SEMA DATA CO-OP
By Jon Wyly
New Year’s Resolution: “Admit I May Have a Data Problem”
With the new year upon us and the hectic fall schedule of shows and holidays behind us, now is a great time to revisit the fundamentals of product data management.
There is little argument these days about the importance of having a standardized, up-to-date, complete and accurate data set for your products. After all, the growth of internet-based business, electronic transactions, computerized point of sale and countless other business systems are obvious. These systems feed on data and, as the old saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.” And it’s costly garbage, by the way, leading to excessive returns, fouled-up inventories, delayed product launches, unhappy customers and lower profits.
So here are some pointers that we hope will get the late starters off and running and also prevent some big problems associated with picking the wrong path to data management.
DIY or DIFM?
The trend today is for manufacturers to take a hands-on approach to their data. Excellent online tools are available, along with expert training and support that will give you the opportunity to compete with the very best on quality, completeness and accuracy.
Typically, a single part-time or full-time staffer can effectively do data maintenance once the original data set is developed and loaded into a repository. Often, the time currently spent creating “load sheets” for various customers can be redirected to data maintenance, yielding little or no extra cost. Consider letting a qualified provider take care of all of your data distribution, and use that valuable staffer to actually create and maintain a data set that will contribute to the business! Overall, do it yourself (DIY) is the best way to ensure that you will have the content you want and that you own it 100%.
If it is out of the question to take direct ownership of the process, there are do-it-for-me (DIFM) options that can produce excellent results—but at a cost. The labor to fully maintain your data set would be passed on to an outside provider, and you could lose that important personal touch that an internal expert can provide. This can be especially apparent in crafting descriptions, marketing copy and features/benefits. After all, who knows more about your products than you? Also, you may not have access to all of the work being done on your data in some outsourced models.
Whom Do I Work With?
Doing your data work halfway or confining it to proprietary processes that don’t work well with the industry ACES and PIES standards will spell trouble in the long run. Go with a provider that has the size, experience, tools and expertise to help you do the job right the first time, and don’t be driven by price alone. Fly-by-night, bargain-priced services will eventually disappoint and cost you valuable time and money in the long run. Would you like your product to be judged simply by price, or would you like the opportunity to illustrate your unique benefits and support?
How Do I Distribute My Data?
Having a great data-management system is just half the equation. You also must have a great system for storing and distributing your data, which will now become one of your most valued assets.
Some providers charge your customers to receive your data. That would be kind of like you charging your customers for a catalog so that they can have the privilege of buying your parts.
Go with the established repository that has a large mass of brands. That will allow your customers to access your data when they are gathering other data they need. And make sure that your provider can create custom export formats for your customers. Delivering your data in a manner that causes your customers extra work is never a good idea.
Become and Stay Visible!
The lack of a quality data set to distribute to your customers is rapidly making you invisible to more and more potential sales. The flow of data has gone way beyond the simple load sheet of 10 years ago. Today, data powers virtually every business system and flows through retail chain stores and websites as well as marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, Wal-Mart and much more. Well over 50% of potential buyers of specialty auto parts report using the internet for research before they buy. No data, no results, no sales.
To learn more about how you can take control and manage your product data at the lowest possible cost, contact SEMA Data Co-op Membership Manager Allen Horwitz via email at email@example.com or by phone at 888-958-6698 x9.