Everyone who works with product content knows keeping information accurate and images up-to-date is difficult. Data governance is a sure fire way to stay on top of your product content, to drive sales success and grow market share.
Using data governance to help marketing departments drive conversions is a recent development.
Ironically, you can see this is true because statistics connecting data governance and ecommerce marketing are almost impossible to find. In any case, online sales still center around product pages. And those product pages bring together the following:
It’s never been more important to understand how data governance connects to product content marketing to drive sales success.
For example, using software to maintain product information and digital asset quality and completeness, making rich product pages, is just one way data governance applies to product content management.
In this blog, we investigate how to deal with data and the emergence of data governance specifically in regard to product content.
What is Data Governance?
You can think of it as a set of core practices dealing with data discoverability, maintenance, and security.
Data governance is a practice best suited for mid-size, medium enterprise, and global enterprise operations. Data governance plays a limited role in small and mid-sized businesses, because they typically place responsibility for master data management in the hands of only a few key individuals.
The History of Data Governance
In the heyday of client-server systems, recognizing the value of enterprise data became the innovation of the century.
Although nobody knows who coined the term ‘data governance,’ it came into use to help enterprises streamline processes for capturing, updating, and discovering data. Security joined this party a little later, when the importance and value of data became more apparent.
Data Governance, Enforcement, and Product Data
Ensuring data quality sits at the center of the relationship between data governance and product content. However, depending on the particular industry, needs can vary. As explained above, the focus should be on mid-size and enterprise brands, and as related to product data.
Within that context, the importance of implementing 5 key data governance principles becomes clear.
Identify everyone who has to use data for discoverability, decision making, analytics, and data maintenance.
Determine access security levels.
Entrust the work of updating content to the right stakeholders in the appropriate departments.
Enforce the necessary quality checks, in the form of system validation, at the point of data entry.
Put into place the necessary review and approval steps to verify data.
Product Data Isn’t Enough
Data is essential, but it’s rarely enough from a product marketing standpoint.
Elevating digital assets to the same level of importance is an ever increasing need. Because ecommerce is a visual experience, images and videos are critical to driving conversions.
Governance is essential for a marketing department to succeed at convincing and converting prospects into customers. It isn’t enough to do this with ease, unless the product is very industrial or scientific in nature.
A majority of departments need product data governance because they have to master not just data, but they also need digital assets. Product data are critical, for example:
This data doesn’t diminish the need for rich content, but this isn’t enough.
Successful organizations are the ones that have put practices and systems in place to govern data and digital assets.
(Read everything you need to know about why product information and digital assets should be stored together in the blog featured below.)
Data Governance Evolution
Although data is a necessity and key ingredient for robust product pages, it isn’t enough to generate visual interest in the product. Hence a product with complete data is not enough for marketing and conversion.
This has led leading brands to adopt similar governing principles when it comes to rich content like product images, different product views, certification images, application images, 360 images, spec sheets, pdf documents, and installation guides.
5 Ways Data Governance Drives Revenue
1. Product Experience
Accurate, up-to-date content along with rich digital assets and enhanced content, delight customers. The bedrock of a solid product page is rich, enhanced content.
The core strength of data governance is improved decision making – with regard to PIM, this ability is passed to the customer. Once the customer is informed, they can decide to buy with confidence.
2. Time to Market
You can go live with your product quickly and with more rich content once you have a data governance process in place. This speed facilitates better planning across teams, so that product launches are more robust.
If you are targeting a launch window, taking advantage of a trade show, writing press releases, or otherwise focused on marketing, data governance will improve outcomes. You’ll know your content and product pages will be in top shape.
(Read everything you need to know about optimizing your product pages in the blog featured below.)
3. Buyer Satisfaction
When you ensure customers know exactly what they are buying, you minimize disappointing them with products that are different from what they thought they were buying.
The surest way to drive returns is to fail to meet customer expectations.
4. Repeat Business
Delighted customers not only convert, but return for the same experience by buying from you again and again.
The most important benefit of data governance is enrichment. Rich content is the leverage to deploy products across retail, marketplace, and website channels. Strong governance allows use of the same content to perform time and again across channels, further increasing sales.
