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Episode 15
October 31, 2016

Artificial Intelligence for Retention

Fang Cheng and Jonathan Taylor tell us about how Linc is applying artificial intelligence to increase customer engagement after the sale.

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Looking into the Future

  • Fang explains the benefits of Linc and their leading products and services and how they offer exceptional opportunities for merchants in eCommerce
  • “What we see the things are shifting towards is this new emerging, what we call conversational channels. They become a very critical strategic direction to address and that anchors the future of how businesses and brands interact with their customers.”       - Fang
  • “Customer service by nature is conversational. It's just historically you're having that conversation or interaction with a human sitting somewhere remote in the customer service center. And it is by nature already interactive, already conversational. And that is a very natural shift.” - Fang
  • The future of the bot and how it can become so conversational that we might not know we are talking to a bot
  • “While you are on Linc's platform, our data, natural language understanding capability is built all across the merchant data. So once you're on the platform, you are going to see over 99 percent of accuracy. Anything that customers ask about order status, tracking, return, and exchange, we will have over 99 percent accuracy to understand a customer's natural language interaction and then we'll continue deepening that with things like reordering and frequency of purchase.” - Fang
  • “There is definitely a capability of linking what I do online today and mobile devices through the store as eCommerce sales start to scale past the 10 percent market cap, and as they start to pick up we'll be a key driver of that.” - Jonathan

Learn more about Fang Cheng and Linc at

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Phillip: [00:00:24] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:00:30] I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:31] And we are joined by two special guests today and I'll introduce them in just a minute. But I couldn't be more excited for today's episode because we've just had this string of amazing guests and today is no exception. But we want your feedback, and we want you to talk back to us because we thrive on our community here at Future Commerce. And so if you want to leave us some feedback about today's show, you have any questions or comments, you can leave it on, right on the episode itself. Click on the episode and and scroll down to the Disqus comment box on the site below. If you are so inclined, you can also subscribe to Future Commerce on iTunes and Google Play, and you can listen right from your Amazon Echo with TuneIn Radio with the phrase "Alexa, Play Future Commerce podcast." And without any further ado... Actually, Brian, do you want to introduce our guests today?

Brian: [00:01:21] Today is that we have Jonathan Taylor and Fang Cheng, both from Linc, which is an exciting company. But I'll let you guys go ahead and introduce yourselves and Linc. And so, yeah, why don't you tell us a little bit about Linc. What are your goals? How do you help merchants? A little bit about the full product offering that you have.

Jonathan: [00:01:43] I'll start. So this is Jonathan Taylor, and I'm responsible for business development and partnership for Linc, and we basically are looking at top 500 IR customers as a client. We're reaching out to different partnerships regarding the entire ecosystem to deliver that customer service experience that consumers are expecting today at a higher level. And I'm proud to introduce Fang Cheng, the Co-Founder and CEO of Linc.

Fang: [00:02:14] Well, thanks so much, Phillip and Brian. Great to be here. Yeah, so I'm one of the Co-Founders of our company. A little bit of a touch on maybe our mission as a company. What Linc is all about. So here we have a really a singular goal, which is to empower brands that we serve to compete with Amazons of the world, post purchase customer experience. As Jonathan mentioned in that consumer expectations is rising ever higher, actually, and know we want to as a company to give merchants the ability to leverage post purchase services as a competitive edge to win over the customer loyalty and ultimate lifetime value.

Phillip: [00:03:08] Yeah, that's sort of the key. I know that one of the things that we struggle with in in digital commerce today is trying to compete at the level of service that larger companies that shall not be named provide. You know, from customer insights and all of those things. And it sounds like to me, Linc is the missing link for a merchant. How would you describe your current offering and what kind of tools are you providing with Linc?

