machine learning

Talk Commerce - Udayan Bose

The Future of E-Commerce: Insights from Udayan Bose on AI-Powered Marketing

In this episode of Talk Commerce, I had the pleasure of speaking with Udayan Bose, founder and CEO of NetElixir. With over 20 years of experience in digital marketing, Udayan shared his insights on the rapidly evolving landscape of e-commerce and how artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping the way businesses approach marketing.

Failing Faster and Learning in Digital Marketing

One of the key themes that emerged from our conversation was the importance of adopting a “fail faster” mindset in digital marketing. As Udayan put it:

Just the willingness to dive in and figure things out and suddenly sort of you really have to obviously hustle hard but things slowly come in place and when it comes in place the impact is quite magical.

He emphasized that in an industry as dynamic as e-commerce, being open to experimentation and learning from failures is crucial for staying ahead of the curve.

Navigating Competitive Pressures and Rising Costs

Udayan also shed light on the challenges faced by e-commerce businesses today, particularly the squeeze on contribution margins due to intense competition and rising advertising costs. He noted:

If you certain categories saw a CPC increase of almost about 32%. So the cost per click, the same Google ad, costs a lot more now. So just think of it. You are unable to increase your prices, and the variable cost keeps on increasing. And this is leading to a massive squeeze in the contribution margins.

As someone who has worked with numerous e-commerce clients, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of these pressures on businesses. It’s more important than ever for merchants to optimize their marketing strategies and find ways to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.

The Power of AI and Machine Learning in Marketing

One of the most fascinating parts of our discussion centered around the role of AI and machine learning in transforming digital marketing. Udayan explained the difference between horizontal AI, which focuses on productivity and doing more with less, and vertical AI, which is tailored to solving specific problems using a company’s own data.

Vertical AI, I think of it, is very specific to solving your problem. And the problem that, for example, our tool, Alexa Insight, solves […] is we just wanted to solve a simple problem that the entire e-commerce world or digital marketing was focused on new customer acquisition. We wanted to change it marginally and say that, can we use machine learning to help you do new high value customer acquisition?

This notion of leveraging AI to identify and acquire high-value customers resonated with me. As e-commerce becomes increasingly competitive, the ability to target and retain the right customers can make all the difference in a business’s success.

Advice for E-Commerce Merchants

As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked Udayan what advice he would give to e-commerce store owners looking to stay ahead in today’s market. His response emphasized the importance of experimentation and staying informed about industry trends:

I would actually sort of have two very specifically. The first one is just creating, carving those experiments of those tests. […] The second one effectively is as simple as that. I mean, you have to reserve 10% of your personal time as the business owner or the CMO to just explore what is going on because in many cases the biggest mistake I have seen a lot of lot of business owners really make they’re just so so much working inside out that they just never get the time to look at us to what season am I in, right?

I couldn’t agree more with this advice. In my experience working with e-commerce businesses, the most successful ones are those that prioritize continuous learning and adaptation.

Watch the full episode on YouTube

Final Thoughts

My conversation with Udayan Bose offered a wealth of insights into the future of e-commerce and the role of AI in shaping digital marketing strategies. As we navigate this rapidly evolving landscape, embracing experimentation, staying attuned to industry shifts, and leveraging the power of AI will be key to thriving in the years ahead.

To dive deeper into these topics and hear more of Udayan’s expertise, be sure to listen to the full Talk Commerce podcast episode. Let’s keep the conversation going – reach out and share your own experiences and insights on the future of e-commerce!

Contact Details:
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Princeton, NJ 08540
Call: 609.356.5112

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Talk-Commerce Akeneo Kristin Naragon

Transforming Retail through Product Experience with Kristin Naragon

The future of retail lies in delivering exceptional product experiences. That’s the key message from digital commerce expert Kristin Naragon in this insightful episode of Talk Commerce. As Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Akeneo, Naragon has seen firsthand how centralizing product data and incorporating AI is revolutionizing online shopping.

Key Takeaways:

  • Implementing a product information management (PIM) solution led to a 36% sales increase for Rural King and 15 minute time-to-market for Staples Canada.
  • 61% of retailers are adopting augmented reality, with some seeing conversion rates double for AR-enabled products.
  • AI can be transformative but needs human validation – incorrect product details could be dangerous.
  • A comprehensive product experience strategy requires buy-in across the c-suite, not just marketing.

About Kristin Naragon

With nearly 20 years in tech marketing, including senior roles at Akeneo and Adobe, Kristin brings a wealth of go-to-market strategy experience. As a customer-obsessed, outcomes-focused leader, she’s passionate about developing partnerships and solutions that drive business success. At Akeneo, that means delivering product experience innovation that transforms retail.

Exploring Centralized Data and AI for Next-Gen Shopping

Kristin traces the genesis of Akeneo back to a frustrating shopping experience – her husband struggling to find compatible AV equipment across various retailer sites. The problem? Inconsistent and conflicting product information stemming from decentralized data. As Kristin explains, “You can control the product information. Having that core record, categorized, cataloged, complete, enriched…that’s what Akeneo uniquely solves.”

That product record lies at the heart of Akeneo’s product experience cloud. By centralizing all product data into a PIM, retailers can distribute accurate, up-to-date listings to every touchpoint – web, mobile, print, and more. The result, as evidenced by Rural King and Staples Canada, is operational efficiency, reduced time to market, and revenue growth. “It touches every part of the business,” Naragon states.

And that was just the beginning. The launch of Akeneo’s in-platform app store unlocked innovation opportunities through 3rd party AI integrations. As Kristin explains, “We had about a dozen applications developed leveraging AI to help different parts of the product experience management process.” From onboarding data to generating descriptions and translating content, AI is transforming PIM capabilities.

Ultimately, Akeneo’s acquisition of AI startup Unifi was fueled by demand for enhanced data enrichment. But Kristin cautions AI requires oversight. “Bad product information generated from these AI models can really serve the business in a bad way,” she warns, sharing examples of incorrect phone storage stats and dangerously mixed chemical data. The solution lies in Akeneo’s workflows – “introducing a checking system with employees, humans.”

