21 Aug

Virtual Product

Virtual product

“The product information is the single most influential content for raising purchase intentions” 
~ Kimberly Struyk

This article is a precious part of the hybris Project Patterns series.

To begin, let us start with a few WHYs : 

  • Why is a Merchant motivated to invest in online and offline strategies?
  • Why are Consumers attracted to digital stores, online markets and omni-dimentional sites ?
  • Why does an Enterprise commences the adventure of adopting software solutions to manage their commercial activities?

The answer to all these questions is: The Product !

The Product is at the heart of the Enterprise’s business and a main source of revenue. The prime reason we are engaged in a commercial project is that the Enterprise is in a possession of a Product and desires to offer it to other parties.

Consider the following facts:

  • In an e-Commerce project, selling a Product is a fundamental goal.
  • In an MDM-PIM project, managing and using a Product is an essential objective. 
  • In an e-Procurement project, purchasing a Product is a primary intention.

The Product is a principal concept in these kinds of projects. Hence, it is imperative that all folks involved in e-Commerce projects understand what the Product is – what are its ingredients and how to make it a profitable asset for the Enterprise.


People often accept the Product as a given without understanding the elements, which make the product sellable and attractive. During a project, even on the business' side, the unawareness of what a Product actually is makes all the business requirements, around the Product, superfluous, weak and sometimes, irrelevant.


Explain the main ingredients of a commercial Product and what makes it attractive for end Consumers. Indicate where we can improve the Product information and how it affects the Consumers. This comprehension will challenge the existing business requirements and unveil new profitable strategies when offering the Product. 

Related patterns

Glossary, Workshop, PIM Awareness, Data Models 

Nature of the Product

Since dawn of times, people have been seeking products, which other people offer for sale, trade or exchange. 

The product has become the primary touchpoint between a Consumer and a Merchant – online and in-store, by paper ads and telesales, through commercial media and point-of-sales, via smart devices and mobile apps. The opportunities to acquire a product seem infinite!

In the electronic market, what we sell, buy and exchange is a computer-generated representation of a real physical item, residing in stores and warehouses. Or, the item could be, an electronic asset, living in digital banks, registries, data systems.

Behold, the Virtual Product !

 Merchant – Consumer relation


Products are notorious with their diversity, facets, shapes, looks and complexity. The real product is a sophisticated object possessing a number of characteristics and behaviors. 

It becomes evident that moving from physical stores and fairs to the cyber marketplaces changes the representation of a product: from being a very tangible thing to becoming a multi-facetted set of electronic chunks, stored in a networked technology cloud.

Practice reveals that the product information is a primary factor for multichannel success, where a channel is any location, which is used by a Merchant to contact the Consumer – a website, a mobile device, a street ad, a TV commercial, etc. If well designed, the product information needs to follow the Consumer in her online or offline experience. Websites and ads should guide the Consumer about the right Product by using primarily the Conviction as a conversion tool.

Consumers increasingly demand more product information on all accessible channels. In most cases, the Consumer is dealing with the virtual equivalent of the real product. That creates a prominent challenge for the Merchant to craft an attractive offer based on electronic artifacts like descriptive texts, appealing media, attractive pricing, targeted campaigns, etc.

Mastering the Product Information creation requires understanding of Consumer needs and Social Trends. Therefore, a lot of work needs to be done in the background in order to create attractive Product Information. It is common that Merchants seek the help of creative agencies and storytellers in order to create a unique irresistible image of their commercial offers.

Product Ingredients

You may ask: “What makes the product sellable?

Let us first explore a list of features, which constitute the product information. When we realize what the Product consist of, we can decide how to make it more attractive to Consumers.

 Product ingredients


We can group the product information in three aspects: Core, Commerce and Community, where:

  • Core: primary, essential information; mostly engineering data, without which the product cannot exist as a production entity
  • Commerce: information, which makes the product sellable; as such it employs marketing techniques to promote better the product and increases the chance for purchase
  • Community: Consumer generated information – a powerful stream of data, which, if properly harvested and managed leads to much greater measurable commercial results.

Each of these aspects is managed by the Merchant and offered to the Consumer. The combination of product features and their careful manifestation to the Consumer is what defines the Product as appealing and sellable.

Interesting to observe is that the information of the first two aspects is ultimately information created by the Merchant for the Consumer – like a “one-way” communication with a Sender and a Receiver. With this fashion of offering, how the Consumer perceives this information is little know of, due to the single-directional nature of the information.

Most companies invest only in the first two aspects, while the real Commerce innovators look more and more into the third aspect – the “Social side” of the Product. It is the third aspect that brings this important bit of product information, which complements the Merchant’s data – the information generated by the Community of Consumers, via their networks and commercial channels.

Therefore, in our projects, we spend sufficient time with the Client to explain the importance of the product information, all its aspects and its diversity. We show successful case studies and depict them in the context of our project.


Product Information Challenge

The information representing a Product is rarely static – it often evolves and transforms. This is frequently a forgotten fact, but due to its significance, it needs to be kindly reminded during the project to the Business Client. 

In the present dynamic world, the industry is always on the run, facing challenges and fluctuations. Company reorganizations, renewals of corporate intranets and partner portals, booming online channels and flourishing social media, employment of new technology – all examples of critical moments in our business life, which change our visions and business behavior.

Usually such events impact corporate processes and roles of people, who are involved in them. Very often the critical moments are accompanied with data restructuring – organizational, financial, logistical, and in the case of commercial companies, the data changes are directly related to product data changes. However, being aware of these issues, gives the Enterprise an advantage in coping with the product data changes and related processes effectively. 

Corporate investors, being in constant quest of finding a maximum value for their investments, frequently ponder over questions related to product data changes, like:

  • “How does our product data look like?”
  • “What is the organization of our product information?”
  • “Where does the data come from?”
  • “In what formats?”
  • “Where does it need to go?”
  • “Who will be using it?”
  • “Who internally and externally has a vested interest in it?”
  • “Which processes need to be adapted and how?”
  • “What are the global and local specifics of product information?”
  • “Do we need translation of content?”
  • “How often does the product information change?”
  • “Who will manage it and what skills are required?”
  • “Which tools can be used?”


Having in mind those queries, in e-commerce projects we organize a dedicated Workshop to discuss potential challenges, which the Enterprise faces, in respect to product information and product data changes.

The results are often astonishing – the Busuness people soon discover new sources for product data and develop fresh inspirations for making the products more appealing. 


Understanding the Enterprise’s core business concept – the Product – gives the whole project a new perspective: a harmonized view of the product essentials. This comprehension leads to the identification of smart tactics to make the product attractive for Consumers.

As with all good things, it starts with a set of features for the product information and a first-cut vision about the final result. What matters after that is a professional approach and realization of this vision in order to optimize the investment of the Enterprise the best possible way. 

Thank you for reading our article ! Please let us know how you liked it ... and share your personal experience.  



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