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Five Key Takeaways from London B2B Commerce Meetup

Last month, we partnered with Lingo24 to host the first London B2B Commerce Meetup on the theme of successful digital transformation. We had a tremendous turnout of eCommerce professionals from companies that span from startups to mid-sized companies to global brands.

Hot topics for discussion included: how to best compete and beat Amazon in the B2B space; moving into new countries; the importance of localization (or localization for my US friends) and, the realization of the importance of delivering consistent and engaging product experiences not just to retail customers but to industrial buyers as well.

I came up with 5 key, slightly tongue-in-cheek takeaways for ensuring successful digital transformation:

  1. Know your starting point: Let’s face it, achieving a complete and total digital transformation is a bit like reaching the top of Mount Everest. Most of us – even the boldest and most daring of us — will never get there. One surefooted step at time, however, will get you a lot farther than you think. Digital transformation isn’t merely about having a great-looking website. It’s about core vision, conviction and leadership, and it starts with a clear and honest assessment of where you’re starting from and where you want to go, in terms of organization and structure (for instance, how managers are rewarded for hitting goals) and your product content (its granularity and richness, as well as your processes for on-boarding and digital delivery). It’s a risk worth taking.

  2. Don’t boil the ocean: Technology vendors will throw everything and the kitchen sink at you to justify a project. While there may be more than 25 valid reasons for building a product information management (PIM) system, attempting everything on the list will be unattainable. Instead, set realistic expectations of what can be accomplished. Prioritizing the big wins is just as important as deciding which to leave out.

  3. “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content”. A great quote from Leo Tolstoy, which can be readily applied to today’s B2B company’s dilemma. When your directive is to take on 5-10 times more SKUs while radically reducing product introduction times, you have to pick your battles. Some SKUS will have to go straight to market; others will need to be held back so that you can develop richer product content. Distributors need to get suppliers to do the work and to employ machine learning and AI to help automate as much of the enrichment process as possible. While you’re taking the time to make every bit of product content perfect, someone else Is selling those products to your customers.

  4. It’s the boss’s idea: In order to transform digitally, the right stakeholders have to believe that a digital strategy is critical. It takes getting buy-in early from the top and the right leadership to set a clear vision for the roadmap ahead. Digital transformation for product-centric B2B companies is critical for survival and future prosperity. Therefore, the boss has to be centrally involved, and preferably it’s their idea

  5. Watch out for the fake news:  When companies invest in new technologies, they usually undergo a thoughtful evaluation process. Once purchased, the buyer’s reputation is on the line, and they’re the ones who are usually the most committed to its long-term success. They’re also the most knowledgeable. There are plenty of opinions and reviews of technology solutions, just a click or two away, but it’s the end-users who are the most reliable sources for honest evaluations. Customer conferences and meet ups are a great ways to avoid the fake news and accurately benchmark your approach to digital transformation.

7 Reasons Why PIM Should be the Next Step in Your Digital Commerce Journey

Aggregating and managing all product data is cornerstone for any digital commerce strategy. In the many years since we saw a need to better manage product information and developed the first version of the Agility software, PIM has become a critical technology investment for both IT and business executives. A solid PIM solution helps you to dramatically improve data quality and govern data access and usage. It enables portfolio expansion as your business grows. And, effective product information management provides the flexibility to respond to changing market conditions. Lire la suite

5 Common Myths about Product Information Management PIM

The science of managing information about products has existed for decades, although, Product Information Management (PIM) is a relatively new branch of Data Management. Historically, the solutions required to manage product content have been complex, since that data has multiple touch-points and affects the 3 pillars – People, Process and Technology. With a shift in the industry to promote business-focused, data-driven organizations, PIM was invented with a purpose to ease the collection, management and syndication of data, in a simple, easy and concise manner. However, there are still some myths from its past. Lire la suite

Magento Technology Partnership

We’re delighted to announce that Agility Multichannel is now a Magento technology partner, the ecommerce leader’s first (and only) partner for PIM.

At the beginning of November, Magento Commerce broke away from eBay Inc and launched as an independent company. Two weeks later, the company released Magento 2.0 (« …a foundational milestone that extends Magento’s market share and innovation leadership into the next decade,” said Mark Lavelle, Magento Commerce CEO.) We’re delighted to announce that Agility Multichannel is now a Magento technology partner, the ecommerce leader’s first (and only) partner for PIM. In our commitment to the « 3 C’s » (connecting Content with Creative for Commerce), strong partnerships are critical, and clearly the people at Magento Commerce feel the same way, with a new partnership program that is full of energy and dedicated to delivering best-in-class commerce experiences.

