My job involves a lot of time thinking about the challenges distributors face in a hyper-competitive marketplace. One particular problem is that of differentiation: how do you, as a distributor, create or maintain a competitive edge online?
A recent report from Industrial Distribution, "Differentiation in Distribution", made some good points about this issue. What can you offer as a distributor? The traditional thinking pinpoints a few areas in which distributors can create a competitive advantage.
- Product Quality: The truth is, you don’t have much control over product quality. After all, you’re selling the same products as your competitors.
- Pricing: How much wiggle room do you really have on pricing? The differentiating effects of price in B2B digital commerce are not comparable to those found in the retail space.
- Service: This is the bread and butter of any distributor’s business model. Most organizations invest heavily in building relationships with their customers and offering perks for doing business with them. The downside? Everyone else is doing it! This is expected of distributors as a baseline; it’s not going to help you stand out from the pack, especially in a digital world.
- Online Presence: According to Industrial Distribution’s 2016 Operations Survey, “[O]nly 56 percent [of respondents] said they are currently generating web-based revenues.” Being part of that 56 percent certainly plays a part is differentiating you from your peers who refuse to join the 21st century. But a competitive edge can’t be obtained by simply buying the right software. The tool is only as good as the one who wields it, after all.
So what’s missing from this picture? Quality product content. Enriched, informative content about the products you sell does a whole lot of heavy lifting when it comes to enabling product discovery. Let's review some reasons:
- 1. Boosts Trust On The Part Of The Consumer: Knowing the details of a product instills consumer confidence: "Oh, this is green, 3 ¼-inches and compatible with Model 12345? Yes, this widget is clearly what I’m looking for!" Facilitating the easiest possible decision-making for your customer drives conversion.
- 2. Speaks For Your Organization: Clean, consistent, and accurate product content advertises your organization’s business acumen and subject matter expertise. Think about a jumbled dollar-store versus a carefully curated, well-stocked boutique. Which of these storefronts projects a more trustworthy image? Who would you count on to supply your business with its essential needs?
- 3. Acts As A Guide To The Right Product: A robust, well-designed taxonomy, or product hierarchy, enables both browse and search, creating a seamless web experience. Finding the right product with minimal effort is one of the best ways to fight cart abandonment and turn research into action.
It is at their peril that distributors neglect the design, maintenance, and cohesiveness of their product data. It can be the one thing that helps you rise above the crowd in a very crowded commercial space.
Dana Kleifield is a consulting manager at Codifyd. She has spent the last four years at Codifyd working with clients in the industrial space to build compelling data models, develop and deploy strategic product content, and solve the many organizational problems that bad data can perpetuate.