CTO at Zoovu
Please introduce yourself and your role.
I’m the CTO at Zoovu, the leading AI-powered product discovery and e-commerce experience platform. I am a technology veteran with more than 15 years of experience using tech and data to drive business growth and innovation. My background is in software engineering and computer science. Before Zoovu, I worked in C-suite roles at SmartFocus, Sentillian and 3i-MIND, where I focused on personalisation, real-time interaction and strategic technical architecture.
What is your role at Zoovu?
I lead the Product Team, collaborating closely with enterprise customers and distributors to improve ecommerce experiences and outcomes for many of the world’s leading B2B and B2C companies such as Microsoft, 3M, KitchenAid, Bosch, Amazon, Whirlpool, Dyson, LEGO and 2,600 others.
“In my role, I drive innovation through R&D initiatives focused on our established AI model, integrating the world's most sophisticated conversational AI technology, to deliver transformative e-commerce solutions to our global clientele. For instance, I am currently working on joint development efforts with Microsoft around AI and e-commerce.
Tell us about the current B2B e-commerce environment.
Even with the global e-commerce industry at US$6trn and still growing, B2B e-commerce is still in its infancy. Zoovu and Forrester Consulting recently commissioned a survey of more than 400 B2B executives with a minimum of US$200m in B2B ecommerce revenue.
Manufacturing was the biggest industry sector represented in the study. The findings prove how far most B2B companies have to go to meet customer expectations. Some 65% agreed that ‘ecommerce was broken’ in their organisation. The biggest problem B2B companies face is around data management. Too many products can’t be brought online and discovered because of poor-quality, missing, complex and siloed product data. They are trying to handle large volumes of complex product data, bundles and configurations without proper data hygiene or automation. In fact, only a third of companies surveyed have even 60% of their product portfolio available online.
What are the common issues impacting manufacturers?
At the top of the list of challenges for manufacturers is the ability to successfully sell online. Manufacturers, even mid-sized ones, face the difficulties of managing hundreds to thousands of complex product options and specifications. Adding to the challenge is inconsistent product information, which leaves their buyers uncertain about finding exactly what they need. A lot of product information is often published in a variety of formats to accommodate the different needs of customers and resellers, exacerbating the issue of poor product data. Consequently, manufacturers often feel reliant on sales reps to keep things up-to-date and guide online shoppers through overwhelming search results. Enter the next biggest challenge: customers still seek live conversations with experts, especially for big-ticket, complex purchases. This dependency on the traditional sales rep model hinders improvements in e-commerce experiences. It is costly and inefficient for manufacturers, compounded by challenges like skilled labour shortages.
How is AI helping to resolve some of these issues?
The most impactful applications of AI right now lie in training systems to streamline, automate and improve processes that directly impact the customer experience. For example, AI allows manufacturers to gather real-time insights into supply chain bottlenecks, enabling quicker intervention and resolution. The automation of resource-intensive tasks like inventory forecasting and reporting improves product information accuracy and translates to a better online shopping experience for buyers. AI also helps manufacturers by identifying customer buying history and analysing preferences to guide them through a personalised and engaging ecommerce experience. AI-powered guided selling tools replicate the depth of an in-person conversation with the most knowledgeable sales rep, answering as many questions as needed.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
So much has changed within Zoovu the last couple of years, with a new management team, company headquarters move to the US and a US$169m private equity investment last summer led by FTV Capital. These changes will benefit manufacturers because they have allowed us to evolve into an enterprise platform for D2C, B2B and online retailers, as we handle massive amounts of data and serve millions of our clients’ customers with billions of transactions. Our plans in the next year include additional hires, big brand name customers coming on board, significant partnerships with SAP and others, and the launch of the first fully optimised generative AI solution for e-commerce, ‘Advisor Studio’. Through generative AI, large language models, and zero-party data from guided selling assistants, Advisor Studio provides online shoppers with personalised recommendations and product pages that explain, in conversational language, why a product was suggested.