When It Comes to Product Information Management, Envision a River, Not a Lake
Emily Saka | April 29, 2014
Left untamed, product information management can get a little...unwieldly.
Just think about a company with one thousand SKUs. One thousand SKUs already sounds like a lot of “stuff” to manage – but remember that each SKU probably also has associated images, videos, instruction manuals and dozens of assorted product attributes. So pretty soon, one thousand SKUs can easily represent 50,000 pieces of individual product information – or more – all sitting in different silos throughout the company.
The problem is that by the time people are frustrated enough to find a management solution for their 50,000 pieces of product information, they are totally oriented around putting it in a big bucket and making sure it stays put.
Here at Salsify, we call this the “lake” mindset. In this post, we’ll explain why the lake mindset is so popular in e-commerce, and why you need to start thinking about managing your product information in terms of “rivers.”
THE LAKE MINDSET:
Whether companies have a dozen SKUS or a thousand, keeping tabs on product information just isn’t easy. Multiple departments across your company are itching for better management of this content for numerous reasons:
MARKETING - “We need a central database for product information.”
Product information drives online sales. As a result, marketers are the primary owners of product information within a company. They make sure that product descriptions, images, and other online marketing material are as compelling and up-to-date as possible.
The problem is that multiple departments are generally responsible for the creation of this information, and the exchange of this information both internally and externally. Thus, simply tracking down the information can easily take up a large portion of a marketer’s time.
IT - “We need one authoritative, canonical content repository...”
If your IT team is in charge of uploading all of your product information to your website, they definitely don’t also want to be in charge of scrubbing this information as well. IT teams tend to think of solutions in terms of absolutes and adhere to the mindset that there’s one “right way” to each solution.
So when it comes to product information management, the thought process goes: “If we get our data in right once and for all, all our management problems will go away.”
SALESPERSON - “I need an up-to-date spreadsheet that has all the right info…”
Salespeople want to close deals, period. As a result, they’re itching for simple, straightforward spreadsheets with the latest, most up-to-date product information they need to a) make a sale and b) get paid a commission.
MANAGER WHO JUST SPOKE TO A PIM SALESPERSON - “We need a PIM system...”
If you’ve been listening to these complaints all day and just taken a call with a PIM salesperson, a PIM system probably sounds like the ideal solution. (After all, the acronym itself stands for “product information management.”)
PIM systems are repositories for product information that allow teams to centralize and manage their information. They also help companies format their information to meet the requirements of various downstream channels.
THE RIVER MINDSET
Imagine that you’ve finally wrangled all of your product information into one of the “lake” solutions we’ve mentioned above. Life is calm and stagnant, and for the first time, you can see your “stuff” from end to end. It’s great!
For about ten seconds.
The problem is that today’s e-commerce world is anything but stagnant.
You’re constantly exchanging product information within the marketplace and publishing that information to other endpoints. And your company is intent on rolling out new products or onboarding new products as quickly as possible. Solutions that fall in line with the river mindset (shameless plug: like Salsify!) accommodate this fluidity.
You’re not just dumping information into a central repository; you’re collecting information from your existing infrastructure and on-the-fly content creation. And ideally, your solution can automatically add new information to the system without disrupting the flow.
You’re also constantly collecting information. You’re collecting information about rules and regulations in the marketplace, and about the best practices for organizing and communicating your product information, and you’re adjusting your solution to reflect this new information.
Think about all of the “rivers” along which product information travels. Within your company, product information moves through multiple departments for creation and approval. Imagine a product information management solution that automatically routes newly introduced information down its respective internal rivers.
Then, there are all of the rivers that appear outside of the company. These rivers include your Magento site, downstream marketplaces, and your consumer. A solution that accommodates these rivers primes your product information for each downstream endpoint as well.
Finally, your solution should allow you to actually send your information down these rivers in the format that your downstream channels require it. Imagine never having to send product information via email, spreadsheets or Dropbox ever again.