According to Allen Nance email has transcended from a communication platform to a global source of identity for consumers the world over. The CMO of Emarsys sits down with us to talk about how this communication medium has a globally accepted protocol which may unlock the key to identity in a social and mobile commerce future. Listen now!

Show Notes

About Allen Nance (an "Email OG")

  • Allen Nance was person in his family to graduate high school. He then attended Georgia Institute of Technology.
  • After graduating, Allen founded one of the first ESP's (Email Service Providers) WhatCounts.
  • After selling that company in 2010, he moved on to investing in ecommerce and marketing technology.
  • When Emarsys entered the US market a few years ago, he met the founders and really loved their team and their platform. He joined their team shortly after.

Is email dead?

  • Every few months, someone releases an article declaring, "EMAIL IS DEAD!"
  • Nance says "Ignore those." It is one of only global ubiquitous communication platforms that has ever existed on earth. It will continue to be a dominant channel.
  • Email is the social security number of the internet, our digital ID.

Email is the start of an omnichannel experience

  • Don't think about email as a single channel. Email the single most valuable first party data identifier we have.
  • This is essential for tying together Facebook Advertising, Google Display Network, mobile, and web experience.
  • Email will endure because it is our greatest identifier online.

"Not so fast" said the Asian market

Mobile commerce is not growing at the same rate as mobile traffic

  • In general, mobile traffic is increasing while web traffic is decreasing. But in commerce, mobile is only seeing this same exponential growth when it is in native interactions, like Uber or Apple Pay.
  • As retailers define mobile first experience for commerce, email can move from a traffic channel to a transaction platform.

In the future, email is the destination, not the journey

  • Most marketers use email to send traffic to a destination, but in the future, email can become a destination for transaction, where purchases are made in the email itself.
  • This future is dependant on advances in content personalization and security.

Unleashing the "The Creative Renaissance"

  • On the technology side of marketing, providers must develop their tools so that marketers only to develop strategy, develop content, and develop a creative experience.
  • If software can become more industry specific and intelligent, the extra time spent on CSV files, dragging and dropping, and building campaigns, can be used to fuel creative work of marketers.

No more empty software

  • Too much software is "empty," leaving marketers to configure many touchpoints that could be automated.
  • Often you buy a power point presentation, but you receive a piece of empty software.
  • Software companies need to utilize data to give retailers a head start.
  • Emarsys updates over 100 million data points per day. Their goal is to use this vast amount of consumer data to create better solutions, not just empty software.

Allen Nance's near-term recommendations for marketers and merchants

  • Understand that data is the single most valuable asset you have.
  • People talk a lot about AI, but AI is not like Febreze. You can't spray AI on crappy data to make it smell good.
  • It's better to have good data than a lot of data.
  • Evaluate how you are using email as the digital identifier of your omnichannel strategy.
  • How do I use email across point of sale, mobile, Facebook advertising, and Google Display Network?

What Allen is most excited about for the future

  • The divergence of the gap between mobile growth and mobile commerce. This is a huge opportunity for companies that think about this challenge.
  • First party data is going to become the most valuable thing that marketers have. The idea of a "data collective" will become more prevalent where a multitude of retailers will share their digital data with each other.
  • Individualized pricing. Industries can use personalized data to custom cater pricing on a large scale.

Bring your voice to the conversation

  • Have you experience empty software?
  • What are you doing with your first party data?

Download MP3 (49.7 MB)


Brian: [00:01:40] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about next generation and cutting edge commerce. I am Brian.


Phillip: [00:01:46] And I am Phillip. And today we have a very special guest from one of our very own sponsors, although this is not a paid sponsor spot here today. A very outspoken thought leader in our community, in and around digital commerce, Mr. Allen Nance from Emarsys. He's the Chief Marketing Officer. And I would daresay, futurist extraordinaire. Welcome to the show.


Allen: [00:02:12] Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate it. Excited to be here. And a huge fan of the show and obviously a huge fan and passionate advocate of the topic. So excited to be here and look forward to the conversation.


Phillip: [00:02:26] Glad to have you.


Brian: [00:02:26] Yeah. Yeah. Well, tell us a little bit about yourself, Allen. What's your story? Where are you from? How did you get into this business? How did you become who you are today?


