What product type means to your customers
At the core of every transaction is the concept that the buyer has a need and the seller has a matching solution. Sometimes a buyer knows exactly what product will solve their problem and tells you that they want a pair of "Oboz Men's Wind River II size 11". Other times they know generally what they want and they'll ask for a pair of "brown waterproof backpacking moisture-wicking boots". And sometimes they only have a general idea about wanting "waterproof boots for hiking".
A big difference between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail is how to communicate to each kind of buyer that you have the right product to meet their needs when you can't observe if they look lost, ask them questions to find out their priorities, make sure they understand the information you have provided about the product, or let them try it out to see if it does what they want it to. That's why is it crucial to provide a product title that communicates as effectively as possible. Remember, confused people don't buy.
The heart of the title is the product type. The product type is what the product is and what the product does to solve the buyer's need.
Let's look at the title for the product that meets the needs of 3 example buyers above: "Oboz Men's Wind River II BDry Backpacking Boot".
The product type is "Backpacking Boot" because it is a boot and it meets the needs of backpackers.
The single most important word in the title is "boot". Without this base of the product type, the title "Oboz Men's Wind River II BDry Backpacking" would be confusing for the second buyer, and completely alienate the third buyer. In this case we would say that product type is effectively missing from the title.
The second most important word in the title is "backpacking". The title "Oboz Men's Wind River II BDry Boot" would not provide information that both the second and third buyers are looking for since they are looking to find a pair of boots that is good for backpacking/hiking. For the title still says what the product is but leaves out what it does, so we would say that the product type is incomplete and needing improvement.
Everything else in the title is attributes. Attributes are the aspects of a product that communicate quality, fit, features, value, etc. They can be explicit values like "Men's", or they be implied the way that including a known brand suggests high quality and good value.
Why product type matters
Adding/improving product type in titles can have a significant impact on the PPC performance of a product in a Google shopping campaign in Adwords, increasing impressions and clicks while decreasing cost-per-click. This is because you are communicating more effectively with each type of buyer, and because Google can better understand what your product is and display it more effectively to the people who want it.
We have a free product title performance grader that will automatically tell you have many of your titles have no detectable product type (and show some examples from your data). We will soon include a report of titles that have incomplete/unclear product types as well.
How product types relate to category
Often, a product type is either used as the last node in a taxonomy, or is slightly more specific than the last node. These examples are from the google product taxonomy.
Apparel & Accessories > Shoe Accessories > Boot Liners
In this case, "boot liners" is a product type
Apparel & Accessories > Shoes
Shoes is not a product type because it is too vague. "Pumps", "Hiking Boots", "Athletic Shoes", "Running Shoes", would all be product types inside this category
How we automatically detect product types
We have a number of tools to discover product types in titles and descriptions.
- The simplest tool is a library of over 85K words/phrases of product types we've seen before.
- Another tool takes known base product types like "shoes" or generic words like "kit" and looks for specific phrases that might be product types.
- A third tool looks for certain phrases in product descriptions like "this ____ has a", and can suggest that the word/phrase in the middle might be a product type.
- A fourth tool looks in product titles within specific categories for phrases that are very close in meaning to each other (using word vector technology) and to the last node of the taxonomy and can suggest them as product type.
- And I'm currently building a fifth tool that looks for phrases that are relatively specific to one product category, but appear across multiple brands that might potentially be product types.