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The digital hub 2014 05-15 #2

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This month we have an interesting mix of topics. I have devoted more attention to the concept of the long tail and how this is relevant to retailer. Two posts and a deep dive only available for the …

This month we have an interesting mix of topics. I have devoted more attention to the concept of the long tail and how this is relevant to retailer. Two posts and a deep dive only available for the members of this newsletter.
I was also excited to publish the interview with the founder and CEO of Actualog, an interesting implementation of what is coming to be known as Social PIM. Kate Koltunova is a very motivated and deter-mined individual with her own views on what social PIM is. I hope you enjoy her insights as I did,
The book of the month is “Converge—Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology”. Convergence is all about breaking down silos to build a more cohesive organisation to respond to the exigencies of the new and empowered customer. The authors make a strong argument against the traditional way of structuring marketing, technology, and creativity.
Finally, I am glad to open a new small section in this newsletter to introduce not-very-much known PIM players. They generally target mid market retailers where tier 1 providers struggle to enter. This is an interesting phenomenon that I hope I will find the time to share the results of my research.

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  • 1. 1 2014-05-15, n. #2THE DIGITAL HUB This month we have an interesting mix of topics. I have devoted more attention to the concept of the long tail and how this is relevant to retailer. Two posts and a deep dive only available for the mem- bers of this newsletter. I was also excited to publish the interview with the founder and CEO of Actualog, an interesting implementation of what is coming to be known as Social PIM. Kate Koltunova is a very motivated and deter- mined individual with her own views on what social PIM is. I hope you enjoy her insights as I did, The book of the month is “Converge—Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology”. Convergence is all about breaking down silos to build a more cohesive organisation to respond to the exigencies of the new and empowered customer. The authors make a strong argument against the traditional way of structuring marketing, technology, and creativity. Finally, I am glad to open a new small section in this newsletter to introduce not-very-much known PIM players. They generally target mid market retailers where tier 1 providers struggle to enter. This is an interesting phenomenon that I hope I will find the time to share the results of my research. Feel free to email me your comments: michele.arpaia@gmail.com “A small mistake in the beginning is a big one in the end .” (Aristotle) WHAT’S MY PHILOSOPHY? I was born in the pre-digital era. None- theless, digital technology was emerging already at an incredible speed. When it came the time to start working (or stop hanging out at university), the digital was all the rage and had the form of ecommerce. In retrospective we can laugh at the rudimental digitalization of our life just as it was 15 years ago. But I was riding the wave. I have vivid memo- ries of my younger self spending days and nights building web sites, back-end business logic (I was a convinced Java nerd), improve user experience, and tinkering with everything was new. Time went by and I found myself in Aus- tralia. However, though those times are gone I’ve still got the spark for technolo- gy as the product of the practical intel- lect, the exercise of which per se helps perfect us. But all good things can lead us to hubris if we are not careful. So, here it is your dose of good digital sense. http://michelearpaia.blogspot.com THIS MONTH  The Digital Hub  PIM blog entries  Interesting PIM players  Book Review—Converge by Bob Lord  Digital Reflections: The relevancy of the long tail
  • 2. 2 INTERESTING PIM PLAYERS LATEST POSTS PlumSlice uses the cloud to unite all stakeholders to create better products, faster. Our services and software plat- form makes collaboration easy at all stages of product management includ- ing: product conceptualization, design, development, product selection, ven- dor selection, product information management, customer engagement and delivery. Knowing how the cloud works, PlumSlice supports the way people work and communicate today — on mobile devices, socially, and globally. As former e-commerce retailers we first created ClaraStream to more efficiently upload and manage product data on our own e-commerce sites. After creat- ing ClaraStream we were able to signifi- cantly reduce the time and costs associ- ated with these tasks. We quickly learned that we weren’t the only ones experiencing these challenges, and af- ter numerous requests we decided to make ClaraStream available to other retailers selling online. Our firsthand experience has allowed us to create software that meets some of the biggest needs of retailers. ClaraStream is backed by a strong team of e-commerce veterans, technical experts, and sup- port personnel. Contenix is a Product Infor- mation Management platform (PIM) that enables brands, man- ufacturers, and retailers to cen- tralize, manage, and distribute their product content across their global sales channels. Based in the Silicon Valley and founded by a management team experienced with e-commerce, consumer internet, and data ap- plication expertise, we have a common vision of helping com- panies do powerful things with their product data. The Long Tail is still wagging As a matter of fact, no one has ever affirmed that the head and the tail are mutu- ally exclusive. In other words, "focus on the head" is as wrong as saying "focus on the tail". Chris Anderson's seminal work was meant to show how our economy (and culture) is shifting from mass markets to millions of niches. This argument is hard to dispute. Read more Social PIM: Guest interview with CEO of Actualog, Kate Koltunova Social PIM is a term that has recently been growing in popularity and I suspect that it will be acquiring new meanings in the near future. I caught up with Kate Koltunova, CEO and founder of Actualog. She is a very motivated and deter- mined individual with her own views on what social PIM is. I hope you enjoy her insights as I did. Read more The long tail strategy and PIM The driver for the long-tail model is customers expectations. In fact, they demand an increasingly larger and broader assortment of products through various online channels given that the shelf space is no longer a concern. The key insight here for independent retailers is that expanded offerings and selection can reveal de- mand that was otherwise not known to exist. Read more Top reasons to invest in PIM The cost of waiting to invest in PIM is too great. Please pause and repeat it to yourself. This is not a joke. Let's face it. If you are a retailer (small or big makes little difference), what are your most painful challenges? Read more
  • 3. 3 THE BOOK OF THE MONTH Converge – Transforming Business at the Inter- section of Marketing and Technology, by Bob Lord and Ray Velez, 2013, Wiley. According to the authors, convergence is the key to reaching customers in the new world of digital communication. If you are like me interested in how digital innovation is trans- forming businesses at their core, this book is for you. Convergence is all about breaking down silos to build a more cohesive organisation to respond to the exigencies of the new and empowered customer. The authors make a strong argument against the traditional way of structuring marketing, technology, and creativity. They no longer must be separate worlds, speaking different languages, using different kinds of talent. For businesses to succeed today, this has to change. Their argu- ment revolves around five fundamental principles: 1. Customer centricity. Instead of paying lip service to it, the authors actually point out that customer centricity inevitably lead to disruption. Most organizations are behold- en to some age-old organizational chart and not structured around the customer jour- ney (see here for my take on this). 2. Rejection of silos. This is the flip side of convergence. “Technology is no longer a sup- port function. Marketing is no longer just about campaigns.” Savvy businesses are realizing that these are not discrete problems resulting in creative way to improve collaboration across the board. 3. Start-up mentality. This is really a new approach to technology and organizational structure. The new enterprise accepts failures and allows for a more agile discipline. This outlook is vital to creating brand experience that engage customers over the long term. 4. Cross-disciplinary mind-set. This principle strongly related to the rejection of silos. The authors see the need for cross-fertilization as the pillar to break down silos. They lean on Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, who wrote: “When you step into a an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing con- cepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas.” 5. Brand as a service. Finally, successful companies have come to realise that they are in business not to sell stuff (this is a massive mind-set/culture change) but to fulfil cus- tomer’s needs. Subtle distinction? Not really. I believe this is the upshot of convergent companies. In fact, this leads to create an always-on ecosystem for your customers and not a series of marketing campaign that most of the time are as annoying as someone knocking on the door on thanksgiving day trying to sell you stuff. There are few gaps in the book but overall it is a great reading. I also found the last sec- tion, “The road map” an important addition to the book. Especially useful for CMOs and alike. The chapters in this section will assist in implementing and executing the principles of convergence . Particularly practical and important is the chapter on how agile market- ing is a necessary ingredient of digital transformation. The call is for a more active, dy- namic marketing strategy – across a collection of agencies and skill providers. Highly recommended.
  • 4. 4 The relevancy of the long tail Unexpectedly, few posts about The Long Tails have gotten some traction this month. The debate hit the headlines al- most a decade ago but apparently not everyone has grasped the implications of the long tail. I found that little has been expounded about the relevancy of the long tail for retailers at large. The key argument of Mr Anderson’s book is that while traditional companies are limited by shelf space to offering only a relatively small number of "hits," on the Web, they can carry a vastly bigger number of slower-selling items. These "misses," which make up the "tail" of the title, can, he says, add up to a big number - maybe even bigger than sales of the hits. This is a simple observation. In my opinion the debate has got side-tracked while quibbling about the details. Now, retailers do not need to give up on their hits to take advantage of the niche products lying in the tail. But this can be achieved if they’ve designed a customer interface in order to direct them to products in the long tail. Take Blinds.com. It has been able to use internet advertising to monetize the Long Tail. Because of internet advertising, Blinds.com has a distinct advantage over brick and mortar blinds stores, since it does not have to maintain an invento- ry, and it can market to people all over the world. For smaller retailers, using the long tail approach to selling stock can be a good way of differentiating their business from larger chain stores. The main downside of this strategy is that if the buying team gets their figures wrong, the companies involved can be left with thousands of items of unwanted stock that they either have to sell at a substantial loss or worse still right-off and pass on to charities or recycling firms. As reinforced by Ted Hurlbut, "The Long Tail is… a demonstration that there is business to be done in carefully selected items that deepen assortments in a retailer's niche that appeal specifically to the customer's imagination." These are my top three tips for retailers:  By spreading your risk with a wider product list you can appeal to a larger group of customers who may not be in- terested in all your products, but may be excited about one or two  Foster a good relationship with your suppliers and buy a range of items from them all at the same time, so even if they can’t offer you a single product discount they may be able to do a deal on a pallet load of different items. Don’t forget, you can always buy more if the items fly off the shelves.  By offering a limited (boutique) shopping experience where items are considered more special, customers begin to consider your store as a shopping destination and are much more inclined to spread the word about their recent purchases on Twitter,Pinterest other social media. You can also back up these ‘niche’ or limited products with a core range of everyday essentials. So even if customers fail to buy your more specialised items, the lure of those products will at least get them in to your store why they can buy something else. NEXT MONTH  Interview with Jorij Abraham about the future of PIM  Review of “Product Information Management”, the first book about PIM  More PIM posts coming up DIGITAL REFLECTIONS

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