Episode 259 Featuring Alex Bond

Increasing Product Discovery with Lamees Butt

Increasing Product Discovery with Lamees Butt

Lamees Butt is the Senior Vice Presient of Global Alliances and Channels at Zoovu, the world's first all-in-one content discovery and eCommerce engagement platform. Lamees has more than a decade’s worth of experience in managing global partnerships and business transformation. Lamees is incredibly passionate about improving the buyer experience and efficiently reducing employee workloads.

On this episode, Lamees and I discuss the importance of product discovery, how D2C brands can optimize customer engagement, the difference between B2B and B2C solutions, and much more.


What is Zoovu

Lamees Butt: Sure. So Zoovu, it's an AI discovery platform. Really at the heart of it, our mission is to bring our customers closer to their end customers to help them find the products that they need online. 

Alex Bond: Oh, that's very simple. Nice and succinct. So one of the things that Zoovu does is I think the biggest thing that kind of falls under your umbrella to my knowledge is search discovery. There's a million other things that go with that, but can you give me and our listeners a little bit more background on what is like search discovery for products? 

Lamees Butt: So I think probably the best way to explain it is to highlight the problem that we all face when we're shopping online. And I don't know when the last time you bought something was, but mine was this morning.

I'm obviously in the UK. So it was a few hours before you right now, but I was purchasing online and honestly being able to find what I'm looking for is not an easy task, whether it's a bike, whether it's a washing machine, whether it's a laptop. And this was something that our customers understood.

So Microsoft, one of our customers really did understand that buying a laptop online was an incredibly hard task. You're expecting your own customers to know what RAM means, what CPU means. And actually, you know, when you go into a store, you're used to having a conversation that's more about needs. I use my laptop to study or I use my laptop for work and I like to sort everything on my laptop or, you know, I like to blog a lot.

And those are really human needs that anybody can understand. And so what Zoovu does is it takes all of those technical product data specifications, and we connect that technically through lots of APIs and things, and we'll humanize that technical language. Into a conversation that you can have kind of anywhere on your commerce platform.

So whether that's almost like a chat based conversation, or you can have this type of conversation in a search bar. So we know that people drop to a search bar. It's like one of the first places they go kind of when you land on a website. But if somebody starts to type in laptop. We start to understand that there's intent behind searching for something. 

So we can power a conversation that's says, Hey, what do you need this laptop for? And then start a very real conversation going back and forth that is all based on machine learning to really recommend the right product for you. 

Unleashing the Power of AI: How Zoovu Enhances Product Content for Search Discovery

Lamees Butt: I think that a lot of brands, retailers and manufacturers, all kind of, you know, are engaging in that concept of digital transformation, but digital transformation really isn't a destination. It's a journey and it's ongoing. And I think having a commerce platform really in today's world just isn't enough. It's an index of products. 

And so what we at Zoovu want to be able to do is supercharge that experience by, as I say, taking kind of all of that product data and the way that we will humanize it is by understanding the context that is the product data, but also the needs of the customer.

So it's being that bridge between understanding the technical hard specifications of even a washing machine, whatever the product may be, but then also understanding the softer subjective needs that may be associated with that. And there may not be one. So blue equals turquoise equals light blue, you know, and then there's like 50 different variations of blue. 

How do I ensure that all of that rolls up into one and is associated with a product on, on the other side? And that's something that Zoovu can really do and has the power to do. And then learn off that the more and the more it's used. 

Alex Bond: No, I think that's so fascinating. And Zoovu website explains it really well in terms of kind of finding what a customer means, even though it's not exactly what they sent. 

Sometimes, I mean, when I'm looking for maybe a synthetic material or the brand call something a specific thing, but I call it waterproof or synthetic, it's just, I think language is very interesting in that aspect to where then you actually give customers.

What they think they wanted instead of what they actually wanted, which I think is kind of the other side of that coin. So, at least in terms of this product content, when you lead a customer to a product, how does that discovery then lead to more efficient conversion or sale? 

