Industrial distributors, like so many other businesses, need clean product data to launch and grow their ecommerce platforms. These needs then require business-to-business (B2B) manufacturers to set up efficient processes for organizing and delivering data to customers.
At Intertape Polymer Group (IPG), a manufacturer of packaging materials and other industrial supplies, meeting this challenge required us to develop a clear digital strategy.
My name is Erica Medcraft, and I’m the senior marketing manager at IPG and have been with the company for over 22 years. Over the last two decades, I’ve developed a holistic understanding of our business and the needs of our distributors. This understanding helped me realize when it was time for a digital transformation.
Previously at IPG, we used spreadsheets to organize data and gave customers information manually. But when distributors requested data on entire product lines, this manual process could take us months to complete — and these customers needed the information right away.
These distributors have begun building their B2B ecommerce platforms in recent years, and they need large amounts of accurate data to support their expansion into digital.
It soon became clear that we didn’t have the resources to keep up. We needed a different approach. Here’s how our team at IPG consolidated our data so we could find product information much more efficiently with the help of the Salsify Product Information Management (PIM) system.
It took some time and effort to bring everything together, but it was more than worth it — requests that used to take us months to fulfill can now literally be met in minutes.
Get Cross-Functional Buy-In at the Start
IPG is a company of acquisitions. I like to say that we’re a melting pot in the sense that people came here from a lot of different places. That variety means that data was stored in a lot of different ways and places too.
We knew disparate data storage was the cause of many issues and inefficiencies that needed to be corrected. Addressing all of them would require cooperation from product managers and leaders across the company.
One of the driving forces behind our success was our ability to get people from all different departments and product lines bought in from the get-go. We used a top-down approach to create this buy-in.
Once we had senior-level people committed, it was much easier to get the rest of their department to follow.
The core argument that got everyone on board was quite simple: Everyone wants to sell their products. Whether it be a VP or a product manager, everyone wants to put products in the hands of people. If you’re going to sell a product in this day and age, you have to be able to provide information to distributors quickly, accurately, and completely.
That logic made it a little easier to get everybody committed to the project — even if they weren’t thrilled about the effort it would take to get there. Once everyone was on board, we could start doing the work of creating a consistent, efficient, and unified catalog for all our product data.
Begin With the End in Mind
I advise everyone to begin with the end in mind. Knowing where you want to get to at the end will help you develop your strategy in the beginning. The best place to start is understanding what your customers need and building a process and strategy around that.
When we first started our Salsify journey, we began by considering all the information a customer might possibly want and developed a system for how we’d locate that information. We looked at a spreadsheet of the type of data typically provided to a large distributor and added any missing properties.
This journey amounted to about 400 properties. We determined what was important for each property, what was complete, and where it was located. Our IT team could then go into the locations data was saved and pull the necessary information into one place.
Once all that information was consolidated, we could start building out the Salsify PIM.
Use the Resources Available to Learn
It’s hard to overstate the importance of providing training for users to know how the system works. You have to be hands-on in the system to understand it fully, so it’s a good idea to get people practical experience in it early in the process.
Salsify has been hugely helpful in getting us up to speed on the PIM system. Our customer success Manager, Wayne Tu, was instrumental. He really took us by the hand and helped us reach the point where we’re fully comfortable in the system.
I would tell anyone getting started with Salsify not to be afraid to ask for help — Salsify is there to support you.
A Huge Win for B2B Ecommerce Efficiency
Before Salsify, customer requests for data required multiple people working over the span of several months. Now, we have one point person who works in Salsify, and she’s able to gain information for our customers within minutes.
We’ve also been able to build product catalogs that allow our customers to self-serve for information in their own time.
It’s been exhilarating to see our customers learn what we can do and grow their online presence. Some are only just starting to come online, and when they see what we can do for them with Salsify’s PIM system, it creates a very satisfying “aha” moment.
We adopted Salsify initially to better meet customer demands, but now we can exceed these demands and surprise our customers with what we’re able to give them. Looking forward, we’re starting to train with our product management team to review product information and update it directly in the system on their own. This approach will make their own workflows easier while getting accurate data to customers faster.
We’re still regularly discovering new ways to enhance how we use Salsify. Our customers are also uncovering better ways to benefit from it. It’s been really exciting to grow side-by-side like this.
Building a B2B ecommerce program can help you gain the agility and speed needed to stay ahead of the competition. Download this step-by-step guide for building a successful B2B ecommerce program to get started.