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Just as humans have different characteristics that make us unique, so do products. In eCommerce, product attributes offer the informative experience that only a 2D shopping experience can. With detailed information, product attributes and all of its types help sell a product.In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of product attributes, the various attributes that exist, and most significantly, how to best optimize your product attributes for ultimate sales revenue.

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What are product attributes?

Think of product attributes as the features or properties that make your products what they are. Color, packaging, capacity, size, weight, and anything else that describes a product.

Describing product attributes, marketing guru Philip Kotler said, “Product attributes are the ingredients necessary for performing the product or service function sought by consumers.”

In other words, when combined, attributes create a product that fulfills all of the wants and needs that a customer expects. When you bake a recipe that includes banana, cinnamon, and walnuts, it delivers the expectation of a banana bread that tastes exactly as it should – rich, cinnamony, and nutty. If you’ve ever had a dinner party, there will always be at least one person asking about the components in every dish. That person represents every consumer in the world.

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Why Product Attributes Matter

Product attributes directly affect customer purchase decisions.

In short, product attributes matter because they inform the buyer extensively about the product. The more descriptive they are, the better they perform in terms of increasing buys. 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.

A lot of people like banana bread. But some prefer it with chocolate chips, while others prefer a vegan recipe. Similarly, a lot of similar products exist, with only their product attributes differentiating them.

Interestingly, product attributes and your target audience work together symbiotically. Sure, a product’s feature can hint at what sort of consumer will derive value from it. On the other side of the coin, your target customers give you an idea of what they want in a product.

You need to know your target customers and their preferences to optimize product attributes. Basically, how can you give them what they want for a price they can afford? The answer is, sell them a product ripe with the attributes they want.

Product Attributes: A Competitive Standpoint

Let’s talk about competition.

Other products in the market can largely affect how a consumer engages with a product. So the way you present attributes has to invoke this relativity. In other words, attributes will describe a product in how it either compares with or contrasts against similar products.

This means attributes will fall under one of two categories:

Points of parity refer to how a given product or service has attributes that match those of competing products.Points of difference refer to the opposite – how a product has attributes that differentiate it from 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, thus, is not likely to sell well. On the other hand, a product without any points of difference lacks uniqueness, and it might be just as unpopular.

Interestingly, in some cases, points of difference may gradually transform into points of parity over time. Meaning, if more companies in a niche gain inspiration from other competitors to stand out – well, then you’ve got a lot of products “standing out” in the same way. But that’s what makes eCommerce fun. Because there will always be new ideas and innovations for unique product attributes.

Regardless, remarkable experiences delight customers and drive conversion.

Types of Product Attributes

The various features of a product can be organized into different kinds of attributes.

Tangible and intangible attributesDeterminant attributesDissatisfiersVestigial and extinct featuresProduct Aesthetics

Tangible vs. Intangible Product Attributes

You can divide product attributes by their level of corporeality. In other words, some characteristics are more physical and easier to observe than others. Tangible attributes are so, as you can define, measure, see, taste, or smell them. Intangible attributes are more fluid in their definition, and hence difficult to define objectively.

Tangible Attributes

As physical properties that you can use your senses to experience, tangible attributes consist of the following.

SizeColorFeelPackagingWeightTasteQuantityMaterial composition

Intangible Attributes

The following product attributes are characteristics that are more subjective in their description but are still important to customer satisfaction and inciting emotion.

QualityReliabilityAestheticsPrice

Both tangible and intangible attributes are critical for a well-rounded, complete painting of a product. Focusing on one type more than the other can create a lot of holes in a buyer’s perception.

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Consider the example of a car.

Qualities like the car’s 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. As you can see, both offer high value in informing a customer about what the product offers.

Hence why you must properly optimize your tangible and intangible product attributes. After all, they are the criteria your customers use to make buying decisions.

Determinant Attributes

Before developing strategies to help manage your products, familiarize yourself with your products’ determinant attributes. The term determinant signifies the aspect or nature of something that will determine ultimately a customer’s decision to buy it. In that way, a determinant attribute highlights the underlying reason that someone buys a product. It’s more than just the practical feature of it.

Take fast-food, for example.

Fast-food is quick, easy, and cheap, right? Digging deeper, customers may be drawn to service speed, interior décor, restaurant ambiance, or simply the courteous staff. In this case, fast food has the basic, obvious, superficial level of attributes that describe it. But the more resonant essence of fast-food and the experience of eating it is more likely to beckon customers.

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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.

Use product ratings to communicate determinant attributes

Often, the easiest way to communicate the value of determinant attributes is with product ratings.

Even negative reviews are useful. After all, they convey which determinant attributes customers notice, enjoy, don’t know about, can do without, or outright don’t like.

Responding to bad reviews gives you the opportunity to build brand reputation, a critical intangible attribute.

Dissatisfiers

Marketers classify some types of product attributes as dissatisfiers: attributes customers don’t like. As per the name, dissatisfiers are attributes that discourage customers from buying a given product or service.

Dissatisfiers can range from flaws in design to unappealing presentation. They may even include immaterial or polar affinities between the product, brand, company, and the customers’ preferences. In other words, the brand and the customer simply do not connect.

When you optimize product attributes, dissatisfiers will be your first priority. At a minimum, it’s best to overhaul dissatisfiers to improve overall product appeal. At worst, you may need to simply discontinue the product.

Vestigial and Extinct Features

Sometimes, companies might need to phase out certain product attributes over time. Meaning, they might come to a point where discontinuing a product is better than keeping it on the market. Usually, this is due to vestigial and extinct features.

Vestigial or extinct features are attributes that no longer have a functional purpose to serve. More specifically, vestigial attributes may embody a different purpose.

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For example, the initial purpose of the small second pocket inside the larger right-hand pocket of your Levi’s jeans was to hold your pocket watch. Obviously, most people stopped using pocket watches centuries ago. However, Levi’s still have a watch pocket simply because…people still like them. In this case, the product attributes went from serving a practical purpose to an aesthetic purpose.

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Extinct attributes are completely discontinued, hence the name. So if Levi’s had instead completely stopped adding a smaller pocket to their jeans, they would be extinct. The process by which attributes become vestigial or extinct is entirely up to context. The time period, current social climate, current cultural values, and fashion trends all influence and perpetuate certain attributes.

Thus, it’s vital to constantly reevaluate and optimize your product attributes. At a minimum, you must ensure that they satisfy your customers’ needs. Then, you can consider any nonessential elements, like the aesthetic design.

Determining how to optimize product attributes is essential. Not only to delight your customers, but also give you a competitive edge. Today, searching often displays similar products side-by-side. So it’s easy for shoppers to be swayed by this product or the other.