Today’s customers tend to do solid research before making a purchase. They want to know not only the basic features and dry facts about products, but also what a product is made of and how it should be used, cared for, and stored.
Customers also want to review and compare similar products and variants, so eCommerce businesses should provide them with the content they are looking for on the product page, right?
Rich product information is one of the pillars of the art and science of customer experience. In this article, you’ll learn more about the foundational element of rich product data – product attributes.
Let’s learn how you can create product attributes that sell.
What are product attributes?
Product attributes are characteristics or features that describe a product. These attributes can be physical, such as the size, shape, or color of the product, or they can be more abstract, such as the brand image, quality, or value.
Product attributes are used to distinguish one product from another, and they are often used in marketing and product packaging to communicate the features and benefits of a product to potential customers.
Understanding and effectively communicating a product's attributes is an important part of developing and marketing successful products.
As the father of modern marketing, Philip Kotler, puts it:
Product attributes are the ingredients necessary for performing the product or service function sought by consumers.
In a way, you can think of a product as a bundle of attributes.
When creating rich product information for your customers, it is vital to foresee and create a structure that will allow for the flexible modeling of product data.
Tangible vs intangible attributes
There are two types of product attributes: tangible and intangible.
Tangible product attributes are the physical features that can be assessed by using our senses of sight, touch, hearing, and smell. They are quantifiable and measurable. Some examples of tangible attributes are size, design, weight, taste, dimension, or material composition.
Intangible product attributes are non-physical features. They are subjective to the person experiencing them and focus on how the person feels or thinks about them. Such attributes can include the brand image, value, quality, aesthetics, or prestige.
For example, let's say you are shopping for a mobile phone. You might search for a phone model based on tangible attributes such as color, screen size, camera megapixel counts, or battery life. If you are focused on quality assurance, perceived value, brand name, or after-sales service, then you are searching for a model based on intangible attributes.
Difference between features and benefits
Features and benefits are two product attributes that are commonly included in a product description. But at the same time, they are also the most misunderstood and thus presented incorrectly.
So what is the distinct difference between features and benefits?
Product features are an integral part of your product. They can describe the technical or functional aspects, and show what the product can do. Features remain the same across all variants of the same product and can't be sold as a separate product. If you can do so, then those "features" are attributes.
Product benefits are abstract and subjective, while product attributes are objective and specific. Benefits show how they can bring a positive impact on their users or their life, and make them become better. For example, product benefits could be shock absorption in a shoe that protects your feet from injury, a vegan jacket that is environmental-friendly, or a luxurious bed that guarantees a good night's sleep.
So while features are the "facts" of the product, benefits are usually what attract customers and convince them to make the purchase. Both are equally important, and a great product description should lack neither of them.
After all, features tell and benefits sell.
Product attributes and the customer journey
Before we dive deeper into product attributes, let’s first talk about the consumer decision-making process to get the big picture, often referred to as the 5 stages of the customer journey.
Here is a graph to quickly explain how it works.
To illustrate the customer buying journey, put yourself in the situation of a person who is in need of a new pair of boots for the fast-approaching winter.
Stage 1: Recognition of a problem or need
Winter is coming. It’s getting colder outside and you only have insulated sneakers in your closet. You need a pair of warm boots!
Stage 2: Information search
You search on the internet for the best winter boots, ask friends for their winter boots recommendations, and check the reviews for the boots you're interested in.
Stage 3: Comparing alternatives
A few different pairs of boots catch your eye. You like their design, features, and price. You then compare them to one another to see which suits you better.
Stage 4: Purchase decision
Time for you to decide on which pair of boots to buy!
Stage 5: Post-purchase evaluation
You have bought the boots and you can now put them to the test. You then ask yourself if the boots had met your expectations or if you are dissatisfied with your purchase.
Stages 2 and 3 are the most critical to your business, which is when a consumer finds your product and compares it to the competitor’s offering.
At those stages, what factor do you think is the most important to your picky customer and can influence them to choose your product over your competitors'?
Product attributes, of course.
Today’s customer is an experienced seeker
Product attributes examples
Product attributes are objective properties that provide details about the product, such as quality or verification (e.g., "certified by" or "approved by"), marketing claims (e.g., "stain resistant" or "long-lasting"), logistics (e.g., package size or container), or innovations (e.g., new look or new feature).
Example of product attributes in Bluestone PIM
Here is a list of product attributes examples:
Name - The name of a product is a word or phrase that is used to identify and distinguish it from other products. It can also include the name of the brand or product line, and even the year of release. For example, the "Adidas Ultraboost 22" running shoes sold by Adidas.
