Your questions answered

Here we offer answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions, but if you can’t find the answer to your question here, please email us using this online form. 

You can also contact us on 020 3141 7350.

What is ETIM?

ETIM is an international data standard used in over 20 markets across the world. Specifically, it defines in a consistent way the technical and performance attributes that B2B buyers need in order to match a product to a specific need.

For any product there will be many attributes, features, values and units which can be used to describe its technical performance: width, height, colour, voltage, material, and so on.

In the UK, manufacturers have been working since 2017 to Anglicise ETIM for many types of electro-technical products from cables to circuit protection, from lamps to wiring devices. Work is about to start with the BMF to do the same for HVAC & Sanitary and for Building Materials.

For manufacturers who export, the beauty of ETIM is that you only have to classify your products once. The international network of countries that are part of ETIM International mean translations for other markets are automatic.

Who manages ETIM in the UK?

ETIM is managed in the UK by ETIM UK Ltd, according to the guidelines laid out by ETIM International.

In the UK there are two Sector Lead organisations:

  1. The Electrical Distributors’ Association (EDA) for electro-technical products
  2. The Builders Merchants’ Federation (BMF) for HVAC & Sanitary products, and for Building Materials products.

Is ETIM a database?

No. ETIM is a data format or model which, if followed correctly, ensures that all manufacturers’ technical data is supplied consistently and accurately.

It is not a database although, of course, ETIM-ised data needs to be stored and maintained somewhere in your business. A “database” that’s ideally suited to this task is a Product Information Management (PIM) system.

A PIM will make a huge difference to your data management capabilities and should be considered as a long-term, strategic investment. PIM systems are excellent repositories for ETIM-ised data and other important data sets including Manufacturer Master Data, photos and other digital assets and marketing content.

There are plenty of PIMs on the market and if you need help finding the right one for your needs we can help. Call the EDA on 020 3141 7350.

What's the benefit of ETIM to the wholesaler?

B2B wholesalers and merchants are rapidly adopting digital or multi-channel sales strategies where the ability for customers to find your products, whether via search engine or distributor’s web site, is crucial to getting the sale.

This means providing sophisticated searches and filters enabling customers to select products by their technical characteristics which, in turn, means that data from all suppliers has to be structured consistently.  Few wholesalers have the resources to restructure data from numerous suppliers, so asking for ETIM formatted data is the most efficient, most accurate way to achieve this goal.

Does ETIM data contain pictures, pricing or product descriptions?

No.  ETIM is confined to data relating to technical characteristics and performance. The kind of data which customers will use to search or filter on a web site and find products which match a particular specification or meet a specific need.

In ETIM there is no provision for pricing data, no pictures, or free text space to write promotional marketing content.  On a web site ETIM data will be used in conjunction with these data elements.

What's the benefit of ETIM to the manufacturer?

You know your products. If you supply incomplete, inaccurate or inconsistent technical product data along the supply chain, you risk two things:

  1. That your ultimate customers will overlook your products because the information they can find on the wholesaler’s website is incomplete, inaccurate or inconsistent when compared to another manufacturer’s product.
  2. You leave the wholesaler to try and populate the missing information about your product with all the inherent risks that involves.

By adopting ETIM you can provide data in a single format to many customers, you increase the chances of your products being selected and you remain in control.

As a manufacturer, how do I get started?

Firstly you need to identify the appropriate ETIM Class for each of your products.  You can review the UK English versions of ETIM Classes using the ETIM Classification Management Tool (CMT) or ETIM Viewer.

Secondly you can start applying the values to each feature, again guided by the CMT.  All this can be done using spreadsheets, but it is highly recommended that you invest in a PIM (Product Information Management) system which already has a built-in facility for applying ETIM data to your products.

Your Sector Lead organisation (the Electrical Distributors’ Association for Electro-technical or the BMF for HVAC & Sanitary and Building Materials) will be able to offer more advice.

The EDA is publishing a series of White Papers which you may find useful.

As a manufacturer, how do I supply ETIM Data to my distributors?

Many Distributors now require Manufacturers to supply them with ETIM Classified Product Data.  Basic data such as the ETIM class codes can be provided using Microsoft Excel but we don’t recommend this for complex data such as ETIM features and values. Instead, ETIM Data is best provided in a BMEcat format or by uploading it into an industry data pool such as EDATA.

Why are there two versions of English in the ETIM Classification Management Tool (CMT)?

Let’s set the scene: one of the benefits of the ETIM Standard is the ease of translation from language to language. Every country has the same consistent ETIM Codes that are unique to each individual Class, Feature, Value and Unit; these unique identifiers are the key by which each country translates and manages their own in-country version of ETIM, tailoring it with local terminology.  For manufacturers who sell into different markets, you only have to create ETIM in one language as it is mapped automatically to other ETIM member languages.