Allen: [00:02:37] Yeah, sure. So as most people's story, I had two good parents, so it starts there, who were wise enough to tell me that there were not things that I couldn't do. That was probably the most loving thing they did for me. But I think probably the most interesting thing about my story is I'm the first person in my family to graduate from high school. That's sort of a claim to fame. First person in my family to go to college. So I take an enormous amount of pride in my education. So I attended Georgia Institute of Technology, which is in Atlanta. And so I have always said that the beginning of my story is, you know, two great parents who... I always love to tell this story. It was almost like my parents didn't know what was on the other side of the tracks. So they told me to just go over there. And ultimately that led me to Georgia Tech. And, you know, when I attended school in 1994, for all of you who are as old as I am, that was sort of what we know is the beginning of the commercial Internet. And so at some level I feel like I was in school for eight years, and I played on the internet, and they gave me a degree, and that's the beginning of my story. So in 2000, when I graduated, I founded one of the original ESPs, or email service providers. It's a company called What Counts. It's still around today. I sold that business in 2010 and since then have been an active investor in and around e-commerce and an active investor in and around marketing technology, co-founded a couple of other marketing technology platform companies. And when Emarsys entered the US market about two and a half, three years ago, I had an opportunity to meet the founders. And I've always been passionate about the broad market marketing technology space, but specifically its implications around e-commerce and retail. And candidly, just fell in love with the founders of Emarsys, fell in love with the platform, fell in love with the technology, and as with most things in life, ultimately fell in love with the people and decided to join the organization on this journey as we sort of plot our course from 100 million in revenue to world domination. {laughter} So it's been a lot of fun. And I don't know if I've been in this industry this long because I'm unqualified to do anything else, but I sort of fancy myself a technologist, but a marketer also. And I love sharing my point of view around this because to me, ultimately, marketers have a daunting task. If anything, it's becoming harder and harder to be a marketer. And consumer expectations are climbing and climbing. And I've never met a marketer who told me they had too much money, too many resources, too much time. So it's a... Whoever that person is, if you raise your hand, and say you're that person, you'll get jumped at a conference and like beat outside or something. So I love doing it because I just believe technology is really the only path forward for a marketer to meet and exceed the expectations of the consumer. And so it's just a lot of fun. And I get opportunities to spend time with cool dudes like you and share my point of view, whether it's right or wrong, it's certainly my point of view, and I'm passionate about it.


Brian: [00:06:15] That's amazing. Great story. Really cool that you got to be there with that kind of the original ESP Crowd. That's a...


Allen: [00:06:25] Yeah, man. I'm an OG. I'm an original ganster. I'm an e mail OG. We should start like a hashtag or something. And so whoever listens to this show today can hashtag #emailog.


Phillip: [00:06:38] I love that. I love that. Well, you know, what's interesting is that you've probably been around long enough now to hear people herald the death of email.


Allen: [00:06:47] Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Don't insult me right at the beginning of the show.


Phillip: [00:06:49] I meant that in the nicest of ways.


Allen: [00:06:51] Exactly.


Phillip: [00:06:52] But, you know, you probably hear these... Every three to five years, everybody's kind of trying to call the next thing that's dead and gone. And usually the only thing that we're right about is yet another Google chat service falling by the wayside. But I think if you look at how email is persisted and how much it really is still very central to a lot of marketing, I would say, you know, a good amount of digital commerce marketing happens over email today. A lot of people, you know, employ entire hordes and teams of people and technology to make email happen. And it's incredibly effective for all of the challenges that we have with email as a platform. So I'm curious what you see. You guys have email as one small part of the Emarsys offering, but if you were to look ahead in the near term and say, what's next? What would you say? What do you say the vision of your near-term future looks like for the role of the marketer in digital commerce?


Allen: [00:07:58] Yeah. I mean, I think, listen... I have read at least every 12 months an article that says email's dead. And so I would just encourage people to, you know, not read the articles and not participate in that. But at the end of the day, listen, the one thing that people always forget about email is it is one of the few, if not only, global, ubiquitous communication platforms that's ever been created on Earth. And what I mean by that is, you know, you can't even move around the world with your cell phone barely on the same network. The cell phone has to jump network to network. I mean, sure, we've created enough innovations where I can turn it on and it works. But I'm still jumping from network to network. And email is just, it's ubiquitous. I mean, the the SNTP protocol works in India the same way it works in Asia the same way it works in the United States. And I think that's why email is so pervasive. Nobody's ever been able to create a platform yet that is as ubiquitous as email and is available. And as sad as this is to say, we all know it, our phones have candidly become our third hands. It's almost like we're walking around like, you know, people with three hands and our third hand is our phone. And email is still the thing that people are interacting with mostly on our phone. Sure, we all probably could use a little bit less saw digital interaction and a little bit more walking in the woods. But ultimately, the reality for marketers is I think e-mail is going to continue to be a dominant channel. But more importantly to me, one of the things I love to tell e-commerce and retail people and candidly digital marketers around the world is is that never lose sight of the fact that email has become are Social Security number of the Internet. It's our digital ID. And so marketers will oftentimes hear me say that email is the start of an omni channel experience. So, you know, oftentimes I'll give a speech, or I'll consult with somebody, and I'll tell them that omni channel excellence starts with email. If you think about email less as an individual channel and more as the single most valuable first party data identifier, not just channel, but think of it as an identifier for Facebook advertising, or for Google Display Network, or for mobile, or tying somebodies web experience to their email and using their email to reverse match it to their mobile device ID. At the end of the day, the thing that excites me about email and why I think it's got a continued long future is because it is effectively our digital ID for the Internet. I mean, I don't know. I don't want to speak for, Brian, you and Phil. But ultimately, I mean, listen, I think the reason that email churn has stopped is because now it's the thing we log onto Spotify, we log on to Facebook, we log onto our Gmail, we log on to our, you know, our kids' high school web site that has class schedules on it. It's the way that we register for our flight programs and our loyalty programs. And it's the way that we go online and buy and it is the way we get our receipts. So to me, yeah, I love email. I mean, as we said, I mean, I consider myself an email OG. But ultimately the reason I'm excited about its future is because I truly in my heart believe it's the digital ID that ties all of these other omni channel experiences together. And if more marketers and more e-commerce retailers viewed it that way, I think that they would have more successful programs to drive sort of customer experience.


