Three Takeaways from NRF’s Big Show 2019

This year, the National Retail Federation’s Retail’s Big Show was buzzing with new technologies. From analytics and AI services, intelligent supply chain services, to IoT platforms and robots, the future of retail was on full display — one that promises to deliver greater personalization, enhanced customer experiences, and engagement.

Underpinning all of this is good data. As retailers continue to transform digitally, the ability to access and leverage the wealth of customer and product data is the foundation to their successful future. This will allow retailers to move quickly, be more agile and highly responsive to customer demands, and achieve greater efficiencies in their operations.

Here are three takeaways from my observations and discussions with customers, partners and industry peers at this year’s show:

China and the U.S.: A tale of two divergent shopping markets

Together, China and the U.S. represent the world’s largest retail and e-commerce markets, but the shopping landscape of each could not be more different. In China, two online retailers, Alibaba and, dominate the market and account for more than 85% of China’s e-commerce market. Chinese shoppers rely on these two platforms to buy virtually everything from their mobile devices. In fact, more than three-quarters (76%) of all e-commerce in China occurs via mobile devices and mobile payments remains the most popular choice for online purchases, according to Forrester.

In contrast, the U.S. is incredibly fragmented and becoming increasingly more complex. For search and discovery, there’s the obvious options of Amazon and Google, in addition to marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy, to name a few. We’re also witnessing the emergence and influence of social commerce with shoppable posts on Instagram, Pinterest and others. Beyond that, consider the thousands of retailers that each have their own direct-to-consumer shopping sites from high end retailers like Barneys and Nordstrom to mass appeal retailers like Target and H&M. And the fragmentation is only getting worse.

So how do brands meet consumer demand? If you’re a global brand, you need to be everywhere as quickly as your products are ready for market. As such, the need to syndicate the right product content to the right retailer and marketplace instantly is mission-critical.

The retail bright spot: Image and video shopping

Content is king and this is even more important when it comes to shoppable content, whereby consumers can shop directly from a piece of content, generally via a photo or video. Shopping by images and video is becoming the preferred way for consumers to search, discover and compare products online. In fact, as many as 78% of retailers in the apparel, big box and specialty sectors — and 41% of 400+ brands — have shoppable Instagram accounts, according to the 2018 Gartner L2 Social Platforms and Influencers Intelligence Report.

This year, videos will make up for 80% of internet traffic worldwide and 85% in the U.S., according to Cisco. For images and videos to be made easily searchable, it requires having granular attributes and classification information for each, known as metadata. For any multichannel commerce site, this would include brand information on specific products and images (size, keywords, rights etc.), as well as brochure data (descriptions, cover images, etc.).

Furthermore, brands must consider the ability to store information about similar and alternative products, as well as products for cross-selling and even competitive products. And it requires marketing and rich selling information to complement the imagery to entice the consumer to buy. Add in the requirements for personalization of content and you are talking about an explosion of product content that’s needed to be built and managed by marketing and merchandising departments.

Online and In-store: Creating a consistent, seamless experience

While there’s plenty of talk about omnichannel retailing, most retailers have yet to perfect this vision. Retailers are still seeking better and more innovative way to connect and create a seamless online and in-store experience for the consumer.

The use of IoT, sensors and data offer tremendous potential for improving the retail supply chain and customer experience innovation. A prime example at this year’s show is the Kroger and Microsoft partnership, showcasing the connected store experience with app-assisted pilot stores.

This latest innovation points to the need for retailers to up their game in serving up better product information, as well as pricing information on the competition in real time. Clearly, having consistent and complementary data and content for both in-store and online is crucial for this frictionless, seamless reality to ring true.

The common theme across all three of these developments is the imperative for an effective strategy for aggregating and managing all product data. And its why product information management (PIM) is becoming a priority technology investment for digital commerce. By leveraging a PIM system to feed commerce with accurate, granular and rich product content, brands and retailers are empowered to deliver personalization services and facilitate individualized digital experiences that today’s consumer demands.

This article originally appeared in MarTech Advisor

Five Key Takeaways from London B2B Commerce Meetup

Last month, we partnered with Lingo24 to host the first London B2B Commerce Meetup on the theme of successful digital transformation. We had a tremendous turnout of eCommerce professionals from companies that span from startups to mid-sized companies to global brands.

