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Advanced Product Management Workflow
Alex Cadalso

Not so New
March 21, 2015 - 7:15 pm
Member Since: February 18, 2015
Forum Posts: 8
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A little about me:

I’ve worked on and off in web-based projects since the days of dial up AOL discs but decided my heart wasn’t in web design and of late have found it isn’t really into project management, either.

After working for a couple successful online stores that I helped build from the ground up I began to build out ecommerce stores for businesses without an online presence. Too much handholding and dealing with companies without an IT department / technical understanding — particularly with Magento, Shopify or previously Volusion were better — so I decided to strike it out on my own (with a couple strategic partners) and run my own online store.

After building out B&M warehouses and trying to set processes for employees to follow early on I realized that this wasn’t for me, either. I can design systems but day-to-day badgering of employees to follow them and maintaining a logistics workflow is a job better left to the corporate titans. Indeed many companies now employ ‘smart warehouse’ services that offer everything from warehousing to shipping and other logistics infrastructure.

I have nearly completed my first independent project and I’m solely going to focus on drop shipping ventures from now on, which means I need to have my business processes as streamlined and frictionless as possible because I need to maximize order volume and expediency. Wish me luck, but I think I should have my first near-frictionless system built out in the next couple weeks which will push orders to suppliers and pull shipping and accounting info back into Magento for processing.

I think one of the important things that all of the successful business owners in the Entrepreneur’s Corner podcasts touched on but Richard Meldner in his podcast summed up the best: your business is run from one relational database (be it in SQL or .xls format or whatever) that contains your products and all their data points. If this database isn’t carefully managed on a regular basis your business will develop friction and possibly fail.

A more complete database yields better product descriptions and better informed buyer and eventually more sales with less returns. That being said, Magento being so rigid is in some ways GOOD because it forces business owners to think about the data running their business and how to implement tighter controls.

TL;DR: Here’s my question:

What do Scott Beveridge from Powerhouse Fitness and/or or Gurpreet Sidhu from Love Fashion from the Enterpreneur’s Corner do for continual product management including, but not limited to:
— adding new products workflow
— updating stock quantity and price from suppliers daily / hourly / weekly / as needed
— management / versioning of product descriptions and other data

Right now for me the workflow looks like this:

INPUT: supplier data sheet, usually .xlsx file with messy, missing and inconsistent data and often containing binary characters, UTF-8 issues and more + a folder of images, sometimes with corresponding SKU names
— open Google Refine (or Open Refine) and perform:
— data entry of missing data found using facets (suppliers often forget attributes for certain items)
— data clean up (uniform spacing and capitalization, misspellings, UTF-8 errors, remove binary characters)
— recategorize data using facets
— add scripted meta information based on product data,
— bulk edit descriptions (removing or adding HTML formatting, cleaning up description HTML, adding canned product descriptions for products based on attributes, etc.)
— export .csv file for Magmi import

After a lot of trial and error and even more starts and stops I have that part of the workflow down and I don’t see any way of making this process easier — open to suggestions. This is all well and good and fairly straightforward and cannot be outsourced or delegated: the store owner or operator must have a better working knowledge of the product data than any other party and this is the ‘dirty work’.

So, on-boarding a whole new product line or new supplier is tedious, but ultimately not all that challenging. Where I’m struggling is developing a solid workflow and set of tools to help with product maintenance and updates.

Some of the issues I have with supplier data include:
— changed SKUs
— discontinued products
— changed or updated descriptions
— additional product data added by supplier

Scott mentioned in this podcast ‘you need to have someone who knows PHP or SQL’ in order to do this type of database management which I find unacceptable because 1) I know and have experience in several languages and still have difficulty executing simple scripts to do this type of maintenance because they require an implicit understanding of language syntax and high-level computational problem solving and 2) these processes are so necessary for so many types of operations and businesses that there must be a solution besides an Excel scripting hack job designed for entry level spreadsheet analytics. Furthermore, many of these scripts can be written in regular expressions or ‘regex’ which are also fairly straightforward, but easier conceived than implemented.

