future of retail


Australian retail is experiencing a dramatic shift. On one hand, the growing trend towards overseas purchases reflects consumers’ preferences for superior online shopping experiences and faster delivery.

On the other hand, the entry of global players like Amazon coupled with recession-like consumer behaviour leaves retailers scurrying for answers. In this scenario, will the age-old price-war suffice?

Competing solely on price with lowered margins will almost certainly lead to a dead-end. Retailers need to evaluate other ways to stay in the running. Amidst other levers, enhanced product content has proven to improve both traffic and conversion.

Today, when most shopping journeys begin online, a retailer’s product content should improve the consumer experience and influence confident purchase decisions. Without great product data, even the most incredible product selection in the world won’t help customers find what they are looking for.

Many retailers are only scratching the surface when it comes to leveraging product content to inform their customers and help them make confident purchase decisions.

In fact, a 2015 Forrester report titled ‘The Best and Worst of Australian Retail Website Experiences’ said Australian retailers are operating like its 1999. Even today, many large and small retailers are hesitant to invest in improving their product content. The most common problems among retailers are:

Unwillingness to accept the problem

The inertia to change, non-acceptance of the impact of impending competition, unfamiliarity of leveraging product content to drive sales, and inability to convince leadership about the benefit of good product content, have been just some of the roadblocks for the Australian retail industry.

Unable to identify the gaps

Many retailers are unable to identify and act on product content at scale and in an efficient manner. There are several symptoms of the problem like poor and inward-looking taxonomy, lack of standard spec sheets, poor or missing attribution, broken facet navigation, and many others. These result in a poor search experience, inability to make confident decisions, and avoidable product returns.

Unavailability of resources or expertise

While some retailers accept the need to improve product content, they lack the resources or expertise. They struggle to identify where and how to start—which categories and products need the most help, how to enrich product content on the web to increase sales.

Unable to establish a business case

Ecommerce or product content managers struggle to make a business case for better product content. While it seems obvious that good product content is ‘the cost of doing business’, there is a need to establish why a business should spend money on creating it.

While the approaches to solving the product content problem are many; retailers must first begin by accepting the problem and committing to better product content. Then through deploying data and analytics retailers can take small steps to identify the gaps, apply fixes, and test and measure those interventions.

Take the example of a large US-based mass merchant. The objective was to improve web traffic and SERP (Search Engine Results Page) performance for certain categories. After optimising pages with keywords, meta titles and descriptions, the majority of the pages ranked within the first 10 results on the Google search and increased overall traffic to the website.

Working with large US retailers has shown us that data and analytics can be deployed to establish a business case for product content. The right expertise when deployed to improving taxonomy, specification sheets, gaps in product content, and on-going enrichment have demonstrated improved performance across metrics like traffic, add to cart, conversion, and lower return rates.

The retail industry in Australia is experiencing a significant shift, but Australian retailers are at an advantage. One, they have time to improve their online customer experience before Amazon comes. Two, they can leverage learnings from retailers across other regions to support their data-driven strategies and boost performance.

It’s time to polish products with better product content to serve shoppers better.

product contentMihir Kittur is a co-founder and chief commercial officer at Ugam.


Want the latest retail news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up to the retailbiz newsletter.