Product management is no small task for retailers. Especially as product catalogs, a once-print-based medium, moved onto the web and more recently into mobile channels.
Frédéric de Gombert, CEO of software startup Akeneo, first noticed the problematic methods by which brands managed product inventory information while working at an IT company helping clients manage or maintain their transitions to eCommerce.
“Many of them were struggling when it came time to provide product information to the website — photos or a description or technical specifications,” de Gombert said. “They were trying to consolidate all of the information coming from their ERP and Excel spreadsheets.”
For one luxury fashion brand, de Gombert said, it took a four-person team between five and six months to publish a new collection online. By the time the eCommerce catalog was ready, the next season’s collection was already available in stores.
Additionally, the same brand had a different two-person team compiling and writing up the same product information independently to publish in the print catalog.
“They were twice writing the product descriptions, taking photos — it was a waste of time, money and the product information was different depending on the channel,” said de Gombert.
To solve this problem for retailers and brands, Akeneo created its Product Information Management (PIM) software.
Brands can upload inventory data stored in Excel spreadsheets their ERP into the PIM and then manage and enrich this product, technical and marketing data within Akeneo’s software. This creates a single source of product truth across any number of communication and sales channels.
“The biggest part of the [onboarding] project is to define the taxonomy,” said de Gombert. “We put around the table marketing people, eCommerce people, logistics people and sometimes the purchasing department and try to find a common definition for product sand then consolidate it into Akeneo.”
On average, Akeneo’s customers see a productivity gain of 50 to 70 percent within the first three months. In the case of the luxury fashion brand, for instance, the process of rolling out the latest product line with Akeneo would take two months for a team of two.
De Gombert said that the increased productivity Akeneo provides allows brands and retailers to spend more time on the actual quality of product data.
“We know that the quality of the product information has a direct impact on sales,” he said. “A fashion customer in France told us that their product page enriched through Akeneo is converting 56 percent more than the product page that had not.”
To date, Akeneo has 40,000 active users leveraging the open-source community edition of its PIM. De Gombert said 40 percent of Akeneo’s open source users are based in Europe, 40 percent in the U.S. and 20 percent across the rest of the world.
The choice to roll out an open-source edition was guided by the need Akeneo saw to build an entire ecosystem around their product.
“It has to communicate with your ERP, your eCommerce platform and your supplier — and we knew we wouldn’t be able as a software vendor to build all of those connections ourselves,” said de Gombert. “We needed a community who would be able to contribute to our product.”
Open source users have enriched Akeneo’s product in a number of ways, de Gombert said, including translations into new languages and new features to run on top of the PIM platform.
Additionally, Akeneo has 120 enterprise edition clients, including Samsung, Shop.com and Amer Sports.
Near the end of March, Akeneo announced the startup had raised a $13 million in a Series B venture funding round led by Partech Ventures with additional participation from existing backer Alven Capital. The Series B brings Akeneo’s total raised to $15.43 million.
Flush with the latest funds, de Gombert said Akeneo would continue to accelerate its expansion into the U.S. market, as well as to innovate and improve the company’s PIM product with new features.