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Meet And Exceed Emerging Customer Expectations: unlocking the power of your data!

Since the COVID restrictions started in early 2020, more and more B2B companies have been shifting to platforms that enable digital sales. A transition absolutely vital for their survival. However, to stand out from the crowd, simply having an e-commerce presence these days is not enough. To successfully set yourself apart from the competition and add value to your offerings as a B2B seller, you need to make an outstanding customer experience with self-service functionalities the heart of your digital sales channels
 

Increase your B2B sales long-term

B2B organizations should never lose sight of what it takes to meet and exceed emerging customer expectations; an excellent customer online experience that offers an intuitive, easy-to-use, and responsive self-service experience. Succeed at providing this, and you will improve customer satisfaction, enhance loyalty, and increase sales over the long term.   

Research by the McKinsey institute show that customers indicate a clear preference for self-service channels when researching, evaluating, ordering, and reordering. A trend that is continuously picking up speed. And with the events of 2020 further accelerating the adoption rate of self-service, buyers even indicate becoming increasingly comfortable placing large orders remotely or completely through automated digital self-service.  

This trend puts sellers that have yet to develop modern e-commerce options at a serious disadvantage. But digital channels are typically not the only touchpoints a B2B buyer interacts with throughout his or her purchase journey. B2B sellers must therefore find ways to integrate data from all of their channels, as this is the only way to remove barriers and successfully enable self-service for their customers. 

Download B2B E-commerce White paper

 

CARLSBERG: FULLY INTEGRATED B2B E-COMMERCE AND ENGAGEMENT PLATFORM  

Carlsberg is one of the largest and most iconic brewers in the world. The Danish company now reaches more than 140 countries with their products. Carlsberg wanted not only to become a leader in digital within the beer brewing industry, but also to develop a stronger partnership with their on-trade partners. In 2018, they launched the Carl’s Shop, the innovative platform that would take Carlsberg’s digital journey to its next level. 

The Carl’s shop digital commerce platform provides superior customer service, enables customers to place orders 24/7, through any device, and eliminates the need for telesales. In addition, it enables customers to stage their hospitality business for success, with elaborate and rich content like product stories, editorial content and training on how to successfully operate their business. Through this content, Carlsberg can build an emotional connection with their customers that transcends the transactional, and becomes more relational and loyal. This approach has proven to show visible growth in net revenue per customer (Carlsberg’s Annual Report 2019) and it is the perfect example of digital and customer experience excellence in B2B.  

 

So, what precisely enables a compelling CX? What are its building blocks? While transforming the complete customer experience involves many steps, it all starts with overcoming ‘product data challenges. Never underestimate the severe impact poor product data quality can have on the shopping experience.  

 

Master your data

It may sound like such an easy thing: integrating all your data. However, adding new product information to a dynamic B2B e-commerce website is challenging undertaking. The e-commerce website isnt the only location where this data is needed. New or updated product information must be integrated to, and accessible by, every relevant online and offline channel.  And if B2B sellers dont have a tool to send accurate product data to every channel, they will find themselves wasting time, money, and manpower – and worse, allowing inaccurate date to be shown to customers.  

Complete, reliable, and attractive product information is essential for a great customer experience. Here are some facts: 

  • A Forrester Research study reveals that 87% of shoppers leave a B2B website to conduct further product research using other channels, usually because the product description or information did not meet their needs. 
  • According to A.T. Kearney, providing more accurate, complete, and consistent product information can increase conversion rates from 17% to 56%. 

 

The quality of product information can be the deciding factor for successful product discovery and a subsequent purchase, especially when the potential client is enabled to compare two products with multiple options regarding the level of detail. In the past, detailed information was required mostly in the construction and manufacturing industries, where customers would ask their sales representative everything they needed to know before deciding on a purchase. Today, with most sales channels being remote, all product information simply has to be available right there and then. If you fail to meet this prerequisite for self-service, you will drive your customers to other vendors for their purchase.  

