The influence of product content on customer shopping experience
The digital transformation in sales is becoming a fact. Whether we are talking about shopping malls, retail and distribution chains or B2B sales. One of the key processes that underlie successful online sales and affect every company is product digitisation. With a small volume of the assortment is not a problem, with a large, going into hundreds of thousands of products, it is a real challenge that significantly affects the whole transformation process.
Product in the digital world
It is much easier in the traditional world. Each object can be relatively easily assessed through our senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, sometimes taste. In the digital world, physical contact is mainly with the glass screen of the device on which we are watching it. We, therefore, assess the product on the basis of the ideas generated by the set of digital information. It is this set of digitised content (photos, videos, descriptions, attributes, downloads, etc.) that creates the so-called Product Information. In its simplest form, it can take the form of a simple continuous description, in a more elaborate and well-structured structure of various elements (product attributes), and in the most advanced - dynamically changing data sets. This can be, for example, image gallery enrichment by automatically searching for appropriate images of products in use on Instagram, translations using AI algorithms, or dynamic allocation of information about inventory or delivery times.
Managing digital products usually means managing huge datasets that are divided by three main processes: aggregation, treatment and distribution.
The aggregation process involves importing data from different sources, structuring, sorting and prioritizing them by mapping algorithms. The treatment process is usually a manual or semi-automatic working system that increases the quality of the product information created. The distribution process is the management of the communication or sales channels to which the relevant product content will be sent (these can be online sales platforms, marketplace, printed catalogues, mobile applications, etc.).
Therefore, in order to effectively manage product information, it is worthwhile to use dedicated PIM (Product Information Management) systems, which allow these processes to be adapted in the company.
So much for the introduction, now I'll get to the point. In the treatment process, we mainly deal with improving quality and creating content to have a real impact on the future purchasing experience of customers. Therefore, it is important to have a proper approach to building the structure of product information, which should primarily take into account the needs of customers (i.e. we design with the spirit of user-centered design), as well as the capabilities of the company.
A customer comes to the store...
Let's conduct a simple thought experiment, which is probably well known to every salesman. Suppose I just met a potential male customer who has a need and says:
"I need new shoes, now."
It seems easy to solve, right? A man needs shoes, so at first it comes to my mind...
Are you sure this is the right solution to his needs? I don't know, so I have to find out more, so I ask:"Do you want to buy shoes for yourself? Or is it a gift?"
"I plan to buy shoes for my daughter."
So we're getting a little wider...
Okay, I'm moving on.
"Tell me more about your daughter. How old is he? In what situations will she use these shoes? Your daughter needs shoes every day, celebration, party?"
"She's 5 years old and she's starting volleyball classes in kindergarten. So I'm looking for shoes that are flexible, easy to keep clean, lightweight and protect my foot well."
I think we're already home. I can't get a picture in my head...
Is that all? "What preferences does your daughter have? What color does he like?".
"Pink would be the best."
Pink. Here you go.
"Does your daughter have any more preferences? What size shoes do they wear? Can he tie his shoes well?"
"He's still got a problem with the laces. Velcro's are better. Size between 29 and 31."
So at the end of the day, we have this problem space:
This relatively simple experiment allowed us to determine the following structure of product information:
- Type: sports shoes
- Category: Children's shoes
- Sex: Girl
- Type of sport: volleyball, training
- Colour: pink
- Type of fastening: Velcro
- Size: 29, 30, 31
- Sole properties: flexible
- Material: leather (easy to clean)
- Weight: light (you can give specific numbers, but still few will be able to judge whether something is heavy or light).
Thousands of customers are involved in this kind of thought process every day when dealing online. Their purchasing impressions are built on the basis of the product information presented to them, and these have a significant impact on the speed and quality of product selection and, consequently, conversion. This is confirmed by research, which shows that the shopping experience on the Internet is mainly influenced by the clarity of product images (according to 87.6% of respondents), opinions and reviews about products (78%), product descriptions (77.3%).
So how to systematize the approach to the process of building and processing product information?
Designing product experience in practice
At Strix we have developed our own framework for working with product information. It is a set of tools for workshop work among people responsible for the process of managing digital products. The result is a well analyzed structure of individual attributes ready for implementation with a PIM class system.
It is important that the workshops are actively attended by people with different specializations: those responsible for assortment management, creation and execution of SEO strategies, or marketing and sales management. This will make it easy to take a broader view of the entire product information being created.
In the first step, we collect as much information as possible about potential clients to whom we address our offer, developing their model psychological profiles (personnel). A lot has been written about people, so I'm not going to dwell on it here. I will just add that it is worth to characterize the staff based on real data from quantitative and qualitative research, and then compliment them with knowledge about customers and their needs from their own organization. It may turn out that knowledge about clients developed in this way will surprise the management and managers. In many cases, it is also worth to pay attention to purchase objectives and motivations, and additionally to clearly prioritise them in order not to lose sight of them during subsequent steps.
Having prepared a list of goals, motivations, but also the shopping ills of model persons, we conduct a "brainstorming", which results in a "cloud" of potential attributes that can actually respond to the shopping needs of selected customer groups. An optimal structure of the whole architecture of the assortment categories is also being developed.
- Affinity mapping
In the next step, we look for kinship. There is a process of grouping attributes into larger families to assist in administration (e.g. group "dimensions") and the elements included in the product card for a selected assortment group are classified. In the next step, we look for kinship. There is a process of grouping attributes into larger families to assist in administration (e.g. group "dimensions") and the elements included in the product card for a selected assortment group are classified. If a company manages more than one sales channel, it is worth classifying which elements are the most important and in which channel should be included.
- Value Matrix
The last stage consists of diagnosing which of the elements constitute the greatest value for both clients and organisations. We use here a value-time-consuming matrix, where one of the axes shows how a given element is valuable to customers and the other how time-consuming it is to work with the actual development of a given attribute within an organisation (e.g. a video can be expensive and time-consuming, as can any infographics, outlines of dimensions, etc.).
With large and heterogeneous product volumes, it is worthwhile to break down the whole process into smaller stages linked to narrower product groups, starting with the most important ones in business. We know from experience that in many companies these are long-term activities that gradually improve the digital content produced.
After the whole process is completed, we will have a structure of product information that is linked to the real needs of customers and has a positive impact on their purchasing experience.