Where to Buy a Magic Wand?

Sometimes you may get the impression that sales, including online sales, is driven by extremely smart sales and marketing people targeting simple-minded customers.

Let us look at an example with selling a product online. Below are two approaches:

Magic wand

Bigger picture is available here.

My take is that the data rich approach is much more effective than the alternative (but sadly often used one). Some proof is delivered in the post Ecommerce Su…ffers without Data Quality.

In many industries, the merchant who will cash in on the sale will be the one having the best and most stringent data, because this serves the overwhelming majority of buying power, who do not want to be told what to buy, but what they are buying.

So, pretending to be an extremely smart data management expert, I will argue that you can monetize on product data by having the most complete, timely, consistent, conform and accurate product information in front of your customers. This approach is further explained in the piece about Product Data Lake.

Spreadsheets, Business Process Re-engineering and Robots

Product information is the data a potential buyer of a product needs to make a purchasing decision. Today purchasing is more and more made by self-services as in e-commerce. The product information is usually obtained through a supply chain between trading partners stretching from the manufacturer to the end merchant.

The most common way of exchanging product information between trading partners is using spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are marvellous, because you can do almost anything you want with them. However, spreadsheets are also horrendous, because you can do almost anything you want with them. Therefore, trading partners are often stuck with manual, cumbersome and error prone processes on both the providing and receiving end.

At Product Data Lake we have developed a new mechanism that enables a whole new process for exchanging product information between trading partners. We have kept the flexibility of spreadsheets when it comes to choosing the data standards on the providing and receiving end but at the same time introduced automation and correctness when it comes to transferring, translating and transforming the data.

When telling about our service I am often asked if we have a nice feature for on-boarding spreadsheets. We don’t. Because the process is designed to omit the spreadsheets and transfer directly from the providers in-house product information data store(s) to the receiving in-house product information data store.

RobotThis reminds me of when we talk about using robots to substitute human labor. Then we often think about a machine that looks like a human. But effective industrial robots do not look like humans. They a designed to do a specific process much more effective than a human and will therefore not look like a human. The same is true in digitalization. When we redesign business processes to be much more effective they should not include spreadsheets.

5 Product Data Levels to Consider

When talking about Product Master Data Management (Product MDM) Product Information Management (PIM) I like to divide the different kinds of product data into the schema below:

Five levels

Level 1, Basic Data

At the first level, we find the basic product data that typically is the minimum required for creating a product in any system of record.

Here we find the primary product identification number or code that is the internal key to all other product data structures and transactions related to the product within an organization.

Then there usually is a short product description. This description helps internal employees identifying a product and distinguishing that product from other products. Most often the product is named in the official language of the company.

If an upstream trading partner produces the product, we may find the identification of that supplier here too. If the product is part of internal production, we may have a material type telling about if it is a raw material, semi-finished product, finished good or packing material.

Level 2, Trading Data

The second level has product data related to trading the product. We may have a unique Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) that may be in the form of an International – former European – Article Number (EAN) or a Universal Product Code (UPC). Here we have commodity codes and a lot of other product data that supports buying, receiving, selling and delivering the product.

Level 3, Recognition Data

On the third level, we find the two basic pieces of product information that came to existence when we started producing product catalogues and had the first ecommerce solutions online.

The extended product description is needed because the usual short product description used internally have no meaning to an outsider as told in the post Customer Friendly Product Master Data. Some good best practices for governing the extended product description is to have a common structure of how the description is written, not to use abbreviations and to have a strict vocabulary as reported in the post Toilet Seats and Data Quality.

We often see that the extended product descriptions need to be present in the range of languages covering the locations where business is done either if the business is international or done in a country with multiple countries. The trend of increased user customization (or should I say customisation) drives this point further.

Having a product image is pivotal if you want to sell something without showing the real product face-to-face with the customer or other end user. A missing product image is a sign of a broken business process for collecting product data as pondered in the post Image Coming Soon.

Level 4, Self-service Data

At the fourth level, we have three main sorts of product information: Product attributes, basic product relations and standard digital assets. These data supports when customers makes buying decisions within eCommerce and other self-service scenarios.

