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Talking Product Innovation and the Future of Retail Tech with Aptos CPO Karthik Mani

Editor’s Note: In February 2021, Karthik Mani joined Aptos as Chief Product Officer and was tasked with leading Aptos’ product management and product development organizations to accelerate innovation. We thought it was a good time to check in with Karthik, now he’s been six months on the job, for an update on all things product – from highlights of the 2021.2 release to how the pandemic has influenced roadmap direction to exciting advancements on the horizon. 

Q: Karthik, congrats on the 2021.2 release. With an end-to-end offering like Aptos’ – with over a dozen applications – a release of that scale is no small undertaking. What are some of the 2021.2 innovations you are most proud of?

We view each product release as an opportunity to create markers for major future evolution of the product while incrementally advancing the solutions. We update all our software continuously and then provide it to customers in three major releases per year. 

The 2021.2 release is delivering many impactful features for our customers. I’ll mention a few release highlights for our Customer Experience and Merchandise Lifecycle Management suites:

Customer Experience: 

  • More retailers are looking at subscriptions as a way of driving business profitability by encouraging repeat purchases. We introduced significant enhancements for retailers looking to offer subscription purchases at the point of sale. Our offering allows retailers to sell subscriptions for specific items at different prices at different stores. 
  • We continue to add new experiences to our order management system, including reserve online, pick up in store (ROPIS). In that application, we’ve also enhanced flexibility for retailers to compare rates, and we’re offering more advanced support for customers that have both retail and wholesale operations.
  • Our analytics solutions have been updated to include new metrics that better illuminate the behaviors of omnichannel shoppers, recognizing the fact that purchase journeys have evolved substantially during the pandemic. 

Merchandise Lifecycle Management: 

  • The latest release of Allocation & Replenishment is enhanced to work with packs along with singles, allowing customers to optimize the usage of stock in packs and bulks. An improved dashboard provides a powerful analytical tool that empowers users to start their day with actionable insights. 
  • On the Revionics side, our Base Price module now includes a more advanced price match feature for competitive positioning of comparable or private-label assortments. Enhancements were also made to the Markdown and Promotion Optimization suites in several areas that promote more streamlined workflows and faster decision making. 
  • Our updated Assortment Planning solution facilitates assortment strategy and carry-over selection that provides the ability to plan the target number of options across strategic attributes. 

The above is just a snapshot of what’s available in 2021.2. I encourage all users to review the release notes for their specific Aptos applications to understand the full scope of changes and added features. 

Q: You have been at Aptos a little over six months. What have been your observations to date regarding the global product organization? 

We are fortunate to have a mix of colleagues who have been with the company for a long time and colleagues who joined more recently. The team has fresh ideas, vibrant energy and unmatched depth in retail software expertise.

With a global product organization, we are able to source the best talent in key markets around the world. And while it hasn’t been easy, our product team hasn’t missed a beat throughout the pandemic. If anything, they have felt keenly the urgency of our customers that are depending on our technology to help their businesses make it through to the other side of the crisis. 

We strive to be a great partner for retailers. We view quality product, on-time releases and delivering committed features in each release as our highest priorities. We constantly evaluate how we are doing in those areas and put in place initiatives to continuously improve.  

Q: With its strategic capital commitment from Goldman Sachs, Aptos has been able to substantially increase its R&D investment. How important has that been to Aptos’ clients during the crisis? How does that impact Aptos’ overall position in the retail software market? 

Aptos has been executing to achieve a vision that was laid down three years ago, a vision that Goldman Sachs believed in and a vision that is even more relevant today than when it was conceived.

Our vision is to be the global leader in unified commerce, which we define as the activities necessary to connect customers to products. A retailer or brand that is good at reaching customers but has nothing to sell will not be any more successful than a company that has great products but no one to sell them to. 

Unified commerce is impacted by one trend above all others: convergence. Whether we’re talking about blurring the lines between physical and digital, between retail verticals, or even between products, services, and experiences, we see a future in which retailers will need a unified set of services to manage a converged omnichannel experience.

The strategic capital commitment from Goldman Sachs has helped us not only continue investing in our vision for unified commerce, but also accelerate those investments in a way that will provide our customers with material competitive advantages. 

Those investments are also starting to create clear differentiation between Aptos and other retail technology vendors in the market, particularly as many of our competitors have not shown aptitude or the necessary funding to move beyond their legacy technology portfolios. 

No solution provider is as modern or flexible as we need to be yet. But Aptos now has the strongest point of view and vision, and the most to offer as evidence of our progress toward achieving this vision. 

Q: When talking about how retailers can create competitive advantage, the word agility comes up often these days. How do retailers think about their technology investments in that context?  

Consumer expectations are constantly changing. That was true even before the pandemic and now it is even more prevalent. Hello, curbside pickup. 

Our most sophisticated retail customers have used the pandemic to step back and reimagine what they are looking for in their technology stacks – and technology partners. Rather than trying to solve today’s problems, they are looking ahead to the next three to five years and investing in solutions based on those needs. 

Change is the only constant, and it has become more difficult to predict customer behavior down the road. What should a sophisticated retailer do to manage that? The answer is to invest in increasing agility so when customer behavior changes start to become clear, that retailer is able to meet those expectations faster than their competition, and is able to take away market share. 

From a technology perspective, agility is enabled by microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, UI-agnostic architectures. 

Q: While retailers can’t predict the future, as you noted, they can better prepare for it with the right technology. What roadmap innovations are on the horizon that you are most excited about?

As I mentioned at the beginning, 2021.2 helped us plant a few seeds that are going to be significant capabilities in future releases. 

One area where we have done a lot of work is around the application of artificial intelligence in retail planning and execution. For example, in fashion, identifying an existing product that is similar to a new product that is going to be introduced is an area where machine learning will provide very relevant recommendations to a human planner. 

Also on the AI front, we will continue to advance our science-backed price optimization and intelligence platform, powered by Revionics, which serves as a natural extension to Aptos’ Merchandise Lifecycle Management suite. 

Order management is another area where our customers are going to see even more innovation from Aptos in the future as the profitability of last-mile delivery becomes a bigger area of focus for retailers. 

We are having a lot of these conversations in our product advisory councils (PACs). I strongly encourage more customers to get involved in these discussions. Our PACs offer very tangible opportunities to have your voices heard and help shape the future of retail tech. I hope you join us in those conversations and on that journey. 

To learn more about our PACs, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or contact your Aptos or Revionics account representative. I look forward to hearing from you.