Frequently Asked Questions?

How does optimizing eCommerce product data improve conversions?

Shoppers have many questions before buying a product. Most questions are fairly simple, such as price, color, size, etc. But for more complicated questions, the best web sites provide lots of information. It is well known that most buyers research on the web before deciding to buy a product, in both the B2C and B2B markets. For example, many buyers today want to know all or most of the product information that is on the package labels or inserts, including contents, specifications, safe use, how to use or clean the products, the country of origin, green info, etc. By offering this information in an easy and consistent format, the buyers get answers to questions, and then feel confident about making a decision. Confident shoppers (with the right price and delivery options) convert to confident buyers. The most successful web stores provide a lot of information. Pictures are information, allowing the buyers to zoom in, rotate and feel the product. Pictures should be able to easily display higher quality and zoom-in color views, or textures and fabrics. Videos can provide information on how to use, care for, or repair the product. Finally, product manufacturers often offer extensive information for the salesman - meaning your web site - including part lists, warranties, drawings, complementary products, certifications, contents, safety/nutrition, independent reviews or awards about the products, manufacturer history, etc. If your shoppers are motivated to buy with this information, give it to them via your product page to increase conversions.

How does optimizing eCommerce product data improve search engine optimization (SEO)?

SEO is driven by many factors, but unique content with targeted keywords for each product page is among the most important. You need keywords in the right places, and increasingly semantic keywords, which is other data, messages, attributes or symbols that can mean the same thing as a search keyword. For example, when a person searches for the generic term "shoes", the term "high heel" or an image with the word "shoes" in the title tag, or a link to a well-known shoe manufacturer, are complimentary terms the search engine uses to rank your page as having relevant, or important information for the user. Your page rank goes up.

Also, the name of your product may not be relevant to a search, so you must have more descriptive information. For example, a shopper searching for "office paper" will be guided to your site if your product pages also have the words printer, copier, fax, since these words will represent an "office" as opposed to a classroom, an art supply or other store selling things made of paper.

In a well-executed SEO campaign, buyers are linked from the search engine directly to the product page, bypassing the home pages or pages not relevant to the search terms. Good content embeds the search keywords directly into the product pages, in the Meta tags, URLs, product descriptions, image titles, etc.

Adding enriched product information increases the opportunities to embed search terms, and also improves search engine ranking if your product pages contain more useful content than the competitors. Enriched content includes"

  • Comprehensive list of attributes that describe the product
  • Images that display all sides/angles of a product
  • Collateral information about the product, such as a users manual, specification sheet, warranty, certifications, contents list, etc.
  • Videos that show how to use, install, clean, repair the product
  • Feature lists that describe how the product improves performance, provides a benefit, etc.
  • Links to helpful content about the product

SEO is about providing the most relevant, comprehensive content that answers a search query. The effort pays off in top search ranking and better informed shoppers, who are confident buying from your site.

How can we migrate our eCommerce Product data into a new platform?

Database migration can be a difficult process, similar to two people talking who speak different languages. They often need an experienced interpreter.

Most companies that sell new eComm, PIM or CRM platforms do offer migration services, or your IT department may be able to handle a project. This often depends on the size of your site and the number of products in the database. Also, when was the last time you cleaned up the data? "Junk in Junk Out". The Altius database engineers have seen it all, with our experience for many data migrations.

The ease and success of database migrations depends on the structure of the legacy data files and the new platform features. Also, if the legacy data is full of gaps, duplicates and different terminology, database clean-up and normalization is essential prior to import to the new system.

If you want to utilize many of the more modern web design, marketing, sales, tracking, and analytic web platform features, the migration process can become complicated, and may involve a major re-design or re-purposing of the database.

On the simplest level, the legacy data must be organized into discrete fields of data that

  • Describe each products attributes, such as dimensions, colors, or contents
  • Identification numbers for internal tracking and ordering
  • URL or links to product images or other information
  • Classification and taxonomy for navigation and search
  • Cross mapping for cross sell and upsell opportunities

The database can be much more complex, especially if the product data is part of a company-wide ERP or PIM.

To migrate this data, a database engineer must normalize and clean up the database, and then map the data from the legacy system to the new system by linking the fields between each database. In some cases, the legacy data must be parsed to work in the new system (i.e. broken into more discrete bits of data). This is particularly true for a new platform with extensive navigation, search and faceted product selection.

Poorly handled database migrations lead to lost time and sales opportunities, or even worse, importing data that is inaccurate, incomplete, or impossible to access. Handled well, the migration to a new platform is a opportunity to impress your customers with a great new user experience.

Why can't I import the eCommerce product data I get from the manufacturer?

