A quarter ago how would you react if someone told you, “the whole world will come to a standstill? Everything will pause. Together” Incredulity and disbelief are two emotions that come to mind. However, what we never thought could happen has happened. The COVID 19 pandemic has turned the world on its head and for businesses, this means gearing up to weather the storm.
Sectors such as manufacturing are facing uncertain times owing to the lockdowns imposed because of the pandemic. It is for the first time in modern history that that demand, supply, and workforce availability has been impacted at the same time. All manufacturers and distributors are experiencing disruptions across their supply chains of parts and raw materials. 40 to 50% of the workforce may not be available to perform on-site functions.
With basic production down, this sector is gearing up to face a long and hard trek back up the profits ladder. The reduction in production operations also means postponed introduction of new parts and new products. The distributor’s network also comes under pressure because of the close dependence on the manufacturers.
A look ahead
The silver lining in this dark cloud is that given the global nature of this crisis, there is no one industry that has been affected. As the lockdowns start easing out, work will begin again, albeit the pace will be slower.
However, when the economic activity starts picking up, manufacturers and distributors will, in all likelihood, face a number of challenges- supercharging their sales activity is one such area that will need undivided focus. Those who are thinking ahead are proactively moving their sales efforts online – staying in the eye line of the customer has never been more important than today. And the best and easiest way to do this is by fine-tuning your online presence.
Product content management – more important now than ever before
Focusing on selling through online channels also brings the focus onto product content. Product content is the online equivalent of a sales representative – great product content means better information dissemination which equals greater confidence. Product content that provides a great buyer experience drives better browsing and searching. Poor product content produces the opposite response.
As we emerge out of this crisis, the importance of product content is only going to increase as it will become a key driver of online sales. This becomes an essential consideration point since the number of product variants, both during the pandemic and post it, are unlikely to go down. So, to recap there will be just as many products and just as many product variants and the focus would have to increase on the enrichment of the product content. In fact, manufacturers and distributors have to thus aggressively step up their product content management skills.
However, product content management is not an easy game to play. Good product content management helps you enhance searchability and help the customer find what they are looking for. It also builds trust and empowers the customer to make the right purchase decisions. However, there are several challenges in optimizing product content management:
- Ensuring uniformity of content across channels, supplier, and distributor network
- Ensuring scalability of product content and reducing the dependence on batch processing
- Ensuring product content consistency across activities such as onboarding and on the consumer scalability fronts
- Ensuring proper product governance and content management
- Ensuring timely enrichment of product content by adding more and relevant content to product types and stay in lockstep with product innovation
- Automating updates in the supplier catalog and publishing “personalized product content” with channel partners and marketplaces.
- Simplifying product information and improving searchability by providing elaborate technical specs, image to live inventory, advanced filter options, consistent product tagging, advanced navigation, etc.
- Getting actionable insights on how buyers are engaging with the product content
- Having robust Master Data Management and strong Stibo implementations to manage large data volumes and ensure that the data presents itself correctly by having a content-centric implementation plan.
The challenge with the above is apparent. The key issue is the killer combination of large volumes and extreme complexity. You need implementation experience, product content management has to be ongoing, and managing a vast sea of products with differing capabilities and different sources can be a complex process. You will need robust product content management expertise especially as the volume, depth, and scale of activities related to product content keep multiplying.
Statistics show that 31% of B2B buyers find product content as a key influencer of buying decisions. In the post-COVID world, this number is only going to shoot up. Looking at an offshore team for managed product content may be the best available option under these circumstances, With the right team, you can leverage their expertise and experience to address these activities. You can scale economically and reap the benefits of higher productivity, better content management capabilities, lower costs, and higher sales and RoI.