A Guide to Product Attributes
Understanding what information your customers need when they’re shopping online is critical. For example, my dog, Rosie, may only weigh 18 pounds, but she's a power chewer. So when I search for dog toys online, you bet I rely on product information to find ones that can withstand the crushing strength of her little puppy jaws.
Brands need to ensure the product information they’re providing is accurate and consistent; otherwise, it’ll cost them dearly — whether that’s in extra work, returns, or lost revenue. So how can you ensure your product information is on point?
Read on as we discuss the basics of developing and communicating the attributes of your products, including a definition of these attributes, their importance, and best practices for attribute management.
What are product attributes?
Product attributes are the properties that describe a product or service and provide shoppers with information they can use to find, compare, and, ultimately, make a purchasing decision.
Most often, product attributes will convey the physical aspects of a product, such as its size, shape, and color. However, they can also include product descriptions and other intangible qualities. For example, a shopper may be researching small backpacks for day trips. A quick Google search brings back several results. There are two that look practical in size, shape, and color — per their description and attributes — and they’re similar to what the shopper has in mind. Both also say they’re “durable,” but that language is subjective. What’s durable to one person might not hold up for another. That’s why it’s essential to have detailed and specific product information to answer consumers’ unasked questions.
Types of product attributes
The example above demonstrates the two different types of product attributes: tangible and intangible attributes.
Tangible product attributes are the physical descriptions. These are features that can be weighed, measured, touched, smelled, and grouped based on objective qualities. They are quantifiable and specific.
Intangible product attributes are more subjective. They are the non-physical features that convey a feeling or belief about a product. It’s a product’s perceived value (not its actual price tag), quality, and prestige. Brand perception plays a lot into this as well, which is why building brand loyalty is so critical.
Both types of product attributes are important when bringing a product to life because they help customers make an informed decision. And while these attributes are necessary for in-store experiences, they're crucial for online sales. Since online shoppers can't touch a physical product, they rely on the accuracy of product attributes to make a purchase. Incorrect information can lead to mistrust, frustration, and lost customers.
Examples of product attributes
Attributes vary and can apply to multiple products and product categories, but there are several common attributes you’ll see regularly. Here are a few examples:
- Product ID
- Size or dimensions
- Materials used in construction
- Design features
- Country of origin
Why do product attributes matter?
Attributes allow shoppers to find, comprehend, and compare products. Selling online isn’t just about offering the best products, but also about having the best descriptive data. Making the sale is important, but you must also deliver on your promises. Unmet expectations lead to bad reviews and returns, which no one wants. So businesses should take great care in ensuring their information is accurate and up to date to avoid disappointing both themselves and their customers.
Let’s take a look at three ways product information can impact your business.
We’ve talked about this one a bit, but let’s dig into it a little deeper. According to Statista, e-commerce revenue in the U.S. is projected to grow from $856.6 billion in 2022 to $1.56 trillion in 2027. Even with inflation, that’s a hefty increase in just a matter of five years. This will come from new brands entering the market along with the expansion of existing brands, so consumers will have plenty of options when they want to make a purchase. But how do they make their decision about what to buy? Well, they do their research.
Internetretailing reports that 62% of online shoppers use Google’s Shopping tab to compare similar products from different retailers. They’re looking for detailed, accurate information to answer any and every question they have. Not intimidating at all, right? Product images, descriptions, and specifications are all going to play a big part here. So, if you’re falling short on answering their questions, they’ll likely go elsewhere to make their purchase.
But let’s say you’ve made the sale. Congrats! However, when they receive the product, it’s not quite what they expected. It’s an inch wider than the description stated, and it doesn’t fit in the corner where it was intended to go. Since your company offers free shipping and free returns, that’s a cost you must incur. Then, since the product has already been assembled, you can no sell it, or you have to at a heavily discounted price. What’s more: you’ve now instilled mistrust in this customer with inaccurate product information, so they’re likely to think twice before buying from you again.
