AiThority Interview with Jonathan Yaffe, CEO and Co-Founder at AnyRoad
Please tell us about your role and the team you handle at AnyRoad.
My name is Jonathan Yaffe, co-founder and CEO of AnyRoad. While working at Red Bull, I realized the amazing power of experiential marketing, but we had no real ROI data. I started AnyRoad with my brother Daniel, and I continue to lead strategy and focus on the unique company culture as we grow quickly.
What is AnyRoad and what are your marketing services?
AnyRoad is the leader in a new category of software we call Experience Relationship Management (ERM), an approach that empowers brands to use data to execute better, smarter experiences at scale.
We support everything from in-person IRL events to online experiences to in-store brand activations to global field marketing.
For example, Budweiser uses AnyRoad to engage with over 1M consumers in events, activations, and brewery experiences. They run these experiences as a form of marketing to create community and brand loyalty. We enable them to not only power these experiences at scale, but also to understand exactly who is participating, and how the experiences are changing consumers’ perspective and consumption habits.
Before working with AnyRoad, they had very little data about how these experiences drove changes in brand perception and purchase behavior. Now they are able to surface insights to make their experiences more impactful and grow the ones that are extra transformative.
Which markets are you currently targeting to grow your business?
The world is moving from a things economy into an experience economy. This generation and the next are focusing more time, energy, and money on experiences rather than things. And with Millennials commanding over $2 trillion in spending capacity, brands everywhere realize that they must take advantage of experiences as the key to engage consumers. However, most experience programs lack quality data and insights – and as a result, brands are making decisions based solely on intuition.
We see the majority of our growth coming from Fortune 2000 consumer brands who are using experiences to build community and drive brand loyalty. We empower them with the data and insights they need to scale.
Right now we have over 200 customers, which predominantly sit in three focus industries: CPG brands like Nestlé, Diageo, and Anheuser-Busch; Retail brands like Michaels stores, Dicks Sporting Goods, and Golf Galaxy; Automotive brands like Honda and Fisker.
How are digital experience platforms evolving in the wake of COVID-19 disruptions?
The pandemic didn’t destroy the experience economy – it just moved it online. We’ve seen an explosion of transformative online experiences scaled by all sorts of companies. We decided to dive in and we’ve conducted extensive research to help our customers stay ahead of the curve with these digital experiences. Most recently, we compiled The State of Virtual Events 2021, which analyzed individual web responses from 191 participants working at companies ranging from one to tens of thousands of employees within the technology, food and beverage, and consulting industries. A majority of respondents (63.4%) were based in the U.S., with the remaining from various locations around the world.
This research uncovered a number of surprising trends:
– Platform proliferation – There are dozens of technology providers that offer virtual event and digital experience solutions. Interesting to note that many of the newer platforms such as Hopin and RunTheWorld didn’t register at scale in our research. In fact, Zoom is by far the most popular technology for hosting virtual experiences, at least for now. Zoom is the platform of choice for 48% of respondents, followed distantly by Microsoft Teams (12%) and Facebook Live (9.4%). I predict that Zoom will maintain its leadership in the medium term at least with the newer entrants displacing other technologies.
– Content innovation – Rising above the noise to run an engaging and well-attended virtual event is not easy, especially with “Zoom fatigue” setting in. Compelling content is the key to unlocking this attention challenge, but 27% of the respondents to our survey found it difficult to create content that’s both interesting and engaging to the audience.
That’s why we documented 180+ virtual event ideas to help share some of the creative ways marketers are creating content. A key lesson though is that super high production values aren’t always necessary. Michaels Stores’ online maker classes have attracted over half a million attendees with simple production, an eye on data, and targeted scaling.
– Measurement is a challenge – One of the biggest challenges with online experiences involves demonstrating impact. 46% of respondents felt that they did not have sufficient measurement tools to show the full impact of their virtual events. Respondents also struggled to identify suitable KPIs to measure the effectiveness of their online experiences.
– Budgets are growing – Most respondents (51%) revealed that they were new to virtual experiences in 2020, and with the future of in-person events still unclear, 58% of respondents expect their virtual budgets to increase over the next year. The vast majority (85.3%) say that online experiences are here to stay even after the pandemic subsides.
Tell us more about your COVID-19 strategies and how it benefits your customers and users?
