“There’s a need to stream art into people’s homes.” With Hadar Paz

The entertainment industry is using the networks to launch movies into peoples’ living rooms rather than a cinema. Maybe art cinema will still be in demand, but I think that largely mainstream cinema isn’t coming back. The hardware companies who manufacture TVs and monitors will have to come up with better equipment. And what are […]

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The entertainment industry is using the networks to launch movies into peoples’ living rooms rather than a cinema. Maybe art cinema will still be in demand, but I think that largely mainstream cinema isn’t coming back. The hardware companies who manufacture TVs and monitors will have to come up with better equipment. And what are concerts going to do? Museums? There’s a need to stream art into people’s homes. It’s started but it’s accelerating.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hadar Paz.

Hadar Paz is the CEO and co-founder of Powerfront, an AI-powered customer service solutions provider that helps businesses connect with their customers in a personalized, meaningful way.

In 2014, Hadar envisioned a tool that would allow his clients and their employees to be able to visualize their online customers and connect with them to make their online shopping journey similar to an in-store experience. Thus, INSIDE was conceptualized and has continued to become more sophisticated and intelligent with each release. Today, leading global brands like Gucci, Valentino, Neiman Marcus, and Sephora choose INSIDE for its unique approach to customer engagement and personalization, sentiment analysis, and data visualization.

In an effort to address the rapidly evolving needs of an industry in crisis during the pandemic of 2020, Hadar conceptualized and developed several new solutions, including INSIDE Store App, INSIDE Your Business, and Video Assistant. Ever innovating and evolving, all products are inspired by Hadar’s vision of enabling businesses to flawlessly replicate the in-person experiences online.

Hadar is a former CTO and expert in 3D visualization technology for e-commerce. He is an inspiring and enthusiastic leader, and is truly a thought authority in the luxury retail space. His insights have been published in Forbes, Vogue Business, Glossy, the New York Times, and more.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

One Sunday afternoon in 2010, I was hanging out by the pool with a customer, the CEO of Nike Australia, and our children. Back then, Powerfront was focused on building websites for retailers. I mentioned that that weekend that they’d had a lot of traffic on their website. He looked at me blankly, not responding the way I expected. I explained that there were 1000 people on the site at one point, which is a lot in Australia. Then I asked him, “What if there were 1000 people in your downtown store right now?” That got a reaction. His eyes widened and he began describing how he’d rush to attend to the customers’ needs, make sure the air conditioning worked, minimize wait times, etc. I said “You’re responding very differently to the traffic on your site versus your store,” and he said, “You’re right.” Keep in mind, this was a CEO at Nike, which is not a small company. I realized that none of my customers really fathomed their online customers. That said, because of that incident, I decided that we needed a system so businesses could actually SEE their online customer for the first time. So I created INSIDE, which is an avatar-based, three-dimensional representation of a business’s online traffic. It was a complete game-changer in the way companies perceive their online customers. That’s how it all started.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

A few years ago, I was presenting the INSIDE platform to the management team at Neiman Marcus. They were just finishing a product trial and we were there to discuss whether they were going to move forward. The room was full of suits, including the CEO. I had a massive presentation planned and kicked off the meeting by showing how you can actually see your online business with this new technology. We had the “floor,” or the view that shows a visual display of the store and their customers, on a big screen and were showing how you can look at a customer and see what’s in their basket, what they like, where they are shopping from, and what they’re looking at… everything is represented on the screen. After this, I launched into my pitch and still had another 90 slides to go to. The CEO stopped me and said, “You had me at hello. Let’s move forward.” I knew then that we were onto something big.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I was working as a CTO for a company when I was very young, 23 years old. I decided to start my own business and wanted to move from working as their employee to acquiring them as my first client. I was pitching my concept of a future retail system to persuade them that they should take me on as a vendor. I prepared a huge presentation with maybe 100 slides. I started my pitch and, of course, soon everyone was falling asleep. Then, at about 20 slides in, everyone looked at the screen and started laughing and laughing. Keep in mind, English is not my first language. So, I turned around and immediately one word jumped out at me straight away — Instead of writing “warehouse,” I wrote “whorehouse.” It was such a crucial meeting, I was mortified. But I recovered and said, “So it worked! I just wanted to wake you up.” I don’t think they bought it but I did win my pitch and started my own business. To this day, I have people who help check every email and presentation I write. I don’t trust myself!

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

This is the most interesting time in my career. The era of “how can I innovate for my own career and company” is over. Now it’s, “how can we innovate to overcome an external situation?” I never thought I’d have to deal with that.

So, with the COVID-19 global pandemic, now we have to decide what to do. Do we develop solutions to a problem that might be irrelevant when the situation is over? What we’ve learned is that we have to be agile. You have to be ready to change your entire strategy in an instant. We’re developing based on what our customers need, not the other way around. This is the first time we are implementing as we go and the process is amazing. For example, our new Video Assistant personal shopping technology — which is currently being piloted by luxury brands such as Gucci, Valentino, and Saint Laurent, among others — brings homebound shoppers to the inside of a store, where a client-advisor walks the store, highlighting products, answering questions, and helps with the check-out process as though the customer was physically present. This technology is helping businesses stay operational, helping employees keep working, and helping customers get what they need, in a safe, remote way.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

To thrive: don’t chase money, chase passion and benefit. Do something that really helps people. Try to change how people do something. It’s not always necessarily just about solving a problem. Sometimes it’s about doing something in a different, better way, or creating something that’s more enjoyable and efficient. If you’re making things just to make more money, for me, it doesn’t work. Instead, do it from the heart. Financially, if you truly do that and succeed in making that beautiful new thing, money will just chase you. Simple as that.