Brand Name - Name of the company or manufacturer that produces the product. For example, the brand name of a popular clothing company might be "Levi's."
Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) - Unique identifier for a product. It is used for inventory management and can include information such as the product's name, size, and color. For example, an SKU for a t-shirt might be "TSHIRT-BLK-XL."
Size - Dimensions or capacity of the product. For example, the size of a bottle of shampoo might be 12 fl oz.
Color - The hue or shade of the product's appearance. For example, the color of a smartphone might be "Midnight Blue."
Design - The design of a product refers to its appearance and style. For example, the design of a new laptop might be "sleek and modern."
Price - The amount of money that it costs to purchase it. For example, the price of a new television might be $500.
Variants - Version of a product that differs from other versions in some way. Product variants can be created by changing the size, color, material, or other attributes of the product. For example, a clothing company might offer a t-shirt in multiple sizes and colors, resulting in multiple product variants.
Material Composition - Refers to the materials that the product is made of. For example, the material composition of a pair of shoes might be leather and synthetic.
Marketing statements - Messages or claims about a product that are used to promote or sell it. For example, a marketing statement for a new cleaning product might be "Our product is the most effective at removing stains!"
Lifestyle / in-context photographs - Images of a product that are taken in a natural or realistic setting, rather than in a studio. For example, a product page for a new camping tent might include photographs of the tent set up in a natural outdoor setting.
Video tutorials - Video resources that demonstrate how to use or set up a product. For example, a video tutorial for a new piece of software might show users how to navigate the interface and use various features.
Country of origin/manufacture - The country where a product is made or assembled. For example, a product might be made in China, the United States, or another country.
SEO components - Elements of a product's online presence that are used to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results, such as keywords that describe the product and its features. For example, a product page for a new camera might include keywords such as "digital camera" and "high-resolution" in the meta description.
How product attributes are used in marketing
Product attributes are often used in marketing to communicate the features and benefits of a product to potential customers.
By highlighting those attributes, such as material composition, technology, or sustainability, you can appeal to customers who value or are interested in them.
But with only pictures of the product and a few lines of description, you might be able to complete a simple product detail page that looks just like the ones done by your competitors.
If you want to stand out from the other businesses and grab customers' attention, you will need to present more than just bare-bones (and often boring) information.
Imagery is what the marketing teams can use to tell a compelling story and make their brand more memorable. Through the use of attributes like lifestyle images, 3D visualizations, and introduction videos, customers can get a digital feel of the products and visualize how their life can be better with them.
Using catchy or memorable language to describe a product's attributes can be an effective way to grab the attention of potential customers and make the product more appealing. If you are marketing a new type of mattress, your tagline might be like "A bed so soft it feels like you're sleeping on a cloud" to grab the attention of customers and emphasize the unique attribute of the product (its softness).
When done correctly, product attributes can even hype up even the most boring products.
Knowing what your customers want and what makes them tick is not a simple task. It requires extensive market research and thorough knowledge of your product's unique selling points to be able to come up with the product attributes that can meet your customer's needs and expectations.
Why are product attributes important?
Product attributes are something that some retailers gloss over.
They might think it is fine if the product detail page is missing one or two (or even more) attributes. Surely customers can rely on the other given information to make a purchase decision, right?
Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Here are 3 reasons that highlight the importance of product attributes, and businesses that market or sell their products online should pay extra attention to them.
It can win or lose online sales
It is predicted that retail eCommerce sales worldwide will increase from 2,982 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 to 5,211 billion U.S. dollars in 2021. This figure is forecast to grow by 50 percent over the next few years, reaching about 8,148 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.
Worldwide eCommerce sales are predicted to reach 8.1 billion US dollars by 2026.
So by failing to include the information customers are looking for, you are losing potential sales and missing out on this surge in global eCommerce sales.
You may also be setting your customers up for disappointment when, after buying your product, they learn it doesn't look or function as expected, which consequently leads to unhappy customers, lousy reviews, and a high product return rate.
So by providing clear and concise product descriptions, you are one step closer to creating a great customer experience.
According to ROI research by Adobe, companies that focus on customer experience stand to see 1.9x higher retention rates, 2.1x higher customer lifetime value, and 1.7x higher revenue growth.
It influences the customer decision-making process
It is without a doubt that product attributes are a critical factor for customers making a purchase decision.
They provide valuable information about the product, such as price, materials, and capabilities, and help customers make informed decisions about which product to purchase.
First off, product attributes help customers understand what a product is and what it does. For example, if a customer is looking for a new coffee machine, they might look for attributes such as size, brewing method, and coffee bean compatibility. By understanding these attributes, the customer can determine whether the product meets their needs, preferences, and budget.
