These days, customers want entirely different product information than they did in the past – especially when it comes to refrigerators, dishwashers and the like. Dr. Thomas Salditt from BSH Home Appliances Corporation talks about the contents and software tools manufacturers can use to support both online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
Dr. Salditt, to what extent has the importance of product information changed in the white goods industry sector?
It has changed considerably thanks to digital transformation. In the past, you had a catalog that often showcased up to eight products on one page with every few explanations and highly technical data sheets for each individual device. This formed the basis for all manufacturers.
To be consumer relevant today, we at BSH have started to provide increasingly more structured data featuring detailed content about our products to set ourselves apart from our competition. First and foremost, we must illustrate the benefits, special features and tricks of a device – both for online as well as brick-and-mortar retail.
Why is extensive product information so important, especially when it comes to white goods?
The timeframe during which someone obtains information on white goods is often very brief. Usually, you urgently need a new refrigerator because the old one is broken. Meanwhile, the equipment life cycle is approximately ten years. That’s why the customer needs detailed information in a concise and comprehensive way.
How do information requirements differ in terms of online and offline sectors?
Information about features is meant to make it easier for customers to choose a product by illustrating the advantages compared to other brands and devices. Customers and retailers benefit from improved descriptions if they shop online or at a brick-and-mortar store. A sales associates at a brick-and-mortar store can utilize this information to better understand the special features of a device and explain them to the customer. Another advantage is that he/she can narrow down the customer’s search from the start using key questions. Ultimately, a customer doesn’t want to choose from 80 different refrigerators but from a selection of two or three.
It is not quite so easy to narrow down a search online. In this case, the descriptions need to be even more detailed to compensate for not having a sales associate on hand. We try to work with algorithms – among other things- so customers can browse the product choices based on questions (e.g., where is the device located? Usage pattern? Any children living in the household?). The customer should have fun exploring the subject.
How do you accomplish this?
First, we had to and still have to become better at putting our technical jargon into customer-friendly explanations and appealing words. On the one hand, the language plays a role in this, depending on the region where the product description is being read, and on the other hand, how the marketing language of our individual brands such as Bosch or Siemens should sound. This is a major challenge for an international company. Extensive graphic material and videos of the product from all sides are absolutely essential.
What options do you use as a manufacturer to present your product information?
For one, we use our own web pages to also directly address the end user – this was not the case in the past. We previously only made this information available to our merchants. We try to catch up with successful online retailers in terms of usability and information processing with our brand websites, although we don’t focus on sales but rather pre-purchase information and support service information.
You also provide your information to retailers in a variety of ways. What tools do you make available?
We have been using TradePlace for a while, which is a European platform by a Dutch company where we supply information for white goods retailers.
We also have additional external content tools. One of these tools is Loadbee. Here we provide information on structured products to merchants by providing a small button (e.g. “Manufacturing Information”) on the product detail pages of the online retailer for example. If you select it, a layover with all photos, videos, feature descriptions and technical details opens up. We can also make additional information on the respective brands available.
What are the benefits of this display format?
On the one hand, the manufacturer information button creates trust because the information comes directly from Bosch or Siemens for example. It is reliable and the customer does not have to leave the store to switch back to the manufacturer’s website again. What’s more, the merchant can ensure that all information is presented in a visually appealing and easy-to-find and up-to-date manner. This is especially interesting for merchants who are not yet very proficient in preparing contents.
What other tools do you use?
The next content tool is Bazaarvoice, which allows us (along with other functionalities) to also share customer product reviews on our website with retailer websites and vice versa. After all, what’s nice is that our customers like to talk about our devices, whether it’s good or bad. Product recommendations create a lot of trust and credibility. Ultimately, customer reviews are pure gold, not just because great, credible reviews help sales but because nowadays, available reviews appear to be a basic prerequisite for customers to actually take a closer look at a product. We are presently also working on displaying our Bazaarvoice product reviews via Loadbee. In doing so, we offer a full package, especially for smaller merchants: complete, visually appealing product and brand information as well as product reviews written by customers.
We also collaborate with ChannelSight pertaining to the “Where to buy“ aspect. That means, in addition to the conventional zip code search for brick-and-mortar retailers, we offer online retailers the option of direct linking our product detail page to the associated product detail page at the respective online store of our trading partners. These are verifiably highly qualified links with extremely high conversion rates.
How do these options help retailers?
We work with many small retailers who are often not as skilled yet in this area. By providing information on structured products at low cost via Loadbee or customer product reviews via Bazaarvoice, it obviously helps them in making a giant leap forward. We also have a personal interest in showcasing our products to where they can be sold at the best possible rate.
Other industry sectors are already better in delivering data to end users. Who is setting a great example?
The consumer electronics and telecommunications sectors for example. Product information here has always been more marketing and feature-oriented. These products have also been advertised by using more information, videos and images compared to our refrigerators. Just think about the product information you can find on smartphones, tablets or TVs. We can learn a thing or two from this and continue to work on improvements.