Hard-goods distributors recognize the need for better product content on their ecommerce websites. Robust item descriptions, product codes, multiple images, attributes, and specs – anything that attract buyers to your digital branch. Recently, we surveyed nearly 200 distributors and manufacturers and almost half ranked their product content as average at best; nearly one in four gave it a D or an F.
Full content enrichment of every product can be expensive for businesses that carry tens of thousands of SKUs. The good news is that this isn’t an all-or-nothing decision. The top-tier, premium treatment that gives your content a look and feel that can match the web’s top consumer sites can cost $20-$100 per SKU. However, not every SKU needs the Cadillac approach.
The prices I quote below reflect industry averages and do not represent any particular vendor. I present them as general guidelines, so you know what to expect when investigating content-enrichment services:
- Level 1 is the least expensive option at 50 cents to $1 per SKU and mainly involves data cleanup and normalization. Uniformity and a clean presentation are the goal here rather than data enrichment.
- Level 2 ($1-$2 per SKU) adds an image and two or three key product attributes, and optimizes product names for search engine optimization (SEO).
- Level 3 ($2.50-$3.50 per SKU) includes a marketing description, additional product images, and other digital assets (catalogues, instructional manuals, etc.).
- Level 4 costs a fraction of the price ($3.50-$5.50 per SKU) of level 5 yet offers content that allows distributors to compete with just about anyone. This is the level I believe most hard-goods distributors should focus on. It adds a unique marketing description, maximizes for keyword searches, and links to existing product videos. Where appropriate, it also suggests substitute products and required accessories, thereby enabling cross-selling and upselling. This level also focuses on grouping your products into families and assigning filter attributes that will aid buyers in searching and browsing on your website.
- The level 5 treatment includes all the above, of course, plus other benefits. One is that all the work is done onshore by U.S.-based writers who both understand the nuances of the English language and can write descriptions tailored to the needs of the customer. Another is custom-built product detail pages that match the templates of online marketplaces such as Amazon.
How does the cost-savvy distributor decide which products to overhaul first? Many companies use the 80/20 rule. Think of the old adage that 80 percent of the typical company’s sales come from 20 percent of its inventory. Focus on these items, typically a subset that numbers in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands.
Another option is to focus on buyers rather than products by choosing a group of strategic customers and concentrating on the products most relevant to them. Or, focus on smaller accounts you’re eager to move online. If you don’t want your sales reps spending much time on these lower-value accounts, figure out what they order and enrich those products to help entice those customers online.
Another approach is to choose those products that help your company defend its turf. Are there products that people are more likely to find in a Google search than by visiting your website? By enriching those products, you increase the chances that searchers will click on your site. Or look at your inventory and decide which are the lower-margin items that customers are most likely to purchase online. This strategy has you spending money on content enrichment for highly competitive items before addressing the remaining SKUs.
Whatever your approach, remember that this is typically a multi-year endeavor. Come up with a plan that won’t break the bank but will ensure you’re more effectively competing with big-box players such as Grainger or Amazon Business who are winning the ecommerce battle in part because of the quality of their content.
Suchit Bachalli is CEO of Unilog, a company that specializes in delivering eCommerce solutions for B2B midmarket companies. He has spent more than two decades helping companies compete in the fast-moving digital commerce space. In 2015, the Philadelphia Business Journalnamed Suchit to its “40-Under-40” list. Vistage, the world’s leading CEO peer-advisory organization, honored Suchit with its annual Impact Award in 2018.