Fang: [00:03:42] Yes, so I think it may be helpful to modern consumers expectations when it comes down to post purchase and continue to be taken care of by the brands and the retailer they buy from. Right? And really the consumer's expectations are benchmarked by the best in the market, and Amazon Prime like experience is in the market and getting the best customer satisfaction. And a company, because of their scale, because they build extensive technology stack, not only they are able to achieve that high customer satisfaction in terms of service to quality, which is essential to their success, winning over the lifetime value of their customers. But also they're doing it at a very low cost, actually lower cost than most of the retailers will have to be investing in in terms of eCommerce operation as well as customer service. One thing we really want to highlight is that despite Amazon and already is being really at the frontier of customer experience, customer service quality, and they are continue challenging the what's next frontier for customer experience. We all heard about the success and the initial success of Amazon's voice interface, the Echo device. And this virtual assistant, Alexa, essentially assist an attend to the shopper as a personal assistant on behalf of Amazon 24/7. And Amazon is already looking into the next frontier. So if you are a merchant or anyone where brands directly setting the consumer and you've got to be think about how do you actually quickly playing catch up or differentiate, differentiated even do better than Amazon in the conventional channels? But in the meantime, you are competing with a moving target. And how do you even make sure in the next few years, not only you're staying relevant with your customers, but actually being competitive. And hopefully if you do the right, you can turn it into a competitive advantage amid this type of a very fast evolving consumer expectation and trends.

Phillip: [00:06:27] Right, exactly. And I think expectation is the word right? We expect this in online retail now and almost to some degree that we expect it beyond what we expect in brick and mortar.

Jonathan: [00:06:40] The consumer is expecting simplified. They're going to expect the payments on taking care of. They expect that fulfillment will be done. That we deliver on time. They just want to either, say, reorder, click on a button, one click and the consumer engagement and the shopping is done and you just come out with all the tools in place. They make the consumer experience perfect.

Brian: [00:07:07] Yeah, that's true. One thing I wanted to talk a little bit about is your offering is also based on AI, which is really exciting. And you've named your sort of the heart of your offering is Cortex. And so could you tell us a little bit about Cortex and how it models customer behavior? And really, you know, how can merchants use that data that you're gathering to make intelligent decisions?

Fang: [00:07:40] Yeah, yeah. So Cortex is actually the name of the platform, the underlying platform that all Linc's services is running on top of. So offering our services and more specifically, we power the shopper facing experience and anything related to other status tracking from the inception of the order all the way to delivery and post delivery service from you and how are we doing? As well as returns and exchange. For certain verticals like fashion, apparel, and some work in the consumable goods like cosmetics, you can see a return rate of 25 percent or even higher. And how do you turn that post purchase service interaction, which is a key to valued consumers would demand that we have a great service and to to feel comfortable doing business, but also turn that into an opportunity to drive that sales, and that's what Linc does. Those are the services we run on the full SaaS model. We power when we work with the brand. That would be GoPro, Carter's Loreal. These are just a few of our customers. And then we basically power their shopper facing experience in those major buckets. If you combine those two, three buckets together, stack of tracking, returns, exchange. This makes up over 65 percent of why customers are contacting customer service today. No matter they're calling or e-mailing or chatting with your customer post purchase. The data have shown that these are the most pressing shopper needs. That's why when we built our company under the mission to empower brands to compete on post purchase services, we start with those most surprising shopper needs. Yeah, so Cortex is this data driven platform that allows us to not only create the best service experience that is tracking, returns, exchange, but also since we built Cortex actually in the year of 2015, we will look at the consumer trends where it's growing. We as a company truly believe that the future of the commerce has a lot to do with communication. If you look at what happened in the consumer's personal life, in the past decade, we really completely changed how day to day we communicated with our families, friends and colleagues. Messaging and short form of communication becomes not only part of our personal lives, but into how we communicate and collaborate within our enterprise and now what's happening in the commerce world is that you see, led by Facebook Messenger, messaging app that's turning out to become a channel for consumers and businesses to connect and then the chat bot platform on top of it as well as Amazon's ecosystem. So what we see the things are shifting towards is this new emerging, what we call conversational channels. They become a very critical strategic direction to address and that anchored the future of how businesses and brands interact with their customers. So when we built Cortex, we built it as not only the ability to use customer data, which we're going to touch on that a little bit later, but really it's a tool, a channel agnostic service platform. Yeah, it actually it's the only platform in post purchase services that has the ability to drive the market ultimately to service, but on those emerging channels that Facebook Messenger and other messaging applications or Amazon Echo or other voice interface. So we see this as a platform that solves the common piece of how do you power automate your service on those channels? And Cortex is the platform to do that

Phillip: [00:12:39] One thing I think is really impressive is you looked at those conversational platforms as being able to sort of deepen a brand's connection to a customer in the post purchase process. That is an astute, you know, use of those platforms, because at that point, you're not trying to win business or trying to give a different means of purchase, but you're trying to support and enable the business that's already sort of happened.

Brian: [00:13:14] Honestly, this is one of the better applications I've heard of having, you know, a conversational interface. It just seems to make the most logical sense for where...

Phillip: [00:13:29] For where we are in 2016.

Brian: [00:13:30] Exactly. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Sorry I cut you off.

Phillip: [00:13:33] So I was going to ask you, since you're one of the first into my knowledge, the biggest players in the space that are sort of enabling conversational commerce today, what is your take on it? Obviously, you're invested there. Do you think that the idea that everybody's going to have a purchase chat bot is sort of a fad and it's something that will sort of settle into this place, this area that you've already focused on and built a solution for? I think people... Do you think people are going to come to the same realization that you have that there's a different type of interface and a different solution?

Fang: [00:14:13] Yeah. Happy to share our point of view on conversational commerce in general. Certainly as a company that we see this paradigm shift of this conversational channels, No matter if it's messaging or voice, they're very similar. They take this interaction experience to a much more human life experience, much more natural, similar to two people are chatting. We see this paradigm shift towards this pedal of conversational channels is becoming a channel for consumer to business interactions. Commerce is everything. Most of all, a big part of commerce is a B2C. So conventionally, what channels can we elaborate on? It would be like emails and the web. And so now you'll have this open, you have these emerging channels. So as a company, we definitely see that we believe in that channel will thrive to become more of a mainstream down the road for commerce. However, we also have a very strong point of views. What are some of the more meaningful first generation applications that's actually best suited for these channels as they're emerging? Because anything that touches consumer behavior, you really want to make sure that paradigm shift, that it's not forced. It doesn't matter is Facebook or Google or Amazon. No matter how big of this companies are driving those initiatives or paradigm shift, consumers knows if this is natural for them, if this is in fact an easier way of getting things done. And while we look at the different applications of that conversation channel can leverage before. There's a lot of talks about chat with a bot to find something, find a product that you are looking for and buy something. Certainly if you are as a merchant or as a brand, the consumer, you always want to find the Holy Grail is that buy button. Right?

Phillip: [00:16:36] Right. Yup.  

Fang: [00:16:38] At Linc though we really believe the more natural and the more meaningful usage in applications for these channels is actually services, customer services, service interactions. Because why is a customer service by nature, is conversational. It's just a historically you're having that conversation or interaction with a human sitting somewhere remote in the customer service center. And it is by nature already interactive, already conversational. And that is a very natural shift. And that makes us believe in this channel. It is going to be one of the more useful pieces, but more important that if you think about all of this conversational channels, they're not just a communication pipeline that pass messages back and forth. They're in fact, a platform that allows you as a businesses to build applications and all of these key services on top of it. And then that's another thing we believe. The service interaction has a lot of white space, which historically you have to call, you have to email, you have to use a broader base live chat to solve your service request questions. Now, if we can leverage the bots to automate those services and more importantly leverage the ability to take data on the cloud so the bots can always consult and keep track of the context of your historical data in with our brand and then being carried into the service by automated resolution... That is a major lift in experience.

Phillip: [00:18:37] Right.

Fang: [00:18:37] And value to that consumer.

Phillip: [00:18:40] Yeah.

Fang: [00:18:41] So that's why we believe this is going to be services is going to be the first generation of more successful applications on those platforms. And that's why as a company we are investing in this area as well.

