Co-founder and CTO, Bluecore
The B2C tech ecosystem is dynamic and growing at a rapid pace. it’s the go-to learning space for B2B marketers, especially for those who are focused on delivering high-end personalized customer experiences across their Marketing Automation campaigns. Mahmoud Arram, Co-founder and CTO at Bluecore, explains the finest differences between the Email Marketing technologies that marketing teams should be using for B2C/Retail and B2B.
Tell us about your role at Bluecore and the team/technology you handle.
I’m the co-founder and CTO. As CTO, I’m responsible for formulating and guiding the technology roadmap for Bluecore’s products and services. I also work with some of the most prominent retail brands within the Internet Retailer Top 50 to unlock the full power of our platform. Finally, a significant part of my role is working closely with our partnerships team to define the vision and integration points of Bluecore in the larger marketing tech ecosystem with strategic partners.
Are there differences between the Email Marketing technologies companies should be using for B2C/Retail and B2B?
For B2C specifically, we believe solutions will become more vertically focused. A vertical specific solution is more actionable than a horizontal one because it has language and workflows that match users’ exact needs and are designed specifically to help solve the problems their business faces. Verticalization allows AI to better understand particular types of data and business goals that are unique to different verticals, and ultimately make decisions with specific outcomes in mind.
Especially in B2C, I think consumers have high expectations for the quality of communications brands and retailers engage them in. The expectations have been shaped by the dominant ecommerce players and mainstream consumer technology platforms. Consumers expect B2C brands to provide timely, engaging and personalized content that balances recommendations with discovery. This is where verticalization becomes important.
How do you see the technology market for automation and personalized communication improving with data science maturity?
In the very early days of ecommerce, marketing technology aided marketers in reaching and communicating with customers. Recently, powerful task automation such as automated triggers in response to customer behavior and catalog changes provided massive productivity and performance gains.
The next step in this evolution is verticalized artificial intelligence that is specifically trained to hit business goals defined by marketers. The autopilot would hone in on the goals by pulling digital marketing levers such as identifying communications opportunities, automatic prioritization and rapid testing of content. We’re focused on bringing that to ecommerce.
The technology market is also maturing towards stronger privacy and security guarantees. This will significantly reduce the value proposition of third-party data aggregators. The good news is that retailers’ own data sets — referred to as first-party data — have much higher potential, but until now the industry lacked the technology to unlock that potential. Advances in data science, such as Differential Privacy, will make it possible to amplify the power of first-party data by training verticalized AI on aggregated datasets while providing strict privacy guarantees on the consumer level and protecting valuable competitive insights at the retailer level.
What do you see as major challenges retailers are facing in leveraging customer data for better Email Marketing ROI and targeting?
I think there are two types of challenges: organizational and technical.
Organizationally, retailers’ marketing teams are organized around channels: there is typically an email team, a paid ads team and perhaps a social team. They use different technology vendors and platforms and have siloed data sets and sometimes track orthogonal KPIs. This makes it hard to collaborate and share insights. Aided with channel agnostic marketing platforms, I believe the organization structure of retail marketing teams will have to evolve to be better aligned with merchandising teams around products and customer segments.
As for technical challenges, there are too many data sources inside of a retailer: ecommerce customer behavior, catalog changes, in-store offline transactions, CRM updates, customer service interactions and feedback loops from marketing activities. The disparate data sets move at different speeds: some are real-time, and some are daily feeds. Moreover, they have varying structures; some are ecommerce specific and some are proprietary. This leads to a heterogeneous marketing stack that is expensive and hard to manage. In turn, this makes it operationally and technologically very difficult for retailers to use their own data as a competitive advantage to drive better business outcomes.
What would Email Marketing look like in 2020? Do you see the rise of Video and Bots influencing Email Marketing adoption/effectiveness?
I think the performance of the email channel will continue to grow and outperform other marketing channels in 2020 and beyond. Performance is driven by better personalization and more sophisticated inbox management by the inbox providers. I’m not sure how bots would play a role here; although there are many useful use cases around handling the first lines of customer service.
I think we will continue to see the evolution of in-email content. I’m not sure if it will be video specifically, but I suspect dynamic content will continue to become popular in service of personalization. People will continue to look forward to receiving emails from their favorite brands.
What does your product roadmap for retail email tools look like for 2018-2020?
We’re looking towards a future where marketers can focus most on their goals and less on other timely tasks that can be done more efficiently through technology and AI. The process of moving towards this goal will be gradual – but we’re determining what’s easiest for our clients to give up control of and going step by step from there. For example, humans aren’t going to commit and feel comfortable enough to move from a car today to an autonomous car without a steering wheel, overnight. We’re looking forward to a future where our clients can focus majority of their time on working towards meeting – and exceeding – their goals.
Thanks for chatting with us, Mahmoud.
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