Welcome back to another episode of Shaping eCommerce with IronPlane. I'm Tim Bucciarelli, the Director of Engagement at IronPlane, and today we're joined by Gaia Vernaglione from Zakeke. And I did my best with the last name, but we'll get the proper pronunciation. So today we're talking more about product visualization, which is, more and more, an essential tool for merchants online.
And it could be just from displaying your products in a 360 view, but these days it's often where you're seeing it in a 3D perspective. Where you can actually manipulate it as the visitor, and sometimes actually an AR experience where you can view it in your space. We're gonna add to that the idea of web to print. And we'll get into this in more detail talking about Zakeke with Gaia. Thank you for joining us, Gaia.
Of course. Thank you, Tim, for inviting me. It's a pleasure. I'm super excited and I am looking forward to dive into very good content.
If you could just give us an intro to your role at Zakeke, and then we'll dive into the details of the company.
Sure. Hello everyone. My name is Gaia Vernaglione. I'm the country director for US, Canada, and Latam here at Zakeke. I'm basically the hand behind our business strategy and our market presence in the US, Canada, and Latam markets. I lead a dedicated team that is invested in pushing to expand our horizon, like in the eCommerce world for US, Canada, and Latam, in detecting the trends of the market, but also the needs of our current customers and potential customers.
And then translating and transferring that information to our great technical team so that we can make sure that our solution is always the best and the most disruptive on the market. We're always running four hundred miles an hour, like all technology companies. And we know that each country has a different approach to technology, but above all to SaaS platforms.
And I would say that probably US and Canada are the ones that have— they are the most receptive when it comes to the use of technology in the eCommerce and digital world. So I would say that I'm very lucky, but at the same time, it's also the most competitive market. It's definitely a challenge.
As an agency, IronPlane has seen a lot of interest in this particular functionality when it comes to eCommerce. Some of the times it strikes me as like a nice to have, where it's a trendy idea and it's really cool, but other times it's really almost an essential component given a certain type of product.
Or a certain type of merchandising need. So we're gonna get into that a little bit more. If you could just give us a brief history of the Zakeke Company and where it's founded, who founded it, and what the initial drivers were for creating this company.
Sure thing. And by the way, just to comment on what you just said, it probably started as a nice to have, like all things.
Most of the time it started as a nice to have, but then the more you go on, it becomes a way to differentiate your business. And the only way to actually drive through a competitive market is to differentiate yourself. So say that the nice to have always becomes a must have at a certain point.
So everything started thanks to our visionary CEO Angelo Coletta. He's the one who founded Zakeke in 2017. He actually started his first company in 1997 which was specialized in digital marketing. Since then, has developed a system integrator, a very successful ticketing service business, and also served as the president of InnovUp, which is an innovation and startup ecosystem in Italy.
And then finally, he started Zakeke in 2017 so that we could meet the need of the merchants that wanted to offer the customers a very immersive and engaging experience online. So Zakeke itself is a one stop solution for everything visual commerce.
And when I say visual commerce, all the levels and dimensions of the eCommerce in general. So we're talking about 2D, 3D, AR, try on. We're talking about AI supported experiences. We're also talking about the Metaverse soon with the NFTs. So we're talking about all levels and dimensions of the visual commerce experience, and we're also talking about different implementations of that experience.
So if you only want to visualize a product in 3D and AR in a real life appearance, or if you also want to customize and configure that product on top of visualization in 3D and AR, also with other technologies like 2D and 3D, of course. So I would say both a little bit of all in one package.
So if we were to— like the most common use case that you experience at Zakeke, it sounds like you cover a lot of ground in different use cases, but is there one that you can talk about that we could just walk through the stages of the buyer experience, and also how Zakeke comes into play throughout that experience.
Yes, of course. So just to give you a little bit of an outline: in general, we work with different verticals in different industries. So we don't actually have just one ideal customer profile, but that depends on the technology that's being used. Our software, our suite of tools comprehends and involves three main products.
One of these products is a visual customizer, or web to print solution, which is dedicated mainly to the web to print industry and print on demand industry. So in that case, what happens is that we offer the possibility to merchants to offer on the fly customization of products with graphics customization.
So that means logos, text, engraving. Sometimes you don't even know what you could do with it. So it's very important for you to learn how to use it so that you can make the most out of it.