The Future of Retail Will Be Experiential

As the podcast wraps up, Kristin points to AI, AR, and the blockchain as technologies that will converge to enhance shopping dramatically. But the biggest shift must start internally. “Making product experience strategy a C-suite initiative – that’s something we’re going to be focused on,” she predicts. Because as omnichannel retail blurs lines, the brands offering the most contextual, consistent and helpful product experiences will win consumer loyalty.

In closing, Kristin perfectly captures the ethos of our digital era: “It seems so obvious, I guess. And sometimes the things that seem so obvious are often overlooked.”

Memorable Quotes

“You can control the product information. Having that core record, categorized, cataloged, complete, enriched…that’s what Akeneo uniquely solves.”

Here Kristin eloquently sums up the universal product data dilemma facing retailers – and how a properly structured PIM solves it through centralization.

“Bad product information generated from these AI models can really serve the business in a bad way.”

A stark reminder that while AI delivers efficiency, its capability to propagate nonsense means implementing guardrails is crucial.

“Making product experience strategy a C-suite initiative – that’s something we’re going to be focused on.”

This prediction underscores Kristin’s belief that optimizing product content across channels needs to become a boardroom priority to drive sales.

Tune In and Join the Product Experience Revolution

If mindset shifts, emerging technologies and real-world use cases have you rethinking your ecommerce content strategy, be sure to check out the full episode. Subscribe to Talk Commerce so you don’t miss future conversations at the intersection of commerce and digital disruption.

At its core, this podcast highlights that product experiences represent the new competitive battleground. As consumers increasingly demand personalized, contextual, and helpful shopping journeys, retailers must transform product content from a cost center into a revenue driver. The brands that invest in product experience now will shape the future of retail.

Talk-Commerce Arv Natarajan

Decoding the AI Revolution: Retail Transformation with Arv Natarajan

Brent Peterson is joined by a special guest, Arv Natarajan, Director of Product at GroupBy Inc. Together. They delve into the exciting world of AI and its transformative impact on the retail industry. Brent and Arv kick off the conversation by discussing how retailers utilize AI to drive their sales. Arv, leveraging his expertise at GroupBy – a company renowned for powering some of the most successful eCommerce websites – explains the AI-driven mechanisms that help businesses thrive in a competitive retail landscape.

The conversation then shifts to comparing next-generation product discovery technologies and legacy solutions. Arv shares insights on the cutting-edge enhancements that GroupBy has introduced to their Product Discovery Platform in March 2023 and how these developments are redefining eCommerce search. In the final segment, Brent and Arv explore the future of personalized search and recommendations in the eCommerce industry.

They discuss the potential of AI to tailor online shopping experiences and how this could revolutionize customer engagement and conversion rates. Listeners will better understand AI’s role in reshaping retail, product discovery technologies’ evolution, and the future for personalized eCommerce experiences.

Notable Quotes

‘Aave Natarajan’, ’00:08:43′, “Over $300 billion online is lost each year from a bad search experience. That’s a huge number and clearly it’s a problem that needs to be solved.”

‘Aave Natarajan’, ’00:09:32′, “If you could combine both of those experiences and make that online shopping experience more as if you are in a store, not only is it compelling and helpful to the user, I think it would also obviously help the retailer by providing better cross-sell opportunities or upsell opportunities as well.”

Brent W. Peterson 00:23:49, “And then I see a lot of e-commerce stores maybe saying we will keep this internal, we’re not going to share it with anybody, but this will help your buying experience right? Just like you get a personal shopper for you that’s going to go to your local store, your local department store and buy stuff for you. This is an opportunity for trusted brands to have trusted personal shoppers that are bots, right?”

Aave Natarajan, 00:28:59, “Don’t sleep on this technology. It is right here, right now. It’s available to use. It is cutting edge. It will provide more relevant results with less effort and less cost to run, and it will be optimized for your specific objectives. This technology you should be taking advantage of it.”

When to find it in the Podcast

Challenges in Product Discovery [00:08:09]
Aave Natarajan discusses the challenges retailers face with product discovery, including the problem of customers not being able to find the products they are looking for quickly.

AI-powered online shopping experience [00:09:32]
Discussion on how AI can enhance the online shopping experience to mimic the assistance provided by a store associate.

Tailored recommendations based on AI [00:10:29]
Exploring the potential of AI to provide tailored recommendations for specific needs, such as building a garden shed or planning a family dinner.

Advancements in AI technology for e-commerce [00:12:04]
Highlighting the advancements in AI technology for e-commerce, including the use of Google’s search platform and the potential for better product discovery and customer experiences.

The Impact of AI-generated Content on Search Results This topic discusses the potential impact of AI-generated content on search results and the concern of penalization by search engines like Google.

Differentiating Content and Results in Retail This topic explores the difference between content and product results in retail, emphasizing the importance of personalized and unique content to avoid being generic. T

The Future of Personalized E-commerce Experiences This topic delves into the future of personalized searching and shopping experiences, including the role of social media, data usage, and the potential for chatbots to provide tailored recommendations.

Democratizing AI Technology [00:26:02]
Discussion on how democratizing AI technology can level the playing field for smaller brands in providing compelling shopping experiences.

GroupBy’s Unique Offerings [00:26:18]
Exploration of GroupBy’s unique offerings in omnichannel e-commerce search and product discovery and its potential impact on the retail industry.

Advantages of GroupBy’s Platform [00:27:06]
Explanation of how GroupBy’s platform enables retailers to create extraordinary digital experiences, optimize revenue, and benefit from flexible and modular technology integrations.

Help with some tweets!

What challenges do you think retailers face when it comes to providing a seamless product discovery experience for customers? Share your insights!

