2016: The Year We Give Shoppers What They Want

Opinion

This time of year, all eyes in e-commerce are heavily focused on 2016 strategies for growing sales, keeping customers happy, and expanding channels. Consumer shopping behaviors are shifting too, forcing brands and retailers to be even more agile, though they’re currently struggling just to keep up.

There is a disconnect in the industry between how brands sell and consumers buy. In an effort to understand the problem, we asked researchers at Echo Cove Research to speak with 200 leaders in e-commerce from major consumer brands, and they found some interesting results. It is through this market research that we identified three key gaps and recommendations for e-commerce leaders on how to bridge them to satisfy shoppers in 2016.

1. Consumers and brands value product content differently. We are finding more strikingly than ever before that product content is core to the consumer experience. According to a study by Comscore and UPS, 73 percent of consumers reported that detailed product information is the single most important factor in the search and selection process when buying online, yet only 43 percent of brands surveyed believe that consumers buy based on product content. And despite the clear consumer demand for detailed product content, only 41 percent of brands listed improving their product content management systems as one of their top priorities.

So: Embrace technology for content management. 57 percent of brands with a product content management system in place feel their content is completely accurate, versus 44 percent without a system. Brands with a PCM system in place are much more aligned with consumer buying trends, with 68 percent of them believing in the power of great content to drive sales. According to McKinsey & Company, these are the brands that will “win” at e-commerce: “The best-performing CPG companies are pushing the boundaries of the ‘perfect page’ online by providing rich product information and content that also helps deliver search results that are more favorable to their company.”

Brands with a product content management system in place are also better equipped to handle retailer content requests. Which brings me to the next gap.

2. Retailers and brands are “frenemies.” The savviest retailers like Kroger, Walmart and Google know that detailed product content equals sales, and have been developing and rolling out strategic initiatives to collect more content from brands. All well and good, except 62 percent of brands surveyed think retailer requests for content are unreasonable. Consumers may choose to spend their money and loyalty at Retailer A over Retailer B because of more detailed product content, but without brand support for retailer initiatives, the sale may not happen at all.

So: Prove product content has value. Consumer demand for product content is real, and it’s your job as an e-commerce leader to communicate that value to your organization. Share real-time data with your suppliers and partners—time on site, conversion rates, etc. Then refer to the brand/consumer gap in point number one. Your organizations must adopt technology and processes to deal with retailer requests for content, because they’re not going away. In fact, they’re increasing along with consumers’ demand for a seamless omnichannel experience. See the next point.

3. Few have mastered mobile, except consumers. Mobile commerce is expected to grow nearly three times faster than U.S. e-commerce overall this year, according to Internet Retailer. Not to mention the consumers who are taking to mobile, Facebook, Twitter, Google’s “Buy Now” button, and connected wearables to buy the products they crave. Most e-commerce organizations have their head in the right place, with 75 percent of brands planning to sell more products through online marketplaces in the next two years; but actual readiness is lacking. Case in point, only 29 percent of brands agreed their organizations know how to capitalize on growing e-commerce and mobile commerce markets.

So: Streamline content for one seamless shopping experience. I came across a Forbes article recently that hit the nail on the head: “Your customers are digital . . . They want one seamless experience, and they don’t care what you call it.” Consumers exploring their options on mobile, social, and beyond expect the shopping experience to be fully baked and loaded with the detailed product they’re looking for. Then refer to point number two and collaborate with your “frenemy.”

We hope that 2016 will be the year of collaboration across the e-commerce industry, with brands, retailers, and distributors working together to understand shifting consumer shopping behavior and respond with one excellent shopping experience. Maybe we’ll even see the first cooperative e-commerce summit.

Wishful thinking? We think not.

[To learn more about Salsify’s market research data, or to download the full results, please visit: http://hubs.ly/H01npg10.]

Jason Purcell is the CEO and Co-Founder of Salsify. Follow @Salsify

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