5 Ways Product Content is King, Helping You Win the Commerce War

product-imageRetailers are waging a war in commerce for the modern consumer’s almighty dollar with two primary weapons: price and convenience. Larger assortments, free shipping and same-day delivery are tactics easily employed by the biggest players with the largest bankrolls.

For retailers competing against each other and with the Amazons of the world, there’s a fundamental and strategic long-term competitive advantage that only some are taking advantage of: Tapping into the consumer heart and mind with a rich, adaptable customer experience. The foundation of this experience is rich product content.

Just last month, comScore and UPS released findings from their study showing that 73% of consumers attribute detailed product content as the single most important factor in the search and selection process.

Retailers like Kroger, Macy’s, Google Shopping, Walmart and Staples have recognized that amplifying the customer experience will help them win, but getting the level of detailed content needed to drive a rich customer experience takes partnering with brand manufacturers. These retailers have all started initiatives asking (and sometimes requiring) brand partners to provide more robust product information. In the end, it’s the retailers and brands with strong partnerships that win in terms of increased revenue, consumer trust and loyalty.

Here are five ways product content can help brands and retailers win:

Discoverability: 46% of shoppers use their smartphones to research a product while in a store. 64% of them start with a search engine, not a store’s site. If a product isn’t listed the way it’s being searched, it won’t get found. Period.

On-site search and upsell: We’re all consumers. Think of a time when you started a product search with a specific retailer site, rather than with a search engine. The better the product content on the site, and the closer product attributes align with the site’s navigation, the more likely you are to find what you’re looking for.

Using socks as an example, you might search for athletic socks, and then choose white, then ankle. Once you’ve selected your socks, you might see a suggestion for undershirts and decide that it’s worth getting those at the same time. You’ve killed two birds with one stone, and the retailer and brand together sold an additional product.

Selection: There are two basic ways content helps with consumer selection of products online:

  • A shopper who is allergic to wool is looking for a sweater. Brand A lists materials, while brand B does not. The shopper will select Brand A; the decision is easy.
  • On a psychological level, allowing a shopper to visualize the features and benefits of a product without actually engaging with it can help create an emotional connection before a physical connection is made. Showing a 360-degree view of the product, accompanied by a rich description of how the materials feel against one’s skin, and how classy it will make the buyer look, is a highly effective way to encourage a sale.

Trust: Let’s go back to our socks example. Perhaps “athletic,” “white” and “ankle” were the only product attributes available on the site, when what you really wanted was comfort and thickness. When these socks arrive on your front step, you’re disappointed to find they are thin and flimsy, leading you to return them and find another pair. Now you’ve lost trust in both the brand that made the socks and the retailer that sold them to you.

Loyalty: Sticking with socks, now picture yourself in the same situation with a rich product description at your disposal. You know the socks you are viewing are thin socks, made specifically for hot summer months to help keep feet cool. Since you’re shopping in New England in February, you decide these socks don’t make sense, and choose a different pair to get exactly what you want.

Your online retail experience is now starting from a place of trust with both the retailer and brand. When you need something else, you’ll likely return to the site with more product information. As these experiences repeat, you’ll quickly become a loyal customer and perhaps even an advocate for both brand and retailer.

An online transaction as simple as socks demonstrates how much of an impact rich product content has on the consumer experience. This can be applied to any product, in any industry, from any brand, on any retailer site, large or small. Concentrate more on the consumer experience and dedicate yourself to providing content they’re looking for, and you’ll ensure they remain happy and loyal.

Rob Gonzalez is co-founder at Salsify