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How PIM solves distribution problems

Online sales have grown in all areas since the pandemic and this trend is becoming embedded in B2B commerce as well as B2C. The fact is that most distributors are lagging in getting their product catalogs fit for the 21st century. The challenges they face range from product data governance to catalog management, expanding to new markets and instilling increased collaboration among departments to increase internal efficiency. 

Digitally native procurement

Many distributors are still failing to adapt their operations to the demands of modern digitally native B2B buyers. As such, they face existential threats in every area, from having a competitive edge to plans for market expansion. Disintermediation between manufacturer and customer is happening, so distributors have to justify why they exist – what exactly is the value they add?

There’s an inexorable trend towards eCommerce and online B2B strategies for distributors, so to avoid being left behind in the backwash of digital transformation, distributors need to find ways of ensuring that high-quality product information is a centrepiece of their operations, not only now, but into the far future. The future of B2B must be omnichannel – business customers are increasingly demanding an interaction with distributors which reflects their B2C experience in terms of ease, speed and, above all, convenience. When distributors assess how well they manage their product data currently, the capabilities exist to significantly enhance their product information management – they can invest to be future-proof by leveraging the available technology.

How can PIM solve distributors’ problems?

Below, we’ve outlined the broad areas of product information management where a PIM solution will eliminate the kinds of problems which have been dogging distributors in recent years.

1. Managing large volumes of complex product data

A significant challenge is adding new channels, because distributors’ product catalogs are usually enormous, so adding a new online channel, or updating this mountain of product information (often containing extensive, highly technical attributes), is both time and resource draining if done manually.

Distributors building a strategy with a PIM as its centre will have a much higher rate of success when managing a large product range with multiple product lines and variants. A PIM’s centralised product information hub is a guarantee that distributors can maintain consistency across departments internally, and channels for the end user. It isn’t only technology – data governance is also a key component of a robust product data management framework, with its process norms and protocols.

2. Automated workflows and process management

There are often multiple teams and departments involved with compiling the typically complex product information that distributors deal in. That includes elements like data from the manufacturing process (materials, logistics and compliance documentation). Inter-departmental gaps in knowledge, together with manual processing make the incidences of error so much greater than necessary.

If these data streams are unified and integrated within one source of truth in one location, it becomes much easier to fulfil the demands of compliance, completeness, and usability. A PIM can also be leveraged to drive business rules engines and validation workflows. It automates the kind of repetitive, rule-based tasks which, without such a tool, are generally carried out manually, and are prone to error and omission.

3. Industry data formats and meta-data

Manufacturing-related product data often exists in industry-specific formats, such as ETIM, BMECat, IceCat, and GM. It can be overwhelming to manage product information and data assets when it comes to deploying an omnichannel strategy.

 A PIM solution can be configured precisely to manage these non-standard data formats, which helps manufacturers when onboarding, organising, and exporting product data – it becomes less complicated, faster, and more efficient in getting products to market.

As mentioned, industrial distribution in particular has thousands of products needing extensive information and descriptive content. This isn’t limited to features or precise description, but also valuable metadata for the B2B purchaser. This may include keywords, rights, brand information, as well as data assets like images and video referring not only to one specific product but covering a range of associated products in different categories. 

How data collaboration accelerates your omni-channel success

4. Governance and control of product data

Organising product data is one thing but governing those data can be problematic in itself. B2B distributors frequently need to enrich and ‘massage’ industry-specific product information according to every channel’s rules, as well as for each outlet.

Governance is a crucial aspect of managing product information where different groups are working on it, be they internal teams or suppliers. A PIM solution is designed specifically to govern data and user teams, and most modern solutions incorporate advanced user management capabilities to control who can edit what, who approves the final catalog, and how to ensure catalogs are up to date and accurate before being syndicated. It also helps to make product data management processes simpler by integrating disparate systems and tools using API connectors and extensions. That is the route to eliminating inconsistencies and errors.

5. Productivity and collaboration

Moving fast and being agile applies as much to B2B distributors, as it does to B2C merchants because if ever there was a time when they need to prove their value, it’s now. Product data management, however, can slow distributors down, especially if there is a culture of low levels of operational collaboration – that usually leads to inefficient, chaotic workflows, intensifying problems, slowing the organisation down and leaving it struggling to keep pace with the market, purchasers and, most worryingly, competitors.

In a nutshell, PIM makes eCommerce more efficient for distributors. It’s the driver behind well-organised and accurate product data. So, if you’re a distributor transitioning to digital or wanting to grow your ecommerce reach, scalability is not an intimidating issue. All challenges have solutions based on making processes less complicated and easier to carry out. The PIM solution gives you full oversight, while alerts and notifications mean workflow efficiency engenders a notification-driven productivity system and a much more holistic and collaborative approach to product data management.

…so that as a distributor, you are adding to the value chain.

RS Components Case Study

“Start with Data are helping transform product data management, laying scalable technology and data governance foundations”

Start with Data, PIM implementation, and distribution

At Start with Data, we specialise in supporting and guiding distributors of all kinds with their PIM implementation journeys. We’ve helped major industrial distributors, like RS Components. So, why wait? Contact us so we can have a more in-depth conversation about how Start with data’s services can make your digitisation journey smoother and more trouble-free. 

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