Phillip: [00:11:40] So let me just... Wow. OK. Hold on. So in the same way that the world wide web doesn't exist without a domain name system, which we've all adopted and agreed to in a global fashion, identity in 2018 doesn't exist online without e-mail.


Allen: [00:12:00] Correct. In my humble opinion. Listen, I mean...


Phillip: [00:12:04] No I think you convinced me.


Brian: [00:12:08] No, it's true.


Allen: [00:12:08] I think at the end of the day... This is what I've always said to somebody. It's like somebody tell me what else it is. If it's not that. Now, I will also throw a curveball in here. And the curveball that I'll throw in here is this. One of the areas of research I'm spending a lot of time on is this general point of view that the world wide web, specifically for marketing, tech and advertising technology, predominantly works on this idea of a cookie? Right? There's this ability through a browser for me embed a cookie onto your computer and onto your browser, and sort of track your behaviors, and infer who you are, and determine your point of view and your likes and dislikes and what you're doing. Listen, I think everyone that's listening this show today knows they go into their Google Analytics and they can see web traffic either plateauing or falling and mobile interactions climbing 50%, 100%, in some cases, 300%. So what I find interesting about email is, is that it not only is an opportunity for the world wide web, as you described it. I also think email I mean, if you think about it logically, most people's Apple ID is their email address. Most people's log on for Spotify and Uber and other things is their email address. I think that email is not only going to be the bridge for this sort of world wide web environment that we've lived in. Call it between 1994 and you know, today. But it's also the bridge into this sort of mobile experience where cookies don't exist. When you interact on your mobile device, you're streaming location services, but you're not streaming what people think of as traditional web traffic or cookie traffic. And so the question is what is that kind of, what is that ID that is going to bridge my point of cell interactions in store with my web interactions on my web site, but also my interactions with the mobile device, not only my native app, but maybe other mobile devices. And the most logical identifier that crosses all of those is the e-mail address.


Phillip: [00:14:31] So this is interesting because we actually, if you go back one episode in Future Commerce, you go back to the previous episode, we spent a good amount of time talking about, you know, retail innovation in Asia. And the one challenge that we've seen in the digital commerce spaces, you know, especially those platforms that we work with every day, the you know, even the Shopify, the Magento of the world, they all sort of have that same, you know, North American or Western mindset of email sort of being at the hub. But if you go to Asia, a lot of those countries actually have SMS as the hub. The SMS is the identifier. So what do you think from a near term or, you know, for us to sort of reach a global audience? How do we have to adapt our thinking around email?


Allen: [00:15:24] Yeah, well it's a great it's a great point because it's actually something that, with as much experiences I have, I had not done a lot of business in Asia, so it wasn't something that I knew a lot about. Our Managing Director of our Asia business at Emarsys, Ofri, who lives in Hong Kong and runs our business from Hong Kong in Asial, he and I joke he's my one WeChat friend. So I have gotten an education. I have one single friend on WeChat, and it's our managing director at our Hong Kong office. But the one thing that has fascinated me as I've sort of learned more over the last year, year and a half about Asia based commerce. Obviously, Emarsys... We do business on mainland China as well as in Hong Kong and Singapore and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia. Australia is more western in their point of view, in their thinking. But Southeast Asia, Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China. I have started to develop this point of view that those markets actually grew up as mobile first. It's how they grew up, and they're borderline mobile only. When you go into those markets and you really experience, you really experience how they see the mobile device. They see the mobile device as social networking. They see the mobile device as payment. They see the mobile device as location. They see the mobile devices as truly the third hand. I think you're right. I'm seeing more and more and more markets, especially in Asia, become the mobile phone, and the device ID is the core, predominant indicator of sort of who you are. But in the same breath, I don't see a diminishment of email from a revenue perspective, and I think that's where I would draw a distinction, which is although those markets are mobile first for sure, and predominantly in some cases becoming mobile only. From a commerce perspective, meaning, Brian, you or Phil, I interact with you, and that interaction leads to a conversion?


