Product Information at Your Website

Gideon was talking recently about a company he admires. They give to causes he believes in with every purchase and make a point of their socially conscious stance at their website. The strange thing, he said, is that they don’t mention how or where their goods are made. That made him suspicious.

The takeaway here is not that consumers care about ethical sourcing. Your customers have access to more information about how and where goods are made than ever before, and more than half of consumers (70%, according to an Ipsos study) say they care enough to pay more for ethically sourced goods. You already knew that customers care about these things.

The point is that the lack of information about product sourcing at a website that makes a point of its social responsibility caught his attention. You have to think not just about what information you provide, but also about what information you fail to provide.

We recently worked with a fashion e-commerce outfit that didn’t include any information about shipping, sizes, or fiber content. Customers are likely to have much the same reaction to a site like that as Gideon had: why would an e-commerce site fail to include that information? In that case, the lack of information would have affected overall usability as well as the impression of trustworthiness. Either way, you run the risk of losing a customer when you fail to provide information they expect to see.

You have to meet customer expectations. So how do you find out what those expectations are?

  • Start with legal requirements. Chances are good that your industry requires that certain information be provided, whether it’s fiber content, country of origin, or the possible presence of allergens. Make sure you know the rules. For example, the FDA’s rules on labeling cosmetics apply to all “accompanying materials” — and they have defined a brand or ecommerce website as an accompanying material.
  • Notice what your customers ask. We spoke recently with a company that sells machines. They list the machines and add the manufacturers’ descriptions, copied and pasted from the websites of said manufacturers. We explained to them the problems of duplicate content, and they added, “I bet nobody reads this anyway.” The information they provide on their website is not what their customers want to know.
  • See what your competitors are doing. Do other brands like yours provide more and different kinds of information than you do? It’s never a bad thing to learn from your competitors. If they’re offering reviews and testimonials and you are not, they have a distinct advantage over you. Take that advantage away from them.
  • Take it a step further. Once you’ve got a basic list of what you need to offer in the way of information, see if you can add one more thing. If everyone else is offering recipes, you should, too — but what about also offering wine pairings? If other brands have FAQs, maybe you can offer a knowledge base. If other brands show a photo of the product, you could show a photo of the product in use. It doesn’t have to be a big step further, but a little more can make a difference.

You certainly want to give as much information as your customers need to make an informed choice to purchase your products. You must also keep in mind that consumers now tend to look for a lot of information before they decide to buy — if you don’t provide it, they will probably leave your website and go elsewhere. That’s not what you want.

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