How Wholesalers and Dealers of Building Materials can Improve Product Information Efficiency

MaterialsBuilding materials is a very diverse product group. As a wholesaler or dealer, you will have to manage many different attributes and digital assets depending on which product classification we are talking about.

Getting these data from a diverse crowd of suppliers is a hard job. You may have a spreadsheet for each product group where you require data from your suppliers, but this means a lot of follow up and work in putting the data into your system. You may have a supplier portal, but suppliers are probably reluctant to use it, because they cannot deal with hundreds of different supplier portals from you and all the other wholesalers and dealers possibly across many countries. In the same way that you are not happy about if you must fetch data from hundreds of different customer portals provided by manufacturers and other brand owners.

This also means that even if you can handle the logistics, you must limit your regular assortment of products and therefore often deal with special ad hoc products when they are needed to form a complete range of products asked for by your customers for a given building project. Handling of “specials” is a huge burden and the data gathering must usually be repeated if the product turns up again.

At Product Data Lake we have developed a solution to these challenges. It is a cloud service where your suppliers can provide product information in their way and you can pull the information in the way that fits your taxonomy, structure and format.

 

5 Product Data Levels to Consider

As a merchant (dealer or retailer) you are probably evaluating how you can implement or improve your Product Master Data Management (Product MDM) and/or Product Information Management (PIM). When doing that, you can divide the different kinds of product data into the schema below:

Five levels

Level 1, Basic Data

At the first level, we find the basic product data that typically is the minimum required for creating a product in any system of record.

Here we find the primary product identification number or code that is the internal key to all other product data structures and transactions related to the product within an organization.

Then there usually is a short product description (if you use SAP, it is an only 40 character long field). This description helps internal employees identifying a product and distinguishing that product from other products. Most often the product is named in the official language of the company.

Here we also find the identification of the supplier and his product identifier.

Level 2, Trading Data

The second level has product data related to trading the product. We may have a unique Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) that may be in the form of an International – former European – Article Number (EAN) or a Universal Product Code (UPC). Here we have commodity codes and a lot of other product data that supports buying, receiving, selling and delivering the product.

Level 3, Recognition Data

On the third level, we find the two basic pieces of product information that came to existence when we started producing product catalogues and had the first ecommerce solutions online.

The extended product description is needed because the usual short product description used internally have no meaning to an outsider as told in the post Customer Friendly Product Master Data. Some good best practices for governing the extended product description is to have a common structure of how the description is written, not to use abbreviations and to have a strict vocabulary as reported in the post Toilet Seats and Data Quality.

We often see that the extended product descriptions need to be present in the range of languages covering the locations where business is done either if the business is international or done in a country with multiple countries. The trend of increased user customization (or should I say customization) drives this point further.

Having a product image is pivotal if you want to sell something without showing the real product face-to-face with the customer or other end user. A missing product image is a sign of a broken business process for collecting product data as pondered in the post Image Coming Soon.

Level 4, Self-service Data

At the fourth level, we have three main sorts of product information: Product attributes, basic product relations and standard digital assets. These data supports when customers makes buying decisions within eCommerce and other self-service scenarios.

Product attributes are also sometimes called product properties or product features. These are up to thousands of different data elements that describes a product. Some are very common for most products like height, length, weight and colour. Some are very specific to the product category. This challenge is the reason of being for dedicated Product Information Management (PIM) solutions as told in the post MDM Tools Revealed.

Basic product relations are the links between a product and other products like a product that have several different accessories that goes with the product or a product being a successor of another now decommissioned product. Product relations is described further in the post Related Products: The Often Overlooked Facet of PIM.

Standard digital assets are documents like installation guides, line drawings and data sheets as examined in the post Digital Assets and Product MDM.

Level 5, Competitive Data

As the fifth level we find elements like on the fourth level, but usually these are elements that you won’t necessarily apply to all products but only to your top products where you want to stand out from the crowd and distance yourself from your competitors. If you are a reseller, you typically make these data yourself, where level 4 hard facts are delivered from the manufacturer, as examined in the post Using Internal and External Product Information to Win.

Special content are descriptions of and stories about the product above the hard features. Here you tell about why the product is better than other products and in which circumstances the product can to be used. A common aim with these descriptions is also Search Engine Optimization.

X-sell (cross-sell) and up-sell product relations applies to your particular mix of products and may be made subjective as for example to look at up-sell from a profit margin point of view. X-sell and up-sell relations may be defined from upstream by you or your upstream trading partners but also dripping down on the roof from the behaviour of your downstream trading partners / customers as manifested in the classic webshop message: “Those who bought product A also bought / looked at product B”.

Advanced digital assets are broader and more lively material than the hard fact line drawings and other documents. Increasingly newer digital media types as video are used for this purpose.

Product Classification, Product Pricing and Product Lifecycle Status

All of the above-mentioned levels of product information is supported by product classification. Usually we see product classification handled as a reference data type across Product Information Management (PIM) and ERP solutions.

Product pricing is usually also a subject mainly belonging to the ERP side of things.

Master Data Management (MDM) is the discipline that connects the dots between these topics.

Take the processes to the next level:

Learn how our Product Data Pull concept drastically can improve your business processes in getting not at least the higher levels of product information in the right shape here.

How Merchants Can Sell More and Reduce Costs

In a data driven world being the best at receiving product information from your suppliers is a winning formula.

You will sell more if you have the most complete, accurate and timely product information in front of your online customers when they make self-service buying decisions.

You will reduce costs if  you can pull product information in one uniform way and let your suppliers push it in their many ways. Hereby you can automate the processes,  avoid errors and reduce product returns.

You will also be able to manage a broader product range by turning ad hoc products into a regular product in your assortment with minimal extra costs.

Our solution using emerging technologies within Product Data Lake will make you be easy to do business with in the eyes of your suppliers and make your product information transform into a powerful weapon in the quest for winning more online market share.

The people who may buy your product range deserves to know all about it and wants to get that information when making the buying decision. Remember: 81 % of visitors will leave a web-shop with incomplete product information.

Downstream sell more reduce costs

 

Self-service Ready Product Data

The increased use of self-service based sales approaches as in ecommerce has put a lot of pressure on cross company supply chains. Besides handling the logistics and controlling pricing, you also have to take care of a huge amount of product data and digital assets describing the goods.

You may divide product information into these five levels:

Product Information Levels

Please learn more about the five levels of product information, including how hierarchies, pricing and logistics fits in, by visiting the product information castle.

Level 4 in this model is self-service product data being:

  • Product attributes, also sometimes called product properties or product features. These are up to thousands of different data elements that describes a product. Some are very common for most products like height, length, weight and colour. Some are very specific to the product category. This challenge is actually the reason of being for dedicated Product Information Management (PIM) solutions.
  • Basic product relations are the links between a product and other products like a product that have several different accessories that goes with the product or a product being a successor of another now decommissioned product.
  • Standard digital assets are documents like installation guides, line drawings and data sheets.

These are the product data that helps the end customer comparing products and making an objective choice when buying a product for a specific purpose of use. These data are also helpful in answering the questions a buyer may have when making a purchase.

Every piece of data belonging to any level of product information may be forwarded through the cross company supply chain from the manufacturer to the end seller. Self-service product data are however the data that most obviously will do so.

In order to support end customer self-service when producing, distributing and selling goods you must establish a process driven service that automates the introduction of new products with extensive product data, the inclusion of new kinds of product data and updates to those data. You must be a digitalized member of your business ecosystem. The modern solution for that is the Product Data Lake.