Get in touch

Arv’s LinkedIn,

GroupBy’s LinkedIn,

Shopware AI Copilot-Unpacking the Power of 8 New AI Features-4

Shopware AI Copilot: Unpacking the Power of 8 New AI Features

Shopware brings to the table eight groundbreaking AI features, designed to empower merchants and provide an enhanced shopping experience. These features are all set to transform content management, export functions, customer classification, image metadata, product reviews, personalized messaging, and product properties, as well as translations.

6 Tips to get better responses from ChatGPT

6 Tips to get better responses from ChatGPT

If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated with the responses you’re getting from ChatGPT, these tips can help. From being specific about your outcomes to formatting your inputs clearly, these strategies can help you communicate more effectively with this powerful language model. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to get better answers and insights from ChatGPT, no matter what your goals may be.

Tips for Using ChatGPT to Create Great Landing Pages

Tips for Using ChatGPT to Create Great Landing Pages

Are you struggling to stay productive and manage your time efficiently? In this blog post, we reveal 10 proven strategies for boosting your productivity, allowing you to accomplish more while reducing stress. Learn how to take control of your time and work smarter, not harder.

How Expedia is Revolutionizing Travel Planning with ChatGPT Integration

How Expedia is Revolutionizing Travel Planning with ChatGPT Integration

Expedia, one of the largest online travel agencies, is using ChatGPT to offer personalized and efficient travel planning experience to its users. Read on to find out how this AI integration is transforming the way we plan our trips.

Talk-Commerce-James Bloomfield

Revolutionizing Retail: AI Breakthroughs, Virtual Fitting Rooms, and the Future of eCommerce with James Bloomfield

From addressing the persistent “rate of return” issue to enhancing conversions and customer satisfaction through cutting-edge advancements like immersive Virtual Fitting Rooms, we’re here to bring you to the forefront of AI-driven breakthroughs.

We explore how businesses can leverage game-changing technologies for outstanding results. So, relax, tune in, and join us on this journey to uncover the future of eCommerce. In today’s episode, we’re thrilled to have a conversation with James Bloomfield from Moda Match, a company revolutionizing the apparel industry. Stay tuned, and let’s dive right in!


 Brent: Welcome to this episode of Talk Commerce Today have James Bloomfield. James is the c e o and Co-founder of Modem Match. James, go ahead. Introduce yourself. Tell us your day-to-day role and maybe one of your passions in life. . 

James: Thank you very much, Brent. It’s great to be on today and I’ve been looking forward to this for some time.

James: And yep. I am the founder and co-founder and c e O of Motor Match, which is a fashion technology company. We utilize highly advanced AI technologies in order to deliver cutting edge solutions to the fashion apparel space. In terms of my daily activities as a startup CEO and co-founder, the, you wear a lot of hats and you have a lot of responsibilities and it’s been quite the journey taking from a an unknown startup with my partners and getting us to the position we are today, which is very exciting, working with a number of large corporate retail partners as well as SM.

James: And just trying our best to bring a new element of technology, functionality, optimization, interactivity to the apparel space. In addition to trying to speak to some of the problems that we have seen that are inherent to the space that might not be as always, principally business related ideas like sustainability.

James: Increasing the diversity, inclusivity, and representation within the space. These kinds of values that we truly believe in as a company, but are really needed to be addressed within the space at large. 

Brent: That’s awesome. I know that in our green room, you agreed you agreed to participate in the free joke project.

Brent: So before we get into into the content we’re gonna, I’m just gonna tell you a joke and you can tell me if that joke should remain free or if we could charge for it. So here we go. What do you call a pair of shoes with uplifting quotes, written all over them, motivational sneakers.

James: I that definitely deserves to be free , right? I would say a strong definite 

Brent: deserves to be free . Excellent. Good. All right. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks for that. All right. So let’s tell us a little bit about mode to match and tell us the goal of why you started it and a little bit of background.

James: Sure. Mode Match was founded a bit over four years ago, and we were initially founded within Tel Aviv Israel, which is well known, as you may know. As it. Tech hub and a real startup hotspot. And we really were dedicated to the project. I personally came at it from a background in fashion apparel.

James: I used to work at a fashion startup here in Canada where I’m talking to you from and where I’m born and raised. And it was during my time at this fashion startup that I began to see. , the kinds of problems that are so widely felt throughout the space in terms of outdated technology, in terms of outmoded practices, in terms of highly established sense of conventional thinking amongst decision makers throughout the space.

James: And, everybody within apparel has made a significant. For a long time doing things in a very specific way. And why change and in addition to all of that is the idea that fashion as it stands, is a very fractured very. You could call it disorganized industry. And a great example of that is the idea that there’s no such thing as an international sizing guide, which is why a, a medium T-shirt is, can be so different from whether it’s in Canada, the United States, or in Asia, or in India or in Europe.

James: It’s vastly different and it causes an enormous number of problems. Not only in terms of business, but in terms of, returns and the ubiquity of free returns has made it enormously costy in terms of dollars and cents. But these ideas of returns are also, and again, going back to some of the values that we have extraordinarily damaging to the environment.

James: But in any case I’m getting a little bit off base. We the fashion startup I was working for in Montreal, Canada, was successfully we had a successful exit within about the first 18 months. And we were very pleased about that. And it was at that time that I got my feet wet, as they would say within the fashion space.

James: Learned. And was, became very aware of the pain points within the space. And and it was the idea of trying to introduce new technology to the fashion industry was in the back of my mind for some time really going about my regular business, but constantly thinking about the best way to go about it.

James: What would work best for people, what’s going to be impactful for a shopper, but also be seamless and convenient and functional for a retailer trying to marry those two ideas. And it really boiled down to a question of technology. The technology didn’t exist to take into account the variables at. And have them work cohesively to deliver a solution that would work for anybody in a scalable, seamless convention, a convenient manner.

