Tracking your association members’ product sales data can provide valuable insight into current trends. The timelier and more accurate the data you secure, the greater value you can deliver. However, busy member companies do not always have the time or resources available to regularly compile or accurately categorize their sales data.
Fortunately, associations now have data automation solutions available to make this process easy and accurate for their members. With more efficient tools and technology, both associations and members win.
Data automation solutions help make sense of Big Data
Organizations today are able to collect large amounts of data to help track trends and drive business decisions. However, one challenge with vast amounts of data is sifting through the information and pulling out the most valuable nuggets. This is one key area where associations find model-based reporting solutions provide tremendous value to their members.
Using form-driven data collection, associations have had to guess what product sales data might be of most value to their members. If they wanted to provide the latest trends on lampshade offerings, for example, the association would create a form that asks members to report their sales for beige, blue, black, and white lampshades.
Model-based reporting eliminates the need to guess what’s important to members. Instead, it allows associations to collect all possible details by securing data at the SKU level. Once data has been collected, it might indicate that there are hundreds more options of lampshade colors than association staff ever thought possible to report. This data modeling can reveal unexpected insight into consumer demand and how manufacturers are meeting expectations.
There’s tremendous value to be found in sifting through what, for some organizations, may amount to millions of points of sales data, but gathering this insight carries significant challenges.
Break down barriers to data collection
Manufacturers know with confidence the attributes of a given product at the SKU level, as well as where that product is and whether it’s heading to a distribution center, store, or customer. Compiling that data for reporting, however, can be difficult.
Before a company can make sense of its sales data, that model information must be aggregated into a usable format. Today’s data automation solutions aim to simplify this submission process. Associations may offer a secure portal through which members can upload data in Excel or other file formats most convenient for the organization. While this simplifies the process, it does still place a burden on data reporters to deliver accurate information on a regular basis.
Model reporting is reliant upon the correct categorization of SKU information. Once this initial effort is complete, however, the ongoing reporting process is simple. Returning to the example above, instead of having to break out monthly lampshade sales by color, participants are now only required to provide their sales at the SKU level. All of the mapping to the appropriate reporting categories is handled behind the scenes. However, this requires that companies provide detailed information whenever they add new SKUs to the report. As a best practice, organizations should review all model details at least on an annual basis.
Another challenge with SKU-level reporting is ensuring accuracy in managing so many data points. For one association, this challenge meant that data listed in a weekly report might be amended by the time monthly reports were made available. Due to manual data entry methods, it was not feasible to trace the cause of these errors. For this particular organization, automating model-based reporting prevented data entry errors and provided greater transparency into other potential reasons for shifts in data.
Simplify model-based reporting
Automated data automation solutions can simplify the process of submitting timely, error-free data. It is easier than ever for associations to securely connect to members’ systems directly via an application programming interface (API) that automatically transfers SKU model data based on a preset schedule. While this type of data modernization program requires upfront work to develop machine learning tools that will track hundreds, thousands, or even millions of lines of data, it ultimately removes many hurdles to member participation and ensures more timely reporting. This automation also frees up association staff to analyze the data now at their disposal and act upon the insight they’ve gained.
Given the proprietary nature of this model data, many organizations opt to turn to a third-party consultant to compile this information. This distance can provide security assurance for association members. At Vault, we help associations by compiling and appropriately categorizing SKU-level data and crafting the integrations that allow diverse member systems to connect directly with association reporting tools. We also audit these solutions to ensure that associations have the reliability they need in industry reports that will drive big business decisions.
To learn more about how you can provide more accurate data, faster for your members, we invite you to download our free guide, Association Trends: Modernizing Data Offerings for Fast-Paced Decision Making.
Feel free to contact Vault Consulting if you need any guidance or support.