Chemical Product Data: A Guide to Unlocking Its Potential for Better Customer Engagement

Chemical Product Data: A Guide to Unlocking Its Potential for Better Customer Engagement

July 18, 2023

Explore the complexity of chemical product data and the challenges in harmonizing and digitizing it. Learning how to address the complexity of each layer of chemical product data can revolutionize your customer engagement and accelerate sales cycles.

Chintan Bhomia

Product Manager

Digitalization is accelerating rapidly across industries, including the chemical industry. Chemical suppliers have become increasingly aware of the importance of offering customers easy-to-navigate, self-help digital tools. They also recognize the need to digitalize their sales and marketing functions, prompting industry leaders to approach digitalization from a multitude of angles. While some suppliers consider updating websites with new content, others implement or build various software to effectively handle the back-end processes associated with fulfilling sales orders. However, many of these initiatives get halted when suppliers realize they lack the fundamental building block for their digital transformation - product data.

In this blog series, we will address the complexities within the chemical product data, from understanding the data layers and navigating them; to solving the problem of data silos and long-term data governance best practices that can help scale digitalization efforts in the industry.

In this  first installment of the  series, we will explore the different layers of chemical product data, their complexities, and where suppliers should start their digitalization journey. 

The Chemical Product Data Onion

Chemical products are technical, and saying it’s complex is an understatement. The data that describes the chemical nature of the product is vast. However, the true complexity of product data relevant for sales and marketing stems from the layers that go beyond the basic information about the chemical. Let’s break down the chemical product data layers. 

Imagine chemical product data as an onion with layers representing different aspects and information. 

Core Layer: At the center of the product data lies the chemical molecule itself. It is the fundamental building block that defines the product's chemical composition.

Properties Layer: The next layer encompasses various properties associated with the product, such as physical, chemical, and performance characteristics. These properties play a crucial role in product selection and application.

Regulatory Layer: Compliance with regulatory standards and requirements is of utmost importance in the chemical industry. This layer includes information about safety, labeling, environmental impact, and legal obligations associated with the product.

Application Layer: Chemical products find applications in diverse industries and sectors. This layer captures specific details related to the product's recommended uses, dosage, application methods, and compatibility with other substances.

Customer-Specific Layer: Finally, the outermost layer revolves around customer-specific information. It includes tailored product specifications, packaging options, pricing details, and any additional requirements specific to individual customers or market segments.

The Challenges of Navigating Data Layers for Effective Sales and Marketing

Typically, each layer of data is owned by different teams and stored in different ways and systems with limited access to other teams. This situation leads to Data Silos. Navigating through these data silos and finding the right information for selling to new customers and  servicing existing customers can be a daunting task. Here are several challenges to consider as you begin to determine which layers are the most important to sell effectively and market products:

Challenge #1: Each customer has different market and product information needs.  

Challenge #2:  The vast array of information associated with each product.

Challenge #3:  Data silos can occur when each department manages different aspects of the product information, but the results are not consistent. For example:

  • Marketing information tailored to specific customers or markets sometimes ends up being the source of truth, leading to an exponential increase in the burden of ensuring the up-to-date and accurate information is available to sales teams and the customers. 
  • Departments within the organization end up creating their own repositories or system for managing product information. Marketing teams may store product descriptions and marketing collateral in one system while sales teams maintains customer specific pricing and contract details in another.
  • SKU duplication: the same SKU is created multiple times with different units of measurements for individual customers. Some customers might like to place orders in Pounds (lbs) of products, while others in Kilograms (kgs).

This disjointed approach not only hampers collaboration and communication but also makes it challenging to ensure data consistency and accuracy across the organization.

The Solution for Data Layer Challenges - Data Silos

The challenges above, while felt and seen at all levels of the organization, often fall to the product management level to fix.

As a Product Manager myself, I can relate to the prime objective of ensuring up-to-date and consistent information about my product is available to all internal and external stakeholders. It is not uncommon for Product Managers to struggle with consistent information distribution to customers, sales teams, and marketing teams to ensure that they tell customers exactly what you are selling. It does not take long to start using the marketing collateral created for one customer as the source of truth for creating collateral for new ones, taking each version further away from the original source. This gets exacerbated by the feedback loop from these stakeholders, creating additional challenges in reconciling and updating the product information.

This is where Product Information Management (PIM) emerges as a vital solution, one which every Product Managers should look closely at. 

A PIM helps consolidate product data from various sources and departments, such as application-specific test data from laboratories, to regulatory information, enabling consistent and accurate information across the organization. It is a vital tool for both Product Managers and business leaders. 

Furthermore, PIM can facilitate better collaboration and coordination between teams. For example, Product teams can update the product information such as description, chemical identifiers, application guides and other details right within the PIM, which can be leveraged by Marketing teams to create marketing collaterals and launch campaigns from the same PIM solution. Sales teams can access the relevant product information they need for customer interactions, eliminating the need for manual searching and reducing the risk of using outdated or incorrect data.

The complex data layers and workflows of the chemical industry need special attention. While generic software can potentially solve these problems, they come at a high cost of customization and upkeep, making the project infeasible and distracting suppliers from their core business of selling chemicals.

Agilis and SpecialChem realized this need and together launched ionicPIM -  A PIM purpose-built for the chemical industry. ionicPIM can be instrumental in supporting chemical Product Managers and businesses. With unique features and pre-loaded taxonomies purpose-built for the chemical, ingredients, and polymer industries, ionicPIM’s workflows help set up data governance processes that will power digital initiatives for years to come. 

As the digitization wave hits the industry, managing digital product data at scale will be the key to success, and will differentiate winners from laggards. However effective management of product data goes beyond just software or being able to navigate the layers of data. It requires addressing the pervasive issue of data silos that hinders data consistency and accessibility. In our next blog, we will delve deeper into the world of data silos, their impact on sales and marketing, and strategies to overcome these challenges. We will also discuss the parameters to evaluate the right PIM solutions and how ionicPIM meets them. 

Want to discuss how to navigate the data layers of your business and streamline your operations? Book a time with us.

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