By Patrick Weilmerier | AmplifyIn many industries manufacturers are responsible for supplying their customers with the product information needed to sell these products. This product information includes digital assets – images, videos, audio files, data sheets, marketing brochures, etc.
How Resource/Ammirati Uses Visual SKUs DAM Software to Manage and Send Product Images to Retailers for Fortune 500 Global Manufacturer
This blog post summarizes my interview with Kate Ersly from Resource/Ammirati. Kate is Senior Manager, Omni-Channel at Resource/Ammirati. Her focus is on helping clients drive sales through ecommerce channels.
Kate has been using Visual SKUs Digital Asset Management software for a year and a half to manage and send thousands of product images, on behalf of their fortune 500 global manufacturer client, to 25 of the world’s largest retailers including Walmart, Amazon, Target, Home Depot, and Lowes. Resource/Ammirati is a marketing agency formed in 2014 by the integration of digital marketing agency Resource and New York advertising firm Ammirati. They have over 400 associates spanning three offices. They focus on building open brands and ‘everywhere commerce’ for clients like Birchbox, DSW, Nestlé, Newell Rubbermaid, North American Breweries, P&G, Pirate’s Booty, Sherwin-Williams, White Castle and Victoria’s Secret. Check out their website here for more information. In this interview I ask Kate the following questions:
- Can you describe the challenges you were facing before deciding on a DAM system?
- Why did you think a DAM system may be the best solution?
- What were the key features you required in a DAM system?
- Why did you select Visual SKUs DAM?
- Describe how you use DAM in your business today?
- How many (and what type of) assets are you managing in your DAM?
- How important is the image formatting and sending function?
- Has Visual SKUs DAM produced the results you expected?
Here is my interview with Kate.
1. Can you describe the challenges you were facing before deciding on a DAM system?
Companies consider a Digital Asset Management system for all kinds of reasons – managing digital assets is inefficient and costly, sales are being lost due to delays getting digital assets into the marketplace, low customer satisfaction due to poor quality or non-existent digital assets, etc. What challenges were you experiencing that motivated you to consider a DAM solution?
Kate: One of our clients, a global manufacturer with over 50,000 active products spanning a large number of brands, was having difficulty acquiring, managing, and distributing product images to their retailer community which included Walmart, Amazon, Target, Home Depot, and Lowe. Our client knew they were losing sales because their retailers did not have quality images of all the products they sell. They needed to acquire consistent high-quality images of their products and send these images to their retailers. They approached Resource/Ammirati to see if we could help. The first thing I did was review the state of their current image library. I found outdated images and many products with no images at all. Next, I looked at the image specifications of all their retailers – file name, image size, file type, delivery method, data to be sent with the images, etc. I learned that every retailer had unique image requirements.
2. Why did you think a DAM system may be the best solution?
It seems like you were faced with a significant task – thousands of products without images, many retailers needing images, and every retailer having different requirements. At what point did you consider a DAM solution?
Kate: When I looked at all the tasks involved in meeting our client’s goals I could see that this project was huge. I estimated that I would need a team of 10 people to effectively manage the images, format them to meet the retailer’s specs, and report on products that have images, products that are missing images, retailers that have images, and retailers that are missing images. I was not in a position to hire 10 people and I knew that a manual approach was not the way to go. To be successful I would need software tools, preferably a digital asset management solution.
3. What were the key features you required in a DAM system?
When you began your search for a DAM system what features were on your ‘must-have’ list?
Kate: To successfully execute on this project I needed the software to satisfy 6 broad requirements.
1. Efficient asset management. I wanted a system that was easy to use yet powerful enough to accomplish all the project tasks without having to hire a team. In fact, I really wanted a system that empowered me to be a one-person team.
2. Organization and search. I wanted to be able to organize digital assets by brand and be able to search for specific assets or groups of assets based on very specific search criteria i.e. all images that are less than X pixels high and Y pixels wide, all products for brand X that are missing a top view.
3. Image formatting and delivery. I felt that formatting and sending thousands of images to over 25 retailers that have specific formatting requirements and that sell a sub-set of our client’s products would be complex and time-consuming. I wanted the system to at least partially automate this process. I also knew that the retailers would be sending me one-off requests for images and I wanted to be able to respond to these requests quickly.
4. Image metadata management. Each retailer requires image related data to be sent with their images. And all retailers want this data formatted in a very specific way. Creating these data files would be complicated, time-consuming, and prone to human error. Ideally I wanted the data files to be created automatically by the software and sent with the images.
5. Reporting. As the person responsible for tracking project progress, I wanted to be able to generate reports to share with my management team and our client. These reports would need to detail how many images, by brand, were acquired within a specific time period, how many images were sent to which retailers, and which products are missing images. I wanted to be able to send the ‘missing images report’ to our product photography partner so they can begin the image acquisition process.
6. Automation. I knew that managing thousands of images and formatting and sending them to retailers would be an extremely error prone activity. Sending the wrong images with inaccurate data to the wrong retailers would impact our client’s business and could result in lost sales, higher product returns, and decreased customer satisfaction. I needed the software to reduce human error through automation. The fewer manual processes the better.
4. Why did you select Visual SKUs DAM?
I assume you looked at several systems before making your final decision. Why did you select Visual SKUs DAM?
Kate: In the end I choose Visual SKUs DAM for two main reasons; 1) it had all the functionality I was looking for, and 2) it represented the best overall value. The repository feature would allow me to organize assets by brand. The search function looked powerful and flexible, I could create baskets and collections of assets based on my searches and share these assets internally or with retailers.
The customer profile feature would allow me to create a detailed profile for each retailer. I could define the exact product mix they sell, how they require their images formatted and sent, and how they need their image data file formatted. I could also schedule these deliveries to each retailer. I felt that this would make the format and sending process straightforward, it would save time, and it would help reduce human error.
The reporting feature would allow me to produce detailed production reports that track my progress. I could also create reports listing products that are missing images so I can guide my product photography production team. Overall I felt Visual SKUs DAM was the best fit on a functionality and cost basis.
5. Describe how you use DAM in your business today?
It’s been over a year and a half since you implemented Visual SKUs DAM, can you describe how Resource/Ammirati is using the system today?
Kate: Visual SKUs DAM plays an integral role in every process involved in managing and distributing digital assets on behalf of our client. Here are some examples of how I use Visual SKUs DAM daily:
- Repositories: To help organize the images and easily navigate to and search for assets or groups of assets, I have repositories setup by brand.
- Image Metadata: I defined metadata fields to record the image data. I either enter data into the templates manually or I use the import function. This metadata allows me to do complex searches for images meeting specific metadata criteria.
- Customer Profiles: I have detailed customer profiles setup for each retailer. These profiles contain the retailer’s image formatting requirements like image file type (jpg, tif, png etc.), image dimensions (height and width in pixels), DPI, white space around the product in the image, and how images are delivered (i.e. FTP). A great feature of the Visual SKUs system, relating to customer profiles, is the ability to retain the clipping path when the images are formatted. Most retailers require a clipping path in the final images.
- Substitutions: I have substitutions setup for each customer profile. Here I enter the details on how the retailer wants the images named. For example, if the retailer requires the image view name appended to the product number separated by an underscore (i.e. 123456_TOP.jpg) this information is included in the substitution template. When the images are automatically formatted by the system they are named according to the information in the substitutions template. This is very helpful because most retailers have a unique way they want their files named. Doing this manually would be inconceivable.
- Image Used As: I use this ‘image used as’ function to associate a single image to multiple product numbers. This is great because it allows me to increase my image coverage and saves considerable time and cost duplicating images.
- Image Data Manifests: I created data manifests that define the data fields each retailer needs populated with image data. The system creates the data file on the fly when the images are formatted and it sends both the images and the data to the retailer.
- Jobs: I create and schedule jobs in the system. A job is the function for creating the image and data files that are sent to the retailers. These jobs use the information in the customer profile, the data manifests, and the substitutions to format the images and upload them to either my internal FTP server for QA or directly to the retailer’s FTP server. These functions work together to automate the entire image formatting and delivering process. The time this saves me is incredible.
