19 December 2012

Why PIM first

Why you should implement your PIM before you start your e-commerce, Signage, In-store, Catalog or any other Product Marketing project

There are several reasons why you should choose to implement a PIM-system (Product Information Management) first. Some of you surely realize that you need to organize your sometimes-not-so-structured texts, images and metadata, and that you need to get your assortments structured before going to market. Some of you are about to enter the e-commerce universe and some of you want to get your DM or catalogs out at a faster pace.

Product Information Management
Inside inRiver PIM
Imagine you were about to set up a warehouse to store hundreds, maybe thousands of products. Which would you do first? Would you buy the products, load them in that warehouse as they arrive, and open up your stores around the country? Or would you buy the storage-shelves, the trucks and the warehouse infrastructure first so that you can sort and easily find the products you are selling?

If you chose the first one, try getting all those products out to distributors and customers while they are standing on a loading dock, in your trucks or stacked in unsorted piles in that warehouse. Tricky? Most likely, yes.

Now try this: PIM is all about structure, searchability and time-to-market. For me it's rather obvious that these factors come first. Setting up a PIM system is in many ways similar to placing those shelves in a structured pattern with the right measurements and specifications to organize the products you are planning to sell.

A few examples:

The more customer-adapted, correct and rich your product data is, the easier it is to attract the customer. Images missing? Sales go down. Not the right feature description? Deal lost. OK, but don't most e-commerce solutions handle all that? You wish! There are "All-in-one" solutions - however, they cost a lot more, usually take longer to implement, and last but not the least: what happens if you want more than one single e-commerce channel? What happens if you also want to do printed matter, catalogs, in-store displays or signage with you product data? That's when a separate, multi-connnected PIM is the way to go. Do your homework once, enrich your product data in a PIM, automatically feed your e-commerce solution with that data, and feel free to use that data anywhere.

Catalog, printed matter and DM 
If you start by structuring all your product data in the PIM software, you will ensure that fresh, updated product descriptions, images and meta data pour in to your InDesign templates and snippets with a single click. Change a text or upload images in your PIM, click the update button in InDesign, and see how the whole catalog rewrites itself in just a few moments. Yes, moments. Not days. This simple "click of a button" makes all the difference to your time-to-market, freeing up time to work with the content QA at the source, in the PIM.

Signage and In-store display
If you're doing printed signage and in-store display, PIM offers you the possibility to e.g. print locally, even from a printer in-house. The data you print will always be the most recent information provided by your product management team. If you're going digital, LED-displays, on-shelf signs or digital billboards will always show the latest, most updated information. Even with the possibility to actually change things as they are running in-store.

With your product data in order, enriched from the start and subsequently adapted to your different channels, chances are you will win that deal or attract that specific customer.

That´s how I see it.

Bye for now,

Martin Stenke
Business Development Director at inRiver

30 November 2012

PIM replacing DAM?

Thoughts on a Friday afternoon in Stockholm, when the snow keeps falling outside my window;

After a number of client meetings this month, some thinking on my own, and some reasoning with my colleagues at inRiver, a simple question comes to mind: could PIM replace DAM?

What I've come to think about is the fact that companies today spend a lot of time, effort, resources, money – you name it on systems where they can store their so-called "Digital Assets" like images, movies and documents. Despite this, very few of those companies actually sell exactly that: images, movies or documents. Yes, I know, some of you actually do. But let´s leave you 0,3% out for now.

The rest of you actually work with products and/or services.  Sometimes bundled, sometimes in different colors and often with different specifications and prices. But still, you do not sell images. Or movies. Or documents. Yet you spend all that time and money on systems that help you organize just that. But what else can you do?

Amazingly enough, I have a theory! Just as well, since you've read this far. Right? ;)

Keeping track of all those "Digital Assets" on harddrives, USB:s, CD:s, DVD:s, file servers, ftp servers and on external image banks can be a real pain. Aha, you agree? So that's the reason you need help? However, the answer to what you actually sell is still not images or movies or documents. It’s products. Products that you want to market, sell, distribute through different channels and generate revenue from.

My theory is, that by keeping track of your products, instead of categorizing, indexing and meta-describing assets, you can gain a lot of speed, time-to-market and coordination. And yes, of course you can manage all those images too but connected to products instead. By powering all your sales channels with accurate information, while maintaining and updating at one single source, it becomes a no-brainer to change those images that you spent so much time on structuring – on the webpage, in your e-commerce solution, even in your catalogs, brochures and on in-store displays. All at the same time, by the click of a button. Isn't this what some call Cross-Channel Commerce? Or simply X-Commerce. Or X-Channel. Or was it Omni-channel? (Any new buzzwords coming up?)

OK, some of you say now, how about those editing capabilities? The cropping, the resizing and the rounded-corner effects? Well, in my world, images are produced by professionals at the very start of this value-chain, long before the photo is pushed out into the arms of web-editors or InDesign gurus. The closer an image gets to the channel it will be consumed in, the higher the cost for changes and editing. Don't edit or manage images in your CMS or InDesign. Do that at the source, in a PIM-system. The camera. Photoshop. PIM. Stop!

An image never delivers its full value without its connection to the product. And it never jumps out of the DAM solution to all your sales channels just because a new image arrives from the photographer or the asian editing company. No DAM-system does that for you. Guess what - our PIM does. How about that? If you think that sounds appealing, check out www.inriver.com.

By the way, DAM means Digital Assets Management. PIM stands for Product Information Management. Don´t we just loooove those three-letter acronyms in the IT-industry!

Thanks for listening this time. More theories and thoughts are on the way...

Yours truly,

Martin Stenke
Business Development Director at inRiver

15 November 2012

E-commerce in focus at Distanshandelsdagen

Excellent e-commerce has many aspects. Back-end, front-end, logistics, branding, photo, marketing, sales and support - just to mention a few areas covered here at Distanshandelsdagen today.

A summary of Rikards ideal e-commerce setup

Rikard Ljungman from EPiServer took the opportunity to make his personal wishlist for the ideal e-commerce solution. These are some of the main components in his dream setup:

  1. Use one source for product information. (Of course he meant use inRiver PIM for product information.)
  2. Use A/B testing. Obamas election campaign was used as an example that it really works.
  3. Get mobile - learn about responsive design and make sure your customers can buy from their smartphones or tablets.
  4. Make sure you can help/assist the customer in the buying process, just like in any store IRL. Chat, phone or other smart ways.
  5. Measure - take action and measure again. Things change, behaviours change. Fast.
  6. Personalize - take advantage of the advanced technologies available to track online behaviour.
  7. Socialize - a recommendation from a friend is many times stronger than any message from the selling company.
  8. Re-attract. Maybe the customer wasn´t ready to buy today. But chances are high she will be tomorrow.
  9. Put one person in charge of your e-commerce solution. One person that can make the necessary descisions regarding the above 8 points.
 That´s what I heard you say, Rikard. And yes, I agree. A few links on these themes:

One source, yes of course: www.inriver.com

Martin Stenke
Business Development Director, inRiver

inRiver PIM at Distanshandelsdagen

Today we have the opportunity to meet with the e-commerce community at Distanshandelsdagen #sdh12 in Borås. With more than 100 different exhibitors and around 1000 expected visitors, this is a major event around online marketing and sales in Sweden.

Visit inRiver at booth 70!

We will obviously try to convince everyone to start , or continue, using our platform for Product Information Management and Cross-channel commerce - the inRiver PIM. Come and speak with us at booth 70!

Get ready for the winter

By using the hashtag #inRiver_PIM on Twitter you can win the cool Roxcore Beanie (Mössa) with built-in headset for smartphones.

07 November 2012

inRiver on Deloitte's Sweden Tech Fast 50 list!

Great week so far! Today we got the fantastic news that we are on Deloitte's Sweden Technology Fast 50 list - ranking us among the 50 fastest-growing tech companies in the country. Needless to say it's a great pleasure to get this ranking!

Check out the list (in Swedish): www.deloitte.se/fast50

Annette Ståhlberg
Marketing Coordinator

06 November 2012

inRiver in Computer Sweden

inRiver hits media again! This time an article in Computer Sweden and IDG about us (in Swedish). We are very pleased :-)

Annette Ståhlberg
Marketing Coordinator

26 September 2012

PIM Business drivers and insights

For some time now, I have reflected on the business drivers and the value we as a company, and of course our product, give to our customers. I have distinguished 3 areas that I would like to share with you.

Customer Experience, Time-to-market and Operational excellence. Let me elaborate a little bit around these areas.

Customer Experience
Of course every company would like to provide a great experience for their customers. A happy customer is a returning and a spending customer. However, the areas to improve are many, and resources are limited. All this is well known, and various research supports it.

I believe that many companies are overwhelmed by all the discussions about multi-channel sales. Just speaking about the more traditional channels such as stores, online, catalogs, marketing and advertising can be quite a challenge. Add "new" channels such as mobile, social media, price comparison sites and similar, it could indeed become hard to manage.

The problematic part is that many companies still struggle with getting the traditional market channels synchronized. Some succeed, some fail. The resources needed to succeed in this area are often large in terms of human resources and high in terms of expenses. But companies that make this investment and give a relevant and unified message to their customers will both prevail and prosper compared to their competition. Just think how you would react - if you first saw an ad telling one thing, then check their website and receive quite a different message. Would you consider buying something from them?

Great customer experience is hard to achieve but if you start with showing a relevant and accurate product offering when the customer is in the decision process, you are on the right track. The next phase is to take each touch point step by step and re-use the information and the knowledge to gradually build a foundation for a great and long-term customer relation.

Can I have it delivered this afternoon? Supplying the product is of course vital, but what many companies miss out on is that if you don´t have correct and relevant information about your product, you simply don't sell.

Many companies do large investments in getting the product to the customer. And this is of course important but it is more important to have an accurate product offering so you CAN sell the product in order to deliver. However, I am pleased to see that companies by now understand that promoting an accurate and relevant product offering is a precondition for selling. If companies sell online it is even more important - the customer/consumer can only too easily browse to a competitor’s website if they don´t find what they are looking for.

By embracing existing technology and establishing a collaboration point where you can work with the enrichment of your product offering is by now essential. This will help in getting your products out onto the market faster than before. I’m not saying that people working within these areas do a bad job right now – I’m saying that if a skilled carpenter uses a nail gun instead of a hammer he can produce more in a shorter time. Building a house is team work. Better tools together with skilled people produces great results.

Operational excellence
Speaking about people, I have met people producing great things within merchandising, sales and marketing. However, the issue is that they are swamped with work, this all relates to the fact that they are the ones who people turn to when they need information or to get something done. It is truly wrong when an Art Director or an E-commerce manager puts 30-40% of their time into finding information and then copy/paste it to a site or document. A total waste of resources. I'm sure that their time is better spent working on how the site or document should be optimized to sell better.

Another thing is that the "old" way of working limits the ability to re-use information, resulting in poor efficiency that impacts both time-to-market and customer experience. It is time to think lean within product marketing, and giving the organization the right preconditions to perform great things.

I'm sure that the right people already work within your company and that you have smart processes (even if they are manual). But give your people the right preconditions, give your carpenter that nail-gun, and you will have the ability to meet your customer in different channels with the relevant information and still have time to think about new ways to communicate with your customer.