Onmi-channel publishing automation

What should be automated in marketing?

Marketing automation and inbound marketing are hot topics for marketing. People are concentrating in content production, and automation provides content to potential customers right when and where needed. The marketing automation system replaces ten separate systems and significantly reduces manual work. But can basic marketing automation handle all the publishing in all channels? In my own experience, it is worth exploring options for automating multi-channel publishing, especially if the offering contains a lot of products.

Like all other content, product content should also address its readers correctly and be targeted at each phase of the purchasing path.

Why then is the product content publishing so burdensome? Like all other content, product content should also address its readers correctly and be targeted at each phase of the purchasing path. This need leads to a huge amount of product information.

For example, if you take running shoes, the content for the purchasing path can go like this. First of all, interest in running and getting shoes is inspired by inspirational running pictures in social media. Once there is an interest in the topic, the potential customer may be interested in tips for shoe selection. This can be followed by a comparable sports shoe test of different shoe options. Eventually, one gets to the product page of a shoe from where one buys online or alternatively the shoes are bought from the nearest store.

If we consider that the range of this company includes a hundred shoe models with variations, we are suddenly talking about managing the release of tens of thousands of product information.

When counting the number of separate pieces of product information for this single customer’s purchase path for this single product, it is likely that there will be more than a dozen individual pieces of product information including all the images, texts, feature data, store materials, and articles, not to mention the user recommendations. If we consider that the range of this company includes a hundred shoe models with variations, we are suddenly talking about managing the release of tens of thousands of product information. It is clearly impossible to manage such a quantity without any assistance from automation.

When you publish content to only one channel, it is likely that it is better to do the publishing through the channel’s own content management. As soon as the same content is published to multiple channels, you should consider centralized publishing.

So what’s the solution? As a rule of thumb you could say that when you publish content to only one channel, it is likely that it is better to do the publishing through the channel’s own content management. As soon as the same content is published to multiple channels, you should consider centralized publishing and associated product information- and digital asset management. This will save you from overlapping work.

If you think about the content of that earlier sports shoe example, it would probably be best to publish the content for the early phases of the purchasing path via a marketing automation system. Publishing of product-related product information to web pages, online store and potential merchandising materials such as posters, shelf labels, and other sales promotion material in the store, is not usually possible with marketing automation systems.

Publishing automation systems can be used to define publishing channels for each product information field, and to handle the actual publishing at the touch of a button.

Fortunately, there are also solutions that are just for this purpose. Publishing automation systems can be used to define publishing channels for each product information field, and to handle the actual publishing at the touch of a button.

Automation takes care of all the routine work and it is possible to make full use of the people where they are at their best.

What kind of marketing systems does a company with many products need, in addition to the marketing automation system and publishing platforms? I personally feel that a good product information- and a digital asset management system and the accompanying publishing automation module are often sufficient. In this way, automation takes care of all the routine work and it is possible to make full use of the people where they are at their best: in analysing, planning and in goal-oriented content production.

Adeona PIM 2017

We are currently developing a next generation Adeona PIM system, and while the foundation will be familiar, many things will be changing. Over the years we have learned a lot from PIM in general as well as from our clients, and we are using these insights in the development of a new product version.

Adedona PIM 2017 – highlights:

1. Architecture

The architecture has been updated to match growing needs and to adapt to different environments in the best ways possible. It’s scalable and supports larger amounts of data, and is available for deployment both as a cloud based service as well as on-premise/private cloud service.

 2. Information model

The information model of Adeona has been updated, and while most of the features remain the same, we are introducing some new ones as well. Based on the customer feedback, we have developed upgraded features and information models that support business needs better. Related workshops still continue.

 3. REST API

Everything works via a single interface, and the REST API is available for both internal system use as well as for external systems and developers. All the data within the system is available via uniform interface, which will help with e.g., integration and building data-driven applications.

4. Searchability

Search functionality and finding relevant information are key features in systems with a lot of data, and this is one thing we have really focused on. All the information saved in the system can be fetches swiftly and easily by using the Elasticsearch search engine which indexes all the information in real time. For example, a web store can use the PIM system as a search engine, streamlining the whole project.

5. User interface and usability

All admin access is web browser based, and the new user interface is fast and straightforward. The powerful search feature is used in many ways, and managing especially large amounts of data was taken into consideration during the planning of the user interface.

