Blog

News, Announcements, and more...

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.

You already have an ERP, do you really need to invest in PIM software?

This is the most commonly asked question when it comes to eCommerce players considering implementing PIM for digital shelf success and transformation. We decided to unpack this question in the simplest way possible. By working backwards from your business goals, we can get a clearer understanding of what it takes to achieve those goals in a multi-channel, always connected, SaaS PIM environment.

If these are your top 5 business goals for 2020, implementing PIM is the only way to stay competitive in the coming years.

  • Manage and distribute product content for thousands of  SKUs
  • Offer your products across channels in multiple languages
  • Have a low rate of product returns
  • Value add to strategic areas of business especially employee productivity
  • Raise the ante on customer experience

Manage and distribute product content for thousands of SKUs

Handling 500 – 1000 SKUs is an easily managed task with a detailed excel carrying product information and associated digital asset references. But what happens when you have to manage thousands of  products with their descriptions and rich media with an aim to offer extensive product depth & breadth to end customers? A traditional ERP is simply not designed to manage the pace and complexity of consumer demand for data today. Inflexibility is only one of the reasons why an ERP model can prove crippling to your brand. Digital commerce in 2020 demands flexible and transparent workflow capabilities, rich digital assets, the agility to add an ever increasing number of data attributes and consumer facing data that is dynamic. On an ERP, this is impossible – due to lack of flexibility and extensibility, audit and digital asset management capabilities; teams inevitably end up with disparate databases of product data that don’t speak to each other leading to inconsistencies and additional costs. A lot of the marketing data ends up living on spreadsheets, so the lack of visibility into a growing number of SKUs can blindside product managers and turn off buyers. This means lost sales and bad reviews. That’s where a modern PIM comes in. A cloud based PIM lets you centralize all your product information in a single repository,  making sure your brand tells consistent product stories across every channel.

“A few years ago, it could take weeks for us to onboard a new SKU. Now, thanks to Akeneo PIM it typically takes a day.”- Petra Industries

Offer your products across channels in multiple languages

The modern day shopper is channel agnostic, they want to be able to shift from one channel/device to another seamlessly and get access to current, accurate information on every search. Studies show that omnichannel campaigns earned a 250% higher purchase rate than single-channel campaigns. Meaning that customers were not only more receptive to engagement through multiple digital & offline touch-points but it also impacted their purchase decision positively. Similarly, when it comes to international expansion – localization & translation is key to making sure your customers are able to find, evaluate and purchase your product very easily. An ERP does not allow management of multi lingual data. Managing and enriching product information can be a pain every time you are entering a new market. With Akeneo2GlobalLink, a translation connector tool by StrikeTru that connects Akeneo PIM users to Translations.com’s GlobalLink, this process is highly simplified. From organized workflows to integrated translation tools, your business is equipped to grow quickly and capture larger market share in every location.  

“Our people are spending an enormous amount of time translating product data and managing that data in multiple spreadsheets. Leveraging the Akeneo2GlobalLink solution will drive significant value for our content and commerce teams, and for our customers.” – Pierce Global

Lower rate of product returns

Have you ever had a situation where your eCommerce platform displayed an image that caused a return because warehouse repeatedly shipped the wrong product as they were looking at an older image on another product lookup tool? You can only imagine how damaging this can be to your brand image. 57% of retailers said that dealing with returns has a negative impact on the day-to-day running of their business. When working with inflexible legacy tools including an ERP, 20-25 people and 8 different systems are involved in servicing a retailer or customer request for product data – the total time this would take and high chances of manual error is mind boggling. With a good PIM, you can dramatically enhance your data quality. Excellent data quality means customers searching for your products get intelligent results every single time on any device.This is crucial to product searchability, conversions and customer satisfaction.You gain content control, visibility, flexibility, and dissemination capabilities that result in personalized customer experiences leading to higher satisfaction levels making them come back for repeated purchases.

“PIM users have reported a 40% decrease in product returns, thanks to features such as automated enrichment rules, product completeness monitoring, and validation, which each work to ensure that shoppers are more informed prior to purchase.” – Akeneo

Value add to strategic areas of business especially employee productivity

Increased employee productivity is a top priority for management. In the above points we examined how a modern PIM solution can significantly enhance business and customer oriented goals. However, internal employee-productivity related goals can also be addressed by gaining control over and centralizing your product data by automating 30-50% of redundant manual operations, increased efficiency, doing away with silo headaches, transparent workflows, more focus on customer innovation, greater collaboration between teams, easier goal mapping and performance measurement and streamlined operations resulting in next generation CX.

“Updating product content in Akeneo PIM takes 10 minutes compared with the 30 minutes it took in the old system.” – SHOP.COM

Raise the ante on customer experience

Meaningful customer experiences are everything; it is the leading differentiator today, with customers putting even more emphasis on rich product information. According to a study by Gartner, 89% businesses are expected to compete mainly on customer experience in 2020. On the other hand a bad customer experience can cost you heavily – 95% of customers tell others about a bad experience. To compete with giants like Amazon, you need to raise the ante on customer innovation by implementing a cloud based PIM to anticipate customer needs, understand preferences through buying patterns & seasonality resulting in a highly responsive and seamless experience.

In conclusion, an ERP system may be able to manage small amounts of product data but as your product and attribute counts increase only a PIM solution can create compelling product content for next-gen customer experience.

A PIM solution can help brands & retailers rank their products highly on the digital shelf – going beyond a basic keyword search. It is a great tool in the hands of product managers and merchants to accelerate time-to-market and an asset to always-connected consumers for intuitive shopping.

If you are interested in exploring further but don’t know where to start, get in touch with to speak to a PIM expert today.