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Top 7 Challenges in Product Data Management for Ecommerce

How can brands adapt to the future? What will define the consumer’s path to purchase in the post-Covid19 world? How to meet consumer demand on the digital shelf? How to accelerate time to market and drive sales? How to accelerate the shift to a new normal as customers surge to digital channels? How to overcome product data management challenges for eCommerce success?

We believe that structured product information and efficient product data management is the answer to all the questions above. It’s literally the backbone of online retail. It has become critical for retailers to ensure that they are delivering high-quality product pages with accurate, up-to-date information that convinces consumers to ‘buy it now’. Without an efficient product information management system in place, you’ll likely end up negatively impacting your customers intent to purchase, be unable to scale your digital channels or increase SKU counts, offer richer, consistent customer experiences, launch products faster; all of which will ultimately compound your inability to capture more revenue compared to your competitors.

Based on our experience supporting many eCommerce projects since 2010, we have closely followed the ever-growing number of product data challenges retailers face to get their products online. To help you overcome these challenges, we identified the top 7 potential pitfalls associated with product data management processes – and how they can be overcome.

In this article, we explore details of these challenges and learn about StrikeTru’s recommendations to address them for a smooth and profitable eCommerce project.

1. Poor customer experience

  • Customers don’t have good self-service options online to search, select, bundle, and buy products
  • Customers can’t bundle products for preferred pricing online, but they can do that in stores
  • Improving online customer experience requires the ability to easily add and manage categories and attributes (e.g. sale category, style, collection, sub-brand) – we can’t do that in our system
  • Customers are confused by similar titles (e.g. wood chairs) as we can’t add more than 2 modifiers in our system
  • A customer returned a product multiple times – the eCommerce team fixed a bad image that caused the initial return, but warehouse continued shipping the wrong product as they were still looking at the bad image on their product lookup tool
  • Data management challenges delayed strategic initiatives like mobile app launch for store reps

Recommendations

  • Setup a central and trusted repository of high-quality product data (PIM)
  • Simplify delivery of cross-channel consistency – product selection, content, pricing, etc.
  • Boost online customer search and buying experiences by leveraging granular data curated in PIM

2. Bad data costs

Gartner estimates that poor data quality costs organizations an average of $15 million per year.

  • Channel specific processes to collect product data, causing cross-channel content inconsistencies.
  • SKUs appear online with missing content. for e.g., packages go live with no prices.
  • Product images don’t show up online, and they sometimes disappear too.
  • We have manually assigned wrong brand logos, which has legal implications.
  • Instead of a part, we end up shipping the full package as our customer service rep can’t tell which box has what parts.

Recommendations

  • Centralize data management and governance processes in PIM to create/update/obsolete products consistently
  • Leverage validation and governance rules, bulk edits, and approval workflows to improve data quality
  • Make it easy to capture new categories, attributes, and images as needed to address data quality/completeness gaps

3. Product launch delays

  • Takes weeks and sometimes months to collect, on-board, and complete one SKU
  • Would be great to get a daily report of incomplete SKUs, and missing data – will help us prioritize our SKU build efforts
  • Online, we sell only 40% of the SKUs that we sell in stores
  • When we discontinue a SKU, we spend a lot of time manually discontinuing all packages that contain that SKU
  • We routinely spend nights and weekends to try and meet our product launch deadlines

Recommendations

  • Leverage supplier portal to automate supplier data collection and onboarding
  • Consider outsourcing supplier data collection to specialized data vendors
  • Simplify employee tasks – give them a modern & intuitive PIM tool, with time-saving bulk import and edit features
  • Revise SKU setup process, and maximize product data curated in PIM for efficiency
  • Integrate ERP with PIM, accelerate collaboration via workflows and notifications

4. Manual and duplicate work

  • Don’t know what data exists or how to use it. For e.g., merchants obsoleted many SKUs, the photo team report didn’t identify those, and the photo team wasted a bunch of time shooting unnecessary pictures for those SKUs.
  • Marketing CMS is unsupported, hard to use. Fixes and enhancements expensive to make.
  • Most products are variants, but we manage data at SKU level. Even simple changes require multiple SKU updates.
  • Our ERP doesn’t allow:
    • bulk edits – e.g. to assign styles and collections to products.
    • multi-value assignments – e.g. multiple colors or materials to products. This impacts product searchability online.
    • easy product data reporting for merchant decision making (they’d like to use PIM instead)
  • It is a manual and time-consuming process to:
    • setup merchandizing packages (so we don’t do it!)
    • create rich content by combining granular data – SEO friendly titles, descriptions, URL keys, image names, etc.
    • setup product relationships (e.g. related, up-sell, cross-sell) copy data from driver SKU (e.g. queen size bed) to variant SKUs (we don’t always shoot pictures for beds of all sizes)

Recommendations

  • Modernize IT stack, implement PIM to centralize product data and workflows
  • Integrate PIM with ERP, eCommerce, DAM, and other systems, eliminate re-keying
  • Implement robust data modeling, governance, and inheritance features in PIM
  • Train users extensively on search and bulk edit features
  • Increase user efficiency with powerful search & reporting, bulk edits, & validation & enrichment rules

5. Manual asset operations

  • Image tasks are labor intensive – searching, importing , optimizing, linking, publishing, etc.
  • Assets are managed on local drives and are not searchable (e.g. search assets by vendor, product class, color, etc.)
  • Image validations (names, sizes, product links, etc.) are manual (e.g. don’t assign individual image to a kit)
  • Image file sizes are huge, and this affects SEO rankings negatively No systematic way to allow users to report bad asset issues so the photo team can track and fix those assets

Recommendations

  • Centralize and organize product assets in PIM (or DAM)
  • Automate asset tasks – load, optimize (re-size, rename, change resolution, enrich, categorize), link, publish, etc.
  • Share searchable assets with sales, customer service, and other teams
  • If using DAM, automate transfer of assets to PIM, & product data to DAM. If a SKU is discontinued, auto-expire its assets.

6. Painful eCommerce site updates

  • Painful to maintain product data in our eCommerce platform, don’t want to do that anymore
  • Can’t control what product content shows online, the web sync process is unsupported
  • Web sync is slow and unreliable. If we make a mistake, we need to wait another day to fix it
  • Products don’t show up online sometimes for 1 to 2 weeks after launching in stores
  • The website routinely shows wrong prices, everyone spends a lot of time chasing those down
  • Our updates in the eCommerce platform get overwritten by the nightly sync process – frustrating!
  • Optimizing and managing our product feeds to shopping channels & marketplaces is a broken process and not scalable.
  • We’d like to list more of our products on digital platforms, and add more platforms to the mix to increase our digital presence.

Recommendations

  • Seamlessly synchronize catalog structure, content, and assets from PIM to websites
  • Use proven PIM connectors. E.g. for Magento, BigCommerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, InDesign, GlobalLink
  • Schedule incremental exports, and multiple syncs per daily

7. Poor product visibility on digital channels

  • Current product feeds are generated by the eCommerce platform and are heavily customized
  • Too many listing errors, only a small subset of products show up on Amazon!
  • Inability to actively manage feeds (e.g. turn off products on Amazon in stockout situations), hurts our ratings
  • Inability to setup new product feeds fast enough
  • Optimizing and managing our product feeds to shopping channels & marketplaces is broken and not scalable.
  • We need to list and sell more of our products on digital platforms and add more platforms to the mix
  • Orchestrating orders from multiple channels is a manual and painful process.

Recommendations

  • Implement a product syndication tool to simplify product feed management and increase product visibility online
  • Integrate syndication tool with PIM and ERP for high-quality and timely product content, prices, and inventory
  • Leverage syndication tool to orchestrate multi-channel order management to save costs and drive channel sales

Unsure of the next steps?

Check out StrikeTru’s smallPIM, an affordable, flexible, fast to deploy SaaS PIM solution.

Is Your Product Data Optimized For Omnichannel Commerce?

Brands and retailers often face the consequence of lost revenue thanks to bad product data. In the last decade, there has been a revolution in the way we manage product content. Today, customers look beyond product features & shipping information. They respond to 360-degree immersive narratives that include multiple brand images and video, AR generated lifestyle images and rich product copy. Today, at the heart of a successful ecommerce strategy lays product content that can make or break a sale.

The key is to evolve to meet the demands of today’s connected shoppers. How can you do that? By making the shopper feel empowered with all the information they want, when they want it & on a platform of their choice. With a modern product information management (PIM) solution this is possible. From product discovery to syndication, a PIM solution collects, cleanses, enriches, and adapts your content to meet specific channel requirements for a seamless omnichannel experience. This is even more important in the Amazon-age, with nearly 66% shoppers (2/3 of US shoppers) beginning their search for products here; brands and retailers have to ensure they have the capability of updating their product data quickly to meet the ever changing and ever increasing product content guidelines.

