A marketer’s job is to make it easy for buyers to buy. As a result, marketers know content is the biggest thing representing products in the digital channels and 'Content is King' has been a mantra since the early years of e-commerce. To a large extent, this is still true, and your customer's expectations of product content are higher than ever. Content needs to be engaging, descriptive, accurate and exciting, but without context, it may not be relevant. And relevance is what helps customers make buying decisions.
Chris Anderson, the author of The Long Tail, wrote, "In a world of infinite choice, context—not content—is king," and I have to agree. Even the best content in the world fails if it is created and disseminated without consideration of the context surrounding it and the buyer's situation. If the context is wrong, the content is rarely relevant.
What does context mean for e-commerce and the customer? It depends on the product category and the customer's situation. For a customer who needs to buy a spare part for a car, the context is the make, model, year, and trim of the 'vehicle,' together with the placement of the part. For customers looking for a new sofa, the context is the living room, so 'shop the room' becomes an excellent tool for them in their buying journey. A customer with a new mobile phone that wants to buy an accessory wants to be guided to products that are compatible with their 'device.' Even though you might not be selling 'rooms,' 'vehicles,' and 'devices,' you need to connect these merchandizing objects to your product content to create context and relevancy.
According to an article by McKinsey, making the digital journey relevant is more significant than ever. Context can also vary even when shopping for the same product. Customers may look for backup parts for a product they already own, or others may want to purchase accessories for an existing product. Both sets of customers might end up buying the same product, but they are entering the buying journey differently, and that is impacted by their needs.
However, both want a frictionless, individualized, problem-solving experience. Relevancy is crucial to provide that and to enable them to make a buying decision. This is especially true in the micro-moments where they seek instant gratification or quick solutions to their problems. Product content must be immediately available and suitable for each situation to be relevant to the buyer.
The product experience is all you have in the digital channels, and that experience can never be great without relevance. Merchandizing objects like 'room,' 'look,' 'device,' and 'vehicle' are vital to making it easier for your buyers to buy and for you to sell more products. Don't waste time and resources on e-commerce solutions that aren't designed to make it easy and efficient to create contextual product experiences for your customers.
Otherwise, they won’t be your customers, and you’ve wasted valuable resources.
Learn more about why context matters via the infographic, State of B2B e-commerce.
Erika Goldwater, B2B marketer
Erika Goldwater is a B2B marketer with almost 20 years of experience in demand generation, public relations and global events. She creates marketing that drives revenue. Goldwater is a CIPP/US and has been consulting for leading SaaS organizations including Protagonist, Leadspace, Eloqua and ANNUITAS, a demand generation strategy consulting organization.
It has been a few years since Forrester suggested that digital commerce vendors implement “Customer Experience Management” (CXM) which they defined as:
“A solution that enables the management and delivery of dynamic, targeted, consistent content, offers, products, and service interactions across digitally enabled consumer touchpoints.”
Because CXM encompasses all touchpoints across the customer journey, it is essentially a wrapper for any and all platforms that contribute to delivering a great customer experience:
At inRiver we recognize the importance of all of these platforms and, indeed, partner with many providers of these solutions. However, naturally we believe that the cornerstone of providing CXM is product experience management which is delivered via great product information.
Product Experience Management
At inRiver, we have developed a product-centric saolution to promote the concept of Product Experience Management. Product Experience Management encompasses the creation of great product content through management of product information, digital assets, and marketing resources to tell great product stories. By managing the experiences your customers have with your products, you can realize increased revenue, improved customer retention, and content consistency across your channels.
Product experience management is concerned with features that enable:
Product Content is the Basis for Product Experience Management
As a PIM solution provider, it makes sense that we would be concerned with product information management. To underscore that notion, a 2016 study by Shotfarm reported that 78% of respondents indicated that the quality of product content is very important when making purchase decisions and nearly all responders consider product information to be important or very important when making a purchase decision. According to the Shotfarm study, 42% of responders returned an online purchase specifically because of poor product content. Companies then take a direct hit to the bottom line.
The following are some key criteria to determine whether your product content is facilitating a good product experience for your customers.
In the coming weeks we will elaborate on several of these points, as well as discuss providing context and improving conversion in the framework of Product Experience Management. Join us for this exploration!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver
In preparation for our upcoming webinar on the relationship between PIM and DAM, we spoke to Sam Sesti, President of inRiver partner ONU. He gave us an interesting glance into the future of 3D and how you can use it for creating richer customer experiences.
Q: What was the genesis for starting ONU?
Sesti: I was working with a digital martketing company that was doing some very experiential things with marketing. They were way ahead of the curve with creating mobile and virtual reality applications for organizations like the U.S. Navy, Chevrolet, OnStar, and Coca-Cola®. However, at that time, we would create the experience, it would get used just one time, and then be discontinued. Every time we would have to create something, we would get a CAD file—typically from a manufacturer—and try to figure out how to best leverage or optimize it for use in 3D for mobile, the web, and virtual reality applications.
When we started to research what could be used for an asset creation pipeline, we realized that there wasn’t anything out there. So, we developed a 3D visualization platform to help companies to streamline and publish 3D imagery out to different endpoints, such as mobile, the web, and virtual reality.
Q: Where are we in the adoption lifecycle of 3D imaging in e-commerce?
Sesti: The scales are starting to tip, such that there is a higher concentration on real-time rendering of 3D imagery. For about a decade, computer graphics companies used still 3D images of a product. Most people can’t tell the difference between that and a photo. Then came 3D video, which was more educational and engaging, but still had a beginning and an end, with no real interaction with the user.
In contrast, what we have the capability to do now is provide a 3D experience that the user can interact with. They can change the experience to what they want to see. Real-time rendering is starting to catch hold, especially on the web as HTML5 is more widely adopted, browsers are more accommodating, and 3D is more widely accepted. We were the first to do this four years ago, but now, every day, more companies are providing 3D interactive experiences, primarily for customization, personalization, and configuration for products. It results in an experience that is much more engaging and educational.
Q: How does the use of 3D images increase conversion rates?
Sesti: Just as everybody is now an online shopper, every company is putting their products online. Shoppers are seeking all the information they can get on a product when looking to buy it, whether it be size, shape, color, or other details. But just as a a picture speaks a thousand words, they would rather not read through text or rely on a few photos that were chosen by the vendor. If the shopper can see product animations and view different angles, or flip, turn, rotate and zoom in on the product, they are more likely to buy. A study by Adobe that ONU cites in a recent blog post indicates that e-commerce vendors have to have at least 360-degree product imagery. Another study by Gallup showed that if consumers don’t get what they want they can become disengaged or even antagonistic towards the brand.
There are very high expectations out there. 3D imagery is a great way to differentiate and drive conversions.
Q: In which industries is using 3D imagery more important?
Sesti: Products that are more complicated, such as small household appliances, automotive, machinery, and consumer electronics can all benefit from these applications. In addition, 3D is common in sporting goods and footwear, where they release more new products and have shorter product cycles with increasing innovation. It is useful anywhere people are thinking of different ways to present new products or for anything that is detailed, complex, and hard to explain.
Customization is becoming a huge selling point for companies. For example, Nike made a big splash when they began enabling customers to make their own custom shoe. Many companies are following suit. That is probably the biggest use case for 3D—customization applications.
We also see alot of product tours that provide a level of education about the product that can’t be provided otherwise. A tour may show an animated video of different features and functions of the product, but also allow the user to explore on their own. In addition, virtual reality is great for recreating experiences that are difficult, risky, or hard to reach in real life.
Q: What are the challenges for companies in terms of storing and managing 3D imagery files and assets?
Sesti: That is where ONU can help the most. CAD files are heavy, dense files, and are typically not in a format that is accessible for e-commerce, or suitable for the web. ONU’s proprietary algorithms can optimize and convert those files into something that is ready for mobile and web endpoints. Customers can store and manage assets in our cloud-based platform and then can use those same assets on a mobile app, for example, for use by their sales teams.
Your sales team may need a mobile app, marketing may need to put a 3D application on the web, the training department may want a virtual reality experience, and the service department may need augmented reality to do their job. In the past, the organization would have an internal dept or outside agency create experiences for them. They would send their CAD files off to different agencies and pay for the rendering of each version. They would receive the mobile app, web site, AR/VR experience, but not receive the assets back! Now they can use our platform, get their files in the right format, and agencies can download and upload them to streamline the process.
Q: What is the role of imagery in developing a context for each product and improving customer experience?
Sesti: 3D imagery is a perfect fit for this application. For example, the technology could be used for choosing a team uniform. As you choose each component, you could see how each piece jives with the other pieces. You can put everything together in 3D space. There could be millions of combinations of different colors, facemasks, chinstraps, and the like. If you need images for all of those combinations, it would be very time-consuming. With 3D assets you can do that on the fly. You can make changes real-time and it saves alot of effort and alot of pain. It makes life alot easier for companies with large databases and many product options.
In addition, you can place products into different environments, depending on what you are planning to do with it. You can test how the product operates in that context.
Once you have these assets, the possibilities become endless.
Q: What do you see for the future of product imagery?
Sesti: Everything will become somewhat virtual. We tell manufacturers, ’All sales will be this way in the future—augmented and virtual reality, online, and retail space. People will buy products this way. You have your CAD files already, so the sooner you can get your products into a 3D aspect the better.’
We will be able to do even more in sales and marketing once the form factor is smaller and 3D will render better on smartphones.
We are not that far away from having eyewear that can provide information on-the-fly in stores and airports. Companies will augment reality with actual with objects that don’t exist in front of you and will push information on top of those objects. It will be fun.
Want to learn more? Register now for our upcoming webinar: DAM! I thought I had a PIM!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver