Embarking on a journey into the intricate realm of Marketing Technology (Martech), in an insightful interview with Dataquest, leaders from HCLSoftware, Rajiv Shesh, Chief Revenue Officer, Kalyan Kumar, Chief Product Officer and Yuchun Lee, Founder of HCL Unica, shed light on the company’s strategic approach to maximizing Martech potential, its adaptive software solutions in dynamic industries, and the pivotal role of Software as a Service (SaaS) in the broader digital transformation landscape. Delving into the realms of AI-driven analytics, gain-share programming, and innovative service orchestration, this conversation unveils HCLSoftware’s forward-thinking vision and provides valuable lessons for businesses aiming to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of technology and marketing.
DQ: Could you shed light on how HCLSoftware’s gain share programming software has contributed to the company’s growth, and what lessons can other businesses learn from this approach?
Rajiv Shesh: As a services-focused organization, we’re dedicated to addressing customer outcomes, be it through products or services. This approach proves successful as it allows us to demonstrate concepts effectively to customers. For instance, in the energy-saving sector, customers deploy our software, and we share in the resulting gains. Our pricing model is outcome-centric, tying product prices to customer outcomes. This strategy has worked well, creating a scenario where both the client and we benefit from the same positive results. Looking ahead, we aim to deploy this strategy in the retail product sector, aligning our offerings with the outcomes customers seek.
(Rajiv Shesh Chief Revenue Officer HCLSoftware)
DQ: Given your experience in the fast-growing software and internet business segment, how does HCLSoftware envision the future of SaaS, and what role do you see it playing in the broader digital transformation landscape?
Rajiv Shesh: Software as a Service (SaaS) is more than just a technical deployment—it’s a fundamental shift in the commercial model. The industry is increasingly moving towards SaaS as a way customers pay for the software they receive. We anticipate a rise in the consumption of software through SaaS, emphasizing the verticalization of software to meet specific industry requirements. This approach positions us well as it allows not only the delivery of the product but also a range of services around it to meet customer needs.
Kalyan Kumar: SaaS is about how you deliver and consume software. The industry is witnessing diverse ways of commercializing this, and cloud plays a crucial role. Cloud-native applications of our software products empower customers to consume in a cloud-native model, offering flexibility in deployment across various cloud platforms. We recognize the importance of giving customers choices, allowing them to opt for subscription licensing, term licensing, or a complete consumption-based model, ensuring a tailored approach to meet their needs. The key is to provide customers with options, making choice a central element in this evolving landscape.
DQ: How do you foresee SAS model evolution and what innovations can we anticipate in service orchestration and AI Ops within the SAS ecosystem?
Kalyan Kumar: Our Four Cloud Strategy focuses on offering customers deployment choices across various cloud types, addressing regulatory needs. For SAS, a nuanced approach is vital; for instance, hybrid deployment for sensitive data. Multi-tenancy becomes key, especially in AI Ops, catering to different layers of the tech stack based on customer requirements. This tailored strategy aligns with the diverse needs in the evolving SAS landscape.
(Kalyan Kumar Chief Product Officer HCLSoftware)
DQ: In a rapidly growing Martech market projected to hit 1.7 trillion by 2032, how is HCLSoftware aligning its product strategy with evolving business needs, particularly in the context of omni-channel marketing?
Kalyan Kumar: Our approach involves segmenting the market into sales, marketing, and revenue-centric categories. For the latter, where marketing is the core revenue driver, we emphasize three key differentiators. Firstly, the Power of One, focusing on hyper-personalization and targeting individual customers. Secondly, capturing the entire lifecycle using a Dynamic Customer Platform, not just a customer data platform. Lastly, unlocking value by federating data sources, acknowledging the growing complexity and diversity of data.
Rajiv Shesh: Marketing measurement has evolved, with a shift towards evaluating revenue and margin generation. Marketing challenges include cost-efficient revenue generation and avoiding intrusive, attention-seeking tactics. The emergence of Customer Data Platforms (CDP) enables marketers to intimately know customers, facilitating a journey with them through various engagement channels.
