How PIM and Automated Data Management Are Changing The Way Manufacturers and Retailers Do Business
These days, you cannot turn on the news or read a publication without seeing something scary and fascinating about Artificial Intelligence or AI. Nearly as often, you see ads by Amazon or IBM promoting cloud computing and “big data.” What you see or read far less often is a down-to-earth explanation of ordinary business data and how that data can make marketing a truly efficient process.
Retails Can Be Overwhelmed
Retailers and manufacturers must always start with accurate, trusted data if they are to effectively reach customers across all print and digital channels.
For retailers and their marketing and advertising directors, the most abundant collection of valuable data is the vast ocean of information about the products they sell. Every item has its own, unique collection of images, general descriptions, and product details, all stored in either a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system or a Product Information Management (PIM) system. Often, there are also separate data sources for product pricing, inventory, sales history (for physical stores and e-commerce), customer reviews, and other feedback.
The problem, of course, is how to combine all that data and utilize all those data sources automatically in multichannel marketing campaigns. Eventually, AI will be able to use large data sets more effectively, but first, we need to manage the product data we already have. As more and more data moves from local servers to the cloud, the first step is optimizing our PIM and DAM systems.
Retailers and manufacturers must always start with accurate, trusted data if they are to effectively reach customers across all print and digital channels. A cloud-based PIM system then serves as a reliable, central product data depository. When its data are consistent and connected with DAM and other data sources – and ultimately to print and digital production systems – the use of manual processes is minimized. In other words, the flow of data between systems is streamlined and automated, allowing campaign projects with multiple versions and channels to reach their audience faster and at a reduced production cost.
PIM Systems are Getting Better
Over the past ten years, PIM systems have migrated from limited, locally-hosted entities to cloud-based ones. This transition has made it easier in theory for retailers to accept and use manufacturers’ PIM data and connect PIM, DAM, and other systems into a more unified, flexible infrastructure. In practice, this has often been challenging, especially when it comes to integrating with print and online production systems like Adobe InDesign.* One of the only systems to effectively manage and automate this “last mile” between cloud-based PIMs and actual design and production is Comosoft’s LAGO.
Data accuracy is essential, whether the final output is for print, digital e-commerce, or (as is usually the case) both at once.
Data accuracy is essential, whether the final output is for print, digital e-commerce, or (as is usually the case) both at once. So, one of the first things Comosoft does when implementing LAGO is to ensure that the PIM data from manufacturers and the retailer are aligned by SKU number. This alignment is critical, whether the systems remain local or are in the cloud, because LAGO has all available data for each product in the campaign. In addition, retailers often rely on LAGO’s own cloud-based PIM system, although LAGO can also work with existing PIM and DAM systems.
The LAGO PIM system allows for the vast complexity facing marketing and retail advertising directors, namely the need for product data variants. For example, a single product may have different regional names or be expressed in more than one language. It can even be defined by customer-specific content. With so many possible variations and regional marketing needs, the PIM must have unprecedented flexibility to produce multi-versioned campaigns quickly and efficiently.
Perhaps the greatest need in a PIM-to-production marketing workflow is for the data to flow wherever it needs to go without undue manual intervention. LAGO accomplishes this by making PIM data bi-directional. Production designers can pull all the elements for a single product (from the PIM, DAM, and other systems) with a single action – or in a template created by the campaign planners. The process is automatic, freeing the designer to do what they’re best at – design. But if they have to change something, such as a regional override or correcting an error, that data change is communicated back to the cloud-based PIM. An authorized marketing manager can then approve the change globally or allow it as a regional or situational exception.
Data interconnectivity does not stop there. Besides coordinating the data flow between PIM, DAM, and other data sources, LAGO also conveys relevant campaign data automatically to other systems, including sales and inventory management, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), marketing campaign planning, and other complex systems – often also in the cloud. It also conveys the campaign design data, usually expressed as regional variants, from one medium (print) to its many online counterparts, such as mobile e-commerce. By supporting a wide, multi-faceted, and largely automatic data flow, LAGO has changed PIM from an isolated data “island” to an integrated part of an efficient marketing workflow.
With or without advances in real-world AI, cloud computing and massive data sets are now an everyday reality for retailers’ marketing and advertising departments.