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    How to Build a Central Source of Truth for Your Brand

    July 22, 2021
    7 minute read
    How to Build a Central Source of Truth for Your Brand

    “We need a single source of truth!” is a rallying cry often heard throughout companies. Yet, the idea of “truth” can be abstract and elusive. 

    With the digital shelf, truth becomes any attribute that’s used to describe a product, like: 

    • The basic product ID number,
    • Name,
    • Category,
    • Feature bullets,
    • Product imagery, or
    • One of the many other descriptors that are used to define the product. 

    Having this truth harmonized across sales channels improves your product search and visibility, as well as your bottom line — and is essential in the race to and beyond market.

    After the Starting Line: A Changing Course and Your Product Truth

    Realistically, a product journey hits the starting line and the race is on. But it often takes many months, or years, for the pace to heat up as organizations embark on complex, lengthy, and oftentimes treacherous transformation programs.

    The vision of a finish line has master data harmonized and neatly tucked into master data management (MDM), product lifecycle management (PLM), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems — with data stewards trained and ready to operate in the new landscape of people, process, and technology. 

    By the end, sales and marketing know what they can sell, supply chain teams know what to make and ship, and finance is closing the books and reporting the state of the business more efficiently and accurately than ever before. Mission accomplished and medals awarded — but not so fast.

    Keeping Up With the Digital Shelf

    As the organization internally adapts, modern commerce continues to evolve and accelerate on the outside, thereby changing the course as it’s being run. Digital Commerce 360 notes that consumer online spending grew by 44% year over year in 2020. 

    As this level of acceleration hits the market, the product truth that takes many months to materialize suddenly doesn’t meet all of the demands of the rapidly changing digital shelf. What was once race-ready is now not reaching its potential in the real game.  

    Brands must therefore consider the external market perspectives and impact points when mapping out a transformation journey and set out to establish a single source of truth. 

    This single source of truth must be located in one spot and accessible for changes, and it must feed into all external markets, meeting both internal requirements and the very specific requirements of each market or vendor along the way.

    The Mid-Race: Competing, Relaying With Partners, and Your Consumer as Judge

    Due to rapidly changing and uncontrollable market pressures, this middle leg of the journey is arguably more challenging. There are numerous forces at work that demand attention: the competition (other brands), the partners (retailers and distributors), and of course, the consumer.  

    In order to win the digital shelf consumer, brands must first win the algorithmic search that leads the consumer to the brand or product. Losing the search bar leads to missed opportunities, if not obscurity. 

    According to the Search Engine Journal, 64% of shoppers click on the first three items on a search page, and 35% of shoppers click on the first product. To increase your brand’s presence in the search bar, your product detail page (PDP) needs to be a compelling representation of the brand with content that educates, showcases, and clarifies for the consumer. 

    As if that’s not sufficiently challenging, digital retailer merchants are continuously changing their own content requirements as they battle to retain and grow their customer bases. 

    As an example, Amazon changed content requirements nearly 170 times in 2020, and Target increased its requirements fourfold over the past two years combined to nearly match Amazon’s cadence.  

    This means that brands aren’t only competing against other brands; they’re also racing to remain a preferred partner to retailers that host thousands of other products — and your brand has to respond actively to retailer changes, matching their cadence to remain on top.

    Lastly, most challenging and arguably most important, is the consumer — with varied and often shifting shopping patterns. Forbes notes that 69% of U.S. consumers shop more with brands that offer consistent experiences in-store and online.

    That means that the product needs to be able to present many truths on many channels in a consistent manner to beat competitors, comply with retailer requirements, and win over the consumer.

    The Essential Coach: Product Information Management (PIM)

    In today’s rapidly evolving digital economy, brand manufacturers must consider these external forces and sources of truth. Unfortunately, the enterprise platforms that often enable transformations — ERP, PLM, MDM — aren’t built to quickly adapt to modern commerce. 

    Brands need to turn to a new coach for this race: a purpose-built, modern product information management (PIM) system to manage the many versions of the truth that are needed to win on the digital shelf.

    To serve the brand, a modern PIM must be a cross-functional business tool that supports multiple areas of the organization: product development, marketing, sales, supply chain, and others that are needed to get the product to market.

    Like other parts of a modern technology stack, the right PIM also needs to be scalable, with light-yet-robust governance, and permissioning capabilities set for collaboration.

    The PIM must also support a holistic view of the content, from featured bullets to digital media. The data modeling capabilities must enable the business to effectively manage complex data models (e.g., relationship between a style and corresponding colors and sizes) without relying solely on IT or manual resources.

    To support the final mile to reach the consumer, the PIM must be powered by an integrated content syndication engine that will deliver the right content, in the right time, to the right channel on the digital shelf.

    Establishing the source of truth is a very challenging and important endeavor for all brands — but key to finishing the race with a medal.

    It’s a journey that begins in pre-training, then at the starting line, and is continuously sculpted along the race course, passing the baton to partners, overtaking the competition – and all to motivate the final judge at the end of the journey — the consumer.

    Download the complete Ventana Research market report, "2021 Value Index on Product Information Management (PIM)," to learn more about the evolving market for PIM and Salsify's ranking as an Exemplary vendor.


    Written by: Manny Ochoa

    Manny Ochoa is the commerce strategy director at Salsify.

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