Today’s consumer wants to interact with—and be supported by—your brand through whichever channel is most convenient for her. E-mail, social media, instant messaging—she expects to reach you through the mediums she uses the most. This trend is prompting many retail businesses to improve the customer experience and to deliver a consistent experience across very different channels. But to create a strong omnichannel customer support system, retailers must look first at how consumers are purchasing goods and build support from the ground floor with product data.
Product data are facts about the goods you’re selling, such as size, color, and other descriptive marketing elements like descriptions, high-resolution images, and video. It’s essential that product data is consistent and correct over all channels used by your customers. This consistency delivers a positive omnichannel customer experience because your customer is exposed to the same information, regardless of which channel she chooses to use.
The Difference Between Product Data and Good Product Data
Product data is not as simple as plugging specs into a spreadsheet. It’s more complex, and omnichannel success depends on syncing data across all channels. High-quality product data includes accurate, robust information such as product color, weight, dimensions, photos, customer reviews, compatibility with other products, etc.
Some important elements of high-quality product data include:
- A short product description, which should not exceed 35 characters.
- A main product image that is at least 1,000 pixels on one side. The image should be on a white background and should be a solo image of the product outside of the packaging—no lifestyle shots.
- Four bullet points with a maximum of 300 characters that clearly highlight the benefits and features of the product.
Strong and accurate product data allows your consumer to educate herself about your product before making her purchase. For example, let’s say a consumer checks your website and sees that you offer a white box fan. The consumer then decides to make the purchase and drives to your brick-and-mortar store, only to find the box fan is beige, not white. This could result not only in a lost sale, but also a poor customer experience that could drive your consumer to a competitor.
Or maybe another customer orders a black box fan from your website, but when the fan is delivered, the customer realizes there is a two-inch handle on the top of the fan that wasn’t included in the dimensions online. The fan will not fit into the intended space, so the fan is returned. Providing complete and accurate product data would have avoided this lost sale and poor customer experience.
How Product Data Affects Customer Experience
By providing high-quality, accurate product data, your customers can make confident, educated purchases—resulting in fewer product returns. Twenty-two percent of all e-commerce product returns occur because the products aren’t what the customers expected, according to Business 2 Community.
Businesses must provide customers with all of the information they need to make a smart purchase so that less assistance is needed before, during, and after the transaction. After all, providing the right information up front gives customer support teams more time to focus on issues it can’t always prevent, such as coordinating a return for a damaged item or troubleshooting a nonfunctioning product.
Make Product Data Available Internally
Good product data shouldn’t only be consumer-facing. It’s also essential to make sure that employees have access to the same accurate, high-quality product information, as they are the front line of customer support. With accurate and complete product data easily accessible, employees can educate themselves about product details so they can accurately advise customers.
This means that when a customer walks into your store, any store representative will be able to assist her and answer her questions—which will also cut down on product returns and unhappy customers.
Likewise, it’s important to share product data with non-customer-facing employees, such as the marketing team. If a consumer reaches out via social media with a specific product question, whoever is internally managing that social media account will be able to rely on his product knowledge to respond to the customer quickly and effectively.
As your business prepares for omnichannel customer support, keep high-quality product data a key focus. A centrally located, cloud-based platform allows you to compile the product data once and then sync it across all channels. This single entry approach also makes it easy to update product data as needed to ensure that consumers always have the latest, most accurate information available.
Regan DeHaven is director of product management at Edgenet, a software-as-a-service company that provides industry-leading retailers, distributors, websites, and suppliers with the ability to manage and improve their product content. Edgenet’s Product Content Cloud and m2o solutions help manufacturers, brands, and retailers sell easier and sell more across all channels, anywhere, on any device, at any time.