Tag Archives: PIM
In his recent article: “The catalog is dead – long live the catalog,” Informatica’s Ben Rund spoke about how printed catalogs are positioned as a piece of the omnichannel puzzle and are a valuable touch point on the connected customer’s informed purchase journey. The overall response was far greater than what we could have hoped for; we would like to thank all those that participated. Seeing how much interest this topic generated, we decided to investigate further, in order to find out which factors can help in making print publishing successful.
5 key Factors for Successful Print Publishing Projects
Today’s digital world impacts every facet of our lives. Deloitte recently reported that approximately 50% of purchases are influenced by our digital environment. Often, companies have no idea how much savings can be generated through the production of printed catalogues that leverage pre-existing data sources. The research at www.pim-roi.com talks of several such examples. After looking back at many successful projects, Michael and his team realized the potential to generate substantial savings when the focus is to
optimize “time to market.” (If, of course, business teams operate asynchronously!)
For this new blog entry, we interviewed Michael Giesen, IT Consultancy and Project Management at Laudert to get his thoughts and opinion on the key factors behind the success of print publishing projects. We asked Michael to share his experience and thoughts on the leading factors in running successful print publishing projects. Furthermore, Michael also provides insight on which steps to prioritize and which pitfalls to avoid at all costs, in order to ensure the best results.
1. Publication Analysis
How are objects in print (like products) structured today? What about individual topics and design of creative pages? How is the placement of tables, headings, prices and images organized nowadays? Are there standards? If so, what can be standardized and how? To get an overall picture, you have to thoroughly examine these points. You must do so for all the content elements involved in the layout, ensuring that, in the future, they can be used for Dynamic Publishing. It is conceivable that individual elements, such as titles or pages used in subject areas, could be excluded and reused in separate projects. Gaining the ability to automate catalog creation potentially requires to compromise in certain areas. We shall discuss this later. In the future, product information will probably be presented with very little need to apply changes, 4 instead of 24 table types, for example. Great, now we are on the right path!
2. Data Source Analysis
Where is the data used in today’s printed material being sourced from? If possible or needed, are there several data sources that require to be combined? How is pricing handled? What about product attributes or the structure of product description tables in the case of an individual item? Is all the marketing content and subsequent variations included as well? What about numerous product images or multiple languages? What about seasonally adjusted texts that pull from external sources?
This case requires a very detailed analysis, leading us to the following question:
What is the role and the value of storing product information using a standardized method in print publishing?
The benefits of utilizing such processes should be clear by now: The more standards are in place, the greater the amount of time you will save and the greater your ability to generate positive ROI. Companies that currently operate with complex systems supporting well-structured data are already ahead in the game. Furthermore, yielding positive results doesn’t necessarily require them to start from scratch and rebuild from the ground up. As a matter of fact, companies that have already invested in database systems (E.g. MSSQL) can leverage their existing infrastructures.
3. Process Analysis
In this section of our analysis, we will be getting right down to the details: What does the production process look like, from the initial layout phase to the final release process? Who is responsible for the “how? Who maintains the linear progression? Who has the responsibilities and release rights? Lastly, where are the bottlenecks? Are there safeguards mechanisms in place? Once all these roles and processes have been put in place and have received the right resources we can advance to the next step of our analysis. You are ready to tackle the next key factor: Implementation.
Here you should be adventurous, creative and open minded, seeing that compromise might be needed. If your existing data sources do not meet the requirements, a solution must be found! A certain technical creative pragmatism may facilitate the short and medium planning (see point 2). You must extract and prepare your data sources for printed medium, such as a catalog, for example. The priint:suite of WERK II has proven itself as a robust all-round solution for Database Publishing and Web2Print. All-inclusive PIM solutions, such as Informatica PIM, already has a standard interface to priint:suite available. Depending on the specific requirements, an important decision must then be made: Is there a need for an InDesign Server? Simply put, it enables the fully automatic production of large-volume objects and offers accurate data preview. While slightly less featured, the use of WERK II PDF renderers offers similar functionalities but at a significantly more affordable price.
Based on the software and interfaces selected, an optimized process which supports your system can be developed and be structured to be fully automated if needed.
For individual groups of goods, templates can be defined, placeholders and page layouts developed. Production can start!
5. Selecting an Implementation Partner
In order to facilitate a smooth transition from day one, the support of a partner to carry out the implementation should be considered from the beginning. Since not only technology, but more importantly practical expertise provides maximum process efficiency, it is recommended that you inquire about a potential partner’s references. Getting insight from existing customers will provide you with feedback about their experience and successes. Any potential partner will be pleased to put you in touch with their existing customers.
