How a Product Content Strategy Can Help Avoid Last Year's Holiday Mistakes

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How a Product Content Strategy Can Help Avoid Last Year's Holiday Mistakes

By Mike Lapchick, CEO of Shotfarm - 02/03/2016

The beginning of a new year traditionally signals a time for fresh starts and resolutions to improve in the year ahead. For retailers and brands, it often means developing strategies to avoid the pain inflicted by holiday workflows, increase sales, and reduce returns over the coming year.

One of the best, low-cost, high-return investments a retailer can make toward reaching these goals is in improving both the quality of product information and the process for collecting it.

Better is definitely better
According to a recent Shotfarm study, 95 percent of more than 1500 consumers surveyed reported that product information is a very important part of making a purchase decision while 42 percent report poor product information as the reason for returning an online purchase within the past year.

Retailers able to provide their customers with accurate, consistent and engaging information about the products they sell are going to increase both their customers’ buying confidence (more sales) and their satisfaction once the product arrives (fewer returns).

Savvy retailers who measure the correlation between conversion and product information have no trouble justifying efforts to improve it. But, for the skeptical, there’s an easy test they can take right now: remove some existing information from a set of products for which you have solid historic sales data and monitor the effects. If a retailer’s not willing to do that, then they already understand the importance of product information and have just made the case for adding to and improving it. Test complete.

Consider the Source
Because of its history, CPG has a unique set of challenges starting with the source of product content. In almost every other vertical, brands are responsible for producing and distributing product information to their retail partners. Dating back to the days of clip art, CPG brands have had it easy thanks to a small industry of content creation companies that maintain product libraries and lease them out to retailers. Though symbiotic in CPG, this practice would cause the blood of brands in other categories to boil and likely end up in trademark court.

But as the lines between verticals continue to blur, the pressure to align with modern retail workflows is more apparent than ever:

-Non-CPG retailers refuse to pay for content and are putting the onus back on the brands who don’t have the resources or wherewithal to create, manage and deliver it.

-Recently mandated label changes, increased product turnover, and retailers’ growing distaste for the model have combined to throw the quality of CPG product content libraries in a downward spiral.

-CPG brands are beginning to take ownership of their trademark in favor of product and brand misrepresentation in the marketplace. They’re finding the cost of content creation, management, and distribution is far less expensive than they’d thought.

There are choices — lots of them
As is true in every other category, CPG retailers are capable of determining their own product information requirements and communicating them to their brands. Equally, CPG brands are capable of fulfilling those requirements and delivering content back to the retailer. There are plenty of newer technologies that can make this process easy –it’s just a matter of choosing.

Content Creation (brands)
There are a number of excellent companies such as ItemMaster, Snap36, and IX1 that offer various flavors of content creation services for product imagery and attributes. From 360 spinning images to full attribute management, these companies will get you a top notch library of content in no time and for a reasonable fee.

A few notes on ownership: Be sure that whichever provider you choose claims no copyrights to the content they produce. But if you find yourself in that situation, remember that the trademark is ALWAYS yours and it gives you the power to dictate the commercial usage of the content.

Content Management (brands)
DAM, PIM, MDM, MAM, PCM, ETC! There are lots of options out there. Assess your most essential needs and find the right fit. Be careful not to go overboard with a needs analysis or you’ll find yourself with nothing but a very complicated and outdated document in about two years. Get a cheap, cloud-based solution to solve today’s problems.

Content Distribution (brands) and collection (retailers)
This world is changing very quickly and there are a couple of clear winners just a google search away. Product Content Distribution is becoming its own specialty and those who do it, do it better than anyone else. Be sure that this function is either the core competency of the platform you choose or it’s available through a partnership. Many PIMs such as Stibo, Enterworks and InRiver, for instance, have begun connecting to some of the more popular distribution networks giving them the ability to distribute content for their brand clients and collect it for their retail clients.

Summing it up
It's a great time to be faced with creating a product content strategy. Expensive and cumbersome legacy systems are giving way to a new crop of inexpensive and modern technology that promises to deliver more value than it extracts from its users. Start planning now and you’ll be in for the happiest holiday yet!