TNW shop The Present And Future of Product InformationAs the fight to stand out and remain relevant above the noise online gets harder, the information that frames a product sold has become an important element for both the buyer and the e-tailer. The content that goes with a product has gained significant gravity in the equation that defines the sales of a product, from user generated content such as reviews and comments about a product, to product description and manuals. The growth of social media and the increasing influence of word-of-mouth marketing have dictated the importance of adding content on e-commerce sites that would urge the customers to share info about new products on their social networks. This content has become an integral part of the customer’s experience and can make or break a sale.

A picture is worth 1,000 words: Images are a very important part of any e-commerce site. The five senses play a major part in our buying decisions but e-tailers can only use just two to make their products more appealing: vision and hearing. Apart from providing a rich high quality photo gallery to show every aspect and detail of their products, many e-tailers prefer to add to a written product info and a video description of the product like Zappos. Zappos videos feature next-door people who introduce themselves in the beginning the video instead of professional models with voice over, to create a more relatable feel. Then there’s Asos, who prefers to feature catwalk videos of its clothes. Further away from the old-school telemarketing are the videos featured on Youtique by French connection, a YouTube store, where instead of “dry” infomercials, they present the clothes while giving away styling tips for different occasions or with humorous how-tos like: How to eat spaghetti – in a gorgeous dress and bolero. Video is a great communication tool for your e-shop, as it allows a deeper experience with the products, but you need to figure out the style that appeals to your audience. Remember to upload it in a form that’s easy to share on social networks, for instance on Zappos and Asos, although the product page is easy to share, the video itself is not, unlike the case of Youtique.

Copywriting: Especially when it comes to fashion, the line between an editorial and an e-shop has completely blurred with e-commerce sites like Net-A-Porter running their own magazines and on then editorial sites like Refinery29 launching e-commerce sections. A great example of practical information presented in a “shareable” way is J’aime mon carre by Hermès, which shows different ways one can wear a Hermès scarf. Unfortunately this mini site is disconnected from the Hermès boutique so one can only look at the scarf and see the design’s ID but not shop it directly. Even simple short texts like the ones that describe Groupon deals play their part into attracting the consumer and spice up the experience. Groupon counts many writers among its staff (as of September 2010, 70) and has an entire style guide to help its writers find the right words to describe the deals. Keep in mind that while you want your text to be engaging, you need to convey the product info in a clear way so that the consumer will get the necessary info with the first scan of the text.

In-store: More and more customers look up product info online while shopping in-store, either by manually searching on the Internet or by scanning products’ bar and QR codes. BestBuy has included 2D bar codes in store to enhance the off line shopping experience. The customer can scan the codes with the BestBuy app and discover product info, offers and rewards. Many food and beverages companies enable the consumers to find out information about their products’ origins online by entering the product ID in a web app. Coca-Cola UK has launched a Web app that allows consumers to trace the environmental impact of their can or bottle of Coke. Other examples are Dole Organic which gives the consumers a tour of the farm their fruit came from once they enter the fruit’s sticker number online; Askinosie chocolate provides the customers their chocolate’s background once they enter their ‘Choc-O-Lot’ number, and more. People will look up products before they shop anyway so you might as well embrace this part of the shopping experience and curate the information needed in an easy to access and navigable way. Openness and honesty are the basis of any good dating profile and product description, so make sure you get back a: Like!

Social Media Content: The reviews of friends and family spread across different social media platforms are worth equally if not more as the information you put up on your e-commerce site. No way to ignore them anymore, so try to find a way to add information from the customer’s online network as a social layer on your e-shop. Levi’s has managed this with the Friend’s store showing what your Facebook friends liked through Facebook connect, same thing Amazon has done with Facebook connect (beta), providing gift recommendation for friends and birthday reminders as well as Amazon products recommendations based on your personal profile. Marissa Mayer in her recent LeWeb interview talked about social and real-time search and that taking into account parameters like the user’s location and tastes, comes up with curated results according to his context. For instance she said: “If you’re sitting in a restaurant, can we pull up the menu? And can we pull up a menu that isn’t the menu that the waiter would have just handed you, but a social menu – where you can see what other people have ordered, what other people like, how’s it’s been marked up.” How will e-tailers handle contextual user-generated content and integrate it in their online presence?

In a competitive market place shifting fast to catch up with the latest technology innovations, the question raised is how to enrich and handle your product information in order to stay relevant throughout all the various communication channels. What do you think the future of product information looks like?