Lamees Butt: We say it's in three ways because imagine when you're in store and you're having that conversation with a salesperson by the end of the conversation, most of the time, if they've not been a pushy salesperson, you do feel heard, seen, and you've built trust. You've built a bit of a relationship. And at that point, if you've matched my needs to a specific product.

I'm more than likely to not only buy that product, but I'm actually likely to buy the associated products as well. So the accessories that go with it, the compatible products. So the products that the keyboard, the Bluetooth keyboard and the mouse that go with that laptop, or, you know, the bike that has the right accessories.

And that same principle applies online because when you're trying to identify the right product for you, you would then have to go through that entire process again to find the right compatible accessories because that almost external compatibility configuration doesn't really, didn't exist before Zoovu.

And so that's something that we're really proud of doing. We call them bundles to be able to surface to a customer, not just the product, but the associated products as well. So that we can show that we've, you know, developed trust. 

We've heard you, we've recommended the product that's right based on your needs. And guess what? Because of that, we know that you're going to need A, B, and C that are associated with that product as well. 

Exploring the Power of Conversational Commerce for D2C Brands

Alex Bond: I think the other side of that is what you are calling the conversation or conversational commerce and that as a way to kind of engage. I mean, that feels like the overarching theme in what you guys really do. So I'm curious how, how the biggest D2C brands optimize their eCommerce engagement and ROI, like how do they actually do that? 

Lamees Butt: Optimization is a key word there. It's something that Zoovu does really well, where we understand the experiences, again, are a piece of the puzzle. And what we want to be able to do is offer insights and data that would back up the experiences to really show and help brands and retailers how to optimize each experience. 

And so as the conversations are happening, we can actually track how those conversations are performing, which of the conversations that lead to conversion versus the one that, you know, makes people drop off essentially. So you can run AB tests on how they work. It's your two best salesperson up against each other and seeing which one performs better.

And then based on that, you can then put them in the hotspots of your, of your website, so brands, retailers, and also kind of in the B2C world, B2B world as well, sorry, they will test and learn because they really do want to try and simulate and create what's now known as that connected customer experience.

Alex Bond: And how are these, how does the AI get incorporated to drive the customer engagement more specifically? 

Lamees Butt: I mean, the AI, and I've spoken about this quite a few times in terms of how AI has developed over the years. I think many years ago, it was seen as this black box where everybody kind of thought iRobot was going to pop out and nobody really understood what was sitting within that box. And AI is essentially data models. It's learnt data models. 

And the more that our experiences are used by customers, the more that we learn and the better that we can recommend. And so all that we're doing is we're being able to aggregate large forms of data to be able to say, we know that based on your persona type, we can recommend this because it suited X amount of other people.

And if we start to see that that's. that kind of conversation or that recommendation stops performing because people don't actually click to convert, that will flag in the system and say, Hey, we think there's a problem here and suggest a recommendation to change the series of questions to something that could convert better.

Zoovu: Bridging the Gap between Businesses and Consumers with Tailored Solutions

Alex Bond: What's interesting about it is you have solutions for both businesses and consumers, right? So Zoovu is designed as B2B and B2C. So are there any, there have to be some, what are the actual differences between the services that you, the solutions that you offer to businesses versus consumers. Is it super different?

Lamees Butt: It's a really good question. If you think about the products that, well, the way I like to call them a tools. So we call them within our discovery platform. We have a set of discovery tools that can be used by the B2b or B2C, and the mission and the end goal is to help customers find what they're looking for.

And so you can use the exact same experiences in both instances. But all I would say is that there is a high level of complexity in the B2B world that we can absolutely resolve and it's become incredibly powerful because I'll give you an example. 

If you think of hospital machinery, you're dealing with a product that may have, you know, 10,000 different combinations and only an experienced expert who's sitting in the office, been in the company for 12 plus years, knows that handbook like front to back and could be able to be on the phone and recommend this, what's called a bill of materials to the end customer.

And now with Zoovu, what we can do is connect to that backend. CPQ configure price quote and expose that to the end customer through the series of questions that that sales rep is asking because it's digitizing that best conversation for conversion. 

