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How to profit from change

The challenges facing retailers and brands to build compelling as well as commercial online experiences for their customers are becoming heavier, but they also present opportunities… View Article


How to profit from change

The challenges facing retailers and brands to build compelling as well as commercial online experiences for their customers are becoming heavier, but they also present opportunities for change, says Kristin Naragon, Chief Strategy Officer at Akeneo.

If there is a new normal it is that change is constant. For instance, the moment Amazon publishes its requirements to third parties, they change and more often than ever. And now, looking ahead to 2026, all products sold within the EU will need their own digital passports supported by a long list of attributes related to sourcing and supply chain in order to demonstrate their sustainability, all catalogued in a way that can be shared.

Consumers meanwhile continue to demand more, and as research in Akeneo’s 2023 global consumer survey revealed, price remains their top priority particularly while their budgets are under strain. They also expect immersive product experiences, great service from search to return, a clear commitment to the environment from their suppliers, and the right to shop across any channel.

And yet, what for some may seem like more problems and more cost, for others constant change is an opportunity for them to move early and fast. Digital product passports for instance will enable brands to enhance their ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) commitments to customers by subscribing to recognised schemes. And building better and more personalised online experiences generates not only higher spend per transaction but also higher customer lifetime value.

However, the journey for those companies that are currently using a mixture of automated and manual processes to build product information and product experience resources, as well as working in different ways from department to department, will find compliance even more difficult than they do now.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most companies are held back by the limitations of a tech stack that has been acquired in pieces and over time. Adding best of breed PIM software may solve raw product data input, but this is only the start of the journey. A solution is needed that can continuously enrich that data, onboard suppliers quickly, activate new channels and analyse progress so that improvements can be made continuously.

The ideal solution must then be able to use product data to build experiences for consumers that are shopping through multiple channels, browsing at intervals rather than all at once, demanding a much greater depth of information, and expecting consistency across the whole shopping experience.

Achieving this demands integration of software, processes and teams, something only possible using a composable approach which enables companies to use their existing tech stack while adding APIs to link new capabilities from multiple best of breed ecommerce vendors. In this way, product records are maintained, making it easier to serve up personalised experiences to any customer depending on their journey.

Solutions can then be added or subtracted at will, without affecting the core data record or system performance. This approach is supported by the industry standard for best-of-breed technology ecosystems, the MACH Alliance, which espouses Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless to support a composable enterprise in which technologies are replaceable and scalable.

There are four main areas of benefit to this approach.

  1. Operational costs are reduced through automation when compared to manual processes
  2. Errors are reduced which ensures that experiences go online more quickly and perform more effectively
  3. Teams are freed to focus on core activities including sourcing, purchasing, merchandising, and pricing.
  4. Customers that receive personalised experiences online spend more and more often.

The journey does not stop there. If we can agree that change and unpredictability are constants, then companies using PIM and PXM with all the flexibility of composable commerce will have data records of such breadth and depth that adding Artificial Intelligence will not only accelerate the rate of automation, it will enable companies to map better to channels, markets (existing and new), partners, product sizing, all the while knowing that they are fully compliant with product passports or whatever other regulation comes along.

Ultimately, what seals the deal is how this approach tackles returns, a problem that is getting worse and which can only be reduced once retailers can present products to customers in a way that is most likely to see them hold on to them.

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