What Etailers Want and What Brands Want to Deliver

Martijn Hoogeveen
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Etailers and brands have their own view on their products and they subsequently live in their own world regarding how they define the requirements for product data. Etailers want to sell as much as possible and therefore wants their complete catalog covered with compelling product data that helps buyers to make a sound purchase decision leading to as little returns as possible. Brands want their products to stand out, and outsell their competitors.

Etailers Want Compelling Product Data Across Brands

Etailers want to provide their buyers with a satisfactory shopping experience across all categories and brands that they carry. It means that etailers want a full coverage of their portfolio by standardized product data-sheets with

  • product titles that are created in the same comparable way throughout a category (and not brand-specific)
  • categorisation conforming a universal and detailed category tree (and not brand-specific) matching their own
  • product filters based on standardized searchables for at least the key specs
  • need-to-have basic product data to enable a buyer to make a sound purchase decision, such as all product identifiers, full product descriptions, compelling reasons to buy, high-res product visuals, leaflets, manuals, and complete specs
  • only rich media experiences, such as videos and 3D, that don’t distract the buyer  and work across all platforms and form factors, which is currently often a challenge
  • all legally required disclaimers and specs to cover an etailer’s liabilities
  • all logistical and ordering data to efficiently handle customer orders

Although it’s also in the interest of brands to meet etailer requirements fully, it’s an ongoing challenge for most of them. Especially, if larger etailers or classical retailers going online, start to require them to fill in their reseller-specific Excel spreadsheets, which implies retyping the same product data for every etailer separately in a slightly different format. This is when the pain starts.

Brands Want to Stand Out

Where etailers want uniformity, brands want their products to stand out from the competition. Historically, brands have fully controlled their marketing communication through PR, leaflets, advertising, and had restrictive policies regarding supporting the communications of retailers through retailer-specific magazines, brochures and advertising.

In the time of ecommerce, this divide can no longer be for brands that want to continue to be successful in the mass market.

All in all, brand owners want to provide potential buyers with compelling information to convert them into buyers, and therefore

  • take care of the basic product data in so far it helps with shopper conversion, but tend to leave out data that would reflect negatively on the product by comparison with competing products
  • provide visitors of their websites and online ads with rich media experiences that primarily focus on a great brand experience and lifestyle (marketing)
  • provide etailers with basic content that meet their needs, and provide authorized or selected etailers with rich media assets for an enhanced shopping experience
  • want to control what happens with their brand and product data online, want to measure their online success and want to limit etailers that provide a “bad” shopping experience.

It’s clear that there is sometimes a conflict of interest and sometimes a conflict of requirements, that can not always be solved through Product Information Management (PIM). But, in many cases it can.

Harmonizing the Needs of the Channel

A PIM solution provider, such as Icecat, has learned to harmonize the, on first sight, conflicting requirements of etailers and brand owners.

  • By providing a lot of free, open data (Open Icecat), widely embraced by the open source (OS) community, which stimulates creativity and usage -now billions of product data-sheet downloads per year- and in which brands participate that embrace an open content philosophy.
  • By providing coverage and matching guarantees to both etailers and brands on their portfolio
  • By strictly standardizing product data, based on category-specific formats, to the most atomic level. E.g., 23 cm x 23 cm x 40 cm will be split into three separate fields, will be stored as numerical, with a universal unit attached to it, so that it can always be auto-converted to other units (f.e., inches and mm).
  • By allowing brands to have full control over rich media objects, marketing texts and other unstructured marketing data for which they own the copyrights.
  • By allowing brands to apply Digital Rights Management (DRM) regarding, for example, selected digital assets for selected etailers, and expiration of specific digital assets.
  • By providing both raw data (XML, CSV, JSON) to etailers and Live product experiences (through JavaScript inserts), where a brand fully controls the product experience.
  • By daily conversation with etailers and brands about how to improve the PIM experience.

As Product Content is King in ecommerce, the pressure to innovate and improve is reaching new heights every season. The pressure for successful brands and successful etailers to cooperate and make money together also has increased, now that traditional retailers are increasingly struggling to survive.

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Martijn Hoogeveen

CEO Icecat NV

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