• A couple of catalogue images are no longer good enough to get your message across online, says Daniel Roberts of SKUvantage.
    A couple of catalogue images are no longer good enough to get your message across online, says Daniel Roberts of SKUvantage.
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As consumers increasingly use the internet and mobile devices to research and buy their food and drinks, making products look as good online as they do offline is essential.

The brands that provide high-quality product content in all consumer channels will be those that win in the digital future.

Customer-facing digital product content is the term given to the information that customers need to buy products online.

It is more than just good product images: it is the structured data and content that helps customers find the products they want and also sells the benefits to them. Yet this essential requirement is not being well addressed in Australia.

Attempts to use many of the major online sites is testament to that. Few manufacturers or retailers are well geared to gather and present this content, and most existing digital services don’t deal with the text and data-based side of product content.

One of the consequences of this is that customers shop overseas because they get a better experience online, with better product content helping them find, and understand products’ features and benefits.

Yet Australian brands invest significant sums in packaging, in-store merchandising and presentation.

The next step is to replicate this effort in all consumer channels. Coles, Woolworths, ALDI, Foodworks and other retailers have a big role to play in directing consumers to special offers, and the investment required to operate these channels has to be budgeted into their marketing strategies.

Major retailers now list the full store range on their websites and new apps enable customers to build shopping lists, or do their full weekly shop.

“Big data” now enables customised marketing emails to draw from the full range, targeting individual products at individual customers.

These initiatives give brands new channels to communicate new ranges and showcase the higher margin products that are often in the long tail.

However, it also means that full digital content across all products is required to participate in these new opportunities.

That means that a catalogue image is no longer good enough to get your message across. Full product content consists of images of all angles of the product, fully structured data, marketing copy, and ideally video if available.

It’s now even possible to virtually put the product in the digital customer’s hand with 360° rotations, controllable and zoomable by the user.

Historically, this has been an enormous challenge and was prohibitively expensive, so it was something that neither retailers, manufacturers nor their service providers were geared to deliver.

However, a new breed of targeted and affordable digital content services such as those provided by SKUvantage aim to close this gap. Using these types of services, manufacturers can take more control over the information displayed on retailer sites about their products, and this also ensures this information remains complete across the full range.

The newly designed Coles website illustrates the opportunities. Coles now enables customers to navigate to products according to important attributes such as allergen information, health benefits and country of origin.

To take advantage of this type of capability, brands now need to develop this information and provide it to retailers in a format that makes it easy for them to use on their digital platforms.

Numerous independent apps also rely on this type of content to work effectively, and if a product doesn’t have the information required, at best they won’t appear in the right place. At worst they won’t appear on the sites at all.

The spin-off benefits of capturing all of this content are numerous, from providing a single point of reference for category managers, to being repurposed for field sales teams and enabling direct to consumer opportunities.

Brands need to take this sort of proactive approach to product content to realise the opportunities. No brand manager would want plain packaging offline, so why settle for it online?