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Mar 08, 2024

3 min to read

Shaping the Future: Women in MACH Illuminate Tech Trends

Dive into the future of retail and celebrate International Women's Day with us as we spotlight the pivotal insights shared by leading women in tech. Explore the trends shaping the industry today, from the integration of generative AI and the crafting of seamless omnichannel experiences to the strategic implementation of digital product passports and effective mitigation of product returns. Plus, discover the vital role of mentorship and networking in fostering diverse representation and leadership within the tech landscape.


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Reducing Returns

Retail Trends

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the ongoing journey towards gender equality within the tech sector.

As of late 2023, women made up about 35% of the tech workforce, but that number starts to dip as you climb up the corporate ladder. In C-suite leadership roles, women make up only 25%, and that dwindles to a measly 5% for women of color. 

The tech industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation and transformation, influencing virtually every aspect of our lives – women have to have a seat at that table of discussion, not just as participants but as leaders shaping the future of technology. 

In light of this, we’d like to highlight the voices of a few great women leaders in our industry. At NRF this year, the Women of MACH recorded an episode on emerging trends to come in this year and beyond. 

Hosted by Amanda Cole, Chief Marketing Officer at Bloomreach, the episode featured insightful discussions with Kristin Naragon, Chief Strategy Officer at Akeneo; Casey Gannon, VP of Marketing & Technology Partnerships at Bold Commerce; and Isabell Aakervik, Chief Expansion Officer at Sitoo

Together, they shared their expertise on a variety of interesting topics, including generative AI, omnichannel experiences, strategies for reducing returns, and the future of sustainability initiatives. Plus, these women share their advice on how to not only navigate a male-dominated industry, but how to bring your fellow women along.

You can watch the full video here or check out the 5 key takeaways we’ve distilled for you below.

1. The rising prevalence of genAI

“I think a lot of our technology companies are learning how to respond to AI and make sure that we focus on the customer experience.” – Amanda Cole, Chief Marketing Officer, Bloomreach

Throughout 2023 and into 2024, the conversation around AI and large language models gained significant momentum. The women in the panel shared how their individual companies are navigating this new wave of technology, and how they incorporated AI-powered solutions to enhance operations across various instances.

While the potential of AI can often be hyperbolized and oversold, the panel focused on the practical use cases that companies could employ AI technology today, such as:

  • Generating and enriching product content
  • Cleansing data for reduced inaccuracies
  • Enhancing work automation
  • Supporting customer service roles
  • Automating content translation

We have a customer, Havaiana’s the Brazilian flip flop company . . . they leveraged Akeneo and some of the AI-powered tools that we have and they saw, on the Amazon Channel alone, an 800% increase in traffic to those sites and a 50% lift in conversions and orders due to those AI-powered descriptions alone.

2. The importance of omnichannel experiences

The “shop anywhere” concept has been gaining traction for a while now, underlining the need for brands and retailers to offer seamless experiences across every customer touchpoint. The women of the panel touched on innovative strategies for merging the digital and physical realms of customer engagement, and highlighted the consequences of incomplete, poor product experiences; the dreaded return.

To meet these growing customer expectations, brands and retailers are increasingly adopting new technologies that blur the lines between online and offline experiences, be it unified customer profiles, integrated inventory management systems, or advanced analytics platforms to personalize customer interactions regardless of the touchpoint. The goal is to create a shopping experience that is not only convenient but also consistent, allowing consumers to switch between channels and touchpoints effortlessly.

The panel also delved into the specific challenges and opportunities presented by returns that occur from poor product experiences. They highlighted that returns are an integral part of the shopping experience but often come with significant logistical challenges and environmental impacts, and even shared their tips on how to minimize the impact of these returns, particularly through new technologies.

We know that shopping behavior is changing, and it will continue to change . . . The customer is searching for information online, so they are more informed than ever before when they enter the store - that is where you can create an immersive customer experience.

3. Flexible, adaptable tech stacks to prepare for Digital Product Passport legislation

As environmental and social consciousness continues to influence consumer choices, the ability to offer insight into product supply chains and manufacturing processes is a key differentiating factor. As the panelists highlight, although consumers are increasingly seeking out brands that can demonstrate responsibility and transparency, these factors will soon not just be suggested improvements to the customer experience but a global regulation.

