To begin with a general question: Why such a shift to digital?
Vladimir Nardin: Today’s customers are more connected than ever before. They can easily find information about services and products they want or need. They use smartphones, apps, chatbots, digital assistants and web search in the ever-changing digital landscape, and according to Google consumer barometer, even traditional buyers in most cases search for information online and purchase offline. To simplify, we try to meet consumer expectations and develop user-friendly services to simplify their lives. But with more efficient digital marketing activities, new services and smart appliances we’ll also improve conversion and business results.
At the IFA 2017, Gorenje is introducing Anna, the Gorenje chatbot. How would you describe her? What's her role?
VN: Anna is a shopping bot. You can ask her about products, tips & tricks, or she can help you find the appliance that best suits your needs. From technical perspective, a chatbot is a service powered by rules, backend systems and artificial intelligence that you interact with via a chat interface, or in our case, via a messenger. So instead of browsing a Gorenje website, you can have a conversation with Anna, the Gorenje shopping bot, mirroring the type of experience you would get if you went to a retail store.
How will this service simplify users' lives?
VN: Currently, Anna has just one skill, but we are already developing new skills for her, such as cooking skills or after-sales service support skills. She will become your home assistant and simplify your daily chores, like help you buy the best product for your lifestyle, find your favourite recipe, buy ingredients, prepare food, arrange the table or orchestrate your tasks related to several home appliances. She’ll “live” on different platforms such as the Messenger and Skype, and will be integrated with other systems such as Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa or Google home.
How does she learn about the consumer?
VN: Gorenje's shopping bot is powered by Microsoft Cognitive Services, for example with Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS). But the core of her knowledge is the shopping skill developed by Gorenje and Microsoft experts. She learns about the consumer with simple questions and answers during a conversation, and, since she is integrated with Gorenje Group services, she can search products or features in the Gorenje PIMS (Product Information Management System), find the nearest shop in the dealer database, or suggest tips and tricks from the CMS (Content Management System). Moreover, with the MS picture recognition service, she can also read labels and simplify the registration process. We started with a simple conversation model, but we will continue with development and implement as much natural conversation as possible.
Big data, IoT, AR, VR, connectivity … What digital novelties is Gorenje using and/or introducing at the IFA fair and later in day-to-day operation?
VN: We strive to build a stronger relationship between consumers and our brands so in the near future, Gorenje Group will present connected appliances and the ConnectLife smart home platform with voice control cooking bot first for the Asko brand, then for the Atag brand, and finally for the Gorenje brand in 2018. We are also launching new first websites and services on the new SAP-Hybris platform. In accordance with the Gorenje Group digital strategy initiatives, we are also developing new digital consumer services that involve AR & VR technologies. And since connected appliances, new services and registered consumers also provide more data, we are also starting a big data analytics project.
What are the benefits that digital technology is bringing to user experience, provided by Gorenje?
VN: Digital is all around us so with digital consumer services and omni-channel approach we inter-relate every channel to engage with customers in a holistic way to ensure they are having a wonderful overall experience with the brand throughout each and every channel. The focus really is on building a stronger relationship between consumers and our brands.
Technology is developing extremely fast. How does your team cope with such changes? Who will you be looking for to shape Gorenje's future and what kind of profiles and skills are in demand?
VN: Some very good experts already joined Gorenje Group, not only in the digital marketing department but also in marketing communications, IT and other departments for all brands and sales business units (SBU). We also hired new digital content editors and marketing specialists, data analysts, software engineers, and we are always looking for fresh new talent. We are already looking for UX experts, consumer data and big data experts, and more digital marketing managers at our SBUs.
But on the other hand, we are all learning all the time. Digital is wonderful and for me and many of my colleagues it is also a hobby.