During the second session of the expert group B2B Digital Commerce of Shopping Tomorrow, the subject of Product Information is pivotal, and in particular its value for the online B2B buyer. Herbert Pesch, managing director of B2B digital agency Evident, together with the Intershop chairman of the expert group: “Forrester research shows that reliable and detailed product information is the most important trigger for purchasing an item online.”
Strong content in orientation phase
Good content generates more conversion; but what is good content, exactly? The experts agree that ironclad content provides answers, does not raise questions and offers security. Thus, products are easily recognizable, available on all devices and the value of good images should not be underestimated. Eefje Vogel (Bavaria): “Images are crucial. Customers want to see what they order so that they can be sure that they ordered the right item. Good images provide a higher rate of conversion.” Allard van Veelen (Vanderlande) adds: “You need to help your B2B customer on his/her way. For instance, some of our large accounts have their own product numbers. With that, we offer our customers the possibility to order the right part quickly and easily.” Akzo offers customers added value as well. Dennis van den Hoek: “We also sell paint that could be potentially dangerous if it is not used correctly[...] We help our customers by adding safety information about this article and supplying the correct documents.” In short, you provide your customers peace of mind by offering comprehensive product information.
In order to deliver good content, you need to have a clear image of the customer journey. Eefje Vogels (Bavaria): “Putting yourself in your costumers’ shoes every now and then provides you with many insights. You would be amazed to learn what their challenges are.” Dirk-Jan Goudswaard (Royal IHC) also underlines the importance of the customer journey. “The ships we build are made of a great deal of different parts. Identifying the part that needs to be replaced and ordered, is the hardest. For all phases of the customer journey, relevant information is required.” Royal IHC does everything in its power to prevent that a ship remains at the dock for too long. “Preserving the current state of the parts that are installed on the ship is crucial for this. With correct information, the right parts are ordered, which can then be replaced quickly, efficiently and on time. This will guarantee that the ship remains fully operational.”
Wavin is global market leader in plastic piping systems and is working on an extensive data classification project. Michan Katerbarg: “We strive for a uniform way of dealing with product information. This does not only involve data management, but quality as well. As a B2B organization, your quality needs to be the same through all channels, whether it concerns your own website, third party websites or catalogues.” Wavin uses ETIM as a standard and not only because this the only standard that connects with their product range. Katerbarg: “Mainly because our customers ask for it. This was very useful for building support within the organization.”
Advantages for the organization itself
Good content will boost the conversion rate, but making sure your product information is in order also provides advantages for the internal organization. Katerbarg: “The product information is modified in one central place and is therefore always accurate and up to date. Thanks to that, wholesale businesses are better informed and the time-to-market decreases significantly. Turnover increases, while expenses decrease since we require fewer systems. Finally, we have are required to keep less stock, because we have a better insight into our customer’s ordering patterns.”
Strong content in and after the conversion phase
Recent research shows that an online order is returned 7x less often than an order made by telephone through a sales representative, if you have good product information. How is that possible? The customer him- or herself is responsible for ordering the right product. If the product information is inaccurate, there is a higher chance that the customer would order the wrong product. If your content is accurate, you also relieve the pressure on customer service and decrease the percentage of returns. Even when the customer has purchased the product, you are not out of the woods just yet. After conversion – i.e. in the after-sales phase – product information is still very important as well. If you provide correct and relevant content also after the conversion, you keep adding value for your customers. Adding customs documents is a good example of this, as well as tailored instructions for the installation of a technical product. Long-term business relationships are crucial for B2B commerce, after all, and this is no different for online sales.
Plan of action
What does getting your product information in order involve? To answer that question, you need to know for what purpose you will be using the product information (internally/externally) and start with the needs of the customer. In addition, you need to collect and enrich all article data and break down silos within your organization. After that, it is essential to design a good data infrastructure. An ERP system generally does not contain all necessary and desired product information for digital commerce and especially not the essential flexibility. For this, a different solution is required.
Finally, it is also important to arrange the organization accordingly. Change the mindset of the enterprise from a product- to a data-driven organization. It is also essential to appoint an “owner” of that content, failure to do so would create a work environment where no one feels responsible for the content. The owner varies per organization. At INDI, the marketing department is owner. Sybrand Brouwer (INDI): “They have the best opportunity to see at the matter from the customer’s perspective and in addition, they can increase the online findability (by deploying SEO)”
Would you like to stay informed?
On August 31st, the expert group will reconvene, this time to discuss organizational challenges.
After each meeting of the expert group B2B Digital Commerce, video reports and the most prominent findings, lessons, tips and tricks will be posted on our LinkedIn page. Are you actively involved in B2B and responsible for digital commerce/e-business or e-commerce? Then register now as a member of this LinkedIn group B2B digital commerce.
The Group also offers master classes to help B2B organizations with digital commerce issues in a practical way. Do you have questions about a master class or would you like to attend one? Please contact Roelof Swiers.