Scenes From The Experience Renaissance: 5 Highlights from #APS2019

The Experience Renaissance has arrived.

Earlier this month, Akeneo welcomed more than 300 members of the Akeneo family to Paris, France for the latest edition of the Akeneo PIM Summit. Over the course of two days, partners, customers, and special guests gave attendees a look at how PIM is being used to solve omnichannel challenges, examined the ways PXM is reshaping the PIM market and unveiled innovations to the assembled PIM devotees.

If you were unable to join us at Châteauform City George V in Paris, today’s your lucky day. Here’s your chance to look back at highlights from #APS2019 — and if you were lucky enough to find yourself in the crowd on February 6 and 7, now’s your chance to relive some of your favorite moments.

1. Enter the Renaissance Experience

Fred de Gombert’s choice for the right outfit to open #APS2019 was neither an accident nor a fashion faux pas.

Instead, the Akeneo CEO hoped to get attendees into the right frame of mind by donning some dapper, time period-appropriate threads as the Summit kicked off.  It’s time for a change in the way we think about a customer’s journey through the purchasing process, Fred declared, and for a renewed emphasis on customer experience in retail; an Experience Renaissance, as it were.

According to Fred, this rebirth and transformation of retail norms won’t mean the end of commerce as we know it, nor does it foretell the arrival of the so-called “Retail Apocalypse.” Instead, it will simply see companies in a wide range of industries combine the lessons learned, mistakes made, and successes sustained during recent years of retail upheaval to create a new, experience-focused offering. This transformation won’t be easy, he acknowledged, but will be crucial to the success, and even survival, of the retail industry.

There is no innovation without collaboration,” the Akeneo CEO told APS 2019 attendees. “We need to be humble. We need to share our data and collaborate. We need to work in full transparency with our peers. We need to unlearn everything we know to start innovating and differentiating again. This should start with the experiences we are crafting.”

2. “Work Is Theater”

Fred wasn’t the only speaker to center their thoughts around customer experience, however. After the Akeneo CEO left the stage, author Joe Pine appeared, ready to dispense insights from the modern retail market, or what he calls “The Experience Economy.”

As Pine explained, having access to a source of raw materials was once a distinct economic advantage — but as these materials became easier to access, they became commoditized, stripping them of most of their value. Manufactured products and goods then became a driver of value, and when these also became commoditized, a service-based economy took their place. However, in recent years, service-based offerings have become yet another commodity, a staple of survival in the modern market.

“Goods and services are no longer enough,” Pine claimed. Instead, brands and retailers must give customers a top-notch experience in order to stand out from the competition.

Now, Pine said, the time has come for companies from electronics and makeup manufacturers to restaurants and retail stores to realize that “work is theatre.” And in the Experience Economy, brands and retailers that treat customers to a good show, along with quality products and services, will likely be the ones to come out on top.

3. “There’s No One Experience To Rule Them All”

Akeneo CEO Fred de Gombert wasn’t finished with APS 2019 attendees after his time-traveling intro, however. He returned to the stage, albeit without his Renaissance-themed attire, later on Day 1 to give the assembled crowd insights into the Science of Product Experience.

While Product Experience is the key to success in the modern market, Fred said it would be a mistake to believe that building one consistent, all-encompassing customer experience across all channels would offer the compelling experiences that convert shoppers into customers. Instead, he opined, it’s important to realize that each touchpoint has its own rules and best practices.

There is no ‘One Experience to Rule Them All,’” Fred explained. “This is a mistake we already made in the early days of eCommerce, when we were trying to replicate point of sales paradigms in a website.”

In other words, it’s impossible to deliver the same experience, or even similar experiences, via both a vocal assistant and a social network, for example. What’s more, most buyers aren’t looking for this level of consistency. To satisfy their customers, brands and retailers must create compelling experiences that cater to the context of each channel.

That means using the unique capabilities and properties of eCommerce, mobile apps, vocal assistants, social media networks, and other sales channels to develop experiences that are distinct from one another while remaining consistent with a brand’s identity.

4. Product Data Intelligence Takes Centerstage

It’s fair to say that Day 2 of the Akeneo PIM Summit kicked off with a bang.

The day’s first keynote featured Akeneo’s Product Marketing Director, John Evans,  and the company’s Head of Product, Emilie Gieler. The pair were on hand to introduce the latest addition to the Akeneo family: Franklin.

As Gieler and Evans explained, Franklin is all about Product Data Intelligence and designed to offer brands and retailers actionable knowledge about products. Available as a standalone product known as Ask Franklin, or accessible from within Akeneo PIM as Franklin Insights, the AI-based product library brings machine learning capabilities to Akeneo PIM and automates the product information curation and enrichment process.

Franklin’s subscription-based library dramatically increases the efficiency of catalog managers and reduces time-to-market, while giving merchants data-driven insights that ensure the accuracy, comprehensiveness, and effectiveness of generated product data.

Franklin wasn’t the only solution to make its grand debut at APS 2019, of course. Gieler and Evans also unveiled Akeneo PIM Version 3.0, the latest update to Akeneo’s original PIM solution.

This new release allows users to create and natively enrich reference entities, pieces of common information that are shared among products, like brands, designers, collections, colors, and more. This can help brands and retailers deliver deeper experiences to customers by providing richer product information while also reducing time-to-market.

It also includes support for Single Sign-On using a SAML-based authentication system that allows managers to handle all user permissions in a centralized place, as well as a new and improved user interface designed to make the solution faster and more efficient.

5. Myer, SLV, and Obelink named PIM Champions

Akeneo wasn’t the only company to have a chance to stand in the spotlight before APS 2019 came to a close. A trio of customers also had their moments in the sun, taking a moment to pose on stage with a trophy (and a Ziggy of their very own) after taking home one of APS’ four awards.

Obelink, along with its partner, Induxx, were named the winners of the conference’s “Rising Star” award (formerly known as the Rookie Award.) This was Induxx’s first PIM implementation and was aimed at helping the Netherlands-based outdoor retailer Obelink improve the accuracy and consistency of omnichannel product data. The pair also worked together to implement more efficient workflows, increase collaboration across the retailer’s marketing, eCommerce and translation teams, and boost their customer experience.

Meanwhile, Australian retail giant Myer and implementation partner eWave walked away as winners in the Best B2C Project category. As Robert Schwab, Myer’s senior project manager, explained in his keynote address on Day 1, Myer invested in a PIM solution in hopes of improving product information quality. The project also helped Myer, Australia’s largest and oldest department store, decrease time-to-market, make product enrichment easier and more efficient, and give customers a more compelling experience.

But worldwide B2B lighting manufacturer SLV and its partners Portaltech Reply will likely go down as the week’s big winners.

The pair took home two distinct awards — the Best B2B Project and the People’s Choice Award — for their PIM implementation efforts, and their crowd-pleasing video submission. The pair worked to help SLV centralize access to data, improve distribution processes, and allow them to make processing and printing their annual run of hundreds of thousands of “Big White” catalogs easier and more efficient using Akeneo PIM.

Thanks to all our customers, partners, and sponsors for making the 2019 Akeneo PIM Summit such a special event. We can’t wait to see you again next year!

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