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Vivek Sharma, CEO & Co-Founder of Movable Ink – Interview Series

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Vivek co-founded Movable Ink in 2010 and has led the company through rapid growth to a leading market position with 600+ employees serving the world's most innovative brands. Through his leadership, Movable Ink is empowering omnichannel digital marketers to generate creative that is data-activated and behaviorally-relevant at the time of engagement.

Prior to co-founding Movable Ink, Vivek headed Eastern North America and EMEA sales for Engine Yard. Earlier in his career, he held senior engineering roles at Blue Martini and Cisco Systems. Vivek graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Movable Ink personalizes every customer engagement through automation and artificial intelligence.

Could you share the genesis story of Movable Ink?

My co-founder and I were chatting about email as a ubiquitous channel that people weren’t thinking about innovating within. This led to him sharing a technical hack he had come up with to dynamically change an image when an email is opened. Fascinated, we investigated what could be determined from an http request (IP, location, weather, device, time of day via the  server) which was realized we could build an application server for email content. And that’s when Movable Ink was born. We started with content generation within email and expanded into other channels like mobile push, mobile app, and SMS after that. Today, the Movable Ink platform personalizes content experiences with automation and AI, helping hundreds of the world’s biggest brands build deeper one-to-one customer relationships. 

Why are dynamic images and video so important in all types of marketing?

Dynamic creative can change or adapt based on criteria, context, and/or other consumer signals. Dynamic images are tailored to create a more personalized and relevant experience for each individual who encounters them. In contrast, static creative remains the same for every viewer. The world is awash in generic content saturating every digital channel. This has the effect of squandering the rare moment of attention a customer has gifted you. As a marketer, the brand-customer relationship is everything; each moment and interaction counts. Dynamic email and mobile messages give you the opportunity to tailor each communication in the moment, and around the customer’s context.

In most email marketing campaigns images are static instead of dynamic, how does the platform enable changing images in real-time to create the most optimal customer experience?

Movable Ink’s Studio product integrates and then activates a variety of data sources to generate personalized content at the moment of engagement. Data sources could include CDPs, pricing and inventory solutions, loyalty solutions, and homegrown solutions (among others). For example, imagine clicking on an email for a great deal on an all-weather camping tent, only to find that the sale price is no longer valid, and the product is no longer in stock. It’s a frustrating experience that can lead to countless customer service headaches and, ultimately, a loss of customer attention attrition. What if that email had been up to date the moment you opened it with current pricing and an in-stock item. A smoother experience will also lead to more conversion and purchases—a win for the brand and customer. This is just one out of myriad examples of how dynamic content can deliver an optimal customer experience.

Could you also discuss how dynamic images are often modified based on location including local weather patterns?

Like all data points, weather personalization is versatile across industries. A retailer, for example, can use it to pull in the pollen count in recipients’ locations at the moment of engagement and apply clear threshold guidelines for low, medium, and high levels. Anyone in medium or high pollen level areas could see a pollen alert banner at the top, whereas the banner would collapse for anyone in a low pollen region. The travel industry can promote warm weather getaways to those in cold climates or even show the exact forecast for specific destinations. A QSR brand can leverage it to personalize experiences when it’s raining to encourage ordering in. The options are endless.

Movable Ink has out-of-the-box solutions to support location and weather-based dynamic creative. We understand where the customer is opening the email or receiving the mobile message, and we are able to make in-the-moment decisions to show the best content to that customer. And not only that, unlike others, we can also layer in other creative decisions into that asset. We can, for example, not only show you that it's raining and give you a raincoat suggestion, but we can layer in live pricing, number of people currently looking at that coat, how many are left in stock, and up-to-date ratings and reviews on it.

Movable Ink was initially launched in 2010, how has the company evolved over the years with the advent of Generative AI?

We have two solutions that are taking into account Generative AI and the trends that follow it. Our flagship product, Movable Ink Studio, automatically generates a personalized, composite creative at the moment of engagement. Studio uses automation to generate creative content – the underlying promise of Generative AI- but does so with brand-approved assets. The idea of being able to automatically generate on-brand, personalized creative at scale is highly appealing to enterprise marketers- they don’t need to worry about using off-brand content or content that their competitors are using.

