Product experience management: A critical component of the CMO arsenal
Chief marketing officers (CMOs) don’t have it easy. In a fiercely competitive market, they are looking for every possible advantage. Given an economy that increasingly erases familiar boundaries of brand loyalty, shopping locations and national borders, CMOs have an opportunity to dramatically increase the momentum of their brands -- or, just as easily, lose market share to more adept competitors.
Omnichannel commerce forces merchants to blend brick-and-mortar encounters with online touch points to ensure customers receive a unified experience. CMOs, in turn, drive their marketing campaigns across multiple channels, from online storefronts and marketplaces to email campaigns, pay-per-click (PPC) and advanced search engine optimization (SEO) strategies designed to boost search results.
All of these strategies have one thing in common: They rely on structured and compelling product information delivered in a way that not only gets specs and prices right, but also generates the kind of customer experience that drives sales.
The internet has forever changed the shopping experience. You can type a few words into a search engine, research your product, find your best price and get it delivered to your doorstep in a matter of hours.
In that fast-moving, customer-driven dynamic, how do brands and retailers help themselves stand out? By delivering a memorable customer journey that takes the management of product information to the next level.
Compelling product information translates to strong sales
Good product information (i.e., detailed and consistent) can often lead to increased sales.
If there was just one website or one chain of brick-and-mortar outlets, managing product information would be a relatively simple task. Spreadsheets and other traditional information management tools would serve as well as they always have.
But as every marketing executive knows, the days of organizing campaigns for just a handful of physical and virtual marketplaces are long gone. We now need a way to get complex and ever-changing product details into catalogs, brick-and-mortar outlets and a growing array of online channels, each with its own technical requirements, customer preferences, cultural customs and native languages.
Take Apple’s new iPhones, for instance. To maximize sales, the company needs to get product details not only on its own website, but also on Amazon, Best Buy and international channels that need information delivered in the language and form appropriate for each locale.
As the vice president of marketing for Akeneo, a global product experience management company, I regularly hear from CMOs who realize that one-size-fits-all marketing doesn’t work. But here's what does:
The need for a ‘golden record’
Today’s consumers do their homework. While they might have once gone into their favorite local store, perused the offerings and made a purchase, they are increasingly accustomed to researching the same product on multiple online channels in the hopes of finding the best deal.
Imagine the confusion -- or worse -- that can result from those customers finding conflicting product descriptions, images and prices on different channels. One way to avoid that inconsistency is to store all those details in one central location, or what I like to call a "golden record."
That repository must keep product information in a form that’s agile enough to be:
• Always available. Rather than being locked away in a proprietary spreadsheet or server, product data must be collected, standardized, enriched and ready to transfer to your commerce platforms.
• Easily transformable. The same data must be in a form that can easily be put to use on Amazon or another e-commerce platform, in a print catalog or in a point-of-sale system.
• High quality. Fuzzy photos, error-ridden text and incomplete product specs can all send a potential customer somewhere else.
• In context. Consumers purchasing through a brand’s website, a marketplace such as Amazon, a voice assistant like Alexa or Siri, or by visiting a brick-and-mortar store need product information that is customized for that environment and in the appropriate language.
Building loyalty and driving sales with powerful stories
Today’s marketing campaigns must tell a brand’s story not only on multiple channels, but in ways that are varied, yet consistent: digital and print ads, social media posts, photo and video stories and multimedia narratives that build loyalty by telling a richly human story.
Powerful storytelling builds loyalty and drives sales. But crafting and keeping track of the product details in each form and channel can be a nightmare. Automating organizational tasks that would take hours, days or weeks to do by hand can free CMOs to use their creative powers to deliver emotionally resonant product information to customers at each step of their journey:
• Research. Most buyers begin by scouring numerous channels to compare features and prices based on the same (or similar) product details.
• Consideration. As they narrow their decisions, customers need to find clear branding, good storytelling and, ideally, strong endorsements from fellow consumers.
• Decision. When customers are ready to make a purchase, they need accurate information, not only about product features and specs, but also the kinds of details that touch their emotions and allow them to picture themselves using it to improve their lives.
The key to strong marketing execution is a multichannel campaign powered by technology that allows CMOs to tell a story that is compelling and consistent across all customer touch points. Managing product information effectively to deliver compelling product experiences makes it easier to launch new products, scale, increase conversions and, over time, build the kind of loyalty that will keep customers coming back again and again.