31 January 2017

Build a Compelling B2B Product Page with These Tips

You know that going digital with your product sales means more than just putting an “e” in front of “Commerce.” Each platform and process must be strategically and tactically planned—and tailored to both your business and your customers. With fewer than 10% of B2B purchasing transactions taking place online, there is room for much growth and revenue, which means manufacturers and distributors need to pay close attention to their online customer experience. 

B2B Buyers Have Unique Needs

B2B buyers may search online in a similar manner to B2C shoppers—exploring Google and Amazon for the best product options and prices. Alternately, they may be using specific vendors, dictated by an internal organization, end-user, or company policy. In many cases, they are seeking corporate volume discounts, unique product specifications, or the opportunity to set up a recurring order. Regardless of buyer intent or behavior, your site needs to be able to meet these varied and unique needs. 

Building a Better B2B eCommerce Experience

In conjunction with C2 Competitive Computing, inRiver recently published a white paper that addresses the unique approach that B2B enterprises need to take when building their online commerce experience. Although some best practices can be learned from what B2C retailers have built over the past 20+ years, many tools and techniques are particular to the B2B enterprise.

For example, as mentioned above, some buyers may be shopping for volume or corporate discounts. B2B eCommerce platforms must be able to serve up correct pricing based on user ID or email address. As some products become more commoditized due to the influence of online price shopping and comparisons, B2B enterprises must be able to find new ways to differentiate, such as offering complementary products and services to the product being sought.

Differentiating Your Online Experience

Adding value to the purchaser along the buying journey will help you to differentiate your brand and online experience. For example, if you can anticipate the buyer’s needs or make their life easier—and make it easier for them to buy from you—you will reap the reward of loyal customers and increased revenue.

One example is by showing the buyer that you understand their business. If a buyer is shopping for a replacement product that you know will require them to take a machine offline, suggest other maintenance and replacement parts that they may want to take care of at the same time, while the line is down. This will save them time and money in the long run.

Similarly, providing a variety of shipping options will enable your customer to balance budget constraints with business needs. If your customer needs an emergency replacement part to get a machine back up and running, receiving the part the next day could literally save millions of dollars. In contrast, some businesses may be willing to wait for slower “ground” shipping to save money if they are planning well ahead for their needs.

For the B2B seller, none of these scenarios will necessarily be new. However, how they are handled online compared with traditional offline procurement could be very different, and could make the difference between an abandoned cart and a sale. And it is very different from how shopping and purchasing is conducted in the B2C environment.

For a deeper dive into how to display your B2B products online, download our white paper, “9 Tips for Building a Compelling B2B Product Page.” Let us know how we can help you provide a great eCommerce experience for your customers through excellent product information.

Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver

26 January 2017

Micro-moments in action: PIMpoint Summit 2017

Micro-moments, the concept Google coined not too long ago to describe the intent-driven moments of decision-making that occur throughout the customer journey, will be put into action at our annual customer and partner event PIMpoint Summit this year is the main theme of the event.
With the challenges that micro-moments are creating for vendors across industries, we at inRiver decided to delve more deeply into consumer behavior at our annual event. Together with our sponsoring Partners, we are investigating what the deciding factors are for the window of opportunity that captures the attention of customers anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Having organized and/or attended every PIMpoint Summit since the very start, I am personally really excited to see how our annual event has gone from strength to strength each year. And this year we are very proud to present our customers and partners with two truly amazing days―filled with food for thought and inspiration for everyone working with customer-facing content and product information.

PIMpoint Summit 2017 will not only be covering both challenges and successes of micro-moments, but will also present several interesting speakers, various tangible customer cases, insights into consumer behavior, the importance of owning your brand, and much more. Among the keynote speakers we have the following two thought-provoking speakers lined up:
  • Johan Lindeberg, the successful fashion designer who brought edge and commercial success to Diesel jeans in the 1990s, his own fashion brand J.Lindeberg and BLK DNM in New York, will share his progressive and modern thoughts, together with a fascinating life story.
  • Pixie Sartang, Co-founder and Senior Strategist at the House of Harvey and a heavyweight digital strategist, brings a practical approach to content, ensures that the audience begins to think, and provides something interesting to take home.
We are also excited to launch the next version of inRiver PIM at PIMpoint Summit. And one of the highlights of previous years, the inRiver User Forum, returns in the new shape of Master Classes, where users of inRiver’s PIM can receive training from our product specialists and can ask questions on using the platform.