Phillip: [00:17:38] Yeah.


Allen: [00:17:40] You still see email being the dominant channel. Now, ultimately, I think that at that tells us something. I mean, one of the things I've been doing some research on recently is this idea of if mobile interaction is climbing at 50, 100, 200, 300%, whatever it is, and web traffic is plateauing or falling as a whole. Maybe, maybe individual people that are listening to this show today, maybe their traffic is up. But to be clear, across the globe, browser based or desktop interactions is falling. Everyone understands that. And mobile traffic is growing exponentially.


Phillip: [00:18:17] Yep.


Allen: [00:18:18] But what's interesting is mobile commerce isn't growing exponentially except when it's a native interaction. Let me call an Uber. Let me use my Apple Pay to pay for Starbucks. But the idea that I either receive a message or I shop on my mobile device and make a purchase that isn't gaining near the traction that the traffic is. And I think the divergence of those two things are actually a huge opportunity for retailers in e-commerce and web shops. This idea of let me figure out how to make mobile more commerce, or specifically transaction, oriented. And to kind of follow on to this, one of the areas I've been doing a vast amount of research in is around the idea of email, not to keep bringing this back to email, but this idea of email moving from a traffic channel to a transaction platform. And what I mean by this is, Brian, you and Phil and everybody listen to the show today, knows this. Here's the funnel for email. If you're the digital marketing manager, the e-mail marketing manager, you have a list of email addresses, you send them out. You hope to get a 20, 30% open rate. You hope to get a 20, 30% open to click rate. You hope to get, you know, a 2% conversion rate on your web site. That's not that great of a funnel if we're being honest with ourselves. So we're saying I'm going to send it to a hundred people. I hope twenty five of them open it. And I hope of those twenty five, ten of them go to my web site, and when ten of them land on my web site, I hope two of them buy. That's not a great funnel. And what I think about email is this. It's like think about it for a second. Email has historically been a traffic channel. If I send, Brian, if I send you or Phil an email, my hope is that you open it. You click on it. You go to the web site. Then I hope you do something. I'm seeing more and more innovation around email where my hope, my dream, and my aspiration is for you to do something in the email.


Brian: [00:20:37] In context. Yeah.


Allen: [00:20:37] Buy something on the email. Fill out a form in the email. Fill out a survey in the email. I think the next sort of future where email, as a primary platform, and mobile merge together is this idea of email moving from a traffic channel to a transaction platform. And I think with innovations that are coming out and things that I'm doing research around, things that, you know, innovative companies are building like single click purchase capabilities embedded inside of an email. I think that it could potentially be the answer. So as an email OG, I would love the idea that the answer to mobile commerce be email. Nothing would make me happier than that. Dear God, I would be so obnoxious about that. {laughter} Everyone told me that they... It would be unrelenting.


Phillip: [00:21:34] Crazy town.


Allen: [00:21:35] I would be unrelenting.


Brian: [00:21:38] It's almost like...


Phillip: [00:21:38] Brian. Brian.


Brian: [00:21:39] It's almost like you're saying that your email will almost be like the web personalized for you. Like it's your personal web experience that you built on your own. And then you could still do everything that you would do on the Internet. But it's all the stuff of the Internet that you actually want to interact with.


Allen: [00:22:00] No question. And I think the biggest thing is with Apple Pay. And, you know, I don't know if you guys have played with this or not, but, you know, I mean, the way Apple Pay has been integrated into the iPhone, the way that I've seen payment get integrated into WeChat in Asia and other places. Listen. I personally do not believe the physical payment is the technological hurdle to making email a transaction platform. I'm less worried about payment innovation, and I'm actually more worried about content personalization and security around. You know, obviously, Brian, I need to be able to deliver you a personalized message that you couldn't forward to Phil. Phil couldn't buy based off a forwarded email. But this bridge between a mobile experience, a truly individualized piece of email, and payment... Those three things colliding, I believe will ultimately be the answer where retailers and e-commerce people can capture the value that is present and resident between this idea that mobile traffic is climbing. And its climbing. There ain't a single person on Earth that doesn't see that. And the opportunity of it being a transaction platform.


Phillip: [00:26:05] I'm terribly concerned that what I just heard you say was that what we need in email is Snapchat stories. That's what I heard you say. {laughter}


Allen: [00:26:14] No, but based on their stock price, maybe they will end up getting in the email business.