What are Your Key Factors for Successful Print Publishing?
I would like to know what your thoughts are on this topic. Has anyone tried PDF renderers other than WERK II, such as Codeware’s XActuell? Furthermore, if there are any other factors you think are important in managing successful print publishing, feel free to mention them in the comments here. I’d be happy to discuss here or on twitter at @nicholasgoupil.
Working for Informatica has many advantages. One of them is that I clearly understand the difference between Product Information Management (PIM) and Master Data Management (MDM) for product data[i]. Since I have this clear in my own mind, it is easy to forget that this may not be as obvious to others. As frequently happens, it takes a customer to help us articulate why PIM is not the same as Product MDM. Now that this is fresh in my mind again, I thought I would share why the two are different, and when you should consider each one, or both.
In a lengthy discussion with our customer, many points were raised, discussed and classified. In the end, all arguments essentially came down to each technology’s primary purpose. A different primary purpose means that typical capabilities of the two products are geared towards different audiences and use cases.
PIM is a business application that centralizes and streamlines the creation and enhancement of consistent, but localised product content across channels. (Figure 1)
Figure 1: PIM Product Data Creation Flow
Product MDM is an infrastructure component that consolidates the core global product data that should be consistent across multiple and diverse systems and business processes, but typically isn’t. (Figure 2)
Figure 2: MDM Product Data Consolidation Hub
The choice between the two technologies really comes down the current challenge you are trying to solve. If you cannot get clean and consistent data out through all your sales channels fast enough, then a PIM solution is the correct choice for you. However, if your organisation is making poor decisions and seeing bloated costs (e.g. procurement or inventory costs) due to poor internal product data, then MDM technology is the right choice.
But, if it is so simple – why I am even writing this down? Why are the lines blurring now?
Here is my 3-part theory:
- A focus on good quality product data is relatively recent trend. Different industries started by addressing different challenges.
- PIM has primarily been used in retail B2C environments and distributor B2B or B2C environments. That is, organisations which are primarily focused around the sale of a product, rather than the design and production of the product.
- Product MDM has been used predominately by manufacturers of goods, looking to standardise and support global processes, reporting and analytics across departments.
- Now, manufacturers are increasingly looking to take control of their product information outside their organisation.
- This trend is most notable in Consumer Goods (CG) companies.
- Increasingly consistent, appealing and high quality data in the consumer realm is making the difference between choosing your product vs. a competitor’s.
- CG must ensure all channels – their own and their retail partner’s – are fed with high quality product data.
- So PIM is now entering organisations which should already have a Product MDM tool. If they don’t, confusion arises.
- When Marketing buys PIM (and it normally is Marketing), quite frankly this shows up the poor product data management upstream of marketing.
- It becomes quite tempting to try to jam as much product data into a PIM system as possible, going beyond the original scope of PIM.
The follow-on question is clear: why can’t we just make a few changes and use PIM as our MDM technology, or MDM as our PIM solution? It is very tempting. Both data models can be extended to add extra fields. In Informatica’s case, both are supported by a common, feature-rich workflow tool. However, there are inherent risks in using PIM where Product MDM is needed or Product MDM where PIM is needed.
After discussions with our customer, we identified 3 risks of modifying PIM when it is really Product MDM functionality that is needed:
- Decrease speed of PIM deployment
- Reduce marketing agility
- Risk of marketing abandoning the hybrid tool in the mid-term
The last turned out to be the least understood, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Since each of these risks deserves more explanation, I will discuss them in Part 2 of this Blog. (Still to be published)
In summary, PIM and Product MDM are designed to play different roles in the quest for the availability of high quality product data both internally and externally. There are risks and costs associated with modifying one to take on the role of the other. In many cases there is place for both PIM and MDM, but you will still need to choose a starting point. Each journey to high quality product data will be different, but the goal is still the same – to turn product data into business value.
I (or one of my colleagues in a city near you) will be happy to help you understand what the best starting point is for your organisation.
[i] In case you were wondering, this is not the benefit that I joined Informatica for.
Did you know Harrods introduces more than 1.7 million new products every year? This includes their own labels, as well as other brands. Recently, Peter Rush, the Harrods Solution Architect responsible for product information, spoke at Informatica’s MDM Day EMEA in London. At the event, he said there are:
“so many things we want to do: Product Information is at the heart of most of them.”
As part of the customer experience program, Harrods identified product information quality as a key asset, next to customer information management.
