According to recent Deloitte Access Economics retail forecasts, consumer spending in Australia is expected to grow strongly in 2021–2022 as consumer confidence returns with more social distancing restrictions easing. However, the consumer-led recovery will mean retailers will have to compete even more strongly for consumer’s dollars.

As we enter into the next phase of consumer spending, with the accelerated e-commerce that began during lockdowns and an easing of travel restrictions, this certainly calls for retailers to reassess their strategy. They need to start reimagining how they can strengthen their e-commerce capabilities to deliver the most engaging online experience for their customers and retain or even increase their customer base.

However, many retailers today are still struggling to bring their products online and make the online shopping experience more relevant and personalised for customers. In fact, these retailers are trying to get control of managing lengthy product and supplier onboarding processes. They are also grappling with issues such as the lack of trusted, rich, and up-to-date product information, high product return rates, and finding innovative ways to improve the shopping experience on mobile devices.

Managing dynamic product data

In the e-commerce world, retailers are faced with a growing volume of data and variety of product information that they need to succeed in the digital space. Products today come in different sizes, shapes, styles, and options. There are also seasonality, short-lived product lifecycles, and variations across geographic markets that retailers have to deal with.

Retailers also have to master and manage all data from the entire value chain – from manufacturers, suppliers, distributors to service providers. What’s more, these retailers also need to deal with massive product data updates, and feed information to multiple media such as websites, print catalogues, ERP systems, and databases, just to name a few. By unifying this data, retailers can deliver a smoother, more personalised product experience that can help attract and retain customers. When retailers can match product information with actionable customer insights, they are better positioned to deliver exceptional product experiences across all channels to increase customer loyalty, sales, and margins.

In today’s dynamic product landscape across omnichannel environments, retailers therefore need to consider a sophisticated approach to managing product information, allowing them to streamline their information value chain, from suppliers to consumer-facing channels, and be super-focused on driving efficiency and profitability.

By tapping into a retailer’s master data and integrating it into a central system, they can simplify and automate their product information management at scale. In fact, they will benefit from a unified and accurate view of product information across their organisation that provides a single source of the truth and gives them unprecedented control and the ability to generate new business insights.

In one example, Kmart Australia modernised the way it manages product data by adopting a similar approach on product information management as it moves to compete with other retailers online. By ensuring only high-quality data passes through the organisation, the Australian retailer is able to drive better, more accurate and faster decision-making, and thus focus on improving customer experiences and meeting the demands of online shoppers.

Giving customers what they want

Consumers nowadays are spoilt for choices. They can scour the Internet to look for the same product across different websites and compare prices, product details, reviews, etc. Discerning buyers want to have rich and detailed product information before they make a purchase. In fact, they want to make sure they get clear, accurate, and relevant product information. If product descriptions differ, it takes just a click for them to move on to another seller.

Retailers might then ask, how can we give customers the right information, at the right time, to help customers make the right decision and have a seamless digital experience? To do so, retailers need to ensure product information is complete and uniformly presented across all touchpoints. Without clear and consistent information, sales will suffer, with more product returns or lost opportunities. 

Last but not least, having emotional connection with customers is key in the digital world, where there are no physical human interactions. As such, retailers need to converge product and customer data to open up new opportunities and get valuable insights into a customer’s profile and how they interact across channels. Matching product information with an individual’s preference and interest helps retailers personalise the customer experience and offer intelligent cross-sell recommendations.

Being able to have a 360-degree view of customer and product data is the foundation for personalised offers, such as combining information about the customer’s past orders or return reasons. Ultimately, if retailers have a better grasp of customer and product data, they will be better equipped to support customers in their buying journey with an immersive online shopping experience that boosts sales – and their bottom line.

Joseph Sullivan is director of 360 engagement practice for Asia Pacific & Japan at Informatica.