Magmi is certainly a game changer. It’s straightforward enough that I can say, ‘OK I found in Refine 35 products without accurate weights, I edited and exported these 35 products and I’m going to upload them into Magmi for update.’ Basically, a diff tool with specific application.

THE #1 ISSUE I OR ANYONE ELSE NEEDS TO PERFORM: is this:
Use unique ID from Magento DB (almost always SKU, occasionally UPC) and update column X, Y and / or Z from new supplier spreadsheet

THAT’S IT. ‘Hey I just got an update from the supplier of all the products in ‘Category Y’ from Supplier 1 and I need to update the colors, weights and product descriptions’. Shouldn’t be that difficult.

I use Beyond Compare but even with my knowledge of data management tools and experience it is clunky and I’m never sure if I have things just right. I have spoken to the creators but I’m still in the process of figuring out how to use their very powerful diff tool for a simple, specific application.

I spoke to Martin behind the soon-to-be-released RefinePro and he gave me plenty of help with scripting but ultimately the ‘reconcile’ feature set of Refine is built by another community member who I’m currently trying to dialog with.

What do you guys do for bulk management of products? Surely you players with 5,000+ products have to have some system? Do you use eMagicOne store manager, or do you just have an in-house or outsourced IT guy with the PHP/SQL chops to do your bidding?

Thanks!

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Dave Furness

Founder
March 22, 2015 - 10:58 pm
Member Since: July 19, 2013
Forum Posts: 4606
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Here’s my question:
What do Scott Beveridge from Powerhouse Fitness and/or or Gurpreet Sidhu from Love Fashion from the Enterpreneur’s Corner do for continual product management including, but not limited to:
— adding new products workflow
— updating stock quantity and price from suppliers daily / hourly / weekly / as needed
— management / versioning of product descriptions and other data

Hi Alex,

Let me tag @Gurpreet here and see if he can shed any light for you or his advice/experience on what he has done and tried etc

Dave

Every expert was once a beginner

Alex Cadalso

Not so New
March 23, 2015 - 12:07 am
Member Since: February 18, 2015
Forum Posts: 8
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Hi Dave —

Thanks for the reply. Can we also please tap Tom from Rugs USA for the same questions? I think it would be of interest to a lot of people besides myself.

Can you share any light on the solutions you’ve used in your own products for us as well?

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Dave Furness

Founder
March 26, 2015 - 11:56 am
Member Since: July 19, 2013
Forum Posts: 4606
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Hi Alex, Tom maybe tough as he isn’t an UnderstandingE member but I did request everyone in the Mastermind who thought they could help to leave a message here.

Dave

Every expert was once a beginner

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Jim @ Moogento
Global

Partner
March 31, 2015 - 12:18 am
Member Since: November 7, 2013
Forum Posts: 688
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Hi Alex

Interesting post you have here. I think what you have stumbled on is a sort-of trade secret :) I’ve met a few people in person who do exactly what you’re talking about and making millions out of doing it right. They don’t want to share :) But, I might be able to help with one aspect of what you’re after.

I find the whole realm of auto-importing products quite scary, with the possibility of adding external code into your system, dupe-content downgrading your site, etc.
So, I’ll leave that for someone else :)

But, the area that I’m interested in is auto-price-setting from multiple suppliers, and then auto-buying from the best-price supplier. We already have, built into stockEasy, the option to update prices and costs based on imported CSV files. We have a plan to add to this with a winning supplier option, and importing by XML.
It already has built in the option to auto-email different suppliers for each order (but at the moment will not auto-choose the best-of-many suppliers). So at the end of each day you can auto-email each supplier with a list of what you need to buy. It also does not do, at the moment, any kind of return result processing (eg. if you want the supplier to tell you they have shipped/can’t ship/etc).

Does that sound along the lines of what you’re thinking?

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