The big challenge of 2016 in Retail: Managing product information

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By Team Srijan Jan 12, 2016

From the brick and mortar stores or catalog sales a century ago to the multichannel sales and marketing of today, businesses realize the importance of getting the right and precise product information to their customers to influence decision and final sale. This has gained serious momentum in the last decade or so with the disruption caused by online stores and marketplaces, and the easy availability of information about a product on a shopper’s connected devices.

Today, sellers are trying to make sure that the experience that they provide to their customers on all channels is consistent, whether they come through a web store, a point of sales device, or a mobile app. Apart from the look and feel of these experiences the biggest contributor to making these experiences consistent is the ability to provide clean and consistent product information through all channels. Customers of today visit more than one channel to find out about a product. They compare products from multiple brands and variations before they buy. So it is now critical to ensure that the customer gets access to the right information across all channels.

This is a point Jim Lecinski delicately made in “ZMOT: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth”. He spoke about how the increase in accessibility to information has made it a mandate for product information to be always clear and fresh on all channels.

“....determined shoppers would go to the library to see what Consumer Reports had to say about cars or washing machines. There were other unique research tools: ….. But for most items, the barrier was easy access. Fresh and detailed information about a given product was the exception. That exception is now the rule.

There are no barriers to access. Today’s shoppers carry access in their pockets. They create their own consumer guides a million times a minute with reviews, tweets, blogs, social network posts and videos for products of all kinds.”

So what seems to be abundantly clear is that rapid growth of e-commerce and online stores have created this huge opportunity for sellers to sell much wider variety, multiple variations, multiple brands compared to what they were selling earlier through only the physical stores.

This huge opportunity has obviously come with a huge challenge as well. That of making, easy to understand consistent product information available, with agility, across all channels including web, mobile, tablets, retail stores, distributors, marketplaces, point of sales, printed catalogs, flyers etc.

However, even today, the best of the marketing teams at the best of retailers or manufacturers are trying to meet this challenge with spreadsheets, homegrown archaic applications, and manual processes over email. 

It’s like going to war with a giant and taking only a matchstick and a spoon as your weapons. 

At Srijan, we realised this as a major challenge that is faced globally, and specifically observed it as a pattern with our clients and prospects. We knew this needs to be solved by a tool which is simple and intuitive to use, and fits seamlessly in an existing or a new architecture.

Enter PIM or Product Information Management system. It’s your perfect partner in this war to keep your product data up to date on all channels. And it simplifies the marketing team’s work manifold, significantly improving productivity and reducing errors.

After much research, we zeroed in on akeneo, an open source tool that puts a check in each box for an ideal PIM system. We put akeneo to test, with our first implementation of the tool in a marketplace that we were building. This will see 600,000 - 800,000 products as it goes live. Impressed with the capabilities that akeneo provided we are now implementation partner for akeneo.

So to explain how PIM helps solve the challenge that is been talked about, let's pull a leaf out of akeneo's way to explain the same :

Collect:

Product information is collected from various different sources at one place. The sources can be many: ERP systems, warehouse systems, procurement systems, product suppliers, and so on.

Enrich:

Once collected at a single place the content team/marketing team have access to this information. They can enrich the product information, upload images, demo videos, 3D/rotation videos, user manuals, and add various taxonomies like brand, categories to each product.

Spread:

PIM now helps share this information to various channels. The marketing team can choose to share only the required attributes for products per channel instead of everyone getting everything. 

Apart from these basic features, a PIM tool can also provide features for authentication and authorization, access control at an attribute or attribute collection level, and basic approval workflows.

In summary, today’s retailers/manufacturers require an efficient way, a great tool and a set of processes to collect and manage massive amounts of information for products to push sales. The tool also needs to withstand ever increasing number of products being added to a seller’s portfolio almost on a daily basis and always keep the latest and freshest information available for all channels to consume. Product Information Management System addresses all these questions.

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