8 Tips to Improve Your Online Product Presentation

online-retailWhen you post a SKU on a retailer’s website, there is a minimum amount of content that is expected for EVERY item that is listed.

That bare minimum includes:

  • Primary image: Clearly shows exactly what the customer will get.
  • Short product description: Follows category specific standards and includes the key search terms.
  • Assets: Video, alternative images, and documents such as warranty, use & care, assembly, instruction manuals, etc. (usually as .pdf files).  It’s a great way for consumers to further educate themselves in the buying process and to revert back to after purchase as most consumers tend to lose the pack in information.
  • Cross merchandising: Many sites will allow you to “connect” collections & accessories
  • Detailed product description: Includes features & benefits, how it’s used – what customer wants to know to buy.

Put your shopper hat on.  Become a consumer.

8 tips for improving your online product presentationTry this exercise.  Ask others to do it as well.  Make sure they give you their candid feedback.

Here is the exercise. Put your shopper hat on. Become a consumer. Go in and look at your items.

Try Amazon, Build, Lowe’s, Walmart, Fastenal, Grainger, Menards, Ace, True Value, Target, etc. Pay particular attention to your biggest and most important retailers first.

Look at the alternate images, the videos, the pdf’s of instruction manuals, warranties, collections, accessories, specifications, description, read every review, look at shipping ability, etc, etc.

When you are online, be sure to click anywhere and everywhere to view all content. It might be fun after you do that to compare the shopping experience with a competitor or two of yours online, too.

Here is what you are likely to find:

  • Some of you have done a good job filming an appropriate video showing installation or use of the product.
  • Some of you have done a good job loading alternate images which show side view, top view, bottom view, in use shot.
  • Some of you have done a good job building out collections which feature a lot of other products that relate or share the brand name.
  • Some of you have done a good job building out accessory content showing items that should be bought together like nails with a pneumatic nailer.
  • Some of you have done a solid job with detailed descriptions and specifications.
  • Some of you have included pdf’s showing warranty, user manual, installation guide, product specs, etc.
  • Some items ship everywhere.  Some do not ship to GU, VI, PR.  Some add AK and HI to that list.
  • Some offer a white glove shipping option (no touch) delivered to the exact spot the customer wants it.

It is obvious these are a few things where some of you have done things really well.  And there’s places where you may not have met your customer’s expectations.  You need to be the judge of that for yourself.

Pay particular attention to online reviews

Star ReviewRead them all and think about how you can do better. Could you have had a better review if the instructions were clearer, if the product was enhanced, if a legible manual was included, etc, etc.

We all need to embrace the good and bad reviews. If it is a 1 or 2, how do we fix or improve something to be sure we do not get that low of a rating anymore. If it was a 3 or 4, in many cases the customer will tell you one more thing that you could have done to gain the 5 star rating.

With the greater acceptance of smart phone use, customers in stores are considering a purchase and are accessing the web to read reviews before buying. Make this important connection that it is not just about the dot.com sale, it affects the business done up and down the aisles every day.

Thanks for taking a moment to think like a typical retail shopper and let’s use this opportunity to get better.

Good Selling!

Content Strategy graphic credit: dtelepahty.com

Active Search Results (ASR) is an independent Internet Search Engine using a proprietary page ranking technology with Millions of popular Web sites indexed.

Can This Business Be Saved? How To Create A Product Line Review Strategy For A Big Box Home Center

How to Sell Lowe's and Home DepotWhen a buyer calls a line review, it galvanizes the entire team.  And when you are the top supplier, you are always the target. The competition wants your business and the buyer wants more margin. One way or the another, it’s going to cost you.

Because the business world is filled with teamwork and collaboration, Doug Thompson and I are teaming up to share how we would each respond to specific sales and marketing situations.

We’ll take a challenge and independently approach how we’d solve it, blend the thinking (or debate the merits of each approach), and come up with an approach to keep the business

How can we hold our distribution as the dominate supplier at both big box retailers despite a product line review for our category?

IMG_0122Our challenge: what if a line review was called and our buyer wants something new and different from the other box. And to make it even more realistic, the buyer is also hinting that they are looking at going private label on a portion of the business. Best of all, we got the phone call to come in and pitch.

To give focus to our thinking, we have selected the ladder category since one major brand, Werner Ladder, appears to us to have the majority of the category at both big boxes.

Here’s our thinking “out loud” so you see the collaboration and teamwork behind our conclusions.

“If the buyer isn’t seeing growth, then it’s all about profit”

Greg: This request is really about the buyer wanting to differentiate from the other box. The private label hint suggests that Werner Ladder is not driving top line sales for the category.

If the buyer isn’t seeing growth, then it’s all about profit.  Either we as the incumbent brand drop our price or the business is going elsewhere.

“The buyer wants a concession but he is also looking for an advantage”

Doug: We know that both boxes are trying to increase the percentage of private label in their aisle.  In most businesses a few key SKU’s make up a majority of the sales, and finding a source for 3 items covering ~$200M is bound to get someone’s attention.

Yes, the buyer wants a concession but he is also looking for an advantage. I think you immediately look at two things.

  1. Creating an advantage.
  2. Determining how real the PL threat is.

“Creating an advantage starts with product differentiation”

Greg: Creating an advantage starts with differentiation.  There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Improving the set by shifting the mix to higher volume skus.
  • Value-added accessories to drive ticket (a ladder stabilizer, for example, on all extension ladders).
  • Improvement to the product that could drive a greater margin in addition to differentiation.
  • New price points.
  • Offering to create an OPP ladder that has fewer features or lower rating.

It may not be affordable, but adding an aggressive promotion plan designed to drive sales along with one or more of these ideas would clearly get the retailer’s attention.

