Tell me about your journey at Astound. What excites you in your leadership role?
I’ve been with Astound for two and a half years now, and it's been an incredible journey. Astound is genuinely a people-first company. From a leadership perspective, people-to-people connections are what's so important to me. Our service capabilities being centred around that excites me, from our extensive consumer research that results in user-focused design through to the cutting-edge technologies that are making users’ lives easier every day.
How has Astound evolved as a business?
The commerce marketplace itself has accelerated exponentially. That’s been driven by consumer needs and their expectations, like highly personalised experiences, speed, ease of use, and flexibility around things like payments. So, we’ve had to evolve and help our clients provide these experiences.
We’ve done that by being focused on flexibility, adaptability, and scalability when it comes to our commerce solutions. We’ve also expanded our capabilities quite significantly. Our core expertise has always been in commerce technology. However, over the past 10 years, we have really built out our design, performance marketing, and consulting capabilities. We partner with clients across the total end-to-end commerce ecosystem.
The commerce marketplace has accelerated exponentially. That has been driven by consumer needs and their expectations, like highly personalised experiences, speed, ease of use, and flexibility around things like payments.
What is your team focused on right now?
Our team is focused on customer loyalty and an integrated end-to-end omnichannel experience. This will not only foster true loyalty, but also help maintain it. With budgets tightening in the current economic climate, there is a laser focus on driving value and demonstrating ROI right from the outset, and with every single solution that we’re bringing to the table. It comes back to our universal approach of putting the customer at the heart of everything we do. The team has really focused on understanding their clients’ businesses and their end customers’ needs through all of that data – what works, what doesn't – quickly and effectively, and optimising from there.
What are the key e-commerce trends you’ve observed in 2023?
With consumers experiencing higher inflation and increases in the cost of living, they’re definitely more inclined to switch brands, whether that be based on price or rewards or just experiencing solutions that don't necessarily meet their needs. So, our clients really need to focus on shaping experiences – which include payments – around their end customers’ personal preferences and making sure they’re providing that flexibility on an ongoing basis.
Another thing everyone is talking about is the explosion of interest in AI. AI is everywhere. You can't move or think or hear or see anything without some kind of conversation around it popping up these days, especially in our sector. And brands, I think, really need to be conscious and prepared for the impact that it's set to have on all the different components around digital commerce, be that inventory management, product discovery, or customer service.
AI is everywhere. You can’t move or think or hear or see anything without some kind of conversation around it popping up these days, especially in our sector.
Are there any Stripe products that you think are really addressing your client's particular needs?
Stripe has been a core part of our offering for a long time. What’s exciting to us is the newest solutions that Stripe is bringing to the table. The Stripe for Salesforce Platform app has been a real game changer in the conversations we’ve been having by allowing clients to connect their entire financial suite on a multi-cloud level. It's providing brands with the opportunity to provide a truly connected experience to their end customer. That is so critically desired right now.
How important is your relationship with Stripe, and what’s next for the partnership?
We're really excited about our partnership with Stripe. We're both expanding into the same verticals, and there’s definitely been a lot of synergies when we're discussing joint initiatives. Watching the alignment between our teams and sharing those joint resources is going to be critical to our success. Being able to offer our mutual customers and prospects one single voice in terms of excellent service is really key.
As brands look to diversify and reach new audiences, “marketplace” is a common trend that we’re seeing. Payments and the aggregation of payments is such a critical part of that – not only the transactions with the end customers, but also back out to the myriad partners that the brands are working with. It is definitely something we're going to be focused on in the early part of 2024.
We’re really excited about our partnership with Stripe. Being able to offer our mutual customers and prospects one single voice in terms of excellent service is really key.