As always, if these interviews spark the desire to change your own career path, you can look at open positions on the Econsultancy jobs website.
Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Paul Knutton: I work directly with Monetate’s clients to help them formulate their personalisation strategies. That means digging into their businesses, working with the client to formulate a personalisation roadmap, then helping the client execute on the plans and analysing success. As you can imagine, this often requires me to work across siloed departments for any given client, and I frequently find myself helping clients navigate the relationships between eCommerce, marketing, analytics, and IT.
Working with some of the top brands in the UK is incredibly rewarding and the strategies we are collaborating on are cutting edge, so I get a first hand view of the future of retail in the UK.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
PK: Monetate has a global presence, but my focus is on EMEA since I am based out of our new offices in Soho, London. I am a member of our growing team of strategic experts at Monetate called “Strategy and Insights,” that sits within our Professional Services organisation. Strategy and Insights has leadership in both the US and UK, and we are highly collaborative internationally, which makes it much more interesting, rather than adhering to rigid reporting structures.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
PK: Before joining the team at Monetate, I was a Monetate client myself at Boden. Being a former client is by no means a requirement to fill my role, but it does give me firsthand experience of being in the marketer’s shoes. For that reason, I am well versed in many of the pressures, cross-departmental dynamics, and organisational constraints that marketers face, and I am better prepared to help them execute an effective and efficient personalisation and optimisation plan.
What I do is both commercially and technically focused. I have to understand multiple web technologies, be well versed in ecommerce, and be able to go deep into digital marketing. On top of that, I have to be customer focused…meaning that I need to focus on our client’s customers. Having such a diverse background and focus is necessary to generate ideas that are both creative and business-driven.
I find that a pragmatic, honest and candid approach builds client-trust. And you need to love this stuff, employ common-sense, and be a little bit geeky about it too.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
PK: I split my time between the office and spending time onsite with our clients.
A typical office-based day is spent producing and prioritising tactical roadmaps that align with the client’s business objectives. This often requires wireframing to ensure the client understands how to execute the tactics in the most efficient way within the Monetate platform. I devote a great deal of attention to ensuring that recommendations are practical, easy to implement, deploy, and reuse.
A typical client-onsite day involves reviewing the client’s optimisation and personalisation ideas. Because the Monetate platform is so flexible, there are often multiple ways of designing a customer experience. Helping a client understand the advantages of each approach helps the client build robust tests and experiences and get the outcome they want.
I also spend some time convincing clients not to do things. Because the Monetate platform is easy to use and flexible, the answer to ‘can I do this?’ is often ‘yes’, but I encourage clients to focus on meaningful changes that are likely to return commercial rewards. I tend to discourage ideas that only look cool, like inserting a slide-out video half way down the product listing page. It does look cool, but it’s unlikely to increase products added to your shopping bag over other more straight-forward changes we could make to that page.
I also like to encourage a continuous approach to testing. For example, I often suggest that clients use a simple A/B test to determine a winner, and then iterate by trying to beat that winner in a new variant one step at a time. That way the team working with Monetate on the ground can see the progress they’re making, and they have something tangible to share with senior stakeholders. There’s nothing worse than running a complex MVT test with 64 permutations, and when the boss asks “which one is winning” you have to say “it depends” as you glance at your shoes.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
PK: I really enjoy helping brands make their customer experiences better and meeting the people in organisations who also love this stuff and want the same thing. I enjoy challenging ideas using common-sense, customer-centric thinking.
I get a great deal of satisfaction when Monetate is considered by the organisation as a ‘partner’ much more than a ‘third-party supplier’.
Don’t tell them I said so, but the Monetate team is fantastic. Everyone, without exception, is highly capable in their roles. This reduces the pressure on me. If you ask them to do something, you know it will be done on time and to a very high standard.
‘Sucks’ would be too strong a term, but it is frustrating when brands get so distracted by focusing on big projects, that they don’t do some of the easy things – like personalising new customer journeys for example. There should be no excuse for not pointing out your brand’s USPs to new visitors throughout their session and not just on a landing page.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
PK: One of my personal goals is always to build friendly, honest relationships with our clients and to establish a culture of collaboration and partnership. When we have that kind of trust, it is much easier to help clients first see the potential of the Monetate platform, and then help them to execute and use the platform to create winning experiences, which demonstrate the ROI of personalisation.
As for client goals and KPIs, it is important to have a strong hypothesis for every experience you run, as well as a realistic goal metric. Goal metrics must make contextual sense: for example, setting conversion rate as your goal metric for a change on a homepage would be optimistic to say the least. A more realistic metric would be to reduce bounce rate. When deploying personalisation and optimisation at all levels of your conversion funnel, focusing your goal on moving the visitor to the next progressive stage will help you build a program that gives you real tangible results.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
PK: Besides Monetate, Slack is invaluable for effective team communication. Evernote helps me keep all my notes and to-do list organised. I love the simplicity of Balsamiq for creating effective wireframes quickly. When I’m on the road, Waze gets me where I need to be on time and Trip It keeps my travel plans to hand if I am travelling further afield.
E: How did you get into personalisation, and where might you go from here?
PK: I’ve been working in ecommerce for the last 18 years, the majority of those years at Boden. Boden has always taken a strong customer-centric approach and was an early adopter of website testing tools. In 2008 Boden started to run MVT and A/B tests for all visitors on the website. We often found that after running a test we would see differences in behavior between new visitors versus returning visitors, and desktop versus tablet. Naturally, we wanted to address these different audiences by running segmented experiences for these groups, ultimately using Monetate as our tool of choice.
I really believe in the product—which is why I decided to switch from being a client to a practitioner by joining the team here at Monetate, and I haven’t looked back since.
At Monetate, we are now moving into machine learning and AI which is very exciting. I predict that this will precipitate a drastic change in how organisations interact with consumers.
I’m already enjoying developing the expertise to help clients offer compelling 1-to-1 personalised experiences to each individual customer, across multiple channels, using all the data we have at our disposal.
E: Which brands do you think are doing personalisation well?
PK: I’d say Jack Wills, the British fashion and lifestyle brand, has been particularly successful. It has made a number of important changes to its online store, including personalised rules for displaying products and ‘sticky filter’ functionality, which provides their customers with a better, more engaging user experience.
We have a number of clients that are already taking advantage of the new machine learning capabilities of the platform that are doing personalisation well (and also doing well from personalisation).
E: Do you have any advice for people who want to work in personalisation/ecommerce?
PK: Being able to see the bigger picture will help you thrive in this industry. Try not to specialise in just one area of ecommerce: I read somewhere that to succeed in any industry, you need to be able to do at least two things well, and I find that principle holds true.
You must also cultivate a strong sense of the customer perspective. One of the ironies of the profession is that in order to be a great ecommerce marketer you must learn to see websites from a customer’s perspective, rather than a marketer’s point of view.
Finally, and most importantly, you must have a passion for delivering personalised experiences. For those who are truly invested in working with brands to offer their customers the best possible experience, this exciting field will bring great challenges and rewards.
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