By Patrick Weilmerier | AmplifyRead Visual SKUs interview with Kate Ersly from Resource/Ammirati, an IBM company. They needed a DAM solution to help their customer, a Fortune 500 company, create, manage, format, and send images for thousands of products across 20 brands. Read[...]
Manufacturers have very different digital asset management needs than retailers and etailers (the manufacturer’s customers). This is mainly due to their business model – they manufacturer products and sell them to businesses that sell them to end users.
Since manufacturers produce products, they are responsible for supplying customers with the product information needed to sell these products. This product information includes digital assets – images, videos, audio files, data sheets, marketing brochures, and the list goes on.
A digital asset management system designed for manufacturers should consider two broad factors:
- The manufacturer is continually creating digital assets of their products.
- The manufacturer is continually sending digital assets to their customers.
This post focuses on 4 digital asset management features manufacturers require. Collectively, these features address the broad factors listed above.
To add context to each feature, I use the Automotive Aftermarket industry as a case study. I do this for two reasons:
- The DAM needs of Automotive Aftermarket manufacturers are similar to those of manufacturers in other industries with millions of products.
- The Automotive Aftermarket represents many of the world’s largest manufacturers and has an estimated market size of $300 billion in the United States alone.
The Top 4 Digital asset management needs of manufacturers
Below is a list of the top DAM needs manufacturers have:
- DAM must include product image production workflows.
- DAM must have the functionality to create customer profiles.
- DAM must allow for automated digital asset distribution.
- DAM must accommodate industry standard digital asset data.
1. DAM must include product image production workflows
For sales, especially ecommerce, retailers and etailers must have up-to-date digital assets of all the products they sell.
Although some digital asset types are gaining in popularity (e.g. video, 360 rotating images) product images are still the most popular and effective digital asset. In fact, when it comes to ecommerce, product images are not optional – ecommerce without product images is pointless.
Manufacturers take on the responsibility of product image production for several reasons:
- They have no choice: their customers do not want to or expect they should bear the cost associated with product image production.
- Brand consistency: they want to control how their brands are presented to end users during the sales process.
- Maximize sales: product images are proven to increase online sales. If manufacturers provide their customers with up-to-date product images they will benefit from increased sales.
- Reduce returns: product images are proven to decrease product returns by allowing the end user to confirm that the product they are buying is indeed they product they require. Product returns represent a huge cost to manufacturers.
The majority of manufacturers have ongoing product photography projects either with an in-house studio or outsourced to a service provider.
Manufacturers need product image production management workflows built directly into their digital asset management systems so that:
- Digital asset managers are able to monitor product imaging projects in real time.
- Digital assets can be distributed automatically to customers once they have passed QA.
Product image production workflows built into the DAM system should include:
- Product photography production.
- Product image production project management.
- Product image editing and QA.
- Product image cataloging.
- Product image format and distribution to customers.
- Product image reporting.
Automotive Aftermarket Example:
Large Aftermarket manufacturers capture product images for thousands of products at multiple geographical locations concurrently. As products are photographed, their images are uploaded immediately to the DAM system and available for editing and QA. Final images are automatically distributed to as all customers according to the customer’s unique specifications. The DAM system reports on the images that are in production, have passed QA and ready for publishing, have not been taken yet (missing images), and have been sent to customers. This makes the process of product image production much more efficient and allows digital asset managers to manage their product image libraries and customer image deliveries in a single system (DAM).
2. DAM must have the functionality to create customer profiles
The manufacturer has a unique digital asset relationship with each customer. The DAM system must account for aspects of this customer ‘digital asset’ relationship including:
- The products the customer sells.
- The digital asset types the customer requires in order to sell.
- The format, frequency and method the customer requires digital assets sent to them.
- The digital asset data the customer requires in addition to the assets.
All the customer ‘digital asset’ relationship details are stored in the DAM system. Customer profiles can be managed easily, saving time and resources.
Automotive Aftermarket Example:
Consider how complex the digital asset management process is in the Automotive Aftermarket.
- Your typical manufacturer is required to send digital assets to all their customers on a regular basis when new products are introduced and / or assets are updated.
- Manufacturers can have a customer base ranging from a few to hundreds.
- Most customers have specific digital asset formatting requirements e.g. file type, naming convention, resolution, size.
- Manufacturers can have tens of thousands of products.
- Each product has multiple digital assets associated to them.
- Each customer buys a unique subset of the manufacturer’s products.
You can see that the management and distribution of digital assets to customers can become very time-consuming and complex.
In the absence of a DAM system, the manufacturer has no choice but to cobble together disparate tools and to throw resources at the problem in order to ensure customers have up-to-date and complete digital assets. On the other hand, significant efficiencies can be realized from a DAM system with customer profile functionality.
3. DAM must allow for automated digital asset distribution
It is critical that digital assets are distributed to customers efficiently.
Why is this so important? In a word, SALES!
With ecommerce, when a manufacturer’s customer does not have up-to-date and complete digital assets they are guaranteed to lose sales.
Digital assets help increase online sales. Just think when the last time you purchased a product online that had NO product images, I would bet it was either a long time ago or never.
So the number one most important thing about digital asset distribution to customers is that it happens quickly.
So what role does DAM play in the distribution of digital assets?
It starts with a customer profile (see point #2 above) detailing the manufacturer’s ‘digital asset’ relationship with the customer. Then digital assets are formatted, sized, and named according to the customer’s profile using a dynamic asset conversion engine. Assets are then delivered according to the frequency and method set out in their profile. All this happens automatically, no manual intervention at all (once the profile is setup), which saves time and money. As well, digital assets get in the hands of the customer faster which equals more sales.
Automotive Aftermarket Example:
Companies in the automotive aftermarket have very dynamic product catalogs – products are updated often and, with every new vehicle introduced, hundreds of new products are produced. Most manufacturers find the process of formatting and distributing digital assets to their customers an extremely resource-intensive task.
With a DAM system, automotive aftermarket manufacturers distribute their digital assets according to the following workflow:
- They set up detailed profiles for all customers in their DAM system. A list of products the customer buys is part of the profile.
- When the digital assets are updated or digital assets for new products are created, the customer profile is triggered.
- The DAM asset conversion engine formats the digital assets according to the customer’s profile.
- Digital assets are delivered to customers according to the frequency and method detailed in their profile.
4. DAM must accommodate industry standard digital asset data
Most industries have associations and standards bodies that work to set formats and rules governing how product information is traded between manufacturers and their customers. These standards are designed to streamline the processes involved in trading product data between data creators (manufacturers) and data receivers (distributors, retailers, and etailers). Both creators and receivers build their data systems tailored to these standards allowing for efficient and cost-effective data transactions.
These product information standards include sections that specify the digital asset data that must be transferred with the digital assets themselves.
In order to manage and distribute industry-compliant digital asset data with the digital assets, the DAM system must have the functionality to create and manage data forms that can accept manually entered or imported digital asset data. This functionality needs to be flexible so that it can accommodate changes made to industry data standards and to allow manufacturers who operate in multiple industries, each with its own industry specific data standards, to manage digital asset data efficiently.
Automotive Aftermarket Example:
Automotive Aftermarket is a unique industry in that it produces millions parts that fit thousands of vehicles (makes, models and years). In order for manufacturers to sell automotive parts they must be able to tell their customers which vehicles their parts fit. In addition to this vehicle information, the manufacturer must send product specific information to their customers. This product information is defined in a detailed industry standard called PIES – Product Information Exchange Standard.
Included in PIES is the format and structure of the digital asset data that needs to be sent to the customer with the digital assets. PIES digital asset information includes digital asset file type, file size, dimensions, resolution, and many other data items.
Committees are continually refining PIES by removing, changing, and adding fields. The digital asset management system needs to easily accommodate the changes to the standard and output digital asset data automatically when assets are distributed to customers.
Over to you…
Are these 4 ‘must-have’ digital asset management features important to your business?
Please share your comments on this post; we would love to hear your opinion.