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January 10, 2022

Barbara Jenny-Wilson of Coty: How To Get Your Content and Data Ready for the Digital Shelf

Written by: Satta Sarmah Hightower
“What does ready actually mean? Ultimately, you want to make sure that the right people have the right content when they need it."
Barbara Jenny-Wilson, Director of Digital Content Programs at Coty

Getting content live on the digital shelf requires a high degree of backend orchestration and organizational alignment, but ecommerce changes so rapidly that it’s often difficult for brands to operationalize their content processes effectively.

In order to create a winning digital shelf strategy, one of the first critical steps your brand needs to take is assessing your content and data readiness. Fortunately, Lauren Livak, director of the Digital Shelf Institute and formerly Johnson and Johnson’s head of North American digital shelf strategy, and Barbara Jenny-Wilson, director of digital content programs at Coty, have provided a roadmap for how brands can achieve success on the digital shelf. 

During a recent webinar, “Assessing Data and Content Readiness for Your Digital Transformation Journey,” Livak and Jenny-Wilson shared how brand manufacturers can conquer their current data and content challenges to deliver a better digital experience. Here’s their action plan and tips on how your brand can execute against it. 

Why Data and Content Readiness Is Crucial for Brands

Achieving data and content readiness is so important because these two elements are “the backbone of the digital shelf,” Livak says.

Customers are going to a brand’s product detail page, looking at images, reading product descriptions and specifications, and using all this data to make an informed buying decision. 

“So, it really is critical you not only have that data and content visible to the consumer, but that you also have a process internally for what teams to talk to and which systems have that data and content so you can get it live,” Livak says.

Livak adds that “content is really an iceberg.” What she means by this is that content can be viewed in two ways: what the customer sees on the product detail page and all the backend processes and cross-functional collaboration required of brands to get this content live. 

“What you don't see, and all the wheels that are turning internally within an organization, is what content powers that digital shelf process,” Livak says. “What systems does it live in? Potentially, what gaps are there? How are you working internally within silos to get that data? Are there any issues with it? What is the level of complexity of your taxonomy? Is there a governance process?”

Answering these foundational questions is key to getting content and data ready for the digital shelf. 

The Building Blocks of Content Readiness

To be digital shelf-ready, brands need to understand what questions customers will ask about their products, organize their data and deploy it effectively to answer these questions, and optimize their product detail pages accordingly. Jenny-Wilson offers this six-step process for how brands can ensure all their content and data comes together to accelerate the customer’s path to purchase:

1. Define the Data

Start by defining the data you need and then do your due diligence to understand what systems this data currently lives in within your organization. Typically, the relevant data may sit within a product lifecycle management (PLM), product information management (PLM), or product experience management (PXM) system.

2. Run Tests

Next, your brand should test launch content with retailers.

“The reason why it's important to run tests early is so that you understand whether that is truly the right source system or source place for that data and if it's actually maintained,” Jenny-Wilson says. “If you run some tests, you can see if this is actually a valid element of source data. Otherwise, you could potentially bet on the wrong horse.”

3. Automate How Your Data Enters Your Source Systems

After you confirm whether your company’s system is well maintained, your brand should consider investing in automation to streamline how your data enters your source systems. This can also help your brand transition away from manual copying and pasting processes, reduce errors, and identify content gaps more easily.

4. Scale Your Data

After your brand has integrated its source systems, you then should focus on scaling your data.

“You really want to make sure that you drive leverage of that new data point to as many retailers and endpoints as possible to create the highest efficiency and ROI on that investment,” Jenny-Wilson says.

5. Audit the Process

Once your brand has a consistent stream of content that is transmitted from your source systems to retailers, it’s important to audit this process to ensure the content on the product detail page is accurate and presented to consumers in the way your organization has designed it. 

Retailers have very complicated source systems, “so auditing is actually an important element to understand that the effort you put in is something that actually materializes on the retailer side, as well,” Jenny-Wilson says.

6. Optimize Your Content

Finally, your brand will need to continually optimize and refine its content based on changing retailer requirements and consumer trends. 

Jenny-Wilson says content optimization entails several things, including the type of data and content local teams are populating onto retailers’ sites and whether it’s optimized to drive conversions. Other important aspects of this stage within the content lifecycle are engaging with retailers to find out what they need and how your brand can best meet their requirements — and then building these considerations into your content processes. 

Jenny-Wilson says brands also shouldn’t forget about proper governance. Core data governance always has existed on the business side, she says, but it’s now time for marketing teams “to apply the same kind of principles and help educate people on what's available [in terms of content and data] and how it should be used.” 

Foster Cross-functional Alignment

As brand manufacturers navigate each stage of the data and content readiness process, cross-functional alignment is critical. They can focus on providing context, defining data ownership, and streamlining collaboration between global and local teams to foster greater cross-functional alignment. 

Provide Context 

Livak says providing context to different teams about why you need specific data can help earn buy-in.

“When you're working cross-functionally and you're asking teams for data, they need to understand why you are asking for it,” she says. “Providing that context just smooths the transition and the working together, because everybody understands the goal you are trying to get to and why and how the ask will support that end goal.”

Understand Who Owns What Data 

Creating a single source of truth for data and content — or at the very least, making sure internal teams understand where to find this information — is also vital. 

“It's important for people to know who's accountable, and who they can go to if something isn’t right, or if it's missing,” Jenny-Wilson says.

Strengthen the Hand Off Between Global and Local Teams

The hand-off between global and local teams is pivotal to success on the digital shelf. 

It’s important for organizations to create governance at the global level that can support local teams as the brand grows. A center of excellence can help streamline execution between global and local teams, but it’s also important for organizations to create proper timelines that give global teams enough time to create content upfront — and local teams enough time to customize this content to their markets. Livak says brands can start by timing their global content creation process to better understand how long it actually takes to develop content.

“That handoff is incredibly critical. It needs to be very clear. It needs to be communicated consistently,” she says. “You need to make sure that you have the right type of content in the right format for the local team to then activate it, so you can get to the launch phase and continue to optimize it.”

Jenny-Wilson says using a PXM platform can keep global teams accountable, streamline communication, and increase visibility across all teams so that local teams aren’t duplicating work or creating new content that already exists at the global level.

“The ultimate goal needs to be that the markets are enabled to do their job because otherwise, sales suffer,” she says.

Position Your Brand for Success on the Digital Shelf

To effectively prepare content and data for the digital shelf, your brand must move from manual to automated processes, better understand what systems currently house this valuable information, and potentially implement new technologies to integrate data and content, ultimately creating a compelling ecommerce experience that drives conversions.

The digital shelf is ever-changing, so your brand’s work will never be done. However, going through the data and content readiness process will allow your organization to be more nimble as you develop new content, refresh existing content, and phase out old content that no longer aligns with your products or brand positioning. 

And as the saying goes, if you stay ready, you never have to get ready. In today’s ecommerce environment, that’s sage advice that will position your brand to win on the digital shelf. 

For more insights on how to create a successful digital shelf strategy, check out this episode of Unpacking the Digital Shelf, "Assessing Data and Content Readiness for Your Digital Transformation Journey."