Fixing the Flow


Understand the non-linearity in your product information supply chain.

By Shamanth Shankar

Enterprises plan for the long term and constantly revise their strategies and execution to keep current trends in perspective. Core to operations is data, including data created from within the supply chain and data from consumer purchasing patterns. Interactions through various platforms and apps are disrupting the linear flow of information within the supply chains. To address this, current product information management (PIM) solutions need to evolve to harness these interactions.

The Right Product

The final goal of an enterprise is making a sale: providing the right product at the right time to the right customer. From a retailer's perspective, products flow linearly from a manufacturer to a customer.

Manufacturers recognize the demand for products or create a demand for products. Both push product awareness and adoption through various sales and marketing channels to win customers and retain them to grow the topline and bottom-line.

Market Intelligence

Market intelligence influences new product introduction, sales and operations plans. Even though business plans can be forward-looking, businesses monitor operational metrics to reduce the cycle times of new product introduction and to keep the latest customer choices in perspective.

Hidden under the hood of the operational metrics is the master data of the product. Dashboards and KPIs are only as good as the quality of the information. Fundamental to the data quality is the governance process, which is enabled through a robust solution. Each leg of the supply chain has a role in creating, enriching, and publishing aspects of product information to be consumed downstream and keep the customer informed.

Going Non-Linear

Historically, product information flowed linearly from a manufacturer to a retailer or vice versa. With the growth

in mobile and social platforms, this is no longer the case. Every segment of the operational supply chain is able to interact directly with the consumer. According to Forrester's November 2015 report, "Master Your Customers' Mobile Pathways," three-quarters of US smartphone owners spend two hours a day on their phones.

Here are some recent statistics on popular social platforms which consumers access from their smartphones:

* 1.65 billion monthly active users (MAU) on Facebook

* 500 million MAU Instagram users

* 310 million MAU Twitter users

* 244 million active monthly users on Amazon

* 100 million users on Pinterest

Let's take Nike as an example to illustrate how manufacturers are capitalizing on this non-linearity in information supply chain. Before the advent of connected devices, or e-commerce, one would typically view Nike as a leading footwear and apparel company. Nike's app pushes information to tens of millions of users in its digital community. Nike currently makes just more than $1 billion annually through its e-commerce channels and has a broader bid to more than double its direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales by 2020, from $6.6 billion to $16 billion.

Harnessing Interactions

All of this increased mobile, social activity by consumers and enterprises corresponding with necessary digital strategies converge when you see more evidence of how product information influences online and web-influenced sales.

* Online and web-influenced offline sales will equal $2.14 trillion, 55 percent of total U.S. cross-channel retail sales by 2020, according to Forrester's January 2016 brief entitled "Digital Touchpoint Investments Significantly Influence US Retail Sales."

* When shopping in store, assuming the sales associates are equipped with a mobile device, the top expectation customers have of the sales associates is to look up for product information, according to Forrester's April 2016 landscape report, "The State of The Digital Store."

* Looking up product information is a top 3 ways in which in-store shoppers use their smartphones while shopping in a physical store, according to Forrester's July 2016 brief, "Retailers Must Embrace In-Store Technologies to Differentiate."

* More information always trumps less. Details such as extensive product specs, ratings and reviews, sizing information (for clothes) and related (cross-sell) products are essential to helping shoppers feel comfortable in completing a transaction, according to Forrester's March 2016 report, "Must-Have eCommerce Features."

Product information supply chain and operational supply chain go hand-in-hand. Emerging trends of how consumers access product information redefine operations. Current product information management (PIM) solutions focus on improving the quality of data. Next-generation product information solutions will bring the relevance and insights that will enable businesses to dynamically adapt to increasing non-linearity in the product information supply chain.

Shamanth Shankar is the director of marketing at Riversand Technologies Inc. He can be reached at and on Twitter @shamanthshankar.

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