We are developing the product together with our clients, and the workshops related to the new version were held in March. We gathered together with our clients to go through some key uses of the system, and got familiar with the user interface and the functionalities.

Workshops will continue in the fall, so feel free to join us!

Five good reasons to get PIM

1. Does your product information management process look something like this?

If the answer is yes, contact us and we will help you.

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2. Do you want to provide the best possible customer experience?

In that case, the PIM system is a relevant part of the solution. Through centralized product information management, you will be able to provide high-quality, correct and up-to-date product information through one source to all of your channels and stakeholders – both customers and your own staff.

3. Do you want to boost your product marketing?

By using PIM and its automated publishing solutions you can publish campaign leaflets, product catalogues or cards, create catalogues or leaflets, posters, price lists or shelf labels for shops just by a few presses of a button. You can publish in formats such as PDF, Excel, PowerPoint, and InDesign. See examples of publication solutions here  and here.

4. Do you want to be ready for fast, strategic changes?

If the foundation of your product information management is solid, expanding to new publishing channels, applications or new country or language versions is easy. Via PIM interfaces you can offer product information to e.g. your new retailer’s online store or website, to your customer’s purchasing system or any other channel that you wish to employ. There is no need reinvent the wheel every time.

5. Do you want to get rid of unnecessary manual work phases?

PIM allows you to automatize many routine tasks which would take a long time to do manually (and which often are the most tedious tasks as well). From PIM the product information is brought to the right stakeholders automatically. In addition, you can get rid of excessive copy pasting when you can rapidly produce e.g different Office or InDesign format product publications instead of requiring weeks’ worth of manual work.

Rajapinnat REST API

About API’s and their publicness

A modern application lives or dies based on the availability of its public API. Before having a deeper look into what API’s mean to us, and how they can be used in the most effective way, we should understand the basics.

API (Application Programming Interface) is an interface that allows the application data and functionality to be reached, as well as allowing for further programming of the program or a part of it, for example in regards to standard libraries. These interfaces can function on a very low level and deal with the inner functions of the application itself, for example calling open source libraries within the system. However this article only covers public API’s that are expandable or can be integrated and allow for the application data to be used in a variety of different ways.

API-centric architecture

Traditionally API’s have been considered to be an internal part of the application, or at the very least to be used as a means to integrate something to the application. Modern applications act as services, and this is why it’s important to make sure that expanding the system is just as easy as is the use of the data included in it. Modern applications use and offer a multitude of interfaces, for example social media applications like Facebook and LinkedIn are mainly run on interfaces with separate user interfaces built on top of them (e.g., browser, mobile, etc.).

In an API-centric architecture the applications connect to each other over these interfaces. How a single application has been built doesn’t matter as long as it follows the general practices in its interfaces. API-centric architecture also makes it easier to create device independent applications, so that for example the application can be run on multiple mobile operating systems using the same interface on them all.

 

Adeona_PIM_2017

RESTful API

Using general practices and de facto standards when connecting applications and using the data via different applications makes the whole process easy.

REST (Representational state transfer) is an stateless interface architecture model based on HTTP protocol. Typically REST API offers the information in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) or in XML format. Our REST API’s use JSON, which is an open format based on readable text and attribute value pairs.

Public API

One of the main ideas of an API-centric architecture in that the interfaces are publicly available and that they contain a comprehensive documentation. Even a good interface will go unused if it’s hard to use or lacks documentation completely. In the best case scenario all the information and logic of the application can be reached via the API. This makes it flexible to connect, integrate and expand the system with needed applications.

Public API doesn’t however mean that all the information within the system would be publicly available. API calls are always authenticated so that the user will only have access to information they have credentials for.

More information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_programming_interface
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representational_state_transfer

 

PIM has to be easy

At Canter we work each day to make product information management (PIM) as easy as possible. As with everything else, those who manage to make complex things easy will prevail, and this is also the case with product information management.

Although it’s not complex in the first place.

Or at least we don’t think it has to be, and following few principles will go long way. While company and industry specific differences do exist, the basic principle will always be the same.

PIM is not an IT project.

It is the implementation of new mode of operation that includes both change management and automation of manual processes. PIM system does not do everything automatically, but instead operates as enabler. In order to make product information management for our clients as easy as possible, we have focused especially on the following and been actively developing them.

