How Product Attributes Power the Omnichannel Consumer Experience

In Blog, Brand Visibility, E-commerce, Food Transparency by Cyril Nigg

Consumers no longer shop by aisle or look for brands within distinct categories which puts pressure on Retailers and Manufacturers to serve up a more personalized experience—one that informs which products to buy based on their unique lifestyle or health preferences.

The fuel that powers this new experience is ‘product attributes.’  Every product has a series of characteristics —attributes—that ensure that consumers can understand enough to make informed decisions while complying with FDA and USDA requirements. Simply put, from title and nutritional information, attributes describe a product and provide the transparency consumers demand.

Challenges to Personalization

  • Lifestyle Shopping: Whether it’s vegan snacks for a road trip, paraben-free sunscreen for someone with allergies, paleo-friendly dinner options or “green” laundry detergent for sensitive skin, consumers are finding products based on enriched attributes that define a product.
  • Omnicommerce: This shift is happening everywhere—across screens and channels, time zones and continents. Although the shoppers who move seamlessly between mobile, tablet, desktop and in-store experiences aren’t taking a linear path to purchase, they nonetheless expect their journey to be easy and personalized to their preferences, when and where they are making their purchase decisions.
  • Multitouch: A shopper’s typical scenario might start by researching a product on their phone during the morning commute, adding items to their cart via a laptop in the afternoon, completing the purchase on a tablet and finally picking up the purchase in-store just in time for dinner via the click and collect option with their favorite grocery retailer.

Customer Discovery, Conversion and Analytics

Simply put, rich product attributes help consumers find a product by ensuring it meets their needs and wants. Failing to address shoppers’ trends and effectively providing consumer-centric attributes can have dire consequences for brands.

A recent Wall Street Journal recounts how Johnson and Johnson’s baby division lost 10% market share in the last five years because their products didn’t keep up with consumer preferences and online shopping. The article illustrates a data disconnect between the company’s R&D and marketing teams where the company responded to consumer demand for a better product but failed to actually publicize the improvement to consumers themselves, through structured attributes. Specifically, Johnson’s recognized “the growing interest in natural ingredients… J&J scientists removed phthalates and other chemicals from the products, but didn’t publicize the changes.” Had Johnson’s been able to flow these attributes from product development all the way to the “last mile” of the digital shelf, more consumers with an aversion to these chemicals (for whatever reason) might have discovered the reformulated products and the market share trend noted above might have had a different trajectory.

The Attribute-Driven Shopper

According to a recent KPMG study, product assortment is the most important factor for online grocery shoppers. That doesn’t mean shoppers are looking for more options. They simply want to easily find the specific products they want, or relevant substitutions, based on personal preferences.

It all comes down to shoppers being able to find the right product in order to buy it. Retailers and eCommerce sites are embracing this trend by offering an ever-increasing number of filters and facets that enable their shoppers to whittle their choices down to a personalized set of relevant items.  

But when CPG manufacturers are missing digital content (for example, a quality image optimized for mobile phones) or product attributes (e.g., “fragrance-free”) that don’t match the retailers’ own taxonomies or are not optimized for search engine optimization, these products are much less likely to get discovered. Being present is no longer enough. If the shopper can’t find the product, she (or he) can’t and won’t buy it, plain and simple.

Avoid Eroding Brand Trust with Poor Product Data

ItemMaster has conducted several Product Attribute audits to determine if the data on a product’s detail page and the actual package matched. Over half the products we’ve analyzed have missing data or—worse—incorrect information (including misstated allergen warnings, inaccurate ingredients or nutrition facts that are just wrong).

All of this misinformation, especially among the bigger CPG brands, leads to erosion of trust and brand equity built up over the years. Additionally, it can negatively affect conversion rates and increase returns. And the worst possible scenario is possible – a lawsuit for misrepresentation or a penalty from the FDA/USDA for non-compliance. The question every eCommerce manager or digital content leader must ask is, “Do I have confidence in my product data?”

Putting it Together

Product attributes power discovery, consumer-ready content and the analytics that enable CPG manufacturers and retailers to make data-driven decisions. While attributes originate from a number of sources (R&D, marketing, brand management and regulatory teams to name a few) all of it must be brought together (“harmonized”) to be comprehensive and accurate.

This is a huge challenge, and one that is amplified by the continuous change in the grocery industry. New regulations and label laws, brand acquisitions, product innovation and evolving trends mean that, as CPG manufacturers and retailers, you need an ongoing strategy to keep consumer-facing product content accurate and ready. ItemMaster is on the bleeding edge of helping our clients ensure they are addressing the ever-evolving needs of consumers, regulators and retailers. To learn more, contact us at info@itemmaster.com.