For example, sales channels vary by product content requirements. Data governance speeds and simplifies this process, whereas operations not governing data are far more likely to have data spread across their organization that, due to that spread, is also more likely to vary from any kind of unenforced standard formatting rules.
Data Governance Implementation
Implementing a process that is either based on sound project management techniques, or by regular auditing, organizations can govern the creation and maintenance of, as well as access to, rich content.
Tips for organizations
Eliminate data silos.
Enforce validation rules that eliminate duplicate data.
Tie a simple approval process, using reliable methods, to ensure data owners directly perform or supervise data entry.
Review specifications when data changes annually.
Review new types of digital asset requests annually.
Fix inaccurate data: incorrect or incorrectly entered data.
Ensure the correct people make categorization and hierarchical data decisions.
Implement internal communication mechanisms around data.
Comply with regulations by having the data needed for attributes like Prop 65.
And all of the following should be required:
A spec-sheet, if applicable
An installation sheet, if applicable
A 360 degree photo
Several images covering different views
A rich description
An enhanced page comparing models of related products
Bonus tip for multi-lingual organizations
Enforce a process that updates the same content across all markets when updating content in one language.
Make Data Governance Work for You
Data governance is important for marketing to help in driving revenue. Data is the foundation for success, but it is not enough. Mid-size brands need to evolve into data governance so they include the necessary digital assets that to achieve full product page enrichment.
Publishing content is difficult. Some parts can be automated, and others can be accelerated with efficiencies. Workflow is a tool that improves efficiency.
Publishing content for ecommerce can be quite an undertaking, with lots of moving pieces. Parts of the process can be automated, while others can be sped up by building efficiencies. One tool that can help in improving efficiency in the publishing process is workflow and notifications.
Centralizing product data and images is incredibly valuable and helps the speeding up process in a number of ways. If you have multiple users and multiple departments collaborating on your product content development in a product information management (PIM) solution, workflow is a necessity.
Workflow drives production within teams, increasing their productivity and automatically delegating tasks. It passes notifications from individual team members, or entire departments, as they complete specific tasks. Tasks continue to be passed in this way until the full process is completed.
You can also tailor workflows to a team or a specific business.
A great example of this in the context of PIM is a new product introduction (NPI) workflow vs. a product deletion workflow. Different types of companies may also utilize different types of workflows.
For example, a small equipment manufacturer’s NPI workflow may consist of only product managers and a marketing team. On the other hand, a large consumer packaged goods manufacturer’s NPI workflow is likely to be much more complex. It may encompass many different departments, actions, and levels of approval.
Different Workflows to Increase Productivity
Product content workflows for each business are unique, since each business is unique. However, there are a few key ways workflow drives productivity for any business.
The most commonly implemented is the NPI workflow. Every company needs to introduce new products and every company struggles working across departments to release them.
A second commonly used workflow is the content update workflow. When a user makes a change to specific attributes in a database those changes are noted in this kind of workflow. Notifications are automatically sent to the user granted the authority to approve or deny changes. Overall, you can use it to maintain the quality and cleanliness of all product data.
(We cover this topic in depth in the blog featured below.)
Last, but possibly the most important, is the channel introduction workflow. This workflow comes into play when you are onboarding new products to a retailer or sending product information to a new retailer.
This is the newest challenge PIM workflow is helping organizations address. It allows them to get all required information out to retailers as quickly as possible while still maintaining accuracy.
Let’s look at each workflow in detail.
New Product Introduction Workflow
Building robust product data can be a massive challenge for manufacturers. Many users work to create product data. For example, your marketing team is writing descriptive copy, specifications have to come from your product managers, and everything needs to be approved by management.
Unfortunately, often times these departments are disconnected or don’t communicate with each other well. Workflow automatically notifies each team member when they need to edit or approve data for a new product. This eliminates the possibility of any user overlooking data or images that remain missing through the on-boarding process.
An NPI workflow connects your team digitally. Today, it’s easy for employees and their teams to become disconnected, perhaps because they only communicate occasionally on their phones or in informal meetings. This lack of communication can slow down and confuse normal business operations.
The NPI workflow facilitates communication, cutting the time it takes for employees and departments to complete their tasks. Its power comes in letting all users know where others are in terms of completing their task, so everyone knows what still needs to be done.
