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This year in CX transformation: Tech shifts that defined 2023 - AI, automation, content strategy and more

December 22, 2023 / 18:41 / E47

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A year recap of customer experience transformation: the Contentstack team reflects on 2023's major changes in tech and comms landscape, and offers advice for the year ahead. Discover what's next for personalization and AI, and how businesses can make their composable initiatives more successful given all the changes that have shaped the year behind us. This episode features:


  • 0:59 How has business to customer communication changed over the past year? (Jasmin Guthmann)
  • 2:34 The challenge and promise of personalization (Vasu Kothamasu)
  • 4:24 How the AI landscape changed in 2023 (Nishant Patel)
  • 6:16 Is this the year of true hyper-personalization? (Nishant Patel)
  • 7:46 Practical implications of AI for businesses (Conor Egan)
  • 9:47 Unlock efficiency with automation (Conor Egan)
  • 11:28 Why composable is the way forward, and how to make composable transformation successful (Vasu Kothamasu)
  • 13:57 Navigating periods of significant change (Neha Sampat)
  • 15:59 Advice for businesses heading into 2024 (Neha Sampat)

Varia: [00:00:00] Hi, welcome to People Changing Enterprises. It's your producer, Varia. Today, we are closing out the year with a look back at some of the most significant changes in the tech and comms landscape in 2023. And, as always, some advice for the year ahead. To do this, I enlisted the help of some brilliant minds from inside Contentstack.
People like our CEO and our CTO. Those who've been on the forefront in helping our company navigate these shifting waters. To kick things off, here's a familiar voice. The host of People Changing Enterprises, Jasmin Guthmann.
Varia: How have you seen business-to-customer communication [00:01:00] changing over the past year?
Jasmin: I think we've seen a tremendous amount of change, even more than in the previous three to five years, all coming together in 2023, on the back end of a pandemic that really spurred digital transformation in places where we would not have expected to see it as quickly. User-generated content is on the rise, significantly on the rise, encouraging customers to create and share content related to the brand is becoming a more and more popular strategy because it is seen as authentic and influential people trust their peers so much more than they trust you as a business.
So that's most certainly a trend worth watching, especially if you're in retail. And I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's possible and what's still to come. At the same time, I think it's fair to say that it wasn't as easy as some expected. So I [00:02:00] think the one thing where we still have long ways to go is personalization.
It's still a key focus, but the question is, how can I, as a business, really satisfy that need? It's a profound transformation in the technology side of things, because my tools and my systems need to enable me to produce much more content, much more frequently, and deploy it to many more channels.
Automated and best case dynamic matching my personal profile, which again means you need a whole bunch of data.
Vasu: Our expectations from brands is extremely high.
Varia: That's Vasu Kotamasu, General Manager and Head of Engineering at Contentstack. And he agrees. Personalization is the biggest challenge facing brands right now, and the need is only getting more urgent.
Vasu: We expect the best digital experience. And over the last few years, what we have actually seen, digital experience for [00:03:00] these brands is no table stakes. We do expect the digital experience from all these brands, be they web, social, even the physical stores. But what has happened in the last 1-2 years is we not only expect the digital experience, but we also expect the best-personalized experience.
And as part of this experience, we want to make sure that our personal data is absolutely secure. I want a personalized experience. But I will also want security, sensitivity of my data, everything to be protected as well.
All these businesses want to provide this kind of experience to their consumers. But the challenge is basically, this tech has to be customer-centric, and these businesses do not have a lot of time to develop these experiences, deploy, and make them available. So this has to be fast. Sometimes in few days, if you want to launch a product or a campaign or something, it has to be made available to the end customers in a matter of [00:04:00] few days, actually.
Earlier, probably it was like months and several months. But now it has to be in days.
Varia: So, things are getting faster. Expectations are rising. Personalization continues to be an important need. But there has been a new complication, or perhaps opportunity, and that, of course, is AI. Here is Contentstack CTO Nishant Patel.
Nishant: Before 2023, before Chat GPT, there was still a lot of stuff coming out with AI, but mostly these were happening in silos and for specific use cases, more around machine learning use cases. And I think in 2023, feels like people took Chat GPT and try to figure out what exactly it does. And for companies, most of the teams looked at it and said, Hey, how can I take this new available tool and embed it within whatever product that they [00:05:00] have in the personas that they cater to and see how they can get some productivity gains for their end users. You can see that in throughout the year, there was companies constantly coming out with AI features on top of their existing products.
And I think we're going to see that continue going forward. You can see Google recently just released Gemini, which is a multi-modal model where it's doing text, video, images, all at the same time. And that gives you a very different capability and what they have promised is it will be available to everyone through APIs.
