In his first month as CEO of product experience management company Salsify, Piyush Chaudhari discusses the impact of AI and other technologies on the ability of B2B and retail companies to grow sales with distributed digital product content.

Piyush Chaudhari - Salsify

Piyush Chaudhari, CEO, Salsify

A veteran executive involved in helping brands connect with customers, Piyush Chaudhari joined product experience management company Salsify last month as CEO, succeeding co-founder Jason Purcell as the top executive. Chaudhari joins Salsify as the company invests millions to roll out new technology products, including AI and automation, designed to improve how companies manage and syndicate branded product descriptions and images to attract online customers and boost conversion rates.

In this July 2 interview with Digital Commerce 360, he shares his views from Salsify’s corner office on the future course of product experience management and how brands can win the digital shelf.

Interview with Piyush Chaudhari

Digital Commerce 360: What excites you most about joining Salsify now as CEO? Please comment on one or more of the experiences in your career that will help you bring unique value to Salsify and its customers, including B2B as well as retail companies.

Piyush Chaudhari: I’m two weeks in at Salsify as we speak, and I have spent it talking to Salsify employees (or Salsifarians, as we call them) and Salsify customers in both the U.S. and Europe. These conversations have confirmed what I hoped for coming in — that my colleagues, our customers, and digital commerce are hungry to take advantage of significant growth opportunities on the digital shelf over the next few years. My past experiences at places like Aon Hewitt and IRI, driving continuous improvement in the quality of the products and services, will serve as a great foundation for expanding the business value our customers realize from their Salsify partnership.

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The single most important driver of growth that will emerge over the next several years is AI-propelled personalization at scale.

DC360: What do you see as Salsify’s most significant strengths, and how do you plan to build on them? Are there particular technology applications and/or services you want to introduce or explore to expand Salisfy’s product suite?

Chaudhari: Our market position starts with our people, and their passion for helping our customers win on the digital shelf. Our customers’ ambitions drive everything we do. There’s a reason that Salsify was named a “Leader” in the most recent Forrester Wave in our space. Since our founding, we have focused on delivering a platform that will enable our customers to optimize the product content on every digital shelf touchpoint.

Salsify lets our customers centralize their product data and be sure it meets the data requirements of every retailer. We then connect that data everywhere it needs to go across an open network that’s continually expanding. Finally, we make sure they can do all this at scale, with automation and AI to drive all this with maximum efficiency.

We have all this in one unified platform — and over the next few years, we are going to continue to innovate by expanding our network and embedding AI throughout the product experience management (PXM) lifecycle to realize the goal of optimizing every touchpoint, everywhere.

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DC360: How well do you think most companies (including existing Salsify clients and prospects) recognize and act on the importance of deploying comprehensive technology systems for effective product data management technology? What can help bring more companies further into effective product data management strategies, including through extended sales and distribution networks?

Chaudhari: There is no question that the period of COVID — when the digital shelf was the only shelf — brought product experience management (PXM) front and center into executive suites for retailers and manufacturers across all categories. They had to invest not only in the right technology, but also reshape the ways in which their cross-functional processes and teams designed, marketed, and sold their products to consumers and B2B buyers.

We have been fortunate enough to be their partners and advisors in the first decade of Salsify, and have witnessed companies like Mars and L’Oreal and many others go from implementing PXM in one team or region to executing global digital shelf excellence in every market. At the same time, retailers like Amazon, Kroger, Wayfair and Intermarché make it seamless for their suppliers to quickly understand and meet their product content requirements through automated APIs rather than outdated spreadsheets.

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We are excited to work with B2B distributors like Affiliated Distributors (AD) and Grainger and their suppliers to extend digital shelf best practices into the industrial space. B2B buyers have the same expectations as consumers and want to self-serve their buying experience as much as possible. We believe this industry will transform in half the time of companies adopting PXM in the first decade, given the paths that have already been tread and the impact of AI.

DC360: What are companies (including both merchants and brand suppliers) missing regarding effective technology and strategies for effectively competing for sales and brand recognition through the digital shelf? What are some of the newest and most effective strategies merchants and brands should deploy?

Chaudhari: We believe that the single most important driver of growth that will emerge over the next several years is AI-propelled personalization at scale. We have seen the improvements in conversion in areas such as email marketing when brands are able to apply deep knowledge of the consumer through permission-based first-party data to demographic, behavioral, and other predictive data insights to drive higher click-throughs and conversion.

Imagine the growth potential when a merchant is able to apply similar intelligence at scale to personalize a product detail page (PDP) for each visitor instantaneously.

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Achieving this future will require deep data collaboration between retailers and their suppliers to make sure there is the product data necessary to support merchandising that supports the correct persona, occasion, and use case. Retailers must invest in the technology and data infrastructure to power these experiences through collaboration with their suppliers, and suppliers must be testing and learning their way with generative AI and the automated processes to be able to support personalized merchandising at scale through their retailers.

DC360: Are brands and merchants today collaborating more effectively than in the past to build customer loyalty and grow sales and profits? How do you see Salsify helping them along these lines?

Chaudhari: Quality product content is the foundational fuel of two things that modern retailers care very much about.

One, accurate, complete product content powers both search discovery and conversion on the product page. 78% of online shoppers cite product images and descriptions as “extremely” or “very” important to their buying decision.

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Two, in recent research from the Digital Shelf Institute and Stratably, 71% of digital leaders from 78 global consumer brands said Product Detail Page (PDP) quality significantly influences their return on ad spend (ROAS). In a time where many retailers hope to boost their balance sheet by monetizing their audience with brands, ad buyers are refusing to increase investments until product data quality is best in class.

In response, leading retailers have invested heavily in the processes and API connections that enable suppliers to meet constantly shifting data requirements in a more automated and reliable fashion. For retailers such as Walmart and Kroger, we are seeing a trend toward OmniConnectors, APIs that are purpose-built to support data ingestion for both digital shelf and brick-and-mortar. Salsify is democratizing these 2-way, automated connections between suppliers and retailers through innovations like our Open Catalog. Continually optimized quality product content will be a minimum requirement for entry into the future world of a personalized digital shelf at scale.

DC360: How will AI and other emerging technologies help companies better engage customers with digital content that is personalized to their needs and will boost conversions and sales? How do you see AI and other emerging technologies adding to Salsify’s product offerings?

Chaudhari: Salsify is a no-hype AI zone. By that I mean that we really try to clearly differentiate between what may become possible in the future, and what is available now for our customers to use on their test, learn, and scale journey. So today, you’ll see from us AI-propelled capabilities like our Grocery Accelerator, which uses AI to rapidly validate grocery suppliers’ against regulatory, industry, and retailer-specific requirements, and proactively surfaces content recommendations to speed accurate and compliant product content to market.

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Our customer Uma Home Decor introduces one to four thousand new products a year. Content creation for that many products was a serious impediment to getting to market. With AI connected to Salsify, they were able to reduce their production of content from six months to six weeks!

In the future, you will see AI deployed across the entire PXM lifecycle — data modeling, content creation, data quality validation, automated mapping to each retailer’s requirements, and the ultimate goal of PXM, continuous optimization of every digital touchpoint.

The Salsify App Store will be a busy place over the next several years, where best-in-class AI providers will be able to easily hook their latest capabilities into Salsify and customers can implement the ones that deliver the value they need in the PXM lifecycle. Exciting times ahead!

Paul Demery is a Digital Commerce 360 contributing editor covering B2B digital commerce technology and strategy. [email protected].

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