Phillip: [00:26:21] I mean, maybe. I have another podcast that I host with somebody that in the Magento space, and my co-host, Kalen Jorden there, he has this theory. He calls it Kalen's Law, which is every social media and every marketing platform eventually converges toward email, which that would hold true here.


Allen: [00:26:47] I don't even know this guy, and I already I like him.


Phillip: [00:26:52] Brian, you've been a little quiet here. I wanna make sure you have an opportunity to get some thoughts in. This is fascinating.


Brian: [00:26:58] Yeah. This is really good. Actually, so I did want to ask. So obviously, Allen, you're a thinker. You've been focused on the future for a while. And what's next in marketing, in tech and email, in identity. You've developed an idea that I've heard you speak on a while back, last year, called the Creative Renaissance. Can you talk to our listeners a little bit about this idea?


Allen: [00:27:26] Yeah, I think it's this. I mean, I'm a little bit... Listen, I get the idea of marketing technology. I mean, I get it. I'm technical. I have always been very involved in the technology and the innovation. But ultimately, it really comes down to this. There's all this data. There's all this technology. And I got to be honest with you, I don't wake up in the morning and like, you know, and I'm sad to say that like most people on Earth, I look at my phone and my email pretty quickly when I wake up in the morning, I probably should squeeze in a little bit more meditation before I just jump on my phone. But ultimately, I'm not blown away by these experiences that I have. And the thing that... The dichotomy in my mind, I just literally cannot stop obsessing about, is if you think about marketers and consumers as the world's largest two sided marketplace. Like, just think about that for a second. On one side, you have consumers. By their very nature they want to buy things, whether it's shoes and clothes or food or whatever. And on the other side, you have marketers and their sole job is to develop the experience that makes a consumer want more. I've never in my life seen a two sided marketplace where both people want the exact same thing and neither person gets it. And what I mean by that is I've never met a marketer in my entire life who I went and met with them, and like... Brian, let's say I come meet with you in you're like, "Hey, man. My strategy for 2018 is to send crappier messages to fewer people." Nobody ever... No marketer ever says that. Like I've never met with a marketer... That's why I've got this fundamental problem with everybody running to this personalization point of view. It's so obvious. Of course, the intent of the marketer is to deliver a better, more personalized experience. Of course, their strategy is not crappier messages is to fewer people. And on the other side, a consumer... I've never met, a consumer that was like, "Man, I wish people would send me the wrong things." So what's fascinating about this is you have a marketer whose sole mission in life is to truly deliver value and a good customer experience. I believe that in my heart that most marketers have good intent in their soul. And you have a consumer who's like, yes, of course, I want a good experience. In any other two sided marketplace, if one person wanted to do it and the other person wanted to get it, it would be rampant everywhere. Think about that logically for a second. If two people wanted something, it would be rampant everywhere. But if that was true, then we would all be having these amazing personalized experiences. They would just be flying. It would be so personal. We would just get sick of it. But that's not what's happening. And I think it's for two reasons. Number one, on the technology side, all these software vendors are effectively building empty vessels. And what I mean by that is at Emarsys, we oftentimes say we believe that empty software is useless. And so what we try to do every single day is to figure out how to build actual turnkey industry specific solutions into our software. So it's not empty and the marketer has data and knowledge and programs and content and campaigns that they can execute. And on the other side, for the consumer, the consumer just wants a good experience. I mean, I know I do. Y'all will hear me say oftentimes that, and just to be clear, y'all is an actual word... So y'all will oftentimes hear me say that I'm a consumer first, and I'm a marketer second. And what I mean by that is this. Because the marketer has been buying, or being sold is probably a better wording, or being given, empty software, software that is basically a white canvas. And they've got to go do all the work. The marketer has been turned into a technologist. And I think the person who is losing in that world is the actual consumer. So the marketers is trying to be a halfway engineer, or data scientist, or segmentor, or drag and droper, or whatever you want to say. But the marketers spending all their time on that and the person who's losing is the consumer. So one of the things that gets me up every morning and keeps me focused and passionate and motivated is this idea that if we could deliver software that wasn't empty, but software that was truly knowledgeable and truly a partner of the marketer, then we could alter the role of the marketer, and we could get the market or focused on the three things they actually should be doing, which is developing a strategy, developing content, and developing a creative experience that will differentiate them from other people in the market. I will tell you this, when I meet with a marketer, the number of times that they go, "Man, Allen, I'm spending too much time on strategy. I got too much time. And I'm investing too many resources in strategy." And I've never met a marketer that was like, "Man, all this damn content I got is just too much. I got too much content." And I've never met a marketer that was like, "Man, my creative is so good. I'm just going to go home." What they're spending their time on is frickin sending CSV files around, importing stuff, building campaigns, dragging and dropping... I mean, it's just crazy what a digital marketer is spending their time on. It's because they're being given empty software instead of industry specific solutions. And so the way that I wrap all of this together is that if we invest millions and millions and millions of millions of dollars and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people, and we build industry specific software that isn't empty, then what should happen, if we do our job right, if I do my job right, if we all do our job right, if the eight hundred people at Emarsys do their job right, we ultimately should create all of this extra time for the marketer. If we do our job right. And all of that extra time, I have sort of lovingly referred to as a Creative Renaissance. We're gonna unleash all of this pent up time that is spent on CSV files, and importing, and exporting, and dragging and dropping, and building campaigns, and all of this stuff that isn't a good investment of a true marketer's talent. And we're gonna spend that time developing better strategies, better goals, implementing better tactics, and all of the things that a marketer should be doing. And I'll tell you this, I know I didn't get into marketing so that I could drag and drop or like import/export CSV files. I just didn't. I got into marketing because I love the creativity, and I love the idea of creating a consumer experience. And I love the idea of doing research, and I love the idea of being on shows like this. So to me, I have attempted to frame the opportunity if we all do it right as this idea of a Creative Renaissance.


