The following Q&A was conducted with Greg Wong, CEO of Heiler Software, and Dave Magnoni, director of product marketing at ATG. The two experts will join Forrester’s Principal Analyst Brian Walker during a webinar called “eCommerce meets Product Information Management” on June 3 at 2 p.m EST. To register for free, click here.
Question 1: We hear it all of the time; companies spend seven to nine months tediously creating a general catalog, not to mention the cost and time it takes to create a targeted one as well. How can companies reduce this time and spend more effort targeting their customers?
Greg Wong: One word: Automation. Using a single repository for all of your data helps the automation process because you are able to create and store customer-specific content and standard product information. Then, you publish it with the click of a button for both creative or structured flyers and catalogs, and only the final touches or pre-press work is done in Desktop Publishing solutions like Adobe InDesign, QuarkXpress, or FrameMaker.
Dave Magnoni: Printed catalog creation is generally done outside of eCommerce, but Web data and User Generated Content available online may be useful for the process. You can capture the right information online and keep this in synch with the product content.
Question 2: Companies that are growing and increasing their offerings are overwhelmed by all of the data that they have to manage. How do companies with multiple sales channels (i.e. multiple Web sites, catalogs, brick and mortar locations) communicate their product and brand information efficiently?
Greg Wong: Having one central system allows you to have the ability to synchronize your product information across multiple domains, targeted catalogs, and brick and mortar locations in one step, as opposed to updating each one individually. In addition, data is not replicated and data governance policies can be enforced across channels. The whole idea behind the Long-Tail theory is being able to expand your product line and increase revenue. You can do this easily with a PIM.
Dave Magnoni: Yes, having product information in a single master system is very helpful, and it provides a starting point for the commerce process. For example, master product information may be in one place, but different online sites may show brand-specific catalogs, or a single B2B site might show only products authorized in a given customer contract. The commerce engine will pull the product information, add information from other sources (like inventory levels), and provide an environment where the merchant can effectively communicate his or her brand to provide personalized information and offers that will ensure each visitor has the best experience possible.
Question 3: Why is it important for eCommerce applications to work in-conjunction with a product information management solution?
Greg Wong: Most organizations have either become or are becoming multi-channel resellers. With this in mind, there are many different source systems of data and many different output channels. eCommerce is one channel in the ecosystem; the job of an eCommerce system is to provide the best shopping experience to end customers, but not to be a data harmonization, data quality, or data management solution. By off-loading this to a PIM, eCommerce systems can focus on doing what they do best, generating revenue for retailers. Businesses will need their eCommerce applications to support their multi-channel initiatives as customers are becoming increasingly demanding.
Dave Magnoni: Online commerce involves selling and supporting many channels: multiple brand and country Web sites, mobile sites, in-store kiosks, agents who provide customer service, feeds to social media sites, etc. The PIM provides strong tools to make sure the information used for multi-channel online commerce is both high-quality and consistent across those many different channels. PIM also supports other channels, like catalog production, which are not usually driven from the online information. This improves the consumer’s experience and, in turn, improves business results.
The importance of eCommerce applications and PIM working in conjunction can be demonstrated in the use of search facets. These are valuable features that help customers filter a wide assortment of products to narrow in on those that they want to consider for purchase. High-quality information is needed in the product feed to ensure those facets turn out correctly on the Web, mobile or other sites that a customer is using. The PIM helps get the information right so the eCommerce experience can be flawless.