The Product Information Challenge Harrods was facing included the following:
- A Lack of a single Product data store
- Inappropriate Product Data objectives
- Massive scale and volume of products and brands (1.7 million new products per year)
- Concessions and Own Bought
- Localized enrichment
- Media Assets all over the estate
While discussing his product information management project, Peter gave a great and simple example. He showed the product descriptions below and asked, “Who knows which two products these are?”:
- XX 6621/74 BLK VN SS TOP 969B S
- XX37066 L/BLU PRK FLAN SH 440B MED
Then, he solved the mystery. The answer was this:
- Black V-neck sleeveless top
- Light blue parker print flannel shirt
Turning vision into reality needs a joint business and IT project
Peter said, it is important to build a “flexible team to meet needs of each project stage, with representation from key business areas”. The team should include representatives from groups like: Merchandise Data, Buying Team, Web Team, IT, CRM and the Shopfloor Team. In addition to their Core Project Team, Harrods defined a Steering Committee and a group of selected Super Users.
Benefit summary: a combination of people, technology and process
At the end of the session, I was impressed by this graphic. This image sums up the essentials of product information management success. It is about the people, who are able to do the right things. It is about how technology enables automation. It is about the process which turns information into value.
Finally it is important to mention our partner Javelin Group is leading the PIM implementation at Harrods. Also Andy Hayler, analyst from The Information Difference, wrote an article for the CIO Magazine.
In our interviews of CIOs, they have told us that connecting what IT is doing to business strategy has become a higher priority than even things like improving technical orchestration and overall process excellence. Being CIO today has become much more about business alignment than technology alignment. This means that CIOs and their teams need to understand their firm’s business problems almost as well as they understand their implementations of information technology. One area where CIOs say they are trying to do a better job of alignment is in working with their firm’s Chief Marketing Officer. Confirming this is a recent CIO Magazine Survey that found initiatives around revenue, customer acquisition, and customer retention receiving top IT priority these days.
Geiger IT solves a persistent business problem by aligning with the marketing team
One CIO that that has really taken this to heart is the Dale Denham who is the CIO at Geiger. Dale and his IT team decided that they needed to get closer to their firm’s marketing organization and by doing so was able to go after a persistent business problem and change the IT-business relationship in the process.
At Geiger, their marketing team was limited in their ability to add new products. Competitively, the marketing team needed to improve their product selection. However, they were hitting the wall in updating and maintaining their product mix. Geiger provides its customers with more than 5,000 products, each having as many as 350 variations. This translates to a 175,000 product permutations to price and manage. At the same time, Geiger sells its products through 500 Sales Partners—this, in turn, can create an additional layer of permutation.
The source of this business problem was that Geiger’s ERP and Website systems that required the users to manipulate multiple screens to get to product data and product codes into the system. The system was difficult enough that it took about six weeks to train someone to input product data. Think about the time needed to then do this this across all products, product permutations, and channel partners.
To fix things, Dale and his team partnered with the business. Doing it together rather than separately enabled the IT organization and the business to collaborate and to build a better and more permanent partnership. Dale says, “We have really enjoyed implementing the solution, because the business units are now working very closely with IT”. Dale claims as well the relationship with their business units has gotten to be a very solid, trusting relationship with them, and very collaborative. They have learned to trust IT’s input, and IT has learned a lot from the business units about how they operate and like to operate.”
The impact of working together is clear
The solution that the business and IT derived cut the time to train people in half. In fact, Dale says that new system users are relatively productive within a week, because the solution is faster and easier to use. Dale says that the time per product entry went down from an hour and half to thirty minutes. For this reason, marketing teams are more efficient. Overall, it reduced the process from two months to one week for them to update the customer facing website. By automating the process, they were able to speed up marketing processes. This means marketing can now add and extend to the existing marketing mix and increase customer satisfaction and potential increase customer upsell and cross sell.
The historical the process created a lot of efficiencies for marketing. Marketing staff is now much more focused on what they’re doing from day to day. They have the ability to update products faster from prices and this has stabilized business margins. At the same time, marketing was able to reduce invoice discrepancies. Given all of this, marketing staff is more engaged that they are able to get the job done in a timely manner and to be able to get to market faster with the products.
The solution took the data entry process down from ninety minutes to thirty minutes. And now with this increased efficiency, the marketing staff has focused more of its time on the quality of copy for the product and on getting the graphics of the images up to websites. This has improved overall customer experience. And of course they were able to expand their product offering. They now have three times the throughput capacity, which is what is going to allow Geiger to grow in the future as it provides more product options to customers.
