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When it comes to the modern omnichannel retail experience, consumer expectation has never been higher. How does the digital showroom factor into success here, and what advantage can a digital product experience platform offer?

The way that we shop has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. The rise of omnichannel experiences has led to the expectation of a seamless, personalized pathway to purchase, across all touchpoints.

This expectation carries over into the digital realm. Shoppers are increasingly insistent on online retail that provides an informative, relevant and sophisticated experience. As a result, a sound understanding of the modern digital showroom is essential.

Those providing an exemplary digital showroom experience can expect high levels of consumer loyalty, better conversion rates and a decrease in support requests. With brands and retailers witnessing the impact and importance of the digital showroom, standards are rising. Those without a clear understanding and prioritization of this essential area of retail risk getting left behind.

1. What Is The Digital Showroom?

What exactly is meant by the digital showroom? Also known as the digital shelf, the digital showroom represents each and every interaction a consumer has with a product, within a digital environment, on their pathway to purchase. As a result, it should provide essential information, inspiration and support. Increasingly, it represents an opportunity for differentiation when it comes to close competitors.

The digital showroom represents the “how and where” when it comes to the way that products are presented online. As a result it can’t be defined as any one place or format. Instead, it represents a range of different platforms and presentations, ranging from third party marketplaces through to product pages on retailers’ websites.

In traditional brick and mortar retail, brands invest to ensure their products are presented in eye-catching packaging, and strategically positioned at key locations around physical stores. In the digital realm, brands can lean on SEO and visual merchandising when it comes to positioning on search results pages, but the true success of their product positioning usually comes down to one key factor – content.

2. The Digital Showroom: Key To The Modern Purchase Pathway

When it comes to the now ubiquitous omnichannel nature of modern retail, it’s critical for brands to have a solid digital showroom strategy in place. Increasingly, consumers are coming into contact with products across multiple touch points before converting, and consistency in terms of the content and assets that they’re exposed to while on this journey is key. A consumer-centric approach has always been important throughout the history of retail. However, in an online environment, this connection becomes especially crucial. Our expectation for brands to deliver appealing, informative content that can shape our purchasing decisions with the absolute minimum of friction has never been higher. The acceleration of ecommerce as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to heighten consumer expectations. The digital showroom experience should feel cohesive, familiar and seamless. As the bar is raised, poor product experiences feel increasingly jarring.
The Impact Of The Digital Showroom On Pathway To Purchase

Let’s examine a typical purchase experience and consumer journey of the modern shopper. A mother is browsing the Instagram profile of a children’s clothing retailer when she comes across a sweatshirt she wants to buy for her daughter. As their feed isn’t shoppable, she is forced to follow links to find their standalone store.

Having found the retailer’s store, she now needs to search for the item she liked and after entering keywords, she’s able to find the product page titled “Pink Leopard Sweater”. However, she soon learns the sweatshirt is out of stock. Frustrated, she looks for the brand name of the sweatshirt – perhaps she can find it stocked in another store.

Thankfully, the information that she needed is included in the product description. She navigates to the brand’s standalone website and confidently enters the product name “Cute Leopard Sweater” – only to find no results.

Assuming she does not give up on her quest at this point, she may start to search using the store’s menu navigation, or even by using different search terms. Eventually she finds the correct product page – using a different product name and updated imagery, which she didn’t immediately recognize. Only one pixelated image is available, and there are no reviews present on the product page. However, having come into contact with more compelling content at the start of her purchase journey, back on that inspirational Instagram post, she still decides to make the purchase, adds to cart and proceeds through check out.

In this example, there’s a happy ending – but it’s easy to see how an inconsistent product content experience as the result of poor digital showroom strategy from a brand can prove highly frustrating to a shopper trying to locate an item of interest. Had the product been represented using the same name and images across all retailers and channels, location would have been much easier.

3. The Digital Showroom: Why Content Is Truly King

Content is king. We often hear it said, but it’s scarcely ever more applicable than in the case of product content. What’s more, the importance of high quality, consistently representative product content is increasing – not only because consumer experience is reliant on the clear presentation of these attributes, but also because the efficient governance of this high volume of data is a crucial factor to business performance.

The ability of businesses to scale effectively is directly proportional to their capacity to competently handle, distribute and leverage accurate and engaging product information. Slow, inaccurate or inefficient product onboarding will hamper expansion. The inability to confidently command brand experience over an extended range of sales channels will throttle a brand’s reach.

The brands who are struggling to cope today have no chance tomorrow. The need to handle more data across more channels will only rise in terms of importance. New mediums and formats of digital engagement are constantly evolving – the bar continues to be raised, so it’s imperative that organizations get a solid grasp of their content management to be able to meet new challenges with confidence.

The Digital Showroom: A Driver For Growth
The omnichannel approach to modern retail means that, when it comes to influencing offline purchase decisions, digital touch points will remain significant. According to a Forrester report, 58% percent of U.S. retail sales will be digitally impacted by 2023. This means those sales either will occur online or may occur in-store but be influenced by digital technologies. As consumers shop across touchpoints, brands and retailers alike must acknowledge the increasing impact of digital touchpoints on in-store sales. Online research increased in 2020, with 84% of shoppers using online sources to inform their purchase decisions (up from 76% in 2019.) Interestingly, this growth was largely attributed to shoppers over 45 years old, with 80% of those aged 45-54 doing online research (vs. 68% in 2019.) Similarly, 81% of those in the 55+ age bracket conducted online research in 2020, up from 62% in 2019. As the line between on and offline experiences becomes increasingly blurred, the winning brands of tomorrow will be able to seamlessly blend the two, leaning on data to power and enhance these experiences. As the pathway to purchase becomes ever more complex, the importance of personalization within retail becomes ever more pressing. A familiar, relevant and cohesive shopping experience across channels, on and offline, is increasingly essential. This importance will only increase as expectations of the modern consumer rise. More data needed to refine this experience – and a solid grasp of product content is essential if businesses are to be making the very best use of product discovery across their platforms.

4. The Future Evolution Of The Digital Showroom

Retail continues to evolve at an accelerated pace – what certainties can we rely on when it comes to the future of the digital showroom?

  1. Complexity will increase.
    New channels will open up. Product inventories will expand. Product information will become more nuanced and detailed.

  2. Consumer expectations will rise.
    The more we shop, the more seamless we expect the experience to become. Digital showroom experiences should be frustration free. Promoting products that are out of stock for example, simply won’t wash with a modern audience.

  3. Competition will become sharper.
    As technology advances, certain brands will be quicker to embrace opportunities – and this will lead to runaway success for those ready to make the leap. Consumer expectations will quickly rise in response to elevated experiences, creating a need for others within the space to scramble to raise their own standards.

  4. Consistency of consumer experience will become increasingly important.
    Pathways to purchase will become more convoluted, and as a result, consistency of consumer experience and brand representation will rise. Consumers will seek recognizable, personalized service that meets their individual needs and expectations.

  5. Efficiency and accuracy of product content management must rise in order to meet the demands of tomorrow’s digital showroom.
    As ecommerce inventories expand in line with sector growth, it’s essential that retailers have a scalable and effective process in place to handle the increased demand for product content management. Launching new products with ease and ensuring that changes are made across an ever-expanding range of channels will be key to ensuring business efficiency.

5. The Modern Digital Showroom: Common Issues & Blockers To Success

As the importance of the digital showroom has become increasingly apparent, internal solutions have evolved alongside the need for great control, accuracy and automation. However, some common stumbling blocks still present themselves to retailers. Let’s take a look at some of the most persistent and problematic issues.

Product content is patchy, low quality and lacking clear ownership.

When product content as a whole is dipping below the standards that you would like, start by addressing supply. If you’re relying on suppliers to provide the information and assets you require, it can feel like your hands are tied.

But whether you are obtaining assets and attributes from external suppliers, or generating content internally for your own range of products, you need to ensure that your process for the generation or collection of content is watertight, following a specific flow to ensure consistency. 

Ownership of content is also an important factor. Without a clear taxonomy to help with the management of metadata and tagging, content can be underutilized.

Problem Solved With ECP

ECP enables dual syndication of content. This means that it’s possible to directly import product content from supplier catalogs, or export to digital marketplaces with accuracy and ease. ECP’s digital content experience software also provides you with simplified management flows that ensure you’re getting the best leverage out of all available content.

Better control of attributes, product rules and digital assets combines to make sure you’re maximizing the impact of your content, across all channels. Additionally, advanced taxonomy management guarantees your team has total clarity when it comes to collaboration, helping them deliver at pace and scale.