And you'll see Chat GPT, Microsoft, Amazon, as well as Google, continually pushing the boundaries on some of these large language models. And then there's also tons of work going on in the open-source world as well. So you'll see more and more large language models and maybe even specialized large language models come out and these [00:06:00] cloud vendors are going to make them available as part of their services, which means that product companies, the customers of these cloud companies will start to be able to use and leverage all this innovation that's happening, right? This thing is going to accelerate in 2024 and beyond.
Varia: How close are we to a fully personalized experience that is generated on the fly by AI?
Nishant: I think the possibilities of that hyper-personalized experience is there now. We've been talking about it from an industry perspective for a long time. Just the content generation bit, the experience generation happening on the fly, that was not possible. And going forward, it will be possible. But then there's also this other bits where due to regulations, we can't track cookies and things like that.
So I think a combination of an opt-in where the individual opts into this experience for some benefit, I think is the right way to go. And it looks like [00:07:00] we might be headed that way. And I think from a technology perspective, once a user opts into that experience, now we will be able to create an experience very hyper-personalized for that individual using these AI tools. So that's totally possible today. But I think it's a combination of sort of the user saying, Hey, I'm opting in because the service that you're providing will benefit me. And then these tools could kind of use that context and provide very personalized experience to that user.
Varia: This year, the promise of AI, which is huge, really came into focus. But it's now coming up against the practical implications of what that really means for each individual business. Here's Connor Egan, VP of Product at Contentstack.
Conor: There was this huge hype cycle as AI was promised to do absolutely everything, and I think now that that hype train is finally arriving in the station, the real [00:08:00] question for teams is how do I best integrate this into my workflows and how do I actually get it to work for me?
You need to have the right message at the right time and all of these different channels, the expectations for the amount of content you need to be producing is really high. And so the question is now how do I take all of this clay that I have all of these tools that are now available to me and turn that into something that I can actually use to reach my customers?
And so I think that's going to be on everybody's mind this year is not just is this real, it obviously is real, but how do I bring into my organization safely? How do I best leverage it to get the outcomes that I wanted forever, but now I'm in a very different environment and oh, by the way, everyone else has these same tools.
So how do I use it to uniquely stand out and reach my audience? You know, it's funny. I talk with customers a lot and many of them, even six months ago, were like, Hey, we're not going to do anything with AI. We're going to wait until the right time to integrate it. [00:09:00] And that same customer, six months later, it's like, I'm now using it in five different applications.
We certainly see some people leaning on it very heavily and having good results, but I would say broad strokes. People are still in the figuring it out phase, and we're certainly spending a lot of time at Contentstack, not only with just providing the technology to companies, but also we're really trying to usher customers through that transition, and I would say it runs the gamut from people that are still afraid and don't have any kind of corporate policy on it to those that are really getting their feet wet and starting to come up with some really interesting projects and uses of the technology.
Varia: Speaking of interesting uses of technology. I asked Connor about what we've been up to on the Contentstack product side to help businesses keep pace with the changing technology landscape.
Conor: It's hard to believe that it was this year, but our Automation Hub product GA'd in January, and that is really, I almost think about it like a composability engine.
[00:10:00] It's the thing that really allows you to combine all of the different tools that you want to use and do it very safely and quickly. In this environment where you need to be very agile when you don't necessarily know what tools you're going to be using a year from now, having an open-ended framework like that that allows you to easily integrate and plug in different pieces of your stack.
It's very important, not just for experimentation, like in a day, you can spin up a connection to some new AI tool, but also building these processes where you're managing all these different channels, all these different tools. And Automation Hub can really help stitch those together, so that you're basically building your own stack and doing it with a lot less code than you used to.
Particularly with the addition of AI connectors to Automation Hub. So we do have connectors into all the major LLMs. The question really starts to be, Hey, what can I have AI do on my behalf? How can I build this into my workflows? And so it's both the help with composability, but also just be ready for what's next and have something that is very plug and [00:11:00] play so you can constantly be evolving.
That's really a lot of the value of Composable is that not everything is all glued together. But then the second question is, how do I make it easy? That's really what the focus of Automation Hub was. I'm really excited about that product.
Varia: Automation Hub was a product born to help businesses go composable.
Vasu explains why composable is a key value for us at Contentstack and increasingly crucial for businesses in every industry.
Vasu: Every customer is realizing composable is the only way forward. The monolith is not the thing because they want to be agile, they want to be data-driven, and they want to integrate newer systems into their platforms.
So the only way is composable. Composable lets you realize the value very early in the cycle, and then keep on incrementally adding the value. Some of the approaches or the aspects in doing this effective composable transformation, the first and foremost is [00:12:00] you've got to have a MACH architecture principles in place that will help you over the long term. The microservices, API first, cloud and headless. That's number one. Should not compromise on that. In fact, at Contentstack, the engineering teams use these principles as part of the development practices. And the second thing, a lot of customers underestimate the power of user experience.
