You are likely already aware at the speed at which the B2B e-commerce market is growing. While the B2C market is expected to be about $523 billion annually by 2020, the B2B market in the US is expected to be nearly double that at $1.1 trillion, according to the Forrester/B2BecNews Q1 2017 B2B Buy-Side Online Survey.
Along with this rapid growth, you have also likely heard about the many disruptors in the B2B market.
Disintermediation of supply chains is resulting in competition between former partners, as new partnerships form. Enterprises practicing ”business as usual” may find themselves with slimmer margins or being squeezed out of the channel altogether. Amazon Business is growing at 20% per month and already has more than 30,000 vendors signed on. With all these choices and the ability to rapidly price shop, brand loyalty is also taking a nose-dive.
On top of all of these changes, B2B buyers are behaving differently from how they used to. They are, in fact, acting more like B2C shoppers, which is who they are when they aren’t at work. Sixty-seven percent of ‘Millennial generation’ B2B buyers prefer to shop online, compared with 51% overall. Ninety-two percent of US buyers have used Amazon to research a work-oriented purchase and 74% confirm that buying online is more convenient that buying from a sales rep.
The takeaway is simple: B2B buyers now expect a rich e-commerce experience, each and every time.
Get Ahead with the Best Product Information
It is no surprise that B2B buyers begin their product search on Google or, increasingly, on Amazon. What may surprise you is where they complete their search and where they ultimately buy. You got it—it is where they find the best product information. Great product information is good for your top and bottom line!
So, What’s Next?
If you would like to continue delving into these data and insights, please join us to continue the discussion on July 20 at 1 PM CDT. Together with our partner, DATAgility, we are hosting a webinar to talk about:
Register now for the webinar, Why Manufacturers Need PIM in Their E-commerce Stack on July 20, 2017 at 1 PM CDT, hosted by DATAgility and inRiver. Hear more aboutthe changes in the B2B online marketplace and how you can ensure that you are doing everything you can to give your customers the best digital experience possible.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver
inRiver’s upcoming PIMpoint Summit 2017 is heavily focused on micro-moments, those intent-driven moments in a buyer’s journey when they are deciding where to go, what to do, how to do something, or what to buy.
The challenge is determining how to make all your best and most appropriate product content available to the buyer in those micro-moments - when they need it. Not only does this take skilled marketers who acutely understand the individual buyer journey, but also requires tools and processes that can support what can be a Herculean effort to address micro-moments.
Manufacturers and distributors may, in some cases, be one step removed from the micro-moments that exist in the retail environment. However, an increasing number of B2B purchases are also being transacted digitally, or, at the very least, being researched in real-time online. It is also important to note that many of today’s Millennial-aged business buyers did not grow up reading catalogs. Making up as much as half the number of B2B buyers, this generation of businesspeople are very comfortable with both researching and buying online.
Thus, we are now in the age of the customer, when empowered buyers can quickly compare product options and make purchases in a single click. They may only contact you when they need to, such as when product information and pricing is only available to the sales rep or when they have a problem or complaint. You need to make the access to information and buying options easy; if you don’t, your competitors will.
The Content Store is an functional application within inRiver PIM. Many types of content can be stored in inRiver’s content store, including images, multi-media files, specification documents, user manuals, product descriptions, and safety information. All these content types are available in a simple-to-use portal.
For those of you who are manufacturers, the Content Store allows your distributors to access and download product information. For wholesale distributors that sell to retail stores, dealers, or contractors, you can provide your customers with a simple way of accessing product information. This is a method that avoids the exchange of emails, files, and spreadsheets. Essentially, the content store within inRiver PIM is a repository for content and product information. You no longer need to email, send spreadsheets or marked up PDF or Word documents. You can simply send your partners, dealers, customers, and internal stakeholders to the Content Store for whatever information they need.
inRiver PIM is a powerful, easy-to-use solution that encompasses and enables the four key stages of the PIM process - supply, enrich, plan, and publish.
The Content Store is the heart of the inRiver PIM organism - a virtual one-stop shop of product information that users can access for all of their product information needs. Instead of descending into spreadsheet Hades or searching for the latest version of product data within the organization’s “content spaghetti,” users can simply add needed content to a shopping cart for download or create assortments online for distribution internally or externally. In addition, multiple Content Stores can be created based on user need. For example, many distributors have set up content stores for their customer-facing sales teams to streamline content and facilitate the sales process. Simple administration functionality allows for the management of users and granting of user permissions. In addition, the inRiver PIM Content Store provides a single-click catalog creation feature for easy publishing - to multiple channels - of customized assortments, looks, or product bundles in PDF format.
If this concept intrigues you, we invite you to learn more. We recently recorded a brief 20-minute webinar and demo that describes the Content Store in more detail and provides an in-depth look into the functionality. Designed specifically for B2B companies who aspire to sell online, the demo includes real-world data and examples.
It is time to be resurrected from an eternity spent in spreadsheet purgatory. Take a look at inRiver PIM’s Content Store! Watch the Webinar On-Demand!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver Inc
inRiver uses channels to stream selected product data into downstream systems. Channels are a highly useful tool to further the organization of products, as well as their data and assets for downstream use. inRiver PIM has an ideal setup for creating channels and integrating with the desired systems. These products are mapped from the initial bundle, product, or SKU into the selected channel(s) in the form of a hierarchy.
A hierarchy is a tree of products that becomes narrower in scope as you go down the tree and is also known as a taxonomy. Taxonomy is used to organize and arrange your entities, products, and items. Two primary uses of taxonomy are for navigation and for classification of products. This is an integral part of designing channels, since the main purpose of the different channels is to direct your product to the outlet in which it is going to be sold. The primary use of taxonomy with inRiver PIM is the categorization tree to classify products. This will allow one category node to be assigned to a product and from here the product is mapped to the channels that have been created.
The following are some of the types of channels:
The most common channel is for e-commerce—along with traditional Content Management Systems (CMS) and Web Content Management (WCM)—to drive a website. The selection of products and navigation hierarchy intended to be sold on the retail website is created in a specific channel. For example, each website has its own channel. There are some key items that need to be thought of when creating this hierarchy. The hierarchy must be customer-focused and not focused on an internal business structure, such as a business unit or brand, although the system is flexible and allows for the structure to be created according to the company requirements. The best backbone to this structure is what we at EIS call “is-ness,” which refers to the essential nature of the product, rather than to its specific characteristics such as size, or what it is used for. This refers to the intuitive way the customer usually shops. So the customer would look for “sweater” first, and color or event, such as formal or casual, later.
The use of the product (its application) provides a great secondary taxonomy (a.k.a. “facet taxonomy”) and allows multiple ways for the customer to find products. For example, if the end-user is shopping for a headlamp for the purpose of hiking at night, the initial hierarchy based on “is-ness” may follow this path: [Lighting Products]-[Headlamps], while the application may follow this path: [Hiking Products]-[Lighting]-[Headlamps].
The benefit of this secondary taxonomy is the ability to lead the end-user to a set of products for their intended use, and toward finding other products that they may need for initial application. There will be overlap with the first taxonomy in this secondary taxonomy. The headlamp mentioned above may also be in an application facet for “spelunking.” The initial taxonomy based on “is-ness” has one spot for each product. These can be separate channels or mapped together in a polyhierarchy, which is a hierarchy allowing for multiple nodes that a product can inhabit, depending on how the downstream system works. Taxonomy testing can be done to determine whether the navigation paths are intuitive or need tweaking. Other examples of facet taxonomies can be Brand, Persona or Field.
The way that inRiver assists in developing these taxonomies is by their use of channels. The system flexibility allows many channels to be created and mapped.
A more compact navigation hierarchy may be needed for a mobile app or mobile website so that it is more viewable and findable on the uniquely designed screen. The rules for e-commerce hierarchy still come in to play, but wireframing (which is a rough draft mock up) and prototyping the taxonomy can ensure the mobile version of the hierarchy is optimal for end-user navigation. This channel is becoming increasingly important as more users rely on mobile devices rather than desktop or laptop computers. There is much less screen “real estate” available, so the design needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Print catalogs are still a mainstay of some industries. There may be one master catalog that maps with the bulk of a product and follows a similar taxonomy pattern as the e-commerce hierarchy. However, application-based taxonomies would be specialty sections of the catalog rather than open navigation. In addition to the master catalog, some channels could be used for smaller, more focused catalogs or print ads. These are often based on region, user personas, or brand. In November, a company selling outdoor equipment would have two different mailers for Arizona and Wisconsin. In Arizona, there may be more of a focus on camping gear and hiking equipment, while in Wisconsin the catalog may home in on cross-country skiing and curling equipment. Having two separate channels with specifically mapped products would help organize this.
Taking the catalog approach a step further can result in creating channels for marketing use. For example, the information needed to create a white paper for a product is stored and enriched in the PIM. Marketing media can be created for a single product or a group of products. A brochure for a specific application can be created. For example, a hobby shop can provide a brochure or instructional aid for building your own BattleBot, which is a robot used to fight other robots in an arena setting as a competition. A channel can be used to map the needed products for this particular piece of media so the relevant attribute information is made available, as well as the product list for this specific application. And come on, who doesn’t want to build a BattleBot?
If the company has a B2B component and sells products to distributors, channels can be used to organize the products going to each distributor. You have two options: Each distributor can have its own channel; or the system may have a distributor channel and then a level of the hierarchy for each specific distributor. Typically, the first option is better. For example, channels for Amazon, Walmart, and Grainger can each be created. Then, each channel can have a hierarchy that closely matches each specific distributor’s taxonomy so that their product managers can find the product information faster. Assets can be made available for distributors through this channel or a separate distributor media bank. Since inRiver PIM comes with a DAM system, this would be a natural and convenient add.
EIS specializes in creating taxonomies for all of these use cases, and we are happy to engage with clients of inRiver to help design these hierarchies.
Chantal Schweizer, Senior Taxonomist of Earley Information Science