Two of the most frustrating online shopping experiences for a consumer are when an online search brings up the wrong products or brings up what appears to be the right product, but the search results lack the attributes and descriptions needed to close the sale. Unfortunately, failure to make products easily searchable or to convert the sale is often due to poor product content. This is a problem that is all too common for a wide range of retailers from online only to large omnichannel chains. For those commerce players that get it right, there is a clear path to differentiation and improved conversions.
Low-quality product content is one of the most common reasons for product returns. The National Retail Federation estimated that Americans spent $630 billion on gifts in 2015, and estimated that 15 percent of those purchases—around $100 billion—were returned. Of those items returned, 22 percent were due to a product appearing differently online than in person.
So what’s at the root of the problem? Many retailers store their data in silos (disparate systems that don’t work well together) across their organization, making the presentment of a single, coherent view of product content for customers a time-consuming and expensive process. This trickle-down complexity of content confuses the consumer when content is not consistent for the purchase decision—the most important stage of the commerce experience.
Adding to this complexity is the fact that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What works well for a particular product category might not work for others. The online grocery market, for example, requires a different set of product information than the consumer electronics market. While it may be the same shopper in both scenarios, the information that consumer is looking for is different when purchasing organic produce and a pair of headphones. This makes it more difficult for retailers and manufacturers, as well as the companies they contract with to solve their data problems.
So, what can retailers do to improve their online user experience?
4 Ways to Fix Poor Product Content
1. Go visual.
Shoppers respond to images, such as those stored in a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system. And show more than just the best side of product, customers want to see products from multiple angles. So capture their attention by experiencing the product as though they were in a physical store. Video works, too!
2. Go personal.
To match the right product for your customers, put content in context: understand the customer in their location and reflect their brand affinities. To enable this, a Master Data Management (MDM) system can enable a differentiated experience by incorporating customer, location, and brand domains in your offer.
3. Go faster.
Customers want to be entertained, to see new things, and to focus their attention. So you need to keep content current and compelling by collaborating with trading partners for continuous enrichment and dynamic updating of product images and information. The use of a Vendor Portal, plug-and-play integration into product image and data pools, and incorporating User Generated Content (UGC) from social sites are a must to speed the flow of content.
4. Go deeper.
For customers to discover your products, you need robust content and attributes to make them easily searchable, whether on your site or through search engines. So dig deep in capturing the kind of content that boosts the product to the top of the search and helps you bury the competition at the bottom.
Putting it all Together
In a 140-character world, the right words to describe a product are at a premium, but are well worth the effort to get them right. Not only will the right descriptions help conversions but bringing the right descriptions together with images, attributes, and context is where a Product Information Management (PIM) system can turn an ineffective commerce or mobile site into an outstanding, personalized experience for consumers. And by the way, retailers that invest in robust product content and associated metadata can help reduce the amount of returns they experience year-round.
Retailers need to provide high-quality product information that’s accurate, up to date, and meets the consumer’s needs. By identifying the most important product qualities to highlight (i.e., product photos, materials, dimensions, sourcing, etc.), retailers can ensure they’re meeting their customers’ needs and enabling them to make informed purchasing decisions.
Quality and accuracy go hand-in-hand. If that high-quality product content is mapped to the wrong product, it is completely wasted. There is a strong link between the content a retailer provides and customer satisfaction, so assuring customers that what they see online is truly representative of the product they will receive is a vital step toward increasing sales and brand trust.
In addition to high quality, accurate product content, retailers need to ensure that the systems they use work together. If data can’t be transferred between systems, and if a single view of product content for customers doesn’t exist, mistakes will be made. To prevent unnecessary product returns and protect customer relationships, retailers should invest in an enterprise content network with master data management (MDM) and product information management (PIM) capabilities, which will enable content collaboration across physical and digital channels. A recent study showed that 19 percent of consumer goods companies claim that MDM will be one of their top three sales and marketing-related technology investments in 2016. Utilizing a content network that enables collaboration along every step of the supply chain is not only crucial to sales, but also is becoming necessary in order to remain competitive in the market.
Customers expect accurate and detailed product to inform their purchasing decisions, especially when they’re shopping online. When retailers lack the right content, consumers either refrain from making the purchase or purchase knowing they may have to return the item if it doesn’t suit their needs.
Photo by photoexplorer/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Rick Chavie is CEO of EnterWorks.