When it comes to coronavirus, we are all learning to live with uncertainty. In the northern hemisphere, as summer gave way to autumn in 2021, it seemed as if the Covid-19 pandemic was beginning to come under control. Then, in November 2021, reports about Omicron, a highly transmissible variant spreading rapidly through Southern Africa, began to emerge.
Suddenly, those plans to get out more often, to head to town and city centers for socializing and shopping, began to seem contingent. From a business perspective, for retailers and brands with a bricks-and-mortar presence that were hoping to tempt consumers back to stores before Christmas, was especially bad news.
But take a step back and how much has really altered in terms of ongoing changes to the retail sector? One of the business clichés of the pandemic is that it has driven ecommerce – and that’s true. Another way to frame what has happened is to understand how the pandemic has deepened an existing trend towards omnichannel retail.
This is a trend that demands businesses have control and oversight of their product data and product content. This in turn means businesses can react better to the kinds of sudden changes in consumer behavior the pandemic brings.
What is omnichannel retail?
As with so many buzzwords, different people mean different things by omnichannel. Here, we are defining it as retail where the customer journey isn’t confined to one channel but crosses multiple channels. Perhaps the customer will do research online before buying in a physical store. Or perhaps the customer will make a click-and-collect purchase from a retailer via mobile – while standing in the store of a competitor that isn’t offering such a keen price.
Looking beyond the myriad individual examples of omnichannel behaviors, the overarching point is that retailers and brands need to adapt to this new business landscape. Indeed, one way to look at predictions that global ecommerce sales will reach $6,388bn in 2024 is to see this figure as a percentage of a far larger omnichannel total.
This in turn explains why brands and retailers need to do more than just optimize their ecommerce channels but consider how goods appear across multiple touchpoints. These include shoppable advertisements, livestream events, marketplaces and more. To do this, brands and retailers must be able to distribute product information (details, images, videos, ratings and reviews) easily, efficiently and often – all while complying with known standards and requirements.
This is known as product content syndication, effectively the syncing of product information across multiple channels.
What are the pitfalls of product content syndication?
Product content syndication is not easy to get right, especially if done manually. Here’s why:
- Different ecommerce platforms and marketplaces need and use data in different formats and have specific requirements
- Validating product content manually is extremely time-intensive work
- Product information needs to be updated and maintained on multiple channels
- It’s not cost-effective to pay staff to do manual updates
Furthermore, these manual processes can result in:
- Delays in getting products to market
- Reputational damage if shoppers see inconsistent, incorrect or outdated product content
- Missed market opportunities
- Possible rejection from marketplaces for non-compliance
How can retailers and brands improve product content syndication?
A better strategy begins with automating processes. When done automatically, product content syndication can:
- Transform product information: publishing product information to various ecommerce platforms involves transforming product data to comply with requirements such as format, style, etc. These requirements differ per ecommerce platform, and elementary mapping knowledge won’t work. An automated content syndicator utilizes algorithms that map content on a taxonomy level.
- Distribute product information across multiple channels automatically: sharing product content to multiple sales channels can be done automatically. This allows all sales channels to be easily kept up to date.
- Maintain updated product content: inconsistent or outdated product information lowers sales and impacts the reputation of your brand. By automatically syncing high-quality, accurate and consistent product content, you can ensure your digital channels always have the right information.
How should brands and retailers go about automation?
A first step is for brands and retailers to leverage Product Information Management (PIM) solutions to manage and enrich their product content. However, they also must find a way to upload and modify product content from their systems to different channels.
Thankfully, many ecommerce vendors offer ways to syndicate without too much business disruption. These ecommerce platforms often partner with software vendors to develop integrations. For instance, PIM vendors can develop APIs or create proprietary connectors that enable brands and retailers to deliver optimized product content and great product experiences by integrating with the required ecommerce platforms. Ecommerce platforms such as Magento (an Adobe Company), BigCommerce, Oro Commerce and plentymarkets support this type of integration.
What are the advantages of connecting PIM systems to ecommerce platforms?
By doing this, brands and retailers can:
- Automate the distribution of synced product data to various channels
- Manage multiple ecommerce shops easily
- Optimize product information with rich, complete and up-to-date data
- Facilitate consistent and engaging customer experiences
- Simplify product content syndication efforts
- Minimize shopping cart abandonment and returns
This is an approach that is consistent with the ever expanding omnichannel world. This is a world where retailers and brands must optimize customer experiences dynamically across a multitude of different channels – and to do this without incurring costs or time delays.
The final reason to automate product content syndication lies in the returns that come from reaching out to consumers across channels, especially at a time when customer behavior is so volatile because of Covid. Marketers that use three or more channels earn a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single-channel campaign, while customer retention rates are 90% higher for omnichannel versus single channel.