Unilever controls product data on supplier network to protect brand

Unilever, the major consumer goods manufacturer, has said that keeping its product data up-to-date is key to controlling its brand.

Speaking at a roundtable hosted by GS1 UK, the not-for-profit supply chain standards and solutions organisation, Unilever’s e-commerce director Andy Houghton welcomed a new data management service from GS1 UK that enables brand owners to enter and manage their own product information in a network of suppliers and retailers.

Called TrueSource, manufacturers can use the service to take control of their product information and ensure its accuracy before it is shared with fellow members of the GS1 Global Data Synchronisation network (GSDN). Time and cost efficiencies can be achieved as the information only needs to be uploaded into the network once.

Unilever, which makes products ranging from Domestos to Marmite, said that providing accurate product information to its supply chain, including retailers and their customers, was important to give the “true brand experience”.

Houghton said that it was also essential to provide the right information to anyone else who might use information about Unilever’s brands, for example, mobile software developers for product-related apps.

GS1 UK and the Cranfield School of Management recently carried out research into three, third-party generic smart phone applications that provide additional information on products such as price comparison and nutritional data.

It found that from a total of 1,125 scans of 375 grocery products across all three apps, only nine percent of scans returned the correct product information. Meanwhile, 75 percent of scans returned no product information at all, and 87 percent of scans did not return an image. Moreover, where information was returned, it was wrong one in five times.

“We want to be in control of the information and to give the true brand experience. If people see our product [via a mobile app] and it brings up the wrong information, it will devalue our brand and people aren’t able to make informed choices,” said Houghton.

Furthermore, Houghton said that ensuring the right information is available to customers can ensure that conversations about the company’s brand are useful – for example, so that the company can improve its products based on feedback.

“Crowd sourcing is a fantastic way for customers to tell us what they think about products after they have bought it. So for us, it is about brand equity and about customer engagement,” he explained.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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