Product attributes are also sometimes called product properties or product features. These are up to thousands of different data elements that describes a product. Some are very common for most products like height, length, weight and colour. Some are very specific to the product category. This challenge is the reason of being for dedicated Product Information Management (PIM) solutions as told in the post MDM Tools Revealed.

Basic product relations are the links between a product and other products like a product that have several different accessories that goes with the product or a product being a successor of another now decommissioned product. Product relations is described further in the post Related Products: The Often Overlooked Facet of PIM.

Standard digital assets are documents like installation guides, line drawings and data sheets as examined in the post Digital Assets and Product MDM.

Level 5, Competitive Data

As the fifth level we find elements like on the fourth level, but usually these are elements that you won’t necessarily apply to all products but only to your top products where you want to stand out from the crowd and distance yourself from your competitors. If you are a reseller, you typically make these data yourself, where level 4 hard facts are delivered from the manufacturer, as examined in the post Using Internal and External Product Information to Win.

Special content are descriptions of and stories about the product above the hard features. Here you tell about why the product is better than other products and in which circumstances the product can to be used. A common aim with these descriptions is also Search Engine Optimization.

X-sell (cross-sell) and up-sell product relations applies to your particular mix of products and may be made subjective as for example to look at up-sell from a profit margin point of view. X-sell and up-sell relations may be defined from upstream by you or your upstream trading partners but also dripping down on the roof from the behaviour of your downstream trading partners / customers as manifested in the classic webshop message: “Those who bought product A also bought / looked at product B”.

Advanced digital assets are broader and more lively material than the hard fact line drawings and other documents. Increasingly newer digital media types as video are used for this purpose.

Product Classification, Product Pricing and Product Lifecycle Status

All of the above-mentioned levels of product information is supported by product classification. Usually we see product classification handled as a reference data type across Product Information Management (PIM), ERP and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) where applicable.

Product pricing is usually also a subject mainly belonging to the ERP side of things.

Product Lifecycle Status again goes across Product Information Management (PIM), ERP and not at least Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) where applicable.

Master Data Management (MDM) is the discipline that connects the dots between these topics.

Take the processes to next level:

You can take your Product Information Management (PIM) and Product Master Data Management (Product MDM) to a higher level by following the processes as described in the post Using Pull or Push to Get to the Next Level in Product Information Management.

Merchants vs Manufacturers in the Information Age

Merchants sells the goods produced by manufacturers. In that game merchants and manufacturers are basically allies. Then of course the merchant’s profit may depend on the margin he can get between the manufacturers price to him and the merchant’s price to his customer. In that game, merchants and manufacturers are kind of enemies.

When it comes to providing product information to the end customers, merchants and manufacturers are allies too. The more complete product information placed in front of the end customer, the better. This is increasingly important today with more and more goods sold in self-service scenarios as in ecommerce.

standoffBut again, there seems to be an enemy angle here too. Who should have the burden of lifting product information as the manufacturers have it to the way it is presented at the point-of-sales provided by the merchant? Often this seems to be stalled in a standoff as described in the post Passive vs Active Product Information Exchange.

At Product Data Lake we offer merchants and manufacturers an honorable way out of this standoff:

Will You Successfully Defend Your Business against Invading Spreadsheets?

When we at Product Data Lake are exhibiting on trade shows (yes, we sadly are that old school, sometimes), we have a computer game called PDL Invaders. The game is built over the legendary computer game called Space Invaders. In our version, you use the PDL spaceship to shoot down invading spreadsheets and emails.

TFM16The purpose of the game is to emphasize one of the main reasons of being for Product Data Lake. We want to replace the use of spreadsheets for exchanging product information in cross company supply chains with our automated cloud service.

Spreadsheets is the most common tool to directly exchange product information between trading partners today. The typical scenario is that a receiver of product information, being a downstream distributor, retailer or large end user, will have a spreadsheet for each product group that is emailed to be filled by each supplier each time a new range of products is to be on-boarded (and potentially each time you need a new piece of information). As a provider of product information, being a manufacturer or upstream distributor, you will receive a different spreadsheet to be filled from each trading partner each time you are to deliver a new range of products (and potentially each time they need a new piece of information).