An NPI workflow builds a sense of teamwork within your organization. It allows your team to tackle what may seem like months’ worth of work in days or even hours.
Implementing workflow with your PIM can reduce your NPI process from days to only a few hours.
Not only does this workflow decrease the time it takes to complete the NPI content creation process, but it also improves the quality of the content created. Because each user has ample time to accomplish their assigned tasks, workflows eliminate the problem of working against an unrealistic deadline.
Content Update Workflow
A content update workflow is implemented to ensure product data and digital asset content quality is improved, or at the very least properly maintained.
Content update workflow is typically designed so that all changes to attributes that have already been populated are sent to a specific user for approval. The user who approves the changes is usually the content manager or another employee in a management role.
The content update workflow is important because often changes need to be made frequently. Without an approval process a user could make changes to data that are incorrect. Allowing these changes to go live reduces continuity across your brand, confuses potential customers, and can ultimately decrease revenue.
The content update workflow ensures all changes go through the right people. This ensures brand messaging stays on point, even as core content undergoes changes.
Channel Introduction Workflow
Manufacturers today constantly have the opportunity to open new sales channels via online retailers or distributors. Not only is this a new opportunity for manufacturers it also can be very lucrative. However, with new opportunities come new challenges.
One critical challenge that comes with selling through more online retailers and distributors is actually getting the content necessary for the retailer or distributor to post your product on their site.
(We cover this topic in depth in the blog featured below.)
PIM serves as a central repository for all of your product data, simplifying syndication of data. Some vendors employ practices to make it easier to meet each of your retailer’s specific requirements. Having centralized product data is great, but knowing which data and products you need to send to a retailer can be tricky. This is where workflow can help.
Workflow, when used for on-boarding new products, organizes your team’s tasks in the way you’ve determined is most efficient. A typical flow of activities would be as follows:
Create missing data
Share with the retailer
Don’t fool yourself, because a workflow that looks as simple as this can actually take teams weeks or months to complete. This says nothing of the tension that can arise between different departments attempting to work in parallel.
Workflow stops the blame game and kick-starts your organization’s collaboration.
A retailer on-boarding workflow prompts users to work on the new retailer only when necessary. In addition, you can make specific tasks a top priority for a given user. This streamlining results in the products being ready for the retailers in a fraction of the time.
Gone are the days of departments working on separate projects and seemingly spinning their wheels. A workflow tool provides the most value adding projects that are started and completed as quickly as possible. This speed to market allows you to capture sales though new channel partners quickly and even create new life-long brand loyal customers.
Benefits of Workflow
Improve Team Collaboration
PIM is valuable because it allows you to centralize all of your product content in one location. The only piece left to unify is your users.
Simply, PIM unifies your product data and digital assets, like images and videos. Workflow unifies the users of that PIM.
PIM without workflow leaves users working in their own worlds, unaware of the contributions and progress of other users.
The key is to have your team connected, to push and drive each other.
Workflow also notifies users when others have completed tasks relevant to their work. This allows users to effectively manage all their priorities. When your team can consistently track their collective progress, it further drives production.
Workflow within a PIM leads each team member to hold themselves accountable. Users work harder to complete their tasks knowing their team members can’t start contributing until they’ve done their part.
Eliminate Missing Product Data
Incomplete product pages missing dimensions, descriptions, images, and other content are a challenge manufacturers have faced for years. Making sure data is not only accurate but populated across all your channels, as your SKU count grows and your teams get larger, has always been a headache.
Workflow brings your teams together, filling potential cracks in your process.
Workflow solves this age-old challenge easily, by creating tasks for users, notifying them when attributes are missing required data. With workflow you can assign specific attributes and products to specific users. This way they’re notified whenever any attribute they’re responsible for is missing or incomplete.
This consistent flow of notifications raises the quality of your content and allows agile teams to handle more data in less time.
Why does accurate, complete data matter?
Data drives the search functionality on your site and your dealer sites.
Completeness ensures your customers have all of the information they need to make a buying decision.
Accuracy allows your customers to more easily find the products they are looking for.
Publish Products Faster
Getting your products published faster is a direct result of the NPI and channel introduction workflows.
In the digital world, posting your products online as quickly as possible is vital to success. With the implementation of PIM, and workflows to drive team productivity, you can minimize the amount of time it takes to publish products across all the channels you sell through in your ecosystem.