Mistrust is likely to have a longer lasting effect than just one sale. Instilling trust in your brand and your products is key to repeat sales and word-of-mouth promotion. You can build this trust by presenting a consistent and cohesive brand. Customers should know what they’re getting from you at every step in the journey. There shouldn’t be any surprises. Accurate product attributes are one essential factor in building brand loyalty and trust with your customers. Ensuring you’re consistently and correctly presenting your products and services across all channels will be a game changer in your ability to satisfy consumers’ wants and needs.
Product information sets your customers' expectations for what they'll get from their purchase. When it's accurate, you fulfill their expectations, which leads to satisfied customers and even potential advocates for your brand. Take advantage of this by publishing customer reviews. According to Power Reviews, 98% of consumers feel that reviews are an essential resource when making a purchasing decision, so it’s important to have as many positive reviews as possible. These reviews can also be leveraged as product attributes to help new customers find what they’re looking for. We see these attributes used a lot when filtering products by rating or stars.
Product attributes in marketing
Engineering and product departments establish the raw product data, but this bone-dry information isn’t enough for online sales. Marketing teams build on the basic data to tell a more compelling and complete product story. Product descriptions, lifestyle photography, and training videos complement the product attributes and capture shoppers’ attention, helping them visualize what life looks like with your product. This requires a fair amount of market research and a clear understanding of your product's value. It also requires you to meet your customers where they are in their customer journey.
Where product attributes enter the customer journey
The customer journey starts when a shopper becomes aware of a problem or a need they have. Once this is acknowledged, they start to research and compare options. Hopefully, they find what they’re looking for and make a purchase, then they evaluate whether or not the purchase met their needs. It’s a pretty standard journey, but where do product attributes come in? Well, right at the very beginning.
Since product attributes can be used to drive ads, they may come into play before a customer even starts looking. Perhaps a shopper didn’t know they needed a new office chair until they were served ads for one while searching for seated exercises to do while working.
Then, when they know they need a chair and begin researching options, product attributes can also drive search results. A browser or retail site search will return products based on their associated information. A search for “ergonomic office chairs” returns several results that must be narrowed down in the consumer’s consideration phase when they’re evaluating factors such as color, adjustable armrests, lumbar support, specific height, and a quick delivery time. They’re also looking for the best price, so they compare the same products across different retail sites. It’s important that the attributes are consistent across different retailers so that when similar looking items are listed at different prices, it’s clear why — perhaps they’re the same chair but just a different price, or they might be similar but not quite the same. Accurate attributes on the product page should make that clear. Product reviews and brand recognition hold a lot of weight here.
Finally, a decision is made and a product is purchased. The new chair arrives when the retailer said it would and in the dimensions and color specified. After a few weeks of use, the customer is satisfied with their purchase and decides to post a review. They’re happy and let others know, and this influences future purchasing decisions for both this customer and others. Then the journey begins again.
Best practices: How to manage product attributes
Here are a few ideas to guide you on your way to helpful, complete, and consistent product attributes.
- Collaborate with your teams. Product information is a team sport. It requires expertise in data modeling, product knowledge, market research, and writing. Ask around the different departments in your organization to understand what processes are currently in place to ensure accurate product attributes and identify opportunities for collaboration.
- Create a product attributes list. An attributes list can help you identify the most salient (and searchable) attributes of your product lines. If you're not sure that the information you're providing is complete, take a look at the information your closest competitors provide.
- Group attributes. Identify which attributes apply to all of your products and which ones apply only to specific assortments.
- Use attribute types and rules. Controlled vocabularies like single-select or multi-select dropdown lists improve the consistency and quality of your data. Clearly define your unit types.
- Study your competition. Review and analyze how the top sellers in your industry describe their products. Taking note of their attributes is a good starting point in understanding the wants, needs, and priorities of your potential customers.
- Read product reviews. Reviews for both your own products and your competitors’ will often give you insights into what your customers want and need. This customer feedback will help you course-correct when needed and capitalize on what's working. This means you can tailor descriptions of your product to meet the exact needs or wants of your customer base in the most effective way.
A product information management (PIM) system helps you collect, enhance, and distribute all of your attribute data. Acquia’s solution combines PIM with digital asset management (DAM) for a complete approach to attribute management. If you’re curious and want to learn more, request, watch, or click through a demo of our platform, Acquia DAM (Widen), today.