Data Integrity Matters

September 25, 2017By Data Analysis and Management, Views

by Dave Wendland, as seen in HealthCare Distributor magazine, "Out of the Box" column, July/August 2017

It was about three decades ago that I had the privilege of hearing a presentation by an IBM executive who made a rather prophetic proclamation: “The key to success will belong to those who have the data.” And this, from a company that was best known at that time for selling large mainframe computer hardware.

In the age of big data and the mounting influx of technology-centered activities, data integrity has become a genuine — and serious — issue. Managing the integrity of the data to ensure consistency, relevancy, and accessibility are the game changers.

According to the 2015/2016 The Shotfarm Product Information Report, quality and completeness of product information has a quantifiable and direct impact on product sales. But their study found that often, data is inaccurate, inconsistent, incomplete, and even outdated, leading to in­creased returns, serious brand erosion, and lost sales, all of which have significant financial ramifications for both retail­ers and manufacturers according to the report.

Product information quality (including descriptive in­formation and product images) are essential elements to the consumer’s online purchase decisions. The Shotfarm report revealed that nine-out-of-ten surveyed answered that accurate product description and images were critical to decision-mak­ing, saying they are important (30%) or very important (63%).

One of the most significant side effects of poor product content throughout the supply chain is the potential for brand erosion. According to the study, 87% of consumers say they would be unlikely or very unlikely to make a repeat purchase with a retailer that provided inaccurate product information, leaving just 13% who would likely shop with that same store again. From where I sit, it is entirely probable that the same statistics would apply to a distributor presenting products for order to a retail customer or to a manufacturer attempting to gain a foothold within distribution.

In addition to general content accuracy, the report also highlighted disparities in the quality, accuracy, and complete­ness of product information across channels. It cited that more than three in four consumers have noticed inconsistent infor­mation for the same product across channels.

The quality of product data impacts all facets of business. The survey findings inferred that a product is only as good as the information associated with it. If that information is incomplete in any way, purchases are delayed, products are returned, and brand equity is lost.

So my assessment of the situation comes down to a se­ries of rather simple hypotheses. For organizations generat­ing data, chances are there are inconsistencies in codifying, storing, and formatting the content. For those transmitting or sharing data, there are most definitely formatting issues and data currency challenges. Organizations consuming data (whether for internal purposes or to fuel some consumer-facing e-commerce site) potentially devastating issues revolve around data accuracy, consistency, and formatting. And for companies collecting, cleansing, and adding value to data (image and data descriptive elements) — such as Hamacher Resource Group — ensuring that the most recent packaging is moving through the process and versioned properly to support client needs requires impeccable attention to detail.

It is evident that for every organization, regardless of where they reside within the supply chain, data integrity re­mains one of the most challenging issues.