November 18, 2014

Ecommerce Research Chart: What do retailers show on product pages?

SUMMARY: If customers can buy the exact same product from a different store, then why should they buy it from your site?

If your site is the exclusive reseller or manufacturer of a product, and customers can buy it nowhere else, must you provide customers with as much information?

To see how companies deal with these challenges, we share data from 2,357 marketers about product pages in this MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

In the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study survey, we asked the following questions:

Q. #1 What best describes your business model?

Q. #2 What information does your website display alongside each product?

We then combined the responses to these questions to discover how an ecommerce site’s business model affects what is displayed on product pages. You can see the responses in the below chart, which is followed by our analysis in this week’s article:

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

"It seems that manufacturer or direct sales companies display fewer of the listed items on their product pages, except in the category of product value proposition messaging," Diana Sindicich, Senior Research Manager of Data Analysis, MECLABS Institute (parent company of MarketingSherpa) said. "This is most dramatically shown in specifications, similar products and stock availability."

Manufacturer or direct sales is more likely to have product value proposition messaging

Value proposition was one area that direct sellers focused on more than nonexclusive resellers.

Since manufacturers that sell their own products are more focused on competing with other, different products, this increased focus makes sense — whereas nonexclusive resellers can be more focused on convincing the customer to buy from their store, instead of focusing on the individual product.

Of course, the value proposition must be communicated on more than just the product page. As one Benchmark Study survey respondent noted, "Once we acquired some registered customers, we also focused on targeted and value proposition-driven email marketing." To be most effective, those product pages should connect to the value proposition messaging delivered in upstream marketing channels.

Specifications, similar products and stock availability are more frequently used by non-exclusive resellers

Nonexclusive resellers can be particularly challenged by other companies selling the same product. "Amazon is a big problem to our market as individuals sell similar products at very low prices," a Benchmark Study survey respondent shared. Another lamented that "The emergency supplies segment has over 300 active websites selling products from about five main manufacturers, and we are one of them."

How do you battle this competition? As one marketer noted, he was able to overcome his challenge of "declining margins caused by increasing (poor-quality) resellers" by providing "better product info" on the ecommerce website.

What type of information are resellers disproportionately using? Product information that allowed customers to compare products and be assured of availability were more common on the product pages of nonexclusive resellers than manufacturers.

These types of options can help customers choose to make their purchase through one ecommerce site instead of another. One respondent noted, "As a membership organization, we target those members foremost but also attract nonmembers through our stock availability."

The very act of having an ecommerce site can help more readily get this information to potential customers. One respondent was challenged by getting "Product specifications to the end user." Ecommerce helped solve this problem. According to one respondent, this problem was "Overcome through publishing online." Providing information through your ecommerce store may be more than a direct sales vehicle — it could be a way to provide product information to a customer that buys at a bricks-and-mortar reseller.

Images and price are most frequently displayed by all groups

While images and price were most frequently displayed by all ecommerce companies, regardless of their business model, even these fairly basic items were not universally featured on product pages — only 86% of nonexclusive resellers and 75% of manufacturer or direct sales companies displayed them.

High-quality images help not only in selling the product but also in making sure that the customer is pleased with the experience. As one marketer noted, "The most difficult thing is to assure the customer is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) with showing the customer all aspects of the product so that it will not trigger a change of mind during product delivery."

However, a traditional image is just the beginning. What else can you do to clearly show the product? One respondent suggested, "360 [degree] photograph of the products would be great on the product detail pages."

Technology can help here as well, as this respondent explained: "Integrating a product customizer that allowed visitors to visualize a product with multiple options into our shopping cart [was a challenge]. Custom and variable product implementations into shopping carts are very expensive, but we were able to reduce the costs tenfold by making use of existing scripts and tools, which already functioned with our cart."

However, some marketers found it difficult to obtain good product images. One plant seller responded to the Benchmark Study survey by saying:

"Our product images are a very difficult thing to acquire. Customers don't want to see just an image of a stick in a pot (what they are purchasing). They also want to see images of what the product will look like in 20 or 30 years. These images are difficult to obtain since it requires someone who is a good photographer but is also knowledgeable enough to identify the plant. Even if those two things are possible, the plant itself might not be photogenic. We are able to rely on some images provided by some growers, but these don't provide the same consistent experience for the user on the site."

When it comes to price, instead of just listing price on the product page, one nonexclusive reseller found a better way to serve customers for more expensive products: "We introduced a cart-to-quote extension for high-end products, which generates a good (potential) customer portfolio."

When you’re designing your product pages, choose wisely. For example, one respondent’s goal was "Increasing conversion rates and targeted traffic." She said, "we overcame these challenges by implementing social proof, loyalty points, seasonal promos and amazing product descriptions, which equals to an overall greater user experience."

That is ultimately the goal of product pages and should drive your decisions about what to include on these pages — a great user experience that makes it easy for your customers to identify what products will best serve their needs and what the buying experience will be like from your site.

Related resources

MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study — Made possible by a research grant from Magento, an eBay company

B2B Research Chart: How do prospects really feel about your marketing?

Ecommerce Research Chart: Marketing budget spends by channel

What's the Most Important Ecommerce Challenge? On-time Shipping

Why You Should Consider Customer Service to be 1-to-1 Marketing

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