Agility multichannel PIM Blog

Agility Multichannel Blogs gives you insights to all the latest developments and also give you the tips and tricks for all your work related hassle.

Points to Consider When Switching E-Commerce Platforms

Every company eventually outgrows its e-commerce platform. As new technologies emerge, customer behaviors change with them to redefine the “expected” customer experience. When your platform can no longer deliver the functionality and performance your business requires, it’s time for an upgrade.

Considering the significant cost of a new system in dollars and staff resources, the stakes are high. Your company will be wedded to your selection for many years. Your ability to compete and thrive depends on a sound decision. So you must do your homework before you sit down with a prospective provider. Think about these factors when evaluating an e-commerce platform.

Pain Points

Your current platform obviously has shortcomings — some are minor annoyances but others hamper your ability to transact business or manage your e-commerce business efficiently.

  • List these pain points, most painful to least.
  • Redefine them as features that you seek in a new system. For example, “Having to manage photos and assets from a separate program” could be rephrased as “Integrated Digital Asset Manager”.
  • Prioritize the features as Must Haves, Want to Haves, Nice to Haves (not deal-breakers). This allows you to identify the functionality most important to you when you examine a potential solution.

At no point should you have to settle for less functionality than you currently have. In fact, you should be looking for a quantum leap forward that will serve you for well beyond your initial ROI. 

E-commerce platform switching pain point

Does the Solution Fit You, or Do You Have to Fit the Solution?

Not all e-commerce platforms offer the same levels of functionality and flexibility. Some are intended strictly for e-commerce. If you publish to endpoints besides a website — mobile, print — ask how the potential solution serves these channels. Look for a product that can be configured and scaled to your needs. If the sales call wanders into “round peg, square hole” territory, move on.

A provider may try to convince you that their product’s “catalog” feature serves as a product information management system. These solutions are generally OK for storing product information, but not for managing it.  Ask for a proof of concept.

Consider a PIM

If you find you need a robust tool that allows you to organize, create, manage and publish content to a variety of endpoints, consider a Product Information Management (PIM) solution as a core component of your overall e-commerce infrastructure. A good PIM is configurable, scalable, versatile, and flexible and integrates with your e-commerce platform as well as with your ERP and other critical back-end business processes.  As the name implies, a PIM is designed specifically for authoring, managing and publishing product information for omnichannel marketing. [Check out our Infographic: What to Watch for When Choosing a PIM]

Is Your Content in Shape?

A PIM will also help you to conquer a universal challenge for product content managers: keeping your content “clean”. Over the years, with multiple users adding information, content quality inevitably degrades in terms of organization, presentation, consistency and accuracy.

One of the most common mistakes companies make when migrating e-commerce platforms is to move bad data from the old platform to the new. Pre-migration planning offers you a chance to clean house, scrub your content and ensure that you populate the new platform with accurate and timely product information. This is a critical and painstaking step, but the benefits make the effort worthwhile.

Before you upload a single product record, organize a migration team to assess your data model, taxonomy and content.

The data model should all of the ways you use and publish product information. Ideally you want to manage multiple outputs from a single source of content truth. The number of product copy attributes must be sufficient for the task but not too granular. You want your product intake mechanisms — manual authoring or electronic imports — to be efficient.

Your product taxonomy probably has some level of misclassification. This leads to erroneous or incomplete browse, search and refinement results for your website users. For example, we knew a cutting tools distributor whose “saw blades” were scattered under “Saw Blades” as well as under “Power Tools”. Different search and browse approaches returned different product lists. It behooves you to analyze your products in your existing taxonomy and make corrections before you migrate.

We recommend an audit — a systematic review — of your existing content with these action steps:

  • Remove outdated content, i.e. expired promotions, past events, old news releases.
  • Archive content of historical value. This retains the information but separates it from current content.
  • Remove duplicate content. Over the years, you might have written multiple articles about the same topic. Cull the older articles and keep the most recent if it remains valid.
  • Standardize inconsistent content. This applies mainly to individual product specifications and includes things such as units of measurement (mL, ml, milliliters), spelling and abbreviations. This can be done very efficiently via a spreadsheet export
  • Author incomplete content. Identify products with less-than-ideal descriptions and enrich the content.

Finally, think ahead to the future state with a new platform. How will you keep your product information in top shape? How will you cost-effectively market to multiple channels and allow personalization? Will your new platform support your business needs in the years to come? If you decide to implement a PIM as a core component of your e-commerce infrastructure, the answer is yes to all.

