The B2B industry is always evolving. Emerging trends force B2B companies to shift their strategies. Multichannel and eCommerce initiatives are driving change in how B2B companies manage their product catalog.
For example, 69% of B2B companies say they expect to stop printing a catalog within five years. Online catalogs are replacing print.
Product catalog management is an integral part of your B2B business and this guide will help you improve it to meet today’s demands.
What is B2B Product Catalog Management?
B2B companies need the ability to share product catalogs with customers for use in their own systems. They also need to be able to link, or integrate product catalogs from their suppliers.
It can be difficult for companies to manage their product catalog in this way. You need the right strategy and software to give you the required capabilities. When done correctly, product catalog management reduces operating costs and ensures greater accuracy in your data.
Why is B2B Product Catalog Management Important?
Before we dive into requirements, you need to understand the two reasons why B2B product catalog is important.
The first reason is that product catalog management gives customers access. It’s a substantial competitive advantage to give your customers access to an electronic product catalog. This is especially true if the catalog includes rich, web ready content.
Sharing catalogs with your customers improves order and price accuracy. It also reduces labor costs for end customers.
The second reason is that product catalog management includes real-time integration with your suppliers. When you have the ability to import catalogs from your suppliers, you can quickly create new products, update pricing, and update product details.
Supplier integration is also required to support Endless Aisle and Dropship initiatives. Merchants can offer a deeper product selection, and with real-time integration, provide shoppers with current inventory availability information.
Key Requirements for Better B2B Product Catalog Management
To improve your B2B product catalog management, merchant needs to meet the following requirements:
Willing (and capable) Trading Partners
Direct supplier integration is a standard business practice for larger merchants. However, these types of programs can be cost prohibitive for smaller merchants and their suppliers. Trading partners, both customers and suppliers, need to have the technology capable of direct integration of product catalogs. They also must be willing participants.
Product Interface Design Flexibility
It’s sometimes difficult to link supplier data into product search pages and product detail pages. When integrating supplier catalogs, it sometimes requires new “plumbing” to make this possible.
With real-time integration, suppliers’ catalogs are presented alongside in-stock inventory.
Support for CSV/Excel Formats
CSV and Excel are two of the most commonly used file formats to exchange product data. Your system must support these two types of formats in order to work with your customers and suppliers.
To import your partner’s data, merchants need the ability to map data fields. Then, you can map imported data fields to your software’s data structure.
Map memorization is the data import software’s ability to remember previously imported file mapping structures. Ideally, a merchant’s systems should be capable of remembering transformation rules.
For example, converting ALLCAPS to mixed case or automatically updating price based on cost. When your import mechanism remembers these rules, it speeds up data imports and ensures data accuracy.
What to Look for in Software Vendors
To handle B2B product catalog management, merchants need to look for software the meets these requirements. This could be your POS, ERP, and/or eCommerce software.
If you’re a retailer, at a minimum, your software needs to be able of importing supplier catalogs in a CSV format. A supplier’s software needs to at least export catalogs in a CSV format. If you’re both a retailer and a supplier, you’ll need both import and export capabilities.
Leading software vendors should provide these criteria for B2B product catalog management and give you the ability to:
- Use standard-based API that allows for multichannel platform to integrate/exchange external catalogs in real-time
- Customize or configure product presentation screens to include real-time queries of supplier product data
- Create and memorize templates for importing/exporting data
- Create import/export rules to support data transformations
Use these criteria to help evaluate software vendors to use for product catalog management.
What to Do Next
Supporting B2B product catalog management is an important part of your business. It’ll help you better serve your customers and work with your suppliers.
In the big picture though, B2B product catalog management is just one part of being a successful multichannel seller. Learn more about what other areas are required for multichannel sellers, and how to find software vendors that meet those requirements.