The impact of personalized experiences on shopping decisions is well accepted across industries. Customers venture into buying journeys that are both multichanneled and non-linear. With the advent of disruptive retail technologies, globalization, economic expansion and digitization, offering the right product at the right time is no longer enough.
Products today need to be delivered along with experiences that are unique, engaging, and tailored with persuasive and relevant content. In a world where every customer carries a touchpoint to your products in their pocket, having a business strategy modeled around customer experience is a mandatory ingredient for success.
Information pertaining to products is critical for all customer-related and operational processes. It’s the foundation for all customer-experience initiatives, and extremely important for customer-facing touchpoints, be it the company website, social media platforms, catalogs, or even live interactions.
Product information, however, is created and edited at various points along the supply chain, beginning with suppliers and ending with the customer. Consistent data quality is difficult to maintain when digital content is sent to dozens of retailers, distributors, and selling platforms through siloed systems and manual processes.
As companies continue to be deluged with information-management requirements, the complexities of handling large volumes of data become enormous. Data is cluttered, unstructured, and spread heterogeneously across the system, a reality that only escalates with company size and geographical reach. Enterprises need to standardize and update product information dynamically every minute. They need a solution that befits this need — a platform that can holistically blend the entire product datasphere to craft a unified customer experience.
Companies must determine the right tools, processes, and strategies needed to simplify, streamline, and improve information consistency. A centralized product information management (PIM) system can consolidate data into a single platform, enrich product information, and ensure that it’s up to date, accessible, of high quality, and accurate. PIM enables an organization to have better control over product information, ensuring that it is consistent across all channels, including web portals, point of sale (POS), mobile platforms, marketplaces, kiosks, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It directly supports the sales cycle by delivering a unique customer experience. PIM also helps to quickly expand distribution channels and markets, develop better customer relationships, and boost revenue.
Following are some ways in which the automated collection and dissemination of accurate product information throughout the organization can help to deliver a unified customer experience.
Building a product master data hub. A product master data hub is essential. PIM provides a centralized hub to collect, manage, and enrich product information, thus ensuring that consistent data flows through every business unit. It streamlines incessantly changing product information across multiple channels, so that the same product details are circulated among all sales channels.
A seller might be juggling hundreds of products with multiple stock keeping units (SKUs) and associated digital assets. The slightest inaccuracy or human error can have catastrophic consequences. PIM helps to handle all this information and SKUs in online and offline sale mediums, facilitating all synchronization and workflow tasks. It can streamline information and distribute it across internal and external nodes for optimum collaboration, thereby attaining operational efficiency. And it enables the management of high data volumes across numerous platforms.
Offering a single view of product data. Product information can originate at any point in the supply chain, from raw material procurement to design, production, warehousing, distribution, and even customers. It can be in any format — visual, textual, audio, datasheet, etc. — and in any amount. Moreover, it’s required by virtually all stakeholders in an organisation, be they internal or external. To address this requirement, having a singular view of consumer-ready product information is mandatory.
PIM integrates, consolidates, and manages all product-related information into one platform. It allows for the management of user-generated content, customer reviews, and even product ratings, while ensuring that the information is accurate and without any conflicts.
Automating publishing for different platforms, channels, and locations. To ensure the most up-to-date, accurate, and compelling product information, the data needs to be pushed into different platforms, channels, and geographies. A PIM system can be set up to automatically export different versions of product information to all new outlets, platforms, and locations, by taking into consideration variations in languages, formats, and descriptions.
Acting as a cohesive unit, PIM automates data collection, processing, and updating. This standardizes and harmonizes all buyer-centric product information. The result is a minimization of miscommunication in the sale cycles, channel consistency, risk aversion, and a high degree of efficiency.
Creating omnichannel capabilities. Organizations deploy a wide range of systems to manage the ever-increasing array of engagement channels. But as brands embrace the omnichannel, data discrepancy becomes a crucial challenge. Customers expect to find consistent and seamless information while researching before making a purchase. Any error in the product description in these channels, as supposedly trivial as weight or dimension, can severely impact customer loyalty.
A centralized PIM can play a crucial role in the way product data is disseminated across channels. It can be used to generate immersive engagements on social platforms, native apps, digital marketplaces, conversational interfaces, IoT devices, or in-store experiences. It integrates full omnichannel capabilities for deeper customer engagement. Additionally, it enables the efficient updating of product information in bulk across online retail sites, print catalogues, store displays, kiosks, and mobile apps at a go.
Accelerating time-to-market. With a PIM in place, companies can easily manage extensive product descriptions, feature lists, and user guides in an organized and faster way. A centralized and consolidated system can be instrumental in gaining competitive advantage across multiple locations, countries, and time zones. PIM streamlines processes for creating, approving, publishing, and syndicating consumer-ready product content from multiple suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders.
With the elimination of tedious manual processes, prone-to-error spreadsheet management, and siloed systems, users can automate content creation lifecycle stages and launch new products (or update new features) quickly into the market. What’s more, the comprehensive product classification and categorization achieved through PIM enables support for on-site search and navigation, product hierarchy and discovery, and detailed product comparison. This helps in expediting the time-to-market of products significantly.
Customer experience can’t be measured by key performance indicators or data figures, but it’s crucial to how happy customers are with a brand. Crafting unified customer experiences means unlocking new revenue opportunities. As more and more companies reach their digital transformation maturity goals, the one component they often neglect is product information.
Effective product information management is an important factor in determining a company’s success across sales and marketing channels. A PIM platform helps to create an up-to-date, accurate, and accessible repository of all the information that various stakeholders need to know about products. It delivers the necessary facts to customers, and influences their buying decisions. Tapping the full spectrum of products, PIM helps the enterprise to deliver a unique experience.
Dietmar Rietsch is CEO of Pimcore.