RALEIGH — Brooks Bell is all about helping smaller companies compete with the tech behemoths like Amazon and Walmart.

So the Raleigh-based consulting firm – which bears her name — is giving away revamped proprietary software, for free. Yes, you heard right.

“It’s free to the public, forever,” confirmed its CEO Gregory Ng via a Zoom interview on Thursday. “There is no limitation; you can log in through your Google account.”

It’s called “illuminate” because that’s precisely what it’s supposed to do for companies.

By combining data analysis, user research and website tests (also referred to as experiments), the tool helps them understand their customers in “deeper, more meaningful ways.” That, in turn, will lead to bigger profit margins, the firm contends.

Gregory Ng

But why give it away?

“Make no mistake, we’re in the business of making money for ourselves,” said Ng, who joined as the firm’s CEO last September, six months after Brooks, at 38, stepped down over a stage 3 colon cancer diagnosis.

“We made it free because we really believe organizations need this type of tool in order to mature. That’s a big barrier, and it’s in our best interest if the industry matures as a [whole].”

These days, companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple are “setting the bar” for how people interact with technology, Ng said. By monitoring consumer behavior and data, they’re able to “craft the right types” of content to give them the adge.

If smaller businesses want to compete, Ng said, they need to understand their clients better.

“That’s where we come in,” he said.

Under new reigns

Ng previously worked for Brooks Bell from 2008-2015 in various roles, including chief marketing officer, chief strategy officer and vice president of sales.

He returned to the company after a stint at Globant, and now finds himself leading the company through unprecedented times.

Brooks, meanwhile, remains in remission and serves as executive chairman of the company she founded as a Duke University grad back in 2003.

Even now, during a pandemic, Ng confirmed the firm is holding strong. It has a team of around “50 experts,” a second office in San Francisco and counts Fortune 500 firms as its clients.

And as e-commerce surges, upending consumer behavior, the firm’s software is becoming even more relevant, he said.

On the back of the coronavirus outbreak, site eMarketer now expects there to be a 10.5 percent drop in total US retail sales this year. E-commerce, however, is poised to grow 18 percent following a 14.9 percent gain in 2019, further evidence of the digital shift.

Ng said companies that don’t adapt to this new reality, should do so at their own peril. “Organizations that don’t experiment; that are not curious, and do not push towards more relevant personalized experiences, are not going to last.”

That sentiment, he added, is backed up by the firm’s inaugural State of Experimentation Report released this month.

Powered by illuminate, it provides an industry benchmark for leaders to measure the success of their experimentation programs.

“If you look at those [companies] who are leading the market in every category,” Ng said, “the thing that they have in common is that they are data driven, and that they produce more unique relevant experiences.

“In the future, those are organizations that will continue to lead the charge. If other organizations are competing, they must prioritize that type of experience, and we have the solution to compete at that level.”

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