Retailers Call for Consistent,  High-Quality Data to Boost e-Commerce

COVID-19 accelerates the shift to online shopping

The coronavirus pandemic has, as you would expect, caused significant changes in the retail market. Hearing about brick-and-mortar stores – how many of them were closed or forced to lay employees off simply to survive - it quickly becomes clear that traditional retail suffered great losses last year.

While the above was happening, e-commerce went totally off the charts.  According to Kantar’s research, it grew 41% in the FMCG sector alone, and that’s just in H1 of 2020. In Spain, France, UK, and China, the average share moved from 8,8% to 12,4%. We have every reason to believe that those kinds of trends will continue in 2021 – Why? Because today’s retailers are perfectly aware that they must go online to be able to compete. In fact, some are probably making the transition as you read this article. How do we know this?

Product data has never been more important

Apart from the e-commerce boom, there was yet another trend that had emerged some years ago but became really popular in 2020. With rising concerns over the spread of infectious diseases, viruses, and germs – and due to the vegan community growing so rapidly – today’s consumers are keen on the details regarding their food, especially the nutritional values, sources of raw materials, and allergens. Wanting to meet their clients’ needs, some companies decided to redesign their strategies and, as it turns out, often put improving master data management on the top of their “to-do” list.

Two of the most recent examples are Tesco and Sainsbury’s, whose plans about changing their product data sharing procedures were revealed in ‘The Grocer’ in the mid-2020. Graham Biggart, Director of Commercial Operations at Sainsbury’s, was quoted saying:

 “We need to provide more information, in more consistent ways, to allow customers to compare their choice of products and complete their shop quickly and conveniently.”

So, thanks to using high-quality, standardized data, the consumers will be able to make better choices while shopping, while the companies will get a chance to optimize their supply chain operations. It’s a win-win situation, but… how do you achieve that?

Best practices for collecting and maintaining master data

Collecting product information is a challenge in itself. Today’s manufacturers must provide specific sets of data (which may or may not differ depending on the project and retailers’ requirements) and deliver product samples for each item. Of course, the scope of data is determined by one’s type of business, but in the end, the more attributes they will include, the better the quality of that data will be. Given the home-office era that we live in, however, this process tends to be even more difficult – thus, it needs to be optimized somehow. So, what can be done about it?

It is highly recommended that you create one central database (a source from which both internal and external partners’ systems get their information) of products, all of which will be described using data standards.

As for data maintenance, which is equally significant for business performance as even a slight change made to product packaging can lead to some serious financial losses, it is advisable that you provide retailers with product updates in advance so that they have enough time to make the necessary adjustments.

Of course, all of the above can be done using modern IT solutions for managing product data. The important question is – which solution should you choose?

Technology guarantees efficient product replenishment and traceability

Before implementing an MDM solution, a company should know whether it needs a tool for communicating with its partners, or a system for managing data internally – or both.

First and foremost, having a solution for collecting and managing data with business partners is a must. Of course, it has to be user-friendly for everybody, despite the company’s or its partners’ technological maturity. Some suppliers can use an intuitive portal to type in all the information and divide it into attributes/categories or simply upload pre-made Excel templates (in this scenario, only the enrichment process has to be done using the portal). In contrast, others may need to connect with an EDI system over API to share product information. 

Apart from the, let’s call them, traditional product data exchange functionalities, not only must the portal guarantee easy on-boarding for hundreds of partners, but it should also include additional features that can help improve one’s business operations, for instance:

  • Chat
  • Implemented validation rules
  • Sourcing capabilities (to be able to collect data about the current offers on the market)

From the recipient’s perspective, the portal can be used for tracking data exchange. Here,  however, some companies may require PIM-class features that guarantee flexible workflows with approval paths adjusted for various attributes and departments. In this case, the provider’s integration capabilities are extremely important as all data is shared by multiple systems (i.e., ERP, DAM, WMS, POS, e-commerce). Thus, the solution should become a central repository where you keep the so-called golden record.

So, what does it all mean?

It means that today’s companies are aware of the increasing role of product data quality and that they should analyze their current IT infrastructures, business processes, and established strategies to check if they meet the required standards. The results of such a study will indicate exactly the kind of master data management solution they need to improve. They should also consider making some additional developments such as connecting with EDI or using AI-driven technology to facilitate the approval processes and integrate with various e-commerce channels (e.g., Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Shopify).

Interested in a master data management solution? Then go to our website and see what Comarch MDM has to offer.

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