Delivering personalised search experiences in an ethical way – Interview with Angel Maldonado of


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Today’s interview is with Angel Maldonado, CEO & Founder of Empathy, who create human-centred, commerce search & discovery platforms that combine innovative technology, behaviour-based algorithms and data intelligence with understanding and empathy to enrich customer interactions. Angel joins me today to talk about ethical commerce, the Ethical Commerce Alliance, the changing data and privacy landscape and how we can deliver personalised search experiences in an ethical way.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Lack of a clear vision leads to higgledy-piggledy services and experiences – Interview with Ari Weinzweig of Zingermans – and is number 437 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my chat with Angel:

  • We take a different approach to online search, particularly on ecommerce sites.
  • We think it is not just about what it does but also about the way it makes people feel.
  • Ethical commerce doesn’t treat people as objects or as a mere wallet but rather as a human being.
  • It focuses on trying to see the whole person or the things that they’re trying to buy or do or achieve etc.
  • Search on major brand websites is largely horrifying.
  • I remember doing a project where I typed ‘customer service’ into the search box on a retailers website and the search engine returned 77 different types of white trainers as the most relevant results rather than going any link to customer service or help.
  • We approach search with the person in mind and help produce results that try to evoke that beautiful feeling of being understood and results that aspire to be aesthetic and physiologically agreeable.
  • Search is often an overlooked aspect of how we engage with digital properties and how we engage with the search for information.
  • This happens in the thinking of digital leaders who are focused on driving an online shop. They have all these preoccupations with the online shopping process but when you go to an online shop the very first thing that happens is that you search and browse.
  • The problem is that we design with that in mind.
  • However, when you make a choice there’s so much more in your mind than just what you did in the past.
  • We need to start to think and design in the way that people make choices.
  • What we’re doing in Empathy to the world of personalisation is to challenge all of the common assumptions and practices.
  • In fact, we don’t call it personalisation. We call it ethical context realisation.
  • We look at what you’re doing now in a session and based on what you’re doing now, we provide shortcuts or recommendations. But, none of that is based on other people and their experiences.
  • No cookies or trackers are used. The approach is privacy first. Search results are enticing and relevant.
  • As a result, engagement goes up, customers browse for longer and buy more.
  • Recently launched, which is designed for small shops to be able to add‘s functionality and experience to their online shop.
  • We learned a lot from a research group in Harvard called vendor relationship management (VRM), which takes a decentralised view where every household becomes the platform and declares what they need and what brands they want to engage with.
  • Angel talks about their experience with brands like Massimo Dutti and Kroger amongst others and the benefits that they have achieve by embracing this approach.
  • For example, another customer (Carrefour) has seen a rise of 49% in search sessions and a fall of 48% in cart abandonment since implementing the Empathy platform.
  • If you turn up the volume on privacy it doesn’t mean that you are left with nothing or no options.
  • There’s so much more you can do when somebody trusts you.
  • Check out the Ethical Commerce Alliance, an independent, open space for education and knowledge sharing on data protection beyond the GDPR baseline.
  • We really, really, really have to take a stand for what is right.
  • When you think of your new product, your new company, your new feature or your new capability, don’t think of a user, see the person.
  • Angel’s Punk CX word(s): (Data) disobedience
  • Angel’s Punk XL brand: Brewdog

About Angel

Angel MaldonadoAngel Maldonado has spent the last 20 years passionately developing and executing Commerce Search and Discovery solutions. Having studied Computer Information Systems at Liverpool University, Angel started his career working for Autonomy, where he helped clients on pioneering enterprise search projects for seven years before founding

As the founder of, Angel drives forward the product vision, innovation and ethos of creating a company with truly organic values. Privately held with no external investors, cash-flow positive and fast growing, Empathy is free to focus on product, innovate and relentlessly pursue customer success.

Angel is an evangelist and enthusiastic communicator who regularly speaks at industry events. He likes to explore the future of commerce search, placing the importance on people, their emotions and unpredictability, rather than data and processes, to create experiences that generate an emotional connection. That is transforming the interactions between consumers and brands across trust.

A keen sea sport enthusiast, Angel plays the guitar and enjoys poetry and meditation. He’s lived in the US, Spain and the UK and now splits his time between London and Asturias (Spain).

Find out more about Angel and at their website, say Hi on Twitter @EmpathyCo_ and @angelmaldonado and feel free to connect with Angel on LinkedIn here.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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