Web Product Management For Ecommerce
One of the first issues that pops up when you decide to sell your stuff online is product management. How will you get your e-commerce software to "understand" and nicely display your wares? I touched on this briefly in the article E-commerce Demystified when I discussed the "store front" or catalog.
I use "products" generically, and everything in this article applies, whether you are selling physical goods, such as shirts or cameras, or selling soft goods, such as downloadable music or licenses for computer programs, or selling services, such as class registrations or business coaching.
The issues are the same. You need to describe your products or services in such a way that your customers can match your offerings to their needs. Few businesses offer just a single product so how your e-commerce software manages products will have a big impact on your store front, order fulfillment workflow, inventory management, and perhaps even on your bookkeeping.
A Simple Product
Consider the Altimeter at Lead Balloon Aviation. As a customer, your choices are narrow: take it or leave it. The description of even this basic product, though, is composed of many more bits of information than you might guess if you have never run an online store before. It has:
- A product code or SKU number: BLDG-ALTIMETER
- A category: Balloon Building Supplies
- A one line description or title: Altimeter
- A price: $699
- A weight: 1.4 pounds
- A photograph
- A long description: "Mortal lead balloon pilots fly between sea level and 5,000' MSL. This altimeter, which coincidentally reads between 0 and 5,000' MSL, is a perfect match for these low-flying aeronauts."
The e-commerce software will have a page for managing each product with a space to fill in each datum. As with tagging your stock in a bricks and mortar store, filling in this data accurately is essential but tedious work. Some software packages may make it a little less time-consuming by giving you a bulk editing feature or by letting you export the products as a "CSV file" which can be edited with a spreadsheet program and then reimported back into the e-commerce software.
Options: You Might Also Want...
We all know that giving the customer choices makes for happier customers and merchants alike. Consider the Lead Balloon Aviation's renowned Altimeter 0 to 100,000'. Unlike the basic altimeter, this one comes either lighted or not lighted and with a choice of either regular or non-glare glass. From the shopper's perspective, this is simple. From the merchant's, it makes life much more complicated. Let's pick it apart.
The Altimeter 0 to 100,000' has all of the same data that the basic altimeter has plus two options:
- Lighting, with two selections
- Not lighted
- Glass, with two selections
- Regular glass
- Non-glare glass
The distinction between options ("Lighting" and "Glass") and selections ("Not lighted", "Non-glare glass", etc.) is important to keep straight to avoid confusion. There are several data associated with each selection, almost as if each is a miniature product in and of itself. Key among these data are:
- Price change (e.g., the "Lighted" selection of the "Lighting" option adds $75 to the price of the altimeter.
- Weight change (e.g., the "Lighted" selection of the "Lighting" option adds 0.1 pounds to the weight of the altimeter.
- Product code or SKU number suffix.
Product management is greatly enhanced by allowing each option selection to add a suffix to the SKU number. Lead Balloon Aviation sells four variants of the Altimeter 0 to 100,000'
|Unlit, regular glass||BLDG-ALTIMETER100000-U-RG|
|Lighted, regular glass||BLDG-ALTIMETER100000-L-RG|
|Unlit, non-glare glass||BLDG-ALTIMETER100000-U-NG|
|Lighted, non-glare glass||BLDG-ALTIMETER100000-L-NG|
The basic product has the core SKU of "BLDG-ALTIMETER100000." When the customer selects lighted or unlighted, the ecommerce software appends either "-L" or "-U" to the SKU. When the customer selects the glass type, the ecommerce software appends either "-NG" or "-RG" to the SKU. The store's workflow is simplified since orders come in with SKU numbers which exactly match the four types of altimeter variants in stock while only one product has to be configured in the shopping cart software. If you have products with several variants, this feature may be important to you when you select your e-commerce software.
Article Source: Hen's Teeth Network