Secrets of syndication in e-commerce


November 5, 2019

Delivering relevant and accurate product content is essential to retail success and syndication helps solves the challenge.

Consumers today have an unlimited number of buying options, which changes the dynamic between brand and buyer and syndication is now a major aspect of this in e-commerce today. Armed with multiple channels and numerous devices, these information-hungry shoppers expect to find the product they want when they want it. They expect results and content on whatever device they happen to be using at the moment and across any marketplace or channel.

E-commerce today is always-on.

Even more, consumers expect information about products to be accurate, complete, and consistent, whether they are shopping on your website or an online third-party marketplace. How much time do consumers spend on product information? They give up after 10 seconds if they can’t find what they need. Over 90% of consumers say they research products and shop online—and 82% actually use their mobile device to research and compare products while they are in a physical store. 

Product content is the new foundation of an e-commerce strategy. According to a survey by UPS, rich product content is the number-one reason people buy a product. Considering that well over half of all customer conversions involve a multichannel journey, your product content has to stand out at every touchpoint. Marketplaces across the globe drive commerce, and if your products aren’t where your customers are, you’re losing opportunities for revenue and potentially damaging your brand.

purchases made at marketplace per continent
Marketplace statistics via UPS study

In a world of omnichannel consumers, the challenge for marketers and commerce teams is clear: Present a compelling, consistent, omnichannel product story or risk losing your place on the digital shelf. Top-performing brands use a robust product information management solution with syndication capabilities to get their product content in front of buyers’ eyes. 

The shifting role of product content

A decade ago, product content was simple: A title, an image, a shelf tag, and shipping information would suffice. Today, product content goes beyond logistics and descriptions to include optimized product copy, retailer-specific pricing, logistic information, manufacturing data, multiple brand images, and video, plus user-generated lifestyle images and reviews. Just to name a few.

Retailers have long recognized the importance of a consistent, omnichannel experience. Macy’s was an early adapter of the idea of concept and focused on the omnichannel experience as early as 2012 and product content was a part of that. In fact, Macy’s used to produce their own photography and product content for their products…until the the volume became unmanageable. As more retailers become omnichannel, the need for suppliers to provide that rich, product content became even more essential. Retailers started to mandate that product content from directly their suppliers, otherwise products would be removed from shelves.

Needless to say, the move represented a sea-change for marketers, but it opened the door for brands to take ownership of their product stories with enriched content. Teams today need to think in terms of Adaptive Merchandising™, knowing how buyers are making purchase decisions, adapting to their needs, and merchandising product content so that they may make the most informed purchase decisions. 

Retailer roadblocks to success

While brands have more control over how their products look on the digital shelf, retailers did their best to make it difficult by imposing unique content guidelines, rules, and formats. Major retailers like Amazon, which is the starting point for over 50% of all buying journeys, are constantly evolving their product content guidelines, which means developing product content isn’t a once-and-done process.

Amazon is the driver behind the push from big-box retailers to dramatically expand their product assortment as fast as they can. Retailers such as Walmart and Wayfair, for example, don’t just want to list the products they sell—they want to list every product in every category represented on their website.

In the past, retailers were limited by the physical space in their stores and warehouses, but the endless aisle means they can onboard hundreds of thousands of SKUs, putting the onus on the brand to create product content aligned with the retailer’s strategy and target customers. Marketers are tasked with producing that content and delivering it in the required format. Unfortunately, most marketplaces and channels have different requirements and formats, making this task a daunting one. 

Marketing challenges to syndication

Delivering tailored content across multiple channels is a time-consuming process involving hundreds of complex files. Done manually, the process is often inconsistent and rife with human error.

Marketers who attempt manual syndication face unpleasant consequences:

Content syndication solutions as a path to growth

Too often, technology investments are the tail that wags the marketing strategy dog. In the case of syndication software, however, the technology actually supports the marketing goal. Product content drives e-commerce; content syndication helps put you in control of how that content is created, managed, and distributed.

Leading-edge solutions enable marketers to manipulate and transform product content, seamlessly plug it into the correct template from the retailer template library, automatically map it, and immediately deliver it in the proper file format to partner retailers.

Brands that get content syndication right not only speed up time to market and remove inefficiencies, but they also strengthen partner relationships. When your chosen retailers know they can rely on your brand to deliver high-quality, channel-ready product content, they are more willing to invest in a mutually beneficial e-commerce relationship.

Consumers also take note of brands that deliver a consistent omnichannel experience. UPS reported higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty for brands that remained consistent across all channels. Seamless content syndication ensures consumers experience consistent product stories no matter where or how they shop.

When brands implement inriver Syndicate, they free up valuable time and resources to devote to scaling their business. Product content syndication makes it fast, easy, and inexpensive to explore new channels and opportunities for growth without a major resource commitment. Inriver Syndicate makes your product data agile so you can compete in a fast-changing digital marketplace.


Erika Goldwater, CIPP

Director of Global Communications

Erika Goldwater is the director of global communications for inriver. An industry veteran, Erika lives and breathes B2B marketing, content, public relations, and data privacy. She’s a Boston marketer who hails from Baltimore.

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