On this one— the first element, and I know we're only on the first element so far, but companies that have an existing way to do these printing or the engraving, or they already have that process in place for their products. What they don't have is the ability to bring all of the customization onto their website to enable this easy method for their visitors.
Instead of having to call in and talk to a CSR, instead of having to send in via email their images, and all that stuff. It's actually taking all of that, putting it front and center on their website and allowing them to then, through this visualization tool, give their customers the confidence that what they see is what they're gonna get on the delivery end. And so we can think about this for engraving on jewelry.
Or embossing on leather goods, or burning into furniture, personalized furniture or engraving on telescopes. Like all of these different products, you can just imagine, especially for like gift giving or something like that, where you wanna communicate a message.
So besides enhancing the experience thanks to the visual part of it, what we actually aim to do ultimately is getting rid of that manual time and energy consuming pre and post sales stuff. So we're talking about, as you mentioned, such as emailing back and forth, option detailings, design proofs. Mockups creation, print file generation.
But also all the problems that come from having to manage returns and litigations. All of that disappears thanks to the fact that you are using a really visual tool that allows you to make things visible to your customers that are building their own products as they go.
It makes it easier and more efficient and less costly for the merchant to actually do all those things and to actually do the production afterward. It's a completely integrated process from A to Z.
Yeah, okay. So that was the first element. You had mentioned three components, right?
Correct. So the second component, which has a completely different ideal customer profile is our 3D product configurator.
The CAD files that are provided by the merchant or something?
Exactly, correct. So what we're talking about here is the possibility for merchants to offer their clients real time composition and building of their products from scratch.
And now we're talking about the possibility for customers to choose from a predetermined set of options that can be options of color. Shape textures and materials. It can be the options to choose certain components and not. The possibility to hide and show certain accessories. So what happens is that you literally select and build a list of options while seeing the products come to life right before you, and that happens on a 3D level.
So it looks exactly how it would look if you were building it, if you were picking up the options. So if you were actually looking at the on the shelves product in a store. So that helps you literally not just customizing graphically, but building that product and all its components. And in this case, the customization, the graphic customization is still there.
So you can definitely add a logo and text and images of your own. Of course, in that case, they are placed in a specific area of the 3D model. So it's more focused on building that product in 3D and visualizing exactly how it will be, rather than placing and printing on a specific surface of that product.
So in that case we're talking about like all types of industries. Like I would say fashion brands or apparel. Accessories, furniture, luxury goods, and jewelry. We're talking about automotive. We're also talking about pet accessories. We have all of these different industries and realities meeting up at the same spot, you know?
Tim Bucciarelli:Yeah. That's a good market in the US, I know. And probably Canada as well. Everyone wants a collar with their dog or cat's name on it, or a bowl with their picture on it or something.
Yeah. You can't even imagine. And the third reality is: so for example, we have another technology, which is our 3D and AR viewer.
In this case, it is mainly dedicated not to the printing industry, not to just the manufacturing and retailing industry in general. But the retailing industry in particular, in the case where the merchant does not want to allow customization and configuration, they do not need that, but they might still want to show the product in 3D and AR to cut the cost of returns and show a beautiful experience with their online presence.
So what happens there is that— I don't know, like for example, pre-made art. Or also the furniture business. Anyone who might want to sell their products and literally show the customer how the product will look like. And how the product will look like in their environment. They could do it using the 3D and AR viewer of Zakeke, which would work and function as a 3D and AR layer.
So in this case, you're not customizing, you're not configuring, but you still access the technology that can show you that product in different views in your space.
And is that the type of thing where the consumer is on their computer, they're navigating to a page, they view the couch, they select the color that they want, the size that they want.
Now, one of the use cases, and we'll get into a couple of customers that you'd like to talk about, but one of the use cases you mentioned previously that I thought was interesting is the in-store opportunity as well.
I hadn't thought of that because I think of this as being strictly for people who are at home on their computers or on their phone. But if you could just describe the in-store experience that you mentioned, that would be helpful as well.
Correct. And I'll just add a quick note. The reason why Zakeke was born in the first place is because Angelo, who is our CEO, he saw some trends, detected the trends that were just developing around him. And one of those trends, of course, is online shopping. The more we move ahead, the more it becomes a must have for brands who have an omnichannel presence. And they migrate between in-store, and online and offline experiences.
