As digitally influenced sales and eCommerce continues to grow across both B2B and B2C, building capability in developing, crafting and maintaining product content is paramount, as it becomes a key equivalent to effective modern day packaging design and development. Without the ability to touch, smell, feel and see the physical product – product content is utilised as the primary driver of decisions online.
But unlike product packaging, content plays another fundamental and foundational role - and that is to enable discoverability. Whilst in a physical store, packaging drives discoverability on shelf – in a digital world, discoverability is not linear. Consumers will source and navigate sites and search engines in different ways to research and narrow down choices across the digital ecosystem.
And even though product content is important in today’s landscape, the importance will continue to grow. By 2026, it is anticipated that 79% of all B2C product sales will be digitally influenced – up from 59% today. That makes mastering product content even more important, or brands risk becoming invisible. In the B2B space, B2B eCommerce is having a moment, with the industry expected to grow to reach 3 trillion dollars by 2027, up from $2 trillion in 2024 – making product content also vital to effectively trade in the future B2B marketplace.
The stakes are high for brands failing to effectively invest in content
According to a global Salsify study, 55% of shoppers say bad product content has deterred from them from making a purchase, so product content matters. And getting it wrong doesn’t just impact sales, it also impacts the bottom line with consumers. 39% of consumers claimed they have returned products they bought online because the product did not match the content provided (the images).
But just what is it that consumers want when it comes to product content?
According to a Salsify study in 2023, 65% of Australian consumers use product descriptions to make purchase decisions, followed by customer reviews at 62%. Product imagery came in third, with 51% using product photos to make decisions. These are, however, averages - with the importance of certain attributes increasing or decreasing based on the category. For instance, in verticals like beauty and fashion, the importance of imagery increases dramatically as does the importance of information like size and measurements.
However, despite research demonstrating the value and importance, CPG and FMCG brands are falling well short of where they need to be in order to effectively compete in the digital commerce era.
So how can brands master the management of product content in order to maximise visibility, discoverability and conversion...?
A guide to building maturity in management of content
Starting out – building product compliance
For brands who are starting out in their quest to improve product content, there are a few foundational components that enable best practice compliance, including;
Content standards To effectively build standards, CPG and FMCG brands need to understand both the retailer, platform, distributor and/or wholesaler (customer) requirements as well as what matters to their consumers or end users when it comes to product information. This requires brands to undertake a fact-finding mission on both fronts. In the customer/platform space, suppliers need to understand requirements/specs of their respective customers. The complexity of this, however, ranges dramatically. During a recent Arktic Fox engagement with a B2B client, we found they had over 200 different partners within their distribution network, many of which had eCommerce solutions being leveraged by their end users. Each of them had hundreds or thousands of customers who sell direct to the public. In this scenario both the partners and end users need content to effectively market the product. This makes building standards far more complex than in an environment where the brand distributes through a handful of retailers. In this situation, to build effective content standards requires a process of understanding core requirements for a subset of users as a mechanism to build a robust set of standards.
Accountability & governance Product content is often a child of many fathers. From supply chain to eCommerce, marketing and product - content can often get caught in the cross-fire with everyone owning it and no one owning it. For brands focussed on building maturity in the content space, it is important to define clear accountability through the organisation and a level of centralisation around governance and management of it, in order to maximise the presence on the digital shelf. The simplicity or complexity here will again depend on the organisation's structure and markets for which it serves. For a global B2C business Arktic Fox partnered with, accountability and governance needed to be considered at a market level alongside of at a global level. Whilst driving economies of scale in product content management is important, so too is the ability to localise to maintain market relevance.
Source of truth To effectively govern content across a single or multiple markets and seamlessly maintain products across platforms and partners, centralisation of product data into a source of truth and automation is vital. Whilst building a source of truth is common sense - it is often easier said than done. In one recent scenario we were working with a B2C brand where content was still managed manually via spreadsheets. For this organisation, adopting modern technology to underpin the source of truth required a much bigger leap within the organisation than for those who are more mature in the utilisation of technology. Willingness and appetite to adopt technology is one barrier, but so too is creating the case for change. Investment in content can often be a key challenge brands need to overcome - particularly if brands don’t understand the correlation between content and sales outcomes.
Building maturity – going from compliance to a more progressive approach to managing content
Once foundations are in place, the task is not complete - and this is where brands often go wrong. Content is not set and forget. It needs to continue to evolve as consumer expectations change, as do platform algorithms - and with AI, a new era is dawning. For brands looking to win on the digital shelf - going beyond foundations provides brands with the digital commerce edge.
Optimising content for respective algorithms Whilst understanding the various customer and platform content requirements is paramount, so too is understanding the algorithms and search capabilities that determine what is presented to users. Whilst some brands might gather this insight during initial build of standards, it is much more likely that brands begin to understand platforms far more intimately during subsequent stages and begin to optimise accordingly for it. For brands operating in the B2C grocery space, understanding how Woolworths, Coles, Amazon (and more) prioritise search results, personalise and categorise recommendations for customers who are logged in matters - and this is an ongoing requirement - not just a once off. Understanding and optimising content for the most important partners and/or platforms can create an advantage over your rivals on the digital shelf. So too is optimising content for the purposes of SEO, as often the consumer search process starts off-platform.
Reporting, measurement and auditing As the old saying goes, you can’t measure what you don’t measure and in the content space, content measurement matters. Over the past X years, digital shelf tools have grown dramatically as brands seek to add a lot more science to management of content. But whilst the tools enable measurement and monitoring, having alignment around the metrics that matter is important to galvanise the organisation around a clear robust set of KPIs - which include (but are not limited to) conversion, content utilisation, completeness and other metrics.
Retailer/Partner Collaboration True brand leaders in product content management seek to collaborate and partner with retailers and partners to get the edge on the digital shelf. For those engaging in joint business planning, content is on the agenda, and the brand is looking to test and learn in the content space with the partner or retailer. What’s more, the best-of-the-best brands are actively collaborating with the retailer/partner to further evolve product standards based on changing consumer and end user needs and to better support the brands needs.
Arktic Fox is a leading provider of consulting and advisory services to enhance digital shelf presence and drive digital commerce outcomes for FMCG and CPG brands. We have partnered with the biggest and the best brands including Bega, Moose Toys, Lamb Weston, Brownes Dairy and others as well as retailers such as Coles and Coles Express.
If you are looking to elevate your digital shelf presence or improve your retail media performance – talk to us.