How many e-commerce sites are mere product lists with a few images and a "buy" button next to them? How can they differentiate in an increasingly competitive scenario?
Marco Loguercio, CEO & Founder of FIND - Search Marketing, will answer our questions, with actionable guidelines on how to set up your online shop windows, organize content and product information, and better understand the factors that influence the positioning of a product online.
Q: The emergency we are experiencing has prompted several companies to a race to set up their online shops. In your opinion, what are the basic principles to keep in mind when compiling product sheets?
A: It may seem the most trivial thing, but the first piece of advice I offer to those who have to lay out a product sheet is to point out that it must be of real help to people who are evaluating the product or service. It is on their needs, on their criteria that you must choose what content to add (texts, images, videos), how to articulate and harmonize it, which insights to suggest, what possible actions may follow and many other points.
Why do I start from this? Because all too often, from start-ups to established companies, the answer tend to be that content costs too much, that target analysis is expensive, and therefore they settle with using what little they have available or, even worse, to copying what others do, assuming that there are studies and analyses behind it...
I can't obviously mention the name of the company, but just a few weeks ago a top manager complained about the poor conversion rates of their e-commerce, and he concluded, a bit ironic and amused: "It’s funny that they are copying us, they must think this actually works!"
Now then, there's no rule that applies to everyone, of course. But the data sources you can draw on to better know what the evaluating visitors need are many: from the web analytics data of your site - including internal research - to what people are saying about your company and products on the web, to interviews with existing customers or instant feedbacks from the website ...
The important thing is to do something, because in the extremely competitive scenario of e-commerce, where in addition to direct competitors there are marketplaces, the romantic idea that a product sheet can just include a few product images, a more or less useful description and a 'buy' button risks colliding into the harsh reality: conversion rates close to zero and, consequently, unsustainability of the business.
Q: What problems do companies encounter in organizing and distributing information and product assets? What about a central management?
A: I'll start with an anecdote: when I was a teen, in the late 80s and early 90s, I was passionate about off-road cycling. How could I select which bike to buy every year? I used to browse specialized magazines and, every two years, I went to Milan to the biggest fair, the EICMA. Then, I tried to get to those vendors who dealt with the bikes I was interested in, in order to contact them later and ask for a catalog and the address of the nearest store, where I could see the bikes. If I was lucky, I would find someone who had already bought the bike I was interested in, and ask them for advice and opinions.
At that time, the contact points were therefore very limited and "controllable". Today we have a proliferation of online and offline contact points such as advertising, organic channels, social networks, user generated content, stores, marketplaces... And each of them has its own peculiarities.
In such a scenario, can we really use the same materials, the same images, the same texts? Difficult and, above all, unprofitable. Most companies have not been able to give themselves a structure: That’s how we can have paradoxical situations where the content designed for the Web is totally different from that designed for the offline channels, with the result that the omnichannel consumer ends up lost and renounces the purchase, or goes elsewhere.
Answering to the need for information of the consumer and branding needs, it is therefore necessary to organize and optimize all these assets (and the related investments for their production), to understand how to decline them for the different channels in a synergistic way.
A central direction (however open to localization) with tools to shape these assets in the most appropriate way for the different channels is the key.
Q: In the whitepaper "Amazon Power 2020" you underlined how Amazon has become a benchmark point also for research, not only for purchases. In the light of this data, do you think the proprietary e-commerce integrates with or works in opposition with the marketplace? How important is information consistency?
A: In my vision of things, it is necessary to be present where the target consumer prefers to be, on the condition, however, that you are able to grasp the peculiarities of that channel. But then again, there’s no guideline that works for everyone.
Let me give you a concrete example: I am a partner of a direct-to-consumer company that designs and sells cycling clothing online. One thing that I have noticed in the different rounds of investments received by the company is that investors invest on the platform, rather than the brand: the e-commerce site, in addition to being a sales tool, is also a communication vehicle and a platform where you can analyze the behavior of users, collect info on their tastes and data for the CRM. For this reason, all efforts of the brand are focused on its main asset, the website, avoiding marketplaces and multi-brand retailers.
Does this choice apply to anyone? Absolutely not, as there are many examples of companies using Amazon in a strategic and tactical ways to support turnover, without penalizing the user experience and the brand image. There are just as many brands that are on Amazon not so much to sell on this channel, but to gather information from it, from the people who are evaluating the product while maybe in the physical store, using their smartphone to look for details, comments, reviews, alternatives.
As for the second part of the question, consistency is essential: there is nothing worse than forcing an interested consumer to search for in-depth information on the product (including in Amazon’s "user generated" section) because it is inconsistent on the various channels.
I’d like to conclude with a final example, to show how much the consumer has changed in recent years and no longer necessarily considers the producer as the most trustworthy source of product information.
The example was made during the data presentation conference of one of the e-commerce observatories of the Politecnico di Milano: a consumer, in the direct store of a well-known luxury brand, turned to the salesperson to ask if the bag in her hands was original.
Why this question? Because the bag had details that differed from the images of the same product on zalando.it. The consumer believed more in what she had seen on Zalando (a German marketplace for fashion products) than in the actual product she could touch in the store.
This is the reality today, and companies, as well as the dealers who sell their products, must take it into account.