Alex Bond: And I'm curious in terms of the actual long term scale, whether it's B2B or B2C, how these businesses can have increased long term customer satisfaction, because that's kind of the new metric that everyone's really looking at is that LTV retention. So how do businesses increase that with their product?

Lamees Butt: I think it stems from, you know, that first instance of once you've recommended the product, we want our customers to feel that we've developed some form of trust with them by recommending what we know that they need based on what they've told us. And then as you go through that funnel, and you think about retention. 

And you think about retargeting, we want to be making sure that we're retargeting based on the things that we know now in a zero party data world, unless you've obviously logged in that isn't possible, but what is possible with Zoovu is understanding that a persona type of this kind may want to have a specific product recommended to them at a later date.

And so we can still do that and have all of this data plugged into marketing systems, which is incredibly powerful. But I also think from a scalability standpoint, being able to provide a consistent brand experience leads also to retention of customers, because wherever you touch and feel the brand, you're getting hopefully the good experience.

And so with Zoovu, what we deployed was what we call syndication. So wherever, let's just say on a brand site, so on. Let's just say Dyson, on the Dyson site, you can now have a digital experience that will help you choose the right vacuum. Because God only knows what is the right vacuum for somebody who's never, you know, first time buying a house and you, it's wood floors, it's carpets, which is, I want, you know, dual purpose.

But then I want to make sure that if I'm shopping in Walmart or I'm shopping anywhere else that, you know, is selling Dyson products that I'm getting that exact same experience by having kind of that discovery conversation on walmart.com or on you know, any other retailer website. And that is something you can do. So it also gives the brands access to how their customers want to shop, whether that's through brand, or whether that's through retail. 

Zoovu: Redefining Sophistication in Technology and Empowering Prestigious Brands with Cutting-Edge Solutions

Alex Bond: So what are kind of some of the bigger problems or misconceptions or ways that brands and businesses aren't taking advantage of, you know, search discovery and this kind of conversation and engagement that can be started with your products. What do you have to kind of come in and fix a little bit? 

Lamees Butt: We call it kind of being problem aware and being solution aware. And a lot of the brands and retailers now, luckily that we speak to post COVID are problem aware. They know that they have a problem because they, they've looked at the analytics on their website. They know that customers are either they're sitting, they're not doing anything, or they're Meandering around and then dropping off.

There's a problem. And it's because they can't navigate or be guided through the site in the way that they'd want to be. We take a more consultative, consultative approach upfront to really help our customers understand the way best practice should be kind of on their commerce platform, and then we help them and guide and say, we have a series of tools that would be helpful here.

We know that in your segment, in your vertical, this tool has performed incredibly well. These are kind of some of, you know, on average, the stats that you would expect to see, and based on that, we'll then go ahead and test and learn with a category, whether that's a vacuum or a washing machine, and very, very quickly, they will start to see uplift and then want to grow that out across the rest of their product portfolio.

Alex Bond: No, that's amazing. And why is Zoovu's technology, which just on face value to me, who isn't an expert, but interviews a lot of people, why is your tech and the Zoovu platform more sophisticated than kind of the more standard fare right now? 

Because I'll be honest, the companies that y'all work with are some of the most prestigious on the planet. I mean, you named dropped Microsoft earlier. That's along with, I want to say 3M, Dyson. Under Armour. I mean, these are really big brands. So I'm curious what actually separates your tech versus the others. 

Lamees Butt: First up, we're incredibly lucky to have the partnerships that we have with these incredible organizations. And we're lucky that they want to engage in such a partnership with us because it's a journey that we're going on together and they know that they're not kind of just taking Zoovu, implementing it and then leaving it and letting it be. 

Zoovu's a part in that. You know, in their daily jobs, because you, we want people to be in the platform. We want people to be taking those insights and using them to help better be target and all of those things. So we're very lucky to have the customer base that we do, you know, when we're having the conversations upfront with these brands, it's very much about validating that. 

We know that there's a problem, but how can we in the shortest timeframe provide a solution for you that's going to not impact the rest of your business, but you are going to see upfront returns, you know, within the space of 6 to 12 weeks.

