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Executive summary

In the previous post of the Product Knowledge Graphs series we introduced you to the possibilities a Product Knowledge Graph opens for e-commerce data. In this post, we want to show you something equally exciting: Physical SEO. That is the intersection of physical and digital UX environments and the instrumental role of linked data and SEO for your products’ visibility and sales. 

Intro

As the boundaries between physical and cyber spaces are blurring, e-commerce and the digital marketing behind it have to catch up with ever-changing consumer needs and behaviours. Take for example an in-store experience. More often than not people would scan a product to find its ingredients, or search for product reviews, feedback, discounts.  

All in one, we act digital in the physical world. In such a scenario, the question for digital marketing and e-commerce is: “How to connect a physical product to the ecosystem of data on the Web?

And the answer is structured data – the common thread running through three things we want to connect the dots for here: 

  • Physical SEO 
  • Barcodes as entry points to digital experiences (GS1 Digital Link technology)
  • Product Knowledge Graph.

1. Physical SEO, yes you heard that right.
2. Making Barcodes Speak Linked Data (GS1 Digital Link)
3. The Product Knowledge Graph: Seeing Connected Data As a Marketing Tool
4. A Bag of Chips Instead of an Epilogue

Physical SEO, yes you heard that right.

 “In the next step, the Semantic Web will break out of the virtual realm and extend into our physical world. URIs can point to anything, including physical entities, which means we can use the RDF language to describe devices such as cell phones and TVs.”

Citation: Scientific American article by TBL (Solid), Ora Lassila (now Amazon), Hedler (Working Ontologist 2020), available here.

The term “physical SEO” is vague but exciting. We use it to define the activities related to search engine optimization that triggers digital experiences in physical environments and vice versa

Think of it. For example, if you are a manufacturer, you have to not only put your product on the shelf in the store, but also on the shelf for anyone browsing the Web for information. If you want to save time and money, you need a unique identifier for this product that will allow all your stakeholders fast and easy access to the data about it (price, description, availability, to mention just a few).

In other words, as search is inevitably permeating physical environments, so should SEO activities.

Fortunately, together with the increasingly complex digital user behavior come the increasingly connected and mature technologies to live up to the empowered users’ expectations.

Enter GS1 Digital Link.

Making Barcodes Speak Linked Data (GS1 Digital Link)

GS1 Digital link is developed by GS1, a not-for-profit global supply chain standards organization working to improve the efficiency, safety and visibility of supply chains. GS1 is best known for the barcode – the single standard for product identification. As GS1 standards aim to provide a framework that allows products, services, and information about them to move efficiently and securely across physical and digital channels, the organization started developing a standard that would “extend the power and flexibility of GS1 identifiers by making them part of the web.”    

Today, the standard is ready to facilitate the exchange and comparison of structured data and bridge the gap between usually incomplete data behind a scanned barcode. GS1 Digital Link promises to enhance the shopping experience for consumers by simplifying B2B data sharing and providing a standards-based unified way of describing products..

Why would a user want to access a Product Knowledge Graph from a barcode
He might want to:

  • Learn more about the product
  • Compare the product to other products
  • Search for offers
  • Browse reviews
  • Check compatibility
  • Find technical specifications

Very simply put, the GS1 Digital Link works based on providing a simple, standards-based structure for the data about a product. With GS1 Digital Link, information such as expiration dates, nutritional and medical product data, warranty registration, troubleshooting instructions, even social media links are becoming available with a single scan.

Image source: GS1 Digital Link Flyer

The GS1 Digital Link work is a treasure trove for anyone interested in publishing clean, structured and meaningful data on the Web. And this is where a Product Knowledge Graph can immensely enrich the exchange by providing an ecosystem of related information about any product in the blink of a scan. 

The Product Knowledge Graph: Seeing Connected Data As a Marketing Tool

As the underlying ecology of e-commerce is changing, the ways you publish product data to serve your customers and other stakeholders best require new approaches.

As the amazing Aaron Bradley wrote about that 5 (yes!, five) years ago in his blog SEO with Data :

“if data about you is going to appear in the search results – and it is – make sure it’s accurate by providing it yourself.”

And this is exactly what WordLift aims to do, enabling a scenario where all interested parties (merchants, retailers, customers) have access to interconnected detailed information about anything across both physical and digital channels. In other words, all kinds of data derived from (and accessed from) one comprehensive Product Knowledge Graph.

To understand the value of a Product Knowledge Graph for e-commerce, let’s have a look at a model. In 2018 researchers Turban, Outland et al. created the following model (in their book Electronic Commerce 2018 A Managerial and Social Networks Perspective):

Source: Slides for Chapter 2 

Now, let’s take it from this model and enhance it with the understanding and practice of Linked Data and e-commerce. The model will be pretty much the same, however the data that will feed a portal is data that you have control over.

  1. Person- > 2. Portal – > 3. Product Knowledge Graph 

A Bag of Chips Instead of an Epilogue

Sir Tim-Berners Lee constantly leaves us notes to the future. This is what he did in 2010. With a bag of chips. 

In this talk, the Web’s inventor talks about the barcode as a universal way for retailers to “talk” about products and the various other languages packages use to convey information.

A decade later all these components can be integrated and put in a Product Knowledge Graph, benefiting both consumers and producers. As we saw GS1 Digital Link opens the possibilities for such integration. WordLift pushes the idea one step forward by helping producers, retailers and e-commerce businesses publish their data to allow any search engine or platform to consume it in a meaningful way for the user.

Do you want your customers to find you on the digital shelf? Let us help you with that!

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