To prevent burnout: delegate. Work hard, but delegate. Burnout happens when you have too much responsibility. If you learn to delegate, you can work as much as you want. If you’re about to do something that someone else can do, let them do it. Even if it gives you an extra half an hour to gaze at the sky, that could be the half-hour that’s going to change everything.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am not good at making the first sale of a new platform or technology I invent. I’m not sure why it’s a mental block. I can’t push it until I see someone else do it successfully.

Back when we launched Powerfront’s INSIDE, it was doing great in Australia but it hadn’t really picked up in the US. So, my BDM and I went to an IBM conference to network. We went, talked to people, tried this and that, mingled, and nothing seemed to be working. We weren’t getting anywhere and we were getting discouraged. We decided to go have a drink in the bar.

In the sea of suits, there was a man there wearing a Hawaiian shirt, a hat, and had a cigar. He didn’t look like the typical business person. We started chatting and, because especially at a conference, you’re always on the hunt to network, I thought to myself, “I’m probably giving up some time that I should spend networking and working the crowd.” But I shook it off and we sat outside with him for more than an hour, having a great time talking to this guy I didn’t think was a business person or from a significant company at all.

He turned out to be the Ecommerce Manager of Rooms to Go. He’s the guy who started me off. His name is Mike Austin. Then, I didn’t know who he was or that Rooms to Go was such a big company. He proved to be such an amazing guy, and one of my all-time favorite customers. He believed in me, he said, “This is exactly what i want to do,” when he heard about INSIDE. He wanted to launch straight away, he led the way, and he gave me confidence. The entire company is amazing and they were a great base to help Powerfront gain traction and recognition in the U.S.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The first thing that comes to mind is how we treat our employees, and how we’ve worked hard to develop a very positive company culture. I think business people are really undervalued. We look out for our employees, their families, and help anyone who needs it. If someone needs help, we are very generous. We’ve been a remote company for seven years and there are many benefits that come from that, like a strong work-life balance, a reduced carbon footprint, less stress from worrying about things like picking up lunch and commuting. Now that more and more companies have had to transition to remote, we’ve led webinars and offered advice to others on how to succeed with a remote workforce. We’re leading the way by the example of how to work remotely but stay connected. In general, we try to be as generous as we can and donate to various organizations. From a business perspective, our main goal is to improve communication. 30–50,000 people communicate through our platform on our daily basis. We believe people deserve to have seamless, painless, meaningful conversations and we want to make that easy for everyone to access.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

The whole world is going remote. It started before COVID but this pandemic is accelerating it.

The entertainment industry is using the networks to launch movies into peoples’ living rooms rather than a cinema. Maybe art cinema will still be in demand, but I think that largely mainstream cinema isn’t coming back. The hardware companies who manufacture TVs and monitors will have to come up with better equipment. And what are concerts going to do? Museums? There’s a need to stream art into people’s homes. It’s started but it’s accelerating.

And that’s what we’re involved in. The retail industry is looking for technology that can do it better. All our customers are reporting that foot traffic is down, and 80% of their revenue comes from that, so we’re trying to adapt and use technology that creates experiences. When the pandemic ends, maybe some things will come back, but not all.

Activities like aerobics, the gym, and sports are changing because we’ve got all this remote hardware. You can take classes with people on the bike or by looking in a mirror. This entire industry will move to at-home.

Same thing with school and education. So many industries will realize how much they can save on rent and how much can be done at home.

People will realize they’re comfortable at home, after six months staying home they’re realizing that they can do a lot of things from their house. Online shopping has gone up by 35%, right, but not by 5000% like we thought it would. There’s a lot of room and opportunity for new technologies that allow you to make up for that online experience online. Streaming video shopping technology is huge in China, with over 150 streaming platforms for shopping. Maybe that’s the answer here, we don’t know yet.

I do wonder about tourism — will virtual reality replace traveling? Maybe that’s next, there’ll be a call to develop technology to make that real so you can go visit the pyramids in Egypt.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Buy second-hand. Or, if you want to invent something new, there should be a tax. For example, if you want to go and manufacture a box, you have to pay 10% to the government to help clean up the world. We’re making too much new stuff. I love buying second-hand, I just bought a desk and a coffee table. The new stuff we make becomes trash very quickly. We throw so much stuff away. I imagine how someone worked on it and handcrafted it and put their time and attention into it. It hurts me to toss things, especially if someone could still use it. But there’s no system for sharing. If there’s a call for technology to help with this, maybe I’ll do it. Another thing I plan on doing in the future is to start an organization to help single mothers. In Los Angeles, if you have children there’s a six month waiting period to get services and housing. I’d like to come up with a solution for those in that interim period. I was raised by a single mother so that’s important to me.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hadarpaz/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hadarpaz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Powerfront/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/powerfront/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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