On March 24, 2021, Srishti Sofat, Group Vice President of Oracle CX Marketing, joined Anand Narayanan, Simplilearn’s Chief Product Officer, for a conversation about product development. Her theme is leveraging automation, intelligence, and simplicity to create products with great customer experiences.
Srishti is a Group Vice President in Oracle CX Marketing. She is an executive with a passion for building and scaling world-class internet consumer and SAS enterprise software products. She provides strategic, technical, and operational leadership to a global organization and helps build a strong culture of product innovation and execution. She has been solving interesting problems in Marketing Automation, Personalization, Loyalty, Mobile, Mar-Tech, and Consumer Search to help a global set of customers.
The New Consumer Expectations
Srishti pointed out that technology permeates our lives. Five billion people out of seven billion have cell phones, which means the Internet is everywhere. In a world where we turn on technology the way we’ve gotten used to turning on a light switch, the complexity of the technology needs to be hidden more and the experience for users has to be simpler.
Anand asked what consumers now expect in the wake of digital transformation and digital disruption. Srishti made a distinction between “back office” and “front office.” The back office is the internal operations of a brand behind the scenes, hidden from the customers. The front office embodies the user experience the brand delivers.
Srishti points out that consumers are affected by four pillars of the consumer experience with brands:
- How we discover the brand
- How we engage with the brand
- How we consume the services of the brand
- How the brand delivers the service to us
Digital transformation has impacted each of these pillars. Brands are transforming all of their touchpoints with their customers. Think about each of these touchpoints and how they have changed with technology. How do you find a brand? How do you engage its services, making a purchase or subscribing for ongoing use? How does the brand deliver the services to you, for example, on which devices? How do you use the brand’s services, down to what controls do you use on your device?
She provided the example of Google Pay, which now allows her to go on a morning run without cash and still be able to stop to buy a juice using only her phone. Calling up the app and making a payment is a matter of a few taps on her phone and a touchless transaction with the vendor’s payment terminal. That is a prime example of product simplicity that also simplifies the lives of its users.
Product Development Focus on Customer Experience
Anand polled the audience, and a majority said improving customer experience through digital transformation is a priority. Srishti described this as moving away from pure product functionality to a customer experience. Just as a plane trip is more than the movement from one airport to another, brands have focused on how simple, convenient, and delightful the experience of accessing the functionality is. The process of requesting, accessing, and paying for an Uber ride compared to a taxi ride is much simpler and easier. The process of shopping online goes beyond simply being able browse or search for products and place orders now that artificial intelligence can provide personalized product suggestions to simplify your search and process automation can make checkout a matter of one or two clicks. These are examples of a focus on the customer experience to make the brand more valuable to the customer.
Personalization needs to be done correctly. Providing suggestions for men’s clothing to a female shopper who isn’t looking for men’s options has the opposite effect of making the shopper feel valued and understood. Brands need to use technology to learn about their consumers and tailor personalization to their actual personal characteristics and behavior.
Simplified automation and orchestration are two terms Srishti used in discussing this topic. She illustrated this with the example of the marketing automation tool she develops. Not very long ago, automation in online marketing would be combining a segmented customer list with a promotional message and sending “personalized” emails on a pre-set schedule. Today, a brand can segment the customer list down to the individual, personalize the schedule, and tailor the messaging to each individual based on what the brand knows about them. Orchestration adds a dimension of real-time response. Systems can orchestrate the delivery of the message to the right channel at the right moment for each consumer.
The intelligence behind personalized automation and orchestration is driven by data. This includes historical data and real-time data to train the artificial intelligence system and enable it to make predictions and recommendations for individual consumers. The consumer has control over personal data they are willing to share with the brand, and the brand needs to negotiate the exchange of permission to access personal data for a more personalized and satisfying customer experience.
An audience member asked whether Srishti saw a future in which AI would operate without human intervention. In her view, we are not there yet, and for many customer experiences, the human touch will always be required.
Shifting Your Brand’s Product Development Focus
Anand asked how a brand would start on the path to hyper-personalization. Srishti cautioned that it’s not a pure question of technology. Data, artificial intelligence, and automation and orchestration at scale are a technology foundation. Equally important is a Customer 360 view and orientation, focusing on building customer empathy. Once you understand the journey you want the customer to take in using your brand, you can design the customer experience that takes them on that journey. That will, in turn, affect the technology stack you will need to deliver that customer experience.
Srishti points out that the more consumers use AI-driven customer experience, the more the AI engines will learn about how to serve consumers and improve their experience. Anand points out that if an automated and personalized customer experience delivers more value to the customer than a human-driven process, it’s a win for both the brand and the consumer.
Looking at the skills that brands need to employ in building these simple, automated, hyper-personalized customer experience, some of the common themes include:
- Data science that combines math and statistical knowledge with an understanding of the business domain’s requirements. This includes artificial intelligence and machine learning.
- Robotic process automation that looks at how to simplify processes and embody them in software.
- Product management with a focus on simplifying the customer experience, involving design thinking and customer empathy.
implilearn supports upskilling in each of these areas. Our Post Graduate Programs in Data Science, AI and Machine Learning, and Digital Transformation, each in partnership with Purdue University, are an excellent way to develop deep expertise in these fields.