In today’s article, our partner agency Synolia explains how open source Product Information Management tools like Akeneo can help retailers streamline product catalogs and communicate more effectively with customers.
After a decade spent going toe-to-toe, traditional and digital distribution channels are now coming together to better meet customers’ needs.
From a multi-channel strategy...
Today, an e-commerce website is a real driver of traffic and revenue for traditional networks, at least for those retailers who use it correctly.
Web-to-store, web-in-store…more and more web retailers are implementing e-commerce features intended to drive part of their clientele, who would otherwise have been lost, to physical networks.
But having an online catalog is one thing; selling online is altogether another.
Today, redirecting a customer looking for an out-of-stock product to a point of sale, or letting a customer prepare their product online and then collecting it in-store is much more effective than simply limiting customers to what is available in one channel or another.
It can be a lever for increasing revenue when tied to a brand image that is uniformly presented across all distribution channels. It also allows for the e-commerce channel to be integrated into the traditional distribution network.
...to a customer-centric experience!
The multiplication of distribution channels brings new constraints to managing and administering a product catalog that demand tailored solutions.
Until now, most channels have been used in tandem, but with separate catalogs.
The paper channel - whose flagship remains the catalog - was usually handed over to a communications agency, who would spend weeks, or even months, every year manually aggregating various data in InDesign.
The store network was usually content with data from external software solutions (ERPs) for information about stocks and prices. The e-commerce channel, for its part, juggled with its ERP and rather archaic data enrichment tools (Excel files, for example) to obtain a somewhat-usable feed to build and enrich an online catalog.
The end result was a clutter of multiple, heterogeneous data sources, and resources that did and redid the same work each year without benefiting from an economy of scale. The result: unstructured data that was impossible to use across channels.
But that was before!
Long live the PIM!
The expansion of omni-channel sales has imposed a radical change in how product catalogs are used and resulted in the develop of PIM: Product Information Management.
PIM offers 3 concrete solutions:
- Collecting and centralizing data
- Enriching and maintaining this information
- Sharing catalogs, adapted to different distribution channels
Let’s take a look at a concrete example of what you can do with Akeneo, an Open Source PIM platform that is quickly becoming a leader in the market, in the context of multiple distribution channels that include an e-commerce channel represented by a PrestaShop retail site.
Collect product information to create a single foundation
The PIM application lets you combine product data feeds, no matter their origin, to create a reliable, up-to-date product referential. Just as an ERP provides a central point for order processing, PIM is fast becoming the point of reference for product databases, and contains all the information needed to inform various distribution channels.
- Collect Data
- Collect product data from existing sources (ERP, local files, vendors POs)
- Automate imports
- Integrate an open source PIM like Akeneo to automate data imports
Enrich data to improve the customer experience
Next comes the enrichment phase. PIM provides a user-friendly interface to manage catalog enrichment by adding cold information, which consists of attributes that are either shared among channels or specific to each one (i.e. data that does not change according to criteria such as discounts, which are usually managed by an ERP). PIM also helps manage all media, such as product images, that present specific constraints depending on the distribution channel. For example, an image used online doesn’t need to be the same resolution as one shown in a print catalog, even if the source is the same: that’s why the PIM automatically manages and converts these media - resizing, processing, etc.
To effectively enrich a product, you need to have visibility into your catalog. PIM can offer a lot of flexibility in this area and help save time by allowing you to track your catalog status, channel-by-channel. In real life, this means knowing, for example, that product X can be published on the FR retail site, but that something is still in translation for the UK version, or that an additional attribute needs to be entered for the print catalog for professionals.
Using profile management combined with approval work flows, PIM allows you dedicate team resources to certain tasks or channels, and direct others to approving the enrichment work you’re doing. This collaborative mode can save you a lot of time when you’re managing your catalog, something you can only dream about if you handle product references using a multitude of files sent to various staff members before approval.
The bottom line: you’ll end up managing a catalog of a much higher quality faster and more efficiently, thereby improving your brand image.
In the projects that we have completed over the last few months, we’ve noticed increases of around 50% between the catalog volume that the retailer had hoped to manage, and that they actually handled in the same period of time, with fewer resources! This represents a significant time savings and reduced time-to-market.
- Enrich data
- Integrate marketing
- Adapt data to the distribution channel
- Maintain and translate
- Keep information up to date in a single back office
- Translate data for adaptation
Easily share catalogs adapted to your distribution channels
Once this enrichment work has been completed, you can communicate your product data across distribution channels automatically.
Here the PIM really shines, since it not only feeds into digital channels (E-commerce, Mobile), but also automatically fills InDesign templates, accomplishing 90% of the design work required to produce a paper catalog. Figures given to us by the print specialists we work with are enlightening: where a large catalog used to take 6 months, the work can now be completed in a few weeks, with 50% fewer resources and the same quality result.
- Control distribution
- All sales channels with a single solution (e-commerce, paper catalogs, mobile applications, social media, marketplaces and more)
- Manage export
- Select data to export by channel
The advent of Open Source PIM!
Until recently, Product Information Management platforms were reserved for large retailers who managed very large volumes and had the financial resources to pay licensing fees amounting to several hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros.
With the advent of Open Source PIMs like Akeneo, this type of platform has become very affordable, and any business with several broadcasting channels now ought to take a close look at a PIM that will place itself upstream of the information system alongside the ERP.
It’s a small revolution in the distribution world, where the exactness of the (product) information that is given has become a real issue. Beyond the purely financial gains, PIM also provides a unifying element that can been a boon to businesses confronted with a lack of consistency in product data and dispersed information: it can all be profitably centralized through a PIM.
Product pages with quality content will generate benefits in SEO, as well as the customer experience: with a properly filled out product page, visitors have all of the information they need to evaluate the product and its characteristics. With information at hand and questions answered, they are also more likely to add items to their cart and complete their order.
The true impact comes into focus when looked in light of FEVAD figures, which estimate that currently 80% of the world’s e-commerce data is wrong because it is not adapted to the communication channel. By delivering the right message, you can potentially gain an advantage over 80% of your direct competitors.
This won't be the last you hear of PIM, which is sure to become a vital element of any retail project. The solutions are easy to implement for an almost immediate ROI and vital working comfort for the professional teams involved.
About Synolia: Synolia has been a PrestaShop partner for many years. They are also one of the main participants in Open Source PIM, with a privileged partnership with Akeneo, an Open Source PIM publisher who is currently taking a large share of the French and international market (and it’s a French company, too!). Synolia created the PrestaShop-Akeneo connector that is used by many retailers. Based in Lyon (France) and Paris, Synolia is a specialist of ambitious e-commerce, customer relationship management and B.I. projects.