Stop for a second and consider how your stockists sell your products to the consumer. Not just the channels they use, but how they actually sell your products. A successful sale is built on the exchange of relevant information between buyer and seller. This is what determines the value to buyer. If a buyer can’t decide whether the product meets their needs with the information they’ve been given, they’re probably not going to buy it.
Now think about how you sell to your stockists. The sale still relies on the exchange of information albeit with a different purchase criteria. But, to successfully market your products they need the answers to the consumers potential questions. What are the safety ratings? The technical specs? The unique features of the materials? All questions they are likely to be asked. This is where most brands fail to deliver and it’s costing you and the retailers you sell to money.
Analogue just isn’t cutting it
There’s only so many products you can produce samples for and there’s only so many samples reps can carry. Similarly, there’s only so much product information you can put into a printed catalogue. This may be fine for some, but the digital revolution is here!
The reality is that analogue just isn’t cutting it. Paper workbooks aren’t capable of holding or translating the amount of information their digital counterparts can. This is a problem if you’re selling products with technical specs like running shoes, sportswear or sports equipment that the consumer needs more information about.
Think of it this way, would you rather carry a phone book with your contacts names and numbers, or would you rather carry your mobile device with all your contacts names, numbers, company, address, pictures, price lists, social profile links and more? The more relevant information you can carry and pass on, the greater the value. The optimum word being ‘relevant’. It’s as much about quality as it is quantity.
Why the emphasis on product information?
Product information is exchanged between your marketing and sales team, your sales team and your stockists, and between your stockists and their customers. The value of your product is therefore determined by how much relevant information each stakeholder receives during each of these exchanges. Product information management is vital ingredient in your sales approach as it determines what information is exchanged.
To put it bluntly, if you’re still using analogue selling techniques you’re not giving your stockists the information they need. As a result, it won’t be passed on to the consumer. Forget bitcoin, brands must realise that product information is the new digital currency.
“Empowered customers expect rich, relevant, continually updated content to help them through each step of the customer journey, regardless of purchase touch point.”
What the consumer wants…
It’s not just in-store that you need to add value to your products with product information. A lack of product information management across multiple channels will cost your brand and your stockists money.
According to a 2017 Forrester report the consumer preference is clear. “The No. 1 feature online shoppers want from a website is product information (85%).”
Think about the buying journey of a consumer. They go online to do research and to browse products. They visit a retailer to try the product and to get an expert opinion. Maybe they then buy in-store or buy online. As simple or complex as the buying journey is the point is this: If you’re not providing the right product information at each stage, they won’t find your products online and won’t consider your products in store. The result is they won’t give you their business.
So, if your stockists are selling online, can they be expected to successfully market your products without the relevant information? There’s nothing worse than a product page with a basic description and a pixelated photo (or the dreaded ‘no image available’.) It’s not good for anyone, not your brand, not the retailer and certainly not the consumer.
Implementing Successful Product Information Management
The solution to providing this information rich, omni-channel experience starts with the consolidation of product information in a system such as a PIM. This becomes the single source of truth for all information. There’s plenty of systems out there including our aHub. Once your product information is stored in one place you can distribute it to wherever you like. Social channels, your own website, your stockist’s websites, in-store POS and to your sales team.
A PIM doesn’t just ensure your product information is consistent and accurate across all channels. Most allow different functions to collaborate on this information. This means you’re more likely to have complete and accurate product information during pre-season sell-in, in-season and sell-out/clearance.
“Savvy digital business pros use product information management (PIM) solutions to keep up with and manage the tsunami of content that they, their suppliers, and their customers create every day. Sixty-eight percent of business and technology decision makers say that improving their customers’ experience is a top business priority for 2017 — and digital business pros know that well-curated, relevant, and timely content is an important component of that experience.”
Distributing your product information
Once your product information management processes have been implemented and your information consolidated and conditioned you can distribute it to your stockists, so they can pass it on to the consumer. Online channels such as social media and e-commerce websites can be fed by a PIM. But offline, face-to-face sales channels like printed workbooks cannot. That’s why you need to go digital. It’s cheaper, easier to update and much quicker.
Analogue sales tools just don’t have the capacity to provide the accuracy and amount of information required. One of the disadvantages of print is that when the rep walks out of the door, so does the product information. The retailer is left with a catalogue that contains only basic information at best because that’s all that fits into a printed catalogue. Back to square one.
A typical solution for this analogue to digital upgrade is an e-catalogue. Instantly the amount of data you can give to your stockists increases radically, think phone book to mobile device.
After a meeting an e-catalogue can be emailed to the stockist which contains detailed product and marketing information. It can be accessed at any time offline, even in store through an app. This means it could be used while talking to a customer too.
Needs analysis and vendor selection
When researching a digital solution, it’s important to evaluate where it will add value to the whole sales process. A simple e-catalogue may be okay, but is there an opportunity to place orders electronically now your reps have a mobile device? Do you want to give different retailers different catalogues? What about including interactive 3D product images? To choose the right solution you need to define your needs and goals.
Writing down everything you want the digital tool to do will help define your needs and where you think it can add value. Exchanging important product information with stockists is priority one, but what about shortening catalogue creation times? Reducing print costs? Streamlining the sales process?
Once you’ve done this you’ll have a clearer idea of your requirement and can begin researching your options. From here it’s a case of selecting vendors and viewing a demo to see the product in action to understand where it fits into your business.
The management and distribution of product information is a vital ingredient in your sales approach. Regardless of the type of products you’re selling, each has a USP which must be communicated fully at each stage of the sales process. This means from sell-in to retailers through to B2C e-commerce to in-store sales.
You’ve worked hard building a brand and a reputation for great products so don’t undervalue them by not sharing the information that makes them unique.