Increasing direct-to-consumer or B2C sales is a key goal for most consumer goods manufacturers, but many are unsure where to begin. In this series, we’ll be explaining the basic elements that underpin a successful direct-to-consumer project.
This instalment is all about product data. In the B2B world, product data is important, but in B2C the quality of data is the bedrock for performance. Poor quality data harms conversion, efficiency, and ultimately detracts from the bottom line.
So, we’ll be looking at a list of product data attributes, establishing best practices, and looking at common issues and how to resolve them.
Identifiers are like tags that help systems, companies and ultimately customers keep track of products. There are three important kinds of identifier.
Unique identifier: In any inventory management system, products need to have unique identifiers. Usually this is a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU), the name of which can be customised to keep the inventory system organised.
Product identifier: A code used universally to label a particular product – for example, GTINs, EANs, and UPCs. Here a barcode is shown above the UPC it represents.
3rd party identifiers: A 3rd party identifier is anything else that the product might be referred to as by another system. For example, some accounting packages may not refer to products by their SKU name, which can complicate any transfers of data between systems.
Best practice dictates that all of this information should be accessible from one place, usually a Product Information Management solution (PIM). Further, all products should have unique identifiers with no duplication, any required 3rd party identifiers should be accessible electronically for relevant systems, and product identifiers should be present for every product.
The most frequent challenge with regards to identifiers and (product data in general) is that the information usually does exist in some form, but typically it is scattered throughout systems and documents. Of course, this makes it hard to access usefully. Centralising the data and patching any gaps makes setting up any kind of retail presence much easier.
The best practice for product images is to use multiple high resolution color images per product, displaying different angles against a white background. Standards are constantly being raised for image quality, particularly on marketplaces.
Images are now a great opportunity to differentiate your retail presence across channels, but as this is realised by more and more businesses, customers will come to see this as par for the course.
Titles, Keywords and Descriptions
Retailing requires a significant investment of time in optimisation and conversion. Titles, keywords and descriptions are the most important data points for these efforts, so keeping track and maintaining them is vital.
Since these are all designed to appeal to customers, it’s important that they are not just descriptive but also convert well. That requires good written English with no special characters and not in all caps. Then they need to be keyword loaded to be optimised for search ranking.
Once again, availability of data is vital. Storing all these pieces of information in one location makes the task of listing products significantly smoother.
Category, Variations and Condition
Search engine results (whether that be Google or a marketplace engine like eBay’s Cassini or Amazon’s A9) use category, variation and condition data to determine the relevancy of a product to the query entered. Having this data in good shape is vital to customer acquisition.
(Wondering why item specifics are so important on eBay? Here’s why.)
Categorising products is usually the most problematic of the three to get right, as different marketplaces use different taxonomies, labels and levels to segment their product assortment.
This means that one “category” per product is not sufficient to support a multichannel direct-to-consumer presence – products need category information that is specific to each channel it will appear on.
Tax & Pricing
Tax information is especially crucial where US sales tax is concerned, and needs to be attached to all products and available to other systems electronically.
Pricing is obviously business-critical. At a minimum, a cost price needs to be associated with every product, ideally RRP will also be displayed and an idea of a market price that is feasibly achievable bearing in mind competition.
Have all relevant data points for your products stored in one central location - so that the information is easily accessible.
Ensure that your systems are able to export data as and when needed to prevent desynchronization and errors.
Be aware that different retail scenarios require different data and may have unique category taxonomies.
Following these recommendations allows brands and manufacturers to establish a B2C retail presence with a stable foundation of product data.