This article was originally written for and published by Multichannel Merchant.
Here it is, on my desk. The next great innovation from our product team: the Blinky 2000. But … What is it? Where was it made? Who is the target customer? How are they going to use it? When is it supposed to launch?
Every marketer has been here, staring down a product with more questions than answers, and wondering where to turn next to find out all the details. Welcome to the Marketing Maze.
Product data is integral to how customers discover, compare, purchase and engage throughout their buying journey, according to Forrester Research. However, many marketers struggle to effectively leverage this data when it seems hidden away in separate teams and business systems.
The Hunt for 5 Types of Product Data
Professionals spend 50% of their time searching for information and, on average, take 18 minutes to locate each document, according to Gartner. This amount of time is unwieldy to say the least considering all the different types of product data merchandising teams need to aggregate in order to connect with customers today:
Technical Specifications: This data encompasses the physical measurements, colors, ingredients and manufacturing details, as well as critical testing or regulatory information necessary for market compliance. It is typically saved in a Computer Aided Design (CAD) or Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system, as it’s developed by the design, engineering, sourcing and quality teams.
Usage Expectations: Information on product use and care can take many forms, including fit charts, care labels, assembly diagrams, maintenance guides, instruction manuals and electronic instructions for use. With so many different types of data on how products are used, documents often live on shared drives disconnected from the primary product record.
Emotional Data: Having a deeper understanding of the pain points and motivations of the target buyer is critical to building the personalized experiences customers expect today. Drawing on the product origin story and brand values helps marketers build compelling content that connects with shoppers.
Media Files: No product presentation is complete without multiple images, videos and other digital assets. Media originates from both internal creative and packaging teams and external agencies and studios. Often, the files are saved in a separate DAM or shared drive with minimal searchability, and no visibility as to where else the asset was used.
Customer Sales Data: Keeping customers at the forefront of decisions is difficult when data is tucked away in another team’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform. Merchandisers need sales and customer data to gain actionable insights on content performance to understand if the message and presentation resonated with customers to generate sales. When data is accurate and accessible, they can evaluate and invest in the content that will be most productive for conversions.
Without a central source of product truth, tracking down accurate, current information can feel like running a maze in search of that elusive piece of cheese. Marketers must wind through one path to find a small crumb of information, then backtrack and chase a different team until all of the dots are connected.
Marketing Mazes Cost Money
In reality, all of this effort is entirely unnecessary. McKinsey estimates 50% of work activities can be automated, such as those spent manually aggregating data. Time and resources used on organizing disconnected data take away from building rich content to drive conversions and ROI.
With manual processes reducing efficiency and slowing down marketing teams, companies are leaving money on the table. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Advanced, insights-driven businesses are five times more likely to achieve 20% or more revenue growth, according to Forrester. This is the kind of tangible value that comes from well-maintained collaborative data platforms.
Skip The Maze; Take the Direct Route
Marketing and merchandising teams need a Product Information Management (PIM) system to have a direct route to relevant data without running the costly marketing maze.
The power of PIM lies in integrating with the larger data ecosystem to collect and unify information from disparate sources. This breaks down barriers between silos and systems to provide marketers with a single source of complete product data, without the hassle of scouring spreadsheets and manually transferring files.
Strong reporting capabilities and data governance within PIM allow teams to easily identify inconsistencies by scanning the catalog for errors and omissions. Document and change controls then help verify accuracy with a historical record of product decisions.
With manual processes, 22% of an employee’s time is spent on repetitive tasks according to Cognizant. Using a PIM platform that incorporates automated workflows and collaboration alleviates repetitive tasks and speeds the process of cleansing data.
Marketers quickly connect with the original data author, clarify discrepancies and move forward with an updated record—all without leaving the PIM system. Leveraging automation to reduce time spent on organizing data allows channel teams to focus on optimizing content creation at a greater scale.
By connecting people, systems and processes in a unified platform, teams significantly improve product data accuracy and consistency, simplifying and accelerating go-to-market processes. It establishes the framework to aggregate, manage, enrich and distribute product data information, enabling the engine of engagement that feeds customer experiences.
For more on this topic, read Jill Mueller's comprehensive guide to product information management (PIM).