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Market Movers How to leverage today’s tools to revolutionize their customer experience, and brand perception?

In this episode Kodella’s VP of Commerce Jason Asher takes a deep dive into how every brand can leverage today’s tools to revolutionize their customer experience, product development and brand perception, setting them up for success on a whole new scale post-recession.


Transcript

Al Lalani:

Well, welcome to Annex Cloud Market Movers, where we bring in experts and luminaries to help us with the current times. Today, I'm extremely excited to welcome Jason Asher from Kodella. Jason and I have known each other for a very long time. He's been in sort of the commerce ERP, sort of a customer experience space for a very long time, so I'm very excited to welcome Jason. Jason, thank you for joining us.

Jason Asher:

Thank you, Al. I don't think I've ever been called a luminary, so I'll take that as a compliment.

Al Lalani:

Absolutely, and you are. And so, if we could start, Jason, just an introduction, a little bit about yourself, your background, and history.

Jason Asher:

Sure.

Al Lalani:

And your work at Kodella, that'd be great if we can start there.

Jason Asher:

Sure, sure. So, hi, my name is Jason Asher. This is the 11th step of the 12-step program, speaking to you today, Al. Right now, I'm actually a Vice President of Commerce at Kodella. We are a startup out of Orange County, California. We primarily operate within the NetSuite ecosystem and some other ecosystems on our E-channel retail.

Prior to that, I've held positions at Oracle NetSuite where I ran global operations for the commerce agency program, ran the E-business strategy team at Venda. I think that's where you and I met. And then prior to that, I've held positions at Swatch Group, at Walt Disney Company. And then actually got my start in the retail business as a child, working alongside my grandfather, and may he rest in peace, and my father. Their retail store is in Brooklyn, so a lot of really interesting bespoke experience that comes together in the technology field.

Al Lalani:

That's great. And you've been on both sides of the table, so you have an appreciation for what it is to be a retailer-

Jason Asher:

Yeah.

Al Lalani:

From your family's side, and then moved on to technology side so even understanding of what technology is needed to solve-

Jason Asher:

Yeah.

Al Lalani:

Real problems in the real world. If we start with your experience coming from an ERP space, even though I've seen NetSuite, you were running the commerce sort of practice or partnership practice there. NetSuite is a huge ERP play. And, if I may ask a sort of question around how ERPs are evolving or will evolve in this current decade, according to you. The evolution of what ERPs used to be back in the day, around having disparate systems and bringing it all together into one place. But what's the next evolution for ERPs as you see it, and how does customer experience have a role to play in it?

Jason Asher:

Okay. So, I see ERPs evolving. First of all, the notion of data migration, especially with the NetSuite ERP is such a mature level right now that you could be a retailer of any shape or size, B2C, B2B, whatever vertical you're in. And the data are going to land inside the NetSuite and be structured and then add value to the modules that you purchased, right?

And then from there, because the data is so structured, and it's so strategically structured by the NetSuite product teams, that's what enables horizontal and vertical scalability of businesses. So, where this is going? I believe you're going to see the NetSuite ERP and more and more retail brands, E-commerce brands in the coming decade.

But the real exciting piece, and I know you have probably had conversations one-on-one about this, is that I see ERP systems having a dramatic impact on small and medium businesses as the pandemic is going to start to subside and the world is going to start to kind of go through this kind of post-COVID phase.

What I mean by that is that I could clearly see how property owners are going to adopt ERP systems to enable small businesses to structure their data. Getting rid of the Quickens, getting rid of the QuickBooks, and just getting them on an ERP so that they could have their small businesses take advantage of modules and platforms like an Annex Cloud to deliver loyalty or different payment processors. So, they could actually compete with the bigger retailers to remain relevant within their small towns.

And this, I believe, is going to start a revolution, to rebuild the small businesses in America and really across the world that were really hit by the pandemic. So I think what we're going to see is a really exciting revolution of small businesses kind of upping their game in terms of their brand touch with their customers, having ERP systems lead the way.

Al Lalani:

That's great, and that's a very unique proposition because there's a huge market to be had, as you were saying, that will evolve because of this. And then when those small businesses now, through whatever consortium of products that they have the ability to understand their customer better, or get the data together, or they will be much more powerful than they are-

Jason Asher:

Yes.

