Today, a mere two years on from 2020, it seems hard to remember when the vast majority of retail purchases were made in person by shopping in a store. Laurent Simoneau, CTO and co-founder of Coveo Solutions, recalls that time quite well – and then, the moment when retailers the world over were suddenly forced to close their physical outlets and move 100% to e-commerce.

Fortunately for all concerned, Coveo was available to help them with an intelligent search and recommendations solution powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Since then, Coveo has experienced dramatic growth for its e-commerce products, leading to a decision in early 2021 to invest in the SAP ecosystem. Coveo Search and Recommendation for SAP Commerce has quickly become one of the hottest sellers on SAP Store.

The idea is to help online buyers easily and quickly find what they’re looking for, as well as what they might be looking for – and might purchase if given a personalized recommendation. When shoppers can discover more options in an online product catalog thanks to automated suggestions based on their intent, guess what? They buy more. The Coveo app also engages shoppers with a unified search experience that spans helpful content such as expert blogs and videos. The key is real-time personalization: relevance.

But the Coveo story starts years ago in 2005, when Simoneau and two close colleagues spotted an opportunity: to improve online search. Working together at another company with an advertising-based model, they shifted gears, launching Coveo and quickly finding a niche. “We evolved into a classic on-premise search business in enterprise software,” Simoneau told me.

A Well-Timed Move to the Cloud

By 2011, however, another opportunity had appeared. “In retrospect,” he observed, “our move to the cloud was perfectly timed. The market was not well defined, and many companies preferred the comfort of on-premises platforms. We recognized that the cloud would enable the capture of massive amounts of data that could be used in countless ways.”

Within a few years, Coveo had harnessed AI and applied it to search, branching into customer and employee service and support. These are important lines of business for Coveo, using the same technology to help users find what they need and giving Coveo a broad customer base.

Growth is now also happening in e-commerce, though, thanks in large part to the ability of the Coveo solution to help companies scale rapidly. I asked Simoneau what life was like in 2020, expecting him to say utter chaos. Instead, “It was pretty flawless,” he replied. “The platform is designed to handle these peaks of activity. After all, it was designed to handle Black Friday volume for very large retailers.

A Cohesive Global Team

He added that the organization also absorbed the shocks of COVID-19 well since it was already operating in many cases in hybrid mode. With R&D headquarters based in Quebec City and offices in nearby Montreal, Coveo has employees located globally, primarily in the U.S., with offices in the UK and the Netherlands covering Europe. That said, the team works quite cohesively, and geographic diversity is an advantage. “It gives us a sensibility about the world – an important dynamic because we have customers everywhere. And I think the different opinions, backgrounds, experiences, and cultures come together to create a better product.”

The organization is anchored by the long-standing relationships of its co-founders and executives. Co-founders Marc Sanfaçon leads as senior vice president of Technology, and Richard Tessier as senior vice president of Products, whereas CFO Jean Lavigueur joined in 2006 and current CEO Louis Tetu joined as an early investor in 2008.

“We built the company, through good days and bad days, as a team based on trust,” Simoneau remarked. “That’s powerful.”

A Natural Fit with SAP

That’s one reason why Coveo’s partnership with SAP is a good match: the emphasis on relationships. In less than a year, the Coveo team has built close alliances with SAP product marketing, resulting in clear direction on how the Coveo offering can complement the SAP Commerce Cloud solution. In addition, continuous conversations with SAP execs have led to alignment on product direction, positioning and messaging, and sales strategies.

From a technology standpoint, he noted that the “headless” approach, whereby the SAP back end is decoupled from the Coveo front end, makes for an “elegant architecture” that supports the best functionality of each. Perhaps most relevant of all, Simoneau noted, is that SAP stands out as the company that best supports both B2B and B2C, a natural fit with Coveo.

Why not explore Coveo Search and Recommendation for SAP Commerce today? My bet is that you’ll find it relevant to your business.

Rajiv Nema is senior director of SAP Store Partner Solutions at SAP.