Your business needs accurate information about the products and services it sells. Streamlined and accurate product data is essential for your own marketing operations.
As well as driving efficiency and satisfaction, good product data quality boosts your brand reputation. But if you get it wrong, it has the opposite effect. In fact, poor data quality costs organizations an average of $12.9 million each year. This blog will explore the causes and consequences of poor product data on brand reputation.
What causes poor product data quality?
There are many potential causes of poor product data quality. One of the most common is human error—it’s all too easy to accidentally type incorrect numbers or units, misspell or miss out words, duplicate information, or log the wrong number of items when goods are received, especially if you are manually editing data in spreadsheets.
Problems also arise if your data needs to be updated or completed. You might need to update your stored information or modify online descriptions when there are changes to your product design, materials, parts, or ingredients or when items have been discontinued.
This can happen due to silos between departments and/or a lack of integration between systems. Understanding why this is happening requires careful analysis. So many great tools exist – such as ecommerce ERP software and product management software – that allow your data to flow seamlessly across departments. But if you don’t sync your data, update your systems, or even train your teams to use the systems correctly, you will still have poor data quality.
Product data quality can also be affected by inconsistencies or a lack of standardization in data formats, such as listing some sizes in metric units and some in imperial. This is more likely when buying and selling across different countries.
Of course, the problem might not be entirely your fault. An incorrect description or the wrong number of units might originate from the manufacturer or supplier. That said, you should do everything you can to check product details are correct and regularly cleanse data.
10 consequences associated with poor product data
Poor product data can severely damage your business. Let’s take a look at some of the possible consequences.
1. False claims and incorrect product information
Giving your customers the wrong product information might be a minor error, such as describing a sweater as red instead of pink, or it could be more serious, such as putting the wrong technical specification on electrical products.
False claims are inaccurate statements about a product’s capabilities, components, or origins. For example, you might say a supplement has certain health benefits or describe something as “handmade” when mass-produced in a factory. Even if a genuine error causes it, this can have legal implications.
The wrong product information also causes warehouse, store, and shipping carrier issues. They can’t accurately plan shelf storage or maximize capacity in trucks and containers without the correct dimensions. Incorrect storage information can also lead to product spoilage and waste.
2. Lost trust and failing credibility with customers
Your customers want to see as much information as possible before buying. They trust you to describe products accurately and ensure the item or service they receive matches the description. If you only provide sketchy data, or if the data is wrong, they’ll quickly lose trust in your company.
Customers may even suspect you’re intentionally making false claims to trick them into buying. And if you haven’t paid attention to detail in your product descriptions, perhaps the products aren’t up to scratch either! The customer doesn’t care whether the error originated with you or the supplier. As far as they’re concerned, if you sell the product, the buck stops with you.
3. Financial loss and missed business opportunities
As we said, potential customers want to know everything about a product, especially if it’s a high-value item. If they can’t find this information easily, they likely won’t go ahead with the purchase. You’ll lose the sale and the revenue — and you may lose that customer forever.
Remember that financial losses will occur if you have to issue refunds or placate dissatisfied customers with a discount coupon. There’s also the cost of handling returns and complaints, while inaccuracies in inventory can cause stockouts and supply chain delays. A poor reputation might prevent other businesses from wanting to work with you too.
4. Decreased customer loyalty
Product data errors can lead to a bad customer experience. It’s confusing when discrepancies between sales channels or information are duplicated. It’s also annoying when a purchased product isn’t as described or is listed as being in stock but sold out.
Customers who experience these issues aren’t likely to remain loyal. They probably won’t even consider your brand in the future. This leads to a higher customer acquisition cost (CAC) for your business, as you need to attract new customers to replace those who’ve left.
5. Increased product returns and complaints
When an ordered product arrives, and the size/color/specification isn’t as described, the customer usually sends it back. Returns are already a pain point for retailers, so the last thing you need is more of them — especially if they could have been avoided.
You’ll might have to pay the return shipping because the error was your fault, and you’ll have to track the return through your system before processing a refund or exchange. You’ll could also have the hassle of re-adding the item to your inventory or dumping items that can’t be resold.
Poor product data also increases complaints, meaning your support team will have to deal with higher call volumes and more irate customers, hindering their productivity and damaging morale.
6. Negative comments and social media backlash
As well as posting negative reviews on your website and external review sites, customers may take to social media to voice their complaints. Some may do this via a private message, but they could just as easily leave a public comment or review.
If there’s a widespread or ongoing problem with your product data, other users may comment that the same thing happened to them. You’ll end up with many negative comments on your feed—not a good look when potential customers and business partners are using socials to research you.
7. Legal and regulatory problems
Publishing the wrong product information, even unwittingly, can land businesses in serious trouble. An angry customer might complain to a regulatory body or an organization might perform a spot check. Potential consequences include being fined or sued or losing accreditations.
Many countries have laws and regulations to protect customers, such as the UK's Trade Descriptions Act and the US's Fair Packaging & Labeling Act. To ensure your data meets international standards, consider subscribing to the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), a nonprofit that runs the GS1 global registry of exchangeable product data.
8. Loss of competitive edge in the market
Today’s customers have no shortage of options, with plenty of competitors selling the same or similar products. In the competitive world of ecommerce, you can’t afford to do anything that risks losing your edge. An accurate and engaging product description could be the key differentiator.
TOP TIP! When listing your products, if you’re selling on online marketplaces, pay attention to the character limit for titles. If you don’t, a valuable keyword might get cut off, and people searching for your product won’t be able to find it. It’s the same with metadata for search engines.
9. Negative perception of the brand's integrity and credibility
The knock-on effect of poor product data quality is that customers need to develop a better impression of your brand. The wider public will share this perception, especially if you’ve been named and shamed on social media or in the news. Data inconsistencies make a business look unprofessional, even if it’s as simple as using “ounces” for one product weight and “oz” for another. If data is missing or flawed, you’ll seem untrustworthy at worst and incompetent at best.
10. Difficulties in gaining trust back and fixing the brand's reputation
Once the trust is gone, it’s challenging to win it back. The damage to your reputation can be long-lasting and take all your effort to fix. In the worst-case scenario, you may even have to rebrand after a PR disaster. You’ll have to spend more on marketing, with promotions and goodwill gestures to win back customers who’ve defected to competitors and attract those reluctant to use your business due to what they have read or heard.
Concluding thoughts on poor quality product information
The moral of the story: make sure your product data quality is up to scratch. Automate data entry wherever possible. Ask for more details from suppliers and manufacturers, and perform regular audits to spot errors or gaps. Sync your software so the valuable data in your ERP solution informs the rest of your systems. It’s not only about accuracy—product descriptions are a form of marketing, and they need to be enticing too. Add images and videos and describe the product's core functionality. This way, customers will be engaged as well as informed.