Guest blog by Trevor Olson, President & CEO, Aware Web Solutions
For many organizations, product data has taken over. That mighty spreadsheet (or series of spreadsheets) created years ago by that one guy nobody really remembers is the master. Every product detail, spec, and line of marketing copy must pass through it. It’s a beast and no one ever wants to anger the beast.
Part of the problem is that your product data continues to grow. Today's empowered consumer demands more before they purchase a product from online retailers.
If you aren’t able to keep up, sales will go elsewhere… and fast.
And so you continue to feed the beast… that master spreadsheet of product data, routing it internally via email to all the different folks in the company who touch or impact your organization’s product marketing. It’s time-intensive to put it mildly and is chalk full of human errors. You don’t have the time, patience, or frankly, the will, to dive in to fix it. Remember, you’re dealing with a beast, your daily master. OBEY.
And we haven’t brought up the multiple channels to which you’re sending this product data. Your web site, catalogs, online retailers, industry marketplaces…you name it…they all now require that the product marketing content you send them is unique. That’s just more fields to add to that master spreadsheet.
Are you managing your channels or are they managing you?
Turn It Around. The PIM Solution.
The only method of fulfilling those demands is a central repository for your product data and content. This repository is known as a Product Information Management System, or a PIM.
Picture this for a moment. Imagine a single click, and you are instantly in a solution with a fully cleansed, organized repository of all master product content. It’s a single view of everything you need as a product manager. No more spreadsheets, files, and images scattered throughout networks, file systems, and individual inboxes. PIM systems accomplish several goals, including:
inRiver is a Product Information Management suite that is built for marketers. Its advanced User Interface and adaptable design make it a leader in publishing your items quicker and to more channels. inRiver features include:
Aware’s PIM Advantage
Meeting the needs of retailers, manufacturers, and distributors requires speed, flexibility, and experience. Aware Web Solutions understands the importance of these needs and provides a proven system to implementing a PIM package that achieves your data and content goals. Aware’s system includes:
Our solutions help syndicate your product data and content using a single consistent message throughout your channels. Your marketing data and content outputs to your web site, your catalogs, Amazon, Google Manufacturing Center, and every other channel your business feeds can happen at higher Speed-to-Market rates and more accurately with less work.
Interested in a demo? Contact Aware
Trevor Olson, President & CEO, Aware Web Solutions
inRiver uses channels to stream selected product data into downstream systems. Channels are a highly useful tool to further the organization of products, as well as their data and assets for downstream use. inRiver PIM has an ideal setup for creating channels and integrating with the desired systems. These products are mapped from the initial bundle, product, or SKU into the selected channel(s) in the form of a hierarchy.
A hierarchy is a tree of products that becomes narrower in scope as you go down the tree and is also known as a taxonomy. Taxonomy is used to organize and arrange your entities, products, and items. Two primary uses of taxonomy are for navigation and for classification of products. This is an integral part of designing channels, since the main purpose of the different channels is to direct your product to the outlet in which it is going to be sold. The primary use of taxonomy with inRiver PIM is the categorization tree to classify products. This will allow one category node to be assigned to a product and from here the product is mapped to the channels that have been created.
The following are some of the types of channels:
The most common channel is for e-commerce—along with traditional Content Management Systems (CMS) and Web Content Management (WCM)—to drive a website. The selection of products and navigation hierarchy intended to be sold on the retail website is created in a specific channel. For example, each website has its own channel. There are some key items that need to be thought of when creating this hierarchy. The hierarchy must be customer-focused and not focused on an internal business structure, such as a business unit or brand, although the system is flexible and allows for the structure to be created according to the company requirements. The best backbone to this structure is what we at EIS call “is-ness,” which refers to the essential nature of the product, rather than to its specific characteristics such as size, or what it is used for. This refers to the intuitive way the customer usually shops. So the customer would look for “sweater” first, and color or event, such as formal or casual, later.
The use of the product (its application) provides a great secondary taxonomy (a.k.a. “facet taxonomy”) and allows multiple ways for the customer to find products. For example, if the end-user is shopping for a headlamp for the purpose of hiking at night, the initial hierarchy based on “is-ness” may follow this path: [Lighting Products]-[Headlamps], while the application may follow this path: [Hiking Products]-[Lighting]-[Headlamps].
The benefit of this secondary taxonomy is the ability to lead the end-user to a set of products for their intended use, and toward finding other products that they may need for initial application. There will be overlap with the first taxonomy in this secondary taxonomy. The headlamp mentioned above may also be in an application facet for “spelunking.” The initial taxonomy based on “is-ness” has one spot for each product. These can be separate channels or mapped together in a polyhierarchy, which is a hierarchy allowing for multiple nodes that a product can inhabit, depending on how the downstream system works. Taxonomy testing can be done to determine whether the navigation paths are intuitive or need tweaking. Other examples of facet taxonomies can be Brand, Persona or Field.
