La version française est à lire ici
Don’t look for his desk, you won’t find it. There’s no “Office of the CEO” as such, just a workspace nestled among many others. Yet Laurent Letourmy and Romain Chaumais, the two co-founders of Ysance, along with their 135 employees, are currently squaring the omnicommerce circle by making it possible to reconcile and enrich customer journeys across online and offline channels. As a result, brands and retailers are now able to take the strategic and operational steps needed to boost sales and increase return on advertising investment.
The interview could have taken place in San Francisco, where Ysance has an office; it was held at its Paris headquarters, in Silicon Sentier, a business district that is highly emblematic of the the merging of Commerce and Tech.
:: Creadev, the venture fund controlled by the Mulliez family, is not in the habit of wasting money. What is about your business that convinced Creadev to invest €5 million in Ysance last September?
Laurent Letourmy – With 90% of all purchases still happening in store, Ysance is bridging the worlds of online and offline commerce. With our technology, we are able to reconcile and evaluate in-store purchases with online clicks. Our product is a world first and is already deployed and proving its worth at a growing number of retailers.
The Mulliez family (100+ retail brands, 500.000+ employees and $80Bn annual revenue in Europe and Asia) quickly understood our own journey as a company, as Big Data experts and builders of data-centric digital platforms, and today as the provider of a pioneering marketing platform. Our story is all about enabling our customers to reconcile, enrich, segment and activate their full set of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party people data across all marketing channels.
We are at the cusp of a market transformation that is both broad and deep and one that will affect everyone from retailers and brands through to consumers. It’s a revolution in commerce.
:: What was your vision in 2005, when you created Ysance?
We had the feeling that companies were not getting the most out of their data and that it was stuck in costly and inflexible silos.
Then along came a new generation of digital solutions and pure play online retailers. This placed pressure on companies and forced them to think about what being consumer centric is for real. In 2012, thanks to Cloud and Big Data technology were able to build our Digital Data Factory.
:: In general, DMPs are associated with online audiences
In an omni-channel world, B2C companies have no alternative but to fully understand their customers as individuals, based on all their interactions with the brand, which today are multi-channel and multi device. This is essential as the customer has become accustomed, thanks to Amazon and other pure play retailers, to frictionless customer experiences, and they now want the same from the brands and retailers they grew up with. We describe our platform as a People-Based Marketing Platform, rather than a DMP.
:: What’s make you unique?
Our technology connects clicks with bricks: we match the online world with in-store purchases. Retailers are now able to predict and measure and the effect of online media with in-store purchases at a highly-granular level. The uses case are numerous, for example:
- Gaining effective control over marketing pressure while respecting the customer’s preferences,
- Generating qualified foot traffic, which has a direct impact on sales,
- Avoiding paying to acquire its own customers multiple times,
- Connecting with customers at the right time,
- Or, doing the opposite by holding back, because our algorithms are able to predict the next visit and the next purchase. One of our clients, for example, when sales dipped, used to offer discounts to all customers without distinction. But they knew very well that by promoting to customers who would buy anyway, they were losing money,
- Predicting foot traffic at the individual store level, well in advance, making it possible to optimize inventory and merchandising. Because the question is not just “how to sell?” but “how many units will we sell?”. To optimize volume, we need the right amount of the right products in stock, and at the right time.
:: You’re empowering store managers!
We’re helping store managers optimize decisions at the local level. This is important because who knows their customers, their teams and their local market better, if not the store manager?
:: Who are your competitors?
Similar solutions exist in the US, but they only use probabilistic methods as approximations. Our matching algorithms achieve this deterministically for more reliable results.
:: Where the data is stored?
All personal data remains under the control of our clients. In any case, the data belongs to them at all times. We do not share or resell data.
:: Are retailers ready for this transformation?
Retailers need to take ownership and take control or their customer data. They spend fortunes on acquisition and are no longer willing to buy their own customers among third-party audiences. At the same time, they are very concerned about data privacy issues, because their consumers are unforgiving of inappropriate use of their data. We regularly talk to CMOs who tell us that their primary challenge in the digital arena is one of trust.
:: How can we act respectfully in regard to the customer?
When a consumer makes a purchase in store, is it appropriate to follow up the very next day with an email just to sell to them? They are more likely to prefer a thank you note or an invitation to join a community of users. Again, we are helping retailers connect with their customers at the right time – and also letting them know when it’s not appropriate. Since we know the full cross-channel customer journey, we can tailor online conversations for those customers who have converted in-store; and we can talk to online shoppers, with the knowledge of what they’ve already bought and what they are next likely to buy in-store and when.
The Digital Data Factory is a natively open platform, which is able to exchange and synchronize data with a large number of marketing, CRM, Ecommerce, and Social Media platforms.
:: How do you explain that we are just at the beginning of unified commerce, twenty years after the start of e-commerce?
The approach was biased from the start: The consumer is the same person. Except that there are two different operations – online and offline – vying for their attention. Often they seem to be speaking different languages. All the jargon cropping up, however – online to offline, showrooming, webrooming, and so on – is really pointing to the same thing: unified commerce.
Add to this the fact that many retailers still work in silos, with separate teams specializing in email, traffic management, CRM, mobile, personalization, recommendation, conversion funnels, etc. All of this is starting to come under the umbrella term of customer experience, but so far it’s lacked an online-offline tracking solution centered on the individual. I think we are moving towards a reinvention of marketing.
:: After Paris, why choose San Francisco?
Our solution is deployed in 27 countries thanks to our customers who have asked us to follow them in their growth internationally, but also through our partners, and many of them have a presence in San Francisco. This is the reason for our office headed up by Romain Chaumais in San Francisco, which is also a unique place to spot innovations and for networking.
:: And what about yourself, where do you find inspiration?
Technology analysts, such as Gartner Inc. are a great source of information. Gartner itself is increasingly talking to marketers whereas once upon a time their clients were mostly in IT. Marketing is increasingly becoming a driving force behind technological developments.
Another source of inspiration is San Francisco and the Silicon Valley itself where I try to go every month. I come back each time inspired and energized, but with a double reaction: The US is in the lead on many subjects, however, in France, we are well ahead in terms of engineering.
Regarding media, I have a filter on Twitter: I follow interesting people in the market, media and influencers.
And whether I’m in Paris or in San Francisco, I enjoy networking to understand and learn from people.