11 FEB

Managing Your Product Data: The Do’s and Don’ts

by Kris Harrington

Use Product Data Effectively

Providing product data is extremely important for customers, it can be a barrier that helps or hinders the buying process. The goal of providing this valuable information to customers is to allow them to easily find the products they are looking for and give them confidence they are getting the right part for the job. Think about it, just because a customer is purchasing a part for a complicated piece of equipment does not mean the process of identifying the right part has to be complicated.

Product Descriptions

Creating product descriptions that are easy to read, while also containing key identifying information that is unique to a product, is one way for customers to search and identify what they are looking for.

What Not to Do:

  • Don’t include typical information found in engineering descriptions (i.e., abbreviations, vendor names, undescribed dimensions, etc.).
  • Don’t assume all customers refer to your product with the same terminology.

What to Do:

  • Include a long description that clearly describes the product, it’s attributes, dimensions, product specifications and where the product is used.
  • Use as many terms as are common for your industry and the product itself (i.e., wheel, tire, spare).
  • Translate your product data to the different languages and countries you are selling to. (If a user changes the language to German the description should be in German and all volumes and weights should be metric.)

Product Cross-Reference Data

Providing product cross-reference data can be an easy way to help a customer identify your part number from the part information they have available. Many customers will come to your site with vendor stamped part numbers, a legacy part number found in an old paper manual or catalog, or even the competitors part number. Crossing your current part number to this valuable data can give customers confidence they’ve found the right part.

What Not to Do:

  • Don’t exclude legacy system part numbers (old ERP part numbers), supersession or obsolescence part data.

What to Do:

  • Make sure to include any available cross-reference data including vendor part numbers and competitor cross reference numbers.
  • Continually evaluate the completeness and accuracy of all available product cross-reference data and information. If products are being returned, is there something in your product data that can be updated for better definition in the future?

Support Documents and Materials

Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have bill of materials data available to them within their ERP/PLM systems or their CAD database. Bill of materials data is a great source of information because it encompasses the materials and various parent-child relationships that can exist within any number of pieces of equipment. Product reference PDF files may also be important to a customer, whether it is an operators manual, a product brochure, or a MSDS document it’s important that this information be made readily available to customers.

What Not to Do:

  • Don’t offer too many formats of product data, if at all possible, for the same products.
  • Don’t keep bill of materials data and other supporting materials in multiple locations.

What to Do:

  • Allow customers to search by a unique serial number, VIN, model or job number to get to the product bill of materials that will provide confidence the part fits the exact assembly and piece of equipment.
  • Ensure accuracy and completeness of any information made available. When an engineering change notice (ECN) is issued for equipment, make sure your digital materials are updated to reference the change. It’s important to keep all digital files up to date for customers to access.
  • Make sure that any support materials you provide can be easily exported (employees within the organization, as well as dealers and end-customers may need to print or be able to access this information at any time.)
  • Create one safe place for customers to access all product information and documentation. This will reduce confusion and streamline product identification and ordering.

Product Images and Assembly Drawings

You’ve heard it said before, “a picture speaks a thousand words.” There is no place that this is more true than in an eCommerce environment where you are selling products across multiple countries and languages.

What Not to Do:

  • Don’t assume that multiple product images are redundant (they’re not, especially to your customers).
  • Don’t include data that cannot be easily accessed by users (CAD drawing that requires special software to access).

What to Do:

  • Provide at least one product image for all products sold (customers need to see what they are purchasing).
  • Provide relevant 2D and 3D assembly drawings for increased visual confidence the part fits a specific unit or assembly.
  • Utilize an electronic catalog that can easily locate parts after searching by serial number, VIN, model number, other unique identifiers (your customers will thank you later).
  • Make data available for all products sold within the past five to ten years, depending on the lifecycle of your machinery (most customers are not going to be repairing new equipment).

Make it Simple

The importance of product data cannot be understated. Providing buyers with every piece of information they might need to be confident in their purchasing decision is paramount. The good news is that manufacturers have a plethora of data available to them. Now it’s time to organize it in a way that brings value to customers. Remember the importance of keeping data in one safe location so customers, internal employees and technicians do not have to go to one place for one thing and to another place for something different. Put yourself in your customers shoes and think about the product information they will have and the product information they will need in order to confidently purchase online…then deliver on the expected experience.

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