When Managing Data, You Are Better Off Staying Inside the Box

Abnesh Raina
September 03, 2014

Creativity is an essential element in ecommerce.  Consumers respond to compelling visuals, aspirational themes, and fashion fantasy.  While creativity often requires thinking outside the box, managing the enormous amounts of data flowing through the omnichannel simply requires more control – staying inside the box – and an adherence to standardization. 


At the Shop.org Online Merchandising Workshop, Gabe Becker, PlumSlice Manager of Business Application Delivery, heard often from customers about the need to establish tighter controls over data processes.  Concerns about clean data and how to improve data management was top of mind.  Here, Gabe shares his thoughts on clean data and its impact on the organization, and the customer.


Q.  Clean data seems to be gaining traction as a top concern among retailers.  What’s driving this?

A.  Based on conversations at OMW, I believe retailers are seeing that lack of clean data is the root of many problems in delivering a powerful customer engagement experience.


Q.  Please elaborate.

A.  Messy data trickles downward and is hard to stop once started.  In an omnichannel environment, inaccurate or inconsistent data is then replicated through multiple media and marketing channels.  It is very difficult, in the internet and social media environment, to unring that bell once bad data is published.  And customers quickly get turned off by inconsistencies.


Q.  Give us a concrete example.

A. Inconsistent pricing information between online and physical stores is a prevalent concern, and made more imperative since shoppers now tend to visit physical stores, armed with mobile app information about a specific product.  If it doesn’t all match up, it can be a lost sale.


Q.  How can we fix this problem?

A.  It seems counter-intuitive in the current pace of retailing, but you really need to step back, take a breath, and put systems, processes and procedures in place.  Creating a standardized environment in an organization promotes clean and accurate data.  You will see this level of structure in the most successful retailing brands.  Departments have to agree on data flow, format and process, on preferred methods of communication, on whose responsibility it is to update this information, on who owns each process.


Q.  Sounds like basic old-fashioned corporate structure?

A.  It is and it isn’t.  Yes, organizational structure, accountability and responsibility, are essential to publishing clean, consistent data, but the new enterprise must also deal with the omnichannel environment, so processes put in place must recognize the need to be far more agile and quickly responsive than the days of brick and mortar dominance.


Q.  That’s a lot to take on when you’re an enterprise faced with making sales goals and staying viable for the next season.  Is there a place to start?

A.  Consistent product information in terms of pricing, availability, styles and sizes available is a great place to start.  You want your customers to go online, use a mobile app or visit a physical store and have consistent data about a particular product.  If the mobile app says it’s available in X store in a 20 mile radius and your customer drives there, it needs to be there!  This goes back to the issue of standardization and processes – if a person or department has full responsibility for updating availability, it is further assurance the customer’s 20-mile drive will be worthwhile.


Q.  Can you prove clean data will increase your bottom line?

A.  With so many customers heavily relying now on mobile and online, inconsistent data is a sure path to customers leaving your site or shopping engine and looking elsewhere.   One international research firm, Ovum, says that poor quality data is costing businesses at least 30% of revenues.   As a retailer, do you want to throw away 30% of potential sales due to inconsistent, inaccurate data?


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