Easy acquisition

We think that acquiring IT system should not be a complex task. Pricing models based on the amount of users or transactions direct the decision making incorrectly, and instead we think that it is more important to find out how to make most out of the usage and processes. The more our clients use the PIM system and the data it provides, the better are the benefits they can get out of it.

Easy acquisition also depends on:

  • the length of the contract – we believe in the added value we provide, not in long contracts
  • the possibility of starting with just simple specifications
  • what sort of training is included
  • how the client is supported with change management
  • the update guarantee

Easy deployment

Easy deployment of a system leads into powerful use. When the basis is solid, it is also easier to do change management.

Easy deployment means many things:

  • how well the specification workshops are managed and prepared
  • clear practices and industry-specific productization
  • ease of installation and parameterization of the system
  • functioning Application Program Interfaces (APIs) facilitate the integration
  • best practices and connectors to the most common systems

Easy usage

Easy-to-use user interface motivates the users to handle the upkeep of product information and benefit from the data.

Good user experience is the sum of its part, and listed are just few key points:

  • logical, reliable user interface
  • search functions that work faster than a though
  • smart recommendations
  • mass editing, importing and exporting; especially useful when dealing with large amount of products

Easy integration

Seldom does a PIM system operate alone, and usually it’s a part of at least one other system. It is very common to have it integrated with many other systems, for example with ERP or a webstore.

System integration needs to be easy, so well documented and standardized API makes it easier and faster for everyone. This allows the data to be exchanged between multiple systems without massive integration projects.

 Easy expansion and usage of data

We want to help our clients to benefit from their product information more effectively. When PIM interfaces are functional and open, it’s easy to build data-based applications with the help of product information. This allows for our clients to work with those they see fit themselves.

Could we help you to make your product information management easy as well? Contact us! 

 

Digital transformation: All hands on deck!

sailing_boat__blog_canter

The stiff breeze of digital transformation becomes a formidable storm. For a good ship with an excellent team a unique opportunity to reach the finish line in front of the competition. Similar to the wheat races of the 19th and 20th centuries, when the largest sailing ships were racing under extreme weather conditions, this applies to all companies today: Digital transformation is both an opportunity but also a risk for the company. This applies in particular to product communication. In the future, product data and processes will be the focus not “creative” advertising messages. Therefore the design and maintenance of the “golden data” set must be a high priority.

 

line1_canter

 

The number of channels and touchpoints in different contexts for new markets is growing steadily. There is an obvious need to edit data only once and to use this on-demand in the most diverse contexts. In addition to the technical infrastructure of PIM systems such as Canter’s Adeona , the process change is of fundamental importance.  All available resources must be directed towards the “golden data” set and the effort to  enrich solely for the channel and the creation of the  touchpoint presentation must be minimized as far as possible. All the men on deck must work and on it. However, there remains only one  team for all other activities. This change applies in particular to the print channel. Traditionally, a great deal of effort is being made to adapt and create data for the print channel but the production of print publications is often still done manually. Using these resources efficiently for all channels and touchpoints is a key factor in the return on investment of PIM projects. This, however, inevitably means there is a need for higher automation of the print channel because resources for manual activities are now missing. The priint:suite, with its unique automation and productivity functions, not only offers the opportunity to save time and money, but also creates space for better data and thus also for more creativity.

In the print channel hitting the wind at speed leads to successful communication.

-Horst Huber

Horst Huber is a pioneer in the field of system-driven publishing. His extensive expertise – spanning cross-channel marketing, process optimisation, database publishing/Web-to-Print, benchmarketing and potential analysis – is drawn from over 20 years of project experience in retail, mail order and industrial enterprises. He is also founder and CEO of the WERK II. 

Horst Huber’s blog

 

Top moments of 2016

We’ve left yet another year behind us and have started a new one. After the first two weeks I can easily say that the following 350 days will fly by us swiftly, as they usually do. With all the “Let’s do everything better this year” hype going around it’s good to remember that we’ve achieved a lot during 2016, and as such we’ve summarized the year in a list.

1. New office space

We love Spektri! We have furnishing by Martela, interior design and taping done by Jenni, and a brand-colored wall and soundproofed windows. We also have an oven, and during the latter part of the year we ate more croissants than ever before in our lives – combined. But the most important thing are the people here, so feel free to visit us and take a look!

toimisto_canter

Welcome!