To read more about the Magento story and why it may be the « biggest commerce company you haven’t heard of yet, » the New York Business Journal does a good job of laying things out.

 

2015 PIM Value Index

Agility Multichannel improved more since the last report than any other vendor, demonstrating “commitment to its products, customers and partners.”

Ventana Research has just published its 2015 PIM Value Index, and we’re delighted to see that Agility Multichannel improved more since the last report than any other vendor, demonstrating (says author, CEO and chief research officer Mark Smith) « commitment to [our] products, customers and partners. » It’s an essential and important report.

Global Retail Expansion

Here’s an article titled Twelve Barriers to 2015 Retail Global Expansion, and Hacks for Breaking them Down that’s full of valuable insights, including 2 cents from our CEO Richard Hunt:

« The key is to design a single, flexible, scalable global process that makes it easy not just to add channels and touch points but to move into new markets and countries when opportunities arise.  An enterprise Product Information Management (PIM) system can provide tools for product on-boarding, governance, workflows, enrichment and translation, approval and syndication that let end-users in any country and any department seamlessly localize and market their specific products – all within a single, endlessly scalable, global solution.« 

Richard Hunt in Apparel magazine

 

Spring finery

It was a long, rough winter in both of our home cities, which meant lots of time for indoor projects, like rebuilding our website from top to bottom. The last of the daffodils are blooming in York and the last of the snow has just melted in Chicago. It seems safe finally to open the windows, declare that it’s spring, and invite you to visit http://agilitymultichannel.com to see our all-new look and content, with lots of close-up views of Agility and a growing resource library. Everything is free-access – no forms at all. The new design and content will be rolling out to our German and French sites soon, and then we’ll be back to blogging regularly.

Presenting: The Edge

In this last post of 2013, a few words about symbols, and about beginnings, journeys, and shoes. Our logo was created 12 years ago with the inaugural release of Agility. The diagram below, from the original data sheet, gives an idea of how this:

Agility Multichannel Logo

grew out of this:

Inspiration for the Agility Multichannel LogoHere’s some of the text that accompanied that diagram from 2001:

mens shoesTHE NEED: Today, managing product information and promotional content for your business is complex. Your company could be managing online as well as offline promotions; publishing in multiple languages in many countries; maintaining product data for products in a variety of different sizes and standards. Take this example, for instance: the size of men’s shoes is not the same everywhere. If you think that your shoe size is nine in North America, good luck finding a fit in France, where you should actually be looking for a size 43 or in Japan, where you are a size 27. In today’s marketplace managing one shoe SKU with its multiple size attributes in your database can turn into a headache… multiply this by your 20,000 SKUs with their multiple attributes and product descriptions and you’re heading for chaos.

THE SOLUTION: Greater flexibility and scalability. Agility includes our unique EDGE technology, which gives product managers and IT teams the ability to link objects, the basic building blocks of the data structure, into an infinite variety of taxonomies to describe product assortments, digital media assets and campaign plans.

This is a good time of year to look back. As a company made up largely of people who have worked together for a very long time, it’s good to be reminded of that original intent.  We’re happy to say that because we set off on the right foot and in the right direction, with the right data structure and building blocks, Agility, with the input of innovative and dedicated customers, has developed in sync with the leading edge of technological advancement. Product Information Management is no longer just an IT or product management issue. It’s central and essential to every department and stakeholder in every commercial enterprise. The company with 20,000 SKUS in 2001 now has hundreds of thousands, with more assets and attributes per product feeding into more channels than most of us could have imagined back then.  But the basic idea behind that original mission statement remains true today. Shoe styles have changed, but feet are the same as ever. And it’s people after all who matter most. All of us at Agility Multichannel thank all of you for coming on this journey with us, for pushing us, challenging us, keeping us on track, and making our job a pleasure. And we wish you and your families the very best for 2014 and beyond.  Cheers!

