Naseem is an experienced leader in the world of digital and e-commerce. With 20 plus years in the industry, she’s seen the birth and evolution of e-commerce first hand. She also founded her own digital consulting firm back in 2016, before settling into her role as Partner and Director at Los Angeles-based digital innovation and investment firm, BCG Digital Ventures.
Sayani, one of two keynote speakers to address the audience at this year’s PIMpoint Americas recently took the time to share some of her knowledge and insight within the world of e-commerce and her personal experiences as a consumer as well.
Below you will find the details of these insights and more.
inRiver: What do you view as the strongest and weakest points of the digital transformation of e-commerce?
Naseem: For me, the strongest points of what’s happening with e-commerce is our increased ability to do real AB testing and actively test what’s going to sell and how it will sell. Everything from the imagery and words we use, to where buttons are placed, can drive real changes in conversion rates for any single product – and now we can influence these dimensions in real-time, which is exciting.
Some of the product insight we can capture is also another really strong part of what’s happening right now. Especially given the expanded ability it creates to customize and personalize to a user “in that moment” based on their location, their profile, their click-path, their past purchases & returns, their search behaviors — and the list goes on — and whatever ad behavior may have happened in that moment.
On the weaker side, a big hurdle is the level of investment brands puts into their transformations. There are brands that do it really well – they own it, it’s the center of their strategy, and it’s critical to how they are going to grow and commercialize – but there are still too many companies where it is still an afterthought.
iR: What are some of the do’s and don’ts of making the move to digital for organizations today?
N: Some of the do’s are being deliberate and really making a big committed decision to the transition. This means committing resources, investing in data and insights, and getting out into the market and talking to your user. There’s a transition that needs to happen from historical segmentation studies to real-time resonance studies that get the business into market doing research every two to three months to tangibly understand and ingest how needs and preferences are shifting.
The other part of the ‘do’ for me is to expect to see some failures, because things are not going to work out every time. Things are going to break and things should break so that you can do it better when you pick it up again. It takes a level of risk-friendliness to be okay with that, but it’s really important to get the transformation right.
The don’ts for me are on the opposite side of that — , to not expect miracles. Things don’t happen overnight and it takes a lot of work and iteration to really get these transformations to work well.
Your transformation is going to be unique to your organization, and you have to understand what makes people tick, what makes your brand valuable to both the market and to your employees, and run with that because if people can see a vision and point to an answer and an outcome, they’ll get behind it every day of the week. It really requires that top-down commitment to make it stick.
iR: Can you share any examples of companies doing digital the right way today and what defines success?
N: Sure, so there’s a couple of companies, two that I really keep an eye on, and who, more recently have done some things that are pretty interesting. First is University of Phoenix because as an educational institution they have to be much more savvy in what they do in digital to generate admissions, and get people involved in the courses and the degrees they’re offering.
Some of their most recent campaigns have been really fully focused on what I’d say is the single mom household, and they’re delivering a holistic message to the market — it’s in the TV commercials, it’s in the video spots online, it’s in the phrasing they’re using across every piece of collateral. They’re doing a really nice job of understanding the emotions attached to going back to school with a family at home, and translating that into a mission that is “family first”. It’s a really good example of understanding the user’s need and then translating that into every part of how they’re communicating online and I think they’re doing a really great job of it.
The other one that’s on the other end of the spectrum is Burger King and their Whopper Detour campaign. They have done a really killer job of co-opting McDonald’s locations and to create buzz and purchase. They understood quite uniquely that there are less Burger King locations than there are McDonald’s locations and that the people going to Burger King are going out of their way, so to speak, and past a McDonald’s to get a Whopper. The whole campaign anchors around acknowledging that they have less locations and rewarding those who make the trip to buy their product – and using their competitor’s locations to make it happen. It’s a fascinating use of data and retail activation to drive engagement and sales.
iR: What would you say is the most surprising happening in the world’s move to digital?
N: I think that the most surprising thing is, and somewhat inevitable thing given current geopolitical tensions, is that there is increasingly deeper alignment between the brand values that a consumer expects to see and their own personal values. Consumers quite literally want to put their money where their mouth is.
We used to be able to think about luxury products, value products, pricing, and some level of merchandising as being the leverage we had to drive decision making, but now it’s so much more than that. Consumers want to understand sustainability. They want to understand if its organic. They want to understand the environmental impact. They want to know if its local and came from somewhere in the vicinity of their neighborhood. They want to know what donations the brand makes and to which causes. They want to know the founder’s voting history and value system, and that alignment of who I am as a human to what I’m willing to spend money on is becoming much tighter.
It has a much more fluid connection and is raising the bar on what brands need to “do” — not just products they sell and how they create those products — but how they tell a story and how authentic & consistent that story is across channels. Because for the brands that are doing it the best, it’s delivering the same values and the same voice everywhere that they interact with consumers.
iR: You see so many different aspects of business. Why is product data something that should matter to buyers in B2B and B2C?
N: Product data has gone from the basics of what ingredients or raw materials are in the product, to now also capturing its traceability, it stops along the distribution chain, it’s its route from factory to store, and even what happens after it’s sold and in the consumer’s hands — which makes it much more interesting for insights and more compelling to manage.
I can now do things like be more predictive about what products I need to have on my catalog, what products are missing products from my catalog, and then go get them and make sure I have them. I can understand preferences in one market versus another, in real-time, and really tune and tailor the product that I put in front of a consumer. I can create opportunities for co-creation that go beyond size and color, for example, but which actually solve for fit and style. And I can do this because I know so much more “metadata” for that product, which wasn’t as accessible and actionable historically.