July 6, 2015

tED Magazine – Leverage the IDW

View the article in NAED’s tED Magazine by clicking on the image below, or continue to read below 

As more business continues to move online, consumers have come to expect clean, functional websites that make it easier for them to search, browse, and purchase. Buying habits are changing, and a strong online presence is necessary to remain relevant and profitable.

IDEA is attuned to this evolving market and has been working with manufacturers to gather the product attributes and transactional information that distributors need to create complete product catalogs, build out their websites, and remain competitive online. In fact, the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) now has 800,000 manufacturer products that are fully attributed and ready for use on the web, and that number continues to grow as more manufacturers participate in the Data Certification Program.

Despite the availability of this rich product information (e.g., images, descriptions, packaging, MSDS/SDS sheets, spec sheets, etc.) in the IDW, manufacturers are concerned that they have not seen distributors using this information on their sites. How can distributors ensure that they are leveraging the IDW’s offerings to make the most of their investment and avoid getting left behind online?

Develop a user-friendly design.

Before launching a website build or update, consider the most important things you want to say about your company and product lines, driving your overall strategy. Then, work to develop a site that is crisp, clean, and easy to navigate. Don’t be afraid of having white space to make content easier to read, and using tabs to present expanded information about the products you sell.

Keep the language simple. Distributors frequently operate in multiple verticals, and a website visitor from the plumbing industry may not understand electrical industry jargon. Consider presenting high-level information upfront while offering more details the further a visitor clicks, to help avoid information overload.

Finally, invest in a good search engine. Customers often conduct a keyword search as part of online product research, which can lead to brick and mortar sales or web sales down the road. The easier you make it for customers to find products on your site, the more likely they are to complete a purchase.

Populate your site with manufacturer-provided product information from the IDW.

Your website will only be as good as the data driving it, and the IDW has a growing amount of the data necessary for conducting business online. Further, IDEA regularly puts that data through rigorous programmatic and human quality checks to ensure it is ready for distributor web storefronts.

Such data includes video clips, Energy Star certification information, and fourteen different types of URLs (e.g., images, MSDS/SDS sheets, instructions, etc.). The IDW can also accommodate multi-level packaging data. This information is often necessary for distributors to ship outside of their immediate geography, which is becoming more common as online sales increase.

Your IDW Distributor Specialist can also help make sure that you’re extracting all possible marketing content fields available in the IDW. XML is the best option to extract from the IDW, as it is the only extract format option that includes every field (350+ fields) available in the IDW.

Grow your site.

The complete and accurate product data available in the IDW should be the baseline for distributor sites. Once established, you can build upon that baseline with additional IDW offerings to help set your company apart online.

For example, distributors subscribing to the IDW at the Catalog Plus level gain access to 75+ of the most commonly used product attributes that have been normalized, or mapped to one consistent format, for faster, more accurate internal and online searches. Catalog Plus also offers nearly 1.4 million IDEA-hosted URLs to help eliminate broken URL issues, and IDEA regularly runs URL checks to ensure accuracy and functionality.

Establish a maintenance plan.

Developing a strong website is not a one-and-done process, and one frequently overlooked component is regular maintenance.

Make sure you have requested authorization for all of your manufacturer trading partners in the IDW and are regularly downloading their attributes and transactional information. As manufacturers make changes to their IDW data, you can have a feed of the most current data in your system and on your site. Be sure to also pay attention to the product lifecycle on your manufacturers’ products and have a process in place to remove old items.

A quality website supports productivity among distributors’ internal staff, and a strong online presence helps to establish trust, credibility, and reputation among your customers. Manufacturers are already populating the IDW with the product information necessary to build that presence, so now is the time to work with IDEA to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the IDW.