Ultimately, workflow is the PIM feature you need to ensure you get to market before any of your competitors.
Improved Product Pages
High quality product pages are important for two reasons.
Increased product page views
Maximized conversion rates
Workflow is the most effective way to assign tasks to improve the quality of your product pages.
Without workflow, it becomes very easy to push off tasks that lead to higher sales. Workflows give you the ability to remind users to complete revenue driving tasks like adding images, creating new features, and improving descriptions.
Clean data is vital to the creation of enriched product pages that drive sales. See how PIM both makes and keeps your product data clean.
Today’s buyers overwhelmingly use the Internet to gather data to make their buying decisions.
Whether they’re after something cheap and simple or complex and expensive, around 88% of today’s customers do research online before deciding to buy (source).
This means in today’s world, sales success means you need clean data, and a way to keep it clean. Your product data needs to be accurate so your customers have the information they need.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Only 3% of companies’ data meets basic quality standards” (source).
Connecting how clean your data is with your sales and growth goals makes this stat alarming, to say the least.
What Are Basic Quality Standards?
Quality data is easy to understand, accurate, and complete. This applies to everything from feature bullets, pricing, dimensions, and descriptions to digital assets like images, videos, and CAD drawings.
Basic quality standards means ensuring all the fields on your product pages populate with accurate and complete data. This must be true for every single product you sell, across all sales channels.
(See the blog post below for more data about solving the challenges of selling across multiple BigCommerce sites.)
It sounds simple, but the amount of product data a company needs to manage to be successful has exploded over the last few years. What’s more, basic quality standards have become incredibly difficult to meet with traditional data management methods.
There are any number of different causes of this and PIM implementation solves nearly all of them. However, before going into how PIM helps you solve this problem, let’s first look at what leads to low quality data.
What Causes Data to Not Meet Basic Quality Standards?
There are many different reasons why data issues crop up. We will take a look at the most common causes.
Storing Data in Many Different Files
This is the most common cause of low quality data. And it doesn’t mean you can solve the problem by simply putting all of your files and folders on a server or cloud storage service.
Because if you put the files in a server, even if it is accessible to the entire company, your data will become out-of-date very quickly.
Why? Because users will download the files and store them on their own computers for easy access.
It isn’t fun to search through a ton of files and massive spreadsheets to find the most up-to-date price or image.
Files with the Same Information
To eliminate this headache, users will download the data to their desktop to increase their working speed.
The problem with downloading files to your own desktop is obvious. When a master file is updated, how can you make sure all of your users get the update?
You could re-download the file every time you make an update. However, if you change data even once a month, this is an unrealistic solution.
In reality, users won’t get your updates and instead will keep the files they first downloaded. In short, they’ll continue to operate with the files they’re familiar with.
Companies these days have many different users who need this data. This leads to an almost infinite number of versions of what is supposed to be the same data.
Deleting Old Versions of Data
Another common cause of inaccuracy is not deleting old data.
You will see this very frequently with digital assets. If the decision is made to update a spec sheet or image, and a new version is created, the old version almost never gets deleted.
Out-of-date versions, especially of images, is like cancer to your data. It will continue to grow until it’s too out of control to stop.
The only way to solve this is to bring in departments of employees and go through each and every image for every product to determine what is the most up to date version.
If you endure the never-ending meetings to eliminate old data and images, once you leave, the problem will only restart the second new images are introduced.
The only way to ensure you’re keeping the most up-to-date images and data is to change the foundation you manage them on.
Different Versions of the Same Data
This whole time we’ve been talking about creating one version of the same data. Unfortunately, the online world requires certain pieces of data come in different versions.
A great example of this is having different descriptions for a product. To tell the story of your product to the different customers you want to attract, you often times need to tell the story differently.
Let’s say your product sells to multiple industries. A generic description won’t be compelling enough to convert a shopper in to a buyer. In fact, it can actually alienate your potential customers.
It has become more and more common to see industry specific descriptions like these, but they are often poorly managed and necessary changes are never made.
How a PIM Cleans Your Data and Keeps It Clean
A PIM functions like a database, a location for storage of all of your product data.
