David Hall is senior account manager at personalisation platform Certona, and is the latest of our ‘day in the life’ interviewees.
Hall gives us some insight into the world of AI-powered personalisation, as well as tips for those wanting to get into the industry or choose some software for their own business.
And remember, if you’re looking for a new role, check out the Econsultancy jobs board yourself.
Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
David Hall: I’m a Senior Account Manager at Certona, a company that provides real-time omnichannel personalisation solutions to B2C and B2B ecommerce organisations. In a nutshell, we work with the world’s largest brands and retailers, helping them to create individually tailored and engaging shopping experiences for their customers across all touchpoints – in-store, web, mobile, email and contact centre. In doing so, these retailers and brands can achieve a 1:1 personalised shopping experience, increasing engagement and customer lifetime value.
My role is to support clients in getting as much from our platform as possible. I am the first point of contact for my client portfolio, so my job is to first understand my client’s business goals and the customer experience they are looking to achieve. With that knowledge, I assess a client’s performance and make optimisation recommendations. I am there to advise clients on how to use our AI-powered capabilities to best utilise their own data.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
DH: I actually work remotely from home in South East London. I’m part of Certona’s European Account Management Team and I report into the Director of Account Management.
I also work closely with our European General Manager, Client Support Specialists, Support Engineering and Experience Optimisation teams to ensure the best support and growth paths for my clients. I continuously work with product managers to showcase new software releases, and our marketing team on client case studies and event activities. I occasionally participate in new business pitches; usually when a prospect wants a better understanding of what their support may look like! At Certona, we’re a pretty integrated group.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
DH: In my role, I find you need to be a ‘people person’ and good at managing and nurturing relationships, both with clients and colleagues. My clients can often have complex organisational structures to navigate; one minute I am dealing with a director, the next, a graduate.
It’s important to be responsive and organised as there’s a fine line when juggling multiple accounts with differing support plans. Being strategic is also important as it helps me prioritise and have more impact, and being focused helps with productivity.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
DH: First things first, I log on, check my emails and calendar, and then I crack on with my list of priorities which I work around client calls.
I like to work on my most challenging items in the morning after some bullet proof coffee. It’s typical to have a couple of client calls before lunchtime, and on these we would normally go through a client’s priorities, before confirming next steps.
For any internal projects, I’ll create engineering tickets with instructions for our engineers or analysts, and I may have a custom reporting request for Certona’s reporting team.
The majority of my colleagues are in the US so internal team meetings are mostly held later on in the afternoon via Skype. I find there is certainly a lot more internal communication later on in my day, and normally between 4pm and 6pm there are meetings which involve my colleagues and clients based stateside. These calls could be anything from a weekly account management meeting, a client experience optimisation call with a Certona Analyst, an internal educational presentation, or a product or marketing update.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
DH: I love being an expert in the personalisation space. AI, machine learning and personalisation are hot topics right now and I don’t see this changing any time soon. Being prescriptive, tactical and consultative brings a sense of fulfilment to my role, and I definitely get a kick out of knowing that my work drives value for our clients, which I can see in the test results.
The job role itself is a great fit for what I’m good at, and it’s been a challenge to develop all the necessary skills needed to do this very well.
Despite Certona being a US headquarter company, I’m employed to service our European clients, so I need to be in Europe and need to be within commutable distance to get to central London every week for face-to-face meetings as the majority of my clients are based here.
Therefore, I find the only real challenge is not working in the same office as an engineer or analyst, which would enable me to discuss things face-to-face. However, this has allowed me to focus and improve on other communication to compensate, which I’m grateful for. I also enjoy working from home and the challenge of being a self-starter who’s organised and productive, and the freedom of being location independent.
I’ve been doing this role for over five years, and if anything really sucked which I couldn’t make work or use as a challenge to improve myself, I wouldn’t still be doing this.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
DH: For Certona, as with many companies, our goals are based on clients’ success, client retention and business growth in terms of annual account revenue. We don’t have any individual targets as our work is a collaborative effort here at Certona. We do have project-based revenue outside of licence fees but not targets, as it is more important to Certona to nurture long-term partnerships.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
DH: The Certona Experience Manager (CEM) is my favourite of Certona’s tools as it is powerful, configurable and transparent. The platform enables us and our clients to look analytically at their digital offering to see how it is performing in terms of consumer interaction. We are then able to make suggestions based on our findings, and advise on a marketing strategy befitting the client. CEM gives marketing teams absolute control and visibility, enabling improvements to be made on a granular level to optimise performance.
Personally, I also use Evernote for taking notes and organising projects, and Skype is a fantastic communications utility. LinkedIn helps our understanding of client roles and organisational structures. Jira is powerful for project management, and I also use a host of other tools and services.
E: How did you get into ecommerce/AI, and where might you go from here?
DH: I came from a media sales background; I sold exhibition space and sponsorship on Internet World and learnt about internet marketing and all the supporting areas.
I then worked for an online advertising agency in New York, and then a creative agency in London called We Are VI, which is sadly no more. I was part of their 2009 team short-listed for an Econsultancy Innovation Award.
Later, I worked for Venda, an ecommerce platform, before joining Certona. I like being an expert in ecommerce personalisation and AI, as opposed to a ‘Jack of all trades’.
E: Which AI-powered ecommerce websites do you admire?
DH: I admire Farfetch as I particularly like the execution of its category listing pages. Farfetch’s combined cart and wish list page makes total sense from a modelling perspective, as items added to cart and to a wish list would be scored similarly in terms of importance to the user.
Outside of my clients I keep an eye on what Thread.com is doing as I’m big into fashion and home improvements and most of my clients are in these verticals. I like the ‘frequently bought together’ bundle deals offered on sites like Victoria Plum and Axminster, which are contextually based on items already added to the cart.
E: Do you have any advice for people who want to use AI technology in ecommerce?
DH: Firstly, before you implement an AI solution, you need to ask yourself what is the business goal you’re trying to achieve. AI is a powerful solution for comprehending large amounts of data and can be a key enabler for predicting and delivering the best 1:1 customer experience.
AI in retail helps to create sophisticated shopper profiles, in real time, to predict and present the next best action in their journey. An AI personalisation platform, like Certona, ingests big data and uses AI and its subsets to continuously learn about individual shoppers and their preferences to re-rank and re-score the catalogue within milliseconds to capitalise on their in-the-moment intent.
I believe AI in e-commerce is not going away, so look to find the right partners that can support you on this journey.
If you’re new to ecommerce and need to skill up quickly, try our Fast Track Ecommerce training course.