Customer data portals is a concept a provider of product information may have, plan to have or dream about. The idea is that each downstream trading partner can go to your customer data portal, structured in your way and format, when they need product information from you. Your trading partner will then only have to deal with your customer data portal – and the crowd of other customer data portals in their supplier range. Add to that, that spreadsheets is the “natural” tool to download data from such a portal.

Supplier data portals is a concept a receiver of product information may have, plan to have or dream about. The idea is that each upstream trading partner can go to your supplier data portal, structured in your way and format, when they have to deliver product information to you. Your trading partner will then only have to deal with your supplier data portal – and the heaps of other supplier data portals in their business-to-business customer range. Add to that, that spreadsheets is the “natural” tool to upload data to such a portal.

Product Data Lake is the sound alternative to the above options. Hailstorms of spreadsheets does not work.

Follow us on LinkedIn and get up to date information about when the PDL Invaders game will be close to you. Our company page is here.

 

Mantra for Retailers: Streamline Product Information to Delight Customers

In his third guest blog post here on this blog Rajneesh Kumar of Pimcore examines how this in-house PIM solution facilitates the way sales teams, online marketers, logistics departments and other units can work in perfect unison.

pimcore3

Managing retail is a complex business. It starts with keeping all the attributes of your product information consistent across all platforms. That’s because your customers are everywhere today. They check out your products online and in store. They express themselves on chat boxes, send emails asking straight questions, buy using desktops/tablets/mobiles, call customer care and use all the devices at their disposal interchangeably in doing so.

Ergo, your product information should better be accurate, high-quality, comprehensive, consistent and up-to-the-minute at all times, across all platforms. As your business expands, number of products increase, the chances of botching up only get higher.

In this sea of complexity, one of the key differentiators in your growth story can be the PIM solution you implement. Pimcore’s PIM can be an answer to your retail needs, here’s why:

Retailers’ Needs Answered with Ease:

In today’s changing consumer dynamics, where 72% of businesses have named improving customer experience as their top priority, a robust product information management system is vital for retailers.

It’s no secret that retailers are grappling with the ever-changing product information requirements. They know it very well their customers are deluged with choices. If they don’t give their customers a consistent experience across all digital touch-points irrespective of the time, date, location, phase in the customer life cycle, they stand to lose. With Pimcore’s PIM, integrating different systems, breaking down silos and managing data efficiently can put you on a trajectory of growth.

A PIM Solution that’s Simple yet Mature:

At the core, it’s all about managing the details about your products, like SKUs, specifications, core product data, digital assets, content, omni-channel data, metrics, and the works. And Pimcore does it like no other PIM software.

Be it the drag and drop approach, quick and easy data entry and management or a context sensitive navigation, it’s a breeze to maintain data assets on Pimcore. Its unrivaled interface too, makes it simple to manage data from multiple domains within one consolidated platform. Besides, Pimcore can be a great fit with CMS, DAM, and Commerce, which can immensely curb your time-to-market.

Unmatched Data Integration, Management and Delivery:

As a retailer, your business’s success will always hinge on your ability to integrate, manage and deliver properly. Pimcore’s data integration is unique in every sense. It has the capacity to integrate into just about any IT environment. This is due to its API driven approach and “connect anything” architecture, so whether it’s Oracle, SAP, Navision or anything else, you can look forward to a seamless integration.

Having rich product information in a flexible and agile data model, which is user-friendly, consistently organized, aggregated, classified, and ready for translation is one the biggest virtues of Pimcore.

Retailers can expect a lasting information infrastructure support, which will secure them for the future and ensure data integrity.

Pimcore Helps in Carving Impeccable Customer Journeys:

In retail, user’s perspective reigns supreme. Every possible trajectory of a customer’s journey must be thought through distinctly and mapped out. Everything that a customer is capable of doing, the touch-points they might engage through, all their possible actions, the way they see it must be taken into account. And Pimcore’s PIM can be of excellent help in doing this. It will act as a powerful link between your data and your customers in every step of their journey. It can subtly guide them, which will eventually lead them towards decision making.

