I want to start with a warning: this post contains a lot of technical and conceptual thoughts around information logistics and how to be less exposed to unknown risks when implementing a technical platform. If you still are reading, let me start by giving this some context to elaborate.
You as an organization have tried to communicate a digital offering to the market. You know that it is a big challenge to organize your customer touchpoints (Channels, eCommerce stores, mCommerce, and catalog). It is a relatively straightforward thought process to decide on colors and strategies for achieving a great customer experience on paper, because these are all very visible challenges. But to generate the content that will create the story of your products, and get it out to all customer touchpoints with consistency is very hard over time. However, this content is the foundation for giving your customer that great experience. The information you want to get out to your channels must be rich in content to tell an inspiring story around your products. This is basic information logistics.
There are three basic rules when working with information logistics and moving product information across channels in an efficient way:
These are all contradictory rules, which is why it is a challenge to keep a consistent and inspiring story around your products in all customer touchpoints over time. The challenge is to know where to draw the line; you must know what information is needed for generating a great customer experience, but you must also know where the line for flexibility and adaptability to all customer touchpoints goes.
Here I would like to stop and highlight inRiver´s fantastic partner community with well over 600 certified consultants from the inRiver Academy. With the skill, knowledge and ingenuity that this community has acquired, combined with the way inRiver is architected, we have a very good recipe for creating and building flexible and agile solutions for our customers. This is something we believe makes us very strong: our community.
If we take a look at a specific area where this mix of Community & inRiver Architecture is very useful, it is in the decision-making process where a business challenge is addressed. Should this challenge be addressed within the platform, or should it be addressed in the framework around the platform? Obviously there are a lot of answers to this question, but these arguments can be made:
One area where this is truer than others is information logistics, where information travels in and out of different domain models. More often than not, these models change in either format or the information they require to perform.
So when information is onboarded to a platform, the information arrives as data in a specific format. When it is released, it goes out as enriched information, with more data in a new format. To excel at this, it must be easy to add new fields, or new content - but also easy to adjust the format of the data structure when building a solution.
When making a platform choice, I believe you should seek to minimize your exposure to risk, and maximize the gains (create better product stories and customer experiences) for your organization. We all know that implementing a large platform is always tightly linked with corresponding large risks. You can never have 100% control over the risks involved when implementing new platforms, but by choosing an agile, purpose-built, best-of-breed platform, you will probably minimize your exposure to unknown risks when moving forward.
-- Jimmy Ekbäck, CTO --
On our inRiver PIM platform, the PXM (Product Experience Management) concept ties into one of the best illustrative images I have seen on marketing technologies. The image, made by Gartner, shows all emerging marketing technologies in the form of a subway map. In order to get this whole ecosystem of marketing technologies to work, they need one repository for marketing content and one story. This is where the inRiver PXM concept fits in – working as the center of all marketing technologies as a Dynamic Marketing Hub.
What I have been told over the years is that our customers find it hard to choose a platform that will help them benefit from all these emerging marketing technologies, and knowing that the choice will not lock them up in a rigid platform with nowhere to go after the initial implementation. With a complex ecosystem of new marketing technologies, it is important to be antifragile in your choices. The concept comes from the fantastic book “Antifragile” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, where he describes things that benefits from disorder and thrive on optionality (benefiting from more than one outcome), amongst other topics.
At one point, when I had the time and the pleasure of reading this book, I was inspired to do a thought experiment with time, since time is the ultimate judge of what will work and what will fail. This is always revealed by time. If you look at time in a simplistic way of past, present and the future, you can go back five years in time to look at some ideas and predictions that were made then and there. For example, take the economic analysts giving stock market advice, or the technology experts giving predictions on the world domination of some technology or company. When you heard about these predictions then and there, they most likely made sense. But with the time perspective on your side, you see a whole other story being revealed. Almost all of these predictions are precisely what they are: predictions. Some were lucky and got it right, but almost all of them failed.
Adapting to changes in the market instead of trying to foresee all eventualities becomes a necessity when dealing with change. If you can adapt in real time, rather than trying to react to changes after they have happened, you have a far more powerful set of options on how to move ahead with your marketing strategies.
What we are trying to achieve, is to make your organization’s investment in a marketing platform antifragile by using inRiver’s agile Marketing Model. This will enable you to easily adapt to the changes in the market, since you can adapt and change the Marketing Model easily to suit new requirements and new ways of telling the story about your products.
An important point is also that it also gives you the possibility to capitalize on the available options in the market at a low cost. If you have no options left, and must make major changes to keep up with the demands in the market, everything becomes quickly significantly more expensive.
So when you scope and plan your journey to tell the story of your products, make sure you are on a platform that will support you in this mindset:
Think big, start small, scale fast.
-- Jimmy Ekbäck, CTO --
Working in today’s digital era, it is central to focus on the customer experience, and to place the customers at the center of your business. There is a lot of talk about omni-channel, multi-channel or cross-channel, but all these different names come from skilled spin doctors that just display a software vendor’s perspective. If we just go to ourselves as consumers, we do not think in terms of channels - we want the full story on the products, regardless of where we consume them, to be able to make an informed choice (or at least that is what think we do). If you have read the fantastic book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman, you know that we have two systems that operate how we make choices. It is System 1 that takes most of our decisions - based on feelings and not based on rationality - which is why the story and the experience of the products affects us when making a purchase decision. We all know that this consumer journey is not linear by any means. We browse for information, and expect to find good, solid product offerings and brand experience when we meet a brand in different contexts. This applies both to our personal life as to our professional life, and gives brands and retailers a whole new challenge: to have all these stories i.e content ready for all customer touch points, wherever and whenever the customers expect it. We at inRiver hear different versions of this every time we talk with our customers.
How do you then reach to that point of efficiency for your Product Experience Management (PXM)? What we try to do with the PXM concept is to marry three different domains - PIM, DAM and MRM. Bringing the best from each of these domains into our platform, and focusing on the following three aspects is a good start:
Content – Facilitate for others to supply quality content, and make sure you have quality content on all your products to enable your products to tell a story
Context - Create the right stories for the right touch points, making sure that you are attracting, converting, and retaining your customers no matter where you meet them (store, digital, magazine etc).
Conversion – Take control of how your products and assortments are performing in the different customer touch points, showing clearly if you really are delivering that product experience, or if you should refine your content further.
By working with your products and focusing on these three aspects, you will make sure all your products are telling a story in all your customer touch points. Also, when working consistently with your product stories, you will find that this boosts the effect of other marketing technologies. Securing that every product that is online has the correct story to tell, and that the product is segmented with the right facets to make sure it shows up in the right contexts gives an exponential effect.
So make sure all your products are telling a story….
-- Jimmy Ekbäck, CTO --