Crossing the Digital Chasm
Retailers are faced with enormous challenges in sustaining their mobile-friendly, digital output. The solution can be found in their workflow for print.
Retailers are accustomed to print—catalogs, circulars, signage, you name it. One way or another, they manage to sort all that product data and present it in printed form. But no matter how important print still is, a new channel—digital media, especially smartphones—poses enormous challenges. The task of “reinventing the wheel” for mobile shopping is daunting.
Repurposing the Retail Circular
Let’s take a seemingly mundane example: the familiar store circular. Most people are familiar with these colorful “treasure maps” of store specials and promotions, but few are aware of their complexity. Circulars are hard to produce, especially for a large retail chain with multiple locations. So many products and regional variations; so little time to select the right products to feature effectively in each location.
As we’ve noted, we can help you solve the complex-data-to-print problem extremely well, even when a retailer has millions of SKU combinations and hundreds of local store customizations. The next challenge is how to apply that same, well-organized data to the mobile, digital equivalent of the store circular.
At first glance, a printed circular and a mobile shopping app would seem to have little in common. The former is a colorful but static display of featured products and special offers. The latter is a dynamic, user-specific experience. At its best, a retail app should be the equivalent of a personal shopping assistant, knowing your personal preferences, where to find specific items, and able to satisfy your needs, right now! Mobile shopping apps are, in theory, the pinnacle of personalized service. But the two have an important thing in common: data.
For every item on a printed circular or on a mobile screen, there is a complex universe of data, including:
- Product information (sizes, colors, prices, discounts, part numbers, short and long descriptions, related products, manufacturer(s) – the list is endless)
- Marketing assets (multiple images, logos, promo copy, customer reviews)
- Inventory and sales information, including profit margins
- Marketing strategy and campaign information
All of these data points are stored on separate systems, usually the result of independent development initiatives. No retailer can afford to reinvent new systems, so the challenge—for printed materials and digital apps alike—is to orchestrate these unwieldy systems behind the scenes. The common goal is to give the user a customized experience, enabling them to find what they want and easily buy it.
Data Mischief: Managed
The process for printed materials lays the groundwork for responsive shopping apps. It provides the ability for marketing and product managers to create a collaborative workflow to plan and manage campaigns—not only selecting the products for promotion but also the myriad underlying data. Page designers are provided with a pre-filled template, into which they drag-and-drop the featured products. This includes all the relevant pricing, current images, and any other relevant information. If something in a database changes, the layout is automatically updated right up the moment the piece is sent – in multiple, regional versions – to the printer.
Now, apply that “just in time” approach to digital shopping apps. For each featured product, the complex set of data and digital assets are output, not to a print format but to the cloud repository of the app. If a price changes or an image is updated, the data feeding the app is automatically updated. Unlike print, the available products are not limited to just those being featured but can be searched by the customer and tailored to their needs.
As with the printed circulars, the output retains the relevant versioning information, so an app user in Hawaii will find products and special offers available in their local store, not those available in Alaska or Maine.
Most important, the digital output also includes automatic overlays and tags that the digital app developer can use to trigger a “buy it now” event. In other words, the mobile app can not only find and display a product (and loads of useful information about it) it can also help the user locate it in the store or order it online.
The Secret Sauce of Multichannel Success
We tend to take for granted the ability of our smartphones to find what we need and make it easy to purchase. However, it is only through the right approach to data management that make this possible.
The technologies behind mobile apps can seem like magic, not only saving shopper’s money but also compressing the retailer’s time-to-market and reducing the overhead of manual tagging. LAGO’s approach to digital product catalog software proves the notion that innovation and collaboration can generate significant value.