Product Data: The Sneaky Problem eCommerce Merchants Overlook

Written by: Ryan Lunka, Digital Marketing Director at nChannel

At nChannel, we get a lot of requests to help with inventory synchronization, order management, and technology integration, which are all really important initiatives for eCommerce merchants.

However, when we get into the details with our customers we often find that their biggest problem is something other than what they thought. We generally find that the biggest impediment to their success is their product data—a challenge that is quite new to eCommerce merchandisers.

This sneaky little problem is pervasive. It manifests itself as other kinds of problems. But, if you know how to identify when product data problems are your biggest offenders, you can understand how to overcome them.

In this post, I’ll explain some of most common product data problems that eCommerce merchants think are actually something else.

I have an SEO problem.

You might not be great at search engine optimization (SEO). You may not know all the ins and outs of the Google algorithm. But, there’s a good chance that, if you are failing to attract organic search traffic to your eCommerce site, you have a product data problem.

When you source your products from suppliers, they’ll typically provide you a product catalog as a CSV. It’ll include the data about those products, including descriptions, specs, etc. The quantity of information and its quality will vary by supplier.

But, most of these suppliers don’t care about SEO. This product data is not meant to be found with search engines, so unsurprisingly, it isn’t. As the eCommerce merchant, it’s your job to make that happen.

The merchant must do the research to understand how customers are searching for the products they sell. They must put in processes (and supporting technologies) to clean up suppliers’ product data, before listing it on their eCommerce site. They must optimize their product data for search, because this data is what will ultimately determine web page content—the TITLE tags and H1s that Google is looking for.

So, if you think you have an SEO problem, look closer. You might have a product data problem.

I have a conversion problem.

Site visitors are worth very little to you if they aren’t buying your products. So, once you get them there, the job becomes “convert them into customers.” And, this is another place that product data can be a hidden cause of the problem.

Let’s look at some of the common reasons site visitors leave your site, instead of converting—and why they might be product data problems.

They are unable to find what they are looking for.

Site visitors can’t buy what they can’t find. A certain segment of your visitors will rightfully leave your site, because they seek something you don’t sell. The bigger problem is the segment of them who just couldn’t find what they want even though you sell it.

If the customer didn’t come into your site on exactly the right product page, they’ll use your navigation elements and/or your site search function to find what they want. These are usually driven by the attributes you applied to listed products. They can also be driven by specifically defined collections of products.

And, do you know what drives navigation and search functionality for an eCommerce site? Product data!

They don’t trust the quality of your products.

Many people are still cautious, if not completely skeptical, of buying online. How do they know they are buying from a trustworthy merchant? How do they know they won’t get ripped off? How do they know what they are actually buying?

It’s your responsibility to build that trust. And, if your product titles, descriptions, and attributes are sloppy, you put out the “rip off” vibe. You need to ensure that your product data is clean of spelling errors, poor grammar, and other quality red flags. You also need to provide multiple, high quality images. (Don’t just trust that your supplier catalogs are already clean.)

They don’t experience a consistent brand.

This is a close cousin to the aforementioned trust issue. Often without even realizing it, potential customers will leave a site if the brand is inconsistent or confusing. Or, put the other way, customers are more likely to buy from a brand that is consistent and easy to understand.

For example, let’s say you source products from two suppliers. One provides very dry, technical product data in their catalogs. The other supplier doesn’t provide much technical data but provides quirky product descriptions and fun product names.

These two approaches will appeal to different kinds of people for different reasons. Absentmindedly merging them into a single “brand” will confuse or annoy site visitors. And, it only takes a second or two of confusion for them to hit that “back” button.

I have a listing problem.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about selling products on an eCommerce store, but many eCommerce merchants also sell on marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. And, many of them struggle with those listings.

There are many reasons a merchant might have trouble listing large amounts of products to marketplaces, but product data is definitely one of the big ones.

When listing to a marketplace, you don’t have control over the attributes. You don’t make the rules about how things are listed. You have less opportunity to build a brand. Succumbing to the rules of the marketplace is a challenge if you don’t have rich, dynamic product data to work with.

Product attributes must be normalized and understandable. Products must be annotated with clear descriptions of different lengths. Product titles must include relevant information—possibly more than just the title.

If your product data does not meet these basic listing requirements, you have to spend time manipulating catalog data prior to creating listings. Data manipulation is not making you any money. It’s only taking up your time.

The Solution: Product Content Strategy

eCommerce merchants can overcome these hidden product data problems by implementing an effective product content strategy. This is an intentional approach to managing product data, helping merchants turn the data into content that drives revenue.


Learn all about product content strategy in our new eBook.