RichRelevance Encourages ‘Rapid Experimentation’ for Retailers

“Digital destinations” may soon become the norm in retail — and swift, strategic steps toward creating a wholly personalized experience for e-commerce shoppers is the recommended path for survival.

Retail’s revolution is now, and for RichRelevance, a personalization solution firm based in San Francisco, Calif., the simplest way to embrace change is with robust response. Sarath Jarugula, president and chief executive officer at RichRelevance, said, “Since consumer behavior is now changing rapidly, retailers need to be agile in responding to their needs. A key requirement now, therefore, is rapid experimentation and ‘fail fast’; and that requires self-service tools.”

Here, Jarugula talks to WWD about retail’s focus on the individual, the evolution of personalization and what consumers are currently craving from the e-commerce experience.

WWD: What problem did RichRelevance identify, and how was it solved?

Sarath Jarugula: RichRelevance was conceived as the most advanced personalization platform for retailers, to transform customer data into extraordinary consumer experiences. In the early Aughts, the technology landscape had a big gap — on one hand, commerce clouds provided the basic infrastructure to set up a digital shop, and on the other hand, marketing clouds helped in customer acquisition. There was, however, no mechanism to make the online experience interactive and responsive to customer behavior in real-time.

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Online shopping was tedious, cold, static and suffered from low engagement, fragmented journeys and poor product discovery. It did not recognize the individual shopper’s preferences, their current context, their aspirations and their stage in the buying journey, leading to a very real experience gap.

RichRelevance bridges this experience gap with a personalization cloud that focuses on the individual (not segments or personas), responds in real-time and uses our proprietary Xen AI to make high-performing decisions (instead of manual rules) that consider complete context. We make online shopping seamless, contextual and inviting for consumers, so retailers can grow online revenues by 10 to 20 percent.

WWD: Personalization has become a critical component of the consumer journey. How does RichRelevance differentiate itself amongst competitors?

S.J.: Most personalization engines take a very narrow view of digital customer experience, limiting their scope to content or product recommendations. In addition, manual rules and basic algorithms dominate the approach to recommendations.

What makes RichRelevance unique:

  • We personalize across the entire customer life cycle — without fragmenting the journey from search to content, to navigation and recommendations on all digital channels.
  • We are the only ones with AI and algorithmic decisioning that uses complete customer context, through the foundation of a real-time CDP. The winning experience is auto-selected for each user, eliminating reliance on fragile manual rules.
  • We are made for retail and brands and offer deep domain expertise to problems unique to retail. One such example is use of visual AI deep learning, to surface both visually similar and visually complementary products using image recognition. As an example, when you’re shopping for fashion and lifestyle products, you like to explore things that look a certain way and visual AI makes this possible on digital channels. If you’re looking at a dress with a funky, street look, the deep learning engine will discern these characteristics and suggest outfits with a similar style, including cross-category products like handbags, shoes and accessories. This brings the human-assistant like experience to e-commerce.

WWD: From your perspective, what are some of the most common roadblocks retailers are currently facing?

S.J.: The biggest shift happening today is the move to digital channels, by consumers of all ages and demographics. E-commerce sales have grown by 27 percent worldwide this year, and North America is at almost 32 percent. The winners have been digital first retailers, or those that managed to rapidly evolve in response to change in customer behavior. The fashion industry needs to figure out how they can eliminate teething problems and make online buying hassle free for those that aren’t comfortable with the channel, and at the same time, reduce the rate of returns that eats into their margins.

WWD: How has personalization evolved this year? What are some of the major changes noted in regard to consumer behavior or trends?

S.J.: In addition to recognizing shoppers with individual preferences and likes, retailers now want to tailor their experiences based on the stage in the buying journey. This means detecting whether a person is browsing or ready to buy. Additionally, retailers now aspire to create store-like personal consultations on digital channels, and state their vision as becoming a digital destination, and not just another product catalogue.

Since consumer behavior is now changing rapidly, retailers need to be agile in responding to their needs. A key requirement now, therefore, is rapid experimentation and “fail fast”; and that requires self-service tools. This has been our focus this year, and we introduced functionalities such as configurable strategies, no-tech model creation to empower business users to experiment.

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