- Reporting: I produce reports to determine if I am meeting my production deadlines and goals. I generate reports detailing the product images that I need to produce. These reports are also used to keep my management and my client informed on our progress and the status of the image library.
6. How many (and what type of) assets are you managing in your DAM?
Since using Visual SKUs DAM, how many assets do you now have in the system and what is the asset mix? How do you see this growing and changing in the future?
Kate: We have built the digital asset library to over 15,000 images and to date we have formatted and sent over 40,000 images to the retailers. Because of retailer demand we have focused exclusively on product images. Over the coming few years I could see the number of images acquired and managed in the DAM system growing 3 or 4 times. Once all priority products have images we will be moving to PDFs and other digital assets.
7. How important is the image formatting and sending function?
Obviously, for a global manufacturer selling through major retailers, having product images in the market as quickly as possible is critical. How have you used Visual SKUs DAM to ensure that your client’s product images are in the hands of retailers quickly?
Kate: At Resource/Ammirati we focus on helping our clients grow their ecommerce sales. Product images and higher ecommerce sales go hand in hand. For this reason I find the function for formatting and sending images to retailers one of the most important.
With Visual SKUs DAM, once the customer profiles, substitutions for naming the assets, and the data manifests are set up, it is extremely easy to format and send product images and image data to retailers. A few clicks and the system does the rest. And because the format and distribution process is automated human error is almost completely eliminated. There is no risk of formatting or naming the images incorrectly, the system does this for you.
There is no risk of sending inaccurate data to the retailers, the system takes care of this as well. And there is no risk of sending a retailer images for a product they don’t sell or not sending images for products they do sell – the system knows which products each retailer sells and sends images accordingly.
8. Has Visual SKUs DAM produced the results you expected?
Are you happy with your decision to go with Visual SKUs DAM and has it produced the results you expected?
Kate: I am extremely happy with Visual SKUs DAM. Here are few notable results:
- With just me and Visual SKUs DAM, no other support staff whatsoever, I have been able to manage and send more than 40,000 images to 25 retailers, named and formatted according to their specifications. That is incredibly efficient and cost-effective. If I was to attempt to do this manually without a tool like Visual SKUs DAM it would cost me at least 3 times as much and that’s not factoring in the cost of human error and rework.
- Our client is generating new sales simply because they have accurate images and data in the hands of their retailers. And the speed that I can get these images to the retailers means they are able to generate sales sooner. This translates into more sales revenue for our client. And we are able to provide a great service to our client. Everyone wins.
- Retailer satisfaction levels have increased significantly. It is not uncommon to get ‘urgent’ requests from retailers to send a new set of images. The reasons vary (new file names, new file types etc.) but they always need the images ASAP. If done manually, responding to these ‘urgent’ requests could take weeks. With Visual SKUs DAM I can format and send a new set of images with a few clicks. The retailers are amazed with how quickly I can accommodate their requests and they have confidence in the accuracy of the images and data we send them.
- Keeping my management team and our client informed on all aspects of the project has been simple – I generate reports and distribute them to all stakeholders – quick and easy.
- Human error has been reduced tremendously. Here’s a simple example, if I update 10 images, and these images need to go to 15 retailers, with 3 clicks these images are formatted, named, and ready to send to the retailers along with the associated image data. If this was done manually, it would take ages, and the risk of human error would be high. There are many other examples of how human error is reduced or eliminated with Visual SKUs DAM.
- I have realized significant time-saving from being able to automate the creation of the image data file. Not only does this saves valuable time it eliminates the risk of sending inaccurate data to the retailers.
9. Do you have any closing thoughts?
It is interesting learning about your experience with DAM software and how it has helped you provide complex services to your clients. Do you have any closing thoughts that you would like to share?
Kate: Well just to reiterate what I have said several times – Visual SKUs DAM has been an excellent tool for Resource/Ammirati. There is no way I could have achieved what I did over the past year and a half without this tool, it has made me incredibly productive, it has allowed Resource/Ammirati to provide an excellent service to our client, and there is more we can do with the tool when providing services to our current and future clients. Working with Visual SKUs has been a pleasure, I look forward to a great working relationship in the coming years.