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Amidst shifting consumer demands and their heightening expectations, retailers continue to face challenges in converting full mobile baskets to mobile purchases. It arguably begins with the customer’s journey to discover products up for consideration, then viewing the item in high-quality, small-screen-friendly detail and frictionless checkout processes.

Here, Susanne Bowen, chief executive officer of Edgecase — a product intelligence platform that tags items at scale — sheds market insights, suggests guidance for retailers to navigate the current climate, and how they can optimize behavior of digital-frenzied consumers.

WWD: How have shifting consumer preferences dictated the evolution of the retail landscape?

Susanne Bowen: For a long time, retailers have neglected the importance of product data in the e-commerce space. Standard product attributes like size, color and price are important, but those attributes only scratch the surface when it comes to delivering differentiated shopper experiences. With language, customer sentiment and merchandising strategies constantly changing, keeping pace with that rate of change is virtually impossible — but necessary.

Retailers who haven’t — or won’t — invest in cleansing and organizing the foundational product data will continue to be limited by poor quality data and in turn, poor site performance. When product data is unstructured, it’s useless. Once organized and enriched, data is super-fuel for retailers’ e-commerce engines from search to mobile.

WWD: There’s currently a minuscule conversion rate for mobile baskets — how can retailers and brands begin to rectify this?

 S.B.: With products properly attributed, shoppers will find exactly what they’re looking for. A common myth in e-commerce is that the retailer who gets the most shoppers to their site has the best chance of increasing conversion rates. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case.

Conversion rates for retailers online are not solely correlated to traffic. Instead, it’s about connecting shoppers with the products that map best to their preferences, or at the very least, providing suitable alternatives. In order to drive confident decisions, shoppers are looking for high-quality imagery, detailed product information and reviews/ratings along each touch point on the purchase path. Without properly structured and enriched data, getting the right set of products in front of a shopper will continue to be a challenge.

WWD: What are the biggest challenges retailers are encountering at the moment? What are key solutions?

S.B.: The biggest issue facing retailers today is an old one: personalization. Digital executives have been working to bring personalization initiatives to their customers for over a decade. But rapid changes in consumer shopping habits to mobile, and the fact that most personalization engines are capping out in terms of effectiveness, are creating a need to evolve.

Savvy digital retailers are working today to create the next monumental lift in personalization by focusing on integrating new types of product and customer data — from across all channels — back into the engines powering their sites. This is not a single shot solution, but rather one that requires the coordination of several new key-enabling technologies, such as developing a product information management strategy, typically by installing a PIM and putting in place a product data enrichment process through a platform. It’s also important to work with personalization engines that embrace a true data ecosystem approach to allow external data to be ingested.

WWD: What is the next step for e-commerce?

S.B.: This year will be the year of digital transformation — not so much for active e-commerce teams but rather their parent retailers. With same-store foot traffic and sales declining as shifting consumer shopping habits accelerate, retail executives have a responsibility to their entire organizations to develop and start executing a complete digital retail transformation strategy to keep pace with their evolving customers, and to stay relevant in a digital world.

This digital revolution is much more than simply prioritizing digital initiatives and shifting marketing expenditures. The next evolution for retailers will be figuring out how to craft digital experiences and touch points that connect their customers with their brand in the manner that makes the most sense for the customer’s digital lifestyle, and the role retailers’ products and services fulfill in their physical lives.

WWD: Consumers increasingly demand customized content and product suggestions; how do product intelligence platforms satisfy these needs?

S.B.: Edgecase provides the technology that delivers the enriched product data required to deliver inspiring shopper experiences. We know that every retailer’s site is different and that their shoppers have specific needs. This is why we have developed our product intelligence platform to create and manage the product data designed to improve findability and relevancy for your organization’s brand or site. With our help, all products can be properly attributed allowing shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for.

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