The Future of Personalization and E-Commerce Video

Meyar Sheik

Hello VCC readers!  A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Meyar Sheik, CEO and Co-Founder of leading product recommendation and personalization provider, Certona.  Meyar’s company focuses on personalization for retail and brand web sites, and Certona is doing some interesting things with personalized video.  In the interview, Meyar shares his thoughts on personalization, personalization with video, and some general opportunities he sees in the video commerce industry moving forward.

Enjoy! Interview with Meyar Sheik:

Justin Foster: Meyar, thank you very much for taking time to be with us here today at the Video Commerce Consortium. I was hoping to start you could let our readers know a little bit about yourself, and specifically if you can share some of your background in the ecommerce industry.

Meyar Sheik: Sure. It is my pleasure to be here.  I have been in this business quite a long time, but more specifically since 2000, I have been involved with large ecommerce sites around web analytics, personalization and behavioral profiling and targeting.

Justin Foster: Can you share with us a little bit more about what Certona is doing with personalization and behavioral targeting?

Meyar Sheik: Certona serves large and midsized online and multi-channel retailers. We have a Software as a Service solution that tracks each visitor in real-time and profiles their interest and affinities individually using predictive algorithms.  It enables every consumer to find what they need quicker, and have a more personalized experience.

Justin Foster: Our audience here at the VCC, is primarily large multi-channel retailers as well and midmarket retailers. And one of the challenges that I can think of with regard to personalizing video content is that it might be a little different than when you’re just working with say, an image asset or with text that you can swap in and out of a page easily. I know that Certona has been doing some things with personalization and video, and I was wondering if you could share with our readers what it is you’ve been working on.

Meyar Sheik: You’re correct, Justin. It’s more challenging to work with a video asset, but video assets are also tagged with certain attributes, whether they’re tied to a specific product, category, or brand, and those types of attributes are important. Our platform can use those attributes to tie particular videos to a general or specific interest of site visitor at any given moment. So for example if you’re looking at a specific backpack on eBags, a common customer we have with Liveclicker, on the product page there is a video for that backpack. We can dynamically generate recommendations for similar products or backpacks, or related products that are embedded on that video. These recommendations really help the consumer with the discovery process, and provide a more personalized experience.

Justin Foster: So you’re actually taking recommendations for products and placing them within the e-commerce video player. It seems like it is becoming more like a shopping experience within the video player itself. Is that what you are saying?

Meyar Sheik: Absolutely. It’s a more integrated holistic shopping experience that ties different assets tighter together specifically to the current interest of the visitor at the moment.

Another example could be also if you have a number of video assets, and you’re manually trying to show a specific video at a given time based on our behavioral targeting and profiling, we can serve up the more relevant video asset to the right consumer at the right time.

Justin Foster: So it’s not just about personalizing content within the video player, it’s about making a determination as to whether or not a video should be served based on past actions from a customer or a shopper.

Meyar Sheik: Yes, because it’s not always intuitive and obvious if watching a certain video results in higher conversions for a segment of visitors on the site.  Our engine can predict those outcomes, and put the right video in front of the right person at the right time.

Justin Foster: Do you see the future of personalized video more along the lines of showing recommendations  right in the video player like in your first example, or do you believe that the future is to actually change the video itself dynamically, based on a recommendation of a shopper to buy a product?

Meyar Sheik: They both have great potential. I believe personally both as a technology professional in the e-commerce space and as a consumer that we’ve just scratched the surface on the potential of video commerce and video marketing in general. I think both of these options are compelling depending on where you apply it.  Videos within emails I think are very powerful and very engaging.  I read in one of the SmartBriefs that people who watch personalized videos have a 73% higher intent to buy.  Clearly, more and more retailers need to differentiate themselves in their different channels, whether it’s in email or on the site. , I can envision landing pages that are tied to past visit with an engaging video on it.  Also as you know, mobile is exciting and emerging channel.  More and more smart devices can display video, and that’s another great opportunity for video and personalization.

Justin Foster: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges holding back video today in the retail space? Just in your experience, what are some of the reasons why retailers choose to not use video?

Meyar Sheik: Based on what I’ve heard, retailers as you know, are always resource challenged. They always have more projects than they have resources or cycles to do. For a lot of the bigger brands that take their brands very seriously, I think the production cost and the quality of the video is a big factor. Also the I think the up-keep of the videos is a big factor as well because once you put videos out there, they’re enticing, they’re engaging and the consumers will want more. You can’t be stale, you have to expand that asset base and keep on improving the quality. I think the production cost and the quality are some of the negating factors.

Justin Foster: That is something we hear as well. I’m curious as to whether you feel there’s a role in addressing the production cost side for personalization? Perhaps to keep the video fresh, for example maybe you have a personalized video that shows up, or a video that plays a pre-roll video ad before a product video, based on the shopper’s past actions. Do you think the idea of dynamically displaying products in a video can extend the life of video content by ensuring that there’s always going to be up to date information that will be shared?

Meyar Sheik: Certainly. I think that the personalization factor is one that can help with engagement as well as having more dynamic content that augments the video. That’s where we’re excited about the role of personalization in video, and the work we have being doing with Liveclicker. But beyond that, you still need to have engaging videos that really appeal to your consumer base.  Every retailer has to figure out what that is for their own brand. Not everyone needs the same level of quality. There’s also a place for user generated videos. There’s nothing wrong with them, as long as your brand can support that style and embrace that in a way that’s not disruptive to the consumer experience or the brand itself.

Justin Foster: Well Meyar, I wanted to thank you very much for your time today. On behalf of our readers, we’re excited that you were able to take a few minutes out of your day to share your thoughts on Certona, personalization, and video. Thank you very much.

Meyar Sheik: My pleasure, I appreciate the opportunity Justin.