Q&A: Kristin Naragon, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Akeneo
Akeneo is the product experience (PX) company, enabling organisations to build and deliver world-class product experiences across every customer touchpoint through a comprehensive PX Strategy, powered by the world’s first intelligent Product Cloud software solution. Product experiences are the stories that your products tell wherever they show up in the customer journey.
By providing best-of-breed technology and expertise, Akeneo’s Product Cloud accelerates growth, reduces time-to-market and gives organisations the competitive edge needed to convert browsers into buyers.
Leading global brands, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, including The Very Group, boohoo, Dunelm, Kering and more trust Akeneo to scale and customise their omnichannel commerce initiatives. Using Akeneo’s AI-infused Product Cloud, companies activate product experiences in any and all channels to drive improved customer journeys from discovery to purchase to post-sales engagements, resulting in increased sales, reduced returns, faster time-to-market and increased team productivity.
What’s special about the platform and your approach?
Akeneo’s platform provides a comprehensive solution to manage product information and omnichannel product activation. In the era of experience-driven commerce, both B2C and B2B brands and retailers are increasingly relying upon the power of unified product information to deliver compelling and relevant customer experiences across all sales channels.
In 2022 Akeneo launched Akeneo Product Cloud which provides a roadmap for enabling retail leaders to consolidate, better orchestrate and optimise all of the components that go into creating a bold, compelling product story across any customer channel. Often retailers have to deal with siloed and redundant technologies to manage the entire product record, with complex and expensive custom integrations, multiple stakeholders and manual workarounds. Akeneo Product Cloud is being designed to provide one composable place where product experiences are managed, activated and optimised throughout the entire product information lifecycle in a composable and scalable way.
How are retailers using your system to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like? Can you share a case study with us?
Assa Abloy, a global leader in access products and services including corporate security systems, locks, doors, gates and keys, has been working with Akeneo to ensure that its products are listed and displayed online to give customers the most convenient, rapid and rewarding user, browser and buying experience. Before Akeneo, Assa Abloy’s digital product catalogue included 6,000 SKUs, with only the bare minimum of descriptions like product code, product title and one image. When it migrated to Akeneo’s Product Information Management (PIM) system, this expanded to 15,000 SKUs, with 200 attributes (or types of descriptions) per product. Imagine that bare bones product description turned into nearly 3x more products that are now more richly described with “romance copy” or product descriptions, colour, dimensions, 5+ product images and videos.
This year, it has already grown its product catalogue to 46,000 SKUs. Users report that they now have a single source of truth when it comes to Product Information: Akeneo has provided a centralised repository to store, manage, organise and activate all product information in one place. Users can easily create, update, and maintain product data, ensuring accuracy and consistency across multiple channels, empowering teams to work smarter and create product content and facilitate customer needs.
Akeneo’s category tree, which automates the process of getting a product on to Assa Abloy’s webstore, is helping not just save time but also improve product information accuracy and consistency. What was taking product managers 1-2 days to get a product live online now takes as little as 15 minutes–with more and better information. The team recently incorporated Akeneo PIM Product Variants into its Adobe AEM sites solution, which resulted in an increase of 27% in page views and a 16% decrease in users leaving the site.
Are there other companies you partner with?
Akeneo has an extensive ecosystem of partners that are all experts in their fields to ensure our customers can meet their commerce, PIM and Product Experience Management (PXM) goals. Akeneo’s recent acquisition of Unifai, an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that has been a wildly successful partner solution in the Akeneo App Store, is indicative of the value our partners bring.
Unifai is a widely adopted solution dedicated to applying AI to PX. Customers of both Akeneo and Unifai benefited from Unifai’s intelligence in solving for the first and most critical phase of product information activation – data collection, cleansing, categorisation and enrichment. The strategic acquisition will revolutionise Akeneo’s Product Cloud offering, infusing intelligence and cutting-edge technology to further elevate product experiences for brands, manufacturers, retailers and distributors globally.
What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2023/ What challenges are retailers facing in 2023?
The use of ChatGPT and other generative AI technologies is revolutionising the retail industry by providing customers with omnichannel shopping experiences that are personalised, convenient, and enriched, and that’s exciting. But the big caveat is that product information needs to be optimised and up to date before it’s even possible to take advantage of these advancements. If there aren’t enough attributes detailed in a centralised product catalogue (ready for any channel), it doesn’t matter how advanced the generative AI algorithm is – the product experience will fall short. Because when it comes to generative AI, it’s all about the prompts. And when it comes to generating product romance copy, the prompts are the product attributes tailored to meet the requirements of every distribution channel. In short, using generative AI for product content really only works if you have a modern, composable, omnichannel PIM.
And that fundamental truth is the driver behind Akeneo’s acquisition of Unifai – which provides technology that solves three core challenges for PX in the product data collection and cleansing step – supplier data onboarding, pricing integration and marketplace seller onboarding. Unifai has already made a significant impact in the industry. Joint customers like Rexel, a B2B distributor, achieved an 80% reduction in manual efforts and a 3x time to market acceleration, while sporting goods retailer, Intersport, drove a 50%-time reduction in product data processing. By integrating Unifai’s AI/ML capabilities alongside Akeneo’s supplier data onboarding solution, a typical customer can aim to achieve 50% time savings with 95% accuracy in data onboarding processes.
How will you address these challenges and turn them into success?
In order to help organisations to embrace this new wave of technology, Akeneo will be creating the first ever AI for PX Centre of Excellence. This initiative will openly share with PX professionals the best practices for applying AI to PX, the pitfalls and the latest innovations and will be curated by Unifai’s exceptional team of AI experts – who have worked in Amazon’s leading AI engineering units and have been recognized as Forbes Under 30 honourees within the retail and ecommerce categories. They have also earned the company accolades at Tech for Retail and the 2021 Startup of the Year award by KPMG and FEVAD.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
Akeneo is on a mission to help companies around the world to discover the power of investing in creating and activating rich product experiences, at a level that is of equal if not more importance to their investment in customer experiences. We’re incredibly excited to join forces with Unifai and to apply their expertise in AI/ML to accelerate that mission even faster through practical software applications and sensible education. Together, we will continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in product experience management (PXM).
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