Posts Tagged ‘eCommerce’

h1

The Rise of the PIM Vendor

November 16, 2020

PIM pivotal 

Hot Air Balloon

Forrester’s recent Market Snapshot announced that it is time to consider PIM as pivotal to a successful digital experience strategy and that the PIM vendor landscape is in transition to meet CX needs. Solutions to manage product data are undergoing a transformation, driven by the impact of PIM on CX, scale of products and proliferation of touchpoints.

channelcentral met with Pimberly, a UK-based Product Information Management (PIM) Vendor last year. Multi-vendor sellers have to manage huge volumes of product data in a variety of different formats, connecting to multiple, non-standard systems. PIM Vendors not only normalize the data but also offer merchandizing and demand shaping functions to help improve the Customer Experience (CX).

Product data fuels CX

Many poor B2B Customer Experiences are due to insufficient or low-quality data integrated into the buying process. The product data exists but may be spread across multiple systems or stored in non-user-friendly format. Forrester emphasizes that product data fuels CX.1 channelcentral considers a project to consolidate and automate data sources as fundamental in ensuring that capabilities can be added, and error removed. An example leading to poor CX could be displaying a different inventory level in eCommerce to the one shown in CPQ. Businesses should identify the best (Golden) data sources and real-time delivery mechanisms.

Vendors aim to offer a consistent CX, regardless of where the product or service purchase is made in the omnichannel.  For a relevant product category, well applied PIM can significantly enhance the buying journey when coupled with Digital Asset Management (DAM).  Forrester stresses the importance of DAM and PIM collaborating to form compelling content for B2B buyers, recommending the integration to improve the omnichannel experience.

Adding value

Web Services play a huge role now, turning data from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems into the dynamic data required by eCommerce and CPQ Systems. Expecting Product Managers to run reports or upload spreadsheets manually is not scalable. PIM vendors recognize this opportunity and in multi-vendor situations, where there is often more than one available data source (e.g. Vendor or Icecat), allowing eCommerce Store or CPQ stakeholders to set Golden sources per vendor or product line.

Watch the summary video here:

h1

Product Lifecycle Management – The Hidden Gem in CPQ

October 8, 2020

Few Configure Price Quote (CPQ) vendors offer Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). Our customers love that we do. So, what is it, and why is it a service that many CPQ vendors choose not to offer? 

A recent ForresterNow article cites the importance of Manufacturers investing in Product content for more lift in all Channels – strengthening relationships with Distributors and increasing product sell-though.1 

CPQ Systems don’t work without data; in this context, product data. New products are launched, old products are retired and superseded. That’s the Product Lifecycle. Feeding a CPQ System with data from large Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) Systems can be problematic.  

channelcentral has solved this by working with Manufacturers to receive complex product data and embellish it to support the customer CPQ experience.   

Here are some of the key aspects of this service: 

  1. When products are launched at New Product Introduction (NPI), the PLM Team ensures that products are released on the date to a Service Level Agreement (SLA). 
  2. Before NPI is a confidentiality breach. 
  3. After NPI is potentially damaging to the new product’s adoption. 
  4. The product’s attributes and compatibility/configuration rules are interpreted and modelled. 
  5. When products ‘sunset’ they are only switched OFF for businesses that have exhausted their supply. They remain visible for those with stock. 

Dealing with Product Managers at Manufacturers, it was evident that NPI was important, but sunset was critical. Why? Legacy stock is VERY costly to clear, and you could justify an entire CPQ System on this point alone. Keeping obsolete products on sale where they are available is profitable – sometimes obsolete products are in greater demand than new ones. 

Including PLM solves major headaches for Manufacturers who want to drive CPQ into Channel eCommerce. It’s a hidden gem. 

Forrester Research, Inc., FORRESTERNOW, ‘Distributors Bear the Burden When Manufacturers Skimp on Product Content’, July 12th 2020, Joe Cicman, Nick Barber, Allen Bonde 

Watch the summary video here:

h1

HPE Delegates given a boost in Vegas!

June 26, 2018

Representatives from the Global IT Channel gathered in Las Vegas last week for the HPE Discover and Global Partner Summit events. As always it was an incredibly busy week as the industry’s elite networked and strategized!

channelcentral, a regular sponsor of the event and developers of the iQuote Configure, Price, Quote Software used by Distribution Worldwide, had something new to show this year. As delegates made their way through the transformation zone they were presented with an absolute game-changing service for their industry. The service is called boost! and attendees of this year’s event were fortunate to be amongst the very first to have a preview.

boost! is a Data Service that drives attach sales and shapes customer demand to improve your customers’ eCommerce experience. Imagine a typical webstore where you’re offered an additional product that has nothing to do with what you’re ordering, or even if it does, how do you know it is compatible? Then imagine a webstore with boost! offered as a Web Service and a pre-selected set of compatible options that are known to work together with the pre-installed features of the base product, across multiple categories. Enabling faster, high-confidence decision-making for technical products.

