The wholesale industry is on the brink of a radical change. Taking clues from the success of B2C eCommerce, B2B vendors are letting go of traditional, inefficient sales tools and channels, and are embracing modern solutions instead.
One of those solutions is product information management (PIM) software. In the B2B environment, each purchase must be strategically justified and go through a rigorous process of approval. Because of this, improving the quality and quantity of product data available for sales representatives can be a game changer for the vendors’ bottom lines.
Here are three inspiring ways that modern wholesale businesses are embracing PIM technology for you to consider.
Transformation of sales channels
Historically, wholesale transactions were predominantly made through traditional channels, such as in-person meetings, phone calls, or fax orders. However, the digital age brought about significant changes in how the wholesale industry operates. Wholesale eCommerce, also referred to as B2B eCommerce, is rapidly gaining momentum as more wholesalers recognize its potential benefits for both themselves as well as their customers.
As you might expect, one of the premier applications of PIM software is indeed eCommerce. You can argue that precise and reliable product information is even more important in the B2B sector than it is in B2C because wholesale buyers tend to scrutinize their purchases more heavily than retail clients do. On top of improved data quality and quantity, implementing a PIM solution can also significantly improve the user experience that’s so important in the world of eCommerce
Success story: itsme
itsme is a distributor of technical components with a staggering seven million products in their inventory. They sell to B2B and B2C customers alike, which made the business model ideal for an eCommerce implementation.
Challenge: old-fashioned ordering process
The company faced several pressing issues with its product information management:
- First, the outdated order processing system, primarily reliant on telephone and fax, led to inefficiency and lost productivity because of their massive catalog.
- Second, the absence of tracking capabilities hindered their ability to monitor returning clients, prices, and product life cycles.
- Lastly, difficulties in cooperating with suppliers under the European Technical Information Model (ETIM), due to manual data entry, resulted in incorrect information, incomplete orders, and operational inefficiencies.
Facing the challenges described above, itsme decided on a radical transformation of their sales channels. By implementing a combination of Pimcore and Magento, they fully embraced eCommerce.
As a result, all product data fed into different sales channels is now stored and processed in a single centralized repository. This improves its quality and consistency, and also smooths out the process of delivering it to various channels. Instead of antiquated methods, customers now place their orders through a self-service portal similar to those they’re familiar with from B2C eCommerce platforms. This, in turn, made the process simpler for customers and less error-prone for itsme.
If you’ve ever ordered or sold branded products, like pens, t-shirts, or coffee mugs, for your business, you’re well aware of how inefficient the process usually is. There are always many different forms, emails, and files named something like “design_v3_final_accepted_after_changes_biggerlogo_really_final” exchanged back and forth. It doesn’t have to be like this.
The ability to customize items is often overlooked when it comes to the potential of B2B commerce optimization, but there’s much to accomplish here. A dedicated PIM system is capable of handling much more data and variables than a generic content management system (CMS), which opens up new possibilities for customization. It can support intuitive drag-and-drop editors that allow users to handle customization on their own, leaving the vendors with the final design neatly packed in an order to fulfill.
Success story: PHOENIX Pharmahandel
PHOENIX Pharmahandel, based in Germany, is one of the leading pharmaceutical distributors in Europe. Apart from the pharmaceuticals themselves, PHOENIX also supplies their clients with marketing materials, such as flyers and posters.
Challenge: inefficient process for product customization
Flyers and posters that PHEONIX offers can be customized to a large degree according to the client’s requirements. They can vary in terms of product selection, color scheme, and background images. Prior to the implementation of Pimcore, ordering the materials happened through an XML template that left a lot to be desired in terms of its capabilities. As a result, before printing the order, PHOENIX spent a lot of time going back and forth with clients to fix the templates that they submitted.
Implementing Pimcore at the back end of PHOENIX’s infrastructure allowed them to develop a dedicated HTML/CSS drag-and-drop editor for clients. The new editor introduced to the front end is more capable and reliable than the old XML templates. This makes the process of customizing orders smoother and less error-prone on the clients’ side. On top of that, it also connects directly into Pimcore via a plugin, meaning that the finished design can arrive as a structured order rather than a generic email.
Versatile product portfolio
The trend of embracing eCommerce mentioned before doesn’t mean the end of a traditional sales representative in the wholesale industry. Quite the contrary, B2B customer behavior is similar to B2C in the sense that we like to first see a product in person and then complete the purchase online.
In order to support their sales representatives the best they can, wholesale businesses need to equip them with up-to-date and well-organized product catalogs to use in their pitches. This is another area where PIM systems can shine.
Success story: Kronenbourg
Kronenbourg, a subsidiary of the international Carlsberg group, is the premier brewer in France. With a team of over 100 sales representatives scattered across the whole country, they needed to ensure that the messaging stayed consistent and each representative had access to all the materials they needed.
Challenge: portfolio creation and distribution
The previous iteration of the sales portfolio was far from ideal. It was prepared by an external agency and formatted as non-editable image files. Each update of the catalog had to be done by the agency. On top of this, because of the way it was distributed, it forced the representatives to download the entire catalog, over 1 GB in size, after every tweak. As you might imagine, this posed significant problems for representatives across the country who often travel to locations with poor internet connections.
The process of migration to Pimcore allowed Kronenbourg to solve all of the major issues related to the product catalog. Gaining independence from the external agency was the first step. This was easy to accomplish thanks to Pimcore’s built-in catalog creation tool. The Kronenbourg team can manage all the product-related data on their own and at any time. As an added benefit, they can now also export the documents in a more user-friendly format than before.
Because the Pimcore database can be downloaded locally, sales representatives maintain full access to the complete set of product information at all times, even with no internet access whatsoever. When a piece of information changes, the system only downloads what’s needed and not the entire database like before.
Making business success come wholesale
The wholesale industry is undergoing a profound transformation and moving away from traditional sales methods toward modern, adaptable solutions. PIM software, like Pimcore, has the potential to be at the forefront of this process and revolutionize the way B2B businesses approach product data.
When used to its full potential, PIM software can improve the quality and availability of product data, seamlessly introduce new sales channels, and facilitate product customization. Of course, these are all so important in the modern eCommerce landscape.
Of course, the list of benefits goes on, and this article is only meant to give you a taste of the key ones. We've recently released an eBook that goes over more applications and benefits of PIM software in the wholesale industry. Make sure to have a look to get a complete picture of what such implementations can accomplish for your business.
Published October 24, 2023