Let’s look at some of the typical challenges faced by ecommerce players that are still managing product information on excel files and shared drives and legacy systems:

  • Product horror story – companies that don’t have access to a centralized repository of trusted product information struggle with easily finding and publishing content in a timely manner that ultimately lead to higher return rates. Never mind poor customer satisfaction levels.
  • Manual syndication – manually managing multiple versions of product data across different departments and channels over hundreds of spreadsheets is near impossible for brands that wish to stay competitive by continuously optimizing their products to capture a larger market share. When the customer expectation is to buy anything at any time, the last thing retailers & manufacturers need is to get stuck with troublesome errors and brand and cross-channel inconsistencies that are fully visible to customers.
  • Zero scalability & delays in launching new products – the ability to list and manage tens or hundreds of thousands of new SKUs is essential to executing an endless aisle strategy to compete with Amazon and other players. Manual methods and legacy systems often fail to accomplish this, hurting a business’s agility in the marketplace.
  • Damaged brand reputation – all of the above situations negatively impact purchase decisions and lead to an irreversibly damaged brand reputation.

So how can you ensure exceptional product data quality, i.e. completeness, timeliness, conformity, consistency and accuracy in collaboration with suppliers & partners? By integrating a cloud based PIM solution in your marketing technology stack. This core solution software aggregates content (including rich selling content) from all data sources, transforms it, creates a harmonized data set, and synchronizes all content to your eCommerce website and various 3rd party digital marketing and sales channels including search engines, social media, and marketplaces. It supports content syndication both in terms of product mix and completeness and format of data, including multilingual content adaptation, needed by the various digital commerce channels.

New platforms like PIM can ensure product content directly supports the KPIs that drive success across all sales channels and has an impact on increasing conversion rates, average order value, stickiness, SEO, & profitability while decreasing return and cart abandonment rates.

Get in touch to talk to a PIM expert today. 


Marketing To Millennials

Millennials are changing the way brands are doing business, from catching onto contextual advertising trends to becoming early adopters of latest marketing channels (like Instagram) – it’s no surprise their purchasing power is projected to reach $1.4 trillion in 2020.

In this blog we’ll examine tomorrow’s trillion-dollar demographic and provide insights on how to engage the largest group of category killers across industries.

Online search

E-commerce made up nearly 10% of all retail sales in the last quarter of 2018, but that doesn’t necessarily point to the fact that all shopping is happening online. Online shopping statistics are vital for retailers to understand why a large chunk of purchase decisions still happen at the shelf. Other than shopping, digital has a huge influence on how Millennials reach the physical store – digital helps them search and find products in real-time,stay in tune with thousands of product reviews, prices, and best deals both online and offline, and gather updated product information they need to find the best products& shopping experiences.

The key is a seamless shopping transition from smartphone to personal computer to store. This also explains why this generation prefers the BOPIS (Buy Online Pick in Store) experience.

Impulse buying

Most millennial shoppers indulge in unplanned shopping – ‘throw extra items in the cart while you’re there’suggesting a demand for instant gratification and convenience over saving money on product price. Marketers have understood this and are developing millennial versions of the in-store ‘SALE’ signage that make the consumer not think twice about making a spontaneous purchase. Like related products, free shipping, or first-time buyer discounts. For example, grocery e-tailers convince shoppers to add items they might have forgotten at checkout based on items in their shopping cart.

Influenza economy

Almost three-quarters of consumers say that there has been a direct link between watching a video online and making a purchase. (Source: Adweek).

We live in a sharing economy and ‘Influencers’ have emerged as the game changers in the ecommerce space.  “In 2018, 72% of major brands stated that they were outsourcing a significant portion of their marketing resources to online Influencers. Followers feel as though they’re getting a product recommendation from a friend, making them more likely to buy quickly.” (Source: weforum) Successful brands have quickly adapted their marketing strategies to include Influencer collaborations that leverage their massive following resulting in an online buzz about the brand, product information, and updates. From brand discovery to purchase drivers, online mentions and reviews will be paramount to uplifting brand & sales in 2020.

Retailers and brands are redefining their strategies as the digital landscape and shopping behaviors evolve every day. If they are to capture the purchasing power of this segment, some organizations may have to modernize their legacy systems to keep themselves from falling behind. Two things: marketing technology. The right marketing technology, combined with the right data, people, processes & partners can enable retailers and corporate brands to deliver a consistent and elevated customer experience across all sales channels, including eCommerce, mobile, social, print, and retail points of sale.

Check out our Services page for more information to get started with mapping your ideal marketing technology stack.