It’s more exciting than it perhaps sounds. boost! is fixing a known weakness in eCommerce that organizations have been unable to resolve. Using artificial intelligence, boost! will transform the way your customers’ can buy technical products from you, freeing up your pre-sales team to hunt down those big deals!

The feedback from delegates at HPE Discover and Global Partner Summit was unbelievable. Every delegate that was fortunate enough to have a demonstration wanted it in their webstore. Rack Simply, are a Partner based in the US, and are the first in the World to have boost! live in their webstore. Here’s what they had to say:

“boost! drastically improved the customer experience for Rack Simply. Before boost!, users were lost in endless accessory options that converted poorly. boost! and the team at channelcentral only recommend the most popular and likely attach options that transitioned Rack Simply from a website, to a seamless configure-price-quote experience.” Dan Mitchell, President, Rack Simply

channelcentral has spotted a gap in the online buying process of technical products: “It is essential that online stores do everything possible to keep customers captive on their own site during the complete buying process. Sites that use boost! can eliminate a common problem associated with selling more complex IT products; the temptation to click away to check compatibility and capacity. Instead, customers can select from options with confidence and visualize slot and bay usage.”
Greg Starks, CSO, channelcentral.net

After feedback at the events last week, channelcentral is excited to get to work on transforming the eCommerce sites of everyone it spoke to. For those that missed out and are wanting to learn more about what boost! can do for your eCommerce sales, please get in touch.

h1

Future trends in Distribution services – Looking forward in 2018 & beyond

February 28, 2018

Having served the IT Channel for a decade and working with Manufacturers, Distributors and Resellers in over 60 Countries, channelcentral is well placed to observe Channel movements and trends. We recently contributed to the IT Europa Channel Predictions report, so we thought we’d share what we had to say:

Traditional IT buying and selling motions are under pressure to evolve.  Our Chief Strategy Officer, Greg Starks, believes that, “The lines between traditional upfront selling and Device-As-A-Service/Software-As-A-Service will continue to blur. The channel [distribution] will offer hybrid financing that address selling upfront + As-A-Service together. This will allow partners and customers to visualize packaged As-A-Service offerings alongside financed custom solutions as a comprehensive OpEx payment timeline.” We hear manufacturers talking about Device-As-A-Service every week. We recognize the role that distribution now plays in the ‘As a Service’ IT procurement model and partners who engage closely with distribution will be more successful.

As-A-Service offerings will increasingly be seen as a way of ‘locking customers in’ and earning their loyalty.  Everything that is offered ‘As-A-Service’ needs to be validated, yet you still want to give your customers choice and not be too prescriptive. Packaging/bundling up an ever-wider number of products, whilst managing your customers’ journey and still offering them choice, will create a need for more sophisticated eCommerce sites that have integrated Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software. Without this, the management of these offerings is extremely resource intensive. Traditionally, distributors have had to assist customers with their hardware configurations or ask them to click out to hosted CPQ software.

There is still a time and a place for this level of complexity but we will be seeing a shift in the market. Already, hosted CPQ Software has an ever-growing number of attach options to fulfil the ‘As-A-Service’ model but what if Partners can leverage their offerings even more easily than that? Greg Starks, thinks that “Manufacturers and Distributors will invest in point solutions to bring just enough CPQ Software into self-service IT buying. Beyond just configuration, tools that help to shape demand toward the high-confidence products that can be delivered immediately.” These are likely to be served as ‘plug-ins’ to eCommerce systems with full basket integration.

As distribution advances its capability to aggregate their breadth of suppliers into packaged “As-A-Service” offerings, smart Partners can take new, more appealing sales propositions to their customers. In the Noughties End Users would reach out to their resellers when they had CapEx available to spend on a specific project. If a Reseller won a €2m deal one year they’d be expected to win one next year and the year after. How do you resource that? Fast forward to now and that’s now OpEx spread over several years.
As-a-Service is not just about predictability of revenue and removing barriers to driving new IT projects there are other advantages including:

1. Partners become strategic to their End User as they sign long-term contracts to provide IT Cloud or Infrastructure projects based on a Managed Service.

2. Distributors now represent hardware, software, services, finance and cloud vendors making the choice of solutions near infinite. Partners can guide end users to truly optimized solutions.

3. Partners (usually) bill the customer monthly and that’s a good thing – consistent interaction with a customer gives Sales opportunities to engage, seek feedback on the effectiveness of the solution and identify new opportunities.

4. Software-As-A-Service is incredibly easy to audit versus traditional licenses ensuring the End User is compliant but also the sales opportunity is maximized. Businesses without full “license” compliance equals a lost revenue opportunity as well as a risk to their business.

5. Working indexing into contracts means that margin is protected over the term (example would be linking the price to the Retail Price Index or similar).

6. There’s such a great opportunity for partners to differentiate here and that means less price comparison.

7. End-users need help. Yes, commodity resellers sell servers and over time similar companies will use technology to improve that experience, but partners are best placed to recommend solutions.

Do you need help implementing your As-A-Service business model? We can certainly assist. Just contact us for an informal discussion. We’d be glad to offer you advice.