By Nick Schulte
Name a product that you can’t purchase online. If you’re having a hard time thinking of something, good. That’s the point. Manufacturers are starting to recognize that even the most complex products can be sold online and those doing it are seeing results. And now, with Amazon infiltrating B2B, manufacturers don’t just need a website, they need an engaging experience that provides tools and information to the end customer when and where they want it, which ultimately leads to more sales and customer loyalty.
That’s easier said than done—but it can be done with the right approach. It begins with understanding the needs and goals of your customers. Once you know that, you can create experiences and provide capabilities that enable those goals to be achieved. In this world of digital transactions, there are three key capabilities to consider: Commerce, Product Information Management (PIM), and Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ). Most of our manufacturing clients have at least one of these capabilities enabled, but may not be maximizing efficiency, and could benefit from a new strategy.
How do you determine when to make an investment in one (or all three) of these? It’s important to first understand the purpose of each one, how they work together, and their unique benefits. Let’s break them down.
Many companies have been selling products on their website for years. This is nothing new. But it is new (or newer) in Manufacturing. Manufacturers have been selling through distribution for years but not all have made the leap to sell products on their “own” site. Well, it’s time to rethink that strategy. Your own Commerce site is what allows you to create the perfect experience that caters to your customers. Amazon may sell your product but they probably are not cross-selling with your products. No, likely they are cross-selling your product with their own brand or one of your competitors. You have the unique ability to sell your products on your site with all of the specs and rich product content that you probably already have (which Amazon doesn’t), in an experience that you control and customer data that you can now own and learn from. If anything, you’ll find that you might need other tools to help better accomplish that, making your owned experience engaging, informative, and easy to navigate. Here’s where PIM comes in.
PIM – Product Information Management
Manufacturers always have a lot of data. You have complex products with many attributes, spec sheets, data sheets, imagery, videos, etc. But many of you don’t have the tools to effectively manage that data. And now, as the number of channels you serve and sell through continues to grow and grow rapidly, you desperately need tools that can support multiple channels and be the engine behind your website. Enter PIM. A PIM system provides a centralized platform to ingest, enrich, and distribute product information to all of your channels.
That ability to centrally manage product information for all channels is key. Maintaining such a high level of consistency across every touchpoint allows teams to ensure the integrity of their product data, ultimately engaging customers and driving increased sales across channels. Your website is only as good as the product content it holds. And, you need a PIM to harness the power of that rich data and get it into the customer’s hands at the right time.
PIM is a foundational capability to succeed in the digital world, and we recommend it be prioritized first.
CPQ – Configure, Price, Quote
Manufacturing orders can get complex, especially with the number of variations of often similar products that many manufacturers allow. As a result, the sales process is often slowed because the sales team is unable to quickly deliver a quote, or worse, what’s quoted is wrong. CPQ changes that by managing these complex rules behind the scenes and only exposing valid configurations to the customer. Imagine if you could put all of those highly configurable and complex products online for the user to configure, quote, and ultimately purchase without a human’s involvement whatsoever. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, you can, and it’s not as hard as you might think. You already know all of the configuration options, you just need to load them into a system intended to store them and allow the self-service to begin.
Putting all three together
As the manufacturing digital landscape becomes more competitive, building a sound strategy around these three capabilities is paramount. While each capability is unique and can offer tremendous benefits to manufacturers looking to transform digitally, it’s when they are effectively integrated within the same ecosystem that you’ll see and feel a real impact.
For more information on how you can take advantage of Commerce, PIM, and CPQ, contact us.