Movable Ink Da Vinci is our flagship AI solution, which automatically selects each creative (including Movable Ink Studio dynamic assets!) for every individual customer to drive short- and long-term  lift in clicks, conversions, and revenue. With Movable Ink Da Vinci, brands can use the power of Generative AI to automatically generate personalized text, like subject lines. We make sure that generative copy is on-brand, by training generative models on a brand’s own subject lines and brand guidelines.But we believe AI is much more than just generative- we pair Generative AI models alongside more than ten other deep learning models that work in an ensemble approach to ensure the best possible customer experience and business outlines.

Can you discuss how machine learning is used for creative decisioning?

Many companies are late to the party, just white-labeling GPT, and calling themselves AI companies. AI-washing a product is superficial and doesn’t serve marketers. We believe AI must be comprehensive and fully integrated into a workflow, and leverage proprietary models that take into account multiple AI and machine learning methods. We’ve built an ensemble approach using ten plus  AI models to address the personalization challenge effectively.

For example, some of our models focus on content prediction- these are called our Prediction Models. Movable Ink AI’s Prediction Models ensure the right customer receives the right content at the right time to guide them on a path of discovery. Think of the Prediction Models like a personal shopper.  It uses a  process of data-driven insights and machine-learning algorithms—based on a mathematical concept called Hyperbolic Geometry— to automatically select the combination of design, messaging, and layout within an email that’s predicted to drive the most lift in clicks, conversion, and revenue for each individual customer. Hours meticulously spent testing various strategies can now be reclaimed with a data-driven, scalable approach to automated content distribution.

How is machine learning used for Creative Effectiveness Score?

Creative Effectiveness Score is a unique metric that uses machine learning to predict the revenue potential of a single creative. The performance of a personalized creative is compared to an average version if both were sent to an entire customer base. This method removes all bias, revealing a more accurate indication of the creative’s effectiveness.

Can you discuss how brand safety is considered when using Generative AI?

While AI promises increased efficiency and accuracy, it can inadvertently reinforce and amplify existing biases. Our recent report reflects marketers’ biggest ethical AI concerns, including stereotypical recommendations (39%), discriminatory targeting (38%), and biased content (36%).

AI algorithms grounded in reinforcement learning principles may unintentionally inherit biases present in their training data. Such biases, whether related to race, gender, or other demographic factors, can inadvertently be perpetuated in the algorithm's outputs. This is particularly problematic when the training data itself is skewed or unrepresentative. At Movable Ink, we address this issue by strictly training our models on a brand's actual customer interaction data. Moreover, our approach involves using an ensemble of models. This methodology helps in diluting any potential bias that might exist, ensuring that our AI solutions do not disproportionately rely on a single model that might reflect skewed perspectives or biases.

We also believe in the marketer and machine working hand in hand. For example, The machine (our AI models) produces ideas but marketers are firmly in control. The marketer can enforce business rules or reject specific suggestions from the machine. The marketers’ hands are  on the steering wheel.

What are some other ways that Movable Ink enables content personalization?

The most common theme you hear from brands is the painful experience of connecting and leveraging their massive troves of data, whether it lives in different parts of the organization, internally or in external CDPs, or just how difficult it is to activate it.

Movable Ink's Universal Data Activation capabilities unlock brands' ability to leverage the full potential of their tech stack. It taps into all the data stored across your enterprise to generate hyper-personalized content. When these additional data sources are accessible, you can automatically generate unlimited variations of relevant, personalized content that results in more clicks, conversions, and revenue.

With all of this additional data at your disposal, you can add new layers of personalization to your content and unlock new, sophisticated use cases. Any relevant event that aligns with your unique business needs can be used to target your customers, like those who have recently downloaded your mobile app, have signed up for your credit card, or last used their loyalty points some time ago.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Movable Ink.

A founding partner of unite.AI & a member of the Forbes Technology Council, Antoine is a futurist who is passionate about the future of AI & robotics.

He is also the Founder of Securities.io, a website that focuses on investing in disruptive technology.