Then by looking at the attributes of different products, customers can compare the features and benefits of each product and decide which one is the best fit for them.
This customer decision-making process is referred to as the product attributes decision. The quality of the product, its look, its features, and the way the features are combined determine the success of the product on the market.
We look for a product that is a combination of these factors, meets our needs, and is different in some way from its competitors.
It is part of the brand experience
There are at least a dozen definitions of a brand.
David Ogilvy, the "father of advertising”, considered attributes to be an essential part of a brand.
Brand is the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, its packaging and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it is advertised
The brand experience starts when customers interact with the product features, benefits, and attributes. Then there is instant gratification and sentiment grows – positive sentiment remains or negative sentiment increases.
Attribute importance weights also depend on the perceived relative position of the brand.
A recent study by Sue Ryung Chang and Hyun Young Park, published in the European Study of Marketing, concluded that “consumers who perceive a brand as inferior to its competitors in a given attribute place greater weight on that attribute for that brand. In contrast, when the brand is superior in the eyes of consumers, the attributes don’t place greater weight on”.
8 hacks on creating product attributes that sell
To cut to the point – how do you figure out which product attributes are most important to your customer and start on the path to higher conversion?
Along with research and product information management, these 8 hacks are what you need to create helpful product attributes that you can easily manage:
1. Listen to your customers
First and foremost, no one understands the customers better than themselves.
You should make it a point to understand their wants and needs so that you can start communicating with them in their language.
You can achieve this by adopting a customer-centric approach!
Here are 5 tips you can start with:
Talk to customer service or store personnel. Learn more about what information a customer expects to know about a product. Your customer service team likely has the best insight into your customers’ burning questions.
Check reviews about your products and those of your competitors on social media, Google, and marketplaces. This is a treasure trove of information and customer feedback. Customers ask questions when they are interested in the products but are unable to find the relevant information on the product page. Pay attention to the product characteristics customers are asking about and the wording they use.
Track the performance of your product pages. Use tools like Hotjar to track your customers' behavior on your product pages and determine the most popular attributes.
Conduct research using social listening tools. Find out what your customers are saying about products like yours. You can discover the most talked-about product features and it can help guide your product development strategy.
Apply SEO best practices. Use the data you've obtained from researching your customers. Don't forget to include voice search keywords!
If you have received numerous inquiries about the size of your blanket when unfolded, it is certain that the "unfolded size" attribute is important to your customers.
2. Run conjoint analysis
According to Hubspot, conjoint analysis is “a market research tactic that attempts to understand how people make decisions. A common approach, the conjoint analysis combines realistic hypothetical situations to measure buying decisions and consumer preferences."
To be more specific, a conjoint analysis would help to answer questions like "would consumers purchase this product if brought to market?" and "what product specifications do our consumers pay close attention to?"
Conjoint analysis can be useful for marketers to predict customer purchasing patterns. This method is based on estimating the influence of each product attribute on the utility of a product and calculating which attributes are most important.
To perform a conjoint analysis, you need to list all the product attributes of your product and define the target market and buyer personas. Based on this, you create a questionnaire and distribute it across your various marketing channels, such as email or social media.
3. Put attributes in groups
Grouping attributes will streamline product enrichment. When grouped, it is much easier to know where the missing pieces of information are.
Attributes should be grouped according to their character or specificity, for example:
- Physical attributes (e.g., size dimensions)
- Technical attributes (e.g., water absorption or density)
- Marketing attributes (e.g., catalog description)
- Logistics attributes (e.g., packaging type)
This method reflects the typical practice of most web shops or eCommerce platforms, where attributes are typically grouped, too. So, when working with products, aim to find a system, software, or platform that will give you this possibility.
4. Set attribute types
You can ensure a high quality of your product data and eliminate the risk of data error even before the first attribute value is typed in. What you need to do is set the attribute type for the data.
By setting attribute types, you can ensure that the data input will follow the predefined format of the attribute type. For example, the Boolean type states that the data input has to be either a 'Yes' or 'No'. It would not be possible to input any other values that deviate from this format.
Here, your choices for attribute types are much more than standard text or numbers. Other types may include:
|Input is Yes or No
|Input is selected with the use of a calendar feature
|Input is a number with a decimal. Sometimes minimum, maximum, and step values can be specified
|A type containing formatted text, allowing the customization of text, like bold type or italics, adding links, bullet or numbered lists, block quotes, and heading styles
|Input is a whole number. Sometimes minimum, maximum, and step values can be specified
|Input is a combined value of latitude and longitude
|Input activates multiple options, but it is possible to select only one of them
|Input activates multiple options, allowing selecting more than one of them
|Input accepts text as multiple lines but its result is a line of text concatenation
|Input uses expressions to validate the content field to match a predefined format
5. Create category-level attributes
When working with large numbers of SKUs, you can’t fail to notice that products that belong to the same group or category will share attributes (but not the values of those attributes).
