Tips to keep retail smiling in 2023 from Colgate-Palmolive e-commerce director Todd Hassenfelt
Mobile apps, TikTok trends, and unified online/offline channels - it's all to be factored in.
As 2022 was coming to a close, 1WorldSync released its annual Consumer Product Benchmark Report, with some valuable data and advice for retailers wanting to survive and thrive in 2023 and beyond. The main takeaways from the report are the need to maintain a physical presence even as online grows, and the importance of product content when it comes to purchasing decisions.
The survey of more than 2,000 online shoppers revealed that 26% shopped more in-store last year compared to 2021; this compared to 21% of consumers who shopped in-store less. However, just as the trend for visiting stores in person is growing, shoppers are expanding their online purchases, with seven out of 10 buying items online they previously only, or mostly, bought in stores.
Retailers need to up their game when it comes to product information, according to the report. Seven out of 10 people have decided not to buy an item due to poor product content or a lack of information. Meanwhile, 82% prioritize quality product content over a recognized brand name, and 38% of shoppers are spending more time researching and viewing product content when making a purchasing decision.
For Colgate-Palmolive, which makes dozens of household, health and personal care products, content is a critical piece of the firm’s strategy. This is the case not only its global digital organization, but overall due to the importance of both online and offline channels. Todd Hassenfelt, eCommerce Director, Growth Strategy and Planning at Colgate-Palmolive, explains:
Whether it's making sure it's content that connects with consumers or from an accuracy and transparency standpoint, more and more consumers want to know where their product is coming from and what the ingredients are. Even from a search perspective, it’s making sure that we have the right attributes so that we show up in organic or paid search because of how we've set up the products.
Online shopping has made this a more complex business for a company like Colgate-Palmolive, managing multiple brands and selling out of so many retailers. The traditional offline aspects, like color blocking, packaging, pricing updates and shelving information, which didn’t need to be changed as often compared to online content, have also been expanded with a whole new range of KPIs, from glance views and conversion rates to search algorithms. Hassenfelt adds:
That all has to be factored in as you set up products with retailers, but one of the challenges is not every retailer is the same necessarily.
This is where 1WorldSync’s technology is helping the organization to create, manage, syndicate and optimize its product content. The product content platform lets Colgate-Palmolive get on the virtual and physical shelves of retail partners, and ensures the consumer has the best information to make their purchasing decision. Hassenfelt explains:
You have to think about it from a consumer lens, which means using words in the description, bullet points and titles as they would search for it, understanding that they want to know how, when and why to use this product. You also have to realize the nuances between retailers. A key word high ranking on one retailer may not be on the other one.
1WorldSync’s platform lets Colgate-Palmolive understand those nuances and make sure it has the right keywords and descriptions based on how the consumer shops at that particular retailer. This also can't be a once a year review of content, notes Hassenfelt:
You have to adjust to whatever trends may pop up, whether planned or not, on social media, whether it's TikTok or anything else. Make sure the packaging is current, so everything is optimized with what the consumer is going to receive when they order it, to prevent any friction.
Monitoring ratings and reviews is vital too, as they provide so much information on what consumers like and don't like. Even from a competitor's standpoint, firms can see where there are pain points and if those are strengths for your particular business, content can be updated to reflect those aspects. This is particularly important in the current period of economic uncertainty, which is impacting consumer spending, advises Hassenfelt:
What resonates the most with consumers on your top reviews? Incorporate that into your content, bullet points, product description and images. Make sure your product images are not just a rotation of your product packaging, but also lifestyle images. The more you can connect with consumers in that way, it becomes more of a value proposition than just a straight price point proposition.
Hassenfelt also points to a recent change in how Amazon prioritizes reviews. Previously, it was based on which had the most up-votes even if they were older reviews. Now, in most of the categories the site is favouring more recent reviews, usually no longer than six to eight weeks old:
You really have to think about review velocity and how are you utilizing either UGC campaigns or responsibly asking for reviews from your consumers.
Mobile should be high on the retail agenda this year and beyond. Hassenfelt notes that only nine percent of consumers have not shopped using a mobile app, according to the 1WorldSync report:
It’s incredible to see that kind of adoption and seeing how important the mobile phone has become to the shopping journey. Brands really need to continue to factor this in when you're thinking about content, because that is a different experience on a mobile device screen versus a desktop. Are you factoring that in on how you design your content, thinking of mobile hero images, how your titles are truncated, bullet points, even how the product detail pages (PDP) may be different depending on the site.
Mobile devices also play a role inside stores: nine in 10 shoppers use their mobile devices to look up information while in stores, according to the report. Businesses should continue to invest in mobile integration to drive engagement and efficiency in stores, for example providing information more quickly that may not be on the physical packaging on a physical shelf, argues Hassenfelt:
You really have to think about this in a more data-driven way and how important content is from a digitally-influenced sales perspective, whether that's ratings and reviews, PDP content, videos they see on social, all these different ways of using the app within the store to find products or deals or learn more about them. From a store perspective, online and offline should be ‘and’ not ‘or’.
At Colgate-Palmolive, this means continuing to partner with retailers to provide their common customers with the best omni-channel experience that is frictionless as consumers navigate between online and offline; and then responsibly using the data to identify trends, and embrace a test and learn mindset:
Doing that from an ‘and’ perspective, not ‘or’, when discussing online and offline investments and plans is critical. A key part of that is making sure that you have budget fluidity or the ability to move resources wherever tactics are resonating with consumers. Online teams can't forget about the offline teams, and offline teams can't forget about the online teams. You have to work together and synchronize your efforts to be the most effective and efficient.
The quality of content measurement is an opportunity for retail, and there are some ways technology can help with that. A lot of digital shelf providers currently measure the quantitative content aspects such as how many images and how many characters in titles, which are incredibly important. But getting to qualitative content measurement at scale and agreeing as an industry what those measures are is the real opportunity, as that’s when retailers can start getting data on areas like whether they're out-competing the competition.
Hassenfelt also predicts there is going to be more movement towards combining PDPs with in-store screens, but this requires careful management to avoid overwhelming shoppers:
With all the different types of screens, whether it's cooler doors, end cap displays, smart card technology, beacon tags as phones go by, how do we make sure the content experience and quality is optimized for the consumer so that we can help connect with them and not confuse them.