Hot topics for discussion included: how to best compete and beat Amazon in the B2B space; moving into new countries; the importance of localization (or localization for my US friends) and, the realization of the importance of delivering consistent and engaging product experiences not just to retail customers but to industrial buyers as well.

I came up with 5 key, slightly tongue-in-cheek takeaways for ensuring successful digital transformation:

  1. Know your starting point: Let’s face it, achieving a complete and total digital transformation is a bit like reaching the top of Mount Everest. Most of us – even the boldest and most daring of us — will never get there. One surefooted step at time, however, will get you a lot farther than you think. Digital transformation isn’t merely about having a great-looking website. It’s about core vision, conviction and leadership, and it starts with a clear and honest assessment of where you’re starting from and where you want to go, in terms of organization and structure (for instance, how managers are rewarded for hitting goals) and your product content (its granularity and richness, as well as your processes for on-boarding and digital delivery). It’s a risk worth taking.

  2. Don’t boil the ocean: Technology vendors will throw everything and the kitchen sink at you to justify a project. While there may be more than 25 valid reasons for building a product information management (PIM) system, attempting everything on the list will be unattainable. Instead, set realistic expectations of what can be accomplished. Prioritizing the big wins is just as important as deciding which to leave out.

  3. “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content”. A great quote from Leo Tolstoy, which can be readily applied to today’s B2B company’s dilemma. When your directive is to take on 5-10 times more SKUs while radically reducing product introduction times, you have to pick your battles. Some SKUS will have to go straight to market; others will need to be held back so that you can develop richer product content. Distributors need to get suppliers to do the work and to employ machine learning and AI to help automate as much of the enrichment process as possible. While you’re taking the time to make every bit of product content perfect, someone else Is selling those products to your customers.

  4. It’s the boss’s idea: In order to transform digitally, the right stakeholders have to believe that a digital strategy is critical. It takes getting buy-in early from the top and the right leadership to set a clear vision for the roadmap ahead. Digital transformation for product-centric B2B companies is critical for survival and future prosperity. Therefore, the boss has to be centrally involved, and preferably it’s their idea

  5. Watch out for the fake news:  When companies invest in new technologies, they usually undergo a thoughtful evaluation process. Once purchased, the buyer’s reputation is on the line, and they’re the ones who are usually the most committed to its long-term success. They’re also the most knowledgeable. There are plenty of opinions and reviews of technology solutions, just a click or two away, but it’s the end-users who are the most reliable sources for honest evaluations. Customer conferences and meet ups are a great ways to avoid the fake news and accurately benchmark your approach to digital transformation.

7 Reasons Why PIM Should be the Next Step in Your Digital Commerce Journey

Aggregating and managing all product data is cornerstone for any digital commerce strategy. In the many years since we saw a need to better manage product information and developed the first version of the Agility software, PIM has become a critical technology investment for both IT and business executives. A solid PIM solution helps you to dramatically improve data quality and govern data access and usage. It enables portfolio expansion as your business grows. And, effective product information management provides the flexibility to respond to changing market conditions. Read more

5 Common Myths about Product Information Management PIM

The science of managing information about products has existed for decades, although, Product Information Management (PIM) is a relatively new branch of Data Management. Historically, the solutions required to manage product content have been complex, since that data has multiple touch-points and affects the 3 pillars – People, Process and Technology. With a shift in the industry to promote business-focused, data-driven organizations, PIM was invented with a purpose to ease the collection, management and syndication of data, in a simple, easy and concise manner. However, there are still some myths from its past. Read more

How to Maximize Your Global Reach with Automated Localization

Online retailers are constantly looking to find new places to grow as traditional markets and models are undermined, but turning this strategy into reality can sometimes feel like a blind leap into the unknown, even for established international businesses. Read more

Three Ways to Power Your Commerce Site with Dynamic Content

Keeping your content up to date is table stakes for delivering a good customer experience for any commerce business. As such, leading brands rely on dynamic content to power their commerce sites to deliver pages to users. Without it, they would need to dedicate enormous resources to pre-generate all of their unique content.

