PIM B2B 1 | Inform buyers thanks to Product Information Management
Companies in the manufacturing sector, whether they are manufacturers of components or finished products, differ from those of other sectors primarily through the production of items which have extremely complex variants, which often require the presence of a configurator to present them to the market. The same dynamic is reflected in the retail B2B network responsible for sales and distribution of those products.
Most companies in the sector initially implemented tools for internal use by their technical department and sales network. Some of these companies then exposed parts of these tools to buyers, allowing them to make independent choices regarding product variants.
Has the sector requirement therefore already been satisfied? The answer is no, and thus we need to tell you why it is necessary to adopt a PIM – Product Information Manager in order to make the product "genuinely" configurable and customizable.
The PIM aims to be the hub and the sole source of data of a company's product catalog, in order to supply consistent information on all sales channels and optimize the time to market. The adoption of a PIM represents a fundamental step in a company's digital transformation process, with a totally new customer approach as in most companies the IT infrastructure, primarily the ERP, includes "only" the products which have previously been produced and sold, rather than the entire range of products that the company can actually offer, with inevitable lost business opportunities.
B2B companies provide their customers with a product catalog on the basis of two parameters:
- The products which can actually be put into production and which are therefore defined by the technical department on the basis of the company's production capacities, taking into account feasibility restrictions linked to systems, materials etc.
- The commercial sales strategy, defined by the management and sales department. The catalog of products that the company actually wants to sell is usually a subset of the previous group. The decisive factors are linked to the market in which it operates, its competitors and clearly to the profit margins in play.
PIM B2B 2 | Product Awareness and B2B Marketing
Product catalog issues: where are the product codes?
Not all products defined as available for sale by the company are usually tracked in the ERP.
For this reason, it is not unusual to find an as is in the catalog in which there is not a unique product ID but there is both an ERP code and a company code which is used for products that are not coded in the ERP but are present in the hardcopy catalog and on the website.
Often the website (or the paper catalog, depending on the company) therefore becomes the source of information for the sales force, in that the system is updated as a priority and checked more carefully than the internal systems.
“Typical” product catalog issues can therefore be found:
1. Product information available on multiple data sources (ERP, file with product descriptions, catalog printing tools, website ...), lack of product information Master Data which makes the information update and maintenance processes fluid and optimized for a competitive time to market
2. Incompleteness of the digital catalog and the need to define the uniqueness of the components and product codes, managing the gap between the production and sales code, which is not always traceable, meaning that the online catalog is partial and incomplete. This can depend:
- In the case of finished products, on the presence of many versions of the same product, on the basis of the combination of different components and the absence of defined categorization rules and logic
- On unfinalized categorization of the components making up the finished product. Component categorization is usually managed only in the production phase, as the technical department manages the BOMs and technical specifications for production, which are different from the sales ones
The components are therefore present in the ERP, but it is not currently possible to determine precisely which components are present in the finished product.
Sales force and support for the ordering process
The industrial PIM considers not only the ERP as the source of products, but also manages all necessary sources to generate a marketing-oriented catalog
For companies with an e-commerce channel or an SFA system accessible by customers in a password-protected area, the consequence of incorrect or insufficiently exhaustive product categorization is inefficiency in the online ordering process, leading to significant efforts from the sales force who have to check and confirm orders.
Imagine a company which sells finished products with n different variations which has not optimized the process: all processed orders are potentially “incorrect”, as there are no precise restrictions in the mixture of combinations of component codes that the customer can place in their cart, and as such the sales team is forced to manually correct the order by entering the correct components, before then validating and processing it.
The industrial PIM falls under this scenario, considering not only the ERP as the source of products, but also managing all necessary sources to generate a marketing-oriented catalog: it manages all product combinations at the marketing level, products with more complex combinations, with a high number of variants, which can be presented through a configurator on the e-commerce portal, depending on the customization requirements.
The PIM is thus able to provide the best experience both to the corporate users who need to use the system and to the end users, regardless of what source the product information originated from.
The system administrators use the PIM to manage and publish product data both in predefined and static catalog scenarios and with products which are the potential result of configurators, thus created on demand by the end users in self-service mode or with the support of the sales force on the basis of predefined rules.
Let's use the example of a component manufacturing company which makes valves and unions. While the unions are very limited in terms of the variants and combinations and are therefore already fully entered in the PIM database, the valves are much more complex and have many more combinations which give rise to many variants which can be obtained through the configurator, even though they are not present by default in the PIM database. This is because the number of possible and saleable combinations of valves, taking into account all possible parameters and their interdependency (such as materials, measurements etc.) may be too large to be maintained in a database, as the combinations may easily run into the millions. Moreover, maintaining such a large database would be more complex than managing a limited set of rules.
A Product Information Management solution and project therefore allows a self-service e-commerce system to be structured within a company context of highly configurable and customizable products; moreover, as the product code is determined dynamically, the price can be calculated dynamically in the same manner, without the manual support of the sales back end
The PIM becomes the master for all marketing product combinations, going beyond the range of products present in the ERP and creating greater sales opportunities at a reduced cost due to the savings in terms of the time and effort of the technical and sales departments.
Digital catalog and B2B Ecommerce for the components sector
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