Guest Column | May 18, 2020

Delivering Reliable Product Information When Consumers Need It Most

By Susan Pichoff, Senior Director, Community Engagement, GS1 US

Electronic Healthcare Information Transfer

Building and maintaining customer loyalty is at the heart of any brand’s long-term success. Trust is essential to retain customers through these unprecedented times and into the future; every purchase is increasingly scrutinized as consumer confidence wavers. The shift to online shopping has rapidly accelerated; supply chains have been stretched and disrupted. More than ever, brands need to do everything possible to ensure customer satisfaction.

Standards-based data management programs enable companies to provide highly reliable product information and meet delivery expectations, helping build trust in the brand. Buyers need to know when products are available or out of stock. They need complete and accurate product details to make confident purchasing decisions. Robust data management and governance are pivotal to make sure that product information is consistent across all channels throughout the supply chain.

Some retail brands are already implementing strong master data management (MDM) programs to address evolving omnichannel sales strategies and requirements. For example, Carhartt, Inc., a family-owned and operated business recognized for rugged workwear, wanted to unify its product information to better serve the needs of its disparate base of worldwide trading partners, including several thousand retailers and its direct-to-consumer channels. They knew that preserving the brand’s established reputation would depend on a cross-channel product information strategy.

Carhartt adopted a comprehensive product information management (PIM) solution composed of MDM best practices, integrated data systems, and GS1 Standards — specifically the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), which can be used by trading partners worldwide to uniquely identify the item and easily communicate information about it. GTINs also can be used to unambiguously identify trade items online, for example in catalogs, in electronic messages such as purchase orders and invoices, and embedded in web pages to optimize use by search engines and other information consumers.

The standards-based data management program enables a “single source of truth” for all of Carhartt’s product information — accurate, complete, consistent, and easily shared, internally, and externally. As always, a few lessons were learned along the way:

Data structure sets the stage. Starting with quality data is vital. Take plenty of time in strategizing and organizing to create a thorough project plan, including deliverables, timelines, and accountabilities. Every PIM entry should contain product data that is as consistent as possible in naming conventions and definitions between all data sources. The better the product data is structured and organized, the easier it will be for potential buyers to make informed decisions.

Governance keeps it fresh. Structure and governance are key to improving data quality. Successful data management and stewardship incorporate the timely delivery of accurate data and the ability to detect errors in data before business partners do. At Carhartt, a team of data stewards is assigned to manage the MDM program, each focusing on individual pieces of data governance including product data, consumer data, and customer data.

Executive sponsorship makes it possible. A successful data management program requires investment and commitment from the highest levels in an organization. Carhartt’s executive support was key in the company’s ability to embrace new technology and business practices, so they can keep up and adapt to rapidly changing retail and wholesale commerce patterns.

Benefits And Results

The ability to share accurate product information throughout the supply chain, and especially with online shoppers, can have a big impact on a brand’s reputation and the loyalty of its customers. Carhartt’s journey demonstrates how implementing a comprehensive standards-based data management program can improve product information accuracy: As a result of its MDM solution, Carhartt has increased consumer data accuracy to 90 percent and can now populate master product data at a completion rate of 95 percent. Plus, the PIM tool has reduced data syndication time by 66 percent, when Carhartt publishes its data for exchange with its wholesale and retail partners. By ensuring data accuracy, the company is better able to serve its customers, including consumers, wholesale distributors, and retailers. Robust product data helps online shoppers make better purchasing decisions, thereby minimizing returns as well.

Adherence to data governance rules delivers increased accuracy in supply chain and retail operations. It ultimately results in an improved and enhanced customer experience, which is the goal of any data management effort — and a key ingredient for a brand’s long-term success.

About The Author

Susan Pichoff is Senior Director, Community Engagement at GS1 US.