It's a very, very important aspect in the overall large scheme of things. When you're building these experiences and the composables, everything, pay attention to the user experience with simplicity. The third thing is data. You should be using data to derive some information and from that information, the insights and using insights, you should be able to provide the best experiences for your customers.
You cannot compromise on the security. In this era, there is a lot of things happening and everybody is very, very careful about their privacy. So at Contentstack, we, [00:13:00] we respect the data sensitivity and throughout the development practices, we implement the secure development practices. And that's what even our customers should be doing while they're building the experiences.
And the fourth one is related to the emerging technologies like the AI. There's a lot of things that these technologies can provide you, but you should identify the use cases and keep an eye on what it can provide you and then implement in your use cases. And the fifth one is automations. You should actually try to figure out wherever repetitive tasks are there should automate so that the productivity of the entire team goes one level up. This is how we approach the problems internally as well in the composable journey.
Varia: While we're on the topic of composable transformation, here's Neha Sempat, our CEO, offering some words of wisdom for businesses that are undergoing big changes coming out of this year and heading into 2024
Neha: [00:14:00] In times of change, you have to be very adaptable and that might mean that you may have to pivot. Things will change and it's important to remain focused on the outcome and know that maybe the goals that you said at the beginning of that part of the journey made sense at the time, but if they're no longer the most effective way to measure what you're trying to reach in terms of an outcome. Be okay with changing the goals because what's important is getting to the outcome, have a growth mindset to know that what I believe to be true two months ago, three months ago, six months ago may have changed and shifted.
And it's okay to lean into, maybe I didn't have it right, and I can do it a little bit differently. And as long as I'm measuring and optimizing for the outcome that we're trying to achieve, and that that outcome is in fact achievable, then we're still on track. If we make some changes to the plan, the more adaptable we are as a team, as an organization, as a community, as an industry, the more we can accomplish together.[00:15:00]
When you're navigating a tough economy, which is also part of the challenges that we're facing in 2023, leading into 2024, there's a few things to invest in that aren't necessarily super cash intensive, but super important to the impact that business can have over time. And that is, you know, in addition to being outcome-oriented and remembering what you stand for and the core values and taking care of your customers, it's also understanding that you've got a lot of talent in your organization that you can now spend a little more time developing and focusing on so that when the next upswing comes, they're ready to take things to the next level.
Varia: And if there's one thing, well, two things that we here at People Changing Enterprises want to leave you with heading into 2024, it's this.
One, stay true to what you know is right for your brand and your customers. And two, know that help is available and you're not alone. I'll let [00:16:00] Neha take us out.
Neha: It has been a year of lots of ups and downs for a lot of companies and a lot of brands that are navigating the digital landscape and what's ahead.
And there's some good news and there's some bad news. I think in all of that that the good news is there's still opportunities to engage with audiences that we care about. We just have to get more creative about how we do it. There's a lot of noise in the market and AI helped us to become more efficient at certain things, but it also created a lot of additional noise that we're having to navigate through.
So the advice there is really just figuring out who you are. Don't forget that as a brand and to stand up for what you believe in as an organization. and continue to remember that that's the core of the message and the care that you want to bring to your audiences, whether that's your customers, your employees, your partners, or just the communities that you spend [00:17:00] time in.
So it's sort of breaking through the noise, remaining resilient through all of the changes that are happening around us, leaning in where it makes sense. And taking advantage of the benefits and advantages of a crowded space and a AI driven environment while staying true to your values to yourself, to your messages and what you do to take care of your customers through digital transformation journeys.
And importantly, throughout that whole journey and process of navigating that, it's important to remember that you're not alone. Everything that's happening that feels like it's happening to you is also happening to everyone around you. And the more that you remember that you're not the only one going through something tough. The easier it is to know that you'll get through it and you're going to come out stronger as a result. So I think it's important to lead by example. Don't stop believing. Remain optimistic and positive because once you get on the other side, the positive outlook remains there. And it's just a matter [00:18:00] of navigating that change and navigating the difficult times.
Jasmin: Thanks for listening to People Changing Enterprises. This show is brought to you by Contentstack, the leading composable digital experience platform for enterprises got a question or suggestion. Email us at If you like the show, please leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts.
We'll be back next week with a new episode, helping you make your mark.

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