PIMpoint Summit is most definitely the highlight of the year. Bringing all of these PIM professionals ― both customers and partners ― into one place is an incredible 2-day boost and injection of knowledge and dynamic interaction. PIMpoint Summit brings together everything we at inRiver do and work for every day during the rest of the year.

Read more about PIMpoint Summit 2017 and check out the fantastic program we have planned for you at https://pimpoint.inriver.com/acton/media/12393/pimpoint-summit-2017

Annette Ståhlberg, Content Manager, inRiver

24 January 2017

Take Control of Your Google Shopping Product Information

Although online shopping has continued to increase in both frequency and dollars year over year, it still only makes up about 10% of B2B sales transactions. However, online shopping influences many more transactions, even in B2B buying. B2B buyers want to make informed purchases with the least amount of friction possible—a trend that is illustrated by the increase in ratings and reviews, price and feature comparisons, and shipping options offered on B2B eCommerce sites.

B2B online shopping and purchasing will continue to increase; according to Google, the value of physical goods ordered via digital channels is expected to grow another 15% in 2017. With more than 100 billion searches per month originating on Google’s search engines, the company is instrumental in connecting brands and consumers. As mentioned in a previous blog, your eCommerce presence on Google Shopping is critical, because many product searches originate on google.com.

Google Manufacturer Center for Better Product Information
inRiver is partnering with Google to make it easier and more effective for our manufacturing customers to take advantage of the nascent Google Manufacturer Center (GMC). inRiver strives to enable enterprises to enrich product information so that they can tell perfect product stories, regardless of sales channel.

Google furthers this campaign for complete and accurate product information through the GMC. As the manufacturer of products, you have the deepest knowledge of your products and should be the ultimate authority on what information is displayed across your sales channels and throughout the buyer journey. Together with Google, inRiver can help you influence the accuracy, completeness, and consistency of the product information that is being syndicated to Google Shopping.

What’s In It For You
inRiver manufacturing customers, such as TOPS Products, are already taking advantage of the many benefits of the GMC—relevant searches based on key words, authority over syndicated product information, and comprehensive (and free!) analytics. And it is even easier to leverage this tool through the GMC Connector from inRiver, which “auto-magically” maps inRiver fields to GMC fields.

Take the Next Step
We invite you to take a look at the Google Manufacturer Center as an option to provide better product information, a more enriching brand experience, and improved eCommerce performance. And we are here to help get you easily connected with your product information! Download our Google Manufacturer Center Connector Solution Brief for more information.

Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver

17 January 2017

Diminishing brand loyalty and the absolute value of the product

Todays' customers are rapidly changing their buying behavior, and, as a consequence brand loyalty is diminishing quickly. Today's customers place less trust in brands and tend to switch brands more often than they did in the past. For a long time, a company’s brand was seen as its most important asset—sometimes even considered as more valuable than products, patents, and process perfection put together. However, as customers are increasingly becoming empowered buyers, they tend to investigate the real value of products and rely on facts and peer reviews more than on logos and old habits.

When customers relied on printed brochures and catalogs that they could pick up at a retail store or from a sales representative, combined with their previous experience with a company, brands served as proxies for quality. If a TV was made by Sony, or a mobile phone by Nokia, customers typically assumed that it was a good product. Back then, if the first experience was a good one, customers often bought products from the same brand over and over and stuck to that single brand for extended periods of time. In the transparent marketplace that is driven by universal Internet access and constant mobile connectivity, customers now shop around, looking for the best product for the best possible price—regardless of brand.

Absolute value
In the book “Absolute Value,” Itamar Simonson & Emanuel Rosen illustrate that brand used to be an effective tool when information was scarce and hard to come by. In the book, they write: “The new information environment around us allows consumers to predict much more accurately the experienced quality (or absolute value) of products and services they consider getting. The implications for consumers and businesses are enormous. First, reliance on absolute values means that, on average, consumers tend to make better decisions and become less susceptible to context or framing manipulations. For businesses, it means that marketing is changing forever.”
This shift from brand value to absolute value is very positive for the customer as it helps them make better and more educated purchasing decisions. At the same time, it increases competition that raises product quality, while keeping prices down. Upstarts can benefit immensely from this behavioral and technological change as it is now cheaper, faster, and easier to compete with established brands. Social media and data-driven marketing make it quick and cost effective to get the product story out there, if they have a good one. The product is front and center in the new world of commerce.