Already they have found that customers are happier with the immediate larger breadth of product to choose from. Lastly, their leadership team is happier because they are able to get more opportunities to grow the business. And this gives them much more ability to satisfy customers and provide for the additional growth they need in the future.
Clearly business and IT alignment is all the rage today. But it starts and ends with a team that solves meaningful business problems. Geiger is a great of example of how to do this right. If you want to learn more about what Geiger did and how they solved their marketing problems, please click this hyperlink.
The Informed Purchase Journey
The way we shop has changed. It’s hard to keep up with customer demands in a single channel, much less many. Selling products today has changed and always will. The video below shows how today’s customer takes The Informed Purchase Journey:
“Customers expect a seamless experience that makes it easy for them to engage at every touchpoint on their “decision journey. Informatica PIM is key component on transformation from a product centric view to a consumer experience driven marketing with more efficiency.” – Heather Hanson – Global Head of Marketing Technology at Electrolux
Selling products today is:
- Shopper-controlled. It’s never been easier for consumers to compare products and prices. This has eroded old customer loyalty and means you have to earn every sale.
- Global. If you’re selling your products in different regions, you’re facing complex localization and supply chain coordination.
- Fast. Product lifecycles are short. Time-to-market is critical (and gets tougher the more channels you’re selling through).
- SKU-heavy. Endless-aisle assortments are great for margins. That’s a huge opportunity, but product data overload due to the large number of SKUs and their attributes adds up to a huge admin burden.
- Data driven. Product data alone is more than a handful to deal with. But you also need to know as much about your customers as you know about your products. And the explosion of channels and touch points doesn’t make it any easier to connect the dots.
Conversion Power – From Deal Breaker To Deal Maker
For years, a customer’s purchase journey was something of “An Unexpected Journey.” Lack of insight into the journey was a struggle for retailers and brands. The journey is fraught with more questions about product than ever before, even for fast moving consumer goods.
Today, the consumer behaviors and the role of product information have changed since the advent of substantial bandwidths and social buying. To do so, lets examine the way shoppers buy today.
- Due to Google shoppers use 10.4 sources in average (zero moment of truth ZMOT google research)
- 133% higher conversion rate shown by mobile shoppers who view customer content like reviews.
- Digital devices’ influence 50% of in-store purchase behavior by end of 2014 (Deloitte’s Digital Divide)
How Informatica PIM 7.1 turns information from deal breaker to deal maker
PIM 7.1 comes with new data quality dashboards, helping users like category managers, marketing texters, managers or ecommerce specialists to do the right things. The quality dashboards point users to the things they have to do next in order to get the data right, out and ready for sales.
Eliminate Shelf Lag: The Early Product Closes the Sale
For vendors, this effectively means time-to-market: the availability of a product plus the time it takes to collect all relevant product information so you can display it to the customer (product introduction time).
The biggest threat is not the competition – it’s your own time-consuming, internal processes. We call this Shelf Lag, and it’s a big inhibitor of retailer profits. Here’s why:
- You can’t sell what you can’t display.
- Be ready to spin up new channels
- Watch your margins.
How Informatica PIM 7.1 speeds up product introduction and customer experience
“By 2017… customer experience is what buyers are going to use to make purchase decisions.” (Source: Gartner’s Hype Cycle for E-Commerce, 2013) PIM 7.1 comes with new editable channel previews. This helps business users like marketing, translators, merchandisers or product managers to envistion how the product looks at the cutomer facing webshop, catalog or other touchpoint. Getting products live online within seconds, we is key because the customer always wants it now. For eCommerce product data Informatica PIM is certified for IBM WebSphere Commerce to get products ready for ecommerce within seconds.
The editable channel previews helps professionals in product management, merchandizing, marketing and ecommerce to envision their products as customers are facing it. The way of “what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG)” product data management improves customer shopping experience with best and authentic information. With the new eCommerce integration, Informatica speeds up the time to market in eBusiness. The new standard (certified by IBM WebSphere Commerce enables a live update of eShops with real time integration.
The growing need for fast and s ecure collaboration across globally acting enterprises is addressed by the Business Process Management tool of Informatica, which can now be used for PIM customers.
Intelligent insights: How relevant is our offering to your customers?
This is the age of annoyance and information overload. Each day, the average person has to handle more than 7,000 pieces of information. Only 25% of Americans say there are brand loyal. That means brands and retailers have to earn every new sale in a transparent world. In this context information needs to be relevant to the recipient.
