No business is on just one or two channels, even if they believe they are. (In fact, if you’re only on a handful, you may already be behind.)
What’s more likely is you don’t fully realize just how many channels your business requires to function. The customer journey can take your audience through a number of channels, including:
- Retailers and wholesalers, like Walmart and Walgreens
- Transactional sites and marketplaces, like Amazon, eBay, and Google Express
- Search engines, social channels, and affiliate sites
- Email and other nurturing channels
- Print catalogs
Each and every individual channel requires product information. Somehow, many of the biggest companies in the world are still using legacy technologies for this, which means that someone is opening up big, bloated Excel spreadsheets and manually editing product content for dozens to hundreds of channels. This is often an intern, someone in IT who has better things to do, or an agency. Regardless, whoever is in charge of these processes is not usually a “master” of product data distribution.
If this situation is so inefficient, why does it continue to happen?
It’s simple: Upgrading dinosaur databases and methods in medium and large businesses can be incredibly difficult. Making real changes is not just about implementing a new tool or launching a campaign. Brands and retailers need to understand that the game has fundamentally changed. Manual product content management and distribution methods will not be a viable solution for any commerce business in the future.
How many touchpoints and channels can one business handle?
For those individuals not personally working with product content and feeds, it’s easy to overlook just how complex and messy it can be. You have a clean, “Golden Record” of data somewhere (for example, your PIM), so can’t you just distribute that to new channels around the globe? Not quite.
In reality, it can take several weeks to understand exactly what a channel’s requirements are and then tailor the data to those requirements. Of course, this is just the basics. To drive sales and performance marketing efforts, there will need to be additional data (attributes for mobile, channel-specific attributes, or those used to better define the product) and optimizations (more clickable titles, custom labels for marketing campaign management, etc).
A few channels can be managed manually by one intern. A business with 50 products can definitely manage it reliably and successfully with manual spreadsheets. Now, consider the hundreds of touchpoints that a customer will reach along their journey. Preparing those, measuring their efficacy, and constantly optimizing for better performance—that’s not a manual job, nor is it one we that can be achieved with a cobbled-together, piecemeal syndication strategy.
Product Information Distribution Services (PIDS): Centralizing the distribution of product content
There’s a reason Forrester just recently coined the term “PIDS,” or “Product Information Distribution Services.” Despite the great capabilities of PXM, PDM, and PIM, there is still a huge gap in the brand and retailer toolkit. The idea behind PIDS is that businesses need to be able to manage the distribution of all their content from a single, central location. They need processes and methods that are automated, reliable, and—importantly—business user-friendly. In short, they need to turn piecemeal data distribution into a science.
PIDS act as global channel connectors, ensuring that a business can easily manage each and every touchpoint from one place. PIDS also represent a shift in the way we do commerce and e-commerce. The future will, no doubt, be all about automation, data, and perfect optimization. PIDS brings all of this to product information. It may not have the same buzzword-ring as blockchain or experiential retail, but it’s infinitely more practical and foundational to driving sales.
Catching up: What you can do right now
There are some ways to take stock of your current distribution methods. First, understand who is controlling the processes. Is it several members of IT, or is it completely outsourced to an agency? It’s preferable to use either a good, qualified agency or bring it in-house and keep marketing teams involved.
Product information should be on-brand and support the customer journey as well as performance marketing. IT alone cannot do this. Don’t forget: Consistent, on-brand, and accessible product information is the basis of a positive customer experience.
Second, understand how the data and distribution is managed. Is it being taken care of manually or is there a tool already in place? Does this tool make it easy for non-technical employees to manage the product data and save time? Now that PIDS is an increasingly popular buzzword, you can be sure there are a number of solutions out there to suit different business case. Shop around and make changes if necessary.
Finally, ensure that all of this product data can be easily optimized for marketing purposes. You need to be carefully crafting titles for clickability, leveraging custom labels to group products intelligently, finding and optimizing top performing products, and always keeping data up-to-date.
Shoppers continue to click through (often on paid clicks too!) to products that can’t be bought, and that should be a thing of the past.
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