Brian: [00:35:03] Yeah. So I think with what I like about what you're saying is I think that a lot... There's this phrase that goes around a lot, and I think it gets misinterpreted a lot. The phrase is "Don't invest in tech for the sake of technology." And a lot of people use that to mean "Don't invest in technology." Just use what you have and get scrappy with it. But the right strategy is invest in technology that will allow your team to actually be able to do their jobs better and connect with their audiences better and differentiate your business better, because that's the kind of technology that will actually propel your business forward.


Allen: [00:35:47] No question. I mean, let's think about an e-commerce or retail company. Let's think about the technology stack of everyone that's listening to the show today. If you go by a point of sale system, it's empty, right? I mean, think about it. You have to load your products, prices, descriptions, your inventory. You've got to create the prices. You've got to create the consumer experience when somebody walks into the store. You've got to hang the racks. You've got to do all of this stuff. A point of sale system is effectively an empty piece of software. I'm not trying to say that I think, you know, ShopKeep, or Shopify's point of sale, or whatever point to sale you're buying, whether you bought Epicor, or whatever you bought... I'm not saying it's bad, I'm just trying to make a point that it's empty. And no matter what shopping cart you buy, if you buy Shopify or you buy BigCommerce, you buy Magento, or you buy Volusion, or you buy Demandware or you buy Hybris, whatever you buy, the shopping cart technology, the platform, is effectively empty. And now the marketer's got to go fill it full of products, prices and descriptions, and then they got to go build a web site, and then they've got to create an experience, and they've got to lay out the web site, and they've got to create the conversion funnel, and they've got to try to optimize the shopping cart abandonment. They gotta to do all this stuff. And most marketers are buying, what? I don't know, one, two, three, four, five, 10, 15, marketing point solutions, marketing tech point solutions. And every single one of them is empty. And what I'm just seeing is, is that people are saying don't buy technology. OK. I mean, I don't really think that's an option. I mean, that seems silly, actually. What I want to start trying to advocate for is stop buying empty technology. Stop buying technology that's empty and divorce of data and knowledge and experiences and programs and tactics and things that are embedded in the software. Stop doing that. I actually do want to do that. I mean, you know, probably sometime through the course of the fall and into next year, you know, I'll go on one of my evangelizing tours around this empty software concept, and probably put up tents like I'm a pastor or something. But I think ultimately what I see are marketers and e-commerce and retail people just being burdened and crushed by the amount of empty software that they're buying. Crushed. I mean, it's just it's unrelenting. I mean, honestly, it's kind of sad, actually.


Phillip: [00:38:26] Yeah, I think you're right. I'm trying to think about a...


Allen: [00:38:31] Ok, the show's over now. You said I'm right.


Phillip: [00:38:33] Yeah.


Allen: [00:38:34] Let's end the show.


Phillip: [00:38:34] Yeah, I've never...


Allen: [00:38:35] Let's end the show. I'm sorry. I have to go now.


Phillip: [00:38:36] I've never thought about that.


Brian: [00:38:38] Allen's out.


Allen: [00:38:38] Out of time.


Brian: [00:38:38] Mic drop.


Phillip: [00:38:38] Drop mic. Yeah.


Allen: [00:38:41] Out of time.


Phillip: [00:38:41] My sense is that the way that we sell software is equitable for the software company and not for the merchant.


Allen: [00:38:52] Absolutely.


Phillip: [00:38:52] And when I say that, I think about the way that, you know, retail works in the real world. You sign a lease to get some square footage in your local strip mall. And that strip mall has an understanding that you have a period of time where you are going to have to have a build out, and so you probably negotiate as part of that lease some sort of a build out term where you're not necessarily occupying the space, but you're building out. And so your lease doesn't kick in until the time where you're actually probably, you know, up and running and making money. Hopefully you get that done a little sooner and you can, you know, make that even more equitable for yourself as a business. We don't have the equivalent of that in a software as a service world where everything is, you know, hands off and marketer or a retailer initiated.


