Industrial distributor Quality Mill Supply was recently featured in a case study by Affiliated Distributors detailing their eCommerce successes as a result of moving to Unilog’s CIMM2 platform and integrating 300,000 enriched product SKUs to their online catalog using AD’s eContent Services. With a more robust site and optimized product content, Quality Mill reported a huge jump in site traffic – 20 times more visits than their old site – with an average of 10,000 sessions a month.
The distributor is leveraging the integrated product information (PIM) tool in CIMM2 and AD’s content subscription services in an effort to improve their overall product information management. But, while a PIM solution and enriched content are key components to success, the discipline of product information management is also vital to an effective PIM strategy.
To help shed more light on product information management, Unilog invited Bruce Eppinger, a senior analyst for digital business at Forrester Research, to speak on the topic during a recent webinar. Eppinger leads Forrester’s eCommerce platform and product information management research, and has contributed to multiple reports on the topic, including the recent Forrester Wave on Product Information Management Solutions, in which he was the lead author.
Read on as we recap some of the insights he shared during the webinar, including his six tenets for achieving content and operational excellence in product information management.
Reliable, credible content drives B2B buyers
With consumers, low price, free shipping, and free returns are the key drivers for their shopping decisions. But in the B2B marketplace, it’s a different story. When Forrester asks B2B buyers what their deciding factor is for making a business purchase online, overwhelmingly their answer is a credible source for product details. B2B professionals want the confidence to know the product they’re buying will meet their customer needs. While the website’s functionality plays a role in finding and displaying the content, it’s clear that product content is a key motivator in the B2B buying cycle.
Forrester’s data shows that B2B purchasers would rather get product information online than from a company representative. They prefer the convenience of researching and shopping for products outside of traditional business hours at times that suit their schedule and their needs. While many businesses consider their reps as the “value add” they provide customers, Eppinger says these companies are in for a wake-up call. Buyer preferences and expectations have changed, and wholesalers and distributors need to change with them.
Superior content starts with a world-class PIM strategy
The number of sales channels has grown in the B2B space. With more channels to support, the importance of product information has significantly changed in the sales cycle, as well as in the amount of product information that’s required to support a customer journey.
In order to deliver superior product content to those channels, you must first create and execute a world-class PIM strategy. Two main pillars provide the foundation – content and operational excellence – and within each pillar are three important tenets needed to carry out your strategy:
- Content excellence tenets: completeness, quality, and targeting
Think about all the different people who are tied to the B2B transaction that you will need to support with your content: from internal staff like sales reps and customer service, to external people, including indirect reps, the B2B buyer, as well as the end user. Once you define the needs of those groups, then begin building that content for every phase of the customer journey. Think product features, marketing descriptions, and extensive digital assets. The key is to offer product content for every channel, every persona, every occasion, and every translation per market.
- Operational excellence tenets: accessibility, distribution, and governance
To make your content available to the proper channels, build a central repository that is accessible across the enterprise and your distribution channels. That repository needs to act as more than a central database; it must also support concepts like search, enrichment, and authoring so that a business user can view the information within the context they need. If it doesn’t, then the content will provide little value outside of your organization. Workflow processes play a critical role in governing who can access and review the data, and allow businesses to work on large amounts of content in order to maintain an up-to-date catalog.
Put an action plan in place
Eppinger suggests creating an action plan for your PIM journey, beginning with an assessment of your current production information management, then building your PIM strategy, and finally investing in technology to accomplish your strategic goals. A self-assessment of your content and operational abilities will help identify gaps and inefficiencies, and provide benchmarks from which you can improve upon and excel. Eppinger’s six tenants will then help you build a strategy for excellence of completeness and quality, and target your specific content needs and operational improvements. Once you’ve formulated a good strategy, you must support it by investing in the right tools and technology to help drive it.