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It may seem elementary but digital product content remains a prime aspect to the online customer experience and to the retailer’s bottom line.

While many retailers believe they’ve mastered content and product search, they haven’t by a long shot or they don’t realize the need to continually assess, examine and create stronger content that delivers product to customers in a fast, efficient and satisfactory experience.

In fact, most manufacturer and retail websites are missing the opportunity to engage shoppers by leaving out key product elements, according to a recent Ugam report evaluating online holiday product content.

That’s not a good trend given digital interactions between retailers and shoppers will influence 67 percent of retail sales during the holiday, according to Ugam, a managed analytics provider.

The report, “Analyzing the Digital Product Content of Trending Toys and Electronics for Better Conversions,” examines product content for five of the holiday season’s trending products in each category, identifying strengths and weaknesses of manufacturer and retailer strategies.

The big mistake

Retailers’ biggest mistake is pretty much a back-to-basics issue: product descriptions are missing information, details and keywords.

“For example, our analysis found that Target’s listing of the GoPro HERO5 action camera did not appear in the top 10 Google results for important search terms such as “GoPro Hero5,” “GoPro action camera,” and “action camera,” because it did not include these keywords in the meta tags,” Mihir Kittur, Ugam co-founder, told Retail Customer Experience.

Other mistakes are poor site search functions, poor navigation and poor images, he noted.

“What’s missing is a customer-centric, data-driven, and systematic approach to online merchandising. It’s also important to note that improving product content is a continuous process — a journey, not a destination,” he said.

The Ugam report analyzed content on U.S. retail sites including Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target, Toys R Us and Best Buy. Manufacturing sites included LEGO, GoPro, Fitbit, Hasbro and Samsung, the latter which was the only manufacturer site to score higher than the retail sites.

Samsung got top scores in basic product guidelines for product features, internal-site search, images, product description, and specifications, said Kittur.

“The site helps customers easily discover a product by surfacing it in the top results for the most commonly used search terms,” he added, noting the analysis tested how often the three most common search terms for a given product would cause it to appear in the top 10 results.

One analysis looked at searches for the Galaxy Tab A T580 10.1-inch 16GB Tablet. On Samsung’s site, all three of the most commonly used search terms for that product (Galaxy tab a 10.1, Samsung t580, and 10.1 tablet) were successful.

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“They were not always successful on other sites,” explained Kittur. “Amazon was the second best website in terms of its internal site search for that product, surfacing it in two out of the three most-used search terms.”

Target, according to the report, consistently lacked in terms of key product content elements and meeting content guidelines.

In measuring product content performance for each product, Ugam identified whether the website included key product content elements, including presence of the brand name, product ID and key attributes in the product name, product description, feature bullets, product specifications, images, and video.

The results, states the report, which is now in its third year, presents an opportunity for manufacturers and retail sites to boost internal search features. Doing so makes it easier for consumers to find products and enhances the online search customer experience.

Challenges in play

One hurdle with product content, noted Kittur, is that some online merchandising teams can’t demonstrate the value of good product content and don’t have data to illustrate the return on investment.

Another is that product content may not have a clear “owner,” he added.

“It may also be that there is a lack of resources or expertise, or that leadership is simply too busy with other things to truly commit to solving this problem. They might also not event be aware that solutions exist to do it better,” Kittur explained.

He cited an example relating to Acer’s listing of its Aspire ES 15 laptop. The listing did not include the brand (Acer) or any product attributes in the title name.

“This translates to lower traffic to the product page and can impact the discoverability of the product. Similarly, Target’s listing of the same product did not include the product description or feature benefits, and was not optimized for keywords. The lack of product information means shoppers might not be able to find the product in search results or make confident purchase decisions,” he said.

First 3 steps to strategy revamp

Retailers and manufacturers wanting to revamp the product content strategy must do two things at the very start.

One is to realize customer experience needs vary for every retailer and the customers being served. The second is acknowledging the important of digital customer experience in online merchandising. The third is assigning a clear owner within the organization and providing them the necessary resources.

“That person can then deploy data analysis that combines customer feedback (through surveys, reviews, ratings, returns, Q&A, and social media), behavioral data (web analytics), and transaction data (conversion, returns, share) to glean actionable insights that help keep product content relevant to shoppers,” said Kittur, adding, “retailers need to embark on this journey.”

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Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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