14 March 2019
By Drew Smith
Drew is the Director of Product Strategy at Volo and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.
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Creating digital representations of your products online is a time-consuming process for most brands. The pressure to get more products listed and the need to get products online fast makes it hard for teams to focus on creating high quality product listings that sell. However, the quality of product listings is an essential part of ecommerce and digital marketing performance.
First, your product needs to be found. That means accommodating the specific search fields and criteria of different listing platforms. Second, your product listing needs to sell your product. While 51% of consumers prefer shopping online, it’s important to remember that online shoppers are unable to try clothes on like they would at a brick and mortar shop.
Effectively, your product listing exists as a digital replacement for the dressing room. It needs to be compelling, it needs quality pictures, and it needs to drive the customer to conversion.
It cannot be dishonest or misleading, even if unintentionally. 50% of consumers have returned items that do not match the online listings while 54% would avoid using a retailer that failed to deliver the goods as described. Creating compelling product listings is one of the greatest challenges facing any fashion brand.
Here are five key steps to ensure that your product listings do your products justice and give your business the best chance of making a sale.
Stats show that 87% of consumers describe product descriptions as "very important" to their shopping journey. If it were ever in doubt, giving consumers clear and compelling information about your product is essential to ecommerce. Writing great product descriptions isn’t easy - you need to balance your use of keywords with the importance of having creative, engaging and informative copy for shoppers to read. One source of inspiration should be your competitors - what do they do well, and where are their descriptions dull or poorly optimised?
Either way, ensure that your product description sells the product with persuasive references to its qualities and unique attributes. The description should add something the imagery cannot - a sense of the value of owning the item, or evoking a tactile sensation to put the customer in the right position to buy.
Also essential to high quality product listings are product attributes, which can help your conversion rate optimisation (CRO) as well as your search engine optimisation (SEO). Product attributes are data fields that don’t necessarily appear as individual fields to the shopper when they’re looking at the listing, but which convey information to search engines. This includes information like colour, materials, country of origin, et cetera. By filling as many relevant attributes as possible, search engines better understand the relevance of your product and your SEO is improved. That means you get found more often.
This ultimately encourages customers, allowing them to shop with confidence. Your products will have more relevance to searches and customers will gain better insight into the real nature of the products — both factors leading to improved conversion and fewer returns.
Product descriptions should be rich in detail. However, you also need to take into account the channel on which you are listng. Listing products on multiple channels (your website, Amazon, Google Shopping, eBay, Instagram Shopping) is critical to capturing a wide audience.
Your ecommerce site will play by its own rules (though it should still absolutely be search optimised!) but you have a degree of flexibility and control over the structure of product data and listings. However, other ecommerce marketplaces filter products using different categories and key terms. You need to know these terms in order to show up in search results. That means, for example, choosing colour fields or size/fit categories that correspond to filter options — e.g. choosing ‘red’ over ‘ochre’ or ‘slim fit’ vs ‘skinny fit’.
Including detailed descriptions that are relevant for the platform can also aid SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) while additionally reducing the cost of acquisitions as the required bid to be displayed is reduced when the products are more relevant. Getting this step right is vital for the sake of your marketing budget as well as the customer experience and subsequent conversion rates.
Product content isn’t all about descriptions. For example, photography is an integral part of showcasing your fashion items in a way that will generate sales and reviews (and other tools) can be used to enhance the consumer experience.
It doesn’t require a lot of work to realise that centralising your data in one place makes logistical sense. Working on product content is far easier when it’s readily available rather than being spread out across the ERP, image server, spreadsheets, and website systems.
It essentially boils down to empowering your team to work in a time efficient manner. Being able to drag up content in one place allows them to dedicate their full attention to creating quality copy to increase conversions and visibility.
Centralised data reduces the likelihood of inaccuracies or errors caused by poor organisation. Given that 97% of online fashion consumers believe that a single error in the description would influence their decisions, this is not an aspect of business where you can afford to take risks.
Centralising your data is essential.
Statistics regarding year-on-year growth of ad spend show that companies are boosting their budgets for Instagram (106%) and Facebook (33%) marketing far faster than they are increasing their organic search (7.8%) budgets. This underlines the need to embrace multi-channel marketing and selling at every opportunity, providing further proof for centralising your data.
There is little point in having centralised data if you then need to generate multiple sets of data for the varying channels. While different users may encounter your brand and products through different platforms and devices, their basic consumer needs remain the same. They want a great product at the best value for money, and will need to be presented with the right content for this to happen. Using the detail-rich centralised data is the ideal solution.
Google does punish companies for using duplicated content too often. Presenting the same content across all channels will limit your effectiveness, resulting in low conversion rates. For the best results, use the fundamentals of persuasive, compelling product content to refine it for each individual channel.
Technology can enable you to automatically adapt product content to the channel without the manual work of creating a whole new data set for the same products every time you want to optimise them for another channel.
If you are going to sell items online, especially across multiple channels, it’s critical that you embrace advanced technology at every opportunity.
This is especially true for product listings and the slight variations in information and labelling that come with posting on multiple channels. While the nuances may seem minimal, this all increases the amount of manual effort and strain on your team. Embracing automation is the key to defeating this challenge.
There are a number of automation, analytics and insight platforms that have been developed specifically to aid brands list products and analyse customer data.
For example, Volo helps digital teams at fashion brands intelligently streamline data enrichment processes by filling in missing fields, converting company-specific values and channel-appropriate values — such as descriptive terms for individual colours. The unique channel-agnostic single data set minimises work for your team and intelligently maps one high quality product data set to your channels, adapting it for each channel.
This essentially allows teams to create product listings that carry the highest standards across all channels in far less time. Moreover, the fact that it reduces the repetitive nature of handling each channel manually allows teams to actually focus on optimisation and enrichment. The AI technology even recommends actionable insights, which are changes to your product information based on customer data, which brings us to the next point.
Promoting items in the right format with rich product listings across several channels feels like a major success. However, the hardest challenge often revolves around pinpointing the areas of improvement and incorporating those changes. Reporting and analytics are great starting points. Unfortunately, the insights won’t always provide clear answers regarding how to enhance the user experience and generate greater leads and conversions.
Once again, advanced ecommerce technology like Volo can transform product listing for the long haul thanks to the AI facilities that learn to digest the data before presenting clear answers.
Whether it’s including a keyword with spiking search volumes, or an image that is generating more clicks and conversion, it doesn’t matter. Platforms like Volo deploy algorithms to keep your listings optimised given incoming customer data and specific relevant trends. The ability to action those changes across the appropriate channels immediately means you can work proactively, quickly and effectively.
Nobody is ever going to get it right at the first attempt, but AI and actionable insights allow you to give consumers what they want. The fact that those changes are supported by data regarding their behaviour rather than answers to questionnaires, for example, generates real results.
Great product listings need to tick several boxes. They must be formatted to maximise search and channel exposure, provide a compelling reason to purchase and be easily manageable for your team to strategically optimise over time, using data from your customers’ interactions.
Utilising modern tech features such as Volo’s data set and AI capabilities allows you to streamline the process, creating more time to spend on writing quality descriptions or creating the visual content to help convert just-browsing shoppers into customers. Unlocking your team and product potential with technology and a better process allows fashion business to achieve their online revenue goals.
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