Jonathan: [00:18:54] And then with regards to the merchants that look at the channel, to maintain the post sale relationship with the consumer, because merchants spent a lot of effort to hit the buy button, and now you want to maintain that relationship, and with conversational channels, you're able to provide a better customer experience, but two you're able to retain that relationship that they become a repeat buyer and then that buy cycle is much easier for them. They're used to the customer experience and they automatically naturally buy from you because you gave them a complete circle of the sales process and the customer experience. And that's the key, that they able to maintain a relationship, understand the consumer, what they're buying, product recommendation. This is very easy and comfort level for the consumer to maintain that relationship. And there are other platforms that the consumers at from messaging to voice.

Phillip: [00:19:48] Right.

Brian: [00:19:48] Yes. Actually, one of my questions was, where's that bot sort of living, if you will? Is that just messaging or is that even Slack and Facebook? Where are they interacting with your bot?

Fang: [00:20:09] Yeah, so that's one of the really interesting aspects of Cortex, which is built to be channel agnostic. But one thing that is unique as a service cloud, and service platform, it is actually optimized for conversational channels, but it's not limited to conversational channels. In fact, the Cortex is of the better self-service experience in your Web page and through your confirmation emails. So where the bots are used is that as a merchant you choose, first of all you choose, if you want your service capability to expand into any of those emerging channels and then each of the emerging once you are on the platform to turn on a channel that's almost like a turn-key that's almost instant. So our service is going to really use the words of Facebook, the Messenger chat bot platform. It's already there. And in fact, the take of Messenger example, all it takes is that the application sending to your Facebook page is official account request. You accept that request. And what you have is you have instantly a branded service about branding your own brand and can face your customer, and it comes down to where the shopper can interact with the bot. Right? So many people are thinking about bots they were thinking about, OK, the behavior would be a consumer comes to Facebook Messenger for whatever reason she wants to chat with us and then they can search in the chat bot search bar or search bar and find us and add us as a friend and start chatting. However, in reality, you will find your customer. There's no natural incentive to drive this natural behavior of a customer of yours coming into discovery or bots and then chat with you. However, in contrast, as your customer buy online or buy from your mobile app even, it doesn't matter where the widget channel the buy happens posted by a customer can be prompted with useful services such as other status updates. Where you can opt into. Returns status update if you just gone through a return update on your refund.

Phillip: [00:22:57] Right.

Fang: [00:22:57] So those service alerts are actually why customers want to use the bots. We actually truly believe that notification, even the buzzwords recently on chat board is louder than the notification, which is a term we're all familiar with, but in fact, a notification we really believe that's going to be one of the most important functionality the bots do and you are opting in to use the bots can happen in conventional channels such as transactional emails and web browser, my account page, customer service page, online... Where a customer in person for the first time being educated to say, Oh, you know what, I can actually stay in touch and get service alerts pushed to me. And then when they receive a service alert put to them, they are now already Facebook Messenger channel or understanding that there is a service bot they can chat with and talk to on their voice interface, such as Amazon call and then they interact and check on their status and all of a sudden their opening of this whole functionality that the bots can assist them on that's beyond the notification. So how was the recent delivery? Do you like it? If it doesn't work out, I can assist you with the returns or exchange. And drives that natural subsequent interactions between that customer and a bot that represents your brand. So this is just a flavor of the user journey, that Linc part experience covers.

Phillip: [00:24:44] Do you see people interacting with bots as if they don't know that they're interacting with bots, or is it pretty clear that they are? And what's their behavior like when when they're interacting with a conversational bot?

Fang: [00:24:58] This is a very, very interesting. So talk about what we see from within the power they have. But I will give you an example. I have a three and a half years old daughter. And we have the Echo devices sitting in our living room, and when I observe the first time she saw, oh wow, this is a woman's voice is talking and playing sounds. And so she reacted to that virtual assistant, Alexa, almost as if she's reacting to a human. She's very shy. She shows this very shy facial expression when she talks to Alexa, and she didn't say, "Alexa, play a song for me," she say she says, "Alexa, sing songs." {laughter}

Phillip: [00:25:49] Oh, wow.

