Why Retailers Value Product Attributes and How to Make the Most of This Importance

June 4, 2016

No eCommerce B2B solution can do without it. Every web merchant holds it dear. All online buyers lean on it when deciding whether to buy that lovely carbon road bike or not. It’s all about product data, the asset that has grown inseparable from what we call retail business.

No matter what kind of service aimed at facilitating online retail routine you provide, it won’t work without data from online stores. For example, repricing software cannot advise a better price without knowing how much this exact product costs in the user’s store, and data feed management solutions can’t build and send the right data feeds without information about the product.

Out of product data you have likely dealt with (e.g. types, variants, features, categories, and characteristics), we are going to focus on attributes. Because vendors often don’t use them to the max though they could, they miss out on building exclusive features that their users would certainly love.

What Are Product Attributes and Why They Matter

Though often confused with features, attributes don’t just spell out the general description of a product. Attributes specify product values that have a potential for comparison (e.g. size, colour, or display aspect ratio) so that a potential buyer can choose to purchase it as they like it. Plus, together with features, they define a competitive set and affect a customer’s purchase decision.

Product attributes are also useful for online sellers that like to analyse and identify growth opportunities. They help to keep on top of important trends if dealt with right. For example, if a retailer wants to see if the product has ranked down within the category and why, they monitor and filter the segment by different aspects of a product and find things to consider when making changes to product assortment.

What This Means in Practice / How You Can Use Them in Your System

From the point of view of a merchant, their products should be browsable and findable. And comparable. Attributes are what make they such because it is they that potential buyers search and compare items based on. Moreover, if a retailer sells multichannel or internationally, they want their beautiful and incredibly reasonably priced items to be described with no detail overlooked. And preferably in the same order, on each platform. And maybe with the prices smartly optimized so that their sales grow faster.

If your software is aimed at helping them do so, you can’t escape the need to retrieve product information from the primary online point of sale that is, in most cases, a web store. When developing integrations with shopping carts and marketplaces, you will build them around general product info, images, discount / refund details, and categories. But that’s not all you can use.

Apart from retrieving such product attribute data as weight or colour, you could make use of specific information like the following:

  • storefront visibility (e.g. sort order in a particular attribute group)
  • attribute format / type (e.g. dropdown, textbox, or checkbox)
  • quick / advanced search visibility
  • required / unique status
  • comparability

Please note that these values are not universal as each platform’s data structure differs.

For example, default and custom attribute groups and values can be of use in running comparison and analysis features, and storefront visibility details — is the attribute second in a textbox? seventh in a dropdown list? — can be applicable to solutions that help to grow sales such as cross-border commerce and data feed management systems.

The Main Point Is…

You can win where others lose out. What we have learnt at API2Cart is that yet few vendors use storefront visibility data. If you run a business that retrieves product data to provide the service, consider processing specific attribute data too. It will particularly work for data feed management systems, cross-border sales solutions, and comparison shopping engines because the ability to get more detailed and structured product information as compared to what they retrieve by default, will not only not hurt but also make them more effective.

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