With apologies to the cartoon, Skubedo is no treat-loving mutt. Rather, it is an online solution that while pronounced the same as Scooby-Doo is focused on helping manufacturers, reps and retailers solve the problem of workbooks. Let's face it -- even the SNEWS® team ducks workbooks at trade shows because they are so heavy and, more often than not, they are outdated nearly by the time the show ends.
"Workbooks cost too much to typeset and print, are often outdated as soon as they come off press, and allow no flexibility for presenting different assortments to different accounts," Chris Harges, principal of Satellite Design, told SNEWS.
Harges noted that while this has been a problem for a while, the economy is forcing many manufacturers to try and solve these problems ASAP. Too often, though, the belief is that a company can simply create an online version of its workbooks or slap a digital version of a workbook on a memory stick.
"We're skeptical about how an online or digital-only tool could work on a sales call (especially in outdoor where some dealers don't have Internet access!). Most reps and buyers that I've spoken with aren't too excited about a web-only system," said Harges.
"It seems that everything from how brands envision the role of reps to the mechanics of order placing is in flux right now," Harges told SNEWS. "We want to focus on a smarter way to create the support materials for sell-in. And we want to do it in a way that doesn't force brands to sacrifice their brand look and feel in exchange for added functionality. Most of the other approaches we've seen force users to use a one-size-fits-all design."
Harges said he believes the ideal workbook solution is a hybrid: some paper and some electronic. To work well, workbooks need to function within the context of a sell-in process where a rep shows samples and a buyer evaluates style, specs and price, and sketches out a buy, he said. For most buyers, this means note-taking -- which also means paper.
"We may see the day where reps and buyers can sit behind their respective laptops and conduct a sales call, but most reps and buyers tell us that we're not there yet. Buyers like paper," said Harges.
Which is why Skubedo excels -- it's flexible and allows the best of both worlds. The genesis for the idea was a back-end solution Satellite Design already had in place to help its clients automate the typesetting and printing process for workbooks -- a tool it has used to produce workbooks for folks such as The North Face and Westcomb.
"A light bulb went on over our heads one day," Harges said. "We have this automated back end, and realized that if we simply put a designed front end on it, suddenly companies and account reps could access workbook information at will and be able to create subsets of workbooks that are account specific -- saving time, paper and money."
While Skubedo was created as an add-on solution for clients, it has morphed into a full-service option for anyone, simply because it can cost-effectively be used to output hi-resolution PDFs that can be given to a printer to produce traditional workbooks.
"But the beauty of Skubedo is that, using templates we have created, a brand retains its unique look and feel, and using the database that was created to set up the initial print mechanicals, a manufacturer can instantly create account-specific workbooks, closeout books, special features workbooks and more," said Harges.
"You can do so many things. It is different for anyone. Instead of printing 1,000 150-page workbooks -- and very often a given dealer might carry only 30 out of the 200 styles available -- a rep can generate a customized PDF and print that out, so a store only sees and receives as much paper as they need."
Less paper, easily updated database meaning there is no need for workbooks to ever be out of date, less cost, customized presentations to retailers, and still paper to write on in meetings. Harges told us it's hard for him to see any downside to Skubedo at all.
Naturally, we thought of one and asked Harges about the challenges of accurately presenting colors on the web and in print.
"This is a universal problem with everything from print workbooks to online B2B sites. Truth be told, the images in workbooks and catalogs are never really 100-percent color accurate. The only way around this is to do cards with actual fabric swatches and most brands moved away from this years ago because they're really expensive to produce," said Harges.
"Based on research with reps and buyers, we believe that buyers make color and style decisions based on samples presented at the sales call. For pre-season orders, the workbook images are icons or reminders to help dealers connect a product shown in the workbook with the sample they liked as they finalize their buy in the time between the sales call and actually placing their order. For fill-ins, they're buying a color that they had already stocked. In either case, it's unlikely that they'd be choosing colors or evaluating products using only a workbook."
As for any other possible benefits -- though it is not yet being used this way -- would be for a company to create a B2B website skin and use the database it has in Skubedo to create its own dealer website interface, Harges said. That data could, conceivably, even link up with any number of order management suppliers, like Centerstone for example.