It is no secret that the holiday shopping season is a very important time for retailers. Although the impact of this season has trended downward in recent years, retailers still see as much as 20% of their revenue (and 30% of eCommerce revenue) being generated in the 61 days between November 1 and December 31 each year. While estimates vary across researchers, holiday sales in 2016 are expected to grow more than average, nearing $650 billion. eCommerce is expected to capture more than 8% of this revenue.
As shoppers anticipate the holiday season, they are starting their shopping earlier in the year. While Black Friday (November 25 this year) will still generate a significant share of shopping dollars and visits, nearly 40% of shoppers begin their holiday purchases before Hallowe’en. Holiday-themed merchandise now hits the shelves as early as September.
What does this mean for retailers? You have to be ready. Your company has to be visible. Your products have to be compelling. And your product information has to be accurate and consistent.
Being ready means that your products have to be on store shelves—either in your brick and mortar store or in your digital storefront—at the precise time that the first shopper searches for you. This requires intense planning, efficient processes, and frictionless execution.
To be visible means that you have to have excellent content that draws shoppers to your site. In addition, that content must be aligned with your search engine optimization strategy, especially since more than 70% of shoppers search first on either Amazon or Google. Download our white paper on how to write a product page that boosts your SEO for some tips to help with this effort.
To attract buyers, your products have to tell a story—one that differentiates your product from those of competitors and communicates to shoppers exactly what they are buying. You need to provide a complete picture of the product so that the customer is delighted by what they purchase—either in-store or online. In addition, anticipating the customer’s needs by presenting complementary offers and bundled assortments will speed their purchase decision-making, as well as provide a valuable and time-saving service. Achieving this high level of satisfaction will help to reduce product returns after the holiday season is over.
Be accurate and consistent.
However, to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction, your product information must be accurate and consistent across all channels—both online and off-line. Nearly three-quarters of shoppers lose trust in a brand if online product information is incorrect. This is hardly surprising when holiday shoppers, on average, spend between $800 and $900 on gifts in such a short period of time. While your job as a retailer is to delight your buyer, their job, in turn, is to delight the person receiving the gift. Wrong sizes, specs and colors, inaccurate shipping information, and erroneous inventory information will likely not achieve that objective. Therefore, as a retailer, you need to be sure that every piece of data that appears on your website or in your offline advertising or catalog is accurate and compelling—and consistent from channel to channel.
Product information management can help
Product information management can help with each of these goals. A central product store will enable you to maintain and control all of your product data, guaranteeing that it is accurate and consistent prior to being published to any channel. When onboarding date from suppliers and other data sources, you can ensure that all information is being captured correctly and completely. In addition, you can manage complementary assortments to increase sales and build credibility with your buyers. As these internal processes become more streamlined, you can spend more time gauging trends and customer preferences to customize messaging and product assortments. In addition, you can get your products to market earlier, catching the fads, beating the competition, and securing those early-bird shoppers.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver
Dealing with an increasing number assortments, products and channels, marketing professionals now turn to product information management (PIM) platforms for managing the situation. As much as these platforms are the solution for achieving a great structure for the information being channeled, there is one important component that is often missing: the ability to plan the information flow.
Most people have heard of the seven Ps to success. It simply states that “Proper Prior Planning Prevents P*ss Poor Performance”. With that phrase in mind, it is not hard to understand that having a good plan in place makes all the difference. Yet despite hearing it so many times, putting a plan on the table can be hard to achieve.
Good planning needs to be preceded by setting some reachable goals, but as the famous author Stephen Covey put it: "Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them”.
Since the start, the focus of traditional product information management has been on managing product data integrations and flows. However, the real need of the marketing professional is the ability to create, plan and release great product stories. There are a lot of tools on the market that help a product-selling organization plan activities, but what use is such a tool if you cannot plan the actual work ahead?
This is why a few PIM vendors have added a planning functionality, providing a crucial component to the whole product release process. This new approach combines PIM and MRM/planning – a powerful combination that puts the marketer in charge of the entire product marketing process from beginning to end, making planning a natural part of the process.
Creating a great customer experience in any channel is extremely dependent on the content that is provided. The richer, more accurate and more timely the information is, the better. With planning capabilities available in a PIM, vendors can now start their product marketing process by planning campaigns, assortments and any other marketing activities in the same platform as they manage the product information. Having set the project scope, milestones, budget and schedule as the metrics to determine project success from the start, users can easily see the full plan and critical path ahead. Based on this, they can easily keep track of, enrich and publish the right content into the right channel at the right time.
Do not let poor planning get in the way of success when it comes to creating quality product content across all your sales channels, for a world-class customer experience.
Henrik Béen, Chief Product Officer