By Julie Barile, Sophelle
Product findability, commonly understood as connecting the right person with the right product at the right time, can be a challenge among all retailers. Today’s state-of-the-art product findability is complex with a myriad of technical, operational, and organizational factors given that customers want retailers to meet them with relevancy and a frictionless experience wherever they choose to shop. The implications in delivering seamless experiences across customer touchpoints span the enterprise including business users, operations, and technology. To be successful, retailers must find the right mix of solutions for their products and customers.
When findability is done well, the benefits are numerous including increases in average order value, conversion, customer loyalty, and operational efficiencies. Additionally, implementing product findability solutions enhances not only the online and mobile experience, but the in-store experience as well. When paired with clienteling applications it can improve the in-store sales process by giving associates and other in-store technologies access to customer profiles and purchase history, wish lists, and other relevant information. Put into practice, this translates into more personalized experiences for customers.
However, before starting down the path of improving product findability, retailers must take stock of their data situation. Effective product findability is driven by the intersection of real-time customer behavior, demographic, geographic, and historical customer data, combined with enhanced product data. Retailers should have a good understanding of how all of this data is collected, managed, and stored, as well as the ability of the technologies which power product findability to access and utilize it. Data quality and accessibility will determine the accuracy and success with which product findability can be accomplished.
Enhance Your Product Data
All retailers should consider solutions which enhance product data beyond what is native to most digital commerce merchandising tools. These solutions allow for the inclusion of natural language descriptors, product features, multi-word phrases, and problem/solution-oriented terminology – all of which should be accounted for in a comprehensive product data set. Among other benefits, a fully attributed product catalog enables better search results, more relevant facets, filters, and drill-downs, powers more comprehensive data feeds, and greatly improves the efficacy of personalization solutions.
Product Findability is Not One-Size Fits All
Different solutions will benefit different types of products, sales channels, and customer types. Shoppers looking for complex, high value, and high consideration items such as electronics, appliances, and computers have longer research and sales cycles and are best supported with guided selling features which take them through a process of selecting desired product attributes. Another way to support complex purchase cycles is with product comparison functionality allowing the shopper to compare line item product details and features against price differences.
For product assortments with large and complex category structures, dynamic facets and filters generated from comprehensive product data helps the shopper get to a manageable number of relevant products quickly and efficiently.
Mobile Product Findability
Digital traffic to retailer sites from mobile devices can be as high as 50%. With conversion rates approximately half that of desktop traffic, your mobile findability may be significantly lagging in achieving its potential for better monetizing traffic.
Much of this lag can be attributed to poor mobile navigation and search. Given the limited screen size of mobile phones, navigation and search are critical in connecting people and products. Retailers should focus on how to design the optimal mobile user interface for their specific product catalog and customers. Nested fly-out navigation menus make good use of limited space and are an effective way to move shoppers through the product findability journey. Guided navigational elements such as dynamic facets and filters on mobile are a must-have, particularly for large and varied product assortments. Equally important is ensuring the search functionality is easily located on the mobile UI, and provides the shopper with smart search features such as auto-complete, suggested searches, auto-correct, and multi-word key phrase recognition.
There are many things retailers can do to improve product findability today, such as revisiting their digital commerce platform’s capabilities in connecting people and products and ensuring that all out-of-the-box product findability-related features and functionality are being taken advantage of. However, with product findability touching nearly every part of the retail enterprise, achieving long term success requires a disciplined approach. Developing findability goals, doing a current state assessment of people, process, and tools, understanding customer needs, identifying areas of risk, and building the bridge between your current state and future goals is the way to get there.
Julie Barile is the Director, Digital Commerce Practice at Sophelle. She has 17 years of digital commerce experience in both the mass and luxury markets. Having led digital marketing at several top global companies, including Avon, Lancôme, and Toys”R”Us, Barile’s experience spans several product categories, business models, and corporate functions. Focusing on business strategy and technology selection, Julie has helped top online and multi-channel retailers gain operational efficiencies, grow their businesses, select best-fit technology solutions, and solve for their unique business challenges.