by Mark Stevens, May 2014
Online retailers today face a range of competitive challenges. Not only is the competition a click away but also the expectations of consumers grow as fast as the next online innovation. To keep pace, retailers need to rethink how they are managing their product data, and how that data manifests itself on commerce websites.
Providing a great online customer experience starts with providing consumers with the information and research tools needed to make informed buying decisions. All too often, product research capabilities that already exist on a website get diminished by poor data quality behind the scenes.
There are three key areas where product data quality is impacting the customer experience:
1. Guided navigation: Consumers love the ability to narrow their choices based on criteria that matter to them. Whether it is brand, size, price, or features, consumers are empowered by the ability to narrow their choices based on the attributes that matter most. The ability to provide these research options is directly related to a company’s ability to make this data available consistently across an ever-changing product assortment.
2. Product specs: Once a consumer has honed in on a particular product option, they often want to learn everything they can about it. While visualization is critical (see it close-up, spin it, view the product from every direction), consumers also want to truly understand the full attributes of the product before they buy it. How big? What’s it made of? What’s on the inside? What can it do?
Providing a great online customer experience starts with providing consumers with the information and research tools needed to make informed buying decisions.
3. Product comparisons: How does this product stack up against the alternatives? What product best aligns with the attributes that matter most?
These capabilities are not new, but to win, online retailers need to ensure that their websites can maximize their use and effectiveness. And for retailers dealing with a myriad of product suppliers, with varying ways of presenting their products features, functions, and benefits, the problem becomes complex quickly.
The challenge, therefore, is to find ways to harmonize this disparity of product data, organize it, and then present it to customers in a way that makes them feel empowered, in control, and ready to buy.
So where do you begin to get a better handle on your product data in order to bring it to customers? It starts with developing a comprehensive data management strategy:
Mark A. Stevens is vice president, Insight & Customer Strategy at Oracle.
By adopting these data management strategies, retailers are seeing significant improvements in the quality of their guided navigation, product spec presentation, and product comparison strategies. Shop.com is deploying these strategies to manage their 35 million SKUs (and growing). They have developed a fully automated product onboarding process which allows new items to be introduced on their website the same day they are processed. They are also able to manage up to three million changes in product data every day. At Ace Hardware, the effective use of guided navigation tools combined with effective product data management strategies has helped increase overall searches by 300 percent.
So while modern web storefront capabilities are critical to online sales success, be sure to remember that it is the data that makes it work with your customers and prospects.