Fang: [00:25:53] It's very interesting behavior. So in a sense, that shows us is as your technology evolves, especially if your interactions are very natural. And not only you understand natural language input, and you can also respond naturally, it won't be confusing whether this is a human I'm talking to or interacting with or this is a bot. So our experience is we are obsessed actually about the how do we where do we draw the line? What is the best user experience? Long story short of that is that we found that it's very important to make it clear. When it is a bot, you have to make it clear to the customer, "I am a bot." Right? "And I can assist you on a number of things." And while we build the bots, a lot of times, like the bot companies are tend to kind of feel to say, hey, here's what we can do what our bots can do. What it doesn't necessarily address is that you can control once you give a touch point to the consumer, you can't really limit how they interact with that touch point you present to them. So there will be many scenarios. Your bot either it can not really add value and cannot actually provide immediate results and the automated service he or she is expecting. While you build the platform for the bot product, you have to consider how your bot is going to respond or react when you understand this is outside of your automated services scope. So whether you are having your customer to say, I can only help you out with these things, and that's outside of my scope. I give you some pointer to ways to get help or you'll have to find a unique way to bridge it to human. Right? So it will be unrealistic to expect that the bots from day one and can cover all the service requests with immediate automated service results. So I think we actually put a lot of effort to build the bots, not only to automate about 60 percent, 65 percent of the post purchase service request, but we actually just provide the immediate results and the right solution for the shopper. But for the other 40 percent, we put a lot of emphasis on comfortably making sure that we understand you enough to know that I could not help you, as a bot, I cannot help you. Where in that case, we connect you to human as a middle man. But whatever the bot has so far figured out, for example, authentication, for example, the context, if it's a service request, which you are referring to. A bot may have already figured out, if this is all about changing the address, I cannot help you to automate that part yet on Linc's platform. But I can connect you with a human. But when I do so, we pass on those collected context to the human agents. So here at our company where our goal is to say that we want our bots to help the human, to be more human, too, even in the cases our bots cannot provide automated service.

Brian: [00:29:45] That's awesome. So maybe I just missed it, but are the humans employed by Linc or the merchant?

Fang: [00:29:52] Yeah, so the humans are the existing customer service agents and as well as the systems that the merchants are using today. So, yeah, you don't have to make a major change in either your infrastructure or how you operate, but they will get less inquiries on those things should it be automated. And then when they do get inquiries, they will get the Linc embedded contacts amended to what the customer actually had said.

Brian: [00:30:27] That's awesome. We've actually talked about this quite a bit, like sort of the limitations of chatbot, and understanding when and how to direct people in the flow. Adding humans is such a great way to make sure that you augment what with the bots are doing and provide a solution of value to the clients. It's awesome. I love it honestly. This is a very cool, very cool. Reminds me of Operator, except for post-purchase.

Phillip: [00:31:01] Yeah, exactly. The concern I had was I'm always concerned about training data and replicating good behavior versus bad. Could you talk a little bit about how a company that might be concerned that it's not doing a great job in the post-sale, if that's their input, how a bot could do better, that their actual trainers aren't necessarily executing at the level that they want them to. So why would they train a bot with those trainers? That might be a valid question.

