B2B4B Part 4: B2B eCom for Beginners

In Part 4 we’re sharing the systems you need to grow your ecommerce business. The B2B4B blog series began with a big picture (Part 1) then moved to data and systems (Part 2,) and then components of a website (Part 3). Are you getting more comfortable with B2B ecommerce? We hope so.

Ecommerce doesn’t need to be expensive or complex. In fact, we have another companion series to the B2B4B blogs: the Myth Busters Series. The first Myth Busters blog is titled “Digital ≠ Expensive” – because it doesn’t. Hop over to our blog landing page to see more helpful insights on rethinking the rules of digital commerce.

There are systems, however, that help power digital experiences. Our analogy is home infrastructure. If you’ve ever bought a home, you know that you become more educated about the HVAC, electrical, and water systems when they become your responsibility. Which is why, in a similar way, we want to educate you about the systems that power ecommerce: systems that help your customers self-service easier, faster, and with less costly touches. The first we’re going to review is the Product Information Management (PIM) system.

The Product Information Management (PIM) System

In a nutshell, a PIM is a system for collecting and distributing product content. It takes master data (usually from an Enterprise Resource Platform – or ERP – system) and uses technology to enrich it for better sales, marketing, or eCommerce uses. If your sales and marketing people are spending time reviewing spreadsheets of data and cross-referencing them with incomplete data tables, it can easily become a jumbled mess of out-of-date data. The PIM system allows you to standardize on a single source of truth for that product data. It helps store, manage, enrich, and govern dynamic data to syndicate (or distribute) to others. “Others” may be other systems, internal or external business partners, or other destinations you haven’t yet considered.

With a PIM, the enriched data is accessible by other complex systems for better customer experiences. Enriched product data for example is key to advanced digital functionality like product recommendations, configurators, automated payments, and smart search. Using the homeowner analogy, it’s just like adding a smart system to manage HVAC, security, and lighting. Today’s modern-day digital experiences require robust, integrated data where a PIM (like a smart home system) is the typical pathway to get there.

PIMs, PLPs and PDPs

As you may recall from Part 3, PLPs (or Product Landing Pages) are a core part of the digital customer journey. They serve as a gateway into the entire product experience from the home or category pages on a website. On a PLP, the PIM plays a vital role in keeping information organized and displayed in a standard format in order to deliver consistent results.

On a PLP, product information from a PIM can power comparisons of brands, specifications, or units of measurement, for final choices of the right solutions or the right use case. Think of it like a virtual or digital shelf, from which items are grouped, featured, or promoted. From a B2B seller’s perspective, there is more opportunity to group products and merchandise product assortments to create more comprehensive solution selling, too.

On the PDPs (or Product Detail Pages) the PIM can organize and display an impressive array of detail, including product descriptions, product specifications, and nuanced product attributes. On these pages, the primary goal is to “convert to cart” and deliver the anticipated purchase (or repurchase.) The PIM acts as a heavy assist, like a well-trained seller, helping the buyer identify the particulars that are needed for specific uses, and featuring the right information at the right time to solidify a sale. With merchandising associations built easily in the PIM, too, your system can deliver more upsell and cross-sell recommendations to build the Average Order Value (AOV) as well.

Planning for a PIM

When you’re at the stage of ecommerce expansion and ready for a PIM, it’s important to plan for the purchase and implementation of a PIM system keeping these steps in mind:

  • A strategic cross-functional team should be assembled first, representative of the Enterprise
  • Data should be standardized with good hygiene next, with a detailed data flow map
  • Consult with an experienced systems integrator to develop a product strategy and RFP
  • Then use cases should be co-developed, so you can tailor the PIM to your business needs
  • Then, and only then, ask PIM vendors to present product proposals for your unique needs

These steps are crucial in minimizing costs and maximizing value. It is important to also embed the utility of a PIM into your current business processes and help teams adopt the new tools. Xngage clients who have used this approach have realized far greater return on investments. And similarly, companies who “get their house in order”, or plan for and implement PIM systems, typically find higher customer satisfaction and more competitive advantage. That’s digital commerce success.

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