The Five Laws of Product Data – Part Two

October 15, 2013

Marketplaces ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

PpcWelcome
to the second instalment of our Product Data blog series! At first glance, this
topic can appear intimidating and complex, but it is at the heart of e-commerce
and is paramount to online success. In the spirit of demystifying data and
offering retailers practical tips to success, Rynhardt Hanekom and Rachel
Miller from ChannelAdvisor’s Customer Success team have created this data blog
series. If you missed last week’s blog, you can catch up here. Today
we unveil the first essential Data Law, which is:

Law 1: It if Isn’t
Available, it Might as Well Not Exist

As colloquial as the title sounds, this hits the nail on the head
and drives home a frustration that we see retailers encounter. They have data
(in some cases very good data) but it’s locked up in a system and they can’t access
it to use it for other business purposes.

Most often, when data is not readily available it is because sellers
are missing this key ingredient for success:

A Centralised
Inventory Management System

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 14.38.48A Centralised Inventory Management System means that you have one
database of product information that all of your systems, channels and
marketplaces access. Think of your inventory management system as an airport
and your inventory data as the passengers. You have many different concourses where data/passengers flow in and out
via “airplanes,” but it all comes together in the same hub. It would be terribly difficult to manage,
analyse and move inventory if your data were at 5 different airports instead of
one.

This central database of inventory details will allow you to
support the remaining four laws, which we’ll talk about in more detail over the
next few blogs.

Without a central inventory management system, your business pays
a high cost. You will likely have:

  • Redundancy in your product information, because there is no such thing as
    “core data” to be shared among integrations, channels and marketplaces,
    and the same values are repeated in multiple systems.
  • Inconsistent or out-of-sync data, because when data is redundant, it’s
    hard to keep it consistent. As volume increases, data on one channel can
    become wildly different than data on another channel.
  • And potentially inaccurate inventory quantities, because
    when information is not synchronised, it can become out of date. Invalid
    stock levels, resulting in oversold product, are generally where a
    business experiences this pain point.

A central inventory management system is the keystone that keeps
all of these important components in check.

As businesses grow and their multichannel strategy becomes more and more
complex, the flowchart of data exchange and integrations can also get very
complex. Complexity is not a bad thing, but efficiency and smart design should
be motivating drivers behind your integration plan. Somewhere in your
integrations flowchart should be that centralised inventory management system
that serves up data to be used by other systems, channels or marketplaces.

Sellers often come to ChannelAdvisor recognising that they need a
centralised inventory management system. Many times these are sellers that
tried a pilot program at their company for marketplaces like eBay or Amazon,
found success, and are ready to scale. Unfortunately, they started the pilot by
working directly with resident marketplace tools for adding and managing
inventory such as eBay’s Sell Your Item (SYI) form or Turbo Lister, or Amazon’s
Seller Central interface. When it comes time to move to a centralised database
for all multichannel e-commerce ventures, they run into challenges because
their data is stored in that initial eBay or Amazon vault. Getting data out of
those vaults is often not easy, complete or automated. Starting with a scalable
system out of the gate (more on this in Law Two: Sustainability) is key.

Unfortunately, you can’t stop at having available data in one
centralised location and be done with Law One. An important requirement is
being able to access the data that is in that central inventory
management system. Sometimes we see sellers that can check the checkbox for
having a centralised inventory management system, but they can’t check the next
box:

Can
you access the data that you have centralised?
 

As basic as it sounds, this is often a gaping hole for businesses.
Frequently it’s a factor of a home-
Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 14.40.03grown system that was built with business
needs in mind, but that same system is simply not able to meet the changing
business needs over time. This can surface when IT departments can’t return
data requests at all or within a short, reasonable amount of time, limiting
what the business user can take advantage of in the multichannel landscape. Alternatively,
sellers sometimes go with a solutions provider that offered central inventory
management, but they don’t have the freedom to pull out or fully access the
data in that system.

It’s important that you have a central repository of product
information and are able to access and use all of that product data to meet
your business’s needs. ChannelAdvisor believes that this data is a core driver
for success with your business, so we offer the ability to fully access and
export your inventory data that you’ve uploaded.

Retailers can further expand their reach by using their robust
product data to advertise inventory across more channels. This is the reason we
built a solution called Flex Feeds, which allows a seller to build their own feed
of product data to send to a location they desire, such as affiliate networks,
retargeting vendors, personalisation vendors, product review platforms and
more. This removes the dependency on IT or your solutions provider to build out
inventory or product data integration and allows sellers to create their own
integrations.

Whether you are using ChannelAdvisor or not, abide by Law One and provide
your business the best chance for success in the future. After all, what
good is having data if it’s not available?

Blog post by Rynhardt Hanekom, International Manager,
Customer Success and Rachel Miller, Manager, Customer Success Team.