Partnering with NetPlus Alliance to Solve the Product Content Exchange Problem

This past week I attended the NetPlus Alliance Annual Meeting. The NetPlus buying group consists of hundreds of suppliers and distributors in the industrial MRO and construction sectors united by a single goal: to find innovative ways to move their businesses forward, drive revenues, and reduce costs.

As a first time attendee, the most striking thing I immediately noticed was the level of comradery and passion that NetPlus Alliance members share for their industry. There is an amazing and sincere respect among the members.

NetPlus Alliance members are savvy professionals who understand that the world of commerce continues to pick up speed and shows no sign of slowing down. Without exception, they understand that they are both chasing market leaders like Amazon and figuring out how to work with them. There are no longer clear lines between master distributor, distributor, and manufacturer. Instead, channel strategies are more like a tangled ball of yarn.

The Paradox of Choice in Digital Commerce

The challenge so many members face is what psychologist Barry Schwartz famously called “the paradox of choice”. Faced with too many options, people are now less inclined to take action, whether it’s buying a jar of jam or investing in a new technology. In the case of our industry, the paradox of choice touches many areas: digital commerce, supply chain, product selection, and many more. NetPlus Members, like all of us, are working through the challenge of a market moving at light speed and the array of options proliferating at a torrid pace.

Solving the Product Content Exchange Problem

At Codifyd, we are partnering with NetPlus Alliance to provide an answer to this paradox of choice: sharing product content with channel partners. How do hundreds of suppliers and distributors effectively exchange product content so that the buyer always has the right selection and complete information to make a quick and easy purchase decision?

By working together, NetPlus Alliance members can now exchange highly customized product content via the Codifyd Bridge AI platform. The platform fully automates the syndication of product content, while being flexible enough to adapt to the fast-moving demands of the market. With the NetPlus Alliance Connect program, members get to enjoy efficient content sharing, while their customers receive relevant information at all points of the buying journey.

We are honored to be part of the NetPlus Alliance family, and to play our part in helping members move their business forward.

We would love to help you solve your product content problems. Visit our solutions pages, and contact us today for a consultation.

 

Optimizing the Digital Shelf for E-Commerce Success

Your digital product is your lifeline. Without it, prepare to go the way of many sellers who over-invested in the notion that digital adoption was only a facet of their business and not the defining element of company success.

To put this in context, as of June 2017, a staggering 5,300 retail stores have announced they will be closing their doors, even though apparel sales are expected to rise in 2017, with e-commerce accounting for 17% of revenue. It may seem harsh but this is the Now. Very soon 3-D printing, virtual and augmented reality, smart sensors and AI will be tools that businesses regularly harness to engage clients in a unit-level, customized product journey.

So where does digital product content & information fit into this story?

Product content is the core element that enables you to develop your digital presence and prepare to harness the technological disruption that is breaking dawn on the horizon of B2B.

From the days of print catalog to the information you choose to display through your e-commerce platform, and even to your back-end investments in technology (ERP, DAM, MDM, PIM), the persistent element that remains is the data that creates a digital representation of your physical product and drives customer experience.

B2B buyers demand expert content at all points in the buying journey

This attention to product data robustness, customized product user experiences and aligned business objectives that enable digital transformation are even more important in B2B.

The more complex the product, the greater the focus must be on the way you translate your product expertise into digital form and engage customers with expert-level content.

Where once great consideration went into ensuring your brick and mortar locations portrayed your product knowledge and displayed items in an orderly and categorized fashion, it is now time to prioritize the transformation of your organization in preparation of the digital era.

Optimizing the digital shelf with product data

In the end, it is the intersection of your product with customer data that is the driving force behind digital transformation.  In practice, it is in mobilizing product data to effectively interact with users, supported by technologies that enable this process.

As Amazon has shown, your physical product is no longer the first element of ensuring client conversion – it is now final. That’s it. Because by the time the product arrives at their doorstep, the customer has already developed the necessary trust and conducted the requisite research to identify and purchase it.

Your Digital Shelf is the new storefront: open 24/7 and accessible on the go through mobile technology. But does it cater to your customers’ needs and provide them a direct feed of product expertise?

Takeaways from EnterWorks Engage: Engineering End-User Experiences with Product Content

I spent three days last week at the EnterWorks Engage User conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The participants in this gathering came from many different industries—food service and supply, MRO/Industrial distribution, manufacturing, and retail. Many were seasoned users of EnterWorks’ Enable software. Some were beginners showing up for expert training, and others were checking out the landscape of PIM solutions to see what is right for their organization.

Aside from the delicious food (Nashville hot chicken? Johnnycakes? Don’t mind if I do!) there was a massive amount of knowledge to take advantage of. It was a real pleasure to interact with such an intelligent and driven group, and to present on the importance of data governance.

