M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Will Hayes, CEO of Lucidworks

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If someone searching for CEO Will Hayes in a website’s search bar, they could type in “leading product” “marketing” and “business development initiatives” – and with Lucidworks’ leading AI technology – a consumer should find what they’re looking for. 

With over 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley leading product, marketing, and business development initiatives, Will understands customers and consumers so thoroughly and is packed with interesting insights. 

One might say, there’s never a “null” moment. 

 

M.R. Rangaswami: The momentum continues to build for legacy industries moving away from the cloud. How do you support long-time on-prem customers in their transition to cloud-ready solutions? 

Will Hayes: Coming off of this past year, we know that a lot of businesses are hesitant to take risks. When things feel unpredictable, it’s not easy to try something new, even if what you’re doing isn’t working as well as it could be. We work closely with our customers and prospects to make sure they understand that there isn’t risk in migrating to the cloud, only upside. 

 The number one most important part of transitioning to the cloud is ensuring that your customers understand the value it could bring to them and the pain points it could erase. That includes incredible security, shorter time-to-value, and less maintenance for upkeep. Lucidworks partnership with Google Cloud makes the migration process simple so customers not only get the benefits of cloud, they’re not disrupting any of their usual activities to get there. 

Additionally, we’ve seen that connecting our customers with one another is incredibly valuable. We host a Customer Advisory Board meeting where our customers get to connect with one another and share their experiences, challenges, and successes. 

 

M.R.: What’s the most exciting technological advancement you’re seeing to transform digital experiences? 

Will: One of the most exciting technological advancements that has applications across all of our solution areas is vector search. If you’re not familiar, vector search uses deep learning to associate products with queries in a shared semantic vector space – similar to the way groceries are organized in aisles and shelves in a physical store. Advancements in vector search are completely redefining how we think about relevancy in search. 

Traditional search matches search terms to words that are in the index. For example, I search for “red shoes” and I only get results that have “red shoes” in the product name or description. Same goes for workplace examples—I search for “holiday calendar” and I only get the PDF named “holiday calendar”. That’s a really restrictive way to think about how we use search.  

With vector search, when I type in “red shoes” to the chatbot or search bar, the system returns not only red shoes, but shoes that match a similar color palette, and recommendations for other clothing that would look fabulous with red shoes. Vector search allows us to cast a smarter net that returns more relevant results. Plus, it continues to learn as it’s used, collecting real-time signals from users in combination with their basic profile, as well as other similar users’ actions, to provide results that meet the user’s goal. Recommendations will change if a user is at the top of the funnel researching products or if they are at the bottom of the funnel and about to convert. 

One of the most impactful applications of vector search we’ve seen is for null results. No results searches are a frustrating dead-end for users and a lost opportunity to offer similar products or information that aren’t keyword matches. Lucidworks cloud service, Never Null, relies on semantic vector search to improve low-performing queries and relieve merchandisers from time-consuming rule curation. 

One of the top five retailers deployed Never Null and decreased null results by a whopping 91% compared to the previous year—that translates into hundreds of millions in sales. Semantic vector search helps shoppers find what they need and rewards retailers with higher conversions, higher average order value (AOV), and happier customers. 

 

M.R.: What’s the biggest challenge you’re anticipating over the next year? The biggest opportunity? 

Will: The past 18 months have been a reminder that the only constant in life is change. As a leader, and as a human, I know that this prolonged period of isolation from our family members, colleagues, and customers is wearing on all of us. This next year we have to remain in our “ready for anything” mindset where we do our best to stay open-minded and flexible for whatever’s next—that’s no small task.

This patience and grace we’ve been cultivating for the past year and a half could lead us to our biggest opportunity. We have the chance to hit reset and re-envision the way we work and live together. At Lucidworks, we’re doubling down in our efforts to collect feedback from employees to understand the best way to support each other so we can maintain the work/life balance, customer wins, and supportive relationships that we’ve cultivated over the years. 

Running parallel to all of this, we are also navigating changes as we transition to a SaaS-forward approach to our products. This has required all of us, from revenue, to engineering, to customer success, to be patient with change and committed to our larger vision of creating connected experiences for our customers. The last two years have really emphasized the importance of our value “Align and Commit.” A unified focus as a business and patience with one another keeps us heading in the same direction with our colleagues, customers, and partners all in lockstep. 

 

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

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