Wrapping Up:

Customer centricity may be the driving force in today’s retail environment, but that doesn’t take away the importance of other stakeholders such as suppliers, sales teams, online marketers, logistics departments and other units. It’s pertinent that they all work in perfect unison, minus any silos, in order to contribute towards creating a great customer journey. Pimcore’s PIM can give you a leading edge in making it happen.

Rajneesh KumarA digital marketer and growth hacker, Rajneesh Kumar is currently marketing manager at Pimcore Global Services (PGS), an award-winning consolidated open source platform for product information management (PIM), web content management (CMS), digital asset management (DAM) and e-commerce. He is well versed with web analytic tools, paid media marketing and has hands on experience on seo techniques, organic promotion and content marketing.

The Relation of PIM to Retail Success

This is the second guest blog post from Rajneesh Kumar. In here Rajneesh examines how PIM and MDM have become a crucial aspect of retail success.

Today, every product has a variety of information. And each piece of product information is vital to influencing buyers since every buyer does in-depth research before zeroing on any product. When you deal with tens of thousands of products and their different data types and attributes, a streamlined product data becomes even more critical to ensure a higher sale.

Just think about any online store, and you will get the idea what magic product information produces in the presentation layer of marketing and sales channels.

A product information contains many components and maintains huge catalogs, bringing together the attributes of products with merchandising elements such as images, videos, audios, descriptions, and bundles. These key product facts induce greater product salability across multiple platforms to your customers— while maintaining brand visibility and consistency. When these elements are represented elegantly at the customer-facing end, it can even impact the overall customer buying experience.

Retail

Another factor is time-to-market. Retail sector has become a fast-paced industry where every day 4Ps of products could be changed and refreshed. You need a process that works like a well-oiled machine to keep your customers updated and engaged— across the board. And, you can better engage with buyers when you have a:

  • Fully centralized system— Define, create, and sync master data of product information across multiple channels
  • Rock solid operational capability— Use master data in day-to-day operations without any delay
  • Analytical capability— Reports and insights to make faster, accurate decisions

Beside that, PIM addresses the dynamic nature of constructing and reconstructing compelling packages and offers in an environment that any user can work in, regardless of their programming skills. PIM platform makes product visualization—easier; workflow management— quicker; mass product updates— faster; and integration with content tools (WCM, DAM, eCommerce, etc.)—seamless.

A flexible PIM/MDM platform enables you to harmonize product information lifecycle, including appending, modifying/updating, deleting, validating and securing access to the product information. With a single source of reliable product information, it makes easy to enrich product information across all touchpoints such as website, mobile app, social, in-store point-of-sale, and physical store. Simply, PIM and MDM have become a crucial aspect of retail success.

As digital marketer and growth hacker, Rajneesh Kumar is currently marketing manager at Pimcore Global Services (PGS), an award-winning consolidated open source platform for product information management (PIM), web content management (CMS), digital asset management (DAM) and e-commerce.

You Must Supplement Customer Insight with Rich Product Data

school_420x310This week I attended an event called Retail Summer School at Columbia Business School in New York.

Much of the talking was about how to get insights on your (prospective) customers by collecting data in all kinds of ways – while observing the thin line between cool and creepy.

My thinking, of course biased by my current Product Data Lake venture, is that you should also pay attention to product data. For at least two reasons:

Algorithm effectiveness: Your algorithms on what products to present based on your rich insight into your customers need will only work if you are able to automatically match the needs against very specific product attributes. And most retailers don not have that today if you look at product descriptions on their ecommerce sites.

Also, I am not impressed by the suggestions I get today. They generally fall into two buckets:

  • Things I absolutely do not need
  • Things I just bought

Self-service craving: As a customer, we will strike back. We do not need to be told what to buy. But we do want to know what we are buying. This means we want to be able to see rich product information. Therefore retailers must maintain a lot of product data and related digital assets that they should fetch at a trusted source: From the manufactures. And if the manufacturer wants their products to be the ones selected by the end customers, they must be able to deliver these data seamlessly to all their distributors, retailers and marketplaces.