| schedule 4 minute read | label Product Information Management

Product Information Organization 101

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Effectively organize your product information for a better web store and a better business overall. 

Getting your product information structured is essential if you want your retail business to grow and not trip over its own feet. Customers today have no sympathy for the amount of content that you have to juggle. They expect authentic, accurate information that allows them to buy with confidence.

Having the right tools to get organized is extremely helpful, but these tools mean little if your information is a mess from the start. And if things are messy behind the scenes, you are more prone to errors and inconsistencies when facing the customer.

Here are a few ways you can get your product information organized: 

Use the LATCH principle

LATCH or the "Five Hat Racks" is a concept developed by TED Creator Richard Saul Wurman. It stands for: 

  • Location
  • Alphabetical
  • Time
  • Category
  • Heirarchy

LATCH is designed to cover the five main ways information can be organized. 

For your online store, you should consider all five. Due to all the layers of information you work with, each method of presentation has its own purpose.  While the acronym is useful in remembering the ways of organizing information, it isn't a step-by-step guide. I will take it slightly out of order (CHLAT) to make it flow better.

Category

The basic order of your product information is in categories. This is also the most complex. Categories in the LATCH model includes all your product properties or attributes like color, size, measurements...etc. Here I will distinguish between them. 

Find categories by working backwards 

This is a great way to make sure that everything has a home. Look at all your products and start to form similar groups for them. Then group those groups and so forth working backwards into larger, broader categories. If you start from your products, you will avoid silly mistakes like categorizing BED & BATH under TOWELS instead of the other way around. 

To check if it makes sense, once you've worked backwards from specific to general, go from general to specific as if you were looking for the end product. It should make logical sense. Check throughout the process to ensure a better user experience in navigation.

Group attributes related to products

Once you get to one particular product, you will notice that the individual products themselves can be categorized by color, size, weight, or even price. These are your product attributes. These should not be considered categories, especially on your website. Instead these "attributes" should be used to create your filters. This is because attributes are, usually, shared across product types: Blue trainers, blue heels, blue socks. Making "blue" a category would be frustrating for users and impractical for most websites.

Attribute groups

Your product groups should also reveal attribute groups. If you've got a certain style of towel grouped together, but that style has different sizes and colors you can isolate these attributes as being unique to the product. This tactic makes it easier to fill in information about those towels instead of trying to remember or connect them later.

Clarify product information

Now that you have all your categories and attributes identified, you need to make this information clear. Not only for your customers but also internally. Just like each product should have a name, it should have an SKU or another numerical identifier. This is basic.

But now look at your attributes. Are your colors named in a way that makes sense? Should you use swatches to be clearer? Is it obvious if weight is in grams, kilos, pounds, or ounces? What currency do you report your prices in? Aligning each attribute with a unit will save you headache in the future. Defined units means customers are more confident, and employees can avoid silly errors when inputting or changing information.

Hierarchy

Basically, these are the relationships between your products. The relationships could be straight forward like variations of one product or a product that requires another to work (batteries not included, but we do sell them!). 

Make a map to reveal relationships and hierarchies

With your categories identified, you will naturally begin to see hierarchies. Sometimes it is useful to visually map these relationships. 

Making a map will reveal:

  • A potential page layout for your online store
  • Logical places to upsell
  • Products that perform well when marketed together
  • Holes in your product offering

Location

Where you put your products online matters. Your website should be navigable and optimized for user experience. Period. If you run an online store and do not consider how easy or difficult it is for a potential customer to navigate, find, and buy things, you are losing money.

But deciding where things go may not seem so easy. Especially if you have hundreds or thousands of products. It is a good thing you mapped out the relationships and identified the categories, because that is exactly where you should start. From here you can decide whether or not you should actually organize your store by color, by top-tier category, or even by mid-tier category. 

Keep in mind these when merchandising:

  • How  your customers search vs. browse your store. Look for evidence of user behavior like general searches first or specific searches first.
  • How much information you will provide. Present the right amount of information. What do your customers need to confidently purchase your product? Dimensions? Weight?
  • Choice paralysis - group products effectively to create the illusion of fewer options. This will make them less likely to freeze up on the product pages.
  • How many paths will you provide to a product
  • Your brand goals. How the information is organized speaks volumes and tells a vastly different story depending on structure

Alphabetical & Time

And at the end of it all, you need to decide how to organize the lists of information that will show up in your store. Collections, products, filters...etc

Consider putting things in alphabetical order. It makes it miles easier to scan information. Some stores may opt not to put categories or products in alphabetical order and may choose to use popularity as the go-to. Do what is right for your brand. 

Another way to do it is using "time" as your indicator. How new is the product? Do you prefer to display this season or next season on your homepage? 

These are all things you should be testing. No store is the same and no store performs the same way all the time. When in doubt make more than one way to find a product. Give customers the ability to filter information how they want to (alphabetical, newest first...etc). Make sure your classification is intuitive for your users and convenient in terms of search. 

Organized = Optimized

It is crucial to get your product information in order. Go all out, from top to bottom, or just make it logical on-site and in-house. The take-away here is this: organizing your information means you can leverage it to:

  •  Create better experiences on your web store
  •  Optimize conversion rates
  •  Increase overall efficiency in internal (and external) operations

 Always consider your goal for the information. This will lead you to the right method most of the time. And as always, when in doubt - test it! 

Keeping your product information and assets in one place is key. The Plytix PIM is an affordable cloud-solution that does just that.

 

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