A Customer’s Journey
Brands have one thing on their mind - get customers to purchase our products and not our competitors’ products. Product guides have been a mainstay for informing and persuading consumers on which products they should purchase. Recently however, product guides have evolved from heavy, printed tomes to readily accessible and up-to-date digital experiences.
This transformation has been driven by a shift in consumer behavior. Deloitte declared that the consumer industry is facing “a once-in-a-century economic, social, and technological transition.” Their assessment and advice: The strategies that led you to where you are now likely won’t get you to where you need to go next.
Consider a common purchase decision, such as buying a lawn mower or dishwasher. How would you begin your purchasing journey? Would you walk into a store and just see what the least expensive product was? Probably not.
It’s more likely that you will start online first. Adobe found that 76 percent of consumers search for better prices online first and read reviews before they make a purchase in a store, with 60 percent making price comparisons at other retailers on their phones before purchasing products. The generations that do this the most are Gen Z (86 percent) and Millennials (77 percent).
The customer journey isn’t linear anymore.
The customer journey is now customer-led. The reality marketers must work within is that the customer journey is anything but predictable. Consider all of the various channels, devices, and touch points available to a customer. From awareness and consideration to the point of purchase and product usage, different customers have different needs, expectations, and questions at each step of the journey. And they expect your brand to anticipate their needs and value them. The steps of the customer journey include:
Awareness: Consumer becomes aware of a brand or product through any number of methods from word-of-mouth referrals to a billboard on the side of the highway.
Consideration: Consumer recognizes they have a need that the brand or product can fulfill and they begin to think about making a purchase.
Decision: Consumer makes up their mind and buys from the brand.
Retention: Consumer is using the product or service and the brand is working to ensure they are satisfied by providing support.
Loyalty: Consumer shares their brand experience with others, whether positive or negative, in the form of reviews, social posts, and word-of-mouth. Brands seek to incentivize repeat purchases and brand advocacy.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed brands that customer loyalty is up for grabs. In December 2021, nearly two years into the pandemic, McKinsey & Company reported that over 60 percent of U.S. consumers experienced out-of-stock items in the last three months, and when this happened, only 13 percent waited for the item to come back in stock versus the 39 percent who switched brand or products and the 32 percent who switched retailers.
Brand-loyal consumers were thrust back into the awareness stage when their preferred brand wasn’t on the shelves. Consumers have continued this behavior and become more aware that there are options - and they’re turning to product guides to help them make their purchase decisions.
What Are Product Guides?
Product guides can mean different things to different people depending on the industry. A product guide may be called a user guide, user manual, or product catalog. The common thread across all industry use cases is a product guide helps consumers discover all of the products a brand or retailer has to offer and contains important information that aids in the purchasing process.
What Is the Purpose of a Product Guide?
The purpose of a product guide is to help consumers find products that meet their needs. Product guides are used most frequently by consumers to help them determine which product they should purchase based on things such as product features, descriptions, price, and more.
It’s worth noting that a product guide is different from a product manual. A product manual provides specific information about how to use a single product or model. What should be included in a product manual? In a product manual, there should be an overview of the product, user instructions, model numbers, an overview of product features, and troubleshooting instructions.
What Goes Into a Product Guide?
Product Descriptions and Features
Product Comparison Charts
How Are Product Guides Created?
Product guides are typically created for distribution in print and digital formats. Traditionally product guides are designed and saved as PDFs to be shared online, such as on a website or via email. Printed product guides are commonly mailed to consumers, retail partners, or dealers. Traditional methods of creating a product guide include the marketing team collecting tons of data points from disparate locations. Product pricing may be stored in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Model numbers and product specs could be in Excel spreadsheets. Product images and schismatics are likely in a digital asset management (DAM) solution and product descriptions may be in a content management system (CMS). After collecting the data, which could be inaccurate or outdated, marketing teams usually create a hard copy of their product guide that is sent to a printer and then shipped to customers.
Using the traditional method of creating a product guide can be costly, have extensive timelines, and is frustrating for marketing teams to gather accurate data. And because the process can take so long, the product guide is almost always outdated by the time it’s distributed.
A new solution to creating product guides has gained traction in the last few years. As more manufacturers and retailers fight to maintain their productivity and data syndication across a variety of channels, the product information management (PIM) market has soared, according to Polaris Market Research. Teams use PIM solutions to store all product data and with integrated solutions like Lumavate’s digital experience platform (DXP), product data stored in the PIM can be quickly displayed in digital experiences.
Creating a product guide with a DXP is faster and more cost-effective for brands. By coupling a PIM solution with a DXP, brands can organize their product information in one place and dynamically pull this data into their product guide in less than 30 minutes.
Want to give this method a try? Schedule your demo with Lumavate to see how we can help you organize your product data and help you create a product guide your customers will love.
How Do You Write a Product Guide?
