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Following a best-practice approach to managing your catalogs can greatly increase the accuracy and sales potential they deliver. The good news is that Ariba is now offering a series of comprehensive, live online courses designed to help you do exactly that. In this article—the first of a three-part series drawn from highlights of the course materials—we’ll describe best practices for working with electronic CIF (catalog interchange format) catalogs. Future articles will cover best practices for managing Ariba PunchOut™ catalogs as well as cXML integration.

 

To read the first four tips, please click here

 

Best Practice #5: Include images in your catalog. Including photographs or drawings of your products makes it much easier for customers to quickly identify the right item to meet their needs, which in turn reduces errors and returns. In larger catalogs, images can be crucial in helping users distinguish between similar items. They also create a more user-friendly experience, increasing customer comfort with online purchasing and driving up sales. Finally, a growing number of customers today refuse to purchase products they cannot see, especially when appearance is a key aspect of value—so including images can make the difference between winning or losing the sale. (Note that CIF catalogs support links to both thumbnail and full-sized images in JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, or TIF format.)

 

Best Practice #6: Include commodity codes for public catalogs. Since potential customers can search public catalogs by commodity code—and any buying organization can search for, view, and download your public catalogs from the Ariba Network—including these codes is a good way of marketing your products and services to a wider audience.

 

Best Practice #7: Time catalog updates carefully. While it’s important to regularly update your catalogs—to keep product offerings fresh, correct mistakes, and adjust pricing—you should also plan out the best time for updates and follow through accordingly. For example, it’s a good idea to align catalog updates with each customer’s sales cycle as well as your own. Remember also that the update process can be time-consuming. You’ll need to create and upload the new file, wait for your customer to download it to their procurement system, and wait days or even weeks for your customer to validate the new catalog. If you need to update your CIF catalog more than once a month, you should consider switching to a PunchOut catalog.

 

Best Practice #8: Don’t cling to CIF when PunchOut would serve you better. While CIF is an excellent way to get started with electronic catalogs, it functions best when used for smaller, less complex catalogs. If you sell thousands of items or your CIF catalog file size is approaching 8 or 9 MB, you should consider switching to Ariba PunchOut. PunchOut is also a better choice if you sell configurable or customizable items or items that change often (e.g., have frequent pricing changes or even dynamic, customer-based pricing). The efficiency of being able to electronically manage these processes—and then to pull items directly from quotes or website pages into orders without rekeying—dramatically reduces errors and saves time and money for you and your customers.

 

Best Practice #9: Take advantage of Ariba resources. Depending on your resources and goals, you may wish to engage Ariba Supplier Services and Support for help with catalog creation and maintenance. If you’re a member of the Ariba Ready™ program, you can also utilize the Ariba® Express Content program, which lets you provide buying organizations with free, “ready-to-use” content for commonly purchased goods and services that can be loaded directly into their CIF or PunchOut catalog. This heightens your exposure to new eProcurement customers by eliminating the time and expense normally required to set up customized online catalogs, making it much easier for customers to find and purchase your products and services.

 

Where can I learn more?

To obtain more detailed information and additional best practice ideas for CIF catalogs, register for the live online course. You can also read and download the Ariba Network Catalog Management Guide, which offers step-by-step instructions on how to upload, publish, and maintain catalogs, or Ariba Catalog Format Reference, both of which are available under “Catalog Documentation” on the Help page of supplier.ariba.com. If you have questions about any of the online courses, send an email to programs_info@ariba.com.

 

This article is part of the current issue of Ariba Supply Lines. Ariba Supply Lines is a quarterly newsletter that provides valuable tips, best practices, and the latest thinking to take your online business relationships with your buying customers to the next level.


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