8 Challenges in Product Data Management 

challenges in product data management

6-min read

What Is Product Information Management?

It can sound slightly technical but it is nothing more than the art of creating, updating and maintaining all information and data related to the products a brand, a retailer or a marketplace wants to sell through different sales channels. It isn’t too technical, but it isn’t easy to master either. When working with large retail catalogs, having comprehensive and consistent product data can be quite a challenge. However, it is essential both for the good productivity of employees and for customers’ journey. Let’s break down the most common challenges in product data management and how to solve them.

Challenges in Product Data Management—Sure You’ve Come Across Them!

1. Overuse of Spreadsheets

overuse of excel - challenges in product data management

Spreadsheets have been traditionally used for very varied tasks in very diverse industries. In fact, according to a Forrester Research study, 80% of companies use spreadsheets

However, as useful as they might seem, they have their limitations. Even with the emergence of online services like Google Spreadsheets, that have allowed simultaneous work on a single file, they are still super prone to errors. Around 90% of all spreadsheets contain errors, with about 1 mistake for every 20 cells.

The fact that it is an easy-to-use and easy-to-access tool has lead millions of users to excessively turning to it for tasks that would be better managed with other, more specific software.   

2. Poor Data Quality

It is no secret that almost all retailers and brands have at some point fallen in mistaken or wrong product data. Maybe you have spotted product data containing typos, outdated data, or shallow descriptions without specific details. Or maybe you haven’t. But the truth is thirty percent of data regarding retail catalog items has a mistake.

You might think this doesn’t have a tremendous effect. However, each single data error costs between 60 to 80 dollars to amend.

3. Lack of Communication Between Departments

communication between teams

Let’s face it. Even if big companies test new ways to bring all their teams closer, the truth is communication between teams is sometimes hard. Especially when working remotely or with teams located in different areas, implementing consistent processes can be difficult. 

The use of different files and systems that are not common or properly shared can make it hard to be on the same page with your colleagues. Studies have shown that 86% of employees and executives cite a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as the reason for workplace failures. 15 percent of employee’s time is actually dedicated to creating information that already exists but it isn’t easily found, leading to duplicates in work.

Making it easier for teams to share resources is the key to improving processes. 

4. Lack of a Well-Organised Product Taxonomy

‘Taxonomy’ is a word coined in French, that came from Greek words taxis ‘arrangement’ + nomia ‘distribution’. It refers to a scheme of classification, ordering, and categorization of a group of elements

In eCommerce, in order to structure a site, brands and retailers need to define how they want to organize their range of products into a proper ontology or tree of categories and attributes. This is aimed at facilitating navigation for site visitors and achieving increased conversion.

According to Forrester Research, retail sites with a wrongly organized structure can see their sales reduced to 50% compared to well-structured sites.

Moreover, we might want to keep consistency on how we call specific item categories or features in order not to confuse the user.

5. Insufficient Product Categorization

This one is closely related to the previous point.  When it comes to online shoppers, users can only find the information they need in 34 percent of the cases using a search. However, 54 percent of them are able to get what they want following the category tree.

That is why a detailed categorization is so important. It is not enough to set up a tree of categories. The organization is important, but comprehensiveness matters too. Make sure your categories and subcategories include all necessary details a user might need to fine-tune their search. On this topic, Baymard conducted a research study under the name The State of Mobile E-Commerce Search and Category Navigation and found out that 38% of sites have a category tree that is either too deep, too shallow, or that has overlaps, making it hard for consumers to browse and find products within their site.

You should also try not to mix subcategories with attributes. For instance, if someone is looking for a red A-line, pleated skirt—sorry, we can’t help it, we love red, it’s Catchoom’s color— make sure you categorize it following a comprehensive structure like Clothing>Skirts>A-line and then add the proper attributes (pleated for folding and red for color). 

The key lies in finding the right amount of categories and attributes. Not too many, not too few. This will provide the user with the ideal tools to launch a search or navigate your site. 

6. Lack of Synchronization Between Channels

We all know how challenging it is to work with unconnected platforms. Synchronizing product information with your different selling channels can be challenging. 

Online sales teams are used to carrying out repeated work, as every channel has its own formatting requirements. Especially when you have 5 or 6 different channels to update or create product data for, this is highly time-consuming. 

64% of US consumers prefer to shop online because of the more informative product content this channel offers. Therefore, you can’t afford to miss this step. Therefore, in order to provide detailed product information and avoid unnecessary repeated work at the same time, finding a tool that connects and synchronizes with all your platforms is paramount.

7. Duplicate content

Both brands and multi-brand retailers face challenges in product data management.

Multi-brand sites don’t usually create product data from scratch. Instead, they receive some of it—sometimes none of it— from brands. Big marketplaces—like Amazon— usually set up a list of product data requirements. 

If you own a marketplace and haven’t done this yet, it might be tempting to simply re-use suppliers’ data. But careful with copy-pasting! Many other sites like yours might be also reusing that data. So, unknowingly, you could be creating duplicate content on the web. This would jeopardize your site’s SEO health because of Google concentrating the ranking on a single page on the Internet. 

Sure, you don’t need to throw away the data you already have, but make sure you fine-tune it to follow your own structure and ontology and create your own descriptions.

The other side of the coin is to which extent brands can control information on their products being posted on other retail sites. They need to make sure their resellers have enough product attributes, but that they are not using the very same paragraph descriptions as them. Unless they are a giant brand, they probably don’t want their website and those of resellers cannibalizing each other, right?

If you own a brand, and your reseller does not have a proper product data strategy in place, the key lies in creating channel-specific product data. This way you can control what product content is being published on every channel. 

Generating and fine-tuning your product data will avoid costly duplicates. 

8. Noncompliance of Product Image Guidelines

product image guidelines

Product images are as important as textual data. And, of course, every channel has its own requirements, which brings an added challenge when preparing your data.

If you sell through Amazon, you probably know that images should be at least 1,000 pixels both in height and width. Their background might even need to be white. But this could be otherwise for other sales channels.

Etsy, an e-retailing site that sells handmade and vintage goods, published a study showing that 90% of shoppers found image quality very or extremely important for the purchase decision. 

But of course, all of this only adds some extra work to eCommerce teams. However, some solutions have been developed to automatically detect non-compliant images, and show an alert including which quality error they suffer from. Fine-tuning image specifications, it can detect any image quality issues.

Facing Challenges in Product Data Management

PIM systems are a great tool to deal with the aforementioned challenges in product data management. They not only centralize information in a single place, but they can also offer product analytics, filtering for better management, and product and image QA and audit to increase consistency and quality in product information and boost conversion rates within your eCommerce site.

At Catchoom, we’ve built a powerful cloud tool, DeepProducts, that can be connected with eCommerce platforms and ERP systems through an API. It is able to fetch your entire catalog and not only serve as a Product Information System but also help you speed up data. How? Thanks to an AI-generated product data draft that you can later review and edit. Curious? Let us show you a demo of how it works!