Al Lalani:

Today in understanding the customers and serving their customers.

So that's truly great. And the other thing that I know I'm very excited about that you've mentioned to me that I'm going to learn a little bit more about, is this focus on sort of customer experience and the evolution of customer experience. And we've been talking about this for a very long time, but you've been on three sides of the table. I shouldn't even say that, but the three sides of the table. But you've been on the retail side, you've been on the technology vendor side and now you're on the services side, right? And so if that's coming in, what are you looking at it from a retailer standpoint? How do you bring a great customer experience to life when you have the right technologies in place, whether it's NetSuite made products or Annex Cloud or anything else, that's all of the problems? You still have to put it together in a way-

Jason Asher:

Yeah.

Al Lalani:

To solve the customer problem. How do you approach that-

Jason Asher:

Yeah.

Al Lalani:

From a customer perspective?

Jason Asher:

Well, usually we just write down the logos on pieces of paper. We throw them in the cardboard box, we mix it up, we pull it out, "Hey, that's what we're going to work on today."

So, I think that the most important part about how you're framing out this notion is that we take the time during the alignments to really grasp what the main thing is of the retail in the current state and the future state, right? What experience have they brought to the world that is successful? And then what experience do they want to continue to bring to the world when they go through their digital transformation, right? So now, we're talking about not so much a feature functions, arms race. But now we're talking about, you said the experiential part of what's great about all these platforms and how they converged together.

So our approach is called the Kodella CX framework, where we start with our stack of records, where we identify the vendors that are needed to bring the vision to life. And that's really the moment in time where the feature functions discussions are going to be late to rest. And we're going to start to craft the experience.

So the first thing that we're going to do was going to talk about the data experience, how to structure the data from these disparate platforms into the suite. And then from there going into the ERP, getting the data into the different modules, getting the workflows defined, getting the workflows down. And now that all of that has settled during the development process, now we're going to talk about the brand experience. Now we're going to talk about what got you here. Okay. And once we talked about what got you here, how are we mapping that within the ERP based upon structured data.

And then once that is mapped as a brand experience, now we're going to talk about omnichannel, right? So omnichannel is where now we're going to enter into a phase where loyalty becomes part of that critical path because loyalty mixed in and blended with the data that ERP systems like NetSuite has. The amount of associations that you can make for uncovering who your best customers are, who your frequent buyers are, what is your birthday, how you could reach out to them.

Loyalty now becomes an omnichannel associate. It becomes an omnichannel associate based upon how you could communicate bidirectionally with your customer, but then also the product feedback you can give, right? So then as you float that up through the value added experience, now you have a touch point, online, in-store, different touch points at kiosk potentially in malls or whatnot, but every single touch point, you're going to know your customer.

You're going to know how loyal they are. You're going to get them to have potentially more interactions with the brand. And then from those other actual interactions with the brand really get them on a great path. So that, that relationship is constantly going to grow. And that what we're going to do is that we're going to analyze the data experience, ERP experience brand, omnichannel, value added experience as part of the CX framework. So that we could really figure out opportunities and innovations, post lives, to segment within those experience verticals.

Then of course, loyalty then, not only begins with omnichannel. Now it spreads across the brand, now it spreads across the value added and them ultimately into the ERP when we're talking about CRM and other points of distribution for the products themselves.

Al Lalani:

That's great. And, and one of the things I really liked if I had to synthesize in a way for me, would be you've had, in this framework of days, you've got technology platforms like NetSuite or Annex Cloud and others. And you've got the customers and the problem, and you've got essentially Kodella helping them in between. And then before it all sort of school scenario, the service teams would be thought of as implementation partners, "Oh, I want to be in ERP. I'll bring them in." That's great. But the missing two blocks that you're bringing in with the CX framework for me, one is the strategy part, which is tying in the technologies and the customer problem, and a strategy-

Jason Asher:

Right.

Al Lalani:

Figuring out really how we can provide that solution.

Jason Asher:

Right.

Al Lalani:

And secondly, the Go2Market, because these technologies are already integrated in a way that the Go2Market is much faster. Once you've figured out, that solution to your problem is solved by these different things, putting that together.

Jason Asher:

Right.