Fang: [00:31:31] This is actually a very, very good question. So most of the bot platforms, they kind of like learn from human responses to start with. So when we start out Linc's bot platform, we actually started with looking into services where the resolution to that service request can be fully automated. And things like order status tracking, returns/exchange tie to things about "Can I return this item? Is it still eligible for return?" If you think about the human agents, get online. These are all very high fidelity order related service request. I have to make sure you're the right customer. I'm authenticating you. And then I have to get a hold on your order number or tracking number, something that's an identifier, so I can look into it in the system. That I have to probably between multiple systems either look at what's the status of that package. I know we're looking into our other management system to see whether you're eligible for return and potentially, again, may potentially tie to a different system to provide you a return shipping label, so on, so forth. So things like this, it's actually now best suited by human. It's best suited to be completely automated. So if we want to offer a bot that's truly useful, we can just say we have the best AI, bot natural language understanding capability. We're going to have the bots. No, we believe that what you find the best about is that not only you can understand what the customer wants to achieve, but you actually have that service capability to be able to get so you can provide resolution. So, you know, you can gradually reduce those a percentage of cases where you have to say, "I have to connect you to a human." Right? So what we did, we did a lot of heavy lifting work. Our platform, Cortex, the sexy part of Cortex in today's technology industry and now your capabilities and natural language interaction capability and so on. But there's a non sexy part of the cortex where we did integration with over three hundred shipping carriers, and we know the status of those packages, and we have cloud based engine that easily configurable for each of the enterprise accounts we serve. So we essentially runs that logic of return eligibility check on the fly. And the integration with logistics also allows us to provide prepaid shipping label on behalf of those merchant to the customer. So those core service capabilities take our integration effort. But if we integrate with the ecosystem players that we essentially turn those from multiple systems to essentially resolve a customer service request situation into a very streamlined completed in real time. We can provide result and get things done for you. And I would say the first thing defines a great customer experience is that service capability, it's that convenience, it's that you need the results. So I can't emphasize more than the non sexy part of just having that service capability...

Jonathan: [00:35:19] And to add to the non sexy part still. And we know logistics is super sexy...

Phillip: [00:35:24] {laughter}

Brian: [00:35:24] {laughter}

Jonathan: [00:35:24] One of our large global fulfillment partners gave us a statistic yesterday that shocked us. That 70 percent of the customers, the number one concern is returns. So for us, looking at where bots place in this whole thing was oh service, returns. We have that now. That return capability where the merchant or the consumer is a big stop gap in terms of repeat purchases, product recommendations and continue the path. And so as it talks about return, the merchant sees that. The consumer sees that ease of returning and everything, putting the label, having somebody pick up your package and you don't have to do anything. And then a few days later, you get your exchange, you get your new product back. It's that simple. And the global fulfillment partner said, "Oh, yeah, this is a concern." We had no idea that returned with such a big issue. And they actually have changed their marketing and everything approaching 2017 because of that study.

Phillip: [00:36:23] That actually leads us into sort of a question that I wanted to get into, which is most SaaS or third party providers of any kind in this sort of, you know, that's integrating next generation capabilities into current generation eCommerce platforms. They're really focusing on the commerce platform or the logistics side, but not both. And you're integrated into both and not just one or two, like pretty much every platform I can think of is covered with Linc. So that has to give you a unique perspective in the market and to customer life cycle in general. What unique perspective does Linc have that other companies just don't?

Jonathan: [00:37:11] Well, this is where the global comes in with Linc Global.

Fang: [00:37:13] {laughter}

Jonathan: [00:37:14] So we have a global view of the customer journey.

Phillip: [00:37:17] Sure.

Jonathan: [00:37:17] So a merchant will have a different eCommerce platform and they have their preferred carrier. But the consumer is going to different merchants. That means eCommerce platforms, their fulfillments partners delivering products and services to the consumer. But we actually understand what the consumer is ordering. So the carrier has no idea what the product is, but we'll know what the product is. If they're going to return that product, we will know what that return product is going to be. And they need an exchange different shoe sizes. So we actually will know from a global perspective what the consumer is doing it from multiple merchants through multiple eCommerce platforms connected to the whole fulfillment chain. So we'll know what the major carriers are doing, their major eCom partners doing, and we'll know what the merchants are, where it is not limited to one channel. So Macy's or a major retailer like Nordstrom's, those type of people have a limit to their consumer, the eCommerce platform with like a demand where it's limited to their merchants on their platform. And if FedEx, UPS is just limited to the carrier companies that have signed up for them where we have a global view because we're connected across different touch points in the journey.

