Today, product data and marketing content have one of the coldest relationships on the martech stack.
Engineers worry about SKUs, specifications, sizes, and materials. Marketers care about images, videos, documents, and diagrams. Editors try to bridge the gap with descriptions, features, benefits, and sales messages.
If product data and content matches all channels, then marketers are in luck or they are using an integrated digital asset management (DAM) and information management (PIM) solution.
AT do not deceiving or deceiving buyers seems like a small (but technologically difficult) hurdle to overcome. The most important obstacle is for a brand to be consistent with its own mission and its own values, thus demonstrating its reliability. This also concerns the data and content of the products. At least, that’s what I take away from Widen’s connectivity report.
Brands can no longer process product data and marketing content in isolation, my teammates and I have discovered. Accurate and complete product data is essential for building trust, while emotional and interactive content is essential for driving sales.
Both types of information are needed to tell how a brand is living up to its values, and a brand’s ability to tell this story may depend on emerging technologies.
Confidence from the product
Marketers intuitively know the importance of presenting accurate product information across all channels. But why?
For the 2021 Connectivity Report, my colleagues and I interviewed 155 marketers and creatives from the US and UK between August and September 2020. Respondents represented 25 industries with employers ranging from Global 2000 brands to our agency Wisconsin Local Tourism Board.
Almost 50% of respondents cited product data as the type of information that has the most impact on customer trust, far ahead of product photography (16%) and descriptive copy (11% ), the finalists. In other words, marketers don’t consider their own photos or videos to be trustworthy because hyperbole is part of the art.
But the product data is different. There are huge consequences for rigging nutritional statistics, material tolerances, safety ratings, etc. Product data sets expectations, conveys authenticity and establishes a foundation of trust. Online shoppers particularly rely on product data in the absence of a hands-on sensory experience.
Yet most brands are led to think of “trust” as a top-down phenomenon. Every year, the public relations firm Edelman publishes its Confidence barometer. In 2021, although businesses were the most “trusted” institution (ahead of government, NGOs, and the media), US-based businesses saw their trust score drop from 62 in 2014 to 48 in 2021 .
Globally, 56% of respondents agreed that “business leaders deliberately try to mislead people by saying things they know are wrong or grossly exaggerated”.
Does it make sense that “trust” is based on what C-level leaders say out loud? No. I think we need to build trust from the product instead.
Blurring the data / content division
While those surveyed in our Connectivity report acknowledged that product data has been instrumental in building trust, they agreed (72%) that digital assets such as photography, videos and marketing content from products have the greatest impact on sales. They also said they felt they were nowhere near realizing the potential of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and interactive experiences in the conduct of transactions.
For example, a leading homeware retailer brought up the problem with selling big ticket items online: “You’d really like to see what that $ 1,000 chandelier would look like in your dining room? using something like augmented reality, ”the interviewee said.
For this to happen, data and product content would need to be interconnected. Precise dimensions for each chandelier must coexist in a profile with 3D imagery and take into account the unlimited variations of the same product (for example, a black metal body against a copper against …).
Augmented reality experiences could build confidence and excitement in describing what the chandelier would look like in a certain 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 using a smartphone at home.
The point is, media experiences that build trust lie at the intersection of product data and visual content, which can no longer be treated separately, especially for brands that want tell a more meaningful story on their products.
A mission told in product data
In lengthy interviews for the Connectivity Report, a marketer took on a challenge that dominates news cycles but isn’t very popular with marketing technologists: environmental, social reporting and governance (ESG). The marketer said: “The factories and manufacturers where products are sourced 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 many companies have lost or gained trust through ESG actions. Sometimes consumers perceive ESG marketing as greenwashing or wakewashing, an example of “business leaders … deliberately trying to mislead people,” as Edelman put it. But if companies embed ESG reports into their data and product content, they could build trust safe from anything the CEO tweets at 2 a.m.
For example, technologists discussed the use of spoof-proof distributed ledger (DLT) technologies, such as blockchain to document products throughout their supply chain.
Concretely, a fishing vessel could scan a QR code to verify where the fish were caught and the health of the species’ population. At every stop on his trip from Dutch Harbor, Alaska to a grocery store in Madison, Wisconsin, each QR scan would add product data, like the carbon footprint accumulated per pound of fish. At the end, an online shopper would see photos of the fish, vessel, and crew that caught it. They would also find data documenting how the grocery store has taken steps to protect the environment and the end consumer throughout its procurement process.
The same could be done with textiles, mining products, petrochemicals and the countless end products they allow. What story could do more to build (or restore) trust in brands that tout their responsible practices?
Inspired by values and powered by Martech
The Marketing Technology Stack is a foundation for telling a meaningful story with product data and content. As I mentioned, DAM + PIM systems are already equipped to manage consistency between channels. More advanced VR, AR, and blockchain applications will likely depend on the same system.
It’s time for digital marketers to stop worrying about consistency in data content to cultivate integrity and reliability. New approaches to the role of product data and visual content could create a trust that even the most charismatic CEO or spokesperson cannot. And enriching product data with ESG factors and content would allow us to recognize the hidden heroes that make our business paradise possible.
Brands that have nothing to hide should seize the opportunity.