BloomReach on the Evolution of CMS & the Rise of DX and IoT
After starting out in 2009, BloomReach has quickly established itself as one of the foremost cutting edge providers of digital experience technology. After making waves in 2016 by acquiring Hippo CMS at a time when content management vendors were more often than not the ones doing the acquiring, they set out with a complete experience platform strong enough to be recognized as a visionary in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms.
This adventurous growth and appetite for the atypical were just two of the reasons longtime product and marketing expert Nate Barad decided to join BloomReach as their new Head of Product Marketing. He caught up with me for an interview to chat about his brand new position with the company, the new ways in which we are seeing brands connect with their customers and why marketing and customer experience alike require an innovative, pro-risk mentality.
Taking Brands Digital
One of the equally enticing and intimidating challenges for digital experience platforms is translating a brand's success into digital while never sacrificing its defining characteristics. When I asked Nate to describe the experience he was bringing to BloomReach to contribute to this he reflected on his long history with implementations and the diverse customer bases he was able to dive into:
“The thing I talk about most is the 10 or 11 years I spent doing implementations, I’ve done dozens of implementations of content management systems and commerce, for everyone from smaller local brands all the way to larger brands so regardless of which company I was working for it was always being at a customer, very customer focused, results focused, and my favorite part was learning my customer’s business and learning their customers.
A lot of the customers were looking to bring traditional brands into digital, so Major League Baseball, again very traditional, crack of the bat, smell of the popcorn on the field, how do we transition those 90+ teams online? An example in the UK would be Manchester City, and then you play that into other things like Autotrader. Autotrader used to be the pamphlets in 7-Eleven, and is now the leading online car retailer, so there’s a lot of fun learning to your point, from a customer perspective, how they’re going to bring their business into digital.”
One thing I’ve noticed about BloomReach is they never seem to have lost their ‘Startup-esque’ agility in perceiving exactly what is needed in the market and moving quickly on delivering it. This certain brand of foresight didn’t go unnoticed by Nate either as he explained their unique position in the market was another big draw for him: “Business wise, we’re in a phenomenal space. The content and the service customer is really looking to get into more customer experience, looking to scale through things like AI and ML and then on the other side you have a commerce market that is trying to do the same thing from the other side, trying to get closer with content, trying to get closer into customer experience. Bloomreach is really in a spot that’s attractive to my skillset, something I can help contribute to and be a part of, so really interesting spot in the space.”
Content, Commerce and Consolidation
Following the recorded interview, Nate and I continued to discuss his new company and the consolidation of vendors we are seeing more and more of as various platforms enter into the challenge of offering a holistic digital experience. He explained one of the fresh things for him with BloomReach is how they come at the task a bit differently.
While most started out as a content management company and morphed into a DX, BloomReach was a customer experience company with an already established expertise in search, machine learning and AI, making their acquisition of content management more of relevant touchpoint for them. He made reference to how we are seeing this change occur across the CMS landscape as a large rebrand for many as a DXP but in the race of content and commerce he described, for them to meet in the middle, CMS as a commodity is slowing down and gaining traction as more of a touchpoint.
We’re Just Scratching the Surface for IoT
This year especially, many experts in technology are discussing how IoT itself is about to hit an inflection point, as Nate explained: “I would really focus on IoT more than a hand wavy promise but the reality that commerce is coming to the customer now whether that is in automated re-fulfillment or its ordering through devices we’ve never ordered from before on kiosks or in-store, every business has a square swipe now. We really need to pay attention to where our customers are now.”
This same sentiment, was also emphasized in a recent interview I did with Harry Chemko, CEO and Founder of Elastic Path, the API-first commerce platform that launched a strategic global partnership with BloomReach at the end of 2017: “The way we look at how touchpoints are coming is that we don’t really get into a lot of the individual ones because we kind of built a platform for a future where we don’t know what those are. One of the stats I always reference is right now there are about 10 billion internet connected devices out there, the vast majority of those are still computers, laptops and mobile phones but when you look forward a few years to 2020, there will be more than 24 billion internet connected devices and most of those won’t be mobile phones or laptops or things like that. It’s more than doubling all of the new ways to interact.”
The untapped resource of opportunity for brands who can understand and leverage an effective IoT strategy are staggering, and not limited to just B2C with effective use cases in B2B already apparent. Statista highlighted that 99.94% of devices that could be optimized for IoT are not being leveraged in that way, leaving a massive amount of profit from a higher degree of consumer interaction on the table. In addition, 94% of businesses who chose to implement IoT have already seen a return, with $19 trillion being the total estimation for cost-savings and profits businesses could see by 2020 from taking advantage.
In seeing the estimation that smart kitchens could contribute a minimum 15% savings in the food and beverage industry by 2020, it got me thinking there is a chance commerce-enabled devices tasked with purchasing food in just the right amount we need could perhaps put a dent in the 1.3 billion tons of food we throw out every year. Maybe I am being optimistic to think the reduction could be sizeable but it will be interesting to see, if combined with our own awareness, smart fridges could help somewhat save us from our over-buying selves.
From the very beginning, Nate emphasized his choice to gain a lot of experience from the customer side has helped him immensely, not only in his work with evolving technologies on the market, but it gave him insight into how the entire digital experience process can and should be. When it comes to commerce specifically, and being in contact with customers, in this case I had inquired on the importance of voice in commerce: “Absolutely we want to make things seamless and again, come to the customer. If I can ask something like what time is the latest movie showing, the next thing I should be able to do is order it. If I ask what kind of oil does my car take, the next thing I should be able to do is order it but the point is, the first thing we did was solve a customer’s problem. We figured out how to get into the customer’s need, how to get into their mindspace, their device to help them and to your point, follow that with voice activated ordering.”
In a way, not to generalize too much but as the complexity of digital experience grows for those who are on the technology side, from the consumer side, simplicity should be the focus. When evaluating a customer journey I often ask myself ‘how easy is it to give them my money?’ or when I encounter a customer journey that has prevented me from making a purchase, I wonder if the brand has ever walked their own purchasing path and noticed the bumps in the road, or huge, easily fixable potholes that could be sending customers a different direction to solve their problem or make their purchase.
As Nate explained: “That’s the fun part as the consumer, it should be that easy. Am I easy to do business with? Do I want to swallow my own pill, do I want to make our online tutorials that easy? That’s the challenge I want to take on and I think as you mentioned Raj has the appetite for it, to the point of intimidation sometimes. You think it could be easy to go on autopilot and it’s not what we’re looking to do, kind of careful what you asked for but this is why I joined and it’s exciting.”