Could you share the pivotal moments or experiences that led you to become a renowned speaker, entrepreneur, author, and business coach?
As a child, I discovered that my mind worked differently from most of my friends. I was highly creative and always sought unconventional solutions to common problems and situations. This early mindset led me to start my first company when I was just 16. It was an IT consulting firm that served major companies with their IT needs. This was back in 1996. Fast forward to 2001, and I started the first online interior design store, which was a unique venture at the time and allowed me to get into eCommerce early.
Around 2005 or 2006, I began experimenting with early-stage artificial intelligence integration into our eCommerce platform. We developed advanced technology to focus on giving consumers a personalised experience. This included tailoring the information presented to them and highlighting products based on their preferences. We even paid attention to crafting product descriptions that catered to their specific interests. As a result, companies around the world started reaching out to collaborate with me, and I began working on innovative opportunities within the evolving eCommerce space, which later expanded to digital and SaaS products.
As of today, I've been a professional speaker for about 15 years, helping companies worldwide make informed decisions about utilising new technology. I don't just speak; I also work hands-on with companies, serving as a business coach and mentor, assisting them in overcoming their current challenges and developing innovative solutions, including those involving artificial intelligence.
What has been one of your proudest moments in your career so far?
My proudest moment was undoubtedly when my 10-year-old daughter approached me and said, "Father, I want to start a company." Naturally, at her age, she didn't have extensive business knowledge, but growing up with me and my wife, hearing about our entrepreneurial ventures, and absorbing our entrepreneurial spirit and mindset, she seemed to have a solid foundation. This led to her decision to start her first company at the tender age of 10. Her company designs sunglasses for adults, not children.
Did you provide your consultancy for this business?
Yes, indeed, I'm billing her for every hour now! But, of course, I had to resist the urge to be too overbearing as a father and simply support her. I didn't want to take over her project; my role was to empower her to pursue her dream.
In your own words, you're not just a speaker, but a creative speaker. What does this mean to you, and how do you nurture this creativity?
To me, being more than just a speaker is crucial because it's about more than just talking; it's about communication, connection, and delivering value throughout our shared journey with the audience. Creativity comes into play when I notice some of the audience may start to disengage, perhaps because they're already familiar with the topic I'm covering, or I've delved too deeply into details. When I speak, I always start with a foundation of what I want to achieve during the presentation and what I want the audience to take away. However, I don't write a scripted speech. It's essential for me to be able to adapt on the spot, on the stage, to stay connected with the audience. I know precisely what I want to convey but not necessarily how I'll express it. Depending on the audience's personas, backgrounds, ages, genders, and so on, I tailor my speaking style to ensure they feel engaged.
Do you have any advice to help speakers really connect with the public?
Yes and no, depending on who you are and your comfort level in this space. Focus on what you have personal experience with rather than just research, incorporate real-life situations into your speech. Avoid diving too deep into numbers and statistics; it's better to ensure the audience grasps the concepts. If you have data, present it briefly at a high level and share the presentation afterward so the audience doesn't need to follow the details in the slides but can listen to your words.
You're very open about your early struggles with dyslexia. How has dyslexia impacted your perception of the world?
Personally, dyslexia enabled me in ways others could only dream of, considering where I stand today. Looking back, I'm quite surprised by my life's journey. I've authored eight books, which was never something I expected. I read and write extensively, consuming information in various formats daily. However, it took me many years to understand how my brain operates and how to adapt information to make it stick. Through this process, I've learned a great deal about myself, delving into things that most people never question. This self-awareness allows me to connect better with both myself and the audience. We're all unique, and these labels we're given, like "you are this" or "you have that," are often seen as limitations. I view them as enablers, making me different, which, in turn, enables me to achieve different goals than if I were just like everyone else.
In your view, what are the key challenges and opportunities associated with integrating AI into eCommerce?
The main challenges with integrating AI, anywhere really, are understanding how to do it sensibly and not going overboard. Start with small experiments to identify where you can add the most value. If you're considering training your AI or using different AI tools and technologies, ensure you have the right, clean data for training. If you feed in data that's not controlled or isn't the best version of it, your training results won't be optimal. Right now, I'm actively helping companies in this area, ensuring they comprehend how to get started with AI and how to prepare for more sophisticated integration when the time comes.
Karl’s conference at eCommerce Expo 2023
Tell us more about your eCommerce Expo 2023 speaking session
All my previous sessions at eCommerce Expo have revolved around a common theme, and today we're diving into it from a fresh, up-to-the-minute perspective. We'll explore how this fascinating technology can enrich the customer experience. There are numerous ways to accomplish this. We'll also delve into other solutions and technologies available that can enhance the customer lifecycle. That's what we should be aiming for, not just attracting one-time customers, but bringing them back repeatedly. The only way to do that is by demonstrating sustained value and earning their trust as a supportive partner in some form or another.
Don’t miss your chance to see Karl Lillrud live! Join us at eCommerce Expo 2023!
Could you tell us more about the VIP leadership sessions?
The leadership sessions are always incredibly engaging. In these sessions, we begin by circling the table, getting to know the individuals present. We aim to understand where each person is in their journey, their challenges, perspectives, and their aspirations. We look at where they want to be in the short term because the pace of change is lightning-fast nowadays, and we're not talking about five years down the road but within a year or so. Once we've got a good grasp of this together, we start discussing the opportunities hidden within these challenges.
Our approach is highly interactive. We collaboratively create a mind map. I guide the process, showing how things connect in a very practical manner. When you leave the session, you won't just have experienced a keynote or workshop; you'll have something tangible to take back with you and immediately apply within your organisation.
Check your eligibility for the VIP sessions:
What is your biggest pet peeve as a customer?
In retail, my biggest pet peeve is when I sense that the store doesn't truly care about me as a customer. In eCommerce, it's when a business aggressively pushes sales without giving me any control over how they communicate with me. They might also request too much personal information without offering sufficient value in return.
What are some of your favourite AI tools right now?
Like many, I find Chat GPT to be an incredibly useful tool. Additionally, I'm actively experimenting with AI tools for content production, spanning audio, video, and images. When I create something, I typically combine at least three different AI tools. So, my advice to anyone exploring this field is not to rely solely on what others say. Look for various AI tools that address different aspects of your problem and then blend them to create your own recipe for success.
Who inspires you on social media?
It's not a single individual in my feed that inspires me. I've made it a point to prioritise content related to my areas of interest. I follow numerous people and hashtags that I've carefully selected. In just a few minutes, I can get a comprehensive view of the latest developments in the field I've been focusing on for a while. So, it's not about one person, but rather the collective daily insights that help shape my understanding of where things are heading.
What do you see in the future of eCommerce and retail?
I envision a future where we create increasingly personalised shopping experiences. We'll place more emphasis on the customer, or we risk being outmanoeuvred by competitors. I believe that shopping for everyday essentials will become nearly automated. There might be some decision points, such as setting a budget or receiving notifications if you're about to exceed it. But for the most part, everything we need for our daily lives to run smoothly should happen seamlessly. We shouldn't have to make decisions about buying basic items like tomatoes.
What is something you are still looking forward to achieving in your career?
I'm always looking forward to motivating and inspiring more people and companies to greater success and be part of enabling that success.
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