2. New friends and colleagues

In 2016 we (and our band) were joined by Abel, Turo, Mary, Ivar and Outi. It’s so great to have you guys with us!

3. Adventure Park Huippu

The day we spent at the adventure park Huippu was really something for those loving and fearing the heights alike. Jumping like Tarzan really showed us our true strength. If you’re looking for something more than just another day at the office, Huippu is most definitely worth a look.

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So cool!

4.Kettle Beast

During the last quarter of the past year it was time to let our actions speak louder than our words. During our Christmas party on 28.10. our office band Kettle Beast performed their first gig. Even the little issues with electricity didn’t slow them down, and the band was rocking, all of us were dancing and everybody was enjoying themselves. The first gig was far from being the last, and one and half months later they were playing again at our housewarming party. And they’ve already been booked again..

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Kettle Beast after their first gig.

5.Housewarming party

During December we had our housewarming party just three days after all the taping was finished. The house was full of clients and affiliates enjoying great food and drinks! We had good time, and according to the positive feedback so did our guests. Kettle Beast were better than ever before.

IMG_1557

Housewarming party in December.

6.Popcorn machine

We thought we’d be really unique and imaginative when we took a popcorn machine to the recruitment fair, but our dreams were quickly shattered by dozens of other people having the same exact idea. Oh well! The machine has been running in our kitchen ever since charming everyone, and I can tell you that many challenges have been succesfully dealt with with a popcorn bowl nearby.

popkornit

The machine that saved our days.

7.New clients

Last year we got to start new projects with Fredman Group, Leipuriliitto, Helvar and Orient Occident. It has been an honor to get to know you and to work with you in order to further business and product information management applications. Your needs and requirements allow us to develop as well.

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We and part of our new and old clients.

8.Old customers

” We only have nice customers”. This is a saying that can constantly be heard throughout the office, and it reminds us how behind every company and title there is always another person. We’ve been lucky to meet some great people to help us bring our development projects over the finish line, and to help us build a new and better ensemble. Thank you, for allowing us to work with you!

Here’s to a successful 2017!

Remember these image management tips

A well-functioning image production process is an integral part of successful product information management. An exemplary image production process and optimal master format enable efficient administration and optimal utilization of the images.

As part of product information management, we always define the image production process and an optimal master format together with our clients. Regrettably, many companies still utilize outdated information in their image production processes, or processes that are meant for another purpose entirely. When high-class utilization of images in multiple channels is needed, this matter requires particular attention.

To start, it is essential to know the big picture and all the contexts where the images will be used. This article primarily examines the management of thousands or tens of thousands of images, where the choices are guided by e.g. as straightforward a workflow as possible and a high level of automation. In other words: how to achieve a good basic quality as (cost-)efficiently as possible. One of the greatest challenges in the pipeline between digital and print is color management, which sometimes makes choices difficult.

There is no one single configuration that would apply always and for everyone, but in the following there are a few tips to help you get started, at the very least.

1. Master format (for photos)

JPG or PSD. A minimally compressed JPG works as a master image for almost all purposes. It supports color profiles and clipping paths. If you need the following features in master images, it is recommended to choose PSD (Photoshop) as master format.

  • Transparency
  • You want to preserve the Photoshop features of the original, e.g. layers.
  • It is worth your while to go through these carefully, so that the image works smoothly for all channels.
image

A sample image from Martela’s photos.

Original image size 5760 x 3840 pixels. The original image has a lot of white background. File sizes when image is saved in different formats:

image-1

For JPG images, the Photoshop Quality value is in parentheses.

The graph shows that, for example, using JPG (quality 10) in comparison to the original TIF gives up to a 99% reduction in file size.

2. Color space and color profile (for photos)

An RGB workflow enables high-quality image utilization in different channels. Today practically all images are photographed digitally, resulting in an original file in RGB mode. In RGB workflow the image is kept in RGB mode as long as possible. For printing purposes, the conversion to CMYK mode is done only for the material that is sent to the printing service, directly into the ICC profile that the service uses. All redundant profile conversions result in loss of image data, i.e. hues.

It is recommended to choose AdobeRGB or sRGB as master image ICC profile. It is usually a matter of taste, but Adobe RGB’s Gamut is slightly wider than sRGB’s. Browsers used to support only the sRGB profile, but today all the most common browsers know how to utilize also other ICC profiles, and color management works also within the browser. In this case it might be best to embed the profile into the image, resulting in slightly bigger file size.

3. Vector images and graphics

It is recommended to save vector images in AI (Adobe Illustrator) format or EPS format. The RGB instructions don’t necessarily apply to vector images. Logos, for example, use often spot colors, when the original color profile is to be left untouched.

Defining black in RGB -> CMYK conversions brings an extra challenge. For this reason graphics going to print are often produced and stored in CMYK mode.

4. Dimensions

The physical size of the master image, i.e. it’s dimensions, can be defined according to the largest known image size requirement. It is also possible to use the full-size original, but if, for instance, there are hundreds of thousands of products and product images, it may be wise to limit the size of the master image and thus optimize disk and data bandwidth usage. A correctly picked image format also helps in file size optimization.

5. As uniform a mass as possible

So that the processes for large numbers of images can be made as streamlined as possible, special attention needs to be paid that images from different sources are according to your instructions and in as uniform a format as possible. We do almost always help our clients communicate to their suppliers and partners about the used image formats. Photoshop automation can also help in harmonization of a large mass.

6. Utilization in different channels

Take into consideration all channels that are being used and how the images can be converted, as automatically as possible, in to the form required by the different channels. When e.g. PIM system automation is used to create versions of images for use in different channels, attention needs to be paid to, for instance, optimizing thumbnail image size (format, profile cleaning etc.). If web is the only channel, the process as a whole is a little easier to carry out. Then again, if one day there is a wish to use the images in print, the process built for web requirements may cause huge changes.

About the production processes

It pays to configure image production processes carefully. Also in this case a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Below an example of one image production process:

image-2

We are also glad to help with anything image related. Go ahead and ask more, and we can tune also your image production process up to its peak.

More image production tips: https://www.shopify.com/blog/75481285-6-steps-to-streamline-your-product-photography-workflow

Building something new in a relaxed environment

Our leading software architect Tuomas started at Canter in 2011. Tuomas is an electrical installer and IT engineer who takes care of the development of our new product version (and many other things) together with our CTO Janne Costiander.

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Canter is a small company with a relaxed atmosphere. Every once in a while I used to explore work options elsewhere, but kept returning here. The best thing about being here is being able to impact upon your own job and the way that things get done.

Before coming to Canter, Tuomas worked as a self-employed web developer. Work and hobbies slotted together nicely for the dad of twins under the age of one.

My hobbies are self-employment, programming and disc golf. Before having children, I had more exercise-based hobbies but I have had to cut them down during the last year.

Learning new things, pro-activity and the desire to develop are some of the most important things for Canter. Tuomas also has his own action plan.

I want to keep developing as a manager and team leader. I also want to develop my language skills, and thankfully I can practice my communication skills daily. I am interested in new programming techniques, too.

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Among the employees, general job satisfaction in the workplace is highly valued. Tuomas describes his co-workers:

We have a great time together at work, and everyone is really friendly and willing to help wherever necessary. The atmosphere is relaxed and filled with humour.

Read more about working in Canter.

Flexibility, versatility, and learning experiences

Our own Front End Developer, Lotta, has worked with Canter for three years. The media technology engineer came to work with us through a classic recruiting process, after having worked earlier as a web developer and freelancer.

 

My typical workday consists of client projects. My duties are versatile: a work week may include e.g. design and implementation of the client’s product information intranet interface, InDesign layout automation, image processing, and client training. I am additionally somewhat involved with font product development.

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At Canter product development and the new product version under development permit learning new things.

 The best things in my job are versatility of tasks and the possibility to do a wide range of different things. On the other hand it’s challenging, but also rewarding on the other, when you are regularly allowed to step outside of your comfort zone. I have learned new techniques and working methods, and I have a good flow completing projects even on a tight schedule. Through product development you are able to learn new techniques constantly.

Work life and flexibility are important things to the mother of an almost two year old daughter.

 In my case it is important that Canter enables flexible working hours and opportunities. Combining family life and work is a breeze.

Lotta encourages job seekers to apply at Canter.

Working here, attitude is of utmost importance. Many things were unfamiliar also to myself at the beginning, but here you also have an opportunity to learn things with the help of experienced colleagues.

We are looking for colleagues to Lotta and us others. Find our other open positions here.