This blog is part of our Digital Transformation for Manufacturers series. To see all content in this series, click here.
Many B2B manufacturers have product information spread out across multiple systems, spreadsheets, and teams. With so many different sources, that information can become inconsistent, outdated, or difficult to find. Having a system for storing, sharing, and managing your product information is crucial for your buyers to find what they need and make a purchase.
For manufacturers, the most effective way to manage product information is a product information management (PIM) system. As the B2B industry undergoes a digital transformation across marketing and commerce, the companies who adapt quickly stand to gain market share.
What is a PIM system?
The acronym PIM stands for product information management. A PIM system refers to product information management software that manages the product data and content you need to market your products and drive sales.
How does it work? A PIM provides a centralized place for product information like SKUs, prices, videos, images, product descriptions, and specifications. In other words, a PIM creates a single source of truth for all product content.
With all product information in one place, your company can easily manage and update it with product changes. A PIM also makes it possible to customize and share information across different distribution channels, such as product catalogs, distributors, and your website. The system can even help you measure performance on your distributors’ websites.
Why product information is important
During the pandemic, digital-first has become even more important. Digital research and buying saves time and reduces the need to connect with another person, especially as companies have less opportunity for face-to-face sales.
It also means B2B buyers want a digital experience that mirrors the B2C one. Research shows 81% are willing to spend more for the same product if the supplier has excellent e-commerce capabilities. Customer behavior is demanding better search and navigation with the ability to find information and products quickly.
The reality is that in the realm of B2B, purchasing the wrong product has greater consequences than in B2C. B2B customers need information to make sure the product they are looking to buy is what they need.
Because product information is so important, not having that information becomes a barrier to purchase. In fact, 59% of B2B buyers cite lack of product information as the most common roadblock. As buyer expectations change and more purchases are done online, buyers now hold higher standards for what is up-to-date. When ranking B2B buyer pain points, finding product information that is up-to-date jumped from #5 in 2020 (19%) to #2 in 2021 (48%).
Lack of product information can happen in the research phase when a buyer can’t understand product specs and configurations, comes across inconsistent information, or isn’t sure the information is up to date. It can also present a challenge during the purchase phase when a buyer can’t find and compare different products and pricing, or simply doesn’t have enough information to confidently make a purchase.
With this in mind, many manufacturers are already investing to improve the customer experience. 58% are ensuring product information must be up-to-date and accurate, 44% are making e-commerce websites more user-friendly (including product information and checkout), and 31% (tie) are making it easy to contact a human and offering digital invoicing. A PIM makes these steps possible.
When you make the process easier, your distributors will be more likely to work with you too. In this way, implementing a PIM can lead to improved business benefits for everyone involved—manufacturing companies, distributors, and buyers.
What a PIM can do for your B2B business
A PIM can have a major impact on the way you do business and your company’s bottom line. In one case study, when a B2B manufacturer implemented a PIM platform and pushed it out to one distributor, the company’s online and offline sales with that distributor doubled within 60 days.
In this instance, the connection to e-commerce is clear, but the increase in offline sales was more of a surprise. The manufacturer found that buyers (and even internal employees) were using the distributor’s website to do research online. Then some buyers would choose to purchase the product offline. This example proves the value of PIM: a significant improvement on the customer experience and increase in sales revenue across channels.
This case also illustrates how product information management for manufacturing can solve many pain points. Internally, a PIM streamlines and automates information across all channels. It simplifies the information management process by centralizing and categorizing product data. It ensures that information is accurate and properly managed, reducing errors and improving efficiency. Ultimately, this helps the internal teams do their jobs—and increases buyer confidence and loyalty.
Externally, a PIM gets customers and third parties the information they need when they need it. With a PIM, a company is able to publish and share information with key partners and distributors, and then analyze product performance through data insights. When the company gains operational efficiencies, it also has the opportunity to provide more value-add items and digital assets. For example, a manufacturer can enhance and enrich product information with images, videos, diagrams, and more to tell a story and show why its products are superior to a competitor’s.
PIM Implementation: Steps to success
When you’re ready to implement a PIM, you’ll want to assess your current product information and map out improvements. This involves how to organize, enrich, and syndicate it. Here are six steps to create a successful PIM from the Enterprise Guide to PIM Readiness:
- Create your product information, including core attributes like a SKU, for each product.
- Categorize your product information with your customer in mind. Logically group it based on customer behavior. What do they search for, and how do they navigate?
- Enrich your content by adding details, videos, diagrams, specifications, documentation, and more.
- Plan and publish your information through e-commerce, digital channels, distributors, a virtual catalog, and website.
- Syndicate product data to third-party vendors and marketplaces.
- Enhance your content. Regularly check your data insights and look at how you can improve your product information.
If you want to optimize your buyer’s journey and learn about technology systems to improve your product information management, download our Digital Guide for Manufacturers.