This year has certainly brought more than its usual share of challenges. While many sectors and jobs have been hit hard by the impact of Covid-19, retail has certainly taken the brunt. With an emphasis on cashflow, retailers have also been provided with a chance to look to the future and to see how – and what – they must change to meet and exceed the retail needs of the future.
One way retailers can try to future proof their businesses is by adopting a retail-specific product information management (PIM) solution.
Drapers speaks to Laura Boyd, trading director at women’s and children’s wear retailer Mint Velvet, to discuss why she has recently signed Omio PIM by Retail Assist to manage product data, and how a PIM can help any retailer.
When it comes to selling products either online through your own selling channels or via partners, it is not as simple as sending over stock and watching the sales come in.
Explaining the challenges retailers can face when getting their products out to market, Mint Velvet’s Boyd says: “We have to provide data to nine different selling partners and, before we used a PIM solution, we transferred this data to partners in varying formats. It was the equivalent of sending nine different Excel spreadsheets each week.
“My team download varying pieces of information from [omnichannel retail supply chain management solution] Merret, and then cut and paste this data into the format of the required spreadsheet, which will then be emailed across to the partner. This needs to be done for each selling partner at least once a week, depending on the volume of information being sent.
“Sometimes the partner will say they haven’t received it. Sometimes the partner will say there’s something missing, or sometimes they’ll say: ‘You’ve left a field blank, so we can’t accept it.’ It’s a process that is prone to being inaccurate and, if you transmit inaccuracies, it takes longer to rectify. The whole cycle can go on much longer than you would like it to because until the data is effectively received, you can’t allocate product.
“Whether you’d call this a complication or inaccuracy, this is a very big issue when it comes to getting your products to market.
“In managing product data, you have to be very accurate. It’s a task that’s crucial but it’s also very routine and very mundane – you can’t make mistakes. For us, the churn of people managing this task before a PIM solution has been very high and I think any other retailer would say the same. You’re constantly retraining people and obviously new people bring a level of errors because they’re learning.
“A PIM solution costs almost the same as an entry-level team member, who could then be used elsewhere in the business and you also have no accuracy issues. It’s a very sensible thing to do.”
Access to new markets
The impact Covid-19 has had on the retail sector and store closures in particular has highlighted the importance of brands having multiple irons in the fire, including partnering with digital selling channels and wholesale arms.
For Boyd, another important aspect of having a PIM is the opportunity to widen Mint Velvet’s audience: “Having a PIM has opened doors for us to consider working with new partners. Recently, we’ve had to make lots of decisions about who we want to continue working with and who we can’t continue with while our focus diverts to store recovery and ecommerce optimisation. Everything we do currently has to add real value.
“In terms of the expansion of our brand, we have been approached by various businesses who would like to work with us, but I made the decision recently that it’s just too complicated and the work level in the current environment doesn’t make sense for the return that we would get in some cases.
“What Omio PIM is going to do is allow us to engage with new partners without feeling like this is a massive amount of effort for what could be a low return because it’s going to be relatively simple: once we’ve configured the system and the data is there, you can transmit it. We don’t have to think ‘this is another spreadsheet, another cut and paste, another three hours of someone’s life every week’.”
It is not just processes and a return on investment (ROI) that a PIM can help with: it plays an important part in helping your colleagues, too.
Boyd explains: “I’ve experienced this when I worked for other retail brands and it’s still the same at Mint Velvet. Product data entry isn’t a very exciting job and it’s an entry level role with a lot of administrative tasks. So, you recruit lovely, talented people to do this role and, after six to 12 months, they want to fly on and do something else.
“I think,with a PIM, we’re on a financial saver in the long run because we currently have this churn of people and we have two full-time roles managing product data. Omio PIM will make their role easier to carry out – it’s a nice system to use and they’ll have job satisfaction coming out of that.
“We’ll also be able to reduce that to a single individual and then enjoy the added value of that other person being used somewhere else within the business, which is going to make a radical difference.”
A retail-specialist PIM
There are a multitude of PIMs on the market, so why choose Omio PIM?
Boyd believes there are several benefits: “What I really, really like about Omio PIM – and it makes me smile when I think about it now – is that aesthetically it’s the nicest looking product I’ve seen. When something makes you smile when you look at it and when something reminds you of, perhaps, the front end that you use at home when you’re using an Apple Mac, or of some of the controls you use on social media, you know that young people are going to absolutely adopt it very easily. It stood out by a mile.
“Now, aesthetics aren’t going to sell a product – you have to make sure it functions as well. So, second to the aesthetics, is an end-to-end solution that’s not ‘just’ a PIM solution.
“Other PIMs are basically just attribution management systems, but the bit that Omio PIM does on top is that it’s taken the product and style creation part of the process and that sits in the PIM as well. Other PIMs just were not as end to end. What Omio PIM has is an end-to-end, ready-to-go, complete product and I honestly can’t think of anything you’d want to add to it that Retail Assist haven’t already thought of.”
Product data management is an essential part to any retail strategy. To find out more about Omio PIM, click here.