As the e-commerce war in Southeast Asia heats up between platforms like ‘Alizada’, Pomelo and Zalora, brands hosted across these online malls have a challenge of their own. They might be sitting at the front door of a market with the highest mobile penetration in the world, but the window shopping needs to be made easy.
In the brick and mortar world, that means pulling a SS/17 pencil skirt over a mannequin. In the online market with millions of customers actively hunting for products in real time, this equates to clean product descriptions, data mapping and synchronisation anywhere the product is displayed live. If this type of information is inconsistent or logged incorrectly — also known as ‘dirty data’ — customers won’t
be able to find the item and they will move on. In fact, an optimised product detail page is the new content marketing since clean data improves search rankings.
The margin of error for product data rises as retailers scramble to list across multiple marketplaces in front of millions of mobile-first users in Southeast Asia. As of 2016, Indonesia boasts more than 65 million mobile users, with 30 million in the Philippines and 24 million in Vietnam. Online retail sales are soaring, with 24% of clothing and footwear being purchased in the region.
To maintain a seamless, omni-channel shopping experience, retailers need to sync their inventory across the fragmented, multi-lingual and multi-currency regions. That means having a quality data feed to use as a backbone to launch on separate channels, including digital display ads, social commerce, web platforms and, marketplaces.
Importance of product data management
Varying marketplace requirements
Product data management is an often overlooked aspect of e-commerce, but it can unlock millions in revenue. The criteria for posting products online is different for every platform and display ad – some sites might allow 150 characters for a product name, while others give 200. Image sizes, currency, language, size ratio, shipping fees, dimension, and format all need to be consistent and match the requirements for different sales platforms. With 300 pieces of inventory, that’s manageable, but with 30,000+ products that need nine product photos each, mistakes can cost sales, and even suspensions from platforms.
With the right tools, independent business owners can transform their small businesses into global brands without the cost of opening up a new store, getting IT help or hiring more staff. Take Little Link, a handmade cufflink retailer based in Singapore that launched all over the world in just five years.
Automated stocks synchronisation
The store founder, Ashley Lim automated her entire website inventory of over 2,000 stock keeping units (SKU) to multiple marketplaces. She then auto-synchronised the changing price differences between websites to keep the shopping experience consistent, so any out-of-stock products were removed immediately. With the cufflinks featured on both Amazon, Qoo10, Etsy, Monoco.jp and the original Little Links website, the SME experienced a 20% increase in sales and an 80% decrease in manual time since they began to automate.
Some businesses are still using data-entry teams with spreadsheets for inventory. This wastes time and introduces errors. Automated product data platforms can make uploads easier with tools such as web scraping, which can crawl a suppliers’ websites for SKUs and extract all the relevant fields of an item.
Then there is the matter of scaling the most obvious product data, images. Consistent images communicate strong brand identity, professionalism and confidence, as well as increase conversions. The more time and effort you put into quality images, the higher your return on investment will be. But if you are also selling through multiple channels, each marketplace has its own requirements. Keeping up with the guidelines and sizing is a challenge, and failing to comply with image requirements could mean a drop in visibility or a suppressed listing.
For most products, images are the most important piece of information. A clean, high-resolution product shot in good lighting on a white background is more professional and justifies the product better than a smartphone. Heavy shadows and banners are also unattractive and should be removed. Look for a platform that can automatically resize thousands of images.
Offering the most competitive prices is also a crucial aspect of e-commerce, so prices and stock need to be synchronised at all times on digital ads, the brand website and the platform. Data-driven advertising including retargeting, which requires products to be updated in real time.
Product performance data is not just worth the time, it’s the backbone of every ecommerce business. Automation cuts error and human resources. This allows retailers to focus on scaling their business successfully.
Anna is the CEO and founding partner of Cresco Data, a company that helps eCommerce providers amplify their sales through multiple digital channels. Connect with her on LinkedIn.