COVID-19 created unprecedented challenges for our customers but it also created new opportunities. Immediately after the first lockdown, we launched AnyRoad AtHome, a product to enable marketers to plan, execute and measure the impact of online, virtual and hybrid experiences at scale.
We also launched AnyRoad Ahead for appointment shopping to help retailers deliver personalized in-store experiences, manage foot traffic safely, and stay ahead of regulatory changes.
Focusing on AnyRoad AtHome, the adoption has been stellar for both us and our customers. A great example of this is Michaels Stores. They immediately recognized the value of community, and made the continuity of their Community Classroom a priority. This strategy centered on a pivot to online classes, delivered via AnyRoad.
The classes were an immediate hit, and very well received by the Maker Community. Michaels now offers up to 30 weekly classes. Viewership of these classes is growing with both kids and adults, and over just a six-month time frame, they have recorded over 500,000 participants to date.
What does your remote workplace technology stack look like – could you provide us with a sneak preview:
We use a combination of tools to help keep our employees (AKA Roadies) connected. This empowers us to better serve our customers.
Our stack includes:
– GSuite – Docs and Email – communication and collaboration
– Slack – Messaging
– Zoom – Calls and meetings
– Atlassian Confluence & JIRA – Collaboration and knowledge sharing
– Lattice – People management and performance reviews
– AnyRoad – Events, experiences, webinars, data
Any advice to marketing teams in this pandemic?
Agility is most important. The teams that were most successful in adapting to the pandemic moved quickly to test and iterate on their marketing programs. Earlier I mentioned the example of Michaels Stores pivoting to online classes to maintain and grow their loyal community.
We also saw brands like Budweiser and Sierra Nevada launch online brewery tours and tastings. Velocity and experimentation were key to getting these programs off the ground.
However, now that we are past the initial disruption, my second piece of advice is to get closer to the data. First, experienced marketers have the opportunity to scale experiences to gain valuable first party data – and connect these insights with other teams in their organization. This is key as teams seek to restore pre-pandemic experiential marketing budgets. If you lead experiential programs, it’s crucial to spend time with digital teams to understand how they are going to be impacted by cookie deprecation and identity management. Experiential Marketing is a key source of first party data to maintain an effective digital presence and build relationships directly with your customers.
Second, eliminate the guesswork when assessing the impact of your programs. Make sure you are surfacing sufficient insights in order to drive improvements in the events and experiences you run. It’s all about the data and insights gleaned from these programs, and brands that ignore this are doing so at their own peril.
Your interaction with AI/ML tools for Experience Relationship Management-
We believe powerful experiences change consumer behavior. In order to drive that behavioral change, brands need to understand the impact experiences have on things like brand loyalty, customer LTV, and preference, and then take actions to increase lifetime value.
That’s where AI and ML come in.
Experience Relationship Management uses AI/ML tools in two ways:
First, to understand. Experiences generate a lot of data, and when done right, a lot of direct customer feedback through surveys and other touchpoints. Brands such as Nestlé, which partnered with AnyRoad to provide dog training online, can generate vast amounts of open-text feedback from their experiences. We use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to automatically uncover key trends and topics in the feedback so brands can take action to improve experience ROI and brand impact.
The second area where AI/ML plays a part is in making predictions. Most of our customers use experiences to create loyal brand champions. By integrating your experience data with business systems like CRM/POS and then assessing long term behavioral change, we use modeling to predict what types of experiences have the greatest impact on consumer behavior, and why.
Thank you, Jonathan! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Jonathan Yaffe is the CEO and Co-Founder of AnyRoad, a data and analytics platform that powers the experiences of hundreds of leading brands including Absolut, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Michaels Arts & Crafts, Honda, Diageo, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and the Golden State Warriors.
Jonathan began his career in experiential marketing at Red Bull, and holds a degree in Cognitive Science from the University of California Berkeley.
AnyRoad is the leading Experience Relationship Management (ERM) platform enabling global brands to properly measure, scale, and implement their offline and online experiential marketing campaigns. AnyRoad empowers companies to create brand loyalty, change consumer behavior, and better understand their brand associations by providing them with data intelligence sourced from experience-based marketing.
Companies like Budweiser, Honda, Michaels, and Tabasco all count on AnyRoad to measure the impact of their experiential marketing. AnyRoad’s software integrates into CRM, loyalty, ERP, and POS systems to complete the loop, building the model of exactly how these experiences build loyalty, increase brand perception, and increase revenue.