Fang: [00:38:23] And touch on that a little bit more, so in related to an earlier question comes down to anything tied to AI, anything tied to this machine learning approach or into natural language understanding or natural language interaction data is very important. It's very important and so on. So think about it if you are a merchant, even if you are equipped with in-house resources and the ability to run the most state of the art AI engine with natural language capabilities, you still need to say, "How do I build a meaningful set that actually covers all the different scenarios that consumers actually interact with that bot and interact with customer service, going to be using that language to ask questions?" So while you are on Linc's platform, our data, natural language understanding capability is built all across the merchant data. So once you're on the platform, you are going to see over 99 percent of accuracy. Anything that customer ask about order status, tracking, return, and exchange, we will have over 99 percent accuracy to understand a customer's natural language interaction and then we're continue deepening that things like reordering and frequent purchase. There's so many different ways for people to ask a question. And there are so many different ways for people to have an inquiry tied to a particular order or a particular product. How do you make sure the Cortex platform truly elaborates not only natural language understanding capability, but the ability to have access to those purchase data, order status that provide resolution? That training is across the marketing data. So anybody on the platform, if they want, can benefit from that state of the art bot. Hopefully they don't run into the cases where the boss really annoys their customer in their early days. So that's one of the advantages of being on the platform like Linc.

Brian: [00:40:47] All right, so I love it. I love how you guys have played AI. I really love it.

Phillip: [00:40:55] I'm a there with my mouth agape. This is awesome.

Brian: [00:40:56] I know. I know. I'm kind of in the same boat. Based on your experience, let's kind of take it a little bit broader than just Linc. But is there an area of commerce that you could see apply AI beyond what you're already doing where AI could sort of revitalize the industry? Is that something that you guys would try to go after?

Fang: [00:41:23] Yeah. So so first of all, we want to point out that we're really at the beginning of that, so we talked a lot about why we believe a service interactions are the starting point and a more meaningful applications to leverage bots and AI, but if you look at how the channels or the conversational channels or platforms are evolving, it's no longer just a messaging app where you chat and type by typing, or a pure voice interface such as Amazon I Kall, you're speaking to the virtual assistant and it's speaking back to you. Now you have Siri, Apple's signature voice interface product. They announced that Siri is going to beyond your iPhone, getting into Apple TV. What that means is not only does it give a major boost for Apple to have a play in this virtual assistance of the emerging market and then getting to their customers' living rooms to compete with Amazon I Kall. But more importantly, it's actually an interesting interface where it combines both voice and visual. So think about it like today. If you thinking about, "Hey, Alexa, or Siri ask Ralph Lauren to exchange the blue jacket to a size bigger." Or "Ask Gap... The dress I bought, it doesn't suit my style. Can you find something similar?" Right? To assist it back, especially things related to check out the merchandizing and describe the merchandizing, that ability to add a visual in addition to the voice or a voice interface can be very, very interesting. So not only we're keeping a very close eye to essentially these channels because we position Cortex as a channel agnostic service about the fact this is our roadmap to be doling out the message, Siri and Google Chrome. But we also recognize what it may mean when you're having the ability to combine visual and voice. You can achieve so much more and potentially will really benefit getting into the buy.

Phillip: [00:43:59] Right.

Fang: [00:43:59] Yeah, so those are some of the things that we are very excited about. When you have that, you create further demand and challenges in AI capabilities as well. Yeah. So that's, we're very excited about that future.

Brian: [00:44:17] So what do you think's in store for us in the next five years? I mean, in AI, chat, and so on... And what has you excited? What do you think our listeners should be paying attention to that they can leverage effectively? Maybe something in the short term or maybe they should just go out and leverage Linc, right?

Phillip: [00:44:38] That's the short answer. {laughter}

Brian: [00:44:40] That's the short answer. Right. Do you have some recommendations or thoughts that kind of our listeners to take away with here at the end of the show?

