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Social responsibility is now top priority for online buyers around the world

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Ethical and sustainable sourcing is now a top priority for buyers and a key driver of ecommerce and omnichannel for manufacturers and distributors, according to a major global survey of 1,600 business leaders.

Other than pricing, information about a manufacturer’s values and a product’s sourcing, origins, organic materials and carbon footprint is now the single biggest factor driving worldwide purchasing decisions. In total, 61% of buyers now pay close attention to such information when making procurement decisions, finds the study from product experience management company Akeneo.

According to the survey, buyers are putting social responsibility first. In total, 61% of vendors say product information relating to ethical manufacturing, sustainable or organic materials, for example, is a top priority for purchasing decisions. That puts social responsibility ahead of criteria such as speed, personalisation and localisation as a critical driver of sales.

Virtually all survey respondents (97%) see product information as a key tool for enhancing customer experience – and product information isn’t just utilised at point of sale: most organizations use product information to drive marketing and/or social media campaigns, too.

Eighty-one per cent of businesses now sell through more than one channel, and almost half see eCommerce, social media and online ads as their top promotional channels. That creates a powerful need for customisation, with a large majority of manufacturers and distributors now tailoring content to the different channels they sell through. With manufacturers and distributors increasingly eying voice search, chatbots, and AR or VR tools, advanced content customization will only become more important in the future.  

Product information must now be coordinated across multiple channel-specific teams, with almost two-thirds of eCommerce and multi- or omnichannel professionals reporting at least four separate teams involved in product information management. Almost half of those businesses say they struggle to ensure efficient collaboration across their teams.

Forty per cent of businesses struggle to meet deadlines for promotions, product launches, and new catalogues, and a similar number struggle to manage the increasing volume of images, videos, and content assets needed to merchandise products across multiple channels. Data standardization is a major headache for respondents, with more than a third of enterprises failing to collect product data into a central repository, leading to problems including information silos, errors and inaccuracies, and a slower time-to-market.

There’s an urgent need for adoption of smart Product Information Management (PIM) solutions to boost sales and increase the average deal value. Still, less than half of manufacturers and distributors currently have dedicated product information solutions, with two-thirds still relying on outdated manual systems such as spreadsheets. 

“Social responsibility is now an important criterion for buyers, so to succeed they need to communicate their values clearly and consistently,” says Fred de Gombert, Akeneo’s CEO. “We’re living in the golden age of multichannel distribution, and this survey shows that product information management, especially relating to ethical and environmental factors, is the key to enduring success for sellers across all their customer touchpoints.”

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