As the retail landscape becomes increasingly complex, and the number of shopping and marketing channels grow, how can businesses stay agile, relevant and ahead of the competition?
In 1995, the retail landscape looked very different. Reaching potential customers was easy. Product manufacturers signed agreements with distributors and consumers headed to shops to make purchases.
But 1995 was a year in which a revolution began. Shoppers driving to their local superstores had no idea that two American entrepreneurs were laying the foundations for a new retail world, with the launch of Amazon and eBay.
More than two decades later, there have been many casualties from this digital revolution. The victors in the battle for survival haven’t taken their stores online, they have built their entire kingdoms online from the get-go.
In 2018, research by consulting group Forrester found that digital touch points are now likely to affect more than half of all US retail sales. Forrester says corporate ecommerce teams should invest in technology, merchandising fulfilment and marketing to compete in this new digital world.
The battle to stand out is certainly becoming more difficult. The latest Magna Advertising Forecast report, published in December, shows that digital advertising spend increased globally for the ninth consecutive year in 2018.
UNDERSTANDING THE CHALLENGE
The ingredients to retail success in today’s digital landscape are the same as they always were: visibility and agility. However, the shop window is now very different. Customers making their purchasing decisions do so through all sorts of digital shop windows, ranging from search and social channels to marketplaces and price comparison sites.
Brands, manufacturers and distributors are all at the mercy of these digital gatekeepers that stand between them and the final customer. For their product data to be accepted by these channels, they need to ensure their product data feed has been customised for each and every channel.
Whether it’s Amazon, Bing, Facebook or Google, channels have built up digital walls around themselves, by defining their own set of rules and requirements for how product information should be delivered. In order to ensure their product content is accepted, companies must adjust and structure their feed accordingly for every individual channel.
To remain competitive, they also need to do it at speed.
“Brands and retailers must deliver targeted content to an ever-growing set of direct, social and marketplace channels,” says Forrester analyst Bruce Eppinger. “To win, serve and retain customers, sellers must provide content that’s unique to a buyer’s locale, need, occasion, persona and channel at every step of the customer journey.”
The greater a company’s inventory and the more channels they partner with, the harder it becomes to ensure the product information displayed is accurate and unified, albeit not uniform, across all touch points. Missing, mismatching and incorrect product information will decrease trust and reliability, negatively impact the shopping experience and ultimately decrease conversion opportunities.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to keep up with the rate of change and development. Brands and retailers are battling a growing number of channels, growing complexity within those channels, constantly changing channel requirements and completely new technologies. To survive they need to stay agile.
Brands, manufacturers and distributors are all at the mercy of these digital gatekeepers that stand between them and the final customer
Agility is the key to success in the digital era. As online competition increases, it will become increasingly important for companies to stay on top of the updates for feed specifications for each channel, in order to increase product visibility and unlock the revenue generating potential of both major and niche platforms.
In its 2018 Global Retail Trends report, consultancy group KPMG warns that digital advances had now fed through to customer expectations and retailers that don’t respond will be vulnerable.
It says: “New technologies have put customers in the driver’s seat. We are quickly moving towards a reality in which everything happens in real time. The natural outcome is that people want that instant gratification. This has had a deep impact on customer expectation.
“The need for speed will only increase as technology enables and advances. The point of engagement and the point of transaction are converging, meaning brands that can offer immediacy, instant gratification, personalisation, authenticity and accessibility will win.”
Some businesses are still behind on their digital transformation journey. Others were born there, but their process of integrating to new channels is slow, inefficient and resource intensive. For them, it is particularly crucial to find a feed management solution that will allow their business to scale and streamline.
While you can secure an external agency to manage your product data feeds, it is best practice to keep the feed management process in-house. This gives your marketers full control and understanding over their product data and shopping feeds, enabling them to transform it as needed and ultimately leverage the revenue generating potential of their channels.
WINNING THE BATTLE
Productsup provides an award-winning software solution that helps ecommerce players break through the digital walls that have emerged. It seamlessly connects brands and retailers to the global network of shopping and marketing channels.
Using the cloud-based software, businesses can automate manual processes, validate their data and structure their feed to distribute high-quality, enriched, contextualised product data to all their channels partners.
Productsup has enabled more than 800 businesses around the world connect to more channels, scale their business and reach more customers. It is used by some of the most reputable retail brands in the world. Major corporations which have recognised the power of the software include supermarket giant Walmart, Swedish home furnishings brand IKEA and fashion chain Superdry.
“Productsup is a great platform for feed management that allows us to control the selling of our wide range of products,” says Victoria Eugenia del Hoyo, digital specialist for search engine optimisation (SEO) and analytics at IKEA. Her comments are echoed by dozens of customers.
“It used to be a challenge to update some of the responses and keep up with the changes that Google would make, but now it’s a lot easier,” says Adam Miller, marketing technology and SEO manager at Hostelworld. “We can concentrate on testing, onboarding new partners and maintaining the existing feeds.”