Quality product content for company websites was the focus for Matt Christensen, President of Distributor Data Solutions (DDS) on gasworld’s latest showcase webinar.

One of the leading product content companies for the gas and welding industry, Salt Lake City, Utah-based DDS helps its customers by providing technology solutions to the challenges of e-commerce product content and data management. To date, DDS works with more than 500 manufacturers, representing more than 1,300 brands.

1. Product Content

Detailing each sector of an online product selling platform, and what they should each consist of, Christensen said, “First is product master data. This is the stock keeping unit (SKU) information: weights, dimensions, maybe some packaging info on top of that. This is the bare minimum data that you need to sell a product. When we start talking about e-commerce and quality rich product content, we add on rich data, and this is a marketing description. This can be the full multi-sentence, paragraph-style long description that can describe a product in some of the specs and features - and really what differentiates the product from maybe another set of products or competitors’ products.”

He added, “Next is features. When you look at features on a website, for instance, it’s usually towards the top. It’s the bulleted information. Typically, there’s five to ten bullets on good products. This can include benefits – why this product versus another one – and can also include application information.”

Continuing through how to successfully list a product, Christensen then went on to explain the multi-media side of things, or the product digital assets. These are images (and specifically multiple images) for a product – looking at products in action, in use.

Videos, drawings, images and 360° spins (which allow you to see the product in action from all angles) all come into the category. Manufacturers have all of this information available, said Christensen.

“93% of consumers consider visual content to be the key deciding factor in a purchasing decision,” Christensen said. “That’s just kind of a no brainer, and so really the more content you have for your products from your vendors, the better chance you have of your customers purchasing your product. Further to that, 33% prefer to see multiple images. I’m surprised this number isn’t 100%, but people want to see multiple images to make sure that they’re looking at the right thing, buying the right thing, researching the right item descriptions.”

Christensen said e-commerce should aim to recreate the offline experience – such as a customer walking through a distributor’s showroom – online.

He said, “67% of contractors, and this number is actually going up all the time, 67% of contractors want self-serve options. So again, it’s letting them buy the way they want to buy, but they can’t buy anything if you don’t have all of the information that a manufacturer provides for the products.

“And then, this is an interesting fact that I came across, 30% of online sales are returned – and this wasn’t industry-specific. This was across all online sales, including retail. But I just found that shockingly high, especially today, and that’s the number of online sales returned, and 40% of those returns are due to poor content. If there’s not enough information, how do they know they are getting the right one – and you risk them returning the item.”

Video content and 360 spins also contribute to a higher conversion rate, said Christensen.

All of the information originates from the manufacturers, and this is where a lot of distributors start. Industry/buying group sources and third-party content providers (like DDS) are other ways to get the content you need for your e-commerce platform.

“DDS works with distributors to provide [content for] all of their manufacturers – [including] all of their products – and not only for e-commerce, but ERP too,” Christensen said.

“We can guide you on pros or cons, and we work with distributors of all sizes.”

And it is not just for the welding hardgoods sector. Christensen also discussed how independent distributors can create their own cylinder gas content. DDS has created gas content for pure gases, or blended gases.

“We started with the shoulder label. We created the images and we made it very specific branding to distributors so they can display all of their different combinations of gases, because it’s very custom to each individual distributor,” Christensen said.

2. Commerce platform

Illinois-based ES Tech Group partners with DDS to provide a complete solution for distributors and Matt Johnson, VP of Business Development at ES Tech Group, said, “If you don’t communicate or market the website well, then you’re not going to sell much. E-commerce is no longer a luxury for the technological elite, it’s a prerequisite for your business. If you don’t have an online platform to browse products, register and account and buy products… you are going to be left in the dust.”

EvolutionX, ES Tech Group’s software, is a B2B e-commerce platform for distributors and manufacturers and adoption of marketing strategies which results in online growth, according to Johnson.

“E-commerce can be overcomplicated, but with our help it can be simple and effective,” Johnson said. Focusing on customer experience should be achieved before turning to attracting new customers.

3. Communication

ES Tech provides marketing strategies for adoption and growth, which includes SEO, branding. Johnson says ES Tech helps distributors build a foundation and brand online, which makes a distributor stand apart from rivals. ES Tech offers a logo refresh and brand guide and uses HubSpot CRM and marketing software setup, among its services.

Johnson also discussed how to incentivize the adoption of e-commerce by offering rewards for making the switch to online after decades of operating another way.

“We want to convert customers from traditional order channels like telephone of God forbid faxes,” Johnson said. “One of our favorite methods to get customers to adopt e-commerce is a reward program. This built-in loyalty software will allow you to offer points on purchase on the webstore and reward sales growth with fun prizes, rebates or donations to charities of your choice.”

ES Tech also offers social media campaigns, marketing videos featuring landing pages to grow the business, including publishing customer success stories, testimonials and case studies.

Johnson added, “Many distributors start with attracting traffic and pay a ton of money into SEO but if you don’t nail the customer experience before that, the traffic bounces off your website because they don’t find you as trustworthy or relevant to their business needs. Every article, blog or backlink is a stone that is building the empire that is going to stand the test over time. We love helping the little guy stand up against that large, national brand.”

Quickfire Q&A with Matt Christensen, President of Distributor Data Solutions (DDS)

Can we expect any new developments from DDS in 2022?

technology Yes, in fact, we are in the process of launching a game-changing analytics product that will help manufacturers gain incredible visibility into how each of their distributors are using their product content on their e-commerce websites. The problem for manufacturers has been that they have had to manually search and review their product information on their top distributor and retailer websites. This is inefficient, time consuming and doesn’t tell the complete story. This will be an industry first and will only be available through DDS.

What proportion of independent distributors could be utilizing ecommerce better?

I would say the majority of them. Even the largest distributors with an established digital presence are taking a very close look to see how they can be more efficient, how they can move faster and how they can provide a better user experience for their customers.

What is holding back companies from developing their ecommerce strategy?

Usually uncertainty about where to start or what the actual ROI is going to be. There are some great companies out there that can help throughout the journey, and we partner with many of them. From best-in-class e-commerce platforms, ERP integrators, marketing agencies, and of course DDS as the leading product content provider. All can provide best practices and guidance. One important piece of advice is that ROI for an e-commerce website is not just measured by dollars through the shopping cart, it is measured by all sales channels that at some point are influenced by an e-commerce website. For instance, a buyer may research products on a distributor’s website, but then continue to call or email their salesperson to place the actual order.

Can you name some companies DDS has helped in the industry?

On the manufacturer side, we are helping close to 200 manufacturers in the Industrial Gas & Welding industry with either free or paid product data syndication to their channel. Companies like Lincoln Electric, Miller, ESAB and 3M have certainly led the way. On the distributor side, we are helping companies like nexAir, Arc3, Oxygen Service Company, OE Meyer, General Distributing and many others by providing them with the best product data and data management solution in the industry.

Explain what the DDS difference is?

For the first time, distributors have a product content provider that enables them to receive data from all of their manufacturers in a single, tailored, automated feed. Distributors can get the content they need, the way they need it. From the start, DDS set out to do things differently – and better – than the legacy data providers serving the distribution industry. After seven years in business, not only is DDS still uniquely able to make the entire product content exchange process easy for both manufacturers and their distribution partners, but we are continuing to develop new value-add services and tools that further set us apart from other content and service providers. DDS is a strategic partner to our distributor and manufacturer customers, and that really is different.