The following was transcribed from a recent interview on The Agile Brand with Greg Kihlström podcast.
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Today’s customer is on multiple devices and channels, and wants a seamless experience as they interact with brands whenever, wherever, and however they want. This can provide challenges for even the most customer-centric brands, which require solutions that allow the planning, creation, delivery, management, and testing of campaigns and content across multiple channels that deliver a great customer experience.
Today we’re going to talk about customer experience without boundaries. I’m here at Optimizely’s Opticon 2022 conference in San Diego, and would like to welcome Justin Anovick, Chief Product Officer at Optimizely, a leading digital experience platform used by top brands that want to manage and deliver better digital experiences for their customers.
We’re in day two of the Opticon conference as of recording this show. So, we’re going to talk through a few of the announcements that were made, some big announcements from Optimizely. First, I’d love for you to introduce yourself. You’re Chief Product Officer at Optimizely. What does that mean at Optimizely? Tell a little bit about your role.
I’ve been with Optimizely for a little over six years, really focused in the product area. As Chief Product Officer, I’m responsible for the roadmap of the product, what we’re doing, where we’re going.
We have made decisions over the past couple years. You’re always looking at build, buy, partner, and there’s been a combination of each in order to deliver our capabilities. But my team and I really focus on working with customers and partners to make sure that we’re delivering the right capabilities that they need. But also looking ahead, and people don’t necessarily know what they don’t know, and making sure to stay ahead of the curve and delivering innovative capabilities as well.
Nice, nice. We’re going to talk in specific about one aspect of some of the announcements here. One of the big announcements here was this concept of Boundless Digital Invention, which was designed to help brands solve challenges that I briefly described in the intro. Can you describe a little bit about what does boundless digital invention mean, and what does it include?
Yeah. So we went through the process, we talked to customers, and analysts, and really tried to understand the perception of Optimizely as well as what we want to portray, and Boundless Digital Invention was so obvious because it’s aspirational. Right? You don’t want to be bound to the capabilities and the thoughts and the processes that you have today. And really, invention is more along the lines of being scientifically-oriented. When you think of invention, you really equate to being science-based.
So, being boundless, but also rooted in making sure that you’re using science to deliver the experiences that you want. And what’s a part of that really, in how we talk about our capabilities and what we offer, is: Orchestrate, which I think we’ll talk about; Monetize, which is really about the commerce experience; And then Experiment, which is testing a concept to make sure that you’re driving the most value.
Great. Right, yeah. I love that usage of invention, and I think there was quite a bit of talk about both the art and the science of marketing. Having done this for a few years, I can definitely attest to that. There’s definitely an art to it, but if you don’t have the science behind it as well, you’re definitely missing out. I think the Monetize and the Experiment components, certainly those familiar already with Optimizely are definitely familiar with that.
But I think the Orchestrate component is something where personally I’m feeling this in my consulting work with customers. I’m feeling some of the pains that I think drove the creation of this Orchestrate component. It has to do with creation of content, and particularly how content is created for personalization, which that means multiple iterations and variations and all those things. So, anybody that’s been part of a team that has to do that probably has their own horror stories about what it actually takes to coordinate and do all of this. Can you talk a little bit about the Orchestrate solution, and some of those challenges that I kind of inferred there?
Yes. So, technically from a product perspective, (which becomes important at a certain point, but really should be the last piece,) it’s the combination of content management, content marketing, and digital asset management to help marketers, in this case to deliver the right content. But when we really delve into it, we look at what our customers actually use us for or what we hope they use us for, and we talk about these six key activities that help drive the orchestration of what you do.
We can talk through each one of them if we want, but a couple of them are super important as a part of the Orchestrate. The first thing is you have to just know what’s going on in the organization. You have to understand not only what your intent is, but what are your metrics that you’re trying to drive? What are the outcomes you’re trying to achieve? And you need the data and the analytics to tell you how your business is performing.
Without that piece, what’s the purpose of anything else? That becomes guesswork. That becomes less science, and that becomes all art not grounded in reality. So that understand is just purely understanding: What content gaps do you have? Well, we talk to a lot of our customers and we ask the question, “When you start creating content, why do you do it?” And they say, “Well, because we think we need it.” It’s like, “Okay, that’s a good start. But what if we could show you what you actually need and why?”
If you just launched a new campaign for a new credit card, and you realize that customers are actually looking for more details about the APR, well, how do you know that that’s the case without understanding the performance of what’s happening? So that’s the first and I think most critical part. Once you understand, then we ideate. As a part of ideation, there’s collaboration, planning. This is where now you take what you’ve understood of your content gaps and now pursue what you need to do.
