TWC’s Consulting Services Director (and chief perfectionist) Rachel James discusses the importance of cleansing your data and the benefits it can bring.
Covid-19 has pushed most operators towards e-commerce and, in some cases, probably faster than planned. Digital is all about moving at pace, getting your website up quickly. We talk frequently of “test and learn” – don’t wait for perfection, things are moving too fast, get something launched and then tweak it.
But, does this principle apply if your underlying product data is of poor quality? Are there some things that really do need to be in place before you launch? An analogy would be putting your house on the market while part way through a renovation: you probably won’t achieve the highest price for the property and some buyers will be put off. But, the question is, does that matter?
You can’t decipher the undecipherable
As a business that has “cleansed” wholesale data for many years, we know first hand how random product descriptions and category structures can be. Honestly, we really have seen it all! While an intuitive search tool will work well at covering some product description glitches on your site, it can’t decipher the undecipherable.
Abbreviations are fine if used internally where everyone knows what they’re short for. But expecting customers to know HZ is The Kraft Heinz Company or LZ is Lucozade is probably asking a bit much….
Equally, customers like to browse online when the search tool isn’t returning the product they’re looking for. Would the average customer know what skus sit in “Other Spirits” or that Mayonnaise is a Condiment but Tomato Ketchup is a Table Sauce? Overlooking these basics will cost money in lost sales and customer frustration.
We’ve talked to countless wholesalers overwhelmed at the thought of cleansing their product data. They see it as a massive undertaking just too big to take on. Yet the TWC team cleaned 15 wholesalers’ product files in just three months earlier this year. It’s simply a case of being systematic and having high attention to detail. It probably also helps that it’s our day job – we won’t be distracted by the day-to-day tasks of running a wholesale operation, rather we can focus on the task of cleaning the data. That’s what we’re paid to do.
So what’s our advice? Data quality is a prerequisite of running a website. It’s simply not optional. It’s relatively quick and cost effective to put right and will make a massive difference to customer experience and overall revenue.
Have a plan, establish a logical product hierarchy, based on industry standards, devise product naming conventions so you can alphabetically sort your skus in future and create rules for what goes where. Data can be cleaned efficiently in Excel, you don’t need sophisticated software to standardise your product file: take an extract from your back-office system and do the work in Excel.
Pick a perfectionist
It doesn’t require overly specialist skills to undertake the work either. You need someone who likes order and tends towards perfectionism (and can spell) and is able to sort and filter Excel spreadsheets and be methodical.
The additional benefit will be your management reporting. On conclusion of the project you’ll be able to cut and dice your product sales information in a myriad of ways that your old structure just wouldn’t allow. Done right, it will also align your view of your performance to that of your key suppliers, which will enable you to be on the front foot with Category management and planning.
When the benefits from clean data are this big, why wouldn’t you do it?