Help! I have so much data to manage! How do I do it?

“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple” — Richard Branson

The idea of data management across all user channels seems simple enough. But, it’s quite difficult for some merchants — for many different reasons.

FAQ-July2 Product data helps build the foundation of a business and the accuracy of its financial results. It helps clearly define omnichannel products that are sold both online and offline. Concise data also helps superiors clearly understand what has been accomplished, and what is intended to be accomplished.

Here are four simple steps to structure and maintain an integrated data set that accurately reflects the business:  

1. Develop a product management system

Many merchants don’t have one desinated place where they can view and manage all of their product data. They might have several spreadsheets floating around different departments of the company. Their products might be systemically defined in their eCommerce platform, while brick-and-mortar data lives separately on Excel sheets or an ERP system. This makes it challenging to search and update products across different systems with the same accurate information.

Without one designated place to centralize this data, it becomes impossible to have a single view of product data, and the achieved results, as such.  

Meticulous planning and organization are necessary to keep item information consistent across sales channels. The best way to organize item information is to create a single location for the item master data.


Designate one system to provide a comprehensive record of all items regardless of which sales channel(s) sells the item.

Define product attributes: Item name, pack, size, weight, cost, retail, etc.

Develop best practices to combine products from multiple suppliers or manufacturers where their data quality varies. (See Tip #2)

Develop practices for ensuring data cleanliness and audit regularly for accuracy.

Define and manage how products are linked so that the data appropriately represent relationships, collections, and assortments.

2. Manage supplier data

Working with product data from third-parties, such as suppliers or manufactiurers, may pose a challenge for some merchants. Suppliers may submit product data that have bare minimum information. Several product attributes may be missing, or the information provided may be in the wrong format. As an example: The merchant’s master file may always spell color black as “BLK,” but the supplier spells it “bk.” In a data system, this unmatched information will cause missing data and incorrect reports.


Develop a new item or RFQ form (request for quote) that specifies all needed product attributes. Did you know that an item should have 30 attributes that will make it flow properly between offline and online?

Data received that does not meet the set quality standards should go no further in the PDM process until it is corrected. Remember-Bad data hurts the supplier, too! The supplier wants to do everything they can do in order to get their products seamlessly through the system and make sure the sell-through results are accurately reported.

3. Create rich, consistent product information

An adequately managed product catalog should result in quality data, with customer-ready product information that is consistent and entirely attributed.

4. Improve customer experience

Rich, detailed product information translates into a better customer experience overall.

Detailed product information guarantees that all products are searchable and easy to find, providing customers with the confidence that they’re buying the exact item they desire. When providing this type of customer experience, customers choose your company over competitors – and return for repeat purchases.

Merchants must combine separate supplier catalogs into one master catalog, enriched with descriptions and attributes that explain their products and maintain the desired brand experience.

Melissa Jones is an experienced mass market and e-commerce buyer with over 15 years in the industry.

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