28 October 2016

Compelling Product Information Puts the Cheer Back in Holiday Retail Sales

It is no secret that the holiday shopping season is a very important time for retailers. Although the impact of this season has trended downward in recent years, retailers still see as much as 20% of their revenue (and 30% of eCommerce revenue) being generated in the 61 days between November 1 and December 31 each year. While estimates vary across researchers, holiday sales in 2016 are expected to grow more than average, nearing $650 billion. eCommerce is expected to capture more than 8% of this revenue.

As shoppers anticipate the holiday season, they are starting their shopping earlier in the year. While Black Friday (November 25 this year) will still generate a significant share of shopping dollars and visits, nearly 40% of shoppers begin their holiday purchases before Hallowe’en. Holiday-themed merchandise now hits the shelves as early as September.

What does this mean for retailers? You have to be ready. Your company has to be visible. Your products have to be compelling. And your product information has to be accurate and consistent.

Be ready.
Being ready means that your products have to be on store shelves—either in your brick and mortar store or in your digital storefront—at the precise time that the first shopper searches for you. This requires intense planning, efficient processes, and frictionless execution.

Be visible.
To be visible means that you have to have excellent content that draws shoppers to your site. In addition, that content must be aligned with your search engine optimization strategy, especially since more than 70% of shoppers search first on either Amazon or Google. Download our white paper on how to write a product page that boosts your SEO for some tips to help with this effort.

Be compelling.
To attract buyers, your products have to tell a story—one that differentiates your product from those of competitors and communicates to shoppers exactly what they are buying. You need to provide a complete picture of the product so that the customer is delighted by what they purchase—either in-store or online. In addition, anticipating the customer’s needs by presenting complementary offers and bundled assortments will speed their purchase decision-making, as well as provide a valuable and time-saving service. Achieving this high level of satisfaction will help to reduce product returns after the holiday season is over.

Be accurate and consistent.
However, to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction, your product information must be accurate and consistent across all channels—both online and off-line. Nearly three-quarters of shoppers lose trust in a brand if online product information is incorrect. This is hardly surprising when holiday shoppers, on average, spend between $800 and $900 on gifts in such a short period of time. While your job as a retailer is to delight your buyer, their job, in turn, is to delight the person receiving the gift. Wrong sizes, specs and colors, inaccurate shipping information, and erroneous inventory information will likely not achieve that objective. Therefore, as a retailer, you need to be sure that every piece of data that appears on your website or in your offline advertising or catalog is accurate and compelling—and consistent from channel to channel.

Product information management can help
Product information management can help with each of these goals. A central product store will enable you to maintain and control all of your product data, guaranteeing that it is accurate and consistent prior to being published to any channel. When onboarding date from suppliers and other data sources, you can ensure that all information is being captured correctly and completely. In addition, you can manage complementary assortments to increase sales and build credibility with your buyers. As these internal processes become more streamlined, you can spend more time gauging trends and customer preferences to customize messaging and product assortments. In addition, you can get your products to market earlier, catching the fads, beating the competition, and securing those early-bird shoppers.

Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver

26 October 2016

Handle content efficiently in the fast-moving retail electronics marketplace

Consumers are researching electronics products in detail more than ever before. As a result, businesses in electronics retail must provide top-quality product information to enable the potential buyer to compare products, review technical specifications, compare features, select OS, choose software licenses, compare price, and decide on dimensions etc.

As a retailer this means handling very large volumes of complex product information for thousands – if not hundreds of thousands of products in several different product segments. Speed and efficiency becomes critical for keeping the pace in a very fast-moving market. Adding to the challenge is the complexity of marketing the products in different channels — giving consumers an interesting, compelling and visual story regardless of which channel the consumer uses to connect with you.
Smart management of your product information and content can be done efficiently with the help of a PIM (Product Information Management) system and the right integrations with surrounding systems. PIM lets you draw product information from your ERP and other data sources, like CNET, and subsequently handle all product information in one source for all channels.

By pulling in the building blocks of product information into a PIM, you can swiftly handle product texts, images, videos, documents, specifications, comparisons, similar products, related products etc. in one system. Once the information is complete and fits your requirements, you can push that information to all your channels in one click. Updating the product information becomes easy; you simply make the adjustment in your PIM, and the change will be updated to all channels at the click of a button. In addition, since all channels are being fed with information from the same system, you can rest assured that the information is always the latest, most up-to-date, and consistent content.

Investing in the creation of relevant content in a smart way improves efficiency and supports the speed at which you need to get the information out. For example, one of our customers, a large electronics retailer, told me that with the 150 000 to 200 000 items they market per year — including smartphones, tablets, computers, servers, networks, screens, HiFi components, and software licenses - they handle such high volumes of product information that they must have effective processes and the right information in the PIM to bring a product to market fast. In their world, one single product should not take more than 10 minutes to enrich with product information and become marketable and thereby purchasable. New products can be published immediately to the channels, exposing them to both online and offline customers.

By deploying a PIM system, this electronics retailer can control the not only very large product range (both current and retired products), but also customer-specific tailored products - always knowing they can trust the PIM to deliver correct and updated information each time.

