Is your Online Shop Agile Enough When it Counts?
By Olivia Schütt • Jun 29, 2020
Rising demand and closed shops, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, are the current incentive for many companies to offer their products online. Even the local organic farm shop sells now online. The organization of content production and system setup and still producing products are growing with the new sales and distribution channels (shop, website). The creation of a webshop is explained in many online guides that deal with topics such as logo, colors, design, format, and integration.
But in addition to the appealing presentation of an online shop, the expectations of online and offline buyers differ in many ways. Above all, buyers using an online shop expect 24/7 access with up-to-date live stock information. Simultaneous purchases without queuing at the checkout.
Managing products, inventory and the associated data is the key to success, but many store managers and entrepreneurs are not yet prepared.
Where can I find our products?
A question that frequently has multiple answers yet should only have one.
- Accounting often works with a product list that is used for inventories, orders, and invoices. There is no connection to pictures, flyers, the website, the shop or other marketing documents - it’s an isolated solution.
- Product lists are exchanged manually with other systems, such as an online shop or the website, using an Excel template. There are enough templates for Excel: https://excel-vorlagen.net/excelvorlage/listen-und-kataloge/ - a time-consuming solution.
What many companies are now learning, at high speed, is the importance of a central product list in which inventories are automatically updated in real-time via connected systems, the descriptions and prices of which can be expanded at any time.
During the 2020 pandemic, companies are desperate to manually update their Excel lists for webshops; hoping to avoid upsetting customers with incorrect information, incorrect stocks, or long waiting times. It quickly becomes apparent that product names, product prices, descriptions, and the associated images and flyers are not linked together correctly.
Now, you might call me old-fashioned... but in my time spaghetti looked a little different (!). Now imagine it affects products nobody can envision just by reading the name.
How do you manage products?
A restaurant chain, for example, manages their products for inventory and orders in an accounting system, but also use Excel lists that are kept in parallel. The Excel is then sent to the external agency for the production of flyers and brochures, as well as to another agency for the maintenance of the webshop and app. The process works, as long as the online orders do not exceed a specific number and there is enough time for manual data exports and provisioning those to the content creators. The company has no solution to offer delivery if direct sales are not possible.
A professional association might manage the products in a PIM that was specially developed. The administration is carried out by a department with one employee and new products can be recorded and displayed on the website within 1-2 months. Payment is then triggered by emailing the accounting department. This process also only works if there is enough time. Payment of a downloadable link via invoice 10 days later does not meet the expectations of the buyers. New "eProducts", such as the recording of a seminar, cannot be offered because the rigid product structure requires the date, place, and time and registration by the user.
All approaches have a digital property, but they are based around offline commerce. The problem becomes apparent very quickly when there are no alternatives to the online shop.
Let’s study a few typical questions that get asked on the subject:
Can I manage all products in a webshop?
You can do that, but then you have to make the products in the shop available to the agency, to marketing and accounting too: or give everyone access to the shop. It’s not an ideal solution.
The shop is an output channel like Twitter or Facebook is one for pictures. An output channel is not the right place to manage the originals and master data.
Does an agile product list solve all my problems?
That would be nice, wouldn't it? No, but an agile product list in Picturepark solves many problems. There is rarely one general, correct procedure, but there is certainly the right process and it is agile. Agile processes and agile systems are characterized by flexibility, versatility, adaptability, and rapid development.
You can find 12 principles for agility, based on the Agile Manifesto and to list some essentials:
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
Start agile, welcome any change in market or economy at large, and solve one problem after another to secure sales and customer success along the way.
How does an agile product process work?
We can highlight this with some classic scenarios:
Problem 1: We need a shop.
We create a product list for the shop.
We create a shop.
We connect the product list and shop.
✔ The shop is online.
Problem 2: Our products need pictures.
⚠ Pictures are missing
We add pictures of the products.
✔ Products with attractive pictures.
Problem 3: We need the inventory.
We add the inventory to the agile product list.
✔ The shop updates the inventory in real-time.
Problem 4: Some products run out.
We have similar products as a recommendation.
We add “Similar Products” to our product lists.
✔ The shop shows similar products directly.
Problem 5: We have a new product.
We add a new product to the agile product list.
✔ The shop is updated directly.
We can quickly adapt, optimize, and expand our agile product list. The products are added once, managed in one place, and are centrally available to the entire company, all employees, and systems. There is no dependency on departments, uses, or personnel bottlenecks and that comes with full access control, as you don't want your agency to update the prices.
The agile product list in Picturepark is quickly created, with the most important properties and can be used immediately via API by the shop, the bookkeeping, the graphics program, and the employees.
Picturepark is the central hub for your products and can easily be expanded by connecting a newsletter system or PIM or accounting system.
The API first approach from Picturepark guarantees the agile expansion of your system landscape in the long term.