Al Lalani:

So having that, that seamless sort of piece from the customer journey of customer problems, the customer journey, customer journey to the implications on that journey and what needs to be there, to the technologies that play in there and then Go2Market and actually launching them. So that whole middle area is a pretty wide one. And I think that-

Jason Asher:

Yeah.

Al Lalani:

You're solving that with this CX framework, which is great.

Jason Asher:

Yeah.

And Al to your point, that middle layer, that's becoming the critical path right now. So regardless of the feature function that you think you need, the actual execution on the ground of that layer could go through multiple iterations, right? We at Kodella, we put together roadmaps, we believe that everything goes according to plan. This is going to happen probably 50% of the time it does, because the world is moving so quickly and innovation becomes really one of the paramount core tenants of the deployment right now. That sometimes we're delayed a couple of weeks.

Admittedly, we are, but if that customer goes live, after we get that innovation in with whatever module it involves that they go live, and then they're like, plus one, or plus 2% conversion rate and their businesses growing, their content interactions are growing. Their loyalty interactions are growing those couple of weeks that we were able to provide that level of innovation. That's, what's going to push that business forward. That's, what's going to deliver on the promise of all the different sales decks that all of these guys have seen and all these pre-sales or whatever.

The main thing of when that actually happens, like you said Al, would be when we come in and we have all these disparate nodes that we're putting together in the framework. That becomes the main thing of operationalizing the vision, either through an MVP with multiple phases or through a big bang. But that's becoming the main thing now in the world of how brands are going to be able to push themselves forward into the future.

Al Lalani:

That's great. And the second part of what you've mentioned which I liked before as well, was around the case of loyalty, sort of tying in those things together. But I don't want to get your viewpoint a little bit on how end customers may want to perceive retention and loyalty as a tactic in the upcoming times. I'll tell you sort of what we're seeing, right? A little bit as a context to get your thoughts.

In a booming market, marketers may always think and say it's more, less expensive to retain a customer than it is to acquire a customer. But the reality is as a marketer, you're always trained to think "Acquire, acquire, acquire, right?" All of us at businesses, we all want to acquire new customers, right?

That's always able to give how much new business did you get. And in a challenging market like we are now, you start really thinking about loyalty and retention. And one of the things we saw from a study that was done in 2008, the last sort of session where Kelly and the marketing did the study.

And they found that they did a study of over 685 top brands, scopes, Pepsi, Samsung, the world and over 30 million customers. And they found that in 2009, 52% of the most loyal customers, all of these brands had defected. Some of them are defected because the price somewhat defected because of unavailable of buying.Some are defected for some other reason. But that's a major defection that had happened. And the brands that focused on retaining those customers proactively came out of that recession much faster.

So that concept of, "Hey, you should now think of doing this for the next few years," is much more important.

Jason Asher:

Yeah.

Al Lalani:

But do you think, other than the technology aspect of it, a little bit of conceptual perspective, when you think of loyalty and retention, how do you foresee companies thinking about that in the next few years as they're coming out of where we are in now?

Jason Asher:

Well, I believe that loyalty is going to play a pivotal role in product development. So my perception based upon our customers and based upon the customers that I've been able to work with over the years, is that when manufacturers, brands are able to match how they're developing products, it turns of a relevancy and a resonance to the market. Even if it brings something new to market, how they're making their customer's lives better? And then how loyalty programs are reinforcing, how they're able to add to their lives.

So, for example, right, let's say we have two use cases, I think were phenomenal, Al. When you have a booming economy, when you release a new product, you could wait a little while because you're still getting attraction from what's already in the market.

So there's more of a story, there's more of the buildup. Where we're going through recessions. Now the manufacturers, the people who run these brands, now they have to adapt. So adaptability of product development and adaptability of brand perception is going to be as much as about the strength of their position in a market with loyalty. Because if their position in the market, isn't that strong, but they offer the best product, the loyalty programs can help them get that product into the world to get word of mouth going.

Those who are in a position where they don't believe innovation is needed, or they've already reached the pinnacle of something. Those that stand still, especially right now, they're done. They're done and there's no hope. Those that are going to adapt and those that are going to adapt strategically with landing pages, with loyalty, with a purpose, to your point, Al. Those are the ones who are going to emerge with brute strength and be able to take over entire markets that maybe they will be very efficient.

