by Sonia Coleman, IDEA
Digital product and pricing information are critical in the buying process. Yet, managing product content can be challenging.
Successful manufacturers know it’s essential to take a proactive approach. Best practices provide guidelines to help NEMA Members grow their sales, empower their distributors, and avoid expensive errors.
IDEA, the industry’s leading product content and electronic data interchange (EDI) provider, highlights best practices for managing digital product content.
Review Benchmarks Annually
Once a year, IDEA recommends that manufacturers review key areas of their product content management. It’s an excellent time to identify pain points, analyze costs, and optimize staff workflows. The review helps manufacturer data teams manage the availability of product information, prioritize projects and maintain ongoing metrics to measure improvements.
To get a big picture perspective, document overall cost estimates, including staff, technology, and error resolution. This record enables product data teams to compare costs, adjust budgets and fix expensive issues.
On average, it costs $1 to verify a record as it is entered, $10 to fix it later, and $100 if nothing is done to correct an error.
Review processes to see how many one-off efforts are made to provide product content to trading partners vs. syndicating through IDEA Connector. Document the obstacles and any other reasons for these manual efforts. Then, review opportunities to automate manual processes.
Once a year, manufacturers will benefit from a deep dive into the accuracy of their product content. Manufacturers can cut costs and empower more sales by creating benchmarks for error rate, staff resources, and the corrections process. Here are some best practices:
- Respond to trading partners within 48-72 hours and correct the error as quickly as possible. Document how long it takes to fix product content errors reported by trading partners.
- Lower rate to 15 percent or less. Document error rate (the number of errors divided by the total number of items) to ensure it is acceptable.
- Identify staff time spent fixing errors.
A popular metric is to identify the cost of an incorrect purchase order (PO), which spotlights the price of a common error and enables the mistake to be traced and corrected.
Availability of Product Data
Trading partners depend on timely product content updates to sell products with accurate information and prices. Best practices:
- Upload obsolete products, price changes, and new products in IDEA Connector as it occurs.
- Confirm that trading partners are receiving this critical product information the next day after a change.
Maintenance Review is Ongoing
These best practices enable manufacturers to improve their digital product content for trading partners progressively:
- Follow the product life cycle. Start with a pre-launch item status of I (Introductory) through the product’s end of life O (Obsolete) and then removal D (Delete) from IDEA Connector. This ensures end-users always have the most up-to-date ordering status.
- Review product status codes and stock indicator codes. Ordering problems happen when items are coded incorrectly as active stock or quick ship when they are nonstock or unavailable.
- Load price changes in advance. This enables the distribution channel to work with its end users for necessary adjustments.
- Review your load summaries and resolve errors. When product data loads error-free, distributors easily extract it for use in their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Product Information Management (PIM), and data warehouse systems.
- Reference Data Management Resources. Before uploading more extensive data changes quarterly, all people creating, gathering, or loading data should reference resource documents in the IDEA Connector Learning Management System (LMS). Resources include Digital Marketing Content Guidelines, CAS Attribute Value Guidelines, Catalog of Descriptive Fields, Category Attribute Specification, and Data Dictionary.
Add New Product Data Monthly
Each month, the best practice is for manufacturers to add new product attributes or stock-keeping units (SKUs), which fills gaps that are slowing sales. Here are some tips:
- If a manufacturer has an item for sale on its corporate website, the product also needs to be in IDEA Connector for the distributor to access the item.
- Distributors want all their manufacturers’ data and SKUs. When a manufacturer doesn’t load an item or series of items, it limits distributors’ ability to sell those products and affects overall sales.
- Organize product content additions by product family or by the popularity of your products. Adding information by product family enables efficiency gains and a logical roadmap for staff to follow.
Syndicate All SKUs and Product Attributes at No Extra Cost
IDEA Connector recently enabled manufacturers to syndicate all their product content at no extra cost.
Manufacturers can syndicate more than 500 attributes, including unlimited images, 360 images, marketing bullets, seller-defined works, spec sheets, warranties, and social media.
In addition, manufacturers now have more resources than ever before. The IDEA experienced Pro Data team can help with manufacturers’ data projects—simple or complex.
Solve Data Errors Quarterly
Smaller companies should conduct a quarterly review, while larger companies may review daily, weekly, or monthly.
- Develop a systematic process to fix data errors
- Gain buy-in and resources from leadership
- Look for the low-hanging fruit: small changes with significant impact
- Use IDEA Connector’s tools and reports to identify errors in product content and fix the issues
- Work with internal departments to access accurate and timely product information directly from the source
To access a free copy of the data content management best practices guide, go to: https://idea4industry.com/idea-connector/connector-best-practices/