Like OZ behind the curtain, product data files aren’t seen by end users, but power everything: our websites, third-party marketplaces, digital catalogs, fulfillment and operations, and more.
Product data files are integral to smooth internal/external operations, a pleasant end user experience, and sales success. The pitfall is they’re overwhelming and time consuming for marketers to consistently update and maintain across all digital channels.
Marketers rarely maintain just one either. In today’s omni channel world, companies aren’t only selling products through their website, digital catalogs, sales reps, or brick and mortar stores. Now, many brands also sell products on third-party marketplaces, like Amazon, Zulily, Wayfair, Google Shopping, and more.
The third-party marketplaces each require their own product data file. Yet the data in every file must be accurate, up-to-date, and compelling, since this information dictates how a product is displayed and marketed to the public.
Inaccuracies in product data means inaccuracies on webpages, wreaking havoc on site visitors’ brand perception and eroding credibility. In fact, a study from Episerver found that “98% of all shoppers have decided against buying due to errors in a retailer’s site content.”
Luckily, there are tools out there, called Product Information Management (PIM) systems, that stop this manual product maintenance madness.
Today, we’ll talk through product data challenges, and how a PIM system can revolutionize the product data management process.
How is Product Data Used?
Just about everything a website visitor sees on a product page is pulled directly from a product data file. This Wayfair example below demonstrates a typical product data file, and how it drives the final webpage.
Examples of fields that may be in a product data file include:
- Product category
- Product name
- Item number
- Size specs
- Images and alternate images
- Product descriptions
- Weight and dimensions
- Shipping options
This data is imported into our website and third-party marketplaces on a regular basis, and automatically changes how information is displayed to end users.
Product Data File Challenges
For too many marketers, product data is housed in multiple formats, with more than one person responsible for managing and updating it.
Perhaps image files are stored on a thumb drive or Dropbox, and product descriptions, titles, SKUs, and more are in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or plain old Excel sheets.
When it’s time to update a product’s images or change its shipping options or availability, for example, it is a hassle to locate and modify the correct product in the correct file in a timely manner. The same challenge arises when the marketer is trying to execute a new promotion and needs to gather a subset of themed items from different files.
Furthermore, marketers need to make sure they keep these data files clean of errors or problematic formatting, or their nightly imports could fail. There are a lot of moving parts, and the stakes are high to keep everything accurate and updated.
Third-Party Marketplace Challenges
Third-party marketplaces further complicate product data file management, because each requires its own data file, formatted in a specific way.
Below, we’ve included a sample product data file for Wayfair and Amazon, and an example of what the end user sees for the product “Kitchen Aid Mixer.”
If a marketer doesn’t perfectly follow their data spec, the product page will be missing, inaccurate, or incomplete.
Introducing Product Information Management Systems (PIMs)
A Product Information Management (PIM) system centralizes and houses all marketing and technical information for product listings and catalogs in one simple tool.
Marketers can import images, product descriptions, titles, videos, sales sheets, and more into the system for immediate access by team members.
Once in the PIM, products can be searched and filtered, so finding images and assets is no longer a time-consuming struggle. It’s then easily distributed to third-party systems, like websites and marketplaces, supplied to customers, or fed into a digital catalog.
The graphic below is from Whereoware’s PIM system ProductFastLane. We built ProductFastlane with the marketer in mind.
We wanted to make it simple and streamlined to get the data you need to create compelling product pages on your website, run effective campaigns in Google Shopping or Facebook, and get a great ROI out of your third-party market places.
We also aimed to enhance your search engine optimization (SEO). Marketers can write and update compelling product descriptions, titles, and other data points in Product FastLane to optimize each product for natural search.
By housing all product data in one secure location, marketers update product details one time and easily distribute it to the website and third-party marketplaces. This saves time and headache, but also ensures product data is consistent and compelling across the web.
Avoid Product Data Pains
Too many marketers live in spreadsheet hell, battling their product data. Yet, this seemingly tedious task is vital to e-commerce success.
Looking for a lifeboat? A PIM system helps busy marketers manage, update, and optimize product data. Spend less time in the data weeds, and more time developing creative merchandising and outreach campaigns to delight customers.