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Guest comment: Product information fuels online engagement

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by Simon Walker

In March, Stibo Systems published ‘The Devil is in the Detail’ a research white paper that investigated the role product information plays in online customer engagement and how it supports the customer journey. Of the consumers surveyed a massive 47.2% said that detailed product information was the most important aspect of a retailer’s web site. With this in mind let’s look at some of the challenges retailers face in managing product information and the innovative ways in which these challenges are being addressed.

Product data supply-chain

Customers have an expectation that online they will be offered a wider range then they find in physical stores. This has resulted in fast growing product catalogues together with increasing pressure to shorten the time taken to launch new products online. US DIY giant The Home Depot launched its ‘HomeDepotLink’ a web portal that enables its supplier partners to both submit data for new products and maintain product data. Though working directly with suppliers The Home Depot has been able to rapidly grow its online product catalogue and reduce the time to launch new products on digital channels.

Data quality

Put simply, quality means that product data is complete, without errors and fit for purpose. Poor data impacts site search, product comparison and worse you lose the trust of the customer. By automating the process of product data quality errors can be fixed, missing data identified and data standardised. Using data quality software not only can data be improved but the quality of data measured as a KPI.

The product data explosion

Product pages can suffer because they don’t have the detailed information that customers demand. This is especially true for big-ticket items such as sofas and household appliances where the customer needs both detail and reassurance. Detailed product information is more than a long product description; it is granular product facts, product benefits, manufacturer user guides, buyer guides, care instructions, warranties as well as photography and video. Using product information management (PIM) software retailers have succeeded in harnessing this data explosion.

Search engine optimisation

Optimisation of product headings, descriptions and metadata for product pages is a task that leading companies have integrated into their product data authoring and maintenance processes. By teaching copywriters the essentials of SEO and creating feedback loops for site analytics the effectiveness of product data has improved.

International commerce

Launching an international site takes more effort than simply displaying prices in euros. The translation of product information can add significant overhead to the authoring and maintenance process. Using a PIM system provides the answer to managing the process of translating lots of products the question of quality remains a challenge. This has resulted in retailers hiring multilingual writers to write original and compelling copy for each language.

Channel versioning of product data

The rise of mobile commerce has seen many retailers launching sites and apps. But to create compelling mobile shopping experience retailers must understand how customers are using mobile and optimise product data to meet their needs. Using PIM makes it achievable to generate mobile channel versions of rich product data without duplication. Leading retailers are using PIM to support multiple channels including multi-sites, print and store.

Governing multichannel commerce

Large scale multichannel commerce needs to be agile and cost efficient in these times of austerity. Through PIM leading retailers have been able to implement efficient best practice processes and automated many of the tasks that previously required manual effort. Furthermore governing a central source of product data makes possible compliance with corporate and industry mandates.

Simon Walker is director of product management for Stibo Systems

The full report ‘The Devil is in the Detail: Understanding the Importance of Accurate Product Information in eCommerce’ is available for download here.

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