Excel is a wonderful tool, but not necessarily the best choice for building a product database. There are a lot of limitations with it that can limit your success as an online seller. Here are the five top reasons not to publish on marketplaces using Excel.
1. Excel can’t manage visual content.
When you sell products, there’s a lot of content involved, not just words and numbers. There are other complementary media such as images, videos, manuals, and other graphics to connect with the basic product listing. A CMS with a true product database would let you create relationships between all that collateral and the product. You can link URLs containing those things into columns in your spreadsheet, but URLs don’t allow you to see the content of those links, so it’s trial and error.
When it’s time to share all this related information, you’ve got another problem. Most business operators keep those files in local storage on a hard drive or on a cloud platform like DropBox. The links between the products and the media aren’t easily shareable, and you realize your nice Excel database isn’t really a database at all.
To run and scale your business efficiently, you need to keep everything closely tied together so you can instantly find the right media for any given product. Think about how long it takes a gigantic spreadsheet to open. A real products database will open instantly, and it lets you group, sort, and edit all product data and imagery any way you want.
2. It isn’t your master source of truth.
Multiple spreadsheets don’t provide a single, reliable place where you can go to find product information. Without having the visual content and your product data stored together, there are already problems. But the real problem with spreadsheets is that they aren’t the best tool for collaborative efforts by a team.
If your spreadsheets sit in a local environment (as opposed to the cloud on a collaboration platform like Google Sheets), you must update, save, and send the spreadsheet to your colleagues. They will make their changes, but may or may not send it back to you.
Once multiple people have made edits to your spreadsheet, how do you know for sure which version is the definitive one? Having to guess risks misinforming your marketplace admins. And having wrong product information will get you severely penalized by Google Shopping, Amazon, and the other major marketplaces.
A real product database enables you and all your colleagues to access and edit information on a single, centralized source.
3. Filtering and finding data is a pain.
The entire job of a database is to help you find stored information fast. The “Control+F” is pretty much all you get with Excel. There aren’t additional filters unless you sort columns, and that can be dicey if you do it wrong.
Given these limited functions, filtering and finding information quickly becomes a pain. A good CMS-based product database will not only have a solid search function, but also let you set filters to quickly find exactly the product version you want.
4. Keeping inventory up to date throughout the day is hard labor.
You will need to upload your Excel spreadsheet many times a day to keep inventory up to date in your store, and on the marketplaces. This manual operation applies not just to internal inventory records, but also to every one of the marketplace sites where you sell your goods.
When your store was small and you were just starting out, this may not have seemed like a big deal. But the bigger you get, the more you discover it IS a big deal, and how much repetitive work it requires.
5. You can’t automate product matching attributes for channel syndication or other functions like you can with a PIM.
If you sell through multiple marketplaces, that means your product data must be syndicated, with product tags configured individually according to the different listing specs of each marketplace.
Syndicating products across multiple marketplaces is the fastest way to grow sales, but if you’re still using Excel it’s pretty much impossible to do unless you’re willing to spend hours burning the midnight oil, configuring and entering product data on a different product spreadsheet for each of several marketplaces.
A few of our customers are still muddling through with spreadsheets, but most of them are using a CMS or PIM-based system that allows them to expand quickly and seamlessly. It’s because they’ve realized that sales increase more quickly when product data can flow automatically into each of their marketing channels, freeing up their time to focus on merchandising strategy.
Shopping Feed syndicates product listings on all of the world’s most powerful marketplaces, syncs and refines inventory data with >11M product tags, and automates order fulfillment. We inject inventory data from any source (ERP, SAP, Hosted CSV file, data feed) and provide the perfect tool for mapping complex sets of product attribute fields, all automatically for each channel. To learn more, email us or give us a call.
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