Photograph by User:MrX
A long time ago, when customers wanted to learn more about a product or a service, they had no choice but to either visit the store or give the producer a call.
They could also trust advertising, which—most of the time—focused on emotional aspect of the offer, not product parameters. So, apparently there was no other way to get complete product information. Thankfully, the times have changed. What about retailers?
Digital technologies gave birth to a new generation of empowered customers who mastered the art of product research in order to get the best offer, at the best price. Not surprisingly, information they stumble upon is often incomplete or flat-out incorrect. What happens after they realize that something’s wrong? Let’s track the whole process from the very beginning.
It all begins with the potential customer becoming aware of a yet unfulfilled need. Let’s call him Andrew.
So, one day Andrew wakes up and realizes that he could probably use a new bike. Maybe his old one is broken. Maybe he wants to start living a healthier lifestyle and therefore needs an eco-friendly means of transport to carry him to the gym. The bottom line is – he needs a bike. And your company just happen to produce bikes.
Initially, Andrew has a vague idea of what he actually wants. After a careful consideration, he came to the conclusion that a city bike would be the best choice. With this realization, a search for the Perfect City Bike begins.
Depending on product complexity and price, after identifying the need, the customer starts exploring available options. Digital devices opened new possibilities when it comes to retrieving, comparing and evaluating product information. A study from GE Capital Retail Bank revealed that 81% of customers look up products online before making a purchase.
That’s where it gets tricky.
Andrew enters the website to learn more about your product offer. The categories are well – organized, so after a quick search, he finds exactly what he wants. However, confusion takes over as he reads on. Why? Because, as it turns out, some vital information are missing or incorrect.
“What kind of brakes does it have?”
“What’s the frame height?”
“Wait… why does the picture show a grey bike when the description says it’s blue?”
Because Andrew really likes that one, particular model, he does not want to give up so easily and keeps searching for a more accurate description. Yet, re-sellers’ websites do not deliver. They are full of contradictory information that leave even more questions unanswered. At this point, there’s a 30% chance that Andrew will abandon the shopping cart—about a third of online shoppers abandon their carts due to the lack of detailed product information (2015/2016 Shotfarm Product Information Report).
95% of people surveyed by Shotfarm said product information is important for making a purchase decision. “Polishing Up Your Product” report by Forrester confirms it. According to the report, product information is the key element for customers visiting a retailer’s website to buy a product.
Even though everyone realizes how important accurate product descriptions are, incomplete information is still ubiquitous. To obtain it, customers are often forced to read through wordy product manuals, explore relevant forums or contact customer service. It’s time-consuming and disrupts the customer experience.
Customers try to mitigate the negative effects of missing information by taking average, maximum, minimum or most frequently used values from different sources. Still—it’s a gamble. In the end, shoppers choose brands and stores whose product information makes them feel confident about a purchase.
After a long and intense search, Andrew decides to buy the bike straight from your website. He can already picture himself riding that modern, blue, city bike. He’s still a little worried, because the bike looks kind of greyish in the picture, but figures it must be because of his screen’s color settings. Besides, the description on this, and a few other websites says it’s blue, so what can go wrong?
He finds out a few days later when he receives the order.
Much to his disappointment, the bike is not only grey, but also smaller than expected. Andrew can now forget about a weekend bike trip he has been planning for a week. He has no choice but to return the bike and look for a new one. Will he give your brand another chance?
The truth is, 42% of shoppers admitted to having returned products because of discrepancies between the information online and the item received. More than half of those who have had experience with inaccurate product info started avoiding the brand. As a result, companies have to face higher return rates and lost sales.
Some consumers decide to keep a product ordered online, even if it does not match the description. Nevertheless, most of them won’t make another purchase from sellers who fail to deliver on their promise. Negative word-of-mouth is a common problem created by inaccurate product information across channels. According to White House Office of Consumer Affair, a dissatisfied buyer tends to complain to at least nine other people. However, around 13% of them tell more than 20 people … who’ll keep the story alive by sharing it with their own friends. That’s a lot of negative publicity.
If you run a multi channel retail business, you should be aware of the importance of accurate and complete product information across channels. It’s easy to brush it aside until sales figures start dropping and you realize that something’s wrong.
Lots of errors occur because no one checks data quality before feeding it into the system. Neither is it updated on a regular basis. The problem often lays within product information database itself. For example, most ERP systems allow users to add the same product multiple times.
What’s more, formal ways of sharing information are non-existent in siloed companies. Some of it is distributed by mail, some is handed over to different departments in a paper form. Some is hidden in various systems. When data is scattered across organization like that, errors are inevitable.
Right tools and processes can help you eliminate incorrect product information. A PIM system acts as a central repository accessible by every organizational unit. It allows the data to be stored in one place. It also prevents incomplete or wrong data from entering the system. A study by Ventana Research revealed that more than 40 percent of organizations found it helpful in terms of eliminating data errors, improving cross-selling and up-selling.
Whatever you choose, always keep your customers’ needs in mind – aim to provide an excellent customer experience. Let them guide your decision. As long as it’s accompanied by high quality products, your customers will stay with you and enjoy the benefits of your offer.