How AI Is Redefining Supplier Relations in B2B Distribution

How AI Is Redefining Supplier Relations in B2B Distribution

This piece was written by Casey Paxton, Content Marketing Manager at Akeneo.

Cooking a beef wellington. Climbing Mount Everest. Managing supplier relationships. I’ll take, “Things that are notoriously difficult for $200.”

If you’re struggling with supplier communications and data accuracy, you’re not alone. Most organizations are wading through millions of data points from thousands of suppliers — all in different formats, units of measure, and file types. And in the world of B2B distribution, success hinges on the ability to provide customers with a seamless experience, enabling them to effortlessly access the precise product information needed for informed purchases. 

Achieving this requires a Herculean effort from your team to ensure access to accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive product information from each and every supplier.

supplier data onboarding challenge

The Supplier Problem

B2B distributors need to collect information and assets on thousands of products from hundreds of suppliers. That’s an operational and logistical challenge. One, every supplier organizes their data in their own way. And two, distributors have varying degrees of influence over their suppliers and their operations. 

Without an efficient way to collect supplier-provided product data, companies often experience the following pain points:

  • Slow time-to-market. New product launches and updates to existing product content are delayed because the process of collecting information and assets is inefficient, resulting in missed revenue.
  • Low quality data and lack of governance. Without proper guardrails in place, retailers may be stuck dealing with massive spreadsheets full of low-quality, unstructured data, creating redundant manual effort and a poor customer experience with missing or incomplete data.
  • Inefficient communication. Distributors and suppliers often struggle to communicate effectively to share requirements and/or request additional information, resulting in a poor supplier and employee experience.

The Supplier Solution

Enter the era of a centralized system for product records, a game-changer in the realm of supplier relations. Creating a single source of truth for all your product data ensures that all suppliers and teams have seamless access to accurate, up-to-date product information, including attributes, graphics, and more. This improves productivity, reduces time-to-market, and enhances product searchability.

A simple, scalable, and collaborative way to collect product data from all your suppliers drives measurable benefits such as:

  • Improved collaboration with suppliers. Distributors can centrally manage all supplier interactions and build stronger relationships with improved visibility and effortless communication directly in the portal.
  • Accurate and complete product content. Efficiently collecting the most up-to-date content from suppliers means that the end-customer experience will be improved as they’ll have access to reliable, up-to-date information.
  • Faster time-to market: With supplier-provided data readily available across all teams and organizations, your company can expedite product launches and updates.

Forward. Fast. The Future of AI in Product Discovery

This comprehensive guide navigates the evolution of product search and discovery, including the future it has with Generative AI and the complexities of emerging tech, so digital leaders can confidently transcend the AI hype and make strategic, future-ready investments in ecommerce tech.

Where AI Comes In

The first step to improving supplier relations is creating a single source of truth so that everyone has a reliable foundation. But that’s just the start. Maintaining and consistently updating that centralized record with accurate information is the real kicker.

The good news is that, despite being frequently overhyped as a magic fix-it-all solution, artificial intelligence (AI) actually comes in quite handy in a situation like this. Why? AI can ingest and analyze millions of data points, identifying trends, errors, and inconsistencies across the entire database in a matter of minutes.

In particular, AI can support supplier relations in the following ways:

  • Product data collection and cleansing. Companies still struggle with collecting, categorizing, cleansing, and completing core product data. Generative AI (GenAI) applications employ deep learning to automate the collection, categorization, cleansing, and completion of supplier data, increasing productivity and speeding time-to-market.
  • Product information enrichment. Leveraging a Product Information Management (PIM) system for centralized and accurate product data, GenAI apps take it a step further by generating compelling product copy and well-formatted product descriptions. This not only enhances the quality of product information, but also accelerates time to market.
  • Product content translation. With enriched product descriptions in the PIM, companies can utilize GenAI apps for seamless translation and localization, opening doors to new markets and expanding global reach.

The Future of Supplier Relations

Dealing with the complexities of diverse data from multiple suppliers has been a challenge for B2B distributors for years, causing delays, inefficiencies, communication issues, and subpar customer experiences. The key to overcoming these hurdles lies in adopting a centralized source of truth for product data — not only streamlining communication with suppliers, but also ensuring accurate and up-to-date product information for both your consumers and your employees.

As we look ahead, the fusion of centralized systems and AI promises not just to solve existing problems, but to lay the groundwork for a future where efficiency and innovation redefine supplier relations in the dynamic world of B2B distribution. Picture a future where AI seamlessly streamlines supplier relationships, becoming the linchpin for trust-building and enriching consumer experiences. 

The integration of AI promises not just efficiency, but a fundamental shift in how accurate product information is harnessed and disseminated. It’s not merely about data management. It’s a journey towards a consumer-centric landscape where trust is forged through reliable, up-to-date information.

In this envisioned future, AI becomes the driving force behind a robust product experience. By automating processes, enhancing data accuracy, and ensuring real-time updates, AI empowers businesses to deliver a seamless and trustworthy journey for consumers.

Forward. Fast. The Future of AI in Product Discovery

Don’t just learn about the evolution of product discovery. Understand its origins and the future it has with Generative AI so you can confidently make strategic, future-fit investments in ecommerce tech.