Confronting the product content challenge: An interview with Rob Gonzalez of Salsify

August 10, 2015
Cynthia Stephens
Written By
Cynthia Stephens

On a scale of one to 10, how difficult do you find it to manage product content across all sales channels on a global basis, and keep it accurate and up to date? Chances are, if you’re like most industry professionals we speak with, you find it very frustrating. Fortunately, there are solutions that can help you meet the challenge, as we discussed with Rob Gonzalez, Co-founder and Vice President of Business Development of Salisfy in a recent interview. 

First, Rob put the problem in context: “When product information is missing on a retailer’s site, especially information that drives the search and navigation, you risk losing the sale on that product, losing the entire shopping cart, and losing customers altogether. They may never come back.”

He continues: “It’s all about the consumer experience. Every single time a consumer interacts with a particular e-commerce site, they’re either building trust with the site or losing trust. When I go to the retailer’s site and there’s no information or minimal information on the product I’m looking for, I get frustrated and go somewhere else—usually to Amazon. It really comes down a crisis of confidence that’s driven by a poor consumer experience.”

From manageable to nearly impossible—evolution of the content challenge

At Salsify (www.Salsify.com), Rob spearheads the company’s drive to provide content management and syndication solutions for leading brands and retailers. In this role, he has seen firsthand how the demand for accurate, comprehensive product content has developed over the past few years.

 

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“It really starts with Amazon,” Rob says. “People were sort of afraid of them in the early days, but it was not existential fear. Retailers saw them as possibly a future threat, but the Walmarts, Staples and Targets of the world didn’t see the necessity of introducing major initiatives to give themselves endless aisles like the Amazon model. They had relatively limited product assortments of maybe 100, 000 to 200,000 SKUs online—and while the cost to photograph each product and write customer-friendly descriptions was considerable, it was still do-able. But now all that has changed.”

 Rob states that with retailer sites now featuring millions of SKUs, there’s an insatiable consumer demand for more and more product photos, descriptions and  updates—a demand that’s unrelenting and growing exponentially day by day.

“There is a convergence now of trends that are putting significant pressure on the digital supply chain—the rise of e-commerce, the growth of Amazon, the advent of the endless aisle, and the explosion of mobile. It means that retailers can no longer build the data themselves; they have to get the suppliers on board. But the suppliers are finding they have no workable way of coping in a cost-effective or timely way. So it opens up the possibility of a company like Salsify actually solving this new, tremendously painful problem on both sides of the supply chain.”

Vendor participation, real-time collaboration and more automation

Rob observes that the demand on suppliers has started a major trend. “We’re seeing vendors are becoming active participants in the merchandising of their products, everywhere the products are sold. They’re having more direct opportunity to describe their products, to shoot their images, and to control their brand message—much more than ever before. That’s because retailers are asking them for this data.”

But the interaction is a two-way street. “In return,” Rob notes, “suppliers are increasingly demanding real-time access to key retailers’ websites. So if you’re a major supplier of Walmart or Amazon, you’re looking for the ability to update your product information whenever you need to, and have that go live on the site, practically in real time. You’ve got a brand new image or updated product data—you want to be able to hit a button and make it live.”

There’s are additional areas of opportunity as well. As Rob states, “Ideally, as a supplier, you also want access to analytic data from the retailer to help you understand which products are performing well or poorly, what areas require your immediate attention, and how to go about making improvements.”

“It’s a win-win,” Rob states. “It’s better for the retailer and it’s better for the supplier—a great example of tight collaboration across the supply chain. It means everything will move a lot faster in the future, in real time, with fewer forms, fewer spreadsheets, fewer faxes, and fewer purchase orders. Technology will play a huge role here, with more automation.”

Disruption straight ahead

Rob concludes the interview with another prediction: “We’re at a point in retail and internet technology where I think people are underestimating the amount of change that will take place in the marketplace over the next five years. You might get through one year with nothing major happening. But five years from now, e-commerce and omni-channel are going to have significantly greater impact than people are figuring right now.”

“Too often, the analysts focus on the percentage of e-commerce sales as a percentage of overall retail, of which it’s still just a small part. A lot of the bigger retailers are focused on that, too. But there are people in the business who understand the potential for disruption. Today, more than half of all grocery purchases in the U.K. are done with a mobile phone or via a web browser.”

“That is significant disruption. I think that brands and retailers that are leaning into it and expecting revolution are going to be really big winners. People that are not leaning in hard are going to fall very far behind, very quickly, before they even know it.” 

Digital disruption: Over 50% of grocery shopping in the U.K. is done with mobile phones or via a web browser.

 

For a more detailed look at tight supply chain collaboration, download our whitepaper 12 Breakthrough Ways Brands and Retailers Can Partner More Effectively Online. Or click here to view the full recording of the webinar.

Rob Gonzalez
Co-Founder and VP of Business Development

Rob built the go-to-market team at Salsify from the ground up. Previously he ran inbound marketing and product management for Cambridge Semantics, another Boston-area startup.

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