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Meet Ben Parr: Co-Founder of Octane AI and Award-Winning Tech Pundit

Named one of the Forbes 30 Under 30, one of the top 10 tech journalists in the world and one of 10 people to know in Silicon Valley, our keynote speaker certainly knows his stuff when it comes to ecommerce, tech and entrepreneurship. Say hello to Ben Parr, award-winning entrepreneur, author, investor and journalist.

Ben is the Co-Founder & President of innovative zero-party data marketing platform Octane AI, which increases conversion rates, drives revenue and improves relationships by personalising every step of the customer journey (more on this later!). Named as the Best Storefront App at the 2020 Shopify Commerce Awards, and with thousands of ecommerce merchants using it to fuel growth, Octane AI is revolutionising the way retailers collect and leverage owned data.

Before his time at Octane AI, Ben led the editorial team at digital media platform Mashable. In his role as Editor-at-Large, he penned over 2400 articles on social media and technology, and interviewed business leaders from Mark Zuckerberg to Ashton Kutcher.

Ben is also the author behind the 2015 best-selling marketing book Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, which has been featured in publications such as the Harvard Business Review and USA Today.

A popular and frequent public speaker, as well as a regular television technology commentator, Ben will be hosting the keynote session at this year’s Ecommerce Unlocked event in Exeter. We caught up with him to learn more about zero-party data, his thoughts on current ecommerce trends, and his upcoming visit to the South West ...

Ecommerce Unlocked is all about empowering online business growth. Speaking of growth, you and your team at Mashable were responsible for a very impressive increase in page views! What were the key strategies you used to help grow them from 5 million to 50 million?

We built an evergreen content strategy. A lot of early articles at Mashable were about topics that could help our audience understand social media - tips for using Twitter, recommendations for tools that could help them manage their social media, lessons for making viral Facebook posts, etc. These were topics people would search over and over again and would drive more people to Mashable. Then they would subscribe and keep reading.

We also invested early in our social media presence to broadcast our new articles - and our evergreen content - to millions of people simultaneously.

As a member of Forbes 30 Under 30, you know a thing or two about what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. What's the most important bit of advice you'd give to an entrepreneur just starting out with an ecommerce store?

Test all your assumptions. Too many founders think they have a great idea, but don’t talk to prospective customers or don’t run A/B tests to see if their theory has legs. Nothing hurts an entrepreneur more than spending time on something that does not have real market opportunity. So talk to your customers; talk to your prospects; test new changes; and gather lots of data.

We've seen a huge acceleration in the growth of ecommerce as a result of the Covid pandemic. What can retailers do to try and differentiate their brand from the competition in today's market?

Invest in data for personalisation - and stop renting your customer relationship from Facebook and Google. What will differentiate you from your competition will be the feelings your customers have with your brand, and that is built by having a truly personalised experience. You accomplish this by collecting data directly from your customers (zero-party data or customer-first data) and you leverage that data to send more personalised emails, SMS messages, and give personalised product recommendations on your website.

Why are Messenger interactions so important within ecommerce and how does Octane AI support conversational commerce?

Facebook Messenger (and SMS) are fundamentally different from email because they are conversational. You can have a back-and-forth with a customer in a way that isn’t possible with email. Messenger in particular lets you automate these conversations, allowing you to provide super-customised, personalised conversations that lead to product purchases, zero-party data collection, and improved customer satisfaction.

Are there any ecommerce trends you think we should watch out for during the rest of 2021?

The #1 trend every ecommerce brand is talking about is the rapidly-changing data privacy landscape and the upcoming “cookiepocalypse”. In the past, ecommerce brands would use data from Facebook and Google to power retargeting and prospecting ads. But consumers can now opt out of tracking in Apple iOS 14.5, and that has broken ad conversion rates in a major way - some brands are seeing 50%+ decreases in their return on ad spend.

Data privacy changes will only accelerate over the next few years. We are never going back to the way things were. Brands will be forced to develop new strategies to adapt to these changes and move away from the rented relationships they’ve relied upon until now.

What are you most looking forward to about Ecommerce Unlocked and what can people learn from your keynote session on the main stage?

I’m excited to share a ton of new insights on how to not just grow, but rapidly accelerate the growth of any ecommerce business in a post-cookiepocalypse world. By adopting new strategies that embrace owned data and deeper personalisation, brands can not only survive, but build much larger audiences and deeper loyalty than they ever could before.

I will be on the main stage talking about what the changing data privacy landscape means for brands and how they can diversify their channels, invest in their brand, and own their customer relationships.

You're running a masterclass on the day about zero-party data as well - what is that interests you about that topic?

I’m fascinated by how brands are approaching this growing problem. I’ve spoken with dozens of ecommerce founders and executives about the changing data privacy landscape and their zero-party data strategy. I’m looking forward to sharing some of what they’ve done to leverage zero-party data for their businesses.

Come to Ben’s keynote speech at Ecommerce Unlocked!

Intrigued about zero-party data and how it can help supercharge your ecommerce growth? Catch Ben’s keynote speech at Ecommerce Unlocked on Friday 10th September. He’ll be taking to the floor for the first speaker session of the day, discussing how to grow from £1-100 million online and beat the cookiepocalypse!