The current pandemic has shown as nothing before how important it is to have the digital part of your business up and running correctly. Brick and mortar shops had to close due to COVID-19, and at the same time digital business was booming due to social distancing and the stay-at-home rules all around the globe. It is yet to be seen whether the people that recently made the shift from buying in brick and mortar shops to buying online, will switch back once the imminent danger is gone.
One of Squadra’s customers recently stated that since the beginning of the pandemic they have experienced a digital pivot across the European countries. During the first quarter trade sales over the internet were up 110% versus the prior year. And third-party market-place sales – through bol.com, Amazon and others – have increased by over 200%.
Product Information Management is more important than ever before
It is important to assess the Digital Maturity of your business on the path towards fully digital enablement. Please consider the following Product Information Management related checkpoints in your assessment:
- Is there a clear digital roadmap, or is it merely done because others do it? When it is merely a “tick-in-the-box” kind of effort, the results will probably be mediocre, and freeing budgets on the long term will be difficult.
- Our annuals surveys show that onboarding of product data is still very challenging for Wholesalers as well as retailers. Are you able to mass onboard new products? Is feeding your PIM system and keeping it up to date a fulltime job for multiple departments, or is data flowing effortlessly into your PIM system through multiple integrations with other business critical systems? Are you able to automatically classify the new products into your product hierarchy and is the conversion of supplier data to your standards automated to accelerate the time to market and reduce cost for manual efforts?
- Is the quality of your product data on a level that it will help your customers or frustrate them? Does your product data also include information like user guides, product videos, cross- and upsell, the product variants (e.g. colors), etc. Please make sure that you not only check completeness, but also correctness and other DQ factors (see overview)
- Are your product descriptions SEO-savvy? Are the values in attributes that you use in the filters (facets) of your website correct and consistent (no mm and cm)?
- Is there really one source of the truth, that is used to enable your product website, your product assortment at a partner website, digital marketplaces, paper catalogues, mobile apps? (Omnichannel consistency)
The acceleration of online sales has been propelled by a pandemic that was not foreseen at the end of 2019. We expect this move to be one directional, there is no way back. Whether you like it or not, online is the future for products and services where this is possible.
Online sales is not only your own website, and that of a partner. It also encompasses digital marketplaces like bol.com and Amazon. When you want to connect to these types of marketplace, you will have to adapt to their ‘standards’. That will demand a certain flexibility in how you order your products internally, and how to expose them externally. AI and machine learning based tooling is available to facilitate the classification of your products into their structure and conversion of your data into their formats.
The information that can be found about your products needs to be consistent over different channels. If you provide different information on marketplaces compared to your own website or your offline brochure, clients will become confused, and prefer to go for a brand that does provide consistent information. Switching brands in an online world is much easier, and customer loyalty is harder to achieve.
Online sales and exposure are only the start. If you want to improve the customer experience, you’ll also need to capture the sales data and the digital footprints a customer leaves behind on your website. When done properly, analysis of this data will give you the opportunity to further optimise the customer journey by provide more context and personalise your offerings and in the long run improve the business you do with these customers.
A well implemented PIM solution will have to be at the center of your digital roadmap. This solution does not only consist of a PIM system, but also best practice processes, adherence to data standards, use of data pools and other ways to mass onboard data and a supporting governance structure and organisation. This holistic PIM approach enables you to make sure your online experience will be enjoyable and beneficial for both your customers and yourself.