Traditional PIMs are often tough to use, so employees shy away from managing them. Also, this kind of a PIM is likely to only store product data, leaving digital assets high and dry.
Because a traditional PIM only solves half of your challenge, modern businesses need an easy to use, cloud-based PIM that also stores digital assets.
You can count the vendors and companies providing a platform like the one outlined above on one hand. Partnering with the right vendor gives you access to a foundation that not only cleans your data, but most importantly, keeps it clean.
(See the blog post below for more data about picking the PIM that is right for your operation.)
The First Step: Cleaning Your Data
Using PIM properly means doing things right from the very beginning, before actually using it. The right vendor knows they have to help your team implement your sleek new PIM before you can use it.
Read the reviews left by customers and see who has the highest customer satisfaction rating. If a vendor has issues with customer satisfaction, you can be sure that dissatisfaction started with poor implementations.
During the implementation phase, you’ll want to gather all product data files along with your digital assets and send them to your vendor for review.
You can leverage the implementation team’s expertise to learn their best practices and hear advice about which attributes to create and how to quickly and accurately rid your company of bad data.
This process takes time and requires collaboration, but it’s vital to your company’s future success in the digital world.
Structure Your PIM to Fit Your Needs
Every business is different. Teams are built differently. The products sold are different.
To maximize the benefit of PIM for your organization you need to ensure that you configure your PIM to your specific needs.
Attributes are the bits of data that constitute the differences between otherwise similar products. Every company that sells products knows these attributes today as the columns on their Excel spreadsheets.
We list attributes first because they are the first step in configuring a PIM to your unique needs. You need to create all of the attributes you need to successfully market and sell your products.
Attributes can be:
Text: such as product descriptions and explanations of features
Digital Assets: such as product photos and instruction guides
Options: such as sizes, colors, and materials to choose from
A unique added value PIM gives your organization is the ability to make an attribute required or optional.
A great example is a specific image that may only be needed for your “hero” products. As such, this particular attribute could only be optional.
Also, say you decide each of your products needs to have no less than three features. You can require listing of three feature attributes to ensure product pages populate exactly as you want them to.
Later, you can run reports to identify which products are missing values for the attributes you’ve decided to make required. This allows you to easily identify product pages needing improvement.
This may be new to you if you aren’t currently employing a PIM platform, but an attribute set allows you to group like attributes together.
This way, when you create a new product, rather than adding each attribute individually, you can assign relevant attribute sets to each new product.
Attribute sets are most commonly used for two purposes:
1. To group attributes that are only relevant to a specific product category
This first use case is self-explanatory. If you sell chairs and tables, you’ll want an attribute set for each product line that includes every attribute relevant to that product line.
A massive added value is the fact not only that all relevant attributes are assigned to each product, but additionally that no irrelevant ones are either.
2. To group attributes that are relevant to a specific organizational department
This second use case will vary from organization to organization. A good example is separating marketing copy from digital assets.
Many organizations have one set of users that manages text and another set that manages digital assets. With PIM, you can create an attribute set with all of the text attributes and a second with all of the digital assets.
This way, when a user goes to a product they can easily find the attributes specifically relevant to them.
Every company has their own unique way of categorizing their products. But today, this is very much managed manually.
During implementation, you have to create a strong taxonomy conforming specifically to your business and the products you sell. This will make it easier for your internal teams to manage your products and all of the attributes associated with them.
Additionally, when you share your data and images with reps, dealers, retailers, distributors, and others, your taxonomy will make it easier for them to find what they are looking for.
The final step in configuring your PIM to your business is creating a hierarchy of different user roles. A flexible PIM gives you the ability to choose which products and attributes each user can view and edit.
For example, a user who manages all of your product specs will likely need to be able to see all marketing attributes. However, you’d want to restrict that person’s ability to edit the product descriptions and features which include that marketing material.
Setting user roles ensures the owners of each product or attribute are truly in control of inputting, modifying, and deleting data. No longer is there confusion about who changed what data. Instead users automatically create the digital footprints necessary to track all changes.
Once you have decided on a structure to store your data, you can quickly load up all data, images, and other pieces of content.
Adoption by Your Team
The true value of PIM only comes with using it to create a “Single Source of Truth” for all of your product content. For this to happen, your team has to adopt a new way to manage and share their data. All of this needs to happen within your PIM.
So often people are averse to change, but to grow you need to change with the times.
Think back to when your team started managing product data and images in many different files. It wasn’t something they were excited to do, but it was the only option.
Over the years users have become used to the terribly inefficient process of managing massive Excel files and searching through image folders. Initially, some of the team may be averse to adopting a new method, but with the right PIM and some training, they will come to love this new way of managing data.
The number one key to adoption of a new PIM is making sure it’s easy to use. To reiterate, many older PIMs have the deserved reputation of being so difficult to manage that you need to have a PhD in computer science to use them properly.
The easier a PIM is to use, the faster your entire team can adopt it. You’ll see this is true even of those users who aren’t exactly “tech savvy.”
Notifications and Workflow
Today most organizations have a workflow process they follow, but it’s all manual.
Connecting your team with notifications is vital to ensure your data starts clean and, most importantly, stays clean. If updates and changes are made, but no one knows, how will you make sure the changes are correct or leverage the new content?
A flexible and robust PIM gives you the ability to create different workflows for different actions that may occur in your PIM.
At a high level, a workflow gives you the ability to send automated notifications to users informing them of new tasks. Additionally, you can incorporate an approval step, so if a user makes a change, it won’t go live until it’s approved.
Workflows help in a variety of ways and are ultimately a crucial part of driving team efficiency.
The most common types of workflows are:
New Product Introduction
Content Update Workflow
Product Syndication Workflow
Let’s look at what these are.
New Product Introduction Workflow
This is the most common workflow because the most competitive companies today tend to introduce new products more frequently.
New product introduction workflow ties your team together when introducing a new product. This ensures all required attributes are quickly and accurately created.
It also ensures each user role knows exactly what data they need to create for each product, eliminating the possibility of missing or forgetting about data required for product launches.
Not only does new product introduction workflow ensure all attributes are correctly created and populated with data, it dramatically cuts down the time it takes to launch a new product.
Content Update Workflow
Content update workflow solves one of the biggest headaches companies face today: knowing how changes are made, who made them, and who approved them.
A content update workflow allows you to create a workflow process when a change is made to any or all of the attributes in your PIM. This is most commonly used to notify a manager who then approves or denies a change to product data.
Not only does the manager have the ability to accept or reject a change, but they can also send notes back to the user who initiated the change. This improves communication both within teams and across different departments.
The approval step also ensures data stays clean. Today, when updates are made they often times don’t have a step for another user to review. Ultimately, this is a leading cause of data being out of date and “dirty.”
In addition to having an approval step worked into all product updates, a great PIM gives you the ability to see which user made what change and which user approved it.
If there is ever a disagreement on data, you can quickly identify who made and approved the changes, and identify why the changes happened.
Content Syndication Workflow
This workflow is specifically for companies fulfilling data requests from retailers and distributors.
Retailers and distributors send you large Excel files to populate. You need to quickly complete and return them to get your products listed on these great channel partner sites. The slower you are the less likely you are to capture sales.
A modern, robust PIM allows you to load in the attributes you received from your retailers into your PIM. If you are using a truly modern PIM, you should be able to quickly load all of the rules associated with the attributes as well.
Content syndication workflow notifies all users responsible for any attribute that is going to be sent out to your new channel partner. These users know exactly what they need to do and collaborate on one platform, instead of working in separate Excel files.
Once a user has completed the data they are responsible for, approval can be requested. This way you can be sure you are only sending clean, robust data to your channel partners.
The lack of this step is the number one reason product pages on leading retailer and distributor sites include incorrect and incomplete data.
Adding this small step to your process post PIM implementation will result in an increase in sales for all channel partners you use to fulfill requests with your PIM.
Clean Data Drives Sales and Increases Market Share
Ultimately, clean data benefits your business because a smooth-running company empowered by accurate, up-to-date data, is going to be able to utilize that data to grow sales and market share.
Presentation of clean data on product pages results in…
More page views
Lower shopping cart abandonment rates
Higher conversion rates
More good reviews
Fewer negative reviews
Higher likelihood of word-of-mouth sales
All of these are sales drivers, meaning clean data helps you increase revenue, grow your market share, and, ultimately, own the digital shelf.