- Where do the data come from? How can product information auto-cleansed and characterizing into a taxonomy?
- Is the supplier performance hitting our standards?
- How can we mitigate risks like hidden costs and work with trusted suppliers only?
- How can we and build customer segmentations for marketing?
- How to build product personalization and predict the next logical buy of the customer?
It is all about The Right product. To the Right Person. In the Right Way. Learn more about the vision of the Intelligent Data Plaform.
Informatica PIM Builds the Basis of Real Time Commerce Information
All these innovations speed up the new product introduction and collaboration massively. As buyers today are always online and connected, PIM helps our customer to serve the informed purchase journey, with the right information in at the right touch point and in real time.
- Real-time commerce (certification with IBM WebSphere Commerce), which eliminates shelf lag
- Editable channel preview which help to envision how customers view the product
- Data quality dashboards for improved conversion power, which means selling more with better information
- Business Process Management for better collaboration throughout the enterprise
- Accelerator for global data synchronization (GDSN like GS1 for food and CPG) – which helps to improve quality of data and fulfill legal requirements
All this makes merchandizers more productive and increases average spend per customer.
Manufacturers and retailers are constantly being challenged by the market. They continually seek ways to optimize their business processes and improve their margins. They face a number of challenges. These challenges include the following:
- Delays in getting products ordered
- Delays in getting products displayed on the shelf
- Out of stock issues
- Constant pressure to comply with how information is exchanged with local partners
- Pressure to comply with how information is exchanged with international distribution partners
Recently, new regulations have been mandated by governing bodies. These bodies include the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as European Union (EU) entities. One example of these regulations is EU Regulation 1169/2011. This regulation focuses on nutrition and contents for food labels.
How much would it mean to a supplier if they could reduce their “time to shelf?” What would it mean if they could improve their order and item administration?
If you’re a supplier, and if these improvements would benefit you, you’ll want to explore solutions. In particular, you’d benefit from a solution which could do the following:
- Make your business available to the widest possible audience, both locally and internationally
- Eliminate the need to build individual “point to point” interfaces
- Provide the ability to communicate both “one on one” with a partner and broadly with othe
- Eliminate product data inconsistencies
- Improve data quality
- Improve productivity
One such solution that can accomplish these things is Informatica’s combination of PIM and GDSN.
Manufacturers of CPG or food products have to adhere to strict compliance regulations. The new EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers changes existing legislation on food labeling. The new rules take effect on December 13, 2014. The obligation to provide nutrition information will apply from 13 December 2016. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) enforces record keeping and the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP).
In addition to that information standards are key factor feedbug distributors and retailers as our customer Vitakraft says:
“For us as a manufacturer of pet food, the retailers and distributors are key distribution channels. With the GS1 Accelerator for Informatica PIM we connect with the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN). Leveraging GDSN we serve our retail and distribution partners with product information for all sales channels. Informatica, helps us to meet the expectations of our business partners and customers in the e-business.”
Heiko Cichala, Product & Electronic Data Interchange Management
On one side retailers like supermarkets, expect from their vendors or manufacturers to get all required information which is required legally – on the other side they are looking for strategies to leverage information for better customer service and experience (Check out “the supermarket of tomorrow”).
Companies, like German food retailer Edeka offer an app for push marketing, or help matching customer profiles of dietary or allergy profiles with QR-code scanned products on the shopping list within the supermarket app.
The Informatica GS1 Accelerator
The GS1 Accelerator from Informatica offers suppliers and manufacturers the capability to ensure their data is not only of high quality but also confirms to GS1 standards. The Informatica GDSN accelerator offers the possibility to provide this high quality data directly to a certified data pool for synchronisation with their trading partners.
The quality of the data can be ensured by the Data Quality rules engine of the PIM system. It leverages the Global Product Classification hierarchy that conforms to GS1 standards for communication with the data pools.
All GDSN related activities is encapsulated within PIM can be initiated from there itself. The product data can easily be transferred to the data pool and released to a specific trading partner or made public for all recipients of a Target Market.
Did you know the 2014 Brasil World Cup is actually the World Cup of Data? In addition to the visible matches played on the pitch, eShops will be in a simultaneous struggle to win real-time online merchandise customers.
Let me explain. Jogi Löw, the manager of the German team, is known for his stylish attire. At every major event, each European Cup and World Cup, he wears newly designed shirts and suits. As a result, when television audiences see each new article of clothing, there is a corresponding increase in related online retail activity. When Löw began this tradition, people didn’t know that his outfits were made by Strenesse. As a result, people searched using the keywords “Jogi Löw Shirt.” This drove traffic to the eShop with the best search engine optimization, giving them more conversions and more revenue.
