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AiThority Interview with Shafqat Islam, Chief Marketing Officer at Optimizely

Shafqat Islam, Chief Marketing Officer at Optimizely

Hi Shafqat, welcome to our Interview Series. Please tell us a little bit about your journey in the digital technology space. How did you start at Optimizely?

Thanks for having me. I’ve been in the digital technology space for quite some time now, having spent most of my working career developing products for marketers – I was the co-owner and CEO of Welcome (formerly NewsCred), the global leader in Enterprise Content Marketing from 2007 to 2021. Welcome created and led the content marketing platform (CMP) category (now known as the Optimizely Content Marketing Platform).

I joined the team at Optimizely as General Manager when Optimizely acquired Welcome in 2021, and I moved into the role of Chief Marketing Officer towards the end of 2022. I’ve had a great first year at Optimizely and I’m excited to accomplish more in 2023 as CMO.

What is Optimizely Web Experimentation and what are your core features? How do business intelligence teams benefit from leveraging your product and solution?

Optimizely Web Experimentation is our bread and butter. It uncovers customer insights so marketers can create high-performing, personalized experiences.

By implementing Optimizely Web Experimentation, marketers can safely run multiple experiments on the same page and directly compare results. Using these findings, teams can deliver better targeted messaging, more personalized offers, and recommend the most relevant content for your users.

With our solution, teams can optimize all aspects of their website. If teams aren’t testing, they could be losing money as well as conversions. But by experimenting, marketers can “fail fast” and learn what does and doesn’t work, saving the company both time and money.

But I need to clarify one thing. With experimentation, there are no failures, only winners or learnings. Sure, taking risks and stepping outside of your comfort zone can be daunting, but having the confidence to try something different can really pay off. A successful experimentation culture is always underpinned by an attitude that accepts the possibility of failure – as long as any failure turns into an opportunity to learn – and Optimizely Web Experimentation is a key aspect of being able to create that successful experimentation.

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Website data management trends have changed in the last 2-3 years. Most organizations connect data management goals with their revenue generation outcomes. How do you help customers achieve this fine balance at Optimizely?

These days, every single business decision relies on data. If the data is weak or poorly managed, the business results will be lacking. But when managed, updated and utilized properly, customer data can lead to better personalization, better content, and better experiences, which all have a direct impact on conversions, and ultimately to revenue.

At Optimizely, our Data Platform gives our customers the power to consolidate data from multiple sources, create unified customer profiles and segment customers in real-time to deliver truly personalized experiences. Through machine learning, we provide marketers with key insights on their customers and surface additional opportunities for further experimentation. This all leads to greater customer l******* value, higher r**** of retention and loyalty, as well as more profit.

Please tell us more about your recent collaboration with Google Analytics 4 (GA4). How has your partnership with Google shaped up in the post-COVID era?

To support Google Optimize customers ahead of the solution’s sunset in September, we’ve been collaborating with Google on an integration with Optimizely Web Experimentation and Google Analytics 4. And we’re excited to share that as of early April, that integration is now live.

This is a first-of-its-kind collaboration that will revolutionize how digital marketers use actionable insights to deliver the best customer experiences through more personalized brand interactions. We are enabling marketers to harness real-time data from Optimizely Web Experimentation within GA4 for a single source of intelligence, empowering them to execute first-class experimentation programs at scale.

This collaboration comes after our decision to move our leading experimentation solutions to Google Cloud early last year. We are excited to keep building on this strong partnership with Google as companies rely more and more on the power of delivering seamless digital experiences to their customers in the post-COVID era.

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Could you tell us about the importance of website analytics in the modern scenario dominated by mobile-first and app-centric brands?

We’re seeing more and more users span across different devices, channels and touch points. This is making it harder for marketers to oversee the complete customer journey in one place, essentially creating a situation where there’s lots of marketing data, but little insight.

As privacy restrictions around data increase, it’s harder to track visitors in a safe and reliable way, which also renders more third-party data resources marketers have relied on useless. Now, it’s more important than ever to have a solid analytics setup, where you’re in complete control of all aspects of the data. That’s where our Data Platform comes in. Marketers need to feel empowered and informed, so they can take actions on insights instantly, whether that’s on the web, in apps, in-store or any other channel where customers can interact with your brand.

What is the incremental value of web experimentation on digital marketing campaigns? Any specific case study that you would like to point out to our readers:

The most exciting thing about web experimentation is that it offers uncapped success, meaning there is no upper limit on how much value can be achieved from experimenting.

In the case of retail brand New Era, ensuring a customer-first approach by testing was essential for rapid growth. Using Optimizely’s experimentation capabilities, New Era has leveraged data to optimize conversions on add-to-cart call-to-action, the sorting order of product listing page, size guide page retention, and exclusivity messaging at its checkout page. By experimenting at speed and scale, New Era Cap has experienced year-on-year growth of more than 60%, with Black Friday sales rising by 123% in 2021 compared to 2020.

ChatGPT conversations are everywhere. How do you see ChatGPT and other generative AI apps playing a larger role in your industry?

Generative AI is going to be a game changer in marketing. While there is plenty of room for improvement with ChatGPT – particularly when it comes to its writing quality and the veracity of results – artificial intelligence is improving by orders of magnitude every six months, meaning we can expect to increasingly see more AI-generated text, copy, emails, and sales assets. In fact, at Optimizely, we’re already using AI for content and campaign planning, as well as content generation.

With this technology at marketers’ fingertips, teams will develop stronger strategies, improve SEO, generate content faster and more frequently. On top of that I see AI-generated imagery replacing stock imagery, and potentially even product photography in the near future. Not everyone will like it, but this is going to happen.

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AI and machine learning algorithms are helping marketing teams scale their data marketing strategies in 2023. Could you highlight the role of AI ML and other emerging technologies in web analytics?

The key benefit of AI in web analytics is that it can generate real-time insights and recommendations to inform marketing teams about which content will convert and drive revenue. This helps give marketing teams the ability to constantly monitor how relevant their content is, while also proving a clear ROI saving both time and money. By spending less time analysing data and guessing which next step should be taken, marketers can make strong decisions faster, giving them more bandwidth to collaborate, be creative and scale their marketing strategies.

Thank you, Shafqat! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

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Shafqat Islam is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of NewsCred, the world’s leading content marketing and syndication platform. As CEO, Shafqat manages the strategic growth of the company, pioneering a new content ecosystem for brands and publishers.

Since its founding in 2008, NewsCred has grown to a 75+ person team of technologists, journalists, and creative content marketers based in New York, London, and Dhaka. The company is funded by leading investors including FirstMark Capital, FLOODGATE, and IA Ventures.

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At Optimizely, we’re on a mission to help people unlock their digital potential. With our leading digital experience platform (DXP), we equip teams with the tools and insights they need to create and optimise in new and novel ways. We’re reinventing marketing and allowing marketers to innovate without limits through confident content creation, inclusive collaboration and customer foresight. Now, companies can operate with data-driven confidence to create hyper-personalised experiences. Building sophisticated solutions has never been simpler. Optimizely’s 900+ partners and nearly 1,500 employees in offices around the globe are proud to help more than 10,000 brands, including Toyota, Santander, eBay, KLM and Mazda, enrich their customer l******* value, increase revenue and grow their brands.

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