Appnovation's Andrew Dunbar on why AI is vital for customer experience

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Andrew Dunbar is general manager EMEA at Appnovation. In this interview, he sets out how AI will transform the customer experience, and how the company is setting its sights on European expansion.

Tell us about your background and your role at Appnovation

My role is to oversee Appnovation’s strategic direction across EMEA and make sure this is aligned with our global objectives. I’m responsible for building the consultancy in the region, identifying growth opportunities and positioning the company as the chosen partner for current and new clients.

I cut my teeth at large consultancies such as Sapient, where I spent a decade building and delivering enterprise platforms for a range of blue-chip brands. I then spent nearly 10 years at agencies within WPP, which was a great opportunity to absorb the craftsmanship that goes into marketing creativity. Joining Appnovation has given me the opportunity to create something that builds on best practice from all of these ecosystems.

How would you assess the impact of AI for brands?

As brands drive to create richer, more personal experiences for their customers, they are looking for smarter and more powerful tools to allow this. AI offers an unparalleled ability to connect, deeply and personally, with an individual, in a way that traditional approaches aren’t capable of delivering.

We are even seeing the advent of interfaces that are purely machine based - where your fridge talks to your grocery store and places an order without needing any human input, based on the purchasing rules we set. It won’t be too long before they are setting the rules as well. Unfortunately, a lot of companies aren’t best placed to reap the potential benefits of this technology because they are held back by legacy systems and internal resistance to change (from the boardroom down). There’s also the fact that many companies still struggle to understand and properly analyse data, something which can deliver rich insights into customer behaviour.

When you combine a data-led approach with experience design you get results that are engaging, useful and even delightful to the user. Getting this balance right is critical to any business initiative - because it’s through that connection that the potential of digital becomes really transformative.

What are Appnovation’s most important sectors and what are the typical projects that you work on?

Our key spheres of activity include pharma, consumer goods, finance, government, travel/tourism, healthcare, media and the car industry. Notable projects we have worked on include multinational enterprise platforms for the pharmaceutical industry, robust scalable portals for international trade organisations and content-based reporting tools for the financial sector.

Because pharma and financial services are both high compliance sectors, Appnovation has developed expertise in helping clients innovate quickly and effectively against the backdrop of stringent regulatory environments. In addition, Appnovation has executed numerous engagement-focused solutions such as an award-winning app and website that leverages a user’s social network to support them to stop smoking.

Why did Appnovation choose to base its European operation in the UK?

In the UK, we have access to the best creative talent in the world. There is a dynamic and innovative energy here that complements Appnovation’s business culture. The recent appointments we made to our UK and EMEA management teams are a good example of this. Former R/GA client service director Jez Proctor joined as our UK managing director and award-winning digital creative Amanda Glasgow became our head of experience for EMEA. Jez and Amanda have exactly the right expertise to help drive Appnovation’s business in Europe and transform how our clients connect with their customers.

What are the opportunities for the business? Do you anticipate further expansion across your EMEA operation?

In the short to medium term, I anticipate that our EMEA division will continue to expand its footprint and diversify into new sectors. I’m feeling particularly positive about our expansion based on the calibre of work we have done for global FMCG brand Alpro and other leading companies, and the level of interest in us. We intend to continue our growth into new countries and to expand our portfolio in line with our growing roster of new clients. In business terms, our competitive edge is that we champion a process that places a clear focus on the user at the heart of design.

We engage directly with representative focus groups at key points throughout the process to ensure our strategy, design and prototypes are generating the experience, and the response that we have designed for. Ultimately, this is key to creating value, both for the end user and for our clients. It’s a very human approach and one which our clients are putting increasing emphasis on.

Our new brand encapsulates this - inspiring possibility for our clients and their customers. In my opinion, clients don’t just want a supplier - they want a team who are just as committed as they are to their business, and who are genuinely invested in their success.

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