If a manager’s attire drives online retail sales, imagine how much demand there is for the jerseys worn by the most visible World Cup athletes? Many of the these players have huge social media followings. Consider the size of the social media followings of Ronaldo, Kakà, Neymar, Ronaldinho and Wayne Rooney:
There is huge demand for these player’s jerseys. This demand will only increase as the games progress. Once the winner is decided, Google searches will rise for phrases like “World Cup Winner Jersey 2014 of xxx”. Some refer to this as the super long tail. And research does show that search queries with 3 or more words have better conversion rates than queries with only 1 or 2 words.
Who can predict the winners?
What happens if a fairly unknown player scores the last goal in over time? How will that event impact social media activity and search engine volumes? Who will be able to leverage this activity to sell the relevant merchandising products fast enough? The eShop with the best data will have the quickest response. And the eShop with the quickest response will get the traffic and the revenue.
The world cup is a battle. The early bird closes the sale. It’s time to play the World Cup of Data.
Regardless of the industry, new regulatory compliance requirements are more often than not treated like the introduction of a new tax. A few may be supportive, some will see the benefits, but most will focus on the negatives – the cost, the effort, the intrusion into private matters. There will more than likely be a lot of grumbling.
Across many industries there is currently a lot of grumbling, as new regulation seems to be springing up all over the place. Pharmaceutical companies have to deal with IDMP in Europe and UDI in the USA. This is hot on the heels of the US Sunshine Act, which is being followed in Europe by Aggregate Spend requirements. Consumer Goods companies in Europe are looking at the consequences of beefed up 1169 requirements. Financial Institutes are mulling over compliance to BCBS-239. Behind the grumbling most organisations across all verticals appear to have a similar approach to regulatory compliance. The pattern seems to go like this:
- Delay (The requirements may change)
- Scramble (They want it when? Why didn’t we get more time?)
- Code to Spec (Provide exactly what they want, and only what they want)
No wonder these requirements are seen as purely a cost and an annoyance. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and in fact, it should not. Just like I have seen a pattern in response to compliance, I see a pattern in the requirements themselves:
- The regulators want data
- Their requirements will change
- When they do change, regulators will be wanting even more data!
Now read the last 3 bullet points again, but use ‘executives’ or ‘management’ or ‘the business people’ instead of ‘regulators’. The pattern still holds true. The irony is that execs will quickly sign off on budget to meet regulatory requirements, but find it hard to see the value in “infrastructure” projects. Projects that will deliver this same data to their internal teams.
This is where the opportunity comes in. pwc’s 2013 State of Compliance Report[i] shows that over 42% of central compliance budgets are in excess of $1m. A significant figure. Efforts outside of the compliance team imply a higher actual cost. Large budgets are not surprising in multi-national companies, who often have to satisfy multiple regulators in a number of countries. As an alternate to multiple over-lapping compliance projects, what if this significant budget was repurposed to create a flexible data management platform? This approach could deliver compliance, but provide even more value internally.
Almost all internal teams are currently clamouring for additional data to drive ther newest application. Pharma and CG sales & marketing teams would love ready access to detailed product information. So would consumer and patient support staff, as well as down-stream partners. Trading desks and client managers within Financial Institutes should really have real-time access to their risk profiles guiding daily decision making. These data needs will not be going away. Why should regulators be prioritised over the people who drive your bottom line and who are guardians of your brand?
A flexible data management platform will serve everyone equally. Foundational tools for a flexible data management platform exist today including Data Quality, MDM, PIM and VIBE, Informatica’s Virtual Data Machine. Each of them play a significant role in easing of regulatory compliance, and as a bonus they deliver measureable business value in their own right. Implemented correctly, you will get enhanced data agility & visibility across the entire organisation as part of your compliance efforts. Sounds like ‘Buy one Get One Free’, or BOGOF in retail terms.
Unlike taxes, BOGOF opportunities are normally embraced with open arms. Regulatory compliance should receive a similar welcome – an opportunity to build the foundations for universal delivery of data which is safe, clean and connected. A 2011 study by The Economist found that effective regulatory compliance benefits businesses across a wide range of performance metrics[ii].
Is it time to get your free performance boost?
