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AD Members: Start Your Digital Transformation with Unilog

Our next-generation PIM and all-in-one commerce platform are the backbone of a unified commerce experience for your customers.

If independent distributors want to remain relevant and thrive in the marketplace – especially during economic crises like the one caused by COVID-19 – they need what the big box retailers and major distributors have: size and scale advantage. Fortunately, they have Affiliated Distributors (AD) and Unilog in their corner.

As the largest commercial independently owned distributor buying group in North America, AD has both the resources and budget to invest in the best programs and services to help smaller distributors grow and evolve their business. Their partnership with global technology provider, Unilog, gives AD members access to two core components needed to build a successful online business: a robust catalog of enriched product data and an eCommerce platform designed specifically for B2B companies. Members can subscribe to both the product catalog and Unilog’s premier digital commerce solution to build a stronger foothold in the marketplace.

AD members Turtle & Hughes and Hirsch Pipe & Supply have implemented Unilog’s eCommerce platform along with the AD eContent Catalog to drive their digital business, and both have seen positive business impacts as a result – from overall efficiency gains to increased site traffic and conversions. “With the AD content and Unilog platform working together, we’ve more than doubled our average order value,” says Colin Harbut, Digital Marketing Manager at Hirsch. “We couldn’t be happier.”

If you are an AD member looking to make a digital transformation, read on about the advantages of Unilog’s powerful, affordable digital commerce solutions.

Increase traffic and inform buyers with the CX1 PIM

Since 2015, Unilog has helped AD build and manage an extensive eContent Catalog of enriched product data which members can subscribe to for their online storefront and ERP system. The master product catalog, known as the CX1 PIM, features more than 6 million products across five industries, with thousands of new SKUs added weekly. As an individual distributor, it is both time-consuming and costly to enrich extensive product catalogs; but, with AD’s eContent Catalog subscription program, product content is captured and enriched on a massive scale, making product images, marketing descriptions, specifications, manuals, and videos available for buyers to make an informed purchasing decision. This surplus of rich content is also a boon for SEO; it attracts search engines and makes a distributor’s website more relevant in search results.

Brian Whitehead, eCommerce Operations Manager for Hirsch Pipe & Supply, says they subscribe to the CX1 PIM to provide better content for both their customers and their employees. “The real testament to the quality of our content comes from our own staff,” explains Whitehead. “They use our site to locate products for customers rather than Google searches or even our own ERP system because the content is that much better.”

In addition to robust product content for millions of SKUs, the CX1 PIM includes a host of other benefits for AD members:

  • Industry-vetted taxonomy: Our comprehensive product taxonomy has been tested and enhanced over the years to ensure buyers find products easily and in a way that makes sense to them. The AD taxonomy currently offers 14,000 leaf nodes (categories).
  • Multiple catalogs: One of the biggest improvements made to the CX1 PIM is the ability to create multiple product catalogs for different needs. Now members can build and maintain separate catalogs for their eCommerce storefront, alternate online marketplaces, print catalogs, ERP systems, and more. This tool is extremely helpful for someone with multiple online stores, say, those who have a site for B2B pros and another for consumers. Separate catalogs can be built for each store and the distributor can control which products customers can view and purchase on those sites.

Multiple catalogs can be created from the master catalog and easily accessed on the dashboard

Multiple catalogs can be created from the master catalog and easily accessed on the dashboard

  • Data layer tool: This new feature is a game-changer for AD members who want to customize and modify their product data. By adding a data layer, distributors can write a custom description for an item, add more images, and even provide additional attributes. This customized data can be fed to different catalogs and sources and will not be overwritten when other product updates are made to the master catalog data. Data layering simplifies product information management by giving members the ability to control content for multiple channels within a single system.
  • All-new user interface: AD listened to member feedback and Unilog delivered by creating a more user-friendly interface with more intuitive features and better navigation to streamline workflows and eliminate unnecessary clicks. No extensive training or computer background is needed to utilize the CX1 PIM.

User-friendly interface allows for easy data management

User-friendly interface allows for easy data management

  • Customer Service Representative (CSR) portal: ERP systems can be difficult for new employees to learn, and tedious to use to look up product information. The CSR portal built into the CX1 PIM eliminates the learning curve and provides a convenient web view of a distributor’s product catalogs with all the information related to those items, including their internal ERP item numbers. With all the product data available on one screen, team members can create quotes and enter ERP orders quickly and efficiently. In addition to assisting customer service reps, the portal also provides a prototype or “preview” of how a catalog of items might look like on their eCommerce site.

CSR portal offers a clean interface and web view to mimic an online storefront

CSR portal offers a clean interface and web view to mimic an online storefront

  • CIMM Sync: This integration tool syncs the data published from the CX1 PIM directly over to the AD member’s online storefront, eliminating the need for downloads and integration builds. With CIMM Sync, exporting data has never been easier.

Build a strong digital footprint with Unilog’s eCommerce platform

In addition to supporting the AD eContent Catalog via the CX1 PIM, Unilog also provides a best-in-class eCommerce website for AD members. Our cloud-based software platform offers leading-edge, B2B-specific capabilities such as intuitive and configurable site search, easy checkout with flexible payment options including punchouts and credit cards, user-friendly content management functionality, and an inbuilt CIMM2 PIM to manage product data. “It’s a monumental task to get a PIM up and running, so having the CIMM2 PIM already built into the software was a huge plus for us,” says Ajay Kamble, Chief Information Officer at Turtle & Hughes.

Out of the box, Unilog’s digital commerce platform gives distributors everything they need to run their digital storefront:

  • Integrations: The platform directly integrates with the CX1 PIM to sync and publish data across business systems, including ERP and point-of-sale (POS) systems. And, with a complete API toolset, it can communicate with any current or future business applications, including Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Business Intelligence (BI), and Marketing Automation.
  • Site search: Our sophisticated search tool enables buyers to find products quickly and easily. Some of its intuitive and configurable features include predictive search, auto-complete, image previews, and attribute filtering. No matter how a buyer chooses to search for products, our site search will provide them relevant results.
  • Hosting and deployment: For the ultimate in reliability, our platform runs on the fastest, most secure infrastructure available, the Google Cloud. It is extremely flexible so, when site traffic increases, it instantly scales the compute and storage resources needed. And, Google’s redundancy feature ensures the website and all its data will never be lost due to outages or breakdowns; it automatically fails over to another zone without interruption.
  • Commerce: The B2B-designed commerce tool provides a consistent, omnichannel experience across all sales channels, from web and mobile apps to front counter purchasing. Customers also have multiple online checkout choices, including quick order pads, different payment choices, and the option to buy online and pickup at your branch location.
  • Events management: To maintain a connection with customers, the Events Management feature allows businesses to create and maintain a calendar of events for training classes, webinars, technical certifications, and features built-in registration and payment options.

Unilog offers AD members incredible value and power, making our platform a great choice for independent distributors looking to increase revenues and drive down operational costs. With AD’s continued investment and Unilog’s innovative tools, AD members can attain an omnichannel business quickly and affordably. “We need to be where the customer wants us to be, and digitizing our business is helping us do that,” asserts Kamble.

If you are an AD member and interested in learning more about the AD eContent Catalog, please contact the AD Account Management Director for your division. If you currently subscribe to the AD eContent Catalog and would like to learn more about Unilog’s digital commerce platform, you can request a demo and one of our team members will contact you to arrange a time.

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