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17 MAR

Determining Readiness for eCommerce: Product Data Management

by Kris Harrington

The most valuable first step in any eCommerce endeavor is to have good product data and product organization. The goal is to ensure that users are easily able to find the products they are looking for with the information they have available to them.

Evaluating current product descriptions will help determine if changes are required to ensure a clear commercial description for users. Reviewing product classification and hierarchy can determine the level of product categorization as well as attributes available for customers to browse and filter. This analysis will help identify gaps in current processes and ultimately prioritize the next steps in an eCommerce implementation or product data improvement strategy.

Below are two crucial aspects of product data management that teams should evaluate to determine their organization’s readiness for building out an eCommerce platform.

Product Information Evaluation

Begin by evaluating current product names and descriptions to determine what work may be required to create informative product descriptions. All available product cross-reference data such as vendor product numbers, competitor cross-reference numbers, as well as legacy and supersession product numbers must also be evaluated for completeness to support customer ease of identification using product search.

Product Bill of Materials (BOMs)

Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have bill of materials (BOM) data available in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, a product lifecycle management (PLM) system, or a computer-aided design (CAD) database. BOM data is a great source of information as it relates to materials and the various parent-child relationships that can exist within a piece of equipment.

The goal of evaluating this information is to determine how easily teams can access and export the data, how many different data formats exist, and how accurate, complete, and relevant the data would be if shared with customers.

Maintaining an accurate database for storing BOMs is very important because people across the organization will refer to them for various tasks.

It’s perfectly okay if BOMs are stored in multiple systems and formats―as long as they are exportable.

It’s also important to review the established processes your organization uses to monitor any changes made to product BOMs during their lifecycle. In a digital setting, these updates should happen as close to real-time as possible so that product information is up-to-date in order to reduce product selection errors and costly returns.

The Importance of Product Images and Assembly Drawings

A picture speaks a thousand words. This is especially true in eCommerce, where you are selling products to audiences all over the globe. In addition to having a great product description and appropriate categorization, it is important to have product images and supporting materials (specifications, brochures, videos, audio files, etc.) that help customers securely validate they have selected the right product.
Having at least one image available for each product sold online is ideal: buyers will appreciate seeing what they are purchasing. Images allow buyers to closely examine photos and ensure they are viewing the product they need. Good descriptions and product images will be valuable when it is time for developing and executing a sound search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for your business.

Below are two evaluation criteria that can determine how effectively your organization is utilizing your data.

Product Images and Support Materials

Having product images and supporting materials like brochures, videos, audio files help customers validate they have selected the right product. A best practice within the eCommerce industry is to have at least one image available for each product sold online.

2D/3D Drawings and Technical Publication Data

We encourage all OEMs to reuse their 2D/3D assembly drawings, and BOM data to create interactive commerce-enabled online catalogs that give customers everything they need to know about the equipment they own or plan to acquire all from a serial number, VIN, model number, or other unique identifier. This often becomes the safest way for customers to identify the correct product.

Evaluating engineering data availability and usability is part of this process as well. 2D/3D CAD modeling software should ideally be used consistently across a manufacturer’s organization. 3D information is useful for identifying parts and cross-referencing with a BOM. Furthermore, many consider keeping a record of 3D information for all goods sold within the past five years as a best practice.

Meeting Your Full Potential

The first step in any organization’s plan to create an eCommerce platform should begin with the evaluation of product data management practices. This not only ensures that the organization is prepared to take the next step but also determines how effectively they are utilizing data before entering eCommerce.

The importance of product data cannot be understated when implementing a digital sales channel. Buyers need valuable visual and written pieces of information to feel fully confident in their purchase. Without conducting an eCommerce readiness assessment, manufacturers risk underutilizing their valuable product data―something which can have a negative impact on conversions and overall market share.

 

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