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Prediction Series: Interview with James Barlow, Country Manager UK & Ireland at Akeneo

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Prediction Series: Interview with James Barlow, Country Manager UK & Ireland at Akeneo

Tell us about the most astonishing development you predict for B2B marketplaces?

The rise of blockchain-based B2B marketplaces for trustworthy relationships.

In 2020, we’ll see a continued rise in specialized B2B marketplaces to meet the needs of highly specialized buyers and sellers in vertical markets. Complex B2B services usually require workflow and collaboration tools to drive significant efficiencies for buyers and suppliers, as well as build trust between buyers and sellers. A great example is how Honeywell has disrupted the $14 billion aerospace parts market by launching its specialized in-house GoDirect Trade marketplace in 2018, leveraging Blockchain technology to solve supply chain issues for the Aerospace industry. Honeywell recognized and addressed an unmet customer need in their industry, which is customer value information over price.

In a similar manner, Rexel, a leading European B2B distributor of electrical supplier is using a flexible Product Information Management (PIM) solution to deliver a high-quality product experience to unify the customer experience across channels. This approach has led to an increase in its website traffic, driving a 3x increase in customer conversion, reduced time-to-market by more than 50%, and increased the number of products managed by a factor of ten in 6 months.

Some B2B brands and manufacturers are enhancing the shopping journey with the help of a strong PIM system, so that B2B resellers, interior designers, etc., can find out more about the products. Made.com is leveraging PIM to permanently provide accurate product information, with showrooms powering the eCommerce experience, making it possible for the retailer to open point of sales in major European cities.

How can e-commerce brands better control what they deliver as ‘Customer Experience’?

Premium brands will abandon marketplaces to control the brand experience. Open source technology will transform retail.

With Nike, Birkenstock, and Vibram pulling their products from Amazon, we’re beginning to see a new trend emerge across e-commerce: brands are taking control of their own customer experiences, a move that should act as a wake-up call to Amazon and other marketplaces. Brands have started being reluctant to rely on infrastructures of such distributors, as they’re disregarding the need to create unique customer experiences. And although they still want to sell their products to the right marketplace that fits their wider strategy, fashion brands, for instance, are aware that powerful marketplaces like Mytheresa will help them sell more. It’s less about margin for them, but more volume, making it the “place to be”.

So, GDPR and CCPA would be the biggest disruptive forces for brands? 

Yes, we saw that with GDPR. E-commerce companies are mostly mindful of protecting their customers’ identities across all channels while customizing the digital experience to them. The ‘one size fits all’ approach no longer works as customers are becoming more sophisticated and want consistent, streamlined experiences.

How would these lead to Sales competitiveness? 

We’ll be seeing more companies create their own ‘Sales initiatives’ to compete on a global scale, in the race towards customer loyalty.

With Patagonia and REI taking the lead in not participating in Black Friday sales, and brands like Zara and Oysho offering app-only offers, more companies will be expressing ethical concerns over the commercialization of public holidays (e.g. Thanksgiving, Christmas) and finding their own avenues of creating customer loyalty along the way. Underscoring your own brand values and making sure those are part of your product and customer experience will become more and more prevalent across both B2C and B2B.

What do you think about the future of Retail technology in an Open Source ecosystem?

Open source technology will transform retail. 

With global e-commerce retail sales to hit $4.9 trillion by 2021, brands need to innovate to keep up with growing customer demand and market conditions. Open source technology can provide a compelling advantage – from ensuring greater flexibility to creating new value for heritage brands. For instance, Australia’s largest department store Myers implemented an open-source product information management (PIM) solution to lead its Digital Transformation journey to success. By open-sourcing its customer-facing functions, the company has increased its product velocity and product range for a vast majority of its suppliers.

Back in 2015, 70-year old German sporting goods brand, Adidas jumped on the bandwagon of open source by crowdsourcing ideas within the Adidas community. The company became the first sports brand to invite athletes, consumers, and partners to be part of its brand.

We’ll continue to see the trend of open source emerge; in fact, most recently, UK-based cosmetics retailer Lush announced it was developing open-source software for its point-of-sale system to boost growth. Even Twitter announced last week, they’d be open-sourcing its platform to combat the rise of hateful content online, and we’ll be seeing more brands and companies making serious moves into open source.

The reason for this is it allows brands and sellers to be more flexible and adaptable when it comes to making changes in their approach to commerce so they can stay ahead of the market. In such a dynamic industry, the attributes of an open source approach are very attractive in the tools and technology used to support commerce.

James Barlow is the Country Manager for UK and Ireland at Akeneo. He specializes in helping organizsations to automate their Product Information Management (PIM).

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Akeneo is a global leader in Product Experience Management (PXM) solutions that help merchants and brands deliver consistent and enriched customer experiences across all sales channels, including eCommerce, mobile, print, and retail points
of sale.

Akeneo’s product information management (PIM) and product data intelligence solutions dramatically improve product data quality and accuracy while simplifying and accelerating product catalog management.

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