As a sector, B2B distributors play an important role in the supply chain, helping to connect many types of manufacturers to their end customers and supporting businesses with supplies for their daily operations.
They most often have a clear profile based on the industries they serve which could be e.g. electrical components, office supplies, building supplies, tools, protective clothing, laboratory equipment, automotive spare parts etc.
Looking back in time
Historically B2B distributors have always worked with huge amounts of data, selling their wares via printed catalogues as their primary sales channel, before the age of the Internet.
The many large distributors in different verticals often compete in having the widest and most extensive selection of products and components across as many categories as possible. Historically, this led to the production of product catalogues of sometimes thousands of pages across multiple volumes.
The current situation
In the current marketplace B2B distributors still compete to offer the “widest and deepest assortment in the industry”.
Initially B2B customers might have been slower than their B2C counterparts to change their buying behaviour and adopt new digital buying habits. But in later years the bar has been raised for the customer experience across many industries and B2B customers can now also enjoy many improved services from the leading players in their industry such as e.g.:
But it’s not all rosy. Although some B2B Distributors have demonstrated what new services can be offered with modern technology and sophisticated data management, there are still many that are lagging behind.
As per a Forrester Study, it revealed 87% of shoppers had left a B2B website because the product description and information did not match their needs. According to a report from A.T. Kearney, providing more accurate, and complete product information can increase the conversion rate from 17% to 56%.
Although the manner in which a customer interacts with suppliers in the buying process has changed, the pursuit of offering the largest selection and becoming a one-stop-shop within their respective industry continues as a point of differentiation for distributors.
But of course it’s easier said than done to fully embrace all the options available. To truly enter the digital age as a B2B Distributor is a journey that starts with a full commitment from top management.
The company must establish a strong master data management (MDM) foundation including streamlined processes for acquiring, processing and sharing information about their products and services. Often in strong partnership with their suppliers and with multiple channels for their customers to consume and interact with their product information.
Taking on the label of a “one-stop-shop” within the B2B distributor industry requires a huge product assortment, across many different product categories. This means having to carry products from many different suppliers. Often hundreds and even thousands of suppliers that each deliver data to the distributor.
This is a complex operation because each supplier has their own way of managing data and may only support specific data formats. Plus, receiving new products from suppliers may require onboarding, having to retrieve and upload data, assets, etc into various systems and customer touch points.
And as far as the downstream processes are concerned, the B2B Distributor must consider on which channels and platforms their customers want to engage. Maybe a webshop is good enough, but depending on the industry, customers might expect to shop inside product configurators, BIM applications, personalised catalogues and so on.
How does an MDM system help B2B Distributors?
A Master Data Management (MDM) system can help streamline product data management by providing a centralised repository for product data and tools to manage data quality, consistency, and completeness.
An MDM approach can help ensure that any data provided is accurate, up-to-date and consistently shared across all channels to the benefit of all stakeholders. Done effectively, it means you do not have to spend time on manual data entry work, freeing up time to focus on the tasks that create more value.
Some of the benefits that B2B Distributors could achieve from an MDM system are:
Product Information Management
An MDM solution can help manage and centralise product information, ensuring that accurate and consistent product data is available across sales, marketing, and e-commerce channels.
By eliminating data silos and manual data management processes, MDM can improve operational efficiency and reduce the time and effort required for data-related tasks.
MDM can break down barriers between departments by providing a common data platform, fostering better communication and collaboration across teams.
Data Quality and Consistency
MDM can help improve the quality and consistency of data across systems by identifying and resolving discrepancies, duplications, and inaccuracies in product, customer, and supplier data.
Data Governance and Compliance
MDM enables better data governance by standardising processes, policies, and data ownership, ensuring that data adheres to regulatory and industry-specific requirements.
Supply Chain Visibility
By consolidating data from multiple sources, MDM can provide better visibility into inventory levels, order statuses, and supplier performance, enabling distributors to optimise supply chain operations.
Customer Relationship Management
MDM helps distributors maintain accurate and up-to-date customer information, enhancing customer segmentation, targeting, and engagement strategies.
MDM can streamline vendor management by providing a single, unified view of supplier information, improving communication and collaboration with suppliers.
Merger and Acquisition Integration
MDM can help streamline the integration of data and systems following a merger or acquisition, reducing the risk of data discrepancies and ensuring a smoother transition.
Analytics and Reporting
With clean, consistent, and reliable data provided by an MDM solution, distributors can enhance their analytics and reporting capabilities, enabling data-driven decision-making and strategic planning.
STEP by Stibo Systems
As an MDM system, Stibo STEP (Stibo Systems Enterprise Platform) is designed to handle large volumes of data and can meet the needs of B2B distributors looking to in the “shortest time” scale up and automate processes to quicken their “speed to market”, if for example they are launching a new product.
Plus as a tool MDM can help streamline supplier or even interdepartmental collaboration and transparency by providing all stakeholders access to the necessary product information.
But integrating suppliers efficiently can only be done if the distributor has a system in place for gathering and storing the information in a standardised way. A system that can be enriched and used to publish to the various sales and marketing channels of the distributors providing consistent and extensive product information across all channels.
By providing a single source of truth for master data, Stibo STEP can help B2B distributors improve data integration and reduce the time and effort required for data maintenance, synchronisation, and governance. This can lead to increased efficiency and productivity for a B2B distributor. Having access to accurate data reduces the likelihood of making bad or risky decisions, reducing operation and supply chain costs.
With the STEP MDM platform from Stibo Systems, you can manage your product data efficiently and effectively. This software solution can help you create and maintain product information across all channels, improve data quality and accuracy, and automate data entry and updates.
At Unit of Measure we have the know-how and experience to successfully implement and develop STEP in your organisation.
Book a free consultation with us and let’s explore how we can help you get your master data in shape and prepared for the changes waiting to happen.