How to work with product attributes?

An abstract concept of a group of people working on web design

Before your customers experience products as tangible objects that can be held, used, or enjoyed, they look for photos, read descriptions of them, and access other information available on websites or via virtual assistants. Online shopping has saturated our day-to-day so tremendously that, in fact, there are categories of goods where it would be extremely odd to make a purchase without researching the product first. It is predicted that retail e-commerce sales worldwide (in billions of U.S. dollars) will increase from 2,842 in 2018 to 4,878 in 2021. And as the numbers grow, so does the customer’s appetite for rich product information. After all, it’s the right product descriptions with the right details and specs that sell products.

There is always a niche, but each niche requires more relevant #productinformation Click To Tweet

The pre-purchase experience of products is not only shaped by media, such as images, videos, CAD files, or AR technologies, and customer reviews, but also by product data, such as attributes.

What is a product attribute?

Attributes are objective properties that provide details about a product. They can belong to the marketing realm (such as launch date or season), logistics (for example pack size or container), or another. In this way, products are defined by their attributes.

As Philip Kotler, the father of modern marketing, put it:

PRODUCT ATTRIBUTES ARE THE INGREDIENTS NECESSARY FOR PERFORMING THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE FUNCTION SOUGHT BY CONSUMERS.

When creating rich product information for your customers, it is vital to foresee and create a structure that will allow for the flexible modeling of product data. The following tips will help you to develop this.

Group attributes

To make the work with product attributes more efficient, you should group them according to their character of specificity, which may include:

  • Physical attributes (e.g., size dimensions);
  • Technical attributes (e.g., water absorption or density);
  • Marketing attributes (e.g., catalog description);
  • Logistics attributes (e.g., container type);
  • Other.

Grouping attributes will streamline product enrichment. When grouped, it is much easier to know where the missing pieces of information are. Also, this method reflects the typical practice of most web shops or e-commerce platforms, where attributes are typically grouped, too. So, when working with products, aim to find a system, software, or platform that will give you this possibility.

Set attribute types

You can ensure a high quality of your product data even before the first attribute value is typed in. What you need to do is define what type of data input an attribute will allow. Here, your choice is much more than standard textor number. Other types may include:

BooleanInput is Yes or No
DateInput is selected with the use of a calendar feature
DecimalInput is a number with a decimal. Sometimes minimum, maximum, and step values can be specified
Formatted TextA type containing formatted text, allowing the customization of text, like bold type or italics, adding links, bullet or numbered lists, block quotes, and heading styles
IntegerInput is a whole number. Sometimes minimum, maximum, and step values can be specified
LocationInput is a combination value of latitude and longitude
Single SelectInput activates multiple options, but it is possible to select only one of them
Multi SelectInput activates multiple options, allowing selecting more than one of them
MultilineInput accepts text as multiple lines but its result is a line of text concatenation
PatternInput uses expressions to validate the content field to match a predefined format

Create high-level attributes

When working with large numbers of SKUs, you can’t fail to notice that products that belong to the same group or category will share attributes (but not the values of those attributes). When you know that all items that fall into a specific category will be given the same set of attributes, you should assign the attributes not to individual products, but to the higher level in the structure, i.e., categories or catalogs.

Scenario:

You are a car accessories retailer. You know that all the products belonging to the ‘Tyre’ category must have the following attributes:

  • Season (winter, summer,or all seasons);
  • Load index (the maximum load each tyre is designed to carry);
  • Speed index (the speed capability of a tyre).

You need these attribute values for each product in this category, but more importantly, you can’t publish even one product to this category without this input. Of course, you can create this set of required attributes every time you introduce a new tyre to your shop, but this would be a waste of your day. Alternatively, you can set a validation rule for the ‘Tyre’ category once and then make it force yourself, or any other person working with product information in your organization, to submit these values. The benefits of this solution are numerous:

  • Creating category-level attributes (CLAs) saves time that would otherwise be wasted on repeated attribute setup;
  • CLAs are a safeguard protecting you against incomplete product information in your system;
  • You create high quality product data.
cameras-01-01

You also know that these attributes also apply to Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, and the rest of the gang.  So, what you do is apply this attribute template not only to Canon, and not only to other manufacturers, but to the whole category (digital cameras), of which Canon is only a subgroup. Then, you set the attributes to the highest level, and have the subgroups inherit them.

Furthermore, for some products it makes sense that the CLA values are mandatory or even locked.

Create compound attributes

Some attributes typically combine multiple data. Many products, for example home decoration items, such as curtains and blinds, display dimensions, which, in fact, are a combination of height and width.  It would be inefficient to display these pieces of information separately. This is where compound attributes (height x width x depth) come in handy. This pattern is particularly relevant, for example, for furniture or building materials manufacturers.

Restrict access to attributes

Managing product information involves at least a few groups, such as catalog admins, suppliers, or external agencies. It is wise to create rules or policies specifying what attributes each of these groups are allowed to enrich. Decide who should be able to create, group, and view which attributes, or edit their types and values. A fine-grained access policy will eliminate potential confusion over the responsibilities. Again, this is another measure to ensure you create high-quality data.

Conclusion

Rich product information is a great commerce opportunity. A 2018 study in e-commerce shows that users’ expectations grow, demanding highly precise and accurate product information. As Matt Janaway said,

IF YOU WANT TO SERIOUSLY GROWTH-HACK YOUR E-COMMERCE SALES, STOP ALL OTHER MARKETING TASKS AND WRITE SOME AWESOME PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS.

Merchants should align these general guidelines for product attributes with the market-specific requirements. While doing so, remember that there is an easier way to store and enrich product information than using spreadsheets or emails.

Consumers are facing richer #productinformation than ever before. Check no product attributes are missing on your product pages Click To Tweet

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