I love to ski. Maybe it is the feeling of freedom, the speed, or the cold. Or maybe it is the ability to mimic the feeling of flying—even getting some “air” at times. What I don’t love is when the snow is thick and wet—during the spring, typically—when my skis suddenly slow or even stop as they hit a slushy spot.
That is, I don’t like friction.
In general, friction isn’t popular. Think of all the innovations that inventors have developed to reduce friction—lubricants, sanders, pavers, ball bearings—the list goes on. Think about how the shapes of everyday items have changed over time—the ‘boxiness’ of cars in the 1970s has evolved to today’s streamlined, rounded, sporty crossover.
So, it is no surprise that when customers are in the market for an item—whether online or offline—that they also don’t want to encounter friction.
Where can friction occur?
The first place that customers encounter friction is in their initial search. They type some key words into Google or Amazon and get…nothin’, nada, nyet. The receive pages and pages of results that are not of interest.
Suppose they do receive some relevant results. The next place they can encounter friction is in the product information they are viewing. If it is incomplete, inaccurate, or basically not helpful, their quest to purchase has once again been thwarted.
Another area of friction can be in the shopping cart/purchase process itself. If shipping and return information is inaccurate or hard to find, or if it is difficult to modify the shopping cart, customers may become frustrated and abandon the site altogether.
If your objective is to provide a frictionless, streamlined purchase process for your customers, you must first ensure that you and your products can be found. Do your research so that you are correctly categorizing and describing your products the way your customers do. Don’t assume that the way you organize your customers in your warehouse is the way that your customers think about your products. Make sure you are using the key words and taxonomy from the customer’s point of view.
Next, get your product information in order. That means ensuring that every product tells a compelling story with accurate and concise descriptions, imagery, and supporting data. This requires what we call a “content creation factory,” a process—with supporting tools—that ensures that the product content you are serving up is relevant, timely, and complete.
Last, don’t make it so hard for people to buy from you! There are now so many ways to pay and so many channels where your products can appear. Strategically select the methods and channels which are valued by your customers. Then, streamline the process and make sure that shopping cart and other buying processes are clear and well-documented.
Join the innovators who have worked so hard to alleviate friction in our world. In the meantime, let it snow!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Marketing Manager, inRiver
Tips for Managing Your Product Catalog—Your Customers Will Thank You!
Providing a stellar online customer experience is what sets successful e-commerce efforts apart from more mediocre efforts. Gartner has predicted that, within a few short years, 89% of businesses will compete based on their ability to provide an exceptional customer experience. We have all heard that Millennial business buyers often buy online and prefer that medium to dealing with sales reps. But have you also heard that more B2B buyers begin their product search on sites where they find a broad product selection, but often end their search and make their purchases where they find the best product information?
Here at inRiver, we feel that product information that is findable, correct, relevant, consistent, contextual and desirable contributes significantly to delivering an exceptional customer experience—for both B2C and B2B enterprises. In our latest white paper, Managing Your Product Catalog, we talk more about what each of these terms means.
In this white paper, we discuss some of the most difficult challenges that organizations face when managing product data and content and distributing it out to multiple channels. We take you through five key steps of managing your product information to get it ready for your online store, your distributors and retailers, or your print catalog.
Step 1: Get organized
Step 2: Get the basics in place
Step 3: Enrich product data with additional information
Step 4: Optimize for SEO and search
Step 5: Establish an effective workflow and process
In addition, we provide several real-world case studies that illustrate this approach and the benefits that can be achieved. You will learn from companies like ITW, Primeau Velo, and the Varner Group about their challenges and strategies with respect to digital commerce.
Last, we highlight how inRiver and our Product Marketing Cloud PIM solution can support you in your product information and digital commerce initiatives. Download our white paper to benefit from inRiver’s experience in product information management.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver
It is not surprising that an increasing number of customers—nearly 80%, according to a recent study by Pew Research—begin their product search and selection online. More than half of those surveyed have purchased something using their mobile phones. The main reasons for this surge are convenience and the ability to easily compare product features and cost. However, without these benefits, nearly two-thirds of respondents would prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar store.
So, how can you give your customers the best of both worlds? Here at inRiver, we have a few ideas.
Create Endless Aisles
To allow brick-and-mortar shoppers some of the benefits of online shopping, take a page from the digital playbook. Some successful retailers are using information from online channels in their offline marketing and in-store displays, such as presenting Amazon reviews or product ratings on the shelf under the product. Other stores are providing tablets and laptops to allow customers to compare products, view online-only product selections, and check prices.
If a product is out of stock in the store, “endless aisle” technology enables customers to complete an online order quickly while standing next to the shelf. Integrated IT systems mean that customers can return online orders in-store instead of having to mail them back and wait for a replacement or refund.
However, the key to ensuring consistency across these channels in uniformity, accuracy, and completeness in your product information.
Enrich the In-store Experience
There are various ways to use online interactions across the customer journey to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Store locators, product reservation tools, and click-and-collect options all boost revenue because they help online customers leverage the benefits of the in-store experience.
For a customer who wants to try on a pair of shoes or test an electronic device before purchasing, it is likely that they will visit a local store. And if the product information that they reviewed online becomes a reality in the in-person interaction, you may have won a new customer!
Recognize Your Customers
Many merchants have the goal of not only recognizing customers throughout the buyer journey, but also personalizing, and thereby enhancing, the customer experience. However, it is necessary to first recognize buyers as they visit your store or site.
There are a number of traditional and “low-tech” methods of identifying customers, as well as many innovative and automated methods. For example, cookies embedded in the browser of website visitors “remember” selections made by the user and can attribute these movements back to returning visitors and to specific devices being used to surf the site.
Requesting that buyers opt-in to receive emails is a simple way of identifying existing customers and building a list of shoppers and customers. Recommending products based on previous purchases shows customers that you are paying attention to their preferences. In addition, developing a mobile app or online survey can provide a great deal of data about customers.
Providing in-store WiFi and requiring shoppers to sign in with identifying information is one way to collect information for identifying in-store customers and prospects. With the increasing use of social media and digital payment methods, more data can continue to be collected—adding context and enrichment to both personas and to individual customer profiles.
Once you are able to recognize your customers, you can offer more relevant and contextual content that suits their needs. And if your product information is enriched and accurate, you can upsell and cross-sell more effectively, enhancing each individual’s customized experience.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver