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Forging your own transformation path: a Savant eCommerce London recap


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For two days in September, I had the honor of hosting the memorable Savant eCommerce. Apart from the excellent venue on the 28th floor along the Thames in London, I also had the opportunity to get to know various organizations. Alibaba, Adidas and Formula one to name a few, all contributed keynotes about their insights and learnings in the world of ecommerce and digital transformation.  

Within the industry, I myself am a generalist, with a passionate focus in the emerging channel of voice – made possible by the likes of Alexa and Siri. Over 15 years ago, I was rooted in data, customer journeys, smart selections and optimization. This event was a catchup game for me.

Looking from a slightly different angle, as well as an experienced one, I have the deduced my findings to the following:

Every organization has its own transformation path

The notion of every organization having its path sounds almost philosophical, and maybe it even is. It is essential to understand this well. Every company has its own way of doing things based on their heritage, their managing team, their employees, their culture, their products, and their customers. The key is to recognize the path and to understand the positio of the organization. Not just make conclusions or judge it. 

Louisa Nicholls of John Lewis said it best with Bud Caddell’s quote: “There is no digital strategy. There is just strategy in a digital world.” 

So, what is your strategy? What fits best with your organization? 

Of course, you can go all out as a Zalando and have a large number of developers and loads of multidisciplinary teams sprint towards data-driven customer journeys. Alternatively, you can be like Hugo Boss and appoint special teams who learn these modern methods first and gradually adopt this into the legacy organization. 

Every company has a story, path and position and it is not up to us to say whether it’s right or wrong before understanding the “why” a company is where they are. I think it is important to understand these differences as we develop next steps – that’s how a solid strategy is built. 

The data conundrum

A large part of the event was around data. New organizations are starting to live and breathe a data-first approach. Others are starting to understand the basics. What was most interesting is that once organizations can make data key in their strategy and execution, they create impactful strategies.

Especially in commerce. 

As their need for data grows, so does their use of platforms like Amazon or Instagram as a sales channel. However, there is a catch. They lose access to customer data. So, either they become dependent and dumb using Amazon-like services or they try to build their own channels to retain their data.

I am keen to learn how you deal with this challenge in your organization. Share your insights in the comment section below. 

The tools are impressive, yet what about the people?

I learned a new word: “Affinity.” It is not that I didn’t know what it meant, but I never used it in a customer selection context. It is what Dynamic Yield uses to make customer selections in ecommerce. They and several others offer advanced tooling for organizations ready to up their ecommerce game from a data perspective or, like with Content Square, from a content perspective. 

What I missed was an angle that is more part of the human aspect of optimization and customer journeys. We’re not just manipulatable machines, are we? Simon Moore, a Consumer Psychologist, offered his perspective. My favorite part of his presentation was where he shared a visual of the brain. He pointed out that the front lobe, say 25% of the whole brain, is the part where all conscious thought happens. That’s what we infuse with our commerce tools, data selections and smart content. The remaining 75% is part of the brain that we don’t know that much on, where “stuff” happens that makes us tick. We don’t understand yet what that is. The “unconscious” some call it. The important thing is that we don’t really measure or directly influence this. To me, it sounded like a black box. Simon’s approach was to use needs. Humans needs such as participation, identity or freedom. There are several psychological models for this. 

I believe that the next level of personalization, of working better together – optimization, is the recognition that people are different and using psychological understanding is the next step. It is not the sex, age or income drive us, but much more. When you know that, then you have the “keys.” Yes, this does lead us to more of an an ethical discussion, but I’ll leave that for another article.  

Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald
Maarten Lens-Fitzgeraldhttps://www.nodesagency.com
Maarten is the Global head of Voice at Nodes Agency and Chairman of Savant eCommerce London. In the last two decades, he has worked with Samsung, Tomtom, Akzo Nobel, Intergamma, Shell, Fortis, Coca-Cola, Deloitte, Google, WPP and Condé Nast to name a few.
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