This question comes up multiple times in conversations with customers and prospects.  So, I’ve decided that it is right time to dedicate a few minutes to address this issue.

When launching an online shop, there is usually a dilemma whether to start with initial data upload (filling in product database) or with configuring product data updates?

It first comes to mind that the right approach would be to start at the beginning – load product data first and then think through how to keep updating product catalogue. Sounds completely logical, right?  But the opposite is true.

Now let us understand – why?

What is wrong with initial data uploads?

At MarketMixer we receive multiple requests from new online shop owners, asking us to help with initial upload of “product database”.  When we ask them how do they plan to regularly update product information (names, descriptions, pricing, inventory levels, etc.)? We usually receive an answer that they have suppliers’ price lists, but they did not think about the process in details yet.  And plan to do it at a later stage.  The most important is to launch the shop!

The truth is that product updates are much more important than filling in initial product data.  Many online shops have failed exactly due to this reason and keep on failing.

Why do online shops close down? A usual problem is that our common sense and logic of going step by step fails us.  Shop owners need to start with the end in mind and think backwards – from what they want to achieve when they scale up their shop, to the day of the launch.

Would you agree that the goal of trade and commerce is to buy cheap and sell at a profit? If so, then the ultimate goal of a new online shop is to build profitable sales.  Launching an online shop is then only an intermediate step. The launch itself, in fact, is not that hard. We celebrate, open champaign, experience this moment of glory…  And next day we have to face the real life.  And the real life includes competition, changing supplier prices and inventory levels, finding new and more profitable suppliers, etc.

Our brand new and shiny looking online shop need to stay competitive, to start and to keep making money.

Why should you think with the end in mind?

Why loading product catalogue and subsequently updating it is hard?  Our view is that this is due to the fact that shop owners often think about these two steps in isolation.

Let’s say your online shop lists 1000 SKUs (stock keeping units) on the website and works with five different suppliers. What if your suppliers provide their price lists each in their own formats, some may occasionally miss item codes, some may have similar products to other suppliers, some may update prices weekly, and others – daily or even hourly? What is a chance that when you finish working on updating your own price list, you receive a new one from your supplier and this update process starts all over and never ends?  From our experience, this chance is 100%.

On top, there is competition, your desire to improve profitability and search for new suppliers… And the process will never stop as long as you survive.  Where would you prefer to allocate your precious time – on product updates or building your business?

Failure to make profits forces businesses to close, which results in money and time losses. First objective is to start earning immediately after launching your online shop, and continue earning regularly day by day.  Second objective is to automate routine processes, such as product updates, so that you have time to focus on real business.

Is there a solution?

What we see over and over again, the solution is to think through processing product data updates from the end and with the end in mind.

If you think and work through supplier product updates first, automate the update process with tools like MarketMixer, you can then load the initial online shop inventory (we can help with initial inventory as well). This approach will make your online shop compatible with suppliers’ data updates from day one.

With the above approach, there will be no pain of updating the storefront and you will not lose precious (literally expensive) traffic from advertising.  Your inventory levels will be up to date and you will not lose sales due to out-of-stock items. You will have much easier time to expand your product range and changes in suppliers’ product portfolios or adding new suppliers will not cause much hassle either.

This leaves you more time to focus on your business – finding clients and making sales!

In summary

When launching an online shop and planning initial product load and product updates – think with the end in mind. Think about how are you going to manage daily tasks and scale up the operations as your shop starts growing. Think about product data updates first and only then – about the initial upload.

No question that your suppliers will also be pleased, as they will see that doing business with you is easy and profitable for both.

 

Andrey Maklakov

MarketMixer
www.marketmixer.net
Product Data and Pricing for e-commerce

 

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