Well, and in a multichannel, omnichannel, cross-channel, whatever word that proceeds “channel” world … There’s channel switching by customers, and the teams that are actually creating all of this content need to understand and manage that as well. So, does this help with that kind of thinking as well?
Yeah. It’s funny that you said whatever word precedes “channel,” because I was talking to somebody else, and we’ve been talking about it for 20 years. Omnichannel, cross-channel, all of that, and it’s not just about the digital channel. I think one of the trends that we’re seeing more and more of is some people come to us and say, “I want a CMS,” and they’ve already determined the problem statements that have helped them arrive at why you’d want a CMS. But in reality, they want an improved experience, they want to drive more leads, they want to decrease customer acquisition costs or whatever.
In reality, though, they really need to develop content that’s a part of a campaign. So if you’re launching a new credit card, like we said, it’s not just about what goes on the website. Well, you need banners, you might need copy for emails, you might need copy for social, and that’s all about launching that new credit card, and it’s not just about the content for the web. And what we’re seeing in the trends is that there’s a single team that owns all of that. There might be specialists that create it for the end property, but in reality you’re creating that entire campaign and web is just one element of it.
So when you go through the ideation process, it shouldn’t be in isolation of all the other activities that occur, and that’s a massive trend that we’re seeing. It’s no longer just about any one channel. Because it is funny, when you see and hear “omnichannel”, organizations normally were never organized that way. They were never omnichannel. Their customers were, but they were never organized that way. The trend is now that the organizations are becoming more omnichannel themselves.
So a lot of organizations right now, like Fortune 100 companies that I work with, are organizing these things in Excel sheets, and a myriad of Jira and Asana, and name your project platform of choice. How does this help with that? So you’re organizing cross-channels from the customer perspective as well, but how does this help in just putting stuff in one place?
If you saw the skit that we did at the keynote yesterday, well, the conclusion was: #Don’tBeKevin. But how we got there was … It is insane that if you are creating content, regardless of how you’re using it, you might be in Word, and then you’re collaborating in Word and commenting in Word. Well, that’s in isolation of a broader workflow. And then you have to go and manage that campaign or that content in an Excel, and then you have to post in Jira and Slack and Teams and all these different places.
And as we’re going through and developing the before skit to articulate the problem that exists, we ourselves just had massive laughter because that’s where we were a few years ago, and we know that organizations are like that. So the complexity and the chaos of having to use all those different applications … I used to be in a contact center space, and one of the first things that you would do is you’d go in to look at the customer service rep’s desktop, and they would have 15 tabs open that they would open in succession in the right order because they knew what it was like.
Well, that’s marketers’ lives these days, is that there’s literally 15 different applications in order to process one piece of content. It is ridiculously chaotic. So yeah, our skit was done by Kevin, who, that’s why we say: #Don’tBeKevin.
Nice, nice. So, you touched on this a little bit earlier, but how does this help with personalizing messaging to customers? So you’ve got to create all those different variations in order to personalize, you need to have the content to support personalization. How does this approach with Orchestrate help with that?
It becomes a little bit more complicated, because over the years … The answer becomes more complicated, but the actual solution is probably easier. But over the years, and we’ve talked about it, everybody out there wants to personalize. You want to personalize: What product are you putting in front of people? What content are you putting out there? Oh, you need to create atomic content, because then you just change out the paragraph.
All of that is critically important, but the whole missing component was the data that drives that decision and how you segment. So if I have three kids, there’s a newlywed, there’s somebody that has three dogs, how do you make sure to know what you’re delivering to? And historically that was a missing component.
So you could personalize the content because you’ve created atomic content, you’ve created a bunch of different options. But what was missing was it was all based off of the behavior of what they were doing in that experience, and then people like them that took that same path. But it wasn’t able to use external data about the individual, and it could be even anonymized. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about what you know about them, but you start to take that and that data then drives the right content.
So the creation of the content, having multiple blurbs and making sure to deliver, that in essence was the easy part. The harder part was really about aggregating the data to be able to use and deliver that personalization. And frankly, in the industry that’s probably what was missing up until two, three years ago.
And that drives things like next-best action and other things like that as well, right?
Yeah, absolutely. So, a lot of folks want to design the ideal experience of the right step to do next, the right content, but in reality it has to be much smarter than that. The next-best action could be a multitude of things based on what they just did. You really can’t design the ideal flow because there’s massive permutations to it. You really have to have the logic to say, “These are how these two components or this atomic content is connected,” in order to drive the next-best action.
