Office Depot's Push To Standardize Product Information Across All Channels And Increase Speed To Market

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

By Erin Harris, editor-in-chief

data integrity

Maintaining accurate, standardized product data across all channels is a priority, as consumers have learned to expect a seamless retail experience. Sam Copeland, vice president of merchandising operations for Office Depot, Inc., took time to discuss why expanding assortments and the demand for personalization are placing additional emphasis on the need for centralized master data.

Q: Why did Office Depot chose to implement master data management and what are the expected benefits?

Copeland: We’re a traditional retailer pivoting to thrive in a world where the sales channels have blurred. Customers may start the shopping journey online, but the transaction may happen online or at retail through a dedicated sales associate. The fulfillment of those products may happen in a DC, in a store, or with a third party. It may seem unrelated, but it all relies on having up-to-date and accurate product information.

Our master data journey focuses on three key sets of stakeholders:

  • For our customers, it means having all the necessary information to easily find, compare, and ultimately purchase products.
  • For our suppliers, this means simplifying the process and making us the easiest retailer to work with as it relates to getting products to market.
  • Internally, this means having the right information to facilitate faster speed to market and to support our analytics and decision making.

We believe there are two real types of benefits: direct and enabler. By improving the speed, completeness, and quality of our product data we will convert more potential customers into actual customers. Further benefits come in the form of enablement. Master data and comprehensive data governance is critical as we continue to evolve our analytics and decision making. For example, better and more comprehensive product attribute data will better inform the assortment planning process. We want to put the products customers want in front of them wherever they shop. This helps the customer find the things he or she wants and allows us to be smart about our inventory investments.

Q: How do you operate cross-functionally with other Supply Chain and Operations department leaders to develop omni-channel strategies that drive profit?

Copeland: Working with our cross-functional partners is critical to our success, both with our MDM project and on a normal day-to-day basis. Managing item setup and maintenance (which includes product content and images) means we impact nearly every functional area in the organization in some capacity.

We are work closely with merchants and the operating units (i.e., Store Operations, B2B or Ecommerce) to reinforce category management fundamentals as we determine what products to carry across each channel. That means not only looking at product assortment and planograms for retail stores, but also working with Supply Chain on stocking decisions to manage the cost to serve.

The key to our partnership is grounding ourselves with common goals and metrics to ensure we implement solutions that are best for Office Depot rather than just a specific functional area. It’s a constant effort to understand what the customer wants and to evolve to meet his or her needs in a way that also allows us to be profitable. Our MDM initiative is foundational to that effort.