Just as humans have different characteristics that make us unique, so do products. Think of product attributes as the features or properties that make your products what they are. Color, packaging, capacity, size, weight, and anything else distinguishing your products from the competition are product attributes.
Another way to look at it is that product attributes directly affect customer purchase decisions. If customers see your products’ attributes as unique, they become the distinguishing factors setting your products apart from your competitors’. When these are seen as valuable, you convert lookers into buyers and make sales.
To do this, you need to know your target customers and their preferences for certain product attributes. Basically, how can you give them what they want for a price they can afford? The answer is, sell them a product packed with the attributes they want.
Tangible vs. Intangible Product Attributes
Size, color, feel, packaging, weight, taste, quantity, and material composition are tangible. So, if a customer buys goods based on these qualities, she is making the purchase decision based on your product’s tangible attributes.
Quality, reliability, aesthetics, and price are considered intangible product attributes. Think of a car. Qualities like the color or the interior décor can determine which brand a customer might buy.
On the other hand, safety tests or overall quality might prompt a customer to buy this or that brand. This is why your tangible and intangible product attributes have to be properly managed. After all, they are the criteria your customers use to make buying decision.
Before developing strategies to help manage your products, familiarize yourself you’re your products’ determinant attributes. These work like an arrow pointing to the underlying product aspects that determine why customers buy them.
Consider the example of fast-food. Fast-food is quick, easy, and cheap, right? Digging deeper, customers could be drawn to the service speed, interior décor, restaurant ambiance, or simply the courteous staff. It’s important to remember that determinant attributes vary by customer. Just because you know you offer something you think is valuable, you need to be able to translate that value to your customers.
Often the easiest way to communicate the value of determinant attributes is with product ratings. Even negative reviews are useful, because they tell you which determinant attributes customers notice, enjoy, don’t know about, can do without, or outright don’t like. On a related note, responding to bad reviews gives you the opportunity to build brand reputation, a critical intangible attribute.
Why Product Attributes Matter
Describing product attributes, marketing guru Philip Kotler said, “Product attributes are the ingredients necessary for performing the product or service function sought by consumers.” The specific attributes a given product or service must have to enable proper functioning fall into two categories. Points of parity discusses how a given product or service has attributes that match those of competing products. Points of difference refers to the opposite, how attributes differentiate the products and services of competing companies.
A product lacking points of parity can’t even boast of offering the same attributes as competing products, and is thus not likely to sell well. On the other hand, a product lacking points of difference lacks uniqueness, and may be just as unpopular. Remember, it is unique experiences that delight customers and drive conversions. It is very important to note points of difference gradually transform into points of parity over time.
Other types of product attributes can be classified as dissatisfiers, which refers attributes customers don’t like. These are attributes that discourage customers from buying a given product or service. Dissatisfiers can range from design flaws to unappealing presentation to intangible associations between the product, brand, company, and the customers’ preferences. At a minimum, dissatisfiers should be overhauled to improve overall product appeal or simply discontinued.
Vestigial and Extinct Features
Companies necessarily phase out certain product attributes over time. Attributes approaching this phase either become vestigial or extinct features. While extinct features are product attributes that have been discontinued, vestigial features are those that used to serve a specific purpose, but now serve another.
For example, the small second pocket inside the larger righthand pocket of your Levi’s jeans was originally designed to hold your pocket watch. Despite the fact that most people stopped using pocket watches over 100 years ago, Levi’s still have a watch pocket simply because people like them.
You need to constantly reevaluate your product attributes to ensure at a minimum they satisfy your customers’ needs. Determining how to improve product attributes to delight your customers is arguably even more important. Their unique attributes just may give your products a competitive edge. This is especially important as searching often results in similar products being displayed side-by-side.
Managing Product Aesthetic Appeal
When you hear the word aesthetics, synonyms like beauty, attractiveness and pleasurable comes to mind. Product aesthetics, which appeal both to the five senses and emotion, must be considered when designing products. Aesthetic appeal can even be the primary selling point for some products, while for other the opposite is true. This tends to vary both by product and target customer.
In any case, successful companies understand the importance of visual elements in influencing buying choices. You should constantly ask yourself, “How can I make my products look more beautiful?” The answer to this question runs the gamut from initial functionality and design, to packaging and presentation, to the images you use in online sales. Companies ignore individual steps in this process to their utter detriment. Even beautiful products can be poorly displayed online and less attractive products can be better packaged to drive sales.
