Building on one of my previous posts, “You Can’t Just Drop Your Content Off At The Dock,” I wanted to go into a bit more detail about the last mile problem when it comes to product content—and how the Content Analytics platform can help you solve it.
In the physical world, the last mile problem is used to describe the challenges of delivering products to their ultimate destination. For example, it’s fairly easy to ship products on a container ship to a port—and the cost of shipping all those products in one large container is relatively inexpensive. While shipping packages from an Amazon distribution center in Red Rock, Nevada to San Francisco, California is fairly straightforward. The hard part is then distributing all those packages to their final endpoints; that is, your and my front doorstep, and making sure that when we get home, the boxes are there, waiting for us.
Of course, the last mile is often the most important, because unless that package gets to its ultimate destination, all the rest of the work, such as the sourcing, creation, marketing and selling of the product inside that package, is all for naught.
When it comes to the digital world of content management, the last mile problem is getting the content delivered to retailer websites, and making sure that it actually goes live—and stays live—once it is delivered.
The challenge with the vast majority of product information management (PIM) and digital asset management (DAM) systems is that they simply weren’t designed to solve the last mile problem. Not only were they not designed to push content to a diverse set of retailer web sites, they also don’t have the capabilities built-in to audit that content once it has been pushed live.
Without the full set of capabilities, it is almost impossible to ensure the integrity of your brand online—to ensure that retailers are displaying the right imagery, product descriptions and other content that you have worked so hard to create, produce and deliver.
It’s remarkable how many Product Information Management (PIM) solutions store product information like product names and attributes, but don’t actually help get that content live on eCommerce web sites like Amazon.com and Walmart.com—and don’t ensure that the content has gone live. You may be wondering why this is. After all, what’s the point of creating content and then not distributing it?
The answer, as in so many cases, is legacy. A lot of companies built out internally or bought complex enterprise systems for storing item data. In large part, these companies had to do this for supply chain reasons. In order for an item to be produced, marketed and sold, it had to have an identifier, and companies needed systems to track that product identifier and all the data associated with that product as it went from sourcing to production to marketing to sales and ultimately, delivery to the customer.
Many systems were designed long before eCommerce represented 10% of retail sales, and long before shoppers began starting their buyer's journey online rather than in-store. They were designed when TV advertising, newspapers and the actual physical product in the store was the best representation of the brand and its products. They were designed long before consumers started spending hours looking at product images and videos, reading reviews, and comparison shopping online.
All that said, many of these systems are advanced in terms of the data they are able to store. When we receive data feeds from these systems—either because we’re helping customers migrate off of them or because customers have asked us to integrate with them, we tend to receive fairly large quantities of data—multiple images for each product, image categorization coded into the image file names, dimensions, go live dates and other key information. However, almost none of them solve the last mile problem when it comes to product content.
eCommerce Workflow Automation
That’s exactly where our eCommerce workflow automation comes into play. Repetitive tasks like syndicating content, and checking whether product detail pages have been updated with a brand’s latest content should be handled by software. That way, that sales and marketing can execute successfully on demand generation and revenue creation.
Our ‘Compare With Live’ feature makes it easy to compare product content side by side, for every product in your catalog. We compare the product that suppliers load into our catalog (or that we create for them) with the content that is live on retailer websites. But we don’t just show the content side-by-side, our software automatically analyzes your images and product copy for their similarity to what is live (or not live) on a retailer’s website.
Not only do we show you that on an item by item basis—we also summarize that across many different items so you have a full understanding of what’s live—and what’s not.
This workflow automation makes it easy for our customers to understand their overall Brand Integrity Score—on one retailer or multiple retailers. And it makes it easy to track the improvement in content integrity day over day and week over week. From the rollup, customers can easily drill down to see exception items that need to be resubmitted, edited or reviewed with a buyer or merchant.
From Audit to Action
Of course, having the ability to audit your content is only half the equation. The other half is being able to take action to make changes once you’ve gotten your audit. And our Master Catalog makes it easy to do just that. From the audit you can jump directly into our catalog to edit and update items, export product content when needed, and submit content directly to retailers.
Taking this automated workflow a step further, for some customers, we’ve integrated with their existing enterprise PIM to fully streamline the content import, update and audit workflow, while enabling our clients to retain the existing functionality (often supply chain related) they’ve come to depend on with their existing systems.
Our platform supports a number of enterprise connectors. Some support off-the-shelf systems and standards (like the GS1 standard). Others are designed to integrate with custom or specialized systems that our enterprise customers have implemented. Each day or week, we receive content directly from these existing enterprise systems, ingest it into our catalog, and then distribute that content to the various retailers, performing automatic field and image transformations as necessary.
With many customers we reduce complex processes through this kind of automation, increasing accuracy and saving our customers hours of time each week. From there, we push content live (subject to a review process) to our retailer partners, and then audit the content pushes to determine if any content has not gone live. Built-in alerts notify our customers about any action they need to take.
In other cases, we become the product information management system for our customers, either because they don’t have an existing eCommerce solution or because they have an existing system and want to replace it. Either way, our solution is easy to setup and provides the end to end workflow functionality they need, all the way from content creation to storage, syndication, and auditing.
Solving product content’s last mile problem hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding to see the success of our large and small customers after adopting our platform to streamline their eCommerce workflows, increase brand integrity, and ultimately, drive more sales.