’.  To me, as a marketer, data is only as valuable as its ability to help me understand what my audience wants and expects from my brand, and helps me engage them where they are––physically, and from a mindset perspective––to strengthen their love for, and loyalty to, my brand and ultimately to do business with me more often. That’s the beauty of the emergence of proximity engagement technology, because that’s exactly what it’s designed to do.  

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LighthousePE is the proximity engagement platform. Its technology analyzes patterns in location and behavioral data to automate highly personalized mobile content and offers that enable businesses of any size to strengthen customer loyalty and drive more repeat business. Built with privacy at its core and using consumer opt-in principles, LighthousePE enables truly authentic personalization at scale.

Andrew Steele is the CEO of LighthousePE where he leads overall product, go-to-market and capital strategies for the company. Andrew has more than 25 years of operational and leadership experience, previously serving as CEO of Breezing, a spinout from Arizona State University formed to commercialize chemical sensor technology for healthcare applications. He also co-founded and served as the CEO of BeckonCall, a mobile-SaaS communication platform for healthcare providers.

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