Although more than half of B2B sellers say product information management systems would improve their online sales conversion rates, more than half of them lack the PIM technology they need to realize those gains, a new survey finds.

Managing product information in a way that supports the customer journey with a good purchasing experience is a widely accepted strategy, but many B2B companies lack the technology to make it happen, a new survey finds.

A product experience that ensures buyers find the product data they expect directly affects the overall customer experience, says a survey of B2B professionals from Akeneo, a provider of product experience management software.

Key to creating a satisfying product experience is providing buyers with accurate, consistent, and compelling product information, as well as product descriptions and data that educate and inspire the buyer, the survey says.

A top priority for satisfying customers

The survey of 1,600 B2B professionals, which was conducted in March by 3GEM Research on behalf of Akeneo, reveals that 41% of respondents consider product information on a supplier’s ecommerce site a top priority when it comes to a satisfying customer experience. Another 48% of respondents consider product information to be highly important.

Nevertheless, 54% of suppliers surveyed say they lack dedicated solutions for managing product data and the product experience. In addition, 56% say they could increase sale conversions, and 45% say they could charge more for the same product or service, if they offered a better product experience.

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Akeneo surveyed  B2B professionals across multiple industries, including manufacturing, retail, consumer goods, automotive, and health and pharmaceutical, in seven countries. The survey took place between March 4 and 25,  before widespread shelter-at-home orders placed a premium on B2B ecommerce orders during the coronavirus pandemic. Job titles of respondents include ecommerce manager, marketing manager/director, multi-channel director, omnichannel manager and IT director. The size of the companies interviewed ranged from as few as 100 employees to 5,000 or more.

When asked what criteria other than price they think is key to B2B buyers’ purchasing decisions, 61% of respondents cited product and brand values, such as product origin and ecology; 54%, speed and efficiency; 42%, personalized purchasing experience; 40%, localized experiences, such as offering regional products; and nearly 33% cited a consistent omnichannel experience. Respondents could cite more than one criterion.

When it comes to using product information/data in their marketing campaigns and social media, 57% of respondents said they do so in both channels; 23% said they only use it their marketing campaigns; and 10% only in social media.

One way for B2B sellers to improve the product experience on their ecommerce site is to adapt product information to specific sales channels and/or geographies. More than 61% of respondents say they adapt product information by sales channel and geographic location of the buyer; more than 22% say they do so by sales channel; and more than 8% say they do so by geography.

The technology companies plan to deploy

New technology that respondents said they expect to install within the next 12 months to enhance the customer experience include voice-controlled search technology (52.8%), live chat (44.8%); and AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality) technology (39.%), which delivers virtual experiences that allow customers to see and feel a product. Respondents could cite more than one technology in their answer.

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Despite efforts by B2B sellers to improve the product experience, several challenges to successfully doing so remain. The biggest hurdle, the survey says, is achieving efficient team productivity and collaboration on product data management (44.8%). Timely launching of new products and new product information is the second-highest hurdle, according to more than 40% of respondents.

Managing video, images and content to effectively merchandise products is the third-highest hurdle, 38.5% of respondents say. Other hurdles include standardizing product data (36.6%), collecting product data into a central repository (36.1%), syndicating and publishing data to multiple channels (31.3%), and localizing product information (29.4%). Again, respondents could provide more than one answer.

Accelerating cross-sells and upsells

Another challenge to successfully managing the product experience is the reluctance of B2B sellers to implement product information management and product experience management solutions. 54% of respondents say they use neither technology.

When asked how investment in the product experience would lift their business, 46% of B2B businesses say they could accelerate cross-selling and upselling opportunities, and 32% say they could decrease product returns, according to the survey.

To successfully improve the product experience on their ecommerce site, Akeneo says buyers must first understand the customer journey. Next, suppliers must enrich product information and contextualize product information for specific sales channels and geographies, optimize product information processes, and foster better collaboration internally. Finally, sellers need to use the right  technology to enhance their product experience.

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Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.  

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