What is product information?
blogMay 17, 2023
Product information is the number one tool for sales, marketing, manufacturing, and more. Take a closer look at what it means for you.
Whether you’re a brand, manufacturer, or retailer, there are few things more critical to the success of their products than product information. In today’s digital world, this information is the most effective way to meet the evolving demands of customers, regulators, marketplaces, and many more. But what is product information?
The term itself is probably a lot broader than you initially thought. In fact, it goes far beyond just simple specifications. Product information is the data created at every stage of a product’s lifecycle. This includes sourcing, design, manufacturing, marketing and sales, after-sales, and every stage right through to the recycling and retiring of a product. It is displayed to end consumers to help them get the most complete possible overview of an item. They can then make the right purchase decisions for them.
Let’s take a deeper look at product information and the role it plays in the product journey.
What is product information?
In the simplest terms, product information refers to the wide range of data created by and associated with, a product. It is any metric, attribute, visual asset, content, or data point, which could make the product unique, identifiable, trackable, or simply more understandable to audiences at different stages of the product journey. Everything from food items to computer software has a huge range of information associated with it.
Brands and manufacturers use product information to create products to a certain specification, track their progress through the production line and understand the volumes that need to be produced. They can also leverage product information to drive sales, support customers with after-sales services, and internally track information like stock levels. And, of course, customers ultimately decide which products to buy based on the product information available.
It’s clear to see, therefore, that product information is essential to every aspect of a product’s journey.
Where does product information come from?
Product information can come from lots of different sources. When products are created, certain attributes are defined by the designer and manufacturer. This includes source materials used, processes undertaken during sourcing and extraction, dimensions and specifications of the product, logistical information like the date created, location created, and more. It also includes aspects such as the carbon footprint of the production phase, through transportation, processes, and more.
In the next stage, assets such as images, promotional copy, video content, and in-store visuals are finalized. Finally, non-customer data like SKU numbers are other internal identifiers are assigned and the product is ready to be sold. Product information collation doesn’t stop at the purchase, either. It continues on, evolving to support after-sales services like warranty repairs or alterations and recycling and decommissioning efforts.
In short, data related to every single process, action, and input into your product’s journey from idea to end-of-life counts as product information.
Where can I find product information?
Typically, if you’re a customer you’ll find product information on a retailer or brand’s website, in a physical catalog, or on the product itself. The specifications section of the product’s page (virtual or physical) should list everything you need to know, along with more exciting things such as images, videos, and interactive animations. Product labels should also have all relevant information included. For example, washing instructions for textile goods, or ingredient lists of food products.
However, for non-customer stakeholders, it’s equally important to have access to this data. It may be contained within internal databases or product information management systems. And as we move into a more sustainable future, it’s likely even more product information will be needed to meet the expectations of various stakeholders. This can be seen in developments like the EU’s forthcoming digital product passports (DPPs).
Who needs product information?
A wide range of stakeholders needs product information. Not all categories are relevant to every group, but this data is important to the following (and more):
- Customers (whether B2C shoppers or B2B buyers)
- Internal stakeholders – at every level from operations to executive management
- Maintenance engineers and repair workers
- Recycling and decommissioning agents
Types of product information
The most basic and essential category is your product’s specifications or technical data. The exact, relevant information will vary depending on what you’re selling, but technical information generally includes relevant data like:
- Material or chemical composition or ingredients
- Expiry dates
- Sizing guides
- Power capacity
- Storage capacity (digital or physical)
- Warranty length
- Features and functions
- Pricing information (including the RRP and any promotions, discounts, and planned price increases or reductions)
Technical information is arguably the most important as it will help customers fundamentally decide if a product is right for them. If they’re looking for a machine with a certain lifting capacity, or a wardrobe with set dimensions, the product specifications will seal (or break) the deal.
It’s essential to make specifications clear and easy to access. This is true even if it’s not the most exciting or commonly-used category of product information. Product information can be vital for customer safety. For example, products may include allergens or be unsuitable for use by certain people.
Presenting product information visually is an essential part of selling your goods. Visual product information takes lots of forms, including:
- Animated graphics
- Interactive graphics
- Augmented or virtual reality (AR and VR)
It’s estimated that 65% of the US population are visual learners, I.e. those who digest information from images and videos better. Companies that use exciting visual elements on websites get up to 94% more views and clicks than those that don’t.
For e-commerce in particular, visual information is a powerful sales tool. Certain product aspects only come to life in an image, or when the item is moving. Visuals can make the remote shopping experience for these products far more interactive and engaging. Words are an essential part of your site – but why describe the exact shade of blue of your product when you could simply show it?
Going hand in hand with your visual information is your written marketing information, such as:
- Product descriptors: Short text, or copy, which brings the key features or aspects of your products to life that could be missed in photos
- Webpage copy: Help customers navigate your website and learn more about your brand and products. It’s typically written with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind to help a wider audience find your business
- In-store banners: Promotional signs, directions, in-store descriptors
- Affiliate and advertising content: A broad range of written content, created by your brand or affiliates, such as influencers or resellers
While people respond well to visual stimuli, words are the essential other half of an image, video, or simulation. There are certain things consumers can’t tell just from imagery. These are things like a machine’s loading weight limit or handy features that only become clear once the product is in use. Well-placed copy can illuminate products’ true value and boost consumer satisfaction.
An often-overlooked category of product information is the data that makes your e-commerce inclusive. Customers with disabilities or additional needs may not engage with your website in a standard way, so it’s important to be inclusive with features such as:
- Alt text: Written descriptions that explain the features of imagery, videos, and animations for visually impaired users
- Closed captions: Written captions that make speech in videos accessible to hearing-impaired users
While inclusivity should be a standard aspect of your product assets, it’s historically been overlooked. If you aren’t already, make accessible information available on all your products so your shopping experience can be enjoyed by everyone.
Operational and logistical information
Tracking information that affects matters behind the scenes makes it easier to keep a smooth supply of goods flowing and prevent bottlenecks. Operations and logistics-focused product information are essential for lots of reasons. This includes ensuring your stock levels match demand and your products are in the right place at the right time. There’s plenty of product information that isn’t customer facing which is just as important to record, such as:
- SKU numbers and other product identifiers
- Stock levels
- Distributors and sales partners
- Shipping and packaging data
Product sustainability information
Across the globe, governments and regulatory bodies are putting more pressure on businesses to prove their sustainability credentials. Initiatives like the ESG framework will become increasingly commonplace, and for businesses based in and trading across the EU, for example, digital product passports (DPPs) are coming. These passports will be a legal requirement as soon as 2026. Their purpose will be to document everything from a product’s raw material composition to how repairable and sustainable it is.
Through a permanent NRC chip, QR code, or RFID tag, people at various stages of the purchase journey can access information such as:
- Basic product data such as the product’s name, batch number, and warranty details
- Material data like the origins and suppliers of raw materials and components
- Ownership data on current and past owners
- Repair data showing the item’s overall repairability
- Sustainability data, including the carbon footprint of manufacturing, distribution, and the item in use
Why is product information important?
Product information is crucial to every stakeholder in a product’s journey. From designers and manufacturers to commercial buyers, maintenance workers, and casual shoppers, product information is key. Shopify states that making product information clear and freely available is the number one way to reduce returns or customer dissatisfaction. Here’s why:
For buyers, product information allows them to gain an in-depth understanding of a product that can help them gauge its potential appeal. If an e-commerce customer can’t use the fitting room, a video showing a garment’s movement can replicate the in-store experience.
Product information can also help with vital processes like compliance. For example, understanding the exact chemical composition of the dyes in an item of kids’ clothing prevents a brand from selling items that go against its sustainability goals.
For non-sales stakeholders, such as maintenance engineers or regulators assessing a product’s sustainability credentials, product information is also key. It can guide them to successful maintenance or earn their company accolades. On the flip side, it could also take them away if the product information doesn’t check out and companies are guilty of greenwashing or illegal practices.
Product information can accelerate digital shelf growth
Product information can make or break your online sales on the digital shelf. In a brick-and-mortar store, customers walk down aisles, scan the shelves, and look around the products for pricing and discount information. However, the digital shopping experience is a whole different animal. The buying journey online is much broader: it can start anywhere from a search engine to a social media post, or even a QR code scanned in-store.
As your customers don’t have physical access to your products like they would in a retail outlet, this product information is their best way to understand your product – and whether it’s right for them. But it’s not just about syndicating product information across your online channels, though. You also need to ensure that this information is still performing as it should. That’s why many brands use digital shelf analytics (DSA) software to keep their digital shelf optimized. If your product listings lose images or are missing information your competitors’ listings contain, DSA software will help you identify the problem.
Product information can help you meet legislative requirements
Product information isn’t just about making sales. In many sectors, companies need to share product data to prove they meet certain legislative or regulatory requirements. Clearly documenting ingredients, components or testing processes that are subject to legal scrutiny, and keeping a clear record of relevant certifications, will keep you on the right side of regulators.
In the UK, for example, companies that sell food and beverage items are legally required to by law declare the 14 most common allergens in their products. Failing to do so can endanger customers’ lives and land companies in serious legal trouble.
However, stating product information isn’t just about compliance, as it can also protect businesses from the consequences of customers using products incorrectly. Let’s imagine you’re selling gym equipment. Each product clearly states the weight limit and has clear instructions on how to use the item safely. If a customer who is over the limit breaks the machine or becomes injured from using the machine incorrectly, you’re far less likely to face a successful legal challenge if the relevant information is clearly visible on the product itself.
Product information helps you manage your internal operations
Having a clear understanding and sight of your product information can make your internal processes much smoother. Clear product attributes make it easier for customer service agents to answer questions about everything from the percentage of recycled materials in an item to its warranty. Transparent stock levels and pricing information makes your ordering and merchandising teams’ jobs much easier. And organized regulatory information will simplify any audits or assessments and make it easier for your business to demonstrate its compliance.
What is product information management?
Product information management (PIM) is the process of making sure relevant product information is captured, updated, displayed, and distributed correctly. Lots of businesses rely on antiquated methods like spreadsheets to hold their information, which can be hard to keep updated and often lead to siloed data. PIM makes the process much easier.
Put simply, PIM software like the inriver PIM solution offers a centralized hub that helps you store, manage, and distribute a vast array of product data. This makes meeting the many (and growing) demands for product information much simpler, streamlining your processes and helping you maximize profitability at every touchpoint. Want to learn more about how the inriver platform? Book a guided demo with an inriver expert today and see how the right PIM solution could transform your product information management.