Akeneo: Building a growing business with software-as-a-service solutions

About Akeneo

Akeneo is a global leader in product experience management (PXM) solutions that help to deliver a compelling customer experience across channels such as mobile, print, and retail points of sale. Akeneo's open source enterprise PIM and product data intelligence solutions dramatically improve product data quality and accuracy while simplifying and accelerating product catalog management.

Industries: Technology
Location: France

Akeneo has expanded its business globally, with three-digit YOY growth while using Google Cloud products to create SaaS and PaaS versions of its groundbreaking product information management software.

Google Cloud results

  • Expands product portfolio with PaaS and SaaS versions of the Akeneo product information management solution (PIM) for ease-of-use
  • Drives an increase in customer satisfaction: improves efficiency and faster issue resolution for client support using Google Cloud
  • Scales business globally, matching infrastructure scale to the highly diverse needs of customers in different industries and markets

Aids three-digit year-over-year growth and global expansion

The screen you’re using to read this story comes with hundreds of retail data points. There’s the factory it was made in and the date of production. There’s the screen color, the precise materials, the size of its packaging, the recommended retail price, the actual retail price, the warranty period, and much, much more. Retailers know how important it is to stay on top of these details, whether for legal purposes, logistics, customer satisfaction, or efficiency. And to make sense of their product data, they turn to Akeneo and its product information management (PIM) solution.

“As a software vendor, it’s increasingly important to provide clients with the option of a software-as-a-service solution. To be a global player in this industry, we need a strong partner to provide a scalable infrastructure. That's where Google Cloud comes in.”

Johan Benoualid, Vice President of Global Sales, Akeneo

Akeneo is a global leader in product experience management (PXM) and product information management (PIM) solutions that help merchants and brands deliver a compelling customer experience across all sales channels, improve product data quality, and simplify product catalog management. Benoit Jacquemont, CTO, co-founded the company in 2013 when his work creating ecommerce sites kept running into the same challenge. “Every project, we’d have to ask, ‘Where do I go to get the product data?’” says Benoit. “We discovered that almost everyone kept their data in spreadsheets. At the time, professional PIM solutions took two years to implement, requiring expert staff, and they cost a fortune in licencing.”

By contrast, Akeneo’s solution can be set up within three to six months on average and operated easily by marketers. What’s more, it can be used for free as open source software or deployed as a complete package in its enterprise version. At first, customers ran the software on their own infrastructure, but as Akeneo looked to expand internationally, the benefits of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) option became more and more apparent.

“As a software vendor, it’s increasingly important to provide clients with the option of a software-as-a-service solution,” says Johan Benoualid, Vice President of Global Sales at Akeneo. “To be a global player in this industry, we need a strong partner to provide a scalable infrastructure. That's where Google Cloud comes in.”

Partnering up to provide infrastructure behind the software

SaaS solutions are growing in popularity as leading software vendors seek out the right infrastructure to support their products. “Customers don’t really want to think about installation or hosting,” explains Benoit. “They want to plug into something that works, so they can focus on their business goals. Taking care of the infrastructure is an additional layer of complexity that they don’t need.” It brought challenges for Akeneo, too. When customers or their technical partners installed the solution incorrectly, Akeneo service teams had to travel to fix problems on-site, at the client’s data center. For a company with global ambitions, such in-person maintenance work was a constraint to international growth.

The range and type of product data that clients need to handle vary greatly and require great flexibility in handling all data points. “Some customers average 10 attributes for every product,” says Benoit. “Other customers might have 1,000 attributes for each item, and the whole structure of the data varies from industry to industry. There might be hundreds of data points, or tens of millions, depending on the project.” This led Akeneo to look for a cloud provider to deliver a flexible infrastructure ready to match that range of client demands.

“Our customers and third-party vendors can easily connect to the Google Cloud ecosystem and trust it to scale, deliver strong security, and provide support when and where it’s needed. Being able to deliver that confidence is the heart of our partnership with Google Cloud.”

Benoit Jacquemont, CTO and co-founder, Akeneo

“We have customers in the US, Europe, Australia, and South America, and with Google Cloud, we get the speed and benefits of a global network,” says Benoit. “We ran a benchmark at the beginning of 2016, to compare CPU speed, memory, and persistent storage between leading cloud providers. Google Cloud wasn’t just the best performing option, it was the most cost-effective, too.” The company has now shifted most of its customer database to Google Cloud.

Akeneo leverages Google Cloud to offer two types of infrastructure to its customers. For those who want to add customized code to the Akeneo platform, the team offers a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution based on Compute Engine instances. For clients seeking the full SaaS option, meanwhile, Akeneo deploys a containerized architecture on Google Kubernetes Engine as a highly scalable managed service. Both connect with Cloud Storage to host large customer files, such as pictures and videos.

“Our customers and third-party vendors can easily connect to the Google Cloud ecosystem and trust it to scale, deliver strong security, and provide support when and where it’s needed,” says Benoit. “Being able to deliver that confidence is the heart of our partnership with Google Cloud.”

Unleashing growth with rapid, reactive, remote customer service

In the past 12 months, Akeneo has expanded rapidly, quickly growing the company’s market share across Europe and the US. “We’re far more reactive in terms of support,” says Benoit. “Instead of fixing technical problems on-site, we can perform repairs remotely, resulting in a much smoother customer experience. Often, all we have to do is request permission for remote access to their systems and guide them through the process.”

“Retail companies recognize the strength of Google Cloud as a partner, both for its reliability and its forward-thinking approach. Our customers are keen to see how we plan to use AI and machine learning. And with Google Cloud, we’re already working with the leading products and technologies in that field.”

Benoit Jacquemont, CTO and co-founder, Akeneo

Moving forward, Akeneo plans to use Cloud Pub/Sub as a highly reliable way to queue data for delivery to its PIM, as well as explore automation with Cloud ML Engine to classify products and Cloud Natural Language to generate descriptions.

“Retail companies recognize the strength of Google Cloud as a partner, both for its reliability and its forward-thinking approach,” says Benoit. “Our customers are keen to see how we plan to use AI and machine learning. And with Google Cloud, we’re already working with the leading products and technologies in that field.”

About Akeneo

Akeneo is a global leader in product experience management (PXM) solutions that help to deliver a compelling customer experience across channels such as mobile, print, and retail points of sale. Akeneo's open source enterprise PIM and product data intelligence solutions dramatically improve product data quality and accuracy while simplifying and accelerating product catalog management.

Industries: Technology
Location: France