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Like countless other people who needed to set up a home office in March 2020, I went to buy a standing desk online.
One site had an augmented reality (AR) engine meant to illustrate what its products would look like in your home. However, due to a bug or incorrect product data, the AR desktop appeared to have been designed for the Jolly Green Giant. In the AR version of my house, it appeared to be seven feet tall.
At the point of sale, I wondered whether to trust the brand.
And my experience is far from unique.
Marketers often think of “trust” as an attribute of virtuous, goal-oriented brands. But the 2021 Widen Connectivity Report, my company’s ongoing study of the challenges marketers and creatives face when trying to balance technology with human touch, offers a new perspective on trust in brands. .
Between August and September 2020, we surveyed 155 marketing and creative executives in the US and UK. Respondents came from 25 industries and businesses of all sizes. We also interviewed 11 marketers in depth.
We found that objective information– like product specifications, dimensions, weight and materials used – can gain or lose consumer confidence at the point of sale, but they are devilishly complex to manage and prone to errors. We’ve also found that objective product data can be the backbone of compelling marketing stories, but it’s underutilized.
After walking you through the research that led to these findings, I’ll discuss what they mean for your marketing strategy.
The underestimated power of objective product data
Product information includes data about the products, marketing content, and digital assets that brands use to describe and market their products. When consumers shop online, digital product information replaces the information they would collect in person by handling a product or talking to a seller.
Objective product data, while not particularly entertaining on its own, is crucial for marketing. When we asked marketers, “What do you think has the most impact on customer confidence in your marketing initiatives?” », 33% of information on selected products, ahead of customer reviews (28%), visual design (16%), and activity on social networks (10.5%). It’s surprising when you think about the importance marketers place on word of mouth.
At the same time, 72% of respondents told us that digital assets (photographs, videos, graphics, etc.) and product marketing content (item descriptions) have the greatest impact on sales. Visual resources and content are like sugar and butter in a cookie; they provide the flavor that makes you crave the cookie. Product data is like the tasteless eggs that keep freshly baked cookies from crumbling: it is objective and it brings together emotional and ambitious claims about a product.
The importance of information on production led to our hypothesis that traders would say they could control it. We were wrong. Only 36% said they have “very high” control over the product information their brand publishes on external ecommerce sites, and just over half, 55%, told us they have “very high” control. high “on the product information published on their own website. There is a mismatch between the power of product information and the ability of a marketer to shape and use it.
Real struggles with product data
We wanted to understand how product information – and a lack of control over it – affects brands in the real world, so we interviewed several marketers and creatives in depth.
One of our most insightful talks was with Jamie (a pseudonym), a digital merchandising manager for a regional grocery chain. Its history shows that assembling, standardizing, and publishing accurate product information in an omnichannel environment is surprisingly complex.
When the pandemic quadrupled online sales in his grocery chain, pressure mounted on Jamie to optimize the online shopping experience. She needed to fill huge gaps in the product data sent by manufacturers. Names, naming conventions, product images, sizes and many specifications had to be standardized or created from scratch.
Jamie said, “A lot of times the way a manufacturer labels their product is not necessarily how we want to show it online. For example, her store prefers to label “toilet paper” as “toilet paper” to align with what normal humans say, think, and look for.
Additionally, Jamie found himself creating product data that was previously irrelevant. She gave the example of begonia, a flower that comes in five colors. In person, people choose with their eyes, but online they select begonias based on product data and expect to be able to select a color.
Even though Jamie cleaned up product listings on her branded channels, she still had to deal with external grocery delivery services, each with their own list formats and rules.
Essentially, Jamie has become responsible for the most basic source of trust in a business: giving customers what they ordered and paid for. It needed reliable product data to meet this imperative.
Future opportunities and challenges
Interviewing Jamie and others helped us understand the reason for a disconnect in our survey data. While 71% of those polled in our survey said they use objective product data to tell “stories” about their products, only 57% said they use it to tell stories about their brands.
Marketers seem to spend a considerable amount of time collecting, organizing, distributing and updating product data because they lack effective tools for the job. Getting the facts right takes so long that it leaves no space to extract product data for ideas and stories about brand impact.
What a missed opportunity. Even “trusted” brands face accusations of virtual signage, watch washing, greenwashing, and hypocrisy. What if product data could validate their brand values? What if it evolved from dimensions, weights and sizes to interesting data about supply chains, ecological footprints and the people behind each product?
This vision of brand stories will take time. Meanwhile, the Expanding Connectivity report highlights three imperatives for using product data.
1. Be consistent across all channels
Whether you’re selling through Amazon and Walmart, shipping through Instacart and Uber, or taking orders on Facebook and your own website, be consistent. Publish the same objective product data even as you customize marketing copy and visual assets for each channel.
2. Help buyers understand objective information
The more complex, expensive, or variable a product, the more consumers want to understand the facts. The way you plot or graph performance data, define technical terms, and educate shoppers can increase their convenience with large online purchases.
3. Be specific
I cannot stress enough the importance of sharing accurate information with shoppers: One in five American adults returned an item purchased online because they claimed the “description” was incorrect.
And that’s more or less why the permanent desktop brand with AR lost my business: Inaccurate product data undermines brand trust.
The small things
Trust is not a top-down attribute that belongs only to C-level executives and spokespersons who (believe they) control your brand’s public image. It is also about the numbers, sizes, colors and other details that appear in each point of sale. Trust, then, is the work of many marketers, product developers, engineers, merchandisers and others who work together to bring a product to market.
Confidence depends on the consistency of mundane but meaningful actions that require ongoing attention and maintenance. This is true not only of brands but also of people, and the way we connect and communicate.
More resources on brand trust and product data
Why marketers should boost consumer confidence with product data
How to Create High Converting Descriptions for Your Product Pages
Why Honesty and Integrity Pay: The Benefits of Truth-Based Marketing