Without the brand, the product is on its own
When empowered buyers quickly research their way to a buying decision, each product now has to prove itself on its own. It can no longer be marketed and sold based on brand value alone. This means that companies need to focus more on the product and especially on its accompanying product information. This is equally true for B2B as it is for B2C as the modern B2B buyer is inclined to use the same buying behavior at work as they do as consumers. The consumerization of B2B has already happened, and it is continually growing in strength.

Reviews and other types of user-generated content are of course very valuable as customers tend to trust their peers more than the retailer or the manufacturer. Besides building trust for the product, it also is great for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It also puts pressure on the product itself, as it needs to be satisfactory for the customer and live up to the promise that is being made in the product story. With customers that focus on products rather than brands, it is the product’s promise, not the brand’s. In many cases, the product is completely on its own and needs to be able to tell its story by itself.

Customers + products = business
Customer-centricity is now more important than ever and knowing your customer becomes critical if you want to provide them with the best possible customer experience. If you combine customer intelligence with product intelligence and use that to serve up the right product with the right information to your customers, you are in a good position to win new customers and keep them loyal, regardless of brand.

As a consequence, high quality information about your customers and products is essential to be the winner in the battle of the customer. You have to be great at managing both types of information to succeed. To do that you need the appropriate organization, processes, and systems support to get there and stay there.

Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver

12 January 2017

The cost of chaos: How to build a content creation factory

Today, manufacturers are as responsible for their company’s product information as they are for the physical product. But, as many know, the manufacturing of physical goods is often more efficient and lean than the production of the accompanying product information. The creation of product information is mostly a chaotic and inefficient process, with enormous potential for improvement. This inefficiency in the product information management process is equally valid for managing data and digital assets, creating bundles and kits, and merchandising, publishing and syndication. The cost of the content creation chaos is enormous, and it is time to do something about it.

The lean way out of chaos
Chaotic and unstructured ways of working can cause waste in all sorts of production processes. This waste can increase production cost, cause a loss in sales, and be detrimental to the quality of the end-product. Lean production is a tool used by businesses to streamline manufacturing and production processes. Lean Six Sigma defines waste as any step or action in a process that is not required to complete it successfully; these steps are called “Non-Value-Adding.”
When all waste is removed, only the steps that are necessary to deliver a satisfactory product or service to the customer remain in the process; these steps are called “Value-Adding.” Removing actions that do not add value is, of course, common sense. Lean Six Sigma just provides some useful methods to do it in a structured way and to help refine the processes over time.

TIMWOODS for product information creation
Lean Six Sigma defines eight (7+1) primary types of waste in a process, and there is an acronym—“TIM WOODS”—to help us remember them. Nevertheless, the way that the types of waste are defined in Lean Six Sigma are not entirely applicable to the creation of product information, so we need to redefine the types of waste, so they better fit the creation of product information, rather than the production of physical products or services.
Let's look at TIM WOODS with our PIM glasses on:
  • Transportation – Sending information that is not required to perform the process from one user or role to another. An example can be sending a spreadsheet with all SKUs and all attributes to everyone instead of a selection of the SKUs and attributes to the people that need it with the information they need to perform their task.
  • Inventory – Information that is sitting idle and not being processed or used. An example can be files that do not get updated or used because they are stored on a network drive somewhere that makes them very hard to find.
  • Motion – Information that is sent around the organization unnecessarily due to the lack of a proper workflow and process support systems. Motion can easily be illustrated as users copying and pasting information into documents and siloed systems.
  • Waiting – Waiting for the previous step in a sequential process to complete, because of the lack of a parallel process. An example can be users waiting for a spreadsheet with item data from another group so that they may tag images correctly.
  • Overproduction – Producing more content than a given product needs to be effectively marketed and sold. An example is adding more images or attributes to a product without knowing if it increases the conversion rate or lowers product returns. 
  • Over-processing – Performing any activity that is not necessary to produce a compelling and complete product story. A good example is when information quality control is so rigid and inefficient that is hampering the process and adds more time to market than it adds value to the customer.
  • Defects – Product information that is out of specification that requires resources to correct it or creates customer confusion because of inaccuracies. An example is data that is missing or out-of-date because of unclear ownership or content forking/duplication due to siloed systems.
  • Skills – People or roles that are not effectively engaged in the content creation process. This can be exemplified within a compartmentalized organization where the marketing department creates all product content without support from the product team that possesses most of the product knowledge.

