Tucked between the keynote speaker and the lunch break on the first day of the NAED AdVenture Conference in Chicago two weeks ago, Pam Nation of Springfield Electric Supply is about to give her presentation on what may be the most important topic in our industry this year.
For the next 30 minutes, Nation will explain the threat that Google Shopping for Suppliers and Amazonsupply.com has to our supply chain, and what you should be doing to combat it.
“If we don’t get our data up to speed,” Nation explains, “we will notice online companies taking our business. Even if they are not placing orders online, they are doing their research online. They will move along to the next distributor if you are not prepared online.”
Nation believes data is driving your business today, even if you are not seeing an increase in online orders. According to a study by NAED and NAW, 98% of contractors search online product catalogs. 97% search products and applications, and 90% check prices and request quotes. Nation points out that many distributors do not have the right data to give contractors what they need.
“Images are a big thing,” Nation adds. “You get to the product detail and there is no picture. When my customers are looking, they expect to see a picture. A lot of manufacturers use generic pictures, so it’s not a true representation of what the product is.”
In addition to that, if your website is not visually pleasing, it makes you look less credible. Nation points out the Google and Amazon websites have large staffs who are working around the clock to make sure the data on their pages are updated, accurate, and visually appealing.
NAED and DATAgility are offering the DataFirst program aimed at helping manufacturers and distributors complete the data contractors are looking for when they are shopping online. That data includes ordering and invoicing, images, packaging, pricing and product attributes. The program will assess the current website, and then document the needed data, deliver meaningful reports to measure the data quality, and zero in on where data improvements are needed. DATAgility and NAED will also provide guidance to motivate manufacturers to improve the quality of their online data.
The program will offer the manufacturer a scorecard that will assess the current state of their website. The Datafirst Program promises to optimize sales, strengthen distributor relationships, and increase brand visibility. For distributors, the Datafirst Program will provide a listing of data fields still needed, provide the format data that is needed and describe the areas that need improvement.
Nation points out this is not a quick fix for manufacturers or distributors. She hopes the group in the pilot project will be up to the industry minimums by this fall. But she also has a warning for manufacturers and distributors who have websites that do not provide the essential information.
“You will lose business. This generation right now is not exclusively ordering online, but when the next generation starts taking over companies and purchasing departments, this is how they will order. If you don’t have this, they will move on. Relationships are important, but your online data and apps are going to take over one day. Once you fall behind, it will be difficult to catch up.”tED