3 Tiers of Product Content (and How to Reach the Top)
Good product content can be understood — and mastered — in three separate tiers: base, advanced and user generated. Here's your primer on the three tiers of product content, why each is important and what you need to move from one to the next.
Tier 1: Base Content
What it involves: Base content includes all of the standard information customers need to navigate the purchasing experience. This means simple details like the product title and accompanying image, as well as more comprehensive details like product descriptions and tech specs, should all be accounted for in order for your customers to make buying decisions. For those in the technology industry, data sheets are another example of strong base content.
Why it's important: Regardless of what you're selling, consumers expect the same basic information from you to help inform their decisions. If you can't meet those expectations, you have no chance of reeling them in. Not only does base content help to simplify hundreds of thousands of SKUs, product data and research scattered across the web, but it also lays the foundation for a more intuitive online shopping experience. Where once B-to-B e-commerce managers were weak in this area, we're now seeing an improved focus on strong base content that's also paving the way for more advanced content.
How to get there: Establish a standard of five to 10 pieces of base content that every product needs before it goes up on your site, then hold your partners, suppliers and yourself accountable to them. Consider designating product information managers who can work alongside your in-store and catalog teams to capture photos, chase down any specs and collect data sheets to get them up on your site.
Tier 2: Advanced Content
What it involves: Advanced content builds on all of the essentials established in your base content. Video, 360-degree images and other interactive, multimedia material that showcases your products all constitutes good advanced content. Unlike base content, which should be standard across all inventory, advanced content will be much more specific to the individual product. As an electronic components distributor, for example, the need for 360-degree images and in-depth video for a piece of wire is significantly less than for a microcomputer.
Why it's important: If B-to-B e-commerce managers have only just begun to develop strong base content, then advanced content is virtually nonexistent. Advanced product content is critical for customers weighing more complex and expensive purchases. This is especially true for online buyers, who can't physically hold or test that product before purchasing. Advanced content is what can set you apart from your competition. It can showcase how the product matches what your customers are searching for and give them the push they need to follow through on a purchase.
How to get there: Clear, established product categories are the basis of good advanced content. E-commerce managers need thorough product taxonomy — i.e., the basic organization or "modern Dewy Decimal system" of product data. Taxonomy should correspond with the terms or phrases your customers are using most to search for products on your site. Let those categories dictate how much and what type of advanced content you need for a particular item — be it a piece of wire or a microcomputer.
Tier 3: User-Generated Content (UGC)
What it involves: User-generated content, as the name suggests, is any product content created or submitted by the user or customer. This third and final tier encompasses a broad spectrum of information, from product reviews and Q&As to full-fledged forums or communities where customers can interact with and support one another. UGC puts the power in the hands of the customer and offers some of the most valuable material in the content ecosystem. For those reasons alone, it's also the most difficult to master.
Why it's important: Abundant UGC is a sign of true customer engagement. Customers who submit their own images and videos of your solutions or lead discussions around how to leverage them can go from one-time buyers to long-term or even lifelong buyers. UGC not only establishes and reinforces brand loyalty, but it gives businesses a level of authenticity they just can't achieve through content developed internally.
How to get there: B-to-B e-commerce managers haven't even begun to scratch the surface of UGC. The best place to start is product reviews. Options include Bazaarvoice, Viewpoints and Pluck. Solicitation programs like email marketing campaigns or third-party incentives for completing reviews can also help encourage customers to start submitting.
Quality product content has become a focal point for B-to-B buyers. Where once pricing and availability was enough to build loyalty, great product content now makes for a better buying experience. This is how it should be. Content represents your standing in the e-commerce business, and you need to make it more of a priority.
Matt Clark is the head of e-commerce and digital marketing for Newark element14, a global electronics distributor and online community of more than 315,000 design engineers and tech hobbyists.