For retailers in the age of Amazon, user experience is a question of survival

Understanding why customers make the decisions they do can be key to success for any retailer. A Q&A with Jonathan Cherki, CEO of retail analytics company Content Square.

Video: AI will enable new levels of automation and a consistent customer experience in marketing

Understanding your customer is the key to success for any retailer. That's a lot easier when you can see them in your store, checking out and looking at your products. But what if they are using a browser to explore your shop online instead? Content Square is a French company that helps retailers to analyse and optimise user experiences on mobile, web, and in apps.

ZDNet spoke to its CEO Jonathan Cherki to find out more.

ZDNet: Tell me a little bit about your company.

content-square.jpg

Cherki: "User experience is a question of survival in a world where Amazon represents 44 percent of the sales in the US."

Picture: Content Square

Cherki: Today we have more than 200 people in New York, London, Munich, and Paris. We develop software solutions that help businesses to understand how and why users are interacting with their app, mobiles, and websites. We do this by analysing every mouse movement, every touch, and every swipe in every user interaction, and that helps us understand how we can improve each customer journey efficiently.

Today, customers have things like Google analytics or Adobe analytics so that they understand where they are losing people, but they don't know what is happening in the page. What is the user experience?

So the main focus of your business is to improve the user experience?

Yes, and to improve people. I think that the best way to improve a company is to improve the efficiency of the team. It is not just a digital transformation but a people transformation. That is to say, if everyone can easily measure their own contribution to the revenue of the company, they will change the way they work.

So how will they do that?

Firstly, nowadays they can really measure the efficiency of what they are producing. Let's take a designer who is producing a new visual. Previously, they did not know what their efficiency was. With Content Square, you can have a commercial rate and know what the revenue is on each image and we then attribute the efficiency of each piece of content.

Take somebody in charge of merchandising. Every day they can change the offer, but they cannot measure what in reality is the efficiency of each page. We are enabling the people in charge of the content, the analytics, the merchandising to have the ability to measure it in one click.

If, in every decision you are making, you can have the data to see if your decision is good or not, then that is a big change.

Where did the idea come from?

First of all, I was focusing on measuring the efficiency of display [advertising], and so I did see that even if your banner [ad] is really good, if the journey on the website is poor, the customer will leave.

I wanted to see what happened between the display and the checkout. I analysed the market and I could see that we don't really understand why a user will quit the website -- what the reality of the experience is.

So, then I looked to make a comparison with the store. In the store you could measure how many people are coming into the store and how many people are coming out one way and how many coming out another. You could not understand what they were exactly viewing and why they took the decision. With Content Square we can.

So the focus is on trying to understand the customer better and trying to find a way in which you can quantify the experience?

Yes. The focus is on understanding the customer journey better. What they are doing, why they are leaving. It is about knowing how to offer a good digital experience. That is the first point. The second is to measure the efficiency of content -- the journey they make, the texts or video they make.

So companies can have thousands of users in one area and have no idea how they translate into sales but have hundreds in another that do translate into sales?

We have developed an attribution model that can measure the efficiency of each area. And it works with advertising. Do you use Google, or a TV show, or a banner? That is all the same question that we try to answer.

Download now: Data classification policy

In the customer journey, we identify what are the points of friction, and try to understand which content is working, which feature is generating more value or more engagement. Engagement is not just a click.

I think the fact that we are collecting new kinds of data and providing new insights is key. Before, analytics was a job for experts. We have tried to make it something that can be done by anybody. That is the first step.

The second step is to provide insight. That is not something to look for, insight comes to you. For example, it could be that the site sees that you have a problem with your slideshow and tells you to change it.

How has your software developed?

From 2012 to 2016 we were focusing on developing the product to be easy to use by everyone. That is to say, you have a lot of data but what you don't have is time.

We help our customers to get the insight they need so that they can get what they want by themselves, and we would like it if everyone in the company, not just one expert or data analyst, but everyone uses it.

Then the most important reason for the growth of the company is the timing. Our market was estimated at $500m four years ago. The market is now estimated at $8bn. The reason why? Because user experience is a question of survival. Particularly in a world where Amazon represents 44 percent of the sales in the US. When you create a good experience, it is not that they will go to Amazon and buy your product. They will buy your experience. They will buy your services.

That is why I think there is good reason why companies will survive if they offer a unique experience. And people are loyal. They love some brands. They want to discover them, read about them. They will not just go there to buy a product.

So Amazon is one of the big issues for retailers?

One of the strengths of Amazon is the service they provide. The number of products, fast delivery, you can swap things easily, and so on.

Our work is on the experience for the customer. We see from our customers that the experience is not just finding good products. It is to create a unique journey for each customer.

Look at luxury goods. It takes time to sell them. You don't just rush to spend $1,000. You need to come to the store, to look, to discover, to analyse.

So, your company aims to offer a much better view of where the customer is going?

That's right, and in every relationship, that is what we aim to do: to know what they are looking for, to understand why they are looking in a particular area, and we quantify that. We put numbers on all of this and in a way that everyone can understand.

See also: Special report: Turning big data into business insights (free PDF)

And it's not based on classic segmentation. It's based on your mindset. Someone is defined by what he or she is doing and what they are feeling. They might be stressed. They might be unsatisfied. Maybe they are lost. For us, a good customer journey is when we can get to understand the mindset of the user.

And you are having some success with this?

The company is doing very well. Last year we hired 120 people. This topic is of such interest that every year we will have between 100 and 200 new companies using our analysis of the way to work.

Previous and related content

How Sephora is leveraging AR and AI to transform retail and help customers buy cosmetics

Beauty retailer Sephora followed customer technology trends to command the cosmetic industry worldwide. Here's an inside look at its successful digital transformation

Apple-based retail tech shows mobile at the core of commerce

Apple mobile technology is being used in a far broader number of ways and our reporter recently saw demonstrations of how third-party tech vendors and Apple itself are using iOS technologies to streamline retail transactions.

Amazon Go: The impact on human jobs, retail innovation, Amazon's bottom line

Amazon Go, a cashier- and cash-free shopping experience from Amazon, has garnered headlines, some consternation and a lot of oohs and ahhs from the tech press but now it's time to look at the fallout, the impact on business, and how Amazon Go can ultimately add to Amazon's bottom line.

Consumers spending more money, less time while shopping via smartphone (TechRepublic)

Faster internet speeds and an increased focus on e-commerce could be making it easier for consumers to shop from a mobile device.

4 things you didn't know about Amazon (CNET)

Think you know everything there is to know about the online superstore? Think again.