Manufacturers often provide distributors and retailers with product information data in a variety of database formats and file types. Each manufacturer may use unique data terminology, such as a proprietary product or model number system instead of industry standards, or words and symbols that can mean the same thing to humans but are different when read by a database. For example, using the symbols + or & for "and", or using any of the following for inches:"in.", "inch", "inches", or the double quote symbol ". Manufacturers may also bundle the information in a manner that cannot be loaded directly into your database, or are not broken into attributes that match your systems ability for navigation filters, linking, and search.

Finding these issues involves normalizing and mapping the manufacturer's data to meet your database requirements. Normalizing involves changing terminology to a usable format. For example, changing the "&" sign to "and".

Also, the data feeds may be in a structure that you cannot easily link into your eComm platform database. In this case, an expert is needed to map or link the fields of the data feed to the fields in your database.

Many manufacturers do not provide all the data you want. Someone will need to manually fill in the gaps, so every product you present has the same type of information the buyer expects to find.

Finally, you may want to create unique product description, page titles, or feature lists. SEO engines are looking for a unique context/content to increase your site ranking.

An investment to enrich and re-structure poor manufacturer data pays off in better informed and more confident buyers.

How do we bring in new products?

On-boarding new product data from your vendors and manufacturers is an important task - the faster the better to start generating sales. The information is imported to your eComm system in a few methods.

  1. Product data feeds - in .csv, excel, Access or other database formats.

  2. Scraped with technology from internet sources, if allowed by copyright laws.

  3. Optically read from a paper or pdf catalog or spec sheet.

  4. Manually entered from any source, including from physical package and consumer printed information.

In case of a data feed, the content must be formatted to the import specifications required for your eComm or Product Information Management (PIM) system. Software programs can be written to modify data feeds to on-board the information.

Before or after the data is imported, tools are also applied to search for gaps in the database, and to normalize, standardize and clean the data.

If no data feeds are available, you must use other methods to get the product data, and then prepare the information for importing.

In any case, you should cleanse any data assure it meets your platform requirements and will display in the right fashion for your product pages. Also, if there are any gaps in data (or images, collateral educational materials, images, etc.) you will need a team to locate the data, download, format and upload to your eComm database.

You also need to assure the data has attributes that support your web site navigation, filters and site search. Content from different manufacturers must be consistent to support shoppers finding and comparing products.

Many eCommerce or third party PIM platforms have data cleansing, re-structuring and validating tools. But central to any data import is an expert staff. Altius has more than 15 years experience in importing and on-boarding product content, and enriching the product data with additional images, videos, and consumer information. Altius works with any eComm or PIM product you use.

How do I find images for my eCommerce products?

Manufacturer's and distributor's web sites: Images are usually available on the manufacturer or distributor web site, online catalog or data feeds. If the images are high quality and high resolution, they can be used in different zoom or rotation actions, and color palate options. Images can also be airbrushed or enhanced with Photoshop to change the background, crop sections, and provide other artistic and visual effects.

To improve the visual impact and education of shoppers, you should get multiple images to view the product from all sides, top and bottom (or an image that can be rotated 360 degrees).

Photographers: If you cannot get the images with the quality you need, an option is to photograph the products yourself. Ask manufacturers and distributors for a sample product. Have a professional photographer who can set up the angels, background, and lighting for the product.

When working with product samples, don't forget to photograph or type the information on package labeling. This data is valuable to put on the product page, to better educate the shoppers and improve the keywords and content for SEO ranking.

Stock photos: If all else fails, you can often purchase stock photos from a service. The drawback with stock photos is that the same photos can be on your competitor's site, which will reduce the SEO value. Also, be sure to rename the image and file name with a keyword that actually describes the image, for better SEO results.

How can we improve our eCommerce Product images?

Great product images are rated by shoppers as one of the top reasons for buying on a site. The shoppers want to get as much "look and feel" of a product as possible, when shopping online instead of in person at a traditional store. Wait until the web allows you to touch and smell products, it’s coming!
To give the real shopping experience,

  • Start with clear images at a high resolution. This often requires a skilled photographer, familiar with lighting, color, shading and Photoshop techniques. Many product manufacturers supply good quality stock photos.
  • Consider providing as many views as a shopper would expect, front, back, sides, top and bottom.
  • Use a color palette to show realistic options.
  • Have a strong zoom feature that allows the shoppers to feel the texture of a product, and move around the images to highlight important features.
  • Crop the images to show only the features that are most popular for sale (experiment with different images if possible). Don’t have confusing background or colors that wash out the product. Make the product dramatically stand out on the page.
  • If the project is technical, offer a schematic of the product, show a breakdown of sub components or assemblies, or part lists. Blueprints and schematics appeal to technical buyers.
  • Freely use Photoshop to enhance clarity, appeal and color that draws-in attention and gives the buyer visual confidence that they have the right product.
How fast can you add 100,000 new products?

Altius is able to scale quickly for projects of any size. We have executed very large projects with volumes of more than 100,000 skus per month, and can also complete smaller projects in a few weeks or few months. On-boarding data does not need to take forever, causing missed sales opportunities and lost customers.

