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Gone are the days when a pretty window display was all a company needed to attract consumers, and in its place is an e-commerce landscape where retail companies must maintain many digital storefronts to remain competitive.
While trying to adjust to these new expectations and run an effective business, many of these companies have found that organizing product content – product attributes like ingredients and images – is a major bottleneck in the process.
We spoke to an employee, Ellie, at a mid-sized cosmetics distribution company. She explained to us that the complexity of managing product content keeps her from adequately tackling the new digital initiatives the company hopes will make it more competitive in the e-commerce space.
Ellie is the only employee at this midsize (and growing!) cosmetics distribution company who is responsible for all the online initiatives. She manages the website, updates social media, and creates a seasonal catalogue optimized for online distribution – all of which requires a slightly different version of the product content.
This product content comes from sell sheets, spreadsheets, and emails full of product data that Ellie and her company receive from suppliers. Ellie knows that it does her company’s SEO rankings no good if she simply copies and pastes this data onto their website. She also knows that for most products, she needs to write a pithy 140-characters-or-less pitch for Twitter, a 3-4 paragraph article for the website, and something in between for the catalogue.
But before Ellie can begin writing up fresh copy for a particular product, she first has to find the right supplier data from all these unorganized files. The manual hunt takes up most of Ellie’s time before she has to move to a new project.
“The quality job a person can do [creating good product content] depends on the amount of time they can deal with it – and if they’re like me, it’s not much,” said Ellie.
Across these digital storefronts on the website, mobile site, and social media, quality images are just as important as quality product content. The headache is that each platform requires a different size and resolution of image, and most suppliers send Ellie just one image, if at all.
Thus, after Ellie is finished hunting down product content from the suppliers and writing up fresh product content for her company, she has to start tracking down images. She first tries to contact the supplier itself, but has come to expect that most won’t respond in a timely manner.
Therefore, Ellie usually winds up resizing images herself if she’s been given one, or even scouring the Internet for an image to use.
Ellie’s bosses are adamant that they want to remain a “small company” and use this as an excuse for not investing in any type of software database. (Their “inventory” is primarily kept track of through their catalogue, and these scattered files.)
But if the company wants to efficiently allocate resources to more digital initiatives (they want to develop a mobile site, for example, and poor Ellie will have to spearhead that as well), they need a central repository for their product content. If product content can be imported once and images can be easily stored and automatically resized, Ellie can spend more time pulling information, not finding it and quality-controlling it.
If managing product data from suppliers is really the bottleneck, centralizing the data will give Ellie more flexibility to push the company’s digital initiatives forward.
If the scenario painted in this post resonates with issues your company is dealing with, please feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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