AiThority Interview with Per-Olof Schroeder, CEO at InRiver
Hi Per-Olof, tell us about your journey into the PIM industry. What inspired you to join inRiver?
My journey into the PIM industry started over 20 years ago during the dot-com boom and e-business transformation at IBM. I’ve spent the last 15 years in SaaS companies, building the business for software and services for Microsoft as the leader of the Productivity and Business Processes Business Group in Western Europe.
So, that gives me a very broad perspective and I’m really excited now to work with inRiver in another broad category, e-commerce. This is a super interesting field in terms of the mega trends we are seeing now and the transformation that is occurring across industries, channels, and marketplaces. inRiver’s specific category is product information management or PIM, and it’s a subcategory of e-commerce. We help customers facilitate a world-class buying experience. Our customers do this by leveraging their product content to connect with buyers anywhere, anytime.
I was inspired to join inRiver because of the people, the platform, and the innovative inRiver community of customers and partners. We have a great opportunity to help our customers achieve transformational results, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
You come from a solid background in managing regional teams for Business Process Management. How much has the SaaS and Cloud industry evolved in all these years since you first took up a role in the IT and Services industry?
The industry has changed rather dramatically since I first took up my role in the IT and Services industry years ago. However, just like the dot-com boom in the early days, there comes an inflection point where change happens at incredible speed.
We are there now with Cloud Computing and Microsoft Azure.
Businesses want to know what they need to do to drive change and to achieve results faster than their competitors. They want to transform their whole business model towards this new paradigm, not just one part of it. It’s an exciting opportunity to be part of this revolution.
What approach or roadmap in Business Development do you rely on to safeguard your company’s interest and assure growth in a competitive marketplace?
We do rely on technology to scale our business and assure growth, of course. Technology is an enabler and the investments are multi-year. However, building credibility, fundamental trust, and platform security is essential as well in this market.
All of these things need to be in place before you can have a meaningful discussion about transformation of your business with any new technology. That is where we are now and that is what makes this exciting.
Insights and Predictions
What tools and technologies do you leverage to make your work easy?
I wouldn’t be true to my own experiences if I didn’t mention the collaboration technologies from Microsoft, as exemplified with the recent launch of Microsoft Teams. Since I ran the business for several years in Western Europe, I’m obviously a huge fan of Microsoft teams and all it helps me do in terms of enabling transparency, communications, and fostering teamwork both internally and externally with partners.
I’m an absolute believer in these tools.
How will AI change PIM offerings in the next 5 years?
This is a good question. I think there are more questions than answers when it comes to AI as it relates to PIM at this time. AI itself is very broad and has many different applications. However, AI is all about how you automate things that would be very labor and analytically intensive.
I expect AI to aid in better personalization for PIM solutions. Just like with Amazon today, the personalization engines understand your preferences, can tailor recommendations for you based on past order or browsing history, and that’s very valuable as it delivers a better customer experience. I believe this type of AI will play a more central role in augmenting the buying experience going forward and will certainly be relevant to our customers.
How has AI influenced the way your customers use PIM? How will AI continue to shape the way PIM is used in the next 5 years?
AI has influenced the way our customers use inRiver today via increased personalization and guided selling to enable a frictionless path to purchase. Buyers want to buy and they want to buy the right product at the right time to solve their challenge, whether it is a replacement part for a drill, a piece of welding equipment, or an accessory for an outfit. AI helps deliver the right content in context for them.
This will become more sophisticated over the next five years and it will become a differentiator for companies. I like to call this ‘customer intimacy’ and this is achieved through a tight integration with business analytics and artificial intelligence to deliver exceptional personalization and customer experiences.
Are e-commerce teams effectively incorporating AI currently? Why/why not?
There are many e-commerce teams effectively incorporating AI currently. Again, Amazon is an example of excellent personalization via AI. We have many inRiver customers like Ethan Allen, Alfa Laval, Zurn Industries, and New Balance who are innovating how they market and sell their products with the help of AI. It’s a new era. The world of omnichannel commerce means competition is fierce and these companies are examples that leverage technology and innovation to exceed buyer expectations to drive success. The ones who do not do this will not survive.
AI for PIM
Tell us more about the team you work with? What kind of skills and abilities does one need to be part of your core Marketing, Sales and Customer Support departments?
The team I work with at inRiver is fantastic. We have people who work as software engineers, sales, support, marketing, product, and more who fundamentally understand the value of the services we offer our customers. The inRiver team has a mix of competencies that enable the best buying experience for our customers.
To be part of the inRiver team, you need to understand how our solution is deployed and used, what constraints customers face, and anticipate needs. This requires a specialized skill set, and means we need to recruit people who are genuinely enthusiastic and curious to learn new things. I love to work with marketing people who find technology fascinating and as much as I love to work with technology people who have good communications skills and offer an imaginative approach to how customers use our services.
The Crystal Gaze
What unique technology start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
I am interested in technology across the board and follow everything from Data Science to Cloud Computing and business applications.
What other emerging technologies within your industry are you interested in?
I’m very interested in the e-commerce ecosystem.
I want to see where the innovation is and understand the momentum behind it. We will need to pay very close attention to the evolution of the space and maintain a left to right perspective to stay ahead of the curve.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
That’s a tough one given the excitement of the industry, but I would say Marc Benioff, founder, chairman, and CEO of Salesforce. They have proven to be an innovator over many years, with multiple acquisitions driven by growth and innovation themes, and a proven track record.
Marc is a thought leader, so I’d be very interested to hear his thoughts on some of these key questions.
Thank you, Per-Olof! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
CEO at inRiver. Former COO Microsoft Western Europe (Productivity & Business Processes); ex-CEO StormGeo Group and Chairman of the Board at Climatempo. Serves on the GMAP Advisory Council at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University.
Prior to Microsoft, held several executive roles with IBM Global Services EMEA; including Managing Principal & Director with IBM UK, and Country Manager within IBM Global Services in Sweden. Before joining IBM, spent six years at strategy and technology consultants Arthur D. Little, working out of the firm’s offices in London, Brussels, and Riyadh.
A graduate of Texas A&M University (Petroleum Engineering); London Business School (MBA); and the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University (MA).
We redefine the way e-commerce product marketers and merchandisers work. By providing product information management (PIM) products and services that help create, update, refresh, maintain and distribute content about products globally, we help businesses to drive increased revenue, customer satisfaction and brand equity. More than 1000 brands and 400 customers across 19 countries rely on us to efficiently control the product flow for their globally recognized brands.