09 July 2014

inRiver & information integration

Before any PIM system can become a reliable single source of product information, it must first be loaded with high-quality data. Typically the product data that should be merged into the PIM system has its origin in disparate sources such as customer requests, supplier updates, ERP systems etc. Such process should secure that the PIM system is provided with validated and structured product data, matching the defined PIM model, enabling standardization, classification, translation and de-duplication features provided by inRiver PIM.

What inRiver enables you to do is release your Marketing Model used to sell and market your products from your backend information model, used to govern your internal process (e.g ERP) which is often very hard to change or transform over time to the markets demand for information about your products. The backend information model is by definition very static since it involves complicated cross over process within a company, changing this often leads to time consuming analysis and integrations.

This is why we believe in and our customers has emphasized on the importance of:

inRiver Connect

inRiver Connect is the preferred integration point of inRiver. It is a standalone service which executes dll's with custom code.

inRiver Connect is built to consolidate different backend models ERP, PLM external data services, etc. into the inRiver Marketing Model making it easy to work with different models and content into inRiver. Since inRiver Connect acts as a broker between the backend systems and has no dependencies to those systems, this makes very easy to change the backend and continue working with your marketing content in the inRiver Marketing Model.

From this view in the inRiver administration, all inbound and outbound information is managed, making it easy to control the flow of information moving in and out of inRiver in a standardised manner. This is also where all custom integrations and plug-ins will be deployed.
From the inRiver Connect view it is possible to start and stop all services, view all events on all services and work with configurations on the services.

In order to make it as easy as possible for consuming & sending system to onboard and extract content from inRiver, the data model securing how messages should be sent and received can easily be downloaded and used a template.

inRiver Information Integration Definitions

Data hierarchies
According to the definition of PIM, the applicability of the data model to a number of aspects of the business process is one of the most important criteria for a PIM solution. Any PIM data model must be able to:
  • Model the complex relationships between the internal application sources inside the organization, business and consumer customers, as well as intermediaries and other parties
  • Map to the master product information requirements of the organization across item masters, catalogues, e-commerce and syndication requirements, and expose underlying business rules and associated metadata
  • Be customizable, configurable, extensible and upgradable
  • Support industry-specific requirements as well as multiple hierarchical and aggregated views associated with product and catalogue structures related to channels and customers
  • Provide a base for the required workload mix and level of performance
  • Support complex parametric search capabilities servicing even external Web service requests

In order to fulfil these requirements, the inRiver PIM is built from the ground up, using type information to provide media-independent persistence services for any configuration of an entity model.

In the inRiver Marketing Model, the Product holds all information that is common for all items linked to this product. The product acts as a placeholder for all the common information of all items. In order to minimise maintenance of product information and reduce risk of inconsistency, it is essential that metadata (information fields) or resources that are common to all items of a product are associated with the product and not copy/pasted on items.

Product type
A product type is merely a predefined set of dynamic fields, valid for all products of a certain product type. E.g. a company with shoes as a part of its assortment would probably define a product type shoe that at least has a size field.

An item can be described as an entity that usually has a unique bar code, e.g. a jacket with a specified colour and size. Items are typically the entities that can be ordered in e.g. a web shop (as opposed to products which typically cannot be ordered).

Resources are placeholders of e.g. images, videos or text that are related to an item or product. A typical example is a photograph of an item. The actual representations of the resources are uploaded to resource files, which are attached to the resource entity. In the case of image resources, uploaded files can be in the form of e.g. PSD, EPS, JPEG, TIFF and PNG-files.

Assortments are collections of products with or without a taxonomy/structure. Assortments  can be managed without being connected or used in a channel. This makes it easy to create generic assortment structures that can be re-used in print or in different (digital) channels, where new channel specific structures can be built and maintained for example creating a Channel Node navigation for an eCommerce site or a campaign site.

All communication channels within your inRiver, both Attracting channels (Catalogues, brand sites, campaigns, CMS etc.) and Converting channels (eCommerce, Stores, mCommerce etc,)

Nodes are collections of products with or without a taxonomy/structure specific for one or more Channels. When a Node navigation is put together, it is often channelled to several sites at the same time, necessitating a tool for generic selection. The Product Channel Manager for Channels (PCM) manages channelling to the e-channels, making it very easy to work with e-channelling - selecting and controlling what information goes to the different channels.

The possibility to create, update and delete Channel Nodes, i.e. groups consisting of products and/or items and to re-use and/or re-purpose this information makes the work with assortments & Channel Nodes faster as the work can be re-used across sales channels. 

Custom entities
In some cases there is a need to extend the standard model with custom entities and inRiver PIM supports this directly out-of-the-box. Examples of this can be an entity called ’Device’ that represents a product that is not marketed and sold, but needs suitable accessories and/or spare parts that are sold and marketed. Another example can be a ‘Printer’ entity that is not sold or marketed but its ink cartridges are.

inRiver & Product information quality

inRiver separates between data validation and Secure Information Integration. Data validation is used for inRiver users to secure the input quality of one file e.g. from a supplier and this is done in the same moment as the file is uploaded to inRiver.

It is also important to be able to validate information that is accepted into the system in a visible manner. inRiver has a logical engine that allows users to create queries for validating information.

Secure Information Integration is used when batch updates are done between communicating systems and the data integrity of Product information is of great importance. All inbound data to inRiver is secured via CVL or Controlled Vocabulary Lists which is a technique in the inRiver platform to create intelligent validating lists, maintaining, securing the data integrity and keeping the information up-to-date and correct. The lists can be maintained in the inRiver platform, or it can get the list information from other systems e.g. an ERP-system or a PDM-system.

The status of the SII (Secure Information Integration) can be reviewed in the inRiver Connect event log see below on the right.  

02 July 2014

inRiver & Channels - The story of having the right content in the right context

When building an efficient marketing engine within an organization, it is important to have the right toolbox for the marketers. The feedback our customers have given us is that what is needed is one place for the creation of the product stories, not just to store the content. They have to be creative and to be able to move from insight to action. Equally important is the context of the product story, the publishing platform, eCommerce, email marketing, WCMS, etc. that lays out the context to create the right ambience for the product stories.

So, with a digital marketing hub for the creation of the product stories and a publishing platform for the creation of the right context for the product stories; this combination will convert your products faster in all channels.

With inRiver's Channel Manager we want to enable the marketers to merchandise the assortments for the right channels not just pushing the whole product catalogue all the time. For the marketer to be efficient and able to do this they need to work a graphical user interface with an overview of the product stories and where they easily can create new assortments and channels. In a worst case scenario where the whole product catalogue is published in a non-segmented fashion the publishing platform must handle all the segmentation and faceting in its UI or even worse sometimes create code for assortment specific campaign sites, brand sites or for B2B customer portals with customer unique products. inRiver can work with several Channels with unique product assortments but still pushing to the same publishing platform, making it a lot easier and more efficient to overview and manage the Product assortments in the inRiver graphical Channel Manager. The different channels with the different assortment can then be given their unique context/layout in the publishing platform thus creating the ultimate Customer Experience.

Make it a priority that your marketers have the right tools for creating Context and Customer unique assortments and use them in different contexts.

-- Jimmy Ekbäck, CTO --