1. Can you tell us a bit about the Braze product and its application to the retail industry

Braze is a comprehensive customer engagement platform that powers memorable and relevant experiences between consumers and the brands they love. Context underpins every Braze interaction, helping brands foster human connection with consumers through interactive conversations across channels that deliver value quickly and continuously. Braze is headquartered in New York with offices in Chicago, London, San Francisco, and Singapore. 

For retailers, a seamless cross-channel communication experience is critical to satisfy today’s modern consumer, who may shop for shoes at home on a laptop, drop those shoes into a cart on mobile on their commute, take another look on the office computer, then make an in-store purchase at lunchtime. Woe to the retailer that sends an abandoned-cart discount email that evening, as it will have the opposite of the intended effect on the customer. A good technology ecosystem can give retailers the ability to listen closely to consumer behavior in order to better understand what’s important to the individual customer right now, so that their experience with the brand is respectful and relevant. 

         2. How can retailers use data and digital technologies to enhance customer experience and grow their business? 

Traditionally, retailers have been very channel-oriented, beginning with physical brick-and-mortar locations, and eCommerce business anchored in the website and email. But the modern customer journey involves multiple touchpoints from desktop web search to mobile app experiences, with new devices and channels coming online all the time. Consumers expect brands to consistently provide cohesive, real-time synchronization across every available touchpoint. Data and digital technology are what make that possible. As communication challenges for retail marketers become increasingly complex, only a sophisticated, modern technology ecosystem can deliver experiences that match consumer expectations.


             3. What trends do you anticipate being the biggest drivers of growth in the retail sector in the next five years? 

I would encourage retailers to be attuned to the convergence that’s going on...think of a pizza business that provides an order tracker that keeps you informed of when your pizza is in the oven, when it’s on the way to your house, and then follows up to ask how you enjoyed it. That same company may evolve even further and before you know it, it's now a technology company.

Forward-thinking retail brands with deep understanding of their customers’ human context, of what’s relevant, are well positioned to do more than sell goods. On-demand companies are merging their offerings, even becoming media companies. We see that in the rise of the super apps in APAC, for example. 

Especially for retailers and e-comm businesses, technology needs to be seen as more than just a utility to move data around, or deliver a report, or send a message. Embracing sophisticated technology, becoming more comfortable with its capabilities, will enable retailers to become more customer-centric and to meet people where they are as new channels emerge. A sophisticated technology ecosystem provides a creative canvas for developing and delivering memorable human experiences that deepen consumer loyalty, and drive sales and recommendations.


           4. How do you envisage innovations in digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, personalization and mobile marketing changing retail?

The ascendance of mobile has changed everything, beginning with consumers’ expectations of a more personal, human interaction with businesses. We commissioned a Brand Humanity study from Forrester Consulting on behalf of Braze that put data behind the impact of consumers’ expectations of more human brand communications, and you can get a complimentary copy of the report, How Retailers Can Master Empathy At Scale

Technology enables sophisticated retailers to create well-orchestrated, personalized conversations delivered at optimal times through relevant channels. Artificial intelligence increasingly empowers brands to listen closely to consumers’ behavior in order to better understand what is relevant to them right now, while respecting their data-privacy rights. As technology tools become more sophisticated, businesses will also get better at predicting what customers will want in the future. This will lead to more satisfied consumers, and more predictable patterns of business growth.


              5. What are the key challenges and opportunities for the retail industry?

Today’s retail opportunities are all rooted in getting a better understanding of the consumer. Often, the greatest obstacles to customer-centricity are legacy systems and organizational structures that force teams into silos that limit the potential for creative collaboration. Forward-thinking leaders will foster a test-and-learn environment of innovation, with cross-functional teams (including analytics) enjoying democratic access to timely data. Data management and the generation of useful insights that can guide seamless cross-channel execution present the biggest challenges for most retailers today. 

The digital-native DTC brands’ first-party data strategies can be instructive here. With a business model based on a direct relationship with the consumer, these brands are not at the mercy of sketchy third-party advertising technology that could disappear tomorrow as a result of new privacy legislation or platform controls. Braze just released a Privacy Report that digs into key dynamics here, including gaps between consumer and marketer attitudes as to what matters most. Interestingly, nearly all (94%) marketing executives see business advantages in applying stricter data privacy rules before they become mandatory. The greatest advantages of doing so are improved brand perception, higher market valuation, industry leadership, cost savings in the long run, and being early-to-market.


             6. Can you tell us what’s in the development and innovation pipeline for Braze over the next 1-3 years?

Anyone who says they know where technology ecosystems will be in three years is writing fiction—the pace of change is too fast. That said, our goal at Braze is to be ahead of the curve for our customers as new devices, channels, and capabilities emerge. It’s why Braze was the first customer engagement platform to be able to accommodate the new AMP for Email capabilities as soon as Google released them. The Braze platform is designed to integrate quickly and easily with a brand’s existing tech stack, and to facilitate custom iterations that multiply its value within the infrastructure today, and position the business for future evolution and growth. It’s why we are a multi-cloud platform, and have a robust and growing group of technology and solutions partners in Braze Alloys.

Since the company’s founding, the product organization has focused on stability and scale. Our business capabilities have grown with our customers’—last year we topped 2 billion MAU, with our customer brands sending more than 600 billion messages through the Braze platform. 

While we are not yet ready to make any specific product announcements, I can share that we are working to make Canvas, the Braze customer journey visualization tool, even more effective and user friendly. We see amazing jumps in results when teams adopt this powerful tool to turn marketing strategies into well-orchestrated consumer experiences. And there will also be new features and functionality across channels, from SMS to email. As the Braze team continues to grow globally, we are able to deepen channel expertise within product and engineering, redoubling our commitment to continuous improvement across the platform. 


         7. Are you able to share a preview of what you will be talking about during your session at The Retail Summit 2020?

Fernando Machado is a remarkable leader who fosters innovation through collaboration wherever he goes. I am looking forward to our conversation about some of the game-changing initiatives he led at Burger King, and I know that the Retail Summit audience will be eager to learn what it takes to shepherd a brilliant idea to real-world results. What advice does Fernando have for those who may be wrestling with more traditional siloed teams and responsibilities? How does he evaluate emerging channels and capabilities? The Whopper Detour campaign would not have been possible just a few years ago. The creative use of state-of-the-art technology solutions can enable an inspired idea to produce record-breaking ROI.