17 April 2019
Geoff is the Director of Technology at Volo. He contributes posts on the present and future of retail technology.
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Running an effective ecommerce team means you need to ensure that your team’s time is spent efficiently.
The truth is that if you rely on traditional ecommerce listing tools, valuable time is wasted. That’s because these tools provide an interface to get your products onto channels, but don’t remove the manual work required to create listings, and don’t offer intelligent recommendations to improve them.
There will always be a manual element to listing products online, whether that’s on channels like Google Shopping, Amazon or your own website. However, technology has reached a stage where it’s possible to automate the specific adaptations required by each channel.
A side effect of the intensive manual nature of listing is that most ecommerce teams simply do not have the resources to identify the most effective strategies and actually put them into action. They need help analysing data to generate insights, and they need to overcome a mountain of manual tasks in order to execute on those plans.
Here, we’re going to look at how streamlining your product listing and data collection processes can lead to much more efficient teams — using the latest technology to massively increase the productivity of your staff.
By creating processes that allow your team to work smarter, you enable them to focus on the value-added tasks that ensure greater visibility and increased conversion rates for your product listings.
Traditional product listing tools are essentially spreadsheet tools. A basic GUI with direct plumbing to channels means that your team is going to spend a lot of time manually sourcing and inputting product details by hand. Product information management (PIM) systems will do some of the work for you allowing you to collate product data from various sources. But, even then, that data isn’t optimised for the customer-facing platforms you’re putting your products onto.
This becomes a bigger problem when you’re marketing and selling products across multiple online channels, like marketplaces, your own website, social media, and Google Shopping.
In this scenario, you might have hundreds of fields to work with, and the information from those fields has to be fit into different data templates and optimised for each.
Amazon’s data structure is different to the schema used by Google for its Shopping feed, for example, and both change constantly. That means ecommerce teams have to create and maintain two sets of product data in order to list to both channels, and so on for any additional channels.
One way to approach this problem is to move from one product listing tool or PIM (product information management) solution to another, capturing small improvements versus older software. Unfortunately, this does little to address the root causes.
Now, brands are looking to next-gen software platforms which use artificial intelligence to collate, format, and optimise product content for a variety of different channels.
One of the key pain points when it comes to the process of generating high-quality listings is making sure that you have all the information, correctly formatted and in the right place. With hundreds of product data fields, it can be difficult to recognise which are essential, which are nice to have, and which can be safely put aside for the moment.
Depending on the platform that you’re uploading the content to, the importance of different attributes is likely to change. Modern product listing platforms can help you find and input the missing essential data much more quickly, by highlighting incomplete or missing data.
Incorrect data formats can be just as much of an issue as missing data. When it comes to product details on your own website, you can use whatever terms you think are best for attracting customers. But, when using an external platform, you need to conform to their filter options to show up in relevant searches.
For example, you might use terms like “skinny fit” as a key product descriptor on your site, but Google Shopping Ads have no space for a “fit” attribute at all. Instead this attribute is folded into the Size field.
To help ensure that these specific formats are correctly used and optimised for, it can be useful to assigning individual team heads or members to different channel platforms. With the aid of intelligent software which allows them to see errors and recommendations at a glance, they can then ensure all bases are covered across your channel mix.
Data gleaned from your website and other sales and marketing channels should help you to improve your marketing and product copy, with insights into your customers’ preferences and behaviours. By learning what your customers are looking for and which data is most relevant to them, you can optimise listings so that they’re more prevalent on search engines and more likely to convert browsers into buyers.
However, even with the widespread availability of great analytics, it can be hard to take the time to incorporate the insights you might get from them. Added on top of manual listing processes, it can be hard for teams to step back to check the analytics for individual products and add keywords or change copy in response to your customer insights. Again, when you consider the different channels your products are on and the preferences of the different audiences on each, using analytics tools effectively becomes an even bigger task.
Switching from traditional PIM solutions to modern product listing technology with analytics capabilities is the key. The time saved by automatic formatting and data corrections can be used to take action on real-time optimisations backed up by data. Modern platforms can highlight which changes enable quick wins, while providing you the time to focus on broader trends that can lead to long-term success.
While product listings may not be the only process your team is handling, it’s essential for online success. Previously, effective management of product content, ensuring you have the relevant data, and making use of analytic insights was by default incredibly time-consuming.
Your team needs a new approach to product listing creation and management. Streamlining processes with automated data generation, formatting optimisation, and proactively working with real-time insights is the future. The time saved with the latest software can free you up to work on the long-term strategy that matters.
The important thing to remember, however, is that although the right tools can make a huge difference, the outcomes you achieve all depend on how well your team can make use of the technology provided. The delegation of expertise, such as assigning different teams or team members to different platforms can help you make the best use of the technology you acquire. Only through the marriage of modern product listing software and a team that knows how to use it can you achieve the efficiency that you need.
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