Guest interview with Jorij Abraham: author of the first book about PIM and founder of E-commerce Foundation
Jorij Abraham is the founder of the E-commerce Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping organizations and industries improve their e-commerce activities. He advises companies on e-commerce strategy, Omnichannel development and product information management. He also works as Director Research & Advise for Ecommerce Europe.
He’s written a fine book about PIM but don’t expect a technical book at all! This is what marketing teams, merchandisers, product category teams, digital strategist, should be reading.
Like him or not, when he talks you’d better listen!
Michele: Let’s start with a view on the PIM market. Where are we globally?
Jorij: We are just starting. Most retailers still do not realize how important product information is to sell digital. In some countries the expectation is that in 2020 30 – 50% of all consumer goods are bought online. PIM no longer is an option. It is essential to be successful now and in the upcoming years.
M.: What was the main inspiration behind the book? It is definitely the first book about PIM but I am sure the motivation runs a bit deeper than that.
J.: The fact that there is very little in depth information available about the subject triggered me to write the book. However, I got a lot of help from experts from Unic and the different software vendors and was very happy with all the great research Heiler had already done in the area.
M.: Who should be reading your book?
J.: I wrote the book for a broad audience; managers, employees responsible for product information management, marketers, merchandisers, and even students! There are chapters covering the basics and how a PIM can help a company on a strategic, tactical and operational level. Few later chapters are devoted to helping product information officers implement a PIM system and choose the right PIM solution.
M.: I see that in your book you cover a good number of big PIM vendors. What is the future for those who target mid-market businesses?
J.: If you look at the overall market I think we will see a large shake out in the industry. We will have very big players like Amazon, Ebay, Walmart and lots of niche players. The medium sized business will have a difficult time to survive. All will be in need for a PIM system however.
M.: What’s your take on the different PIM vendors out there? I personally see different flavours of PIM such as those more commerce friendly, as opposed to those more ERP friendly, or just minimalist PIM solutions.
J.: In the book I discuss several solutions. Some are for companies starting with PIM others are top of the line. Especially for larger firms with lots of product information to manage I recommend to make a larger investment. Low-end PIM solutions are a good choice if you expect your needs will remain simple. However if you know that within two or three years you will have 100.000 products, in multiple languages with lots of attributes, do not start with a simple solution. Within 1.5 years you will have to migrate again and the costs of migration are not worth the licence costs saved.
J.: There are many strategic, tactical and operational benefits. Managers have difficulties understanding the ROI because it is indirect. PIM can improve traffic to your site, increase conversion ratio, and reduce returns.
M.: Would it be easier to promote PIM in combination to a WCMS platform? More generally, is there a case to promote PIM as part of a greater strategic thrust?
J.: I personally prefer systems which are great at doing what they are meant to do. However it very much depends on the needs of the company. Combining a PIM with a WCMS are mixing two solutions with very different goals. Hybris is an example of a complete solutions. If you want to buy everything at once, it is a good choice. However what I like very much about the Heiler/Informatica solution is that is great at doing what is says it does. Especially the user friendliness of the system is a big plus. Why? Because if a PIM fails it usually is because of the low user adaptation.
M.: What would you suggest to Australian retailers who are clearly reluctant to adopt PIM primarily because of limited local references (at least on large scale)?
J.: Retail in Australia is going the same way as everywhere else. Digital commerce will be a fact of life and a PIM is essential to be successful online. Look at the proof in the Asia, Europe and the USA. PIM is here to stay.
M.: Is PIM now what ERP was in the 90s and CRM at the beginning of the millennium? In other words, will it ever become a commodity?
J.: I think so. But we are really at the start of PIM. CRM is anno 2014 not yet really a part of most IT architectures. So we have a long way to go…
M.: Let’s talk about the influence exerted by analyst firms such as Gartner, Forrester, and Ventana. What’s your view on this? Are they moving the market? They put a lot of effort in trying to differentiate themselves. For example, see how Gartner MDM Quadrant for Products combine MDM and PIM players.
J.:I think the research agencies in general do not get PIM yet to the full extent. It is still a niche market and they are combining solutions which in my view is not helping the business and IT user. I have seen companies buy an MDM solution expecting to support their PIM processes. MDM is very different from PIM although its goals overlap. I often see that PIM has much more end-users, requires faster publication processes. There are only a few solutions in the market which really combine MDM and PIM in a sensible way.
M.: Looking at your book, I noticed that you spend a great deal of effort in unearthing what I’d call ‘PIM core concepts”. However, while the core concepts are stable, being a technology-enabled discipline PIM will undergo ongoing enhancements. What is your view on this?
