The business case for SaaS
In today’s hyper-connected business environment, even the biggest companies need to be nimble. The new business ideal is to be able to move quickly and to be able to scale up to make the most of seasonal opportunities such as Black Friday or to test the market for a new product – and to do this while keeping tight control over costs.
Faced with these kinds of demands, companies are turning to Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings. Here are solutions that are flexible, lightweight, and scalable. Purchased on a subscription model, SasS offerings enable companies:
- To buy in low maintenance, cost-effective and efficient solutions
- To adapt to changing requirements using programs that are regularly updated
- To dial up extra resources as needed, for example, during peak periods
In theory, every business function could be run from the Cloud, but this ignores the reality that many companies have built core technology stacks over time. These are expensively assembled, carefully calibrated on-premises systems that enable companies to undertake business-critical tasks – the world of, for example, enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), or accounting software.
This is especially true of manufacturing brands that need oversight of multiple processes, from component procurement, design, and manufacturing through to selling across multiple channels. For such companies, any change that impacts the core technology stack has to be carefully planned. This is partly because of business-continuity considerations. But brands also need reassurance that Cloud-based solutions don’t pose security risks around the protection of sensitive data, whether that be customer details or intellectual property (IP).
The good news is that state-of-the-art SaaS offerings now provide a combination of flexibility, scalability, and security that meets the exacting standards of even the biggest brands. This means brands can either replace core technologies entirely or, more likely, augment them with SaaS offerings as needed.
Where are SaaS offerings most powerful?
One area where SaaS technologies can be especially relevant is when it comes to taking products to market, where there’s often a need to scale quickly to make the most of opportunities. Here, digitalization is driving change. Customers typically find brands’ goods not just in bricks-and-mortar stores, but via marketplaces, websites, mobile, social media, or via new channels such as live streams and shoppable content. And often customers range across different touchpoints as they work towards a purchase decision.
In addition, where brands may once typically have sold only via wholesale and retailers, many are now selling direct as well. This is a way for brands both to drive revenues, and to gather information directly about their end-customers preferences and tastes, data previously under the control of retailers.
The sheer number of channels in itself introduces huge complexity, and this, in turn, introduces a risk for brands because consumers demand consistency. More than this, consumers mistrust brands that give out mixed messages.
For this reason, many brands now employ Product Information Management (PIM) technology. This streamlines digitalization by ensuring that all channels are served with consistent and rich product data and imagery. Information management and asset management become easier – especially crucial, for example, when there’s a pressing need to get an item to market or to change a promotion to make it more effective.
Why a Cloud-based PIM?
Having made the case for brands using a PIM solution and SaaS, why specifically a PIM that’s also a SaaS offering? Drilling down into the idea that serving fast-moving digital sales channels require brands to be nimble and to use scalable solutions, there are three main reasons:
Efficiency: a SaaS-accessed PIM is resource-efficient
SaaS solutions require minimum resources and let users start work almost immediately. Initial setup takes a fraction of the time of a typical implementation phase. This accelerates time-to-value. On top of that, features and professional templates are commonly available to aid in transferring data and processes into the system. This means that a Cloud-based PIM accessed on a SaaS basis shortens the time needed before product information is ready to be distributed across different channels.
Flexibility: take advantage of market peaks
Quick turnaround times are key to e-commerce and digital success. Companies must be able to plan for and react to changes in demand resulting from seasonal changes, events or launching new products. With a Cloud-based PIM, businesses can configure the solution to easily take advantage of market opportunities without putting pressure on IT staff. Likely scenarios include:
- Launching seasonal promotions, for example, on Black Friday
- Promoting products via events that will produce a temporary peak, for example, a live stream from a popular influencer
- Launching new products ahead of the competition
- Clearing overstocks through discount promotions/sales
- Looking beyond driving sales, testing and comparing different products/approaches as part of market/consumer research
Scalability: Cloud solutions grow alongside your business
A Cloud-based PIM scales with the business. This is especially valuable within e-commerce where businesses often want to start small and expand. Instead of having to buy new server capacity or hire additional IT specialists, companies can adapt the PIM to the growing requirements of the business – all for a fixed monthly price.
One approach that brands have successfully taken here is, to begin with one sub-brand or product line within the business. A furniture manufacturer might, for example, focus on onboarding its bedroom range onto the PIM and experimenting with selling direct. The company can then take the learning from this to other ranges.
What steps should brands take next?
It’s one thing to see the potential in a PIM purchased on a SaaS basis, it’s quite another to make a purchase decision. Before brands decide to invest, there are practical considerations to consider:
Be cost-conscious: use SaaS where there’s genuine potential
Because of the flexibility offered by Cloud-based solutions, it’s often tempting to make a quick change. But brands need to be sure that any solution will help simplify processes and/or generate additional revenue. Remember to weigh costs and benefits. If the software is not used regularly, fees for a SaaS solution can become disproportionately high to the benefits for which they were initially adopted.
Focus on data protection: use established providers
Look for a provider that focuses on data security and confidentiality. Reputable providers will be able to demonstrate they can meet relevant International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards and will also offer certification for security.
The final step
Finally, before selecting a SaaS provider, it pays to take a deep look at both vendor and the product. Remember to look for information to gauge reliability, for example, feedback from previous customers. Remember to check for a cultural fit:
- Is this a vendor that understands your business – its priorities, your brand’s markets, and your goals?
- Is this a vendor you are happy to work with on an ongoing basis?
If the answer to both these questions is yes, it may be time to consider a PIM on a SaaS basis and to begin to see how this technology lets brands create new kinds of products experiences.
How does a Cloud-based PIM help businesses achieve maximum performance?
Cloud solutions are constantly updated with new features and fixes, as well as regular releases. Regular updates promote optimal system performance and enhanced usability. Plus, the maintenance costs of a SaaS solution are much lower than a typical on-premise setup.
Cloud-based solutions can be accessed anytime, anywhere. This enables employees to work efficiently wherever they are, something that will only become more important in the post-pandemic era when, evidence suggests, more of us will work more often from home.
SaaS providers offer monitoring and auditing capabilities. This gives customers the data to make decisions on leveraging the SaaS ability to scale up, for example, during a promotion, or down. Brands can also keep a close watch on financial commitments as usage changes.
Cloud-based solutions free up time and resources, as technical details are handled by the SaaS provider and service partner. As a result, in-house IT teams, for example, can dedicate more time to other parts of the business.