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    March 17, 2022
    8 minute read

    5 Product Data Management Drivers of Digital Shelf Operational Excellence

    by: SJ Petteruti

    Embarking upon a digital transformation as a legacy brand is a daunting task: It’s a new type of market, with new consumer expectations, economic forces, and distribution methods. 

    Embracing this unique opportunity requires a new set of technological solutions and operations, including change management to help your organization and employees adapt to your digital transformation.

    For brands, effective product data management requires five essential drivers of digital shelf operational excellence.

    Learn more about these drivers, which are critical for any brand — regardless of size or industry — and understand how they fit into an effective commerce experience management (CommerceXM) solution.

    Publishing Product Data

    Your response time to schema changes can greatly impact your products’ positioning on search result pages, but publishing product data is an inherently slow operation. 

    McKinsey estimates that it takes 2–5 hours to verify product data per average SKU. According to Salsify proprietary customer data, it takes an average of 20 minutes to update the product data for 20 SKUs on Amazon, and anywhere between two to four minutes for data submitted to a retailer to actually appear on the retailer site. 

    This problem is magnified given the fact that retailer requirements are changing faster than ever before, which is significantly increasing the rate that product data needs to be published. 

    When you consider how much the algorithms on retail sites factor content compliance into how they rank products on search result pages, your responsiveness to these schema changes is all the more important.

    5 Essential Drivers for Product Data Management

    Choosing the right commerce experience management solution is crucial for product data management, but how you build your data publishing operation is your biggest success factor.

    That’s because brands need a system of work as much as a system of record for publishing product data. Brands that follow these five drivers have the highest rate of success in speeding their time to market and maximizing their resource efficiency.

    1. Validation

    First, document your ecommerce product data publishing process. Next, validate that the process accounts for all the essential responsibilities related to digital shelf operations. 

    The best way to validate that your process is correct is to consult with a subject matter expert, such as a representative from your CommerceXM solution or a service partner. 

    6 Universal Stages of Validation

    Customer ecommerce operations must follow six universal stages of validation for an effective approach.

    Kick-Off

    Kick-off is the stage in which an ecommerce team is notified of a product that needs to be set up or updated.

    Data Import

    Data import is the stage in which the essential product data is loaded or transferred into the experience management solution.

    Content Creation

    Content creation is the stage in which the essential product data is supplemented or topped off with additional marketing content, such as product images or descriptions, that provide consumers with the information they need to make a purchase.

    Approval

    Approval is the stage in which the entirety of the products-related ecommerce data is validated against internal requirements, and all legal and regulatory claims are verified.

    Syndication

    Syndication is the stage in which product data is validated against the retailer schema it’s being delivered to — and sent in an accurate, reliable manner.

    Analysis

    Analysis is the stage in which the product data is confirmed as appearing on the endpoint destination, and any opportunities for improvement are observed and acted upon.

    2. Integration

    Integrating a validated publishing process into your system of record is what positions your brand to publish updated content with maximum efficiency. 

    CommerceXM solutions that provide workflow capabilities allow brands to publish data from a number of sources into a number of different consumer experiences and lay the groundwork for the other drivers of operational efficiency. 

    But the publishing process is only half of what’s required for operational efficiency. Being able to easily audit the work that’s been done and verify the right actions have been taken is just as important.

    When the system of work is integrated into the system of record, auditing becomes much easier because brands can generate activity reports that identify all the product records that were impacted by a data change.

    These reports can be configured based on a number of conditions, including:

    • The individual who made the change;
    • When the change was made, or 
    • Which property was changed.

    This gives managers and supervising employees the visibility they need to validate that the publishing process is happening as designed.

    3. Notifications

    Operational efficiency means nothing if the employees involved don’t know when to take action. Relying on manual notifications like emails or phone calls to notify the critical stakeholders in your process can delay your speed to market by days, if not weeks.

    You need an operational system that can deliver automated, proactive notifications the instant action needs to be taken.

    The system should also be able to integrate against any method of communication that’s required, including emails and messenger apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

    This capability needs to be able to be utilized not just by full-time employees of a brand, but also by part-time employees, contractors, and external service providers, such as third-party content creation agencies. 

    4. Automation

    Automation is the key to scalability. There are a number of repetitive, predictable tasks that are required for publishing product data that don’t have to be done manually. Customers at Salsify, for example, are able to leverage Salsibots in order to maximize the number of SKUs they can support on the digital shelf.

    A Salsibot is an automated program that allows brands to quickly scale their digital shelf publishing operation. 

    For instance, Salsibots can:

    • Use formulas to convert weight and measures;
    • Match identifying product data, such as GTINs;
    • Translate marketing copy into different languages; or 
    • Kick-off proactive notifications when an event occurs, such as a SKU reaching low inventory.

    Salsibots are an essential driver for enterprise brands that need to manage large product catalogs or complex types of product data. In fact, we estimate that 200,000 tasks are completed by humans, while over 7 million tasks are completed by automated Salsibots. 

    5. Optimization

    Building an efficient publishing process isn’t enough. Once the data is live on a product page, there are numerous opportunities to improve that data and increase conversion rates.

    The two most basic ways of improving conversion rates are providing:

    • Better content to help your consumers make their purchase decisions; and 
    • More accurate content for the retail site’s algorithm to rank your products higher. 

    This can only be accomplished when you have a suite of reports that provide actionable insights, and a process for quickly adjusting your product data based on these insights.

    A CommerceXM solution that offers reports — such as share of search, keywords related to product categories, and compliance reports related to retail schemas — is essential for knowing where improvement opportunities exist.

    When used together, these reports inform brands about how their data is performing and can be used to kick-off any operational process once an opportunity for improvement has been identified.

    Driving Digital Shelf Operational Excellence

    It’s not just about having the right solution, it’s knowing how to use it. Having a good understanding of how you’re going to implement and operate your product data management process is essential for driving operational excellence across the digital shelf.

    Learn more about how the Salsify CommerceXM Platform helps brands and retailers win on the digital shelf.

    LEARN MORE

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