A Product Content Strategy for ‘Commerce Anywhere’

All it takes is one bad experience to turn a customer away — which is why the delivery of accurate and consistent product data across all channels is fast becoming one of the most important criteria for online and cross-channel success.

Whether consumers visit a site to make a purchase, use their mobile devices to conduct research, or place a call to a contact center with a question, when it comes to delivering a positive “commerce anywhere” customer experience today’s etailers and online marketers need to be able to flow content and context across all channels with ease.

As consumers become increasingly channel-agnostic, e-business leaders need to enable a product content management strategy that ensures content seamlessly follows customers on their cross-channel journey — providing the right information and incentives to maximize the purchase decision-making process at each and every point.

Clearly, operating standalone online stores or print catalogs in silos alongside physical stores and telephone sales is no longer good enough. Yet in the bid to future-proof their businesses, retailers need to guard against falling into the trap of focusing on one channel alone or becoming locked into a channel-specific solution. Instead, they need to identify a platform that effortlessly supports every medium and accommodates each new channel as it’s added to the commerce mix.

Data Everywhere

The current focus on the execution of product content is being driven, in part, by the recent explosion of content. Quite simply, as e-commerce has come of age, retailers have discovered that the more unique and rich their product content is, the better their storefronts perform in terms of conversions, reductions in return rates and desired customer outcomes.

Improving usability and adding features to counter the competition — from sizing charts, images and video, feature lists, color swatches and recommendations in the form of cross-sell and up-sell options to customer-generated reviews, ratings, tags and categorization — have led to the rapid growth of online retail sites in a highly dynamic environment. What’s more, the consumer’s desire for content appears insatiable — and social media is helping to fuel this hunger.

Add to the mix retailer-generated sale and promotional pricing plus accompanying messaging and flags, and the operational burden on retailers to leverage and incorporate product data in all its different forms and formats becomes all too apparent.

As e-businesses scale, the pressure to maximize content value burgeons. As well as helping to maximize search engine efficiency and drive up conversion rates, rich product content helps keep returns to a minimum by supporting customers in their ability to select the right product the first time.

What’s more, consumers expect etailers and online marketers to be definitive sources of product information. If they don’t successfully learn everything they can about a product, then they will look to other brands to complete their research — which makes content a clear differentiator when it comes to the ongoing competition for consumers.

In today’s new multichannel commerce paradigm, traditional product information needs to be managed alongside channel-specific content — Web, print, mobile media, user-generated content, and digital assets like videos and images — and efficiently administered and published across all channels.

Getting It Right the First Time, Every Time

The emergence of mobile and social commerce has highlighted the importance of the accuracy and consistency of product data across all channels. For example, mobile commerce now gives consumers the opportunity to compare prices “on the go,” review “edited choice” lists based on recent purchase history, make purchases via online catalogs, scan product barcodes in store for possible purchase at a later date, or request pickup, delivery and returns from any location.

However, it takes just one bad experience — whether that be out-of-date pricing, incorrect or conflicting information about sizing, color or availability, etc. — for a consumer to switch brands or go to a different retail outlet to make their purchase.

In a world in which customers engage with vendors across several touchpoints, confusing messaging on pricing, promotion, assortment and inventory levels undermines brand reputation and erodes consumer perceptions, especially when it comes to a tailored, personalized “commerce anywhere” experience.

For companies operating internationally, fluid multilingual and localization capabilities are increasingly important; to maximize sales opportunities, vendors need to be able to pull and push localized content.

Getting it right the first time, every time, depends on achieving pitch-perfect product content management. Which is why PCM — delivered via an integrated cross-channel sales and marketing platform consisting of a single application and user interface that delivers workflow management, data validation and flexible visual import and export tools that can be used across all content types and editorial processes — is now an e-commerce priority.

PIM to PCM: The Next Evolutionary Step

As the next generation of PIM, PCM sets out to eliminate inconsistencies in product data by providing a “single version of the truth” for each product, delivering a 360-degree view of the product data and content customers experience at every touchpoint.

Incorporating highly sophisticated functionality for managing unstructured product content — like user-generated content, multimedia, troubleshooting and usage tips — product data from multiple sources can be centralized and sent to multiple online and offline channels. Multi-language and localization support make it easy to “go global” with a multichannel strategy.

As retailers increasingly focus on synchronizing content across all channels, they are recognizing that PCM — which incorporates every aspect of content management, from creation, aggregation, categorization, staging, publication and syndication to the assignment of attributes such as category, price and promotion eligibility — is the most-effective way to guarantee consistency of product data. It also simplifies the process of adding social media tools like customer reviews and videos.

PCM may not always have been prioritized as one of the most-important selection criteria for an e-commerce platform in the past, but today it is fast becoming the foundation for “e-commerce anywhere” success.

Carsten Thoma is U.S. president of multichannel commerce solution provider Hybris.

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