When you are running an online business, you are doing what you can to increase your marketing and sales results and make your business more successful.
You will come across a number of solutions and advice to help you with this goal. For example, there is always something you can do to improve your eCommerce website, such as optimizing your website’s performance. You should also work on your Search Engine Optimization, your advertising, and your social media presence, and perhaps use new sales and marketing channels to increase your reach. You might even consider adding the best eCommerce features to your store, such as artificial intelligence, voice search, augmented reality, or anything that helps you provide more value to your visitors. With so many areas you can cover, it’s hard to decide where to focus your efforts.
Fortunately, many of the hurdles in your online business can become smaller if you go back to the basics of selling online — and focus on the quality and usability of your product information. The way you manage product information for online sales is more important than you might think!
Quality product information is a solid foundation for almost any digital sales and marketing initiative. That’s why we have written this guide to help you understand how your Product Information Management (PIM) contributes to your sales and marketing success, and what you can do to drive better results.
Getting started with using PIM for online Sales and Marketing
Solid foundation in product data
Before you decide to invest money in SEO, advertising, organic content promotion, influencer deals, or other activities to drive more traffic and increase sales for your eCommerce website, ask yourself one question. Do you have a solid foundation of product data to support all of these activities? Basically, it’s about implementing good product data management where team members have easy access to product information.
Product information needs to be readily available when needed and ideally should be easily repurposed for different channels. Without a trusted database of accurate, reliable product content, you’ll have to reinvent the wheel every time you need to create content for a new purpose. You’ll have to source creative ideas, develop a content format, and make sure you do not miss anything important about your product — and if you are human like us, mistakes are hard to avoid. The solution? Instead of racking your brains over product content and always starting with a blank page, make Product Information Management your friend.
What is PIM for?
Product Information Management is used to ensure the accuracy, quality and completeness of product information for marketing and sales, for both physical and digital channels. Core functions of PIM include workflow, business process and hierarchy management, data loading, synchronization, modeling and cleansing, and information stewardship. PIM platforms, like tools for marketing, are designed to be collaborative. One of the key benefits of using a PIM system is convenient access to features for teams and users while protecting product data from errors and mistakes.
A PIM platform can include Digital Asset Management (DAM) features so you can store and manage product images, videos, and all kinds of digital assets in one place along with your product descriptions and other product data. Even your product relationships, bundles and variants have their place in a PIM platform. The more your products and the different parts of your offering are connected, the less you have to rely on shopping assistants, store associates, and support staff to make those connections for your customers. And that’s a sign that you are approaching digital transformation the right way.
Today’s digital commerce needs reliable Product Information Management to scale and deliver at the local, national, and global levels. In the case of eCommerce, a PIM platform is like an engine behind your product pages. It feeds data into your eCommerce backend, which is then displayed on your eCommerce frontend. The PIM platform gives you an overview of what you need to display your products correctly online. You can check your product completeness score and have an instant overview of the work that still needs to be done in order to publish your product.
This is all part of data-driven marketing, a movement that is considered the future of eCommerce by top minds in the field. Data-driven marketing allows businesses to respond to customer needs in real-time, deliver personalized content, and create a superior product experience — all important factors in driving online sales.
What is a “single source of truth”?
Your eCommerce product pages, ads, marketing and social media campaigns, and marketplace listings can have a “single source of truth” in Product Information Management, and it will make your job much easier. Centralized data is the lifeblood of an eCommerce business. Do you think centralizing your product information is too much of a hassle? If you don’t do it, you’ll be left with scattered and incomplete information that can make your desired results distant and hinder the growth of your business in the long run.
Changes to your product data in a primary location can be used for automatic updates to secondary locations. For example, you can feed your latest product content to your website’s product pages and simultaneously to marketplaces like Amazon, eBay or Google Shopping Feed, your mobile app, social channels, etc. Or you can update your product pages based on data from an industry database. The possibilities are endless. However, there are just as many pitfalls and caveats to watch out for, especially if some of your data sources are not as clean as you’d like (think Excel spreadsheets, local files, and notes).
With PIM as your source of product data, you can ensure that content across channels is accurate and always up-to-date across all channels. This, in turn, will help you increase customer satisfaction and trust and improve your company’s sales and marketing results.
What is Digital Asset Management (DAM)?
The leading eCommerce websites rely on Digital Asset Management to help them manage the complexity of having a large amount of digital content. Your customers expect you to accompany your product descriptions with great visual content. Online content can make it possible to avoid going into a store, but to successfully persuade your customers, you need to make them feel like they can almost touch your physical product. And for different customers and different products, this can mean a lot of different things.
Some customers want to see lifestyle/product placement shots. Others are more interested in close-ups, scale images, 360 views, product sheets, or even packaging. Any image, video, or attachment can serve the purpose of bringing customers closer to your product to increase purchase intent. It is proven that adding more images leads to higher conversion rates. That’s why most eCommerce businesses need a variety of high-quality assets to fill their portfolio.
