In his influential book, The Paradox of Choice, American psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that an overload of choice comes with a cost. Much as we are enamored of freedom, self-determination, and variety, we are reluctant to give up any of our options. In this context, the dramatic explosion of choice – from the mundane to the profound – has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution.
Having dozens of individual choices doesn’t prepare us to imagine the number of choices product companies have to contend with. The consumer packaged goods (CPG) market alone sees an average of 30,000 product launches each year. Consider that along with the statistic – worldwide eCommerce retail in 2022 is projected to grow to $5.4 trillion – and one appreciates how colossal the choice-overload can become.
Product information and its Importance for Digital Commerce
Be it marketers, eCommerce managers, or data governance teams, product information management is essential to streamline the process of onboarding product data from various sources and establish a single source of truth for categorizing products and syndicating across channels. This helps maintain the quality and consistency of product data across channels, resulting in a seamless product experience.
While enterprises desire to create, enrich, and share product information, their immediate reality often prevents them from doing so. First, the relevant data (product information is a combination of technical, usage, and emotional data) could be fragmented or inconsistent. Second, the time spent in sub-optimal data management causes missed opportunities and potential revenue losses.
For a digital consumer, a product is only as good as its information. Studies have shown that eCommerce players lose about $18 billion due to cart abandonment. The ability to capture attention quickly with appealing and authentic product information plays an essential role in reducing cart abandonment rates.
If customers today demand compelling, frictionless, and personalized experiences, here are five essential factors that drive successful product information:
- Product Data Strategy:
First things first. To enable a comprehensive shift to digital commerce, it is essential to build the right product data strategy. For example, the strategy that achieves faster time to market or increases brand loyalty depends on the strength of data consistency and the robust governance that keeps it that way. The litmus test of the chosen strategy is seen in how well a product’s holistic view can be constructed using SKUs, product names, variant attributes, and dimensions.
- Single Source of Truth:
Once a 360-degree product information view is available (via a product information management (PIM) solution), enterprises can leverage that single source of truth to showcase their product value propositions. This single source of truth comes forth after a process of data collection (across sources – in-house or suppliers), defining and cleaning it, and assigning priorities between various sources. It replaces pockets of information with an enterprise-wide single records system and leads to consistent product content.
- Optimizing Omnichannel Experiences:
Data enrichment involves a gamut of operations and unearths the ‘holy grail’ that marketers and product experts use to leverage data consumption across various channels. How? First, it opens out cross-sell and upsell opportunities, and two, it boosts operational efficiencies. More importantly, data enrichment facilitates cross-functional collaboration – an important consideration, given our pandemic-influenced habits. Today, brands have to increasingly connect the dots between all actions a customer takes to understand her goal at the moment. This brings a crucial requirement, namely, an organization’s readiness.
- Hyper-preparing for New Touchpoints:
It isn’t far from the truth to say – every single day brings forth a new sales channel. From eCommerce to mobile applications to marketplace aggregators to communicative AI, a PIM system derives its strength from how efficiently it can anticipate new customer touchpoints and then respond to the specific channels’ syndication needs. In addition, a robust PIM solution contributes to the brand’s overall product experience management (PxM) strategy by providing immersive content to the right audience at the right time and place.
- Enabling Customer Service:
It is here that tracking and managing multiple data variations across a product content lifecycle becomes critical. Product information systems evolve by relying on feedback. In the continual scrutiny, they invite great product information systems to set themselves apart before customers purchase and after it. In the era of on-demand self-help, customer service never ends. So, when customers call for installation guides or instruction manuals, accurate product information systems facilitate the downloads.
The Impact of Product Information on Brand Consistency and Customer Trust
To marry brand consistency and customer trust is a two-step process. Firstly, omnichannel excellence necessitates clear thinking on how customer journeys straddle in-store and online experiences. Once brands get that right, they can tailor campaigns and target engagements synched to consumer needs and lifestyles. To articulate this in concept and execute it in practice are two separate facets.
However, the journey to engaging experiences that connects people to brands starts with how PIM systems take complex information and simplify it before customers receive it. Needless to add, the payoffs can be very high. According to Epsilon, 80% of respondents are likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. Here, aligning accurate product data to a positive buying experience involves simplifying order routing and orchestration from syndicated channels to optimize supply chain management and fulfillment.
The right PIM approach is foundational to an enterprise’s customer experience competence. It allows enterprises to streamline departments that work better and create envious product experiences. From using clear and concise descriptions to highlighting benefits in line with buyers’ persona, the captivating imagery and videos that help customers visualize how a product truly feels is a stellar use of product information.
Product Information in 2021 and Beyond
The pandemic has accelerated the existing shift in customers’ digital buying behaviors. This means for manufacturers and every entity across the digital commerce chain to reassess how a product information solution is essential to market resilience. The solution, in turn, will succeed if it provides consumers with an ever-growing ecosystem of content and community-based interactions.
Up ahead in the season, there are indications of rising sales. Compared to 2020, eCommerce is poised to experience an 11-15% growth, resulting in $210 — $218 billion in holiday sales. For retailers, the time to seize the advantage is at hand. With product information as to their guiding light, eCommerce players can introduce season-specific offerings, create holiday collections at incredible speeds, standardize content, optimize omnichannel experiences, and eliminate competing options off the buyer’s table – all with ease!
While customer experience defines sales and revenues, its importance can never be exaggerated during the holiday season. And of all the factors that add up to seamless customer experiences, the role of accurate product information is undeniable. Product information management is critical for ensuring the three essential elements that define customer experience – speed, precise information, and convenience. By meeting these basic customer demands, eCommerce brands can enhance brand loyalty and bag a larger share of the customers’ wallets.
Vandana Singal is Director, Solution Consulting at Pimcore Global Services (A Happiest Minds Company). Pimcore is an open-source platform for product information management (PIM/MDM), digital asset management (DAM), content management system (CMS), and eCommerce.