Allen: [00:39:45] Let me throw out another crazy idea to use your analogy of a physical retail store.


Phillip: [00:39:52] Yeah.


Allen: [00:39:52] Here's what we're really doing. If I'm a real estate owner, I lease you, I don't know, 5000 square feet to build out your retail store. The equivalent of what has been happening in software that is so fundamentally flawed, or at least my point is it's bad for the marketer to buy empty software. Not only do software companies sell you the empty white box, they then sell you professional services that would be the equivalent of the build out. So they're leasing you an empty box, and then they're saying, "Hey. Then you need to pay me to paint it and build a bathroom and build the changing rooms and help you set up the store. And then I'm going to charge you to hang the light out front." I mean, it would be as if the retail company was making money on selling you an empty lease, then charging you rent, and then charging you to build it out.


Phillip: [00:40:44] Oh, I love this analogy. This will go far because I think you take it one step further, which is we also don't want to meet you at the front door and give you a tour of the place. You have to swipe your credit card to get in. And then, we'll be back in 30 days time.


Allen: [00:40:58] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so. So some of the analogies that I've been playing with with people is this. Listen. The problem is, is that you're buying a PowerPoint presentation, and then you're being given an empty piece of software. That's what's happening. Actually I think this is true for most software companies. If the software came the way the PowerPoint presentation looked, it would actually be amazing. But what happens is, is that you see this PowerPoint presentation, and then you buy a piece of empty software. So what we have done at Emarsys is we've just fundamentally challenged ourselves to alter the role of the marketer, or revolutionize the role of the marketer. If you think about this, we do business in 200 countries around the world. We do business in Australia, in Asia, and in Europe, and in North America. We support 2,000 brands, and we're generating billions of interactions every day across email and the web and mobile and SMS. And we have all of this data. I think our database, the last count I got, I think our database is updated at 100 million data points or lessons that the software has learned every day. But we're gonna deliver somebody an empty piece of software? That doesn't even make any sense, actually. We have all of this knowledge. If you think about it, Brian and Phil, logically, and everybody that's listening to this show, if we are actually who we say we are, and I obviously think that we are, and we have three billion consumers in our database and billions of interactions and hundreds of millions of campaigns and hundreds of millions of data points, then we should be able to turn that into industry specific knowledge and bake it into the platform so that when you buy are "retail store" or our "software," we should be able to deliver you a solution. Not an empty piece of software. And to me, I mean, obviously, now I'm on a recording, and I think you guys get, what, 100 hundred million listeners each week? So a hundred million people are going to hear me say that Emarsys is challenging the entire industry to stop buying empty software and to alter this point of view that if we have all of this data, and all of this information, then marketers should expect to get a little bit more help from us.


Brian: [00:43:25] That's amazing. I love that. I think that every software company should be challenged this way.


Allen: [00:43:36] Yeah. I agree.


Brian: [00:43:36] And I think Phillip and I are going to take this and probably start running with it. {laughter} I really what I like go away and stew on this.


Allen: [00:43:43] Do it.


Brian: [00:43:43] And start thinking through each piece of software that I've interacted with it and think about how empty it is.


Phillip: [00:43:50] For sure.


Brian: [00:43:51] I love this concept. So Allen, to kind of wrap things up because we're coming up on time here. Maybe you could give us some top near-term recommendations for merchants, and then maybe what should we be looking out five years ahead from now?