Today, the ability to integrate dynamic content into your website can be easily achieved, whether you’re a small business or a global commerce brand. Using dynamic content in Agility means you can be confident that your copy is right whenever it’s published.

The trick to dynamic content is building copy from content you already have. That way, whenever you publish copy it has the very latest core content.

Here are the top three ways you can use dynamic content.

Embedded references

You can build copy by putting references to Agility attributes inside another attribute. We call this “embedding” a reference within another. This means that the embedded reference is resolved when the outer reference is published: you get the up-to-date value when you need it.

When you embed a reference there are a couple of ways to turn that content into copy. One of these is the option to add prefixes and suffixes to content as it resolves. For example, if you stored the “voltage” of an item as a numeric value, for faceted searching, you could publish that number with a suffix of “V”.

Another way is to control how references without values appear. You can choose to either show the unresolved reference (for error checking), show nothing (as if the reference just wasn’t there) or show a fixed replacement value.

PIM Embedded references

Smart attributes

Smart attributes take embedded references and make them… smarter. Smart attributes can make intelligent decisions on what content to publish by using Agility scripts.

You can have conditionality applied to your content and this can be much more sophisticated than the “blank or not blank ” conditions in embedded references. Is a value greater than, longer than, equal to, fewer than…? Your script can decide whether and how it’s published! For example, if something had a value equal to “special” then publish in bold, or promoted up the list, or marked-up specially for a downstream ERP system. But you can also make smart decisions based on your content’s metadata: how about deciding whether to publish content by its workflow status? Publish it if it’s “Approved”; don’t if it isn’t.

Another great feature of smart attributes is that you can build templates for copy. What if you don’t know beforehand how many things will be in your list? What if some things need to be removed for certain channels? What if some need to be added? AQL, the Agility Query Language, will let you search your content for what you need.


Show me my cross-sells!

PIM Smart attributes

Dynamic tables

Dynamic tables bring together embedded references and smart attributes: you use an Agility script to repeat an attribute that uses a series of embedded attributes as the columns in your table.

Agility’s ability to redirect references from one object to another mean you can build an example table once and then re-use it for any object.

So far, so similar to smart attributes, right? The real trick to dynamic tables is that you can have different columns for different objects: your script can change the content it publishes depending on what it is you’re publishing!

For example, for “Batteries” you might want your table to show “SKU Code”, “Voltage” and “Pack Size”, but for “Paper” you might want “SKU Code”, “Size” and “Weight”. You can create both tables from the same script. Even better, if you ever need to add, remove or change a column for a particular object then you can do that on the object itself: no need to find and change the script that builds it!

Be dynamic!

Your data in Agility PIM is your best resource: get it working for you dynamically! If you’re interested in learning how you can create a consistent customer experience across multiple channels, while empowering business users to be more productive, we can help! Contact us today to schedule a one on one demonstration of Agility for your team.

By Jon Finn, Agility Multichannel

Who Has Your Back? How to Get the Most Out of Agility Support

Agility Performance Improvements

The Agility engineering team’s efforts in the last two service packs has focused on improving core product performance, to ensure a positive user experience throughout the Agility product. Recent testing has shown significant improvements in the search functionality, and in the coming months, our team of engineers will continue to focus on improving the performance of searches in Agility by integrating with best-of-breed search and analytics engines. We have also improved the speed of login to the Agility Modular Interface (AMI) by deferring the resolution of special characters until they’re required.

In the next major release of Agility, 7.2, we have made exciting improvements to the performance of the AQL queries executed via the API. This will further improve the performance of both the Agility core functionality and all integrations, such as connectors to InDesign and other third-party systems.


Tips for Improving Agility Performance for Existing Users

  1. Ensure database statistics are up to date.
  2. Ensure database indexes are built regularly.
  3. Verify that application server is operating at optimal efficiency by assuring that there is available memory and space for processing.
  4. Determine that all other environmental elements are functioning correctly, such as database performance or network latency.
  5. Regularly empty Agility Structure BINs, to cut down the number of edges in the data.
  1. Contact us about running the Agility Health Check utility.
    If you’re interested in running this utility then contact your Magnitude Customer Success Representative.
  2. Change your logging levels back down if you’ve raised them to generate diagnostics for an issue you’ve reported.
    Contact Magnitude Support if you wish to discuss how to achieve this.


How Agility Support Can Help

We hope you already have access to the Magnitude Community, where incidents can be raised with us. If not, you can register for access at the following URL: and then select the Register here option.

To help us to help you in the most efficient way when raising an incident with us, we need as much information as possible. We ask for this up-front as it negates the need for constant back and forth, asking for further information.

We need detail of the issue that’s being reported, along with the steps undertaken to replicate the issue. Please include screen shots, videos or log files that better explain the situation. If you are reporting a performance issue, then be sure to include timings highlighting the performance degradation you see. It is also worth verifying with your own database and network teams that there is not a known cause of the issue from your side.


How to Generate and Find Logs in Agility

The information below covers details and screenshots of how to generate and find logs. There are three main log locations: the logs for AMI, for the application server and for InDesign Connector. Examples of these locations are shown below.

Agility find logs

AMI’s System Information dialog has the Generate Diagnostic File button to prepare logs for you:

The location of application server logs depends on which app server you’re using and where it has been installed. Some examples of application server log locations, for Windows, are:

Wildfly <drive>\wildfly-10.1.0.Final\standalone\log
Websphere <drive>\Program Files (x86)\IBM\Websphere\AppServer\profiles\AppSrv01\logs\


Weblogic <drive>\Oracle\Middleware\Oracle_Home\user_projects\domains\base_domain\




Similarly, the exact location of InDesign Connector logs depends on the version of InDesign you’re using and where it was installed. An example location, for MacOS, is:

InDesign /Users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Agility/InDesign13/Diagnostics


You could also use the InDesign menu option of Agility > Utilities > Gather Diagnostics to prepare InDesign Connector log files.

Wide or Deep? MDM vs. PIM

Some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from our customers are:

  • Why do I need another MDM application?
  • What are the differences between MDM and PIM?
  • Do I really need an MDM and a PIM solution?

In many ways, these questions are based upon a faulty assumption, namely that product data management (PIM) and Master Data Management (MDM) are the same thing. While are closely related, but they are most certainly not the same – at least if you subscribe to our definitions of PIM and MDM.  In our view MDM has several goals: Read more

2018 MDM Landscape Report

Magnitude MDM and Agility PIM Ranked #1 for Customer Satisfaction 5th Year in a Row

This marks the 5th consecutive year Magnitude and its subsidiary’s products, Agility Multichannel Product Information Management (PIM) and Magnitude Master Data Management (MDM) and Dynamic Information Warehouse (DIW) earned this standing. Magnitude Software’s Agility Multichannel empowers brand manufacturers, distributors and retailers around the world to conquer the complexities of commerce, while Magnitude MDM and DIW support and provide analytics into all domains of information, including financial, customer, vendor, employee and, of course, product.

The report’s author, Andy Hayler, President & CEO of The Information Difference, said, “To rank #1 for customer satisfaction in a survey based on a large sample of references speaks volumes. For Agility Multichannel, a Magnitude company to be awarded this accolade five years in a row is an incredible achievement made even more impressive that now for the first time, it’s earned in conjunction with Magnitude MDM and DIW products”.

Hayler continued, “Magnitude’s MDM, DIW and Agility PIM customers also had the highest scores on the questions ‘Did the software represent value for money?’ and ‘Did the software deliver to your expectations?’ – which are clearly important criteria.

Magnitude VP of MDM, DIW & Agility Solutions, Richard Hunt commented: “The MDM Landscape Report is respected industry-wide, and its survey is extensive, covering all of the major MDM and PIM vendors. It’s an honor to be included, let alone to consistently receive such high technology ratings. We’re delighted once again to receive this highest of endorsements from not only our Agility PIM customers but also our Magnitude MDM and DIW customers too.”

You can download the report here: 2018 MDM Landscape Report


2018 MDM Landscape Report customer satisfaction

Key Takeaways from our Magnitude User Group Conferences

We’ve just wrapped up the return of our 2018 user group conferences for our MDM and DIW customers. In June and July, our MDM, DIW and Agility customers, partners, industry leaders and Magnitude teams gathered to learn and share industry-leading insights and best practices in Manchester, UK and Chicago, IL.

Both events were well attended and generated tremendous feedback from attendees. Among the key highlights: Read more