Operational feedback: Working without a PIM is hell
What it is like to have a daily agenda driven by product life cycles? Entrepreneur Mathilde Petit has worked as a Trade Marketing project manager for two of the largest worldwide cosmetics groups. She shares her experience with us :
When you work in operational marketing, you constantly have to juggle product data, sales, market analysis and consumer insights to make sure that products which go on sale match customer expectations.
With so much data scattered in various EXCEL spreadsheets and PowerPoints, in depth analysis is rarely carried out. It can be hard finding volunteers to delve into this mountain of information and piece it together.
In this article, I will take you on a trip into my daily life as a Trade Marketing project manager. I’m sure some of you will recognize some of the hoops I have to jump through.
Managing a product catalogue
The first challenge brands run into is building a product range which perfectly fits with market expectations. You have to find the sweet spot between the standardization of your ranges for different physical and online points of sale, and the flexibility required to adapt quickly to customers’ evolving needs.
When you are dealing with a catalogue that has over 800 product lines, you have to be well organized and pragmatic, especially if you are still working in an « old fashioned » way with your trusty Access and EXCEL applications. At least these two tools exist and function well together, even if they are no match for the efficiency and smooth usability of a PIM.
Over a year and a half I became a pro at queries, pivot tables and macros, because with 15 service desks and 3 e-retailers I had 18 different product assortments to manage ! It was a hugely time consuming mine of complexity you had to be meticulous about if you wanted to avoid making gaffs.
If I wanted to cancel or add a reference I had to:
- check everything fit with each service desk merchandising plan
- use the EXCEL purchase order to ask supply teams about available stocks, reserve and schedule deliveries or halt dispatches
- check with our e-retailer teams if it was possible to do this for their range
- modify the 18 assortments in consequence
I’m sure you can imagine the number of mistakes which cropped up in product pages or pricing errors due to bugs or bad communication.
Launching new ranges and forecasts
My favorite part of the job was the reflection process we went through before launching new products and choosing the right references amongst all those available. To lead change you have to be able to take a step back and study market data with care, but if you do this well success is a given!
Unfortunately for me, the time spent benchmarking and testing products was always coupled with the long-winded task of writing and sending emails to update the product catalogue and refresh the different information and images in it. Let’s not forget the « forecasts » or the orders to reserve stock for the first 3 months of launch either. These forecasts were also input by hand using a software program. We shared the software between departments, but it was entirely disconnected from our product catalogues and sales reporting tools.
I dedicated a large amount of my time to analyzing the performance of service desks and sites so that we could quickly and accurately follow sales. This key task for business analysis was a nightmare to carry out.
I received the weekly cash register data from each of our 15 service desks and 3 e-retailers on Thursdays by email. For the service desks, I had to translate our distributor’s references into our brand SKUs, which incurred a fair few errors from the outset! What with inconsistencies and old references which were still being distributed, the first big job was to moderate everything.
There was a big juicy cherry on the cake… The register extracts weren’t over the same time periods, Saturday to Saturday for the service desks and Sunday to Sunday for e-commerce… So the second consolidation phase was all about getting everything into the same time frame. From there, I simplified and modified each EXCEL file so that the columns being analyzed matched with the format that had been programmed into Access.
After copying and pasting 18 times, I executed my query to get a pivot table in EXCEL. I could finally analyze the global sales and service desk sales for each segment, range, category and product ! This table had to be meticulously cross checked with the current assortment of each service desk to make sure they did not continue to sell old products.
3 hours later, I could finally fill out my KPI tables and create global and individual performance reports and adapted marketing plans for each service desk.
All these processes I’ve told you about were a real handicap and stopped us from being reactive when issues arose. More importantly, they stopped us growing our brand’s business. When you manage a retail or online brand you are dependent on the products you put on sale and the relevance of your assortments.
Having interconnected and agile tools like a PIM or a DAM is a must now! These tools will allow you to streamline the flow of shared data between departments, but above all, you can use them to modify and communicate information with them easily, error free. Taking the weight of all the associated risks and issues off of your teams’ shoulders will allow them to concentrate on value added tasks!
You might want to read this:
Collaboration and PIM [1/2] : get ready for a shake up in product marketing !