The other day I wanted to buy a certain lamp online. I used PriceRunner, an excellent online price comparison service. By typing in the desired lamp I received a list of dealers starting with the cheapest one on top. Now you might think I just chose the first one offering the cheapest price? Wrong! Even though it could save me money, I chose another retailer. Why? Bad product data. Aside from listing prices, PriceRunner has a nice feature showing which retailer has the item in stock. The cheapest lamp retailer had an “Information Missing” button, while the one I chose had an “In stock, Delivery in 1-2 days” button.
My PriceRunner experience is just one example of many I could mention that shows the value of relevant and proper product information.
Many companies do not want to ‘bore’ the customer with practical details such as dimensions of a package or the weight of a product. But many customers actually find it very convenient. Take IKEA as an example: How is the customer supposed to know if he can fit an IKEA closet into his car? If a potential customer is not able to determine those dimensions, they are probably not buying that product. With good product information at the consumer’s fingertips, they could identify the dimensions and quantity of boxes on the product and online, letting them know if it will fit in the car. Now, that’s good product information. That is why Product Information Management (PIM) is important.
Unfortunately not all businesses are handling product information that well. Many don’t even know what the customer wants. Recently it was documented that we use less than 5% of all useful data.1 Not surprising when 86% of organizations collect and manage data manually and 70% use excel.2
Help the customer choose the right product
Businesses today want as much data as possible from the customer because the more we know about the customer the better we can serve them. Many companies are proud of their customer-focused vision and their customer experience programs. The data from this supposedly helps them make personalized experiences. If they are really on top of their game, they will add in social media and new technologies with photos or videos since images provide more revenue. Right?
Wrong again! Research3 shows only 18 percent of customers look at the pictures on a full page on Amazon, while 82 percent look at the text. It turns out that the average customer is mainly using his time investigating the specifications of a product. In many cases, however, that information is missing, is not complete or even worse, is incorrect.
It's not really fair. We ask a lot of the customers, but what do we offer in return? We share information, such as “other people bought this”, to generate more revenue. Social data is added in order to show how popular we are. But what information do you give to help the customer choose the right product? Consider the specifications of the product. How is it packaged? How durable is the product? Which factory or distribution center does the product come from?
Not hot, but indispensable
So what should you do? ‘Better product data’ is definitely not a hot hashtag on Instagram, and it involves no flashy new gadgets. It is however indispensable if you want to grow your business. By collecting, monitoring and managing product data in a central location using a Product Master Data Management (MDM) solution, you ensure that customers can find the information they are looking for.
Managing data effectively was also a problem at Dutch cosmetics brand Rituals Cosmetics. The company started using Excel spreadsheets but ran into more and more errors and bottlenecks because of duplicated and outdated data. This began to slow down the brand’s expansion and internationalization.
According to Jan-Willem Boerhout, Strategic ICT Consultant at Rituals Cosmetics: "You only need to have one comma wrong in the shipping papers for the production that goes to Brazil, and chances are that the container will not leave the port anytime soon."
Rituals Cosmetics doesn’t have a colossal assortment of products, but the company continues to develop and expand. The implementation of a Product MDM system has drastically sped up the products’ time-to-market and has made it a lot easier to supply relevant and up-to-date product master data to the brands’ in-store and online resellers as well as ensures that the customer has the same experience everywhere.
Jan-Willem Boerhout: "Before, we had to manually tangle out the right images and data from a variety of systems. Now it can be published with the push of a button."
By now, the message should be clear: If you are still using excel or other home-grown systems to collect and manage product data, please STOP! Choose a sustainable solution that allows you to get the most of the data you collect as well as to give the customer the information he seeks. In the end it’s all about data balance. That’s why the saying in information sharing should go: “You take some, you give some”.