Anthony Soohoo, Member of the Board of Directors, Spryker chats about the state of the modern digital commerce ecosystem and what can help brands drive impactful end-to-end journeys:
Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat Anthony, tell us about yourself and your journey through the B2B tech market.
A big theme in my career has been rethinking customer experiences and value chains by leveraging technology to drive transformation and growth companies. I’ve been fortunate to work at some iconic companies such as Apple, CBS, Walmart, and Yahoo!. In addition, as an entrepreneur I founded a few tech startups in areas I was interested in such as media, commerce, and supply chain.
I’ve had exposure to B2B tech as both a supplier and a buyer. My first General Manager role was leading a B2B enterprise software company in the HR space called Resumix which was owned by Yahoo!. Back in the early 2000s, I led this company through the transition from client-server to the cloud. We were fortunate to have built a product that was recognized by the industry as cutting edge at the time which enabled us to sign up Nvidia, Electronic Arts, and Caesars Entertainment as new customers. Since then, I’ve been involved with B2B tech as a buyer and as a seller/builder of tech to power some form of an evolving business model. Having had a seat on both sides of the table has given me an appreciation of the nuances and unique needs for the buyer and seller even though the overarching goal always comes down to helping deliver a product or service to the customer in a more efficient, effective, and less costly way.
Take us through your observations surrounding today’s modern commerce space and what key lags you still see brands and users face?
The modern commerce space is evolving rapidly with new opportunities so it’s an exciting time for organizations who can innovate as the secular trends will grow the overall pie for the commerce space. At a high-level, consumers want the ability to purchase anything at anytime, but they need more help than ever filtering out the noise to get to a few choices which are driving the trends around omnichannel retail, personalization and curation, as well as the growing importance of social and live commerce now and into the future.
What this means is that brands that cannot adapt to this new reality by evolving their organization and technology will risk losing their relevance with their customers.
As an overview, how are you seeing AI impact the online commerce industry and what thoughts do you have for the future growth of AI in this segment?
It’s a good question. First, AI has been a major part of online commerce over the past 15 years through personalization engines, pricing optimization, image search, and other data-intensive services where machine learning algorithms could improve the experience. However, over time we stopped thinking of them as AI and more as everyday technology. The big change is that generative AI has really opened up the eyes of the public consciousness on what’s possible if the AI can interact with society in a natural, conversational way. The impact will be profound as personalized recommendations will feel like a friend giving relevant and direct advice that a customer might trust more and with less judgment. In the short/medium-term, some of the things that could take off might be something to the tune of a virtual stylist who is patient and non-judgmental inside a dressing room giving advice as a customer tries on an outfit.
Over time, the collective intelligence nature of knowledge and advancements in AI will enable new classes of tasks that we will trust AI to perform for us. In the long-term, AI systems can serve as domain experts on topics and serve as collaborative work partners and communicate with us in the most effective mode that we might prefer and best learn from.
Can you highlight more on some leading brands and how they have used AI to drive digital commerce impact effectively?
It’s been fun being part of the AI Fund and seeing all of the fascinating and creative AI ideas that entrepreneurs are coming up with. And while we are in the early stages of the AI Cambrian explosion, there are notable instances of prominent brands utilizing AI to enhance their digital commerce efforts. To name a few:
- Amazon immediately comes to mind, having been among the pioneers in harnessing AI for personalized shopping recommendations and dynamic pricing. Given the breadth of their assets, from AWS to Retail, the company has seamlessly integrated AI into various facets of their organization. Noteworthy among them is Amazon’s innovative approach to reimagining physical stores through AI-powered sensors and cameras, enabling seamless checkout-free experiences. It’s foreseeable that the insights gained from this endeavor will eventually extend to Whole Foods. Additionally, Amazon stands out for introducing Alexa, one of the first genuinely helpful AI assistants. The recent strides in Artificial Generative Intelligence hold promise for unlocking Alexa’s potential to generate realistic, creative, and original content.
- Sephora, for several years, has embraced artificial intelligence to enhance customer experiences. Their introduction of an AR virtual artist experience allowed customers to virtually try on makeup prior to making a purchase. Sephora’s AI assistants now facilitate app-based interactions akin to conversing with in-store associates, offering information and guidance, thereby presenting new opportunities for upselling and cross-selling at scale.
- General Motors’ recent announcement about implementing AI for customer service likely marks just the initial phase. Their partnership with Microsoft positions the automaker to provide lifelike conversational customer service and even a co-pilot feature for their vehicles.
- When it comes to companies worthy of attention, Tencent stands out due to their substantial investment in AI over the last decade. As the owner of WeChat, Tencent is poised to leverage AI in innovative ways through their super-app, spanning domains like gaming, digital assistants, mobile payments, sports, education, and movies, catering to their impressive user base of 1.6 billion monthly active users.
Seeing some of the concerns around AI that leaders like Musk and Sam Altman have cautioned against in the recent past, what is your take on the potential threats of AI?
AI has the potential to solve the world’s biggest problems, such as climate change, cure diseases, improve health, and create more efficient energy sources. Nevertheless, there are genuine concerns about its negative implications, including job displacement, misinformation spreading, and the development of autonomous weapons.
As a society, it is important to be aware of both the potential good and dangers of AI. We need to work together to develop AI in a responsible way that minimizes the risks and maximizes the rewards. This means developing clear ethical guidelines for AI development, investment and buy-in at all levels to ensure AI safety.
I firmly believe that AI holds significant potential for a positive impact on the world. However, it is up to us to ensure the ethical use of AI for good rather than harm. Proactive and vigilant efforts are required to guide AI’s responsible development and to continuously monitor potential hazards.
Spryker is a leading composable commerce platform for enterprises with sophisticated business models to enable efficiency, innovation, and differentiation. Designed specifically for sophisticated transactional business, Spryker’s easy-to-use, headless, API-first model offers a best-of-breed approach that provides businesses the flexibility to adapt, scale, and quickly go to market. As a global platform leader for Enterprise Marketplaces, Thing Commerce, B2B and D2C, Spryker has empowered 150+ global enterprise customers worldwide and is trusted by brands such as ALDI, Siemens, Hilti, and Ricoh.
Anthony Soohoo is a Member of the Board of Directors, Spryker
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