Selling DTC: How PIM Helps CG Manufacturers Prepare For New Sales Frontier

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Selling DTC: How PIM Helps CG Manufacturers Prepare For New Sales Frontier

By Todd Callen, Stibo Systems - 09/11/2014

Technology advances continue to redefine how consumers shop. Not only are they demanding more digital commerce options, such as e-commerce and mobile, but they also expect brand consistency across whichever channel they opt to use. This movement has intensified the competitive landscape, forcing both retailers and consumer goods (CG) manufacturers to take control of their brands and add new sales channels to meet the preferences of today’s empowered customer. For brand manufacturers, the launch of direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales channels is critical to staying competitive and represents an unprecedented opportunity to build a direct relationship with its customers.
Weighing the Benefits Against the Challenges When Deciding to Go Direct
When deciding whether or not to embark on a D2C strategy, the decision will be clear for most CG manufacturers; in order to stay competitive, they need to go where the end users go. However, as brand manufacturers start to establish these new D2C channels, they quickly recognize that it is a completely different approach. Not only can channel conflicts exist, but organizations also have to learn how to market and sell in this brave new world. After all, a D2C channel requires new operational infrastructure and processes. The abilities to sell in different units of measure, ship smaller orders, manage returns, and even support the consumer through both contact and service centers must be developed.
Typically, brand manufacturers only created product content for distributors and resellers who sell to the end consumer. Suddenly, with the launch of a D2C channel, brands are forced to create persuasive, consumer-targeted content while managing all assets including unstructured content such as photography and videos. Furthermore, for brands that sell products via multiple channels, control and consistency in content across all customer touch points is imperative to creating a seamless omnichannel customer experience.
The lack of accurate and timely content, data inconsistencies or erroneous information can have a significant negative impact on brand equity. In order to overcome these challenges, many CG manufacturers are adopting Product Information Management (PIM) solutions to optimize and automate the information needed for their D2C channels.
The Importance of Product Information When Going D2C
Let’s face it, product information and marketing content plays a significant role in the consumer purchasing process. Content drives initial awareness at every stage in a customer’s path to purchase – from initial discovery all the way to post-purchase – and they seek product information at multiple touch points in an effort to make an informed purchase decision.
Consumers are likely to visit a brand web site for research, so it is critical that the site features content that has been optimized for consumer consumption. When done right, brands can secure a competitive advantage if consumers don’t need to go elsewhere to search for additional information. In addition, when selling online, product content becomes critical because consumers cannot physically touch or try on the product. Providing detailed and accurate product content to engage with consumers not only convinces them to buy but also reduces the return rate of products purchased.
Optimizing Product Content for the End Consumer
Consumers now expect the brand manufacturer’s site to offer the best and most extensive product information available. The challenge that brand manufacturers typically face is that the content available in house is geared toward channel partners and not the end consumer. Re-purposing and enhancing product assets and producing new content can be a significant undertaking, but it is paramount to achieving D2C success.
Product descriptions need to inspire, and supporting digital content needs to evoke an emotional connection with consumers. Additional managed content such as consumer-targeted photography, videos, and contextual or educational content (such as recipes or how-to guides) should be centrally managed for quick and easy retrieval. Incorporating user-generated content such as ratings and reviews, as well as customer-generated photos and videos shared on social media has proven extremely effective to increasing brand adoption. Regardless of whether content production happens internally or externally, once created, it is essential that it is easily accessible and managed. This is where a PIM solution comes into play. Streamlining processes around a centralized PIM solution and ensuring tight integration with e-commerce and other platforms in the ecosystem will help ensure that the right content is distributed to the right place at the right time throughout the buying lifecycle.
The Role of PIM When Going Direct
The management of thousands of product attributes, relationships and records coupled with the need to produce consumer-targeted content for the D2C channel can be overwhelming for most CG manufacturers. More often than not, they are acquiring information that is derived from multiple business units and external sources, then optimizing content and facilitating its timely distribution without the use of a centralized solution. Managing this scattered product data is not only time-consuming, but it often leads to incomplete and inaccurate product information and a lack of consistency across channels.
A well-defined and implemented PIM solution can help streamline this process by creating a centralized hub for managing data across the entire organization. The right PIM solution can help brand manufacturers simplify the internal collection, production and management of product content. This creates a single, trusted source of product information that ensures that accurate and consistent information is accessible and can be distributed across all relevant consumer touch points.
Unfortunately, some CG manufacturers mistakenly assume that their Content Management System (CMS) is equipped to manage product content and the related processes. The reality is that while a CMS does provide tools to manage content for e-commerce, personalization and workflows, it is not designed to push data to offline channels, it is not accessible to sales and other internal departments, and it does not provide tools for data quality and governance.  
Benefits of PIM Solutions
Having a single view of product content across the entire organization strengthens operational efficiency, reduces costs of manual processes, increases cross- and up-sell opportunities, and ensures a consistent consumer experience throughout the purchase path regardless of channel. More specifically, PIM helps CG manufacturers achieve:

  • Efficient Onboarding and Management: By streamlining the process for producing, acquiring and managing product information from internal and external sources, and ensuring that all product information is stored in a centralized location for editing, enrichment and verification.
  • Increased Operational Efficiency: By consolidating disparate processes, eliminating siloed data and improving collaboration between teams and business units.
  • Faster Time-to-Market: By introducing new products more quickly with faster onboarding and timely distribution to direct channels, resellers, etc.
  • Higher Revenue: By enabling up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, targeted and relevant promotions, and more.
  • Reduced Product Returns: By ensuring product information is accurate and consistent across all channels.
  • Improved Customer Satisfaction: By offering more consistent information and brand identity across sales channels.
  • Reduced Risk: By achieving regulatory compliance and industry-mandated standards, eliminating duplicate and erroneous data, and delivering consistency and brand control across all channels.

As brand manufacturers continue to establish D2C channels, they are quickly realizing how this differs significantly from selling wholesale. Customers today expect reliable, accurate and easily accessible product content across a growing number of channels. PIM solutions are helping brand owners manage product content in an effort to deliver a superior consumer shopping experience, and therefore is becoming a top priority for brand manufacturers looking to go direct.
About the Author:Todd-Callen-Executive-Vice-President,-North-America-at-Stibo-Systems1.jpg
Todd Callen is Executive Vice President, North America at Stibo Systems, a global leader in multidomain Master Data Management (MDM) solutions. Contact him at [email protected] or visit