A Cross-Functional Cooperative Effort

Merril Longmore
Senior Brand Protection Manager, ZAGG

The competitive global e-commerce landscape creates eye-popping opportunities for hungry businesses, yet at the same time unearths unique challenges related to unauthorized sales, Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policies, and ultimately profit margins. A foundational tool enabling data-rich resources essential to protect a company’s brand is serialization. Serialized products provide additional anti-counterfeiting measures, supply chain visibility, and may facilitate increased consumer engagement. Yet, implementing a standardized scalable serialization program can be challenging and requires cooperation from the entire business. 

Like many brand protection efforts, a significant hurdle in implementing a serialization program involves obtaining cross-functional commitment and guaranteeing organizational collaboration. When pursuing commitment from multiple parties focusing on the why not the how is essential. The numbers are an important foundation for any business case. However, to obtain support from various departments, particularly at the executive level, explaining why serialization and brand protection will benefit their specific department helps create departmental buy-in and generates cooperation. Why is implementing and standardizing serialization going to benefit Sales? Product Development? Customer Service? Operations? Making sure all departments understand why the business is implementing serialization is key. As various departments understand why serialization can be used for a variety of internal and external purposes (anti-counterfeiting, track and trace for supply chain compliance, inventory tracking, quality assurance and control, quicker implementation of recalls, and effectuation of product registration, etc.) the cross-collaborative effect can become synergistic. 

Serialization can be a verifiable win-win, it helps with brand protection while benefiting the rest of the business. For example, brand protection professionals can explain to the Customer Service Department why serialization will better facilitate warranty registration and track details of returns. Use of serialization in the warranty registration process allows for a simpler product registration. Simplifying the registration process may increase warranty registration resulting in engaged happy consumers. Additionally, data gathered from warranty returns allows us to feed that data back to the product team which may indicate bad product lots or poor manufacturing for various products. It is a win-win! Through cooperation, the brand protection efforts of serialization will assist customer service and help align all departments. 

Brand protection professionals can also educate the Sales Department on the benefits of serialization. Serialization adds an additional anti-counterfeiting measure. The sooner a counterfeit problem is identified the faster a business can stop the problem and recapture the market share. Moreover, serialization also helps keep online gray market issues in check. Serialization can facilitate track and trace capabilities and help identify potential diversion from third party logistics (3PL’s), distributors, and retailers, throughout the supply chain. In the Wild West of online marketplaces, it can be extremely challenging to police your supply chain if you do not have a way to identify where products are coming from when they show up in unauthorized places. With the ability to track and trace products you can acquire internal evidence of partners that are violating contractual agreements. Often the violation of these agreements results in breaking of MAP policies and may result in price erosion. Again, a win-win!

After gaining commitment from various business units project cooperation transitions to a synergistic group effort. This is when brand protection professionals can harness the creativity and efficiency of multi-departmental planning stages. Brand protection professionals can work with marketing and product teams to determine placement on packaging. They can work with the IT department to sort out data integration and where the data will be stored. They can also coordinate with 3PL’s, distributors, and manufacturers to integrate with the data storage system. Serialization data can be fed back to operations to increase efficiency. Through various departmental collaboration the gains associated with serialization can accrue in many multifaceted aspects of the business.

As e-commerce continues to grow brands need to adapt to the challenges that this online opportunity presents. While serialization may add additional costs, the benefits can outweigh the expenditures. While working to implement serialization with ZAGG, we discovered that education of why serialization benefits each department helped gain support from each business unit. That support allowed us to begin working together to implement such a cross- functional project. If the organization were not collaboratively aligned a project of this scale would fail. A key take-away is that brand protection professionals cannot champion serialization initiatives on their own. If you are seeking to implement such a program, make sure to align all your business leaders on why serialization is beneficial, so you can succeed and have upfront and ongoing support from each business pillar.