Lily AI’s VP of Product, Byron Jones, discusses what sets Lily AI apart in the quest for true personalization of the e-commerce experience, what it takes to build brand advocates for life and what he loves about Lily AI — from the company culture to the value proposition. Read on to get an insider’s take on how we create impactful opportunities for online retailers.
Give us the elevator pitch. Can you tell me about Lily AI?
Byron Jones: Lily is the first product to make a splash in the market, enabling shoppers to find or discover products through deep product intelligence. We extract all these features about different products using AI. We power multiple product discovery use cases for retailers on different customer touchpoints like search, filters and facets, product recommendations and product digitization — really taking a retailer’s product catalog and shopping experience and making it come to life in the online store.
Our customers are seeing a significant lift in revenue, just from vastly improving the data they have about their products. We process millions of products per week for big online shops like Bloomingdale’s and ThredUp.
We also have a sophisticated personalization product that builds a 360-degree view of the shopper and can deliver personalized experiences across web, mobile and email. Lily AI takes a really unique approach to that.
For those who aren’t familiar with the company’s unique approach, can you pinpoint what sets Lily apart?
Byron Jones: Gaining a 360-degree view of a shopper or customer is a common term in e-commerce. But what that means for Lily is more than just combining behavioral data, clickstream data, gender and physical location to create a generic, one-size-fits-all model.
Because we have such a unique depth of knowledge about each product a shopper has interacted with, we can also start to develop an understanding of the “why”: the emotional context behind a purchase. It’s that next level of data, not just basic demographics, that sets us apart. With the level of detail we can obtain, we are able to deliver a more thoughtful, personalized experience that will help connect the shopper, the brand and the retailer.
You have a lot of industry experience prior to Lily. What attracted you to the company?
Byron Jones: When I look at companies, I look at a few things. Three things that drew me to Lily were the company culture, the ROI that the products are delivering to customers and the market opportunity within e-commerce.
First, the company culture is a fantastic one that the founders have developed, built on empathy and diversity. And I think that's a great foundation for building a company that will be long-lasting. It will attract people who are there for the right reasons and excited about what they do every day.
Second, is the business impact. I think Lily products are making a big impact with retailers who are seeing a double-digit lift. And there are still more opportunities to roll out these products into other areas of their sites.
Finally, I think COVID-19 accelerated the digital transformation and the ways that consumers are spending. We haven’t seen this kind of rapid change since the birth of the Internet, so it’s a really exciting time to be part of e-commerce.
You’ve been with Lily just a little over a month now. What stands out most about the team and technology as you’ve had the opportunity to dig in?
Byron Jones: The things that have really impressed me have been the sophistication of the machine learning models and the API-first architecture of the tech stack. We’re actually able to automate things like deep tagging of product attributes. And we can scale the platform as we grow. The team invested in building these core models, services and APIs as a solid foundation so we can scale as we grow.
What would you say are the major pain points that Lily AI is helping e-commerce brands solve?
Byron Jones: We're all spending a lot more time shopping online right now. And I'm sure people are feeling the pain of some of the site search capabilities. For example, I tried to buy a new blue denim shirt and some of the sites are just painful to use. The search for “denim shirt” ends up with all sorts of weird stuff.
Search and relevant recommendations are such a problem for most retailers online. Then you combine that with a lack of real understanding of the “why” behind a purchase. Lily can provide that context.
Retailers who aren’t using our platform are really missing that opportunity to build a real connection, help the customer discover what they’re looking for, and build a better relationship, creating a brand advocate for life.
So many brands are trying to do personalization, and the need for it continues to grow. Why is personalization extra prevalent and relevant right now?
Byron Jones: Any e-commerce company that is anybody right now has some sort of budget for personalization over the next two years. But it’s about finding something that is going to really help that brand create a deeper connection with the shoppers.
There’s a loss of creativity and a loss of connection with shoppers, because a lot of online stores are just not very interesting. Plus, it’s hard to find the things that you’re looking for.
Working with a product like Lily to really understand the shopper and understand the product catalog, and then combining the two, can build a better shopper experience. That is something that stands out for our customers.
Do you have a vision of where you want to take things next, a broad vision of where you see things going?
Byron Jones: I’m thinking a lot about that right now. And in my 18+ years of product management experience, most of the things I start with are the core customer problems and really empathizing with them. We’ve found a niche and market fit with our product attribution and personalization product,so far. I think that product will continue to grow into a larger platform with a lot more bells and whistles and features.
Is there anything else that you would want to say to retail retailers about the product?
Byron Jones: I think the biggest thing is creating that human connection when you’re not shopping in person. How do we recreate that experience, so that somebody feels like they're in a store browsing around? How can we make them feel like somebody really understands them and is trying to help them?
That’s where Lily is coming in to save the day.