Striking the Perfect Balance between Customer Satisfaction, Profitability, and Accurate Product Matching

Alex Bond: And one of the things it's interesting because you're, you represent Zoovu, you work with companies that represent. You know, their interests and then we'll call me the consumer, you know. 

So I'm interested in what occasions and what kind of like the overarching goal is for Zoovu sometimes, right? So I'm curious if your tech matches customers to the most accurate product that they're looking for, is it the most profitable for the company? 

Or is it the best for the customer in terms of like price wise? So those are just three little examples of the way that we say what fits or what's best, it kind of depends on the perspective. So I'm curious what that is specifically. 

Lamees Butt: So Zoovu has been around since, you know, pre 2017. We've spent a long time crafting, really crafting and developing the innovation that exists within the platform. The tools that I spoke about before are very diverse in the fact that a lot of the companies that now exist that are in kind of that search space or the, I kind of want to call them the quiz space. 

Focus on maybe one of the tools that we have in our kit and the beauty of Zoovu is that we are an ecosystem of those tools and so we're able to really deliver that end to end customer experience, no matter whether it is a visual configuration that somebody wants to have. 

So they want to visually configure a helmet for a fireman, we can help you do that visually kind of online, but we can also provide that conversation up front to really help merge the two things together. And then let's just say we want to be able to have the search conversation as well. We can do all of those things. 

And so we're definitely not the cheapest on the market, but actually what we're able to do, as I say, is then deliver that end to end, which is why the brands and the organizations that we work with are in a partnership with us because it's a land and expand motion. They see success and then they want to broaden those horizons across the rest of the portfolio. 

Alex Bond: So what I'm hearing you say is that it's more about the experience and the relationship, that it is anything to do with products? 

Lamees Butt: I would say it's definitely to do with the products. I think that we've made some acquisitions. We've definitely invested a lot into the product and the way that, you know, our semantic engine works, which IS incredibly powerful. You pair that with the series of discovery experiences, the tools that we have. That's what makes this powerful. 

So like the relationship and the experience side of like how we partner with our customers. Absolutely. Like that's definitely a part of it. But the pro the tech product that is within our platform is incredibly powerful. Because you've got that semantic contextual engine. 

And then being able to plug that into whatever experience the customer may need on the front end. And then you pair that with a very light touch integration. It's just a win win on both sides.

The Evolution of Product Discovery: Unveiling the Transformative Shifts in the Industry Over the Past Five Years

Alex Bond: And how has the industry, I guess we'll call it the sub industry of product discovery, how has that changed in the last five years? You mentioned Zoovu has been around since 2017. How has that changed in the last five years?

Lamees Butt: I think that, you know, COVID was a huge catalyst. Before, you know, pre COVID we were doing, we were doing well, but my gosh, the year of COVID, like most people, everybody kind of had a moment where we're like, are we going to survive this within, I would say six weeks. 

Everyone, I guess, had come together and just thought we need to be digital. We need to be digital first. And so we saw a huge influx. It was probably our, you know, highest growth year yet. And since that point, you know, yes, we've kind of slowed a little bit, but I think it's come down to a natural growth increments. 

And we're now at a place where we've seen a huge trajectory of the education side of people understanding what discovery is for e commerce and then being able to actually apply that using Zoovu. So we've also had to go on a bit of a journey because we're the market leader in the space and we've had to go on a journey of brand development and awareness and all of those things.

And as you say, having the names that we have under our belt is very, very helpful. And what we've done now to accelerate that even further is develop technology partnerships. And so those are with, you know, the sales forces, the SAPs, which are incredibly strong partnerships that we have. And, you know, there's real value going both ways.


Pioneering the Future of Product Discovery through Innovative Partnerships and Transparent AI Solutions

Alex Bond: And as you mentioned, you're on the cutting edge with the tech, so it sounds like you're developing the partnerships. What are you and your team specifically currently developing? Is it just the partnerships or, I mean, AI, you mentioned it yourself, it is kind of like a black box thing.

