In today’s world, business moves at an ever-increasing pace, with daily changes and new external pressures. Businesses must ensure that their supply chains work efficiently. Retailers must work with razor-thin margins. New products must be introduced, categorized, managed, and delivered. Catalogs need to be published quicker and through multiple channels and hierarchies. Regulation and compliance must be factored. The process of returns, rebates, and sales incentives are often much more complex. Extending into ecommerce requires additional attributes and product images.
Managing product data is inherently complex. And today’s customers expect a fully-integrated delivery pipeline that is as simple as opening the tap and getting clean water. How do we best serve accurate and important product data to customers efficiently? Below is an excerpt from our eBook, The Clean Data Initiative, where we discuss the negative effects of bad product data and provide best practices for maintaining product information. To read the full eBook, download it here.
What is Product Domain?
The Product Domain effectively organizes a company’s product data assets. This includes the product information, attributes, hierarchies, relationships, prices, and images, which allows companies to operate with an accurate and consistent view of product information, improves communication with customers and suppliers, enhances product searches, and supports catalogs and campaigns.
The Challenges of Product Data Management
Retailers and suppliers are always looking to streamline operations, keep costs down, increase asset utilization, and increase productivity gains. Companies using legacy systems and processes often want to improve but need to work through their technology upgrades and project investments carefully. At the center of this is product data.
For the longest time, companies dealt with product data issues in a reactive manner. Specific data quality issues would be handled as needed. Small SWAT team projects would be set up to deal with localized issues. Unfortunately, this approach has a limited reach and the problems would likely continue.
Part of the solution is leveraging product data in Master Data Management (MDM) solutions or their equivalent Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. That means being able to specifically manage product data, create hierarchies and categories, manage changes and updates with business rules and workflows, manage product attributes accurately, support data integration and import functionality with key standards providers such as GS1, generate catalogs, support multiple languages, and maintain product history. Most importantly, this also means having a single set of product reference data that is either used at the back end for analytics, or better yet, on the front end for operations.
Technologies specifically designed to address these issues were designated as Product Information Management (PIM) solutions. Over time, many of vendors now have multi domain solutions that address master data for not only product data, but also customer, supplier, location, and employee data.
Product Domain Best Practices
- Understand your product data needs and match that against MDM solution providers.
- Lean on data governance to enforce standards for all fields including freeform description fields.
- Leverage the tools to ensure that product attribute data is accurate and complete.
- Recognize not all data will be available immediately and plan for periodic data updates.
- Integrate workflows to allow for quicker, defined, and accurate data movement.
- Leverage data standards such as GS1/GDSN/1SYNC to streamline data acquisition and quality.
- Ensure that your product MDM is supported by data governance and data quality efforts.
- Determine the MDM implementation approach that best works for your organization.
The Impact of Bad Product Data
Consider the impact of inaccurate case dimension, case weight, item dimensions, hazardous codes, nutrition standards, or barcode identifier information. A product with a listed weight 1 lb. lighter can result in a 250,000 lb. opportunity for the supplier to reduce six freight shipments over the course of a year.
What makes storing product attribute information even more challenging is that different products have different product attributes that need to be tracked. Having defined rules for product attributes can improve the quality of the data, resulting in reduced warehouse disruptions, increased trailer load utilization, improved shelf planning, and increased freight efficiency.
This gets even more challenging for retailers due to the volume of data that needs to be managed. Retailers must also:
- Find the balance between sales’ needs and flexibility and SKU proliferation
- Ensure support for rapid and automated workflow-driven data integration
- Offer alternate product hierarchies to support industry or business process needs
- Confirm integration with GDSN standards to receive and respond to product information
Product Domain Next Steps
In today’s world, having access to good quality product data is just as important as having access to clean water. It is a foundational requirement for businesses to function in a healthy manner. Whether you are just learning about managing your product domain, or are ready to look for a tool, take some time to review our eBook, The Clean Data Initiative, to discover what your next steps should be.
Sense Corp is a digital and data consulting company that provides insights and solution to help your company with transformative projects and services. To learn or the services we provide, visit our website.