This time it's personal(isation): Qubit boss Graham Cooke on beating Amazon

Elliott Haworth
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"We have pasta Mondays,” says Graham Cooke, founder and chief executive of Qubit, in the basement of its multi-storey, labyrinthine tech-den near Covent Garden.

“The fridge is always full, but not extravagant. The food is one of the better things we brought from Google,” he chuckles, nodding to an unutilised foosball table. “But that Google world of work – the five star chefs – it’s all kind of happened, it’s all a bit passe.”

Google is quite literally a bit passe for Cooke. He enjoyed “a crazy wonderful experience” at the firm for five years, but left in 2010 with three colleagues to set up data intelligence firm, Qubit.

As we walk past the “kind of yoga room” and up to the office space, Cooke is bouncing around, greeting everyone by first name. The place certainly has the vibrancy of a startup, but the firm, now seven years old, spans 250 people from London to New York, Chicago to Paris, and beyond.

“I’m output focused. If we’re hitting the targets, selling the product, our customers are winning, then people can work the way they want to work. But what we don’t want is people always spending half a week working from home. Because then you’re not collaborating. You miss out on the serendipity.”

The name of Qubit’s game is personalisation. Stacks of the world’s biggest brands, handling billions of dollars, use Qubit to better understand consumer journeys. The platform uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to learn who you are and persuade you to buy. And unlike many “snake oil” services promising the world, Cooke says Qubit actually works.

“Statistics are a hard thing to get your head around as a marketer. And a lot of businesses take advantage of that. They’ll say ‘hey buy our tech, we’ll get you 30 per cent’. And I always say, coming from Google, if a technology can really drive you 30 per cent growth, it would be worth more than Google.”

Qubit can grow your revenue up to six per cent. Which doesn’t sound a lot, Cooke admits. But if you’re a $1bn firm, that’s $60m. Over four years his bods analysed more than two billion user journeys and 120m purchases to determine revenue per visitor.

Graham Cooke, Qubit (Source: YouTube)

Having come up with 29 actions businesses frequently make on their websites – such as telling customers that “people nearby are purchasing this product” or personalising offers based on the weather – Qubit has a plethora of data on what does and doesn’t work.

“The things that work the most – these are the persuasive things. When you tell somebody that something is running out; when you’re telling people that other people in their area are buying X; when you tell people you’ve got a limited amount of time – it’s urgency. Or when you capture people when they’ve left and bring them back. Those things work the best.”

Naturally, before you get as far as persuading someone to buy, they have to discover the product – matching them to what they’re interested in, or the journey they want to go on.

“When you go into a physical store there’s a sales assistant helping you to make that decision,” says Cooke. “Online, it’s about giving relevant information that helps you make your buying decision. With brands, I think their biggest opportunity is to inspire their customers.”

The things that don’t work so well, says Cooke, are largely optimisation. I ask whether, when one is browsing Amazon, and it says there is “only three remaining,” whether it is clever marketing – or the truth?

“It’s almost definitely true. The most important thing is developing trust with your customer, and if you tell the customer there’s only three left, and they come back and there’s 10, you lose their trust. We always tell our customers that the best thing they can do is build a business that has a scarcity built into it. Why did Groupon do so well? Scarcity.”

The findings in the white paper were independently audited by PwC, and subsequently released earlier this year, in the name of transparency, and fighting a common enemy: Amazon.

“I’m really calling for more transparency because we’re all fighting Amazon. I see our clients being pummelled by Amazon’s scale. And the only way you can fight back is to acknowledge what works and what doesn’t – if you keep fueling technologies and resources within your business to stuff that ultimately doesn’t work, then how can you compete with Amazon?”

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