Optimize Your Hardlines Content for eCommerce Success

Having an active product content strategy for hardlines is essential to winning in today’s consumer-first marketplace. Consider that Amazon has been selling consumer electronics like computers, televisions, cell phones and photography equipment online for more than 20 years, and it’s easy to see that many hardline retailers (and their suppliers) recognize the opportunity. Recent upswings in click-and-collect around the holidays have been one bright spot in organizations’ digital transformations. And shoppers are certainly already there.

 

However, for suppliers and retailers to capture their share of hardlines requires more than the basic PIM/DAM data that fuels supply chain and merchandising programs. Today’s content must work in the way shoppers do – integrated interactively, across mobile, desktop, TV, tablet, and into the physical store (if there even is one). And while product images and item details are critical,they provide only the bare minimum in online content.

 

We at Syndigo have compiled the playbook below to help you better understand the key areas of importance when it comes to driving hardline conversions online, with suggestions on how to begin (or improve) your organization’s product content strategy. We have divided the process into four key areas.

1. Build & Organize

To build an effective eCommerce program, you need to start with Core content – table stakes for any supplier today, and the foundation of eCommerce. The focus here must be on both data quality as well as completeness. Here are a few checklist items to consider as you build your Core content.

  • Content Creation / Collection – Product specifications can change from early design, through engineering/production to packaging. If content is created based on early product specifications, it is important to ensure the team responsible for eCommerce is aware of any changes that occur to the final approved product, including weight, dimensions, color variants, etc. and ensures the content is updated for individual items, packing sleeves (if relevant) and cases. Otherwise discrepancies can arise between what is communicated to trading partners and the consumer, and the actual product. This can lead to increased shipping costs, warehouse slotting penalties, loss of consumer brand trust and possible de-listing online.
  • Validation – There are differing data requirements and formats based on the eCommerce website and data recipient, which is why validating that the information is both complete and correct is so important. In order to have content accepted for posting, brands should focus on product page optimization – ensuring that the eCommerce team or service provider is properly inputting, auditing and validating all content before sending, to save any re-publishing or de-listing headaches on the back end.
  • Off-label attributes – Shoppers today crave detailed product information, and some may be looking for specific information (such as country of origin, organic production or power ratings) to make comparisons and influence their purchase. And some sites may require additional content that is not specifically required via GS1 GDSN standards or other industry/regulatory agencies. What may seem like a minor detail can make or break a listing – and a purchase. By having access to a trading partner’s requirements, and capturing this additional information, brands can optimize the product page for better search and listing results. Many of these derived claims can be compiled by a full-service provider like Syndigo to enhance a brand’s content score.

Taxonomy – In order to make the most of the data created and collected, it is crucial to employ a taxonomy strategy. A taxonomy is simply a hierarchical system of categories to organize product information to make it easier for customers to find and buy. For example, different consumers might search for the same item using “power tools” or “hammer drill”, or search for curtains under “drapes” or “window treatments”. Understanding that different people need different terms and information to make a purchase decision is at the heart of taxonomy, and having the tools to research and categorize these terms helps build engagement. While the concept is simple, having a formalized process for item taxonomies can be complex. It’s crucial to engage a provider who has experts on staff to assist in building these hierarchies.

  • Network – Finally, the Network is as important as the content. From a Building/Organizing perspective, the more retailer recipients you have relationships with, the more accurate you can be in submitting the information. Simply collecting retailer requirements is a start, but to ensure the best possible accuracy, it is best to work with a partner with a large distribution network, that is a recognized partner with the top retailer providers.

GDSN and Core Content – What’s the difference?

While both types of product content may contain similar attributes, their uses are different. Core content is the information that can be captured from a product’s label or by inspection, including product brand names, descriptions, images, feature sets, specifications, weight and dimensions, etc. Core content is used in many applications, with publishing requirements based on each data recipient’s need. In contrast, GDSN content is an agreed-upon descriptive framework from the participating members of GS1 – an international standards association

Learn more about both below.

2. Enhance

Once you have a solid process for creating Core content, the next thing to consider is Enhanced content. While the depth and quality of Core information helps shoppers make their purchase decisions, Enhanced content – through rich media or interactive applications – helps shoppers engage more deeply. And greater engagement leads to more sales. Our own client case studies have shown a lift of as much as 36% when shoppers are exposed to high quality content. Here are a few items for consideration when building out your Enhanced content:

  • Use Mixed Media – Core content requires a set number of images (usually six). Think about the creative elements on hand that extend the visual aspect of your products. Incorporate the advertising “glamour” shots and descriptors that go beyond basic descriptions. Incorporating image galleries that show uses for the product can also be helpful, as well as short (1-2 minute) demonstration videos or commercials. With Syndigo capabilities, you can also consider 360 product spins, key call outs or comparison charts.
  • Complete the story – Put yourself in the position of the shopper. What would you want to know about the product? What is an engaging part of the product that may be a differentiator? Consider your product page as a digital showroom that helps to tell the product story while answering the questions or ideas for use that a shopper may have. By optimizing your product pages with rich media and other enhanced content in this manner, you can drive even higher levels of add to cart rates.
  • Above and below the fold – Typical layouts will show a product image with basic Core content at the top, with inline Enhanced content to follow. However, with the increasing use of mobile to access product content, as much as 57% of consumer time is spent above the fold – on the first screen or swipe. That means if you can engage shoppers with Enhanced content above the fold, there is an even greater potential for conversion and success. With Syndigo’s capabilities, you can create interactive content experiences directly on retailer sites through expanded thumbnail images and interactive hot spots, in the prime first-screen area.