Processes around product content are slow and inefficient. Launching products takes too long.

How robust is your product onboarding process? How well are you leveraging the content that you do have access to? If there’s no efficient way to manage the process of upload and population, you’ll always be fighting a losing battle in the effort to bring your full inventory up to standard. This is problem isn’t going away anytime soon – as consumer demand for more product content grows, and inventories expand – the sooner this issue is solved, the better.

Problem Solved With ECP

ECP’s digital content management software offers an easier path to product onboarding. Workflows around this important, high volume task can be dramatically streamlined via automation. Not only does this win your team valuable time, it also reduces the margin for human error, boosting the accuracy and consistency of your product content output. 

You struggle to get consistency across channels. Products are not represented in a cohesive manner.

As new sales channels open up, keeping product content and brand representation consistent across such a wide range can feel impossible. The opportunity to boost revenue and brand reach by selling across more platforms is tempered by the difficulties in maintaining a  universally optimized consumer experience. 

Problem Solved With ECP

ECP’s content experience platform brings order and end-to-end visibility to your product content management. Working from one central content repository, you’re able to effectively and efficiently distribute to multiple commerce channels. 

You’re concerned that your digital showroom experience is letting you down. You’re not meeting the same standards set by your competitors.

A big factor in the success of your digital shelf strategy is the strength of your channel relationships. How well do you collaborate with the other parties you depend upon for access to content? Another element to address is the effectiveness of your internal quality control. What systems are currently in place for reviewing and improving your content – and is this process proactive or reactive? 

Problem Solved With ECP

In addition to providing dual syndication for ease of collaboration with suppliers and export to channels, ECP’s digital content management software enables clear content quality scoring. This invaluable feature gives instant clarity on the areas where your product information could be improved. Automatically generated quality scores help you identify problem areas and act quickly to remedy them, improving consumer experience with additional content quality.

It’s hard to know where you should focus your efforts for improvement. You’re not taking data-led decisions regarding next steps and best practices.

With consumer expectations continuing to rise, inventories expanding and sales channels multiplying, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to systemic improvements for your product content processes. The answer lies in the intelligent application of data, driving tangible change – but again, where do you start? 

Problem Solved With ECP

ECP removes this blocker. Stop worrying about the next best step and spend more time driving value. Intuitive, data-driven reporting pinpoints the optimal next action, not only for your business as a whole, but for each individual platform user. Optimize your team’s time at the same time as driving AI-informed progressive improvements.

6. The Secret To Success In The Digital Showroom

As we’ve seen, in the age of consumer-centric, omnichannel retail, the digital showroom is central to scalable success. Working with a dependable digital content experience platform is key to achieving sustainable workflows, but a few overarching best practices can also prove helpful

  1. Default to a consumer-centric approach.
    This should be the bedrock of all your decisions. End user experience is what’s driving conversion, brand loyalty, recognition and every other KPI that you’ll want to be tracking. Look after your consumer, and everything else will fall into place.

  2. Keep up with new channels.
    Commerce is evolving rapidly, especially in the digital realm, and the businesses who’ll thrive in this environment are those who can evolve, adapt and experiment. Having an efficient content management system makes it easy to launch on new channels with internal efficiencies ensuring you’re not risking significant resources up front.

  3. Prioritize your partnerships.
    Successful content management starts with optimized source materials. Because of this, there’s a need to invest in the relationships between brands, retailers and distributors. Clear communication (enabled by a great content management system) is key to this. Clarity of content ownership is essential.

  4. Avoid data silos.
    Transparency and interconnectedness of data are non-negotiable in the retail area of tomorrow. Make sure you’re getting all potential value from the data you have access to, leveraging it to enable better efficiency from your team.

Ready To Embrace The Opportunity Of The Modern Digital Showroom?

The digital showroom represents a key factor in determining the success of increasingly essential consumer experience and brand control. As a result, for any business looking to step up and benefit from the enormous opportunity afforded by changing consumer behaviors and the omnichannel experience, it must be a priority focus.

With the right infrastructure, support and partnerships, modern consumer expectations represent an opportunity, not a challenge. ECP’s digital content experience platform offers the perfect range of functionality and practicality, when it comes to stepping up and evolving your business in parallel with the modern digital showroom.

Tell (and sell) the full product story with ECP’s cutting edge digital experience software.

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