Digital services

The distributors in E/D/E are pushing digital sales. This increases the need for digitally organised purchasing processes. New solutions for data management and marketing were added to the digital services portfolio, while PVH FUTURE LAB expanded member-oriented services and widened the scope of its innovative product solutions. Toolineo consolidated its position as the “top name in craft supplies” during 2021 in a sustainable fashion.

Digital services: Shaping the change

Through an extensive range of activities, E/D/E continues to support the digital transformation of the industrial B2B sector, specifically in marketing and sales, as well as data management and digital communication. We know this for sure: digtalisation is now a strategic consideration for most market participants. Those who invest in digital services at an early stage remain well-prepared for the future.

Digital trade creates added value and networks

Digital shopping channels developed differently in 2022. While customers in the B2C business turned more strongly to stationary trade once more, companies increasingly fulfilled their procurement needs online. Last but not least, the shortage of skilled workers also had an accelerating effect here. On balance, digital trade was affected by the uncertain macroeconomic situation, which was characterised by the Ukraine war and the resulting energy crisis, as well as high inflation rates. E/D/E recorded a positive development: the volume traded via the multishops grew by almost 20 percent compared to the previous year – and thus once again stronger than the market development of comparable B2B channels.

The E/D/E Multishop is the established supply platform for digital sales channels from traders to industry and the craft sector. With this, specialist dealers can professionalise digital sales and retain customers with multi-channel strategies and efficient ordering processes. The 229 Multishop operators benefited from more than 500 process-optimisation steps or additional functions. The various distribution channels associated with the multishop showed different rates of development compared to the previous year. While trade via the web shops (+10 percent) grew rather moderately, the turnover of the multishops grew disproportionately via a networking of the specialised trade with its customers. The importance of procurement platforms such as Ariba and Coupa increased (+80 percent). Supported by the active promotion of the retailers in the network, customers increasingly used the e-procurement channel (+30 percent) of the multi-shops. Demand via the direct OCI connection (+20 percent) from industry procurement systems in the multishop also increased.
The E/D/E Multishop thrives on active exchange with operators. Therefore, a two-day, in-person training event took place in September, where 40 shop managers and sales experts familiarised themselves with the latest features and optimisations such as OCI and Ariba interfaces. The E/D/E Team eCommerce Services provided digital tutorials and webcasts for the attendees. E/D/E will continue to invest in digital sales channels and further develop the solutions in line with the market and applications.

Toolineo Logo

Toolineo remained consistent on its path to success. Traders and suppliers recognise the opportunities and sales potential of the marketplace and have, therefore, significantly intensified their cooperation. In total, we were able to win ten new dealers for Toolineo. The order value generated (+10 percent) has always been higher than the previous year, with the share of B2B business increasing significantly in 2022. Toolineo thus developed better than other market participants who only focus on private customer business. These registered sales losses in 2022 as a result of difficult market conditions. The change in customer behaviour is represented in the fact that Toolineo acquired increasing numbers of repeat customers. We expect this positive trend to accelerate further in 2023. Together with the established partners – suppliers, loadbee, the integration of the “where to buy” function and more than 50 dealers to date – we have further increased the attractiveness and offer density of Toolineo. Customers can buy more than 750,000 items at marketable prices and delivery times. This corresponds to a growth of around 200,000 items in 2022 alone.

Since 2022, we have been offering a new online shop designed to meet the needs of the building services wholesale trade. The requirements for a shop in this industry differ especially with regard to the large quantity of items. Our building services members now have a shop system at their disposal that accesses around two million items. The optional central data supply relieves members of the initial system filling by depositing product data of the eDC building services data and the E/D/E. By the end of 2022, ten members from the Building Services division had already signed contracts.

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Data management as the key to business success

The interest of E/D/E members in digital services remains robust. This applies to comprehensive master and product data that can be used across channels, as well as to the effective digital networking of industrial B2B sector companies in the digital ecosystem: ERP systems specifically for the industrial B2B sector are networked with the customer side in trade and industry, as well as with E/D/E and with relevant suppliers.

E/D/E uses innovative technologies to take data management along the entire process chain to a new level. With the new E/D/E data portal in the form of “Data as a Service” offer, the industrial B2B sector will in future have cloud-based, simple and intuitive access to all relevant data processed with artificial intelligence (AI) and prepared in uniformly high quality according to the eDC classification standards.

The E/D/E data portal is being developed as part of a strategic partnership with Microsoft, and will be made available to all members in a first version in the second quarter of 2023. First of all, it provides distributors with central, easy access to the E/D/E master data, convenient filter functions and the compilation, storage and export of their own product ranges – defined according to their own prioritisation rules and thus free of duplicate items. Furthermore, there will be the option to generate delta data records right from the start, which will further reduce manual post-processing on the distributor side, and thus lead to significant savings in terms of effort within data management and increase market visibility with faster data updates. And, last but not least, data downloads from
the portal will be available much faster compared to the current extranet solution.