James: And a number of years later, I found myself in Tel Aviv, Israel, which again, very well known for its tech, for its startup space with a big emphasis on ai. And long story short, I came into contact with my now two partners and we. we’re able to leverage some highly advanced AI technology worked on by our supremely talented engineering team in order to take into account those variables and really deliver a solution that would be functional and would be convenient and would be, hold value for both shoppers and for retail.

James: And so at that point we wanted to continue raising money for our solution, which was what we had developed was a virtual fitting room, a plug-in white label solution that would allow shoppers to upload an image of themselves or choose from a range of models and dress them hyper accurately with their clothing selections by having a very strong emphasis on real.

James: On fit and on aesthetic. We were able to address with our virtual fitting room a number of the drivers of returns, which represent one of the biggest pain points within the industry. And we wanted to, we were so happy with the work that we had done, and we were so pleased with our solution. We wanted to continue fundraising and increasing the functionality and optimizing.

James: But unfortunately we found ourselves. Odd space of having an amazing piece of technology and an amazing solution, but trying to introduce it into a space that has tried to get this kind of thing done for some time. The introduction of new technology into fashion apparel is not a new concept.

James: It’s been actively attempted for the better part of 25 years but never successfully implemented or executed. And we were so pleased with the work we had done and the reactions we were getting were enormously. But they always ended. Every pitch would end with, this is really great, but we want you to work with X number of clients.

James: Be round for X amount of period of time, prove that you’re a company of substance. Prove that you can make this work. Bring in more data, more case studies, more everything really. And so at that point we, we realized that we had to come to market. We had to continue to get the kind of validation we needed from brands and from retailers.

James: And it was at that point that we decided to move the company from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Montreal, Canada, where we are currently based. And come to market here. We were had to deal with the pandemic, which was not convenient , although in reality it hyper accelerated the space because it precluded the ability to go shop for clothes in brick and mortar locations.

James: So apparently commerce was hyper accelerated. . But again, we dealt with a tremendous amount of skepticism, of trepidation. And I understood where it was coming from but you still, you need to look for that big break. And so we would, we were really hitting the pavement. We were talking to everybody, taking any meeting that they would speak with us and really doing everything that you need to as a startup really grinding for it.

James: And we’re able to find a. digital first retailer here in Montreal who had an absolutely fantastic founder. A young influencer who have, has an amazing fashion sense and she wanted to bring her sense of fashion to her community. And she was very Digitally minded and very digital first, and was thrilled about the opportunity to implement new technology.

James: And, we were able to launch, we had really strong response, not only from users but from retailers that we were showing it to. And, things that was our big break and things really began to pick up from there. And as we we continue to grow and work with larger and larger clients at this point we are now the solution is a plug-in white.

James: Application that’s available on a number of e-commerce platforms such as Shopify. And we really do facilitate a new experience for shoppers on a, in their e-commerce experience, allowing them to see how clothes will look, how they’ll fit, mix, and match, and really, Interact with their shopping experience in a new way that is accurate, that is fun, that is experiential, that is at interactive and the response has been enormously positive.

James: So positive in fact that we were approached by another company in our space with not a. Competing solution, but a complimentary one. And we decided to, in fact, join forces. And we are, we have merged together and have allowed us to position the company as it stands today, which is a fashion technology company with several solutions existing within our suite of services.

James: which allow us to be enormously flexible when we speak to brands and retailers, as well as be able to speak to much more of the wants and needs of shoppers. The second solution being one focused on the production of digital models who are photorealistic. The main thrust of it being the elimination of photo shoots, which, as long as there’s been.

James: Cameras, and as long as there’s been fashion, there have been fashion photo shoots. And so it’s considered to be a sunk cost. But the fact is photo shoots are enormously costly, enormously time consuming, enormously laborsome, especially for brands who potentially will do multiple photo shoots in a year or maybe even multiple photo shoots in a season.

James: And so by having. Digitally photorealistic models that we can completely customize, we can produce at a much faster and more cost effective rate. Really allows us to provide a tremendous amount of value to these brands as well as to users. We. in a time of growing personalization and the need for that by shoppers.

James: The only way as a fashion company you could really speak to all of your users would be to have essentially, a model of every single person in the world. That’s to really get that sense of personal, real personalization. But of course, that’s not reasonable. And so the only, the way that we can actually provide.

James: Is through the use of these kinds of digital models. And they also allow us to facilitate a much greater sense of inclusivity and representation and diversity within a fashion brand’s array of models that they make available. 

Brent: Yeah. I’d like to key in on the, on that diversity. I know that in, in your intro you div you mentioned diversity, sustainability you also mentioned optimization.

Brent: I’d like to get into that. But let’s talk specifically about diversity. I can share my experience that on this podcast itself, I did get a little lazy and I just depended on people sending. Sending me guests and all I got was white males at some point. So in this, in my space, in the, in, in the tech space in general, I think there’s not a lot of diversity and you really have to make, you have to make everybody aware of diversity.

Brent: So just speak to the diverse part of it and why that’s important in especially in the fashion. 

James: Let me just be I’m gonna ask you, are you asking about diversity within the tech space? Are you asking about diversity within the fashion space? Because they’re both things that need to be addressed.

James: But they’re very two different conversations. 

Brent: Yeah. I think for you, for the fashion space, and I think the answer’s probably obvious because everybody’s different and everybody wears clothes for the most part. , unless you’re in a, a clothing optional part of of the world or in a hippie commune.

Brent: But in the tech space, I think that’s, yeah, you’re right. That is a whole nother conversation That’s a challenge in and in itself. But let’s talk about, let’s talk about the fashion space and why diversity is why you feel diversity is important and what you’re doing. 

James: The lack fashion as it stands, has a problem with.

James: exclusivity. And by that really, they speak to, they have a certain idea of what’s beautiful and what size is beautiful, what look is beautiful and everybody who doesn’t fit that mold is on the outs, on the out, on the outside looking in. and whether that’s about your, your gender or your body type or your ethnicity or, speaking of plus size women or petites for men as well.

