Co-located with Technology for Marketing

18 - 19 September 2024
ExCeL London

18 - 19 September 2024
ExCeL London

Content Hub

05 Feb 2024

Manuel Tonz from Bloomreach on Holistic Commerce and Conversational AI

Manuel Tonz from Bloomreach on Holistic Commerce and Conversational AI

Meet Manuel, the Director of Client Strategy at Bloomreach.

What drives you in this career and what inspires you?

Technology is the driving force for me. When I began my career, the internet was merely a platform for digital brochures. Over the years, witnessing the transformation where 20% of global retail now happens online is fascinating. From the era of basic websites to the current state of advanced eCommerce, CRM, and AI revolutions, the ever-evolving landscape keeps me enthusiastic about the industry.

If you were to reflect back on your career, what advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Learn languages. That's the key differentiator. Being able to communicate in various languages sets you apart from others. It's advice I often share with my younger relatives. The rest of my journey was fine, but learning languages early on is crucial.

How would you define what is a holistic commerce experience?

A holistic commerce experience centres around the customer journey, from the first interaction to the point of purchase. It involves creating awareness, offering relevant products, inspiring customers, personalising their experience, and guiding them seamlessly through the entire process. The challenge lies in ensuring companies get these details right, avoiding pitfalls like redirecting a customer interested in a specific product to the homepage, as this disrupts the holistic experience.

In essence, a holistic eCommerce experience is about making the journey seamless, inspirational, relevant, and personalised, creating a comprehensive and engaging interaction with the customer at every stage.

How does conversational AI enhance the overall customer experience compared to traditional methods?

Today's eCommerce experiences are often tailored to those who know exactly what they want. However, there's a gap in catering to customers seeking advice or solutions rather than specific products. For instance, when I built a pergola recently, I faced the challenge of applying it against the house wall and determining the right screws. I wasn't looking for a product but a solution. Conversational AI, with its advancements in large language models, presents an opportunity to bridge this gap. It can provide a more personalised and engaging shopping experience, especially for customers who require advice and expertise.

How do you address concerns of privacy and data security with conversational AI?

Security and privacy are paramount, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the European Union is stringent on these matters. The key principle is obtaining customer consent. As long as customers provide consent for data collection, email communication, or SMS on specific channels, you can proceed within certain limits. Ensuring compliance is relatively straightforward—updating the privacy statement on your website and implementing a content management system to respect privacy.

What advancements or trends do you anticipate with conversational AI?

Conversational AI, particularly generative AI, is transforming customer interactions. Looking ahead, I see a significant impact on marketing departments. For instance, generative AI can revolutionise how marketing content is created. Recently, I used generative AI to create a visual for a hotel ad for a friend I’m helping, without physically visiting a ski resort, demonstrating the technology's potential in content creation. This shift in content creation and marketing processes is just the beginning. I foresee a radical transformation in marketing approaches over the next decade, with generative AI playing a pivotal role in shaping the industry.

How do you balance the use of conversational AI with maintaining a human touch in eCommerce?

The human touch is irreplaceable, especially when picking up the phone or entering a physical store. While conversational AI has its limits in replicating human ingenuity, I foresee that in five years, chatbots will be so advanced that users won't discern between a human and a chatbot in written conversations. The potential even exists for chatbots intentionally introducing typos to appear more human, as we've seen in the past with delayed responses for a more natural interaction. The evolving capabilities of conversational AI and generative models will significantly narrow the gap between human and machine interaction.


What is your biggest pet peeve as a customer?

Seeing an ad, clicking on it, and not landing on the product I just saw. I hate that.

What is your favourite social media platform and why?

It's still Facebook. As a member of the generation that embraced Facebook, I find that my feed caters to my interests, be it whiskey, Star Trek, astronomy, or history. It gives me exactly what I want, making it my go-to social media platform.

What are your favourite AI tools?

I work with various picture-generating tools to create images. Additionally, I appreciate the LinkedIn AI tool, which crafts a beautiful post with just 25 words.

What are you still looking forward to achieving in your career?

Retirement? (laughs)


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