Product data is probably one of the most critical parts of a new Magento site, but an area where clients are generally unprepared. Once you have had all the necessary internal conversations, formed a detailed scope of work and have mobilized a team or point person to manage your migration, it’s time to dust that product data off and get it ready for prime time.
Be prepared to shoulder this stuff. It’s vitally important and a bit technical, but by no means is it scary.
Your product data is like a stubborn, tired kid in the morning. It’s not going to get to school by itself. You have to go get it up in the morning, tell it what to do (best if it’s already a routine), then you have to translate it’s mumbling words into something coherent. You know it best.
Now, how do you think things would go down if you invited some stranger to come into your house, find your data, get it up, get it dressed and get it to school without any introduction, instruction or guidance? Not good. A Magento agency like ours needs to know where your data lives, what the morning routine is, how it acts, and what it means when it says, “ahhh, Idon’twanna, everything is so *errrgrrrumpf”.
Be prepared to be very involved.
Oh Data, Where Art Thou?
The point person that you have identified to manage the data needs to figure out where all the product data lives. We’ll address customer and order data in another post, but product data is the biggie.
- What file contains this data? (.csv, .xml, .pdf, .xlsx, etc.)
- How can an outside Magento agency access it? (ftp, api, extranet, email, etc.)
- Are there restrictions or limitations to the data?
- Is there something sneaky going on with the data?
- What is the process of getting this data?
- Are there lots of business requirements and legacy “attachments” to this data?
The end goal of course is a comprehensive file that you can share with your agency so they can assess what you are selling and how you are selling it.
Let me stop here and mention that, yes, there are data tools for Magento like Cart-To-Cart (not good), massive scripts you can write, processes to guide you but there has yet to be a successful Magento import we have accomplished on complete autopilot.
It takes people. More importantly, it takes a lot of “healthy” communication.
Data Is What Data Does
OK, whether the data is coming from a different platform (e.g. Volusion, Bigcommerce, OScommerce) or if it was built offline in an Excel file, be prepared to explain it. Wait, what? Yes, explain the product data. Data is comprised of many points or columns on the spreadsheet. Certainly there are parts of the data that will be extremely easy to understand. Take SKU (stock keeping unit), for example. Since you run an ecommerce company that sells products, this is a very common acronym in the eCommerce landscape. But others, maybe not so simple.
We’ll give you a real world example: if you have a product that has some sort of attribute, option, variation or label that says “color” then you have to prepare to explain what it is and what it does. Sure, color is most likely the color your product comes in but there may be other covert functions to which it is related. Perhaps color is also something the interface uses to swap an image when a user mouses over it. Perhaps color also means that each SKU needs to have the color code associated with it. Well, we need to know that. Now let’s say that all things in the color of “blue” qualifies for free shipping. Great, but we also need to know that.
The Magento Reality Check
This is either old news or you are starting to understand what you will ultimately have to communicate to an agency. This is, “Hello business layer, please meet the technical layer.” How your company sells or your marketing strategy may be as important as what you sell.
Now if your point person works with the product data every day, then this entire Magento migration will probably go smoothly. If there is no such person and you have relied on an outside party to manage everything, costs invariably go up and so does risk. Be prepared for the realities but don’t let that stop you if Magento is the best ecommerce platform for the long run.
Hey Data, Are You Lost?
We’ll show you the way. Now that you have guided an agency (like S+C) to understand the data, we go to work connecting the dots to and from Magento. What in the world does this mean? We take all the definitions and all the business knowledge and we map it to places inside Magento. Moving or importing data is a lot like a physical move. You may have the exact same furniture but it needs to fit into a different space with a different address and perhaps even a different environment. No platforms work exactly the same or have the exact same terminology so everything may look or feel different in a new house and there may be extra room or not enough room for every column of data. Remember, data from any eCommerce platform is generally not a 1:1 relationship with Magento.
Furthering this analogy, you have to arrange the furniture according to the lighting, dimensions of the room, accompanying artwork and utility. It doesn’t much differ with regards to your data. You data needs a safe place to live. Of course, to sell it well, you may need certain “artwork”. You may need more or different storage areas. You get the picture, right?
Magento Data Quality Assurance
Now comes the gratification. You have worked many days kicking down all the necessary business knowledge to the best of your ability. Good job. You have also done yeoman’s work of outlining and helped map all the product relationships. Again, well done. Now it’s time to check and enjoy the results — this should be an easy process since everyone the project has just spent weeks creating rules, requirements and mapping that should be easy to follow. You made the move and it feels like home!
Be prepared to succeed.