James: And it makes it so difficult to have fashion, feel like it speaks to you. And to make you feel included. And, I’ll tell a very brief anecdote, which really highlights a very important and impactful moment for me during my time at the company. A number of years ago when we were first coming to market and developing the platform, we were.

James: Fo doing numbers of focus groups, having people try the application. Just talking to as many people as we could, having as many people as possible to try it and just tell us their thoughts. And I was with a number of people doing a pilot’s test of the application. And when the test was over, I had a young plus size woman come up to me and tell me a story.

James: an experience that she had recently had going out and looking for clothes. A similar experience that anybody who’s listening to this is familiar with where you walk into a store and you browse and you find something that you like and maybe you try it on or maybe you look for something that’s more in your size.

James: And she went through all the normal paces. She found something she liked and called over a sales assistant to, to, and asked. It’s size range and whether or not, they could have it potentially in her size. And the response she received was not only did the brand not carry her size in store, the brand didn’t make that size period to which, there’s a moment of pause where it’s okay, where does this conversation go for, essentially come get out of here because we can’t sell to you.

James: And she went home and. essentially went straight to her bedroom, and started to cry and cry with these feelings of embarrassment and shame and, reinforcing these, this discomfort within herself of her personal confidence and her body and her, and how she looked.

James: And as she was telling me this story, she was close to tears. And at that point I found myself, Close to tears cuz it was an experience that I had never dealt with myself personally. And it was something that I just, it, I just, every once in a while when you see something, it seems like it’s so obvious, but your eyes really, but you’ve somehow have not of clocked it previously.

James: And this was a number of years ago and I don’t know who, what her name is, I never saw her again after. , but her story was enormously impactful on me to this day. And in fact I often think about her when I make decisions about the company. My and in the back of my mind do I say, how do I make.

James: life easier for her. How do I make sure that she never has to deal with this kind of problem ever again? Cuz she shouldn’t, not her, not anybody should ever be made to feel that way. And fashion is so personal and it’s it plays such a significant part in so many different people’s lives.

James: And the fact that. It’s so not inclusive. So my thinking, as I said, I often think of her and when I make decisions, cuz if I can make a, if we can make a difference for her, then I know we can make a difference for a lot of people. And this idea of, especially when it comes to measurements and body types is, the lack of diversity within this space is something that desperately needs to be addressed.

James: I think. Slowly is. But by no means is it moving fast enough for my taste? And we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that, that kind of thing is an experience of the past. 

Brent: Yeah can I share one more experience on measurements? I travel to India once a year, typically, and in my travels I always try to do a running race.

Brent: My first time I did the Mumbai marathon, I asked, is this size medium or size large? Is that a US size large or an Indian size larger? How does that work? And they said it’s a US company, so it’s probably a US size. . And so I got the large and sure enough it’s a small or a medium. , so I totally get it.

Brent: And. In that space, in, just simply in the, in that little vertical of runners you don’t wanna wear a small shirt cuz it’s never gonna fit you or it’s not gonna be comfortable. So I’d imagine like in general, when you’re wearing it and for comfort or just clothing as fashion, that sizing across the world is so important.

Brent: , you mentioned then also sustainability. Talk a little bit about how sustainability is important. 

James: It’s a topic that I think a lot of people finally are starting to take much more seriously and be much more aware of. And fashion space in particular has a problem with sustainability. They say that the industry at large contributes anywhere upwards of 10% of global carbon emissions, which is more than.

James: Maritime shipping and airfare combined, which is simply outrageous. And that’s just talking about carbon emissions. That doesn’t even take into account other damages like the production of waste water through the creation of denim, which is, it’s shocking really, the amount of environmental damage that is produced by those practices.

James: And not only that, A lot of the attempts by the space to address it in the recent years have amounted to what they call greenwashing, which is to make a. Relatively superficial attempt to become a more sustainable brand. But it’s really more of a marketing flow than anything. It’s surface level only.

James: And they’ll say, we source our, some of our fabrics from we’ll get our fabric from renewable sources. And when you do and that sounds great, but when you do a little bit of a deeper dive, you realize that yeah. Five or 10% of that fabric is coming from renewable source, but the rest of it is still being produced in a terribly damaging way.

James: And the fact of the matter is when it comes to returns, especially the fact that there’s no such thing as standardized sizing means that there’s very little consumer confidence in what they purchase, which is given rise to its own kind of phenomenon that. Been born on the back of the ubiquity of free returns, which is called Bracket Shopping or bracketing, which anybody who’s listening to this probably has personal experience with, which is the act of going online and ordering multiple items, sometimes the same item in different.

James: Colors and different sizes and ordering 10, 20, 30, 40 items. And when they receive them, they go to, their bedroom and they try them on and they see what looks good and they see what fits and they’ll return everything else. Most, if not all of the items get returned. And and why shouldn’t they?

James: If they don’t fit? If they don’t look right and you have a free return then why wouldn’t she return it? So the process. sending that to and fro on the part of a brand or a retailer, is a huge contributor to those carbon emissions. When you talk about, shipping and handling, by the time it gets back to the brand, oftentimes it’s not cost effective to reshelve, and so it gets pushed downstream whether it be into a, Potentially a discount barrel in a Walmart.

James: But by and large, those items will end up either in the incinerator or in the landfill. And, with the rise of synthetic fibers, that item in that landfill, it might be out of sight, out of mind, but the fact is it’s there and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Sustainability is something that.

James: should be personal to all of us. We’ve only got one planet and so it’s up to all of us to be cognizant of what we’re doing with it. And so if we can address some of these problems through new technology, then that will allow us to not only deliver value to businesses and to shoppers, but help make what is a very damaging environment, environmentally damaging.

James: Better cleaner, more sustainable, more environmentally conscious. And that’s something that really needs to happen sooner rather than later. And it’s something that is very close to us at Modem Match. 

