In this edition of “Ask an Expert,” Nick Ziech-Lopez and India Waters speak with Movable Ink’s Lalit Chopra and Bill Reinwald on real-time creative and the place it has in the marketer’s toolkit. You can listen to the full interview (and a bonus lightning round) on the IN Gear Podcast.
First Things First: Tell us a little bit about yourselves.. How did you get to where you are today?
Bill: I’m going to go first, since Lalit has way more background than I do
Lalit: Yeah, I basically just grew up [at Movable Ink] so you might as well skip me
I went to school for marketing and I.T. and graduated from SUNY Albany in New York. I got a job in email marketing with Cheetah Mail (then Experian marketing services, now Cheetah Digital) so just kind of found my way into the email space.
I found myself enjoying it. Kind of worked my way up the ranks there in terms of account management and then moved over to the client side at Citibank, so I managed email marketing for cards and card marketing and triggered email over at Citibank. After that, I made the move to Movable Ink and am really happy that I actually made it here. I’m a New Yorker, born and raised — [call me] a Long Island Boy.
Lalit: Bill and I share a lot of commonalities, actually! I went to undergrad at Ohio State, then moved to Citibank for about 8 years in a bunch of different roles, but the last one being in the loyalty program and managing partnership relationships from a loyalty perspective.
I went to grad school in Spain and, coming back to New York, knew that I wanted a different experience than I had at Citibank. So I targeted companies of 10 people or fewer that had recently closed their Series A funding. Movable Ink came up, so I got a demo of the software from our (at that time) only sales guy. And partway through the demo, it was like, “I think you’re pitching me to buy the software like I work at Citibank, but I don’t work in Citi, I have zero money, but I like your company.” I think he hung up on me after that, I’m not sure.
But anyway, I did my outreach to the team and eventually ended up here, so i’ve been at Movable Ink for nine years — in a bunch of different roles: I started on our account team, then worked on the partner side, then helped to set up the business development team that Bill was talking about, which is really focused in on our partner ecosystem and our partner integrations (like the integration we have with MessageGears). Now I’ve shifted to running more of the overall product organization here, so that’s been a little bit of my path.
Movable Ink often says that “customers don’t experience data, they experience content.” Can you tell us a little about what “real time” content is, and what Movable Ink is doing to power it?
Lalit: When we talk about our strategy at Movable Ink, we’re focused in on creative. I think a lot of people know us as the “real-time” creative company, but I think sometimes the benefits get lost in the less sophisticated real-time use cases
For us, the benefit of real time is that you are able to generate content when a person is engaging with a message. What that allows us to do is unlock different data sources with some pretty robust integrations that we have in real time based upon our ability to tap into those data sources and develop creative around it. For us, the question is: How do you take the power of all the data that you have and use it to generate a content-based experience in real time? That’s our focus at Movable Ink: personalizing and making those experiences better.
For us, the question is: How do you take the power of all the data that you have and use it to generate a content-based experience in real time?
That makes sense, but can you give us an example of a real-time experience?
Bill: Absolutely. There are countless examples, but I’ll give you the one that comes to the top of mind right now.
Think about Travel. The travel industry is coming off a really tough year with the lack of movement, and it’s all feeling pretty volatile right now. There are constant changes in pricing and inventory — changes that marketers will want reflected in their marketing creative. However, it’s going to be extremely difficult to accommodate that because realistically, these things are changing by the minute. That’s the nature of real-time creative, compiling creative on the fly because it is going to be important to these customers that they have the most up-to-date information when booking their trip and don’t end up wasting their time or having a negative experience.
Lalit: To add to that, we were speaking to the head of marketing at a company the other day, and he was mentioning the new concept of “revenge travel” — making up for the lack of vacationing last year. But basically, all this revenge travel is throwing a ton of different data points and patterns into the mix, and the struggle for marketers right now is how to account for all of this recent information in your creative. Because every company has that data, but being able to use that data to power your experience — that’s what we mean by real time.
OK, cool — but what’s the alternative for marketers? What happens when “moments go wrong”
Bill: Plain and simple: a bad user experience. Going to a financial example, imagine depositing your paycheck and getting an email that you have low funds, or getting an email advertising you something you just bought. It can really turn you off to the brand.
Now that Movable Ink has unlocked marketing in real time, what comes next? Where do you see the future going?
Lalit: Right now, we’re focused on making data as accessible as possible no matter where it lives, which is why we have such a strong partnership with MessageGears. But in addition to helping clients access more (and better) data, we’re working a lot with different kinds of channels to power content in as well. How do you bring the kinds of experiences users have in email and mobile and broaden those to elsewhere? Clients ask us all the time about digital billboards, or advertising on top of cabs, and we’re even doing some experiences in AR [augmented reality] to see what’s possible there. What if content was powered by AI in an augmented reality experience? That would be really cool.
For us, it’s all about meeting marketers where they are today and making their lives easier, as well as seeing the kinds of channels people are engaging in and bringing real-time experiences to those channels.
Like, Google glasses?
Lalit: Exactly, but maybe less goofy looking.
Bill: But really, look at the technology that is coming out right now. In the latest Apple event, the new iPhone has lidar, where the digital becomes physical and the physical world becomes digital. Since we can start to associate an actual physical location with digital tags, the implications for AR are huge … we’re keeping an eye on it.
Lalit: And it goes back to our approach around channels in general: what are the existing channels marketers are using? Let’s focus there and help them automate and make creation as easy as possible.
But also, what are the channels they want to use next? Let’s meet them there, invest in that area and help marketers build to the future.