So, last thing on this topic. Another time-saver and kind of an efficiency gain is the ability to repurpose content. So you create something, it works well, you test that it works well, but you want to use it in a slightly different way or for a different purpose. So, how does this Orchestrate help with repurposing or creating new content based on existing or previous …
The thought is, again, you understand what’s happening, you ideate, you’re creating that content. You create a brief that basically says: What are you intending to use this for? And then the offshoot of that would allow you to use the micro-components, the atomic content for the right area. So the title might be something that you would use in an email, as well as something that’s on the webpage. But the body may be different, because the body on the site is way longer than what you can send out in an email or in social. So you create variations of those. It’s all based on the same overall, overarching title or structure where you’re creating those multiple components to be able to use in the right channels.
We have some capabilities to allow the system to automatically create content. You type in basically what you want, how you want to say it, and then it’ll create those variations for you. I think that is a little bit further away from people to be able to use that mindlessly. You still need to check what you use, but there’s capabilities that the application and the smarts, that it can create it for you. So you create the content for the website and it can recommend, “This is what you should say for mobile.” But it’s the reusability of that based on the overarching content piece, in essence.
Nice. So for someone that’s considering taking this approach, using a tool like Orchestrate, what’s a way that they could start? What mindset should they have, or how do they get started?
There’s a few options. One is to just Venmo me. Two, more likely the first thing is you shouldn’t start off by saying, “I need Orchestrate.” You need to start off by saying, “What are the problems? What are we trying to address? What are the outcomes that we’re looking to achieve? Poor lead conversion? Customer acquisition costs? Stock?” or whatever. That’s where you start. Really define it.
Now, that sounds super logical. But when you go into a lot of opportunities or customers and they haven’t defined that one piece, they just know that they need a CMS or they know they need a combination of these capabilities. That’s like the last step, right? So, obviously understand what’s going on out there and the different capabilities, but really refine what you’re looking for as to the problems that you’re trying to solve. Again, it seems so obvious, but it seems like people start with wanting a CMS and then back their way into their problems that they’re solving. It should be the other way around.
I totally agree. Asking, “What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?” is always a good approach. So, I totally agree. Well, one last question before we wrap up here. We’re at Opticon here in San Diego. What’s been your favorite part so far?
This is the first time seeing colleagues and customers in a while. The last time we got together was really three years ago, and I’ve given more hugs to people this week than I have probably my entire life. Because it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I actually missed that person,” and the 4-D experience is actually much better than the 2-D experience. But it’s been connecting with people and all of that.
In addition, on the selfish, product side, I had a meeting with my product team the other day and said, “Hey, assume that our customers don’t know what we’ve done in the past few years. They probably don’t know what we’ve acquired. Start off from baseline.” And really enlightening people on what they can do with their current investment today, it’s pretty cool to unlock that and uncover it. So the combination of people, and then enlightening customers as to what they actually own and how they can actually get more out of it. So, yes.
About the Guest
Currently the Chief Product Officer at Optimizely, Justin is responsible for product strategy, product management and technology partners. Justin has a 20+ year career with experience in sales, pre sales and professional services and experience with mid-size ($100+M) organizations as well as M&A. He tends to be more business oriented than technical and has spent a lot of time helping to determine the best go to market strategies based on data, past experience, and what the field is seeing.
Justin joined Optimizely over three years ago after leading product strategy at Verint. He is known as a creative thinker who knows how to present a compelling story and provides great leadership for his team. As part of the fun he has at Optimizely, he also co-hosts their internal variety show “Episodes”.
Justin lives with his wife and kids outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.
About the Host, Greg Kihlström
Greg Kihlstrom is a best selling author, speaker, and entrepreneur and host ofThe Agile Brand podcast. He has worked with some of the world’s leading organizations oncustomer experience, employee experience, and digital transformation initiatives, both before and after selling his award-winning digital experience agency, Carousel30, in 2017. Currently, he is Principal and Chief Strategist atGK5A. He has worked with some of the world’s top brands, including AOL, Choice Hotels, Coca-Cola, Dell, FedEx, GEICO, Marriott, MTV, Starbucks, Toyota and VMware. He currently serves on the University of Richmond’s Customer Experience Advisory Board, was the founding Chair of the American Advertising Federation’s National Innovation Committee, and served on the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Marketing Mentorship Advisory Board. Greg is Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certified, and holds a certification in Business Agility from ICP-BAF.
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