To consistency and beyond

Much of the conversation around MDM of Product Data and PIM has traditionally been centered on one word: consistency. If customers don’t find consistent data – prices and savings, weights, dimensions, colors, descriptions, etc. – where ever they look (and they’re looking everywhere), they won’t be your customers for long. That’s no longer theoretical. It’s today’s baseline reality.

The next generation of customer engagement? The next generation of customer engagement?

 

The day before yesterday at the Ventana Research Technology Innovation Summit (where we received a handsome award) I had the pleasure of being on a panel discussing “Next Generation Customer Engagement – Improving the Interaction and Experience.” It got me thinking and feeling excited about the path we’ve chosen for Agility®. Much of the conversation around MDM of Product Data and PIM has traditionally been centered on one word: consistency. If customers don’t find consistent data – prices and savings, weights, dimensions, colors, descriptions, etc. – where ever they look (and they’re looking everywhere), they won’t be your customers for long. That’s no longer theoretical. It’s today’s baseline reality. The discussion about consistency is settled.  It’s time to look beyond. Getting past this first, critical threshold of customer engagement requires replacing multiple silos with a MDM of Product Data or PIM system that must be integrated with the supply chain, the internal ERP and merchandising system and with order management and ecommerce systems.  I’m certainly not knocking consistency – where accuracy, speed-to-market and customer satisfaction matter (again, everywhere) it’s absolutely essential and must be done right. But in today’s digital environment no company (and no PIM vendor) can afford to stop there. You may be keeping up with the proliferation of channels and touch points. But are you keeping up with your customers, whose sophistication and expectations are growing apace? If not, you’re facing huge risks and missing even greater opportunities. In a world where omnichannel is replacing multichannel as a buzzword, and buying journeys are all-consuming – invading life at home, in the office, the gym, the school pick-up line… – it isn’t enough for each message received to reliably echo the one preceding it. Products, like the people who use them, have their own unique DNA. They’re consistent, yes, but in multiple dimensions. Nor are buyers’ needs and wants static. They’re dynamic; sensitive to location, time of day and many other influences. A simple illustration: a customer looking at a website from home may well search for store hours and directions, which can trigger special offers that propel them out the door. In the store, they’re fed real-time information on where to find the items they’re interested in, along with features, benefits, comparisons and related products. shopping bike Studies have shown that mobile usage dominates early in the day, PC during working hours, and tablet later in the evening. Each device, each app, offers new perspective. To keep customers engaged now, product information and assets should relate, respond and complement, accordingly; structured specifically for email campaigns, websites, or tablets; for store signage or for marketplaces like Amazon. And all of this brings us back to that savvy customer, getting more and more sophisticated and discerning every day, not just about the technology but about their own wants, needs and tastes. Beyond the consistent must lie the personalized. Personalizing product data may seem mind-bogglingly complex but at Agility Multichannel we’ve long seen it coming, and we know that it can only be achieved if there’s a dynamic interaction between the product information management system and all other technologies at the core of the business. That’s why Agility® provides seamless integration with all key channel solution providers in the areas of commerce, marketplaces, campaign management, digital publishing, analytics, etc.

Mark Smith presents Agility Multichannel with Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award 11/12/13 Mark Smith presents Agility Multichannel with Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award 11/12/13

 

Interaction is where Agility excels and stands apart from the crowd. Again, this brings us right back to people.  With Agility v6 and our Agility Modular Interface (AMI), every person responsible for authoring, approving, enriching and syndicating product information – vendors, merchants, product managers, content managers, et al – can view this data in context, exactly as it will appear in each channel and touch point, ensuring that it’s structured optimally, so that multidimensional view of the product can emerge for each customer, on his/her own terms. Usability is for us a driving principle. Unlike any other PIM, our interface is not just intuitive and simple to use but it can be custom configured for every individual end user. This ensures that they’re not just getting the most out of it but also putting the most into it. Our workflows, which are exquisitely easy to set up, are designed to encourage collaboration between teams, departments and stakeholders, and that’s just as important as the interaction between technologies. Your team’s engagement begets your customer’s engagement. Quality input results in quality output. Silos to consistency to personalization. The beyond is now.

Richard Hunt, President and CEO, Agility Multichannel

A room with a view

The photos are in from our North American eCommerce Workshop at the Willis Tower in Chicago. We shouldn’t be surprised I suppose that the view stole some focus. It was glorious. But so were all our attendees. Thanks all for coming and helping to make it a great event.