Our goal is: “Plug & Play” – retailers should be able to use the data for the different sales channels, applications and target groups without extensive further refinements. For this, we rely on our data maintenance in accordance with the eDCvalue proposition. With eDC, we have developed an industrial B2B sector-specific classification – with a uniform structure and more than 10,000 classes for all E/D/E assortment areas. Data can be used directly and supplier-independently. At the fourth digital eDC user meeting at the end of October 2022, more than 50 participants from all over Germany were given the chance to discover the latest optimisations of the eDC,
the progress in eDC fittings and the added values for the industrial B2B sector. In the area of building fittings, eDC is the industry solution that has been tried and tested in the market. The eDC’s database has continued to grow in 2022 to currently 61 suppliers and 480,000 items.
It also supports the open data transfer standard ETIM. E/D/E contributes both its know-how and extensive elements of the eDC classification in the area of fittings at ETIM. The aim is to increase data quality throughout the industry in this way.

Entering product data via the new E/D/E supplier data portal has also been significantly optimised. Data provided by suppliers is evaluated, structured and processed immediately after being uploaded to the portal. In order to reliably manage the high number of suppliers and product data, we rely on a special AI. This checks the usability of the data and assigns it according to the eDC classification. In addition, suppliers will, in future, receive feedback on the basis of the new E/D/E data quality guideline, which quality level they achieve with their data and for which sales channels it is suitable – including in
comparison to their central competitors. The self-service portal, therefore, quickly alerts suppliers to the need for updates and maintenance.

Cloud-based solutions with a high level of acceptance

We have consistently expanded our strategic partnership with nextPIM in 2022. With the cloud-based PIM system, retailers can efficiently optimise their product data management. The system supports the complex topic of data management from the first day of implementation, and requires only a small amount of training. Access to the E/D/E product ranges is particularly easy via the newly created “Assortment subscription” function: with just three clicks, complete E/D/E warehouse product ranges and catalogue data with all sles-relevant information can be transferred and are ready for use in nextPIM. Interfaces to shop systems such as Multishop simplify the use of E/D/E data more than ever. More than 25 E/D/E dealers are already enjoying the benefits from the partnership, which will also see further integrations developed in 2023, such as a subscription function for eDC data.

We have been offering the cloud ERP system ERPcloud360 in cooperation with the GWS group of companies for several years now. In return for a fixed monthly fee, our members receive a standardised complete package which they can use to manage and streamline all relevant business processes such as purchasing, warehouse management, production, service business, sales and human resources. These functions are supplemented by verified integration into the E/D/E processes. Calculable costs, high service availability, flexible configuration options and the highest IT security standards – the key arguments for an ERP system from the cloud are obvious. In 2022, we have expanded the system to include industrial B2B sector-specific functions. Accordingly, the offer has been well-received by our members: the number of companies relying on ERPcloud360 more than doubled in 2022. To make the transition to the cloud as easy as possible for new users, we closely accompany the introduction of ERPcloud360 and offer in-depth use rtraining. Based on member experience, we are constantly expanding ERPcloud360 together with GWS, improving the performance and thus increasing the productivity of the system. For example, we will further simplify data imports. We expect further growth in ERPcloud360 in 2023.

Shaping trends and technologies

With the PVH FUTURE LAB (PFL), we have been giving the digital transformation in the industrial B2B sector a further boost since 2018. As an innovation lab, it is now the established digital company for the industrial B2B sector. The mission: to provide distributors with easy access to future technologies in connection with digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI).

The flixxstore is the focus of the future-oriented product range. The versatile solutions from the platform help distributors to increase their efficiency with respect to sales and process organisation. As a result of the shortage of skilled workers, for example, the recruiting product workflixx Catch Talents was increasingly in demand. The PFL has added three new tools to the flixxstore portfolio in 2022: workflixx Eye Assist, workflixx Document Reader and sellflixx Sales Potentials. The assistance technology workflixx Eye Assist enables all users to adapt the view of website content to their individual reading needs, thus improving digital accessibility. With the help of the artificial intelligence of workflixx Document Reader, the reading of documents is text-based instead of position-based, and thus saves at least 80 percent of the manual effort.

The AI tool sellflixx Sales Potentials combines data on the purchasing behaviour of existing customers with information from external sources and additionally determines usable sales potential for all product categories. Even comparable companies that have not previously bought from the retailer can be found – intelligent new customer acquisition in a simple way.

The Rapid3D business unit is becoming increasingly important. In 2022, affiliated distributors recorded an overall increase in sales in industrial 3D printing of more than 70 percent compared to the previous year. Crucially, it is not only the number of 3D printing orders via the 3D printing platforms of the dealers that has increased, but above all the project business. We developed our service offering further in 2022. With the help of our new consultation and design service, distributors can check their customers’ requirements and have them processed on order. In addition, Rapid3D licensees receive interesting 3D printing news regarding new processes, materials or functions on the 3D printing platform once a month. In addition, we have expanded the range of training and support services on the topic of 3D printing.

PFL attaches great importance to involving distributors and letting them participate in developments. As a community of distributors for distributors, we drive change in the industrial B2B sector. As part of these activities, we launched the “sellflixx C2E (Commerce2Every-one)” project at the beginning of 2022. Our goal is to establish a scalable (and update-enabled) functional core (blueprint) on a future-oriented shop technology. The proof of concept has already been successfully implemented and together with our first two dealers, we are now working on the implementation of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in stages 1.0 and 2.0.

We expect a further increase in demand for our future-proof solutions from the PFL portfolio, and are developing our services further with unwavering determination. PFL provides a point of contact for its partners and offers users active assistance with support and training.