Product Information Driven Digital Transformation: A Crawl, Walk, Run Guide for Chemical Suppliers
May 31, 2023
In this blog, we explore the importance of Product Information Management (PIM)-driven eCommerce for chemical suppliers and the benefits of a phased approach to digital transformation.
Digital Marketing Expert
Chemical suppliers operate in a highly complex industry where regulations, product safety, and diverse customer needs are constantly evolving. Today, with growing customer demands, a digital transformation journey for chemical suppliers is necessary to keep up with the need for product information and faster service.
What is PIM-Driven digital transformation for the chemical industry?
Before we get into the crawl, walk, run model for chemical digital transformation, let's define Product Information Management-driven Commerce or PIM-drive Commerce. PIM stands for Product Information Management, a system that digitizes and centralizes all product information in one place. What does PIM mean for the chemical industry? PIM turns your chemical product data and documents and PDFs (like, TDS, MSDS, etc.) that are locked in spreadsheets into digital information - structured in a consistent format, making it easier to manage and distribute product information across various channels.
In the chemical industry, where products have complex compositions and technical data, a PIM system enables suppliers to manage product information more effectively, ensuring accuracy and accessibility to customers.
For chemical companies, PIM-driven eCommerce means leveraging this system to provide a seamless, online buying experience while delivering comprehensive product information to help customers make informed purchasing decisions.
Why is a phased approach critical for digital transformation in the chemical industry?
Digital transformation seems daunting for chemical suppliers, but a phased approach breaks down the process into manageable steps that create faster and more tangible results. As the great Simon Sinek once said, "It's better to go slow in the right direction than to go speeding off in the wrong direction."
Instead of trying to implement all changes at once, a crawl, walk, run model allows suppliers to prioritize goals and milestones. Rather than going all in on a complete eCommerce platform, suppliers can start slowly and evaluate their progress and customer adoption at each stage before moving on to the next.
Digital transformation is about internal efficiency, but more so about the customer. A customer-centric approach is crucial in the chemical industry as customers rely heavily on accurate product information and accurate data for their manufacturing and formulation processes. With a phased approach, suppliers can build customer trust by delivering consistent and reliable data and positioning their brand as a trusted provider.
The Crawl Phase: Digitizing Chemical Product Data with PIM
The first step in a PIM-driven eCommerce strategy is to digitize all product data with a PIM system. This may sound simple, but it is a crucial step that requires careful consideration, planning, and implementation. Focused on the importance of chemical composition, specifications, and safety data, a PIM system is essential for managing and distributing product information.
Digitizing product data with PIM allows suppliers to:
Consolidate product information in one place
Ensure accuracy and consistency of product information
Enhance searchability and discoverability of products
Streamline content creation and updates for marketing and sales teams
Improve product data governance and compliance
Prepare their business for future eCommerce capabilities
The challenges of digitizing and implementing a PIM today
Similar to any transformation, there are challenges to implementing a PIM system. Some challenges include the complexity of chemical products and their data makes it difficult to standardize and automate all aspects of the data management process, product data being locked in spreadsheets, future updates to product data making it hard to have version control, resistance from employees who are used to managing information a certain way, and the list goes on.
What Chemical Suppliers should focus on in the Crawl Phase
It's important to note that during the crawl phase, suppliers should focus on digitizing all product data and ensuring accuracy and consistency rather than trying to implement too many features simultaneously. The ultimate goal is to have a solid foundation for the next phase of digital transformation.
The Walk Phase: Adding a Branded Portal for Lead Capture
Once product information is digitized, the next step is creating a branded portal to showcase your products. Acting as a “digital“ showroom,” this portal provides an easy way for customers to find relevant chemical products and contact the supplier to learn more, request samples, or more information.
Having a private-branded portal in place allows suppliers to:
Provide customers with a centralized location for product information with a great user experience
Make it easier for customers to do business with the supplier - request quotes, samples, or contact - creating a unique brand experience
Capture potential leads for further nurturing
Collect data and insights about customers to inform future marketing and sales strategies
Most importantly, enhance the supplier’s digital presence
The challenges of launching a branded digital portal today
While adding a digital portal for lead capture may seem straightforward, several challenges exist. First, suppliers must ensure that the portal aligns with their brand and product offerings and that all product information is accurately displayed.
Secondly, while there are many options for web development for chemical suppliers, only some have chemical-specific expertise and experience in working with PIM systems. Additionally, suppliers must be mindful of compliance regulations when displaying product information online.
What Chemical Suppliers should consider in their portal solution
Chemical suppliers should find a chemical-focused solution that provides the following for their branded portals:
A customizable white-label option to launch their branded portals
The portal’s ability to be part of their existing website
The ability to utilize their cleaned up and digitized product information to showcase their brand information in a searchable product catalog
The capability to have product information that integrates with a PIM system.
Run Phase: Implementing eCommerce Capabilities
In the Run phase of the digital transformation journey, companies can implement eCommerce capabilities to enhance their portal and streamline the buying process for customers. This involves offering direct B2B purchasing options through the portal, simplifying the purchasing process, and improving customer satisfaction.
The addition of direct B2B purchasing options allows suppliers to offer their customers the ability to receive private, unique pricing directly on their eCommerce shop. This feature streamlines the purchasing process, creating a better overall customer experience.
With this capability, suppliers can:
Offer personalized pricing based on customer’s purchase history or order size
Provide customers with a central repository for sample and order history
Receive orders directly from customers
Ensure accurate inventory management and order fulfillment
Gather and analyze transaction data to identify trends and optimize sales
Challenges of implementing eCommerce in the chemical industry
While implementing eCommerce capabilities may seem like the ultimate end goal, there are several challenges that suppliers must consider. eCommerce requires seamless integration with existing systems such as PIM, ERP, and CRM and may require additional security measures to protect sensitive customer data.
The chemical industry is subject to a broad range of stringent regulations that must be adhered to when selling and shipping products online. Additionally, the nature of the chemical industry requires a customized pricing approach due to several factors, such as quantity, location, application, frequency of purchase, and other special conditions. This presents significant challenges when adding eCommerce capabilities because the system must be able to handle complex pricing structures and provide accurate quotes for each customer.
A Solution That Specializes in PIM-drive Commerce
Find a solution that is built on deep chemical industry expertise, that can be customized with your business needs wherever you are in the crawl, walk, and run phase of your digital commerce journey. Make sure that the solution you choose can integrate with your existing PIM, ERP, and CRM for smooth communication and data transfer.
A scalable approach to future-proofing your chemical business
Digital transformation is critical for chemical suppliers who want to stay competitive in the current market. By taking a crawl, walk, run approach, chemical suppliers can break down the process into manageable steps that create faster and more tangible results.
Starting with digitizing product data through a PIM system and adding a portal for lead capture before moving towards eCommerce capabilities, suppliers prepare their business for future growth while building customer trust.
Don’t wait to embark on your digital transformation journey and build a strong foundation today with PIM-driven eCommerce.
No matter where you are in your journey, Agilis can help. We’ve created a solution, ionicPim (in collaboration with SpecialChem), built specifically for the taxonomy and complexity of the chemical industry with the ability to customize and adapt to your business needs.