Webcast panelists provide written answers to select attendee
Several attendees from our June 25th webcast submitted
questions, but as is always the case, there wasn't enough time to
respond to all.
Here, Eli Cooley from ByteManagers and Greg Palmer from Reid
Supply provide in-depth responses to a handful of unanswered
Q: Are keywords and categorization related and how?
A: (Greg Palmer) There should be a direct correlation
between your product categorization and keywords. One of the keys
to web page indexing is relevance. If your categorization and
keywords match, the search engines can connect the dots easier. If
your category is "widgets" and your keyword is "widgets", when you
get indexed by search engines, they can determine that you sell
"widgets" as one of your main product categories.
Q: How do they normalize the data if the vendor won't provide
A: (Eli Cooley) This is a great question. It's hard
enough to normalize data across hundreds of vendors, but you'll
often find that a handful of vendors will not provide crucial data
elements or will not provide data at all.You are left with two
options before accepting a gap in information:
- Develop an escalation process by which Senior Management gets
involved to resolve content gaps. We are seeing this scenario more
and more frequently. We have even seen distributors ending
relationships with vendors who cannot provide necessary product
- Shift from the mindset of "asking" for data to "getting" data.
This can involve sourcing from the vendor website(s) or catalogs
when necessary. Some distributors go so far as to take product
measurements or images themselves.
Q: Greg, did you have to re-engineer your process for product
data, that is getting what is needed from suppliers, from internal
product managers etc. Today we struggle with this, and are often
told the supplier cannot give us the data.
A: (Greg Palmer) Our product data collection process
has been refined over the years. Once your data is clean and your
attributes are normalized, create a spreadsheet of the attributes
you want all suppliers to give you in each product category. Some
will provide what you need, others may not. For the ones that do
not, you may need to assign internal resources to translate what
the supplier calls an attribute versus what you want to call
Q: I would like to get Eli's and Greg's opinion on
A: (Eli Cooley) I will assume that this question is
referring to ThomasNet.com, and not the organization as a whole.
The problem with assessing a site like ThomasNet is that, on one
hand, it is arguably the industry-leading vertical search engine. I
can't point to another resource that is demonstrably superior. On
the other hand, many people I've spoken with are frustrated by
ThomasNet's content and usability.
Q: How would you go about researching search-terms that
customers use for each product?
A: (Greg Palmer) Your search logs and analytic software
should be able to tell you what your customers are searching for.
You will find out a lot of important information in your search
Q: How important is design of a web site? What suggestions
would you make to get your team on board for a web site
A: (Greg Palmer) Web site design and layout are
critical elements to web site success. If your customers can't find
what they are looking for quickly, they will leave and not come
back. The fastest way to get your team on board is to ask your
customers what they like and don't like about other sites. Make
sure you get a good cross section of customers and design your site
that makes sense. Some suggestions we received, we decided most
customers may not want or need what was suggested. You need to also
look at other best-in-class sites and go from there.
Q: I assume paid ads work. I am interested in particular how
paid ads relate to industrial distributors.
A: (Eli Cooley) It really depends on the product
portfolio of the industrial distributor. One thing is certain for
any industrial distributor: some of the paid ads will work, and
some won't. It's important to have a metrics-driven system that
will maximize campaign effectiveness over time. For example, you
might find that advertising to manufacturer part numbers is highly
profitable for some brands and a waste of money for others. A
system needs to be in place that will stop running the ads that are
losing money and increase the ads that are working. Given the
number of brands and product types most industrial distributors
deal with, an analytical framework is critical. Even for a
mid-sized distributor, the universe of potential keywords is often
in the hundreds of thousands, with significant portions of
opportunity lying in the "long tail."
Another important factor is the Distributor's brand awareness.
If I'm seeing your name every time I search for certain types of
products, your brand is in my head, whether I know it or not. This
can be powerful for niche and regional distributors looking to
expand their footprint. Of course, if your website is poor all bets
Q: Greg, did you focus on stock material or both stock and
non-stock for normalization?
A: (Greg Palmer) Both. If you are selling it on your
web site, it doesn't matter to the customer where the products are
stocked. They need to be able to easily find whatever you are
selling, stocked or not.
Q: Is a UNSPSC code taxonomy considered good, fair, reliable or
. . . ?
A: (Eli Cooley) UNSPSC is reasonably effective as a
global classification scheme. However, it would likely look silly
if you tried to use it on your website. It would be too broad in
some places and too narrow in others... kind of like a bad suit.
Effective ecommerce requires customization. I would even go so far
as to say "style." Even if an organization is classifying all
products to UNSPSC behind the scenes to facilitate other business
processes, ecommerce leaders tend to have a customized
customer-facing ecommerce taxonomy.
Manager, Customer Development