Today’s consumer is hungry for product information – trends such as farm-to-table and clean eating all point to a population that wants to know more about where their food comes from. Consumer packaged goods brands’ increasing web presence and use of social media and mobile applications are making it easier than ever for shoppers to get information about products, whether they are shopping in a store or online.
However, while product information is easy to come by, it may not always be accurate. As many as three-quarters of consumers find inconsistent product information while shopping, according to a recent study from eBay Enterprise and CFI Group.
As more consumers embrace omni-channel retail, CPG companies are dedicating more resources to brand management to ensure consumers encounter consistent product information and brand messaging at every stage of their interaction with the brand.
“Accurate product information and inventory visibility have historically been supply chain issues but are now grabbing the attention of marketing departments, as it is becoming clear that consumers are sophisticated users of product information and more and more purchasing decisions are influenced by a variety of information sources,” said Angela Fernandez, vice president of retail grocery and foodservice at GS1 US, a non-profit information standards organization that advocates for a common language of business across industries ranging from healthcare to retail grocery.
Suppliers, distributors and retailers at the organization’s GS1 Connect conference this year all identified improving product information as a top priority, Fernandez said, and a special work group as part of the organization’s Retail Grocery Initiative has been established to help the industry optimize the way it handles product information.
Fernandez said companies are quickly realizing that paper-based systems and other outdated ways of dealing with product information can’t deliver the speed and accuracy needed in today’s retail landscape. Even e-mail has proven too slow and unreliable for dealing with product information requests, a problem that inspired the creation of product information network Hubba.
The Canadian company provides a network for brands and retailers to manage product information in real time, which helps retailers minimize mistakes on store circulars, signage and web sites, said Head of Product Strategy Phil Chang.
Enjoy Life Foods uses Hubba to make sure the retailers that carry its products have the most up-to-date product information. “Since our consumers place trust in Enjoy Life products to be safe, having outdated information can hinder the trust we have built with them. Hubba allows us the transparency we promise to our consumers,” said Digital Sales Manager Emily Morton.
Morton said Enjoy Life uses an integrated sales and marketing strategy that “includes a full-time digital sales manager to focus on selling our products online and being an expert in e-commerce best practices. This position supports and educates brick and mortar retailers as they begin to develop the strategy of integrating multiple channels for their business.”
Managing product information at every stage of consumers’ interaction with the brand is a complex process, but it can help companies boost their image and retain customers. “Research shows that consumers are more loyal when they know they can expect complete and accurate product information – online, at point of sale or at any point in their buying decision,” Fernandez said.
In addition to making sure retailers have accurate and consistent information for their products, brands can increase customer loyalty by encouraging customers to communicate with them for additional information – and making sure that process is simple and stress-free.
“In the past if there was a product or brand complaint people could write a letter to that brand or product, but typically what would happen is they would go to the store and the retailer would have to get involved … whereas now it’s quite easy for the customer to go right to the manufacturer or producer,” said Laurie Demeritt, CEO of market research firm The Hartman Group.
Enjoy Life uses its website as an information source for consumers and treats social media as an open forum where customers can ask questions. “We love keeping an open dialogue, where we can learn more about their needs, and take those learnings and turn them into improvements for our current and future products,” Morton said.
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