You also need to organize your assets intelligently and make sure each image is easy to find. If your team can’t find product images quickly enough to use or share, the investment you put into creating images may have been for nothing. On the other hand, if you feel like you have succeeded in providing your customers with consistent images and all the product views they want, it’s time to pat yourself on the back! You are doing online sales in the digital age right.
For best results, consider Digital Asset Management, one of the features of advanced Product Information Management systems to enhance your visual content with less time spent.
Distributing product content to external channels
Why diversified distribution is so important
In today’s eCommerce business environment, fierce competition is the norm. Sales and marketing channels, including eCommerce websites, native mobile apps, marketplaces, comparison sites, and even social media touchpoints all require fluent distribution of content. Having multiple channels can work to your great advantage, but only as long as you are able to distribute your product content quickly and efficiently.
Orchestrating omnichannel experiences where shoppers can use any channel they like at any given time is another level of sophistication. Content across digital and physical touchpoints should work together to create an experience of unified commerce, with a purpose to attract, educate, and delight your customers. Depending on the stage of your business, it can seem daunting and not worth a try, but the benefits are hard to ignore:
“Companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.”
The consequences of doing nothing can be dire, and COVID brought many striking examples of that. Just look at a brand like Primark and their losses due to lack of sales volume and revenue from sources other than their main distribution channel.
Retail giants depend on their channel strategy for growth and even for staying on the market, and businesses of all sizes are facing the same reality. Even for small businesses, relying on single-channel sales is a substantial risk.
How does PIM work with sales and marketing channels?
A modern definition of PIM cannot overlook the importance of taking good care of your sales and marketing channels. A PIM platform that easily connects with new sales and marketing channels allows you to distribute your product content effortlessly. At Bluestone PIM, for example, we offer APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to connect with other systems. APIs significantly reduce development time and allow your company to connect to a new channel in a matter of days instead of weeks or months.
Choosing a platform built on APIs with a focus on interoperability means you can take advantage of new sales and marketing opportunities as they arise, without having to wait for an extension or resort to manual work with product content. New Amazon country store? A new social media channel has turned into an internet sensation? No matter what becomes a hit with your target audience, you’ll be right there quickly, ready to respond and benefit from being early to the game.
Successful product content in external channels
Your presence on multiple channels will benefit you the most if you match your content as closely as possible to the needs of each channel. Depending on the space and media format you have available, you may need to adjust your product content to get the best results. For example, if you are using your product content for advertising, your needs will be completely different when you are posting image-heavy content on social media than when you are using text-based ads. For some media, you may want to create conversational content to sell your product, and other times all you need is brass tacks, bullet-point feature highlights. A PIM system can help you contain this complexity.
When you use PIM software, you can manage different versions of product content for different purposes. This sets you apart from other eCommerce businesses that are less flexible and use the same website content everywhere, causing product listings to look out of place. PIM gives you the ability to customize product content to meet the needs of your audience in any place, at any time. Having the right kind of presence precisely where your customers like to shop is the start of a great customer experience.
The ingredients for a great customer experience
The importance of well-written descriptions
Consumers visit an average of three websites before making a purchase. The more expensive the product, the more time they take to compare. How can you turn this challenge into an opportunity? By standing out with quality product content.
Many eCommerce stores use vendor-provided data and assets to save time. This way, you can publish your products in bulk, but you lose the opportunity to stand out from the competition. If your vendor does not provide great images and descriptions, you may be missing out on the chance to wow your customers. Quality content saves you time when dealing with customer inquiries because they can find the information they need more often.
The future of sales will rely more and more on PIM. PIM will replace picking up the phone, or opening the catalogs. Without Bluestone PIM, we would need to have a few more people on staff in customer support and data management. Brands that are not as strong in digital commerce are losing out.~ Hege Voll Midtgaard, Brand and Sustainability Manager at Bergene Holm
What about your customer’s post-purchase satisfaction? This is another area where quality content helps. Browsing your product content is often the only way your customers will interact with the product you sell before it ships to them and they hold it in their hands. If you want to avoid costly returns or negative reviews, make sure your product descriptions are complete and accurate enough to set the right expectations.
It takes a lot of time to write good product content. In times of overwhelm, you may also need a little inspiration — and not just when you have a million SKUs! At such times, it’s good to know that AI is making great strides and that there are friendly writing robots that help content marketers. (See also: labeling products based on pictures using AI.) With all that technology has to offer, you now have no excuse but to deliver complete, unique, and engaging content and keep getting rave reviews from satisfied customers!
Lastly, original and unique content gets you more exposure and a better chance of getting store visitors in the first place, as this type of content is usually preferred by search engines.
How important good product content is for SEO
We mentioned earlier that unique content is more easily found by search engines — and it’s true! Standard product copy will not get you far, as it will quickly get lost among plenty of eCommerce stores that have done the same thing as you. (Sorry for being so blunt!).
Managing product content is no longer just a matter of syncing what you get from your vendors and suppliers. If you want to attract more customers to your product, you need to take care of Search Engine Optimization, and the originality of your content plays a big role in that. Using Product Information Management with safeguards for product content completeness frees up your resources so you can develop SEO-friendly creative content that checks all the boxes.
While SEO for eCommerce is based on the same principles as general website SEO, there are differences you should be aware of. Unless you are a one-product brand (or working with one), each of your products has a different story to tell. Each product presents an opportunity, but also requires extra work to get search engines to notice your store. The secret to making sure search engines pick up as much of your content as possible is to take a systematic approach. And with ways to track the completeness of product content, Product Information Management offers just that, for both textual content and visual media.
Working with high-quality images and videos
You have heard it often enough: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And there’s really no better way to promote a business and develop a strong eCommerce brand than with images that immediately give your customers an idea of what your product is all about. With a growing product portfolio, the number of images you have to work with quickly becomes overwhelming. Why not make it easier on yourself by using, for example, a PIM platform that is connected to your design software?
At Bluestone PIM we offer an InDesign Connect App that allows you to extract data from the PIM platform, work with templates in Adobe InDesign, and sync changes to product content back to Bluestone PIM. This is just one of the ways you can reduce the time-to-market of your product portfolio and the overall cost of catalog creation. Working with the integrated DAM software, as described earlier in this post, is another way to make the process less time-consuming.
You can find even more options by checking out the apps in Bluestone PIM’s Marketplace.
Removing friction on your website
There are big and small things you can do to eliminate friction in your digital customer experience. Starting with your website software setup, it’s important to have a fast frontend, and you can also benefit from making your order management more fluid to scale your fulfillment processes.
We always recommend using cutting-edge technology for your eCommerce store to ensure optimal performance and smooth delivery, and with today’s SaaS offerings, it’s easy and cost-effective. Bluestone PIM is a member of the MACH Alliance, which gathers like-minded companies that share a vision for Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS (Software as a Service) and Headless solutions. If you are considering upgrading your frontend, backend, or the rest of your commerce stack, you can find best-of-breed solutions from the members of the MACH Alliance.
Using product information to get your product pages right
The need to eliminate friction goes all the way down to the details on your product pages. The information you present there is crucial, and with first-time visitors, it’s often the only chance you have to make a good impression.
You can’t just tell people what you want to tell them. You have to tell them what they want to know.~ Seth Godin
One of the most painful things about buying a product online is having to sift through endless listings and decide which one is right. Sometimes it feels like you are trapped in an impossible maze with only your fingertips for guidance!
The solution: make sure each page contains consistent information so visitors can quickly find what they need. It makes things easier and more satisfying for everyone involved (not just customers). You need to make sure your product page provides a smooth experience, and that’s much easier to achieve if the product information is consistent.
It’s hard to believe, but small changes can yield big results. For example, making links to related products a little more visible and easier to find. Examine the user experience to find out what really works for your customers, your market niche, and your specific products.
Your customers may appreciate the shiny new features of your eCommerce store, but what’s really the most essential for their shopping experience is that they can easily find the information they need.
Product Information Management in B2B vs. B2C
B2C eCommerce stores often fall short of expectations, with poor product descriptions, low-quality or missing images, etc. But that’s nothing compared to what we have seen on the B2B side. For many B2B sellers, customer experience is simply not a priority because B2B sales is based on selling large volumes quickly. But is it really that simple?
Rudimentary solutions for feeding product data into B2B portals, such as taking data directly from an ERP system, result in inferior product listings. ERP systems have been found to leave abbreviations in product titles, cryptic attributes, and inconsistent capitalization. All of this looks really bad on a customer-facing website and is unfortunately still the norm in many industries and niches in the B2B space.
It’s true that B2B customers are more likely to know what they are looking for, and frankly, they are more used to a poor user experience. But B2B customers are people, too. As consumers, we buy products more easily when they evoke an emotional response. In B2B, you can get on the path to exponential growth simply by investing in high-quality content – creating videos, photos, in-depth attributes – and giving your customers more than they are used to.
Using product information to your advantage
While there are many secret ingredients to great online sales and marketing for eCommerce businesses, all digital sales websites work with product information. And all can benefit from managing their information systematically, without scattered data sources, avoidable errors and mistakes, and frequent headaches. Individual users and teams enjoy using PIM platforms because with PIM they can develop a repeatable process and stay organized. This helps them better manage their workload and create content faster.
Whether you or your team needs to:
– Have easy access to an entire product portfolio or parts of it,
– update product attributes in bulk,
– create many variants of a product,
– apply product attributes from categories down to groups of individual products,
or wants to use other advanced features of PIM, you will find what you need in Bluestone PIM. Not only can you create a clean and manageable product catalog, but you can also access advanced reporting and business intelligence tools to get a better handle on your product content strategy.
With Bluestone PIM, you can reach multiple audiences more effectively and amplify your message. You can use your product content to promote your business and strengthen your brand. And that’s just for your marketing. Different teams in sales companies choose Bluestone PIM for different reasons.
Do you manage an eCommerce website that could benefit from solid Product Information Management? We want you to be successful! Book a meeting with our expert to find out what PIM can do for your business.