The changes made to our lives as a result of the measures taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are not changing the future so much as accelerating it and pulling it forwards.
Remote working and learning, video calls with friends and family, food delivery, ecommerce for everything…all of these changes had been long predicted but for the first time, a large proportion of the population are being forced to try out these new ways of doing things sooner than they otherwise would, as old behavioural patterns are disrupted by COVID-19. After the health crisis has abated and life slowly returns to normal, some of these newly adopted behaviours will turn out to be sticky and people will not return to the old way of doing things.
The way that we shop is one area that has seen significant change since the adoption of COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. Brick and mortar stores are closed or significantly restricted in the ways that they can operate and so retail activity is moving online at an unprecedented rate. In the US, ecommerce spend as a share of total retail sales saw 10 years’ worth of growth in 8 weeks. Similarly, click-and-collect retail, where stores are used as (expensive) downtown ecommerce warehouses and distribution centers, saw 208% year-on-year growth over the same period.
The impact of COVID-19 on manufacturers and brands
Vertically integrated brands and manufacturers that previously exercised tight control over the retail journey with their own brick and mortar stores have experienced a sudden loss of insight into the retail experience as they are forced to rely on retail channel partners for sales, and they don’t have the same levels of visibility and control as they are used to.
Manufacturers and brands that previously only sold through retail channel partners and who did not have their own well-developed, direct-to-consumer web properties are rushing to develop these in order to maintain relationships with their customers. A good example of this is the launch of snacks.com and pantryshop.com by Pepsico as places to buy all the different foods, drinks and snacks that are made by the multinational group.
Brands that do not have strong direct-to-consumer businesses are being forced to hand over their retail and distribution operations to Amazon. Brands go to die on Amazon: every product is presented as being equal, which means that product availability and reviews matter more than anything else. What is more: the customer’s brand relationship and loyalty is with Amazon and not with the product manufacturer; retailing on Amazon, the product manufacturer may never even know who their customers are.
In a bid to avoid retailing on Amazon, brands are looking to ecommerce platforms like Shopify that offer manufacturers the opportunity to sell direct-to-consumer while maintaining their own brand and their own customer data.
Product Information Management systems to the rescue
At a time when ecommerce is a much greater share of total retail, the role of the product merchandiser is changing dramatically. Customers’ retail decisions are no longer being made in their local store, in front of a physical shelf but online in web browsers and on mobile phones in front of a digital shelf. The price, place and promotion of a manufacturer’s products are no longer just being compared to products on neighboring shelves but to alternative products from retailers with websites all over the world.
Product Information Management (PIM) systems have arisen as a new software category providing manufacturers with insight into the online competitive landscape and offering tools that enable brands to control their products’ appearances on multiple different website properties.
How Import.io partners with PIM systems
Web data is the fuel that powers Product Information Management systems and Import.io is the Web Data Integration partner of choice with a number of the leading PIM vendors, handling this critical data for them. With our 10 years of experience working at the forefront of Web Data Integration we have long experience of supporting PIM use cases.
Product Information Management functions requiring web data
- Price competitiveness
- MAP compliance
- Regional pricing variance
- Stock level monitoring
- Availability monitoring
- Discount tracking
- Product mix “white space”
- Product variations
Position on shelf
- Keyword result ranking
- Category page ranking
- In-cart pricing
- Winning of the buy box
- Differential delivery pricing
- Regional availability
- Regional pricing
Product details page
- Product page integrity: name, images, videos
- New product development: “next season” product trends and product composition
- Review trends amongst own brand and competitors
- Incident monitoring and response