Because it's: online, it's more convenient, it has endless options. And of course, with the right technology, you can actually have a nearly identical experience to the one that you would have in store. But at the same time, you have to keep an in-store presence. So what we came up with and what we do with many of our customers is that we offer the possibility to customers to have a touchpad, or some sort of integration of Zakeke in their store so that they can actually allow customers that enter and walk in the store that might not want to just take one of the on the shelf products, to actually personalize those on the shelf products or maybe something that is not in stock and create their own product using a touchpad.
And just going through the options, selecting them, adding their logo, adding their personalization, and their touch to it so that they can just buy that and get it shipped home. So I would say that there is endless possibilities when it comes to online experience. But that online experience doesn't mean that you don't have to be physical. You can still be physical, but you have to make sure that you are also just curating and taking care of your online channels.
Yeah. I've just recently finished up some interviews about the future of eCommerce, and one of the takeaways from that was how eCommerce will eventually no longer be eCommerce. It will simply be commerce. Or, as you described, omnichannel or unified commerce, or whatever you want to describe it as.
Because the lines between the spaces are so blurred now, so in-store versus at home on your computer versus walking around on your mobile phone. It really should be a very similar unified experience, regardless. So it's interesting that Zakeke has made that move into the in-store. And I can off the top of my head, think of a couple of our clients who that might work quite well for.
Yeah. Like for example, we have a customer which works in the bespoke shoes business. They basically make manufacturer tailormade shoes. And they have different stores in Hong Kong where, again, like exactly how I said it, customers can walk in. They also have online presence.
But the customer can walk in, build their shoes using a touchpad and like a screen, and build their own product using of course, just their imagination. And Zakeke. So they go home, they get it shipped and they have everything, in one place. They did get a beautiful walking experience.
They went to a store, they've had that, I would say, interactive still very human experience of going to a store, but they still decided that they wanted to pick a product and personalizing, using our technology. So I would say that it is always more visible how customers want to add their personal touch, no matter which experience they choose
and they go for. Of course, the online experience is getting more and more important. But either way, even if you are in-store, using a technology to personalize your product is still a must. It's still becoming a must.
So you mentioned Testoni. Are there other clients that you'd like to mention who are doing something particularly interesting or just worth mentioning?
We have so many clients. Right now, we are currently, after all the history that I mentioned, we have around 7,000 customers across the globe in 120 different countries. Actually, 95% of our customers are international, even if we are an Italian company. And half of our business comes from the US.
So like these incredible numbers. We have tons of different use cases also because of what I mentioned, the fact that we have different tools that dedicate to different industries and verticals. So that means that we have a wide range of use cases.
We work with brands like Ubisoft, Nalgene, Clipper, so big brands. But we also work with small and medium customers and businesses to help them create immersive experiences. We work with online and offline, we work with B2B and B2C. We work with several high end fashion brands that I might not may be able to name, but we work with a lot of them to help them enlarge their offerings. Or offer a more particular experience. Or help them get into the world of technology and just 3D and maybe that Metaverse.
For example, we also work a lot with packaging and corporate gift companies, stationary products, jewelry and luxury. We have a brand that's called BOOM Watches that manufactures high end watches. I just mentioned Testoni, but I could mention Jennifer Tattanelli for tailormade shoes, which is a beautiful brand in the US.
Superga uses us to offer personalization of their shoes with like personal designs and logos and text. We have Bellissimo Hats. They do custom made hats with feather and beautiful designs and textures. Also a brand from the US. Dog in the Closet for little outfits for your dogs.
If you want to add embroidered patches to it, you could do it using Zakeke. So we have so many different use cases that kind of merge into one because of the fact that all of them can utilize the same technologies and get the same result. We work very well with the uniform and apparel sector. For example, like this specific business and industry is focused and centered in offering custom product.
But it's very funny because they are still realizing how a designer tool could actually help them making the experience better, but also cutting all those manual costs of producing an insane number of mockups and an insane number of AI files. But also it would help them getting generated the files that they actually need for production. So I would say that for example, for that specific industry, what happens is that they have a very specific requirement when it comes to production. Because they need sublimated files. They need files for printing, but they still want a 3D experience.
