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Data and the New Age of Selling
The IDW helps build bottom lines on a foundation of strong data.
Throughout this year, one of the industry’s hottest topics is keeping pace with consumers’ changing buying habits, especially the increase in online shopping and purchasing. According to NAED’s “State of the Industry 2015” report, a growing percentage of distributors anticipated increasing investments in eCommerce capabilities this year to meet their customers’ demands.
Online or Offline – Why Not Both?
Does this rising trend mean that digital (e.g., websites, emails, web stores, mobile apps, etc.) is replacing brick-and-mortar as the best way for distributors to sell to end users and remain viable in the future?
Just as distributors have adapted to market and technology changes throughout the 20th century, the online environment is another powerful way to extend their physical business, not replace it. Meeting customers online is an opportunity to add value and complement the superior customer service and quality shopping experience that customers expect at their brick-and-mortar locations. For example:
- Improved customer service: A distributor can gather customer information via forms on their website and store that information, along with other online or in-person interactions, on a customer’s record within their CRM system. Maintaining an accurate log of each customer relationship enables a distributor’s customer service team to easily understand their history with the customer and quickly address inquiries.
- Greater efficiency: A quality website supports productivity among distributors’ internal staff and can be used to inform non-web activities. For instance, inside sales can use the site to track current inventory if the website is properly synchronized with the distributor’s ERP system.
- Enhanced research capabilities: With increasing frequency, end users conduct research online prior to making an in-store purchase and are coming to expect a seamless transition between the two environments.
How can distributors ensure a seamless connection between offline and online business to realize these benefits? Data.
Data is the Name of the Game
Manufacturers’ digital product and pricing data drives both a distributor’s internal-facing ERP and CRM systems and external-facing websites, mobile apps, and web stores alike. To provide customers with faster and more cost-effective service, these systems must all be fed with the same complete, high quality data.
And yet, all too often, distributors operating on multiple platforms overlook the need to synchronize the digital product data within those systems and maintain that synchronization. Money gets invested in new ERP systems or elaborate web stores before the product data in a distributor’s current system is in order.
The Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) is populated with the most current product information – including up-to-date product life cycle information – straight from the manufacturers. These manufacturers insist on close coordination between their IT and marketing departments and closely follow industry standards and best practices. By supplying the resources and personnel to organize and publish their product information to the IDW, the manufacturers are investing in distributors’ businesses.
So how can distributor leaders be sure they are similarly investing in their own business, using the accurate, updated IDW data they need to build the best foundation for integrating offline and online efforts?
- Check how frequently data is downloaded from the IDW. Downloads can be set to occur daily, weekly, monthly, etc. The more frequently data is pulled, the more likely it is that a distributor’s systems will be up-to-date.
- Adjust the data extraction filters within the IDW to pull compliant data. A growing number of manufacturers have achieved compliance within IDEA’s Data Certification Program since February 2015, populating over 1.4 million SKUs with complete and fully attributed product and marketing information.
- Maintain internal conversation between marketing, eCommerce, sales, purchasing, and customer service teams. Each team needs a clear understanding of where all data is coming from and how it is being used to successfully conduct both traditional and online business.
- Conduct an audit of the data within a distributor’s ERP system. When were product files last cleaned out of items that have been discontinued, replaced, or haven’t been sold in years?
Each distributor’s team brings product knowledge and service to their customers, while the data driving their systems brings enhanced speed and accuracy. At the turn of the century, trucks enabled faster deliveries than horse-drawn carriages. Likewise, compliant manufacturer product data enables faster, more efficient service than outdated, legacy product information.
The way products and brands are maintained digitally has become just as important as on more traditional marketing platforms. Whether dealing with a web store, website, or ERP system, all are built on a foundation of strong data, so build a strong foundation for your business with updated product data from the IDW. Data drives your business.