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Learning to manage digital assets at the speed of retail

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Quickly shifting market dynamics, the increased need for speed of item asset digitization, and changing customer expectations are all putting pressure on manufacturers and retailers to better manage product information. Several acronyms have become part of regular conversation, including MDM (Master Data Management), PIM (Product Information Management) and DAM (Digital Asset Management). Each system has advantages and disadvantages, depending largely on the manufacturer’s or retailer’s objectives. MDM is an approach best suited when uses span multiple business areas; PIM is ideal for central storage of product information; and DAM is a repository to store images, logos, videos and other types of media.

For retailers, managing the multitude of product-related data requires clearly defined business rules, discipline and rigorous governance to ensure consistency. This task can be monumental if these guidelines have been overlooked or only randomly adhered to. In fact, in a recent survey of health, beauty and wellness manufacturers to understand how they deal with their product content, HRG (Hamacher Resource Group) discovered that more than a third had no formalized way to manage their digital product assets and attributes.

There also appears to be confusion as to the options available in managing data and distributing it to users — whether internal or external. Working with a variety of manufacturer clients, HRG has discovered that understanding the current data management process, specific data requirements and timing for each end user/entity, as well as storage and format needs, is necessary to develop or choose an appropriate system.

Before investing in a fanciful, full-feature PIM/DAM system architecture, processes need to be established to ensure consistent, accurate, and up-to-date data is being loaded or the output won’t be of much value. Likewise, the chosen content platform shouldn’t force data assets into a particular naming convention or format without the ability to scale or easily make modifications as necessary.

The HRG survey also revealed that more than 70% of respondents managed and uploaded their own product data to their PIM/DAM service provider. Shockingly, responses indicated that data content is rejected due to errors, missing information, incorrect formatting and other inaccuracies nearly 40% of the time. The reasons for a lack of product data quality can certainly vary, but it is not unusual for product information to be entered and distributed throughout a company with different quality expectations and data standards from one department to the next. Without the groundwork to establish conventions and guidelines for product content with buy-in from the stakeholders, this multipoint access can lead to diminished data quality and rampant inconsistencies. Companies should analyze, standardize and refine their processes across all potential points of data contact to increase speed to virtual shelf and, ultimately, increase the bottom line.

Another issue uncovered in the HRG PIM/DAM survey was lead time — the delay in publishing or posting data for consumption varies widely. Twelve percent of respondents indicated that lead time can extend to two or more weeks, with another 25% revealing a one- to two-week delay. Without adequate process management, such time lags can result in lost sales opportunities for brands and retailers.

All aforementioned data challenges can be minimized with strong governance so rights and roles, responsibilities, and change/update rules are managed by a department or individual champion. Approaching it using value stream mapping techniques allows an organization to detect potential bottlenecks and gain a better understanding of key data elements, identify responsibilities, and understand the distribution and change management requirements. It’s a worthwhile exercise, and also often leads to ways to streamline and save money, resources, and time. The more complex the process, the more opportunities there can be to find ways to make improvements.

Dave Wendland, vice president of strategic relations and member of the HRG owner group, participates in strategic planning, business development, product innovation and marketing communications activities for the company.


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