8 Product Data Onboarding Software Essentials

Posted by Maria West on Dec 22, 2021 2:39:03 PM

If you are looking for, or considering a solution for product data and working through how to evaluate the different options available, this article can help.  

One of the key opportunity areas driving businesses to look for product data tools is to accelerate the pace at which supplier product and price files are processed. Achieving this can allow for rapid expansion of a product catalog, or the shifting of a high volume of your team's hours from manual spreadsheet work, to more value delivering areas for the business.  

Outlined below are some essential functionality and criteria to consider as you evaluate different options on your journey to finding the best fit solution for your business.  

Let’s get started!

 

Product Data Collection

#1 - Collect product data from the sources where your suppliers make their data available 

When identifying what you need in data collection, you must consider a service that can work with the sources where your suppliers currently make the data available to you. 

It is common for PIM or data onboarding services to offer Vendor Portals where suppliers can upload their data. But for many businesses, this is not a viable option as it only works well if your suppliers are willing to spend the time to upload the data to these portals and re-upload changes over time. 

For many businesses, this is unrealistic. More often, they need to fetch the data from where it is made available, which might be from a website, FTP folder, or spreadsheets sent via email.  

If this is a time-consuming or difficult part of the process for you, check that the product data onboarding software that you are assessing is able to streamline or automate data feeds from the sources relevant for your business. 

 

# 2 - Accept product data in the format your suppliers’ provide

The second consideration is the format in which your supplier data is made available to you. Suppliers all have their own unique style, or DNA, for their product data. Different attributes types, attribute labels, formats, acronyms, capitalized or lower case - the variations are endless.

Some PIM systems or product data software requires you to rework supplier data files into a standardized template before uploading them to the product data software. This can add hours of extra work, especially with large numbers of suppliers or data that is updated frequently. 

If this would be an issue for your team, look for a platform that will allow data to be entered in any format, and then be normalized by the software. There may be some setup needed for each supplier to map the key areas upfront, like attribute labels or categories, but after that, a diverse data set can be entered without any re-working. 

 

#3 - Ability to source the products you need from the Vendors you select

There are product databases in various verticals that offer a selection of products from which you can source product data for your website. These can be a great economical option if they are offering all of the vendors and products you require.  If you find they have data for some of your catalog but are missing key vendors and products from your set, they might not be the best fit. 

Working with a solution that allows you to onboard the exact products you need from the specific vendors you require, allows you to effectively manage your complete catalog. You will have more control, knowing the data is recently acquired, up to date, and how often it is updated over time. 



Product Data Cleaning

#4 - Edit products at the individual product, brand, data feed, category, or universal level

If you have a large product catalog sourced from a number of vendors, there will be a wide range of edits needed to normalize the data and prepare it for your eCommerce store. To do this efficiently, you need the ability to easily make edits at different levels or groupings, such as by 

  • Brand (e.g. change the brand name from nike corp. to Nike)
  • Supplier (e.g. add shipping time frame)
  • Category (e.g. convert any measurements in kg to lb) 
  • Universally (e.g. add warranty information)

Once you have a good handle on the types of changes you need to make to the incoming data and at which hierarchy level these should be made, you can align your search to meet these criteria.  Check also that edits at each level are easily done by a user. Some software will suggest flexibility, but then require coding by an IT team to enable.



#5 - Product data cleaning functionality meets your specific use cases 

If you need your product data cleaned, normalized, or enriched at scale, you will be looking for software with the capability to transform data through one, or a combination of AI, machine learning, or a rules engine. This area is worth spending some time to think through the kinds of transformation you will need to optimize your catalog for online selling. 

Some software will have available a standardized set of transformations you can select from to use. Others offer greater flexibility to be able to create almost any rule possible that may be needed to meet the specificities of your product data. Check if you’ll be able to meet all of your criteria with the options available, easily, without needing developer resources or coding.



#6 - Automated variant creation

Variant creation can account for 20% of the time spent manually manipulating product data and is an often overlooked, yet key part of product data cleaning and preparation for eCommerce.  

Some product data onboarding software will offer the capability to take flat files of SKU level data, and automate the grouping of variants under a new parent product, to feed directly into your eCommerce platform. Functionality can go further to assign color swatches, photos, and pricing so these variables are shown on the product page depending on the variant chosen.

If this area is a crucial element for your business, requiring a lot of manual work from your team, it is worth adding this to the list of your essential requirements.



#7 - Product data validation

If you have a large amount of product data currently, that you are unsure of the quality, or know it has a lot of quality issues, then data validation functionality is an important consideration. 

Data validation functionality should be able to identify issues such as duplicates, missing information, or values not meeting the criteria that you set (eg. product descriptions must be over 100 characters).  This functionality quickly highlights the areas needing attention to improve the overall data quality in your catalog. 

Data validation can also be used to identify issues in incoming supplier data files if Vendor Portals are used, notifying the supplier of what needs to be amended before those products are accepted. 



#8 - Implementation and ongoing support

Depending on your business size and the skill sets within your team, you should identify if you are looking for a managed service, a tool that you can manage and operate, in-house, or a combination of the two. Being clear on the level of involvement and control that is right for your business upfront will help you in deciding what solution is the best fit for you to move forward with.

 

Knowing what functionality and automation are available in product data management for eCommerce can greatly help you put the right solution in place for your business. The team at Vesta would welcome the opportunity to learn more about the specifics of your product data challenges and show you how Vesta can streamline product data management for your company. Book a consultation with one of our friendly sales team.




Topics: ecommerce, product data, product information

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