Why you should be focusing on consistency for consumer experiences

New research finds retailers are putting more emphasis on consistency of experience rather than the convergence of their digital and physical channels (1, Boston Retail Partners). But why is that?

8 out of 10 consumers research online before buying something – this holds true for both in-store and online purchases. And while consumers are out to gather the most possible useful information about products, there is one factor that can kill their intention to buy from you: inconsistency.

Countless studies have shown that when consumers discover inconsistent product information, it stops them from making a buying decision. In many cases, they may not purchase that product at all or buy it from a competitor that has consistent product information.

The worst thing about this? More product information than you think is inconsistent.

What is inconsistent product information?

Just missing a measurement is enough to make potential buyers feel insecure about your product. Imagine not being sure how wide the TV you want to buy is. If you have limited space, this could be the major deciding factor. What if you’re looking to buy a shirt but the color is displayed differently on various reseller sites? If you’re looking for a specific tone, this may keep you from hitting that ‘buy’ button.

But inconsistency goes beyond missing facts and misleading images. If a product has inconsistent reviews for example – very good reviews on one reseller site worse ones on another – this may also raise scepticism and decrease trust in a buying decision. But is it worse than having no reviews at all? Yes, if your competitors have them for their products. However, despite the importance that consumers place on user reviews (see story), only few resellers actively pay attention to them. This is a great missed opportunity – but it’s only one of many.

Today’s consumers have more shopping options than ever before with access to competitive pricing, greater merchandise assortments and richer content. While this is great to increase online shopping experiences, it also puts more pressure on brands to deliver consistent experiences. The online customer journey is more complicated and competitive than ever before.

Today’s consumers have more shopping options than ever before with access to competitive pricing, greater merchandise assortments and richer content.
Today’s consumers have more shopping options than ever before with access to competitive pricing, greater merchandise assortments and richer content.

How to take charge of product information consistency

Product information consistency starts with providing the correct information to resellers (and this is also where things begin to go wrong), but maintaining it is much more about auditing what information resellers actually display.

In our experience, the displayed information can stray a lot from what brands expect. Here are just some examples of the things that go wrong and create ecommerce product inconsistency:

  • Approved content isn’t actually being used
    There are systems on the market that help you store all materials, information and content related to a product to make it easy for resellers to log in and find the materials needed for their site. There are also content systems that take on the job of distributing that content to resellers. Yet, it’s no guarantee that the provided content is used. It’s up to the reseller to get content up and maybe most importantly, to ensure it remains correct.

    This means that your product content is in the hands of someone else. In the end, it’s the retailer that decides which product information and how it appears for the consumer. They might describe your product in a passionate way but still miss crucial information or details creating inconsistency.
  • Product listed in the wrong category
    Using appropriate categories not only enhances the consumer experience but also makes it easier for your products to be found by search engines. The challenge when selling products on reseller sites is that not all of them use the same taxonomy and make exactly this factor very difficult. Few things create inconsistency faster than not finding what you’re looking for in the category it is found elsewhere.
  • No focus on reviews
    Many sites today integrate tests from other sites rather than gathering their own. Poor reviews, or poorly handled reviews, at one reseller site might affect customer purchases on many other sites as well. It doesn’t have to be difficult to track this and to ensure reviews are consistent or displayed in the right places.
  • Different definitions of out-of-stock
    Making sure that your products are available for purchase is key for them to be sold. In theory, this is easy. But what if the delivery time of your product exceeds two weeks? Online, that is almost equal to that your product is not available and quickly creates an undetected out-of-stock problem.

The best way to take charge of these product consistency drivers is to start monitoring them across resellers. And the best way to do that is with the help of an ecommerce auditing tool.



Originally published Mar. 18, 2020, updated May. 11, 2020

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