Annette Ståhlberg, Content Manager, inRiver

14 October 2016

Inspire your Food and Beverage consumers with compelling product content

For a manufacturer or vendor of food and beverages, the challenge of managing product information often lies in bringing structure and control to the product content creation process itself. Not only do you have to keep a close eye on laws and regulations, declare the ingredients of the products, list any allergens, and show the nutritional value of the products – you also have to market the products with images and media that makes it look delectable, tell a great story about how good it tastes, and maybe add a few inspirational recipes so that consumers get inspired and select to buy it. Add to that the fact that you have to push all that information about your products into several channels – to websites, to resellers, to consumers, to supermarket chains, to apps, to info kiosks etc, and you have an even larger challenge.

Managing your product information and content can be done efficiently with the help of a PIM (Product Information Management) system. PIM lets you handle all product information in one source for all channels - simplifying the task of keeping up with the information demands. You handle product texts, images, videos, documents, specifications, comparisons etc. in one system, and feed that information to your channels – both digital and printed. Using a PIM for creating and managing content around your products ensures that you will always have correct, consistent and updated information everywhere. And since you work in a single system for all product information, you will never need to check for discrepancies between channels.
With a PIM, you can move away from looking for your product information in many places and resources. It eliminates the “spreadsheet management” and duplication of information for each channel. Instead, a PIM gives you a setup where you have everything in one place for all your channels. PIM also makes the cumbersome process of introducing new products and making changes to existing products and brands much faster.

Doing the initial investment into relevant content sets up a solid base for displaying your product offering in various channels. Having excellent information makes your investments in these channels much more worthwhile, since you actually have substance to build on, and are able to adapt it for a purpose. Concentrating your efforts on enriching your products with great content, excellent descriptions, required information like ingredients, and the right digital assets makes the content relevant to the end customers.

One of our customers, a manufacturer of meats and food, manages all their 16 brands and thousands of products with PIM - providing resellers and consumers with top quality product information along with inspirational recipes for how the products can be used.

Groceries supermarket chains also manage product information efficiently in a PIM - for the entire product range, in several channels. One of our supermarket chain customers provides self-service checkouts in the supermarket, member portals in the stores, online grocery shopping, plus an app. The supermarket chain displays all product information and product images in a consistent manner in all these channels thanks to managing in centrally in a PIM. Add to that the fact that the supermarket chain manages – in PIM - over 1000 personalized offers available to their loyal customers, never missing a beat to connect with customers with the best possible product information.

A PIM system simply gives you full control over your entire product range, related products, campaigns, special offers, recipes etc. for all your products, benefiting you as a company, and keeping your end customer well-informed about your products.

Annette Ståhlberg, Content Manager, inRiver

13 October 2016

The content syndication conundrum

Regardless of the production method, all manufacturers know that to be able to ship a product to a reseller or end-customer, the product first needs to be produced. First, you make it, and then you move it.

Modern production is often designed to minimize the capital that gets tied up in warehouses or to satisfy the customer's desire for personalized and customized products. So the physical production process is increasingly based on some build-to-order or just-in-time concept. Preferably, the finished good is a high-quality product, which has been produced efficiently so that the customer is satisfied and the manufacturer can make a healthy profit.

In today’s modern marketplace, the manufacturer is not only responsible for producing the physical product, but also is for creating and delivering the accompanying product information—from measurements and descriptions to images and how-to videos. So just like the physical product, the digital product components need to be produced and assembled before the product information can be shipped— or syndicated, as it is referred to in the digital world. First, you produce it, and then you syndicate it. Similar to its physical counterpart, the product’s attributes and information must be produced effectively so the manufacturer can sell more products and minimize time-to-market.

So why state something so obvious? In my role, I meet a lot of manufacturers, distributors, and retailers and they all have many challenges concerning syndication. The distributors and retailers tell me that they cannot get access to high quality product information and the manufacturers say that they have a very hard time syndicating it to them. It is easy to assume that it is a logistics problem that can be solved by a better delivery system, right? But what if it is not the logistics - or the syndication process - that is the problem? What if it is the production of the information that is the root cause?

In most cases, the syndication process is driven by multiple spreadsheets, each laden with hundreds of columns and often thousands of rows per channel or reseller. When you add thousands of images, videos, and documents to the mix, it is easy to understand why organizations may stumble and fall. The syndication team is assembling the information from a combination of sources — PDF documents, ERP exports, websites, and engineering diagrams. Re-using and re-purposing the information, even for a single channel or reseller, is almost impossible since the spreadsheets cannot track any changes in the source materials. It becomes an endless treadmill for everyone involved.

This is a logistics-centric process, focused on the distribution of content, instead of a production process focused on creating the content. With multiple people drawing upon multiple sources and spreadsheets for syndication it becomes an inefficient process that leads to low-quality product information being distributed at a high cost. Customers and resellers are not satisfied with the end-user information, while the manufacturer continues to expand resources and cost to alleviate the problems. Sadly, sales and profits go down.

So, the conclusion must be that all distribution/syndication needs to begin with a production-driven focus to produce high-quality content, as efficiently and effectively as possible. With a single source of product truth, the process of producing product information can be controlled, efficient and less frustrating for all parties involved. Syndication is not very complex if you have a high quality digital product ready when you want to ship/syndicate it—preferably long before you ship its physical counterpart. However, you have to produce it in good time before you need to syndicate it.

Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver