At the end of March, it was announced that McDonald's had acquired Dynamic Yield, an Israel-based provider of personalisation software. The move made for a fascinating exploration of how brands were not just exploring the martech stack but committing M&A to it. Take Walmart buying adtech firm Polymorph last month, for instance, or Accenture acquiring Adaptly at the end of last year,
Speaking to this publication, Grad Conn, chief experience and marketing officer at Sprinklr, noted McDonald's as one of his most interesting customer stories. The company used the social monitoring platform to go back through five years of mentions to modify its menu choices. "I love stories like that," Conn told MarketingTech, "listening to your customers and what they're really saying – not what they're trying to make you think they want to say."
As was reported at the time, McDonald's is set to use Dynamic Yield's technology to help enhance its intelligent menu boards, learning through customer behaviour to provide a more efficient, personalised customer experience. But what of the company that gets brought in by the big brand? What of their story, and what of the continued focus on personalisation?
MarketingTech sat down with Omri Mendellevich (left), CTO and co-founder at Dynamic Yield, to find out.
MarketingTech: Hi Omri. Tell us about your career to date and how Dynamic Yield came about?
Omri Mendellevitch: My career started in the Israeli Air Force, where I worked my way up the ranks to Senior Team Leader of the Engineering unit before moving on to lead a team at Symantec, the world’s leading cyber security company. Prior to joining Dynamic Yield, I operated as the Director of R&D for Virtual Web, a provider of a new social marketing tool for web publishers.
When Liad Agmon, our CEO, and I started Dynamic Yield seven years ago, the premise of what we were building was based on customer-centric organisations making personalisation a strategic priority. And it’s really exciting to see how the industry has really adopted this mentality, and that our technology is helping them create meaningful relationships with their customers.
MT: Tell us about the technology behind Dynamic Yield’s product – how does it do what it does? How is the ‘AI’ element involved?
OM: Our technology simplifies the process in which companies gather all of their data, analyse it, and execute against it. Everything from analysis to decision making and recommendations is where Dynamic Yield offers automatic, machine-based insights and activation. With Predictive Audiences, we enable customers to identify segments who may be at high risk of churning or are likely to be big spenders through automatic insight creation. And from Predictive Targeting, help them understand how an experience should be personalised by recommending courses of action for specific audiences of users.
MT: Do you agree or disagree that startups – and marketing teams more generally – are abusing the term AI in their campaigns? If so what needs to be done about it?
OM: I agree the term AI is being abused – it became so buzzworthy that not talking about the topic from a business POV has made one seem outdated. On the plus side, it is forcing companies to adopt more and more machine learning and even real AI into their solutions. Regardless of the hype, its impact on the future is clear, and unless a product is built to utilise the amazing benefits automation can provide, the solution will, in fact, become obsolete. There’s still a long way to go to get to that point, though.
MT: Your solution integrates with a wide variety of other solutions and platforms – how important is this to the proposition and how difficult was this to achieve? Do you believe organisations are still hindered by legacy systems?
OM: Dynamic Yield was designed from the very beginning to be open and flexible. This was not an afterthought – we knew marketers were frustrated with legacy systems that couldn’t speak to one another and the growing pains of vendor bloat, which is why and how our platform came to be. The openness of our platform not only allows businesses to create powerful experiences by integrating with the tools they rely on, but it also ensures that as the industry evolves and vendors come and go, we’ll progress with it, on the forefront of innovation.
MT: You wrote for MarketingTech in January around the rise of visual search and how generation Z will drive its growth. How does this stand right now and what else if anything needs to occur for this to really come through?
OM: The metadata associated with an image makes it ripe for personalisation – using its information, brands could recommend visually-similar products or items for the creation of a more relevant shopping experience. The missing component right now is how exactly technology will allow consumers to more easily use these images in a way that’s natural to how they interact and engage with the online world. If it does not add value or create efficiency, visual search will never truly take off.
I expect the shopping experience to move from the website to the camera and image sharing platform, where we will see more and more use cases in which visual search can truly prevail.
MT: What barriers still exist for organisations to include personalisation as part of their marketing strategies? What differences do you see between certain industries e.g. finance/retail?
OM: Unfortunately, even though technology has caught up to the needs of the organisation when it comes to connecting all of these pieces, many still are hindered by dated systems and siloed teams. We are seeing this a lot in financial services, where we’re helping FSI companies to democratise personalisation and expand the use of our tool across departments.
Different industries have varying degrees of maturity, but in general, one of the biggest hurdles to adopting a personalisation is not properly building an ecosystem around it. Personalisation is a discipline, not a tactic – it requires education, resources, talent, new processes, and an updated cultural mentality.
MT: What other technologies do you see as having an impact on the marketing and advertising mix and why?
OM: Outside the usual suspects of AI and visual/voice tech, the solutions that will be able to fuse the offline and online experience together are the true next step. I see a lot of amazing innovations coming from our customers in this field. It's all very raw at the moment, but the vision is already in place. Being able to utilise beacons and IoT is already gaining traction, but connecting it to the data and interaction points in the online world is what’s going to make a massive impact.
By planning and building these solutions with personalisation at the core, the interaction level between brands and customers will be truly transformative.
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