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Differentiating with digital assets: which stage are you in?

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Today’s shoppers are visually-influenced, and simultaneously engaging across a greater variety of touch points than ever before. Rising competitive pressure for accurate yet inspiring visual content has affected every retail sector, from luxury apparel to automotive. And digital assets have to keep pace in real time with product introductions.

Digital asset management is no longer an IT expense to be minimized, but a key strategic opportunity to differentiate from the competition.

Digital asset management has become an essential ingredient of today’s B2C and B2B strategy because it allows the efficient, dynamic delivery of images in different groupings and settings via multiple channels, including web, tablet, mobile, social and print. The “visual asset supply chain” consists of a complex set of functions, partners and channels that must work together effectively to produce the personalized experience that today’s consumers are demanding.

  • Consumer goods manufacturers have increased the number of images they produce for each product to gain better placement in the assortment of downstream distributors and retailers, as well as to fuel branded sites, social media and Direct to Consumer (DTC) ventures of their own.
  • Meanwhile, leading retailers aren’t content with a “me too” look for product imagery – to stand out from the crowd, they’ve begun incorporating lifestyle shoots, shopper-contributed images and even re-shooting key products from every angle to ensure quality and uniqueness.
  • True visionaries and market-leader labs are experimenting with sophisticated image-matching search and augmented reality applications.

Although providing potential customers with a rich array of imagery has obvious appeal, the requirement to manage an ever-increasing volume and variety of assets can stress the product information supply chain. Mastering an automated process for workflow and asset publishing (along with well-curated images and a robust taxonomy) is essential to managing costs while keeping pace at scale.

The path to a scalable, differentiated digital asset strategy requires technology, process and executive leadership maturity – so which stage are you in?

The first stage of digital asset management strategy maturity is directed toward risk mitigation and compliance. The focus is on ensuring that assets meet industry, government and regulatory standards, and that they measure up to the required accuracy/quality levels to avoid excessive product returns. Security, copyright, and legal rights issues are also addressed, but asset tagging may be very basic. A creative collaboration platform may be present; however, at this stage, the digital asset management system and other product content and commerce publishing platforms are not well integrated, and a full workflow capability is not yet achieved. The fundamental business goal at this stage is still to reduce risk and minimize cost.

The second stage of digital asset management strategy maturity improves asset management at the product stock keeping unit (SKU) level and leverages technology to move toward a greater degree of publishing integration. At this stage, systems integration facilitates supply chain interoperability, and both the publishing process for digital assets and the marketing processes it enables are better defined and supported. Taxonomy is designed for different methods of tagging that enable landing page imagery, lifestyle combo shoots and differentiated “ways to shop” on one or more digital channels. These improvements allow enhancement of both product merchandising and brand marketing.  With consumer-oriented metadata and different ways of combining assets, an improved shopper experience can be enabled, which leads to higher conversion rates. Scalable AR and image-matching search become possible. The fundamental business goal at this stage is to reduce time-to-market and expand brand influence.

The third stage of digital asset management strategy maturity supports the effective use of analytics and information architecture to track customer behaviour, to influence shopper buying and opinion, and to predict future preferences and trends. These extended digital asset management capabilities personalize the customer experience, understand the context of shopper interactions and detect future buying intent from shared social interactions. Creative and publishing workflow becomes sophisticated, enabling fast test campaigns and management of “bespoke” social media assets; trend-setting asset capture and analysis supports predictive modelling. The fundamental business goal at this stage is to predict and set the market while engaging customers in one-to-one storytelling.

To elevate digital asset management to a differentiation strategy, the fundamentals are required, curation goes from art to science and experimentation must become scalable. How do you stack up?

Read the next post in this series:  Top 5 Reasons Your DAM Workflow Has to Grow Up (and Out) 

 

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