And I feel like in the current zeitgeist, it's still a bit of a black box thing, even though it's been around for years now, there's a certain connotation still attached to it. So how do you distinguish? Or diminish those connotations a little bit. 

Lamees Butt: I'm really excited for what's to come over the next couple of years because when I think about generative AI chat, and the way that the world is moving, it only feeds kind of what Zoovu is, you know, is providing to our organizations. 

If you think about being able to recommend a product and then synthesize that information that exists on a product page, and be able to put it in like real kind of human conversational languages for why this is right for you based on the answers that you've given us in that kind of conversation, you're taking this to a completely different level.

So the conversation doesn't stop when you hit the product, the PDP page. Now we're actually going to try and continue that conversation through generative AI and chat GVT to really help bring context and understanding throughout the entire customer journey. 

Alex Bond: No, I think that's very valuable because consumers often bring their own context. So if you can kind of fill in those gaps, then you create that relationship. And people want to keep coming back. 

Other question, I mean, this is kind of still baked into what we've already been talking about. But do you see the product discovery industry? How do you see that kind of changing significantly in the next 10 years?

I know you don't have a crystal ball, but being on the cutting edge and working with companies like Microsoft, I know that they put a bunch of money into AI and even video gaming, and I'm interested what you see down the road that our listeners could be maybe aware of.

Lamees Butt: I think whether you're a small business or an enterprise, being able to grasp the power of Good discovery on any website is imperative to your success.

You know, whether you're selling five to 10 products on your website as a small business versus selling a hundred thousand products as a large enterprise, you want to help guide your customers to the right product. And you really have to do that through developing relationships and experiences and conversations on your commerce platforms.

And the way that I see this progressing in the future is that no matter where you land. Kind of on any website that it won't feel like an index of products anymore, that we will be having digital conversations to be guided to a series of products or solutions or services to help us get to the things that we need in a much faster way.

Because predominantly, you know, cost of living aside and recession aside, most people are money rich, time poor, and if we can give people time back, time is the, it's a commodity that you will never be able to retrieve. And so it's so important that we're able to optimize in every which way we can and using these types of tools will be the way to do that in, you know, now and in the future.

And in the future, it will be about how every organization does this in the most streamlined way. I think that even the tech giants, they're all understanding that every customer needs this type of tool, this type of experience to serve their customers well. The problems that people are hearing are, we're not getting enough conversions on our website. You know, we want to boost our average order value. 

How do we do that? Well, you've got to draw it back and figure out as we kind of started with, what are the problems? What are we seeing on your current website? Are we seeing customers hit category pages, hit product pages, and they're not purchased? What's actually happening? 

And if you can kind of reverse engineer that journey, you can identify the pinpoints of where this is and by and large, it's customers aren't finding what they need in a streamlined way. And so they'll either go to a competitor or they'll wait and they'll go in store and purchase there.

Alex Bond: That's very fascinating. I just imagine how is it going to be even easier? Cause it already feels so easy now for me, just, just for me personally. I know there are business owners out there that are like, it is not easy. It is complicated because the conversions are low. But when I can just, you know, sit on my couch and say, Hey, Alexa, what's this, or what's that, and not even have to like, Open to any sort of technology. It feels as easy as it's ever been. 

Lamees Butt: I think also, yeah, the B2C world is definitely ahead, you know, ahead of the game as it pertains. They've definitely understood because they've always been more digitally native. They've been more consumer focused, you know, with regards to eCommerce, typically the B2B organizations had e commerce, not.

For an index of products, but more for education. This is who we are. This is the type of work that we do call us if you need anything. But how do we change that? Because organizations are asked to be, you know, to do more with less. We need to increase profits. We need to increase our targets, but you can't hire more salespeople.

So how are you supposed to do it? And this is exactly kind of where Zoovu comes in. So I think the future, I, again, I've said this before, B2B is on the cusp of a revolution as it pertains. It's a digital, they are going to go through something huge. 

Some of them are cracking the code and they're seeing fantastic returns. And it's just about the rest kind of coming on that journey now as well. And really kind of B2C being here, B2B being here, and kind of just coming up to at least meet, but B2C will always stay ahead. 

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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