When Simpli Home experienced a significant growth spurt three years ago, it brought benefits — and, as is often the case, a new set of business challenges. The furniture importer, which sells its products through major e-Commerce sites, including Amazon, Overstock.com, Macy’s and Walmart, had started out selling only a small range of products. But as its offerings grew, the task of preparing product content for multiple web sites grew along with them — by leaps and bounds.
“We had begun with a small number of products and developed an understanding of what kind of content was required by these sites, and how each one needed different information,” said Simpli Home Founder Yoram Weinreich in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. But when the company’s previously limited product range “exploded” three years ago, Simpli Home found that its home-grown data management processes weren’t meeting its needs.
“We would need to re-populate multiple spreadsheets, in different formats, as well as adapt our digital images” for the needs of different retail sites, said Weinreich. “These were often mundane tasks that essentially involved cutting and pasting data all day. Not only was it a huge pain, it also slowed our product launch process, to where a launch could take as long as 30 days.”
Some sites’ product data requirement forms can be spreadsheets with as many as 200 columns. If a supplier has to leave some boxes empty because there’s just not enough time or manpower to complete them, the item can suffer in search rankings and sales conversion.
In 2014, Simpli Home adopted a cloud-based product content management solution from Salsify that has cut its product launch times by 75%, and allowed the company to reallocate internal staff to “smarter, higher-level stuff,” said Weinreich. The company is now up to offering 400 products, and it projects that figure will double for 2016 — growth that would not have been possible without getting its product data management under control.
Creating A Centralized Font Of Wisdom
The solution does more than manage data outputs to e-Commerce spreadsheets, however. “We use it as a central hub for all the disparate points of data about our products,” said Weinreich. “That includes information for web sites, customer service, assembly instructions, CAD [Computer Aided Design], etc. Before, this data had been all over the place. But creating a centralized font of wisdom and having ready access to all this information leads to customer satisfaction — and us not spending a lot of time running around.”
Simpli Home also is leveraging the Salsify solution to manage its promotional activities more effectively, and it is in the process of creating standardized quote sheets for the factories that supply it with product. “Overall we have a much more seamless operation, and Salsify is part of that,” said Weinreich.
The solution’s robustness has increased its value for Simpli Home. “The basic data we’ll upload to an e-Commerce site, like the SKU number, bullet points about the product, long and short descriptions and material specs, is relatively easy,” he explained. “But when you’re getting to customer service issues, the data requirements are much broader. If you have to replace a piece of an item, it’s not just the size of the ottoman you need to know, but the exact dimensions of each of its legs. It’s much more in-depth.”
A strong product data management solution is necessary for a fast-growing company, according to Weinreich, particularly since e-Commerce retailers often still use very manual processes, with vendor management solutions from as far back as the 1990s. “This is the online world, at the forefront of technology, but they are using all this ‘primitive’ stuff,” said Weinreich.
For its part, Simpli Home had to get its own data in order before feeding it into the Salsify system, and data cleanliness is a critical ongoing process. “It takes discipline to keep all the information right,” said Weinreich. “But the more you use this as a repository of information to centralize everything, the better it is for your company.”