When you know that all items that fall into a specific category will be given the same set of attributes, you should assign the attributes not to individual products, but to the higher level in the structure, i.e., categories or catalogs.
Example 1: Car Tyres
You are a car accessories retailer. You know that all the products belonging to the ‘Tyre’ category must have the following attributes:
- Season (winter, summer, or all seasons)
- Load index (the maximum load each tyre is designed to carry)
- Speed index (the speed capability of a tyre)
You need these attribute values for each product in this category, but more importantly, you can’t publish even one product in this category without this input.
There are 2 options you can work with.
Option 1: Manually input this set of required attributes every time you introduce a new tyre to your shop, but this would be a waste of your time.
Option 2: Set a validation rule for the ‘Tyre’ category once and automatically apply those attributes to all products associated with the category. These are known as category-level attributes (CLAs).
It is obvious that Option 2 is the best way forward. It is simply so much faster and less tedious than Option 1!
The benefits of category-level attributes are as follows:
- Saves time that would be wasted on repetitive and mundane data entry work
- Safeguards against incomplete product information in your system
- Create high-quality and consistent product data
Example 2: Cameras
If you sell cameras, you know Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, and many other brands share the same attributes, like depth of field, shutter speed, and aperture.
So, what you should do is apply a category-level attribute structure template not only to Canon, and not only to other manufacturers but to the entire product category (digital cameras), of which Canon is only a subcategory.
Then you set the attributes to the category level, and have the subcategories inherit them.
Important tip: Transform the category tree into a classification tree. The goal is to work as high in the classification tree as possible before going down to products and product variants. This is done by moving attributes one level (or “trunk”) up until they are unique.
What you’ll have as a result is an efficient structure of categories and their connected attributes. Enriching products with such a structure will be much less time-consuming – you only need to add an attribute to a category once, and all products within the category will inherit that attribute.
By working with category and variant-level attributes you will minimize the work you need to do with single products. The last thing you want to do is double your workload by bulk editing and then working on single products.
6. Create compound attributes
Some attributes typically combine multiple data.
For example, the dimensions of home decoration items, like curtains and blinds, are displayed in a combination of height and width. Not only is that the format that most customers expect to see, but it would also be inefficient to display these pieces of information separately.
This is where compound attributes (height x width x depth) come in handy. This pattern is particularly relevant, for example, for furniture or building materials manufacturers.
7. Restrict access to attributes
Managing product information involves at least a few groups, such as catalog admins, suppliers, or external agencies.
It is wise to create rules or policies specifying which attributes each of these groups is allowed to enrich. Decide who should be able to create, group, and view which attributes, or edit their types and values.
A fine-grained access policy will eliminate potential confusion over the responsibilities. Again, this is another measure to ensure you create high-quality data.
8. Implement a comparison tool on your product page
If you have products with multiple technical specifications, consider implementing a comparison tool.
Follow best UX /UI practices, use smart filters and sorting options, use plain language in microscopy, and avoid using technical jargon that your customers probably wouldn't understand in your product descriptions.
Better yet, why not use Product Information Management software like Bluestone PIM to simplify your workload and accelerate your time-to-market?
It comes with all the features you need to enrich your product data and digital assets, monitor your product completeness, and discover process gaps that are holding your sales back.
Rich product information is a great commerce opportunity!
A 2018 study in eCommerce shows that users’ expectations grow, demanding highly precise and accurate product information.
Matt Janaway, CEO of Marketing Labs, couldn't have said it any better:
If you want to seriously growth-hack your eCommerce sales, stop all other marketing tasks and write some awesome product descriptions.
Merchants should align these general guidelines for product attributes with market-specific requirements.
While doing so, remember that there is an easier way to store and enrich product information than using spreadsheets (hint: use a Product Information Management system like Bluestone PIM!).
Hope you will not feel lost anymore. Do not be under any illusions that Vincent has made getting started with product attributes management a tedious chore!
Vincent: "What's with all these spreadsheets?!"
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Working on the product attributes for your entire catalog with over 1000 SKUs isn't an easy task. That's where Bluestone PIM can help you simplify the way you work — by eliminating the need for manual data entry and saving you hours or even days of work and endless frustration.