INSIGHTS AND PERSPECTIVES

Optimize e-commerce product listings

BY Mark Hamstra

Brands should be seeking to optimize their product listings online both in terms of visual representation and verbiage to maximize e-commerce sales, said Stephanie Leffler, CEO of OneSpace, a virtual workforce platform, at the recent Emerson Group Industry Day in Philadelphia.

Health and beauty care product suppliers might not realize how much of their sales are currently impacted by online search, she said, citing the rapid growth of click-and-collect and grocery delivery services that might appear to suppliers as being brick-and-mortar retail sales.

“How your product looks on the digital shelf — you may not understand what a massive impact that is having on your sales already,” Leffler said.

Data from terms used to search for products can be a valuable tool, she said, citing searches for face cleansers as an example. While most products in the space call themselves “face cleansers,” consumers actually are searching using the term “face wash.”

“Stop thinking about what’s on your packaging. That is not your e-commerce title,” Leffler said. “Your e-commerce title needs to be what people search.

“Little things can make millions of dollars of difference in e-commerce sales if you do it right and take data into consideration.”

She said that most people also do not typically enter a brand name when they search for health and beauty products online. Instead, they more are likely to search for the conditions they are seeking to treat or the attributes of the products or their ingredients.

“When you are thinking about what product to do next, don’t do a survey or a focus group,” Leffler said. “Just look at search data — it’s all sitting right here in the numbers.”

The words used in product descriptions also is important as more and more consumers use voice-based ordering technology, she said. In product descriptions, it’s important to restate a product’s name in the first couple of bullet points, for example, so that the technology repeats the name back to the consumer and reinforces which product the consumer is asking about.

Leffler cited Breathe Right nasal strips as one product that optimizes its product descriptions for voice-based search.

Breathe Right also takes the right approach with its visual representation of the product, she said, noting that it uses the images in the photo carousel to convey the product’s features and attributes.

Almost all — 96% of consumers — click all the way through a product image carousel when searching for products, Leffler said, noting that they are an important aspect of selling online.

“Do you really want to use that carousel to show all the different panels of your box? I don’t think so,” she said. “This is a really simple thing you can think about developing for your products, and it makes a huge difference.”

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Fast action, empowered leaders win battles in war, business

BY Mark Hamstra

Acting quickly and decisively often yields advantages in battle, as long as communication is clear and the team has been well trained — lessons that also can be applied in the business world, according to former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who spoke at the recent Emerson Group Industry Day conference in Philadelphia.

The retired U.S. Army general recounted his experiences at the Battle of 73 Easting in 1991 in Iraq, where as a young captain he led a decisive, lopsided tank battle against Iraqi forces. McMaster’s nine-tank unit destroyed 50 Iraqi tanks, 25 armored personnel carriers and 40 trucks, and suffered no casualties.

“I was always a proponent of acting quickly,” McMaster said. “It forces the enemy to react.”

Through the history of combat, he said, leaders who were hesitant were usually the ones who lost. He detailed several effective executions in battle that can be applied in the business world:

  • Leaders need to have clear vision of the situation, and need to “be there” with their teams in terms of understanding the reality they face;
  • Every member of the team must actively develop opportunities that the whole team can then execute;
  • The team needs to be trained to operate under uncertainty, and with concurrent activity;
  • Develop a proficiency in fundamental tasks so they can be executed routinely, even under stressful conditions;
  • Know your competitive advantages and maximize them. “If in a business, you have an advantage, make sure you are deploying that advantage,” McMaster said;
  • Don’t panic. There will be setbacks in war and in business. “Stay calm and work through the difficulties,” he said;
  • Foster shared understanding of the information flow. Well-trained troops communicate horizontally between each other rather than up the leadership chain. Poorly trained troops constantly tend to be asking for direction from commanders and waiting for the boss to direct the action.
  • Devolve responsibility downward and encourage initiative. McMaster said he continued the assault in the 1991 Battle of 73 Easting even though that was not part of the original plan because he recognized the opportunity at hand. “If we had just followed the plan, I think it would have been a much different outcome in the battle,” he said. In the battlefield, decisions have to be made by junior leaders, because tight central control of operations is neither possible nor desirable. These junior leaders must be well trained to do the right thing, and then trusted to act independently; and
  • Once you gain an advantage, consolidate your gains and follow through so you maintain the initiative and the advantage.
    In a question and answer session, McMaster said his experience both in the military and as a history teacher prepared him well
    for politics.

“The military gives you a broader experience than you might think,” he said, citing his experience building multidisciplinary teams, for example.
In his work at the Pentagon, McMaster said he focused on the mission and the people that worked for him, seeking to foster an environment where people felt empowered to make decisions.

As the National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, McMaster said he advocated much of the foreign-policy direction of the administration, such as taking a stronger position against North Korea and China. He believes many of the alliances the United States has with other countries are “stronger than ever.”

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7 ideas from the Purpose-Driven Summit

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