Yuchun Lee: The market can be classified into sales-driven (B2B) and marketing-driven (mostly B2C) segments. In a marketing-driven scenario, Martech plays a pivotal role in operationalizing the business. The focus is on customer engagement, making each customer feel uniquely serviced through targeted, relevant messages—a true north for successful marketing systems.
DQ: With the increasing demand for improved government services, how do you foresee Martech solutions influencing state and local governments? What challenges and opportunities do they present?
Rajiv Shesh: The shift in citizen consciousness demands better government services, driven by the realization that tax-paying citizens deserve higher quality service. Governments, even at the state and local levels, are privatizing certain services, creating a competitive environment. The challenge lies in delivering quality services amidst this transformation. Notably, the Martech platform’s inherent feature of choice is crucial in the current landscape, where users increasingly value privacy. With built-in options for users to opt out of certain communications, our platform aligns with evolving privacy concerns, ensuring dynamic responsibility and personalization.
Kalyan Kumar: We’re witnessing a shift in both B2B and B2C models within government operations. For instance, government pension funds are utilizing our technology for personalized, contextualized campaigns. Additionally, councils in Israel are employing our solutions for efficient services, including vaccination drives and waste separation initiatives. Communication, change management, and technology tools are vital in this evolving landscape. Our technology stack, with modules like “Deliver,” enables high-scale, guaranteed message delivery, even in disaster or climate-related scenarios. The uniqueness of our tech stack lies in its individual deployability. Components like the Customer Data Platform and analytics tools can be deployed for specific purposes. With India leading the way in providing government services to citizens, there’s a massive opportunity for Martech solutions to optimize processes and ensure compliance.
DQ: How does HCL Unica leverage AI-fueled analytics and automation to enhance the business’s ability to capitalize on individual moments of connections in a world where billions of Minute Messages are exchanged daily?
Yuchun Lee: So, there are several waves of leveraging AI and martech. Starting with the foundation, one of the most important measurements is understanding the likelihood of a customer wanting to hear about a product offer or the likelihood of a customer complaining and ready to churn. From day one, the company was founded on leveraging neural nets and machine learning technology to create models using statistics and the data that marketing stacks have. These models are then used to score and ensure that only relevant messaging and offers are presented to each individual. The new era of leveraging general AI allows for more efficiency in martech, automating manual tasks like testing, configuration, and creating individualized email messaging using large language models. HCL is incorporating this into email communications, enabling more effective variations and personalized communication down to a segment of one.
Kalyan: There are four areas where we are investing in automotive style. First, core algorithms are now able to leverage the power of GPUs and massive compute capability to run algorithms across the entire data stack, not limited to aggregated summarized data points. Second, the infusion of a large language model for contextualizing subject line optimization and email body messaging. Third, using generative AI for interactions when customers engage, allowing for more contextual interactions. Finally, the fourth area involves prompt orchestration or SL prompt engine, providing a conversational interface for marketers to simplify complex actions in Unica. AI is applied across the stack to enable efficient and personalized communication.
DQ: How has the software adapted to the dynamic nature of the martech industry, addressing diverse needs across sectors such as aerospace, medical, industrial, and automotive?
Rajiv: The martech industry has seen interesting innovation, particularly in dealing with the availability of communication channels. Over time, new channels emerge, and architects have to adapt to them. At the core of our platform is flexibility, allowing the platform to seamlessly handle challenges arising from various channels, be it social media, WhatsApp, or SMS. The marketing stack is designed to interface with most channels, and guidelines have been published to ensure compatibility. Our platform remains adaptable to the evolving landscape of communication channels.”
Yuchun Lee: Viewing the world from both a complex and simple perspective, martech enables organizations to communicate through highly leverageable channels common across all industries. While the infrastructure remains the same, each industry has its own data model. HCL provides templates and patterns of success to help organizations evolve in their martech maturity. This approach simplifies the complexity of martech, making it more manageable across industries.”
Kalyan: Our approach as agile software in the martech space is unique. We offer a standardized offering through the Excel Marketing Cloud but also provide ‘feature for one’ for large customers with unique needs. This allows for customer-specific feature teams, avoiding over-customization while delivering engineered solutions that are upgradable, expandable, and scalable. With our engineering expertise, we blend core product features with customer-specific feature teams, providing contextualized solutions in martech and commerce tech, offering flexibility and choice to customers.”