So sometimes that is not covered by just a normal 3D configurator. Because they need a product, they need a tool that is able to manage and handle 2D assets. And that is where we come on board and we help out because we have the perfect tool that allows 3D visuals with still 2D asset management.
So we can create the perfect print ready file. They can go to production and help them get the exact result that they want.
That sounds like a pretty good differentiator. I wanted to touch on —this seems to me to be a relatively competitive market these days.
And you're bridging two areas actually, which may make it even more competitive for you. Because on the one hand you've got this idea of personalization and web to print, and there's that whole market segment where there are other companies that offer similar services. And then there's this other area which they don't do web to print, but they do focus very much on product visualization: 2D, 3D, AR, and you're accomplishing both, which is super logical and makes a ton of sense, but that market space is pretty competitive.
So I guess I'm curious to hear how Zakeke differentiates itself in such a competitive marketplace.
Yeah, so I think it makes it more competitive, but it also makes us differentiate more from our competitors because the way we place ourself and what we aim to do is that we want to be the destination of all the brands that are looking for the visual revolution.
So like we want to make sure that we are at the place where all different industries and verticals can go to, to find a perfect tool for visual commerce. So I would say that in general we have so many features that distinguish us from competitors, but probably the main characteristics are flexibility across the board.
So what we just said, all industry. We work in printing, we work in manufacturing, we work in retail. All verticals. Stationary, gadget, general merchandising, custom packaging, uniforms and sporting goods, fashion and apparel, accessories of any kind, shoes, bags, hats, eyewear, and more, jewelry and luxury goods.
Furniture and equipment. Also all sizes. We don't focus on just enterprise. We want to be the self-service tool for everybody. So like we work with small and medium businesses, all the way up to big corporate and enterprise levels customers. But what we are very focused to do is that we want to make sure that our tool is available for everybody, for anyone at any level.
And we put the same amount of effort no matter who our customer is. And that's the most important. Cause we see a lot of competitors that of course, for various reasons, they focus on a certain specific category. Or a certain specific top-notch type of, I would say, pool of customers.
For us, it's important that our brand, that our business is available to everybody at any time and for any reason. Flexibility across the board when it comes to customers deciding to go with us.
Plug and play and easy set up is probably another thing that we do best. We work with all the leading platforms. We have developed plugins and integration for Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magento, OpenCart, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, PrestaShop, Wix, Etsy, Shopware, and I could continue on. But we also have an API that can easily integrate it onto any other eCommerce business.
Our policies, our strategies are very clear and transparent. Flexibility, availability. We want to be there for everyone. And have the sales channels features, meaning that even if you're using multiple platforms, you could use our back office and connect to all your stores at once.
When we think about a merchant who comes to you and says, "Okay, I wanna start this. I've got the need for this 2D, 3D, web to print functionality and AR." What does that merchant need to bring to the table in order to enable Zakeke to launch?
Because you describe it as plug and play, but I assume there's a fair bit of work that the merchant has to have in their hands already in order to get started. Can you give me an idea of what the merchant would need to have?
Sure, of course it depends on the technology they use.
Like for example, we talk about our visual customizer. It's pretty, pretty easy to set up and quite quick because what happens is that you just need your product. And what you do is that— actually it now is a little different. Meaning that initially Zakeke needed the eCommerce to exist in order for it to be integrated with the store.
But actually from a couple weeks ago, we launched the possibility for customers to start an account with Zakeke first, upload their products, even if they do not have a store, and then they can connect their store later on when they decide to move with their strategies and so forth.
So in general, what they have to do is that they just need to upload their product into Zakeke. Then within Zakeke they create the options of personalization. So what happens is that they upload their product. They decide what they want to offer. They create their printing methods with all the possibility and limitations that they want to apply.
Because one thing is, we want to offer the possibility to the merchant to offer any type of customization, but at the same time, we want to give them the power to limit the experience so that they can make sure that they meet their production and business needs at the same time. So that is very important in our industry.
So they literally build the options of customization, the type of printing method they're gonna work with. They allow certain features or not. And after you do that, they can decide if they want to add a 3D preview of that product. And if they want to allow that part of the process, of course they're gonna need 3D models. But if that is not involved in the process, it's pretty straightforward.