And that’s where PIM software enters the stage, helping B2B sellers simplify the process of creating, collecting, and managing product information for both online and offline catalogues. Simply put, PIM allows you to deliver compelling product experiences through your sales and e-commerce channels faster and easier. 

Download B2B E-commerce White paper
 

Make Data Your Most Valued Asset Using PIM

Product Information Management connects, manages, and shares data between all systems. This includes ERP and PLM, and spans across all your channels – from e-commerce and retail, to PoS and print, and everything in betweenIt not only allows you to enrich your data and create a single source of truth, PIM also hands you the tools to correctly analyze all data at once and use the results to guide your business decisions in the right direction. By leveraging product data managed across multiple systems, you can turn it into a powerful asset that drives innovation, digital transformation, and growth.  

 

There are many benefits for B2B organizations to effectively using PIMIt allows you to create omnichannel experiences, increase sales opportunities, and reduce product returns, which all contribute to increasing your revenue. Furthermore, with PIM you can improve consistency and operation efficiency by eliminating duplicate product data and error-prone processes, and make it easier to comply with regulations. PIM also makes it easier to onboard new products and services, and simplify the product lifecycle, all responsible for accelerating your time-to-market. You can further enhance your customer experience by using insights to make it more engaging and drive performance and business value. Connecting all your data has the added bonus of eliminating barriers both internally and between outside partners, resulting in faster decision-making.  

 

 

 

Outperform the Competition

In the age of information, mastering your data is key to providing both value and relevant experiences for your customersDoing so allows you to fully commit to omnichannel, offer personalized purchase journeys, and improve retention by creating satisfied customers that will happily continue to do business with you. With PIM managing your master data, you can take the lead over your competitors by setting yourself apart with better, faster and more consistent performance of your digital sales channels.  

 

 

Osudio & SAP CustomerExperience combine software for digital commerce and product content management, with UX design and years of implementation experience. We help you create meaningful, seamless, and omnichannel customer experiences. Benefits include limited IT hassle, higher customer engagement and revenue, and the opportunity to easily integrate other countries onto the platform. 

 

Rich product data: when your suppliers hold your success in their hands

Today’s empowered consumers and B2B buyers expect rich quality product data before purchasing. So for many organisations, enriching their product data is vital to their e-commerce. But, when you find yourself depending on suppliers and partners for your product data, your online success can be rocky. You’ll need to source your product data efficiently and as richly as possible. In this blog post we’ll explore the various ways of sourcing external product data. 

More than 90% of any given e-commerce site consists of product information. Therefore, synchronising product data enables and improves the entire supply chain. Small wonder that more and more industries are implementing standards for classification and collaborating on distribution via data pools. Because your suppliers normally own the best and most current product data, connecting them is crucial. A data pool subsequently pushes the product data to synchronised retailers under common rules and standards. 

Some of the well-known classification and data pools in Europe for a variety of industries are: 

  • ETIM:
    a standard article classification for the 
    installation sectorthe construction sector and the maritime sector.ETIM stands for European Technical Information Model and has been used internationally since 2006.
  • 2BA:
    the neutral data pool of trade and product data in the 
    Dutch installation sector. Manufacturers, importers, wholesalers but also installers can contact 2BA to exchange information with the central database. This exchange takes place via uniform stocks that are determined in the industry according to the standards of the Building and Installation Chain Standard (i.e. the ETIM classification).
  • EZ-base:
    the data enricher for the 
    European iron industry. EZ-base is the sector-specific database for the iron industry with uniform, rich article information for various commercial purposes.
  • PS in FOODservice:
    data enricher for the 
    food sector, including alcohol and non-food. PS in FOODservice positions itself as the central place for transparent product information from producers, farmers or gardeners.
  • BAB:
    the Dutch association of construction and infrastructure companies (BAB) aims to unify product- and trade information for calculations and transactions in the construction chain. Not meant to be an independent system, BAB sees itself as a connector to existing initiatives and parties for digital data exchange.
  • GS1:
    the data standard and classification for retail, healthcare, food and DIY (including garden retail). GS1 (Global Standards One) is a global organization focused on the design and implementation of standards in the field of electronic communication between companies. Next to barcodes and standard EDI messages, GS1 focuses on Global Product Classification to standardize the structure of product information. 

 

CHALLENGES OF SOURCING PRODUCT DATA 

If your industry is not covered by a data pool for easy distribution, or your key supplier is not yet connected, you’ll need to source product data directly. As product data is notoriously complex, non-standard and unpredictable, product management can become significant bottleneck. Data can be missing, invalid or inconsistent, and may go back several years. This reflects a practice where external sources are uncontrolled and internal sources come from legacy systems. The resulting master product data ends up being fragmented and incomplete. That makes it challenging to obtain accurate inventory reports, to consolidate spending across suppliers or to find reliable business answers. The whole information supply chain is impacted, which prevents you from running an optimal e-commerce business. 

The first step to fix this, is to use a single source of truth from where you can synchronise validate product information across the company. 

 

PRODUCT INFORMATION MANAGEMENT 

Using a product information management (PIM) system is recommendable, as it provides a single place to collect, manage, enrich and distribute your product information.  PIM takes data from any data source, such as flat files from your supplier or your own Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). You define and clean the data you want to use and specify priorities between different data sources. Next, you enrich product descriptions with technical or consumer information, classify products and control the data quality. Thirdly, your PIM spreads product information via your different sales channels in the required format and selection. For internal sourcing, PIM offers many ways to connect, like plug-and-play integrations, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) or through an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). The real challenge is connecting your suppliers. 

 

CONNECTING YOUR SUPPLIERS – 5 KEY TIPS 

Suppliers today are more viewed as strategic partners. Close collaboration will help you reduce costs, mitigate risks, innovate and bring your products to market fasterQuality product data is the starting point for all this. Your suppliers should be able to easily upload and update their product catalogues in a flexible way that can match their specific situation. Typically, a supplier portal is used for this: a web-based interface where suppliers can create a scheduled batch integration with their existing systems and define their data fields. For example, in the installation sector one supplier may sell a single five-meter pipe a piece, while another supplier sells pipe per meter with five as the minimal buying unit. 

Depending on the market and legacy systems in place, connecting suppliers can take a lot of effort. Here are five key tips we can give you: 

1.Actively build and maintain your supplier relationships. Do you both see the value in long term collaboration? 

2.Weigh your supplier’s abilities and efforts to deliver the product data quality you need. Is this the right partner for you to support your e-commerce goals? Does your supplier share your vision on product data? Can they commit? 

3.Consider incentivising your suppliers. You could reward with a higher margin based upon the level of product quality or penalise when product data is poor and requires a significant effort on your end. 

4.Co-develop a product data roadmap. Where do you stand and where do you want to go? Can your supplier commit to the steps needed? 

5.Keep a clear view on the developments and requirements in your market. Which data is nice to have, and which data has become a must have? Is there an initiative in your market to pool data? 

 

An article written by Victor Terpstra, Sales Director

Successfully localising an e-commerce website

One of the key stages in an international e-commerce project is adapting the website to the various target markets. In addition to language, currency and the product catalogue, many aspects need to be determined in order to localise an e-commerce website. So, where to begin? What are the pitfalls that need to be avoided? Let’s take a closer look at what is needed to successfully localise an e-commerce website. 

WEBSITE TRANSLATION 

The first thing that comes to mind is obviously the need to translate your e-commerce website. And this is a good first step! Consumers are more inclined to make purchases on websites that show content in their own language, quite simply because they feel more reassured about what they are buying.  

However, simply translating your e-commerce website is not enough to encourage purchases. Above all, consumers’ needs and online purchasing behaviour need to be taken into account. These are closely tied to cultural differences and habits specific to individual countries. 

ADAPT YOUR PRODUCT CATALOGUE

When establishing a presence in a country, it is often necessary to consider whether the product is suited to the market. Does it meet a consumer need? Can you market it in its current state or should you adapt it for use in the target country? Is it the right season? 

The catalogue and product data sheets should also be adapted on the basis of such considerations. There isn’t much use in offering a wide range of duvet jackets if the temperature in the target country never drops below 25°C, selling shorts right in the middle of the country’s winter season, or marketing a household appliance that doesn’t meet applicable electrical standards! 

ADAPT THE INTERFACE TO MAXIMISE USER EXPERIENCE

Internet users’ browsing habits and level of familiarity with new technologies can vary from country to country. It is therefore necessary to be in phase with local practices and cultural mindsets by adapting the website’s ergonomics and functions, including meanings associated with icons, symbols and colours. 

Such adaptation should not, however, go so far as to impinge on the brand’s overall coherence and identity. 

ADAPT PAYMENT AND DELIVERY METHODS AND COMPLY WITH APPLICABLE LEGISLATION

Each country has its own payment habits for online shopping. In France, consumers mainly pay by bank card. But there are of course other payment methods: In Germany and the Netherlands, people prefer to pay by bank transfer, while Japanese and Chinese shoppers pay on receipt of their goods.Also, prices must be shown in the local currency. 

Failure to take these matters into consideration can lead to a loss of trust in the purchasing process among consumers and significantly affect the website’s conversion rate. 

As with payment methods, delivery methods can vary from one country to another. Depending on the strategy they adopt, online retailers can opt for international deliveries (the cost of which needs to be evaluated for each zone) or the setting up of logistics platforms in each market. 

Lastly, other factors, such as currency exchange rates, the local price policy (inclusive or exclusive of tax), confidentiality policy and product returns policy, also need to be taken into account by online retailers, who must make sure they comply with applicable national legislation. 

DEFINE A LOCAL SEO/SEA STRATEGY 

In order to improve your search engine presence, you need to adapt your overall visibility and ranking strategy into a local SEO/SEA campaign.This adaptation involves more than simply translating keywords. You need to be familiar with the search engines used in target countries and how they work (for example Baidu is the leader in China and not Google), as well as keywords in the target language and their positioning in relation to local competitors. 

MAKE YOUR WEBSITE PART OF A LOCAL MULTICHANNEL MARKETING STRATEGY

Lastly, your e-commerce website must be integrated in a local multichannel marketing strategy.Are there physical stores in the country? Which digital media do you need a presence on? How can customer service be contacted?Are the major social networks authorised in the country? If so, are they widely used? If not, which ones are most commonly used?  

 

Implementing PIM

With digital transformation come new business models and publishing channels. Companies are redesigning their IT landscape to develop e-commerce, create supplier self-service and improve warehouse management. One key element in all of this, is product data management. When B2B organizations realize they‘ll need a Product Information Management (PIM) system, they’ll come across numerous new challenges. In this blog, we’ll address the five foremost questions often asked by companies implementing PIM.

As companies embrace everything digital, business processes become more digitized or are even completely overhauled for digital optimization. Connectivity with data pools, compliance with local, global and industry legislation and regulations are increasingly more important for efficient business operations. This brings all kind of challenges, but one sticks out: to manage product data and to provide optimized information for distribution to all desired channels.

From our practice of implementing PIM for a variety of customers, we’ve listed the top five questions and give appropriate answers:

1. I have my product data in ERP. How should I use this data in conjunction with a new PIM system?

Traditionally, every business has its product or service information stored in an ERP system of some kind. To use this information optimally in conjunction with a PIM system, it’s important to know how the ERP data is used currently and how the PIM data will be used in the future. Not only the product data, but also the data processes surrounding the use, the maintenance and governance of the data are crucial to this review. To select the right approach for your product data, the process of creating an initial product record is key. There are two main approaches for this: one in which ERP is leading, and the second in which PIM is leading.

2.I use a lot of information from other companies. What is the best way to get this rich data from partners and other data sources?

Any required information for your PIM system comes from external or internal sources. Your suppliers normally own the best and most current product data that they typically share through data pools. Today, more and more industries adapt to enriched product data and product classifications that are offered in standardized formats. One of the most common ones is GS1 (from 1WorldSync) that serves industries like retail (including supermarkets and pharmacies), food, medical and DIY (including garden). Internal sources can be your ERP, PLM or WMS systems. Via APIs or an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) you can access other sources and collect the correct product data for your new PIM system.

3. What kind of data quality tooling will I need? What does it need to do and check?

Placing your all your product data in one spot is only the beginning. You’ll need data quality tooling to be able to answer management questions such as:

  • Why do we have such limited product information on our e-commerce site?
  • Where do we stand with our desired level of quality of our product data?
  • How do we enrich data efficiently? How do we monitor its quality on crucial points such as details, material codes or ingredients in food?

You’ll require tooling that can analyze, validate and improve data via your business processes. These processes can help to organize, set targets, suggest data improvements, monitor data quality overall or specific sections or attributes, filter out exceptions, match data to legislation and validate before releasing the data.

4. How do I migrate my current product data to the new system?

Usually, data migration includes more than just the transfer of source data to the new PIM system. Most data migration projects also require complex routines for data validation, cleansing and transformation. This means that the project team needs to have significant expertise in source and target systems and an in-depth knowledge of the associated data. The right steps for data migration as we see them are:

  1. Confirm business requirements and choose the right migration strategy
  2. Perform data quality checks and cleanse data
  3. Define the system setup
  4. Create a data migration plan
  5. Execute the data migration plan
  6. Do after migration checks

5.How do I give access to my suppliers?

In many B2B environments, suppliers provide their product data in a variety of formats. By e-mail, fax (yes, they are still being used in 2018), text files, Excel files or XML. All these formats need to be manually uploaded into the system holding your (supplier) product data: ERP or PIM. Depending on the number of products, people can have a full day job on uploading product information. Next to uploading, manual validation is done on each record to see if it complies with the company’s minimum quality rules. Simple checks can be: is a product picture attached, is a short description provided, are there any legal restriction on this product? If you have only a couple of suppliers, than it is not a big deal. But if you are a supermarket or wholesaler and you have thousands of suppliers? Then you’ll be looking for an easier way to process all that data: via a supplier portal. Here, your supplier upload their data themselves manually or automatically. After processing, a report is automatically sent to the supplier and receiver.

In this blog, we’ve only skimmed the surface on these elementary questions surrounding PIM. If you’ll want to go deeper, please download the whitepaper ‘How to Implement PIM’ here.

The Keys to E-Commerce Success: Business Focus and Product Data Quality

As e-commerce continues its steady growth, the product data that makes it possible also grows. And while business leaders and marketers may prefer to work on deals, campaigns and building revenue, there is also work to be done inside the shop. But when we start talking about product data quality, the attention tends to drop. Who really wants to be talking about data quality and data management? So let’s talk shop first. 

Recognizing the Business Needs 

The importance of being found on Google is clear to everyone. If your products aren’t seen by your customers, you simply won’t sell any. But as Google’s motto is Focus on the user and all else will follow, it doesn’t end with SEO. You should really focus on the customers’ information needs in order to convert search traffic into e-commerce success. This means more than providing your unique information searchable and tagged so it can be found through the search engines and comparing sites. Your product data also needs to be correct, current, complete and detailed for the customer. 

Let’s take a laptop as an example. You’ll require extensive product information in the shape of a short and long description, specs, images, reviews and rich content such as a demo video or a 3D image. Your whole catalog needs to be up to date, while prices for some products may change weekly or even daily. Typically somewhere along the line you’ll want to include the long tail, which means hugely increasing your product range. 