Brent: I want to just I want to put a statistic by you or a workflow and a shipping workflow by you and just comment on it.

Brent: We had a, we have a had a client in Mexico who’s a fashion brand, and they told us that most of the cotton is actually produced in the us. and then it’s shipped to Vietnam or or Asia to get made into string. . And then that string is shipped to say or it’s processed, then it goes to Malaysia to do something else.

Brent: Maybe made making into some fabric. . And then it’s shipped back to Mexico to get made into clothing and then it’s shipped. Mm-hmm. Back to min to the US to actually get sold on the racks. , which seems like a crazy amount of movement of. Of a commodity . , especially when it starts here and then it goes around the world and comes back to the North America.

Brent: And I should even, yeah. That’s 

James: one, that’s one full lap around the planet. Yeah. 

Brent: So number one, is that, is that a pre, is that a pretty common case? Especially as you get into big retailers or big manufacturers of clothing? It, 

James: It’s not uncommon. It’s definitely not uncommon. But they’re again, this boils back to the fractured nature of global fashion industry.

James: In terms of their practices more and more are we seeing small to medium sized brands try to nearshore their. Production to avoid some of these exact problems that you’ve outlined, which were really starkly highlighted during the pandemic when shipping and handling was so uncertain and items were coming from the far east.

James: And with, for instance, through China with their zero covid policies. It became very difficult to do business in a clear and profitable manner. And they’re, I think that’s readily apparent now to, to a lot of the industry. And there has been a greater push to nearshore a lot of these practices.

James: But it’s still, for bigger brands, they and they’re producing tens of thousands of SKUs. They look at their bottom line and they see where they can get it done in the most cost effective manner. And that’s, the way the cookie crumbles essentially. 

Brent: I wanna draw parallel then to your solution and sustainability and say sizing.

Brent: And then I want to point, I wanna point out a outlier, not an outlier, but a business model, like the box model, stitch Fix or whatever they’re called, where they’re actually putting you, giving you a whole bunch of stuff and then they’re encouraging you to return it. If you don’t like it.

Brent: A can you just maybe quickly address that, that boxed model that what is it? Subscription based fashion model and then, , maybe go right into how your solution helps that helps with the sustainability. . 

James: Sure. Stitch Fix is a fantastic company, and I’ve always been very taken with them and I think it’s a great idea and I think that the idea of helping people find their fashion sense, find items that they know fit their sense of style, fit the kind of look that they’re going for, I think that all that is fantastic, especially for those of us who are maybe not the most active shoppers.

James: It’s almost like you’re having a personal stylist do it for yourself. So I think that’s a fantastic. Saying all of that. There are any number of companies that are doing really good work in terms of trying to make this space more sustainable. But a tremendous amount of that effort is focused on, shipping materials, for instance.

James: So I was speaking with an associate recently, and they’re using, cardboard, but it’s all recycled and it comes from, it’s all renewable and it’s a fantastic idea. And it was great work that they were doing and I was so impressed with it. . But if the fact of the matter is that is trying to address a problem that is, that has already happened.

James: The horses have left the barn and we’re trying to corral them. What we are trying to do at Motor Match is really address the problem at its source. If we can stop that return from happen. right from the get-go, by delivering an item that is targeted, that looks the way it’s supposed to look, that fits the way it’s supposed to fit and you know you’re happy with it right from the get-go, then we can stop this whole chain of events from happening right to begin with.

James: And although a company like Stitch Fix, I think it’s a great idea. It does not do a lot in terms of helping the sustainability of the space because of that shipping to and fro of these box. 

Brent: Let’s move into technology a little bit. My experience with a lot of with a lot of fashion owners or fashion brands is the larger ones anyways, are own owned by, let’s just call ’em older.

Brent: People that are more mature and they don’t, or maybe they’re nervous about the technology or they don’t have a lot of that need to think about what is happening, and so they prefer to make it just stay the course instead of moving into new places. , maybe you could just talk about.

Brent: How Moda is changing some of that. And how are you getting, like you mentioned earlier the younger brand that you worked with. How do you break through into the older ownership and into people that aren’t necessarily in tune with what’s happening? . 

James: It’s a great question and it’s something that we and many other companies, whether they be in startups in the fashion space or in any other space, have to contend with.

James: It’s part of the nature of doing startup work, which is proving yourself, proving the viability of your solution, proving the viability of the space trying to determine and marry these ideas of wants and needs and so sometimes solutions and ideas speak for themselves and sometimes you have to work a little harder.

James: It’s something that we can tend with very. Often, which is this, and I spoke about it briefly previously about this kind of skepticism. People have been trying to introduce new technology for a long time now. Nothing successfully worked. And so there is a natural sense of, why you, why now, why this tech, why this approach?

James: And in fact, the rest of the space that I work in is, I often call it a little bit like the wild west because nobody’s certain what that final answer looks like in terms of. Technology, what backend, what ux ui, what front end, what’s going to work with all of the relevant players? And so really me and my counterpoints at other technologies companies, we’re all trying to, get that formula right and really find something that is going to work for everybody and provide that kind of value.

James: But coming back to your question, the way to break through to these older companies, these more established companies, don’t feel the same kind of potentially, financially driven. Need to try new things. Why try new things when you could? Making a lot of money doing things in a certain way and let somebody else try it first.

James: And so that’s basically what we’ve been forced to do, which is work with smaller brands, SMEs, digital digital first or digital exclusive companies who, who don’t even have a brick and mortar storefront and for whom these kinds of things are enormously. . And so it’s really a process for us of just working with as many clients as we can, making sure that edge, each one of our clients is very happy with the work that we’re doing and really gain that validation from the space in order to prove to them that we’re not, just a, a.

James: Fancy presentation or a fancy new piece of tech that looks impressive, but might not actually deliver value in the long term. And it’s, and funnily enough, as a Canadian, I feel it, it comes very naturally to us to want to move very deliberately. Fairly cautiously, very thoughtfully as opposed to a, maybe a more of a Silicon Valley type of thinking, which is, move fast and break things.

