B2B Manufacturers must accelerate ecommerce in their organizations – now. The B2B market needs their participation and leadership in order to meet rapidly changing customer expectations.
B2B Manufacturer eCommerce Myths
Each myth centers around priorities. In one case, the distributor’s priority is now directly opposite to what manufacturers believe to be true. In the other two cases, the priorities are important, but mismatched. We unpack all three myths here and give recommendations for what B2B manufacturers should do.
Myth 1: “Distributors will think we’re competing with them.”
There is precedence for this myth. B2B distributors want to own the relationship with end-user customers, and they want B2B manufacturers to support them in this effort. Some early attempts by manufacturers at “disintermediation” (or “going direct”) had sadly cut out the distributor. Today, though, there is broader support within distribution companies for co-managing the end-user customer.
In reality, time-starved distributors with limited staff need manufacturers’ high-quality content. It can be reliable product information that drives offline and online search queries. It can be high-quality images for improved merchandising and showrooming. Or it can be necessary legal and regulatory materials to satisfy compliance purchases. All this content furthers the entire online (and offline) customer journey, even post-purchase.
Beyond content, distributors are actually open to a type of direct-selling model, especially in cases where low volume customers only wants a small online assortment. An example is the hand hygiene bundle – a small assortment in a large chemical bundle – with smaller quantities. Manufacturers who charge the equivalent of MSRP for small orders in small bundles help distributors better manage the total cost of ownership of these types of end-user customers.
Myth 2: “My product innovation is more important than my product data.”
Great products are essential to creating demand, but increasingly the manufacturers who also produce web-ready or web-enabled content jump to the head of the placement line. Manufacturers who have brand and product content that is all ready for activation in the distributor’s system are seen as strategic: it means less touches for them. Moreover, manufacturers who refresh this content regularly can help boost search results since algorithms are based on quality and recency. Even with the best innovation, if the products cannot be found quickly or aren’t highly relevant (since they are new) their value languishes.
A manufacturer who knows all of the search terms for a product offering is indispensable. From key word matches to long-tail descriptions to alternative names, manufacturers know their audiences and products better than anyone and should share those insights with distributor partners for mutual benefit.
Myth 3: “The investment in web-ready content is too time-consuming and onerous.”
We cannot debunk the complexities of data management. But a well-defined product ownership role can create a meaningful ROI in as soon as one year. B2B manufacturing companies that invest in people, processes, and systems around high-quality data help B2B distributors realize significant whole-systems savings and in some cases prevent opportunity cost loss. And it helps their own organizations as well.
Product data is actually the currency that runs through any B2B organization. By investing in leaders and surrounding support, that product data has greater utility. It is no different than evolving your personal financial management (from yourself to an expert financial advisor) for better knowledge and results. In the case of a true product data owner, he or she would be responsible for data hygiene, maintenance, governance, and distribution. Smart B2B manufacturing companies who employ product owners with experience in both manufacturing and data are consistently outperforming manufacturers who do not.
Although starting the process may take cross-departmental time and effort, working with a strategy partner like Xngage, and using a method for streamlining processes and systems, can make it easier.
The Time Is Now
Research shows that both omnichannel and marketplace growth are predicated on making investments in B2B ecommerce. The delta of growth between companies who invest, and those who do not, will only exponentially increase in the next few years.
Our recommendations for the back half of 2023 include these three important decisions:
Prioritize product data ownership within 2023 projects, and make it a key initiative in the C-Suite
Consult with key distribution partners and get feedback on how their best suppliers provide data
Make product data a strategically advantaged piece of any new product or service launch
For ideas on how best to do this, we can connect you with B2B distributors who are leaning heavily into the product data ownership model and can offer insights to help your B2B manufacturing leadership team.