Fang: [00:44:50] Yeah, yeah, so, I mean, in-store still drives a large percent of the transactions. By no means we should actually say that store is going away and anybody who owns that footprint, that's a tremendous amount of value in the asset. And I think about actually Linc starts with the eCom or digital commerce transaction happen digitally. But the experience we power today already are cross channel. And things like order online/pickup in store... You can get a notification in your Facebook a messenger to tell you that your product is ready to be picked up in-store. And as you go into the store, you potentially can trigger additional re-engagement capabilities. So I think what retailers should be thinking about is that in the past few years, the word like omnichannel being very well, the buzz words, everyone's talking about omnichannel. And most of the cases, it refers to the channels where the buy or discovery of product happens, whether that be offline or online. I think as we see the trend continually evolving and the communication platforms or channels introduce that dimension that eCommerce players need to be looking into and then they're going to actually give the word omnichannel a little bit more of a generalized meaning. So actually, it doesn't matter where the shopper interaction happens or where the buy happens, there, in fact, there's only one part of a relationship between you as a business to that very customer. So the experience you power and the data powers that experience, if eventually bots are driving them or AI driven, should be a complete channel. So hopefully at the end of day, we don't have to say so many times on the podcast that the word channel, right? The channel ultimately won't matter that much. Yeah.

Jonathan: [00:47:00] And I was going to say that, you know, I think studies are finally saying that the 10 percent cap that we've seen over the last decade on eCommerce sales will finally start being broken. And you'll see over the next decade going from 10 to 20 percent of online sales. But that doesn't just translate to I order online and have it delivered to home. That also means that people are going to be ordering online and pick up in-store. It's those type of capabilities I see the retailers bringing in a lot of these eCommerce solutions in store so that my purchase profile is mobile and portable like myself. So I can come to the store and I can do a voice command and the store and say "Reorder this" or "Find me this." So I think there is definitely capability of linking what I do online today and mobile devices through the store as eCommerce sales start to scale past the 10 percent market cap, and as they start to pick up will be a key driver of that.

Brian: [00:47:57] Yeah, you know what? I really we've used omnichannel for so long now, and I know everyone else that we're at this point. But really, I think you're finally making it a point that the word is actually really not... It's never been that useful. It's really not useful when you put it in this light, because really what we're talking about is a continuous experience. It's not just another channel, it's about the entire lifecycle of the customer from beginning to end and future interactions. So in my mind, like a continuous experience, better describes what we're talking about than omnichannel.

Jonathan: [00:48:44] Yeah, I think omnichannel... I think the use of the word omnichannel is bat.

Brian: [00:48:51] Yeah, exactly, I totally agree.

Phillip: [00:48:54] Infinichannel. No, I'm just kidding.

Brian: [00:48:58] Oh, good heavens no. What a way to add the show. What a way...

Phillip: [00:49:02] I'm sorry. {laughter}

Brian: [00:49:06] Anyway, whatever the word is, I think you guys are really bringing something that is needed to the table. Definitely. It's just really impressive how quickly you've been able to scale up on some very large brands. And based on what we heard today, absolutely excited about where you guys are going and what's ahead. So thank you so much again, Fang and Jonathan. And for our listeners out there, again, we would love to have a five star rating from you on iTunes. So go on there and if you enjoyed the show, please give us a rating. I would love to hear feedback from you so if you can tweet at us, send us a LinkedIn message, leave a comment in the Disqus box on our site. Whatever the channel is... {laughter}

Phillip: [00:50:05] The continuous listener journey. That's what it is.

Brian: [00:50:07] Yeah. This has been amazing having both Jonathan and Fang on the show. We've got many more fantastic guests and shows ahead. So subscribe and get access to that content on a weekly basis. But thank you again, Jonathan and Fang. It's great to have you and definitely love to hear more with what's ahead on Linc. And so please provide us updates. We'd love to hear them. With that keep looking towards the future we'll see you guys next week.

Jonathan: [00:50:40] Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Phillip.

Phillip: [00:50:41] Thank you.

Fang: [00:50:41] Thank you. Glad to be here.

Brian: [00:50:42] Thank you.

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