Let’s talk about the link between eCommerce and business operations and why it’s so critical to look beyond your eCommerce goals when you implement your new solutions. Part VI, the final article of my eCommerce Operations Series.
After so many eCommerce implementations over the span of my career, I can tell you that data management ends up being the root of so many operational challenges. When I’m building a website, the first step for me is to always assess the product catalog and data elements. I need a complete understanding of the data structure, the gaps, the data integrity, and how it’s all leveraged across the organization.
Weirdly, product data is a low priority for so many companies. It drives so many parts and functions of an organization that it’s baffling to me how underserved it typically is. I get it–it’s expensive, tedious, definitely the least sexy kind of initiative in which to invest, so it loses out to a lot of initiatives that seem to promise a bigger and quicker ROI. But when you look at the big picture, it should be the last thing a company sidelines.
One of the best things you can do as a leader in your organization, no matter what your title is, is champion your data management team and support their efforts. If you can leverage your eCommerce implementation and workstream to help your data management team positively impact the quality of your product assets, you can positively impact your entire organization, including functions like:
- eCommerce Function (especially search!)
- Sales & Conversion Rates across the organization
- Return Rates (lower ‘em!)
- Data & Analytics
- Marketing, Cross Sell/Upsell, and SEO
- Many others… this list could probably go on all day
So, what steps can you take to move forward and activate on a strategy to partner with data management and improve your data?
- Get to know your data management folks. They often live in IT, but their roles have a far-reaching impact into Operations and Marketing. Build a relationship with their leader and learn about their systems, challenges, and goals.
- Dig into the SOPs. Learn about your data management team’s current standard operating procedures and work with them on developing any that are missing or adjusting them based on the needs of the many impacted constituent groups (Marketing, DCs, IT). Each field should have standardized language and wording that is normalized and supports your product and marketing strategies.
- Develop a structure around your product data that allows for text fields and fixed attributes. Text fields should be things like your short and long descriptions that allow for marketing copy and more descriptive language. Your fixed attributes will be things like length, width, color, size, etc. Whenever possible, these should be standardized and sorted into a drop down (manual data entry leads to all kinds of challenges). If you do this right, you can even generate eCommerce fields with concatenated (linked together in a chain) attributes. This kind of automation can allow you to truly scale your product catalog–so, if you have a lot of items, taking the time to create this kind of structure can pay off in a big way.
- Support your teams! Educate your data management team on how important they are and how critical their data standards are. Offer them a wider context on their role in the business–it can make a huge difference for those working in a tedious job. I have trained data management on the mechanics of SEO, search, and even their impact on conversion rates for the organization. They need the big picture, too!
Now, if you don’t have a data management team, the approach becomes a little different. This might sound self serving, but seriously, hire someone who knows what they’re doing and let them help you. You want someone who understands the far-reaching impact of this work. It’s not just going out and finding information–it’s all about structure, consistency, and then complete data population.
I’ll warn you now: if you invest in this exercise, it’s not a one time thing. This is an ongoing initiative for which you need to plan. But once it’s in your business’s DNA, you’ll see the impact everywhere.