Welcome to the latest edition of “How PIM Solves Problems” a recurring, multi-part look at how Product Information Management solutions can be used to solve common business problems in various markets and industries. First up was Industrial Manufacturing — today we tackle B2B Distribution.
B2B distribution is being disrupted.
What was once a world limited to bulky catalogs, manual ordering and purchasing workflows, and pen-and-paper processes is getting with the times and going digital. Increasingly, as retailers work to drive growth and reach new buyers, print catalogs and other legacy ordering methods are being augmented with digital and omnichannel selling.
A second trend is the changing profile of B2B buyers, many of whom are digital natives. Given this trend, B2B distributors are seeking to deliver the B2C-like customer experiences these new B2B buyers are accustomed to.
There has also been a rapid rise in B2B eCommerce. Online sales in the U.S. alone grew by 11% to more than $1 trillion last year, and annual B2B sales are projected to top $10.6 trillion around the world in 2019. What’s more, this growth isn’t projected to change course anytime soon.
This digital transformation can, and should, be a boon to many B2B distributors’ bottom lines.
But most are struggling to bring their product catalogs into the 21st century. These organizations face challenges surrounding everything from data governance and collaboration to catalog and market expansion.
Fortunately, there is a solution that can help solve these challenges and clear B2B distribution roadblocks. Product Information Management (PIM) and Product Experience Management (PXM) solutions help B2B distributors more efficiently and easily manage large product catalogs and prepare for a successful digital transformation. B2B distributors using these solutions typically report increased conversions, reduced returns, and notably higher levels of marketer productivity after adopting PIM.
Below are a few examples of where and how PIM and PXM can help you solve these B2B distribution challenges.
Even with a single sales channel such as a print catalog, managing a large assortment of complex products including related products, add-ons, and spares, as well as images and documents for each is a massive undertaking. Factor in the diverse group of manufacturers and suppliers that distributors do business with, the differing formats they use to share product data, and it’s clear there’s enough going on to make your head spin.
Opening up a new commerce channel is always a labor-intensive undertaking, and given the catalog reality noted above, it’s clear there is much room for improvement and efficiency.
Whether your digital transformation initiative includes deploying an eCommerce site or just simplifying the way you share product information online, a PIM solution and a PXM approach make the digitization process a relative breeze. PIM offers a centralized place to manage disparate product data from internal systems and suppliers and to enrich it specifically for your print or eCommerce or website – and any other channel you choose to pursue. A major benefit is Akeneo PIM’s ability to put product data in context for each channel — because each channel has its own rules.
Efficiencies are also delivered in the form of business rules engines and validation workflows. With these and other PIM features your team can easily eliminate tedious, repetitive tasks and ensure that only accurate, consistent, and contextual product information is presented to customers in the format required for each channel.
Expand with ease
Widening your company’s reach to a new channel isn’t the only expansion opportunity B2B distributors face, of course.
As digital innovations makes cross-border commerce more feasible and offer the opportunity to increase your product assortment, it’s also crucial that your company is ready to add a new geographic market or product to its roster. But translating and localizing product information for such a large and diverse catalog can be a challenge for distributors, limiting the potential of new markets. And if your product information is already disorganized, inaccurate, or low-quality, adding new items to your product catalog can magnify the problem and further contribute to poor customer experiences.
Akeneo PIM speeds the product information management and new product introduction process, along with automation, completeness, validation features so you can get your products to market faster — across all channels and regions. What’s more, its ability to manage and control catalogs by locale and its connectivity with translation tools eases cross-border expansion and helps put your team on the road to international success.
Govern and control your data
Organizing and governing data can be a challenge in and of itself, but B2B distributors also face an additional hurdle. This information is commonly expressed and exchanged in industry-specific data formats which may or may not be appropriate in its raw state for use in a given channel. Furthermore, in an attempt to create a B2C-like buying experience, distributors need to massage and enrich product information according to each channel and its rules, as well as for each locale. A great example is adherence to regional compliance standards. All this makes it harder to manually manage product information and assets for omnichannel commerce. Add in the integration of the systems needed to handle and process this data and it’s a real trio of troubles.
Collaboration is also a key aspect of managing product information across different groups. This can be with respect to multiple teams internally as well as collaborating with suppliers. In this case, there needs to be a solid governance and control process in place to manage not only the data but also the users and their roles and privileges.
PIM and PXM are specifically designed to manage and govern data and user groups in these situations. Akeneo PIM can help your team more efficiently and easily manage product data and descriptions, and includes an advanced user management capability to help reliably control who can edit what, who approves the final catalog, and how to track and ensure the catalog is complete and accurate before you publish. It can also help your team simplify data management by integrating disparate systems and tools via our network of connectors and extensions, eliminating errors and inconsistencies in product information and helping ease distribution to your commerce platforms.
B2B distributors need to move rapidly if they want to succeed. It takes agility and efficiency to keep up with new product introductions, entering new markets, and keeping pace with products that are quickly gaining or decreasing in popularity.
Dealing with all that data, however, can slow distributors down, hurting sales figures and revenue in the process. Low levels of operational collaboration and chaotic or inefficient workflows can make these problems even worse, and leave B2B distributors struggling to keep up with the increasing pace of modern commerce.
Akeneo PIM includes features like automation, validation, and workflow controls to eliminate unnecessary and repetitive tasks. That way you can more rapidly distribute and sell more products, boosting revenue and improving relationships with suppliers and customers along the way.
Conquer Industrial Manufacturing Challenges
It isn’t easy to be a B2B distribution company these days — but PIM and PXM can help. By using product information and product experience management solutions to enrich and manage your product data, your team can expand to new channels and locales more efficiently, handle industry-specific data formats with ease, and boost their productivity.
Solve your problems with PIM! Discover how Product Information Management and Product Experience Management can help you Conquer Industrial Manufacturing Challenges on our blog! Want to learn more about the basics of PIM? Download our eBook Product Information Management 101 today!