MarTech Interview with Michael Kahn, Global CEO at Astound Commerce

Michael Kahn, Global CEO at Astound Commerce shares a few thoughts on the evolution of digital commerce and what future trends will redefine this segment in this chat with MarTech Series:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Michael, tell us more about your day at work and what’s it like as Global CEO at Astound Commerce?

First, and foremost, it is a privilege to be Global CEO at Astound Commerce. Ours is a left-brain-leaning company that provides mission-critical digital commerce solutions to leading brands like L’Oréal, FLOR, TOMS, and Crocs. This perspective permeates the organization, the work we do and the way the team passionately works together to deliver it.

Given that we are a global company, I start my days around 5 a.m. to sync up with developments across our network and thereafter spend the day driving the strategic agenda for the company. I/we leverage a balanced scorecard methodology for driving our strategies and plans, which includes the dimension of Financials, Market Leadership, Products & Processes, and Talent, Learning & Growth.

Our goal is to outperform the marketplace, and I work to serve the organization and team each day to do so.

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What are some of the biggest trends you’ve been observing in digital commerce and how are today’s innovations in this segment changing the game for brands?

The pandemic and technological advancements have combined to dramatically expand demand for digital transformation, and as part of this digital commerce solutions. This dynamic has been true across both B2C- and B2B-focused businesses.

So, the biggest trend has been a seismic moment in time, and a shift in focus to digital platforms and programs. This has put unprecedented pressure on resourcing and talent to fulfill marketplace needs across the ecosystem.

In parallel to a digital landscape moving faster than ever before, we see four major application trends:

  1. The push for agile approaches that drive continuous advancement and improvement across digital commerce experiences
  2. The push for headless commerce that delivers adaptive and custom fulfillment across all digital commerce touch points
  3. The push for always-on managed service support to ensure the velocity and vibrancy of digital commerce solutions
  4. The greater harmonization of B2C and B2B approaches as all businesses fully realize there is a consumer with common expectations waiting to be served

We’d love to dive into Astound Commerce’s platform. What’s in store in the near-future in terms of upcoming innovations that users can look forward to?

Astound Commerce is a professional services organization focused on maximizing the brand and business value of every digital commerce touch point. Before the buy button, at the point of purchase, and post the buy button.

In support of this mission and as we head into 2022, as a company we are focusing on:

  • The application of analytics and data to drive greater understanding of each touch point’s brand value and opportunity
  • The bench marking of performance across each touch point to make sure the brands and businesses we serve win at the moment of truth
  • The build out of solutions covering Growth, Design, Demand and Technology to maximize the opportunity and return on digital commerce channel investments
  • The implementation of repeatable components and processes to drive speed to market and revenue
  • The acquisition, on boarding, training, and retention of talent at scale to serve increased marketplace demand; this last point of focus underpins the rest

A few predictions that you have for this marketplace and what trends will drive digital commerce in the years to come?

Based on the current digital commerce channel demand shift, I predict continued accelerated demand for digital commerce ecosystem solutions and talent.

Because of raised expectations and sophistication, I also predict that we will see brands with a growing need for a solutions marketplace based on adaptability, agility, repeatability and scale. Faster, better and of more value will be table stakes.

I also expect that digital commerce omnichannel strategies will move from the physical to the virtual as virtual reality really drives virtual marketplaces. 

Can you talk about a few top challenges that you still see online sellers/brands face despite access to a rich range of commerce platforms today?

There are three key challenges being faced by online sellers/brands, and they will be evergreen:

  1. The ever increasing expectations of the customer to have a frictionless digital commerce experience that fulfills their needs right now
  2. The continued and growing pressure for brands and businesses to accelerate their digital commerce businesses and growth
  3. The worldwide talent gap to keep up with marketplace dynamics and demand; a gap projected to grow over the next decade

Some last thoughts and marketing / martech takeaways and predictions for 2022 before we wrap up?

My last thought for 2022 is that it will be another exceptional year for digital commerce, and I encourage all brands and businesses to embrace the opportunity to maximize their brand and business value through this channel.

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Astound Commerce

At Astound Commerce, we live and breathe customer experience. We design engagements that forge lifelong brand loyalty. We generate and capture consumer demand and push technology to the edge of what it can do. With 20 years’ experience, 1,300 ecommerce specialists, more than 3,000 projects completed, and dozens of industry accolades, we excel at maximizing the brand and business value of every digital commerce touchpoint. Our strategic solutions work in service of visionary brands such as L’Oréal, Under Armour, El Palacio, FLOR, Toms, and Crocs.

Michael Kahn is Global CEO at Astound Commerce, a role he took on in September 2020 as part of an aggressive growth strategy to make Astound the global market leader in digital commerce. He brings four decades of experience in global operations and talent leadership; business strategy, development and expansion; and branding, marketing, and communications.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a BA in Journalism, MK started his career at high-profile advertising agencies including Campbell Mithun Esty, DDB, Ketchum, and J.Walter Thompson, where he was responsible for account and client services leadership. After several years at these top firms, he joined and led a creative agency startup, Mitchiner, Ross & Kahn.

After holding CMO and CEO roles during the late ’90s and early 2000s at a series of B2C and B2B digital startups, he joined Performics, a leading digital performance marketing agency. Beginning in a role as the head of strategic account management, he ultimately became global CEO in 2014. In this role, MK saw the build-out of Performics from a team of 300 in Chicago to 3,400 teammates in 57 countries, a six-year organic growth rate of more than 15 percent, and operating income margins of more than 20 percent.

In 2017, MK became global brand president at Digitas Worldwide, The Connected Marketing Agency. He built a unified go-to-market strategy and team that led expansion of the Digitas network from 27 offices in 13 countries to more than 50 offices in 30 countries in a two-year period, driving an international growth rate of more than 6 percent.

His leadership approach is to connect, listen, learn, evaluate, ideate, synthesize, actualize, and execute via ongoing collaboration and commitment. He’s a strong believer in open feedback and embracing integrity through a 360-degree view of performance inclusive of managers, peers, and employees, and he champions a growth mindset, continuous improvement, and embracing the idea that our best days and best work, as a company and as individuals, lie ahead.

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