E-Commerce content managers understand that managing a CMS is like herding cats. Intake channels, access points and your own team of writers must be regulated to ensure the integrity of the information you present to your customers. Without controls and standards in place, the quality of your content can quickly unravel. Here are four ways to keep your content organized, controlled and consistent with your brand standards.
- Avoid “miscellaneous” folders. Catch-all taxonomy folders with names like Miscellaneous or Accessories can become junk drawers in your CMS. Make every reasonable attempt to separate these products into logical subfolders, such as replacement parts and components. If a folder grows too large to be navigated easily by users, look for additional filters (ex., split a folder for Socket Wrenches into SAE and Metric sizes).
- Limit the number of people who control SKU attribute management. This cannot be overstated. The best way to avoid content clutter is to prevent it from happening. Lock down the attribute closet at the SKU level; that is, the attributes that populate specification tables and ordering charts at the individual product level. Do NOT allow your content developers free rein to create new attributes in your CMS. Identify a content czar — the senior regular user of the CMS — and one or two lieutenants. These should be experienced writers who can respond quickly with thumbs up or down when an attribute request comes up from the ranks. You do want to permit your people to link attributes to product categories where they are missing. But also freeze all outdated attributes from being linked so that your team will use only the approved attribute set.
- Use Choice Lists. These pull-down lists of pre-determined SKU attribute values are easy to set up and are perfect for data fields with a fairly short list (<15) of possible values. For example, Color lends itself to a choice list, as do apparel Sizes (XS to 4XL). The benefits of choice lists are consistency and control. You are assured of uniform spelling, and values outside the choice list options cannot be entered. Rule of thumb: If it is more practical to enter free text into the field, do not use a choice list.
- Clean up Attributes. Attribute “creep” happens when CMS users are free to create new attributes. Do an audit of your data and you might find four different attributes to represent “Volume” for Beakers, including Vol., Volume, Size and Capacity. A cleanup improves the consistency of your data.The best time to edit attribute values on a global scale is during a content migration. That’s not always practical, so option B is the Surgical Strike.
First, determine what you want to improve about your data. Do you want to enhance search refinements? Introduce choice lists? Add or remove value labels such as in., mm, or oz.? Or consolidate a splintered set of legacy attributes into one approved attribute? (For example, consolidate Color, Colour, and Color [Exterior] under Color.)
Second, choose the products or attributes for the task. I don’t advise tackling your product universe as a whole — that’s an immense job. Break off a piece that you can fix within a month or two.
Some companies select a manageable number of product categories with known data inconsistencies. Others focus on high-selling categories where the cleanup will have the greatest impact on revenues.
Third, determine the approved set of attributes to describe the products in your selected categories.
For efficiency, pull an extract of the SKU attribute values for your selected categories into a spreadsheet. Your content editors can compare, copy and paste the appropriate values into the approved attribute columns. Then re-import the data into your CMS.
Carefully follow the CMS rules for data transfer. Caution: Do not delete the data in the legacy attributes unless you are 100% certain that the old attributes do not feed “live” fields on your website, such as ordering tables. Otherwise you will leave data holes on your product pages. It is far better to leave accurate data in place, even if the attributes themselves are not part of your preferred set going forward. You can convert attributes on a case-by-case basis as you find them.
Dan Skantar is Director of Content Services for JP Enterprises