Ready to take your commerce strategy to the next level? Take our 3-Minute PIM Readiness Assessment—16 simple questions designed to help you establish if your business could benefit from PIM. Or, contact our Agility product information management experts and we’ll help you evaluate your business needs and determine if you are ready for a PIM solution. Let’s start a conversation.

Related Assets

Customer and Expert Lessons for PIM Success

The right Product Information Management (PIM) solution is essential for retailers, global brand manufacturers and distributors to take control of their product information journey. Though it may seem like a daunting task, choosing, implementing and maintaining the right PIM can be a simple process with the right partner.

Before embarking on your PIM journey, follow these five tips to set a clear vision and the right goals for success:

  1. Assess your objectives. Know your goals and how they link to an ROI on your project. This will help you to justify the expenditure and make it happen in a timely manner.
  2. Weigh your requirements. To fully administrate your system and be self-sufficient in evolving the data model, make sure you establish these requirements from the outset, so you don’t end up with a ‘black box‘ once your system is live.
  3. Develop a roadmap. A good vendor will work with you to create one. The toughest projects are those that take too long and momentum is lost, as is internal buy-in and sponsorship.
  4. Recognize that PIM isn’t an island. Product managers, buyers and merchandisers have other valuable sources of data, be it financial, transactional or performance-based. You can use PIM to aggregate and surface this data through the same interface if you choose the PIM with the right tools.
  5. Be on the lookout for new use cases. Some PIM solutions are incredibly flexible in their data model and UI, which enables you to be creative in how you use the software for non-traditional PIM use cases.

Hear directly from our customers on how they’re driving success from their PIM journey.

“Think about the destination, what you want to get out of it, what [it’s] going to do for you. Agility gives you that opportunity to build that vision into the product to service your requirements.”

John deWeerd, Associate Director of Systems & Operations, TIMco

“Find something that works for you and how your business works, that has the capabilities for customizing your downstream or upstream solutions so you can achieve more.”

Chris Waugh, Senior Software Architect, KSM Consulting 

“Ask all the questions. Don’t just be sold on the price or the sales show… there’s a lot more to it. You need to know: is there a team behind you?”

Pam Mills, Database Marketing Specialist, Impact Products, LLC 

“Make sure that if you’re going to have a website and a catalog, you set it up for a website first. Then you’re just going in and readjusting for a catalog to make it print correctly, as opposed to going and undoing things for a website.”

Tina Dockery, Director, Data Management, Tucker Powersports 

“If [a customer] can get to market more quickly, that is a massive differentiator, and you can’t get to market quickly without the right architecture and infrastructure. A PIM — Agility specifically — gives you the foundation to do that successfully.”

Jeremy Clutton, Global Director, Sales & Channel Partners, Lingo24 

“For people that are starting their journey and looking at a PIM solution, I would say definitely look at Agility. It has the interfaces to work with the majority of systems. Like us, it could solve your problems.”

Stephen McIntyre, CMO, Nycomm Group 

Looking for more best practices and benchmark data to help build a stronger PIM business case? Our team is here to help – contact a PIM expert today!

PIM Supports Your Working Environment (In Office or Out)

While stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic may have introduced a much wider slice of the workforce to working from home, the movement to remote work has been accelerating for years with digital nomads and diverse teams taking the lead. In a study conducted by Condeco Software, 41% of global businesses surveyed say they already offer some degree of remote working, and Upwork’s “Future Workforce Report” predicts that 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

But supporting the exodus from the office can be a challenge. Established workflows can be disrupted, critical systems can be out of reach, and the natural collaboration that happens when teams are physically together doesn’t easily translate to video conference. Nevertheless, the work must go on.

For companies selling products, product information needs to pass through many hands on its journey to fully enriched, approved, and consumer ready. A distributed team could complicate this process, leading to holes in product data that make products less findable and leave consumers guessing when they should be ‘adding to cart.’

Agility PIM is designed to broaden the universe of stakeholders who can participate in product content development, from wherever they are. From suppliers entering basic product data to offsite translators generating language versions to legal or management providing final review and approval, everyone can contribute during the product lifecycle using the configurable web interface, Agility Modular Interface (AMI).