They upload their products, they make them customizable, they create all the dependencies, enable all the features that they need to. They upload their graphics. If they want to offer, for example, predefined templates for customers to edit. They create their rules of pricing.
So if they want to provide the possibility of changing pricing, so dynamic pricing, they could also enable all the different rules that they want to apply. And then they go live. For the visual customizer it's pretty quick. It's quite user friendly, our back office. When it comes to 3D, there is the need of a little bit more preparation, meaning that you need 3D assets to upload in the platform to create the different options that you want to offer. If you have an inside team that could do it, great, like self service. So we want you to be empowered to start your own business and to start your own personalization as you wish and how you wish.
But at the same time, we also have a team of 3D experts internally and externally. Meaning we have partners that do that for us as well. So if you needed us to help you end to end, from A to Z to launch your project, we are always there.
We're very quick. We can prepare the whole process for you and we can help you just go live.
That's a great service, I think. Because many merchants like the idea, but they may not have the teams in place to actually make it happen. Can you give me some idea of kind of what type of prices we're talking about? And I understand also that it varies dramatically from one client to another.
But broadly speaking, can we touch on either how your pricing is structured? Or like, just any numbers at all that merchants can understand what they might be looking at?
Yeah, sure. As I was saying, Zakeke places itself on the market as available for everyone. And I think there is a misconception in the world of eCommerce about the fact that 3D, or in general, personalization is expensive. Because it is not. Meaning that for the result that it's going to bring and the amount of effort that currently brands have to put into literally building end products and mockups and files that are ready for the print. Or in literally creating and deciding what the product is gonna look like based on customer's requests.
I will say that there is a little investment at the beginning, only if they want 3D. Because if they don't want 3D, the only thing that they need to pay for is the subscription, which is quite affordable when it comes to small, new businesses. And we also do custom pricing when it comes to enterprise level businesses.
Our business model is a fixed monthly, plus annually pay depending on what you decide for. Plus a very small percentage on customized products. Like that you basically sell using Zakeke. So I would say that the actual subscription is quite affordable.
And then only if they decide that they want our support or they want the support of a third party to build the 3D models. In that case, they would have to consider the pricing of building those 3D models. And of course always, if they want, the pricing of setting up those models for them in the back office.
And that usually changes depending on, of course, the product itself. So for example, I don't know, like when it comes to fashion or apparel products or watches, or like furniture, the cost of the 3D model might be fair from the cost that they would encounter if they were just offering banners and stationary products or hats. Like of course, depending on the product that you're selling, the cost of the 3D model will be different. But it could start at a very basic price of $200, to a very higher price of $600, $700, depending on the complexity of the product itself.
It's probably best not to talk exact prices right now anyway, because who knows, in a couple of months things may change, but if merchants are interested, they can go to the Zakeke website and at least get some frame of mind for what the subscription prices are.
Correct, correct. It's all transparent. So that's also one very big differentiator for us. Meaning that we are transparent. If you go on our website, you find exactly what you're gonna pay. We have a calculator that tells you what you're gonna pay, depending on the number of products. Also it's gonna give you the amount that you're gonna pay in terms of transaction fee.
So you'll see all of it. You see the fixed price, which is very level. We start at $10. So it's literally a very low price. And then depending on the tool and the technology that you use, or better, not. It depends on the type of plan that you decide for. We have a starter, we have a grow plan, and we have a scale plan.
So depending on which one you choose, you're gonna pay between I think $14 to $70 if you go for the annual plan. If you go for the monthly plan, there is a little bit more because you don't get a 30% savings, but it's still a very affordable price for the type of technology that we offer.
Of course, when it comes to other specific needs, we also offer custom pricing. So we are open, we show the prices that we offer, but at the same time, we understand that certain merchants and businesses might require custom pricing or different pricing depending on their needs.
For example, there are certain businesses that do not actually offer purchasing for their products. So they might only want to offer the designing part.
It's probably, I would say, impossible to find a tool and technology that is as flexible as what we offer. We always want to make sure that no matter who you are and what you do, what your business needs are, we can cover that. So even if you are a SaaS platform, usually SaaS platforms are more rigid than, like a software that do custom development.
What we do is that we want to offer something in plug and play and easy to set up, but at the same time, we want to make sure that each customer's needs is heard, and each customer request is met somehow.
