Reasons, Benefits, Integration
One of the most popular eCommerce platforms to date, Magento 2 is well maintained and kept aligned with the requirements of merchants and users alike. Features rolled out with the latest version, are a testimonial to this.
Yet, while Magento 2 serves as a perfect foundation, there has been a growing demand to extend the out-of-the-box functionality and delegate certain tasks to external services and tools. One such case is the need to manage extended product catalogs, support multi-channel strategy, and provide content in multiple languages, all while preserving agility of operations, durability, and security.
Enter Product Information Management (PIM) systems. Knowingly, back in October 2018, Magento announced a Premier Technology Partnership with Akeneo – a leading PIM solution provider. The goal was to give merchants a competitive edge in the constant race to launch products and maximise content value.
Why use PIM?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons the Akeneo-Magento cluster has relevance in the face of today’s eCommerce.
Catalog Management UX
As effective as Magento 2 may be, its default UX for catalog management has generally been perceived as lagging in features and functionality. This deficiency is further magnified with the increase of catalog size and number of locales.
Dedicated Catalog Management Teams
A common practice for large stores and brands is to assign catalog management to a separate team. However, store managers are usually reluctant to grant Magento back-end access to any non-essential personnel.
More often than not, businesses choose to mix online and offline, rather than relying on their eCommerce platforms as the only source of revenue. There is a need for a tool that would allow managing all the different channels from the same place – whether you are entering a new marketplace, publishing a printed catalog, or preparing an ad campaign.
Catering to international markets often demands publishing content in different languages and keeping a close eye on the completeness of product data. Scaling up, inevitably means that a significant part of these processes needs to be automated.
How does Akeneo PIM fit in this scheme? Being a dedicated Product information Management system by design, it solves the most basic issues as well as providing some additional benefits:
- It offers a better UX for catalog management.
- It assures the necessary visibility for content completeness per locale.
- It helps cut down the number of products stored in the Magento catalog. This boosts performance by allowing Magento to only hold a minimal of products, while the rest are kept within the PIM until they are ready to be activated.
- Akeneo supports multiple channels, so if a vendor has both physical and online stores, they can manage product information per channel under the same roof.
- It allows product managers to work with the catalog using just the PIM, without the need for granting access to the Magento 2 back-end.
- It can be used as the central hub for product import feeds, which is helpful if your business works with different suppliers.
Akeneo PIM/Magento 2 integration
Since the partnership announcement, Akeneo PIM has been a part of the Magento 2 ecosystem. The association is facilitated by the fact that both Magento and Akeneo share a common PHP tech stack, have multiple joint solution partners, and hoard an ever-growing number of joint customers.
Still, the integration suggests a certain amount of effort – largely due to the fact that each business has its own specifications and requirements. At the same time, technologically, the process isn’t exactly plug-and-play.
To interact with Magento, Akeneo requires a connector. The connector is usually implemented at the receiving end, Magento. Alternatively, it can be integrated on the side of Akeneo, or as a standalone middleware, however, these solutions will still require a Magento implementation to support the data push and overcome performance issues associated with frequent catalog synchronization.
How Does It Work?
The Magento connector pulls product data from Akeneo for products that have the required completeness and that have been created or updated since the last pull. This can be run as a scheduled task or triggered on demand.
Additionally, Akeneo holds category, attribute, and product relationship data that can be pulled into Magento. This is normally one-way sync, but depending on specific data workflows and ERP integrations that run parallel to this, there are cases when products are first pushed to Magento, then synced into the PIM, and they remain inactive until product enrichment is complete.
Regardless of the specific approach, the sync is API based, and, to overly simplify, works in two main steps:
- get the data from Akeneo,
- and then store it in Magento.
The intricacies of the process reside in batching this information and minimizing the data transfer while maintaining a synchronized catalog.
Why we use Akeneo PIM at Scandiweb
At Scandiweb, we work on a lot of Magento 2 projects and have long appreciated the benefits that Akeneo PIM brings to the table. Broadly speaking, it enables us to offer richer eCommerce experiences to our clients.
As part of our service model, we aim to provide the best technical implementation to support not only front-end customer journeys but also a quality store management experience. In this respect, Akeneo has proved to be a powerful tool; helping us deliver effective solutions, especially to larger-scale clients.
As a side note, a project we recently delivered has been awarded among TOP 3 Akeneo PIM implementations in the world by none other than Akeneo themselves – during their annual APS Akeneo Summit 2020!
Building our own connector
As mentioned previously, to integrate Akeneo PIM and Magento, a dedicated connector is required, and the market does provide a number of solutions to address this. Nevertheless, Scandiweb is developing its own solution to meet the growing demand.
But What’s the Point?
In general, the connectors we have had experience with, leave much to be desired in terms of features and performance. Contrary to the highlighted use-cases, these connectors tend to crumble under heavy catalogs and cause serious performance problems within Magento 2 while synchronizing data. In other examples, the size of the synchronized data was unnecessarily huge which made the catalog synchronization needlessly slow.
Moreover, some of the declared features have been restricted to work only with Akeneo Enterprise. This can be a limiting factor in a number of scenarios, so, as software engineering experts in general, and Magento 2 specialists specifically, we took upon us a challenge to build a better connector that simply works.
Have you found this information helpful? Do you consider implementing Akeneo PIM in your business? Let us help you! Any questions? Feel free to get in touch to book a free consultation or schedule a call!