Liraz Margalit, CMSWire contributor of year

Sometimes the unspoken signals can be the strongest indicators of how someone feels. And while most of us are pretty adept at reading physical body language, few people can claim the same level of proficiency reading digital body language. Liraz Margalit is one of those few. Margalit uses that skill in her role as director of behavioral analytics at cloud-based experience analytics provider Clicktale.

By combining the latest research in the field of psychology with advanced technologies such as machine learning and cognitive computing, Margalit believes brands can move beyond judging customers based on past behavior to understanding and delivering on customer's needs within their current context. An experienced speaker, lecturer and researcher, Margalit travels the globe evangelizing for the emerging field of "web psychology." 

Time to End Mass Personalization

What’s your proudest accomplishment — professional or personal — of 2017?

My proudest accomplishment has been seeing an idea that was inspired by my research in the field of cognitive psychology, become a disruptive technology. I’m referring to the idea that a machine learning model can predict a customer’s mindset on a digital property at any given moment, according to that customer’s interactions. The digital body language model can also measure the quality of a customer’s visit and willingness to re-engage with the brand at a later date. Seeing this add value to our customers businesses, and the real benefits brands can achieve by employing this model, is very gratifying.

What unrelated skill or piece of knowledge has helped you with your current work?

I like to quote Einstein, who said, brilliantly: "We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking that we used while we created them." As I see it, the only way to come up with an innovative solution is by taking the perspective of one discipline, psychology in my case, and using it to solve a problem in another discipline.

At Clicktale, we utilize the broad knowledge that we have today about human behavior, cognition and how our brain works to develop cognitive models that aren’t solely based on data but integrate a psychological understanding about the way we make decisions. For example, most companies talk about experience but focus on usability and conversion. We ask, “what is an experience and how can we define it?” before developing ways to measure it.

What conversation would you like to see your industry have in 2018?

In 2018 the ecommerce industry needs to drop mass personalization in favor of individualization. Years ago, mass personalization was innovative and made sense. But these days, we can do much better. Today, we can offer true individualized insights based on the consumer’s current state of mind and intent, and not based on past behavior. Today’s personalization models are based, wrongly, on the assumption that people’s past actions will determine what they are likely to do in the future. We need to take into consideration the customer mindset and context in which the decision was made. By understanding our customers’ needs and struggles as individuals, based on their digital body language, we can provide meaningful experiences based on that knowledge.

What trend or story will you be following in 2018?

It will be interesting to see how emerging technologies, such as AI, VR, NLP and others, can be utilized to provide customer experiences that are more humanized, rather than further automated. For me, this is the holy grail. Let’s take, for example, a highly-touted chatbot from a floral site, with which I interacted recently. It efficiently walked me through my order, and as I was ready to pay, wished me a “fantastic, colorful day!” This would have been friendly and pleasing, had I not spent the previous 15 minutes browsing funeral flower arrangements. We need to be more emphatic when designing experiences. This enables forward-thinking retailers to abandon behavioral models based on past actions, in favor of analyzing and responding to current behavior.

If you could give 20-year-old you some advice, what would it be?

The most important thing is to not be afraid to fail. I really enjoyed the TED talk given by Brené Brown and I go back and listen whenever I feel I need some inspiration. She quotes Theodore Roosevelt, “The men in the arena,” saying that it’s worse to spend your life on the outside looking in, wondering what if, than it is to try and dare greatly and risk the chance of failure. And my favorite part is "... if he fails at least he fails while daring greatly." In other words, it’s better to try and fail than to not try at all. If I hadn’t been afraid to fail, I wouldn’t have developed the models I see working today.

Speed round!

  1. Name one tech trend you got wrong. I was skeptical about Bitcoin and believed it was just a predecessor technology to the real lasting innovation — the blockchain.
  2. If you could switch places with someone else for a day, who would it be? Sheryl Sandberg.
  3. What one song always puts you in a good mood? Eurythmics, "There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)."