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Creating a Unified Digital Product Data Strategy in the ‘Age of Amazon’

By Abnesh Raina

With the majority of consumers either choosing to carry out their entire shopping journey online or at least begin the product research portion of their journey on an eCommerce site, the entire retail ecosystem has become more complex. For example, Amazon’s influence has forced competitors, partners and marketplace sellers alike to create product content specialization teams within the supply chain, in order to meet consumers’ digital shopping expectations and ensure product data integrity throughout the supply chain.

As the digital transformation wheel continues to spin, many retailers and brands striving for unified commerce in the age of Amazon currently find themselves struggling to effectively integrate all systems. And without this, they can’t deliver on their promise of a seamless customer experience, one which must be founded on a refined data strategy. To achieve a unified commerce environment in the age of Amazon, retailers need to begin with their product data and work their way up.

A Quick History of the Current Landscape

Retailers currently face the enormous task of reorganizing disparate systems that were built to cater to two separate channels: brick and mortar and digital. Due to the hyper-growth of digital commerce, retailers find themselves in need of creating highly specialized teams to manage every step of the process that is involved in the supply chain of product data. For example, product images and videos now need to be channel-specific, as do key merchandising functions like pricing optimization and product descriptions. As a result, there are often multiple highly specialized teams that are responsible for each of these steps; however, these teams may be in different parts of the retailers’ organization. As brands and retailers sell on third-party marketplaces such as Amazon and deploy additional fulfillment options including BOPIS and dropshipping, managing the complexity of these disparate workflows is not only a key requirement, but also a major operational challenge.

Creating a Unified Digital Product Data Strategy

As retailers work to unify their product data, they often find themselves reconciling data errors from countless spreadsheets, inevitably leaving revenue on the table caused by inventory mistakes, delays in time to market, loss of enterprise productivity and a sub-optimal digital customer experience.

In the absence of organizational ownership, there’s a question of who owns product data across all processes. And the answer is that while no one team may be in charge of the entire process, appropriate data management is critical to eliminating chaos in channels and bringing about a unified commerce environment.

Commerce unification means the same set of processes and the same set of data feeds everything from machine learning, assortments, call centers and social outlets, all the way to B2B and B2C environments. Retailers must ensure that consistent product data exists across all channels in order to serve the additional components that stem from the product being pushed through to different channels, both in-store and online.

Additionally, incorporating technology such as next-generation product information management solutions to develop automated workflows based on product types, including owned and dropshipped products, will help retailers of all sizes maintain control over their data’s integrity and create additional benefits through channel convergence of web, call centers, stores and mobile touchpoints. By maintaining product data consistency throughout, retailers gain the ability to improve their overall sales cycles, accurately track SKUs through all channels and improve forecasting accuracy among other organizational benefits. On the consumer front, retailers also stand to deliver compelling customer experiences that facilitate advanced search and buying experiences.

By creating a dynamic product data model, retailers will gain a firm grasp on the way their data is distributed throughout all touchpoints and lay the foundation to achieve their unified commerce goals.