Rob LoCascio, LivePerson Founder & CEO, joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman and Akiko Fujita to discuss the company, which helps other brands to engage with customers through AI systems like SMS, WhatsApp, and iMessage, the latest in AI, and the company’s new digital banking platform ‘Bella Loves Me.’
AKIKO FUJITA: If you have sought out customer service over the last year, chances are you interacted with artificial intelligence in some way.
LivePerson is one of the largest players in conversational AI. It has seen huge growth this year. The stock alone up about 60% year to date.
Let's bring in the founder and CEO of LivePerson. Rob LoCascio joining us today. Rob, it's good to talk to you.
AI integration increasingly critical to companies, especially during this pandemic at a time where we have seen staff cuts and budgets get even tighter. Can you speak to the shift in the landscape that you have seen?
ROB LOCASCIO: Yeah, I mean, with the closing of retail, we saw a tremendous amount of growth in our business because a lot of retailers want to create the same experience they would in a store, but they want to create that with their consumers and digitally. So conversational AI is really way to talk to an automation and have a conversation and have that connection that you normally would have in a store.
So that's what-- a lot of that's driven our business online. Obviously sales have gone way up, and we're following that. But retail has really been driving a lot of the growth this year.
ZACK GUZMAN: And, Rob, you paired up with digital banking platform Bella, which you're an advisor there, a company that's striving to bank with compassion. You wouldn't necessarily-- I wouldn't necessarily think of chatbots as being all that compassionate, but what are you seeing with that partnership, and what does it say maybe about the evolution and what people might expect from chatbots and from customer service there?
ROB LOCASCIO: Yeah, first of all, the concept of chatbots, you're right. When we say that word, it's kind of we know we've had experiences of this thing that doesn't get us, and it says I don't know what's going on. But the AI that we create on our platform is very powerful, and it allows the consumer to have this very personal experience.
So Bella is really, I think, a remarkable platform itself because it enables consumers to have these conversations about their financial life and everything like that. And the cool thing about Bella is the bank's powered with love. And it's hard to put banking and love in the same conversation, but it truly happens.
Like, for instance, I was out the other day and I bought a coffee, and Bella came and said, hey, I'm going to-- I'm going to pay for that coffee for you. I hope you have a great day.
And so there's things that happen in the platform through AI that Bella is here to help you and support you, especially in these tough times. So that's the power of Bella.
AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, it does feel like it's increasingly difficult to figure out whether you're speaking to an actual human or a bot. But, Rob, you've got good visibility on where the companies see this going. How have you seen the investments shift, especially with this acceleration that we've seen to digital over the last year or so?
You mentioned retail is a big growth driver, but what is that next step? What should we be looking for in terms of how we engage with AI and how much companies are willing to invest in that?
ROB LOCASCIO: Look, the vision of our company, which is playing out and you can see it in the stock and the growth in our revenues, is that most of us know about Amazon Alexa, and we've experienced this, but we want every company to have sort of that power and be able to create their own Alexas and put them in the world.
And if you fast forward, you know, five years from now or so, you know, we're envisioning a world in which there is this AI that you trust that cares for you, that you can speak to. If you ever saw the movie "Her," that's kind of what we envision, and that's not some fantasy or a movie anymore. It's something that we can create.
Going back to Bella, that's what we're really creating with Bella is that one day you'll ask Bella, hey, I want to take a trip to Italy. Can you help me? I want to get my kid a tutor. I need a doctor. These are the things that we should be doing through conversational AI beyond what you can see here, Chipotle and ordering a burrito. We do that too. But we're really looking at many different ways in which we can help consumers with their lives.
It's hard getting on the internet and searching for things and ending up on some, you know, web page and trying to figure it out yourself, but what if you could talk to an AI that could really personalize it?
ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and Rob, I mean, to Akiko's question, it sounds like, you know, we've heard a lot of companies like yours benefiting here in 2020 as we've shifted to a lot of these companies who had never thought about being online shifted that way. You guys upped your guidance for the full year in terms of revenue and EBITDA pretty significantly here, so talk to me about maybe if you've seen a leveling off as it looks like the return to normal is coming up next year by the, you know, first half, hopefully-- if you've seen a leveling off in maybe companies that you're working with here in terms of the investment they put behind LivePerson.
ROB LOCASCIO: No. I mean, it continues. What was very interesting is we normally see during the holiday season sort of a peak after Cyber Monday and it goes down. We had one of our largest days two days ago. So the consumer behavior has changed. We've changed. So we're continuing to buy this way and I don't see it changing.
This was already happening. This was-- you know, our company was already accelerating its growth. This compounded the acceleration, but it's not a go backwards. The brands and consumers both want to shop digitally, but they want a personal service, and you can only do that through conversational AI.
The web, the internet, and e-commerce failed us in many ways. I mean, I started the company in '95, and I've seen the whole history of it. I mean, it's about-- it was about 15% or 16% of commerce before COVID. Now it's in the 20s, but it never overtook everything like we're seeing today.
We're seeing that commerce is definitely going to shift now to digital. People want to have conversations around products and services. They just don't want to look at a website like an automat, and that's the big shift--
ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, for sure.
ROB LOCASCIO: --that we're seeing happen.
ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and it's definitely played out well for you guys here this year, but appreciate you taking the time. Rob LoCascio, LivePerson founder and CEO, thanks again. Be well.