The Online Marketing Channel Part III – Data

In previous installments of this 4 part series, we established the mantra for navigating the online marketing channel to be “Technology First, Then Marketing.”  Your website is the hub to which all marketing channels lead.

Part 3 of a 4 part series.  

In previous installments of this 4 part series, we established the mantra for navigating the online marketing channel to be “Technology First, Then Marketing.”  Your website is the hub to which all marketing channels lead. It needs to be engaging and current, because you only have one chance to make a first impression. With the right website technology in place, the next step is making sure you get the right data into and out of the website.

When you break it down, website data is really just a compilation of words and pictures.  Break it down one more level and the words and pictures relate to one of the following categories:

(i) static content pages which are managed using the website’s content management system (CMS),

(ii) the product catalog which is preferably dynamically generated from your inventory system or from a third party data aggregator, and

(iii) profile data created by the customer’s interaction with your website.

The static content pages typically include the following web pages:

  • Home Page
  • Category Landing Pages
  • Education
  • About Us
  • Services
  • Contact Us
  • Privacy Policy & Terms
  • Events
  • Testimonials

The old adage that “content is king” has never been more true.  The results of making regular campaign, promotion and other content updates to the website will be more online traffic and more engagement, which translates into more in-store inquiries and more sales.  It is important that you know how to use the website CMS to update content on certain website pages to reflect current marketing campaigns and enhance search engine ranking. We’ll be looking at online marketing tips in the next installment of this series.

In regard to the product catalog, let’s take it down another level and talk about what it means to have quality product data in your website.   A quality product data sheet means several things, including:

  • product names that describe the items in no more than 2 rows. Do not use style numbers or wholesale abbreviations in the product name.
  • product descriptions that use keywords and describe the salient features of the item.
  • separate database columns for each filter attribute such as metal type, gemstone type, carat weight, style, diamond quality, etc.
  • multiple category listings for items so there is greater exposure, for example a wedding band with diamond and sapphire gemstones should appear under ‘diamond wedding bands’ and ‘gemstone wedding bands’.
  • image names should be based on the style number to make it easy to keep track of images, but it is of greater SEO benefit to also concatenate the product name into the images, for example, W12345PL-platinum-wedding-band.
  • if items are available in different metal types, then make sure the data file reflects this.  If you do not have images in the different metal colors, then add a statement to the description as to which metal types the item is available.

Quality images requires several things, including:

  • images should be shot in TIFF or other layered format in higher resolution, kept as a master file, and then saved in a lower resolution format such as JPEG or PNG for the website.
  • images should be saved in web format with at least 500 x 500 pixel resolution, and it is now recommended that web images be 800 x 800 pixels to view clearly under enhanced zoom features.
  • the product itself should occupy ~80% of the image area so that there is some white space around the items but not so much that the items look small.
  • take at least 2 photographs of items and create a specific nomenclature so that all side and/or top images are designated as such.
  • if you’re a vendor and you’re serious about helping your authorized retailers promote your products, then you look to provide video and/or 360 degree photography of bridal and other important items.
  • Use Adobe photoshop or similar to create images of products in the different metal colors in which it is available. For example, if an item is available in 14KWG, 14KYG, 18KWG, 18KYG, platinum and sterling silver this requires only 2 images – white and yellow.
  • Make sure all the items are photographed in the same orientation for the viewer, and that everything is consistent so that it reflects well on your store’s brand image.

Sounds like a lot of work, right?

Well the truth is, it is a lot of work if you choose to do it yourself.  But maybe the better answer is to join with other like minded retailers with the common goals of improving the quality of the data provided by your preferred jewelry suppliers and making it as easy as possible to integrate their data into your website, one supplier at a time.

Data quality in the jewelry industry is the single biggest problem we face in overcoming the challenges of online marketing. And the issue involves the quality of the data at both the retail and wholesale levels.  The B2B side of the industry has been using shorthand notations for product attributes forever, but consumers need more easily understood information about individual items, and they need the ability to quickly filter items to find what they are looking for.

So the next time you enter an item into your inventory do so with the care to provide consumer oriented product names and product descriptions and to assign all key attributes such as items type, metal type, gemstone type, etc.  Make sure to establish a data entry process with the above directives.

In the ideal jewelry world, the burden needs to be on the supplier to build a digital catalog with quality product data and imagery for its own B2B website, and which can be shared with all authorized retailers.   But quality photography costs money and finding and retaining data-entry personnel to pay attention to the data fields takes more time and money. This is the classic chicken and egg scenario for vendors, and the only way they are going to make the needed investment is when enough of their customers start demanding it or simply leave for other vendors that do.

There are companies in the jewelry industry starting to aggregate digital catalogs of different suppliers and provide real time data syncs right into your website–it is wise to look at them before embarking on the journey alone.

When you put product data into your website, two things will happen:

– the phone will ring and customers will ask about the price or availability of an item, and

– customers will come into the store to see something they saw in the website.

In both cases, when you use the vendor catalog approach chances are you will not have a customers desired item in-store, in which case the appropriate action is to cross-sell into something close or to call the item into the store for a scheduled viewing.

Quality Data also means integration of the website data with your CRM and POS data.  When new prospects register an online account and add profile information, that data needs to find its way into your CRM so these new prospects can be added to your marketing efforts.  In its simplest form of implementation, this means that on a regular basis you have to manually export the customer profile information from the website and manually upload it into the store’s CRM.  Depending on your CRM it may be possible to program special code into the website to automate the process. Make sure the My Account section of your website allows consumers to enter their birthday, anniversary, spouse birthday, finger sizes, favorite brands, etc.

Wishlist data is also a very interesting data set to think about.  Most stores still use the little “black book” method where each salesperson records what Mrs. Jones wants for her anniversary.  The problem with this method is that when the salesperson leaves your employ to work for a competitor so does their little black book.  The way to prevent the loss of this proprietary information is of course to digitize it within a wishlist module in your POS or in your website.

Most of the better POS providers already provide this functionality.  But it becomes more challenging when you try to integrate the website Wishlist with the POS wishlist.  This requires a 2 way communication between systems, which can be complex. But when it is done properly, this integration allows Ms. Jones to log into your website from home and to see products in her wishlist that she liked when she visited the store earlier that day.  Mrs. Jones can then add items into her website wishlist account and the information automatically feeds down into the POS wishlist where the store associate is notified. Most of the better POS companies provide data feeds to share this information and you’ll want to work with a website company that has familiarity doing this kind of integration.

Finally, quality data also means having all of the product data accessible under one system on your website.  Many vendors and third parties have built their own modules or iframes that they offer to embed on retailer sites, but that solution comes with several significant shortcomings which interrupt your online brand experience.  These shortcomings include the facts that the products in the plug-in modules cannot easily be added to the wishlist or shopping cart of your website, nor can they be found from the search box of your website or included in your website’s analytics. These modules also typically are not mobile friendly, and each has its own design and appearance, which means you lose control over the appearance and navigation structure of large portions of your website. These modules worked fine in old websites lacking the core website technologies we’ve discussed in previous installments of the series, but when it comes to redoing your website to meet modern consumer expectations, you need to make sure to tell your vendors you want just their product data, not their web interface.  

Take it all one step at a time. Work to improve your website content one page at a time. Work to improve data one vendor at a time, and investigate your options for working with third party data aggregators.  The advances in website technology make it much easier and cost effective to move into platforms which include all of the essential online technologies and product data for engaging your customers online.

Now that the technology and data sides of the house are in order, in the next installment of this series we’ll be ready to look at some integrated online marketing strategies which are proven to deliver results.

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