3 May 2019
Geoff is the Director of Technology at Volo. He contributes posts on the present and future of retail technology.
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eCommerce has been around for over two decades, and most of the technology solutions deployed by fashion brands and retailers to drive online sales have existed for the majority of that time. This isn’t to say that the solutions are all utterly outdated or haven’t changed - they certainly have evolved, but the fact remains that established brands are structured in a way that predates the existence of ecommerce. The technologies brands have adopted in that time since have primarily been iterations and adaptations of the same ideas.
That means that some of these platforms, whether they’re PIM (product information management) solutions, multichannel platforms or ERPs, are missing critical capabilities for ecommerce in 2019.
The reality that online brands need to face is that consumer expectations have not stopped evolving. Data is key to meeting these expectations. You need visibility of your customers, your product and the available channels. To collect that data and still have time to actually act on the information you gather, you need technology and automation tools that are up to the task of modern ecommerce.
You get less than two minutes to win a sale from a customer who is browsing your products. If your data is solid, you will be able to create high quality product representations which will allow your product to be found and convert once in front of a customer.
Let's explore the features that traditional PIM and product multi-channel products are missing.
Marketers need to emphasise the importance of a channel agnostic approach, with companies already embracing the transition. By posting your listings across multiple channels — from the company website to third-party platforms like Google Shopping, Amazon, eBay, etc. — you maximise your access to customers.
The reality is that customers expect you to list across channels and want to be able to use more than one channel to interact with brands. There's no longer just one way to reach customers with your brand message. If you aren’t channel agnostic, you are missing opportunities.
But, the effective use of multiple channels requires a lot more than simply posting your listings in multiple places. You need to be able to collect data from those third-party channels — something many ecommerce solutions are incapable of delivering in conjunction with the listing and management experience.
New generation ecommerce tools are capable of delivering channel specific listing insights and capturing customer data across all of your listings, a one-stop shop for your ecommerce team.
Your team needs a solid knowledge of what a good product listing looks like on each channel in order to be as effective as possible. This varies depending on the unique requirements of the channel, and more importantly varies depending on the type of customer who uses it.
For example, different channels have different search filter categories. That means that you need to adapt your product data to ensure that where a “Colour” element is available, you have filled out a value that matches those used by the channel to filter searches. If the channel only has “blue”, describing your product using the word “navy” will prevent you from showing up in filtered searches. This is true of tons of attributes, not just colour. For example, apparel products might be filtered by size, colour, collection, or country of origin.
Your teams need to understand all of these nuances and update listings appropriately. It takes time to learn about individual product and channel. Getting your team up to speed as soon as possible is vital for your success.
Technology can remove the manual aspects of this work — delivering you channel specific insights and even automating the updating of attributes. Traditional PIM solutions and listing products leave your teams struggling to understand the channels. The more time your teams waste getting to grips with the basics, the less time they will be able to spend crafting compelling product listings that speak to your customers.
The right technology investments ensure that product data is received efficiently, and that the data itself is better and more useful to read. This is one of the most important features that is missing from most PIM tech, but it doesn't have to stay that way!
Channel mapping refers to the fact that you have to create data differently for a single product, depending on the channel you’re trying to list it to. Google has a different data setup than Amazon, for example. Machine learning makes it possible for software to automatically understand the product, its category and therefore the relevant attribute options to select and bring to the channel. That means users can create a single product data set which can then be used to deliver products to multiple channels.
Channel mapping currently is massively time consuming as users need to figure out how to map each little bit of product data to an individual channel's specific value. It's one of the most time-consuming tasks out there — involving the matching of thousands of fields to the right counterparts.
The good news is that this isn't something that you have to do manually anymore. It is simply that your traditional PIM solution doesn’t have the capabilities to get this done.
Cutting edge solutions deploy machine learning to crawl through the data and deploy artificial intelligence algorithms to automatically collate the data in a way that makes sense.
All you have to do is harness this technology. Automation is one of the most valuable tools that a marketer has in their arsenal, saving you time and money and allowing you to focus on value-adding tasks.
Retailers need to be able to react faster to customer behaviour. Technology can enable your ecommerce team to proactively respond in real time to customer behaviour, by constantly measuring how they interact with your listings and tracing conversion, clicks, purchases and impressions over time. In combination with wide-ranging understanding across the ecosystem, an AI system can deliver real-time recommendations to improve key metrics.
Data is the key to understanding your customers. It will even help you collect more and more relevant data. All of this gathered data enables your business to access the right customers on the right channels. The right insights into your customer behaviour will help you to manage your marketing and data solutions far better. Then, you just have to work with those channels and target the right audience.
Artificial intelligence and the right technology to support it can enhance your ability to scale, interpret data sets and offer actionable insights. Brands need to invest in the right ecommerce software support solutions to augment and improve their capabilities.
Having your retail data solutions bundled into one platform is going to make a difference to the way that your business works to optimise product listings — making it simple for your ecommerce teams to make that happen.
The right insights can improve customer outcomes. It will allow you the chance to recover time and value lost in the cluttered data of old solutions.
The use of artificial intelligence makes a difference to your customers. Just remember that no solution will make a positive impact in your business without it being applied correctly.
Getting out there and using the best ecommerce IT listing solutions will deliver the platform insights, analytics and automation that you need — giving you an opportunity to change your business and improve your sales.
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