To purchase your products, consumers need to see the delivery options and availability straight from your logistics system. If your company sells cross-country, this not only adds new logistical challenges, but also new content needs, since all your product information has to be translated. The translations are usually done locally and entered centrally at the head office. All these angles mean that different departments are responsible for your e-commerce success. And on top of that, there are also legal requirements you must comply with. For very large or for B2B companies the Sarbanes-Oxley act can put extra pressure on your company’s business processes, or else you may face dire repercussions. In short, when we are talking about product data, we are talking about business. 

Setting the Business Focus on Product Data Quality 

Product data quality represents a hygienic factor to stay in business and is a key differentiator for e-commerce success. It makes sure that your products rank in Google, that your customers can consider your offerings seriously and that they can go and make their purchase. Recognizing the different business needs behind product data quality, translates to certain business rules for product data. To give just a few examples: 

  • The usage of keywords in page titles, page slugs, headers, navigation, internal links, image titles, image alt tags and meta description for SEO; 
  • There can be no duplicates in the assortment, prices have to be up to date, product descriptions can’t have any HTML tags and product images must be matching with the brand; 
  • Per product type a minimal length for the product description, certain images and fields are required. For example: browsers will expect more product information for a laptop than for a stylus; 

Business rules for product data quality can differ in audience and importance. Next to shoppers there are internal customers such as administrators, customer service representatives, compliance officers, sales professionals and marketers. Product data quality plays a role in all their business processes. So how do you enforce these business rules to increase product data quality? 

Increase Your Product Data Quality in Four Steps 

Before we go further into the how-to’s on product data management, I’d like to confirm that always, business is leading. It is the business that drives, makes crucial decisions and releases budget for product data quality. IT is the enabler that delivers services to the business and explains the possibilities and boundaries. 

  1. Product Data Analysis: the first step is to assess your existing data quality issues and analyze root causes of typical and frequent recurring data quality problems. You can do this by recording all your datasets and data fields so you know exactly what product data you have. What are the sources for your product information management (PIM) system? How do your suppliers offer their product information? Go through all the processes that touch product data and find out what you can do about the quality of the product data. Take a customer’s perspective and go through the whole process from googling and comparing with competitors to purchase and calling the service support department. Important: set your priorities right and focus on resolving the most urgent problems first. Don’t get caught in analyze-paralyze scenarios, work in an agile manner.
  2. Setting the Business rule for Product Data Quality: decide which basic product data really needs to be present and prioritize that. Make a difference between must-haves and nice-to-haves. It may also become apparent that you won’t have a full view of your product data. According to the “You can only improve what you can measure!” principle, you’ll find the need to measure more product data in order to improve it. Defining key figures is the way to start evaluating measured values and keep the focus on the business needs. 
  3. Product Data Quality Project: the first time you seriously research your product data quality, usually calls for a one-time project to reach the desired quality for all key figures. The scope of the project can involve discussing industry standards with suppliers, integrating systems and implementing automated and manual control for product data quality. Business is leading the project and IT is matching business needs with IT possibilities. 
  4. Product Data Governance: once you’ve finished the project, you’ll find that you’ll need someone to stay on top of your product data quality. A person responsible for the key figures and with the authority to address product data issues across departments. Tasks also include increasing the awareness on the importance of product data quality, ensuring earlier product data errors don’t occur anymore, connecting new data sources and steering suppliers to go from unstructured product data to standardized product data. 

Stay on Top of Your Product Data to Stay on Top of Business 

The quality of product data may seem fuzzy at first. But once you start categorizing and measuring, you’ll get business insights. Then you can connect product data quality with going long tail, expanding to other countries, increasing conversion rate and search engine rankings. Making the connection between business focus and product data quality helps you prove that you are on your way to further e-commerce success to management. 

Need help with setting the right mindset about product data in your company? Contact us for an introduction.