Yeah. And I know that from IronPlane's point of view, as an eCommerce agency, we are partnered with both BigCommerce and Magento.
So one is SaaS, on the one hand, one is on-prem and much more customizable, but both can work very well with Zakeke. And we're very interested to see what we can do for our clients and to talk with prospective clients as well. If a merchant listening is interested in taking the first step in their journey of AR and 3D, 2D, web to print merchandising, what would you recommend for their first or second step?
So I would say that as you mentioned, like Magento and BigCommerce are very good platforms. Either one of them. We work with both. We have been integrations that work with both. Of course, each platform has their own specifics when it comes to how plugins and interact with the platform itself.
But very small details, meaning like the way Zakeke works is basically the same. Meaning that we offer the same functionalities and features for both BigCommerce and Magento. Of course, there are certain specific technical differentiations depending on how the eCommerce itself handles and manages their catalogs and the products. But mainly both the platforms work the same in terms of functionalities that we offer.
And notwithstanding the particularities of each platform and the limitations that plugins sometimes face with SaaS platforms, in general our integration is quite advanced. And we are suited actually to provide an easy setup and quick turnaround for both BigCommerce and Magento. What I would suggest to do, is I think it's very important to have their marketing and communications plan ready.
Which you know, of course when you decide to use a specific technology, it's very important that of course you learn about the possibilities of what you have, of what you can do, other than just the things that you need in that moment. Because the possibility might be endless. But of course if you don't have a strategy, if you don't have a marketing and communication plan, what is the point of having a technology if nobody knows you're using it, right? So it's very important in both cases that the first thing you do after you start your platform and you decide and pick your technology, is to build your communication plan.
Yes, announce it to your audience. Explain why you're doing it. Explain how wonderful it is going to be for them so that you take all of the overhead that you previously were doing with your CSRs, managing phone calls and emails. And then you see that drops off, and your online personalization goes up.
And your sales go up. And your overhead goes down. It's most beautiful feeling in the world.
That's right. We could hope that for any merchant, for sure. Yeah. So tell me a little bit about next steps for Zakeke. What does the future hold? Or is it just, stay the course and keep doing what you're doing?
Never. We never stay the course, we never keep doing only what we are doing. We're always doing 100 things at a time. Like I was saying before, when it comes to technology, we're always running 400 miles an hour. So in general, like I think that is also a differentiator. Our software is forward thinking. Like we never stay still.
We grow and thrive primarily from the request of our customers and inputs of the market. And also with the vision of our leadership team, our CTO and CEO. They're visionary in terms of what they want for the future. In fact, I joke a little bit around, but in general, like in our industry, the past is the present and the future is now. Never the opposite.
There is never a future, because it's always now. You can never think of the time in the classic way. So I would say that we are running. We're always adding development features to our pipeline. We release product updates monthly. All those features are based on the request of our clients, and potential clients.
They're based on what we see around us. They're based on the vision of our leadership. And what we try to do is that we see the changes around, but we want to be the leaders. We want to be the ones leading that change in the first place. So I would say just to mention a few, we are currently developing a very powerful system to manage a language translations, embroidery digitization.
We are gonna be launching print area dynamic resizing, the possibility for customers to upload massive files and generate also high quality files, pre-created files from those massive files. For example, for banner production. We are offering the possibility to output custom designs.
So if you are a brand who needs an output file, which is an a stacked output file which is not the classic print file that someone else might want, if you want to build and design your output file, you're gonna be able to do it. We are using totally new interface that is going to be completely customizable and editable.
The integration of AI into the experience, as well as the possibility for customers to create their own NFTs, and pushing them to a Metaverse of choice. There is all sorts of things that are in the pipeline and that are being worked right now. They're gonna be available for our customers very soon in the next quarter or so. So there is a lot going on. We never stay still.
That's a lot and very exciting. We will look forward to seeing what the future holds for Zakeke and we're looking forward to talking with you more about potential fits with our clients and with prospective clients.
Thank you again Gaia for joining us on Shaping eCommerce, and this has been very informative.
Hopefully, our merchants have learned something new and seen some opportunities in front of them. As usual, we'll include all of your contact info in the show notes and we look forward to next time.
Awesome. Thank you very much, Tim. It was a pleasure. Happy to be here. If anyone has questions, feel free to reach out to me.