Think of the journey your product makes. It generates data from day of its inception, from ideation through to point of sale and beyond. This information develops alongside the product, increasing in volume as it moves through this lifecycle. If allowed to grow in an uncontrolled manner, however,without a central point of management, you will soon have a situation where multiple versions of the same information sit in siloed systems across siloed departments creating internal blind spots - there is no guarantee that the version in the hands of the customer services team is the correct version…
When it comes to a company’s most important component – it’s product(s) – there should be no such thing as a blind spot. There should be nothing a company knows better than its own product. But for many organizations, outdated product information rubs shoulders with the latest, current data and employees have no central point of reference from which to work from, opening the way for error and increasing the risk of mistakes in all important external customer communications. Such mistakes make for a bad customer experience and can cost an organization time, money, and in some cases, its reputation.
So what’s the answer?
According to industry analyst and digital asset management expert Theresa Regli , the problem should be tackled at the source – and we tend to agree with her. Having a system in place which acts as a central source for these assets right from the start will allow your product data to develop and mature in a controlled and relevant way, improving the accuracy of your data and the quality of its output.
In a recent whitepaper, Regli explains how this can be done, outlining that a combination of digital asset management (DAM) and product information management (PIM) systems can create a content ‘package’ to untangle the mess.
Improving the Product Data and Digital Asset Lifecycle
The first step in bringing content process under control is to understand the data and asset lifecycle. As I mentioned at the beginning, product data is created even before the product itself. Managing it from this stage onwards helps keep the development process under control, template data so it can be applied to various needs – such as regulation and localization – and prepare it for the marketing further down the line.
Storing data in a product lifecycle management (PLM) tool is standard practice for gathering product data and many versions are usually created as the product develops, but before the product data is ready to be used in the marketplace – and managed by PIM technology – a single set of accurate product data needs to emerge.
The next step is to marry the product data stored in PIM with the more contextual marketing information which is typically stored in a DAM system. Using these two systems together it is possible create a template for the content ‘recipe’ required by each subsequent user, and aggregate it accordingly.
Product Content as a Service
There are multiple use cases for the same product data and digital assets stored in PIM and DAM systems. From direct to consumer ecommerce sites, through to retailers, advertising communications, customer service and social media, it helps to have a single source of content truth from which marketing, sales, distribution and service can work. This is where Regli’s ‘Product Content as a Service’, or PCAAS, comes in.
"Product content as a service is facilitated by unifying content from various sources and making it accessible to both people and downstream systems. Marketing product content, made available in a centralized interface or data service, enables agencies, retailers, and other internal systems to access the most accurate and up-to-date content..."
- Theresa Regli, Digital Asset Management Expert, cited in DAM and PIM: A Match Made in MarTech , p.2
Rather than fetching the product information required by a retailer from a variety of sources, manually patching it together and sending it off, it is possible to construct an architecture that collects all your product information, in its most up to date and relevant state, into one source.
For example, PIM and DAM systems can be integrated with each other in order to facilitate this, pooling the different types of information usually stored in them (read Regli’s paper for more on this)into a single resource behind a single interface. You may find that a DAM system which also houses PIM capabilities is better for you, or the other way around - it depends on your needs. Predetermined rules, templating, and user roles can define who has access to what but essentially, all data is pulled into a centrally controlled database acting as a resource which benefits both your employees and your customers.
This creates a package of product data, images and marketing content that can be easily located and distributed to retailers or even internal ecommerce or marketing teams. Content is kept consistent and access is controlled. Being able to distribute an ‘all you can eat’ selection of assets keeps information up to date and on brand, improving the accuracy and quality of customer communications.
While specialized content providers realized this long ago, many clever brands have also realized the benefits and are already taking this approach, bringing these benefits inhouse and reaping the rewards. Regli demonstrates demonstrates this fact by citing the brand success story of Migros , a large swiss retailer who uses DAM and PIM technology to increase the quality of its marketing communications while cutting agency costs by 15%. So, as complex and difficult the task of managing and aligning your product data may seem, it certainly won't be a thankless task.
You can read Theresa Regli’s full paper here to find out more on creating a product data architecture that exploits the benefits PIM and DAM for your organization, but also for your customers.