AMI creates a single environment for authoring and enriching information and assets and can be customized to provide precisely the information required by (and authorized for) individual business users, internally and externally. Users have the ability to preview their product information in web, email, iPad, and print promotions, all through one interface.

Alternately, subsets of product data can be exported to spreadsheet for remote update using Agility’s Excel integration program. For example, approved users can choose relevant product categories and generate an Excel workbook with valid attributes and information on all applicable assets. Once enriched, the information and assets are quarantined in a staging state until approved and uploaded into Agility. Then automated validation routines generate error reports that are routed back to the user.

Agility also supports collaboration and productivity with advanced governance capabilities that provide easy-to-use to-do lists and workflow tools. Automation is built into all aspects of Agility Workflow. Product approval can trigger export of associated product information to a website or any other channel. One workflow can be prompted or triggered by another, and all workflows can be defined to limit user access or functionality.

Users are notified the moment they log in to Agility of pending tasks. At any time, product managers can view the current status of any project, even if they’re away from the office, via a dashboard on their iPad or other device.  As each task is completed, the user pushes workflow to the next stage, person or group in line, triggering a notification. Agility ensures a steady, predictable flow in the lifecycles of products, assets and all other objects and can even interact with other systems through workflow so your existing processes don’t need to be adjusted to enable remote work.

Even when COVID-19 is a thing of the past, the lessons learned about the successes of remote work will remain and it will continue to be an attractive option for many companies and their workforces. Marketing applications like Agility, that support collaboration across a distributed workforce, will be one of the enabling technologies that make working from home a team activity.

Want to learn how Agility PIM can support your remote workforce? Let’s connect to define what omnichannel excellence means to you and your organization. Request a Demo

Why PIM Takes Center Stage to ERP for your Product Data

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software fills a critical “hub” role that provides visibility and control across sales-related business functions. While it can greatly improve a business’s efficiency, an ERP is less than ideal for managing and publishing product data. When we take a deeper look at the role of the ERP vs. the role of a Product Information Management system (PIM), it becomes clear that PIM is the better choice for managing and flowing product data to customer channels.

The ERP as Command Post

The purpose of an ERP is to organize and optimize business processes. An ERP integrates all of a company’s internal sources of information to give management a central command-post view of critical “back-end” operational data. This data typically includes:

  • Parts lists, including customer-facing part number, selling units, package quantities
  • Supplier name and supplier part number
  • A very short part description – just enough to identify the particular SKU and print on the invoice
  • Inventory levels by warehouse and/or retail location
  • Part costs and price lists
  • Shipping, hazmat, legal, environmental or other handling advisories
  • Codes such as sales regions, sales reps, countries, regions, etc.

One of the chief benefits of an ERP is information sharing between functional departments. The ERP connects the information “silos” across an organization. From this central depository — sales, finance, purchasing, logistics, marketing and other key departments — can easily access information that would otherwise be invisible or difficult to obtain.

ERP Limitations

As powerful as the ERP is, it proves inadequate for effectively managing all of the product data for tens or hundreds of thousands of SKUs. Product information stored within the ERP is rudimentary. This minimal data is not intended to be customer-facing.

In addition, the ERP lacks the flexibility and granularity required to organize and enrich product data. For example, it may be nearly impossible to add a data field to the ERP, expand a one-line product description to even a single paragraph, or change a data field parameter. It’s extremely challenging to utilize an ERP efficiently to publish product information to multiple customer channels such as websites, marketplaces and print.

PIM for Omnichannel Publishing

Businesses need a robust tool that can allow them to craft, manage and publish product information to digital and print channels. Furthermore, a business needs to handle this mountain of information efficiently. Enter the PIM. A good PIM solution does all of this, and more:

  • Provides an open system for integration, both upstream to ERPs and downstream to commerce channels (print, online store, tablet, phone apps)
  • Allows product hierarchies to be defined and modified
  • Permits an infinite number of object types and attributes
  • Supports channel-specific categorization and multiple catalogues per channel
  • Uses integrated data quality tools to cleanse and improve overall product data
  • Enables global product updates across the entire database as well as localized changes for specific situations
  • Stores assets such as photography, manuals, schematics as well as product descriptions
  • Is limited only to the parameters of the data model
  • Supports multi-language publishing
  • Can extend the useful life of an older ERP by providing functionality beyond the ERP’s capabilities.

