Valentine’s Day—what a great day to celebrate! I mean, really, who doesn’t want to celebrate love and our loved ones! We, at inRiver hope you had a fantastic Valentine’s Day!
What do you think of, when you think about love? Is it always the romantic kind? Or do you sometimes daydream about that really special pair of shoes, your dog, or—as in my case—coffee?
It is true for most people that we want to be loved just as much as we love to love! And for companies, we want our customers to love our products and, by extension, love us.
We want our customers to be happy and return and buy from us again. Sure, we may give this emotion elaborate, practical names—customer advocacy, customer loyalty, lifetime value of a customer. But in the end, it really all comes down to love.
However, we also know that love is a two-way street. Sure, we may have learned this the hard way—nothing hurts worse than that pang of unrequited love. And our companies may have experienced the hurt—across the entire enterprise—when we launched a product that our customers rejected.
But today, life is different. You have a product that is perfect. You have worked hard to perfect it, to meet your customers’ every need in your defined space. Now, to show your customers some love, you have to make sure that they can find your product, that they are aware of your product, that your product will make their lives complete.
In fact, you have to become a little bit obsessive!
Face it—coming up with the perfect product for your customer required something of an obsession. Every facet, every detail had to be flawless. You—and your customers—would accept nothing less.
So now, as you get ready to go to market, don’t dare drop that obsession with perfection. Stick with it and give your customers all the love that they deserve. Provide them with the perfect product story—enriched with romance copy, hero imagery, and accurate specifications—so that they will know just how much you care.
Why settle for love when you can be customer-obsessed?
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Manager, inRiver
I love marketing. I find it to be a fascinating intersection of creativity and business savvy, and it has been an area where creative people have worked and thrived.
However, as Bob Dylan sang, ‘the times, they are a-changing.' Digital channels now require and provide vast volumes of information. To optimize the efficiency of the marketing efforts, marketing organizations are required to collect a lot of data about the customer behavior and how they interact with the marketing content. Marketers also need more content to be produced and disseminated to an increasing number channels.
It is difficult to create, manage, analyze, and optimize huge amounts of content manually. It can’t be done using creativity alone. Even the best analytics tools and content management systems cannot help an organization to make the right decisions at the speed of digital—at least not manually. Not only does Web and eCommerce personalization require super-fast number crunching to present the right message in real time, but also significant amounts of granular product information are needed to put the product story together.
Not even with an army of super creative marketers would it be possible to do this manually. Customers require relevant results in real time. It also becomes increasingly difficult to manually produce all the content that is needed to put the right message together for your individual customers, at all touchpoints, for all stages in the buying journey. When you add the requisite analysis and optimization it to the mix, you will find that a new breed of solutions is needed.
Enter Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to save the day.
How can AI and ML help?
AI can be used to make split-second decisions. Combined with ML, AI can learn how to make better decisions over time. AI can also adapt to changes in buying behavior long before any human has had time to put a report together, analyze it, test a new idea, and iterate until it works. Most of us interact with AI- and ML-powered behavioral recommendation engines every time we shop at Amazon and many other retailers’ sites. AI controls product recommendations, provides optimized guided navigation, and adds inspirational suggestions, all based on customers’ behavioral patterns and buying habits.
This development changes the role of the marketer. AI and ML will take care of most of the merchandising—automatically and in real-time. But a behavioral merchandizing engine needs fuel, a lot of it. This fuel comes in the form of large volumes of high-quality, granular product information. In addition, to be efficient, AI also requires the right content to create a relevant, personalized and compelling product story.
How does the marketing department know if they produce the right content in the right volume? The answer is: by getting feedback on how the content performs in all their channels and then crunching the numbers. Creating too much content adds unnecessary cost, and creating the wrong content might be even more expensive as it is detrimental to sales. Thus, optimizing content production to produce just enough of the right content is crucial to be successful.
Again, AI and ML come to the rescue. Not only can these solutions control what content that the marketing department produces, but also it can create it as well. For example, companies like Automated Insights provide AI/ML-based services that can write product descriptions automatically based on product specification and categorization data.
Get ready now!
AI and ML will not replace marketers anytime soon, but they will dramatically change what marketers do and how they work. These technologies are already a critical component of online merchandising, and are spreading to all other areas of marketing. Companies need to invest in solutions that can help them move at the speed of digital, but also introduce new roles and ways of organizing the marketing department because AI and ML are going to play a significant role in marketing going forward.
Let me introduce you to my new best friend. Yes, in a household with three active children, a busy, distracted husband, and two “unruly” dogs (as described by my curmudgeonly neighbor), my Amazon Echo is my dearest friend. She actually listens to what I say and acknowledges my requests!
Yesterday, I had Alexa read me the news. The day before, she set a timer for 25 minutes so I wouldn’t burn the muffins. She plays my favourite music on demand and adjusts the volume to my liking. If she had arms, I would hug her—every day.
But there is more to Alexa than meets the eye. Did you know that she is also the ultimate shopper? Yes, indeed! Assuming that the items that you are seeking are either commodity—such as pet food or packaged goods—or easily described, such as a book or a song, Alexa can do your buying for you—at the sound of your voice.
This is your newest retail channel. We will be discussing this and more in our upcoming webinar on February 15.
As retailers and manufacturers, who are targeting consumers directly, strive to get the right offer to the right consumer at the right time, an additional channel can open up new opportunities, while also adding operational complexity. In the case of voice, the ability to utilize the technology and the channel effectively is key. And to do this, you need great product information.
Since consumers who order products via Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, Google Voice, or other voice-activated apps are likely not looking at a mobile device or laptop at the same time, they are not seeing product images or reading descriptions and specifications. It is imperative that your product information is complete enough for the service to recognize what the consumer is trying to order.
Not only that, but also your product description needs to utilize the key words that a consumer would use. Chances are, a consumer will order a “blue phone case for Samsung Galaxy S7” not an “aqua ombre glitter sparkles” S7 phone case. Your product information needs to tell appealing product stories using common, everyday terms.
Because consumers will be able to review a shopping cart to ensure that their order is correct, your product information needs to be discrete and concise enough to select the needed product with a superior level of accuracy. Basic information such as product titles, brands, and SKU numbers needs to be exact. In addition, your product information needs to be consistent across channels so that your consumer can view a product online and then be able to order the product later via voice with a high degree of confidence that the selection is the same product.
The advent of voice shopping can help retailers truly meet shoppers where they are, in those “micro-moments” when a product need crosses their minds. However, to make that great first impression and keep shoppers coming back to you through this channel, it is critical that you serve up the right content and product options. Keep this new channel in mind when you are crafting your product information. It might mean telling a simpler, more concise product story.
In the meantime, join inRiver and our partner Absolunet on February 15, 2017 at 2PM CST for a webinar on this and other eCommerce trends affecting retailers. Register here for this informational event!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver