3M Shares Why 360° Content Is One Of The Most Valuable Investments

More Information Means Higher Purchase Confidence

Since the emerging desire for big data hit the scene, consumers have started to use information as a currency that determines where they will spend their hard-earned dollars. The formula is simple: more information equals higher purchase confidence, which often leads to a conversion.

More information means higher purchase confidence. In today’s world, you must have the right information available to the visitor at the right time. Creating digital assets that provide clear and detailed product information to online customers is invaluable to a company like 3M.

John DeMarco, Manager of Digital Marketing Operations at 3M, explains online-influenced revenue like this:

So what’s your digital presence worth? A LOT. Who would leave over $1,000,000 an hour on the table? While many companies invest heavily in systems that can manage and distribute product data across digital channels, far fewer prioritize the creation of content assets to manage the customer experience and distribute value across their online-influenced ecosystem. According to DeMarco, this needs to change.

Data Alone Isn’t Enough

“As manufacturers and distributors, we’re all in the publishing business,” said DeMarco. “Data alone is not good enough. You can have all the data points, but it doesn’t mean anything until it becomes meaningful content for the end user.”

Product photography is a major data point that is too often viewed as a line-item to be checked off a list, rather than a content asset that provides significant value to customers. Unfortunately, data attributes like image content are often overlooked and underinvested, leading to a significant missed opportunity.

DeMarco questions why distributors and manufacturers are generally willing to spend millions on Product Information Management (PIM) and other data management software, but struggle to sell themselves on creating the content assets that populate these systems. Without quality data, the money spent on these systems will never be able to reach their full value.

“There are a lot of different delivery channels for content, and there are a lot of ways to store it, but ultimately the focus needs to be on the experience with the content,” DeMarco said. “It’s all about what the visitor, partner, and hopefully customer is actually going to see, experience, and realize.”

Manage the Customer Experience or You’re Sunk

DeMarco uses this Gartner definition to explain customer experience management: The practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations, and thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.

The practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations, and thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.

“Companies that focus on customer experience have a performance gain of 45%, while companies that neglect customer experience have a performance decrease of 34%,” said DeMarco. “Your job has become increasingly complex as we try to address all the interactions and expectations to ultimately lead to satisfaction.”

By investing in content assets that are part of the consumer experience—such as 360° product content—companies gain an objective analysis of what consumers find most important throughout the purchase journey directly from their customers. Additionally, it unveils the most effective methods to market products as companies better understand why their customers navigate from the home page all the way to clicking “Buy Now.”

DeMarco explained how 360° product content enables 3M to listen to its customers, learn what they care about, and meet their requirements. Even for a Post-it dispenser that DeMarco jokes is a ‘nothing product,’ presenting it in 360° prioritized the customer experience and provided consumer insight that 3M didn’t anticipate.

“3M didn’t know that customers wanted to see the back of its Post-it Pop-up Notes Dispenser, until the company launched a 360° view of the product on the Post-it website,” DeMarco said. “By transforming our product data into content, 3M is able to gain actionable insight into the customer experience and adapt assets to improve it.”


While some manufacturers or distributors are quick to assume that enhanced content will not benefit their products, it’s important that companies deploy a strategic process to question that assumption and understand why creating only the most basic will hurt digital initiatives.

DeMarco uses a content quality decision tree, like the example shown below, to break down content quality into four tiers and guide which content requirements are necessary for 3M’s products.

“One of the most valuable things businesses can invest in is 360° photography,” said DeMarco. “When determining investment, don’t start with baseline content. Don’t cheat yourself. Start with an aggressive plan of advanced commerce content and talk yourself out of why you need it.”

360° product content is particularly valuable as an asset because of its ability to be repurposed across so many channels: websites, social media, email newsletters, partner portals, print campaigns, and even Amazon—just to name a few.

In today’s world manufacturers and distributors can’t afford (or shouldn’t pay) to create product content for a single use. According to DeMarco, companies need to think about how they can use an asset in 15 different ways and then focus on developing a content database that can be created, managed, and optimized to support republishing.

“3M has products sold all over the world,” said DeMarco, “If I can use our 360° product content in 90 countries, I didn’t just save the company money, I made the company money.”

Since 2014, 3M has partnered with Snap36 to create 360° product content for more than 15,000 products. 3M has used a combination of Snap36 studio and on-site services, and currently owns three equipment stations to create 360° product content at its HQ in Minneapolis and 3M Canada in Toronto.