Key point: The PIM will interface with the ERP just as other internal systems do. The best PIM products allow multi-directional communication to and from the ERP. For example, the PIM can pull prices from a price file to publish in a print catalog. New products can be created in the PIM first, and key data transmitted back to the ERP when the products are ready for launch. An API connector is the typical link between the PIM and the ERP.

ERP and PIM: Like Making a Movie

To illustrate the complimentary roles of the ERP and the PIM, think of a motion picture production.

The ERP represents the off-screen side of the studio: the finances, the logistics, the contracts with talent, the physical production locations and the distribution agreements.

The PIM is the stage or location where the actors, directors, film crews, editors and supporting crew create and produce the final product that you, the consumer, see on the screen.

The ERP and the PIM are interdependent. And vital for a successful business.

To have your product information strategy take center stage, contact our PIM experts to see why thousands of marketing and commerce professionals worldwide rely on Agility to manage their product information.

Helpful Resources

Blog: How to kickstart your product content optimization strategy

Blog: Tips for Prioritizing Product Content Enrichment

Blog: The Marketer’s Guide to PIM for the Omnichannel Era

Marketing in a Pandemic: Two Lessons Learned from GDPR

Many companies are making the best of the current shutdown by tackling typically set aside “rainy day” projects. Based on lessons learned from the implementation of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe two years ago, we offer two such ideas for marketers who utilize a Product Information Management (PIM) system. While GDPR is certainly no comparison to the devastating scale of a pandemic, it nonetheless created upheaval with the way businesses interacted with customers and forced us to reconsider some of our marketing practices. And, even in the face of the pandemic, it may be limiting the way that you are able to reach prospective customers.

GDPR: Curse or blessing?

A large segment of the marketing world sees GDPR as a positive in the sense that its rules brought order and limits to the unfettered use of customer’s personal information. Before the GDPR, “privacy” was vulnerable and hackable. Now consumers are free to opt-out and “disappear” from the digital space if they so choose. Companies must comply with data security protection standards or face stiff penalties. GDPR has caused many companies to reexamine the customer data they collect to determine what information is truly important to the business.

The price tag to maintain levels of pre-GDPR data is hefty. Perhaps only the largest companies can afford to do that and survive. For medium and small businesses, there are ways to navigate GDPR’s waters and still reach customers — even ones who don’t want to be contacted directly. 

Make your products more visible

Our first thought concerns your products and services vs. their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results. When was the last time you examined your website analytics to see how you are performing? When did you last browse the web like a shopper using popular keywords to hunt for your products?

If your products or services aren’t turning up at or near the top, it’s time to upgrade your PIM eCommerce content. Use this downtime to enrich your product and service descriptions. Make your content unique. Add keywords to the copy. Improve image searchability by adding alt-tags/metadata. Follow the rules of Google Analytics. Optimize your categories to make them more intuitive. Purge your site of duplicated content that hurts your SEO.

By elevating your rankings in search results, you raise the visibility of your brand and drive more traffic to your site. The “browsing” customers —shoppers who are not necessarily looking FOR you or anyone else — stand a better chance of FINDING you. Upgrade your SEO standings, and you boost your chances in the digital space with no impact on GDPR. And, with the global increase in online shopping as we focus on social distancing, ensuring that your products are findable is critical as more companies seek to improve their digital presence.

Reach out with print

Our second thought takes an easier alternate path through GDPR. Use print.

The COVID-19 quarantine has placed an inevitable distance between companies and customers.  Without contact with your customers, relationships can weaken, even with long-standing loyal buyers. The good news is that (a) GDPR rules for direct mail are very straightforward, and (b) even in quarantine customers may be reachable by mail. You want to stay in their minds, and direct mail can help you do it.

From your PIM, you can get very creative with your outbound messaging:

  • A card reminding your customers that you are there to support them when they need you
  • A free product sample in a customized box
  • A discount on products or services that can be provided or delivered during the quarantine
  • Do-it-yourself advice on how to make something useful in a pinch, like household cleaner
  • Safety tips
  • Double-up rewards for your loyalty programs
  • A note about your community service efforts during the pandemic, encouraging customers to share their stories on your social media pages

In the current context, direct mail should be tasteful and respect the predicament we all share.

None of us has a crystal ball to foresee the “new normal” to come. But, with a little planning, you can adapt and prepare for the looming scramble.

Don’t have a PIM? Maybe it’s time to think about one. A PIM is an investment in your company’s future. The efficiencies a PIM provides pay dividends for years after its initial ROI.

Take our 3-Minute PIM Readiness Assessment to help you learn more about the benefits from a proper PIM solution. Or contact our PIM experts and we’ll help you evaluate your business needs.

What to Do When You’ve Outgrown Your Homegrown PIM Solution

Scenario: Company X has utilized an in-house Product Information Management (PIM) solution for a dozen years or more. The original developer is long gone and left no documentation. The functionality is primitive and slow, and the staff would rather be boiled alive than use it. Company X’s website is rarely updated and its ecommerce presence is falling farther and farther behind its competitors. As a result, Company X is losing market share. And profits.

Sound familiar? If you suspect you are approaching this point of no return, the time to plan and execute a new strategy is at hand. First let’s look deeper at how that legacy PIM is hurting your business.

Barrier to Progress

Sentimentality for the PIM that your team built internally and camaraderie and sense of accomplishment that go along with that can be a powerful obstacle to change. Keep this in mind: Horse-drawn carriages were the pinnacle of stylish travel once upon a time; then along came Henry Ford. If your PIM solution can’t keep you in step with the times, it is hampering your ability to adapt and thrive in the digital marketplace.

Limited Functionality

Your products rank low in Google searches because your PIM software has no means to enforce SEO best practices. The original PIM was decent enough for producing print catalogs, but barely supports your e-commerce platform. You lack the ability to send content to an app for mobile users. Your business has grown and the PIM can’t support the volume of SKUs you sell. The PIM isn’t scalable or robust enough to meet your needs today and in the future.

Data Entry Bottleneck

The PIM solution was designed for single-user data entry, creating an unfortunate funnel and long queue to load new product information. In truth, you need multi-user functionality to allow inputs from people across your enterprise. And, you need the ability to control what data they can access and update. 

Broken Links and Outdated Content

Your e-commerce website is scattered with long discontinued products and broken images. New products that are featured in your catalog are not even on your website yet. Imagine the impression that leaves on your customers when they go online ready to purchase a specific product and can’t find it…and recognize the revenue it costs you.

Patches Upon Patches

You can no longer make improvements to your PIM solution internally. The original PIM developer “fixed” bugs and devised workarounds in the PIM for years, but he’s moved on and consultants have advised you that further revisions would be cost-prohibitive.

Siloed Systems

Your PIM stands alone and does not interface with your ERP, WMS, OMS or analytics package, leaving you to manage multiple systems independently, which perpetuates inefficient workflows. It is difficult, if not impossible, to import and export large amounts of data into and out of the PIM. Your version of “analytics” requires copying and pasting from multiple spreadsheets to create reports.

Security Risks

The PIM solution was designed in a simpler time before data privacy and security became the critical must-haves they are today. You risk legal exposure with a system that fails to adequately protect information.

What Can You Do?

So you realize the time has come for a new PIM solution. Now, how do you get there? Here is a simple approach to help you make an informed decision.

  1. Assess your current state. List the strengths and weaknesses of your existing PIM software. What does it do well? What does it prevent you from doing? You’ll also want to collect some key data that will be important when you ask for quotes. You can also project these “scale” numbers to a desired future state as well.
    • Number of SKUs that you sell (in and outside your PIM)
    • Number of product attributes (product family level and SKU level)
    • Type and number of digital assets (photos, videos, other visuals)
    • Number of users
    • Number of physical locations that will use the PIM
    • Languages
    • Output channels (print, web, mobile, etc.)
  2. Develop a vision. Gather your key stakeholders — executive, finance, marketing, sales, IT, end users. This is the time to dream big. List every feature you could want, then prioritize your functionality must-haves and nice-to-haves. (For example, if you manage digital assets and images outside your PIM, you probably want a PIM product that can manage them as well.) What kind of experience do you want for your end users?
  3. Do your research. Forrester Research and Ventana Research are both an excellent resource for information about PIM products and the latest trends in information technology and data management.
  4. Determine a Budget. Take into account not only the costs of the PIM and its implementation but also the internal hours and people you will need to assign to the project.
  5. Shop and compare. Talk to a variety of the leading PIM solutions providers. Share your vision and needs. Proper PIMs are highly configurable and scalable, but not every product will be a good fit for your company. Understand what the base software includes and what add-ons are available. Ask specific questions about the implementation timeline, training and ongoing support — and find out if the provider handles these three tasks internally or via a third party consultant. Seek to find the PIM that best fulfills your vision for your business. 

Final Thoughts

But we’ve always done it this way is a recipe for extinction. Change is disruptive, but inevitable if you are serious about succeeding and thriving in the ever-changing digital world. Embrace the change and understand that a new PIM solution is a strategic investment in your company’s future. The ROI is worth it.

Thinking about a new PIM?

The PIM world has transformed exponentially in the past decade. What you can do with Agility PIM may surprise you. If you are ready to excel in commerce, contact our PIM experts to see why thousands of marketing and commerce professionals worldwide rely on Agility to manage their product information.

How to kickstart your product content optimization strategy

If you’ve been putting off content optimization projects for ‘someday,’ guess what? Today just might be the “someday” you’ve been waiting for.

During this period of “Social Distancing”, companies will understandably be focused on supply chain and sales. So, now might be a great time for your product content team to focus on product data completeness, data normalization, and data enrichment projects that can bring both immediate and longer term value to your commerce strategy.

Here’s what we know. Customers depend on a broad set of online product data and related information, including reviews, digital assets, and editorial content, to help them along their buying journey. In fact, eMarketer research finds that 86% of customers are unlikely to buy products from a brand after an experience with incomplete or inaccurate product information.

Agility PIM has tools and processes that can help you identify data gaps and inconsistencies within your product data, and pinpoint the content elements that move the needle in conversions:

  • Batch processes and Smart Attributes can use formulas to stitch together a set of attributes into a long name or other meta tags to support organic search.
  • Reports and custom templates can help you identify missing key attributes, images, or other valuable assets.
  • Regularly scheduled processes can also be employed to identify missing or non-compliant attribute values and can generate workflow tasks for corrective actions.
  • Switching text fields to choice lists, where possible, normalizes data and makes reports and analytics more meaningful and is especially important for supporting the faceted search.
  • Setting rules and ranges for numeric fields improves data quality at entry/import and allows you to generate reports of outliers. Similar rules and input masks can be applied to support standards for text fields, e.g. a short description must have fewer than 10 words or 100 characters.
  • Content scoring provides a bird’s eye view of your product data as a whole and can help prioritize enrichment efforts. Agility can assess product completeness and assign content scores based on your defined rules. This can be presented as easy-to-assess content dashboards right within the Agility interface.
  • Content scores can be married with other data, such as sales, page rank, conversion rate or product returns, to identify gaps in content and opportunities for improvement.

It’s always the right time to make sure you’re prepared to deliver a seamless commerce experience for your customers. If the current COVID-19 crisis has created a window for attending to your ‘someday’ projects, the list above offers a good place to start.

As your PIM partner, the Agility team is here to help accelerate your readiness for the digital age and ensure your product content is top notch across all of your specific channels. We remain fully committed to the business success of our community, now and always.

Helpful Resources

Online Support Community

Blog: Tips for Prioritizing Product Content Enrichment

Blog: Redefining What Matters for eCommerce Readiness

Blog: 4 Product Data Resolutions for 2020

Redefining What Matters for eCommerce Readiness

As we navigate the current disruption in our work and home lives, eCommerce companies are having to adjust quickly to the sudden change in shopper behavior as consumers stay at home and shop online for many essential goods that are in short supply. In just a few short weeks, online shopping has become a virtual lifeline for many consumers to the outside world.

While the long-term impact of the pandemic is unknown, online retailers are experiencing significant spikes in sales in groceries, cleaning and health products. According to an Acosta survey, thirty percent of shoppers said they had bought hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes (28%), household cleaners (25%), antibacterial hand soap (24%), paper products (24%), bottled water (22%) and canned foods (20%) as priority items.

Many retailers that manufacture or source their products from different parts of the world are grappling with the impact to their supply chains and may also need to reallocate investment for short term wins to develop stronger e-commerce capabilities and readiness.

Now more than ever, online retailers must focus on the customer experience. Going the extra mile to address the shifting customer needs will make a positive impression on consumers that can build long-term brand loyalty. For instance, a number of retailers are waiving delivery fees and offering curbside and contactless delivery options.

Technology innovation and customer experience are the most significant game changers for eCommerce companies in the immediate and longer term.

Key eCommerce considerations:

  • Dedicate additional resources to ramp up online purchasing and order fulfillment capacity, as demand is expected to grow in the near term.
  • Enhance the shopping experience with 360-degree product images or the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to enable shoppers to test and try out products virtually.
  • Focus on those “Some Day” projects that will help improve product experience, like backfilling product search facets, adding image alt text and enriching product descriptions—with a Cloud-based PIM like Agility, your employees can work from anywhere they have an internet connection.

Now more than ever, the world is turning to digital marketing. As your PIM partner, the Agility team is here to help accelerate your readiness for the digital age and ensure your product content is top notch across all of your specific channels. We remain fully committed to the business success of our community, now and always.

Helpful Resources

Online Support Community

Blog: Raising the Bar on Customer Experience

Personalized Shopping Experiences Begin with PIM

How to Integrate Agility PIM and Power BI for Seamless Visualization

The ability to integrate and consolidate business intelligence (BI) from multiple sources is essential for supporting the needs of today’s eCommerce businesses. As such, we’ve designed Agility Product Information Management (PIM) to deliver standard input and output connectors to all of your systems, out of the box.

We’ll show you how our AMI system can easily integrate with other applications. Here’s an example of Power BI visualization and the tools to create it on your Agility system.

Prepare your data

You’ll need to decide what data you’ll be using to prepare as the foundation of your visualization.

The easiest way is to make a database „view“ of the data you wish to visualize. A view is a query stored in the database that lets you pull data from many tables. Although it’s stored in the database, it doesn’t affect the underlying structure (schema) of the database and doesn’t affect how Agility runs.

One thing to bear in mind—you’re not restricted to using only Agility data: you can show data from outside Agility inside AMI.

Our example

Our example visualization checks whether certain objects have values for specific attributes: if they have those values, the objects are awarded one, two or three „stars“ to show how complete their information is.

We have a tool (view-generator-utility.jar) to create a database view that prepares this information. It’s a simple process of selecting which attributes something must have to earn a one-, two- or three-star rating, which types of objects you want to check and which structure(s) to look in.

Then just run the tool to create the view.

Create your visualization

Here is where you get to shine… your visualization can be as sophisticated or as direct as you need it to be. Power BI supports a huge range of features, including cross-report drill through, data insights and the powerful (and free!) R statistical computing language and environment.

Our example

The example view created by view-generator-utility.jar includes a wide range of data suitable for a completeness report. Below is an example of a very simple visualization using Count 𝚺 CHILDOBJECTID, then 𝚺 RATINGSCORE:

Show it in AMI

Now you have the report, hook it up to AMI via an AMI gadget.

You have two choices here: use either the streamlined BI Reports gadget or the highly customizable Bound Templates gadget.

  • The BI Reports gadget gives a straightforward view of the report, essentially a link to the report’s page.
  • The Bound Template gadget is the „full-fat“ integration option for web-based content. With this gadget, you can use the full spectrum of web functionality, including JavaScript.

Our example

The example includes a set of HTML and JavaScript files you can use with the Bound Template gadget. Point the gadget at the HTML „mini page“ and AMI will display the visualization along with a custom Refresh button, powered by JavaScript.

Wrap Up

There you go: in three simple steps, we’ve integrated a powerful visualization tool into the heart of your AMI system. You can apply these principles to your own Power BI visualizations, or any of your other web-based applications.

For the complete details to configure our example BI visualization, contact Agility today!

Tips for Prioritizing Product Content Enrichment

So much to do. So little time. — Anonymous.

For product content managers, it’s an endless struggle — deciding which products take priority for content enrichment. When hundreds, even thousands, of SKUs pour into your ecommerce queue every day, how do you decide which ones deserve your limited authoring resources?

Any number of factors influence content enrichment prioritization — market conditions, ecommerce strategy, budgets and staffing, etc. No magic formula exists. But every product content department needs a plan. In the post that follows, we offer a list of ideas that our product information management customers have successfully used to prioritize their product data enrichment activities.

Enrichment Defined

By definition, to enrich means to improve or add value. When applied to ecommerce content, enrichment means to improve the quality of the information provided so that the resulting product presentation is more useful to the customer. Enriched product content is comprised of text, specifications, images, videos and any other information you have collected about the product, possibly including customer reviews.

To illustrate varying degrees of enrichment, here are four descriptions for a yellow raincoat:

  1. RAINCOAT WTRPF MENS YEL XL
  2. Raincoat, Waterproof, Waist Length, Snap front, Lined. Yellow, Men’s, Size XL
  3. Waterproof Raincoat. Waist length with hidden snap-button front, vented sides, reinforced seams, adjustable cuffs. Polyethylene/vinyl coating. Poly lining. Bright yellow. Men’s size XL.
  4. Waterproof Raincoat. Protect yourself from the elements in this waist-length poly/vinyl coated jacket. It features vented sides to keep you cool, a comfortable poly lining, four-snap front closure with placket, reinforced seams and adjustable cuffs. Bright yellow color aids visibility. Men’s size XL. Customer rating: 4 stars.

The first product description is taken from a parts file. It gives only the basics and isn’t very useful to a customer. The second product description adds more information yet is still barely adequate for a customer to make a purchasing decision. The third product description is suitable for a printed flyer and maybe a web page. The fourth product description is fully enriched; add an image or two, and you have a customer-ready presentation.

What sells? And what are you selling?

Some of the most logical product information management tactics focus on prioritizing best-selling items and key brands:

  • The 80/20 rule. Identify the 20% of your products that drive 80% of your ecommerce sales, and ensure that these products are fully enriched.
  • Private label brands. In-house labels reflect your brand identity and should always be near the top of your enrichment hierarchy.
  • Featured products, such as high-profile brands that you sell, often subsidized with marketing support from the manufacturer. Rule of thumb: If you create a web page banner for a product, make sure the linked product description is enriched.
  • Core products. The essential products that “define” your brand and the value you provide. These are your best; make sure they reflect it.
  • Critical applications or markets. Similar to core products, but focused on solutions. If you are a sporting goods retailer but your forte is the active outdoors lifestyle, you want the hiking, boating, running and camping content to sparkle.

Other product content enrichment tactics are more refined:

  • Seasonal products. A retailer who sells pools and patio furniture in spring/summer might prioritize authoring those products in time for that selling season, while deferring holiday and game room items until the fall.
  • New product launches. Obvious, but often overlooked. Before you introduce a high-profile product to your ecommerce site, be sure the content is ready in advance.
  • Inventoried/stocked vs. third party. Enrich the items you stock and sell regularly. Items that you source on an as-requested basis are likely just fine with less enriched content.
  • Gated ecommerce. If you restrict access to your ecommerce site to select customers, ensure that the products they can access there are enriched.
  • Online-only products. Let’s say you have both a storefront and ecommerce presence but a large segment of your goods is available online only. Chances are there is stiff competition for these items. Enrich them for the benefit of your online customers and to improve your Google rankings.

Consistency and completeness count

There are “rainy day” content enrichment activities that pay big dividends if you have the time and resources to tackle them. Both require self-scouting—that is, conducting an audit of your product content as it exists.

  • Gap fills. Identify “thin” spots in your product content. Two examples are (1) a product category that has skimpy descriptions throughout, or (2) products without images. A product page with an image is more credible to a customer and much more likely to result in a purchase than a page without an image.
  • Focus on faceted search. This is a must if your website allows customers to refine their searches. The key to good faceted searching is having consistent data presented in a logical and uniform fashion. Over time, multiple-user data entry tends to breed inconsistencies in spelling and data labels (in., in, inch, etc.). In this scenario, product content enrichment entails normalizing your attribute data at the SKU level to eliminate duplicated or inconsistent values. Product attribute cleanup is another often overlooked but very worthwhile activity.

Use your analytics

If your company has the capability to synthesize product data, consider prioritizing authoring based on product performance. For example, use Google Analytics data to identify products with low online conversion rates. Marry that information with product information management (PIM) data to find those products that also have a low enrichment level. From there, enrich the content with more copy, images, etc. Then monitor Google Analytics to see if conversion improves. One Agility Multichannel client has seen impressive conversion rate improvements by acting on analytical data. Hear from Allied Electronics & Automation on why product information is crucial for driving customer engagement and conversion.

The ideas we shared here give you a basis to formulate a product content enrichment prioritization plan. One more tip: Check out what your competition is doing, too.

Ready to take your commerce strategy to the next level? Take our 3-Minute PIM Readiness Assessment—16 simple questions designed to help you establish if your business could benefit from PIM. Or, contact our Agility product information management experts and we’ll help you evaluate your business needs and determine if you are ready for a PIM solution. Let’s start a conversation.

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