Today, product data and marketing content have one of the coldest links in the March stack.
Engineers worry about SKUs, specifications, sizes and materials. Marketers worry about images, videos, documents, and charts. Copywriters try to bridge the gap with descriptions, features, benefits and sales messages.
When product data and content overlap across channels, marketers are either lucky or they use an integrated digital asset management (DAM) and information management (PIM) solution.
To not misleading or undermining buyers seems to be a low (but technologically difficult) obstacle. The higher obstacle is that the brand is in line with its mission and values - thus showing credibility. This also applies to product data and content. At least that’s my expansion from the Widen Connectivity Report.
Brands can no longer treat product data and marketing content separately, we found with my teammates. Accurate and comprehensive product data is critical to building trust, while emotional and interactive content is essential to increasing sales.
Both certain types of information are needed to tell the story of how a brand meets its values, and a brand’s ability to tell that story may depend on evolving technologies.
Confidence from the product up
Marketers intuitively know that it is important to provide accurate product information through channels. But why?
For the 2021 Connectivity Report, our colleagues and I interviewed 155 marketers and advertisers in the U.S. and the UK between August and September 2020. Respondents represented 25 industries with employers ranging from the Global 2000 brands to our local Wisconsin travel agency.
Nearly 50% of respondents rated product data as the type of information that has the greatest impact on building customer trust – beyond product photography (16%) and descriptive copy (11%). In other words, marketers do not consider their photos or videos to be reliable because hyperbole is part of the art.
However, product data are different. Summarizing nutrition statistics, material tolerances, safety ratings, etc. has enormous consequences. Product data sets expectations, conveys authenticity and builds trust. Buyers of online stores rely especially on product data when there is no sensory and practical experience.
Nevertheless, most brands are led to believe that “trust” is a top-down phenomenon. Every year, the PR company Edelman publishes its confidence barometer. In 2021, although business was the most trusted institution (vis-à-vis government, NGOs and the media), the US-based business confidence index has fallen from 62 in 2014 to 48 in 2021.
Worldwide, 56% of respondents agreed that “business leaders deliberately try to mislead people by saying things they know to be wrong or gross exaggerations.”
Does “trust” make sense to depend on what C-level leaders happen to say out loud? No. I think we need to build trust instead.
Blurring the data / content gap
Although respondents to our connectivity report considered product data to increase trust, they agreed (72%) that digital assets such as photography, videos, and product marketing content have the greatest impact on sales. They also said they felt that the potential of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and interactive experiences in transaction management had not yet been realized.
For example, a home goods retail manager talked about the problem of selling expensive items online: “You’d really like to see what this $ 1,000 chandelier would look like in your dining room, using something like augmented reality,” said the interviewee.
To this end, product data and content should be linked. The exact dimensions of each chandelier must exist in the profile with 3D images and take into account the unlimited variations of one product (eg black metal body versus copper versus …).
Augmented reality experiences can create confidence and excitement by imagining what a chandelier looks like in a particular dining room. Perhaps the buyer could add the dimensions of the dining room, the color of the wallpaper and a 3D image of the table at home using a smartphone.
The point is that trust-building media experiences are at the intersection of product data and visual content, which can no longer be considered in isolation – especially not for brands that want to tell a more meaningful story about their products.
The mission told in the product data
During the long form interviews of the Connectivity Report, one marketer accepted a challenge that dominates the news cycles but does not have much reach with marketing technologies: environmental, social and management reports (ESG). The distributor said: “The factories and manufacturers where the products come from follow responsible sourcing practices and are expected to meet or exceed environmental standards. These parts of the product data tell a compelling story of sustainability.”
The use case is interesting because so many companies have lost or gained trust through ESG activities. Sometimes consumers perceive ESG marketing as green or wokewashing, such as “Business leaders … deliberately trying to mislead people,” as Edelman said. However, if companies create ESG reporting in their product data and content, they could build trust that is secure from everything the CEO chirps at 2 in the morning.
For example, technologists have discussed the use of fake distributed general ledger (DLT) technologies, such as the block chain, to document products through the supply chain.
In practice, a fishing vessel could scan a QR code to check the location of the fish and the population of the species. During each stop from a Dutch port in Madison, Alaska, to a grocery store in Madison, each QR scan adds product information, such as the accumulated carbon footprint per pound. Finally, the online store saw photos of the buyer from the fish and the vessel and team that caught it. They would also find data documenting how the grocery store took measures to protect the environment and the final consumer through the procurement process.
The same could be done with textiles, mining products, petrochemicals and the myriad finished products they offer. What narrative could do more to build (or restore) trust in brands that promote their responsible practices?
Inspired by Values and Powered by Martech
The stack of marketing technology is the foundation for telling a meaningful story with product data and content. As I mentioned, DAM + PIM systems are already equipped to manage channel continuity. Advanced VR, AR, and block circuit applications are likely to depend on the same system.
It is time for digital marketers to worry about the integrity of data and content to increase integrity and reliability. New approaches to the role of product data and visual content can build trust in ways that even the most charismatic CEO or spokesperson cannot. And enriching product data with ESG factors and content would allow us to identify the hidden heroes that enable our trading paradise.
Trademarks that have nothing to hide should use this opportunity.
More resources on the role of product data in marketing
Challenges that Product Experience Management (PXM) can address
Sources of information B2B technology merchant buyers rely the most
How to create high-conversion descriptions for product pages