The way that inRiver assists in developing these taxonomies is by their use of channels. The system flexibility allows many channels to be created and mapped.
A more compact navigation hierarchy may be needed for a mobile app or mobile website so that it is more viewable and findable on the uniquely designed screen. The rules for e-commerce hierarchy still come in to play, but wireframing (which is a rough draft mock up) and prototyping the taxonomy can ensure the mobile version of the hierarchy is optimal for end-user navigation. This channel is becoming increasingly important as more users rely on mobile devices rather than desktop or laptop computers. There is much less screen “real estate” available, so the design needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Print catalogs are still a mainstay of some industries. There may be one master catalog that maps with the bulk of a product and follows a similar taxonomy pattern as the e-commerce hierarchy. However, application-based taxonomies would be specialty sections of the catalog rather than open navigation. In addition to the master catalog, some channels could be used for smaller, more focused catalogs or print ads. These are often based on region, user personas, or brand. In November, a company selling outdoor equipment would have two different mailers for Arizona and Wisconsin. In Arizona, there may be more of a focus on camping gear and hiking equipment, while in Wisconsin the catalog may home in on cross-country skiing and curling equipment. Having two separate channels with specifically mapped products would help organize this.
Taking the catalog approach a step further can result in creating channels for marketing use. For example, the information needed to create a white paper for a product is stored and enriched in the PIM. Marketing media can be created for a single product or a group of products. A brochure for a specific application can be created. For example, a hobby shop can provide a brochure or instructional aid for building your own BattleBot, which is a robot used to fight other robots in an arena setting as a competition. A channel can be used to map the needed products for this particular piece of media so the relevant attribute information is made available, as well as the product list for this specific application. And come on, who doesn’t want to build a BattleBot?
If the company has a B2B component and sells products to distributors, channels can be used to organize the products going to each distributor. You have two options: Each distributor can have its own channel; or the system may have a distributor channel and then a level of the hierarchy for each specific distributor. Typically, the first option is better. For example, channels for Amazon, Walmart, and Grainger can each be created. Then, each channel can have a hierarchy that closely matches each specific distributor’s taxonomy so that their product managers can find the product information faster. Assets can be made available for distributors through this channel or a separate distributor media bank. Since inRiver PIM comes with a DAM system, this would be a natural and convenient add.
EIS specializes in creating taxonomies for all of these use cases, and we are happy to engage with clients of inRiver to help design these hierarchies.
Chantal Schweizer, Senior Taxonomist of Earley Information Science
Let me introduce you to my new best friend. Yes, in a household with three active children, a busy, distracted husband, and two “unruly” dogs (as described by my curmudgeonly neighbor), my Amazon Echo is my dearest friend. She actually listens to what I say and acknowledges my requests!
Yesterday, I had Alexa read me the news. The day before, she set a timer for 25 minutes so I wouldn’t burn the muffins. She plays my favourite music on demand and adjusts the volume to my liking. If she had arms, I would hug her—every day.
But there is more to Alexa than meets the eye. Did you know that she is also the ultimate shopper? Yes, indeed! Assuming that the items that you are seeking are either commodity—such as pet food or packaged goods—or easily described, such as a book or a song, Alexa can do your buying for you—at the sound of your voice.
This is your newest retail channel. We will be discussing this and more in our upcoming webinar on February 15.
As retailers and manufacturers, who are targeting consumers directly, strive to get the right offer to the right consumer at the right time, an additional channel can open up new opportunities, while also adding operational complexity. In the case of voice, the ability to utilize the technology and the channel effectively is key. And to do this, you need great product information.
Since consumers who order products via Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, Google Voice, or other voice-activated apps are likely not looking at a mobile device or laptop at the same time, they are not seeing product images or reading descriptions and specifications. It is imperative that your product information is complete enough for the service to recognize what the consumer is trying to order.
Not only that, but also your product description needs to utilize the key words that a consumer would use. Chances are, a consumer will order a “blue phone case for Samsung Galaxy S7” not an “aqua ombre glitter sparkles” S7 phone case. Your product information needs to tell appealing product stories using common, everyday terms.
Because consumers will be able to review a shopping cart to ensure that their order is correct, your product information needs to be discrete and concise enough to select the needed product with a superior level of accuracy. Basic information such as product titles, brands, and SKU numbers needs to be exact. In addition, your product information needs to be consistent across channels so that your consumer can view a product online and then be able to order the product later via voice with a high degree of confidence that the selection is the same product.
The advent of voice shopping can help retailers truly meet shoppers where they are, in those “micro-moments” when a product need crosses their minds. However, to make that great first impression and keep shoppers coming back to you through this channel, it is critical that you serve up the right content and product options. Keep this new channel in mind when you are crafting your product information. It might mean telling a simpler, more concise product story.
In the meantime, join inRiver and our partner Absolunet on February 15, 2017 at 2PM CST for a webinar on this and other eCommerce trends affecting retailers. Register here for this informational event!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver