Highlights from #Unlock2021

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in and attended Unlock 2021! We are overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled by the positive responses we’ve received about Akeneo’s first-ever digital event. With 2,000 registrants, we’re confident this was the biggest gathering — virtual or in person — of PXM and PIM practitioners to date in the world.

Akeneo’s in-person user conferences have traditionally been oriented around a theme, and this year’s virtual event was no different — Unlocking Growth Through Product Experiences. The Akeneo headquarters was transformed into a scene reminiscent of the time of “extraordinary voyages” as described in the works of French novelist Jules Verne, who, like Akeneo, was born in Nantes. Read on as we take a short walk down memory lane and revisit some of the best moments from Unlock 2021.

Opening Keynote

Akeneo CEO Fred de Gombert opened the conference with a conversation with emcee Francois Chaix to discuss his personal experiences with online shopping during the “extraordinary voyage” that was 2020, and the impact that it had on the world of commerce. “If 2020 taught us one thing, it’s back to basics,” he said. “The job is to sell products. And so wherever products are sold, we need to ensure that the product itself creates a compelling experience.”

The conversation turned on the discussion about customer experience versus product experience. “For years, retailers have been urged to massively invest in customer experience. But then came lockdowns, and what happened? No stores. No more fancy customer experiences,” Fred continued. “One impact from 2020 has been the sudden acceleration of digital channel adoption. Suddenly, managing the product experience became a bottleneck for growth. And PXM has become a real transformation for the long term.” 

Fred was quick to conclude, however, that “PXM is not only about technology. It is also about people and process.”

Panel Discussion

Unlock 2021 sponsors Vaimo, BigCommerce, Productsup, and Translations.com joined Fred following his keynote. This lively session of Akeneo partners shared perspectives on how to define and think of product experience management, the main components of what makes a good product experience, and who has ownership within an organization for creating and managing those experiences. The panel also discussed whether PXM was relevant for only B2C, or whether B2B organizations should worry about it. On this point, the panel was in universal agreement — the product experience is more important in B2B. For manufacturers who use printed catalogs, it’s critical to avoid any information mismatch in content parity across channels. The panel also advised that as B2B companies continue to implement direct-to-customer (D2C or DTC) strategies, the product experience needs to be better and more consistent in order to reduce pressure on the total cost of sale.

PXM Maturity Assessment

Following up on Fred’s and the panel’s comments about PXM and its adoption, Akeneo’s PXM Evangelist Virginie Blot and head of product marketing Ali Hanyaloglu discussed the results to date from Akeneo’s PXM Maturity Assessment. This online tool asks 14 multiple-choice questions to assess an organization’s maturity in the areas of people, process, and technology to ensure great product experiences, and offers actionable recommendations on changes you can make. According to the responses, one-third of senior management is still blind to the strategic value of quality product information and the impact it has on driving growth. Furthermore, results to date show that 73% are unhappy with the way collaboration works today. According to Virginie and Ali, “The importance of collaboration across internal teams will have a large impact on the success of your product information management processes.”

Gallery of Great Product Experiences

In the above sessions, we discussed why PXM is so important, how to approach the practice, and the state of PXM today. But what does a good product experience look like? The gallery of great product experiences session looked at some B2C and B2B examples from Akeneo customers who we think are delivering the kinds of experiences customers want and expect. Take a look — how does your product experience measure up?

Customer-led Sessions

Half a dozen Akeneo customers offered insights and lessons learned from their PXM journeys to unlock growth in their businesses, whether by expanding their catalog, adding new channels, or entering new markets. They all echoed the comments from the opening keynote about transformation, change, experimentation, and the need for compelling product experiences.

Evelyne Cardinal from Solotech, an audio-visual and entertainment technology services company, talked about how, with the demise of in-person events in 2020, Solotech leveraged Akeneo PIM to enable a rapid move to selling used audio equipment via eCommerce which  led to significant growth in that part of their business. “We initially chose Akeneo PIM Community Edition because it looked easy, and it took IT just a few hours to get it ready,” said Evelyne. “We decided to migrate to Enterprise Edition to create automation in our process. What’s great is as we migrate to our new eCommerce platform, there’s no need to recreate the catalog.”

European footwear retailer Melvin & Hamilton offered insights for how PIM helped their move to expand into new markets. Anja Skolozdrzyk noted, “With Akeneo we can work on translations simultaneously, which we could not do on our ecommerce platform, which saved us 50% in time and effort.” Anja also offered advice for companies looking to fast-track their growth: “Think easy and think big. Choose tools that will facilitate your work and allow you to grow fast.”

Office supplies retailer and business services firm Staples Canada dove into the world of PXM as part of a complete digital transformation across their business. Jeff Serota advised us that “Taking the position ‘that’s the way we did it before’ is never a good thing when you’re going through a transformation.” As a result, Staples completely retooled and revised their processes to enable them to better serve their customers. As Jeff stated, “For Staples, product experience is about what our customers are looking for, what they need and want, in order to work and learn more effectively.”

French fashion brand Zadig & Voltaire offered insights into unlocking growth as part of their omnichannel sales strategy. According to Global CIO Fabien Delivre, “For the omnichannel experience we wanted to offer, we needed one source of truth for every sales touchpoint” and the best way Zadig & Voltaire saw to achieve that was through greater efficiency and fewer manual operations in order to speed time to market.

South African furniture and home goods retailer JD Group offered many interesting thoughts on the importance of PXM in unlocking growth through catalog expansion, and had the business results to back it up. Garreth Trent noted that “Online customers can’t interact with people who can recommend and explain products, so online product data needs to act like a salesperson.” He also remarked that “Consistent product data and marketing messages help our customers trust us, and they’ll find a similar experience on every channel.” JD Group’s results have been impressive — they grew their catalog from 6,000 to 20,000 products, and cut the time to prepare products for sale from 6 days to 6 hours. Impressive, indeed!

Hotel chain Accor Group had a different yet highly interesting twist on how PXM helps their business. They used Akeneo to help achieve a digital transformation in their procurement process. Their idea was to take B2C marketplace standards and adapt them for B2B, with a special focus on product information. According to Emmanuel Barbosa, “PIM is a real must-have. It helps us enhance our business relationships with our suppliers and become more mature in the customer relationship. As a result, we have really achieved our digital transformation in our procurement processes with our suppliers and partners.”

Product Highlights & Demonstrations

In Akeneo PIM Summits of the past, there are always several sessions focused on new products and new features released in the prior year, and Unlock 2021 was no different. Our product managers delivered a series of product highlights sessions as well as some deeper dives into the products which included short demonstrations of new capabilities and products.

The What’s New in Akeneo PIM 5.0 session recapped some of the notable enhancements released to our SaaS customers on a monthly basis over the past year, culminating in the 5.0 version. Due to time constraints we could not discuss the more than 70 new features, but they are documented and easily found in the Help Center!

Two of the sessions were dedicated to drilling down into enhancements in two exciting Enterprise Edition features – the first one on Data Quality Insights and the second on the new user interface for the Rules Engine. With these enhancements, catalog management teams can more easily understand the state of data quality by product and across the entire catalog, as well as build their own business rules to simplify and automate product data enrichment – no coding required!

As discussed by Fred and in the PXM Maturity Assessment session, PXM is also about people and process. A session on governance and productivity enhancements gave an overview of areas of the Akeneo PIM technology that were improved to support these two equally-important pillars of PXM.

As we like to say, a PIM by itself is useless, so Unlock 2021 also featured a session on what’s new with Akeneo’s premium connectors on the marketplace and a session on product data synchronization. The latter session covered new ways to manage connections between the PIM and the systems that surround it, which is so critical to ensuring a smooth integration from raw product data to compelling experiences delivered to eCommerce platforms and more.

Further on the subject of collecting and distributing product data, a product highlight session covered enhancements in Akeneo Onboarder – used for onboarding supplier product data – and a new product called Shared Catalogs, which makes it easy to share published product information with internal and external stakeholders. This session was supplemented by separate talks which offered additional details and demonstrations of Akeneo Onboarder and Akeneo Shared Catalogs.

With the addition of the new Shared Catalogs product, Akeneo’s offering has expanded yet again. A session describing the Akeneo PXM Studio explains how everything fits together and supports the practice of product experience management.

Speaking of new products, we also announced the availability of a new PIM offering called Akeneo Growth Edition. This session described this new offering that is targeted at helping small/medium businesses compete by delivering better product experiences, but using the same type of technology that larger enterprises use. With Growth Edition, customers have a proven SaaS-based PIM that gives access to many of the same core capabilities from our fully-featured Enterprise edition.

If you were unable to attend Unlock 2021, which ran nearly the entire month of April, you’re still in luck! Just click the links embedded above, or browse and watch them in the Videos section of our Resource Center.

See you next year (and hopefully in person!).

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