Three Must-Haves for Your E-Commerce Platform

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Three Must-Haves for Your E-Commerce Platform

By Troy Winskowicz - 12/28/2016
The digital backbone of a retailer’s online store is their e-commerce platform, and great product data is the backbone of those platforms. Why? Product data makes up all of the digital information for each product on a retailer’s e-commerce website from basic attributes like color to more complex information like styles or trend. Good product data is the difference between a “yellow shirt” and a “yellow, boat neck, 80s-style t-shirt.”

Retailers already understand that creating and maintaining high-quality product data at scale is a major challenge, despite significant advancements in tools and technologies. Without accurate, complete, and relevant product data, these e-commerce engines run the risk of falling flat and delivering a sub-par shopping journey for customers. Simply put, great data fuels great shopping experiences and ultimately the loyalty that all retailers crave. With the holidays quickly approaching, there’s no better time to ensure your platform is running on high octane, clean fuel.
Here’s our top three must-haves to ensure your e-commerce platform is running full-throttle and will deliver an inspiring and loyalty-driven shopping experience for consumers:
Be Relevant
Are shoppers discovering the products they want? If you’ve got rich, structured product attribution feeding into your search engine, they probably are. The key to conversion is ensuring shoppers are seeing relevant results based on the preferences they expressed during search, and that starts with product data.  
Customer preferences and colloquial language can change very quickly. Because of this, there is often a disconnect between how manufacturers or merchandisers describe products and how shoppers try to find them in a search bar. This disconnect creates shopper frustration, and worse, a lost sale.  
An estimated 88 percent of total search traffic is considered a long-tail query, while 84 percent of e-commerce search engines don’t even understand the simplest subjective attributes like “high quality” or “cheap”. Being relevant means adopting technologies that provide the insights required to make decisions about product data, and enable the enrichment of that data so that product attribution more closely aligns with your shopper vernacular. If you knew that your shoppers were searching for “boyfriend jeans” or “embroidered beach bags,” relevancy would be the least of your challenges.
And, shoppers are changing how they search, as searches increasingly include attributes like color. In Q1, shopper searches included color in nearly 50 percent more search queries year-over-year – and those searches including color convert 20 percent better than other searches. For retailers, this change points towards the need to be more relevant in surfacing results by increasing their ability to merchandise by attribute.
Be Agile
Leading retailers know that keeping up with the demands of digital commerce shoppers is critical to growing sales. In fact, 85% of e-commerce leaders believe that agility and speed of deployment will give them a competitive edge. The way consumers interact with brands is changing rapidly, putting more pressure on  retailers to keep up.

Specifically, shoppers are demanding better experiences across a broader array of channels, and that starts with leveraging better data. Let’s look at a simple example like inventory.  Shoppers expect that whether they are shopping in-store or online, they will be able to search and find the products they love. In fact, 72% of shoppers say they value consistency in the products available across channels from brick-and-mortar to online. Without great product data fueling e-commerce search, it’s highly likely shoppers won’t find what they’re looking for and set out in search of another option.
According to research by GS1, retailers will assign four times the number of attributes today than they did five years ago. With ever-changing assortments and the onset of fast fashion, retailers have a herculean task in managing to this new reality. Not surprisingly, the quality of product data has failed to keep pace with this added complexity and increased demand for better product information. It’s a big data job that requires technology, but with the right solution, product data enrichment can happen at the speed, scale, and quality retailers need to create winning experiences.
Put the Customer First
Eighty-six percent of consumers say they would pay more for a superior online shopping experience. We believe a superior experience means a personalized, inspiring shopping journey where shoppers can search and navigate a relevant set of results and ultimately, find exactly what they’re looking for. Developing a customer-centric approach to e-commerce starts with closing the gap between online and offline shopping experiences.

The “product knowledge gap” is becoming more prevalent as shoppers expect online shopping to mimic the in-store experience. In the offline world, the gap is filled by knowledgeable store associates who can confidently answer customers’ questions. In the digital world, shoppers expect to sort and filter products to quickly narrow a set of relevant results. However, the systems in place to surface those results often times do not have the nuances and complexities to meet this shopper expectation.  
The missing component? Accurate, complete, and relevant product data. Great product data is as simple as filling in the blanks of what used to be actual human conversation. In an offline world, retailers help consumers find products with tried and true experience through store associated who know their products well and know their customers even better because they spend the time to answer questions about their needs.

Today, shoppers are are moving this dialogue online and asking the same questions to a search engine that is likely not equipped with the same set of expertise as a sales associate. Failure to understand “shopper speak” in the product discovery process online results in a sub-par experience. Bottom line: if retailers can’t figure out how to bridge the gap through better product data, their customers will go elsewhere in search of retailers who are willing to invest in effective engagement.  
Solidfying customer engagement will be much easier if retailers are empowered with relevant product discovery, agile processes and a customer-centric approach. Content drives commerce. Poor product data equals lost sales. Enriched product data and adoption of emerging technologies ensures seamless execution and happy, loyal shoppers.

Troy Winskowicz, VP of Product