Partner Spotlight: Akeneo

How a PIM can help you unlock your sales potential.

You can’t go far today without coming across the phrase “digital transformation.” To some, it means moving from more traditional business models to those with digital at their core. To others, it’s about embracing new technology or implementing a new omnichannel e-Commerce solution.

But for most retailers, digital transformation is much more complex. It is about changing infrastructures; the way businesses work and think; it’s about re-organising a company to make the most of the possibilities that digital can offer.

Centralising and managing how a business stores and uses its product information is just one part of this. However, in an increasingly complex digital eco-system, it’s fast becoming THE integral piece of the jigsaw.

Bricks and mortar; web; social; mobile apps; marketing; advertising; PR; catalogues - with so many different sales and marketing channels, it’s crucial to have processes in place to centralise and streamline operations when it comes to product images, content, and information.

SQLI partner, Akeneo, has put the PIM – Product Information Management – system centre stage of a brand’s digital transformation.

But for James Barlow, Akeneo’s UK and IRL sales director, a PIM isn’t just a productivity tool – it can help unlock growth and sales potential too.

Speaking exclusively to SQLI, he said: “If you look at every single use case of why someone would need a PIM, they typically fall into one of two brackets.

“One, will be the productivity side, so it's taking far too long to get their product information created, access the information, or get it approved and then sent out to market.

“On the other side, the majority of work that we're doing with our customers is actually helping them sell more products, which is a much more exciting and interesting conversation.

“Today, what we're seeing with a lot of our customers is they're hiring highly-skilled people with marketing degrees or experience of buying merchandise and turning them into data clerks because they're struggling to keep their head above the water in terms of the volume of data they've got to deal with.

“We’re automating a big chunk of the workload, which is allowing those team members to start to focus more on actually, ‘how do we create a better experience for the end user?’ and ‘how do we convince them, ultimately, to buy our products?’ - and that's through a multitude of different ways.

“A PIM is giving businesses more competitive product information and better imagery, but also it's taking into account our time searching for product information because they’re not categorised properly, or you've not got the right SEO information. So, it's an equal balance of selling more and saving time."

With big brands often holding hundreds of thousands of images of their products – all coupled with important product information – searching for the right one for a project can be an arduous task. Multiply that by every team working on a different sales channel and include editing time and how many times this is replicated over a working week and it’s easy to start adding-up the replicated work days lost.

For a large fashion brand like Boohoo, the amount of time saved since integrating the Akeneo PIM solution a year ago is nothing short of staggering.

James said: “Boohoo are one of our most aggressive customers in terms of sheer amount of data they're dealing with - they're adding something crazy like 4,000 new shoes a day into the business.

“In their analysis, they discovered it was it was taking them 10 minutes to create a product listing ready for the web, which is already pretty fast.

“With Akeneo, because a lot of it is now automated, it's down to 30 seconds per product. That’s a massive difference.”

Is it possible to pinpoint just how the PIM system saves a company so much time?

James continued: “There's a lot of different variables that play into it which is similar to any brand that has not been using a PIM before.

“Many are having to enrich certain parts of data for the product in numerous different disparate systems. So, they could be logging in and out of six or seven different systems and then the bulk information is exported into a spreadsheet where further enrichments haven't happened, so then they need to get approved by the higher-ups and so on. Now it's in one central system and a little menial work like categorisations is all done automatically by the system with the rules set up.”

However, it’s the potential for a PIM system to help unlock sales growth, that really excites him when talking to new customers.

James said: “There are three key areas that we focus on. One, is working with the brands to help them move faster, so how do we get your product through the design phase or from the supplier – it’s about time to market.

“With some of our customers in the fast fashion industry, it’s about being quick to react. If there is a new trend, or a celebrity is wearing something new, it’s about getting that variation of the dress out and to market. If a brand like Boohoo gets it out first, they get the lion's share of that market. Time to market and speed you can do this in, is key.

“Second, are the areas that help them sell better. This is about getting the experience in front of people. If you look at any of the statistics around getting traffic to your website, and getting people hooked on your product pages, the stats are quite ominous reading. There’s one that is the six second rule – when someone lands on your website, which is a mountain to climb in the first place – you have six seconds to convince them to continue reading and buying your product before they're bored and go elsewhere. All that we're doing is just making sure that all of that information is comprehensive enough they have what they need.

“The third area is helping them sell anywhere. It's an arduous process enough just to try and sell on one website in the UK. If you've got an international strategy that then multiplies for every region that you're going into from a translation point of view, or from a localisation point of view, just even really simple tasks become time-consuming. It's also thinking about the different channels they're selling into. First the website, but if you want to then start selling on Amazon, you've got to adhere to the strict rules and structures that they've got in place. All of a sudden, you're having to rehash all of that product information. A PIM simplifies all of these processes.”

The pandemic highlighted how important it is for digital brands to be resilient and agile: to be prepared for all eventualities in case of issues that are outside their control. For Akeneo, resilience is about helping brands sell from anywhere easily and quickly.

James continued: “Resilience from a business standpoint means supporting and providing our services wherever needed. From my point of view, I think the whole purpose around what a PIM is there to do, is to be your one central source of truth and help you sell anywhere, I mean, anywhere, whether it's social, commerce, or print catalogues. It's about how we help the business if needed - by plugging in this new revenue stream.

“A PIM is ultimately a piece of software. It's the vehicle that's allowing you to create all these experiences and information. A big challenge that our customers had during the pandemic was the fact that all of a sudden, their workforces distributed across the UK. 

“They needed one collaborative platform that they can all work on and communicate with each other and get things done with a streamlined process. 

“Therefore, it's a collaboration platform that allows vast teams to work together. There’s no real inherent value of having a siloed piece of software, the value comes from actually syndicating the data out to all of your channels and all of your marketplaces. 

“It's a case of, you've got the data, there might need to be some tweaks depending on which market you're selling into, but ultimately, the connections are easy to just spin it up on your new Adobe Commerce platform or your new Amazon venture, or your new Adobe InDesign prints catalogue, or whatever else it might be.” 

When looking at the bigger picture from an e-Commerce point of view and in terms of digital transformation, the PIM journey is only just beginning. However, it is quickly becoming integral to how digital retailers shape their businesses and processes - and it looks like an exciting time for Akeneo and PIMs in general.

James added: “Germany was the birthplace of the PIM and the UK is only really starting to get a grip on it. We've seen a major amount of growth in the UK in the last couple of years, even before COVID.

“What we're expecting and seeing now is it becoming one of the first stops for retailers when looking at their budgets around omnichannel. It is definitely a very steep sector, in terms of growth, similar to what the CRM market was looking like 15 years ago, and we believe it’s going to continue in this manner for the foreseeable future.”