MarTech Interview with Tracey Ryan O’Connor, Group Vice President at Qubit, (a Coveo company)

The right personalization and product recommendation tactics are crucial to fostering improved online buying journeys, Tracey Ryan O’Connor, Group Vice President at Qubit, (a Coveo company) shares some insights:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Tracey. We’d love to get to know you better! Tell us more about your career journey, including your role at Qubit?

Thanks for having me. I’ve been in the world of personalization, a/b testing, martech and ecommerce for over 20 years now and first joined Qubit in 2019 as the VP of North America and Head of Global Sales, and was then promoted to Chief Revenue Officer.  I have been leading the Commercial organization at Qubit, which includes Sales, Solutions, Marketing, Customer Success and Strategy. Qubit was acquired by Coveo in October 2021 and I have now moved to the Group Vice President, Commerce, role at Coveo…

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Your team recently conducted an interesting survey on online shopper behaviors, we’d love to hear more on the top highlights from you!

 Yes, lots of very interesting findings. I’d say the top three highlights for me are:

  • How widespread and prevalent e-commerce adoption is among all consumers, indicating that habits formed over the COVID-19 pandemic are here for the long term, including amongst consumers who may have not been as comfortable shopping online prior to the pandemic. Our study, which analyzed responses from 1,500 U.S. and U.K. consumers in July 2021, found that over 85% plan to continue shopping online, despite store re-openings.  
  • Secondly, despite increased adoption, 54.9% of survey respondents said they need more convincing to make a purchase online compared to one made in store. This makes sense because with increased adoption comes increased access to more brands — almost a third of shoppers, 31.4%, report shopping with more brands than ever before. This trend makes it all that much easier for consumers to find, browse and bounce from site to site, without making a purchase.  
  • Lastly and perhaps most interestingly, the survey uncovered the number one reason consumers abandon an ecommerce site without purchase — not being able to easily find products of interest. What this means for retailers is that despite increased focus and investment on reducing friction at checkout for the past several years, the majority of visitors aren’t even reaching checkout. Therefore, our research suggests that optimization higher up in the funnel may be the key to increasing conversions. 

In your view, how is personalization and product discovery now becoming more integral to driving online shopping behaviors and what should eCommerce and other brands keep in mind when setting up new tools to boost how their personalization and recommendation engines work?

Personalization, and product discovery overall, has, and will continue to, become more integral in driving online shopping behaviors as the acceleration of online shopping continues, and as consumers come to expect hyper-relevant and personalized experiences catered to their individual  shopping habits, interests and preferences.  When setting up new tools, retailers should ensure their technology is able to deliver on this by collecting, processing and actioning on data in the moment, based on real-time intent and individual shopping behavior.

As it relates to recommendations, more than 41% of survey respondents in the U.S. said that they expect recommended products to be tailored to them specifically. However, over 37% said the products recommended are rarely relevant and only 4% stated they’re always relevant. Personalized, real-time recommendations are based on true personal browsing and shopping journeys as opposed to product-to-product recommendations, based on items other shoppers like.  By definition, this true 1:1 journey of product discovery unearths more of a brand’s product catalogue by finding the most relevant products for each customer.

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A few thoughts on what eCommerce marketers can do to reduce cart abandonment and related challenges when trying to optimize online buying journeys? 

Leveraging consumer shopping data in real-time to deliver relevance is key to optimizing buying journeys and reducing cart abandonment. The path to hyper-relevance requires capturing intent and then responding to individual shopper behavior in real time as they move through their journey with you. If the shopper is clicking on the same items in the first one to two pageviews, reorganize product pages to prioritize and badge these products. This is the key to re-engineering the customer experience during the site visit and in the middle of a transaction. To further reduce cart abandonment, automate card abandonment prompts on-site and via email and combine with social proof or low-in-stock stock messaging to convince visitors to purchase.

Take us through some of the best eCommerce experiences you’ve come across from across the global marketplace and the biggest learnings from them?

Some of the best ecommerce and digital experiences I’ve come across, especially in recent times, are in beauty. Elements like shade finders, virtual try-ons, or AI-powered skin concerns analysis together with personalized recommendations make it so much easier to opt in to purchase a product and be confident that expectations will match reality once it’s received. Ulta is a great example as it relates to such digital offerings, but they’re now becoming more widely available across the industry.

With the beauty segment having been historically so reliant on the in-store experience, as customers physically can try on products or be assisted by sales associates, it is really impressive to see this vertical at the forefront of the digital transformation and rapidly adopting new and emerging technologies to   align to constantly evolving customer expectations. I would say that the Luxury sector is similar, again a group that was heavily focused on the in-store experience so very impressed with their rapid adoption of technologies to help them evolve with the new customer demands.

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

As retailers and ecommerce brands look to accelerate their digital and personalization efforts, they can’t forget the importance of creating and delivering seamless, consistent buying journeys across channels and device types. Simultaneous to the growth of ecommerce adoption is the explosion of mobile shopping. According to eMarketer, mobile commerce sales will double to $700B by 2025, making mobile shopping experiences another key area that retailers should work on improving. This trend will only continue to grow in the coming years as social media and smartphones make browsing, finding and purchasing products more effortless. With nearly 41% of U.S. respondents in our survey reporting they prefer to shop by smartphone or other mobile device, retailers should invest in making the mobile shopping experience just as seamless, engaging and relevant as what’s delivered to the desktop.

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Ecommerce companies work with Qubit to transform the way they understand and influence their customers in order to increase revenue, build loyalty and improve marketing efficiency.

Tracey Ryan O’Connor is Group Vice President, Qubit (a personalization company acquired by Coveo in October 2021). Prior to the acquisition, O’Connor was Chief Revenue Officer at Qubit where she was responsible for leading all commercial parts of the business, including global sales, marketing and customer teams. She previously served as VP of North America and Global Head of Sales, managing the U.S. business development team and overseeing Qubit’s strategic accounts in the company’s growing fashion, beauty and retail brand portfolio. Prior to joining Qubit, O’Connor held sales and marketing positions at Reflektion, Neustar and Oracle.

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