So my perception is that brands that are able to talk about how their products can adapt to the current market, current lifestyle, is going to be the critical path now. Case in point, if we look at exercise brands those who make home equipment, the palatants of the world, the manufacturers that make whole weights, that whole workouts, now that the pandemic, and you can't go to the gym. All of a sudden, if you're this little brand somewhere in Ohio, that's just making yoga mats.

All of a sudden, everybody in America needs your yoga mat because they can't go to the gym. So now enter that attraction with a loyalty program. Getting and gaining the feedback of your product. Adjusting your product based upon the feedback. Releasing new things. Building that loyal customer base, showing your customers that you're listening, and that you're doing something about what you're listening to.

It's so simple, it's dead simple, man, right? And again, the loyalty piece of that allowing not only you to be rewarded, but allowing your friends to participate. That then becomes part of the critical path for sustaining the growth and be able to turn a small brand into a major brand post recession.

So I could easily see the why of why Annex Cloud is going to be there and why you're going to contribute to it. But it's also a reciprocal relationship that these brands and manufacturers have to know that we need to pivot and adapt, because what worked then, even after the pandemic blows over.

If you're just thinking that, "Hey after everything ends, it's going to go back to normal." It's not, the world is going to change. Brands are going to change. And it's going to be interesting to see who emerges as a result. But it's much about product development and those that are in these brands that realize what they need to do, coupled with a strong ERP, strong commerce and strong loyalty. That those kinds of four touch points is the why behind why these brands will emerge with strength coming out of the recession that we're in right now.

Al Lalani:

That's great. That's fabulous insight. And I think that from a product perspective, that made me think a lot as well. So, that's great. One of the things I also want to sort of get your feedback on today is innovation in the B2B world. And the reason I say that is, the B2C space, when it comes to customer experience, when it comes to E-commerce, when it comes to loyalty, they've been thinking about of it for a few more years in the B2B world.

Jason Asher:

Yes.

Al Lalani:

But B2B world has been disrupted with this pandemic as much, or even more than the B2C world has?

Jason Asher:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Al Lalani:

In many capacities, right? Distributions, the resellers, the impact that their buyers are having so on and so forth. And there is a lot more that needs to be done in the B2B world when it comes to customer experience, E-commerce and loyalty that we're very excited about on the loyalty side, especially in the B2B side. And that's sort of it.

What's your take on the B2B world and how it needs to adapt in terms of customer experience, E-commerce and loyalty in the next few years?

Jason Asher:

That's actually a phenomenal question because we're going through that with a lot of our customers now. And especially the notion of stickiness, when you have high volume businesses, like those who make plumber parts, those who make hoses and fasteners and all sorts of like HVAC parts and even cigar accessories.

And, the thing is it's like the mountain is actually, the slope is actually more slippery, if I could use that analogy in the B2B world versus the B2C world. Because with B2B, the repetitive nature of purchasing is at a much, much harder level than B2C. So the notion of stickiness from that distribution point, whether a manufacturer or distributor, that is now at risk, right? That's now more risk than it ever was out to your point, your logistic disruptions, etc.

So now answering loyalty to that, what's very exciting for us, I think with Kodella, is that approaching our customers with a notion of the loyalty of the B2B. It enables brands to be able to, I don't want to use the word compensate, but enables B2B brands of sellers and manufacturers and distributors to be able to offer a value added experience of saying, "Listen, there was a logistics disruption. We're very sorry but because you are loyal customer of ours, we're going to send you a mug. We're going to give you a 10% off the next purchase."

We're going to do something to help you so that although your end customer is upset, we're going to do everything we can to support you. And I think that up until this moment in time, there were efficiencies with my account.

There were efficiencies with price levels and all these ERP things which is wonderful. But now that contractors, HVAC engineers, those who are actually in the field services industry who need parts immediately, they're the ones now that are dictating a market, whereas the market used to be dictated by the manufacturer. Now entering the notion of loyalty to bring the stickiness. Are they going to retain a hundred percent? No. Could they retain 60 to 70%, which I believe is going to be the success factor? I think it's possible.

And then with that loyalty now, they're actually able to offer their customers other incentives from other brands that they work with. And then from there, create a whole ecosystem of things that would make one infrastructure over you get your parts from, and what distributors you use better than a different infrastructure because of the fact that they're able to offer these incentivized loyalty based programs.