J.: This is a tough question. In fact, few chapters in my book may go out of date soon. For example, PIM providers are popping up and it’s hard to keep up. On a more important note, I also see the following trends:
a) The cloud is going to have a fundamental impact on PIM solutions. It will hard to sell an on-premise solution to companies that are very much focused on their core business and outsourcing everything else (e.g. Retailers)
b) I see companies working much more intensively to collect and disseminate accurate product information. This is costly and operational inefficient if it is undertaken in isolation. In fact, there’s room to improve the overall supply chain by integrating product information across different parties, e.g. suppliers, manufactures, and retailers.
c) Finally, I see the emergence of the social as another key development in the PIM space. Just think about the contribute that consumers are providing when they shop online and share their experience on the social platforms or provide a product recommendation and/or ranking. This is product information and PIMs need to incorporate that in the overall product enrichment.
M.: Thank you Jorij. This has been a fantastic opportunity for me and my readers to learn more about you and the great work you are doing.
J.: It is great that you are putting so much effort in sharing information about product information management. Only in such a way companies can start to understand the value of PIM and increase both sales as well as reduce costs.
As promised at the end of one of my recent posts, let’s have a closer look at the long tail approach and how PIM supports it. The driver for the long-tail model is customers expectations. In fact, they demand an increasingly larger and broader assortment of products through various online channels given that the shelf space is no longer a concern. The key insight here for independent retailers is that expanded offerings and selection can reveal demand that was otherwise not known to exist.
The benefit of a long-tail strategy is that products in the long tail can be sold against a higher margin. Aberdeen reports up to 29 % higher profits due to higher product margins in the long-tail assortment.
The challenges for many companies, however, is the actual management of large assortments. The graph below shows the relationship with the size of a company’s assortments and having a PIM system.
It is remarkable to see that when the assortment increases to over one million SKUs there are no companies that do not have a PIM system.
How PIM supports the long tail has been clearly highlighted by Rolph Heiler, founder of Heiler Software (which has recently been acquired by Informatica):
Assortments are often restricted by the fact the product data cannot be efficiently maintained. A Product Information Management (PIM) systems enables dealers to setup and manage extremely large assortments, without rising costs for expanding their assortments.
End quote. The point is that for the first time ‘dealers’ are given a process and a tool to onboard data from suppliers and store it centrally before it is prepared and enriched for presentation purposes. However, as aptly pointed out by J. Abraham in his upcoming book (see references below), implementing a long-tail strategy entails much more than just onboarding data from suppliers to your PIM system, and the ability to technically manage larger assortments. More specifically, he observes that…
Processes have to be set up to manage the information in the PIM system. Price mechanisms have to be set up to manage the margin for which products are sold. Just adding 30 % margin to all products might be a simple thing to do, but it does not take into consideration the actual logistical costs, perceived product value by the customer, and competitors’ prices. Likewise, when suppliers stop selling a product, the product also has to be removed from the assortment of the wholesaler or retailer.
Once a product is sold, the product has to be ordered, possibly repackaged at the company’s warehouse and delivered to the customer. To do this, logistical processes have to be set up in the ERP system, especially when the ERP system does not yet know the product just sold. With the external and internal processes set up right, companies are able to expand their offering very fast. WarmteService for example was able to expand its offering from 20,000 products to 150,000 products in less than 1.5 years
End quote. This is a broader and more accurate view of the processes that need to be put in place to implement a successful long-tail strategy. As Ted Hurlbut put it, “The Long Tail is not an argument merely to carry broader assortments. It is not an argument to expand into unrelated categories that stretch customer’s expectations and the retailer’s core expertise. It is not just about capturing the add-on or plus sale. It is rather a demonstration that there is business to be done in carefully selected items that deepen assortments in a retailer’s niche that appeal specifically to the customer’s imagination.”
In conclusion, it should be clear that the long-tail model is a compelling territory for innovative customer experiences*. PIM has a respectable place in the model insofar as it allows retailers to quickly respond to product demands by facilitating the creation of relevant assortments in a timely and efficient manner.
Drop shipping is an interesting example of long-tail strategy that will be analysed in one of the upcoming posts. Stay tuned!
- J. Abraham, Product Information Management, Management for Professionals, Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014
- Aberdeen Group, The Instant Power of All-Channel PIM: Increased Sales and Competitiveness, December 2011.
- PIM for long-tail, Heiler whitepaper
*I am not a blind believer of The Long Tail. I see few grey areas that various authors have spelt out greatly. If there’s interest, I will plan to extend on this fascinating subject.