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Q&A: Meeting customer needs in the age of social commerce

Marcel Hollerbach, chief marketing officer, Productsup


How has the retail landscape evolved in recent years?

Consumers are now discovering, researching and buying products on more channels than ever before. New concepts, platforms and apps pop up all the time and some grow incredibly quickly. Earlier this year, TikTok generated the most downloads of any app in a single quarter, surpassing two billion downloads in total just a few years after launching. In the past two years, all major social platforms have launched shopping capabilities, making social commerce one of the biggest buzz phrases in retail. There has also been a huge emphasis on the seamless integration of online and offline experiences. Consumers want convenience and speed, but they also want experiences. Think of Walmart’s drive-in cinema, Harrods’ pop-up stores or even the explosion of buy online pick up In-store. Retailers have been working very hard to create a stellar customer experience across all these touchpoints.

Have consumer behaviour and expectations fuelled those changes?

Oh, they certainly have. Google, Facebook and Amazon spoiled consumers with sleek product design, frequent updates and a seamless user experience across mobile and desktop. Now consumers expect the same of all other companies they interact with. People find their niche – their websites, apps or groups – and that’s where they thrive. This is why retailers need to reach not just Amazon or Walmart, but all these other apps and opportunities. They need to understand consumers are the ones making the rules and they have very high expectations of every platform.

People find their niche – their websites, apps or groups – and that’s where they thrive

How is the rise of social commerce, in particular, impacting retail?

There are two things to love about social commerce. First, it reaches shoppers where they are. Someone can go from browsing their news feed to making a purchase in seconds. And because they already trust the app, there are minimal blockers. Social commerce makes shoppers’ lives easier. Second, it makes it easy for brands and retailers to get started online. Digitally native, vertical brands are a popular example. Even when you have a small team and no ecommerce infrastructure, you can still jump on social media and start selling. All companies should at least consider it to stay relevant.

What challenges must retailers overcome to deal with all this change?

It all comes down to agility. Most brands and retailers have slow data; dinosaur-age slow data. Legacy product information management (PIM) or digital asset management (DAM) systems just weren’t intended to be used for syndication. They won’t get product data to the right channels in time, and they certainly won’t let you tailor and manage the data easily. To compete, businesses need to start looking at ways to expand their tech stack. That’s just the next step for commerce.

You often talk about “agile” product data; what other data attributes do businesses now require to succeed?

Quality and contextualisation are both very important. Quality means not just well written, but thorough and useful. For example, Facebook has just launched enhanced catalogs that allow businesses to go into incredible detail and include really unique data points like ‘occasion’, ‘sports team’, ‘theme’, or even ‘denim features’, all of which are very useful for targeting. Contextualisation, meanwhile, is about ensuring content is prepared for the unique audience in question. Users on Instagram don’t want to be spoken to like they’re on Amazon. You can’t speak to users in Germany like you would to users in Canada. Everything needs to be tailored. This can be complicated but, when done right, it’s very rewarding.

What is commerce marketing and why do companies need it?

Commerce marketing is the missing piece of the puzzle between the classic commerce stack – PIM and DAM – and end-user marketing and selling. In recent years, the need for strong, tailored product content has grown. That’s what first illuminated this missing puzzle piece. In the past, the work could be done manually, but that won’t scale when you have dozens of channels, thousands of SKUs [stock-keeping units] and need to tailor for dozens of buyer personas. Commerce marketing platforms are designed to help businesses create data that fulfils the eight key facets of strong product data: agile, contextualised, informed, transactable, ecosystem-connected, experimental, local and collaborative. They let brands reach any channel, from search engines to marketplaces, social channels and good old-fashioned bricks and mortar.

Commerce marketing is the missing piece of the puzzle between the classic commerce stack – PIM and DAM – and end-user marketing and selling

How is Productsup helping companies do this?

The Productsup Commerce Marketing platform is built to completely support the eight facets I just mentioned and that’s what sets us apart. The platform’s primary function is to make product data management and syndication easy. We do this by offering built-in connectivity to more than 2,000 channels as well as over 100 easy editing and analysis tools. That means you can come in with raw or disorganised data and quickly prepare and send it to all kinds of channels. We enable order synchronisation and the creation of rich media at scale. With such tools, the sky really is the limit. This is how modern brands and retailers take control of their data to sell more.

What in your view is the future of retail?

The future of retail is exponential from here on out. More people will find more niche groups, apps, channels and marketplaces. Multichannel will continue to explode, as will user expectations. Local shops are also going to be increasingly multichannel. This process has already begun, but it’s been surprisingly difficult for many. When it comes to this exponential growth, Productsup will be right there with brands and retailers, giving them the easy tools to scale.

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