No one is under any illusions that today’s retail market is intensely competitive. Nor that conditions are extremely challenging. Moving beyond the peak of 2020’s coronavirus pandemic in some parts of the world, retail still faces the twin tensions of bricks and mortar versus online, supply chain intricacies – particularly in a global market – and rising customer expectations.
Spinning plates, juggling – choose whatever metaphor you will, marketers have a gargantuan task in tying together all the threads that make up a fully-rounded retail experience for the customer. And yet there is a solution that can help get all of this spiraling complexity under control.
Integrated content management (known as ICM or Universal Content Management) does exactly what it says on the tin. It is the use of a set of dedicated software – typically Digital Asset Management (DAM), Product Information Management (PIM) and Content Management (CMS) – to tie together all the data and assets related to a company’s products so that they exist in a single, coherent system. That system can then be accessed by whoever, whenever, wherever, according to their precise needs for the swift and accurate use of information within the customer journey.
In a high-pressure retail environment today, integrated content management is all but essential. Here are three key areas where integrated content management can have a transformational impact on a company’s success.
1. Supply chain efficiency
Managing inventory is one of retail’s biggest challenges. From just-in-time supply to increased customization, making sure the supply chain is responsive to both the retailer and the customer’s needs is vital. The PIM element of an integrated content management system allows retailers to analyze buying trends, track stock levels effectively, pre-empt customer needs and keep product ranges current. Online, it helps retailers manage real time stock levels to avoid customer disappointment and can improve customer experience by providing quality alternatives to out-of-stock items or complimentary products.
2. Online/offline fusion
Retailers are still struggling to reconcile the on/offline nature of their business. The 2020 pandemic demonstrated that no business can afford to operate entirely offline, but maintaining the balance of service and resources across both estates can prove difficult.
Increasingly, retailers are blending the on and offline functions, building a more experiential element into their bricks and mortar offering while integrating the benefits of online by using ecommerce technology in-store. This can be anything from trying in-store demonstration models for immediate online ordering and next or even same-day delivery direct to doorstep, or augmented reality product visualization. Whatever the solution, the retailer needs a robust PIM system behind any blended retail approach in order to be able to actually deliver on promises.
3. Customer experience
What makes for an excellent customer experience? It may be the aforementioned retail theatre and technological innovation but this is pointless without the basics in place – the right product, in the right place, at the right time, for the right price. While PIM is able to optimize the supply chain to make sure stock levels meet consumer demand, the use of analytics and deeper machine learning take experience a step further. Retailers are able to analyze shopper trends and intent which means they can pre-empt customer needs.
For example, merging customer relationship management (CRM) information with PIM means companies know when a previous item is about to reach its end-of-life. This would allow the retailer to proactively contact the customer with a more up-to-date replacement or personalized offer.
Equally, in the after-sales environment, so critical to customer loyalty and extended lifetime value, robust PIM allows the company to respond quickly and effectively to customer queries, tracing sales and product data rapidly and making appropriate repair or replacement suggestions.
The common thread linking all three of these challenges is the need to optimize the organization for a more personalized customer approach. This is a challenge recognized by Switzerland’s leading cooperative purchasing organization for the automotive industry, ESA. Its remit is to manage the purchasing as well as the production and distribution of all articles and services needed in the car and motor vehicle trade. This means some 500,000 product data assets to be communicated to 7,000 auto businesses.
ESA’s role is critical to its 7,000 members – or effectively, co-owners’ – success. They rely on accurate product information to make the right choices for their end customers. In the automotive sector, the level of detail and frequency of technological change can be immense. By implementing a robust PIM system as part of its integrated content management solution, ESA has been able to centralize its product data effectively, feeding into much more agile and effective content delivery to its customers.
To find out more about how ESA implemented its integrated content management program, download this exclusive censhare success story here.