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The Trouble with Amazon’s Product Content

In today’s guest column, product content management expert Mike Lapchick pulls no punches about what he sees as the poor quality of product information on the Amazon marketplace. The CEO of Shotfarm believes that allowing sellers to pose as brands and upload inaccurate and incomplete product information is a huge risk to Amazon’s bottom line. Here’s the problem and what brands and retailers can learn from Amazon’s product information practices.

The Trouble with Amazon’s Product Content

By Mike Lapchick

Consistent and accurate product information is catnip for consumers in the digital marketplace. But surprisingly, Amazon – arguably the king of ecommerce – has one of the worst track records in the business when it comes to product content.

What’s going on at Amazon? And more importantly, what can other online retailers learn from Amazon’s product information practices?

Consumers Care About Product Information 
Mobile technology and advances in digital commerce have helped make ecommerce a preferred channel for many consumers. But while technology makes ecommerce possible, it’s becoming apparent that product content is what motivates online consumers to complete purchases and become loyal digital customers.

Consider the following findings from a recent Product Information Report conducted by Shotfarm:

  • 87 percent of consumers are unlikely to consider a retailer again if they provide incorrect information for a purchased product;
  • 42 percent of consumers have returned an online purchase in the past year because of poor product content;
  • Lack of quality product content ranks slightly higher in terms of abandoned shopping carts than lack of reviews when purchasing a product.

The takeaway? Consumers base buying decisions on product content and they trust online retailers to provide them with accurate information. When retailers live up to their part of the bargain, consumers reward them with loyalty. But when they don’t, consumers are more than willing to take their business elsewhere.

The Trouble With Amazon’s Product Content
With more than $100 billion in annual revenue, Amazon’s reputation as a go-to online retailer is well deserved. But while Amazon continues to lead the pack in shopper satisfaction, its score is dwindling. This year, the company dropped three points in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

Although there are several reasons for Amazon’s declining satisfaction scores, the company’s customer experience and product content practices are clearly part of the problem:

Inconsistent Product Content 
Poor product content is the easiest way to lose customers. Shotfarm research shows that inconsistent product information across channels negatively influences purchasing decisions for 87 percent of consumers.

Amazon’s model allows for significant variance in product content. Sellers can pose as brands, meaning that product information is often incomplete or just incorrect.

This can be seen when sellers post product information for new products to advertise used or previous versions of products. Product content matters more for clothing and electronics than any other categories – and Amazon does huge amounts of business in these two areas.

Paid Product Reviews 
Product reviews used to be one of Amazon’s most trusted assets, allowing the company to compensate for gaps in product content. Amazon’s reviews also improved customers’ confidence about their buying decisions and helped eliminate the apprehension of shopping online.

However, with the ability to purchase reviews in exchange for free products, sellers have eroded trust in Amazon’s user reviews. Paid reviews have serious consequences for the customer experience and will continue to impact Amazon’s relationship with buyers as more consumers become aware of the practice.

Amazon recognizes this issue and has recently taken action with a series of lawsuitsagainst companies and individuals who post fake reviews in exchange for money.

On the plus side, one of Amazon’s most important strengths is Amazon Prime – a service so valuable that 55 million people are willing to overlook Amazon’s shortcomings in product content and other customer experience categories.

What We Can Learn From Amazon
Amazon’s success proves that online consumers are willing to pay for convenience and speed. In general, ecommerce is headed in the direction of Amazon – or more accurately, an improved version of Amazon.

For brands looking to learn from Amazon’s mistakes, here’s what you can do:

  • First, prioritize accurate and updated product information and ensure it is consistent across all channels.
  • Second, brands need to make their brand image a priority, and take action when unauthorized resellers use their content for other versions of their products.
  • And finally, join a content distribution network that enables retailers to collect product information directly from brands, streamlining the exchange process, ensuring accuracy is maintained throughout the entire process, and decreasing time to market.

Amazon has created a nation of supply chain junkies looking for a better shopping experience. And, competitors are going to give them a run for their money as they take advantage of many of Amazon’s shortcomings.

By marrying the supply chain excellence, pricing strategies and convenience of Amazon with consistent and accurate product content, online retailers can deliver a customer experience that outshines the competition – even when the competition is the biggest kid on the block.

About the Guest Columnist:

Mike Lapchick is the founder and CEO of Shotfarm, a product content exchange network for retailers and manufacturers. Shotfarm was designed by a team of seasoned retail marketing professionals who were frustrated over the unusually difficult task of getting product images and information from Point A to Point B.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.