Would you open a store with empty space on the shelves, missing prices, and no labels?
Of course not. Yet this happens all the time online when companies launch sites without key product data such as images and specifications. Product content is largely why customers are coming to your site. They want to research products, compare products, download spec sheets, and yes, buy products.
So where do you start? One easy way to think about what you need to do from a product content perspective is to think about it from a brick-and-mortar perspective.
In a traditional shopping experience the buyer navigates a natural organization in the store, looking for the right aisle and shelf of the product of interest. The customer then evaluates the product, by picking it up, comparing it to related items, reading the label, and maybe even asking one of the employees about it. Only after all of this does the customer make a final decision to buy.
In a digital world you have to replicate as much of the in-store experience as possible—and to do that you must have the right data. It takes a lot of product data to support and drive the sales process online. You need comprehensive operational data to support fulfillment of the closed sale, and you need compelling marketing content to get the buyer to that sale. Falling short on either creates a bad experience, and most likely loses you the sale.
Let’s build upon the brick-and-mortar analogy. If the customer is looking for a specific drill they may go to the ‘power tools’ aisle, find the shelf with the drills, and then look at and compare the different drills they have before buying one, in many stores they may even be able to test drill a block of wood. Online the customer needs to be able to navigate to the right category (aisle), the right sub-category (shelf), and look at the product details before finally buying the product. Your site’s navigation needs to be just as obvious as those big aisle signs. It needs to support the customer finding the category ‘power tools’ and sub category ‘drills’ with as few clicks as possible. Once the customer finds the drill, he needs to be able to see the product details: how much does it weigh, what voltage is it, how long does the battery last, are there images, spec. sheets, etc. Finally when the customer goes to place the order he needs to be able to find the fulfillment data: part number, prices, shipping restrictions, packaging, etc. If a customer on your site is unable to intuitively navigate your site and quickly find all this information then there is a high likelihood that they leave your site for a competitor’s and order the product from them. And in many cases this isn’t just an order lost, it’s a customer lost.
The amount of data to support your online presence is not trivial as illustrated below.
You are probably in pretty good shape with the operational data, but not so good with the marketing data. Begin the process of identifying and filling your product content needs early in your ecommerce journey, otherwise you just may find yourself at launch time with a bunch of empty shelves.