The European Digital Product Passport (DPP) initiative, part of the broader European Green Deal approved in 2020, is setting a new precedent for transparency in supply chains. The DPP aims to consolidate data regarding a product’s lifecycle, including its environmental impact and supply chain details, into a single, accessible format. This initiative mandates a level of openness that requires retailers to rethink their approach to data management and sharing across the value chain, including manufacturers, repairers, and consumers.

Enter MACH architecture (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless) – a technological framework that offers the agility and flexibility retailers need to navigate these evolving demands and regulations. MACH architecture enables retailers to decouple their digital platforms into manageable, interchangeable components, which can be updated or replaced without disrupting the entire system. This modularity is particularly advantageous for adapting to requirements like those introduced by the DPP, as it allows for rapid integration of new functionalities or adjustments to existing processes.

Whether it's legislation, or needing to adapt what's happening in the market, like needing to move to BOPIS and curbside when COVID hit, there are always going to be things that we need to be able to adapt to quickly, and I believe the MACH architecture gives you the ability to have digital agility.

4. Mitigating product returns through product information

In a retail landscape where efficiency and sustainability are increasingly paramount, the discussion of the NRF panelists shed light on a trend with substantial impact: mitigating product returns through enhanced product information.

The number of returns in 2023 was over $700 billion dollars in the US alone, and that's not just a company impact; that's an economic impact and it's an environmental impact. The tactic {of tightening return policies} that was deployed in 2023 is antithesis to what consumers want - over 90% of consumers check the return policy, and if they have a negative feeling toward strict return policies, 64% will find an alternative purchase where there's a better return policy.

A strategic approach to product returns can lead to more efficient customer acquisition, higher conversion rates, and strengthened customer loyalty, among others. The first step? Identify the critical details that customers may need at any point in their journey. By anticipating the questions and concerns that customers may have, you can ensure that your product information addresses their needs proactively.

Once you’ve identified the essential product information, gather and enrich the data to create compelling product content (this is where genAI, once again, plays a big role, as highlighted by our panelists!). It’s also crucial to localize the product content for different regions and channels to ensure relevance and resonance with diverse audiences and channels. By ensuring consistency and accessibility across all channels, you can empower customers to make informed purchasing decisions without the need for returns.


5. The importance of mentorship and networking for women in tech

As the discussion on emerging retail trends drew to a close, the panelists shifted focus towards fostering inclusivity and empowerment for women and diverse groups within the tech industry. Their conversation underscored the crucial roles of mentorship, self-belief, and the embrace of vulnerability as a strength in navigating the path to representation in technology and leadership roles.

Below are just a few of our favorite quotes:

Casey Gannon: “I have two really simple pieces of advice. The first is to find a mentor who is where you want to be  in 5 to 10 years – particularly, if you’re a woman, try to find a woman mentor {in that position}. The second is just to prioritize your network and particularly with other women in your industry.”

Kristin Naragon: “If you’re a woman in a position of some influence or power, I think it’s really important not only to find and seek out females who you can lift up with you but also to really mentor the men who are coming up the ranks. I take the time on a very regular basis to work with men because it’s important for them to see our styles and how we lead, and to make sure that they feel, when they rise into those positions of power, that they understand how women lead in similar and different ways.”

Isabell Aakervik: Believe in yourself – we women are very good at not believing in ourselves, so I would say stay strong! 

Amanda Cole: This panel is four powerhouse professionals who just all happen to be women in MACH. There’s access to experienced professionals who also represent diverse groups and hopefully we continue to see growth in that. My advice would be, do not be a loud negative voice very similar to what Isabelle was saying! Don’t be your worst critic, and definitely take moments to celebrate yourself.



International Women’s Day acts as a reminder for us all that the journey towards gender equity and diversity in tech is a collective effort. It requires the engagement of individuals and organizations alike to create environments where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and contribute to the technological advancements shaping our world.

Championing inclusivity, mentorship, and support enables more voices to be heard and more talents to shine within the tech industry, and if we can continue to foster an environment where innovation thrives and diverse perspectives are valued, we can look forward to a future where the tech industry is as rich and varied as the world it aims to serve.

Vulnerability in leadership is a growing trend, and women just happen to be pretty natural at it a lot of times! So let's take those two things and use them to continue to move forward and get diverse voices represented in our groups.

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