A few factors effect fast execution:

  1. Are the products simple with limited data vs. complex with a lot of attributes, images, and customer information, like manuals, spec sheets, warranties, etc.?
  2. Does the product manufacturer or distributor provide a comprehensive data feed?
  3. How many different manufacturers or distributors supply products? With multiple product sources, data requires more preparation, normalization and cleansing. Also, any missing gaps in data from different sources must be filled to facilitate shopper search and filtering.
  4. Most successful sites provide very comprehensive content for shopper reach. Obtaining and preparing this information requires additional effort.

How quickly you decide to on-board products is a strategic decision, based on sales opportunities, budget, and staff. Some sites will import the minimum data and images to present a good, but not comprehensive, product page to customers, and plan to add more information later. Other sites will prioritize the product lines with the best revenue, sales or profit potential, and add the comprehensive data and images for the products in a priority order.

Altius has worked on small and huge on-boarding projects. We help customers with the planning, technology and out-sourced expert staff to quickly get products ready. On-boarding does not need to take forever.

How can we increase conversions?

There are a lot of strategies, including strong graphics that engage the customer, very competitive pricing, frequent sales, coupon offers, etc. Some technical and design issues include:

  1. Make your site fast.
  2. Make the site customer friendly:
    • a. Good customer focused organization classifies product into menus and navigation.
    • b. Navigation by product attribute.
    • c. Very strong search, with auto-suggest, drop down of possible matches, negative keyword and synonyms.
    • d. Beautiful images that allow a look and feel of holding the product in a store.
  3. Add great contact and calls to action (buy now, call us, chat with us).
  4. Prominently displays an 800 number and your shipping/return policies and shipment time.
  5. Make the site an education service, as well as a place to buy. Add contact information, videos, and information on how to use, repair or extend the product, materials and contents, country of origin, green or environmental data, warranty, etc.
  6. Make prominent display of cross sell, comparable and upsell products. If the customer is not excited about the product they are looking for, offer something else.
How can we improve revenue from our eCommerce store?

Besides the conversion information above include:

  1. Add more products: Does your site offer the comprehensive shopping experience that shoppers expect and keep up with the competition?
  2. Cross sell like crazy: Boost the revenue per sale by offering similar products, parts, supplies, etc. for the products you are selling.
  3. Keep good records and follow-up: Make sure customers with a wish list are reminded of an upcoming sale of the item, or offer them a reduced price a few months later.
How do we push data feeds for Google, eBay and search engines?

If you intend to sell your products on multiple eCommerce marketplaces, you will need to convert your website platform to the data feed requirements of the various marketplaces, such as Amazon Merchant, eBay Marketplace, Sears Marketplace, etc. These marketplaces offer valuable outlets that can increase sale opportunities, if your data feed is enriched to attract shoppers who search these markets.

The marketplaces require some preliminary information about your web store, and a minimum dataset about your products, such as

  • SKU (or your internal ID)
  • Product name
  • Product description (up to a few hundred characters)
  • Product URL - the link to the product on your site
  • Image URL - the link to the product image on your site
  • Price
  • Category - the breadcrumb to the category on your sites, such as Shirts > Men > T-Shirts

    You can and should include many more fields in the data feed, fields that are usually in your ecommerce platform database.

    The platform database field labels must be changed to match the marketplace data format, and the data in each field must conform to the marketplaces rules (for example, UPC must be 10 or 12 digits long, or whether to put a $ in the price fields).

    The program scripts that change your ecommerce platform database to the formats required for the marketplace feeds are usually a one time programing task, but will need periodic updates if the marketplaces change rules or if you add new fields that describe products or marketing information in your database. After the scripts are ready, the feeds are easy to update with new products, send to each marketplace and see increased sales!

Can we make product codes that work across manufacturers?

Definitely yes! Many industries now have product code systems for all the products in the industry. The standard coding schemes can be very specific, offering you the chance to track precise data on what is being searched and sold on your site. The codes can be cross referred to multiple manufacturers, providing the opportunity to offer customers multiple products that meet the shopper requirements from different sources and price points.

In addition to industry standards, there are many national and international product coding standards. Use of multiple coding allows you more flexibility to locate, order inventory, track and sell products.

We need UPC spec compliant product codes. Can you support industry-specific product codes?

Yes, Altius has worked with dozens of international, industry, and manufacturer coding standards, including providing multiple coding schemes for many products. Even the UPC specific icon has a few different functions. Each industry will again add specific product data to UPC codes, and manufacturers additionally have the opportunity to add information. Most UPC information is formatted for bar code reading.

The same organization that manages the UPS system and GS1, also manages the UNSPSC.

  • Company-wide visibility of spend analysis
  • Cost-effective procurement optimization
  • Full exploitation of electronic commerce capabilities

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