Vitakraft realises catalogue at one click of a button
BY TEMEL KAHYAOGLU
It is one of the most successful companies in the pet industry. Starting as a small pet shop in the German city of Bremen, the firm has now become one of the world’s leading suppliers for pet supplies and today owns and operates 20 distribution sites in Europe, Asia and America.
The development and production of high quality products for the appropriate nutrition and keeping of pets is a top priority at Vitakraft. More than 2,000 products today guarantee optimal nourishment for birds, small animals, dogs and cats; the product range includes both basic food and treats as well as supplies for the care, grooming and keeping of all pets. And the range is constantly revised. Whether accessories and toys for dogs and cats or new, improved formulas in food for birds and small pets ‒ by continuously developing its offering, the company ensures that it can maintain its leading market position in various product segments in the future.
Being able to offer up-to-date materials when on a customer visit boosts sales. In this respect, the product catalogue is of central importance. Clearly structured, well-illustrated and always up to date, it particularly serves the sales force at the customer site ‒ mainly retail chains and the pet trade ‒ as an important tool to introduce and visualise new products. Until recently, the main marketing department at Vitakraft’s headquarters in Bremen has been well stretched when it came to updating the product catalogue at least once every two years and in time for the most important international trade fair ‘Interzoo’. The process had to be performed almost completely manually and was equally resource intensive and prone to errors. Six months’ preparation time per catalogue was the rule. Product pictures and descriptions were often already outdated when the catalogue was finally ready to go to press. And by the next price adjustment at the latest, prices were no longer up to date. It soon became essential to optimise the process to keep pace with the growing demands.
To start with, a centralised data management of all product-related information had to be put in place. In 2012, the PIM system by Informatica laid the foundation. This was a prerequisite for the next phase of optimisation – the extensive automation of all print processes. Building on the existing product catalogue, the German catalogue was supposed to become the first to be created almost 80 percent automatically.
When evaluating providers that could manage the task, InBetween stood out with its wide ranging selection of references. As a proven publishing expert, the company promised a guaranteed and rapid reduction in project costs. As a basis for the automated creation of Vitakraft’s product catalogue, it was also necessary to create an interface between the data in Informatica’s PIM and the catalogue design in InDesign. Through an XML export in the format of each required publication and language, it became possible to generate the desired publication at the click of a button. In the end, all that was left to do was the adjustment of the page layouts. The one-time effort, however, has paid off: the majority of the product catalogue contents, such as structure, categories, etc. could be built directly in the PIM for the first time. The additional advantage of this is that Vitakraft can react quickly to short-term requests for changes – if necessary a new catalogue with a revised range structure can be created digitally immediately – the required data only has to be updated in the PIM as the source system. The overall preparation of the catalogue is thus highly automated, merely the front and back covers still have to be added in InDesign manually.
With the first German catalogue created at the click of a button, a milestone concerning the efficient production of print materials has been attained: unlike the original catalogue – every two years in manual operation and taking six months – this time, a catalogue was finished within only 14 days while proofreading the content by the marketing department actually took the longest. This means, creation has become 13 times faster. As a consequence, Vitakraft is now able to publish an up-to-date catalogue every three months and can thus respond much more quickly and flexibly to changes in the product range.
As an international company, Vitakraft has naturally taken the next step already: following the successful experience of publishing the first language version, soon product catalogues for other distribution companies in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy and France will be created in the same efficient and automated way. The faster up-to-date information becomes available to the agents in the field, the faster new products can be successfully introduced in all markets, thus generating additional sales and an increased market share.
Interview with Heiko Cichala, Project Manager at Vitakraft
As a manufacturer and trading company with a large number of customers, it is vital for Vitakraft to have its retailers always displaying an up-to-date product range. Project Manager Heiko Cichala explains why, despite the existence of electronic information, sales representatives still put great emphasis on the catalogue in order to introduce customers to all newly developed products carefully and to ultimately convince them to add the products to their range.
Mr Cichala, is the classic product catalogue still relevant today or could it be replaced by apps in the medium-term in your opinion?
Heiko Cichala: For us that depends on both the sales agents as well as the customers. Of course, some of our colleagues are already using tablets in the field, but there are many who continue to rely on the catalogue. Especially smaller dealers are often not as computer-savvy as our major clients or wholesalers. Our job in marketing is to provide all necessary media currently used equally.
Which catalogue contents change most frequently?
H. C.: We usually launch a number of new products twice a year. Last year, a lot of alterations had to be made as we have changed the corporate design of our brand. Therefore, we had to re-launch many of our products. We also rather often wish to customise the product images or use new, more attractive product pictures.
Which advantages do the continuous catalogue updates have from a distribution perspective?
H. C.: Graphically and appealing product images are very important when selling and they ensure more sales. Since we are able to very easily create our catalogues by basically only pressing a button, we are able to use any new product images almost instantly.
And what about costs?
H. C.: Since we usually disperse our catalogues in electronic form – mostly in pdf format – to our customers, printing costs are not an issue for us anyway. However, that meant that the immense increase in efficiency in the preparation of catalogues was even more significant. The manual creation process was comparatively way more complicated and thus more costly.
What was particularly important to you when realising this project?
H. C.: As a small and medium-sized enterprise, we measure ourselves against partners and suppliers with a similar market position. InBetween shows lean and targeted project structures in its external relations, which are used in practice too.
With its standard software by the same name InBetween offers a powerful solution for the semi and highly automated creation of e.g. catalogues, price lists, data sheets and brochures from master data.
InBetween Deutschland GmbH
Wührmann & Sohn GmbH & Co. KG
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q2 2015. Picture credit: © David De Lossy/Getty Images