James: This particular space really does reward those who are willing to move thoughtfully, deliberately and really build a foundation for the work that we do. And that’s how we’ve gained, success with these larger brands. It’s been a struggle. Definitely been a struggle, but, we’ve always been very big believers in not only our technology, but in the value that we can offer.

James: And once we were able to have the data to, to back that up, then our the job became a little bit easier. . 

Brent: Yeah. I would imagine that changing the habits of the user is ultimately the thing that is gonna change the thought patterns of the owners, because as people start going to places that are more advantageous to the buying experience, then the somebody’s gonna have to take notice.

Brent: . So you talk a little bit about just how you help you, you did talk about measuring. How do you help to optimize that? Then what do you, what is it that you help with in terms of optimization and helping the the merchant and then also the consumer have a better experience in terms of on that PDP pager, wherever the, wherever you’re presenting the.

James: It’s an expansive question. I, if you wanna maybe, and I don’t, I know we have a limited time, so I don’t want to go off on maybe a little bit more of a tangent, which I’m very passionate about the space that I work in. I’m very enthusiastic, so I have a slight tendency to to expand readily on the talking point.

James: If you wanna maybe ask that in a little bit more specific way, I think I can give you more of a targeted 

Brent: answer. Yeah, let’s, talk, let’s talk specifically about just optimizing a product page with your solution. 

James: Sure. Both of our solutions offer a tremendous amount of value.

James: Of our Premier Premium solutions offer tremendous amount of value depending on the needs of the. Brand or the retailer, or the shopper. Just as an example if a page is looking for a reduction rate of return, greater interactivity the ability to target bigger customer bases and different demo, different demographics.

James: The virtual fitting room is something that is shown to have a lot of value because of its ability to, show, provide, really give the tools for that. To engage in their e-commerce experience in a way that is completely different, that is much more accurate. You can really see how the items will look and how they’ll fit.

James: You can choose from a range of models on a variety of body types going for petite all the way to plus size so that nobody really feels excluded. That you can, and not only feel excluded, but be able to buy for a particular kind of body type. People have different. Relationships with their bodies in terms of their self-perception.

James: They might be going on a diet they might have recently on weight, it’s, it fluctuates between each of us. And in some cases very rapidly. And so you need to be able to speak to that in a way that is targeted and a way that is, is valuable and functional. And so the virtual fitting room is enormously beneficial in that respect, in terms of optimizing that experie.

James: And again, by being able to show people how items look and fit correctly and accurately, which are the two principle drivers of returns do we really optimize that process? Whereas our digital modeling solution, the focus is much more about eliminating what is a very. Costly and laborsome step in the process and make this kind of imagery a much more readily available, much more customizable.

James: If you think about something like the availability of models. People often will look at a, It’s one of those areas that people don’t always delve more deeply into. And so it’s, if you’re a, say an SME and you wanna have a model at a photo shoot, you think about the costs that go into that, whether it’s, when you.

James: Take into account a location and equipment and professionals, whether they be stylists or photographers or lighters, or people who work in post-production, editing those images so that they, to be able to produce these kinds of prototypical airbrush, Photoshop perfect hand model that you’ll see on a billboard, which, Is great, but that person shares a body type with, one other person on the planet.

James: So it might do a lot for making a brand look cool and fashionable, but it does nothing for the, the regular shopper. And so by being able to utilize these digital models, which, allow us to produce this imagery photo realistically very quickly, very cost effectively, very customizable.

James: We really can be helpful not only to bigger brands, but we’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest from these small to medium size enterprises who would not be able to typically afford the costs associated with a photo shoot. Be able to use the kinds of models that they want to use be able to, have the kinds of images that they want to use, whether they’re studio or lifestyle shots.

James: And so it’s again, providing a tremendous amount of value to them. one of my. . One of the things that I enjoy the most about my work is working with, up and coming brands or designers who are so fantastically talented and, are held back by, limited budgets and by limited opportunity.

James: And so if we can help facilitate, this very important element of fashion, which is to be able to see, modeling is an important part of fashion. And if we can help. Do that in a way that speaks to them and their vision then that’s something that is, it’s really great for me and a very satisfying element of my work.

Brent: I’d like to finish out our conversation today around AI and machine learning. I think the, there has been a perception of machine learning where people that don’t understand it are afraid of. How do you help to introduce that idea and and make people comfortable with what it is?

James: It’s a good question. And I think we’re helped in part by the growing. Introduction of ai, machine learning driven technologies and solutions into the, the economy at large. More and more companies are coming to market with these kinds of solutions. So I think that in general, we’re starting to become more comfortable with it.

James: It’s a. It’s an unknown, it’s a definite unknown. And so I often try to think about the different ways that this is going to play out and where it’s going to be helpful and where it might be less than helpful, maybe even potentially harmful when you talk about job losses and things of that nature.

James: To make people feel comfortable. I think it’s more of a question of just delivering value consistently and, really having that evidence in front of you. A picture the, while they would say a picture’s worth a thousand words, I would argue that, a data spreadsheet, if a picture’s worth a thousand and that spreadsheet’s worth 10,000 words the, we’re, it’s a, it can be a very cutthroat business, and they want, they’re focusing on their bottom.

James: And if we can just show that value in a consistent, reliable way then, that does a lot of the talking for us. 

Brent: I can share a little bit of my experience around it and I’m super fascinated with machine learning and I’ve been using a lot of Dolly and I’ve started , I’ve started making portraits of famous artists holding Jack Russell Terriers.

Brent: And recently, I know, crazy, right? Recently I did a portrait of by Leonardo Leo, Leonardo da Vinci, holding a Jack Russell. And I posted it on Instagram and somebody commented that that they didn’t. Jack the breed hadn’t been invented or discovered or whatever developed when Da Vinci was around and I pointed out this is a joke, and it’s a representation of a portrait, , so i, I, but the, the idea there is that. it is good enough to I don’t wanna say fake it cuz it’s easier to make a representation of a famous artist, especially when it’s digital. You can’t touch it and see it, , you can’t, you’re looking at it on your computer screen.

