Technology changes; the need for data quality doesn’t.

Sound product information is more important than ever after 20 years of online computing and communications.

We’re in the midst of several significant milestones in the history of the Internet, computing, and communications.

Ten years ago last month, Apple brought the iPod to market – the progenitor of the iPhone and iPad, and arguably the precursor to the explosion in mobile computing. In August, we passed the twentieth anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee publishing the first Web site.  And 20 years ago next month, the first Web server in the U.S. came online.

Plaque commemorating the creation of Mosaic web browser by Eric Bina and Marc Andreessen, new NCSA building, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Wikimedia Commons)These milestones bring to mind some of my earliest experiences with leveraging online computing and communications for commerce.

In the early 1990s I worked for a large electronics component distributor (semiconductors, memory chips, etc.).  We had read this small article about Mosaic, the Internet, and a guy name Marc Andreessen at the University of Illinois.

There were no illustrations in the article to show what a “Web site” looked like, so we sketched a few pictures and faxed them to Marc to confirm that we were in the right ballpark.  We then created the HTML pages (in HTML 0.4) and launched our first site. This eventually led our company to become one of the first to offer B-to-B e-commerce over the Internet and one of the first companies, if not the first, to do Internet seminars (what are now called “Webinars”).

Fast forward nearly two decades, and it’s astonishing to consider that today we enjoy high-speed Internet connectivity and massive computing power almost wherever we go.  We were amazed in the late 1990s when we could first get on the wireless Internet at 4800 or 9600 bps.  Today we take multi-megabit access for granted in most urban and suburban areas.

It’s also remarkable to think that your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969 when it sent the first astronauts to the moon, and that the birthday card you receive in the mail that sings “Happy Birthday” has more computer power than all the Allied Forces of 1945. A recent blog post describes how the capabilities of the iPhone would have required a wheelbarrow or even a truck for mobility a generation ago.

What is important, endures.

But some things never change in e-commerce.  The key to our success on the Internet in the mid 90’s is the same as it is today.  And that’s the need for sound product data and related content.

Product information needs to be governed according to rigorous data quality standards and centrally managed for use by all people, applications, and channels to ensure customer satisfaction and accurate transactions.

And especially as businesses and consumers rely more on social and mobile media to gain immediate access to your product information, it’s essential that the information be clean, current and correct.

Product information is a relationship builder and the single most influential content for raising purchase intentions.  Due to the emergence of social media strategies, the primary job of a brand Web site is to provide product information.  The strength of new media is in referring customers back to the Web site to finalize the job of cementing consideration.

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