“I think it is time to put together some brainstorming sessions to find out what innovations consumers wish they had on a ladder”

Doug: I am not sure that you want to push more volume into core SKU’s, that will only make it easier to private label in the future.

As ladders have a huge safety component, I think a de-featured ladder for $10 or $20 less might not sell if the story and accessories push the consumer to at least an MPP (mid price point) ladder. I am thinking the path may be to split the volume.

Add a feature onto the current product to make a premium version, and take something out to make a cheap one. Pros won’t touch a cheap ladder so you will probably shift them up. Consumers will probably go cheap unless you have a gadget that attracts them.

I think it is time to put together some brainstorming sessions to find out what gizmo consumers wish they had on a ladder.  I’ve got a couple of ideas already.

“Holding your space as the dominate brand requires you to be both nimble and smart”

Greg: Finding out what shoppers want is critical. Not only will it give us confidence that the innovation we offer will perform better on the shelf, but it will also allow us to be category experts.

Staying the dominate brand requires you to be both nimble and smart. Big box customers include both DIY and pro customers. By asking both groups what they want, we’ll be able to share what’s important and why to the retailer.

We can then build a bay that maximizing the sales potential based on that retailer’s core consumer, even customizing our mix and assortment based on common store clusters.

More importantly, we’ll learn from those consumers and pros how to best communicate on the packaging. It’s a critical step to improving bay navigation and helping consumers quickly and easily find the right ladder for them.

“Let’s go walk some stores and see what we insights and issues we can pick up from the guys who are talking to customers each and every day”

IMG_0140

Doug: Agreed. Any kind of trademark and overarching packaging themes will help protect us from competitors.

The ability to help segment your offering by store helps keep the small players out as well. I’ve got qualitative research set up for next week for both consumers and professionals, let’s see what we get out of that.

I also have a friend at the testing lab, let me give him a call and see if he has seen any unusual activity from other companies looking to certify new products.

Let’s go walk some stores and see what we insights and issues we can pick up from the guys who are talking to customers each and every day.

That’s how we’ll dig up the facts that will help us tell our story — and create differentiation for each customer along the way!

Good Selling!

Active Search Results (ASR) is an independent Internet Search Engine using a proprietary page ranking technology with Millions of popular Web sites indexed.

Is Your Marketing Thought Up or Thought Through?

Brand idea chartThe key difference between being “thought up and thought through” is to be:

  1. Driven by insights
  2. Obsessed with creativity and innovation
  3. Built on the foundation of a brand position
  4. Varying your message and method by stakeholder
  5. Focused on building long-term relationships

1.  Driven by insights

The first step to transforming your communications is to understand everything there is to know about your key consumer.  What is the demographic, mindset or other key traits that will help you understand your core consumer better?

And don’t assume that you can identify these key insights by just sitting in the office and sifting through point of sale data or old research.  Get out on store walks.

Go to every store, in multiple regions that carries your category.  Go in with an open mind and look at other categories besides your own.  Are there new, unique or interesting display or POP ideas?  How about packaging – what’s new and eye-catching?  How are others using graphics, product photos, lifestyle photos or color coding systems?

Treat this assessment process formally.  Take pictures, write-up your notes and share them as broadly as practical within the marketing, channel and brand teams.  Look for their advice as well to broaden your search for insights.

Then ask yourself what are the major drivers you uncovered?  How could you turn these into opportunities?

2.  Obsessed with creativity and innovation

You can have innovation in branding, not just in new products.  How can you be innovative with your brand strategy?  Your communication tools?  Your media strategy?  Your packaging and merchandising?

Even your customer engagement strategy can be made richer with insights.  How would your customer think of your company if you are sharing insights on:

  • How their shopper and your core customer overlap
  • How they shop
  • Why they buy the category

Try this: approach the competition’s product line with the mindset of how might they position their brand and offering at this retailer?  What would be their sales pitch to upset your placement?  Dig deep into understanding their product offering.  Is it innovative?  Is it the best value?  How does your core consumer view them relative to your brand?

3.  Brand position is the consistent foundation

Everything you do should be built off of your brand position.  Make sure you have it distilled down to the core essence.  A brand position is NOT “we are the world leaders in…”  And it certainly isn’t your tagline.

The brand position should be built from your insights – to get you from “what you do” to “why you do it.”  This is the foundation of the emotional connection you will make with your core consumer.

From the brand position, you will be able to build out your:

  • Brand promise
  • Brand strategy
  • Brand plan
  • Tagline

4.  Varying your message and method by stakeholder

How do you start the conversation?  By recognizing that you need to develop specific content for specific groups.  You will have one message for internal audiences.  Another for consumers.  Yet another for customers.  Maybe even one for the communities you are located in.

The process is the same for each group of stakeholders:

  • Understand them better
  • Invite them to start or extend a relationship
  • Speak relevantly and authentically to them
  • Motivate them to consider buying our products and services
  • Become an active part of their lives

5.  Ongoing conversations build long-term relationships

Long-term relationships and ongoing conversations with stakeholders will intensify the brand experience.  The goal is to develop a program that is based around creating a relationship between your brand and consumers.

  • Listen to the conversations that are happening around your category
  • Develop a story to link and connect with those conversations
  • Reach out to key industry voices
  • Develop a relationship with purchase influencers (bloggers and social media)
  • Create a memorable and engaging persona for your brand
  • Leverage these relationships to generate new positive content and awareness
  • Tailor the message to the audience

The goal is to build lasting, relevant relationships with your consumers.

Define your brand and slam the door on the competition

Products become commodities without brand building.  What’s more, consumers are willing to pay more for brands they love.  But the real bottom line is this: competitors will define your brand if you don’t define it yourself.

This process will help you slam the door to the competition.