Brent: But the flip side is that it, it looks convincing enough that it looks like an artist’s portrait of a Madonna holding a Jack Russell terrier from, whatever the 15 hundreds. I feel like it’s super exciting and it’s going in places that it’s only gonna get more exciting as we grow with it.

Brent: And I think what we’ve talked about today and especially a solution helps us to the diversity part I think is one of the, one of the most important. And I, we didn’t really get into that enough, that, that there isn’t enough reference and representation of other peop types of people in the industry.

Brent: And we in our green room, I, we talked about we talked about technology versus the fashion industry that There’s even less diversity in the technology industry and how important that is. If you have, if you have some bit of nugget that you could tell an Etailer and what they should be looking at as they move into 20 20 23, what is it that you think that would, one thing they could be looking at, especially a fashion retailer?

James: Well, a fashion eTail, I think the real. , the real thing that should be considered right now is being hyper aware of what’s going on in the space. The, one of the most interesting aspects to AI and machine learning is how quickly the technology develops. I, in many cases, what could be deemed as exponential growth in terms of its functionality and its capabilities.

James: And so for us at Modem Match, the our technology is heavily based on AI and. , just, I’m often taken aback by how quickly our technology is able to advance, due to my previous experience working in tech where it’s, slow progress and often all these kinds of hindrances and problems.

James: But with ai it’s moving so quickly that, it’s. To the benefit of everyone that retailers make a dedicated effort to have an open mind, to be very aware of what’s going on because there’s so much value to be had out there in terms of optimization, in terms of increased sustainability and in terms of diversity, in terms of everything really.

James: There, there is the ability for brands right now to onboard new digital tools such as those who are offering at Modem match and really allow them to. A, not a small step forward, but almost a quantum leap forward in terms of what they’re able to provide to their shoppers, what they’re able to do with their own bottom lines their backend processes.

James: It’s important that we, everybody takes a moment, looks around, takes a, gets a sense of the landscape and is willing to try new things. Those who are willing to adopt new technologies, who are willing to grow, who are willing to evolve are going to be well positioned to continue to grow and be successful in the future.

James: And those who are, business as usual and are unwilling to make those considerations and unwilling to make those attempts to try new things are, at one point. Probably sooner rather than later, going to be left behind. And so it’s, it’s, again, it’s a fantastic, there’s so much amazing stuff happening and so it’s important as a retailer to really take a look around, know what’s going on, and connect with as many kinds of technologies as, and solutions as they can.

James: Not everything is gonna work and fit with everyone’s vision. And some companies unfortunately do not have the kind of stain power that, that you could call maybe a flash in the. And over my four years of doing, of leaving modem match, I’ve seen many come and go. As I previously mentioned, it’s a little bit like the wild west.

James: And so there’s these ideas of what’s going to work. Is it going to be hardware, is it going to be software? Where in the supply line and the production chain, and should it be implemented? And so by for us, we want to be. Say that we wanna be able to service a whole range of needs and that’s why we have been working and offering multiple solutions so that we can really address a range of problems.

James: But I would encourage brands and retailers to, again, be very aware of what’s going on in the space. Connect and talk with as many of these entrepreneurs as they can. And find a company, find a solution that works well for you, works well for your company, and that you are able to see long-term.

James: and not some, kitche niche solution that might be cool for one season, but then, is a thing of the past just as quickly as as quickly gone, as quickly as it. 

Brent: James, it’s been such a good conversation and you’re so articulate. I thank you so much for being here today.

Brent: As I close out the podcast, I give everybody an opportunity to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like. What would you like to plug today? 

James: I would typically, my first instinct would be to plug my business. But I, there’s the chance that I might have done that already to its fullest extent in this conversation.

James: I think my only plug would be, Take in, in this current, holiday season is to, it’s a tough time that we’ve all been going through with the pandemic and with the changes that have come to our society. So it’s important to look around at at our loved ones, hold each other close, but also to look around and see the world through new eyes and realize that the world has changed, is changing rapidly and not, and that can be for the.

James: If only we focus on it, if only we make a really dedicated and deliberate effort to take these new technologies, to take these changes and use them as a force for good, not only just in terms of business and bottom lines, but these other ideas that are so important, that, that we touched on in this conversation, like greater inclusivity, not just in fashion, but in, in every space.

James: Greater representation, greater and diversity. And these, this need to really take a hard look at the world and how we operate and how damage, how much damage we’ve done to the world around us and say, enough is enough and we can’t continue as, And we have to change. There’s, it’s not going to, we don’t have as the chances don’t, won’t exist forever.

James: So now is the time. There’s no better time than the present as my mother would say. And it’s again, just to know, take a breath, look around and realize that, that things are changing and we have to change. Times are changing and we’ve gotta change. 

Brent: James it’s, thank you so much for being here.

Brent: James Bloomfield, the c e o and co-founder of Motor Match. It’s been a pleasure talking to you today, 

James: Brent. Thank you so much for having me. Great. Pleasure talking with you as well. And I’m you let me know next time I, and I look forward to the next free or charge joke, . 

Brent: Yeah. And I should mention too, I’ll put all your contact information in the show notes so people know how to get ahold of you and how to find mode match.

James: Great. Please do so and I would encourage anybody to reach out to me. I’m a little bit of a workaholic, so you reach out to me and I will get back to you. Guaranted. And at the very least, I’m always happy to have a conversation and, connect with people. There’s so many amazing, fantastic people who work, not only in the tech space that I’m in, but the, the fashion industry and the apparel industry.

James: These new up and comers who have, who are so driven, who are so talented, who’re so incredibly intelligent and charming and everything that you could want. And please reach out and I’d love to chat. Thank you. All right. Thank you.

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