Leadership

M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Raj De Datta, Co-Founder & CEO, BloomReach

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Raj De Datta is Co-Founder and CEO of Bloomreach, a leading software platform for digital commerce experiences that powers brands representing 25% of retail E-Commerce in the US and the UK.

Before launching Bloomreach, he was entrepreneur-in-residence at Mohr-Davidow Ventures, served as Cisco’s director of product marketing and was on the founding team of telecom company FirstMark Communications. 

Mixing business with passion, Raj serves on the Council for Player Development for the US Tennis Association, a Founder Partner at seed stage venture capital firm Founder Collective, and an individual investor in over 20 start-ups.

Adding to his list of accolades, Raj’s debut book, “The Digital Seeker” (Columbia University Press) is now available for purchase. 

We had a lot to talk about! 

 
M.R. Rangaswami: Digital has become critical in helping companies to reach customers and drive revenue, but that hasn’t always been the case. How has the digital experience changed over the years?
 
Raj De Datta: When you look back twenty years ago, a website was essentially a digital brochure, providing basic information about a business that existed in the “real world.” Customers expected very little of these digital experiences. Today, customer expectations have shifted enormously — digital has become a utility, something that customers expect not only to work, but to delight them. And companies have adjusted their digital properties accordingly, turning their digital presence into a framework of the whole business, rather than simply a marketing channel. 

While we’ve certainly come a long way in the digital experiences businesses provide, customers are now getting restless with the endless choice they are being offered in this new age of digital. I see tremendous opportunity for businesses to win big by embracing a digital experience that is built for the “seeker” and rather than just the customer – not just enabling you to buy or find something, but instead enabling you to find the solutions you are seeking for deeper problems.

 

M.R.: So you’re saying marketers shouldn’t be focusing on the customer? What’s the difference between a customer and a seeker?

Raj: A seeker is someone looking to achieve a higher-order outcome; they have a purpose they intend to fulfill or a task they want to complete. They break down their intentions into a series of digital tasks and then become a potential customer for multiple products and services. For example, a seeker is someone looking to build a new deck that will allow them to host family gatherings in years to come. When that intention is distilled, they become a customer shopping for planks of wood, a customer seeking the services of a contractor and a customer buying outdoor furniture. 

When a business focuses on the seeker rather than the customer, they are changing the fundamental questions of business. Instead of “What do you want?” they are asking “Why are you here?” In changing to this seeker-centric mindset, they are digging for an underlying problem and offering solutions. This ultimately creates a more positive, engaging and meaningful digital experience that in turn drives greater loyalty amongst seekers that turn into repeat customers. 

 

M.R.: How has COVID-19 changed the digital experience, and do you think those changes will last even after we emerge from the pandemic?

Raj: At Bloomreach, we power commerce experiences for hundreds of businesses around the world, so we saw first hand how the digital experience rose to the forefront this past year. Our average customer saw 50% growth in its e-commerce business, and even after stores were reopening e-commerce continued to thrive. 

For over a year, segments of the population that previously preferred the in-store experience, such as older consumers, have been leaning on digital out of necessity. And categories that were previously slow to see digital adoption, such as groceries, accelerated quickly. Consumers have now come to not only accept, but to truly delight in these digital experiences. So while we can certainly expect to see some spending return to stores, digital will continue to flourish as a sales channel. It’s paramount that businesses respond accordingly, adapting a digital-first approach built for their seekers. 

 
M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com
 

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