So I think that the days are very nascent, the very early days to your point. But I could easily see how loyalty and the B2B part of loyalty is. It could be two to three exercise of B2C, just based upon how competitive loyalty is going to make the retention of contractors and plumbers and HVAC repair folks to these distributors.

So, I don't even think we've seen innovations yet on a level that Annex Cloud is capable of. So, if anything has a partner, I'm looking forward to see what Annex Cloud comes up with because I don't even think we've scratched the surface of what a B2B loyalty program really is. I think we're so early on with what that notion could ultimately become in the next three to five years.

Al Lalani:

Absolutely. And I think we can agree more and it's one of the things that we're constantly thinking about our product teams, our customer success teams and talking to our customers because there's a big frontier to be had on that side.

Jason Asher:

Yeah.

Al Lalani:

There's a big problems to be solved on that side as well.

Jason Asher:

And Al, to give you this one example, we're talking to a company right now in Miami that it goes from Miami up to Palm Beach and they basically manufacture HVAC supplies, right. They want to be able to use the side door of their warehouses throughout South Florida to have contractors come to pick up their parts. So, how loyalty drives behavior of more efficient behaviors of distribution of product? If you can imagine, come to the side door. Show us your iPhone or your phone, show us your ID number, get your order, you just got 20 points, right?

So now loyalty is helping influence the behaviors of how to have operational efficiencies implemented into distribution businesses. And that's just a small use case. So, again, it's so exciting right now to see what's going to come of this, but just as an example of what we're seeing in the marketplace is like, how do you drive the change management within your customer base for B2B. And again, we at Kodella really do view loyalty as one of the critical paths to see that execution happen.

Al Lalani:

Absolutely. And I think the last part that you mentioned is really where our core focuses. It's all about the customer experience. It's about the customer journey. It's about changing the journey or influencing the journey along the way. And it's less about incentives. It's less about discounts. It's less about benefits, but what can you do to understand their journey.

Jason Asher:

Right.

Al Lalani:

Journey and improve their journey and through the use of a program, which we now call as loyalty programs. It's not like the old school ways of thinking about points.

Jason Asher:

Okay.

Al Lalani:

But it's more about customer experience, customer journey movement.

Jason Asher:

Okay.

Al Lalani:

And you nailed it on that one. That's really the next frontier of where loyalty is going. Jason, this was a great conversation. I know we can keep going on these, but I know we've provided a tremendous amount of value to our common users here. I really want to thank you for joining us today. For everyone else, if you want to watch some more of these videos, go to annexcloud.com/marketmovers. And thank you again, Jason, for joining us.

Jason Asher:

Al, my friend, I thank you for having me, continuing success to yourself and your customers at 2021. And looking forward to speaking to you again.

Al Lalani:

Thank you, bye for now.

Jason Asher:

Bye.

Featured Speakers

Al Lalani

Al Lalani

Co-Founder, Annex Cloud

Jason Asher

Jason Asher

VP of Commerce, Kodella

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Since 2010, Annex Cloud has provided industry leading loyalty solutions to more than 250 leading brands and retailers, including Jenni Kayne, Hewlett-Packard, Bed Bath & Beyond, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Olympus, Sugarfina, Mizuno, MacKenzie-Childs, VF Corp., with the ability to engage tens of millions of their customers one-to-one at scale.

The Annex Cloud platform provides fully integrated Customer Loyalty, Referral Marketing, and User Generated Content (UGC) solutions that seamlessly work together to optimize the customer journey and deliver a unified customer experience that is designed to accelerate revenue growth, retain valuable customers, increase average order values (AOV) and drive repeat order frequency.

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Kodella is a software consulting firm with expertise in all things NetSuite, SaaS, and eCommerce. With over 35 years of collective experience, Kodella knows what it takes to deliver a complete ERP solution tailored to any business's needs. Our team stands ready to propel, manage, and optimize your business with NetSuite. We are a one-stop-shop for our clients and work tirelessly to provide one-of-a-kind solutions. Kodella has helped over 100 customers unlock the power of NetSuite's cloud-ERP in industries such as retail, manufacturing, distribution, and more. Our in-house experts work closely with your team, ensuring your business runs at peak performance on the #1 cloud ERP in the world.

To learn more about Kodella, visit http://www.kodella.com




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