When writing a product guide, or any piece of content, you have to captivate your audience in order for them to continue reading. Nothing is worse than spending the time and resources creating a piece of content for it to sit unread on your company’s website.
Here’s a few tips for creating a compelling product guide.
Step 1: Identify Your Audience
Who will use your product guide? Is it for consumers? Is it a tool to be used primarily by your sales team? Are you creating it for your dealer network? Is it expected to serve the needs of all of these audiences? Identifying your audience is the first step to creating an engaging product guide. It will inform what content needs to be included in the product guide and the format of the resource.
For example, if your product guide is primarily designed for your consumers, it might make sense to include related products alongside some best sellers to increase cart values . If your product guide is mostly for dealers, it’s likely you’ll want to display multiple prices, such as manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) and minimum advertised price (MAP).
Step 2: Gather Your Product Information
This is arguably the most important part of the process and the step that will be the most time-consuming if your organization does not have a centralized place for product information.
In this part of the process, your team will want to be meticulous about ensuring your product information is accurate and might even consider consulting with various departments to ensure the data is correct. Getting this step right is crucial to the product guide’s credibility. By using a PIM teams can ensure all data is accurate and by creating a digital experience your brand can be confident that the product data provided to consumers, dealers, and sales teams is always accurate. It’s common for product data to be outdated by the time a product guide is printed.
You’ll also want to ensure that your product descriptions are clear and compelling as they help the reader better understand the features and benefits of each product.Some product description writing examples could include:
Mascara: Our specially formulated mascara is designed to take your lashes to new heights. This mascara is made from clean ingredients and comes with a fine-bristled wand.
Washing Machine: Our front-load washer is created to be customized to your washing needs with intuitive controls and is Energy Star® Certified.
Step 3: Write the Copy
Here comes the fun part - bringing your product guide to life! This is the step in the process where your team will create the copy and include visual queues like headings, subheadings, bullet points, and more to help your audience digest the material more easily.
Step 4: Include Visuals
An image is worth a thousand words. Product images aid in telling your brand’s story in your product guide. They can be used to inspire customers or spark ideas for how to use related products in your brand’s product line.
It’s important to note that if your businesses utilizes a PIM solution, writing the copy and including the visuals is largely done already.
Step 5: Review and Edit
Like any piece of content, you should read your product guide from your target audience’s point of view. Would they find it helpful? Would they want any other information included? Is information organized in a way that helps readers find what they need?
Take multiple days to review your brand’s product guide and ensure you have multiple reviewers to catch any errors.Much like the point above, if your business has PIM software in place, data errors should not exist.
Step 6: Release It Out into the World
Your team has finally finished creating your brand’s product guide. Now it’s time to share it with your audience. By launching your product guide in a digital experience, such as a mobile app, microsite, or secure portal, it can be easily shared through a variety of channels. Digital experiences built on Lumavate can be activated through four methods: QR code, URL, text keyword, and near-field communication (NFC).
What are the Benefits of Product Guides?
Product guides provide tremendous benefits to brands. Here are some advantages brands can see when creating a digital product guide:
Drive Revenue - Digital product guides can connect consumers and dealers directly to an ecommerce experience, enabling them to make quick purchase decisions. Additionally, by including related products within the product guide, consumers are more likely to purchase additional items and increase their cart value.
Decrease Costs - By creating a digital product guide, brands can drastically reduce - if not completely eliminate - the costs of shipping and printing.
Increase Brand Loyalty - If customers can come to trust (and expect) that your company provides relevant content in an engaging way, they’ll turn into brand advocates.
Bridge Offline and Online - Bridge the gap between your customers and your brand by creating an omnichannel strategy to inform customers about your brand’s physical products.
Delight Partners - Provide your network of dealers and partners with the ability to access a digital product guide that is always updated with the lasted product information.
Product Guide Examples
Let’s take a look at one of the most common product guide examples you as a consumer may have even used yourself - IKEA.
If you’ve ever been to an IKEA or skipped the in-store experience and shopped online, you know first-hand just how many products they have. They have a TON of stuff for consumers to choose from. So how do consumers know what products are right for them? Enter the IKEA product guide.
The IKEA Buyer’s Guide for Bathrooms is a great example of how brands should think about their own digital assets. Let’s take a look at this as an example.
What IKEA Gets Right About Product Guides
As consumers scroll through the bathroom product guide, they are inundated with relevant information like pricing details, product images, product specifications, and descriptions. The product guide give consumers everything they need and answers all their questions.
But IKEA doesn’t just provide the bare-bones experience. The company elevates the entire customer experience with its product guide.
IKEA does a great job of highlighting related accessories and products within its guide. While you may be searching for a bathroom faucet, the soap containers purposely included in the lifestyle image are there to catch your eye. IKEA is suggesting additional purchases because many consumers will add related items to their cart.
IKEA is the master in turning a typical product guide into an interactive experience for consumers that gets them excited about purchasing from its brand. IKEA goes above and beyond by also creating thoughtful navigation to warranty information, a services overview, and enables consumers to add the product of interest directly into their shopping carts.
When exploring a software product guide solution, such as using Lumavate to create a digital product guide, it’s important to define your needs. Lumavate is a DXP that offers a PIM and content management system (CMS) within its suite of functionality.
Product Guides and Digital Experience Types
Marketers can promote their product guides in various ways. Let’s take a look at some ways marketers can include a product guide in a digital experience.
If your product guide is targeted at your internal sales teams to use or for your network of dealers, they may want to save the product guide via a Progressive Web App (PWA) on their smartphones or tablets so they can easily reference the content at a moment’s notice.
Bloated websites aren’t a fun experience for anyone, which is where a microsite comes into play. A microsite is essentially a mini-website that is typically utilized by marketers for specific events, campaigns, and even content. Creating a product guide microsite is an excellent use case of how marketers can promote their product guides without necessarily adding to the brand’s main website.
If your company has an internal communications mobile app or an intranet, marketers can choose to include a product guide behind a secured portal. Your brand’s product guide could be listed under a resource section so sales and other teams can have easy access to this information.
If your brand has a network of dealers, your team could create a dealer portal that enables these partners to have easy access to things like account information, the ability to submit order requests, and access to marketing resources like a product guide. You can ensure all of the information within the portal is secured behind email authentication so you know exactly which individuals have access to this information.
Other Types of Guides and Product Resources
It is common for the term product guides to be considered synonymous with resource guide, buying guides, and product catalogs. However, each serves its own purpose and has different characteristics.
What Is a Buying Guide?
Similar to a product guide, a buying guide is a piece of content that helps consumers find the product they are most interested in. The key difference being that where a product guide outlines a variety of products offered by a brand or in a line, a buying guide details a single product.
You probably think of buying guides being used in the automobile industry; a buying guide for a vehicle gives the consumer important information about the car like warranty information. But buying guides can also be created for other products like mattresses or kitchen appliances. There are many different use cases for brands creating a buyer guide to direct their customers to purchase the right product.
What Is the Importance of a Buying Guide?
A buying guide is used to drive revenue for an organization, as well as create an engaging shopping experience for the customer. If we go back to the customer journey, specifically the awareness phase, the buying guide is a perfect piece of content to attract new and existing customers when they have a need for a solution to their problems.
How to Write a Buying Guide
A buying guide can be created through the same process that a product guide is created. Marketing teams would need to gather all of the product information, create the outline and content for the guide, review and edit the buying guide, and distribute the guide in the relevant marketing channels.
What should be included in a buying guide? There should be product descriptions, pricing information, and images in a buying guide that help direct consumers to their best choice. Additionally, a buying guide should be written in a way where it’s digestible to the reader. This can mean including product comparison charts within the guide, bullet points that describe various features, or even clips of customer reviews.
What Is a Product Catalog?
A product catalog is another piece of marketing content that includes relevant product information and is promoted to consumers to help them make purchasing decisions. What is an example of a product catalog? The Ulta Beauty catalog is a well-known example of a product catalog, highlighting the brand’s product offerings like skincare, makeup, and hair care products. Catalogs can aid in generating excitement from consumers and can help inform them of new product launches.
What Is a Resource Guide?
A resource guide is different from a product guide. Instead of showing all of the possible products, a resource guide offers a list of assets or solutions to help users with their problems. For example, a company may have a resource guide for new hires they include in a digital employee onboarding experience.
Creating a Product Guide with Lumavate
Lumavate offers marketing teams an easier way to create product guides. Lumavate has a PIM solution that makes it extremely easy for businesses to manage, edit, and organize their product data in one central location.
With Lumavate’s PIM, you could have access to:
Multiple Product Types
Unlimited Custom Attributes
Integrate to Existing Systems
Drive Dynamic Digital Experiences
Plus, brands can store a number of items in the platform, including:
SKU (stock keeping unit)
Product Ingredients, Specifications, or Composition
Disclosures and Regulatory Approvals
User Manuals or Instructions
Assembly or Onboarding Instructions
When using Lumavate’s PIM to store your brand’s product data, your team can quickly create digital experiences that dynamically pull in all of the data, making your team more efficient and increasing your speed to market.
Lumavate even has a product guide Template that ensures the digital experience contains accurate information, helps save your brand a ton on printing expenses, and provides valuable information about how your customers actually consume the product guide thanks to analytics.
For example, after loading all of your product data in Lumavate’s PIM, your team can create a product guide digital experience in 30 minutes or less (seriously), and dynamically pull in all the data stored in the PIM.
And if things related to your products change like pricing or descriptions, you can make changes to the data within Lumavate’s PIM and have the updates immediately reflected in the digital experiences using the data. Therefore your brand wouldn’t need to reprint your product guide or have inaccurate data. You can trust your data is always up-to-date when creating product guides in Lumavate and harnessing the power of our PIM.
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