Venturing across the vast savannah of e-commerce requires great orientation in a landscape hastily adapting to a change of climate. Now, more than ever, good product data is what separates the wheat from the chaff.
Product Information Management(PIM) is the way to manage all the data of a certain product, but this goes far beyond listing the basic attributes.
Nowadays it’s most importantly about telling engaging stories and creating emotional bonds, and by utilizing user-generated content as part of the PIM system it can greatly improve the online decision journey.
Previously a clearly marked one-way-path guided customers right in the arms of marketers luring behind the bushes, armed with striking sales arguments and appealing advertisements.
But these times are indeed over. Now customers roam around freely, interacting with one another and making it much harder for marketers to predict the customers’ online decision journey.
The forgotten billions
E-commerce has transformed into something much bigger than a platform for sales. Research and inspiration are often more conspicuous reasons for a visit to a retailer’s web shop than a planned purchase.
This fragmented scattering leaves an enormous amount of products forgotten in the shopping carts. According to Google’s own research this amounts to an astounding $280 billion a year.
In order to keep the customers at the waterhole, one must use some bait and that bait is PIM.
Smoothly framed and streamlined PIM is crucial to satisfy customer demands in the distractive online realm. It offers not only valuable information, but also lifts brand and product credibility, and especially for smaller businesses engaging with ecommerce, this can be key to survive (and even thrive) in an Amazon-ruled reality.
The benefits of PIM are impossible to ignore. Thoroughly done, it shortens the delivery from product to market with more than 10%, according to several studies, and for those who truly realize the unexploited PIM-potential, it can greatly increase visibility through greater omnichannel presence.
But even though customer habits are rapidly evolving and have been for so long that we can document it, retailers have done little to adjust their online shop fronts accordingly.
To smaller businesses it might seem like a Herculean task to fully embrace AI, machine learning and user generated content in order to reap the high-hanging fruits of the PIM tree, but soon this will be a necessity rather than a luxury and getting there doesn’t have to require achievements of a mythical nature.
The PIM system has to source all the available information relating to a new product and gather it into a unique blend of trusted product data, but studies show how the current shop fronts, don’t meet all of the customers’ demands.
Especially YouTube is experiencing this, as customers surge their website for product reviews, unboxing videos and torture tests to name a few. Produced by regular users or YouTube superstars, the videos apply to different parts of human psychology.
A product review or torture test will analyze and reveal the functional attributes of a product and give customers a unique insight previously not possible without purchasing and continuously using the product.
Haul videos and sneaker pick-ups play on the symbolic attributes, where online influencers show off their newest purchases of fashionable brands and feed on the customers’ need of following the latest trends and shaping their own self-images.
Both functional and symbolic attributes can shape a bright future for a brand, but it’s the experiential attributes that can form life-long emotional relationships between customers and brands.
Unboxing videos, or first-impression videos, are hugely popular and experience almost 70% spikes year-on-year in number of views. They offer excitement, entertainment and authenticity and are highly valuable because they can create that special emotional connection even through the screen of a laptop or mobile tablet.
These phenomena might seem hyped to older generations, but millennials often look to influencers because they want an authentic, personalized customer experience, and they’re estimated to spend $200 billion annually already this year.
Hope of the minority
A Walker Sands survey show that more than half of American online shoppers have already been influenced by a YouTube video upon purchase, so integrating this in the PIM system can save retailers a lot of shoppers bouncing off their site in hunt of elaborate information.
At the same time a Forrester study found that rich product information yields more influence than shipping costs, which is great news for the countless numbers of businesses who never will be able to compete with Amazon in terms of shipping costs and delivery time.
PIM is the tool smaller businesses can use to influence the online decision journey to their own benefit, but are often overwhelmed with the skills and resources needed to nail it. However, through AI and machine learning it is possible to easily connect the two worlds and ensure the entire online decision journey takes place on-site.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.