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As a distributor, you have to gather data from thousands of manufacturers before you onboard products to the web. Before you display product data online, you must first edit it for consistency. The challenge is to transform product data so it looks like it came from only one manufacturer. This is critical in order for your customers to search, find, understand, and buy the products you sell.

Take, for example, a B2B distributor who sells paper stock. After gathering data from seven manufacturers, it’s clear that data for material is vastly different for each product, even though it communicates the same thing. Sometimes pound is spelled out, other times it’s abbreviated lb. or #. Sometimes there’s a space between the number and unit of measure, other times not. Sometimes the color white is included, other times not.

When displayed in an e-commerce environment, inconsistent data like this negatively affects faceted navigation, keyword search, and product findability. Customers won’t understand product information, which leads to confusion, loss of trust, and site abandonment.

After editing, product data is consistent, organized, and much easier to understand. New attributes have been created that parse out the data, making it easy to scan, digest, and understand.

Best Practices for Gathering Product Data

As a distributor, you typically have two options for gathering manufacturer data:

  • Establish a vendor portal for manufacturers to send you data
  • Acquire the data yourself using a vendor relations department and process

Regardless of the option you choose, you must first edit manufacturer data before you display it online. Clean, organized, easy-to-understand data greatly improves the online shopping experience for customers.

Complete Characteristics Drive Sales

If your products are missing key information, customers simply won’t buy your products. Especially for need to-know characteristics, your product data must answer every conceivable question a customer may have — just like a good salesperson.

Consistent characteristics reduce confusion, speed decision making, and increase purchasing confidence. They also reduce the time and work required to maintain product content internally. Inconsistent product characteristics result in duplicate data, which is messy and difficult to maintain over time.

Let’s look at the example of a B2B distributor that sells end mills. The only characteristics available are a diagram of measurements. Unless customers are highly familiar with these tools, they won’t understand what these measurements mean. In reality, most customers aren’t experts in end mills, so they will ultimately choose to spend their budget with a distributor that has clearer product information

Product Data Normalization

Once you’ve gathered product data from manufacturers, you must fit it all into a specific plan. Normalization is a process that eliminates duplicate, redundant, and unclear data. As a distributor, you gain competitive advantage by taking data from the marketplace and level-setting it so customers aren’t confused.

To illustrate the benefits of normalization, here’s an example.

Two B2B distributors sell circuit breakers. Even though these two products are similar, their data is vastly different. Pole is sometimes abbreviated as 2P, other times it’s spelled out as 2 Pole. Amperage is sometimes abbreviated as A or AMP with or without a space. The descriptions are hard to understand and lack context. What does 10K mean? Without normalization, search and findability fails because search algorithms can’t read product data and produce accurate results.

After normalization, product data for both circuit breakers is clear and consistent. This new parallel structure allows site search algorithms to crawl quickly and efficiently. In addition, outside search engines can match more customer queries; when customers arrive at this website, they will clearly understand product characteristics and make a confident purchase.

Take the steps to keep your product data up-to-date, and ensure a positive shopping experience for your customers.