Product Attributes: What Consumers Want to Know and How to Give It to Them

December 5, 2018 / by Tina Eaton

Man, is it just us or is it getting harder and harder to get your products noticed?

Turns out—it’s not just us.

A major factor for this shift can be chalked up to economics. Global measurement and data analytics company Nielsen found that retail in the U.S. didn’t grow its revenue even half a percent in 2017. In 2016 revenue growth was only 1 percent, down from 2.4 percent in 2015.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that trend is going to reverse anytime soon. Nielsen forecasts that 2020 will bring a 1 percent revenue drop in the grocery, drug, and mass merchandise channels.

So, what can one do to combat this new reality of retail? By giving the people what they want!

And what is that, exactly? If you read the title of this article, you already know—it’s all about product attributes, baby. 

When it comes to consumer goods, shoppers want products that meet their very specific needs. And they’re finding and purchasing these goods by searching for very specific product attributes.

Let’s look to the food market for an example. Label Insight’s 2017 Shopper Trend Survey found that nearly half of U.S. consumers adhere to a particular diet. Over 40 percent have intolerances or sensitivities that influence the way they shop for food. 

Product searches are only going to get more specific. Consumers today are long on information and short on time. They’re poised to purchase your products with the tap of a finger—as long as they can easily tell that it’s exactly what they’re looking for.

Here’s how to figure out what shoppers want to know about your offerings and how to best provide that information to boost your bottom line.

How to Figure Out Which Product Attributes Matter

Think Like a Customer: Read the Reviews

I don’t know how many times I’ve read a product review that says something like “Hey [Retailer/Brand], please update your product photos/measurements/material composition to be more accurate!”

It’s pretty clear that consumers are already expecting (or at least hoping) that retailers are paying attention to their feedback. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of all that free marketing research and read the dang reviews already.

Note what customers have to say about how the product compared to their expectations. See how they’re using the product. Keep a rough estimate of which product attributes (color, size, material, country of origin, brand, etc.) come up most often.

Are a lot of people disappointed at the size of the item? Update your product attributes with measurements or photos that show it in comparison with something else. Are they consistently surprised at the high-quality material? Highlight that amazing feature in your product attributes! 

Advanced Strategy: Text Mining Reviews

If you have thousands of reviews to read—or thousands of competitor reviews (good thinking!) to read—it might be time to get a little outside help when employing this strategy.

Text mining, or text analytics, uses artificial intelligence-powered software to read and analyze big chunks of writing. Thanks to natural language processing (NLP) algorithms, the software is able to recognize and isolate important data points for you to analyze. 

With this method, you can quickly pinpoint which are the most-mentioned product attributes and rank the importance of each. This data is invaluable in determining which product attributes should take center stage in your product descriptions.

Check Out Comparables

While you’re in there pouring over the reviews of your own products, why not check out what shoppers have to say about some comparable items?

Notice a similar product is selling like hotcakes? Something brought all that traffic there. Check out what product attributes they’re using and see if you can apply the same method your own product listings.

Think outside the box by checking out products that aren’t even in the same industry as you. If you sell engine parts but a listing for a kayak really speaks to you, try to break down the reasons why it works so well and create a formula to make your product attributes stronger. It could be just what you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Implement Social Listening

Social listening is pretty much exactly what it sounds (pun totally intended) like—using software to monitor what people are saying about your brand, your products, or your industry as a whole on social media. 

Modern consumers often use social media as a way to share their feelings, make recommendations, and connect with brands if they have feedback or questions. And the best part is—it’s all pretty candid. Social listening can tell you what words people use to talk about your products or other products in your industry as well as the “sentiment” of their conversations. Are you hearing confusion about the region of manufacturing or lots of happy remarks about the value? Use your product attributes to address these points! 

To get started, a quick internet search for “social listening tools” or “social monitoring tools” will provide you with several DIY software tools or agency services to consider.

Monitor Website Activity

We know that you know the importance of tracking all kinds of different analytics. However, just like the cobbler’s kids end up without shoes, even the best analysts can overlook data mines that are sitting right in front of them. 

In this case, we’re talking about your online platforms. Whether you’re selling from your own domain(s) or are all about those marketplaces—there’s so much info to be found!

What terms are users typing into your product search bar? Which attributes get selected most often on the drop-down menus in your product description? Are website visitors expanding your FAQs sections? Are you getting low repeat visitor rates? How about a high bounce rate?

Analyze everything to learn where you can experiment to change consumer behavior. Got thousands of SKUs and only 40 hours a week to keep up with analyzing all of them? Don’t do it alone. Whether you’re a startup brand or an enterprise-level online retailer, Plytix’s powerful platform puts all your product content analytics in one easy-to-read dashboard so you can make smart decisions in seconds.

Best Practices for Giving Shoppers What They Want

Multi-Channel Optimization

We live in a world of omnicommerce. Not only are there nearly countless ecommerce platforms; shoppers are moving between mobile devices, tablets, desktop computers, and in-store experiences—and they expect their journey to be seamless and personalized the entire way.

If a shopper can’t find or isn’t impressed by your product attributes, it’s easy for them to move on to the next option. FAQ content or mobile-friendly images didn’t port over to the channel properly? Next! Worse, your product attributes don’t match the retailer’s taxonomy? You’re probably not even going to show up in a search in the first place!

That’s why it quite literally pays to understand how your product attributes will be displayed and optimize them on every single channel. However, as your SKUs and number of retail platforms increase, so does the time it takes to optimize effectively.

That is, unless you’re using software that automatically distributes and optimizes your product attributes. Whether you’re using 5 or fifty different channels, Plytix offers countless channel integrations on top of its cutting-edge product content management software to help online brands and retailers grow their ecommerce success to unimaginable heights. 

Give Shoppers Fewer Choices (Unless They Want More)

Sound like a trick tip? Well, the only trick here is figuring out whether your customer is shopping for business or pleasure and optimizing your product attributes from there.

In an article for the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers conducted a series of six experiments in which participants were asked to consider product choices when given either a pleasure-focused motivation or a utilitarian motivation.

Surprisingly, they found that consumers motivated by pleasure desire a large number of product attributes from which to choose. Those with a utilitarian need are satisfied by a smaller number of product attributes.

So whether your product catalog fulfills more utilitarian needs or is focused on shoppers who are seeking out fun, you can tailor your number of product attributes to best meet their desires.

Give Shoppers Fewer Choices (Unless They Want More)

Whichever number of product attributes you decide to use, remember that product assortment is the most important factor for online shoppers. Even consumers who want to see more attributes don’t want to drown in them. So, give them a way to filter, categorize, organize, and otherwise “slice and dice” their searches so they can create their own personalized shopping experience.

Speak Their Language

Mirroring has long been featured on those lists of “how to to get people to like you,” but this simple act of mimicking a person’s posture, gestures, or even words has also been shown to help establish relationships, win negotiations, and close sales. So why not try it out online?

Connect shoppers with the product they’re looking for, and with your brand, by using the same language they use in search terms in your product attributes.

For example, say a popular search term in your category is “glass casserole dish with lid.” Maybe you wouldn’t have used the word “casserole” or didn’t think the material and the lid were all that important. However, now that you know the language a shopper would use, you can mirror it to both improve your search engine results ranking and establish rapport.

Go Beyond The Written Word

Almost half of online shoppers say that not being able to able to touch or try a product is one of their least favorite parts of making purchases online.

While retailers of high-end products may get away with offering free or affordable samples, there’s an even simpler way to recreate the “brick-and-mortar” experience that many digital consumers still crave: Detailed product photography and videos that show people interacting with the product.

In addition, shoppers report that a comparison of your product to similar ones on the market, live chat functionality, and links to media coverage are all ways to help them feel more connection and trust during the online shopping experience.

While product attributes are often seen as a benefit for the shopper, they can also have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Beyond the fact that better product attributes empower shoppers to find and purchase your items more easily, they’re also useful in helping you analyze opportunities for improvement.

By viewing product performance through the lense of different product attributes, you can determine which brands bring in the most traffic, whether your lower- or higher-priced items are selling with more consistency, if consumers prefer single items or packages, which patterns are most popular, and so on. If you don’t have the time (or the desire, quite frankly) to run all of this complex analysis by hand, you don’t have to! Plytix is the only product information management (PIM) platform that makes it easy to analyze and optimize product attribute performance all in one place.

If you’re ready to centralize, optimize, distribute, and analyze (find out more about CODA here) product attributes and improve your company’s revenue per employee, try out the only PIM software made by content folks, for content folks.

The best part is, it’s just as easy to install as it is to use. Stop paying for overly complex and overly pricey software. Get started with Plytix today.

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Tina Eaton

Written by Tina Eaton