Complete eCommere solutions often involve numerous enterprise systems working together. Product management can be one of the most labor intensive and error prone aspects of maintaining your solution.
Clients generally default to three common solutions for handling product management:
- Add/Update/Delete products using the Magento Commerce product administration screens.
- Upload or add new products using the Magento product import tool.
- Installing a rudimentary data upload extension like uRapidflow or Xtento.
If your organization lacks complexity, your product updates are infrequent, or you have simple product configurations these solutions may work for you. For the vast majority of customers we encounter this is not the case. All the above solutions, lack any customer-specific business intelligence on how to organize products (e.g. auto-generation of parent configurable based on sku format, grouping of products into bundles based on particular criteria, etc.)
If you are already using Magento and find your team:
- Publishing incomplete products
- Pushing products with errors
- Manipulating data in spreadsheets
- Uploading countless different spreadsheets
- Passing spreadsheets around between team members
- Having difficulties detecting incomplete products or inadvertently breaking products on updates
… there is a better way.
Some customers can achieve complete automation and never use product management within Magento while most others use a combination of automation and precise workflow to efficiently handle products. A customer’s precise capabilities and needs should be reviewed to determine the best architecture for them.
Full automation is only possible if the product data source has complete information capable of properly merchandising (e.g. descriptions, images), pricing, and categorizing a product. Additionally, well defined rules must be established on how new attributes, new attribute values, and new categories are handled.
In these scenarios, the ERP/PIM/Product Data Provider owns the product data and is responsible for product additions and updates. These systems often have limited or fixed formats for data export and are not easily updated. Magento is responsible for ingesting the product feed on a regular basis and performing the following functions:
- Mapping product feed data to Magento taxonomy
- Auto generation of new attributes
- Auto generation of new attribute values
- Auto configuration/reconfiguration of the category hierarchy
- Auto generation of new products
- Auto updating of existing products
- Auto archiving of deleted products
Depending on the nature of customer products and customer needs, some of the automations may not be necessary. Category structures, attributes, and accepted attribute values may all be maintained directly in Magento.
More often the source of product data does not contain the necessary information to properly sell a product online. In these scenarios, there is joint ownership of product data between systems. The external system feeding product data controls the fields they know and understand and Magento controls and owns the fields necessary to complete the setup of the product.
In these scenarios, a combination of automation and workflow makes sense. Magento ingests the feeds and checks for product existence. If the product already exists, the data controlled by the third-party source is automatically updated. If the product is new, the feed data is mapped to Magento data and the product is dropped into a customer-specific workflow to complete the product setup.
The workflow varies by customer based on their organizational setup. The simplest contains a single role but can easily be split among a number of specific functions (e.g. copywriter, image processor, content manger, approver).