Author: Tim Toews, Sr. Consultant, FitForCommerce
Last time we discussed why PIM is a customer-facing system. In this post, we’re going to discuss what effective product information looks like and why so many companies don’t have it.
The path to a productive relationship with your customers runs straight through customer service, the customer’s cross-channel experience with your brand and your product content. This is particularly true online where the customer experience of your brand is a function of implementation decisions you and your team have made. For example, what product information do you expose on your Product Detail Page (PDP)? Most retailers understand that the PDP represents the physical product for the online shopper and that compelling product content is needed to ‘romance’ the product. So, while a great product description and a single image repurposed from a catalog were ‘compelling’ in 2000, today’s consumers and B2B end-users expect more, including:
• Highly detailed product information
• Specific product information for each retailer
• Rich images, with 360° views of products, zoom, alternate views
• Product video showcases
• Educational/how-to content
• Manufacturer data and specifications
• Related items such as cross-sells, up-sells and substitutes
• Product support and compliance information
• Ratings, reviews and other user-generated content
Moreover, the richness and quality of the product content you expose online supports external marketing efforts like SEO or PPC effectiveness and onsite merchandising, like site search.
How does effective product information enhance omni-channel?
What if you sell in multiple channels? When effective product content can easily be redeployed to other sales channels and form factors (e.g., smartphones or tablets), you will be on your way to an omni-channel customer experience. This may mean that your store shelf tags list the same speeds-and-feeds that appear on your website, a printed catalog has the same product description and product identifiers that appears on your B2B extranet and that your service center’s CSRs are seeing the same related and substitute items on their order entry system as your customer sees on their mobile device.
What are the barriers to effective product information?
If it is well understood that product content is a critical success factor, why do so many companies present the customer with limited, mediocre, inconsistent or incorrect content? For example, why do so many businesses allow their brand to be associated with inadequate product content on their websites?
Common reasons include:
- Lack of business priority followed by underinvestment, which prevents financial or human resources to be devoted to solving customer-facing product content problems
- The need to quickly expand assortments and add an exponentially large amount of SKUs in a short period of time using the drop-ship model
- Dysfunctional organizational structures or dynamics that result in no single point of accountability for important artifacts like product content
- An over-reliance on B2B customer lock-in and a misunderstanding of how the B2B end-user is behaving more and more like a typical consumer
- A legacy catalog or store flyer creative mindset which fails to embrace the challenges and opportunities of all the form factors customers use to interact with a brand
- IT systems or architecture that cannot marshal or redeploy content assets consistently and effectively
Many companies know what great content should look like but can’t get it to their customer-facing touch points. Nor do they have the ability to consistently redeploy common content across all of their sales channels and form factors. There are business, organizational and technical barriers in many companies that prevent them from being leaders with their brand’s product content.