“How do I keep product data current across many channels?”

Product Management

Omni Channel Pain Point No. 2

November 2014


Over the past year, product information management has become a common pain of retailers expanding to new sales channels. And not just B2C channels; B2B product management is one of the most complex areas to handle since retailers can be distributing to a wide variety of other retailers, using a number of back-end systems. As merchants rise to the challenge of selling products across more sales channels, they are starting to ask themselves, “how do I keep product data current across many channels?”

The solution these retailers need – simply put – is a centralized hub for their product data equipped with governance processes and flexible integration. In this second post of our monthly blog series addressing Omnichannel Pain Points, I will take a look at the common pains retailers face while managing product data, and explore how to develop a product information management (PIM) strategy that will keep product data clear and consistent across channels.

Product Information Management (PIM) Challenges

PIM is time consuming and complex: Retailers can have tens of suppliers and even more drop shippers, even as a small business. They can also sell products on multiple channels. When product data “lives” in all of these different locations, it often has inconsistent formatting, incomplete fields and duplicate records. Worst of all, it typically demands a very time-consuming, manual process of cleaning the product data and standardizing formatting.

Catering information to each channel: Online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay require very specific product data in different formats. Larger retailers such as Nordstrom may have very specific product data requirements compared to a small online jewelry retailer. Modifying product data for these requirements and managing channel-specific sets of data can become quickly become complex, especially when there is no governance or visibility of what data is provided to each channel.

Discrepancies: Discrepancies with product information between channels can cause a lot of confusion for both customers and the retailers trying to sell items. Questions about products can lead to more calls (and thus, more work) for customer service representatives, and can negatively impact site-browsing behavior, not to mention loyalty.

 

Solutions

Consolidate product data: A Product Information Management solution creates a single source of data for all product information from all sources, including channels, suppliers, drop shippers, and manufacturers. To get to this point, however, retailers must pull product data from all available sources and identify which data is to be kept – this includes removing irrelevant data, updating old data, and working towards a standard format.

Develop governance processes: Product data management and governance challenges escalate with the number of variations used to describe a single product. Before developing governance processes, retailers must identify current workflows. How many people must view and approve data before it is pushed online? In what order does this happen? Who approves and tracks product data changes? A governance process requires data to be reviewed, verified, classified, structured and recorded to ensure better quality and greater quantity of content available, accuracy and timeliness of the information, improved data quality, and greater alignment with multi channel goals.

Integration with sales channels: The consolidation of all data into one system allows a retailer to quickly and effectively list products across any number of platforms and channels, all while reducing costs and improving time to market. For B2B, sales channel integration may require integrating with drop ship fulfillment and product content management solutions used by other retailers. Direct integration allows for the most up-to-date information to be updated to all sales channels without extra time and resources.

A successful PIM strategy can result in better customer experience, increased sales and more efficient operations. See more tips on managing product data across channels or get answers to all of your product data management questions here.

Check out the first post in this monthly blog series: “Dealing with my outdated system has become a chore”

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