3 Ways Your Company Can Use Tech To Hook Customers


The brave, new digital world of commerce is here to stay—and forward-thinking, growth-focused entrepreneurs must fully embrace it.

That was the unequivocal message taken from the engaging, energetic Black Enterprise TechConneXt panel, “Business Tech: What’s Hot, Next, and New.” With the verve of a talk show host, entrepreneur/journalist Ramon Ray pitched a series of questions to an all-star panel: Dele Oladapo, VP & CIO, Application Business Solutions for Prudential Financial; Laura Teclemariam, product manager of gaming giant Electronic Arts; Jerry Nemorin, CEO of LendStreet, an online lender; and Kirk McDonald, president of PubMatic, a firm that advises publishers on how to leverage digital assets.

The panel’s review of the latest tech trends offer clues on how your business can more effectively identify, engage, and serve customers.


Ray kicked off the session asking panelists “Why do business owners need to understand the power of data analytics?”

To be a true innovator today, McDonald responded, speed is paramount in the application of data. “If you are in a small, medium, or large business and you are not accelerating the processing of all data available to make a better-informed decision, you are going out of business,” he says. “Almost every business of innovation from Uber to Airbnb have found ways to capture a digital data asset, run it through an algorithm, some version of machine learning to actually inform a next decision quicker than a human could. That’s the point of automation.”

For LendStreet, Nemorin said, interpretation of data has been vital in not only making the right lending decision but also gaining insight into consumer preferences and concerns. For instance, the impact of Hurricane Matthew on Florida customers distinguished their particular financial needs from those of other LendStreet customers across the nation. “Now we have an update to know consumers who are in zones where there might be natural disasters,” he says. “We can automatically send them a text. We can automatically call them and say, ‘Hey, we know Matthew is coming. Do you need to extend or skip a month of payment?’

Teclemariam zeroed in on “key engagement indicators.” Gaining “petabytes of information” on the first-person shooter game Battlefield, in which roughly 8.1 billion minutes have been played, she can identify revenue-shifting information such as points of  user disengagement for the billion-dollar franchise.

Prudential’s Oladapo says legions of entrepreneurs can benefit from today’s data-driven environment. “As entrepreneurs, if you are in a sector where you are being the open table for workshops, you are actually capturing demographic [and] behavioral information that companies like Prudential need to buy,” he says. “Smaller players that we weren’t technically working with now become the major part of who we have to bring into our ecosystem so we can make business decisions and by the way, that drives a much better customer experience. You are actually becoming the power holder.”


If you are introducing a consumer product and seek to determine its resonance with customers, Teclemariam says, engage in A/B testing, also known as split testing. For example, she has developed experimental testing for certain video game characters. “[I may want] to see if characters that are African American play better than characters who are Asian,” she says, gauging impressions from two consumer groups using data robots and other such tools. “I would A/B test to see in which demographics those characters are more successful. It’s a great way to test your products. You should be doing A/B testing with every single release you have. If not, you are essentially going in blind with your products.”


 These days, Ray maintains, e-commerce is being conducted using artificial intelligence embedded social media channels. He asked panelists how entrepreneurs can capitalize on such developments.

McDonald says social media, chatbots, and other digital tools help create a personal experience between the customer and the brand. “With whatever product or service you make available to them and you need to keep up the high, intimate relationship without ever breaching their trust,” he says. “All of these opportunities to touch that consumer can be enhanced if you use the tools well. Social media and chatbots are some of those tools. They are not in and of themselves a strategy.”

Nemorin agreed. “A chatbot is a powerful tool to start that conversation, to keep that dialogue going and for the consumer not to feel like you are encroaching on [his or her] privacy,” he explains. “Think about the sort of messages [and] moments that you want to touch that customer. You want to have that engagement and you want to have that discussion.”

Teclemariam likens this form of customer outreach to tech-driven behavioral science. “Impulsive buying is still alive as ever. What the social platform provides for us is an opportunity to capture a time when a user is ready to impulse buy. That impulse buy nature in human characteristic and behavioral cognitive reasoning is still at large. [In similar fashion,] there’s a psychosis in gaming that makes me want to play. It’s not an accident that people play video games for hours at a time [and] get hooked on it like crack.”

Tech Innovator of the Week: Laura Teclemariam, Software Engineer


Laura Teclemariam is a rarity in California’s Bay Area, and it’s not just because she is an African American female software engineer. She was actually born and bred in the Bay Area, too.

“I grew up in the Bay Area long before it was called Silicon Valley,” she says. “I’m one of the few natives here. Everyone is an import!”

Teclemariam, who currently works as senior product manager for gaming and entertainment giant, EA, has also been in the tech field before there was so much focus on diversity in tech. Fascinated by tech gadgets since she was a kid, Teclemariam graduated with a degree in electrical engineering/computer science from the University of California, Irvine.


Talking Tech


Teclemariam jumps right into tech-talk, discussing some of the work she does at EA, “There are so many devices. We are moving into a period of time where people are overloaded with data.”

“With the phenomena of big data and [the] cloud, companies need to figure out how to streamline all that data, so users and customers don’t feel that overload stress,” she says.

Teclemariam then gives an example, citing EA FIFA and Madden gamers, “If you love FIFA or Madden, you are going to download Madden mobile, play it on PlayStation or Xbox, and you’re going to watch videos on YouTube. All of that info can be a lot, and it can consume a lot of time.”

To manage all of that data, EA takes an approach similar to Amazon. “Amazon has a relationship with me. When I press what I want to view or put it in my shopping cart, when I am at work on my desktop or phone, Amazon will remind me, ‘You have this dress in your shopping cart.’ Then it will tell me, ‘By the way, there are two other dresses you may like,’” she says.

That is very similar to what she and her team build out at EA, “[It’s] building conversations with our players, and how we can manage that data overload. What we are doing is really understanding behavioral science, and managing and targeting our players, [and] they end up saying, ‘I feel like I really have a relationship with EA.’”

Teclemariam can easily expound on artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, and other technical matters. Although she works for EA, she herself is not a hardcore gamer. However, she did say, “My daughters play Plants Versus Zombies with me.”

Silicon Valley Living


Because she is from and currently lives in the Silicon Valley region, Teclemariam has technology embedded in all aspects of her world, even in her home life. She and her husband, who is also an African American engineer, have invested in Nest. “We have our thermostats and security systems all programmed,” she says, ticking off other tech that the couple has at home.

In addition to tech, she is very committed to furthering diversity in the industry. “I am on the board of our new employee diversity group,” she explains. “I do feel like one of the few [African American and female] pioneers being born and raised here. I take responsibility to pave the way for other young girls and boys of color, [to] let them know there are role models and resources for them to continue down the same path.”