Every company eventually outgrows its e-commerce platform. As new technologies emerge, customer behaviors change with them to redefine the “expected” customer experience. When your platform can no longer deliver the functionality and performance your business requires, it’s time for an upgrade.
Considering the significant cost of a new system in dollars and staff resources, the stakes are high. Your company will be wedded to your selection for many years. Your ability to compete and thrive depends on a sound decision. So you must do your homework before you sit down with a prospective provider. Think about these factors when evaluating an e-commerce platform.
Your current platform obviously has shortcomings — some are minor annoyances but others hamper your ability to transact business or manage your e-commerce business efficiently.
- List these pain points, most painful to least.
- Redefine them as features that you seek in a new system. For example, “Having to manage photos and assets from a separate program” could be rephrased as “Integrated Digital Asset Manager”.
- Prioritize the features as Must Haves, Want to Haves, Nice to Haves (not deal-breakers). This allows you to identify the functionality most important to you when you examine a potential solution.
At no point should you have to settle for less functionality than you currently have. In fact, you should be looking for a quantum leap forward that will serve you for well beyond your initial ROI.
Does the Solution Fit You, or Do You Have to Fit the Solution?
Not all e-commerce platforms offer the same levels of functionality and flexibility. Some are intended strictly for e-commerce. If you publish to endpoints besides a website — mobile, print — ask how the potential solution serves these channels. Look for a product that can be configured and scaled to your needs. If the sales call wanders into “round peg, square hole” territory, move on.
A provider may try to convince you that their product’s “catalog” feature serves as a product information management system. These solutions are generally OK for storing product information, but not for managing it. Ask for a proof of concept.
Consider a PIM
If you find you need a robust tool that allows you to organize, create, manage and publish content to a variety of endpoints, consider a Product Information Management (PIM) solution as a core component of your overall e-commerce infrastructure. A good PIM is configurable, scalable, versatile, and flexible and integrates with your e-commerce platform as well as with your ERP and other critical back-end business processes. As the name implies, a PIM is designed specifically for authoring, managing and publishing product information for omnichannel marketing. [Check out our Infographic: What to Watch for When Choosing a PIM]
Is Your Content in Shape?
A PIM will also help you to conquer a universal challenge for product content managers: keeping your content “clean”. Over the years, with multiple users adding information, content quality inevitably degrades in terms of organization, presentation, consistency and accuracy.
One of the most common mistakes companies make when migrating e-commerce platforms is to move bad data from the old platform to the new. Pre-migration planning offers you a chance to clean house, scrub your content and ensure that you populate the new platform with accurate and timely product information. This is a critical and painstaking step, but the benefits make the effort worthwhile.
Before you upload a single product record, organize a migration team to assess your data model, taxonomy and content.
The data model should all of the ways you use and publish product information. Ideally you want to manage multiple outputs from a single source of content truth. The number of product copy attributes must be sufficient for the task but not too granular. You want your product intake mechanisms — manual authoring or electronic imports — to be efficient.
Your product taxonomy probably has some level of misclassification. This leads to erroneous or incomplete browse, search and refinement results for your website users. For example, we knew a cutting tools distributor whose “saw blades” were scattered under “Saw Blades” as well as under “Power Tools”. Different search and browse approaches returned different product lists. It behooves you to analyze your products in your existing taxonomy and make corrections before you migrate.
We recommend an audit — a systematic review — of your existing content with these action steps:
- Remove outdated content, i.e. expired promotions, past events, old news releases.
- Archive content of historical value. This retains the information but separates it from current content.
- Remove duplicate content. Over the years, you might have written multiple articles about the same topic. Cull the older articles and keep the most recent if it remains valid.
- Standardize inconsistent content. This applies mainly to individual product specifications and includes things such as units of measurement (mL, ml, milliliters), spelling and abbreviations. This can be done very efficiently via a spreadsheet export
- Author incomplete content. Identify products with less-than-ideal descriptions and enrich the content.
Finally, think ahead to the future state with a new platform. How will you keep your product information in top shape? How will you cost-effectively market to multiple channels and allow personalization? Will your new platform support your business needs in the years to come? If you decide to implement a PIM as a core component of your e-commerce infrastructure, the answer is yes to all.
Ready to take your commerce strategy to the next level? Take our 3-Minute PIM Readiness Assessment—16 simple questions designed to help you establish if your business could benefit from PIM. Or, contact our Agility product information management experts and we’ll help you evaluate your business needs and determine if you are ready for a PIM solution. Let’s start a conversation.