Learning to understand the customer’s language


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 4 2016)

Nowadays market analyses show significant change in behaviour and demand of retail. It is therefore imperative for retailers to not only have a physical presence but to be present across channels also - to engage in omnichannel retailing ideally. To do this efficiently, targeted and while exploiting additional advantages for customers and retailers, a strong back-end is required, which means a corresponding PIM or MDM system.

Multichannel retailing definitely is the right move for an enterprise in the 21st century. According to Forrester’s report ‘The Art Of Omnichannel Retailing’ from last year, today 1.5 trillion dollars in retail sales are generated by customers who start their shopping journey online and conclude it in the physical store. “Online sales combined with web-influenced sales - transactions that occur in a physical store after a customer has first engaged the brand online - now exceed pure in-store sales,” according to Forrester’s report ‘One Customer, One Organization, One P&L’ from November 2015. The types of shoppers outlined in these statistics make up a force to be reckoned with, and one a retail enterprise certainly wants to target. They represent the newest wave of consumer purchasing patterns, one that’s likely here to stay. They use every resource available to them to get what they want, when they want it. 

Multichannel retailing capitalises on this tendency by using various channels – e-commerce, catalogues, brick-and-mortar stores, kiosks, etc. – to target and engage customers. While this is obviously a smart move in retail, it comes with a unique challenge: How does a retailer keep its product and customer information consistent across all of its marketing and sales channels as well as across the enterprise itself? This is the aim of omnichannel retailing, and if done right, omnichannel retailing benefits both the customer and the enterprise. Four Omnichannel Functionality Categories represent a general idea of what the customer desires and can receive from a successful omnichannel retail experience. These are Online Experience, Channel Consistency, In-Store Pick-Up and In-Store Functionality. A customer’s Online Experience entails a continuity of information and resources across all of the digital devices they use. Channel Consistency is a little broader. Here, the customer benefits from experiences, resources and information that are unbroken and consistent across not only their digital devices but in-stores as well. The two final Omnichannel Functionality Categories focus on in-store experiences. When customers select or purchase something online but choose to pick it up in-store, they want their in-store pick-up experience to be all-encompassing, including notifications about their selection or purchase as well as information regarding its availability, the in-store wait time and the store’s location(s). The customers benefit from omnichannel capabilities within stores themselves as well, with experience-boosting options like ‘save the sale’. Naturally, the retailer wants their customers to be happy and satisfied because happy, satisfied customers lead to sales. 

On a more technical level, however, the retailer benefits less from experiences and more from data, particularly when it is relevant, trustworthy and insightful. A retailer needs relevant data, so it can be used to adopt policies that align with their strategies. A retailer needs to be able to trust that their data is high-quality, consistent and accurate. Ultimately, an enterprise benefits most from data when it brings insights into products and customers because drawing meaningful conclusions about products and customers leads to better decision-making. Omnichannel retailing that appeals to both customers’ and the retailer’s needs seems complex. A PIM system makes it easy because it optimises customer experience by allowing a retailer’s digital assets creation team, content creation team, marketing team, etc. to tailor their content based on the data. A PIM/MDM system becomes the source of truth for an enterprise, the centralised source of data. Such a system provides a robust selection of capabilities that support the omnichannel experience. First comes Flexible Data Modeling. Data modeling is essential to providing customers with the best experiences possible. A PIM/MDM system’s flexible data modeling allows an enterprise to model data based on market offerings, product seasonality, customer segments and more. 

Secondly, it contains Multiple Containers for Hierarchy Management. Extension containers of the master container are crucial for organising subsets of data that target particular customer segments, sales seasons, geographies, etc. Yet it’s also necessary for all extension containers to remain in synch with the master container. A PIM system is designed to do just that, ensuring that data across the enterprise is not only organised but “talking” to other data in other containers so that all messages and efforts are in synch. The third point is Robust Data Governance. When handling data from various sources and regarding various arms of an enterprise, the consistency of data governance policies and procedures is necessary. A PIM/MDM system workflow makes this the case even as an enterprise standardises the customer boarding process and/or product introductions. 

Fourthly comes Multi-Channel Data Syndication. Multichannel retailing is significantly more complex than single-channel retailing. A PIM/MDM system ensures that master information as well as channel-specific information are managed. When information is centralised and integrated with marketing and sales channels, a brand can remain consistent, which makes it stronger. And fifth, there are Business Rules for Automation and Product Extensions. Within a PIM/MDM system, an enterprise can use business rules to create and convert data automatically so that it matches destination containers that contain product data for specific geographies, business units or catalogues. In the spirit of connection, collaboration and integration, a PIM tool allows users to extend a product from the master collaboration container to an extension container. This results in faster product introductions and allows for efficient management of specific brand needs and catalogues. 

When the functionalities above are combined, it is not difficult to see how a PIM/MDM system eliminates many of the problems associated with omnichannel retailing. Where an omnichannel strategy without PIM/MDM suffers from customer dissatisfaction because of errors in orders and inconsistent information, for example, a strategy including a PIM/MDM system reduces the chances of errors overall – internally and customer-facing – and thus increases satisfaction. Where a simple omnichannel strategy struggles with a long time to market for new products and finds it challenging to quickly expand product assortments, a PIM/MDM system streamlines processes, so product introductions are quicker and consistent across all channels, digital and otherwise.

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Riversand is an innovative leader in Master Data Management, powering different sectors in industry – ranging from the world’s largest enterprises to SMEs. Riversand’s single integrated, scalable and robust multi-domain MDM platform caters to a variety of uses across multiple verticals.

Riversand Technologies Inc.

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