The content creation factory
To make product content creation and distribution as efficient as all other production and logistics processes requires that we start looking at product content creation in the same way that we do with all other production. We need to build an efficient content creation factory combined with stellar information logistics. Looking at Lean Six Sigma can be one of many starting points to build an efficient content creation factory.

It is unwise to leap a chasm in two bounds; starting small is always advisable. However, every company that wants to win the battle of the customer must start now. Start with the people in the organization, define an efficient process, and procure the right tools. Lean Six Sigma aims to make the work simple enough to understand, execute, and manage. Having simplicity as a top priority will help you design a reliable, predictable, and repeatable process. Good luck in your endeavors to build your product content factory!

Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver

05 January 2017

Why Your Products Need to Be on Google Shopping

A few weeks ago, we published a blog about how to improve your product rankings on Amazon.com. As we mentioned, a large percentage of shoppers—online and offline—start their product search on Amazon. However, we all know that not all shoppers have the same shopping habits. Not only do you need to pay attention to how your product stories are rendering on Amazon, but also you need to monitor your product information on other sites and search engines—and one of these, of course, is Google. A survey by PowerReviews earlier this year concluded that while Amazon, at 38% of respondents, is the preferred online search vehicle for product search, Google is a close second, at 35%.

Many shoppers, especially those that are Amazon Prime Members who enjoy free shipping on many items on the Amazon site, find shopping on Amazon to be convenient. Many products have multiple reviews and there are frequently multiple sellers for a given product, enabling price and shipping comparisons.

However, Amazon may not actually boast the best product or price options, especially for those shoppers without Prime membership. Likewise, product information found on Amazon.com may be inconsistent and limited by keyword search terms. In contrast, Google’s keyword and algorithmic power can provide shoppers with product options from a variety of retailers—a selection that rivals what is found on Amazon. When shoppers limit themselves to just one shopping site, they may be limiting their product knowledge and options. 

When shoppers search on Google, they can find the best products and prices more quickly. For example, when shopping for an “ugly Christmas sweater” for my husband, I searched on Amazon and found this one for $29.99:

However, when I searched for this same sweater on Google, I found the same item for $24.50 on another site. Normally, I wouldn’t be so price-sensitive, but in this case, since I was purchasing a “gag” item, I wanted to spend as little as possible!

Not only may Google provide you with lower price options for your product search, but also Google provides local inventory listings from retailers that are physically located near you. Considering that most retail transactions still take place in a physical store, this information is very useful to shoppers. For last minute gift-buying, this information could be a deciding factor. 

Another benefit for shoppers is the better product information they will likely find on Google. Since Google Shopping is a “pay to play” service, requiring retailers to purchase Product Listing Ads (PLAs), retailers may be more inclined to ensure that up-to-date and accurate product information—in terms of imagery, pricing, and product descriptions—is being presented. For manufacturers that participate in Google Manufacturer Center, better product information is pretty much guaranteed due to the tools and analysis that Google provides. 

The take-away here is that shoppers can be unpredictable with respect to how and when they conduct a product search. We can provide you with behavioral data and statistics all day long, but to reach the individual shopper, you need to monitor all the channels where your products can be found so that you can meet those personalized needs as they arise. Each individual shopper has unique habits and preferences—where they begin their product search (Google versus Amazon versus retailer), what their criteria are (price versus convenience, for example), and what their timeline and delivery preferences are. Therefore, you need to have accurate, complete, and compelling product information available on every channel to ensure that you can be found and considered, each and every time a shopper searches for your product. 

As we embark on 2017, check back with inRiver for more on this topic. We will have additional blogs and webinars to help you create great product stories, raise the visibility of your products and your brand, and stay abreast of your competition and the latest tools and trends. In addition, we will share information about our relationship with Google Manufacturer Center and our connector to that helpful portal. 

Register now for our first webinar of the year where we will explore some key eCommerce trends for 2017!

Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver