online-shoppingOmni-channel has become a dated term. In this age of digital information available anytime and anywhere there are precious few shopping decisions being made without fact based information. A MasterCard report from 2015 shows that 8 out of 10 purchases made by retail shoppers are informed by some kind of digital information. With 80 percent of purchase decisions influenced by shopper research, their decisions about just where to buy is likely to come down to convenience and timing rather than loyalty. Omni-channel shopping is now just plain shopping.

Retailers need to be sure they are focusing on the most important factors driving their customers - information. In fact the source of information needs to begin at the source, and that source should be the manufacturer or supplier. It may be a strange environment for manufacturers but the production and dissemination of product information can’t come from a better place. But capabilities vary widely in terms of the ability of product suppliers to create, produce, and market their products.

Certainly large manufactures have marketing teams that independently create and publish product specifications and full marketing campaigns. These companies produce their own cloud of product information, enlist cadres of consumers as fans and brand representatives, and otherwise get their products known. Their product information is easily found by shoppers performing online searches.

But smaller brands and products struggle to be represented. That leaves their product information in the hands of their retailers that publish product catalogs and consumers who write reviews of the products. Are there better ways that producers can make accurate and compelling information available to today’s savvy shoppers?

The ever-present EDI catalog is probably the best and most important method of delivering the information consumers want. The problem is that most of these catalogs are targeted at technical use and their content shows it. The data includes weights, shipping quantities and all the details needed for retailers to populate their online catalogs and manage their order processes. Some catalogs include media for use by the retailers like images and product descriptions. The information is consumed and subsequently distributed by the product supplier’s retail trading partners. But that still leaves the producers without their own vehicle for delivery of their own content.

Small producers should look to leverage their existing catalog data, add consumer oriented information, and expose that portion of their data to search engines and in their own company product blogs. There’s no doubt now that consumers are looking online before they make their purchase decisions. Suppliers should make certain that their own products are well represented in addition to what their retail partners are doing.
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