What is Story Points, and how does it work?

Story Points helps brands with product page optimization, by creating interactive “hotspots” on a main hero image, placing essential product information right on the part of the product it describes. These interactive elements entice shoppers to engage above the fold, quickly. These hot spots open up different windows that can contain rich media content including product videos, 360 views, feature/benefit captions, and much more.

Story Points is one of several interactive tools to build greater engagement through telling the product story. Research shows that product pages with Story Points generate an average of 13% more in add-to-cart rates.

3. Syndicate

Whether your product content is captured and enhanced internally or with a service provider like Syndigo, it is the connection to a retailer recipient network that makes your products get noticed by shoppers. With Syndigo, you can syndicate your content to any one of our 1,500 global retailer accounts, in the format and specifications they require. Our CXH platform is what makes it all work. Consider:

Single Hosting platform – Content Experience Hub (CXH) is the name of Syndigo’s data connection platform, designed to be the single source of truth for any and all digital product content related to a brand’s or retailer’s items. By integrating all content inputs into a single entity, including Core, Enhanced, GDSN, nutrition, and auditing / analytical reporting capabilities, both retailers and suppliers clients gain significant efficiencies.

7 Ways to Streamline Your Content Management Process
  • Integration / Syndication – By working with retailer clients, Syndigo ensures proper inputs into their PIM systems, which ensures data delivery in the formats required by the retailer. In addition, Syndigo audit capabilities compare what is presented on the eCommerce site to what was delivered, in order to track and document the areas where content could be improved for better retailer interactivity. This integration enables the ability to maintain up-to-date product content while also auditing supplier sites for completeness and accuracy.

Syndigo has and continues to send all types of content to leading retailers like 

LOWES

TARGET

COSTCO

WALMART

BED BATH & BEYOND

AMAZON

  • Updates / Uptime – Some larger PIM systems provide content updates in a regularly scheduled time frame, meaning that any changes to a product content may not happen right away. A lag of even a few hours can reduce your exposure significantly, whether your item is frequently searched for or if is only viewed sparsely. This can cause difficulties, as the physical product specifications may differ from what is presented online. This can cause consumer confusion (and lost sales), and potential for delisting by the site. It is important that a digital product content platform (such as CXH) continually update its information so that changes to specifications happen in near-real time. This keeps online content and physical products aligned, putting your shoppers in the best position to buy.

4. Optimize

Much like content management, content optimization is a continual process. As retailer capabilities change, and new competitor brands enter your sector, it is important to monitor your content (and that of your competition) to ensure your items are given the highest visual priority and rank compared to the others. Here are some steps to consider

Periodic Content Health Audits – Even with the best inputs and retailer specifications, there can be gaps in the product content over time. By accessing analytical tools to understand product gaps, your syndicated product information can be more complete and effective. In order to maintain a healthy product portfolio by retailer, it’s important to audit the gaps between what data has been submitted and what is being presented on the site.

Out-of-stocks are another challenge that can be managed by auditing gaps. If your item is listed online, but on back order (or sold out in store), audits will highlight these discrepancies, which you can fill by working with your retailer partners. Syndigo’s analytical capabilities help to integrate the process into the platform, allowing for virtually “on the fly” monitoring for more complete content, in near real time.

  • Shopper Reviews
    More and more, consumers are referring to the peer reviews of the product to gauge whether to buy, especially for new items. As part of an overall analytics plan, monitoring the comments and ratings on eCommerce sites is another area that should be given top priority. Although it may seem challenging to do so manually, consider services that can help to automate and report such activity.
  • Competitor Monitoring
    Anything that you can measure, you can measure about your competition. For example, as part of overall content health gap analysis, performing a check on click & collect availability can highlight where your items are stocked and available for shoppers to buy online and pick up in store (sometimes called BOPIS). You can also perform this analysis on your competition, to understand where you have an availability advantage (or deficit) against competing products.
  • A/B Testing – Another way to optimize is to test multiple page versions of the same item to understand which performs better with shoppers. While this is a tried-and-true methodology, in the past it has been a resource challenge to set up and administer. However, with today’s online analytical tools, it’s easier than you may think to perform these A/B tests on eCommerce sites. By monitoring shopper interactions with different types of Core content and Enhanced rich media, a brand can optimize their content to move to conversion more quickly. By engaging in A/B testing, brands can uncover a demonstrable lift in sales based on the updated pages.

Building Your Success

Understanding these four key elements of a successful approach to digital product content –
Build & Organize, Enhance, Syndicate and Optimize – will help to create product content that meets trading partner specifications, enables more efficient sharing and updating of information, and increased engagement, conversion and sales lift.

Syndigo provides many tools and capabilities for our clients to optimize their product content across the ecosystem. If you are looking to implement or improve your product content strategy, consider Syndigo’s free content health checkup. It will provide a no-obligation look into the areas your content is succeeding and where there are gaps. To schedule your free content health checkup, just click the button below and we will have one of our account representatives connect with you.

Ready to Learn More?

Syndigo is the global leader for validated core and enhanced digital product content including deep nutritional data, and GDSN data across the largest network of 1,400+ retailers, distributors and trading partners, including over 7,500+ manufacturers and suppliers.