Don’t Allow Product Content to be an Afterthought

The one thing that all these users had in common was the acknowledgement that product content is a driver of their business, not an afterthought. Investing in the tools to manage your content is the first step in creating a world-class digital experience. It was enlightening to see how people from many different backgrounds approach the complex demands of engineering with the right kind of digital assets to match their business goals. Regardless of industry, there were some common themes I saw come up over and over again. Here are my takeaways.

1. Focus on end-to-end solutions

Purchasing software is not a magic bullet for all your business woes, and anyone who claims otherwise is either naïve or trying to fleece you. It’s not that there aren’t amazing software solutions out there, rather, software alone can’t dictate strategy, governance, or content standards.

I spoke during the conference on best practices in data governance, a complicated topic whose surface I could only barely scratch during my half-hour time slot. An effective data governance approach requires both discipline and enforcement, but also flexibility and quick adaptivity when quantitative measures dictate a new direction. Leadership in content means thinking about the ultimate end user of your data. These days, you’re not just identifying a product on the web, you’re engineering an experience.

2. Choose your partners for maximum advantage

Codifyd is a preferred implementation partner for EnterWorks. In fact, we partner with several PIM solution providers, and what really impressed me about the folks I met at EnterWorks is their intellectual engagement. They’re always looking for ways to improve not only their product, but their relationships with their users.

3. Work towards a minimum viable product

Shifting your focus to using content strategically can seem daunting. There are so many things to consider: defining workflows, constructing integrations between upstream and downstream systems, and cleansing or building out your existing content. By the time you’re ready to go live with the results of an eighteen-month-long project, the industry will have moved on. Things happen in the digital age at, quite literally, the speed of light. Jump in. Identify, target, and prioritize the categories, products, or process improvements that will move the needle.

4. Push the boundaries of what content can do

From resolving channel conflict with sophisticated automation tools and analytics, to approaching web content with an eye to design, to playing with augmented reality, the industry is serious about leveraging their content to go above and beyond. Don’t get left behind!

Overall, I truly enjoyed learning more about the challenges businesses are facing when it comes to managing their data. And it seems that with the right combination of technology and people, organizations are meeting these challenges in innovative ways. If these are some of your organizational goals for the upcoming year, chat with us. We’re happy to guide you towards digital success.

Stop Driving Blind: Business Intelligence in Digital Merchandizing

Voted one of the most famous cartoon characters of all time, Mr. Magoo was a wealthy retiree whose extreme near-sightedness and refusal to recognize the problem at hand always landed him in trouble. However, through amazing streaks of luck, everything seemed to always turn out just fine for Mr. Magoo. Although created before my time, I loved watching these re-runs as a child.

Product User Experience in Digital Commerce

The failure of many digital merchants to provide a great experience for their buyers reminds me of Mr. Magoo. Too often, a lack of vision prevents us from seeing the obviousness of the situation, and stubbornness limits our ability to identify the problem itself.

Unfortunately, unlike Mr. Magoo, digital merchants who provide poor product experiences do not have a screenwriter to create an improbable, magical ending that serves as an erasure for our faults. Instead, sales and customers are lost.

Frequently, those of us in the product content and information world like to blame the problem of a sub-par user experience on lack of technology. Much like Mr. Magoo famously yelling “Road hog!” at everyone he cut off, we incorrectly think that by screaming “Technology!” we will solve all problems. Or, we blame “lack of resources” – a code word for something that is simply not a priority to us.

Product Information has to Tell the Full Story

Well-translated product user experience in commerce starts with a clear vision and robust information to tell the story of the products you sell. At Codifyd, we see two key reasons why organizations fail to invest wisely in product information:

  1. They do not understand the cost of status quo
  2. They do not have a way to demonstrate the ROI

Data & Business Intelligence in Digital Commerce

The root of this problem of “unknowing” is typically not a lack of technology, rather a lack of relevant data and business intelligence to lead exactly where and how to invest in product user experience. Most manufacturers are literally “driving blind” when it comes to product content and the impact it has on their buyers. They frequently do not know where the information resides, when they send it to distributors, and if the product content makes it to the digital shelf. They simply hope for the best. Fortunately, things have changed since Mr. Magoo went on the air in 1949!

Leveraging Data with Product Content Syndication Technology

Holistic product management and syndication platforms are now delivering business intelligence by connecting to distributor channels via API. This means real user data connected in a meaningful way to your product content. To compete in digital commerce, there are a few basic data points you need to have to make informed decisions about product content:

  1. Are my products on the digital shelf and/or do I know when they hit the shelf?
  2. How are buyers reacting to my product content?
  3. Which product content is converting buyers and which is causing abandonment?

Most importantly, you need to understand why buyers are responding to your product information in a certain way. Why drive blindly when you can take meaningful data and leverage it for your organization’s success?

At Codifyd, we are experts in helping organizations gain the insight they need to drive the best possible product user experiences. With the right mix of strategy, technology and people, your customers will be happier and your digital revenue will hit the numbers you’ve been waiting for.  

Learn more about Codifyd’s on-boarding and syndication platform, BRIDGE, here.