A distinctive, unique product design often adds a great deal of customer value. Many consumers want to buy products they consider cutting edge, that look cool, and that showcase stunning, even daring, design. But simply having an explosive, new idea isn’t enough. You need to conduct research into your customers to figure out what they want, need, and expect. Doing this will allow you to create a design suited to your product according to the specifics of your target customers.
A winning strategy might focus on unique design features, using them to your competitive advantage. On the other hand, customers might be so used to the standard specifics of a product that overhauling the design could result in fewer sales. While it might seem like a guessing game, research will reveal the specific data you need to understand to delight your customers with products that solve their problems.
If your research indicates focusing on design is the correct decision, you might choose to redesign your existing products. This new design obviously should captivate customers enough to elicit a second, third, and even fourth look. Product design rests on customer demand for an ever-greater variety of products doing basically the same thing. So much of online shopping is the search for something to replace another product that doesn’t quite do what it’s supposed to do. Design versus functionality is a delicate balance, which directly affects product lifecycle.
You always need to know where your product is in its lifecycle. Is it declining in sales? If so, you absolutely must know whether you need to change more superficial concerns, like packaging, more important concerns, like design, or crucial concerns of functionality. Remember, you aren’t going to sell anything, if you don’t know where your products are missing the mark. A beautiful product that doesn’t work, isn’t going to sell.
Individual wants and needs tend to vary from customer to customer. Because this variability had a direct effect on a given customer’s concept of quality, it tends to be subjective. This is especially true when selling any product capable of fulfilling more than one customer need.
With regard to product quality, are your customers interested in your products because they look good, they’re cheap, they’re durable, because they solve a very specific problem well, or any combination of these? Product quality is that feature or set of features that reliably solves the problem or set of problems the customer bought it to solve. But quality overall refers to more than just product quality. Quality is the whole experience.
In ecommerce, quality begins with the experience each customer has on your website, through product delivery and unboxing, to every time the product is used. Begin cultivating a quality-focused mindset by asking, “How organized are my processes?” Remember, standardization and consistency maximize efficiency. This begins with recruiting and training your personnel, continues with well-defined work processes, and centers upon clear, open communication both within your operation and between the company and customers.
Any increase in customer satisfaction is an indication you are doing something right. Build on these by obtaining feedback from suppliers, partners, and employees alike to further improve practices. This feedback will point out areas of weakness and strength which resolved will help build positive brand image and simultaneously increase your productivity and profitability.
You should select a product quality level in line with your positioning strategy. This will help customers answer the question, “Why should I buy this brand?” Your brand positioning strategy determines the value proposition you make to your customers. This is the promise you make to your potential customers that gets them to convert and buy your product. The most important concern to remember here is to never make promises you can’t keep.
With this in mind, your company can utilize any of multiple positioning strategies. These tend to vary by company, product, and target market, directly affecting success.
- Less for Less – sell lower quality products at a significant discount
- Same for Less – charge less than your competitors do for the same products
- More for Less – sell a product that outperforms your competitors’ products at a lower price
- More for Same – charge customers what your competitors charge, but provide better products
- More for More – sell a premium product at a premium price
Companies gravitate toward or shy away from these positioning strategies according to the implication they can have on overall brand image. Do you want your company to be known for its absolute rock bottom prices or will identifying with material excess drive success? Your positioning strategy is the link between your customers and your products, and must therefore suit both.
The Silent Salesman: Presentation
Optimizing your products’ attributes means paying attention to every possible detail. Presentation is an easy product attribute to ignore or forget. For example, you’re already selling the best solution in a demand-heavy market, but sales are low. The problem could be your packaging or unboxing experience.
Your packaging needs to drive intrigue and your unboxing experience has to balance excitement against tedium. The truth is that instinct buying is taking over, and this is primarily driven by the visual. Even before the logical side of the brain has time to weigh the decision, it’s been made and the most attractively presented product flies off the shelf. So, thinking like an imp customer making somewhat impulsive product decisions can inform your presentation choices.
When designing your packaging, apply sensory triggers to generate the subconscious emotional responses that drive expectation and excitement. Your packaging should tell your customers what they are getting with only a glance. It should also follow your product design message and be just different enough to tantalize your customers. Including extra surprises along with your packaging drives positive unboxing experiences, driving popularity and positive reviews. Finally, packaging has to more than adequately protect your products from damage that may occur during delivery.
Never underestimate the power emotions have over purchase decisions. Customers tend to buy products when companies have worked to provoke their feelings. Your packaging should mirror this strategy and trigger emotional engagement with your customers. This is the silent salesman at work.
Now that you know why managing your product attributes well is so important, see what CATSY’s product information management solution can do for you.