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Hadar Paz of Powerfront: How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More
Develop business memory so you can immediately recognize your customer, ask them if they’ve enjoyed their last purchase, and engage based on what they’re currently interested in.
As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Hadar Paz, CEO and co-founder of Powerfront, an AI-powered customer service solutions provider that helps businesses connect with their customers in a personalized, meaningful way.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Powerfront started as a Content Management System, building eCommerce websites for retailers back in 2001. Several years later, I was talking with one of our clients, the CEO of Nike Australia, and mentioned that his website had seen a lot of traffic lately — I checked, and there were about 1000 people visiting the site. He didn’t really seem interested until I asked him what he’d do if there were 1000 people in his downtown store. His eyes lit up, and we both realized how differently he reacted to the “idea” of traffic versus visualizing in-person traffic. I realized that we needed a system that would allow retailers to actually SEE their online traffic in a way that they could fathom. So, I created INSIDE, which uses avatars dressed with data to represent the customers, who move around on a visual representation of a store floor, which completely alters the way retailers perceive their online business. It allows everyone in the company, from the CEO to the online sales agent helping the customer, to humanize their online traffic.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
When I was younger 23 years old, I was working as a CTO for a company when I decided to start my own business. I wanted to move from working as the company’s employee to acquiring them as my first client. I was pitching my concept of a future retail system to persuade them that they should take me on as a vendor. I prepared a huge presentation with maybe 100 slides. I started my pitch and, of course, soon everyone was falling asleep. Then, at about 20 slides in, everyone looked at the screen and started laughing and laughing. It’s important to note that English is not my first language. So, I turned around, and immediately one word jumped out at me straight away — Instead of writing “warehouse,” I wrote “whorehouse.” It was such a crucial meeting, and I was mortified. But I recovered and said, “So, it worked! I just wanted to wake you up.” I don’t think they bought it, but I did win my pitch and started my own business. To this day, I have people who help check every email and presentation I write. I don’t trust myself!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Closing an initial sale when it comes to a new technology I invent is not my strong suit. I’m not sure why, it’s a mental block. I can’t sell the product until I see someone else do it successfully.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Steve Jobs, the biography by Walter Isaacson. That book has changed my attitude towards technology, innovation, and business. I used to always serve my team, the people that work with me. I was more concerned with how they felt about the company and about me than what they do. I believe that was a mistake. When I read the biography, I found Steve Jobs was doing the very opposite. He was only concerned with the cause and not really the people, as bad as it sounds. Of course, he was hated by many people, with the way that he let people feel. That said, he actually achieved something phenomenal. He pushed people to become the best they can, at the cost of his own popularity. That has changed the way I work with people and the way that my employees look at their job.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Very interesting question, I can talk about this for hours. Here is a story that resonates with me.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
To thrive: chase your passion, don’t chase money. Spend your time on something that really helps people. Try to change how people do something. It’s not always necessarily just about solving a problem. Sometimes it’s about doing something in a different, better way or creating something that’s more enjoyable and efficient. If you’re making things just to make more money, it doesn’t work. Instead, do it from the heart. Financially, if you truly do that and succeed in making that beautiful new thing, money will just chase you. Simple as that.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
The success of these companies is a combination of a good product or a good product selection, the ease of purchasing, and amazing customer service. Those are the three elements that will make a business grow. For example, Amazon is the king of all business. One of the reasons why I shop at Amazon is because it’s damn easy. They made it so easy for their customers, you can find absolutely anything you want or need, you don’t have to waste time looking for things, and you can find it for the best price you can possibly get, and you can buy with one click.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
I think it’s way too late for this. Amazon will just get stronger and stronger, and there’s nothing these retailers can do. Only the luxury sector can stand on its own because of the experience Amazon lacks. The only way that Amazon can be stopped is if retailers group together to create a competing platform. I believe Amazon has a monopoly. It has no competition in its methodology and size. There needs to be at least one competitor to Amazon. Retailers have to compete with Amazon at the same concept of retailing. You cannot compete with Amazon with your online store as a retailer. You have to compete with Amazon with another beast that is operating in the same way.
This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?
I believe that we buy from people — not from product. Therefore a bad experience with customer service taints the whole need to buy from that company ever again. Most of the time, we make decisions not to buy a product because we’ve been treated wrongly by a retailer, not because we don’t like the product.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
Throughout my career, I’ve worked with many retailers who see customer service as a pure “cost” center. They don’t see the upside of good customer service, in terms of up-selling, or even just selling. These retailers are trying to reduce costs where possible and will either understaff their contact centre or outsource to a cheaper workforce located in another country. These outsourced centers are less suitable for dealing with customers and are disconnected from a cultural standpoint.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Starting a retail business that sells multi-brands instead of manufacturing their own products is a big mistake, and the chances of success are minimal because of the Amazons of this world. I’ve seen a number of those failures as they cannot compete on price and variety. When the margin is so small, it’s not business-viable.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Without mentioning a name, one of the leading fashion brands in the world invited me to present at their headquarters in Milan. Fifteen minutes into the presentation, when I explained that all we want is to create a platform that will allow a better connection with an online customer, they were already sold.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Absolutely. We’ve seen one luxury giant in particular embracing our methodology, attracting a lot of interest from the other brands in the group, which caused a group decision to deploy the platform throughout all brands, in all countries, worldwide. This, and other similar success stories, propel Powerfront to be a global provider in all regions, without even planning that.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Buy second-hand. Or, if you want to invent something new, there should be a tax. For example, if you want to go and manufacture a box, you have to pay 10% to the government to help clean up the world. We’re making too much new stuff. I love buying second-hand, I just bought a desk and a coffee table. The new stuff we make becomes trash very quickly. We throw so much stuff away. I imagine how someone worked on it and handcrafted it and put their time and attention into it. It hurts me to toss things, especially if someone could still use it. But there’s no system for sharing. If there’s a call for technology to help with this, maybe I’ll do it. Another thing I plan on doing in the future is to start an organization to help single mothers. In Los Angeles, if you have children there’s a six month waiting period to get services and housing. I’d like to come up with a solution for those in that interim period. I was raised by a single mother so that’s important to me.
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with us!
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