Allen: [00:44:11] Yeah, I think the number one thing that every merchant retailer, e-commerce person, web shops should be focused on, is understanding that data is the single most valuable asset that you have. I've oftentimes made this joke also, which is the current sort of innovation de jour, if you will, is this idea of AI, artificial intelligence. But what I love about this, and I don't know if you all heard me say this before, but AI is not like Fabreeze. You can't just take it and spray it on crap data and it's going to smell good. Like, that's not how it works. Like you can't take crap data, spray it with AI Fabreeze, and all of a sudden it smells good. Regardless of whether it's AI or data science or personalization or whatever, the root of all of that being successful is a retailer or an e-commerce store or someone having good data. And you heard me say. Not a lot of data. Good data. That the data that they have is good, and it's clean, and it's unified, and it's usable. And so the number one thing I would like everyone to leave is to legitimately ask themselves, look themselves in the mirror and say, "Are we good at managing our data?" Seriously. Are we good at it? And if the answer to that is, "No." Literally stop buying all of these PowerPoint slides and all of this innovation, all the stuff that's being sold. Every retailer that is creating a good customer experience or consumer experience is good at data. I'm convinced of it. I've never seen somebody create a good experience that wasn't good at data. So I think that's my recommendation. Number one. Be serious about being good at managing data, and be serious about unifying that data, and be serious about cleaning that data up because you'll create a better consumer experience, and you will be rewarded with growth and more revenue. The other thing that I would love to advise people to take a real look at is how are they using email as the digital identifier for their omni channel strategy? I think it's a legitimate question that people can ask themselves. And it's not some futuristic thing. It's something that people can do today. How good am I at data? And then assuming that the answer to that question is agreeable, then how good am I at using email to drive an omni channel strategy across point of sale, across in-store, across mobile, across Facebook advertising, across the GDN. And then looking out into the future? I think there's three things that I'm probably the most excited about. The first thing that I'm excited about is this idea that the divergence between mobile growth and mobile commerce, the gap between those two things, is a huge opportunity. Huge. I mean, it's almost impossible to measure. If mobile traffic is going to continue to climb, you've got to believe that mobile commerce will start to pick up. And when it does, it's going to be an enormous opportunity for the companies that think about it. So listen, I want retailers and people to stop thinking about, "Oh, is my site responsive or not?" And started thinking about mobile commerce. Is the experience that I'm creating really, really attuned and optimized for someone to physically and literally buy something? So I think mobile commerce is an enormous opportunity over the next call it 12 to 36 months. The second thing that I'm actually really, really, really interested in right now that I'm doing a bunch of research around is the idea that first party data is going to ultimately be the most valuable thing that people have. And here's what I mean. I actually think that retailers, and this is actually something that was done in the old, old catalog days. There was this idea of a data collective. One of the original companies in the data collective space was a company called Abacus. And they would let one or two or three retailers take their first party data and combine it, in a sort of anonymized way, to get a better view of the consumer. I actually think this idea of a data collective is going to manifest itself in the digital world also where retailers are going to start to join digital first party data collectives. I don't mean acquisition. That's not what I mean. I don't mean, you know, like these DNPs that are doing acquisition oriented stuff. I'm talking about retention based, data collectives where one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 retailers are sharing digital data with each other from a first party perspective of what's Allen doing. So I'd really encourage people to sort of keep an eye out for this data collective concept to take place and take root around first party data. I'm doing a whole bunch of research right now.


Brian: [00:49:28] Have you seen the company OneMarket?


Allen: [00:49:35] I have, I have. And I'm actually really excited what they're doing..


Brian: [00:49:38] Yes. I think that's probably pretty in line with what you're talking about.


Allen: [00:49:42] Yeah. Super excited about that. There's a company called SafeGraph, which was founded by Auren Hoffman, who was the founder of LiveRamp. He's in and around this space also. He's doing some really, really interesting things. So that's to me, an exciting area of innovation. Because the reason people, I think, take their eye off the ball of first party data is because it seems self-contained. It feels like it's only what I know. But once first party data becomes, hey, what do I know? plus, what do you know about my first party data, it starts to take on sort of a new point of view. And then the third thing that I would say that people sort of need to keep an eye out for is... I think that one of the most interesting areas beyond just random content or product personalization that data science, machine learning, AI have an opportunity to impact, is what I think of as individualized pricing. And what I mean by this, Brian and Phil, and to all the listeners, is basically this... If you have good data, and you have good product prices and descriptions, the opportunity to do individualized pricing at scale, instead of what the industry has always thought of as discounts or offers, is an enormous revenue driver, an enormous margin driver. And if you think about it, only data science, machine learning, AI could actually scale that. I mean, the reason why we do discounts is because Brian, Phil, and Allen basically need to get the same discount because, as a digital marketer, I can't scale a hundred thousand individualized prices for a [00:51:29] hundred thousand... Research around that also. So those are kind of the things that I would... That aren't futuristic like 5 years or 10 years from now that I think that people and listeners should keep an eye out for. And I'll close with that and just say it's been an absolute pleasure to be with you guys today. And it's always a delight to share my point of view. [00:51:30]


Phillip: [00:51:30] Thank you. And thanks for listening. Wow. We'd love you to lend your voice to this conversation. Our listeners out there, you could best at FutureCommerce.fm and drop Allen a line. We want to hear what you think. What's your take on this? And have you experienced empty software? What are you doing with your first party data? I'd love to hear more from you, our listeners. So make sure that you like and subscribe, so you never miss an episode of Future Commerce. And get on our FC Insiders email list, and that's your best and greatest way of making sure you never miss anything that's coming out and coming your way. Thank you, Allen, for joining us.


Brian: [00:51:31] Thank you, Allen.


Phillip: [00:51:32] And until next time, retail tech moves fast.


Brian: [00:51:35] But Future Commerce is moving faster.


Allen: [00:51:38] Thank you, guys.