But back to the original question:

 “English (UK)” is the UK English translation that has been carefully developed since 2017 by the EDA, and now ETIM UK Ltd, through industry working groups. This ETIM ‘language’ uses UK market Terminology and everyday English translations and class synonyms to make the product classification better tailored to the UK Market. We recommend that ETIM UK Ltd members using the Classification Management Tool always switch to English (UK) to avoid any confusion (this can be changed using the drop down in the top right hand corner).

“ETIM English” is the base language for ETIM. All new classes, features etc. are created in ETIM English from the outset and this serves as the basis for all the ETIM country organisations to develop their own translations. Because of this need it is worded in a way that makes the meaning clear to native speakers of many languages and often does not use UK market terminology.

Is ETIM the only data standard out there?

ETIM is probably the longest established standard for structured technical data.  However, as product data has grown in importance, other standards have emerged covering different data elements (GTIN/EAN codes), different classification structures (UNSPSC, eCl@ss) or data used at different stages in the construction process (BIM product data templates).  These serve a different purpose and complement, rather than compete with, ETIM.

As a manufacturer, I've supplied data for my wholesalers' ERP systems, isn't that enough?

In the past it was sufficient to supply basic product data such as part number, short description and price which was all wholesalers and merchants needed to sell the product.

Now as those companies move towards digital or multi-channel sales strategies you need to provide far richer data, enabling your products to be found and selected from their web sites.  Manufacturers who don’t provide this data will lose out as their products won’t appear in search results or won’t contain enough information for buyers to select them with confidence.

I am concerned that ETIM will reveal too much information about the products we manufacture?

Consider for a moment how you, as a consumer, research products online before buying.

You’ll probably put in a long-tail search into Google describing the product you’re looking for or the problem you want to solve.  Here’s an example of a long-tail search “garden sheds with window for small garden”. You’d expect the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) to show you sheds with plenty of information concerning dimensions, size of windows, material it’s made of and so on. If that information is not easy to find, you’re unlikely to buy. The same is true for contractors whether they operate in the electro-technical, HVAC & Sanitary or Building Materials sectors.

If you’re not able to tell them how your products will perform, isn’t there a risk that they’ll buy from a brand that will?

Can ETIM be integrated into a PIM, ERP or web shop system?

Yes.  ETIM UK welcomes approaches from industry solution providers who wish to integrate ETIM into their systems.

As the use of ETIM becomes more widespread, the ability to offer ETIM readiness “out of the box” will be a significant competitive advantage to solution providers.

If I want to start using the ETIM standard for the products we make, how long will the process take?

It will depend on the number and type of products you supply, the systems you use, and on whether you already hold product data in a structured form which can be converted to ETIM.

As a manufacturer, it would be advisable to check with your wholesalers which products they most want to sell through their web sites.  Them you can prioritise these and see tangible results in the shortest possible time frame.

What is BMEcat?

BMEcat is an XML file format, specifically developed for transfer of product catalogue data.  The format can accommodate not only the ETIM data but also other key data including product part numbers and descriptions, links to images, data sheets and other digital assets and packaging and logistics data.

A BMEcat file is not designed to be manually edited (e.g. in Excel) but it can be generated by many PIM systems and imported into data pools such as EDATA, other PIM systems and web-platforms.

How can I access the BMECat Certification Tool to check data I have received?

As a wholesaler, when you receive a BMECat file from a manufacturer you’ll want to check that the formatting is correct before you upload the file to your own systems. Similarly, as a manufacturer, you will want to check the BMEcat file output by your PIM before distributing to customers.  For that you’ll need access to the BMECat Certification Tool or CT. There are certain country-specific variations to the format so when you upload a file to the CT you can choose which country you want to double check the format for. The CT will run the file and show you which fields, if any, require attention.

The CT tool is password protected and you’ll need a log in which ETIM UK Ltd can create for you. Contact Kiera Greenwood at the EDA 020 3141 7352 or by email.

You’ll find more information in this ETIM International tutorial video.

When to use the Classification Management Tool (CMT)?

Whether the ETIM Standard is a foreign concept to you or if you are aware of ETIM but do not need to classify products, we recommend perusing the ETIM standard through the ETIM Viewer. Formerly known as ‘ETIM in your Pocket’, the ETIM Viewer allows you to navigate the standard with ease and with the search function you can utilise the ETIM UK synonyms to find what you are looking for.

For those working on classifying their company’s product data, the Classification Management Tool (CMT) can be used for a myriad of purposes. You are able to view the Standard in a more detailed and technical format; Solution providers who are members of ETIM UK are able to utilise the API link to ensure that changes are automatically fed into your data platforms; you can comment on Requests for Change and the ETIM Community offers a forum for conversation and support; you are able to use the ETIM BMEcat Certification tool to verify that your XML conforms to the standard and can request a certificate to provide to your customers alongside your data; and finally you are able to view any ongoing discussions or RFCs in real time, to see if your desired changes or topics have been raised before.  Some of these functions require you to log in to the CMT – ETIM UK members can contact EDA or BMF to issue a user registration.